Monday, July 31, 2006

Robert Fisk

A link to articles by Robert Fisk.
He is the Middle East correspondent of The Independent and is currently reporting form Lebanon.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Amherst Peace Vigil

Met a few folks at the Amherst Peace Vigil in the afternoon and the topic of discussion was the various conflicts raging across the world. Today's handout had this article on the Israeli aggression in Lebanon.

The Amherst Vigil for Peace and Social Justice in a Nuclear Free World is in its 28th year. The vigil conitnues to advocate for an end to the arms trade, for an end to nuclear wepaons at home (USA) and abroad, and for social justice around the world.

The Amherst Peace Vigil is every Sunday from noon to 1p.m. at the Amherst Town Common.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Right or privilege?

Is primary education a right or a privilege?
The Central government has decided to dump the Right to Education Bill and it will not be tabled in the Parliament. The Bill aimed to make education compulsary for children aged 6-14.

On one hand the government is going ahead with the proposed 27% reservations and is committed to investment in higher education to increase seats, faculty, infrastructure etc. and on the other hand citing lack of funds is washing it's hands off primary education! Furhter, with the booming business of education, private institutes have no incentive to accomodate the poor, making it a privilege for the ones who have/can obtain the required money.

A related post on How the Other Half Lives.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

CEASEFIRE!

Got above picture from Steph's blog.


US blocks call for ceasfire.
UN Ambassador Bolton blocks measure condemning lethal Israeli attack on a UN post.

Free Speech: Use It or Lose It!

A new breed of bloggers: Freeway Bloggers, reaching thousands of people for under a buck!

A basic HOWTO is here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

File Notings

The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the RTI Act which will keep out file notings from disclosures.

Anna Hazare is planning a fast unto death and on returning the Padma Bhusan to protest against the amendment.

CIC (Central Information Commissioner) head says amendment will take "life out of RTI Act"!

The National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) press release is here.

What are file notings and why are they important?
Here is an answer from an email by Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan on the AID listserve ...

Every file has two portions. The right portion contains correspondence, minutes of meetings and orders. The left part is green pages. This is called file noting portion. When a file is put up to an officer, he writes his comments or decision on the green pages and forwards it to the next officer. The next officer similarly writes his/her comments on the green pages. Therefore, green pages are a record of the entire decision making process -which officer said what. File notings would expose if any officer wrote anything illegitimate or if he sat on the file for long. The Government would be protecting corrupt and dishonest officials, if file notings were taken out of RTI Act.

Let me give some examples.

1) Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) got a consultancy contract from Delhi Government. File notings obtained under Delhi Right to Information Act revealed that PWC was at 10th position. In fact, it did not even qualify in the preliminary round. File notings revealed how World Bank pressurized Delhi Government to bring up PWC, cancel bids, do rebidding, change selection criteria etc till such time as PWC got the contract. File notings also revealed how some honest officers protested but their protests were not accepted.

2) 150 jhuggis were razed in Mayur Vihar. DDA said no land was available to resettle them. File notings revealed that 700 plots of land had actually been developed by DDA in Kondli for resettling them. Perhaps, DDA officials wanted to sell these plots clandestinely in association with land sharks.

File notings are important even in very routine matters. Suppose you applied for a ration card or a passport and the babu expects a bribe. Under RTI, as soon as you ask for the action taken in your case and names of officials responsible for delay, they immediately do your job. You won’t be able to ask for this information any longer as it is contained in file notings. 20,000 applications filed by people across the country in the recently concluded “Drive Against Bribes” campaign will become void with this amendment.

Government says that it is important to exempt file notings from disclosure because this is preventing officers from giving honest opinions. This is an absurd defense. Many honest bureaucrats have admitted in private that RTI has made it much easier for them to say no to illegitimate pressures. Besides, nine state governments already had RTI Acts for more than seven years before the Central Act was passed. File notings were being disclosed under all these laws. No bureaucrat in any of these states felt threatened the way bureaucrats in Central Government seem to be feeling.

Monday, July 24, 2006

links

Answer or die! Tragic.

Maharashtra unable to help Vidarbha farmers, even after PM's relief package.

