Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Real Picture on Land Bill, Agrarian Distress, Farmer-Suicide, Rahul's Rants & AAP Tamasha

The Real Picture on 
Land Bill, Agrarian Distress, Farmer-Suicide, 
Rahul's Rants & AAP Tamasha

Land Bill : Brief History

Land Bill is a short term used here for the law relating to land acquisition by the government for economic development and infrastructure.

Land acquisition in India was governed till 2013 by the British era Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
The revised land act, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCT-LARR Act 2013), in short, the 2013 Land Act, framed by the UPA government came into effect from 1 January 2014.

The Modi government sought to amend the 2013 bill. They got The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, in short, the 2015 Land Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha on 10 March 2015, following an ordinance on it on 31 December 2014. The bill is being opposed by the Congress, the AAP, and the socialist and communist parties of various shades, and is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

Problems with Earlier Land Bills

Land acquisition in India since independence was governed by the British era Land Acquisition Act of 1894. It is shocking that India carried on with that unjust British era act right till 2013. During that long period of 66 years since independence ruled mostly by the Congress there had been a large number of cases of land acquisition for dams, irrigation, industries and other economic activities where the compensation paid for the land was meagre and little or no rehabilitation of the displaced was done.

The revised 2013 Land Act sought to correct the injustice. However, the social activists, assorted NGOs and the NAC, who too were involved in its framing, went overboard in correcting the historical wrong, and settled for the other extreme. They incorporated such onerous conditions in the act and made the approval process so laborious, involved, complex, taxing and time-consuming, and the cost of the process itself so high (leave apart the cost of land itself) that land acquisition became almost impossible, and many projects, including the critical defence and road and infrastructure projects, came to a halt. If there was one single UPA minister who caused maximum setback to India’s economic growth it was Jairam Ramesh who as Rural Development Minister piloted this 2013 Land Act, and who as the Environment Minister halted critical projects. He was, of course, backed by Sonia-Rahul who hoped those actions would project them as pro-poor, pro-farmer and pro-tribal, and would help them garner votes to help continue their damaging Dynasty rule.

Profusion of onerous clauses in the UPA’s 2013 Land Act not only adversely affected the   industrial, infrastructural and mining projects, it severely affected projects for rural prosperity: irrigation, village roads, rural-infrastructure and rural housing projects. Economic growth crashed. Supposedly pro-farmer measure boomeranged—it turned out to be effectively anti-rural-prosperity, anti-farmer, anti-infrastructure and anti-industrial.

In view of the above, the Modi government had no alternative but to amend the Act if they had to fulfil their election promise of faster economic growth, massive job creation and rural prosperity.

Proposed Amendments & their Rationale

Let us look at the main amendments to the UPA’s 2013 Land Act in the NDA’s 2015 Land Bill, and also the critical provisions on fair compensation and rehabilitation that remain unchanged.

Does the 2015 Land Bill make drastic changed to the 2013 Land Act?
No. It retains almost all the provisions. It amends only some provisions.

What are the specific amendments brought-in by the 2015 Land Bill, and what are their rationale.
Here are the amendments along with their reasons:

(1) Five Special Categories.
It creates five special categories of land use: Defence, Rural Infrastructure, Affordable Housing, Industrial Corridors, and Infrastructure Projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) Projects, where the central government would own the land.

Clarification on Industrial Corridors: By industrial corridors is meant industrial corridors set up by the government and government undertakings. Further, land can be acquired up to one kilometre on both sides of the designated railway line or road of the industrial corridor.

All the above five categories are for pressing public good, and for defence and security, and NOT for enriching the corporates at the expense of the farmers, as Rahul Gandhi falsely alleges. These categories indeed deserve special treatment. They need to be freed from the onerous, time-consuming, cost-adding, cost-escalating and project-delaying clauses of the 2013 act if we desire faster project implementation for our defence preparedness and security, proper infrastructure for economic development and affordable housing for the poor.

(2) Exemption from Consent for Special Categories.
It exempts the above five special categories from the requirement of consent of the land owners whose land is to be acquired. (That requirement as per the 2013 Land Act is 70% of the land owners whose land is to be acquired for PPP and 80% for others.)

Special category projects, which are critical, can’t be held up just because 20% of the land-owners choose not to give their consent. Take for example a highway project connecting the two ends that are 500 kilometres apart. For an aggregate of 400 kilometres you obtain land-owners permission through whose land the highway would run. But, for the remaining aggregate of 100 kilometres you fail to obtain permission. Should you then abandon that vital road link?

(3) Exemption from SIA for Special Categories.
It also exempts the above five categories from the requirement of Social Impact Assessment (SIA).

SIA under the 2013 act is so broad and complex that the process may go on for years delaying the projects and massively shooting up the costs. Can the critical special category projects of defence, etc. afford such delays and enhanced costs?

Need one do SIA for a rural housing project or a rural electrification project or a rural road project or a defence road highway?

