The 2G octopus will continue to feed

The land acquisition issue continues to fester. There is chaos in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Farmers are agitating, demanding extra compensation for land acquired from them a decade ago. Political parties are trying to get mileage out of this with rhetoric and vague promises. But, till date, no politician has managed to benefit from this problem, with the notable exception of Mamata Banerjee, of course. The Trinamul Congress leader dismantled the decades-old Left domination in West Bengal with a sustained political campaign that peaked in Nandigram and Singur.
The fact is that there are no easy solutions to the issue of land acquisition. But the Land Acquisition Bill is a first step in the right direction and it cannot be postponed any longer. All political parties in power, both at the Centre and in the states, have a lot at stake. Political futures depend on how leaders and their parties handle this.
The “land grab” of the last decade has, in many cases, contributed substantially to the wealth of political parties, and in particular of those in positions of power at the Centre and in the states. To my mind, most of the criminality we witness today is linked to land transactions and the weakness of the system to deliver timely justice. The situation may appear to be grave in Uttar Pradesh but is it any different in other states?
If and when the bill is passed, we may be able to deal with the present and the future but what happens to those who have suffered in the recent past due to the high-handed attitude of politicians and officials?
There was much talk of discretionary quotas of state and Central governments being cancelled. These cancellations should be done at the earliest; it is a pity that all VIP housing projects, land allocated to charitable trusts and for educational purposes are at the expense of the poor and the aam aadmi. We often talk of withdrawing subsidy for cooking gas and kerosene but how often do we speak of stopping “benefits” enjoyed by those in power and their immediate friends — be they in industry, education, social service or the media? Change is in the air and a good and effective government anticipates events and legislates for the future. But, sadly, we are decades away from governance with that kind of reflex. Our governments act only when they are forced by a wave of public opinion.

The 2G octopus continues to thrash around and the legal missiles being fired at the Prime Minister, ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram, and the attorney-general may make headlines but they carry little conviction. On the A. Raja issue there are several questions which need to be answered, in particular about the death of his aide Sadiq Batcha. Was it a case of suicide or murder? Was Batcha silenced?
The 2G scam will continue to hurt and maim those involved. The DMK “family firm” of former Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Karunanidhi is already under pressure thanks to their activities in Tamil Nadu. It’s no surprise that interrogations and arrests are taking place. Two factions of the family, one represented by K. Kanimozhi and Mr Raja and the other by the Maran brothers, have been eliminated from the power play. Now the battle is between the brothers Stalin and Azhagiri. Land scams and other issues will haunt the DMK and many prominent leaders of the DMK will be implicated sooner than you think.
AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa is no novice in politics; she is fully aware of the political implications of the family feud. The Congress looks helpless in the matter, as its presence in the state is limited. But it cannot take the DMK or the AIADMK for granted because of the coalition support it may need in the future.
Corruption is an issue which affects all parties and now it is time for the BJP to face the music in Karnataka as the Lokayukta report has been tabled. As more details emerge it would be interesting to see if the BJP high command is in a position to effect positive change in the state.
Karnataka has a mining mafia which spreads across to Andhra Pradesh, and both the Congress and the BJP’s failure to resolve this issue will lead to reverses in the next election.

On the front page of my Asian Age is a picture of Bollywood star Deepika Padukone and another one of the 34-year-old Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. There is a hint of Bollywood in Ms Khar’s appearance. I see on television that she was dressed entirely in blue and that accessories included Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, an oversized Hermes Birkin bag, expensive shoes and pearl jewellery. And instead of the traditional salwar, she was wearing pants.
The media has covered the bilateral dialogue well and a bit of glamour is always welcome, but we should expect little else from this visit. It’s no surprise that Ms Khar met Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Pakistan has, after all, described Ghulam Nabi Fai — arrested in the US for taking part in a conspiracy as Pakistani agent in America without registering as a foreign agent — as a respected Kashmiri. I suppose all these tiresome activities will go on without any positive moves by Pakistan to control terrorism or punish the guilty.
But I must say that I am deeply hurt and surprised that many who profess great wisdom on a variety of subjects should attend a seminar sponsored by the ISI — the least they could do is return the money for air tickets, hotel stay and allowances drawn from the Pakistan government. I strongly suggest that we spend time watching Ms Padukone in her new film instead of wasting time on a non-event like the talks with Pakistan.

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