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Congress to continue fight on land bill issue

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New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday promised to continue its fight on the land bill issue in the state assemblies, as party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government, saying the “Make in India” campaign was actually “Take in India” as it has “no place for farmers and labourers”.

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At the “Kisan Samman Rally” rally to mark the party’s “victory” on the land bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also mounted a strong attack on Modi, saying he was forced to “bow” on the land bill issue before the power of the “plough and hand”.

The Congress leaders highlighted issues concerning farmers, labourers and the common man at the well-attended rally at the Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi.

The Congress sought to put up a show of strength at the rally which highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in forcing the government to backtrack on the land bill.

But apparent factionalism in the Haryana Congress was evident as Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar faced waving of hands and some booing by partymen wearing pink turbans, who were seen as supporters of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The rally came five months after the Congress held a rally on the land ordinance in April which also marked Rahul Gandhi’s arrival from a long sabbatical.

The Congress is seeking electoral revival after a string of reverses in assembly polls following its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.

Speakers at the rally highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in taking the lead on the land bill issue.

In her hard-hitting speech, Sonia Gandhi charged the BJP-led government with failing on all fronts including price rise.

Sonia Gandhi said Modi has time only for his industrialist friends, and not for farmers and labourers.

“The Modi government, as is its habit, is indulging in just talking and making speeches. It is encouraging activities which take away attention of the people from the real issues. It wants to create such tension which will be a danger for the country’s future and national unity. It is the biggest challenge before us which we have to face unitedly,” Gandhi said.

The Congress chief said Modi overlooked the seriousness of the agitation against the “black” land ordinance, but “had to bow his head” when the “force of hand and plough combined together”.

The hand is the election symbol of the Congress and the plough is associated with the farming community.

The Modi government allowed its ordinance to lapse following stiff opposition from the Congress to changes in the 2013 Act on land acquisition which was passed during the United Progressive Alliance government.

The new land bill of the National Democratic Alliance government is being examined by a joint committee of parliament but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has already made significant changes in its stance on the legislation by relenting on crucial clauses such as consent and social impact assessment.

Sonia Gandhi said the struggle against the land bill has not ended but “the battlefield has shifted to the states”.

“The prime minister has failed at the Centre (to change the land law) and now wants to bring the same (changes) through the states. If we are not alert, the struggle will go in vain and you will lose your land,” Sonia Gandhi said.

Rahul Gandhi said Modi only listens to “people in suit-boot” and Modi’s ‘Make in India’ does not have “place for labourers, farmers but for only those whom he meets and talks”.

“We don’t want such India. This is not ‘Make in India’. This is Modi’s ‘take in India’,” he said.

“On the one hand, they want to snatch your land, on the other your rights. In the end, you will get nothing. His two-three chosen friends will get it in the end.”

He also said the battle on land bill has shifted to state assemblies and Congress will fight it. He said fight over land bill was about not just about land but also heart, prestige and future of farmers.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused the NDA government of trying to weaken the welfare programmes of the previous UPA government.

He said the Congress was able to stop the “conspiracy” of the Modi government on the land bill under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

He further added that the issue will need “more struggle”.

(IANS)

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)