Bookmark and Share  

EDITORIAL

Fake gun licenses

At least three fairly alarming scams have been unearthed during past couple of months in the State. First, there was the ration scam in which it was revealed that food grains meant for BPL families was swindled and sold in black market. Then surfaced the land grab scam in which it was revealed that forest land had been grabbed by some politically influential persons in connivance with the revenue and police officials. Now more recently, the fake gun license scam has come to forefront in which hundreds of fake gun licenses are reported to have been issued. In this connection the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Mendhar and some of his junior staff members being implicated in the scam are reported to be absconding. These scams have come to light just by chance and not by design. How many more scams will be there that may go unnoticed or ignored nobody can say. ......more

Minority status

Chairman of National Commission for Minorities presided over the annual conference of State Minority Commission in New Delhi recently. Among other things, he has strongly recommended that 3700 Kashmiri Pandit families staying back in the valley, be declared a minority community. Under the Constitution of India, it is only the Union Home Ministry that decides the groups of Indian citizens who can be entitled to the status of a minority. Minority issue is one of the internal issues of the State that has remained shrouded in ambiguity. No government ever tried to address the subject. There are two contradictory positions. The Muslims of India have been declared a minority community in the country. As such, certain privileges meant for the Indian ..more

Election spending

By M K Dhar

The Chief Election Commissioner’s decision to appoint expenditure monitoring observers, along with the usual observers, for the ensuing state legislature elections has, once again, highlighted the malaise of black money role in the elections. Despite legal limits on such spending and heavy penalties if caught cheating, it has not been possible to eradicate the malaise that afflicts our electoral system which often gets distorted under the influence of extravagant spending. The call for electoral reform given from time to time to impart transparency to the process and to ensure that deserving candidates do not get edged out by criminal elements and wily politicians who have mastered the technique of concealment, has fallen mostly on deaf ears. Suggestions . . ...more

Industrial Output & Growth

By Sameer Pushp

The Indian economy in value term is the 12th largest; it is the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and second fastest growth wise. It is important to note that during the last three years, our economy have been severely impacted, . . ...more

Indo-Pak Dialogue

By Ansar Murad

Is Pakistan serious enough to resolve all bilateral issues with India including the prolonged Kashmir issue through dialogue? It may be but under the influence of growing extremism, the country is moving away from the sustainable dialogue with India on bilateral issues.
A keen assessment
..more

EDITORIAL

Fake gun licenses

At least three fairly alarming scams have been unearthed during past couple of months in the State. First, there was the ration scam in which it was revealed that food grains meant for BPL families was swindled and sold in black market. Then surfaced the land grab scam in which it was revealed that forest land had been grabbed by some politically influential persons in connivance with the revenue and police officials. Now more recently, the fake gun license scam has come to forefront in which hundreds of fake gun licenses are reported to have been issued. In this connection the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Mendhar and some of his junior staff members being implicated in the scam are reported to be absconding. These scams have come to light just by chance and not by design. How many more scams will be there that may go unnoticed or ignored nobody can say. There are widespread rumours all around that corruption and bribery have increased manifold in the state. The apprehension is that bribery could become the norm of administrative arrangement in the state. People going through the experience say that in most of the offices there is bribery in full swing and money transactions are made openly. Half of the bribe money is paid when a particular assignment is entrusted to the concerned person and the remaining half is paid on completion of the mission. Previously, generally the PWD was notorious for fixed norms of bribery but now every department is seething with bribery without any norm. It is taking as much and giving as much. India is among the most corrupt countries in the world far before Bangladesh.
Issuing license for keeping a gun for self defense is a practice with set rules and regulations. Anybody applying for a gun license has to fulfill the conditions laid down for the issuing of license. Knowing that militancy has struck the State very badly the authorities should have made issuing of gun license very stringent. Misuse of a gun by even a genuine holder of its license could be possible because of the deep and wide tentacles of militancy and terror. There should have been foolproof precaution against any official tampering with the rules. In fact there should have been rigorous scrutiny of the applicant for the license of a gun. By not evolving a high and foolproof standard of issuing a valid gun license, the home department has been playing with the lives of ordinary people. How come those scores of fake licenses have been issued over a period of time and at no time this practice has been screened and testified. It is by chance that the police tumbled on two persons with guns and their fake license and the whole racket came to be uncovered. With the disclosure of so many fake gun licenses, it is clear that authorities in the home department have been sleeping over the matter thus allowing the swindlers to have a field day. Maximum number of fake licenses has been issued in the two border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Budhal area is infested with militants both local and external as the town falls along the mountain track to Pir Panchal range, the area where militants have considerable presence. It is, therefore important that the government conducts deep and wide enquiry into the fake license cases and follows the trail about which there could be many doubts and questions. When the food grain and land grab scams came to light, there was some articulation in the media but then it faded away quickly and nobody now asks as to what happened to those scams. Our judicial system is lengthy and cumbersome, and culprits take advantage of delayed justice. People are judging the administration and the judiciary by the will and speed required to pursue the scams and bring the culprit to book.

