GST and E-Commerce as a panacea for reverse migration - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Opinion

GST and E-Commerce as a panacea for reverse migration

Government may bring an amendment permitting e-commerce companies to use Aadhaar card of the supplier for verification as well as for discharging GST.

Gagan Kumar

Published

on

One of the most significant challenges b e i n g f ac e d by the Government at present is how to kick start the economy, which is continuously declining. The strong workforce of displaced workers (they shouldn’t be called migrant as they are also Indian) is bending towards unemployment after losing their jobs, and most of them are forced to head back to their hometowns or villages. Lakhs of internally displaced workers moved from urban centres to rural areas of origin in the last few months. These workers are likely to be absorbed by the agricultural sector despite the abysmally low per capita agricultural income. The average monthly income per agrarian households during the agricultural year July 2012- June 2013 was estimated at Rs. 6426, and about 52% of the estimated 90.2 million farming households in rural India reported outstanding loans. (NSS 70th round, Report no. 576). To tackle such humongous economic problems, the Government has come up with a massive economic package aggregating Rs. 20 lakh crores which primarily aims to address the employment generation.

This article attempts to provide an alternative solution in tackling the economic crisis and identifying a possible solution to mitigate the unemployment faced by the displaced workers.

E-Commerce

The alternative may lie in easing the regulatory compliance concerning GST for the small vendors who wish to do business via ecommerce. By doing so, more and more vendors will engage in such business, thus assuaging the challenge of unemployment and thereby facilitating economic activity.

Ecommerce companies must be encouraged to sign up as many suppliers as possible in small towns and villages to provide these vendors access to a vast market. This system may give them a platform to sell locally manufactured products which have their ethnic value; it may also be used as a tool to promote cultural items such as handlooms, terracotta utensils, etc.

 Indubitably, eCommerce websites have been picking pace ever since the lockdown is opening up and is estimated to touch a volume of Rs. 7 trillion by the year 2023.

A report by Unicommerce eSolutions claims that during the first seven days of lockdown 3.0, the sector has recovered 30 per cent of its pre-lockdown order volumes. If small precocious vendors from untouched and remote areas are encouraged to get recognition on an eCommerce website to provide him access to a broader market, it may open new vistas for him as well as ameliorate his material living standard.

Not only this would give impetus to the economy but also create gainful employment opportunities for the displaced workers during this pandemic and lockdown. With a prospect of earning, they will start working to meet the demands emanating from the customers/eCommerce platform.

 GST Registration

The biggest possible challenge which may hinder this process is the punctilious requirement of GST registration for the vendor on eCommerce websites. Small vendors and manufacturers in smaller town and villages are unlikely to have even a sizable turnover which may cross the threshold limit required for GST registration.

 As per the provision envisaged under GST Act, 2017, every person supplying goods or services through electronic commerce operators are required to be compulsorily registered, without any threshold exemption limit (Section 24 (ix) of the CGST Act). However, the Government empowered to exempt specified supplier from registration under GST even if their turnover is more than the threshold limit, under section 9 (5) of the Act.

Due to the menace of COVID-19 and lockdown, there has been a steep fall in the GST revenue collection in the past three months. In February 2020, the monthly GST collection was reported at Rs. 1,05,366/- crore, (Ministry of Finance, Revenue Collection for February 2020, posted on 01 March 2020 7:20 PM by PIB Delhi) whereas, for March 2020 it is Rs. 97,597/- crore (Ministry of Finance, Revenue Collection for March 2020, posted on 01 April 2020 5:05 PM by PIB Delhi) and for April, it tentatively stood Rs 49,500/- crore (approximately). The revenue collection has declined drastically across India, ranging from 60% to 80% on a monthly basis.

 Providing access to the market for the supply of untouched traditional and cultural arts & crafts items from remote corners of villages for, by attenuating GST regulatory compliances would generate employment for such displaced workers and also add to their income while preserving our heritage.

Use of Aadhaar instead of GST

To transcend the challenge of paperwork and compliance for GST registration by the small vendors/manufacturers, Government may bring an amendment permitting eCommerce companies to use Aadhaar card of the supplier for verification as well as for discharging GST. GST Council may also identify districts wherein Aadhaar number of the vendor/manufacturer can be used as an alternative to GST registration. Fulfilment of compliance and regulations may be taken care of by the eCommerce companies, and such cost can be recovered by adjusting it in the margin of profits.

Integration of Aadhaar card instead of GST compliances would help these vendors significantly and at the same time help the Government to keep a tab on each transaction of the vendors for facilitating the GST regulatory compliances later on if required. The introduction of Aadhaar for this scheme would be altruistic in mitigating complex regulatory compliances and providing a balance of convenience over the influx of income and expenditure.

Use of Post Offices as logistics

One of the other impediment which may be faced by such vendors could be logistics and delivery. It is suggested that such eCommerce companies may tie-up with ubiquitous India Post to overcome the challenge of logistics and end-to-end delivery, given the extensive network of India Post across the country (largest postal network in the world with 1,55,618 post offices). It is pertinent to note that India Post has already launched its eCommerce website (https:// ecom.indiapost.gov.in/) for Indian cultural and traditional products like idols of religious figures, handloom products, authentic handmade products, handicrafts, organic products including herbal toothpaste, shampoo among others. Therefore, it would not be an arduous task for it to join hands with such eCommerce companies.

