NICOSIA: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after trying to change the country’s history through his involvement in numerous conflicts in the Middle East and Nagorno Karabakh, appears to be determined to change the geography also by trying to create a second Bosporus strait. His plan is to dig an artificial 45-kilometer canal, parallel to the Bosporus, linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. But this grandiose project, which Erdogan himself in the past described as “crazy”, may prove to be a white elephant expected to cause huge ecological catastrophe, anger the inhabitants of Istanbul and create problems with Russia.
Erdogan always had a strong penchant for megaprojects, like the world’s largest airport in Istanbul, a railway tunnel under the Bosporus, a third bridge across Bosporus, a giant mosque, a billion-dollar port complex, and a 1000-room presidential palace in Ankara. In this way, he created thousands of new jobs, dished lucrative jobs to his cronies and increased his power base.
However, some of these projects did not perform as good as the Turkish President expected. For example, the Italian-Turkish consortium operating the third Bosporus Bridge and the Marmara motorway walked away from the project and is expected to be replaced by a Chinese consortium. Also, the Istanbul airport, mainly due to the devastating effect of the pandemic, is losing money and the Turkish government is trying to get China’s ICB Bank to refinance about USD 6.2 billion of its loans.
The cost of the Istanbul Canal is expected to amount between USD 13 billion to USD 25 billion. Planning for the project started in 2011, but it was put to the back burner for years. According to the Turkish government, the canal will help moderate traffic through the Bosporus, reducing the number of ships and oil tankers that pass through Istanbul.
It is difficult to understand the reason why the mercurial Turkish President announced last month that tenders for the construction of the canal project would be awarded very soon. He argues that the project will attract much-needed investment and invigorate economic activity, while the government estimates that annual transit fees from the canal will be about USD 5 billion.
Those against the project say that in addition to uncontrolled building development, the Istanbul Canal project will put the country into deep and unnecessary debt, while Turkey is currently facing massive foreign debt, an inflation rate exceeding 17 per cent, and depleted foreign currency reserves.
Economist Mustafa Sonmez says that the project “lacks any economic rationality, while the Bosporus already guarantees good conditions for shipping and allows sufficient passage.”
Turkey’s environmentalists hate the project because it will destroy large forested areas bordering the Black Sea, damage Istanbul’s freshwater resources and the ecosystem, while it would lead to the creation of a second city with an estimated population of two million along its banks. Furthermore, it will cut land to the west of Istanbul which could be used as an evacuation zone in case a major earthquake hits the country’s biggest city, which sits on an active fault.
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DR SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY: A POPULAR AND POPULIST LEADER
Subramanian Swamy is like the dark chocolates in an assortment, some are hard and chewy, while some are soft-centred or sweet, Swamy can be all of these. He is hard and chewy as an opponent, soft-centred to his friends and sweet to his dogs; around the world, dark chocolate is considered better for you and a more sophisticated taste.
Before I met Subramanian Swamy for the first time, I was informed that he had impeccable manners and that he was very fussy about politeness and correct etiquette, all this giving me the impression he might be a rather scary character. Our first meeting was at his family home over tea and halwa, I was a little bit nervous but Dr Swamy was welcoming and immediately launched into an introduction of himself.
Subramanian Swamy was born at sunrise on 15 September 1939 under the star of Hasta. His father Sitaram was the Director of the Central Statistical Organisation of India and a mathematician. His mother Padmavathi was the daughter of a policeman who married at fourteen, she was/is the source of his strength. Padmavathi’s unconditional love for and support of young Swamy’s ambitions gave him the confidence to become the man we know today. I believe his relationship with his mother is why he is so comfortable with and promoting of women; he has said his mother was a determined woman, who even learnt English from a book so she could write to him in English at Harvard. Padmavathi was also in some respects his tutor and introduced him to the revolutionary reign and theories of Mao Zedong, henceforth China has been a theme running throughout his career.
