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Truth alone can bring lasting peace and restoring temples is a step in the same direction

A huge collection of works by Indian and western scholars shines the light on how past invaders altered our basics by using the caste and class differences of the Indian society for their own vested interests and plundered the country and its many temples.

Alterations and changes can be a good thing. As human civilization evolved, many aspects of the socio-economic landscape changed. We adopted permanent settlements and developed big metropolitan cities. A change in the form of governance — from absolute monarchy to constitutional democracy — was a critical part of this. We also adopted fiat currencies issued and controlled by central banks. Education and employment have become more organized. These were all, indeed, good things.

But not every change can be termed good. In the quest for rapid growth, nations raced against each other to discover and produce more and more fossil fuels, including coal. Similarly, altering the basics — for example, sweeping urbanization leading to villages and small towns becoming neglected, underdeveloped parts — was not good.

Unfair alterations in India

A huge collection of works — both by Indian and western scholars — shines the light on how past invaders altered our basics. These invaders used the caste and class differences of the Indian society, for their own vested interests, and plundered the country and its many temples. A simple search on Google can take one to Wikipedia — a not-for-profit online encyclopedia owned and controlled by a foreign entity — that has multiple pages on how Mughal invaders looted the country of its rich heritage. In an attempt to convert some oblivious Hindus, these rulers demolished their temples and erected mosques.

This was a change that cannot be termed a good thing. Besides, there is a difference between restoration and majoritarianism. The latter is a term used by a news media section against the Hindu majority and anyone who speaks about their justifiable and oft-ignored rights. If there is a call to correct past mistakes, this section, backed by political parties with vested interests, decries the appeasement of the majority faith.

Restoration is a good thing

Is correcting the injustice perpetrated over many centuries majoritarianism? No. Instead, it is a restoration drive that must be supported by every true citizen of India, cutting across all faiths. And there is a very strong argument in this favour.

Can you build a resilient structure over lies? You simply cannot. It is truth alone that can bring lasting peace to any society. Unearthing truth is no appeasement, no majoritarianism. It is simply an exercise that any government shall undertake in any country. In the US, there is a growing consensus on putting an end to gun violence. By having allowed anyone to walk into a shopping mall and purchase a gun, the country did a no good thing in the past. Restoration is what they need.

Similarly, India needs to enquire and restore. Alterations in the past, which were against natural law, have to be restored to what is lawful. This exercise not only includes our increased reliance on swadeshi goods but also on finding the truth about our places of worship. A place of worship is as basic to any faith as is a mother to a newborn.

Finding the truth about places of worship

The country’s elected government must take urgent steps in the right direction. Enquiring is no bad thing, and hence we must enquire what lies beneath those mosques that were supposedly constructed not to add to places of worship but only to inflict pain on Hinduism and its followers. And if this enquiry requires the judiciary’s support, it must come without any petition in this regard. Our courts have the power to suo motu take cognizance of subject matters that are of critical importance. Indeed, all this is not possible without the co-operation of non-majority faiths of India, which shall be sought.

Alterations and changes are not always a good thing. And there is something called restoration. If past invaders altered the original nature of places of worship in India, it was unlawful and inhuman. Restoring the real identity of these places cannot be termed supremacy of the majority faith or appeasement. Similar to how we should not have upset the ecological balance to bring quick but unsustainable development, we should not have allowed unjust alterations to survive after we attained self-rule in 1947.

It is time to restore truth — which has become overdue — for truth only can bring lasting peace.

(The article Truth alone can bring lasting peace and restoring temples is a step in the same direction published in ‘Organiser’)

Merging the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was a course correction

Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was the true mark of valour, and it deserved a place at the National War Memorial, not underneath the India Gate, a Colonial-era war memorial.

First thing first. India is not the only country globally that has a memorial of national importance to commemorate war heroes.

The Cenotaph, in London, England, is the national war memorial of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, Edwin Lutyens, the architect who designed the India Gate, also designed The Cenotaph in the 1920s. Now, you may come up with a legitimate question. Does the United States, the nation that emerged as the most powerful after World War II, have a national war memorial?

The World War II Memorial is the United States’ national war memorial, and it opened in 2004. Yes, you read that right — 2004. The first resolution to build this memorial was passed in 1987, but it became law only in 1993. The then government started a fund-raising campaign, and it is said that Americans donated millions of dollars to help erect the memorial. Now here’s the most interesting part — criticism started as soon as construction began, with the Washington Post deriding it as ‘Soviet-style pomposity’ and a few others comparing the monument’s design approach with Hitler and other tyrants.

Today, millions of Americans every year visit the memorial to simply show appreciation to their martyrs. Here in India, the country that overthrew foreign occupation in 1947 to earn self-rule, the ‘new’ National War Memorial has become more a matter of ridicule by the opposition, less a mark of respect for Indian martyrs.

The narrative of the media is either distorted or misleading. The only headlines a few media houses have published on the subject matter are about moving the eternal Amar Jawan Jyoti flame to the flame at the new National War Memorial. But before we move any further, is it accurate to use the prefix ‘new’ with the National War Memorial inaugurated in the presence of the CDS and all other Chief of Staff in 2019? Is it a ‘new’ memorial or the first?

Now it is time to recall that the India Gate ‘continued’ to serve as the memorial of national significance until 2019. The Duke of Connaught laid India Gate’s foundation stone in 1921, and Lord Irwin inaugurated the monument in 1931. Yes, the same Lord Irwin, India’s viceroy who imprisoned several national independence leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi. Irwin also oversaw the hanging of the three of India’s most beloved martyrs — Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru. India Gate was erected as a memorial to commemorate martyrs of the British Indian Army that served in the First World War.

In 1972, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, added underneath the arch of the India Gate, the Amar Jawan Jyoti, to honour the sacrifices of Indian soldiers in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. This eternal flame, a symbol of nationalism for all Indians, was never allowed to extinguish. But another fact is that Amar Jawan Jyoti was too humble a structure to honour Indian war heroes, who deserved a lot more. In fact, India had yet to have a national war memorial. Many may not know the memorial was first proposed in 1960, yes, six decades back. The Congress-led union government dragged its feet on the issue, and it remained an ‘unrealized dream’ until the BJP-led government assumed control in 2014.

By all measures, terming the National War Memorial, which began in 2017, cannot be termed ‘new’. It is the first memorial of national importance that independent India always deserved; our soldiers always deserved.

Now, the key contention — the merging of the eternal Amar Jawan Jyoti flame with the flame at the War Memorial that sits independently of the colonial-era India Gate.

Was it not the foremost duty of the Indian government to first erect a war memorial and then house it with every bit that marks the valour of our armed forces? Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was the true mark of valour, and it deserved a place at the National War Memorial, not underneath the India Gate, a Colonial-era war memorial. On the other hand, the India Gate is also a monument of national importance, but the taint that was built by the then tyrants is not easy to remove. Nevertheless, the India Gate stands as a tribute to Indian soldiers that abided by their duty regardless of the period or the ruling entity.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., and India’s National War Memorial in New Delhi are late additions, but it is never late to do the right thing. And here’s the last important bit. The canopy at the India Gate that will now house a statue of one of the leading nationalists of pre-independence India, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, once housed a statue of King George V. India, slowly but gradually is moving toward recognizing and honouring the sons of the land.

Neither the merging of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame nor the decision to erect Bose’s statue was a political move, and these were both course corrections.

(The article Merging the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was a course correction published in ‘Organiser’)

Hindutva is ‘oneness’, Hindutva is inclusive development

Hindutva seeks to instil in all the inhabitants of India, cutting across faiths, a sense of national pride and belonging to a common, beloved, progressive culture.

Balkanization can be the last thing any nation or society would ever want. Home to adherents of all major religions of the world, India is a great nation. The country is one of the most diverse, tolerant, and adaptable to changing socio-economic and political landscapes is a part of virtually every commentary on India.

Before we talk about this diversity and hail it as the single most dominant aspect of the Indian democracy, let us also bring in this discussion a related term, unity. ‘Unity in diversity’ is a popular phrase, which in one sense pits unity against diversity, and vice versa. Looking for unity in diversity may appear as a convincing argument, but it holds little value. Imagine any garden that is home to a variety of flowers. These flowers can add diversity, but one cannot expect all of them to have similar attributes regarding appearance and fragrance. Imagine a jungle with a variety of animals, but expecting all these diverse animals would unify to abide by common law is wishful thinking.

Diversity is multi-dimensional. One dimension of it is that it cannot be eradicated. That’s how the natural forces have made this world. People across the globe would continue to have distinct appearances and colour, which is why calling for the supremacy of people of any one colour is a political gimmick, an unjustifiable and prejudiced demand. The other dimension of diversity is it has to be overcome to a valid extent to safeguard the interest of all.

Humans are not animals inhabiting a jungle. Humans are undeniably the most intelligent beings, from being hunter-gatherers with no permanent settlement to becoming the inventors of airplanes and computers. In a sense, humans shaped the earth by polluting it with plastic and greenhouse gases and enriching it with inventions like wind and solar energy.

Had humans remained diverse (read conflicting) regarding their socio-political thoughts, we could have never made it to permanent settlements. It was essential to have a common code of conduct and its enforcement in letter and spirit to sustain the co-habitation of diverse thoughts and desires.

Consider this. Can you name one country that can boast of no crime ever committed? From evading taxes to homicides, crime is an unwanted part and parcel of any society. In a sense, one may even group a set of criminals with diverse opinions regarding how society shall function. Maybe someone can even give a compelling argument why physically assaulting a man with lesser resources is justifiable. But can we let such ‘diverse’, but at the same time morally wrong, opinions thrive and disturb peaceful and progressive co-habitation?

This is exactly what is at the heart of Hindutva.

A few politicians may disrespect it as a divisive and majority-supremacy seeking political thought, but in essence, Hindutva is a socio-cultural ideology. Hindutva is more than Hindus; it is about the country that we know by the name of Hindustan.

When Vinayak Damodar Savarkar propounded his views on the subject matter, he was not establishing a case for the supremacy of any particular faith. He and many other philosophers and commentators always advocated that the diversity of India, which essentially must be preserved, must not make it a jungle. They believed this was the key to preventing the nation from invasion by foreign powers, a repeat of Mughal and British era atrocities on Indians.

Hindutva, in that sense, improvises on the phrase ‘unity in diversity’. The ideology seeks to instil in all the inhabitants of India, cutting across faiths, a sense of national pride and belonging to a common, beloved, progressive culture. Is it ever possible to make a great nation without all its inhabitants accepting the common constitution and national flag? Hindutva was and is about that one flag, and it’s about oneness.

Decades after its independence from foreign rule, India is ruled by political parties that use India’s diversity to its disadvantage and its own advantage. The clarion call for ‘unity in diversity’ was nothing but rhetorical. In one country, members of a particular faith were treated as mere vote-banks. The rise of regional political parties, which some liberal commentators may call the beauty of Indian federalism, was the outcome of (mis)using India’s diversity regarding faith and caste for own vested interests.

Diversity’s one aspect gifted to humans by nature cannot and shouldn’t be violated. The human race will continue to have people with different appearances and colours, and the equality of all men must always remain at the heart of all development.

The second aspect of diversity, which is about some people’s immoral and unjustifiable wants, has to be defeated at all costs. Consider this. A section of men uses unlawful, violent means to topple the elected government, but can the desire of these insurgents be defended as ‘diversity’? One cannot be so diverse in a country ruled by law that it defeats the law itself. For many decades, India reeled from a few secessionists wanting to establish their own independent nations, from radical left-wing outfits to Islamist terrorists.

Balkanization is nothing but the fragmentation of a region into smaller independent nations. Does India want that? And more importantly, can India afford that to happen?

Hindutva is a call that corrects the flaws in the phrase ‘unity in diversity’. It seeks to pave the way for oneness, cutting across all faiths, castes or any other element that creates a separate identity of people inhabiting Hindustan. Clearly, Hindutva is neither about any religion’s supremacy nor it is a political gimmick. Hindutva is ‘oneness’, Hindutva is ‘true unity’ of Indians by correcting a few diversity flaws.

(The article Hindutva is ‘oneness’, Hindutva is inclusive development published in ‘Organiser’)

BSF’s jurisdiction changes is a judicious step in the right direction

The latest notification concerning the BSF’s jurisdiction is a step in the right direction. It is a timely and calculated measure to tackle new risks facing national security

The problem is not the persistent false narrative of the Opposition; it is the Left-wing media’s tradition of overlooking critical aspects.

In a first-of-its-kind security threat to the country, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were dropped by using drones at an Indian Air Force base in Jammu. Forget terrorists infiltrating in the country to carry out sophisticated attacks on India; this is the age of next-level warfare where drones with kilos of payload can be used to launch a deadly attack.

In the enquiry that followed, it was found that the drones conveniently returned to their original launching site, indeed in Pakistan, after dropping four kilograms of payloads. The IAF base is 14 km from the Indo-Pak border, and this was purportedly the first attack launched against India using drones. This June 2021 incident has been brushed under the carpet by opposition leaders who are decrying ‘threat to federalism’ in India in the wake of the expansion of the Border Security Force’s (BSF) area of operations.

If this was too old to recall, the Opposition must recall a September incident where the BSF recovered at least 6 kg heroin, packed sophistically in six packets and delivered from Pakistan to the bordering Punjab state by drone. Drones have become a big threat to national security over the past few years. These are too small to detect, especially during the nighttime, and they can travel long distances from their launch site.

This was the main reason why the Centre chose to make changes in the jurisdiction of the BSF. Now, this border guarding force can exercise jurisdiction up to 50 km from the international border in the states of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. In the first, the menace of drug trafficking and substance abuse is alarming, and in the latter two, illegal migrants crossing the international border to enter India is the biggest threat facing these two states’ socio-economic fabric.

What the Opposition misses in its rant against the Centre is the fact that the previous July 2014 notification had allowed jurisdiction of the BSF within a belt of 80 km in the state of Gujarat. The very state has been one of the biggest bastions of the ruling party at the Centre for decades. The latest gazette notification is a sort of acknowledgement of new challenges to national security, together with parity among states. Now, Gujarat also has the same area under the BSF as other states, though some northeastern states continue to fall entirely under the BSF control.

The TMC-led West Bengal State Government minister has reminded the Centre that ‘law and order is a state subject’. This, if true, should ideally make all the Central Armed Police Forces, including the ITBP and SSB, unconstitutional. And for that matter, even the creation of the BSF in 1965 by the then Congress party government should be called into question. When Pakistan attacked Sardar Post and multiple other facilities during the Indo-Pak War of 1965, the Central Government decided to have a specialised agency to guard our borders with Pakistan. By 1971, the BSF had become a formidable force and made it possible for India to help Bangladesh win liberation.

Moreover, the latest notification expanding the BSF’s jurisdiction is a part of a coordinated design to deal with emerging threats. In July, the BSF launched an initiative to rope in the expertise of Indian companies to address the pressing issue of cross-border drone attacks. The BSF Hi-tech Undertaking for Maximizing Innovation (BHUMI) mission will seek cooperation from local partners for drone detection. The mission will prioritise the fight against narco-terrorism and the increasing threat of attacks on security installations.

What the Opposition misses in its rant against the Centre is the fact that the previous July 2014 notification had allowed jurisdiction of the BSF within a belt of 80 km in the state of Gujarat. The latest gazette notification is a sort of acknowledgement of new challenges to national security, together with parity among states.

It is unfortunate that the Opposition continuously sidelines vital elements. Earlier this month, a drone was used to send arms from the Pakistan side into Jammu. This drone carried an AK rifle and a night vision device. If 1965 was the year that called for the creation of a centrally-controlled armed force for border areas, the 2020s is the time to re-think the BSF’s design to fight the next-level warfare.

Lastly, the opposition-ruled states have continually decried the ‘threat to federalism’ ever since the ruling BJP assumed power at the Centre. They seem to have totally forgotten the misuse of Article 365 of the Indian constitution by the Congress-led central governments on more than 90 occasions to topple state governments. The creation of the Central Armed Police Forces was pioneered under Congress.

Another key concern is the synchronised attack on the Centre by opposition-ruled state governments that smacks of vested interests and malafide intent. Who will gain if the enemy nations succeed in smuggling arms and drugs to these bordering states? Who will gain if the unchecked illegal crossing of borders goes on in the states of West Bengal and Assam? These are some crucial questions that call for answers from the respective state governments.

The latest notification concerning the BSF’s jurisdiction is a step in the right direction. It is a timely and calculated measure to tackle new risks facing national security. The Left-wing media and its sponsors in the Opposition are all out to misguide the country on a critical subject matter.

(The article BSF’s jurisdiction changes is a judicious step in the right direction published in ‘Organiser’)

No, it’s not an end, but a beginning in Islamist Afghanistan, and it must concern us all

Experts say the sentiment on the ground is that the Taliban defeated the US and NATO forces and compelled the world’s most powerful military to cede the region back to the outfit.  

Everyone knows American troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan. Everyone knows a deal was struck between the two belligerents – the US military and the Taliban – in 2020. No one, however, knows what America achieved in Afghanistan. Where did the so-called ‘trillions of dollars’ the US spent go? When will the human rights violation on Afghan soil end?

When the US launched the war against the Taliban regime in 2001, the stated purpose was to avenge the 9/11 attacks. American forces quickly removed the Taliban from power, ending the outfit’s five-year rule. The al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, who grew under the protection of the Taliban, was still elusive. It took the American forces a decade to locate Laden in Pakistan and launch a covert strike to kill the man who designed and executed the worst terrorist attack in America. The stated goal was achieved, at least in a rhetorical sense, under the leadership of Barack Obama.

The then-President Obama had increased the number of troops in Afghanistan. In 2011, the US had nearly 110,000 troops fighting against the Taliban and training the country’s legitimate security forces. By 2015, the level of troops fell drastically to below 10,000 before rising again in subsequent years.

The facts are all there in the open. What’s not is what exactly the US was attempting in Afghanistan. The war it started in 2001 was categorically against the Taliban. The outfit was notorious for its adherence to the austere, ultra-radical form of Islam. Men under the Taliban rule were to grow beards mandatorily, and Afghan women had to wear a long robe. Girls were barred from education, and sources of entertainment, including television and music that the Taliban considered ‘Haram’ were banned.

With American troops coming in and toppling the Taliban government in virtually no time, international media anticipated a better future for the region torn by war for decades. In two decades, American troops and their NATO allies killed nearly 85,000 opposition fighters, but the damage on the other side is hard to ignore. The same number of civilians died because of the war, and millions of Afghans were displaced. Over 75,000 Afghan military personnel have been killed between 2001 and 2021, and the number of foreign soldiers who lost their lives while fighting for the US and NATO allies is over 3,500. Tens of thousands of US troops were injured in the conflict.

Undeniably, the costs of the two-decade-long war were immense. Although the US government claims to have spent trillions of dollars in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the war, studies claim this to be in hundreds of billions of dollars. But even that is no mean amount. But what happened? The Taliban could negotiate with its arch-rival on the ground, the US, and extract a deal that only reinforces its presence in the region. Experts say the sentiment on the ground is that the Taliban defeated the US and NATO forces and compelled the world’s most powerful military to cede the region back to the outfit. This is one of the reasons why the Taliban could consolidate its grip over power within a matter of few weeks. The Afghan police and security forces surrendered without even mounting an attack. The Taliban could withstand the US and NATO attack for so long and remain a formidable power in the country is something that weakened the spirits of local rival groups and civilians.  

What was the US thinking for all these twenty years? What was the rationale behind the withdrawal of forces at a time when the Taliban is blatantly violating human rights? Has the US considered the fallouts of the resurgence of the Taliban for the region? Does America believe that the threat that the Taliban can wage war against the West or, for that matter, any other country has subsided?

The threat has heightened. The Taliban delegation lately met China’s foreign minister in search of official recognition for the regime in the international arena. China has long been a backer of Pakistan and its terrorist organizations with the same ideological underpinning as the Taliban. China has been supportive of the Taliban advance in Afghanistan to thwart any of US hegemony in the region is a harsh fact.

Both China and Russia are on the same side when it comes to the US. The former is now in the same position as the latter to challenge the American might on a global level. The two countries have been using terrorist outfits in Pakistan and Afghanistan to derail an advance of democracy.

On the other hand, India has been a backer of democracy and an American ally when it comes to fighting Islamist forces. Technically, India shares a border with Afghanistan. This border may lie within the Pak- occupied Kashmir region; however, India has clear sovereignty. It is also an acknowledged fact that the Taliban grew in Pakistan-bordered regions of Afghanistan during its initial years. That was where these radical Islamists found their calling and occupied the whole of Afghanistan in 1996.  

The shared ideology of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and other Islamist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, is the greatest threat facing the world today. Since the sentiment in Afghanistan is that the Taliban could oust the Americans from their soil and regain all the lost ground, this will serve as a force to unite all Islamist forces of the world. These forces are set to find patronage under communist China and its ‘all-weather ally’ Pakistan. Both these nations possess nuclear weapons, and instability in Pakistan can lead to any disaster for the region and the wider world also remains a cause of concern.

In today’s world, which reels under the economic and social costs of the pandemic, the resurrection of Islamist forces is the last thing we need. Every country, developed or emerging, is running a high fiscal deficit to support their respective economies. Military spending will have to be cut as welfare programs need additional budgetary support. In this light, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the sweeping takeover of the country by hardliners must worry all democratic and progressive nations.

PS: Enough controversy was created in the US political circles when a film titled Zero Dark Thirty, which depicted the years-long US effort to locate Osama bin Laden, was released. The Republicans alleged that it was a move to tilt public support favouring Barack Obama, who sought reelection in 2012. Today, former US President Donald Trump has sought President Biden’s resignation over the prevailing situation. As the US evacuates its diplomats after Kabul fell to the Taliban and the western-backed Afghan President’s whereabouts are unknown, it can remind us of the ‘Fall of Saigon’ in 1975 when the US undertook a similar evacuation in Vietnam.

(The article No, it’s not an end, but a beginning in Islamist Afghanistan, and it must concern us all published in ‘Organiser’)

This Global Stock Market Rush Owes To Amateur, Retail Investors

Investor education is the key. Otherwise, in a landscape where macroeconomic indicators across the globe are weak, young investors may be at a risk of financial loss in stock trading.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index is the benchmark index of the Toronto Stock Exchange in Canada. Amid high unemployment rate in Canada, and record-high inflation, which has become a cause of worry for the Bank of Canada, the index has scaled record peaks, recently touching the 20,000 mark for first time ever.

Is the global economy recovering with no further vulnerabilities?

Emerging market economies, including India and China, were always the preferred place for institutional investors. India has been a recipient of record investment over the past few years due to healthy GDP growth numbers. But over the past one year, stock markets of even developed countries including the US, Australia and Canada are seeing an unprecedented rush. Has pandemic receded? Has the world population been fully vaccinated and international trade and commerce rebounded?

No. More than half of Australia is under lockdown, and China has been hit by the delta variant in many of its cities. As far as economic recovery is concerned, every central bank is baffled. Joblessness is high but inflation is well above targets. In the US, the Fed is clueless on when to hike rates to suck liquidity to check price rise.

One can recall how the global markets crashed when the pandemic hit. The world’s most watched index, S&P 500, fell in double digits. In India, Sensex and Nifty lost money as panic-stricken investors started pulling money out.

But within a matter of few months, markets not only recovered lost ground but astonishingly scaled new heights. Sensex is at a fresh all-time high. Most analysts are citing two or three factors behind the surge. First, slowly but steadily world cities are exiting lockdowns. Second, global vaccination drive has picked up pace. And third, economic growth in the first quarter of 2021-22 has been better-than-expected in most economies. But all three factors are anything but steady. Cities across the world are entering into new lockdowns, even the US has a very slow pace of vaccination, and economies like China and the US have lately reported weaker-than-expected economic activity.

