Swamy, Rao and Janata Dal

Subramanian Swamy, now a BJP MP, had helped then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to split Janata Dal in 1990s for winning confidence motions, a new book says.

A former Commerce Minister, Swamy had “worked hard to engineer” defections in Janata Dal following which Ajit Singh and other MPs came out, according to ‘Half Lion: How P V Narasimha Rao Transformed India’ that will be released on Monday.

Swamy, then with Janata Party and now a staunch Congress-critic, was called by Rao soon after he won the confidence motion on July 15, 1991 and told him that he did not like the tag minority government.

“You (Swamy) have to help me get a majority. You did it for Rajiv Gandhi, You broke the V P Singh government,” Rao said. Swamy replied, according to the book by journalist-turned-academician Vinay Sitapati, “Janata Dal is rudderless. VP is a failed leader. You can break it. But it will cost you.” Rao said it was not a problem.

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(Chandraswami — left — and Subramanian Swamy)

Rao also got help from Chandraswami who was quoted in the book, “I worked with Subramanian Swamy to get Ajit Singh group.” By August 1992, 20 MPs had defected from Janata Dal, reducing its strength to 39.

According to the book, Rao had a meeting with Swamy on July 26, 1992, two days before he faced a no-confidence motion. “I helped break Janata Dal. I had a problem. All these people wanted money. If I gave the money and they complained, I would go to jail,” Swamy is quoted in the book.

However, Swamy’s efforts had little effect on Ajit Singh when he met him the next day. However, seven of the 20 MPs with Ajit Singh further defected and Rao won the vote.

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(Rao with Swamy)

Swamy has described Rajiv Gandhi as a “friend” while describing a meeting Rao had with the assassinated leader. During this meeting, Gandhi had told Rao that he should not contest as he was old and that he would bring him to Rajya Sabha.

The book says that Rao was “paranoid” that Sonia Gandhi was plotting against him. Swamy claims that Rao began collecting material on Sonia, “especially her citizenship documents” but the book says there was no way to confirm this as Rao’s private papers contain no evidence to back this assertion.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 27, 2016)

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‘Land for landless tribals in Kerala’

Kerala is aiming to provide at least 0.25 acre each to landless tribals and habitable houses for those without a proper shelter within next three years.

The state will soon submit a proposal with the Centre seeking Rs 2,193.37 crore for these projects. State Minster A K Balan will soon meet Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram with a proposal, which also include projects worth another Rs 597 crore.

As per Kerala government statistics, there are 14,519 landless tribal families.

The scheme to provide land to landless tribals aims at purchasing land for the beneficiaries identified by the department. The plan is to provide 0.25 acre by spending a maximum of Rs 10 lakh per beneficiary.

A senior government official told DH here that this would cost Rs 1,451.90 crore, “which the state alone can afford”.

In addition to the purchase of land, various developmental activities for the rehabilitated tribal people are also considered. Resettlement should be done on project basis with emphasis on planning and implementation through local tribal groups.

The Kerala government is viewing landlessness as a “serious issue”. It also want existing land in possession of tribals be put to optimum use preferably through organic agriculture and giving priority to locally relevant crops.

Housing is another focus area of the government in which it plans a project that could cost Rs 741.48 crore,

The state has 21,185 tribal families who do not have a proper house.

According to the state, there are schemes for providing financial assistance to the houseless Scheduled Tribes for construction, completion or repair of houses.

 However, the state is of the view that only Rs 50 crore is provided an year as budget provision, which the state believes is “highly insufficient to achieve tangible result within a short span of time”.

“The policy of Kerala government is to provide houses to all houseless families. The rate of assistance per house is Rs 3.5 lakh,” the official said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 27, 2016)

Narasimha Rao’s IB operations !!!

Did a secret Intelligence Bureau report on play a role in  Pranab Mukherjee not becoming Finance Minister in P V Narasimha Rao’ Cabinet in 1991?

A new book ‘Half Lion: How P V Narasimha Rao Transformed India’ by journalist-turned academician Vinay Sitapati indicates so.

Mukherjee, who became President in 2013, was sure that he would enter the North Block, the Finance Ministry’s seat because he sided with Rao in the Congress power struggle following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

He told Jairam Ramesh, now a Congress MP, a few hours after Rao was elected Congress Parliamentary Party leader on June 20, 1991, that he would either be with him in Finance Ministry or with Rao in PMO. Ramesh was appointed Officer on Special Duty in Rao’s PMO.

However, the book claims quoting journalist Sanjaya Baru, who became Media Adviser to Manmohan Singh during his Prime Minsitership that Rao had called up IB the same afternoon. In few hours, he was in possession of a “secret file” on Mukherjee.

“There is no evidence of anything incriminating in the file, or if Rao even used it against Pranab. But one thing is certain. By that evening, Pranab was no longer in the running,” the book says. Manmohan Singh was Rao’s chosen man.