However, for a project such as a cement factory or a car factory or a fertilizer plant, SIA would continue to apply.

(4) Exemption for Irrigated Land for Special Categories.
There was a limit to the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land and other agricultural land under the 2013 act. That restriction stands removed for the five special categories above.

The government has assured that it would resort to such acquisition only as a last resort, when there is no alternative. Critical requirement of land for Defence and other special categories may make it incumbent upon the government to acquire such land, in the absence of less fertile land.

(5) Term “private enterprise” replaces “private companies”.
It substitutes “private enterprise” for the term “private companies” in the 2013 act. A private enterprise is an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or other entity under any other law.

This is to make it more encompassing, and not restrict it to only one type of legal entity.

(6) Bringing Other Acts on Par.
There are 13 other acts that deal with land acquisition having their own separate provisions, that were excluded from the UPA’s 2013 Land Act. The 2015 Land Bill brings all of them on par with itself in respect of provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement, making them as generous.

The 13 Acts are as under:
The Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, Indian Tramways Act 1886, Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act 1948, Damodar Valley Corporation Act 1948, Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act 1952, National Highways Act 1956, Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act 1957, Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962, Atomic Energy Act 1962, Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act 1978, Railways Act 1989, Electricity Act 2003.

This brings in uniformity and massively benefits farmers and land-owners, who would get much higher rates of compensation for land acquired for metros, railways, roads and highways, coal and mining projects, nuclear projects, and so on, compared to what they would have got under the acts they are governed by.

(7) Return of unutilised land.
The acquired land needs to be returned to the owners if it remains unutilised for five years, as per the 2013 act. As per the 2015 amendment, it can be five years or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.

Some big projects take longer to complete, hence the necessary amendment.

(8) Land for Private Hospitals & Educational Institutions.
The 2013 Land Act excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions from its purview.  The 2015 amendment bill drops this restriction.

Hospitals and educational institutions serve a critical public purpose, hence the amendment.

Are the amendments meant to favour the corporates, as Rahul Gandhi-Congress-AAP allege?
No, certainly not. From the very nature of the five special categories it is clear that they are not meant for private profiteering. They are all for public good and would be those where government would be the land-owner or would take the initiative.

Creation of a spectre of corporate-favours or sarkari largesse for the corporates is therefore totally misplaced.

Are the amendments anti-farmer, as Rahul Gandhi-Congress-AAP allege?
Even in the worst case scenario, the 2015 Land Bill may end up affecting 2% to 3% of land-owners. But, it would benefit the rest, as all land acquisitions result in enhancing the value of the neighbouring land. And, even those 2% to 3% of land-owners would be getting two to four times the market price of their land plus other benefits, including guaranteed job for one member of the family.

The numbers who would benefit from land acquisition would far outstrip those who might lose (if at all).

Any extra benefit to farmers/land-owners on account of the amendments?
Yes. Please see amendment (6) above.

Do the amendments lessen the compensation paid to farmers, land-owners, affected persons?
No. Please see details below.

Generous Compensation for Land Acquisition

The Land Act provides for generous compensation and rehabilitation.

As per the act, compensation for acquiring an urban land would be twice its market value, while that for rural land would be four times its market value!

The above compensation is more than adequate considering the following:
Land prices in India have almost quintupled in the last decade making them the highest in the world. Farmland prices currently vary from rupees 5 lakh an acre to as high as 1 crore an acre in regions around big cities and in prosperous rural regions. In contrast, the average farmland price in the US is only around rupees 2 lakhs an acre, even though those farms are far more productive. The price of farmland in India is a huge 2 to 50 times more compared to the West than can be justified by its productivity!

In addition to the monetary compensation, the act provides for employment for at least one member of the affected family, and for appropriate resettlement.

Would Rural Population be Adversely Affected?


Overwhelming majority of rural population would stand to gain. Even the minority whose land would be acquired would gain on account of the generous compensation and rehabilitation package that we have discussed above.

Creation of rural infrastructure with the land acquired would benefit all. It would spur economic activity in the rural areas, spawn small businesses and would create jobs sorely needed. As it is, agriculture is not a remunerative occupation for a majority of farmers, and most people in the rural areas would be happy to have an alternate occupation.

As per National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), major income of 56% of small farmers (having land less than 100 square metres)  came from wages from an external job rather than from agriculture. While 82% of the land owners do not earn much from the land anyway, 75% are marginal croppers with an average holding of 0.6 hectare. As per a survey, only 10% of rural population felt farming meant a good life; 62% said they would give up farming given an alternative; and 76% of the children of farmers did not wish to continue as farmers. Another survey reported that 65% of farmers having sub-hectare holding were not able to break-even. It is worth noting that Indian agricultural productivity is very low, contributing only 18% to the GDP; even though 50% of the population is engaged in agriculture.

Boon for Dalits & Landless

Dalits who have migrated to cities know that their freedom, emancipation, progress and prosperity lies in moving out of the shackles of their debilitating rural misery into an urban setting.