A Class Profile of India, conversations with Pankaj Mishra, Suketu Mehta and Atanu Dey---a radio show on Open Source.
MP3 link.

Curtailing RTI

Government of the people, by the people and for the people!
Then why add obstacles for accountancy to the people?

* * * * *

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO INFORMATION
NCPRI
PRESS NOTE

There is news that the Cabinet has decided to amend the Right To Information Act to exclude file notings from the Act. NCPRI categorically states that this is a completely retrograde step which seeks to curtail the Citizen’s fundamental right in an unacceptable manner. If file notings are exempted, it is a sure method of obfuscating the existence of arbitrariness in the decision making process, which enables fixing accountability on specific officers. It will encourage corrupt and arbitrary practices and be a sure way to kill the spirit of the Act. The Ministers have been ill-advised in going back on the promise to Indian Citizens of transparency and accountability.

NCPRI and al other Civil Society organizations will strongly oppose this move which encourages opacity in the decision-making process, since this would encourage corrupt practices. We recommend that the Government should stop this move to dilute the Act. Citizens from all strata of the Nation are using to it with great hope and faith to monitor and curb arbitrary and corrupt practices in the Governance.

The preamble to the Act had recognised:

"AND WHEREAS democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Goverments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;

AND WHEREAS revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal; ..."

Thus it accepts that after careful thought by the Parliament and Citizens, a careful harmonizing has been done of the conflicting interests. It was after a lot of deliberations that this Act was framed, which codifies the Citizen’s fundamental right under Article 19 (1). An elaborate process was undertaken from August 2004 to December 2004, when the bill was first tabled. Since various stakeholders felt that there were some important deficiencies, a Parliamentary Committee was set up in January 2005, which went into an elaborate consultative process with the Government functionaries and Citizens groups. After a meticulous and detailed exercise, the final draft was prepared by the Government and tabled before the Parliament. After due debate, this bill was passed by both houses of Parliament and assent given to it by the President. Making changes in this law, eems to make a mockery of the entire democratic law-making process, the Government’s promise and actions, and the Parliamentary Committee and Citizens who contributed to this law.

NCPRI suggests that the Government desist from attacking this fundamental right of Citizens. Citizens believe this Act will take the Nation towards a true participative Swaraj, and the Government should focus on how to strengthen the implementation of the Act. This move coming in the wake of an all-India, Antibribery Citizen’s Campaign using Right To Information, would send a signal to them, that this is a move to curb their rights, since it threatens certain undesirable practices.

We call on all Indians to join with us to oppose any move to curtail our fundamental right to know and to work together to insist this retrograde step is not take. Citizens and organizations are requested to write to the Prime Minister and all Political parties and register their opposition. Citizens across the Nation should also organize themselves in meetings to explain to others and register their protest against this assault on an important right, which is important for their Swaraj.

Shailesh Gandhi (Satyameva Jayate)
Convenor

Ajit Bhattacharjea; Anjali Bhardwaj; Angela Rangad; Aruna Roy; Arvind Kejriwal; Balraj Puri; Bharat Dogra; Debu Bandhopadhya; Harivansh; Harsh Mander; Jagdeep Chhokar; Jagmohan Singh; Jean Dreze; Maja Daruwala; Nikhil Dey; P Wangchuk; Prabhash Joshi ;Prakash Kardaley; Prashant Bhushan; Prabhash Joshi; V.Suresh; Venkatesh Nayak; Vinay Mahajan; S R Sankaran; Samir Acharya; Sandeep Pande; Trilochan Sastry; Shekhar Singh; Suman Sahai; Vishaish Uppal
Working Committee of NCPRI

NCPRI
C 17A Munirka, New Delhi 110 067, India
Telefax: +91 (0)11 26178048; Phone: 26168759,
email: ncpri.india@gmail.com

Thursday, July 20, 2006

pariksha


P.S: Don't know author of the poem. If you do, let me know.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Politics of packages, packaging of politics