Swamy was educated at Hindu College in Delhi, Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata and Harvard University in the US on a full scholarship PhD in Economics. Swamy’s original aspirations did not tend towards politics, after graduating he lent toward academia becoming a Professor first at Harvard, then following a hiccup about the Chair of Chinese Studies at the Delhi School of Economics he became Professor of Mathematical Economics at IIT, he always was and still is very studious. Maths, economics, transparency, and accuracy are in his blood.
Like his father who dared to confront Prime Minister Nehru, Swamy is not afraid of confrontation. I might go as far as to say he enjoys an argument as he has the skills of a barrister when arguing a point, like many in the judiciary he does not suffer fools or fakes gladly. He has a razor-sharp wit, which can occasionally cut to the quick, but he is loyal and generous with his friendship and wisdom.
Notwithstanding his academic early years, Swamy soon embraced politics with Indian characteristics, his advocacy was for free markets and the rule of law, his blend of cultural conservatism and liberal economic ideas have made him both popular and controversial. Nevertheless, he rapidly established a reputation as a formidable leader and opponent. He knows India North to South and East to West; he speaks four languages fluently and can get by in several others thanks to the many Sanskrit words they hold.
His political biography is wide-ranging and impressive, beginning with Sarvodaya, the people’s movement begun by J.P. Narayan (JPN), whom he met at Harvard in 1968. Post Harvard, Swamy undertook a sabbatical in rural areas in an attempt to persuade landlords to donate a piece of land to the poor; unsurprisingly he had to report to JPN that for this mission to be successful Sarvodaya needed political clout. It took three years for JPN to come back in agreement, and when Dr Swamy became an MP with Jan Sangh in 1974 he took JPN around India with him but never persuaded JPN to join Jan Sangh or any other organisation. Thanks to Swamy, the RSS provided a nominee for General Secretary of the Jan Sangh and this provided the organisation the JPN anti-corruption movement that turned India against Indira Gandhi and toppled the Emergency.
Swamy has been a Minister with a double portfolio twice and been official or unofficial advisor to six Prime Ministers. His experience in law, commerce, labour standards, and international trade, is pretty comprehensive by anyone’s reckoning. He has been in the Lok Sabha three times and this is his third stint in the Rajya Sabha.
He attributes his basic knowledge of the law to his Parsi in-law P.R.Vakil and later his learned wife Roxna, a lawyer, who taught him how to file public interest litigations. Swamy is no stranger in the courts, I think it is fair to say he is driven by injustice. His fearsome intelligence, unrivalled ability, and aggressive perseverance to justify his point are legendary. By the way, this ability to debate extends from the courtroom and into his political and private life, he is quite comfortable thrashing out differences of opinion with politicos, friends, and family. When agreement cannot be reached, he cordially accepts and respects the difference of opinion without umbrage.
I have previously written about his meeting with the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham and other leaders. I have also written about the various exciting episodes in his political career and the one thing that strikes me is the consistency of his mission, what it means to be a Hindu. Swamy is both popular and populist, interacting with 10.3 million Twitter followers, reaching out through TV shows, and the VHS network to his supporters. On many issues, he is the voice of much of the nationalist population and it is remarkable how he is prepared to help expecting no reward across so many situations. After ages of being a politician, he is a pragmatist and a strategist, extraordinarily well connected and best of all accessible, which is how over the years I have come to know more about him.
RATIONAL ELOQUENCE IS THE NEED OF AN HOUR
Despite all the criticism, India is the fastest country to have carried out the inoculation drive efficiently by vaccinating 15 crore Indians in just three-and-a-half months.
The entire world is currently grappling with the unfortunate yet inevitable crisis of the Covid -19 pandemic. In this situation, every government in the world has dedicated all its available resources to battle this deadly virus in the pursuit of saving their citizens.
What is clearly established in these Covid times is that saving the lives of citizens is of paramount importance. However, while doing so, the current ruling establishments of respective countries also have a crucial responsibility of ensuring that all the other economic aspects of the country are affected in the minimum possible way.
At the same time, the establishments are struggling to enhance the entire available health infrastructure to meet the growing demands from patients worldwide.
