#Budget2013 high on rhetoric, low on funds for food security


Buisnesstoday

Sebastian P.T.
Sebastian P.T.

For all the talk of the United Progressive Alliance government about the seminal step the proposed National Food Security Bill will be in eradicating hunger and malnutrition, Finance Minister P Chidambaram‘s budgetary allocation for it is paltry. In his Budget speech , the Finance Minister said he was setting aside an extra Rs 10,000 crore, apart from the usual provision for  food subsidy, toward the “incremental cost” likely once the legislation is passed.

How much has Chidambaram provided? Part two of the Expenditure Budget documents shows it is Rs 90,000 crore. The document clarifies: “The provision of Rs 90,000 core for food subsidy also includes a provision of Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act.”

How much was the food subsidy envisioned in the last Budget (2012/13) for the current financial year? It was Rs 75,000 crore, and the revised estimate was above Rs 85,000. But this estimate – as the government itself has said – was based on population numbers of year 2000. Had this figure been updated to the 2011 census, the food subsidy would have been above Rs 1,10,000 crore (as per Food Ministry’s estimates).

And, if the 2011 census figures are used to estimate the food subsidy bill for 2013/14, it rises, by the food ministry’s own calculations, to Rs 124,000 crore – even without the Food Security Bill becoming law. If it is passed the subsidy will be even higher. Of course, all these estimates are based on the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011.

So how does Chidambaram’s allocation of Rs 90,000 crore amount to an additional outlay?  “I don’t know the Bill yet,” said Chidambaram at his press conference after the Budget announcement. “There is no Food Security Bill at the moment. We only have the Standing Committee’s report on an earlier version of the Bill. It is only when the (revised) Bill is presented to the Cabinet, that we can do an assessment of its cost. I cannot put a number today. However, in anticipation that a Bill will carry an incremental cost, I have provided Rs 10,000 crore.”

But he should have had an idea. The estimates of the food ministry, based on the original provisions of the Bill, are public knowledge. The original bill intended to include up to three-fourths of the rural population and half the urban population as beneficiaries, with 46 per cent of the former and 28 per cent of the latter being ‘priority households’, which would be entitled to seven kilos of foodgrain per person per month, at prices of one rupee per kg for coarse grain, two rupees for wheat and three rupees for rice. (Distinct from them would be the ‘general households’, which would get three kilos or less at half the price the government paid farmers to procure the grain.) The ministry estimated the subsidy at Rs 1,26,000 crore a year.

How can Rs 90,000 crore then be called an enhanced allocation? “This is a big letdown,” said N.C. Saxena, member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC). “The meagre Rs. 10,000 crore set aside for the implementation of the Food Security bill not only implies the lack of urgency on the government’s part to enact it but also the gross underestimation of the additional resources required,” says Subrat Das, Executive Director, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

Examining the original Bill,the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has recommended removing the distinction between priority and general households, among other things. But no final decision has been taken. Whatever is decided, however, even if the final cost is less than Rs 126,000 crore, it certainly will be much more than what the finance minister has provided for. He certainly will have to loosen his wallet or the outcome could well be a diluted Bill, hardly serving the noble intent.

 

Women Bill to curb sexual harassment in workplaces passed in Rajya Sabha #Vaw #Womenrights


 #India - Lets  ALL Resolve for  FREEDOM  from VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN this New Year #mustshare

 

PTI

Cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by inhouse committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed.

Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

The Bill, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha, was unanimously passed by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath promising to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation.

The legislation brings in its ambit even domestic workers and agriculture labourers, both organised and unorganised sectors.

As per the Act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.

The acts or behaviour whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000.

It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges.

The Bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.

The Act defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had examined the Bill, had held the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in it has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case.

The apex court’s judgement in the case not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.

 

PRESS RELEASE-#India- Don’t allow Govt to ram through land acquisition bill


 

CAMPAIGN FOR SURVIVAL AND DIGNITY

Contact: Q-1 Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi. Ph: 9873657844, forestcampaign@gmail.com

 

25.02.2013

To:

Smt. Meira Kumar

Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha

Lok Sabha, New Delhi

Sub: The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill – request that the same may be sent to a Standing Committee as it has been extensively modified after being tabled in Parliament, depriving the public and in particular affected communities of any possibility of comment

Dear Madam,

We are a national platform of adivasi and forest dwellers’ organisations from ten States. We write to bring to your notice that the government is seeking to ensure the swift passage of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill and we understand that it may attempt to do so in the next day or two. In this context we wish to draw the following to your attention:

  • The government reportedly intends to move more than 150 amendments to the original Bill.
  • As per the amendments tabled in Parliament in December, these include many areas which were never addressed by either the Standing Committee’s report or the original Bill.
  • In particular, we are dismayed to find that the amendments contain several provisions that adversely affect the rights of Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers, and in particular permit the destruction of community forests on the payment of arbitrary cash compensation as well as undermining the powers of local bodies under the Forest Rights Act and the PESA Act. Many of these provisions were not in the original Bill and were certainly not recommended by the Standing Committee. Further, they also violate international law.

