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How PM’s development agenda is bringing J&K to the mainstream

The Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370 has ensured stability, market access and predictable laws in the state, to help develop an ecosystem which will give better rewards to the skills, hard work and products of the people in the region.

Sanju Verma

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The Modi government, on 7 January 2020, approved an industrial development scheme worth Rs 28,400 crore for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to give a fresh thrust to job creation and skill development in the region and attract new investment. Its outlay is until 2037. Smaller units with an investment in plant and machinery up to Rs 50 crore will get a capital incentive up to Rs 7.5 crore and get capital interest subvention at the rate of 6% for a maximum of seven years. What makes the scheme unique is the GST-linked incentive that will ensure less compliance burden without compromising on transparency.

After the abrogation of Article 370, various public outreach programmes have been undertaken with the intent of taking more than fifty Central schemes to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir. For decades, the Abdullahs and Muftis have treated this region as their personal fiefdom. The fact that in the recent District Development Council (DDC) elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, winning 75 seats and making inroads into hitherto impregnable areas like Srinagar, Bandipora and Pulwama, is a clear vindication of PM Modi’s development-oriented politics. The DDC elections, conducted in eight phases, saw an average voter turnout of over 51%, showcasing that there is genuine interest among the people of the Valley to take part in the electoral process because they foresee development and better quality of life for themselves and their future generations. 

Over five years ago, while announcing the ambitious Rs 80,000-crore development package for Jammu and Kashmir on November 7, 2015, at the Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium in Srinagar, PM Modi had made a passionate mention of “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat and Insaniyat” which is Kashmiri culture, democracy, and humanity. “Kashmiriyat ke bina Hindustan adhura hai (Without Kashmiriyat, India is incomplete),” he had said. This mega package that was to change the face of the militancy-hit state and draw the disillusioned back into the mainstream has been a resounding success.

On the jobs’ front, over 3,000 jobs were created for Kashmiri migrants. Financial assistance of Rs 578 crore through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) was provided to 12,588 displaced families (of the 36,384 families) from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Chhamb. Land was acquired for an IIT and an IIM in Jammu and for the two AIIMS in Jammu and Awantipora in Kashmir. Power projects have moved at a fast pace. The Pakal Dul 1,000 MW project and the Srinagar-Leh transmission line are on course. Of the 28 small hydropower projects, estimated to cost a total of Rs 2,000 crore, a number of projects being executed by state-owned JAKEDA have either already been kicked off the ground or are scheduled to do so soon.

The Rs 80,000-crore package consists of 63 major development projects being implemented by 15 Central ministries. More than 79% of the total package has already been sanctioned, over 31% of the development package has been released and well over 25% of the total amount has already been utilised so far.

The Chenani-Nashri tunnel, also known as the Patnitop or Syama Prasad Mookerjee tunnel, is not only India›s longest highway tunnel, but also Asia›s longest bi-directional highway tunnel. The tunnel, stretching 9.28 km, was inaugurated by PM Modi in April 2017, and is a huge achievement that is set to transform how different regions of India are connected across various terrains. The tunnel has reduced travel time between the winter and summer capitals (Jammu and Srinagar respectively) of Jammu and Kashmir by two to three hours, reducing the distance by 31 km, which in turn is resulting in a huge reduction in the consumption of fuel. The Modi government estimates a reduction of Rs 27 lakhs of fuel consumption per day on an average. Further, the tunnel is impervious to natural calamities such as landslides and avalanches which are common in the region. The core advantage the tunnel offers is permanent connectivity to the Kashmir Valley which had been, hitherto, only intermittently connected.

The fact that Jammu and Kashmir has always been high on the Modi government›s priority list is best amplified by PM Modi›s launch of the Social Endeavour for Health and Telemedicine (SEHAT) scheme on December 26, 2020. The scheme will cover the remaining one crore population which has not been covered under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme. With the launch of the Sehat scheme in Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Territory is among the first in India to achieve universal health coverage. Currently, under the Ayushman Bharat PM Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), which gives eligible beneficiaries a free health cover of Rs 5 lakh, 30 lakh people are already covered in Jammu and Kashmir.

The uneasy calm that had prevailed in the Valley after the revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A has now paved the way for higher business confidence and greater stability, with terrorism and separatism taking a backseat. The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A have made it possible to implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), instead of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), which had been in vogue all these years. Under Article 35-A, no outsider could bag a government job. Earlier, companies were forced to hire only locals. The revocation of the above articles has levelled the playing field. No investor was willing to set up an industry, hotel, private educational institution or private hospital in J&K since he or she could neither buy land or property. Their wards could not get government jobs or admission to colleges. Even after so many decades, there are barely any major national or international chains which have set up hotels in a tourism-centric region like J&K, preventing enrichment, resource generation and job creation. But on 5 August 2019, Prime Minister Modi›s government reset the clock, undoing all the misguided wrongs of the jaded Nehruvian era, with the unprecedented, epoch-making decision of abrogating Articles 370 and 35-A.The rest is history, as they say.

