Connect with us

Opinion

How Modinomics has shaped Bihar’s political economy

Bihar has always been a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Critics only need to see the new manifesto and the report card under the BJP-JD(U) government to learn how the state has flourished under the PM’s vision.

Sanju Verma

Published

on

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its manifesto for the Assembly elections in Bihar on 22 October 2020, with its first promise being the free distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, once it is approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The announcement led to a storm of criticism against the BJP by an intellectually and morally bankrupt Opposition. Clearly, like many immunisation programmes, the Centre will provide vaccines to all states at a nominal rate. It is then for respective state governments to decide if they want to give it for free or otherwise. Health is a state subject and the Bihar unit of the BJP has decided to give the vaccine for free. Hence, there is nothing wrong with what the BJP has promised. Interestingly, after opposing the BJP’s move, the Congress announced free Covid vaccines in Puducherry, showing blatant hypocrisy and duplicity.

In its ‘Sankalp Patra’, the BJP has promised 19 lakh jobs for the youth of Bihar and expressed its commitment to turn the state into an information technology hub, given India’s IT industry which is worth over $177 billion. Under the New Education Policy (NEP), engineering and other technical education would be made available in Hindi in the state. The manifesto has also promised the appointment of three lakh teachers in schools and higher education institutions within the next year and one lakh jobs in the health sector. The promise to construct 30 lakh pucca houses for the poor has also been made after stupendous success with constructing over 28 lakh houses for the poor in the last five years. Special emphasis will also be given to the establishment of 13 food processing parks, and a minimum support price will be put in place for pulses to help farmers in Bihar.

Besides these, digital counselling centres, the operationalisation of Darbhanga AIIMS by 2024, Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for the kin of a migrant labourer who dies suddenly in another state, a job and Rs 25 lakh for the family of a soldier who lays down his life for the nation, a micro-financing scheme to make 1 lakh women independent, IT infrastructure in Patna and Rajgir, free tabs for meritorious students in Class 9 and above, a sports university, and 4G and broadband service in all towns and villages are the defining points of the BJP manifesto, with PM Narendra Modi’s decisive stamp of inclusivity all over it.

Moving away from the manifesto and looking at hard numbers, what stands out is the fact that at over Rs 7 lakh crore, Bihar’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has grown from being just 3.19% fifteen years back, under the aegis of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), to a solid 11.3% now, under the BJP-JD(U), with a consistent average growth of over 10% in the last three years. The per capita GSDP of Bihar is Rs 47,541 at current prices and Rs 33,629 at constant prices. The main growth drivers of the economy in Bihar, which registered a double-digit growth and contributed towards real growth of the overall economy of Bihar during 2018-19, are air transport (36%), other services (20%), trade and repair services (17.6%), road transport (14.0%), and, of course, financial services (13.8%).

The fiscal deficit of Bihar was 2.68% of the GSDP, revenue surplus 1.34% of GSDP, and the outstanding public debt liability of the state government was 32.34% of the GSDP during the year 2018-19. What the fiscal numbers indicate is that the BJP-JD(U) combine has managed state finances very consummately, without borrowing recklessly or engaging in high leverage, which many Opposition-ruled states are guilty of. The revenue receipt increased by 12.2% whereas revenue expenditure increased by 21.7%, with the revenue surplus being a healthy Rs 6,896 crores.

Agriculture and allied activities, which are the mainstay of Bihar’s economy, contributing to 23% of the GSDP, have done tremendously well in the last five years. The annual growth rate of operational agro-based factories in Bihar was 16.4 % over the last 10 years, higher than the 2.5% agri-growth under an inept and corrupt RJD in the pre-2005 era.

The per capita consumption of electricity in Bihar has risen from 145 kwh in 2012-13 to 311 kwh in 2018-19, implying growth of 114% in the last six years. Under the “jungle raj” of the RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav prior to 2005, just 22% of Bihar had access to electricity, but today, that number is 100%. Similarly, access to pucca roads has gone up from being at 34% fifteen years back to as high as 96% today. This is the biggest vindication of how PM Modi’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwaas” initiative has touched the life of every common Bihari and, thereby, redefining the concept of inclusivity. The BJP-JD(U) alliance’s flagship programme of “Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali”, to tackle issues related to climate change and environmental degradation, has worked wonderfully well too. 

In a big development in 2018-19, Bihar also made it mandatory for all departments to make their purchases through the GeM Portal. In the same period, the share of social services expenditure in total expenditure increased by a good 200 basis points. The BJP-JD(U) has been providing subsidies of 90% on drip irrigation and 75% on sprinkler irrigation, making farming cost effective, lucrative and less dependent on monsoons.

