Thursday, July 30, 2009

President asked to preserve Tadoba-Andhari Tiger reserve forest-All Voices Reports.

President asked to preserve Tadoba-Andhari Tiger reserve forest

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has drawn the attention of the President Pratibha Patil for urgent intervention in the very serious issue of the colossal damage that the Adani mines would cause in the vicinity of the famous Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). A whopping 1,600 hectares of the land allocated to the private company supports rich forest from which over 12 lakh full grown trees will be cut down for the mining work,

It said that the biodiversity mainly comprises 18 animal species, nine of which including tiger and leopard are endangered species, 75 species of trees, 35 species of shrubs and herbs, 16 species of bamboo and grass and 21 species of climbers costing more than Rs.3 billion.

VJAS has mentioned the reference complete public support of Chandrapur district environmentalists, now seven MPs from Vidarbha region joined hands to show their support to the cause of protecting last remaining tiger havens in the country.

The MPs from the region, forgetting their political affiliations, Congress MPs led by Vilas Muttemwar (Nagpur), Datta Meghe (Wardha), Marotrao Kowase (Gadchiroli) , BJP's Hansraj Ahir (Chandrapur) , Sanjay Dhotre (Akola) and Shiv Sena's Anandrao Adsul (Amravati) and Pratap Jadhav (Buldhana) joined hands to show their support to the cause.

VJAS has attached copy of a joint letter of these M.P.s to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drawing his attention to the colossal damage that the Adani mines would cause in the vicinity of the famous Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).

As per letter handed over to the PM by Dutta Meghe and Sanjay Dhotre, two prominent leaders from Vidarbha, it is reported that "Adani Power Ltd has been allocated 1,750 hectares of rich forest land having coal reserves at Lohara neat Tadoba. We are of the considered view, based on incontrovertible information, that operation of the proposed opencast coal mine will cause irreparable damage to the rich biodiversity in and around TATR and seriously endanger the very existence of the tiger. There are 45 tigers in the reserve forest, rated as the best in the country in terms of tiger density,"

Throwing light of serious impact of damage letter further adds that’s whopping 1,600 hectares of the land allocated to the private company supports rich forest from which over 12 lakh full grown trees will be cut down for the mining work, The biodiversity mainly comprises 18 animal species, nine of which including tiger and leopard are endangered species, 75 species of trees, 35 species of shrubs and herbs, 16 species of bamboo and grass and 21 species of climbers. As per the environmental impact analysis, the environmental cost would be a mind boggling Rs 2.78 billion.

It is reported in the media that the mining operation sp close to a protected forest negates the government's very own conservation policy on which billions are spent to protect tigers. VJAS has urged the President to look in to MPS suggestion that Adani Power Group can be given an re-allocated some alternatives mining blocks or links where there is no damage to forest and wildlife.

Otherwise, it said that the company may be advised to use coal which it regularly imports for the proposed power plant to come up at Tiroda in Gondia district. This way power can be produced without sacrificing rich forests, rare biodiversity and endangered tiger.

VJAS president Kishore Tiwari said that the EIA and Adani group coal block controversy is not new. He alleged that the NCP leader and union minister for civil aviation Praffull Patel has played key role to clear this coal block hence his name is missing from the letter. He said that they have proof to alleged massive corruption and active role of Adani’s Election Fund to Congress and NCP to get EIA clearance. (EOM)


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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NREGS: The truth is in the lies-Times of India

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NREGS: The truth is in the lies

PANDHARKAWDA (Yavatmal district): As we prepared to turn back to Nagpur after visiting three villages in this suicide capital of Maharashtra, an agitated voice on the phone of our host prompted us to give it a hearing. A former sarpanch, the voice is now an NCP activist. He was well informed about various government schemes meant for the poor. He had a telling comment to make.

"If the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is implemented the right way, there will be no need for MP and MLAs funds," he said with complete conviction.

Look at the figures: At Rs 2 crore per 543 MP, the allocation comes to Rs 1086 crore (most times this remains underutilized). In his budget, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has increased the NREGA allocation by 144% and it's now Rs 39,100 crore.

Had all the money been put to use, there would perhaps been no rickety roads in India. Not every road can be a Mumbai-Pune Expressway but certainly it would have connected many remote and inaccessible villages and brought them on the national motor map. Hidden somewhere between the humongous figures are some lies and half-truths about the UPA's flagship scheme that was meant to provide employment and minimum wage of Rs 100 per day for at least 100 days in a year.

