Land Acquisition : An Emotive Issue

Indian nation and the nerve centre of the nation, Indian parliament are rocked by protests because of amended land acquisition bill of NDA government. All opposition parties, that included Congress, TMC, Left parties, Samajwadi party, Janata Dal United, Aam Aadmi Party and others are opposing the bill. Even, government allies Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are against the bill. Outside the parliament, Shri Anna Hazare demonstrated against the bill for two days, along with Medha Patkar, and Aam Admi Party MLAs lead by chief minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister Mr. Manish Shisodia. Congress party has also initiated a massive protest rally to express their opposition.

Land acquisition bill was passed unanimously by parliament during last days of UPAII. No party wanted to oppose the bill, because that would make them anti-farmer before the general election. However, chief ministers of many states, including those ruled by congress party, have expressed reservation against the bill. According to many leaders, development will become next to impossible unless the land acquisition bill is amended. Many believed, the land acquisition bill was drafted by UPAII to appease farmers with an eye to national election. However, results of election suggests that farmers had an equivocal response to the bill.

Without going into details of amendment introduced by present government, it is important to understand that it is easy to fight for the bill than against. It is very easy to oppose the bill. Very difficult to support unless one wants to be projected as anti farmer and anti poor. I think government should try to convince the opposition. Otherwise Rajya Sabha may not agree. May be opposition will not agree even if it is discussed.  It is simple to be branded pro-farmer and pro-poor, and opposite position is equivalent to political suicide. 

Land is an emotive issue in India. Farmers do not want to give up land. Land can be source of livelihood only for one generation, unless family unit is small. In a big family, as is the case in India, land ownership becomes fragmented. Majority of land holding in India, some say 70 – 80%, is less than 0.6 hectares. . Left undertook land redistribution in Bengal. Why Bengal is so desperately poor and under developed? When left woke up to the needs of industrialisation, party was thrown out. 

Jobs can only come through industrialisation. Nation needs to build roads, rails, power plants, hospitals, schools and other infrastructures not only in big cities but also in smaller towns and villages. Government must decongest cities by building new cities.  Unless government can acquire land easily, it cannot bring in industry and investment for development. The last bill that was passed, BJP was also party to it, was very difficult from the point of view of land acquisition.

It has been argued that by taking away land for corporate interest may compromise India’s food security. It is important to note that, India’s farming is one of the most inefficient in the world. We do not employ technology, we depend on monsoon for farming, many a time our crop is lost because of bad weather condition. Distribution of food is also not adequate. Food goes to godown of Food Corporation of India and rots. There is inadequate mechanism to preserve and process foods. By taking land to build land and rail, cold chain etc improves farmers chance of selling at a better price. Farmer can travel to mandi easier to sell their produce at a competitive price. Farmer can decide not to sell when price is not right and store his produce by booking space in godown. 

Taking away someone’s possession is always traumatic. Government must assuage feeling of dispossessed, give them enough compensation, help them with management of money and prepare a rehabilitation package. Instead of promising four times the market price, government should actually raise the selling price to 10 – 15 fold, keeping in mind the escalation in land value when it is developed. There is a great trust deficit between what government says and what it will actually do at the time of disbursing compensation. Unless government can bridge the trust deficit and walk the talk, the number of urban homeless will rise in cities searching for jobs.

Tags: AAP,  Congress, Development, Farmer, Hospital, Industry, Infrastructure, Janata Dal United, Land Acquisition, Left Parties, NDA, Power Plant, Rail, Road, Samajwadi Party, School, Trinamool Congress, UPAII