In light of the fact that the tribals and forest dwellers of this country have been the worst-hit victims of decades of illegal, brutal and inhuman displacement at the hands of the statebasic respect for their democratic rights demands that this Bill be referred to a parliamentary committee for a full review. The government cannot be permitted to use its majority to simply ram through legislations while making a mockery of parliamentary procedures and public consultation. This would be a tremendous disservice to the people of this country and in particular an injustice to those who have already suffered as a result of the callousness of the state.

We trust you will not permit this government to bypass democracy in order to perpetrate one more historical injustice against the tribals and forest dwellers of this country.

Sincerely,

(On behalf of the Convening Collective)

 

__._,_.___

Standing committee on home affairs invites suggestions on criminal alw (amendment) bill 2012


PRESS RELEASE

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HOME AFFAIRS INVITES SUGGESTIONS ON THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2012

 

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012  as  introduced in   the  Lok  Sabha   on  4 December 2012  and  pending  therein,  has  been  referred  to  Department-related  Parliamentary  Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, M.P. Rajya Sabha for examination and report. The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to review laws related to rape/sexual offences.

2.         The Committee has decided to invite suggestions in the form of written memoranda from the public/associations/women organizations/civil societies, etc, on the provisions of the Bill.

3.         Those desirous of submitting written memoranda to the Committee, may send the same   to Shri D. K. Mishra, Joint Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 142, First Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 {Tele: 23035410 (O) and 23012007 (fax)} latest by 28thJanuary, 2013.

4.         The memorandum which might be submitted to the Committee, would form part of its records and treated as confidential and, therefore, should not be printed, circulated or publicized by anyone, as such an act would constitute a breach of privilege of the Committee.

5.         Individuals/stakeholders may obtain, on written request, a copy of the Bill, from Shri Bhupendra Bhaskar, Assistant Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Cabin ‘A’, Basement, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 (Telephone No. 011-23034034). The electronic text of the Bill can also be down loaded from the Rajya Sabha Website www.rajyasabha.nic.in.® Bills with C

 

Dalit teenager gang-raped for over a week; seven arrested #Vaw #Justice


CHILDRAPE

By PTI – HASSAN (Karnataka)

28th December 2012 05:30 PM

A 17-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped by 10 persons for nine days in Karnataka’s Hassan district.

Seven of the accused have been arrested.

The girl was allegedly raped at various places in the district by the accused, who brought her to the town from Magge village in Alur taluk promising her employment, Superintendent of Police Amith Singh told PTI over phone.

The ten sexually exploited the girl in turns from December 19 to December 27. The gang then dumped her in Hassan yesterday after which she approached an NGO for women, which immediately alerted police.

Singh said the police constituted three teams to trace the accused and seven have been held.

“We are looking for more suspects. They will also be arrested soon. All the arrested have been subjected to medical examination,” he said.

The seven arrested, including an auto rickshaw driver, would be produced before a local court tomorrow, he said.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, who is a Lok Sabha member from Hassan, has demanded exemplary punishment to the accused.

 

Racked by protests, Kudankulam commissioning put-off to new year


 

 

Controversy-embroiled Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project will once again miss the target as the time frame of commissioning of the first unit has now been revised to the new year.

Commercial operation of the 1,000 MW first unit, where 99.65 per cent of the physical progress has been completed, is expected to take place in January next, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) said.

Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy, who has been monitoring the progress of the Indo-Russian project, hit by protests over safety concerns,had informed Lok Sabha last week that Unit-I was likely to be commissioned by this month end.

Similarly, commercial operation of the second unit has also been fixed for August next year.

“Preparatory works are going on. Each and every step of ours is being monitored by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. We are doing our best to commission it as soon as possible,” sources in the Plant said.

M Pushparayan, a leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, spearheading the over year-long stir demanding scrapping of the KNPP, said though it has been said the commissioning would take place some time this month “now, we heard that they have given a date on January 15”.

After resorting to a series of protests including “sea siege” of the plant, located in Tamil Nadu‘s Tirunelveli district, PMANE now wants a national debate on the Centre’s “ambitious and aggressive” nuclear power programme and intends to make it an issue in the Lok Sabha elections.

“If the Congress Party or BJP or any other party for that matter manages to convince the Indian voters about this full-scale nuclearisation of the country and obtains absolute majority in the next Parliament, we will call off the ongoing struggle against the Project immediately”, PMANE said.

The long-delayed project moved a step towards commissioning with AERB granting permission last week for the ‘second heat up’, under which all systems of the entire nuclear power plant will be put to test to demonstrate its operability and safety.

Following these tests, AERB would evaluate the reports of the tests and then give the go-ahead to the first approach to criticality.

After the reactor goes critical, power generation would be stepped up gradually and when it reaches a certain level, the plant would be connected to the grid.

