Chiefs of all three armed forces are set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. Chiefs of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force would brief the Prime Minister on the Agnipath recruitment scheme. Meanwhile, taking a tough stance, army on Monday issued a notification for the induction of soldiers under the scheme.
The government’s farm stance became obvious in the backdrop of mild protests and ‘Bharat Bandh’ call in parts of the country which received a tepid response. Heavy deployment of police remained in place in many states, including Bihar. The nationwide protests affected around 597 train services, with the Railways cancelling 208 mail and express and 379 passenger trains.
Clamping down on protestors, the Bihar Police alone have arrested 877 people and registered 159 FIRs against them. There Uttar Pradesh counterpart have arrested 525 persons and registered 46 FIRs.
Even though there was relative calm across the country, Congress Party workers staged a protest against the Agnipath scheme in Jammu on Monday. Led by senior Congress leader Raman Bhalla, the party demanded a roll back of the recruitment policy.
The Centre had unveiled Agnipath, the new recruitment policy for all the three wings of the armed forces, last week on June 14. The policy seeks to recruit soldiers to Army, Navy and Air Force on a four-year contract and only 25 per cent of the recruits would be absorbed as regular servicemen after the contract is over.
Announcing the scheme in the presence of the three services chiefs, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that Agnipath was a transformative initiative that would provide a youthful profile to the armed forces. The Union Cabinet had also approved the scheme on June 14. The
youth selected under this scheme would be known as Agniveers. According to senior Ministry of Defence officials, initially 46,000 Army aspirants would be recruited in order to ‘analyse’ the scheme “and to build up infra capacity”. In the next 4–5 years, 50,000–60,000 Agniveers will be recruited. This number will increase to 90,000–1 lakh subsequently.
However, the scheme did not go down well with army aspirants and barely two days after the scheme was announced massive protests erupted in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country including Assam. As protests continued and spread to other states, protesters turned violent at many places, vandalising both public and private property, specially targeting railway stations, torching trains and bogeys. On June 18 a protesting army aspirant was killed in Secunderabad, Telangana, when police opened fire. The police action also left 15 persons injured.
Stunned by the popular protests, the Central government announced some measures to mollify the protestors. The government extended a two-year relaxation in age limit for recruitment in the current year to 23 years. To pacify the protests, the government also announced 10 per cent reservation to Agniveers in all Central armed police forces and Assam Rifles after their contract with armed forces comes to an end.
However, the government on Sunday made it clear that there would be no roll back. Addressing a joint conference in Delhi, Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence, said, “Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young.”
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For the love of the chair
Back in 1975, the ruling Congress under Indira Gandhi had organised mass protests outside the PM’s house. The so-called “spontaneous rallies” and “people’s rallies” were against a high court ruling, which restrained the PM’s right to vote or draw a salary as a Member of Parliament. The conditional stay had allowed Indira Gandhi to retain the prime minister’s post. Indira Gandhi’s misuse of power had put her in a spot when Allahabad HC accepted a petition filed by Raj Narain, which found her guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(7) of the Representation of People’s Act during her Lok Sabha campaign in 1971 at Rae Bareli. The mass rallies in support of Indira Gandhi were a desperate attempt to cling to the chair when the moral authority and legal tenability of the government was fast slipping away. Gandhi was in no mood to exit gracefully. To insulate herself from the court verdict, she declared an Emergency on 25 June 1975 on the grounds of internal disturbances.
A similar situation is playing out in Maharashtra as CM Uddhav Thackeray desperately clings to power. In the evening of 20th June 2022 when the political observers, media and politicians in Maharashtra were focused on the Vidhan Parishad vote counting exercise, about 30-40 MLA’s in the assembly quietly made their way out of the state. The surprising BJP victory in the fifth MLC seat proved what the LoP Devendra Fadnavis was saying all along “that inherent ideological contradictions and dissatisfaction within the ranks of MVA will fuel our victory”.
