School level essay — Importance of FORESTS

Importance of Forests
Nearly 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and the rest 21% is land mass. For thousands of years, vast swathes of this land were covered mostly by dense forests. Mountains, rivers and lakes covered the rest. As human population expanded, human settlements ate into the forests to reclaim land for farming and building homes. This trend has continued apace for centuries. Forest cover on earth has shrunk to alarming level causing huge worries to environmentalists.
The plants and trees have fascinated humans from the dawn of civilization. The woods have fired the imagination of countless poets to write poems of great charm and literary value. Forests have beckoned painters in all ages to paint scenes on their canvasses. Thus, for the creative human mind, woods have remained as the fountain of inspiration.
For the average human being concerned with more mundane matters, forests provide resources such as firewood, logs, fruits, flowers and medicinal herbs. For myriad species of animals, forests provide the habitat. From the tiny bacteria eating up dirt from soil to the majestic elephant, tiger and lions, the dense foliage of trees, plants and creepers inside a forest provide food, shelter, and camouflage. The shrinking of forests, therefore, leaves us short of so many critical resources, and endangers the fauna that thrive in the protection of jungles. The soaring log prices, scarcity of firewood, and the frequent forays of leopards, tigers and elephants to villages in the fringe of forests are symptoms of receding forest boundaries.
For the scientific community, forests provide the maximum intrigue and the highest worry. Less vegetation means less photosynthesis. That amounts to more Carbon Dioxide and less Oxygen in the air. Loss of forests could, therefore, choke the living beings on earth to death one day. Dwindling forest cover will result in less rainfall, more soil erosion, deadlier floods and less animal density on earth. All these push the earth tantalizingly close to being a barren, dusty, lifeless planet.
Heartrendingly, people have become conscious about the importance of forest conservation in the last half century. Scientists calls to preserve forests now are being heeded by governments, NGOs, and even the tribal folks living off forest produce. Preservation of rain forests such as in Brazil’s Amazon Delta and the Java- Borneo belts now form topics in school books. Hunting of jungle animals is considered a loathsome hobby in modern days.
These are good tidings for the ecologists. But, the real change lies far off in the horizon. This will come only when we school children treasure our forests with the same care with which we tend to the rose plant in our garden. Forests are Nature’s gift – the bulwark against the excesses of the consumerist industrialized society.
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Model school essay — The Season I like Most

THE SEASON I LIKE MOST

In India, we have six different seasons each having its characteristic features. They come one after another. The rainy season comes after the scorching heat of summer. In India, it generally begins from the middle of June and lasts till the end of September. I like rainy season very much.
Rainy season is the lifeline of the flora and fauna on earth. For humans, it brings respite from heat and acute water shortage. Plants, shrivelled by the parched earth and the unforgiving Sun, get their much-needed water as the rains begin to fall. In the rainy season, the sky is generally covered with clouds. On some occasions during the rainy season, it rain continuously for days together. Rivers and canals, dried by the summer heat, get filled with water. Nature seems to get a new charming face with the advent of this season.
Sometimes, breathtakingly beautiful rainbow arches across the sky. It fades off in minutes leaving the children gaping in wonder and sadness. We see lush green grass, trees and paddy fields. Farmers, who await the first rains anxiously, start their brisk activities in the fields. Mother earth gets ready to give us a fresh bumper harvest. The countryside looks so colourful.
Many great poets in the past like Kalidas were fascinated by the bewitching beauty of Nature in this season. They composed fantastic poems eulogizing the rainy season.
Some important festivals are observed in this season. The Car Festival, Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Puja, etc. are some of the important festivals that bring cheer and hope to all of us. People from far and wide come to Puri to witness the Car Festival. On Raksha Baildhan sisters tie Rakhi around the wrists of their brothers to ensure their safety and security.
Hydro-electric power stations run in full capacity generating power. The thunder and lightning in the overcast sky drive fear into the minds of children. They cling to their mothers as the roar and the blinding light shock and awe them.
No doubt, the rainy season brings devastating floods, but the misery is generally short-lived. After the flood, soil becomes more fertile, and agriculture gets a major boost. Colourful flowers in plants and creepers sway in the wind. Forest floors become a beehive of activity as the dry leaves rot providing food for myriad species of animals, tiny, small and large. Vegetable shops overflow with cheap and fresh vegetables. So it is said that, “No rain, no grain.”
Despite the muddy roads, swarming insects, damp walls and the inconvenience of going to school, I like the rains because it falls from Heaven to sustain life on earth. The copious rains seep and recharge our ground water ensuring plentiful drinking water for us for the rest of the year. This is why I adore the Rainy Season most.
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CSR in India — a small write-up