Thus, instead of investing in a new delivery network, using India Post would be a viable logistic option which in turn would generate revenue for the Government as well.

Absorption of the displaced worker population

Lastly, most of the displaced workers who have returned to their hometowns would be unemployed and looking for work. Such displaced will include skilled and semiskilled labourers. They are competent and experienced enough to make use of available technology and help in the production of goods which is capable of being sold online via eCommerce websites.

This scheme may help the country and its economy in generating employment for the displaced workers to become ‘Atmanirbhar’ and turning job seekers into to job providers.

Gagan Kumar is a practising Advocate and a qualified Chartered Accountant and custodian of Krishnomics Legal based at New Delhi.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

Opinion

SHEIKH HASINA MUST STOP ANTI HINDU VIOLENCE WITH AN IRON HAND

Joyeeta Basu

Published

on

Bangladesh is burning. Violence is sweeping through the land, with several members of the minority Hindu community being butchered to death by Islamist radicals. Hindu homes, temples, businesses and even villages have been burnt down. News is coming of murder, rape and plunder. There is major conflagration in places like Comilla, Noakhali, Rangpur and Feni. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is categorical that “nobody will be spared. It doesn’t matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished.” Forces have been deployed to control the violence. In spite of that, violence continues—for five days now. Eyewitnesses talk about inadequate police presence on the ground, especially in remote areas. The whole pogrom seems to have been pre-planned and timed to coincide with the Bengali Hindu’s biggest festival, Durga Puja. Trouble started from a village in a remote area where Islam’s Holy Book was deliberately placed at the foot of the Durga idol in the middle of the night when no one was present at the puja pandal, and a photo was clicked and spread on social media. Apparently, the next day, a live streaming was done of the Holy Book being “rescued” by the police, leading to the outbreak of the violence. It needs to be found out who placed the Holy Book in the pandal and why the police allowed the streaming to take place, thus inciting the people. The police is also being accused of inaction in many areas. A quick look through the Bangladesh media shows that questions are being raised even about the role played by some politicians in turning a blind eye to the violence, if not abetting it actively. Consensus is building that the anger is anything but spontaneous, and much of it is meant to scare the Hindus out of the country and grab their assets, apart from spoiling India-Bangladesh ties.

It is being alleged that the pro Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami is behind the violence. The Jamaat, which is a radical extremist organisation, was part of the ruling coalition of Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) between 2001 and 2006. When Bangladesh was under Pakistani occupation, the Jamaat formed the Razakar paramilitary force, which worked with Pakistani soldiers to commit genocide. While the Hasina government has been coming down heavily on the Jamaat, including sending Razakars to the gallows, the radical group has always had a major presence on the ground, with their influence extending to at least 10% of the population. This may not be enough to bring them to power, except in coalition with the BNP, but is more than enough for fomenting violence. It was to counter the Jamaat’s hold on the underprivileged that the Hasina government had started courting another Islamist group, the Hefazat-e-Islam (HIM), but it turned out of a similar shade as the Jamaat and started flexing its muscles from as far back 2013, when they came up with a 13-point charter demanding the enactment of a blasphemy law with provision for death penalty. Their opposition to statues led to the removal of a Goddess of Justice statue from the Supreme Court in 2017, and under pressure, the Hasina government even recognised a madrasa degree as equivalent to a postgraduate degree. It is only recently that her Awami League government has started realising its mistakes and has reopened the terror cases against HIM. It was the HIM that was responsible for the protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh earlier this year, and the subsequent violence against the Hindu community. History shows that Bangladesh’s radical clerics can unleash mayhem on the streets and bring life to a standstill whenever they want to. By appeasing groups such as HIM, the Awami League government has been seen to be buying peace with them, thus making Islamist radicals in general think that they can get away with murder.

Sheikh Hasina should not forget the period of 2013 to 2016 when the worst kind of radical Islamist violence took place in her country, with bloggers being hacked to death, and well off youngsters turning terrorists and going on a killing spree at a café in the heart of Dhaka. Whatever be its claims to a syncretic culture, Bangladesh has always had a major problem of Islamist fundamentalism, one of the reasons why its minority population has started dwindling over the decades. Unless this problem is tackled with an iron hand, it will deal a death blow to Bangladesh and its fledgling economic achievements—apart from becoming a major security headache for India. For the sake of Bangladesh and its people, it is imperative on the Hasina government’s part not to come across as soft towards the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against Hindus.

Continue Reading

Opinion

FIGHT RADICALISATION, SAVE INDIA

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion tries to find the middle ground while ignoring differences. The way to fighting radicalisation is to find common ground between the followers of two faiths and emphasise that rather than the differences.

Published

on

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on fighting radicalisation deserves the full attention of every Indian since it is basic to the survival of India as a secular democracy where people of various denominations co-exist peacefully with an inclusive mindset. Recognising and identifying the problem is crucial to finding a solution to it. If we keep our eyes closed imagining that the storm of irrationality would subside with time, we would do so at our own peril. This would drown us and devour the rich culture and civilisation that India prides itself on.

