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India can be a moral, spiritual leader in eco-conservation

India, with 6,000 years of history, has always been a very obedient citizen of the nature. Environment in India was not an object of description, rather it has always been a ritual, a religion to learn something and to know the summary of living things.

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‘One Sun, One World One Grid”, has been a slogan that captivated the minds of world citizens during COP 26 in Glasgow.

But even before, India came with the pathbreaking innovative semiotic presentation that still echoes in world environmental circles— “Poverty is the worst polluter” in 1972 Stockholm Conference, and another one was, “Development is the best contraceptive”, in Bucharest Conference.

These statements do not merely are statements but are the product of a mindset that has seen civilisation in the truest sense of the term.

India, with 6000 years of a long history, has always been a very obedient citizen of nature. Indians accepted, adapted, and adjusted themselves in a variety of ways to their environment.

The environment in India was not an object of description rather it was a ritual, a religion to learn something and to know the summary of living things.

River worship was symbolic in the form to worship water as was evident in the names that have been used to denote them: Ganga as Mata, Yamunaji and all the rivers were female rivers, except Brahmaputra, Damodar that had been male.

Indians have been using local water harvesting technologies like Ahar and Pyne in Bihar, Johad, In Rajasthan, Jing, Thingal in mountainous regions of India, and so have been numerous other names.

Trees in their natural form were glorified. Places were named after trees as a mark of respect for trees; for example, Champaran meant a place for Champa trees, Vaishali was named after Sal, and Sal was used for various types of buildings like Goshala, Pathshala, etc.

Names were based on this environmental symbolism rather than on functional entity. Nature was something to be revered, respected, and feared.

The disaster was perceived as valuable enough to learn from our mistakes, and as a tool to wipe out all our mistakes.

Cities were sustainable, and so was the cropping pattern and inland water transportation as well.

The availability and management of the resources were decentralised. Decentralisation was the core mantra of adaptation to the environment, and environmental management.

In Indian conditions, such symbolism offered a variety of benefits. There was decreased spatial interaction to save on movement of goods, there was increased spatial specialisation to help the utilisation of resources in the best possible manner and a niche lifestyle suited to tropical conditions, like clothing line, fashion, clay-building evolved.

Why these perceptual distortions took place? The colonial imprint and the mindset brought about a lot of change in the thinking of the Indian masses.

Colonialism more than anything else, tries to bring about a change in the way colonised people think, it dents their psyche, makes them feel inferior, convinces them to be inferior in terms of their language culture, lifestyle, their identity itself so much so that they become slaves in their mind

The environmental management followed in India after independence was based on the thinking of the colonising countries and represented a western European mode of thinking.

European countries had no idea as to how Indian environmental sustainability that was linked to its livelihood and sustainability was managed. Moreover, the Western European countries had not had enough experience in managing their own resources and their environment largely on account of a shallow depth of their history, their low biodiversity, short history of development and insufficient trial and error through which the Europeans had gone for in trying to manage their own resources and environment.

The thinking of Western countries about the use of words was the product of and reflected the thinking of a society that was not rich in terms of values, or education towards the environment, consequently they did not attach much significance to the choice of words and semiotics. The use of the words was careless.

India under the sedative influence of the British, abandoned its traditional wisdom, local genius, and adapted Nehruvian ideas of resources management whose mind, psyche, lifestyle, thinking, management was heavily under the British influence. Indians used to describe the nature and natural phenomena purely in terms of spirituality, purely wordly, purely sustainably but sedated by colonial injection heavily influenced by Nehruvian thinking they described every natural phenomena by being judgemental for example river inundation was described as flood, and an arid condition was described as drought-affected region.

As a heavily influence colonial management mindset, Nehru followed everything that was western, often and most of the times ignoring and sometimes insulting the availability of local wisdom and genius. Everything was copied and copied from the West against Indian thinking and whatever India had learnt.

One of the greatest tragedies of so-called modern civilization has now taught Indians is to be judgmental towards nature, and look down upon the very environment that created the Indians. Therefore Correcting our faulty perceptions and reviving our environmental philosophy and practices is likely to strengthen the foundations of our heritage. It is time not to be judgemental but to start being ethical towards our environment.

As a first lesson and ‘solution’ to any environment-related aspect, and also as the first step to solving the problem if it is, is to require to change the perception of the people about their surroundings and their nature, about mother Earth and all the components of the environment. People must be prompted to correct their perceptual distortions, or else nature over which no one can win will continue to be viewed in a judgemental manner. The reality is, in its essence, in spirit, in the form it is actually nature that knows best. The environment is our life, It must be our love.

The perceptual modifications that we require to undergo now are many.

Firstly, nature is to be seen as a learning form, as a teacher as a mentor, and an all-powerful and as inspirer. Nature has been and is an institution, the best institution mankind has ever seen, observed, and is capable of providing a lot of insights as well as intuitive learning. Intuition helps in coping with life’s unpredictability, uncertainty, and undiscovered aspects of it.

Secondly, the environment is not something that can be modified, neither is it something that can be commented upon, nor something that always follows logic. The environment is to be seen as something that provides insights and intuition.

Thirdly, there are no problems in the environment that requires to be solved, there are no ailments that require to be corrected, there are no patches that required to be cleaned, and there are no complexities that are to be managed. There are only phenomena to be understood, respected, and consequently desired.