Minority status

Chairman of National Commission for Minorities presided over the annual conference of State Minority Commission in New Delhi recently. Among other things, he has strongly recommended that 3700 Kashmiri Pandit families staying back in the valley, be declared a minority community. Under the Constitution of India, it is only the Union Home Ministry that decides the groups of Indian citizens who can be entitled to the status of a minority. Minority issue is one of the internal issues of the State that has remained shrouded in ambiguity. No government ever tried to address the subject. There are two contradictory positions. The Muslims of India have been declared a minority community in the country. As such, certain privileges meant for the Indian minorities under law accrue to them automatically. They are entitled to it by the law of the land. The Muslim populations of J&K, too, have been deriving benefit of this provision. But at the same time, they are a majority in the state. On that basis they enjoy the privileges of being a majority community and thus have majority rights, and rightly so. What is the position of non-Muslim of the state? This has never been addressed by the government. If Article 370 hampers the non-Muslims of the state from entitlement to minority status, then by the same token, it should hamper the state majority community from enjoying the minority status on national level. The actual case is the reverse of it. That is why we say that the issue of minority status in J&K has remained unresolved. There seems no logic is just picking up 3700 families of Kashmri Pandits staying back in the valley and recommending them for minority status because their condition, as per the statement of the Chairman NCM is worse than half a million persons of the community living in exile for last two decades. If we go by the Indian Constitution, then all non-Muslims in the State are in minority and have to be treated as such. In fact this has been the demand of J&K State Minorities Forum which has been fighting for the minority status for Hindus, Sikhs, Bodhs and Christians of the State. The State government should take up the case with the Union Home Ministry and remove the dichotomy in the context of minority status.

 

