Yes, for most farmers!
Most things have to remain unsaid in our democracy!
So, even criticism has to remain subdued!
Climate change summit outcome and the future of agriculture

One good thing is that the PM and Sonia Gandhi don’t speak on food prices!
Their pet hobbies are the aam aadmi and the NREGA, both are now in disarray.
Aam aadmi is disillusioned with the erratic prices of essential commodities, from rice, to sugar to pulses to potatoes. The daily lives and the struggles to cope with it is all that matters for an average citizen, not the high level and abstract debate over what happened at the Copenhagen Climate debate. But then you can run away from the big picture in order to make sense of what is happening at this point of time in our lives and in our generation.

Agriculture today is proving tough for management by the current Cabinet for the simple reason that most of the Cabinet Ministers don’t have any roots in the soil. See a quick count and you will see most of them, as the MPs in general, are from the urban affluent class, most of the well-born and well-endowed, they won the elections by spending huge sums, most of the money coming from the business classes, most of the big corporates are spending money to win favour with the winning parties.

There are great deals of things that remain unsaid in our democratic elections. Otherwise, how do you account for the large number of wealthy men who got elected, most of them, as was seen in AP, contractors class and the ones with criminal records and the others are all dynastic heirs.

So, the democratic politics too is becoming a sort of anti rural and anti-farmers oriented.

None of the seniors in the ruling as well as in other parties are farmers or dependent on their rural vote base.

Vote-buying is now a fine art.

Either the incumbent Chief Minister hasn’t furnished his election expenses account or the supposedly defeated Cabinet minister is likely to lose his seat before completing his five year terms.

There is a grave distortion of the ground level realities.
Who has the time to speak for the farmer’s suicides and the child labour, girl child more to the point, which is being exploited in the corron fields?
So, the rural countryside is neglected in terms of the political power equations.
So, India will continue, it seems, to import food and feed the people, no doubt.
India might lose its food secure nation status and we have to live with this reality, it seems. We only have to look for Japan and Thailand to understand how agriculture is intertwined with their culture, their social beliefs and their traditional way of life.

Can India regain such a traditional faith in a rural stronghold and a farm-based rural life system? One has only to yearn for such an articulation.

It is through modern and scientific outlook and articulation and based on hard-headed real life situations we have to integrate the largely diverging trends today.

The urbanisation and the rural strong holds.

Agriculture and villages will live on and hold forth all along.
Rural hinterland and the rural landscape will only decide the character and strength of the Indian people.

So, we have to have strong faith and a sturdy outlook to give Indian agriculture and the voiceless millions a particular reason for a strong case for their existence.

So, even the just concluded international Copenhagen climate change control conference saw many positive outcomes.

The Financial Times, London reported the outcome as much about tough negotiations as about our moral commitment. China and USA saw some commonality. That was the best hope. Even noted individuals like the governor of California (Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged tougher regimes and alternative energy sources. California and Shanghai are two cities that are aggressively pursuing solar energy applications. So, there is a lesson for India where we have to move ahead in our own ways and commitments. Not governments alone. Everyone is us have a commitment. That was the best outcome and best hope for future.

One was the US pledge to contribute billions to mitigate the evil of carbon emissions by developed countries.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is a step for ward. The “80% by 2050″   formula was a good one and though Obama, the crucial man and the crucial country was USA, the great economy and China, the gross emitter was earnest.

China, with all its pollution records, is still the one country that has reported 51 per cent growth in renewable energy output over three years. What is India’s record?

China has planted 20 m hectares of forests between 2003 and 2008.What is India’s record.

What every country like China and also India resisted was the commitment and monitoring by the USA. This the all 200 delegates seemed resisted.

China has committed a reduction between 40% and 45% by 2020 in the level of carbon intensity. And India too seemed to commit to some such reasonable reduction but in the din it was what China said and what USA said that was reported and that mattered.

