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Why the land acquisition bill is flawed

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GOPAL KRISHNA IN REDIFF NEWS

The Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 argues for a perfect land market, unrestrained urbanisation and industrialization, says activist Gopal Krishna.

On September 7, Jairam Ramesh introduced the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 in the Lok Sabha within six days of the end of the public comment period on the bill that is to replace a 116 year old colonial law. This bill argues for a perfect land market, unrestrained urbanisation and industrialisation.

It sounds strange that rural development ministry is working for urban development as if latter is unquestionably the pre-condition for the well being of rural people and their ecosystem. Will the prime minister reveal the role of urban development ministry if what rural development ministry is doing is indeed its mandate?

Will Ramesh explain as to whether what he said as secretary, economic affairs, Indian National Congress remains relevant or not? Ramesh, a representative “of a generation that was created by public investment” and as a key player in developing India‘s 1991 economic reforms said in 2001 that “in 1715 they (India) accounted for 25 percent of world industrial output, so it’s always been an industrial nation in that sense of the term.”

Caught in the time warp and frozen with the contested develop-mentality, corporate fund driven political parties and NGOs are out to decisively put the State and the natural resources on sale unmindful of its cognitive and ecological cost and intergenerational inequity that it promotes almost forever. Both ruling parties and most of the opposition parties are hand in glove in this regard.

These anti-citizen entities are acting as if present and future citizens, gram sabhas, panchayats and zilla parishads do not matter. Their responses to enactment of Special Economic Zone Act, 2005 and its implementation is a case in point.

The Special Economic Zones and land acquisition by companies are about generating financial wealth with naked political patronage at the cost of natural and human wealth. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has been useful for it. It is indeed “painfully evident that the basic law has become archaic”. It used to be said that company is an artifact of law, it now appears that law such as this is an artifact of companies. Every act of privatisation of the government through legislations like these is quite painful too.

If that is not the case why should State use its sovereign power to acquire land for companies either partially or fully in the name of industrial and urban development or legislate to facilitate the same? If ‘development’ wasn’t a notorious and negative word why has a benign and positive word ‘sustainable’ pre-fixed to it unmindful of this the bill cites developmental imperatives with the assumption of its innocence.

The argument of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs that acquisition of land for industrial and urban development is a necessity — is driven by corporate funding of ruling and opposition parties since 2003 when the ban on company donations was lifted. Clause 59 of the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 deals with the provision of ‘penalty for obstructing acquisition of land’ seems to be about punishing the protesters and dissenters.

It reads: “Whoever willfully obstructs any person in doing any of the acts authorised by section 9 or section 15, or willfully fills up, destroys, damages or displaces any trench or mark made under section 15, shall, on conviction before a magistrate, be liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding one month, or to fine not exceeding five hundred rupees, or to both.” Ramesh argues that this is required because “Land markets in India are imperfect.”

Is it a coincidence that Ramesh who is also a member of the Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India related issues has introduced UID provision in Section 10 and 36 of the Land Titling Bill, 2011?

Will CCEA and CCUIDAI reveal all the proposed legislations that are aimed at creating property based democracy?

Can parliament, all its standing committees, state governments and state’s legislative bodies ever exchange notes to unearth the legislative web being woven at the behest of transnational financial institutions before it is too late?

In the backdrop of such unanswered questions, the 70-page LARR Bill has 74 Sections and 3 schedules in its English version to deal with the grievance accumulated since 1894. Clause 69 of the bill deals with the ‘Return of Unutilised Land’.

It reads: “(1) The land acquired under this Act shall not be transferred to any other purpose except for a public purpose, and after obtaining the prior approval of the appropriate government, and any change in purpose made in violation of this provision shall be void and shall render such land and structures attached to it liable to be reverted to the land owner.

