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India-China relations: The dangers ahead

While a war between China and India doesn’t look imminent, if war were to break out between the US and China over Taiwan, misunderstandings on the China-India frontier would rise, and pressure on India from the United States and other Quad allies would be intense.

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The world, especially the West, is fearful of what Vladimir Putin will do next and any added fallout from the spreading Ukraine war. Then, there has been China prowling Taiwan’s defense zone with major exercises with live ammunition and missiles. However, could there be worse dangers elsewhere risking war and even global Armageddon? Try China going to war with India given a history of tensions between the two, including a border clash, last year. A serious collision of such nuclear powers could prove earth shattering.

Indeed, let us look at important recent statements, including from the Chinese leadership. Outlook India wrote of “Chinese President Xi Jinping’s exhortation to the military to “comprehensively strengthen the training of troops and prepare for war”. This is worrying. The same article by Saibal Dasupta adds that “Xi’s statement comes at a time when troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China have intruded 3-4 km into Indian territory in Ladakh.” Combine this with China’s encircling of Taiwan with major military maneuvers around the visit to Taipei, of Nancy Pelosi, second in line to the US president. China seems much more sensitive and assertive these days to backing its positions on territorial disputes, including with its military.

On the Indian side, the reaction by the government to the Chinese incursion last year and the resulting death of 20 Indian soldiers has been seemingly controlled. No belligerent statements have been declared by New Delhi on this, at least publicly and for now. But for the Indians, their actions may speak louder. According to CNN, “The United States is to take part in a joint military exercise with India less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the South Asian country’s disputed border with China.”

Furthermore, the Modi government had already participated in 2017 in a revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad. As well, in 2021 joint patrols with Quad allies of Australia, Japan and the US were conducted with India’s navy. New Delhi has clearly not been standing still as Beijing expands its territorial claims in the South China Sea and beyond or in reaction over years to repeated Chinese incursions or “questionable” nearby activities into or near the territories of India or under claim of India. Further, Beijing shows more willingness to take stronger actions to encourage Taiwan’s full integration. So, in such contexts are India’s policies simply defensive to its giant neighbour?

Let us, however, look at Beijing’s perspective. I do this consistent with the concept put forward by Robert McNamara in the documentary, The Fog of War. McNamara, former US defense secretary, reflected in his retirement years about the need in war (or to prevent it) to have a certain degree of empathy for the enemy. After all, China feels evermore an existential threat from the West to its way of life and existence including the dominant position of the leading party, the CCP and its leadership. It watched with horror what played out in places like Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and Syria. And it watched its Marxist sister state, the Soviet Union disintegrate with added chaos from US neo-cons’ attempts to turn Russia into some parallel western model. China feels it is on the defensive to what it describes as the US- led hegemony.

While war between China and India does not look imminent, think about this. If war were to break out between the US and China over let us say Taiwan where would that leave India? As a member of the Quad security alliance and given its defensive worries about China, the pressure from the US and its other Quad allies would be intense. Misunderstandings on the China-India frontier would be at greater risk. Certain elements in the West among neo-libs or neocons might try to aggravate tensions between Beijing and New Delhi. With a conflict in the Taiwan Straits, Washington might wish to split Beijing’s focus to two fronts including the Indian-China border. After all, in the seas around it, China would likely have a superior military advantage against the US.

So, what to do? First, consider China and India have huge and fast-growing militaries. Both have many nuclear warheads, though China has twice as many, as reported by the Times of India. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported India as having the third highest military spending in the world. India is therefore no slouch militarily and if significantly or fully unleashed on China, would be highly destructive to Beijing. Strategic experts in Washington fully understand this. Do they think India, like Ukraine, would be another useful proxy to wear down another major rival? And such a clash would also stunt India from becoming too powerful for Washington and its allies, especially in its region.

Instead, India should provide signals that it is not going to be drawn into being used like Ukraine as a proxy battle ground for major powers. This means it should not engage beyond the October exercise of joint training with the US on the subcontinent. That is if it cannot cancel them. It should leave the Quad but if it cannot, then qualify its involvement by restricting its military presence to the Indian Ocean, and south of the latitude of the territorial waters off China’s Hainan Island. It should make it clear it will not get involved in the mainland-Taiwan dispute and strongly reiterate the pro-One China policy.

