There were at one point just 10 MPs out of a house of 533 PMs!
On farmers’ issues, this is the involvement, how many of you know?

Parliament sessionMPs are the most privileged lot of the political class. They are paid high salaries, many perks; it is a sort of spectacle to be an MP in India today! The media buzz around them! At any time.

After the emergence of populist politics in most states, there are any type of MLPs, they are colurful and also in some ways character, making news all the time. Often for the wrong reasons!

But Parliamentary democracy demands the MPs elected by an electorate, in some states by purely for reasons that are not discussed openly.

What subjects the MPs debate more often? Here is one such instance. There was a debate on agriculture recently. The major media reported the debate thus:
Yes, this is the stark reality of the status of agriculture in the national priorities. The Central government, more than the states, is more vocal often when it comes to farmers’ distress, the farmer’s suicides and other forms of natural disasters like floods and other devastations. Even in the recent reports from all over the world we find it is the rural areas, the countryside, the rivers and lakes issues we see the rural people greatly affected. Fires in Greece, dam burst in Laos, of course floods and fires in China and Japan we see these natural disasters and the people missing and died!

How many of the rest of the population in the countries concerned are showing sympathy and help, one doesn’t know. As for India, the farmers are being neglected in spite of the repeated number of times politicians expressing sympathy and solidarity with the much-disorganised farming community.

In a recent Parliamentary debate, the media has reported one instance when the house debated on the situation of floods and drought in parts of the country, the house witnessed a strange picture of empty benches and a depleted number of MPs. In an afternoon debate there was a steady outflow of the hon’ble members and at one point of time, the be exact at 4.35 PM, when the house started at  2.25 PM and the whole discussion, government reply took five hours to conclude that at one point, at 4.35 PM, the house was virtually empty! There only 10 MPs in a house of 533 MPs!

Luckily, the report is s in such a detail that we are given to know how the MPs conduct themselves on such high priority issues. The members prioritised the topics and they skipped other listed bills and took up the farmers’ distress. From 61 members from the beginning the number steadily declined and though the number increased at one point to 61,21 from the Opposition, you please note, the numbers present also declined below the minimum required to form a quorum.
There were of course three ministers, the one name you might not have heard is the Union minister for agriculture, Radha Mohan Singh, his deputy G.S.Shekhawat and of course the more active  MOs for home, Kiren Rejiju! Of course they assured the members to give all that they can.

But what is the point here is that the very low status the highly priority agriculture sector commands in the scheme of things. Every politician of any grade comes out with assuring crop loan waiver, the latest highlight in national politics if what the Karnataka Chief Minister, the much-admired H.D.Kumaraswamy’s bold write off of the crop loans to the extent of some staggering Rs35,000 crores!

The others are also waiting to make such stupendous announcement and grab headlines. At the same time, there are some silly insensitive remarks by the ministers to question the honesty of farmers to say that they are committing suicides over their unbearable d burden of debts! Even in Karnataka one influential minister had questioned the wisdom of linking farmers suicides to their debts Mr.D.K.Shivakumar had said this on the same day when the news about the absentee MPs came in the media. Of course the TV channels have lately blacked out the farmers’ suicides. For that sort of news don’t draw viewers. More interesting news is rape cases, mob lynching and other breaking news categories only.

Also, the agri media is an endangered species category!  If you stick to such high national priority issues, you would be considered a crank or you can forget your aspiration for any government recognition. Forget any thought of PadmaSri!

So, hypocrisy surrounds any thought of lofty political goals like eradicating poverty and under development in the country.

Just talk of development, use any jargon that sounds sweet, Vikas? Or you can count any new terms? Please do it, you  are welcome in the government circles!  So, dear unfortunate farmers, you please  take note of your status in society.

Again, you make sense only when you talk of some other populist schemes like Anna Bhagya! Is it 5 kgs or 7 kgs? The food and civil supplies minister was questioned for talking about this! How can he, as a minister can  talk of these topics, it is insensitive, an NGO can speak but not a minister, said the rival BJP spokespersons!