J&K›s special status had thus far shielded it even from the applicability of Article 3 of the Constitution, which provides for redrawing state boundaries or the creation of a new state/UT. But all that is in the past now, as Jammu and Kashmir, which is a UT now, is at the cusp of a sharp economic turnaround.

Remember, Articles 370 and 35-A empowered J&K to be a near autonomous state since it limited the Centre›s authority to just external affairs, defence, finance and communication. This provision also allowed J&K to have a “Sadar-e-Riyasat” for the governor and prime minister in place of a chief minister till 1965 as well as its own flag and constitution. Hence, revoking Article 370, which was, in any case, always been temporary and transitional, as per Part XXI of the Constitution, was long overdue. Before the revocation, the Union government needed the concurrence of the State government to even declare a financial emergency in the state under Article 360.

As per the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, in place of this special status, all the provisions of the Indian Constitution will henceforth be applicable, which will help in mainstreaming Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35-A, which comes under Article 370, proscribed and prevented non-permanent residents of J&K from permanently settling in the state, buying immovable property, acquiring land, applying for government jobs or any kind of scholarships, aids as well as other public welfare projects. The people of Jammu and Kashmir will now be treated as one, with no discrimination between permanent residents and non-permanent ones.

Article 35-A, also referred to as the Permanent Residents Law, had thus far barred a woman (belonging to the state) from any property rights if she married a person from outside the state. The provision also extended to the children of such women as they did not have any succession rights over the property. The revoking of this Article ended this age-old discrimination against women of J&K who chose to marry outsiders.

The Modi government›s decision to revoke Article 370 has ensured stability, market access, and predictable laws in the state, to help develop an ecosystem which will give better rewards to the skills, hard work and products of the people in the region. “In today’s world, economic growth cannot happen in a closed environment. Open minds and open markets will ensure that the youth of the region will put it on the path of greater progress. The integration gives a boost to investment, innovation and incomes,” PM Modi had said post the revocation of the discriminatory articles.

“Better connectivity, better linkages and better investment will help products of the region to reach across the country and the world, leading to a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity to the common man,” PM Modi had further said. And with the slew of infrastructure projects underway in the region, that is precisely what is happening. It needs to be mentioned here that Jammu and Kashmir had received 10% of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only 1% of the country’s population.

In contrast, Uttar Pradesh, making up about 13% of India›s population, received only 8.2% of Central grants in 2000-16. That means J&K, with a population of 12.55 million, according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the sixteen year period between 2000 and 2016, while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period. Why did J&K not see any substantive development despite receiving a disproportionate amount of Central assistance? Well, because funds alone cannot guarantee good governance, if political will is lacking and an enabling ecosystem is missing. In one historic fell sweep, PM Modi, on 5 August 2019, by mainstreaming Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India, ensured that the region could prosper like any other, without being beholden to a corrupt and conniving political class represented by the Abdullahs and Muftis, who had used the special status of J&K to only accord special privileges unto themselves.

The fact that the Modi government truly abides by the dictum of «Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Vishwaas» can be gauged from the inauguration of mega hydro power projects in Jammu on 3 January 2021. Memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed with National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to attract Rs 35,000 crore of investments, besides ensuring 24-hour power supply in the UT. January 3 was a historic day as mega hydro power projects to make J&K a power surplus region in the country were inked. MoUs were signed for the implementation of 850 MW Ratle HEP and 930 MW Kirthai-II HEP, the execution of Sawalkot HEP (1856 MW), Uri-I (Stage-II) (240 MW) and Dulhasti (Stage-II) (258 MW), which will transform the economic landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. In the last 70 odd years, J&K was able to generate only 3504 MW energy. But in the next four years, the UT will generate 3,498 MW of additional electricity to ensure energy security of the region, all thanks to the vision of PM Modi.

The 19 distribution and transmission projects inaugurated on 3 January 2021 would also enhance ease of living in the region, in addition to raising per capita incomes, industrialisation and employment generation in J&K. The national average of electricity in rural areas is 20 hours and in urban areas is 22-23 hours across India. J&K too will reach that milestone if the pace of development is kept steady. With locals to be trained and given employment in NHPC ventures, J&K will see a new dawn of energy sufficiency and thereby inclusive development.

Indeed, J&K is taking a quantum leap from being power deficit to power surplus in the next four years. Clean, affordable and reliable energy is the key for industries, businesses and society to grow. The Modi government has a well laid out plan to effectively harness the hydro energy resources of J&K, with a goal to double the energy generation by 2024. Moreover, the construction work on the Ring Road project, the widening of the National Highway from Pathankot to Jammu to make it six-lane from four-lane as well as the acquisition of land for the landmark Katra-Delhi Expressway road corridor has started in the Jammu region. Out of seven centrally funded medical colleges, Jammu has received four and Kashmir, three. As for recruitment to government jobs, hereafter, selection will be done purely on the basis of written tests, without an interview.