On the other side, China should show much more restraint of its military operations near the Indian border and even on road and other nearby developments. It should make more efforts to expand trade with India which has China as one of its top trade partners. A yuan-rupee exchange facility might be set up to further help India deal with the worsening exchange rate of the rupee against the US dollar. The two must also remember that they both have huge pockets of poverty or low-income individuals, so the imperative for peace is even more important to keep the steady economic expansion for both.

India and China suffered colonialism and neo-imperialism from the West and should be sharing more ideas consistent to South-to-South resuscitation than mutual, unnecessary battering to the bottom. Therefore, both have many reasons to avoid getting entangled or trapped into a war with each other. Can that be said of certain interests in the West and elsewhere? Washington and NATO should restrain themselves at looking at such an outcome of rapprochement between Beijing and New Delhi in zero-sum terms. The world would be better off and surely India and China would be to work concretely harder for mutual peace and development.

Peter Dash is an educator based in Southeast Asia. He has written for many publications and was a researcher at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs.

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Opinion

Dislodging BJP from Gujarat is impossible

The opposition has failed to understand the basis of the support the BJP enjoys. Gujaratis have been voting for stability and development politics that also facilitates business. The politics of freebies or making tall promises won’t work.

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BJP

Those who imagine that they can woo voters of Gujarat by giving freebies or making tall promises are going to be greatly disillusioned. Gujarat is a different territory where people are known for their acute business sense and they work on real-time possibilities. An average Gujarati businessman (read voter) thinks about his long-term interest and does not get swayed by the momentary kick that rush of adrenalin may give him from these political promises.
Gujaratis have been voting for stability and development politics that also facilitates business. They know that if the situation is safe and predictable, they don’t need to worry about their next day’s meal. The soil values entrepreneurship and hard work. Realistic promises, therefore, cut more ice than such vain promises. One does not find the same level of backwardness that you may witness in other states of India. The Saurashtra region that used to lag behind has caught up fast on the development roadmap. So has the Kutch region after the devastating earthquake that forced rebuilding the regions using modern structures and techniques.
All these explain why the Congress has failed to dislodge the BJP for the last many years despite using all kinds of tricks and chicanery. During its uninterrupted reign since 1995, the BJP has witnessed dissensions, factionalism and split. But it has always managed to surprise critics by winning elections one after the other. The opposition has failed to understand the basis of the support the BJP enjoys.
The KHAM (Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims) strategy that gave the Congress astounding victory in 1985 failed to revive after the arrival of the Janata Dal- BJP in government in 1990 and then the government of the BJP on its own in 1995. The KHAM was basically a divisive political strategy by which these caste and religious groups were to be combined to come to power and rule over others. Ever since 1995, the Congress has been drumming up various charges against the BJP including corruption at high places. When it failed to checkmate Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat due to his ways to win hearts of people, they drummed up various corruption charges, including favouritism to certain business houses. The Congress even gave a representation to the President of India in 2011 about the allegations that contained 17 items running into more than 1000 pages.
The response of the Modi government was to immediately set-up a judicial inquiry under retired Supreme Court Judge Justice M.B. Shah. The Shah Commission that submitted its report in 22 volumes running into more than 5,000 pages did not find any wrongdoing on the part of the state government and trashed the allegations as baseless. The report tabled in the assembly in 2017 gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi and his government. The tirade on corruption against Narendra Modi had fallen flat.