The politics of relief packages in Vidarbha: P.Sainath reports on the relief package that was announced by the PM to address the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha.
The 'package' declared at the end of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Vidarbha will have little or no impact on the crisis there. Neither in the short run nor in the long term.
...
Yet the suicides are the effect, not the cause, of a much wider agrarian distress. The death count is not the story but a window to it. There are millions of farm households across the country that have not seen suicides but whose conditions are similar to those that have. They too are in deep trouble.
...
It was no one's case that farm suicides would end with the visit. But people wanted steps that would slow the bleeding and restore hope. That did not happen.
...
The first thing the Prime Minister could have done or made the State Government do, was to restore the 'advance bonus' of Rs.500 a quintal for cotton. The State withdrew this in May 2005. Appeals by growers - and even by the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) - were ignored. We knew all hell would break loose. It did. If suicide numbers were high when the price of cotton was Rs.2,250, how could things get better when it fell to Rs.1,700 a quintal? That too due to state policy? (There is also no mention in the new deal of a 'price stabilisation fund' called for by the NCF to protect farmers against the shock of plummeting prices.)
...
Had there been a waiver of debt of up to just Rs.25,000, more than 80 per cent of Vidarbha's farmers would no longer have owed the banks money. People thought that waiver would come. It didn't and the sense of being let down is great. This matters across the country, too. Indebtedness amongst farm households has almost doubled in the past decade.
...
The good aspect of the 'package' was, of course, the promise of crop loans to all farmers across the board. This could help many tide over the current season. But the interest waiver of Rs.712 crore mainly helps banks that have been hostile to farm lending.
...
The package gives Rs.2177 crore to 82 major and medium and 442 minor irrigation projects in the six districts it covers. Much of this simply revises book entries. That is, it draws money from existing programmes. If all these schemes were completed tomorrow, they would not add three per cent of acreage to irrigated area. That, in a region where irrigated land adds up to just 11 per cent of the total.
...
The move does not put a new rupee in the farmer's pocket. Since the principal amount has not been waived, the debt crisis will renew itself rapidly. Besides, there is no help with seed or other inputs. Not even a promise of it.
...
There was and is total silence on the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005. This regressive law puts irrigation beyond the reach of all except corporate farmers. It could raise irrigation costs by thousands of rupees per acre. It also allows an unelected authority to compel farmers to use drip or sprinkler irrigation. Those unable to pay the huge rate hikes in the offing could face fines of up to ten times the new charges. They could also face six months imprisonment. And yes, farmers with more than two children pay one and a half times those rates anyway.

The new package is silent on this. It has nothing for the 85 per cent non-irrigated farmers now shut out from even the chance of having that facility.
...
Not a single top leader of Maharashtra had entered a grieving household prior to the Prime Minister's visit.

Larry Siegel


Larry Siegel, is a farmer who sells his produce at the farmers' market in Amherst every Saturday. The attached picture is of a board which display's his farming philosopgy. It states,
'Organic' has evolved into a loosely applied term these days; rather than add to the cofusion, I prefer to share with you my growing practices, permitting you to apply any term you wish to these practices.
One of our underylying philospohies is to use on-farm materials whenever possible. Our plantings are enriched with composted vegetable matter and manure(from our cows, pigs and poultry), supplemented by whatever aged manure is available for the hauling. Our wood ashes sweeten the soil and enrich it with potassium.
My preference is non-mechanical work. About half our 2/3rd acre under cultivation is in semi-permament beds, maintained by hand. The other half is turned annually by a tiller (when it is working). Weed control is accomplished with a sturdy hoe (and a sturdy back) occasionaly assisted by mulch.
No sprays are applied, organic or otherwise. My insect control program relies on timing of plantings, hand picking or physical barriers of one sort or another. If these do not succeed, I do not grow the crop.
By remaning small we can engage in these practices with a moderate degree of success. Our produce may lack some of the uniformity or 'perfection' of others, but we are offering the same food we ourselves eat. (I grow our family's full-year supply of vegetables and small fruit).
This is labor of love. It provides me subsistence level income and whole bunch of non-material rewards. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in small-scale agriculture and fortunate to have the patrons of the farmers' market supporting us.

--- Larry Siegel

In the age of insecticide/pesticide-based farming and genetically modified (GM) crops and corporate farming, folks like Larry are a diminishing community! The most important thing that stands out in his statement is that his farm is about 2/3rd acre and is enough for his subsistence! Further, he can make do without all the chemicals, and control and efficiently tend to the small-sized farm.

