Tuesday, September 30, 2014

‘Make in India’: A Lion’s Step to boost manufacturing

A high spot of the economic scene in a normal circumstance in a parliamentary democracy is the presentation of the budget. But this fiscal, the major highlight could be the launching of ‘Make in India’ campaign by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 25, 2014.

The initiative basically promises the investors – both domestic and overseas – aconducive environment to turn 125 crore population strong-India a manufacturing hub and something that will also create job opportunities.
That’s in effect a plunge into a serious business but it is also punctuated with two inherent elements in any innovation – new avenues or tapping of opportunities and facing the challenges to keep the right balance. The political leadership is widely expected to bepopulist; but ‘Make in India’ initiative is actually seen as a judicious mix of economic prudence, administrative reforms and thus catering to the call of people’s mandate – an aspiring India.

In the words of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, “the biggest requirement is trust, confidence. I don’t know how we have run our country that we have doubted our own countrymen at every turn. I need to change this vicious cycle. We should not start from distrust, we should begin with trust”. And then he adds on rather aptly: “the government should intervene only if there’s some shortcomings”.

True to the spirit of this visionary statement, the ‘Make in India’ policy programme also commits that the campaign “represents an attitudinal shift in how India relates to investors: not as a permit-issuing authority, but as a true business partner.”

PM Narendra Modi first made the pitch for 'Make in India' during his maiden Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort "If we have to put in use the education, the capability of the youth, we will have to go for manufacturing sector and for this Hindustan also will have to lend its full strength, but we also invite world powers. Therefore I want to appeal all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here. We have got skill, talent, discipline, and determination to do something. We want to give the world an favourable opportunity that come here, “Come, Make in India” and we will say to the world, from electrical to electronics, “Come, Make in India”, from automobiles to agro value addition “Come, Make in India”, paper or plastic, “Come, Make in India”, satellite or submarine “Come, Make in India”. Our country is powerful. Come, I am giving you an invitation. Brothers and sisters, I want to call upon the youth of the country, particularly the small people engaged in the industrial sector. I want to call upon the youth working in the field of technical education in the country. As I say to the world “Come, Make in India”, I say to the youth of the country – it should be our dream that this message reaches every corner of the world, “Made in India”. This should be our dream.
This is a path-breaking venture. In fact, the vision statement of official website, www.makeinindia.gov.in commits to achieve for the country among other things an increase in manufacturing sector growth to 12-14 % per annum over the medium term, increase in the share of manufacturing in the country’s Gross Domestic Product from 16% to 25% by 2022 and importantly to create 100 million additional jobs by 2022 in the manufacturing sector alone. These are quite highly ambitious targets given the background that the manufacturing sector in India, which accounts for fourth-fifth of the total output, grew a meagre 3.3 per cent in January 2010.
Tapping Golden Opportunity:
Now let us look at the opportunity, the initiative can actually benefit India from the ground reality, especially when the Chinese manufacturing leaps have come under strain. There are already reports that several western manufacturing players operating in China want to move away from the world’s largest manufacturing hub.
Analysts say, Chinese wages are going up and the labour market is getting more challenging and that is driving away investors. Thus companies with operating factories in China should look for other alternatives in the region, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and of course India.
What are the advantages Indian business and especially manufacturing sector actually offer?
The country is expected to rank amongst the world’s top three growth economies and amongst the top three manufacturing destinations by as early as 2020. This is far more ambitious scene than promised about 2050 sometime back in the context of India’s role at the BRICS level. Indian manufacturing sector has positive elements like “favourable demographic dividends” for the next 2-3 decades. The sustained availability of quality workforce is another advantage.
Importantly again, in India, the cost of manpower is relatively low as compared to other countries. There are responsible business houses operating with credibility and professionalism. The country has a democratized polity vis-à-vis the rule of law and a strong consumerism intake ability of the domestic market.
Various speakers on September 25 at the launch of Make in India programme also spoke about robust technical and engineering capabilities backed by top-notch scientific and technical institutes as other positive offerings on the table.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saradha Chit Fund scam – Greed knows no barriers

Corruption in northeast India is largely seen as something ‘imported from India’. So is the case perhaps about baser instincts called, ‘human greed’.
For simpleton tribals and others in the region, the issues of corruption or greed thus revolve around the traditional ‘chicken and egg’ theory – on what came first. The vexed Saradha chit fund scam vis-à-vis the northeast region thus ought to be looked into from a different perspective.
Can people be corrupted or trapped into such a gimmick of easy money, if they do not want to be?
The first lid off the Saradha chit fund scam, which is a major talking point in West Bengal politics, in the region was perhaps taken off by Congress MP, Sanjay Takam when earlier this year he wrote an elaborate letter to the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh complaining that chit fund operators have functioned "from Assam with the singular objective of cheating the poor and tribals of northeast".
In his missive to the then Prime Minister, the Congress MP had specifically
alleged that one M/s Jeevan Suraksha Group of companies had set up regional office at College Road at Lumding in Assam. He also had claimed that the said company had "misappropriated" Rs 20 crore from the general public from Arunachal Pradesh on the "pretext of running different businesses". The MP also claimed that he has met several depositors who have been duped.