If there was a Ravan that was blinded by lust, there was a Purushottam Ram to counter him and establish dharma. If there was Duryodhan and Dhritrashtra of the Kauravas blinded by the lure of wealth and pride, there were the Pandavs and Krishn to establish dharma. It is this dharma that forced Chankaya to strengthen the mighty Magadha empire under Chandragupta and intimidate Sikander who was intoxicated by the dream of winning the world.

History has always found a hero who has demolished evil and established dharma and a just society. That is why we Indians celebrate most festivals as a victory of good over evil. But this process was somehow stopped when India was invaded by the Turks and the Mughals. The raiders from the North West frontiers in the 11th century and till the establishment of the Mughal Empire were lured by wealth, something about which Indians did not bother much and thought temples to be repositories of wealth and faith.

But invaders and raiders had other motives too. This was to spread Islam and subjugate the local population. Lakhs of temples containing idols were destroyed and mosques were built over many of them. Hindus were asked to accept Islam or face persecution. Lakhs were killed for not accepting the new faith. Absence of a Chanakya who could unite Indian Rajas under one banner and launch a counterattack was absent. These Rajas were happy demonstrating personal glories in fighting against the invaders or compromising with them in search of safety and security. It was Shivaji and the Marathas who later gave stiff resistance and prevented the Mughals from becoming an all-India phenomenon. 

Persecutions and humiliations of Hindus did not deter them from following their faiths. The Mughals imposed Jazia on the non-Islamic population. Depending on their understanding of the Indian reality, the Mughal rulers were either benevolent or tolerant or despotic. But all of them sought legitimacy of their rule from scriptures and their interpreters and no problems relegating Hindus to the position of second-class citizens.

The British used all their guiles to keep Hindus and Muslims divided. When the two communities came together to fight the common enemy the British, the mighty Empire crumbled. But discrimination and favouritism by the British solidified the compartments and consolidated the Hindu-Muslim divide. Introduction of democracy where there would be Rule by numbers created fear among Muslims who thought they would be outnumbered by Hindus. The British were too keen to divide India into Hindu and Muslim nations and our leaders were too keen to accept.

The partition was an acceptance by our leaders that Hindus and Muslims are two nations and could not live together. Had they tried a little harder, partition could have been avoided. Pakistan that became a hotbed of terrorism in the name of Islam could have been saved from going this way if the monster was killed in the foetus. If Pakistan is the villain today, those who created Pakistan must share the blame for disturbing world peace. Islamic brotherhood and rule by Sharia with sanctions from the Quran have created a new wave of radicalisation of Islamic society. 

Intolerance of adherence to others’ faiths and the feeling of Islamic supremacy has created a wedge as never before. Killing people in the name of religion by terrorists has made Islam the target of hate by other communities. Although apologists of Islam say Islam is a religion of peace, the much talked about peace is elusive even in Islamic countries. Studies say that close to 85% of victims of Islamic radicalisation have been Muslims.

India, which has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, has to find out its own way to fight this radicalism. Aggressive Islam driven by Puritanism is leading to the radicalisation of youths and it is producing a counter-radicalisation of Hindus. For Hindus, it is a matter of survival since it is the land of their origin. The issue is whether the culture would vanish like many others in the world before the onslaught from Islam. A disproportionate increase in the Muslim population opens up the issue of demographic change and the theoretical possibility of Rule by the Sharia. This is likely to produce a counter polarisation of Hindus. 

Closing one’s eyes to the impending danger would not lead to the resolution of the crisis. The bull must be taken by the horn. If one does not agree, just visit the clubhouse or any other forum of discussion on social media. The favourite topic is Hindu Rashtra or Islamic radicalisation. So many of our youngsters are engaged in the discussion and they are not ready to take things lying down. They challenge the verses of the Quran that promote enmity between believers and non-believers. All India Shia Board member Wasim Rizvi has opened Pandora’s Box by questioning some of the verses of the Quran and people are discussing it threadbare. Why should hate verse be not analysed and removed, is the common argument.

Quran is infallible and it cannot be changed since these are words of God. But people ask how can God be contradicting Himself in the verses. God should be clear and consistent in what He is saying. Asking followers of Islam to question the faith is blasphemy. Hindus are supposed to be seekers and salvation is individual and can be achieved through various means including knowledge, bhakti, meditation and work. So, there are many Hindus who may question unabashed adherence to a faith. Can there be an open discussion on hate verses of religious texts?

Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion tries to find the middle ground while ignoring differences. The way to fighting radicalisation is to find common ground between the followers of two faiths and emphasise that rather than differences. And one way is to assert the Indianness of their identity at a time when a proliferation of communication is trying to create global Islam. Both Hindus and Muslims belong to the same ancestors and the same motherland. Hence their interest can’t be different.

It is not once but many times in the past the RSS chief has spoken about the DNA of both communities being the same. This means there should be no hatred based on religion. Two people can have different faiths and can live with unity and brotherhood. Nobody can be differentiated based on their ways of worship, he said during a book launch a few days back. His reference to extolling historical figures such as Akbar and Dara Shikoh and not Aurangzeb is born out of this understanding that while the former represents the Indian culture of peaceful co-existence, the latter represents the culture of the Turks and the Mongols who would use the sword to spread the faith.

