Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Massive Efforts Needed to Educate People for e-Transactions : N K Goyal





N K Goyal and S D Saxena of CMAI Association of India 
interacting with media persons 
on the issue of educating masses on e-transactions 

By Vinod Varshney
With demonetization woes continuing across the country at an unprecedented level, the ICT sector eyes an opportunity in the situation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a dramatic fashion broadcast this decision in a message to the nation on the night of November 8 this year.

Amidst widespread criticism of the demonetization by most opposition political parties and renowned economists, any support to the move can only be a soothing balm to the government. The latest voice of support to the demonetization move comes from the CMAI Association of India, which boasts as being one of the largest ICT associations based in India with 48,500 members and 54 MoU partners worldwide, actively engaged in development and promotion for telecommunications and education sector.

N K Goyal, the president of the organisation does agree that the government move has brought enormous hardship to the people, but he believes that it would be a temporary phase and millions of people in the country who own smart phones would be transcending to making mobile payments as a natural habit. But as old habits die hard, he says that massive efforts are needed to bring about the requisite change.

He informed Thursday in a chat with media persons that the CMAI Association of India which deals with more than one lac educational institutions and academic professionals consisting of universities, technical & engineering colleges and schools, plans to initiate an online free training programmes and large scale education drive for use of e-transactions.
Goyal expressed hopes that the forthcoming budget may make big announcement to support education programmes for e-transactions to facilitate the country entering into a digital economy era.

The CMAI Association of India has suggested a number of thrust areas to make the digital economy mission of the government successful like providing volunteers to help in educating people at the grass-root levels especially in the rural areas, launching programmes involving university students and senior citizens to educate rural and low income urban population in the use of e-payments, helping small and marginal traders, especially vendors for the use of e-payment methods. Surprisingly, the Association has missed out in this list the private doctors who had been charging their fees in cash only across the country and similarly the private schools who pay their teachers in cash after getting signatures on a higher salary slip. The point was raised by a media person in the discussion with the CMAI Association president. Goyal insisted change would come in these sections of society also.

Being a player in the technology space, the CMAI Association also recommends that all available options for increasing connectivity should be explored including satellite, optical fibre and new technologies such as ‘white space’. 

Thankfully, the members of the CMAI Association do not dispute that there has been increase in frauds in e-transactions but they insist that the situation is not as alarming as has been made out in certain quarters. They ask in return whether people do never get defrauded and lose money when they make cash transactions. They insist that e-transactions despite all the risks involved offer better safety and also transparency.

SD Saxena, vice chairman of the CMAI is conscious of the importance of the safety aspect and says that at the banking level the encryption level is robust but at the end-user level, it is weak and needs to be bolstered in order to generate better confidence among people whose fear cannot be brushed aside in backdrop of the incident when the security of 40 lac debit cards got compromised a few months ago.    

   

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How Modi’s demonetization move is a drama!

By Vinod Varshney
The Modi government is causing so much hardship to common people, farmers and retail businessmen across the country as prime minister Modi unwittingly demonetized the currency which is now of low denomination in value terms and is used by common people in day-to-day transactions. People go to buy even fruits and vegetable carrying a 500 rupee note and street-venders do accept them routinely.

One needs to look at the cost inflation index which is 1125 today on the basis of its value ‘100’ in 1980-81. Its value was probably 80 in 1978. Thus, the value of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 today is only Rs 36 and Rs 72 in terms of the value of Indian rupee in 1978 when Desai government had undertaken demonetization exercise so successfully. 

When prime minister Morarji Desai had demonetized 500, 1,000 and 10,000 rupee notes in 1978, he was truly eliminating high value notes and thus conducting a true surgical strike against black money hoarders. I had been a sub-editor then with Hindustan, a national Hindi newspaper published from New Delhi. I like other common people had seen the Rs 1,000 note probably only once or twice. But never got to see a 10,000 rupee note!

Because of the demonetization of the high value notes, the Desai government had hurt only the black money hoarders, not the common man. That was the reason, there were no deaths like this time of old people standing in queues for long hours to get their notes converted and no deaths of children for not being able to get treatments owing to old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes not being acceptable to private medical service providers.

Prime minister Modi has rightly been accused for his arrogance as he fails to realize that his move is hurting common people across the board, in some cases even more than the black money hoarders who are using touts to get their notes changed with the new ones for a price.

Had Modi government really been sincere to hit the black money hoarders in India, it would have demonetized the Kisan Vikas Patra which were discontinued by the Manmohan Singh government as an action against black money hoarding but were relaunched audaciously by the Modi government to facilitate black money owners.

The current demonetization exercise looks more like a sadistic drama, and to say mildly, a face saver amidst countrywide criticism of prime minister Narendra Modi who failed to bring back the black money stashed abroad that was promised to be done within 100 days of forming his government during election rallies in 2014.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Federalism Under Threat ?

West Bengal chief minister 
Mamata Bannerjee in the chief 
ministers’ conclave
It used to be the pet theme of Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. But after he assumed power in the Centre, his style of functioning appears totally in defiance of the federal structure of the national polity. Not one meeting of the NDC has taken place in his 16 months’ rule, which is a forum where states can raise their issues. The Planning Commission is already finished which used to take care of financial needs of the states. There are accusations that Centre is running parallel governments through governors and lieutenant governors in the non-NDA states. All this does not augur well for the country and democracy. The first attempt to organise a ‘Conclave of Chief Ministers on Cooperative Federalism & Centre-State Relations’ did not succeed as only two chief ministers turned up from among the five who had evinced interest, but this does not mean the issue is going to die down any time soon. It would continue to acquire fresh energy and momentum until the Centre amends its ways, AAP leaders say.