Interestingly, 75% of total migration took place due to marriage in the last few years, as compared to 46% at the all-India level in 2011, under a thoroughly incompetent Congress-led UPA regime, when migration happened due to the lack of career-related opportunities. Only 2.9% of the total migration from Bihar in the last six years took place due to work/employment and business, which busts the fake information that people from Bihar under the BJP-JD(U) alliance have been migrating due to lack of employment opportunities.

Bihar was also the sixth highest state in terms of building additional road length (1,30,799 km) during 2008-2017. It was also at the third position among major states of India in 2017 in terms of rail route per thousand sq km of area. Presently, the rural tele-density in Bihar is over 46 connections per 100 people, and urban tele-density is more than 149 connections per 100 people. With a share of 4.9% in 2019, Bihar is also in the top 10 in terms of the share of branches of commercial banks. There was an increase of 14.8 percentage points in the literacy rate of Bihar too, which has improved significantly from 47.0% under the corrupt RJD regime in 2001 to 61.8% in 2011. The expenditure on education in the state increased at an annual rate of 13.8%, while that on health registered an annual growth rate of 20.8%. 

In recent years, the JEEVIKA scheme has received recognition at both national and international forums for its excellent achievements. The objective of this scheme is to provide sustainable income-generating assets to extremely poor households, including those who were traditionally involved in the production and sale of country liquor or toddy before the imposition of liquor prohibition in April 2016.

No discussion on Bihar is complete without elaborating on the “jungle raj” of the erstwhile RJD regime and the disgraced RJD leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was convicted and sent to prison for the IRCTC scam. The CBI chargesheet included charges pertaining to criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420) and other relevant sections of the IPC. It is reported that the tender process was rigged and manipulated and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party (Sujata Hotels). The IRCTC scam was limited just to Lalu but extended to a wide network of RJD members and close associates of Lalu, showcasing political greed and corruption at its worst. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that the politically conscious electorate of Bihar will ever vote the RJD back to power, given its dubious record, infighting between Lalu’s sons and a clueless Tejashwi Yadav who has no political acumen. How can a party (RJD) deliver corruption-free good governance when its patriarch is behind bars after being indicted by the law of the land?

PM Modi inaugurated two other major railway projects in Bihar in 2016, apart from the Munger rail project, in Patna and Mokama, over the river Ganga, with the total cost of these three aforesaid rail projects standing at over Rs 7,000 crore. Hence, those who falsely allege that BJP has been talking about development in Bihar only in 2020 with an eye on the Bihar polls are completely oblivious to facts. The hard truth is that good governance has been an ongoing mantra for the BJP-JD(U) combine. Last month, Modi dedicated the Kosi Rail Mega bridge to the nation and inaugurated projects such as a new railway bridge on the Kiul river, two new railway lines, five electrification projects, one electric locomotive shed at Barauni and a few others. As much as 90% of the rail network in Bihar has been electrified over the last six years and more than 3,000 km of the railways have been electrified. Work on the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) is going at a faster pace and about 250 km of the corridor will fall in Bihar. Of the 41 big river bridges in the state, 25 have been constructed during the NDA’s 15-year rule, while 16 were built between 1947 and 2005. The NDA government will take up the construction of another 21 bridges. Clearly, the NDA has worked at fever pitch for the welfare of Bihar, transforming it from a “Bimaru” to a vibrant state. More importantly, the rapid growth of Bihar is in many ways a vindication of the pervasiveness of Modinomics, Prime Minister Modi’s famed economic philosophy.

“Bharat’s heart is Bihar, Bharat’s respect and pride is Bihar, Bharat’s culture is Bihar. Bihar is the call for independence, the call for ‘sampoorna kranti’ (complete revolution). Aatmanirbhar Bharat’s flagship is Bihar. Whether it is for the security or development of the country, the people of Bihar always stay in front”—this powerful quote by PM Modi sums up the mood of the electorate and the relevance of Bihar in the national scheme of things.

The writer is an economist, national spokesperson of the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’.

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

Poverty not a curse, sterling efforts needed to be wealthy

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Vijay Darda

Published

on

Let me tell you a story of Mukesh Ambani’s vision. Reliance Group has a huge petroleum refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. A large area was lying barren around it. Mukesh Ambani felt that if trees and plants are planted on this land, the pollution of the refinery can be absorbed. When Mukesh Ambani decided to plant mango orchard on 600 acres of barren land, people harboured serious reservations about the success of his project.