The chit fund scam has already snowballed into a minor political controversy in the state of Assam. Singer and Assam-based film maker Sadananda Gogoi was arrested by the CBI in connection with the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam on allegations of conspiracy. 

On his part, Gogoi has, however, denied having made any financial transaction with the controversial group.

In April 2014, after Takam’s letter made news; the central government also ordered various security agencies to probe the possibilities of chit fund
money from northeast flowing into anti-national and insurgent groups' hands.

Even in late 1990s, the chit fund operators had functioned in Nagaland
and Manipur and huge amount had allegedly flown into the insurgent groups.

On the Bengal front, the Saradha probe suggests that certain elements in the ruling establishment in the state had established working relations with Jamaat-e—Islami in Bangladesh

This only proves the possibility that a large chunk of money had fallen into the hands of forces inimical to India. Politically, the Saradha chit fund scam in Bengal suits BJP, which for obvious reasons now is having a greater influence on CBI. 

Besides the CBI, various financial offences in their entire episode are being investigated by Enforcement Directorate under the union Finance ministry as well.

The authorities in Assam also raided former Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s residence in connection with the chit fund frauds that has duped lakhs in Assam.
In West Bengal, mercurial Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee might be having one of the worst nightmares of her life as names of her close associates and top party colleagues have been popped up in Saradha chit fund scam in the state.

In Assam too things have turned murkier. Former Assam DGP Shankar Baruah committed suicide on September 17, 2014. The 1974 batch IPS officer and a popularly known jovial kind of person, Baruah’s house was raided was 28th August. It is also said that interrogation of singer Sadananda Gogoi revealed names of many key players of the Assam chapter of the scandal.

In Bengal too, one former DGP, Rajat Mazumdar, who post retirement turned a Trinamul activist, has been arrested. In Assam, singer Gogoi’s interrogation is likely to take things much deeper.
Following Gogoi’s revelations, the CBI is already short listing names of those to be summoned to Kolkata for questioning in connection with the multi-crore scam. The charges against Gogoi imply that ‘Assam chapter’ of the Saradha scam too could bring out can of worms. The singer Gogoi has been charged with actively helping the Saradha Group to run its business in Assam. Gogoi has reportedly come into contact with Saradha Group chief Sudipto Sen, now behind bars, when he did an advertisement campaign for the company. But later on, Gogoi introduced Sen and other senior officers of the company to “influential persons” of the State.
The CBI also believes that Gogoi even carried money on behalf of the company to be paid to influential persons in the state.
Thus, the plot has just started unraveling. The suicide of ex-DGP Shankar Baruah only confirms that the higher ups were involved. This again highlights the conundrum that major corruption and financial defalcation can be carried out in India with the active involvement of senior cops.
About a decade back, in Mumbai’s now infamous Telgi stamp scam too, a number of police officials up to the rank of ADG and Police commissioner were held. The sagging image of police is not confined to one state or region.

                              One has often heard, who will guard the guards.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lata Mangeshkar: The Living Legend, Nightingale

A very Happy Birthday to Lataji and her crores of fans across borders...

The testimony of Lata Mngeshkar's genius lies in the fact that she has sung duets starting from the likes of Talat Mahmood and Hemant Kumar to a post-Kishore Kumar generation like Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan. Her hit songs range from ‘Ayega Ayega Anewala (Mahal), to ‘Jo Wada Kiya Tha (Taj Mahal with Mohammd Rafi) and ‘Dil Tadap Tadap ke (Madhumati with Mukesh). On the other hand, decades later she continued to be natural choice for the music directors to sing for heroine less than half her age. The new generation would know her for Madhuri Dixit starrers and films like  Shahrukh Khan-acted ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaeyenge’, Mohabbaten and Dil Toh Pagal Hae. In Amitabh Bachchan starrer 'Silsila' : yeh kahan aa gaye hum....portrayed on actress Rekha is another sensational. 

