Pm in waiting Advani has been telling repeatedly to BJP that they should not get complacent. But the signals in place are quite the other way.

the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, has a tough task in Delhi: naming a potential chief minister in the absence of a natural choice, ahead of the assembly polls due later this year. [link]

The BJP might be well placed due to anti-incumbency and misgovernance of the central and state government, but the BJP holds a democratic ideal which makes people choose about them better, they take decisions, stances, and project leaders. The voter is better equipped to make a choice about BJP than about any other party. Even though other parties will try to cash on the fringe, the BJP still emerges on the top because it respects the voter. Delhi is a disturbing piece in the trend in the whole set, and absence of any natural leader is a very petty excuse.

Jagdish Mukti or VK Malhotra should hopefully take reins and start organising the party machinery and revives the democratic ideal of BJP so that a good fair election takes place.

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Recently, two people were killed in isolated independent incidents, both very alarming and revealing of an underlying untruth.

  • Mr. Lalit Mehta, an activist of Vikas Sahyog Kendra, was trying to organise social audits to help the NREGA function better.
We are deeply disturbed by the recent murder of Lalit Kumar Mehta, member of Vikas Sahyog Kendra (Palamau District), who was brutally killed on 14 May 2008 as he was returning from Daltonganj to Chhattarpur on a motorcycle.
The circumstances of this murder are disturbing. Lalit (aged 36), an active member of the right to food campaign and Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, has been working in this area for more than 15 years on issues related to the right to food and the right to work. He was a very gentle person and his work was widely appreciated. However he was also fearless in exposing corruption and exploitation, and often came in the way of vested interests.
At the time of this incident, Lalit was helping a team of volunteers from Delhi and elsewhere to conduct a social audit of NREGA works in Chainpur and Chhattarpur Blocks of Palamau District. Attempts had already been made to dissuade the team from conducting this investigation, particularly in Chainpur Block. Is it a coincidence that Lalit was murdered just one day after the investigation began?
If this murder was an act of intimidation, it did not succeed. Friends and supporters from all over Jharkhand gathered at Vikas Sahyog Kendra on 17 May. They unanimously resolved to continue the campaign against corruption and exploitation in this area. [link]
  • Mr. Kameshwar Yadav tried to use RTI to get the NREGA details, he was another activist who wanted to verify the system to help it work better.

Giridih, June 8: In a rerun of the Lalit Mehta murder case, Kameshwar Yadav, an NREGA activist, was killed by unidentified gunmen near Gaadi village about nine last night.

Kameshwar was returning to his Khatori residence — about 75km from here — after taking part in a CPI-ML bandh over the fuel price rise in block headquarters Deori.

Rajkumar Yadav, a CPI-ML state committee member, said being a morally upright person, Kameshwar had questioned — under the Right to Information Act — the nexus flourishing among officers, leaders, contractors and middlemen regarding minor irrigation work in Deori.

Kameshwar was also a block committee member of the party. CPI-ML leaders, including MLA Vinod Singh, blocked the Jamua-Koderma road for around six hours today demanding the arrest of criminals. Giridih SP Murari Lal Meena said that the killers would be arrested within June 13. [link]

NREGA is a wonderful scheme, it is aimed at guaranteeing the constitutional right to work to rural people by providing employment to one person from each household in rural areas. It is a flagship of the congress government and was flouted very proudly at the congress 4 year anniversary. But there are many skeletons in the closet. Mr. Mihir Shah writes about the discrepancies in implementation.

But even after the enactment of NREGA, things have been slow to change at the grass-roots. Displaying remarkable ingenuity, the old order is already finding ways to sidestep the radical provisions of the Act. Contractors deploy machines with impunity, even as forged muster rolls are filled up with fictitious names and thumb-marks of workers, to show as if the work was done by labour. This is especially the case in States like Jharkhand, which still do not have elected Gram Panchayats. [link]

Even Mr. Shourie in his article has raised some objections about how ‘right’ data is filled after initial data is pencilled in so that the performance of the flagship program of Congress remains grande.

