Lok Satta Junction

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Archive for July 2009

Loksatta on collective farming

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The Andhra Pradesh Government proposed the idea of collective farming to address low productivities and unsustainable incomes:

Cooperative farming envisages giving farmers the option to pool up their land into a cooperative, a company or a society. They have to transfer their land along with their rights to the new body in return for a share capital. The farmers will have the option to exit any time by selling their share to the members or to the government. The society/company will carry on agricultural operations, have its own godowns and work with minimum intervention and maximum support of the Government. “If this experiment succeeds, it will speak for itself. If it fails, it will be the responsibility of the government to restore the status quo ante”.

An excellent twopart video of an earlier discussion on the crisis in agriculture among other issues and how the lack of incorporation of technology in agriculture has affected the state of farmers in the country. JP has further warned the co-operative farming envisaged by the AP Government will end up in a disaster. The main arguments of LSP against the Congress Govt proposed collective farming:

  • Farming in Andhra Pradesh suffered from a host of ailments all of which had little to do with the size of farms.
  • Productivity and production in the farm sector have been low because farmers do not have access to technology.
  • The real problem lay in the absence of breakthroughs in technologies after the Green Revolution of the 1960s.
  • The Government’s advocacy of large, consolidated holdings in the name of cooperative or collective farming for precision farming is untenable. Precision farming involves control of temperature, moisture etc in green houses as in the raising of tulips in the Netherlands. The holdings involved are all small and not at all large.
  • All over the country productivity in small farms is higher than in large farms.
  • If cooperative farming is introduced, the small farmer becomes a wage earner and loses his dignity.
  • Nowhere in the world large-scale farming has been a success. In India itself, we have 14 Central State Farms spread over tens of thousands of acres. But all the farms run by the Government of India are bankrupt. The erstwhile Soviet Union paid a very high price for promoting collective farming.

“In India, cooperatives have succeeded where they are engaged in processing and marketing and not in primary production. Milk cooperatives are a good example. Even in dairy cooperatives whenever the Government controlled them as in Kadapa and Chittoor, the dairies went bankrupt whereas farmer-controlled processing cooperatives are doing well.”

Loksatta has suggested the following alternatives to tackle the crisis in agriculture:

  • Enact a law as in Punjab to promote consolidation of fragmented holdings.
  • Liberalize  the present monstrous tenancy law. Although two-thirds of land holdings in the State are in the hands of tenants, owners do not register them for fear of losing ownership. Once tenancy is brought on record, the tenant can access bank credit and other inputs.
  • A liberalized tenancy law will also facilitate contract farming which is in the interest of the farmer as also the country. For instance, sugarcane and oil palm are raised as a contract between processing mills and farmers. In a similar fashion, paper producers enter into an understanding with farmers for supply of softwood in Andhra Pradesh, and vegetable producers for supply of raw material to processing industry.
  • The Government should focus on value addition, warehousing and marketing. The marketing societies should be under the control of farmers, and all restrictions on marketing should be removed.

Note that the contract farming as suggested by Loksatta is not the same as the failed “contract/corporate farming” Kuppam experiment by the Babu’s TDP Government in 1997. Actually it’s quite the opposite, the Kuppam project is an experiment in Corporate farming where the farmers’ cooperative contracts all the farm work (all stages from initial planning to development and management) to a corporate body. This failed experiment is in fact eerily similar to the co-operative farming idea currently proposed by the YSR Government. The activists in the article further claim:

It is probable that only the Government of A. P. signed the contract with the Israeli company and the formation of Mutually Aided Joint Farming Society was only to legitimate the dealings of the government/company with the farmers, whose lands have been taken over for the demonstration. The members of the Joint Farming Society were never consulted by the corporate body on any decision relating to the operation of the demonstration fields. Thus, no element of cooperation, not even symbolic, was involved either in the formation of the Mutually Aided Joint Farming Co-operative Society or in signing the contract or while dealing with the corporate body.