It is in this light that volcanic activity in Indonesia is to be viewed, earthquake anywhere is to be viewed, tsunamis are to be awed not criticised.

The volcanic eruptions are seen as creating a problem for aviation or seen as a pollutant emanating toxic fumes into the environment. The fact is, without volcanic eruptions, the atmosphere would have lost a major chance of getting it replenished. Without a billion or so earthquakes, there was no way, that the Himalayas could have formed. The tsunamis that take place clean and replenish the whole of coastal areas.

None has described the volcanic eruption as “Majestic” “Heavenly” or “Eternal beauty”. A volcanic eruption is the most awesome phenomenon of nature; the most astonishing, amazing, extraordinary, godly event. Expressions change the way people think and perceive their surroundings.

All the so-called “hazards” whether volcanic, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, floods, droughts have been beneficial to mankind. Without these hazards, there was no way human beings could have lived on this planet. The base for human habitation and its activity has been set by earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis, and all those natural phenomena, which the modern civilization calls a “hazard”.

Thus precisely, environmental problems are not a problem to be solved or managed. The environment is itself the best manager and can be managed best by adjusting to it, adopting. Nature is always changing, warming and cooling are part of it. Climate has not changed; it’s the people and their perception towards climate that has changed. Change is the only constant in nature. Neither there are any hazards; there are only perceptions and phenomena. Nature is not our facilitator but the heritage that commands us. It is not an object but our mentor. There are no issues; no excesses in nature there are only marvels.

Any thinking other than that is a “perceptual distortion”. This realistic perception will help nature to command the respect that it deserves to support mankind, educate them and teach them.

Incidentally, when PM Modi declared ‘One Sun One World One Grid’, he may or may not have thought of Chhath as the only festival that worships Sun, and also unmindful of all the festivals that worships nature and keeps nature closest to the lifestyle of the people.

Such civilisations are always sustainable, growing, and thinking of the coming generations, and that thinking actually augurs well to make India truly a spiritual leader in conservation. We only need to rediscover our local wisdom our roots of Sanatan. It’s that simple.

The writer is a strategic thinker, educationist, earth scientist, author, mentor, and advisor to various governments. Views expressed are the writer’s personal.

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Opinion

JAMIA HAMDARD UNIVERSITY DESERVES TO BE A CENTRE OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

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The year 2021 shall always be remembered as a year of success and pride that scripted glorious history in the journey of Jamia Hamdard. Placed among the top 25 universities of India, it has bagged the first position in the field of Pharmacy while its medical college has been ranked 22nd at NIRF in the country by the Union Government. What added another feather to the deemed-to-be university’s cap was its achievement at the UPSC examination for civil services the same year. As many as 10 students who were trained by Jamia Hamdard Residential Coaching Academy cracked the examination.

Jamia Hamdard was established by a renowned Unani physician, Hakeem Abdul Hameed (14 September 1908-22 July 1999). The Founder-Chancellor was a great philanthropist, thinker and visionary, who set up several institutions. He was honoured by several national and international awards including Avicenna Award presented by the erstwhile USSR in 1983 and Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Union Government. Hakeem Abdul Hameed was an honorary member of the Academy of Medical Science of the Islamic Republic of Iran and once was the Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

His son is Mr Hammad Ahmed (President, Hamdard National Foundation, HNF-HECA) who has taken charge as the Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard University. He has been a member of HNF since its inception in 1964. His-decade long experience in charitable institutions is bound to inspire the University to attain new heights.

Mr Hammad Ahmed has been involved in Jamia Hamdard since before it gained Deemed University status in 1989. Over the years, he has served in the Executive Council, Finance Committee and various other advisory bodies of the university and has championed the growth of Jamia Hamdard through sustained personal attention and interest, with vice-chancellor Professor Mohammad Afshar Alam’s mission being implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) of the union government for improvement in the quality of education.

The Jamia Hamdard, which started its journey from a small Unani clinic in 1906 by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, has grown to its present form on account of the efforts of his illustrious son, Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who efficiently carried forward the philosophy and objectives of the Hamdard. In 1947, he planned to set up a complex of educational institutions which would concentrate on highlighting the contribution of Islam and Islamic culture to Indian civilisation and the development of Unani medicines for curing diseases.

For setting up a complex of research and educational institutions, Hakim Abdul Hameed purchased land in the Tughlaqabad area of South Delhi which was not inhabited in those times. In order to implement and execute the objectives of the Wakf as enshrined in the Wakf deed, Hakeem Abdul Hameed and his associates established several institutions for teaching and research. In 1962, Hakim Abdul Hameed set up the Institute of History of Medicine and Medical Research with the object of promoting education and research in the history of medicine, besides appraising the principles of medicine.

In 1963, Hakeem Abdul Hameed along with his friends and associates set up the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies with a view to promoting the study of Islamic Culture and Civilisation especially its contribution to Indian society and culture.

In 1972, Hamdard College of Pharmacy was set up. But it was 1989 when the dream of Hakeem Abdul Hameed was accomplished as Jamia Hamdard received Deemed to be University status from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Over the last decade, the Jamia Hamdard rapidly emerged as an outstanding institution of higher learning with distinct and focused academic programmes. The graduate programme in Information Technology and Computer Applications and post-graduate programmes in Information Technology, Computer Applications, Business Management, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are among the new courses. Undergraduate programmes in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are being introduced from this year.

