Sunday, October 31, 2010

Free trade a win-win proposal for Government, country, and farmers: Dr. JP (Telugu)

Free trade a win-win proposal for Government, country, and farmers: Dr. JP

Agricultural liberalization need of the hour -- Dr. JP

The Government of India could make a net profit of not less than Rs.50,000 crore this year by exporting just one variety of rice grown in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP hoped that the economist-turned Prime Minister would seize the historic opportunity not merely to earn precious foreign exchange for the country but also to mitigate widespread distress among farmers. It was time Dr. Manmohan Singh, who liberated industry from the license-permit raj, focused on rescuing agriculture from imminent collapse.

Dr. JP, who returned today after a six-day visit to the granary of Andhra Pradesh, painted a very grim picture of the gathering agricultural crisis. Paddy prices are about to crash and ruin farmers, as all warehouses are overflowing with food grains even as a bumper crop is round the corner.

The Government has as of today 46 million tons of food grains, against the required buffer stock of 16 million tons for October. Farmers and traders have probably another 20 million tons of food grains with them. Thanks to bountiful rains and increased acreage, the country is about to witness record yields. The MSP offered by the Government does not cover even the cost of cultivation. The minimum support rice has become the maximum selling price.

According to Government estimates, Andhra Pradesh will produce an all-time high of 20.9 million tons of food grains, including 14.8 million tons of rice, during the current crop year. The State requires not more than 7.2 million tons of rice a year for internal consumption. In other words, two-thirds of the State's food grain production will be a surplus, not taking into account the huge stocks of the previous crop lying with farmers and traders.

The Governments - Union and State - have put farmers in fetters with their antediluvian farm sector policies. A corrupt, thoughtless license-permit-quota raj has been crippling the farm sector. In agriculture, production itself is dependent on weather gods, pests and diseases, availability of quality inputs and timely workforce. One out of three crops is lost and the farmer suffers heavy losses. But thanks to Government policies, even when a farmer raises a good crop overcoming all obstacles, the price is depressed. The farmer loses all when the crops fail; and he loses heavily when there is a good harvest.

Against such a backdrop, Dr. JP said, there is no wonder that paddy prices have started crashing. The Union Government continues the ban on non-basmati rice exports imposed last year in the wake of drought and floods. The State Government would not allow free movement of rice outside the State or between districts within the State. It condescends to allow movement of only limited stocks and that too against permits for apparent reasons.

The average yield of paddy in Andhra Pradesh is 22 bags of 75 kg each or 16.5 quintals. The cost of cultivation comes to Rs.16,000 per acre to a farmer and about Rs.25,000 to a tenant. Even if the Government ensures the minimum support price of Rs.1000/Rs.1030 per quintal, the farmer merely reaps back his investment, while the tenant incurs a net loss. In areas where the crop has already landed in market yards, the ruling prices are less than the MSP.

Dr. JP said that a sagacious Government would promote free trade and exports to overcome problems of overflowing warehouses within the country and take advantage of the galloping prices in international markets. Instead of granting permits and licenses to private parties for rice exports, and attracting charges of favoritism, nepotism, and sleaze, the Government could canalize exports through State undertakings.

Dr. JP said the Government need to export just one super fine variety of rice -- BPT 5204, known as Sona Masuri, which has a good demand in all rice-eating nations. The Sona Masuri surplus in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka after the current kharif harvest will be at least 10 million tons, he said.

He explained that Sona Masuri is quoting at $24-27 a bag of nine kg in international markets. It works out to Rs.120-135 a kg or Rs.12,000-13,500 a quintal in rupee terms. The price is likely to go up further because rains and floods have ravaged the paddy crop in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries. Even if the Government realizes a price of only Rs. 80 per kg after meeting all incidental expenses on storage, transportation etc, the profit on export of 10 million tons of BPT rice will be more than Rs.50,000 crore.

Dr. JP said that the Government could retain 50 percent of the profit and share the remainder with farmers. It could pay a bonus of Rs.500 a quintal to all paddy growers in AP and Karnataka - not merely Sona Masuri growers - for the coming four years.

