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Indian politics & the thought of Liberty

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By Harshmeet Singh

Of all the words in the English language, ‘Liberty’ is my favorite. After all, Liberty is a prerequisite to enjoy the true essence of human life. It was this desire of liberty that gave rise to the feeling of Nationalism in the country and turned young men into freedom fighters ready to sacrifice their lives. Thousands died to ensure that their motherland, India, achieves liberty from the British Raj. As the history stands today, their sacrifices didn’t go in vain. However, many historians prefer to contest this. According to a number of historians, the great Indian Nationalist movement just brought about a ‘transfer of power’ and not liberty. 68 years down the line, these questions are just as relevant today. Did we really achieve liberty or was it just the transfer of power from one hand to another, with no change at the grassroots.

India_flag_emblem

Most colonialized countries in Asia and Africa had suffered from the ill effects of capitalism when their ruling powers used them for their resources. So when these countries became free, Socialism and Marxism were the obvious choices as the frontline political ideologies. But with growing corruption and nepotism and the ruling Congress party failing to fulfill the big dreams it projected to the nation at the time of independence, the growing unrest in the country called for a change which came out in the form of the ‘Swatantra Party’ in 1956. Founded by C. Rajagopalachari, the Swatantra Party was way ahead of its time. After all, the same Congress party which opposed its demands of an end to ‘License Raj’ had to take that route when the country was at the verge of bankruptcy in 1991. With a number of veteran ex-Congressmen among the ranks of the party, people stood up to listen what the party had to offer. In 1967, the second general election that the party fought, it emerged as the single largest opposition party, winning 44 seats.

After Rajagopalachari died in 1972, the party couldn’t hold on to its supporter base and merged with the Bharatiya Kranti Dal in 1974. Though short lived, it was India’s first brush with a political party that stood on the ideals of liberty.

Classical liberalism demands the state to play a largely restricted role in the market while ensuring that the values of justice and security are upheld. Though a perfectly ‘liberal’ state is impossible to achieve, proponents of liberalism suggest taking up measures that can move a society towards classical liberalism. The liberal policies, if applied in the Indian context, suggest that a large population, if well handled and appropriately educated is never a burden. Similarly, liberal values support freedom of an individual, freedom to make a mistake and learn from it. Rather than handing out subsidies, individuals must be well trained, educated and encouraged to sustain themselves.

With the introduction of LPG reforms in 1991, India looked all set to achieve a global stature and assume the position of a world leader that it always aspired for. And yet, close to 25 years hence, we are still nowhere near the tag of a ‘world power’. Where did it go wrong then? Or maybe, where did it not go wrong? The corruption and nepotism that led to the formation of Swatantra Party in 1956 has assumed humungous proportions. The Congress party (and most others) is in a state of trance, refusing to listen to the opinions of the common man and singing its own tune. And just like déjà vu, we have a party formed on the lines of ‘Liberty’, the Swarna Bharat Party. Formed in 2013, the SBP aims to go one step ahead of the Swatantra Party and make India the envy of the entire world”.

In an email exchange with NewsGram, Swarna Bharat Party’s founder, Sanjeev Sabhlok said that his party is determined to “make India a place without communal or naxalite violence”. The party envisions an India “free of its colonial socialist and corrupt governance system.” When asked if the party intends to fight elections in the near future, he remarked, “No governance reform can be achieved without legislative reform. To deliver that will require political action. The party is beginning to establish its internal systems, and seeks leaders to contest elections in the coming years.” Underlining the lack of political awareness in the country, he further added that “the country is largely ignorant about liberty and good governance, and the educational task must precede any political success.”

Sadly enough our ‘fight for liberty’ was defined as the fight against the British Empire. Little did we know that we would need a much bigger revolution to gain liberty from our own brethren!

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Is Hamid Ansari a thankless Muslim Indian?

Former vice president Hamid Ansari who lately attended an event in Kozhikode held by Delhi Institute of objective studies, co-organised by PFI faces youth's protest.

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Popular Front of India
Source: Wikimedia Common
New Delhi, September 25, 2017: The youth wing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out to protest against the University and former vice president Hamid Ansari who lately attended an event in Kozhikode held by Delhi Institute of objective studies.
The event was co-organised by National Women’s Front (NWF), the women’s wing of the radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India to mark the international conference on “the role of women to make a humane society”. It has also been alleged that an Islamic fundamentalist organization, Popular Front of India (PFI) was also part of the organizing committee.
According to the reports, the criminal of radical outfit PFI was accused of cutting the hands of Professor Joseph for being offensive to the Islamic Prophet Mohammad. It has also been accused of accusing National Investigative Agency over controversial ‘Love Jihad’ cases.
The university however claim that they have received letters from certain organizations, though not being part of the event but were collaborating in it.
BJP now demand an apology from the former vice president for attending the event that was organized by the organization who has also been responsible for recruiting youngsters for the Islamic state.
The question arises what prompted the Vice President of India for 10 years to attend an event organized by a radical Islamic people of Popular Front of India?
Is he being supportive of their agenda? Or is Hamid Ansari a thankless Muslim Indian?
– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire

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Decoding the Indian Agrarian Crisis and Fake Farmers Facade

Gaurav Tyagi believes half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

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farmers
An increasing number of farmers in India are committing suicide due to debt pressure. To tackle the issue, the government has come up with farm loan waivers. (VOA)

– By Gaurav Tyagi


New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : 
Indian and International media is full of articles regarding large number of farmers in India committing suicide due to debt pressure.

