CCI’S ‘NEW APPROACH’ TO DELINEATION OF ‘RELEVANT MARKET’ PRACTICES - The Daily Guardian
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CCI’S ‘NEW APPROACH’ TO DELINEATION OF ‘RELEVANT MARKET’ PRACTICES

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INTRODUCTION: HISTORICAL PRACTICES

“Relevant market” is considered to be the yardstick which analyses various anti- competitive practices in businesses through a competition law regulator, like the Competition Commission of India ( CCI). Hence, it is integral for the CCI to define concrete contours and delineate relevant markets.

Various researches have been conducted to analyse the behavior of consumer via the online and offline modes of shopping. Online shopping eliminates the use of intermediary service. However, Offline market utilizes offline media channels and strategies to spread awareness about a company’s product. It underscores that addresses the perception of the consumer through Online shopping versus the Traditional shopping. History of e- commerce can be traced back to 1990;s when online shopping was made possible due to internet. Amazon has its first breakthrough by becoming the first e- commerce site to sell the products online and various businesses followed the suit since then. The conveyance, quality, safety and price of e-commerce have improved exponentially since online shopping.

Historically, CCI considered online and offline markets as distinct modes of distribution, under the parent head of the same relevant market. However, lately, CCI appears to alter its approach with regard to the delineation of “relevant markets”. CCI now designates online distribution and offline distribution as compartmentalized and different relevant markets.

The rationale behind this re-interpretation of the definition by CCI was to ensure a vigilant check on potential departure from ethical practices of digital businesses with the proliferation of the Indian e- commerce sector in recent years. However, in doing the reformulation, the CCI has outlined a superficial distinction stating that offline and online distribution models don’t compete inter se. Consequently, this distinction has pitted online distribution models against each other. Furthermore, CCI discounted the fact mentioning that online businesses have inserted new products/ service categories that were non- existent previously. This has led to the reproduction of “ Copycats” in the offline market. If such an approach by the CCI becomes a full-fledged norm then it can have dangerous ramifications leading to a cloak of false positives with respect to the determination of the “ dominant position” of certain online businesses, which may have a chilling effect on the growth of the digital economic sector of India.

GROWING TRAJECTORY: EMERGENCE OF

E-COMMERCE

With the exponential growth of online shopping and e-commerce in India, a typical consumer would only buy a product after researching online and comparing the best possible price of the product in online market with that of its brick and mortar presence. Consequently, a consumer would procure the best priced product comparing the product via the lens of both modes. Hence, both the online and offline distributed models compete fiercely. Therefore, a relook at the recent narrower interpretation approach taken by the CCI of “relevant market” becomes of paramount importance.

In Ashish Ahuja vs Snapdeal, the CCI explicitly discussed upon an important issue of considering two modes of distribution- online and offline as distinct or part of the larger head- relevant market. The 2014 CCI dismissal order guidelines came up with various guidelines of importance. CCI opines that both online and offline markets are different channels of distribution of the same product and should not be considered as two separate relevant markets. Furthermore, the CCI noted that both the markets differ in terms of the shopping experience, buyers and a typical buyer weighs all the options available on the platter to arrive at a final decision of buying the product. If the price in the offline market exponentially increases, then the consumer is likely to shift its preference towards the online market and vice versa.

The above approach was subsequently followed in the approval order of Make- my- trip ( MMT)/ Ibibo Case ( 2017) combination case, whereby CCI recognized the relevant market as “ sale of travel and travel related services”. The CCI added that travel channels operate through both the online and offline modes and from the lens of the demand side, it becomes easier for the consumer to switch between the two modes as per his/her convenience.

DELINEATION OF MARKET PRACTICES

In simpler terms, market delineation is termed as a method of determining the geographical extent of a market for a specific commercial property. This helps to fit a specific commercial property according to consumer demand.