The rush in global markets including India

The Indian stock broking industry added a whopping 17 lakh new accounts in January 2021. Compare it with mere 13 lakh new accounts in full year 2014, one of the best years ever for the Indian stock market.

Globally, the trend has been the same. Robinhood, a commission-free broker in the US, saw highest-ever app downloads in January. Retail investors, with abundant disposable income, thanks to governments’ stimulus money and pandemic savings, flocked to stock trading in record numbers. In India, individuals that haven’t suffered income loss and saved extra money due to reduced outings and fuel costs looked stocks to create wealth. Every other initial public offer (IPO) is being subscribed to in record numbers Brokers say many of the subscribers in food delivery app Zomato’s IPO were aged below 35. The young, amateur retail investor is parking money in stocks like never before.

Even the hyper-volatile cryptocurrency market is scaling new peaks. Bitcoin soared to nearly USD 65,000 in April. Others like Dogecoin have also surged on the back of favorable stances by multi-billionaires like Elon Musk.

Brokers adding record new users, with a sizeable chunk of young first-time participants, corroborate the fact that amateur young investor is the primary force shaping global stock markets. The wild rally in listed shares and IPO space can be attributed to them. The same is shaping the global cryptocurrency investment space, where assets with no utility are being lapped up by amateur investors.


What enabled all this is the easy availability of avenues of investment in stocks. Until a few years back, there was no smartphone app to enable parking of money in stocks, considered as quick return earning place, with a few taps. Today, such apps have proliferated. The perception is that stock market is virtually the only avenue for quick returns as other investment options like term deposits take longer time to yield moderate returns. The cause of concern is amateur investors, mostly very young, who might be ignorant of perils attached with trading. Many are not eying long-term returns in the form of dividend but quick capital gains by buying and selling of stocks. 

Even the pandemic played a role in stock market boom by weeding out fear as people lost loved ones to Covid-19 and became psychologically more prepared to take financial risks. They are, more often than not, unaware of how and when to maximum profits or minimize losses. Seasoned institutional investors prudently make such maneuvers at the opportune moment. Investor education is the key. Otherwise, in a landscape where macroeconomic indicators across the globe are weak, young investors may be at a risk of financial loss in stock trading.

(The article “This Global Stock Market Rush Owes To Amateur, Retail Investors” published in “Business World”)

Time is now for like-minded, upright politicians to back the BJP

Sovereignty and territorial integrity matter. Sans them, a society is nothing more than a permanent settlement vulnerable to upheavals. Likewise, armed forces and law enforcement agencies protecting the borders and upholding laws of the land within the borderline also matter. Besides social well-being, which is shaped by inter-personal relations, the above-stated elements safeguard the economic and financial well-being of the nation-state and its constituents. There is an ongoing debate whether India is a nation-state or a state-nation. The former implies a nation based on common heritage and ethnicity, while the latter implicit a state where multiple identities co-exist.

Reaching a consensus is difficult, given the abundance of intellectuals in India and their contrasting views. But the debate cannot undermine two main pillars of our social and economic well-being: sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The supreme law of the land, the Indian Constitution, envisages India as a multi-party democracy. For decades after independence from British Raj, the country ran on a single-party model. The electorate backed the Indian National Congress (INC), a group of activists turned into a party of politicians, for a long. The credentials were strong since the INC was a leading force when the British left. The political weight of leaders like Nehru, Patel, and others was heavy. Congress emerging as the only choice of the electorate for long was no surprise since history and, even contemporary politics in the world, tell us that any group that dominates during any nation’s journey to self-rule leads the polls for quite some time.

Over time, however, corruption seeps in. Vested interests take precedence over integrity and fairness. Too much power leads to bad governance, which fuels the social divide and widens the class gap. Promises of inclusive administration and fair distribution of wealth took a backseat. The sovereignty of the nation also suffered collateral damage. Foreign powers, which have and will always seek new territories to extract resources to further their financial well-being, sow the seeds of discontent by using soft and hard power.

The rise of the BJP traces its roots back to the same state of affairs in Indian politics. The then leading political party furthered the interests of one dynasty, and its leaders blindly swore allegiance to this model. The money meant for people never reached them, and when it did, a middleman that enjoyed impunity took a sizeable portion away. A former Prime Minister from the Congress conceded that corruption was rife and only a fraction of money allocated for welfare programs reached the poor.

What Advani attained through his Rath Yatras and dialogue with the electorate was a resurgence of interest in the sovereignty of India. There was a reason people flocked to his public meetings and voted for the BJP during the 80s and 90s. The party that prevailed when India achieved self-rule had turned into a family business enterprise. A democracy, however, can never run as a private entity. 2014 was a decisive year in the turn of events when the electorate overwhelmingly rejected dynasty politics. What followed was a near elimination of the Congress from all Indian states. 2019 Lok Sabha polls were near-unanimous approval for the BJP style of inclusive governance.

But, electoral politics can swing in any direction, and that is the beauty of it. Or, one can say that sharp-witted politicians use populist tactics that can appease voters but radically undermine the sovereignty of the nation. In Delhi and West Bengal state polls, the country witnessed the same brand of politics. The integrity of Indian politicians alone can now save the country from such a regressive and divisive style of politics.

Lately, a dominant face of the Congress in UP joined the BJP. A politician defecting to another party is not new. But what matters is the purpose behind such moves. Many senior leaders of Congress have cited extreme centralization of power in the party that weakens plurality and does not allow conflicting ideas to thrive even when they are in the public interest. That a former Prime Minister was a rubber stamp to the decisions made by the party chief is well aware. State units of the Congress party take directives from the high command in Delhi and from ministers to organization office-bearers. The high command makes direct appointments, which can frustrate those politicians that view politics as public service.

Despite widespread dissatisfaction, many politicians remain loyal to their parties due to old family ties or the clout of the central figure that appears too powerful to be dismissed. In their hesitancy, however, upright politicians cannot notice that the sovereignty of the nation takes a hit when a political party places self-interest over inclusive governance. Corruption not only results in the poor receiving a smaller portion of what is due to them, but it also weakens the military and law enforcement organizations because of paybacks and cuts sought by corrupt politicians and officials.

Consider these facts. Job growth in the world’s largest economy, the US slowed in April 2021 and, the number of jobless claims is still very high. In Canada, one of the wealthy nations, 68,000 became jobless in May 2021 and, the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent. Joblessness among Canadian youth is 16 percent. The only G20 economy that shrunk in the first quarter of 2021 was the UK. Prices are rising at a record pace in all these nations. True, India is also reeling from the economic downturn brought by the pandemic and, the people have lost jobs. But the government is taking measures like fiscal stimulus and increased public spending, and the RBI has also announced relief measures for small businesses.

The reason the BJP could not pull off polls in West Bengal nor performed as expected in the UP panchayat polls was a dent in the party’s image owing to the Covid crisis. But nations across the world are under stress. The only factor that has not led to a decline in approval rates of federal governments in these countries is the support of politicians to ruling governments cutting across party lines. In the US, for example, the debt to GDP ratio has reached alarming levels, but even Republican politicians have thrown their weight behind the Biden-led government. India has touched a 600 billion dollar milestone for foreign exchange reserves, but such feats rarely draw appreciation from opposition parties.

India, more than anything else, is reeling from a conflict of interests. And the sovereignty is being hit hard by these conflicts. Many politicians in opposition parties have the same nationalist ideology as the ruling BJP, but their reluctance is not allowing them to back the inclusive governance of the BJP. It is time they come forward, speak up and stand firm with the righteous.

(The article Time is now for like-minded, upright politicians to back the BJP published in ‘Organiser’)

Rebuttal to the International Press on India’s handling of Covid-19

Let’s turn the clock back to 2020. For many months, the world’s top health body, WHO, unequivocally discouraged the wearing of face masks by the general public. The argument was that it would inculcate a ‘false sense of security in the person wearing a mask. In June 2020, however, and after three months of having declared the n-coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, the WHO changed its stance on wearing face masks in public. The multilateral agency, which receives billions of dollars every year in voluntary contributions from member states and has the world’s top scientists and researchers on its payroll, had no clue until June that face masks were critical in containing the spread of the deadly disease.

The largest contributor to the WHO budget is the United States. Indeed, the country that provides funds to the organization to ensure a coordinated response to any health emergency has the right to seek answers. In May 2020, the then US President condemned the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and its failure to hold China, the country where the virus originated, accountable. Back then, most experts criticized Trump’s stance, but exactly one year later new evidence has emerged about the unnatural origins of SARS, including how Chinese scientists discussed weaponising coronaviruses and how lab workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell sick during the months preceding the initial outbreak.

That was about the WHO, and how the world’s most powerful health body failed in numerous instances. In India, the turn of events has been a little different. The country managed the initial outbreak with exemplary success, with even the WHO country representative, Dr. Roderico Ofrin, praising the Prime Minister, and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on different occasions. He specifically highlighted how India’s massive population was a key challenge, but concerted efforts of the government helped achieve positive outcomes. Dr. Ofrin also specifically mentioned elements like ‘accessibility’ and ‘affordability’ of India’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This was a time when India became the fastest country to vaccinate six million people, outpacing the US and the UK by a big margin.

The picture suddenly changed when the second wave struck the country in April 2021. Within a short span, hospitals across the country were overwhelmed, and from drugs to medical oxygen, shortages of almost every critical healthcare facility erupted. There is a famous expression ‘Rome was not built in a day that underlines how great things need extensive hard work. But the mainstream media in India and elsewhere expected Rome to be built in no time. Indeed, the government failed to achieve this feat. In his recent dialogue with India’s External Affairs Minister, the US State Secretary has acknowledged India’s support to the US during the pandemic and said ‘we will never forget India’s help during the initial days of the COVID outbreak. The critics need to note that even the US failed to build Rome in a day.

Risk management is taught to students in every B-school. It is about how unforeseen and uncontrollable external events can disrupt the organization. India, when the second wave struck, was about to witness the same unforeseen event. The Indian constitution places healthcare in the state list because the drafting committee and the constituent assembly held the belief that healthcare has to be micromanaged and it is, therefore, best to delegate this responsibility to respective states. State governments in India always have a health ministry to oversee the management of health services. From hospital beds to the availability of critical medicines, it was the de jure responsibility of respective health ministers to ensure the best possible health infrastructure.

But conspiracies refuse to die. One can recall how one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates, became the target of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists who promoted an unfounded idea that the pandemic was a cover for some covert plan to implant trackable microchips in humans around the world. The conspiracy theory spread like a wildfire, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was compelled to address the world press and refute the claim. The scale of the conspiracy theory was such that at one time nearly 30 per cent of Americans believed in it, according to a YouGov poll. What’s more? The Italian Parliament even considered a proposal by an independent MP to refer the multi-billionaire to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Here in India, social media platforms are flooded with conspiracy theories suggesting the culpability of the central government and its ministries during the second wave. Numbers are being manipulated with such flexibility that they are defying all logics and rationality; however, the opposition parties and their social media cells are endorsing them without even considering how it impacts the global image of India. The blame is being pinned on one man considering his image is the cornerstone of the ruling party. The internet has the tendency to love concocted and superficial theories. UFOs are in the news again, and so is Bill Gates for his separation from Melinda Gates. From Bill Gates’ alleged love affairs to Melinda Gates’ desire to replicate the independent woman image of Mackenzie Scott (former wife of world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos), abundant sensationalist claims are available.

However, rationality calls for a little sense. There has yet to be one single drug that can indisputably claim to be a perfect cure of COVID-19. No vaccine in the world has 100 per cent efficacy, and the irony is that India’s covaxin, which was initially resented by the opposition, outshines reputed brands. No scientist or organisation in the world knows what drug would be in demand tomorrow, and hence preparing well in advance is simply not possible. A drug that is being sought today as a likely remedy can lose its pole position tomorrow and even the WHO has a record of changing its stance regularly in this regard. India’s union government never failed, and the subsiding second wave is a testament to how it cooperated with many stubborn state governments to push the vaccine rollout and undertake other health measures.

The debate around what the media must broadcast and publish and what it should not is never-ending. After all, these left and right tilt in any polity date back to many centuries. The US has just proposed the federal budget with spending of over USD 6 trillion. The left media will portray it as a win for the general public, and by contrast, the right-wing media will criticize the high debt-to-GDP ratio besides explaining how it will negatively impact the general public in the long run.

The same international media is even more deeply divided when it comes to reporting India’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. From lockdowns to shortages – that is not India-specific but a global scenario – everything is being criticized heavily by the left-wing media. But that is how it is, and that is how it will be, despite data and its extrapolation being utterly misleading and prejudiced. International media, which sidelined all important events to report on the sensationalist Gates divorce story, has a lot of other sensible and truly journalistic things to do. For example, are there any vested interests that are influencing the acceptance and later rejection of a particular drug or vaccine from a certain manufacturer? At the ground level, are government officials allowing unrestricted flow of government aid to affected people? Many lapses exist at micro levels, but the media’s indifference is not letting truth come out in the open.

Rationality calls for a little sense; it calls for looking at the wider picture and then reaching an informed conclusion, one that is truthful and unprejudiced.

(The article Rebuttal to the International Press on India’s handling of Covid-19 published in ‘Organiser’)

Is Enough Being Done To Fight Economic Offences?

The fight against economic offences is still on, and the results are there to see, both in droves and trickles. There has been no letup in India government’s concerted efforts to cleanse the system for ensuring a bigger turnout of the fraudsters and defaulters to face the punishment and pay up.

The Central government in our country is perpetually at war against economic offences, year in and year out. At no point of time can it rest on its laurels even after having apprehended a large number of offenders in many big and small offences. Economic offences are committed ceaselessly somewhere or the other by individuals or well-established gangs. The instigating forces behind these unlawful acts are the base human emotions of greed and avarice. 

The probability factor of a non-existent fool-proof system gives rise to the surfacing of the human weakness to make money on the sly. The situation is made worse when officials, big or small, who form links in the government’s chain of command, succumb to the lure of money or other temptations or fall prey to threats and render the chain weak. The malady of human weakness afflicts equally the political figures in command of the campaigns and the members of the judiciary.  

Stringent Punishments Needed

Unlike in the totalitarian nations like China, where they have a zero-tolerance policy against crimes such as corruption or smuggling and also award summary execution, the system in India lacks stringent punishments. While this may speak well of the democratic system of governance and the high degree of human rights we have, ample leeway is allowed to the accused to get away from punishment in the absence of eyewitnesses or conclusive evidence. 

Both the public as well as the honest and upright officials do become dejected and even frustrated when a big-time offender goes scot-free, thanks to his money and muscle power. Consequently, the government can only win battles in the present system, with a victory in the war barely discernible in the distant horizon. The chinks in the armour are capable of making a cynic wonder if the war has actually been lost even before its commencement. 

The system is far from perfect but is not entirely bereft of honest political leaders with impeccable integrity and upright officials whose loyalty is beyond reproach. It would, of course, help if the rules are made stringent enough to enable handing out exemplary punishments to the offenders. The term economic offences bring within its ambit a wide range of unlawful acts of commission and omission relating to financial transactions. It includes seemingly simple acts of financial impropriety carried out in one’s daily life due to lack of knowledge of rules and goes on to cover deliberate acts of subversion of the nation’s security.

In simple terms, it all boils down to tax evasion and black money. The term black money does not just mean the vast sums of money stashed away in the overseas tax havens but all the money that is unaccounted and on which tax has not been paid. It includes the small amounts of money that change hands without proper receipts in market places, money generated by bribery, real estate transactions and drug peddling as well as the vast sums generated by smuggling, gun-running and human trafficking, just to name a few. Here, we are not even talking about the counterfeit currency notes printed by the enemies of the nation, although it definitely qualifies to be termed as black money.

Fight on Foreign Turf

In the backdrop of the above being the nature of the offences and the constraints faced by our country, the BJP-led NDA government lost no time in swinging into action to unearth and bring the black money home as soon as it assumed power in 2014. Among the earliest decisions the Union government took on its first day in office was to institute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for this purpose. The SIT was mandated to probe into all the cases of black money. At that point of time, the Swiss authorities had revealed that the black money held by Indians in Switzerland amounted to US$2 billion.

In February 2012, Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had stated that the black money held by Indians in Switzerland and other overseas tax havens was around US$500 billion. However, in March 2018, the government disclosed that this estimated amount had swelled to Rs 300 lakh crore or US$1.25 trillion. That is more than 100 per cent appreciation in black money in a 6-year period! Bilateral agreements were entered into with countries for sharing of information regarding huge deposits of money in foreign banks. 

Fight on the Home Front

Furthermore, the Union government has pulled out all the stops to unearth black money within our country. In a daring move to bring black money into the banking system, the NDA government announced in 2016, demonetisation of all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes, which then accounted for 86% of the total currencies in circulation. As a follow-up, the Income Tax Department came up with lists of people depositing huge sums in bank accounts in the post-demonetisation period. 

Subsequently, more than 1.5 lakh cases were selected for scrutiny by the Income Tax Department wherein large deposits were made into various banks across the country by depositors who could not explain the corresponding sources of income. Due to demonetisation, the scourge of fake currency notes that were circulating in the Indian economy also took a big hit. Moreover, demonetization, with the help of digitalization, even managed to bring down the value of banknotes in circulation by Rs 2.93 lakh crore. 

Meanwhile, the vengeful Pakistan government, which had allowed the printing of counterfeit Indian currency notes on its soil to be smuggled into India for financing its terror operations in the Kashmir valley, also suffered a massive blow. A huge cache of Rs 7 lakh crore of fake currencies printed in Pakistan, which the Islamic nation had planned to circulate in India, reportedly became worthless overnight. Thus, India struck rich with the demonetisation move! 

Our Central government had also announced a window for taxpayers to make a one-time declaration of their undisclosed assets abroad. Separately, two more windows were provided for taxpayers to declare concealed income. All these opportunities were availed of by taxpayers who came clean with over Rs 76,000 crore of undisclosed wealth and unaccounted income. 

The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act and General Anti-Avoidance Rules, as well as the Double-Taxation Avoidance Agreement, entered into with Mauritius, have provided the existing rules with more teeth to combat black money and money laundering. As a result of the NDA government’s invigorated drive to boost its anti-black money operations, the number of people who filed Income Tax Returns, saw an increase of 16 per cent in 2017-18 over the previous year. 

Pay Up Time The fight against economic offences is still on, and the results are there to see, both in droves and trickles. There has been no letup in India government’s concerted efforts to cleanse the system for ensuring a bigger turnout of the fraudsters and defaulters to face the punishment and pay up. The heat is being kept on with the big time offenders who have fled the shores of India after defaulting on their massive bank loans. It is a question of time before the chickens come home to roost!

(The article “Is Enough Being Done To Fight Economic Offences?” published in “Business World”)

The Aftermath Of India’s Economic Offensive Against China

With its official notification of April this year which mandates that all countries, sharing a land border with India, would now face scrutiny before foreign direct investments (FDIs) are allowed, the Government of India has sent a strong political message to China.

The whole world has become wary of the prospects of their firms being taken over by China with its infusion of money in their slowing down economy and faulty products in their market. India is no exception. With its official notification of April this year which mandates that all countries, sharing a land border with India, would now face scrutiny before foreign direct investments (FDIs) are allowed, the Government of India has sent a strong political message to China.

Why the Economic Offensive

A clarion call for making the nation self-reliant was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12 while unveiling the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Although the call came in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic-related economic package, the subsequent developments, which led to the economic offensive against China, have borne out the truth that the call for self-reliance has much to do with many other regional and international influences as well. 

The Indian economy was going through a tailspin last year on account of a downswing, which was primarily due to China’s trade wars with the US. After that, when the Covid-19 virus struck, our nation’s economy suffered a body blow. India is one of the countries that has been severely affected by the pandemic. Apart from the heavy toll on human lives, industrial units came to a standstill, and production levels fell. Thousands of jobs were lost, pushing the affected people to poverty levels. This resulted in the dislocation of thousands of people from urban to rural areas.

The government was hard put to extend a helping hand to the suffering millions with relief measures. It was compelled to divert precious resources meant for the other sectors to the health sector. Then came the unkindest cut of them all when China attacked the Indian troops in the Galwan Valley. To make matters worse, China was found to have been indulging in anti-Indian activities in collaboration with some corrupt political elements in our country. Meanwhile, there is no dearth of the prophets of doom who wax eloquent about how by boycotting China on the economic front, India stands to lose more than China. 

Our country does not nurture any illusion of the Chinese economy totally crumbling under the Indian boycott. Territorial integrity or economy, India has stood up to China and convinced the latter that it wouldn’t acquiesce to any kind of pressure. Furthermore, the Middle Kingdom has been made to realise that it has not only lost India’s vast market by antagonising the latter but would also end up as the biggest Covid-19 loser due to the global boomerang effect to the pandemic.

Foreign Investments

By emphasising that foreign investments and technology are welcome, our Union government has clarified that self-reliance does not mean cutting off or isolating the Indian economy from the rest of the world. So, India’s goal of self-sufficiency will actually translate into ensuring a bigger and more important role for it in the global economy. Meanwhile, India was quick to clear the way for welcoming those companies from Europe, the US and East Asia, which are moving out their production facilities from China in the wake of the pandemic. 

Japan, the US and South Korea have expressed interest in relocating their businesses from China to India. These three countries are among the top twelve trading partners of India, with a total bilateral trade of US$180 billion. India is reported to be working on developing a land pool of about 462,000 hectares in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to facilitate the shifting of companies from China. This land area is double the size of Luxembourg. 

Our Central government is focusing on select sectors such as electronics, electricals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, medical devices, heavy engineering, solar equipment, chemicals and textiles as the focus areas for FDIs. This calls for a whole lot of exercise to refurbish the existing facilities on the ground level like roads, electricity, water and other infrastructural facilities. India government is pulling out all stops to hard-sell the country as a manufacturing hub. Resultantly, 1,000 foreign firms, planning to shift manufacturing to India, are reportedly in talks with authorities at different levels. 

Companies Eyeing India

At least 300 of these companies are reported to be actively pursuing production plans. Their preferred sectors are mobiles, electronics, medical devices, textiles and synthetic fabrics. India is generally considered an attractive destination by the international companies for setting up their production units due to its market size and also because it is a hub for exports in the region. Another factor that goes in favour of our nation in preference to South East Asia is the cost difference, which is in the range of 10-12 per cent.

In September 2019, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had already slashed the corporate tax to 25.17 per cent, inclusive of all surcharges and cess. The applicable tax for new manufacturers was brought down to 17 per cent, the lowest in South East Asia. India is hopeful of attracting sizeable foreign investment in the manufacturing sector because of the reduced tax rate and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

In a bid to attract foreign investors, Uttar Pradesh was among the pioneering states to announce reforms in its labour laws. The UP government has exempted industries in the state from all labour laws for the next three years except for the following: (1) Building and Other Construction Workers Act, (2) Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, (3) Workmen Compensation Act; and (4) Bonded Labour Act.

Companies, including big names from logistics, scientific instrumentation, electronic, automobile industries, which already have investments in China and are planning to shift out of that country, are being wooed by the UP government by making changes in its industrial and sectoral policy. According to media reports, over 100 American companies and several South Korean companies have evinced interest in moving their factories to UP.

Japan has announced US$2 billion in financial aid for its companies to enable them to shift their production base out of China. Many more nations could follow Japan, which is expected to benefit India. The Madhya Pradesh government has not lagged behind and has announced a slew of radical measures to liberalise its labour and industrial laws to welcome foreign investors. With India’s Prime Minister calling out for “respect to wealth creators”, it is just a question of time before the other BJP-ruled states fall in line to ameliorate the conditions for foreign investment by cutting out the flab in the relevant laws.

Right Choice

The US, European countries, Japan and Korea, are definitely moving their firms out of China. The chances of these firms relocating to India are very high. With its vast market potential and as it is also an export hub, India is a great alternative location. The political stability, democratic governance and the rule of law that India is known for, combined with its willingness to roll out the required facilities, offer a very congenial industrial and business climate that the international community, which is profoundly disenchanted with China, is looking for.