After citing what the PM, FM, etc. have been saying about ensuring outcomes and not being lulled by outlays, Saxena asks, and ‘How is outcome delivered in the states?’, and answers, ‘By falsifying records!’ He cites the tour observations of a person in a position to know, and unlikely to state things that would embarrass the Government:

‘We discovered that all data of children at the centre for the past five months, weight, vaccinations, health records etc, were filled in with pencils. On probing further, I found it was done so that in case of an official inspection, the figures could be erased and “correct” data inserted to make the centre’s performance look good!’

The writer? The Congress MP, Sachin Pilot. Recalling such accounts, Saxena observes, ‘The practice is so widely prevalent in all the states, presumably with the connivance of senior officers, that the data reaching GOI [according to a recent study by the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development] shows only 8% as the overall percentage of malnourished children in case of 0-3 years (with only one percent children severely malnourished), as against 46% reported by NFHS-3.

What is equally astonishing is the fact that records show a steep decline in the percentage of malnourished children from 29% to 8%, which is totally at variance with the findings of the various NFHS surveys. By sending bogus reports the field officials are thus able to escape from any sense of accountability for reducing malnutrition.’ [link]

Someone had felt constrained to exclaim at the state of affairs to describe it as ‘Loot for work program’, and after these killings, it is tending towards a ‘kill for work program’!

Lalit was killed on the 14th May, and the congress celebrated its four years on the 23rd May, touting NREGA as their proud achievement. Either the congress is cheeky enough to take us voters lightly or it is sure it wont return to power. Either way, we’ll show them.

Tax to relax!!!

June 11, 2008

Its surprising that the taxation on products in India is very heavy compared to many countries. Though there are not many welfare programs funded by the Government like in USA ,significant infrastructural development,improvement in education or maintaining a clean and green environment , the amount of tax we are asked to pay is quite high. And its not that India is a larger country with more infrastructure to maintain. Indian public facilities are rather poor and are now a prospective challenge to curbing the growth. And we call it valued added tax!!, just whom are we adding value to?

We pay a startling high,12.5% on the purchase of commodities. In spite of being heavily taxed, the Government is not able to stabilize the economy. Petrol and Diesel prices have increased by a large extent, the cost of LPG, without which no household can run, increases in cost by 50 over midnight! It would not be a stretch to call this economic terrorism at all because this eats right into the pockets of the aam-aadmi.

And what is worse is that this tax is not showing any results, its not clear where the tax is going.

Here is what i found out, Mumbai resident Chetan Kothari, filed the RTI application to get the travel details of ministers and after some hassle he obtained the following details.

Manmohan Singh has spent nearly Rs 120 crore in 2005 and 2006 on flight travel. That’s nearly 30 per cent of what has been spent in the last 10 years by the PM’s. Whats more shocking is the sudden business trips that our Union Cabinet Ministers take to their hometowns and that too on the weekends, the UPA Government ministers had lodged in more than 1 crore kilometers of foreign travel. Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath has been out of the country for 14 months out of his 42-month tenure and the expenditures come to Rs 1.81 crore.”

Charity begins at home, so Mr. Kamal Nath started by throwing tax payer’s money.

“I urge every citizen to conserve energy at every step, every minute of the day. Be it petrol, diesel, kerosene, LPG, electricity or even water – let us learn to save and use efficiently. Let us reduce wasteful consumption of petrol,” – that was how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to the nation on Wednesday to bear with the fuel price hike. It is so ironical how a person who is portrayed so simplistic and advising fellow men to conserve energy actually ends up spending millions on his travel alone. Mr. Manmohan is plain reckless and irresponsible or he is also in the big pool of schizophrenic politicians.

Ministers are not expected to leave their cars and travel on bicycles but the common man would be impressed if they cut down their wasteful spending and act as leaders and role models in conserving the energy and resources like Shivraj Chouhan, CM of MP and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, guv of WB did by cycling to office and by turning off supply in the raj bhavan for 2 hrs daily, respectfully.

With the charitability of these ministers known, I do not feel charitable towards them with my vote.

