Dharmanomics: For the welfare of all – Krishnarjun

West Bengal Paddy Farmer

Engineer Modern India needs its own plan for prosperity. Borrowed models can’t fit its numbers, geography, social and spiritual temperament. – Krishnarjun

India is at a crossroads. There is rising debate and discussion on development, about aspirations and the virtues of entrepreneurship. In the last two decades, the global exposure of the average Indian has increased, and people are becoming increasingly impatient about the state of affairs in India vis-à-vis other nations, particularly the West. The neo-enlightened globe-trotting Indians are fascinated by the glitz of modern economies and strongly believe India should follow them. Some of the more enlightened, armed with Ivy League degrees, tend to sermonize about the virtues of capitalism, free market, economic right philosophies, libertarianism et al. Some, like this writer, disagree with this popular rhetoric borrowed from West and peddled by the neo-economically enlightened class as the panacea for India’s poverty.

Of course, the neo-enlightened are sincere and want India to prosper and end the misery of the impoverished millions. But they are borrowing models that have already failed. Capitalism as practiced in the so-called advanced economies is in crisis. It has turned into imperialism and tyranny of fiat money backed by military might. It steals others resources by deception and protests are silenced with brute force. The majority of citizens of these advanced economies also suffer from this systemic deception and tyranny though in a different way, being forced into wage slavery to either state or corporation.

The model dislikes interference of any other institution between state, corporation and citizen. Laws are made to discourage strong family or community bonding, to increase mistrust among citizens and between professions. Though the standard of life is made high with borrowed prosperity, insecurity is all-pervasive. The system won’t let people save or live independently. The giant corporation is omnipotent and omnipresent with limited space left for self-employment. The farm, the city, the house, the work space is directly or indirectly at the mercy of the corporation.

In recent years, glaring holes have surfaced in the corporate capitalist model that can no longer be hidden. The lifeline of this model is material innovation to create new markets for business and growth. The model managed to flourish for little over a century with new product innovation, beginning with mechanical gadgets followed by a revolution in electrical and electronics engineering.

Currently, the pace of innovation is coming down and is limited by current knowledge. It seems humanity has not progressed much in core physical knowledge for over half a century, and any further progress is unlikely to create big markets. The unlimited product innovation and market creation to satisfy perennial hunger of corporations is no longer guaranteed.

So, the big corporation has turned its eye on appropriating nature, its flora and fauna. Nature has created and evolved the most inert elements for the life to flourish and progress. The big corporation wants to muddle the equilibrium to appropriate in the name of intellectual property rights. It wants to engineer the seed of life in the name of genetic modification. Corporates can’t bear to see anything on the planet as a free gift of nature to life. They are addicted to measure everything with money. The fiat money they have created now dictates that they control life itself.

This is a brief summary of the capitalistic model that enamours neo-enlightened India. How can India prosper if it adopts this failed model?

India has to prosper and can prosper without compromising its timeless priceless institutions like family, community and dharma. It has to evolve a system rooted in dharma and natural justice. The model is not new; India lived with real prosperity for millennia following dharma. It worshiped all the elements of its prosperity from rivers, mountains to flora and fauna. The secret of its perennial prosperity was its love for the divine nature. The Indic civilisation begged Mother Nature for milk, never tried to draw blood. Its innovation was to facilitate and nourish life; it was more concerned about how to innovate and cause more rain for life than about manufacturing the intercontinental ballistic missile.

How can we adopt this model of dharma in the present scenario; does dharmanomics mean going back into an obscure past and shunning modernity? The answer is no. Many enthusiasts of the neo-economic right in India try to project any alternatives to their borrowed economic model as statist and regressive. Dharmanomics is about blending natural economy and natural justice to the modern situation.

India can’t live an isolated economic and cultural existence. It has to engage with the contemporary world on its own terms. For that it needs to be at par with rest of the world in technology and military strength. Military strength is linked with the best technology and high-end manufacturing. Research and innovation in these areas have to be encouraged. If private and foreign investment can help such innovation it should be facilitated. High-end manufacturing clusters can be established on wastelands along the coast. Some clusters could emerge into mega cities.

But can these urban manufacturing centers be allowed to dominate the whole economy? If India is successful in hi-tech manufacturing, will that ensure prosperity? Real prosperity means good food, clean water and air, a comfortable home, a profession, good health, good family and social life. If the land gives enough food, the rest can be achieved with proper organization of society. Food economy is the root of prosperity. In other words, balancing the food economy and high-end manufacturing is critical for prosperity and to defend that prosperity from external threats.

India’s food economy and manufacturing should complement each other. City-states can be centers of modern manufacturing and economic organization while a decentralized panchayat structure could support life with all its diversity. The city capitalist or corporation shouldn’t be allowed to monopolize the food and rural economy. Farmland should not become an instrument of investment for profit. Only working farmers must be allowed ownership of farmland and the community panchayat must certify him as a farmer. This protects the farmer and as a consequence rural life gets a boost, along with small manufacturing and services. The model optimizes self-employment.

The farm economy has to be self-organized to optimize food production and must be allowed to fix the prices of the produce. The farmer can be taxed like any other profession. Gujarat restricts farmland ownership by non-farmers and rural economy here is self-organized.

Modern India needs its own plan for prosperity. Borrowed models can’t fit its numbers, geography, social and spiritual temperament. Fortunately, the Indian population is so huge that it can support diverse economic models. The traditional system can co-exist in harmony with modern organization without one preying on other. Harmony of self and environment is the essence of Dharma and the possibility of such harmony in economy is Dharmanomics. – Vijayvaani, 9 May 2013

» Krishnarjun is an engineer and political observer from Andhra Pradesh. His twitter handle is https://twitter.com/krishnarjun108

Antilia : Ambani's Billion Dollar House

Dharavi Mumbai

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Why we don’t need genetically modified crops in India – G. Sivaraman

Dr. G. Sivaraman“The whole world is moving towards an eco-friendly lifestyle in many areas. India is one among the few countries having large biodiversity zones with a huge potential to go organic. … But for this Independence Day … we will be hoisting the tri-coloured national flag made of genetically modified BT cotton owned by a big American corporate and not with Gandhiji’s swadeshi.” – Dr. G. Sivaraman

Genetically Modified FoodGenetically Modified (GM) plants have created rigorous debates not only in India, but worldwide. GM crops are a new living organism and the universe has not been acquainted with this for millions of years.  The potential adverse and unintended effects of GM plants to the agro system and the safety of foods are the main causes of concern.

The global icons in the field of genetic engineering like Prof Michel Antoniou, Prof Seralini and Prof Pushpa Bhargava have stated that we cannot determine the outcome of the conjugation of different genes. There is a possibility of unintended effects which could be harmful to:

  1. The organism that the researcher intends to modify;
  2. The health of animals or humans who may use the organism;
  3. The environment; and
  4. Biodiversity.

