I am ready to commit suicide, says 75-year-old Baljor Singh Arya even as district administration drag him away from what they see is a mediaperson talking to a protesting farmer. Arya, a sugarcane farmer from Malakhpur village of Baghpat district in western Uttar Pradesh, says successive governments have done well by bringing in new technology to up yields. But, he asks, why have they allowed the payment system of sugar mills to remain old-fashioned? In his words, how sugarcane farmers are being double-crushed by loans and dues from mills.
Sugarcane is the lifeline of farmers in this region. And when you hold back our payments—understand it this way—our lives remain on a ventilator; we live in suspension, neither dead nor living. Since generations we have seen and learnt only one means of livelihood—sugarcane farming. There is no other option. Payment ho toh bachchon ki fees bharegi, betiyon ki shaadi hogi, makaan banega... (If we get paid from the mills for the sugarcane, out children will go to schools, out daughters will be married, our houses will be built… ). Otherwise either you wait for the governments to act or protest on the road and brave police brutality. This is life for us in short. Governments come and go. Mayawati, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Adityanath… nothing changes for us. They are all one. Your payment is due, overdue, so you take a loan. The burden rises every year. Go to any village in sugarcane belt. There is not one village where farmers are not burdened with loans. Do you believe a farmer ends his life because of some suicidal tendency? He does it because he sees no hope. Things have only got worse with the advent of new farm technologies. The yield has increased manifold but the payment cycle has remained the same. They have time and money to bring in new technologies (from other countries) but they would not replicate the payment system of developed countries. Because on paper, it shows them in good light and the fat cats of sugar mills donate to their parties. When Yogi came to power, he promised that our loans will be waived in a fortnight and payments will not be held beyond one year. Our holy books tell us a `Yogi’ always speaks the truth. He (Yogi) should at least live up to his title. Even Modiji hasn’t kept his word. He assured us that GST will make tax rates and the prices of electricity, fertilizers, urea, etc uniform across the country. However, you just cross over to Haryana (a few kms away) and you will be surprised to see the difference (in the prices of these basic things needed by the farmers) enjoyed by the farmers there. Recently, one of our friend, Udayvir Singh (65), who was sitting with us here on a dharna, died. Because he died just a day before the Prime Minister’s visit here, the administration acted with great speed. The officials quickly handed over a cheque of ₹12 lakh to his family. Can you imagine? In one day, he got the compensation, although we had demanded ₹50 lakh as compensation. On such occasions, you wonder if only a death in the family make government sit up and act! Will we get money only after we die protesting or commit suicide? I am ready to commit suicide at this age, as it will not only benefit my family but also my fellow farmers. These thoughts are always on my mind these days…
(It was at this point that district administration officials surrounded Arya and took him away by force, warning him against talking to the media)
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—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>
In his most recent interview to the media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Swarajya magazine on an ambitious growth trajectory for a “New India” where he asserted that his government was on course to fulfill the promises made in the run up to the 2014 General Elections. LokMarg presents an edited version of the salient features in the interview which covered a wide range of issues economic and political: LACK OF JOBS More than the lack of jobs, the issue is a lack of data on jobs. Our traditional matrix of measuring jobs is simply not good enough to measure new jobs in the new economy of New India. I don’t blame our opponents for blaming us on the issue of jobs, after all no one has an accurate data on jobs. If we look at numbers for employment, more than 41 lakh formal jobs were created from September 2017 to April 2018 based on EPFO payroll data. According to a study based on EPFO data, more than 70 lakh jobs were created in the formal sector last year. Now, you know that informal sector constitutes around 80 per cent of all jobs. We also know that job creation in the formal sector can have a spinoff effect on job creation in the informal sector too. If 41 lakh jobs were generated in the formal sector in eight months, how much would be the total formal plus informal sector jobs? There is a lack of consistency in the political debate around job creation. We have data put out by state governments on employment. For example, the previous Karnataka government claimed to have created 53 lakh jobs. The West Bengal government said it created 68 lakh jobs in the last term. Now, if states are all creating good numbers of jobs, is it possible that the country is not creating jobs? Is it possible that states are creating jobs but the Centre is creating joblessness? FARM DISTRESS AND RISING DISCONTENT We have a stated aim of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. To this end, we need to augment their sources of income and decrease the risks they face. We