Thursday, September 8, 2011

Politics for greater common goods!

Baijayant “Jay” Panda was elected to the Parliament of India, from Kendrapara Loksabha Constituency, Odhisa in May 2009. Earlier Panda had been twice elected to Parliament, Rajya Sabha in 2000 and 2006, also from the State of Odhisa. He is a member of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party.Panda represents the new face of Indian politicians, several of whom have been educated abroad and have had alternate careers before choosing to serve the nation through politics. Panda graduated from the Michigan Technological University and, with a background in Engineering and Management, worked in the corporate sector before joining politics. He assisted the late Biju Patnaik and subsequently Naveen Patnaik, who founded the Biju Janata Dal party, which has found strong acceptance from the people of Odhisa and has been repeatedly voted back in elections. An avid reader and writer, Mr.Panda represents the shining face of Indian democracy, recently we had a long conversation at his residence in New Delhi…excerpts are...

Q: - As a leader and Parliamentarian, how would you rate the leadership crisis in UPA-II over Anna Hazare led Civil Society movement?
A:- It appears as government had no game plan, so taken contradictory position on Anna Hazare at time to time. It certainly indicates towards the leadership crisis.

Q: - Do Lokpal bill will be a panacea against the corruption? How do you see the next course of action from Parliament on this bill?
A: - Nothing including the Lokpal bill will be a panacea; instead it will be making a very big dent against the corruption. We have also need to take other steps, such as passing the long pending Judicial Commission Bill. India has huge shortage of Judges for its population compare to other countries and system needs to be overhauled for speedy appointments as well as accountability in the Judiciary.

Q: - If broadly looking on Jan Lokpal team, it appears, they hardly represent Civil Society at large, do you see somewhere it might be popular anger against the corruption and media participation that manipulated the whole demonstration?
A: - There are many aspects of Civil Society but certainly peoples behind Jan Lokpal constitute one element in taking this issue forward to its logical conclusion. Now Parliament has to play the final role but all the other stakeholders including Civil Society, Media, and Judiciary have also played big role in making ground against the corruption.

Q: - As a Columnist and a prolific voice in the opposition, how do you look on the dwindling investor’s confidence& FDI in our economy? Now, even our own high shot entrepreneurs are increasingly looking outside for business...should we acknowledge the big flaws in our reform/growth agenda?

A: - It’s a proven fact that the least corrupt countries also have the freest economy. Over the last twenty years, Indian economy has consistently got an unprecedented scale that lifted more than twenty crores peoples out of stark poverty. Also, sluggish issues of past such as, licensing has now gone but continuous reforms are necessary to tackle the new forms of corruption which are linked to remaining discretionary powers that should be change in favour of rule based procedures.

Q: - What should be the policy response for reassertion of people’s natural boisterousness? How to retrieve the moral sentiments, whose absence is keeping our democracy in backyard?
A: - The public has right to be agitated in a free country like ours, particularly on the corruption. It’s happening due to politicians abdicating their duties. If politicians do not act in reforming nation’s problems, then it would be essential for others like Civil Society, Media, and Judiciary to step in that vacuum.

Q: - Do regional parties {including BJD} along with the left parties can turn for an alternative political formation at centre? I mean a government without Congress and BJP?
A: - For now, I can’t speculate on such alliances but strongly hold a view that regional parties have succeeded for good reasons. India is a diverse country and no one or two parties can cater the needs of entire nation.

Q: - You represents in Loksabha from Odhisha {Kendrapara}, you also have government in state besides hailing from a business background in mining-don’t you think, the existing mining policies needs substantial changes? What’s your vision for ensuring the long term stake of local communities in mining companies?
A: - Just for clarification, my family business background is more than fifty years old and primarily functional in the engineering, along with captive and not in commercial mining. I agree with you, mining sector needs a lot reforms, many of the policies are opaque and led to abuse of authority. Grant of mining leases should be operated by the open auction and royalty rates must be revised upward to enable funds for development and benefits of the local population.

Q: - What immediate changes are needed on Land Acquisition Act? How government should approach for fair land acquisition policies?
A: - The principle should be followed for greatest good for greatest numbers. There must be a cut of 70-80%of displaced peoples and their consent must be preceded everytime before the land can be acquired. Also, the compensation should be revised sharply upward including ensuring long term benefits and preferential selection in job.

Q: - Naxalism, so far have been either treated academically or autocratically that worsened the plights of disadvantaged groups, how you will be like to see democracy working on this very grave issue?
A: - Development must go hand in hand with prioritizing the humane aspects. Naxalism has originally merged and strengthened by the lack of government action, but now, Naxal forces are playing dangerous game with wrong means of extortion and stoppage of development. Government needs to make large investment in infrastructure/education and raising the governance level in Naxal affected areas…cracking down on the violence shall be another immediate action from government.

Q: - Lastly, what measures should be drawn to end the unfair electoral funding?
A: - This is the fundamental problem impacting policies, transparency and governance. There should be a major electoral reform, particularly regarding electoral funding where we can learn from the other democracy where one solution is state funding of electoral expenses. It is much essential to move in this direction, a fair mechanism of electoral funding will be a new chapter in our democracy. Every action for fairness in system must be welcomed and participated by its all stakeholders.
Atul Kumar Thakur
September 7, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi

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