Book-Rao

This was not the lone occasion Rao had used the agency for political purposes. From collecting information of anti-reforms MPs in Congress to those visiting Sonia Gandhi after she publicly criticised the handling Babri Masjid demolition, he used the IB.

The “clandestine document” of the IB in late 1991 listed Congress MPs who were against reforms measures.

While 55 MPs, including Madhavrao Scindia and Balram Jhakkar, were against trade liberalization, 22, including Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh were against any Congress-BJP understanding on reforms, the book said quoting from the report which were part of Rao’s private papers.

“More than any other single piece of evidence, this report shows how serious – not to mention ruthless – Rao was in pushing through economic reforms,” it said.

He also asked the IB to keep tabs on 10, Janpath after Sonia condemned Babri Masjid demolition, her “first political act”, though she did not blame him. Twelve days after the demolition, the IB reported back to him, saying that Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh among others “reportedly expressed their unhappiness with the handling of the situation, including by the Prime Minister.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 26, 2016)

Firewood still remain main fuel in Indian kitchens

Indian kitchens are turning more and more towards LPG and PNG for preparing food but firewood continues to remain the main fuel for cooking in the country.

However, the gap between households using firewood as cooking fuel with those having LPG/PNG connections is decreasing.

According to the Sample Registration System Baseline Survey conducted in 2014 by Registrar General of India, 42.7 per cent of the households in India still use firewoods as the fuel mainly used for cooking.

LPG/PNG follows with 38.1 per cent while cow dung cake is used as fuel in 9.4 per cent households and crop residue 5.9 per cent. Kerosene, electricity, coal, charcoal and biogas have negligible presence in the kitchens of India.

This would mean that more than half of the country’s households use fuel sources that could affect the environment.

Over a period of time, the government is making efforts to make the kitchens use environmentally viable fuel solutions.

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HOUSEHOLDS and FUEL MAINLY USED FOR COOKING INDIA

Firewood – 42.7 %

LPG/PNG – 38.1 %

Cow Dung Cake – 9.4 %

Crop Residue – 5.9 %

Coal/Lignite/Charcoal – 1.9 %

Kerosene – 1.1 %

Electricity – 0.2 %

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Delhi tops the list of users of LPG/PNG with 97 per cent of its households using gas cylinders followed by Telangana (75.9 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (70.3 per cent).

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab also have impressive LPG coverage in around 57 per cent households. Bihar, which has the least LPG coverage with only 8.5 per cent households having gas connections, might be adding to the woes of environment as around 90 per cent of its cooking fuel comes from cow dung cake, crop residue and firewood.

The state has the highest percentage of households 41.2 per cent using cow dung cake as the fuel for cooking.

Uttar Pradesh, which has 23.1 per cent coverage of gas connections, comes second at 27.1 per cent in the use of cow dung cake as the cooking fuel.

Among the southern states, Kerala has the highest percentage of households using firewood in kitchens followed by Karnataka (49.4 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (40.2 per cent). Both Tamil Nadu and Telangana have only 20.1 per cent each such households.

The use of coal, cow dung cake or crop residue is very minimal in the state, according to the survey.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 23, 2016)

Indian agri household has avg outstanding loan of Rs 47k

An Indian agricultural household on an average has an outstanding loan of Rs 47,000 while their monthly income is a meagre Rs 6,426, according to latest official data.

Kerala has the highest outstanding loan amount at Rs 2.13 lakh per agricultural household. At third position, Punjab with an average outstanding loan of Rs 1.19 is the only state outside south that has found space in top six.

The average outstanding loan of an agricultural household in Andhra Pradesh is Rs 1.23 lakh while Tamil Nadu has Rs 1.15 lakh, Karnataka 97,200 and Telangana Rs 93,500, according to the 70th National Sample Survey.

Around 52 percent of agricultural households in rural India were estimated to be indebted at the time of the survey, said the survey ‘Income, Expenditure, Productive Assets and Indebtedness of Agricultural Households in India’ done in 2013 and released last Thursday. Loans included all kind of outstanding loans irrespective of the purpose for which loans were taken.

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Average outstanding loan for an Indian Household Rs 47,000

Kerala — Rs 2,13,600

Andhra Pradesh — Rs 1,23,400

Punjab — Rs 1,19,500

Tamil Nadu — Rs 1,15,900

Karnataka — Rs 97,200

Telangana — Rs 93,500

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The survey said 77.7 per cent of agricultural households in Kerala had outstanding loans. Among agricultural households with less than 0.01 hectares land, the largest amount of outstanding was reported by agricultural households in Andhra Pradesh (Rs 2.40 lakh) followed by Rajasthan (Rs 1.694 lakh) and Kerala (Rs 1.69 lakh).

The survey also showed that around 60 per cent of the outstanding loans were taken from institutional sources, which included co-operative society (14.8 percent) and banks (42.9 percent). Among non-institutional sources, money lenders (25.8 percent) had the major share in terms of outstanding loans.

