IT MAY BE A DALIT VS DALIT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, BUT NOT A SINGLE INDIAN STATE HAS A DALIT CM

The article originally appeared on India Today.

After the Opposition announced former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, a Dalit politician, as its presidential candidate to take on NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, the presidential election has become a Dalit vs Dalit contest.

According to the 2011 Census, 16.6 per cent of India’s population are Dalits or SCs. That’s nearly 20.14 crore people. But at the moment, no Indian state has a Dalit chief minister.

16 chief ministers belong to Forward Communities, while six states have OBC chief ministers. It includes the National Capital Region of Delhi. The eight states of north-east India – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya – mostly have tribal chief ministers.

©SantoshChaubey

OBAMA TERMS TRUMPCARE A MASSIVE EXTORTION BILL, TRUMP REITERATES OBAMACARE IS DEAD

The article originally appeared on India Today.

While former US President Barack Obama has slammed the latest version of the healthcare bill unveiled by the Republican Senators to replace the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as it is popularly known, his successor Donald Trump has reiterated that Obamacare is dead. Enacted by the US Congress, the ACA was signed and put in place by Barack Obama in March 2010.

Obama termed the Republican bill “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America” whereas Trump wrote on Twitter that “he was very supportive of the Senate healthcare bill and looked forward to making it really special” reiterating that ObamaCare was dead. Obamacare, seen as the most important reform measure in the US healthcare system after 1960s Medicaid, has been opposed by the Republicans. They say it hurts businesses and kills jobs though a BBC report last month said that Obamacare has added 9 per cent more jobs in the healthcare industry since its implementation in 2010.

Barack Obama, a Democrat, in his detailed response on the controversy over Obamacare and its replacement with Trumpcare or the Republican healthcare act, a central campaign promise of Donald Trump, looks to decimate the Republican noise on a bill that is expected to leave millions of Americans out of the US government mandated healthcare protection.

While presenting arguments in favour of Obamacare, Obama writes in his Facebook post that the legislation has helped cover 90 per cent Americans and the insurance companies now cannot ask for more or deny insurance citing pre-existing health conditions. He says that the legislation has slowed down the pace of rising healthcare costs and slams the Republican version as a hastily arrived antithesis to what Obamacare stands for.

He writes that “the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it”, backing his comment on analyses in the US media and the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment which has projected that the new bill would leave 14 million Americans uninsured the very next year and the figure would reach to 23 million by 2016.

He accepts that though a significant step, “ACA was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.”

Trump, during the campaign phase of the US presidential polls, and even after his election, had raised hopes of a healthcare act to replace Obamacare that would guarantee ‘universal healthcare’ but going by the versions of the Republican healthcare bill so far, there has been a growing consensus in the US that if implemented in the current form, the Republican legislation would devoid millions of the much needed healthcare protection and at the same time would increase healthcare cost for many and would ruin Medicaid, a US government programme for financially weaker section that has been in place for decades.

Obama writes that he hopes that even many Republicans who fought for the ACA would see these concerns and would say no to the bill in its current form, “Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.”

And Obama is right. Within hours of the unveiling of the Republican legislation, four conservative Republicans came out to say that they cannot support the bill in its current form, a Reuters report said. Even last month, while delivering a speech during an event, Obama had appealed to the Congressmen to oppose Trump administration’s moves to repeal Obamacare, adding that “the lawmakers should have the courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm,” a CNN report said.

So far, either Donald Trump or the Republican senators have not been able to come out with a piece of legislation that would be smart enough to outdo the Obamacare. Democrats have stood united against any proposed Republican healthcare bill so far. But what should be eye-opener that even many Republicans are against the Obamacare replacement in its present form that makes Republican Party, that is in majority, short of votes to pass the bill in the House as happened in May this year when, in a major defeat for Donald Trump, the Republicans had to withdraw the legislation as they could not garner numbers even after months of canvassing. Trump’s assertion few hours ago that he has helped pass and signed 38 Legislative Bills, mostly with no Democratic support, and gotten rid of massive amounts of regulations is of no use in case of Obamacare as long as the whole Republican Party stands behind him.

Accusing Trump of “giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut” and bringing a piece of legislation that will put the American people through the pain of massive healthcare costs, unlimited bills and insurers’ rejections once lose their insurance cover under Obamacare, Obama appeals to the Americans to call Congress members and visit their offices and speak out their minds to let America know “in very real terms, what this means for them and their family” because what is at stake here is bigger than politics. It is the character of the nation – “who we are, and who we aspire to be and that’s always worth fighting for,” Obama writes.