By Bodhi Shri
Non-NDA governments in states have one common complaint against the Centre since the new government under Narendra Modi has came into existence that there is unwarranted interference of the Centre in the functioning of state governments. So much so that parallel governments are being run through the governors and lieutenant governors, state chief ministers say. 
The worst victim of this attitude has been the Delhi government of Aam Aadmi Party, which badly mauled the BJP in the assembly elections early this year despite the vigorous campaigning undertaken by prime minister Narendra Modi which was also hugely energised by the RSS. The BJP could win only 3 seats out of 70 in Delhi. 
      Decency and public ethics require that BJP leaders should have become humble after the defeat, but the opposite happened and all kinds of dirty tricks are being played to harass the Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal. Any neutral observer would say that the Centre is creating hurdles in the functioning of the Delhi government on one pretext or the other out of vindictiveness. All limits were crossed when the lieutenant governor wrote to officers of Delhi government last week of September not to follow any orders from the chief minister, which they thought were in contravention of Centre’s directive. Who can say that this is not an open encouragement to rebel against an elected government? 
      It is not just the Delhi government which is at the receiving end from such an attitude of the Centre. The experience of several state governments is similar, though the degree of the interference might be varying. The Samajwadi Party last month protested the interference of UP governor Ram Naik who has earned the reputation of making comments, observations and statements which do not match his constitutional high position. Seeing the level of undue interference (he wrote 175 letters to the chief minister in a year raising numerous issues) crossing the limits, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav requested prime minister Modi to either restrain him or remove him. The situation is so bad that a section within the ruling party in UP demanded to launch a ‘halla-bol’ against him.  
      The behaviour of other governors is also reported to be not much different. 
This is yet another matter that these chief ministers did not turn up in the ‘Chief Ministers Conclave on Cooperative Federalism and Centre-State Relations’ organised by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Five chief ministers had given their consent to attend the conclave—West Bengal, Bihar, Mizoram, Tripura and Puducherry. Uttarakhand chief minister had responded to the invitation, but chose to stay away, ostensibly due to strong rivalry between the Congress and AAP in Delhi. 
Delhi chief minister Arvind
Kejriwal and Tripura CM Manik 
Sarkar after the chief ministers’ 
conclave on ‘Cooperative 
Federalism and Centre-State 
Relations’ in Delhi
      The Conclave also seen as Arvind Kejriwal’s efforts to emerge as a national leader, as a matter of fact flopped since only two chief ministers turned up and others excused themselves from attending it citing one reason or the other. And out of the two chief ministers, Manik Sarkar of Tripura was counselled by the CPM’s central leadership not to share the dais with Mamata Bannerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal.  Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar did not come as he was involved in the ‘do or die’ kind of electoral battle in his state. Kumar’s letter, however, scathingly accused the Centre of crushing the federal structure by taking unilateral decisions on a number of issues like cutting Centre’s share in several important centre-sponsored schemes without consulting the chief ministers. Nitish reminded, ‘Before elections, BJP used to talk about federal structure but now the behaviour of the Centre is against cooperative federalism’. The Bihar chief minister proposed detailed deliberations among the states after the Bihar polls.
      Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla of the Congress could not come as the assembly session was to begin, but he sent his views in a letter.  
      Mamata Banerjee stole the who roared like a lioness in the conclave making a convincing case by citing examples how the federal structure of the country was under threat. She accused that the Centre was using CBI, ED and Income Tax Department to bulldoze state governments. She proved her point by citing the case of CBI raids at Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhandra Singh’s residence in connection with a disproportionate assets case. She recounted how the Modi government was breaching the boundary of political ethics and propriety and ‘running down’ constitutional provisions. She told that she was shocked to know that the Bengal governor had written a letter asking for central forces for civic elections in the state. She accused the governor of summoning police chief and other officers to the Raj Bhavan though law and order is state’s prerogative. 
      Kejriwal spoke about how since the Delhi assembly was constituted in 1992 no LG had interfered with chief minister’s decisions. But in his case 30 decisions have been changed. By doing so Centre was not only insulting the democracy but also the judiciary. If I am wrong there are courts to take care, why this interference, he asked. He gave an example how Delhi Police under the Centre chose to remain mute spectator when ESMA was to be implemented during the DTC strike causing innense hardship to millions of commuters on a wroking day.   

      Some political observers feel the attempt to bring together chief ministers of various non-BJP parties at one platform may one day convert into a political alternative to take on the BJP. But this interpretation was vehemently denied by Arvind Kejriwal.
(Note: The article was first published in the Lokayat magazine: October, 2015) 

Sheer Barbarism

The murder of Akhlaq by a crowd of 200-odd villagers on the basis of a beef-eating rumour is a gruesome proof of how vulnerable Indian society has become. This is perhaps the most shocking murder of its kind in the recent memory and naturally got wide publicity even in foreign media in the globalised environment of information flow putting India in a poor light. Many insist to take it as a wakeup call for the countrymen. Certainly, we should not allow this great country to descend into an uncivilised and barbarous banana state where people can take an innocent life like this defying all sense of culture and the law of the land and Constitution.
      Defending the murder as an accident by union minister Mahesh Sharma is all the more shocking. BJP leaders should also think what image they are creating of our great country before the world. A few years ago, the entire world used to marvel at our secular and inclusive culture and politics where the president was a Muslim, the prime minister a Sikh and the president of the ruling party a Christian. Indeed, it was the superb example of sarv dharm sambhava! Globally, intellectuals and leaders used to wonder what is there in India that despite such a plurality of caste, religion and language, there is so much harmony. But what Dadri murder proves now?
      Most people rightly suspect that beef was not the real reason behind the murder. There is a very strong possibility that it was a political conspiracy to fan communal hysteria. In the days of irresponsible social media, it has become all the easier. It is a pity that the modern technology has become handmaiden of the dark-age mentality rather than serving for the betterment and welfare of the society.
       Politicians indeed had tasted blood in the last Lok Sabha elections. They know the instant advantage of such things in terms of political returns. So why will they not try it out again when the most crucial elections after the last Lok Sabha polls are to take place in Bihar? There is great need for certain political interests to polarise electorate and reap the electoral advantage.
      But such sinister methods in politics do not result into good outcome. People should realise that use of religion in politics creates only hatred, bad blood and misery. When politicians are allowed to use religion for their selfish ends, the inherent purpose of religion to create amity and unity among human beings gets lost.
      The redeeming development is that a lot of people have come out in the open to oppose the current attempt of justifying the unfortunate killing for political gains. So far as beef-eating is concerned, some intellectuals have cited ancient Hindu scriptures to establish beyond doubt that even upper caste Hindus and great rishis ate beef in days of yore. Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar for one has mentioned Bhavabhuti’s play in this context. Vice-president Hamid Ansari has reminded that article 21 of the Constitution makes it incumbent upon the state to protect the right to life of every citizen irrespective of his or her religion. It speaks poorly of us that our guest at the Republic Day parade, US President Barack Obama had to remind us of this provision of our Constitution.
      And last but not the least, paying huge compensation to the family of Akhlaq is not a solution to tackle the issue; it is like extending help to the saffron fringe elements to roam around and crying of Muslim ‘appeasement’ hoarse polarising voters in Bihar.
(Note: The article was first published in the Lokayat magazine: October, 2015) 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How Safe Our Fashionable Foods!

