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Modi Govt likely to prepare a new industry-friendly Mining law #WTFnews

Govt may bury UPA’s mining law draft

Mineral output has been shrinking significantly in recent years due to judicial oversight of mining in key states such as Karnataka, Goa and Odisha.
Mineral output has been shrinking significantly in recent years due to judicial oversight of mining in key states such as Karnataka, Goa and Odisha.
NEW DELHI: The government could go back to the drawing board to prepare a new industry-friendly law for the mining sector, in the process effectively junking a legislation drafted by the UPA government in 2011 whose provisions were unpopular with miners and, fortuitously for them, had lapsed with the previous Lok Sabha.

The UPA government’s Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill of 2011, which aimed to set aside an outdated 1957 legislation that presently governs the sector, makes it mandatory for miners to share their profits.

Mineral output has been shrinking significantly in recent years due to judicial oversight of mining in key states such as Karnataka, Goa and Odisha.

That and a policy paralysis at the Centre had the mining industry worried about the UPA-drafted law’s contentious proposals that prescribed miners sharing 26% of their net profits with local communities affected by their mining operations.

While the Union government has decided to push forward some pending and lapsed bills from the previous Lok Sabha, it is looking at mining laws afresh, said officials.

This is in sync with the prime minister’s directive to all departments to review or repeal archaic laws that have outlived their utility.

“The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill of 2011 had many issues but it has lapsed. The government is now taking a view on whether the law should be comprehensively amended or a new Bill be brought altogether,” said Arun Kumar, joint secretary in the mines ministry.

A decision on the mining law’s fate is expected from the Minister of Steel, Mines and Labour, Narendra Singh Tomar, who is holding meetings with industry leaders this week. India’s mining output has consistently contracted for four years running.

In the last financial year, it fell 1.4%.

The problems afflicting the mining sector has had knockon effects on a range of other industry sectors too and the wider economy. Industries were forced to import raw materials even when they were plentifully available in the country. Industry officials who didn’t want to be identified welcomed the early thinking in the government to frame a new law. The 1957 law, they said, had little relevance in today’s context and needed to go.

“The government should consider declaring mining as a strategic sector as it is critical for manufacturing growth, job creation and saving valuable foreign exchange spent on importing raw materials. Moreover, it can propel growth in some of the most backward states,” said one mining industry official requesting anonymity.

The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act of 1957 was last amended in 1999 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, which changed the law’s name to stress the primacy of development over regulation.

Applicable to all minerals except mineral oil, the law originally reserved all major minerals like coal, lignite and iron ore for the public sector and allowed a limited role for private players in minor minerals. It was framed on the basis of the principles enshrined in the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956, which was significantly overhauled in 1991 when India opened up its markets.

In the 1970s, the law was amended twice, but only to enlarge the government’s control over mining operations and expanded the list of minerals reserved for the public sector.

The UPA had enunciated a National Mineral Policy in 2008, but the MMDR law’s amendments to back the policy could not be passed.

The amendments it had proposed included miners having to share 26% profit with local communities, setting up of courts to fasttrack illegal mining cases, a national mining regulator for major minerals and a central and state level cess on mining output.

Read more here  http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/indl-goods/svs/metals-mining/govt-may-bury-upas-mining-law-draft-likely-to-prepare-a-new-industry-friendly-law-for-sector/articleshow/36783650.cms

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Decoding Verdict – Why voters punished UPA ?

If anything, the UPA has been punished by the voters for moving away from its core agenda of entitlement-based politics
Why voters punished UPA

