Author Archives: admin

With Triple Talaq Abolished, UCC Should be Next Step

With the passing of the Triple Talaq Bill, the disgusting practice of instant divorce by uttering the word talaq thrice has effectively been consigned by the Modi 2.0 government to the dustbin of history. The outlawing of talaqe-biddat marks not just an ideological victory for the BJP but a landmark breakthrough in furtherance of women’s empowerment in the changing political landscape of India. Unlike in the past,the Opposition, which had been pampering the hardcore religious elements of the Muslim community, was unable to stall the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

What made the triumph particularly satisfying for the BJP was its successful floor management in the Upper House despite the shortage of numbers. Besides vindicating its commitment to protecting the interests of women cutting across religious barriers,the BJP has demonstrated its willingness and preparedness to bring the people of the nation in matters of civil jurisprudence under the single umbrella of the Uniform Civil Code(UCC). This is in keeping with its poll promise and in alignment with provisions of the Constitution.

A Uniform Code would end the sorry saga of minority appeasement,which marked the policies of the self serving rulers of the past. The very idea of its introduction has unleashedtrepidation in the ranks of the Opposition which lies, in any case, hopelessly scattered. The UCC will see the end of vote-bank politics and its replacement by development politics. This would put the Opposition on a sticky wicket in future elections.

Marriage, divorce, maintenance,adoption and inheritance are staple issues that constitute personal laws unique to different religious communities.Personal laws are fraught withoutdated practices and customs sanctioned by religious beliefs of a bygoneera with barely any relevance to modern times. Any attempt by the government to streamline these laws in the form of UCC in alignment with modern civil law is bound to create a bogey of a threat to religious freedom. Hardcore religious elements are expected to bristle with indignation and take umbrage at the perceived breach of their age-old customs which are by and large patriarchal.

However, the Central government would do well to keep to its resolve to introduce the Uniform Civil Code not with standing the obstacles posed by moribund religious elements with vested interests. This is a prerequisite imperative to update and modernize our country’s legal system to ensure social justice uniformly across all sections of the society. Women’s pressure groups can play a vital role in mustering support among their respective communities and help the government to overcome bottlenecks.

Apart from hardcore religious elements,the government may also expect stiff resistance from Opposition political parties and Opposition-ruled state governments.

As the Central government is currently on a fast track mode to fulfil its poll promises and is working overtime to carry out required legislative work at a frenetic pace, the BJP would beaccused of working to a sinister agenda.The party would be accused of seeking to saffronise the legal and social systems. This may lead to the creation of a bogey among minority communities, which will allege that the safety and the fundamental right to practise the religion of their choice has come under attack.

Equality before the law and up holding the dignity of women and gender justice are the cardinal principles of the case for UCC. Empowerment and emancipation of women presuppose the banishing of patriarchyas the cornerstone of personal laws.

Clerics do not want to lose their hold over the community. In turn, the Opposition parties that have been banking on support of the clerics,which translates into a community voting en bloc, are afraid of losing their base. The dubious and rigid basis of personal laws and the clique comprising religious zealots and self-serving politicians needs to be broken.

Besides removing gender inequality,the UCC would create social harmony among all sections of society.What could be more just than the treatment of citizens of diverse religious backgrounds on an equal footing before the law? Thus, the UCC is not only a welcome option as envisaged by the framers of our Constitution but also the need of the hour. The abolition of Triple Talaq has paved the way for the UCC. However, its introduction will not be easy. Massive pressure will be mounted on the government by terming it as anti-democratic,anti-minority and communal.

Governments of the past suffered from ideological bankruptcy and policy paralysis to address the issue. With adequate numbers in Parliament and an unflagging resolve to introduce a just and equitable system, now is the time for the BJP to live up to its image as the party with a difference. The present government is more stable than any in the recent past. Furthermore,it is free from any scam, scandal or narrow selfish agenda. In the matter of the UCC, its intentions and motive would easily pass the test of honour in the eyes of its detractors as well as non-biased observers.

With the goodwill of Muslim women gained in the matter of Triple Talaq under its belt, and the substantial support to its measure to reorganize Jammu and Kashmir, the Modi government is riding high. The UCC could well be a path breaking measure for more radical legislation to follow in the future.

(The article “With Triple Talaq Abolished, UCC Should be Next Step”  published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 21 August, 2019)

BJP alone can genuinely integrate J&K with India

Kashmiri politicians like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti want a separate Prime Minister for Jammu & Kashmir. This, they say, is in accordance with the terms of accession of the State and therefore a Constitutional demand. In the same breath, Mufti says, “We are Muslims”. So what they are actually asking for is a Muslim PM for J&K. Omar Abdullah went a step further and talked about a separate President as well for the State.

What a convenient arrangement for the father-son Abdullah duo to split the plum posts between themselves and spend the rest of their political life in the comfort of dynastic rule! Mufti would, on her part, alternate with the Abdullahs in an incestuously close contract of family rule, all in the name of keeping the Kashmiri identity distinct and separate from the State’s oneness with the Indian nation. They do not mind the State remaining within the Indian Union so long as it vests in them the power of ruling the State and takes away from them the responsibility of protecting the State from external threats.

All-Muslim Affair

It is obvious that these politicians look at people as Muslims and non-Muslims and practise partisan politics. They are simply not concerned about national issues although they do vent their spleen from time to time at the perceived Hindutva policies or initiatives of the NDA government. It is evident that they don’t have faith in a non-Muslim (read Hindu) nationalist Prime Minister like Narendra Modi. They believe that only a Muslim PM is capable of governing the State with the interests of the Muslim community in mind.

Obviously, they consider the interests of the Muslims and those of the others mutually exclusive. They don’t believe in communal amity and religious harmony. Why else would the response of the State’s political spectrum to a mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, running into hundreds of thousands in 1989-90, be a deafening silence? Wasn’t it a case in point when the separatist Muslim leaders fanned communal passion and tried to precipitate a flagrant ethnic cleansing? Fortunately and inexplicably, the sordid communal conflagration remained a localised affair and did not get out of hand. If it had spread to the rest of India, what was to follow might have been the equivalent of a sequel to the partition of united India.

It is more than evident that the separatist Muslim leaders of J&K want an Islamic nation for the Muslim people. Within the framework of the India that we know, this is high treason and sedition. For achieving their eventual goal of secession from India, the self-serving separatist Kashmiri leaders are well aware that they stand no chance against the powerful military and industrial complex of India. They are, therefore, reconciled to inching towards their goal, with the demand for a separate PM and a separate President and a continued special status for the State. Simultaneously, they are all for rallying the support of Pakistan, which wants to see India’s disintegration.

Pro-Pakistan Leaders

There is no dearth of separatist Kashmiri leaders operating within the State receiving support from Pakistan. Yasin Malik, the chief of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, is a case in point. Although he speaks of the independence of J&K from the rule of both India and Pakistan, his cavorting with the Pakistani politicians, on and off, singles him out as a party in nexus with Pakistan.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the pro-Pakistan separatist Hurriyat leader, is reportedly receiving terror funding from Pakistan for his separatist movement. His two sons have been subjected to interrogation for involvement in the charge, and his son-in-law was arrested on charges of sponsoring stone pelting in the State. This case has revealed that in 2018 alone, more than a hundred stone-pelters and terrorists had received funds from Pakistan. That Geelani is a Pak-sponsored separatist is a foregone conclusion. The Pakistani media had quoted him as saying in 2010, “Hum Pakistani hain; Pakistan humara hai”, while he was addressing a large group of his followers.

After the Pulwama incident early this year, as part of a strong drive by our security agencies, the Enforcement Directorate levied a penalty of Rs 14.40 lakh and also ordered confiscation of nearly Rs 6.8 lakh in connection with a FEMA case against Geelani for illegal possession of foreign exchange. In the past, he had supported Afzal Guru, who was the mastermind of the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in 2001 and Hafiz Saeed, Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. He has also been supportive of Kashmir’s union with Pakistan.

Geelani has been receiving vocal support of Pakistan, and he has been criticised for being an agent of Pakistan by fellow Kashmiri leaders. Sheikh Mustafa Jamal, leader of National Conference, has charged him with being a double agent of Pakistan’s ISI and being on that country’s payroll. He is one of the regular pro-Pakistan separatist Kashmiri leaders who are invited to the National Day reception of the Pakistan Embassy in Delhi year after year. Asiya Andrabi, Head of Dukhtaran-e-Milat, Kashmir’s biggest network of women jihadists, has been in prison since July 2018 for waging war against India and other unlawful activities.

Known for supporting the infamous stone-pelting rallies in 2015 across the Kashmir valley organised by Masarat Alam Bhat, leader of the Pro-Pakistan Muslim League, she hoisted Pakistan’s national flag in Srinagar and sang Pakistan’s national anthem on that country’s National Day in 2015. Asiya Andrabi also incited violence by slaughtering a cow and released a video to defy the ban on the sale of beef in J&K. Her husband Ashiq Hussain Fakhtoo is a well-known terrorist and one of the top commando leaders of Hizbul Mujahideen, openly supporting the secession of J&K and its union with Pakistan. He has been in jail since 1993 for the murder of a human rights activist.

Battle Lines Drawn

The recent development of open talk asking for a separate Prime Minister for J&K seemed to be a bait to the leaders of the leading national parties who were then trying hard to trounce the BJP at the polls and grab power at the Centre. Indian National Congress, the party most flagrantly notorious for its family rule, has not reacted to the demand of the separatists. It has, however, talked in its election manifesto of upholding the State’s special status besides holding talks to find an “honourable solution” to the problems that have come in the way of peace – a euphemism for the party’s acquiescing to the latest demand.

The BJP has, on its part, denounced the demand, and instead, it has spoken of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The party’s stand has been succinctly, if a bit too sharply, brought out in the words of its new entrant Gautam Gambhir: “Omar Abdullah wants a separate PM for J&K, and I want pigs to fly! More than a separate PM, Omar Abdullah needs some sleep, followed by a strong coffee! If he still doesn’t understand, then a green Pakistani passport.” Thus, the battle lines have been drawn and positions taken by all the major stakeholders. Now that the results of the General Elections 2019 have been declared and the BJP-led NDA government has been reelected we just need to wait and watch how things shape up in the coming months, which will ultimately decide the final outcome.

Baseless Allegations Shouldn’t Go Unpunished

During the last five-year rule of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the churning that happened in Indian politics enabled the Opposition to throw up a spot-the-thief-where-there-is-no-theft strategy. It was based on falsehood and aimed at spiking a great trail that marked the NDA reign. The landmark strategy set the ground for the evolution of the spit-and-scoot tactics aimed at maligning the most spotless of the reputations. In the post-2014 scenario, the continued absence of scams and scandals on the part of the government had rendered the Opposition desperate and the Media nervous.

The government showed no signs of a let-up on its avowed policy of clean governance, nor did the ruling coalition exhibit any sign of cracking up. The single instance of the pulling out of the government by a peevish Telugu Desam Party was no more than a classic case of a single swallow that does not a summer make. With its inability to set a narrative of its own, the Opposition had been reduced to a sorry state of marginal presence. Bereft of grist for its gossip mill, the mainstream media (MSM) found, to its dismay, the drying up of the fountainhead of sensationalism. In short, it was not business as usual any more either for the Opposition or for the MSM.

Formula for Relevance

It was at such a juncture of the downturn of events that the Opposition went for a huddle and came up with a formula for gaining political relevance. The strategy gave the Opposition the raison d’être, and the tactics gave the strategy the wings. Primary among the proponents of the formula was the Congress Party, whose high priest, Rahul Gandhi, lost no time to shoot from the hip. The party did not have to look far to spot a potential area for a scam. Having for long been in the eye of numerous scandals and scams while in power, Congress saw a windfall opportunity in the India-France deal for the procurement of fighter jets for IAF.

Had not the nation witnessed during the Congress rule, right from Jawaharlal Nehru’s time down to that of Manmohan Singh, some scam or the other in the area of Defence purchases? The Bofors scam still etched fresh in their memory, why should it take long for the people to be persuaded to believe that no Defence deal was corruption-free or, for that matter, no government was scandal-free? However, since the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues had all along steered clear of corruption charges, the name of an industrialist, supposedly a so-called ‘corporate crony’ and promoter of the Prime Minister’s image, was thrown in to make the plot thicker.

Thief but No Theft

Accusations were hurled and allegations levelled against the PM, his cabinet colleagues, and the ‘corporate crony’. The involvement of a French angle in a murky affair was not spared either. The ‘scam’ was at the heart of all the events of the Opposition, be it a road show, street corner meeting or press meet. The government squarely rebutted all the charges and vehemently ruled out any impropriety, financial, political or administrative. The decibel level of the high priest of Congress went up higher and higher, and the ethical quotient of the attack on the PM lower and lower. The PM was flagrantly branded a thief who allegedly stole thousands of crores of public money and gave it away to his ‘corporate crony’. Interestingly, the amount of money supposedly stolen from the public, drastically varied in quantum from one public meeting to another, depending on the perceived need of the moment to produce a shock and awe effect on a stupefied audience who had no clue about what was being said.

Without prejudice to the intelligence of the rural and small-town audience who attended such meetings, what registered in their mind in the scorching heat of a hot summer day under the open sky was, in all probability, “Chowkidar chor hai.” Nothing more! It was evident from the beginning that the issue was baseless, with no proof or evidence. Congress, however, went about claiming that the onus of proving not guilty was on the Prime Minister. Very convenient, indeed!


In response to a PIL filed by some disgruntled ex-members of BJP and their associates, the Supreme Court found no corruption, foul play or impropriety in the Rafael deal. The CAG report further reaffirmed a clean deal. All this was not enough to deter the high priest of Congress from slinging more and more mud on the government. Referring to a Supreme Court verdict on a review petition, he brazenly went ahead to claim that the apex court had conceded that the PM was a thief. Rahul Gandhi had to subsequently tender an unconditional apology to the court, but he did it only after the honourable court warned him of strict action.

Contempt for Norms

Now he restricts himself to saying in public meetings “Chowkidar” and prompts the audience to shout “Chor Hai”. Whether his behaviour qualifies to be termed childish or churlish is a moot point. He has also gone ahead to state on camera that he has no details in his possession regarding the Rafael deal! Furthermore, he has no qualms about conceding that his attack on Narendra Modi was aimed at tarnishing the latter’s clean image and reputation of spotless personal integrity. In short, anything to bring down one’s opponent from the podium of public recognition for one’s own self-promotion! What could be viler or horrendously unacceptable than such a sinister display of contempt for decency, decorum, and integrity in public life, especially on the part of one aspiring to become the Prime Minister?


In an up and coming nation like India, where there are severe constraints on the people’s accessibility to unvarnished truth, with paid sections of the MSM hacking the public opinion with misinterpretations, half-truths and plain falsehood, the price that the honest political leaders have to pay to vindicate their honesty and integrity is quite daunting, to say the least. However, when mealy-mouthed politicians gang up for their selfish agenda and cause the derailment of truth, it is the nation which suffers the most. A wrong person at the right place, surrounded by evil geniuses and conniving henchmen, could cause irreparable harm to the development of the nation by taking its economy several decades back, a severe beating to communal harmony, loss of faith in the people in democracy and territorial integrity.

After all, it is rightly said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No amount of precaution is too much to take, nor is the time for action too soon. Politicians should be made accountable for their words and deeds, especially outside the Parliament, which provides them with a reasonable degree of freedom of expression, free of the fear of retribution. Their conduct outside the Legislature needs to be restrained too. Victory in an election is neither a licence for the politician to put himself above the nation or its citizens nor is an electoral debacle an adequate punishment for all his sins.

A Stable Government and Coalition Politics

Regional parties which stand absolutely no chance of forming a government at the Centre or in a State on their own strength, are much too happy to join sides with big parties in the fight so as to be able to share a piece of power after a collective victory. Coalition politics is all about fighting for and the sharing of power.

Is coalition politics here to stay? The answer seems to be in the affirmative, given the developments of the recent past in the political arena. Ground realities and pragmatic considerations make the fight for the numbers at the hustings ruthless. The stakes are too high for anyone to ignore. Victory becomes an absolute necessity for the participants in an election, both for the capturing of power and, very often, political survival. No matter how big a party or how wide its reach, the compulsions of Realpolitik call for the supplementing of the party’s national appeal with a shot of pizzazz peculiar to a certain region or local community, found aplenty in the state-level or smaller parties.

Level Playing Ground

It is a rare occurrence these days when two major parties are pitted against each other in a poll, be it for the Parliament or the state assemblies. Small regional parties which stand absolutely no chance of forming a government at the Centre or in a State on their own strength, are much too happy to join sides with big parties in the fight so as to be able to share a piece of power after a collective victory. It may, therefore, be stated that coalition politics is all about fighting for and the sharing of power. It affords a level playing ground to all the parties, small, big or medium, to come together to form competing blocs, and thereby have an adequate say in the wielding of power, which is no more the monopoly of big parties.

Bickerings Galore

In effect, this sounds too good to be true. However, political parties, big or small, need to have basic ethics which guide them from degenerating into power brokers. When coalition partners have common ethics, they could be counted on by the people, service to whom needs to be the core guiding principle of a government. Much too often, parties that have nothing in common except an unbridled craving for power, forge tie-ups to topple a government already in position or beat a rival alliance that stands in an election for all the right reasons. It is not all that difficult for the people to identify the power mongers or the nation-breakers from the very fact that such an unholy alliance sticks out on account of its lack of homogeneity. It is not only during the negotiations for the formation of the coalition that they quibble over the spoils of the ensuing fight but also throughout the duration of the alliance.

Much to the amusement of the people and scepticism of the political observers, the coalition partners of an unprincipled alliance tend to hark back to the past when they had shared the dubious honour of slinging mud at each other. The approach of the election at hand brings them back to the present, and make them bury the hatchet and gang up against the common enemy. Nothing other than the vanquishing of the common enemy and the capturing of power could be found on their agenda. In the unfortunate instance of their getting the right numbers at the election, they start a fratricidal war among their own alliance partners. The party to emerge as the biggest bloc would then have to tackle some other alliance partner or the other that demands its pound of flesh in the government. This process opens the door for horse trading and related inadmissible practices.

Nevertheless, the most unfortunate fallout of all these shady developments is the failure of the people to recognise the powerbrokers and moneybags at play for who they are and raise their voice in protest. This shortcoming on the part of the public makes it possible for the unprincipled parties and legislators to shed whatever fig leaf of respectability and honour they had been donning and go about unashamedly and flagrantly pursuing their dirty tricks. Repeated occurrences of such sordid developments in some state or the other in a vast country like India where elections to the assemblies are held according to different time schedules and, not infrequently of late, at the Centre too, leave much to be desired for the health of the democratic system.

Coalition Norms and Ethics

It is, therefore, imperative that the dynamics of the coalition politics be reviewed to bolster up the system. The feasibility of the obliging of the alliance partners of a coalition forged before an election to be held honour-bound to a Common Minimum Programme or some such Action Plan is worth a thought. In case of the pulling out of a coalition by an alliance partner after the alliance comes to power, out of peevishness or as a strong arm tactic intended as a threat to topple the government, the Election Commission should consider disqualifying that party from fighting polls for a substantial period of time. It should also not be ridiculously simple for a party to switch sides except for a valid and genuine reason. In short, coalition politics should not be allowed to dwell only on the poll arithmetic of numbers and thereby degenerate and fall into the hands of unprincipled politicians. Nor should peevish coalition partners be allowed to hold a government to ransom by threatening to pull the plug out on it.

The melodrama that accompanied the No Trust Motion introduced by the Telugu Desam Party in the Lok Sabha last year, which miserably failed, as well as the TDP’s withdrawal from the ruling NDA coalition, is a case in point. Apart from causing avoidable pangs of anxiety all around and giving a pathetic opportunity to the government’s bitter rivals to drag the ruling coalition to a virtual street fight, what TDP’s move accomplished was zilch. The Parliament’s precious time could have been prevented from going down the drain. This would have been possible if coalition partners, whether they are on the Treasury benches or in the Opposition, had been made honour-bound by certain basic coalition norms and ethics, enforceable by the Election Commission.

Unity and Stability

Needless to say, it is easier to talk of political parties being made honour-bound to a set of coalition norms and ethics than formulating the means and political will to enforce it. However, the business of governance is by no stretch of the imagination a low hanging fruit. Not being in the category of here-today-gone-tomorrow political imperatives, coalition politics has to be hammered out to evolve into a workable formula capable of providing the nation with a stable government. The alternative would be a lethal dose of political anarchy and administrative chaos. For there is no party in the country today with a pan-Indian appeal. The BJP may yet emerge in the course of the foreseeable future, as the single cohesive party that binds the pockets of ideological isolation like in today’s Southern part of the country, with the mainstream national politics. Until such a positive development dawns on the political horizon, we have to channelise the strengths of coalition politics for the nation’s unity and a stable government.

(The article “A Stable Government and Coalition Politics” is published in ‘Organiser’ )

Misuse of the Freedom of Expression

To call Freedom of Expression the true hallmark of democracy is a case of belabouring the obvious. The value of the freedom could only be truly appreciated in its total absence like during the British Raj or during the short shrift given to democracy by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. Blanket bans and censorship of the Media constitute the most insidious onslaught on democracy. Nations of the post-colonial era, therefore, have been taking great care to grant their people the right to Freedom of Expression along with the fundamental rights to life, liberty and freedom of worship, and make it an inalienable part of their Constitution.

The governments are, however, seldom appreciative of the fact that Freedom of Expression serves the unintended purpose as a safety valve in a society of people overcome by pent up anger and frustration. On their part, it would be unfair to expect a free people to leave governance entirely to the tender mercies of a government, albeit legitimately elected by the very same people, and be mere onlookers. It is as much a people’s right to make suggestions to a government and point out the latter’s lapses and excesses as it is that of a government to make laws and govern, affecting the lives of the people. It is unthinkable to expect people to fulfil their democratic obligation of holding a mirror up to the government without the freedom of expression.

Gross Abuse 

However, Freedom of Expression is the most grossly abused of all the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The misuse of the benefits of the technical revolution in the sphere of information technology has made the abuse of Freedom of Expression more frequent and alarming than in the past. Both the society and the individual have to inevitably pay a hefty price for their indulgence although it is the nation which ends up as the ultimate loser to the abuse of the Freedom of Expression.

Cyber warfare has emerged as a much-dreaded form of attack on a nation by the enemy. It is, therefore, absolutely essential for a government to keep a strict vigil on the abuse of online control systems and networks from the espionage and sabotage points. This necessitates a guarded view of the use of the Freedom of Expression.

