What farmers have to say about Modi government’s income support scheme

ET Bureau|Updated: Feb 04, 2019, 08.38 PM IST

Farming is just not worth it for many of the millions dependent on it. But they are left with little choice. This stark reality, along with a worrying paucity of jobs, will weigh heavily on the upcoming general elections. Growth in agriculture trails that of the economy and agriculture’s share in the national output has declined drastically over time — from around 50% in the early 1950s to 17% in 2017-18.

But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to endear itself to the agrarian community with its latest salvo. In a widely anticipated move, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal, in his budget speech on February 1, said 120 million farmers with less than five acres each, who account for over 85% of India’s farm holdings, would get Rs 6,000 each annually. Read more

Can India afford welfarism based on handouts

By TK Arun ET Bureau| Updated: Feb 03, 2019, 06.16 AM IST

A spectre is haunting India. A spectre of never-ending handouts, which would bring some relief to the really hard-up, remove the incentive to strive for the rest and starve the economy of the funds it needs for investing in productivity boosting human capability and physical infrastructure.

Time was when politicians promised voters a cycle, computer or TV set, won their favour and made commissions on wholesale purchases of the said gifts, and proceeded to live happily at least for the rest of the term. Then came the recurring expenditure on heavily subsidised food. Read more

Pathalgarhi’s long shadow: India’s tribal heartland wants freedom from govt control

What began as a movement against government control has led to ‘autonomous’ villages in Jharkhand, unrest in Odisha and policy changes in Chhattisgarh

RANCHI/ROURKELA/RAIPUR: The signs of change are hard to miss the moment one enters Jharkhand’s Khunti district, birthplace of two tribal rebellions separated by a century. “ Sab se upar gram sabha (gram sabha above all else),” announces the writing on a wall. It all started on March 9, 2017, when Bhandra village in the tribal-dominated district inaugurated its ‘pathalgarhi’, a huge stone slab announcing the autonomy of the village from all forms of government control. The Pathalgarhi movement that erupted from this is still going strong, having spread and made impact in neighbouring Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Read more

Travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur to go down to 6 hours by December 2020

A key official attached with Maharashtra’s fastest highway project, Samruddhi Corridor, says implementation of the new land acquisition act and transparency in compensation helped melt down farmers’ opposition.

In 2016, when Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced building a 701 km super highway between Nagpur and Mumbai that will cut travel time to six hours from the existing 14 hours, nobody believed that the work will ever kick off given the stiff opposition it faced with funds and land acquisition. Read more

In three years, Centre has diverted forest land the size of Kolkata for development projects

The Indian government has diverted over 20,000 hectares of forest area for developmental activities such as mining, thermal power plants, dams, road, railways and irrigation projects in the past three years (2015-’18) across India.

According to the official data revealed by the National Democratic Alliance government in Parliament in December 2018, a total of 20,314.12 hectares of forest land (almost the size of Kolkata) was diverted in three years 2015-2018 (till December 13, 2018). During this period, the ministry had received a total of 4,552 proposals and of those 1,280 (28.11%) got approved.

Under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, forest areas can be diverted by the environment ministry for non-forestry purposes like mining. In lieu of the land, money is collected by the government which is then used by the authorities for afforestation.

But the diversion of forest land for developmental projects has always been a contentious issue and in the past 10 years the opposition to diversion has increased with environmentalists repeatedly alleging that the union environment ministry only works like a rubber stamp clearing whatever projects come to it, seeking diversion of the forest land.

However the ministry officials say this is untrue. “Many proposals are in different stages of approval. Contrary to popular belief, the ministry is very sensitive to giving clearance for diverting forests for non-forestry purposes,” said an environment ministry official on the condition of anonymity.

According to information revealed in the Parliament, Telangana topped the list with 5,137.38 hectares of forest land diverted, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 4,093.38 hectares and Odisha with 3,386.67 hectares of forest area diverted. The three states together account for over 62% (12,617.43 hectares) of the total forest land diverted during the said three-year period.

With close to 70.82 million hectares of forest area, about 21.54% of India’s land is under forest cover.

The reasons for diversion of forest area varied from irrigation, hydropower, road and railway projects to defence, mining, transmission line, schools and wind power projects. Of the total forest area diverted during the said time, the highest amount was diverted for irrigation projects, followed by mining and thermal power plants.

“Proposals for diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 are received in the ministry from the concerned states and UTs [union territories]. The proposals are examined in the ministry [Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change] and after due diligence the proposals are either approved or rejected within the framework of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and its supporting rules and guidelines,” said Indian government’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mahesh Sharma. while replying to a query in Parliament in December 2018.

According to another set of data of the environment ministry, since the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act 1980, nearly four decades ago, a total of about 1.51 million hectares has been diverted for 27,144 projects. To put it in perspective, it means forest land equivalent to over ten times the size of India’s national capital has been diverted in the last four decades for various kind of developmental projects.

Poor monitoring is a worrying factor
Environmentalists argue that they are not against country’s development but against the procedures and poor monitoring of the conditions on the basis of which such projects are cleared.

“Monitoring of conditions on basis of which forest land is diverted is an important factor but it is poorly done. There are enough cases to indicate that India’s environment ministry does not have the adequate wherewithal to monitor the land it diverts and the numerous conditions they put,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, a senior environmental lawyer in the Supreme Court and managing partner of the Enviro Legal Defence Firm.

“The mandate of the ministry is to be the conscience keeper for every piece of forest land and how it is to be protected. Somehow, we have got lost in the money that forest diversion brings! Forest and forest land are actually irreplaceable, let’s explore all alternatives before losing even an inch” he added.

The issue may find a mention in the Parliamentary elections that are scheduled in the first half of 2019. During his election campaign for 2014 polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had highlighted the slow pace of green clearances from the environment ministry and had promised to speed up the process and simplify it.

The NDA government led by Modi did exactly that once it came into power. Since 2014, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has taken series of steps to ease clearance process for the industry as a result of which, by the end of 2017, the average processing time for green clearances came down from 580 days to 180 days. The Modi government has a target of bringing the average time for green clearances to under 100 days.

To speed up the green clearance process, the environment ministry, in August 2018, released standard environment clearance conditions for 25 industrial sectors including major ones like coal mines, oil and gas exploration and hydropower projects. In the same month, the prime minister had also launched PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub) – a single-window online system for green clearances, aimed at further speeding up the system.

Courtesy: Scroll.in

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