Jamia Hamdard wants to provide international quality higher education under the NEP, which is expected to bring a sea change in academia. It aims to undertake cutting-edge research in the fields of social, natural science and technology and particularly promote the study of modern and traditional medicine systems, especially Unani-Tibb. This will usher in a holistic and integrated approach to healthcare and meet the societal education needs of underprivileged Indian communities.

Its mission of promoting the cause of higher education through modern styles of teaching and advanced research in the branches of knowledge the Jamia Hamdard is likely to develop core competence for and as may be in consonance with the emerging needs of India under the ambit of NEP.

Another ambitious plan of Jamia Hamdard is to co-operate, collaborate and associate with national and international organisations and institutions in any part of the world having goals wholly or partly similar to it and under the provision of the UGC regulations.

It also wants to offer the scope for higher education for excellence and innovations which may fit primarily at UG, PG and doctoral levels.

The Ministry of Education should contemplate bestowing the status of the Centre of National Importance on this prestigious institution, engaged in the service of mankind.

The author is Professor of Arunachal University of Studies, Namsai and also Former Media Advisor, Aligarh Muslim University. He may be contacted at profjasimmd@gmail.com

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Opinion

India’s war legacy cannot have colonial shadow on it

The India Gate was constructed as a British war memorial to commemorate the 83,000-plus soldiers who died during the First World War, from 1914-21. Out of these, the names of only 13,516 soldiers, including British, are inscribed on it

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These are the most beautiful and inspiring lines enshrined as epitaph on the Kohima War Memorial in Nagaland. These lines commemorate those Indian soldiers who fought the Japanese during the Second World War. They constantly remind us that we are safe today due to the sacrifices of those brave soldiers. Although these thoughts were penned by John Maxwell Edmonds, they are relevant to all war memorials.

The brouhaha over the merging of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame with the Eternal Flame at the newly constructed National War Memorial is political and bereft of emotions that should define Independent India’s existence as a sovereign State. By the merger, this country is creating a new tradition where the sacrifice of every soldier on a daily basis is recognised and valued. The memory is being magnified and amplified many times over and evoking the right response.

War memorials have played an important role in the lives of nations. Different countries have created different traditions. Infosys Trust Chairman Sudha Murthy brilliantly describes how deeply touched she was when she visited Moscow and came to know of the tradition of newly married couples visiting the nearest war memorial after exchanging their marriage vows.

Every newly married couple is reminded that their peaceful existence in Russia is because of the sacrifices made by their ancestors. It is a tradition for couples to seek the blessings of martyrs in war memorials. This is a sign of gratitude that the nation pays to its heroes, she describes. Visiting a nearby war memorial immediately after the wedding and wearing a service uniform since everyone serves in the armed forces is a custom Russians have evolved over generations.

War memorials are supposed to create memories and thus must evoke the natural urge of giving thanks and determination to be better citizens. In countries where a brief stint in the military is a must, one does not need to teach the respect the army commands or should command. But in our country, where even the sacrifices of our brave soldiers are at times undermined due to political reasons, it is necessary to keep reminding ourselves that our national life depends on the daily supreme sacrifices made by these soldiers to keep the country together. The highest sacrifice is going to the war knowing fully well that you may not return to your loved ones.

Imagine a non-descript politician calling the Army Chief, “Sadak ka Goonda”, and getting away after tendering an apology. This happens when a politician starts seeing the Army as partisan to establishments. Instead of celebrating the victories of our armed forces, such people start seeing these victories with jaundiced eyes and ask the Army to give proof of their valour.

This shows that the ceremonial obeisance before the Amar Jawan Jyoti has failed to imbibe those right values. Dignitaries come and go after paying their respect to the makeshift war memorial at India Gate, but these have failed to create the right memories for us. A visit to a war memorial is not a ritual but a recognition of the supreme sacrifices made by the country to keep itself afloat.

I have often seen merry-making people visiting India Gate for picnics or partying or simply to have ice cream after dinner. But I have seldom witnessed them stopping by at the war memorial and trying to figure out the reason for the eternal lighting of the flames. The meaning of the rifle-turned upside down with a helmet on it is lost on most.

India Gate, the symbol of the British Raj, looks imposing and grand and has become a symbol of India’s capital. But has it acquired the stature of a war memorial? I have serious doubts. Those picnic-goers should not be expected to drown their passions in sombre thoughts. Sadly, the memories are not created. I bet you ask a common person who visits India Gate to spell out his thoughts after visiting the memorial. He would not be even able to explain the meaning. So, images about the visit are created but not the thoughts. You become a part of history, yet you do not know the history.

When the Amar Jawan Jyoti was inaugurated on 26 January 1972, it was to commemorate the memories of the 3,843 Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives while writing India’s triumphant military history in liberating Bangladesh in 1971. The makeshift war memorial was embedded close to India Gate (under the arch of the India Gate) and the permanent flame was lit in the memory of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. Gradually, it came to symbolise the sacrifices made by all soldiers.