GM is a living technology and has the ability to be irreversible and uncontrollable, unlike the hybrid and chemical interventions in agriculture.

No to BT brinjal!At the outset, any research or new interventions should satisfy the real necessity while the lacuna should be established. As far as GMOs are concerned, there is no actual need for this in our country. Here in India, the problem lies with the distribution of food and not with its production. The reasons positioned by pro-GMO technocrats such as higher yield in harvest, pest & herb resistance have never been satisfactorily proved by the scientific community around the world.

The bio safety of the new organism also has not been dispassionately established.  The bio safety document of the BT brinjal, submitted to MoEF, four years ago cleverly concealed the ambiguity of its inference in every part. Nearly 30% difference in the alkoloidal content between wild and BT brinjal, was obscured with tag line …“substantially equal”.

Later  the standing Parliamentary committee and technical expert committee examined the entire research documents and finally rejected them. Even the WHO warrants every nation to do systematic examination while allowing GMOs in their food chain with respect to allergenicity, gene transfer and cross contamination. Apart from that, the current challenge for India’s health scenario is the management of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart diseases and carcinoma.

MonsantoThe introductions of GMOs in the food crops have a strong chance to spoil the synergy of plant molecules, and secondary metabolites and thereby certainly spoil the functionalities of the staple food. There is no foolproof data available that GMOs can be kept intact of these synergy, while a new gene has been engineered.

Another aching news is that a few GM manipulations have been started in Indian traditional herbs like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), bramhi (Baccopa moneerri) and nilavembu (Andrographis paniculata). To improve the quantity of particular fractional extracts of the medicinal plants, researchers are trying this Frankenstein technology.

Without knowing traditional Ayush therepeutics and pharmaco kinetics, (which is purely based on taste of the herb structured with synergy of secondary metabolites) the contemporaries’ intervention spoils the traditional traits and the IPR of our plants will be questionable. For an ayush physician, medicinal plants are not mere therapeutic chemical yielding factories

The answer to minister Prakash Javadekar’s question on why people want to stop scientific studies is very simple: Field trials involve a deliberate open air release of GMOs, which are untested and are merely new organisms in nature. This poses high risks due to the inherent nature of the technology. There are numerous examples of contamination resulting from field trials.

The whole world is moving towards an eco-friendly lifestyle in many areas. India is one among the few countries having large biodiversity zones with a huge potential to go organic.

Mahyco Monsanto India LtdIn 2002, BT cotton was officially introduced to India.  At that time the cost of cotton seeds was Rs 20-40/ kg. But now the cost of 450 gms of cotton seeds is Rs 1,800. If the same hike continues to happen among GM foods, what will be the state of grassroot level poor Indian? Another thought for this Independence Day is that we will be hoisting the tri-coloured national flag made of genetically modified BT Cotton owned by a big American corporate and not with Gandhiji’s swadeshi. – Deccan Chronicle, 10 August 2014

» Dr. G. Sivaraman is with Poovulagin Nanbargal and can be contacted at herbsiddha@gmail.com

Farmers protest against Monsanto in New Delhi 2013

Jallikattu fallout and future course of action – B. R. Haran

B.R. Haran“A debate has raged between supporters and opponents of the ban on Jallikattu, and as there are valid points on both sides, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the issue and to plan the future course of action.” – B.R. Haran

After waging a legal war for almost 10 years, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and animal welfare activists have won their case against “animal sports” such as Jallikattu, Rekla (bullock-cart race) etc., involving bulls. A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, in a landmark judgment on 7 May 2014, banned Jallikattu, Rekla and other such ‘sports’. The SC also struck down the “Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act 2009” [1]. Subsequently on June 22, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court dismissed 18 petitions, pending from 2009, which sought permission to conduct Jallikattu in the State in the light of the Supreme Court’s ban.

Since then, a debate has raged between supporters and opponents of the ban, and as there are valid points on both sides, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the issue and to plan the future course of action. The Bull Fight is a traditional sport as evidenced by Seals excavated at Mohenjo-daro and by scriptures such as Bhagvatam; over time the sport got restricted to certain parts of the country and moved from villages to towns and cities. It has become a “free for all” sport, no longer restricted to the traditional agriculturist community

Madras High CourtThe legal process

For over three decades, the South Indian Humanitarian League and Blue Cross of India petitioned the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state legislature to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls. In 2004, hearing a petition seeking permission for conducting Rekla Race, Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla permitted the “sport” with a rider that the organisers should cause no injury to the bulls. The petitioner had to approach the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, as the Ramanathapuram Police had refused permission earlier.

In 2006, another petitioner approached the Madurai Bench for the same reason; another petition in the same court was filed by the father of a man who was killed during Jallikattu the previous year. Taking note of the purview of the PCA Act in its entirety, Justice R Banumathi issued an order banning all types of “sports” namely Jallikattu, Rekla race, and other such “sports” causing cruelty to animals.

When the petitioner seeking permission appealed against the single judge’s order, a division bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and PPS Janarthana Raja heard the appeal on 9 March 2007 and set aside the single judge’s order. The bench allowed Jallikattu with conditions which applied to ‘Performing Animals’ under the PCA Act. These were –

  • Owners of bulls must register their animals with the Animal Welfare Board of India one month in advance;
  • Bulls must be certified by a vet as being healthy and fit to be allowed to participate in the events lasting several months across several districts of Tamil Nadu;
  • At every event bull tamers will be tested by doctors for alcohol consumption;
  • Bulls should not be given alcohol prior to the event;
  • Bulls must not be administered steroids and veterinary doctors stationed at the venue must ensure that bulls have not been abused by owners rubbing chilly powder, tobacco and mud in their eyes, tails and genitals;
  • All events must receive written permission from the local magistrate.

The State Government was made a respondent and the division bench stipulated monitoring of Jallikattu by the local magistrate, district collector, veterinary officers, AWBI volunteers and police; the High Court placed bulls on the list of ‘Performing Animals’ on its own. As the organisers and State Government were desperate to conduct the “sport” they readily agreed to the classification of bulls as performing animals and also to comply with the conditions posed by the High Court. It bears mention that the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act (2009), which impacts upon the PCA Act (1960) which is a Central act, has not received Presidential assent yet.

The AWBI, a statutory body, disagreed with the classification of bull as ‘performing animal’ and took the case to the Supreme Court seeking an immediate stay on the order of the division bench and demanding a complete ban on Jallikattu. Thereafter, on July 27, 2007 the Supreme Court in an interim order stayed the order of the division bench of the Madras High Court.

