Monday, July 06, 2009

Lack-luster budget: Dr. JP

The Lok Satta Party today described the Union budget as lack luster. There is little to write home about it barring the Government’s outlay crossing the Rs.10 lakh crore mark.

Talking to the media, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had formulated the budget with an eye on the elections in a few States in the next few months. He allowed the golden opportunity to craft a historic budget in the context of a global recession and a stable government and steady growth in the Indian economy in the country to slip through his fingers.

Dr. JP pointed out that no bold attempt had been made to create either employment opportunities or boost agricultural growth since the focus was on winning the upcoming elections in States. Since 70 percent of farmers are outside the institutional fold, they are not going to benefit from the increase in agricultural loans.

Dr. JP said: “Even now, the allocation for healthcare in the country remained where it was for decades – only one percent of the GDP. Educational allocations still remain at 3.5 percent of the GDP. There is no concerted attempt to eliminate poverty. Instead, there is a conscious attempt to give short-term sops to the poor to use them as vote banks, while perpetuating poverty.

“The revenue deficit also has reached 4.8 percent of the GDP or about Rs.215,000 crore. That means, the Government is spending only for day-to-day expenditure about Rs.600 crore more than its income every single day. The interest burden has exceeded Rs.300,000 crore, and this year’s additional debt alone is Rs.400,000 crore. If the States’ deficits are added, the combined fiscal deficit will probably reach 12 pre percent of the GDP. There is no road map to reduce the fiscal deficit. As a result, the younger generation is going to inherit a crushing burden of debt on account of the Governments’ profligacy.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cooperative farming will end up In disaster, warns Dr. JP

The cooperative or collective farming envisaged by the Andhra Pradesh Government to step up both productivity and production will end up in a disaster, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan warned today. “The remedy proposed is worse than the disease.”

Dr. JP, who took part in an all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister on cooperative farming earlier in the day, said farming in Andhra Pradesh suffered from a host of ailments all of which had little to do with the size of farms. “Productivity and production in the farm sector have been low not because the land holdings are small but because farmers do not have access to technology.”

He pointed out that “technology is scale neutral.” Farmers irrespective of the size of their holdings embrace new technologies if they are available as is evident from the fact that 80 percent of cotton farmers have taken to the pest resistant BT cotton variety all over the country. The farmers are helpless either when modern technology is not available or they have no access. Although there are cane harvesters all over the world, they are not available in Andhra Pradesh.

Dr. JP highlighted that only eight percent of seeds used by farmers are certified and four percent of their soils tested. On both counts, the farmer is a loser. The problem, therefore, lay with the Government and not the farmer in making new technologies accessible to him.

Dr. JP told a media meeting that the Government’s advocacy of large, consolidated holdings in the name of cooperative or collective farming for precision farming is untenable. Precision farming involves control of temperature, moisture etc in green houses as in the raising of tulips in the Netherlands. The holdings involved are all small and not at all large.

Dr. JP pointed out that all over the country productivity in small farms is higher than in large farms because the small farmer invests his labor of love, besides other inputs, to reap higher harvests. He does not include his labor in costing. If cooperative farming is introduced, the small farmer becomes a wage earner and loses his dignity. As he charges for his labor, the cost of production in cooperative farming is bound to be higher.

Dr. JP said the real problem lay in the absence of breakthroughs in technologies after the Green Revolution of the 1960s. The Government could address some of the problems like absence of dryers and threshing platforms.

“Nowhere in the world large-scale farming has been a success. In India itself, we have 14 Central State Farms spread over tens of thousands of acres. But all the farms run by the Government of India are bankrupt. The erstwhile Soviet Union paid a very high price for promoting collective farming. In India, cooperatives have succeeded where they are engaged in processing and marketing and not in primary production. Milk cooperatives are a good example. Even in dairy cooperatives whenever the Government controlled them as in Kadapa and Chittoor, the dairies went bankrupt whereas farmer-controlled processing cooperatives are doing well.”

Dr. JP did not rest with rubbishing the Government proposal. He suggested alternatives for stepping up productivity and production. He wanted the Government to enact a law as in Punjab to promote consolidation of fragmented holdings. The present monstrous tenancy law has to be liberalized. Although two-thirds of land holdings in the State are in the hands of tenants, owners do not register them for fear of losing ownership.