But agriculture would be greatly impacted by the climate change and carbon emissions. This we have to take note. Deforestation is another major threat.
To keep global warming to 2C is an n absolute minimum and this is what the nations have understood at the end of the tough negotiations.

It is a good conference as it created and brought pressures and created an awareness that would only go to make things conducive for a more greener world.

As for the food security, food self-sufficiency, India needs to draw up a different strategy.

It is for the men and women in charge to come out withy a trustworthy strategy. Not to compromise with Indias perceived dignity in the eyes of the world.
Give farmers a sense of belonging and they matter in the national scheme of things.

Give the rural India a vision. Leadership is not just managing the day to day affairs.

Let us hope our ministers become more sensitive and act according to their conscience. Not offices as one more perks in their long careers!

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Aam aadmi then can steal your clothes, dont you see?
Congress patented aam aadmi?
See the bye-election results!
Yeddyurappa for 36 point rural development!
AP political reality point to ugly corporate-politicians nexus!
Tamil Nadu exhibits coalition degenerating into family empire!

Yes, even coalitions must have some baci principles, some basic truths and some basic ethics in governance. You can’t have too much gimmicks, too many slogans to hide the ugly ground level realities.

The aam aadmi have wisdom, much objectivity and when the time comes they bust your egos, punish you with ruthless voting and turn you out. That is the power of democracy, the wisdom of the commonpeople, Rousseau’s famous “general will”, the social contract and much of how the political evolution is taking place.

Let us hope our learned leaders who are supposed to be the embodiment of honesty and integrity do some introspection and ask themselves: do they deserve the trust of the people? Did they earn it by their moral basis for what they were called upon?

Are they democracy’s children? Or imposters from outside?Hard questions. But the aam aadmi are the hard ask masters, do we know? Now, there is some lull, it seems, in New Delhi. The 100 days announcements are over and what have we?

The Assembly elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarkand have dampened the enthusiasm of the Congress. In Gujarat, the BJP has staged a surprise; it won seven of the 12 bye-elections to various state assemblies. Bye-polls were held for 20 assembly seats in seven states. The first results for the 12 seats gave the Congress jitters.

The fallen hero, the BJP, stood up. The victorious outfit, namely, the Congress had fallen in a sullen mood. It is at this environment came the austerity drive that saw not many takers, first, in the Congress ranks itself. One by one, from S.M.Krishna and his deputy to the others have come out from their cozy rooms.

The five star culture was once the mark of the most successful of the Congress leader. So too their own private helicopters and even private planes, courtesy, the corporate helpers were the usual mode of transport for the otherwise undemocratic and power-grabbing class. Let us be frank.

No one realised and no one learnt any lessons from playing politics. We have a government that is not genuinely democratic, both the party as well as the government. That is one reason why the ground level realities are not reflected in what the political leaders speak. See the slogan: aam aadmi.

What nonsense is this slogan? It is as plain as daylight robbery? What this aam aadmi mean nowadays?

There is drought, there is crisis in agriculture and there is labour shortage for the farming sector. The NREGA had in some significant farm pockets, from Punjab to Tamil Nadu had taken away the farm workers into unproductive and plain wasteful expenditure on daily wages for those who wanted to work on the projects.
These projects are not chosen by the local agencies, the panchayats have no say, no role, it is the state government agencies, or rather the agents, the party brokers who boss over the projects.

The NREGA is not locally designed, it is designed at the New Delhi drawing rooms, it seems! So, there is much talk in Delhi, less talk and more manipulation at the state level. No state level leader would give credit to the Centre and so this programme is implemented with the eye on local publicity and for the state level electoral advantages.

So too the many other issues in agriculture. The crisis in agriculture is accentuated more by faulty policies and less on drought or monsoon failure. There are no institutional reforms and safeguards, for instance, in the implementation of the Vaidyanatham committee recommendations in revamping rural credit.

The finance minister seems to be simply unaware or disconnected with this side of the crop/development loan lending programmes. There is no clear announcement from the finance minister on farm lending. This is to be done sooner or later.
First, let the farmers’ views be sought.

