Friday, February 21, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
After observing such a development in the state, one is reminded of what former Vice President of US, Adlai E. Stevenson had said: “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.” The ones who preached morality and decency for quite sometime now have been caught miserably with no place to cover their shame.
The moral brigade of Sangh Parivar in the state came to its resurgent best after the Saffron Party came to power in the state in 2008. While Churches were attacked within a couple of months of BJP assuming power, pubs were attacked in the name of ‘preserving our culture’. However, the same government had no qualms to allow the obvious indecent rave party in St Mary’s Island. It is indeed an irony of sorts that the Chief Minister of Karnataka should publicly make a statement justifying the rave party, which was a slap on the moral brigade of the state. The CM said that such celebrations were needed to promote tourism in the coastal belt. One wonders where the Sangh Parivar is now. There seems to be no widespread protest or any statement to this day from any of its patrons as regards the rave party of St Mary’s Island. Their prolonged silence in the face of grave embarrassment betrays their hypocrisy.
In the case of porn episode, that these Ministers had the audacity to watch porn on the floor of the House only speaks of the regard they have for decency. Forget about their regard and reverence for Vidhana Soudha, the State Legislature; they did not even have the prudence to hide their banality for a while.
The porn scandal of BJP Ministers in the State Assembly may have shocked the country at large, but such developments were expected considering the fact that the BJP which came to power for the first time in the state went all out to ‘relish’ it. Excise Minister Renukacharya was accused by nurse Jayalakshmi of sexual harassment, while former Food and Civil Supplies Minister Hartal Halappa was accused of allegedly raping the wife of his friend in Shimoga. All these acts only suggest one fact: while the BJP and its Sangh compatriots may demand moral high values from others in the state and act as the custodians of ‘high morality’ to garner political mileage, they have not been able to convince their own men to practice high moral values.
While the state government tries to put a brave face after making the three Ministers resign from their office, the Opposition is harping for their disqualification from the primary membership of the Assembly. The Opposition may have its own agenda, but its demand is indeed justifiable. It is not enough for the government to ‘accept’ the resignation of the disgraceful ministers and wash ones hands. A case in point is what happened in London recently. A clerk in a London court was caught watching hardcore bondage porn during a rape trial. The clerk reportedly said that he indulged in such act only when the proceedings in the court turned boring. The clerk has since been dismissed from the office and a case has been registered against him. He will be sentenced later this month for public misconduct.
All public servants and people’s representatives, whether they like it or not, have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of a public servant. Anyone who breaches this privilege is not worthy to be in that office any longer. If the BJP is serious about sending a strong signal to its members who might indulge in such similar acts, and if it truly believes in preserving high credibility and morality in democracy, it must act now and disqualify all the three tainted members and try them for bringing the State Legislature into disrepute. This will also redeem the Party of the grave embarrassment that it currently facing.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
It is in such a situation that there needs to be a serious rethinking as regards the implementation of MGNREGA. While it is true that the scheme has provided widespread employment to unskilled rural masses, what with the Government increasing the budgetary allocations to 40,000 crore rupees in the 2011-12 budget, recent studies have shown that a large amount of work is either non productive or there is simply no work allocated. To add to such miseries, even when labourers have put in work, the salaries have not been paid for days together. (In June this year, in a protest of one of its kind,members of the Karnataka Pranta Krishi Koolikarara Sangha in Gulburga staged a dharna demanding immediate release of dues pending for labourers under MGNREGA.) There are also reports of fake offer letters being circulated in many parts of the country, thus raising concerns if this scheme too will end up becoming just another toothless government scheme.
If Mr Pawar thinks that most workers prefer MGNREG scheme to working as daily labourers in the farm sector, the problem lies in the scheme itself. One of the main drawbacks of MGNREGA is that as of now the work can be undertaken only on government owned land. This indeed defeats the purpose. If the ideals of the scheme were to be true, the scheme seeks to become self sustainable in the years to come. However, in the six years since the Act was implemented, it has not shown any signs of becoming self sustainable.
Work under MGNREGA taken up on government land in most cases turns out to be non productive. It is true in some states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh construction of kuccha roads have led to rural connectivity. In some places works like water harvesting and a-forestation have also been useful. However, such works are limited. There is a large scale criticism that in most places the labourers end up playing with soil just to get salaries with no productivity. This is unfortunate.
