Sunday, July 30, 2017

A New Narrative set by the Congress can still save India

निंदक नियरे राखिए, ऑंगन कुटी छवाय।

बिन पानी, साबुन बिना, निर्मल करे सुभाय।।

- कबीरदास

The commentators and influencers in this country have started writing the epitaph of the Congress party. They have all the right to believe so because since past three years or so, the electoral fortunes of the party have seriously dithered, after the miserable defeat of 2014. Their intense speculation about the future of the Grand Old Party is something which passionate flag bearers like me cannot discount, but are profoundly anguished with. The Liberals are angry at us. But we need to convert that anger into love. I am a Congressman and will remain a Congress party admirer even if I am the last man standing, although I shall do everything within my means to prevent that ‘last man’ scenario.

I know I may be painting a negative picture and some of you who will read you will definitely mock my assessment. Some of you will also question my locus-standi for writing this- since I am also part of that very system, albeit a very small part in which the Congress system works, I am responsible too. And Yes I am.  But, considering that I am an eternal optimist, I shall always say, that even though the initial comment of this writing will force you to doubt my assessment, I shall always yearn that such an eventuality shall never come.

Congress will remain strong and Congress will overcome its present problems. We shall again redeem India and will not let it slip to the darkness. Our ideals and ideology is rock solid and our commitment for Secularism is unflinching. Compassion, brotherhood, love and respect are the pillars which install the foundation of our basis.

A lot is being written and a lot is being said. Yes, there are a lot of inherent flaws with which our inner party system works, but there are innumerable positives also.

The honeymoon period of the Modi Government saw the Congress party believing that since it is the largest and natural political force of governance and the BJP lacks the ability to solidly govern and administer, it will never be able to live up to the expectations of people. This has actually led to its complacency and turning it into a reactive force. “Jab yeh galitiya karenge, abhi nahi toh 5-10 saal baad humara waqt aayega” (When they will make mistakes, not today, but eventually after 5-10 years we will be back in power) was the drawing room chatter of every Congressmen.

Then came a period, where the superficial layers which gloss the BJP’s incompetence began to peel off.  Failures, after failures with time- But at the most the Congress acted as a reactionary force, failing to capitalize the blunders of the ruling dispensation. The single biggest mistake which critics and admirers alike will admit that the Congress party in the UPA era failed to build its cadre, especially in states, where it was weak. An opposition needs a robust and a committed worker. The Congress is a mass based party and not a cadre based one, yet it has certain unique organizational strengths, which it could have tapped into. Its frontals are more or less defunct and at the most have become extremely sycophantic in nature- with almost no vision or plan of action.

Three years now into the dark ages of the Modi Government, where the BJP is using every trick in the political book to expand its hungry fangs to annihilate India, the Congress is making last ditch attempts to somehow foster an opposition unity, without much success. The Nitish Kumar fiasco may have its opportunistic and political strokes, and broad ones indeed, yet the Congress has to somehow take its share of blame too. I know, I will again be accused of crossing the Lakshman Rekha (Red Line) while I try to objectively put forth this assessment, but acceptance of failures, is the first stepping stone to success.

I have been hinting and posting on Social Media, since long, that the Congress needs a positive agenda. A solid, implementable narrative and a new vision to take along those committed liberal voters who still believe in those ideals on which the edifice our Constitution was laid. Time and again, I have come to this conclusion that only a positive narrative can resurrect the Congress.

For starters, we should look at our own 2014 Manifesto. This 45 page document should be our Magna Carta to attack and question the BJP. It will give us more credibility because we shall not be merely criticizing the policies, but also put forth a positive policy solution. “Had the Congress been in power, there were the 5 steps it would have taken to solve agrarian distress”. “These are the steps that the Congress party would have taken to create more jobs”.

It is not that the Congress party is not taking steps to revamp its organizational structure. Election process will complete this year and a new team is slowly and steadily been set up. New General Secretary in-charges for states are being appointed. The Communications department of the party is seeing new faces and a newer strategy for the same is in place now. Research and Social Media wings have also been refurbished and are working with new vigour. Yes, we lack in Media Management, and that needs to be proactively dealt with.  A large section of media has become the mouthpiece for the BJP, and the Congress needs to find an alternate for the same. There are several deficiencies too, which are well known. These need to be resolved.

The voter connect is only possible when you gather small constituencies of groups together and target your liberal supporters. Laziness, complacency and arrogance should be done away with. A strong ideological resolve is needed so as solidify your support base. We all know what ails the Congress party, we also have some solutions.

No political party that has a closed system and secretive in nature can function in a vibrant democracy. We have to open the doors for the converted and to the swing ones.

The Congress should aim for opposition unity, but that does not mean that it can tie up with any political party which is ideologically not at the same page as the Congress. We have seen that in West Bengal and in Uttar Pradesh. Let us not repeat that. The Congress should try and build consensus, but if that is not possible, just leave these regional parties to fend for themselves. We should stop pandering to them. Let us built our own identity, we were successful because we had one. We should not leave it. Opposition unity is good for short term goals, but in the long term, we should strive for our own National space. In states, where we are dependent on regional satraps, we have only declined. Even if we win one seat, it should be on our own.

If we do not implement a positive agenda and restructure ourselves, then even our forefathers, who so painstakingly built this country, will not forgive us for sending India to the dark ages.