AERB had granted permission to load fuel in the first unit on August 10 after NPCIL complied with all the conditions laid by it.

A specially-designed robotic arm then began loading 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel on September 18 and the process was completed on October 2.

A strong demand was made by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and a host of others to allocate the entire output of 1,000 MW from Unit-I for the power-starved state.

Narayanasamy said in Tirunelveli last week that Tamil Nadu was entitled to get 465 MW from Unit-1 and Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh about 235 MW, leaving the remaining 300 MW for the Central grid.

He had said it was upto Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take the final call on allocating the entire Central share of 300 MW to Tamil Nadu.

Commissioning of the first unit of the Indo-Russian project was originally scheduled for December last year but has been delayed due to protests.

 

ARTICLE URL: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_racked-by-protests-kudankulam-commissioning-put-off-to-new-year_1777001

 

#India-Critique of Lok Satta party’s views on #FDI


 

 

Lok Satta is a political party in India founded by Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan It was launched on October 2, 2006 by the Lok Satta Movement. From 1996 to 2006, the Lok Satta Movement fought for administrative and political reforms, including constitutional amendments regarding elimination of defections, reduction in the size of the cabinet, the Right to Information Act (RTI), disclosure of criminal records and assets by all candidates and others

 

English: Portrait photo of Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan

English: Portrait photo of Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Champions of Farmers

 

 

 

In recent past, two articles appeared in “Andhra Jyothi” by Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (or JP as he is known), the chief of Loksatta Party. These were two part articles that talked about two major issues, failure of governments to protect the interests of farmers and the need to bring in access to foreign / export markets for the farmers and also the know how in post-harvest technologies. His as well as his “farmers group” leader Mr. Chengal Reddy’s argument is that farmers are unable to access export markets and are losing out on making big profits as they don’t have the necessary infrastructure – like cold storages, post harvest technologies etc.

 

 

Their view point is that by inviting FDI in retail it shall be a win-win situation for the farmers of India as they will have access to good storage facilities, infrastructure for post harvest technologies, processing industry and finally have greater access to export markets. In one television debate on DD some days ago, Mr. Chengal Reddy says, “Now “we farmers”, have huge stocks lying idle in the godowns, if we get FDI we will have access to cold storages and export markets and we will be able to sell at a better price. Therefore, “we farmers” are inviting FDI. See, you have allowed competition in TV and have so many channels as opposed to DD, and then due to private enterprise we have so many varieties of gadgets, why do you deny the farmer to have access to a variety of traders?”  It is another matter that this spokesperson of “farmers”, has given up on agriculture as a profession a long time ago. When questioned as to why this huge produce lying idle can’t be made affordable / accessible to the millions that die of hunger everyday, which will solve the issue of the farmers and the poor, he had no response.

 

 

And the other champion of farmers Dr. JP somehow never talks about the other issues that are plaguing the farmers of this country. For example, it’s a well known fact that climate change has become the greatest enemy of agriculturists. And one of the major arguments is that there is a need for reduction in energy usage for restoring stability in the environment. And it is precisely for this reason and also for the reason that the pollution and radiation from Thermal power projects adversely impacts agricultural production besides hugely increasing local temperatures that we (NAPM) have been arguing against these projects. However, Dr.JP has critiqued our stand in a public meeting in Naguluppalapadu mandal in Prakasam district, in Aug.2010, where the local people had been campaigning against a thermal power project being set up there. His stand was that setting up a Thermal plant in that area was not good as it was an agriculturally productive area with good irrigation from the Lift Irrigation project that he was instrumental in setting up, when he was a collector. But then, he added that while setting up thermal plants in that area should not be allowed, our opposing thermal plants all over is foolish. And asked that if we oppose Thermal Projects everywhere, then where should one establish these industries? “In the sky?”

 

 

