Saturday, July 24, 2010

Politics of encounters

So the CBI is gunning and so is the media. Not to forget the Congress and the so-called activists. And what is the target? 2 (or rather 3) encounters in Gujarat a few year s ago. The first one is one a known criminal Sohrabuddin and his wife, the other one is of his accomplice and fellow criminal Tulsi Prajapati, the third one of a LeT terrorist Isharat Jehan. So these 3 have given enough reason for others to hunt for the most efficient CM of India, Narendra Modi. Lets look at some statistics of encounters

Nearly 120 encounters have taken place in Maharashtra since 2000. Most of them under Chagan Bhujbal as the Home Minister. Interesting fact is that more than 70% of those killed belonged to anti-Dawood gangs. Gang affiliations aside, the fact thot most of those killed were gangsters meant that no tear was spent over the encounters. Lets come to another Congress ruled state Andhra Pradesh. Nearly 80 encounters have taken place over last 5 years. Most under Naxal operations or again st the mafia. Similar story repeated in UP where encounters of dacoits and criminals is a regular feature. Compareid to this Gujarat has witnessed less than 15 encounters in Modi regime.

But still we are made to believe that everything is wrong about the Gujarat Home Ministry and the police and administrators need to be punished. What sort of message are we sending? As long as you are a criminal troubling people in opposition ruled states, you will be provided protection and after your death 'justice'. If you are a terrorist like Isharat and wish to blow up opposition leaders, you will have support from the media, 'civil society' and 'secular' establishment. Is that the message one has to get?

Look at statistics again. Gujarat has amonst the lowest crime ratio in India but still the Home Department of Gujarat is being hunted like it is a pack of trigger happy mercenaries.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

End of Federalism?

Ever heard a Governor and Election Commissioner (both of them tainted individuals in their respective tenures) tell a democratically elected state government on which ministers to remove from the ministry? Both the positions, Governor and EC report to the President and so come under the Central Govt influence. This is a serious departure from the set democratic norms. We can debate and even agree on the point of Reddy brothers mining activities and their presence in Karnataka Cabinet. But to be adviced on corruption by Governor H R ,Bhardwaj whose claim to fame is the clean chit to accussed in Bofors case or his shielding of tainted ministers like Laloo as Law Minister in UPA1, is like Baba Nithyananda teaching celibacy.

This is just one off case in a larger picture. Central Govt's refusal to sign the anti-terror bill passed by Gujarat govt, interference of National Advisory Council in state matters like law and order, the step motherly treatmeant to states ruled by opposition, Union Minister Mamata Banerjee dictating anti Maoist policy in WB, the support to the Maoists in Lalgarh, CBI hounding Gujarat Police and Home Minister on encounters of anti-nationals (inspite of the fact that Gujarat has seen far lesser encounters than Maharashtra or AP), scuttling National Highway projects in opposition ruled states, opposing construction of a dam in MP on environment reason while same has been cleared elsewhere, many more such examples to show how central government is trying to interfere in working of state governments.

One of the most important pillar of democracy is the federal rights that states enjoy and to cut those rights is a first step to dictatorship. Indira Gandhi in 70s followed the same path. She first interfered in state subjects and got duly elected governments dismissed. Then she clamped down on political rights and finally on individual rights. History is repeating itself after 3 decades. The federal character of India is being tried to change using all democratic and undemocratic tools. Today it is the right of some opposing states that are infringed upon. Tomorrow it will be me and you to suffer if we decide to be against the government on any issue. Also one of the other flip side is that whenever states rights have been threatened, regional sentiments have risen and so have the regional parties.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NREGS and inflation

While there can't be much debate on good intent of NREGS, one certainly is forced to think about it's implementation at a time when a few states have shown signs of failure. To start with lets just look at one aspect of how it fuels inflation.

The scheme guarantees the rural populace a fixed minimum amount of labour work within its area at a better daily wage. The problem here is that the dependence is completely on infrasturcture projects, be it state or centre sponsored. Now this can work well in a state where infrastructure projects are being undertaken thick and fast. And also where infrasturcture development does not just mean building of roads. But come to states where the infrastructure projects are far and few and those which are running show no signs of ending. This is where the imbalance starts. The labourers get their wages for miniscule amount of work. And landowners find labour at much higher cost since the minimum rates have been pegged. This means while the cost of foodgrains increases, the supply decreases due to lack of labour and lower productivity. The same time, the demand for the grains increases because you have more people with money to buy. This entire cycle pushes the start cost of foodgrains higher but still both the players in agri economy are left dissatisfied. The landowner is not satisfied because of higher wages, lack of labour and less productivity. And the labourer now finds the rising prices of foodgrains a burden and also has to live with Damocles sword on his head of losing the wages if no new infrasturcture projects are undertaken in the area. This is a dangerous cycle and has far greater impact than just inflation.

So if NREGS has to work well, a balance has to be found between labour for infrasturcture and labour for agriculture. The implementation has to be different. Infrastructure project need to be undertaken at a faster speed so that more work can be taken in an amount of time and this ensures the labourers have enough work for long. More spheres like agricultural labour, rural enterpreneurship, private corporate involvement etc have to be covered else NREGS will remain just a free sop>

Sunday, July 4, 2010

why I support this bandh

These are the few reasons why I support the Bharat Bandh:

This bandh has not been called for trivial issue like desecration of statue or some cartoons or paintings. The reason for the bandh is something which is far more serious and is affecting a common man very badly. The inflation was one wound and the fuel price hike is like salt on it. In such extraordinary situation, an extraordinary method of protest it needed.
This bandh has come after all other means failed. Opposition parties recommended changes in budget, asked for debate, ran a signature campaign and moved a cut motion. But all this was met with either an arrogant no or misuse of power. This left the opposition with no other choice.
Media has been silent on price rise and is saving the government. Atleast now media is now talking about the issue.
If the bandh works the government will be forced to look into the steps to reduce the pain and act less arrogant.