All the views expressed in the article by the author are strictly personal.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How the BJP is blundering on India’s 'China Policy'

Five decades ago, on October 7, 1966, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had openly asserted at the press conference on October 7, 1966 that India was committed to protect Bhutan from China. Today, a serious situation is developing at Doklam (also called Donglang), which is part of Bhutan, but is also claimed by China. It is located at a tri-junction of India, Tibet and Bhutan and is close to the 14000 feet high Nathu La pass, through which China has blocked this year's Kailash Mansoravar Yatra, which was much hyped by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi as ‘his government’s gift of a second route for millions of Shiva Bhakts.

A very delicate and extremely serious situation is developing at the Chinese boundary adjoining Sikkim. A month long standoff between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army has taken place- this is the longest standoff between India and China in last 55 years (since 1962) According to media reports, China has destroyed 2 bunkers of the Indian Army at Doklam plateau. There are two key Chinese objectives in initiating the Doklam standoff. First, it seems to be testing India’s resolve to stand by its long cherished friend Bhutan and secondly, China is fostering an aggressive attitude towards the delicate and strategic ‘Chicken Neck’ which connects the rest of India to the northeast.

Since the day, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi swung in a “Jhoola” and relished “Dhokla” in Ahmadabad, Gujarat with his Chinese counterpart, China has time and again proceeded to break the land boundary agreement which the then Congress-UPA Government had entered into in 2005 and later signed by both the heads of the state in 2013.

1)    Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas, signed in April 2005 and
2)    Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in October 2013,

Also, India has underlined that the two Governments had in 2012 reached agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalized in consultation with the concerned countries. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.
We must not forget the fact that Chinese incursions have continuously increased under the BJP Government.

1.    In the past 45 days, 120 Chinese Incursions have taken place, while 240 such incursions have taken place till this month in 2017.

2.    The much hyped second route of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathu La stopped suddenly by China has dealt a severe blow to India’s diplomatic image. Despite the Chinese Army destroying the facilities built for the Indian pilgrims, the BJP Government did not pay any heed to the miseries of the pilgrims, till they started posting videos and pictures of the Chinese Army’s destroying them. The stoic silence and inaction by the BJP Government is for all of us to see.

3.    On June 4, 2017: Two Chinese Army choppers violated the Indian airspace, by hovering over Chamoli district. On previous occasions, Chinese helicopters had entered 4.5 kilometres into Indian territory, an area that China claims as its own in Barahoti ,Uttarakhand

4.    Border disputes with China have again reached center stage with repeated breaches and incursions by the Chinese forces along the international border; However, in March , this year - the MoS  Defence in a written reply to the Parliament says that there were “No Chinese Incursions, Only Transgressions

5.    Earlier Home Minister, Rajnath Singh has said, that “Chinese Intrusion are only Perception”

There have been multiple occasions where this BJP Government has failed to secure India’s National Interests, viz-a-viz China:

1.    China vetoes declaration of Masood Azhar as an ‘international terrorist’ under Pakistan’s pressure

2.    China blocks India’s membership of ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group’ asking for parity with rogue Pakistan.

3.    China opposes India’s membership of UN Security Council.

4.    On Dec 19, 2016; Russia extended support to China-Pak Economic Corridor & expressed intent to connect it with Eurasian Economic Union.

5.   China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth $54 billion built through PoK/Balochistan connecting Gwadar Port in Arabian Sea to China with base for Chinese submarines- Does it not compromise India’s Sovereign right over POK & affect our strategic interests?

6.    China renames six places in Arunachal Pradesh on its official map.

7.    Nepal accusing the Government of India of interference in its domestic matters.

8.    Sri Lankan Government refusing to sign the comprehensive Economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with India. China-sponsored infrastructure developments in neighboring Sri Lanka offer an instructive lesson. Numerous infrastructure projects, negotiated in secret by the former Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, saddled the Sri Lankan treasury with debts to China estimated at some $8 billion. Sri Lanka cannot repay what it owes, so it has negotiated a debt-for-equity swap of the Hambantota Port project.

9.    India is feeling increasingly isolated on its stand with respect to the grandiose One Belt, One Road (OBOR) imitative by China, which hosted Russian President, Vladimir Putin as its chief guest. The general perception amongst experts is that India could have been a part of the initial meetings and then shown its strident opposition to China and Pakistan constructing road through Gilgit-Baltistan- an integral part of India.

China has exponentially expanded strategic, economic & defense partnerships with Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This maximalist position of China to encircle India and cramp its strategic space has been highlighted time and again by strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney.

It is pertinent to note that, during PM Modi’s recent visit to the United States, he did not raise any issue which affected India-China relations. Be it China stalling India’s entry into the NSG or China blocking Masood Azhar’s name to be declared as a ‘global terrorist. 

The UPA- Congress Govt approved the raising of ‘Mountain Strike Corps’ along the China border with 90,274 additional soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,678 Crore . After the  BJP came to power, it has put this project into deep freezer. This Mountain Strike Corps could have been useful in today's standoff, but the BJP has lost this opportunity.

