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RSS affliates warn against farm loan waiver in interim budget

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Farmers Protest

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Four BJP governments in states had rolled out farm loan waiver schemes but RSS affiliates have strongly warned against these in the interim budget, saying such a move would only worsen the agrarian crisis and put further pressure on the banks.

This comes in the midst of speculation that the Narendra Modi government may be showering sops on farmers in its interim budget before the Lok Sabha polls.

Instead, the sangh parivar affliates want a social security net and various forms of assistance for the farmers.

With agrarian distress expected to be a major plank for the opposition and the Congress promise of farm loan waiver that helped it majorly in its victory in the Hindi heartland state, there are indications that the Modi government may walk a similar path making the February 1 exercise more significant than a vote on account.

Buoyed by the Congress coming to power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, party President Rahul Gandhi has flayed Modi for waiving corporate loans while ignoring the plight of farmers. He has even asserted that an “united opposition will not let Modi sleep” until and unless farmers’ loans across the country were waived.

While the Congress’ farm loan waiver attracted much ridicule from Prime Minister Modi, it was he who had triggered the trend of waiving farm loans when ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections he had announced relief for the farmers in February, 2017. Subsequently the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government announced a loan waiver package for around 86 lakh small and marginal farmers.

The BJP governments in Maharashtra and Rajasthan in 2018 had announced waiver of loans taken by small and marginal farmers.

Soon after the Congress executing its pre-poll promise of loan waiver in the three Hindi heartland states, the BJP regime in Jharkhand in December last followed suit, giving farmers financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre for the kharif season.

However, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a sangh parivar affliate, asserts that the Modi government should desist from indulging in populist measures. Its has warned about pitfalls of farm loan waivers.

“The last thing the government should do is resort to farm loan waivers. Rather than being a solution, loan waiver would further deepen the miseries of our farmers. Indeed farmers are in distress and the way the opposition parties for their electoral sake, have raised the issue, the government may deem it to be a political compulsion. But it would be a mistake if it does so,” BKS organisational secretary Dinesh Kulkarni told IANS.

Explaining the opposition to the “short-cut” of loan waiver, Kulkarni said such a move only encourages the practice of defaulting on loans contending that only a handful of farmers benefit.

“The Congress governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have waived farm loans but has it solved the crisis of the farmers. The only thing that it did is pressuring the banks and making them wary of giving further loans to the farmers,” Kulkarni said.

He said that unless there was holistic mechanism to ensure that farmers get the right price for their produce and middlemen are eliminated, the vicious circle of debt will continue.

“Loan waiver may halt the vicious debt circle for a short period of time but it won’t bring them out of that. Without a mechanism to make agriculture profitable or even allowing the farmers to recover their cost of production, they will be back to being debt ridden from the next season,” said Kulkarni adding that the government must sit with peasant bodies and other stakeholders to chalk out long term plans to resolve the agrarian distress.

Talking about its expectations from the budget, the RSS’ labour wing the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said the focus should be on expanding the social security net to the unorganised sector including agriculture workers and also advocated against farm loan waiver.

While admitting that the government may be inclined towards presenting a populist budget, BMS President C.K. Saji Narayanan said farmers should be incentivised to procure seeds , fertilisers and equipments rather than waiving their loans.

“Our farmers are in distress and indeed need lot of assistance from the government but loan waiver should be the last thing. Waiver as a short term measure is acceptable but then it has its long term effects on the economy which the government should guard against.

“The need is put up a mechanism to ensure that farmers gets right price of their produce. They should be given subsidy to purchase seeds, fertilisers and equipments instead of loan waiver,” Narayanan said.

A critic of the Modi government’s labour and economic policies, Narayanan said the budget should focus on giving relief to the middle class and urorganised sector workers.

“This government for most part of its tenure, has functioned like Congress-led UPA. But in the last year or so there has been substantial change in its attitude. However, with elections on the horizon, it may indulge in populist measures. But that doesn’t mean it should go for loan waivers.

Narayanan said the government in the budget should look to providing relief to the middle class and the workers in the unorganised sector.

“Our major demand is that the income tax exemption limit should be raised to Rs 10 lakh besides that we hope that government will no more neglect our workers especially contract labourers. In addition to hiking contract labour’s wages, unorganised sector has to be brought under social security net including agricultural labours,” he added.

While Prime Minister Modi and his government have been touting GDP growth as FDI inflow as its major achoevemnets, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the RSS said, job-less growth was meaningless.

“GDP growth or FDI inflow should not be the parameters for development, what matters is how much employment is generated.