Old Habits

History is replete with instances of people misusing the right to speak out regardless of the age they lived in or the form of the government that was in vogue. One of the earliest accounts of such an instance may be found recorded in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The loose talk by a nosy parker in Sri Rama’s kingdom, which depicted Devi Sita in poor light, triggered a series of grave incidents that changed the course of the story altogether. How lack of self-control by way of loose talk could have an irrevocable impact on the course of events is a case in point.

Mud-slinging in Public Life

Faceless people and neighbourhood gossip mongers notwithstanding, the biggest offenders in today’s India are those in public life, such as political figures and celebrity artistes with a narrow personal agenda. They cast aspersions on the character, reputation and image of their rivals in broad brush strokes of vague accusations and baseless allegations with characteristic elan. For instance, what happens when a leader of a political party wanting to harm the party in power, calls a selfless leader of the nation a thief, without a shred of evidence to support his charge? Similarly, there are celebrity artistes and self-proclaimed intellectuals who complain about a perceived atmosphere of intolerance or the alleged targeting of members of the minority community by the government.

To start with, a ripple effect among the members of society is caused. The mainstream media goes gaga over such stories. The combined effect of the baseless accusations repeated ad nauseam, and the unwarranted media glare and publicity to the stories tend to enlarge the ripple effects into a storm. When the targeted leader is able to face the charges and stands his ground by virtue of his proven track record of a sterling character, integrity beyond doubt and blemishless financial propriety, the storm blows over. But not before an odious course of trading of charges and countercharges transpires.

At the end of the futile exercise of trying to pull down a tall leader from the podium of people’s adulation on the basis of false accusations, those who resorted to the cheap tactics and failed, do not have the courtesy or decency to aplogise. Nor do they wait long before going through the motions of throwing more mud at their rival. In short, this is a never-ending story. The unprincipled politicians who spread canard and are exposed in the bargain, do not have qualms about facing the people, with egg on their face. The only redeeming factor that provides relief to the victims of character assassination is recourse to law.

However, with the wheels of justice grinding much too slowly in our system for an innocent person’s comfort, it is much more important for him to win the people’s confidence and trust and win the war of perceptions. There are many misogynists in Indian politics who have a flair for heaping humiliations on their female colleagues and rivals by resorting to gender-specific invective and expletives. Their intention is to demoralise the targeted persons and provoke them into making a blunder or faux pas, which would lower their estimation in people’s eyes. When a woman politician proves too suave and well-grounded to feel affected by gutter politics, the cheap tactics backfire.

Family and Public Life

Those in public life are, more often than not, at the receiving end of uncharitable remarks by their opponents regarding their personal life. Many a mighty oak has fallen in the realm of public life in the face of a furious storm over a perceived unseemly behaviour or inappropriate conduct by a family member. Prudence demands that a person in public life keep his distance from his family and operate in an upright manner from the safety of splendid isolation to ward himself from the evil designs of those who are purveyors of human weaknesses and filial failings.

Preventing Misuse of Such Freedom

Freedom of Expression is stretched to its tether’s end when a government’s patience and political will are put to the test by anti-national elements and their connivers. The Tukde-Tukde gangs and Urban Naxals are those who take pride of place among such anti-nationals of whom there is no dearth. The support they get from the paid sections of the mainstream media in real terms, and the oblique and clandestine support from the power brokers with whom they enjoy consanguineous and close incestuous relations, constitute a daunting Gordian knot. Our nation is currently in the process of re-electing its honest and upright leaders who are capable of undoing the knot and putting an end to the misuse of the Freedom of Expression by the anti-national forces.

A Case for the Proscription of Communism

Communism does not speak of prosperity or plenty. It is obsessed with inequality, class struggle, the burial of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, power to the peasants and the proletariat and the withering away of the State. Not a very cheerful ideology for the people of a land subjected to a thousand-year slavery by successive invaders and colonisers.

Communism is a dead horse, which has never completed a race when alive, let alone win a trophy. There is no hope for those who try to flog it back to life instead of burying it, carcass, memory and all. This has been proved time and again in several countries.

India Offers Sanctuary

When country after country across the globe gave up on Communism, it is ironical that the doctrine still finds some patrons in the unlikeliest of places for its survival – India, a traditionally conservative country with a great spiritual legacy and cultural ethos and home to the Westminster-style democracy in a highly politically turbulent part of the world. Communism has managed to show signs of revival by feeding on the very democratic system in India which had allowed it a sanctuary. The resultant situation reflects poorly on the country’s political system with its inherent fault lines rather than on the strength or merits of the doctrine.

Bury the Dead

Prudence demands that for a successful economic principle or political doctrine, what is not desirable should not be conceived; what is not feasible should not be attempted, and what is not viable should not be pursued. Communism is neither viable nor desirable. This universal truth is more so in a resurgent India, which is poised for a giant leap ahead to become a Vishwa Guru. And yet, a clutch of power-hungry politicians in Kerala have been serenading the odious ideology of a bygone era with an extraordinary passion and fervour.

It is rather strange that the people of a State with the highest literacy rate in the country have bidden adieu to pragmatism and fallen for the emotional appeal of a non-workable ideology. Apparently reconciled to the mistaken belief that there is a global conspiracy to stifle an ideology perceived noble, the people of the State seem to have taken it upon themselves as an onerous task to defend it and reboot it to its days of worldwide glory! Never say die may be a good policy but if someone has already died,then it is a must to bury the dead body.

Lacklustre Ideology

Communism does not speak of prosperity or plenty. It is obsessed with inequality, class struggle, the burial of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, power to the peasants and the proletariat and the withering away of the State. Not a very cheerful ideology for the people of a land subjected to a thousand-year slavery by successive invaders and colonisers. And that too for a people who were heirs to what is arguably the most ancient civilization in the world, a religious and spiritual temperament that has successfully withstood the onslaught of alien faiths, and is home-ground to several native dogmas, cults and philosophies.

And yet, Communism managed to secure a toehold in India. Wherever it was allowed to compete with democracy for the right to rule, Communism has left a trail of blood and brutalisation of the rival parties.Human lives mean precious little to Communism, which uses all ploys and instruments at its disposal to uproot the existing system and foist itself to fill the political vacuum. It connives with extremist outfits and terrorist groupings and lends support to them in their armed struggle against an orderly society. Communism believes that an orderly society is reflective of complacency on the part of a people, exploited and infused with a stupor of indifference, by the ruling class. The society must, therefore, be subverted from within to allow room for operation by the party. To this end, the party encourages infiltration by its cadre into political and administrative institutions, judiciary and the media.

Subversion from Within

Democracy is dubbed as the sword arm of the Capitalists which must be got rid of to make room for the Communist rule. This is, however, a hidden agenda. To realise this task, Communism puts the extremist and terror outfits such as Naxals, Urban Naxals,People’s War Group, Mao’s Army, etc. to use. Communists are good at the run-with-the-hare-and-hunt-with-the-hound game. They contest elections to the Parliament and the State Assemblies sometimes on their own and on other occasions in alliance with locally strong parties.

Before and after the elections which are a mere charade for them, they work hard to weaken and subvert the democratic institutions such as the judiciary, administration and the executive. Weakened institutions depict a slackness and inadequacy on the part of the State and lead to the people despairing and becoming dismayed over the system. The Communists support anti-national elements such as the tukde-tukde gang, which operate with the support of the anti-social and anti-establishment sections of the media.

Intending to further weaken the democratic system, the Communists interfere in matters of faith, such as the Sabarimala litigation case. The ultimate idea is to create all-around anarchy and erosion of faith in the system and amidst the unifying forces of the native religious and spiritual bodies of faith. The truly tolerant spirit of Hinduism,which has a nationwide presence of cultural and spiritual bonds of cohesion is dubbed and derided as hollow.

Wherever they are in power, such as in Kerala, the Communists undermine the role of Hinduism as a binding factor that unites people all over the country, cutting across barriers such as caste, language and regional nuances and idiosyncrasies. To this end,they have no qualms about lending oblique or even flagrant support to the elements that are anti-Hindu and incite communal disturbances and religious acrimony.

Bludgeoning the Opposition

Kerala is a classic case of the ruling Communist Party showing the ugly side of its face by commissioning brutal murders of the party cadres of Hindutva organizations such as the BJP and the RSS. The Communist Party is terrible while it is in the opposition and worse when it is in power.

Floundering Economy

The Communists do not have a viable economic policy and defray their time and energy in fomenting trouble for the industrialists with labour unrest. They don’t support proposals for the setting up of new industries in the State. Pitting up the labour and the employers against each other is a fulltime job for the Communists. Having no claim of their own for economic growth or social progress at home, they take recourse topeddling cooked-up stories of distant lands where the ground reality is far different from their hollow claims.

In the changing context of worldly order, which ceased long ago to be bipolar with the Capitalists and the Communists pitting forces against each other, Communism is an outdated concept. It holds no ground in a market economy where the focus is on production, marketing, creation of labour-friendly working environs, and generation of sustainable profits funnelled into management-labour harmony.

Ban for Consummate Peace

In view of the above, it is high time that India woke up to the reality of the chimera of Communism and put it to rest for all times to come. The grounds for the ban are several – the Communist Party is the fountainhead of extremist and terrorist outfits,anti-national and anti-democratic sentiments, anti-Hindutva and anti-humanitarian stances and dalliance with covert operations and overt collaboration with enemy countries.

(The article “A Case for the Proscription of Communism” is published in ‘Organiser’ )

Revocation of Articles 35A and 370 Will Bring Peace, Progress and Prosperity to Kashmir and Rest of India

No longer will February 14 mean the same to Indians as in the past. The day will go down the annals of the nation’s history as a cornerstone in its war against terrorism. While India has been busy preparing to conduct the massive democratic exercise of holding elections to the Parliament, Pakistan organised a ghastly terror attack at Pulwama. India’s response was in the form of airstrikes, wreaking devastation and destruction in the enemy’s heartland. Eton of international terrorism, Pakistan had made no secret in the past of its intention of bleeding India with a thousand cuts.

Pulwama marked yet another cut in Pakistan’s proxy war. Notwithstanding India’s repeated démarches and protests in the international fora in the past about Pakistan’s proxy war, this was the first time around that its efforts had succeeded in garnering absolute global support. The credit for the favourable political climate that has evolved over the last five years from a passive mood of indifference that had prevailed earlier on the part of the international community goes to the BJP-led NDA government that has worked tirelessly in exposing Pakistan’s insidious ways. Further diplomatic moves to isolate Pakistan among the comity of nations are afoot.

Concerted Exercise

Although the whole of India has been a victim of terrorism all along the nation’s existence as a sovereign republic, the State which has suffered the most is Jammu & Kashmir. This is on account of the State being in the line of frontal assault by a hostile Pakistan which has always coveted J&K. The nation must seize hold of the congenial atmosphere prevailing at home and abroad to end the perennial threat from Pakistan and the political impasse in the Kashmir valley. Our all-out diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan must be complemented by cutting out the support base of the enemy in J&K. A concerted exercise at different levels ranging from diplomacy to politics and military action would make terrorism a thing of the past.

Tough times call for tough decisions. The Union government has already started the crackdown on the fountainhead of violence with the detention of hundreds of hardened anti-national elements and the withdrawal of security cover for separatist leaders. The state chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami has been banned. This has sent shockwaves among the anti-nationals and their sympathisers in the mainstream political parties across the State. Undeterred by the backlash over the developments, the Centre is mulling over ways and means to further strengthen the security measures. The mood of the nation has never been more congenial in the past for the government to take the next bold step. The time is propitious for it to go for the jugular of the enemy and establish to the world beyond any pale of doubt that India will never give up on Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of the country.

Big-Ticket Decision

Military action against the enemy must be complemented by big-ticket political decisions in J&K. The last barrier before the State in extricating itself from a web of political machinations and intrigue needs to go. This presupposes the need for the consigning of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution to their rightful place viz the dustbins of history. It would mean no more separate Constitution, flag or special status for J&K. The falsity of the claim by those who are opposed to peace that abrogation of the two Articles would not be in the interest of the State and would spell fresh violence must be exposed.

The unique circumstances leading to the grant of special status to J&K are a thing of the past and have no relevance anymore. Why and how the special status was accorded are a matter of historical detail set in troubled times, never to be revisited. The redundancy of the special status makes it eminently worthy of removal, with no likely negative impact. On the contrary, its continued retention makes it a major irritant towards ensuring social harmony between people of the State and their compatriots in the rest of India. Its removal would make conditions easier for the Kashmiris seeking education and employment outside the State and also for non-Kashmiris who wish to migrate to the State and buy properties, get married and settle down over there.

Economy & Justice for All

Removal of Articles 35A and 370 would make the State’s economy a level playing ground for industrialists and entrepreneurs from all over the country. Fresh inflows of investments, skill and talent, would ensure multifold growth in the State’s industry, agriculture, tourism, MSME and all other areas of the economic and social spheres besides opening up new vistas of progress. Cessation of terrorism and removal of the two redundant Articles of the Constitution would make J&K a worthy and equal stakeholder in our nation’s growth and development.

Apart from doing immense good to the State, dispensing with the special status would do justice to the sentiments of the citizens living in other States whether they want to migrate to J&K or not. Why should there be a wheel within a wheel? How much longer should a State, which has been part of the country for seventy years, be allowed to enjoy special status and to what end? As a sovereign democratic republic, India should not hesitate to exercise its inalienable right to remove the inequality between States in the form of special status. Every citizen of the country has the Constitutional right to be treated alike, Kashmiri or not. Besides, prohibiting or restricting a non-Kashmiri citizen from buying property in the State or marrying a Kashmiri citizen albeit by means of a temporary Constitutional provision, militates against natural justice.

Restoration of peace and doing away with the inequality between citizens would facilitate the return of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus who had to flee from the State some years ago, leaving behind their home and hearth, to escape the wrath of mobs of hostile elements. Their return to J&K and rehabilitation should be facilitated by the government for the sake of restoration of the people’s faith in the rule of law.

Shed to Gain

The basis on which Muhammad Ali Jinnah had based his claim for Pakistan was that Muslims could not live safely in a Hindu-dominant country. The proclamation has been proved hollow, and the two-nation theory was a monumental failure. The people of J&K should not allow themselves to play into the hands of separatist leaders who try to instill in them the fear that they would be subsumed by the rest of India and lose their separate identity. By shedding the fig leaf of special status, people of J&K would gain peace, progress and prosperity, which have eluded them thus far. Nothing more could the people want. Political will and gumption are all that the government at the Centre needs to set a historical flaw right and make the country the overall beneficiary of the course correction.

India should take Israel’s help to tackle terrorism

Pakistan was born out of spite and intolerance towards India. Its founding fathers had staked their claim for a separate country for Muslims on the plea that they could not live safely in a Hindu-dominated society. Pakistan’s formation has not done its people any good even though the state is monotheistic. Pakistanis wrongly nurture a belief that Kashmir belongs to them and India should give it to Pakistan without any reservation. And it calls Kashmir an unfinished agenda of partition.

Immediately on its formation, Pakistan forcibly occupied swathes of territory of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir while an unwary India was preoccupied with coming to terms with its newfound status of a free nation. While illegally occupying the forcibly taken territory, Pakistan has been surprisingly clamouring for the whole of Kashmir. India’s policy on Kashmir is irrevocable as Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of the country. As such, the parts of Kashmir under Pakistani occupation should be returned to India. After three major wars and several skirmishes over Kashmir, Pakistan finds itself in gridlock, with no solution in sight.

Despite blustering its way into becoming a sovereign country, Pakistan has failed to exorcise its ghosts. Democracy in Pakistan is a non- starter. The State being precariously wedged between rigid religious dogma and a series of back-to-back military dictatorships, Pakistan’s economy floundered, faltered and simply failed over the years. Financial assistance and aid packages from friendly countries and international financial institutions were diverted and pumped in to inflating its war machine, which was already far too disproportionate to itsdefence requirements. Pakistanis lagged in every segment of economic and social progress. The Army, and its intelligence agency, the ISI, lulled them into a state of complacency by playing out the bogey of a hostile India and bragging about Pakistan’s superior armed strength to trounce the enemy.

Pakistan’s repeated attempts to militarily annex Kashmir have failed. So have its diplomatic manoeuvres in the international fora. All the wasteful expenditure on military campaigns has put its economy way behind India’s. Late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan once vowed to wage a thousand- year war against India. In reality, how- ever, Pakistan has been defeated in every single war it has waged. Licking its war wounds and diplomatic reverses, it has adopted the doctrine of “bleeding India with a thousand cuts” by means of covert and low-intensity warfare with militancy and infiltration.

In the meanwhile, Pakistan could not last even a quarter of a century as a united nation. At the end of a suicidal war with India, necessitated by count- less crimes and atrocities committed by Pakistan against its own people in its eastern wing, Bangladesh was liberated, and Pakistan became a truncated nation. This became yet another cause for Pakistan to become more vengeful and export terror to India.

Pakistan has settled for a proxy war with India. Littered on the terrain of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) are camps of terrorists who are trained and prepared by ISI for infiltrating into India and causing damage to military assets and civilian population and property. Many of these camps and the terrorists receiving training there have been wiped out by Indian forces in surgical strikes carried out in the post-Uri and post-Pulwama terror attacks. Although the resultant loss was considerable, Pakistan would not give up on its foolhardy terror campaigns despite India’s stern warnings.

Besides not letting its guard down and not resting on its laurels, India needs to do a lot more. A welcome development in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack was an offer by Israel to support and aid India in its fight against terrorism. This development was expected due to steady progress in India-Israel bilateral relations. Many meaningful and insightful deliberations at the level of top leadership have gone into making mutual cooperation between the two countries in obliterating terrorism, viable and more realistic than in the past. Although India has been doing well on its own in its war on terror, our nation would do well to recalibrate its policy, factoring Israel in the context of the overwhelming support India has lately received from the international community.

To begin with, India and Israel should strengthen the existing bonds in the field of intelligence sharing. This would ensure the scope of identifying, locating and bringing the enemy into the ambit of successful pre-emptive attacks by our forces.

Modernization and upgradation of the equipment employed for espionage and counter-insurgency operations is a vital area of cooperation. Training of our troops in Israeli-type operations would complete the collaboration.

The Israeli security forces are a class apart in dealing with stone-pelters and missile launching terrorists from areas inhabited by the civilian population. There is a lot to be learnt in this area in segments such as counter-resistance, battle fatigue, and overcoming psychological barriers such as an unintentional attack on the civilian population while trying to single out terrorists and damage caused to places of worship, schools, hospitals, etc.

Pakistan is a natural choice of shelter for terrorists and masterminds of terror attacks wanted in India. Furthermore, India’s requests to Pakistan for their deportation or for putting them in the dock for a credible judicial determination in Pakistan have been in vain. India should, therefore, not hesitate to take the next step pick up these targets and neutralize them in their own habitats to ensure zero tolerance to terrorism. This kind of der- ring-do is an area of high specialisation, which security forces of a few nations like Israel have successfully carried out in the past. Such an operation could entail a full-fledged war or a war-like situation. Changing times and changing priorities call for changes in tactics. Thus, many areas in which Israel excels could benefit Indian forces.

Israel is surrounded by several enemy nations and has successfully fought several wars. It has played a stellar role in containing regional terrorism from getting out of hand. Whether India wants, on the lines of Israel, to declare Pakistan an enemy country and totally sever diplomatic relations, trade, information and cultural links is something our leadership at the highest level has to take a call on. Pakistan should, in any case, be made aware that India has zero tolerance to terrorism and is in no mood to subjecting itself to the ignominy of being bled from a thousand cuts.

India should also consider the military option to retrieve POK and reunite it with Jammu and Kashmir. The appropriate moment for this would be when the movement for the liberation of Baluchistan gains momentum and the time becomes ripe for India to do another Bangladesh to Pakistan. Israel can be expected to stand by and help India in more ways than one in this mother of all surgical operations.

(The article “India should take Israel’s help to tackle terrorism”  is published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 03 April, 2019)

Need and Importance of Ethical Leadership in Indian Politics

It is a matter of abiding concern that ethical behaviour in Indian politics seems to have become increasingly in short supply over a period of time. Politicians are far too preoccupied with the battle of the ballot that needs to be fought every now and then in some corner or the other in a nation as big as India. In such a scenario, they neither have the time nor the inclination to introspect over the rapid drop in their standards of behaviour and actions. As such, the battle of wits, which precedes and succeeds the polls, has become too murky an affair to make every right thinking citizen despair.

The trajectory that Indian politics has taken since Independence has left the people under no illusion about the fast depleting scope of decency and decorum in public life. The alarming descent in standards in the way political debates are carried out in legislatures and various public fora and the accompanying bickering and aggression has foreclosed the option for the law-abiding youngsters to consider becoming a full-time politician. Suffice it to say that the universal opprobrium attached to the vocation of politics succinctly put in the immortal words of Bernard Shaw that “Politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel” has never been more acutely felt than now.

Intemperate Language

There hardly passes a day when an avid newspaper reader does not feel assaulted by headlines screaming at him about the deplorable conduct of some politicians. Proof or no proof, reports of corruption, nepotism or involvement in assorted scams and scandals by those in high offices get splashed with alarming regularity. The electronic and social media are even more vociferous than the print media, with an eye on the TRP ratings. While the reports are often reflective of the baseless allegations made by political leaders against their rivals in the name of freedom of speech, what is sadly missing is accountability.

The public learns to live with a slew of charges seldom proved in the court of law. However, the politicians who concoct false allegations and spread canards against leaders of impeccable character and blemishless integrity are the real beneficiaries of the situation. Such crook politicians know they have already won half the political battle as they have succeeded in sowing seeds of doubts, suspicions and scepticism in the minds of the unwary public, which readily lap up the sensational stories. What is most disturbing in such a scenario is the usage of the highly inflammatory and objectionable language used by the unprincipled politicians.

High Stakes No Justification

The fact that there are high stakes in politics does not make the usage of unethical practices justifiable. Who can justify or defend anyone that seeks to malign a leader of the people, besmirch his image or ruin his reputation with baseless allegations? While the attacked leader has legal recourse to compensation for defamation, what about the hurt caused to the sensibilities of the public that is caught in the crossfire between the offender and the attacked leader? Why should the common people suffer the indignity of being exposed to a series of scurrilous writings and speeches with no scope for compensation for being taken for a ride?

Many a time, it is not only the individual political leaders who are targeted for slandering. Even high institutions such as the Court, investigation agencies, Election Commission and the Armed Forces are not spared either. They are flagrantly or indirectly accused of colluding with the government. At the instigation and backing of some political leaders or their parties, many anti-social elements, trouble-makers and mischief makers in the guise of academics and student leaders launch a blitzkrieg of an unacceptable and highly objectionable publicity campaign against their political adversaries, for a price.