Afzal Guru – “Please don’t compare me with Sarabjit. The issues are separate. My sympathies are with him, but my fight is for the Kashmir conflict. Now, I am not even seeking any clemency and have no objection to the government deciding my fate.” [link]

Afzal Guru has also said something that MF Hussain also said sometime back. Paraphrasing : The UPA govt. biggest problem is its indecision, only the NDA can come and hang me and in case of Hussain that only NDA can bring me back to the country.

Afzal Guru is pending hanging for attacking the parliament, all courts from the lowest to the Supreme have sentenced him to death. The BJP is asking for an early implementation of the courts order so that justice is done to the brave soldiers who died fighting to protect the parliament.

The congress is in a different mood altogether, they have probably taken to Arundhati Roy’s advice “What is the hurry to hang him?”. Hope Ms. Roy got her answer from the horses mouth. The BJP does have a point in demanding action, more prolonged the issue, more communal a turn it takes. Earlier it would and should have been a simple hanging of a terrorist. The congress has managed to invent more angles to the issue in trying to protect him. Many muslim organisations have come out against terror, no muslim organisation as such opposes his hanging. What is the hold up?

Alright, if we want to move towards a no-hanging sort of a culture, then make the case for that, but do not please give it a communal angle and try to justify the innocence of Mr. Guru like human rights activists. The left would be more than happy to save some face as being a part of the govt. and help you formulate this. But why the delay?

Congress justifies. “There is no authenticity of Afzal’s statement, whether the interview was done with permission, and whether he actually said it or not. Rajnath Singh should know that is a constitutional process and hence it will take time,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.

Jayanthi Natarajan is trying to rub the delay off on the process, which does not exist. There are no procedures pending. No papers have moved on the issue, all trials are over and its plain action which is pending which the congress will not take. And as the matter gathers dust, it will seem as if those who ask for the court order to be obeyed are communal rascals.

The problem with congress is that they end up giving a communal angle to each issue.

What can you expect in a party where the leader of the party promotes the interests of her own dynasty and every leader small or big has to suck up to the family to stick around?

The word is not family values, its nepotism. Earlier Shri. Baalu was promoting the selfish interests of his kin and the “Mr. clean” Manmohanji was abetting this very dutifully. This time it is the son of the most profound thinker of congress who has been trying to use his fathers address and clout to get about doing business.

Shri. Shailesh and Smt. Archana Patil have entered as directors in NV Distilleries Ltd. and were a part of a project in Ambala in Haryana. The plant started the bottling operations of major brands, like seagrams, three months ago.

Shri. Shailesh said that he had a financial stake of 50% in the project and that “Given my family background, I like to keep a low profile. There is nothing about the distillery project we have to hide. I feel very satisfied that such an investment in a rural area provides employment opportunities for poor farmers.”

Now the salient points of the project

  • Chairman Shri. Ashok Jain claims that the Home Minister’s son “has no financial stake.” Jain, however, admits: “Having Shailesh Patil on board added to the profile of my project.”
  • At the distillery site, villagers of Badoli — where most of the land acquisition was done — allege they have been “cheated” by the distillery owners since they were not provided employment as they had been promised. Village Sarpanches of adjoining Gola and Sherpur villages allege their land has been “usurped” as the distillery expands its operations.
  • Here is how the clearances were obtained.

Given the potential impact of distilleries on ground, water and air pollution, the sanction process is guided by elaborate norms of the CREP (Corporate Responsibility for Environmental Protection), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as strict guidelines imposed by the MoEF, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the state Boards, in this case the HSPCB.

Official records show how the Centre’s permission came in the face of the state pollution control board’s objections:

In August 2006, the HSPCB issued a No-Objection Certificate (NoC) to N V Distilleries, imposing 24 conditions for environmental protection.

The Environment Impact Clearance from the MoEF came in February 2007, with 17 fresh conditions. These clearances were for starting “grain-based liquor production with zero discharge levels” and with a production capacity of 60 KLPD (kilo litres per day).

However, on September 17, 2007, the MoEF sent a letter permitting the distillery to expand the project from 60 KLPD to 75 KLPD. And to exercise a “dual feed” option, that is, production of liquor from either grain or molasses (where the comparative environmental hazard is much higher).