Election spending

By M K Dhar

The Chief Election Commissioner’s decision to appoint expenditure monitoring observers, along with the usual observers, for the ensuing state legislature elections has, once again, highlighted the malaise of black money role in the elections. Despite legal limits on such spending and heavy penalties if caught cheating, it has not been possible to eradicate the malaise that afflicts our electoral system which often gets distorted under the influence of extravagant spending. The call for electoral reform given from time to time to impart transparency to the process and to ensure that deserving candidates do not get edged out by criminal elements and wily politicians who have mastered the technique of concealment, has fallen mostly on deaf ears. Suggestions to control extravagant spending have not received serious consideration by political parties, all of whom are equally guilty of breaching campaign funding ceilings. All of them agree in principle, but when it comes to implementation, they betray nervousness.
One is not sure whether Mr. Quresi is going to succeed in curbing the menace, but he shows seriousness in tackling the situation. His observers are going to monitor campaign expenditure and take sue moto notice of violations, if brought to their notice, through spot verification. They will even take notice of media complaints or exposures of lavish spending, instead of waiting for rival candidates to file complaints after the elections to get the rivals disqualified. Since the observers will be armed with powers to take immediate action, they can even disqualify a candidate from contesting. The outcome of the new initiative will be known only after the Assembly elections in April are over, but it is worth giving a try.
Any new measure to tackle the menace of huge campaign expenditure, in which black money plays a part, is indeed welcome, but one must keep one’s fingers crossed whether parties will cooperate in enforcing the ceilings, because there are politicians who are competent enough to circumvent the law.
The Election Commission has been forced to take the inflation factor into account and raise the limit of expenditure, which excludes the expenditure incurred by political parties, which is not counted. The candidates also receive funding from well-to-do Indian dispora, which also comes under various guises and is not openly declared. Though the limit has now been raised from Rs. 25 lakh to Rs 40 lack for Lok Sabha elections, the actual permissible ceiling is much higher considering the contribution of the political parties. Those who opposed higher permissible limits often argued that the use of money power should be curbed and that it will not be possible for candidates with meager resources to participate in the democratic exercise which, in turn will distort democracy and diminish its participatory content. The truth is that the really poor find it difficult to contest even now unless he is popular enough and can mobilize the services of genuine volunteers to see him through. But such instances are rare. By and large money power plays a great role in elections, however freely and fairly conducted.
A suggestions has been made by Congress MP Manish Tiwari that the Election Commission should circulate a consultation paper on campaign financing, hold open discussions with people across the social and economic spectrum, meet representatives of political parties and then arrive at a ceiling on election expenditure, which must be reviewed after every Lok Sabha election. He has also suggested removing the ceiling on corporate funding of poll expenses of parties above the 5 per cent profit cap under the Companies Act. But care should be taken that such enhanced contribution does not come through money laundering. He also wants the Government to establish an independent campaign finance trust to be chaired by a former president of India, consisting of a former vice-president and fomer chief justice of India as its trustees. This trust would receive all corporate funding, which would then be given directly to political parties registered with the Election Commission.
While the first suggestion is worthy of consideration, the second is impractical for various reasons. It is true that if corporate contributions are made in an anonymous manner, the element of coercion is reduced. But, the point is why should corporate houses fund elections in the first place? They do so selectively in order to back a political party or candidates who support private enterprise and are interested in its growth in order to increase national production and usher in prosperity. They will consider it a sacrilege if the money contributed by them goes to finance communists or other anti-corporate Left outfits or candidates. Apart from contributing to the parties, some corporate houses also finance the election spending of individual candidates who are in tune with their economic philosophy and will look after the interests of private enterprise. Therefore, this suggestion should be left at that because the corporate are unlikely to accept it, unless forced by law to do so, which cannot happen under our Constitution.
State funding of elections stands on a different footing because from a corpus that may be created, a mechanism can be devised to make contributions to political parties in proportion to the votes secured by them in elections. This proposal has been hanging fire for decades but neither has the Government accepted it, nor there is a consensus among parties over its feasibility. State funding would presume that the expenditure incurred on elections by parties will be met entirely out of state funds, which will automatically eliminate contributions by corporates or others which makes the campaigns extravagant. Such a limit is unacceptable to the parties on the face of it and they would not mind state funding, along with freedom to raise money from other sources. With government contribution added to such expenditure, it will make the whole electoral exercise more costly then ever. Though several suggestions as regards state funding have been made, including contribution to parties, or direct cash transfer to the winner on the basis of votes polled by him, none has been found acceptable.
Clearly, the present system suits all the parties because they can conduct high-profile poll campaigns with funds derived from diverse sources without getting caught. The bulk of the corporate funding for individual candidates and, partly also parties, is in cash for which there is no account and which certainly is black money on which tax has been evaded. It is very amusing to watch members of parliament cry hoarse over the government’s failure to curb the menace of black money. While themselves accepting cash contributions for poll expenses.
The election law, particularly relating to campaign financing and preventing entry of criminals into legislatures needs to be reviewed sooner the later. The parties owe it to the electorate to join hands in increasing the transparency, fairness and quality of our democracy and prevent further deterioration. (NPA)