Furthermore, they do not even spare religious authorities or institutions. Resultantly, the common man’s faith in democracy and secularism is severely shaken. The Sabarimala temple issue is a case in point. Terrorists, Urban Naxals, anti-nationals and other fringe political groups take heart from such reprehensible developments and set about their demolition work to weaken the nation by twisting and distorting the truth. Constant exposure of the people to such an unhealthy atmosphere would instigate an attritional effect on their self-esteem and also on the pride in their country’s culture, history and political system.

Higher the Authority More the Abuse

Let us take the case of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been at the receiving end of the Indian political Opposition that loves to hate him. It will reveal the extent to which the latter would go and the level to which they would stoop to defame the PM and deride his authority. When the Prime Minister claims in a moment of utmost humility to be a chowkidar that would not allow the looting of the country by anyone, he wins the approbation of the people. On the contrary, it is ironical that his detractors arrogate to themselves the liberty of trying to downgrade him in the people’s estimation to a chowkidar in stature and respect. Here we get to see that humility is reciprocated by arrogance and audacity. This is the kind of unethical behaviour amidst the ranks of the Opposition that people are shocked to witness – pull down an elected leader of the people from his high office and trample all over him!

Odium, Jibes, Barbs Ad Nauseam

However, this is nothing new. Haven’t we witnessed the self-proclaimed champions of Secularism and casteless society, who are now reduced to the ranks of the political Opposition, badmouth our current Prime Minister before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, as a mere “Chaiwallah”, as if tea-making is a much-abhorred odium, if not a sin! They seemed to ask how a common man can have the audacity to run for the Prime Minister’s office? There were many more such jibes and barbs from the same crooked politicians such as Merchant of Death, Hitler, Butcher of Gujarat, Gangu Taeily who challenged Raja Bhoj…the list is endless.

After his ascension to the high office, every move and deportment of his came into sharp focus: his expensive clothes, alleged desertion of his wife and mother, the bonafides of his educational qualification, his travels abroad, so-called crony capitalism, etc. His private life was no more that private as it used to be. He had become a goldfish in the spotlight. Put him in a bind – damned if he acts and doomed if he doesn’t! Baseless accusations on the jet fighter procurement and cynical observations about the veracity and success of the surgical strikes refuse to die down despite the vindication by the apex court and the army authorities. Every single act of virtue, simplicity and piety was reduced to an object of ridicule and derision reserved for a much-reviled enemy rather than a political adversary.

Ethics Supreme for Clean Governance

The political atmosphere in India today is so putrid and unhealthy that nothing short of a surgical strike would cleanse the toxic air. The people of our country should summon the courage of conviction to strike at the very root of the problem and flush out the dregs of dynastic rule, as it seems to deter capable and ethical people from entering politics since they believe they don’t stand a chance of winning against their dynastic peers. This, in turn, is one of the reasons instrumental for perpetuating unethical behaviour in Indian politics. In this scenario, all that the Indian voters need to do is to reboot the current system by returning Team Modi to power, with a thumping majority. Because there is no way, our country can have a people-oriented government and clean governance based on ethics without breaking the vicious grip and stranglehold of dynastic rule in Indian politics.

India Should Pass a National Law Against Proselytisation

A bane, a curse, a demeaning exercise, a social evil – that is what proselytisation is all about. It is a reprehensible tool acquired by a section of mankind, and it has spilt much more blood in the name of religion than in the name of war. Being subscribers to the credo of “My God is superior to yours,” religious bigots are merchants of hatred, responsible for creating a schism in the doctrine of universal brotherhood and communal harmony. Proselytisers are their agents and foot soldiers. Where the alien invaders and colonisers failed, the foot soldiers strive hard to succeed with the help of their new-found tool. Their modus operandi – brainwash and put people into a religious straightjacket, and cut them down to size to fit a set of rigid religious beliefs.

Conversion by Deception

The medieval Islamic invaders and Christian colonisers brought upon India the scourge of 1,000-year old slavery and religious persecution. They derided the ancient religions of India as blasphemous and berated their practitioners as barbarians and sinners that worshipped dark evil forces. They have been convinced that converting the ‘non-believers’ and ‘idolators’ to their faith is their religious obligation. Successive generations of the bigots of the medieval ages gradually revised their strategy and replaced the sword with deceit and allurements. The process of conversion starts with an over-the-transom counselling by religious mountebanks and evangelists who make it their business to tell the peaceful people how the latter’s religion makes them uncouth savages. The holier-than-thou attitude of the proselytisers and the horrid berating of the indigenous religious beliefs as barbaric practices tend to cause irreparable damage to the social fabric.

Gullible sections of the people are misled into believing that their rich cultural heritage is but a heap of a worthless and shameful burden of the past. They are further brainwashed into thinking that their past history of slavery and subjugation was a direct result of their ‘sinful’ beliefs and practices. Victories after victories by the invaders and colonisers in their military campaigns against India were attributed to their divine right to rule over the ‘infidels’ and ‘pagans’. Bereft of self-esteem and shorn of pride in their cultural legacy, the ill-informed and misinformed sections of Indians are talked into trading diamonds for glass beads and shells. Eventually, these people shift focus from the goal of attaining spiritual bliss to acquiring material comforts, often passed off as an adjunct to an alternative faith or a rigid religious system enforced at the cost of liberty or life.

Travesty of Tolerance and Unity

In a nation that is committed to re-asserting its traditionally historical role in the comity of nations as Viswa Guru, proselytisation is a travesty of religious tolerance and unity in diversity. It simply has no place in a country where people have been taking pride in the doctrine of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. On the contrary, the implanted faiths are hell-bent upon bringing the whole world under the central command of their respective religious authority. Flush with illegally-sourced funds from vested interests abroad, proselytisers find a soft target in the poor gullible people, whom they convert with cash inducements, tempting allurements and false promises. They have no compunction about spreading canards such as casteism being an evil creation of Hinduism. Converted people are often led to believe that the votaries of the two Abrahamic faiths in India do not practise casteism. By the time the converts discover the truth, they realise that it is too late to undo the mistake they have committed.

The proselytisers also find pliable colluders amongst the disgruntled members of the intelligentsia, academics and artists with a cock-eyed vision of history or misplaced loyalty to an alien political ideology at odds with India’s cultural ethos. These elements provide the much-wanted support system to the proselytiser to sway the far too young and ideologically infirm among the society, who are susceptible to the crosscurrents of the pseudo-secular ideology or nihilism. Another segment of the society that allows itself to play into the hands of the proselytiser is the paid sections of the mainstream media (MSM). This segment is too happy to promote disharmony and restlessness in society by questioning the relevance of traditional religious beliefs in a world of changing priorities. The possibility of the seemingly innocuous activities of these elements doubling up as a front to the covert operations of the anti-national elements and divisive forces cannot be ruled out.

Freedom of Religion 

Proselytisation is evidently a non-democratic dogma, which needs to be put down by the State with a heavy hand. Else, the very fabric of communal harmony and the territorial integrity of the nation would be at peril. A morally reprehensible phenomenon of a bygone era, marked by witchcraft and sorcery, proselytisation is ethically and politically untenable in today’s age of freedom of thought and religious practice. Clear lines of segregation of religious propagation and proselytisation have been drawn in every modern society for the benefit of its peace-loving people. In India, where people are free not only to practise a religion of their choice but also to propagate their faith without the fear of persecution, freedom of religion is enshrined as a fundamental right in the Constitution. This freedom is subject to public order, morality and future wellbeing of our nation.

Need for a National Law

So far, there has been no national law enacted against the evil practice of proselytisation by the Union Government as the subject falls purely under the Constitutional domain of the states under the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Even among the states, legislations have been enacted by only eight of them, to regulate religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or other inducements. The absence of a nation-wide anti-conversion law and the failure of most of the states to enact laws that prohibit conversions which are not absolutely voluntary, is a matter for serious reflection by all the right-thinking people. If the current state of affairs is allowed to continue any longer, serious demographic changes are bound to occur, particularly in India’s bordering states.

With people of the minority communities tending to live in clusters, the precipitation of more and more such clusters would make them increasingly isolated and alienated from the national mainstream. The apprehension of the majority community of being outnumbered some day in the future by the swelling numbers of the members of the minority communities cannot be ruled out either. Such a situation would likely jeopardise the doctrine of Secularism and pose a threat to our nation’s territorial integrity. India has already gone through a partition and too many wars to let its guard down. Furthermore, the dangers of Proxy Wars, Terrorism and Naxalism call for the downshifting of gears in the country’s security preparedness. Worrisome demographic changes and another partition are threats that India cannot afford to face anymore. Hence, it is high time that a national law banning religious conversions, which are not entirely voluntary, is passed by the government in the interest of our country’s survival.

Ardh Kumbh success will provide poll boost to BJP

Even as 2019 was ushered in with customary joy by people all over the world, the stage was set in India for two important events. Even though both have tremendous appeal for the people of our country, these mega-events could not have been from two more diverse – spiritual and political. Both call for meticulous planning and preparation by the state machinery. More importantly, neither will be feasible without people’s participation.While one of these, the ArdhKumbh or the KumbhMela as it is more popularly known, has limited direct appeal to the Sanatanis currently living in the multicultural society of modern India and abroad, its overall reach across the globe cannot be overlooked.

Recognised as the biggest human congregation on earth, till February 21 as many as 22 crore devotees and tourists from India and abroad had already visited the Mela. The significance of the occasion did not go unnoticed by the growing number of foreigners known for active interest in the spiritual and cultural riches of India. Meanwhile, 220 delegates from 185 different countries landed in Prayagraj on February 22 and participated in the KumbhMela festivities. The other grand event, the upcoming General Elections to the Parliament, is a subject matter of tremendous interest to the whole world for its likely impact on regional and international developments. How does the ArdhKumbh impact the General Elections?

All the life forms that take birth on planet earth are bound to experience pain and misery, decay and death. Death only heralds the beginning of a new life, which means a repetition of birth, experiences of pain and suffering, decay and death. The process of birth and death and what- ever lie in between are repeated ad nauseam till one’s Karmic account is settled. Is there no way out for some- one to cut the process short and enter a state free of pain, misery and decay? Sanatana Dharma, which propounds this theory of the cycle of birth and death, does reveal a way out. Take a holy dip in the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati during the auspicious event of KumbhMela at Prayagraj, held at periodic intervals, with pomp, gaiety and religious fervour. One is then free from the cycle of birth and death and ushered into the realm of the Gods, where prevails a state of eternal bliss.

How far removed is the cycle of birth and death from the process of the election of a new government for a limited period until it is re-elected or voted out in a democracy like India? Elections are ahealthy and positive exercise that enable people to renew their faith in a government or vote it out of power till the next round of elections. Democracy is the pride and glory of the nation in a milieu of military dictatorships and truncated versions of the system practised in India’s neighbourhood. Transfer of power through the mam- moth nationwide exercise of elections is the crowning glory of India’s political system.

Whether it is a question of attainment of bliss or betterment of the society, the choice of the course of action is that of the individual. In both cases, one has to reflect, retrospect and decide before embarking on any action. Having stated this, one wonders if the KumbhMela is likely to leave its footprint in the minds of the voters on their way to the polling booth. How has the ArdhKumbh 2019 impacted the electorate? What is the main takeaway of the event?

To make the ArdhKumbh a grand success befitting the grandeur of the occasion, the Central and the State governments put their best foot forward. The place at the ‘TriveniSangam’, formerly known as Allahabad, where the ArdhKumbh is organised, was renamed Prayagraj in October last year well in time for the event. The initiative of the state government to change the name was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Central government. The renaming, nay, restoration of the historical name of the city brought in its wake a soothing balm.

The nation looked back with nostalgia and pride as to how its his- tory that had been trampled all over by alien invasions. It had taken all of seventy years of an independent existence as a modern nation for this cultural hub to rid itself of the medieval demeaning of its ancient culture. What better way to kickstart an occasion of spiritual and cultural magnificence than by restoring to the site its lost pride and name?

First and foremost, the excellent administrative arrangements made for the congregation of millions of devotees on the river-front in Prayagraj need special mention. The event commenced on January 15, and by the time it concluded on March 4, an estimated 28 crore people ranging from sadhus and sants of different groupings to laymen and women, and wide-eyed tourists and pilgrims from abroad had descended on the venue. Such an epochal occasion calls for arrangements on a monumental scale seldom necessary for a government to make in the normal course of social life.

Access to Prayagraj by road, rail, air and inland waterways was taken up for enhancement and upgradation. An airport barely 12 km from the city, four railway stations in the city, an airboat service between Varanasi and Prayagraj, four floating terminals, and operation of small boats are the highlights of the special transport arrangements. Elaborate security arrangements with updated technology and visitor facilities were made. Several thousand CCTV cameras, deployment of 20,000 policemen including 1,100 lifeguards, temporary police stations and fire stations complete the picture. A massive operation for cleanliness, hygiene and safety was put in place. To house the pilgrims and tourists, the authorities erected a new mini-city of more than 4,000 tents with modern amenities, and this temporary mini-city was lit by over 40,000 LED lights.

Cultural programmes, laser shows and other innovations were lined up to pep up a hectic day of spiritual indulgence by the pilgrims. The preparations for this mega-event were carried out at an estimated cost of Rs 4,200 crore. Out of this, nearly Rs 3,000 crore was for permanent projects and upgradation in Prayagraj city and the rest for works inside the Mela area. The permanent projects would be a real boost for the up liftment of the region’s economy that is reportedly job and cash-strapped. As such, the KumbhMela is undoubtedly an economic blessing for the local economy.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the apex industry body, is expecting Kumbh 2019 to generate a revenue of Rs 1,20,000 crore for Uttar Pradesh government and employment for over 600,000 workers across various sectors.

With the excellent arrangements that were put in place, it may be expected that pilgrims and tourists would carry pleasant memories back. The acclaim that the superb work entails is bound to shore up the image and popularity of the ruling BharatiyaJanata Party at the Centre and the State which, in turn, would most likely translate into votes. ArdhKumbh 2019 may, therefore, be expected to serve as an unintended curtain raiser for the BJP’s 2019 electoral essay; its success promising good governance.

(The article Ardh Kumbh success will provide poll boost to BJP is published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 07th March 2019)

Farm loan waivers should not be promised before polls

No sensible lady would fall for a wild promise to pluck the moon and stars for her by a besotted lover. All the same, she would hardly mind being serenaded, pampered silly and being infused with a sense of vainglory. Similar is the case of a discerning voter. He may like being wooed and pursued for his vote but would still take the promises made by political parties with a generous pinch of salt, if not with downright scepticism. He is also pragmatic enough to realise that election manifestos are only broadly indicative of the action plan of the parties with no real timeframe.

Politicians are capable of conjuring up visions of Utopia to lull the voter into a sense of stupefaction and make him believe that it is he, the individual voter, who is in actual control of the democratic system. A deceptive and alluring roadmap to a non-existent oasis in the vast political wilderness, an election manifesto is nothing more than symbolic of the carrot-and-stick policy of parties. While parties with sound ideological moorings appeal to the electorate with their track record, those founded on an ersatz political philosophy tend to ride high on manifestos generously peppered with fakery.

Apart from the general category of promises, which are far too lavish and yet fall within the realm of feasibility, made by one and all in the race, there is a beguiling category that is perilously close to downright deception. This category vitiates the healthy atmosphere of the poll process by pushing the bar very high for genuine contenders for victory. Winnability being directly proportional to perceptions, no party wants to be seen lagging behind the others in reaching out to the imagination of voters. One-upmanship is the hallmark of the par- ties that are not confident about their winning chances or political survival in the aftermath of the polls.

With the next round of parliamentary elections around the corner, the one area where parties find ample scope for winning the trust of the rural segment of the voters is farming. The BJP has been cruising through troubled waters of assistance and assurances to farmers with caution and trepidation. The Congress Party, on the contrary, has been approaching the problem in a cavalierly ad hoc fashion, marked by non-application of mind. It has promised to waive farm loans all over the country if voted to power, which is a tall order for any party to fulfill owing to the sheer magnitude of the loans.

The game plan is, however, obvious for political analysts to see through. If it manages to capture power, Congress would not be able to carry out the promise beyond a token gesture. In that event, it would accuse the outgoing NDA government of leaving behind a depleted treasury and hold the latter responsible for its inability to waive loans. If, on the contrary, it comes a cropper in the polls, it would conveniently be absolved of the stupendous responsibility of fulfilling the promise. If BJP, on its part, plays into the hands of Congress and matches the latter’s promise with its own, it would be obliged to carry out a promise made not entirely on its own volition.

Meanwhile, if the BJP resists the temptation of outsmarting Congress with an outrageous promise, it would be branded as an anti-farmers party. Either way, it would be caught in a bind. This is indeed a dicey situation for the BJP. Having already announced several welfare measures for farmers, both in the interim budget and on earlier occasions, it would be safe to presume that the BJP would watch out for the pitfall and toe a realistically pragmatic path. Playing it safe by showcasing its achievements and going easy on promises would be the key to success.

In any case, farm loan waivers do not make the most effective relief measure nor bring about the desired result owing to inherent fundamental flaws. The waivers generally benefit large farmers and not the small and marginal farmers who take loans from professional moneylenders and land-lords and not from banks for want of collateral. Besides, waivers vitiate the credit culture. More importantly, these are little more than a sop. The waivers are welcomed by the farmers in distress for their feel-good factor, which is sadly not long lasting. The amount of funds notionally saved by the government that refrains from splurging on a sop can be diverted on substantial schemes of relief and welfare of the farmers.

The NDA government chose, therefore, to make two key announcements in its recent interim budget. One is regarding interest rate subvention, which has been increased from 2 to 5 per cent, provided loans are serviced by the farmers on time; the other is regarding a perennial income sup- port scheme whereby a cash transfer of Rs 6000 per annum is made to marginal and small farmers.

Indian farmers are beset by a spectrum of problems which need practical solutions and not sops or largesse. To make farming hassle-free and viable, the government has introduced several welfare measures. These include an increase in minimum sup- port prices of crops (22 in number), providing better seeds and soil information and improvement in irrigation systems. The Union government’s goal is to facilitate the doubling of the farmers’ income.

A nationwide farm loan waiver is estimated to involve a 2 per cent forbearance of the GDP. And yet, it is no substitute for major reforms in the agri-economic system and structural changes in the credit system. The feasibility of bringing professional moneylenders within the network of banks on realistic terms should be explored for the benefit of small and medium farmers. In the meantime, this segment of farmers should be more realistically helped out by Direct Benefit Transfer rather than by loan waivers.

The mode and manner of assistance to the farmers notwithstanding, the focus of the political parties vying for power should be on long-lasting solutions to farmers’ woes and not on sops or a short-term relief measures that are cosmetic in nature. The thrust of their campaign should be on reforms in the agri-economic system, restructuring of the credit system and related issues. Opportunist politicians should not be given the leeway to go about bandying wild promises about farm loan waivers in their election campaign.

If we look at the numerous elections held in India so far, it becomes evident that political parties make reckless promises with the intention of capitalising on the farmers’ misery. Unfortunately, later on, these political parties cannot be held accountable if they fail to fulfill any of those promises. The federal government should, therefore, enact a law that prohibits the inclusion of farm loan waivers in poll promises or election manifestos. Such a law will preclude exploitation of an emotive issue by unprincipled politicians for their personal gains at the cost of the fiscal health of the state or nation.

(The article Farm loan waivers should not be promised before polls is published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 22nd February 2019)

India needs some critical reforms

After Independence, the Indian economy never had it as good as at present. Coming close on the heels of a 10-year hiatus of policy paralysis, the change of guard at Delhi in 2014 heralded an era of revamping and reorientation of a stolid economy. Notwithstanding the shedding by the nation of its obsession with the disastrous Nehruvian economy and ushering in of the opening up and globalisationinthe1990s, not much headway was made for want of clean governance and reforms. The old political dispensation was way too reluctant to loosen its grip on the regime of controls and the levers of power.

The National Democratic Alliance government’s ingenious initiatives have invigorated and enabled the poor to assert themselves as equal partners and stakeholders in the country’s economic progress. Its bold financial reforms and schemes to unearth black money came as a shot in the arm and broke the backbone of the parallel economy that was the lifeline of terrorists and anti-national elements. These measures, coupled with political stability, ushered the economy on to the centre stage and made its surge unstoppable. For India to achieve its true potential, it is imperative that its economy gets rejuvenation alongside reforms.

Being the most dominant sector of the Indian economy that accounts for employing about 50 per cent of the country’s workforce, the farming and agriculture sector is fraught with uncertainty even at the best of times. Insufficient rainfall, a decline in food- grain production, unforeseen natural calamities such as drought, flood, famine, hurricanes, etc are but a few such hazards. Over the last few years, the Union government has taken several initiatives and follow-up actions to support the farmer when nature and related conditions let him down. A lot more needs to be done to provide relief and assistance to the farmers, especially for those who do subsistence farming.

To address the plight of this category of agriculturists, the government has announced in the latest Union Budget cash assistance of Rs 6,000 per annum to farmers who have up to two hectares of land. This kind of support, as well as loan waivers granted by several state governments, will undoubtedly provide major relief to the farmers in dire straits. However, a realistically long-lasting solution to the various issues that beset the agriculture sector calls for ingenuity and modernisation. The scope for resolving the ills of the agriculture sector by seeking redressal from the industrial segment, without reducing such an interface to a mere transaction of cash transfers needs urgent consideration. In short, the manufacturing of goods and commodities should not be the only goal or responsibility for our industries.

The industrial sector should pragmatically complement agriculture and farming to make the latter viable and sustainable, with the former becoming none the worse after taking such an initiative. Agricultural practices need to be continuously monitored for upgradation. To this end, the engines of our research institutions should work full steam towards a second green revolution. Better ways of storage of crops should be designed and made available. Setting up a National Agriculture Commission to study the weak areas of agriculture in a bid to come up with practical solutions would be a good beginning. Thus, agriculture and farming should be given priority status, and all the redressal measures should be implemented in a time-bound manner.

Besides farmers, other segments of people suffer at the time of inadequate rainfall and water shortage. Due to lack of vision, planning or sheer apathy, quite a few states tend to put the issue of water management on the back-burner year after year, thereby augmenting their dependence on the neighbouring states that are water- rich. Such an indifferent or casual approach to an issue of paramount imortance should not be allowed to persist as it gives cause to inter-state feuds. Unfortunately, long-standing disputes and friction in good neighbourly relations between states tend to hamper the smooth functioning of the federal structure.