Those, including the Gupkar Alliance, who are raising a hue and cry against the revocation of Article 370 are merely habitual pessimists with rapidly declining political relevance. Prime Minister Modi’s aspirational and inclusive brand of politics is set to herald the winds of change in Jammu and Kashmir, so that everyone has a shot at growth with a better quality of life.

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

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Opinion

INDIA WITH ITS HEALING TOUCH IS A NATURAL LEADER

Joyeeta Basu

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India Covid-19

A year after the world saw the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we can say with certainty that India’s handling of this health crisis has been stellar, in spite of the large number of cases it has recorded. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion, India has had one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, apart from having the lowest number of cases per million people. However, there were enough prophets of doom a year ago—most of them based in the West—who predicted hundreds of millions of cases, millions of deaths, a collapsed health system, dead bodies piling up in drains and anarchy on the streets. In short, everything in keeping with what is known as the “image problem” that India has, according to the West. From there to have over 90 countries approaching India for vaccines to tackle the coronavirus scare, even as India gifts millions of vaccine shots to neighbouring countries, it is increasingly apparent that India’s “image” has been burnished many times over in these critical times. The “less fortunate” of the world now know which country to turn to at a time when the corona pandemic is wreaking havoc on their lives and livelihoods. India can provide them with vaccines tailor-made to suit their needs—vaccines that are low cost, do not need extreme storage conditions that vaccines manufactured in the West do, but that are equally effective. However, India’s act of giving millions of vaccine doses to its neighbours for free is being seen by its perpetual critics through the narrow prism of “vaccine diplomacy” and “buying influence”. The truth is that extending a helping hand to countries in need is inherent to the Indian civilizational ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”—the “world is one family”. Lest we forget, it was India which rescued even Americans from Yemen in one of the biggest airlifts that it conducted to evacuate its own citizens from that war-torn country in 2015. Again in 2015, it was India which was the fastest to reach out to Nepal with aid when earthquake shattered that country. India’s track record is replete with such examples, including for instance, its humanitarian activities to rebuild Afghanistan. In return, the support—or strategic heft—India gets from different countries on international platforms is a plus, and not necessarily the end towards which it has employed certain means.

Contrast this with what China’s communists have been doing to the world. Apart from unleashing the virus, thus destroying lives and livelihoods, Beijing is now “weaponizing” the vaccine to try and make its “client countries” fall in line. In India’s immediate neighbourhood, Bangladesh turned to India to buy the Covishield vaccine after Beijing asked Dhaka to share the cost of clinical trials of the CoronaVac vaccine. Apparently, this is the condition that China has imposed on all countries where it has conducted clinical trials. In response, not only did New Delhi help Dhaka get a contract with the vaccine manufacturer for 30 million doses, but also gave it two million doses for free. Then there is the case of Brazil, where speculation is that criticism of China over the spread of the pandemic made Beijing delay vaccine shipment. Then with China being opaque about its data, doubts started surfacing about how effective its vaccines were. Reports from Brazil were that the Chinese CoronaVac was barely 50% effective. So now India has started supplying its Covishield vaccine to Brazil, with the first shipment of two million doses reaching that country last week. Then in Philippines, there is an outcry over the lack of data on China’s vaccines, which have also been found to be overpriced. In this context, let’s not forget the PPE fiasco involving Chinese manufacturers last year, when China sent sub-standard PPE kits to countries, leading to an uproar. With its sub-standard vaccines, choppy delivery schedules, and the arm-twisting of its “client states”, China’s aim of winning hearts and minds while it overtakes US as the sole superpower of the world has faced a huge setback.

This is the time for India to live up to its potential as the vaccine manufacturing hub of the world—a manufacturer of affordable and good quality vaccines. It must pay heed to countries that are reaching out to it. Even Barbados in the faraway Caribbean has turned to India for 200,000 doses, with the hope of “kind consideration” for half of the supply. For a country like India, this would cost a pittance, but will earn it a lot of goodwill. In fact, there are many such tiny countries around the world, the Pacific Island countries for example, that desperately need the vaccines, but whose requirements are minuscule because they are thinly populated. Providing them with vaccines will help India spread its global footprints and win friends. Unlike China, India is not a transactional power; it’s not a malevolent power. India’s humane face is for real, not a mask like China’s is. India has the healing touch. India is the world’s pharmacy—the Dhanvantari. India is the power with the big heart. The world has realized India’s potential. It is time India lived up to that potential and not shy away from being the natural leader it is.