“As regards the agrarian crisis, the question is why our farmers are debt ridden, and answer to that question can never be loan waiver,” SJM National Co-Convener Ashwani Mahajan said.

He held the “historic neglect” of the agriculture sector by successive governments to be the core issue.

“Besides their persistent failure to even recover their cost of production, the steady rise of prices of farm inputs and farm equipments being under GST, has further pauperised the farmers,” he said.

He said instead of giving the farmers “alms” in form of loan waiver, the need was concrete policies aimed at reforming and reviving the farm sector and making it economically viable and profitable.

“There are large numbers of seasonal agricultural labourers who are rendered jobless for a large part of the year. The focus should be on rehabilitating them as also come with policies to make agriculture profitable.

Mahajan recommended giving major focus on food processing, oil seeds protection, change in crop production, subsidizing farm inputs.

“The one thing that must be immediately done is to exempt farm equipments from GST. We sincerely hope the government will use this budget to lay out long term plans to revitalize the economy and resolve the agrarian crisis instead of falling trap to electoral populism,” added Mahajan.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at [email protected])

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Manipur student activist released on bail by Imphal court

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Veewon Thokchom

Imphal, Feb 19 (IANS) A court here on Tuesday granted bail to Manipuri student activist Veewon Thokchom, who was arrested from Delhi on charges of sedition.

The court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal west, where Thokchom was produced after brought from Delhi, turned down the police plea for his custody and released him on furnishing a bond of Rs 30,000.

Thokchom’s lawyer Meihoubam Rakesh said that his client, who was preparing for examinations in Delhi, was arrested on February 15 by a combined Delhi and Imphal police team. According to his family members, he was not even given time to wear his slippers.

A former president of the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi and now an adviser, Thokchom had opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8. Recalling the mass agitations in Manipur on June 18, 2001 during which 18 persons including a woman had died, he had contended in a Facebook post that if the bill is passed by Parliament, the state’s people may renew demands for self-determination.

There had been demands from various students’ bodies to release Thokchom or face intensified protests from the students and people.

Some time back, the BJP-led state government had arrested Kishorechandra Wangkhem, an anchor with a local cable channel, on charges of sedition.

A local court was of view that that the offence he was charged with was not seditious and ordered his release. However police arrested him at the court’s door and detained him under the National Security Act for one year.

Massive protests from the media circles in India and abroad have been of no avail.

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Pulwama Attack: Terror gets a quantum Jump in Kashmir Under Modi

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suicide attack in Kashmir

In one of the most barbaric and brutal attacks, 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in a car-bomb explosion triggered by a lone wolf named Adil Ahmad, also known as “Adil Ahmad Gaadi Takranewala” and “Waqas Commando of Gundibagh” in South Kashmir’s Pulwama on Thursday, 14 February.

The ferocity of the terror attack far exceeded even the Uri attack of 18 September 2016, in which four heavily armed terrorists targeted an Army brigade headquarters, killing 19 soldiers. This was clearly, the worst ever terror attack in lat twenty years in the Kashmir valley.

Both the Uri and Pulwama attacks were said to have been carried out by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has subsequently taken the responsibility for this heinous attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama. This was one of the most audacious attacks and it established the fact that the Jaish-e-Mohammed is still very active and holds the capability of carrying out an attack of such a scale. It also reflects the failure of Modi government’s Kashmir policy much more than even the Uri strike.

While carrying out much criticised demonetisation on 8th Nov, 2016, Mr Modi cited checking terrorism in Kashmir valley as one of its objectives . But that never happened. On contrary, the terrorism received an unprecedented fillip post demonetisation. Modi Govt in a reply to the Lok Sabha admitted that terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir have increased by 261 % in the last five years – from lowly 170 incidents in 2013 to a mind-boggling 614 incidents in 2018.

There were two key moments related to major spikes in terror incidents: In 2016, when Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was gunned down in an encounter and again in 2018 when the no of local youth joining the terror outfits surpassed the record level from 16 in 2013 to 191 in 2018, an increase of nearly 1093%.

Now let us find out where Modi Govt went wrong. The problem lies in the way it tackles this decades old problem not as a political, but as a battlefield for some kind of ideological war. The BJP’s policies on Kashmir are guided by its desire to fulfill its ideologue Syama Prasad Mukherjee’s unfinished mission of establishing their rule in the Valley.

This was quite evident in their attitude towards capturing power in the state. They initially pushed Mufti Mohammad Sayeed into a corner to force him for an alliance and later on showed the same brinkmanship to make his daughter and successor Mehbooba Mufti to fall in line. Eventually, she also walked out from the coalition which left Mr Modi no choice but to impose the President’s Rule in the state.