This further shows the pitfalls and the scope for massive corruption when the Govt gets to take over the lands of small farmers and turning them over to cooperatives/corporates controlled by big landlords/Govt. This completely marginalizes the small farmers pushing them into giving up their lands with little control over the returns.

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Written by jujung

July 26, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Loksatta on AP budget 2009-10

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Budget highlights:

Source: Eenadu

Source: Eenadu

From Loksatta news:

The State is hurtling towards a financial disaster because of unsustainable subsidies on power and irrigation and skewed priorities in education and health care, said Lok Satta President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

Addressing a media conference on the State’s budget presented by Finance Minister K. Rosaiah in the Assembly earlier in the day, Dr. JP said the budget portrayed many dangerous trends which if not halted and reversed immediately would make the life of ordinary people miserable.

Dr. JP recalled the State’s growth rate had been higher than the national growth rate over the last five years. Because of the global economic recession, the nation’s growth rate had fallen from 9 percent to 6.8 percent during 2008-09. In contrast, the State’s growth rate had fallen from 10 percent to 5.5 percent. “The steep decline in the growth rate in the State shows that something is going wrong terribly in the State.”

The interim budget talked of Rs.1.1 crore acres being irrigated at a cost of Rs.1,51,000 crore whereas the regular budget put the expenditure at Rs.1,76,000 crore and the area to be irrigated at one crore acres. “Are the increase in expenditure and the decline in area to be irrigated related to the election expenditure the ruling party incurred in the 2009 general elections?”

Dr. JP referred to the subsidy on power escalating not by year to year but from month to month. Last year, the subsidy on power was Rs.2385 crore. The interim budget mentioned the subsidy as Rs.5040 crore and the regular budget at Rs.6040 crore. “I will not be surprised if the subsidy were to shoot up to Rs.15,000 crore- Rs.20,000 crore in the next five years as all the lift irrigation schemes taken up and planned will utilize most of the 11,000 mw of power to be produced in the next five years.”

Till now, the State had paid Rs.1000 crore a year to private power producers although they did not produce even a single unit of power because of gas unavailability. Thanks to gas availability, the Government could save on this expenditure now. But by reviving the moribund Hinduja thermal power project which called for tariff based on investment, the Government was getting mired in the power crisis deeper. “Poor distribution management and future liabilities on account of unwise schemes are deepening the deficit. Gujarat State improved distribution and guaranteed 24-hour power to all villages. As a result, its rural economy is growing rapidly, and migration to urban areas has come down by 30 percent.

Dr. JP said the budget once again exemplified the Government’s skewed priorities in education and health care. The allocation for school education had come down by Rs.634 crore and for higher education went up by Rs.400 crore. While the allocation for Arogyasri had gone up from Rs.625 crore in the interim budget to Rs.925 crore in the regular budget, it would end up with Rs.1275 crore going by the Finance Minister’s claim that Rs.3.5 crore was being spent on it every day. “I will not be surprised if Arogyasri were to cost Rs.5000 crore a year in five years, even as a lakh of people go without medical care every day now.”

“The budget’s silence on the liquor menace is eloquent. It implied the policy of liquor shop auctioning would continue resulting in shops proliferating and people consuming more and more liquor and ruining their lives.”

Without confining himself to criticizing the budget, Dr. JP offered his suggestions for reversing the dangerous portents. First, the Government’s focus should be on school education and people’s general health and not on higher education and Arogyasri. Secondly, the Government should prevent waste by abandoning unsustainable schemes like the Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation scheme. Thirdly, the Government should ensure that it got better value for money. That was possible only if it made a per-capita grant of Rs.1000 in both rural and urban areas.

Dr. JP added that he had high respect for the Finance Minister who had displayed fiscal rectitude year after year. The increase in the fiscal deficit from 2.95 percent of the GSDP in the interim budget to 3.95 percent in the regular budget too could be understood in the context of the economic slowdown and the need to kick-start the economy.