Prof. Amartya Sen and Nalanda University

Prof. Amartya Sen is an illustrious son of India. He is a nobel prize winning economist, that India can claim to be her own because he is an Indian citizen. Prof. Sen was conferred with Bharat Ratna, highest civilian award of India. Prof. Sen was appointed chairman of Nalanda Mentor Group in 2007 and in 2012 he became first Chancellor of the University. Nalanda university project was a dream project of UPA government at the centre and Janata Dal – BJP government in the state of Bihar. Objective was to revive an ancient centre of higher learning that existed as Nalanda University from the 5th century to 1197 in and around present day Rajgeer in Bihar state. In Feb of 2015, Prof. Singh announced his decision to discontinue as chairman of Nalanda University citing government interference. Prof. Sen went on TV and gave news paper interview insinuating Prime Minister Modi personally interfered in not putting forward his name for the second term as chancellor.
  • barkha dutt ‪@BDUTT‬“If ‪@RashtrapatiBhvn showed support for me as Chancellor& then didn’t sign clear govt asked him not to: Amartya intvw”

  • Sagarika Ghose retweeted“Academic freedom is under threat in India: Amartya Sen” ‪ …

Prof. Sen has strong political views. He never shied away from his dislike of Narendra Modi for his inability to manage Gujarat riot of 2002. Prof. Sen, also went public with his opinion that Mr. Modi cannot be his prime minister. Under this circumstance, it may not be surprising, if present government lead by Mr. Modi does not want Prof. Sen to continue as chancellor of Nalanda university. Government, however, has made statement that there was no plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
If we look at state of Nalanda university under leadership of Prof. Sen, it does not appear to be a pretty picture. 

  • Prof. Sen was a politically connected man. He was made chancellor  because of his proximity to congress party, over and above his qualification. In India, chancellor and vice chancellor positions are usually political. Why Prof. Sen is complaining if a different political dispensation does not want to continue with him? However, Mr. Modi’s government has denied any plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
  • Prof. Sen was a non resident chancellor of the university. He would stay most of the time in the US. He is also close to eighty years old. Should a young university not need a younger person who can devote his complete energy to the organisation?
  • Prof. Sen is left of centre in his ideology. He advised UPA government to initiate food security program to alleviate hunger in India. Obviously, he cared for poor. Yet in a desperately poor state of India, a left leaning economist had no qualm drawing salary in US dollars amounting to 80000 dollars a year, tax free! Is this not contradictory to his philosophy?
  • Parliamentary committee had found evidence of nepotism in appointment of senior positions in the university. A vice chancellor was appointed, who was not even qualified for the position as per UGC regulation, yet she was drawing a salary of 5 lac per month. Vice chancellor was expected to reside in  the campus, but she operated from Nalanda university office in Delhi.
  • Vice chancellor, in turn, appointed a few senior level staff who happened to be her friends and not necessarily qualified for the positions.
  • It is understandable that Prof. Sen, coming from Harvard, would want autonomy in financial matters of the University. However, unlike Harvard, Nalanda university was running on government fund. To get financial autonomy, the university should have attracted external funds. The university mangement, even with illustrious Prof Sen, have not been able to attract any fund from abroad. 
  • An amount of Rs. 1000 crore was approved over a period of 12 years for the university. This made, annual budget of the university close to 80 – 90 crore per year. I came across the following twitter messages:
    •  “@visaraj: Number of students in Nalanda University is 15. Number of Faculty is -11. Amount spent – 2700+ Cr.”
    • @kanchanGupta:all for rupees 2700 cr! Sen’s Nalanda has 23 classes, 1200 sq ft, 15 Acs, 2 lecture halls!”
It is understandable that the University did not receive all of 2700 crores. Still 80 crore a year is a lot of money. But the University operates from a government convention centre and students and faculty stay in a government hotel.

Yet favourite journalists give him prime time coverage to tell his sad story, try to set him up to say PM Modi was directly responsible for his tenure not getting renewed. A person who got his position due to political connection, complains when government of the day does not want him in the post! How much more pathetic can it be?




Tags: Amartya Sen, Chancellor, Economics, Nalanda University, Narendra Modi, NDA Government, Noble Prize, UPA Government, Vice Chancellor

Government of India vs Green Peace : An Unwise Confrontation

Green Peace fights for causes that they feel important according to their worldview. Green Peace had protested against killing of seals and whales. They had protested against oil exploration and oil spill. Green Peace had also protested against nuclear explosion by France as well as commissioning of Kudankulum nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. Many a time Green Peace activists had endangered their lives for their cause. We may not agree with Green Peace’s worldview, but have no reason to suspect their intention.