However, on January 11, 2008 the Supreme Court pronounced its final order by banning Jallikattu but permitting Rekla race. The bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik permitted Rekla because the AWBI had, by lapse, sought banning of only Jallikattu. When the State Government filed a Revision Petition on 13 January 2008, the same bench heard it and delivered an interim order allowing Jallikattu to be held as part of Pongal celebrations, with some ‘conditions’. The AWBI promptly filed another Special Leave Petition seeking restoration of the earlier order dated 11 January 2008.

Even as the case was dragging in the apex court, the State Government tabled the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Bill in the Assembly; it was unanimously passed as Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009. But the government failed to obtain Presidential assent. Thereafter, the same bench of the Supreme Court gave interim orders in 2010 and 2011 allowing Jallikattu with conditions and directing the authorities to ‘monitor’ the ‘sport’.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, in July 2011, included Bulls on the list of animals which may not be deemed to be Performing Animals and may therefore not be allowed to be trained, exhibited or used in sport. The ministry added that Bulls meant cows, progeny of cows, bulls, buffalo and oxen including castrated and not castrated ones.

Armed with the notification of MOE & F, AWBI and animal welfare activist Radha Rajan filed separate petitions in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High court seeking a ban on Jallikattu. On 12 January 2012 the Bench comprising Justices Chitra Venkataraman and R Karuppaiah heard the matter, but the government advocates managed to secure another day for the government to be heard again. As the State’s ruling party was also partner at the Center, the Union Government’s Advocate General somehow failed to defend the notification of the MOE & F. The State Government also succeeded in allowing the ‘sport’ to be conducted, as usual with ‘conditions’ (that were never followed) and ‘monitoring’ (that was never done with the seriousness it required).

Continuing its relentless efforts, the AWBI monitored and observed the conduct of Jallikattu in 2012 and 2013 and prepared solid documentation with photographs and videographs and submitted its report to the Supreme Court (supporters argue that such cruelties stopped after 2008). The AWBI meticulously detailed the entire process of Jallikattu, the cruelties to which the bulls are subjected and how Jallikattu was violative of various sections of the PCA Act. A petition was filed by PETA against the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009.

The organisers of Jallikattu, confident of political support from the State Government and thinking that the TNJR Act would make it easy for them in the Supreme Court, failed to make a convincing case for conducting Jallikattu; they did not present any documentation or proof that there was no cruelty to the animals and proof that they were conducting Jallikattu safely.

The Supreme Court analysed the issue threadbare taking the PCA Act into consideration in its entirety. It found the TNJR Act repugnant to the PCA Act and noted that the TNJR Act had not received Presidential Assent under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, it banned Jallikattu, Rekla race and other such “sports” and struck down the TNJR Act 2009 as null and void.

JallikattuJallikattu – not sport but farce!

Following the judgment, the organisers and supporters of Jallikattu are disappointed and agitated. But the ban on the sport is of their making! As long as Jallikattu was conducted as a village sport by the agricultural community, with the involvement of youth from the particular village and under the supervision of village elders and leaders of the said village, it did not attract attention, good or bad. It had its own typical cultural flair and religious flavour; it was traditional in the true sense of the word.

But once the sport moved to towns and cities and suffered commercialization (prize money, betting, etc.), due to greed for money and fame by organisers and community leaders, it lost its uniqueness. Even the “brave” players taking part in taming the bulls are mostly from towns and cities, not rural areas. They are akin to the mad bike racers we see on city roads.

The cruelty inflicted upon the hapless animals is beyond expression. Cutting the ear, pulling, twisting and biting the tail, soiling the tail and hind legs with faeces, making them stand for hours, causing injuries by chasing them and hitting and poking them with sticks and knives, applying irritants into their eyes and noses, using tight and thick nose-ropes, keeping them in cramped conditions without sufficient food and water, forcing them to drink liquor and even spectators beating them are some of the cruelties detailed with photographic and videographic evidence in the AWBI report, four years after the proclamation of TNJR Act by Tamil Nadu government. [2]

The day Jallikattu moved from villages to towns and cities, far away from the temples, it lost its sanctity and traditional fervour and gained in commercial flavour in the process. The greed for money and fame increased and commitment to tradition decreased. The rural traditional sport became an urban and sub-urban commercial entertainment, showing scant regard for the well-being of animals and humans. We have come across deaths of scores of players and spectators over the years. Even during the so-called training period, the bulls are subjected to cruelties such as forcing it to thrash its head and horns repeatedly against the ground, tying it to two poles tightly immobilizing it, etc. [3]

The bulls were viewed and treated as objects or instruments of entertainment instead of living beings. This forced the AWBI and animal welfare activists to act against this farce and the rest is history.

Jallikattu inscription excavated from Peththa Nayakkan Palaiyam, Attur Taluk, Tamil NaduArguments for Jallikattu, a travesty!

In the name of tradition, it is not clear if the organisers included Indus Valley Seals, verses from Bhagvatam and other archaeological and literary evidences in their defense before the Supreme Court. The argument that twisting tails, cutting ears and using nose-ropes are not cruelties will not cut ice with the Court of law, which views the case under the PCA Act. The organisers had to defend their case under the purview of the PCA Act. They were not able to present a sound defence, because they violated conditions even in 2012 and 2013, four years after these were imposed by the Supreme Court.

It is argued by organisers and supporters of Jallikattu that the bulls are sent for slaughter due to the ban of the sport. They claim that the bull is reared with love and affection as a member of the family; taken care of by feeding highly nutritious food with special attention for its well-being; and that as much as Rs. 500/- per day is spent on the bull, all year round. When they can send their own family member to the slaughter-house just because Jallikattu is banned, is not the claim of taking care of the bull with love and affection farcical? Doesn’t this prove that they are for money only? Are they not spending so much because the Jallikattu bull’s market rate is over Rs one lakh?

They argue that Jallikattu helps them in protection, preservation and breeding of native cattle. If they really want to protect and preserve native breeds, why should they send the bulls for slaughter just because the sport is banned? Is Jallikattu the only option to breed native cattle? Can’t they use them for breeding, farming and producing biogas, organic manure and other dung-based products?

The day the agriculturist replaced bulls with tractors, he lost his credibility; exposed his avarice. The day he started compromising on the genuine tradition of Jallikattu and made it a commercial sport, inflicting pain on hapless animals, he lost his ground for arguments. It is a farce that the bulls are sold for slaughter only after the ban on Jallikattu. Selling male progeny has been happening for years! As he has started selling them for slaughter, he can no more claim that he is passionate about breeding them.

