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Opinion

Inequality within equality in women’s education

India needs to evolve a national strategy to ensure gender and social equality across different sectors of education, domains of knowledge, as well as institutions of higher learning rather than creating supernumerary seats sporadically in a handful of institutions.

Prof. Ved Prakash

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The idea of the International Women’s Day originated from Copenhagen under the inspirational leadership of a German woman, Clara Zetkin, in 1910. Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland were the first to celebrate the International Women’s Day in 1911. Many countries had started celebrating it on different dates till the United Nations recognised the day and declared 8 March as International Women’s Day in 1977. This is the day when women must be recognised and felicitated for their outstanding contributions in the development of the society. This is also the day to pay rich tributes to the pioneers of women’s education on the one hand and to introspect and ascertain the extent to which the present system has ensured gender equality in different areas of study in colleges and universities on the other.

The history is replete with instances of how the people have played exceptional roles in women’s education. It is recognised by the UNESCO that the oldest existing university of Al-Qarawiyyin, with continuous education in the world, was established in 895 CE by a Muslim woman, Fatima Al-Fihriya in Fez, Morocco. Fatima was a keen proponent of education of her time. It was a strange coincidence that Fredrik Denison Maurice, a theologian and social reformer, established Queen’s College for Women in England in 1848 and Savitribai Phule founded a girl’s school in Pune, the same year. There were many more pioneers of women’s education in India like Harkuvarbai, Sheth Maganbhai Karamchand, John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Dakshinaranjan Mukherjee, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, D.K. Karve, etc, who should be paid rich tributes on this day for their seminal contribution.  

Equal education for men and women has been a centuries-old movement. Social reformers of all times fought for women’s rights and their equality in the society. There have been several social reformers in India whose thoughts and works have made significant difference in women’s education. Nevertheless, the University Education Commission (UEC) in 1949 observed: “Indian universities for the most part are places of preparation for man’s world. Little thought has been given to the education of women as women.” This was the time when the share of women in higher education was in the ratio of 1:6 in comparison to men. The Commission made a number of recommendations for the promotion of women’s education.  

Although the proportion of women students to the total enrolment reached 21% mark due to affirmative policies of the government, it was not found sufficient in keeping with the changing needs of the society by the Kothari Commission in 1966. The Commission suggested a number of potential measures including programmes of scholarships on a liberal scale, special grants for the construction of women hostels, free access to courses in arts, humanities, science and technology, introduction of favourable courses, mixed or separate colleges depending upon the local conditions, etc. The idea of having separate institutions for women was made because in the social dynamics of our system, certain sections were not ready to send girls to co-educational institutions, thus depriving them of the benefit of higher education for their empowerment.

The trend analysis of the Gross enrolment Ratio (GER) reveals that women’s participation in higher education was lesser than men at all levels and across different social groups. But these gaps started narrowing down from the period of the 12th Five-Year Plan which had witnessed unprecedented expansion of higher educational institutions across the country. Since then the participation of women in higher education continued to improve in a progressive manner across different levels and social groups.

Today, women constitute 48.6% of the total enrolment in higher education. Interestingly, the overall GER of women is higher (26.4%) than that of men (26,3%). It is evident that their participation in higher education has been registering an incremental increase. Since more and more students access higher education in the hope of upward mobility, expanded knowledge and independent futures, the participation rates of women in higher education are steadily improving. It is interesting to note that women have quietly surpassed men, as is evident from their GERs in 2018-19, across different social groups including Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). However, narrowing down of these gaps also hide ongoing inequalities and disparities among men and women, which can only be approached with an intersectional analysis that combines gender with region, class, caste, religion and ability among others.

While the overall participation of women has registered an incremental increase, in most cases it is limited to soft disciplines like arts, humanities, social sciences, languages, education, home science, etc. There are disciplines like engineering, medicine, science, mathematics, law, agriculture, etc., where women are lagging behind men in terms of their enrolment. These differences become more prevalent at Masters and Doctoral levels since the bulk of enrolment in our country continues to be at Under-Graduate level (81%) followed by Masters’ level (9.1%), Diploma level (7.69%) and Doctoral level (0.51%).