Born September 28, 1929, Lata, Lataji or Latadi as she is known today
first bagged national laurels decades back when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to tears at a public function where she sang her famous patriotic number, “Aye mere watan ke logo …”. It was, her admirers say, only in fitness of things that on the eve of Golden Jubilee Celebration of Independence Day in 1997, Lata was grand attraction for the special function in the capital.
A number of hit movies and reigning queens owe their success to Lata’s meldious voice and no wonder she was longback aptly titled ‘Nightingle of India’.
When seven year old Lata played Narad in a play to her father's Arjun. She showed sings of maturity and sobriety that would remain her trademark characteristic later. 
Another facet of her virtues is hardly known. Despite detesting acting, Lata played several cameo parts in Hindi and Marathi films including Pahili Mangalagaur (1942), Maze Baal (1943) , Badi Maa (1945 ), Subhadra (1946 ) Chimukla Sansar (1943) , Gajabhau (1944 ) ,Jeevan Yatra (1946 ), Mand (1948 ), Chhatrapati Shivaji (1952 ). Actually, domestic responsibilities after the untimely death of her father Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, classical singer and theater actor, compelled Lata to act.

In her first film ‘Pahili Mangalagaur’, she played actress Sneprabha Pradhan's sister. In ‘Badi Maa’, starring Noor Jehan, Lata acted, sang for herself and for younger sister Asha. 

Waheeda Rehman, a star in her own right and to whose performance Lata rendered her voice many a times, rightly says, 'Lataji never thinks of her self as THE Lata Mangeshkar. She has always done her job to the best of her abilities and then never looked back'.

In 1999, during the erstwhile Vajpayee government she was nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha. In 2001, Lata Mangeshkar was awarded Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor. In the same year, she established the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune, managed by the Lata Mangeshkar Medical Foundation (founded by the Mangeshkar family in October 1989).
The genius of Lata can be understood from the fact  if decades back, Lata lent her voice for Dimple’s debut film 'Bobby', years later it was the irreplaceable Lata, albeit with glasses on, singing for an older Dimple in Bhupen Hazarika composed famous number ‘Dil Hoon Hoon Kare’ in Gulzar’s Rudali.

With legendary Hemanta Mukherjee
The ruthless competitive world of Bollywood even had occasions when attempts were made to replace her with other casts like Suman Kalyanpur and Hemlata, but Lata weathered all such challenges with disdain to live like a true living legend.
In 1973, she won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback singer for the song Beeti Na Bitai from the film Parichay, composed by R. D. Burman, and written by Gulzar. In 1975, she again won the same award, this time for the song Roothe Roothe Piya from the film Kora Kagaj, composed by Kalyanji-Anandji.

From 1970s onwards, Lata Mangeshkar has also staged many concerts in India and abroad, including several charity concerts. Her first concert overseas was at the Royal Alebrt Hall in London in 1974.

From 1980s onwards, Lata Mangeshkar got selective and cut down on her film singing. She recorded mainly for films by well-known banners, such as
Yash Raj Films and Rajshri Productsions even as she worked with new music directors often in new genre of songs like with A R Rahman and Shiv Hari. She also recorded some non-film songs, including ghazals with Jagjit Singh.
Lekin was another milestone move in early 1990s for her wherein she won her third National Film Award for the  song Yaara Sili Sili from the film.
Rahman recorded a few songs with Mangeshkar during this period, the most popular sogs include "Jiya Jale" from Dil Se and "O Paalanhaare" for criticaly aclaimed Lagaan.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Modi's UN speech : Social networking oneliners

Perhaps the single biggest takeaway from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s UN speech is that he has brought the hands of the clock to the same point again. In Hindi it could read: ghari ki sui usi jagah wapas aa gayi hae…

The Prima Minister Modi made his pro-talks (with Nawaz Sharif) clear in unambiguous words: “I am prepared to engage in a serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in a peaceful atmosphere, without the shadow of terrorism”. A simple sentence with intensely powerful meaning. In a way, he snubs his Pakistani counterpart for dragging a third party and in other words has set the ball rolling for talks.

Here are my postings on FB and Twitter

Pak knows they r facing a real 'Gujarat ke sher'.......Pakistani NSA Sartaz Aziz welcomes Narendra Modi's UN speech

# PM Modi was not that harsh which otherwise most of the detractors for both Nawaz Sharif and Modi had expected ....Perhaps Modi understood Nawaz Sharif's compulsion vis-a-vis Pakistani army and limitation as a civilian ruler in that country......talks could begin again !!

