Missing the wood for the trees

By K P Prabhakaran Nair

All of a sudden, there is a great debate and agitation going on in the country on the question of setting up industry by private enterprise acquiring land, sometimes fertile and from farmers, who have been tilling it for generations, under the overall umbrella of Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Nowhere else has the agitation gripped the attention of the entire nation as pointedly as it did in Singur, in West Bengal, on the acquisition of about 1,000 acres to set up the “small car” project of the Tatas.

Undoubtedly, India has been an agrarian country for millennia: 65 per cent of the population is involved in agriculture, and feeds the rest of the 35 per cent, which has a per capita domestic product that is more than 600 per cent of the former. India, indeed, is two countries — the “galloping India”, the nine per cent plus GDP India that boasts of a per capita purchasing power parity gross domestic product above that of Philippines, whose economy is modelled along that of the USA, and the other poor cousin — “Bharat”, which is mired in poverty and misery.

Inclusive policy

It is then logical to think that unless this 65 per cent is salvaged out of its abject misery, India has no economic future to be clubbed along with the comity of prosperous nations. Ever since Nehru dreamt of factories and dams, India has been on a trajectory of economic development based on big industries and almost all our five year plans have followed the pattern based on a western model that says “export and expand”. But, the bedrock of our development has been pegged on the agrarian sector, which of late has become the real laggard.

The annual rate of increase in food production has fallen below the annual increase in population, setting in motion the Malthusian theory of population explosion outstripping food production. With India’s global trade in agriculture less than one per cent, a double digit growth in industry — the latest November 2006 Index of Industrial Production (IIP) which had zoomed to 14 per cent — must persuade the country to take the 65 per cent out of its quagmire. The question is how?

This is a gargantuan task. An example: Transferring about five million workers from the agricultural sector (about two per cent of that workforce) to the non-agricultural sector annually will require upwards of Rs 2,50,000 crore or about 30 per cent of India’s total capital formation. It would be totally impossible to generate this colossal sum of money on our own. But, we must make a beginning. Redirecting through incentives, current non-agricultural investment to rural districts, along the borders of taluk and district headquarters, which skirt the highways, might provide a substantial sum of money. This is where the mandarins in New Delhi and state capitals need to be very vigilant — zero in on the authentic industrial enterprise with integrity from the land grabber. Nowhere else has this been so glaringly show-cased as in Singur.

A myth

Importantly, the country’s leadership must tell the agricultural fraternity in no uncertain manner that if they have nothing spectacular to show on the farmers’ fields, it might be better to fold up or trim substantially the burgeoning “research” monoliths. India can no more afford to keep singing the paens ad nauseam of a so-called “green revolution” that has outlived its utility more than two decades ago, and created in its wake, unmanageable environmental hazards. And the word play of an “ever green revolution”, to bring in through the back door genetically modified crops, is no answer either.

Look at the state of the agricultural extension network. Only 0.9 per cent of India’s huge farming community make practical use of the huge monolith — the Krishi Vigyan Kendras under the ICAR being run since decades on a very huge budget! The 1.5 million Agro Technology Agents in China do a far better job, working shoulder-to-shoulder with farmers in the field, constantly innovating!

Probably this is where pro-active, forward looking statesmanship, has to come to the fore, as opposed to the conniving gimmickry of “vote-bank politics”.

Widows of the cotton world

Jaideep Hardikar

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1076687

Sunday, January 28, 2007  22:26 IST

A common tragedy binds together the families of cotton farmers’ who have lost their lives.

YAVATMAL: It’s a tale of three widows bound by a common thread of cotton; and policies of the state that their husbands vocally blamed for their plight before their death.

Savita Ghugul’s husband Dinesh fell to the police bullets in December 2006 at Wani cotton procurement centre, when a mob of cotton growers erupted in anger over delay in procurement of cotton. Dinesh, 35, had left his home in Mendholi village the morning he died; his body returned the next day amid police protection.

Sunita Girsawale’s man Pundalik chose to end himself in the Tehsil Agriculture Office when he ran out of patience and money. He was seeking help to buy a bullock under the Prime Minister’s much-trumpeted relief package, but someone in the tehsil office demanded bribe. A cheque of Rs4500 was found on his person after his death. People of his Tejapur village allege it was planted after his death.