(2) When any land or part thereof, acquired under this act remains unutilised for a period of five years from the date of taking over the possession, the same shall return to the land owner by reversion;

(3) The appropriate government shall return the unutilised land or part thereof, as the case may be, to the original owner of the land from whom it was acquired subject to the refund of one fourth of the amount of compensation paid to him along with the interest on such amount at such rate, as may be specified by the appropriate government, from the date of payment of compensation to him till the refund of such amount; and

(4) The person to whom the land is returned being the owner of the land shall be entitled to all such title and rights in relation to such land from which he has been divested on the acquisition of such land.”

Dr Usha Ramanathan, a noted jurist, asks, “What happens when they (the displaced) are unable to buy it back” when the unutilised land is returned. This section permits the transfer of land for another public purpose. This particular clause is not acceptable and has to be removed from the draft bill. Unmindful of widespread concern in the academia and among citizens, the bill has been approved in a tearing hurry by the Union Cabinet which gives rise to valid questions about player behind the curtain in the backdrop of declaration of assets by billionaire ministers.

Schedule I of the bill deals with “compensation for land owners”, Schedule II deals with the “list of rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements for all the affected families (both land owners and the families whose livelihood is primarily dependent on land acquired) in addition to those provided in Schedule I and Schedule III deal with “provision of infrastructural amenities” for resettlement of populations “to minimise the trauma involved in displacement.”

Referring to schedule II, Ramaswamy R Iyer, former secretary, union water resources aptly concludes that “The principle of ‘land for land’ has been abandoned” because it is applied for irrigation projects alone that too with a provision that is inferior to the ones made for the displaced in the Sardar Sarovar Project. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs appears to be under undue influence from the funders of ruling political parties both at the centre and the states to exclude projects for power, mining, flood management, SEZ, urban development and several other ‘multi-purpose’ projects that cause displacement. So far neither the ministry nor the CCEA has responded to it.

The bill fails to address the question of transfer of agricultural land to non-agricultural use and the implications for food security although it does refer to multi-cropped irrigated land but it is hardly sufficient. It seems to be pursuing the path of regressive Bihar Agriculture Land (Conversion for Non Agriculture Purposes) Act, 2010 which is facing bitter opposition especially in cases where widely acknowledged and awarded fertile lands are being acquired for hazardous asbestos factories amidst paid news journalism and studied silence of opposition parties in the state.

If this is the fate of a state government whose head keeps referring to Ram Manohar Lohia’s four tier governance, it is understandable why most of the socialist experiments become an exercise in sophistry. Instead of ensuring that private purchases of agricultural land be subject of state regulation from the point of view of land-use, water-use, soil health and food security, such legislations are indulging in a myopic exercise of according priority to creation of financial wealth at any non-financial cost and risks.

Section 2 of the LARR Bill deal with the definition of the expression “public purpose” includes- (i) the provision of land for strategic purposes relating to naval, military, air force and armed forces of the Union or any work vital to national security or defence of India or state police, safety of the people; (ii) the provision of land for infrastructure, industrialisation and urbanisation projects of the appropriate government, where the benefits largely accrue to the general public; (iii) the provision of village or urban sites, acquisition of land for the project affected people, planned development or improvement of village sites, provision of land for residential purpose to the poor, government administered educational and health schemes, (iv) the provision of land for any other purpose useful to the general public, including land for companies, for which at least 80 per cent of the project affected people have given their consent through a prior informed process; provided that where a private company after having purchased part of the land needed for a project, for public purpose, seeks the intervention of the appropriate government to acquire the balance of the land it shall be bound by rehabilitation and resettlement provisions of this Act for the land already acquired through private negotiations and it shall be bound by all provisions of this Act for the balance area sought to be acquired. (v) the provision of land for residential purposes to the poor or landless or to persons residing in areas affected by natural calamities, or to persons displaced or affected by reason of the implementation of any scheme undertaken by government, any local authority or a corporation owned or controlled by the State”. This definition of “public purpose” or common good to destroys “the distinction between private use and public use”.

In a text “Some notes on the Draft Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill 2011”, Ramanathan states that “The eminent domain power in India is not, and in any event should not be, so wide” wherein an inverted Robin Hood is created which takes from the poor to give to the rich.