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Opinion

Chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ isn’t communal, Mamata Didi

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee getting upset by chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at a recent event is only the latest of such episodes. Her reaction not only exposes her communal politics and appeasement policies, but also speaks of her ignorance of Lord Ram as a cultural icon in India.

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Why does West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee get so irritated by the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’? Does she feel that at a time when the whole country is jubilant at the start of construction of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, being seen as an opponent of Lord Ram would polarise Muslims towards her. In doing so, does she forget that Lord Ram is ancestor of even Muslims who got converted into Islam a few centuries back.

The way she reacted at a function at Victoria Memorial on 23 January, the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, left a bad impression about her understanding of India’s cultural ethos. What is the big deal if some people from the audience shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’? There is no constitutional bar on shouting such slogans at a government function. The slogan of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ was also heard. Some security people were even seen dissuading the crowd from chanting. Instead of using the opportunity to address the audience, she found the chanting by a section of the people gathered there insulting. She refused to speak further after lodging her protest.

This is not the first time she has reacted in this fashion. In May 2019, some people had shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ when she had passed through the Bhatpara area of the 24 North Parganas district, the scene of the violence between BJP and Trinamool Congress workers after the Lok Sabha results gave the BJP an impressive victory. Banerjee had gotten infuriated, come out of the car and shouted back at them, then asked her officials to note down their names.

“What do you think of yourself? You will come from other states, stay here and abuse us? I will not tolerate this. How dare you all abuse me? All of your names and details will be noted down,” she had said angrily. When she had gotten into the car, people had repeated the chant and she had come out again, visibly upset and angry. More than half a dozen people had been detained.

How can such a slogan be an abuse? Is it then Banerjee’s truth that opposing the ‘Shri Ram’ chant is akin to opposing the BJP, since the BJP has been the most vocal supporter of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya? The logical extension of this would be that those opposed to the BJP would support her opposition to the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. At a time when the state is going to witness an assembly election, this is her desperate attempt to safeguard her Muslim vote bank that is facing division due to the rise of local Muslim political players.

But this sort of politics may boomerang against her. An average person in the state would be surprised by her disproportionate response. Lord Ram to them is a god as well as a cultural figure. He is the symbol of good and virtuosity, and represents the ultimate moral values that define humanity and makes possible the betterment of human society. In Him, they find how one should be as a member of family and how one should behave as a ruler. Death rituals are incomplete without the name of Ram (“Ram naam satya hai” means “the name of Lord Ram is the ultimate truth”). When the values of one person, whom Hindus consider as God, pervades society so much, how can one object to chants of His name?

Does Banerjee not know this reality about India? Of course, she does! But she is victim of her own communal politics. It is this communal mindset that makes her substitute ‘Ram’ with ‘rong’ in ‘ramdhenu’ (rainbow) and ‘aasmani’ for ‘aakashi’ (of the sky) in school textbooks. This is her way of secularising the cultural symbols of West Bengal. She has gone on to stay the tradition of immersing Durga idols so that Muharram processions could take precedence. She has no problems with the use of arms and self-inflicting injuries during Muharram, but has problems with Shashtra Puja during Dussehra.

In her appeasement of the Muslim community, she has crossed all barriers. And this time she has been completely exposed, forcing her to retract and issue a statement that she has no problems with the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. But now she can’t avoid being greeted by this chant in every nook and corner of the state. Street urchins and other people are likely to tease her by chanting this. This chant is going to reverberate throughout the election period in her state. People have discovered a non-lethal weapon to use against her. While some will do it for fun, others, mostly BJP workers, will do so to challenge her communal politics.

There are some cynics who often try to compare the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ with ‘Allah Hu Akbar’. They are not the same. The latter has been historically used as a war cry to demolish and destroy non-believers in Islam. The former has never been used as a war cry despite being of a more ancient origin. The war cries often heard in Hinduism are ‘Har Har Mahadev’, ‘Jai Mahakali’ or ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’. The Sikhs’ chant, ‘Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”, also falls under that category.

The eye-opener for Banerjee should be the donation campaign started for construction of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. People have so much love and respect for Ram that within two days of the appeal for donations for the construction, the Ram Janmabhoomi TeerthKshetra Trust has received Rs 100 crore. The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, has donated Rs 5,00,100 from his personal account.

If pandemonium and conflicts in the country rise, the support for building such a temple—that will be an epitome of love, peace and righteousness—will only increase. Righteousness is dharma. The figure of God for Hindus has no enemy because this is the oldest religion and one that does not speak against anyone. It did not have to compete since other religions did not exist then. Thus, Lord Ram spoke for all of humanity.

Lord Ram lives in the consciousness of the average Indian. The traditional form of greeting in the country in place of “Namaste” used to be “Ram Ram” and other variants. If a politician fails to understand this, he or she would do so at his own peril. West Bengal is no different. People will come and go but Lord Ram and the ideals He represents will stay till eternity.