Instead of going to the root of the problem and analyzing the reasons for this phenomenon, Indian politicians have come up with an absurd idea of farm loan waivers.

Majority of Indian farmers under debt trap own very little land. Farming on such small piece of land is not economically feasible. This sector is highly unorganized. Most of the time, no planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation and harvesting.

Middlemen exploit farmers by buying their produce at a very low price and then selling it at a premium to the end consumers.

The irony is that a large number of Indian politicians claim huge incomes from agriculture while farmers starve.

In the province of Madhya Pradesh 24 farmers committed suicide this year over crop loss and failure to repay loans but 18 of the 20 cabinet ministers of the state have shown ‘agriculture’ as their main source of huge incomes.

How come politicians are earning in Billions through farming while the real farmers are struggling to make both ends meet?

Let’s examine the issue in-depth.

The income earned from agricultural land is exempt from income tax under section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act 1961. Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India launder their money misusing the above income tax clause.

Normally, one cannot own agricultural land in India unless their forefathers have been agriculturists. Rich and influential people in the country obtain agriculturist certificates by ‘greasing the palms’ of the local land officials.

Farmers are not required to maintain detailed records in India. This provides an excellent loophole to pass off unaccounted and undeclared cash as agricultural income. It is done by showing fake sales cash receipts of agricultural produce, which like other certificates can be purchased in India through bribes.

Approximately 800,000 tax declarants in India state exorbitant amounts as agricultural incomes while filing their annual income tax returns.

This income, a whopping INR. 874 Lakh Crores was eight times more than the cumulative GDP of India for the financial years 2011 and 2012.

The average annual income declared by these assesses comes out to be anywhere between Rs. 30-80 Crores, on which they don’t pay any taxes.

It’s obvious that the aforesaid is not agricultural earning instead it’s declared as agricultural income by these assesses just to avoid paying taxes.

According to National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Delhi, with hardly any farming land has more farmers indulging in agriculture than Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal provinces.

Delhi’s so called ‘farmers’ received Rs. 22,077 Crores in agricultural loans during 2009. In reality, these ‘self proclaimed farmers’ are the owners of big farm houses on the outskirts of the capital.

The authorities are well aware of this malpractice. The Tax Administration Reform Committee in its report in November 2014 said, “Agricultural income of non-agriculturists is being increasingly used as a conduit to avoid tax and for laundering funds, resulting in leakage to the tune of Crores in revenue annually”

The Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on 26th April said that the government of India does not plan to tax the farm income.

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Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley, wikimedia

It reveals that Indian politicians cutting across party lines indulge in this malpractice, 27% of the winning Lok Sabha M.P’s in 2014 elections have declared wealth of over Rs. 1 Crore, majority of which has been mentioned as agricultural income.

Indian opposition politicians blackmail the political party in power by indulging in spurious farmer agitations.

If there is a bumper crop then the opposition parties start shouting that prices have crashed due to over-supply in the market. When farming cultivation fails due to the vagaries of nature, then they start throwing statistics about farmers suicide.

A group of ‘self proclaimed’ farmers from Tamil Nadu province camped at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Indian capital city during March this year and indulged in cheap theatrics to draw attention to their protests.

The leader of this group, P. Ayyakannu is demanding that all farmers should be given loan waivers from banks and quoted highly inflated figures of farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu government on 28th April, 2017 conveyed to the Supreme Court of India that no famers committed suicide in the state and clarified that a few, who took this extreme measure did it due to personal reasons.

Many farmers died due to old age and other medical issues. Ayyakannu clubbed all of them together to gather national as well as international attention.

ALSO READ Farmers welfare: What Indian agricultural sector needs to learn from Denmark?

Ayyakannu called off this whole play in Delhi on 23rd April after 40 days, when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet these protestors.
He said that their group is giving a one month’s time-frame to the government in order to fulfill their demands otherwise, they would resume their protests in the national capital from May 25 on a bigger scale.

This impostor farmer leader Ayyakannu again came back to Delhi again on 16th July with his gang of ruffians to continue their drama.

Ayakannu as per media reports is not even a farmer, but a lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money through out of court settlements and personally owns hundreds of acres of land.

He and his bunch of hooligans all look quite healthy and well-fed. They don’t appear like destitute farmers as claimed by them.

Fake farmers like the aforementioned Ayyakannu are just the front faces of this façade in the name of farmers.

The remote controls of such characters remain in the hands of politicians, who use them for their narrow, selfish, corrupt agendas depending on the political situation at the state and national level.

The governments of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan & U.P. provinces have waived off agricultural loans worth Billions. This has set up a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.