The soil of Jamnagar and the moisture there has salinity and the winds blow at a high velocity too. In such a situation, would it be right to plant a mango orchard? This was the question in everyone’s mind, but Mukesh Ambani had decided and insisted that only mango orchard would be planted there. That was in 1997. Today, after 23 years, the salinity of the soil has been controlled, the winds have been taken care of and there are more than 1.5 lakh mango trees of about 200 species. Mangoes from this orchard are being exported all over the world because of its unmatched quality. The name of this mango orchard in Jamnagar is ‘Dhirubhai Ambani Lakhibag Amrayee’. For your information, let me tell you that the word ‘Lakhibag’ was the name of a mango grove developed by Mughal Emperor Akbar near Darbhanga in Bihar.

I told you this story so that you can understand how important it is to have vision, devotion and dedication to your work to become rich. After all, Dhirubhai Ambani started his journey from zero and built a big empire on his own. After that, one of his two sons raised his empire and the other collapsed on the ground. It is clear from this that even if you get a huge wealth by luck, you do not necessarily climb the stairs of success. It takes strength, concentration and balance to climb. Just one mistake is enough to fall! Let’s just think of Tata-Birla, Ambani-Adani, Hinduja, L N Mittal or Sajjan Jindal, Singhania, Anand Mahindra, you will find that their family started from zero. Infosys is an excellent example of our times. Narayan Murthy had laid the foundation of Infosys with a capital of only Rs 10,000. Adani started from the very bottom. Today, their success stories are for all to see. It is obvious that all this does not happen by sheer luck. For this, action and vision are required.

Many people continue to criticise industrial and business groups indiscriminately. Be it Ambani group or Adani group or someone else. People do not miss any chance to say that the government has always been ‘favourable’ to them. To me, these are all stupid and meaningless outpouring. No one can become ‘Kuber’ only with ‘favours’. For that, capacity needs to be increased manifold. Do not discuss what kind of house Ambani lives in, by which aircraft he travels, how many vehicles he has and how the wedding took place in his house. If at all, discuss that Ambani has given work to millions of hands. India has advanced in the world of technology. Do you know that while some people swindled Rs 15 lakh crore of the banks, Mukesh Ambani does not owe a single rupee to any bank! Consider why Mukesh Ambani flourishes in every sector he enters? Be thankful to all these industrialists that they have played and are playing an important role in the country’s progress. When I see the tricolour waving at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York, my chest swells with pride. Isn’t it a matter of pride that Tata bought a global brand like Land Rover?

I have close proximity to almost all the industrialists I am referring to here and I know their lifestyle very closely. Humility, spontaneity and focus are their greatest assets. They have not become rich in a day. They have achieved this position through hard work. Therefore, do not curse poverty. Poverty is not a curse at all. Poverty can be transformed into prosperity by sterling actions and efforts. I know hundreds of such administrative officers who were born in a poor family but are occupying high posts today. Babasaheb Ambedkar was also poor but due to his talent, he is remembered with reverence all over the world today. Our former President APJ Abdul Kalam is the biggest example of this. His father was a fisherman and Kalam used to sell ‘beedis’ as a child. He became the best scientist in the world and also adorned the country’s highest position. Lal Bahadur Shastri rose from poverty to become the Prime Minister of the country. M S Kannamwar who once sold newspapers, became the chief minister of Maharashtra. People like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg have also risen from the state of extreme poverty to reach the summit. Former presidents of America, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, hailed from very humble origins. Elsewhere across the world, there have been many prime ministers, presidents, industrialists, great writers and scientists who were born poor, but they overcame their poverty through their ability and reached the top. So don’t accept poverty as a curse, take your steps, develop your potential. Success is waiting for you! The need of the hour is dedication, out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance… So what are you waiting for!

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

I congratulate Mukesh Bhai that he has not only joined the select list of wealthiest persons in the world with his devotion, dedication and vision but also made the country proud. True, if the capabilities are utilised to the full, one can scale the summit. Mukesh Bhai has proved his mettle and ability in every field.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Making it happen: Mission Kayakalp

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers in UP’s Barabanki district revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income.

Anil Swarup

Published

on

Illicit liquor is a massive social, economic and law enforcement nightmare across India. It has been known to destroy innumerable lives by death, criminal conviction, disability and addiction apart from ruining livelihoods, families and health. The brunt of this evil is most intensely felt by the poor and illiterate classes.