Hence, water resources should be declared national assets, to be equitably shared by all the states (with the exception of more substantial claims on justifiable grounds). Every state should be made responsible for the conservation of water through preservation and desilting of water bodies, harvesting of rainwater, exercising of strict controls on sand mining, etc. Failures or lapses on the part of a state should be made a ground for curtailment of that state’s demand for river waters from a neighbouring state. The Centre should monitor the conservation of water by states so as to fore- stall hardships to the people on account of culpability of a state government.

Surrounded by seas on three sides and with its vast land borders, India’s requirement of a substantial upgrading of its Defence budget can hardly be overemphasised. This is especially so as our country is flanked by two nations with nuclear capability and they have a track record of waging major wars on India and capturing our territory. Ever since Independence, the situation along the borders has been so bad that at every given point of time, India has been either in a state of war or in a warlike situation. India has had more than its fair share of terrorist attacks both from within and across the border.

Furthermore, there has seldom been a let-up in the number of illegal immigrants pouring through the porous borders. While India’s defence forces need to be strengthened manifold, its defence industry is yet to make its presence felt. India is hardly in a position to go on defraying its scarce resources on defence imports indefinitely. The nation’s indigenous defence industry needs large-scale revamping and upgradation of its capability. This is of paramount importance and urgency.

Setting up of industries as well as infrastructure development often involve the acquisition of agricultural or residential land. This exercise is seldom without the flipside of an out- burst of human emotions like bitterness, anger and uproar by protestors. Projects get embroiled in litigation or protracted negotiations between the stakeholders. Consequently, projects get delayed and are often given up. Such conflicting situations often create bad blood between the State and the Centre and thereby weaken the federal structure. Such conditions should, therefore, be entirely avoided or forestalled.

While most people are by and large peaceful and law-abiding, it is some fringe political organisations and social outfits (read anti-national elements such as Left-Wing extremists) funded by anti-Indian forces that provoke the public into holding violent protests. Such elements should be prevented from polluting the peaceful atmosphere on the pretext of exercising the freedom of expression. The people would only be happy to get rid of these elements before rather than after they engineer violent protests. After agencies of the Centre and the State clear an industrial project or a project of infrastructure development, anti-social elements should be pre- vented from hijacking the project. This would be conducive to a vibrant economy and reflective of the people’s will.

(The article  India needs some critical reforms is published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 13th February 2019)

It’s time to defuse the population time bomb

Sitting on a population time bomb is bad enough for any country. To ignore it or pretend that the issue does not exist would be like pulling the wool over one’s own eyes. A teeming population bursting at the seams requires no bigger a boost than total apathy on the part of the government to make it a dire issue. In a country like India, where the government is expected to take the initiative in crucial matters of public interest, the onus of keeping the population within the manageable parameters of governance for achieving the optimum level of economic and social development of the nation rests with the government.

A nation of 1.25 billion population, over 50% of which is below 25 years of age and over 65% below 35 years, India could rightfully lay claim to the title of a young nation although it has hosted one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Modern India owes much of its accomplishments to its young segment of the population, which has taken over from its peers the onerous task of leading the nation to its rightful position of Vishwa Guru. Charged with enthusiasm, all that the young, buoyant population needs is the cutting edge to make it the deliverer.

An unchecked population explosion is a drain on the nation’s resources, which are bound to become more and more scarce thanks to the growing gluttony of the teeming population, compounded by the demands of an export-oriented economy. A constant check on the population growth is imperative for meeting the economy’s growing need of fuel for its twin-turbo engines of exports and domestic consumption.

It would be pertinent to recall the case of the doctrine of Lebensraum, which drove Adolf Hitler to invade neighbouring territories in the beginning and later on distant lands to serve as the hinterland of Germany, his greed for land leading to a world war of cataclysmic proportions. Being a proponent of world peace, India is known for having never nurtured territorial ambitions. It has, in fact, been a victim of far too many invasions by foreign powers, with the trajectory of its economy and spiritual development subjected to far too severe a stress and strain for it to easily overcome. Nor is it ever likely to militate against its own ethos of the world being a global family and become a warmongering nation like Hitler’s Germany.

As such, the options before it for carrying its economy to stratospheric heights of success in a competitive global scenario of hegemonistic ambitions harboured by the superpowers and regional players bristling with one-upmanship, are too few in number. It is high time the nation stopped cruising along on the support of its traditional and conventional strengths and pursued an aggressive agenda of progress and development.

Human resource should not be allowed to slide from its premier position as an effective tool for progress to be termed as the Achilles heel of the body politic. To this end, it is essential on the part of the government to adopt a realistic policy on population. A lot has already been done in the past to generate awareness among the people about the perils of an uncontrolled population, such as dwindling employment opportunities and meagre resources for the government’s welfare measures, education, health, infrastructural projects, the strengthening and modernisation of the armed forces and procurement of weapons and equipment and so on.

This is all on account of the strain on the nation’s revenue caused by a population far too big in size for a controlled expenditure. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done to promote the small family norm by engaging the people. The awareness drive about fertility and conception has to be started at an early stage of development of a man and woman. However, a mindless drive initiated by overzealous officials participating in the move is capable of subverting the aim of the drive by making the targeted people hostile. Hence, adroit handling of the issue with the involvement of people with the right motivation and psychological briefing is essential.

Families practising the small family norm should be rewarded with incentives such as cash prizes, priority in government employment, tax reliefs, etc. Some drastic measures may also have to be implemented to complement the encourage-and-reward program. Politicians who represent the people should set an example by adopting the small family norm. Those who have an oversized family should be rendered ineligible to contest polls for public offices. An indigenous scheme to draw out and enlist viable incentives and rewards to motivate people should also be introduced.

The need to have a manageable population is not for a vibrant or surging economy alone. There is an essential aspect of demographics too. India is home to a wide-ranging spectrum of people subscribing to a vast number of religions, faiths and cults, some of which have overlapping areas of belief, some others mutually exclusive, and some aggressive about spreading their influence. India, as a secular country, has a unique problem of having to address the belief system and its nuances, in respect of every unit of the spectrum, irrespective of its strength.

People who practise some of these belief systems tend to live in clusters where they demand inflexible uniformity, if not regimentation, in all walks of life, much to the consternation of those bodies of faith who disagree. People of the aggressive religions, who do not agree on the small family norm from their faith point of view, are vociferous about their opposition to the government’s initiatives and measures to control the population. This leads to heart burning and apprehension among those who practise the small family norm.

The fear of the majority community losing out to the minority community, in the long run, is not unfounded or baseless. Hence, the fear of being outnumbered has to be addressed by the government in all seriousness and appropriate measures adopted as early as possible. The government’s principled stand on the issue of Triple Talaq and the baby steps taken on the need of a Uniform Civil Code are strong indicators of its resolute ideology, which is a pre-requisite for the implementation of drastic measures to control the growth of population, cutting across communal lines.

If we remain reluctant to fight the problem of unchecked population growth, then in the course of time it can have adverse repercussions on the future of India’s economy as our country would practically be painting itself to a corner of stagnation. Furthermore, the surging population will severely strain India’s resources, which in turn will lead to food and water scarcity, lack of sanitation, increase in malnourishment, rising illiteracy, swelling unemployment and abject poverty levels as well as high maternal and infant mortality rates. Such a scenario will transform our country into a museum of global problems. To avert such a pathetic situation, we must earnestly implement concrete measures to control population growth and pass the Population Control Bill as early as possible.

(The article It’s time to defuse the population time bomb published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 24, January 2019 )

Should India Switchover From Parliamentary System to Presidential Form of Governance?

The current political system in India is a hand-me-down bequeathed by the outgoing British masters at the time of independence. Although it was not the only choice available to the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution, we had consciously chosen the Westminster form of parliamentary system just as we had accepted the British legacy of Railways, Post and Telegraphs, and the English language.

Notwithstanding the drastic and fundamental changes ushered in since independence in a broad spectrum of areas ranging from education and social development to science and technology in a bid to adapt to the changing needs of the nation, the political system has remained unchanged and is the last bastion to survive the changing times.

Gordian Knot

Seventy years of existence as a sovereign democratic republic hitched to the parliamentary system has seen India through difficult times, marked by multiple wars, terrorist attacks as well as political disturbances and economic challenges in the region. This speaks volumes of the built-in strength of the country’s parliamentary form of governance as well as the people’s faith in the system, and their fortitude and resilience vis-a-vis the systemic jolts and inadequacies.

The degree of success of the Indian system is borne out by its sharp contrast with the dismal depths to which democracy in neighbouring Pakistan that was granted independence at the same point of time as India has plummeted multiple times, following several military coups. The brief spell of internal emergency notwithstanding, the Indian nation has made steady progress and development.

All the same, certain constraints and systemic shortcomings seem to have resulted in the nation’s political course hitting a plateau, and a consequent slowing down of the pace of progress. Despite a massive economic growth and social progress, made possible by the nation’s political stability, India’s success story is marred by pockets of economic stagnation and social backwardness – a veritable Gordian knot, the untangling of which is a daunting task staring the nation in the face.

Melodrama and Unruly Behaviour

Indian Parliament has witnessed on many an occasion ugly scenes of disruption of the proceedings, and a total washout of sessions on account of a mulish stand taken by the opposition ranks vis-a-vis the buoyant treasury benches. The platform provided by the parliament for its members to discuss matters of national interest and people’s welfare, is more often than not misused by the honourable members for holding slanging matches and tarnishing the reputation of their adversaries with baseless charges.

As the unruly behaviour of the members on the floor of the legislature is beyond the purview of criticism outside the House, the mainstream media, which tends to wax eloquent over speculations and inconsequential issues, remains mute to the incidents of wasteful expenditure of the legislature’s time, and irrational behaviour by capricious members.

Coliseum of Gladiators

Many a time the enactment of laws by legislation is severely hampered by the unacceptable behaviour of the people’s representatives who take the system for a ride. In such situations, the other branches of the system, namely the Executive and the Judiciary, tend to feel shorn of their pride and glory and go off at a tangent of their mandate, away from total attunement to the law or the spirit of the Constitution.

The above scenario may delay resolution of important issues such as the Sabarimala imbroglio, Ram Temple controversy, Triple Talaq squabble, etc, not to talk of the equally important, if not more serious and fundamental, issues like Genuine Secularism, Meaningful Reservations, Uniform Civil Code, etc. When the legislature, meant to be an amphitheatre of verbal jousting between people’s representatives with conflicting ideas, is reduced to a Coliseum of gladiators who fight to kill, issues that concern the people and the State become the casualties.

Disappointment and Discontent

Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, who stoutly resisted India’s call for independence, reportedly uttered the following words of infamy: “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.” This did not, however, deter the people of India from fighting for freedom.

Likewise, election after election over the years, the people have not lost heart despite the failure of the system to serve them optimally. On the contrary, every round of elections bears testimony to greater participation in the exercise by the electorate than in the previous one. Let us, however, not be misled into believing that everything is hunky-dory between the people and the system. There are already signs of disappointment and discontent. All it takes is for a discerning eye to observe keenly.

No Rocking of Boat

The presidential form of governance is far from perfect. It has, at the helm of affairs, a President vested with sweeping powers to appoint and dismiss ministers and key officials, command armed forces, wage or end wars, sign or veto legislation, convene or adjourn the legislature, grant pardons or reprieve and so on and so forth. A wrong person who lands at the top slot would have all the temptations and opportunities to turn into a dictator. However, it is far from feasible.

The parties which field their candidate for the Presidential elections would take great care to select the best candidate that would not only go overboard but is capable of weathering the storm. Moreover, there is the system of impeachment of the President, which serves as more than a wet towel to douse the cocky spirit of an errant President. As such, the Presidential system has its own checks and balances to ensure that there is no rocking of the boat.

Wonder Tool

The most heartening and redeeming feature of the Presidential form of governance is that the President is not tied to the apron strings of the legislature and not bogged down by the pressure of excessive demands from legislators of his own party or the Opposition. He is directly elected by the people of the country, and it is to them alone that he is answerable. In the hands of any conscientious, right thinking and hard working President, the Presidential form of governance is nothing short of the most effective tool for serving the nation, crafted by political wizards and experts.

It is precisely this kind of a wonder tool that is the need of the hour for the current charismatic Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. That is because he is struggling hard to keep the welfare of the people and interests of our nation in alignment and harmony in the face of a stiff Opposition by a grand unholy alliance of failed dynasties gasping for political power. Yet a switchover from one form of governance to a more suitable one, especially after a seventy-year make do with the former, does call for a nationwide debate and a consensus on the part of all the stakeholders to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Dichotomy in Indian Politics: NDA for Service and UPA for Self-Service

The NDA stands for clean governance and inclusive development as well as for the service of the nation in absolute contrast to the UPA government known for the dynastic rule, policy paralysis and scarcely anything beyond self-service

It may sound politically incorrect to state that two political stalwarts of that time were instrumental for breaking up a united India into two when it was poised to become a free country in 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru and M A Jinnah brought about the partition because of their unbridled prime ministerial ambitions. As both of them started vying with each other for the privilege of ruling the nation in the offing, partition of India became inevitable. M K Gandhi, who had spearheaded the freedom movement and gained the colossal stature of Mahatma, was averse to the idea of partition.

However, he was arm-twisted and emotionally blackmailed by Nehru into agreeing to the dismemberment of a bleeding India. Gandhi had even favoured placating Jinnah with the Premiership for the sake of keeping the country united. However, Nehru was insistent on having his own way just as Jinnah succeeded in extracting his pound of flesh. In the process of selection of the first Prime Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was given short shrift although he was the preferred choice of the Congress party.

M K Gandhi cast his veto in favour of Nehru, little realising the shape of things about to unfold in the aftermath of the latter’s time in office. In brief, Nehru was catapulted to the coveted post of leading the nation by an act of personal choice by the Mahatma. This has cost the country four generations of dynastic rule by the Nehru-Gandhi family, with a foreign national thrown in. From the House of Windsor to the Nehru-Gandhi family, it was a classic case of a straight leap for India from the frying pan into the fire.


What is particularly distressing is the fact that the family, which claimed to have made some sacrifices during the freedom struggle, chose to reward itself with the legitimacy of the right to rule through elections when opposition parties still had teething troubles in the political arena. Once in power, this family spread its roots and branches and established its stronghold on crucial departments of governance. This, in turn, authorised it to elicit sensitive information or infuse false information to exploit the situation, whenever required. Such manipulative operations enabled this family to stay afloat in the political currents and subvert the bonafide activities of governments other than its own.

Power at Any Cost

In 1975, when the Allahabad High Court declared the election of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the Parliament null and void on charges of misuse of the official machinery and the Supreme Court upheld the High Court verdict, rather than stepping down PM Gandhi chose to hang on to power. When her party introduced certain Constitutional amendments that were struck down by the Supreme Court, she tried to control the judiciary by promoting judges favourably disposed towards the government in supersession of senior judges. The bureaucracy and the judiciary were exhorted by her dispensation to become committed to the government’s ‘ideology’ under the threat of being penalised. Moreover, she declared a state of Internal Emergency, curtailing democratic rights of the people for 11 months. The Emergency constituted a dark chapter in Indian democracy and demonstrated the dynasty’s determination to hang on to power and perpetuate its rule, at any cost.

Finger in the Honey Pot

The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty always had a finger in the honey pot of public money and missed no occasion or opportunity to spirit away from the public exchequer. Furthermore, it solicited and accepted kickbacks and commissions from weapons procurement deals, global tenders for natural resources, government projects, subsidies and funds allocated for welfare schemes, and practically any program or project where there was a significant turnover of public money. The banking sector was a chosen segment for their systematic plunder and financial misdeeds. There was a humongous volume of non-performing assets (NPAs), with neither a serious investigation in the matter ordered nor any of the defaulters or their accomplices held responsible or apprehended.

Pliant bigwigs of financial and related institutions were rewarded for their cooperation and services rendered to the government (read ruling party) in line with their policy of self-service. There was hardly any legal action against a minister, ruling party politician or erring official, industrialist or businessmen defaulting on bank loans, which ever resulted in a conviction. During the UPA regime, the requirements of the armed forces were totally ignored. Neither any weapons or equipment were indigenously manufactured nor any program of modernisation instituted. Any and every weapon or equipment had to be imported, through a maze of a corrupt system, with middlemen, who are forbidden, popping in and out all the time.

Charges of embezzlement of huge sums of government funds, kickbacks, commissions, illegal transfer of funds to mysterious overseas bank accounts and involvement of cronies and members of the political family dynasty made headlines in the mainstream media on a regular basis, with the sudden or mysterious disappearance of the trail of investigations, if any. To be sure, the leading family dynasty had become so hugely bloated with numerous charges of corruption and misdeeds that no one could ignore or overlook it any longer. Practically, every member of the said family was involved in some financial transgression or the other. The political family, at the helm of the UPA government, had undeniably become one of the most corrupt dynasties ever.

Governance versus Rule

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government made it abundantly clear at the outset that it believed in clean governance and inclusive development. Schemes such as Demonetization, GST, initiatives to unearth black money at home and to bring back black money stashed abroad, efforts to reverse NPAs and convict the defaulters, constituted a shot in the arm for a jaded economy. Schemes such as the Swachh Bharat, cleansing and rejuvenation of Ganga, etc, restored in a demoralised nation its lost self-esteem and pride. The poor people benefited from various schemes for health and insurance coverage, bank accounts, self-employment, Beti Bachao Beti Padao scheme, access to electricity, water, cooking gas, etc.

Initiatives to strengthen and modernise the armed forces, keeping strict control on the terrorists and other troublemakers in J&K and keeping the enemy forces from across the border at bay, the successful surgical strike carried out in the enemy territory, etc, have rejuvenated the sagging morale of our defence forces. There is a long list of people-oriented schemes and infrastructure projects to connect villages, towns and cities by a network of roads, bridges and railways of international standards.

Furthermore, a successful foreign policy is a significant feather on NDA’s cap. To top it all is the crowning glory of no corruption charges on any minister or the government, notwithstanding the loose talk on Rafale, shot down by the apex court; and not to forget, the terrorism-free day-to-day life that people have been leading since 2014. Honestly, the NDA stands for clean governance and inclusive development as well as for the service of the nation in absolute contrast to the UPA government known for the dynastic rule, policy paralysis and scarcely anything beyond self-service!

(The article Dichotomy in Indian Politics: NDA for Service and UPA for Self-Service published in ‘Organiser’ )

Stranglehold of Obscurantism and Regression on Muslim Society

Some people keep lamenting that as a community the Indian Muslims have not yet taken the centre-stage in national politics. This is not because of any evil design or malaise on the part of an external factor! Although there is no stopping the members of the community from asserting themselves as rightful stakeholders in the overall development of the nation and proud partners in its inclusive growth, it is ironical that they are not, by and large, taking the plunge in their individual capacity in mainstream political exercise.

No doubt, there are exceptions, with a sprinkling of stalwarts from this religion dotting the political landscape, not as defenders of the community’s interests but as champions of inclusive growth of the nation. Barring such exceptions that are far and few between, the Muslim community as a whole seems contented to remain on the periphery of India’s national politics.

Charge of Apostasy

It is evident that such a delusion is on account of the obscurantism and regressive practices professed and imposed on their flock by the clerics by threatening punitive measures of utmost severity. The fear of a charge of apostasy leads to the total acceptance of the cleric’s interpretation of the religious text and the rigorous implementation of his diktat, resulting in the precipitating of a downright unhealthy practice – vote bank politics, which renders the community susceptible to bad blood and acrimony vis-a-vis other communities.

In a secular society such as ours, which has not been spared of charges of a slant, any community marked by its orientation and political alignment on religious lines, is bound to find itself in an unenviable position. That is because such a community will have to spend much of its time in burnishing its ideology and principles in the fire of integrity and sincerity while striving to establish its non-partisan credentials time and again much to its own discomfiture, and scepticism of the others. A community which is unwilling to clearly demarcate its political ideology and principles from the religion of its calling is bound to view politics and statecraft through the prism of religion.

Such a tendency distorts the real picture in a secular setup and alienates the community practising it from the people of other religions. It is all the more so in the case of India, which had been under the subjugation of Islamic rule for over 700 years during which the majority community suffered no end of religious persecution. To make matters more ominous and alarming for the majority community, independence from the colonial rule came with a very heavy price of a partition of the land and the people of a united India.

The traumatic experience of partition, followed by numerous wars and skirmishes with two of its neighbours that snatched swathes of land, and the demand for a separate Kashmir from some hostile elements hell-bent on wrecking the territorial integrity of the nation by resorting to violent means and with the active participation of an enemy country, have left the majority community in a tizzy. Such a tense atmosphere continually prevailing along the Indian borders and in the bordering states and the subsequent political travails have left the majority community much too wary of its own precarious position vis-a-vis communal politics.

Population Growth and Conversion 

The Indian government is all for keeping the nation’s human resource potential in check so as not to over-exceed the optimal level for ensuring sustained economic growth. Unlike the Hindus, Muslims do not practise small family norms due to religious considerations. With Islam believing in conversion, and in the absence of a law prohibiting conversion, the rapid increase in the numerical strength of the Muslim community necessarily means attrition in the population of the Hindu community in the form of conversions.

Resultantly, the Muslim population has been on a steady increase, a reason for heart burning for the Hindus, which views the shrinking margin of difference in the numerical strength of the followers of the two religions, with askance. Unchecked growth in the Muslim population, with nary a thought to the health of the nation’s economy or its dwindling resources, and the community’s conversion practices that eat into the numerical strength of the Hindus constitute the single largest retrograde practice adopted by the community inimical to an egalitarian society.

Education and a Narrow Vista

A quintessential Muslim child has the commencement of its academic career in a madrasa, the focus of which is on basic religious education, with its moorings based in a different place and a different time of a bygone era, not attuned to today’s fast-changing world. Having been brought up in a religious greenhouse within a controlled atmosphere, the child has no or minimal exposure to the scientific temper or the technological advancement that the changing times have ushered in.

