September 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Second Green Revolution
Getting Laloo's nod
Why Cancun is unlikely to help
A move towards cooperative federalism
Those who just
Second Green Revolution
PRESIDENT A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s call for a second Green Revolution that he gave in Ludhiana on Thursday is part of his vision for a developed India. Apart from his tete-a-tete with children, President Kalam likes to share bits of his vision wherever he goes. It was but natural that while at Punjab Agricultural University, the institution that played a pivotal role in ushering in the Green Revolution, President should stress the need for a second thrust to raising agricultural productivity and improving rural living standards. Though media reports did not elaborate the President’s concept of second Green Revolution, his earlier speeches and writings on taking India forward make the President’s message quite clear. He has quite often stressed the need for raising cereal production from the present level of 200 million tonnes to 360 million tonnes by 2020 to meet the growing demand and banish hunger from the country.
This requires raising agricultural productivity through an extensive use of biotechnology and information technology and much else. According to the President, the number of people engaged in agriculture will come down to 50 per cent by 2010 from 62 per cent in 1992. “Whereas, the demand of agricultural products will double in quantity, productivity using technology and post-harvest management will have to compensate the manpower reduction in farming and agricultural products sector”. To improve the quality of life in rural places, President Kalam has suggested a model of PURA —Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas. At Ludhiana he talked of a “mega mission” to provide roads, electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity by setting up professional institutions and vocational training centres.
There are agricultural scientists who feel the challenge before India today is how to replicate the Green Revolution in less hospitable areas and bring about food security to the poorest of the poor. They use the expressions “second Green Revolution” and “Grey-to-Green Revolution” to describe the campaign. Noted farm scientist M.S Swaminathan calls it “ the Evergreen Revolution”. Will the states take up the challenge? After growing sharply in the seventies and eighties, Punjab’s growth rate fell below the national average in the nineties. Populism and politics have dragged Punjab from the top slot. The Punjab Governor, Justice O.P. Verma, aptly described the grim situation: “Income from agriculture has declined in the past few years due to the shrinking of landholdings, deterioration of soil quality, decline of watertable and wheat-paddy rotation. Diversification of crops can mitigate these problems.” The road map for growth is clear. Will the political leadership in the states rise to the occasion and translate the President’s vision into reality? Punjab’s, as well as Haryana’s, farmer will always be ready to lend his shoulder to the effort.
IN 14 years of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, there have been hundreds of encounters with the militants, but few have lasted as long as the latest one in Ghati forests of Kathua district in southern part of the state. The interminably long gunbattle raises many vital issues. Was the challenge really extraordinary? Was enough information available to our security forces? Was the work of the joint team of the Army, the CRPF, the police and the village defence group hampered because of inadequate coordination in the tough terrain? Were the forces properly equipped? If a small band of militants can hold out for so long against a vastly larger and superior force, what will happen if there is a larger group out for mischief? All these questions will have to be examined dispassionately if a more effective operation is to be launched in future. The authorities will also have to assess the gains and losses from the Kathua encounter objectively and plan an adequate strategy.
One thing is for certain. The terrorists coming in from across the border today are well trained and equipped. The way they engaged the security forces showed that they were fully conversant with diversionary tactics. They were believed to have come from Pakistan recently. The huge quantity of ammunition they carried is a matter of alarm. Reports from the area suggest that the communications equipment and even some of the weapons they carried were superior to those held by the security men. The latter have been privately grumbling about this shortcoming. This inadequacy, if real, will have to be addressed quickly, now that the Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared a Rs 3,000-crore project to augment the army arsenal and modernisation of the Army.
Another dangerous dimension is the increase in infiltration in the southern part of the state. Not only a large number of terrorists are sneaking in from this area, they have also launched some of their most daring attacks in the neighbourhood. That is why the Pathankot-Jammu belt is now as badly afflicted with violence as the valley is. The large-scale influx should be a matter of concern. It has been stressed repeatedly that once the militants sneak in and mix up with the local populace, it is very difficult to weed them out. Their mischief has to be nipped right when they are trying to cross over. That is not easy, given the inhospitability of the terrain. But neutralising them once they have barged in is even more difficult. The entire effort has to be geared towards sealing the border better.