The India Gate was constructed as a British war memorial to commemorate the 83,000-plus soldiers who died during the First World War, from 1914-21. Out of these, the names of only 13,516 soldiers, including British, are inscribed on it. Some names are of those soldiers who lost their lives in the Third Anglo-Afghan war. The foundation for this war memorial was laid on 10 February 1921 and was inaugurated on 2 February 1931.

Naturally, if you have the Amar Jawan Jyoti adjacent to or under the India Gate, memories would get mixed. The symbol of the British Empire exists side by side with the independent military victory of 1971. It does not have the names of freedom fighters of India or of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Bangladesh War or the other wars that India fought and won either before or after 1971.

While no one can take away from the valour of Indian soldiers who fought bravely and created a saga for their regiments during the First World War, the fact remains that Indians had no say in this participation. It was the British who decided their wars and forced participation. This was the history of British India and not an independent nation. While this would be respected as a relic of the past, it cannot truly represent an Independent India’s war legacy.

It is in this context that a demand was made about 60 years back that the country should have its National War Memorial. The armed forces proposed it in 1960 and the UPA government decided in 2006 that such a war memorial be set up nearby India Gate. But it ran into trouble due to objections from the Ministry of Urban Development on the heritage site issue of Central Vista. In 2012, the UPA announced the decision to construct the proposed war memorial but serious objections were raised by the Delhi Government under the late Sheila Dikshit.

It appears that while the Congress-led UPA wanted the war memorial, there was a section within the party that opposed it on the pretext that it would erase the memory of Indira Gandhi’s role in the Bangladesh War. But the agenda for a war memorial picked momentum when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The Government cleared the proposal for a National War Memorial at a Cabinet meeting in October 2015 and sanctioned Rs 500 crore. This was to commemorate all soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the history of post-Independence India.

The Government stated its objective: “This government will be establishing a War Memorial and a Museum with a deep sense of gratitude to honour those brave soldiers, who laid down their lives. The memorial will promote a sense of patriotism in the minds of visitors, and will award an opportunity to citizens of this vast nation, to express their token sense of gratitude to the brave soldiers, who laid down their lives for the motherland”. And the War Memorial was inaugurated just 400 metres from India Gate on 25 January 2019.

On 30 May 2019, Narendra Modi visited the NWM to pay tribute to the martyrs before taking oath as the Prime Minister of India for the second time. The seed for a new tradition was being laid. On 15 August 2019, President of India Ram Nath Kovind placed a wreath and observed two minutes’ silence at the NWM, instead of India Gate, before the start of the 73rd Independence Day parade.

The NWM is an awe-inspiring structure, spared over 40 acres and commemorates all soldiers who have sacrificed their lives. Names of more than 26,000 soldiers are etched in granite. It also contains the names of those who died during UN military operations. All the wars have been covered. The memorial intends to invoke deep memories that should serve as an inspiration and it does succeed in its purpose.

So why should one oppose the merging of Amar Jawan Jyoti with the NWM eternal fire? The memories are not being erased but new memories are being created. Unlike India Gate, when you enter the NWM you get transformed into a different world. Images of sacrifice and valour of our brave soldiers who made the country what it is today. Even two minutes of contemplation for them would be enough to remind us why we are safe today. The Congress and other leaders have made it appear as if this was an attempt to erase the memory of Indira Gandhi. This is ridiculous. She will always be remembered as an Iron Lady who made India proud, whenever the Bangladesh War is mentioned. But India won many wars before or after that and many soldiers sacrificed their lives. It is happening on a daily basis even today. How about giving them their dues? It makes no sense to have two war memorials at a distance of 400 metres.

And what a beautiful way to remind people of another great leader of the country who has been consigned to a few pages in modern history due to the political shenanigans of the Nehru-Gandhi family—Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The canopy at the India Gate that once had King George V, King of England, from 1939-68, will now have Bose, the person whom the British Empire dreaded. A befitting memorial to Bose on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary, which is celebrated as Parakram Diwas, makes us all proud.

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

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Opinion

PRIYANKA NOT AVERSE TO A NON-GANDHI AS CONGRESS PRESIDENT

Pankaj Vohra

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has emerged as the most visible face of the Congress during the past few months, does not appear to be averse to a non-Gandhi becoming the chief of the grand old party. In fact, in an interview with an English News Channel, she said that the family would be open to the idea if that is what the rank and file want. However, this willingness to allow somebody other than the Gandhis to take over the organization at this stage is most unlikely since the controls for all practical purposes are still with the family. Therefore, the only way a non-Gandhi can become the Congress president is if the family backs such a person. The primary reason why there has been no serious challenge to the Gandhis from within the party so far is that senior leaders realise that it would be extremely difficult to dislodge them from their elevated position unless they decide to vacate the office for someone more capable and hands-on.

In the unlikely eventuality of this happening, the chosen person would have to be a politician who would be remote-controlled by them to a large degree. Amongst the current crop of leaders, there are only three who can steer the party out of its current crisis. However, there is no denying that they would need the patronage of the Gandhis who too would assist them only if it is not a long-time arrangement. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Kamal Nath who has won nine times from Chindwara and is currently the head of State unit and leader of Opposition in the Assembly is certainly a very capable politician. He has the capacity to pick up the phone and speak to any national leader, across party lines, something which not too many politicians can do. His credentials to lead the Congress which he joined in 1969 are very strong; Chindwara is the only area in the country where the Lok Sabha MP and all the MLAs belong to the party. This is not the case anywhere else. Kamal Nath was a classmate of the late Sanjay Gandhi in the Doon School and has access to the Gandhis. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has the huge organizational experience and has been with Congress since his NSUI days. He has run the state on multiple occasions and has both, expertise and proximity to the Gandhis.