Barely a month later, an inspection by the HSPCB showed deficiencies in the distillery’s water treatment/ effluent flow plants. The inspectors in their report said: “The discharge of waste waster from the processes is a violation of the NoC of the Board/ Environmental clearances issued by the MoEF.”

The HSPCB team said that company representatives be called for a personal explanation and consent for operation of the bottling plant be decided based on the outcome of that meeting.

HSPCB officials in Panchkula told The Sunday Express that in view of these deficiencies, they were surprised by the Central clearance for expansion of the project.

Allowing dual feed, too, was a violation of current guidelines for stand-alone distilleries, Para 2 of which state: “Proposal for stand-alone new distilleries and expansion of existing distilleries without achieving zero discharge in surface water/ ground water will not be considered by MoEF…”

With N V Distilleries becoming a subject of a tussle between the Central and HSPCB authorities, chairman of the pollution control board A S Chahal stepped in and sent a strongly worded letter dated March 31 this year to the Joint Secretary in the MoEF.

Quoting guidelines, he wrote: “The subsequent environmental clearance granted by the Government of India on their own appears to be in violation of guidelines…In view of this, it is requested that facts of the case may please by re-examined…in case of any inconsistency with the provisions of the relevant Act/Rules/Notifications/Guidelines, Environmental clearance so granted may please be reviewed and action, if any at our end may please be intimated accordingly.”

Incidentally it is not just the environmental clearances which are obtained so questionably, the factory is in violation of 4 excise rules.

One does doubt the involvement of Shri. Shivraj in the whole matter, because Shri Shivraj is very busy finding new ways to damage India’s case asking for sarabjit’s clemency and very busy drafting a tourist brochure for more terrorist trainees, but the misuse of official residence “4, Janpath Road” for commercial interests is certainly something that he could not have been aware of. For obvious reasons this should not be allowed to continue in its form.

It would be unnecessary to ask the Home minister to give his resignation, as he would not agree, we should rather show him the door when the elections come in 2009.

Rahul Gandhi has been laying the hints for a while now, and if the sycophants really want to impress the yuvraj, they will have democracy within congress.

It would be mistaken to think that this will pose any challenge to the yuvraj’s or madam Sonia’s authority. The reason that they are at helm is not because she is simply the heir of the Nehru legacy and he the heir apparent, but more because the congress lacks leaders of stature and needs some dynasty to model in their posters for all the generations.

This could be an embarrassment to BJP in the making, the BJP will have to roll back its demand for any democracy to appear in the congress and if the congress uses it well the demand would rebound to hit the BJP as a damage to credibility.

But this has me thinking, whether the BJP demand itself is justified. First of all, BJP has partly the moral high ground because the party does not pin its hopes on a certain dynasty and does not promote people as leaders and picks emerging leaders instead. Of course, there is some misfit if some issues should arise at a high level and if a person would be a ideologue the democracy can be compromised and the leader elevated by virtue of their history with the party or because of their ideological maturity, like Arun Shourie. Still obviously there is no democracy in the party and it is pretty sad that the leader of a major party (claiming to be the largest) in the largest democracy uses the word democracy so loosely and irresponsibly without making any efforts to implement anything in his own party.

Although I have also said it otherwise in my previous post, it is debatable whether democracy in a party is relevant at all levels and good development or not. The deeper details need to looked into. Often the instance of democrats and republicans in US is used to say that democracy should come in at all levels. Definitely the party can not pick its leaders for the state or the office administrators etc. and democracy will only make the functioning of the party machinery slower. The party can pick its representatives, but that also is often done with some considerations in mind, like some political deals, caste equations etc. And as much as we resent it, these are realities in politics. Even otherwise, if all members of the party machinery and the party representatives are being elected, who is maintaining any seam of ideas which define a party? For a nation, democracy works because like the minds of people the country can undergo extreme regime changes and a nation should sustain that as the will of the people (unlike the “peoples republic of china”), but the parties can not be changing according to the wills of the people on some issues. And I realise that all the in the communist vote banks will remain communists and that the voting will not bring tendencies of capitalism or anything but the question is about the fine points. Like before internal polls, the congress may support the nuke deal and after the polls they may change their mind. That change goes away with out anyone left to take the accountability of the previous decisions and to account for the time and costs towards these changes.