Those Islamic leaders who did not believe in hate or Islamic supremacy and sacrificed their lives for the motherland need to be idolised. India has many such heroes who need to be extolled to make Muslim youths aware of them. This would also help Hindu youths to appreciate that all Muslims should not be put in one basket. Freedom fighter Ashfaqullah Khan of the Kakori fame had dreamt of a free India where the poor would live happily and fully satisfied. Every Indian irrespective of the faiths respect Dr APJ Abdul Kalam because of his contributions to strengthen the country.

But while mere stress on oneness and common grounds would be good optics, the Government would need to identify the ideology of radicalism and take steps to tackle them. It is time to have a common syllabus for imparting education irrespective of the institutions. Indians must have a common value system that stresses on dharma and righteousness. Radicalisation, as well as de-radicalisation, is a slow process and we must have the patience to make rationality win over hot-headedness. 

And there should be no premium on hatred and terror. The arm of the law should be long and strong enough to punish the guilty irrespective of his faith or power in society. The NIA is doing a great job in nabbing terrorist modules and preventing terrorist activities that can polarise society. Society needs to be more vigilant and the State ruthless in suppressing violence of any kind.

The writer is the author of ‘Narendra Modi: the GameChanger’. A former journalist, he is a member of BJP’s media relations department and represents the party as spokesperson while participating in television debates.

India, which has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, has to find out its own way to fight this radicalism. Aggressive Islam driven by Puritanism is leading to the radicalisation of youths and it is producing a counter-radicalisation of Hindus. For Hindus, it is a matter of survival since it is the land of their origin. The issue is whether the culture would vanish like many others in the world before the onslaught from Islam. A disproportionate increase in the Muslim population opens up the issue of demographic change and the theoretical possibility of Rule by the Sharia. This is likely to produce a counter polarisation of Hindus.

Continue Reading

Opinion

SONIA SNUBS G-23, BUT CONGRESS FUTURE REMAINS UNCERTAIN

Pankaj Vohra

Published

on

The Interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi, snubbed the G-23 leaders within her party but failed to answer several pointed questions regarding how decisions were being taken within the organization. At a Congress Working Committee meeting, held after five months, she hit out at the dissidents, reiterating that she was the party chief and instead of raising issues through the media, it would be better, if they met her personally to address the grievances. The short point is that for majority of the leaders, the Gandhis have been inaccessible and with no forum available within the party, they do not know how to get their views across. The CWC meeting turned out to be more an exercise of expressing loyalty to the family than an attempt to provide a road map so far the future strategy goes. As expected, the CWC members urged Rahul Gandhi to take over even though a schedule for the party elections was simultaneously announced. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik, three of the G-23 leaders who were present, found themselves outnumbered and decided to maintain a low profile. The underlining message sent out to the dissidents by Sonia was that they carried no weight of their own and were dependent on the High Command for any positions.

However, the interim president should have known that the senior leaders have never had any problem with her leadership by and large and if they had turned dissidents, it was because certain questionable decisions which did not bear the Sonia stamp but those of the Gandhi siblings had been taken, taking the cadres by surprise. When Kapil Sibal had stated a few weeks ago that we know who was taking the decisions and yet we know who is not, he had voiced the internal concern of the rank and file. The matter that has to be understood by the High Command is that several appointments made in the recent past were not necessarily going to enhance the position of the party in the respective states and it would be better that in future, the process of wide consultations was gone through. There are also apprehensions that many sensitive decisions were prompted by the Gandhi siblings without factoring in the ramifications since there was no one in their inner group, who had the capacity to manage the consequences of the fallout. What Sonia basically achieved at the CWC meeting was that she was able to maintain a status quo till the next year’s president’s election while making it abundantly clear that the family was not going to easily give up its ownership of the grand old party. However, politics is pregnant with all kinds of possibilities and if the Congress fails to win in any of the poll bound states next year, there could be serious repercussions so far as the leadership question goes. It is being generally perceived in political circles that Priyanka has fired up the cadres in Uttar Pradesh after her Lakhimpur Kheri visit, bringing the party back into reckoning in about 30 to 40 seats.

Simultaneously, it is pointed out that any alliance with any other party in the State, may boomerang on the Congress. There are also serious doubts over the ability of Navjot Singh Sidhu to adhere to the party’s stand in Punjab unless he controls his impulsive actions and falls in line. He is certainly the stormy petrel of Punjab politics. In Delhi where the municipal polls are due, Anil Chaudhury’s leadership as the PCC president, has proved to be unsatisfactory since he has not been able to carry the rest of the leaders. It is being suggested that the best person to head the party in Delhi would be either Arvinder Singh Lovely or Hari Shankar Gupta. The Working Committee also failed to discuss the issue of opposition unity and it is evident that Sonia by declaring that she was going to heading the party, has sent out an important signal that without the Congress as the nucleus, no opposition federal front can be effectively formed. The Congress High Command is responsible for the state the Congress is in and by resigning from his position in 2019, Rahul had acknowledged this fact.

However, ever since then, uncertainty over his return has existed and this has harmed the party more than helping it out. The Congress needs someone who can assume the role of Ahmed Patel in sorting out things before they go out of control. For this the Gandhis have to prepare themselves to zero in on such a person from amongst senior leaders, who has the energy, understanding and the ability to carry everyone with the party. The road ahead is not going to be smooth with both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, posing pragmatic and hard challenges.