This is what happens when you appoint either a ‘Reluctant’ Defence Minister or a ‘Part Time’ Defence Minister

Monday, June 5, 2017

Indira Gandhi's Speech at the Stockholm Conference in 1972

Man And Environment 

Smt. Indira Gandhi 
(late Prime Minister of India) 
Plenary Session of United Nations Conference on Human Environment 
Stockholm 14th June, 1972 

Indira Gandhi in the gardens at Anand Bhawan, her ancestral home

It is indeed an honour to address this Conference-in itself a fresh expression of the spirit which created the United Nations-concern for the present and future welfare of humanity. It does not aim merely at securing limited agreements but at establishing peace and harmony in life-among all races and with Nature. This gathering represents man's earnest endeavour to understand his own condition and to prolong his tenancy of this planet. A vast amount of detailed preparatory work has gone into the convening of this Conference guided by the dynamic personality of Mr. Maurice Strong the Secretary General.

I have had the good fortune of growing up with a sense of kinship with nature in all its manifestations. Birds, plants, stones were companions and, sleeping under the star-strewn sky, I became familiar with the names and movements of the constellations. But my deep interest in this our `only earth' was not for itself but as a fit home for man.

One cannot be truly human and civilized unless one looks upon not only all fellow-men but all creation with the eyes of a friend. Throughout India, edicts carved on rocks and iron pillars are reminders that 22 centuries ago the Emperor Ashoka defined a King's duty as not merely to protect citizens and punish wrongdoers but also to preserve animal life and forest trees. Ashoka was the first and perhaps the only monarch until very recently, to forbid the killing of a large number of species of animals for sport or food, foreshadowing some of the concerns of this Conference. He went further, regretting the carnage of his military conquests and enjoining upon his successors to find "their only pleasure in the peace that comes through righteousness".

Along with the rest of mankind, we in India--in spite of Ashoka have been guilty of wanton disregard for the sources of our sustenance. We share you concern at the rapid deterioration of flora and fauna. Some of our own wildlife has been wiped out, miles of forests with beautiful old trees, mute witnesses of history, have been destroyed. Even though our industrial development is in its infancy, and at its most difficult stage, we are taking various steps to deal with incipient environmental imbalances. The more so because of our concern for the human being--a species which is also imperiled. In poverty he is threatened by malnutrition and disease, in weakness by war, in richness by the pollution brought about by his own prosperity.

It is said that in country after country, progress should become synonymous with an assault on nature. We who are a part of nature and dependent on her for very need, speak constantly about "exploiting" nature. When the highest mountain in the world was climber in 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru objected to the phrase "conquest of Everest" which he thought was arrogant. It is surprising that this lack of consideration and the constant need to prove one's superiority should be projected onto our treatment of our fellowmen? I remember Edward Thompson, a British writer and a good friend of India, once telling Mr. Gandhi that wildlife was fast disappearing. Remarked the Mahatma--"It is decreasing in the jungles but it is increasing in the town".

We are gathered here under the aegis of the United Nations. We are supposed to belong to the same family sharing common traits and impelled by the same basic desires, yet we inhabit a divided world.

How can it be otherwise? There is still no recognition of the equality of man or respect for him as an individual. In matters of colour and race, religion and custom, society is governed by prejudice. Tensions arise because of man's aggressiveness and notions of superiority. The power of the big stick prevails and it is used not in favour of fair play or beauty, but to chase imaginary windmills--to assume the right to interfere in the affairs of others, and to arrogate authority for action which would not normally be allowed. Many of the advanced countries of today have reached their present affluence by their domination over other races and countries, the exploitation of their own natural resources. They got a head start through sheer ruthlessness, undisturbed by feelings of compassion or by abstract theories of freedom, equality or justice. The stirrings of demands for the political rights of citizens, and the economic rights of the toiler came after considerable advance had been made. The riches and the labour of the colonized countries played no small part in the industrialization and prosperity of the West. Now, as we struggle to create a better life for our people, it is in vastly different circumstances, for obviously in today's eagle-eyed watchfulness we cannot indulge in such practices even for a worthwhile purpose. We are bound by our own ideals. We owe allegiance to the principles of the rights of workers and the norms enshrined in the charters of international organizations. Above all we are answerable to the millions of politically awakened citizens in our countries. All these make progress costlier and more complicated.

On the one hand the rich look askance at our continuing poverty--on the other, they warn us against their own methods. We do not wish to impoverish the environment any further and yet we cannot for a moment forget the grim poverty of large numbers of people. Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters? For instance, unless we are in a position to provide employment and purchasing power for the daily necessities of the tribal people and those who live in or around our jungles, we cannot prevent them from combing the forest for food and livelihood; from poaching and from despoiling the vegetation. When they themselves feel deprived, how can we urge the preservation of animals? How can we speak to those who live in villages and in slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers and the air clean when their own lives are contaminated at the source? The environment cannot be improved in conditions of poverty. Nor can poverty be eradicated without the use of science and technology.

Must there be conflict between technology and a truly better world or between enlightenment of the spirit and a higher standard of living? Foreigners sometimes ask what to us seems a very strange question, whether progress in India would not mean diminishing of her spirituality or her values. Is spiritual quality so superficial as to be dependent upon the lack of material comfort? As a country we are not more or less spiritual than any other but traditionally our people have respected the spirit of detachment and renunciation. Historically, our great spiritual discoveries were made during periods of comparative affluence. The doctrines of detachment from possessions were developed not as rationalization of deprivation but to prevent comfort and ease from dulling the senses. Spirituality means the enrichment of the spirit, the strengthening of ones inner resources and the stretching of one's range of experience. It is the ability to be still in the midst of activity and vibrantly alive in moments of calm; to separate the essence from circumstances; to accept joy and sorrow with some equanimity. Perception and compassion are the marks of true spirituality.

