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Archive for November, 2012

Harish Salve & his recipe on Diesel subsidy!


The following is excerpted from Times of India dated 27/11/2012:-

Amicus curiae and senior advocate Harish Salve, who has been assisting the forest bench of the Supreme Court for nearly a decade, lamented that the benefits of switching the entire public transport system in Delhi to CNG was lost as more and more diesel cars were added every year because of the price differential between petrol and diesel.

“Delhi has already exhausted all soft options,” warned Salve before arguing before a bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar that “the solution must be to restrain the growth of personal vehicle usage, particularly diesel vehicles, and this is only possible through a highly augmented transport system in Delhi and the region”.

Justifying harsher levy for diesel cars, Salve said in his application, “The market share of diesel cars is more than 50% of sales. This is because of the growing differential between petrol and diesel. The emission norms for diesel cars legally allow higher limits for NOx and particulate matters as compared to petrol cars.”

The former solicitor general, while advocating imposition of 25% of cost of all new diesel cars as green tax, suggested levy of an environmental compensation charge on existing personal vehicles — ranging from 2% (petrol) to 4% (diesel) of the vehicle’s cost every year.

For old cars, the levy would be collected annually by the insurance companies along with the premium amount, he suggested, and said the insurance companies must ensure that the vehicle had valid pollution under control certificate at the time of annual renewal of policy.

We in India have an uncanny ability to mix immiscible facts and make a concoction and purvey the same as the TRUTH for common consumption.

First and foremost, the issue on Diesel to be decided is whether the subsidy on Diesel, is being utilized by those who are not the targeted beneficiaries of the subsidy. If so, then how to quarter them and make them pay for the benefits so enjoyed by them.

Secondly, if Diesel is more polluting how to curb the usage of Diesel in cities, where pollution has become an ever increasing nuisance.

The first is related to the well entrenched SOCIALISM and the second is relatable to ENVIRONMENT.

To deal with the first issue, if the targeted segment of Diesel users are the Railways, road transport, DG sets, farm and earth moving equipments then surely the passenger car segments are to be taken out of the persons enjoying the benefits. Is it possible to take them out? And in any case, what is the percentage of the un-targeted segment? This un-targeted segment of diesel using passenger car owners constitute 0.6% to 16% (depending on the data source) of total consumption of Diesel in the country. The fears that this is growing and might skittle out the petrol cars is not an entirely unfounded fear. But, should we get into the shoes of HONDA CARS and help them out in limiting the purchase of diesel cars? HONDA stands out among all the names merely because they have the avowed principle that they produce only gasoline cars. No other car manufacturer falls in this segment.

So if there is an 8% of cars using the benefits unintended for them how do we recover the benefit from them? That should be the issue. I believe, if we frame the issue properly, we may have a fair chance of discovering a method to solve the issue. But if we start with a SOCIALISTIC bent, like assuming that a person who can make a higher capital cost would reap the benefit of this subsidy and save over a period of time, we are more likely to impose immediately impalpable costs and curb INVENTIONS on improvement of diesel passenger cars.

Democracy is for the people. But if we segment the people into those who can and those who can’t, then we cannot be ‘for’ the people. The people who decide for others are ‘by’ the people category. But these BY THE PEOPLE segment the people into those who can and those who can’t and in the name of socialism lay burdens on those who can, merely based on their notions of socialism. Instead, impartially decide on issues and make the undeserving pay- but do not make them pay more.

I travel a lot by road and use our National Highways. There are trucks which struggle to climb even a moderate slope, when i asked a person who was employed with Ashok Leyland, as to why you make such inefficient engines which struggle to carry the cargo, he said, “Boss, these trucks are designed to carry 12-15 Metric Tonnes and they are made to carry up to 25 tonnes, and that is the reason for all that struggle. ” I have more reason to believe him considering his domain  knowledge and incisive thinking.

My suggestion is that, there are umpteen NHAI toll collection centres, why not have a weighbridge be installed at every toll centre so that when the vehicle comes to a stop, all transport vehicles could be charged as per the weight and not by the axles and tyres of the vehicles. This will ensure that exploitation of diesel by the truckers are not resorted to.

Further,  DG sets are used by the various gated communities and high end tenements, why not charge them for such usage and say that anyone who BUYS DIESEL IN CANS WOULD NOT BE GIVEN THE SUBSIDY BENEFITS? This will also ensure that the earth moving equipments and excavators do not use subsidized diesel, as most of the times, they need to buy diesel as these excavators cannot travel by roads.