We deliberately chose villages around Pandharkawda. At the height of the agrarian crisis last year, this district created maximum farmer widows. Jalka, where Rahul Gandhi's Kalavati stays, and Sonkhas, where Shashikala resides, is just round the corner. We also deliberately chose not to visit these two villages.

At Mandoli, we encountered Bhimrao Atram creating an embankment to prevent water from gushing into the agricultural fields. The village, largely comprising the Kollam tribe, is Atram's sasural. No, he hasn't heard of the complicated acronym N-R-E-G-S. He is content earning between Rs 65 and Rs 90 per day from the farm owners. He manages to keep his family of four (wife and three children) sufficiently well fed.

However, his neighbours have. Some have paid Rs 100 to get the brochure-looking impeccably maintained registration book which allows you to fill in many details but is strangely blank. The truth: "Who do I approach for the job?" "What kind of jobs are available?" "Are jobs available at all?" "No, I didn't try asking for any job." "There was no publicity about the scheme." From blatant ignorance to utter disregard.

Next stop Wanzari, a little beyond Mandoli. Only a few elders are present as most are working as farmhands. A village elder informs that village and government officials had publicised the scheme. "Many enrolled but only a few sought work when they came to know that largely it involved breaking down stones. Youngsters, though illiterate, want to have fun and not perform hard labour," he said. "Moreover, work under the scheme should be undertaken when we are not working in the farms. If we have work in the farms who will go seeking other work?"

A lady interrupted saying she had actually got work under the scheme. She worked exactly for a day and is still awaiting payment for it.

"Most government officials do not give publicity to the scheme as they want to show that labour is not easily available," said Kishor Tiwari, convenor of the NGO, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which is working for the cause of the farmers. "By doing so they are able to complete projects hiring machines which are owned by politicians and are lying around in large numbers."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mahrashtra Bank Pandharkawada disburesed 200% crop loan -VJAS

Mahrashtra Bank Pandharkawada disburesed 200% crop loan -VJAS

Mahrashtra Bank Pandharkawada disburesed 200% crop loan in this khariff season where as farmers are finding very difficult to get crop loan from other state owned bank and there is big protest is going on for fresh crop loan. VJAS has thanked Mahrashtra Bank Pandharkawada manager Naresh Gokhale for his hard work and sincere efforts to give fresh farm credit to distressed cotton farmers and urged all other bankers to follow the crop loan disbursement pattern

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

High expectation from task force for vidarbha-Hindustantimes Reports

Seeking aid, state gets a task force-Shubhangi Khapre / DNA

Seeking aid, state gets a task force

Shubhangi Khapre / DNA
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 2:36 IST

Mumbai: Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's decision to constitute a task force to ascertain the number of farmers not covered in the loan waiver package came as a blow to the Congress-led Democratic Front (DF) government in the state.
Another committee probing the cause of farmers' plight would expose the inept functioning of the government. The state cabinet was expecting more financial aid instead. A senior cabinet minister said, "Instead of giving financial assistance to the state to sustain the farmers' package, the Centre seems to be more keen to scrutinise the administrative affairs of the DF government." What he stopped short of saying was that the Centre's study would bring to light how, in spite of the bailout package, private moneylenders continue to exploit the hapless farmers.

Chief minister Ashok Chavan said, "Sensing that the Centre's package did not reach all, we have already initiated the process of loan waiver with a Rs6,208-crore package. It will benefit 40 lakh farmers in the state." The statistics though look more impressive on paper than in reality.

Kishore Tiwari, an activist fighting for the farmers, said "Both Centre and state may have released huge packages, but none has translated into relief for the distressed farmers. They are still committing suicide in the cotton growing belt." A senior secretary in state agriculture department said, "Of the total Rs71,000 crore loan waiver, the state share was around Rs14,000 crore. The maximum benefit went to western Maharashtra -- Rs 7,000 crore. The distressed Vidarbha could only avail Rs2,000 crore."

Economic expert Devendra Fadnavis, who is a BJP MLA, said, "The task force is just an eyewash. From Vaidyanathan to Jadhav committee, we already haveJustify Full half a dozen study on the farmers' plight in Maharashtra. Why can't the government streamline the delivery system instead of promising package on papers." He blamed Centre for the continued exploitation by money lenders. "The state can crack down on them only after the money lenders Bill is passed in Parliament."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Farm leaders hail budget-Times of India

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Farm leaders hail budget

7 Jul 2009, 0349 hrs IST, team toi

NAGPUR: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget announcement of a task force to find a way out for farmers reeling under debts taken from private moneylenders has brought new hope to the distressed farmers of the suicide-hit Vidarbha region. Though welcoming the massive allocation of funds for farm credit, rural health mission and rural housing, farm leaders say all now depends on the delivery system, which is known to be extremely weak and leaky.