Dr. JP accused both the Union and State Governments of ruining agriculture, the mainstay of 60 percent of people in the country. The per capita income of farmers and tenants who are solely dependent on agriculture in India is Rs.15,000 a year, in contrast to Rs.1,04,000 of those engaged in non-agricultural occupations. How can industry flourish if 60 percent of people lead a subsistence existence and cannot afford goods produced by industry?

No farmer in the countryside would like to give his daughter in marriage to a farmer or want his son to take to farming because it does not ensure two square meals a day, leave alone a life of comfort or luxury. It is not a surprise that villages are getting depopulated.

Dr. JP recalled that Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Pranab Mukerjee had defended India joining the WTO in the interest of the Indian farmer who enjoyed a competitive advantage in cost of production. "We today have a competitive advantage in rice production, but the Government would not permit exports and allow the farmer to benefit from high prices in the international market. On the contrary, it facilitates duty-free import of rice and wheat. We have a competitive disadvantage in oilseeds production. The Rajiv Gandhi government created an Oil-seeds Mission to encourage farmers, but now thanks to the Government's irrational policies, Indian cooking oil will soon be a thing of the past. Instead of encouraging farmers to step up yields, the Government permits duty-free import of edible oil and supplies it on subsidy to consumers. Imports meet nearly 80 percent of the country's edible oil requirements. In other words, the Government is straining its every nerve to ensure that a farmer on an alien soil benefits at the cost of the Indian farmer, whatever be the agricultural produce."

With the free import of Pangasius variety of fish from Vietnam, Bangladesh, Burma and other ASEAN countries, the price of that fish in India plummeted from Rs.50 to Rs. 30 a kg. Whenever cotton prices rise to the advantage of farmers, exports are banned, and imports are allowed even when international prices are higher. Sugarcane farmers are kept on a tight leash; this resulted in farmers givingup cane production. Factories shut down; and we had to import 50 lakh tonnes of sugar this year. The Government's single point program ensures that the Indian farmer never realizes good prices, and agriculture continues to be a subsistence occupation.

No major country actively works against its own farmers as the Indian Government does. If there is a conspiracy to destroy our agriculture, impoverish our farmers and tenants, and ruin village economy, the Government could not have done differently. Irrational and anti-national policies in agriculture are denying us market access, profits, foreign exchange and farm income. This shameless exploitation of farmers and tenants is leading to economic ruin of villages which constitute 70% of the population. This is also affecting the rest of the economy, as the demand for industrial goods and services is limited largely to 30% of the population. "The policies of the government are clearly resulting in India's economic growth being held back; eventually the economy will stagnate, and the nation will pay a heavy price," Dr. JP said.

Dr. JP recalled that the Government of India liberalized the economy in the 1990s not out of conviction but because of compulsion. It had to mortgage gold and self-respect in London to pay for fertilizer and fuel imports and ward off a default in debt servicing. The Government, which had unshackled industry and unleashed animal spirits, would not like to forgo its stranglehold on agriculture. "Should a catastrophe visit agriculture too before the Government mends its mindset?", asked Dr. JP

Dr. JP announced that farmers in Karnataka and Maharashtra will be meeting soon in large numbers to discuss the crisis they are facing and finalize the future course of action.

The Lok Satta Party, as a matter of principle, is opposed to inconveniencing people by calling for rasta rokos and bandhs on any particular issue. It may have to make an exception in the case of the present agrarian crisis if the Government does not respond and render justice to the farmer. It is considering a proposal to paralyze the general economy by blocking cargo traffic for a few days on national highways and rail roads so that the rest of the country will appreciate the problems 60 percent of people solely dependent on agriculture are facing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Women demand separate wing to tackle domestic violence (Telugu)

Women demand separate wing to tackle domestic violence

A round-table conference of women’s representatives has demanded that the Government constitute a separate wing to implement the Domestic Violence Act, divesting the Woman and Child Welfare Department of the responsibility.

The Mahila Satta and the Legal Cell of the Lok Satta organized the conference to review implementation of the four-year-old Act at the Lok Satta Party Headquarters here today.

Participants cutting across party lines pointed out that implementation of the Act left much to be desired and traced the high incidence of violence against women to the growing liquor consumption and consumerism and illiteracy among women. Significantly, the participants conceded there were instances of violence against men too which need to be addressed.

