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Cry From Parched Farmlands Of Tamil Nadu

When most corporate honchos decided to remain silent on the BS-III vehicle ban chapter, Rajiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto, spoke out loud on why companies should not be given an extended deadline to sell off their older emission compliant vehicles

Photo Credit : Subhabrata Das

They have brandished skulls of dead farmers, displayed rats they have fed on, eaten a mid-day meal off the tarmac at Jantar Mantar and disrobed themselves before the Prime Minister’s Office on 10 April. On the 18th day of their continuing stir on the perpetual protest grounds of Jantar Mantar, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi showed solidarity with the representatives of the farming community of Tamil Nadu, which is now reeling under the worst drought in 140 years. The following day, on 11 April, the Central government announced an assistance of Rs 1,712.10 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to Tamil Nadu as drought and cyclone relief. The relief was not prompted by the histrionics of men and women clad in green, but by the findings of Inter-Ministerial Central Teams deputed to the drought affected areas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Karnataka was granted Rs 1,235.52 crore as drought relief.

The protesting farmers are demanding a drought relief fund of Rs 40,000 crore from the Centre. Agriculture, though, is essentially a state subject and the state of Tamil Nadu has so far paid a relief of a mere Rs 5,465 per acre to farmers, of whom 270 have died since October 2016. Now that Uttar Pradesh has suddenly demonstrated what solidarity with the tillers of the soil could be like, one wonders whether farmer protests would stay confined to Jantar Mantar?
— Madhumita Chakraborty

PLAIN SPEAK
When most corporate honchos decided to remain silent on the BS-III vehicle ban chapter, Rajiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto, spoke out loud on why companies should not be given an extended deadline to sell off their older emission compliant vehicles. Bajaj, whose company had an inventory of around 80,000 BS-III vehicles before the Supreme Court gave its verdict, had said, “Controlling pollution/emissions is important for people and not machines. Why should the industry think a changeover should apply to their machines only and not the environment? We at Bajaj Auto do not believe this.”

This is not the first time that Bajaj has spoken his mind. In February, the MD of the profitable two-wheeler maker made a jibe at Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, saying that if innovation in the country depended on government approval or the judicial process, it would not be a case of ‘Made in India’, but ‘Mad in India.’ Bajaj is still waiting for a green signal from the Indian government to sell his four-wheeler, Qute in the country. He also became one of the first business leaders to speak of the adverse impact of demonetisation. On the note ban, which severely impacted the domestic two-wheeler industry, Bajaj said that the idea of demonetisation itself was “wrong” and therefore, it would be incorrect to blame only its execution. Will Bajaj set a trend in plain-speaking or remain a lone voice in a tight-lipped industry?
— Arshad Khan

NEW AIRPORT PLEASE
Two key findings emerge from the analysis of the monthly air traffic report issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The first is that there is a slowdown in domestic air traffic and the second, that Mumbai airports account for more delays and congestion than those in other metros.

According to the DGCA report, there is at least a four-percentage point drop in the number of air travellers in February 2017, thereby ending the nearly six-month run of 20-plus per cent growth in domestic air traffic. The domestic passenger traffic grew by 15.77 per cent to 8.65 million in February in comparison to 7.47 million in February 2016. In January 2017, Indian carriers flew 9.57 million passengers. The other important revelation is the consistent worse on-time-performance or OTP of airlines at Mumbai airport. A flight is considered ‘delayed’ if it arrives or departs 15 minutes later than scheduled. At Mumbai airport, 2,594 flights (for departure) were delayed beyond 15 minutes while 2,894 were delayed on arrivals. Perhaps, only a new airport can solve this congestion.
— Ashish Sinha

ALARMING SITUATION
It is the worst kept secret, but the real estate industry is reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent report by industry association Assocham — over 820 housing projects and 60 commercial projects in India are behind schedule by around four years or more. Projects in Punjab, Telengana, West Bengal, Odisha and Haryana have witnessed the maximum delays. “As many as 3,511 housing projects were running live in construction and real estate sectors till the end of December 2016, of which 2,304 were under the implementation stage. Around 886 of these recorded significant delays, of which 826 were housing projects and 60 commercial projects,” the report said. D.S. Rawat, secretary general, Assocham, has asked the central government to urgently introduce a single-window system for clearing all real estate projects. “The process of obtaining mandatory approvals from multiple regulators and authorities result in cost and time overruns,” Rawat said. The industry body report has demanded that state governments complete digital updation of their respective land records and make them available online at the earliest.
— Ashish Sinha

THE FALL GUY
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh rattled the Opposition, but instead of blaming themselves, they blamed the EVM machines. While Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mayawati said that the BJP had tampered with the EVMs to win in Uttar Pradesh, Harish Rawat, the former chief minister of Uttarakhand credited EVMs for the BJP’s win.

The latest person to criticise the use of EVM machines is Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal. The Aam Admi Party leader has alleged that the EVMs being brought in for the Delhi municipal polls did not have any security features, and could be easily tampered with. Not just the EVM machines, he has also blamed the state Election Commission for using older EVMs, despite newer versions being available. He even likened the Election Commission to blind Dhritarashtra in The Mahabharata, saying the supposedly impartial regulator was doing everything it could, to make “its son”, the BJP, win by turning a blind eye to faulty voting machines.

Even though few reports from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have shown up the faulty side of EVMs, as pressing any button would release the BJP’s name in the VVPAT machines, nothing concrete has been found on a mass scale. The MCD polls ahead in the national capital are being touted as a direct clash between the AAP and the BJP. The loser, we assume gets to bash faulty EVMs.
— Arshad Khan


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