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Source of Loans

Government — 2.1 per cent

Cooperative Society — 14.8 per cent

Banks — 42.9 per cent

Employer/Landlord — 0.8 per cent

Money lender — 25.8 per cent

Shopkeeper/Trader — 2.9 per cent

Relatives/Friends — 9.1 per cent

Others — 1.6 per cent

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One of the concerns would be the poor rate of banks in giving loans to farmers with land less than 0.01 hectares. According to the survey, 63.7 per cent of such agricultural households had outstanding loans to money lenders while it was 12.9 per cent for the banks.

The latest ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’ report by National Crime Records Bureau had shown that 5,650 farmers, including 472 women, committed suicide in 2014 out of which 1,163 cases were related to repaying loan. Most of the suicides related to inability to repay crop loans while others related to settling dues regarding purchase of tractors and other equipment.

Kerala had the highest share of institutional loans (90 per cent) among the major States followed by Gujarat (79.2 per cent) and Maharashtra (76.5 percent). Jharkhand reported the lowest share of institutional sources in the total outstanding loans, with 28 percent followed by Bihar (28.9 per cent) and Telangana (34.5 per cent).

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 19, 2016)

Aviation and Skill Development

Around 8,000 pilots, who are unemployed due to their inability to pay Rs 25-30 lakh for a skill test, could now dream of flying a plane with some government help.

Acknowledging the problem faced by such pilots, the Civil Aviation Policy unveiled on Wednesday has said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation would develop a scheme for providing financial support for type-rating of pilots.

Type rating is a regulating agency’s certification of an airplane pilot to fly a certain aircraft type that requires additional training beyond the scope of the initial license and aircraft class training.

While delving on the skill building scope in aviation sector, the 36-page policy said after obtaining a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), it is necessary for a pilot to get type rated to get employment in an airline. “This puts an enormous financial burden on the pilot having CPL as type-rating costs can be of the order of Rs 25-30 lakh,” it said.

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Skill Development in Aviation

** To bring down cost of skill development on a self sustaining basis but not as commercial centres

** Commencement of courses by National Aviation University in 2016-17

** Ministry to facilitate greater involvement of private sector in sponsoring aviation institutions, industrial training and R&D projects.

** To undertake strict monitoring of aviation related educational institutions.

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Putting the number of such pilots holding CPL but who have not found any regular employment at around 8,000, the policy said the Ministry would work out a detailed scheme separately either by setting up a facility at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy or Air India or in PPP mode.

“Alternatively, training in existing institutes will be subsidized. This scheme will be operational from 2017-18, subject to availability of funds,” the policy said.

The document itself admits that the aviation sector in the country has been “hamstrung” by shortage of appropriate skills required in different sectors of civil aviation. This is not only in the area of trained pilots but also aircraft engineers and technicians, cabin crew, ground handling staff, cargo handling staff and administrative and sale staff.

According to estimates, the policy said, incremental human resource requirement of the sector by 2025 would be around 3.3 lakh. A growing civil aviation sector can generate at least 9.77 lakh direct and around 30 lakh indirect jobs by 2035, an earlier study conducted for the Ministry had said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 17, 2016)

 

Office of Profit and Politicians

The office of profit controversy now engulfing AAP in Delhi had first seen Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan losing her membership in the Upper House.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, industrialist Anil Ambani also faced complaints of holding office of profit when they were lawmakers.

While Gandhi and Ambani resigned from the post before the Election Commission took a decision on complaints, those against Pawar and Patnaik were rejected by the poll body.

According to Article 102 (1)(a), a person shall be disqualified as MP for holding any office of profit under the government of India or the government of any state, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder. Article 191 (1) (a) has a similar provision for the members of state assemblies.

Gandhi resigned from her Lok Sabha membership in 2006 while the EC was considering a petition against her arguing that the Chairpersonship of National Advisory Council (NAC) she was holding was office of profit.

Congress leaders then said that they did not do due diligence by not bringing an amendment to the office of profit law to seek exclusion of NAC chairmanship from it. Gandhi resigned and was re-elected and later the then UPA government brought it in an amendment to exclude NAC chairmanship from the office of profit list.

The then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee also could have landed in trouble but the amendments helped him save his membership.

Bachchan lost her seat after the EC found that she was holding the post of Chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Film Development Corporation, which came under the office of profit provision.

Ambani did not wait for the EC decision over a complaint against him for being a member of the UP Development Council.

Another high profile case was that of Pawar, who was then the chief of Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI). The EC did not find any merit in the complaint against him. The EC also decided that Patnaik was not holding office of profit.

FOR ELECTION COMMISSION ORDERS ON OFFICE OF PROFIT ISSUE  http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/opiniontendered.aspx

(An edited version of the report appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 15, 2016)

 

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