In January this year Dr Aravind Chaturvedi was posted as the Superintendent of Police of Barabanki, a district of UP adjoining its capital city Lucknow. Barabanki is a prosperous district but it has some great challenges. It is notorious for narcotics and illicit liquor. Hence, the first priority for Aravind on being posted there was to curb these criminal activities. 

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers across the district, revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income. Ironically, a few villages had almost all residents involved in illicit liquor making. The issues were discussed were discussed at length with colleagues. On ascertaining the details, they were able to spot a few villages which were worst affected. One of the places with highest concentration of such cases was a small village of Chaynpurwa in Ramnagar tehsil of the district. This became the centre of the initiative.

Chaynpurwa is a remote village, cut-off from the nearby suburbs on account of being surrounded by the expansive Bhagahar Lake on three sides. The people here had lost a lot to the illicit liquor trade. Out of the 94 families of this village, 32 women were widows. Only 6 men in the entire village were in a condition to work. The others were in jail, handicapped or heavily addicted. Most children didn’t go to school and those who did, faced economic hurdles and social stigmas. It was a painful sight.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of Police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

The first step was to organise a “Police Chaupal”, a gathering of all residents of Chaynpurwa and nearby villages, hosted by the local Police and attended by Aravind himself and Circle Officer, Ramnagar along with Inspector, Ramnagar. Villagers were given opportunity to speak about their problems, compulsion towards illicit liquor trade and socio-economic challenges. The stories that came out of the meeting were painful and heart-wrenching. “Mission Kayakalp” started taking shape consequent to this meeting

A survey of the village was conducted in Chaynpurwa village to obtain basic data about the village and its residents. This survey provided critical insights into the state of the village and its people. With the exception of 4 families which had at least one employed member, 90 of the village’s 94 families needed immediate assistance if they were to be emancipated from illicit liquor trade.

Priority now was to come up with a suitable, sustainable and circumstantially practical occupation alternative. A series of discussions with District Magistrate of Barabanki Dr Adarsh Singh, a passionate leader and Chief development Officer Medha Roopam, a bright officer brought forth a few options. Out of these, beekeeping seemed an appropriate and practicable choice. The villagers were briefed about this. A training session was arranged for them. Support also came from bank authorities who promised to provide loans. 

Dr Adarsh Singh’s support for Mission Kayakalp and his personal interest and backing to the initiative gave Chaynpurwa Village the attention and resources of 26 Government departments under the district administration. Medha Roopam herself went to the village with officials from various departments to make the residents of Chaynpurwa aware about Government schemes and programmes and provided eligible persons all the benefits.

The above events took place during the period between mid-August and mid-October this year. Bee farming in North India starts only after mid-November. Hence, an idea was mooted to help them generate some interim income through making and selling candles for the upcoming Diwali festival. This initiative was started and sponsored by Barabanki Police but Nimit Singh, an empathetic entrepreneur who owned bee farms, honey processing units and honey export played an important role

Nimit provided the women of Chaynpurwa training and raw-materials to make various types of diyas from bee-wax. The sale of these Diyas soared beyond expectations and close to 5 lakh diyas were sold in the weeks leading to Diwali. With a total amount over Rs 6 lakh earned by the village from these diyas in one month, an average income of Rs 7,000 was received by almost every household in the village. A grand “Deepotsav” was organised in collaboration with Umeed Foundation of Lucknow to honour and recognise the self-awareness and inspirational hard work done by the people of Chaynpurwa. For them it was an ecstatic moment to be the centre of focus of a program at such a scale and in the presence of top authorities.

The plan, alongside setting up bee-farming infrastructure, is to get a Community Hall built in the village so that a common space may be available for conducting training programs and provide an organised working area. Another plan on the anvil is to try and direct the energy of young children of this village in a positive, productive direction by arranging holistic orientations, building an open gym or recreation centre and motivate them to be diligent towards education. On the economic front with a long-term horizon, efforts are being made to attract the schemes of UP Government’s Khadi and Village Industries Board to provide a stable source of income to the village. These will include training them on electric pottery machines known as “Electric Chaak”, developing a stitching unit or a Agarbatti and candle making unit.

Setting up of a ‘trust’ by the name of “Chaynpurwa Kayakalp Foundation”, consisting of motivated private individuals for the welfare of villages like Chaynpurwa is also being planned. The objective is to provide sustainability to the project. Chaynpurwa village is on a path to turn its life around, look to a bright future and produce good law-respecting citizens. 