(The article “The Aftermath Of India’s Economic Offensive Against China” published in “Business World”)

Does Anti-Hindu Secularism Call For A Review?

The Central government needs to take up India’s anti-Hindu Secularism for review to address the apprehensions of the Hindus across the country.

In its days of glory, the landmass of Hindustan had included several of its neighbouring countries with which it is currently sharing borders, to form a homogenous culture. It is home to the Sanatana Dharma and its offshoots of indigenous bodies of eternal religious faith. A unique system of spiritual and religious affinity prevailed among its people who freely moved around and intermingled with each other without any acrimony or animosity. Such an impressive socio-religious-cultural scene strode across a vast area spanning from today’s Pakistan on the West to Myanmar in the East as well as to the Hindu Khush mountain on the North to Sri Lanka on the South, transcending the countless kingdoms in-between.

What was unique about this one-of-a-kind phenomenon was that it was not enforced or imposed on the inhabitants of various communities by the sword or political compulsion. It was a natural and spontaneous outcome of the unity of thought and practices made possible by a mutual appreciation of each other’s right to worship. Religions from abroad that made their way to the shores of Hindustan were embraced with open arms. Those religions were either subsumed by Sanatana Dharma or allowed to take root and grow in Hindustan. There never was any kind of persecution of people on the basis of religion. Nor had there ever been a war waged by a ruler from Hindustan on the outside world in the name of religion. Atheists and agnostics were not discriminated against either.

Gilding a Lily?

Barring about a thousand-year period of subjugation by Islamic invaders and European colonial powers, the people of Hindustan enjoyed a commendable period of religious freedom and communal harmony unheard of in the Western hemisphere. As regards Secularism as a State policy, whoever had heard of gilding a lily? 

Communalism and Partition

However, dark clouds of communal strife collected on the horizon on the eve of the country’s freedom. The country was partitioned in the name of religion. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had thus far been part of the freedom movement, chose to align with the Muslim community who he claimed were not safe alongside a majority Hindu community in independent India. He aggressively pushed for the partition of India. A strategically planned attack on non-Muslims was choreographed, which resulted in the killing and perpetration of other atrocities involving several thousands of hapless victims on both sides and destruction of property on a scale unmatched in living memory.

While Jinnah aligned with the Muslims, the Hindus and minority communities of free India were left unrepresented by a leader of stature to espouse their cause. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi chose to play neutral and even tilted the boat by supporting the cause of the newly-formed nation of Muslims. The other leaders of the Congress party were too engrossed in sharing the spoils of independence to champion the cause of the Hindus and other minority communities in Pakistan. The Indian leadership lacked vision and failed to strike a bargain with Pakistan for the mutual exchange of Hindus and other minority communities stranded in Pakistan with the Muslim community that chose to stay behind in India. 

Failure of Indian Leadership

The failure of the then Indian leadership (read MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru) left the Hindus and other religious minority communities vulnerable to religious persecution in an enemy country that has vowed time and again to dismember India into fragments. Till the BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014, granting Indian citizenship to the religiously-persecuted minorities fleeing Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had not been a priority redressal measure for the Indian government. This pathetic state of affairs went on for so long that apart from causing untold human misery, the strength of our own people stranded in Pakistan and Bangladesh drastically dwindled over a period of time. 

Even now, with the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act by the Parliament to help out the victims of religious persecution of minority communities, we see sections of the Muslim community, safely ensconced in India, quibbling over the Act on communal grounds, indulging in hate politics and protesting against the government. No sooner had the protest started than it degraded into an anti-India campaign. In this dubious anti-national exercise, the trouble-makers enjoy the support of the frustrated Opposition parties, urban Naxals and other break-India forces including enemies from across the border. 

Threats of another partition and subversive action against the Indian State and the government are voiced, making the protestors’ ulterior motive abundantly clear. The government is hard put to contain the trouble without prejudice to the law-abiding sections of the Muslim community. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits by the Islamic insurgents on the payroll of Pakistan was but a fallout of the dense concentration of the Muslim community languishing under the false notions of ownership of territory and religious superiority.  

Anti-Hindu Secularism

State interference in the running of Hindu temples and endless litigations over matters of temple administration have resulted in a trust deficit in the government among the Hindu community over the years. Juxtaposed to the rancour and acrimony felt by the Hindus toward the partisan treatment meted out to them by the State in the name of Secularism, the Muslim community has been enjoying uninterrupted freedom to manage the running of its places of worship and  educational institutions.  Besides, the Muslims are the beneficiaries of the Sharia-based Muslim personal law in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance rights, etc. 

The benefits of preferential treatment accruing to the Muslim community under the garb of Secularism is in stark contrast to the constrictions and unfair treatment suffered by the Hindus. Furthermore, there are reports of an exponential increase in the Muslim population vis-a-vis a relatively stagnant Hindu population. Muslims who are allowed to practise polygamy, are exhorted by their clerics to have more and more children and increase their community’s population contrary to the State’s small family norms that the Hindus willingly adopt. Hindus could not be blamed for worrying about the lopsided demographic changes likely to emerge and their fear of getting reduced to minorities in a couple of decades. The question of the relevance of Secularism as a State policy has been engaging the mind of the Hindus who are convinced that they have been given a short shrift. 

The Central government, therefore, needs to take up India’s anti-Hindu Secularism for review to address the apprehensions of the Hindus across the country. All said and done, Secularism is not an ingrained part of the Constitution envisaged by the founding fathers of our nation. It is only an appendage, as the term ‘secular’ was added as an afterthought, to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by a doddering Congress government in 1976. Stripped of its frills, Secularism stands reduced in realpolitik to a mere gimmick of minority appeasement. The only meaningful alternative to declaring India a Hindu nation would be to make Secularism non-partisan in effect by putting the majority and minority communities on equal footing and making nationalism take precedence over religious supremacy. Anything short of that would be political myopia and injustice to the long-suffering Hindu community.

(The article “Does Anti-Hindu Secularism Call For A Review?” published in “Business World”)

The challenges to ‘Secularism’ and the need to implement NRC to preserve it

The most serious challenge to Secularism springs from the ignorance of the silent majority of the Hindus about the impending probability of their becoming a minority community in their own country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not participate in the Bhumi Pujan ceremony of the Ram Mandir construction at Ayodhya. And the State-owned national broadcaster Door Darshan must not telecast the live proceedings of the ceremony. Both the acts would be violative of the spirit of Secularism that is the guiding principle of the government, enshrined in the Constitution.

These were the vituperative outpourings of the raving and ranting Muslim Opposition and the leftists who were not, in any case, agreeable to the very idea of the construction of the Ram Mandir in the first place.

This is a classic example of how the anti-Hindu Opposition manipulates every issue by introducing a communal twist to it. Be it the enactment of a law, or its implementation, every move by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is applied to the touchstone of the Secularism doctrine. Even earlier, some opposition parties had employed the same tactic to sabotage the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

It derided the Act as a BJP ploy to brand Muslims as infiltrators or illegal immigrants and throw them out of the country as part of their purported communal agenda. Under the ruse of peaceful protest meetings and rallies, they orchestrated violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims, which claimed several lives and caused large-scale destruction of public and private property. Vast amounts of money smuggled from across the border were used to fund extensive chaos and anarchy.

Government Maligned

After instigating communal clashes in Delhi, the political Opposition went to town deriding the Union government for its alleged failure to maintain law, order and overall peace. The biggest loser in the bargain was communal amity. Though the insidious act of the Opposition to create a sectarian divide between the Hindus and the Muslims has been successfully thwarted for the present, there is no denying the fact that the threat to communal harmony persists.

Enemy Factor

Fighting communalism is no more an issue restricted to the different communities on the one hand and the government on the other. There are some external agencies involved. These agencies are interested in seeing the creation of more and more theocratic states like Pakistan and Bangladesh in place of a strong and secular India. Our nation’s enemies are hoping to achieve their end-goal by instigating one community against another and creating a religious divide between the communities.

The following window provides a sneak preview into the magnitude of the problem:

  • The intelligence agencies had already got leads into the sources of funds pumped into the country to sabotage the implementation of the CAA. The National Investigating Agency (NIA), which is probing the international gold smuggling racket in Kerala, has revealed that the sale proceeds of the smuggled gold were meant to be utilised for financing terrorist operations and anti-national activities such as anti-CAA protests.
  • The secret financial dealings of the Congress party with the Chinese government, which have been recently exposed, are currently under probe. Money is seldom received for no good reason and thus, suspicion of what was done in exchange for this money has been raised by several people.
  • If the available intelligence reports are anything to go by, several places of worship of the Muslims and Christians and the educational institutions run by them have become dens of radicalisation and conversion activities.

Acts of War

The real threat is to the communal harmony and not to Secularism, which the anti-Hindu governments of the past that spoke of ‘Saffron Terrorism’ used as a fig leaf to cover their shame. The days of the soft options like spreading awareness among the public regarding the evils of communalism and the perils faced by Secularism are over. Now is the time for the enemies of the State to be weeded out. Being a State policy, threats posed to Secularism should be treated as acts of war against the State. 

The enemies of the nation are working overtime in the mainstream and social media for the subversion of the State. Gross abuse of the right to free expression is rampant. The degeneration of the mainstream and social media, which are public forums for the exchange of ideas, thoughts and useful information into a platform for the nefarious activities of the anti-nationals needs to be arrested forthwith. 

Urgent Steps Needed

Unfortunately, the most serious challenge to Secularism springs from the ignorance of the silent majority of the Hindus about the impending probability of their becoming a minority community in their own country. They seem to be indifferent to the irrefutable truth that Secularism is safe in this land only so long as the Hindus remain the majority community. 

The day the Hindus become a religious minority in India, their eventual decimation would become a matter of time as it happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh. One does not even have to look too further away for the repercussions of a state where Hindus cease to be a majority. Even a cursory look at the history of Kashmir would show the consequences.

To make matters worse, the TFR (Total Fertility Rate) of Hindus is nowhere near compared to the Muslim community. Which only means that the Hindu community, in numbers, is growing at a much slower pace. Furthermore, both these Abrahamic faiths practise conversion without any check by the local governing bodies or the state governments. The NDA government should, therefore, implement the CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and also impose a strict ban on conversions.

(The article “The challenges to ‘Secularism’ and the need to implement NRC to preserve it” published in ‘OpIndia’)

India’s Post-COVID Priorities

Prioritisation of the tasks ahead is imperative, and their implementation should be taken up with a benign attitude to ensure that no issue is left out or excluded. And that by itself is no mean task!

While the onslaught of Covid-19 and the frenetic activity it generated are behind us, India should lose no time in getting ready for the great leap forward. Our country should resist the temptation to continue to bat for a regional role in the future events of a virus outbreak or similar exigencies that would call for emergency redressal measures on a global scale. It should make up for the lost time and forcefully bid for global leadership in the new world order, as it has been aspiring for that role since long.

This would call for the globalisation of its heretofore regional leadership initiatives like SAARC and Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program, which is restricted to developing countries. It will enable the much-needed sharing of information and assistance among the countries across the world. India stands to benefit from its participation in the global endeavour to collectively address issues that challenge humanity or threaten the stability of the world order.

Nation Building

While India is gearing up to play a more crucial role, we, the people, should not shy away from addressing the immediate task of nation-building. Only a powerful India would be in a position to measure up to the expectations of other nations across the world. The external threat to our country’s territorial integrity is among the foremost of the problems that are crying for a lasting solution. Enough lives, territories and resources have already been lost. The longer it takes to find a permanent solution to India’s border problems with its neighbouring countries, higher the cost our nation will have to pay in terms of the adverse impact on the morale of its citizens and loss of resources.

Heartening indeed was the experience to witness the entire nation rising like one man to stand behind the Central government to take on the external enemy during the latter’s recent incursions into eastern Ladakh. The goodwill of the people should not be allowed to dissipate. Furthermore, the strength and resolve of the armed forces should be bolstered by providing them with the much-needed wherewithal. To the credit of the nation’s current leadership, the ignominy of our soldiers fighting in summer clothes, with paltry firepower, on high altitudes in bone-chilling cold and returning home in body bags is now a thing of the past.

Moreover, the Indian Army has already been given a free hand to take on the enemy without having to look over their shoulder for clearance from a doddering political leadership, lacking empathy, back home. We are now required to consolidate on the gains of the new-found morale of our armed forces, which had never been so upbeat as during their recent engagement with the Chinese Army. The Union government should pull out all the stops to upgrade the available weaponry and equipment, befitting the stature of a modern professional Army. 

The Narendra Modi government is indeed seized of the matter and is not allowing the bitching and bickering of the political Opposition to prevent the sourcing of modern weaponry and equipment on frivolous charges and false accusations of corruption. Some of the recent deals made with friendly countries like France, the USA and Russia for defence procurement are cases in point. The Central government is also complementing its efforts in this direction by boosting the indigenous production of the defence requirements. Bridges of friendship are being built with like-minded countries like Australia to stop a hegemonic China in its tracks in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. 

‘One India’ Policy

Besides securing its borders, our country has to reaffirm to the world community about its resolve to safeguard the whole of India, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and border states like Arunachal Pradesh, which are coveted by the enemy countries. India should show its commitment to a ‘One India’ policy. This calls for a firm and resolute foreign policy, the success of which depends on diplomacy and international cooperation to end the threat of power politics of our enemy countries. The worldwide political atmosphere in the post-Covid-19 era would offer India the most congenial ambience and milieu to forge its ‘One India’ policy.

Internal Security

Of equal importance is the bolstering of the internal security mechanism. During the recent crisis period of external aggression, India took various steps such as prohibiting Chinese apps on Social Media, clamping down the import of Chinese products and shutting the door on Chinese companies like Huawei, the global service provider of information and communications technology. Now, necessary preventive measures to forestall the breach of cybersecurity should also be put in place. 

Tracking the Enemy Within

Sensational disclosures of the Congress Party entering into an MoU with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and receiving substantial sums of funds from the Chinese government through its Embassy and some Chinese companies in India for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation during the UPA rule have come to light. The first family of the Congress Party has been accused of receiving undue hospitality from the Chinese government. The matter is currently under probe by an inter-ministerial committee. The nature of the allegations could not be any more serious.

The possibility of the involvement of the Sonia Gandhi family and the erstwhile UPA government in the violation of national security cannot be ruled out. There is also an accusation against the UPA government that it was planning, under external pressure, to surrender the Siachin glaciers to Pakistan. There is already a panoply of allegations regarding the UPA government’s complicity in the many scams and scandals rampant during its 10-year rule. The investigation of these scams and scandals has to be swiftly carried forward to its logical conclusion both for the sake of natural justice as well as for restoring people’s faith in democracy and the rule of law. The NDA government should not be found wanting in expediting legal action in these matters. 

Expelling Infiltrators

Illegal immigrants who have found shelter in some states which are ruled by anti-BJP political parties should not be allowed any further leeway. The Union government should forge ahead with implementing CAA and NRC and ensure the expulsion of the infiltrators. This is a matter of absolute urgency. The time that has already lapsed on account of lack of political will on the part of the erstwhile UPA government and the anti-BJP parties in some of the states has caused irreparable damage to our nation’s resources as well as to the law and order situation in the country.

Boosting Economic Growth

The Indian economy, which has been on a downswing, has to be put back on the growth path as early as possible. It will send the right signals to foreign companies contemplating to shift their operations to India. Rehabilitation of the farmers, traders, SME owners as well as those who have lost their jobs due to the closure of industrial units, needs to be taken up on a war footing. Last but not least, prioritisation of the tasks ahead is imperative, and their implementation should be taken up with a benign attitude to ensure that no issue is left out or excluded. And that by itself is no mean task!

(The article India’s Post-COVID Priorities” published in “Business World”)

A saga of mistakes: Misadventures and policy fiascos of Congress governments of the past

The laundry list of several other goof-ups involving the Congress governments is practically endless, including the numerous terror attacks carried out by Pakistani terror outfits like LeT, JeM, etc in the Indian heartland, and the dastardly attack on the Indian Parliament, to name a few.

Even as the Indian National Congress (INC) inherited, by default, the reins of power from the British in 1947, it went about making mistake after mistake. The combined weight of these mistakes has resulted in the party ending up in the political doghouse.

The first mistake it committed was allowing Jawaharlal Nehru to become Prime Minister instead of its own choice of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The party acquiesced to the whims of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who backed Nehru. It displayed a lack of political sagacity by failing to keep in its fold patriotic freedom fighters like Subhas Chandra Bose.

In fact, Bose had to resign from the post of the Party President due to the manipulations by MK Gandhi and his coterie in the Congress Working Committee. After that, Boseformed an independent party by the name The Forward Block and fought for India’s freedom from outside the Congress umbrella. This was the second mistake. The third mistake was allowing Nehru’s daughter to succeed him, thereby paving the way for the perpetuation of a family rule. The party has lost all its credibility after being bogged down under far too many scams and scandals. Now, there is no tall leader to steer it clear of the impending disaster. 

Inept and Inefficient Leadership

Be that as it may, during its 55-year long rule, the Congress governments suffered from inept and inefficient leadership. In matters of foreign and defence policies, the Congress leadership was notorious for not taking a nation-centric stance. Nehru was, in particular, given to flights of fancy and romantic visions about India and its neighbours.

He believed in his ability to trade-off magnanimity with peace from neighbouring states. Instead of winning wars with belligerent neighbours and keeping India’s territorial integrity intact, he kept seeking admiration and accolade of the international community with his lofty speeches and platitudes for peace.  

Army in Disarray

He even questioned the need for an Army for a peace-loving nation like India. The Army was neglected, and the leadership of the armed forces denigrated. There was the meddling of political leadership in the armed forces, and sycophancy was promoted. There was no procurement of weapons or equipment. The Army was rocked by corruption scandals. Shockingly, during those days India’s intelligence services were in a shambles. 

Foreign Policy Fiasco

Nehru’s ceaseless espousal of non-alignment had no traction in international politics. With all his talk about peaceful co-existence between nations and the Non-Aligned Movement in a bi-polar world, Nehru wanted to make a mark for himself as a statesman par excellence. In the bargain, India’s foreign policy was left in tatters. He was busy sending members of his family and coterie as Ambassadors abroad more to promote his image than to win friends for India. One of Nehru’s biggest foreign policy blunders was his not insisting on a One-India policy in return for the One-China policy that he readily agreed to.


When the Pakistani marauders invaded Kashmir in 1947, the Indian Army successfully repelled and pushed them back at the request of Maharaja Hari Singh, who was willing to accede his State to India. Instead of insisting on its unequivocal accession, the Nehru government granted the State special status under Article 370 of the Constitution. The grand gesture backfired, and Kashmir became a nest of vipers, where anti-nationals of all hues and shades and terrorists took sanctuary. When the Indian forces were on the verge of a complete victory, Nehru needlessly appealed to the UNSC and went for a ceasefire.

This was both unnecessary and uncalled for. Now, only 55% of Kashmir is with India. To make matters more confounded, Pakistan ceded some territories of the occupied Kashmir to China! Nehru crowned his mistakes with an offer of a plebiscite on Kashmir in the UN. Apart from lack of sound judgment, these actions betray a muddled-up mindset and a lack of imagination and the perils of distancing oneself from the ground reality vis-a-vis a hostile neighbour. The Congress governments, which succeeded the Nehru-led government, never displayed any sign of lessons learnt from past mistakes. 

We have had several wars, conflicts and military stand-offs with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism during the Congress rule without any conclusive resolution of the problems. This was primarily because every time India’s action was in the nature of a knee-jerk reaction, and there was a lack of political will and defence preparedness. Subsequent to the ceasefire at the end of the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Agreement. In terms of the Agreement, India returned the Haji Pir Pass, which had been won from Pakistan. All that Pakistan did to reciprocate was to promise an end to the hostilities. It did not even keep this promise. This dealt a heavy blow to our diplomacy.

Similarly, the Simla Agreement that we had with Pakistan at the end of the 1971 war that culminated in the liberation of Bangladesh brought to the fore another bungling at the negotiating table by our political leadership. The Agreement called for, among other things, the exchange of POWs between the two countries. Whereas India returned all the 96,000 Pakistani POWs, Pakistan reneged on its commitment and returned only 617 Indian POWs, holding back 54, who are still languishing in Pakistani jails, if alive. This was an unimaginable fiasco after a splendidly fought war. The sheen of the military victory was lost to the muddle headedness of the political leadership of the day.


The India-China war of 1962 was an unmitigated disaster that brought India to its knees. Apart from being caught totally unprepared, our Army was in no shape to fight, with hardly the necessary weapons and equipment available. India had to seek help and aid from other countries. This was the same China in whose favour Nehru had sacrificed Indian candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. India has ever since been unsuccessfully lobbying for the seat, with China vetoing India’s nomination, year after year. All this could have been avoided with a little pragmatism and farsightedness on the part of Nehru. 

In the aftermath of the recent Chinese attack in the Galwan Valley in Tibet, an inter-ministerial probe into a sensational exposure about an alleged nexus between Congress and the Chinese Communist Party has been instituted by the government. The allegations range from the signing of an MoU between the two parties in Beijing in 2008 to the acceptance of large sums of money and favours by Congress from the Chinese government. The veracity of the allegations and the extent of damage caused to our nation will determine the future of Congress Party. 

In the aftermath of the recent Chinese attack in the Galwan Valley in Tibet, an inter-ministerial probe into a sensational exposure about an alleged nexus between Congress and the Chinese Communist Party has been instituted by the government. The allegations range from the signing of an MoU between the two parties in Beijing in 2008 to the acceptance of large sums of money and favours by Congress from the Chinese government. The veracity of the allegations and the extent of damage caused to our nation will determine the future of Congress Party. 

(The article “A saga of mistakes: Misadventures and policy fiascos of Congress governments of the past” published in ‘OpIndia’)

China versus Rest of the World

It is evident that China is fast losing friends, besides the US, in Europe too. With its expansionist agenda becoming more and more pronounced, it is a question of time before China is totally cut off from the international community and gets branded a pariah state.

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Is it possible for someone to “gang up” against a group? Though it may be perceived as impossible, yet that is precisely what is happening in today’s global scenario. A single country has practically ganged up against the rest of the world! Despite being the second biggest world economy, it has been noted for blatantly practising unethical means, including war, to secure its end goal of establishing unchallenged supremacy in global politics. This rogue communist country believes that no price is too high nor any means too unethical to reach the seat of commandeering the world affairs. Seen through the prism of international perceptions, it could, therefore, be truthfully stated without an iota of prejudice that China has verily achieved the mission impossible.

All Time Low in Relations

China has already hit an all-time low in international relations. The litany of charges by the peace-loving free world against China is practically endless: human-rights violations, ruthlessly suppressing political dissension, ethnic cleansing, refusing civil liberties to the people of Hong Kong, rejecting Tibetans’ right to self-determination, coveting an independent Taiwan, grabbing by force swathes of territories from unwary neighbouring countries and laying claims on places and areas that are part of established nations. Furthermore, China has also been bullying and lording over the South China Sea and the East China Sea where it has made many a territorial claim, openly supporting international terrorist groups by extending financial assistance and weapons and training them to subvert the stability of nations like India, which are competing with it in the economic sphere.

In addition to the above, China has been single-handedly responsible for bringing about the global economy to a near collapse. The coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in China and its worldwide spread was the trigger point. More than the outbreak of the pandemic, it was the mishandling of the killer virus in ground zero that turned the world against China. The rogue nation’s secretive ways of concealing the truth about the origin of the virus and its audacious refusal to cooperate with the other countries to reach the heart of the problem in order to come up with a cure clinched the issue.It became more and more apparent with the passing of time that there was much steam in the conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was man-made with the intention of using it as a weapon against the prevailing world order. It was obvious that the Chinese world view was grossly at variance with the existing world order. It is no wonder, therefore, that the world is seeking to establish a new world order where there would be a distinct delineation of China’s place in the international affairs in the post-Covid-19 era. Suffice it to say that China has painted itself to a corner.