Imagine if we all worked towards non-material rewards---that would be something.

Someday I hope to do what Larry is doing!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Grab-n-Go

An article by Sanjay Sangvai (sent via email by Swati) on land grabs by the government for Reliance to setup SEZs (Special Economic Zones) in Raigad district, Maharashtra.
* * * * *

*This Time, Land-Grab by Rich: The Politics of SEZs in India *
-- Sanjay Sangvai

The farmers in the obscure Pen tehsil in Raigad district Maharashtra are preparing for the long battle against the gigantic and powerful company – the Reliance. On June 22, a few Mumbai-based Marathi newspapers carried the news of the demonstrations of hundreds of farmers against the land acquisition by the state government for the Reliance company for a 10,120 hectare Special Economic Zone (SEZ). There was police firing on the rally as some miscreants indulged in stone throwing and damaging the property, which it was later found that, was not done by the protesting farmers.

"The Reliance company managed to create disturbance in the peaceful meeting of hundereds of farmers and our process of presenting objections to the Land Acquisition notices to the officials. The company is nervous about the growing resistance by the farmers for usurping their productive land and therefore trying to use the police to crush the movement" told Arun Shivkar, of Pen Panchkroshi Sheti Bachao Samiti (Pen area Committee for Save the farmland).

"And as we know the reality of this company and the SEZ, the farmers will drive the company out and take on the state government also for siding with the capitalists instead of caring for the farmers" fumed Ganesh Thakur from the Samiti. Out of 10,120 hectares land is earmarked for acquisition, 5720 ha. Is irrigated from Hetavane dam, and large tracts belong to the salt pans or wetlands, mangrove very essentials for carrying capacity and sustainability of this area.
The villagers now know fully well they are pitted against the formidable adversary – the giant Reliance, which has just obtained 25,000 hectares land for its own SEZ in Haryana, already took the governments in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and even the so called the Left wing government of W. Bengal. It is spreading its wings in textiles, power, contract farming, medicinal herbs, sugar industries and retail stores. They realize that the Company has enormous sway over the political, bureaucratic establishment and the media. This company has been given the largest SEZ in the 42 villages in Pen-Panvel-Uran area, in the name of the activities like manufacturing, trading, services, processing, logistics, repackaging, warehousing etc.

This is one of the 24 approved SEZs in the state, both by the private parties (13) and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC, 11). There are other 17 SEZs that are to be given approval (11 private and 7 MIDC). These SEZs are part of the more than 140 SEZs that are earmarked in almost all the parts of the country. According to the Union government's handout, the SEZ is a specifically delineated duty free enclave and shall be deemed to be foreign territory for the purpose of trade operations, duties and tariffs. In 2000 the Government of India formulated the SEZ policy and in 2005 the SEZ Act was made. It came into force from February 10, 2006.

With this one stroke, the corporate powers have cornered exemptions from almost every tax, while getting the services of water supply, electricity, usurping the natural resources, distorting the constitutional sovereignty of the people.

*Waiving Taxes*

The Maharashtra government formulated the SEZ policy in October 2001, to "promote the establishment of large, self contained areas supported by the world class infrastructure oriented towards export promotion". Any private, public or joint company and even the foreign company can set up the SEZ, which would consist of the industrial operations, service and trade. Both the policies emphatically declare to create the 'hassle-free environment' for such operations, that is, exemption from all sorts of taxes viz: stamp duty and registration fees, cess or levies including import-export duties, customs duties, sales tax, excise, octroi, service tax, mandi and turnover taxes. They can import of procure from domestic sources duty free all their requirements from capital good to raw materials, spares, packing materials, office equipments, without any license or specific approval. They can procure/ import goods duty free to set up the units.

Most important concession is the income tax benefit under 80 1A to developers for any block of 10 years in 15 years, exemption for income on investment in infrastructure capital fund and the from electricity duty for 15 years in C, D, D+ areas and no-industry districts in Maharashtra and for 10 years in other areas. They are allowed re-investment of ploughed back profits and carry forward of losses. The units are allowed establish Independent Power Plants (IPPs), to produce, transfer and distribute the power, fix tariffs in their own zones without any license. The SEZ
authority, the state government appointee is to 'ensure continuous and good quality' power supply and 'adequate water supply' to the SEZs.