Modi blasts....west....good terrorism....bad terrorism.... seeks global role for India......... PM Namo turning Statesman

Hon'ble PM at the UNGA:"Despite UN various other groups such as G-8 are there. Why should we not work towards G-All"

# Sickulars should get busy finding faults with PM Namo's UN conquest......
‪#‎PMNamo‬ has a point in calling for g...all.....ridicules so many groupings....sign of a true STATESMAN 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Idiot Box, the ‘Idiots’ and poor ''print medium'' cousins

The kind of stuff being telecast in Indian news channels often make one skeptic to the level that one thinks, each story can end up with a ‘warning’: Viewing our programs is often harmful to intellectual health or so!
Just a few years can do different things to life; more to the life about journalism perhaps.
Not long ago, most print journalists shared a joke that only the TELEVISION SET in the sitting room is not an IDIOT BOX – but even those working for television news channels are failed products from print medium or just the ‘idiots’ themselves. But no longer! This is perhaps a decade old phenomenon now. Fat salary packet and overnight celebrity status despite intellectual hollowness have made the TV journalism one of the most sought after jobs.

As a result while there is mushrooming of institutes offering all qualities of TV journalism course; of course in lieu of huge payment; simple acceptability by viewers shooting up TRP rates have created all kinds of hype about launching of new news channels, owners changing hands and management shifting political royalties.
There is a beeline to cater to an estimated 140 million households of which 110 million have access to cable TV. But what has lately happened with the television news channels in terms of providing coverage on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US trip is unprecedented. All kinds of characters from television industry have been flown into the United States and as a result and deservedly so, all kinds of stories are coming in.
Many of my colleagues – of course from poor cousin of television news channels — the print – wonder at the quality of coverage and worse, what is actually being dished out.
Speculation is an innocuous childlike simplicity in an era where television news channels have allowed sensationalism, what was described as ‘yellow journalism’ in old text books, to dominate. Thus, we had sex, violence, anti social behavior and mostly stupidity ruling the roost. There is no exception to these factors even during Narendra Modi’s US sojourn coverage.
But these have not happened again over night and viewers have played their role. Therefore, no wonder most noisy man in the country is the best TV anchor or at least believed to be so!!
It is not about individuals alone but a system or rather a decaying system that has come to stay with TV journalism. One need not be expert nor a cynic to observe that television current affairs program or news telecast are immensely repetitive and obviously revolving around four metro cities.
There came a time when celebrity status justified everything. A popular female news anchor got away from the possible charge of SEDITION, when she did not hesitate to share with her viewers: India is going to attack Tiger Hill tomorrow. Army rule book probably says such announcers could have been shot dead as you narrating out the war strategy. 
Then the Hindi news telecast especially brought in ‘state-of-the-art’ (sic) lingo usage. As the self aggrandizement, ‘sabse tez channel’ claim caught the imagination of middle class, phrases like ‘Pradhan mantra ko fatkaya’, ‘cricket team ko jhatka’ became order of the day.
Only the other day as Scotland referendum results came in, the discussions on BBC was so pleasant and educative. Each guests and anchors had their say, mostly ventilating diametrically opposite views but all went on so responsibly; no case of spewing the venom. 

Broadly and in the ultimate analysis, thus I presume, there pervades two or more principal charges against today’s journalists and more the television journos: they hardly tell the whole truth, often guided by studio directions they deliberately mislead viewers and possibly, they do not report news of interest to common people.

The positive message from these is, as messenger becomes more important than the message in television screens, the print medium, that is the newspapers and the websites have their role to play. The emphasis should shift to more rural and localized coverage.
The newspaper owners should also give up Lalagiri and not consider their esteemed readers as ‘news consumers’ for a while.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Modi's US Visit: Will it break new frontiers?

Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit be path breaking?

A series of MoUs and cooperation in new fields are on cards: 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on September 24 gave its approval for signing a Joint Declaration between the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of India and the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States of America, to initiate a new program entitled Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education. GIAN aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country`s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India`s scientific and technological capabilities. 

The proposed India-US Cooperation will be beneficial for adoption of newer methods of pedagogy; infuse creativity and innovation driven learning and professional rigour at a relatively lower cost; boosting research in cutting edge technologies and to build stronger academic networks between both countries. The US faculty would undertake teaching at Indian Universities, networked research initiatives in topics of mutual interest and development of international entrepreneurship programmes by making the curriculum more industry oriented for better employability. 

