The country is on the verge of ringing the final bell for the general elections. Now is the time for the rulers to please the aam aadmis to get a fair number of seats in the coming election. The veteran economist lion and his in-house-committee members (Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, RBI Existing and old Governors, some economists imported from World Bank and IMF, etc.) now have sleepless nights as the queen and prince asks them to show some gimmicks to help to win at least 100 seats.
The dilemma of lion pride is that they have to find out the money for the coming 10 years for sustaining the party and also win 3 digit seats to get rid of extinction. The 10 year margin I am giving to them is on the perception that any new government formed after this election can perform better than the existing one so that they can win the next general elections too. Keeping the party members intact for the next 10 years in fact is an expensive affair which is the cause of raising maximum funds in all ways before the elections. Getting 100 seats is the next difficult thing. For that purpose they are now forced to think about the aam aadmis. Here comes two significant words- Looting and Voting. For looting, the government has to give many freebies to the corporate houses. For voting, they have to give something to the common man.
Environment and Forestry
The unexpected resignation of Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan and handing over the charge of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to the existing petroleum minister Mr. Veerappa Moily was a strong move by the pride of lions. Many of the projects which were hibernating in the ministry under the term of Ms. Jayanthi created lots of problems to the biggies. Environmental clearance to 70 projects worth 1.5 Lakhs Crores (including $12 billion steel plant of Posco) in just a few days after taking charge of the office is a clear indication of what happened in between. The reason given for the resignation of Ms. Jayanthi was ‘to strengthen the party’ to make a good performance in the general elections. Is she that big and strong lady to take care of the party in a state like Tamil Nadu where Congress may face the biggest defeat (which is what the pre-election surveys suggest)? Former minister Mr. Jayaram Ramesh was a big hurdle for the corporate. Based on their pressure only Ms. Jayanthi had been inducted. Again things were not going well which finally led to her resignation. We all know the stand of Mr. Veerappa Moily, who has proven leniency towards corporate houses. Some of the moves by the forest minister reminds us of the other Veerappan. He spends his full energy to please them. As more than 87% of the funds received by the party were raised from these corporate houses, this is their last chance to serve them.
Reliance Power’s Jharkhand Ultra Mega Power Project (4000 MW) got the nod from the Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) last week. CCI decided to treat the project on par with the Public Sector Undertakings which means there is no need for compensatory forestation which is a must for all private funded projects. More than 7000 acres of land which include forest land will be used for the project which surely will destruct a part of the available forest land in the state. Now, the company is free to start the project without any delay as compensatory forestation was the main hurdle. Why did the CCI decided to change the norm? Does it have any indirect connection with the coal-gate scam?
To increase the price of Natural Gas produced in India to almost $8 per million British thermal unit from present price of $4.2 is another decision taken by the Petroleum Minister to please the corporate houses. The notorious pricing formula adopted by our petroleum ministry forces us to think that whether we are living in India or US. ‘Under recovery’, a terminology proposed by the ministry and its expert committee, is the main weapon used by the government to increase the price of all petroleum products which is the core cause of inflation in the country. Our RBI Governor called inflation as a ‘destructive disease’, but our government is very much constructive in increasing the same. In future a tea shop owner in our country may ask 2 or 3 Dollars for a cup of tea in the name of ‘under recovery’. It is the time to ask the government to provide salaries and other benefits in Dollars.
Then comes a bombshell – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in farm land. The UPA government has formed a three member Cabinet committee to examine the possibility of opening up agricultural land to FDI following a proposal given by the Union Urban Development Ministry on letting foreign realtors buy agricultural land. We know about the farm land deals happened in the state of Haryana including DLF and Robert Vadra. It is happening in all states. i.e., buying cheap farm lands to convert them into real estate assets and selling them at a very huge price is practiced all over India. If the cabinet approves the decision it will affect the food security of Indians in a big way. Some of the FIIs (Foreign Institutional Investors) have enough liquidity to buy all the farm land in India at the present rate. Foreign investment through certain tax havens like Mauritius face the allegation that it is the black money of the Indians coming through that way. So money looted from our country is again circulated to loot the lands of poor farmers. Our people will become beggars once it comes into effect.
Price of Essential Commodities
As the above decisions helped them to win the minds of corporate houses and their fund managing trusts, now is the time to win the mind of the voters. In its two terms, the UPA has not at all taken any steps to control the prices of essential commodities like food and fuel. The 5 to 6 times shoot up in price of the said commodities has made the life miserable for a common man. The increase in price (approximate) of petrol (Rs. 36 to 76), diesel (Rs. 24 to 58), LPG (Rs. 250 to 1350), food grains (from 25 to 100), cooking oil (Rs. 50 to 130), etc. has never been a concern for the dynasty. But now after facing the wrath of common man in the elections held at 4 major states, the think-tanks are now coming with many proposals to decrease the price of essential commodities. The pricing of petroleum products currently managed by the petroleum companies will be temporarily taken over by the government to please the aam aadmis. Increasing the subsidy cylinders to 12 is another decision. The drama played by the prince, who never raised a question in the last 10 years, in the party meetings is for making it look like his family is very much concerned about the common man and it is only the PM and his team who took the decision for all the price increases.
Anti graft bills
Congress party is frightened by the growth of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and is now thinking about anti corruption drives to regain its position. They passed the Lokpal bill in both houses. Now they are planning to table 6 anti–graft framework bills in the next session of the parliament. Here comes a question. Was the governmnet sleeping for the last 5 years, a period which exposed allegations for corruption amounting to more than 5 Lakh Crores? The office of the Prime Minister itself faced allegations in allocation of coal mines. In most of the states ruled by the party (Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Haryana) many of the ministers including the respective chief ministers are facing graft charges. Will the people of these states again vote for the party after these face lifting measures? Wait for another 5 months. The aam aadmi will tell.
By Vinod Kuroor