Continue Reading

Opinion

A recalibration of strategy

Many learned people and policy analysts have suggested that there can be no military solution to India-Pakistan disputes. However, it may well be true that, like in the case of Egypt and Israel, it might take a calculated military escalation before a long-term ceasefire can be restored.

Ankit Kumar

Published

on

The geopolitical developments of past few months have made India’s apprehensions of a two-front engagement, very realistic. While India has been locked in an attritional conflict with Pakistan and its state supported proxies in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) since the later part of 1980s, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has opened another front in Ladakh and on North-Eastern border. Both China and Pakistan are driven by the motive of capturing Indian territory. The deepening China-Pakistan nexus presents a more challenging security environment for Indian forces.

The biggest challenge that the Indian strategic planners are currently grappling with is developing an effective counter-strategy to the two-front war scenario. As after Pakistan’s Kargil war debacle, any full-fledged military adventure by it seems highly unlikely, its use of proxies and terror groups will continue unabated. Insurgency is cost-effective and serves the larger strategic goal. China on the other hand caught India by surprise in Ladakh and now sits in possession of more territory than it used to claim in 1959. The countless corps commander talks have made little headway and seem more like a ploy by China to buy time to impose a new reality on the boundary question. So, what is the way out for India?

Given the limitations of military resources at India’s disposal, India must make some fundamental changes in its military strategy. India’s priority should be to deal with China’s threat. The war of attrition with Pakistan is going to continue unless a better counter-strategy is formulated. Pakistan has been able to tie down a significant number of Indian security personnel and resources in J&K region. The 2003 ceasefire agreement, practically dead for all these years was resurrected in February 2021 amid surprise and much-needed relief for residents of border areas. But with the geopolitical situation changing in Pakistan’s favour with the victory of its proxies in Afghanistan, will the ceasefire continue to hold?

CALM ON THE WESTERN FRONT

The Indian security establishment believes that the February ceasefire is going to last, at least till Winter arrives. However, this seems more a case of wishful thinking. After a high of 4645 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in 2020, the Indian and Pakistani DGMOs (Director General Military Operations) notified in February this year that they have mutually agreed to adhere to the 2003 agreement. The ceasefire was needed by India too as it is caught in a tense stand-off with China in Ladakh. While reports suggest that back-channel talks between NSA’s Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Moeed Yusuf led to this, the Pakistani NSA was quick to disown it. Perhaps due to compulsions of domestic politics in the aftermath of the 5 August 2019 decision amending J&K’s special constitutional status.

The question remains – how does Pakistan benefit from the continual of ceasefire? In retrospect, it seems evident that the ceasefire with India became a necessity for Pakistan to devote its undivided attention to Afghanistan. That was the big prize for Pakistan’s Army. It appears Pakistan Army needed a stop-gap arrangement to ensure peace on their Eastern border, so they could focus on the Afghanistan situation. With its grip on Afghanistan strengthening, Pakistan’s Army would be keen to push for more infiltration of terrorists into J&K.

However, Pakistan is also witnessing an uptick in the attack by Baloch nationalists and TTP rebels from across Afghanistan. Several dozen Pakistani soldiers have died in these attacks this year alone. Pakistan anticipated this spurt in attacks which is why it began fencing its border with Afghanistan in 2017 at an estimated cost of over $ 500 million. Afghans, including a section of Taliban are against this and even the Pakistan government is not sure if it can stop these attacks. The Pakistan government seems out of options and is reportedly exploring talks with TTP to negotiate a peace. Whether Pakistan’s triumph in Afghanistan will prove to be pyrrhic victory, only time will tell. What is clear is that this does not augur well for the region.

With Pakistan firmly in control of affairs in Afghanistan, their forces on top of their morale by believing they have defeated another superpower, they would be eager to take the war to J&K. The recent belligerent outburst by Pakistani PM Imran Khan at UN General Assembly directed against the Indian government, certainly emphasises that they don’t think they would need peace on the border with India for much longer. Worth noting that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister had not raised the usual rhetoric about Kashmir in an informal meeting of SAARC ministers held in mid-February 2021.

With elections in Pakistan slated to be held in 2023, the Imran Khan government and its benefactor, the Pakistan Army, would have to show some “action” on Kashmir. They cannot be perceived as making peace with India as Nawaz Sharif was dethroned by the Army giving the same excuse.

The Indian strategy to deal with Pakistani designs has, by and large, remained unchanged. As a result of that India is not only facing a high cost in terms of lives in containing the insurgency in the Kashmir region but is also having to deal with significant casualties at Line of Control (LoC). Indian government indeed has conducted several operations to target the terrorists on their launchpads, but that is unlikely to change Pakistani behaviour. The terror attacks are now largely limited to Punjab and J&K. This might be due to India’s improvement in precluding terror attacks and due to Pakistani leadership trying to avoid international criticism in the aftermath of large-scale terror attacks like 26/11. However, there is a need to revisit the current strategy being followed to counter terrorist infiltration from across the LoC, which is the centre of focus and learn lessons from counter-infiltration strategy of other countries like Israel. Killing terrorists is not a measure of success and fighting a protracted insurgency should not be the job of the Army.