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
When a large factory comes up in an area, it draws heavily on local resources. Some of these are…

 

a. It displaces a large number of people & and renders them homeless.
b. It draws water from local rivers and lakes.
c. It acquires agricultural land depriving its owner of his livelihood.
d. It flattens the ground by cutting off trees and forests, razes old places of worship, schools and small businesses.
e. It poisons the air by emitting gases and smoke, and pollutes the rivers and water bodies by discharging effluents.
In other words, it damages the environment irreversibly, and causes great hardship to local people. The company, however, makes large profits.
Even in case of non-manufacturing companies such as IT firms, trading houses, banks insurance companies etc. it can be said that they owe a lot to local resources. The man power they recruit to run their businesses are all educated and trained by educational institutions that are either run or aided by government. So, they owe their success to the local communities in no small measure.
In view of the above, it becomes incumbent on the corporate to pay back to the society at least a small part of the gains they make by using public resources.
Some companies do it willingly, while some others do it when compelled by law. The corporates do it in so many ways. They give employment to local people, build hospitals and schools, run day care centres, conduct health awareness campaigns, promote sports competitions etc.
Some of the the companies who do commendable work with regard to CSR are the Tatas, Wipro, Infosys, Vedanta, Hindustan Lever, Hindustan Steel, Coal India, NMDC, Aditya Birla group, Indian Oil Corporation etc.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in no more a voluntary obligation. It has been give legal foundation through legislation. The Companies Act, 2013, stipulates that any company having
a. a net worth of Rs. 500 crore or more or
b. a turnover of Rs. 1,000 crore or more or
c. a net profit of Rs. 5 crore or more
should mandatorily spend at least 2% of last 3 years average net profits on CSR activities. Thus, we are going to see more of CSR related work of corporate in the years to come.
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Civil Service Essay –UN Reform and America’s attitude

