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Path of ease of doing business still not easy!

 

 

Vijay Darda - After the release of World Bank’s ease of doing business index, a buoyant impression is being created that reaching 100th rank from 130th position means that everything in the country has changed and foreign investors will now rush to the country! No one is taking pains to explain that this ranking has been released only on the basis of studies in Delhi and Mumbai. The World Bank considered these two cities as models. The study found that the condition has improved to start business in these cities on indicators such as obtaining construction permits, getting loans, paying tax, bankruptcy settlement, etc. But are the conditions similar in other cities of the country too?

There is no doubt that the process of improving business environment in India is underway. And that is why the World Bank has incorporated India among top 10 countries that have improved the business environment. This report has been issued in 190 countries based on the reforms made during the period from June 2, 2016 to June 1, 2017. If we are at 100th rank among 190 countries, it is still a matter of concern because in terms of population we are second in the world. In the midst of excitement of getting good ranking in the ease of doing business index, I would definitely like to remind that in this column last month, I wrote about hunger, i.e. the hunger index.

We have gone up and down in this index. Earlier, we were at number 97, but in this year’s report we are at the 100th position. How embarrassing it is that in the hunger index, we are behind our neighbours like China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. A girl from Jharkhand dies of hunger while crying out for rice and our government remains unmoved? The question is why can not we bring this index of hunger to zero? The government has got such a huge mandate; it has got all the power and resources at its disposal. Then what is the problem? Our Prime Minister works a lot, no doubt about it, but a labourer also works! The main thing is what is the outcome of that work? What is being achieved from it? Today, there is lack of quality in every field. Adulteration reigns supreme. Corruption has spread everywhere.

 

The question is: Why does the government not bring in such a Bill that provides for a severe punishment for the adulterators and the corrupt! What is preventing it from bringing in such a Bill? If there is a death due to hunger, why should not the chief minister and officials concerned of that area be held responsible? If a bridge falls, why not send the officer to jail, even if he has retired!

The root cause of the problem faced by business sector relates to bureaucracy! Though we may have improved our ranking in the index, the situation here has not eased much. The government was trying to get India included in the list of top 50 countries. But that did not happen. The world believes that starting a business in India is not easy. A businessman has to face red tapism, procrastination and bottlenecks even today. If you want to start an industry or business somewhere, such Byzantine bureaucratic hurdles await the aspiring entrepreneur that if he is weakhearted, he will pass out and die! However, it is claimed that in the last 14 years, India has effected 37 improvements to facilitate business. It is also claimed that nearly half of these improvements have taken place in the last four years. I tried to find out the truth about it from the owners of small, medium and large industrial units and business friends. Everyone said there are so many bureaucratic hurdles that many a time they start to feel like they have committed some mistake or sin by setting up the industry and business!

The atmosphere of credibility is lacking in India. On the contrary, look at China. There is no democracy but the whole world has been investing there for a long time, because China has created a credible and best environment for the business.

If you look at this report carefully, you will see that we were at 26th position in case of power availability earlier, but now our ranking has slipped down to 29th position this year. Our ranking in cross border trade has come down from 143rd to 146th and in the ranking of business start-ups, we have slipped down a notch from 155th to 156th. The natural question is why is there a decline in these areas?

We should not feel complacent for positive report on ease of business as it will not solve our problems. The government will have to bear in mind that only Mumbai and Delhi are not important. Small and medium industries are running too in thousands of other cities across the country. The reality today is that the atmosphere for them has not improved at all. The problem that the businessmen have been experiencing post implementation of the GST, has been felt by the whole country. The statistics of Reserve Bank of India also confirm this. Loans for small businesses are declining. Obviously, if small business condition improved, people would expand business and the size of the loan would also increase. One more thing -- just ask any industrialist or a businessman as to how developed corruption is as a style in our country?

Before I conclude

 


I am upset with the reports of one gangrape after another and wonder why some people in our country are so pervert? In Bhopal, the role of the police after gangrape of a girl fills one with anger, while the rape of a hundred-year-old woman and her subsequent death leaves everyone shocked. I think this problem can not be addressed properly unless provisions are made for immediate and harsh punishment for the offender. The punishment should be extremely harsh..!

