Business Standard Interview: The govt is sitting on more land than it requires

Former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh tells Sanjeeb Mukherjee that the Ordinance to amend the land acquisition Act (2013) opens the door for forcible acquisition and undermines the spirit and the substance of the legislation. Edited excerpts:

An oft-repeated argument given by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to justify bringing an Ordinance to amend the land acquisition Act (2013) passed by your government is that many Congress-ruled states have objected to the provisions of the Act, although you were in power at the Centre when it was passed. What do you have to say on this?

This is absolutely untrue. In fact, the objections that the NDA government is citing supposedly from Congress-ruled states are based on the questions that they were asked during their day-long interaction with former rural development minister Nitin Gadkari. If you ask pointed questions and the replies are interpreted as “objections”, it is not an accurate description of events. In fact, what nobody knows is that the Assam government had sent a formal note dissociating itself from the amendments.

Read more: http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/the-govt-is-sitting-on-more-land-than-it-requires-jairam-ramesh-115011700707_1.html

This interview was first published on January 17, 2015 at:

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Column: Tax carbon now

Oil prices have declined sharply these past eight months. The benchmark Brent crude was at $115 a barrel in June 2014. Now it is at slightly below $50 a barrel. For oil-importing countries such as India, this has come as a huge relief. Macroeconomic indicators have improved markedly and consumers are paying lower prices for diesel and petrol at least. Of course, for populous oil-exporting countries desperately in need of revenues like Iran and Russia, this fall has become somewhat of a nightmare. If the downward slide of oil prices was a little unexpected, the behaviour of Opec (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), especially Saudi Arabia, has been even more pleasantly baffling.

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been the “swing producer”, cutting production when prices fall. But this time around, it has studiously avoided doing so. There are various theories for this behaviour—that Saudi Arabia wants to inflict economic pain on its arch-rival Iran; that, with the connivance of the US, Saudi Arabia wants to inflict pain on Russia; that Saudi Arabia lost market share last time it cut production and could not regain it subsequently and therefore once bitten, twice shy; that Saudi Arabia wants to keep prices low so as to discourage exploration, development and extraction activities in the US itself, which is on its way to becoming the world’s largest hydrocarbon producer in a few years from now.

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/FJ4o4CMscsgp20OVRhXd1J/Tax-carbon-now.html

This column was first published on January 26, 2015 at:

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Column: Carbon tax to meet climate concerns

Oil prices have plummeted since June 2014 by almost 60 per cent. This has obviously proved to be a bonanza for oil-importing countries like India just as it has seriously hurt oil-producing nations like Russia and Iran. The fall has been unexpected and what has added to the mystery is the behaviour of Saudi Arabia, the traditional “swing producer” in OPEC which has chosen not to cut production in order to boost prices.

The main reason now being adduced for the oil price decline is the re-emergence of the U.S. as a major hydrocarbon producer because of exploitation of its substantial shale deposits. Lower than anticipated demand, especially from countries like China, and anaemic economic growth in Europe have added to the pressure. As to the response of Saudi Arabia, the best guess is that it does not want to lose market share like it did the last time when it cut output to keep prices up. There are, of course, the usual conspiracy theories — that the Americans have put pressure on major OPEC oil producers not to cut output so that Russia could get hurt from falling prices. Another Byzantine view is that Saudi Arabia is not too unhappy with these prices since its arch-rival Iran is getting hurt and because over the medium-term it would discourage the development of new sources of supply that would threaten the Saudi position.

Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-carbon-tax-to-meet-climate-concerns/article6815835.ece

This column was first published on January 24, 2015 at:

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ET Interview: Changes made by the Modi government will hurt millions of people

In an interview with ET’s Urmi Goswami, Ramesh said the ordinance rides rough shod over people in the mad desire for higher GDP growth and shows that the government that wants ghar vapasi does not believe in zameen vapasi. Excerpts:

How has the basic structure of 2013 land law been altered?

There are four basic elements of the 2013 Land Act—consent, social impact assessment (SIA), compensation, and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). The December Ordinance tampers with consent and SIA, and the remaining two elements seemingly have not been tampered with. However, none of these four elements are independent of each other. So, tampering with consent and social impact assessment will mean that elements of compensation and R&R will be affected. The 2013 Act’s major contribution was to acknowledge that acquisition of land affected not just land owners but also those who derived their livelihoods from the acquired land. The compensation therefore was meant for both land owners and livelihood losers. In case after case–in Singur and in other places—we have seen that number of livelihood losers far exceeds land owners. The social impact assessment is the instrument for determining and identifying livelihood losers. So tampering with the SIA jeopardises the compensation element, particularly for those who would lose their livelihoods.

Read more: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-10/news/57913241_1_livelihood-losers-land-acquisition-land-owners

This interview was originally published on Jan 10, 2015 at:

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Column: गांवों की बदलती दुनिया