This can be solved in two ways, i.e. two ways of defining democratic working in the party and country. The first would be the US model itself, where each cause is represented by a person and that person takes all blame and credit. Of course part of the blame and credit go to the persons who vote him in, but the person is responsible for what he decides. This system is not in place in the nation as such and will have to be confined to the parties which implement it, for now. The party democracy will remain restricted to the parts about nomination in polls etc.

The other system where this can work is like Switzerland, where all major decisions are elected for and the party machinery remaining as it is, the decisions of the people are taken up. Here the nominations can be made democratic in a different system which can be worked or not, because the decisions anyway are of the party vote base.

In both these systems, the application at a lower level seems less important than implementation at a higher level, because a lower level of political ground is not practically having a large enough vote base which is involved in politics, hence the difficulty of applying it, and because democracy at larger levels are more consequential and impacting. If you introduce a cog into the system at the lower levels it will not impact your party, most parties live with that. But if you bring a cog and make them the party president, then that has a huge imapct on the party and the nation.

The political reform of democracy will have impacts on the overall democratic system. Indian democratic system is quite retributive unlike the American or Swiss. In America, only bush is remembered as a war mongerer not the party which had a lot of people in support with the war as well. Somehow, Mccain says he wants to pull out troops from Iraq and he is on the same plane as Hillary and Obama w.r.t that Iraq issue. In switzerland, the parties do not decide anything, ruling or otherwise. The people decide everything major and obviously the responsibility also lies there. There is no question of retribution. These systems in India would probably make a lasting impact on the mainstay democracy as well and we could see some cleaning up being done.

In a breaking of tradition, will the parties will be a step ahead of the nation and be more democratic, it is left to be seen.

Now, China will decide what Indian media should report and what not to. During a meeting with Pranab Mukherjee, the so-called external affairs minister of India, his Chinese counterpart has taken strong objections to Indian media’s coverage of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Youth movement. Though it was expected of China to raise the Sikkim issue, I was amazed with its attitude towards the Indian media. I am unaware of what Pranab would have told them on this issue, but the China tour by no. 2 of Government of India is yet another big failure following his no. 1’s, early this year.

Full story — here

I do not understand why China should ever bother about Indian media’s ‘biased’ coverage when there is always The Hindu to ensure that the 5-starred red flag flies high in India. The Dalai Lama should never be felt as a threat by China as he has already been made a villain by the news paper. I am not sure if even any of the Chinese dailies do the job so well as ‘The Hindu’ does.

China should stop cribbing. On the contrary, they must celebrate The Hindu’s sycophantic journalism and love for its fatherland and reward its editors suitably.

Some time back, I think it was TVR Shenoy who wrote, about the congress being a pack of Goats in the guise of wolves when they were making strong statements to seem strong; as against the tale of the wolves in the guise of goats. The latest is not encouraging, the goats not only got a disguise, they also got a better systems now. The irony is that the systems are going to be their biggest enemy.

The congress committee which was responsible for coming up with suggestions for improvement within congress has come out with its recommendations yesterday. Interestingly, in spite of presence of leaders like Veerappa Moily, Digvijay Singh, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, Salman Khursheed, Jairam Ramesh etc. in the team, who have immense experience of politics, the recommendations are most of the things that Rahul Gandhi has said all along in the last 6-7 months. One wonders if the others were swearing their loyality to him when he made these suggestions and asked Veerappa Moily to present them.

Here are the recommendations from what was discussed with press.

1) Focus on inner-party elections from the grassroots or booth-level. This is a very good point, probably inspired by the unprecedented participation in the US primaries. The point by itself is good, but such things have to evolve. I can not really opine that the result of deliberation by a committee amounts to evolution of an idea. I would hope that this would get implemented actually, because I think that democracy is a great ideal which has to spread to all levels to be complete.