Getting Laloo's nod
Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav has not read "The Godfather". Yet much of what he does in Bihar bears striking similarities to the style of functioning of the main character of Mario Puzo's famous book. Take for instance the latest controversy over the screening of "Gangaajal" in theatres in Patna. Compare it with the opening chapter of Puzo's book in which the rapists of a black girl were set free by the court. The screening of the film was disrupted because Prakash Jha made the mistake of making the villain of the film, based on the Bhagalpur blindings, answer to the name of Sadhu Yadav.
The only persons the de facto ruler of Bihar takes seriously are his wife's brothers. He hears no evil, sees no evil and speaks no evil about them. In Puzo's book the father of the girl gets justice from the godfather. Prakash Jha had to seek the intervention of Mr Laloo Yadav for protecting his creation from being vandalised by the real Sadhu Yadav and his men. The good news is that the screening of "Gangaajal" will now not be stopped through unauthorised use of force anywhere in the land of Laloo, Sadhu and Rabri Devi.
Mr Laloo Yadav is indeed to Bihar what the godfather was to his domain. If Bollywood rumours are to be believed, Prakash Jha, who too is from Bihar, had many dreams. Meeting the best known face from his home state was one of them. A simple request did not get him the invitation he wanted for a face-to-face with Mr Laloo Yadav. He chose the Bhagalpur blindings as the theme of "Gangaajal" to attract Mr Laloo Yadav's attention! The villain in the film was deliberately given the name of Sadhu Yadav. Prakash Jha took a huge risk by doing so. Why not? But the film-maker should count himself lucky if there are not many more Sadhu Yadavs around in the country. How many such people the celebrated film maker is going to talk to before going ahead depicting the reality?
Thought for the day
Private faces in public places are wiser and nicer than public faces in private places.
Why Cancun is unlikely to help
THE fifth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation that will take place at Cancun, Mexico, between September 10 and 14, appears unlikely to yield any significant tangible benefits for developing countries, including India. The wealthy nations of the world, led by the US, do not wish to yield ground that could result in the fulfilment of some of the aspirations of poor countries. This unpleasant truth has already been revealed by the recent US-European Union “deal” on trade in agricultural commodities.
The very countries that shout the loudest about the virtues of free trade are today erecting the tallest barriers that seek to check the entry of goods produced in developing nations into their own economies. One example, cited in a recent publication of the Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries, would suffice to highlight the gross inequities in international trade: tariffs collected by the US on imports from Bangladesh worth $ 2 billion exceed the tariffs imposed on imports worth $ 30 billion from France. Another instance, mentioned in a number of studies conducted by organisations under the UN, would emphasise the issue of farm subsidies: the average government subsidy given to maintain a cow in Europe is more than $ 2 a day — a billion people on this planet (not excluding some 30 million Indians) do not have this kind of money to survive each day.
The world is unequal and we all know it. But it is during meetings like the one that will be taking place at Cancun that these inequalities come into sharper focus. What Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said on September 4 while addressing a meeting of businessmen from the Association of South East Asian Nations is noteworthy in this context. He said: “We try to highlight the asymmetries and imbalances in multilateral trade agreements, but keep getting sidetracked into non-trade issues.” The Prime Minister held the WTO responsible for adopting what he described as a “two-track” negotiating process, with the concerns of developing countries “always on the slower track”.
Unlike so many other issues, on this occasion, Mr Vajpayee articulated a concern that cuts across the political spectrum — from the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch affiliated to the RSS to the Centre for Indian Trade Unions affiliated to the CPM and from the BJP to the Congress. There is a growing feeling all over the country that although India’s foreign trade has expanded faster than world trade, this has much more to do with our farmers, our manufacturers and our service providers than with the fact that we have now been part of the WTO system for more than seven years. Whereas only the extreme Right and the extreme Left are suggesting that India walk out of the WTO, most others currently believe that while this country should remain within the WTO, our politicians and bureaucrats have to adopt a far more aggressive posture to make our national concerns heard above the din.