Another suggestion is that, when diesel bunks are allotted to fleet owners for diesel, if the vehicles used are for earth moving equipments, why not charge them for diesel at unsubsidized rates?

This is to take care of the enjoyers of unintended subsidy.

As regards the environmental issues , there was a time when sulphur emission was sought to be reduced and at the instance of  Government, the oil refining companies went on a overdrive and ensured that the Diesel supplies to the country was reduced in its sulphur content. So why not we ask PCRA and CSIR (there is an institute called Indian Institute of Petroleum which eats up Rs 18 crores per year on allocations by the GoI and sits on 257 Acres of land allotted by the Government for it) to conduct original research instead of aping and pilfering innovations from the West?

Instead, Mr Harish Salve gets into TAXATION benefits for the exchequer and suggests GREEN TAX of 25% on all new Diesel cars! How preposterous! The actual cost of producing a diesel car is not any higher than that of a petrol car. In any case, if the production of more diesel cars are encouraged, then the price of the diesel cars would come down, but when the Government reads Socialism into the current account benefits enjoyed by the diesel car owners, then some in the Government tend to accept these opinions as God given Truths and impose unwanted Taxes on Diesel cars.

The Polluter Pays principle is one of the binding principles of the Environmental Law, but why do we Indians have to make an 8% user pay for the sins of the whole community, which enjoys the benefits of low freights, railways, farm equipments, earth moving equipments etc.? Sheer OPINION which is being sanctified in the altar of Environmental Laws!

Finally here is an excerpt of an article from THE ECONOMIC TIMES (25/08/2012):-

Although the government tries to keep diesel prices artificially low, there is no mechanism to ensure the benefits go to the desired purposes. “A good portion of the diesel subsidy is used by sectors where it is not intended to be spent. Nearly Rs 8000 crore subsidy is consumed by power generating sets in malls and big buildings, while around Rs 3000 crore of subsidy is spent in powering telecom towers,” said Debasish Mishra, Senior Director, Deloitte India.

According to the government the first round of field survey of All India Study on Sectoral Demand of diesel and petrol revealed that nearly 16 per cent of diesel is consumed by passenger vehicles, 4.6 per cent by gensets and 2 per cent by mobile towers. This is wastage of an estimated Rs 23,000 crore of subsidy for full FY13. However, PPAC maintains its study will take one year to finish, when it will be able to put definite numbers to the consumption pattern.

Here is another link of a news item which pegs passenger car consumption of diesel at less than 1%: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Personal-cars-account-for-0-6-of-Indias-diesel-consumption/articleshow/11249656.cms. So, if one goes by Kirit Parikh’s report at 15% for passenger cars, the total diesel subsidy would be Rs. 15, 000 crores (on a total diesel subsidy of Rs. 1,00,000 crores) but if one were to go by the least suggesting data, then the subsidy is only Rs 600 crores. So let us firstly decide the quantum of unintended subsidy enjoyers and find out the FACT of the problem before suggesting the remedies to the Supreme Court of India.

Otherwise, the diesel passenger car owners would become the whipping boys in the hands of the ever eager taxation proponents and collect money disproportionate to what they enjoy. If at all the diesel car owners enjoy, it is because Diesel gives more mileage per litre of diesel than petrol. Our legislators are not likely to review any of the measures relating to taxation once imposed. Further our budgeting mechanism assumes the tax collection based on the last year’s tax accruals and adds the growth of consumers in that sector and calculates the taxes for the coming fiscal.

Let us be rational and encourage rationalizing our taxation and not let harebrained opinions, like GREEN TAX, rule the roost!

THE SOLUTION:

Firstly impose a condition on all diesel engine/car manufacturers that the engines ought to be made compliant as per the latest standards fixed by the European countries, which have imposed stringent emission norms. That only such diesel vehicles are to be sold from a particular cut-off date.

Secondly, impose  conditions on Petroleum refining companies in India to manufacture Diesel which could be used only by those passenger car engines which are  compliant of European emission norms.

Once these two conditions are met, then the Diesel passenger cars in India, would have to buy that Diesel meant only for passenger cars and price this Diesel WITHOUT SUBSIDY. This would ensure that the Diesel passenger car owners do not enjoy the benefits unintended for them. Even this charge that Diesel passenger car owners are living off the subsidy would be over.

Further, when the latest technology is brought in norms relating to emission standards, Environmental concerns would also stand addressed.

