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Covid-hit hospitality sector in crisis, looks for govt intervention

With things deteriorating with each passing week, Indian hoteliers believe the economic relief announced by the government couldn’t give much relief to them.

Rishabh Gulati

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Hospitality sector
Amid the pandemic, the sector stares at massive losses

While India is in the process of unlocking with most sectors slowly opening up, the scenario is totally different for the hotel industry. With international travel still banned, states sealing their borders and a general fear psychosis prevailing amongst the people, the hotel industry is far away from the road to recovery. Hotels are still shut but even if they were to open tomorrow, this industry sees a bleak future until tourists start flocking back. The hospitality industry, which remains the worst-hit during the pandemic, is now facing tough times and hoteliers are slamming the government’s apathy towards them while demanding immediate intervention into the matter.

“This is the first time a problem like this has arisen in 30 years of me working. I don’t think any hotelier was or would have prepared for this situation. The situation is getting worse day by day because we depend on international and domestic tourists both. Due to flights being grounded, the influx of tourists has stopped in the country. Tourists were our number one customer and with them not coming, we are facing a hard hit,” says S.P. Jain, MD, Pride Group.

According to Jain, the future looks bleak “and we need to come up with solutions. This industry also employs the most amount of people, our manpower is huge and so are the jobs we give them. We have all been brain-storming and thinking about what to do. Situation is very difficult, and we do not know when will things get better.”

The hospitality sector is facing its biggest challenge of survival during these difficult months. Ankur Bhatia, of the BIRD Group of Roseate Hotels, says that it’s time to think out of the box. Comparing India’s response to the situation with that of the UK, he says, “We need to be creative and the government needs to be creative as well. Now personally speaking, I have hotels in two places — India and the UK. The latter came forward very quickly with very interesting methods. They ensured to not to lay off their employees and they also offered to pay 80% of the salaries there. Loans that are interest-free for 6 months were also introduced and given. They were quick and the help given to the three hotels in the UK was very good and effective. The local council has also given rebates when it comes to properties and land. We need to do all these things in India as well. We need to buck up and implement strategies that work in an effective way.”

With things deteriorating with each passing week, Indian hoteliers are now demanding immediate government intervention. They also believe that the economic relief announced by the government couldn’t give much relief to them. Gurbaxish Kohli, president, FHRAI, says: “What the government needs to understand here is that you cannot equate us with the manufacturing sector. Restaurant booking has been hit and our hotels have been hit too. We need to be looked at differently. Defamation of interest is not an option for us like others. We are made to pay interests of April in August. The opportunity is not coming as there are no directives on banks that should be there.”

Sanjay Sethi, MD Chalet Hotel, agrees and adds, “First step would be to allow the banks a one-time restructuring of loans. Second, we need subsidies when it comes to labour cost. Third, the industrial tariff on the electricity rates and bills. Fourth, we need relief on exercise licence fee and taxes. Finally, we also need some relief on the GST side.”

Though the hoteliers are suffering economically, they are also coming ahead to help during the crisis. Many of them have offered their hotels as quarantine facilities. Dilwar Nensey, Joint MD of the Royal Palm Hotels, says: “As far as the municipal corporations are concerned, they were getting in touch with a lot of us especially in Mumbai. They were in contact with a lot of hoteliers to shift the hospitality angle to a quarantine angle. For the people who could potentially get affected and are not positive, these hotels would serve as a containment facility. We have also given our 280-room property to the municipal corporation for this purpose. Now yes, the rents will be low. In this way, we can keep some infrastructure alive.”

Copy: Meenakshi Upreti

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Why there is so much protest against farm laws

Surinder Kumar & Kulwant Singh Nehra

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Amidst strong protests by Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations, the Central government got the three farm bills passed in Parliament. With the assent of the President of India, these bills have now become Acts or the laws of the land! The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 implies that private traders can now bypass Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis and purchase agricultural produce to sell it anywhere in India. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 means freedom for contract farming and price negotiations and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 provides freedom to agribusiness and trades to stock any agricultural produce in as much quantity as they would like to. In effect, it means that the corporate sector has been given free hand to enter in agriculture, contract farming on ‘mutually agreed terms and conditions’, purchase, storage, processing and other market operations, with little legal protection to the farmers. Even the constitutional validity of Central acts in a federal state of India, where agriculture is a state subject in the constitutional scheme, is being questioned. 