The participants in the four-hour conference included Mrs. Tripurana Venkataratnam and K. Pushpaleela (Congress), Mrs. Madhavi Deepak and Mrs. Shaheeda Begum (Praja Rajyam), AP Women’s Federation State Secretary Aruna, Telangana Democratic Front President N. Vijayalakshmi, Mrs. Aruna of Vikasa Dhatri, Mrs. Challa Uma of AIFW, Mrs. Kalpavalli and Mrs. Lakshmi, social workers, Mrs. Mahalakshmi, Vice President, State Mahila Satta, Mrs. Gajanani, GHMC Mahila Satta Secretary, Mrs. Padmavati of the Legal Cell, and Lok Satta leaders Mrs. Y. Ramadevi, Subhashini, Mangala, Rama Subhadra, Sujata, Vimaladevi, Sarada, Vijayakumari, Vijaya Venkateswarai, Nirmalarani, V. Ramachandraiah, A. B. Prathap Reddy and Srikant.

Mrs. K. Gita Murthy, Mahila Satta General Secretary, coordinated the program.

Initiating the discussion, Lok Satta Legal Cell Convener C. V. L. Narasimha Rao wanted the media to publicize the Domestiv Violence Act and educate people. Mrs. Tripurana Venkataratnam suggested that the Government open family counseling centers up to the mandal level and utilize retired employees’ services. Mrs. Pushpa Lela welcomed the trend of women coming together transcending their political differences. Mrs. Madhavi Deepak said that domestic violence could be prevented through eradication of the drink evil. Mrs. Aruna of the AP Women’s Federation said that committed and knowledgeable persons be appointed to the State’s Women’s Commission. Mrs. Mahalakshmi wanted swift punishment to the guilty under the Act. Mrs. Aruna of the Vikasa Dhatri suggested that the Government, media and civil society organizations fight jointly against domestic violence.

The conference endorsed Mr. C. V. L. Narasimha Rao’s suggestion that an action committee be formed after some more workshops to take the cause forward.

What Do We Do About Bihar? – Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan

One of the great challenges facing our republic is the increasing regional disparities. It is well recognized that the South and the West are the engines of growth, along with the region in and around Delhi. The North and the East, with the exception of West Bengal are in dire straits, though considerable potential exists in the fertile Gangetic plains.

The perpetual crisis Bihar is facing is an illustration of governance failure and economic stagnation leading to regional disparities. Already, the per capita income of Bihar is barely 20% of that in Maharashtra. And Bihar is not a small little region with sparse population. With 83 million people sandwiched in the truncated Bihar, its future is a gargantuan challenge for Indian governance. Nor can we isolate Bihar or Eastern UP. Each of them is larger than any nation in Europe. And in a free country, people in dire problems are bound to migrate to other regions in search of livelihoods. The problem of slums in Mumbai is essentially an offshoot of despair in rural Bihar and UP.

There are many who think Bihar and UP can be ignored and the rest of India can get on the bandwagon of growth and prosperity in the twenty-first century. But the truth is, if Bihar and UP languish, India fails too. A quarter century ago, during our civil service training at Mussoorie, when people talked of UP and Bihar, those of us from the rest of India used to snigger with an air of superiority. But experience taught us that in every state of the Union there is a large part of Bihar. The degree and the manifestation of the crisis may vary, but corruption, criminalization, collapse of public goods, failure of rule of law, decline in the quality of leadership, and perverse public discourse are endemic to all of India.

In two ways, Bihar crisis is less intractable than it is made out to be. First, vast multitudes of people in Bihar are vexed with economic stagnation, politics of identity sans public good, criminalization and corruption. The recent political flux has to be viewed in the context of this significant shift in public perceptions. That people do not have real alternatives in terms of better governance, and all parties are victims of the same vicious cycle are a different matter. The yearning of the people for something better is clearly evident. Second, if there is a perception of collapse of governance, it is easier to pick up the pieces and start with a clean slate. A moderately successful state is harder to reform, because it is difficult to summon the will to upset the applecart. But a ‘failed’ state can offer no argument or incentive in favour of status-quo. The crisis of Bihar therefore, could yet be converted into an opportunity.