©SantoshChaubey

BARACK OBAMA ON TRUMPCARE: NOT A HEALTHCARE BILL BUT A MASSIVE TRANSFER OF WEALTH TO RICH

After the Republican senators of the US presented the latest version of their healthcare bill yesterday to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 or Obamacare launched by Barack Obama, a Democrat, seven years ago, predecessor of the Republican US President Donald Trump, Obama has hit back.

In his first detailed response in months on the controversy over Obamacare and its replacement with Trumpcare or the Republican healthcare act, a central campaign promise of Donald Trump, Obama has decimated the Republican noise on a bill that is expected to leave millions of Americans out of the US government mandated healthcare protection.

While presenting arguments in favour of Obamacare, Obama writes in his Facebook post that the legislation has helped cover 90 per cent Americans and companies cannot ask for more or deny insurance citing some pre-existing health condition and has slowed down the pace of rising healthcare costs, Obama has slammed the Republican version as a hastily arrived antithesis to what Obamacare stands for.

He writes, citing objective analyses and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it” while adding that though a significant step, “ACA was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.”

Trump, during the campaign phase of the US presidential polls, and even after his election, had raised hopes of a healthcare act to replace Obamacare that would guarantee ‘universal healthcare’ but going by the versions of the Republican healthcare bill so far, there has been a growing consensus in the US that if implemented in the current form, the Republican legislation would devoid millions of the much needed healthcare protection and at the same time would increase healthcare cost for many and would ruin Medicaid, a US government programme for financially weaker section that has been in place for decades.

Obama writes that he hopes that even many Republicans who fought for the ACA would see these concerns and would say no to the bill in current form, “Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.”

And Obama is right. Within hours of the unveiling of the Republican legislation, four conservative Republicans have come out to say that they cannot support the bill in its current form, a Reuters report said.

Either Donald Trump or Republican senators have not been able to come out with a piece of legislation that would be smart enough to outdo the Obamacare. Democrats have stood united against any proposed Republican healthcare bill so far. But what should be eye-opener for Republicans that even many Republicans are against the Obamacare replacement in its present form that makes Republicans, who are in majority, short of votes to pass the bill in the House as happened in May when, in a major defeat for Donald Trump, the Republicans had to withdraw the legislation as they could not garner numbers even after months of canvassing.

Accusing Trump of “giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut” while bringing a piece of legislation that may put the American people through the pain of massive healthcare costs, unlimited bills and insurers’ rejections after they lose their insurance cover under Obamacare, Obama appeals to the Americans to call Congress members and visit their offices and speak out their minds to let America know “in very real terms, what this means for them and their family” because what is at stake here is bigger than politics. It is the character of the nation – “who we are, and who we aspire to be and that’s always worth fighting for,” Obama writes.

©SantoshChaubey

INDIA LIKELY TO SURPASS CHINA’S POPULATION IN 2024

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The 25th round of population projections by the United Nations has delayed its earlier estimates by two years when India’s population is likely to surpass China’s. According to the “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision” released by the Population Division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India is likely to surpass China’s population in 2024 while in its 24th round projections, released in 2015, the UN had estimated 2022 to be the year when India’s population could surpass China’s. In its 2013 estimates, the UN had projected India’s population to overtake China’s in 2028.

According to the report, China with 1.41 billion and India with 1.34 billion people, accounting for 19 per cent and 18 per cent of the global population, remain two most populous countries and adds that in “in roughly seven years, or around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.” Nigeria, that is growing most rapidly among the ten largest countries and is currently the world’s seventh largest, will surpass the US to become the world’s third most populous country in the world shortly before 2050.

Also, while China, that is geographically three times larger than us with an economy of $11 trillion that is five times of India’s $2.1 trillion, is slowing down, India’s population is expected to be the fastest growing among the countries which will account for half of the world’s population growth between 2017 to 2015. The countries in decreasing order of their expected contribution to the global population growth are India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia.

The world’s total population is projected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 from its current 7.6 billion. The report says “83 million people are added to the world’s population every year and the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline.”

The report says in 2014 both countries will have roughly 1.44 billion people. While India’s population will continue to grow for decades after it, touching 1.5 billion in 2030 and 1.66 billion in 2050, China’s population is expected to register a slow decline after remaining stable till 2030s.