The Congress tried to woo voters with lucrative offers that included waiver or slashing of power tariff by half and promised to allocate Rs 32,000 crore for 2.5 million unemployed youths under which every such person was to be given Rs 4000 per month as unemployment allowance. It promised free housing for single women and announced reservation to Patel community in education and jobs. The Congress manifesto also promised to abolish the contract system in government employment and replace it with permanent employment.
One would have expected that after these dream announcements the Congress would have won. The party won the highest number of seats since 1985 but fell short of numbers to dislodge the BJP. This was the best the Congress could do and also it was the first election, after many years, where Narendra Modi was not the chief ministerial candidate. The BJP has been in power in the state since 1995.
AAP coordinator Arvind Kejriwal is trying similar tricks, although his party does not have the same base as that of the Congress. He knows that the turf is weak and if has to get an outside chance, he must offer freebies. And he is actually on a freebies spree. Some of the electoral promises include an allowance of Rs 1,000 per month to all women above the age of 18, free electricity up to 300 units for all households, waiver of all electricity bills till 31 December 2021 and unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 per month to all unemployed youths.
These promises may have electrified the election mood in anti-Modi media, this is unlikely to unnerve the BJP which knows the turf of Gujarat quite well. The BJP has the benefit of a well-oiled election machinery in the entire state up to the panna level. Every BJP worker knows that Gujarat cannot be allowed to slip away. If local elections are any indication, since it reflects the hold of the party in the electorate, the BJP is sitting tall. The party swept all the six municipal corporations in 2021 and its performance was the best in the last two decades. It won 483 of the 576 seats. The AAP stunned everyone by winning 27 of the 120 seats in Surat in its debut performance. Of these 25 seats were held by the Congress.
The AAP challenge, if at all, is to replace the Congress as the main opposition. It has failed to impress BJP voters. It would be extremely difficult for Congress voters to ditch the party and support the AAP since the Congress is a formidable opposition. The Gujarat turf will surely help Kejriwal project himself as a poor challenger and would be interesting from a media viewpoint.
Whether the Congress would be able to retain its hold is difficult to predict looking at its poor record at the municipal polls. Also, its leaders have crossed over to the BJP after realising that the Congress was a bad choice for their politics. Its poster boy, Hardik Patel, who the Congress had lapped up after his stir in the name of reservation for the Patels and made him working president of the state party, has already joined the BJP. Former Gujarat minister Naresh Raval and former Rajya Sabha member Raju Parmar recently left the Congress and joined the BJP.
It is natural for the AAP to become ambitious after the party’s spectacular victory in Punjab where it won 92 of the 117 seats. Many tall leaders such as Captain Navjot Singh Sidhu, Prakash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Navjot Singh Sidhu and then chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi lost the poll. They were all defeated by lesser minions. There was complete disillusionment in Punjab because of factionalism in the Congress, weakness in the Shiromani Akali Dal and the failure of the BJP to mark its strong electoral presence on its own. Freebies and rising unemployment and soft pedalling the Khalistan issue worked for the AAP.
There is no such issue in Gujarat that dominated the Punjab political campaign. The electoral fight has been primarily between the BJP and the Congress. Some leaders have tried to form political parties and try their luck but failed miserably. The state is a land of opportunities. It is said that if you are ready to work you will never be unemployed.
There is a sizeable presence of BJP’s cadre all across the state. Besides being ideologically strong, most of these BJP workers are personally loyal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most belong to the human stock Modi built when he was in the State organisation in the early 1990s and later as chief minister. He had identified them when they were young and aspiring to play an active role in politics. Both Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who worked as a team in Gujarat, are in touch with them and take them into confidence while formulating the strategy for the state.
There are some people who want to impress with their Sergius-like romantic approach. It may work one time or maybe twice, but it won’t work all the time because they may meet their match in Bluntschli’s approach based on a cool calibrated strategy. It may be a case of too much sound and fury producing nothing.