Former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a mass leader and someone who can collect a a large number of people at a very short notice. His tenure as the CM is considered to be amongst the best in the State. The contributions and the capacity of these leaders are acknowledged by everyone else in the party. Either of them can also get the G-23 or dissidents on board if that eventuality arises. However, the problem that would come in the way cannot be ignored. The Gandhis cannot be wished away and even if they are comfortable with these leaders or someone other than them, their coteries would never allow the transfer of power to take place. The coteries have light weights and shallow people, who are both insecure and lack understanding of the party, its history, and ideology. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have both had long innings of controlling the Congress, directly or indirectly. The general belief within the party is that if the Gandhis have to be at the helm of affairs, it should be Priyanka from out of the three of them. She has displayed maturity and presence of mind during her campaigning in UP, though she lacks consistency and sometimes good political advise. She has been leading from the front despite realizing that the organisation structure in Uttar Pradesh was very weak and is a major obstacle to the success of the party candidates. Amongst several options being considered by her supporters as well as her to resuscitate the Congress could be a contest from Gorakhpur against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. This is something that would be opposed by her brother and mother. The only way Congress can survive is by reinventing itself. A split after the UP polls may become imminent. The developments could pave way for some drastic measures and could lead to a changed leadership scenario.

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Opinion

Caste, religion and other factors that will decide UP

Religion and caste are the biggest determining factors in the voting preferences of people in India, more so in Uttar Pradesh. It is a fact that out of political compulsions, BJP uses the religious card to woo Hindus, while other political parties ue appeasement to garner Muslim support.

Rajinder Kumar

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The UP Assembly elections scheduled next month are one of the most defining events in the Modi-Shah era of Indian politics. Its outcome would decide how they could continue on their agenda of changing the very political discourse of the country.

Presently, some of the political pundits are elated over some defectors, claiming themselves to be the ‘mai-baps’ of smaller most backward castes (MBC), joining Samajwadi Party. The event is projected as the ‘might’ of the minorities and backward classes forming a ‘real secular’ coalition. In their understanding, this might cause an incurable injury to BJP fortunes in 2024.

These ‘experts’ argue that the caste alliances forged by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, given his secular credentials, developmental work, firm support of Muslims and farmers’ disenchantment manifested by the long-drawn agitation as well as failure of Yogi Adityanath in managing the pandemic and lacklustre performance of his regime, might make re-election of Yogi difficult.

Religion and caste are the biggest determining factors in the voting preference of people in India, more so in UP. It is a fact that out of political compulsions, BJP uses communal polarisation to woo Hindus while other political parties use appeasement to secure Muslim support.

Congress with 6.3% vote share and BSP with 22.25% in 2017 elections are totally out of the reckoning. In such a scenario, even the die-hard supporters out of compulsion would shift to other political parties than to allow their vote to go waste and/or provide an opportunity to a party which they totally abhor coming to power.

Hindus and Muslims are two major religious groups in UP. Muslims would go to any extent to prevent CM Yogi from securing another 5-year tenure as he has strongly resisted anything was pro-Muslim. They would like to vote for their most trusted party, i.e. Samajwadi Party, to defeat BJP. However, in a particular constituency, if a non-SP candidate is better placed to defeat BJP, they would vote for him. Whereas Hindus, other than the pro-SP Yadavs and the pro-RLD Jats, are also unlikely to support any candidate which would facilitate any SP victory in the state.

Caste wise, 90% Yadavs would vote for SP with only 10% going to BJP. Similarly, despite all the adverse issues, upper castes like Rajputs, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas and a faction of Jats would vote for BJP. For these castes, the “izzat of bahu-beti” (dignity of women) is more important than anything else. The prime motivation for these castes to vote for BJP is the improvement in law and order situation and neutralisation of criminal elements.

One generally hears from the ‘intellectuals’ that Yogi is promoting ‘Thakurwad’ in UP and Brahmins are disenchanted with him and might not vote for him. They argue that Brahmins, who solidly supported BJP, were expecting a Brahmin Chief Minister after the 2017 election and a major share in power. One would like to ask these intellectuals if SP or BSP would nominate a Brahmin as the Chief Minister of UP. Brahmins may be a little disappointed with BJP but are not so foolish to allow UP to revert to its old Wild-West ways. An ordinary Brahmin is also concerned about the “izzat of bahu-beti” and is not going to vote for SP nor would he waste his vote for Congress or BSP. As regards the allegations of indulgence in ‘Thakurwad’, it has no weight as no other caste has any complaint in this regard.