It needs to be seen as to how long can a friendless China sustain its economy before it succumbs to the combined pressure by a realigned and fast-emerging new world order in the post-Covid-19 era.

US-China Relations

In the past, the US and China were engaged in disputes focussed on trade imbalance and the technology front that triggered trade wars, with the fallout of escalation of tariffs. Now they are fighting on more fronts ranging from the origin of the novel coronavirus to Hong Kong to the South China Sea to race for supremacy in the military and artificial intelligence field. Earlier, the US had special arrangements for preferential financial treatment for Hong Kong. Now with the tightening of the Chinese control over Hong Kong, the US position of special arrangements is becoming opaque, if not downright murky.

International experts have expressed concern over fears that the US-China relations are in for the darkest chapter yet. The US has accused China of stealing intellectual property and violating tariff and subsidies set down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the World Trade Organization. It has staked a claim for retribution against China for the disastrous consequences to its economy caused by the pandemic. Several countries have joined the US in making similar claims.

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Trade analysts and political observers believe that China may prefer the re-election of President Trump over former Vice President Joe Biden. The re-election of Trump is likely to be followed by more bluster, threats and higher tariffs, whereas the election of Biden may throw up uncertain times ahead. President Trump is known to have sent in the past his traditional European allies into a tailspin by openly criticising them with his America First policy. However, he may still be expected to carry their support in the matter of arraigning China for recalcitrance.


Japan has disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea and Ryuku Islands and the Air Defence Identification Zone and the Exclusive Economic Zone in the East China Sea. In the wake of the Galwan Valley incident precipitated by China, Japan has initiated a legal process to change the legal status of the Senkaku Islands. This, together with Japan’s participation in the Quad talks with the US, India and Australia, has angered China.

Japan has expressed concern over the recent sighting of a submarine, suspected to be Chinese, close to the Japanese territorial waters. It has also spoken about the need to raise awareness about China’s intentions and capabilities, citing references to China’s actions in Hong Kong and the South China Sea and military action along the India-China border in Tibet. In the given circumstances, Japan is considering the acquisition of pre-emptive capabilities to strike down anti-missile launchers.


Britain’s relations with China started deteriorating when the former offered the political dissidents in Hong Kong citizenship rights following the Chinese clampdown on Hong Kong. The relationship took a further hit when Britain joined the chorus for a free international probe into the origin of the novel coronavirus. Britain has since banned the Chinese tech giant Huawei from bidding for expansion of the 5G network. China has warned of repercussions. Meanwhile, Britain is bracing for a crippling cyberattack as happened in Australia recently.


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has recently stated that the increasing influence of China in geopolitics has led to a shift in the global balance of power. He has also warned that China was coming ever closer to Europe’s doorstep, which must be fought together by the NATO allies. It is evident that China is fast losing friends, besides the US, in Europe too. Already in the diplomatic doghouse of many a country, China’s sole lifeline in international relations is dependent on its economic and trade ties. With its expansionist agenda becoming more and more pronounced, it is a question of time before China is totally cut off from the international community and gets branded a pariah state.

Stretched to Tether’s End

Besides the growing political dissension among the intelligentsia, divisive fissiparous tendencies within CCP coming to the fore and secessionist forces waiting to break away from the stranglehold of the totalitarian regime, China is facing a new threat. How long can a friendless China sustain its economy before it succumbs to the combined pressure by a realigned and fast-emerging new world order in the post-Covid-19 era is a moot point that now demands serious consideration.

(The article China versus Rest of the World” published in ‘Organiser’)

India-China Face-off in Ladakh and the nexus between CCP and Congress

The Congress-CCP nexus and the proximity of the Congress first family to top Chinese leadership do not add up to any good for our country. Unfortunately for the CCP, the Congress Party is not in power currently

India has learnt the hard way that there is much more to a war than a flare-up of hostilities and shootouts between two nations at the border. The face-off between India and China in Ladakh seemed to be only a diversionary tactic by the Chinese leadership to tighten its grip on the military-political structure of the state. However, from the developments that have recently unfolded, it is obvious that there has long been a deep-rooted evil design hatched to destabilise India, which was perceived as posing a serious challenge to China’s aspiration for regional superiority and global dominance.

Motivation – Trouble at Home

Despite the seemingly strong grip that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is having on the country, China is quite unstable. There is a growing sense of disaffection and disenchantment toward the establishment on the part of the civil society. The disastrous handling of the Covid-19 crisis by President Xi Jinping has weakened his position both among the people and the party. Voices of protest by doctors, scientists, scholars and students are increasingly heard. 

Western intelligence and media reports point to CCP being faction-ridden. Jiang Zemin of the Shanghai faction and Hu Jintao of the Beijing faction are at the vanguard of the dissenting factions, waiting to upstage Xi Jinping. There is a likelihood of secession, that too by seven provinces of the country, wanting to establish themselves as independent nations. Although all these look a long shot at present, snowballing momentum of political developments point towards cracks in the establishment and a stark possibility of a breakdown of the Middle Kingdom in the near future.

Low Hanging Fruit Option

One of the few options available to President Xi Jinping for tightening his hold on the power structure is to score political points by launching a few successful military campaigns. Being in command of the world’s biggest standing army throws open the opportunity to wage a war at will on beleaguered neighbouring countries that are preoccupied with tackling the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic on top of a slowing-down economy. Although China has kept theatres of war open on many fronts, what better place to start with than India, which has been found on several occasions in the past a lame-duck military target? 

India has, however, never been more prepared for a war than now. The Indian Army has never been more upbeat, what with the country having acquired in the recent past modern weaponry, equipment and the full backing and support of a stable and strong government. It has been long since the nation bade farewell to non-alignment and embarked on the path of pragmatism in pursuing reinvigorated foreign and defence policies not only in its self-interest but also in the interests of regional peace. The Narendra Modi-led NDA government has been vigorously pursuing the path of building up bridges of friendship with like-minded nations facing a common threat from China.

Resultantly, a closer understanding has been reached with countries like the US, Japan and Australia in giving shape to a Quadrilateral Defence Alliance for keeping an aggressive China at bay in the South China and East China Seas. Military pacts have been signed with Australia for the maintenance of peace in the Indo-Pacific Ocean region. India is no more a pushover that China was accustomed to bullying in the past. So, now China feels the need to subvert India’s stability by orchestrating a political upheaval.

Sinister Game Plan

Even as India-China face-off in Ladakh was staring our nation in the face, how the territorial integrity of India had been traded off in the past by some unscrupulous elements for pecuniary gains came to light. The Congress Party started criticizing the Modi government vehemently and accusing it of soft-pedalling the issue allegedly in connivance with the Chinese government to the detriment of our nation and its Army. Given the prompt action taken by the Union government in empowering and permitting the Army to thwart Chinese aggression effectively, the Congress Party’s flagrant and despicable anti-government stance was clearly incomprehensible.

Why such a vitriolic attack on the Central government when practically the whole nation was behind it? Why attribute motives and demoralise the Army? Was it merely a cheap political gimmick for the sake of opposing the ruling party? Or was it the tip of a more sinister gameplan to jeopardise India’s security and integrity? Fortunately, skeletons started tumbling fast out of the Congress closet. The nation woke up one fine morning to see the photograph of Rahul Gandhi signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Wang Jiarui, Minister of the International Department of Central Committee of the CCP in the presence of Sonia Gandhi and the then Vice President Xi Jinping in 2008.  

Conspicuous by his absence at the signing ceremony that took place in the Great People’s Hall in Beijing was then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Till the photograph was leaked by the BJP to the mainstream media, our nation had no information about this development. Nor are the details of the MoU known even now. The MoU was allegedly about exchanging information and promoting exchanges at every level. What does it all boil down to? Were India’s secrets shared with China? What was the extent of the damage caused to our nation?

It would be pertinent to recall that during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), all important government documents found their way to Sonia Gandhi, who was the de facto Prime Minister. How come the UPA rule provided level playing field to extrajudicial authorities, namely Sonia and Rahul Gandhi? On several more occasions, Gandhi family members were seen enjoying the hospitality of CCP – like during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and their secret meetings at the Chinese Embassy in 2017 during the Doklam crisis.

Furthermore, when Rahul Gandhi visited Kailash Mansarovar in 2018, the Chinese Ambassador was present when Rahul departed from Delhi. To make matters more confounded, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, in which Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are members, received vast amounts of funds from the CCP through Chinese Embassy in Delhi as well as from Chinese companies in India. What were the services rendered? A probe by an inter-ministerial committee has been ordered by India government to investigate into the matter. The Congress-CCP nexus and the proximity of the Congress first family to top Chinese leadership do not add up to any good for our country. Unfortunately for the CCP, the Congress Party is not in power currently. But the Congress Party is still striving to discredit Prime Minister Narendra Modi at any cost and sneak back, as power brokers, to the cosy comfort of CCP’s largesse. If the sacrifices by our soldiers and the territorial integrity of our nation were to be damned in the process, so be it. That seems to be the gameplan of the Congress Party. Meanwhile, the international community’s litany of charges against China now includes one more dark and grave exposé – infiltrating the government of a friendly country and plotting to subvert its stability by bribery and other unethical means.

(The article “India-China Face-off in Ladakh and the nexus between CCP and Congress” published in ‘OpIndia’)

Time To Review Or Abrogate Article 30 Of Indian Constitution

Abrogation of Article 30 of the Constitution is a vital move in the State’s war against the fundamentalists used as a cat’s paw by Pakistan and the other external enemies to destroy our nation.

There is no other country in the world like India, where millions of people practising different religions live in near-perfect communal harmony. No doubt, there have been occasional ripples in the still waters of communal amity. There is, however, peace and quiet by and large. How has this been feasible? This is primarily because the Constitution guarantees one and all the fundamental right of freedom to worship and practise a religion of one’s choice.

Tolerant Hindu Community
More importantly, the majority Hindu community has, to its credit, been ever so tolerant, in keeping with its ethos of Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava or equality of the end goal of all the religions. At the time of the country’s partition, the majority community was at the receiving end of fire and brimstone from the hardcore elements of the Islamic community who demanded a separate homeland for Muslims. Unfortunately, even after migrating to the newly-founded Pakistan, the hawks did not relent and pursued their anti-Hindu agenda. They consolidated their hatred for India and went about systematically targeting the minority communities of Indian origin in their own country.

Having succeeded in nearly decimating the target groups, they shifted focus to fomenting trouble in India. How they planted, bred and nurtured hatred for Hindus in the mind of the gullible sections of the Indian Muslims that resulted in the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Hindus from Kashmir is history. There have been flashpoints of communal strife in parts of the nation during the rule of Congress and their allies. Furthermore, infiltrating Jihadi elements and agents of the Islamic State, who were on the Ghazwa-e-Hind mission, resorted to brainwashing and converting frustrated Indian youth to the Break-India cause.

Hindu Community Let Down
Hinduism was maligned by pseudo-seculars, and there was even a baseless theory of Saffron Terror floated by the then Home Minister of the erstwhile UPA government. Tukde Tukde gangs started appearing and spouting venom against the Indian nation and its sacred signs and symbols like the national flag, national anthem, etc. These ragtag anti-national groups have been working overtime to make misguided students turn hostile to the very concept of patriotism. They received support in no small measure from partisan and communal elements among the intelligentsia, failed artists, pseudo-secular and liberal political elements as well as sold-out sections of the mainstream media (MSM). Pakistan was slowly and steadily making headway in its nefarious design of destroying communal harmony in India.

Trouble Ahoy!

An instance of the academia turning to stoke communal fires was recently witnessed when troublemakers used the sanctum of a seat of higher learning – the Jamia Milia University in Delhi – to attack police personnel and unwary bystanders and destroy public and private property during the anti-CAA protests by Muslim women and children with a sprinkling of non-Muslim supporters at Shaheen Bagh. From the pro-Pakistan slogans raised, it was evident that the protestors had the blessings and active support of Pakistan.

Trouble spread to North East Delhi where communal elements tried to bring the life of the local residents to a standstill. When pro-CAA residents tried to resist the trouble makers, the latter resorted to pre-planned violent attacks. There were random killings, brutal murders, arson and wanton destruction of property. All this was done on the pretext of the Muslim community feeling insecure and being targeted by the majority community over the new citizenship law. Inflammatory speeches were made by communal leaders about an alleged conspiracy by the BJP to victimise the minorities through legislative measures and turn the nation into a Hindu Rashtra. Evidently, there were Pakistani footprints all over.

Majority Response
The peace-loving majority across India are in no mood to allow communal passions to spread. They don’t want an imbalance in the majority-minority equation or demography. Nor do they want a free rein by blood-thirsty separatist mobs on the lines of partition. The sane elements in the minority community have been trying hard to prevail over the zealots with little or no avail. So, now it is for the government to act. Our nation has been a mute witness to instances of rabid Muslim clerics and advocates of extremist political ideology spouting poison through speeches exhorting their herd to rebel, revolt and fight for another Pakistan. Unruly behaviour and violent activities have become the norm on Fridays after mass prayers.

Places of worship are being turned into training grounds of a militant mindset in the name of service to their own religion to be rewarded with lucrative enticements in paradise. The immature and the gullible who are soft in the head fall prey to these manoeuvres. The places of mass congregation of the minorities and their religious schools also serve as meeting points and hiding places of militants and terrorists who are on the run. Although intelligence outfits and security agencies get credible tip-offs of anti-national activities, a police raid of these places becomes well-nigh impossible in the absence of ironclad proof or evidence because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

Constitutional Guarantee Misused
Article 30 of the Indian Constitution upholds the right of the minority religious groups to establish and organise educational institutions. Religious education is imparted in these institutions, which are funded by dubious sources. There are reports of brainwashing of youngsters who are taught in the name of religion to hate and convert Hindus through whichever means possible. Young women become easy prey of the foot soldiers of love jihad and are trafficked to war-torn areas in the Middle East to be pushed into sex slavery. Young men are radicalised and talked into joining and serving IS either within the country or at the theatres of war like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

Abrogation Necessary
Hence, there is a strong case for the abrogation of Article 30, which is being misused by the minority communities to poison young minds in the educational institutions run by them. An aggressive militant agenda is pursued in these institutions to push the cause of Abrahamic faiths, promote proselytisation and love jihad and other anti-Hindu activities. Hindu children studying in these institutions are effectively turned against their own religion. Peace-loving people all over the country are becoming more and more restive over the separatist agenda of the fundamentalist elements in the name of religion.

So, it is high time that the Central government formulated a muscular policy to deal with the issue of communalism and its inevitable fallout. It makes no sense to allow the minority communities to promote anti-Hindu religious propaganda in the educational institutions run by them when children of the majority Hindu community are denied basic religious education in the absence of their own community school or elsewhere in the name of Secularism. This causes a reprehensible imbalance of equation between the communities. Abrogation of Article 30 of the Constitution is a vital move in the State’s war against the fundamentalists used as a cat’s paw by Pakistan and the other external enemies to destroy our nation.

(The article “Time To Review Or Abrogate Article 30 Of Indian Constitution” published in “Business World”)

अवैध मुस्लिम बांग्लादेशी घुसपैठियों से भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा को खतरा

(The article “अवैध मुस्लिम बांग्लादेशी घुसपैठियों से भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा को खतरा” published in UP Dainik Bhaskar, June 28, 2020)

Illegal Muslim Immigrants from Bangladesh Pose a Serious Threat to India’s Internal Security

Illegal Immigrantion is a ticking time bomb of serious demographic changes and communal clashes in India, as proved by the recent anti-CAA protests across the country. Massive illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh is a precursor to the strident demand for a separate Muslim State.

Independent India has seldom seen such tough situations as it is currently experiencing. While being engaged in an all-out war against the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic downturn, our nation also faces a threat on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China over Ladakh. Meanwhile, Nepal’s recent aggressive posturing over its borders with India has only added cause for concern. Furthermore, Pakistan continues to be as irksome and annoying a neighbour as it has always been. 

As such, India is required to mobilise all its resources to emerge victorious on all these fronts. This is indeed an unenviable situation for a nation, aspiring to emerge as a key player in the fast-evolving new global order. Aside from the challenges enumerated above, what ails India the most? It is the ticking time bomb of serious demographic changes and communal clashes, precursors to a strident demand for a separate Muslim State likely given the massive illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh. 

Threat to Internal Stability 

The illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh infiltrate into India either to create trouble for our country or for employment opportunities. In either case, they are not welcome and are subject to apprehension and deportation. This is provided for in the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was legislated by the Indian Parliament soon after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and before the outbreak of Covid-19. Frustrated Opposition parties like the Congress Party, Indian Union Muslims League (IUML), Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) ganged up to scuttle the legislation which had already successfully cruised the legislative process in the Parliament. 

For the sake of their political survival by appeasing the Muslims community, the Opposition parties tried to settle scores with the BJP, on the road after failing in the Parliament. Their nefarious mission was readily supported by anti-national elements like the jihadis and die-hard clergy as well as Urban Naxals, Break-India gangs, unprincipled Bollywood celebrities, and other enemies of democracy of all hues and shades. Muslim women, young students and children were misfed wrong information and brainwashed into believing that they would be deported from India on some technical grounds or some other reason such as non-availability of a citizenship document or their inability to supply information about their parentage, etc. 

They were provoked into becoming foot-soldiers of a movement of street protests and vociferous rallies, drawn out on narrow communal lines. Such misguided people were even paid a daily allowance to make their time spent in raising slogans and giving vent to emotional outpourings and vituperative attacks against the government, the BJP and the RSS, worth the while. Soundbites of women expressing grief and agony over the perceived injustice brought upon them by the CAA were telecast and given wide publicity to enlist wider public support at home and sympathy abroad.

Counter Measures  

To counter the canards spread and the false propaganda orchestrated, the Modi-led NDA government repeatedly asserted its position that not a single bonafide Indian citizen would come to grief because of CAA or any earlier legislation or the ones to be enacted in the future. At the same time, the Union government has been unequivocal about segregating the chaff from the grain. The illegal immigrants unlawfully staying in India will be apprehended and deported as per the law of the land. 

Despite the huge uproar at various flashpoints in different parts of our country, including the national capital that had the dubious privilege of witnessing communal clashes which claimed quite a few lives, including those of some security officials, and damage to public and private property, the government has not relented in implementing the CAA. This kind of political unrest, instigated and orchestrated by the anti-national elements is an unfortunate reminder of the humongous human tragedy of unmatched proportions, which had marked the partition of the country in 1947. 

It is also a sad forewarning to possible recurrences of such tragedies if the demands of the protestors, nay their paymasters, were not met. It is noteworthy that the slogans raised in the anti-CAA protests included a demand for a separate Muslim country on the lines of Pakistan. It is redundant to state that a large number of Muslims in India is peace-loving and is inimical to damaging either the harmonious social fabric or territorial integrity of the nation.

Nevertheless, the fact that the recent incidents pointed towards a growing number of anti-nationals rallying around enemies of democracy to cause irreparable damage to the nation cannot be ruled out. From where did the anti-nationals spring? India has always had its fair share of hardcore Communists and Urban Naxals that propagate in favour of a people’s revolt against the establishment in the name of class struggle. Additionally, we have been witnessing the emergence of die-hard jihadi elements that are active in recruiting new entrants to the cause of Ghazwa-e-Hind, the ultimate Islamic conquest of India. 

In States like Kerala, ruled by the Communist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, with a strong Islamic movement enjoying the state patronage, and the nearby States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, a section of the youth is successfully brainwashed and turned into becoming the foot soldiers of the Pan-Islamic movement. In the rest of the country too, die-hard clergy take over the propagation of the dubious cause among the Muslims who live in self-imposed isolation. 

Add to the above, the thousands of illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, that are happy to join the nefarious cadre, for a pittance and assured-stay in India. The resultant rag-tag grouping of anti-nationals is a highly explosive cocktail, waiting for a signal from their paymasters to foment communal trouble, capable of breaking the nation. In some Indian states, especially in the northeast, illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh add up to such a disproportionately large number that the locals feel overwhelmed by these outsiders. 

According to a written reply by Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs tabled in Rajya Sabha in 2016, around 20 million illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are staying in India. They are spread practically all over India, like Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Delhi, Maharashtra, Telengana, etc, working as cheap labour in factories and other commercial establishments and as household servants. It is not possible to have their precise State-wide distribution, as per the MoS. 

Go Back They Must 

Given their appearance, they easily merge with the local populace. In the absence of authentic travel documents like Passport, and other bonafide documents like Aadhar Card, Driving Licence, PAN Card, Ration Card or Voter’s Identity Card, it is practically impossible to pin them down to their nationality. But a large number of them manage, as has been noted, to obtain fake documents for a price from corrupt officials in non-BJP-ruled States. However, the Central government is determined to weed them out by implementing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across all the Indian states. 

Although it is a long haul, the BJP is committed to identifying the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and deporting them, no matter how arduous the exercise. Although there is stiff resistance to this move by some Opposition parties like the Congress, the CPI(M) and the TMC, the NDA government is bent upon seeing the exercise through as it is a must for the very survival of our country. There can be no compromise when it comes to fighting an existential crisis.

(The article “Illegal Muslim Immigrants from Bangladesh Pose a Serious Threat to India’s Internal Security” published in ‘Organiser’)

Will Covid-19 Global Tragedy Spell the Death of Communism?

China’s unbridled hegemonistic ambition has led to its landing in the doghouse in the new world order. As the epicentre of one of the greatest threats to humanity, Communism is likely to fall apart under its own weight.

Communism is on borrowed time. Its epitaph has long been ready. It is already discredited throughout the world. History has witnessed its ignominious downfall in several countries where its writ once ran large with impunity. Bastion after bastion of Communism crumbled and crashed into the oblivion of history and the statues of its high priests were unceremoniously pulled down the pedestal much to the delight of the cheering crowds of onlookers. Not because it failed to deliver but because it miserably failed even to take off.

All these happened within less than a century of its appearance on the political horizon as a bright star of hope. Communism has been well and truly exposed for what it always stood for – an antiquated political system wherein one human is as good as another, both mere humanoid in the scheme of things of the system. There is no room for human sentiments, religion, spirituality, love for land, or attachment to a value system in preference to the party ideology. Communism is a vast wintry wilderness where no life form of political or humanitarian aspiration can grow.

Bare-Face of Communism

The ugly, soft underbelly of Communism reveals that it is enforceable only by brute power, with no people’s will or popular support required to prop it up. No opposition from any external political forces or dissent from within is brooked. Power springs from the barrel of the gun. Human lives are an expendable commodity – nothing more, nothing less. However, the eternal truth is that power can never be exercised for long over freethinking people by external forces.

A long-oppressed people in the erstwhile Russian empire ruled by the Czars by divine right or the Serbs of its East European hinterland could, no doubt, be easily won over by the charm and appeal of a refreshingly new theory that advocated an egalitarian society. There was, however, no way people could be kept under the jackboot of Communism for long, simply by being fed anti-Capitalist propaganda. The human spirit yearns for freedom and liberty, and it aspires for expression of free will even during the harshest of times.

It was exactly this indomitable spirit of humankind which had led to its experimentation with Communism as a political tool to explore the possible conversion of its aspirations into tangible results in the first place. Later, people were dismayed to discover that they had burnt their fingers with experimentation that proved too expensive and foolish. Besides, there was no way a man can be expected to give up on the cherished values and sentiments that had been held dear by humanity for so long for a few empty promises and hollow words of political sagacity by the powers that be.