In May this year, a Chinese experts claimed that India’s population had already surpassed China’s. Yi Fuxiang, a US based Chinese scientist, came out with his numbers arguing that China’s real population was 1.29 billion in 2016 and not 1.38 billion as estimated by China and India had surpassed China with 1.33 billion people quoting the UN figures. He had arrived at his findings after factoring in information and data on family planning policies, birth rate and hospital and school statistics. Though widely reported, his claims were met with scepticism and the UN report now makes it clear that China’s still more populous than us, even if only for seven more years.

©SantoshChaubey

SO WHAT IF RURAL EXODUS IS ADDING TO URBAN POVERTY

According to the 2014 World Urbanization Prospects, released by the Population Division of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs of the United Nations, India is going to add 404 million of people to its urban population by 2050, ahead of the projected additions by China (292 million) and Nigeria (212 million).

That is expected to add to the poverty problem of India, slowing down the rate of poverty reduction in urban areas of the country. The Global Food Policy report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in March said that the trend is bound to bring more poverty to urban agglomerations.

But it is a double-edge sword.

Why are people migrating to cities or urban agglomerations?

Because they are not able to find a sustainable livelihood back home, if they can call the place they come from as home.

The primary reason to move to cities is the additional source of income by finding jobs in the booming infrastructure sector in India. And small jobs that these big urban agglomerations support. Even if they will pay a heavy price. They will have to live on streets, in slums, with no quality of life. Education, health, shelter and amenities like piped water, electricity and roads will remain out of bounds for them. But they will, at least, be able to feed themselves and their families, that was not possible back there in their villages. Even if malnutrition becomes an urban problem with this rural exodus, it is, at least, saving lives.

They were poor back there, in villages. And they will remain poor even if they migrate to cities.

Because the sole aim of such migration is survival and not uplifting the scale of life.

So, if we see from a sociological perspective, it is a fruitful migration, as long as we keep on failing our agriculture that still supports some 45 crore Indians, if we go by an NSSO report which estimates the number of agricultural households in India at 9 crore. It is an established practice that for statistical calculations, we take the average size of an Indian family of five members. The number goes even further if we count the population dependent indirectly on agriculture.

Because the farming distress is very real. It, in fact, has been there for decades. Since 2001, over 2.30 lakh farmers have committed suicide, i.e., 2 farmers per hour, and these are as per the officials records of the government of India (NCRB figures). It is that during the years of crisis, i.e., drought and overproduction years, the problem becomes so intense that it starts spilling over on our conscience.

And it is always a chain reaction, an eco-system built on all of its constituents with faming at the core, be it rural markets, daily wage earners, transportation workers or even service professionals like lawyers and doctors, farming sustains the flow of money in the local eco-system by regulating the purse strings of majority of its stakeholders.

India has to grow and fine tune its process with this reality. It has to find solutions within the existing framework of its problems because it cannot generate millions of jobs, even in coming years, to support and sustain the chunk of population dependent on agriculture.

©SantoshChaubey

FEELING HEAT, UP CM ADITYANATH DIRECTS OFFICIALS ON FARM LOAN WAIVER

After questions are being raised over delay in the disbursal of the farm loan waiver, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has given instructions to the Finance Department of the state to take measures to effectively implement the crop loan waiver scheme. There are numerous report on how farmers of the state are still clueless about their loan waiver even after two months of its announcement by the UP CM. Farmers are making rounds of banks but banks haven’t got any order yet and as their previous loan amount is still due, they are not able to get new loans.

The directives issued by Yogi is also being seen as an attempt to avoid farmers unrest in Uttar Pradesh after raging farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur and other districts of Madhya Pradesh and farmers’ protests and clashes with administration in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Protests in Madhya Pradesh have reached to its capital city Bhopal. And its flames further have reached to Punjab and Haryana where farmers held protests in support of the farmers of Madhya Pradesh. Chhattisgarh farmers are also going to start their protest movement.

According to the Twitter account of the UP CM office, Yogi Adityanath has directed the state officials that the loan waiver amount of the small and marginal farmers be made available to banks immediately after the state budget is passed. The Yogi government is finalizing its budget and it is expected to be presented by June end. Yogi’s predecessor Akhilesh Yadav had presented the state’s interim budget for April-August on December 21 last year as the state was going to polls in February-March.