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Opposition attempts for a Federal Front to face BJP in 2024 continue

Pankaj Vohra

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Opposition attempts for a Federal Front to face BJP in 2024 continue

With top leaders from Bihar, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav calling on Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, days before she is set to relinquish her post, speculation has begun in political circles regarding their visit. It is well known by now that Nitish Kumar could be the possible face of a proposed Federal Front before the 2024 Parliamentary polls and has made it clear that he shall be contesting for Lok Sabha, leaving the State for Tejasvi Yadav, his deputy. This assurance has led to a patch up between Lalu and Nitish, who had virtually started their political journey together, way back in the 1970s when the J.P.Movement was gaining momentum. It is evident that they realise that since the Gandhis were not contesting the Congress organisational elections, they have excluded themselves from the leadership role of a united front against the BJP. The new Congress president, would be no position to lead the Opposition formation, since he would have to on one hand, save his position, and on the other ensure that the party does well in the big battle. Sonia was the UPA Chairperson and oversaw the working of the Manmohan Singh government. However, with her failing health, she has decided to take the back seat for a while and all decisions on her behalf, even when announced by her, are taken by Rahul Gandhi. With the Congress in no position to do hard bargaining, it is unlikely that it shall be leading the proposed front. This is in contrast to 2003 where at the Shimla Conclave, Sonia had given a call to other opposition parties to join hands with the Congress to oppose the NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. At that point of time, she was assisted by a number of Congress leaders, most notably, Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and Makhan Lal Fotedar. At present, the Congress does not have many leaders in the advisory capacity, who have the gravitas, and therefore, most of the decisions seem to be taken in a hurry without much application. Rahul’s team, does not command the same respect as the Sonia’s team of 2003. It is significant to recall that when Sonia Gandhi decided not to become the Prime Minister in 2004 after the defeat of the NDA government, Lalu Prasad Yadav, sent a message that the leader of the UPA would be chosen by all the constituents. However, Fotedar stepped in and made it known to the former Bihar CM that since the Congress was the largest party, it is Congress alone which shall decide on who the leader of the UPA should be as also the next Prime Minister. Nitish and Lalu in the present context believe that the credentials of those who are outside the Congress fold to take the lead, were stronger. Although West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee and Maharashtra strongman, Sharad Pawar are expected to play a stellar role in Opposition politics, Nitish is looking like the front runner at this juncture. It is another matter that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to go from strength to strength and there is no big challenge to his position. The Sonia, Nitish-Lalu meeting should be apparently viewed as an exploratory exercise to assess each other’s mind as also the emerging situation. A lot more developments are expected in the future, especially after the Congress completes its organisational elections. 
— Pankaj Vohra

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JAISHANKAR’S SPEECH, UKRAINIAN CONFLICT AND UN REFORM

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JAISHANKAR’S SPEECH, UKRAINIAN CONFLICT AND UN REFORM

Many things were said by Foreign Minister Jaishankar in his address to the General Assembly on 24 September, but what stood out as noteworthy was his focus on the urgency of UN reform, describing the current structure as ‘anachronistic and ineffective’ and how it was being increasingly perceived as ‘denying entire continents and regions a voice.’
Many people have expressed disappointment with the United Nations in the context of the Ukrainian conflict. Dissatisfaction has been expressed on two counts. On the one hand the complaint has been made that the organisation itself has shown itself to be incapable of handling a real global crisis. Especially since this particular crisis is not an ordinary one, since Russia, possesses nuclear weapons in the thousands – and President Putin has recently hinted darkly at the possibility that he may use them.
The second complaint doesn’t target the organisation itself as much as it targets its current leader, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. In a recent article in Foreign Policy Harvard Professor Stephen Walt wished for every world leader to have the following observation prominently displayed on his work desk: ‘It’s much easier to start a war than to end it.’ It has been separately argued that Guterres did not do enough to prevent the war in Ukraine.
It is argued that the Secretary General did not properly heed advice given to him by Western nations in January this year before the Russian attack commenced on 24 February 2022. Satellite imagery clearly showed a troop build-up by the Russians near the Ukrainian border. According to American intelligence and advice tendered there was a clear possibility of the Russians invading and Mr Guterres should therefore have taken preventive action. What kind of preventive action?
At a minimum, have a face-to-face talk with the leaders of both nations, especially Putin. It is further argued that it wasn’t even necessary for Guterres to make a special trip to Moscow for this purpose. He was, anyhow, going to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Winter Olympics taking place in Beijing, which Putin would also be attending, (together with the Chinese premier Xi). He could have tried to use that opportunity to have a short but effective engagement with Putin.
Guterres confessed later that, like many others at the time, he never really believed that Russia would invade Ukraine. As a matter of fact, he had made a public announcement to that effect just three weeks before the invasion happened.
In his defence, it can be said that at the end of the day we are all human, and Guterres was by no means alone in concluding that the Russians were actually bluffing and would never really invade. Critics of Guterres do not accept this line of defence arguing that the job of the Secretary General of the United Nations is a job different from all others and requires the head of the UN to be on the ball all the time. The Secretary General needs to be super-alert and super-active all the time, simply because the stakes can be so very high. Once the invasion of Ukraine took place, it became all the more difficult to end the war.
Anyhow what’s done is done and cannot be undone. After all, even had the UN Secretary General been more alert and savvier than he was, he may not have been able to prevent the invasion. Critics of the UN Secretary General perhaps do not have an appreciation of the structural limitations under which the Secretary General operates, which brings us to the second criticism which is that the UN has failed as an institution.
There are some of us who argue that the organisation itself should be disbanded. Clearly an overreaction and an extremely foolish idea, it is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Let us not forget that the UN and Guterres are even now playing an important, perhaps indispensable role in the conflict. In the early days of the conflict, on 28 April 2022, when Guterres visited Kiev, he spoke in an interview on how he had seen airports, roads and schools all lie in ruins due to Russia’s invasion. Large populations were without water or electricity. The Secretary General also spoke then on how together with its humanitarian partners the UN was working to ensure safe passage from besieged areas, and to provide aid where security permitted, allowing around 600,000 people to receive some form of aid. That humanitarian effort continues.
If the UN did not exist, we would anyhow need an organisation much like it. What makes far greater sense is to try and reform the United Nations so that it has the power to constructively intervene in such volatile, dangerous situations. As Prime Minister Modi suggested recently, a view echoed by President Macron, this is not the era of war, and there should therefore be an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and International Law. As things stand, however, the UN Charter does not envisage a credible action plan in the event a UN Security Council member, in this case Russia, itself becomes an aggressor.
Who will bell the cat? The Council will never reform itself, without pressure being brought to bear upon it. The call for reform can only come from the larger community of nations. History has time and time again shown how the demonstration of public will and determination can unseat monarchs and dictators who might appear, from the outside, to be too well entrenched to topple. We, the people of the world, cannot sit and watch while the UN Security Council starts to increasingly resemble an oligarchic club that refuses to open its doors to other important actors, for all of us have a stake in the survival of the planet.