I am reminded of an incident in one of our tribal areas. The vociferous demand of elder tribal chiefs that their customs should be left undisturbed found support from noted anthropologists. In its anxiety that the majority should not submerge the many ethnic, racial and cultural groups in our country, the Government of India largely accepted this advice. I was amongst those who entirely approved. However, a visit to remote part of our north-east frontier brought me in touch with a different point of view-the protest of the younger elements that while the rest of India was on the way to modernization they were being preserved as museum pieces. Could we not say the same to the affluent nations?

For the last quarter of a century, we have been engaged in an enterprise unparalled in human history--the provision of basic needs to one-sixth of mankind within the span of one or two generations. When we launched on that effort our early planners had more than the usual gaps to fill. There was not enough data and no helpful books. No guidance could be sought from the experience of other countries whose conditions--political, economic, social and technological--were altogether different. Planning in the sense we were innovating, had never been used in the context of a mixed economy. But we could not wait. The need to improve the conditions of our people was pressing. Planning and action, the improvement of data leading to better planning and better action, all this was a continuous and overlapping process. Our industrialization tended to follow the paths which the more advanced countries had traversed earlier. With the advance of the 60's and particularly during the last five years, we have encountered a bewildering collection of problems, some due to our shortcomings but many inherent in the process and in existing attitudes. The feeling is growing that we should re-order our priorities and move away from the single-dimensional model which has viewed growth from certain limited angles, which seems to have given a higher place to things rather than to persons and which has increased our wants rather than our enjoyment. We should have a more comprehensive approach to life, centred on man not as a statistic but an individual with many sides to his personality. The solution of these problems cannot be isolated phenomena of marginal importance but must be an integral part of the unfolding of the very process of development.

The extreme forms in which questions of population or environmental pollution are posed, obscure the total view of political, economic and social situations. The Government of India is one of the few which has an officially sponsored programme of family planning and this is making some progress. We believe that planned families will make for a healthier and more conscious population. But we know also that no programme of population control can be effective without education and without a visible rise in the standard of living. Our own programmes have succeeded in the urban or semi-urban areas. To the very poor, every child is an earner and a helper. We ar experimenting with new approaches and the family planning programme is being combined with those of maternity and child welfare, nutrition and development in general.

It is an over--simplification to blame all the world's problems on increasing population. Countries with but a small fraction of the world population consume the bulk of the world's production of minerals, fossil fuels and so on. Thus we see that when it comes to the depletion of natural resources and environmental pollution, the increase of one inhabitant in an affluent country., at his level of living, is equivalent to an increase of many Asian, Africans or Latin Americans at their current material levels of living.

The inherent conflict is not between conservation and development, but between environment and reckless exploitation of man and earth in the name of efficiency. Historians tell us that the modern age began with the will to freedom of the individual. And the individual came to believe that the had rights with no corresponding obligations. The man who got ahead was the one who commanded admiration. No questions were asked as to the methods employed or the price which others had to pay. The industrial civilization has promoted the concept of the efficient man, he whose entire energies are concentrated on producing more in a given unit of time and from a given unit of manpower. Groups or individuals who ar less competitive and according to this test, less efficient are regarded as lesser breeds--for example the older civilizations, the black and brown peoples, women and certain professions. Obsolescence is built into production, and efficiency is based on the creation of goods which are not really needed and which cannot be disposed of when discarded. What price such efficiency now, and is not recklessness a more appropriate term for such a behaviour?

All the `isms' of the modern age--even those which in theory disown the private profit principle--assume that man's cardinal interest is acquisition. The profit motive, individual or collectives, seems to overshadow all else. This overriding concern with self and Today is the basic cause of the ecological crisis.

Pollution is not a technical problem. The fault lies not in science and technology as such but in the sense of values of the contemporary world which ignores the rights of others and is oblivious of the longer perspective.

There are grave misgivings that the discussion on ecology may be designed to distract attention from the problems of war and poverty. We have to prove to the disinherited majority of the world that ecology and conservation will not work against their interest but will bring an improvement in their lives. To withhold technology from them would deprive them of vast resources of energy and knowledge. This is no longer feasible not will it be acceptable.

The environmental problems of developing countries are not the side effects of excessive industrialization but reflect the inadequacy of development. The rich countries may look upon development as the cause of environmental destruction, but to us it is one of the primary means of improving the environment for living, or providing food, water, sanitation and shelter; of making the deserts green and the mountains habitable. The research and perseverance of dedicated people have given us an insight which is likely to play an important part in the shaping of our future plans. We see that however much man hankers after material goods, they can never give him full satisfaction. Thus the higher standard of living must be achieved without alienating people from their heritage and without despoiling nature of its beauty, freshness and purity so essential to our lives.

The most urgent and basic question is that of peace. Nothing is so pointless as modern warfare. Nothing destroys so instantly, so completely as the diabolic weapons which not only kill but maim and deform the living and the yet to be born; which poison the land, leaving long trails of ugliness, barrenness and hopeless desolation. What ecological projects can survive a war? The Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr. Olof Palme, has already drawn the attention of the Conference to this in powerful words.

It is clear that the environmental crisis which is confronting the world, will profoundly alter the future destiny or our planet. No one among us, whatever our status, strength or circumstance can remain unaffected. The process of change challenges present international policies. Will the growing awareness of "one earth" and "one environment' guide us to the concept of "one humanity"? Will there be a more equitable sharing of environmental costs and greater international interest in the accelerated progress of the less developed world? Or, will it remain confined to a narrow concern, based on exclusive self-sufficiency?