And 20-year-old Pratibha Kuchankar’s husband Rameshwar consumed pesticide in Pandharkawda cotton procurement centre, ending his days of desperation. A stoic silence grips Pratibha’s maternal home in Veerkund village, where she has moved in after Rameshwar’s death on November 28, last year. It was only six months since their marriage, but the young farmer felt his condition would not improve. Still in shock, Pratibha lets her silence speak for her.

Savita, Sunita and Pratibha are women from different contexts, background and age groups, yet engulfed by a tragedy that emanates from a single source: Wrong policies. Well over a thousand farmers committed suicide in 2006 and close to 70 in January 2007 so far in Vidarbha’s six cotton districts. Notwithstanding the government’s rejection of these suicides as fallout of an agrarian emergency, the constituency of widows is growing at a frightening speed in the cotton country.

On the other hand, the farmers taking their own lives are increasingly becoming more vocal in their criticism of the government’s policies, and the suicide notes are being directed now straight to the Chief Minister or his deputy.

As Rameshwar Kuchankar, 27, said in his dying note before consuming poison in the market yard, “Mr CM, give us the price. Mr R R Patil, if you don’t give us Rs 3000 a
quintal, this issue (of farmers’ suicide) will aggravate.”

Rameshwar knew he was in losses after the cotton prices crashed to Rs1700-1900 this year from over Rs2200 a quintal. Then, in one poignant stroke, he wrote a line for his wife on one corner of that note. “Pratibha, I am sorry, please forgive me and get remarried.” In the end, he mentions: “No one in my family should be blamed for my death; if some one does that I won’t forgive him.”

Pundalik, on the other hand, had had four years of crop failure. “He went at least 15 times to get the cheque from the agriculture office to buy a bullock, but some one there demanded bribe,” says his mother Parvatabai. “He had purchased two doors for this hut, but had to sell one to pay for his visits to Wani,” she informs. Sunita, his widow, has since taken to working as a farm labourer to earn a living and her three daughters – aged 14, 12 and 10 – look after the household chores.

Apparently, it was a slight provocation by some one in the agriculture office that proved the last straw for Pundalik. He had threatened them that he would end his life if they did not release his cheque; the officer said do as you like, and  a desperate Pundalik consumed poison, a villager says.

In both Pundalik and Rameshwar’s cases, the government has declined the Rsone-lakh compensation, saying these were ‘non-genuine’ suicides, meaning the two farmers’ death was genuine, “but was not due to any agricultural crisis”. In Dinesh’s case, luckily, there’s no question of applying any parameter. He fell to a bullet that pierced his stomach. In one way though, Dinesh was a victim of the government’s neglect towards procurement of cotton. Had the centres worked round the clock to buy farmers’ yield the unprecedented protests may not have erupted in the first place, and Dinesh would have lived.

These three families lost their bread-winners in a span of one month. The same month, over a hundred farming households in Vidarbha also lost their head men, all choosing to take their lives. “The three farmers represent different hues of misery thanks to the government. One lost his life for no reason in police firing; the other was denied the relief that the PM himself declared in Nagpur; the third one felt, like all farmers of this region feel, he was denied a decent life,” says Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. “All of them had good family life and none was an alcoholic; it was the state’s policy and bureaucratic sham that took their lives,” he charges.

The questions staring Savita and her children are no less different than those facing Pratibha or Sunita and her three daughters. Alas, no less easy too.

Singur, Nandigram and Industrialisation of West Bengal-II

http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_nilotpal.htm

Nilotpal Basu

THE SEZ QUESTION AND NANDIGRAM

There has been extensive coverage on the stand of the Left parties on the current SEZ policy of the government in these columns. The major areas of our disagreement with the extant policy pertain to nature of the land use, extent of land use, the tax package and the rehabilitation package. The design of the current package of the government has undergone a qualitative change when SEZ rules were framed under the Act and process of approvals which has led to sanctions being given to 237 SEZ proposals.

This huge number immediately brings to the fore the contrast with China which had successfully executed the SEZ approach to ensure investment and employment generation. The total number of SEZs in China is only 6 and they are concentrated on manufacturing exports by linking these zones to physical infrastructure like port and other transport facilities. 