Rajesh Talwar is an author of 34 books across multiple genres. He has worked for the United Nations for over two decades across three continents in numerous countries.

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Opinion

Jan Dhan and inclusivity: The Modi way

Financial inclusion is a national priority of the Modi government, as it is an enabler for holistic growth.

Sanju Verma

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Jan Dhan and inclusivity: The Modi way

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched on 28 August 2014, with the motive of ‘Banking the Unbanked’, with 179 million accounts being opened in the first year itself. PMJDY’s objective has been 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 excluded sections, that is, weaker sections and low income groups. PMJDY accounts hit 462.5 million, as in, 46.25 crore accounts in the last eight years, with deposits hitting a solid Rs 1.73 lakh crore. Operative accounts as a percentage of the total, stood at a healthy 81.2% in August 2022. Average deposits, per Jan Dhan account, rose to Rs 3761 in August 2022, from Rs 3398 a year ago. The average deposit per account is up over 2.9 times from Rs 1279 in August 2015.The increase in average deposit is an indication of increased usage of accounts. PMJDY has expanded its coverage to 67% of the rural and semi-urban areas and has over 56% women account holders, in a remarkable example of not only being the world’s largest financial inclusion scheme, but also being gender sensitive. About 80 million PMJDY account holders receive direct benefit transfer (DBT) from the Modi government.
Digital transactions have seen an increase with 319.4 million RuPay debit cards being issued under PMJDY, installation of point of sale (PoS) machines and introduction of UPI, taking total such transactions to 71.95 billion in FY22 from 9.78 billion in FY17.Total RuPay card transactions at PoS and e-commerce have increased from 282.8 million in FY17 to 1.51 billion in FY22.
The centre now plans to cover PMJDY account holders under its flagship insurance schemes, PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and PM Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and improve access for them, to micro-credit and micro investment plans such as flexi-recurring deposits.
PMJDY is a national mission on financial inclusion. In addition, the beneficiaries get RuPay Debit card, having in built accident insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh. 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, under successively incompetent Congress regimes.
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi had said that in India from the 1980s, 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 PM Modi’s Digital India, 100% of all benefits reach the beneficiary through DBT. Coming back to Jan Dhan, more than 1.46 lakh ‘Bank Mitras’, became a part of PMJDY, to ensure it reached India’s remotest and the poorest. Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), a sum of over Rs 30,945 crore was credited into accounts of women PMJDY account holders during the Covid lockdown.
“Banking the Unbanked” pertains to opening of basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) accounts with minimal paperwork, relaxed KYC, e-KYC, account opening in camp mode, zero balance & zero charges. “Securing the Unsecured” pertains to issuance of indigenous debit cards for cash withdrawals and payments at merchant locations. “Funding the Unfunded” pertains to other financial products like micro-insurance, overdraft for consumption, micro-pension and micro-credit. Jan Dhan accounts are online accounts in the 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.The scheme also provides Rs 2 lakh for accidental death and full disability, and Rs 1 lakh for partial disability, for a premium of just Rs. 12 per annum. Enhancement in overdraft (OD) facilities was enabled, with OD limit doubled from Rs 5000 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 2022, was a PMJDY account. Within 10 days of nationwide lockdown, more than 20 crore women PMJDY accounts were credited with ex-gratia. PMJDY 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 post 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.
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 8 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 Narendra Modi’s commitment to a socio-economic order that encourages all the 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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Opinion