What then can be done in Bihar realistically? Four major areas are in desperate need of reform, and rapid change is possible in all sectors. The most vital priority is restoration of rule of law. All governance is based on perceptions. If people see ‘might is right’, and that no law applies, then soon all people behave erratically and create a lawless society. The line between a lawful society and anarchy is very thin. A series of steps can, and must, be initiated at low cost to restore rule of law in Bihar. Local courts for speedy justice as an integral part of independent judiciary at a low cost can be constituted swiftly. Once simple disputes are resolved in a credible manner, and petty crime is punished quickly, a culture of rule of law will soon return. Cleaning up of subordinate judiciary following the Maharashtra pattern, identifying and systematically dealing with key visible symptoms of breakdown of public order (“broken windows”), and insulation of investigation of serious crimes from political vagaries – all are politically and economically low cost and high impact solutions.

Second, delivery of education and health care can be improved speedily by institutional innovations. Thousands of middle class Biharis are fleeing the region in search of better education. Empowerment of parents in schools, an improved examination system to measure real caliber of students, and a state testing board to give disaggregated data on educational outcomes to facilitate interventions to improve quality are three low cost solutions which can convert the vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle. Similarly, speedy recruitment and training of local health workers, supply of drugs in PHCs, rapid infrastructure improvements to meet the demand for family planning services, and creation of hospital fund at local level to reimburse public hospitals for patient care, with money following the patient are innovations which are eminently feasible. There is no resource problem, because the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Rural Health Mission are already in operation with Union support. We need to make sure that committed and competent civil servants are placed in charge, and motivated and talented citizens are attracted on contractual basis to improve and manage delivery of services.

Third, thanks to the proactive measures of Patna High Court, the elected local governments are at last in place. At the local level, there can be greater fusion between authority and accountability, and people can keep track of the money spent and benefits realized. And as most state-sponsored development has come to a grinding halt, the usual resistance of legislators and bureaucrats to decentralization is likely to be less virulent.

Finally, Bihar needs a large dose of Union assistance for infrastructure – especially roads, flood control and bridges across the many ferocious rivers. A one-time massive package is both necessary and economical. Improvement in Bihar has tremendous consequences to the rest of India by way of reducing population growth and migration. The nation must cheerfully foot the bill for balanced regional growth. But first Bihar administration must acquire the capacity to utilize the resources and deliver results.

Even now, it is not too late to retrieve the situation in Bihar. It just needs innovation, courage, speedy action and prudent deployment of resources. Even politicians and bureaucrats have an incentive to improve things, for what is there to plunder in a graveyard? We need to address the crisis of confidence and restore optimism and sense of adventure that were the hallmarks of governance in Bihar fifty years ago.


Ethics and Political Leadership – Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

Einstein once famously said that the twentieth century was characterized by perfection of means and confusion of ends. Over the past six decades, our politicians have certainly mastered the art of acquiring power without purpose. Power has become an end in itself. In India, this quest for power has been largely disconnected from public purpose. The notion of ethical leadership is limited to a few symbolic leaders to be paraded before the public to enhance saleability of a party. And morality is at best limited to private conduct, and rarely extended to public duty.

In a democracy, there is always a conflict between the slow rate of social pay off that results from sound policies and the short-term political price you have to pay in pursuit of them. True leadership is the ability to reconcile the two and promote long-term public good.

A far more dangerous threat is the loss of purpose for leadership. In the corridors of power, most often all that matters is who is in and who is out; and notions of morality, constitutionalism and public good are inconvenient abstractions. Serious imbalance in exercise of power has accelerated this decline of political morality. If power is defined as the ability to influence events, resources and behaviour for the larger public good, such positive power is severely curtailed in our public sphere. We have created a messy, unaccountable, non-performing system in which there are a million legitimate alibis for political failure. But if power is defined as pelf, privilege, patronage, petty tyranny and plain nuisance value, then every state functionary – from the mighty to the humble – exercises such negative power in ample measure; and there are very few safeguards against abuse of office.