While the nations have one of the most significant battles to be won against Covid, another battle that they are facing is the application of opinions from their own citizens and at times, from the judiciary of the respective nations as well.
While India, compared to the current scenario of the other nations, certainly is in a difficult spot, however, the establishment is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the balance between demand and supply of its current health sector infrastructure needs.
While the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is efficiently dealing with the challenges in the country, it has been a victim of the vocal and many times illogical pseudo-liberal intellect which are often spearheaded by the politicians of the similar clout from behind the curtains.
While a lot has been spoken about how the situation must not be politicised, the opposition, however, is not leaving a single opportunity to put to shame the basic essence of a federal structure by defying the spirit of working together hand in glove during the current times of crisis.
Not to mention the brilliant way how the legal framework is misused by these pseudo-liberals to create an antigovernment narrative even in such times. While one cannot deny another the constitutional right, however, if the legal rhetoric comes out to being irrational, then when will the rational debate begin.
The judicial prowess is considered as of the most appellate in the country by everyone because of its unquestionable and rational behavioural pattern based on every important aspect of the book of the law. The nation expects rational solutions from the judicial systems and not indulges in blame game as for it, the political opposition, though with baseless allegations, outshines everyone.
However, when the same judicial voice happens to pinpoint one entity in a manner that appears to have lacked a rational comparison and study, then the same book of law has given the right to question to ordinary citizens, no matter who an individual is up against.
Let me give a counter-argument to the judicial rhetoric that has become the talk of the town and is being further fueled by pseudo-liberal oppositions. The Chennai High Court held the Election Commission (EC) responsible for the increasing Covid cases in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, the honourable apex court of the nation ordered an immediate halt to the election and campaign affairs in the state up for elections, not to forget that political outfits had voluntarily decided to do so before the court’s opinion.
A common citizen expects the apex judicial body to give both the judgement and the solution at one time. However, it should be based on the highest moral and rational ground, in a manner which is unquestionable by the citizens is the least they expect.
In the above-mentioned case, I want to particularly highlight some important points. The EC is an autonomous body and the constitution has bestowed it upon the duty of conducting elections on time to ensure that a people-appointed government is formed within the set time frame. The decision to hold elections in these five states was taken in November-December last year at a time when the first wave of Covid-19 reasonably subsided and the second wave was predicted, however not of this intense nature. Therefore, it was decided that the elections will be held in April and May.
The court through the EC has slammed the political parties for the increase in Covid cases. At this point, I would particularly like to indicate the common citizens’ expectations from the apex judicial body which has been given incomparable authority by the book of the law. The court, taking Suo moto cognisance of the matter, should have decided to postpone the elections and also should have taken the responsibility to find a solution if elections were not to be held.
With its power of judgement, it should have ensured that the elections are postponed without the breakdown of the federal system at the same time. Now instead of doing so, when the apex judicial institution holds someone responsible, the common citizen wants to invoke his right to ask given by the same book of the law. Besides, while stating that Covid is spreading due to campaign rallies, the court should also comment on why Covid cases are increasing in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, and other states in the absence of elections. Similarly, on the issue of the price of vaccines, the courts have created an ambiguity amongst the citizens of the nation as the detailed facts continue to be unexplained to them.
Today, not only India but the entire world has accepted the fact that vaccination is one of the most crucial remedies against the deadly coronavirus and hence subsequently there is an increasing demand and support for the vaccination drive in the country as well. The Central Government has gradually provided free vaccines to those above 45 years. With the intent of encouraging the vaccine manufacturers in our own country, the central government as well paid Rs 4,500 crore to Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech combined.
Now we must understand the basic dynamics of the overall business to be able to comment on the same. When the first lot of vaccines was sought by the government and the manufacturers produced it, it was based on a calculative study and approach and also a risk as the results of the vaccination were not known at a large-scale level. Hence, the price was capped to a certain extent and the quantity of production was limited for reasons. However, as the positive results of the vaccination drive were evident, both the government and manufacturers channelised their resources to increase the vaccine production to their best capacity; however, hindrances to the same continue to persist.