So, agriculture, food, nutrition, rather malnutrition are sensitive issues, the insensitive part comes only when you  talk about a rational solution to such issues!

After the Amartya Sen-Rajiv Kumar TV Debate on the economy
Now, the great game of the 2019 election!

amartyaYes, there are some dramatic  moments in  the political and  economic debates in recent times. One was of course the much-talked about No-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha. In a significant sense, this debate gave Mr.Rahul Gandhi the much needed boost to prove his credentials as a leader of the great national party, the Indian  National Congress. It looks as if the ruling party, namely, the BJP  seemed to have imagined itself as a powerful party that wanted to replace the INC, the slogan was the Congress-mukth  India! This won’t cut much ice, everyone knows and yet the very boost the party gave itself showed that they really believed in creating such a scenario.

Now, after the no-confidence debate and the outcome, though everyone knows, were as expected. The  BJP gave in to the way Mr.Gandhi came out with a well-prepared and  well-rehearsed  speech that took everyone by surprise and even with some shock. Rahul Gandhi with this s;pee3ch seem to have arrived on the national stage, we have to admit, however grudgingly. Yes, he produced an impact and the ruling party itself was take a back with Gandhi’s    flow of speech which had itself and flow and ended with a shocking hug he gave to Mr.Modi. The PM himself was unprepared and we have seen how he was caught unawares and yet managed to respond in a way that also gave him some credit. The real bonhomie brought the much need civility and some dignity also to the very  august house and that is how it should be at the end of the day.

So, of all the old times, starting from the 1963 Acharya Kripalanai’s  no-confidence speech against Pandit Nehru to the other such events, in all some 26 no-confidence motions in the Lok Sabha, this one too was a landmark event. After all, Mr.Modi managed to avoid any such move in the last four yats and also it is a fact that the very massive setback to the Congress made the party unnerved to move a motion on its own. So,  the current move gave rise to a new development.

A new confidence to take on Mr.Modi on the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Also came in before the debate in Parliament another well-timed debate, this time between the government economists, Rajiv Kumar who heads the Niti Aayog, the planning body of the m Modi government. The debate on the NDTV, well-timed and also well-titled, “Prove it!”And the “Challenges accepted.

We saw after a long break, Prof.Sen  taking on Modi government for its lacklustre performance on the economic front, as Sen Saw it. After all Sen is an expert on the Indian economy, why even on the global economic scene and so we had for the first time saw Sen quoting enough evidence, statistics from a range of issues, from education to health  to the very economic growth scenario, from Bangladesh to Indonesia to Sri Lanka to show ,to prove that on sheer general data, these countries were performing much better than the great Indian economy.

Yes, Rajiv Kumar quoted enough date to show how under the Modi regime  many sectors of the Indian economy were performing very creditably. And yet, as Sen proved ,yes with a touch of sarcasm and with, that we have to prove by credible data. Yes, on this basis, we have to concede why we need a much more better account to prove that we are doing really well. We have to take our economic experts, advisers and independent experts with a pinch of salt, as we saw from Sen’s type of analysis that we need a much more critical insights.

As Sen said that we need more critical economists, very credible economists, unfortunately, the official economists are a bit unreliable, see how many were sent out or they themselves migrated as soon as their official tasks are over here!

This sort of “patriotism” nor the lack of it somehow dents the credibility of the USA-based Indian economists. Fortunately, Sen said that he spend more time these days in India. That is welcome and does him much good, we  feel! If one Sen had based himself more on the Indian soil his wisdom and credibility would have much more good for the larger good of  the country.

Now, the latest buzz is that the coming great challenge for Mr.Modi is the 2019 general election. Now, after the no-confidence debate we see the Congress is having a rethink, that is not to project Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate that is how it should be.

Instead they should project a candidate who has really credibility. Not necessarily, a female candidate, Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee. But others too are also in the race. H.D.Kumaraswamy or a Chandrababu Naidu. We need a much more broad based debate, an objective debate. Not the media-inspire prejudiced  media-led talk.