The farming sector, on average, is becoming unviable for most farmers, the owner-cultivators. There is this real difficulty. If you own lands, you are called landlord. This is false. To own landed property is a sin in the current government schemes.

All land owners don’t engage in cultivation. They lease out their lands for tenants.
The very word tenants bring out some mutual suspicion in the rural areas.
There is a need to relax the land reform laws so that there is incentive to invest in land, to invest in technologies, to invest in rural housing etc. Even now, the very aam aadmi are all mostly rural people, right?

Go to any village; let the Prime Minister make a surprise visit to any village. He will see every village these days is a dumping ground at the very entrance to the villages. Garbages lie uncollected for months together. So too the sanitation situation. Too unmentionable the scene is villagers is.

Sanitation work can be given to the NREGA workers, so too garbage removal from the village entrances can be assigned to the NREGA workers. Then we can take up watershed and even rural housing schemes.

Villages are no more liveable. They are, at least the villages in the outer perimeter of most cities are now crowded. The villages need more expansions; more new colonies can be built around the existing villages. So too the need to extend the rural medical facilities.

A very sensible suggestion is to give highly subsidised rural clinics  building loans to qualified medical doctors, say, build clinics  at a distance of say, 30 kms from the centre of the city. So, that new clinics can be opened by qualified medical doctors at a very attractive subsidised loan scheme.

This would really encourage rural doctors; encourage a sort of pay by your ability to rural patients. The telemedicine scheme can be tagged to these rural clinics so that quality treatment can be ensured. So too the IT rural kiosks. We need now more and more IT related developments.

Now, it is a shame to think that with all the various rural development schemes, there is much wastage of funds, much leakages, much corruption and only very weak talk at the top.

There is a tendency in the government, at the level of many ministers, to imagine they are the most clever and wisemen! And women! They are not! They are many ignoramuses!

In education to rural development to panchayat raj, there is very little attempt to invite outside talents. There must be advisory panels to every ministry, they must be experts, NGOs and the minister must seek advice and then only act on their policies. Now, Kapil Sibal, before he did anything, he invited himself controversies, be it teaching Hindi to 10th standard exams! So too the rural development minister. To use the funds to build Rajiv Gandhi Bhavans is fool hardy!

The agriculture minister gets angry if we point out his ministry is a failure! An agriculture country like ours imports sugar! What a shame! There is so much poverty, so much malnutrition, and so much farmers’ suicides and yet we seem to indulge in gimmicks like travelling by train and economy class! Elections come at any time. Slogans seem to serve us. But even here, the electorate seems to have the sixth sense. They surprise us, wisely!

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Yes, this is the time of difficult governance and decision-making

Considering the world recession, internal challenges, swine flu scare and widespread rought, there is an emerging crisis on a large-scale.

There is no use and it doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose to ignore the ground level realities.

Critical infrastructure, power, mining, steel, roads, civil aviation, to name the few ones, is all caught up in much critical policy making.

Certainly, the civil aviation is in crisis. Apart from what the civil aviation sector, the private players want what the psu Air India wants?

It is a huge bill and there are also the many options, fully-government owned or partially owned or  privatisation?

Rs.25,000 crore bailout is a big drain on the resources now. So, here is a major decision and the government can’t drag its feet.

Then ,the power sector. No targets can’t be assured? Yes, it looks like that.
But then the mining sector, the two mega projects, of arcelor Mittal and the Posco surely needs some plain common sense, how to give the lands, the land acquisition bill and the actual land acquisition needs a bit of dashing brain storming  and action.
Are the leaders in the coalition brave enough to rise up to the occasion?

Then there is some bright spot it seems from the Kamalnath’s ministry.
The man is doing something that we have to admire.

Yes, the roads ministry was caught in large scale corruption and bungling under the DMK cynicism in the UPA phase I. Now, under the UPA phase II, there is hope.

