Modi’s Ganga cleaning pledge remains unfulfilled – Binay Singh & Vishwa Mohan

Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, bottom, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leaders perform the

Vishwambhar Nath MishraCentre’s claim on Ganga remains unfulfilled: Experts – Binay Singh

VARANASI: Narendra Modi’s pledge on the bank of the Ganga here on May 17, 2014 that he would serve ‘Maa Ganga’ to end its miseries, is yet to materialize. Evaluating his government’s one-year performance on the scale of Ganga cleaning, most environmentalists and river scientists are disappointed to note the condition of the holy river one year down the line.

Though the Modi government came up with Namami Gange programme, an integrated Ganga conservation mission with a budget of Rs 2,037 crore in the Union Budget, nothing remarkable has been achieved, particularly in PM’s own constituency. This has been proved by the Centre’s admission before the Supreme Court in September that the water quality of the Ganga at Varanasi and Allahabad was most unfit even for bathing purpose.

“Whatever is being done in the name of river cleaning is improper and far removed from reality. As the pollution managing potential of each place is different due to the river’s morphology and dynamics, pollution managing potential of various sewage treatment plants (STPs) has been wrongly quantified,” said river scientist and former professor of civil engineering at Banaras Hindu University Prof Udai Kant Chowdhary.

According to him, pollutants in different forms such as domestic effluent from mega cities, towns and villages reach the river through various sources. Also, micro and macro level industries discharge pollutants directly and indirectly into the Ganga. “Even now, pollutants from all these sources are being discharged without conceptualizing the idea that the river is a body system in which all locations are different in structure, shape, size, orientation, etc,” he said.

Seconding his opinion, BHU environmentalist B. D. Tripathi said: “It is true that some ghats are getting a cleaner look, but the condition of the Ganga has not improved. There is an urgent need for corrective measures to make the river pollution free. Tripathi is also an expert member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).

Similar was the opinion of another environmentalist Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the president of Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), an NGO working for the cause of Ganga for over three decades. “The basic need of the Ganga, i.e., improvement in its water quality, is being overlooked,” said Mishra, who is also mahanth of the famous Sankatmochan Temple. – Times of India, 23 May 2015

Saving the Ganga

Narendra Modi greets Ganga Devi‘Sin’ of polluting Ganga may soon be a crime – Vishwa Mohan

NEW DELHI: One year may not be enough for him to show results as far as his pet Ganga cleaning project is concerned, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to demonstrate substantial progress on the issue when his government goes to the polls at the end of its term.

A timeline for this complex assignment, discussed in the Cabinet last week, indicates that the Centre wants to stop completely untreated water flowing into the river by March, 2019 and will possibly arm authorities with a law having provisions to penalize polluters by that time.

The Union water resources and Ganga rejuvenation ministry has been in discussion with other ministries including urban development, environment and law over four different drafts which talk about possibility of framing a law with objectives of abating pollution and maintaining sustainable cleanliness.

Converting the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) into a commission under a Parliament Act is the most possible course if, at all, the government finally decides to opt for a legal provision to provide teeth to its task of Ganga cleaning in a much more effective manner. The NGRBA is a key central body which monitors planning and execution of all schemes of Ganga rejuvenation in coordination with five states including Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Though making a law with criminal provisions is not priority at the moment when the government still has to create adequate anti-pollution infrastructure, the idea continues to be part of the official discourse on Ganga cleaning.