This was diametrically opposite to what Vajpayee government did. The actions taken by the then NDA Govt resulted in fostering a PDP-Congress alliance government led by Mufti Sayeed in 2002.This was said to be one of the few phases in the violent history of Kashmir when the state experienced a relative calm. The intransigence of BJP government under Modi has led to a disastrous Kashmir policy that has nullified whatever goodwill the New Delhi had achieved in Kashmir since 2002.

In the 2014 J & K assembly elections, the highest turnout in Kashmir in last over 25 years was recorded. The increase in voting was more perceptible in the South Kashmir constituencies that have historically seen low turnouts, mainly due to boycott calls by the separatists. The other element which added to this increase in voter’s turnout was the reaction of majority Kashmiri Muslims to the aggressive campaigning by the BJP in the Valley. Kashmiris were apprehensive of BJP’s intention of abrogating the article 370 and felt that their identity as a special status would be in danger if the BJP came to power in the state.

In fact, there were several voters in the valley who came out to vote for the first time since the 1987 elections, which were heavily rigged by most accounts. However, this anti-BJP mood in Kashmir was squandered by the PDP when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed opted to form a government in the state in alliance with BJP.

This must have given a huge setback to the local Kashmiris because soon after this coalition Govt came in power, the increase in local youth joining the ranks of militants began. It just can’t be a coincidence that the PDP’s areas of influence in South Kashmir shortly emerged as the main hub of militancy.

Most of the top militants of the past few years hailed from South Kashmir – Burhan Wani from Tral in Pulwama district, Riyaz Naikoo from Awantipora in Pulwama district, Saddam Padder from Heff in Shopian district and even Ali Ahmad Dar, who carried out fidayeen attack on the CRPF personnel, from Kakpora, also in Pulwama.

Most of the young men from South Kashmir who joined the ranks of militancy, hailed from pro-Jamaat-e-Islami families. Interestingly, in the past, Jamaat is said to have had a tactical understanding with the PDP. In both the 2002 and 2008 Assembly elections, Jamaat cadres were said to have ignored the boycott calls and came out and voted for the PDP but the alliance of PDP with the BJP ruptured the PDP’s traditional ties with Jamaat and alienated its supporters across the Valley. Therefore, when the extremely popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in 2016, the PDP’s implosion accelerated dramatically.

Soon, a cycle of violence and mayhem began – protests, crackdown by security forces resulting in civilian casualties and sparking more protests. Every civilian casualty and pellet injury created further resentment from central Govt among an average Kashmiri which in turn resulted in more youth joining the militancy. The locals which earlier provided the helping hand to the security forces in its drive against militants stopped doing that and in process, PDP’s credibility nose-dived.
One of the crucial fallouts of this alienation deprived security forces of the human intelligence network almost entirely comprised of local Kashmiris. This breakdown in human intelligence is probably one of the reasons why security forces have become sitting ducks for attacks like the one we just witnessed in Pulwama on the Valentine ’s Day.

It appears, the government has learnt no lessons even after the Pulwama attack as most of its reactions are based on its flawed view of Kashmir. Take for instance MoS in the PMO, Jitendra Singh, who chose to attack NC and PDP, the mainstream political parties of Kashmir, which are perhaps the only set of well-wishers of some importance New Delhi has in Kashmir.

The problem of Modi government is it cannot differentiate between its political opponents and threats to national security. This is the reason; it has been unable to stop the rise of militancy in Kashmir in the past five years. The same is true for its inability to differentiate between Kashmiri civilians and the terrorists. It won’t be an understatement, if we say that armed forces personnel and the civilians in Kashmir are paying with their lives for this disastrous and flawed handling of Kashmir crisis by Modi Govt.

(DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.)

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Analysis

Fake Operations – Column: Spy’s Eye

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FBI

A national Intelligence organisation — like that of India — earns the respect of the countrymen because it helps the State in discharging its sovereign function of safeguarding national security, stays completely non-partisan and establishes a method of working that is secretive but never crooked. Since security, by definition, is protection against a scheming adversary resorting to a ‘covert’ attack, the counter-intelligence effort relies on tradecraft techniques perfected with professional training – like surveillance, infiltration into the enemy’s camp, communication monitoring, raising human sources and carrying out an interview under ‘cover’. The adversarial entity has to be identified and then targeted keeping in view the aim that security by definition is preventive – if there is therefore the danger of an enemy infiltrating its vanguard into the country clandestinely, these ideally have to be picked up right at the point of entry.