Adityanath has directed his officials to issue certificates of loan waiver to the small and marginal farmers and has instructed his officials that they must visit the 86 lakh beneficiary farmers to handover the document personally. The outreach is being seen as an attempt by Adityanath so express his sensitivity towards the affected farmers.

He has also asked his officials to direct the banks to not issue notice to the farmers who are beneficiary of this loan waiver scheme till the state budget is passed. For effective implementation of the loan waiver scheme, he has directed the officials to form committees at the district level headed by the district collectors. One of the most important directives he has issued is of linking the beneficiary bank accounts to their Aadhar number. It will ensure transparency and quick flow of funds from the government to the farmers once the funds are made available.

Keeping its campaign promise, the Yogi Adityanath government had waived crops loans worth Rs 36359 crore its first cabinet meeting on April 4. The waiver intends to benefit 2.1 crore small and marginal farmers of the state with loan liability of up to Rs 1 lakh.

Spread of farmers’ agitation to many states, with many of them being BJP run, has sent state governments and the central government in a panic mode. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the farmers killed in Mandsaur firing, raised it to Rs 10 lakh and then finally to Rs 1 crore, all in a span of just few hours. He also sat on indefinite peace fast to appeal to the farmers. Central government led by Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting on farmers’ agitation and Maharashtra chief minister decided to waive of farmers’ loans in the state worth 30000 crore, a long standing demand even by the Shiv Sena, the BJP partner in the state government.

Because they realize that if the BJP loses the confident of the farmers, it is staring at an electoral loss in the upcoming elections including the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Farming community and its dependents who form over one-third of India’s population are an electoral force that no political party can dare to ignore. Politics over farm crisis and farm suicides tell us the electoral might of farmers even if they are cursed to live a life of misery with a paltry monthly household income of just Rs 6426 a month, the National Sample Survey Office’s report says.

©SantoshChaubey

MADHYA PRADESH FARMERS’ PROTEST: WHY GOVERNMENT CANNOT IGNORE THE KISAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified based on new developments.

According to the 70th Round of the National Sample Survey, conducted during January-December 2013, India has 9 crore agricultural households. Now if we take the average Indian family size of five, we can say that can say there are 45 crore Indians dependent on farming for their survival.

The projection increases further the number of population dependent on agriculture in India if we factor in the Census 2011 data. According to Census 2011, India has 26.32 crore farmers, including 11.86 crore cultivators and 14.43 crore agricultural labourers. Taking the average Indian family size of five and multiplying it with 11.86 crore cultivators gives us 59.3 crore Indians who are supported by agriculture.

That is a huge number, when we see the voter turnout in the last Lok Sabha elections. India had 834082814 electors in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and with a turnout of 66.30 per cent, 553020648 of them voted in the polls. In 2009, the number of electors was 716985101 and turnout was 417158969 at 58.21 per cent.

It becomes even more important to weigh the political consequences when seen the context of the vote share of the winning parties in elections that is much less than the overall number of farmers in India.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 282 seats and a full majority for a single party after the 1984 Lok Sabha election with just 31 per cent vote share, i.e., 171436400 votes, much smaller than the population segment dependent on agriculture, the 45 crore Indians based on the projection made on NSSO findings or 59 crore Indians as per the Census 2011 findings.

Congress emerged as the largest party in the 2009 Lok Sabha election winning 206 seats with a vote share of 28.55 per cent, i.e., 119098885 votes and continued its alliance government in the centre that had come to power by defeating the BJP in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. The Congress led United Progressive Alliance government had defeated the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004 to form the government in the centre.

India had 671487930 electors in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. 389948330 of them voted with a turnout of 58.07 per cent. Congress got 145 seats and 26.53 per cent votes, i.e., 103453291 votes. Though it got just 7 seats more than the BJP’s 138 seats, it could stitch a viable political coalition and went on to form the government.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha election, 371669104 voters of the 619536847 electors exercised their voting rights. The BJP formed the coalition government by winning 182 seats with a vote share of 23.75 per cent, i.e., 88271412. Though the Congress could win just 114 seats, it got greater share of voters’ pie at 28.30 per cent, i.e., 105182356.