With the growing trajectory of digital marketing, CCI is taking dynamic actions towards delineating relevant online markets. CCI for the very first time defined relevant markets in All India Online Vendors Association (Aiova) v. Flipkart. The order pinpointed the definition of the relevant market as the ‘services provided by online marketplaces for selling of goods in India’. However, the said order also brought some ambiguities by acknowledging the reciprocity that lies within both the domains of online and offline marketplaces as sometimes the sellers from offline platforms enter into partnership businesses with e-commerce companies.

Later on in the year 2019, CCI in the Cleartrip-MMT combination case narrowed down the interpretation of online markets and declared it as a distinct mode of distribution which cannot be substituted by other offline modes without hampering the consumer reach. However, the order did not clarify about the exact delineation of the relevant markets because of the lack of concerns regarding competition in either of the modes.

The recent orders of CCI in Delhi VyaparMahasangh v. Flipkart and Lifestyle Equities v. Amazon again highlighted the stark distinction that has been made by CCI between online and offline relevant markets. In the very first case the rationale behind drawing such distinction was based on the fact that the bulk of the online retail market in India for some specific categories of products come under the hold of Amazon and Flipkart.

In the second one, CCI emphasized the cross-sided network effects of online platforms. With regards to this, the CCI specifically remarked, “Delineation of relevant market and competitive assessment are based on market realities as they exist at the time of assessment, keeping in view the facts and allegations. In rapidly changing markets in particular such as the one in the present case, market assessment cannot have a static approach.”

CONCLUSION

Delineation of market is a very econometric approach which must be dealt with perceptions based on market realities. It plays a central role in the cases of antitrust. CCI is delineating relevant markets, particularly in case of online platforms for a certain category of products or services. Further, nothing can be concluded at this juncture of time regarding the exact distinction between both the online and offline modes that could be regarded as a precedent for the future cases. There is a requirement of empirical data to establish the delineation of relevant market by the CCI.

The present decade is witnessing large scale consumer participation in the digital ecosystem.

Further it has proved to penetrate through even the remote geographical markets, thus, widening the circumference of possible consumer reach. So, at this critical time when the digital ecosystem is at its zenith, any unnecessary and premature intervention is going to hamper not only the consumer interest but also the economic development of the country.

Declaration: The work represents our original contribution, and that it has not been copied or plagiarized in whole or in part from other works.

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Policy & Politics

Let us plan luxury electric buses that can travel from Mumbai to Delhi in just 12 hours: Nitin Gadkari

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Union minister Nitin Gadkari

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari launched Ashok Leyland Electric Double Decker Bus named Switch EiV 22 in Mumbai today, August 18, 2022. Launching the electric bus, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “There is a need to transform the country’s transport system, looking from a long-term perspective. With a focus on reforming urban transport, we are trying to build a low carbon footprint and high passenger density integrated Electric Vehicle (EV) mobility ecosystem. With growing consumer demand for greener transport solutions, the Government’s vision and policies aim to encourage higher adoption of electric vehicles.”

As per Ashok Leyland, Switch EiV 22 is India’s first and unique electric double decker air-conditioned bus, which has been designed, developed and manufactured in India. The company informs that Switch EiV 22 is equipped with the latest technology, ultra-modern design, highest safety and best-in-class comfort features.

Sharing his vision for the Delhi-Mumbai Express Highway, the Union Minister said: “My plan is to connect Nariman Point to Delhi. 70% of work has already been completed.” Exhorting the automobile companies, he added, “Let us plan luxury electric buses that can travel from Mumbai to Delhi in just 12 hours.”

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that electricity as an automobile fuel is highly cost-effective, when compared other fuels like diesel. “Import of crude oil is a big challenge for the Government. Use of solar power has reduced the cost of electricity to a large extent.”

Pitching for electricity as an alternative fuel, the Union Minister said 35% of pollution in the country is due to diesel and petrol. In this context, the Minister highlighted the need for import-substituting, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous products. “It is time for India to start using alternative fuels like electricity, ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel, bio-CNG, bio-LNG and green hydrogen for automobile sector”.