The fact that the UPA had moved away from its commitment to the aam aadmi and the agenda of inclusive politics was clear on several fronts. Most notable was its denial of the fact that the economy was simply not creating jobs and that entitlement-based politics could only be a temporary relief measure and not a substitute for more substantive reforms. Photo: Mint
The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 elections will remain a watershed moment for Indian democracy in many ways than one. Coming at a time when the economy is in a serious mess, the victory of the BJP and the defeat of the Congress party and its allies need to be analysed not just politically but also economically.
Even though this election was fought on the agenda of development—at least that is what the BJP would like to believe—the party was silent on how the economy will be revived. The over-selling of the Gujarat model of development may have fetched votes but its performance on job creation, non-farm diversification, growth rate of wages, as well as on standard indicators of public service delivery such as on the rural job guarantee scheme and the public distribution system (PDS), hardly inspire any confidence. It is also worth noting that apart from touting the Gujarat model of development, BJP hardly offered any prescription on how to revive the economy either in its manifesto or in the speeches of prime minister-designate Narendra Modi.
Analysts have been quick to term the victory of BJP in this election as a vote against entitlement-based redistributive politics which characterized the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first avatar. Such a conclusion is not only simplistic but also is far from the truth. A quick analysis of the seats won by the BJP makes it clear that the party won mainly in those states and seats where the principal opposition was the UPA or its supporters such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).
While the UPA may have championed the rights-based approach to redistributive politics in its first avatar (2004-09), it hardly did anything to further the agenda. So much so that the second avatar of the UPA was known for having scuttled the implementation of flagship entitlement programmes such as the rural job programme through fixing such wages below state minimum wages and financial squeezing than for implementing these. This was amply clear even in the case of Rajasthan where the UPA was routed in the assembly elections in 2013 as well as now.
Rajasthan, which was among the states with the best implementation of the scheme until 2010, witnessed a sharp decline in MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) performance subsequently. But even for new initiatives such as National Food Security Act (NFSA), the UPA managed to get it passed in the months before the 2014 general election without these seeing any implementation. By then most states had their own PDS reforms with prices lower than the central legislation and coverage higher than the central legislation, effectively making the NFSA redundant.
Is this election a vote against entitlement-based politics? The evidence does not suggest so. All three showcase states for PDS reforms—Tamil Nadu (37 out of 39), Chhattisgarh (10 out of 11) and Odisha (20 out of 21) saw ruling governments, including BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, cornering more than 90% seats in their respective states. These three states are also among the states which have done better in MGNREGA implementation, with Tamil Nadu being the best performer in recent years. On the other hand, the states where the ruling governments were routed and the BJP made the maximum gains were Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, hardly known for implementing entitlement-based programmes.
If anything, the UPA has been punished by the voters for moving away from its core agenda of entitlement-based politics. The same electorate, not so long ago, had also rewarded the UPA with an unexpected vote in favour of it. The election victory of 2009 was rightly credited to entitlement-based politics. But a strong reason for the UPA being rewarded was also that it did enact the legislation within a year of coming to power in 2004 and managed to implement it successfully by the time it went to the next polls. This time, not only did it dilute the existing programmes but also did not pass the legislation on NFSA until months before the election, with hardly any time for implementation.
But the fact that the UPA had moved away from its commitment to the aam aadmi and the agenda of inclusive politics was clear on several fronts. Most notable was its denial of the fact that the economy was simply not creating jobs and that entitlement-based politics could only be a temporary relief measure and not a substitute for more substantive reforms.
The irony is that not only did it refuse to accept the fact that the economy was going through jobless growth and high inflation but it also tried to discredit the data. This shooting-the-messenger attitude was evident not only on jobs but also on inflation. Worse, the response of the UPA was to exacerbate the problem by hoarding more grains and squeezing small- and medium-enterprises rather than bringing down prices and creating jobs.
More than their failure on entitlement-based politics, the UPA failed in meeting the aspirations of the electorate on employment. The fact that this electorate was young and restless, armed with whatever little education and skill it had, and desperate to be part of the growth process was a reality the UPA did not see. The youth refused to be a bystander in a process of growth driven by cronyism, corruption, inflation and rising inequality. And this young voter is no longer an urban youth but also a large majority in rural areas, where jobs in agriculture have declined by 35 million between 2004 and 2011.
Finally, the voter is much more aware than political parties thought. The electorate is restless and impatient and has no place for politics of opportunism. This was the reason the electorate rejected the BSP, the SP, the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and the Left. Sadly, Nitish Kumar, who was credited with development of Bihar, was no longer trusted, given his opportunistic stand. But the biggest punishment was reserved for the Congress which used entitlement-based politics in rhetoric but backed out when it needed to deliver.
This electorate is young and restless and is quick to reward as it is quick to punish. For all it’s worth, it did so by voting for the Aam Aadmi Party when the opportunity came, but also for the BJP in the national elections. The BJP was successful in matching the aspirations of this youth with the promise of acche din (good days). To what extent the BJP will be able to meet these aspirations is something to watch out for. As of now, the mechanics of these are not clear. But it is clear that there is no making a fool of this voter.
Himanshu is an assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and visiting fellow at Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi.
Read mor ehere – http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/38bRDCyqMSMMYIXVn0SzvI/Decoding-verdict-Why-voters-punished-UPA.html

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Congress and BJP Manifesto – Real differences

The very real differences between the BJP and Congress agendas

A look at the manifestos of the Congress and the BJP and what they offer to the voters

Mihir S Sharma  |  <news:geo_locations>New Delhi 

 Last Updated at 16:25 IST
  

The similarity between the manifestos of the Congress and the BJP – the latter came out today – has caused much comment. If anything, this reflects the ideological convergence between the two largest parties on many economic issues. But a detailed reading provides considerable texture to the differences and to the similarities, underlining the different focuses of the two parties.

What, first, are the big expensive similarities?

· Housing for all (free in neither, low-cost in both)
· Healthcare for all (free in neither, low-cost in both. Free medicines from the Congress)

If anything, this reinforces the idea that both parties are committed to a welfarist idea of India. The anti-dole rhetoric of the BJP is not reflected in its most important actionable promises. In neither manifesto is the cost of these initiatives estimated, or their impact on the fiscal deficitmentioned. Additional evidence of this welfarist convergence is the manner in which the BJP promises to better implement the Congress’ Right to Food – and the Congress promises to expand the BJP’s Antyodaya programme, which targets food to the very poorest. Both parties also promise to refocus welfarism on outcomes and the quality of services provided.