Three factors led to a crisis of leadership in India. First, unlike during freedom struggle, the best minds and hearts have shunned politics and the vacuum is filled mostly by those who converted politics into commerce. Ethical leadership is increasingly marginalized.

Second, our first-past-the-post electoral system gives exaggerated importance to the marginal vote. In our system, one more vote means victory, and one less vote leads to defeat. On top of it, the middle classes habitually stay away from the polling booths, and the poor vote in large numbers as the vote gives them some dignity and bargaining power. The politicians and traditional parties have cynically used the vulnerability of the poor to convert vote into a commodity. In most parts of India, vote is bought with money and liquor. Large expenditure to buy vote does not guarantee victory, but non-expenditure almost certainly guarantees defeat! Even when the vote is not bought, absurd and counter-productive freebies are offered as a party platform. Free rice, free power, free TV, easy money without work – all are the staple of our electoral battles in politics of competitive populism. If vote buying and freebies do not work, there is always cynical exploitation of primordial loyalties in society – caste, region, religion, language. It is easy to rouse passions and fashion a group as a vote bank, by portraying ‘the other’ as the enemy.

Third, in an emerging democracy where constitutional values have not yet been internalized in our political conduct or social mores, power is essentially meant for private gain. Culturally, control of levers of power is seen as a way of promoting private fortunes. Even where direct monetary gain is not involved, arbitrary use of power, nepotism, partisanship, protection of an oligarchy or a group or party, perpetuation of the dominance of the party or a caste or a family – all these have become the acceptable goals of power.

Given these circumstances the rot is not limited to politics, and most institutions of state are perverted and compromised. Bureaucracy and judiciary are increasingly prone to corruption, unethical behaviour and arbitrary exercise of power. Even the Fourth Estate, the media, has not escaped this decline. As all self-correcting mechanisms are blunted, we entered a vicious cycle, with each institution blaming the others. No matter how guilty other players are, the primary responsibility to set things right rests with the political leadership.

Can something be done to restore and promote ethical leadership? The central challenge of transformation is to make ethical leaders electable and honesty sustainable in politics and power. For instance, a shift from first-past-the post system and feudal fiefdoms at constituency level to some form of proportional system where the share of a party’s vote determines its representation will radically alter the incentives, redefine success, and facilitate recruitment of the best citizens into politics. Therefore a combination of proportional representation with certain thresholds of voting to prevent extreme tendencies or caste-based parties gaining ground (say, 5% of vote in a state) at all levels will transform politics and promote public morality, ethical leadership and sound policies.

Combined with this proportional representation, direct election of the executive at local and state levels will reduce vote buying and make honesty compatible with political survival. Today in local councils and states, even an honest leader is forced to resort to immorality and condone corruption in order to retain the support of elected councilors / legislators, without which he will not survive in office. At national level, our vastness, complexity, diversity, and polarities (North vs South, Hindi vs non-Hindi, Hindu vs Muslim) will militate against direct election of the executive. But a sound proportional representation will largely eliminate the distortions of politics at national level. The real challenges of transformation lie at state and local levels.

Once political recruitment improves, ethical leaders are attracted to politics, and honesty becomes an asset and not a liability, we have to address the issues of accountability. Two broad approaches promote accountability and sustain ethical and effective leadership. First, power should be decentralized, and there must be clear links between vote and public good, and taxes and services. Local government empowerment and institutionalizing and strengthening the third tier of federalism will bring back people into the governance process. When power is localized, and at the community level people are allowed to participate in decision making (in a village Panchayat or a municipal ward), authority fuses with accountability and alibis for non-performance disappear. Second, corruption and abuse of power should be swiftly and surely punished. Independent crime investigation, strong, independent and well-coordinated anti-corruption agency, independent and effective prosecution, swift confiscation of assets of corrupt public servants, and special courts for quick disposal of corruption cases will achieve this objective.