The individual was neither a party to the dispensation of power, nor had he any say in the running of the state. A mere cog in the wheel in the state machinery, he was replaceable, with nary a shred of feeling or appreciation. The much-dreaded midnight knock at the door was a constant irritant in his mind. Life in a far-away concentration camp where he was forced to toil till his last breath was factored in his psyche, with no room for mercy or clemency. It was like a system where all were for the state and the state for none. You worshipped a false god that promised you no boon nor granted you a favour.

If you developed bourgeoisie virtues like love for the land, family or sentiments like individual freedom, liberty, nationalism or patriotism, then you did so at your own peril. According to Communist leaders, the Capitalist society was to be abhorred, and its symbols shunned. Their fake propaganda tried to emphasize that democracy was poppycock, not worth the paper it was written on.

The Evil Soviet Empire

In the erstwhile USSR, which was the pioneer of Communism and the front runner state and flag bearer of the state of the peasant and the proletariat, chewing gum and jeans had not even been heard of by the apparatchik. Those were only for the privileged offspring of the First Secretaries of the party. All one was expected to do was to work for the state just to get his share of stale bread and cabbage soup and go to bed on an empty stomach.

Then wake up next day and join long lines of hopeful, nay, wishful customers outside the state-run supply stores only to be greeted by rows after rows of empty shelves. Sliced bread? Sliced cheese? What was that? Crib and be reported upon. There was no room for privacy. Nor was there any scope for ventilating one’s grievances. Big Brother was watching. Such was the life of a comrade citizen in the premier Communist state.

Finally, the inherent flaws of the system started showing signs of cracking up from within. No amount of bids to wallpaper over the cracks could help the exposure of the bankruptcy of the state to sustain its security forces or the all-powerful intelligence outfit any longer. There was no question of locking the stables after the horse had bolted. Then dawned Glasnost and Perestroika! Finally, the curtains fell over the sprawling evil Soviet empire!

Whipping a Dead Horse to Life

Now, how do you re-enact elsewhere the sordid drama that had failed in Europe and Asia? It is well nigh impossible in this age and times of information revolution to try to fit people into the straightjacket of Communism. China and North Korea are the last outposts of a dreaded political system of a bygone era. China, which has thus far sustained itself on the sheer strength of brute power unleashed on its own people, is evidently a bogus Communist state. In reality, it is a Capitalist state that operates under the camouflage of Communism. It is building up its forex reserves at a furious pace and keeps accumulating assets throughout the world.

Covid-19 Will Emasculate China

So, now the question is how China will fare in the post-Covid-19 world? The global tragedy unleashed by the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the flaws in the Chinese system and the great dissent growing within the party and disaffection for Xi Ping, who is known for nurturing an unbridled ambition to continue in power beyond 2023. Western intelligence reports reveal that a revolt by at least three factions is brewing within the party and there is an imminent possibility of the disintegration of the country into seven independent states. With the development and production of the right vaccine, Covid-19 will hopefully become a thing of the past. But the question is, how will that impact Communist China’s future?

Will Beijing’s apparent success in tackling the Covid-19 virus enable China to gain global pre-eminence? Most definitely not because world’s big powers, led by the US, have already started making concerted efforts towards holding China responsible for the outbreak of the global pandemic and the consequential economic ruination of many a country. Furthermore, China hardly has a friendly country either in its neighbourhood or elsewhere on the globe. Its unbridled hegemonistic ambition has led to its landing in the doghouse in the emerging new world order, and it is now seen as the epicentre of one of the greatest threats to humanity. The tragic Covid-19 pandemic will have to go and, with it, Communism is likely to fall apart under its own weight, sooner than later.

(The article “Will Covid-19 Global Tragedy Spell the Death of Communism?”  published in ‘Organiser’)

Woman’s Empowerment And Women Protesting On The Streets

Education, awareness and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) are some of the key factors which can constitute the basis of the program necessary to bring about women’s upliftment and empowerment across the country.

Indian women have traditionally enjoyed tremendous respect and recognition in the society. Vedas and Puranas contain several verses and accounts that give us an insight into how women in ancient India were accorded the highest respect and dignity. Ramayana and Mahabharata have women of outstanding qualities and traits as principal characters. In fact, these epics are about the downfall of mighty kings who paid with their lives for committing the audacity of dishonouring women of exemplary character. Sita, Kunti, Draupadi and Savitri were some of the eminent women who led illustrious lives as empowered women in the days of yore.

There were women rishis who were held in high esteem. There are certain rituals in Sanatana Dharma, which cannot be performed by men without their wife by their side. Honouring of women of sterling character and outstanding qualities gradually triggered the practice of worshipping of women deities. The exalted status of women continued down the line in history. In royal households, there were talented women of extraordinary intelligence known for taking important decisions. Even in humble households, women were free to voice their opinions, which were factored into while making important decisions that had far-reaching implications.

Loss of Sheen
Unfortunately, the glory of the Indian woman lost its sheen over a period of time. The invasion of Bharatvarsha by alien marauders and European colonialists had a terribly adverse impact on the position of women in our society. Women, who were till then in the forefront of practically every walk of life, had to be kept under the wrap in their own interest. They had to remain anonymous to safeguard their own honour and that of their family. When the life and reputation of the people were at stake, women who constituted the driving force of successful family life and were the custodians of the culture of the land had to be protected from the enemies.

The continued practice of restricting the scope of a woman’s freedom to the sanctity of home for indefinite periods of time resulted in the permeation and crystallization of corrupt practices in Indian society. Women were heard and not seen in the public domain. They did not, however, hesitate to rise to the occasion when circumstances demanded their active role. Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi and Rani Chennamma of Kittur were classic examples of such exceptions to the rule of women keeping a low profile. Even in such a constricted atmosphere, the Indian mother vindicated her mettle by contributing to the grooming and the raising of brave men like Chhatrapati Shivaji.

During the Mughal rule and the British colonial era, the phenomenal Gurukul system of Bharat withered, which marked the extinction of our ancient formal education system. It was the women at home who took charge of the task of educating their wards from the treasure trove of religious and cultural information and knowledge. Love for the land, devotion to Dharma and service to humanity were instilled in the minds of the young men who would grow up to become brave warriors and strive to liberate their land from the clutches of the occupying forces. History is replete with instances of unsung and faceless women being the sources of inspiration for successful men.

Women Surge Ahead
The advent of Independence heralded the dawn of a new era. Women who had participated in the freedom movement were moulded in the image of the Bharatiya N?ri known for her penchant for age-old traditions and conventions, and a low profile. The post-Independence women were quick to emerge from the shadows of those of the past. The opening up of new vistas in both academic and career opportunities whetted women’s appetite for parity with men in all walks of life. Women started breaking one glass ceiling after another with a regularity and rapidity unimaginable in their mother’s time.

Emboldened by the Constitution, which not only guarantees parity between genders but even encourages positive discrimination by the State in favour of the fair sex, more and more women started making a mark for themselves in practically every public domain. Free India has had a woman Prime Minister and several women holding high offices of cabinet ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors and any number of legislators. The Narendra Modi government has displayed an avid interest and strength of conviction in implementing schemes and programs for women’s welfare such as ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ and ‘Ujjawala’.

The landmark abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A effectively brought the discrimination of the Muslim women in J&K to an end. The abolition of the reprehensible practice of Triple Talaq also brought cheer in the life of Muslim women nationwide, who had all along been subjected to discrimination in the matter of marriage and divorce. These two legislative measures were no less than a surgical strike against a historical imbalance and an injustice to women on the pretext of an unjustifiable religious practice dating back to medieval ages. Consequently, a section of Indian women who had thus far remained voiceless in free India has been empowered and set on the course of further development along with the other women of our country.

Brainwashed and Misled
A lot more good work still needs to be carried out by the BJP and the Central government for the upliftment of women who are caught in the cobwebs of ignorance and gender imbalance. Such women are not familiar with the scope, application and importance of the ambitious legislative measures already undertaken by the BJP-led NDA government or that are in the pipeline. The CAA, NPR and NRC are cases in point. The nation has been a witness to some ignorant women with a ghetto mindset being misguided and instigated to turn against the government and the State by communal elements and anti-national forces having a divisive agenda.

These women are brainwashed to believe that their religion is in danger at the hands of the Modi government, and they would be evicted from India on the basis of their religious identity. We have witnessed sit-in protests on the streets of Delhi by such groups of women since mid-December last year, which they eventually called off a few weeks back. Those protests sparked still more protests that degenerated into communal strife, claimed scores of lives and damaged public properties during acts of killings, arson and loot. A spectacle as far removed from the strides in the nation’s progress and self-development made by the truly empowered women, as it could get.

Awareness and Empowerment
Evidently, the protesting women were used as a front by the anti-India forces for creating a rift between the majority and the minority communities. The mobs, which rule the streets during communal clashes and their instigators, should not be spared. They should be dealt with as enemies of the State. The women, who play into their hands, should be debriefed by the authorities with an awareness program. This is by no means an easy task. Education, awareness and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) are some of the key factors which can constitute the basis of the program necessary to bring about women’s upliftment and empowerment across the country.

(The article “Woman’s Empowerment And Women Protesting On The Streets” published in “Business World”)

India-Iran Bilateral Relations At Crossroads

India and Iran could move on with a bit more of understanding of each other’s domestic and global political compulsions and the need to work together.

Iran has lately been hit by a double whammy of a monumental health crisis and an unsavoury turn of events in its bilateral relations with India. What makes the situation particularly awkward for Iran is its utter helplessness in tackling the crisis without help from India, which it had subjected to harsh criticism barely a month ago.

Iran Sounds the Alarm
Reeling under a severe attack by the deadly Novel Coronavirus, Iran is under lockdown. The country has reported a loss of upwards of 2,234 lives as on March 26. The figure keeps mounting, with thousands of infected people not getting medical assistance and care. Its casualty figure is the fourth highest in the world after China, Italy and Spain. A number of its senior politicians, including its First Vice President, and officials are among those infected.

With sweeping sanctions imposed by the US against the nation over its suspected nuclear program in place, the Iranian government has reported how its efforts to fight the health crisis have been severely impacted. President Hassan Ruhani has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a letter of appeal seeking India’s help in his country’s hour of distress.

India to the Fore
There is nothing surprising about the appeal. India has vindicated its acumen in the medical and scientific domains while addressing the virus problem. It has taken a swathe of proactive measures to tackle the virus outbreak in the country. Besides, it has already demonstrated its readiness to play its global leadership role by setting up a ten million dollar Emergency Fund for use by SAARC countries and a rapid response team of doctors and specialists to fight the virus in the region.

Immediately after the breaking out of the virus in Wuhan, India rushed 15 tonnes of medical supplies to China. In the case of Iran, it is noteworthy that its appeal for help comes closely on the heel of that country’s shocking criticism of India made only days earlier over the violent incidents that had rocked Delhi.

Critics in a Bind 
It was a matter of cold comfort for India that no Arab state had criticised India over the Delhi incidents, CAA or Kashmir. As such, criticism from Iran, which was a leading supplier of oil to India till sanctions were imposed, was like a bolt from the blue. Referring to the violence in Delhi, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted, “The hearts of Muslims all over the world were grieving over the massacre of Muslims in India”. Khamenei also advised India to “confront extremist Hindus and their parties and stop the massacre of Muslims to prevent India’s isolation from the  world of Islam”.

India responded in kind with a terse statement urging its critics not to make irresponsible comments and not be influenced by a selective and unsubstantiated narrative in the matter. Earlier, India had summoned the Iranian envoy in Delhi to lodge a strong protest over comments made by Foreign Minister Zarif. Ironically, the Ayatollah had stated in his letter to Prime Minister Modi that the Coronavirus “knows no boundary and claims victims without political, religious, ethnic, and racial considerations”!

A blatantly anomalous situation caused by Iran’s unsolicited advice on what was purely a matter of India’s domestic concern on the one hand and that country’s fervent appeal to India for urgent help to tackle the crisis on the other! The unintended upshot of the anomaly was Iran’s tacit acknowledgement of India’s capability in the medical and scientific domains and its humanitarian approach to the other countries in distress. Thereby, Iran clearly ended up in a bind.

Why the Criticism?
What had caused the unfortunate reaction of Iran to a matter that was purely a domestic affair of India? What were its ramifications? The Ayatollah had referred, in his tweet, to a world of Islam. Evidently, it was a takeoff on Iran’s presumptuous conviction that it was the supreme leader of the global Muslim community. In reality, however, the community spread all over the globe is riddled with schism and polarisation. Iran’s self-importance of looking upon itself as the forerunner of the Islamic countries in a world of realpolitik was further borne out by the talk of “India’s isolation from the world of Islam”. In any case, the purported massacre of Muslims was a totally baseless and misleading hype in a scenario where the victims were not from any particular community or religion.

As Home Minister Amit Shah pointed out in the Parliament, those who were killed in the disturbances were all Indians, and there was no question of segregating them into religious categories. The loss was that of the Indian nation and not of any particular faith. The composite religious culture of our country was the real victim.

To refer to the incidents as an attack on a specific community was a reprehensible attempt to belittle the timeless socio-religious ethos of India. Iran’s move aimed at asserting its self-importance as a global leader, albeit of a particular community, lacked credibility and boomeranged when India squarely dismissed the criticism.

The irony of the situation, followed by the subsequent health crisis in Iran, which caused that country’s reaching out to India for help, is borne out by the implicit acceptance of India’s global leadership by Iran, though the latter was keen to get that status for itself on fallacious grounds. On its part, India demonstrated its political commitment to the welfare of its people living not only on its own soil but also in, among other countries, Iran by repatriating the stranded Indians. Besides, it is working on the Iranian request for assistance to contain the virus outbreak.

The bilateral relations of no two countries could be without irritants and grey areas of uncertainty. India-Iran relations are no exception. Iran has always been known for its tough-as-nails decisions in matters affecting international affairs on the basis of its religious orientation. It has been critical of India’s Kashmir policy, which suits Pakistan. Stoppage of Iranian oil imports by India as a sequel to the US sanctions has not gone down well with Iran.

There was an attack in 2012 on an Israeli diplomat in India by what seemed were Iranian elements with ties to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Following the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran in Baghdad, anti-US protests, by the Iran-influenced local Shia community, broke out in Kargil and to some extent in Delhi. This shows that the Iranian influence on the Shia community in India is increasing and could become a full-blown irritant, if unchecked.

Scope for Improvement
There is, however, a silver lining to the cloud. The two sides agreed, during External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s visit to Tehran in December last year, to accelerate work on the strategic Chabahar project. The project is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade with the Central Asian nations by India, Iran and Afghanistan. Surely, India and Iran could move on with a bit more of understanding of each other’s domestic and global political compulsions and the need to work together.

(The article “India-Iran Bilateral Relations At Crossroads” published in “Business World”)

Should Active Politics Be Banned In Academia?

The modern Indian universities may be characterised as the training fields of those scholars whose ambition for the future lies in a career in politics rather than in spheres related to academics.

Universities are no new phenomenon in post-Independence India. Throughout its chequered history, India had been known for its seats of higher learning such as Nalanda and Takshashila, where a wide spectrum of subjects, ranging from Buddhism to Vedas, Philosophy, Grammar, Logic, Metaphysics, Medicine and Astronomy, was taught. There was a truly secular spirit of imparting and imbibing of knowledge. These universities offered plenty of scope for an exchange of thoughts and ideas between the teachers and the students, and also had fora for debates and discussions on religious and secular subjects. The students had different religious and cultural backgrounds, and they hailed from several countries.

They had access to an ample sphere of knowledge and vast field of reference – classrooms, well-stocked libraries and a broad spectrum of cultural ambassadors who constituted the scholars. The resultant milieu was an impressive juxtaposition of a rainbow of ideas that contributed to a unique cultural mosaic. And yet, these institutions remained just educational, absolutely free from all kinds of socio-political irritants that was capable of marring the academic environment. In today’s context, it would be very pertinent to state about these universities that they truly practised social distancing from contentious political activism.

Decline of Glory

These centres of academic excellence started declining in quality and importance when their premises were torched and scholars attacked by alien invaders. There was a disquieting interregnum of void in the continuance of institutions that imparted higher learning and Indian studies under the country’s occupation by Islamic rulers and European colonisers. In the changing environment, the society was torn asunder by a conflict between the aggressive and proselytising alien religions on the one hand and the Indian culture that had flourished under the benevolent and secular Sanatana Dharma on the other. It was an uneven fight, heavily loaded against the latter. The frenetic bid by the educational institutions to stay truthful to the secular Indian ethos and culture was a lost cause.

Impact of Alien Rule

After India obtained Independence, unfortunately for its people, the powers that be at the Centre commissioned a set of historians known for their proclivity to the Mughal and British rulers, to write the history books taught in schools and colleges. These historians made fleeting references, at best, to the brave Indian kings who had fearlessly fought the invading armies. This was a despicable act of treachery not only against the brave Indian men and women who had courageously fought to defend their motherland but also against Indian nationalism, which was sought to be obliterated by the alien invaders.

Misgovernance and Corruption

Additionally, bad foreign policy decisions and failure on the defence front led to multiple wars with neighbouring countries in which our government ceded swathes of territories to the enemy. After 60 plus years of freedom, the nation’s economy was far from satisfactory. Scams and scandals at high places rocked the nation. All this resulted in a loss of face for the nationalists who were hoping during the freedom struggle that Independence and self-rule would usher in prosperous times ahead for the nation. Much to their dismay, the minority religious groups were pampered with special concessions and privileges at the cost of Hindus, who are the original inhabitants of this nation.

Vote bank politics became the norm of the day and the chosen plank of electoral politics in the hands of unprincipled political parties. One of the primary concessions granted by the self-serving politicians to the minority religious groups was the right to run their own schools in which the respective religion of the groups was taught, and Hinduism spiked in the process. Hinduism was hampered and disabled from being taught in schools in the name of Secularism. This led to a situation that was in sharp contrast with the happy state of affairs which prevailed in the ancient Indian universities.

Training Fields of Marginal Scholars

The modern Indian universities may be characterised as the training fields of those scholars whose ambition for the future lies in a career in politics rather than in spheres related to academics. Such scholars and like-minded members of the faculty join forces with political parties fully involved in electoral politics. These elements seldom talk of a proactive role for themselves in nation-building. Instead, they come to the fore whenever some acts or events of perceived injustice incite them. Then they resort to agitations against the establishment.

Lucrative Political Career

Two such instances were over the execution of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon, both of whom were proven terrorists convicted by the Supreme Court. Protests broke out in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University over their hanging. Apparently, the protesting groups thought they knew better than the apex court of our country! In the JNU protests over the hanging of Afzal Guru, a students group tried to carry out a protest march despite the cancellation of permission granted earlier by the university authorities. They were opposed by another students group which attempted to thwart the rally. Ugly scenes ensued. Outsiders who were neither students nor had anything to do with the varsity were spotted at the march.

Furthermore, inflammatory speeches were made, break-India slogans, as well as statements praising the terrorists, were raised and Pakistani flags waved. Protesting student leaders were arrested by the Police and cases invoking sedition laws filed. Such student leaders were and continue to be given undue prominence and publicity by the meddlesome media. All the unwarranted attention and media glare make these student leaders readily abandon their academic career in a bid to carve out a lucrative career in politics with the blessings of a bunch of political parties known for their suspicious bonafides in the context of national integrity and clean politics. On the occasion of every national and state election, such student leaders are seen campaigning against the ruling party.

When protests broke out recently against the legislation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), both JNU and AMU became hotbeds of trouble into which dissenting students and faculty members threw themselves headlong with gusto. There were unsavoury scenes created by protestors who resorted to violence both within and outside the varsity premises, thereby necessitating police action against them. The protesting students knowingly or unknowingly became a party to a larger design by some failed and disgruntled political parties in the Opposition, which want to disrupt orderly public life and hurt national interests. The student leaders allowed themselves to play into the hands of these political parties which function as handmaids of the nation’s enemy countries and jihadi elements.

Ban Imperative

Inflammatory speeches, anti-national slogans and insults heaped on the symbols of our country’s honour and integrity such as the national flag and national anthem on the varsity premises are highly despicable. The sanctity of the universities should not be allowed to be sullied or degraded for any reason whatsoever. Universities should not be permitted to become hotbeds of anti-national activities. Furthermore, as political activities vitiate the atmosphere of learning by serious-minded scholars, active politics on the university premises must be summarily banned. Only such strict measures will help reclaim their sanctity as centres of higher education and academic excellence.

(The article “Should Active Politics Be Banned In Academia?” published in “Business World”)

Degeneration Of Indian Democracy Into Anarchy

Democracy will not be allowed to degenerate into anarchy by the determined people and the Government of India. 

In a cruel twist of history, Indian Independence did not bring in its wake freedom from a prolonged sense of slavery and subjugation. What resulted at the end of a century-old back-to-back rule by bloodthirsty warlords from the Arabian and Central Asian wastelands void of culture, and European colonial rulers with a loot-and-exploit agenda was a badly-battered social and cultural fabric that cried for urgent tending. In reality, what awaited the nation was supreme indifference on the part of a smug political dispensation to the need for rejuvenation of the collective psyche of the society that had plummeted to the bottom of the pit of despondency.

People had lost their temples in the thousands as well as unquantifiable cultural treasure during alien invasions and were languishing in a mood of spiritual despair. Instead of being administered a soothing balm of solace and succour, they were told by their new masters that the factories and dams that were being built in modern India were their new houses of worship. This was, in essence, a signal from the powers that be that it was futile for the people to wistfully look back in time and hanker after their rich spiritual and cultural past.

They should, instead, brace for a sterile future marked by a materialistic and corporeal climate of development. Furthermore, the curious case of the Westminster style parliamentary democracy wedded to the Soviet-style Socialism was sold to the people as a sure-fire formula of success needed by our nascent Republic. The subsequent fiasco of Socialism vis-a-vis realpolitik in a world of geopolitical tectonic shifts proved that the political successors of the bygone colonial masters had grievously erred in the task of rebuilding the nation.

State Fails People
What had evidently been overlooked was the historical truth that the princely states and territories of the pre-Independence India had remained united by a common chord of religion and culture even before they were strung together to form the modern Indian nation. It was this unique factor which had been the underpinning of the credo of unity in diversity that was gloated over by practically every Indian politician worth his salt. What was the contribution of the State to sustain the common factor of religion and culture? Zilch.

People from all over modern Indian state and beyond in the landmasses that had earlier formed part of Akhand Bharat of the past had been getting together and congregating from time to time in the name of the unifying force of the timeless Dharma symbolised by the temples. This was equally true for the ones that were destroyed by the alien invaders as well as the others that survived the onslaught.

The modern Indian state did not, however, deem it fit to take pro-active steps to strengthen this unifying force of our divergent society. Nor did it facilitate the task of the resurrection of the destroyed temples by the Hindu community on its own without the state’s participation or intervention, by mobilising its own resources. On the other hand, the State only impeded the majority Hindu community’s claim of its due space in the social and cultural domain aimed at reclaiming its past glory.

Pandering to the Minority
Successive governments pandered to the minority communities and turned their back on the majority Hindus. All this happened in the name of Secularism, which was added to the Constitution as an afterthought in the 1970s by the then Congress government under Indira Gandhi. The Hindu community’s inability to resist the machinations of the unprincipled and power-hungry political parties that camouflaged themselves under Secularism caused it a loss of more and more political ground and clout. This development gave way to more and more assertion and dominance by the minority communities both at the macro and micro level politics of the country.
They enjoyed privileges and benefits in the form of subsidies, personal law, right to run educational institutions, etc. Another factor that tilted the balance in favour of the minority communities was the freedom of propagation of  religion which has often ended up being misused for the conversion of people to the minority communities by dubious means. Since Hinduism hardly affords any scope for conversion to its fold, the freedom to propagate religion is a redundant and meaningless exercise for the Hindus.

In such a heavily overloaded political atmosphere, pseudo-Secularism practised by successive pro-minority governments that had preceded the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, ruled the roost. The hardcore elements of the minority communities with a hidden political agenda just got more and more emboldened to the point of dictating terms to political parties and through them the government of the day.