India will have to be more alert against China

 

As expected, Xi Jinping was elected President of China again. But more important than that is the fact that the party has incorporated Xi Jinping’s ideology into its constitution. This has elevated Xi Jinping to the stature of the party’s founder Mao Zedong and the subsequent leader Deng Xiaoping.


Before knowing what ideas are included in the party constitution, let us know what Jinping did after his re-election as President. It is important to know that Jinping is not only the President of China but also the head of the Chinese army and party. On Thursday, he addressed a meeting of the Central Military Commission, which comprises top commanders of the army. At this meeting, Jinping said the army should be ready for war. He did not say against which country the war is to be waged but it is being said that India is on its target at the moment. He must have been pained that despite having 23 lakh soldiers and officers in the army, India browbeat China in Doklam and forced it to retreat. As for the Indian Army, there are about 12 lakh soldiers and officers.


However, Jinping asked Chinese military commanders to focus more on how to win the war. Immediately after this meeting, the Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqing issued the statement that Jinping’s plan would be fully implemented and every order would be followed. India should be cautious with this attitude of Jinping because the cracks between the two countries can now turn into a conflict.


As a matter of fact, Jinping is working on long-term plans. He is working on spreading trade and business all over the world and for that a strong grip on the Indian Ocean is very important. At present, India is a big power in the Indian Ocean and Indian Navy is more powerful than Chinese navy. Jinping, who realises this deficiency of his country is taking steps to strengthen the navy. His military is 23 lakh strong and he has presented a blueprint whereby he has stated that the Chinese military is shorter by 3 lakh. It is obvious that he wants to reserve it for strengthening the navy. Obviously, he has taken this step by keeping India in mind. India has made it clear that if the presence of Chinese military increases in the Indian Ocean, the latter should clearly guarantee that it will not be against Indian interests.


Another important thing is that China has a lot of missiles, but in that proportion there is no aircraft carrier. Defense experts believe that it is because of this reason that China has not become aggressive right now. Jinping is desperate to change this situation too. China is engaged in mobilising such an aircraft carrier. He wants to acquire such a military strength that no one can dare challenge it. And when there will be ‘no Doklam’ in such a situation, it will be able to expand wherever it wants.


Indeed, it is not just India but all Asian and other countries of the world which need to be wary of Jinping. Now China is much stronger at the domestic level and it will apply full power to maintain its strong hold on the world. Their One Belt One Road (OBOR) proposal envisages industrialisation from Central Asia, Central Europe to Africa. China has clearly stated that it will lead the development of entire Asia. Obviously, China is not there to do charity. It has designed the policy of expansionism so that it could compete with America. In Asia, other countries can be completely overturned. Now you see that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Jinping has started, passes from very close to India’s Kashmir. What is the guarantee that China or Pakistan will not use this route militarily? It is a plan to surround India directly. The railway line which China has laid up to Tibet is proposed to be extended up to the Nepal border. Unfortunately, Nepal is getting attracted towards it.


Now, let’s take a look at the Xi Jinping principle that has been incorporated into the party constitution. It wants China to develop into a political and economic power as well as get a new identity in the world as a liberal and prosperous country by 2021. Right now, China’s economy is $11 trillion and Jinping wants to expand it to $18 trillion by 2023. If he succeeds in doing so, China will be the world’s largest economy. China is actually working on such a strategy that it can overshadow the US in every field and unquestionably become the world’s Chacha Chaudhary! The problem with the US is that at the moment its leadership is not strong at the domestic level. At present, there is no other way to prevent China’s economic imperialism. This is a challenging time, especially for India. We have to tread extremely cautiously.

Before I conclude

I am in politics but I am often astonished by the bombastic talk of the politicians. Now for example Shivraj Singh Chouhan, referred to as mama (maternal uncle) by the children in Madhya Pradesh. He bragged about the roads in Madhya Pradesh in the US. In a seminar on the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum in Washington DC, he said the roads in Madhya Pradesh are better than the streets of America! Dear brother Shivraj ji, you should have given a thought before making such a tall claim! I have visited the US many times and frequently travel to Madhya Pradesh. What will you do or say if some NRI or American who attended the seminar, really came to visit Madhya Pradesh?

 

 

 

Who is responsible for death of 34 farmers?