None of these is a pipe-dream. We deserve better politics and ethical leadership. Democracy needs to be reformed and strengthened in every generation, and decency and honesty need to be nurtured and promoted with great care. The middle class, media and the moral elites of society should shed mutual mistrust and work together to improve the substance of our democracy. Ignoring politics and reviling politicians is not an option. As Mahatma Gandhi said, politics ensnares you like the coils of a snake, and whichever human endeavour you touch, there is no escape from politics. That is why Plato admonished us long back that “the punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in the government, is to suffer under the government of bad men”


Monday, October 25, 2010

Round-table meet on Domestic Violence Act On Oct 26th (Telugu)

Round-table meet on Domestic Violence Act On Oct 26th

Mahila Satta, the women’s wing, and the Legal Cell of the Lok Satta are organizing a round-table meet of women’s organizations affiliated to various political parties and prominent women social workers here on Tuesday, October 26 to mark the completion of four years of the Domestic Violence Act coming into force.

The meeting will take place at 11-00 a.m. at the Lok Satta Party headquarters in Adarsh Nagar, according to a media statement issued by Mrs. K. Gita Murthy, Mahila Satta General Secretary, and Mr. C. V. L. Narasimha Rao, Legal Cell Convener.

Dr. JP to address farmers In Guntur district (Telugu)

Dr. JP to address farmers In Guntur district

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan will be taking part in farmers’ unity conferences during his visit to Guntur district on October 25 and 26.

On October 25, he will be taking part in meetings at Ponnur (9-00 a.m.), Khajipalem (12-00 noon), and Repalle (4-00 p.m.).

On October 26, he will attend meetings at Phirangipuram (9-00 a.m.), Piduguralla (12-00 noon), and Savalyapuram (4-00 p.m.).

Farmers, especially paddy growers, are agitated over marketing prospects during the current kharif season in the context of warehouses overflowing with old stocks, an anticipated bumper harvest, and rice millers’ refusal to undertake procurement.

Nip secessionist talk in bud: Dr. JP (Telugu)

Nip secessionist talk in bud: Dr. JP

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today appealed to human rights activists not to endanger the unity and integrity of India by lending legitimacy to forces seeking self-determination in the name of religion.

Paraphrasing George Santayana, Dr. JP said that if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. He recalled that the Partition of India in the name of religion in 1947 saw 15 million people being uprooted from their homes, a million butchered, 600000 maimed and 300000 women molested. In the recent past, balkanization of the erstwhile Yugoslavia resulted in genocide and anarchy. Pakistan and Sri Lanka had gone through similar strife following secessionist demands. In contrast, India despite many hiccups has remarkably succeeded in preserving its unity and integrity.

Dr. JP was reacting to the speeches made at a seminar titled ‘Azadi: The Only Way’ in New Delhi on October 21 by Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others.

Dr. JP pointed out that India has a marvelous Constitution, which can accommodate the hopes and aspirations of people belonging to all regions, speaking diverse languages and professing different religions.

Dr. JP wanted both the Union and State Governments to act firmly against forces that are out to dismember India by. “Indians can have peace, prosperity, and human rights only when the country remains one and united. Political parties should not fish in troubled waters in their quest for power and votes. Let not the sacrifices made by freedom fighters and efforts put in by visionary leaders post-Independence in building India of today go in vain.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seven Great Scourges Hurting India

by Dr.Jayaprakash Narayan

The central challenges of our polity are the failure of the best and brightest to enter public life and make the necessary sacrifice to accept the burdens of leadership; and the highly centralized governance system which distanced people from the elected leaders and civil servants. The rest are all consequences of these twin failures.

As a result, seven great scourges are hurting the country:

1.Perpetuation of abject poverty despite resources and technology
2.All-pervasive corruption
4.Failure of rule law and the rise of anarchy and criminalization
5.Politics of division, hatred and primordial loyalties
6.Increasing urban-rural divide, and excessive migration to big cities
7.Rise of licentious behaviour, and abuse of alcohol and drugs

Happily, India has also done a few things right in the past sixty years. Strengthening of federalism, a sound institutional infrastructure, preserving freedoms, and rapid economic growth in recent years after decades of stagnation of the license raj are our greatest successes.

We need to focus on a few key changes to preserve our strengths and overcome weaknesses.

Judicial reforms: The recent events showed us how vital it is to preserve the credibility, independence and integrity of the judiciary. We need to create a mechanism for appointments for higher judiciary; and for removal of errant judges. We also need to encourage entry of our best and brightest young men and women into judiciary at lower levels.