Dr. JP was addressing a public meeting in a constituency where he was an erstwhile collector. But if his concern for farmers is so strong then why is it that he doesn’t speak of the farmers who are losing their agricultural produce due to the pollution of NTPC in Parawada, another project that he was instrumental in establishing? When he is questioned on this, he says that it’s the fault of the NTPC which is not controlling the pollution. But then, as he has claimed to champion the cause of the farmers, why has he not campaigned/ protested on the issues of the pollution that is destroying the lives of people in Parawada? Why has he not taken up the cause of the farmers of Nellore, who are going to suffer total destruction due to the cumulative impact of 35,000 MW of thermal power projects? By his own definition, thermal plants should not be established in fertile agricultural areas. Therefore, these projects should not be set up in Nellore district which too is a rich agricultural, productive zone as also most of the coastal areas, where thermal plants by the dozens are being established.  Why oppose in Prakasam and not talk about it elsewhere? What are the dynamics that are preventing his taking a stand on this issue?  Forget about the pollution, in most places farmers have to fight to save their lands from Land acquisition, for SEZs, mining projects and various other industries. And this is no small number, why has he been silent on this issue?  In fact, his take on SEZs is that farmers lands have to be consolidated in the SEZs and out of the developmental profits, farmers should be given a share! Seems fine to hear, but who will ensure that it is followed inside these “deemed foreign territories” where the Indian Constitution has not teeth? And what if the farmers don’t wish to give away their lands? What about the state repression regarding the various projects and the land acquisition process? Without referring to any of these, he has presented a beautiful, idyllic picture of Indian agricultural conditions, with “large areas of cultivable land, plenty of sun light, and good rainfall” etc, which goes to show that either he is not living in reality or simply trying to brush the truths under a carpet. In the past years what we had was erratic climate, and not good rainfall – it was either less or excess. But if he accepts these, then he has to come into the climate debate and then has to defend his stand on thermal power projects. Of course, he has a solution for climate change which he mentioned in a Kisan Swaraj Yatra meeting held in Hyderabad on 8thNovember 2010: “Indian agriculture contributes hugely to global warming, because the dung of our cattle emits methane. To over come this we have a solution. The gene in the stomach of Kangaroos controls this aspect. That is why the dung of kangaroos doesn’t emit methane. So, if we can use this gene and genetically modify our cattle so that their dung doesn’t emit methane, it would be a win-win situation”. He mentioned this in support of his argument that GM technology is “Oh! so good for us!”

 

 

Dr.J.P’s articles in Andhra Jyothi sound very concerned for the farmers and seem to be providing pragmatic and practical solutions, but look beneath the surface and his idea is to promote FDI in retail and leave the farmers to the mercy of private investors. True, the government mechanisms have failed to deliver to the farmers – a proper system of input supply and robust marketing support. True also that the entire government machinery is rife with corruption, but will this be solved by the entry of foreign / retail players? Are they holier than the government agencies?  Have we not seen in the recent past post liberalization, the kind of corruption that ran into lakhs of crores of rupees which involved major corporate bigwigs in this country? Have we not seen how the US government involved itself in the way the then Petroleum Minister Manishankar Iyer was removed from his ministry? And the way Reliance played its role in the ousting of Jaipal Reddy just a few weeks ago? Are we not seeing how big corporations are arm twisting governments to suit their demands? In this context, assuming that Big Retail chains armed with their colossal money bags who have ruined small traders and small farmers with their predatory practices elsewhere, and who are instrumental in the framing of policies not just in the US but also in other countries, would work in the interest of  small farmers; is either naïve or deliberate. Knowing that Dr.JP is an intelligent person, his solution of bringing in big retail into the country and to remove all protection in trading commodities, seems more like a deliberate act to promote the interests of big corporations rather than a real concern for the farmers.

 

 

In the same vein he champions that farmers elsewhere have benefited from GM seeds, but the farmers in India are being deprived of this benefit, due to unscientific claims by activists. In his third article, he claims that India has benefited hugely by using Bt Seeds. And that pesticide usage has reduced very much and thus protected the environment. (Which itself is not true, because there has been an increase in various other pests which were hitherto dormant, after the use of bt cotton targeted for Bollworm. In many places the bt cotton was not effective even on the Bollworm). He also claims that people have been feeding animals on cotton crops and that they have been using cotton seed oil and their health has been perfect and this has been proven ‘world over”. And he says the way forward is to promote GM technology in India. In his article while he talks about the farmers suicides pre-bt cotton, he doesn’t speak of the continuing suicides of farmers, especially cotton farmers, post Bt Cotton. Has he not seen the reports that it was Bt Cotton that has resulted in the increasing number of farmers suicides? Or the reports of the AP Animal Husbandry Department which has linked the death of animals to grazing on bt cotton fields? Or the fact that farm labourers end up with rashes on their skin and faces when they are working in the Bt Cotton fields? He and his dear friend Mr. Chengal Reddy claim that there have been no adverse effects on people consuming GM food and cotton seed oil (in Indian Context). I had asked this question earlier to Mr. Chengal Reddy and I am asking this question now to JP, “Have they done any epidemiological studies in India, regarding the consumption of GM food?” On what basis are they saying that there have been no harmful effects? There have been studies conducted in many universities abroad, and it has been found that there have been harmful effects on health including damage of internal organs and in a recent study that was done on rats over a span of 2 years, it was found that regular consumption GM food was even causing cancer. Like nuclear radiation the impacts of this technology on health may not happen over night, but it takes time for its effects to show up.

 

 

But whatever may be the facts, people like Dr. JP conveniently overlook these facts. The way he overlooks the fact that while the production of the grains due to green revolution may have increased, but the impacts on the soil and people’s health has been enormous. Also the increase in the cost of inputs, the use of chemicals has consistently increased over a period of time resulting in catastrophic effects on human health. Has he ever heard of the “Cancer Express” that takes cancer patients from the “hub of green revolution” Punjab, to a free cancer hospital in Rajasthan? While talking high about Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution it would have been good if he considered these facts also. But Dr.JP conveniently keeps these facts out and paints a rosy picture about green revolution the way he now does about GM technology. I want to ask whether he eats GM food daily or does he eat organic food? I want to also suggest him to be on a special diet of GM food for the next two years and if after that he still wants to claim that this is absolutely safe, and then we will look into the matter. But for now, we rather trust the various scientists who have been cautioning people about the harmful effects of GMO’s.