Once tenancy is brought on record, the tenant can access bank credit and other inputs. A liberalized tenancy law will also facilitate contract farming which is in the interest of the farmer as also the country. For instance, sugarcane and oil palm are raised as a contract between processing mills and farmers. In a similar fashion, paper producers enter into an understanding with farmers for supply of softwood in Andhra Pradesh, and vegetable producers for supply of raw material to processing industry in Punjab.

Dr. JP wanted the Government to focus on value addition, warehousing and marketing. The marketing societies should be under the control of farmers, and all restrictions on marketing should be removed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2014 belongs to the Lok Satta, Asserts Dr. JP

If the Lok Satta Party sticks to its values without any compromise, the year 2014 definitely belongs to it, asserted party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today. “And the political calendar too favors the fledgling party”.

Addressing party people who contested the 2009 elections, Dr. JP said the Lok Satta is here to stay and determined to fight for transformation in people’s lives, however arduous struggle is going to be. “People are ready for real change and it will happen in 2014 (when the Assembly elections are due again) going by the winds of change blowing across the State.

Party spokesmen V. Laxman Balaji and Mohd. Ishaq Khan gave this information to the media today.

Although vast numbers of people admired the party in the 2009 elections, they stopped short of endorsing it. “The months and years to come are a testing time for us. People will keenly watch whether the Lok Satta sticks to its values or compromises on them to garner a few seats in elections, like other parties.”

He recalled that a survey conducted by a TV channel immediately after the 2009 elections were out showed that 96 percent of the respondents viewed the Lok Satta Party as an alternative to both the Congress and the TDP, mirroring the high hopes the people had of the Lok Satta.

Dr. JP pointed out that the political calendar too favored the Lok Satta in that elections scheduled for various local bodies would provide a golden opportunity to mobilize public support. After elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, elections to municipal councils will take place in 135 towns accounting for almost 150 Assembly constituencies. Thereafter, elections to panchayati raj bodies would take place. If the party made good use of the local body elections, facing the 2014 elections would be an easy task, said Dr. JP.

Dr. JP reiterated that none need to make great sacrifices to build up the party. It was enough if they devoted a little part of their time, increased party membership and invited and encouraged competent people to take up leadership. He wished politicians in Andhra Pradesh had emulated Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and leader of the Opposition L. K. Advani who apologized to each other for election-eve bitter exchanges and agreed to let bygones be bygones.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Resource constraints stymied Lok Satta In elections: Dr. JP

Had the Lok Satta had Rs.40 crore as its election fund, it would have emerged as a significant player in Andhra Pradesh politics today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said today.

Addressing a media meet, at which he released a statement of donations received and expenditure incurred by his party during the elections to the Assembly and the Lok Satta, Dr. JP said the party was handicapped by paucity of resources in engendering confidence about its fighting mettle. Although the party succeeded in taking its message to the public, it could not whip up a wind in its favor because of its low-key campaign.

Dr. JP pointed out that a political party cannot function without resources. “Honest politics needs honest money. The party accepted donations only by cheque, accounted for every rupee it spent and placed the facts before the public.”

Dr. JP called upon leaders of competence and integrity from all walks of life to make the Lok Satta their forum for bettering people’s lives.

The party was introducing executive membership with a view to making the party self-sustaining in its day-to-day operations. An executive member has to pay Rs.1000 as fees per year or Rs.100 per month as a token of his owning the party.

On the occasion of 2009 elections, the party received contributions amounting to Rs.3,23,73.900. It incurred a total expenditure of Rs.3,16,01,095 including Rs.2,25,83,670 on electronic and print media. The contributions included those from NRIs. Dr. JP spent a total of Rs.4,92,326 on contesting from Kukatpally to the Assembly.

In reply to a question, Dr. JP said the three traditional parties in Andhra Pradesh would have spent Rs.4000 crore, most of it on inducing voters with cash and liquor, during the elections.

Dr. JP said the Lok Satta would contest the GHMC elections with a clear-cut and practicable agenda. The five promises the party is making are:

  • Supply of safe drinking water in all colonies and bastis which do not have the facility now with the installation of reverse osmosis plants
  • Implementing a citizen’s charter under which failure to attend to a public grievance in a specified period invites penalty on the GHMC
  • Identification and resolution of problems basti-colony wise and implementation of a division agenda in three phases – 100 days, one year and five years respectively.
  • Devolution of GHMC funds at the rate of Rs.2 crore for each division every year, so that an elected divisional committee could spend it on attending to pressing local problems
  • Integration of the functioning of the GHMC, Metrowater and Urban Development Authority

“We have the clarity of purpose, determination, competence and integrity to deliver on our promises. We can make Hyderabad a truly get city worthy of our heritage. Right now, the city is on the verge of paralysis with poor water supply, inadequate drainage and sewerage, and nightmarish traffic. This election should serve as a wake up call, and all youth, women, middle classes and the poor should join hands to transform our city”, said Dr. JP.

