Sunday, March 30, 2008

Modi Series Part 6: A unique SEZ Policy + new Public Private Partnership

After taking a note on all local, rural and urban parameters, let's look at Industrial growth and economic policies of Gujarat. A large number of industrialists are too happy with Modi simply because his government has set up some of the best policies that even Centre can emulate.

Aspect 1: SEZ Policy of the state:

The SEZ Policy of Gujarat was announced way back in 2000 when even the Centre was thinking on it.

Of the total area of SEZ in Gujarat, 45% is waste land (directly owned by the Government), 43% irrigational land (taken from farmers after actually paying the money directly to farmers) and 16% by Gujarat Industrial Development Board. So, there is no contention over land acquisition unlike West Bengal and other states. Further SEZ policy - some of the interesting ones include:
  • Only an industrialist is allowed to invest and no builder. This will help in not allowing real estate businesses to prop up and raise the land prices. Land meant for industries must be used for that purpose.
  • They will be given free electricity, water for 10 years and no stamp duty, registration fees
  • If they want to acquire lands from farmers or land developers, it is a direct negotiation and Government won't interfere....This is really better..Because if govt intervenes, then they will get the money from MNC's and will never give back to farmers. Also, many farmers in Gujarat are not just farmers, but are willing to do non-farming jobs. This attitude has helped many farmers willingly give up their land for a very high price. Many farmers then do contracting job for such industrialists who take over their land. This is working good for many farmers too.
  • Also whoever is a part of a business in SEZ must build the necessary infrastructure like roads. This means that the government is not involved in this basic issue. This ensures that the lethargic government machinery is kept away from this basic necessity...Very good
  • The State Government has delegated the powers of the Labour Commissioner to the DC to function as Registration Officer, Conciliation Officer as well as Inspector under various labour laws to provide single window service. The units in SEZ would be required to file annually Consolidated Annual Report (CAR) to the DC.
  • Inputs (goods and services) made to SEZ units from domestic tariff area would be exempt from sales tax and other state taxes. Any sales from SEZ to DTA would be deemed import and import duty would be applicable as per GoI policy. Sales tax would be applicable to SEZ goods as applicable to other imported goods.
Taken from Article1, Artcle2, Article3

Already an investment of Rs.35,000 crores has reached SEZ - the highest in the country and exports are Rs.140,00 crores by the end of 2008 - again the highest export figures by a state
This SEZ policy is what every economist in the country wants to be a part of even Central Govt's SEZ policy. However, questions like what if a farmer is coerced by the industrialist for a heavy price and is never given. What legalities or protection exists in such a case? Is the Government then going to interfere? Will farmers then file litigations? These questions need to be answered. However, this is also true that there is very little scope for farmer lands being taken over as all 51 SEZ of Gujarat fall under Gujarat Government's land and not that of farmers (so, as of now excepting a few lands belonging to farmers which have also peacefully been acquired after giving the actual money, most of it is Government owned). Further, the Gulf region is the only coastal region in the country receiving the least rainfall, not much effort is needed to build expensive breakwaters and ports can be easily set up.

The clearing of any venture by industrialists will be handled by a single commission dedicated to this. There will be a designated development commissioner and his team which will also be a single window clearance. i.e if got approved by this team, the industry can be given a green signal. Further, if any matter concerning pollution or other such environmental concerns arise, the Central Government must grant the green signal.

This simplified single window clearance has made newer industries to set up very quickly instead of waiting for years to get approval.

Note: The Gujarat model cannot be easily replicated across the country in terms of land acquisition, but the SEZ policy of Gujarat is surely a very inspiring one for a healthy growth without the farmers fury like the one happening in Nandigram. Except for one agitation against Reliance SEZ in Jamnagar, no protest has been reported anywhere. If Government was involved-as in several SEZ cases across the country - they would sell good land for cheap prices and keep the money and not give it to farmers.

Aspect 2: New Public Private Partnerships - example

1) Kutch post earthquake in 2001 has become the hottest destination and is the largest area in Asia for wood production. With nearly the best infrastructure in place, Rs. 15,000 crores have come as an investment from private players, industrialists and NRI's. Mainly because tax holiday for 10 years has been announced by Modi in 2003.

2) Ever since Modi came into power, he realized the need for port development so that they become international gateways and inter linkages to ports from various places.

Hence, Kutch Railway Company Ltd (KRCL) was formed through a public private partnership - KRCL, with an equity base of Rs 200 crore, is a public-private partnership, owned by Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (50 per cent), the Kandla Port Trust (26 per cent), Gujarat Adani port (20 per cent) and the Gujarat Government (4 per cent).

It was primarily set up to undertake gauge conversion work between Gandhidham, Samakhali and Palanpur, and cut short the rail transportation distance between Gujarat ports and the northern hinterland by about 28 per cent.

As of now, a green signal to construct a 223-km broad gauge line between Bhiladi and Samadari has been given in 2006. Currently, the two places are connected by a meter-gauge rail track. With a broad-gauge track in place, rail connectivity distance between Gujarat ports and Western Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh would be reduced by almost 200 km as compared to the present route.

From Article4

3) Another public-private partnership is Pipapav Railways Corporation Ltd (PRCL), which was formed for construction, operation and maintenance of the 269-km long Surendranagar-Pipapav gauge conversion/new line project. PRCL has equal equity participation from Railway Ministry and Gujarat Pipapav Port Ltd.