Cinema on big screen back in Kashmir after 32 years

Pankaj Vohra

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Cinema on big screen back in Kashmir after 32 years

It is a well-known fact that both Bollywood and Cricket are perhaps the greatest unifying forces in the country. Therefore, the return of cinema on the big screen in Kashmir is perhaps a great breakthrough made by the present administration and could contribute in restoring some sort of normalcy in the Union Territory. Over the years, Kashmir was one of the favourite places for shooting movies and its beautiful scenic surroundings provided the backdrop for so many on the screen romances. Raj Kapoor was probably the first big producer director who shot his Barsaat’ in the valley. There were objections in some quarters when the movie was released since orthodox people objected to Nargis wearing a Kashmiri dress. There was no end to filming there onwards. Shammi Kapoor’sJunglee’ which provided him the Yahoo image and launched him from that point as the rebel star was partly shot in Kashmir. Scores of movies from Kashmir Ki Kali’ andJab Jab Phool Khile’ starring Shashi Kapoor followed. However, at the beginning of the 1990s, some people decided to take law into their own hands and objected to Bollywood movies being screened. Their primary objection was that their religion did not permit films. This was a totally uncalled for interpretation of Islam since in neighbouring Pakistan which is an Islamic country, Movies continued to be produced and watched by millions of people. In fact, Hindi films were a big hit in that country and on my only visit to Islamabad in 2005, was surprised to see Shah Rukh Khan posters and videos at many places. It was evident that Bollywood was a big influence and people looked forward to watching films produced in Mumbai and elsewhere. Thus, to infer that movies should be banned in Kashmir was a completely regressive step. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has taken this initiative of once again making theatres available to the masses so that they could enjoy watching movies. It has always been the constant demand of anyone from Kashmir who visits other parts of the country that their programme should include at least two or three movies. The administration there has made it possible for them to entertain themselves in their own cities and towns. Many people have expressed the apprehension that Ultras inspired by forces from across the border may try and disrupt the screening and may also target the movie theatres to spread terror. The government is obviously prepared to take everyone on who wishes to pursue this kind of line. In fact, people should come out in open support of the authorities as without their participation, it would be extremely difficult to take this positive proposal ahead. Kashmir was always known for its distinct culture and cannot be deprived of this new experience for many who may have never been to a theatre. This is a step in the right direction which needs wider endorsement. Once movies start getting screened, more and more producers would line up to shoot their films thus adding to the revenue of the UT and other areas. Kashmiris cannot be denied entertainment any further. And the movies will strengthen their economy because the film industry is very resourceful and influential. 

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Opinion

CRIME AGAINST WOMEN: A STUDY OF PERCEPTIONS AND AWARENESS IN YOUTH

The Indian legislations made to deal with crimes against women are in galore. The Constitution of India and certain other legislations having bearing on women’s protection are as under of certain other enactments pertaining to the crimes committed against women. These laws have been passed by Indian Parliament from time to time to prevent such crime against women in the Indian society.