If we go by these figures, it is clear that farmers can swing electoral outcomes if they are mobilized. We have seen that with 2007 Nandigram and 2008 Singur land acquisition protests in West Bengal. Both were farmers’ agitations mishandled by the Left Front government of the state. 14 farmers were killed in police firing during the Nandigram agitation. Mamata Banerjee realized the political opportunity it gave and she successfully exploited it by leading the farmers’ agitation. Though farmers, too, are divided across community and caste lines, but agitations like Nandigram and Singur which present a survival threat have the potential to unite them to unseat the governments. West Bengal confirmed this when riding on the success of these farmers agitations Mamata Banerjee formed the government in the state in 2011, unseating the 34-year long unbridled run on the Left Front. And she has become only stronger since then, winning election after election while the Left Front is almost dead politically in the state.

That is what galvanized and united farmers can do. If it can happen in a state, it can happen in India if it spreads to too many states.

Drought or rains, the farmer in India is cursed to live a life of misery even if he has been at the core of the political discourse in our country. In last 15 years, over 2.30 lakh farmers were forced to commit suicide, i.e., two farmers committing suicide every hour, as per the latest publication of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) . Either a drought year damages their standing crops or a normal rainfall causes overproduction that makes their produce much cheaper than the prevailing market prices and thus a burden as they are not able to recover even their input costs.

Raging farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur and other districts of Madhya Pradesh and farmers’ protests and clashes with administration in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu tell us their patience is finally waning. Protests in Madhya Pradesh have reached to its capital city Bhopal. Also, in a worrying development for two state governments and the central government, farmers of Punjab and Haryana held protests today supporting farmers of Madhya Pradesh. That has sent state governments and the central government in a panic mode. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the farmers killed in Mandsaur firing, raised it to Rs 10 lakh and then finally to Rs 1 crore, all in a span of just few hours. He has also announced to sit on indefinite fast from tomorrow. Central government led by Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting on farmers’ agitation and Maharashtra chief minister decided to waive of farmers’ loans in the state worth 30000 crore, a long standing demand even by the Shiv Sena, the BJP partner in the state government.

Because they realize that if the BJP loses the confident of the farmers, it is staring at an electoral loss in the upcoming elections including the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Farming community and its dependents who form over one-third of India’s population are an electoral force that no political party can dare to ignore. Rahul Ganduhi’s visit to Mandsaur or politics over farm crisis and farm suicides tell us the electoral might of farmers even if they are cursed to live a life of misery with a paltry monthly household income of just Rs 6426 a month, the National Sample Survey Office’s report says.

©SantoshChaubey

SUSHMA SWARAJ AT HER WITTY BEST ON TWITTER AGAIN: “IF YOU ARE STUCK ON MARS, OUR EMBASSY WILL HELP YOU THERE AS WELL”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is not only known for her active presence on Twitter to respond to the SOS messages of Indians stranded abroad, something that has earned her the title of “agony aunt”, she is also loved for her witty one-liners in response to the tweets that intend to take a dig on her, like happened this morning.

A Karan Saini, whose Twitter bio says that he is tweeting from Chicago, wrote on Twitter that “Sushma Swaraj, I am stuck on mars, food sent via Mangalyaan (987 days ago), is running out, when is Mangalyaan-II being sent?” He also tagged the Indian Space Research Organisation in his tweet.

Incidentally, the man had tweeted the same lines on June 6 but Sushma Swaraj didn’t respond to it.

But Twitter history says patience pays here if you want to have a response from Sushma Swaraj. And whenever she does so, responding to the tweets which are generally ignored by other ministers of the government of India for being poor in taste or for being satirical, she is at her hilarious best in answering them. Mr. Saini’s retweet of his tweet finally caught Sushma’s attention and what she wrote in response has gone viral on the internet for its wit and humour. She wrote,

India launched Mangalyan I in November 2013 and Mangalyan II mission is still in planning stage and the ISRO has invited scientific proposals for it.

The episode reminds of some of the earlier instances when the EAM’s Twitter remarks made the Internet go berserk, be it people’s silly and misplaced complaints or SOS cries. In March, a woman tagged Sushma Swaraj saying she would keep tweeting unless Sushma responds. The woman claimed that she was cheated by her NRI student. In her inimitable style, that has become barometer of her patience, Sushma assured the woman of every help but it was the Twitter conversation between both that caught people’s eye.

Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj
Aap haar mat maniye. Mujhe apni samasya batayiye.
Sushma Swaraj added,
Richa Patel @RichaPa49309383
@SushmaSwaraj @SushmaSwaraj dear mam me bhi apko tab tak tweet karti rahungi jab tak ap javab nhi dete me bhi har nhi manungi….
9:07 AM – 30 Mar 2017
https://twitter.com/SushmaSwaraj/status/847480295095848961

In another instance, when a woman threatened to commit suicide as she was not able to get New Zealand visa to meet her husband, Sushma calmly advised her not to commit suicide and tell what the issue was.