The proposal envisages the creation of a channel for US academics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to spend part of their time teaching in academic and research institutions across India. To start with, the programme would facilitate inviting up to 1000 faculty every year from amongst the best institutions in the US, who will be deputed to identified institutions in India. 

Joint Declaration of Intent for cooperation in the field of higher education for Indo-US partnership for Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), a programme for Online Education
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for signing of a Joint Declaration of Intent between the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the U.S. Department of State for cooperation in the field of higher education for Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), a programme for online education. Under the cooperation, the SWAYAM platform server will be based in India and US universities will be invited to offer post-graduate academic programs with certification on the SWAYAM platform.
The new Indo-US Partnership for Online Education (IUPOE) programme will comprise a mechanism that will enable the top universities of the US (top 100 in global ranking ) to create and share post graduate online courses (and associated assets) on the Indian "SWAYAM" platform. SWAYAM is an online platform of the Ministry of HRD through which online programmes/courses will be offered to students in India. Each American University will share courses created by its top educators. The cooperation programme will be integrated to strengthen the National Mission on Education through the use of ICT (NMEICT) in India.

Memorandum of Understanding between India and United States for cooperation in gas hydrates
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and the United States for cooperation in gas hydrates for a period of five years.

Cooperation with the United States Department of Energy (USDOE) in the field of gas hydrates, will facilitate active participation of the National Gas Hydrate Programme (NGHP) and DOE scientists in data collection, analysis and identification of sites for pilot production testing. This would be under the planned NGHP Expedition-02 and 03 in deep water areas of the Eastern, Western and Andaman Sea. Exchange of scientific and technical information will help Indian scientists enhance understanding of Indian gas hydrates and keep them abreast with international developments.

Gas hydrates are considered as vast resources of natural gas and are known to occur in marine sediments on continental shelf margins. Worldwide work on gas hydrates is at a Research and Development stage and no commercial exploitation has so far been reported. Gas hydrate resources in India are estimated at 1894 TCM and these deposits occur in Western, Eastern and Andaman offshore areas.

Cooperation with the USDOE in the field of gas hydrates, will facilitate active participation of the NGHP and DOE scientists in data collection, analysis and identification of sites for pilot production testing, under the planned NGHP Expedition-02 and 03 in deep water areas of the Eastern, Western and Andaman Sea.

India's participation in the Thirty Metre Telescope Project at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA 
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for India`s participation in the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) Project at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA at a total cost of Rs. 1299.8 crores from 2014-23.

The TMT will be constructed at a cost of US$ 1.47 billion (in 2012 Base Year Dollars) by an international consortium consisting of institutions from the USA, Canada, Japan, India and China. From the Indian side, this will be a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). With its contributions, India will be a 10 percent partner in the project and 70 percent of its contributions will be "in kind". This will translate into 25 to 30 observing nights on the telescope for Indian scientists per year.

This will enable Indian scientists to access a state-of-the-art telescope to answer some of the most fundamental questions in modern science. Indian institutions and industry will acquire or gain access to sophisticated technologies of relevance to the country. India will also become a founding member of an important international scientific project.

The TMT will enable scientists to study fainter objects far away from us in the Universe, which gives information about early stages of the evolution of the Universe. It will also give finer details of not-so-far-away objects such as undiscovered planets and other objects in the Solar System and planets around other stars. This partnership will also enhance India’s technological capabilities in high-technology areas such as primary mirror segment figuring and polishing, mirror support system and edge sensor assembly and testing, software for observatory controls, data analysis pipelines, adaptive optics techniques etc.

The TMT will be one of the largest optical-infrared telescopes to come up in the next decade. Its 30 metre diameter primary mirror will consist of 492 segments of 1.44 metre diameter each. These mirror segments will be cleverly positioned relative to each other through sophisticated sensors, actuators and control systems, so that the entire assembly behaves like single monolithic mirror. Its performance will be further improved by employing "adaptive optics" techniques thereby achieving performance as if the telescope is located above the Earth`s atmosphere.

This will be a national project anchored in the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore and led by IIA, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. It will leverage the best of science and technology from wherever available in the country - from R&D institutions, higher educational institutions and industry. All interested scientists from the country will get time on the TMT for their scientific studies on competitive basis.

The implementation of the project will be overseen by a high-level Executive Council co-chaired by Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy.