A proposed law on this matter was discussed as one of the key agenda of the high-level review meeting on Ganga rejuvenation in March when Modi called for an “uncompromising mission-mode approach” to stop further pollution of the country’s national river. – Times of India, 18 May 2015

Ganga Cleaning Deadline 2018-19

Delhi subjected to Kejriwal’s histrionics again – K. N. Bhat

K. N. Bhat“The perception that Article 239AA is the only provision relevant to the stand-off between the L-G and the chief minister of Delhi is born out of ignorance. And so is the perception that the Delhi legislature has all the powers of a state except specifically excluded items like public order, police, land and others which are with the Centre. The crucial words in Article 239AA (3)(a) are “in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories”. Delhi, thus, remains a UT for all practical purposes. Mr Kejriwal has to take it or leave it; he can’t change it through histrionics.” – K. N. Bhat

Arvind Kumar KejriwalDelhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appears to be a classic case of triumph of hope over experience. As recorded in recent history, his first marriage with the office of Delhi chief minister was solemnised on December 28, 2013. It lasted all of 49 days. During that brief period too he had a running feud with the lieutenant-governor over, among others, the issues of prior consent of the L-G before the Jan Lokpal Bill could be tabled in the Assembly. It is a different matter that the bill did not take a shape till the night before it was tabled (only to be aborted soon). There were enough occasions for Mr Kejriwal to internalise the fact that the

L-G of Delhi is not like a governor of a state; the L-G is the real centre of power in the hybrid arrangement for Delhi. India under the Constitution as originally brought into force in 1950 consisted of three types of states — the provinces in the British India as Part A states, the maharajas’ kingdoms as Part B states and Part C states being centrally administered areas. Delhi, a Part C state till 1956 when the states were reorganised on linguistic basis, continued to be administered by the Central government as a Union Territory.

Najeeb JungAs can be gathered from the statement of objects and reasons attached to the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991, that brought the National Capital Territory (NCT) into existence, an expert committee appointed by the Government of India on December 24, 1987, submitted its report a couple of years later after elaborate consultations and considerations of the positions of national capitals world over in federal set-ups. It recommended that Delhi should continue to remain a Union Territory, but be provided with a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers with appropriate powers to deal with matters that concern the common man. To give effect to this proposal the Constitution 69th Amendment Act — Article 239AA — was enacted. As a result the UT became NCT and its administrator became L-G. The excitement of a full-fledged election for the Legislative Assembly leading to the installation of Council of Ministers headed by a chief minister was added, but with very limited power. So the NCT was really a UT with some facade of a “state”. It was a hybrid, sui generis. In the first schedule of the Constitution, Delhi is still classified as a UT. So all efforts to draw conclusions by taking Delhi to be a mini Haryana are bound to result in absurdity.

The perception that Article 239AA is the only provision relevant to the stand-off between the L-G and the chief minister of Delhi is born out of ignorance. And so is the perception that the Delhi legislature has all the powers of a state except specifically excluded items like public order, police, land and others which are with the Centre. The crucial words in Article 239AA (3)(a) are “in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories”. Delhi, thus, remains a UT for all practical purposes. Mr Kejriwal has to take it or leave it; he can’t change it through histrionics.

Contemporaneously with the 69th Amendment, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, was enacted by Parliament and came into force on January 2, 1992. Article 239AA came into force one month later, on February 1, 1992. The 1991 Act’s Section 41 specifically deals with the subject of discretion of the L-G and matters where he is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.

It provides that the L-G “shall act in his discretion” in matters that fall outside the purview of the powers conferred on the legislature and matters delegated to him by the President. The language of Article 239AA (4) is to similar effect. Appointment of an official is not a matter for legislative action. The 1991 Act has the same force as a constitutional provision as long as it is in the book. In addition, the President promulgated Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in exercise of his powers under Section 44 of the 1991 Act for carrying out the business of governing. They elaborately deal with the administrative mechanics. Further, there are directives issued from time to time.

Constitution of IndiaThese along with Article 239AA constitute laws governing the NCT administration. Yes, there are voices that the 1991 Act, the rules and directions are opposed to the Constitution. But until declared invalid by a competent court, they are binding on the L-G, Mr Kejriwal and all the TV pundits. Expressing categorical opinion on the basis of 239AA alone, that parliamentary democracy is the same in Delhi as it is in Punjab and that the L-G exceeded his limits and should, therefore, resign, is like a blind man pronouncing on the shape of an elephant.