Every government claims that it is sympathetic to the issues of farmers, but the reality is that the farmers are still deprived of their rightful dues. Politicians ask for votes in the name of farmers and become farmer-leaders. They get elected to the State Assemblies or the Parliament on the strength of the farmers. But once elected they do nothing except deceiving the farmers. In this country, a farmer is called Annadata but his condition is not hidden from anyone. It is ironical that the deaths of 34 farmers due to the ill effects of pesticides did not move the State or the Central government.

 Neither the government nor the leaders understand that any country becomes great only when it protects the interests of its farmers. But we have never made meaningful efforts to make the farmers prosperous! Commission after commission is constituted to go into the problems of farmers. The reports of the commissions see heated debates in the State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha so that the news and photos are published prominently in newspapers and aired on TV channels. Those resorting to such tactics later derive sadist pleasure of having befooled the farmers! After debates, the reports are consigned to the files that keep gathering dust. Can the government similarly take for granted any other class of society? Does the government find the uneducated farmers weak enough to keep befooling them! Is this the idea that underlies the step-motherly treatment meted out to the farming community?
 
I believe that in the last 70 years, farmers have made this country self sufficient in foodgrain through their hard work. There was a time when we used to depend only on imports but now our country exports foodgrain and other agriculture produce. In spite of this, the government never thought of giving any concession to the farming as an industry. Land is acquired from farmers at a cheaper rate to establish industries. These industries get round the clock water supply, electricity and all other logistical facilities, in addition to the credit facility. The government leaves no stone unturned to promote and market the industrial products at home and abroad. Ministers and officials travel abroad for the purpose.
I am not against providing facilities to industries, but I have a question as to why the government does not provide the necessary facilities to the farmers too? The government does not arrange for better farming training, high quality seeds, safe pesticides and adequate water supply for irrigation. Our governments have never imagined that a cluster of farmers’ land should be formed. Farming never gives profits in pieces and that is why in many countries 10,000 to 20,000 acres or more land is clustered for cultivation under the cooperatives. The division ratio of the profits also corresponds to the same. Actually, the government has never paid attention to modern farming. Our farmers are condemned to get poor quality of seeds, face water shortage, drought, and not get remunerative prices for their produce. Many a time the condition becomes such that the farmer leaves his crop in the field because the money required to cart the crop to the market is more than the money he gets after selling the crop! Has any government ever thought about it?
 
The bank does not hesitate to write-off bad debts amounting to `13 lakh crore to `15 lakh crore in this country. Nobody objects to this kind of profligacy. But if a farmer owes a few thousand rupees to the bank, his property is seized. I have no hesitation in saying that big projects were launched in the name of irrigation and most of them became victims of scams as thousands of crores of rupees went down the drain. The reports of the inquiry commissions have been suppressed. The scamsters are moving freely.
 
The cumulative effect of this kind of lopsided priority is that today the farmers are committing suicide across the country. Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region has earned notoriety due to farmers’ suicides. It is unfortunate that the region had to witness the day when pesticide used by the farmer to protect his crop took his own life! What an irony? The pesticide that is banned worldwide is sold here. What is the agriculture ministry of our country doing? A case of murder should be filed against all those who are selling this dangerous pesticide. But this will not happen because the government itself shields the guilty.
 
If there is an incident in a school, its directors are put behind the bars in no time; if a patient dies in a private hospital the directors are sent to jail and if there is an accident in a factory, the factory owner is jailed. But despite a spate of rail accidents, no officer or top railway officials have been jailed. This attitude is not right. The government should have the same attitude towards the culprits, be it an official of the government department or the private sector!
 
Before I conclude
The daughters of our country are really doing amazing things. In the World Wushu Championship in Russia, CRPF head-constable’s daughter Pooja Kadian won the gold medal for India for the first time. Wushu is a kind of Chinese martial art. World Championship is being held every alternate year since 1991, but it is for the first time that India won the gold medal. Congratulations Pooja Kadian!

 

 

 

 

Isn’t even a single death from hunger a stigma?

 

 

 

 
 
The death of Santoshi, an 11-year-old girl from Simdega in Jharkhand, due to hunger has horrified the entire nation. The tall claims and promises of development are causing indignation. What kind of development is it that can not provide even two square meals to every citizen? Therefore, I am constrained to say that, “Mr Prime Minister and the chief ministers of all the states, please don’t do anything. Neither do we need bullet trains, nor do we want sleek and wider roads. You all simply ensure two square meals for the poor, jobs for the youths, end to the plight of farmers, irrigation for the farmland, clean drinking water to the citizens, treatment to the poor, proper arrangements to see that nobody is forced to carry the body of his child or wife on his shoulder, and see that no farmer dies while spraying pesticide! This is all which is expected of you!”
 