Reform of the United Nations – long overdue

Due to some inexplicable reason, the United States has dragged its feet over the issue of reforming the world body. Today, almost everyone, including the countries with veto power, agree that the world has changed greatly in the last half century, and the structure of the United Nations looks outmoded and un-representative of the new world order.
It can be recalled that during the last visit to India, President Obama had assured that his administration would back India’s candidature to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Going back on this promise, America opposed any large-scale reform of the world body. India’s case for a seat in the UNSC, thus, remains frozen for a long time to come. It is a setback for India.
The American Ambassador to India Richard Verma has tried to do some damage-control exercise by reiterating that the United States remains committed to its earlier support for substantive UN reform that could pave the way for India’s elevation to the world’s apex decision making body. It is difficult to read what Washington really has in mind with regard to such a pressing issue of UN reform.
Sadly, the U.S. found common cause with Russia and China in stalling negotiations on reform of the United Nations. Russia and China routinely oppose America-led initiatives on global matters, no matter how well-intentioned they might be. Peculiarly, on this vital issue, the adversaries spoke with one voice. This is as amusing as is disgusting.
What is more intriguing is the insistence of these three major powers that in the event of any future reform, none of the five veto power countries of today would lose their veto privilege. Such caveat restricts the scope of reform, defeating the intent to make the world body, created in the aftermath of the WW2, truly representative.
The Cold War years are gone. Some countries have emerged as truly powerful economic and political powers. But, the UNSC remains static. To cite a paradox, Germany and Japan, the two economic powerhouses of modern day world are out of the UNSC, where as France, a decaying economic and military power is a permanent member of the UNSC with veto power. In the same vein, we can see how a large continent like Africa has no member in the UNSC. Obviously, something is grossly amiss in the world body’s decision making platform.
India’s economy has registered impressive growth as has its military prowess. Excluding this country with a billion plus population with a trillion dollar economy from the UNSC is a distortion that needs to be set right.
Closing the doors of the UNSC to new claimants undermines the moral authority and universal appeal of the UN as a neutral arbiter of world conflicts.
At the root of some dismal inaction of the United Nations in a few regional crises lies this un-representative nature of the UNSC. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda continued with the full knowledge of the UN, especially when it had an African Secretary General (Kofi Anan). In recent times, the insurgency in Libya and the interminable fratricidal strife in Syria have gone on causing mass suffering of innocent civilians. The UN has and can do little to stop these conflicts.
Clearly, the UN’s conscience has been numbed by certain western powers that have chosen to remain aloof to safeguard their own national interests. Selfishness has ceded ground to service. This blight has to be fought.
India has a fair case to lay claim for a place in the high-table of the UNSC’s big five members. Its economy continues to make strides, now rivaling China’s. Its political stability is enviable. It is the second most populous country in the world today. India has generously contributed men for UN’s many peace-keeping missions. From Nehru’s times till today, India has proactively advocated the cause of world peace. Scuttling India’s elevation to the UNSC’s league of permanent members is, therefore, an exercise driven by arrogance and arbitrariness.
Unfortunately, the big powers are distinctly unhelpful and unresponsive. Undaunted by this setback, India must persevere in its efforts to reform the UN to make it truly representative. It is a challenge for India’s diplomatic community to work towards a global consensus to achieve the desired objective. There is a long way to go.
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Notice to TV channels — an overeaction of the government

Democratic discourse must never be throttled

In an intemperate reaction smacking of arrogance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India has slapped show- cause notices on three television channels, NDTV 24X7, ABP News and Aaj Tak. It is clear the coverage of Yakub Menon’s hanging has irked the government forcing it to take such an unusually drastic step.
The three channels gave extensive coverage to the hanging of the accused both before and after the incident. The government feels that in the course of their coverage, these channels maligned the judiciary and painted the President as vengeful and partisan.
Discerning viewers of the coverage of these three channels, however, find little to be convinced that the TV channels ever transgressed the limits of responsible journalism. Defaming the Apex Court or its judges is not the same as critically examining their action with regard to the way Yakub Menon’s mercy petition was handled. Dissent is the flavor of democracy: intolerance is its bane. A compliant media cocoons the government, where as a vigilant media has salutary effect to democratic institutions that have an inherent tendency to decline.
In the present case, the three TV channels did or said nothing that can amount to ‘contempt of court’. In the same way, they said little that can be construed to cast aspersions on the President. The media only said that the way the mercy petition was cast aside was hurried and insensitive.
There have been voices galore expressing indignation and disapproval of the way Yakub was sent to the gallows. Many, including eminent jurists, ex-prosecution officials and civil rights activists have expressed the view that Yakub’s capital punishment was too harsh. The TV channels only echoed what many conscience-keepers of the nations said so freely.
Criticism of the President’s actions and of court judgments are accepted as healthy and normal in most democracies. Stifling such criticism will run counter to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 1(a) of the Constitution.
The government has clearly gone overboard in assuming that the TV media incited violence and promoted anti-national feelings. Such charges are wild and an egregious expression of intolerance. For the I&B Ministry is wielding the stick to smother free airing of contrary opinions. Such action is repugnant to the spirit of Indian democracy.
The I and B ministry has invoked section of the programme code of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. This Rule has many vague and ill-defined provisions. The ministry has been ill-advised to take recourse to this Rule. Broadcast laws were put in place to prevent obnoxious content that could inflame communal passions and prevent openly anti-national airing of content. One will have to stretch one’s imagination greatly to agree that the TV channels are guilty of these charges.
In India, newspapers and news magazines are not hauled up for writing similar content. The Indian laws are more stringent for TV broadcasting. This distinction itself is questionable. The government has another weapon to browbeat the TV channels. Citing infringement of laws, it can cancel their broadcasting licenses and force them to go off air.
Granting freedom to the print media to air certain views and deny the same freedom to the TV media runs afoul of law. With so many infirmities, the I and B ministry will be well-advised to retrace its steps and withdraw the notice to the TV channels.
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Naga insurgency — Are the curtains coming down?