Sushma Swaraj‏ @SushmaSwaraj
Aap suicide mat kijiye. Apni baat batayiye.Sushma Swaraj added,
Jyoti S Pande @jyotiranapande
Replying to @SushmaSwaraj
Please help me for my visa
Mere ko suicide krna parega kya.apni baat aap taak paguchane ko
9:14 AM – 30 Mar 2017
https://twitter.com/SushmaSwaraj/status/847482056862973954

The conversation thread on Twitter for this tweet is just an example how patiently and discreetly Sushma handles such Twitter complaints. From March 30 to 31, Sushma Swaraj and the woman exchanged eight tweets with Sushma asking for details and the woman finally thanking her for help.

Or take this tweet when a man complained the EAM about a defective refrigerator sold to him. Instead of just ignoring it, what she wrote tell us why she is considered one of the best orators in Indian politics.

Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj
Brother I cannot help you in matters of a Refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.
Venkat‏ @M_VenkatM
@irvpaswan @SushmaSwaraj Dear Ministers, @Samsung_IN sold me a defective refrigerator, they r not ready to replace
9:27 AM – 13 Jun 2016
https://twitter.com/M_VenkatM/status/742392867830824960

©SantoshChaubey

DAMAGED CROPS, POOR INCOME AND OVERPRODUCTION FORCING FARMERS TO PROTEST

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Drought or rains, the farmer in India is cursed to live a life of misery. In last 15 years, over 2.30 lakh farmers have been forced to commit suicide, i.e., two farmers committing suicide every hour. Either a drought year damages their standing crops or a normal rainfall causes overproduction, something that is happening this year also, that makes their produce much cheaper than the prevailing market prices and thus a burden as they are not able to recover even their input costs.

And raging farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur and other districts of Madhya Pradesh and farmers’ protests in states like Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu tell us their patience is finally waning. And why not? How long can they sustain with a monthly household income of Rs. 6426 when they have to feed mouths, when they have to educate children, when they have to cover their health costs and most importantly, they have to repay their loans that they took to sow their crops? How can they manage all this in a meager sum Rs. 6426?

The National Sample Survey Office’s report of the country’s agricultural households has estimated the average income per month of agricultural households at Rs. 6426 a month. And this income figure is not from farming alone. In fact, according to the NSSO survey, farming accounts for less than 50 per cent of the income of an agricultural household. Out of Rs. 6426 a month, cultivation accounts for earning of Rs 3078 or 47.9 per cent, Rs 2069 or 32.2 per cent comes from wage or salary, Rs 765 or 11.9 per cent comes from livestock and Rs 514 or 8 per cent from non-farm business.

Punjab’s agricultural households, at Rs 18059 a month, earn most followed by Haryana’s agricultural households at Rs 14434 a month and Jammu & Kashmir at Rs 12683 a month while Bihar’s agricultural households earn lowest in the country at Rs 3558 per month followed by West Bengal’s agricultural households at Rs 3980.

According to the 70th Round of the National Sample Survey, conducted during January-December 2013, the number of agricultural households in India was around 9 crore. Now if we take the average Indian family size of five, we can say that 45 crore of Indians are surviving just at Rs 6426 per month. And Rs 6426 per month for a family of five means Rs 1285 per individual per month of an agricultural household in our country, an income level around our abysmally low poverty lines that have always been questioned by activists and experts.

Contrast it to India’s per capita income at Rs 1,03,219 or Rs 8600 a month. Even if indicative, if we juxtapose this income figure for a family of five, it comes around Rs 43,000 a month.

This huge gap between the income of an agricultural household and an average Indian household, i.e, Rs 6426 to Rs 43,000 per month, is the result of skewed income distribution in our society. The Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment & Consumer Economy (ICE 360 degree survey) findings show the stark income based difference prevailing in our country. According to the survey, India’s richest 20 per cent account for the country’s 45 per cent aggregate household disposable income while its poorest 20 per cent barely survive on seven per cent of the share.

India has 363 million people living below the latest national poverty line suggested by the Rangarajan Committee in 2014 – Rs 32 a day in rural India and Rs 47 a day in urban India. Contrast it to the Global Poverty Line of Rs 123 a day ($1.90), four times of India’s rural poverty line and three times of its urban poverty line and we are staring at a much higher number than 363 million of defined poor in our country.