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It is an exigency today for our society to thoroughly study the crimes against women in various patterns and shades. The crime against women has become the order of the day and the same is confirmed by our print, web and broadcast media by their news reporting and coverage. Though women are worshipped as life givers, the numerous instances of crimes against women stand antithetical and are as stigma to our culture. It may look repetitive but to remind that women play a very pivotal role in the society, and yet the society has not given them their due share and the veneration they deserve. The Indian patriarchy has always been biased against women and this negative inclination has resulted in grievous offences like rape, acid attack, stalking, voyeurism and a host of other heinous crimes.
The glorious Vedic history stands as a witness that women in India were treated as goddess in the form of Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Durga and had a very reverential status in the society they enjoyed the equal rights like men. However the medieval period saw the unprecedented and never to be repaired deterioration in the status women one time enjoyed. The new low was that they were treated as subservient as property. They were no near men not to think of near equality. This period was called ‘Dark Period for Women’ and it holds water. The period of British rule further lowered the position of women drastically mainly due to the western socio-cultural impact. Many reform movements were launched for the women and by the women against the age old bias, inequality, suppression and other corollary atrocities, and voiced for the women education and necessary legal reforms. Thus during this period the efforts of the reformers, national leaders and women’s organizations resulted in a good deal of social legislations by the British Government.
After Independence, the Constitution of India guaranteed gender equality, fundamental rights and special provisions for the treatment and development of women in every sphere of life. Even after these rights, women have been always discriminated on the basis of their sex.
Efforts have been made at various levels to curb the same. However, no substantial change had been visible until the year 2012, when the heinous rape committed in Delhi shook the entire nation up from this false stupor of security.
In December 2012, the Government introduced the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill sought to redefine the offence of rape and amend the penal laws in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission of India and the National Commission for Women (NCW). Following the Delhi gang-rape incident, the Government constituted a three member committee headed by the former Chief Justice J. S. Verma to suggest amendments to the criminal laws to ensure speedier justice and enhanced punishments in cases of extreme sexual assault. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, passed in the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively on March 19 and 21, 2013), the bill received presidential assent on 2 April 2013 and was deemed to be effective from 3 February, 2013. Most of the recommendations made by Justice Verma Committee were incorporated as paramount for quicker trial and an enhanced punishment for the criminals committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.
India being a follower of UN Charter and other important international instruments like Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women 1979, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, and related Protocols of 1976. These international instruments provide for equality, security, liberty and integrity for all persons inclusive of women.
The Indian legislations made to deal with crimes against women are in galore. The Constitution of India and certain other legislations having bearing on women’s protection are as under of certain other enactments pertaining to the crimes committed against women. These laws have been passed by Indian Parliament from time to time to prevent such crime against women in the Indian society.
There are many factors that contribute to crime against women in India such as chauvinistic patriarchy, illiteracy, unemployment, unequal wages, discriminatory socio-cultural practices, lack of awareness of seriousness of the crime, unquestioned acceptances of men’s superiority over women etc.
In the emotionally charged atmosphere after Nirbhaya gang rape case at that time, parliament did not get scope for undertake its due deliberation on the amendments or debate on each clause. It was anxious to appease public sentiment and enact more stringent rape laws.
Presently, the failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law, and not the want of needed legislation of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 as the changes are unquestionably draconian. If there is a felt need for more laws, then there are many recommendations of expert bodies and judicial decisions that remain unimplemented. But the government ignored all the recommendations and in haste passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. The amendment brought certain change in IPC, Cr.P.C. and the Evidence Act particularly relating to protection of women against crime. These challenges unquestionably the Criminal Law Amendment Act which is being abused in practice.
In recent years there has been an alarming increase in sexual violence and harassment of women, which reveals a large scale societal breakdown. Violence against women appears to have the dual function of at once controlling women and perpetuating their interior status. It also aims at restricting women’s mobility and sexuality and to punish women who flout societal norms prescribed by the particular community. All the public place are physically dominated by man which poses a number of threats for women while they are moving towards pursuing education, acquiring some gainful employment or even trying to make a stride in the public space. To enable women to fight against discrimination and abuse it is necessary to empower them by ensuring for them appropriate and effective legal aid. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is a successful step in this sense which not only expands the definition of rape, it also addresses penalties for other abhorrent forms of crime like stalking, voyeurism. But the study revealed that appropriate and efficient laws alone are not sufficient to protect the right to live with dignity of women.
The purpose of law is to prescribe the standard of behaviour of the people and to regulate their conduct in a civilized society. Faithful implementation of the law is of the essence under the rule of law for good governance. In the absence of faithful implementation of the laws by efficient machinery, it remains mere rhetoric and a dead letter.
Unless and until people are ready to fight for it, things will not change. To handle women-related crimes effectively society’s perception needs to be completely altered. Strict law, however, creates fear among the people but it cannot put a complete deterrent to it since male domination and women subordination is very much ingrained in our socio-economic and political system. Socialization of children based on equality of sexes can redistribute and equate the power between male and female thereby alter the unequal power relations between both the sexes. Social media can play a significant role in making the masses understand sexism, sexual violence, fighting patriarchy and facilitating altitudinal change in the society.

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