Lok Satta Junction

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Archive for the ‘Criticism’ Category

Taking a stance on Telangana

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Loksatta’s take on the problem of regional imbalance and its solution of decentralization is admirable. On several occasions, JP has called for genuine decentralization with devolution of powers, responsibilities, resources and personnel on the local governments. However, with the midnight announcement of the Congress high command on the statehood of Telangana, the issue is no longer about what is the best way to address regional imbalance. The primary issue now is whether the splitting of the state is acceptable, and if it is, what are the terms of such reorganization? Here is where JP’s response falls far short of an astute political response.

He made it clear that the Lok Satta is not opposed to the formation of Telangana if it is accomplished through constitutional means and in accordance with a consensus built among all the regions of the State. Similarly, the party is not opposed to keeping the State intact if the genuine aspirations of people in Telangana are addressed satisfactorily. He underlined the need once again for arriving at a consensus on the status of Hyderabad since the feelings of people in the entire State are intertwined with the capital for the last five decades.

“Above all people of all regions of the State should be disabused of the notion that creation of a separate State is a disaster or that a separate State is a panacea that will solve all problems.”

He repeatedly appealed to people to realize that the formation of a Telangana State is going to be neither a cataclysmic event for Andhra Pradesh nor a panacea for Telangana problems. “When you are carried away by primordial loyalties and emotional frenzy, everything appears to be a life and death issue.”

Now, there is nothing “wrong” with what he actually said. But there is nothing that would suggest a specific course of action either. Asking for consensus is all good and fine, but to make an impact as a political leader for the masses, JP has to take a stand one way or the other. People look for guidance from their leaders and when opportunity presents itself, an aspiring political leader like JP should use it to demonstrate his capabilities. Everyone knows he is a great intellectual and policy maker, but many are not yet convinced if he is a great political leader. JP won the minds of the people, but will he win the hearts of the people?

The following excerpt from Machiavelli’s The Prince is relevant here (via Atanu Dey):

A prince is further esteemed when he is a true friend or a true enemy, when, that is, he declares himself without reserve in favour of some one or against another. This policy is always more useful than remaining neutral. For if two neighboring powers come to blows, they are either such that if one wins, you will have to fear the victor, or else not. In either of these two cases it will be better for you to declare yourself openly and make war, because in the first case if you do not declare yourself, you will fall a prey to the victor, to the pleasure and satisfaction of the one who has been defeated, and you will have no reason nor anything to defend you and nobody to receive you. For, whoever wins will not desire friends whom he suspects and who do not help him when in trouble, and whoever loses will not receive you as you did not take up arms to venture yourself in his cause.

In the present scenario, the two sides are those for the split and those against.

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Written by jujung

December 15, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Loksatta’s internal dissent

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Loksatta’s DVS Verma does not seem to be comfortable with some of the internal issues in the party. Here’s some discussion regarding the same with Katari Srinivas Rao and DVS Verma on Sakshi channel:

Written by jujung

November 16, 2009 at 1:20 PM

Posted in Criticism, Loksatta, Videos

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Using NREGA for political patronage

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The Congress governments are using the NREGA to benefit their party members and supporters. It has been transformed from a Govt program to a taxpayer funded Congress party program. The party members and their supporters are getting a preference for projects and works allotment.

Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Dr. C.P. Joshi wants to re-constitute the employment guarantee council filling up the 30 member council with Congress members, justifying this by saying, “We cannot give the strength and space to other parties.”

According to Mr. Botsa Satyanarayana, Minister for Panchayati Raj, road and drainage works worth Rs.1200 crore are to be taken up under the NREGS. Zilla parishads are being allotted Rs.700 crore for taking up the rural connectivity project and each mandal praja parishad Rs.50 lakh for taking up internal roads, drains and roads to fields etc. “The works shall be entrusted to the implementation-cum-monitoring committee constituted at the village panchayat level.

Loksatta has taken a strong exception to this move for subverting democracy by moving away from the elected panchayats to implement the projects. After already having faced criticism for scams in INDIRAMMA housing schemes, giving the implementation of crores worth of projects to nominated committees instead of elected panchayats hardly inspires any confidence. We can’t be very far from the truth in guessing it means more money from Govt coffers into party coffers.

Apart from this, it’s an open secret that a disproportionate share of the Govt handouts go to the party supporters, irrespective of which party is in power. And not to the actual people in need. This is a direct consequence of the political party in power having excessive control over the executive. And a weak law enforcement combined with a slow and inefficient judicial process completes the vicious circle.

Written by jujung

September 19, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Posted in Criticism, politics

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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.

Written by jujung

July 26, 2009 at 10:26 AM

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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NREGA: The Good and The Bad

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The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA, also known as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, NREGS) is a legislation enacted in Indian parliament on August 25, 2005. The NREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage. While its goals of providing for the enhancement of livelihood security of households in the rural areas are laudable, it is not entirely clear if it is the right way to go about it.

The Good:

In the words of its main proponents, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, transparency and accountability to the poorest and the weakest is in fact the biggest potential contribution of the NREGA to the entire governance system. The NREGA is also an outstanding example of how the RTI Act can be woven into the fabric of the delivery system and the whole legal and governance paradigm. Further, NREGA has found enthusiastic supporters in the rural areas and has been responsible for better wages for the poor in general. In the words of journalist Sainath, despite complaints of rip-offs and payment delays, “with better wages, the bargaining power of the weakest has gone up a notch. For some, their access to costly services like health has risen slightly. NREG work has been a life jacket in the flood waters of the price rise. And no other program has had the positive impact on distress migrations that it has achieved.”

The Bad:

Despite its progress in improved implementation and governance, the NREGA still has to deal with the corruption and other improprieties that have come to be associated with any Govt. program in India. The CAG review said in as many as 70% of the villages checked, there were no proper records available on number of households who demanded jobs and the actual number of people who benefited from the job guarantee scheme. Hurdles to its implementation apart, the main criticism, however, is of the idea itself. The idea of NREGA has been accused of as just income redistribution and hence might cause inflation. Inflation in 2008 did hit a 3-year high with the wholesale price index hitting 7% for the year upto March 22, 2008. How much of it is due to NREGA is however not clear, as record prices of rice, wheat and other foodstuff, along with the sky-high oil price, have fanned inflation worldwide in 2008.

There is some truth to the criticism that this act is just a way of redistributing the income rather than making any lasting improvements in the rural infrastructure. Even its main proponents are silent on the details of the infrastructure projects successfully completed through the program and the benefits of such projects to the local communities. A majority of the supporters only show its effectiveness in improving governance procedures and making people aware of their rights. This is, however, more an offshoot of the successful implementation of the Right to Information act in the NREGA program than the NREGA itself.

A focus on channeling the work to beneficial and durable infrastructure projects would create a great difference to the lives of the poor in the long term, rather than a focus on just distributing the money. Otherwise, it would just create a long term dependency among the poor on the largesse of the Govt. If the works are only of marginal importance, and involve mainly the equivalent of digging and filling the ground, it would be such a huge waste of human potential and resources.

As the article in WSJ points out, “India needs these safety nets for those who truly require them. But the government would do far better to focus on making more lasting improvements in rural lives so that the NREGA and its kin become less prominent in the next five years, not more. Ideally, these welfare programs should be sought by fewer and fewer people as investments in infrastructure, training and services kick in.”

Update: A vote bank called NREGS – “With the new changes in store, chances are the rural jobs scheme will become a vehicle for gigantic expenditures in the name of the poor with very little money actually going to the poor.”

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Written by jujung

June 27, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Posted in Criticism, Ideas, India

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