In this context, it is important to take note of the recent standoff between Green Peace India and the Government of India. Ms. Priya Pillai a member of Green Peace India was invited to meet British parliamentarians. Ms. Pillai was to interact with parliamentarians on human right violation and environmental degradation.  Government deplaned Ms. Pillai and prevented her from going to London. 

I think move was foolish and should have been avoided. Reason I think why government goofed in Priya Pillai and Green Peace case are as follows:

Ms. Pillai could always do her presentation using Skype and Webex. Which Ms. Pillai did anyway. So, deplaning Ms.Pillai gave publicity to her cause and made government officials look foolish. On a national TV news channel debate also, Indian government officials came out looking not so good. Indian officials tried to make a case of Green Peace puts its donations in money market. Sine when it became a crime to make your money grow? Even government of india is planning to put pension fund of its eimployees to open market in the hope of getting greater return. Thus, speculating in money market does not make Green Peace a terrorist organization.

It is possible that British policy makers would frame policy discouraging investment in India. May be this document will circulate among all EU nations and may be in US and Australia, as well. It must be appreciated that India does not rely on British or European aid or grant, anymore. India is growing at a healthy rate, when many other economies are going through a slump. Multinational companies and foreign investors decide on investment based on economic growth and ease of doing business and not necessarily based on human right record. By that criteria, there will be no investment flowing into China.  

Broader debate should be about use of mineral wealth of India for greater common good vis a vis livlihood of people displaced by such an act. There is no denying that lives of people will be affected due to mining activity. A few questions that need answering are the following: Do all tribals necessarily want to hold on to their age old lifestyle? Should tribals not want access to modern life, access to health and education? 

Like many other countries that have created a balance between development and environment, why in India it has to be either environment or development. Why can we not have development in an enivironment friendly manner.

Country has voted for Mr Modi to make in India work and make India strong. Government with full majority need not be shaken by activists. Ruling formation should explain need for exploitation of national wealth for improving lives of Indians. Government should declare plan for compensating displaced people. By the way if activism is the way to go, Congress MP from Niyamagiri district in  Orissa, would not lose his seat and Congress party would still be in power in centre.

Tags: Development, Environment,  Government of India, Green Peace, Mining, Priya Pillai, Tribals

Hurricane Kejri(wal)

 Belying all expectations, Aam Aadmi Party has swept Delhi assembly elections. Call by whatever name – tsunami, landslide, avalanche, the result is for all to see. Out of seventy seats, AAP has bagged sixty seven seats. Three seats were left for BJP, may be to add insult to the injury. Shell shocked BJP and congress party, which did not even open its account have no real answer to the drubbing. Especially, BJP that had fielded big guns in the form of prime minister and cabinet ministers for campaigning, ending up with three seats!
Success has many fathers, and defeat cuts a sorry figure. A multitude of explanations have been put forward to explain BJP defeat.
·      BJP was arrogant and complacent. The party was also confused. So they did not take advantage of the gap between AAP resignation and re-election. There was a sense that BJP will win election if Mr. Modi just shows up.
·      BJP was plagues by organisational infighting. This became more severe after Dr. Kiran Bedi was airlifted to lead BJP charge displacing many party hopefuls. Though Mrs. Bedi was given a secure seat to contest and win, old party loyalists did not co-operate with her. The same goes for other candidates that were accommodated at the expense to local cadres.
·      Foul mouthing AAP chief ministerial candidate and in general BJP ran a negative campaign. Voters could see civility in AAP and uncouth behavior of BJP candidates and ministers. In this day of televised campaign, any wrong word, any slip is magnified and reach viewers through TV. Deliberate or not BJP ministers were negligent on choice of their words and Ms. Bedi was inexperienced as a politician.
·      Ms. Bedi was unwilling to debate Mr. Kejriwal on issues in live TV debate. True, Mr. Kejriwal also refused to debate Mr. Maken of congress party, but many had written congress off anyway.
·      A sting operations conducted by AVAM was not successful in painting AAP black. AVAM raised some serious questions about AAP receiving cheques from sheel companies. To voters, AVAM came out as a setup by BJP. AAP spokes people were more aticulate and aggressive in deflecting all charges compared to their BJP counterparts.
·      AAP members had worked door to door using an ideologically motivated, committed volunteers. Many or all volunteers of AAP were working for a cause, that is to remove corruption by defeating corrupt parties. AAP volunteers were more convincing in relating and conveying their point of view to voters.
·      Mr. Kejriwal had played the role of underdog common man who is being troubled by the rich and powerful political party – BJP, to the hilt. Wrapping a muffler around this head, Mr. Kejriwal identified himself with poor and dispossessed of the city and complained how his family, his caste and he himself was a target of BJP. Compared to Kejriwal, Mr. Modi in his kurta, jacket and surrounded by security guards looked rich, privileged and remote.
There may be many more reasons and explanations for the Delhi debacle. In the end there is no substitute for hard work, and party workers that are dedicated and committed.
BJP defeat may in Delhi election may have several consequences. Firstly, the party may go back to Hindutwa ideology and commit political suicide. Alternatively, Mr. Modi may put the likes of Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvis of all hues under tight least and read them the riot act.