India may be the world’s second most populous nation but this country accounts for barely 1.7 per cent of total world trade. We may be one among 146 countries that are members of the WTO, but we accept with more than a pinch of salt the contention that this multilateral body is more “democratic” in its functioning simply because each nation has one vote and, unlike the International Monetary Fund, the US does not have veto powers. It is evident that despite the claim that the express purpose and objective of multilateral trade negotiations is to ensure that the world economy as a whole gains, the benefits of trade have been and are unevenly distributed across nations. Though a concept of special and differential treatment on a non-reciprocal basis was sought to be built into the negotiating process at the 2001 Doha ministerial meet of the WTO, this concept has thereafter been undermined to a considerable extent.
The WTO was set up on January 1, 1995, after eight years of negotiations between 1986 and 1994 under the Uruguay Round. During this round of talks, developing countries undertook to implement far higher commitments for trade liberalisation than developed countries. The latter has continued to impose high tariffs and duties as well as non-tariff barriers (such as quota restrictions) on imports from developing countries. Developing nations were allured by tall claims about how much they would stand to benefit not only on account of growth in world trade but also with promises of more market access for their products - like agricultural commodities, textiles and clothing — and greater freedom of movement of persons providing services.
Nothing of the sort happened. Instead of multilateral negotiations, what the world witnessed were more and more trading blocs, greater protectionism and restrictions on movement of people. At Doha and Seattle in 1999, developing countries managed to keep off “non-trade” and “extraneous” issues such as environmental and labour standards out of the WTO agenda with great difficulty. Instead, they had to give in on demands for inclusion of the so-called Singapore issues - trade related investment, competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement.
At Cancun, these demands are certain to be raised again. It is also apparent that the US and the EU would oppose the position adopted by India, China, Brazil and other developing countries on the need for a quick reduction in subsidies given to farmers in the US and the EU, at home and at the time of export — it is argued that such subsidies not only distort trade but also jeopardise the livelihood of millions of poor farmers. The developed countries have given in a bit to countries like Indian and Brazil on the TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) and public health front that would benefit pharmaceutical companies. It appears that not very much more would now be forthcoming.
As the Prime Minister pointed out, the Doha declaration had called for positive efforts by developed countries to ensure higher market access for the products of developing countries, especially in the area of agriculture. However, almost all the deadlines that had been proposed at Doha have been missed. This is a particularly unhappy situation for developing countries that are simultaneously under pressure to agree to give a negotiating mandate on the Singapore issues at Cancun.
What could very well happen is a repeat of what has happened at past WTO ministerial conferences. Developed countries led by the US would try and drive a wedge between developing countries and least-developed nations. For instance, Bangladesh and Nepal would be told that liberalisation of trade in textiles and clothing would benefit big brother India much more than them. To what extent this familiar policy of divide and rule would be staunchly resisted remains to be seen.
I know exactly what I was doing when the Indian Parliament was attacked on December 13. I also know where I was when Colombia crashed and the Twin Towers crumbled. Older people remember attack on Pearl Harbour, or nearer home when the port of Cochin was bombarded. Many can still recall the grant of Indian Independence.
This may be true of the highbrow types but how did the humble folks generally remember dates and events? Births and deaths and their timing. Fierce floods or fire as also epidemics. Well, everything that was eventful was related to another event, which affected either everyone or a particular individual. No time but space existed for them.
My great grandmother used to tell us her marriage was as old as the big jamun tree in our village for it was planted the same month of Sawan. She could never have known her date of birth but yes she did recall who all perished in Kaatakwali — an epidemic that struck the areas in 1930s. Also even before that when a freebooter plundered the Jind areas and met with severe resistance from the local Jats.
Grandfather had his stories to relate, timing them to the two world wars and the Indian soldiers who fought for the British in foreign lands. He also gave us vivid details of one such soldier who developed an affair with a white Mem while in Italy and that she insisted on coming to India in such fierce manner that she lay prostrate in front of the vehicle carrying him. I do not really know whether he was jealous.
