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EDITORIAL

Giving peace a chance

Who does not want that India and Pakistan, two major countries in South Asia should live in peace and resolve their differences through dialogue? Not only do the stakeholders cherish peace, even ordinary Indians want that the country should have peace as we are on a march to all round progress. In a recent seminar in New Delhi, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the patron of NC and the Union Minister for Renewable Energy expressed his sincere desire to drive across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir without any hindrance, without being asked for passport and other travel documents and without the boot of his car being checked. This appears a dream but many a dream has been realized in the course of history of nations. He was right in citing the example of Europe. Nations had fought and waged wars there, not once but for long time. But ultimately the good sense prevailed and the people realized that peace and cooperation served as key to overcoming economic and other deprivations. .....more

Mobility of PSC

State Public Service Commission is an important state organization because it is through its channel that the state's requirement for efficient and competent service cadres is fulfilled. It provides the best talent to the state and that is the key to good governance. Given the physical make up of our state, the PSC has its small branches in Jammu and Ladakh regions. The purpose of having these branches is to facilitate the prospective candidates in appearing in its examinations and interviews. But the practice so far seen is mostly that of calling the candidates to the headquarters of the PSC in Srinagar. I.....more

UPA faces uncertain future

By Brij Bhardwaj

With a score of three out of five, UPA alliance can take some comfort from the results of the elections held for five State Assemblies. It has lost Tamilnadu and Pondicherry, but gained West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. The victory margin in Kerala is too narrow for comfort. The real cause for worry is . .. . ...more

Follow Japan in Land Acquisition

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The country is burning due to acquisition of farmers' lands for development projects. People are agitated in UP over the acquisition for Yamuna Expressway after Singur in Bengal, Posco in Odisha and Polavaram in Andhra. The fundamental principle of land acquisition is quite sound. It says that private interest must be sacrificed to secure the interest of larger people. On this issue Chanakya had suggested to the king to 'give up one for the family, family for the village and village for the country.' The farmers of UP are being displaced for making . . . . ...more

India-Sri Lanka relations

By Jayant Muralidharan

If the expectation in Delhi was that assisting Colombo to win the last phase of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) two years ago would augment India's wherewithal to push for a just settlement of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, it was never quite realistic. The leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa chose to build on the nationalistic fervour following the defeat of the LTTE . ..more

EDITORIAL

Giving peace a chance

Who does not want that India and Pakistan, two major countries in South Asia should live in peace and resolve their differences through dialogue? Not only do the stakeholders cherish peace, even ordinary Indians want that the country should have peace as we are on a march to all round progress. In a recent seminar in New Delhi, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the patron of NC and the Union Minister for Renewable Energy expressed his sincere desire to drive across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir without any hindrance, without being asked for passport and other travel documents and without the boot of his car being checked. This appears a dream but many a dream has been realized in the course of history of nations. He was right in citing the example of Europe. Nations had fought and waged wars there, not once but for long time. But ultimately the good sense prevailed and the people realized that peace and cooperation served as key to overcoming economic and other deprivations. Today one can travel in Europe from end to end without any hassle, without being subjected to frequent checks and detentions. That is the atmosphere which the Europeans could create, and one wishing the re-enactment of same atmosphere in the subcontinent should be given the credit of a vision of a bright future. This is the age of trade and commerce and not of coveting lands and regions. Modern societies want to become prosperous and have a better life and this is material progress that cannot be ignored. Dr. Farooq Abdullah is clear in his mind about the present situation in regard to Kashmir. He has ruled out any possibility of any big change in the status quo in Kashmir but of course there are some internal problems that need to be addressed and removed. The Union government has been at work and both the PMO and the Home Ministry are carrying forward their agenda of promoting development, employment, standard of living, healthcare, education and infrastructural facilities to the state. These measures are bound to address the problems to which the people in the state have been referring in the past.
But development is possible only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. For last three summers, the valley has not seen peace and it has badly affected the economic health of the state. We have leaders who issue calls for strikes day in and day out. Though their takers are much reduced in numbers yet their effort is to disrupt peace. Therefore it is for the people at large to understand the real motives of those who give quick calls for strikes. It has to be remembered that democracy means freedom of expression and movement. But when this or any other freedom is misused leading to disruption of peaceful atmosphere, then the state is enjoined by constitution and morality to do all it can to restore peace. This makes temporary detention of some leaders unavoidable. It is for the people to understand the motive behind the action of the government and also the motive behind those who give calls for strikes. We cannot expect the state to close its eye to the misuse of freedom and at the same time demand from it full development of society economically, materially and spiritually. The limitations of the government should not be put to test. It does no good to anybody. Dialogue with Pakistan is the only way of resolving our differences with this neighbour. It should be possible to find a solution provided there is sincerity and determination on both sides. SAARC is one of the acceptable agencies through which a meaningful dialogue can be carried forward. We hope that there are also many serious and positive thinking people in Pakistan who are having same ideas about a peaceful subcontinent as many on this side of the line have. Peace should be given a chance.