In India, apart from the already sanctioned 237 SEZs, the Board of Approval gave the ‘in-principle’ approval for another 166 SEZs within less than a year of the promulgation of the SEZ rules. A scan of the number and nature of these SEZs reveal a clear-cut picture of regional and sectoral imbalance. Of the 237 sanctioned SEZ proposals, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu account for 147 SEZs which is 60 per cent of the total sanctions. Again, 148 out of the 237 SEZs approved so far are in the IT sector. Further, preliminary studies are also revealing a major possibility of real estate activities in many of these proposed and sanctioned SEZs instead of actual manufacturing/processing activities which would have been desirable from employment generation point of view.

The crux of the difference between the government, on the one hand, and the Left parties, on the other, is on the nature of investment. Unless investments lead to production and employment generation, the stated objective of the SEZ policy will stand defeated. On the other hand, the present situation poses the danger of investment flowing into financial activities which can, at best, heat up the economy without any corresponding employment generation – a classic example of ‘jobless growth’. 

Nandigram in East Midnapur district of West Bengal is one of the seven SEZs sanctioned in West Bengal. The proposed SEZ will develop a mega chemical hub. The choice of this mega chemical hub in the Haldia region is the result of a long exercise undertaken by the government of India where this venue was chosen alongwith four other sites in the country. With the existing petroleum refinery of the IOC, the petrochemical plant at Haldia in the joint sector and the huge facility of Mitsubishi chemicals, this decision to have the mega chemical hub located here was a natural conclusion. Incidentally, the Haldia petrochemicals have led to 700 units in the downstream providing an employment to over 1 lakh people. The government of West Bengal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Oil Corporation to be an anchor investor for the project, while the Salim group will be the promoter for building the infrastructure. The Salim group will also build a 100 km six-lane expressway bypassing Kolkata and the new township at Rajarhat and Salt Lake, the eastern satellites. The expressway will be a major link and part of the central backbone of the road network in the state linking Darjeeling Hills in the north to the Sagar islands in the south. The expressway will also link to a bridge over Hooghly river which will connect South 24 Parganas and East Midnapur in the Haldia township.

Beyond this, there has been virtually no other progress towards the Nandigram SEZ. It has to be pointed out that unlike largely real estate-driven activities in the SEZs in other parts of the country, the West Bengal government has maintained and sponsored proposals for SEZs where 50 per cent of the total land will be used for actual industrial-processing activities with major emphasis on employment generation. 25 per cent of the land will be related to social infrastructure of this real economic activity. This position of the West Bengal government is identical to the position taken by the Left at all India level. The proposed SEZ at Nandigram will strictly adhere to this basis.

These columns have published the statement of the central committee of the CPI(M) describing the actual incidents in Nandigram. It is true that a particular document circulated by the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) had created confusion. The chief minister of West Bengal has categorically stated that no cognisance of that document need to be taken and that no progress on the project will take place until after widest possible consultations are held with elected representatives in the panchayat and the people of the area. As there has been no survey done and consultations held, the question of land acquisition does not arise before these processes take place. People’s Democracy has also editorially commented on the document by HDA. In any case, under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, HDA does not have the executive authority to notify acquisition.

Given these facts, therefore, the situation in Nandigram needs to be brought back to normal. Right now, roads, bridges and culverts remain disrupted with urgent need for repairing them. There is obstruction in doing that. This is putting the entire population in the four gram panchayat where incidents had taken place to great trouble.

It is only when such normalcy returns that a proper discourse on Nandigram SEZ can take place. There is no doubt that land acquisition will only take place if a credible plan for improving the quality of life and livelihood can be put forth. This is the overall approach of the CPI(M). 

Having stated all these, it is difficult not to comment on the nature of political forces that have come together in Nandigram. This conglomeration with BJP on the extreme right to the various naxalite groups on the extreme left, to put it most mildly, is strange and unprincipled. It is also important to note that distinctions need to be made between legitimate protest and planned violence.