There are several concepts in the Congress that are not in the BJP’s. Some of these may surprise reformists – though, of course, the party’s ability to implement them will be questioned given its recent history in power.

·         Replacing subsidies with user charges: The word “subsidies” is not found in the BJP’s manifesto, although a generic commitment to fiscal discipline is. The Congress, on the other hand, promises to reduce subsidies: “Given the limited resources, and the many claims on the resources, we must choose the subsidies that are absolutely necessary and give them only to the absolutely deserving. We will also consider introducing sensible user charges…”

·         Financial sector reforms: Although a hallmark of the last NDA government, the BJP has largely ignored financial openness and innovation; the Congress, however, promises an actionable timetable on financial-sector reform, already the subject of an excellent report from Ajay Shah and others.

·         Direct benefit transfers: Another way to reduce the subsidy bill, and one much beloved of economists. The Congress, in spite of recent problems with Aadhaar, repeats that it will follow through with this if returned to office. The BJP mentions cash transfers not at all.

·         Education/skill vouchers, for SC/ST: A very popular idea with economic liberals is the provision of choice to those who want to invest in their human capital. The Congress suggests it will provide vouchers, redeemable against any course, for young people from Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes who want to develop their skills.

·         Unique ID: Aadhaar is repeatedly mentioned in the Congress manifesto. Not only is that not mentioned in the BJP’s, but neither is the NDA’s own project, the National Population Register. There is, however, an odd mention of “ID cards for labourers in the unorganised sector” in the BJP’s manifesto. If this is different from Aadhaar, then it will involve considerable duplication; making it compulsory might well raise red tape and reduce unemployment. It’s probably a product of the widespread phobia about Bangladeshi immigration.

·         Providing proteins, not just carbs: A constant refrain of those who disapprove of the current approach to food security has been the over-emphasis on foodgrain at the cost of other essentials. The Congress says that it will also include, under the Antyodaya scheme, protein-rich pulses and cooking oil.

·         Animal husbandry: Oddly, unlike in the Congress’, I couldn’t find a mention of animal husbandry, a fast-growing rural business, in the BJP’s manifesto at all. A vegetarian Gujarat model?

Here are some concepts in the BJP’s manifesto, but not in Congress:

·         “Port-led development”: Spinning off Narendra Modi’s efforts in Gujarat, ports are given special emphasis by the BJP, and largely ignored by the Congress. The BJP’s manifesto emphasises not just building and improving ports, but also coastal highways, special railway lines linking the hinterland to active ports, and “agri-rail”, presumably with refrigerated cars.

·         River interlinking (“based on feasibility”): Like ports, river inter-linking was one of the big ideas of the Vajpayee era. Since then it’s run into much trouble. But the BJP’s manifesto, in keeping with a larger emphasis on infrastructure development, resurrects the idea.

·         Special credit facilities to real estate sector: A promise in the BJP’s manifesto, as part of its effort to ensure a home for all. Can wind up being a handout to bankrupt developers and greedy politicians, without real structural reform of the sector.

·         New specialised banks: Not fazed by the mockery of the “women’s bank” that Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced last year, the BJP has suggested two such tokenist institutions: a“worker’s bank” and a “mobile women’s bank”.

·         Online learning: Unlike the Congress, the BJP has figured out that “massive open online courses”, or MOOCs, are perhaps the quickest and best way to scale up education. This is in keeping with its stated focus on younger, more aspirational people.

·         Tourism: Not mentioned in the Congress’ manifesto, but a major thrust focus in the BJP’s. This is in keeping with Mr Modi’s speeches. In the book Moditva, it is even suggested that tourism reduces terrorism.

·         Factories as families: One unusual suggestion in the BJP’s manifesto: “Encourage industry owners and labour to embrace concept of Industry Family, in which industry owners and labour bond as a family.” This is either very Gandhian or very Japanese.

·         Fast-track courts for hoarders: The UPA has repeatedly tried to blame hoarders and black-marketeers for volatile food prices. It is the BJP, however, that promises fast-track courts for hoarders as a way of controlling food inflation. Mr Modi has often complained that the Centre shut down special funding for states’ fast-track courts.

·         AyurgenomicsMany were puzzled by this commitment from the BJP: “We will start integrated courses for Indian System of Medicine (ISM) and modern science and Ayurgenomics.” (Ayurgenomics is apparently the Ayurveda of genetics.)

What phrases are missing in both the manifestos?

·         “Privatisation” or “disinvestment. Once the touchstone of reformist foreign policy; now neither party appears to want to touch the public sector. The BJP has long trumpeted the NDA’s record on disinvestment; it seems to have very noticeably retreated from any such agenda.

·         “The United States of America”. Neither manifesto so much as mentions the US. The BJP’s talks vaguely about “mending equations” and avoiding “being led by big power interests”. The Congress’ mentions Pakistan, China, Brazil, South Africa, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, SAARC, and even the Non-Aligned Movement. But the US is clearly political poison right now.