 

 

Talking about the issue of monopoly by seed companies, he says, that we should not say no to this brilliant new technology, just out of fear of monopoly by MNCs. He says we are confusing the two things. But the real reason why the seed companies have brought in GM seeds and GM organisms is to Control the entire “food market and seed market of the world”. He suggests that in order to contain the seed companies, we should put in place control mechanisms that will ensure that farmers are provided seeds at reasonable rates while the “seed producers” get fair remuneration. Citing the example of how Loksatta fought to get the seed prices reduced in 2006, he says we should be doing similar things but not say no to the Technology. It took 3 years for the decision to reduce the prices to come about in 2009. What happened to farmers in these 3 years? Should then the farmers who are victims of these companies continuously run after courts to do this? Or will he (JP) be able to fight the cases of all the farmers in the entire country? For surely farmers don’t have either the time or the means to be running after courts for fair trade practices or compensations. On patents, he says we should amend our law in order to control the monopoly practices of the seed companies. I wish to ask if Dr.JP will he demand for scrapping the Patents on living organisms? Because it is the patents on seeds and living organisms that is encouraging companies like Monsanto to control seed markets. However, he specifies no clarity on this matter.

 

 

He seems to overlook the fact that once the seed is contaminated with a GMO then the farmer has lost his choice to use the seed that he wants to use. Further, he will be forever paying to the company for the use of the seeds, because almost every other seed would be contaminated by the patented gene and thus the companies claim royalties. He also seems to forget that once the biological contamination happens we cannot call it back from the ecosystem. Nor can it be controlled by putting up borders – wind, insects, birds – none of these know the physical borders or the buffer zones! They would go for hundreds of kilometers taking the contaminated pollen, contaminating the fields of unsuspecting farmers, as happened with Bt cotton in India, GM Canola in Canada, GM maize in Mexico to cite a few examples. Dr. JP seems to be unaware of the fact that companies like Monsanto slapped multi million dollar cases against ordinary farmers in North America, claiming that they have used Monsanto’s seeds without the company’s permission; while their only fault was that the pollen from their neighbouring farmers fields’ contaminated their crops due to the wind. Or that there is a big movement across the US demanding for GM Labelling, as it has been proven to cause various diseases.  And consumers now feel cheated and want to know what they are eating.

 

 

Saying that GM technology and Big Retail helps farmers’ interests is the most vulgar lie ever told! In this country, farmers who have been left high and dry at the mercy of fluctuating international prices and who have been made dependent upon the private fertilizer, pesticide and seed companies, are committing suicides in thousands of numbers and the situation will only get even worse with the entry of both Big retail and GM seeds in other crops. The hitherto self-reliant farmer has been turned into a beggar by making him/her dependant on these companies. While in earlier times the demand and supply was based on local demands, now the farmers have to contest with the rapid changes in international markets. The problems started more because of this opening up of markets which has brought in cheap imports. It is thus, the commercial crop farmers like tobacco, cotton and other such crops, who are directly dependent on the “commodity trading international markets”, are the ones who commit suicides. Those who grow food crops meant for the local consumption in their nearby towns and villages are the ones who are in a better situation. Instead of asking for FDI in retail would Dr.JP demand for a ban on futures trading in commodities?

 

 

Farming and small trading / retail have been the largest private enterprise in this country and also the largest employment generating occupations of this country. But these are not seen as such and have no access to the kind of “red carpet” facilities including access to land and credit which an ITC or a Walmart would receive. While farmers have to run around for loan waivers and compensations from pillar to post, big time defaulters like big corporations are given waivers to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees. Small landless poor have to struggle for decades to get access to some land, and governments don’t have land to give to farmers’ markets, but big retailers like Reliance and Walmart will be given access to land of their choice and given all facilities – even if it means to oust the existing farmers. Why doesn’t Dr. JP talk of this?

 

 

What our farmers need is access to credit, allowing them to use their own wisdom and making them more and more self-reliant. We need not go any further than see the experience of Gujarat where the farmer’s co-operatives own everything from godowns to fertilizer companies (Kribhco). And for a change I saw farmers with as little land as 5 acres being prosperous, because they fight with their collective strength and also have the protection of their collective wisdom. Promoting local procurement for local Public Distribution System managed by community groups was successfully demonstrated in Medak District. Also successful was the Dairy co-operative of Mulkanoor in Karimnagar, run by women’s groups. This protects not only the farmer but also the consumer. However, people like Dr. MMS and Dr. JP will always feel that our people are incapable of solving their own problems. They always feel the need to beg foreigners to lift us out of our misery. And we have seen where this begging and dependency on “foreign wisdom” has led us to. The need of the day is to strengthen the local communities – farmers’ co-operatives and farmers markets where the farmers can sell their produce directly to consumers and it is the real solution to remove middle men. And Big retail is nothing more than that – A big middleman.