Sharing his plans for the automobile industry, Shri Gadkari said, “My dream is to make the automobile industry from the current size of Rs. 7.5 lakh crores to Rs. 15 lakh crores by the end of the year 2024.” This is an achievable target, he added. The Minister observed that the sector has maximum employment potential and gives maximum taxes to central and state governments.

About Switch EiV (according to Ashok Leyland)

The Switch electric double decker can ferry nearly twice the number of seated passengers as compared to a single-decker bus, with just 18% increase in kerb weight (without the passengers).

With contemporary styling and feel-good interiors and exteriors, the double decker boasts of wide front and rear doors, two staircases and an emergency door complying with the latest safety standards. The AC offers effective cooling in India’s hot climatic conditions, while the optimized seating for 65 passengers is the maximum number of seats to be offered in the given footprint.

Each seat has a lightweight cushion and the interiors come with car like comfort for passenger convenience. This state-of-the-art electric double decker serves as an ideal solution for urban commuting, as they occupy less road, terminal and depot floor space per seated passenger.

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‘India needs to focus on increasing coking coal production to cut imports’

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India needs aggressive focus on increasing coking coal production to reduce import dependence. The Minister for Coal, Mines, and Parliamentary Affairs, Pralhad Joshi, said this while inviting suggestions from all stakeholders for finding technology solution and using available coking coal in the country.

The minister was addressing at the Workshop on Coking Coal Strategy for Indian Steel Sector, moving towards an Atmanirbhar Bharat, organised by the Ministry of Coal, the state-owned Coal India Limited, and the Confederation of Indian Industry. Speaking at the occasion, the minister stated that there has been increase in import of coking coal in the last few years although coking coal production also increased to 51.7 Mt.

This year in 2022-23 in the first quarter the growth in coking coal production was 26%. The coking coal block auction has received a lukewarm response from industry and Ministry of Coal is keen to understand the issues faced by industry in this regard. The minister invited Amrit Manthan on finding technology solution and powerful strategies for using available coking coal in the country which will help the sector aligning with the Prime Minister’s five-point vision towards an Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The policy enablers are in place mainly with the amendments of MMDR Act with respect to relaxation of norms for private sector in allocation of coking coal mining blocks, exploration norms, and 50% rebate for coal gasification, among others. Government is ready to bring in place all measures to enhance coking coal production, the minister added, with the abandoned coal blocks being sought from PSUs to be auctioned and rolling auction in commercial coking coal Blocks.

There are nine new coking coal washeries having capacity 30 MT to be set up by CIL and the necessary infrastructure reform has been made towards that.

Shri Sanjay Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Steel made a narrative on domestic coking coal production while highlighting the dichotomy of coking coal. The Steel sector needs 60 MT coking coal, 90% of which is met through imports. The ministry has initiated working on a strategy for having domestic coal use in blast furnaces and washeries and increase domestic coal blending to 25-35%. Shri Singh suggested for increase in consumption and scrap generation as short-term strategy and four-time production increase in the longer-term for lowering dependence on iron ore and coking coal.

Shri A K Jain, Secretary, Ministry of Coal too acknowledged the significant progress in coking coal production. The next attention needs to be on exploring billion tons of domestic coking coal. Highlighting Government’s mission strategy for augmenting coking coal, Shri Jain said, coking coal is a fuel for the steel sector and reforms are needed to track investment in the industry, especially in the coal abundant areas. Significant use of technology will be in focus for washing coal, lowering ash content and further bringing end to end solution to enhance domestic coking coal production. The government is open to all ideas including opening of closed washeries, leasing out washeries set up by CIL, managing coking coal mines, and integrating technology applications.

Welcoming the minister and other dignitaries in the seminar, Shri Pramod Agrawal, Chairman, Coal India Limited emphasised on a four-point agenda of bringing balance between the supply and demand sides of coking coal, delineating the role of private sector, improving the quality by substituting low-grade coal, and bringing high focus on technology integration.