The 2015 Land Bill, which would help development and urbanisation, would be a step in that direction.

It is queer that most opposition parties and leaders—be they Congress or AAP or socialists or communists or Bahujan Samaj Party or Rahul/Sonia Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal or Mayawati—are outdoing one other in blindly opposing the 2015 Land Bill hoping to win over the rural population by appearing to be their saviours, protectors and well-wishers riding on the intensely and widely propagated mischievous misinformation that all of them would be adversely affected by the legislation.

The question is how many among the rural people own land that may be acquired? And, how many are landless? The fact is that a majority are poor and landless, and a large number among them are dalits. They don’t stand affected. They may be indirectly affected by agriculture-based job loss (income from which is meagre, seasonal and uncertain), but they too have not only the assurance of adequate compensation, but hope of a more remunerative job on account of the economic opportunities that would be opened up. Those dalit families that are land-holders have actually very small land-holdings barely enough for them to eke out their living. They stand to get generous compensation, and an assured job.

The NSS survey reveals that 52% of the scheduled caste households are engaged in casual labour in rural areas, while 33% are self-employed in agriculture.

Dalits must know that Dr BR Ambedkar would have been indeed very happy with any step that would have helped pull Dalits out of the darkness of villages and into the freedom of urban setting. He was of the opinion that ‘these village republics have been the ruination of India’; and was ‘surprised that those who condemn provincialism and communalism should come forward as the champions of the village. What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?’ Ambedkar never believed dalit-upliftment could come about in a rural setting.

Dalit writer, journalist, political commentator and an advisor to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chandra Bhan Prasad has repeatedly stressed that urbanisation is the real road to salvation for Dalits. Opportunities coupled with the anonymity in urban centres enable Dalits to chalk out a career for themselves free from the debilitating oppressiveness of the village life. Chandra Bhan and the Dalit industrialist Milind Kamble are the moving force behind the Dalit Capitalism Movement whose central thesis is that free markets and entrepreneurship are the route for salvation for Dalits.

One tends to agree with what Chandra Bhan Prasad and Milind Kamble state in their article “Manifesto to End Caste” that appeared in the Times of India, Mumbai of 23 January 2013. As per the article, the obliteration of caste in a major way would be when caste, that evolved from a feudal, rural setting, transforms into class through capitalism, industrialisation, professionalization, modernisation and mechanisation of agriculture, and urbanisation. Class is not hereditary, there is no stigma attached to it, and one can move up or down.  They say, “Capital is the surest means to fight caste. In dalit’s hands, capital becomes an anti-caste weapon...The manifesto demands that India embraces capitalism publicly as its official ideology...”

The truth and effectiveness of the above proposition is the proof contained in the book “Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs” by Kapur, Shyam and Prasad that profiles the phenomenal rise of twenty Dalit entrepreneurs from poverty to prosperity.

Rather than parroting one tutored jibe after another on land acquisition and farmers, Rahul Gandhi would do well to read Ambedkar: the salvation for Indian rural, including its Dalits, lies outside its rural setting.

But, what about the farmer suicides? Let’s look at the issue.

Are farmer-suicides abnormally high?

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) date, farmer-suicides are 8.7% of the total, considerably less compared to their share in the total population. It is also not as if the rate for farmer-suicides has been increasing; actually it has been coming down.

The number of farmer-suicides were 1109 in 2014, 11,772 in 2013 and 13,754 in 2012. They didn’t increase during the Modi-period in 2014, they drastically came down. Figures of 2015 have yet to come out, but, based on newspaper reports, they do not appear to be large.

Incidentally, the overall suicide rate (farmers + non-farmers) of India is about 11 per lakh, that is, 0.011%. Compared globally, it is not high, despite India’s poverty—if poverty, penury and want are considered as the likely main reason for suicides. In fact, it is rather low. Countries such as Belgium, China, France, Germany, South Korea, UK have higher suicide rates compared to India. China’s suicide rate is almost double that of India.

Further, out of this suicide rate of  11 per lakh for India, the proportion for farmers is less than that of non-farmers. The main cause for suicides is depression and not poverty and want. Depression is caused by various factors, only one of the many factors being poverty.

Why then the alarmist ear-splitting hullabaloo in India on farmer suicides. Enlightens SA Aiyar in his Swaminomics in The Times of India of 3 May 2015: “Because presenting farm suicides as a single mass tragedy can win awards for journalists, TRPs for TV anchors, donations for NGOs opposing commercial crops and globalization, slogans for leftists attributing everything to class war, and votes for opposition parties…” No wonder Rahul Gandhi, the Congress, the AAP and others have jumped into the fray.

No Link Between Land Bill & Farmers’ Suicides

There is absolutely no link between the Land Bill and the farmers’ suicides. Farmers’ suicides have been on account of the crop failures for various reasons like unseasonal rains this time. Relating the proposed land acquisition legislation to issues such as crop damage or farmer indebtedness or farmer-suicides defies logic, as these problems have plagued farmers for decades. What is relevant is to tackle the related policy failures.

