Land Acquisition: Kurushetra for Modi Government

farmers

Land Acquisition Bill blindly targets every land owned by the farmers. It is an undeclared emergency in the country. Despite heavy losses, farmers are proud to practice their profession. They are the life saviors of India. Without food grains where will the nation go? The Western mentality of destroying India’s agriculture indirectly through liberal advice, think-tanks and professionals are easily listened by every person who is occupying the seat of power in New Delhi. Why our governing people lose their head and thinking capacity? Instead of acquiring farm lands for private development, government must encourage private investment in agriculture. Farmers must be given loans at lowest interest, subsidy, encourage organic farming, discourage heavy usage of fertilizers and pesticides. Wastelands must be used for industry. If wastelands in villages close to ports and railway stations are used then there is no need for agricultural lands.

If agriculture is saved; India is saved. If farmers are destroyed then the nation is destroyed. Why to confront the wise farmers who are passionate to save this nation?

Times of India writes on 24 February 2015

Acknowledging the growing storm of opposition unity to changes in land acquisition legislation, Prime Minister Modi has sought cooperation of all parties, saying that “in a democracy, there should be dialogue, discussion and positive outcome.” President Pranab Mukherjee too sought “cooperation” from all MPs, telling both Houses of Parliament that the land acquisition law had been “suitably refined” even as he declared that the government attaches “paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition”.

The ordinance on land acquisition was part of Modi’s initial push to kick-start domestic investments. Yet, just weeks after the sobering Delhi verdict and under attack from motley opposition parties as well as groups within the Sangh Parivar – who accuse it of being “anti-farmer” and “pro-industry” – there are signs that the government may take a conciliatory approach and meet opposition half-way. The PM’s wedding diplomacy in Saifai with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi reflect this new approach.

BJP’s problem is that it supported the original land bill when in opposition. It has contributed as much as anybody else to the aura of piety around the bill. But the fact is that stringent conditions in the original bill hobble economic growth and state governments, across party lines, have complained that its clauses are unworkable in practice. If farmers get fair compensation for their land, they shouldn’t be seen universally as “victims” of land acquisition. And it’s quite plausible that their children will be happier with jobs in industry than having to till subdivided plots of land inherited from their parents. There should be no shame in course correction now and it’s the government that must bell the cat.

While there may be some give and take on the fine print, Modi must stick to his guns while deploying all of his diplomatic skills in bringing sections of the opposition on board. In a make-or-break budget session which will be a test case for his credentials as an economic reformer, the fate of land legislation is symbolic. If Modi blinks it will give a negative signal to industry which is impatient for big-ticket reforms. Restrictions on buying land are one of the key reasons holding up projects worth almost $300 billion and the PM must walk his talk.

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Digitally Efficient India

digital technologiy

Digital Technologies have elevated India’s position in the globe. Although the image and position have gone up, there is a big social vacuum. The social vacuum in harnessing the digital technology has been increasing. Instead of shouting slogans about digital empowerment, real empowerment must be ushered in. The previous government’s ambitions and plans must be realised.

Time will fly fast. The Union government under the Prime Minister Modi who is used to fix timeline and ensure mission accomplishment can realise the goal of digitally developed India. Now no stone should be left unturned in this mission.

Honorable Union Minister for Communications, Ravi Shankar Prasad writes in The Times of India on 2 February 2015

President Barack Obama’s just concluded historic visit to India has laid the foundation for a relationship of hope and promise between India and the US. Among other areas, i believe this relationship has immense potential in the field of ICT and digital connectivity. Already 60% of India’s IT exports, worth $50 billion, cater to the US market. US companies, many of which already have backend operations in India, have continually expressed interest in expanding.

Digital India, a flagship programme, conceived within 100 days of the Modi government assuming office, has the potential to propel digital connectivity to new heights and reinforce Indo-US ties.

What is Digital India? It is an obligation we owe to India and a gift which we must offer to posterity. It aims to tap and channelise the vast potential of India’s fondness for technology, coupled with soaring aspirations of a young India. Digital India is designed to bridge the divide between the digital haves and digital have-nots, between the poor and the affluent, rural and urban, literate and illiterate, employed and unemployed, and between the empowered and the disempowered.

Digital India weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision. This vision is centred on three key areas: creation of digital infrastructure, delivery of governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens. It includes the ambitious programme National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN), aiming to link India’s 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through over 70,000 km of high speed optic fibre in the next three years – thereby enabling over 600 million Indians to harness the benefits of modern communication. NOFN has to be executed with the active partnership of state governments.

I recently inaugurated our country’s first high speed rural broadband network in Idukki district of Kerala. If 900 million mobile phones and 300 million internet connectivity can spring up in India without active government patronage, imagine what a far reaching impact a government backed programme would have if executed in a mission mode.

A noteworthy feature of Digital India is that it is envisaged as a national non-discriminatory infrastructure available to all categories of service providers for wholesale bandwidth. Telcos, ISPs, virtual network operators and cable TV providers can all plug into this network for offering next generation services to citizens.

Indians keenly observe the arrival of a technology and once they recognise its worth, they adopt it with enthusiasm. Digital India is designed to empower Indians with the power of technology.

Digital India architecture would compel change in governance processes for delivery of services. Along with the need for faster and timely service delivery, it is important to ensure that benefits of development reach each and every citizen of the country in equal measure. I believe that broadband access to all will open a new world of economic opportunities for rural Indians in areas such as e-commerce, outsourcing and back offices, marketing of agricultural products and traditional handicrafts, amongst others.

Domestically, India consumes up to $100 billion in electronics every year, most of which are imported, including products like mobile phones, computers, SIM cards, smart cards, set top boxes, LED lights, cameras, televisions, medical electronics and the massive electronic segment in defence manufacturing. There is a need for manufacturing electronics in India for the growing Indian market. Government has announced the Make in India programme, which complements Digital India by encouraging local and foreign manufacturers to manufacture in India – for the domestic market and for exports.

Foreign companies should not restrict themselves to back office operations but instead look to manufacturing their high-end products in India. Make in India has conveyed to the companies that this scheme is more than a slogan – it is a commitment. Government is backing the Make in India proposal with financial incentives. Catering to the necessity of expanding the talent pool of IT professionals the Cabinet has already approved setting up an Electronics Development Fund to encourage innovation, research and startups.

Backing up this innovation is the government’s programme DISHA, which focuses on the critical aspect of digital literacy so that even the poorest Indian can participate and contribute to this digital expansion. Floodgates of possibilities will open for the self-employed as well as small and medium enterprises.

I imagine a scenario where gardeners, plumbers, drivers, shopkeepers, tutors, tailors can all find new markets through their mobile phones.

We are in the process of finalising a policy on setting up BPOs in small and mofussil towns which will leverage digital connectivity and digital literacy to encourage employment and foster entrepreneurship.

Empowered citizens will have the power to make choices, to save time, lower their costs, add convenience to their days and improve their health.

The potential payoffs through this revolution can certainly be measured in numbers – connections, devices, subscribers, downloads and so on – but the improvement in the quality of life of every Indian is the real change our government wants to bring. This task is enormous, challenges are onerous yet we shall overcome, as India after May 2014 is a different country.