Mr Prime Minister and the chief ministers, how ironic it is that the public distribution system is being consumed by corruption, medicines are not available at government medical hospitals, the schools do not even have mats for students to sit, there is a shortage of teachers and the farmers are dying like flies. The concrete roads are falling apart baring the deep-rooted corruption and our character is being exposed before the youths. Corruption is raising its ugly head everywhere and we are celebrating Diwali? Now you all take up just one job in hand. Just ensure that the poor of the country gets bread, roof, drinking water and medical treatment. Just do that! Do not embroil us into the web of words! People remember the Prime Minister or the chief minister who does even one job properly. Don’t you feel any pain that people are dying of hunger, carrying body of their loved ones on their shoulders, and the hapless farmers who produce food for us all are embracing death?
 
Eminent poet Dushyant Kumar wrote nearly half a century ago:
Bhukh hai to sabra kar
Roti Nahin to kya hua?
Aajkal Dilli mein hai
Jer-e-bahas ye mudda..!
Enough of discussion and debate! We have to battle against hunger with full might now; fight against the decrepit system and corruption. When the then Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the chairman of Rajya Sabha and Sharad Pawar was the Union minister for agriculture, food and civil supplies, I had censured the public distribution system saying that we eat the food meant for the poor and do not even feel ashamed about it? Shekhawat had then directed Pawar that he should reply to the question raised by Vijay Darda. In fact, the country still wants to know when will the disease of corruption end?
 
The Global Hunger Index report of the International Food Policy Research Institute has made even more clear what we are actually experiencing. India, which was at 97th position in the Hunger Index report of developing countries, has now slipped to 100th position. This means that India is third among Asian countries in terms of starvation. Ironically, our position via-a-vis number of wealthy persons is almost the same. While we are becoming more and more affluent, the ranking of most of the neighbouring countries vis-a-vis Hunger Index is better than ours. China is at the forefront at 29th position. It is  followed by Nepal at 72nd, Myanmar at 77th, Sri Lanka at 84th and Bangladesh at 88th position. Of course, Pakistan at 106th and Afghanistan at 107th position are behind us.
 
The United Nation’s latest report on global starvation has added another stigma. The report says that 23 per cent of the world’s hungry people live in India. Titled State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, the report has clearly stated that due to the situation in India, the international goal of elimination of hunger by 2030 has been jeopardised. The report stated that the number of malnourished people in India was 78 crore in 2015, which has increased to 81.5 crore in 2016. Do these shocking figures not scare the government? Does the government not feel pain and fear?
 
Studies show that 38 per cent of children below 5 years of age are malnourished in India, whose impact is felt on their mental and physical development, education and intellectual capacity. Around 51 per cent of the young women are suffering from anemia, i.e. blood deficiency. So the big question is what is the reason? Finding an answer to this question is very easy. We all know that inflation in our country is so dominant that it is difficult for the poor to make arrangements for two square meals. Leave alone nutritious food, the basic food itself is beyond the reach of the poor here. It is difficult for a labourer to eat both pulses and vegetables with bread, given the amount of wages he gets. Fruit and milk are a luxury for the poor. I believe that to overcome hunger and poverty, firstly inflation will have to be checked. And of course, we must stop the waste of food. The UN figures show that 40 per cent of India’s food is wasted. If this food is saved and given to the needy, many people can satisfy their hunger.
 
Before I conclude
Ratan Tata, the head of Tata Trust, has announced to give `1,000 crore and other resources to set up cancer hospitals in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. This is really a bumper Diwali gift! In fact, cancer patients from all over the country come to Tata’s Mumbai-based cancer hospital. Though they get treatment at affordable rates, the poor patients’ families find it difficult to sustain themselves in Mumbai. Tata Trust plans to provide Mumbai-like treatment to patients in their areas. This is the noblest gesture from the Tata Trust and it deserves to be extolled!

 

 

 

This is manslaughter! Will anyone be sued?

