News Wrap


India’s Lok Sabha has passed the ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012’, replacing the Land Acquisition Act (1894). Land can be acquired by government for private and public-private-partnership (PPP) projects, provided there is 80% consent of landowners and 70% for PPP. Affected families will get four times the market value of land acquired in rural areas, and two times in urban areas. Land losers and livelihood losers will also get compensation. The Land Bill seeks to give a fair dealt to farmers wanting to sell their land, especially, multi-crop land. In the case of arable land, the policy to be adopted has been left to the state governments. Affected families are to be identified through a social-impact assessment. Tenants and share-croppers have been included among beneficiaries for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. The new rules will apply retrospectively to cases where no land acquisition award has been made. Rules apply to land acquisition for special economic zones as well. Farmers could be short changed by the circle rates for compensation. The all cash compensation may fail to compensate loss of livelihood. The new law could push cost and time frame of setting up new enterprises.

Food Security
The Food Security Bill, as passed by India’s Lok Sabha, seeks to entitle 67% of India’s population, about 800 million people to subsidised food. There are questions relating to the future availability of food, financing of the ambitious programme, and its long term impact on farming practices. 75% of rural and 50% of urban population are to receive 5kg of wheat, rice and coarse cereals at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1 a kg respectively. Pulses and edible oils are excluded as India lacks supply of these. Farmers might be dissuaded from growing cash crops, as the government will procure more grains. If denied the service, the beneficiaries have the right to take the government to court. The scheme is being implemented through existing ration shops. There are plans to later shift it to a modern Public Distribution System (PDS), that works on biometric ration cards, while the government’s annual procurement is average 60 metric tons, the grain required to cover the whole population is estimated at 77 metric tons. The food subsidy will rise from present Rs 90,000 crore to over Rs 130,000 crore. The fiscal deficit at 4.8% of GDP will also increase, with the rise in food subsidy.

Separate Homelands
Different ethnic tribes in Assam, Garos in Meghalaya and Kukis in Manipur are pursuing their demands for a separate homeland. For more than nine years, cadres of the Achik National Volunteers Council (Meghalaya), the National Democratic Front of Boroland and the Jamatiya faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura are holed up in different designated camps. The Naga outfit the NSCN (IM) is asserting itself as a ‘‘de facto’’ government and claiming rights to impose ‘‘taxes’’ on various essential commodities. They plead that this should not be interpreted as extortion, or violation of the cease-fire ground rules. Rampant extortion and intimidation has vitiated the atmosphere in Nagaland. Alongside militant cadres, imposters in rebel grab and anti-social elements continue to target defenceless civilians, businessmen, traders and truck owners. The ex-Mizo National Army Association is demanding full implementation of the Mizo Accord (June 1986), establishment of a high court, and withdrawal of criminal cases in Manipur. The demand includes Rs 15 lac each for the returnees’ rehabilitation and permanent jobs. Autonomy under the schedule of the constitution ensures land protection, and safeguards language and culture. But autonomous areas do not receive funds directly from the centre.

tax Haven in Tibet
Chinese cities compete for investors and private equity funds. The government of Shannan prefecture, which lies in Tibet, some 3600 metres above sea level, at the foot of the Himalays, between Lhasa and the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, is offering generous tax breaks and other attractions, as a friendly haven for equity funds and investment companies. Of the 300,000 people in Shannan, known as Lhoka in Tibetan, more than 90% are of Tibetan ethnicity. The investment companies that have been lured to Shannan, are almost entirely managed by Han Chinese, consistent with the Chinese government’s strategy of encouraging Han to populate areas, inhabited by minority groups. Tibet has set the corporate tax rate for investors at just 15%, well below the national norm of 25%. Foreign private equity firms, with renminbi funds in China, are being allowed to base themselves in Tibet. Chinese private equity funds are establishing themselves in Tibet. Tibet is also emerging as a haven for investors who wish to limit their taxes when selling off shares.

Mosque shut in Colombo
Traditionally ethnic tensions have occurred in Sri Lanka between the largely Buddhist majority Sinhalese, who make up about three-quarters of the island’s 20 million residents, and its minority Tamils. After the two-decade-old civil war ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan government put a lot of emphasis on Sinhala nationalism, that has empowered Buddhist monks. During 2013, the island witnessed a series of violent attacks against muslims, propagated by extremist Buddhist groups, often led by monks from an organization known as Bodu Bala Sena. In mid August 2013, Muslim groups in Sri Lanka agreed to close a controversial mosque, in the capital Colombo, that had been the centre of clashes with Buddhist groups. Besides the focus on alleged war crimes committed by the government of president Mahinda Rajapaksa, there are concerns about ongoing threats to minority groups. Although the disputes are not directly connected, the violence mirrors tensions between Buddhist and Muslim groups, elsewhere in Asia.

Vol. 46, No. 18, Nov 10 - 16, 2013

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