By Vinod Varshney

Do we remain oblivious of health hazards or we simply are helpless? Both statements are correct. In some matters despite knowing about risks, we ignore them. In some others we find we have no choice. The case of Maggi’s 2 minute noodles is a mix of the two. With growing number of women in jobs finding less time for cooking elaborate meals, such products as 2 minute noodles are a boon. But not just a compulsion always, fast foods are becoming a fad, a passion with growing number of people.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Millstones Around AAP’s Neck
By Vinod Varshney
Who could have imagined that within a few weeks of the historical victory of Aam Aadmi Party, such an ugly show of ‘inner party democracy’ would be presented before the people, who had immense hopes in the new political experiment, seen as the therapeutic agent to treat major ills of the Indian political system, ranging from preponderance use of black money to rampant corruption and chicanery of trampling the genuine interests of the people to serve the wealthy corporates.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mufflerman Returns

By Vinod Varshney

Kejri Spell Overwhelms Modi Magic

February 10, 2015 will be marked in the annals of Delhi politics as historic, when a much-maligned and lampooned party won 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly belying all opinion surveys and exit polls. Delhi voters demonstrated to the world the vigour of Indian democracy when the fledgling Aam Admi Party without much funds or cadre strength trounced its highly resourceful rivals, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The AAP called it the victory of a new kind of open politics that should take roots and grow in the coming days. Many observers commented that it was the victory of truth over disgusting and malicious politics to edge out Arvind Kejriwal from the contest that took place in Delhi. The voters by their verdict have also told the BJP that its leaders including prime minister Narendra Modi and the party’s national president Amit Shah need to shed their arrogance, and work in the best interests of the common man.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Blame Nehru!

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was not only the national hero of freedom struggle but also of post-independence India when he laid solid foundation of democracy, secularism, non-alignment and scientific temper in the country. These basic principles of his catholic approach reflected in the thoughtful inclusion of five eminent non-Congress personalities in the first cabinet he formed.  It is ironic that while celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of a leader of such impeccable credentials, the event should remain mired in controversies, highlighting the petty-mindedness and boorishness of today’s intolerant politicians.

 By Vinod Varshney
Political atmosphere in the country in the 125th birth anniversary year of independent India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru is, regrettably anti-Nehru. No wonder because the ultra-rightist BJP is in power at the Centre and from day one of its inception it has consistently and virulently attacked Nehru, the hero of the freedom struggle, for his broad and secular outlook. In a democratic system, as per the rules of the game, change of government is natural though mindless attacks on personalities and character assassination are not necessarily part of it. The new rulers, however, seem to think that their mandate is mainly to target Nehru, left and right.
     For instance, there is indeed a huge segment in the BJP which has taken upon itself to blame Nehru for everything that has gone wrong in the country. The challenges of the time when he was called upon to take the reins and chart the destiny of the new-born country are not given any consideration while assessing him. Indisputably, the biggest gift of Nehru to this country is its strong foundation of secular polity, which is what is virtually under threat today. Consider how difficult it was at that time when the minds of people were deeply scarred by the partition, which caused the biggest displacement of people in world history. Rehabilitation of some 1.4 crore people who permanently left their hearth and home, communal riots which spread like wild fire and took a toll of  nearly two lakh lives, etc. posed an unprecedented situation for the government headed by Nehru. The new generation has no idea as to how difficult it was to keep the country united in that situation without his secular vision. The tragedy today is that people are being taught to openly ridicule this very same concept of secularism.
     The most virulent attack by the business-friendly BJP today is reserved for Nehru’s economic model—the mixed economy. Surprisingly, a large majority of Indians believe this misrepresentation. In the days of the social media when it is being massively used to propagate junk ideas, few worry about historical facts. Nehru’s model of mixed economy was a novel experiment, neither giving full freedom to private capital to maximise profit at the cost of public weal and foreign capital which would have brought neo-colonialism, creating threat to country’s sovereignty, nor any push to dictatorial type of command economy. Nehru indeed laid the foundation for India’s economic development, but not subordinate to foreign capital. The mixed economy model was evolved with Nehru’s ideational input by some of the country’s most brilliant brains, because it was considered appropriate for a nascent economy facing enormous development challenges and having few options. Is it fair to assail his decisions made thus in the backdrop of what India had inherited from the British rulers?
     The country had inherited a stagnant agriculture, massive unemployment and employability, nil industry, widespread poverty and illiterate population steeped in age-old blind beliefs. The global economy too had not come out of the recession left behind at the end of World War II. The challenges that faced post-war India can be imagined from the fact that during the five years 1943 to 1947 its GDP had come down by 23.65 percent. Its average GDP growth was a paltry, 0.72 percent during the three decades preceding independence. Nehru raised it five times higher to over 3.5 percent. But the new generation pejoratively scoffs at this as the Hindu rate of growth. The foremost challenge before the country was to revive the growth engine and pass on the benefits to the people in equitable manner, a pledge leaders had made to the nation during the struggle for independence.

Who wanted to help India?