Industrial Output & Growth

By Sameer Pushp

The Indian economy in value term is the 12th largest; it is the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and second fastest growth wise. It is important to note that during the last three years, our economy have been severely impacted, but has successfully withstood two shocks in rapid succession: first was global financial crisis leading to the collapse in world growth, trade & financial system in 2007-09 whose ripple continue to persist even today; and second was year 2008-09 domestically, was a year of erratic monsoon which resulted into year of severe drought in 2009-10. Yet, Indian economy is coming through it with resilience and strength.
Industrial Growth Hit Hard
The industrial growth in India is measured in terms of index of industrial production (IIP) which continued to fluctuate in last three years. IIP-based cumulative industrial output growth during April-December 2010 was 8.6 per cent, on a par with the growth rate of the corresponding months of the previous year. It is to be noted that overall growth decelerated to 3.2 per cent in 2008-09 because of global economic meltdown. Timely intervention of the Government by way of appropriate monetary and fiscal policies resulted in the sharp recovery and overall industrial growth improved to 10.5 per cent. Growth in the industrial sector was buoyant during the first two quarters (April-June, July-September) of the current financial year. Thereafter, industrial output growth has begun to moderate partly due to higher base effect.
Industrial sector in India is divided into three broad sectors - mining, manufacturing and electricity. Manufacturing accounts for 79.4 per cent of the weight in IIP and the weights assigned to mining and electricity is 10.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively. IIP data is measured by ‘use based classification’ which is segmented into five broad groups: basic goods, capital goods, intermediates, consumer durables and consumer non-durables. Industrial sector has a share of 20 per cent in GDP. A moderation in industrial growth, therefore, affects the GDP growth proportionate to its share in GDP. Pressure on industrial growth, including manufacturing sector, became intense in 2008-09. Global economic slowdown impacted the Indian economy, particularly the industrial segment impinged by pull and push of domestic and external demand. The impact was widespread but worst hit were all the three key segments viz., mining, manufacturing and electricity. Government acted swiftly to the winds of change and timely intervention resulted in a quick recovery.
Policy Activism by the Government
The Government to sail through crisis resorted to policy activism and came up with three quick stimulus packages amounting to Rs.1,86,000 crore which was to the tune of 3.5 per cent of India’s GDP. It generated the much needed push in demand with a new set of optimism. Response to the global crisis was through fiscal and monetary policy interventions. The monetary and fiscal policy response intended to keep the impact of global crisis to the minimum and maintaining the aggregate demand at high enough level to stimulate the hard hit sectors. On the fiscal front the response essentially had two components- reducing excise duty by 6 per cent in two phases and rates of service tax by 2 per cent; and enlarging the Government expenditure to infuse confidence. On the monetary policy front, RBI undertook steps to expand liquidity. This was done to address the issue of Indian firms, during crisis to raise funds abroad, including trade credit, which had in turn put pressure on domestic banks for more credit. In a span of seven months between October 2008 to April 2009, the repo rate was reduced by 425 basis points to 4.75 per cent and reverse repo rate was reduced by 275 basis points to 3.25 per cent. Further, RBI reduced cash reserve ratio by a cumulative 400 basis points to 5.0 per cent.
Winds of change after Interventions
With these measures in pace, turn around in industrial sector began around June 2009 and continued to gather momentum. Overall industrial growth reached a peak of 18 per cent in December 2009, which was highest growth achieved since 1993-94. Manufacturing with its six core sectors has a weight of 26.68 per cent in overall IIP, (i.e. electricity, coal, crude petroleum, petroleum refinery products, steel and cement) also witnessed a sharp V shaped recovery and growth peaked to an all time high of 91.6 per cent in December 2009. Though even today month on month growth continued to fluctuate, overall industrial growth continued to be generally healthy. This clearly shows that timely intervention by the Government paid off.
According to the use based classification, capital goods posted a growth of 20.9 per cent during 2009-10 as against the 8.2 per cent during 2008-09. This classification also revels that consumer goods sector registered a growth of 6.2 per cent during the same time frame. Basic and intermediary goods industries posted a growth of 7.2 per cent. Basic goods and capital goods and intermediate goods registered a growth rates of 6.1 per cent, 16.7 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively. Six core industries which is the backbone of our industrial growth registered a robust growth of 5.5 per cent during 2009-10 as compared to 3.0 per cent in 2008-09.
India’s policy advantage
World over we were acknowledged for out monetary and fiscal management during the global economic meltdown and thereafter. There are few things that are unique about our stimulus package, in the process of liquidity injection the counter-parties involved were banks - there was no dilution of government securities or mortgaging of securities or commercial papers to any country. In terms of fiscal incentives, the increase in public expenditure was to stimulate rural economy and it did not go for recouping losses of the financial institutions or the corporate. In turn it created a long term productive assets through MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.), which provided remunerative prices to the farmers through a system of minimum support price.
To sum it up, there has been a significant capacity addition in some of the core industries. Undoubtedly, a robust growth and steady fiscal consolidation regime has now become the hallmark of the Indian economy. But, slow rate of capacity edition in physical infrastructure sector is constricting industrial sector growth. Capacity addition in core sectors and renewal of bottlenecks would spur industrial sector output in the medium to long term. (PIB Features)

