Kerala push for ‘vegetable revolution’

Kerala is aiming a ‘vegetable revolution’ by bringing around 50,000 hectares under cultivation to enable the state to export such produces, which they now procure from other states.

This is among a slew of measures the new government under Pinarayi Vijayan plan to do as part of its development initiatives.

The state government would focus on agriculture as well as other industries that are “suitable” for the state that does not have enough land, Vijayan, who was in Delhi for the first time after he took over as Chief Minister, has said.

Outlining his priorities on development front, he indicated that it would be an all-encompassing model where traditional sectors like agriculture and fresh ones like Information Technology get their due. He also pointed out that infrastructure development as well as social sectors like health and education would get adequate attention.

“When we talk about developing Kerala, we cannot avoid talking about farmers and agriculture sector. The farmers need to sustain themselves. The productivity in this sector should increase. We are way behind. We will give attention to this sector,” he told a select group of journalists.

Vijayan also felt the need for developing areas for cultivating vegetables, which Kerala now procure from Tamil Nadu and other southern states.

“We need to cultivate vegetables in 50,000 hectares. This would help us to sell vegetables in outside Kerala and India. This could also result in creation of employment opportunities,” he said adding there should be need for focussing on producing more milk and eggs.

Another area of interest would be electronics sector where Kerala would like to develop Silicon Valley-like hubs in the state.

Talking about infrastructure development, he said there is a need to improve road connectivity.

Emphasising the need for speedy construction of national highways, he said there is delay in acquiring land. When pointed out that land acquisition is a problematic area, he said the question is for what land is acquired and people would cooperate if one takes them into confidence.

“Our aim is not to harm anyone. We will protect those who will be affected by acquisition. There will be proper rehabilitation process. We will have to have special package for those whose land will be acquired,” Vijayan said.

Vijayan’s Development Agenda

** Develop electronics sector and have Silicon Valley-like hubs

** Land acqusition with a human face to develop national highways

** Cultivate vegetables in 50,000 hectares

** Help IT companies to start ventures in state

** Affordable healthcare and Super Speciality hospitals at Taluk level

** Smart schools in public sector

** Clean Kerala to attract more tourists

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 31, 2016)

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RSS trains cadre to easily kill people: Kerala CM

With the Sangh Parivar upping its ante against CPI(M) in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday described the RSS as an organisation that gives training to its cadre how to easily kill a person.

He said his government would take appropriate measures to ensure that there violence do not erupt in the state. The Chief Minister’s remarks came when he was asked about the concerns of possible spike in political violence between CPI(M) and RSS cadre following the recent Assembly elections.

“That I cannot predict (whether there would be violence). But on such occasions, the government will take steps to ensure that there is no such violence,” Vijayan, who is in Delhi for the first time after swearing in as Chief Minister last Wednesday, told a select group of journalists here.

Vijayan also spoke about his interaction with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday when the latter broached up the issue of political violence. “I told him that you speak to your people and contain them. Then we can talk,” he said.

Soon after the election results, the BJP had petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee against CPI(M) while party chief Amit Shah had refused to congratulate the Left Front for its victory claiming that they were targeting his workers.

When asked whether such violence could be avoided by sitting across table and discussing the matter, Vijayan said, “that is because you do not know what is RSS. RSS is an organisation that gives training to its cadre how to easily kill a person. Why do we need such practice sessions? Why in our society, such sessions for beating up and killing are needed? That is their way. If they change, then there will be peace.”

Not find any merit in the argument that BJP had grown in the state, he said, CPI(M) does not see them as a big factor in Kerala as they did not gain though it claimed that they have support of some 21 parties.

“The problem is the Congress stand. Congress and UDF votes were transferred to BJP candidates, and in return, they got some help. They helped each other,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 30, 2016)

Girls of 14-17 years biggest chunk of child marriages victims

Girls in the age group of 14-17 years form the biggest chunk of victims of child marriages in the country, latest survey figures showed.

According to Census 2011, 68.5 per cent of the victims, including boys, are girls in the age group of 14-17 years. Of the 12.20 crore victims — both boys and girls — 8.36 crore are girls in this age group.

Among the 14-15 years age group, 2.81 crore girls were married before the legal age of 18 years for marriage while the statistics for 16-17 years is 5.54 crore.

The number of boys, whose legal age for marriage is 21 years, who tied the knots when they were 14-15 years was much lower at 39 lakh. The figure for 16-17 years is 91.69 lakh.