In fact, the said bill (2015 Land Act) is not even in force, so how could it be the cause. The bill in force is the 2013 UPA Land Bill. Is that the cause of suicides?

Purely for misleading the public and getting political mileage, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress, the AAP and the opposition are trying to establish a spurious link between the amended 2015 Land Bill and the sorry position of farmers in distress and farmer-suicides. Politics over farmer-distress is not new, but this time it is being used to stall a bill that would augment the efforts to reduce that distress itself in the times to come.

Agriculture and National Economy

The global trend in agriculture is this. By and large, rate of growth of agriculture is always much less than that in other sectors like manufacturing and services. In developing economies, while rate of industrial growth of 7% to 9% is common, agricultural growth is generally between 1% to 5%. Over the years, the effect of this gap in the rate of growth of agriculture and industry is that the share of agriculture in the total GDP of a country gradually reduces. For example, in North America and Europe, agriculture accounts for less than 5 per cent of the nation’s GDP. In China, the share of agriculture in the total GDP went down from 27% in 1990 to 11% in 2010. There has been similar reduction in other countries. In India, this share has gone down from 31% in 1990 to 14% in 2012.

The other global trend is increase in agricultural productivity over the years. With better seeds, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanisation the agricultural productivity has been increasing and you are able to produce more in less land and with less labour. India is, however, a laggard on this front. We have among the least agricultural productivity on an average. That is on account of many factors. Much of our land is either unirrigated or insufficiently irrigated. Modern techniques are yet a far cry. There has been little investment in agriculture. On top of it, there is abnormally high wastage on account of lack of adequate storage.

Although we are producing enough, we still have hungry millions. That is not because of paucity of grains and other food items, but on account of insufficient purchasing power in the hands of many. What we need to do is to provide gainful employment to the hungry millions so that they have sufficient purchasing power to feed and house themselves. That employment cannot come from agriculture.

The solution is to increase agricultural productivity and produce more food with less land and labour; and utilise freed-up land for agricultural infrastructure—like dams, canals, irrigation works, roads, storages, etc.—to enhance agricultural productivity, and to set up industries and businesses.

Globally those farmers and farm-dependent people have progressed in life who managed to become non-farmers. Not all, but many, especially the landless and those with small land-holdings. Future of majority of farmers is not in farming. They need to learn new skills and move on into industries, services and other businesses.

It therefore does not make sense for the politicians to support steps that keep the farmers tethered to land. Why continue to trap them in barely remunerative occupation. Of course, the uninformed like Rahul Gandhi may continue to talk hoarse on the issue hoping to garner votes in future, but it would not work.

Like China, we need to establish a number of agro-based industries in rural areas to gainfully employ the underemployed and the unemployed.

Crop-insurance should gradually cover entire crops. The coverage is a pathetic 10% currently. It should grow to 100%. That can happen with economic development and better resources and revenues. Like China, the crop land should be linked to a bank account and insurance policy; and in case of crop loss, the compensation and/or insurance amount should get expeditiously credited to the accounts within days. It shouldn’t take months to assess and pay.

Why Amended Land Bill is Good & Necessary

The proposed amendments in the Land Bill would make it easier for the government to acquire land, whether agricultural or non-agricultural, for industrialisation, infrastructure projects, roads, defence and rural housing, without reducing the compensation to the land owners.

India cannot develop without massive infusion of capital. However, the competition for capital is fierce. In this era of globalisation, if India is unable to attract capital, it would go elsewhere to other nations. To get capital you have to have investible projects. Projects require land. And, if land cannot be made available or takes too long to get or is too cumbersome to acquire, projects would simply not come in.

Take the case within India itself: Singur in West Bengal, for example. Land issues came up. The project shifted to Sanand in Gujarat. Sanand has since developed into an automobile hub with many more industries having come up there. Who gained? Gujarat and the people of Gujarat: farmers got very good compensation, excellent economic development followed, thousands got jobs and Gujarat gained in revenues from taxes. Who lost? West Bengal and the people of West Bengal. Similar scenario obtains among countries. If India fails to provide the necessary infrastructure the industries and businesses that could come to India would go to an alternate country.

It is estimated that about $300 billion worth of projects have been stalled owing to problems in land acquisition.

Nearly 12 million young people are joining the workforce each year. Agriculture cannot absorb them. Only manufacturing and services can employ them. That requires land for setting up of industries, offices and service centres. You need accommodation to house them. For that, you need to create new towns and cities and urban centres and inter-connecting infrastructure. There is a plan for 100 smart cities and Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). How would all that be possible without acquiring of land?

There is actually no alternative but to ensure faster and smoother land acquisition, without of course short-changing the land-owners.