No doubt the going is likely to get tough on coming days for the ruling party. Sensing blood, other regional parties likd TMC, Janata Dal United, left parties have extended support to AAP. Even BJP partner and ally in Maharasthra, Shiv Sena, has expressed glee at BJP drubbing. Many have questioned that Delhi defeat is a referendum of Mr. Modi’s policies. BJP desperatedly needed more members in Rajya Sabha. However, that expectation has evaporated with Delhi defeat. An united opposition may stall proceedings Rajya Sabha of parliament and prevent passage of key bills. Eagerness of Mamata, Nitish and Prakash Karat to jump into AAP bandwagon may indicate their desire to continue with old style left of centre policies. I hope BJP gets its act together and succeeds in bringing investment and jobs into India. Time to tighten belt and move on.

Tags: AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, Assembly Election, BJP, Congress Party, Delhi, Janata Dal United, Kiran Bedi, Left Party, Narendra Modi, Parliament, Rajya Sabha,Shiva Sena, TMC

Protect Freedom of Expression, No Matter How Repulsive

The comedy show, AIB roast, has created furore, recently, among moral police. The show was hosted by Karan Johan a noted director / producer. Roast victims were  two young film actors – Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. They were subjected to verbal abuse by a group of ten people that included a film critic, a TV show host and several standup comedians, in addition to Karan Johar. The show was explicitly abusive in its content. Audience had paid 4000 rupees to buy ticket and watch the show. The proceeds of the show went go to charity. 

Not many people knew about the show, till it was hosted on the YouTube. Since then, it had 8 million hits. Right wing groups Brahman Ekta Seva Sanstha had lodged FIR about obscene content. Catholic groups had also complained to the government about hurt sentiment. Groups like Maharashtra Navanirman Sena have threatened of enforcing ban on Arjun and Ranveer starred movies, unless the duo apologised. 

Coming close on the heels of killing of assassination of editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine by right wing Islamic fanatics, the AIB roast raises a many a questions.  Should India grow up and laugh at itself? Or should we respect sentiments of diverse groups and ban the show? Naturally, a lot of arguments have emerged in favor and against the show. The a rguments against the show include the following:

1. Unlike France and for that matter many countries in Europe, India is much more heterogenous. We have a large population, that is illiterate and not exposed to liberal thought. Many such people get swayed by propaganda and perceived threat to their faith, and resort to violence.
2. Our police force is stretched thin. Many a times they cannot take strong action against perpetrators of violence. Politicians control police. After orchestrating violence, police is asked to go slow. This results in loss of life and property.
3. Do we necessarily have to copy everything from the west. What about our thinking and heritage. Even many affluent Western democracies did not allow publication of Charle Hedbod cartoon on prophet, in anticipation of trouble.
4. The show uses vulgar language. This may affect age and gender sensibilities in our country. We have large population of young people, who may use the show as a basis to insult and/or assault women. Women are treated poorly in the country anyway.
5. The show should not be put on the internet for public viewing. Like pornography, one should subscribe by paying a fee.