Mobility of PSC

State Public Service Commission is an important state organization because it is through its channel that the state's requirement for efficient and competent service cadres is fulfilled. It provides the best talent to the state and that is the key to good governance. Given the physical make up of our state, the PSC has its small branches in Jammu and Ladakh regions. The purpose of having these branches is to facilitate the prospective candidates in appearing in its examinations and interviews. But the practice so far seen is mostly that of calling the candidates to the headquarters of the PSC in Srinagar. It means that the candidates from Jammu and Ladakh region are required to travel long distances and incur heavy expenses of travel, board and lodging if at all they are interested in appearing before the PSC. This cannot be justified as a rational decision. The PSC should empower local branches to conduct official proceedings like holding examinations and interviews of candidates. This is not strictly observed at the moment and in many cases candidates are asked to come to Srinagar for appearing before the Commission. We hope that the government issues instructions to the PSC that it should have mobility of accessing all the three regions for official duties and ensure that candidates from each region are able to make the best use of facilities and opportunities provided by the Public Service Commission. Any attempt of depriving the students of any one of the three regions of the state from taking benefit of opportunity offered by the PSC means that the State is deprived of services of talented youth. This is not a healthy sign and should be reversed without delay. It is truer in the case of candidates from Ladakh where road link remains closed for six months owing to heavy snowfall over Zoji La. More than seven thousand of students from Leh and Kargil are studying in government and private educational institutions in Jammu city. There are Ladakhi students in Srinagar city also. For most part of the year they live in these two cites. If they offer to be examined or interviewed for PSC interviews in any one of these two cities, there should be no difficulty in accepting their request. It is hoped that in the interests of the state and the student community, the government will take necessary steps that facilitate students and candidates to appear for PSC exams within their region.