The initiatives taken by Aravind clearly demonstrate that despite enormous hurdles, if an officer so desires, she/he can make-it-happen.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

Continue Reading

Opinion

States must stop talking about lockdowns

Joyeeta Basu

Published

on

lockdown

Voices are coming from certain states that it’s time for another lockdown, possibly partial, to tackle the rising number of Covid cases. It is hoped that such thoughts will stay at the level of contemplation and will not translate into reality, especially when economic activities are finally starting to pick up after a prolonged lockdown-induced slump. In fact, this whole argument about cases multiplying needs to be assessed carefully, especially since except for a handful of states—particularly Delhi, Kerala and Maharashtra—the numbers are anything but “humongous”. The active Covid cases in a country with a billion-plus population is fewer than 4.5 lakh—443,486, to be precise, on Tuesday. If the number of people affected has crossed the 90 lakh-mark, it must also be recognised that over 85 lakh of those infected have recovered, with the recovery rate being 93.68%. And while even one death is a huge loss, and here more than a lakh lives have been lost, the fatality rate is as low as 1.46%, which is among the lowest in the world. The problem is indeed “humongous” in Delhi (40,212 active cases), Kerala (65,982) and Maharashtra (82,521). Delhi’s (population 1.9 crore) figures are particularly worrying, considering the number of its active cases is nearly double that of a state as populous as Uttar Pradesh (23,806 active cases and 20.4 crore population). Hence, Delhi needs special efforts to control the pandemic—but barring shutdowns. However, why will a state like Gujarat, with 13,600 active cases, impose night curfews in four of its cities, including Ahmedabad, which has 2,906 active cases? It defies logic.

This piece is not advocating taking the risk of Covid-19 lightly. If infected patients require hospitalisation and intensive care, it can have a debilitating impact on household finances. Also, there is a great degree of uncertainty about the way the infection is affecting people of all age groups, particularly those with co-morbidities. However, there is also enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that in a majority of cases, home quarantine and a combination of medicines are proving to be effective, resulting in recovery. Responsible social behaviour—including wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing—is a must to avoid the infection, but it must come naturally, and not be enforced. Also, fear mongering about the infection hitting India in waves and causing untold devastation is best avoided. India has successfully defied all predictions of “apocalypse” by analysts based on foreign shores and there is no reason to believe that it will not do so in the future as well. Even the World Health Organization is saying that community transmission of the virus has not taken place in India—what we are witnessing are clusters of infection. While it is not pleasant learning to live with the virus, but that’s exactly what seems to be happening—which also explains the “teeming millions” at public places.

While the wait for the vaccine is supposed to be getting over, it is not yet known how effective the vaccine will be, given the rapidity with which the virus is mutating; more importantly, how soon the vaccine can be reached to the 1.3 billion people of this country. It cannot happen inside a few weeks, or even months, or perhaps even years. What happens in the intervening period? The fact is, the therapy route is proving to be effective in India and even before the vaccine reaches all Indians, we could well be on our way to gain herd immunity. In the meanwhile, lives and livelihoods cannot be shut down. Things will have to come back to normal, soon, else there will be disaster—in real terms. So, all talk of curfew and lockdown must be avoided.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Why India needs to rethink its Tibet policy, if there’s one

A look at the US’s recognition of the Tibetan government-in-exile makes one question why India does not build a more formal and meaningful relationship with the Land of Snows, especially given how the two share a significant cultural, religious and sentimental bond.

Claude Arpi

Published

on

On 20 November, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) proudly announced that its Sikyong (president), Lobsang Sangay, had entered the White House. Dharamsala called it “a historic feat”, the first time that the CTA head was invited into the White House. In November, Sangay had already been invited to the State Department to meet Robert Destro, the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. The fact that the building was not the White House, but the Eisenhower Executive Building next door is just a detail.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which has so far not been recognised by any country, was often in the past denied entry to the US Administration buildings. “The logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,” said a CTA press release.

Whether it amounts to a virtual recognition of the Tibetan government or not can be argued. It is, however, certain that the outgoing US President, who will soon leave his job (and his house), is keen to put his successor in front of as many fait-accomplis as possible.

Whether the visit ‘next-door’ is a positive development for Tibet or not, only the future will tell. However, one wishes that the South Block would start meeting regularly with the Dalai Lama and the CTA officials. It would certainly be far more meaningful for the future of Tibet (even if Dharamsala does not realise this). Why was the visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Dharamsala in July kept hush-hush and local journalists asked to not publish any photos? Why so much unnecessary discretion? 