The laws are clear. The appointment of an acting chief secretary is not a subject on which the Delhi Assembly can legislate. Under the applicable laws the L-G of Delhi holds a unique position and his powers are immense. Power of an office is not a matter of conjecture — it is a matter of law. In the present context, the L-G acted within his powers and rightly.

The legal position regarding Delhi has not changed even a bit since Mr Kejriwal had a practical lesson or two about the lieutenant-governor’s powers during his 49-day tenure. Still he decided to enter into the same bond that he could not sustain the first time. No one offered him better conditions, still he jumped into the election fray, making taller promises. He probably never expected to win. But he did and now he wants full statehood to Delhi for fulfilling his promises. Even Mr Kejriwal would know that 70 MLAs of Delhi cannot decide the fate of the capital of a country of over 100 crore people.

Political analysts appear to be right in their suspicion that Mr Kejriwal may be getting ready to tie his shoelaces once again. Otherwise it is difficult to understand why an IIT-graduate reacted to a temporary arrangement in the manner he did — that too when he has a long way to go.

» The writer is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional solicitor-general of India. He can be reached at knbhat1@gmail.com

Najeeb Jung  Arvind Kejriwal War

The worldwide crackdown on NGOs – Lawrence Solomon

GreenpeaceFord Foundation

Lawrence Solomon“In the United States there is no talk of crackdowns, not because the U.S. is blasé about foreign-funded NGOs but because it has long had strict laws on the books. In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act after he realized that the American Nazis were being funded by Hitler’s Germany. FARA’s original pre-World War II purpose has since morphed to become a fixture of U.S. policy, used to require public disclosure in everything from Communist propaganda during the Cold War to three Canadian films dealing with acid rain and nuclear war.” – Lawrence Solomon

NGOIn Canada, China, India, Israel, Russia and in other countries around the world, governments are cracking down on foreign-funded NGOs operating in their countries. These crackdowns are inevitable and understandable, and in all cases come down to one factor: Governments, whether democratic or dictatorial, don’t like foreign forces interfering in their domestic politics.

The crackdowns typically take the form of beefing up laws and regulations, or creating new ones, to require more disclosure on the activities of NGOs. An exception is China’s proposed Foreign NGO Management Law, now in Second Reading in its legislature, where the Public Security Department of China’s State Council — its cabinet — would assume responsibility for approving the funding and the activities of all NGOs in receipt of foreign funds, to guard against purposes ranging from the political to the religious to the economic. Unlike other countries, China’s NGO law isn’t about disclosure but about censorship and control.

Ford Foundation: The CIA's social and cultural front organisation.

In one country — the United States — there is no talk of crackdowns, not because the U.S. is blasé about foreign-funded NGOs but because it has long had strict laws on the books. In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) after he realized that the American Nazis — then a potent force in U.S. politics — were being funded by Hitler’s Germany. FARA’s original pre-World War II purpose — to expose “German propaganda agents” – has since morphed to become a fixture of U.S. policy, used to require public disclosure in everything from Communist propaganda during the Cold War to three Canadian films dealing with acid rain and nuclear war, including the Academy Award winning documentary, “If you love this planet.”

When the government’s use of FARA was challenged as censorship and a limitation of free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in 1987 that it saw value in public disclosure that spotlighted material from those who might have an alien agenda, “so that the government and the people of the United States may be informed of the identity of such persons and may appraise their statements and actions in the light of their associations and activities.”

Foreign Agents Registration ActFARA’s disclosure requirement applies to any foreign monies employed “to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws.” Russia’s 2012 law on “foreign agents,” based on FARA, similarly demands disclosure when foreign money is used in the “shaping of public opinion” and in “influencing decision-making by state bodies in order to change state policy.”