2) Give youth a chance to participate in politics. This is a rather good one, but even tougher to implement. About 45-50% of the population comprises of youth. A sign of the youth is that they are rather impatient to achieve and will be disgruntled if some “larger” person would throw their weight around because of clout. The youth base would be incomplete without “character building” and they will eventually lose heart in the vote bank policies.

3) Build up a base of loyal party workers who will the spread word about the Congress’ efforts in and out of power. Now this is more of an imitation of BJP than of the left. The left is a recruitment ground for goons instead. This is on lines with the second point except that they want their agents chaaro taraf.

The main problem with the last two points, which is specific to congress, is that congress is only a political party after votes. The party has no principles, economic or social that guide its policies. Their idea of secularism is devoid of any substance and character. Their escape in case of questions is only to criticise the BJP on the same lines. Sometimes the reverse criticism is insulting and frustrating as in the case of strong dealing of terror. There is no catch phrase that the party can claim which is relevant to people today. The previous “roti kapda aur makaan” and such are rather unusable not only because they are less relevant but also because the statement is hypocritical of a party which has kept a brilliant country away from development for more than 40 years. In such a situation how long the ‘opposition to BJP’ would keep them motivated is something that has to be seen.

One also wonders if the problems that the government is facing with dealing with terror by making absolutely uncogitated moves, and when the government often spurns any decision making (like on petrol hike) and many such situations that congress would face in the future, would the youth lose face themselves or criticise or make the party improve. The last two are rather constructive practices taken up by the BJP youth who not only flak their party when it commits mistakes but also offer good suggestions by blogging or reaching them otherwise.

The congress is also peculiar in having no yardsticks. The BJP has that yardstick in the form of Hindutva, integral humanism for social policies but nothing of the sort, strictly, for economic policies. Hence, the “right” wingedness is actually mostly a misnomer, like it showed when they opposed the petrol price hike. Definitely the party is righter than most parties in economic policies, but populism is a necessary part of politics in the nation and the BJP also is no exception in following this rule.

The very character of the congress makes in incapable of gaining from this restructuring, politically. Congress will have to do a lot more than this to gain politically in the nation, it will have to do something that BJP has also not done fully, dare to take some stances. Lay down some governing principles and take policy decisions with deliberation; measure yourself against them and stick to them religiously.

The youth of the nation cannot be taken lightly and the Congress will have some struggle ahead.

Heard, there will be a Tiananmen in Kathmandu too, very soon?

Presence of a minority worship place can force the entire projects to get changed. When it comes to Hindus’ worship place or beliefs, you know what happens.

….an ancient mosque on a tiny patch of 1,200 square feet of land right next to a runway has forced a redrawing of the entire Rs 2,000-crore map to upgrade Kolkata airport. An extra 25,000 square metres has to be acquired, crores have to be spent on building a detour and several high-rise buildings have to be compensated because they have to knock off their top floors in line with the new plan.

….this is exactly where the 117-year old Bankra mosque — where on an average 30 people offer prayers each day under tight security — lies, less than 100 feet from the north end of the shorter runway, Also, the walls of the mosque cannot withstand vibrations caused by aircraft landing or taking off.

Result: the Airports Authority of India has decided to extend the runway towards the southern side.

“This means we have to lease out more than 25,000 square metres of land to the state government for the diversion,” says another official of he AAI. The AAI will spend Rs 2 crore and the state government will provide Rs 3 crore. Also, an existing road, running from Kaikhali to Narayanpur (Rajarhat) will need to be diverted.

This, in all probability, …… will mean an extra Rs 20 crore, say officials.[link]

And we all know what is happening with the Rama Setu.

Here is where the majority fails to make its political presence felt and the parties are struggling to remain friendly to the minorities. And then within the minority this is a special minority because, all credit to them, they make enough noise that the government would listen, and they turn up to vote in large numbers too. None of the other minorities is as perturbed and perturbing, and none of the other minorities have a commission to alleviate poverty in their community.

Bottomline : If Hindus keep voting in the pathetically low numbers then they will remain a political minority with very little or no say in the governance. Even Hindu sympathising parties like the BJP will not be able to bring back balanced secularistic approach if the Hindus remain masochistic by design.