Now in phase two of vaccine production, the manufacturers have increased the prices at the same time keeping philanthropic viewpoint. However, now it may have been designed to suit their business model as well. Hence, the price difference can be justified as per the perspective of economic grounds.
However, the courts’ intervention on higher pricing on the grounds of life-saving drugs seems to be humbly debatable as there are various other drugs in use in the markets without which lives can be put at risk. If a very small example has to be quoted, even if the medicines for blood sugar and blood pressure are not taken, the consequences can be fatal and the prices of these medicines in combination are significantly more than what has to be spent for two doses of vaccines.
Predicting the high demand for vaccines, in January itself, the vaccine manufacturers had argued that large scale productions at minimal pricing would be difficult. Now taking advantage of the critical conditions and filling the coffers with revenue is certainly wrong, however, emptying all the coffers of revenue as well cannot be a possibility for any entrepreneur. Taking an overall view of the situation, the government decided to give freedom to the vaccine manufacturers to decide the prices of vaccines for the states and Centre.
To draw a similar comparison, electricity is also a necessity. However, they are provided at different rates to different sections of society. While industrial and commercial establishments have to pay more, prices are different for residential purposes and even cheaper for farmers and poor people. The same is the case with the price of the vaccinations. No pseudo-liberal class in the country will ever take efforts to explain these logics to people because their basic existence is based on leading people astray for their own motivated benefits.
However, the common citizens of this country with logical sense shall always expect courts to not fall prey to these ulterior motives of pseudo-liberals. People of this nation in the last six years have been privy to the honest governance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the efforts of politicising such serious situations have now become the identity of these pseudo-liberals.
The nation was an audience to the petty political trick the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did during a video conference with the Prime Minister by airing his speech live. The Maharashtra government, led by Maha Vikas Aghadi, is doing nothing but playing blame game politics in such a grave situation. The Ministers of the Maharashtra government have no idea even about the needs of the state when it comes to vaccines and the government goes on to comment how the Union Government is not helping them.
While initially, the Maharashtra government decided to float a global tender, later it went on to change its policy to procuring it directly. A state like Maharashtra, in such crucial situations, cannot afford such indecisiveness from the government. I particularly want to highlight here that out of all the aid that respective states are getting from the Central government, Maharashtra is the highest receiver amongst all.
The political opposition and at times, even the judicial institutions might overlook the efforts the Modi government is taking day and night to enhance the infrastructure which helps us fight the Covid battle. However, the people of this nation are with Prime Minister Modi in this battle.
While one very small section of the society is criticising Modi governance in such times, the majority of the nation is witnessing the fact that India, despite all the challenges, is the fastest country to have carried out the vaccination drive efficiently by vaccinating 15 crore Indians in just three and a half months.
Developed countries like the USA and others are in a state of confusion when it comes to setting the target of vaccination. However, India with its robust systems and under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving heaven and earth to ensure maximum possible vaccination.
Democratic Indians are always together in voicing their opinions. However, they cannot accept biased comparisons from the elements of society doing it with an intention of falsifying them. In such a situation, we, as a nation, look up to the apex judicial system as we trust the rule of law over everything. But the very same Indians are also not oblivious to the fact the same rule of law has given them the right to seek, the right to question, and the right to protest. The consequence of which shall always lead to the fact that democratic Indians, under the ambit of law, shall always question everything but rational eloquence.
Vishwas Pathak is the media head of BJP Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal.
ARRANGEMENTS BEING MADE TO BRING KERALA WOMAN REMAINS: DEPUTY ENVOY
NEW DELHI : Israeli deputy envoy Rony Yedidia Clein informed that the Israeli embassy is in touch with the family of a Kerala woman who was killed in a rocket attack in the Israel city of Ashkelon. He added that arrangements are being made to bring her mortal remains to India.
Soumya Santosh, a 30-year-old Indian woman hailing from Idukki in Kerala was among those killed in a rocket attack by a Palestinian Islamist group in Israel on Tuesday. She was working as a caretaker to an elderly woman at a house in the Ashkelon, which borders the Gaza strip. According to her family, she was living in Israel for the last seven years. Her husband and nine-year-old son are living in Kerala.