ISRAELI EXPERIENCE

Israel is one of the few countries that has thrice fought multiple front wars and continues to fight terrorism. This is something that Indian military planners need to look at and study considering that India too faces the risk of one. Going back in history, the current situation in J&K is somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s low-intensity war of attrition with Lebanon that it fought for 15 years (1985 to 2000). The war with Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, resulted in the death of hundreds of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers and ultimately forced IDF to undertake a humiliating withdrawal from the security zone, the territory it was holding in Southern Lebanon as a buffer. Parallels can also be drawn with the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan after a 20-year war.

It was not the first time that Israel was defeated by its opponent by forcing it to fight a battle of attrition. Egypt, after its defeat in the Six Day War in 1967, changed its strategy and engaged IDF in an attritional war from 1968-70 that ate away Israel’s military edge. Israel’s ostensible victory proved delusional, as the loss in men and materiel was significant. Egyptian forces, on the other hand, after getting rehabilitated thanks to generous arms support by USSR, nearly routed IDF in the 1973 Yom Kippur war which helped Egypt recover its lost territory eventually.

‘An attritive war is adopted as a strategy when one side perceives it to be weaker than the other and thus uses attrition to exhaust its enemy’s will to fight without making any concession’. For India the number of lives being lost is unacceptably high. According to government records 5,886 security personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in terrorist incidents from 1989 till August 5, 2019 – 80 in 2019; 62 in 2020; 16 in 2021 (up to June). While on the opposing side, most casualties have been young locals recruited by various terror outfits in Kashmir. Pakistan security forces have suffered fewer casualties of its personnel in its attritional war with India. This presents a scenario of unwinnable conflict for India, as it is unable to inflict any serious damage or cost on Pakistan.

The situation for residents of border villages is equally tragic. The LoC. Ceasefire violations results in higher civilian casualties than those of the military. As the past suggests, whenever Pakistan Army comes under increasing pressure, it escalates tensions with India. Therefore, it is likely that these things will occur with higher frequency until India inflicts severe cost. Ensuring that Pakistan remains on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List is important in this regard.

From its experience of cross-border terrorism, Israel has pioneered several countermeasures. The deployment of smart fences along with physical barriers is an important one. Smart fences are effective in stopping infiltration to a large extent as is seen in case of Israel’s fencing the Egypt border. Israel also uses drones to gather intelligence and at times to carry out targeted pre-emptive strikes. Of course, the adversaries faced by Israel and India are not similar. The terrain and climatic conditions are quite different, India’s being harsher. Therefore, India would have to pick and choose what might work for its security needs.

FINDING TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION

The cross-border raids that are carried out, like that in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) after Uri or in Myanmar in 2015, no doubt act as a deterrent, but only for a short while. There is also the risk of these raids resulting in casualties, the capture of soldiers, and resultant escalation. Pakistan is already exploiting drone technology to drop off arms and narcotics to its terror modules within India. Therefore, there is a case for India to learn from Israel and induct more technological platform to neutralise the technological advantage that Pakistan is trying to exploit.

Protecting lives of civilians and security personnel in a conflict zone should be the government’s foremost concern. The current government has shown commitment towards this. Project for construction of bunkers for residents of border villages have been sanctioned. And rightly so, as the Raksha Mantri had remarked that people living in border villages are “strategic assets.” Government has also tried to address the shortage in bulletproof vests for the soldiers deployed in the region. The project to install smart fence along the LoC is also moving forward. The introduction of technology for border security management is the solution. After the installation of high-tech fence all along Israel border, it has witnessed a sharp decline in number of infiltrations. The same smart fence has been installed by the US on Mexico border. Of course, no security measure is completely fool proof, yet this combination of i-tec and low-tec measures would certainly go a long way in helping better guard the borders and reducing casualties. No solution guarantees hundred percent result. There would obviously be some gaps. Terrorists try to get creative to beat the security measures in place. Something as rudimentary as tunnelling can sometimes defeat the huge investment that country’s make in installing the smart fences.

The government of India also needs to expedite the development of MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs and induct them for surveillance of crossing points and if possible, induct armed drones to neutralise terrorists on their launch pads or before they infiltrate. The induction of Predator UAVs by Navy would certainly help Indian security forces gain some on-hand experience of using these high-tech platforms.

CONCLUSION

Many learned people and policy analysts have suggested that there can be no military solution to India-Pakistan disputes. However, it may well be true that, like in the case of Egypt and Israel, it might take a calculated military escalation before a long-term ceasefire can be restored. Of course, India and Pakistan being nuclear powers, following a policy of brinkmanship might not be easy. Despite its precarious economic situation and causalities in the tit-for-tat ceasefire violations, Pakistan has shown little willingness for any lasting truce. The idea seems to be to keep the Kashmir cauldron boiling, as Pakistan’s aim is to deny India peace. There is no reason why Pakistani establishment would want to rein in their proxies. So, the onus is on India to better safeguard its personnel and borders.

The writer is a PhD Candidate at National Security Studies, Central University of Gujarat. Views expressed are writer’s personal.

Continue Reading

Opinion

THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARYAN KHAN AND THE NCB

Pankaj Vohra

Published

on

Eyebrows were raised in legal circles when a special court hearing the bail application of superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan and two others, reserved its order till October 20th. This effectively means that that the three of the accused nabbed in connection with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raid on a Cruise ship earlier this month, remained in prison till that time. What is being considered unusual is that Courts normally do not reserve orders in a bail application case, particularly after the arguments of both the prosecution and defense are over. The practice of reserving the order is mostly witnessed in matters where the trial has ended and the Court has to give its final judgment. In the present instance, the learned Judge must be having compelling reasons for reserving his verdict and it is not certain that he may do so, one way or the other, on October 20th itself, since he could be pre-occupied with other important legal matters as well.