The recent expansion in higher education has made colleges and universities more demographically diverse than ever before, with growing heterogeneity among gender and social groups. Claims of equality, dignity and the ability to live, work and study without fear of harassment are intrinsic ingredients of this moment and the fundamental rights of the citizens. The campuses of institutions of higher learning are gradually diversifying in terms of students’ population. However, the distribution of students across different domains of knowledge remains uneven.

The enrolment of women in engineering and allied disciplines continues to be far too low despite a number of affirmative measures like creation of supernumerary seats in engineering institutions. The share of women students in the most premier engineering institutions like IITs and NITs still remains as low as 18% in 2019-20. The situation is not any better even in the most leading science institutions like Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore where the share of women students is just 20% and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune where it is only 17%.

There might be numerous reasons for uneven distribution of women students in exact sciences and technology in general and in premier institutions in particular. The success of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has given rise to enrolment of more and more girls from the weaker sections of the society. Majority of these girls refrain from joining science streams at the secondary stage, limiting their options to commerce and humanities & social sciences. The number of girls pursuing science stream further plummets due to poorer rate of transition from secondary to post-secondary and lack of their proper counselling both at home and at college or university. In addition, the notion of longer hours of stay in college due to lab-work, extended hours of study, higher educational expenses, non-availability of science programs in nearby institutions, liability of home chores, disapproval of family members, natural diffidence, etc, are cruel deterrents that discourage girls from joining science and technical streams. Consequently, the share of women in scientific organisations as well as in other premier institutions of higher learning remains far less satisfactory.  

 There was a long-standing myth based on contradictory reports about differentiation of cognitive abilities between men and women. But there have been multiple research studies that have debunked the myth about such differences. Men and women are equally good in coping with demands of time and energy required to deal with different areas of study. No one could still break the record of Madame Marie Curie who has the unique distinction of winning two Nobel Prizes in two different subjects, Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911. There are now 57 women who have won the Nobel Prize and a total of 58 Nobel Prizes have gone to women scientists, as Marie Curie got it twice. The problem is with the men folks who generally expect women to perform additional responsibilities and deliver more than them both at home and place of work. It is the responsibility of the educational system at all levels to create conditions and provide necessary tools to enable them as active and equal partners in shaping the destiny of the society and the world.

Concerted efforts need to be made at different levels to bridge up existing gender gaps. A beginning has to be made right from the initial years of schooling, especially focusing more on laggard states. It is not only about increasing enrollment of girls but guiding and directing them to the right kinds of streams in keeping with their aptitude. The scheme of popularization of science which was started in early years of independent India needs to be re-energised right from the elementary stage of school education. Both the states and the Central governments should introduce the science scholarship scheme for meritorious girls from the first year of the secondary stage of schooling. This will help increase the transition rates of girls from secondary to post-secondary stage of education. Special care should also be taken in meeting out their post-admission requirements.    

Increase in the number of female teachers in higher education could possibly be another favourable factor. It is evident from the obvious trends available from some of the states like Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Kerala, Meghalaya, Punjab and Chandigarh (UT) where there is a significant correlation between teachers’ gender and students’ gender. These are the states where women students have surpassed men insofar as their participation rates in higher education is concerned, and interestingly, so is the case of women teachers. It signifies that hiring of more women teachers can lead to increased participation of women students in higher education.

The lower participation of women in premier institutions of science and technology is a clear-cut reflection on the society which has not considered investing time and resources to remove the existing disparities. Gender equality in these centres of excellence is as important as in life. Special efforts need to be made by the premier institutions to increase the participation of women students by effecting conducive admission policies, stipends, and inspiring social, learning and living environment. In addition, they should also make appropriate changes in their curricular provisions and classroom processes which do not create performance gaps and gender discrimination of any kind.

It would be better if the country evolved a national strategy to ensure gender and social equality across different sectors of education, domains of knowledge, as well as institutions of higher learning rather than creating supernumerary seats sporadically in a handful of institutions. It becomes all the more important for a country which globally ranks 108th out of 149 on gender equality.