The draconian black law of 1894 which is proposed to be replaced in the backdrop of massive bitter opposition to Special Economic Zones and environmentally damaging projects in Jaitapur, Haripur, Ghaziabad, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar and Goa where lessons have not been learnt from the bloodshed and violence in Nandigram and Singur.

The proposal to amend the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 in the aftermath of West Bengal’s denunciation of Haripur nuclear power project in the aftermath of Fukushima and abandonment of nuclear power projects in Germany, Japan and other countries is uncalled for. But strangely, the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011 was introduced on September 7 itself without any public comments on the Bill. Both these Bills should be deferred till it provides for moratorium on acquisition of land for nuclear power projects.

Unlike in US, the Supreme Court of India observed, “The Act, which was enacted more than 116 years ago for facilitating the acquisition of land. However, in the recent years, the country has witnessed a new phenomena. Large tracts of land have been acquired in rural parts of the country in the name of development and transferred to private entrepreneurs, who have utilised the same for construction of multi-storied complexes, commercial centers and for setting up industrial units. Similarly, large scale acquisitions have been made on behalf of the companies by invoking the provisions contained in Part VII of the Act. The resultant effect of these acquisitions is that the land owners, who were doing agricultural operations and other ancillary activities in rural areas, have been deprived of the only source of their livelihood. Majority of them do not have any idea about their constitutional and legal rights, which can be enforced by availing the constitutional remedies under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution.”

If the bills are not sensitive to these observations in a context of corporate funding to political parties even if passed by the Parliament, they can be struck down by the apex court as contrary to the Preamble of our Constitution.

Admittedly, there is “asymmetry of power (and information) between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired” but the role of futures markets in land within India and the land being acquired in African countries does not find any mention. Also “asymmetry of power and information” is acknowledged only to be ignored as if it’s a merely an exercise in lip-service. The bill ignores how acquisition of land affects acquisition of water as well. The ministry has failed to provide a white paper on the impact of 1894 Act since its enactment before independence and after independence. A compensation and rehabilitation regime is needed with “reference not to the nature of the project but to the nature of the impact.”

The parliamentary standing committee on rural development must ask for the status of the total land acquired and the total number of internally displaced persons till the introduction of the Bill in Parliament. Without such a paper and data, the ministry’s rush to get the bill passed is an act in haste which generations to come will repent and it will be considered a monumental failure of Ramesh if he does not undertake rigorous outreach before arriving at a research based decision.

Has his ministry bothered to send this bill to all the sarpanchs and mukhiyas of the country in their language to ascertain its implications and provide suggestions? The passage of the bill in its current shape must be deferred till this is done. The minister can check with his ministry, there is a precedent in this regard, a rural development minister had written such letters to sarpanchs.

This author was shown one such letter in a panchayat at a gram sabha meeting of Mendha Lekha, Dhanora tehsil in Gadchiroli district in July-August 2001. It would indeed be a sad commentary on the ministry and the standing committee headed by Sumitra Mahajan of Bhartiya Janata Party if they fail to genuinely reach out to villages before finalising the bill. The bill must factor in the provisions of Article 243 (G) of the Indian Constitution and Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996. It must desist from “forced industrialisation” and forced urbanisation.

This is required to deal with an uncertain future being manufactured by real estate, food and water companies to safeguard agricultural land from being grabbed by powerful national and transnational companies that can undermine parliament, state assemblies, gram sabhas, panchayats, zilla parishads and the government for good by depriving us of our food sovereignty. If our legislature can legislate on land use, water use, land acquisition, rehabilitation, resettlement and land titling with the memory of country’s past share in world trade, it will be acting to restore the sovereignty of our Parliament and ensure that companies of all ilk remain subservient to its legislative will.