The only alternative is to continue in the Nehru-Indira-Dynasty-bequeathed poverty and misery, and make it worse,

BJP/Modi’s Has-to-Do Responsibility
BJP cannot again come to power in 2019 and Modi can’t get a second term unless there is rapid economic growth and massive job creation. And, that can’t happen given UPA’s 2013 Land Act.

BJP should not wilt under the opposition onslaught and misinformation campaign. It should bear in mind that slow growth and slow job creation would hurt it much more by way of both urban and rural votes than what it might lose thanks to the opposition’s name-callings and possible resentment, if any, in a small section of society owing to land acquisition.

Looking to the opposition of the leftist, communist, Congress, AAP and reforged Janata Parivar, a section of the BJP and allies might want to backtrack weighing the possible political costs, but that would be cowardly and against the interest of the nation. They need to be brave and must demonstrate their guts. If they carry the act through and ensure development and jobs; rather than the imagined political costs, the act would result in bumper political benefits.

If the BJP wilts, people will lose faith in Modi and in what they expected him to accomplish. As it is, one is not too happy with average to below average performance of some critical ministries like Finance—this would add to the grouse.

Why opposition to the bill is effectively
anti-farmer, anti-poor and against national interests?

As detailed above, the amended bill would help acquire land with lesser hassles (while providing generous compensation and rehabilitation) for the five critical sectors, that include enriching rural facilities. It would help accelerate economic growth and generate jobs both in the urban and the rural areas. Rather than adversely affecting them, it would greatly help rural folk. There would be no losers. It would be a win-win situation for all.

Opposition to it is either driven by ignorance or by vested interests who wish to exploit it for spreading misinformation to gain vote banks at the expense of the nation.

Opposition to it is therefore effectively anti-poor, anti-farmer, anti-development, anti-prosperity, and pro-vote-bank-politics, and hence mischievous and ill-intended: it amounts to working against national interests.  

Reaction to Amendments: A Sample.
Welcoming the changes made to the land acquisition act, former NAC member NC Saxena had himself commented that the 2013 UPA Land Bill moved by the then Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh was effectively both anti-industry and anti-farmer.

Congress/Sonia-Rahul’s Irrelevant Rants

No party can beat the Congress in sheer hypocrisy. If there is one party which has gained massively through crony capitalism and corporate-favouritism it is none other than the Congress. The “suit-boot ki sarkar” accusation of Rahul Gandhi is therefore totally unfounded, mischievous and irresponsible, and is a case of “Ulta chor kotwal ko dante”, because it is the Modi-sarkar which by putting-in sensible systems in place like 2G and coal auction is minimising the scope of crony capitalism and corporate-favouritism—the channels that many allege resulted in truck-loads of grease money for the Congress and its allies.

After having deprived the national exchequer of mountains of money through a series of scams, which effectively amounted to depriving the millions of poor of the benefits of that money, the Congress, in the most hypocritical way, went about further massively impoverishing the national exchequer by way of MGNREGA, FSA and farm loan waivers (where major amounts were defalcated) mainly to get votes and to continue in their misrule and corruption.

Like the term “suit-boot ki sarkar”, the term “anti-farmer” used by Rahul for the Modi government actually fit the Congress like a glove. Why are the farmers in distress? Why are they committing suicides? Why just one failed crop destroys many rural families? Why is a small farmer worse off than a city beggar? Why is there endemic poverty in rural areas? Why the rural infrastructure is so pathetic? It didn’t become so in the last one year of the Modi rule. It is thanks to the criminal misgovernance, neglect and faulty agricultural policies of the Congress since independence, and their poverty-perpetuating and misery-multiplying socialism.

 Congress-Sonia-Rahul realise that Modi’s amended 2015 Land Act has the potential to accelerate the economic growth, create jobs, give a fillip to rural infrastructure and growth, and ultimately add to the broadening support base for the BJP and Modi—all of which would mean further marginalisation of the Congress. Hence, oppose the bill. What is good for the nation is not important. What is important is the survival of the Dynasty. Priority is for the Dynasty and the party, in that order, and not for the nation.

Congress-Sonia-Rahul are hoping that by their vigorous misinformation campaign on the bill they would be able to get back their rural votes. It exposes their bankruptcy of ideas. Apparently, the Dynasty is unable to think of anything positive to prevent or delay their becoming history.

Rahul is too self-centred to realise the damage he is doing to business sentiment by railing against corporates. Is it not irresponsible on his part to tar corporates and businesses in general just to score political points and retrieve his own pathetic position. Corporates work hard, provide jobs to millions, and bring prosperity to the people and the nation. What does Rahul do? Frequently fly off for holiday jaunts, spend tons of money on himself, and in the intervals between his jaunts, empathise with poor farmers, and curse and defame all those who had been working hard while he was having fun.

Rahul has lately been touring the countryside lamenting the condition the farmers are in and blaming the ruling party for their misery. Does he think people at large are fools that they would believe him. Don’t they know the current rulers are less than a year in the saddle. That the previous decade was the decade of the Congress and the UPA. And, that for most of the years since independence it has been the Congress and his Dynasty that has ruled, or rather misruled, India.