4) Gas Grid of 1500 km is underway to transport cheaper gas (after gas discovery in Kutch basin) to ceramic and chemical industries. 600km has already been completed. All this has taken place in just a few years. Great Speed!!! Also, once completed, Modi plans to set up Asia's largest cold storage area.
Taken from Article5

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Modi Series Part 5: Why women particularly like Modi?

Aspect 1: Chiranjeevi Yojana reducing Maternal and infant Mortality Rates

If one goes by the trends of gender in voting pattern in 2007 elections, in many constituencies, women have caused the swing factor in favor of Modi. Gone are those days when women would vote for the same person which her husband, son or other family member voted for. This fact is confirmed by Women NGO's. In fact, the women factor was so strong that immediately after the BJP victory, Congress President Sonia Gandhi pressed for the need of women friendly budget.

When Modi claimed that he has done a lot to women, I felt he is much like any other ordinary politician- heavy in rhetoric, empty in facts. CNN-IBN which is pro Congress and anti-Modi once organized "Face the nation" in Ahmedabad amidst politicians and the public . Mallika Sarabhai (one of the guests) was making anti-Modi statements and the audience was very agitated at her. All across the show, Rajdeep was continuously raising women's safety issues and criticizing the government. At the same time in the audience - most of whom were youth (men and women) were screaming and when asked they said - it is very wrong to criticize Modi who has ensured highest safety for women. Of course, the sample size may be too small to assess, but the fact is that Gujarat has the least crime rate for women -something which cannot be ignored.

If Modi is indeed accused that under his rule women are unsafe, we must then question why despite having a woman Chief Minister, Delhi tops the crime rate in women. If Modi has brought in safety and law and order, why Shiela Dixit failed?.

That apart, the "Chiranjeev" scheme launched by the Gujarat government under the initiative personally taken by Modi has received accolades even outside India. Here are 2 articles confirming this. Article1 Article2. The article says Government of Gujarat received Asian Innovative Award by Singapore Economic Board and Wall Street Journal, Asia.

Scheme's purpose: Gujarat has the worst infant mortality rate in the country. While Kerala is the best in that sense 99% of baby deliveries take place in established institutions rather than non-institutions, Gujarat is at the other end of this major problem. There are only about 2000 gynecologists for 1,00,000 women in the country. And in Gujarat is far worse. In fact the infant mortality rate is 57 while that of the nation is 63.

Implementation: Initially done in 5 districts viz, Banaskantha, Dahod, Kutch, Panchmahal, and Sabarkantha. Later upon its success, it was extended to all over the state. Because the state has 3/4 of gynecologists working in private sectors and over 30-40% vacancies are in the government sector, the government first made a committee that would look for a public private partnership. According to this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between private doctors and the government. The District Health Officers (DHO) role was changed to that of supervision and monitoring the process. The private doctors were hired in a region specific to backward villages and actually in a meeting in which private doctors, medical providers, government officers, NGO all took part and collectively decided on the payment issue. Rs. 20,000 was paid in advance to every such doctor who is going to help pregnant women deliver normal babies (complex cases were also included). Later they will be paid on a fixed rate depending upon how many women they save. Also, Below Poverty Line cards were issued to women who were below poverty so that those women can avail free treatment. If BPL cards did not reach certain villages, the Sarpanch or Taluk level officer can authorize a letter stating that the women can get treatment. Also, doctors had to reimburse Rs.200 for conveyance, Rs.200 for misc expenses to women. The operations were conducted in the private hospitals themselves as government ones did not have any sufficient equipments. The list of such hospitals (private) specific to area was published in local languages and sent to all villages so that they know where to go in case of emergency.

The text below is directly taken from the article

Policy context in Gujarat has encouraged the involvement of private providers in provision of health care services. Over the years the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat has implemented a number of initiatives to foster public-private partnership to address some of the key public health issues. Some of these initiatives are as follows:
· Involving private sector in construction of PHCs and for this 39 PHCs from 12 districts have been identified.
· Five Community Health Centres (CHCs) and one PHC in Chansad are being run by community based organisations.
· Gujarat has significant presence of NGOs and out of 1500 registered NGOs 400 NGOs are working in health and allied activities. The state Government provides active support to these institutions. With assistance in RCH programme, a Mother NGO scheme was introduced to build technical skill of smaller NGOs in RCH services.

Also, Government of Gujarat explored the idea of developing and implementing maternity insurance scheme to cover the BPL families. Broad guidelines for designing and developing proposals on a maternity insurance scheme included
(a) covering treatments in designated public and private institutions on a cashless basis,
(b) sum assured would account for compensations in case of maternal death,
(c) including transport allowance and incentive to TBAs,
(d) inclusion of pre-existing conditions like hypertension and complications (arising from abortions),
(e) a sum of Rs.10,000 was assured in the baby’s name in case of maternal death. Insurance providers showed interest in offering this insurance.

However, linking and developing linkages with the private institutions and providers remained an important constraint. The institutional mechanisms to ensure this were not readily available. Also, it was envisaged that NGOs could handle IEC activities, developing awareness, develop linkages with private providers and ensure quality of care, and monitor the scheme. However, owing to the limited capacities and resources, inadequate technical capacity and scale of operations, it was not feasible to implement large scale insurance scheme. Moreover, insurance companies were also sceptic in taking up a stand alone maternity insurance scheme, as envisaged by the government. Realising the constraints, DoHFW decided to explore an option of voucher scheme.

The paper further explains the logistics and operational aspects in detail. The voucher scheme, in particular, has become popular because the patient has the right to choose the doctor. So, a healthy competition has begun amongst doctors. So, everyone is working in that spirit.

Institutional deliveries increased from 38% to 59% in just one year. Overall, generated a huge change in villages.