The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.

There are some cynics who often try to compare the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ with ‘Allah Hu Akbar’. They are not the same. The latter has been historically used as a war cry to demolish and destroy non-believers in Islam. The former has never been used as a war cry despite being of a more ancient origin. The war cries often heard in Hinduism are ‘Har Har Mahadev’, ‘Jai Mahakali’ or ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’. The Sikhs’ chant, ‘Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”, also falls under that category.

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Opinion

RESURRECTING NETAJI’S VISION FOR THE NATION

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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has a unique place in the minds of people from the subcontinent. His was a composite vision of liberating Mother India from the throes of colonialism, its oppression and violence, and rebuilding a modern nation through dynamic patriotism. Inspired by the values of India’s civilisation and composite cultural identity and endowed with a scientific temper, he embarked on a mission whose relevance continues even today.

The events of the past seven decades, the failure of the two-nation theory based on synthetic identities, the violence and suffering imposed on people due to Partition, the continuing instability, the ensuing struggle and genocide resulting in the formation of Bangladesh and the meltdown of Western countries, to name a few, only confirm the relevance of his vision. These events are the outcome of proven historical blunders, the remnants of imperialism and signals of confusion and conflicts in the future. They have now become grounds for external forces making hostile incursions. As Bose had said, “Special efforts will be needed to keep our people together…because alien rule has demolished and disorganized us…”

To remember Netaji means to become aware of the mission he launched and to address that incomplete task. It calls for an imaginative approach and commitment, within the nation as well as in the neighborhood. The focus is on the people born in the subcontinent, the children of Mother India and the task before us is to generate awareness, organize and mobilise them, based on values, vision and resolute action. This is the historical opportunity to initiate corrections.

Netaji’s discovery of the failing impact of passive resistance and non-violence needs a deeper understanding. Civilized means were taken as a weakness. It was not Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley of England, but the likes of Robert Clive and his lineage who were the perpetrators of oppression and exploitation. They had to be confronted. The passive resistance of the masses seems to have provided a comfortable space for the likes of General Dyer and their violence was continuous, with the passive Indians at the receiving end. Moreover, the people worked for the British, provided them labour and fought their wars, and in return got the Rowlatt Bill and other such ordinances. This became the practice and order of Her Majesty’s governance in India. The trend is traceable through the pages of history. “Britain…ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually,” said Bose.

He sought to address the challenge differently through more compelling action. Keeping abreast of developments across the world, and with the mission of liberating his motherland, he travelled far and wide, mustering support and developing an action plan. For him, young men and women formed the core human energy needed to rise and rebel against the colonial forces—which took shape as the INA. It was complemented by the call for rebellion by Indian soldiers, which would turn out to be a major factor for the British being forced to depart. However, before parting, they caused the real damage. Unfortunately, it happened when Netaji wasn’t in our midst and we succumbed to a highly compromised notion of independence. Freedom lay buried under an age-old living civilisation which was allowed to be amputated. Different flags were raised over the bleeding bodies and corpses. The adverse impact of that continues till date haunting the subcontinent and dragging down progress across the region. With the parts disjointed and the masses sidelined, vested interests and their establishments continue to mushroom.

Today the task is to realise the full potential of the people and resources in a meaningful and harmonious fashion. India has a highly responsible and important role to play. Even for its own growth and development, it will need to bring to the fore the forgotten, and perhaps injured and manipulated, perception of the different parts. A renewed understanding could act as a lighthouse for civilisation, freedom and development. There is a need to orient the minds of the people of the subcontinent towards a new consciousness, which is relevant and necessary, through example and imaginative approach, not appeasement. India has the inner strength to do this. The offspring of INA comrades in the region could be the catalysts in this process—the ones brought around the benign vision of Netaji and by parents and grandparents who participated in and made sacrifices for Netaji’s cause. A dialogue for a new order needs to be nurtured in the larger interest, as Netaji had envisioned.

Present-day communication mediums make it possible to generate interest, awareness and dialogue rapidly. There is a growing realization about the mistakes of the past and the search for an alternative. The same can be perceived—although still as a suppressed desire—among people across the subcontinental region. It needs to be addressed now. Recalling Netaji’s words, “We shall have to bring different parts…closer to one another…we shall have to foster a common spirit among the entire population.” This sets the context of action in the future and this could be achieved by programmes and discussions on TV, radio, through mass media and the like. Sports and cultural exchange, wherever possible, across the subcontinent can also go a long way in initiating a new understanding of deeper bonds.