बढ़ते शहरीकरण के बावजूद अभी भी भारत को इससे जांचा-परखा जाता है कि इसके ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में क्या कुछ घटित हो रहा है। पिछले कुछ समय में ग्रामीण भारत में हुए बदलावों को साफ तौर पर देखा-समझा जा सकता है। उदाहरण के लिए ग्रामीण बाजार औद्योगिक विकास के मुख्य संचालक बन गए हैं। नि:संदेह वषरें से ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में कर्ज की समस्या चिंता का विषय रही है और बिजली आपूर्ति की खराब स्थिति अभी भी बरकरार है। हालांकि संरचनागत बदलाव के मामले में कुछ सकारात्मक बातें भी हुई हैं। इन बदलावों ने ग्रामीण भारत में सामाजिक और भौतिक बुनियादी ढांचे के विस्तार पर बल देते हुए नए सिरे से इन क्षेत्रों में ध्यान दिए जाने की जरूरत रेखांकित की है। पिछले दो दशकों में विभिन्न राजनीतिक दलों ने इन बदलावों को गति प्रदान की है, लेकिन यह सब बहुत जल्दबाजी में किया गया, क्योंकि निरंतर राजनीतिक बदलाव होता रहा है। राजनीतिक रूपांतरण कांग्रेस के नेतृत्व में 73वें संविधान संशोधन के माध्यम से पंचायतों को संवैधानिक तौर पर सशक्त करने के प्रयासों का नतीजा है, जिसे बाद में दूसरे अन्य राजनीतिक दलों ने समर्थन प्रदान किया।

Read more: http://www.jagran.com/editorial/apnibaat-11971276.html

This column was first published on January 12, 2015 at:

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Column: Barack Obama’s Republic Day Trip

US President Barack Obama will be in the nation’s capital two weeks from today. He will be the first US President to visit India twice while in office. This visit is all about atmospherics, what with him watching India’s military might and cultural diversity on display at the Republic Day parade. The agenda for his substantive meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi will undoubtedly include strategic, trade and investment issues. The climate for his visit has sought to be improved by a spate of ordinances, including those for hiking foreign direct investment (FDI) limits in insurance and for making land acquisition dangerously more corporate-friendly.

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/F50w1dvp8RmttYlNsPCKaN/Barack-Obamas-Republic-Day-trip.html

This column was first published on January 12, 2015 at:

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Column: Return road to 1894

Ordinance to Land Acquisition Act is not just the return to the era of forcible land acquisition that has made land-related agitations and protests ubiquitous with which we must be concerned.

It has finally happened, although not in the way most people expected. Amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 were certainly on the anvil, going by the statements of the finance minister and some of his senior colleagues. But that it would be done through the ordinance route was a surprise to even those who were championing these amendments and certainly a rude shock to those who believed that the 2013 law was an equitable step forward that should be given a fair chance.

There are five amendments in the ordinance:

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/vqqkfYDhv6wJiGxKRHfthP/Return-road-to-1894.html

This column was first published on January 04, 2015 at:

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Column: अधिग्रहण में मनमानी का द्वार

इस सप्ताह सोमवार को मोदी सरकार ने भूमि अधिग्रहण कानून ‘उचित मुआवजे का अधिकार एवं भूमि अधिग्रहण में पारदर्शिता, पुनर्वास एवं पुनस्र्थापना अधिनियम 2013′ में संशोधन के लिए प्रस्तावित अध्यादेश को अपनी मंजूरी दे दी। इस संशोधन के संदर्भ में जो कुछ सामने आया है उसके तहत कुछ परियोजनाओं की अलग श्रेणी बनाई गई है, जिन्हें कथित तौर पर त्वरित ढंग से पूरा किया जाना है। इस श्रेणी के तहत जो विषय शामिल किए गए हैं उनमें औद्योगिक कॉरिडोर, रक्षा एवं रक्षा उत्पादन तथा ग्रामीण बुनियादी ढांचा हैं। इस संशोधन का तात्कालिक और सबसे अधिक संभावित प्रभाव यह है कि अब इन परियोजनाओं के लिए जमीन बिना किसी पूर्व निर्धारित प्रक्त्रिया के अधिग्रहीत की जा सकती है। इस प्रक्त्रिया को सामाजिक प्रभाव आकलन यानी एसआइए के रूप में भूमि अधिग्रहण कानून में शामिल किया गया था। इसके तहत जमीन अधिग्रहण के लिए प्रभावित परिवारों की सहमति आवश्यक थी। इस संशोधन पर निगाह डालने से पता चलता है कि क्यों यह न केवल समस्याएं पैदा करने वाला है, बल्कि पीछे की ओर ले जाने वाला एक गंभीर कदम भी है। यह संशोधन जमीन के मालिकों और उनकी आजीविका को गहरा नुकसान पहुंचाएगा।

Read more: http://www.jagran.com/editorial/apnibaat-11936940.html

This column was first published on January 2, 2015 at:

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Column: Fencing the farmer out

In the name of economic reforms and development, the government has taken a significant step backward in India’s march to land justice. The pushing through of the Land Act ordinance violates all democratic norms

On Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party government cleared the proposed ordinance to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. This amendment, insofar as has been made known to the public, creates a separate category of projects which shall be “fast tracked.” The items covered under this category include industrial corridors, defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for the poor including affordable housing, and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/opinion-on-land-act-ordinances-and-land-justice/article6739287.ece

This column was co-authored with Muhammad Khan & first published on December 31, 2014 at:

hindu

Column: Tiger, tiger, burning (quite) bright

India has shown an increase in tiger population even though the magnificent species is still endangered here.

Over half of the world’s tigers in the wild are to be found in India. And while the population elsewhere declines, that in India has shown an increase even though the magnificent species is still endangered here. The current estimate for tigers in the wild in India is around 1,700. The most important reason for our success has been Project Tiger launched over four decades ago thanks to the political leadership of Indira Gandhi and Karan Singh influenced hugely by naturalists like Kailash Sankhala, Billy Arjan Singh and M. Krishnan.

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/PWyTGHOhdBc2hR5rfWk73H/Tiger-tiger-burning-quite-bright.html

This column was first published on December 29, 2014 at:

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