(source Information Ministry, Government of India)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Democracy is in our DNA, India can rise again: Modi

The Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi has said democratic spirit is not only highly cherished, it is in
India's DNA and India has a chance to rise again as a global economic power. 
Perhaps seen as beingpro-US, especially after taking over on May 26, 2014, Modi, whom US denied Visa for a decade, made a veiled attack on US's holier than thou policy and to a question on Russia's actions in Ukraine, said "In India we have a saying the first stone should be hurled by someone who has not committed any offence or sin. There is no dearth of advice in the world today...but if u look around, you will find perhaps everyone has committed such offence ..."
In an interview to CNN's senior journalist Fareed Zakaria, his first after taking over the reins of the
country, Prime Minister Mr Modi on a wide range of issues including on Muslims and India's relations with various global powers, maintained that "India does not need to become anything else. India must become only India".   

Here is the transcript of  PM interview with CNN's Fareed Zakariya

Fareed Zakaria: After your election, people have begun asking again a question that has been asked many times for the last two decades, which is, will India be the next China. Will India be able to grow at 8-9 per cent a year consistently and transform itself and thus transform the world?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: India does not need to become anything else. India must become only India. This is a country that once upon a time was called 'the golden bird'. We have fallen from where we were before. But now we have the chance to rise again. If you see the details of the last five or ten centuries, you will see that India and China have grown at similar paces. Their contributions to global GDP have risen in parallel and fallen in parallel. Today's era once again belongs to Asia. India and China are both growing rapidly together. That is why India needs to remain India.

Fareed Zakaria: But people would still, I think, wonder that can India achieve the kind of 8 & 9 per cent growth rates that China has done consistently for 30 years and India has only done for a short period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: It is my absolute belief that Indians have unlimited talent. I have no doubt about our capabilities. I have a lot of faith in the entrepreneurial nature of our 1.25 billion people. There is a lot of capability. And I have a clear road-map to channel it.

Fareed Zakaria: China's behavior in the east China seas and the south China seas over the last two years has worried many of its neighbours. The head of the governments in Philippines and Vietnam have made very sharp statements worrying about it. Do you worry about it?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi: India is different. It is a country of 1.25 billion people. We can't run our country if we get worried about every small thing. At the same time, we can't close our eyes to problems. That's why India maintains that we are now in a different era. We are not living in the eighteenth century. China is also a country with an ancient cultural heritage. Look at how it has focused on economic development. It's hardly the sign of a country that wants to be isolated. It wants to stay connected. That is why we should have trust in China's understanding and have faith that it would accept global laws and will play its role in cooperating and moving forward.

Fareed Zakaria: Do you look at China and feel that it has been able to develop as fast as it has, really the fastest development in human history, because it is an authoritarian government, because the government has the power to build great infrastructure, to create incentives for investment. Do you look at that and think to yourself that that would be, there is a price to democracy that you have to do things a little bit more slowly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: If China is one example, then democratic countries provide another example. They have also grown fast. You can't say that growth is not possible because of democracy. Democracy is our commitment. It is our great legacy, a legacy we simply cannot compromise. Democracy is in our DNA.

Fareed Zakaria: You don't look at the power of the Chinese government and wish you had some of that authority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: See, I have seen the strength of democracy. If there were no democracy then someone like me, Modi, a child born in a poor family, how would he sit here? This is the strength of democracy.

Fareed Zakaria: There are many people in the United States and some in India who wish that the United States and India were much closer allies. The world's oldest democracy, the world's biggest democracy, but somehow that has never happened and there have always been these frictions and difficulties. Do you think it is possible for the United States and India to develop a genuinely strategic alliance?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: I have a one word answer: YES. And with great confidence I say "yes". Let me explain. There are many similarities between India and America. If you look at the last few centuries, two things come to light. America has absorbed people from around the world ... and there is an Indian in every part of the world. This characterizes both the societies. Indians and Americans have coexistence in their natural temperament. Now, yes, for sure, there have been ups and downs in our relationship in the last century. But from the end of the 20th century to the first decade of the 21st century, has witnessed a big change. Our ties have deepened. India and the United States of America are bound together, by history and by culture. These ties will deepen further.

Fareed Zakaria: So far in your contacts with the Obama administration, you have had several cabinet ministers come here. Do you feel that there is a genuine desire from Washington to try to upgrade the relationship with India substantially?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Relations between India and America should not be seen within the limits of just Delhi and Washington. It's a much larger sphere. The good thing is that the mood of both Delhi and Washington is in harmony with this understanding. Both sides have played a role in this.

Fareed Zakaria: With regard to Russia's action in Ukraine. India has not been particularly active. Do you, how do you view Russia's annexation of the Crimea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Firstly, whatever happened there, innocent people died in a plane accident. That's very saddening. These are not good things for humanity in this age. We have always expressed those views. There is a saying in India that the person who should throw a stone first is the person who has not committed any sins. In the world right now, a lot of people want to give advice. But look within them, and they too have sinned in some way. Ultimately, India's view point is that efforts need to be made to sit together and talk, and to resolve problems in an ongoing process.