With passage of time, all the pros and cons of the mega chemical hub project will be discussed and debated. No doubt, the compelling reason for any such project in the state will be premised on the question of employment generation and improving the lot of the poor and disadvantaged sections. As stated earlier, the Left Front had anticipated the need for such a project on the eve of the last elections. Therefore, the Left Front election manifesto had clearly stated: “Industrial parks have been decided to be set up in the task of modernising the traditional labour-intensive industries, and to make them competitive. Parks will be set up for foundry, jute, rubber, garments, textile, iron & steel, chemicals polymer, light engineering, and food” and “A minimum of four big industrial taluka and special economic zones will be set up in the state”.

It is with this manifesto that the Left Front had approached the electorate in the 2006 assembly elections. And, it is on the basis of such plans for the future that the Left received its massive mandate. Many personalities from different parts of the country who have now taken positions on the principles on which the state government is functioning may not be aware of the electoral commitments of the Left Front nor the nature of the mandate of the people. So far as the specifics of the project are concerned, no doubt, concerns will be addressed. 

PARTISANSHIP WITH THE POOR

The Left Front government in West Bengal has come back to office for the seventh time. This is unprecedented in the history of electoral politics of the country. The principle underlying reason has been the fact that the government has been partisan – partisan towards the poor. Lakhs of acres of land h
as been redistributed among the rural poor. Thousands of CPI(M) leaders and activists have laid down their lives to achieve the advance and empowerment of the poor in the state. And, it is with their support that the Left Front is trying to improve the overall economic situation in the state and develop industries. It will be foolhardy to assume that the CPI(M) can relinquish the achievements that the peopleof the state have scored. 

There is no conflict between agriculture and industry. But the nature of the industry, the manner in which it takes place is not completely under the control of the state government. In the present age of globalisation, the major direction of neo-liberal policies is aimed at de-industrialisation in third world economies. In the face of this, industrial development, particularly in manufacturing and processing sectors, is, in itself, a struggle against those policies. It is true that private corporate’s way of viewing industries and that of the Left will differ. Marx and Lenin had written a lot on this in the context of Luddites and Narodniks. The working class does not demand the closing down of an industry because it exploits them, they work for changing the nature of the ownership. As communists, we know that socialism is the future, and, therefore, the improvement of the material basis of the economic activities is important. But these struggles cannot overlook the specifics of the immediate context. The struggle for industrialisation in West Bengal will continue without giving up the struggle for consolidating and further improving agriculture in the state. The bottom line is the constant need for improving the conditions of the working people – be they in the rural areas or in cities. And, the lesson of learning from the people will never be forgotten. 

(Concluded)

Singur, Nandigram and Industrialisation of West Bengal-II

http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_nilotpal.htm

Nilotpal Basu

THE SEZ QUESTION AND NANDIGRAM

There has been extensive coverage on the stand of the Left parties on the current SEZ policy of the government in these columns. The major areas of our disagreement with the extant policy pertain to nature of the land use, extent of land use, the tax package and the rehabilitation package. The design of the current package of the government has undergone a qualitative change when SEZ rules were framed under the Act and process of approvals which has led to sanctions being given to 237 SEZ proposals.

This huge number immediately brings to the fore the contrast with China which had successfully executed the SEZ approach to ensure investment and employment generation. The total number of SEZs in China is only 6 and they are concentrated on manufacturing exports by linking these zones to physical infrastructure like port and other transport facilities.

In India, apart from the already sanctioned 237 SEZs, the Board of Approval gave the ‘in-principle’ approval for another 166 SEZs within less than a year of the promulgation of the SEZ rules. A scan of the number and nature of these SEZs reveal a clear-cut picture of regional and sectoral imbalance. Of the 237 sanctioned SEZ proposals, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu account for 147 SEZs which is 60 per cent of the total sanctions. Again, 148 out of the 237 SEZs approved so far are in the IT sector. Further, preliminary studies are also revealing a major possibility of real estate activities in many of these proposed and sanctioned SEZs instead of actual manufacturing/processing activities which would have been desirable from employment generation point of view.

The crux of the difference between the government, on the one hand, and the Left parties, on the other, is on the nature of investment. Unless investments lead to production and employment generation, the stated objective of the SEZ policy will stand defeated. On the other hand, the present situation poses the danger of investment flowing into financial activities which can, at best, heat up the economy without any corresponding employment generation – a classic example of ‘jobless growth’.