After World War II Europe was helped in its reconstruction by the Marshal Plan of the US, under which $160 billion in current value were given to them. But for the newly independent India there was no such helping hand, though Indian soldiers had also fought against the fascists and thousands had sacrificed their lives. India had to develop and grow with its own resources. Many assailed Nehru for following the USSR model of development, forgetting that any visionary leader would have wanted India to develop rapidly like the erstwhile USSR which was growing at the astounding average rate of more than 10 percent successively for several years —making it an irresistible model for a country like ours with similar problems. Comparative data of economic growth of various countries from 1952 to 1962 are arresting: the USSR, Western Europe (12 countries) and US had grown during this decade by 67.8, 62.38 and 36.6 percent respectively. India grew by 47 percent, which is not a mean achievement given the low level of technology, poor quality of entrepreneurship and meagre capital base available in the country. 
     Much criticism is made of Nehru’s emphasis switching over to industrialisation from agriculture in the Second Five-Year Plan, and that too with the help of the USSR. It is conveniently forgotten that US capital was ready to come to India but not without strings attached on technology transfer. The US capitalists wanted to do only business and repatriate profits back home from India. For a newly independent country it would have been unthinkable to hand over economic opportunities again to foreign companies having gone through the bitter experience with the East India Company. Another criticism of Nehru is about his extra focus on the public sector. Again many facts are ignored while discussing this issue. Nehru was never against the private sector; the disease entered only during his daughter’s rule. This apart, the capital and expertise available with the country’s private sector were so meagre and inadequate that mega projects could be taken care of by the public sector only, which truly formed the bulk of the manufacturing in India. Even otherwise the merit of the public sector is still underplayed though the hollowness of the private sector gets exposed repeatedly when it comes to making big investments with long gestation period. A recent case is illustrative. When all private companies ran away from bidding for the two ultra mega power projects in Odisha which entailed an investment of the order of Rs 50,000 crore, only NTPC was the sole bidder left. During Nehru’s time the investment capacity of Indian capitalists was unbelievably low.
     The third major criticism of Nehru related to his foreign policy based on non-alignment, suggesting that India should have become an ally of the US during the cold war and entered into defence treaties with it. Infact Nehru displayed rare guts in remaining independent of both the super powers. India’s foreign policy of that time must be viewed in the context of the all-pervading anti-colonial mood in India and other newly independent countries. People’s feelings were still raw with bitter memories of exploitation by colonial powers, the Great Britain in our case. Nehru is taken to task for mishandling the J&K issue and agreeing to a referendum. Here it is pertinent to remember that India’s independence and for that matter of some 100 countries which  became free after the Second World War--the first being India—was the outcome of the principles enshrined in the Atlantic Charter which stated why the US and other Allied powers should fight the War. This charter also spoke with clarity of the right of self-determination for many colonies. But this was not the only problem before Nehru: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had offered Pakistan to reverse its acceptance of the accession of Junagarh, the princely state of Gujarat, which was a Hindu majority area but was ruled by a Muslim Nawab, through a plebiscite. It was finally conducted and more than 99 percent of the people chose to integrate with India rather than Pakistan. Moreover Nehru was confident of winning a plebiscite in Kashmir with the help of Sheikh Abdullah who led the freedom movement on secular principles. Secular Kashmiri people would have opted to join the Union of India rather than merge with Pakistan. On the issue of J&K Nehru should be credited for not allowing super powers to meddle in it despite the joint efforts of the US and Britain to fish in troubled waters. His approach towards China has also been criticised. In this case also one can ask what options were available then. With the Soviet economy in doldrums and the US taking an ambivalent attitude towards us, India did not have much room to manoeuvre. By all accounts Indians must feel proud of Nehru who did not allow the country to become the battleground or military base of foreign powers as in the cases of some others in Asia.
     Nehru was indeed a visionary, who conceptualised the future growth of India on the basis of science and technology. If India was able to send Mangalyaan to the Mars in one attempt, which prime minister Narendra Modi spoke so highly of, the country should not forget that the strong foundation of science and technology was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru. The country is reaping the benefit of having the nuclear bomb and missile capabilities. Nehru had not only started research in the field of atomic energy despite scepticism in the US and Europe, but established 22 laboratories within a decade under CSIR and 45 in his entire rule of 17 years to give a boost to the industrial growth of the country. How much money did the private sector invest in research and development in India during last six decades? And to meet the need of trained manpower in applied science and technology, he started IITs. People should indeed feel proud of Jawaharlal Nehru who, rather than get swayed by petty-fogging and ill-informed attacks on him, laid a strong foundation for the forward march of this great nation.
(Note: The article was first published in the Lokayat magazine: December, 2014) 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Praising democracy amidst perils it faces
By Vinod Varshney
To praise Indian democracy as Modi did in Madison Square Garden, New York without making efforts to strengthen its core or paying attention to its fundamental values is nothing but chicanery. One major shortcoming of our democratic system is that it sometimes results in majoritarian rule by a party, and immense power goes with it, even while leaving out a whole community as large as fourteen percent of the country’s population. Look at the absurdity of the situation: the BJP government with 282 members in the Lok Sabha has a massive mandate, but it does not represent Muslims; yet it targets them in various ways, like raising the bogey of ‘love jihad’ and imposing ban on entry to garba venues without an ID card (a way to screen out Muslims). Such patently discriminatory approach presents a grave danger to our parliamentary democracy and even our very survival as a free nation.
      Free media and independent judiciary are two important pillars of democracy and they keep it in good health in normal times. But these are not normal times and condition of these props is getting worrisome. Attempts are being made to weaken their very foundation itself. The media today is largely owned by private players, some based abroad. It was thought that with expansion into new fields with immense reach and possibilities, media would be freer and competitive. But the opposite is happening. During Lok Sabha elections the entire range of media was unashamedly campaigning for just one person; it is doing the same even five months after. Many specialists who keep a tab on media aver that this behaviour of media is unprecedented. Except during the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, the media had never been so partisan and one-sided. It seems the media are now totally under the control of vested interests. Not a good sign for healthy democracy!
      The situation in the judiciary is equally perturbing. Many eminent jurists have expressed concern about the changes contemplated in the system of selection of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The recently retired chief justice of India R M Lodha thinks that the National Judicial Appointments Commission is a potential threat to the independence of judiciary, which we all know should be non-negotiable. Justice Lodha firmly believes that the current collegium system, with all its shortcomings is much better, since judges are best suited to select and appoint judges. They know all about ‘court craft, skill, legal knowledge and other important aspects of justice-delivery’. Only those who wish to use judiciary for their own ends will think otherwise. Judges getting in through any opaque route would be pliable because they would be looking for jobs post-retirement. ‘You scratch my back, I will do yours.’ That is the common approach.      It is no secret that the biggest litigant in the country today is the government. It has, therefore, its interest in having judges to do its bidding. The likes of Lalu Yadav, Yeddyurappa, Jayalalithaa, Om Prakash Chautala, Madhu Koda—their number is increasing by the day—could not have been sent to jail if we did not have an independent and fearless judiciary. Cancellation of 124 telecom and 214 coal mining licences would not have been possible with pliant judges. But things might change for the worse if we are not vigilant and do not keep independence of judiciary non-negotiable. The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha without a single vote opposing it. It is a wake-up call for us. All democracy lovers, independent judiciary and free media are the guarantors of your freedom and chosen way of life. Keep them sacrosanct, undefiled by corruption and communalism.
The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs, the ' Lokayat' (October, 2014 issue)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pak given a befitting reply

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who had durin
Narendra Modi
g his election campaign spoken repeatedly of improving relations with India, to the shock of everybody in India raked up the Kashmir issue, and the six decade old UN resolution regarding self determination in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. His die-hard anti-India approach reflected in his another statement opposing addition in the number of permanent seats in the Security Council. Prime minister Narendra Modi as a mature statesman cautioned the Pak leader that raising issues in the UN might derail the efforts to resolve them between the two countries. He also made clear his government’s policy of advancing friendship and cooperation with neighbouring countries, asserting that the same policy applies to Pakistan as well. He told ‘he was prepared to engage in a serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in peaceful atmosphere, without the shadow of terrorism to promote friendship and cooperation’. He urged that Pakistan must also take its responsibility seriously to create an appropriate atmosphere for dialogue. Nawaz Sharief had blamed India ‘for another missed opportunity’ to address outstanding issues by cancelling the foreign secretary level talk after the Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit’s talk with Kashmiri separatists in Delhi.
The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs, the ' Lokayat' (October, 2014 issue)