Hence, the public knows that their miserable, pathetic condition is thanks to the Congress and the Dynasty. If Rahul and the Congress-persons feel distressed and angry at the condition of the farmers they must slap themselves real, real hard; and must box and kick themselves each time a farmer commits suicide.

Rahul’s constituency Amethi has lost about 80% wheat crops due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms, and has also reported a number of suicides. But, Rahul is careful not to go for a padyatra there. He is answerable there. He would go only to the opposition-rules states of Punjab and Maharashtra where he can create a tamasha.

As per The Times of India, Mumbai report of 2 May 2015, pomegranate farmers of Karnataka are so desperate that they have written to the governor of Karnataka, “No yield, no money to repay the loans. The only option before us is to die.” Has Rahul Gandhi cared to go there? No. Because, Karnataka is ruled by the Congress, and Rahul does not wish to go to any place where he may be answerable. The hypocrisy of the Congress and the Dynasty knows no limits.

The fact is the Congress has never ever given a damn about farmers—since the Nehruvian times. The Congress and the NCP have reportedly been the biggest looters of farmers and farmlands. The CAG had found a huge scam even in their the loan-waiver of over rupees 50,000 crores in 2008, which helped them win votes and power. The mind-blowing irrigation scams under the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra are well-known, so also land-grabs by their partymen. Land-scams in Haryana and Rajasthan under the Congress government are public knowledge. What have Sonia-Rahul done about them? Nothing. What is more, there are serious allegations regarding improper land-dealings against Sonia’s son-in-law and Rahul’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra. That being the background, with what face Rahul projects himself as a saviour of the farmers? And, why doesn’t the media question such claims and expose the reality?

Congress-ruled States can Modify Central Act

Land acquisition is done by the states. If Congress-Sonia-Rahul do not like the amended 2015 Land Act, the Congress-ruled states can modify the act and stipulate their own conditions, or let the terms of the Congress/UPA 2013 Land Act govern land acquisition. They have that freedom. Why crib then. Why deprive non-Congress ruled states of the benefits of the new act?

The fact is the Congress state governments themselves had problem with the 2013 Land Act of the Centre. They realised it would make land acquisition almost impossible and would halt all development in their state.

Let the Congress state governments not implement the new 2015 Land Act. BJP and Modi would love it: they have nothing to fear, and much to gain. Let the Congress-rub states’ development suffer. Let the people throw the Congress out in the next election for lack of progress.

BJP Losing the Perception Battle

For a PM contestant and a party which so successfully managed the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign and for a PM candidate who was able to create magically positive perceptions about what he and his government would do if elected, it is surprising that post-elections while they have not been able to adequately leverage their good performance and policies to project an impressive image, they have been getting enough flak for all the wrong reasons and even on fictitious or made-up grounds. And, yet, they have failed to fight back.

Why is a section of the main stream media (MSM) so hostile to them? Why do they give such bloated publicity to the inanities or plain nonsense of people like Rahul Gandhi or Digvijay Singh? Why the white lies or illogical or wild statements of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress not properly questioned or exposed by the media? Why the BJP is unable to effectively put its points across?

If the Congress and the AAP, if Rahul and Arvind can effectively use rallies, media and other platforms to spread misinformation and falsehoods on the amended 2015 Land Bill and its linkage to the farmer distress and suicides to the extent that it is snowballing into massive political cost; how is it that the BJP and its leaders have been watching it helplessly allowing goals after goals to be scored.
Why can’t the BJP take up the cudgels and expose the falsehood and the dirty political game of the opposition? It’s not difficult. They have the truth and the logic on their side. What the bill seeks to do would be good for the farmers and the nation. Why are they unable to put it across to the public? Why this gross failure? What is the I&B Minister, Arun Jaitley, doing? It’s not enough to answer questions logically in an interview on an English channel. The public at large must be explained the true picture. The benefits and the truth must be publicised at twice the intensity of the falsehood.

What took the cake were the white lies and allegations of Rahul Gandhi in the parliament that strangely went unresponded or inadequately responded by the treasury. And, surprisingly his uncalled for jibes like “suit-boot ki sarkar” (which is actually a self-description of UPA) that were lapped up by the media went unreplied or tamely replied. The belated counters to the Congress were “suitcase sarkar”, “unsuited sarkar booted out”, and so on. But, they were not enough. Given their 10-year long misdeeds, there is enough that can be coined on the UPA, the Congress and on Sonia-Rahul.  

High time the Central Government and the BJP realised they are losing the perception battle, and did something about it.

Mysterious Ways of the MSM

Granted, of course, that not much sense can be expected from a section of the MSM, who have been lapping up the nonsense spouted by Rahul, and have even been conducting debates on them during the prime time on TV channels, without having the spine to cross-question him on his lies, or educating the public on the same. Further, how can you give a wide berth to a fellow just for some sound bites when he has nothing to show for his actual work on the ground. How can you contrast a mere blabber who has never taken any responsibility as a minister or otherwise with a person like Modi who has handled a state as a chief minister for over a decade and made it a foremost state or who has been capably handling his job as a prime minister. But, strange are the ways of a section of the MSM!