The Central government has claimed that this move has liberalised agricultural markets and will facilitate improvement in market’s efficiency, attract private investment in agriculture and would ensure better prices to farmers for their produce with high transparency. This would mean farmers will get out of the clutches of the monopoly of APMC mandis and evade the rent-seeking behaviour of the traditional intermediaries (arhtiyas). The polar opposite viewpoint of the protesters is that this move, towards greater play of free markets, is a ploy by the government to get away from its traditional role of being the guarantor of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs). For this, farmers argue that the government should have provided for statutory guaranteed MSP for their marketed surplus. 

Farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana where MSP for their two major crops is almost assured, are suspicious of what the markets will offer and how the “big companies” will treat them, where they may be minor players and incapable of bargaining effectively. There are many structural problems like lack of information with farmers which inhibits their ability to make informed decisions. Even if they have market information, their capacity to bargain or hold their crop is very limited, forcing small and marginal farmers for distress sale and getting further into debt trap and pushed out of their agricultural occupation and be landless labour.

 It is nobody’s case that agriculture market reforms were not required. There have been many problems with APMC mandis. They were getting inefficient, opaque, politicised and often controlled by cartels. Need of the hour was to clean the system than to make it defunct. Two parallel systems of marketing, one operated by private corporates where there will be no government charges and the other APMC mandis, where mandi boards and ‘ahrtiyas’ charge a fee, a dual price structure will encourage unregulated trade detrimental to providing access to farmers for better price recovery and assured prices. Soon APMC mandis will become defunct and it will pave the space for withdrawal of MSP rendering farmers more vulnerable to unregulated market operations. Corporatisation does not reduce the role of middle-men, they will now have a new role as market integrators between corporates and farmers without any government regulation, rendering farmers more vulnerable to exploitation of the middlemen and corporates. Provisions of Agricultural Marketing Acts are highly skewed in favour of private capital, with no limit on stock holding and with restrictions on the government interventions, there is limited recourse to any independent grievance redressal mechanism as SDMs/DCs are prone to pressures from the state and corporates, without judicial review.

 Very little attention has been paid to the implications of amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. Even recently, when onion prices shot up, the government was forced to ban its export to protect the interests of the domestic market. With amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, policy space for government intervention will get reduced, rendering domestic consumers to be more vulnerable to the operations of the market mechanism. These agricultural market reforms are consistent with neo-liberal macroeconomic policy regime being adopted by the Government of India since 1991 in general and 2014 in particular. But the moot question is how they will impact small and marginal farmers, rural employment, distribution of income, food security and consumer protection?

 Experience, of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and the US, shows that unregulated markets always lead to pushing the small farmers out of agriculture. In India, about 80% farmers have a holding of less than 5 acres, they will have no option but to become wage labourers. Crisis will deepen further when there is no alternative strategy to generate employment to absorb farmers’ rendered surplus from agriculture. During 2011- 19, India had a jobless growth. Post Covid-19, Indian economy is in a very bad shape which reveals falling GDP and worse employment situation. Crores of semi-skilled labourers have got unemployed. It is reported that 2.1 crore salaried jobs have been lost and people are in great stress. This has been no time to tinkle with a relatively smooth-running machine of APMC mandis, further aggravating the worsening state of the economy. These agricultural market reforms, in the name of safeguarding the interests of farmers, are out and out structural changes to give free play to the corporate sector with little protection to the farmers.

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How brands turned Covid crisis into an opportunity

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The over two month long nationwide lockdown which was put in place to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infection has led to several brands re-strategising their business models in order to recover from the sweeping losses they had faced during the lockdown. Some of the brands include Gem Selections, India’s biggest gemstones brand; 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, an online healthcare platform which was launched around the same time when the pandemic hit the world; Gympik that launched a virtual gyming platform amongst others. 