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaBlaming animal welfare activists

Jallikattu organisers and supporters alleged that animal welfare activists were paid by foreign NGOs backed by the Church. They must understand that there is nothing Christian about the AWBI or animal welfare activists, majority of whom are Hindu. Both have an impressive track record in the cause of animal welfare. When Churches are conducting Jallikattu, where is the question of these activists being paid by the Church? Even genuine Hindu activists, who have been serving the cause of animal welfare for decades, have been blamed for being associated with PETA and paid by Christian NGOs!

Jallikattu supporters question why animal welfare activists are not fighting against slaughter of cattle, cattle trafficking, circus, etc. This is an ill-informed argument. Animal welfare activists are fighting against all forms of cruelties perpetrated on animals.

First, with regards to Circus, the Ministry Environment and Forests issued a second notification dated 14-10-1998 (Annexure-1)4 under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 putting restriction on exhibition or training of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions with effect from the date of publication of the notification. Since then, the number of Circus companies has been on the decline.

Second, regarding slaughter houses, the Supreme Court delivered an excellent order [4] on 23 August 2012 directing both the Central and State Governments to ensure that slaughter houses adhere to the guidelines prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, involving the Departments of Health, Animal Husbandry and Labour, State Police, Food Safety Commissioner, State Pollution Control Board, State Animal Welfare Board and two prominent persons nominated by the State Government.

Third, regarding Cattle Trafficking, animal welfare activists have worked diligently with limited resources. Ever since a team of committed activists led by Radha Rajan and S V Badri released a documentary “Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking to Kerala” [5], huge awareness has been created on the issue and many activists have formed their own teams across Tamil Nadu to serve the noble cause. In other States too, activists are working to stop cattle trafficking.

All animals are the same for animal welfare activists; they do not discriminate between Desi Cow and Jersey Cow, dog and cat, hen and peacock, but work for the protection and welfare of all. Working for animal welfare is not easy; it requires manpower, money power, material power, and above all, support from the State administration and Police. Waging a legal war must also be within the realms of Law and Constitution. Within their capacities and limitations, they are doing a great job.

Those who fought against Jallikattu are also fighting against circuses, against cattle trafficking, against cow slaughter, against the government’s religious endowment departments for the welfare of temple cows; they will also fight for the protection and breeding of native cattle!

St. Anthony of PaduaThe Christian play

Regarding churches conducting Jallikattu, it is claimed that churches have been conducting this sport in certain parts of Tamil Nadu on the eve of St. Antony’s Festival for centuries! [6] It is a great blunder that Hindus allowed the church to hijack this sport. During the current year when the Church organized Jallikattu in Dindigal, a 12-year-old boy was killed and 23 others injured! [7] The agricultural community should have protested against the churches and safeguarded the sanctity of this Hindu sport. Having allowed the church to conduct Jallikattu, can the argument that banning Jallikattu hurts Hindu religious sentiments stand scrutiny?

Even in the present circumstances, the Hindu agriculturists did not fight for the Hinduness of Jallikattu as they feared the Dravidian Government would not support them. The DMK regime supported Jallikattu and went to the extent of making a separate law for it, not in the interest of Hindu religion or Tamil culture, but because it brings money to its coffers and the Church is also involved. This was the regime that changed the traditional Tamil New Year, showing scant regard to Hindu religion and Tamil culture. The pathetic condition of cows and the gaushalas maintained by the HR & CE Department shows the scant regard the government has for religious tradition and sentiments of Hindus!

In a recently published Tamil article by Chennai-based Vedic Science Research Center, an author named Aegan [8] has explained in detail about the attempts being made by Christian priests to purchase native breeds of cattle from farmers in Erode, in order to use them to produce cross-breeds and curtail the growth of native breeds. The article cites evidence that these priests have been indulging in this nefarious activity with the active connivance of the officers of a nationalized bank. It is a very serious issue and the agricultural community must immediately bring it to the notice of the Government and take it up with the concerned banks’ authorities. They must ensure this practice does not spread to other parts of Tamil Nadu, like they allowed the church to hijack Jallikattu.

What has St. Antony got to do with Jallikattu? It is clearly an “Inculturation” technique. Hence, it is imperative that the Hindu agricultural community think of a strategy to take the rural sport back to the villages with religious and cultural flavour, as a Review Petition against the ban is most likely to be rejected.

Shiva Pashupati of MohanjodaroHindu perspective

It is very unfortunate that this issue has created a rift among Hindus. Supporters of the ban feel that the present day Jallikattu is a mockery of the village sport and more commercial and entertainment than tradition and culture. This is akin to the debate on vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism among Hindus. It is a fact that the Maharishis of Vedic times took some amount of ‘pashu’ as prasad after performing yagnas. But over the centuries, Vedic Brahmins have put an end to animal sacrifice in yagnas, barring very rare occasions like vajpeya yagnas. But none of the Hindu scriptures have strictly enforced vegetarianism for Hindus.

The same is the case with animal sacrifices during temple festivals, particularly the village temples, where the gramadevata is served naivedhya by sacrificing animals and birds. Here also we have two sections of Hindus, one for and one against the tradition of animal sacrifice. The point of contention is that the practice of eating non-vegetarian food has become almost a daily affair, unlike the days when it was only during festival occasions and family / community celebrations. Over the years, beef eating has also increased manifold among Hindus and has probably led people to view animals as mere products and not living beings.

Feeding a cow at the front gate.Objectives and Plans

This Hindu nation has a time-tested tradition of worshipping Nature. Our livelihood was in consonance with nature. Natural resources are God’s gift to mankind. But as we started deviating from the tradition of worshipping nature and showing scant regard for nature, we started facing problems. As we modernised our agricultural practices, we failed to strike a balance, resulting in the destruction of our cattle wealth. Similarly, village oriented sports like Jallikattu have lost the traditional sanctity as they became commercialised for money and entertainment. The traditional practice of daily worshipping cattle has become a formal annual event, resulting in cattle being viewed as commodities. It is high time the depletion of cattle wealth stopped and steps taken to increase it.

The following objectives are in order:

  1. To work towards bringing a ban on Cow Slaughter;
  2. To stop Cattle Trafficking;
  3. To improve breeding of native varieties of cattle;
  4. To sustain traditional agricultural practices, organic farming, etc;
  5. To take back the traditional sports to villages in a new form with truly religious flavor.

The prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution: “The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”.

Yet successive governments have failed the nation on the issue of banning cattle slaughter. Successive governments have also failed to check and control the mushrooming of hundreds of thousands of illegal slaughter houses, leading to a progression of meat industry resulting in India becoming the world’s highest exporter of beef, a shameful distinction!

For a Dharmic nation that worships Cow and its progeny, leading the world in exporting their meat is not only shameful but sinful. The present ruling party at the Centre stated in its election manifesto that it would reverse the so-called Pink Revolution by coming down heavily on slaughter and trafficking of cattle.