Some political analysts are reading the defection of some ministers and MLAs belonging to MBC and SC and joining SP as a sign of BJP’s OBC and Dalit base cracking and paving the way for SP rule in the state. These individuals left BJP after realising that they would not be renominated. Ask any ordinary person belonging to the Dalit or MBC if he would vote for SP candidate, the answer would be ‘no’ even if he is a Yadav. Dalits and MBCs are generally the victims of Yadav-Jat-Rajput ‘dabangai’ in rural areas and ‘gundai’ of mafias in urban areas. They may criticise Yogi on any other issue but are always appreciative of Yogi for improving the crime situation in the state. It has been BJP’s policy to groom youngsters into leadership role even in the Dalit and MBC communities, and this is the reason that these leaders have been spurned by BJP and forced to leave.

Farmer agitation hardly has any impact anywhere in UP other than in the area of influence of the Baliyan Jat Khap. RLD, which is known to have influence among Jats of western UP, supported the agitation along with all other Opposition parties and is hopeful of performing better this time. The live pictures of the agitation at Ghazipur border shown in the media would show a preponderance of Muslims and Sikhs, though the area hardly has any Sikh farmers. Muslims of western UP are very keen to throw BJP out of power and thus were strong supporters of the farmers agitation and contributed maximum manpower to the blockade at Ghazipur border. The allegation of Khalistani support to the agitation has also been there. Jats, like Yadavs, being land-owning communities compete with the latter and are not enamoured of Yadav rule. A large section of Jats in western UP has become ardent followers of BJP under the influence of Hindutva ideology. RLD is likely to improve its position from 1 to 3. On all the seats where Jat candidates have not been fielded by the RLD-SP combine, Jats would not be voting for the combine but for BJP. Incidentally, farmers of UP are sugarcane growers and have not forgotten how SP left huge sugarcane arrears of farmers unpaid, which were cleared by the Yogi government. Moreover, encouragement to sugarcane farmers by permitting ethanol production is likely to secure Jat votes for BJP.

BJP would be hugely benefitting from the weakened BSP and Congress. While the Muslims supporting them earlier would shift to SP, their Hindu supporters would be moving towards BJP. Jatavs, who are the committed supporters of BSP and dislike BJP, may also shift their vote to BJP to defeat their enemy, i.e. SP.

The direct delivery of benefits like house, gas, electricity etc has won the hearts of the poor, who were always promised big but delivered nothing. Even the so-called allegation of mishandling of the Covid-19 situation has not generated widespread disenchantment with the Yogi government.

In a highly polarised state like UP where most of the contests are going to be bipolar, voters will ultimately decide their vote on their preferred party/candidate and, more importantly, whom they want to keep out from power in all circumstances. On this criteria, those who want to keep SP out far outnumber those who want to see an SP government in the state.

The final tally of Congress is not going to be more than 2, BSP 7, with SP and allies tally being around 60 (+/- 5). BJP would retain its present strength or improve it. For BJP, the polling percentage would be of utmost importance. If polling exceeds 60%, BJP would repeat its previous performance, and if it remains below 51%, BJP would struggle to cross the majority mark.

Rajinder Kumar is a formmer special director of the Intelligence Bureau

Farmer agitation hardly has any impact anywhere in UP other than in the area of influence of the Baliyan Jat Khap. RLD, which is known to have influence among Jats of western UP, supported the agitation along with all other Opposition parties and is hopeful of performing better this time.

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NOT GANDHI’S BUT NETAJI STATUE UNDER THE CANOPY NEXT TO INDIA GATE

Pankaj Vohra

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The Centre has decided to have a granite statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, definitely one of the greatest freedom fighters of this country, under the Canopy near India Gate in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi. In fact, way back in 1968, when the government of the day removed the statue of King George V which was placed under the Canopy, the explanation that was offered was that the place had been vacated for a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. There were multiple efforts to get Gandhiji’s statue installed and several top sculptors of that period were requested to come out with their final designs. For some odd reason, the task could not be accomplished but a huge statue of the Mahatma came up in the premises of the Parliament House. However, the Central government has obviously revised the earlier decision by declaring that it would now be Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who would look through the arches of India Gate towards the Rajpath right up to the Rashtrapati Bhawan at the other end of Raisina Hill. Incidentally, there is a Netaji statue which is already there at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Park near Jama Masjid. This particular statue was installed on the pedestal where at one time the statue of King Edward stood. Interestingly and symbolically when the Netaji statue comes up under the canopy, it shall also mean that he had displaced two British Monarchs from their places in the national capital. The Edward Park, now called Netaji Park has restricted access ever since, walled city strongman, Shoaib Iqbal had during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure as Chief Minister, claimed that before the area was developed, Akbari Masjid existed at that particular place. Consequently, the government decided to shift the location of the Metro Station there to another place nearby. The Edward Park (now Netaji Park) was developed opposite another Delhi landmark, the Victoria Zanana Maternity hospital now renamed as Kasturba Gandhi Maternity hospital. By honouring Netaji, once again, the Centre has tried to restore the iconic freedom fighter’s role in India’s Independence. This correction is also aimed at telling people that Congress was not the sole organisation responsible for pushing the British rulers out but they had primarily left because inspired by Netaji’s valiant stand against the Imperial forces, a mutiny had taken place in the Naval dockyards in Bombay in mid 1940s which influenced their thinking. There are also conflicting reports on whether Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had indeed died in the plane crash on 18 August 1945 in Taiwan or was made a prisoner of war by the Soviets since he was fighting on the side of Japan and against the Allied Forces. Reacting to the Centre’s decision to have Netaji’s statue under the Canopy, his grandnephew Sugata Bose told an English news channel on Friday that the legendary freedom fighter can be best remembered by adhering to his legacy and beliefs which were for a united and strong India where there was equality. This concept can be best explained if hate speeches and divisive politics were put aside and a dream which Netaji saw for India could be made into a reality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would inaugurate the hologram of Netaji under the canopy on his birth anniversary on Sunday. The granite statue would be placed there subsequently. As a part of its overall plan to provide a new look to the Central Vista and its adjoining areas, the government has shifted the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flame to honour those who laid down their lives in the 1971 War against Pakistan, to the War Memorial nearby. While several veterans have questioned this decision, there are also innumerable officers and soldiers, past and present, who feel that once the War Memorial was constructed, there should be a single place to pay obeisance to our brave hearts. There are also plans to have a War Museum in the vicinity and in all probability, it shall come up where the Princess Park Officers mess and houses are situated on the Hexagon between the Tilak Marg and the Copernicus Marg. A Netaji statue at India Gate is to say the least, a befitting tribute to the exceptional leader and visionary whose Azad Hind Fauj created history.