Some brands also turned this pandemic from a crisis to an opportunity. Illumnus is such a company that has changed completely through Covid-19. Post-lockdown, when 99% of the institutes were looking for some steady solution for online learning and were striving to conduct online examinations, Illumnus brought in a new solution for all these problems and helped bring entire schools online. The brand added new features like online examination, video lecturing, prearranged assignments, smart attendance, content suggestion, institute library, and in-depth analytics to aid the process of online education for institutes across the country, during lockdown. 

While the well-known and very popular online jewellery brand Gem Selections incorporated an augmented reality & 3D hologram imaging technology for its complete inventory at their flagship stores so that the customers can try all the products physically, rather than trying them virtually before purchasing. This, according to the company, was roped in so that the customers can try these jewelleries without having to physically touch them again and again.

 As for 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, which was launched just ahead of the global lockdown, it re-strategised its policies and branding to help people during the lockdown with online doctors, counselling and many other features. The brand also launched multiple campaigns during the same period which included their awareness campaigns like ‘Together We Can Help Prevent Suicides’, ‘Thankyoudoctors’, ‘Health is True Independence: Independence Day Campaign’, ‘Thankyounurses’, ‘HospitalReviewProgram’, among others. 

Owing to the pandemic all gyms were closed for the longest time as compared to any other business. Gympik, a fitness brand, took this opportunity to launch an online portal for the fitness enthusiasts and integrated virtual training in its club management software. It developed a scalable model to endure in the changing landscape and this was done through its newly developed interface, live streaming feature that was integrated seamlessly to make training sessions interesting through virtual experience that is controlled and implemented from one platform.

 However, for TAA Music Label, a music company that works with talented musicians and singers from across the country, the lockdown came as a blessing in disguise. The brand made a radical shift from focusing on generic music towards discovering and honing every artist’s unique skills and produced EPs based on the same. Also, there was a shift in the marketing model. While earlier social media was one of the major promotion platforms, the pandemic opened the gates for radio shows like RedIndies shuffle show (A 93.5 Red FM, all independent music show). 

Additionally, the brand has also developed new and innovative ways of saving video production costs through ‘Mobile Shoot’ and ‘Graphical Videos’ saving the cost for shoot, travel, crew which is now being invested into promotion.

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We need to stand with our farmers today

The Americans and Europeans—both the public and the
governments—have never ceased to support their farmers.
We should also come forward in support of them.

Ajay Shukla

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With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of companies laid off their workforce, while others made cuts in their salaries. The question is: Did it help them tide over the problems created by the pandemic? The answer is no. 

This question was raised by renowned industrialist Ratan Tata. He opined that companies should be compassionate towards their workers. It is neither a remedy nor an act of humanity to discard their workers in distress who have toiled hard for the success of their companies. Instead, the management of companies should work towards possibilities of resolution of distress. 

Companies are formed not by their assets, but by their workforce. This is the reason that Tata, without any support from the government, has maintained a name which has immense goodwill and faith, even in these times. The government should also work towards possibilities and policies dedicated to better public welfare. The Governments of Canada and China have worked on these issues, and as a result, these countries have fared well and proven themselves better than others in these times. 

However, there are only a selected few like Tata, and our country is in dire straits. The corporate sector is working only for its self-interest and is not bothered about the lives of others. It works on a system, and not on compassion, and those who run this system work only for their selfinterests and walk away with heavy perks and packages. In a democracy, the citizens form their own government and the responsibility of such a government is to work, keeping the interest of its citizens over any other interest. But, nowadays, corporates are powerful because everything runs on their funds.

 Today, the country is facing unrest over the passing of the three bills which will regulate agriculture and farmers. The unrest is expected and accepted as it is for a public cause. For the last few days, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and western Uttar Pradesh have been agitating, while there is not much of an agitation to be seen in the other states. The reason is obvious: in these States, there are sufficient markets as well as avenues for the farmers. Bihar and other states do not have such arrangements for their farmers, on account of which their farmers are neither capable nor have reasonable earnings. The government claims that they have opened up and provided better avenues for the farmers by promulgating these laws. Farmers can now stock their produce and sell it at a good price anywhere, which will reduce the profits made by middlemen/agents. At the first glance, the stand of the government appeared to be reasonable, but on pondering over the matter deeply, I was forced to question myself about why farmers are the only one protesting over it — instead of all of us? 