UPA faces uncertain future

By Brij Bhardwaj

With a score of three out of five, UPA alliance can take some comfort from the results of the elections held for five State Assemblies. It has lost Tamilnadu and Pondicherry, but gained West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. The victory margin in Kerala is too narrow for comfort. The real cause for worry is Andhra Pradesh where Jagan Reddy, son of the former Chief Minister won his seat by a record margin. If Jagan’s following continues to grow, it could pose a serious threat to UPA in the next Lok Sabha poll in 2014.
The problem facing the Congress party is that its own strength is almost stagnant and it’s allies are facing problems. The efforts by Rahul Gandhi to build organisation by reviving Youth Congress have not worked except in Uttar Pradesh where the Congress Party has improved its position. But it faces a tough challenge in its onward march because the caste based politics of U.P is a tough nut to crack.
There was a time when the Congress party derived its strength from the South with comfortable numbers being provided by States like Tamilnadu, Andhra and Karnataka. Its hold on Karnataka and Tamilnadu is now history with the BJP becoming a major force in Karnataka while in Tamilnadu Jayalalitha will be calling the shots. In Andhra Pradesh Jagan factor as well as Telengana issue have made the position of Congress rather precarious.
As such one can says that in the third year of its second term UPA faces an uncertain future. The major problems facing the ruling party is its inability to check inflation and rising prices of items of essential use. Despite record production of wheat and rice, the prices are continuing to rise. Agreed that uncertainty in Gulf countries and rising prices of crude oil have contributed to inflationary pressure, but its overall management of economy and failure to revive public distribution system has also contributed to inflationary pressure.
The UPA leadership has also suffered a loss of credibility because of its inability to check widespread corruption with scandals breaking out at regular intervals. The Two G scam was a major factor in the defeat suffered by UPA in elections to State Assembly in Tamilnadu. It has also lost the support of the middle class which had given them full backing in the last elections. All agree that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s integrity is not in question but the working of Ministers in his team has eroded the confidence of public in the working of the UPA Government.
At the moment Congress can take comfort from the fact that the main opposition parties in the country that is BJP and the Left parties are in bad shape, but it should be no consolation as gains are being made by the regional parties and strong State leaders. Congress which over the years has been imposing their nominees from the Center on states should realise that such a system can not work any more.
Emergence of leaders like Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal, Mayawati in U.P and Jayalaitha in Tamilnadu are clear examples of need to build local leadership as State elections are fought on the basis of local issues and leadership quality of nominees for Chief Ministership. In Congress camp also leaders like Sheila Dixshit and Tarun Gagoi have shown by winning a third term as chief ministers that the days of proxy rule by the Central leadership are over. Mr. Rahul Gandhi won few seats for his party in U.P because he was able to field credible new faces. If this experiment is to work he should also try to project new faces for working in other States instead of getting all talented youngmen to come to Delhi and working for the Central Government.
India is a big country with different regions having their own aspirations. Unless the Central leadership encourages State leadership to grow, it has no future as local leaders will always be able to defeat the nominees sent by the Center around the election time. Over dependence on hangers on in the party who are given safe berths in Rajya Sabha should be ended and instead encouragement be given to those who have grass root support and ability to win elections.
The results of the elections to the State Assemblies should be taken as a wake up call and action initiated to prepare the party for the poll in 2014 as otherwise the ruling UPA has a bleak future. Whirlwind tours by Central leaders, big public rallies are no guarantee of victory in elections where organisation and local leadership plays a major role. UPA leadership should not take comfort from problems confronting BJP and the left but look at its own shortfalls and take timely action to correct the same. (NPA)