While many foreign-funded NGOs are apolitical, many others — including the highest profile foreign-funded NGOs — tend to be highly political. They are often funded by foreign governments to further the foreign governments’ foreign policy interests; they often coordinate their activities with foreign governments in applying political pressure. Perhaps the most egregious example of such foreign interference involves Israel, where NGOs receive an estimated $75 million to $100 million per year in foreign dollars. Most of this money comes from European governments and European-government-funded NGOs, and most of it is designed to tilt the country leftward, particularly as regards the Palestinian issue.

Indian EconomyMuch larger sums, however, are being spent by Western governments and Western foundations in a worldwide effort to influence environmental agendas, chief among them energy policies that affect climate change. Canada’s federal government is concerned about the success of U.S. foundations, working with the Obama administration, in thwarting Keystone and other energy projects. Because Canada does not apply strong FARA-style disclosure laws to foreign funded activities, Canadians do not realize when the Canadian NGOs who lobby against Canadian projects are receiving money from U.S. organizations to do so. – Financial Post, 18 May 2015

» Lawrence Solomon is a Canadian writer on the environment and the executive director of Energy Probe, a Canadian non-governmental environmental policy organization. His writing has appeared in a number of newspapers, including The National Post where he has a column.

IB Report

World Vision India

Why the Rajputs failed miserably in battle for centuries – Girish Shahane

Girish Shahane“What made Rajputs such specialists in failure [in battle]. … The question hardly ever comes up. … The Rajputs themselves never lacked commitment, and their courage invariably drew the praise of their enemies. Even a historian as fundamentalist as Badayuni rhapsodised about Rajput valour. Babur wrote that his troops were unnerved, ahead of the Khanua engagement, by the reputed fierceness of Rana Sanga’s forces, their willingness to fight to the death.” – Girish Shahane

India Home Minister Rajnath SinghThe home minister, Rajnath Singh, wishes our school textbooks told us more about the Rajput king Rana Pratap, and less about the Mughal emperor Akbar. I, on the other hand, wish they explained why Rajputs fared so miserably on the battlefield.

A thousand years ago, Rajput kings ruled much of North India. Then they lost to Ghazni, lost to Ghuri, lost to Khilji, lost to Babur, lost to Akbar, lost to the Marathas, and keeled over before the British. The Marathas and Brits hardly count since the Rajputs were a spent force by the time Akbar was done with them. Having been confined to an arid part of the subcontinent by the early Sultans, they were reduced to vassals by the Mughals.

The three most famous Rajput heroes not only took a beating in crucial engagements, but also retreated from the field of battle. Prithviraj Chauhan was captured while bolting and executed after the second battle of Tarain in 1192 CE, while Rana Sanga got away after losing to Babur at Khanua in 1527, as did Rana Pratap after the battle of Haldighati in 1576. To compensate for, or explain away, these debacles, the bards of Rajputana replaced history with legend.

Maharana PratapSpecialists in failure

It is worth asking, surely, what made Rajputs such specialists in failure. Yet, the question hardly ever comes up. When it does, the usual explanation is that the Rajputs faced Muslim invaders whose fanaticism was their strength. Nothing could be further than the truth. Muslim rulers did use the language of faith to energise their troops, but commitment is only the first step to victory. The Rajputs themselves never lacked commitment, and their courage invariably drew the praise of their enemies. Even a historian as fundamentalist as Badayuni rhapsodised about Rajput valour. Babur wrote that his troops were unnerved, ahead of the Khanua engagement, by the reputed fierceness of Rana Sanga’s forces, their willingness to fight to the death.

Let’s cancel out courage and fanaticism as explanations, then, for each side displayed these in equal measure. What remains is discipline, technical and technological prowess, and tactical acumen. In each of these departments, the Rajputs were found wanting. Their opponents, usually Turkic, used a complex battle plan involving up to five different divisions. Fleet, mounted archers would harry opponents at the start, and often make a strategic retreat, inducing their enemy to charge into an ambush. Behind these stood the central division and two flanks. While the centre absorbed the brunt of the enemy’s thrust, the flanks would wheel around to surround and hem in opponents. Finally, there was a reserve that could be pressed into action wherever necessary. Communication channels between divisions were quick and answered to a clear hierarchy that was based largely on merit.