The child’s mindset stays firmly implanted on the bedrock of a religion that brooks no changes or challenges from any quarters. Later on, it has to be torn asunder at some stage of the child’s metamorphosis into a fine specimen of a global citizen to become receptive to the process of evolution. Not a very convenient arrangement indeed! Here, it is worth recalling the observation made by eminent Indian-origin scientist Archana Sharma when she said, “It is mediocrity and not lack of resources and talent that is stopping India.” Archana is a senior scientist at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland, and in 2012 she was very actively involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Archana made this observation during her recent visit to India in the context of the dismal state of the Indian institutes for higher studies when it comes to providing quality education and research resources. Although the visiting academic made the observation with the entire Indian polity in mind, it makes one wonder what an Olympian leap it must call for of a child who is a product of a madrasa to become a successful alumnus of a distinguished institute of higher studies and research resources. If the quality of education imparted in a typical Indian school could be termed “mediocre”, what could be said about a madrasa and the kind of education that it offers, beside a moribund worldview?

Women’s Predicament

Furthermore, reams can be written about the constricted lifestyle of a woman of the Muslim community vis-a-vis the increasing clamour for women’s liberation and their emancipation. A married woman’s travails, such as annulment of the marriage, polygamy, and property and inheritance rights, are some of the issues that keep the woman of this community in a bind, with no relief in sight, pending a total revamp of the religious laws governing the issues. As such, a common civil code is the need of the hour.

Stymied Progress

“One for all, and all for one” should be the motto for the enhancement of the quality of an individual’s life as well as the collective progress of the state. How can the congenial climate for the achievement of the individual’s betterment and the state’s good be ensured when a section of the society chooses to remain fixated on the distant past? An outdated system of education and indoctrination that discourages people from being heuristic for their own advancement eventually ends up giving cause to their becoming Luddites and a drain on the nation’s progress.

Communist model of governance won’t succeed in 21st century India

No matter how many times and for how long you flog it, and how big a crowd gathers to watch the spectacle and bet on its revival, a dead horse remains dead. Its carcass won’t spring back to life and become a racehorse, let alone win a trophy. All it is capable of doing is to attract a swarm of flies and maggots that spread deadly diseases. In the circumstances, the only sensible thing to do is for the rider to give the dead animal a decent burial. Furthermore, there is a popular quote credited to multiple sources, which says: “Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Dead Horse and Dirty Diapers

When the aforementioned quote and the case of the dead horse are juxtaposed, the picture that leaps to one’s mind in today’s context is the moribund political system of Communism. Dead, buried and forgotten practically almost all over the world, the doctrine is still being flogged in some parts of India where onlookers are eying the spectacle with idle curiosity. Meanwhile, flies and maggots are collecting in droves.

Alien Concept

Communism is touted as a one-size-fits-all political theory that, in reality, fits or suits none and has been trashed to the dustbins of history in so many countries across the world. Marxism is an afterthought or a later day version of Communism that has itself become a throwback on the times. Born in the early 20th century in a strife-torn Europe, Communism was transmogrified to the testing ground of Russia, which buried monarchy and lapped up the revolutionary ideology.

Truncated Ideology on Last Legs

In India, Communism had its golden triangle in Tripura, West Bengal and Kerala, where democratically-elected governments had their heydays for long. Whereas the Eastern and North Eastern citadels have since collapsed one after the other owing to people’s disenchantment, surprisingly the people of Kerala are still serenading the chimera with the passion of a besotted lover.

However, lately, there are tell-tale signs of despondency already overtaking the people of India’s southernmost state too. As such, the Keralites cannot remain oblivious to the writing on the wall any longer. The artful deceit of the wallpapering of the cracks in the system or the whitewashing of their own excesses, by the champions of the truncated ideology, is fast tiring the people out.

Forgotten Class War

Communism has collapsed in all its strongholds in the world like a house of cards not because of an onslaught by its arch enemy, Capitalism, but due to an implosion from within, caused by the cross-currents of inherent contradictions and irreconcilable anomalies. The concept of a class war, which is an intrinsic part of the Marxist theory proved to be a non-starter and a ludicrous idea. The appearance of the Great Indian Middle Class (GIMC) and the aspiration and the ample scope and feasibility of the proletariat to join the swelling ranks of the GIMC have sounded the death knell of the much-touted Class War between the oppressors and the oppressed. This is something the Communist Manifesto had miserably failed to foresee.

Advent of Democracy

Furthermore, the world never witnessed the much-prophesied phenomenon of an oppressive Capitalist society breathing heavily down the neck of the peasants and the proletariat. At its best, Communism became instrumental for the rise of the trade union movement which, when allowed to run its course unregulated, became a major irritant in the harmonious management-labour chain of production. The workers indoctrinated (read brainwashed) by the peddlers of Communism discovered to their wonderment that a peaceful working relationship with the management greatly benefited both the parties.

On the other hand, when the workers and the trade unions got to enjoy the many benefits accruing from uninterrupted production, optimal profits, assured steady jobs and graded salary structures, the very idea of a confrontationist approach by the proletariat to the employers dissipated in favour of a balanced employer-worker relationship. This was also facilitated by the enactment of laws to ensure job security, better working conditions and incentives for the workers as well as increased production levels and higher profit margins for the employers, by people-friendly governments whose distinguishing feature was the democracy.

Farmers to the Fore

The peasants became owners of their land and masters of their fruits of labour. In a country like India, agriculture is a highly risk-prone vocation, with uncertainties plaguing areas such as water management, famine and drought conditions, cyclones, floods, etc. However, over the years, the State has made the situation more and more bearable for the farmers, with the enactment of farmer-friendly legislation and introduction of welfare measures – the creation of a separate government department under a senior officer to help improve the welfare of the farmers.

This objective was achieved through increased net incomes from the farms with a reduction in the cost of cultivation by depending on various measures such as balanced use of fertilisers, organic farming, expansion of cultivation with assured irrigation, etc. Simultaneously, the government also ensured other facilities such as soft loans for the farmers, waivers of agriculture loans, higher procurement prices and crop insurance, to name a few. With the government functioning as a bulwark between the farmer and his travails, exploitation of farmers by loan sharks or greedy merchants has now become a thing of the past.

Winds of Change

Meanwhile, the end of the 20th century witnessed the petering out of imperialism and its total extinction and the simultaneous emergence of nationalism, which is anathema to Communism. Democracy became the accepted norm of governance throughout the world. No authoritarian government could slam the door shut on democracy. Even Communist regimes, therefore, started calling themselves democratic socialist republics although they were anything but democratic!

Meanwhile, as more and more people living in Communist countries came to know of the merits and advantages of the democratic form of governance, they started craving for political democracy and economic liberty. This change in the mindset of the people succeeded in cleansing up the cobwebs created by the theories of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and led to the collapse of Communist regimes in the USSR, East Germany, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Congo, Albania, Angola, Afghanistan and other countries. By the end of the 20th century, most of these countries transitioned to parliamentary or presidential democracy.

Indian Scenario

Out of the three Indian states where Communists managed to come to power, Tripura and West Bengal have fallen out of their grip during the last few years. As on today, Kerala remains the last bastion of Communism in India. If the protests launched recently by the Ayyappa devotees, against the Sabarimala imbroglio created by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government is any indication, then here too the Communists will soon start fighting hard for their very survival. Moreover, as more and more Keralites realise that Communism is a failed political ideology that has devastated the economies of more than 25 nations because of which it is quickly disappearing from the world, the demise of Communism in Kerala is inevitable.


Need to Nip Cloak-and-Dagger Activities in the Bud

Whether it is a bullet on the chest or a dagger in the back, the result is the same – death. However, a bullet on the chest is proudly accepted by a soldier on the battlefront as a badge of honour, whereas a dagger in the back comes with a stigma of betrayal and treachery albeit on the part of the assailant. A true hero dreads neither the bullet nor the dagger as both entail the supreme sacrifice on his part that brings him the ultimate glory. Nevertheless, the known enemy on the battlefront is considered a far superior adversary than the devious snake in the grass on the home ground.

Prudence brooks no slackness and demands that one be on the lookout for the shocks of treachery and betrayal that spring from the unlikeliest of places in the hotbeds of power, namely legislature, judiciary and bureaucracy. As eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, the defenders of the nation’s interests have to be alert all the time and watch out for the enemies amongst the peace-loving citizens and diligently cull them out.

Cloak-and-Dagger Operations 

With the identification of the enemies of the State who masquerade as peace-loving citizens, half the battle against the internal threat to the nation may be considered as already won. There are agents on the payrolls of the enemy state who try to infiltrate sensitive areas or the restricted places and secret government departments including defence installations with a view to stealing privileged information and smuggling it out of the country to their paymasters. Such agents and operatives work mostly for money and a cushy lifestyle or out of misplaced loyalty to an odious religion or a twisted political ideology.

So long as there are men and women among us who fall easy prey to the lure of greed, avarice, lasciviousness, and susceptibility to quirky religious dogmas and ideological boobytraps, there would be no dearth of potential agents and operatives to snoop on and operate against one’s own state. There is, however, a proverbial silver lining to the mushrooming dark clouds of this category of the enemy operatives. With some effort, they could very often be inveigled to turn the table on their paymasters and function as double agents – a liability turned asset. Such is the frailty of the priorities of these greedy and fickle-minded men!

Daunting Combine

What is more daunting is the defanging of the other category of the enemies of the nation who are two-fold. One is those in powerful positions in politics, judiciary or bureaucracy. They are the ones who make their two-bits worth of subversion of the system in cahoots with their cohorts and subalterns in the making, interpretation and implementation of laws that are not people-friendly. The other stream of anti-national forces under this category is from a seemingly innocuous section of the society – students, intelligentsia, and liberal-minded, leftist leaning artists, writers and the like who may be loosely termed as urban Naxals.

Much of their activities during normal times is confined to justifying the actions of Naxalites and separatists and pleading the cause of the terrorists that have taken refuge in Pakistan that has come to be known as the Ivy League of international terrorism. During times of a crisis or war, this group is capable of inflicting inestimable damage to the nation. The group draws sustenance from the moribund ideology of Communism, which is extinct practically all over the world but is still cocking a snook at our political system, with its own pocket of influence located in India.

There is a sinister mob of frustrated elements from seats of higher learning that openly support the cause of terrorists and other anti-national elements who are on trial or are already convicted by the court. They make inflammatory speeches about the breaking of the nation and try to create a rift within the student community and the teaching faculty. They have the open support of quite a few political parties in holding demonstrations and conducting campaigns in favour of jihadi elements.

Lowering of Standards

Self-serving politicians, the hallmark of whose reign of power is nepotism and unquantifiable corruption, are hardly capable of shedding their megalomania even when they are out of power. The corruption that they wallow in knows no legal, moral or ethical barriers. A corrupt politician and his band of apparatchiks are always keen on besmirching the image of their political adversary and go on heaping charges of corruption on the latter even if he is a man of unassailable character and unimpeachable integrity.

How such politicians harangue their rivals for alleged or imagined crimes of corruption or favouritism without a shred of evidence to support their litany of charges speaks volumes of the scant respect they have for the law and the public. Irresponsible statements, false claims and unending diatribe against honourable men, without being able to substantiate their stand, keep them in the limelight, thanks to some sections with vested interests in the mainstream media. It shows that unscrupulous politicians can stoop to any level to garner votes and win elections!

Anti-State Stance

Several NGOs have proved time and again that they are capable of wreaking havoc in the national life by propping up anti-national activists as well as campaigners of dubious credentials. The raison d’être of these organisations and activists is stalling the developmental projects undertaken by the government agencies by resorting to protest marches and rallies, with the funding they get from some foreign countries. They also cause a rift between communities by resorting to religious conversions in exchange for material gains.

Opaque System

Not infrequently, irreparable damage is caused to the sentiments and morale of the public by the state machinery through a mindless application of a disproportionate amount of power while trying to tackle a public outcry against what is perceived as a lopsided court verdict. In one such recent instance, our judiciary was overzealous to the extent of stepping on the toes of the devotees of Sabarimala Temple, while issuing a historic judgment, albeit on a wrong premise, on a matter of faith that clearly fell out of their purview in the first instance. The Supreme Court verdict issued on September 28 this year has led to a series of mass protests by the believers and devotees and a heavy crackdown by the Kerala government and its Police force on the peaceful protestors.

The general perception about the Sabarimala verdict is that it was just a wanton display of power by the judiciary and the State as it violates the fundamental right to religion guaranteed to every citizen by our constitutional democracy. More such ugly showdowns in the future would certainly contribute to the further plummeting of the public morale and people’s belief in the judiciary, which would be in the interests of nobody other than the enemies of our nation.

Doughty Spirit

Here, it needs to be emphasised that the state or the judiciary should not unnecessarily intrude and apply rational yardsticks to judge the validity of religious practices, traditions or customs unless any such practice borders criminality. Mercifully, the people who sleep with the enemy for narrow personal gains constitute a minuscule minority of our country’s total population. Their wicked ways and evil deeds are successfully neutralised by the State machinery with the unstinting support of the law-abiding citizens whose doughty spirit, apart from a strong sense of nationalism, keep them going, undeterred by such ghastly incidents as the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Canard, Lies and Calumny Seems to be the Congress Strategy to Win 2019 Lok Sabha Elections

Having been unable to absolve itself of innumerable charges of corruption, scams and scandals levelled against it during its ten-year reign, the Indian National Congress (INC), which was unceremoniously dumped by the electorate five years ago, is gasping for breath and hoping for a fresh lease of life. If the party succeeds in its devious plan, it will then resume its unfinished task of perpetuating the dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Meanwhile, every other consideration including national interest and welfare of the people will come a distant second in its scheme of things.

A pale shadow of a victory wangled off in the polls for an odd State Assembly or two, thanks to its piggyback ride on the regional parties, has been sufficient enough to give it a much needed shot in the arm and a hope, however slender, for a spectacular comeback at the Centre. The oldest party in the country is now convinced that by playing second fiddle to the regional parties and pampering the massive ego of the local chieftains, it would be able to make a comeback with sufficient numbers in the Indian Parliament.

Elections and Ethics

It is a universally acknowledged credo that all is fair in love and war. However, while the foot soldiers carry out the orders of their commanding officers to a T and fight to kill, the latter are expected to put on their thinking cap and draw a humane strategy to win the war and yet keep the casualties and damage to the civilian property of the enemy nation to the bare minimum. A serious and wanton breach of ethics in a war gives cause to a court-martial or war trials.

The electoral process is no different from a war, the only difference being that ballots are cast in the former instead of bullets fired as in the latter. Ethics are, therefore, an integral part of elections, just like a war. Politicians who fight elections for their own political survival have a comparatively longer tether than the armed forces who accomplish the same task on a different level.

With the exception of some unprincipled and unscrupulous leaders and lumpen elements that are practically found in every political party, the principled leadership provided by leaders of impeccable stature and consummate calibre make a name for their party and enable it to stand out among the others. A selfless leader of a sterling character who has dedicated his life to the service of the nation and the betterment of its people stands tall – head and shoulders above the others.

Congress and Calumny

Narendra Modi is one such leader who holds the pride of place in his own party and is a cause for jealousy and chagrin in the Opposition parties. His meteoric rise to the pinnacle of political power and the aplomb with which he has vindicated his mettle to the wonderment of not only the people at home but also the international community, has made his detractors eat their heart out and become desperate for his ouster. How hopeless they feel about trouncing him in elections and how desperate they are to get him out of their way at any cost is best illustrated by a couple of instances. A senior Congress leader who is also a former Union Minister gave vent to his party’s exasperation when he pleaded, during a visit to Pakistan, for the help of Pakistan to ‘remove’ Modi from power, calling him the biggest hurdle to the restoration of normalcy between India and Pakistan.

That was indeed a calumny of the lowest order of insolence and hubris, and a shameless act of besmirching the image of one’s own Prime Minister while in an enemy nation. And yet, the desperado, Mani Shankar Aiyar, later on had the audacity to make an appalling and casteist comment against Narendra Modi by calling him a “neech aadmi”. Despite flagrantly resorting to this cheap gambit, Aiyar got away with a minor penalty of suspension from his party for a short period of nine months! The decision exposed not only the hypocrisy but also the double speak of the Congress Party.

More Lies

In yet another case of breach of ethics in politics, Congress President Rahul Gandhi endeared himself to the Pakistani politicians and their mainstream media by inventing an imaginative scam in the Rafale deal, and they went out of the way to extend their two cent worth of support to his claim to the Prime Minister’s post. Is the daft support from the meddlesome neighbour a futile attempt to prevail on a section of the Indian electorate or merely a case of venting spleen against Narendra Modi? Is it perhaps tantamount to the brewing up of a larger conspiracy between the Congress Party and the enemy nation, both of whom are licking their own wounds inflicted by a common enemy? How does Pakistan expect to be benefited by a change of guard in Delhi in favour of Rahul?

The potshots that Rahul has been taking at the Rafale deal seems to have warmed the cockles of the meddlesome neighbor and brought it closer to the pliable claimant for power because Pakistan believes the efforts of the Congress Party president will make the procurement of fighter aircrafts fall through the details because of which India would be unable to pursue an aggressive policy against Pakistan. However, the haphazardly-sewn fake case of corruption that has been made out against Narendra Modi being a web of lies fabricated to put the Prime Minister in a bind and bad light won’t be able to stand the scrutiny of law or reason. Meanwhile, every Indian should realise that the Rafale deal involves a secrecy clause with another sovereign nation, the breach of which is deleterious to our nation’s interest.

Canard and Shifting of Stands

Congress and its new-found allies have all along been harping on the paramountcy of Secularism and accusing the BJP of flouting it at the cost of the minority communities. Come election time, Rahul Gandhi changes his tune, identifies himself with the majority community and claims to be a janeu-dhari brahman, with nary a thought to what the other sections of the majority community think about his identification with the ‘cream’ of the social hierarchy, no less! Given his parentage, he is in no position to establish his claim (obviously an untruth) of community, let alone its denomination. After having spent much of his time in making cheeky comments and vile remarks about the temple-goers, the election time spurs him on to become one himself and go on a spree of visits to temples and perform pujas and yagyas.

A hollow claim to be a Hindu, a Brahman and a Shiv bhakt, notwithstanding his uncharitable stand against the majority community and the sops that his party-led governments have generously handed out to the minority communities in non-election times completes the package of a canard that Rahul Gandhi has designed for a strategy. Congress is, in reality, a crumbling citadel, in urgent need of a good leader with a vision. All that the party can, however, think of is to anoint the scion of its first family as the next Prime Minister, with the help of falsehood, much to the dismay of its own cadre.

Modern Day Don Quixote

Move over Miguel de Cervantes! Here comes our own Rahul Gandhi, the Indian version of Don Quixote, armed with the spear of falsehood, accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza aka Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance of anti-BJP parties), on his old horse called Congress Party. The Congress president is raring to go charging at the windmills of parliamentary elections and slay the demon of nationalism assiduously built by the BJP, which is currently identified with the charismatic mass leader Narendra Modi.

The Bugbear of a United Opposition

In stark contrast to the BJP’s balance of fortunes, the Opposition parties are yet to see eye to eye with each other, sink their differences and come together to put up a united front

Of late, it has been noticed that when polls are around the corner in our country, and the anxiety bug bites the contestants, the resultant scenario provides a conducive environment to the Opposition parties to nurture an occasional delusion of unity. It happens because the need for unification dawns on all those who oppose the ruling party. Moreover, the outline of the proposed alliance, no matter how blurry, seen through the haze of uncertainty of politicking, infuses them with false hope and confidence. After all, isn’t politics an art of making the impossible possible?

Why a United Front?

Having already tasted blood in the Bihar and Karnataka polls by forming unscrupulous alliances, Opposition parties are baying for more. As the Lok Sabha elections are much more bitterly fought than the Assembly polls, as well as on a much larger canvas, the rival parties are keen to join forces and present a united opposition to challenge the BJP-led NDA, instead of each one fighting on its own. This is happening despite the temptation of the alluring prospects of hogging the glory all on their own if they fight and win the elections on their own strength.

Talks for Coalition

With the 2019 general elections not being far away, the Opposition parties have started sounding cocky rather than forlorn, which is the real state of mind they are currently in. They are convinced more than the ruling party that the next round of parliamentary polls poses an existential threat for them. Hence, they know that they must unite or perish. Unity is not to be mistaken for a merger of parties on ideological lines, sinking the current differences. That seldom happens in India where parties, with the rare exception of a few ideological ones, are run like the fiefdom of strong power-thirsty patriarchs around whom self-serving minions rally to make the parties numerically strong.

The unity that is being talked about is but the piecing together of a ragtag coalition, to collectively take potshots from a common platform at the ruling party. To this end, there have been rounds and rounds of talks between regional satraps and national non-entities about a Grand Coalition (GC). The Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Communist Party of India are some of the leading parties, which have pitched in at the talks. Each of these parties and the other potential allies have floated their own balloon of unity, not unlike a vain peacock showing off its colourful feathers on hearing the first strains of a thunder yonder.

Stuck to Drawing Board

The prospective partners of the proposed grand coalition (GC) or Mahagathbandhan claim they are endowed with a gifted leader of their own, capable of leading not only the mega-alliance but the nation too as the Prime Minister. Every single one of them is convinced that its own PM candidate is the chosen one endowed with sterling leadership qualities. Leading the pack are Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, with Tejasvi Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Deve Gowda and at least half a dozen others bringing up the rear. The ultimate objective of the GC is to remove Narendra Modi, whom they have declared the number one enemy, from the Prime Minister’s post at any cost.

The strategy is simple and straight: accuse Narendra Modi of corruption, being anti-poor and anti-Dalit, favouring ‘corporate cronies’ and siding with the saffron outfits to the detriment of secularism and vilify his image. Tactics include provoking Modi and his party into making false moves and fall into the trap. The escape route too has been well thought out. In case, the strategy backfires, then blame it on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the ‘undeclared emergency’ prevailing in the country.

With the game plan and roadmap firmly in place and several leaders keen and ready to become the chosen one to lead the nation, the constituents think that the yet-to-take-shape GC is poised to take the country by storm and capture the reins of power. All it has to do is to sweep the polls and oust the enemy. However, here we need to remember that the current milieu is too vacuous for its very formation. In short, talk of unity and victory continues to remain confined, or should we say stuck, to the drawing board!

Great Fallout

Following the repeated assertion of Rahul Gandhi that he is ready to be the next PM, Mayawati has rebuffed the Congress offer of a lesser number of seats than her party’s due share at the forthcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. She has voiced her party’s determination to fight the elections in MP and Rajasthan on its own rather than compromise on her self-respect. She has already entered into a coalition with Ajit Jogi’s party for the Assembly polls in Chattisgarh.

She has further announced that she is the best Prime Ministerial candidate of them all, and is loved by the people; and that BSP would have no truck with Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. With the ebullient BSP opting out, the GC has already suffered a serious setback even before its formation. Now it remains to be seen if the Congress Party will go out of the way to placate Mayawati and play second fiddle to BSP.