Surely, we feel that Mr.Naidu has the ideal qualifications. His proven administrative abilities make him an ideal candidate for the Prime Minister’s job in place of Modi, if the Opposition parties seriously give up their own narrow agendas and seek a nationally-credible fight.

Also, it is important to point out that the Congress must shed its obsession with dynasty. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi seems to be still playing an active role, not even from behind the scene and so too the dummy candidate of Dr.Manmohan Singh. Who knows the desires of people? Dr./Singh might still be projected as the dummy face of the dynasty. Such narrow dreams must be exposed and a real-well-debated candidate
or candidates who might emergence from a genuine democratic debate.

We need to sensitise the public opinion and public policies with greater doses of ground level realities!
The growing inequities, injustices and falling sensitivities make life for the common man more and more miserable!

In many social  sector policies, like education, health, why even other sectors that address issues for weaker sections and disadvantaged sectors like farmers, why even like prison reforms we as a country have not yet become serious enough to make policies that get attention of the general public public.

K.Sujatha Rao, former Union Secretary

K.Sujatha Rao, former Union Secretary

Even  the public and also the public opinion are not stirred by sensitive people, even highly educated  and well-placed sections like government servants and teachers and other professionals  like lawyers and doctors, we as Indians take many inequities for granted!

This we say from our own personal experiences and encounters with others in discussions.

Who cares for the prison population? We read today there are over many lakhs of under trials suffering inside jails, some 1,400 odd jails.
What are the Legal Aid activities? Do they make headline news?

No, never! Also the state of our children? Children caught in many situations like the Act, POCSO?

So too women inside jails, women as mothers inside the jails?
What about those who can’t pay for their bail and are inside the jails?
Or, the higher authorities who can do much and yet they remain silent in their high offices?

We don’t want to be seen as rocking the boat. That is why, in spite of our leaders, we mean politicians talking too  much we don’t cut ice with any other the national and much more with the international bodies doing some great work and that is get noticed.

When it comes to some of the larger issues like pollution, environment protection and why even bigger issues like war and peace, though India is one of the pioneers in international peace keeping operations, India doesn’t make news.
India can very well have all the credentials to bid for a Nobel Prize in international peace keeping operations and other efforts but we seem to be a nation too much concerned with our own narrow self interests.

We don’t seem to be a nation known for its great compassion or outwardness!
Now, what we started off was with the social sectors.

K.Sujatha Rao, the former Union Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare often writers about her domian. In a recent article she had highlighted the high costs of medical care in private hospitals and this caught our attention. The abysmal system of healthcare in the country must wake up concerned citizens and even policy makers alike. Even a well-placed state like Tamil Nadu has an over 30% shortage of medical and non-medical professionals in government facilities.
The highly motivated secretary has made many useful suggestions.

We need to upgrade the 150,000 sub centres into wellness clinics that provide 12 sets of services. We can then easily provide health security to 40% of India’s population requiring hospitalisation  through a health insurance policy upto a sum of Rs.5 lakh per year.

Fine fine.

What is holding us up from implementing the policy?

The explanation  for the current crises in  the public and private healthcare system could be a tortuous path!

There are crises from the very start. From the way the medical education is imparted with so many corrupt practices, MCI onwards and also, the way the private medical  practices, here we have to add the private sector-turned entrepreneurs class, from small towns to big metros  to organising the public healthcare providers in the rural areas to upwards in the towns and cities.
The private medicare is now a booming business.

The high cost of private medical services. The Union health secretary herself says that a three-day stay in a hospital in Hyderabad for a respiratory problem cost her Rs.1.8 lakh! A CT scan that costs Rs.19.080 in a Hyderabad hospital. While it costs Rs. 500 in government hospitals in Tamil Nadu. Of course the very same costs Rs.7,000in Tamil Nadu and Delhi, say the former Union Secretary. Perhaps, the Secretary is a bit out of date or out of touch! The very same CT scan test in Bangalore, at a top end hospital charges Rs.27,000 with all “concessions”!. Of course in the private hospitals in TN and Delhi must have learnt the latest practices from TN and  Bangalore!