Government needs to bring about an amendment in the scheme and allow works to be taken up in private land as well. Labourers under MGNREGA can be lent to rural private agriculture sector. This will result not only in productivity, but eventually the revenues drawn can help the scheme become self sustainable. Of course, the process has to be strictly monitored and no room should be given for foul play. Certain political will can make a big difference.
Further, if a labourer under MGNREGA has some cultivable land, he or she should be encouraged to work in his/her own land rather than undertake unproductive labour. For this they must be given incentives under the scheme. This too has a double effect. First, the end result will be highly productive and second, one who works in one’s own land has greater commitment to labour than working in an alien land.
While the West has dearth of human resource and hence can justify mechanisation in agriculture, the strength of India is its large scale population. Instead of mechanising the farm sector on a large scale, Government needs to take proactive steps to make good use of the availability of widespread human labour in the rural area. While mechanisation might seem an easy way out, it will rob thousands of people of their livelihood making only a few richer by leaps and bounds. Government must immediately stop any such plans and bring about a policy change in MGNREGA to not only make itself self sustaining, but also to make it credible and viable scheme for the poverty stricken rural India.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
|One would have liked to term it as a comedy of errors, but sadly it was not. Even as the country’s inflation hovered around 9.78 per cent, the Planning Commission of India in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on September 20, declared that anyone earning Rs 25 in urban areas and Rs 20 in rural areas is not poor.|
|Even the World Bank’s international poverty line is $1.25 a day, which amounts to about Rs 60. But the Planning Commission seems to have its own logic. A decent vegetarian meal these days would cost not less than Rs 20-25. If one goes by the Planning Commission’s numbers, a poor man has to eat only once a day. Health and education is a luxury which, at this rate, poor people should never think of.|
A recent Asian Development Bank report says that the price rise of food items that India is seeing these days will push another 30 million people into below poverty line in the country. National Health Survey points out that over 46 per cent children in India are malnourished.
That is at a time when the food grain production in India reached an all time record of 246.6 million tons in 2010-11. It is, of course, another story that nearly 20 per cent of the food that is meant for these children is eaten up by rodents and moths.
What surprises is the fact that the Planning Commission is in a denial mode. One of the members of the Planning Commission, Abhijit Sen, said, “The poverty figures in the affidavit are the ones given by the Tendulkar Committee and the government has to accept it.” But the figures of the Tendulkar Committee are those of 2004-05 when the country’s inflation averaged around 5 per cent and the population was 1.09 billion. Today the inflation has almost doubled and the population stands at around 1.21 billion.
The Arjun Sengupta Committee Report on enterprises in the unorganised sector had said that over 836 million people in India lived just on Rs 20 a day. In other words, over 70 per cent of the Indian population was indeed below poverty line. But the government chose not to consider that report seriously; rather it is making much of the Tendulkar Committee report which has since been criticised by many economists. The State, though, found an easy way out to raise the poor from their penury: it compromised on the per capita income to lift the poor to above poverty line. Perhaps, the government thinks it can, thus, live in what is known as ‘happy illusion’ that all is well.
There seems to be a panic like situation in the media and government circles when the stock markets are plummeting. Even depreciating rupee value against the dollar too seems to be a cause of concern for many. However, the fact that thousands of people, especially children, are dying due to poverty and hundreds of farmers are committing suicides due to the callous attitude of the government and its wrong policies, does not seem to catch enough attention.
This is because poor people matter to the government only during elections and not otherwise. Gandhi had famously said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Unfortunately, the government, instead of reducing, seems to be perpetuating this violence. For example, most Indian states today have the worst public distribution system. The food that is supposed to reach the poor households is sold in the open market for a price. There cannot be worse violence than this.
It is time the government acted in a manner that is worthy of a true democratic state. While it is true that the government did a commendable job by introducing MGNREGA scheme in 2005 for rural employment, the scheme needs to be strengthened. Just 100 days of labour is not sufficient.
There is a need to increase the number of days to at least six months, as most farmers in the villages are unemployed for over six months. Also, minimum wages need to be increased to at least Rs 200, as the cost of nearly everything, and especially the fuel, has gone up incredibly in the last one year and the inflation does not seem to ease out.
Instead of playing with numbers and living in illusion, the government needs to take proactive steps to alleviate hunger from this country. It is unfair that millions go hungry everyday while the government tries to escape responsibility by playing the number game.