Read more here — http://www.business-standard.com/article/elections-2014/the-very-real-differences-between-the-bjp-and-congress-agendas-114040700680_1.html

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Why did UPA government sleep on decriminalisation of #Sec377

 

Kamayani Bali Mahabal aka Kracktivist

 

Why did UPA government sleep on decriminalisation of Sec 377

377

 

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, that criminalises gay sex has remained in the statute book for over 150 years. The Delhi High Court had simply asked Parliament to have a relook at it and till then had only decriminalised gay sex between consenting adults in private. Section 377 IPC was not struck down wholly.. Last year the  Supreme Court (SC) has also tossed the ball into Parliament’s court, but the interim 1elief the Delhi HC had granted has been denied. Its an interim relief since the interim period till Parliament should have chosen to amend the law ought not to have been more than a few months from July 2, 2009, when Sadly, the government chose not to act for more than four years. For any legislative business to be transacted, it is for the government of the day to swing into action. Reflecting complete policy paralysis, two wings of the government, the health ministry and the home ministry, took a diametrically conflicting stand on the issue.

The SC judgment reflects that a law officer of the government, on behalf of the ministry of home affairs, referred to the affidavit filed before the Delhi HC wherein the government had opposed decriminalisation of homosexuality and argued that in its 42nd report, the Law Commission had recommended retention of Section 377 IPC because societal disapproval thereof was very strong.It was categorically argued by the government’s law officer that the legislature had decided not to delete it and it was not for the court to import extraordinary moral values and thrust them on society.

The prime reasoning reflected in the judgement of the apex court is flawed. The SC’s observation that only a fraction of the country’s population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders and, therefore, Section 377 cannot be declared ultra vires of constitutional provisions is contrary to basic tenets of minority rights. UPA government  rushed to trash the Supreme Court’s judgment upholding the validity of Section 377 IPC but have failed to act on the Law Commission’s 13-year-old recommendation for its deletion.

The law commission recommended changes in Section 375, IPC and scrapping of Section 377.  “In the light of the change effected by us in Section 375 IPC, we are of the opinion that Section 377 deserves to be deleted. After the changes effected by us in the preceding provisions (Sections 375 to 376E), the only content left in Section 377 is having voluntary carnal intercourse with any animal. We may leave such persons to their just deserts.”

Why did UPA government chose not touch Section 377, despite a bunch of petitions against it pending in the Delhi High Court and later in the Supreme Court for 12 years. ? The Commission recommendation gathered dust in the law ministry, there was a slew of amendments carried out by the government to make provisions in IPC more stringent in the aftermath of the December 16 fatal gangrape case and focused on sexual offences, it did not change anything in Section 377. That was evidently the will of Parliament.

It ‘s clear the Government acknowledges the perils of contradictions and opposition not only from religious organisations and opposition parties but also from within its own party and allies, and with the next general election near, does not want to rake up another hullabaloo.After the adoption of the IPC in 1950, around 3 0 amendments have been made to the statute, the most recent being in 2013 which specifically deals with sexual offences, a category to which Section 377 belongs.

The UPA government wants to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and that is why it is urging the court to decide. Parliament has often criticised the Supreme Court for “judicial overreach” and “judicial law making”. And yes, under the Constitution, the right place to make or change a law is Parliament; Section 377 should be no exception.

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#India – Effective PDS lifted 38 million people out of poverty in 2009-10

Case for food security: Effective PDS implementation by states has helped pull millions out of poverty

By , ET Bureau | 10 Nov, 2013,
​New research argues that the public distribution system lifted 38 million people out of poverty in 2009-10. And it’s getting better. Don’t thank the UPA, though.
​New research argues that the public distribution system lifted 38 million people out of poverty in 2009-10. And it’s getting better. Don’t thank the UPA, though.

In the vociferous debate around the food security bill, critics seemingly had evidence and history on their side. The public distribution system (PDS) has for long been seen in policy circles as a kind of budgetary black hole, sucking in enormous resources and giving back very little in return, in terms of poverty reduction or better nutrition.

Critics charged that the implementation of the food bill, with its legal guarantee of minimum levels of food for a large mass of the population, would only lead to an increase in food subsidy, currently pegged at Rs 90,000 crore for 2013-14. The conclusion: more taxpayer money will go down the drain. Now new research argues that the population pulled out of poverty in the last decade, thanks to PDS, has actually increased sharply. The research, by Himanshu, an associate professor atJawaharlal Nehru University, and Abhijit Sen, member of the Planning Commission, is due to be published in the Economic and Political Weekly.

In 1993-94, there would have been around 413 million poor, if there had been no PDS from which people could buy subsidised food. Of this number, around 10 million (2.4%) were lifted above the poverty line because of access to PDS. In 2004-05, following a shift to targeted PDS, that number had risen to 14 million out of 417 million — or 3.3%.