When news about the 40 MLA’s who left the state in rebellion against the MVA government in Maharashtra broke the next morning, CM Uddhav Thackeray found himself in a similar situation to Mrs Gandhi in 1975. The Uddhav Thackeray government has lost moral authority as most of his MLAs have deserted him and the government can no longer claim a majority. Realising this, the CM left the official residence Varsha in order to claim the high moral ground and bring back the MLAs. After emotional appeals failed, he tried to convince, cajole and even threaten the MLAs. He attempted a show of strength on the streets and removed the security of MLAs’ family members. After every attempt failed, he is still clinging to power and repeats what Indira Gandhi did—organising protests in solidarity with him even though he clearly knows that numbers in the Vidhan Sabha don’t favour him.
A graceful exit and the forming of a “natural alliance” with the BJP is what his rebel MLAs have demanded. A “graceful exit” for CM Thackeray is exactly what the NCP under Sharad Pawar wants to prevent, even though the NCP is under no illusion about the future of this government. The NCP is egging the Shiv Sena Chief to fight this losing battle, prolong this humiliation, conduct floor test and face more ignominy. How else can Shiv Sena be thoroughly humiliated than fighting for a lost cause? For two and a half years, the NCP worked in tandem with the MVA government in denying their share of power to Shiv Sena MLAs. Today, the NCP under Sharad Pawar is working on its design to weaken the Shiv Sena further by making them fight a losing battle despite a lack of numbers.
If Indira Gandhi’s experience is any indication, Uddhav Thackeray will face the same fate as Indira Gandhi faced in the 1977 elections immediately post-emergency. The protests on the streets notwithstanding, the Indian electorate has consistently demonstrated a preference for democratic ideals. The excesses and desperation to cling to power of the emergency era had paved way for the first non-Congress government in India. A similar trend will be visible in Maharashtra post the 2019 elections.
In 2019, Shiv Sena had fought elections in alliance with BJP under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray abandoned the alliance after elections and formed an unnatural alliance with the NCP-INC combine, thereby insulting the voter’s mandate. The Shiv Sena rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde today is merely calling for the undoing of this insult to the people and a return to the Hindutva fold. If CM Thackeray continues to cling to his chair, the people of Maharashtra will punish his group heavily in every upcoming election, while the “original Shiv Sena” of Eknath Shinde adhering to Balasaheb’s ideals will be rewarded by the voters. The post-emergency era brought non-Congress parties into prominence and led to the eventual decline of Congress. The Love of the chair on the part of CM Thackeray will lead to the same results. CM Thackeray can either choose to respect the mandate of the people and their elected representatives or risk losing his party altogether.
The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation.
ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY IS TRENDING AND CONTAGIOUS
Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant.
If one is asked, “How many times did you order food online in the last six months?” The chances are that one may not even remember the exact number. However, the answer to another question, “How many restaurants have you visited to enjoy food in the last six months?” would be “yes, I can tell.” Millions of Indians have similar answers. Nonetheless, one might be mistaken if they believe that consumers order foods online only because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most Indians had never thought that online food delivery would become so common that too, so fast. But the reality is that it is now part of urban consumers’ food habits, e.g., food purchase and consumption behaviour, in many countries, including India. It is trending and contagious. In the year 2021, more than 282 million Indians ordered food online, and the number is likely to increase to 493 million by the end of 2025.
Was it all because of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns? No, the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of the e-commerce business, including the online food business. The two most important factors that led to the food delivery business transformation are a revolution in internet and digital technologies and fast-changing consumers’ lifestyles and preferences.
Technology has enabled consumers to access their favourite foods from their preferred outlets at their fingertips. Food reaches consumers in the shortest possible time at the place and the time decided by the consumer and all of this without spending much. Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant. It is undoubtedly a fancied choice both for busy and lazy people. Consumers compare price, menu, quality, and outlet and select the best option that provides them with value. This is in addition to the time they save, a precious resource in modern times. With the number of smartphone users expected to increase to about 1133 million by 2025 from 847.7 million by the end of 2021, the future seems brighter.