In reply to a question, Dr. JP said his party would consider an alliance with other parties in the GHMC elections provided there is total agreement on the agenda for the city, and there is willingness to practice ethical politics.

Mr. V. Vijayender Reddy, Lok Satta Secretary and Mr. Nandipeta Ravinder, President, Greater Hyderabad Lok Satta unit, flanked Dr. JP.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amend anti corruption law, Dr. JP suggests to CM

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan has in a letter asked Chief Minister Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy to translate his intent to put an end to corruption by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, which suffered from many lacunae.

Releasing copies of Dr. JP’s letter, party spokesmen Dr. P. Bhaskara Rao and G. Raja Reddy told the media that Dr. JP had sent copies of a draft Bill to amend the Act to the Speaker of the Assembly, Chairman of the Legislative Council, Chief Minister, Ministers for Law and Legislative Affairs, and leaders of the TDP, PRP, TRS, MIM, CPI, BJP and CPM in the legislature.

Pointing out that there are now six agencies dealing with public servants’ acts of corruption, Dr. JP said all of their functions should be integrated so that the guilty cannot go unscathed. He suggested that the Anti Corruption Bureau should be made autonomous and brought under the supervision of the Lok Ayukta. He wanted legislators and other elected public representatives to be brought under the ambit of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Dr. JP requested the Chief Minister to convene an all-party conference to discuss measures to eradicate corruption.

Referring to the Intermediate Board’s suspension of principals for low percentage of passes, the party spokesmen said such actions would not serve the purpose. A solution lay in creation of basic amenities in colleges, appointment of more teaching staff and improvement in teaching methods.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let us restore dignity in politics: Dr. JP

“Now that the elections are over and a government is firmly in place, political parties should return to the path of civility in public discourse, rise above partisan considerations, and work collectively to fulfill people’s aspirations.”

Making this appeal at a media conference, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that perhaps in the heat of the no-holds-barred and bitter electioneering, most political parties and politicians indulged in character assassination in mutual mud-slinging unbecoming of their stature. “Genuine differences among political parties are natural in a democracy. One should learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Politics is all about reconciling conflicting interests.”

The Lok Satta President, who attended the swearing in of Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy as Chief Minister, regretted that top leaders of the Opposition parties chose to keep away from the function. “Whether we like it or not, Dr. YSR is the Chief Minister for the entire State and not merely for Congress people who elected his party to power.” The Government too did not cover itself with glory by allowing over-enthusiastic ruling party people to turn the solemn swearing-in ceremony into a party affair. The ruling party must realize that the government belongs to all people, and must treat all sections equally without favour or malice. The healthy tradition of opposition leaders participating in all state functions and swearing-in ceremonies at the national level should be followed in the state.

Commenting on the election results, Dr. JP said that the Lok Satta had failed to convert the unparalleled support it enjoyed into votes. “We accept the verdict in all humility and refuse to look for alibis or blame others for our performance. We pledge ourselves to strengthen the party and engender confidence among the public that together we can transform society.”

He added, “The perception is widespread that the year 2014 belongs to the Lok Satta, not because it is powerful but because it is articulating people’s aspirations, and emerged as on authentic platform for citizen’s Political parties participation”.

Dr. JP said the 2009 elections were marked by unprecedented vote buying, liquor distribution on a large scale, intense caste polarization and the vicious propaganda that a vote to an ethical party like the Lok Satta would be a wasted vote.” Yet the people by and large displayed extraordinary maturity by not succumbing to caste Talibans, lucrative and irresistible freebies and money and liquor.

Listing out the challenges before the Government, Dr. JP said it had to focus on providing basic amenities to citizens on a war footing. They included supply of safe drinking water, drainage and uninterrupted power supply, road and public transport facilities to every habitation. The Government had to focus on providing livelihood skills and jobs to lakhs of educated and semi-educated young people. Instead of coming up with short-term palliatives, the Government had to work out a comprehensive medium and long-term strategy to eradicate poverty.