Nandigram in East Midnapur district of West Bengal is one of the seven SEZs sanctioned in West Bengal. The proposed SEZ will develop a mega chemical hub. The choice of this mega chemical hub in the Haldia region is the result of a long exercise undertaken by the government of India where this venue was chosen alongwith four other sites in the country. With the existing petroleum refinery of the IOC, the petrochemical plant at Haldia in the joint sector and the huge facility of Mitsubishi chemicals, this decision to have the mega chemical hub located here was a natural conclusion. Incidentally, the Haldia petrochemicals have led to 700 units in the downstream providing an employment to over 1 lakh people. The government of West Bengal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Oil Corporation to be an anchor investor for the project, while the Salim group will be the promoter for building the infrastructure. The Salim group will also build a 100 km six-lane expressway bypassing Kolkata and the new township at Rajarhat and Salt Lake, the eastern satellites. The expressway will be a major link and part of the central backbone of the road network in the state linking Darjeeling Hills in the north to the Sagar islands in the south. The expressway will also link to a bridge over Hooghly river which will connect South 24 Parganas and East Midnapur in the Haldia township.

Beyond this, there has been virtually no other progress towards the Nandigram SEZ. It has to be pointed out that unlike largely real estate-driven activities in the SEZs in other parts of the country, the West Bengal government has maintained and sponsored proposals for SEZs where 50 per cent of the total land will be used for actual industrial-processing activities with major emphasis on employment generation. 25 per cent of the land will be related to social infrastructure of this real economic activity. This position of the West Bengal government is identical to the position taken by the Left at all India level. The proposed SEZ at Nandigram will strictly adhere to this basis.

These columns have published the statement of the central committee of the CPI(M) describing the actual incidents in Nandigram. It is true that a particular document circulated by the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) had created confusion. The chief minister of West Bengal has categorically stated that no cognisance of that document need to be taken and that no progress on the project will take place until after widest possible consultations are held with elected representatives in the panchayat and the people of the area. As there has been no survey done and consultations held, the question of land acquisition does not arise before these processes take place. People’s Democracy has also editorially commented on the document by HDA. In any case, under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, HDA does not have the executive authority to notify acquisition.

Given these facts, therefore, the situation in Nandigram needs to be brought back to normal. Right now, roads, bridges and culverts remain disrupted with urgent need for repairing them. There is obstruction in doing that. This is putting the entire population in the four gram panchayat where incidents had taken place to great trouble.

It is only when such normalcy returns that a proper discourse on Nandigram SEZ can take place. There is no doubt that land acquisition will only take place if a credible plan for improving the quality of life and livelihood can be put forth. This is the overall approach of the CPI(M).

Having stated all these, it is difficult not to comment on the nature of political forces that have come together in Nandigram. This conglomeration with BJP on the extreme right to the various naxalite groups on the extreme left, to put it most mildly, is strange and unprincipled. It is also important to note that distinctions need to be made between legitimate protest and planned violence.

With passage of time, all the pros and cons of the mega chemical hub project will be discussed and debated. No doubt, the compelling reason for any such project in the state will be premised on the question of employment generation and improving the lot of the poor and disadvantaged sections. As stated earlier, the Left Front had anticipated the need for such a project on the eve of the last elections. Therefore, the Left Front election manifesto had clearly stated: “Industrial parks have been decided to be set up in the task of modernising the traditional labour-intensive industries, and to make them competitive. Parks will be set up for foundry, jute, rubber, garments, textile, iron & steel, chemicals polymer, light engineering, and food” and “A minimum of four big industrial taluka and special economic zones will be set up in the state”.

It is with this manifesto that the Left Front had approached the electorate in the 2006 assembly elections. And, it is on the basis of such plans for the future that the Left received its massive mandate. Many personalities from different parts of the country who have now taken positions on the principles on which the state government is functioning may not be aware of the electoral commitments of the Left Front nor the nature of the mandate of the people. So far as the specifics of the project are concerned, no doubt, concerns will be addressed.