Consumers, too, are changing faster. Nuclear family, husband-wife working, increased disposable income, family members with varying tastes, not interested in kitchen work, and preference for a faster and easy option of getting food – all these have allured consumers to go online. Further, today’s consumers look for utilisation benefits and seek enjoyment, control, experimental value, and emotional arousal in their day-to-day activities. Ordering food online, fortunately, meets most of the wishes. Consumers today expect food to come to them instead of following, travelling, and waiting for it. With per capita spending on food and beverages expected to increase by more than 30% by 2025, many new consumers are likely to join the bandwagon, and existing customers will increase their online purchases.
There are two different types of online food delivery players in the market. First, the online food delivery system owned and run by established restaurants or food outlets, like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, makes home food delivery after consumers put their orders on their website. Next are food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which source food from multiple restaurants and outlets and deliver it to consumers. In India, though restaurant-owned online food delivery is more popular and has a consumer penetration of 15.7%, online delivery platforms, with a penetration rate of 6.4%, are catching up very fast.
Online delivery platforms democratise the food market. Platforms provide every consumer with the opportunity to have food from any outlet, making it possible for smaller and not-so-popular food outlets to serve many consumers. In addition, food delivery platforms make local, traditional, and even international cuisine available to all consumers—a win-win situation for everyone.
The online food delivery system has further decentralised and democratised entrepreneurship with concepts like dark kitchens or ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens create opportunities for established industries to extend their kitchen work and for professionals and entrepreneurs to start a new venture, even with a limited budget, by partnering with delivery platforms. Understanding what, how, and when customers order and how to meet those orders in the least amount of time at a lower price is crucial for the business’s success. It seems that online delivery players are mastering these tricks faster.
Delivering food in the proper packaging is more than 50% of food quality, and the industry seems to learn it slowly but steadily. It can be ensured that hot desi samosa and dosa reach the customer with the same crispiness as those served in restaurants. Hyderabadi Biryani, if not served as it appeared on the screen while ordering or with the fragrance that biryani is expected to have, may upset the customers. Restaurant owners have started using innovative packaging, and delivery partners have added specialised carrying boxes and well-planned routes through which foods are reaching faster and safely. Swiggy food survey 2021 indicates that Biryani and Desi Samosa were the most ordered meals and snacks, respectively, indicating that food delivery players in India are doing it briskly.
Food delivery platforms are labour-intensive, and their success is dependent on their partners. Their delivery persons, called “gig workers” in business terminology, are among the most crucial players in their business. Zomato, India’s second food delivery platform after Swiggy, employs more than 1,60,000 gig workers. Though their remuneration, working hours and conditions have come under scrutiny and have become the subject of debate, no one disagrees that the business creates many jobs at the field level.
No doubt, advancing technologies, changing customers and innovations in the delivery business will result in the rapid spread of the industry. However, the food delivery business still has to cover a long distance before stabilising and settling down. Most delivery companies are yet to achieve their break-even and will require working hard to spread their reach and optimise costs. The business remains immensely competitive and reliant on the external business environment.
In 2021, Indians ordered food worth 11782 million US dollars online, 30.4% more than the previous year. If the excitement the recent IPO of Zomato created, the presence of at least one food delivery platform for more than 100 million consumers, and fast-moving bikers with food in every lane are any indication, it establishes that online food delivery has arrived in India, and it will continue to grow and flourish.
Niraj Kumar is a Professor of Rural Management at XIM University, Bhubaneswar.
SIDHU MOOSE WALA’S LAST SONG ‘SYL’ REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE
Sidhu Moose Wala’s lastest song released after his assassination, SYL, the title referring to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, has now been taken off the video streaming platform YouTube.
The song on Punjab’s water issue, talks about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, which has been an apple of discord between Punjab and Haryana for quite a long time. Composed by Sidhu Moose Wala before he was shot dead on May 29, the music video was released by producer MXRCI on Friday, June 23 on YouTube. However, on clicking the link of the video, a message gets displayed now, saying, “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government.”
The song talks about undivided Punjab, the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots and its videos shows the Sikh flag being hoisted at the Red Fort during the farmer agitation.