“We have been in touch with the family. She was talking to her husband when this happened and I can imagine how horrendous it’s for the husband. I can only sympathise with what he must be feeling,” said Clein in an exclusive interview with ANI. “Ambassador [Ron Malka] spoke with the family yesterday and conveyed his condolences and condolences of entire Israel. We’re in touch with the family and with the embassy in Tel Aviv that is arranging to have her body flown back to India, to be properly taken care of,” she added. Israeli ambassador Ron Malka on Wednesday said that he has spoken to the family of Soumya Santosh and extended his condolences on behalf of the state of Israel. Taking to Twitter, Malka said his heart goes out to Santosh’s nine-year-old son, who lost his mother at such a young age. “I just spoke to the family of Ms Soumya Santosh, the victim of the Hamas terrorist strike. I expressed my sorrow for their unfortunate loss and extended my condolences on behalf of the state of Israel. The whole country is mourning her loss and we are here for them,” Malka had tweeted.
AT LEAST 65 KILLED IN GAZA, 7 IN ISRAEL AS CLASHES INTENSIFY
The death toll in Gaza has reached 65, and seven in Israel as the Hamas group launched a new barrage of airstrikes, in the midst of the deepening unrest between Israel and Palestine. Al Jazeera reported that heavy bombardment on the Gaza Strip continued, killing Hamas Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa, in one of the Israeli airstrikes along with our senior members, the Hamas group confirmed.
The death toll in Gaza rose to 65 Palestinians, including 16 children and five women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. At least 365 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women.
Meanwhile, a five-year-old boy was killed and at least 20 Israelis were hurt as Gaza launched a fresh spade of rocket attacks that set off warning sirens in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and cities in the south on Wednesday night, reported The Times of Israel.
In a rare incident, rocket shrapnel punctured the shelter’s window, critically injuring the minor and also wounding his mother. He was pronounced dead several hours later, reported local media
With the boy’s death, the number of fatalities has reached seven, including five Israeli civilians, an Indian national and an IDF soldier killed by anti-tank missile fire on the Gaza border.
According to the Israeli army, 180 rockets were fired at Israel since 6 a.m. on Wednesday, of which 40 fell in Gaza. In response to the rocket fire, the IDF launched strikes on upwards of 500 targets in the Gaza Strip, aimed at Hamas personnel, weaponry and infrastructure throughout the enclave
The Israeli police have said that 374 people have been arrested so far tonight in rioting throughout the country, with 36 cops hurt during events, reported The Times of Israel.
The ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine marks a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, which is a key hub for Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
A senior Hamas official on Wednesday said the terror organisation is ready to end the current intensive fighting with Israel, the Times of Israel reported citing the Russian foreign ministry’s statement.
Deputy Chairman of the Hamas political bureau conditioned it on Israel halting strikes and on the international community pressuring the Jewish state to end “military actions” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
Tensions between Israel and Palestine are rapidly rising with the ramping up of rocket attacks and the United Nations has warned that the conflict is moving towards a ‘full-scale war’.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, called on both sides to de-escalate tensions the day before.
“Stop the fire immediately. We are escalating towards full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take responsibility for de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid for by ordinary people. The UN is working with all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now,” he tweeted.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday (local time) spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israel-Palestine conflict and said he hopes that the hostilities will conclude.
“My expectation and hope are that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory. But I had a conversation for a while with the — with the Prime Minister of Israel. And I think that — I hope that we will see this concluding sooner than later,” Biden told reporters at the White House. The US President spoke on the issue for the first time since the violence erupted at the start of the week.
According to a White House readout, Biden in a phone call to Netanyahu condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people while protecting civilians.
He also conveyed the US encouragement of a pathway toward restoring a sustainable calm and shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.
Biden also updated Netanyahu on the United States’ diplomatic engagement with regional countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, as well as with Palestinian officials.