Says the former Union Health Secretary: It is estimated that Rs.30,000 crore will have to be spent if the three tier primary healthcare system is to be brought to minimal health standards.

Anyway, it is becoming clear that private medicare is sought by almost all sections. To meet the demands of the public who seek often the private care we have to ensure at least some control over the exorbitant costs that are now sought for latest tests and drugs as well. This is already a well-trodden subject and all that requires is an update of the same issues to make it more  a reality-check!

Indian democracy faces multiple challenges!
We can’t take for granted the current realities alone!
There can be unanticipated developments!

opposition-unity-2Politics is now all the passion and superficial concern of the dominant sections of society. Every one, I mean the citizen, who has made some progress in life, earned wealth and an ambition to further his or her prospects in life takes interest in politics. That seems to be the only way to gain further foothold in life, so to say.

So, we seem all sorts of people, Tom ,Dick and Harry, are eager to ‘enter’ politics. Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister, is a outspoken man  and he had called the Prime Minister as ‘a not educated person’. Of course, this is a rude and uncourteous remark for  whom we can call an educated person and others ‘uneducated’. The late Kamaraj was an ‘uneducated’ person or for that matter there are so many not so-well-educated but they had left great legacies. We can name many.

He had cited Dr.Manmohan Singh as a well-educated person. Yes, he is but that alone didn’t give him any glory. The series of scams in his tenure brought the Congress party to such a disgrace. Politics is not a simple subject. It is a serious subject. It had given the world much of its civilisation. The story is told many times. We ourselves had covered the topic many times in these columns. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are only few names. There are others from ancient Greece to Rome, to Italian Renaissance to the French and the European Enlightenment.

The point here is that in India we live at a time when there are very many issues that cry for debate and discussion and that is our concern here.
You see that Indian democracy is our prized legacy and that is facing challenges.

2019 Lok Sabha elections is becoming a priority with every other political party and the new-found unity of the Opposition parties in Bangalore the other day unlined the new temper of Indian politics.

What will be the debating point in 2019.Re-election of Mr.Narendra Modi for another term? Yes, it is! Displacing Mr.Modi by the Opposition parties? Yes, that is also the high priority for the Opposition parties?
The BJP has an ideology. But what about the Opposition parties?

There is no clear agenda that could bind the Opposition parties. The Congress has all the weaknesses of an exhausted party.
The old hands hang on in Delhi, most of them are high networth individuals, so to say, they are also professionls, lawyers and others, feudal and ne nouveau riche!

The party in many states is in shambles.
What is the vision or a core agenda?

For other parties, for Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandra Shekhar Rao, or even Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar or other regional parties? As far as we see we don’t hear then speaking out!

Here are some concerns and priorities.  Indian democracy is great with 1.25 billion people. It has worked unbroken since 1947, though in the Commonwealth countries it was not so.

Yet, today there is a sense of unease widely in the country. Why is this so, no one asks. It is because there are some tensions and pressures built in the system. Parliament is not functioning and we haven’t found out ways to deal with this situation.

Parties are becoming more casteists, communal, as even in Karnataka we have found lately. This process of castes and communalism consolidating is likely in the coming days.

Media is under stress, why even judiciary, why even the many other independent or autonomous bodies like the anti-corruption bodies, CBI, ED and even  the existing Lokayukthas are not functioning. Political opponents are targeted. Our leaders talk but not many or convinced. The many claims are not seem validated.
Now, it looks more sinister games, yes we can only call then games, not policies are on.

One such anxiety arises from the latest news item that the government is set to engage a private agency monitor online activities of individuals and social groups, why even organisations, newspapers, news channels, collect “digital media charter”. The aim is to give a ‘positive’ slant and “inculcate nationalistic feelings in the masses”. Brain washing?