I am also from an agrarian family and we do not go to the markets to sell our produce. We sell the produce to the agent/ middleman as a standing crop in the fields, for a price lesser than the MSP, which in return provides us with the better service of the agent/middleman, who procures the produce from our farms and takes the responsibility of saving the produce from the rains and stocking it. The agent/middleman also tenders payments in advance when it’s required.

 In our home, a young man comes to deliver milk from a village, and on asking him, he told us that he had sold the wheat produce at the time of harvesting at a rate of Rs 18- 19 per kg and, at present, the rate of wheat is prevailing at Rs 22-23 per kg, and that he easily manages his household through animal husbandry. At his time of need, the agent/ middleman helps him, and in return, he sells him his wheat. I recollect how, back in 2012, Arun Jaitley, the Leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha, had stated that corporates can never work for the welfare of farmers. He had cited the examples of farmers in Europe and the Americas while addressing the Parliament, to make its Members understand how corporates there get cultivation done but farmers are in dire straits, and that the governments take care of the farmers by way of subsidies and grants. Sushma Swaraj had also said that the market and the agents are the bankers for a farmer and the reason for ‘celebrations in his house’. 

It is sad that the interests of corporates are being lobbied by their party now after assuming power. Farmers are being mesmerised with sweet dreams, while the Parliament has stamped its approval for turning them into labourers for the corporate. And this has been done by those representatives whom they had elected with the hope of seeing better times. This is the reason why farmers of half a dozen states are protesting on the roads today and the intellectuals of the country along with the chief opposition party, Congress, are battling for the rights of the farmers. The question rises again: why is this battle being waged by the farmer alone, and not by all of us? We all are busy watching the monkey business of Deepika, Sushant and Rhea on the news channels, which is not helping the nation in any manner. 

If you remember, when the produce of potatoes and onions had hit the markets, farmers had not been able to get even Rs 2 per kg for that produce. The farmers who had taken their produce to the Nasik market, after paying heavy fares, had become victims of devastation on reaching the market and had to throw their produce of potatoes and onions on the road before leaving emptyhanded. Today, we are buying potatoes and onions at Rs 40 per kg. Tomatoes also suffered from the same fate and now are selling for a price higher than Rs 100 per kg. So, who is actually earning from the produce of the farmers? Is it the trader? The answer is, yes, because he is in a position to stock the produce and to tender advance payments to the farmers. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are prosperous and their average yearly income is around Rs 2.40 lakh, whereas that of the farmers in Bihar is Rs 44,000 only. It is even lesser in Odisha and West Bengal. The reason for this is that the farmers in Punjab and Haryana earn well with the help of the markets and the middlemen/agents, whereas in Bihar and other states, there are no such arrangements and the government does not affect the whole purchase on the MSP. 

With the promulgation of this law, the agricultural produce shall be captured by the corporates. They would purchase and stock the produce as per their whims and fancies and would further sell it at their dictated prices. They would also capture the farm fields with the concept of corporate farming and the farmer would be compelled to be their labourer. This way, corporates would rake in money after looting from the farmers’ produce. This is not an apprehension but rather a bitter truth because corporates work only for their own profits and interests. We have witnessed how they did not even blink an eyelid before laying off those employees who had founded and established their companies through their dedicated hard work.

 We have to understand that the farmer neither has the resources nor the capacity to take his produce to other states by hiring freight transport. He is also incapable of holding to his produce or stock it as he seeks the help of the middleman/ agent to sow his fields by getting the cost of the sowing and, thereafter, asks him to procure his produce. The trader does benefit, because he has the capacity and resources to procure, stock and transport the produce, but it is also true that the trader/middleman/agent has a friendly bond with the farmer. When the corporates’ system would be applied in the farms, then only the profitability of the produce would be harvested. The hopes of the farmers would be dashed down, as they would pay the farmer only according to what profits them.