The two leaders agreed to maintain the close consultation between their teams, which has included consistent engagement by their respective foreign ministers, defence ministers, chiefs of defence, and national security advisors, and to stay in touch personally in the days ahead, according to White House.
Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Netanyahu and expressed his concerns over the ongoing violence.
According to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Blinken and Netanyahu discussed the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and the Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.
The ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine marks a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, which is a key hub for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. With ramping up of rocket attacks and airstrikes from both sides, concerns have emerged that the conflict is likely to evolve into a full-blown war.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza rose to 65 Palestinians, including 16 children and five women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. WITH ANI INPUTS
HOW PM KISAN & DBT SCHEME PROVED TO BE EMPOWERMENT TOOLS
According to food and public distribution authorities, Rs 66,896.87 crore was saved due to the removal of over 2.98 crore bogus beneficiaries from the system, with the help of technology. The JAM Trinity has eliminated the web of middlemen and is a fine example of preventing corruption through technology.
“We must ensure that technology is accessible, affordable, and adds value”
—PM Narendra Modi
Farmers have always been at the epicentre of the Modi government’s economic philosophy that encourages enterprise and inclusivity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the eighth instalment of financial benefits under “PM-KISAN” on 14 May 2021. This will enable the transfer of more than Rs 19,000 crore to more than 9.5 crores beneficiary farmer families. Under the “PM-KISAN” scheme, a financial benefit of Rs 6,000 per year is provided to the eligible beneficiary farmer families, payable in three equal, four-monthly instalments of Rs 2,000 each. The fund is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. In this scheme, “Samman Rashi” of over Rs 1.15 lakh crore has been transferred to farmer families so far. This annual financial support is given to farmers having combined landholding or ownership of up to two hectares. Since its inception in December 2018, the Modi government has given seven instalments to these farmers. The Central government’s Rs 75,000-crore annual scheme aims to cover 125 million farmers, irrespective of the size of their landholding in the country.
The scheme defines a family as a husband, a wife, and minor children. The fund of Rs 2,000 is directly transferred to the bank accounts of the farmers/farmer’s family, with no room for middlemen or pilferage of any kind. Who is eligible for the PM Kisan scheme? Well, landholding farmers’ families with cultivable landholding in their names can apply under this scheme. Farmers from both urban and rural areas, small and marginal farmers families, are all eligible. Who is not eligible for the PM Kisan scheme? Institutional landholders, present or retired officers and employees of State/Central government, as well as PSUs and government autonomous bodies, cannot apply for the scheme. Again, beneficiaries with higher economic status are not eligible, either.
Those who pay income tax, farmer families holding constitutional posts, professionals like doctors, engineers and lawyers and retired pensioners with a monthly pension of over Rs 10,000, are not eligible.
How to register for PM Kisan Samman Nidhi?
Farmers have to approach the local revenue officer or a nodal officer nominated by the State government. The Common Service Centres (CSCs) have also been authorised to do the registration of the farmers for the Scheme upon payment of fees. Prime Minister Modi’s ease of doing business (EODB), is not limited to only big corporates.
For instance, on the official website of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana – pmkisan.gov.in, there’s a section called the “Farmers’ Corner”. Farmers can register themselves through the Farmers’ Corner on the portal and know the status of their payment. Apart from Aadhaar which is mandatory, landholding papers and bank account details have to be submitted to the concerned authorities.
During the Nehru-Gandhi era, 85% of what was allocated to farmers or marginalised sections was pilfered by commission agents and nefarious middlemen. However, Prime Minister Modi has completely dismantled the “Cut Money” culture. For instance, recently, while wheat harvesting was in full swing in Punjab and Haryana, farmers, for the first time, started receiving minimum support price (MSP) payment directly in their bank accounts under the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme (DBT).