Good, yet problems: The paper also explores the fact that lack of specialty doctors still pose a problem in addition to improper checks in reporting fraud and negligence. Although the paper says it is good, the only complaint it has is that the District Project Control Co-ordinator should be entrusted with more powers to report fraud. Also, monitoring scheme can be more modernized.

My take: I feel technology must be used at every stage so that dependency on just written reports may decrease. It can also help in reducing fraud. Access to information by concerned officials can be done centralized so that anyone can access it. When a new change happens, there is bound to be problems and criticism. However, I feel that a state went so far in having such a scheme is an inspiration in itself. If we apply a similar plan to every other state we can drastically reduce maternal mortality rate which is 389 for every 100,00 live births in 1998 to 100 in 2010.

Aspect 2: Beti Bachao Andolan

Narendra Modi personally walked to some of the districts which were very backward in women's education and personally enrolled girls in schools. This led to all his team of IAS officers and other bureaucrats to do the same. Every year in peak summer when temperature soars to 45 Celsius, the officials personally go and take care and ensure girl child is enrolled in school. As a result, the dropout rate has come down to 3% from 49% within 4 years.

Also, he launched a state wide campaign in telling people about not to discriminate in gender on babies. He personally toured all villages, not during elections time, but in 2006 when the committee presented a report to him. This shows he was very serious in this matter and took personal interest. Usually what happens is politicians make such statements in one place and expect officials to spread in various places, money is given, but in reality no work is done. In that context, Modi personally intervened is a good aspect of his leadership.


Ok...All these schemes really worked well because Modi was personally involved and government officials were scared of him as he could sack them when they were proved incompetent. What happens in the absence of him? I guess the guarantee that these officials will work with the same commitment is unsure. However, these steps are sure to go down a long way in changing the society. I had also read some where about "Naari" Adalats where only women's cases are fought exist in Gujarat. I am not too sure on the ground if they exist.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Narendra Modi: One of the best CM's of Independent India

The title would provoke many people because Narendra Modi was the one who was responsible for 2002 post-Godhra riots. Unfortunate and ghastly were those events. Modi had become a villain, a mass murderer overnight. Media over hyped him than what was just necessary w.r.t Godhra and never bothered to cover his government's achievements. To what extent was his machinery involved in Godhra is a contentious issue.

However, he has become a very different personality today. Having won 3 times, he is the 3rd time CM in a row in Gujarat. It is shocking how even Muslims in many regions, voted for Modi. Congress lost heavily (of course, it won Godhra seat) - many of them were Muslim leaders too.

The reasons for his victory was purely because of his governance. You might wonder what he did - Did he follow SM Krishna style of functioning? Did he adopt Chandrababu Naidu style of functioning? The answer is - Different from both, but many ideas similar to Naidu. He targeted his governance primarily at the rural level. His policies benefited the farmers at large - which sets him apart from both Naidu and S.M.Krishna. As far as urban development is concerned, a lot of industries had already been established in Gujarat and so urban areas considerably improved in terms of labor, employment etc.

Strict vigilance, reduction in red tapism, appointment of efficient bureaucrats, authoritarian style of functioning, direct contact with people made Modi become a role model. SWAGAT (State-wide Attention on Grievances by Application of Technology) is a unique program by which people interact with Modi directly - much like that of Chandrababu Naidu.

Consistently ranked as the best CM for 5 years in a row by India Today-OMG Poll, he has proved himself to be one of the best Chief Ministers of Independent India. The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation,headed by Sonia Gandhi, looking into the best performing states called Gujarat a role model and the best governed state. Many of his schemes like that of direct talk with people about their grievances against government officials resemble that of Naidu. However, his own initiative in ensuring rural progress is applaudable. His personal intervention in solving some of the basic problems faced across India, namely water and electricity have become success stories on their own. Following these many states have started to make changes on similar patterns. The National Commission of Farmers has praised Gujarat governance as a role model.

The fact that even leaders like Naidu and S.M. Krishna failed was mainly due to agricultural neglect. No doubt they performed well, improved bureaucracy, made good roads etc. The lack of ground work for development in agriculture cost them their own seats.

Even after winning for the 3rd time, he has not sat quiet. He has embarked upon rural broadband connectivity to ensure that farmers get instant information about market prices, crop patterns, loan information, distant learning, telemedicine, etc. Here's the article proving implementation in several parts - no longer a dream.

A large number of Gujarati NRI's in US have constantly made a propaganda to people in Gujarat to support Modi because the large scale money they deposited gave good benefits to them. An area like Kutch which had witnessed earthquake has become most developed city in Gujarat. How? Because of speedy implementation of buildings and apartments from money got from NRI's.

Apart from NRI's let's not forget that literacy rate in Gujarat is 70% and rural literacy is itself 69%. This is much higher than national rural average and many other states. Which means that unlike Bihar, U.P, Jharkhand, Orissa people are more advanced in terms of their thinking. The high literacy has always given rise to many small scale and medium industries. So, people were not fools to simply vote the CM 3rd time in a row. He has definitely delivered and so people are happy. The real benefits have reached everyone - from the farmers to middle class to rich business units.

Even big corporates have appreciated Modi. In fact Mukesh Ambani who is very far from politics( unlike his brother Anil) told Modi has shown what many could not have done in 50 years. He called him a leader who has proven through implementation. Ratan Tata, said, "You are stupid if u have not invested in Gujarat". In fact Leading Economist Prof. Swaminathan once told Gujarat economic model must be replicated across India. He appreciated the fact that the state has proved how some of the ailing problems since decades can be solved in a short time span.