The first essays in narrowing economic and technological disparities have not succeeded because the policies of aid were made to subserve the equations of power. We hope that the renewed emphasis on self-reliance, brought a about by the change in the climate for aid, will also promote search for new criteria of human satisfaction. In the meantime, the ecological crises should not add to the burdens of the weaker nations by introducing new considerations in the political and trade policies of rich nations. It would be ironic if the fight against pollution were to be converted into another business, out of which a few companies, corporations, or nations would make profits at the cost of the many. Here is a branch of experimentation and discovery in which scientist of all nations should take interest. They should ensure that their findings are available to all nations, unrestricted by patents. I am glad that the Conference has given thought on this aspect of the problem.

Life is one and the world is one, and all these questions are inter-linked. The population explosion; poverty; ignorance and disease, the pollution of our surroundings, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and biological and chemical agents of destruction are all parts of a vicious circle. Each is important and urgent but dealing with them one by one would be wasted effort.
It serves little purpose to dwell on the past or to apportion blame, no one of us is blameless. If some are able to dominate over others, it is at least partially due to the weakness, the lack of unity and the temptation of gaining some advantage on the part of those who submit. If the prosperous have been exploiting the needy, can we honestly claim that in our own societies people do not take advantage of the weaker sections? We must re-evaluate the fundamentals on which our respective civic societies are based and the ideals by which they are sustained. If there is to be a change of heart, a change of direction and methods of functioning, it is not an organization or a country-no matter how well intentioned--which can achieve it. While each country must deal with that aspect of the problem which is most relevant to it, it is obvious that all countries must unite in an overall endeavour. There is no alternative to a cooperative approach on a global scale to the entire spectrum of our problems.

I have referred to some problems which seem to me to be the underlying causes of the present crises in our civilization. This is not in the expectation that this Conference can achieve miracles or solve all the world's difficulties, but in the hope that the opinions of each national will be kept in focus, that these problems will be viewed in perspective and each project devised as part of the whole.

On a previous occasion I have spoken of the unfinished revolution in our countries I am now convinced that this can be taken to its culmination when it is accompanied by a revolution in social thinking. In 1968 at the 14th General Conference of UNESCO the Indian delegation, along with others, proposed a new and major programme entitled "a design for living". This is essential to grasp the full implications of technical advance and its impact on different sections and groups. We do not want to put the clock back or resign ourselves to a simplistic natural state. We want new directions in the wiser use of the knowledge and tools with which science has equipped us. And this cannot be just one upsurge but a continuous search into cause and effect and an unending effort to match technology with higher levels of thinking. We must concern ourselves not only with the kind of world we want but also with what kind of man should inhabit it. Surely we do not desire a society divided into those who condition and those who are conditioned. We want thinking people capable of spontaneous self-directed activity, people who are interested and interesting, and who are imbued with compassion and concern for others.

It will not be easy for large societies to change their style of living. They cannot be coerced to do so, nor can governmental action suffice. People can be motivated and urged to participate in better alternatives.

It has been my experience that people who are at cross purposes with nature are cynical about mankind and ill-at-ease with themselves. Modern man must re-establish an unbroken link with nature and with life. He must again learn to invoke the energy of growing things and to recognize, as did the ancients in India centuries ago, that one can take from the Earth and the atmosphere only so much as one puts back into them. In their hymn to Earth, the sages of the Atharva Veda chanted-I quote,

"What of thee I dig out, let that quickly grow over, Let menot hit thy vitals, or thy heart".So can man himself be vital and of good heart andconscious of his responsibility

This speech can be found here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BJP’s Lost Opportunity in Jammu and Kashmir

Let the dust of media frenzy, hyperbole and jingoism settle down in TV studios. Let our electronic media get free after mindlessly indulging in meaningless debates after every Indian soldier dies. Let the hyper nationalistic (read: pseudo nationalistic) slogan shouting end. Wake me up when all this ends. We all will be woken up once either the ruling party or the opposition announces its candidate for that could be our next President of India. Snap! The news cycle will change. All the deaths of soldiers and the turmoil of Jammu and Kashmir will be forgotten and the screams and cries of the families of martyrs will cease to echo in our hearts and minds.

I am not writing this blog to again talk about media vitiating the atmosphere or the ruling party endangering our National Security paradigm. I have written enough of the latter, in my previous write-ups and any level headed thinking individual will agree with my assessment. I am not a strategic expert or a foreign policy pundit who would give you ten pointers on “How-India-should-deal-with-terrorism” and so on. I follow as much news and events from the very same sources as the readers who are reading this blog. (Or may be less) I am certainly going to ask some tough questions to the establishment.

In my humble opinion, RSS and the BJP are deliberately ruining the state of Jammu and Kashmir – the only minority dominated state of India, in order to win votes in the rest of the country. They are deliberately creating conditions in the state, especially in the valley, so that they are able to show to the rest of India- how “tough” they are in dealing with a certain religious identity. The BJP which is born, brought up, nurtured and rests on the edifice of religious fissures is using all means to make a point to the rest of majority dominated India, that it can ruin the happiness of a minority dominated state.