 

 

At present, the farmer at least has the choice of either selling in his own village, town or to a wholesaler or retailer. When once these big retail chains come in with their big money, small traders will be wiped out and the farmer will have only one choice – to sell to these hegemonic powers. In many situations too, small farmers sell their produce directly also. Will these people be able to compete with the low prices of big chain stores? Dr. JP and Mr. Chengal Reddy feel that as we need cold storages and infrastructure facilities, we need to bring in big money. But my question is why can’t these infrastructures be built by the government agencies and give the management responsibilities to local communities or at least give them the right to question any kind of mal-functioning? Where is the guarantee that these private owned cold storage and other such infrastructures be easily accessible to farmers? Like the Toll Gates that have now made ordinary travel from one district to another exorbitantly high and like the private health care and private education, wherein, all the public utilities have become exorbitantly out of reach of the common person, these infrastructures too will not be open to farmers unless they pay through their nose or become a part of the contract farming system and live according to the dictates of these companies.

 

 

All this is assuming that these retail chains in true spirit buy the produce from our farmers. In one of its clauses the FDI Decision says the companies are obliged to source only 30% of the produce from local farmers. And that it will be under self-monitoring system. Who will check these guys whether they are purchasing that 30% at least? The corrupt govt. officials who can easily be bribed? And what about the rest of the 70%, that could easily be a way for cheap imports from other countries? In that case what happens to the 70% produce of our farmers here? We have seen what has happened to small industry and weavers across the country, due to cheap imports and products by highly subsidized big industry. Now it’s the turn of the farmers and small traders. As I write this article the decision on FDI has already been made. Only time shall tell us what is in store for us. And how far will Dr.JP ensure that fair practices are enforced in this country!

 

 

But one thing has become clear: it is easier to deal with loud, uncultured, corrupt politicians for we know what they are. The soft spoken, seemingly people-friendly and “intellectual” politicians who hide their true intentions behind the façade of honesty are the real danger, due to their capacity to influence the educated classes’ perceptions by their seemingly authentic arguments. We have already seen what happened to this country for having trusted one such predecessor – Dr. Manmohan Singh (Dr.MMS)!

 

 

Saraswati Kavula

 

National Alliance of People’s Movements

 

06/12/2012

 

 

 

 

#India- (UAPA) Draconian Law against liberty-quietly amended #Loksabha


From The Indian Express:

The Lok Sabha has quietly amended the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a dangerous tool in the hands of any government

When two young women were arrested for a Facebook post questioning the shutdown in Mumbai for Bal Thackeray’s funeral, middle-class fury forced the Maharashtra government to drop the case and suspend two police officers.The Centre also issued a set of guidelines to avoid misuse of the controversial Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. However, even as calls for repeal of the “vague” and “wide” provisions of the IT law that are “susceptible to wanton abuse” grew louder, the government silently pushed through much more controversial amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the Lok Sabha, making it further mirror previous draconian laws like POTA and TADA.

The amendments did not merely make this law more stringent; they have made law enforcement agencies less accountable, despite substantial proof of misuse. The government had, in fact, brought in several amendments to give “anti-terror teeth” to the UAPA coinciding with the repeal of POTA in 2004, and more stringent amendments were pushed through in the backdrop of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The vast scope for the misuse of the amendments to the UAPA has been articulated in the recent citizens’ appeal to members of the Rajya Sabha, issued by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), which has been endorsed by several senior civil rights groups, scholars and activists. The appeal has questioned five aspects of the amended law.

The broad definition of person, especially as “an association of persons or a body of individuals, whether incorporated or not” is open to misuse because “this will actually allow agencies and government to create persons beyond that what are recognised by law and any group of friends/ acquaintances can be labelled an association of persons or a body of individuals by the agencies and the government” like a “book reading club to friends who meet every evening at a dhaba may be deemed to be an association of persons or a body of individuals”.

Another major amendment to the law has been to include economic offences within the larger definition of a “terrorist act”. There are two aspects of this amendment that have raised questions. The criminalisation of “production, distribution of high-quality counterfeit currency” is “repetitive” and are already “covered by the equivalent sections 489B, 489C, 489D in the IPC”. The civil rights activists question this amendment, arguing that “when comparable provisions in IPC and terror laws are available for same crimes, the police exercise the option of booking an accused under the terror law because it affords them greater leverage: bail provisions are much more stringent and the accused can be kept in custody for long periods (up to 180 days) without the filing of a chargesheet”.

Another amendment broadens the scope of action against fund raising for “terror activities”. Now, the raising of funds likely to be used (in full or in part) to commit a terrorist act or for the benefit of terrorists shall be punishable irrespective of whether the funds have been raised from legitimate or illegitimate sources. This is irrespective of whether such funds were actually used to commit a terror act or not. And it is punishable for a term not less than five years, but extendable to life.