Here is a sample to illustrate the typical mindset of a section of MSM. It is not recent, it is old, yet quite telling. It is an extract from a “gem” of an article from a senior journalist Karan Thapar in the Hindustan Times of 9 May 2009: “...Priyanka Gandhi will be Prime Minister of India one day. ...My hunch is we are going to see a messy outcome of the present elections...And the pain of endurance will determine the outcome of the next election. That could be as early as 2011...the process that brings Modi to power will fracture or shatter the NDA. ...And I’d say his government will probably serve its full term...So it’s seven years down the road that Priyanka Gandhi will step on to the political stage. It will be the shock of the Modi victory...that will overcome both her philosophical distaste for politics as well as her emotional reluctance to replace her brother...Convincing Priyanka won’t be easy and it won’t happen quickly. In fact, she’ll have to convince accepting, but perhaps never admitting, that Rahul, the brother she adores, cannot restore the Congress fortunes or India’s self-image and self-respect. She’ll have to convince herself that her party and her country need her. And now, why do I believe if Priyanka steps into politics she could end up as PM? Because she has a magical spark that makes her compelling. It’s a combination of charm, charisma, presence, appearance and intelligence. You see it on TV, you sense it in her interviews and, if my colleagues are correct, it captivates the audiences she speaks to. She has one further quality which is particularly rare. She understands herself and is comfortable with who she is. It’s a sort of Buddhist self-awareness and it’s reassuring to encounter. It makes you want to believe in her. Yet this is why she will struggle and agonise over becoming a politician but, when she does, this is also why she will rise to the top...”

Do you notice what the senior journalist thought were her credentials to become PM: ‘charm, charisma, presence, appearance, intelligence... Buddhist self-awareness.’ The first four ‘charm, charisma, presence, appearance’ are all related to looks; ‘intelligence’ ...this he senses; and finally, having run out of any further attributes, you have the mystical ‘Buddhist self-awareness’. The critical and the most vital attributes for becoming a PM do not seem to figure at all: experience, proven achievements, competence for the job, track record, thought process, views on matters of national importance, ability to deal with complexities,... Only trivialities seem to matter! How these journalists promote people! And, so blatantly!!

AAP’s Pointless Tamasha

In view of what is stated above, one would not expect any right thinking party or person to oppose the 2015 Land Bill. If they have the good of the country and farmers in their heart they would support the bill.

If Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress and others were genuinely concerned about the plight of the farmers in distress, they would focus on the policy and implementation failures in the agricultural sector since independence, rather than continuing to shackle desperate farmers to land by grandstanding against the 2015 Land Bill through mega rallies and yatras.

The AAP was supposed to be a different type of political party. Unlike the usual run-of-the-mill parties comprising hard-boiled political oldies, the AAP’s backbone was a large band of young educated professionals committed to change India for the better. The AAP was not formed to pursue vote-bank politics like the others; and to oppose or support for the sake of opposing or supporting. It was expected to think through and evaluate each issue, and then take a principled stand.

Why then did the AAP choose to line up alongside the other opposition parties? Why did it try to link farmer-suicides with the Land Act? Why it chose to oppose in the hope of getting farmers in its favour? Why did it play the same game as the other opposition parties? What then is the difference between it and the others? It is a case of disappointing similarity.

However, to make a show of being different they tried to impress upon the public that while they were sincere and honest in their sympathy for the farmers, such was not the case with the Congress and the others who were opposing the act. To buttress this claim of theirs they went about exposing the misdeeds of the Congress when in power and their anti-farmer policies, and made a lot of sound and dance about the few farmers (Metro Delhi does not have many) they were compensating for the crop loss on better terms.

One view on the AAP’s rally was that it was a way for them to divert attention away from their internal strife, and washing of dirty linen in public by the their two warring groups.

In any case, insincerity has a way of exposing itself, and it did expose itself in this particular case—unfortunately.

Gajendra’s Unfortunate Death

In the AAP’s rally against the 2015 Land Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 22 April 2015, a person named Gajendra Singh from a village in Rajasthan climbed up a tree a stone’s throw away for the stage from which the spirited pro-farmer speeches were being made. He had the AAP’s election symbol “broom” in his hand. His ostensible intention was to attract attention, get captured on the TV cameras that were in profusion near the stage, be seen on TV screens all over India, create some drama, and given a chance, perhaps make a short speech either from the tree top or after descending down to the stage nearby.

His climb and antics were a long drawn out affair, and not something sudden. There was all the time in the world to persuade him to climb down. But, apparently, there was more interest in his drama and remaining hung up than in his coming down. As per the subsequent police report, people around had even egged him on.