The political fortunes of BJP have always risen when it creates conditions of division between communities- we have seen that in the past with the Babri Masjid demolition and in Gujarat 2002. We are now witnessing this in Jammu and Kashmir. This time the politics is not so overt. It is more nuanced and more subtle- dipped in ‘nationalism’.

The earlier incidents of the unrest in Jawaharlal Nehru University and the recent unrest in Delhi University which leverages its germination to Kashmiri separatism, gives credence to this kind of propaganda politics.

The BJP will never take to task the real Pakistani backed separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, will never prosecute them, will never jail them (no superficial house arrests please) because they want the flame of Kashmiri separatism to burn and show to the rest of India two politically important aspects.

First, the Jammu and Kashmir problem is a baggage of the Congress party and is a legacy issue which they are inheriting. They forget that, Jammu and Kashmir during the Congress led UPA regime has been the most peaceful in the past 70 years.

Secondly, they want to project, that the problem of Jammu and Kashmir is a religious one- not a political one. That is why no eyebrows are raised when the valley sees ISIS or Pakistani flags being openly displayed in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk.

There is no doubt that since last July, Jammu and Kashmir has seen lot. Be it chaos and violence after the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani, or the raising of ISIS flags in the heart of Srinagar. Be it the burning of schools or be it the spate of bank robberies. Be it the abysmal percentage of voting in the Srinagar by poll or the cancellation of Anantnag bypoll, from where the Chief Minister’s brother was fighting elections. Be it the radicalization of young stone pelters and luring them by anti-national separatists or be it the visuals of school girls throwing stones at security forces.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed the worst of the times, alienation is increasing. And the only National Force, which could have saved the situation in the state was the Bharatiya Janata Party, is using the state as a bait to attract more majority votes from the Hindi heartland. I may be completely wrong in my assessment, and may be trashed for jumping to such a conclusion. But even my baiters cannot deny that the situation is grim and the BJP is solely responsible for such a sad and terrible state of affairs.

Jammu and Kashmir is an inseparable part of India, and I have no two doubts about that. May be people will question my limited knowledge about the state, and may be they will be correct to do that- But I strongly feel that the Narendra Modi Government has miserably lost the trust of people of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indictment from own

Jammu and Kashmir CM, Mehbooba Mufti met the Prime Minister recently, and urged to follow the footsteps of Vajpayee  with respect to dialogue in the state Her statement is a strong indictment of PM’s Kashmir Policy and shows that the BJP-PDP has miserably failed in the last 2 years. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are bearing the brunt of the policy paralysis of the BJP-PDP Government in the past 2 years.

His “Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat” is only an empty slogan and nothing concrete has happened in terms of development and peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP’s In-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav in a recent interview accepted that the BJP-PDP Government has failed in its responsibility to maintain peace in the state.

Lip service through delegations

A year ago, an All Party Parliamentary delegation went to Jammu and Kashmir to talk to citizens, but the Centre has not followed it up with any concrete action.

The much hyped Yashwant Sinha report which was prepared by meeting separatist leader Syed Shah Geelani has been again put in cold storage, with the Centre distancing itself from the same.

Alliance continues to dither and speak in contradictory voices

Purely opportunistic alliance between BJP-PDP has neither an ideological foundation nor a purpose other than a pure lust for power. Leaders from both sides give contradictory statements to divert attention and befool and then share the power together.

Senior PDP members recently accused the BJP of acting against the Agenda of Alliance following the national party’s leaders justifying use of force to control violence.

While referring to the controversy over CRPF jawans using a human shield, BJP leader Ram Madhav had said, “everything is fair in love and war.” Chander Prakash Ganga, Minister in the Mehabooba Mufti Government, had justified use of bullets against stone-pelters. “If Kashmiris are perceived as enemies and anti-nationals, why did BJP agree in principle for an Agenda of Alliance?

BJP unfortunately seems shying away from its responsibility as coalition partner on the ground,” Minister for Education Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari asked. He alleged that Madhav’s remarks were aimed at legitimising human right violations.

Earlier, when terrorist Burhan Wani was killed, Deputy CM , Nirmal Singh, had said that the incident was an accident, which was in direct contraction to what happened.

Congress ensured peace

When the Congress Government came to power in Jammu and Kashmir – during UPA- It inherited a legacy of massive unrest, violence and a culture of stone pelting- During those 10 years, the Congress ensured a new paradigm of democracy and dialogue upto the Gram Panchayat level as also job opportunities for the youth by launching Skill Development programmes like Udaan. Congress Vice President,  Rahul Gandhi had taken a delegation of India Inc to Jammu and Kashmir and several schemes were started. Therefore, the Congress could ensure lasting peace and harmony in Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP- the national party has failed us

Since May, 2014, India has lost more than 200 Jawans and 91 civilians in terror incidents in the state. This is almost double the count when Congress-UPA was in power. 1343 ceasefire violations have taken place and 12 direct attacks on our Army, Air Force and security establishment have taken place. The people of India elected the BJP because it was perceived as a stronger deterrent to such mayhem, but unfortunately, due to its political thirst of power, it has failed the people’s mandate and endangered National Security.

It is an unwritten convention in Jammu and Kashmir politics, that a national party plays an important role in the formation of the Government, so that India’s core interests remain intact. BJP has miserably faltered on that count.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reimagining Liberal Values of India

There is an urgent need to present a set of pragmatic, doable and understandable liberal ideas to the people of India, otherwise ‘We, the Liberals’, will fail the makers of Modern India.