Follow Japan in Land Acquisition

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The country is burning due to acquisition of farmers' lands for development projects. People are agitated in UP over the acquisition for Yamuna Expressway after Singur in Bengal, Posco in Odisha and Polavaram in Andhra. The fundamental principle of land acquisition is quite sound. It says that private interest must be sacrificed to secure the interest of larger people. On this issue Chanakya had suggested to the king to 'give up one for the family, family for the village and village for the country.' The farmers of UP are being displaced for making of the Expressway on the basis of this principle. But the farmers say that that they are being displaced not for the country but for providing undue commercial benefits to the concerned company. Much more land is being acquired than required for making the highway. The extra land is to be used for developing commercial property and this cannot be treated as 'larger interest,' they say. The problem, therefore, lies not in the principle of land acquisition but in its faulty implementation.
Fifty years ago land of the Zamindars was acquired for distribution to the farmers and the landless. Few large landowners were dispossessed for providing relief to thousands. This was in accordance with Chanakya's principle. In the present case, however, large numbers of landowners are being displaced to provide benefits to few companies. Chanakya has been turned on his head. Land acquisition for making Special Economic Zones and for hydropower projects similarly dispossesses many for providing benefits to few. Lacs of poor farmers have been displaced in the Tehri project but the water that is stored is being supplied to the rich of Delhi to wash their cars and the electricity to run air-conditioners in the malls.
The present land acquisition law allows the government to forcibly acquire land of any person for any 'public purpose.' The public purpose in question is to be wholly defined by the government. If 10,000 farmers are dispossessed to provide land for a software company that provides jobs to 1,000 white-collar workers, the Government can yet say this is a public purpose. The courts have refused to adjudicate whether the purpose is 'public' or 'private.' This is not justified. Underlying assumption made by the courts is that if a government misuses this provision and dispossesses many for few then a public outcry will take place and the party will be thrown out in the next election. The Left parties have been thrown out of power in precisely such sequence of events. This route of determining public purpose is very costly, however. Hitler had similarly made a wrong definition of public purpose. He faced the consequences. But millions were killed and whole countries destroyed in the process. It is the solemn responsibility of the courts to intervene where land acquisition is being made for private gain.
Alternative is to restrict land acquisition only for 'public use' instead of 'public purpose.' Land that is required for making the Yamuna Expressway may be acquired but no more. Land should not be acquired around the Expressway for making commercial estates even though making of such estates may also benefit the society in some ways. Likewise, land should not be acquired for Tata's car factory at Singur. The factory is not 'public use' even though it may have a public purpose. Such definition will settle most disputes regarding land acquisition.
The Land Acquisition Act should also be made more stringent. Following compensations have to be paid for land acquired in Japan: (1) Money sufficient to buy similar land elsewhere; (2) Expenses incurred in shifting and resettling at the new location including loss of profit in the shifting; (3) Share of the future increases in price of acquired land; (4) Increase in the price of land due to making of the project; (5) Expenses incurred in finding the new location. It is difficult and expensive to acquire land in Japan due to these provisions. Most land is purchased by mutual negotiation. Often the project is redesigned to reduce the need for land. For example, land was acquired for making of the Narita Airport in the seventies. The airport was to commence operations in 1971. It could begin only in 1978 due to problems of land acquisition. Later need arose to expand the airport. At that time the government found it better to make a new Kansai Airport on the Osaka Bay instead of expanding the Narita Airport.
Such redesigning of projects can also be done in India. But project proponents want the government to acquire more land than needed because land is acquired at rates much below those prevailing in the market.
Land acquisition is equally difficult in Israel. More importantly, the economic development of Japan or Israel has not suffered because of these stringent laws. Reason is that additional profits from the projects have accrued to the people instead of the companies. Yamuna Expressway will help in securing economic development. Question is who gets the benefits-the farmers or the company? In the Japan model, minimum land will be acquired and more benefits will accrue to the people. In the India model, more people will be dispossessed and benefits will accrue to the company. Impact on the economy will be the same. Therefore, provision of larger benefits under the Land Acquisition laws will not hamper economic growth. Actually, that will help spread the benefits of growth over larger number of people.
Suggestion is that most land acquisition should be undertaken through the negotiation or market process. The fundamental question is that of price of land. Administrative determination has many pitfalls. It is hugely amenable to misuse. Economists believe, and rightly so, that the market is the best adjudicator of price. Companies are unwilling to negotiate directly and they invoke the Land Acquisition Act because it is cheaper. Second, the compensation package should be strengthened along the lines of that of Japan. If the projects are truly beneficial for the economy, then there should be no difficulty in transferring a good share of the benefits to those whose land is being forcibly acquired. Third, land acquisition should be restricted for 'public use' and disallowed for 'public purpose.' Fourth, land acquisition should be done for balance 10 percent of land for commercial projects only if 90 percent of the land has been acquired through negotiation. Fifth, there should a provision of annual payment in the form of pension or annuity in future so that the long run stream of foregone income is compensated.
It is unfortunate indeed that the Congress that has ridden to power on the slogan of aam aadmi; the BSP which has upliftment of the poor as its primary agenda and the Left parties that ideologically fight for the proletariat are in the forefront of acquiring land of the poor to provide benefits to the rich.