So what do we do with the existing Diesel cars? Simple, like the phat-phats of Delhi, they would be phased out after serving 15 years , when an FC becomes essential.

INSTEAD OF FOLLOWING A SANE SOLUTION, IF WE GO BY HAREBRAINED SUGGESTIONS THE FUNDAMENTALS OF DEMOCRACY WOULD BE SHAKEN AS THERE WOULD BE NO RATIONALE FOR OUR DECISION MAKING AND DEMOCRACY WOULD PETER INTO OLIGARCHIC DEMOCRACY!

NCERT & NADARS!


The following passages are excerpted from the NCERT book prescribed for the IX class students for the subject of History. This passage has recently been seen by some of the Nadars as a mischievous statement aimed at tarnishing their image. Let us read the following passages before seeing it in the right perspective.

Caste Conflict and Dress Change
Though there were no formal sumptuary laws as in Europe, India
had its own strict social codes of food and dress. The caste system
clearly defined what subordinate and dominant caste Hindus should
wear, eat, etc., and these codes had the force of law. Changes in
clothing styles that threatened these norms therefore often created
violent social reactions.
In May 1822, women of the Shanar caste were attacked by uppercaste
Nairs in public places in the southern princely state of
Travancore, for wearing a cloth across their upper bodies. Over
subsequent decades, a violent conflict over dress codes ensued.
The Shanars (also called Nadars) were a community of toddy tappers
who migrated to southern Travancore to work under Nair landlords.
As they were considered a ‘subordinate caste’, they were prohibited
from using umbrellas and wearing shoes or golden ornaments. Men
and women were also expected to follow the local custom of never
covering their upper bodies before the upper castes.
Under the influence of Christian missions, Shanar women converts
began in the 1820s to wear tailored blouses and cloths to cover
themselves like the upper castes. Soon Nairs, one of the upper castes
of the region, attacked these women in public places and tore off
their upper cloths. Complaints were also filed in court against this
dress change, especially since Shanars were also refusing to render
free labour for the upper castes.
At first, the Government of Travancore issued a proclamation in
1829 ordering Shanar women ‘to abstain in future from covering the
upper parts of the body.’ But this did not prevent Shanar Christian
women, and even Shanar Hindus, from adopting the blouse and
upper cloth.
The abolition of slavery in Travancore in 1855 led to even more
frustration among the upper castes who felt they were losing control.
In October 1859, riots broke out as Shanar women were attacked in
the marketplace and stripped of their upper cloths. Houses were looted
and chapels burned. Finally, the government issued another
proclamation permitting Shanar women, whether Christian or Hindu,
to wear a jacket, or cover their upper bodies ‘in any manner whatever,
but not like the women of high caste’. (written by JANAKI NAIR for NCERT)

The only part appearing which has the appearance of FACTS but PROJECTS the community of NADARS through the eyes of a Keralite is not as much demeaning as MISLEADING. I believe that none needs to be offended about one’s past if that part of the past was beyond the control of that person. However, when we write HISTORY, fidelity to facts is the soul of all history writing. Otherwise, HISTORY deteriorates to either paeans  or treading down a person or community or country! The following lines which appear in the text book is a verisimilitude devoid of the soul of the truth:-

The Shanars (also called Nadars) were a community of toddy tappers
who migrated to southern Travancore to work under Nair landlords.

There are three points made which are likely to lead the tender minds to make the following inferences:-

That Shanars/ Nadars were Toddy tappers by profession

That ALL Shanars/Nadars migrated to Travancore; and

That Shanars/Nadars all went to Travancore to work under Nair landlords!

First of all i like to state that the term SHANARS were considered to be derogatory and a Government Order was issued signifying that all Shanars are to be called as Nadars (Law (General) Department G.O. No. 785, 7th July 1921 issued by the order of the Governor-in-Council and signed by R. Ramachandra Rao, Secretary to the Govt. of Madras). Honestly, just as Mae West rightly said A MAN IS WHAT A MAN DOES, a community’s strength comes out of what it DOES and not because of the name!

This happened sometime in 1921, therefore the use of Shanars in the main and Nadars in brackets CANNOT HAVE THE SANCTION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA or THE GOVERNMENT OF TAMIL NADU. So to use this word SHANARS instead of NADARS is highly mischievous and has been influenced by a prime ignoramus who is not familiar with the sanctity of Government orders! To allow this to permeate into curriculum at the school level is nothing but mischief!