Corruption: A strong, effective, independent anti-corruption commission with powers to confiscate property, and ensure swift punishment is the need of the hour. The stink of Commonwealth Games, the many recent scams and allegations, and the obvious rise in corruption everywhere make this an opportune time to fight corruption – in politics, bureaucracy and judiciary.

Decentralization: The recent draft amendment of the Constitution proposed by the Union government is a good starting point. There is broad acceptance in principle, and we must work for its enactment so that the people are empowered, vote is seen by citizens as a valuable tool; there is visible link between taxes and services; and authority fuses with accountability.

Liberalization of agriculture and rural rejuvenation: Agriculture is still suffering under the yoke of the mighty bureaucracy, and license-permit-raj continues in this sector. Consequently, price signals are not allowed to influence production; free trade is not permitted, and farmers are made abjectly dependent on government largesse. A free trade regime in agriculture with adequate safeguards to ensure food security, and protection of farmers from imports will liberate rural economy and transform the lives of 55% Indians.

Political reform: We need to eliminate the role of marginal vote which is at the root of criminalization, vote buying, and electoral fraud. Proportional system of representation with suitable safeguards to suit our conditions; and direct election of the executive at local and state levels will largely eliminate the distortions by creating a new set of incentives, and destroying the existing ones.

Rule of law: Independent crime investigation, independent prosecution, strengthening forensic capabilities, faster legal procedures, greater number of courts, and speedy justice will transform the way society looks at the law and state. Once rule of law makes it easy for people to do good, and makes it difficult to do evil, a lot of things change dramatically.

I believe these changes are round the corner if we all focus our energies and understand the levers of change. Yes, things are bad – at times unbearably bad. But as they say, when we are going through hell, we should keep going. There is light at the end of the tunnel.The demographic changes in India, rapid economic growth and rising incomes, the exposure to satellite television, and access to modern technology make the next decade the decade of transformation.

Let us keep our morale high, and collectively and systematically address the challenges step by step. We will surely achieve most of these six goals by 2020.

Lok Satta demands deletion of controversial section (Telugu)

Lok Satta demands deletion of controversial section

The Lok Satta Party today asked the State Government to ensure that Section 14 (f) of the Presidential Order, 1975 is deleted as unanimously sought by the Andhra Pradesh Assembly on March 18, 2010. Deletion of the section will bring appointment of police personnel up to a certain cadre under the zonalization scheme introduced through the 32nd Constitution Amendment Act of 1975.

In a media statement, Lok Satta Party leaders V. Vijayender Reddy and P. Bhaskara Rao recalled that party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan had suggested deletion of the section in the all-party meet convened by the Chief Minister on October 19, 2009. He had even written to the Speaker of the Assembly on February 17, 2010 seeking permission to introduce a resolution to that effect. The Government dropped its plans to file a review petition in the Supreme Court and finally introduced the resolution in the Assembly. It has, however, failed to get it implemented by New Delhi.

The Lok Satta leaders pointed out that deletion of the controversial section will clear misgivings among people and ward off agitations on recruitment to Government services. They appealed to people not to be misled by propaganda that the deletion of the section will harm the interests of job aspirants of other regions.

Lok Satta suggests talks on teachers recruitment (Telugu)

Lok Satta suggests talks on teachers recruitment

The Lok Satta Party today wanted the Government to resolve the issue over teachers’ recruitment by inviting their representatives for talks.

Mr. V. Laxman Balaji, General Secretary of the Lok Satta Party, recalled in a media statement that the Government itself was responsible for the present imbroglio, resulting in tensions between candidates with Secondary grade and B. Ed. Qualifications.

He said that the Government should find a settlement as soon as possible keeping in mind the interests of students. All the eligible should be recruited, as promised by the Education Minister.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lok Satta convening all-party meeting on farmers' problems today

The Lok Satta Party is conducting a meeting of all parties and farmers’ associations on ensuring remunerative prices for agricultural produce, at 3-00 pm tomorrow (Oct. 16, 2010) at FAPCCI Hall in Red Hills.