The ill effects of child marriage were documented in government’s National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage. It said such marriages deny a child the basic right to good health, nutrition and education.

“Evidence shows that early marriage makes girls more vulnerable violence, abuse and exploitation,” the document published by Ministry of Women and Child Development had said.

The majority of the children who were married at a tender age are exposed to “early and frequent sexual relations and to repeated pregnancies and childbirth before they are physically mature and psychologically ready”, it said.

“For both girls and boys, marriage has a strong physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impact, cutting off educational opportunities and chances of personal growth. While boys are affected by child marriage, this is an issue that impacts upon girls in far larger numbers and with more intensity,” it said.

As per the census figures released on Friday, there is also considerable number of children who were married below ten years. While there were 42.76 lakh boys who were married when they were below the age of 10 years, the number of girls was almost double at 78.49 lakh.

Interestingly, the census figures also showed that 7.84 lakh people who went on to acquire degree and above married when they were less than 10 years. There were 4.68 lakh such men while the number of women was 3.15 lakh.

The number of women who married before 18 years decreased when it came to acquiring higher education, the Census said.

Child Marriage

 

Age

 

Male

 

Female

 

Less than 10

 

42.76 lakh

 

78.49 lakh

 

10-11

 

9.7 lakh

 

34.34 lakh

 

12-13

 

11.44 lakh

 

77.17 lakh

 

14-15

 

39 lakh

 

2.81 crore

 

16-17

 

91.69 lakh

 

5.54 crore

 

 

TOTAL

 

1.94 crore

 

10.26 crore

Source: Census 2011

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 29, 2016)

Parties spent Rs 5,193 cr for polls since 2004, collected Rs 5,723 cr

Political parties collected Rs 5,723.41 crore during Lok Sabha and Assembly elections since 2004 while spending Rs 5,193.86 crore for campaigning.

Congress and BJP cornered 74 per cent of the donations and were the leading spenders accounting for 80 per cent of expenditure.

Of the total collection, Rs 3,146.86 crore or 54.98 per cent were through cash collection, prompting private election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) to demand that details of all donors who contribute exclusively for campaigns must be made public. At present, only details of those who donate above Rs 20,000 need to be informed to the Election Commission.

The analysis of three Lok Sabha elections and 71 Assembly polls showed that Congress got the highest donations at Rs 2,259.04 crore during the election period of 1,535 days between 2004 and 2015. BJP had Rs 1,983.37 crore.

The donation through cash for Congress was at a high of 68.33 per cent (Rs 1,543.74 crore) while for BJP it was 44.69 per cent (Rs 886.52 crore). Same is the case for almost all other parties.

“India is the least transparent country when it comes to funding of political parties,” Prof Trilochan Sastry of IIM Bangalore, a founder-member of ADR, said.

During the three Lok Sabha polls, parties collected Rs 2355.35 crores of which 44 per cent (Rs 1039.06 crore) was by cash.

In 2004, 38 parties collected 253.46 crore and it rose to Rs 638.26 crore next time when 34 parties contested. In last polls, the donations for 43 parties were a whopping Rs 1,463.63 crore.

The data also showed that elections over years are becoming a costlier affair, recording an eight fold increase in expenditure from 2004 Lok Sabha polls to the one in 2014.

The expenditure — total Rs 2466.07 crore — rose three times from Rs 202.04 crore in 2004 to Rs 676.25 crore. In 2014, the election spending more than doubled to Rs 1,587.78 crore.

The Assembly polls data showed that the parties collected Rs 3,368.06 crore and incurred an expenditure of Rs 2,727.79 crore.

Among regional parties, SP, AAP, AIADMK, BJD and SAD were on the top, collecting Rs 267.14 crore, which forms 62 per cent of the total funds declared by all regional parties for Lok Sabha polls. Despite contesting in only one Lok Sabha election, AAP stood second in the total funds collected by declaring Rs 51.83 crore.

The SP has declared the maximum expenditure of Rs 90.09 crore during the Lok Sabha elections followed by AIADMK, which had declared Rs 39.31 crore expenditure.