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Supreme Court issues notice on plea to allow NRIs to vote in elections from abroad

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The Supreme Court in the case Kerala PravasiAssociation And Anr. v. UoI And Anr observed and has issued a notice in a petition seeking directions to the Central Government to permit citizens residing outside India to exercise their franchise, under Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (1950 Act), from their employment or place residence. Thus, the petition asks for external modes/alternate options to be provided to citizens residing outside India for exercising their right to vote, without insisting on their physical presence in their respective polling stations on the day of polling in India.

The present matter was listed before the bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices J.K. Maheshwari and Hima Kohli.

In this case, the petitioner is Kerala Pravasi Association, an organization with the primary objective of providing justice and welfare to the expatriates. It was submitted by the petitioner that while Section 20A of the 1950 Act provides special provisions for citizens of India residing outside India for exercising their franchise, the object purpose of the legislation stands defeated as there is no corresponding provisions in the Rules under the 1950 Act to allow citizens to vote without being physically present in the polling stations of their respective constituencies in India. As per the petition, the discrimination is created between the overseas electors who have the ability to be physically present in the constituency for the election and those who are unable to leave their education, employment etc. to be in the constituency at the relevant time.

It was submitted by the petitioner that the provisions of Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010 (2010 Act) which mandates that Non- Residents of India (NRIs) are to be physically present in their constituencies to exercise their right to cast vote in elections is violative of the Fundamental Rights as enshrined under Article 14, Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

It was stated in the petition that the key objectives of the 1950 Act, as per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 2010 Act, are to boost the involvement of citizens who are living abroad and to recognise their right to vote as their legitimate right. Therefore, the Rules under the Act fail in ensuring the involvement of the citizens living abroad and deny them their Right to effectively exercise their franchise.

Further, the petition also states that Section 20A of the 1950 Act arbitrarily classifies and distinguishes Non-Resident Indians who are physically present in their constituencies from those who are not physically present and confers the right to cast votes on the former category and that such right does not have a rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the Legislation.

Also, the petition highlights the social divide created by this provision and submitted that Section 20A of the 1950 Act creates a deep divide amongst the NRIs based on the financial conditions and economic strata as only those who are financially stable would be able to travel and can cast their vote physically.

The court, while stating that free, periodical and fair election is the substratum of democracy. The plea filled prays for alternative methods to cast votes and stated that It is necessary that new and alternative methods of casting one’s vote are given effect to ensure maximum participation. It is submitted that the right to vote electronically has been recognized and approved by the Parliament as a means to represent one’s rejection/approval, and to ensure wider participation of the stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The petition also highlights the example of the amendments to Section 108 of the Companies Act, 2013 read with Rule 20 of the Companies (Management and Administration) Rule, 2014, which provided an opportunity to the shareholders to exercise their right to vote by the electronic means on the resolutions placed before the general body meeting of a company without being present physically.

Accordingly, it was stated that the principle of universal suffrage can only be fully achieved if citizens living abroad are entitled to vote in the elections of their home country.

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MENTAL CRUELTY AND BREAKDOWN OF MARRIAGE

‘Comparing wife with other women and belittling her amounts to mental cruelty’.

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Recently, the Kerala High Court granted divorce to a couple on the ground of cruelty under the Divorce Act, 1869 . Two interesting issues emerge from this judgment – (i) the manner in which the court went about examining whether a case of mental cruelty was made out (ii) the need to recognize irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.

While examining the issue of cruelty, the Court referred to various judgment of the Supreme Court to hold that determination of cruelty is on a case by case basis depending on the type of life the parties are accustomed to as well as their socio-economic conditions. The Court also reiterated an important point that intention is not an essential element to prove cruelty if “by ordinary sense in human affairs, the act complained of could otherwise be regarded as cruelty”.

