Issue :   
July 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         June 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018


Moral order missing

Jagdish N Singh

Starvation in Jharkhan
Governance in a democracy is supposed to be people-friendly. Regrettably, we are still miles away from this moral order . Our successive governments at the Centre and in the States have employed such policies and strategies as perpetuate a state of abundance for the privileged few and that of scarcity for the ordinary masses.
According to reliable reports, in India today over 600 million people face high to extreme water stress, 2,00,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water and 70 per cent of the country’s water supply is “contaminated .

The ordeals of our tribal and farming communities continue unabated. In the last six months around half-adozen people died of starvation in our state of Jharkhand. Most of them were denied rations from their Public Distribution System shops, for they did not have an Aadhaar-based biometric authentication. The State government does not care even for the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Court has ruled the Aadhaar linkage is voluntary. But the State government has cancelled 11.6 lakh ration cards, saying they are not linked to Aadhaar. In our state of Karnataka between April 2013 and November 2017, at least 3,515 farmers ended their lives. The crop loans of farmers stand at ₹ 53,000 crore. The total outstanding borrowings of farmers is ₹ 1.14 lakh crore. The previous Congress government in the state waived crop loans up to ₹ 50,000 borrowed only from the governmentrun cooperative banks.

Our vegetable farmers are not getting a fair price for their goods Hoarding by traders goes on. Garlic has been the latest casualty of the price crash in the vegetable market. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan produce 45 per cent of the country’s garlic. Garlic farmers in the states have of late fetched as low as ₹ 1 a kg in wholesale prices. Earlier, our farmers had poor returns on tomato and potato crops. Tomato farmers had to dump their harvest on the fields in Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh .

There is a near consensus among analysts that our Government—at the Centre and in the States--- must ensure food security for all citizens . As part of short term solution to farmers’ problems, it must immediately waive the distressed farmers’ loans. As part of the long term solution to farmers’ problems, the Government must see to it that the farmers, mainly marginal and small landholders, do not depend on intermediaries to sell their produce. Vegetables are perishable. The Government must provide better infrastructure for storage and marketing. Contract farming can be an alternative for farmers. It will reduce their financial risks by providing an assured market for their produce at a pre-agreed price.

Karnataka farmer
Also, the Government must see to it that our banks function in accordance with their mandate. The Reserve Bank of India rules suggest that 18 per cent of a bank’s Adjusted Net Bank Credit must go to the agricultural sector. Eight per cent of this must go to small and marginal farmers. Our banks hardly honour this.

In a report submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture , the RBI itself has admitted that small and marginal farmers are getting only 30-40 per cent of loans meant for the sector. Some farmers, the larger ones and the ones closer to urban areas, are overrepresented in terms of access to credit.

The report says that in 2017 only 34.5 per cent of agricultural credit outstanding went to rural farmers. The remaining went to semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan farmers. The onus of providing agricultural credit has been on the public sector banks. Twelve out of 23 of the private sector banks, for which data is available, failed to meet the 18 per cent lending target for the agricultural sector in 2017.

India high in US calculus

James Mattis and Mike Pompeo
American President Donald J Trump’s has been a ‘Buy American, Hire American’ agenda ever since his 2016 presidential election campaign. After he took over the White House , he appointed Jeff Sessions , a strong critic of H-1B, as his Attorney General. Will Washington change its visa policy for Indian professionals working in its IT sector?

Knowledgeable sources say Washington is highly unlikely to hurt its ties with New Delhi. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services( USCIS) insists on rule –making process . President Trump has of late supported the need to bring in talented people from abroad to sustain America’s edge in technology. At an event to mark the annual Student Visa Day of the U.S. Embassy in India, Deputy Chief of Mission MaryKay Carlson said, “ Every administration looks at immigration to make it better. As of today, there is no change in the H-1B visa policy.”

The sources say India is very special in American calculus today. Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump announced the idea of the “2+2” dialogue. India’s Foreign and Defence Ministers Sushama Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman and their American counterparts Mike Pompeo and James Mattis will be focussing on this during their upcoming meeting in Washington (July 6). The Trump administration wants to make progress with India in concluding the pending Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA). Washington has had such agreements with allies like Tokyo.

India is unlikely to attract US sanctions under its 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanction Act (CAATSA) . The Act requires that countries that have significant defence cooperation with Russia be sanctioned. Mattis and Pompeo have urged lawmakers to make changes in the law so that partners like India are not punished. Efforts in this direction are being resisted by certain Democratic lawmakers alone.

An absurd idea !

Qamar Javed Bajwa
Is New Delhi thinking of talking straightway to Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to solve our Kashmir problem ? Some time back, our Defence Minister Sitharaman reportedly hinted she would not mind taking a call from him .Recently , our former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing and former special director of the Intelligence Bureau A.S. Dulat reportedly said, “Who could have thought … Trump would want to meet Kim Jong Un? What is the problem with inviting the Pakistan Army Chief to India?”

In a media interview the other day ,Dulat said, “we’ve been muscular, the Army has played its part, and the security forces and intelligence agencies have done well. But all this force and military might have their limitations…. You need to find people to speak with in Pakistan and in Kashmir. There are several leaders, including the separatists, who need to be kept engaged at all times.”

Dulat proposed ,“..we should invite the Pakistan Army Chief, General [Qamar Javed] Bajwa, … There is an imbalance in the NSA talks, because our NSA, Ajit Doval, is all-powerful, while I’m not sure General [Naseer Khan] Janjua has that kind of clout in Pakistan. So may be our NSA and the Pakistan Army Chief could talk.”

The Dulat discourse is a b s o l u t e l y meaningless. Was New Delhi ever muscular enough to allow our Army to play its due role in the defence of our territorial integrity? Is there any point engaging with any separatists to solve the Kashmir problem ? Given their background and pattern of behaviour , would it not be naïve to calculate they would now contribute to an environment of peace and development in the Valley? More importantly, would it not be morally objectionable if democratic India bypassed the current civilian government in Pakistan and straightway invited its army chief for any talks ? Also, should not Dulat bear in mind that Trump met Kim ,another head of a sovereign state, not an army official of North Korea .

And yes, will Sitharaman think before she opens her mouth ? Would she like if our Army Chief bypassed our political leadership and made any direct call to her counterparts in any other country ?