Over Rs 5,385 crore has been transferred so far in the ongoing procurement season by the Central and State procurement agencies to farmers, against the purchase of their crops in both these states, again a vindication of how the Modi government has made last-mile delivery, a pleasant reality. In Punjab, over Rs 2,600 crore has been paid directly to accounts of farmers till 20 April 2021, under the DBT scheme. Over 54 lakh tonnes of wheat have arrived in ‘mandis’ in Punjab till 20 April, out of which 50 lakh tonnes have been procured and more than 20 lakh tonnes lifted by various government agencies. Amid the ongoing procurement and payments under the DBT, several farmers in Ludhiana Amritsar, Moga and elsewhere are actually relieved that they do not have to run from pillar to post and are very contented with the DBT mechanism. Again, in Haryana, over Rs 2,785 crore has been transferred directly to the accounts of farmers till 20 April 2021.
The Haryana government has procured over 3.11 lakh tonnes through various procurement agencies, at MSP. Of the 64.77 lakh tonnes of wheat that arrived at procurement centres till 20 April 2021, 55.62 lakh tonnes has already been procured.
What the aforesaid numbers clearly highlight is the Modi government’s unflinching commitment to empowering farmers, cutting across political, demographic and geographical divides if any, so that “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, is not a mere slogan, but an abiding work ethic, that financially strengthens the hands of our “Annadata”. The primary aim of this Direct Benefit Transfer program is to bring transparency and terminate pilferage from the distribution of funds sponsored by the Central Government of India.
Talking of DBT, it was launched in just 20 districts by the erstwhile Congress regime in 2013, but largely remained a non-starter, thanks to lethargy and corruption that has been a part of the Congress DNA. But today, under PM Modi, DBT results in annual savings of over Rs 1.7 lakh crore, with over Rs 13 lakh crore worth of payments made, to the weakest sections of the society, spread across 400 schemes and 51 ministries.
Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS), being implemented by the Office of Controller General of Accounts, acts as the common platform for routing DBT.
The ‘JAM Trinity’ of the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile, has made it easier to identify bogus beneficiaries and preventing leakages in government schemes. In MGNREGA for instance, since job cards and accounts of the labourers were linked to Aadhaar, a large number of bogus beneficiaries were caught. Till December 2019, 5.55 lakh bogus labourers had been weeded out from the scheme. This ensured that Rs 24,162 crore was not misused. Otherwise, this money would have reached the accounts of bogus labourers. Similarly, due to the DBT scheme, 98.8 lakh bogus beneficiaries were caught in schemes under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The deletion of fake beneficiaries prevented a possible scam to the tune of Rs 1523.75 crore.
Making the linking of Aadhaar and mobile mandatory, saved more than Rs 66,000 crore in government ration distribution from going into the wrong hands. According to food and public distribution authorities, Rs 66,896.87 crore was saved due to the removal of over 2.98 crore bogus beneficiaries from the system, with the help of technology. The JAM Trinity has eliminated the web of middlemen. This is a successful example of preventing corruption through technology.
DBT scheme transfers money directly to the account of the beneficiary in social assistance schemes such as LPG subsidy, MGNREGA, PDS, old age pension and scholarships. More than 44 crore Jan Dhan accounts, over 100 crore Aadhaar, and over 100 crore mobiles have come in handy for direct transfers to beneficiaries on the ground. To cut to the chase, it would be apt to end with a quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where he says, “I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity”.
Sanju Verma is an economist, national spokesperson of the BJP and bestselling author of ‘Truth &Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal .
Role of crop diversification in India’s agricultural growth
Since Independence, India implemented several policies for agricultural development and farmers’ social improvement. Undoubtedly, the scenario has changed over time, but not in the desired direction. Due to the abysmal performance in rural development in India, it is probably high time for the government to be pragmatic and change its role from that of a direct and dominant interventionist to that of a facilitator and regulator also. The government always tries to help the farmers in two ways, either by the direct or indirect support of agriculture practices or support their livelihood. The government gives the product-specific subsidy for several products, such as rice, wheat, cotton, pulses, etc. Instead of product-specific subsidies, the government gives input subsidies, such as fertiliser, irrigation, and power subsidy. In addition, several ministries are continuing the various policies or programs to develop Indian agricultural practices and farmers’ livelihood.