But it was after 2004-05 that a sharp shift happened, with the number of poor falling to 402 million, despite it being a drought year, of which 38 million (10%) were lifted out of poverty due to PDS. And in 2011-12, preliminary results indicate that without any system of food transfers there would have been 330 million poor in the country. Because of PDS, the number of poor lifted out of poverty was 50 million (15%). About 30% of the reduction in the poverty rate between 2004-05 and 2009-10 was attributable to PDS, according to the paper. And that’s not even the whole story, since the food subsidy system also supports the midday meal scheme which accounted for another 17 million poor being lifted out of poverty in 2009-10.

Has PDS Changed?

Underlying these shifts is evidence from other surveys of a sharp shift in the nature and reach of PDS. In the late 1990s, the scope of PDS was narrowed sharply, with the introduction of the so-called targeted PDS, which created two categories of consumers — those below the poverty line who got grain at highly subsidized prices, and those above the poverty line who received grain at far less subsidized prices. This shift, in 1999 under the NDA government, led to a sharp drop in the coverage of PDS and a jump in the ‘leakages’ — the share of grain that was supposed to reach the intended beneficiaries but didn’t — from the system. But it was after 2004-05 that PDS reversed course.

New research argues that the public distribution system lifted 38 million people out of poverty in 2009-10.

It was a policy reversal, effectively resulting in a more inclusive and broader system in a number of states, which was rarely officially acknowledged as such. It may be tempting to align this shift with the change in governments at the national level with the UPA coming to power, but the Congress-led government at the Centre had relatively little to do with this shift. As the authors point out, much of the effort at improving PDS was done by individual states. These included Tamil NaduChhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar.

“Such ownership and effort [by states] appears crucial,” say the authors. “Its lack was one reason why PDS failed before 2004-05…” And interestingly, increase in the expenditure on the food subsidy and PDS system by both the Centre and states since 2003-04, as a share of GDP, has been entirely due to increased expenditure by states, not the Centre. The other big shift that actually led to a de facto broadening of PDS was a Supreme Court order in 2001 which required all states to implement the midday meal scheme.

Out of Poverty

In their study, the authors looked at data on families recorded in the large scale NationalSample Surveys, who bought food from PDS in different years. They valued the amount of food bought from PDS at their market prices in those years. The difference between the subsidized price the families actually paid, and what they would have paid had they bought that food from the market amounts to a transfer of funds from the government to the poor. The authors then calculated the number of poor people who, because of such a transfer, ended up with a consumption level that was higher than the level which determined the poverty line. The authors found that 1.3% of the population was lifted above the poverty line as a result of such transfers in 1993-94, 2.6% in 2004-05 and 4.6% in 2009-10.

“…increased food transfers accounted for 32% of reduction in the Tendulkar Head Count Ratio between 2004-05 and 2000-10,” say the authors. The Head Count Ratio is the technical term for the poverty rate published by the Planning Commission, which was 22% in 2011-12, down from 29.8% in 2009-10 and 37.2% in 2004-05. The authors acknowledge that 2009-10, being a drought year, could well be an anomaly, since high food prices would have forced many more families to be reliant on subsidised food from PDS, leading to a bounce in the number of people who benefitted from it.

However, say the authors: “Since a vital role of PDS in food security is to cope with drought and high food price inflation, this is a matter that should be noted rather than played down when evaluating whether PDS is effective or not.” Despite criticism of the National Food Security Act, it may have history and evidence on its side to a greater extent than usually believed.

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#India – NDA vs. UPA Performance #mustread

Shabnam Hashmi


While one can look for options of choosing a third front which will re-look at economic policies but if one has to compare the figures of UPA and NDA here they are:

UPA AND NDA FIGURES

(1) GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP)

GDP during NDA and UPA Rule has been as follows:-

NDA UPA
Year Rate of Growth Year Rate of Growth
NDA-1998-99 6.7% UPA- 2004-05 7.0%
NDA-1999-2000 7.6% UPA – 2005-06 9.5%
NDA-2000-01 4.3% UPA- 2006-07 9.6%
NDA-2001-02 5.5% UPA – 2007-08 9.3%
NDA-2002-03 4.1% UPA – 2008-09 6.7%
NDA-2003-04 8.1% UPA – 2009-10 8.6%
UPA- 2010-11 9.3%
UPA – 2011-12 6.2%
UPA- 2012-13 5.0%

Average GDP Growth Rate comes to 8.2% (UPA regime) as against 5.7% (NDA regime).