But then Nath needs some more energetic steps to give India much delayed good roads and reduce the road accidents to a zero tolerable levels.

India has a very bad reputation for accidents on the highways. India seems no one state. Maharashtra d and Tamil Nadu are the two leading road accident prone states.

In TN you see the roads never attended, all freebies nowadays and so the DMK government  has  a penchant for neglecting the roads.

So, mercifully now Nath promises to change the failures of the past.

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None! None at all!
You can’t have altruism unalloyed at the grass roots democracy, can you?
Forget about it! For quite sometime!
The hold of bureaucracy is total and unbreakable!

Unfortunately, our current crop of leaders also doesn’t believe in empowerment, seriously!
Yes, this election will be as like any other election.

The other day I was viewing a very heartening programme, one on the NDTV Profit channel on the unstoppable Indians.

Who is the unstoppable Indian I saw? It is none other  never-say-die Mr.Kejriwal who runs the NGO, Parvartan. Kejriwal, as everyone knows is a winner of the Magsaysay award for using the Right for Information  Act, RTI for getting justice done to poor people.

His experience was an eye-opener. He has a fund of energy that was surprising. Anyone who runs an NGO and that too in such an out of the way field like getting official information from the deadly institution of Indian bureaucracy is sure to fall victim of incurable cynicism! But not Mr.Kejriwal. He is young and earnest and is driven by unlimited optimism.

If I were the President of India, I am sure I would have enlisted his name for a Bharat Ratna. Yes, I am digressing here a bit but such a digression is in order.

We in India don’t recognise talent, talent if it doesn’t come from the official channels! That is the trouble. See the list of the Padma awardees. They all come on predictable lines, good and loyal government service is rewarded in a routine way. So too our choice of artistes. All respectable fields are there but not from out of the way fields that are rare and likely to disappear like the great and immortal oral art traditions like, say, the Kerala-centered  Sanskrit drama, Koodyattam etc.

To search for and reward rare talents, dying arts calls for rare leadership and imagination.
Even in other fields like development, who would appreciate a young man like Mr.Kejriwal who like others in the same category, the waterman and others, are battling against the very walls of government and the bureaucracy.

After listening to his experiences I was wondering whether the President of India or the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi would have been watching the same programme. If they have had watched the programme, there must have been news in the next day. There was none and I assumed that I must be right in my assumptions and in my own prejudices. Assumptions and prejudices about our own leaders, the power seekers and grabbers with no shame whatever!
Mr.Kerjiwal says that in UP and other states, it is now  three years the pending time before you can get your application under the RTI act is likely to be taken up. So many applications are pending as on date. It is no fewer time lags in other states.

If any of the media houses is doing any pubic service then they must get the latest issues under the  working of the act and must publish and expose the causes and the men and women who cause such great distress to the affected community.

So, to come back to Mr.Kejriwal’s other efforts to empower people under the panchayat  raj, it looks he is fighting a losing battle surely. It is not a secret that the institutions under the panchayat raj are not working as they are envisaged. Who doesn’t know this state of affairs? Everybody knows. The PM knows and so his ministers. Surely, Mr.ManiShankar Iyer knows this only too well. But who is responsible to hold back the powers, the empowerment from the local people. It is again, the very same bureaucracy.

Who can reform the system?
Not surely, Dr.Manmohan Singh, the poor man with no powers, no vision and no powers at all.
Who knows he may go down in history as the one who put up a false facade  for five long years, a poor shadow of his master, the late P.V.Narasimha Rao, another false face. The late Prime Minister didn’t have even the courage to write a straightforward autobiography. So, we can be sure this time too our Prime Minister wont let you know what he did and what he couldn’t do, given the constrains under which he is operating as on date!

The concept of empowerment and decentralisation has taken so many avatars.
The history of the experiment is also too long.

One can quote Gandhi, Nehru and whomever you choose.
Even Mr.Kejriwal, in his TV chat quoted from Buddhist history the grass roots democracy and empowerment.