Rajdeep Sardesai mobbed and abused

Sorce: indiaopines.com
As happens often in India, attacking and mobbing critics are common in all countries.  AAP volunteers are routinely attacked by Modi-bhaktas in India. But when a similar thing happened outside the Madison Square Garden in New York to one of the most popular and talented TV anchors, Rajdeep Sardesai, now a consulting editor of the Headlines Today, it came as a shock. He was mobbed and abused by hundreds of frenzied Modi supporters who had organised a dazzling rock star-like show for the visiting PM. The event had all the ingredients of a political rally. Videos available on social media sites show that Sardesai did also lose his cool and became combative with those who were abusing him and shouting ‘Sardesai murdabad’. He was seen asking the mob whether Modi had ‘told you to do so, or America has taught you to behave like this’. A very large section of the media fraternity expressed concern at the mobbing attempts to stop journalists doing their job freely. 
     The Sardesai incident immediately went viral on the social media. Worried supporters of Modi then uploaded a video showing Sardesai aggressively hurling a punch towards an abuser. Several people asked why he was asking provocative questions while covering the event. But the questions he asked were of general nature, like: ‘What do you expect Modi to say in his address? Can one man (Modi) change India? Did you pay your way for a ticket to Madison Square Garden? Has the media been unfair to Modi?’  They were not offensive by any standard. But for some reason Sardesai had been on the receiving end of Modi supporters even during Lok Sabha elections.
     Very much in tune with his marketing style, Modi succeeded in presenting a rare show at the Madison Square Garden, one of the ten costliest venues in the world. His supporters, numbering 400 odd organisations, had invited Indo-Americans to participate for free on ‘first come first served basis’. And they came in droves and jam-packed the stadium cheering and shouting ‘Modi-Modi-Modi’ at every sentence he uttered. He indeed was able to send good TV images back home, where channels kept on repeating them ad nauseam.
The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs, the ' Lokayat' (October, 2014 issue)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Endearing Audacity

By Vinod Varshney
Denial is second nature to most leaders of conventional political parties, and   arrogance and condescending behavior towards people their outstanding trait. No wonder the Congress needed humiliating defeat in four states to wake it to the grim reality of its hollow narcissistic claim of mass-appeal, and to make it realise that people take corruption charges seriously.  People also cannot be fooled by circulating insinuations based on fake or doctored tapes and sting operations. Politicians would do well to note that people do not care much about doles; rather, they want good governance, jobs and control over prices.
       It was good to hear Sonia Gandhi talking about the need for deep introspection and Rahul Gandhi mentioning the need to learn from the newbie Aam Aadmi Party (Party of Common Man). This is a welcome sign in the leaders of a party which until the day of counting was smugly arrogant, not even ready to acknowledge the existence of the Aam Aadmi Party or its leader Arvind Kejriwal who was mocked at by the three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit as a monsoon pest.
      Election results in Delhi indeed have shocked the two major national parties and confounded experts who are wont to look at politics in terms of caste, communities and vote banks. The way the one-year-old Aam Admi Party defeated the seemingly invincible Shiela with a margin exceeding the total votes she polled, the Congress Party should seriously think of closing down its dirty tricks department. 
     Many experts say the Aam Aadmi Party indulges in excessive populism. But not many are prepared to applaud its praiseworthy initiative in making election funding totally transparent. The fledgling political outfit put details of all donations received on its website. This is in sharp contrast to the corrupt and competitive politics practiced by others as a business run on the strength of black money.
      Another laudable APP initiative was the method of candidates’ selection in which opinions of the electorate in the constituency were sought and weighed. Preparation of manifesto separately for each constituency was an entirely new experiment. It was necessary to make governance accountable and closer to people’s needs. This method of trying to understand people’s aspirations revealed that lack of drinking water was the biggest problem of more than half of Delhiites. It showed that poor people wanted pure drinking water rather than liquor as price of their votes. By all accounts, therefore, this Delhi election will remain a textbook phenomenon to be studied by political scientists. It may also be a classic example of how power-drunk rulers could miss the mood of the people. Rahul Gandhi might want to present the image of an angry young man in a hurry with rolled-up sleeves wanting to make common cause with  people, but it was the down-to-earth Arvind Kejriwal who really struck an emotional chord with the electorate. Kejriwal’s utterances were direct, incisive and sincere enough to evoke trust and confidence. His narration of netas as chor, corrupt and criminals, half of whom would be behind bars once Jan Lokpal Bill was passed, was met with angry retorts from  leaders of established parties, but his words truly echoed the deep convictions of the voiceless common people.
      His ability to translate new ideas into votes provides the hint that his Delhi model can be replicated elsewhere in the country. Certainly he has succeeded in creating in people a desire for change. At this stage it seems his determination to change the political culture of India is simply audacious because it is in the vice grip of black money, criminals, crony capitalists, communalists and other vested interests.  But this audacity is what endears him to millions of our people.

The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs, the ' Lokayat' (December, 2013 issue)
 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why Not Reject One Only!

By Vinod Varshney
The political class does not like to take up issues of electoral reforms seriously though it continues to debate over them at various fora. The reason is simple and straight. Why should politicians tamper with the existing system when it has offered them so much ?
      So far as the latest reform is concerned, the situation became funny when a fait accompli was converted into a deed of conviction in a dramatic manner by Rahul Gandhi for banning convicted elected representatives to retain their membership of the house. The moral of the story is–serious work would only be done by the Supreme Court and the credit must be grabbed by one or several political parties or just an individual. 
     Such dramas of stealing thunder are much needed by the media to remain interesting. They always look for spicy and sensational developments to retain some of its entertainment value amidst a lot of morose happenings. It gives good opportunity for the chattering class also to run their avocation with passion.
However, many politicians might be shuddering at the prospects of more electoral reforms that may befall in their way sooner or later by judicial intervention, hurting their interests even more. They may again have no choice but delay implementation by their peculiar tactics in the name of parliamentary democracy. Ultimately the voice of aam admi would be heard in a vibrant democracy.
     The next bolt from the blue can be the right to reject only an individual candidate during elections. The Supreme Court recently approved voters’ right to reject all the candidates contesting elections if they so wanted by clicking the button—NOTA (None of the above). This is harmless for individual contestants. It will not be able to check election of an undesired candidate as one of the rejected candidates will still be declared elected. Thus the purpose of checking an undesirable candidate cannot be achieved. For this many activists recommend that voters should be given the right to cast a negative vote against a chosen candidate. One will not be surprised if any time soon the Supreme Court gives a verdict of this kind. The hint is already there in the judgement passed on the petition related to rejecting all the candidates.
     Getting a right to reject all candidates is only a cosmetic change in the electoral process and does not fulfil the true desire of people who are frustrated with the way politics is conducted by their elected representatives. Many activists therefore demand a right to cast a negative vote against a chosen individual. Sometimes a winner gets only 15-20 percent of the total votes cast showing that majority of voters were not in favour of the winner. Negative voting against a chosen individual can qualitatively change the electoral chances of contesting candidates. The focus of elections then might be not so much on who should win, but on who should not win at all. But ultimate result would be the election of a clean candidate.


( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (October, 2013 issue) 

Break this nexus

By Vinod Varshney
The arrest of Asaram Bapu must have opened the eyes of millions. They must have been shocked to know how in garb of supernatural healing powers carnal crimes can take place. The law is taking its own course in this case; but a larger question will remain who to blame for the widespread blind faith in the so-called supernatural powers of self-styled, self-proclaimed gurus and godmen in our society. The blame squarely falls first on widespread ignorance. But then why the ignorance could not be stamped out of the Indian society?
Unfortunately not only the political class for the sake of votes pays obeisance to such gurus and godmen, but a section of media also, whose job is to spread the light of knowledge, rationality and correct information, is found glamourising them. In fact there remains tremendous pressure on them in the name of ancient culture to protect many false and unscientific notions.
     The murder of Narendra Dabholkar in Pune is an example of how people who had been sincerely doing the job of fighting out the murky influence of the blind faith on the society run the risk for their life. It is all the more shameful in a country where our first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru as an avowed rationalist wanted to see Indian society grow on the bedrock of scientific temper, his party the Congress has leaders like Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan and others along with the BJP and Shiv Sena leaders who did not allow anti-blind faith and anti-black magic bill to pass for 18 years.
     Only after the murder of Dabholkar, an ordinance, that too much diluted, has been cleared by the Maharashtra government. It is a sad commentary on the political health of the country that several right wing organisations openly issue threats to people who believe in the scientific reason, methods and rationality. This needs to be reminded that if India remained behind in science and technology for centuries, much of the blame goes to the prevalence of anti-science attitude of its social, religious and cultural leaders.
     It is a myth that the proponents of rationality are anti-religion and decry the religious faith based on scriptures and traditional culture, but they, for sure, are against the blind faith and its misuse to exploit ignorant and gullible masses. The alleged exploitation of the sixteen year old school girl by Asaram Bapu is a case in point. Not just the sexual abuse, many rituals lead to even deaths, physical and psychological trauma. Many of the so-called supernatural cures are based on physical beating of the patient.
     The relevant question is who opposes social reforms. Why political leaders for the sake of votes become agents of godmen and godwomen touted with possessing magical supernatural powers? Indian society should remember that India too in the past had strong base of science and many scientists like Aryabhat, Varahmihir, Brahmgupa, Bhaskaracharya, Vagbhat, Nagarjuna and Sushrut etc built a strong base of rationality.
     Unfortunately, the current globalised form of capitalism has given a glamorous image to the centres of blind faith, godmen and godwomen—visiting them described as pilgrimage. A significant part of tourism industry relies on this. There exists a sinister nexus of black money, politics and the centres of blind faith. The healthy politics should aim to break this nexus.
( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (September, 2013 issue) 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Will he complete his TERM this time?

By Vinod Varshney
Nawaz Sharief has taken the oath as prime minister of Pakistan for the 3rd time, marking the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan, a country where elected leaders are recklessly thrown out by Military. Nawaz Sharief too was removed in a bloodless coup by general Parvez Musharraf in Oct, 1999. Earlier also he was persuaded by then military chief to step down amidst his legal tiff with the president in the supreme court in 1993.

Nawaz Sharif
    It is indeed the magic of democracy that he has become the prime minister again though his electoral victory this time is not as grand as it was in 1997 when his party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) had secured two thirds majority in the National Assembly. This time his party has emerged as the largest single party by securing 32.77 percent votes with 126 seats out of 272.  The biggest challenge before Nawaz Sharief will be to bring Pakistan out of anti-Indianism which essentially has ruined Pakistan. Sharief’s early statements indicate that he would improve relations with India. He had demonstrated this in 1999 also when after nuclear tests of 1998 he with Atal Bihari Vajpayee vowed to stop the nuclear race and improve relations with India as outlined in Lahore Declaration. But, general Parvez Musharraf’s anti-Indianism scuttled the gain of Lahore Declaration by Kargil incursion.  Political observers assume that Nawaz Sharief is now more mellowed and astute than ever and would be able to complete full term and solve Pakistan’s problems where economic growth is below 4 percent, people do not get electricity for 18 hours in a day and sectarian violence is rampant. The biggest challenge would be to persuade the US to stop drone attack on Pakistan. He is an industrialist-turned politician and his style of functioning differs from the feudal style of People’s Party of Pakistan leaders. Voters rightly punished ruling PPP, which secured only 15.23 percent votes to come at the third place with 31 seats. The second place was won by cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which got more votes than PPP, but less seats, only 29.
 ( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (June, 2013 issue)  

Li offered only assurances

The new Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s first visit to India after assuming power happened in the shadow of Depsang incursion by Chinese troops. He concluded his visit without offering anything of substance on the table.