(2) GROWTH IN GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP) UNDER UPA
India’s GDP under UPA has grown by 308% i.e.between 2004-2012 – from US$ 599.46 Bill

 

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#India – Supreme Court’s order trashes UPA’s Aadhaar #saynotouid

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 by FP Editors
The Supreme Court has in an interim order said that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory and asked the government not to link it to welfare schemes. It also said that illegal immigrants should not be issued UID numbers. The Supreme Court’s order on Aadhaar has brought relief for common people and troubles for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The order comes at a time when the UPA is stepping up its efforts to roll out subsidy schemes based on Aadhaar across the country. The plan was to make Aadhaar the basis of all its welfare schemes in the long run. It also was hoping to reach out to the poor through these direct benefit transfer schemes just ahead of elections. The Supreme Court’s order on Aadhaar has brought relief for common people and troubles for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). PTI However, the Supreme Court order seems to have poured water on these plans, said media reports. “…The Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory. If anyone applies for Aadhaar card, then you have to verify whether he is a citizen of India or not. These cards cannot be issued to illegal migrants,” a report in the Times of India quoted Justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde as saying. The order has been issue in response to a petition filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge KS Puttaswamy. According to a report in the Business Standard, the petitioner has alleged that the Unique Identity Scheme was rolled by the executive with no discussion in Parliament. He also said it impinged on the right to privacy of individuals.
There is no assurance of confidentiality of the biometric data being collected by private agencies. Moreover, non-citizens are also likely to get benefits such as subsidy transfers and illegal immigrants will be legitimised. There is no way the government can verify the nationality of an individual apart from relying on the documents he or she submits. The government’s contest of the petitioner’s allegations was meek, says the ToI report. The report quotes Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran as saying that the enforcement machinery has been tightened. One or two instances reported in the media are just aberrations, he submitted. The government counsels also insisted that the cards were issued on voluntary basis and were not mandatory. This is contrary to a few recent media reports which said Maharashtra has made Aadhaar mandatory for government employees to receive their salary.
There are also cases where Aadhaar has been made mandatory for LPG connections and even marriage registrations. According to the ToI report, the Supreme Court expressed surprise at such developments as the Centre itself has said that Aadhaar is not mandatory. As social activist Nikhil Dey says in the BS report, the scheme is voluntary, but there is nothing voluntary about it. For the ease of rolling out welfare schemes through Aadhaar cards, government officials were forcing it on the citizens. A case in the point is Neeraj Mittal, joint secretary in the petroleum ministry, telling senior officials in the Kanpur Collectorate that Aadhar should be made compulsory for LPG consumers. According to a ToI report, he said customers who have no Aadhaar should not be allowed to avail of the subsidy.
The direct impact of the order will be felt in Maharashtra, where the government was gearing up to launch Aadhaar-linked LPG subsidy payout across the state soon. According to this report in MoneyLife, the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had held a meeting to review the progress of the scheme with senior officers of the state government, all divisional commissioners and district collectors, senior officials from UIDAI and senior officials from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. The court’s order is clearly spoiling the UPA’s plans to take advantage of direct benefit transfer at the 2014 elections.
But it is also raising doubts about the fate of the cards already issued.

 

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UPA-II failed to deliver on its promises: Aruna Roy’s report card

by Pallavi Polanki May 25, 2013
 National Advisory Council (NAC) member and leading social activist Aruna Roy has come down heavily on the government for its poor performance in the social sector.
Roy, an instrumental force behind the Right to Information Act, criticised the government for stalling on essential legislations such as the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and the Lokpal Bill.
Roy spoke to Firstpost about UPA-II’s record on inclusive growth, the government’s new advertising campaign and the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014.
Excerpts from the Interview:
 