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT IS COMMON IN RAHUL GANDHI AND BEN CARSON? THEY BOTH THINK POVERTY IS A STATE OF MIND!

WHO IS BEN CARSON..

Ben Carson is US President Donald Trump’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary. He was one of the principal Republican Party Presidential nominees in the last year’s presidential election, before he lost the race to Donald Trump. And he has one thing in common with Rahul Gandhi.

They both think ‘poverty is a state of mind’.

Ben Carson, who is a globally renowned neurosurgeon, said during an interview yesterday that “a certain mindset contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a state of mind that children take from their parents at a young age”, a Washington Post report wrote.

RAHUL GANDHI REDUX

On August 5, 2013, while speaking at an event in Allahabad, Rahul Gandhi, too, had said that ‘poverty was a state of mind’. Rahul Gandhi had said that self-confidence could help people overcome poverty as it was ‘just a state of mind’ and not what it was normally associated with it, i.e., scarcity of life sustaining means, primarily food, money and material possessions.

So, they both moot the same point about the most nagging issue of our times – poverty – even if their comments have a separation of four years and 12,000 Kms, the distance between New Delhi and Washington DC.

THOUGH, THEIR BACKGROUNDS ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

Rahul Gandhi was widely panned for making an ignorant comment in a country where majority are still living below the poverty line if we go by the new Global Poverty Line by the World Bank at $1.90 a day (Rs 123 a day as per the current US Dollar to Rupee exchange rate). His comments were termed mockery of the poor by many who said Rahul Gandhi came from a well-to-do family, who ruled India for most of its independent history, and could never understand what poverty really means.

In contrast, Ben Carson has grown up in extreme poverty, in a slum neighbourhood of Detroit. But his life journey, that was shown as a biopic, the critically acclaimed ‘Gifted Hands’, the screen adaptation of his autobiography of the same name starring Cuba Gooding Jr., is described as a rare phenomenon when his story is juxtaposed with his poor neighbourhood where he grew up, which has seen consistent deterioration in its living and therefore social standards.

And it is not just self-confidence alone that can lift billions in the world living in poverty and extreme poverty. A coordinated state action is needed everywhere and that is why poverty alleviation and eradication has been at the core of politics in every society. In India, elections revolve around it. Even Ben Carson, who strongly advocates ‘avoiding dependence on state welfare measures’, could make his life and career because there was state welfare assistance to help him. And so he has been criticised for making such narrow vision comments. The Washington Post quoted from his autobiography in an October 2015 article, “In his autobiography, Carson has praised the help he received from public school teachers, a federal jobs program, community mentors, government-supplied eyeglasses and, crucially, food stamps, without which his family “couldn’t have made it”.

According to the new World Bank Global Poverty Line of $1.90, the world had 700 million poor people by the end of 2015. But in order to arrive at a common benchmark globally, the World Bank Poverty Line has not taken into account many dimensions of poverty that hit lives of the poorest, especially in developing and poor countries. In many such countries, the poverty lines are well below this global benchmark, a fact that effectively pushes the number of poor people to billions across the world. According to a Brookings Institution report, around 3 billion people were living at $3 a day in 2013. In 2015, a Pew Research Centre report concluded that majority of the world’s population was living at the $3 a day. Finding of the same report said that 71 per cent of the world’s population was surviving on less than $10 a day, i.e., Rs 645.50 a day or Rs 19365 a month.

We don’t need to go far to see tentacles of poverty. India has 363 million people living below the latest national poverty line suggested by the Rangarajan Committee in 2014 – Rs 32 a day in rural India and Rs 47 a day in urban India. Contrast it to the Global Poverty Line of Rs 123 a day, four times of India’s rural poverty line and three times of its urban poverty line and we are staring at a much higher number than 363 million of defined poor in our country. At the prevailing market prices, one cannot even have modest lunch and dinner for a day for that amount of money. And life is not just about eating. One needs a shelter somewhere. One needs clothes. One needs healthcare. One needs education.

Self-confidence alone cannot help billions of poor to come out of this trap. Framers of our constitution, and in fact, the policymakers around the world, do realize it. That’s why we have our affirmative action or reservation system or the US has its social security network or Medicaid, its state governed health insurance safety net. In fact, most of the societies around the world, have some sort of social security net.

©SantoshChaubey