Contrast this with the Rajput system, which was simple, predictable, and profoundly foolish, consisting of a headlong attack with no Plan B. In campaigns against forces that had come through the Khyber Pass, Rajputs usually had a massive numerical advantage. Prithviraj’s troops outnumbered Ghuri’s at the second battle of Tarain by perhaps three to one. At Khanua, Rana Sanga commanded at least four soldiers for every one available to Babur. Unlike Sanga’s forces, though, Babur’s were hardy veterans. After defeating Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat, the founder of the Mughal dynasty had the option of using the generals he inherited from the Delhi Sultan, but preferred to stick with soldiers he trusted. He knew numbers are meaningless except when acting on a coherent strategy under a unified command. Rajput troops rarely answered to one leader, because each member of the confederacy would have his own prestige and ego to uphold. Caste considerations made meritocracy impossible. The enemy general might be a freed Abyssinian slave, but Rajput leadership was decided by clan membership.

Absent meritocratic promotion, an established chain of command, a good communication system, and a contingency plan, Rajput forces were regularly taken apart by the opposition’s mobile cavalry. Occasionally, as with the composite bows and light armour of Ghuri’s horsemen, or the matchlocks employed by Babur, technological advances played a role in the outcome.

AkbarOssified tactics

What’s astonishing is that centuries of being out-thought and out-manoeuvred had no impact on the Rajput approach to war. Rana Pratap used precisely the same full frontal attack at Haldighati in 1576 that had failed so often before. Haldighati was a minor clash by the standards of Tarain and Khanua. Pratap was at the head of perhaps 3,000 men and faced about 5,000 Mughal troops. The encounter was far from the Hindu Rajput versus Muslim confrontation it is often made out to be. Rana Pratap had on his side a force of Bhil archers, as well as the assistance of Hakim Shah of the Sur clan, which had ruled North India before Akbar’s rise to power. Man Singh, a Rajput who had accepted Akbar’s suzerainty and adopted the Turko-Mongol battle plan led the Mughal troops. Though Pratap’s continued rebellion following his defeat at Haldighati was admirable in many ways, he was never anything more than an annoyance to the Mughal army. That he is now placed, in the minds of many Indians, on par with Akbar or on a higher plane says much about the twisted communal politics of the subcontinent.

There’s one other factor that is thought to have contributed substantially to Rajput defeats: the opium habit. Taking opium was established practice among Rajputs in any case, but they considerably upped the quantity they consumed when going into battle. Several ended up in no fit state to process any instruction beyond, “kill or be killed”. Opium rendered some soldiers incapable of coordinating complex manoeuvres. There’s an apt warning for school kids: don’t do drugs, or you’ll squander an empire. Scroll.in, 20 May 2015

» Girish Shahane has degrees in English literature from Elphinstone College, Bombay University, and Oxford University. He is on the faculty of art history courses run by the Bhau Daji Lad Museum and Jnanapravaha. He has been a columnist for Time Out magazine, DNA newspaper, Yahoo India and writes a column for Scroll.in.

Rana Pratap & Man Singh

Modi Sarkar secularises yoga, undermining its inherent Hindu identity – Anubhuti Vishnoi

Surya Namaskar

Anubhuti VishnoiIshwar V. Basavaraddi, director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga confirmed that even the mention of the “universal sound” of aum is being avoided to ensure that there is no religious overtone given to International Yoga Day. … Court battles have been fought in the US over whether yoga propagates religion and although the discipline’s global popularity is substantial and growing, the question hasn’t completely gone away.” – Anubhuti Vishnoi

International Yoga Day LogoTo make yoga an aam lifestyle choice in a country where religious symbolism often attracts high-voltage political controversies, Modi Sarkar is dropping all references to ‘Om’ — the traditional mystical invocation related to Hindu spirituality and yoga practice — in its coming high-powered promotion of this ancient discipline. Senior officials involved in the government’s extensive preparations to celebrate the June 21 International Yoga Day told ET that the brief is to keep the effort “free of controversy”.