Has UPA-II delivered on its promise of inclusive growth?
While UPA-I delivered on some essential promises in the social sector such as MGNREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and the Forest Rights Act, UPA-II has made promises which it has failed to deliver.
The Food Security Bill lies in Parliament waiting to be passed with little time left for debate on its provisions or to strengthen its framework. In fact, there seems to be a real danger that it may not get passed at all.
The Land Acquisition bill which has been mired in controversy has also not moved beyond the stage of the Standing Committee. Even the much touted UID-based direct benefit transfer has encountered basic problems and is a non-starter.
Roy has said the government failed to deliver on many promises. Image courtesy: Ibnlive
The UPA-II promised a revamping of the National Social Assistance Programme to move towards universal and enhanced pensions for the elderly, single women, and disabled. However, this too remains unfulfilled. The question of money seems to have dominated all decisions related to the social sector, so much so that many states are talking about a cash crunch in MGNREGA.
The Right to Education Act was passed during UPA-II, but the implementation of its progressive provisions remains crippled due to a lack of resources needed to meet commitments.
Corruption scandals have rocked UPA-II with disturbing regularity. How has government fared in bringing more transparency in governance?
An area where the performance of UPA-II has been deeply disappointing is in its inability to deliver on basic governance legislation of critical importance to the country today. The debate around the Lokpal Bill resulted in several pieces of draft legislation which would undoubtedly help citizens ensure accountability of the government and its officials. Apart from the Lokpal Bill, the Grievance Redress Bill, the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill are legislations that should be passed immediately.
The Whistleblower Protection Bill and the Grievance Redress Bill actually affect the right to live of the poor in significant ways. An effective Grievance Redress Bill could have been like an RTI part II for UPA-II. Instead, the Government exempted its premier anti-corruption investigating agency – the CBI from scrutiny under the RTI Act, and has now been forced by the Supreme Court to promise independence in investigation of corruption cases.
If the Government has any intent of addressing corruption and arbitrary use of power, anti- corruption agencies must be made independent, transparent, and accountable, and this basket of accountability legislations, which have come to Parliament after much public action over the last two years, must be passed immediately.
What do you make of the publicity campaign released recently by UPA-II to highlight its achievements in the social sector. Is the UPA making the same mistake that the NDA made in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ campaign?
It is true that the “game changer” label given to the UID-based cash transfer/direct benefit transfer seems to resonate with the NDAs ‘India Shining’ campaign. In both cases, there is little that is delivered to the poor in real terms and the triumphant claims only served to rub salt in the wounds of large numbers of suffering and marginalised people.
Does the UID system create more problems for the poor? AFP
The attempt to ensure that money reaches the beneficiary without leakages along the way is laudable, but imposing an impractical and untested centralized delivery platform like the UID on a complex development structure can complicate existing systems and exclude large numbers of people.
The results from the roll out districts speak for themselves. Miniscule numbers of beneficiaries have received money through this platform and even in these cases there has been no additional benefit to them. For the poor as a whole, there has been the added problems and irritants associated with having to acquire a UID number on which all entitlements will be tethered.
If wisdom prevails, UPA-II even in its last year would concentrate on delivering on its social sector promises: ensure that food and pension entitlements are made a reality, enact citizen-centred accountability systems to guarantee delivery of entitlements and fix accountability of officials.
What will be the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014?
The challenge for any government is to deliver on its promises and the UPA II will be evaluated on its implementation of promises made. The questions it will have to answer are: what are ways in which it has promoted or vitiated the achievements of UPA-I ,vis-a-vis the Right to Information, MGNREGA, Forest Rights Act, etc?
Two, has it delivered on its promises of inclusive growth in UPA II – Right to Food, Pensions, Education, Health, etc? And three, has it provided a real answer to the widespread frustration of people about the lack of accountability at all levels and numbers of cases of grand corruption that have been regularly coming to light?
I don’t wish to speculate on what the results of a particular election will be. I do, however, believe that a government has a duty to deliver on promises it has made to its electorate.
The India Shining Campaign demonstrated that people are shrewd and respond only when real benefits reach them. Tall claims and slick campaigns do not get votes. Slogans are seen as mere rhetoric. It would be a mistake not to recognize that people can understand political intent through delivery.

 

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#India – Why is the UPA Reluctant to debate and Legislate ? #UID #Aadhaar

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By- Politically Incorrect at  http://centreright.in/

What is so wrong about the UID project? It isn’t like the Government is asking for details that are not publicly available or which we haven’t furnished to tax authorities or for getting a driving license. In these days of social media where all our details are there for everyone to see, don’t you think we are being unnecessarily suspicious of a project which merely seeks to create an identity database?“…

This is the standard reaction whenever anyone questions the legitimacy of the UID project. And the problem is most people; even the educated ones find these questions fair enough to not probe the issue any further. They draw a sense of security from the fact that these details are sought, not by a private player who wants to pester you with constant calls about insurance plans or housing loans, but by the Government.

Despite all the scams and scandals that have plagued the UPA regime, people do not seem to be asking a few basic questions:

  1. I don’t care what you need my details for, but what is your power to ask for these details? Quo Warranto?
  2. Why are these details being sought through a simple notification? Why is there no legislation to govern this exercise?
  3. Assuming I am satisfied that you have the power to seek the information through a notification, what use will the information be put to? Is the use/objective a specific one, or is it as vague as it gets?
  4. Is there enough co-relation between the amount of information sought and the objective it is sought for?
  5. Are the means for collection of the information reasonably fool-proof? Or are you relying on hearsay to verify/authenticate my details?
  6. Is the technology used to verify my identity, robust enough to distinguish between me and an inanimate object?
  7. How are you going to keep the information safe? Do you have enough technological and legislative safeguards to protect my privacy?

Before I proceed to address some of these issues, here’s bit of history on the UID project. The concept of national identification is not the brainchild of the UPA. This was conceived of by and under the NDA regime, and was christened the Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) scheme as part of the BJP’s IT vision. The BJP’s proposed method was to amend the Citizenship Act to make it mandatory for citizens to have the ID card as proof of citizenship.

Clearly the object was to stem the rot of illegal immigration into the country and prevent the creation of a lebensraum. Little did the BJP realize that the very same project would be employed by the UPA to further the cause of illegal immigration and consolidation of vote banks? How exactly does the UID aid this patently anti-national agenda will be discussed, among other things, as part of this series of posts.

Based on the material available publicly, it appears that once the UPA smelled yet another opportunity to increase the numbers of its most pampered vote bank, it went about the issue of national identification in the most surreptitious way possible, which only the UPA is capable of.

In stark contrast to the BJP’s proposal to amend the Citizenship Act to provide for a national identification scheme, the UPA chose to constitute an executive body called the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) without mooting a legislation or debate. To lend respectability to the UIDAI, Mr.Nandan Nilekani was appointed as the Chairman of the UIDAI (who will probably be the fall guy if things go wrong with the UIDAI, which I expect them to.)