There is every possibility that the prosecution would have time to also file a fresh application to oppose the bail plea citing new evidences that have been unearthed in this period. The higher judiciary must monitor cases where there is an inordinate delay in reaching an inference by the Sessions Court. Mr Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, one of the most distinguished Judges of the Supreme Court had made his famous ruling more than four decades ago where he said that bail and not jail should be always considered when hearing matters pertaining to criminal charges. It is nobody’s case that if Aryan Khan is indeed guilty of breaking the law in the eyes of the court, he should go unpunished. However, when the NCB has been unable to unearth any drugs from his person, he is eligible for being considered for bail. Noted senior Advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr Vikas Singh has opined that the NCB had perhaps made a mistake in arresting him and was now attempting to strengthen its case subsequently. Whether that is true or not, only the court can decide. However, there are many loopholes in the entire raid which was conducted while not adhering to the accepted procedures. Even the former NCB Chief, Mr B.V.Kumar, has gone on record to indicate that the investigation was flawed. The Cruise ship should have been seized and not allowed to sail after the preliminary arrests and if the need had arisen to stop it, the help of the Navy and Coast Guard should have been taken. The hurry in which the NCB officials announced the arrest, cast several doubts on how the case has unfolded. The Cabins which were occupied by the accused persons should have been sealed after a thorough search. The most appalling aspect of the matter is that on day one itself, two private persons, one a BJP activist and the other a private detective, described as informers, were seen physically escorting Aryan Khan and his friend Arbaaz Merchant to the NCB office in Mumbai. This was indeed shocking and now it turns out to be that the private detective is absconding. The sloppy probe though defended robustly by the Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh, has come under fire from even political parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) whose leaders including Sharad Pawar and Nawab Malik have attributed motives to the central agency.

There is also a talk in political circles that the matter has been allowed to linger on so that the investigations into the Lakhimpuri Kheri incident does not get adequate coverage in the national media. For instance, on Thursday when the Uttar Pradesh police took the Union Minister’s son for Nishan Dehi (Renactment of the scene of crime), the matter was reported only in the passing while there was total spotlight on Sharukh Khan’s son. The prosecuting agency while opposing the bail has maintained that in a case under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), the accused cannot take the plea of being innocent unless proven guilty. It implies that anyone who has been booked under this Act is to be presumed guilty from the time he has been taken into custody till the Court finds him Not Guilty. The NCB has also come under fire for making small recoveries from various accused in Mumbai, particularly those connected with Bollywood to get magnified publicity. In the process, it has been not able to concentrate on its mandate of detecting international drug cartels and making huge hauls. The short point is that if Aryan Khan has infringed the law as is being made out to be as per the prosecution charges, the court must take cognizance. If it is a case of just harassment and there is an oblique purpose behind the arrest, the prosecuting agency should be rapped on the knuckles, and strict action should be taken against those involved. The Court’s ruling is final and the rule of law has to be respected under all conditions.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Jal Jeevan Mission: The water revolution

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sanju Verma

Published

on

PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious scheme of providing piped water to every household in the country has been a massive success, as it has exceeded its target so far since inception. The flagship ‘Har Ghar Nal Se Jal’ has provided tap water to over 5 crore rural households, which is almost 20% more than the target. Also, over 8 crore rural households now have access to drinking tap water. 100% rural households of Goa, Telangana and Andaman & Nicobar Islands now have tap water connections with states like Puducherry, Haryana and Gujarat inching close to the 100% mark. Historically, access to clean and safe piped water has been a luxury, thanks to successively incompetent Congress led regimes for decades together.

Out of 19.19 crore rural households in India, only 16.87% of households had tap water connections till August 15, 2019, since the time of independence. This means, at the start of the scheme, only around 3.2 crore rural households had water connections, and that number has more than doubled after the launch of the scheme. Concerned about the lack of safe drinking water for rural households, PM Narendra Modi had launched the time-bound initiative— the Jal Jeevan Mission, on August 15, 2019. The aim of the initiative is to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all rural households in India by 2024. The initiative also touches upon other sustainable measures for water conservation, recharge and reuse through groundwater management and rainwater harvesting.

Jal Jeevan Mission is working in partnership with various States with an aim to provide potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on regular and long-term basis. While implementing, states are giving priority to water quality-affected areas, villages in drought prone and desert areas, Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe majority villages, aspirational districts and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana villages.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed on India’s water security, as is evident from his announcement of an allocation of Rs 3.35 lakh crore for the Jal Jeevan Mission, one of the most socially inclusive programmes of his government’s second term. A key focus of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is the “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” initiative, under which piped water will be supplied to almost 16 crore rural and peripheral households in India by 2024. When the scheme was launched in 2019, only 3.01 crore out of 19 crore rural and peri-urban households had access to tap water.