India has a median age of 29 years in 2020. This means that we have a very large number of young women and men who need attention and to be meaningfully engaged in constructive work covering various streams, which is in tune with Netaji’s thinking. Guided by disciplined training and the supervision of ex-servicemen, who constitute a highly qualified but underutilized human resource available across the country, the nation can be turned around on the development front and become a force to reckon with globally. There are opportunities for skilled Indians in the world, and towards this end, we should establish the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Mission of the Youth. Fortunately, details regarding the same are being worked out.

Germany and Japan also figured prominently in Netaji’s scheme of things. Given the cordial relations with both the countries, it is proposed that we commemorate his links with them through voyages to these destinations, as part of the Netaji Trail on both land and sea routes. At another level, given their fast-ageing populations, both these countries are in dire need of skilled working age people. For this purpose, we could collaborate in setting up country-specific campuses of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Institutes for Learning and Skills Training. This initiative will be beneficial to all and strengthen the bonds among the nations further. Besides, in the emerging global scenario, there is also a growing potential of synergy in strategic terms with Japan and Germany.

At another level, education curricula need to be redesigned for including dynamic patriotism with a modern scientific outlook and attitude towards life, which is also sensitive to our civilization’s values and vision, and upholds the principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’ and of living in harmony with the rhythmic energy of nature. The time right now is opportune for working towards this goal.

On the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, we are witnessing an interesting historical synchronicity as present-day India takes on Chinese imperialism resolutely. As the quote goes, “In this mortal world, everything perishes and will perish, but ideas and dreams do not.” Let this be the defining moment in the process of building on past ideas for a new future.

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Opinion

Vocationalisation for harnessing the demographic dividend

It would be important to establish a bridge between general and vocational programmes, including vertical and lateral mobility of vocational programme aspirants.

Ved Prakash

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India at present is recognised as one of the youngest nations in the world with about 61 crore children under the age of 23. It is estimated that soon India will have about 20% of the world’s total workforce. In order to harness the full demographic dividend, India needs an educational system which can not only guarantee access to quality education at an affordable cost but also ensure flexibility and relevance to the individual’s economy and to the society as a whole. It becomes all the more pertinent under the present circumstances when the job creation has been going downhill due to the Covid-19 pandemic and people are required to have skills either for self-employed jobs or to transit from one set of job into another.

Concerted efforts are also required on the part of the government to develop transition capacity amongst the workforce. Currently, the country is facing a demand-supply mismatch of a very high order. The country needs a more skilled workforce at different levels than created annually. In fact, the majority of the present-day institutions remain almost disconnected with the needs of the workplace. They are not aligning their programmes with the social and physical realities where they exist. Consequently, the skill-oriented courses available in and around their markets have low credibility and acceptability with the proprietors.

The rigidity of the traditional system of education in the country in terms of duration of courses, timings for teaching and learning, and place and choice of subjects makes things more challenging. There is a worldwide shift from conventional educational system to skill-based qualification system. Accordingly, the curricula and system of certification need to be aligned with the international norms and standards.

This had made the Government of India to bring out the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) in 2013 to facilitate offering of nationally standardised skill related programs comparable with the international standards. The NSQF is broadly incorporated training and competency-based expertise structure which accommodates various pathways both inside professional schooling and among general and professional instruction to interface one level of learning to another higher level of learning. It enables learners to progress gradually to higher levels from any starting point in the education and or skill system.

School is the most appropriate place where foundation for skilling could be laid by suitable grading of skills appropriate to the age of the learner. It is at the school level where the aspiration to the skills needs to be identified and promoted by introducing the children to different vocational activities. Initially, schools may incorporate some soft skills in their curriculum and as the students advance in age, the learning of skills can move towards higher levels of skills. Guidance and counselling services should be made a significant component in the school sector as envisaged in the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. It has to attempt to provide guidance in matters related to curriculum and learning to students of various shades of ability.

There should also be a component of career counselling which focuses on describing the students at the school stage about the nature of vocational programmes available and the conditions required for getting into them. Such services can become very important for enabling students to make informed choices as to which direction they should choose for their career. There should be a provision in every school to have one guidance and counsellor for a reasonable number of the student population of the school. Frequent interactions need to be arranged as a part of school curriculum to invite people who are experts in guidance and career counselling to provide relevant materials and possible opportunities which such careers can offer.

There is also an issue of establishing a bridge between general and vocational courses which, if attended to, can enhance the employability of youth. The dichotomy that currently exists between general education and vocational education needs to be bridged. The current format of the NSQF has ten levels. Of them, levels one to four correspond to grades nine to twelve, levels five to seven correspond to three-year of undergraduate education, levels eight to nine correspond to two-year of masters’ program and level ten corresponds to the PhD programme. Beyond the school stage, the NSQF has a provision to migrate from vocational to academic and vice-versa. This provision of lateral mobility is significant to ensure employability and the success of skill programmes. It is this position that will change the status perception of the skill programs amongst masses in relation to the vocational sector.