Indo-Pak Dialogue

By Ansar Murad

Is Pakistan serious enough to resolve all bilateral issues with India including the prolonged Kashmir issue through dialogue? It may be but under the influence of growing extremism, the country is moving away from the sustainable dialogue with India on bilateral issues.
A keen assessment of the developments taking place in Pakistan time and again indicate that the country, which although has declining voters' support, lacks power to act against the wishes of anti-India forces' in the Army and various fundamentalist groups. Under the influence of growing extremism, the successive governments have failed to pave way for sustainable yet result-oriented dialogue with India.
Needless to say that over the years, successive civilian governments' in Pakistan have worked under the tremendous influence of extremist forces' which have held the government hostage to their vested interests and taken the country to the brink of disaster. The roots of extremism are spreading fast in the country and it has become even more obvious from the assassination of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, by cops of elite force of Punjab police at Islamabad on January 4.
India has always maintained that for a meaningful dialogue to resolve the bilateral issues including Kashmir, Pakistan must first act against the anti-India forces' operating from its (Pakistan) soil and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Ironically, instead of acting against these forces' operating since years from its soil, Pakistan has often tried to cover-up unlawful activities carried out by extremist groups by misleading the international community.
Pakistan's non-seriousness or inability to hold dialogue with India on bilateral issues was again exposed before the world community in the recent past. To the utter surprise of many in India and also in Pakistan, former foreign minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was strongly advocating Indo-Pak dialogue to resolve bilateral issues' was excluded from the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's re-constituted cabinet.
Barely few days after foreign secretaries of two-countries met in Thimpu in February this year and pressed the reset button on the frozen dialogue process on the sidelines of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) event, to the astonishment of many in India and also in Pakistan, Qureshi was deprived of Foreign Minister portfolio in the re-constituted cabinet.
Qurashi's exclusion yet again belied tall claims of Pakistan that it was serious about resolving all bilateral issues with India through dialogue. While commenting that Qureshi was strongly advocating resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, a section of media in Delhi analyzed that his exclusion from re-constituted Pakistan cabinet was a setback to proposed India-Pakistan dialogue to be held in July.
The former foreign minister was scheduled to visit Delhi in July for holding talks with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna on bilateral issues in pursuance of the programme agreed by the foreign secretaries of the two nations in Thimphu on the sidelines of a meeting of SAARC countries.
Whenever there has been mounting international pressure on Pakistan for taking stern action against Jihadi forces', it (the Pakistan) has tactfully tried avoid the pressure by jailing top wanted militants leaders only to be released later.
Dialogue with Pakistan has never yielded tangible results for obvious reasons. Talks have either failed or yielded intangible results in the past due to Pakistan inability to address India's concerns, which have been acknowledged even by the world community. Trade across LoC, resumption of bus and rail links, people to people and cultural contacts are few results of talks held amid unfavorable conditions.
Pertinent to mention that India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir agreed on February 6 on resuming stalled dialogue process between the two countries, which had started in 2004 and got disrupted in 2008, when Pakistan-supported terrorists attacked Mumbai.
The two foreign secretaries, with the approval of their respective governments, decided that talks on eight subjects would be held and followed talks between foreign ministers of the two countries.
Although the word, 'composite dialogue' was avoided, the foreign secretaries agreed to talk on terrorism, humanitarian issues, peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, other economic issues and the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul navigation projects.
There was a glimmer of hope in India, and also in Pakistan that relations between two neighboring countries would improve, when the two foreign secretaries announced to resume the dialogue process. However, Qureshi was not returned the foreign minister's portfolio in the re-constituted cabinet, which once again exposed Pakistan's 'seriousness' about the proposed dialogue.
Unfortunately for the people of Pakistan, the successive governments have never been the masters of foreign policy vis--vis India, Afghanistan and the United States (US). Instead the foreign policy in respect of these countries has always been dictated by the Army and ISI.
Pakistan Army and ISI have always tried and often succeeded to keep India-Pakistan relations hostage to Kashmir issue. Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir's meeting with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao ignited hopes at a point in time but expectedly Pakistan reverted to the traditional tone of "core issue Kashmir" once Bashir returned home.
In our efforts to normalize relations with Pakistan, we have to accept the reality that since November 1988, when democracy was revived after General Ziaul Haq's death in August that year, elected civilian governments' have only been the front of military dominance.
There is another bitter reality which India has to deal with. Terrorism has become the skin of the Pakistani concept of national security like the military uniform of General Pervez Musharraf had become his skin. He had to run into self-exile when he took off his uniform. The Pakistani Army has made it known to the world that its support to Afghan Taliban and terrorist groups like Lashkar-i-Taiba is for the survival of the country's security policy.
As for as Kashmir is concerned, the Army seeks in it its self-sustenance. Over past six decades, it (the army) has taught the common men to live by Kashmir. How effectively this lesson has been drilled into successive generations is reflected in Fatima Bhutto's book "Song of Blood and Sword". She writes that the Kashmir valley was "Promised to them (the people of Pakistan) by their ancestors………". That shows the misconception of a young America-educated girl about Kashmir. It will be not be a bad idea, if India insists that Pakistan teaches correct history of Kashmir to its school and university students and allow teaching of this history in schools and colleges of occupied Kashmir as well.
(Ansar Murad is a freelance writer. He can be reached at ansarmurad42@gmail.com)

| home | state | national | business| editorial | advertisement | sports |
|
international | weather | mailbag | suggestions | search | subscribe | send mail |