Therefore, there will be no reference to ‘aum’ in the 33-minute Common Yoga Protocol that’s been prepared by the Department of AYUSH ( ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy), as well as all literature and video being prepared for the June 21 celebration.

“It has to be kept in mind that the idea of the International Yoga Day is to take yoga to the global stage,” a top government official involved in preparations told ET. “Linkages with religion may just undermine this ambitious effort,” the official added. Officials who spoke to ET for this story did so on the condition they not be identified.

The Modi government’s decision is significant not only in the light of recent religion-related political controversies but also global debates about yoga’s ‘religious’ identity. Court battles have been fought in the US over whether yoga propagates religion and Dr Ishwar Basavaraddialthough the discipline’s global popularity is substantial and growing, the question hasn’t completely gone away.

Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga confirmed that even the mention of the “universal sound” of aum is being avoided to ensure that there is no religious overtone given to International Yoga Day. Plenty of other efforts are being made to make June 21 a significant day. There are plans to issue Rs 100 and Rs 10 coins. The coins will carry the logo of International Yoga Day – a yoga posture indicating the integration of the five elements.

The government will also issue a special postal stamp bearing the same image. The same logo is likely to be adopted by UN for the international day of yoga. The slogan likely to go with the logo will be – ‘Yoga for Harmony and Peace‘. Indian missions and culture centres all over the world will host the 33-minute Common Yoga Protocol, starting 8 am of June 21. There are plans to host this — starting 7 am — across India as well, in schools and government departments and security forces. And the government is approaching Guinness Book of World Records as well as Limca Book of Records to enlist June 21 celebrations as the biggest multi-venue yoga practice ever. Also, officials said, the yoga protocol, prepared in consultation with Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi ShankarBaba Ramdev, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev and yoga institutions in India, will stick to the simplest of yoga postures. “This is to ensure yoga appeals even to the uninitiated in many countries.”

Later this month, a yoga guru will be brought in to train MPs and their family members. In New Delhi, while the culture ministry will organise an exhibition on the history of yoga, the tourism ministry will circulate brochures and booklets. To round it all off, there will be a government-sponsored international conference on yoga on June 21 and 22. – Indiatimes, 18 April 2015

» Anubhuti Vishnoi is an assistant editor and columnist for The Economic Times, India Today and The Indian Express in New Delhi.

See also

India points out areas of ‘concern’ in US’ human rights record – IANS

Ajit Kumar“India made a few recommendations, including that the US ‘may consider establishing a national human rights institution.'” – IANS

As violence continues in Baltimore in the US following the custodial death of a black man, India has pointed out areas of “concern” regarding the US’ human rights record, including “deficiencies in law enforcement procedures and disproportionate use of force”.

In a statement, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva Ajit Kumar acknowledged the “openness of the US delegation in accepting areas of continuing concern such as racial bias in the criminal justice system, incidents of bias-motivated crimes, including those committed against Hindus and Sikhs, and need for safety and living conditions at confinement facilities”.

India made a few recommendations, including that the US “may consider establishing a national human rights institution”.

Flag of the United Nations“We encourage the US Government to take adequate steps towards gender parity at workplace, protect women from all forms of violence and enhance opportunities in education and health for children from ethnic minorities.”

“We note efforts towards maintaining respect for privacy and civil liberties while addressing dangers to national security. We request the US delegation to share more information in this connection.”

India also welcomed the developments towards better protection of the rights of indigenous peoples by the US.

“We recommend that the US consider early ratification of International Conventions relating to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Rights of the Child (CRC) and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).”

Mary McLeodSpeaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, State Department’s acting legal adviser Mary McLeod highlighted steps taken by the US to battle against all forms of discrimination.

“Torture and cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment are absolutely prohibited at all times and in all places under both international law and US domestic law with no exception,” she said.