In this case, the wife alleged that the husband continuously belittled her by comparing her to other women. He told her that she was not a “wife of his expectations” because she was not “cute” like certain other women he had met. His actions caused humiliation to the wife and strained her health. The Court rightly went on to hold that the conduct of the husband constituted cruelty.

Courts have time and again held that cruelty need not be only physical and includes mental cruelty. However, as a society, we have a tendency to attach far greater weight to physical cruelty because it is visible.

I must add that the problem runs far deeper than the issue of visibility. It is often difficult for families and even judges to accept certain conduct as ‘cruelty’ because we are socially conditioned to make many concessions for a husband’s transgressions in a marriage.

Women, from a young age, are told to centre their lives around the needs and wants of their spouse. Many actions by husbands which demean the confidence of their wives and breach their trust are socially accepted to maintain the peace of the marital home. Even within the legal space, many concessions are made for the husband’s actions in the name of the ‘sacrosanct’ nature of marriage.

Consequently, this judgment is important because the Court refused to condone the actions of a husband who damaged the self-confidence of his wife and impacted her peace of mind.

The other important point raised in this case concerns irretrievable breakdown of marriage. While the Court noted that irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for dissolution of marriage, it also went on to hold that it has not been able to reconcile the differences between the parties. In the facts of this case, the Court did not find any emotional bond between the parties. Referring to the Supreme Court judgment in Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (2006), the Court also observed that law cannot turn a blind eye to a situation which is causing misery to the parties.

In my opinion, individuals in unhappy marriages have the right to be liberated, albeit, only after there has been a proper discharge of the responsibilities of the economic and social well-being of the family that is formed as a trust unit resulting from the marriage.

Till the time the legislature does not amend the statutes, the Courts should dilute the rigor of the application of “marital fault” as a ground for a divorce to the lowest threshold and proceed to decide the two issues that are really the core of matrimonial disputes: custody and finances.

The judgment of the Delhi High Court in Sandhya Kumari v. Manish Kumar (2016) is relevant wherein the Court called for blending cruelty with irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The Court held that where there is evidence of the husband and wife indulging in “mutual bickering”, the insistence by one party to retain the marital bond would a relevant factor to decide on issue of cruelty. This is because the “obvious intention” of that spouse is to continue with the marriage to torment the other spouse.

In absence of legislative intervention, the Courts have had to devise innovative methods to work around the fault grounds in law. To ensure complete justice, it is essential that the legislature considers the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce and develops mechanisms to ensure an exit from the marriage albeit on fulfilling the due to economic obligations. Till the legislature gives this a priority, over burdened courts would be using their time better by lowering threshold of proof for divorce and focussing on matters of custody and finance.

Malavika Rajkotia is a Delhi based lawyer and the author of Intimacy Undone.

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An analysis of Electricity (Amendment) bill, 2022

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Electricity act

Recently we have seen an unprecedented agitation over the new proposed Electricity (Amendment) bill, from the opposition and trade union which was proposed by the Government in the parliament. The bill was introduced by the Union power ministry. After such uproar bill has been referred to the Energy Standing committee for further consultation and scrutiny. We have seen in the past as well bills of such public importance have been referred to the parliament committees. It is worth mentioning here that under the Purview of Article 118(1) of the Indian Constitution Act, 1950 the provisions related to Parliamentary Standing Committees have been provided. This provision has been adopted from the British Parliament functioning, further the said articles talk about two types of Committees I.e.

Standing Committee & Ad Hoc Committee. These committees have great importance in matters related to policy-making, unanimity, and critique.

The main agitation from the opposition was that Union Government is breaching its promise given to SKM that this bill will not be introduced as it is claimed that if this bill gets passed it will end subsidies given to Farmers. The opposition further claimed that said bill is unconstitutional as it defeats the provision of federalism enshrined in the constitution.