With the ascension of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, these elements started feeling threatened. The political and social reform measures ushered in by the BJP, such as the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, abolition of the abominable medieval practice of Triple Talaq, introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), etc and the active role of the government in ending the Ramjanmabhoomi legal dispute, dealt a series of blows to the misplaced sense of superiority assumed by the hawkish minority elements.

Unholy Alliance
Besides losing much of their political power and clout, for the first time, the clergy and other hardcore minority religious elements faced the prospects of losing their hold over their flock. Furthermore, it was becoming more and more difficult for them to incite and radicalise their naive and gullible followers in the face of the government’s awareness campaign. In their tirade against a progressive government, they found allies in the jihadi elements infiltrating into the country from across the border, urban Naxals and other break-India forces.

We Shall Overcome  

The recent anti-CAA protests launched by the minority communities with the abetment of the disgruntled Opposition parties are a glaring example of an ongoing bid to subvert the political system by anti-national elements. These protests were orchestrated to undermine the upbeat mood of the nation and thwart the resurgence of nationalism. Religion was pitted against inclusive growth and development, which is the hallmark of the current political ideology that has triumphantly come to the fore in the nation’s struggle against pseudo-Secular and divisive forces.

Women and children were introduced as frontline soldiers in the protests that degenerated into flashpoints of communal riots. When humanity is struggling hard to come to grips with an existential crisis following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, communal groups with a medieval mindset are engrossed in desperate attempts to derail our Union government’s valiant bid to defuse the crisis. There is an attempt by the unholy alliance of anti-India forces to aggravate the crisis and turn it into an opportunity to strike at the territorial integrity of our nation by dividing the people on communal lines.

Nothing could be more reprehensible and alarming. Our nation is currently fighting the double whammy of the Covid-19 outbreak as well as the enemies of the State. However, we have every reason to be optimistic as India has the capability, resources and the political will to overcome the challenge and emerge stronger. Democracy will not be allowed to degenerate into anarchy by the determined people and the Government of India.

(The article “Degeneration Of Indian Democracy Into Anarchy” published in “Business World”

China’s Culpability Is Real, It’s Not China’s Criticism

Politics involves criticism, sometimes justified and sometimes unfounded. Rationality, on the other hand, involves fixing accountability. The adverse impact of COVID-19, the infectious disease that originated in the Wuhan city of China, is out in the open. Recalling a time when the world halted as it is currently is not easy. Passenger airplanes are grounded in most of the parts of the world, cities are under lockdown and the engines of economic growth- people- are confined to their homes. These are, as they are calling it in most of the debates on coronavirus, unprecedented times. The global political leadership has found a consensus on helping each other at this time of need. Indeed, this is a welcome step. But should it end here? Most importantly, should a country or agency, directly responsible for such vast spread of COVID-19 owing to its intention or negligence, escape retribution?

The world is an open society today. Borders have diminished, thanks to the globalization wave. We in India have at least one product in every household that comes from Chinese factories. The US and Europe is dependent on pharma goods shipped from India. In such a scenario, where every country is profiting from export of goods and services, any lapses on the part of any constituent of this global supply chain must be brought to book. Data suggest China is the top supplier to India, US, European nations and many other regions. The king of global supply chain is in fact the one that disturbed the flow. And the disruption has been such that the global economy is staring at a recession that is set to upset lives of people across the world.

Is China’s culpability a mere conspiracy theory?

One can easily disregard China’s guilt in fueling the spread of coronavirus as a figment of imagination of overenthusiastic conspiracy theorists. This, however, will not serve any purpose. Consider this. Hundred Chinese scholars have written an open letter decrying ‘politicization’ of coronavirus pandemic. They have stated that China, like other countries, is a ‘victim’ of virus and countries must cooperate than point finger on someone. China’s crackdown on activists and human rights lawyers is in the news and we shall discuss this later in this article. The need for these hundred scholars to persuade the international media, political leadership and civil society to change course arose as things are becoming increasing upsetting for China.

Taiwan, the island state over which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or China claims sovereignty, had in as early as December 2019 warned the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the ‘suspected human-to-human virus transmission’ having originated in China. Of course, China was quick to deplore this revelation, however, Taiwan countered by bringing in the public the document that it shared with WHO. This single piece of evidence can be enough to bring China as a party in the International Court and begin a comprehensive and unprejudiced trial over the blameworthiness of the communist nation. President Donald Trump has unequivocally stressed upon the need of investigating both China and WHO for their role in coronavirus becoming a global crisis from being a local outbreak.

In this light, we have to understand that China’s culpability is to be determined with respect to whether the country could have acted in the desired manner so as to save the global society and economy from such widespread disorder. Nobody here is suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic finds its origin in release of a biological weapon gas that was being readied in any Chinese laboratory. What is rather being suggested is that the global community has to act responsibly to fix accountability and reach to the bottom of the allegations that are coming from reliable sources.

What are these voices?

That China has been under one-party rule since decades is a subject that has drawn praise and criticism from various quarters. The phenomenal economic growth of the country under communist rule has been attributed to centralized control of country’s affairs. As a rule, the common man steers clear of having any opinion on the standards of governance, let alone any condemnation of Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of Communist Party of China. But all this could not silence voices of a long list of critics who have advocated for greater transparency in China’s political affairs. Let’s know how these voices have laid bare the guilt of China in plunging the international community into darkness. Li Zehua is one name in this list.

A former employee of the Chinese state-owned broadcaster CCTV, Li, began reporting facts about the Chinese politics in 2018 through his channel, Disobedience TV. A proponent of free speech, Li, has suddenly disappeared from the scene, thanks to his demand for an investigation into the coronavirus crisis. Li went to Wuhan and was regularly urging the youth to stand up to the might of the CPC before he discovered that ‘two large guys’ were at his door. Since then he is missing.

The most prominent name in the list is that of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was one of the first responders to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and then turned into a whistleblower to let the world at large know how China inflicted all the pain by downplaying the emergency. Wenliang was employed with the Wuhan Central Hospital and understood in the very beginning that the infection wasn’t any regular flu but was pretty similar to SARS. It was on December 30, 2019 that Li had shared his concerns over various forums regarding likely resurgence of SARS. Had his warning been heeded at the higher levels, the pandemic would have been nipped in the bud. But Chinese authorities acted in their usual manner and charged the young doctor with ‘making false comments’. The charges are akin to inciting the public and the police arrived at his door to warn him. Li eventually lost his life only a month after this. He is said to have contracted the disease while working in the hospital.

Another university student, Zhang Wenbin, who was highly critical of the communist party, has also gone missing. In his video, Zhang demanded that Xi Jinping must resign from his office. He cited many of the CPC failures in governance and talked at length about his gradual disenchantment with the party owing to how the government was silencing democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan. There is a growing chorus of voices that have demanded his release as he is believed to be in detention.

The UN and China

The United Nations had a big and definitive role to play in the current state of affairs. WHO, a specialized agency of UN, is also under scanner for its siding with the Chinese authorities instead of responding to the outbreak of a deadly disease in an unbiased manner. The agency, which was expected to be proactive in its role as a first responder to such calamities, was barely active before January 24, 2020 when it duly acknowledged human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. Countries including India had spurred into action much before March 11 when WHO recognized the disease as a pandemic. The guiding force that was being looked upto by various countries, both developed and developing, was literally siding away with China in delaying a targeted, wide-ranging action plan to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Consider this now. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has remained outspoken on how minorities’ interests are being sidelined in many parts of the world, has not voiced his opinion on the treatment of Uighur Muslim population of China. There have been many ground reports from reliable news outlets on how this section of population is being confined to camps and their human rights being violated by the Chinese administration and ground level authorities. In the wake of what has happened and citing WHO’s failure in its response to COVID-19 pandemic, US President Trump has announced that his country’s financial contribution to this agency has been halted.

A Case for China’s culpability

Unambiguously, there is a strong case against China. And this cannot be marginalized as any ‘conspiracy theory’. The supplier of a variety of goods to all other countries, whose factories have now shifted to mass producing face masks and sanitisers, cannot and should not be spared of a legitimate enquiry. Where are the activists and rights lawyers who have gone missing in China after having questioned the government’s role? Was the WHO, advertently or inadvertently, siding with China’s stance on the spread of coronavirus beyond the borders of the communist nation? Should disruption in global supply chain not be attributed to China’s inaction during the early phase of outbreak? Who shall be held accountable for a looming danger of many countries plunging back into poverty and losing any socio-economic gains made in past decades?

The US, European countries and other players including India, Japan and South Korea have much to deliberate. At this present time, all countries are battling the spread of the deadly virus and are left with little room to initiate any comprehensive inquiry into the role of China in making a local outbreak a global pandemic. Once the dust settles, they have to forge an alliance and hold the culprit accountable for its misdeeds. Rationality so demands.

PS: There is little data to this day about any link between the outbreak of n-coronavirus in Wuhan and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) that is in close proximity to the seafood market of the city. It is for this reason why it will be premature and superficial to discuss this. Yet, President Trump has been talking much about this lately and an interesting development is The Washington Post’s revelations based on info acquired from diplomatic cables. It says that diplomats had warned the US about safety concerns at WIV. That the lab was undertaking research on bats and it could likely result into a SARS-like pandemic was also indicated by these officials. More comprehensive information on this is awaited, and hence this can be debated at length later.

(The article “China’s Culpability Is Real, It’s Not China’s Criticism” published in “Business World”)

Governance and Innovations amidst Crises

Old order changes yielding place to new. Transition periods of the old order to a new one form the cradle of crises. It is during a crisis that one feels the need to innovate and reinvent himself. A chrysalis does not remain within the cocoon for long but undergoes a metamorphosis during the course of its short life before turning into a butterfly. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, crises throw up motivating circumstances that produce the essential drivers to innovate. A crisis brings value addition to life by shoring up a critical mass of transformation from a state of complacency.

Modi government has been battling coronavirus with proactive steps since January

Governance and Innovations

With the ouster of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the induction of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, our country entered a critical phase of political scenario that experienced a complete change inside-out. The new government had two priority issues clamouring for immediate attention – terrorism and black money. The only alternative available to the government was to willingly become a victim of policy paralysis like the previous government; this would entail allowing its tenure to run its course without the issues being addressed.

True to the axiom that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, the Modi government got cracking on the threat of terrorism and the scourge of black money to get them out of the way. Several Indians and institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have had to their credit innovations in the past. However, no single individual or agency has managed to innovate for the betterment of the society or progress of the nation more than the current government.

Demonetisation – Disruptive Policy Innovation

Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D Subbarao had very aptly termed the BJP-led NDA government’s decision to demonetise high-value currency notes from the economy as the “most disruptive policy innovation since 1991 economic reforms”. By introducing the very bold innovative idea of Demonetisation, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes that amounted to nearly 87% of the total banknotes in circulation were made invalid. Smuggling of counterfeit currencies from across the border abruptly ceased. The government turned off the taps of terror-financing made through hawala transactions.

This struck at the very roots of terror operations, stone-pelting and protest rallies orchestrated in the Kashmir valley with an alarming frequency for years on end, bringing them to a complete halt. The move also dealt a body blow to subversive operations by the Naxals and Maoists in other parts of our country sitting on piles of stolen and extortion money. Furthermore, Demonitisation brought to a virtual halt the reprehensible role of black money in elections. It also inflicted a major blow on some of the political parties and the dubious forces behind them which were sitting on heaps of unaccounted money. This, in turn, brought about transparency in politics and marked the beginning of an end to the flagrant use of money power that was the mainstay of corruption in public life.

Other Innovative Policies

The Central government had several more innovative ideas that were translated into people-friendly schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, the building of adequate numbers of public toilets and toilets for girl students in schools, Namami Gange project, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, etc. These were not schemes on the lines of a host of welfare schemes that the previous non-BJP governments had been launching from time to time that either remained on the blueprint or ended up as corruption-breeding scams or scandals.

Instead, these were schemes based on issues which had never been addressed in the past and hence were termed as innovative. The implementation of these schemes and other government projects is strictly followed, and the progress monitored at both micro and macro levels by the Prime Minister himself through periodical video conferencing with both the political leadership and official representatives at the State level. A hands-on Prime Minister at the top of the schemes and policies, with innovation as the USP!

At the socio-political level, the government has enacted, to its credit, innovative laws. Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution were abrogated, and the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir converted into two Union Territories. This changed the power play in the nation’s Kashmir policy not only internally but also concerning the nation’s relations with Pakistan. A dire warning had already been issued to that country by means of a bold surgical strike.

India implements the strictest lockdown in combatting Coronavirus, scores 100 in a Stringency Index by University of Oxford

On the conclusion of the Ram Janmabhoomi court case, the Union government moved in quickly to initiate the construction process of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. Abolition of the odious practise of Triple Talaq was enacted into law. The Citizenship Amendment Act was also swiftly passed. In all these matters, the government painstakingly stayed the course of legislation and legality without succumbing to the temptation of short-circuiting the due processes. How all these actions and measures qualify to be termed innovations in the face of crises could be understood by an appreciation of the grim situation faced by the BJP before the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Necessity is the Mother of Innovation

Although the court had acquitted Narendra Modi in the case against him over the Gujarat riots of 2002, his rivals had mounted a vilification campaign against him and questioned his moral authority to be in power. Likewise, even though the allegations against him and his government over the Rafael procurement deal had been summarily dismissed by the court, his tormentors won’t stop slinging mud at him. The character assassination of Modi had reached such a crescendo that but for his track record as a performer first at the State level and then at the national level, the layman would have swallowed the baseless propaganda hook, line and sinker notwithstanding the verdict of the court.

In that eventuality, the BJP would have missed an excellent opportunity to form the government at the Centre. It was a life-or-death situation for Narendra Modi, the politician. There could hardly have been a more significant crisis in one’s personal or public life. In such a do-or-die case, he had to deliver. And deliver he did, and that too stupendously well. The ‘jugad’ politics of appeasement that had been the hallmark of the non-BJP regimes of the past was replaced by clean governance, transparency and accountability. This was made possible by the government’s innovative policies which were consistent with the ruling party’s action plan and in consonance with the people’s welfare and national interests.

For instance, a word of praise for India’s pioneering role in implementing changes which leapfrog women’s empowerment and equality for generations ahead has come from the United Nations itself. Ms Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director of UN Entity for Empowerment of Women, has referred to India as a crucible of new and innovative ideas and approaches, which could be shared with other developing nations for the enhancement of economic opportunities for women. While doing so, she highlighted the implementation by India of several effective measures and policies towards ensuring women’s economic empowerment such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 and the Maternity Amendment Bill 2017.

Yet Another Crisis Begging Innovation

Lately, as part of its fight against COVID-19, the government has been urging scientists, medical fraternity and the public to come up with innovations that could provide the answer to the most significant challenge faced by humankind. India will undoubtedly rise to the occasion as it has always done in the past in crises.

(The article ‘Governance and Innovations amidst Crises‘ is published in ‘Organiser’)

Fighting An Invisible Enemy Called Covid-19

Doctors recommend hand hygiene by washing hands often with soap or hand sanitizer and social distancing.

Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) is the most recent addition to a long list of death traps that humankind has stumbled onto in the course of its short sojourn on earth. Intriguingly, it is a problem of man’s own making for which a solution is yet to be found. Some of the best human brains in the medical and scientific domains are busy applying themselves to the task of inventing a cure. There is no dearth of conspiracy theories being floated in the social and the not-very-social media by busybodies to whet the appetite of an idle mind’s curiosity.

While one such theory claims Coronavirus was the result of a botched-up attempt by China to devise a biological weapon gone horribly wrong, another talks about global powers trying the virus out as a deadly means in the US-China trade war. There are also claims that pharma companies are out to make a kill with new patented drugs in the embryonic stage of invention. In the meanwhile, bulls and bears have been running amuck in the stock markets across the globe, causing the rise and fall of financial empires because of which the world economy is faltering and floundering about. Meanwhile, the overall political and financial climate is one of confusion and consternation.

International Reaction

Almost all the nations are trying their best to grapple with the problem. Countries like Italy and Spain, just to name but two, are having nationwide lockdowns. Tourist places have been cleared. The US has declared a national emergency. France has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, including restaurants, shopping complexes, cinemas and clubs. Countries like Italy and Iran have appealed for international help. Borders are closed notwithstanding the fact that viruses do not respect boundaries. On the downside of the issue, the pandemic has caused the murky side of human nature to come to the fore. Hand sanitizers and toilet paper rolls are fast disappearing from the store shelves. Apparently, there is a hoarding of the essential as well as the non-essential supplies of daily life going on.

India’s Response

India has taken proactive steps and has also set up a graded response mechanism. It has suspended most visas for a month. Non-essential travel is being discouraged. Educational institutions, malls, cinemas and swimming pools are closed. Even places of worship are either completely locked down or have scaled down their services to a thinning turnout of the devout. Trains and buses are regularly disinfected. The government is imposing restrictions on social gatherings in public places. India government’s political commitments to tackle the disease as well as its containment strategy have won international acclaim. It has already taken several initiatives such as screening the passengers at airports, seaports and border check-posts.

Strengthening of surveillance, setting up of isolation wards and quarantine facilities are on. A network of more than hundred nationwide laboratories and sample collection centres has been put in place. A buffer stock of personal protective equipment and the N95 masks for use by health workers is at hand. Awareness campaigns are being organised by the central government with the involvement of the state governments and community engagement. Health workers are trained with the support of WHO to upgrade their preparedness to tackle the pandemic.

The government on 22nd March has also allowed NABL-accredited laboratories in the country to test n-coronavirus samples. In view of the gravity of the crisis, it has been recommended that the upper ceiling for testing of samples be maintained as Rs. 4,500, which shall have a Rs. 1,500 component as screening for suspect cases and Rs. 3,000 as confirmation test charges. The government has also instructed these private labs to adhere to biosafety precautions and prefer home collection of samples. Any lab violating the guidelines will face legal action. Random sample testing has also been resorted to in order to look beyond those who have a travel history and their close contacts. This step is sure to have a far-reaching impact in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.

India has also been very quick to dispatch special flights to repatriate hundreds of its countrymen stranded in countries like China, Iran and Italy. The repatriated persons have been quarantined and made to undergo medical checkups. Prompt and timely actions initiated by the Indian government and the quality of the medical services provided across the country have been widely acclaimed. The latest instances of repatriation reiterate the government’s commitment to the safety and welfare of its nationals in whichever part of the globe they live in.

Global Leadership

India reasserted its global leadership when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced early this month the nation’s willingness to share its expertise and protocols developed to contain and fight Covid-19 with the member-countries of SAARC. India will set up an Emergency Fund with an initial corpus of US$10 million that can be used by all members of SAARC. It will also put its rapid response team of doctors and specialists on standby to be deployed across the region. India is also working on requests from Iran and Italy for help in containing the virus outbreak. It has already sent a consignment of medical equipment and supplies to China.

Indian Economy

On the economic front, the nation has both losses and gains to count. Apart from the exodus of foreign capital from the stock market, the losses are in the hospitality, entertainment, tourism, transport and service sectors. Meanwhile, the Indian economy is likely to benefit immensely from the windfall savings resulting from the global oil price war and the crash in crude prices. India also has tremendous scope to capitalize and gain if it designs an effective strategy to attract the many foreign firms which are currently fleeing China.

People’s Reaction

At the individual level, nobody is taking chances, although most of the people grudge the governmental restrictions on normal life. Some groups of people are reported to have tried in vain to resist subjecting themselves to mandatory medical checkups and quarantine on the excuse that their religious belief does not allow it. Some people who have been protesting for some time now on the streets against the recent amendment to the citizenship law are still carrying on with their protest dramas. However, it is only a question of time before the fear of the pandemic catches up, and they wind up the protests.

Despite the advice of the medical fraternity that it is not necessary for those who are not affected by the virus to wear the surgical mask, you can see every other person in public places sporting one. Hardcore meat eaters are becoming vegans or vegetarians. Authorities have warned stern action against greedy traders and businessmen who are creating an artificial scarcity of the essential medical supplies or jacking up their prices. Yoga is recommended to boost one’s resistance and immunity to the evil virus. Astrologers are coming up with predictions on when the nightmare will end. Spiritual gurus are suggesting hymns and spells, talisman and lucky charms to ward off the evil.

Doctors recommend hand hygiene by washing hands often with soap or hand sanitizer and social distancing. There are others who exhort people to participate in Gomutra (cow urine) parties, drink hot water, gargle with warm water, stay away from ice-cream and cold food to ward off the virus. Some even recommend exposure to Sun, without a scientific or medical basis to support their claim. India is believed to be passing through a stage where people testing positive have contracted it from someone affected by the virus and having a travel history. According to experts, the situation can be controlled locally.

India Fights

The layman, on his part, has taken the Prime Minister’s advice to prepare and not panic, as the credo for the occasion and is focusing on the latest health issue with single-minded devotion, having put the other bothersome mundane matters of concern on the back burner. Although the full scale of the threat by the virus is still not known, efforts are afoot globally to come up with a cure anytime soon. In the meantime, India fights with grit and determination to overcome the enemy. For instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fervent appeal for a 14-hour ‘Janta Curfew’ on March 22, urging Indians to stay indoors, received a commendable response from across the country. This self-imposed curfew broke the chain of Coronavirus infection, which in turn is expected to reduce new infections and also prevent further spread of Covid-19 in India.

The central government is also working dedicatedly with state governments and local authorities to ensure that any further lockdown in the wake of this healthcare crisis has a limited disruptive impact on the lives of all. It has been ensured that grocery stores, milk shops, medicine outlets and other services delivering essential goods and services remain accessible at all possible times. Lastly, the onus is also on the citizens of this country to turn government measures into a sure success by abiding by the instructions issued by authorities and not overlooking the basics- keeping personal hygiene and maintaining social distance.

PS: It is best to keep fake news regarding the n-coronavirus at bay. People using WhatsApp can now chat with official WHO account at +41 22 501 7615 to know what experts have to say about COVID-19. This facility in the form of ChatBot is available for all Indian-based users.

(The article “Fighting An Invisible Enemy Called Covid-19” published in “Business World”)

The Legislative Route To Social Reforms

Issues of societal importance are discussed, debated and thrashed out in the Parliament by the people’s representatives and in the public fora and the media by the people themselves.

The appeal of the axiom “All is fair in love and war”, is unassailable and its reach universal. Love and war are all about honour, pride, liberty, freedom and the indomitable human spirit, cherished all across the globe – values that enjoin victory at any cost, without prejudice to ethics and morality in life.

Peacetime is, however, a different proposition  altogether when civility is the behavioural norm and enlisting any and every means, including the dubious or questionable ones, to secure the ends is simply not admissible. In a mature democracy like ours, there is no room for pitched battles and street fights. Issues of societal importance are discussed, debated and thrashed out in the Parliament by the people’s representatives and in the public fora and the media by the people themselves.

Social Media

The role of Social Media in the resolution of issues that agitate the minds of the multitudes of faceless members of the society is immeasurable. This is especially so when the glorious days of  the Mainstream Media (MSM) have long been over; rot has set in, turning much of the MSM  into mere propaganda machines at the hands of powerful global pressure groups.

The local press barons and the media moguls succumb to the overtures of the unscrupulous international pressure groups, and they are sold out to promote fake ideological, theocratic and anti-national influences and causes. Resultantly, MSM has lost its credibility and the claim to be the mouthpiece of the masses that form the fulcrum of the society.

This has led to the emergence of Social Media as the unrivalled platform of public opinion that connects the system and the society. With the winnability of the Social Media over MSM in its claim to represent the voice of the people firmly established, Social Media is the last bastion of the right-thinking and nation-loving intelligentsia and the common man alike. It is not, however, free from squabbles and fracas, which have become commonplace occurrences of late in the exercise of venting one’s views and angst.