Will the festering wound in Nagaland heal, finally

Prime minister Modi has managed stitch up a peace agreement with the largest Naga insurgent group — the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). This is indeed a very startling success. Since the days of India’s independence, the Nagas have fought for an independent homeland of their own, independent of the Indian union. Pandit Nehru, the first Prime minister of free India grappled with this problem with all his political skill, but could not make the Nagas forgo their demand. Nagas are a martial tribe. Their first prominent leader Angami Zapu Phizo (1903- 1990) was a militant who was determined to secede from India by using military means. He lived the later part of his life in London. Granting him asylum had created some bad blood between Britain and India.
Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Naga fighters have splintered into many factions who fight the Indian armed forces as frequently as they fight with each other.
The two main Naga demands that India finds hard to accept are
a. A sovereign homeland for the Nagas independent of India
b. A larger Naga country that will have areas carved out of the neighboring states like Assam, Manipur and Arunanchal Pradesh
The first demand is clearly unacceptable, where as the surrender of territories by the neighboring states for the new Naga country meets very stiff resistance from the three States.
Apart from these two demands, clearly unacceptable for India, dealing with the smaller factions and bringing them to the table has proved to be a daunting task for the Indian negotiators.
The present peace agreement is with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). Earlier, two other groups — the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) –had signed peace agreements with Delhi. Curiously, these two factions have chosen not to be a part of this peace agreement with NSCN (Isac-Muivah).
The Khaplang faction of the NSCN is a very dangerous outfit. It opposes any deal with India sans full sovereignty and an enlarged Nagaland with territories from other states. This group is dominant in the eastern part of Nagaland. The ambush against Indian armed forces in June, 2015 was a handiwork of this group. They operated from areas under Myanmar. This group, now feeling the heat of Indian army, might turn out to be a spoiler of the newly-signed deal.
The details of the just-signed deal have been kept under wraps. This secrecy has triggered speculation and mistrust among the smaller insurgent factions that have opted out of the peace negotiation process. They clearly can seed disaffection among the Nagas jeopardizing the prospects of a permant solution to the vexed problem.
Ideally, a solution that gives the Nagas greater autonomy under the Indian constitution appears to be the preferred solution. Ceding of territory by neighboring states appears to be distant dream as of now. In the coming days, the NSCN (IM) representatives and the government negotiators will have to work very hard to give clear shape to the terms of the agreement. So, one has to keep the fingers crossed till the deal becomes public and gets broad support from the Naga people.
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GST Roll-out — Modi government’s final push

Roll-out of the much-awaited General Sales Tax, a possibility now
The regime of levy of sales tax on goods and services varied considerably leading to a lot of confusion, litigation, and frustration among the business community. The system of General Sales Tax was therefore conceived so that goods and services could move across state borders without hassles and hindrance.
However, the petty-mindedness and parochial mindset of leaders in a few states made passing of such a well-intentioned legislation a lengthy and tortuous affair. The bone of contention was the compensation the states would get from the center after GST is implemented. After GST comes in to force, all the money collected from business transactions would go to the central government’s coffer, leaving the States high and dry, who will lose their power to levy and collect taxes. To address this legitimate concern of the states, the centre offered to compensate them through direct cash transfers.