If Mayawati has renounced outright the terms of Congress for an electoral tie-up in two states on the pretext of her party not being prepared to compromise its self-respect (read not wanting to give up its supremacy in the proposed GC), Akhilesh Yadav has his own plans too. Having already had a bitter experience of aligning with a Congress of waning fortunes in the UP Assembly polls in 2017, he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about another electoral alignment with that party.

Akhilesh has passed the onus of hammering out the GC to the Congress Party. He interceded the quibbling for seats between the Congress and the BSP by asking the former to show, as the principal partner, its magnanimity and accommodate the latter’s demand for more seats. He has further stated that the delay on the part of the Congress in finalising the seat apportionment would lead to like-minded parties individually deciding their own separate plans. In short, SP may most probably go the BSP way.

Looming Bugbear

Although the Telugu Desam Party and the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, which were BJP’s NDA allies in the 2014 elections and for some years thereafter, have quit the coalition and another ally Shiv Sena is showing restiveness, the BJP has done a commendable job of keeping the rest of its brood together. Furthermore, the Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and TRS do not seem to be averse to doing business with the NDA. In stark contrast to the BJP’s balance of fortunes, the Opposition parties are yet to see eye to eye with each other, sink their differences and come together to put up a united front. Whether a grand coalition could trounce the BJP and its allies in the polls or not is a bridge that needs to be crossed only when the Opposition succeeds in breathing life into the comatic Mahagathbandhan. Till then, the talk of a united opposition is nothing more than a bugbear aimed to unnerve the ruling party.

(The article The Bugbear of a United Opposition is published in ‘Organiser’ )

Interrogating the viability of Secularism in the Nation-building Exercise

Instead of allowing the continued use of Secularism as a convenient carpet to brush the reprehensible minority-appeasement policy of the corrupt politicians under, how the principle should be trimmed and tweaked to make it a viable input in nation-building is the question that currently begs an answer

A nation is always in the making, and nation-building is a continuous process. For a constant and massive exercise such as nation-building to be a success, stability at home and safe external borders constitute a sine qua non. A country’s territorial integrity could not be more in danger than when its defence preparedness loses out in priority to out-of-sync foreign policy, attuned to an archaic dogma such as non-alignment, which is no more viable than deadbeat concepts such as imperialism, colonialism or apartheid, in the changing world order.

Likewise, in a vibrant democracy such as Bharat, surrounded by hostile neighbours and unstable partners in development, the importance of a fine-tuned domestic policy of religious and spiritual matters can never be exaggerated. That is because such a system keeps the diverse bodies of religions, faiths and cults counterbalanced and thereby ensures the prevalence of harmony and goodwill among the people.

Why Secularism?

A significant fallout of a thousand-year occupation of our country by Muslim invaders and European colonial powers was the conversion of substantial numbers of its original inhabitants to religions that had their origins outside Bharat. Aside from the beliefs introduced by the invading forces, Bharat has a large body of indigenous religions that have managed to survive the onslaught of foreign invasions. It is essential that notwithstanding their place of origin and manner of introduction, all these religions be accorded their due place in the society and all Indians be allowed to choose the religion of their choice and live in peace without fear of persecution.

At the same time, it is equally vital for the State not to favour or be biased against any religion in the course of providing excellent and clean governance. Besides, adoption of a non-meddlesome policy in the religious matters would instil confidence in the citizens of our country concerning the free and fair dealings of the government in an atmosphere devoid of fear or favour, which is the very basis of inclusive growth and development. Hence, Secularism is accepted as a cardinal principle of the Indian Constitution. When rightly applied and practised, Secularism should do the nation proud.

However, till recently, the ground realities reflected by the social indicators in matters such as religious harmony, economic and social development without animosity and hatred between the people of different communities presented a different picture altogether. The social fabric, which had been left in tatters by the partition, still needs much mending. The communal harmony that happily exists among the people of different communities exhibits signs of an occasional glitch or provocation, instigated by the enemies of the nation from both within and without. Nationalism is the most effective bulwark against communal discord and needs to be vigorously promoted.


Secularism is the fig leaf, which the quintessential Indian politician proudly wears and flaunts, in a fly-in-the-face fashion, pushing the nation’s integrity and the upliftment of the less fortunate of his countrymen to the backburner. The motivating factor behind the projection of Secularism as a critical policy is to brandish one’s political correctness, especially on the hearing of the bugle for a forthcoming election. To the corrupt politician, nationalism, nation-building, patriotism, and inclusive growth and progress are passe.

During the 60-year reign of the Indian National Congress and its allies at the Centre, Secularism was recast by the powers that be to suit their narrow ends. Good governance, progress and development figured nowhere in their agenda. The more natural way out was to divide the people along communal lines, as the British had done during their rule, to create vote banks and cobble up the isolated communities in the name of Secularism.

In the absence of a genuine policy of non-discrimination between the religions, independent Bharat witnessed uncertain periods of time, marked by communal tension and riots. There was an obvious slant on the part of the government of the day

Minority appeasement became the order of the day, reducing the State policy of Secularism to pseudo-Secularism. The irony of the disturbing development was that those who practised minority-appeasement for the sake of votes and abandoned Secularism in favour of pseudo-Secularism branded BJP, which had sought to set right the imbalance between the minority and majority communities, a communal party, with the aim of turning the minority communities against it.

Although this ploy benefitted the Congress and its allies in the short term, it started working against them in the long run when both the minority and majority communities realised that neither of them was the beneficiary of economic progress or social development during the Congress reign despite the tall promises made on the eve of polls. On the contrary, the minority communities in the BJP-ruled states discovered that communal tension and riots had become a thing of the past, they enjoyed the patronage of the ruling party in return for their political support and became beneficiaries of the inclusive development of the State.

All they had to do for the sake of communal harmony, economic progress and social development, was to swear by nationalism and become equal partners in the task of nation-building, the same as was expected from the majority community. Realisation also dawned on them that a rule by strong State and Central governments by a party of principles and ideology was far more beneficial and conducive to their security than control by corrupt men, marked by empty promises, scams and scandals.

The Fallout

When minority appeasement was the order of the day, and pseudo-secularism ruled the roost, the stability of our nation continually came under severe attacks, with the enemies of the nation succeeding in causing a dent here and a jolt there across the country. Such occurrences weakened the security apparatus, demoralised the people, thwarted democracy and helped the external enemies from across the border to deal blows to the territorial integrity of our country. When our defence personnel fought overt and covert wars across the border and in the troubled border States, intelligence agencies and paramilitary troops had a tough time, carrying out sporadic campaigns against terrorists, Naxals and jihadi outfits, and monitoring the activities of separatists operating in the ruse of political and social activists.

A major casualty of these interesting developments was Secularism, which had run out of steam and was replaced by pseudo-Secularism. This development went unnoticed by a large section of the unwary public.

The recent political events and happenings in our country like the court rulings in matters such as access by all parts of people to the Shani Shingnapur and Sabarimala temples, bans and restrictions on the celebration of Hindu festivals, and construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya impinged the Hindu religious sentiments. These decisions have had a salutary effect on the majority community in their outlook and attitude towards the so-called Secularism.

Instead of allowing the continued use of Secularism as a convenient carpet to brush the reprehensible minority-appeasement policy of the corrupt politicians under, how the principle should be trimmed and tweaked to make it a viable input in nation-building is the question that currently begs an answer. As such, all future elections will be fought, with this question featuring predominantly in the minds of the discerning voters.

(The article Interrogating the viability of Secularism in the Nation-building Exercise is published in ‘Organiser’ )

How to make farming an attractive career proposition for the Indian youth?

More and more youth could be motivated to become successful farming entrepreneurs and adopt a cluster of farms and run them for the farm owners through farm workers on the lines of a corporate enterprise

Indian economy has been in a great shape. It has indeed come of age on the strength of a phenomenal growth story during the last four years. The World Bank has hailed India as the fastest growing nation among the world’s major emerging economies, and lauded its economy as robust and resilient, with a potential to deliver sustained growth. Such splendid success would not have been possible but for an astounding performance by the industrial sector.

New horizons of development came into focus when our country set a record last year by launching a hundred satellites simultaneously into space. India is poised to become only the fourth country in the world to send a manned-spacecraft by 2022. Under the global brand of ‘Make in India’, the country is becoming a global hub, especially in the electronics and automobile manufacturing segments, as stated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Japan. It is rapidly moving towards becoming the premier mobile phones manufacturing country.

Crowning Glory

Indian culture, with its various facets such as Indic studies, Sanskrit, philosophy, yoga, performing arts, comparative theological study, etc, is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. As such, it is making inroads into the thought and political processes the world over, especially in the Western hemisphere. Since a long time, our country has been biding its time to take its place among the comity of nations as Vishwa Guru. The prospects of India’s tryst with the crowning glory in a fast-changing world order seem brighter at this point in time than at any time in the past.

In such a promising developmental scenario, a significant chunk of credit for the stupendous success of the economy goes to the farming sector, the importance of which could be hardly exaggerated. Although it accounts for only 18 per cent of our country’s GDP, the farming sector, being the mainstay of the economy, provides employment to over 50 per cent of the workforce. What is more, there is a tremendous scope for further enhancement of the development indices of the sector. The scope, however, needs to be tapped and exploited by undertaking urgent measures to ensure maximum benefit. To this end, it is imperative to target the youth segment of the workforce, looking for cushy jobs in urban areas.

Enrolment of youth in the farming sector is very important as they are today’s roots and tomorrow’s trunk and branches of the magnificent Kalpataru of Indian economy. This is, however, easier said than done in the unenviable conditions currently prevalent in the farming sector. 

The lure of a comparatively easygoing lifestyle in the urban areas, which flows out of salaried employment in the government and private sectors, is too hard to resist for most of the youth. Therefore, unless a fundamental change is brought about in their mindset and attitude, farming as an option will continue to remain a poor cousin to employment prospects in the urban areas.


In India, the very mention of farming conjures up in the mind of an uninformed person, an image of tilling and toiling in the sun and rain, let alone droughts and famine, using traditional equipment and manual methods, with no certainty of a steady income even at the best of times. Another popular perception about farming is that people from the upper strata of the society don’t take to agriculture as a vocation. Owning vast stretches of land is fine and indicative of one’s wealth and status but to be called a farmer is tantamount to being branded as a handler of a menial job, no matter how much the income.

The opinions mentioned above not only have a solid base but also tend to influence the ground realities. The appeal of the farming sector that rides on the shoulders of the perceptions would undergo a vast transformation only when there is a substantive change in the ground realities. Unless and until there is a significant shift in the attitudes, it would be unrealistic to expect the youth to accept farming in their career options. The need of the hour is, therefore, a paradigm shift in perceptions.

Laundry List

There is a laundry list of irritants, minor and major, which currently ails the farming sector. Modernisation of the farming methods and equipment is the primary change that needs to be ushered in. Similarly, in place of crops traditionally cultivated year after year since time immemorial, there has to be a judicious mix of traditional crops and cash crops to make farming a sustainable source of livelihood. Furthermore, to improve and augment food production, the factors to reckon with are drip irrigation, usage of modern agricultural implements and equipment, counselling by experts in areas ranging from ploughing to sowing, cultivation, harvesting, marketing, etc.

To make life more agreeable for a farmer, an assured income at a reasonable investment in a government scheme, a viable insurance scheme to offset the loss and damage to the crops owing to droughts and famine, soft farm loans, water and electricity at subsidised rates, minimum assured prices for the crops, etc are the areas to be addressed. Where there is no law or scheme governing these matters, necessary legislation process should be initiated immediately and appropriate laws passed. The existing regulations governing these matters need to be periodically revisited and reviewed by the government. In short, the peasant should never be left high and dry. Moreover, he should never feel defenceless and vulnerable, placed as he is between the vagaries of weather on the one hand and the maze of government agencies, loan sharks, etc, on the other.

Role of Universities

Universities owe a lot to making farming an attractive and lucrative career proposition for the youth. This starts with motivating the students and appraising them of the career prospects that await the successful completion of a course in agricultural studies, and assured career progression in services such as research and application of findings in farming, counselling of farmers, and careers in centres of procurement and marketing of crops, food processing, exporting of farm produce, production and marketing of modern agricultural implements and equipment, raising of cattle and other farm animals, water management, etc.

More and more students could be motivated to become successful farming entrepreneurs and adopt a cluster of farms and run them for the farm owners through farm workers on the lines of a corporate enterprise. The resulting enhancement in the production of crops and an increase in revenues would bring in significant profits and success for the farmers while also ensuring that the farm workers are paid getting paid good salaries and allowances, without having to fear risks and perils associated with farming and other agricultural activities.

Indian Agriculture Service

Every course in academics has to be, by and large, career-oriented and so should be farming. Furthermore, let us have an exclusive Indian Agriculture Service on the lines of the Civil Service to make the marriage between academics and employment in the farming sector viable and attractive. There are countries where compulsory military training is the norm. Let India set a new norm by making farming a mandatory part of academics. Also, let us catch them young by associating school students with farming. The rest will be history, with a promising farming sector of tremendous appeal and lucrative career options.

(The writer is a well-known economist and top banker)

(The article How to make farming an attractive career proposition for the Indian youth? is published in ‘Organiser’ )

A Bishop’s Bloomer or a Harrowing Tale of Silent Sufferers

The Roman Catholic Church in Kerala, which was already mired in a slew of charges of rape and sexual abuse involving its priests, received a further jolt a few months back when a nun fired a fresh salvo of yet another rape charge against a senior clergyman. The nun went public with the startling accusation that she had been repeatedly raped on several occasions over a period of two years by Franco Mulakkal, who is the Bishop of Jalandhar Diocese, during the latter’s visits to a convent in Kerala. At first, she wrote to the Vatican and sought the bishop’s removal from the post. As no proper response was forthcoming, she filed a complaint with the police.

Meanwhile, the Church instituted an internal probe into the nun’s complaint and issued a clean chit in favour of the bishop. Although the police, on their part, registered a case, the preliminary probe against the accused dragged on for nearly three months, which led to the pulling up of the State and the police by the Kerala High Court. It became particularly awkward for the police when the nun further accused that the bishop used his authority and clout to defame her and tried to buy off her silence with a bribe of Rs 5 crore.

Bishop’s Arrest

The police stepped in and called the accused bishop for interrogation but not before a group of nuns and a motley collection of women group activists, artists, writers and celebrities took to the streets in a protest march, and the State erupted into a hysterical demand for justice for the aggrieved woman. Meanwhile, the bishop refuted the charge outright, calling it baseless and concocted. Franco Mulakkal alleged that the nun filed the case against him as a vendetta because he had ordered an internal probe against her after a woman complained that the nun was having an affair with her husband.

However, the bishop could not sustain his allegation against the nun, and his fake claim of a vendetta got exposed owing to contradictions in his own statements, which he had made during three days of interrogation, coupled with digital and circumstantial evidence, as well as statements of witnesses. This led to his arrest and finally on September 21, the High Court sent him to judicial custody.

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

The vociferous support received by the nun from a section of the society was sought to be rebuffed with counter-allegations against the woman in distress by a group of political supporters of the accused who did not flinch from indulging in character assassination. Poonjar MLA, PC George even went to the extent of calling the nun a prostitute.  Without a shred of evidence to back their theory, the supporters of the bishop blamed anti-Christian forces for plotting to bring disrepute to the Church by making the bishop a fall guy. Meanwhile, three more nuns joined the tirade against the bishop, accusing him of sexual misconduct towards them. However, the Church stuck to its stand that the bishop was innocent.

Following a report that the nuns supporting the rape-survivor were planning a second phase of agitation, a Kerala-based independent body that goes by the name of the Catholic Federation of India, consisting of followers of the Catholic Church, condemned the move by the nuns, calling them a cat’s paw in the hands of those individuals who are against the Church, anti-social elements and some terrorist groups. Claiming that the nuns were illegally occupying a convent, the federation demanded their ouster and announced its decision to launch an agitation to press its demand.

Face Saver

The troubled waters became even murkier when the Vatican recently came out in the open with the revelation of a humongous conspiracy by Satan to undermine the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis has spoken about the devil being alive and working overtime to sow scandals and division in the Church. Although he made the statement in the global context and his message made no specific reference to the scandals in India, especially the rape charge made by the nun in Kerala, it could not have come at a more appropriate time for the accused bishop and his supporters who were badly in need of a face saver.

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court granted bail to the bishop on October 15, and he was released the next day from a sub-jail near Kottayam. A large number of supporters, including independent MLA PC George, greeted him as he came out of the sub-jail at Pala. The clergyman first went to his residence in Thrissur and later left for Punjab. When he reached Jalandhar on October 18, Franco received a hero’s welcome from his supporters, nuns and the current administrative bishop. They showered rose petals on him and welcomed him with a huge garland.

False Belief

Here it needs to be emphasized that when the rape is committed by someone very well known to the victim in whom the latter had reposed faith and trust, the crime of rape assumes more sinister dimensions. In this specific instance, the survivor was allegedly let down and attacked on several occasions by Franco Mulakkal, whom she had known well and closely. Besides, the perpetrator was apparently nursing the false belief that his target, being much lower than him in the hierarchy of the establishment, was in no position to raise her voice against him. This is nothing but betrayal of faith and misuse of power!

The Fallout

When the targeted person fails to receive justice from the establishment, it erodes her faith in the institution, no matter how lofty or August. Perceived delays on the part of the investigating agencies lead to lack of confidence in the system. When hounded by the mainstream media and lobbies that indulge in name calling, the woman in distress may become more depressed for having become the centre of unwanted attention and a soft target for unscrupulous sources of scurrilous writing. Implicit and explicit threats, hurled at her in the course of defending the accused, are capable of causing psychological injuries that leave behind emotional scars.

Justice for Restoration of Faith

In view of the above, the strong likelihood of the fallout of the sordid crime polarizing the society on communal or religious lines should be resolutely resisted by all the right thinking men, irrespective of their religious or political moorings and divisions. Men and women should rally around the just cause of ensuring justice for the aggrieved. The wheels of justice must be seen to grind, with the interests of the individuals involved in the case and the cause of the issue at hand, namely, freedom for the vulnerable links in the hierarchy of institutions from the fear of oppression and persecution, being the only considerations. A rape is a rape, no matter who perpetrates it on whom and there is no condoning of the perpetrator of the crime.

This message should be sent across the society to instil the fear of the law among the potential criminals as well as to safeguard the hope for justice among the weak and the vulnerable. Above all, the sanctity of a place of worship and trust and faith in those who serve God and humanity must be restored. In future, the Church’s cooperation with the investigating agencies and the Court in seeing the case through will be immensely helpful for shoring up the goodwill of the devout churchgoers and the others alike as well as to ensure fair play for the victims and the aggrieved.

Is Imran Khan a Ray of Hope or a Pakistan Army Pawn?

As soon as Imran Khan was sworn-in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan on August 18, people in the Indian subcontinent started pondering over the following questions. Will the new government under Khan be able to improve the economic and social conditions of Pakistanis? Will he be able to convert a highly corrupt nation on the verge of becoming an altogether failed state, into a flourishing and thriving democracy, expunged of corruption and terrorism? Will his government’s foreign policies succeed in improving the Islamic Republic’s diplomatic relations and trade ties with India? Or will the cricketer-turned-politician prove to be a damp squib and disappoint his supporters?

Although the odds are heavily laid out against him, the never-say-die neo-convert and latest entrant to Pakistan’s charmed circle of celebrity political leaders, exudes confidence and seems poised to inject a breath of fresh air in the dynastic civilian politics, allowed to briefly glow like a flickering flame, during brief interregnums of military rule in which the country has been perennially engulfed ever since its inception.

Pushing for Peace

Whatever degree of success Imran Khan manages to accomplish in cleansing the Augean stables of corruption, how far he is able to push the envelope in his pursuit of peace with India is a matter of great interest in the regional as well as international politics. This is especially so in view of his country’s heavy dependence on China, bordering on total subjugation, for its economic and military survival and the latter’s blow hot and cold relations with India owing to the availability of a massive scope of trade relations notwithstanding the festering border disputes.

India has made its intentions clear that a dialogue with Pakistan is not possible unless the latter improves its record on harboring non-state actors. The snub by India in September by calling off meeting of two countries’ foreign ministers must have made the new Pakistan PM realise that shrewd foreign policy won’t work with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India. This is why he recently pinned hope on resuming ties with India after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Adding to Imran Khan’s embarrassment was an acceptance by a veteran of his cricket fraternity, Shahid Afridi, who confessed that Pakistan doesn’t merit Kashmir as the Islamic country has demonstrated incompetency in managing its existing provinces.

Customary Rigmarole

In his very first address to the nation as the newly elected Prime Minister, Khan made haste to extend a hand of friendship and invoked India’s cooperation. He spoke about the need to settle all the disputes between the two countries through dialogue. His if-they-take-one-step-we-shall-take-two speech went well with both the Pakistani and international audiences. The speech was, however, received in India with a mix of customary cynicism and caution as the new Prime Minister had qualified his call for the resolution of all disputes by referring to the “core issue of Kashmir,” a hackneyed cliché used by all the Pakistani rulers and establishments, past and present.

As if his lacklustre offer of friendship and peace was already not a blatant rehash of rhetoric resorted to by his predecessors, he was far too economical with crucial issues such as cross-border terrorism, proxy war and ceasefire violations across the LOC to make a mark for himself. In short, his speech was nothing more than a cautious attempt to send a right signal for peace across the border, stopping short of displeasing his own country’s military-intelligence nexus, which has had a stranglehold over the foreign policy and security issues.

Devoid of a genuine and bona fide longing for peace, which only a truly democratic leader with a vision, and the unstinting support of his people, like Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Narendra Modi, is capable of articulating with conviction, Imran Khan’s speech was merely a customary rigmarole that every newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister embarks on. After all, he is anything but a product of circumstances that his country has produced in a toxic political atmosphere of corruption, nepotism, religious fundamentalism, brute military might and unapologetic terrorism supported by the state to establish and perpetuate a religious ideology with its origin in the Gulf, truncated democratic system, totalitarianism, intolerance towards minorities, survival on foreign economic and military aid, unvarnished hatred for India, etc.

On Army’s Tight Leash

Imran Khan is the latest of the civilian rulers that the Army has chosen to foist on the people of Pakistan to divert their attention from the economic and political ills of the country, by means of a carefully orchestrated electoral process to perpetuate its hold on the Islamic nation. He has been allowed by the military establishment to talk of a corruption-free economy and austerity measures such as the scaling down of the Prime Ministerial bungalow, reduction of menial staff, auctioning off a fleet of luxury cars in the PM’s establishment, etc. Unfortunately, these are all cosmetic gestures designed to appeal to the layman who has been badly shaken out of his stupor of complacency by the staggering volumes of debts that his country reels under and the alarming speed at which it is sliding down the hill before being declared a basket case or a banana republic.

