Tag: dharmendra pradhan

Embarrassing Politics

For the second time in two years, the opposition pushed through its amendment motion in Rajya Sabha. The amendment pressed on the motion of thanks to President’s address didn’t challenge anything that the President included in his address, rather curiously, it regretted that the address did not include something which, in any case, could not have been included.

The issue was Haryana and Rajasthan governments’ move to prescribe minimum educational qualification to contest panchayat elections. It was also prescribed that not having a functional toilet at home would make one disqualified to contest the elections. The opposition argued, given the literacy situation in the country, such steps are regressive as they would make a significant section of society, especially the poor and weaker sections, ineligible to contest in the election contrary to their fundamental rights to do so. And the Centre cannot keep mum in such an important issue.

The fact is that the Centre could have done little in the matter. The Haryana amendment law (regarding qualification to panchayat election) was challenged in the Supreme Court and the court made it clear that right to contest election is not a fundamental right. Further, the state legislature is the competent authority to prescribe qualification to panchayat election.

In light of the observation of the Supreme Court, the ruling party tried to reason with the opposition that the motion was factually and legally incorrect and should not be pressed. But, the opposition moved ahead, seeing it as an opportunity to embarrass the government. It chose to score brownie points, instead of being seen as a responsible opposition. It is unfortunate as they fully understand that given the legal and constitutional provisions the only way the Centre could have interfered is by taking away such powers from the state legislatures through an amendment of the constitution in complete disregard to our federal structure.

What message did the opposition want to convey through the amendment motion? It’s nothing but an assertion of numerical strength. The real unintended impact is that ruling parties would gradually ignore such amendment motions. A fine instrument in the hands of the opposition to be watchdog and conscience keeper loses its shin.

Rather, the more pertinent question is how come so many people for so long remained deprived of education and toilet facility? It’s because there are parties which do politics in the name of poor but are never interested in eliminating poverty. They will be out of political business if poverty is eliminated. The present situation is a result of such politics or rather political business.

Take for example, the case of GST. Even after consensus on most/all controversial issues, the congress is today inventing new issues to stall the passage of the GST bill. It is common knowledge that implementation of GST would increase GDP by at least one percentage point. The opposition to GST by Congress has simply remained hostage to personal interests of the Congress president and vice president. The day both were summoned by court in National Herald case, Congress leaders took turn to convey the message that now GST would go for a skywalk. Where is national interest? Wouldn’t higher GDP help more effective pro-poor welfare schemes? But no, for such parties the poor is just a means to win elections.

It is because of the legislations in Haryana and Rajasthan that the issues of illiteracy and open defecation have gained further momentum in public discussion. More than four lakh toilets were built during the recent election. The new laws also encouraging educated people, who till now were reluctant to enter politics, to come forward to take part in politics. Isn’t it enrichment of democracy?

The main opposition party should be more interested in improving living conditions of the poor in the country who have allowed them such a long run in the national politics, instead of looking to score brownie points over the government. The people of this country would not forgive Congress for obstructing the efforts of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi in whom they saw a ray of hope and voted overwhelmingly to take the nation in path of rapid progress.

Today, it is not an embarrassment that an opposition sponsored amendment motion was adopted in Rajya Sabha, but the real embarrassment is the spectra of Congress party, the grand old party of India that spearheaded the freedom struggle, putting individual interests of Party President and Vice President above national interest.

Eastern India: Nerve Centre of Development

The development of eastern India is a core priority for the present government under leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He is convinced that the overall national growth will remain handicapped so long as a major portion of the country like Eastern India remained poor and deprived.

Just few weeks back, terming Eastern India as the “nerve centre” of India’s development, the PM emphasized that the entire area of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam and other North-Eastern states must develop fast if India is to develop fast, sustainably and continuously for 25 – 30 years.

Another important aspect of poverty and deprivation in Eastern India is that some of the eastern states are house to large chunks of Schedule Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) population.

The enormity of the task of developing Eastern India can be realized if we just give a glance at some of the socio-economic indicators of the region. In most indicators, states in Eastern India lag much behind the national average.