are following a four-pronged strategy to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income: 1) decrease the input costs; 2) ensure proper prices for the produce; 3) ensure minimal harvest and post-harvest losses; and 4) create more avenues for income generation. If you focus closely on our policy interventions, they are aimed at helping farmers at every step – beej se bazaar tak. If you want an idea of what changed under our government, just remember the condition of farmers during those years. They were forced to do farming which was unscientific, they faced lathis for obtaining urea, they did not have a proper crop insurance cover, nor did they get proper prices for their produce. To make farming scientific, farmers are now equipped with soil health cards. Shortage and scarcity of urea is a thing of past and neem-coated urea is improving productivity. Now the farmer has a holistic crop insurance cover with PM Fasal Bima Yojana. Not only will the farmers get minimum support price (MSP) of 1.5 times their cost, they also have more avenues to get the right price with the help of e-NAM (the electronic National Agricultural Market which provides price, production and market information to farmers). GOODS AND SERVICES TAX Let me start with some numbers. The number of enterprises registered from Independence until now was 66 lakh. In just one year after the introduction of GST, the number of new enterprises registered is 48 lakh. Around 350 crore invoices were processed and 11 crore returns were filed. Would we be looking at such numbers if GST were indeed very complex? On the multiplicity of slabs, it would have been very simple to have just one slab, but it would have (also) meant we could not have food items at zero per cent tax rates. Can we have milk and Mercedes at the same rates? Check-posts across the country have been abolished and there are no more queues at state borders. Not only are truck drivers saving precious time but also the logistics sector is getting a boost and thereby increasing the productivity of our country. Would this be happening if GST was complex? The reform merged 17 taxes, 23 cesses into one single tax. When it was finally introduced, it was our endeavour to make it simple and ensure sensitivity of the system. There are often teething troubles but GST is an evolving system and we calibrate it based on feedback from state governments, people, media, etc. PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS We had identified the problem with banks in 2014 itself. A retreat of bankers was held in Pune where topmost officials attended. I told them to go about their work with utmost professionalism and clean the sector. I assured them that the long-standing culture of phone calls from Delhi influencing their working is not the way our government works. This is what enabled the true state of affairs to come out. Earlier, if someone owed Rs 500 crore and when it was time to repay that loan, a phone call from Delhi would ensure another loan of Rs 500 crore is given so that the previous loan was repaid. This cycle persisted. We stopped this. This is why the old loans had to be shown as NPAs. Now (with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code), many businessmen have had to lose their companies for failing to pay bank dues. Bank mergers were merely being talked about before, but not implemented. We have moved ahead. Did you see the merger of five banks? (The complete interview can be read here)]]>
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sought to allay the fears of bank account holders, saying their deposits in banks will be safe and their interests would not be harmed in any way. Addressing the Ficci annual general meeting, he said rumours were being spread by some sections about provisions of the proposed Financial Regulation and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill under which the depositors would suffer. “The government is trying to strengthen the banking system by policy initiatives on a daily basis. But on social media rumours are being spread about the FRDI Bill, which is completely opposite to the reality. We are trying to protect the depositors interest and the banks as well,” Modi said. He was apparently referring to the raging controversy over a bail-in provision in the FRDI Bill under which banks will be allowed to forfeit major portion of deposits of account holders in case of crisis in the financial institution. The Prime Minister said the UPA government had completely spoilt the banking system of the country. He said the biggest liability passed on by the previous government was the non-performing assets (NPA). Modi said the last government had put pressure on banks and forced them to lend to influential people, which further led to NPAs. “Commonwealth scam, 2G scam and Coal scam, and the biggest scam – the banking scam – all happened during UPA regime.” He said the government is working to create a system that is transparent and sensitive. Talking about the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Modi said the government’s effort is to ensure that maximum businesses register for GST. “The more formal the system becomes, the more it will benefit the poor. It will enable easier availability of credit from the banks, and reduce cost of logistics, thereby enhancing competitiveness of businesses.” Modi recalled that around the time of Ficci’s founding in 1927, Indian industry had united against the Simon Commission that was constituted by the then British government. He said that Indian industry had joined all other sections of Indian society, in national interest, at that time. He said a “similar atmosphere” exists today when people of the country are coming forward to fulfil their responsibilities towards the nation. Modi said the hopes and aspirations of people are to rid the country of internal problems like corruption, and black money.(IANS) // ]]>