It would, therefore, be important to establish a bridge between general and vocational programmes, including vertical and lateral mobility of vocational programme aspirants. Vertical and lateral mobility can be ensured through credit based modular programs in skill as well as in general education which will provide a way forward to bridge the gap of skills or otherwise of general education for lateral mobility wherever required.

This may, however, require identification of progressive job roles at various levels and map them to academic levels for equivalency. Besides, existing teachers may have to be trained through specialized institutions or at industry sites to impart training as per National Occupational Standards (NOSs) and qualification packs together with general education in regular courses. Good industrial and research background persons may be linked to these institutions to suggest multiple ways to impart variegated skills to both the students and teachers. There is also a need to have institutional mechanisms to make provision for certification of skills already in the formal sector. The assessment for the general education component should be done by the institution as per the established standards and procedures.

The assessment for the school development components should essentially zero in on practical demonstrations of the skills acquired. The organisation may like to consult the respective Sector Skill Council for planning the assessment and appraisal design for skill development components. The organisation may likewise consider utilising the assigned assessors of Sector Skill Council or industry associations for the conduct of practical assessment.

The institution has to necessarily establish a credit-based assessment and evaluation system for certification. The success of skill-based education is dependent on effective linkages between institutions offering school programs and the industry for which the youth is being trained. The industry can help in a variety of ways. It can enter into an agreement with institutions offering skill-based programmes to absorb their products for internship and hands-on-experience. If the industry recruits people directly, their general and practical education can be secured by it in the institution offering such programs. The skill expertise of the industry can be made available to the institutions in offering practical instructions.

The practical training can be provided on state-of-the-art equipment and such training can then be of direct benefit to the industry without the industry suffering any loss of their production time because of the opportunity provided for training. It is, therefore, very important to establish linkages between educational institutions and industry to promote skill-based education through measures like model career centers, placement cells, industry-academia-interface, adjunct faculty, Incubation centers for training of learners, etc.

There is also a need to align the modules of skills with the requirements of the industry to increase employability. The focal point of the skill development component should be to prepare students with proper knowledge, training and attitude so as to make them work ready. The curriculum should incorporate within itself NOSs of specific job roles relevant to the industry sectors. This would enable the students to meet the learning outcomes specified in the NOSs. The overall design of the skill development components along with the job roles selected should be such that it leads to a comprehensive specialisation in one or two areas of development. Institutions together with society should work for the mobilisation efforts towards skill-based education.

Skill parks may also be established in association with industries to provide information about the particular sectors, utility of the sector and career progression pathways therein. The bottom line is that the key ingredients for harnessing the demographic dividends depend upon designing and offering context specific programmes and creating awareness about their utility and employment prospects through resource centres at district, sub-district, block and panchayat levels.

The writer is former Chairman, UGC. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

India’s dangerous blind spot on social media

China banned foreign social media to build its own digital ecosystem. India, on the other hand, has become a social media colony of the United States.

Rajiv Malhotra

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Twitter’s recent ban on Donald Trump and announcements on WhatsApp’s data policies have suddenly woken up Indians to the hard truth that dependence on foreign social media is a national security threat. But, even now, the full scope of the issue is not being properly understood. The debate is being framed largely in the context of the politics of the Left versus the Right, with the ban seen as a Left-wing conspiracy against Trump. Sadly, many otherwise intelligent public voices have ignored the larger problem that India has become a social media colony of the United States.

The foundation of this blindness is Indians’ lack of understanding of the far-reaching impact of artificial intelligence and the role of public and private data as the key driver of this technology. Indians must urgently understand that AI is a weapon that amplifies the mind in good or bad ways, depending on its usage. There is nothing ‘Left’ or’ Right’ about the fact that intelligence is used against others, and AI is merely a force multiplier. India’s vulnerability to AI is not limited to ‘Left-wing’ multinationals.

During the past few years, when I was finalising my book that just got launched a few days back, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power, I tried to argue with many public intellectuals that every time they click something on social media, the machine learning systems of the tech giants makes an entry in the individual’s profile. What each person likes, dislikes, the comments, and posts—each is useful raw data in carrying out what is called sentiment analysis. What are the individual’s sentiments towards brands, politics, spiritual positions, ideologies, social issues and so forth? This allows the platform to customise the messages selected to be sent, be they posts, advertising, or what have you. Every engagement by the consumer enhances the AI system’s model of the person’s behaviour. This model becomes smarter over time to predict and even reshape behavior through manipulation.