Modi followed a simple style of governance. He used the same machinery, same rules and regulation, same constitution. What he did different was to involve people at various stages of implementation. In a speech he said - "I just made policies, gave aid, people who had the talent to make money made money and I only distributed it. This is how government interference should be. It should not create wealth, rather distribute. Unless people are involved in various schemes, government can never deliver 100%". This open acceptance is a honest one. He could have said it was only because of him. He instead chose to explain how people really got involved and success was achieved due to joint effort.

Given below, is a series of Articles about how his governance made sea changes in the state.

Note: I found out materials from a lot of sources - all of which (excepting one or two) from non-governmental documents. I didn't want to deliberately choose because the facts could have been over hyped.

Modi Series Part4: Unique Government initiative to solve water problem

Saurashtra is an area which doesn't have any river flowing through it and when it rains, water just reaches Arabian Sea. Consequently people were depending upon underground water and had to use electric pumpsets for the same. This led to reduction of water table and increase in electricity usage. As water table depleted, water became scarce and people were dying. There are many areas in Gujarat that experiences famine in 7 out of 10 years.

The Government under the leadership of Modi had already introduced "Jalyatra" from 2002 much like that of "Neeru Meeru" scheme in Andhra Pradesh. The objective of the scheme was to raise awareness about how water harvesting can be done using some traditional techniques. These techniques help conserve water whenever it rains so that in future one can use the stored water.

Under a unique programme by the Government called - "Build Your Own Dam", people built 10,000 small check dams. The government bore 60% of cost while the villagers shouldered the remaining through voluntary labor. The condition is that a group of atleast 11 farmers must together apply for a proposal with the Water Resources ministry. A feasibility study would be done by a set of scientists - both from NGO and Govt sources. Once approved, money was sent directly and check dam was constructed with inputs from various dam experts at the site. Because labor was voluntary, people agreed readily and did the work. This is a classic case of people participation in a movement meant to people.

When Narendra Modi said in a speech that without people, government cannot do anything, he really meant by those words. He told government role should be that like that of facilitator and not the actual doer. In this case the government just offered financial aid while the actual implementation was done by people themselves.

The efforts paid off. When it rained in 2002 and 2003, there was enough water that got collected that they used it for all purposes. In fact, the dams even overflowed when cyclones hit Gujarat.

BOYD is a unique program because for the first time Government played a very active role in 1)spreading awareness 2)giving the right aid to people.

BOYD scheme seems more efficient than Neeru Meeru because the latter did a good job of awareness, but was not too successful in giving the right resources to people.

In fact, look at these figures:

VANKIA (Jamnagar): Received just 32 cm of rain against the normal 50 cm but its 1,500 wells are full, thanks to the 18 check dams.

PARAPIPALIA (Rajkot): Nine dams helped the first rains to revive all the village handpumps.

MUDILA (Jamnagar): Villagers had to buy water for constructing the five dams. Now all 100 wells in the village are full.

MUNJKA (Rajkot): Never saw a good harvest in years. But the 11 dams have now made that possible by raising the water table.

Source: India Today.

In the country, where lots of money is being spent in feasibility study of interlinking of rivers, Gujarat Government was able to achieve through people's participation. This scheme is called "Sujalam Sufalam" scheme. The rivers of Central and South Gujarat were interconnected and water was supplied to Western Gujarat.

Both interlinking of rivers and check dam construction - so many in just 5 years- is a record. It is people's power under one leader.

So, what could have taken few months in implementation took 50 years for Central Govt to come out with a policy, forget implementation of rain water harvesting. In fact, to know more about how this policy started in 1980 and then became a real law under Vajpayee's rule, click here

Note that building big dams and interlinking of large rivers are a great solution, but requires huge labor, costs and most importantly time. It is a long term solution. Considering the fact how our bureaucracy works, it is an impossible solution. Gujarat model inspires everyone. A mix of people and state government helped them achieve a reality the poor Gujarati farmers only dreamt of.

The scheme draws inspiration from a voluntary movement started by Mansukh Suvagiya and Mathur Savani for building check dams to replenish the fast-depleting ground water in the region. The green signal to implement was done by Keshubhai Patel, but the speed at which bureaucratic red tape dependency was removed for faster implementation was done by Modi himself.

My personal take: Such schemes must be implemented by every State Government in co-ordination with local irrigation officers or Sarpanchs rather than Government itself. The decision making by the Government while the implementation by people has made Gujarati people confident of solving their water problems themselves.

My article -click here also gives numerous examples where rain water harvesting and check dams have been deployed in various states.

A little History on Rain Water Harvesting: Policy and implementation

Rain water harvesting is not new in India. It has been in practice from the days of Indus Valley Civilization or going by some evidence as early as 4500 B.C in the Thar desert. Post independent India in 1980 for the first time during 6th Five Year Plan, Indira Gandhi had come with a Water Policy that involved apart from various schemes, development of rain water harvesting schemes enabling people to have water supply in India by 2005. 20 years have passed and the solution proposed has not reached everyone. In Vajpayee's governance, the same policy was revised in 2002 and included phrases "community participation" and "people" for achieving the same. The policy fell short of giving definite ways of achieving the same. It also failed to answer what government is going to do in this, what role NGO's will be playing, what financial assistance will be given etc. As a usual rhetoric, the amount of money earmarked for this was increased and announced. One good thing was that the Policy made Centre directly involve money transfer to groups interested in implementing the rain water harvesting techniques. Role that will be played by "local communities" was largely unanswered.