DONATIONS AND EXPENDITURE DURING ELECTIONS SINCE 2004

 

 

Party

 

Donation*

 

 

Expenditure*

 

Congress

 

Rs 2,259 cr

(Rs 1,543.74 cr)

 

Rs 2,217.86 cr

(Rs 344.55 cr)

 

BJP

 

Rs 1,983.37 cr

(Rs 886.52 cr)

 

Rs 1,940 cr

(Rs 139.19 cr)

 

BSP

 

Rs 374.85 cr

(Rs 241.34 cr)

 

Rs 138.98 cr

(Rs 24.87 c4r)

 

NCP

 

Rs 169.81 cr

(Rs 90.65 cr)

 

Rs 157.14 cr

(Rs 12.17 cr)

 

CPI(M)

 

Rs 107.03 crore

(Rs 53.42 cr)

 

Rs 26.27 cr

(Rs 11.26 cr)

 

CPI

 

Rs 30.48 cr

(Rs 12.29 cr)

 

Rs 24.60 cr

(Rs 10..1 cr)

 

TOTAL**

 

 

Rs 5,723.41 cr

(Rs 3,146.86 cr)

 

Rs 5,193.86 cr

(Rs 456.23 cr)

     

* cash transactions in brackets ** Includes regional and other parties

SOURCE: Association for Democratic Rights

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 24, 2016)

13% households in India headed by women

A little over 13 per cent of India’s 24.88 crore households are headed by women with Christian community having the highest percentage of females heading the families.

The Census 2011 data on ‘Households by religion, sex of head of household and household size’ showed that 21.60 crore families are headed by men while 3.27 crore have female heads.

The data, released on Friday evening, showed that of the 20.24 crore Hindu households, 17.62 crore were headed by men while only 2.62 crore were headed by women.

The highest percentage of female-headed households is in Christian community at 17.4 per cent followed by Buddhists (15.9 per cent). The lowest percentage of female headed households is in Jain community (11.5 per cent), according to the data.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have contributed to the higher percentage of female headed Christian households. Both the states together have 3.59 lakh such households while men lead 22.25 lakh families.

Women head Kerala’s 2.66 lakh Christian families while the figure for Tamil Nadu is 1.92 lakh. Other big contributors in this regard are Meghalaya (88,440), Karnataka (58,463) and Maharashtra 57,982).

According to Census 2011, 81.3 per cent of the households in the country belong to Hindu community while Muslims have 12.5 per cent households. Christian households account for 2.5 per cent, Sikh 1.7 per cent, Buddhist 0.7 per cent and Jains 0.4 per cent.

The data also showed that Muslim households with men as the head has the highest mean family size (5.6) in the country while among Christian families with women have the smallest mean family size (3.6).

Religious Communities Total no. of households             (in million) Percentage to Total households
     
     
Hindu 202.4 81.3
Muslim 31.2 12.5
Christian 6.3 2.5
Sikh 4.1 1.7
Buddhist 1.9 0.7
Jain 0.9 0.4

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 21, 2016)

Draft Geospatial Bill triggers furore over ‘draconian’ provisions

Threatening jail for seven years and fine up to a whopping Rs 100 crore for violations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has come up with a draft Geospatial Information Bill in early May with an aim to regulate the use of geospatial data. Some say, if the draft becomes law even a GPS-enabled smart phone can land one in trouble. Others wonder how taxi aggregators could operate in such a scenario. Within 24 hours of putting it in public domain, the draft that runs into 13 pages has invited criticism from a variety of groups from cyber activists to industry. MHA spoke against an emotional over reaction while others questioned how steep fines are recommended for variations from law without any detail. Many feel the bill does not find a resonance with the draft National Geospatial Policy released by Ministry of Science and Technology just days before the MHA initiative.

National security is a touchy subject for many in the country. For the MHA, there are serious security concerns to address. The security establishment had put their heads together on the matter as it had previous experiences where Google Maps had inaccurate depiction of Indian boundaries. The draft bill aims to “regulate acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India”. It criminalises illegal acquisition of geospatial information as well as its illegal dissemination, publication or distribution. No one is allowed to distribute such information that has not been authenticated by the government. No one is also allowed to distribute such contents outside India without authorization also. While the draft policy wants to settle the clearance issues, if any, within 30 days, the draft gives three months time.

The bill also envisages the setting up of a security vetting authority to clear the applications for giving permission to use geospatial information and apex committee to oversee the implementation of the proposed law. An enforcement authority will also be set up with powers to do surveillance and monitoring of the use of geospatial information. The enforcement authority, which is headed by an officer of Joint Secretary rank or above, will also have access to “any computer resource, any apparatus, data or any other material connected with such system, for the purpose of searching”. Having the powers of a civil court, the authority’s proceedings will be deemed as judicial proceedings. An appellate mechanism with a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge as head will also be set up.