Rather than firmly ensuring he climbed down for safety, rally and the speeches continued; and hung up, he remained a curiosity, with a few half-hearted calls for him to get down.

Later, in the process of staging a drama of a fake suicide by hanging, he put a gamchha around his neck and tied ends to a branch of the tree. In the process of enacting this drama he accidently slipped, and the fake suicide act became real! He was brought down from the tree, and taken to a hospital. 

What was bizarre was that the unfortunate event that took place just a little distance away from the stage where all the top leaders of the AAP, including Delhi’s CM and Dy CM, were sitting, was not allowed to mar or interrupt the rally or the speeches. Not only that, the leaders, assuming the poor person had died and that he had actually committed suicide on account of crop failure and farm distress, promptly began exploiting his death to blame the police (Delhi police being under the Central government) for dereliction of duty and the ruling party at the Centre for their anti-farmer Land Bill that was making the farmers like Gajendra Singh commit suicide!

It occurred to none of the top AAP leaders sitting on the stage so near to the scene or their members attending the rally or those of them witnessing the antics of Gajendra Singh on the tree that if they had taken just a little initiative they could have easily prevented the unfortunate incident. Were those AAP-persons, claiming to represent aam aadmi (common man), especially the distressed and the deprived, conveying that even if a horrid thing were happening right before their eyes, they would only expect the police to do the needful, and that they shoulder no responsibility or accountability? What kind of empathy was that?

Does politics make people so heartless? Even AAPians. It was a shocking public display of irresponsibility, insensitivity and political immorality.

Events surrounding Gajendra Singh’s unfortunate death have raised suspicions and a number of questions. For example: How did AAP get Gajendra’s “suicide note”? How come Kumar Vishwas “read” out from the alleged “suicide note” matter that didn’t exist in it? What of the claim of Gajendra’s sister that the handwriting on the so-called “suicide note” was not his? What of the wordings of the so-called “suicide note” that nowhere mention suicide or the intention to die? Why no clarification from the AAP on Gajendra Singh’s alleged meeting with Manish Sisodia that day morning, before the rally? Why the AAP took a U-Turn on its allegation on conduct of Delhi Police? On what evidence did leaders of the  AAP claim there was a conspiracy behind Gajendra’s death? What made a leader of the AAP tweet Gajendra’s death before medical confirmation from the hospital? Why the tweet sought to exploit the death politically? Besides, what kind of persons choose to promptly tweet such things than to rush and try to save the poor person or take him to hospital or worry about his well-being? Inappropriate gestures of Kumar Vishwas and Manish Sisodia on Gajendra’s death? Usage of the term “Latak Gaya?!” by Kumar Vishwas. What made several top AAP leaders make political speeches exploiting the assumed suicide? Why was Gajendra projected as a farmer in distress when (although from rural background and having agricultural land) he was more of a businessman and an aspiring politician, and had no crop-failure related distress? Why assume suicide for a person who, as it turns out, had absolutely no intention of killing himself?

Desperate to extricate themselves from the embarrassment and the consequences of Gajendra’s death under suspicious circumstances, the AAP despatched post-haste its leader Sanjay Singh to the Gajendra’s village in Dausa, Rajasthan on an SOS mission to handover a cheque of rupees ten lacs to Gajendra’s family.

Would AAP learn & change?

Would the AAP learn from at least this tragic incident? Would they understand that politics is not a series of tamashas or allegations or name-callings? Would they stop their dramas? Would they get back to their original roots of principled and responsible politics? Would they realise that people are not fooled by unfounded allegations or false propaganda or illogical, unprincipled positions. That grandstanding like that of Rahul Gandhi does not help. It makes you look non-serious and ridiculous. Populist positions may temporarily help garner votes, but they harm the nation, for whose good the AAP was claimed to have been formed in the first place.

* * * * *
Rajnikant Puranik
May 3, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Pretty long read but good coverage.
    I differ on few points. Farmer suicides is truth. Whether increasing or decreasing, it was not there in India earlier. But it is very high now and is everywhere. They are actually dying due to the way farming is getting dependent on chemicals and loans & government subsidies. India benefits a lot by doing away from chemical farming, government supported subsidies, procurement, distribution, food distribution systems. It should enable village level, Zilla level self sustenance on food and water.
    Dams, canals infrastructure has done more damage than benefits. Small tanks, connected tanks of ancient India is still serving the largesse. There is serious debate needed for large dams and high maintenance canals.
    Small land holding, family farming is termed as Ever Green Revolution by the erstwhile green revolutionist M Swaminathan in his series of research and papers. Within one's life time you can see a great scientist having experimented with high yield crops, high productivity crops now promoting local variety, traditional family farming, multi cropping, organic farming.
    Except for defence purposes land acquisition doesn't augur well for India. For all other purposes, Gram Swarajya is the answer. Rural housing, infrastructure everything should be left to themselves. They will do well by themselves. Government doesnt need to build anything for them. They should be let to govern themselves.