For this a lot of effort is made round the clock by operational teams to garner intelligence about the identity and location of ‘enemy’ agents. Intelligence operators could try to ‘turn in’ a member of the adversary’s set up or ‘plant’ a person of their own trust there. The results are never easy to get but the intelligence agency is prepared to ceaselessly slog for getting access to the plans and activities of a ‘real’ enemy. A professional and upright intelligence organisation goes for the hard targets and does not fall for the temptation of somehow creating an illusion of success for credit in the eyes of the political masters — by manufacturing a narrative of threat without establishing the presence of an ‘enemy’.

If this is done by fabricating a ‘trap’ by way of creating a fake university for getting unsuspecting individuals — who could not, by any stretch of imagination, be described as ‘enemy agents’ — to land in the country for joining that educational institution and then hauling them up as unlawful people precisely on the ground of being in a fake institution, this is a rogue operation and not an intelligence effort. The criminality here would be on the shoulders of the phoney entity and its creators alone and not on the victims of the ‘fraud’ committed by the former.

Imagine the shock that the people across the democratic world would feel over the recent media reports to the effect that the Homeland Security agents in the US apparently in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — both are a part of the US Task Force against Terrorism — have rounded up hundreds of Indian students precisely in this way and tried to claim it as a great operation designed to detect infiltration into US. India has sent a demarche to the US Embassy in Delhi questioning this action and the Indian Embassy in Washington has intervened to help the imperilled students but this raises serious questions about the spurious operations and unethical ways of some lead agencies engaged in counter-intelligence work.

The Trump regime had no doubt taken a serious view of illegal migrations and fraudulent entry of outsiders into the US from countries which traditionally posed a threat to the American security. But are the American intelligence agencies totally oblivious of the complete convergence that India and US had achieved on security matters or are they so desperate about creating an impression of being pro-active after their Chiefs had run into problems with President Trump that they wanted to secure ‘results’ through such dubious means?

The ‘University of Farmington’ based in Michigan was reportedly created two years ago by undercover agents of Homeland Security and its head — one Ali Milani — wrote letters to the prospective students imploring them to come to his university, getting in this questionable manner more than a hundred Indian students on its rolls during this period with the help of a gang of recruiters. The Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is now treating these students as a prize catch to prove its great work against ‘illegal’ immigration. It should have targeted the fraudulent intermediaries, something it did not do precisely because it had connived with them for ‘operational’ reasons.

The blind pursuit of Indian students is incongruous with the facts of the case. First, does the Homeland Security consider India as an adversary that would pump in its ‘agents’ into the US to indulge in unlawful missions there like some hostile neighbours and countries breeding Islamic radicals would possibly do? Secondly, considering the known keenness among Indian students to study in American universities with the legitimate objective of receiving higher education and jobs, the entrants would have responded to the ‘invite’ from this fake university with enthusiasm and come in only on legal travel documents.

In case a fake university was created by a fraudulent group outside of the government, it would have been the responsibility of the FBI to unearth that activity before any entrants were trapped but in this case a US government agency itself was the creator of an illegal entity, spending a whole lot of time, energy and funds to set it up just to be able to show that they had caught some Indian students on the wrong foot. Even if some students might have suspected the credentials of the university they would rightly expect the US government to deal with any irregularities about the institution they had joined in. But in this case, US undercover agents themselves were behind a university that fronted a trap operation. This is neither a good intelligence effort nor a worthwhile national security mission.

In any case, India should strongly object to this offending move of US agencies and treat it as an affront to its national standing. Is it possible that this is a deliberate act of Ali Milani to put India at par with those nations that had received adverse attention of President Trump and thus spoil Indo-US relations? The US policy makers should be interested in closely auditing the output of the country’s agencies entrusted with counter-intelligence work. The FBI should be concentrating on spurious institutions run by unlawful elements on its soil. Becoming a party to an operation meant to entice students to a fake university established by agents of the government themselves does not add up to a legitimate intelligence work in this case.

The FBI and other intelligence agencies, it is presumed, would be focusing on detection of sleeper cells of terrorists in the US that were posing a greater threat than before because of the unsuccessful ‘war on terror’. The danger had further increased with the known use of social media by the adversary for spreading radicalisation. The Commission on 9/11 had brought out many failings of US intelligence particularly, the inadequacy of follow up on signals that had indicated presence of radical aliens on American soil. American agencies can hardly afford not to devote all their time and resources to the serious threats to the security of US from terrorists and clandestine infiltrators. Violations of immigration laws and procedures can be detected — without resort to devious trap operations — through a professionally competent intelligence-based endeavour.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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