PARTISANSHIP WITH THE POOR

The Left Front government in West Bengal has come back to office for the seventh time. This is unprecedented in the history of electoral politics of the country. The principle underlying reason has been the fact that the government has been partisan – partisan towards the poor. Lakhs of acres of land has been redistributed among the rural poor. Thousands of CPI(M) leaders and activists have laid down their lives to achieve the advance and empowerment of the poor in the state. And, it is with their support that the Left Front is trying to improve the overall economic situation in the state and develop industries. It will be foolhardy to assume that the CPI(M) can relinquish the achievements that the peopleof the state have scored.

There is no conflict between agriculture and industry. But the nature of the industry, the manner in which it takes place is not completely under the control of the state government. In the present age of globalisation, the major direction of neo-liberal policies is aimed at de-industrialisation in third world economies. In the face of this, industrial development, particularly in manufacturing and processing sectors, is, in itself, a struggle against those policies. It is true that private corporate’s way of viewing industries and that of the Left will differ. Marx and Lenin had written a lot on this in the context of Luddites and Narodniks. The working class does not demand the closing down of an industry because it exploits them, they work for changing the nature of the ownership. As communists, we know that socialism is the future, and, therefore, the improvement of the material basis of the economic activities is important. But these struggles cannot overlook the specifics of the immediate context. The struggle for industrialisation in West Bengal will continue without giving up the struggle for consolidating and further improving agriculture in the state. The bottom line is the constant need for improving the conditions of the working people – be they in the rural areas or in cities. And, the lesson of learning from the people will never be forgotten.

(Concluded)

The New maharajas of India

What is it like to be a modern-day Indian prince? Devinder Sharma and Bhaskar Goswami explain how the laws of the land are being redefined to bring in the reality of the royal tag for the rich and beautiful.

It took nearly 15 years to ensure that the 554 princely estates scattered throughout the country for which India’s first Home Minister Sardar Patel initiated the process to finally integrate with the new nation. Some 45 years later, and in the 60th year of India’s Independence, almost an equal number of princely estates are once again being carved out.

A new breed of Maharajas is all set to grab the crown.

The only difference being that the new princely estates comes within the gambit of a strange sounding acronym – SEZ – meaning Special Economic Zones. As the name suggests, these cut out zones will have a special status, very special indeed. Except for floating its own currency, these zones would operate more or less like a princely estate, and would even have special courts to try the economic offences.

Download the full article The New maharajas of India

TVR Simple, misguided by congress: CM

HT Correspondent
Lucknow, January 25

Advertisement

…dubs Oppn as selfish, opportunist

CHIEF MINISTER Mulayam Singh Yadav was in his element today, as he came down heavily on his political rivals and adversaries. Replying to the debate on motion of thanks to the Governor’s address in the Vidhan Sabha, he spared no one and used all kinds of adjectives against his opponents.

The Chief Minister strongly condemned the opposition for boycotting the House despite apology and regrets by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan. Saying that there were people worse than Naresh Agarwal in the Opposition, he dubbed the opposition members as ‘selfish, opportunist, shameless and blind’ and held them responsible for weakening the democracy.

He said that those who were not present to listen to his reply could face serious consequences, but later corrected himself, saying “Par Hum Aisa Karenge Nahin” as the people would give them a befitting reply. He claimed that 70 per cent of them would not return to the House after the elections.

Giving a clean chit to Governor TV Rajeswar, the Chief Minister said that the Governor was simple and well-meaning but was being misguided by the Congress which was pressurising him to send adverse reports against the UP government.

Reacting to Lalji Tandon’s comment that Naresh Agarwal should resign as Kalraj Mishra, a minister in the BJP regime, had done when a member had made wild allegations of corruption against Mishra, the Chief Minister said that Mishra was actually involved in corruption and he (Mulayam) had protected him. “I want to bring it on record that I saved Kalraj Mishra though the allegations were true”, he added.

The Congress agents had taken money for creating hurdles in setting up an industry of Reliance group, the Chief Minister alleged, saying that the Congress had no problems in SEZs being established in other states because its target was Uttar Pradesh and his government. He held the Congress responsible for illiteracy and poverty as it served the political purposes of the party. The Central Government’s coffers were open for Congress-ruled states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand but various developmental projects of UP were pending with the Centre for obvious reasons, he regretted while claiming credit for introducing several welfare schemes, including unemployment allowance and Kanya Dhan Yojana in the State.