This cognitive mapping of millions of people’s emotions, likes, dislikes, preferences and vulnerabilities is taking place by recording their activities in a variety of formats including voice, text, images, handwriting, biometrics, buying habits, interpersonal communications, and so on. AI researchers make these predictive models not only for individuals, but also for communities, cultures and nations. Such models are used to anticipate reactions and manipulate or influence groups by leveraging their own distinctive habits or tendencies. These psychological profiles weaponise the social media platforms into a means for manipulating any individual’s private psychology. And for what purpose? For the benefit of whomever, or whatever, is in control of the platform. The beneficiary could be the digital platform itself, such as Twitter, Facebook or Google, or their commercial clients—advertisers, political candidates, or anyone else willing to pay to influence a target audience.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter freely deliver a wide range of user experiences that consumers find difficult to resist. Facebook’s strategy reinforces people’s emotional cravings and distracts them from realising that they are enthusiastically giving away intimate knowledge, and hence transferring power to the digital platform. Most users do not realise this and would rather not know the long-term implications of gratifying their social needs online.

With such immense power vested in foreign corporations, the anti-India groups whom I have called breaking-India forces, are becoming more organized to use AI for their goals to psychologically divide Indians into hostile camps that fight each other and the country at large. Artificial Intelligence is a force multiplier that can be used to undermine the unity of the rashtra, of political parties, and of communities by encouraging the flare ups of fragments. Deep learning of individual behavior can be combined with fake news to manipulate psychology and public opinion. This has serious national security implications.

Yet, Indian thought leaders continue to live in ignorance and denial. Despite all these risks, Indians are not overly worried that foreign digital platforms will end up having too much emotional control over hundreds of millions of people. Artificial Intelligence is insufficiently understood by India’s social scientists, government officials, legal experts, and education leaders. Ironically, India’s public intellectuals—social media celebrities, the blaring mainstream media voices, and political debaters—are heavily invested in supporting the digital media platforms that are recolonising India. They build their popularity and boast their identities sitting on foreign platforms that are a fake foundation with strings being pulled from faraway places. 

In contrast, China banned foreign social media to build its own digital ecosystem. India, on the other hand, is proud of being one of the largest consumers of US social media and has welcomed them with open arms. India is for sale!

A sudden stampede has started in India to play catch-up. While this wake-up call is welcome, is it going far enough?

Rajiv Malhotra is the author of many bestsellers. His latest book ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power’ is summarised at www.AIandPower.com. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

VIRAT KOHLI’S UNMISTAKABLE SELF-BELIEF STAMP ON TEAM INDIA

Pankaj Vohra

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Without taking the credit away from a bunch of rookies, who created history by snatching the greatest ever series victory for India at the Gabba in Brisbane, one cannot forget Virat Kohli’s contribution in inculcating both self-belief and confidence in the boys. Ajinkya Rahane captained the side in Kohli’s absence and exhibited that he too was a born leader and could take the ball on his chin during the most challenging circumstances. He is an extremely gifted cricketer who has shown results when it mattered, while maintaining a low profile. However, as coach Ravi Shastri said after the win that the team led by Rahane “embodies what Kohli stands for on the cricket field. You must give credit to Virat. He may not be here but his character, his personality and stamp, is there for everyone to see”.

Like Rome was not built in a day, the success was not achieved overnight. It is the result of hard work and process that started five to six years ago. Kohli has shown professional acumen both as a cricketer and leader of men, inspiring a whole generation of young cricketers, like Sachin Tendulkar had before him. Therefore, this needless controversy that has been started by a section of media pitting Kohli and Rahane against each other is totally uncalled for. They are part of the same team and are likely to share many more successes together. Kohli is back as the captain for the England tour and Rahane, like earlier, will be his deputy. There is also no doubt that at present, Kohli is the greatest batsman in the world and his presence is an asset for the team. Along with Ravi Shastri and an efficient support staff, he has motivated the boys. Thus, Team India is destined to go places.

The rookies who breached the Gabba fortress, are the future of the Indian cricket. It is evident that India’s great cricketing depth is now coming to fore. The renaissance of Indian cricket started exactly 50 years ago when Dilip Sardesai showed the way with his double century in the West Indies, inspiring Sunil Gavaskar to begin his glorious Test career. Gavaskar, to my mind, is arguably the best batsman India has had, notwithstanding Tendulkar’s feats. Similarly, the contribution of Rahul Dravid has never been highlighted. He was the wall and his role was emulated in the Brisbane Test by Cheteshwar Pujara, who by taking body blows from the bouncers, paved the way for the magnificent win along with Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar and other unsung heroes.

There have been cricketing moments that get etched in one’s memory. The two World Cup victories, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s inspiring leadership, Saurav Ganguly’s confidence and V.V.S. Laxman’s batting wizardry and the swashbuckling triple century by Virendra Sehwag in Multan besides the bowling exploits of Kapil Dev, Bishen Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrashekhar and Anil Kumble can never be forgotten.

The Gabba carnage of the Aussies will be long remembered and by winning the series in such a convincing manner, Team India has made the country proud. As the Times of India headline said, “No one Believed They Could, They Did”. That is what new India is all about.

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