Yet, after a dispassionate analysis, Dr. JP said, he was constrained to conclude that the budgetary trends would land the State in financial disaster and worsen people’s living conditions.

Update: Video of JP’s speech on budget in the assembly.

Written by jujung

July 25, 2009 at 6:05 PM

Kalam, airport security check-ups and humiliation

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Someone at ToI thinks security check-up of our ex-President Kalam is an insult to nation. And many people who read the article seem to agree with it, considering the high rating 4.6/5 (553 votes).

It is one thing to say the airline breached protocol (in which case it need not make such huge news for a minor infraction) and quite another to say security check-up is a humiliation. Most of us suffer from this VIP syndrome, where we have this notion that people of certain positions need to be treated differently than normal people. And in turn a false prestige is associated with this VIP status. This is seen in different manifestations in everyday life when people in powerful positions expect faster treatment in Govt. offices, people using their “influence and money” to get work done and people’s tolerance for corruption. And to become part of this ruling elite is one of the biggest aspirations of the people. Most people see the Govt services as a favor of the ruling party/Govt to the people – a result of the Colonial/feudalistic hangover when the people were subjects of the state/ruling elite, rather than the state being people’s representation.

This same mindset is also responsible for the horrible way most of us treat our domestic help, our condescension towards people who are in the so called “lesser” professions, our denigration of the people of the “lesser” castes, our sycophancy to people in power and the general single family political party culture of our nation.

Long history of casteism, colonialism and feudalism have definitely played a role, but we have been a free democratic country with equal rights to everyone for more than 60 years now.

  • It’s time people started having respect for all professions and recognizing the dignity of labour.
  • It’s time people get rid of false prestige.
  • It’s time people started having self-respect and pride in themselves and demand what is rightfully theirs.
  • It’s time people stopped worshiping powerful individuals or families.
  • It’s time people fight for themselves rather than for their masters.

Update1: A good article in The Hindu.

When Zia-ul Haq was President of Pakistan, he and his baggage were exempted from security-checks. His weakness for ripe mangoes was well-known. It has been reliably theorised that his adversaries managed to have a small packet of mangoes to be included in his cabin baggage, that one of the “mangoes” was in fact a small bomb and that it exploded when the aircraft was air-borne. All the crew-members and passengers in the flight, including the General, were killed in a trice.

Update2: Another day, another phony outrage. This time, it’s Bollywood Badshah Sharukh Khan.

Written by jujung

July 25, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Posted in India

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Loksatta and secularism

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Loksatta party members commented today: “Instead of going to the rescue of farmers hit by the drought-like situation with an alternative plan, the Chief Minister is hoodwinking the people by initiating the ritual. The Endowments Minister who is supposed to protect temple properties from encroachers supervises the ‘Varuna yagam.’ The TTD, which is expected to productively utilize people’s offerings to the God for their welfare, is squandering away precious resources on such unwarranted rituals.”

First of all, it’s a mistake for a secular Govt. to get involved in maintaining religious institutions and temples. Secondly, once involved, they are bound to use only the temple funds for the religious activities. Now, if the Govt. dips into other funds to organize religious rituals, Loksatta’s criticism of the Govt. is valid. In this case, I believe the funds are from TTD and not from any other sources.

If TTD uses its funds for religious activities, it’s the temple’s prerogative. I don’t think Loksatta has any locus standi on the issue. If people want their money to fund charity, they would donate it to such institutions and not temples. One may criticize religion or any rituals associated with it as a civic organization, but Loksatta is no longer just a civic movement. It would be wise for Loksatta as a political party to refrain from judging harmless religious rituals and other such personal matters of people.

The agenda of the LSP is silent on religious matters. That would be a wise thing to follow for any party which believes in secular governance.

Written by jujung

July 2, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Posted in Criticism, Loksatta

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