 

Despite long-drawn negotiation, some states could not reconcile themselves to the idea of GST and the subject remained mired in controversy. Some states, however, agreed readily, but with a few others not on board, the effectiveness of the GST reform was greatly diminished.
The BJP government under Modi appears to have given this matter a decisive push forward. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has taken a few steps so that the GST regime is implemented fully by April, 2016.
The first concern was about the quantum of compensation. Some States feared that their compensation from the central government could be less than what they are presently getting through direct collection of sales tax under their own authority.
Earlier, the Central government under UPA 2 had proposed to compensate the States at the rate of 100 per cent for first three years. Later, it was to be reduced to 75 per cent in the fourth year, and 50 per cent in the fifth year. Some states did not quite agree to such drawing down of central compensation. In June 2015, the States made a pitch for full compensation for all five years. The then central government did not accede to it stating that such a move could delay adoption of GST by a few more years.
Another stumbling block was the demand by a few industrialized states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharastra etc. for one additional point of tax on the supply of goods. These states contended that they had nourished the industries through heavy investment in infrastructure, and should be compensated through the benefit of this additional levy of one percent tax.
Some less industrialized states with manufacturing base opposed the idea of this additional one percent levy. Their argument was that the spirit of uniform tax regime for the whole country through adoption of GST would be defeated if a few states levy additional tax of any nature. Even Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian had objected to the idea of imposition of additional tax by a few states.
In a meeting held on July 29, the Cabinet cleared an amendment by which the States will be entitled for full compensation for five years. This relaxation will take the wind out of the sails of the states who had doggedly resisted GST so far.
Regarding the 1 per cent additional tax, the Cabinet decided to exempt stock transfers within group companies from the additional tax on inter-State supplies. Thus, a unit of Tata Motors can dispatch goods to its sister concern in Gujarat without paying the additional one percent levy. But the cabinet did not waive the one percent levy altogether. So, some resistance from a few States could linger to delay the GST roll out.
However, seen in totality, the government’s move to hasten GST implementation by April, 2016 is laudable. This reform is one of the boldest one that will have far-reaching ramifications for the economy.
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Indians caught in war-torn Libya

Perils of working in a war-torn land

There are Indians all over West Asia. They go there to earn a living. In the process, they augment the local economy’s yawning demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers. In fields such as trading, healthcare, education, engineering, banking, oil refining etc., Indian manpower plugs the crucial skill gap at relatively low cost, but with high efficiency. No wonder, Indians are eagerly employed both in the government and non-government sectors. Indian economy gains immensely sizable homeward remittances of the toiling Indians swell the Forex reserve.

 

As it happens in most war-ravaged countries, overseas workers not having anything to do with the warring sides get caught in the cross-fire. As these people are defenseless, and enjoy namesake protection from local government, they are kidnapped, killed, or taken hostage for hefty financial ransoms. The trauma of the kidnapped victims, often women, is insufferable. For their near and dear ones back home, the angst and the frustration defy description.

 

A few days back, four teachers from India have been kidnapped in Libya – a country that has remained mired in violence after the fall of Gaddafi. India, mainly because of the large diaspora in West Asia suffers the most as violence mounts. Trigger-happy marauding militants find them as sitting ducks. Canny kidnappers find these young and earning people good targets for extortion. Thousands of Indians who were in countries such as From Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, the government had to extricate hundreds and thousands of its citizens at considerable risk and expense. Some opted to stay behind hoping to wait out the turbulence. For some of them, fate takes a very cruel turn. Either they lose their lives or the entire savings of their life. The extortionists get their bonanza, and get emboldened to attempt more such acts.

 

Sirte, in Libya, has turned out to be a deadly trap for a couple of hapless Indians. The three abducted teachers earned a living there imparting education to hundreds of Libyans. Now, they stare at death, torture and extortion. India, with so many of its citizens caught in the cauldron of internecine warfare, needs to ratchet up its diplomatic machinery to keep its citizens out of the harm’s way. Diplomats in the area have to cultivate contacts with the warring groups notwithstanding their hideous agenda.