McLeod was speaking at the US’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR is a process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states.

Arrest of Freddie Gray in BaltimoreBaltimore has witnessed a spate of violence following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, 25, earlier this month. Gray’s death is the latest in a line of deaths of unarmed black teens/men due to use of excessive use of force or shooting by the police in the US.

India last week, during a statement on the UPR of the Maldives’ human rights record, called upon the Indian Ocean nation of islands to safeguard space for legitimate political dissent.

“We have seen reports by UN agencies that press freedom is being abridged. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has also reported their increased politicization. Maintaining public trust requires strong adherence to due process. The space for legitimate political dissent must be safeguarded,” India has said. – Indian Defence Research Wing, 12 May 2015

» Indo-Asian News Service or IANS is a private Indian news agency based in New Delhi.

Rahul 2.0 needs a reality check – Virendra Kapoor

Rahul Gandhi

Virendra Kapoor“Land in Palwal was transferred in the names of Vadra, Rahul and even Priyanka in spite of the clear stipulation that only Dalits can own that land. Originally the land in question was given to members of the Dalit community sometime in the mid-50s, with the specific condition that it can be transferred, if at all, only to fellow Dalits. How Vadra and Gandhi came to own it is in itself a scandal.” – Virendra Kapoor

Rahul GandhiWisdom is missing

Now that he seems to have discovered his tongue, many wonder if he has also found wisdom. For it is not absolutely necessary that one should come with the other. Indeed, some of the most garrulous and word-smart people still can be quite dim actually. Here in the case of Rahul Gandhi 2.0, you are not exactly sure as to whose words he has taken to regurgitating in the Lok Sabha and outside. Therefore, before you pass the post-sabbatical Gandhi scion, reserve your judgement.

His courtiers might be lapping up every word that comes out of his mouth, not unlike the doting parents who rejoice over every semi-constructed monosyllable coming from the mouth of a newborn, but all that one can discern from the declamations of the Congress vice-president thus far is that he is out to recycle the worn-out cliché-ridden politics of his great-grandmother. Garibi Hatao-II, we are afraid, is unlikely to pay electoral dividends nearly half a century after that heady slogan had first swept Indira Gandhi into the Lok Sabha on the back of a huge mandate. But soon Indira Gandhi had frittered away most of the goodwill, seeking to excuse her own lack of performance by telling the poor that she did not have a magic wand.

Nearly half-a-century later, India is now a very different country. We are fully in the information age. Mass media educates the masses. Their own experience too has taught them to be wary of charlatans. Even the unlettered poor no longer trust the netas spewing spiel about “garibi hatao” without offering any concrete plan as to how they intend achieving that objective. Indeed, in the case of Gandhi, the trust deficit between him and his targeted audience of farmers, landless labourers, unemployed millions et al is all the greater not only because of the wasted decade of the UPA, but also due to more than half a century of the Congress raj since Independence.

In short, by mechanically mouthing clichés about the weak and the underprivileged he cannot expect to win back for his party the trust of the people. What he says simply does not evoke confidence. For the hackneyed prescriptions have few takers even among leftist economists. For instance, the problem of agrarian distress precedes the advent of Narendra Modi at the Centre. And offering farm waivers and subsidized seeds and fertilizers and ruinously high minimum support price for farm produce is no solution when the malaise runs much deeper.

Farmers' Suicides in IndiaIf only the Gandhi scion would try and understand, a major cause for agrarian distress, including farmers’ suicides, is that too many people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Contrary to what he would have us believe, not everyone in the rural areas is a farmer. A little less than 60% of the rural folks are, but again, of that a little less than 60% are landless, daily-wagers who find seasonal work on farms. Besides, nearly 80% land holdings measure less than 1.5 hectares.