Many states namely Haryana, TamilNadu, Gujarat, some parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had already experimented with rain water harvesting scheme where simple techniques were used to conserve rain water for future usage when monsoons fail. The schemes were very successful. It helped poor farmers conserve water, save on electricity and reduced the dependence on monsoons. Some schemes were sponsored by Central Govt, State Govt and NGO's. Together, Karnataka and Andhra had taken lead in 1983-84 and 1995-96.

In 1999-2000, Chandrababu Naidu introduced "Neeru-Meeru" scheme and made it a campaign. He sent government offices, NGO's, scientists etc and made people aware of the mechanisms they can adopt to conserve water, help replenish water table, continue to make soil fertile. The scheme was a huge success. Of course, government alloted money, spread awareness, raised water table levels and there are many success stories of the same.

However, it must be noted that the scheme was largely dependent on government, although it did achieve success only because of the leadership of Naidu and the I.A.S. officers he chose.

The impact of this (followed by Gujarat having even better model to achieve the same) today is Haryana, Karnataka, TamilNadu have made rain water harvesting management mandatory in homes/buildings.

In TamilNadu, rain water harvesting center was opened in Chennai with the personal intervention by Jayalalitha after leading economist Prof. Swaminathan insisted on having one as Chennai was prone to heavy downpour every year. She was keen on opening the same in her residence, but finally agreed to have it in the center of the city. This center is a live laboratory that explains how people can conserve water through demos. It is free for people to go and see.

In Karnataka, Heggadadevanakote in Mysore district has the maximum number of rain harvesting systems installed. In Bangalore, it is mandatory for houses to have rain water harvesting systems.

In Haryana, you cannot have your house plan approved without a proper rain water harvesting scheme in place

It is largely left to people as to how they will utilize this simple, yet, powerful way to manage and store water.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Modi Series Part3: Innovative way to supply 24*7 power to rural areas

During 2002-2003, Modi increased power tariffs on farmers. This created an uproar and BJP's BKS unit i.e Bhartiya Kisan Sangh unit criticised him badly. He also was so strict that he asked police officials to arrest all farmers who stole power from power lines. This made him an anti-farmer politician. However, when the issue was analyzed in another way, Energy and Petrochemicals Ministry reported to Modi that the problem doesn't lie with farmer, but the pattern of power supply given to villages. The problem was that government was giving uninterrupted 14 hour supply of power and only a single feeder was used both for rural household and farmlands for irrigation. So, a farmer was using pumpset to continuously draw power for 12/14 hours for his lands. The rural household never got electricity after this continuous power consumption. Hence, they stole power. The Gujarat Electricity Board was having losses of Rs.1900 crore. When asked for a solution, the officials replied that if 2 individual feeders are used, one for irrigation and one for household, then power theft will be avoided and at the same time farmers will get power supply for lands and their homes.

Modi wanted to score here a point. He asked to try this on a sample of 50 villages. The results were shocking. Within a year the losses dropped to 935 crores. Now, he wanted this to be done across all villages in Gujarat. In the assembly once Modi spoke that in 1000 days he wants this to be done and everybody said it was impossible. In fact, Congress leader, Waghela advised Modi not to make tall claims. However, Modi went ahead.

Plan of Action: Renamed Gujarat Electricity Board as Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL). This was now unbundled into 6 companies - 4 for distribution, one for transmission and one for generation. Within 30 months, 56,599 km long cables and 12,621 new transformers were laid with a total cost of Rs.15,000 Crore. Can you believe in just "30 months"? This is not fiction. This is not simply statistics. This is a reality. This is a dream that people wished for years to come true.

Scheme: Rural household will get 3 phase uninterrupted 24 hour power supply and 8 hours uninterrupted power supply for irrigational purposes separately. In a record time of 30 months, a miracle was seen. Digital electronic meters were used to avoid power thefts. Within 2 years, the revenue was +187 crores. In 2008, it is estimated to be Rs.400 crores.

Reality: There are still few villages not received this power supply like Anand, although their percentage is 10%. Congress anyways made big issue of even this 10%. Power theft happens,but in very few places. The plan is a grand success. On Nov 13, 2006 when electrification was complete and all 18,065 villages (even if we remove a few hundred which have not yet received) received it, Modi invited APJ Kalam to inaugurate the same in Champaner in Panchmahal district. Here is the Economic Times article on this. Gujarat became the first state to have 24*7 electrification of rural households. Click here to see what an Indian in the US felt when he went to a village in Gujarat after several years.

Despite power generation to villages, Modi knows that he is still far away from the projected demand. Hence, to generate more power he has signed MoU's with private players like Adani, Essar, Tatas etc. In fact the article says that despite erratic supply of power in many villages, the fact that power has reached so many villages in record time of 30 months is applaudable.

In one of the hoardings, the caption is "If you want Gujarat to become Japan, talk about development. If you want to turn Gujarat into Bihar, talk about casteism"


In a study done by Institute of Rural Management, Anand, IRMA, it is claimed that 33% rural to urban migration has stopped ever since electricity reached villages. It is simple - if electricity is available 24 hours in homes, farmers can involve in small businesses and earn additional income. Presence of electricity creates immense opportunities. Many mini businesses have also employed farmers for some small tasks (of course with money for doing them) because there is electricity. In fact Abdul Kalam while inaugurating the Jyotigram scheme told - "With this important infrastructure in place, Gujarat can think of complementing it with the connectivity’s such as physical connectivity, electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity to the rural complexes, leading to economic connectivity of the village complexes. "

My point: There are no doubt failures in some villages, but the fact that today Gujarat surpasses even Andhra Pradesh in terms of electrification and the fact that it has become first in the country to achieve 3 phase (not just single phase) rural electrification is a miracle in itself!!