To add some verve to the speech, throw in a talk of peace with neighbours. However, leave the initiative to India, which has time and again declared that its position on the bilateral relations is clear: Kashmir is an integral part of India and its territorial integrity is not a matter for discussion with Pakistan or any other country. Unless Pakistan disowns its policy of proxy war and reins in the terrorists who infiltrate into India, there could no discussions or talks. Pakistan is flummoxed by India’s repeated assertion of its stance and has been trying in vain to find a chink in its armour. Imran Khan’s olive branch is the latest in that country’s series of overtures to make itself look like a peace-loving victim at the mercy of an aggressive neighbour.


Hemmed in by the Army of his country and the all-weather benefactor China, how free is Imran Khan to pursue his avowed aim of forging friendly and peaceful relations with India? With the Army breathing down his neck, does he have time on his side? In any case, how serious is he about the resolution of disputes through talks? What was stopping him from even talking about staying off the beaten track of bleeding India, let alone calling halt to the operations of the Army and the non-state actors engaged in shoot and scoot manoeuvres with the Indian security personnel?

If consistency is the hallmark of mediocrity, Imran Khan walks away with the credit of being singularly consistent in refraining from putting his money where the mouth is. All he had to offer India at present was the sweet talk of peace that he has done with customary élan. India has sensed the predicament that Khan finds himself in, having been catapulted by the Army to the dizzy heights of power, which is conspicuous by its absence when it comes to delivering on the promises.

As the military in Pakistan has a history of interfering in political affairs, majority of the political analysts remain sceptical about Imran Khan being able to function independently without appeasing their agenda. Hence, it may be ominously bad news for India as prime ministers in Pakistan have always been puppets of the military of that country, and Imran Khan is no different. He too has the backing of the Pakistan military. In fact, it is probably the reason that his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the recent elections in the first place.

So, as far as India is concerned the status quo shall prevail. Only, they will have to deal with a different political leader, and probably a diverse but insignificant set of personal predilections of a new cricketer-turned-prime minister, who is just another puppet of the Pakistan military that will continue its proxy rule of the country.

Has the RBI failed in Lining-up the Banking Reforms? A few questions for the Central Bank from a top banker

RBI failed in doing this by giving a body blow to commercial banks and instructing them to identify bad loans with immediate effect and not in a phased manner

Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) top brass comprises of persons with the outstanding calibre, and they should know even more than ordinary citizens that their public statements can make or break the economy of the country. Still, we are not to forget that reasonable dissent must be allowed to uphold the integrity of our institutions. In this light, hereunder are some questions that seek answers from RBI.

First, let’s talk about non-performing assets (NPAs) and the 2016 initiative of the central bank mandating strict provisions for stressed assets. NPAs are a common phenomenon in any economy since not all borrowers can service loans in a time-bound manner owing to many reasons which can be within (bad management decisions or embezzlement of borrowed funds) or beyond their control (unfavourable market conditions or sudden change in government policies). Prudently tackling with NPAs involves identifying stressed assets in such a manner that they do not adversely affect future lending operations of banks.

What about RBI’s deliveries in its present functions? Now that everyone is discussing and finding faults in the IL&FS episode, barely is anyone trying to reach to the bottom of the issue. Credit rating agencies (CRAs) of India had until recently shied away from flagging IL&FS and downgrading it despite the financial mess that was growing within due to asset-liability mismatch

RBI failed in doing this by giving a body blow to commercial banks and instructing them to identify bad loans with immediate effect and not in a phased manner. Imagine, the dust that was being continually brushed under the carpet was taken out all of a sudden and banks were ruthlessly asked to clear the mess immediately.

Making of the Crisis

What happened was almost all public sector banks posting unprecedented losses and a double whammy of lost confidence in banking institutions (that otherwise would have made dividend payments to support GoI’s expenditures) and curb in lending activities. The government had to step in and earmark budgetary resources (which otherwise would have been used to fund infrastructure growth, thereby creating jobs) to recapitalise banks. The question is why RBI recklessly pursued bad asset recognition exercise rather than undertaking it in a time-bound manner?

Second, let’s talk about regulation of RBI over banking institutions. RBI seeks greater autonomy in this respect but is the current framework so bad? RBI conducts Annual Financial Inspection (AFI) of commercial banks where the central bank assesses many aspects including loan books and financial health of banks. In the year 2016, RBI took a sudden, rather knee-jerking decision, of increasing the sample size that it analyses and unearthed many skeletons in loan books that had hitherto remained hidden. Loans that were extended without proper due diligence and were on the cusp of turning bad should have been noticed by RBI prior to 2016 during its AFI exercise.

However, this never happened. Moreover, while the central bank enjoys vast powers concerning private banks- where it can remove CMDs, call a meeting of Board, appoint observers and remove managerial brass- it failed to rein them in, and it was only after the Asset Quality Review exercise that lenders such as ICICI Bank abruptly recognised stressed assets. The question is why RBI did not tough act before 2016, and properly conduct AFI?

Third, RBI has openly voiced its concern over establishing a separate regulator for payments as suggested by the government. RBI’s rationale is that since all digital payments have an underlying bank account and banks are regulated by it; there exists no need for a separate regulator as it would result in overlapping jurisdiction and synergy would be compromised. Although the data isn’t available on how many digital transactions fail on a daily basis, for example when a person uses the UPI interface to transfer money from one bank account to another, one can easily guess that the number is substantial. RBI, the institution that oversees functioning of banks, has a mandate to keep inflationary forces under control and undertake various measures like open market operations (OMO) to infuse/ curb liquidity and sell/ purchase dollars to manage rupee exchange rate, cannot be expected to handle payment ecosystem, thereby justifying the need for a separate regulator. The question is why the central bank wants to hold on to power?

Fourth, what about RBI’s deliveries in its present functions? Now that everyone is discussing and finding faults in the IL&FS episode, barely is anyone trying to reach to the bottom of the issue. Credit rating agencies (CRAs) of India had until recently shied away from flagging IL&FS and downgrading it despite the financial mess that was growing within due to asset-liability mismatch. Although CRAs are regulated by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), they are also accredited by RBI to undertake rating exercises for large loans, commercial papers and Letter of Credit. It was only in July this year that RBI contemplated undertaking a joint audit of CRAs along with SEBI. The damage, however, was already done. IL&FS, which enjoyed debt rating of highest standards, defaulted on its obligations and the ripple effect was felt across the sector. In a flash, almost every NBFC stock headed south owing to liquidity crunch in the sector. The question is why RBI did not rein in CRAs proactively?

It is easy to criticize the ruling Government than to admit own blunders. And RBI chose the former to take the spotlight away from its own failures as listed above. Indeed, the central bank deserves its share of autonomy to maintain the health of India’s banking sector and undertake timely remedial actions in cases of divergence. However, the wise men of RBI cannot stand vindicated when they openly blame the government of the day without any rationales whatsoever. Foreign investors are already pulling money out of emerging economies due to rising interest rates in the United States; hence a public rift between the government and country’s central bank will only further erode confidence. At a time when the country desperately needs investment for infrastructure growth and to create jobs, the RBI’s dissent is an unjustifiable endeavor. Setting own house in order ought to be the priority of RBI.

(The writer is an ex-Director of PNB & Dena Bank)

(The article Has the RBI failed in Lining-up the Banking Reforms? A few questions for the Central Bank from a top banker is published in ‘Organiser’ )

A Case for CAATSA Waiver


The balance of power is in a vague state today. The bipolar world with two competing forces, one United States and the other USSR, isn’t as prominent a theme in the 21st century as it was during the long period following the end of 2nd world war till the 1990s. Debates and articles in leading publications now focus more on the US-China clash and its geopolitical and economic fallouts than on the previously preferred topic concerning the US-USSR rivalry. China is increasingly making inroads in every possible part of the world through its ambitious Silk Road project, corporate investments and mining ventures, and that the Chinese debt is crippling countries from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Maldives to Montenegro, is a widely acknowledged fact.

In this scenario, India has signed a multi-billion dollar defence deal that involves purchase of S-400 missile defence system from its long-standing ally, Russia. India’s outlay on defence equipment is justifiable given the potent threats from two of its neighbors- China and Pakistan. India has fought multiple wars with Pakistan, the country that housed Bin Laden and also trains militants on its soil to upset India’s national security calculus. With China, India has fought a war and skirmishes on Indo-Chinese border have made many headlines in the recent past. All the three Asian countries hold nuclear weapons and it is in the best interest of all, even for those located beyond the continent, that the deterrence model (by way of procuring more sophisticated arms to match and surpass opponent’s arsenal symmetrically or asymmetrically) keeps them from any sort of misadventures and engaging in a full-blown war.

Prominent national security experts have exposed the fanciful notion that Indian armed forces are fully equipped to sustain and retaliate strongly in an event of war. In this light, and after China having already purchased the S-400 system from Russia, it appears rational that India had to take a concrete step to upgrade its defence capabilities. The partnership between the two countries is mutually rewarding since Russia has traditionally provided India with defence equipment and the multiple-sanction that hit Russian economy has found a regular revenue stream. Both are sovereign countries and the partnership between them must be viewed with the lens of any country’s right to protect its borders and protect its economy.

As per various reports in the media, the India-Russia deal has not gone well with the United States and can result in sanctions backed by the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Soon after the deal was concluded during the Modi-Putin Summit held in New Delhi, it is rumoured that crucial Trump-administration officials were hopeful that the President would use his executive powers under the Act to provide for a waiver from sanctions to India. But in a late turnaround, the President is quoted as saying ‘India will find out’. Although this does not necessarily mean that the US is preparing for a punitive measure against India, but given the straight-talking attitude of President Trump, denial of sanctions to India cannot be wholly ruled out. But will these sanctions be a wise policy action?

First, India, for long, has opted to remain out of the bipolar balance of power struggles by not exclusively aligning with any of the powers. India is the only Asian nation that could one day, potentially, stand upto the might of China, which poses threat to the world at large by illicitly claiming the South China Sea and building military bases in as far as Africa. Under the astute leadership of President Trump, the United States has itself emphasised ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy as a substitute to Asia-Pacific. Joint military exercises by India and US and recent agreements on sharing of intelligence and use of ports have further strengthened the bilateral relationship.

Second, the economy of the United States has repeatedly set records under Trump with such economic indicators as employment generation impressing even his staunch critics. Parallelly, President Trump has waged a trade war against China by imposing unprecedented tariffs on imported goods. The US has also abandoned the Iran nuclear deal; however, other signatories to the pact are trying to save the deal as much as they can in their capacities, though their commitment to Iran is suspect, starting with France. The US sanctions on Iran that will kick in from November 4 this year will see crude importers finding it tough and expensive to keep up with the oil needs of their respective economies.

Given of such a state, one could argue that President Trump would welcome allies that can both check the rising Chinese aspirations as well as continue to back the US on global and multilateral platforms, it will be a prudent decision by Trump to allow India a temporary waiver from CAATSA. The leader – who knows precisely when to arm-twist and when to use soft power (North Korea, a rogue nation, has finally agreed to open its nuclear sites to scrutiny and gradually give up nuclear weapons) – is expected to think rationally and let the Indo-US relationship thrive. Enabling India to fortify its defence capabilities is indeed in the best interests of the US, and the icing on the cake is that India isn’t eating up any US resources (like the NATO members) in its pursuit.

(The article “A Case for CAATSA Waiver” is published on page no. 46 & 47 in ‘Organiser’ dated 28th October 2018)

Mob Lynchings: Individual Preferences and Community Sentiments

1_Mob LynchingWhat is the evilest of all the acts that man is capable of conceiving and executing? Undoubtedly it is murder. “Murder most foul,” says William Shakespeare in Hamlet. He goes on to elaborate that the “most foul act” becomes further “strange and unnatural” when the killing is by a man of his own brother.

Society and Individual

A society takes shape when a group of people come together on fraternal terms and agree to lead a disciplined and peaceful life as demanded by the law of the land. All of a sudden, an unruly group of members from within the society collects to kill an individual member over a perceived issue of serious transgression or violation of the society’s code of behavioural norms. Lynchings by mobs are not unique to any particular society or country. It has been a worldwide phenomenon, both unpredictable and often occurring on the spur of the moment.

Mob Lynchings

What provokes a mob to commit the “most foul” act of murder that is “strange and unnatural”? Apparently, the mob collects and lynches the victim under the conviction that the latter is a hazard to the orderly functioning of the society and is therefore expendable. The victim commits an ‘unpardonable’ act that causes the mob to see red whereupon its members assume a sense of self-righteousness and arrogate to themselves the task or responsibility of cleansing the society by setting things right as per their perception and conviction.

“One man’s food is another man’s poison,” goes an age-old saying which is not, arguably, any more relevant in any other part of the world than in India. Nothing seems to have created so much bad blood or consternation between the major communities in India as their culinary preferences and taboos. Every community has its own sentiments, which do not brook certain practices or the other, including food habits. Such practices are shunned as taboos and are strictly forbidden, breaches entailing heavy penalties and sometimes harsh punishments, not tenable under the law of the land.

When the community sentiments run quite deep and are as old as the living memory, if not longer, the community seems to become sort of impervious to the law of the land. In the case of two different communities, which are governed by their own acceptable sets of norms that are prickly and irreconcilable in relation to each other, alarm bells start ringing and things start going wrong.

Individual Preferences

Notwithstanding their community affiliations, individuals have their own preferences in matters that have a direct bearing on their personal or private life, such as their choice of food, drinking habits, selection of life partner, etc. When the individuals are ready and willing to make compromises in their personal preferences in order to align with the sentiments of the community amid which they live, a cordial atmosphere of mutual understanding and peace prevails. It is only when an individual puts his foot down and insists on having his own way, in the exercise of his right to his personal preferences that things tend to get out of control, resulting in ugly precipitous action. Likewise, when neither of the two communities with conflicting beliefs or sentiments is prepared to compromise, ugly showdowns are precipitated.

Community Sentiments

The Hindus consider beef eating one of the darkest sins that a man could possibly commit. They believe that the cow is a sacred animal and her body is the dwelling place of all the deities that they worship. They consider the cow as an alter ego of one’s mother. They worship the cow and believe that protecting her is a sacred duty mandated by their religion. Slaughter of a cow is, therefore, an unthinkable act for a Hindu. It is not only cows but cattle, as a group of animals, which enjoy the traditional status of endeared and respectable living beings in Hinduism. This sentiment is also shared by Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. Cattle slaughter has been frowned upon and shunned for reasons ranging from cows being considered a species protected by Lord Krishna, to cattle being valued as an integral part of the rural household and unity of life, an economic necessity and as an important principle of non-violence and peace.

Law on Cattle Slaughter

Much thought had been given to the protection of cattle before and after Independence for the purpose of enacting suitable legislation. While Article 48 of the Constitution explicitly mandates the states to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle, the Directive Principles under the said Article exhort the states to legislate on the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The issue has generated a lot of arguments for and against the prohibition of cattle slaughter. Since Islam and Christianity consider cattle as an admissible source of meat for consumption, and sections of the Hindu community have accepted beef eating due to the influence of the Western culture or dilution of their own religious sentiments, there is a sizable population of the votaries of consumption of beef. As a result, enactment of legislation has not been without major roadblocks or hiccups. Consequently, there is a lack of uniformity among state laws governing cattle slaughter.

The absence of a nationwide blanket ban on cattle slaughter, the prevalence of a plethora of laws enacted by different states, some states taking a stand that is at odds with the Constitutional provision, and the prevalence of disaffection among followers of Islam and Christianity over the issue have transformed India into a simmering cauldron of conflicting stands, sentiments and practices. This has given cause to exporters and transporters of cattle within the country operating either in genuine ignorance of the legal position or trying to take advantage of lack of clarity of law for the purpose of making a kill (pun intended).

Gau Rakshaks and Lynchings

The Gau Rakshaks or self-appointed protectors of cows in states have had confrontations in the past with illegal transporters of cattle. There has been one ugly showdown too many, resulting in preventable loss of precious lives. This unfortunate happening tends to occur every now and then in some state or the other. One sad aspect of the exercise undertaken by the Gau Rakshaks is that it is aimed at the transporters and, therefore, does not always succeed in discouraging the real forces behind the operation of illegal trafficking of cattle. The possibility of mischief makers infiltrating the ranks of Gau Rakshaks to bring the latter a bad name cannot be ruled out either. For instance, two years back, Pawan Pandit, Chairman of Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD) had said that some criminals just claim to be Gau Rakshaks to take revenge over issues that have nothing to do with cow protection.

What makes the killings or lynchings particularly unfortunate is that the perpetrators and victims belong to different communities, which adds a communal colour to the incidents. Notwithstanding their intention to protect the cattle, the Gau Rakshaks draw flak from the mainstream media(MSM), which is heavily prejudiced in favour of the victims, and play up the incidents. The Government of India has taken a strong and unwavering stand in the matter. It has stoutly denounced the lynchings by mobs as inexcusable and directed the states to strictly enforce the law. While the strict enforcement of laws will bring the frequency and number of lynchings down, the ugly phenomenon will die out only when the nation hammers out a uniform policy and enacts uniform legislation enforceable throughout the nation.

Church and Crimes Against Women and Children

2_Church and Crimes Against WomenLately, our country has been all agog about an alarming spurt in the crimes against women and children, with the involvement of the Church authorities, leading to much distress and consternation. The crimes range from cheating and criminal intimidation to betrayal of faith and confidence, blackmail, rape and trafficking in body organs and sale of infants. The incidents have given way to much soul searching and introspection and rethink among the women’s groups and authorities alike. Meanwhile, well-meaning people, cutting across the religious barrier, have started analyzing the circumstances and situations leading to the crimes and exploring possible ways and means of preventing their recurrence.

Spate of Rapes by Clergy

Following an egregious spate of rapes by priests across the country and more particularly in Kerala, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter and wondered as to what was happening in that state as priests were becoming accused in rape cases. This question was posed by the apex court following the arrest of four clergymen in Kerala on charges of raping a married woman. Apart from married women, young girls and even nuns have fallen prey to the carnal desires of amoral clergymen.

What stood out as a common factor in practically all cases of rape reported against the priests was the betrayal of faith reposed in the men by women who were in distress and worried about having sinned in the past and the exploitation of their helplessness by the very same men who had promised to deliver them absolution.

A woman who goes to a Church for making a confession is a potential target for the unprincipled and unscrupulous men among the clergy, looking for easy prey to satiate their animalistic instincts. Blackmailing her into submission, the human predator on the prowl exploits the weakness of the prey to his advantage, not infrequently multiple times, with equal participation by his associates from the clergy.

Reasons for Spurt in Rapes

One possible reason for the recent explosion in the number of rape cases could be the coming forward by more and more victims in the open with accusations against priests unlike in earlier times. Another reason could be the role played by the social media, which has been acting as a bellwether whistleblower of crimes in contrast to the mainstream media agencies that are often found in shackles of allegiance or loyalty to powerful individuals or social lobbies. How easy is it for a mainstream newspaper or television channel to report the case of rape of a woman who is a non-entity for all practical purposes, by Clergymen with powerful reach of contacts at the level of the spiritual stratosphere?

For every case of rape registered with the police, how many incidents of rape go unreported in the country even today for fear of stigma, bad publicity, vengeance, etc is anybody’s guess. But for the yeoman service rendered by social organizations concerned with the welfare of women and the social media, life would pass on for most of us as yet another parody on a lazy summer afternoon without an exposure to the ugly underbelly of the society.

Fallout of Rape by Clergy

What makes the case of a rape by a priest unique is that the victim is from the same religion as the perpetrator, and well-known to the attacker. The familiarity of the priest leaves a chink in the armour of the woman who goes to the Church in the first place to make a confession, and leaves her vulnerable to blackmail by the same priest who threatens to disclose her confession to her family members if she does not cooperate and grant him sexual favours. That the clergyman is violating the norms of behaviour stipulated by the Church regarding confessions, meant for the ears of no other human being, is beside the point. Likewise, what action is taken against him by the Church for his bargaining for sexual favours in return for absolution is yet another matter.

When the blackmail and the rape by a priest are reported by the woman to the higher authorities in the Church, they are often reluctant to initiate action against the accused and seldom pass it on to the police. The woman may be reluctant to go directly to the police as bypassing the Church might make her fall foul with the powerful Church. What if she were to be penalized and ostracized by the Church? But for the timely counselling by the right agencies, she would likely end up a tortured soul. She would quite likely wallow in self-pity and blame herself for bringing about the calamitous situation and its fallout.

There have been numerous cases of women being cheated, betrayed, and physically abused, often multiple times by more than one person in the habiliment of the Clergy. The knowledge that the perpetrator of the crime often gets away with it all, with a mere rap on the knuckles at the end of internal enquiries and proceedings, if at all conducted, by the Church, makes the position of such women all the more pathetic and gruesome.

Baby-Selling & Child Trafficking

Missionaries of Charity (MOC), an organization founded by late Mother Theresa, was recently found involved in trafficking of infants when one of its nuns, working in a shelter home in Ranchi, was caught red-handed along with another employee, selling an infant of an unwed mother staying at the Home. She confessed to selling three more children from the Home on earlier occasions for monetary benefits. The sale of children could not be dismissed as sporadic incidents by an errant functionary. The Home was responsible for the wellbeing and the accounting of the children. Furthermore, there is a big question mark over the young destitute girls that are pregnant and staying at the Home. Whether these girls were victims of an organized racket of prostitution is now a matter for investigation.

Bones & Organ Trade Racket

Shocking incidents of beating up of old inmates, including women, and harvesting of bones of dead inmates and trafficking in human organs were reported early this year at an NGO named St Joseph’s Hospice in Tamil Nadu, which offers shelter to old destitute people. The inmates were denied a decent funeral upon their death. Thousands of bodies have been reportedly buried in concrete vaults. The police are investigating into the appalling conditions in the Hospice and the allegations against it.

Church & Police Investigations

The Church and several organizations affiliated to it and run by pastors are now in the eye of one scandal too many. Several police investigations and court cases are underway. Against this backdrop, the full cooperation of the Church in police investigations has not been forthcoming. There was even a case of a bishop in Kerala claiming some time ago that he was answerable only to the Vatican and to no authority in India. In the case of investigations into the activities of the MOC, Mamata Banerjee lost no time in accusing the BJP-led Narendra Modi government of trying to use the case as a tool to besmirch the image of MOC. Such are the odds against which the police have to work to complete their investigations.