Regarding the fact that Nadars were a community of toddy tappers, it is a well known fact that Nadars lived of the plamyra produce, which included nungu, karupatti, padhaneer, panagkizhangu, panampazham, thatching of roofs with the palm leaves and making handicraft items with the palm leaves. So to limit it to toddy tapping, which the community discontinued consciously because of the social evils associated therewith is VERISIMILITUDE.

Nadars did not migrate to Travancore, only a miniscule percentage of Nadars from the Southern districts of the present day Theni, Ramnad, Thoothukudi, Madurai, Virudhunagar & Tirunelvelli migrated to the Travancore state to escape the drought and famine in these dry districts. Like in any migration, the Nadars who migrated to Travancore, over a period of time forgot their trade (there were no palmyra trees in Travancore, only coconut trees were aplenty and the Ezhavas were already tending to it) and deteriorated to the serving class, just like Joseph’s brethren and their children deteriorated into slaves in the land of Egypt! After all Egyptians made the rules and the Jews were made to follow the rules under a theory of superiority that the Egyptians were superior to the pastoral Jews!

In any case the demographics of Tamil Nadu proves that Nadars form 12% of the population of 6.5 crores, which translates to 78 lakh Nadars to the 1% Nadars of the present day Kerala, which would be a mere 3 lakhs! To base a history book on the migrant population of a particular community is not only false but mischievous! A crocodile should be seen in the ecosystem in which it has thrived. The croc may need the sand for hatching its eggs, but its LIFE is in the marshes and the water. Merely because a cheetah plays around with a croc on land, by no means is the croc weak. It is the terrain which matters, the same croc in a marsh or water would shred the cheetah and swirl it in shreds!

The last line shows as if the Nadars were very keen on working only for the Nair landlords. It so happened that the predominant land holding community in the erstwhile Travancore state , besides the royal family, were the Namboothiris, as a community. These Namboothiris handed over the lands to the Nairs (for what reason pl read Thurston) for cultivation and they in turn got the land cultivated on behalf of the Namboothiris. So, i am pretty sure that Nadars did not choose Nairs as their landlords, but they went as ryots to the tenants, who were Nairs also. If one were to disbelieve my story, then all one has to do is read up the community called NAYARS in volume IV of THE CASTES AND TRIBES OF SOUTHERN INDIA by Edgar Thurston. Upon reading, one will be able to realize that some of the polyandry practices practised by certain communities of Travancore were not only deplorable, but shamefully unutterable! The women considered the Portuguese sailors who stepped on to the shores of Travancore, to sow their wild oats, to be of a HIGH CASTE! So much for the caste systems which were prevalent in the then Travancore state.

Nadars had always followed the patrilineal system as against the Travancore people (except Namboothiris-who protected their women so zealously that they never wanted to be left with a cuckoo in their nest) who followed the matrilineal system. So essentially, the Nadars were a misfit in that system with their rigid mores, which was more suited to the Tamil terrain!

To conclude that Nadars are to be judged by the Travancore Nadars is nothing but the feverish fulminations of the communities which are unable to stomach the sustained growth and progressive ways adopted by the Nadars of Tamil Nadu. To make the Nadars of Travancore the bench mark for Nadars appears to be the work of an ignoramus, who has exposure only to the Travancore history with no understanding of a community which has shown growth by its OWN EFFORTS and not by stealing the LABOUR AND WEALTH in the name of DIVINE RIGHT or BEING AN ILLEGITIMATE OFFSPRING OF A KING!

The most important part of History is WHEN DO WE PEG OUR HISTORY? In any community’s Life there are bound to be ups and downs and if the nadir is made the point of that community’s history, then it smacks of BIAS. Do we judge the Jews by what they were when they were slaves in Egypt? Do we judge the history of India when we were under the British? NAY. We judge the people BY WHAT THEY DID WHEN THEY HAD THEIR OWN LAND AND THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE. If we look for denigrating history, I am sure there would not be a single community which could boast of an uninterrupted history of only sovereignty, progress and prosperity!

One should read the book called INDIA’S NEW CAPITALISTS by a Malayali HARISH DAMODARAN (grandson of EMS Namboodripad!) to see the steep growth of a community through hard work.

It is nice to believe in MYTHS and feel superior, but when the CANNONS are out, the myth believers would be stunned like the Ibrahim Lodi’s army in front of Babur! Let us get REAL and teach our children the FACTS, if we cannot stomach the present day truths!

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