TREND OF HERFINDAHL–HIRSCHMAN INDEX IN INDIA (1966-67 TO 2018-19)
Source: Authors’ calculations
As a result, India achieved record food grain production from 1950-51 to 2018-19. However, primarily it was restricted to the major cereals only. Although cereal production increased significantly after the green revolution; but, the pulses and oilseed production did not reach the expected position. Consequently, there is a chronic shortage of edible oils and pulses in India.
But, in the recent past, a perceptible change in consumer preferences away from cereals towards high-value non-cereal nutrient-rich diets, including fruits and vegetables, is evident not only in India but also in India and around the globe. Here the question will arise regarding crop diversification, which is a process of reallocation of resources across crops, based on their comparative advantages. After this decades-long crop diversification, a shift has been generally observed, in the agricultural practices from the traditional lower-valued crop to high-value crops. This is an important milestone for agricultural development.
Herfindahl–Hirschman Index is widely used to measure market concentration. The lower it is, the higher is the extent of market diversification, and vice versa. This is typically done for firms as entities and their production values. We calculated the by taking each crop as a market entity in India, to gauge the extent of market concentration. As far as crop diversification is concerned, it is evident from the figure above that the level of diversification is prominent in India due to favourable agro-climatic conditions around the country and the government policies or schemes. An index of 0.01 or below indicates a highly diversified and competitive sector, while the range of 0.01 to 0.15 is considered unconcentrated, which is where we have been for over a decade. So, there is a scope for further improvements in crop diversification. The farm income per cultivator increased from Rs. 12,365 in 1993-94 to Rs. 1,20,193 in 2015-16. However, crop diversification in India enhances the farmers’ adaptability to external shocks and promotes self-reliance and sustainability in agricultural practices.
The connotation of crop diversification becomes more noticeable in the WTO-led globalised regime that restricts the scope for producer prices as an incentive to increase production. Again, the question arises whether farmers or cultivators respond to changes in consumer preferences by shifting their crop portfolio. This is because India is a largely low-income and resource-poor farmer-dominated country, with almost 99.43% of farmers coming under this category. If farmers will not grasp market signals, they will not only be in a disadvantageous position but also will be in a trap.
However, it is evident to enhance the production of high valued crops, which is becoming important for India’s trade regime. For instance, India is one largest importer of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. India also imports some other vegetable oils, pulses, fresh fruits, etc. In addition, lower production of some products is not only the problem in India; the competitiveness of the domestic price of some crops is also another problem in Indian agriculture. One of the reasons, Indian farmers are facing an unfair and uneven playing field in the international trade scenario. As per farmer support in India is much lower than the many developed countries. This is because several developed and some developing countries are enjoying the final bound AMS entitlement.
India has also taken some of the great initiatives, besides the MSP and some existing schemes for agricultural development. Such as the National Mission on Oilseed and Oil Palm (NMOOP) is a new program launched during 2014-15 by the Government of India to enhance the production of oilseeds in the country. India has started the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) with the focus of increasing acreage productivity and production of pulses, oilseed with some other products. In addition, the Finance Minister has also unveiled, in the budget session of 2020-21, a 16-point agenda to achieve agricultural growth, reiterating the Union Government’s commitment to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. The points include everything from the liberalisation of farm markets and increased use of advanced technology to the development of an integrated farming system in rain-fed areas and more. In addition, the Indian government is also prioritising the agricultural infrastructure, particular food processing sector, etc. After several efforts through different policies and mechanisms, Indian agriculture and farmers’ progress may only start happening gradually. This is because the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact properly. In keeping this in the mind, Indian agriculture needs a big reform to promote a market-based solution for the farmers.
Suvayan Neogi is Senior Research Fellow (Economics) of Centre for WTO Studies, New Delhi, India. He is also PhD scholar of Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, India. Dr Badri Narayanan is the founding director of Infinite Sum Modelling, Seattle and a senior economist with the University of Washington Seattle. He is also a Senior Fellow with ECIPE Brussels and Non-Resident Fellow with CSEP New Delhi.
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