 Corporates would also sell the agricultural products at a high rate to us, after stocking the same, because there is no legal regulation over the pricing of the products anymore. If we are to feed ourselves, we would be forced to buy the products from the corporates at a higher price with folded hands and stare at a food crisis in the future. This is the reason why we should not leave the farmer standing alone today. The Americans and Europeans — both the public and the governments — have never ceased to support their farmers. We should also come forward in support of them. This is not a political fight but a battle for public interest.

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India slams Pakistan over its move to hold elections in disputed Gilgit-Baltistan

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Imran-Khan-with-Gen-Bajwa

India has come heavily down on Pakistan for its decision to conduct elections in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has reiterated India’s stand that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of so-called Gilgit and Baltistan, are its territories and Islamabad has no locus standi on the illegally and forcibly occupied areas.

 According to sources, Pakistan’s decision to hold elections in disputed G-B is also influenced by China. Amid the ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, Beijing is keen to foment trouble for New Delhi on the other front. “The Dragon is adding fuel to the fire by instigating Pakistan to provoke India on one issue or the other. It wants to fish in troubled water,” says an official.

 “However, India is cautious and capable enough as well to deal with both Pakistan and China simultaneously,” says the official. According to MEA sources, even the US is convinced that “Pakistan’s move to hold elections in the disputed region smacks of China’s conspiracy.” Sources told The Daily Guardian that President Donald Trump will come out with a reaction suggesting it and slamming Pakistan over its connivance with China.” Indian and US officials have exchanged views on this issue recently, sources said.

 Pakistan has announced that the election for the Legislative Assembly of GilgitBaltistan will be held on 15 November. Islamabad wants to make the disputed region its fifth province by holding elections. “India will protest tooth and nail on all the forums,” said officials.

 Meanwhile, India on Tuesday slammed Pakistan for its decision to conduct elections in the so-called Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. India also raised the issue of human rights violations in Pakistan occupied territories for over seven decades. India came out with a much stronger reaction asking Pakistan to “immediately vacate all Indian territories under its illegal occupation.”

 “We have seen reports regarding the announcement of elections to the so-called Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly to be held on 15 November 2020. The Government of India has conveyed its strong protest to the Government of Pakistan and reiterated that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of socalled Gilgit and Baltistan are an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947. The Government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it,” the MEA statement said. 

“The Government of India has also completely rejected the recent actions such as the so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan (Elections and Caretaker Government) Amendment Order 2020” and continued attempts by the Pakistan establishment to bring material changes in areas under its illegal and forcible occupation. Action such as these can neither hide the illegal occupation of parts of Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades. These are cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation,” the statement further read.

 There have been massive heated verbal exchanges between India and Pakistan over the past few weeks on the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan even tried to raise it at the United Nations where India gave it a befitting reply as well. Sources said that since Pakistan is adamant on holding polls in Gilgit-Baltistan, India will be countering it with a better, comprehensive and much sharper strategy. “Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to hold polls there has not gone down well with many in his own country, with scores of people in G-B, who have suffered a lot due to the acts of human violations by Pakistan’s forces, protesting,” a diplomat said. “Let’s see whether Imran Khan is able to hold the elections or not,” he added.

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When China talks of peace, India must prepare for war

Before waging a war, Dragon often invokes peace. It used the same tactic to convince Nehru to send food for the invading PLA troops in Tibet who, as new evidences suggest, used their presence there to prepare for the 1962 war against India.

Utpal Kumar

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The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future. —Theodore Roosevelt.

Nothing explains this better than the SinoIndian relations. If one wants to know what is happening at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, and why it’s happening, one just has to go back to the 1950s and the early 1960s—and it may feel like déjà vu. One may be confused whether it’s 2020 or the heady days of the 1950s, except that “Hindi-Chini, Bhai-Bhai” has now been turned into “Hindi-Chini, Bye-Bye”. But apart from that, the entire Chinese modus operandi on the Ladakh front, as seen today, would be a photocopy of the decade leading to the 1962 war—when, while the Chinese political class led by the suave and sophisticated Zhou Enlai would talk of peace and brotherhood, the military wing would be busy encroaching into Indian territories! 

Interestingly, in these uncertain times, when India is not only dealing with a Chinese-origin virus but is also face-to-face with PLA soldiers at the LAC, Claude Arpi, one of the foremost authorities on China and Tibet, is out with the last of his four-volume book on the India-Tibet relations (1947- 1962), The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet.