India-Sri Lanka relations

By Jayant Muralidharan

If the expectation in Delhi was that assisting Colombo to win the last phase of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) two years ago would augment India's wherewithal to push for a just settlement of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, it was never quite realistic. The leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa chose to build on the nationalistic fervour following the defeat of the LTTE to consolidate his political power.
Nothing wrong here - Rajapaksa won't be the last politician, either, to use the nationalistic card to boost democratic power. In the Sri Lankan socio-cultural milieu, the danger lies in Rajapaksa's political indebtedness to the nationalist sentiments from which he derives mandate. Anyway, things were going splendidly well for Rajapaksa when there has been a sudden reversal of fortunes.
The report by an 'expert panel' appointed by the United Nations Security Council on the alleged excesses of the Sri Lankan army in the concluding phase of the war holds unpleasant downstream consequences. Colombo's initial reaction was of indignation and anger - not unjustified, by any means - that it was being singled out in the global war on terrorism.
The rhetorical posturing helped the Sri Lankan leadership to rally domestic opinion, but Colombo seems to have since switched to the diplomatic track to try and finesse the situation to its advantage by constructively engaging the world powers who are influential.
Why not? Sri Lanka is a gifted country which has an extraordinary grasp of the seamless mysteries of international diplomacy. In its soft-spoken, scholarly foreign minister G. L. Peiris, Colombo also holds a trump card. (Despite AIDMK leader Jayalalitha's demand that Rajapaksa should be tried for war crimes, Peiris wrote a decent letter to her, congratulating her on her magnificent election and seeking to 'work with her' for the welfare of the people.)
Significantly, Peiris started his odyssey with Delhi from where he has proceeded to Beijing. This isn't surprising. From Colombo's perspective, India's stance is going to be very crucial, while China's can be helpful. Indeed, China's stance would also be influenced by the stance India takes.
Quite obviously, Peiris arrived in Delhi last week when the India-Sri Lanka relationship was somewhat piquantly poised. Colombo is keenly hoping that Delhi would take a stance that puts paid to the scandalous UN expert report. So far, Delhi has been sitting on the fence, literally dangling its feet, lost in thoughts. Indications are that Peiris who knows that politics is the art of the possible, succeeded under the circumstances in getting the Indian leadership to begin talking. And the conversation turned out to be engrossing, too.
The fact that a joint statement has been issued after the visit clarifies that a broad convergence may have emerged. Peiris told the media that Delhi showed "empathy" and "understanding". It may be short of outright support he expected over the UN report, but it is incremental progress. The joint statement underscores that the Indian leadership sought to broaden the discourse to cover the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to set a new sense of direction in the ties within which the ruckus over the UN report can be tackled.
Colombo appears receptive - for the present, at least - to the Indian counselling more than at any time in the past two-year period since the war was won, about the imperative of a genuine national reconciliation in a spirit of give-and-take and with a long-term vision that would settle the Tamil problem. The joint statement reflects the Indian thinking and it is significant that Colombo concurs. Specifically, it must be noted that the joint statement singled out that "A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation".
The joint statement suggests that Delhi would have advised Peiris that the best means of responding to the UN report would be to expedite national reconciliation and to conclude a credible inquiry of its own into war excesses. However, the two countries are not holding their broader relationship hostage to the entanglement over the UN report, which is a good thing.
The strategic ties are being enhanced, including in energy and defence. Most certainly, it is only within the matrix of deep engagement that Delhi can hope to influence Colombo optimally, in a climate of trust and confidence, to accelerate a fair settlement to the Tamil problem.
India should not be party to any big power pressure tactic toward Sri Lanka. The fact is that Delhi actively assisted - rightly or wrongly - Colombo to win the war. And Delhi couldn't have been unaware of the brutalities of the Lankan war. India has fought more counterinsurgency wars than any other country in modern history and would know such wars are invariably very brutal. In this particular case, there is also a moral dimension insofar as Indian policies toward the LTTE were never really consistent - and, indeed, Delhi's attitudes toward Colombo also took tragic twists and turns in the period since 1983.
At the end of the day, national reconciliation in Sri Lanka remains a very complicated process. The underlying paradox is that Sri Lanka is a genuinely functioning democracy. Rajapaksa cannot be compared to Slobodan Milosovich. Nor is the injection of geopolitics or the superimposition of the "new great game" into the Sri Lankan situation desirable. India's priority lies in ensuring regional stability. (INAV)

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