Right thinking citizens should support Hindu organizations, which must work together for this noble cause by coordinating with the Union Government to ban cow slaughter and export of beef. In accordance with the Directive Principles, the menace of cattle trafficking must also end. For this, we need more Gaushalas.

Gaushalas can be set up in every major town and city along with a bio-gas plant in every gaushala; they could be placed under the supervision of temples, possibly on land owned by temples. Centers can be set up in each district to manufacture organic manure, cosmetics and other Ayurvedic products using cattle dung and urine procured from the gaushalas.

District-wise Cattle Protection Teams could be formed and connected through a network to stop cattle trafficking and keep a watch on temple gaushalas. Support from authorities like State Police, SPCA and AWBI must be sought to stop cattle trafficking so that the Transportation of Animals Rules are thoroughly implemented.

Special care must be taken to preserve the native breeds and increase their breeding by supporting farmers who preserve native breeds. Animal husbandry departments must make regular supply of cattle feed at subsidised rates for these farmers and gaushalas.

As organic farming spreads with general awareness of the ill-effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, organic manure will find a ready market, leading to a return to traditional organic farming methods. Strategic marketing of cosmetics and Ayurvedic products from cow produce will help in the sustenance of native cattle breeds, traditional agriculture and organic farming.

Given our glorious tradition of worshipping cattle, we may adopt new forms to celebrate religious occasions with our cattle wealth. Occasions like Krishna Jayanti and Nandi Jayanti could be celebrated in every village by bringing cows and bulls to the temples, akin to the Arattupuzha Pooram Festival (Thrissur) where elephants are lined up. The people can perform Gau-Puja and Rishab-Puja and individual farmers can be awarded for breeding native cows and bulls during the occasion. Every Shiva temple can have a procession of deities placed on Vrishaba Vahanam during utsavams. Reclaiming the divinity of cattle can check the Church which has already hijacked the Jallikattu, which is no more thanks to the Supreme Court.

We must remember that it is we who made non-vegetarian diet more frequent than vegetarian diet; we who opted for tractors in place of bulls for farming; we who promoted a small time village Jallikattu as big time entertainment; we who brought Jallikattu from villages to towns and cities and inflicted barbaric cruelties on bulls in the name of demonstrating our valour; we who promoted chemical fertilisers and disowned organic manure; we who forgot the sanctity attached to agricultural festivals; we who promoted trafficking of cattle, slaughter of cattle and export of beef. Let us correct ourselves and serve the noble cause of preserving our cattle wealth!

References:

  1. Supreme Court Order banning Jallikattu http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1951&Itemid=126
  2. The art of taming the bull http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/article2789984.ece#im-image-0
  3. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – Notification http://envfor.nic.in/legis/awbi/awbi12.html
  4. Supreme Court Directions on Slaughter Houses Dated 23.08-2013 http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1810&Itemid=126
  5. Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking to Kerala https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8-Hi2N8FcE
  6. HC permits Jallikattu during church festival http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/HC-permits-jallikattu-during-church-festival/articleshow/11657912.cms
  7. 12-yr-old Killed in Jallikattu near Dindigul  http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/12-yr-old-Killed-in-Jallikattu-near-Dindigul/2014/02/23/article2072552.ece
  8. http://goo.gl/exi6WR

» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.

Narendra Modi

Corporate rule violates the principles of sovereignty and self-rule – Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva“Corporate rule violates the principles of swaraj, sovereignty and self-rule. In the name of removing hunger and poverty, it pushes us deeper into poverty. Today, an American biotechnology corporation like Monsanto would like to rule us by taking control of our seed supply….  Corporations like Pepsi, Coke, Kellogg’s and Nestlé would like to rule us through imposing … junk food by changing our food safety laws, … criminalising the diversity of our foods by making local indigenous, artisanal foods illegal. Corporations like Wal-Mart would like to rule us by destroying our retail democracy, which creates livelihood for 50 million people and brings fresh, diverse food to our doorstep…. Controlling what grows means seizing control of life, which in turn means that life is Monsanto’s invention, not nature’s.” – Dr Vandana Shiva

Narendra Modi's Ganga PujaSwaraj, freedom, was one of the most frequently used terms in the campaign for 2014 general elections. During his speech on the ghats of the Ganga, expressing gratitude to the people of Varanasi for his massive victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed himself to governance based on Mahatma Gandhi’s principles.

The five-year term of the newly elected government will end in 2019 — which will also be Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year. So we have a compass and a time frame to undertake our national journey over the next five years guided by swaraj.

Swaraj defined our freedom movement — it encompassed not just political freedom, but also economic freedom. For me, Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj is the best book on real freedom and it has become even more relevant in the search for freedom in times of corporate rule (also referred to as corporate globalisation and neoliberal economic reform).

Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj in 1908, more than 100 years ago, on his way to South Africa from England. It was first published in the columns of Indian Opinion newspaper in South Africa. In the book’s 1921 edition, he added a word of explanation, and wrote: “In my opinion it is a book which can be put into the hands of a child…. It teaches the gospel of love in place of that of hate. It replaces violence with self-sacrifice. It puts soul force against brute force….”

For Gandhi, civilisation was “that mode of conduct which points out to humans the path of duty,” i.e. the right to livelihood. And it was on this concept of right to livelihood that Gandhi defined freedom: “It is swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves.”

I was happy to see that Mr Modi reminded us that our civilisation is founded on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the earth as family) in contrast to the idea of man’s empire over the earth. This theory has dominated the colonising West and Western paradigms that solely consider gross domestic product as the measure of “growth”.

M. K. Gandhi in 1929Gandhi said: “India should develop by using its ethos, which is essentially spiritual and which perceives unity, reverence for nature and a prayer for the welfare of all mankind.”

Mr Modi also reminded us that “Swami Vivekananda had cautioned us a century ago that ‘if we give up our spirituality, leaving it aside to go after the materialising civilisation of the West, the foundation on which the national edifice has been built will be undermined.’”

Corporate rule violates the principles of swaraj, sovereignty and self-rule. In the name of removing hunger and poverty, it pushes us deeper into poverty. Today, American biotechnology corporation like Monsanto would like to rule us by taking control of our seed supply and imposing GMO seeds, chemical and industrial agriculture in the name of the second Green Revolution. Corporations like Pepsi, Coke, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, etc. would like to rule us through imposing processed and junk food by changing our food safety laws, imposing the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), criminalising the diversity of our foods by making local indigenous, artisanal foods illegal. Corporations like Wal-Mart would like to rule us by destroying our retail democracy, which creates livelihood for 50 million people and brings fresh, diverse food to our doorstep. Monsanto’s empire is based on seed patents. Controlling what grows means seizing control of life, which in turn means that life is Monsanto’s invention, not nature’s.