2nd term

Noted economist, Arvind Panagariya, has lately in his article in Foreign Policy magazine argued in favour of depreciating Indian currency. In a laudable attempt, he has cited India’s trade imbalance and argued that a weaker rupee will in fact help cut deficit since imported goods and services are bound to become costlier, upon which Indians would shift to domestically produced items. Such arguments may sound positive in an ideal world. In the real world, however, a weakening currency raises many eyebrows, including of foreign investors and rating agencies, and on its face is an indicator that not everything in the economy is sorted.

Even those who are not seasoned economists or politicians can tell why the rupee is falling against US dollar. Outflow of investments from Indian markets, rising interest rate in the US, India’s widening trade deficit on account of rising crude prices in international market are some key reasons behind rupee’s depreciation. And honestly, no one would want a freely falling rupee, not even exporters who gain from it since their goods and services become more competitive in international trade. That the RBI intervenes by way of selling dollars to stem any sharp fall in Indian currency is in itself a manifestation of anxiety and subsequent corrective actions undertaken.

Reality is indeed strikingly in contrast to rhetoric. India has a rising middle class that is buying imported goods- from mobile phones to luxury cars- like never before. Electronics are now at the second place on our imports table only after crude oil. Crude is traded in dollar and there lies no justifiable argument that can establish that a falling rupee is a good phenomenon. Arvind Panagariya’s appreciation of a falling rupee and its positive impact on India’s trade with foreign economies thus sounds unconvincing. And for the ruling dispensation that is on the defensive mode on demonetization ever since the RBI report saying almost all scrapped notes are back into the system is out, finding pluses in a falling rupee can be suicidal.

As if the rupee tumble wasn’t enough in the final months of the BJP-led government, rising oil prices are setting the tone for next general elections. For most Indians, if the price of petrol and diesel has touched historical highs, it is the fault of the government they voted in. A common voter has nothing to do with US sanctions on Iran or supply cuts by OPEC or falling inventories of US shale. But yes, the new voter equipped with a smartphone does know that central and state taxes on petroleum almost double their price in retail market. They also feel the pinch when on account of high transportation costs the prices of vegetables and other essential commodities shoot up.

International economists have repeatedly stressed on the need of a second term for the Modi-led government so that India can realise its true potential and the dream of inclusive development can come true. But for the electorate, any government that cannot rein in petroleum prices and stem currency’s fall isn’t an efficient one. The backward classes are already feeling disenchanted with the government over issues ranging from cow slaughter to reservation, and if the burgeoning middle class also distances itself from PM Modi over rising costs of petrol and other imported goods, the BJP may taste a shock similar to NDA defeat in 2004.

Although the government and party officials are aware of the double-whammy of rising oil prices and falling rupee, the Modi-led cabinet isn’t finding enough elbow room to maneuver and produce desired outcomes. The truth is traditional measures won’t bring about the change needed; it is time to take the unconventional route. It is time that the Indian government makes it clear to the United States that their unilaterally placed sanctions on Iran are damaging to India’s interests; hence we would not abide by them. We import more than 80 percent of crude we need, hence not working actively on such alternates as lithium ion batteries that power vehicles is a policy failure. China is the world leader in lithium batteries and it is high time we take a cue from them.

As far as the falling rupee is concerned we may not be in a position to reverse the trend in the short-run. But since we know it is the declining demand of Indian currency vis-à-vis other currencies that results in its touching new lows with every passing day, we are to work aggressively on Make in India. Even if we leave out crude from our import basket, other items including consumer goods and machinery parts, which can be replaced with domestically produced goods, crave for policymakers attention. And for making Make in India a success, India first needs to shake up its bureaucracy that is riddled with inaction, inefficiency and vested interests.

The nation needs a second phase of reforms and decisive policy actions, thus a second term for BJP remains an indispensable element. But the BJP cannot overlook the fact that since they won a landslide victory in 2014 on the back of tall promises, voters may get disillusioned even on mediocre deliveries; the electorate in fact was looking forward to miracles from the Modi-led cabinet and a non-delivery on this part can be damaging for the party. Criticism of the government on rising price of petroleum products and depreciating Indian rupee can spell anything but a boost for Prime Minister Modi.

No economist can predict where rupee and crude are heading in the near future. If forecasts are anything to go by, crude will inflict more pain on importing countries, and a robust US economy will not allow Asian currencies to rebound. Should the existing conditions continue for 3 months more, the rupee breaching the 80-mark against US dollar and petrol prices touching new records of Rs. 90/ litre cannot be completely ruled out. Slowly but steadily, an anti-Modi wave is picking up, and convincing the electorate that the government has no control over rising petrol prices is becoming even more difficult. Squarely blaming external factors cannot be a defense for long.

It is in the best interest of the BJP to dissolve the Lok Sabha before this wave becomes too prominent and formidable. With Amit Shah as the chief strategist, we can hope that the BJP may consider going for early general elections to not allow opposition build on the momentum. But even this looks doubtful in the wake of legislative assembly elections in the states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, MP, Telangana (assembly dissolved by TRS) and Mizoram later in 2018. The way around is to dissolve, without any further delay, assemblies of first three aforementioned states where BJP is in power, and persuade the election commission to conduct state assemblies and Lok Sabha polls simultaneously.

Reining in petrol price rise and rupee fall isn’t an easy task given the macroeconomic factors involved; betting on early polls can be a game changer.

Prime Minister Modi’s Assertion that Industrialists Are Vital for Nation-Building Sends the Right Message

4_Image for PM Modi Assertion Sends Right MessageThe anti-BJP Opposition parties in India would have you believe that a liberal dose of sops, subsidies and waivers of loans to the farmers is what keeps the soul of the economic policy of a government in an egalitarian society ticking. What is more, keep the industrialists on the tenterhooks, wondering about the government’s next move regarding its investment policies and procedures. The more unpredictable its moves in respect of the industrialists, the more people-friendly the government is perceived to be; and appearances are all that counts in the electorate’s estimation.

The Socialists and Communists further believe that populism is what keeps the people happy and perception is what keeps the government stable; and together, a complacent people and a government that keeps the economy in a people-versus-corporates mode make the nation appear truly egalitarian. As such, though Socialism as a political formula is dead and buried all over the world, it is still thriving and flourishing in India, and several political parties still swear by Socialism.

Charges Galore

For the Indian Opposition parties, the above has been the basic lesson in a nutshell for the success of a popular democracy. Any departure from this well-worn-out course of governance makes a government susceptible to the charges of practising “crony capitalism” and following anti-people policies. Thus, this has become the much familiar ideological strand of the political Opposition. The latter does not miss any opportunity to run down the incumbent government, which it believes has veered off the popular course of governance in favour of the corporate sector.

Pitting himself at one end of the spectrum of perception and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the other end, Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi, sports a crumpled kurta, with a torn pocket that he runs his hand through to demonstrate to the onlookers what a quintessential down-at-heel man of the general public he is. He then points out to how immaculately Mr Modi is dressed and then he alleges that the Modi-led NDA government is a veritable “suit-boot ka sarkar”.

Who finances the expensive wardrobe of Narendra Modi, he wonders and surmises that it must be the corporates. Never mind the fact that the so-called “expensive clothes” of Modi are gifted by well-meaning followers of his and the clothes are subsequently auctioned and the proceeds of the auctions donated to charities. How can a man that has risen to the coveted position of the Prime Minister from humble origins, distance himself from the populace by looking so very well groomed? Though you may think that this is a churlish way of making a political statement, Rahul Gandhi does not think so. In fact, it has long become fashionable in the political circles to accuse Prime Minister Modi of being the beneficiary of “packaging” by the corporates.

What is more, the Congress Party president also keeps alleging that the Central Government’s flagship financial blitzkrieg of Demonetization was only launched to help big tycoons and industrial giants to launder their black money, what with their having been clandestinely let in on the announcement of the reform measure well in advance. As such, the black money catcher was working all the time in cahoots with the money bags of the corporate sector, Rahul emphasizes. Similar is the case with GST that is aimed at helping the bigwigs in the industrial circles at the cost of the medium and small scale entrepreneurs and traders! So goes on Rahul Gandhi’s litany of charges against the Prime Minister, who is in no small hurry to introduce a slew of measures to help the industrialists, much to Rahul Gandhi’s mortification!

During the Opposition’s recent unsuccessful bid to overthrow the Modi government by a No Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi reiterated his oft-repeated accusation that the government has been favouring a few select industrialists. He squarely blamed the Prime Minister of giving the offset (export obligation) contract in the Rafale jet deal with France to “one of his corporate friends” at the expense of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Rahul’s shrill and strident speech made no secret of the contempt in which he kept the corporates and their alleged overtures to the Prime Minister. The awarding of a defence contract to a private sector player in preference to a public sector undertaking was termed a blatant exercise inimical to the national interest.

Prime Minister’s Counter

In a pointed reference to this charge and the other related accusations made by Rahul Gandhi and his associates from time to time, Narendra Modi decried their attempt to label the industrialists as thieves and unscrupulous grabbers of the nation’s resources. The entire exercise of tarnishing the image of the industrialists as a class of unprincipled and unethical people is unfair and unjust. It is especially so when the same Opposition leaders who have turned, when out of power, voluble critics of the corporates, had been unabashed recipients of the same industrialists’ largesse in no small measure albeit in an oblique manner, while in power.

Speaking at Lucknow at a ground-breaking ceremony to launch industrial projects worth Rs 60,000 crores in July this year, Narendra Modi had a word of appreciation for the industrialists, which warmed their cockles in no small measure. After all, it is not every now and then that a political leader of stature goes on record to praise them! The Prime Minister lauded the role of the industrialists in the task of nation-building alongside the farmers, labourers, bankers and so many other sections of the society. The PM thus made it very clear that it was grossly unfair and unjustifiable to project businessmen and industrialists as being morally deficient.

Mr Modi took the battle to the Congress Party by slamming it for its consistent and baseless attacks against his government alleging that the latter was unduly favouring the industrialists. The PM claimed he was not ashamed to be seen or photographed in the company of industrialists as his intentions were entirely honourable. There was nothing to hide or feel shameful about. Going ballistic against the earlier governments, Modi lambasted its members who are now in the ranks of the Opposition. Modi revealed that these Opposition party leaders are now striving to hide the closeness they had to the industrialists when they were in power because they did not want the people to become privy to all the undue favours they had received from the very same persons whom they were criticizing now.

To make his point abundantly clear, Modi asked whether Mahatma Gandhi felt shameful about his repeated meetings with industrialists Ghanshyam Das Birla and Lala Shri Ram or did he ever have anything to hide about those meetings. The Opposition’s accusations and charges against the industrialists were hollow and baseless and part of an orchestrated campaign against the government in general, and the PM in particular. Unfortunately for the Opposition, their accusations and charges backfired, in the absence of any convincing evidence to prove any kind of misdeed. Furthermore, the NDA government hasn’t enacted any law that goes out of the way to be industrialist-friendly or anti-people.

Appreciation an Incentive

Here, it needs to be emphasized that the political Opposition’s concerted attempts to demonize the industrialists would only succeed in rendering the corporate sector stigmatized and demoralized. This, in turn, would hamper its functioning to the optimum level and choke the pace of India’s economic growth. On the contrary, the Prime Minister’s message in appreciation of the industrialists boosts their morale as it conveys a spirit of grateful acknowledgement for their role in nation-building and catapulting India to the position of the fourth fastest growing global economy.

Why Are Opposition Parties Projecting the Rafale Deal as the New Bofors?


Four years on and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been sailing smooth, with nary a scam or a scandal, much to the chagrin of the Opposition parties that are in various stages of disarray consequent upon the poll debacles they suffered in state after state since 2014. Nor is there possibility of any dark cloud of corruption charges gathering against the government in the distant horizon. With barely a year left for the general elections to the Parliament, and the government surging ahead in popularity with the implementation of a slew of developmental projects aimed at the strengthening of the economy and the unearthing of black money, the Opposition parties have been growing more and more frustrated over the lack of opportunities to besmirch the image of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its NDA allies.
Congress, the principal Opposition party, is particularly smarting over the Bofors scam, dating back to the Rajiv Gandhi regime, which had, along with several other scams and scandals that reared their ugly heads during the UPA regime, clipped it’s wings. Desperate to pin the Narendra Modi government on the mat, it had to make do with the available resources for raising a ruckus about a scam. The Rafale deal is one of the straws that the Opposition parties have been clutching to keep afloat in the fast changing political scenario that is threatening to render them irrelevant post 2019 polls.
UPA’s Misadventure with Rafale
Earlier, the UPA government had decided to buy 18 Rafale fighter jets from France in a “fly-away condition” at a price yet to be decided; and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was to manufacture 108 jets with supply of technology by Dassault. The proposal was, however, scuppered by the NDA government when it assumed power in 2014 in favour of a new deal.
New Lease to Rafale
During his visit to France in April 2015, Prime Minister Modi announced that India would buy 36 Rafale fighter jets on a government-to-government deal. The details of the purchase like the price were to be negotiated by the two governments. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purchase was signed between the two countries in January 2016 during the visit of the French President François Hollande to India.
Picking Holes
The Opposition parties found in the Rafale deal an excellent opportunity to run down the NDA government albeit on spiteful grounds. The deal was, they alleged, against the Defence Procurement Procedure, since the two governments had arrived at the inter-governmental agreement in the Defence Minister’s absence. It was further alleged that the price of the 36 fighter aircrafts was finalised by the Modi government at a much higher rate than the cost of the 126 jets earlier negotiated by the UPA government. The Opposition parties also attributed the dropping of HAL in favour of Reliance Defence Ltd to the government’s purported support to crony capitalism. Here Congress and its allies were on the home ground on a familiar pitch, what with their constant refrain of charging the Modi government of favouring their “corporate cronies” at the cost of the nation’s interests.
Rahul’s Rant about Rafale
It was, therefore, no wonder that Congress President Rahul Gandhi made the accusation about the Rafale deal the key point of his address in the Parliament in July this year when his party supported a no-confidence motion moved by the Telugu Desam Party against the Modi government. In a high octane speech, marked by dramatics, Rahul squarely accused the Prime Minister of favouring his “corporate friends” who allegedly sponsored the PM’s “packaging and marketing”. The dropping of HAL out of the deal was, according to him, done with the ulterior motive of accommodating a private sector company.
Rahul Gandhi also accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying to the nation under pressure from the Prime Minister. He alleged that she had earlier told the House that she would be disclosing the unit cost of the fighter aircraft but by reneging on her word she did not keep her promise. Sitharaman claimed that the two contracting nations were bound to keep details of the contract, like the unit cost, out of the public domain, in keeping with an agreement on secrecy between the two nations. This was, according to the Congress President, an untruth. He went to the extent of claiming that the French President himself had told him that there was no agreement of secrecy between the two nations which prevented the disclosure of the price of the aircraft. He charged the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister of not disclosing the details of the deal with mala fide intentions.
Rahul Rebuffed
Much to the discomfiture of the Congress party and its President, the French government hastily issued a statement of rebuttal to Rahul Gandhi’s claim. As the details of the Rafale deal were of interest to competing companies in both the nations, the two sides were bound to keep the details away from the public domain. It said that a 2008 security agreement legally bound both India and France to “protect the classified information provided by the partner”. A breach of the agreement could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of the two nations. To sum it up, the French government termed the deal “very sensitive” and all the details could not, therefore, be disclosed. This caught Rahul Gandhi in a bind. However, he pushed the envelope further by brazenly claiming that he stood by his charge; he further claimed that Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma were present during his meeting with the French President.
What do you do when you are caught in the act of making an audacious claim that not only cannot be substantiated but is also proved baseless and hollow? Become more audacious, what else? That is exactly what Rahul Gandhi did, trying to put both the Indian and French governments in the dock. His charge of the Indian government spiking the aircraft’s price did not wash and was exposed for being part of a fake and malicious propaganda against the NDA government.
National Interests
The Defence Ministry, on its part, had stated earlier that disclosing the details of the Rafale deal might compromise India’s national security. Furthermore, giving an item-wise cost and other information would reveal details about weapons systems and jet customisation. The government’s stand in the matter was therefore clear and final.
Opposition’s Malice
Notwithstanding the Defence Ministry’s clarification and the French Government’s confirmation, the Opposition’s dogged persistence on seeking the disclosure of the details of the deal is apparently a ploy to pressurise the government into making a faux pas. Even as the need for transparency is a very desirable requirement in the defence procurement deals in the interests of elimination of the scope for corruption and favouritism, security considerations and national interests have to be given overriding importance. Besides, abiding by Inter-Governmental Agreements like the one of 2008 is crucial for maintaining the Union government’s integrity by upholding its international commitments.
Bofors Backfires
The Congress Party, at the vanguard of the Opposition’s charge against the Modi-government, is pinning its hopes on drawing maximum mileage on the eve of the 2019 polls out of the Rafale deal based on the points of public perception regarding the alleged spiking of the prices and “corporate cronyism”. Even as it has not been able to grapple the BJP in a vice-like grip in the absence of incontrovertible proof or evidence, the political Opposition seems to have grabbed yet another opportunity to shoot itself in its foot, this time with the Bofors gun, no less! No sooner had it termed the Rafale deal as Narendra Modi’s Bofors, the Congress Party recalled that all these years it had maintained that Bofors was no scam. Hence, it was pointless to equate Rafale with Bofors! Bite your tongue as hard as you might, the Bofors gun has already backfired!
(The article Why Are Opposition Parties Projecting the Rafale Deal as the New Bofors?  is published in ‘Organiser’ )

Why NRC is Necessary to curb Illegal Migrants

statesman_11.08.18Preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the final draft of which was released on 30 July 2018, was not a suo motu exercise undertaken by the Government of India. Its origins date back to 1951 when it was first prepared following the demand of most of the political organisations in the state. It has since been updated at the insistence of the Supreme Court. There have been state-wide agitations too by bonafide citizens against loss of jobs and demographic changes caused by illegal immigration.

The Assam Accord signed in 1985 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the organisations that had been demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants, helped further strengthen its contextual relevance. The document, therefore, has a valid political background even as the need for the resolution of the issue of illegal immigration, which has snowballed over the years, has been increasingly felt by bonafide citizens of the state.

Illegal immigration is not merely a state’s problem but a serious issue for the entire nation. It is a specter that has been haunting us ever since we got Independence. India’s porous borders with Bangladesh have made it possible for migrants from that country to infiltrate bordering states like West Bengal and Assam.

Indian states that share international borders with Bangladesh are seriously hamstrung in pushing the infiltrators back owing to the hostile ground conditions, what with India being the fifth longest land-border-sharing country (4,096 kms) in the world. Security agencies face operational problems in enforcing zero infiltration at the best of times due to the harsh border terrain. An estimated 20 million illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are believed to be living in India although the actual figure could be much higher. In addition, about 300,000 people are infiltrating into the country every year. India has thus become a safe haven for illegal immigrants continually pouring in from Bangladesh.

The infiltrators find neither religion nor culture nor language a problem in the India owing to the commonalities they share with the people of these states. They manage to get fake or even bonafide documents like Aadhaar, PAN and Voters Card in support of their claim for citizenship for a price, by producing fake supporting documents, courtesy corrupt officials, fake operators or obliging state governments that see in them a vote bank. Once they get a toehold in India and arm themselves with identification documents, they fan out not only to Assam but practically all over India where they are hired by unscrupulous employers as cheap labour without verification of their citizenship status and antecedents.

The presence of illegal immigrants vitiates the job market as well as the law and order situation. It also causes a drain on the state’s resources and leads to bitterness and unrest among local people. Unethical state governments pander to the infiltrators and help them settle down and receive state support, much to the displeasure of the bonafide citizens who end up losing out on jobs, land, welfare schemes, etc. This leads to the electoral results in these states not reflecting the true will of bonafide citizens.

What is more, the infiltration results in demographic changes with far-reaching consequences – religious, social and political. It is but natural that local community which adopts small family norms in self-interest as well as for the promotion of the nation’s developmental agenda, feel sore when they find in their midst illegal immigrants, with practically no self-restraint on this account, hogging full benefits of welfare measures and other forms of social support extended by the state, resulting in redundant and wasteful expenditure.

This state of affairs is far from conducive to the social harmony and could have disastrous consequences on the territorial integrity of the country if allowed unchecked. Furthermore, the possibility of this segment of the population becoming a breeding ground for terrorists and anti-nationals cannot be ruled out.

The final draft of the NRC does not include names of 40,07,077 people. This has sent ripples among the Assamese population who have, however, maintained peace and tranquility following assurances from the government that there is no need to panic; there will be no punitive action against those who are left out and the status quo will be maintained on their status and rights, till finalization of the NRC due on 31 December 2018. As regards their voting rights, the Election Commission is to take a call.

The Opposition political parties have, however, predictably reacted with harsh criticism and condemnation. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi has called the NRC exercise tardy and called for an all-party meet, Mamata Banerjee of TMC has lambasted the exercise and its end product as divisive in nature, aimed at turning Bengalis and Biharis out of Assam. She has slammed the Modi government for resorting to “vote bank and divide-and-rule policy” and has offered shelter in her state to people who are left out. She even tried unsuccessfully to send a delegation of legislators and party men to Assam. Worried about the possibility of a similar exercise in her state post-2019 polls, she is even reported to have warned of a civil war as a possible consequence.

Despite the Opposition’s fears, it is noteworthy that all communities living in Assam had overwhelmingly cooperated with the authorities in the process of updating of the NRC. This was hardly surprising since the demand for the process had emanated from the people themselves. For the same reason, full cooperation from the people may be expected during the run-up to the finalization of the document and subsequent to its publication. Besides, there is no alternative to the NRC for the documentation of the population. In any case, both the central and the state government have already allayed the apprehensions of those left out with the assurance that they have recourse to appeal.

Opposition parties have criticized the NRC of being violative of human rights and democratic rights of the affected people. As the mandate of the exercise was very precise, namely, identification of the people without valid documents, and the exercise was in accordance with the demand of the people, and carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court, for the Opposition to argue now that NRC has deprived those who failed to make the cut of their human and democratic rights is nothing but the political equivalent of asking for an omelette without breaking an egg.

In any case, the peace-loving people of Assam would rather like a final resolution on the issue of illegal immigration without any further delay than be mute witnesses to a game of political football over a non-issue. What is more, the people of the North Eastern states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have joined the bandwagon and demanded NRC in their states too to check the vexatious problem of illegal immigration.

(The article Why NRC is Necessary to curb Illegal Migrants published in daily newspaper “The Statesman” on 11th August 2018)