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‘No competition with Modi on humble background’
Congress leader Manmohan Singh on Saturday said he does not want people to take pity on his humble background as he is not in competition with his successor Prime Minister Narendra Modi over this.“I don’t want the country to take pity on the basis of my humble background. I do not think I would like to enter in any competition with Prime Minister Modiji on this particular matter,” he said here. Singh was replying to a question on why he never talked about his background like Modi often does by saying he used to sell tea at a railway station in Gujarat to support his family during his childhood. Manmohann Singh, who led UPA government from 2004-14, was born in Gah village in the undivided Punjab in 1932. The former Prime Minister was born into a family of modest means. For the first 12 years of his life he lived in Gah, a village which had no electricity, no school, no hospital, no piped drinking water. He walked for miles every day to school and studied at night in the dim light of a kerosene lamp. When asked once why he had poor eyesight he confessed that it was because he had spent hours reading books in that dim light, according to Sanjaya Baru, who served as media advisor to Singh from 2004 to 2008. His family migrated to Amritsar in India during partition in 1947. He lost his mother at an early age and was brought up by his grandmother. He attended Panjab University where he got his MA in Economics in 1954, standing first throughout his academic career. He completed his Economics Tripos in the University of Cambridge where he was a member of St.John’s College in 1957. After obtaining his doctorate in economics from Oxford, Manmohan Singh worked for the United Nations during 1966-69. From 1969 to 1971, he taught International Trade at the Delhi School of Economics. Over the 1970s and 80s, he held several key posts in the government like such Chief Economic Advisor (1972-76), Governor Reserve Bank of India (1982-85) and Planning Commission head (1985-87). In June 1991, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao entrusted him with the job of Finance Minister when he carried out several structural reforms that liberalised India’s economy. (IANS) // ]]>
Sholay-style warnings, the Goods and Services Tax debate has now entered ‘stupid’ territory with a senior Congress leader invoking the word to lash out at Prime Minister Modi. On Thursday, former finance minister P. Chidambaram went after Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recently calling the Congress demand to cap GST at 18 per cent a “grand stupid thought”, asking if the government considered its Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian also stupid for voicing the same argument. “If it is grand stupid thought to argue for a cap of the tax rate at 18 per cent, then CEA Arvind Subramanian and many other economists are stupid. Is that what the PM is saying,” Chidambaram tweeted. The Congress leader then fired off more tweets to make his point.
Has PM read the CEA’s report on Revenue Neutral Rate? Did not CEA recommend an RNR of 15-15.5%?— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) November 30, 2017
Why can’t the normal GST rate be 15% and RNR plus rate on luxury goods be 18%?— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) November 30, 2017
At a rally in Gujarat’s Morbi on Wednesday, Modi had mocked “some intellectuals and economists” for misleading the country. “The Congress wants the same 18 per cent tax on something as essential as salt and something as expensive as Rs 5 crore worth car. They want 28 per cent tax on alcohol and costly cigarettes to be reduced to 18 per cent. “Do you want to sell cheap alcohol and spread cancer by selling cheap cigarettes? This is nothing but a grand stupid thought. There can’t be any bigger anti-poor and anti-middle class thought,” Modi had said. Single rate GST not possible, says Jaitley Asserting that a single rate Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not possible in the country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday it is only applicable in a nation where the purchasing power of the people is uniform. “It is possible only in an economy where there is similarly placed population to have a single rate to start off with. In a highly differentiated society like India, it is not possible. Therefore we started with differential rates,” Jaitley said here at the HT Leadership Summit. “We had an atrocious tax system pre-July 1. These brackets would not have been possible if everyone were not on the same page. Let me make it clear, though, a single rate GST is not possible in India. We cannot have a tax system which has the same rate for a Hawai chappal and Mercedes car,” Jaitley asserted. The finance minister said the country will need a “boom period” like during 2003 to 2008 in order to achieve 10 per cent growth, which is a “challenging figure”. (with IANS) // ]]>
Tax and spend is the credo of the BJP government. Example: when crude oil prices fell by 50%, prices of petrol and diesel remained the same.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) November 30, 2017