These units can have 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in the manufacturing. Off shore banking units are allowed in these areas and they are allowed 100% Income Tax exemption on profit for 3 years and 50% for next two years. Individual investment in SEZ too is exempt from the Income tax. External commercial borrowing up to $ 500 m. per year is allowed without any maturity restrictions. The SEZ units enjoy freedom to bring in export proceeds without any time limit and have freedom to keep 100% of export proceeds in the EEFC account and to make overseas investment from it.

According to an internal assessment of the Union Finance Ministry in 2005, the government had to forgo about Rs. 90,000 crores in direct and indirect taxes over the next four years on account of the SEZs.

Autonomy for Whom?

The units in SEZ can sub-contract part of their production process abroad or even to the domestic tariff area. The developed is permitted to transfer infrastructure facilities for operation and maintenance.

The SEZs, except those product specific and port/airport based units, must have at least 1000 hectares of area to set up SEZ. They have to set up their processing units in the 35 % of the earmarked area and they have full freedom in allocation of space and built up area to approved SEZs on commercial basis. They are authorized to provide and maintain services like water, electricity, security, restaurants and recreation centers on commercial lines.

The SEZs are made free from the environmental and labour laws and they are exempted from public hearing under Environment Impact Assessment notification. On the contrary, SEZs are permitted to have "non-polluting industries like golf courses, desalinization plants, hotels and non-polluting services in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). All the environmental clearance powers, particularly the clearances required by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, are vested in the hands of the
Development Commissioner, appointed for the administrative supervision and solve the problem for the SEZs.

The SEZs have no responsibility to provide employment to the people in and around the area. The reliance had clarified that there would be no scope for the employment for the local people, as most of the jobs will be skilled ones. However, any of the labour laws and regulations will not be applicable to SEZs. All the powers of the Labour Commissioner shall be delegated to the Development Commissioner of the particular SEZ and a single point mechanism in SEZs will be provided to give all clearances and permissions pertaining to industrial safety and other regulations. The practice of 'hire and fire' will be made easier and nobody will be allowed to conduct inspections without the prior permission of the Development Commissioner of that SEZ.
The Maharashtra policy aims to further exclude many services from the ambit of the Contract Labour (regulation and Abolition) Act. And " All industrial units and other establishments will be declared as 'Public Utility Services' under the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act!!

The Maharashtra policy declares the SEZs as Industrial Townships to enable the SEZs to function as self-governing, autonomous municipal bodies. Union government policy bluntly tells that," Government controls the operation and maintenance function of the Government controlled SEZs. In the rest, operation and maintenance is privatized".

Serious Issues

Even in the neo-liberal and government corridors, the setting up of SEZs make no sense, as there are already many schemes for promotion of exports like the Export Processing Zones, Export Oriented Units Scheme, Export Area Intensive Area Sub-Plan, Infrastructure Development Scheme for 93 no-industry districts. They will loose their attraction altogether once new SEZs come into being. The 47 Software Technology Parks would suffer a setback; they would become unviable as many companies would like to shift to the new SEZs.

More important is the issue of the large tracts of land – at least 1000 hectares or even 80 hectares to be given to the companies. According to senior trade unionist Gajanan Khatu, "These SEZs would be privatized and autonomous townships. Instead of mere SEZs, they are Special Real Estate Zones. These SEZs can be used for anything from trading, entertainment, hotels, and housing projects." All the large builders like City Parks, K. Rahejas, Hiranandani Builders, DLF, Marathon realty, Pan-India Paryatan, Dewan Investments are given hundreds of hectares.

The SEZs will have their own security, operation and maintenance rules and all environmental and labour clearances vested with the Development Commissioner of that SEZ. "It is nothing but creating autonomous private regions; the local self governments will have no authority over them", pointed Rifat Khan of National Center of Advocacy Studies (NCAS).