According to poverty estimates for 2011-12 (Tendulkar Committee), Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have as high as 30 to 40 percent of their total population below poverty line as against the national average of 21.9 percent. Further, only 46.6 per cent of households in India have access to drinking water within their premises (2011 census). Eastern States are even below the national average with Odisha 22.4, West Bengal 38.6, Jharkhand – 23.2 and Chhattisgarh 19 percent, while Gujarat 64 percent and Haryana 66.5 fare much better. Not surprisingly, more than 75 percent households in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha go for open defecation as they don’t have toilet facilities at all.

The national average for Electricity as a source of lighting households is 67.3 per cent while Bihar 16.4, Uttar Pradesh 36.8, Assam 37.1, Odisha 43, Jharkhand 45.8, West Bengal 54.5 lag far behind. LPG penetration as source of fuel for cooking among households in India is 61.6 percent, as on 1st February 2016. In sharp contrast, LPG penetration in Eastern states is below 40 percent.

Given the stark reality, it requires herculean effort to bring development of Eastern India to national level. Fortunately, we have a strong and decisive government that realizes the task at hand. Unlike the previous, the present government believes that the poorest of the poor are entitled to the first charge on the nation’s resources. It emphasizes that poverty has no religion or caste. It does not intend to nurture poverty as vote bank unlike some political parties which carefully do so. The prime difference with previous governments is that the vision is backed by clear roadmap, not empty slogans.  The plans and programs of the government reflect of such a vision. The thrust on farmers’ welfare, rural economy, financial inclusion, social security, infrastructure development and strengthening of local bodies etc are likely to spur economic activities in rural areas.

What is interesting is that the programs designed to tackle poverty dovetails with the government’s focus on Eastern India. Being poor and with muted infrastructure growth, Eastern India is likely to attract more and more funds from the Centre.

Honorable Prime Minister is working towards ushering a Second Green Revolution in Eastern India. To make this possible,   the Government has taken steps for strengthening higher education in agriculture, setting up 109 new KVKs and three new Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes. A 24×7 Kisan Channel has been launched to provide information on policy initiatives, prices and other agriculture related subjects for the benefit of farmers.

Two new dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) between Kharagpur and Mumbai and Kharagpur and Vijaywada to be completed by 2019 as announced in the Rail Budget 2016, would boost freight traffic, particularly raw material movement for steel, cement and power sectors across the eastern region.

A special package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for Bihar was sanctioned by the Prime Minister in August, 2015 besides an additional amount of Rs 40,000 crores which includes the leftover Rs 8,000 crores from an earlier 2013 package, along with funds allotted for ongoing work of national highways.

To showcase the North-east India, 12th South Asian Games was organized from 5-16 February, 2016 at Guwahati and Shillong. The games were the biggest ever sporting event in North East India.

On its part, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas (MoPNG) has consciously and constantly focused on efforts towards making hydrocarbons a tool to enable social and economic development.

One such initiative has been the Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for North East Region, which is in fact an action plan to develop the entire North-East region including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The objectives of the plan are to leverage the region’s hydrocarbon potential, enhance access to clean fuels, improve availability of petroleum products, development of compressed natural gas (CNG) highways and city gas distribution network, and facilitate economic development and to link common people to the economic activities in this sector for enhancing the living standard of the people.

Launch of Hydrocarbon Vision Document 2030

Launch of Hydrocarbon Vision Document 2030

Beyond production, the focus areas include exploring hydrocarbon linkages and trade opportunities with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal & Bhutan; implementation of ‘Make In India’ in the region; development of health and medical facilities; industrial policy and infrastructure related action points; focus on skill development; and employment generation requirement in the region. The total investment is expected to be about Rs 1.3 lakh crore by 2030 for implementation of North East Vision 2030.

Further, approximately one lakh crore would be invested by MoPNG within next five years to make Odisha the energy hub of eastern India.

Country’s largest strategic reserve for storing 3.7 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) crude oil is coming up at Chandikhol, Odisha with an investment of Rs 3800 Crore.

The Prime Minister’s UjjwalaYojana to bear initial cost of LPG connection to BPL households will go a long way to empower the poor in the country and especially the Eastern India as LPG penetration is low and number of BPL families is large in the Eastern part of the country.