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

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Opinion

CONGRESS GAMBLES ON SIDHU-CHANNI COMBINATION IN PUNJAB

Pankaj Vohra

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By naming Charanjit Singh Channi, a third time MLA from Chamkaur Saheb and a former minister as the first Dalit Chief Minister of Punjab, the Congress High Command has got into a damage control exercise following the dramatic resignation of Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday. In fact, the central leadership arrived at the decision after examining the claims of several top leaders including Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Partap Singh Bajwa, Sunil Jakhar and also Navjot Singh Sidhu. Late last night, the High Command appeared to have made up its mind to send Ambika Soni as Amarinder’s successor after ascertaining that she was the only one who enjoyed the support of every faction in the party. The Captain is understood to have called her twice to express his support for her candidacy as did Sidhu subsequently. However, resisting temptation and holding on to her conviction, Ambika declined the offer and stated that only a Sikh should be the State’s Chief Minister. Taken aback by her polite no to the Central leadership, Rahul Gandhi apparently commented that she was perhaps the first leader in the party who had declined a powerful position.

Being the senior most politician from Punjab by virtue of being elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1976 during the tenure of Giani Zail Singh, the only non Jat CM since reorganization of the State, she decided to withdraw from the race of which she never was a part. She informed the Interim president, Sonia Gandhi that her conscience did not permit her to accept the coveted position which should go to a Sikh. Throughout Sunday, the Central party observers obtained the views of MLAs and gave their report to the High Command. Charanjit Singh Channi’s name cropped up and he was finally chosen to head the government which would also have two deputy CMs in Brahm Mohindra and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. Although, Channi was one of the four senior leaders (others being Tript Bajwa, Randhawa and Sidhu) from the state who started the uprising against the Captain, the former Chief Minister is unlikely to put up any resistance to his appointment.

Had Sidhu been named, Amarinder would have stepped out openly to oppose him tooth and nail. There are 32 percent Dalit votes in Punjab and the Congress decision has attempted to factor the Jat Sikh-Dalit combination to win the Assembly polls next year. The move is also to counter the Akali Dal tie up with the Bahujan Samaj Party. However, in the process, the day witnessed many squabbles amongst the Jat Sikhs, who seemed uncomfortable if anyone other than themselves was promoted. There were reports that Sidhu felt peeved and insecure if Randhawa, his close friend was promoted. The two faces of the party would now be Sidhu and Channi. The flip side of the Jat Sikhs being denied the position is that one of them or more can switch to AAP which desperately needs a face in Punjab. The Captain who had in the most uncharacteristic manner granted interviews to TV channels to hit out at Sidhu, seemed to have mellowed down on Sunday. Many of his detractors accused him of using the BJP political idiom to attack Sidhu and the Pradesh president’s strategic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa took to twitter to warn the Captain that his description of anti-national against Sidhu was uncalled for and he should desist from using such language since there would be retaliation. The BJP attempted to drag in the Gandhis by asking them as to why were they silent on Amarinder’s allegations.

A senior Congress leader said that it was below their dignity to respond to the BJP. With Amarinder declaring that he was keeping all his options open, there is speculation that he could float his own party. This appears unlikely at this juncture since the Captain spoke to Sonia multiple times since Saturday. His decision to quit seemed to have been taken on an impulse as undoubtedly, he continues to be a leader whose stature was above the rest. Senior leaders including Salman Khurshid, his friend is now trying to pacify him and the Congress general secretary, Harish Rawat has praised his tenure as the CM in order to placate him. Punjab politics may see many more developments in the next few months.

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Opinion

India urgently needs a thorough Himalayan policy

The time for philosophy and romanticism is over; the Chinese have built more than 600 villages near India’s borders. Something needs to be done, and done now.

Claude Arpi

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Since a few years, the authorities in Tibet have started implementing Xi Jinping’s theory: “To govern the nation, govern the borders; to govern the borders, strengthen the development of border regions.”

The formula can be found in every speech of the local satraps posted in Tibet; they repeat parrot-like that the inhabitants of China’s borders (with India) should be “the protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes.”

The slogan has taken a concrete shape with the building of 604 ‘model’ villages on the Tibetan side of the Indian border, mainly north of Arunachal Pradesh, but also in Himachal and Ladakh. Officially, the scheme is linked with ‘poverty alleviation’ and the ‘defence of the borders’.

In the meanwhile, on the Indian side, the border villages are quickly getting empty.

According to a RTI, more than 5 lakh people have migrated from Uttarakhand in the last 10 years. It is said that more than one lakh has permanently migrated out of their villages (not to return), while 3,83,726 people, who have left in search of work and a better life, keep visiting their native places. The RTI also mentions 3,946 villages from where people have ‘permanently’ left land and home; these villages are being termed ‘ghost villages’.