The UIDAI was expected to function as an extension of the Planning Commission, and was charged with the duty of drawing up policies and plans for the UID scheme, implementing the scheme and was to “own and operate the UID database and be responsible for its updating and maintenance on an ongoing basis“.

The question is why was the executive route opted for without a thought being spared for parliamentary processes which ought to be the option of first choice on topics which have serious implications for privacy, demographics and consequently national security?

When the same question was put to the Ministry of Planning by the Parliamentary Standing Committee chaired by Shri Yashwant Sinha, following was the response from the Ministry:

“Based on the proposal that formation of the UIDAI under the Planning Commission would ensure better coordination with different departments, it was decided that initially the UIDAI may be notified as an executive authority under the Planning Commission and the issue of investing the UIDAI with statutory authority and the reconciliation of such statutory role with National Registration Authority (NRA) can be considered at an appropriate time.”

What on earth is this supposed to mean? Are considerations, such as ease of administration and coordination, supposed to prevail over fundamentals such as the need for legislative approval and statutory safeguards to protect identities of the citizens?

What surprises me is the sequence of events:

  1. The UIDAI is constituted on January 28, 2009 under the stewardship of Nandan Nilekani, and the process of issuing “Aadhaar” numbers/Unique ID numbers was kick-started.
  2. In December 2010, almost 2 years after the UIDAI was set up, the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 (NIDAI Bill) is introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  3. During the pendency of the Bill, Aadhaar numbers continue be issued. In fact, the scope of the activity was expanded from Below Poverty line families to include all residents and categories of individuals.

If the intention behind introducing NIDAI Bill was to seek the Parliament’s imprimatur, where was the need to continue issuing Aadhaar numbers, considering the Bill could be rejected by both houses of the Parliament? What about the taxpayers’ money that was being spent on an exercise which could ultimately be held unconstitutional by the Parliament, and hence rejected? Also, what was the legal basis for setting up of UIDAI and issuance of Aadhaar numbers?

When these questions were posed to the Ministry of Planning by Shri Yashwant Sinha, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the buck was passed on to the legal clearance given by the Ministry of Law and Justice through the Attorney General of India. Below is the opinion of the Attorney General:

“The competence of the Executive is not limited to take steps to implement the law proposed to be passed by Parliament. Executive Power operates independently. The Executive is not implementing the provisions of the Bill. The Authority presently functioning under the Executive Notification dated 28th January, 2009 is doing so under valid authority and there is nothing in law or otherwise which prevents the Authority from functioning under the Executive Authorisation.

The power of Executive is clear and there is no question of circumventing Parliament or the Executive becoming a substitute of Parliament. On the contrary, what is sought to be done is to achieve a seamless transition of the authority from an Executive Authority into a statutory authority.

All the expenditure which is being incurred is sanctioned by Parliament in accordance with the financial procedure set forth in the Constitution. If the Bill is not passed by any reason and if Parliament is of the view that the Authority should not function and express its will to that effect, the exercise would have to be discontinued. This contingency does not arise.

The present Bill being implemented without Parliament’s approval does not set a bad precedent in the Parliamentary form of Government. On the contrary, the fact that the Authority is sought to be converted from an Executive Authority to a statutory authority; it underlines the supremacy of Parliament.”

Let’s demystify the response. The Attorney General was of the opinion that the UIDAI could legitimately function under “Executive Authorisation” without legislation. Assuming this is the correct position of the law (which I will explore in detail in the next post), where was the need to introduce the NIDAI Bill? Simply put, if the Government was of the opinion that it was well within its rights to create the UIDAI without having to approach the Parliament, then why introduce a Bill subsequently?

The opinion of the Attorney General is inherently contradictory. On one hand, he categorically states that UIDAI’s creation and functioning under “Executive Authorization” was within the bounds of the Constitution. And on the other, he states- “If the Bill is not passed by any reason and if Parliament is of the view that the Authority should not function and express its will to that effect, the exercise would have to be discontinued”

How can both these views hold water simultaneously? Clearly, something is wrong somewhere and the mandarins in the Ministry of Law and Justice did not think this through.

As for the expenditure, the answer is really baffling and cryptic. What did the Attorney General mean when he said “This contingency does not arise”? Was he saying that the NIDAI Bill was so watertight that the Parliament would not reject it? What was the basis for such confidence? If he was cognizant of the possibility of the Bill being rejected, doesn’t this mean the expenditure incurred in the UIDAI’s functioning and issuance of Aadhaar numbers was a total waste, which could and ought to have been avoided?

Extracted below is the observation and recommendation of Shri Yashwant Sinha on the Bill:

13. In view of the afore-mentioned concerns and apprehensions about the UID scheme, particularly considering the contradictions and ambiguities within the Government on its implementation as well as implications, the Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in its present form. The data already collected by the UIDAI may be transferred to the National Population Register (NPR), if the Government so chooses. The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme was also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament.”

 

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