The following arguments have been made for the show:

1. Show was an affair between consenting adults.
a. Unlike cartoon of prophet in Charlie Hebdo magazine, both Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor had consented to be part of the show. 
b. Audience had bought ticket to watch the show.
2. Purpose of the show was explained explicitly. So viewers were using their discretion. If viewere were unhappy or disgusted, they could have left the show.
3. Money collected went to charity. So it was for a good cause. 
4. As a nation we must lighten up and laugh at ourselves, laugh at our icons. Some had said laughter is the best medicine.
5. Who decides what is offensive. If some people starts to ban art, literature, films, books, where do we stop? Those who do not like a book or film or show, have the liberty to avoid them.

I had watched the  three part video of “AIB Roast Knock Out” on YouTube.  Though there were many clean and brutal one lines, in general I found the content extremely vulgar. It is not fit for viewing with family, in the social strata where I grew up. There was generous use of “F—“ word many a times without any rhyme and reason. Last scene where  Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor had a chance to give it back to their tormentors, was totally filthy. May be it was intentional and planned to shock the audience. In the US, such a show is broadcast only after midnight and rated “R”. The AIB roast video should not have been available on YouTube for communal viewing. Question comes does this mean we should ban such kind of show?  I think not. I think we should restrict access to paying members, but get out of culture of banning anything..

India has a poor track record on freedom of speech. Our governments have taken easy way out in defending freedom of speech. Be it Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie or Lajja by Taslima Nasreen. We have hounded out Maqbool Fida Hussain for painting goddesses in nude. Recently, a writer in Tamil Nadu, decided to quit writing after fringe groups started protesting against his writing. The list goes on. Modi government has stated clearly, that government will not get involved in banning movies, no matter how controversial, as long as it does not become a law and order issue. So government did not ban PK a movie made by Amir Khan and Messenger of God, another movie made be Baba Ram Rahim. I hope government will stay away from interfering in artistic freedom and protect artists from being attacked by fringe groups.

Tags: AIB Roast, Arjun Kapoor, Brahmin Ekta Seva Sanstha, Charlie Hebdo, Freedom of Expression,Karan Johar, Lajja, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Maqbool Fida Hussain, Ranveer Singh, Salman Rushdie, Satanic Verses, Tasleema Nasreen,

Arvind Kejriwal : A Man in a Hurry

Mr. Arvind Kejriwal appears to be a man in a hurry. In his zeal to bring a difference in Indian political scene, is he moving away from the lofty standards he set for himself and his party? Is he putting more energy on winning election than honesty and integrity, his mantra. Several important members of the party, notably  Ms. Shazia Ilmi and Mr. Shanti Bhushan think so. 

Is this focus on winning is making AAP commit mistakes? Given the intense aversion of Mr. Kejriwal and AAP against corruption, recent revelation that AAP had received donation from shell companies has several implications.  Legally, no company can make donation to political party, unless the organisation is making profit for three years. Then also, the company can donate only 7% of its profit. In the case of AAP all donors were in red. How did these companies make donation? Did some one or some organisation donated money using these companies? Did AAP got cash donation from dubious source, the party made the money white using front companies? No one knows. Could this be the tip of the iceberg? No one knows.

Moral dilemma comes from the shoot and scoot tactics employed by Mr Kejriwal earlier. They had branded every leader , many business men as corrupt. Someone so gung-ho about honest practices in politics should have been more careful about influx of high value donation. Mr Kejriwal had gone after BJP and congress leader’s she’ll companies. Should they not be doubly certain that money that is coming in, albeit through cheque, has a face behind it? Had this mistake been made by BJP or. Congress politicians, would AAP and Kejriwal spare them as error of judgement? I doubt. 
In my opinion, Kejriwal is an honest person. Time will tell if Mr. Kejriwal in his hurry to win Delhi, is forgetting that “End do not necessarily justify means”. If AAP lowers the lofty standard it has setup for itself, then AAP will be no different from other parties. 