Arunachal Pradesh is facing a similar situation.

Following a meeting of several legislators in Itanagar, an Indo-China Border Development Legislators Forum of Arunachal Pradesh (ICBDLFAP) has recently been constituted to formulate plans and strategies to curb the migration of people from the border villages to urban areas.

India.com reported that MLAs representing constituencies along the India-China border have started this forum to prevent the exodus of border residents by speeding up the development of the 1,080 km frontier with China.

State Assembly Speaker PD Sona, who represents the Mechuka assembly constituency, observed: “The villagers along the international borders are still lacking basic amenities due to which they migrate to urban areas in search of better life and livelihoods.”

The Forum suggested modifying the guidelines of the existing Border Areas Development Plan: “The inhabitants of the border villages are considered India’s first line of defence. They have never failed in reporting transgressions by the Chinese troops. …Basically the border areas remained backward owing to topographical factors and inaccessibility.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately) India is not China, where a word from the Emperor suffices to put a scheme on rail; India nevertheless badly needs a Himalaya Policy, based on a close collaboration between the Center and the States bordering China.

Twelve years ago, on October 30, 2009, the Himachal Pradesh Government organized the first ever Himalayan Chief Ministers Conclave on ‘’Indian Himalaya: Glaciers, Climate Change & Livelihoods’’ in Simla.

The main objective was to discuss the issues of environment degradation, climate change and its impact on the livelihood of local inhabitants of Himalayan region.

The Chief Ministers’ Conclave, attended amongst others by Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, the Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and representatives of other Himalayan States, took place and a ‘Simla Declaration’ was agreed upon.

Unfortunately, ‘migration’ was not specifically mentioned and in any case, there was no follow up; this is happening all too often in India.

In Spring 2022, a national workshop is to be organized by NITI Aayog on the development of the Indian Himalayan region; it has been announced: “Central Ministries, State Government agencies, research institutions, NGOs, and other stakeholders will be part of the workshop. It will provide a national platform for sharing best practices on the science, governance, and field-work aspects of spring revival. The workshop will conclude with a roundtable discussion on the way ahead.”

Once again something more holistic and radical is required, because in most of these cases, the security issues so crucial today, are omitted, like it was decades ago, when Verrier Elwin’s romantic ‘Philosophy of NEFA’, became the Gospel for those dealing the borders. It resulted in a War with China.

The times for philosophy and romanticism are over; the Chinese have built more than 600 villages at India’s doors. Something needs to be done, and done now.

What is today required is a coordinated policy between the different stakeholders, including the defence forces.

A Department of Himalayan Affairs (DHA) needs to be created.

In view of the individualistic tendencies of the Indian bureaucracy, coordination will be a crucial element; it will need to be manned with (or in coordination with) officers of the Ministries of External Affairs, Defence, Education, Home, Culture, Environment as well as officers of the Indian Army, other border defense forces and intelligence agencies.

Without proper coordination, it will be just one more futile policy.

The DHA should work under the Prime Minister’s Office because if a ‘coordinator’ were to work under one of the above agencies only, he/she will not be in a position to coordinate and implement the holistic Government policy. A DHA should be headed by a Secretary, preferably with an Army/Security background.

In the 1950s and 1960s, an officer category called SOFA (Special Officer of Frontiers Affairs) existed; the scope of the SOFA’s responsibilities was limited due to the fact it was functioning under the MEA only; it was however manned by (excellent) officers, who were professionally looking after border areas.

It needs not being replicated as the situation has changed, though the DHA would have to keep in mind the welfare and the customs of the local population; this would include measures to stop the migration of the local populations towards the big cities; the building of infrastructure, the relations between the defence forces and the local population, the border trade and eventually trans-border pilgrimages.

The DHA could be supported by an Indian Frontier Administrative Service (IFAS). In the 1950s, IFAS officers did a great job on India’s northern borders and in Tibet; most of them had sacrificed their careers to join the Service; all were remarkable personalities. Even though the cadre does not exist anymore, their lives should be role models for young officers posted on the borders. Detailed studies should be undertaken about the fascinating achievements of those daring IFAS officers; a similar Service needs to be recreated for the welfare of the Himalayan population and a sound strategic development of India’s Northern borders.

The DHA will also have the responsibility to write the History of the Indian Borders, this will be important to lay the foundation of a solid long-term policy for the Himalaya.