According to Dr. Mukund Ghare, Director of AFARM, Pune, an organization for sustainable land and water management, "when there is a crying need to distribute the scarce water equitably between urban and rural sectors and between the rich and poor, there is an apprehension as to how much water the SEZs will use? Who will own the water? How it will be used, when there is no environmental law applicable to the SEZ? This is nothing but an attempt to privatize water".

"It is appalling and illegal to permit the tourism, beautification, hotel, ports up to 12 nautical miles (22 kms) in the sea. There is a conspiracy to dilute the CRZ, regularize the past violations and invite the large megatrawlers of the transnational companies. " explained N.D. Koli, the Maharashtra leader of the National Fisherpeople Federation (NFF).

"It is a government sponsored land grab by the rich and powerful. Already serious land related issues of Land Reforms or restoring the land rights of dali,or eksali lands in Konkan or on Adivasi lands in other forest-land area. And here the government has been allotting large tracts of lands, mostly by acquiring through Land Acquisition Act and passing it on to the private parties", charged Surekha Dalvi, a senior lawyer and land-rights activist.

"When the government has been cutting the subsidies for the farmers, workers and middle classes, when it cannot assign a fraction of funds for rural employment guarantee scheme, the public distribution system and government procurement of food grains are being dismantled, it is becoming clear the 'beloved' class of the power holders" denounced Ulka Mahajan, the national convener of the National Alliance People's Movements (NAPM). " The people will not take it lying low. They would unite wage a relentless struggle to defeat the forces that are out to snatch their livelihood and resources," she warned.

Building Resistance

"There is no question of increased compensation for the land – we just do not want to give our land to the Reliance," that was the spirit of the meeting held on June 24-25, hosted by the Samiti and the NCAS, at Bardawadi near Pen. The meeting, attended by various organizations in Konkan region along with the representatives of NAPM, People's Political Front (PPF), and Shoshit Jan Andolan resolved to intensify and widen the struggle against the SEZ, by involving the affected people in other parts of Maharashtra and India. A detailed campaign against the Reliance's money power and the SEZs as a whole was planned.

The people's movements from various parts of the country under the aegis of the NAPM, in the recently held Bangalore convention, have decided to take up the issue of the SEZ and mobilize the nationwide resistance to the creation of the SEZ. The organizations made it clear that the issue at the stake was not only the lands and rights of the affected farmers and other villagers, but the larger canvas of the way the political economy of the nation is being usurped by the corporate interests with the connivance of the political and bureaucratic elite. They resolved to protect the natural resources of the communities – land, water, forest, sea-coast; oppose the
violation of the laws and regulations and the sovereignty of the people.

If the struggle in Raigad gains momentum, it would be a next sign-post, like Plachimada, of the fierce resistance by the people to any encroachment on their rights, resources and sovereignty and any threat to the Constitutional democracy in the country. The struggle in Raigad will decide to a large extent the future trajectory of the larger struggle.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

will happen on our watch!

"Real Oil Crisis", a ~12 minute video on Peak Oil aired by ABC Australia. The video can also be downloaded here [real audio] and here [wmv].

Peak oil is the point at which production starts to decline and once it becomes clear that this is not just a temporary problem of supply and demand ~ it's going to lead to panic . The relentless decline in availability of fuel will cause a crisis unlike any we've seen in the history of the industrial or information ages.
[Interview with peak oil expert Richard Heinberg / Sun magazine July 2006]

Previous posts on Peak Oil: #1, #2

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Narmada update

The Shunglu Committee report regarding the rehabilitation status in the Narmada valley has been submitted to the Prime Minister (the report was due by June 20 th). The PM is to send his recommendation within a week to the Supreme court, which was to pass a ruling before July 3rd.

Mike Levien reports from the Narmada Valley regarding the issues surrounding the Committee's survey, methodology, scope and its potential implications.
Both the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister recognised that rehabilitation for Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river was incomplete, but neither was willing to fulfil their legal responsibility to actually stop construction. Instead, the the Shunglu Committee is now "independently" investigating rehabilitation and it appears compromised. Even if the committee finds that rehabilitation is incomplete (which it will if it conducts its mission in good faith), by this time construction up to 122 m will be finished!