"A large number of families stand to gain, since those who had borrowed from moneylenders were not eligible for any loan waiver or compensation in case of farmer's suicide. The task force can suggest remedial measures," said farm leader Vijay Jawandhiya of Wardha. "However, many announcements in the Union budget appear cosmetic and may benefit farmers only if the schemes are properly implemented."

Jawandhiya also said that the six-month extension granted for availing one-time settlement under the Centre's loan waiver scheme was inadequate, and it should have been a one-year extension. "The harvest season is more than six months away, how can the farmer make 25% upfront payment before harvest to avail the relief," asked Jawandhiya.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari termed the Union budget as a mixed bag. While appreciating a few points, he said, "There's nothing special for distressed farmers of rain-fed Vidarbha region, nor was there an effort to promote food crops," said Tiwari.

"The issue of moneylenders has been addressed for the first time. A large number of farmers ended their lives as they were unable to bear the fleecing interest rates charged by the village 'sahukar', who humiliated the borrower or took over the land in lieu of the unpaid loans. Also, such farmers' suicides were not eligible for the Rs 1 lakh government compensation," explained Tiwari.

State BJP president Nitin Gadkari said there was nothing in the Union budget for the farmers. "With agriculture in dire straits, what was needed was a separate budget for the sector," he said, "but beyond hollow promises like the task force on moneylenders the budget is a big let down."

"It may not be a please-all budget. But under the given circumstances - a looming slowdown and fall in tax revenues - Pranab Mukherjee has done a satisfactory job of fulfilling election promises," said former minister and veteran Congress leader Ranjit Deshmukh.

"An opportunity to attract global investment after the slowdown in developed countries has been squandered away by the Union finance minister," said city BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis. "For the first time after 1990, the high deficit of 6.8% is worrisome and may derail the country's economy."
Publication: Times of India Mumbai; Date: Jul 7, 2009; Section: For Mumbai; Page: 17

UPA pill for distressed farmers

Prafulla Marpakwar I TNN

Mumbai: The UPA government’s decision to set up a special task force to control the menace of private moneylenders, extend the deadline for the one-time-settlement (OTS) of loans and grant the fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers should go a long way towards resolving the agrarian crisis in the Vidarbha region.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said that the government will set up a task force exclusively for Maharashtra to draft an action plan to curb the menace of private moneylenders. If veteran farmer leader Kishore Tiwari is to be believed, then more than 20 lakh farmers in the suicide-prone Vidarbha region are victims of private moneylenders. “It is for the first time that the Centre has felt the need to control the menace,’’ Tiwari said.

Even though the Centre has waived loans, farmers are still facing a crisis due to private moneylenders. “We have a law to prohibit private moneylending, but the

law was never implemented in letter and spirit,’’ Tiwari said.

A senior agriculture department official said that, with the task force, the government would be able to ascertain the influence exerted by private moneylenders. “We have information that while granting loans to farmers in distress, most moneylenders transfer the farmers’ properties to their own names. As a result, even after repaying their loans, the farmers become landless,’’ the official said. “In our opinion, the state did not make serious efforts to take them on,’’ the official added.

On the extension of the OTS, he said that when the Centre declared the loanwaiver scheme, the farmers were told to clear outstanding dues before June 30, 2009 so that they could be eligible for fresh loans. The Centre had waived Rs 25,000 from every loan. “The farmer was expected to clear the remaining amount before June 30 to be eligible for fresh loans. Now that the Centre has extended the deadline by six months, it will help the farmers in distress,’’ the official said.

On the fertiliser subsidy, he added that so far the subsidy was paid to the farmer through the dealer. Now, the agrarian community will benefit directly.

Indian Budget- The New York Times Reports

The New York Times

July 7, 2009

India to Raise Spending and Cut Taxes

NEW DELHI — India’s finance minister introduced a budget on Monday aimed at stimulating the economy through increased government spending and tax breaks. But the plan disappointed many foreign investors, especially after the Congress Party’s re-election victory in May raised hopes that more market-friendly economic policies might be at hand.

The new budget was largely silent on foreign investment and the sale of shares in state-owned companies — areas in which investors had been anticipating significant changes.

The budget speech usually sets the tone for the Indian government’s economic policies for the coming year.