 Going through this book, and the three before it, it becomes obvious that India lost the “Roof of the World”, less due to the Chinese betrayal, and more because of the monumental failure of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to see the writing on the wall. It was “a stab from the front”, as M.J. Akbar would write in his biography on Nehru. 

Till 15 December 1950, the day Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel died, there was some sort of curb on Nehru’s ideological obsession. For, Patel could comprehend the real face of the Dragon. He had written a letter to Nehru on 7 November 1950, detailing the threats which China’s invasion of Tibet posed to India. Arpi tells us that Patel’s “prophetic” letter was actually a draft sent by Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai, an eminent civil servant and diplomat. A month after the entry of the Chinese forces in Tibet, Patel sent Bajpai’s note under his own signature to Nehru. But the then Prime Minister chose to ignore it, and instead, was guided by the likes of K.M Panikkar and V.K. Krishna Menon, who would often question the efficacy of a strong army. This mindset alone explains why, at the time of the Chinese aggression, India’s gun factories were apparently producing coffee!

 But once Patel wasn’t around, there was no one to put a leash on Nehru’s esoteric internationalism, often overlapped with obsessively moralistic and ideological overtones. The then PM pushed his ‘Hindi-Chini, Bhai-Bhai’ policy with a vengeance. So much so that he approved the supply of rice for the invading PLA troops in Tibet when the latter were busy rampaging and decimating the Tibetan way of life and culture in the early 1950s. “Without Delhi’s active support, the Chinese troops would not have been able to survive in Tibet,” writes Arpi. 

This “rice diplomacy” continued for over four years, till the first truck reached Lhasa from the Chinese side in the mid-1950s. One wonders what would have happened had India not sent rice. Would the PLA have consolidated its hold over Tibet so easily? Instead of confronting China over its forceful annexation of Tibet, which replaced a peaceful neighbour for India with an aggressive, imperialist one, Nehru felicitated the same by providing food for the invading troops. 

Arpi, in his latest book, extensively quotes Apa B. Pant, India’s Political Officer (PO) in Lhasa in the late 1950s. Pant had left an extensive record of his stay there, saying how “with each visit, my first impressions have been confirmed that Tibet is a country forcibly, with the might of military strength, ‘occupied’ by the Chinese”. Pant noted that roads were being constructed very rapidly: “The Lhasa-Tsinghai [Qinghai] highway going to the northern parts of Tibet is nearly 35 feet wide and extremely well constructed.” Comparing his previous trip from Yatung to Gyantse a year earlier, which then took nearly eleven hours to complete 145 miles as the road was extremely bad, he wrote that “the same journey could be accomplished in less than seven hours”. The PO’s conclusion was that he had no doubt whatsoever that “before the road on our side is completed, the road on the Tibetan side would be ready”.

 Arpi also quotes Pant to show how Tibetans looked up to India, and especially to “Chogyal Nehru” to rescue Tibet and its culture from Chinese aggression. “It is a well-known fact now that the people of Tibet consider India as the only country which can and will help their plight and the Prime Minister, [known in Tibet] as the Chogyal Nehru—Dharma Raja Nehru—would protect religion not only in Tibet but in the whole outside world.” For Pant, the hopes of the Tibetans were centred on India: “Everybody feels that a great miracle will be performed by India and Nehru.”

 Sadly, it never happened, primarily because Chogyal Nehru had other plans. But as later events suggest, and as revealed by Arpi, Mao’s China used the Tibet experience to prepare for an armed assault against India in 1962. Arpi writes about a forthcoming book, Suppressing Rebellion in Tibet and the China-India Border War, by Chinese-born scholar Jianglin Li. He quotes Matthew Akester, Jianglin’s colleague who wrote a summary of his findings, as saying: “No doubt the 1962 border war was a big defeat for India. In the decades since, numerous books and articles have been published dealing with its cause, process and result… I would like to present a few historical details from Chinese sources that may have gone unnoticed. These concern the eastern sector of the conflict, on which some documentary sources are available.” 