Also, the MoEF (Ministry of Enironment and Forests) has directed the Government of Madhya Pradesh to stop work on the Maheshwar dam, sighting violation of conditions given for clearance.

Monday, July 03, 2006

three appeals, one ball

From the on-going 4th cricket Test match between India and West Indies at Sabina Park (CricInfo test commentary) ...
    Kumble to Chanderpaul, OUT, gone, Kumble you beauty! Flighted on middle and off, Chanderpaul goes for an airy flick of all shots, not much turn, strikes him on the full, they all appeal, there's lbw shouts, the ball flies to Dravid at slip, there's one for the catch, then he throws the ball onto the stumps to run him out, its all happening, Rudi Koertzen raises the finger slowly, in the end its given lbw, its really all happening here, three appeals for one ball to one batsman, but the lbw is confirmed, whatever it is, Kumble's struck and West Indies slip further!

    the scorecard reads:
    S Chanderpaul lbw b Kumble 13 (56b 1x4 0x6) sr: 23.21

... don't see that (three appeals for one ball) happening very often!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rs. 3,750-crore relief package for Vidharbha

A Rs. 3,750-crore relief package for announced by the PM to tacle the agrarian crisis in Vidharbha. In addition, a special rehabilitation package will be launched in 31 districts of four States where farmers have committed suicide.

Highlights (from the above article)---
  1. Waiver of overdue interest: The waiver of interest would make farmers immediately eligible for fresh loans. The Centre and the State Governments would share this burden equally.
  2. Debt rescheduling: Rs. 1,296 crore of overdue loans as on June 30, 2006 would be rescheduled over a period of three to five years with a one-year moratorium.
  3. Increased credit flow: An additional credit flow of Rs. 1,275 crore in 2006-07 in the six districts.
  4. Rs. 2,177 crore for the completion of 524 major, medium and minor irrigation projects in these districts over the next three years. About 1.59 lakh hectares would be brought under irrigation.
  5. Rs. 180-crore Quality Seed Replacement Programme would be started so that the problem of good quality seeds was sorted out.
  6. The six districts would get Rs. 240 crore for watershed development, check dam construction and rainwater harvesting.
  7. Rs. 225 crore towards the National Horticulture Mission, which would cover all the six districts, including Buldhana, and the problems in orange cultivation would be addressed.
  8. A proposed programme costing Rs. 135 crore for improving cattle and fisheries activities---to reduce dependence on agriculture.

Now, the difficult part of implementing it!

The report also mentions the PM recognizing the need to move away from the focus on cash crops.

Also, there is mention of an experts group to look into the problem in totality. Wonder what happens to the reports prepared by the National Commission on Farmers.

product of design, not decay

How Mumbai came to discover Vidarbha, P. Sainath writes on the PM's upcoming visit to Vidarbha, how compenstion is being doled out---albeit late, the state government's role so far and high expectations of the farmers.
The Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Vidarbha has had an impact even before he's reached there. It would, however, be a transient impact if he does not see through the charade. The mess there starts right at the top. Vidarbha's condition is the product of design, not decay.

Meanwhile, a UN report has urged Asian developing countries to renew focus on farming and curb reliance on food imports.
More emphasis must be placed on local production and protection for local farmers who cannot compete with world prices, especially those distorted by large subsidies in the US and EU.

The UNDP stresses that poor Asian farmers should be assisted by tariffs on imports, price supports, subsidies, affordable loans and by strengthening land reform.
Farming supports half of Asia’s workforce and growing reliance on cheap food imports could wipe out rural livelihoods. About 70 per cent of India ‘s population live in rural areas; more than 60 per cent of China’s population makes a living from agriculture.

“While increasing agricultural trade might boost economic growth and benefit poor consumers, it is also likely to depress local prices and undermine the livelihoods of poor farmers,” said the report.

Investment in rural development has declined sharply in many developing Asian countries. The UNDP urges governments to invest in agriculture, for example, in irrigation, roads from farms to markets and providing villages with electricity.


and a link on the mela in Vidarbha before the PM's visit,
“For 48 months no one came to mourn the 1,600 farmers who killed themselves, but in the past 48 hours, it’s like a mela,” the cotton farmer said.