Our farmers are paying the price for corporate greed through their very lives — debt for costly seeds and chemicals is the root cause of 284,000 farmers’ suicide in India since 1995. The solution to farmers’ suicide is to promote GMO free, patent free organic agriculture based on beej and anna swaraj (seed and food freedom). Mr Modi has also supported organic farming, which is GMO free, chemical free farming.

The problem with “materialist” development is not just that it ignores spiritual values, but that it fails to take into account the health of the planet and the wellbeing of people. As Gandhi said, “Let us first consider what state of things is described by the word ‘civilisation’. Its true test lies in the fact that people living in it make bodily welfare the object of life.”

MonsantoFood and agriculture is an area where we can clearly see the failure of industrial agriculture models imposed by the West in providing “bodily comforts”. The so-called “modern” food and agriculture system, based on chemicals and GMOs pushed by global corporations, is a toxic food system — from the seed to our stomachs. While it is promoted as a solution to hunger, it is responsible for 75 per cent of all ecological and health problems globally. Hunger, malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, allergies, cancers and neurological problems are built into this greed driven, toxic food system. While it destroys the real economy of nature and people’s healths and livelihoods, the GDP grows. The more Monsanto sells GMO-patented seeds, the more the economy grows. With the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds, seed costs Coca Cola in Indiajumped 8,000 per cent. Every year royalty worth thousands of crores of rupees leaves the country for seeds, something in which we should be sovereign. This sort of economic growth does not take into account the drain due to royalty payments for GMO seeds, farmers’ suicides and the death of pollinators and soil organisms. The more people are affected by cancer and kidney failure because of poison in our food, the more the economy grows. The inappropriateness of GDP as a measure of wellbeing of people became evident when recently Britain said it would include prostitution and illegal drugs in its official national accounts for the first time. Prostitutes and drug dealers are set to give Britain a £10bn boost as the country revamps the way it measures its economy.

The manipulation of life through genetic engineering, and of the economy through GDP is not serving the higher purpose of living on the principles of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and swaraj. It is time to evolve a development model according to our ethos, for the wellbeing of all life and all people. – The Asian Age, 25 June 2014

» Dr Vandana Shiva’s website is here.  She is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

A Congress abomination called the Pink Revolution – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain“The sale of bulls to the slaughter-house is the dirty secret Indian civilisation can no longer hide. Far from directing Governments to protect the animals in the spirit of the Directive Principles, courts have favoured urban activists and protected stray dogs to the extent that they have become a public danger in several cities. The high decibel animal rights NGOs fail to sterilise the dogs, which proliferate instead of declining, while cows and buffalos that have long sustained the rural economy are left high and dry.” – Sandhya Jain

Narendra ModiA recurrent theme during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s marathon election campaign was the Pink Revolution and the depletion of the cattle wealth of villages due to subsidised meat exports. Cattle are intrinsic to agriculture and provide a secondary lifeline to marginal farmers, especially in times of distress. Yet the meat industry has created such a momentum in favour of animal slaughter that entire villages in many parts of the country have been denuded of cattle. This naturally impacts organic farming as well, due to the proportional loss of manure.

Although Mr Modi spoke of milch animals (cows and buffaloes), members of one community felt they were being unsubtly targeted. In a sharp interrogatory interview with a television channel, the BJP leader sought to allay these suspicions by saying that he took up the issue in response to strong appeals from the public; that he had not impugned any community, and that members of the Jain community were also found in this trade.

Actually, the burgeoning meat trade — driven by the leather mafia — has reduced the buffalo population to unsustainable levels all over the world. The survival rate for milk-yielding cows is better due to a civilisational reverence and cultural preference for cow’s milk. But buffalos are higher yielding; their decimation will impact the milk and dairy products industry and undermine traditional nutrition, especially for vegetarians.

Union Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh, who faces the challenge of a possibly below-normal southwest monsoon, which may, inter alia, affect the availability of fodder, has promised to protect native cow breeds. Many breeds are endangered, partly due to exports to countries that are cross-breeding them to improve their own breeds, partly because farmers cannot maintain them. The Union Government must protect native species of both cow and buffalo since it intends to expand the milk industry; the meat subsidy must end without delay.

The problems of Indian agriculture are complex. For decades the Union Government has promoted a mechanisation through intense propaganda about the inefficiency of traditional farming. The tractor has spread nationwide and created the problem of surplus bulls that small farmers cannot maintain, particularly as Government schemes have wiped out village pastures.

The sale of bulls to the slaughter-house is the dirty secret Indian civilisation can no longer hide. Far from directing Governments to protect the animals in the spirit of the Directive Principles, courts have favoured urban activists and protected stray dogs to the extent that they have become a public danger in several cities. The high decibel animal rights NGOs fail to sterilise the dogs, which proliferate instead of declining, while cows and buffalos that have long sustained the rural economy are left high and dry.

JallikattuThe Supreme Court’s May 7 decision to ban Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu, is unfortunate on many counts, the most tragic of which is an exodus of prized animals to the slaughter-house. In 2006, the court banned bullock cart racing. This popular rural sport fascinated Alexander’s army and was recorded by his historians; it was a staple element in early Hindi movies that vanished with the decline of cattle wealth. My great-grandfather favoured bullocks that could keep pace with horses (family legend); such was the passion associated with the sport.

The court decisions are an attack on rural manhood sports that go back centuries; they conform to the rising intolerance of urban elites towards rural lifestyles and to ‘free’ sporting activities, even in cities. Older citizens may recall the easy availability of open grounds where youth across class lines could run or play football or other sports freely. Much of this has been lost to mindless urbanisation.

But an unmistakable trend is to cut the less privileged out of open spaces. Slum children have no places to play. In middle class colonies, grounds have been gobbled up by ugly contractor-driven ‘art’ or turned into ornamental gardens where children cannot play. Larger playgrounds have been split into designated arenas for specific sports with the best time slots reserved for those who practice with coaches.

The ban on traditional village sports will produce effete rural youth at par with our feeble urban youth. Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra’s father built him a dedicated range to practice shooting; a 13-year-old girl from Andhra Pradesh recently scaled the Everest after being selected for training by a welfare body. If sports are thus confined to those who can pay or manage sponsorship, we are heading towards a serious civilisational decline because we are callously breaking the mind-body-spirit link recognised in our yogic tradition.

Jallikattu is intimately linked to the harvest and has a hoary tradition at least 4,000 years old, which has saved the native breeds from abattoirs. Indeed, the bulls are worshipped, fed pistachios, cottonseed, coconut, brinjal, dates, and lavished with care. There is a belief that if there is no Jallikattu, the rains won’t come. Sadly, following a sustained campaign by urban activists, the Courts intruded to regulate and eventually ban rural sports.