I also hope that with effective implementation of the growth strategy and social security measures envisaged by the present government, the development gap would be bridged soon which would play a crucial role in effectively meeting the Leftwing Extremism challenge faced by many states in Eastern India.

Jai Hind !

WHAT A YEAR 2015 WAS

Dear Friends!

I take this opportunity to wish you, your family and your dear ones a very Happy and Prosperous 2016! The New Year springs up riveting moments. Undoubtedly, we are at an advantage, as global crude oil prices have plummeted to nearly 11-year low and we could reap the benefits as the fourth largest consumer in the world. I have come across various experts’ reports that suggest that if oil prices continue to remain at these levels, India could save close to $60 billion, or 3%, of the GDP. This environment also helps our Government to bring in pro-poor reforms, consumer friendly initiatives and modernise the oil and gas sector.

Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas accounts for facilitating and monitoring at least 35% of the energy demand in the country. The year 2015 had been quite eventful for the oil and gas sector. Various initiatives were rolled out such as the PAHAL and GiveItUp to remove bottlenecks in the sector. These were innovative drives and we have drawn the foundation to offer better services to consumers. I would like to categorically bring to focus that 2016 would be ‘The Year of Consumers.’

While the footfall received at refuelling stations (Retail Outlets) and LPG distributors is the highest in the country compared to any other sector in the country, still close to 5 lakh women every year succumb to ailments for using hazardous cooking fuel. This is an alarming situation and it’s the endeavour of this government under leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to provide our mothers and sisters a hassle-free and hygienic cooking environment.

Our focus in 2016 would be to offer “3As — Availability, Accessibility and Affordability – of clean and green fuel.” Our guiding principles for policy formulation would be – a consumer-focused approach, prior consultation in policy making and transparency in decision making. The government under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi would take every step to offer clean domestic cooking gas to every household in the country and completely eliminate the polluting chulhas.

I would like to thank the 5.8 million LPG consumers who have given up their subsidies. This small effort by an individual would serve a bigger cause towards nation building. While rolling out the services, Government would ensure that the subsidies reach the targeted and those in need of it. It is in this spirit it has been decided that individuals (along with spouse) with more than Rs 10 lakh taxable income will not be provided subsidy in LPG from 1 January 2016. The PAHAL scheme, which has being recognised by Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cash transfer programme,brings in a transparent mechanism and eliminate from the system fake and those individuals indulged in corrupt practices. The Government is working towards further reducing the fuel subsidies and a targeted mechanism for kerosene subsidy would also be rolled out in the due course.

After the launch of PAHAL, the oil marketing companies have witnessed around 6.4% growth in LPG demand during the first six months of 2015. These numbers are going to rise, as clean cooking fuel heads for every kitchen in the country. During the same period, the demand for auto-LPG has risen by about 7.5%, which earlier was witnessing a negative growth. This brings to limelight the end of black marketing of subsidised domestic cooking gas.

We would soon auction marginal oil and gas fields based on investor-friendly fiscal terms, which for the first time in the country offers marketing and pricing freedom to explorers along with fresh guidelines that ensure no government interference. This would be one of the steps towards achieving the milestone given by Prime Minister to reduce import dependency by 10% by 2022.

On the path to make ourselves energy-rich, it is important to protect our environment. My Government is working towards creating a natural gas based economy in the country, which is not just cost effective but also in sync with our commitment towards cleaner environment as made in COP 21. With the expansion of pipeline networks and penetration of city-gas distribution lines to larger areas, the demand for gas volumes would get major boost. This would effectively lead India towards a mature gas market and also push manufacturing opportunities for industries under Make in India campaign. Promotion of Bio-fuel is another area, which the Government would like to focus in a major way in 2016.

The idea behind starting this blog space is to communicate informally and regularly with you. With the help of technology, I would like everyone to be aware of what policy reforms we are taking and how it would help the country to progress. I look forward to your valuable feedbacks and suggestions.

Once again, wishing everyone a joyous New Year!

Jai Hind

Dharmendra Pradhan

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