Akester quotes from Jianglin’s forthcoming book, in which she demonstrates how the PLA used the operations against “rebels” on the Tibetan plateau between 1957 and 1962 to prepare for the war with India. Though the Chinese “official” history of the war affirms that the PLA was unprepared, Jianglin Li discovered that it was not exactly the case. So, all in all, Nehru’s India provided rice to Mao’s men to prepare for a war that they would later wage on India itself! 

The book also reveals how the Government of India chose to first ignore—and then hide from people as well as the Parliament—China’s intrusion into India’s Aksai Chin area, even making a road there as early as 1954- 55. In early 1958, five months after the “official” opening, Subimal Dutt, the Indian Foreign Secretary, wrote to Nehru: “There seemed little doubt that the newly constructed 1,200 kilometre road connecting Gartok in Western Tibet with Yeh [Yecheng] in Sinkiang passes through Aksai Chin.” Dutt suggested sending a reconnoitring party “in the coming spring” to find out if the road had really been built on Indian territory. The next day, Nehru agreed, but added: “I do not think it is desirable to have air reconnaissance. In fact, I do not see what good this can do us. Even a land reconnaissance will not perhaps be very helpful… I think it would be better to do this rather informally.” 

So, China blatantly occupied and built a road on Indian territory, and the Prime Minister wanted to take up the issue informally! Incidentally, a year later, Nehru hid the truth in the Parliament when it first came up on 22 April 1959 during a discussion on Chinese maps displaying Indian territory as China’s. Braj Raj Singh, an MP, queried: “May I know whether the Government’s attention has been drawn to the news item published in several papers alleging that the Chinese have claimed some 30,000 sq km of our territory and they have also disputed the McMahon line?” This was clearly related to the Aksai Chin as well as the eastern sector. Nehru’s answer was misleading, to say the least: “I would suggest to Hon. Members not to pay much attention to news items emanating sometimes from Hong Kong and sometimes from other odd places. We have had no such claim directly or indirectly made on us.” 

It was only in August 1959 that Nehru dropped the bombshell in the Parliament: that the ‘Tibet-Sinkiang highway’ had been built through Indian territory.

 Arpi also brings up the issue of India’s superior air power in 1962 vis-à-vis China. He quotes the Dalai Lama’s memoirs, Freedom in Exile, narrating his last days in Tibet: “From Lhuntse Dzong, we passed to the small village of Jhora and from there to the Karpo pass, the last before the border. Just as we were nearing the highest point of the track we received a bad shock. Out of nowhere, an aeroplane appeared and flew directly overhead. It passed quickly—too quickly for anyone to be able to see what markings it had—but not so fast that the people on board could have missed spotting us. This was not a good sign. If it was Chinese, as it probably was, there was a good chance that they now knew where we were. With this information they could return to attack us from the air, against which we had no protection. Whatever the identity of the aircraft, it was a forceful reminder that I was not safe anywhere in Tibet. Any misgivings I had about going into exile vanished with this realisation: India was our only hope.”

 The author then says that it could well have been an Indian airplane from Squadron 106, as mentioned to him by Wing Commander ‘Jaggi’ Nath. “It is worth mentioning here after meeting Wing Commander Jaggi Nath, we realised that the Indian Air Force had been extensively flying over Tibet between 1959 and 1962.” Among other things, the two-time Maha Vir Chakra awardee said: “If we had sent a few airplanes (into Tibet), we could have wiped the Chinese out… They did not believe me that there was no Chinese air force.”

 Arpi further writes, “Today, it is clear that there was no PLA Air Force worth its name and that the Chinese planes did not have the capacity to fly over Southern Tibet, one can only deduce that the plane seen by the Dalai Lama and his party was a Canberra of the 106 Squadron of the Indian Air Force.” 

While detailing the flight of the Dalai Lama, the author also exposes China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh. He writes, “If Arunachal had always been ‘Chinese territory’, as Beijing pretends today, why did the PLA’s troops stationed in Lhoka and Kongpo areas of ‘Southern Tibet’ not follow the Dalai Lama when he crossed the Indian border in Khenzimane/Chuthangmu, north of Tawang on March 31, 1959. The Chinese troops should have done so, if the Tawang and Bomdila districts belonged to China! But they did not! Why? Simply, because, at that time, China did not consider NEFA, today Arunachal Pradesh, as part of its territory.”