Finally, let us not deny that the Chinese President has a valid point: “to govern a nation, it is necessary to govern the borders…”

The Government will have to be bold to bypass the babus, but it is the pressing need of the hour; China is often moving its pawns faster; but with the right moves, Delhi could win a great Himalayan battle, and show Xi Jinping the advantages of democracy over totalitarianism.

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

A Department of Himalayan Affairs needs to be created.In view of the individualistic tendencies of the Indian bureaucracy, coordination will be a crucial element; it will need to be manned with (or in coordination with) officers of the Ministries of External Affairs, Defence, Education, Home, Culture, Environment as well as officers of the Indian Army, other border defence forces and intelligence agencies.Without proper coordination, it will be just one more futile policy.

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Opinion

STIC TRAVELS APPROACHES GOLDEN JUBILEE WITH UNPRECEDENTED RECORD

Pankaj Vohra

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It was precisely 48 years ago, when former Delhi University Students’ Union president Subhash Goel launched his own travel agency, STIC, which at that time meant Students’ Travel Information Centre. His aim was, and is even now, to help students get international tickets at discounted prices to enable them to undertake trips abroad. No wonder that STIC, which is the General Sales Agent for 10 international carriers including United Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, has a track record that is unmatched by any of its rivals. STIC has over 25,000 vendors, among them a large number of registered IATA recognised travel agents, who buy their tickets through this agency which started from the Theatre Communication Building in Connaught Place, the site where Palika Bazar is located at present.

Goel had withdrawn himself from his family business and launched his enterprise with just a table and a chair at the building complex. During the Emergency, it was decided by the government to demolish both the Indian Coffee House and the Theatre Communication Building to make way for an air-conditioned underground market. The Coffee House was the meeting place for all intellectuals, most of whom did not endorse the political views of the then government. The consequence of the decision was that Goel who was the DUSU president in 1966 was left with no place to operate from. He did not lose hope and started selling tickets from an old Ambassador car, he owned and which was parked nearby at a parking lot. Shortly after that, he took up a counter at the Yorks Hotel and continued with his business. The inspiration for the travel agency had come when he had to travel abroad for a conference but had no money to buy the ticket. The then DU Vice Chancellor, Dr C.D.Deshmukh offered to pay for his trip but accepting the ticket from the authorities would have hurt his anti-establishment image. A friend in Mercury Travels told him that if he could get 15 persons to buy the tickets, he would get one ticket free. This he did in no time and discovered that the travel business was indeed money making. With some help from Dr Karan Singh, the then Union Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister and Rangarajan Kumaramanglam, the first NSUI president, whose father was also a Union Minister, Goel embarked on a new journey. It was a voyage of struggles and both he and his wife, embraced the challenge and worked tirelessly towards their targets.

Air Lanka was the first GSA milestone and subsequently, both Air Nippon and Virgin Atlantic were also introduced to the Indian traveler by STIC. Goel recognized that students would always be attracted towards his venture since in the past, another entrepreneur, also a Delhi University student, Inder Sharma had successfully started SITA travels. SITA was inspired by a US company, which stood for Students Information Travel Agency. Goel expanded his business by first acquiring an office at the Imperial Hotel, and later in the Chandralok Building on Janpath. Subsequently, his agency functioned from multiple locations, with the Headquarters in `G’ Block of Connaught Place. Goel has the distinction of being the youngest DUSU president and has his both daughters as his partners in his venture, which represented his undying spirit and deep resolve. STIC is a landmark of Delhi and its success story also demonstrates how a successful DUSU president became a successful entrepreneur as well.

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Opinion

PM Modi: The visionary and innovator

Sanju Verma

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Prime Minister Narendra Narendra Modi has clearly been the most popular and powerful leader in independent India because he has always been his own person, never allowing others to define who he is, which eventually is the true hallmark of great leaders. 

SOCIO-POLITICAL MEASURES

On the socio-political front, clearly, the historic step of abrogating Article 370 which came into effect in 1950 and Article 35-A, which came into effect in 1954, figure high on the list of achievements. However,after Kashmir’s special status gone, vide a Presidential order and a historic decision on the floor of the Parliament on August 5,2019,people from anywhere in India can now buy the property and permanently settle in the State.With revocation of Article 370,the ball was set rolling for the return of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee their homes in 1990,in one of the most horrific genocides in 1990.