ALSO READ Exclusive: Angry Farmers and Distressed Leaders

There are no ‘free lunches’ in this world. These half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

The following steps would go a long way in helping the real distressed farmers;

  • Scientific soil and climate testing should be done across all farming regions in India. Farmers can then be educated about which crops to grow profitably, in how many cycles; depending on the soil conditions and climate of the region.
  • Implement agricultural reforms like farming co-operatives, where farmers having small agricultural land holdings can be encouraged to come together and pool their land plus resources together.
  • Crop storage infrastructure should be built and maintained in every village so, that farmer can store their surplus produce rather than sell it desperately at a low price.
  • Crop insurance must be compulsorily introduced all over the country wherein, farmers by paying a nominal amount need not bother about their crops getting destroyed through excessive rain or drought.
  • Organic farming needs to be encouraged instead of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. The food waste produced by an entire village can be easily turned into biodegradable compost, through innovative schemes like Vermicomposting.
  • Vermicast can replace fertilizers in the agriculture fields. This would save money for the farmer and provide high quality chemical free crops.
  • The APMC’s (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) have created a coterie of middlemen, who along with the complicity of these committees, form a virtual barrier between the farmer and the consumer, paying the former a pittance for his produce and charging the latter exorbitant amounts for fruits and vegetables.
    Vegetables are purchased at Rs. 2 or 3 a kg from farmers and then sold at 30 to 40 rupees per kg to urban consumers.
    This setup has been going on for decades in every town and city of India. Millions of urban Indians pay artificially higher prices and majority of farmers are underpaid due to this flawed system.
    The profits are made by middlemen, who do not pay taxes on these huge earnings. It is a common practice for them to store money in cash and not in banks.

These APMC’s must therefore be abolished immediately. Farmers should get direct access to the end consumer through the elimination of middlemen. This would ensure a better monetary return for farmers.

  • Private moneylenders in and around the villages charge a very high rate of interest from farmers. This unscrupulous sector should be bought under government regulation by bringing down the rate of interest to a rational level.
  • Government schools in villages are in shambles. They need to be upgraded so, that quality education at an affordable price is available to every child in the village.
    This would uplift farmers children through educational empowerment. It will enable them to make a transition to non-agricultural professions in future and enhance their family earnings considerably.

The aforementioned steps would cost the government far less than what it is losing in the absurd loan waiver schemes, which anyways don’t help the poor marginal farmer at all.
As regard dealing with the fake farmers of India.

The solution entails; no farm loan waivers and bringing the agricultural income above a certain threshold under the tax bracket.

The aforesaid measures would prevent the fake farmers façade spreading rapidly all over the country, while resolving the agrarian crisis of India by assisting needy farmers of the country.

The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China. 


 

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Swarna Bharat Party (SBP) wants Modi Government to bring reform in Labour Laws

Modi government’s focus should be only on one thing- on the urgently needed governance reforms to provide basic rule of law, security, and justice

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Swarna Bharat Party rally in a national movement for good governance in Delhi, India
Swarna Bharat Party rally in a national movement for good governance in Delhi, India. Wikimedia
  • Mr Modi lied to Indians when he spoke about minimum government, maximum governance
  • The expansion of maternity leave to 26 weeks for women who work in any establishment with more than ten employees
  • Mr Sabhlok emphasised that Swarna Bharat Party is not against longer maternity leave
New Delhi, September 3, 2017: Mr Sanjeev Sabhlok, a professional economist and Overseas Coordinator for Swarna Bharat Party, called upon the Modi government to abolish most labour laws, including minimum wage laws, laws restricting hiring and firing of labour and laws that set employment conditions, such as the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.
 
Mr Modi lied to Indians when he spoke about “minimum government, maximum governance”. Immediately upon coming to power, he has dramatically expanded the remit of government in every field. 
 
The expansion of maternity leave to 26 weeks (for the first two children) for women who work in any establishment with more than ten employees has been a particularly damaging intervention. In a country with chronically high unemployment, this Tughlaquesque provision is going to put many young women out of jobs, depriving them of the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.
 
Mr Sabhlok emphasised that Swarna Bharat Party is not against longer maternity leave. But this is a matter purely between employers and employees. Indeed, across the world, many companies voluntarily choose to implement strong maternity leave policies in order to attract and retain top female talent. 
 
On the other hand, most jobs only require low-level skills. For such jobs, no employer can afford to pay half a year’s wages without any work. They will necessarily reject young women and hire male labour, instead. Or they will pay all women employees less. Moreover, we know that government inspectors’ bribe demands will increase.
 
The government must get out of the way and leave the people of India free to agree to their own wage bargains and other labour conditions as grown up adults. The only function a government has in relation to private employment contracts is to ensure strong enforcement of these contracts through the judiciary. A government has no business to set the terms of these contracts. 
 
Mr Sabhlok said that the Modi government’s focus should be only on one thing: on the urgently needed governance reforms to provide basic rule of law, security and justice – as detailed in Swarna Bharat Party manifesto. He regretted that Mr Modi is even more wedded than his predecessors to the failed ideology of socialism and big government.