By Vinod Varshney
During last few years Chinese attitude has become more and more hostile towards Indian interests. It made every attempt to see India does not enter in the United Nations Security Council and opposed Indian entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group despite its unquestionable non-proliferation record. China has refused to even clarify the line of actual control not to say of moving ahead to resolve the boundary question. China gives stapled visa to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh and has reduced the length of Indo-China border by not counting the border along Kashmir. Its missile and nuclear cooperation with Pakistan is on the rise. While Delhi acknowledges China's sovereignty over Tibet, Beijing's position on J&K has become increasingly hostile to India. The precept that improved trade relations with China would reduce its hostility towards India has proved wrong. India’s trade with China rose from $2.1 bn in 2001-02 to $75.6 bn in 2011-12. But what is the result? This rising trade is grossly unfavourable to India offering it a trade deficit of $ 40.7 b in 2012-13.
      The huge dumping of Chinese goods in India has hurt Indian manufacturing growth. There are trade restrictions on Indian IT and Pharma companies in China and thus it becomes difficult to increase exports to China. Even export of buffalo meat was not allowed. Now it has been decided to reduce the trade imbalance. The agreements will now allow India to export buffalo meat, fisheries and pharmaceuticals and also feed and feed ingredients. In the joint statement the trade turnover target has been pegged at $ 100 billion by 2015. The Chinese assurance is that efforts would be made to address the issue of trade imbalance.
      On the boundary issue it has been decided that our Special Representatives would meet in a month’s time to speed up the process of resolution of boundary tussle. India first of all wants clarity on the line of actual control. Will China do it? The ambiguity is used for repeated incursions. China and India have already exchanged maps in the middle sector and have shown maps in the western sector. China wants border management agreement with the condition that India would not make any defence preparedness on its side no matter China has already made extensive preparations at the boder. Chinese leader Li Keqiang wanted support from India on its claim on islands in South China Sea, but Manmohan Singh reminded him that there were already international laws to take care of the issue and refused to support Chinese contention.
( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (June, 2013 issue) 

The new Tibetan realities

Tremendous changes at a fast pace have transformed Tibet altogether. Crass crookedness of Chinese politics has taken away much of the religious and spiritual fervour and freedom of Tibetans. But the planned economic miracle after gaining control over the vast plateau by force in 1950 has cast its own magic in the area. Thanks to influx of Han Chinese and installing sarkari monks in most of the shrines the Chinese government has successfully cinicized the area. Tibetans have no option---they have to get accustomed to the new realities and life styles which Chinese officials have cleverly ordained for them.
  
By Ranjeet
The mysterious culture and fragrance of Tibetan incense permeates all over Tibet, only to be fouled by strong underground political dissent and rush of polluting vehicles and energy consuming modern facilities meant to cater millions of tourists who throng this astounding Himalayan part of the world each year. The highways and railways have shattered the glorious serenity of mountains, but have brought material prosperity in the daily lives of people here. 
         The sinicization of Buddhist Tibet is complete: government of China is encouraging widespread industrialisation of the region. Amidst modern economic life, the ancient religion also does survive here, of course under the tutelage of the Chinese government.
        But ever increasing incidents of self-immolation by Tibetan monks have made Chinese leadership apprehensive while to the outside world it is an unmistakable signal of simmering dissent against Chinese over-control. Interestingly, the leaders of the Tibetan People’s Congress wash their hands off by asserting that these incidents are not happening in Tibet but elsewhere, in provinces like Gansu and Qinghai. These provinces once belonged to Tibet. A decade after communist takeover of the Tibetan areas, the Chinese government granted the status of Tibetan Autonomous Region to the present Tibet, excluding areas of Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and some parts of Yunnan.
         These Tibetan areas were later designated as provinces of the Peoples Republic of China. All these provinces together are described by the Tibetans as Greater Tibet, which comprises almost one fifth of China. That is the reason the self-immolations sent a wave of silent jitter in the Chinese leadership. The Dalai Lama, living in exile, has already conceded the sovereignty of Chinese government over Tibet, and only wants a conducive atmosphere and justification for him to go back to Lhasa to regain the religious authority over the Tibetan people. His other main demand is to merge excluded areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai to the Tibet Autonomous Region. However, the Chinese government smells rat in the proposition and is wary of conceding this demand.
         During my recent visit to Tibet, it was quite interesting to look at the Chinese perspective of the need to change the present and future generations of the Tibetan monks and monasteries. Chinese officials showcased the best of amenities that are being provided to monasteries and their Tibetan monks; in the process however conspicuous was their design to transform the independent monks into Sarkari ones. The Chinese government has set up several monk training centres generously funded by the government. Chinese, who are known to work with a vision for the next two or three decades, have opened a Tibetan Buddhism University, where young kids selected from various villages are trained to become monks. I had the chance to visit one of the centres where kids as young as 7-8 years were housed in a hostel, where air conditioned rooms were as good as in any good hotel. These kids get generous amount as scholarship and teachers enjoy fat salaries. One glaring aspect of this university, which was essentially a monk training centre, could not go unnoticed--the hostel rooms were adorned with photographs of Mao Tse Dong, Deng Xiao Ping, Jiang Zhe Min etc. and not a single picture of the religious leaders like Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. Obviously the kids are being impregnated with ideals and thoughts of these leaders rather than their revered religious leaders.
        
This is the Chinese way to brainwash these kids and instill their minds with pro-communist regime of China. Naturally, when they will grow up as adults and deployed by the state to guide and control the destinies of more than 1,700 monasteries across Tibet, they would be preaching religious followers the thoughts of Mao along with the teachings of Lord Buddha. The present Panchen Lama, still in his early thirties, lives not at Shigatse monastery, the revered seat of Panchen Lama, but in Beijing and makes an annual pilgrimage to the holy place. 
         Chinese government does not see eye to eye with the current Dalai Lama, and since no incarnation is legitimately possible, the present incarnation of Panchen Lama, has been trained as sarkari Lama and the Chinese government has taken every care to insulate the young Panchen Lama from the Tibetan religious functionaries. The absence of Dalai Lama from the seat of governance, the Potala Palace, is missed by common Tibetans, who according to locals is revered with deep sense of love, though the Chinese government describes him as a wily insurgent.
         From Potala Palace to Shigatse, a distance of almost 300 km presents picturesque surroundings adorned with ultra-modern zigzagging highways. Monasteries are full of life with devotees performing their religious chores and chanting Sutras. Religious activities take place routinely, except that the state keeps a close watch on them.
         The Chinese government in order to win over Tibetans has invested a lot in infrastructure, which has undoubtedly brought economic revolution in the area and Tibetans are experiencing a life style which was unimaginable a few decades ago. The capital Lhasa boasts of an ultramodern airport, which is connected to the city with a 60 km long expressway. The city itself presents a picture of an ultra modern township with mega malls, shopping centres, eateries etc. The city bustles with economic activities thanks to its Economic and Technical Development Zone, which is attracting millions of dollars as investments.
The economic zone offers immense scope for employment to Han population but local Tibetans too are benefitting a lot. The Tibetan youths have an opportunity to study in one of the best equipped universities in Lhasa enabling them to get skilled jobs in modern factories. The Tibetan youths are also encouraged to study in institutions of higher learning in Beijing and other major cities.
         After the Chinese took control of Tibet in 1951, the first decision was to free the poor Tibetans from serfdom, which indeed has done wonders in their life. A modern life has been thrown open to them and they seem to be enjoying the benefits of industrial development. Their living standards have reached an unimaginable level, though the freedom to lead one’s own religious life is constrained. But Tibetans have no choice. Having the Dalai Lama already accepted Chinese sovereignty over the Tibetan areas; there is little political space left for any adherent group to reverse Chinese control over the vast Tibetan plateau..
( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (June, 2013 issue)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cry for political reforms in China

China’s ultra fast economy has achieved the second place in the world and it may challenge America’s pre-eminent position before long. But this has not lessened the economic stresses on Chinese people. Prices of essential commodities are soaring relentlessly and housing, health and education are getting beyond most of them. So, the new leaders who have just taken over the reins of power in Beijing have an arduous road ahead. People will not accept mere talk of socialism and sacrifice any more.Their shrill cry for political reforms is echoing from all-around the famed walls…..