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

From banning instant triple talaq and making it a criminal offence,defining the nation’s first menstrual hygiene protocol, amending the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act of 1971,giving women reproductive rights over their bodies and increasing the foetal gestation period from 20 to 24 weeks, welcoming more women recruits in the NCC,to banning commercial surrogacy, women empowerment had been the cornerstone of Modi’s policy making. 

FOREIGN POLICY HEFT

Again,significant headway has been made on the foreign policy front. For instance, while the Quad was initiated in 2007, it was only on March 12, 2021 that the first, serious leader level Quad summit was held to thwart Chinese policy of expansionism and aggression that neither India nor like-minded nations have taken kindly to. One of the other big achievements of the Modi government was, forcing China to undertake a syncronized and organised disengagement, starting February 2021, post the Galwan stand-off. While under an incompetent Nehru, India was forced to cede 38,000 square kilometre of Aksai Chin, under Modi, India forced China to disengage, without ceding an inch of territory. Be it the surgical strike in 2016 or the Balakot strike in 2019, or for that matter the Galwan disengagement, strongman Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has always been driven by the “India First” approach. 

THE UNSTOPPABLE MODI FACTOR

The moot question then is, what about the “Modi Factor”? The charisma and connect with the electorate, popularity and indomitable capacity for relentless hard work are factors that make Prime Minister Narendra Modi a leader who is in a league of his own. To even try and create a false equivalence between the indefatigable Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee, a fascist,rabble rouser, limited to Bengal, is doing a great disservice to even the basic understanding of Indian polity. On May 28,2021, Mamata Banerjee kept the Prime Minister and Governor of Bengal waiting and what is worse, stormed out of a review meeting to discuss the impact of the recent cyclone, without bothering to make a presentation. Time and again, Mamata Banerjee has shown why she is a callous, deplorable leader, unfit for any national role in Indian politics and why TMC, the party she heads, is a certified party of goons and vandals.

A FAILED CONGRESS

Modi’s meteoric rise has led to the Congress Party’s rapid fall into oblivion, changing India’s political landscape irrevocably. The Congress has ceased to matter, after a string of debilitating defeats, with compulsive liar, Rahul Gandhi turning into a vacuous paper tiger on Twitter, whom no one takes seriously. The Left, barring in Kerala, has been wiped out. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav never had any national stature to start with and both these Parties were almost reduced to nothingness in the Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly polls in 2017,with SP winning only 47 seats compared to the massive 312 that the BJP won. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,while the BJP secured 62 seats from UP,Congress was reduced to 1 seat, Samajwadi Party, merely 5 seats and Mayawati’s BSP,to 10 seats.

The “Khan Market Gang”, has tried to resurrect the political fortunes of many failed regional satraps in a bid to checkmate the Modi aura, but these efforts repeatedly came to nought. Winning Bihar in 2020, despite a 15 year anti-incumbency, winning Assam for the second time in a row in 2021, with a thumping majority, raising BJP’s tally by 2467% from 3 to 77 seats in Bengal, forming the government in Puducherry, winning 483 of the 576 seats in local body polls in Gujarat with a 84% strike rate, raising tally in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls by 400% from 4 to 48 seats, winning the erstwhile, impregnable bastions like Dubbaka in Telangana and Pandharpur in Maharashtra, are a reflection of PM Modi’s unmatched, winnability quotient.

FARM REFORMS

On the economic front, the Modi government passed the historic Farm laws in September 2020, to empower India’s farm community. These laws had been pending for fourteen long years since 2006, based on recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and National Commission of Farmers. It needs to be mentioned here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agrarian reforms have been sweeping, far reaching and inclusive. Over 6 crore farmers are taking benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) paying a meagre premium of just between 1.5-2.5%.