Later generation people remember the traumatic maar-kaat — the blood bath — of partition of the country. Who killed how many and how many got butchered. What families were uprooted and what were allotted lands on this side. Who was looted and who rolled in riches after chasing the fleeing families. Frenzied rantings of Allah-o-Akbar and Har-Har-Mahadev still reverberate in the ears of many who can relate the life’s events to those days of utter anarchy.
Simpler episodes were linked to occurrences like when there was a big breach in the canal that flooded the areas or crops having failed due to famines. A marriage in some landlord’s household or the local heroes’ exploits too timed certain events. Levying of taxes or a general deference made news.
Then there were the events like a dacoity with murder at a rich man’s haveli with which the other simpletons would mark happenings concerning themselves. Saangs, modified to swangs these days, which were rostrum-performances, by eminent local artists, also marked their time. Ruralites assembled in huge numbers to watch these. Sometimes such events ended with brawls and free fights giving ample titillation to the episodes to be remembered by all and sundry.
Other softer options of sensing or estimating time with the villagers were the early twitter of the birds, or the crowing of a cock; or if it was dead of night, the howling of the jackals or the owls’ yowl. The sun and the moon also guided them with their positions.
I remember a rattle-brain who was given a watch in dowry. Many in the village laughed at his flaunting it on the wrist. Still others asked him time more to tease than to know the time. This made him show them the watch since he did not know how to read time himself. And in vogue still is having a watch tattooed on your wrist.
A move towards cooperative federalism
SRINAGAR will go down in the Indian democratic history as a major milestone. The two-day Inter-State Council meeting on August 27-28 took a quantum leap forward on the evolving path of cooperative federalism.
As Indian democracy matures and different political parties rule in states and at the Centre, cooperative federalism has become the need of the hour.
In this direction, the Srinagar meeting will be remembered for completing the Council’s mandated work on the Sarkaria Commission and embarking on a new course of strengthening Centre-State ties.
Jammu and Kashmir, which has been fighting a long battle for autonomy, contributed its share not only by hosting the meeting in its capital but also extending its support to the retention of Article 365. Some states had declared this Article as “redundant” with an argument that it has not been used.
But it was Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Muzaffar Husain Beig, who took the lead in getting a consensus evolved among states on the use of Article 365 thus paving the way for a consensus on retaining Article 356, the controversial provision of the Constitution which has been “abused, misused and used” in the past.
Surprisingly, it was Punjab, which vehemently opposed the retaining of Article 356 and it was only after the intervention of the Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister that the Council decided to have it with safeguards and as an instrument of “last resort”.
Regarding the ‘emergency provisions’, the meeting observed that the safeguards contained in the Bommai judgement, which have already become the law of the land, are adequate to prevent the misuse of Article 356.
The Council directed that the 1994 Supreme Court judgement on in the S.R. Bommai case should be incorporated in the Constitution and asked the Centre to move expeditiously in this direction.
Having evolved a consensus on the controversial Articles 356 and 365 along with 256 and 257, doors have been opened now for using the forum of the Inter-State Council for discussing larger issues of common and general interest among the States and between the Union and the States.
Interestingly, the meeting laid the foundation for its future work as it evolved a consensus on a draft Bill to amend the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 which, if swiftly done, would hasten the process of economic reforms.
As the labour reforms are considered the mainstay of the economic reforms process set in motion in the early nineties , it was argued by some states that “hire and fire” was very crucial to the consolidation of the economic liberalisation process.
In this crucial area, the meeting was divided between the traditionalists and modernists with the former pressing for radical changes in the country’s labour laws the latter pleading for the retention of old laws, but the battle was won by the modernists.
So it was decided that the draft Bill would be finalised in consultation with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for taking further action.
Since the issue of labour is on the Concurrent List, states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have been pressing for some time now that the Centre should put its stamp on the those labour laws which have been amended by them.
At the insistence of Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, the meeting mounted pressure and it was feet that the Centre should not drag its feat anymore so that the states could take major initiative for giving boost to economic activities.