How, then, do you try and tackle agrarian distress? No, not by offering farm waivers every other year and thus jeopardizing the health of the banking sector. The solution lies in moving the people away from farms to manufacturing, services and myriad other fields generating an ever-increasing number of jobs as the economy expands at a decent 7%-plus clip. If, however, Gandhi has his way, there would be no land for expanding infrastructure, for boosting the industrial sector and for growing economy to create more jobs in the services sector, which already accounts for nearly 60% of the GDP.

Tom-tomming opposition to the proposed changes in the land acquisition law without caring to acquaint himself with the views of unprejudiced experts is bound to make a laughing stock of the Congress vice-president. Noted economists could not have been all wrong when they endorsed these changes, arguing that, otherwise, even essential government-led development would be impossible. But, alas, like a broken gramophone record, Gandhi would grate on and on how the proposed changes are anti-poor, anti-farmer. Has anyone asked the farmers? No. Because they do not care. Politicians falsely claiming to speak for the farmers are, in fact, concerned about their own welfare, their own future. Nothing else.

If such rank selfishness comes to define Rahul’s politics, he is unlikely to impress the voters. Here is a well-intentioned suggestion. Henceforth, Gandhi can hope to profit if he pointedly embraces economic realism, talks of expanding the economy through the creation of more jobs, more services, etc. Poverty alleviation as a vote-catcher no longer works. Address the constituency of the poor and the jobless not as if they were dumb, but as an intelligent people whose foremost desire is to get jobs, and not to slog indefinitely on the farms for subsistence-level wages.

The voter now is aspirational, and not just in the urban centres. Rural youth ape Bollywood far more than do their counterparts in big cities. Latest trends in fashion are copied early in the countryside. Therefore, trying to irretrievably yoke rural folks to small and marginal holdings will most certainly evoke their ire. They will resent the gumption of the politicians seeking to stagnate them on poor-paying tiny farms in backward villages while they aspire for naukari in big towns and metros.

In sum, Rahul Gandhi needs a reality check. Delivering, parrot-like, set-piece speeches, with the fawning Congressmen “jee-huzooring” every word, might soon cease to attract even media interest, once the initial curiosity at his having found his tongue wears off. He must acquire practical wisdom as well.

Robert Vadra, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul GandhiWhy restrict it to Gurgaon?

Retired Delhi High Court Judge S.N. Dhingra, named the commissioner for inquiry into Robert Vadra’s land deals in Haryana, enjoyed a reputation for scrupulous honesty and for his no-nonsense attitude. A thorough-going probe, therefore, can be expected.

But, surprisingly, while the terms of inquiry refer to the questionable land deals in Gurgaon, equally scandalous transactions in Palwal district of Haryana find no mention. In this particular deal, not only Vadra, but brother-in-law Rahul Gandhi too was in violation of the law. The land in Palwal was transferred in the names of Vadra, Gandhi and even Priyanka in spite of the clear stipulation that only Dalits can own that land. Originally the land in question was given to members of the Dalit community sometime in the mid-50s, with the specific condition that it can be transferred, if at all, only to fellow Dalits. How Vadra and Gandhi came to own it is in itself a scandal.

Indeed, after the scandal burst out into the open, Gandhi transferred the Palwal land to someone else’s name, but that did not alter the fact that he had illegally owned a piece of land strictly meant for Dalits. The plea that he no longer owns it would not absolve him of wrongdoing — just as the possessor of an illegal weapon cannot escape punishment arguing that he no longer owns the unlicensed gun.

Now, why would a self-avowedly farmer-friendly Rahul Gandhi try and grab someone else’s land? That is easily answered. His “suited-booted jijaji”, as a BJP MP called Vadra, after all, was not selfish. He would share the loot with his celebrated brother-in-law, especially when the Congress governments had made it possible for him to become enormously rich, without his having to do anything to deserve that kind of money. – The Sunday Guardian, 17 May 2015

» Virendra Kapoor is a freelance columnist and commentator on current affairs. He has also been a editor of Free Press Journal, Mumbai and a senior editor of Indian Express, Delhi.

Robert Vadra Land Purchases

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