The only safeguard is the condition that the accused should know that “such funds are likely to be used… by a terrorist organisation”. The civil rights activists apprehend that this amendment will “practically bring under the possibility of prosecution all transactions, even perfectly legitimate ones, without any remote connection to a terrorist act” because “all that the prosecution needs to show is that the accused had knowledge that such funds could be likely used for terrorist act. While such subjective knowledge may again be difficult to prove, it will no doubt result in the incarceration of accused for long periods without bail”.

While the introduction of several new changes has already made the UAPA exceptionally harsh, the amendment of Section 6 of the law has taken away the little hope for judicial scrutiny to prevent its misuse.

The ban on an organisation under the UAPA, which was earlier limited to a two-year period, has been extended to a five-year period. This means that the government has avoided putting its decision to ban an organisation under the UAPA through the scrutiny of a tribunal headed by a sitting judge of the High Court. For example, the tribunal hearing the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) did not only look into the legality of the government’s decision, but it also helped to record and raise the issue of fabricated evidence in individual cases across states. The government’s logic, that extending the ban to five years is to lower the costs to administer the ban, is flawed because the delay in such a judicial scrutiny would make law enforcement less accountable.

There is enough evidence that scores of young Muslim men were branded members of the banned SIMI and arrested. The terror tag was enough to create an atmosphere of public revulsion and they were guilty till proven innocent. There are cases where these men were unable to manage a lawyer who would defend them because several bar associations had banned their members from representing these “terror suspects”. There are examples where verses of the Quran, religious books and even Urdu literature were shown as incriminating material. There were instances where young men were arrested for “shouting slogans against the government” because they were “angry about the demolition of Babri mosque or Gujarat riots”.

Under the normal procedure of criminal law, these acts would have been inconsequential. But once the police branded them as members of the banned SIMI, it automatically invoked the provisions of the UAPA, magnifying the seriousness of the charges. And even once these men win long and tiring battles in courts and are acquitted after years of imprisonment, the terror taint stays, making it extremely difficult to pick up the pieces of their lives and start afresh.

To understand as to why these stringent amendments to the UAPA are especially dangerous, we need to return to the debate in Parliament when this law was enacted, in 1967. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called this law a “donkey that had been made to look like a horse” while George Fernandes had “moved an amendment that the period of ban be reduced to one year”. While opposing the UAPA bill, noted parliamentarian Nath Pai had termed it “a measure introduced by a group of men who have lost faith in the people of India”. Nath Pai had addressed the then home minister Y.B. Chavan and asked, “Will the baton of the police be the final guardian of the liberties, freedom and unity of this country? Can we trust the police to be the only fighter for the delicate fabric of our democracy?” Piloo Mody, who represented Godhra in the Lok Sabha, had said that he was “ashamed of the government”. J.B. Kripalani, who had been chairman of the Fundamental Rights sub- committee, had said that “all these repressive laws violate the rule of law”. He had termed the UAPA “superfluous”, one that “may be used by the executive for purposes for which it is not intended”. He had said that he did not question the intentions of the government. “Their intentions are good but it is like putting a sword in the hands of Hanuman. Hanuman may not like to kill, but somehow the sword kills”.

This time, the passage of amendments to the UAPA in the Lok Sabha happened amid the din of a debate over FDI in retail. Unlike the larger consensus over the need to preserve the freedoms on Facebook, there isn’t even a public debate over the UAPA and its misuse, because, in the dominant public discourse, its victims are deemed guilty till proven innocent.

muzamil.jaleel@expressindia.com

PLease click here for critique of draconian laws

https://kractivist.wordpress.com/draconian-laws/

 

#India -Holding democracy to a whip #FDI


Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA | Sunday, December 9, 2012

 

In the FDI debate that happened in the Lok Sabha, a particularly painful moment saw ‘Netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav take the name of Ram Manohar Lohia. He talked about Lohia and Gandhi. Even as he made tired statements to the effect that he opposed FDI in multi-brand retail in principle, it was getting amply clear to everyone that he and his party would walk out when the moment of truth came in the form of voting. Paralysis and hypocrisy are two conditions where one’s action is not in line with publicly-expressed wish. At any rate, they are not among the desirable characteristics of ‘people’s representatives.’ Some old Samajwadis in his contingent might have wanted to defect and vote their conscience to avoid the ignominy of being associated with either of the two conditions. But that would effectively end the parliamentary career of such people. So they followed their ‘Netaji’ out of the house. Avoidance of trouble is preferable to happiness. The Anti-Defection law drawn up by party bosses have ensured that no Samajwadi Party member of parliament or for that matter, any member of parliament of any party cannot vote in accordance with what he/she deems right. One has to slavishly follow the party diktat or lose the their membership of the parliament, unless at least a third of the MPs of a party find their spine.