The stock market, which had rallied in recent weeks on expectations of major financial reforms, tumbled as the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, spoke to Parliament, and it continued falling afterward. The S.& P. CNX Nifty stock index closed down 5.8 percent. The Indian rupee depreciated 1.2 percent, trading at 48.48 against the dollar.

“Change will be gradual and incremental; don’t expect any radical, dramatic movements,” said Subir Gokarn, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s Asia-Pacific, referring to the Congress Party’s likely policies.

True to the Congress Party’s focus on the common man, Mr. Mukherjee spent most of his 90-minute speech discussing government programs for the poor, like a rural employment program guaranteeing 100 days of work a year to each indigent family. The government will increase spending by 144 percent on that project, to 391 billion rupees ($8.1 billion) this fiscal year.

Mr. Mukherjee said the government would return India’s economic growth rate to 9 percent, but he said it would do so in a “more inclusive” manner. He set a goal of cutting in half the percentage of the population that is poor within five years. The government estimates that 27.5 percent of Indians were poor in 2005, the latest year for which data is available. (India classifies people as poor if they consume less than a certain number of calories a day.)

“I am sensitive to the great challenge of rising expectations of a young India,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “It reflects a population that is restless, yet engaged and is ready to seize the opportunities that it is presented with. There are new and powerful reasons for us to create, facilitate and sustain those opportunities.”

Over all, government spending will increase 36 percent and the deficit for the 2009-10 fiscal year will reach an estimated 6.8 percent of gross domestic product, up from an estimated 6.2 percent last year. Rating firms had warned that they might reduce India’s credit rating to junk status if its deficit rose too much, but they did not make any changes Monday.

While India has withstood the global economic crisis better than the United States, Europe and export-dependent emerging markets, its economy has slowed from more than 9 percent growth in recent years to 6.7 percent in the year that ended March 31.

To resume faster growth, economists say the country will need big doses of investment from businesses and the government. The financial crisis has significantly slowed foreign investment, and the government has struggled to improve the country’s poor infrastructure because of entrenched corruption, bureaucracy and political meddling. The Planning Commission has said India needs to spend $500 billion by 2012, a target few analysts expect it to meet.

Mr. Mukherjee said the Congress Party planned to increase infrastructure spending to 9 percent of G.D.P. by 2014. India now spends about 6 percent of its G.D.P. on roads, ports, airports and similar facilities, compared with about 9 percent in China.

Several executives welcomed the focus on infrastructure and the poor but said the government had to show that it could make good on its promises. “The delivery has to happen with alacrity,” said Bharat Wakhlu, resident director for the Tata Group in New Delhi.

There was more disappointment among multinational companies, foreign investors and overseas universities who were hoping for a relaxation of investment limits in banking, retail, education and other areas.

Among those limits, foreign retailers who sell just one brand need to find a joint venture partner to sell products in India. Retail chains that sell more than one brand, like Wal-Mart Stores, are limited to setting up wholesale stores in India, which can sell to shopkeepers or restaurants but not directly to consumers. And foreign life insurance companies are restricted to owning 26 percent of Indian life insurance firms.

The new budget provided “nothing specific at all” for foreign investors, said Sanjay Nayar, chief executive of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in India and a former head of Citibank’s Indian operation.

Rather than talk about foreign investment, Mr. Mukherjee noted how well big Indian banks had performed in the current economic crisis thanks to their nationalization 40 years ago by Indira Gandhi, the prime minister at the time.

“Her approach continues to be our inspiration,” said Mr. Mukherjee, who was finance minister for three years under Mrs. Gandhi in the 1980s. (He added that the government would sell minority stakes in nonfinancial state-owned companies, raising a modest $230 million.)

Suhel Seth, a marketing executive and trustee of the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, a public-private partnership between the government and Indian industries that aims to burnish the country’s image abroad, said the speech “tells every foreign institutional investor that India is back in the 1960s.”

The government has proposed a range of tax incentives like raising exemptions for the elderly and women; eliminating a fringe-benefits tax that companies pay on employee perks; and lowering taxes on goods and services bought by exporters, construction companies and technology firms.

Many analysts had hoped that the government would reduce various subsidies for fuel, food, fertilizers and other products. Mr. Mukherjee said the government would move to reduce and overhaul fertilizer subsidies so that the money would go directly to farmers, rather than fertilizer makers.

“This may help farmers if implemented properly,” said Kishore Tiwari, a farmer and advocate in a region where many farmers have committed suicide in recent years because of financial pressures. “There are a lot of farmer friendly announcements but it is to be seen how they are implemented.”