By VSP Kurup
China’s political and economic road map announced by the new leadership does notpresage any change in the extant policies; yet there is a general assumption that even driving along the path and direction laid down by the great visionary Jiang Zemin and faithfully followed by his able successors Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao until recently, will mean the future is pregnant with immense possibilities. During the 14 years (1989-2003) when Jiang Zemin was at the helm of affairs China became the fastest growing economy in the world. Today it is the second largest economy, overtaking Japan and all European giants. Who can say it will not challenge the USA for the first position before the end of the decade?Now trying to recover from virtual financial ruins, America is deeply worried about this prospect.
        Reiterating the government’s known position before the first assembly of the newly constituted 2,200-member Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), its Chairman Yu Zhengsheng declared that the country would continue with the single party system; it would never accept the multi-party governance as in the West. But the Communist Party of China (CPC)-led government would have consultations with other groups. (In China there are eight other political parties but they are allowed to function only in consonance with and subordinate to the CPC.)
        The CPPCC is the second chamber of the Chinese parliament with 60 percent members from outside the party-- akin to the Rajya Sabha. It has only an advisory role. The real power is wielded by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the main chamber of parliament with 3,000 members, mostly communist party cardholders. A 7-member Standing Committee, or cabinet, controls the party as well as the government. Yu Zhengsheng who presides over the CPPCC occupies the 4th place in the Standing Committee, which is headed by the party chairman and president of China, Xi Jinping.
        For all its vibrant lip-service to people’s power and paeans of popular movements, China is not ready to establish democracy. It is not willing to loosen control on the media. There have been several reports of the government muzzling the internet as well as newspapers for publishing certain unsavory facts about the high and mighty in China. And, despite the apparent calm on the surface, there have been nearly two lakh agitations in various parts of China in 2012.
        Assuredly, the trek China has started on the capitalist road without any fuss or flamboyance will continue because its people ‘enjoy’ the new ambience. They (at least the top cream who alone matter) have private property, expensive cars, luxury mansions, fat bank balance – why, all goodies for a fast life. (Other concomitants of capitalism like corruption, sexual escapades, political murders etc. too are there. But that is another story.) The irony is that China still swears by socialism. Zhengsheng stressed that the extant ‘Chinese socialism’ would continue to shape its economy! No hint of a definition of this new jargon, but one can presume from the goings on in hinterland China that it consists less of socialism and more of capitalism!
Statistically, Chinese economy might have become number two in the world, but there is no respite for the people groaning under severe stress on account of rocketing prices of essential commodities. Real estate prices are also going beyond the reach of ordinary people with attendant consequences. It is the same story with regard to education and medical treatment. Where is the stamp of socialism in all these?
        Just before the current CPPCC meeting an open letter signed by more than 100 prominent Chinese leaders, scholars, economists, journalists and former party officials made an unprecedented appeal for political reforms. The letter urged the CPC leadership particularly to ratify the International Human Rights Treaty ‘in order to further promote and establish the principles of human rights and constitutionalism in China’. It is said to be the boldest demand yet coming from Chinese intellectuals. They hoped the new leaders would push for political reforms, curtail the party’s power and raise the authority of constitution and courts. The party and the government can not ignore these cries for long, especially since they do not want another scandalous Tiananmen!
( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (June, 2013 issue)  

Indo-Japan Bonhomie irks China

India has initiated steps to expand its defence relationship with Japan. If this is seriously pursued, it can be a game-changer for the geopolitics in Asia as well as the economy of both the countries.

By Vinod Varshney
Japan and India have finally decided to expand their defence relationship as both countries remain apprehensive of China’s aggressive postures. Chinese attitude has forced them to change their foreign policy stances, though quite late. Japan has stopped assailing India for its nuclear tests conducted in 1998; rather it is now ready to enter into civil nuclear cooperation with it. Japan is also moving towards changing its pacifist constitution to be able to do normal defence preparedness to thwart Chinese muscle-flexing over Senkaku islands in South China Sea.
      Indian keenness to have better strategic tie-up with Japan acquired fresh urgency in the shadow of Chinese incursion in Depsang (Ladakh) last month. Their troops entered 25 kilometers deep into Indian territory and erected three tents while Chinese authorities continued to claim it was Chinese area. China had already annexed Aksai Chin area of Jammu & Kashmir and lays blatant claim on entire Arunachal Pradesh. It does not support Indian sovereignty on J&K. No wonder, a recent survey conducted by two international think tanks revealed that some 83 percent Indians view China as a security threat. That is why Indian government chose to be a realist this time rather than a romantist as in Nehru’s days.  However, as expected the Indian move irked China and its pro-government Global Times warned that India can improve relations with Japan only at its peril. India would only be inviting problems for itself if it does so.
      The process had started to improve relations with Japan as early as 2006 when Shinzo Abe first welcomed prime minister Manmohan Singh in Tokyo. But relations between India and Japan did not acquire momentun due to political instability in Japan where no prime minister on an average would stay even for a year. 
      If we see from the point of view of Indian needs, the growing relationship with Japan is the need of the hour. Not only does the security threat to both countries from China make it a compulsive choice but also the economic complementarity. India needs badly investment and high technology to improve its productivity to compete with China economically.
      In the current state of affairs India is not only facing huge trade deficit with China which makes one third of its total current account deficit but also losing its economic growth to China to some extent as Indian markets remain flooded with Chinese goods stagnating its manufacturing. Japan too needs India as a big market, almost equal to China.
      The immediate gain to India is Japan’s flagship investment in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and a new Bangalore-Chennai Corridor. This would alter country’s manufacturing fortunes.

( The Article was first published in the monthly magazine of political affairs the ' Lokayat' (June, 2013 issue)