ORIGIN: http://www.rediff.com/news/column/why-the-land-acquisition-bill-is-flawed/20110913.htm

 


 

Unlikely Echo of Gandhi Inspires Indians to Act

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SOCIAL ACTIVIST ANNA HAZARE

In a “new” India often obsessed with wealth and status, where cricket batsmen and Bollywood movie stars are wildly idolized, Anna Hazare is a figure from an earlier, seemingly discarded era. His pointed white cap and simple white cotton clothes evoke a Gandhian simplicity.                                                                                   His rural, homespun demeanor ordinarily might elicit snickers from India’s urban elite.

Supporters of Anna Hazare at a rally in New Dehli on Thursday. Mr. Hazare is expected to lead a hunger strike and mass protest.

Yet Mr. Hazare, 74, has emerged as the unlikely face of an impassioned people’s movement in India, a public outpouring that has coalesced around fighting corruption but has also tapped into deeper anxieties in a society buffeted by change.

His arrest on Tuesday, made while he was en route to a park in New Delhi where he intended to commence ahunger strike as part of his anticorruption campaign, drove thousands of people onto city streets across India. Under public pressure, government officials tried to release him within hours, but Mr. Hazare refused to leave jail unless the government released him unconditionally. On Thursday, the two sides reached a compromise, and Mr. Hazare is expected to leave jail on Friday to lead a hunger strike and mass protest in central New Delhi to push his demand that the government create a powerful, independent anticorruption agency.

The popular outpouring he has set off has inevitably drawn comparisons with the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring. Most analysts agree, though, that India’s moment is a different one. But in its own way it may prove to be no less important.

India already has the democratic freedoms sought by protesters in the Middle East and North Africa and has enjoyed rising global influence after two decades of fast economic growth. Yet India is also experiencing what one observer has called a “churning” period, as public frustrations are boiling over about poor roads, shoddy schools, inflation, rising inequality and the pervasive reach of official corruption.

Running through each of these issues is a deepening public disillusionment with India’s political process and a growing disconnectedness between the governing class and the governed, making the corruption issue especially explosive. As the crowds supporting Mr. Hazare grew larger and more passionate this week, person after person seemed to arrive on the New Delhi streets carrying their own tale of official graft.

“It is the middle class who is worst affected by corruption,” said Asha Bhardaaj, a woman who traveled more than 30 miles from the suburbs to join a rally. “The upper class is not affected. The upper classes can get what they need by paying money.”

Mr. Hazare’s appeal seems partly rooted in the traditional values he embodies. He is a longtime social activist who has campaigned against corruption for nearly two decades in the state of Maharashtra, living off a military pension and financing charitable work through donations. If his clothes evoke Mahatma Gandhi, India’s founding father, then so do his protest tactics of nonviolent hunger strikes and peaceful marches.

Yet Mr. Hazare and his advisers have also proved adept at the necessities of modern politics: they have adroitly outmaneuvered the police and government officials who sought to defuse the anticorruption movement, after the decision to arrest him backfired dramatically. They also have exploited the nonstop, often sensationalistic coverage on India’s television news outlets to build public support for their cause. Mr. Hazare’s face is now visible in almost every corner of India.

Mr. Hazare and his advisers — a group of prominent lawyers and social activists nicknamed Team Anna — have spent months campaigning across the country. His aides distribute a flurry of daily e-mail updates to journalists, and his close advisers have used social media to connect with young followers. Early Thursday, one adviser, Kiran Bedi, used Twitter to announce a breakthrough in negotiations with the authorities.

Later on Thursday, Ms. Bedi released a video of Mr. Hazare made inside Tihar Jail, where he is being held. “I got my energy after seeing the young protesters,” he said. “Today is only the third day of protest. I can continue like this for another 10 or 12 days more.”

The governing Indian National Congress Party, by contrast, has seemed rattled, unprepared for the public anger against the government and incapable of delivering a consistent counterargument. One party spokesman personally attacked Mr. Hazare, describing him as a corrupted figure, while another spokesman blamed the United States for supporting the anticorruption movement.

“This is a moral moment,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, a social activist in the city of Hyderabad. “Everybody is sick and tired of corruption. And in dealing with this, the government has shown no political sense at all. There is a lot of anger in the country, not only to end corruption but to end politics as it is conducted today.”