Mudslinging and character assassination are resorted to by anti-social and uncouth elements with the aim of intimidating the vast majority of the bonafide users of Social Media. With the easy reach and connect that the last man down the line enjoys with the top brass of the system and the senior leadership of the country, it is only a question of time before street-corner political meetings, and public demonstrations and protest marches become things of the past.

As of now, however, the ground reality is very different. The political Opposition to the Modi-led NDA government, which has been embarking on the legislation process of implementation of its electoral promises in keeping with BJP’s policies and programs, has bared its claws post the CAA-legislation. By instigating the break-India forces and flagrantly supporting them to hold protest meetings, demonstrations and marches, the Opposition has demonstrated yet again its nefarious designs and pseudo-secular approach to vote bank politics.

Inflammatory speeches provoking communal strife and exhorting anti-national elements and the gullible public to thwart the rule of law were made, heightening tension and fear among the uninformed and ill-informed members of the public. The ploys of the mercenary elements financed and supported by the spent political forces with active abetment by anti-India forces from across the border culminated in communal clashes in the capital.

Pre-planned and meticulously choreographed attacks on the unwary public and the police with stone pelting, petrol bombs and shooting with firearms were carried out. The clashes claimed scores of precious lives, including that of a policeman and an intelligence officer, burning down of houses, shops and private vehicles, and dislocation of orderly life. Surviving family members of those who were killed, those who were hurt and injured and the onlookers were traumatised.

At least four cold-blooded murders have been recorded by the police. Elsewhere in the national capital, dharnas in protest to the enactment of CAA and the proposed NPR as well as the NRC, which is still in the embryonic stage, have been held, partially paralyzing public life and the smooth flow of traffic. The restrained behaviour of the police, especially during the visit of the US President, was grossly mistaken either as a lack of principled stand on the part of the government or a purported breakdown of the law enforcement machinery.

Sinister Designs and Ploys

To attribute evil motives to the intentions and actions of a duly-elected government is to cast aspersions on its integrity. To do so is to violate the democratic spirit of governance. The success of democracy presupposes the triumph of the people’s will in all situations and circumstances. When an issue is raised in the temple of democracy, namely the Parliament, and discussed and debated by the people’s representatives from the treasury benches and the opposition ranks, it is indicative of the due process being diligently practised.

A bill duly passed by the Parliament becomes a law with the consent of the President and enjoys the distinction of marking the triumph of the people’s will. To trash a law or to rip it into pieces on the roads by a bunch of unsatisfied people spells trouble for the system. This is inadmissible, to say the least. Prior to the polls, all political parties bring out election manifestos with much fanfare.

It is these manifestos, prepared on the basis of the policies and principles of the parties, which give the voters an insight into the course of action on which the parties are expected to embark, if elected to power. In a meaningful democracy, the electorate is expected to make themselves familiar with the bonafides of the candidates contesting polls and their party’s election manifesto and judiciously exercise their franchise. Voting a party to power and expecting it not to toe its own promised course of action is both unethical and undemocratic.

Bold Initiatives

The NDA government’s bold initiatives to usher in social reforms, especially in issues affecting hapless sections of the Islamic community, have been falsely attributed to malafide intentions and an imaginary Islamophobia on the part of the government. So is the case with measures already taken and are proposed to be taken to accord refuge and nationality to the religiously-persecuted members of the minority communities in the neighbouring Islamic countries and check illegal immigration into the country.

The proposed introduction of the Uniform Civil Code will be a watershed in the Union government’s attempts to redress the grievances of the Hindu community and bring parity and justice among all religious communities. This is the kind of stuff that the nightmares of jihadists and other anti-Hindu communal elements, pseudo-secular and break-India forces are made.

Legislative Route

The Central government cannot stop short of pursuing its social reform measures through the only option available to it, namely the legislative route, in the face of opposition from the anti-national elements. Service to the nation and its citizens demands an undeterred pursuit of its goals by the ruling party and its government.

(The article The Legislative Route To Social Reforms” published in “Business World”)

Women’s Safety and Public Ire

Hardly passes a day when you sit down with a hot cup of coffee in hand in the morning to read the newspaper and don’t find the headlines screaming at you about the horrid rape of a woman. A detailed account of the gory details of the sordid act is given to make your stomach churn in revulsion. The extent to which some guys could go to violate a woman’s body in every which imaginable way and, more often than not, leave her dead body behind like a heap of rubbish shocks you and makes you tremble with rage.

You then move on to catch up with the rest of the news, much of which turns out to be practically a repeat account of the same, page after page. If you don’t read the newspaper, you still get to hear about the ghastly incidents either on the TV on return home or on your car radio while on the way to work. This experience, revisited day after day, leaves you numb with a sick feeling of morbidity and helplessness. What do you do? Leave the question of women’s safety at the doorstep of the already-overworked-authorities hamstrung by scarce resources to handle the situation, like an abandoned baby?

Woman’s Place in Society

No man is an island except metaphorically. He shares precious space, time and resources with woman on equal footing. His empathy for woman flows from the special space she occupies in his life. A world without woman is neither feasible nor thinkable. Woman’s safety is, therefore, a subject close to everyone’s heart. This is more so with the government in a civilised country like India that lays premium on woman’s safety, which is an inextricable part of human rights. What the government does for the general welfare of the woman and all its attempts to empower her doesn’t seem to add up to much when it comes to safeguarding her from the clutches of the evil forces amidst us.

Every right-thinking woman considers herself equal to man in the use of cerebral power that fuels the use of her faculties for the betterment of her own self and the society. All she expects in return is recognition of her capability and ability as an equal stakeholder, along with man, in the making of the world a better place to live in. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that no discrimination against women is factored in by the Constitution of any modern government in today’s world. Nevertheless, the basic question of ensuring her safety poses to the government too big a task fraught with prickly issues of human behaviour.

Practically every young lady, who has equipped herself with a decent education and a talent or two and the skills necessary to support herself and her family, finds herself in a quandary. She finds the need to safeguard herself against the potential rapist lurking around the corner too intimidating a burden on her gender. Is rape a cross which a woman should be prepared to carry throughout her life? This is a question that weighs heavy on the mind of every woman. Being stalked, harassed, raped or murdered is a spectre that haunts her at every stage of life.

Agitated Public

All this leads to the silent rage and frustration about the limitations of the system, which in turn has the potential to snowball and explode at some point of time into vociferous public outrage. This inevitable phenomenon is highlighted by candlelight marches and protest demonstrations in city after city aimed at the growing incidents of violence against woman. That the statistics of crimes against women in several other countries in the Western hemisphere far surpass the happenings in India doesn’t mitigate the public fury. The need of the hour is for all stakeholders to realise that the prevailing situation should not be allowed to deteriorate any further.

Furthermore, everything must be done by the State and the citizens to arrest the trend and reverse it. No price is indeed too high to achieve this end goal. Having said it, we must not fail to realise that there is only so much that a government can do to protect a woman. Currently, the onus of being prepared for the worst and taking precautions to prevent it from happening rests singularly and absurdly with the woman. It is downright unfair to expect a woman to face the situation all on her own without the support of the menfolk. It is the joint responsibility of man and woman to act against the injustice being perpetrated against either of them.

In the context of women’s safety, men need to walk the extra mile and be much more chivalrous and gallant than otherwise. A lot of self-introspection needs to be attempted by man to identify the sources of the evil of assault on a woman’s body, honour and life. A man should follow the self-introspection exercise with a cleansing operation to rid himself, and thereby the society, of the toxins of male chauvinism, contempt for women, objectifying of woman and, above all, complacency, hopelessness and resignation to the prevailing situation.

Media’s Role

The mainstream media (MSM) has a significant role to play in the upliftment of the image of women in the eyes of men. Vulgarity, obscenity and portrayal of woman as an object of sexual gratification should be abhorred. In addition to the governmental measures to censor the objectionable material from infiltrating into the output of a responsible mass media, there should be self-auditing by the media itself. Provocative content and cheap titillation should find no place in what the public get to watch.

The government, on its part, should seriously explore the possibility of tightening the restrictions on pornography, which breaches all norms of decency and decorum. This is undoubtedly easier said than done, but the exercise needs to be undertaken to protect the honour of women. Indian culture is prone to a broadside by anti-national forces if the plight of our women (and children) is left to the tender mercies of the elements that promote decadence and degradation at the altar of commercialism in the name of freedom of expression.

Judiciary’s Role

Indian judiciary has to operate in tandem with the process of lawmaking. While doing so, it should not overlook the sentiments of an irate public which gets exercised over cruelty or indignity heaped on women. Should the criminal elements, including the juveniles among them whose involvement in heinous crimes against women, such as rape and murder, has been conclusively proved be allowed legal protection under human rights in the same measure as in the case of the convicts of petty offences? How swiftly can their trial and conviction be finalised and punishment meted out?

Furthermore, how far can a counsel be allowed to prolong a case on flimsy legal points and thereby delay and subvert the judicial system in the name of individual liberty or human rights? These are some questions begging for urgent replies in the quest of justice for woman. This is especially true since a Delhi court has been postponing the execution of four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case on one pretext or the other even though the trial was conducted on a ‘fast track’ basis.

(The article Women’s Safety and Public Ire published in “Business World”)

Is Patriotism on the Wane?

Love reigns supreme in every sphere of personal and social activity. Although love means a lot, nay everything, to a lover, it is one’s love for one’s own country that is considered supreme, without prejudice to the purity or bonafides of any other kind. This is precisely why politicians with a blemishless personal life and an impeccable track record of service to the nation, though few and far between, are looked up to by a grateful populace as the nation’s saviours.

Love Supreme

The spirit of patriotism is best captured in the following immortal lines of Sir Walter Scott.

“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!”

In practical terms, patriotism translates into unquestioning loyalty, respect and selfless service to the country. It also calls for the upholding of the highest standards of ideals and vision on the part of the founding fathers of the nation. Frequent and uncalled for disruptions of the functioning of a government, duly elected by the people in polls held in a free and fair manner, are not a mere aberration. Such despicable incidents are the handiwork of anti-national forces masquerading in the garb of political parties, mass media and academia, out to destroy the basic tenets of democracy.

Freedom of expression or political activity degenerating into subversive activities like rallies by unruly mobs that cause loss of lives and wanton destruction of public property are a clear case of the derailing of patriotism. So is the case when the sacred symbols of the nation, namely the national flag, the national anthem, the Constitution, and the high institutions of democracy, namely the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, which are held sacrosanct and supreme, are willfully dishonoured.

Scourge of Terrorism

India is currently in an unenviable position of having two downright hostile neighbours, both of which have territorial disputes with us. We have had major wars, conflicts, conflagrations, border disputes with Pakistan and China. To make matters worse, soon after its birth, a young and nascent Indian Democratic Republic became a favourite target of terrorists from across the border. Pakistan degraded itself by becoming the biggest terror exporting country and has been threatening to make India bleed by a thousand cuts.

To this end, it has been training, equipping and financing terrorists on its soil for a long time now. Resultantly, it became necessary for the new-born Indian nation to hit the ground running and firing on all the cylinders. It soon became evident that the external threat was not without the tacit support of several frustrated and disgruntled elements, which had permeated the Indian society. Apart from the Naxals and other cobbled up groupings, armed and financed by the nation’s enemies, there are Urban Naxals, Tukde Tukde gangs, Award Wapsi gangs and other subterfuge pressure points to deal with.

No realm of social activity was spared infiltration by the anti-national forces. The art and literary sphere, the pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-secular segments and the student community were among the prominent areas of infiltration. Soon after Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister in May 2014, the frustrated and disgruntled elements started ganging up against the Central government and, through it, against the nation.

Anti-National Forces

Meanwhile, some film stars of a minority community started making discordant noises about how the Indian society had allegedly become more and more intolerant and how the secular ethos of the country had purportedly become watered down with the change in government. They blamed certain stringent measures introduced by Modi 1.0 government to regulate trading in cattle as the provocation for stray cases of killings of members of the minority community. They also insinuated that the majority community had become emboldened by the government’s measures to perpetrate hate crimes against the minorities.

They voiced, much to the amusement of the public, including their own fans, anxiety about their fear for the safety of their family and openly talked about a possible migration to safe quarters outside India. It became obvious that Bollywood, believed to be operating on the strength of slush funding, was synchronising its act to the diktat of the enemies of the nation who were the principal stakeholders in the industry. In an industry where huge amounts of money were at stake, and larger-than-life images and reputations were liable to be dashed to the ground overnight, it was no more a secret as to where one’s loyalty lay.

Furthermore, with the Demonetisation scheme that was unveiled in November 2016, the Union government cut at the very roots of black money, much to the chagrin of the enemies of a stable and prosperous India. Be that as it may, even as the gathering momentum of the discordant voices over the allegations of “intolerance” and “threat to secularism” started building up to a crescendo, the tactful handling of the matter by the NDA government saved the situation.

And then, there were award-winning artists, authors, intelligentsia et al who took to protesting against the government by unceremoniously returning the awards they had earlier been bestowed. Mercenary elements, owing loyalty to the enemies of the nation, fouled up the atmosphere at some universities by holding unruly rallies, waving Pakistani flags, mouthing break-India slogans and blatantly praising terrorists already punished by the apex court on proven charges of  launching attacks on innocent people and the Parliament.

The Indian national flag and the national anthem were denigrated. Patriotic slogans such as ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Vande Mataram’, and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ were ridiculed. A virulent anti-national campaign, with the involvement of naive and gullible students, was orchestrated with flagrant support from across the border. The object of the campaign was twofold: (1) Topple Modi 1.0 government (2) Demoralise the people and precipitate Balkanisation of India.


Sensing the danger, the Union government swung into action by undertaking damage control exercises and confidence-building measures to boost the people’s morale. This they achieved by means of providing clean and good governance, introducing bold economic initiatives, adopting pragmatic foreign and defence policies, sanitizing the country of the scourge of terrorism, not rushing the Hindutva agenda, reaching out to the minority communities, and breaking the nexus between the corrupt political parties and anti-national forces.

Patriotism to the Fore

Meanwhile, intending to smear the NDA government before the upcoming state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, 49 pseudo-intellectuals recently wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that incidents of mob lynching are increasing in the country. In response to this, a lawyer in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, who got annoyed with this canard to defame the Central government, filed a petition alleging that these so-called writers and artists had tarnished the image of India. Based on this petition, a local court in Bihar passed an order directing the filing of a sedition case against this Tukde-Tukde gang.

Though the Bihar Police on October 9 ordered the closure of the said sedition case against the 49 celebrities, this development shows that the common people have lately decided never to buckle under the pressure of the break-India gangs. Convinced that the nation is in safe hands, the civil society is now standing by and supporting the Narendra Modi-led government and thereby displaying patriotism of the highest order. Furthermore, the fact that the BJP-led NDA returned to power with a significantly improved vote share and more seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is yet another proof that patriotism is thriving and flourishing in a resurgent India.

What slowed down India’s economy and how is the government trying to revive it?

It would be overstating the obvious to say that the Indian economy has of late been passing through a particularly bad patch. What needs to be done to hitch it up has been engaging the attention of the experts and the government alike. The disturbing development of the slowdown has been depicted as a meltdown of the economy by uncharitable critics and frustrated adversaries of the Narendra Modi government. 

Vengeful political parties on the brink of extinction and the sold-out sections of the mainstream media (MSM) have been particularly baying for blood. All this has understandably caused bewilderment and consternation among the people at large, who are, by and large, either ill-informed or misinformed about the issue. This is but natural considering the fact that comprehension of the nuances of the economy of a complex nation like India is not everyman’s cup of tea nor do any two experts seem to think alike.

Primary Causes

What ails our economy? It is neither a single factor nor a unique virus that has bedevilled it in the first place. The global economic climate in general and the impact of the US-China trade war had their share in the fouling up of our nation’s economic climate. Furthermore, the difficult ground conditions that afflict the agriculture sector, the initial systemic recoiling of the financial and tax reforms carried out by an ambitious government also had a bearing on the slowdown.

Farming Woes

Even during the best of times, failure of monsoon, natural disasters like drought, famine, floods or cyclone lead to demands from farmers for farm loan waivers year after year. Visionless state governments ruled by opportunistic political alliances which are clueless about the ethics of statecraft make reckless pre-poll promises to farmers about farm loan waivers and sops like free electricity, water, etc. 

This makes it difficult for principled political parties, in the absence of a level-playing ground, to take hard political decisions. Consequently, promises are made all around to alleviate the woes of the farming sector, with nary a clue or concern about the feasibility of redeeming the promises. As a consequence of the recklessness of the parties for which politics is just another source of making money and grabbing power, the government exchequer takes a beating.

Banking Blues

The banking sector is among the foremost to bear the burden of redressal of the farming sector. It is further roiled by Non- Performing Assets (NPA), a legacy of the previous governments characterised alternatively by bad economic policies and sheer policy paralysis. Consider this. As per a reply given in April 2018 by the Minister of State for Finance in the Rajya Sabha, bad loans worth Rs 2.41 lakh crore were written off by public sector banks in just three years between April 2014 and September 2017.

As of 31st December, 2017, 21 public sector banks had stressed loans worth Rs 8.26 lakh crore. Private sector banks and foreign banks operating in India were not free from bad loans either. During the financial year 2017-18, ten state governments announced farm loan waivers worth Rs 184,800 crore. Meanwhile, the total debt of India’s top 10 corporate borrowers was reported to be nearly four times the farm loan waivers, at Rs 731,000 crore as on 31st March 2015; and of the 12 top NPAs was almost twice, at Rs 345,000 crore. 

According to RBI data, total gross NPAs were Rs 8 lakh crore in March 2017 and Rs 10.3 lakh crore as of March 2018. The Union government is trying to clear the Aegean stables of the banking sector by resolving bad loans through the bankruptcy court process. In the meantime, the combined effect of the NPAs and non-judicious farm loan waivers on the course of the economy is a stark liability that stares the nation in the face. 

Employment Levels and Consumer Demand

Consequent upon the complex issue of mounting bank loans that eventually turn into bad ones and the drying up of domestic investments, the production levels of the export-oriented segments of the economy as well as the manufacturing and construction sectors, slow down. This results in the laying off of some of the workforces, albeit for limited periods of time. This is played up by irresponsible reporting. 

Misleading reports in the Media about the new tax structures and financial reforms like demonetisation make the common man wary of the situation. The consumer becomes needlessly overcautious about various essential and non-essential purchases resulting in sluggish consumer demand. The snowballing effect of all these factors then contributes to the creation of the bogey of a crisis.

Government steps in

Even as the alarm bells started ringing on the outbreak of an economic slowdown, the Union government, to its credit, lost no time in addressing the issue in all seriousness. The Finance Minister had meetings with sectoral representatives and experts to get an inkling about their understanding of the situation. A slew of damage control measures, including financial bailout, was announced to tide over the situation and turn the economy around. 

To this end, the RBI transferred Rs 1.76 lakh crore surplus reserve to the Government of India. Structural reforms in the banking sector were introduced, which saw a reduction in the number of public sector banks from 27 to 12. Besides ensuring that this measure did not result in a loss of jobs, the Union government announced upfront an equity infusion of Rs 700,000 crore to the banking sector to boost lending.

Boosting of Exports

It is important that the current flaccid pace of exports rebound and the growth rate be sustained. This is feasible only with a rejuvenation of the manufacturing and construction sectors. A steady inflow of investments is vital for the much-needed fillip. The government has already pumped in substantial financial assistance to bolster these sectors.

According to an RBI statistical report, India’s foreign exchange reserves stand at around US$453 billion, the highest ever, as on 6th December 2019. This bit of information brings glad tidings in a not-very-bright-economic scenario. Against this cheerful backdrop, the country’s exports and imports clocked at US$ 26.0 billion and US$ 38.1 billion respectively, with a trade deficit of US$12.1 billion. With these parameters, the emerging picture is far from a distressing scenario and definitely not an indicator of an economic ‘crisis’ as the prophets of doom would have you believe.

Infrastructure Development

The government is committed to a Rs 100-lakh crore investment for the development of modern infrastructure. This is in keeping with the announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech last year. The investment would help in the realisation of the government’s target of a US$5-trillion economy in 5-years’ time. A taskforce has already been set up to identify infra projects for making the investment which, in turn, would open up increased employment opportunities.

Union Budget 2020

Meanwhile, the upcoming Union Budget 2020 is expected to unveil concrete and substantial measures on various fronts aimed at addressing the GDP slowdown and reviving India’s economic growth by driving up investment spending and consumption. For instance, to put more money in the hands of middle and lower-middle classes, the Finance Minister may announce significant income-tax relief and introduction of new slabs during her Budget Speech on 1st February. 

The basic exemption limit may be raised from the existing Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and 5% tax slab may apply to individuals having annual income between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 7 lakh. Similarly, those in the income bracket of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 10 lakh may be taxed at the rate of 10%. Finance Minister may also consider reducing the slab rate to 20% for those in the income bracket of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh. The government may even abolish long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax to boost investor sentiment and improve flows into the capital markets. 

To compensate for the loss in tax revenues resulting from the above provisions, the Budget may consider large-scale disinvestments of public sector units (PSUs). To boost credit growth, the Budget is likely to have measures for shoring up capital adequacy of the nationalised banks, which will allow them to lend freely. To turn around the economy, apart from the economic measures, the Modi government seems determined to address all the other structural problems in the corporate, agricultural and social sectors with a sense of urgency.

Many Aspirations and Budget 2020

Union Budget alone cannot shape which way the economy steers. There’s a lot more to this. For example, when the parliament enacted the bankruptcy law, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, it was a sure boost for both ailing banks that were demanding an uncomplicated and fast way to recover dues and corporates that are struggling due to a variety of reasons, including sectoral slowdown. In this regard, one must also note the enactment of law that frees up Jammu and Kashmir from the shackles of opportunistic politics and policy paralysis. With clampdown on terror activities and prospects for companies to start new ventures in the newest Union Territory, economic activity is set to see an upward movement, thereby delivering on expectations ranging from employment for local youth to expansion in factory output. In this light, the Union Budget that is set to be presented in less than a month by the Finance Minister shall be seen as a key event, if not a landmark one.

Expectations are huge and why not? Discussions on the upcoming budget have already become prime time news and economic experts have proposed innumerous measures. The talk of the town is a reduction in personal tax rates, higher spending by the government on education and other social sectors and abidance of fiscal prudency, a highlight of the BJP-government budget for long. That corporate tax rates have already been cut through an executive order is taking the discussion away from what corporates need from the budget of 2020. The government is set to consider a plethora of wide-ranging concerns, including a below-expectation collection of GST and inflationary forces, which have lately seen an upward trend owing to rise in food prices. With the government duly acknowledging a slowdown in economic activity in the country, one can expect that the key concerns won’t be brushed under the carpet.

What then will be the announcement? What will distinguish the upcoming budget from government’s previous endeavours and will the new one infuse positivity in the market? Although no one can precisely tell what is going through the mind of policymakers, let us find out what the expectations are and how the government can deliver on them.

Cut in personal income tax

One thing is sure, that the opposition and even the worst of the critics of the government will think twice before criticizing the finance minister for reducing personal tax rates or tweaking slabs for the benefit of taxpayers. That only a small fraction of the population pays this tax is a key point to be considered. At the same time, tax revenue from personal income tax was just shy of INR 5 lakh crore in the last fiscal year and this highlights the significance of this revenue source. In the last budget, the government went for a higher levy on super-rich and surcharge was hiked for individuals pocketing more than INR 2 crore in a year.

Now given the reduction in effective corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25.17 percent announced in September last year, the government seems to have little elbow room for cutting personal tax rates. Since direct tax has a share of around 55 percent in total tax revenue of the government of India, and the other half made up by indirect tax is already subdued, the government cannot afford to lose revenue from personal tax. However, the government has shown figures that tell compliance has improved manifold in the recent past for personal tax and this advance in compliance can become a basis for some relaxation to taxpayers. The economy has slowed down and the GDP growth rate has come down to below-5 percent. Economists agree that the problem is not from the supply side but the demand side, which has remained weak for quite a long time. A dip in sale of passenger vehicles, along with many other events, tells that people are left with less money to spend.