That is very fine and very soothing.

Today, we have to approach peoples’ empowerment, yes, I agree, without any cynicism whatever. That is our duty. Every one’s duty.

After all, we live in a democracy and society would be what it is.
Society would have all the pulls and pressures and various interests and ideals operate.
So, I am robust in my outlook and my optimism is unbounded.

Having said this, I like to look at empowerment in a positive way.
There are enough empirical data, enough World Bank reports, for instance, on governance.
I would like to see that the Central government takes serious interest and makes this social and grass roots democracy experiment as a high priority.

Unless the Central government and the major parties are serious or made to become serious and sensitive to this highly civilised and highly enlightened great political objective nothing much would happen in our life time.

At the states’s level I would like to see the Prime Minister to take the initiative  to impress upon the Chief Ministers to sensitise themselves on this human, humane and humanitarian issue  then also nothing much might happen.

It is a question of leadership. State level initiative is the key to the decisive move.

These aspects, the Central government initiative, state level initiative ,Mr.Kejriwal didn’t emphasis. I don’t know why.

Nor he took notice of the various other experiments, by other governments, as in Kerala and West Bengal, where the Communists made a dance and song of the decentralisation and in the end ended in making the Communist party to oppress and suppress all the initiatives and spontaneous growth of grass roots democracy.

I have also one skepticism of the enthusiasm of Mr.Kejriwal.
Yes, people’s assemblies must be regularly convened and questions asked for the failure of panchayat officials, petty officials to perform their jobs.

The olden day’s local heads of big families had some hold.
Today, these petty officials ,from the village revenue officers to others, including the village school teachers to the ayahs and anganwadi workers don’t respect the villagers. They are often party hands, the ruling party hands and they have their own corrupt deals made or to make and as such they are insensitive or be responsible to their paid duties.

So, in the end, as I also live and had lived and worked on several such projects and got disillusioned, I have to strike a realistic note, dont you approve?

So, we look at empowerment from a more altruistic manner.

Sometimes people deserve mercy. Many times they deserve what they deserve today! You cant have altruism unalloyed, all the time, can you?

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The infrastructure of development twisted and turned into crooked selfish one-person agenda
Where the development issues cry for attention

Just travel around in Tamil Nadu by road. You will notice that the roads are so old, so old world fashioned with all their zigzag returns and twists. You can’t enter and exit any of the major district towns even today, after all these expansions of national highways and the beautiful opening up of the lush countryside on either of these Western style broad and straight lanes!
You can’t enter Coimbatore, the major district town outside the Chennai city. The town along with its sister town of Tirupur, the export hub, are linked by a road whose alignment is still years old and the road accidents in this part is still routine. So too the roads that lead from the town towards the hill station of Oooty. You still drive up to the Blue Mountains through the potholed roads and the passage is narrow.

So too the roads approach to Trichy or the exit from the same city.
One can go on narrating this tale of woe.

You might wonder that after all, it is the minister from the state who is the Cabinet minister for national highways and ports and such a high profile minister must be attending to these woes. But then you will see that this minister’s track record on the national highways authority is very poor. He tried to change the chairmen of this body four times in four years; the last attempt was turned down by a fearing and reluctant Prime Minister! Such is the clout of the alliance partner!

The city of Chennai itself for an outsiders, for a visitor from outside the state, say, for one who is from Bangalore, the city of Chennai, once the oldest in the then Madras Presidency, is a city of poor infrastructure that you enter the city from Bangalore on the beautiful national ways at the end of the NH with the board warning you: End of the Toll Gate Road. You then suddenly find yourself as if you are entering into a slum dog city! Yes, the city from the Koyambedu to Amjikarai is a series of slums it seems. The roads haven’t been widened for ages, it seems. That is the feeling you get.

