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The Daily Fix: If BJP is against corruption and dynasty, it should welcome scrutiny of Jay Shah

Despite all the braggart of the weekend – Trotter and a minister on television, a dozen other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party to defend – Jay Shah, a businessman and the son of BJP president Amit Shah is no is presented at the criminal defamation hearing he filed against The Wire’s news website. His lawyer was not there, which caused the magistrate to postpone the case until later in the week. Shah would do well to dispense with the case.

The criminal defamation charge was filed Oct. 9, after The Wire published an article about the fortunes of several companies in Shah. One of them, the Temple of Companies, saw its turnover increase from Rs 50,000 in 2014 to Rs 15 to 80.5 rupees next year, just after Amit Shah took control of the BJP and that Narendra Modi was elected prime minister. The article also mentioned that this increase in revenues came despite the company losing 1.4 billion rupees that same year and also reported loans received by Shah companies.

Immediately after the publication of the piece, Minister of Rail Union and BJP High Leader Piyush Goyal offered a press conference denouncing the article and the caller without foundation, although he did not report any error in the room itself. Jay Shah then filed a criminal complaint against the wire claiming that he had highlighted certain facts “to make a spicy and selling story detrimental to the reputation of the plaintiff.” According to information, he also filed a civil defamation suit that required damages in the amount of Rs 100 million, although there is little information on this claim so far.

Criminal defamation is a deeply problematic tool that remains in law books in India and is frequently used to harass the media and suppress dissent. Its use in a case like this seems even more evident. The BJP came to power after a campaign against corruption and insisted that it was transparent and maintained an impeccable record of governance without any accusation against it. This is largely rhetorical because there have been credible allegations, but it is clear that the party is proud of this image, whether accurate or not.

In this spirit, the party should welcome the examination of its leaders and their families, since it is true that they have nothing to hide. In fact, the proper response to an article like this, especially as it relates to the immediate family member of the party chairman, could have simply been answered by opening the company’s books to everyone. Instead, Jay Shah’s lawyer not only challenged the article, but also told Wire that any report on these cases would constitute a violation of Shah’s privacy and would attract legal action.

The BJP also campaigned with the idea that Congress represented dynastic politics, something that would try to end. However, on Sunday we saw a cabinet minister trotting to defend Jay Shah, a private person, followed by many other BJP leaders through television. In addition, it turned out that the Department of Law made an exception and allowed the acting Attorney General to represent Jay Shah two days before the article was published. This could violate the rules. But more importantly, this again shows how members of the family of important leaders are treated as kings, even by a party that claims to oppose the dynasties.

If nothing else, this episode has shown how, despite its claims of probity, the BJP behaves like Congress or any other party when asked. It does not matter what the allegations are. The immediacy with which the party has used defamation and resorted to a cabinet minister to do so when the case refers to a private person, proves that the BJP promises to be a party with a hollow sound difference

punditry
“Until recently, atrocities were often motivated by caste consciousness, but the current wave seems to be guided by an ideology that expresses faith in a hierarchical social system, although they are not an occasional symbolic manifestation of chaste persistence and untouchability” writes Sukhadeo Thorat at the Indian Express. “It is this ideological impulse that may have revived and provided moral support for the denial of rights and the use of violence against Dalits.”

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We are prepared to deal with bad monsoon7

Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh is a senior BJP leader from Bihar. The Modi government’s handling of the agriculture sector during its first year in office has drawn some criticism. Singh rebuts the criticism and claims that the government is well-prepared to tackle the after-effects of the coming monsoon, if it turns out to be deficient

IMD has revised its weather forecast and now says the monsoon will be deficient. Should that not worry you?

We are taking stock and I have directed my officers to give updated reports on the preparations. In fact, immediately after the April forecast, my officers held discussions with state officials to understand the. situation. We have prepared a contingency plan for 580 districts. Now that the forecast has been lowered further, I have directed that the plans be updated.

Officials are also talking to agencies like the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture. I will also hold discussion with IMD. But, we are better prepared this time than last year to deal with uneven rain. Last year, too, IMD had lowered its forecast during this time of the year. We had just come to power and faced a drought-like situation. Everyone was tensed up. But our ministry worked hard to minimise the damage. There were losses in production but the losses were not that huge. Also, there are alternate seed varieties available, if there is deficient rain and the drought management panel is monitoring the situation. Of course, there will be some losses if there is deficient rain, but we are confident that our policies will ensure minimum damage to the sector and the economy.

Recent data has shown that growth of agriculture and allied sectors has dropped from 3.7 per
cent in 2013-14 to 0.2 per cent in 2014-15. In fact, production fell in the third and fourth quarters. Is this a worrying sign?

It is correct that growth was negative in the third and fourth quarters of 2014-15, due to the uneven monsoon and uncertain rain during the rabi season. But, if you look at the gross value added in agriculture and allied activities, it has grown from ?15.23 lakh crore (adjusted for inflation) in 2012-13, to ?15.79 lakh crore in 2013-14 and ?15.83 lakh crore in 2014-15. This was triggered mainly by the fisheries and livestock sector, which has grown faster than crops.

What initiatives have you taken during the last one year?

I have already spoken about our initiatives like Gokul Mission and Blue Revolution, which have given a boost to livestock and fisheries. Another initiative was on organic farming. We sanctioned ?300 crore for it, with a special focus on the northeastern states. The entire focus has been on lowering the cost of production for farmers through less use of fertiliser, while increasing the value of their produce.

When I came into this ministry, only ?72 crore was spent (in a year) on soil testing and there were 13 mobile soil testing labs. We sanctioned ?80 crore in the first year itself and started almost 100 mobile soil testing labs. Then, we embarked on a massive scheme to give soil health cards to all the 130-plus
million farmer families. For this, over ?500 crore was sanctioned for three years, of which we have given about ?200 crore to states in 2014-15.

Why have your delayed the announcement of MSP for key crops?

I do not feel the announcement of MSP has been delayed. We are planning to announce it over the next two weeks.

What are your immediate worries on the food situation?

While the government had ample supply of rice and wheat, there are concerns over pulses; but, my ministry has been working on ways to supplement domestic supply through imports. We imported a record 4.5 million tonnes of pulses last year and are ready to import more when required. We are working on raising pulses and oilseeds production too. Data on the states’ requirements is also being collated.

How important is the agriculture sector to the Modi government?

Agriculture and allied sectors in India account for 17.2 per cent of GDP and 14 per cent of exports. Almost half the population is dependent on agriculture as the prime source of income. We, therefore, have to keep the momentum of growth of agriculture to achieve targeted growth of its economy and meeting the increasing and diverse demand of food.