Kudos to Mr. Modi. Finally I would like to write that the success of this plan will continue to depend on what prices farmers will continue to pay in terms of usage. In other words, when power tariffs become higher, how will the government manage to convince the farmers and ensure that they have enough money to pay them.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Modi Series Part 2: Real change in agricultural sector

Aspect 1: Legalizing the market for high yielding seeds:

A Section of farmers in Gujarat had got some "illegal" Bt cotton seeds i.e genetically modified seeds that produced high yields of cotton. When the Central Government's body Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) came to know about this, they immediately asked the farmers to destroy them. The farmers resisted because it was for the first time that such seeds produced high quality of cotton. In March that year, GEAC itself approved for legal use of Bt Seeds in 6 states viz, Karnataka, Gujarat, MP, AP,Maharashtra and TN. However, other states unlike Gujarat began to see problems associated with it. The quality of this Bt Seed is that it resists bollworm, a major headache for cotton farmers. While no pesticide is needed if Bt is itself used, still some pesticide must be used for its cultivation. The result: net increase in the cost of seed, in fact, higher than the normal seeds. However the yield is very good. The use of this seed also has side effects on soil. It will slowly make it less cultivatable. Remember, cotton also requires sufficient amount of water and farmers are heavily dependent on monsoons even today.

Many farmers were taken into this promise that government would give support w.r.t water. However, only Gujarat succeeded in giving this support. This was largely because of Modi. Fortunately, there were continuous monsoons for 4 years when this seed was planted and yield doubled. But in order to ensure water is got by the farmers even during failure of monsoons, Modi devised a strategy. He wanted to provide electricity so that through pumps or other such machines they can use stored water. So, he started electrification scheme exclusively for villages producing difficult crops like cotton. Also, in order to ensure that cotton is processed in fine quality, he signed agreements with Chinese and brought ginning machines. They were available for farmers at subsidized prices and electricity was continuously provided. 40% of land became favourable for cotton because of one green signal to use Bt Seeds and continuous supply of water through building small check dams in record time. Unlike Maharashtra which produces next highest amount of cotton, the area of cultivable land is just 3%. What a starking contrast !!.

Also, contract farming involving private participation has immensely benefited the farmers , in general. You can call it as corporate friendly politics, I call it reality of governance.

The impact was high yield and high profit crops produced with less dependency on monsoon. The farmers were happy. They started earning roughly Rs.60,000 per acre.

My final point: If Bt cotton yields, Modi doesn't become great. He becomes an efficient government officer because he ensured that water is supplied to farmers. The availability of water and uninterrupted power supply (although 8 hours may be a shorter duration) is itself going to help farmers in a long way not just to grow cotton, but everything else. Remember that farmer suicides do happen in Gujarat, but on a very low scale because the farmers are getting good price. However, despite all this, still at some places there are issues of compensation not reached. click here for this article
I think one should be patient enough as perfection cannot be achieved at one stretch.

Also, it must be noted that if there is no check for prices of seeds done on a regulated basis, any increase in them will lead to incurring costs on farmers. This will be detrimental in the long run. Also, the fact that farmers are being taxed and no free electricity is given is a good step. Usually when you start with free electricity, it's a sop to farmers and when a party comes to power, it will make it non-free. Hence, taking money from the beginning for electricity will be a good tool instead of blindly raising expectations of the farmers. The fact that electricity theft is being controlled from the beginning is a giant step forward.

I appreciate Narendra Modi and the people of Gujarat must be proud of him for some bold realities he has ensured in helping all sections of the society. Under him agriculture has seen 12.5% growth while the national growth is a mere 3%. Remarkable..!!!

Aspect 2: Setting up of 4 Agricultural Universities to give direct advice to farmers

Usually one would wonder what's the use of just setting up agricultural universities. There was only one centralized university in Gujarat that was doing research in how to achieve better land production and yield. This was too centralized and was of no use to farmers. The Government had to intervene every time to allow the results to reach farmers, which they eventually never did.

Scheme: Not just proposal, but set up 4 such universities - Anand, Dantivada, Navsari and Junagadh. All of them came up in just 1 year. What a pace!! The scientists get incentives from the government while they help farmers in specific villages.

How these are helping: Each university is set up in a region which is specific to a specific kind of agricultural produce. The research would focus on problems and solutions. Not just that. The scientists need to involve farmers. They go every year to organize Krishi Yatra to specific villages. They transfer their knowledge of research. They advise them on crop patterns, kind of fertilizers need to be used, quantity of pesticides that need to be used, quality of seeds that needs to be sown and many other such aspects.

Impact: The farmers have begun to be in touch with technology and new research. A unique program, heard nowhere is an enough daunting step taken by Modi. Modi is just facilitator, not an innovator. But who said, a leader should innovate and not just lead? A leader must lead perfectly taking the right people and this is what Modi has done. He has not innovated and he clearly says in his speeches that he made people participate in governance and hence he is successful. This candid admission is a rare quality in politicians.

Aspect 3: Creation of Special Agriculture Zones (SAZ)/Agricultural Export Zones

Even when NDA government decided in National Policy and gave a green signal to setting up of Special Agricultural Zones in 2002 (good vision), state wise, no state took it seriously as much as Gujarat. Modi led a team of experts, agricultural scientists, research analysts to come with the idea of Special Agricultural Zones.