Tags: Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal, Assembly Election, BJP, Congress, Donation, Shazia Ilmi, Shanti Bhushan, Shell Company, 

Letter Bomb

For long many journalists and political commentators had suspected extra-constitutional power of Gandhi family in the affairs of UPA government. Many felt vindicated when a letter written by Ms. Jayanthi Natrajan to her party chief Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, was leaked to Hindu group of news papers.  In her letter, Ms. Natarajan had claimed that she was fired from her post as cabinet minister of environment and forest, and as congress party spokes person at the behest of Mr. Rahul Gandhi, congress party vice president. 

Ms. Natarajan also claimed that she had followed advice of Mr. Rahul Gandhi, as solemn directive, and withheld environmental clearance to many projects that could have brought investment to country. Ms. Natarajan also claimed that after asking her to resign, Mr. Gandhi went to FICCI meeting and declared that the impediment to industrial growth would be removed.

This letter, explosive as it is, opens up a lot of questions. 

  • Many people had been claiming that during UPA government rule, Gandhi family had extraconstitutional powers. So they could overturn government / cabinet decisions without being directly accountable. A case in point, being Mr. Rahul Gandhi had torn apart a government ordinance, cleared by cabinet, in full public view. At the time, prime minister was outside the country. No matter how bad the ordinance was, can a non cabinet member tear up an ordinance? Does this not reek of extra-constitutional power?

  • Many had complained that Gandhi family had put loyalists in key ministries. Jayanthi Natarajan would be one such person. These loyalists would defy prime minister, resist cabinet pressure and do bidding of the family. Since Gandhi family were against environmental degradation, Ms. Natarajan did not clear files.

  • So question arises, if Ms.Natarajan was doing Mr. Gandhi’s bidding, why was she asked to leave? Does this indicate that Mr. Gandhi was ready to give order, but was not accountable to its consequences. So when going went tough, Mr. Gandhi simply asked Ms. Natarajan to leave. This may save the day for Mr. Gandhi, but reflects poorly on Mr. Gandhi’s leadership.

Many loyalists of Gandhi family have come out to shield Mr. Gandhi from criticism. It has been said to the media that

  • Mr. Gandhi did not issue directive, but simply passed on requests from interested parties to environment minister. The fact that Ms. Natarajan followed requests from Mr. Gandhi’s office so literally, means there is more to the directive than plain request. This also reflects poorly on Ms. Natarajan that she instead of following Indian constitution, Indian prime minister and Indian cabinet, was doing bidding for a family and its interest.

  • Some had claimed that Ms. Natarajan was corrupt. Mr. Modi himself had alluded to Jayanthi tax, in pre-election rally. Mr. Anand Sharma of congress, who used to be commerce minister, had claimed that industrialists had complained bitterly about environement ministry bitterly in CII meeting. Question then arises, if congress party was aware of wrong doings of Ms. Natarajan, why did they tolerate her for so long and why did the party not institute an enquiry and police case against her?

  • Ms. Natarajan also claimed that she was asked to lead charge against Mr. Narendra Modi on snoop gate. Interference of Gandhi family in government affairs has been suspected for long, now Ms. Natarajan’s letter sort of confirms the same. f clearance for projects of industrialists perceived to be closer to BJP were shelved, who can say about numerous cases that were foisted by CBI against chief minister and home minister of Gujarat on fake encounter case. 

Finally, Ms. Natarajan claimed she had not leaked the letter to press. Then who did it? Is more dirt likely to come out?

Tags: Anand Sharma, BJP, Congress Party, Gandhi Family, Hindu News Paper, Jayanthi Natarajan, Jayanthi Tax, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Snoop Gate, Spokesperson,