Since its launch, Moose Wala’s song SYL has garnered over 27 million views on YouTube and got 3.3 million likes.
Sidhu Moose Wala was shot dead by assailants in Jawaharke village of Punjab’s Mansa district on May 29.
R MADHAVAN TROLLED OVER HIS COMMENTS ON ISRO
Amid the promotions of the film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, actor R Madhavan has found himself in the centre storm for his comments on Mars mission of the ISRO.
A clip of him saying that ISRO used the Panchangam (Hindu Calendar) to successfully launch the PSLV C-25 rocket to Mars has made him the subject of trolling. Now, the actor has issued a clarification.
In a tweet he wrote, “I deserve this for calling the Almanac the “Panchang” in Tamil. Very ignorant of me. Though this cannot take away for the fact that what was achieved with just 2 engines by us in the Mars Mission. A record by itself. @NambiNOfficial Vikas engine is a rockstar,” tagging former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan.
Fake call centre busted in Delhi
Delhi police busted a fake call centre for cheating over 250 unemployed people on the pretext of providing jobs, said officials on Sunday. The incident came to light when a complaint was received at the cyber cell where a complainant alleged that she was contacted by a woman named Muskan who stated that she is a recruiter from a job portal. The accused later asked the complainant to visit the job consultancy in Bhikaji Cama Palace for an interview and where they collected registration fees of Rs.3500 and Rs. 8500 on Google pay. The complainant was later issued an appointment letter in the name of other private companies and no job was given to her.
“As per the complaint, a case dated 21.06.22 U/s 420/468/471/34 IPC was registered at PS Cyber, Dwarka, New Delhi. During the investigation, the details of the alleged mobile numbers were obtained and the complainant also visited B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi,” said police. A trap was laid and a raid was conducted at B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi. During the raid, it was revealed that a fake call centre was found running in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services.
“During the raid, 16 mobile phones, 2 laptops, several registers and forged appointment letter pads in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services were recovered and 2 males and 5 females were also arrested. During interrogation, it was revealed that they cheated abut 250 unemployed youth with an amount of Rs. 23 lakh approximately as registration fees,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Dwarka, M. Harsha Vardhan.
Two newly elected MPs can’t cast vote in coming presidential election
The two newly elected members of Council of States (Rajya Sabha) from the State of Haryana namely Krishan Lal Panwar of BJP and Kartikey Sharma (real name Kartikeya Sharma) who has been elected as Independent, can not cast their vote in the forthcoming 16th presidential election to be slated on July 18, 2022 as their tenure will commence from August 2022. It is worth stating that the six years tenure of Rajya Sabha of both above newly elected MP’s from Haryana would only commence from August 2, 2022 and for which the requisite Gazette Notification would be issued by Union Ministry of Law and Justice under relevant provisions of Representation of the People Act, 1951 on August 2, 2022 itself.
Divulging aforesaid information, Hemant Kumar, an Advocate at Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh said that although both MPs have been issued Election Certificate after being declared elected by Returning Officer (R.O.) of Rajya Sabha Biennial Election from State of Haryana, RK Nandal, who is also Secretary of Haryana Vidhan Sabha but the point is that the current tenure of two of total five incumbent MPs from State of Haryana viz. Dushyant Kumar Gautam of BJP and Independent Subhash Chandra is until August 1, 2022 and that their current tenure can›t be cut-short merely due to the election of new successors on their seats.
It is pertinent to mention that Subhash Chandra has lost from Rajasthan while seeking fresh election to Rajya Sabha as an Independent candidate. Even otherwise, if Chandra would have been elected from Rajasthan, then his tenure as Rajya Sabha MP from such State should have however begun with effect from July 5, 2022 as the term of four MPs from Rajasthan would come to end on July 4, 2022. Even in that case, the tenure of two newly elected MPs from Haryana should have begun with effect from August 2, 2022. Kartikey Sharma, a debutant in the politics has defeated the Congress stalwart Ajay Maken a parachute candidate from Delhi in a neck to neck fight. It is being considered that being a parachute candidate resulted in the defeat of Maken.
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