Jallikattu inscription excavated from Peththa Nayakkan Palaiyam, Attur Taluk, Tamil NaduPrior to the ban, each bull entering a tournament was given a registration number and inspected for abuse and performance-boosting drugs by Government-appointed doctors, before and after the game. Eight-feet-high double barricades protected the spectators as tamers attempted to tackle a bull by its hump (tackling by the tail, neck or horns entails disqualification), and somehow hang on for about 50 feet or till the bull crosses the finish line. The actual event lasts only a few minutes, but generates excitement across weeks, and stimulates the local economy through betting and tourism. As bull owners converge on hosting villages, cultural ties are built across communities.

Since the ban, several dozen Jallikattu bulls have been sold for less than Rs 18,000 each as against the princely sum of Rs 1.5 lakh per star animal. No animal rights body or activist has stepped forward to care for the redundant animals. The fear that native cattle breeds that are hardy and drought-resistant will die out is very real.

» Sandhya Jain writes for The Pioneer and Niti Central and is the Editor of Vijayvaani Opinions Forum. She tweets at https://twitter.com/vijayvaani

Maneka Gandhi condemns river-linking project – PTI

India's river interlinking plan

Maneka Gandhi“There is no question of (linking rivers). There can be no scheme in the world as bad as this. Every river has its own eco-system, own fish, own PH value. If you connect one river with another, it will kill both of them. Don’t be in any misconception.” – Maneka Gandhi

Terming the ambitious river-linking plans of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as ‘extremely dangerous’, party MP Maneka Gandhi has said it was she who had stopped former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee from going ahead with it.

The idea of inter-linking of rivers was floated during the NDA government headed by Vajpayee.

Replying to a question on linking river Gomti with Sharda at an event here last night, Gandhi, who is sitting MP from Aonla, said “I had stopped Atalji from this rubbish (Maine hi Atalji ko roka tha is bakwaas se). Such plans are nothing but rubbish.”

“There is no question of it (linking rivers). There can be no scheme in the world as bad as this. Every river has its own eco-system, own fish, own PH value. If you connect one river with another, it will kill both of them. Don’t be in any misconception,” she said.

Gandhi said one can build canals and clean them regularly but connecting Ganga with Gomti would kill both the rivers and is “extremely dangerous”.

She also questioned from where the land for such project would come.

“You will require 10-15 lakh acres of land which will be spoiled. Who will give that much land?,” she said.

Modi, in his speeches during election rallies, has been advocating linking of rivers to prevent drought and floods in the country. – IBNLive, 14 May 2014

Pilgrim offering a lamp to Ganga Devi at Prayag

See

Eightfold path to revive the economy – Virendra Parekh

Indian Economy

Virendra Parekh“We set out below the broad philosophy that should guide and inform the policies of the new government, followed by ten sets of measures it should take up on a war footing to breathe some fresh air of hope, confidence and enthusiasm in an atmosphere vitiated by cynicism, diffidence and pessimism. The focus here is exclusively on the economy, for economic revival holds key to national resurgence in other fields.” – Virendra Parekh

Indian General Election 2014The outcome of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections will determine the pace and direction of the economy and the nation for the next decade. The great churning is expected by most observers to throw up a different set of rulers. Replacing the current lot with a new one, however, will not make much of a difference by itself. The country will benefit from the fiercely contested elections, involving expenditure of billions of rupees and time and efforts of lakhs of mandays, only if right kind of ideas triumph over the wrong ones which have led the country to the brink of a precipice.

There is a proverb in Guajrati: Baltu ghar krishnarpan karvu (Dedicating a house on fire to Lord Krishna as homage). Come May, and the UPA will be handing over to its successor virtually a house on fire—a stagnant economy, a weak fisc ridden with maliciously planted mines in the form of deferred expenses and a country which is regarded as fair game by enemies on both the sides of the borders. The new government will be expected to hit the ground running.

We set out below the broad philosophy that should guide and inform the policies of the new government, followed by ten sets of measures it should take up on a war footing to breathe some fresh air of hope, confidence and enthusiasm in an atmosphere vitiated by cynicism, diffidence and pessimism. The focus here is exclusively on the economy, for economic revival holds key to national resurgence in other fields.

There is no dearth of suggestions, agendas, action plans blue prints etc. for ‘guidance’ of the new government. Our object here is to distil a few measures which are absolutely essential to revive the economy, rather than present a comprehensive roadmap.

In nutshell, the country needs a government that is clean and caring, efficient and enlightened. It would be a government that serves the people, not harasses them; which arouses hope rather than fear and disdain; which is fair and consistent, not vengeful and whimsical; which facilitates and not obstructs progress; which creates opportunities for the many rather than favouring the select few and which encourages initiative and entrepreneurship instead of killing it.

Its focus will be on governance rather than control and regulation. The government will consciously shed what it need not do. It will delegate to the private sector with appropriate supervision what it cannot execute efficiently on its own. Its own resources will be conserved for things which government alone can do or do best—security internal and external, political stability, rule of law, speedy and affordable justice, sound money, basic infrastructure, primary health and basic education, among others. This will mean shrinking of government in some areas, and its expansion in some others. The government will foster a culture of honesty, hard work, innovation and cooperation rather than patronage and entitlements.

The government’s role in the economy will be to provide public goods and essential infrastructure, and set rules for private players. It will ensure economic stability by following well-recognised fiscal and monetary policies that facilitate this. Taxation will aim at minimum distortions in incentive structures, moderate rates and broad coverage.

The government will facilitate the creation rather than the capturing of wealth. Its decision-making will be open and transparent. Discretionary powers of ministers and officials will be sharply curtailed. The government will run a more open economy on both trade and investment, strengthen competition and prevent emergence of oligarchies and crony capitalism. There will be a level playing field, and little incentive or scope for lobbying, rent seeking or playing favourites. All of this will minimize the need and scope for corruption of government and its processes by business.

The Road AheadThings to do

First, a few measures to clear the ground and set the stage for positive action.

A few announcements such as ‘there will be no changes in law with retrospective effect, especially in tax laws’, ‘clearance once given will not be revoked unless fraud or mala fide intentions are prima facie involved’ will go a long way in clearing the atmosphere and restoring investor confidence.

Abolish the Planning Commission forthwith. It has no role to play in a liberalized economy where bulk of the investment comes from the private sector and follows risk-reward ratio rather than ‘national priorities’. There is a council of economic advisers to the prime minister. Almost every ministry has an economic advisor. The finance ministry as well as the Reserve Bank constantly keeps a watch on the economy. That should be enough for long term planning and coordination.