Crucial support came from none other than the Deputy Prime Minister, who summarising the discussions, said that the trend was in favour of transfer of subjects relating to labour laws from the Concurrent List to the State List. So it was decided that an Inter-Ministerial Standing Committee would be established to expeditiously clear the amendments to be proposed by the State Governments in various labour laws.
Another notable feature of the meeting was that it considered a draft ‘Action Plan on Good Governance’ having certain broad parameters, including the issue of Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC). It was decided to appoint a sub-committee of select Chief Ministers to deliberate further on the issue and come out with a blue print of an action plan which could be discussed at the next meeting of the Council.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has to nominate members of the sub-committee which would be chaired by Mr L.K. Advani, who has personally been very keen on the issue for a very long time. Though the Andhra Chief Minister would be another member of the committee, the other seven are yet to be officially nominated by the Prime Minister.
While it is true that considerable ground was covered at the Srinagar meeting, the real test comes now.
The sincerity of the Centre is at test now as it is yet to be seen how quickly words can be converted in deeds.
Till now, the Centre has not fulfilled even the minimum requirement of holding an Inter-State Council meeting thrice in a year. The Council was created under Article 263 of the Constitution in 1990 but the Srinagar meeting was the eighth.
Those who just
AS the “International Youth Day” (August 12) faded into the past, have we been able to focus on the hapless young of the country — the young undertrials languishing in jails? It seems more than primitive to stuff a person in a prison cell even before he is proved guilty. To be herded in cells as though they were sheep or cattle. Not even good enough to be sentenced.
I can think of just about a handful of citizens who spoke of immense pride about their interaction with those jailed and they included Saroj Vashishth. She was called mom by Tihar jail inmates as she took out time to interact with them and read out to them, distribute books and learning material to them. The other person is an upcoming lawyer Shamshad, who helped undertrials with paper work. This youngman used to tell me that the majority of the under trails he had interacted with didn’t even know the crime they had been booked for. He said the young ones, once freed, found it difficult to be accepted back in society.
According to human rights lawyer-activist Imroz Parvez, who set up the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP ), in recent years over 6,000 youth had been missing in the Kashmir valley. The majority of them were picked up for interrogation, but they never returned home and nor can be traced in any of our jails. Last year while I was in Srinagar I met mothers of these missing young men and some recounted how they sold off their jewellery and even property to travel from jail to jail , looking for their lost sons and even when rendered penniless haven’t been able to trace them.
It’s not just mothers but even young “half-widows”, many of them in their late teens and early twenties, with young missing husbands they cannot even think of remarriage as there lurks some hope of the “missing “ ones being found.
Shafeeqa, when I visited her, sat in a particular donga (poorer version of the houseboat) parked in Srinagar’s Gowkadal area and whose husband, Abdul Hamid Badyari, an auto drive, was picked up by security agencies for interrogation in January, 2000, but hasn’t returned so far. Yet she keeps waiting for him. It’s a grim picture. Zahiruddin, Associate Editor of Greater Kashmir, has written a book on the “disappeared” people. And though a majority of them are from the valley, some are even Pandits and Sikhs picked up from the surrounding areas.
Anyway, it’s not a question of putting the
young into compartments but to view the situation from a broader
perspective. The young generation of this country ought to be
respected and cared for otherwise we as a society would fail
miserably. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost out — lost
out on sensitivity about life. It is easy to stuff a youngman into a
hell-hole but it will be impossible to remove the scars from his
psyche. To recount those sentiments expressed by Nelson Mandela which
run along these words: “I can forgive, but not really forget”.
Human nature will only find itself when it fully realises that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal.
— Mahatma Gandhi
To all external appearances, unconsciousness and superconsciousness are the same; but they differ as a lump of clay from a lump of gold. The one whose whole soul is given up to God has reached the superconscious plane.
— Swami Vivekananda
Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi
(I am) the goal, the upholder, the lord, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the friend. (I am) the origin and the dissolution, the ground, the resting place and the imperishable seed.
— The Bhagavad Gita
We don’t come across lions in hordes,
Swans do not line up in long queues,
There are no bagfuls of diamonds,
So righteous men don’t in crowds move.
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