Fareed Zakaria: One of the areas that India has come on to the world scene or people have read about and heard about it, which has been unfortunate has been violence against women. This issue of rape. Why is it you think that there is this problem of, it seems persistent discrimination and violence against women in India and what do you think can be done about it?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Muslims are patriotic Indians, no debate please!

This blog piece is coming close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rather historical assertion about the patriotism of Indian Muslims. But about a week back, precisely on September 14, 2014, exactly four days before Modi’s interview to Fareed Zakaria I had posted the following para on the Facebook:

“There's a general trend in arguing these days that ISIS is making impact in India and wooing Muslim youths, but my firm contention is that it could be still far-fetched to say that Al-Qaeda’s message of jihad is reaching Indian Muslims now.”
There can be no dispute about the correctness of the statement; and only issue being the timing. Modi's 'Muslims are patriotic' lot remarks come two-day after UP by-elections debacle wherein Love Jihad campaign failed and about a week before his US trip.
So probably the piece would have come even without Modi’s statement wherein he waxes eloquently: “If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India--they will not want anything bad for India". He was responding to a question on the impact of the Al Qaeda appeal to Muslims in South Asia.

Indian Muslims are not actually new to the influence of radicals or terrorist campaign but the ‘Bharatiyata’ (commitment to Indian nationhood) has prevailed among the minorities in this country notwithstanding an effort being made by so called secular elements to keep them isolated from the mainstream. There is little to dispute that such divisions have been exploited by the champions of Hindutva, the RSS and even Narendra Modi himself also. The majority of Hindus who clamoured just a few months back for getting Narendra Modi as their Prime Minister are actually enamored more by Modi’s developmental plank than his Hindutva image. They, however, looked upon Modi as the only chief minister in independent India who stood by Hindus. Why such a perception has come to stay remains to be debated. 
Fareed Zakaria

And if communalism was also a factor to attain reverse polarization it was perhaps more by the anguish towards secular bogey’s attempts to taunt Hindus, especially the middle class and upper castes. The most unprecedented comments on these lines came from Dr Manmohan Singh, who as Indian Prime Minister, indeed insulted the majority community when he said the first right to natural resources is for minorities. 

The over estimated economist and country’s most under estimated politician in recent times was actually leading a large number of moderate Hindus towards a sure and certain communal trap. 

I have interacted with intelligence officials and security experts – both serving and retired – and quite a few of them discard the theory that ISIS or Al Qaeda influence can wean away considerable number of Muslims in India even as there have been reports of some youths getting excited about the idea of Jihad. The general refrain and I am also convinced about it is that the young Muslims in India (20 something) are far more PRAGMATIC and 'career oriented' than 30 plus or so. Indian security agencies nevertheless should be on guard.

India has sizeable Muslims no doubt. And thus it is natural ISIS or Al Qaeda would approach Indian Muslims and it is also likely that a few misguided elements would latch on to the ‘opportunity’ to join the Jihadist forces. Now whether such Jihadi movement can bring salvation to Muslims all over the world remains a debate for some other day.

The history of Muslims in India can be easily described as an uninterrupted tale of woes barring the glorious past when they ruled supreme from Kashmir in the north and beyond to down south. The tragedy for Muslims in this country is that despite being loyalists, they have been termed pro-Pakistanis as some ill-advised youths support Pakistan cricket team. At the same time, those Muslims who migrated to Pakistan in search of their ‘holy land’ from India were called ‘Mohajirs’.

The Muslim contribution to India’s freedom struggle cannot be underestimated ever.

In fact, even for someone like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, it would not be out of place to say that focusing on Jinnah’s later career and examining it in isolation from his early years will be unjustified. When Jinnah returned to India, originally inspired by Dadabhai Naoroji, Jinnah was a moderate and a secular. 

While some say Jinnah was ambitious, others say Jinnah’s concern for Muslims and in the process Muslims endorsing his two-nation theory largely revolved around social issues. 

Muslims in general from 1857 to at least 1920s remained ‘nationalistic’ and to a degree idealistic.

The problems probably started after that. Things only worsened when after independence and especially under Indira Gandhi, the Congress party played the dirty ‘appeasement card’. 

So much for the cause of false championing of Muslim cause that even in Kerala or Bengal, Muslims were forced to support the cause of Urdu language.