Interestingly, a few days before Sangay’s visit to the White House, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution (H. Res. 697): “Affirming the significance of the advocacy for genuine autonomy for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China and the work His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has done to promote global peace, harmony, and understanding.” Among other things, the Resolution said that “it would be beneficial to convene a bipartisan, bicameral forum… between Members of Congress and His Holiness the Dalai Lama to discuss peaceful solutions to international conflicts”. On 18 November, during the debate, Representative Ted Yoho also strongly criticised Beijing for violating the Tibetans’ religious freedom: “the CCP sees Tibet culture and religious heritage as a threat to its control”.

Some parts of the US legislation should trigger a re-thinking of India’s Tibet policy (not sure if Delhi has one!). Take the example of the US Statement of Policy on Reincarnation of Dalai Lama: “The wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama, including any written instructions, should play a determinative role in the selection, education, and veneration of a future 15th Dalai Lama.” Why can’t South Block simply state that it will support all the decisions taken by the Dalai Lama in the matter of his reincarnation and will welcome the 15th Dalai Lama as an honoured guest of India, like the present pontiff has been since 1959. It is not necessary to go into details like the US Resolution does.

Then, regarding the preservation of the Tibetan plateau’s environment and water resources, the US bill “recognises the key role of Tibetan plateau as it contains glaciers, rivers, grasslands, and other geographical and ecological features that are crucial for supporting vegetation growth and biodiversity, regulating water flow and supply for an estimated 1.8 billion people.” America is far away, but it is India which will suffer the brunt of the climate change on the Third Pole and the intensive damming on the Roof of the World. It is a great pity that Delhi keeps mum on the subject.

The US appointment of a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is worth thinking about for India, though the post should be more holistic in its definition and the officer should be able to deal with not only the Ministry of External Affairs, but also the Ministries of Home Affairs, Culture, Education or Defence in order to coordinate a new Tibetan policy.

Section 618 of the US legislation speaks of ‘Diplomatic representation relating to Tibet’: “The Secretary [of State] should seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet”. The rationale is given: “(1) to provide consular services to United States citizens traveling in Tibet; and (2) to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.” It is crucial for India to have a similar policy.

In 1947, India inherited from the British a full-fledged mission in Lhasa. An ICS officer, Hugh Richardson, served as the first head of the Indian mission, but was replaced in August 1950 by a bright young Chinese-speaking IFS officer, Sumul Sinha. Unfortunately (and unwisely), the Prime Minister discreetly downgraded the Mission into a Consulate General in 1952. Thereafter, it remained so till December 1962, when, for unknown reasons, South Block decided to close it down. I have spent several years trying to find out why it was closed, but I have no answer till date. Maybe foolishness and panic were the causes for it.

The fact that the Ministry of External Affairs keeps the history of the crucial two years before the Sino-Indian conflict inaccessible to the Indian public does not help understand what really happened in the months preceding October 1962. For example, who in India knows that the Indian Consul General in Lhasa was practically kept under house-arrest for thirteen months before and during the border war and that there was no retaliation or even complaint from the Government of India? Another example is how the last Indian Consul could not even visit the Potala during his tenure in Lhasa. The reasons mentioned by Dr P.K. Banerjee—that the Chinese Consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata were causing problems—can’t be taken seriously. 

The presence of an Indian Consul General in Lhasa could have helped to accelerate the process of the repatriation of the nearly 4,000 Indian PoWs, or, at least, put some pressure on the Chinese Government to release them. But was Delhi even interested?

Decades later, India tried to reopen the Lhasa Consulate, but in vain. In the 2000s, Shivshankar Menon, who served as Ambassador in Beijing and Foreign Secretary, is said to have played a pivotal role in this effort, but it is obvious that it was easier to hurriedly close the mission in December 1962, than to reopen it. Incidentally, Nepal still has a representative in Lhasa today.

Without copying the US, this is something that Delhi should insist on. It is India’s legitimate right due its old cultural, religious, sentimental affinity with the Land of Snows.

The writer is a French-born author, journalist, historian, Tibetologist and China expert. The views expressed are personal.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which has so far not been recognised by any country, was often in the past denied entry to the US Administration buildings. ‘The logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,’ said a CTA press release.

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

Long-term battle of arbitral awards with reference to the Vodafone case

The American Constitution constitutes a similar provision prohibiting ex-post-facto laws both by Central and state legislatures. It’s been more than 70 years since India became a democracy, still there is debate regarding the retrospective legislation in taxation laws.