Reduce the number of ministries at the centre to 12, if not 10. Most of the economic ministries—steel, coal, textiles, food processing—are a legacy of the licence raj and have no role in a liberalized economy. Some social ministries deal with subjects which are better handled by the state governments. Create a cell to deal with WTO in the foreign ministry and abolish the ministry of commerce. Privatise Air India, empower DGCA and abolish the ministry of civil aviation.

Ensure that the laws on food security, MNREGS and land acquisition remain largely on paper. Enacted in the name of poor, they have the capability of derailing India’s growth for ever. Block foreign retailers and GM foods, in spite of the heavy duty lobbying in favour of both.

Second, kick start economic growth on war footing. Give priority to investment in power, roads, and irrigation. The false trade-off between growth and equity is a pernicious legacy of the Left parties during UPA I and the jollawallah brigade dominating the Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council during UPA II.

Merely clearing the projects will not do. Most of the projects are stalled for want of environmental clearances, issues related to land acquisition and uncertainties of returns and financial viability. Every country protects its environment but none stops hundreds of projects in the process. Frame a clear, consistent and comprehensive policy for environment that will facilitate clearance or rejection of a proposal in a time-bound manner. Address land acquisition issues in a manner that is just and fair to the farmers and tribals but is also conducive to development and growth.

Renewable energy, especially solar power, deserves far more encouragement than it receives now. Research on making solar power cheaper and competitive with thermal power should be funded generously and pursued vigorously. Nuclear power should be sought only after a fresh and thorough cost-benefit analysis, including long term environmental costs. The whole strategy on nuclear power should be structured around thorium instead of uranium.

Third, eliminate the nearly 70 clearances—yes 70, according to planning commission’s new manufacturing policy!—for starting a business, and fuse them into a ‘single window clearance’ achieved by our competitor nations. India’s notorious red tape is mainly responsible for putting off foreign entrepreneurs and hindering indigenous initiatives.

Labour laws need to be reformed to promote job creation in the organized sector. India’s labour laws insist on lifetime jobs. Hence, Indian companies avoid hiring permanent staff and 90 per cent of workers have ended up as casual or informal workers. Employers should be allowed to lay off surplus staff but with a safety net to be funded by the employers and the government.

Businesses which are no longer viable should be allowed to be wound up in a just and humane manner. This will free up resources like land and capital for new businesses leading to growth, jobs and incomes.

Fourth, complete the good work already done to make the Goods and Services Tax (GST) a reality and India a national market. GST will replace the present nightmare of indirect taxes—state sales taxes, central sales tax, excise duty, service tax, entry tax, etc. Since it will tax only the added value at each stage, it will discourage cash transactions as no one wants to lose credit for taxes already paid. Compliance will rise, tax revenues will swell, black market will diminish, and peoples’ morals will improve.

Draw up a list of items whose import or export is expressly prohibited. Allow free trade in the rest. Have a low, uniform rate of customs duty for all goods for precious metals/stones and demerit goods (liquor, cigarettes, etc.) There should be no exceptions. Have a predictable export-import regime for farm products. Stop the present ‘switch on, switch off’ policy which harms the farmer and brings disrepute to India.

Direct taxation also needs a similar overhaul. The emphasis should be on simplicity and clarity, low rates, reasonably high threshold and fewest exemptions.

Fifth, Government intervention in agriculture has proved disastrous for farmers, consumers and traders. The agricultural policy should aim at reducing the cost of production, freeing and unifying the market and preventing financialisation of agricultural markets, especially in edible goods.

The prime task is to restore viability of agriculture as a commercial enterprise, otherwise farmers will keep deserting it in millions. Increase investment in agriculture, both public and private, to realize untapped irrigation potential, catalyse scientific research and link producers with consumers. Policy must prioritize enhancement of productivity of food grains as well as vegetables and other cash crops.

Futures trading in food grains, pulses, vegetables, edible oils and sugar should be banned with immediate effect and replaced with delivery-based forward trading. This will prevent speculative capital and idle cash—mostly black—from driving up prices of essential commodities, while allowing genuine producers, suppliers, processors and exporters to hedge their risk.

All the restrictions on storage, movement, prices and trading of agricultural commodities throughout the country should be abolished forthwith. Let anyone buy from and sell to anyone else. Scrap agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) which function as wholesaler cartels in mandis. Opening markets will allow traders, consumers and farmers to buy and sell freely, making India into a national market. When consumers can buy directly from farmers, it will curb profiteering by traders. When large retailers buy from farmers, they will save food from rotting through cold chains, raising returns to farmers and lowering prices to consumers.

Stop the practice of announcing minimum support prices with guaranteed unlimited procurement. Instead, the government should buy from the open market at the beginning of the season whatever grains it needs for PDS. This single measure can cure several distortions afflicting Indian agriculture.

Organic farming should be encouraged as a superior way of cultivation and supported with a ban on slaughter of milk cattle. At the same time, GM crops through which foreign multinationals want to destroy our genetic wealth and acquire a vice like grip on agriculture should be banned formally.

Sixth, like a household the government must learn to live within its means. The best way to achieve fiscal consolidation is to reduce consumption expenditure by the government, including subsidies. Cutting down the number of ministries and reducing the role of government will help cut expenditure. Bring petroleum products under Cenvat at the Centre and VAT in states until GST replaces both. This will help eliminate fuel subsidy while making fuel cheaper.

Disinvestment should not be looked upon as a means to bridge fiscal deficit, but as an exercise in vacating areas where the government has no to reason to be. Sell off hotels, airlines, and all uncompetitive public sector enterprises, which have been bleeding the country for generations. Reduce government stake in public sector banks to 33 per cent. It will address the problems of NPAs and undercapitalization at the same time. Break the monopoly of Coal India, which has made India—sitting on the world’s third largest reserves—the largest coal importer in the world.

Seventh, ensure closure of litigation, civil as well as criminal, within reasonable time and affordable cost. There are myriad suggestions for speeding up justice ranging from appointment of more judges to running courts in three shifts and curtailing oral arguments and number of appeals. What is lacking is drive and initiative to implement them. Swift justice by itself can vastly contribute to greater compliance.

Eighth, education holds key to future of the nation as much as of the individual. Increase the spending on education but also ensure quality. Emphasize comprehension and application rather than learning by rote. Vocational training and skill development deserves heavy investment. End the licence raj in education so that the shortage of good quality educational institutions could be addressed properly.

As mentioned above, this is only an outline of some essential measures. Details need to be worked out by experts, policy makers and administrators. – Vijavaani, 24 March 2014

»  Virendra Parekh is the executive editor of Corporate India magazine and lives in Mumbai.