What do these mean: These zones specialize in how to harvest, pre-harvest certain kind of produce and train farmers how to bring in quality (health and hygiene), not just quantity. Also, such zones handle maintenance and storage of the produce so that they are packaged well and exported. Also, manuals are prepared in local languages and distributes free to farmers about crop harvesting in case they are not able to attend the demos.

Scheme and Implementation: 3 Agrizones set up:
  1. In South and Central Gujarat for vegetable and Mangoes
  2. In Saurashtra for onions (white and red)
  3. In Saurashtra for sesame seeds
Impact: Because this is purely an interaction between farmers and scientists, government officers and agencies are not involved. This however does not guarantee that they would do their jobs well. However, the chance of success is much higher than with the involvement of government officers. The eminent question is how serious are the scientists in doing this job? At the same time, will they mandatorily help farmers? If not, does government take action on such scientists. I think, it is trivializing a giant leap with a narrow scope of questions. At least, the fact that government has not set up committees after committees just to study. Modi has ensured it becomes ground reality. One should not forget that Gujarat is highly enterpreneural in spirit. So, they survive only on exports. So ensuring quality will give rich dividends. Mr. Manmohan Singh, will you hear to this??

Aspect 4: The first state to aggressively use Soil Health Cards

In US, the practise of using soil health cards has been in use for quite a while. On just the basic part of it, it contains chemistry, physics and micro nutrient composition details of a particular soil. For a particular soil, a soil health cards carry the details such as - quality of the soil, what kind of fertilizer can this soil accept, what quantity of fertilizer this soil can accept, amount of pesticides that need to be used etc. These cards are specific to a soil and needs constant update.

When Tamil Nadu university first came with Soil Health Cards way back in 2003, it was then proposed to be implemented as a part of policy making at the centre. But it did not do so. UPA government has made it compulsory for many states now to use these cards. Gujarat was way ahead in this as early as 2004. Modi ensured that these soil cards are developed after testing all kinds of soils in the state.

In fact, Gujarat became the first state to have conducted a complete soil study and then the inputs were used to develop soil cards indigeniously. These cards made by scientists are made as per laws to be given free to farmers. Accordingly farmers have availed this from various distribution centers, Kisan melas etc and have understood the right quantity of fertilizers that need to be used in the field. The scheme is highly successful and because no government machinery is involved, efficiency was found to be much higher.

Initially the government involved a team of scientists and conducted the soil study in 18,000 villages. Then a law was made that the scientists will be working at every such village where some crop is grown. They will give personal assistance as and when required. So, even if the soil card in the local language cannot convey anything, scientist would help farmers.

Impact: 2,00,000 soil cards distributed. Agricultural scientists, agricultural officers, horticultural scientits all involved today at village, taluk and district levels, giving personal guidance to farmers. It is very essential that farmers know the right quantity of Urea they need to use in the fields. Only then soil quality will be maintained and better yield can be expected. In fact, Punjab and Haryana have now started the soil cards usage after seeing success in Gujarat and made it compulsory for farmers to have it. Perhaps, if Punjab had the fortune of using Soil health cards in 60's when Green Revolution took place, it would not have to see a day today where soil quality has become terribly bad due to excess fertilizer usage.

Aspect 5: Credit, Insurance and Financial Support

For the first time, a state in India has come with concept of insuring the farmers. Gujarat has taken the lead. Government has started insurance programs to help farmers against crops which cannot be grown at the time of famine/drought, and also accidental insurances.

The scheme no doubt is good. In practice, the real question is - Will this money reach the farmer in case of such an event? I guess this also needs to be decentalized in some way. Anyways, at least a scheme of this kind being introduced only indicates the seriousness of a government to help farmers.

My final point:

No wonder why the Father of Green Revolution, M.S. Swaminathan has applauded Gujarat Government for having taken such pro active steps so quickly and efficiently. Even when Manmohan Singh is thinking about implementation of the recommendations of National Commision of Farmers (set up by himself), Gujarat under Modi has gone way ahead in its implementation. So, Mr. Singh, stop thinking, start acting. You are a good economist, not a good leader. Modi is not a good economist, but a good leader to have brought in right people and put them in right places.


Modi Series Part1 : Sea-change in judicial System

In 2004, Modi attended a conference of Supreme Courts and High Court judges conference. The highlight of the conference was the over burden of pending cases and how to solve them. They were worried. A day earlier, Modi fully aware of the conference had come with a 3 step proposal. He said the same in the conference:

1) Set up evening courts
2) Reduce number of vacation hours
3) Increase daily working hours

Everyone welcomed it. It came from a person whose own government's case (allegation of involvement of Godhra massacre) is still pending in Supreme Court and everyone was shocked. This can be done only by a person who has guts to change something.

Result: To show that he was serious about this, he set up the first Evening court in Gujarat and asked the Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabarwal to inaugurate and it was on Nehru's birthday on Nov 14th.

Purpose of evening court: To solve 8 types of cases including cases under the Motor Vehicles Act, criminal cases punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, cases under the Industrial Disputes Act and the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, and civil cases where the claim is less than Rs 1 lakh.

Process of doing this: Modi convened the meeting of all High Court judges and other lawyers and came up with a framework which Modi accepted and gave a green signal. The framework is this -Judges, each staff meber (including typist, toilet cleaner, etc), lawyers everyone will get 25% hike per month. If they reduce the vacation hours, they will be paid even more. The working hours were fixed - 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm.