 

Libya is a country deep in quagmire of tribal conflicts. The anti-Gadaffi forces have splintered, parted ways, and now busy pillaging their own country for the spoils of war. The Salafists, the most orthodox among them, have made unification a very remote possibility. The political landscape is riven with old tribal rivalries. With central authority all but disappeared, Libya has become a nightmare for effective diplomacy.
Despite such formidable challenges, India should not shirk away from its responsibilities. For diplomats, it presents a opportunity to attempt innovative ways to maintain communication channels with the lawless warring groups.

 

Organizing mass evacuations has not been difficult for India, but extricating the hostages has not been easy. Quite creditably, some 100 nurses taken hostage by Islamic State in Iraq last year. Sadly however, 39 other Indians abducted in June 2014 from Mosul is still remain untraced. In Sirte, two teachers have since been freed, but two others are still held by their captors.

 

India cannot adopt a laid-back policy with regard to its citizens facing death-like situations in war-torn West Asia. India must try its best to end the trauma of its trapped citizens. Contingency plans, out-of-the-box ideas and innovative diplomacy should be deployed to ensure safety of the citizens. The citizens must be given updates about the dynamic political and military situation. The endangered citizens must be encouraged to return home rather than continue to work in the fraught, pock-marked terrain like Sirte and Mosul.

 

The national security establishment should actively cultivate ties with influential actors in the region, to help solve issues such as kidnappings. As a matter of policy, India must steer clear of the muddled politics of the region. Treading cautiously in the area is warranted, as India has so much to lose by appearing partisan.
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Paper has more Patience than man — School essay

Paper has more Patience than Man

 

Ever since Paper was invented in China, it has continued to make deep inroads to the life of humans. In combination with the pen, it remains the most preferred medium to express one’s thoughts. Books, newspapers, important legal documents, photographs, product brochures, political manifestoes etc. are all written on paper. Despite the advent of the computers, and instant emailing and messaging facilities, Paper still remains the dominant conveyer and chronicler of emotions, events, views and accomplishments.
Sadly, Paper also suffers the most abuse and misuse in the hands of man. Pernicious propaganda, pornographic literature, and slanderous stories are all written on paper. Paper knows the obnoxious nature of the content, but its incredible patience makes it to bear the burden of immorality without a whimper. It faithfully holds the sinful content till it yellows and frays with age. People vent their anger by burning the books and newspapers they feel carry the loathsome content, but Paper never retaliates at such wanton injustice and humiliation. Water colours are painted on Paper. With great deference to the artists, and the countless viewers, Paper holds on to the minutest details of the art with astounding faithfulness and sincerity. Sadly, in return, it is framed and kept imprisoned, and hung from a wall. Sandwiched between glass and cardboard with no access to air or sunlight, it chokes to death due to dotage. Paper’s patience is of Himalayan proportions.
Paper is put to still more ignominious use by humans. It is used as toilet paper and tissue paper to bear human waste. Because Paper has boundless patience, it never complains. The petulant and the irascible humans can take lessons on patience from Paper.
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Land Acuistion Bill — Arocky road ahead

Land Acquisition Bill.. Why it kicks up so much dust
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Dispossessing a tiller of his piece of land has remained a highly contentious process in all societies, in all ages and in all countries. The farmer braves the elements to till his land and raise crops to feed himself and sale the surplus to buy his necessities. In the process, other sections of the society get fed. Taking away land from the farmer disrupts such a symbiotic relationship. It brings extreme distress to the farmers as they lose their means of livelihood. The sentimental bond of the ‘son of the soil’ with his land is very strong. Losing the land his forefathers tilled is revolting proposition for the humble farmer who resists the authority of the ruling class with all his might.

Farmers in countries around the globe such as Mexico, China, Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia etc. have fought bitter wars with their governments precisely for the same reason for which the Indian farmers are up in arms against their governments.