While the draft policy aims to provide access, the MHA draft appears to finds way to restrict access to geospatial data. The MHA bill is very aggressive in nature when compared to the Science and Technology Ministry’s draft policy. The draft policy acknowledges that the “mass market” for geospatial information is increasing and aims to have a level playing field for both government and private sectors for ease of business. It also talks about the availability of satellite data and digital forms of map information through networks rendering the policies of restricting map information to citizen “obsolete” in many countries. At the same time, it does not ignore national security concerns.

The policy approach is for a clear classification on geo-spatial data, products, solutions and services under specifications – restricted, unrestricted and open based on features and not on geographies. It differentiates the data. But the draft bill does not do so. The draft bill wants citizens and companies to acquire licence to use geospatial imagery or data. Though it indicates that rules and regulations to be framed based on an Act can give relaxations on norms, the tone and tenor of the bill does not provide such an assurance. A wrong depiction of India’s map using geospatial data could invite a fine ranging between Rs ten lakh and Rs 100 crore. Similar is the case with other offences. The question is that whether Rs 100 crore penalty is realistic and why there is such a huge gap between the lowest and the highest fine amount.

Several questions arise out of this draft bill, which has been described by a section as high-handed, suspicious and return of licence raj. While there will be no question on not compromising on security aspect, there is a need to reconcile it with common man’s needs. Can government have its policy and law at variance? How far India can turn its head away from the international trends? Can one hinder the rights of the common man to access technology? Industry has also concerns over how it affects their business. How will it affect business opportunities? Are we overplaying the security concerns? Does it give a chance for the bureaucracy to harass people and businesses?

With the bill becoming a talking point, the government officials are quick to assure that it is just a draft and not the final one. However, they also point out that one cannot ignore security concerns. This does not mean that people would find it difficult to access such date for legitimate use, the officials say. The final bill will reflect the ongoing debate on the issue as well as it will align with the national policy, they assure. There are already talks about the government possibly fixing the outer limit of fines at Rs 1-2 crore. While finalising the bill, the MHA will have to ensure that it shed the “policing” mentality. One could hope that the current discussion on the draft bill pave way for a sensible policy that could amalgamate both business and security aspects in a perfect ratio.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s Panorama section on May 18, 2016)

Bihar to train its migrant workers in other states

In a novel initiative, Bihar government will run skill-improvement programmes in states like Karnataka and Kerala to enable migrant workers to get “higher wages” and have “better bargaining power”.

Such training, state officials believe, would help migrant workers from Bihar get higher wages and recognition as skilled worker. Besides scope for upgradation in future, the training could also equip them with knowledge of safe money transfer and access to health care.

The Bihar Skill Development Mission (BSDM) under state’s Labour Department has chalked out the programme for training migrant workers from Bihar now working in Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi (NCR), West Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra and Daman and Diu.

Companies selected by the state government will conduct the programme in these states where there are a large number of migrant workers from Bihar. The target for the first year would be around 1,000 migrants per state. There around 40-50 lakh migrant workers from Bihar across the country.

“This is a new initiative. The targeted sectors are construction, garment, retail and security,” Labour Department Secretary Dipak Kumar Singh told DH through email.

Migrant labourers are mostly unskilled and if skill training is imparted to such migrants, he said, and then they can get “higher wages and can have a better bargaining power”.

The idea to train workers settled in other states come after a series of workshops attended by training service providers, employers and sector skill councils where it transpired that a substantial number of candidates who get trained in Bihar and offered placement outside do not migrate for jobs.

At the same time, Singh said, there are a large number of people who migrate from Bihar for jobs irrespective of their skills and it was “one of the big potential areas is to skill people who have already migrated for jobs outside the state and are unskilled”.

To inform workers about the scheme, the department is planning to put out banners and posters at prominent locations like railway stations and bus stations. The scheme will cover only migrant workers of Bihar domicile only, which could be ascertained strictly through Aadhar card, voter card or domicile certificate.

** Migrant workers of Bihar domicile to benefit

** To be trained construction, garment, retail and security sectors

** Around 7,000 workers to be trained in first year

** Training will help to get higher wages

** To equip workers knowledge of safe money transfer, access to health care

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 18, 2016)

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