Yes, there are now as many over bridges in the city as elsewhere but a comparison with Bangalore would give you an idea how Chennai is having a poor urban infrastructure while Bangalore, with all its yet-to-meet demands for infrastructure, you come from a modern American city to an Indian city that is still city with its poor roadsides, dust and smoke and unpaved sideways and the lack of any green cover, in spite of so much awareness for green cover and urban landscaping.

Where is a big enough lung space in Chennai as we have in Bangalore with the beautiful 250 acre Lal Baugh and the 300 acre Cubbon Park. There are so many newly-laid parks in Bangalore while you don’t have enough greenery. We haven’t noticed during the recent many visits. The contrast stands out.

Coimbatore being our native city, we noticed the deficiencies more often.
We were not surprised when we noticed during the current electioneering in the Coimbatore constituency, the parties and the candidates were raising the issues of urban infrastructure in Coimbatore.

No wonder, in road accidents, the state comes second ,next to Maharashtra.
The local CII has come out with a list of demands and also a list of unfulfilled promises in the past. The CII document says that in the past 10 years no major urban infrastructure project has come about in the city. No over bridges, no expansion of the city roads, the roads are so clogged and congested and no major water supply projects, the pending water supply projects are pending for so many decades.

Once the city was surrounded by beautiful lakes and water bodies. All now encroached and gone for ever!

The lifeline of the city, the ancient Noyyal rive is dead and in stretches near Tirupur, also near Erode, another industrial hub with a large export industry, had totally polluted the rivers and the vast acres of  cultivable land.

You can’t enter these new export hubs and ext, thanks to years of neglect in building tiring roads or expanding the narrow roads inside the cities.

Tamil Nadu is one state which can be described as a victim that had fallen to the very peculiar politics pursued by the Dravidian parties, in particular by the ruling DMK under the vice-like grip of Mr.Karunanidhi who in his present avatar, is the Chief Minister for the fifth time and in an age when most men would have retired so gracefully. But not this Chief Minister.

The DMK politics is also very peculiar. Everything you would expect from a modern elected government is absent here. The ruling party is in a minority and yet the DMK refuses to share power with the Congress. Also, the DMK had bargained and got all the powerful Cabinet ministers’ posts in Delhi in writing before  the alliance formation!

Also, the DMK chief had so manipulated, almost through a carefully designed psychological warfare that both the Prime Minister and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi are terrified to talk to the DMK chief and they just dance to the tunes of the DMK even when it comes to very sensitive questions like Sri Lanka. The PM refuses to open his mouth and counter the very pernicious strategies the party pursues to keep its opponents on the tenterhook, always the DMK wants to be the  one-upmanship party in every issue.

So, there is  rampant corruption of massive proportions and  the governance norms are so  flouted and the socio-cultural map of the map is marked with so much social evils, from Tasmac liquor flowing under the government agency and  degeneration of governance is so steep that the police are divided into ruling party and Opposition party factions!

The ruling party is now a most powerful force, with every small or big elections are targeted in such a way that money and muscle power wins the day.

So, we see massive populist schemes like free colour TV sets, free rice to free land and now well-targeted funding of the individual voters.

The method adopted is to pay and bribe the voters beforehand and also forewarn dire consequences if the voters don’t vote as promised! The last by-election at Thirumangalam is described as the most violent, most corrupt election. This description is given by the state election commissioner himself!

So, for any intelligent observer, it doesn’t  need much expertise, that the state funds are squandered on the populist schemes that fetch votes in every election, more success of this method drives to go for more freebies and where else the revenues have gone except into such squandering.

So, it is no wonder that the states basic infrastructure is left neglected.
Who cares? That is the question no one asks. No one dares to ask.

The elite are silenced. The so-called middle class is silenced, the Tamil language chauvinism is whipped up every now and then and so the state doesn’t even remember the basic development issues. The separatist trends, through Elam Issue, Tamil in danger, Tamil protector, the state CM, such fantasies are built up through heavy state funded advertisements in the newspapers, that everyday you wake up to see the broadly smiling aged CM for your own chagrin!

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