This makes a perfect case for a reduction in personal tax rates. The government has already made income upto INR 5 lakh tax-free. This time, the government can cut a few percentage points from tax rates levied on income above INR 5 lakh. This relaxation can be extended to all income groups, including the super-rich who pay as high as 43 percent tax on earnings above INR 5 crore. People left with more money in their hand are likely to spend more and hence, the demand side will see a boost. This is simple economics. But the picture becomes complex when one looks at the latest inflation numbers that reflect a 7.35 percent growth in inflation in December 2019. This is no mean figure. In fact, the prices of vegetables have risen sharply and this can further dent the aspiration of the middle class to have any relaxation in tax rates.

Still, the government can rely on a better harvest of food products in the upcoming season and place its bet on lowering rates for boosting demand in the consumer products category and other important factory products. That car and two-wheeler manufacturers and their retailers are cutting jobs has highlighted the stress in the job sector. A boost in demand of these products is the only savior, which can come by giving more spending power in the hands of the middle-class populace.


Cutting government stake in public sector companies has been one area where the performance of Modi-led government has been sub-par. The one-time crown of India’s aviation sector, Air India, has been up for sale but no buyer seems to take interest, given the burden it brings that far outweighs benefits arising out of Air India’s assets. In the last year’s budget, the divestment target was around INR 1 lakh crore and with only two and a half months to go, the government is likely to miss it by a generous margin. While the cabinet committee on economic affairs gave clearance for stake sale in Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), Container Corporation (Concor) and other PSUs late last year, the realization will not likely happen in the fiscal year ending 2020. Given that the Modi-government exceeded expectations for strategic divestment in previous fiscal years, the present shortfall, coming amidst mounting pressures on the revenue side of the budget, will only exacerbate the problems.

Now that the government is ready to sell stake in above-mentioned undertakings, which may materialize in the current or next fiscal year, the target for FY2021 needs to be more ambitious than ever. And there are a variety of reasons for the same. While one argument in favour of divestment is that the government should have a lesser role in the functioning of companies, the other and in fact a more substantial one is that PSUs have been lagging behind their private sector peers on multiple counts. There is a strong case of having less PSUs and privatising many of them. The uptick in production of Balco and Hindustan Zinc only when they went into private hands can be a compelling reason why Budget 2020 can aspire to generate more revenue from stake-sale activities.

When one makes a quick comparison between public and private players in the same field, the case for PSU stake-sale becomes even stronger. JSW Steel Ltd had a four-fold jump in its output in the last decade when SAIL could only manage 7 percent growth in production. In the crude oil sector, Cairn India has been way ahead of its public sector rival ONGC; in mining, NMDC stands nowhere when compared with Vedanta’s mining arm. Coal India has been performing below-par and this has led to increase in import of coal, something that has hurt India’s trade account.

Budget 2020 can address multiple concerns with a single stroke. By setting the bar high for divestment in the next fiscal, the government can not only have a sure source of revenue to make up for the shortfall due to cut in corporate tax, the efficiency that will come by way of privatisation will see better management of these firms, and better placed companies will generate more job opportunities besides raising demand for credit to undertake expansionary activities.

Fiscal Prudence- Now or suspended

Reining in fiscal deficit is a good thing. One cannot spend more than what is earned. But this simple lesson of finance cannot hold much value when the economy of a country like India is facing downward pressures. And this is what made the British economist, John Keynes, special. Keynesian economics tells us why governments should spend more at a time when recessionary pressures have gripped the economy. Yes, India isn’t facing recession in technical terms, subdued factory output and below-expectation GDP growth can severally hurt India’s socio-economic fabric. As a developing nation, India still has a sizeable population below the poverty line. Lifting millions out of poverty has long been the electoral call of all political parties but is it possible to do so without loosening the purse strings?

India has treaded a safe and desirous path under the Modi government and has made fiscal prudence the guiding policy when it comes to preparing the union budget. But at the same time, one must note that the economy, local and global, wasn’t facing tough time as it is now. GST collections have yet to mature and since companies are holding back on private investment, thereby not allowing expected increase in direct tax collection, fiscal prudence may seem to make sense. However, it was the Keynesian model suggesting higher government spending that helped the US and European countries leave behind the economic crisis of late 2000s. Restricting government spending can have its share of drawbacks and in a country where infrastructure spending hasn’t matched the needs to this day, fiscal deficit can be a savior than a demon.

From steel industry to unemployed youth, increased government spending can lead to cheers on multiple counts. Infrastructure spending on roads and highways and ports and healthcare can fairly compensate for dull private investment. Banks are already under pressure due to non-performing assets (although credit growth has seen a spike in recent past and NPAs have gone down) and fresh lending for corporates isn’t coming in the desired quantum. Earmarking more funds for infrastructure development, even when it means pressure on fiscal deficit count, can be the most defining aspect of Budget 2020.

The economy hasn’t benefited much from the fiscal discipline resorted to by the Modi-government due to multiple reasons. Trade war between US and China has hurt India’s export sector and slowing economies across the world, from China to Germany, have meant less demand for India’s output. And unless this shrinking demand is reversed, a boost in the economy cannot be expected. Infrastructure sector of India has great appetite for investment and with government spending more money, a spike in jobs and eventual surge in public spending can be expected. The right step is to sideline the fiscal prudence thing for at least 2 to 3 fiscal years and embark on a journey of higher spending.

Special incentives to new technologies

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were created in India to boost exports and minimize the redtape. They delivered well and states with the maximum number of SEZs – Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra – are enjoying the financial benefits that came along. The union budget for FY2021 cannot overlook the fact that India needs to establish newer industries in order for the economic activity to see revival. Present technologies have reached their maturity and the revenues from these activities have stabilized.

Now’s the need to allow private investment in new-age tech, for example, artificial technology and non-fossil fuel driven vehicles. What was done with SEZ by allowing them duty-free imports and 100 percent tax exemption for a number of years is to be repeated with new industries that are established in areas that are set to see substantial demand in coming years. Take for example the electric vehicle industry. China is leading the way from manufacturing of lithium cells and batteries to exploration of rare earth metals. It is for a reason that China can stare the United States in the eye, without blinking. They are advancing fast on new-age tech and at the same time India has become importer of many of these coveted technologies. It wasn’t until ISRO developed the lithium-ion cell technology a few years ago that we could even make a cell powering an electric vehicle, and even today, the technology has yet to be adopted by the industry.

Union Budget 2020 can be the enabler for new-age industries. Special incentives to companies engaged in these technologies can be allowed and labour laws and other impediments can be eased. A further cut in corporate tax rate for these companies or even levying a zero-rate tax for initial 3 to 4 years can be done through Budget 2020.Indeed, this can have a toll on the revenues of the government but for companies in their infancy, these are much-needed support systems that will allow them to tap credit and generate jobs.

Budget 2020, as mentioned earlier, will be one policy action among many others that are taken throughout the year to cheer up economic activity in the country. As expected, various sectors have their own set of demands. For example, the gems and jewellery industry is looking forward to reduction in import duty on gold and realtors are eying an amendment in Section 43CA of the IT Act (penalty for lowering prices). In the banking sector, recapitalisation of public sector banks will be expected and how the finance ministry deals with the problems of the NBFC sector will be noted.

To summarize, it won’t be bad for the government to shun fiscal prudency for some time given the need to revive economic growth through infrastructure development. Personal income tax rates can be lowered marginally in order to allow the middle class to spend more, thereby addressing the demand weakness in the Indian economy. Divestment needs to be rethought as a way to generate revenue and simultaneously bring efficiency in PSUs and tax holidays must be a part of Budget 2020 for enterprises in new-age tech.

(The article “Many Aspirations and Budget 2020” published in magazine Uday India in January 18, 2020 English edition)

The Aftermath of CAA

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which metamorphosed into the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), was a watershed in independent India’s legislative history. It also had a cascading effect on political discourse and social harmony in the country. Apart from becoming a momentous piece of legislation, the CAA set off a national dialogue involving the elite and the common man alike. Unfortunately, it also triggered off violent protests against the Act. While the legislative procedure went through rather smoothly, the resulting protests revealed the dark underbelly of our society.

Strident Opposition 

The frustrated conglomeration of anti-BJP political parties, which had miserably failed to stop the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) juggernaut in the Parliamentary elections of 2019 seized the opportunity to turn the smooth legislation into a contentious issue. It fomented trouble by depicting the Act, which had the territorial integrity and the people’s unity at its core, as a deliberate attempt by the BJP-led federal government to sabotage the secular ethos of the nation and polarise the people on communal lines. Pseudo intellectuals, disgruntled artistes, paid segments of MSM, popularly dubbed as Presstitutes, and the religious bigots quickly came to the fore.

They merrily got onto the bandwagon of the frustrated Opposition parties and started making misleading pronouncements, inflammatory speeches and fiery statements with the aim of projecting the CAA as a purported act of targeting a minority community. The proverbial Pied Piper of Hamelin succeeded in hoodwinking the gullible and the naive into following him in catching the non-existent rat of a threat to Secularism. The  common man got caught in a tizzy and started mouthing inane words of saving the people from getting polarised by the very government which had meant to segregate the grain from the chaff.

Some ignorant and misguided youths were verily baffled by the irrelevant and irrational arguments propagated against the Act and got shanghaied into believing that he was part of a movement purportedly launched to preserve the unity between the majority community and the perceived endangered minority community. In the insidious process, the intruders from across the border including the Rohingya Muslims and non-refugee infiltrators from Bangladesh, trouble-makers and anti-nationals who had illegally sneaked into the country for  destroying a united India, were projected as bosom friends.

Unholy Alliance against Govt

Resultantly, there ensued a war of words for and against the Act in the social and mainstream media (MSM). The trigger-happy sections of the student community stepped out of the university campuses, which caused the spilling of trouble onto the road. The tukde tukde gangs and urban Naxals were among the forefront, using the unwary students as a human shield against the Police. Trains and other properties of Indian Railways were gutted and railway lines damaged in some States. Buses, auto-rickshaws and other forms of public properties were also damaged and vandalised. Rallies of slogan-shouting protestors, having no knowledge of the provisions of the CAA, started sprouting, much to the annoyance and discomfort of the commuters.

Police and other law enforcing agencies stepped in and initiated action against the rioters and other anti-nationals. The student community, human rights activists and political instigators who had all jumped into the fray to cause trouble and disturb the peace and quiet were among the first to cry foul at the police action. They not only distanced themselves from their moral and legal responsibilities but also began endangering the lives of the participants in the protest marches as well as the law enforcing personnel. They decried the perceived intolerance, injustice and ‘murder of democracy’.

The very same people, who had earlier exercised their democratic right to elect the lawmakers that passed the Bill in the temple of democracy after going through the due process, got deeply divided into two categories: those who respected the law and supported CAA; and those who saw communal ghosts where there was none and cried blue murder. Needless to say, there were many fence-sitters who needed not much persuasion to take sides. The inglorious upshot of the entire exercise of the protest marches and the accompanying violence was that not many participants in the exercise were conversant with the provisions of the new law or what it intended to accomplish.

Flawed Argument

The sporadic incidents of protests held across India over the CAA were based on the flawed argument that it intrinsically endangered the nation’s basic tenet of Secularism. The Central government was aghast at the loss of human lives on both sides of the law and wanton destruction of public property running into several crores. It was appalling to see that despite ignorance about the Act among the marching and stone-pelting protestors, they levelled baseless allegations against the Union government.

The government asserted time and again that the aim of the Act was only to give Indian citizenship to refugees of the minority religious groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and not to deport anybody from India; and that bonafide citizens need not fear deportation regardless of the community to which they belonged. However, the organisers of the protest marches had their own axe to grind. They rubbished all genuine claims of the Central government in support of the Act.

Pakistan’s Mischief

The unscrupulous organisers of the protest marches were further emboldened by the overtures received from across the border. Pakistan, which is ever ready to malign India’s image in the international fora, gleefully orchestrated a vilification campaign against India. It accused India of isolating Indian Muslims with the idea of stripping their lawful nationality and deporting them. Nevertheless, it could not cause even a scratch in the refurbished image of India, a successful accomplishment of the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy. Yet another claim of Pakistan of being a staunch supporter and custodian of the interests of the Indian Muslim community fell flat in the eyes of the international community.

Government’s Resolve

Within the country, the shriller the discordant voices of dissent became, the clearer and more obvious it became to the discerning public and the sane political observers that there was no going back on the issue. Both the Union government, as well as the BJP, have categorically stated that they are determined to go ahead and see the enforcement of the Act  to its logical conclusion. They have repeated time and again that the CAA was a long-pending national priority and had nothing to do with the National Citizenship Register (NCR).

As of now, the NCR is an issue only concerning the State of Assam, and that too at the directive of the Supreme Court. Likewise, the National Population Register (NPR) had no bearing on the NCR or the CAA. There is, therefore, no point in arriving at false conjectures by interlinking the CAA, NPR and NCR. The government and the BJP have repeatedly been assuring the Muslim community that there was absolutely no threat to it. All said and done, nothing more is to be read on the issue than the fact that CAA is a clear manifestation of the NDA government’s resolve to fulfil its electoral promises.

Is Hinduism Losing Ground at Home?

Hindus do not look for safety in numbers. Nor do they live in clusters. They draw strength and sustenance from the reassuring words contained in many ancient Hindu texts that Dharma which they uphold would come to their rescue in times of need. It is this unshakeable belief that enables them to live in peace and total safety even in the far-flung areas of the world where they migrate to and find themselves to be very few in number. However, in their own native land, they find themselves victims of a queasy feeling of disquietude with regard to their religion vis-a-vis anti-Hindu forces.

Much as they are confident about the everlasting nature of Sanatana Dharma, the ancient name by which their religion is known, they have to come to terms with today’s life in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. An eternal code of faith and conduct for all the people of all the time, Sanatana Dharma, which is arguably the oldest living religion in the world, is inherently too strong for any challenge or threat. How could a body of faith which is believed to be older than the beginning of time itself, as the latter is known and understood, be ever brought to an end by anybody? However, how realistic is their outlook of Sarvadharma Samabhavana in today’s world of realpolitik?

Alien Faiths

Islam and Christianity were inducted into Hindustan by exotic elements when the defences of India were at its nadir. Introduced either flagrantly at the point of the sword by invaders or surreptitiously by missionaries, both the Abrahamic religions went on to expand their presence by employing practically any and every conceivable means. This process has been a continuous and ongoing one, with no letup. Despite the obvious fact that the two religions vigorously practised proselytization, the Hindus never felt threatened about their own faith being overrun. However, their welcoming attitude has been abused and exploited by the aliens. Even before the realization that their religion faced the probability of being overrun, they had become mute witnesses to a flurry of events and developments that set the alarm bells ringing.

Invasions and Conversions

The Muslim invaders who conquered swathes of territories in Hindustan did not simply arrive to rule, live and let people live in peace. They looted temples, ransacked and razed them, mutilated the sculptures of deities and used the broken pieces of sculptures to lay beneath the steps of the mosques they built so as to enable the ‘faithful’ to desecrate the deities by stepping on their scattered remains on their way in and way out. They either massacred the Hindus who resisted or forcibly converted them to their religion. The Moghul rulers used their sword power to marry helpless Hindu princesses and stock their harems with abducted Hindu women, which enabled them to father Muslim progeny unabated.

Somnath Temple Ruins

Love Jihad

The medieval age practice of conquering and forcibly converting the losers to Islam gave way to deception, deceit, the allurement of money from the Gulf countries and the dark concept of Love Jihad in the post-Independence India. Love Jihad started gaining currency, with economically poor girls from vulnerable social background falling prey to the ensnarement tactics of Love Jihadis. Once they fell into the trap of marriage, they were brainwashed, converted to the Jihadi’s religion and left in the lurch to fend for themselves and their child born out of wedlock. Although the Hindu community has, of late, started taking such destitute women and menfolk cheated into conversion by deceit and allurement, back into their fold after a ‘Ghar Wapsi’ ritual, there are any number of victims who gave up the will to fight for their right to freedom of worship and suffer in silence. The Jihadi elements from across the border who infiltrate into India and their brainwashed Indian tutelage have the avowed goal of establishing Ghazwa-e-Hind, an Islamic India where no other religion is admissible.

Lately, because of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government in power and the latter tightening the screws on them, it is increasingly becoming difficult for them to penetrate the country, pump in money and weapons and hijack the misguided youth to their cause. However, yet they cannot be written off as a phenomenon of the past. They are not alone in their goal of breaking the nation. Communists, Naxals, Urban Naxals, frustrated and failed politicos, Tukde-Tukde gangs, Award wapsi gangs, misguided splinter groups of youth, pseudo-secular forces, self-proclaimed intellectuals from the fields of arts, literature, filmdom and the barons of the sold-out media, et al provide open or implicit support to the enemies of the nation. Unless the government breaks the nexus of these insidious elements by enforcing a firm anti-conversion law with teeth, the question mark on the nation’s territorial integrity and unity would only get bigger.

Evangelists on War Path

On a parallel track, conversion of India into a Christian nation is the sworn aim of the Christian evangelists who have access to unquantifiable amounts of funds and political clout from international agencies for their cause. They have their roadmap and game plan ready, with the number of churches to be established and people to be converted, all during a certain time frame, in their laundry list of the action plan. In a methodical businesslike way of carrying out mass conversions, tried and tested in the poor countries of Africa and Asia, they have been relentlessly pursuing the achievement of their goal at a furious pace.

The non-BJP governments of the past and the present in states like Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been either providing them oblique support in their nefarious activities or at least turning a blind eye to the goings on. Besides resorting to mass conversions, the evangelists have displayed a distinct lack of qualms or compunction about penetrating Hindu religious establishments and places of worship and turning them into improvised Christian establishments, where Hindu religious practices are altered, adapted and replaced by the Christian way of worship. It has been noticed that they are willing to go to any length and stoop to any depth to subvert Hinduism.

Last Hope

Currently, it is a downright despicable situation in which the Hindu community finds itself in, unable to defend itself from the pincer-like attack of Islamic and Christian fundamentalists. The NDA government at the Centre is the last hope for Hindus who do not want to become rootless Rohingiyas of tomorrow. The government has prudently, and with a degree of success, tried to wean the moderate and peace-loving sections of the minority communities from the fundamentalist elements among them. More importantly, it would do well to continue to keep the brood of the Hindu community safely under its wings. This is the Raj Dharma that it should follow to keep the nation’s territorial integrity and unity safe. Should the social fabric of the Hindu community be irreparably damaged on account of the government’s failure on this front, the community’s absolute decimation and a resultant fratricidal war between the two Abrahamic religions for hegemony could hardly be ruled out.

Will Delhi Become Victim of Freebie Culture Yet Again?

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had won the 2013 and 2015 Delhi Assembly elections on the plank of populist measures such as free water, electricity, WiFi, medical care, etc to people of the low-income group. This time around, it is offering these free essential services to people of not only the low-income group but also the middle and high-income income groups. In addition, the AAP is also offering absolutely free rides on city buses and metro for all women. What is more, all-paid pilgrimages have been added to the list of freebies! These populist measures were announced barely six months ahead of the elections due in February 2020. A clever ploy indeed to discourage people from holding the government responsible for its failures in its current tenure!

Vote Bank

The freebies are sops aimed at lulling the electorate into a false sense of euphoria and complacency and making them believe that they are all living happily under a people-friendly government. The measures are also intended to assuage the people’s feeling of resentment against the government. AAP’s strategy is to sweep the government’s failure connected with addressing the larger issues under the carpet of populist measures. By bringing more and more sections of the electorate under the net of freebies, the AAP is trying to create a larger vote bank that would be beholden to it. If this is not vote bank politics, then what is it?

Freebies and Corruption

The freebie culture is a direct offshoot of corruption in politics. It is a major fault line in our system of governance where corruption in public life has been rampant. The more the exposure to freebies, less likely would be the outrage of the people to corruption in high places. Parties give away sops to the people, albeit in the name of the government to wangle off a quid pro arrangement for them to queer the pitch. To call a spade a spade, politicians garner votes with freebies just as they would purchase votes with cash if only law would allow them. Suffice it to say irregular governmental practices breed political corruption.

People are intelligent enough to realise that nothing comes free, and the name freebies is a misnomer. India is not the kind of welfare state where any essential service or public utility is provided free by the government as an accepted norm. In Delhi, transport services are operated under a staggering shortfall of credit borne by the government. Power generation companies have to be paid not with promises of good governance but with money which is in short supply. This necessitates the government to seek loans from financial institutions which must be repaid with interest in good time. No government could pay back loans without generating enough revenue by increasing taxes. If it is not done by the present government, the future governments would have to bear the burden.

Beyond Comprehension

Besides, why offer free rides by public transport only for one section of the society, namely women? To make commuting free for students or the members of the economically vulnerable sections of the society could be termed a welfare measure and a just cause. However, to make it free for the entire spectrum of women, including those who can afford to pay for travel, is really difficult to comprehend. Why should the government bear the expenditure of a pilgrimage by individual members of the society is another area of bemusement.

Furthermore, diverting scarce revenues and resources from better and more important areas of public expenditure for narrow political gains is neither desirable nor justifiable. Infrastructure development, improving sanitary conditions, increasing health benefits, making Delhi a safer city for people of all walks of life and fighting environmental pollution  are some of the areas that cry for more financial outlays and concerted action from the government. These areas of development cannot be overlooked for building vote banks, especially not by a party which boasts that it would lift civic management of Delhi and make it comparable to that of London!

The system of democracy is founded on the bedrock of the cynical but pragmatic concept of it being the best, but not the perfect, of all the forms of governance available to humanity. It is widely believed that politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel. How else could one explain the rather all-time fashionable practice of the lambasting of politicians for dabbling in corrupt practices, albeit in the name of serving the nation? That in a democracy, people get the government they deserve, and they deserve what they get is a popular postulation to which people across the world subscribe irrespective of their nationality.

It is evident that it is the combined application of the politicians and the people that makes the political system either a success or a failure. It would, therefore, be flagrantly unfair to blame the politicians alone for the flaws and failures in the system. Why would people vote for a bunch of politicians in preference to another set of them unless they are convinced that it is for their own good? Nevertheless, when a voter is enamoured by the motto of a party to cleanse a system and then gets carried away by its promises to give him free electricity, water and WiFi if returned to power, what does the scenario reflect?

Enticing with Freebies 

The appearance of AAP on the political scene was avowedly inspired by the movement of Anna Hazare who had launched it in 2011 for the eradication of corruption from the public sphere of life and to bring transparency in governance. Elimination of corruption is indeed a laudable idea, and there could be no disputing the need for all democratic forces to join forces to achieve this goal. But the idea of enticing voters by promises of freebies does not correlate with a party’s lofty idea of eradication of corruption.

Even if one were to argue that the end justifies the means, the idea of using freebies as a launchpad to install a stable and clean government is so full of holes that the plan is simply not sustainable. There is no case for using up the taxpayer’s money for doling out sops which are non-productive in nature. The practice could prove infectious and lead to unhealthy competition among rival political parties that may end up trying to outwit each other in one-upmanship. Eventually, the vicious circle would likely end up as a millstone around the neck of the taxpayer.

Say No to Freebies

It is hardly realistic to expect the political parties to tire of the freebie culture and change their game plan. It is no different than expecting a leopard to change its spots. Even a party which takes pride in having a vision for Delhi has to play along the game of realpolitik. It is entirely in the realm of the people’s sagacity to see through the futility of the freebie culture and stake claim for the rightful glory of the national capital’s stature for Delhi.

(The article “Will Delhi Become Victim of Freebie Culture Yet Again?” published in magazine Uday India in January 04, 2020 English edition)