Pointing out that the innovative solutions were available to mitigate poverty, he instanced how with the introduction of solar LED lamps to light up homes, the Government could save over Rs.20,000 crore annually on kerosene subsidy all over the country. The country could save precious foreign exchange, save people from health hazards and prevent environmental pollution if LED lamps were distributed free of cost to every BPL family.

Dr. JP underlined the need for eliminating waste and corruption at a time the State is going through an economic slowdown. The conditions will worsen in the months to go as the Government’s expenditure commitments grossly exceed the State Government’s anticipated tax and non-tax receipts and devolution of resources from the Government of India. “High cost and low impact projects like the Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation scheme have to give way to low cost and high impact projects. People of Telangana can be served far better at a lower cost, by taking up alternative, low cost projects”.

On corruption, Dr. JP said the ruling party and its captains should set an example by pursuing a path of rectitude. “The Ganga cannot remain pure and sacred if the Gangotri itself is polluted, to quote Mr. A. B. Vajpayee.” He commented that Andhra Pradesh had some of the finest officers and employees if political leaders inspired them by example, the State could turn a new leaf in its history.”

Dr. JP wanted the Government to empower people without further delay through decentralization of powers, resources and personnel. In addition, the Government should make available a per capita grant of Rs.1000 to every panchayat and municipality/corporation since they alone are competent to identify and fulfill people’s compelling needs. “Citizens cannot be treated as mere vote banks. People’s participation between elections is the essence of democracy. Only when citizens are empowered and all governance institutions revolve around people can fulfill our potential”, Dr. JP asserted.

Referring to a proposal to collect a higher cess on liquor to partly fund ‘Arogyasri’, Dr. JP regretted that the Government was oblivious to the apparent contradiction. The Government was solely responsible for the impairment of livelihood and health of lakhs of people poor in that it encouraged unbridled liquor consumption to maximize State revenue. “As if to salve its conscience, it promotes ‘Agogyasri’ in the name of going to the rescue of the same poor people.” The Lok Satta would like the Government to abandon its policy of auctioning liquor shops to the highest bidder. A liquor dealer who obtains the liquor outlet license at astronomical cost will try to boost his sales by promoting belt shops. Instead, the Government itself should run a limited number of liquor shops as in Delhi with a view to curbing burgeoning liquor consumption. “Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being among the top liquor consuming States in the country.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lok Satta Party Launching 'Surajya' Movement

The Lok Satta Party is spearheading a citizens' movement for Surajya beginning from Andhra Pradesh on March 23, 2008 (77th death anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh).

Announcing this here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (Dr. JP) said that while the Swaraj movement sought freedom from colonial rule, Surajya movement aims to free citizens from the chains of corrupt and distorted rule. While Swaraj movement achieved its objectives through non-violence and non-cooperation, Surajya movement will be based on the power of the vote.

Dr. JP said the Swaraj movement has yielded us self-governance and since independence, significant progress has undoubtedly been made across several fields. "However, the present political and governance culture has reduced this hard-earned Swaraj to Swaha-raj where public good has become merely incidental to the fulfillment of vested interests of a distorted political culture."

Dr. JP said that the nation today faced several critical challenges. They include:
  • Eliminating the pervasive and monumental corruption from our society and replacing the notoriously kleptocratic governance culture with a truly citizen-centric one
  • Establishing a political culture that is free from criminals and political dynasties
  • Ensuring equitable access to quality education, healthcare, and employment opportunities to every citizen irrespective of his or her position at birth
  • Eliminating societal discrimination based on caste and creed, and providing genuine opportunities for vertical growth to all sections of society
  • Ensuring true devolution of power to local governments, and empowerment of citizens
  • Ensuring access to speedy and affordable justice to all sections of society and restoring the rule of law
Dr. JP said: "There is a pressing need to build a credible, just, and equitable society that provides dignity, justice, and opportunities for all."

A number of renowned social activists, including Magasasy Award winners, are taking part in the Surajya movement. They include:

:: Anna Hazare
:: Ramesh Raamanathan (Janagraha)
:: Madhu Kishwar (Editor, Manushi)
:: Desikan (Catalyst Trust)
:: Sandeep Pandey
:: M. V. Devasahayam
:: T. N. Seshan
:: Shiv Khera
:: Julius Rebero
:: Arvind Khejriwal