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Modi 2.0: Empowering financial inclusion

No government in post Independent India has embraced Welfarism, within the larger framework of a Capitalist order, as seamlessly as the Modi government and that speaks volumes about PM Modi’s commitment to a socio-economic order that encourages all three—egalitarianism, free markets, and competition.

Sanju Verma

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“Jan Dhan signifies our determination to end financial untouchability and attain freedom from poverty”

— Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched on 28 August 2014, with the objective to ensure accessibility to various financial services like availability of basic savings bank account, need based credit, remittance facility, insurance, micro-credit and pension to the excluded sections, that is, the weaker sections and low income groups. This deep penetration at affordable cost is possible only with effective use of technology and for this massive step towards financial inclusion, the credit goes to the Modi government. PMJDY is a national mission on financial inclusion encompassing an integrated approach to bring about comprehensive financial inclusion of all the households in the country. The plan envisages universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. In addition, the beneficiaries 

get RuPay Debit card, having inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh. The plan also envisages channeling all government benefits from Centre, state, and local bodies, to the beneficiary accounts and pushing the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme of the government. The technological issues like poor connectivity and glitches in on-line transactions have been effectively addressed in mobile transactions in the last seven years. In fact, technology has been used befittingly as a big enabler, something that never happened meaningfully, prior to 2014. Also, an effort is being made to reach out to the youth of this country to participate in this program on a mission mode basis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India, lays out three broad outcomes for technology. These are, technology to transform the lives of citizens, to expand economic opportunities and to create strategic capabilities in certain technologies. Former PM Rajiv Gandhi had said that in India from the 80s, out of 100 paise of benefits, only 15 paise reached the true beneficiary. The remaining 85 paise was gobbled up by middlemen and sarkaari babus. Thanks to Modi’s Digital India, 100% of all benefits reach the beneficiary through DBT. The success of this transformation lies in the vision of PM Modi, in the application of technology, by making use of Aadhaar that has plugged all leakages from the system, eradicated middlemen and prevented endemic corruption that was India’s bane under successive Congress regimes, for decades together.

Savings made to public exchequer owing to use of Aadhaar and DBT, primarily due to weeding out of fake and duplicate beneficiaries, have been estimated to be to the tune of over Rupees 2.24 lakh crore.

In Uttar Pradesh alone, benefits of over Rs 2.8 lakh crore (cumulative) have been transferred directly into the accounts of beneficiaries. A total of around 15 crore people in UP have benefitted under the various Central/State government schemes through the DBT, by leveraging Aadhar. Therefore, Aadhar is not just the world’s biggest digital identity programme but also a tool for empowering people by securing their entitlements.

Talking about Aadhaar, over 313 central government schemes have been notified to use Aadhaar for leak-proof delivery of various social welfare benefits like PM-KISAN, PM Aawaas Yojana, PM Jan Arogya Yojana, PAHAL, MGNREGA, National Social Security Assistance Programme, PDS, and the like. Aadhar coupled with PMJDY and Mobile (JAM Trinity) have created a robust platform for accelerating financial inclusion. Aadhar enabled payment services are providing easy access to banking services by use of fingerprint authentication. India has developed tremendous capabilities under the Digital India programme started by the PM Modi in 2015. The indigenously developed CoWIN portal, which has ensured over 155 crore vaccinations that have been given till date, is a model that has been praised globally and is now being emulated by other countries too. It is a vindication of how India has bridged the digital divide, by making financial inclusion and last mile delivery, workable concepts. The Covid management of the UP government as it successfully leveraged technology by tapping a network of around 1.5 lakh Common Services Centre (CSCs) and 4.5 lakh Village level Entrepreneurs (VLEs), to facilitate over 20 crore vaccinations in UP, which is over six times the population of Australia, is a sterling example of digital inclusion by the Modi-Yogi, double engine sarkaar. With the recently commissioned Aadhaar Seva Kendras (ASKs), in addition to the existing ones, at Gonda, Varanasi, Saharanpur, and Moradabad, the citizens of UP will witness the march towards a “Digital Uttar Pradesh”, more swiftly than ever before.