 

After three consecutive train accidents in Uttar Pradesh, stampede on the Elphinstone Road railway station foot-over-bridge (FOB) in Mumbai has rocked the nation. This incident has raised several questions. The biggest question being whether this incident is just an accident? Is this not clearly a case of  manslaughter?

Several MPs alerted the railways twice in a year and wrote letters about Elphinstone Road railway station FOB. Many people too tried to draw attention of Indian Railways through social media that the condition of this FOB was horrible. It is so narrow and the crowd is so much that a major accident is waiting to happen, people had pointed out. But the officials of the Indian Railways ignored this warning. 

 
The ministry of railways which brags about making available milk aboard the train over a tweet, turned a blind eye to this warning. The top railway officials sit in their posh office not too far from this FOB, but everyone ignored the warning. Now the ministry of railways is saying that tender has been issued to widen the FOB. So the question is whether the ministry of railways was waiting for the accident to happen? Did it need the manslaughter to happen to galvanize the railways to reconstruct or widen the FOB?
 
The point is against whom will the action be taken for this manslaughter? Will the case of murder be registered against the top railway officials? When a child was murdered in a Delhi school, a case was registered against the directors of the school who resided in Mumbai. If there is an accident in a factory, a case is registered against its owner. If the owners and directors are put in jail in such cases, the question that arises is why no case has been filed against the railway authorities so far?
 
Around 2.30 crore passengers travel every day through 8,000 railway stations in the country. And if the top officials of the railways are so careless, it is clear that the lives of 2.30 crore passengers will always be in danger, which, in fact, already is. About four hundred rail accidents have occurred in the last three years and 185 of these accidents have been caused due to the negligence of railway employees and officials. 
 
When the accident involving Utkal Express occurred in Uttar Pradesh, only a few senior railway officials were transferred. No murder case was registered against them. Just imagine, if an officer is careless at one place, he will be equally careless irrespective of where he is sent or posted. All such officials should be put behind bars. Had this incident occurred in some foreign country, all the officials responsible would have been in jail by now. Here, the government washes its hands of its responsibility by paying compensation. Well, for your information, let me tell you that the bullet train we are bringing here has been running in Japan for more than 50 years now but there has not been a single accident yet. We need to learn vigilance and security from Japan.
 
The fact is that our railways is not paying attention to security and vigilance. There are about 3,000 railway bridges in the country which need to be reconstructed immediately. Of the 1.21 lakh railway bridges in the country, 75% have outlived their utility. Most of them were built over 60 years back and many rail bridges are even over 100 years old. In 1998, the Hansraj Khanna committee also said that a task force should be set up for railway bridges so that the bridges could be rebuilt within five years. It is more than 19 years but the report of the Hansraj Khanna committee has not seen the light of the day. Many bridges have weakened over the years.
 
The reality is that for many decades no initiative has been taken to restructure the railways. In 2015-16, a huge investment of `8.56 lakh crore was planned for five years. In the Rail Budget of 2017-18, creation of National Rail Safety Fund with a corpus of `1 lakh crore was proposed. However, the reality is that the investment which the railway needs is not available. There is a perpetual grouse that adequate funds are not available. In fact, we talk more and deliver less.
 
Imagine what would be the condition of the families of those killed on Elphinstone Road railway station FOB. Shraddha Varpe, a resident of Kalyan, was the sole support of her handicapped father. She lost her life in the stampede. Young Mayuresh used to go to office by motorcycle to avoid the crowded local trains. But to avoid rains, he took local train that day and died in the FOB stampede. He was the only bread earner for the family of five. There are several other similar heart-rending stories that have been haunting us since the day of stampede.
 
I firmly believe that the top officials of the Indian Railways are fully responsible for the calamity that has befallen these families. A case of manslaughter should be registered against them! Unless stringent action is taken against the officials of Indian Railways, such incidents will continue to happen. To be honest, once the railway authorities realise that they will end up in jail for negligence, many accidents will be curbed.
 
Before I conclude
 
The Under-17 Football World Cup will be inaugurated in India this week. The competition is among 24 teams from around the world. The Indian team is being led by Manipur’s Amarjeet and the whole country has pinned its hopes on him. In recent times, the Indian youth is showing great interest in football and this is certainly a positive sign. I congratulate the Indian team and hope that it will win the glory and become world champion!