 The book ends on a tragic note with India getting humiliated in 1962. But one of the most poignant portions of the book lies here: the fate of the prisoners of war (PoWs). Very few people know that more than 3,900 PoWs faced harrowing treatment at the hands of the Chinese. Read the book to find out how our political leaders left them as cannon fodder in front of the PLA troops, and yet, those bravehearts didn’t give in. 

They first fought the Chinese on the battlefront, and later, suffered unfathomable torture in their custody—but refused to give in. The End of an Era is a stark reminder of the fact that when China talks of peace, India should better prepare for war. The Dragon did the same in 1962. It is doing the same in 2020. The difference is that there’s no Nehru in India now. And it’s not the India of 1962.

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This is no longer a man’s world: Jorie Healthcare CEO Anita Singh

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In conversation with The Daily Guardian, Anita Sumra Singh, the Indian-origin CEO of Jorie Healthcare Partners and Jindal MMG, talks about her efforts and expansion in Chandigarh. With a dedicated team, she is bridging the best of Chicago and Chandigarh and in less than a year, her team grew from 11 employees in September 2019 to more than 250 employees today. The company’s exponential growth has made quite a reputation for itself and is offering career opportunities even in these uncertain Covid-19 times. Excerpts:

 Q. Please tell us about your journey in Jorie Healthcare.

 A. Jorie Healthcare Partners is an ‘outcome sourcing’ company, providing practice and financial management services to the healthcare industry. Since its inception, Jorie has exponentially grown from 11 employees to more than 250 employees. By mid-October, the company plans to increase the total members over 300-400. With an average of 5% attrition rate per month, the company has successfully retained its entire workforce during the lockdown period. It has also created a proactive and systematic approach with employees working from home to effectively manage all client deliveries. 

Q. The company completes one year in India. What are its future plans and strategies? 

A. The plan is to keep growing and reaching out to the world — we want to see over 2,000 people filling those top two floors in Quark City and more clients availing our RPA-powered services! We would also love to help out the Indian segment of healthcare by exploring collaborations with hospitals that would enable us to convert their patient files into a digital medical card for smoother service. As part of our first anniversary, we have also tied up with the Panchkulabased arm of The Pink Foundation, an NGO that facilitates the development of marginalised women and children across India, besides other activities, to manufacture reusable cloth bags and three-tier face masks for our employees. Not only has this provided the NGO with some much needed employment, it also promoted our belief of eliminating single-usage plastic and promoting our country’s handiwork, rather than looking to export bulk, non-biodegradable plastic items from other countries. 

Q. You have created a dedicated set-up in Chandigarh. Is there any particular reason for choosing the city? 

A. The company was looking to expand and I decided to explore India for opportunities. We combed through other cities — Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru (the hubs of outsourcing). But my gut told me to go with Chandigarh for two reasons: Having grown up in Chandigarh, I have always wanted to open up employment opportunities for the people here, and I strongly believe that the tri-city area (ChandigarhMohali-Panchkula) and its people are brimming with potential for this sector and development. So, in September 2019, I decided it was an apt time to merge the best of both my worlds — my business family in Chicago with my origins in Punjab. So far, we have been proven right: People are clever and hardworking, and really deliver. We started out with just 11 employees last year, and despite Covid-19, we have expanded to over 250 employees, and are continuing to grow. 

Q. What do you have to say about being a woman in this industry, along with being an outsider in the US? 

A. I will say this: It is no longer a man’s world, especially in the industry. Women are much stronger and much more capable of multi-tasking: I have never stopped being a mother (of two) or a wife, along with my overnight classes and a full-time high-pressure job in a different country. Women, I feel, are blessed with the power of giving and nurturing new life. Though everyone talks about equality and we are moving in that direction, the grim reality is that women have many glass ceilings that are left to be shattered, be it the wage gap or the lack of women in leadership roles. We have a long way to go, and some of us have even broken that mould. I have made it a constant in my work life and outside it to support and uplift other women.

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