Mr. Hazare was born Kisan Baburao Hazare in 1937 in rural Maharashtra. He still speaks Marathi as his primary language and eventually assumed the name Anna. Beyond his admiration of Gandhi, Mr. Hazare drew inspiration from Swami Vivekananda, a prominent reformer during the 19th century. Having stumbled across the teachings of Vivekananda while serving in the Indian Army, Mr. Hazare decided to dedicate his life to public service after narrowly escaping death while posted on the Pakistan border, according to his official biography.

He served 15 years in the military, qualifying for a pension, and retired to Maharashtra to take up social work. He was awarded two of India’s highest civilian awards for his work, which includes drought-relief efforts and working to create a sustainable Gandhian “model village.”

By the 1990s, Mr. Hazare had begun staging hunger strikes in Maharashtra to pressure state officials linked to corruption. Several were ultimately removed from office. At one point, countercharges against him claimed that money from one of his trusts had been used to pay for his birthday celebration. A government-appointed commission concluded that the money was improperly spent, but Mr. Hazare was never implicated in any personal corruption.

His national profile has risen sharply since this spring, when he came to New Delhi to begin a hunger strike demanding that the government introduce a bill in Parliament to create the anticorruption agency, known as a Lokpal. When thousands of people unexpectedly came out in support, government officials invited Team Anna to join a special committee drafting the Lokpal bill.

For several weeks during the early summer, Mr. Hazare was a periodic visitor at a government guesthouse in New Delhi while attending committee meetings. During an interview in early June, he often spoke with dramatic flourish about the need to eliminate corruption, while also predicting that people would support him again, if necessary.

“I’m confident that people will stand up again,” he said. He had been traveling the country, appearing at rallies to gather support for a Lokpal. “Yes, I feel empowered,” he said in June. “It happens because a large number of people are standing with you. Otherwise, what do I have? I’m a beggar. I live in a temple. I do not have a bankbook. I have only a plant and a bed.”

His methods and goals have not impressed everyone. Critics accused him of trying to hijack the democratic process through protest pressure tactics. Others warned that the type of Lokpal he envisioned could upset the balance of the country’s democratic institutions and accused his group of refusing to compromise.

Ultimately, negotiations broke down in June on the Lokpal legislation. The government has since introduced a bill in Parliament during the current session, but Mr. Hazare has criticized it as too weak. This week, he came to New Delhi to begin another hunger strike when the police arrested him.

Under the compromise reached for his release, Mr. Hazare agreed to limit his hunger strike to 15 days, and the police said they would remove their original restrictions on the number of supporters allowed to attend the protest.

Outside Tihar Jail and elsewhere in the city, people have chanted Mr. Hazare’ s name and voiced anger over the pervasiveness of corruption in daily life. One college student complained that rich families are able to buy admission for their children to top colleges. A man who has a trucking business complained that he had to pay a 10 percent bribe to a petty official in order to get a certificate proving he paid a transport tax on his vehicle.

“Today, when we were coming, a traffic cop stopped our vehicle and suggested that we shell out some money,” said Ajab Singh Gujar, the owner of the trucking business. “I shouted, ‘Victory to Anna Hazare!’

“The cop immediately allowed us to pass through without any bribe.”

COURTESY : NEW YORK TIMES

When in power, people start making money, Maran told U.S. Political Officer

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Election symbol of DMK

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SURESH NAMBATH in The HIndu

In a candid conversation with the American Political Officer in February 2008, DMK Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran spoke of corruption in his party and the increasing anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu.

Consul General David T. Hopper, in a cable dated February 23, 2008 accessed by The Hinduthrough WikiLeaks [142702: confidential], informed the U.S. State Department that Mr. Maran predicted that in Tamil Nadu the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its partners “would lose about half of their [Lok Sabha] seats if things continue as they are.” Further, “talking about the increasing anti-incumbency factor in the state, Maran alluded to the general impression that the DMK is especially corrupt, saying ‘when people get into power they lose concentration and start focusing on making money.’”