Last year, the proposal to provide monetary assistance to 11.8 crore students (118 million students) through DBT, of the cooking cost component of the “Mid-Day-Meal Scheme”, to all eligible children, as a special welfare measure, is yet another example of digital empowerment. This proposal was in addition to the Modi government’s announcement of distribution of free-of-cost food grains at Rs 5 per Kg, per person, per month, to nearly 81 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY).

This decision/proposal will help in safeguarding the nutritional levels of children and aid in protecting their immunity during the challenging pandemic times. The Modi government will provide additional funds of about Rs 1200 crore to State governments and UT administrations for this purpose. This one-time special welfare measure of the Union government will benefit about 11.8 crore children studying in class I to VIII, in the 11.20 lakh government and government aided schools, across the country.

Coming back to Jan Dhan, more than 44.34 crore beneficiaries banked under PMJDY since inception, amounting to a whopping sum of over Rs 1.55 lakh crore. Over 1.26 lakh Bank Mitras, became a part of the Jan Dhan Yojana scheme, to ensure it reached India’s remotest and the poorest. PMJDY Accounts have grown over three-fold from 14.72 crore in March 2015, to 44.34 crore, as on date. 

Over 55% Jan-Dhan account holders are women and over 67% Jan Dhan accounts are in rural and semi-urban areas, showcasing PM Modi’s unwavering commitment to last mile delivery. Out of total 44.34 crore PMJDY accounts, well over 86% are operative, busting the myth peddled by the Opposition, that PMJDY is a dormant scheme. Total RuPay cards issued to PMJDY account holders stand at over 31.23 crore.

Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, a sum of over Rs 30,945 crore was credited into accounts of women PMJDY account holders during the Covid lockdown. Over 8 crore PMJDY account holders have received direct benefit transfer (DBT) from the Modi government under various welfare schemes, at some point or the other. Overall, till date, over Rs 18 lakh crore has been disbursed via the DBT to the needy, under the aegis of the Modi government, which is not a mean achievement by any yardstick.

Banking the Unbanked pertains to opening of basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) account with minimal paperwork, relaxed KYC, e-KYC, account opening in camp mode, zero balance, and zero charges. Securing the Unsecured pertains to issuance of indigenous Debit cards for cash withdrawals and payments at merchant locations, with free accident insurance coverage of Rs 2 lakh. Funding the Unfunded pertains to other financial products like micro-insurance, overdraft for consumption, micro-pension, and micro-credit. Jan Dhan accounts opened are online accounts in core banking system of banks, in place of the earlier method of offline accounts. Interoperability through RuPay debit card or Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS), have been force multipliers.

The Modi government decided to extend the comprehensive PMJDY program beyond 2018 with some modifications. Focus shifted from ‘Every Household’, to Every Unbanked Adult’. Free accidental insurance cover on RuPay cards was increased from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh for PMJDY accounts opened after 28 August 2018. Enhancement in overdraft (OD) facilities was enabled, with OD limit doubled from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 and with OD upto Rs 2000, given without conditions. The upper age limit for OD was also raised from 60 to 65 years.

PMJDY has been the foundation stone for people-centric economic initiatives. Whether it is direct benefit transfers, Covid-19 related financial assistance, PM-KISAN, increased wages under MGNREGA, life and health insurance cover, the first step of all these initiatives is to provide every adult with a bank account, which PMJDY has been doing on a war footing. One in two bank accounts opened between March 2014 and March 2020, was a PMJDY account. Within 10 days of nationwide lockdown, more than 20 crore women PMJDY accounts were credited with ex-gratia. Jan Dhan provides an avenue to the poor for bringing their savings into the formal financial system, an avenue to remit money to their families in villages besides taking them out of the clutches of the infamous, usurious money lenders. PMJDY has brought the unbanked into the banking system, expanded the financial architecture of India, and brought financial inclusion to almost every adult. In today’s Covid-19 times, we have witnessed the remarkable swiftness and seamlessness with which Direct Benefit Transfer (DBTs) have empowered and provided financial security to the vulnerable sections of society. An important aspect is that DBTs via PM Jan Dhan accounts have ensured every rupee reaches its intended beneficiary, by preventing systemic leakages. Needless to add that, zero tolerance for corruption is not just a slogan or a platitude but an abiding work ethic for the Modi government, with the concept of “Integral Humanism”, embedded in every welfare measure that PM Modi has so tirelessly worked towards relentlessly, in the last seven years.

Financial inclusion is a national priority of the Modi government, as it is an enabler for holistic growth The journey of PMJDY led interventions undertaken over a short span of seven years have in effect, produced both transformational as well as directional change, thereby making the emerging financial ecosystem, capable of delivering financial services to the last person of the society and the poorest of the poor. The underlying pillars of PMJDY, namely, Banking the Unbanked, Securing the Unsecured, and Funding the Unfunded, have made it possible to adopt a multi-stakeholders’ collaborative approach, while leveraging technology for serving the unserved and underserved areas as well. No government in post Independent India has embraced Welfarism, within the larger framework of a Capitalist order, as seamlessly as the Modi government and that speaks volumes about PM Modi’s commitment to a socio-economic order that encourages all three—egalitarianism, free markets, and competition.

Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’.

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