It may not be a totally idle exercise to think how the FDI vote would have turned out if the anti-defections law was not in place, given the murmurs of discontent that exist even within the Indira Congress. The anti-defection law is supposedly a counter against horse-trading. In the period from 1985 to 2009, only 19 members of parliament have been disqualified for violating the party whip. The party leaderships don’t have faith on people winning on their ticket, partly because they know on what flimsy self-serving ground such an assemblage of champions is created in the first place. The leaderships also know that enticements of greater value may sway legislators — irrespective of the publicly stated reason of coming together as party – Gandhian socialism, Indian nationalism, Hindutva, OBC rights or whatever. At a deeper level, these are signs of crisis in the very nature of the political class — namely, the absence of inner party democracy and ideology based politics. That crisis has only deepened. Hence the need of the anti-defection law to make parliamentarians falls in line with high command dictates. This form of quasi-Stalinist centralism somehow has a long afterlife in those nations (India, Bangladesh, Kenya) where freedom of expression is also under constant threat from the government of the day. I have a feeling that it is not accidental. UK, France, Canada, Germany and USA have no such anti-defection law for their legislators.

It is important to understand what a member of parliament represents. One is not simply a ‘proxy’ for the people but a representative of the changing wishes of the people of one’s constituency. That is to say, things change and so do people’s wishes, above and beyond the programme of the party on whose ticket one was elected. Party programme cannot be the sole guide if parliamentary democracy is to be a living entity. In a first past the post system, many MPs do not win by majority but by plurality. Parties command all the representative abilities of a MP by issuing whips. This is when democracy takes a beating at the hand of partycracy.

Parties are important tools of organising opinion and force multiplication, especially across larger geographical spaces. Do people vote for a party or a candidate or both? The answer is variable. Candidates use parties and parties in turn use candidates. The Mohammedan MPs of the BJP are a fine example of this symbiotic relationship. In some cases, parties change candidates and win. In other cases, some people win, irrespective of their party affiliation at the time. Clearly parties are not the last word in a democracy. The individual representatives matter too.

In the presence ofparty-whips, voting records of individual MPs are a monotonous copy of party stances, or worse still a continuous testimony to the nature of cynical machinations that the party-head has executed. The anti-defection laws were purportedly drawn up to avoid Matsyanyay — the condition where the big fish eat the small fish. It has resulted in a system where even the minimally conscientious fish is too scared to make its opinion known by voting one’s own opinion. The anti-defection law does not penalise anyone, even the leadership, when it deviates from stated party programme. With the rise and rise of parties that have dynastic or persona-based leaderships, a different Matsyanyay is at play. Only the top fish needs to be ‘managed.’ The top issues the whip and the rest of the shoal falls in line. This surely cannot be a good sign for an aspiring democracy representing such variegated shades as the subcontinent. The anti-defection law only solidifies the false majorities of parties in a first past the post system.

Garga Chatterjee is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

#India-Who said what in FDI debate


IANS India Private LimitedBy Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – 2 hours 57 minutes ago

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Seven speakers from different parties spoke Tuesday on the FDI issue in the Lok Sabha, kicking off a two-day debate with voting.

The debate will end Wednesday with a vote. If it loses in the voting, the UPA government need not resign but it will certainly be a huge embarrassment.

Here are some quotes :

Sushma Swaraj (BJP, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha) : “Small shops, retailers have been wiped out in countries which allowed FDI in retail. About 12 crore people will go out of jobs in India due to the UPA government’s decision to allow FDI in retail. PM makes bold statements like if we must go down, we’ll go down fighting. You must Mr PM, but fight for the poor, not the rich, fight for country, not multi-nationals, fight for small, not big.”

Kapil Sibal (Communications Minister) : “It was decided that retail will only be in cities with over 10 lakh population. There are 53 such cities. After that we felt some states have opposition government. If we separate the states that don’t want it, there are 18 cities left…So if FDI in retail will be implemented in only 18 cities, why is the debate happening? This debate is not needed at all, it is a totally political debate.”

Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party chief) : “As far as FDI is concerned, how much so ever you explain, it is not in favour of the country. We are speaking for the people, it is not in favour of the country. Thirty crore people will be unemployed. If this was good and beneficial, why is America in trouble? Why are people unemployed there?”

Dara Singh Chauhan (Bahujan Samaj Party): “Poor people are anxious over the impact this policy can have on their lives. They fear the multi-national companies will take away their livelihoods. The government should not rush with it.”

T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK) : “I am not telling this as an opponent, but telling this as your brother. I don’t want to put you (government) for a whole-body scan as opposition, but it (FDI in retail) is definitely not in interest of the trading community. “We were the first party to oppose FDI, but we don’t want to oppose you. We have done many good things for the country together, something may not be in favour of the country, but we don’t want to oppose you.”

Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist): “The government is giving dreams of employment (from FDI).. There is 0.8 percent growth in employment in the country and unemployment is rising, there is an economic slowdown… If Wal-Mart gives one employment, it will snatch 17 employments.”

 

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