Bahvuk Narula & Rachi Gupta

Published

on

The art of taxation consists of so plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the smallest amount of hissing.

—Jean Baptiste Colbert

PREFACE

In India, arbitration is always criticised due to Court interferences. However, recent judicial decisions show that Indian Courts are adopting a minimal interference model. This would help India globally to make a mark in the field of arbitration. In this never-ending process of court trials, challenging the awards in tribunals is a trend now here we can take the example of the same from the landmark case of Vodafone International Holdings B.V. v. Union of India & Anr. The enforcement of foreign awards is always being hard in India due to the regressive approach of the judiciary, which can be seen in judgments like NAFED v. Alimenta S.A. and Venture Global Eng. L.L.C. v. Tech Mahindra. These judgments are undoubtedly acting as a huge stumbling block in the enforcement of foreign awards.

VODAFONE JUDGMENT AT GLANCE

In the landmark judgment of Vodafone, where the Indian income tax authorities passed an order for payment of $2.2 billion by claiming that this is a case of transferring the Indian assets and therefore, such transfer was taxable in India. But later the Supreme Court held that this is not covered within the meaning of Section 2(14) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and quashed the demand of INR 120 billion by way of capital gains tax and also directed a refund of INR 25 billion just after that Income Tax Act (2012 Amendment) was brought in introducing two explanations in Section 9(1)(i) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 in this way virtually amending the law to ensure that cross-border transactions such as the $11.08 billion Vodafone-Hutchison deal are taxable. This amendment was challenged in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague under India – Netherlands Bilateral Investment Treaty.

This retrospective amendment was widely criticized across the globe and made India an unpopular destination for investments. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) quashed the income tax department’s demand on the ground of violation of the fair and equitable treatment standard. It is also observed that India violated the bilateral investment treaty with the Netherlands by retrospectively amending the law and directed India to reimburse legal costs of approximately INR 850 million to Vodafone. The Vodafone award stimulates critical issues for foreign investors investing in India. This award negates India’s position on investment treaties that tax disputes do not come under the ambit of investment treaties. The discrepancy arises from the Vodafone case in which the Solicitor General of India has recommended the government of India to challenge the arbitral award and declared parliamentary legislation of a competent Parliament of a sovereign nation to be non-est and unenforceable. On the contrary, the Attorney General clearly expressed his inability to be involved in the case and he is in favour of accepting all well-reasoned awards instead of challenging every award.

The Indian Government has not decided their move yet but as each coin has two sides so each direction towards challenging the award will lead to the question of law regarding the power of the arbitration tribunal to declare parliamentary legislation to be non-est and unenforceable. India has sovereign powers to amend its laws with a prospective effect and in the present case; the transaction was between two non-resident entities through a contract executed outside India which has no nexus with the underlying assets in India.

JUDICIAL & LEGAL DICTUM IN THIS REGARD

The Indian legislature has the power to make prospective laws, but Article 20 of The Indian Constitution, 1950 provides certain parameters for the same. Article 20(1) imposes a limitation on the law-making power of the legislature regarding retrospective criminal liability. There is anarchy in the imposition of retrospective civil liability too.

As article 20(1) of the Indian Constitution provides that;

“no person shall be convicted of any offense except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offense, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offense.”

The American Constitution also constitutes a similar provision prohibiting ex-post-facto laws both by Central and State Legislatures. It’s been more than 70 years since India became a democracy still there is debate regarding the retrospective legislation in taxation laws.

India has a long term judicial approach regarding retrospective legislation and the landmark case is CIT v. Vatika Township Private Limited, in this case, the Constitutional Bench of Apex Court provided clarity on prospective versus retrospective operation of tax amendments. Moreover, a piece of legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation here the ratio is that the current laws should govern current activities (Principle of lex prospicit non respicit: The Law looks forward and not backward). This case also considered the principle of fairness and leads to the principle of lex non-cogit ad impossibilia – the law does not compel a man to perform what he cannot possibly perform. The ruling concluded that in determining whether a provision is applicable prospectively or retrospectively, attention would be required to be paid to the language of the amending statute, the legislature’s intent, the memorandum to the relevant Finance Act, and the hardship the amendment would cause to the taxpayer. Similarly in the case of CIT v. NGC Networks (India) Pvt. Ltd. held that in the case of retrospective amendment the payer could not have contemplated TDS. Along with that regarding enforcement of arbitral awards, in the case of Govt. of India v. Vedanta Ltd, the court held that-

“enforcement might be rejected just on the off chance that it disregards the State’s most essential thoughts of profound quality and equity, which has been deciphered to imply that, there ought to be incredibly faltering in the declining requirement, except if it is gotten through dishonour or fraud, or unjustifiable methods”

By way of this judgment, the Court reduces the decline of enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and minimizes judicial intervention. The court also observes that the government must change its approach regarding challenging every arbitral award and should adopt an approach that encourages foreign companies to invest in India. It will help India in achieving status as a global arbitration hub.