Target: small farmers, workers and family members who cannot take leave from work during the day hours to attend court proceedings

Groundwork: With a sound and efficient machinery at his hand, Modi set up 44 evening courts in over 12 districts of Gujarat including Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot.

Impact: disposed 39,000 cases within 1 year. TamilNadu is the second state already having evening courts and Delhi is the third. TamilNadu has 4 courts in Chennai, one in Madurai,Salem, Tiruchirapalli each. Because this is a state subject, I hope every other state esp- Uttar Pradesh which has a backlog of 4.74 million cases. Maharashtra which has a backlog of 3.32 million cases in its lower courts, West Bengal which has 1.9 million, Bihar 1.2 million, Karnataka 1.08 million and Rajasthan 1.05 million take this step.

Logic: Use existing staff and not create new staff.


My take on this:

To make some of the changes in our system an initiative from the Government is a must and this is unfortunate. The process of decentralization and privatization first was introduced by Manhmohan Singh and then rapidly carried out by Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. As far as judicial process is concerned, an eminent lawyer like Arun Jaitley introduced the concept of "Fast Track" courts by which many pending cases can be speedily delivered. The system is working fine. But, one question which I often ask - Can the system help the mentality many people have in bribing and turning cases in their favour or against them? This cannot be changed. To completely blame Government machinery for that is also not correct. However, a move in which at least more time is alloted to handle several cases only ensures that number of such pending cases can come down.

The analogy is this: When a computer is scheduled to do work, the scheduler has to pick a job amongst many. There is one algorithm which picks the shortest job first and then goes to longer. This algorithm does not ensure that the shortest job when done is completely finished. If it is not finished, it can be introduced again. But giving it the same priority as that of another job which requires more time is inefficient. The fast track courts also function with the same purpose. However, what is the guarantee that justice is delivered? What is the guarantee that the honest people win the case? This has more to do with how lawyers handle the case. This is a problem across all courts even in the US. Those who are in power or rich can win the case.

But I appreciate the fact that for the first time an idea is brought into reality. Whether Arun Jaitley introduced or Narendra Modi introduced is not an issue...The fact that they are in reality and helping a large people needs to be applauded.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Chi-Chi"(Govinda) is "Chee-Chee" (i.e slang scolding remark)

What has made Indian politics more infernal and humiliating than corrupt and inefficient politicians? Answer: Film celebrities that enter politics. As days progress they are invisible in their own constituencies, but their iridescent attitude is visible. They are too irresolute and mercurial. No one can trust them and they become even worse than underworld dons. They are elected by people, who are the biggest fools. This link below gives an estimate of Govinda's parliamentary presence.

Click here for the statistics of presence of Govinda

Click here for the interview made by Govinda given soon after his victory

In the interview he says he will visit temples to thank God for fulfilling his mannat. I have one mannat now. Give people the power of logic of not voting such irresponsible people. Of the 3 promises not one is fulfilled or even attempted to be solved.

His attendance is even worse than college students who bunk their classes. His explanation on the eve of Mumbai floods in 2005/06 was so ludicrous. When asked why he did not do anything about helping people in such a grave situation, he remarked that he himself could not get out of his apartment and so no help was possible. I cannot believe this is a statement that came out of the same Govinda who impressed people with his acting style. This lethargic attitude and remark only has deepened my hate for such people or film celebrities who do not know anything about politics and have no heart even when people's hearts are bleeding. This mortification of public office is highly condemnable. I reprobate such remiss attitude.

People should never vote for film celebrities. One of the only celebrity to have worked something really hard was Late Sunil Dutt. The others I remember are NTR and MGR. Amongst a sample size of 100 film celebrities there are hardly 3 or 4 who are sincere about the country, society and foremost their own constituency from where they are elected. Shame on Jayaprada, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini who don't even speak out what they intend to do in their constituency. Their silence is far more dangerous than fake promises made by other politicians who are not from film world.

What India is Rahul discovering?

I wonder what Congress party's "Discover India" is all about. Which India is Rahul Gandhi all set to discover? Is it the India which his grandmom started with "Garibi Hatao", but never did eliminate even after being in power for 16 years? Is it India which his dad Rajiv promised, but failed to change it or on the contrary the secular india which Rajiv made communal (Shah Bano Case and reopening Babri Masjid for Hindus)? Or is it India which his mom campaigned for "Aaam admi", but failed miserably? Or is it India in which he sees he becoming future PM? Or is it "Discovery of India" written by Nehru?

The country today has become very complex in voting patterns and the voter is increasingly becoming choosy and smart. All this publicity stunts with media at the forefront is the grand old strategy of Congress for 50 years to grab power. It was the media that highlighted Indira's campaign for Harijan massacre that brought her back to power. Who knows that the present media heavily covering non-realistic Rahul Discovery India campaign will make him a real hero? A real hero ironic to its meaning. India Discovery is Rahul's Discovery of "Desh ki Satta ki kursi". What Congress is all set is to discover Rahul Gandhi's acceptability amongst "aam aadmi" which it knows has failed to please. Rahul is no match for Rajiv. No doubt, Rajiv failed, but he did change some things, but Rahul has not helped even Amethi as much as he claims. He only speaks much like any other typical politician found in all parties. Both Sonia and Rahul know only to speak and do something only meager and expect bounty full of votes. With media heavily campaigning for Rahul more than Rahul campaigning for votes will ensure Rahul is next PM. With slogans and statements like "Rahul: Is he the new face of India?", all that the media is doing is masking the failures of UPA government. Instead of highlighting where National Rural Employment Guarantee has failed, how the waiving of loans is not going to help farmers in anyway, media is making Rahul an iconic figure.