In India, the anti-acquisition stir has raged for decades. In the last three or four decades, this single issue has been used by politicians to garner support of the farming class. Depending upon whether they are in government or in the opposition, Indian politicians either sing the praise of or spew venom against the idea of land acquisition. Such parochial thinking has clouded the national debate and needlessly made sections of the farmers belligerent and uncompromising. In the process, land acquisition for larger public interest has got mired in a cobweb of controversies.

Land Acquisition in British India was always an one-sided process. The colonial government, citing government necessities, could acquire any amount of land anywhere without paying any compensation and without having to cite any reasons for doing so. Such draconian power was vested in the government by the 1894 Land Acquisition Act. The farmers seethed against the practice, but could not militate against it. In a colonized, they were too feeble for any protest.

Salient features of the 1894 Land Acquisition Act …

1. It empowered the government to acquire any amount of land anywhere and from any owner.
2. The process was simple and quick for the administration. Only a simple notification was enough.
3. The government did not have to disclose why it was acquiring the land and why so much land was needed. Obviously, there was no need for prior consultation with the land owners to obtain their consent.
4. The government’s action could not be challenged in a court of law.
5. The government could hold on to the land indefinitely without utilizing it for its purported use. It could even sale it off at a later date to anyone it chose, for any undisclosed price. At times, the British officials did this much to the annoyance of the original owners.
6. No compensation was payable legally to the owners whose lands were taken passion of.
In effect, the 1894 Act gave sweeping, arbitrary powers to the government. It was a blatantly draconian and oppressive legislation. Quite curiously, the Act continued to be in vogue even in independent India. When land acquisitions by government and large private companies for infrastructure, development and industrialization became more frequent, public discontent grew. Farmers got organized to agitate against the acquisitions. In many cases, aggrieved land owners approached courts demanding fair compensation and even roll-back of the acquisition process. To add to the confusion, political parties took divergent positions and courts gave incoherent verdicts. What followed was a plethora of court cases, violent agitations, long debates in parliament, delays in project implementation by both government and private parties, and corruption. The situation warranted reforms.

 

The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007

 

Issues relating to the quantity and basis of compensation paid by government to those whose land is acquired almost invariably led to discontent among the landowners, be it farmers or otherwise. There was need for clear and transparent legislation that could ensure fair, quick and adequate compensation to the beneficiaries. The intent of the above Bill was to specify a process by which people could be compensated fairly, justly and quickly. The Bill also had clauses that specified the minimum levels of compensation that governments must pay to the land-losers.  
Sadly, it had no clause to make it obligatory for the government to resettle the people who were going to part with their lands. This created a lot of disappointment. This apart, the steps to be taken for the welfare of the displaced people were mentioned as mere suggestions, and not as binding commitments on the government.
The Bill stipulates that for projects that caused large scale displacement, the government shall conduct a Social Impact Assessment. An Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement was to be appointed. His job would be formulation, execution and monitoring of the rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons.
The Bill outlined the minimum benefits for displaced families and the criteria to be adopted for eligibility. Benefits could be through allotment of alternate land, house, award of monetary compensation, imparting skills training and preference for jobs.
The Bill envisaged creation of Ombudsman to address the grievances of the affected people pertaining to the rehabilitation and resettlement process. Civil courts were barred from entertaining any suits related to this matter.

A step forward towards social justice ….

 The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister for Rural Development on September 7, 2011. As a result of long acrimonious debate it caused and also due to the huge implications of the bill for farmers and land owners, the Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Rural Development under the Chairpersonship of Ms. Sumitra Mahajan.

 Highlights of the Bill

The Bill provides for the procedures to be followed for land acquisition as well as rehabilitation and resettlement. It supersedes the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

1. For the first time, conducting a Social Impact Survey was made mandatory of the land acquisition process.

2. At the very outset, the primary intent of the acquisition had to be spelt out through a notification.

3.The payment of compensation had to be quantified and it had to be disbursed within a certain time limit.