Electricity is governed under the concurrent list of the 7 th Schedule of the constitution and for matters given under the concurrent list, every State government should be consulted before introducing any new policy. Currently, we have The Electricity Act 2003 which governs the generation, transmission, distribution, trading, and use of electricity in India. It should be highlighted here that the generation of electricity (except hydro) is an activity that doesn’t require a license, further the distribution, trading & transmission of electricity are licensed activities under the act. Currently, Central Electricity Authority is the regulatory body under the act, the said body advises the Government of India regarding the policies & safety

requirements for smooth functioning. The Act was first amended in the year of 2007 and introduced the concept of cross-subsidy with the aim of providing electricity to the poor section of society. Further 2014 bill couldn’t be passed in the parliament.

India is the third largest producer of electricity in the world and for the same reason, any change in policy making has an enormous impact not only on traders but on consumers as well.

The major highlights of the 2022 amendment are, that it aims to increase the competition in the market, by allowing more than one power distributor in an area to distribute the power and giving the discretion to the consumers to avail of the power supply from the distributor of their choice, additionally, it allows the power distributor to use the infrastructure of other suppliers as well. We have seen this approach in the telecom sector as well, where consumers have choices to avail themselves of the services from different service providers.

The second provision of the amendment deals with Rationalize power rates under which regulators would have to fix a minimum tariff ceiling and it would protect the interests of consumers. The bill provides a stipulated time of a maximum of 90 days for the grant of a power distribution license and it would ultimately end the red tapism.

The last major proposed amendment is aimed to improve compliance by providing regulators power to execute the orders as a decree of a Civil court. The bill further aimed to improve the functioning of the regulators, increase efficiency, and more accountability.

With these proposed amendments the private companies would be empowered for the distribution of power. It is claimed by the opposition that only Government distribution companies will have the universal power supply obligations the private companies may prefer to supply the electricity in only profit-making areas i.e. industrial and commercial consumers. it is further claimed by the opposition that power supply workers under the Government may lose their jobs in case of monetary losses to the Government Distribution companies.

It can be concluded that with such amendments a much more competitive market would prevail and the consumers would get the maximum benefit at the same time the onus is on the government to ensure the accountability of the private sectors in power distribution. A robust compliance mechanism is required in case of any dispute between the private distributors and consumers. Additionally, Government should also consider the fact that after the privatization of electricity in the United Kingdom the consumers have to pay more price for the electricity and it may happen in India as well. In a democratic country like India, it is essential that every policy-making and reform should take place after a healthy parliamentary debate on the floor of the house, It is worth mentioning here that each minute of parliament in sessions costs approx. 2.5 Lakh and this taxpayer money should not be wasted just for the sake of criticism with no logic and acumen behind that criticism.

The major highlights of the 2022 amendment are that it aims to increase the competition in the market by allowing more than one power distributor in an area to distribute power and giving the discretion to the consumers to avail of the power supply from the distributor of their choice. Additionally, it allows the power distributor to use the infrastructure of other suppliers as well. We have seen this approach in the telecom sector as well, where consumers have choices to avail of the services from different service providers.

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Policy & Politics

CITIZENS OF 83 COUNTRIES ARE STILL SLAVES

We are lucky to be born in a free country. Ask about the value of freedom to the people living under dictatorship.

Vijay Darda

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I hope we haven’t forgotten China’s business mogul Jack Ma, who until a year and a half back was a big name in the world. At the time, his fortune was estimated at around USD 2,370 crore. Jack Ma is missing today. He was last seen in public in November 2020. There are rumours that he was seen in Hong Kong in 2021, but the claims have not been confirmed.

You must be wondering why I am talking about Jack Ma on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of India’s independence. In fact, this is a glaring example of stifling liberty by those in power. Actually, Jack Ma has been trapped by the Chinese government. He was growing unbridled in wealth and power. And wherever there is a dictatorship, no one is allowed to become stronger except for those in power. Even prominent businessmen like Jack Ma are not spared as those in power are always afraid of such people. If Jack Ma could suffer such a sad fate, can you imagine what the state of the common man out there would be like? About 10,000 Muslims have been put in prisons called correctional institutions in the name of new education in Xinjiang province. There are no mosques, no churches, no temples! China also destroyed pious Tibet. China is now trying to annex Taiwan as well.