This step seems to be very disturbing. What we like to highlight here is that we need a new charter of electoral reforms, reform of the Election Commission, punishing criminal elements in elections (this category of persons are growing faster!) funding of the political parties, undoing the electoral bonds schemes, why even the reforms and structure of the political parties is over-due, so that political corruption and the tendency for the parties to become more unaccountable to the public and thereby, the parties perpetuate themselves, as dynasties, why even as business empires(see the scale of corruption in TN, for instance, as  receivers of black money from the capitalists, from the capitalist class which is becoming more and more monopolistic and cause for exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable sections.

Today’s democracy is not transparent for various reasons but we have to restore and purify democracy in all its glories!

A robust social agenda that would take   the excesses of monopoly capitalism and at the same time combine the private capitalism as the engine of economic growth.

This seems to be the most critical agenda for the present generation.
It is a long story. From  the time of the previous generation of intellectuals, from Lord Keynes to Joseph Schumpeter to Fredrick von Hayek to other intellectuals like Karl Marx to Karl Popper to Isaiah Berlin.

You want do without capitalism but it has to be tamed to function under a robust democracy, that too a parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary and an independent media and other NGO watchdogs! Do any political party cares for such concerns?

There is no other alternative, please take note! This is our agenda for the 2019!

Farmers agitate and come out on the roads and show their anger and helplessness!
Of course, agriculture, as we say, is always a difficult sector.

droughtIt has become more and more so simply because we tend to take the disorganised, inequity-ridden sector for granted. The very many antiquated land laws, from agricultural landownership to tenancy legislation has g driven genuine farmers to courts and district collector weekly meetings and this had also led to accumulation of debts, genuine and otherwise.

Now, you can see how much we have all gone with the rising farmers’ suicides becoming no more news. TVs don’t show these uncomfortable scenes while we lap up the latest scandals and meaningless corporate shows, often each show is dependent upon the other, newspapers and TV companies have to survive and so they show their own other activities! Conclaves and what have you. The visual media is infected with other gamblings and games, cricket is what? Is it a sports or a medium for making money through advertisements.

The very society is becoming more and more selfish and self-cantered and so too politics! Democratic politics too seems to be deteriorating with one party taking revenge on the other! How much time is devoted to governance, the one word that hides so many other hidden meanings! So, we have here a situation that the much-advertise farmers’ crop insurance scheme seems to be declining in farmer’s enrolment.

Do readers need any statistics? We have but we don’t want to bore the readers who are already disinclined to read anything on agriculture, a very discoursing field.

Also, to see farmers from Haryana and Punjab coming to the highways to disgorge their unwanted vegetables and milk.  Of course, this sight is very disgusting and also very painful when we consider how much more nutrition the country’s children need when we pour the dear milk on the road this way.
But alas! No central minister or thinkers or other votaries of the Hindutva had spoken out on the farmers’ distress.

Why this state of mind?

The Union Agriculture Minister, of all the other ones, had come out with a shocker! He called the farmers protests a “Gimmick”! We don’t think there can’t be a more rude and uncharitable remark from the very minister who is supposed to be a guardian of this unfortunate lot of people.

You see agriculture is so basic to our life and it won’t go away. Agriculture would be there, tied to our very soul, our body and life id tied up with our life, economic and social, why with our very politics. And alas. It is sad to think that our Prime Minister has a style; he doesn’t utter a word on such occasions.

This mindset of our leaders, new and the not so new must change.  Please don’t show how much you’re an ignomorous, you who want political power but you don’t have the capacity to rise up to your chance!

Politics also won’t go away. Democracy is all about two and more parties. There can’t be any other way in politics.

Please nominate to the heavy portfolios the right people. People in the rural areas are much more shrewder that their counterparts in the urban areas.
Public perception and public opinion are the two critical elements in any politics, more so in democratic politics.

Every five years the people have the choice; this no one can take away.  So, in the coming next elections, in 2019, there are enough indications that the Opposition parties might unite one way or other. The issues are also getting clearer. Farm distress is going to be one crucial issue. Many promises remain on paper only. This harsh reality must hit all those who have stakes.

So, please take immediate steps to ease the farm distress. We have highlighted issues many time. It is for the wise and the prudent to act in appropriate ways.