On the other hand, the post-1992 or post-2002 politics in India gave an opportunity to “traders” of secularism – I often dismiss as SICKULARISM – and power-brokers like the Leftists and Lalu Prasad and H D Deve Gowda –
to encash the ‘appeasement’ card for their selfish benefits. In the process, we saw a Left-ruled West Bengal’s Muslim conditions far below the national average, courtesy Sacchar Committee report appointed by UPA-1 supported by the Leftists themselves.

One ought to be reminded at the end that like that proverbial parrot and demon story, the life of Hindu communalism lives in the parrot called FALSE APPEASEMENT of Muslims! This imbalance needs to be corrected.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oh Governor! The bizarre ‘Mizoram experience’

It is a pity that the government and perhaps also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi have apparently so far refused to see the constitutional tension that has been created and the damage it has done to the dignity – whatever left out – to the gubernatorial post.
The jinx everyone is talking about Mizoram Governor gubernatorial post is unprecedented. In little over last 2 months, Mizoram has had four Governors, something of a record. It started with reshuffle of Governors, the Modi government wanted to make in order to pave the way for some resignation and create vacant slots for some of its own old guards who needed to be provided with ‘loaves and fishes’ of BJP coming to power.

On July 6, the then Mizoram Governor, V Purushothaman was transferred to Nagaland, others who came and went by include Kamla Beniwal, V K Duggal and then former Maharashtra Governor K Shankaranarayan who resigned soon after the appointment orders were signed by the President Pranab Mukherjee.
Lately, another person K K Paul was given additional charge. 
But there is another version, a shrewd political star Modi and his Home Minister Rajnath Singh realize well the various pros and cons of the bizarre episode. The so called ‘subversion’ of the Constitution vis-à-vis the Governor’s office in the country is nothing new. The Congress has done it nakedly in the past and now the BJP is on its footsteps. 

The so called ‘Congress-ization’ of BJP cannot be complete without the saffron party running the art of using and abusing the offices of Governors. If today, despite all optimism about effective governance and growth-oriented developmental works, an impression lingers that the ruling dispensation has been guided by partisan interests in doing what it has done with Governors so far, it is its own making.

But the Modi government has its compulsions also. Insiders in the corridors of power suggest even if the Prime Minister was reluctant to act so fast and so unconcealed manner against the institution of Governors, the compulsion of real polity prevailed. 
Modi with 'original Ram Bhakt' Kalyan Singh

In Uttar Pradesh, BJP faced a peculiar situation. Firstly, it needed a party-friendly Governor as law and order situation is fast deteriorating and the centre had to be in loop over key issues. The former UP Governor B L Joshi was a UPA appointee and reportedly enjoyed good personal rapport with Mulayam Singh Yadav, father of UP chief minister Akhilesh. 

Hence after easing out Joshi, they brought in a hardcore BJP man from Mumbai, Ram Naik. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, senior party leaders and potential trouble makers in Amit Shah’s scheme of things for 2017 assembly election in UP, had to be ejected outside the state. Hence, the vacancies in Jaipur and Kolkata could be filled in by old war horses like Kalyan Singh and Keshari Nath Triapathi. A disciplinarian like Tripathi could be also helpful to the BJP in its 2016 Bengal assembly polls against mercurial Mamata Banerjee.

So, according to BJP sources, the bizarre Mizoram experience about shuttling Governors is purely incidental if not accidental!

But a astute politicians like Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh could also turn this as a pretext to spark off a debate essentially on two things – first the need to bring in amendments in the clause on appointments and transfers of Governors vis-à-vis change of government in the centre and secondly, on the futility of the institution of Governors itself. In the major overhauling of administration, the Prime Minister reportedly is not adverse to the concept of doing away with the offices of Governor. 

The real and final answer to this puzzle however remains in the womb of time.
It goes without saying that the founding fathers of the Constitution had thought of the Governor’s role as a means of balancing the pulls and tensions of a federal polity. But it is also true that the Governor’s role over the years has come to be viewed as a device for an authoritarian Centre to curtail the autonomy of the states and especially the powers of regional players. A question often remains unanswered is why did the framers of Constitution not expressly ensure security of tenure or enact any safeguards against the arbitrary removal of the Governor.

Lately, while a big fuss is being made about ‘horse trading’ issue in Delhi assembly visa-a-vis the role of the Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, in 1992 the Congress-led P V Narasimha Rao regime had dismissed then Nagaland Governor, the Late M M Thomas just because he disallowed Congress to do any horse trading and had dissolved the Nagaland assembly.