Quoting various reports, Yadav claimed that the maximum number of farmers had committed suicide in Congress-ruled states, with Karnataka, (where the Congress ruled for a long time), at the top with 5910 suicides,while no case of farmers’ suicides was reported in Uttar Pradesh where the farmers were the most benefited lot. The Congress-led Central Government had announced a special package of Rs 18,000 crore for Vidarbha in Maharashtra but there was nothing for UP.

Expressing concern over 1.5 per cent contribution of the agriculture sector in the country’s economic growth of 8.5 per cent, the Chief Minister gave figures to establish that 78 per cent farmers of Punjab were in debt followed by Karnataka (64 per cent) and Maharashtra (54 per cent) while the figure stood at only 40 per cent in UP and claimed that UP was performing much better on all fronts than many other states.

Government is only 'thinking of' waiver of cooperative farm loan

http://www.hindu.com/2007/01/26/stories/2007012610…

Special Correspondent
A clear-cut announcement on this is expected in the Budget

State’s industrial infrastructure to get a boost
Government plans to set up SEZs in tier-two cities

IN DETAIL: Governor T.N. Chaturvedi addressing the joint Legislature session in Bangalore on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Bangalore: The Governor’s address has put to rest the recent confusion over the proposed waiver of cooperative farm loans, with a clear statement that the Government “is only thinking” of such a move in the interests of farmers.

The confusion in political circles, in particular between Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, thus apparently looks settled for the present. A clear-cut announcement is expected on this in the ensuing Budget.

Welfare initiatives

In his address to the joint session of the State Legislature here on Thursday, Governor T.N. Chaturvedi referred to the people’s welfare initiatives undertaken by the Government, including the proposed waiver of farm loans, the proposed ban on arrack from the coming excise year and the implementation of the financial package provided by the Centre to prevent farmers’ suicides.

The Governor referred to the buoyant financial position in the State, which enabled the Government to add several new welfare schemes, including provision of bicycles to high school boys and girls from below poverty line families, and the recent scheme to constitute a Greater Bangalore Development Authority.

The Governor said the Government was “thinking of” waiving the loans obtained by farmers from cooperative institutions and the loan waiver scheme would be implemented with funds obtained by retrieval of encroached lands in Bangalore and their disposal as per rules.

“A comprehensive study is being made as to the quantum of loans to be waived and the categories of farmers.”

Meanwhile, the Government has constituted a Cabinet subcommittee to oversee the implementation of a special package (Rs. 2,689.64 crore) of the Centre, announced for six districts (Belgaum, Hassan, Chikmagalur, Chitradurga, Shimoga and Kodagu) of the State where a high incidence of farmers’ suicides have been reported.

He also announced a two-pronged approach to step up industrial infrastructure in the State in line with the industrial policy announced recently. The Government would acquire land wherever feasible and form industrial layouts to an extent of at least 5,000 acres a year in order to meet the surging demand.

Further, to upgrade the quality of industrial infrastructure in the industrial estates, Rs. 500 crore would be provided by the Government.

Mega SEZ

The Governor said apart from the establishment of special economic zones by the private sector, a mega SEZ dedicated to the petroleum sector had also been planned in Mangalore. The Government was also committed to establishing SEZs in tier-two cities apart from the approval received for establishing SEZs at Hassan, Shimoga and Mangalore.

Yet another announcement related to a new system in the distribution of foodgrains. He said action was being taken to adopt the unit system wherein all ration cardholders would be eligible for a maximum of 25 kg — 20 kg of rice and 5 kg of wheat.

With reference to the information technology and bio-technology sectors, the Governor said the Government would organise a Bangalore Nano event this year.

Of the 208 new IT companies which were commissioned last year, four were listed among the Fortune 500 companies and 11 were billion-dollar companies. The biotech sector had also witnessed a big growth with an investment of over Rs. 500 crore and the entry of 35 new biotech companies, he added.

In the field of e-governance, the Government would soon commission an e-procurement platform and to begin with it would be implemented in select departments.