The gigantic task of taking potable water to all rural households got a further leg up with the 15th Finance Commission’s grant of Rs 30,375 crore to rural local bodies. The grant is being utilised for two components — first, the supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling; and, second, for sanitation and the maintenance of an open defecation-free status. Clearly, for the Modi government, big bang reforms and the provision of basic amenities and sanitation run in parallel. Work is also in full swing, with the likes of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Mizoram likely to provide piped drinking water to all rural households by 2022, two years ahead of the deadline. Goa has already earned the enviable distinction of becoming the first “Har Ghar Jal” state in the country, as it successfully provides 100% functional household tap connections (FHTCs) to 2.30 lakh rural households.

To strengthen water testing facilities, Goa is in getting 14 water quality testing laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) mandates the training of five persons in every village, especially women, in using field test kits, so that water can be tested there. The state is now planning a sensor-based service delivery monitoring system to monitor the functionality of water supply, i.e., potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality being provided to every rural household on a regular and long-term basis.

The “Nal Se Jal” scheme is based on a unique model under which villagers will decide for themselves about how much to pay for the water they consume. For example, large families will pay more as their consumption will be higher, while poor families or those with no earning members will pay less. Under this scheme, the Modi government will provide a minimum of 55 litres of water per person per day, which is commendable for the sheer size of the task at hand. The inspiration for this model came from Gujarat’s potable water supply scheme implemented by the Water & Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO). The WASMO scheme helped 79% rural households in Gujarat get potable water supply, which is the second-highest number in the country, after Goa.

In Gujarat, “paani samitis” (water committees) have been set up in every village, which decide the amount of tariff to be charged from the consumers. The final approval is given by the gram sabha. The committees comprise 10 to 15 elected members of the panchayat, of which 50% are women. The “Bank Mitras”, largely women, have made the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) one of the biggest financial inclusion schemes worldwide. Similarly, the “Nal Se Jal” scheme also deploys women in large numbers and will have villagers bear 10% of the capital cost of a project under the scheme, either in cash or in kind (in the form of labour). Once the project is completed, the villagers will get their money back and the responsibility for its maintenance and operation will be handed over to them. This decentralised model would help in giving a sense of ownership to the villagers and encourage community participation. While the Central government is there for providing most of the funds and hand-holding, it is the villagers who will decide what they want.

The fact that cleanliness, sanitation and access to the basics are at the core of PM Modi’s development mantra is also exemplified by the “Blue Flag” tag received by eight Indian beaches, in the very first attempt. In order to qualify for this tag, 33 stringent criteria relating to environmental standards, bathing water quality,educational, safety, services and accessibility standards must be met by the beaches. These beaches are now considered among the cleanest in the world and this is a recognition of India’s drive towards a clean environment and conservation.

In the last few months, Bihar has seen a massive push towards implementing PM Modi’s flagship “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” programme. Between 1 April and 30 June 2020, Bihar provided functional tap water connections to 4.39 lakh households, with a full year target of 1.5 crore households for the financial year 2020-21. PM Modi in 2020 inaugurated two sewage treatment plants (STP) — one each at Beur and Karmalichak in Patna — which would treat the water before releasing it in the Ganga to prevent the river from getting polluted. PM Modi also inaugurated water supply schemes for Chhapra and Siwan where 81,000 and 58,000 people, respectively, will benefit from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, besides laying the foundation stone for developing the ghats along the Burhi Gandak river in Muzaffarpur.

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is PM Modi. People are far more aware now with regard to the environment, which is evident from the fact that 5.16 crore people came together to form a 18,000 km long human chain across the state of Bihar last year,in support of the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali (WaterLife-Greenery) campaign recently.

Besides the “Har Ghar Jal” mission, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the national body leading the efforts for the cleaning and rejuvenation of river Ganga, has seen significant progress with the “Namami Gange” project, with over Rs 10,000 crore, out of the budgeted Rs 20,000 crore, spent. The project is not just about cleaning but also aims at improving the ecology, conserving biodiversity, protecting wetlands and springs and enhancing India’s water security. When the project started, around 3,000 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage was being dumped into the Ganga, with a treatment capacity of less than 1,000 MLD. But now, the treatment capacity exceeds 2,000 MLD and is likely to reach 3,300 MLD in the next two years. In Uttarakhand, almost the entire required capacity has been created, with four STPs in Haridwar (68 MLD), Rishikesh (26 MLD) and Muni Ki Reti (7.5 and 5 MLD) being commissioned during the last few months, during the lockdown. Similarly, in Kanpur, Prayagraj and Patna, STPs are being completed. All along the 2,500 km stretch of the Ganga, sewage capacity is being created. This includes areas like Patna where there was almost no sewage treatment capacity earlier.

The Modi government’s idea is not to build and forget. There is a built-in component for operations and maintenance in all his projects for 15 years. This government has moved beyond the construction era and entered the performance based era.Besides the above, “Ganga Avalokan” was also inaugurated by PM Modi, which is the first museum on Ganga and is aimed at showcasing the biodiversity, culture and rejuvenation activities done in the river. The museum is situated in Chandi Ghat, Haridwar.

It would suffice to say that for PM Modi, clean water is more than just a mission statement. Water scarcity affects every continent and about 2.8 billion people around the world for at least one month every year. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people also lack access to clean drinking water. Hence, PM Modi’s clarion call for water management is both timely and much needed, as India takes giant strides towards uninterrupted water sufficiency.

The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are writer’s personal

Continue Reading

Trending