4. All acquisitions had to be followed by rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people.

5. Compensation for the land owners who are dispossessed had to be four times the market value in case of rural areas and double in case of urban areas.

6. In case of acquisition of land for use by private companies or public private partnerships (PPPs), consent of 80 per cent of the displaced people will have to be obtained.

7. Purchase of large pieces of land by private companies will also make it compulsory for the acquirers to provide for rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people.

8.The provisions of this Bill was not meant for acquisitions under 16 existing legislations including the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Railways Act, 1989, etc.

Key Issues and Analysis

1. It is not clear whether Parliament has the authority to impose rehabilitation and resettlement requirements on private purchase of agricultural land.

2.The requirement of a Social Impact Assessment for every acquisition was going to be a long-drawn process leading to inordinate delay in land acquisition and the proposed venture.

3. Projects involving land acquisition and undertaken by private companies or public private partnerships require the consent of 80 per cent of the people affected. However, the PSUs were exempted from this provision.

4.The market value is based on recent reported transactions. This value is doubled in rural areas to arrive at the compensation amount. This method may not lead to an accurate computation of compensation as many land sales do not show the actual value.

5.The government can temporarily acquire land for a maximum period of three years. There is no provision for rehabilitation and resettlement in such cases.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015

 

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Birender Singh on February 24, 2015.

 

The Bill modifies certain stipulations of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act, 2013).

 

Features of the bill …

 

  1. The Bill replaces the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014.

 

  1. The LARR Act, 2013 outlines the process to be followed when land is acquired for a public purpose.

 

  1. The LARR Act, 2013 exempted 13 laws (such as the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Railways Act, 1989) from its purview. However, the LARR Act,2013 required that the compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement provisions of these 13 laws be brought in agreement with the LARR Act, 2013.

 

  1. It was to be done through a notification within a year of its enactment. (By January 1, 2015). The Bill brings the compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement provisions of these 13 laws in line with the LARR Act, 2013.

 

  1. The Bill creates five special categories of land use: (i) Defence, (ii) Rural Infrastructure, (iii) Affordable Housing (iv) Industrial Corridors, and (v) infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land.

 

  1. The LARR Act, 2013 requires that the consent of 80% of land owners is obtained for private projects. For PPP projects, consent of 70% of land owners is to be obtained. The Bill exempts the five categories mentioned above from this provision of the Act.

 

  1. In addition, the Bill empowers the government to exempt projects in these five categories from the following provisions, through a notification:

(i) The LARR Act, 2013 requires that a Social Impact Assessment be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact when land is acquired.

(ii) The LARR Act, 2013 imposes certain restrictions on the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land and other agricultural land. For example, irrigated multi-cropped land cannot be acquired beyond the limit specified by the appropriate government.

 

  1. Return of unutilized land: The LARR Act, 2013 required land acquired under it which remained unutilized for five years, to be returned to the original owners or the land bank.

The Bill states that the period after which unutilized land will need to be returned will be: (i) five years, or (ii) any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.

 

  1. The LARR Act 2013 states that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply in certain cases, where an award has been made under the 1894 Act.

However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of the LARR Act, 2013, and the physical possession of land has not been taken or compensation has not been paid, the LARR Act, 2013 will apply.

  1. The Bill states that in calculating this time period, any period during which the proceedings of acquisition were held up: (i) due to a stay order of a court, or (ii) a period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or (iii) any period where possession has been taken but the compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted.
  2. The LARR Act,2013 excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions from its purview. The Bill removes this restriction.
  3. While the LARR Act, 2013was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies, the Bill changes this to acquisition for ‘private entities’. A private entity is

an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organization, or other entity under any other law.

  1. The LARR Act, 2013 stated that if an offence is committed by the government, the head of the department would be deemed guilty unless he could show that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offense.

The Bill replaces this provision and states that if an offense is committed by a government official, he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government.

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————————To be continued————-

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