The cable, which was coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, explains that on February 15, 2008 the Political Officer at the Chennai Consulate-General met with Mr. Maran “for the first time since he was sacked in May 2007 as the Union IT and Telecommunications Minister following a dispute with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi.”

Mr. Dayanidhi Maran also spoke about the perils of providing freebies. “The problem when you come to power by promising people free TVs,” he is quoted as saying during the meeting, “is that people soon forget the TVs you gave them and then ask ‘what are you doing for me now?’”

Mr. Hopper reported the estranged DMK M.P., who is now back as Union Textiles Minister, as being “very downbeat” about the United Progressive Alliance‘s prospects in the 15th Lok Sabha election, observing that “the UPA is in tough shape, especially after Gujarat.” Surveying South India, Mr. Maran also “expected significant losses for the UPA partners.” He was “pessimistic” about the Congress’s prospects in Andhra Pradesh, “saying Chief Minister YSR Reddy’s popularity is on the decline and that he expects Congress to lose a substantial number of the 29 Lok Sabha seats it currently holds. But he was quick to add that in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the UPA’s predicted losses stem from failures of the DMK and Congress parties and not from effective opposition.”

The Chennai consulate cable reported Mr. Maran as going on to assert that “the opposition AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh have floundered” and that “any UPA losses will have ‘nothing to do with Jayalalithaa (the AIADMK leader) or Naidu (the TDP leader).’” Further, he “acknowledged that the INC would likely pick up seats in Kerala at the expense of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) but said the gains would not be nearly enough to offset UPA losses in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.”

Mr. Hopper, the experienced diplomat, noted that Mr. Maran’s falling out with the DMK leadership was in part due to financial reasons, and so “his swipe at DMK corruption, although largely accurate, reflects some sour grapes.” Moreover, the Consul General pointed out in the cable, when in favour with DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, “Maran joined in the TV and other give-away schemes that helped the DMK win the 2006 state elections.”

Interestingly, while the DMK M.P. was scathing about the DMK, he was all praise for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, arguing that the Congress party needed to name him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Although he recognised that it would be a long shot, Mr. Maran contended that “Rahul is the only chance they’ve got.”

Rahul, Mr. Maran added, would benefit from the legacy of his father Rajiv Gandhi’s popularity in South India. The dynastic element of Rahul’s elevation would play well down south, he remarked. “If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have much of a problem with dynastic politics down here. In fact, we seem to like it.”

The cable also reported Mr. Maran as saying that projecting Rahul as the Congress’s candidate could help motivate young voters, but he was being held back by his handlers, who were managing him too closely and keeping him cloistered. “Rahul’s big problem, Maran said, is that ‘he doesn’t get to see real people.’”

Consul-General Hopper, too sharp not to detect a subjective element in the insights provided by Mr. Maran on Mr. Rahul Gandhi, supplied this comment towards the end of the cable: “His views on the likelihood of Rahul Gandhi taking the reins in Congress are perhaps colored by his view of himself as part of a new breed of young Indian politicians, playing a similar role in Tamil Nadu’s DMK as Rahul does for the Congress party. To the extent he sees Rahul going places, he is seeing a brighter future for himself too.”

By December 1, 2008, Mr. Maran was back in the DMK fold and in his grand-uncle M. Karunanidhi’s favour. When it came to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, his prediction was off on Tamil Nadu where money power played a huge role – and the DMK bagged 18 seats against the AIADMK’s 9, and the DMK front bagged 27 against the rival front’s 12. Mr. Maran’s “pessimism” was way off on Andhra Pradesh where the Congress, led by a hugely popular YSR, took 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. He completely misread the role of the AIADMK leader, Ms Jayalalithaa, in creating the groundswell that was in its early phases in mid-2009. But his prediction that the DMK was heading for a downfall on account of the corruption issue came true with a vengeance in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election of mid-2011.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2040630.ece