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Posts Tagged ‘Government’s Efforts

India’s Orissa state ‘halts’ offensive against Maoists

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The government in the eastern Indian state of Orissa has halted an offensive against Maoist rebels after they abducted a senior official.


Mr Krishna was on his way to inspect a government project when he was seized

R Vineel Krishna, district collector of Malkangiri, and another official were kidnapped on Wednesday evening.

The Maoists have demanded the release of rebels held in prisons and an end to the offensive by security forces.

Indian forces are battling Maoists in several states. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Orissa’s Home Secretary UN Behura said the government was “stopping all combing operations in the state” and was ready to talk to the rebels.

Reports said the state government had contacted leading social worker Swami Agnivesh to negotiate with the rebels to secure Mr Krishna’s release.

The Maoists’ 48-hour deadline to the government to release rebels held in prison expires on Friday evening.

Correspondents say the deadline is likely to be extended in view of the government’s efforts to talk to the rebels.

Malkangiri is among the districts worst affected by Maoist violence in India.

The hilly and forested terrain make it an ideal place for Maoists to run their camps there and launch operations against security forces.

Mr Krishna, 30, is a graduate from the premier Indian Institute of Technology and joined the civil service in 2005. He was appointed to head Malkangiri district 16 months ago.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

A government offensive against the rebels – widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began in October 2009.

It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

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India fuel strike bites and tests resolve for reforms

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Opposition workers set buses on fire and burned tires as a nationwide strike over higher fuel prices shut down parts of India on Monday in a test of the government’s efforts to cut subsidies and trim a budget deficit.


Police use batons to disperse Samajwadi Party activists during a strike against the hike in fuel prices in the northern Indian city of Lucknow July 5, 2010.

Many flights were canceled and streets emptied in response to the strike called by the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the leftist bloc as the ruling Congress party attempts to push ahead with key reforms in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The response to the strike was mixed, with a total shutdown in opposition-ruled states but business mostly normal in Congress-ruled regions.

Businesses were largely shut in financial capital Mumbai while in eastern West Bengal state, a communist bastion, supporters marched on the streets to protest the freeing up of state-subsidized petrol prices late last month and the raising of prices of other fuels that may exacerbate double-digit inflation.

The IT-hub of Bangalore in BJP-ruled Karnataka state was practically shut down, with most software firms closed.

In Congress-ruled capital New Delhi, morning traffic was heavy and shops remained open, though there were reports of brief disruptions in the underground train service.

“The government claims it is working for the common man but it clearly doesn’t care for them,” said D. Raja, leader of the Communist Party of India. “Price rise is the single biggest burning issue affecting all sections of the society.”

The Congress-led government retained power last year largely on a social spending-driven agenda but says now it needs to curb costly subsidies to stay on target of reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.5 percent in 2010/11, even at the risk of angering some of its allies which opposed the fuel price hike.

Fuel subsidies in the year ending March 2010 were roughly 1 percent of GDP.

STOKING INFLATION

The fuel hike helped prompt the central bank on Friday to raise interest rates by 25 basis points, nearly a month ahead of a scheduled policy review.

Signaling the government’s resolve, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Sunday there was no question of rolling back the hike in fuel prices.

The government has the tacit support of its parliamentary allies. Some face state elections in coming months and have to be seen as publicly opposing the fuel price hike, which will add nearly one percentage point to headline inflation now at 10.16 percent.

But the allies will continue to support the government despite their vocal criticism of high inflation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has struggled with other reforms such as opening up the insurance and banking sectors and a civilian nuclear liability deal due to strong opposition in parliament, including Congress party allies.

More disruption over bills may be seen in the next parliamentary session starting on July 26. But so far inflation is not translating into mass spontaneous protests that could destabilize the government.

“Today’s strike is not going to deter the government from pushing its reform agenda,” political commentator Amulya Ganguli said.

“For the opposition it is more an exercise to boost the morale of its cadre and mobilize it to do something instead of sitting idly … People today realize it’s not possible to keep on subsidizing.”

The national truckers’ union said more than 600,000 trucks would stay off the roads.

Airports in Mumbai and Delhi were open, but some flights were canceled in response to low passenger loads, a spokesman said.

For Chandra Bai, a domestic helper in Mumbai, the strike was not quite the show of support for the common man that the opposition claimed it is:

“On one hand, all prices have sky rocketed. On the other hand, they call a strike and trouble us even more. Where is the relief for us?”