I am an Architect by qualification, practiced for 5 years in one of the best-known architectural firms of India. Was good in what I did. Later, moved to Political Communications. Although, no one in my family is remotely associated with active politics, but I was always interested in politics- Congress party in particular, because the one person, which inspired me the most at the time of my ideological baptism, was Sonia Gandhi. My understanding of socio-political events began when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, and the Congress was out of power. Every event which unfolded in front of me, be it the ‘India Shining’ campaign or the Tehelka Scandal or be it the 2002 Gujarat Riots- all had an indelible impact on my political conscience. I studied Architecture in Gujarat, and have lived there for 5 years, so I have some idea of the state, which was engulfed in extreme right wing Hindutva propaganda, following the 2002 Gujarat carnage.

This year, Sonia Gandhi, completes 20 years in active politics and I complete 20 years of constantly following her journey. Without any political biases, I can say that- in 10 years during UPA, her contribution along with the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh was immense in the field of social empowerment, removing poverty and hunger and economic growth.

In that period, we did not have vigilante groups telling us what to eat and what not to eat, the fringe did not become the mainstream then, we did not have government funded ‘Anti-Romeo’ squads creating ruckus whenever they found a girl and a boy moving in public together. During that very period, we did not have innocent people lynched if they were transporting cattle or Dalit students committing suicide because the university management boycotted them on caste basis.

We did not have influencers dance to the tune of the incumbent and neither did we have the mainstream media shamelessly following the instructions of the ruling party.

The main issues which captured the imagination of the people and the discourse in general were issues ranging from the National Advisory Council to Special Economic Zone, from the Nuclear Deal, on which the UPA -1 Government almost gave up power to Lokpal and perceived corruption on which UPA-2 was voted out.

The mainstream discourse was hardly about Gaumata, Beef, Mandir, Romeos, Love Jihad or Azaan. These issues were at the best left to the already sidelined Sangh Parivar and the fringe on both the sides of the spectrum. During those 10 years, we never heard, people getting lynched by vigilante groups in the name of cow protection, neither did we hear about leaders of the ruling party calling Godse, a patriot.

We all know, that during that period, the sidelined and fragmented elements of Sangh Parivar, indulged into suspected and proven activities of terrorism, symptoms of which were first discovered by a now martyred police officer named Hemant Karkare.

The moot point for invoking that decade (2004-14) was that even though it was not a perfect time for India, the mainstream agenda was not at all bigotry and sectarianism.

The ‘Argumentative Indian’ discussed, deliberated and debated about issues which mattered us- Right to Information, Space odysseys like Chandrayaan & Mangalyaan, Petrol deregulation, Inflation, Lokpal, SEZ’s, Global Financial Meltdown and how India is dealing with it, GDP Growth, Forest Rights Act, Food Security, AADHAAR, FDI in Retail, Nirbhaya and so on. Criticism was part of our discourse and the political commentators, civil society and the media left no stone unturned in actively taking on the Government of the day on these issues.

In the last three years, the so called ‘Argumentative Indian’ is talking more about Jingoism, Beef, Cow Slaughter, Raamzaada and Haraamzaada (sic), Love Jihad, Religious Demographics, Mandir-Masjid, Azaan, Invoking ‘Soldiers at the border’ at the drop of a hat, Intolerance and so on.

One can blame the media and the commentators for not questioning the Government on the real issues which face the country- of jobs, of rampant unemployment, of fudging GDP numbers, of agrarian crises, of a flawed Pakistan policy, of endangering India’s National Security, of destroying our forests in the name of mindless development, of benefiting its crony friends in every which way possible, of denigrating almost all Institutions, of massive failures in economic policies and on the Foreign Policy and so on. These things are being conveniently brushed under the carpet by a suave media management and public relations strategy of the Government that keeps the media on its leash.

I personally feel that, although the media and other ‘independent’ institutions can be given a fair share of blame for brazenly and almost shamelessly batting for the ruling dispensation, the blame should be shared by us – Liberals also.

The Congress party has raised various issues on the public forum- almost on all important issues. Be it the scams indulged by the BJP ruled states or be it the assault of institutions (including the judiciary) or be it on the economic policy front or on the front of securing our borders and fighting Naxalism. Be it on Pakistan or on the mismanagement of the railways. Be it on the Land Acquisition Act or on the non appointment of Lokpal. Be it the NIA going soft on Sanghi Terror cases or on the question of atrocities on Dalits. But somehow, it has not been able to join the liberal voices in cohesion to take on the Government.

‘We, the Liberal’ voices of India, have somehow failed to set a liberal idea in the discourse, that could capture the imagination of the ordinary Indian.

A set of ideas which might be able to influence the citizens of India, more than the ideas which are right now presented by the Right Wing BJP.

A set of ideas which influence the powerful young electorate so much so that they reject the ideas of bigotry, fundamentalism or the idea of India as a theocratic nation.

A set of ideas, which repackage the ideals on which the bedrock of Modern India is built upon by our founding fathers.
A set of liberal ideas, so strong enough to influence the hearts and minds of people, that they realize that sectarianism can never be an answer to economic progress and real jobs.

The amplification of such ideas is a pre requisite to save the foundation of India. The Congress, which under Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh brought the golden age of Rights based paradigm in this country during UPA, can be the only vehicle on which these ideas can be mounted. We, in the Congress party need to present powerful solutions, alternatives, a solid vision, a fresh agenda in front of the people. 