Giving this information in a media statement, party leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao and V. Laxman Balaji said that in the wake of an imminent bumper harvest and shortage of storage facilities, paddy prices are likely to crash and inflict immense suffering on farmers.

The Lok Satta Party, under the leadership of its President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, would like all parties and farmers’ associations to join hands transcending their political affiliation to demand that the Government of India permit rice exports. The Union Government should also impose a steep import duty on palm oil and ensure that a remunerative price is paid for local produce.

Impose a Ceiling on MFI Interest: Lok Satta

The Lok Satta Party today pointed out that the Andhra Pradesh Government ordinance on micro finance institutions (MFIs) failed to impose a ceiling on the rate of interest they could charge.

Lok Satta Party leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao and V. Laxman Balaji said that apart from stipulating the maximum rate of interest MFIs could charge, the Government should prevent them from knocking at people’s doors for loan repayment. Instead, they should be asked to utilize the panchayat office for loan collection activity.

They welcomed the provision in the ordinance stipulating that MFIs take prior clearance from the concerned authorities before advancing loans to SHG members.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lok Satta moots united fight to save farmers (Telugu)

Lok Satta moots united fight To save farmers

The Lok Satta Party has called for an all-party conference on October 16 to organize a united fight against anti-farmer policies of State and Union Governments.

Announcing this at a media conference here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan pointed out that the Union Government was harming farmers’ interests by not permitting export of rice and allowing duty-free import of palm oil, while the State Government looked on helplessly.

Dr. JP reeled off facts and figures to depict the grim situation the farmers are facing on the eve of the kharif paddy harvest. India as of today has a buffer stock of 46 million tons of rice and paddy. Since FCI’s storage capacity including the leased ones is only 27.3 million tons, it is forced to keep the remainder under open storage with the attendant risk of damage by rains and rodents. The stipulated buffer storage for the country in July is 27 million tons and in October 16 million tons. The country is about to reap a bumper rice harvest because of the steep increase in acreage following abundant rains. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, the FCI commands a storage capacity of 3.8 million tons, against the rice procurement target of 6.7 million tons.

With warehouses overflowing even before the harvest, paddy prices are heading for a crash, Dr. JP warned and asked the Union Government to permit rice exports immediately to save the farmer. With the rice price ruling between Rs.70 and Rs.90 a kg in international markets, Indian farmers stand to gain if the Government permits rice exports.

Dr. JP said the Government need not be apprehensive of food grain exports triggering inflation because of the imminent record harvest. In addition, the Government has more than adequate stocks for release into the public distribution system to check any price rice.

Dr. JP said that the Union Government proposed review in January would not help the farmer as he will have already sold away his kharif production. If at all it permits rice exports then, it is only traders who benefit. If the kharif rice output turns out to be 80 million tons as estimated, a Rs.10 per kg higher price to the farmer because of exports translates into tens of thousands of crores of higher returns to farmers.

Dr. JP recalled that the Government of India justified India joining the World Trade Organization in the 1990s contending it would benefit Indian farming. India, because of its low cost of production, could export its agricultural produce and reap profits. Far from honoring the commitments it made to farmers then, the Government is now punishing farmers by denying rice exports.

He also explained how the Government of India permitted duty-free import of palm oil from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia where its cost of production is low and is hurting the interests of local palm growers. Both the Union and State Governments have failed to ensure even payment of the promised procurement price to palm growers.

Dr. JP demanded that the Union Government levy import duty on palm oil and use the proceeds to ensure a remunerative price to farmers and supply palm oil through the public distribution system on subsidy.

Dr. JP said Andhra Pradesh has been denied justice in plans to augment food grain storage capacity in the country. Of the additional 12.8 million tons of storage capacity, now proposed to be created, Andhra Pradesh will get only one lakh tons of storage capacity. Considering that Andhra Pradesh is a heavy contributor of rice to the Central pool, it should get an additional storage capacity of at least 2.5 million tons.

A.P Farmers' Federation President Mr. Yerneni Nagendranath, Secretary Mr. Nagi Reddy, Lok Satta Party State Working President DVVS Varma, Katari Srinivasa Rao and P.Bhaskara Rao also took part in the media conference.