This story is not unique to China. There are about 83 countries across the world where dictators are in power directly or in the name of religion. Before the arrival of Vladimir Putin, there used to be many big industrialists in Russia, but today there is no trace of them. All stand devastated. Everyone is familiar with the situation in Iran and the Middle East. In Pakistan, there is democracy for name’s sake but the real power lies with the military. Last year, you saw how the army seized power in Myanmar. It’s anybody’s guess as to how many people were killed by the Myanmar army. You already know the stories of the coup in Pakistan. We are witnessing the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. I had also written about the dictatorship of the Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka in these columns. The painful story of North Korea keeps filtering out as to how a cynical dictator Kim Jong-un has enslaved millions of people. People just exist there. They can’t even sport their favourite hairstyle! If they do not display picture of the dictator in their homes, capital punishment is a certainty. In sharp contrast, the neighbouring democratic South Korea is progressing fast. And if there are dictators in some African countries, the fanatics opposing them are no less than the dictators themselves.

I am telling these stories to you so that you can understand the meaning and importance of freedom. We should bow to our ancestors who did not even care for their lives so that we could breathe freely. I always say that my Diwali is Mahatma Gandhi, my Holi is Pandit Nehru, and Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and thousands of revolutionaries like them reside in my heart. I have faith in Lord Mahavir and Gautam Buddha. I have the spirit of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj because I was born in the family of a freedom fighter. My Babuji, veteran freedom fighter Shri Jawaharlal Darda, was also imprisoned in Jabalpur jail for about one year and nine months. He suffered the torture of the Britishers for the sake of freedom.

So if we are immersed in the celebration of 75 years of India’s independence today, it is only because of the non-violent struggle of Mahatma Gandhi and the sacrifice of many great revolutionaries. It is not known how many mothers lost their sons, how many women lost their husbands and how many sisters kept waiting in vain for their brothers to return home. The country had to make a lot of sacrifices to attain this freedom. People of every community, sect, religion and caste have made sacrifices. Countless people were imprisoned in the British jails for years. A long period of 75 years has passed since independence. The generation of freedom fighters has almost passed away. The third generation after independence has now taken over the command. Social feelings have weakened a little, relationships and associations have taken a beating and the bond of love has become weak too, but I feel proud that the feeling of patriotism continues to grow. I am thankful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi who made the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav such a grand affair and launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. I have consistently tried in the Rajya Sabha to get the common man the right to hoist the tricolour every day. Getting this right is like giving more scope for freedom. We have to maintain the glory of the tricolour which has been handed over to us by our freedom fighters. So, let us make ourselves proud by hoisting the tricolour every day. I returned last month after meeting the soldiers of the Indian Army stationed on the border in the difficult valleys of Kashmir. The tricolour is our identity. There, I was humming Kaifi Azmi’s song: Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyo..!

I would like to say one more thing; though we have made a lot of progress, even today there are people who do not get two square meals a day. Many are still looking for employment. The sad sight of a man or a woman carrying the body of their loved ones on their shoulders or bicycles is seen. Sisters and daughters are still becoming victims of cruelty. Tribal communities still have a long way to go. We have to get rid of all these social ills. We cannot depend on the government alone to achieve this goal. Along with the government, we too have to work with all our strength so that we can share the fruits of freedom with the weak and enjoy the true freedom ourselves. It is only then that we will be able to say even more happily… Saare Jahan Se Achha, Hindustan Hamara! Jai Hind!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

We are truly blessed. We are celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, and we are living in a democracy. But are you aware that there are still at least 83 countries around the world where citizens live like slaves? While the dictators are in direct control in some countries, they are wielding authority in the garb of democracy in others!

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