WAY FORWARD TOWARD ARBITRATION

Today tax uncertainty is a growing cause of concern for foreign investors. Now India is facing criticism owing to the Vodafone award, the question arises whether India would lead to ensuring tax certainty and a stable environment to boost investment hand in hand or not. The scope of investment treaty arbitrations is very bleak and now we have two directions firstly that the Supreme Court of India overturns the decision of the Indian courts regarding non-applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to investment treaty arbitrations, Secondly the legislature can either amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to include enforcement of Bilateral Treaty Awards within its scope or to establish an entire regime for investment protection. In today’s time, the correlation between Bilateral Investment Treaties and foreign investment is required and we can adopt any approach given upwards to achieve this goal. Bilateral Investment Treaties have a positive role in promoting foreign investment and Investor-State dispute settlement provisions are important factors too in contributing to foreign investment inflows. India is planning a new law to safeguard foreign investment. It also helps us to speed up dispute resolution and to boost stuttering domestic growth.

The scope of investment treaty arbitrations is very bleak and now we have two directions: First, that the Supreme Court of India overturns the decision of the Indian courts regarding non-applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to investment treaty arbitrations; Second, the legislature can either amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to include enforcement of Bilateral Treaty Awards within its scope or to establish an entire regime for investment protection. In today’s time, the correlation between Bilateral Investment Treaties and foreign investment is required and we can adopt any approach given upwards to achieve this goal.

Continue Reading

Opinion

The centre must address Punjab farmers’ concerns

Pankaj Vohra

Published

on

The agitating Punjab farmers have lifted the rail blockade following the intervention of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was able to convince them that their action had resulted in immense financial loss to the state as well as contributed to the hardships faced by common citizens. The imbroglio was broken when the Chief Minister spoke to the kisan leaders who wanted the Centre to have a re-look at the farm laws that were enacted in a tearing hurry during the last Parliament session. In fact, if the Union government steps in and gives the required assurances to the farmers, the increasing unrest can be contained on time.

Amarinder Singh has, in the meantime, urged the Centre to restore all Punjab-bound trains to placate the people and create an atmosphere where some kind of rational dialogue can be initiated. The passage of the Bills by both Houses of Parliament and the subsequent ascent granted by the President, have not gone down well with the farming community, which feels that there should have been wide consultations, prior to such a step being taken. The Centre’s reluctance to review the decision led to the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Cabinet, and also the withdrawal of support by one of the BJP’s oldest allies, the Shiromani Akali Dal.

It is evident that those who advised the government on the laws were themselves not acquainted with the ground level situation in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, where the process of procurement is in variance with many other states. It is well known that each state has its own peculiarities, and thus care should have been taken while drafting the Bills. This kind of uncalled confrontation could have been avoided, had the farmers been brought on board, instead of ill-informed bureaucrats calling the shots.

Punjab is a very important state in multiple ways. It shares its borders with Pakistan and has borne the brunt of all India-Pakistan conflicts that have taken place there. Thus, it is paramount that an explosive situation should not be allowed to develop there, which would enable our enemy nation to exploit the discord. It is common knowledge that attempts by mischievous elements from across the border are constantly being made to send in narcotics, arms and other contraband through drones. The rise in the consumption of drugs has impacted an entire generation, and one of the reasons for the Akalis losing power in 2017 was because in the perception of the electorate, they did not do enough to contain this malaise.

The insistence of the Central government to stick to its position would therefore be a folly, which would not be in the national interest. There is a strong feeling in the state that politics was being played unnecessarily, and the BJP was wanting to divide the rural and urban areas of the state. This impression should be erased at the earliest. In a policy where the nation comes first, the Centre must find a way to address the problem. The issue has benefitted Captain Amarinder Singh immensely who, with his deft handling of the matter, has grown in political stature. He could easily facilitate a meaningful conversation between the Centre’s emissaries and the farmers. This face-off is uncalled for and must end at the earliest. The Centre would earn tremendous goodwill if it accommodates the issues raised by the farmers.

Continue Reading

Trending