This new manifesto should be a workable, pragmatic, doable, concrete and robust, so as to replace the present crass bigotry which has crept into our society. Liberals have to take the lead in reimagining a new agenda. If we do not contemporize the ideals on which India’s Constitution is built and present it as an alternative, we might fail the makers of Modern India.

As Tagore would say,

“Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls……”

“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit….”

My Father, Let My Country Awake.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Demonetisation has Abetted the Fake Currency Racket

On November 8, 2016, when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of the legal tender of currency notes of denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000- he claimed that this exercise would prevent the funding of terrorism by the use of fake notes. Substantial part of his speech emphasized that the aim of this decision was to end the circulation of fake notes and thereby curb terror funding.  Barely two months down the line, it has now emerged that this bogey of Shri Modi, which the common man believed and stood in long queues for is a big fat lie. As per various media reports and recent arrests, it has now surfaced that Pakistan-based counterfeiters have come out with fake Rs 2000 notes which were pushed by smugglers through the porous India-Bangladesh border.

The latest seizures were made on February 8 in Murshidabad from one Azizur Rahman (26), who belongs to Malda in West Bengal. Rahman, who was carrying 40 fake notes of Rs 2,000 denomination, told investigators that they had been printed in Pakistan, allegedly with the help of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and had been smuggled across the border from Bangladesh.

Even as the 125 crore people of India were queuing up in lines infront of banks, facing every hardship possible, believing the solemn words of Modi, who promised to ‘fight terrorism and fake notes’, the ISI was printing fake notes and smuggling it to India.

Even as more than 120 plus people died because of the unending chaos and distress unleashed by demonetisation, the deep state in Pakistan which is inimical to India was planning their next move by copying 11 out of 17 features of the new notes and readying the counterfeit currency to be circulated for abetting terror.

Even as the common man struggled to withdraw his/her own hard earned money from the banks in Rs 2000 denomination, Pakistan’s ISI only required half the quantity and half the speed to counterfeit the same amount of notes to fund terror in India.

While announcing the unwitting decision of demonetisation, Modi had stressed “Terrorism is a frightening threat. So many have lost their lives because of it. But have you ever thought about how these terrorists get their money? Enemies from across the border run their operations using fake currency notes. This has been going on for years. Many times, those using fake 500 and 1,000 rupee notes have been caught and many such notes have been seized.” But the recent arrests of in Murshidabad and Malda have busted this bubble of Shri Modi.

In his 4205 word 'Address to the Nation' announcing Demonetisation, atleast 250 words were solely dedicated to fighting fake currency and terrorism

Shockingly, the seized notes have showed that at least 11 of the 17 security features in the new Rs 2,000 notes had been replicated. They included the transparent area, watermark, Ashoka Pillar emblem, the letters ‘Rs 2000’ on the left, the guarantee clause with the RBI governor’s signature and the denomination number in Devanagari on the front, the report says. According to experts, the motif of Mangalayan, the Swachh Bharat logo and the year of printing had been copied on the reverse side. Although the print and paper quality of the seized counterfeits was poor, they resembled genuine notes, it says. Besides, the seized notes had the water mark and a crackling sound, similar to genuine currency, various media reports say.

It is important to note that the Union Finance Ministry had informed a Parliamentary Committee that smuggling of fake currency has totally stopped post demonetisation and the tax department has seized Rs 515 crore in cash, including Rs 114 crore of new currency notes, up to January 10. Tall claims of Modi and his Ministers that ‘fake currency circulation is an issue of the past’ have however evaporated in thin air.

A grave National Security threat has now emerged and a serious situation has precipitated due to this arbitrary step of demonetisation. Terrorists and the ISI who was printing a certain amount of Rs 1000 currency notes now have to print just half the quantity of Rs 2000 notes of the same amount.  

The largest share of the Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) that circulates in India is believed to be originating not from nondescript local presses inside the country, but from high-grade, state-owned minting factories in Pakistan. There is a mountain  of evidence, made public by international agencies including the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and Interpol have pointed fingers at the Government of Pakistan for creating and sustaining a transnational FICN racket that spans from West Asia to Southeast Asia. A day after the demonetisation policy was made public, Kiren Rijiju, the Union minister of state for Home Affairs, boastfully stated that the “the printing press in Karachi and Peshawar will now be jobless” as a result of demonetisation” 

However, RBI officials on record had confirmed earlier that the new notes do not carry any new security features.

In addition, till date, the Government of India through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL), imports a bulk of the paper used in minting currency notes from European companies like Louisenthal (Germany), De la Rue (United Kingdom), Crane (Sweden,) and Arjo Wiggins (France and Netherlands). So does Pakistan. India imports the OVI Intaglio security ink — a distinctive security component of every currency note — from SICPA, a Swiss company that manufactures high-performance security ink; and it is a known fact that SICPA also deals with Pakistan.

Therefore, it is fair to say that the Modi Government by its demonetisation decision has effectively abetted the circulation of fake notes, instead of preventing it. Now the counterfeit currency printing presses in Pakistan can print the same amount of money in lesser numbers which is much easier to smuggle, thereby cheating the people of India.  

It is important to draw the attention of the people of India to this humongous blunder committed by PM Modi and his Government. Let Narendra Modi voice another ‘address to the nation’ and publically apologize to the people of India for endangering India’s National Security apparatus and inflicting such misery and pain to the 125 cr people of India.