What has the Modi government done for uplifting the well being of India›s farm community? The Modi government has been transferring cash directly to farmers, as is evident from the Rs 6000 per year that is paid to over 10 crore farmers, under the PM Kisan scheme. Over Rs 1.54 lakh crore has been paid via PM-KISAN, since its inception, in December 2018. From just 255 million tonnes in 2012-13,under an inept Congress regime,to 297.5 million tonnes in 2019-20 and 305.43 million tonnes in 2020-21, is a vindication of how India›s self sufficiency, with exportable surplus in the foodgrain space, has added to India›s economic heft. Besides agriculture, a bright spot has been the foreign portfolio investments (FPI) amidst the pandemic, with December 2020 recording the single highest-ever monthly inflow from FPIs at Rs 62,016 crore, surpassing the previous high of Rs 60,358 crore recorded in November 2020. The year 2020 also recorded the highest ever yearly net inflow of FPIs into equities, at over Rs 1.70 lakh crore. Do note that the huge surge of FDI inflow of $82 billion in FY21,is a vote of confidence from global investors, in the Modi government›s structural reforms. India›s forex reserves at over $642 billion,is a new high too.

LABOUR REFORMS

The new Labour Code seeks to transform India and rid it of outdated technologies and methodologies. The reduction in compliance burden would also facilitate expansion of establishments, helping to create jobs on a large-scale across a plethora of segments and sectors.

AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT

The Modi government announced a stimulus of Rs 2.65 lakh crore under Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0, taking the total stimulus since the onset of Covid, to Rs 29.88 lakh crore, which was akin to almost a massive 15% of GDP. The government’s contribution to the stimulus was 9%, with the remaining 6% came from the RBI. It is true that the Rs 1.97  lakh crore expenditure in the form of production-linked incentives (PLIs) to 13 new sectors will be over five years. That said, there is no denying the fact that Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 will have a multiplier impact on consumption, especially across stressed sectors, accelerate economic recovery and incentivise job creation through a virtuous cycle. Despite Covid-19 second wave, most global rating agencies and the IMF are predicting between a 9.3% and 11.5% GDP growth for India in FY22, amongst the highest worldwide. No other leader could have, or would have done what Narendra Modi did, in terms of unleashing some of the most historic reforms, during the pandemic, to shape a new India, better equipped to deal with a post Covid-19 global order.

GARIB KALYAN

The Rs 1.93 lakh crore allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP), Rs 11.03 lakh crore allocated towards the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan 1.0, Rs 82,911 crore for the PMGKP Anna Yojana (which was extended till November 2020) and Rs 12.71 lakh crore infused via RBI measures, announced till 31 October 2020, not only injected liquidity into money markets, but also increased purchasing power via direct benefit transfer (DBT), improved cash flows by recalibrating EMIs and provided access to cheap credit for MSMEs, migrants and farmers. 

INFRASTRUCTURE

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) plans to spend Rs 110 lakh crore on nearly 7,000 projects across sectors such as transport, communications, urban development, energy and water. The plan is a grand vision involving private and state-run players and many believe it is too ambitious in its scope.According to data, these projects include the Rs 3.66 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor and the Rs 1.09-lakh crore North South Dedicated Freight Corridor,amongst others.

MEGA COVID VACCINATION DRIVE

Every sixth person in the world is an Indian. Also, India has a high population density of 455 persons per square kilometre. In the given circumstances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to vaccinate everyone from 18 years onward is not only an extraordinarily bold move, but completely do-able too. In an unprecedented display of political will power and conviction,the Modi government,till date,has administered over 77 crore (770 million) doses,with over 57.86 crore people,given the first dose.

India’s daily positivity and weekly positivity rates at less than 3%.The active caseload too,is less than 2%,while the recovery rate is almost 98%.In August 2021 alone,India administered over 18.35 crore doses,with a daily average run rate of 59.19 lakh vaccines.Till 16th September 2021, over 11.16 crore doses were given, with a daily average run rate of roughly 74.4 lakh vaccines, which is excellent by any yardstick. What is however,gigantic,is the fact that over 2 crore,as in 20 million doses were administered on a single day on 17th September 2021, equal to the population of four New Zealand’s put together. To put it in lay man’s terms, of late, India has been on an average, vaccinating more people daily than the average number of people vaccinated in 18 major nations globally on a daily basis. 

VARANASI MODEL AND HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE

Clearly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a phenomenal job, with the Command and Control (CAC),Varanasi model, being a huge success story. While India’s electorally puny opposition has done absolutely nothing apart from blaming the PM, it is the Modi government which has done all the heavy lifting. The Congress ruled India for sixty years and could not even provide 47,000 ventilators. In just 14 months, the Modi government provided 60,000 ventilators to States. Despite ruling for 10 years between 2004-2014, the Congress under Manmohan Singh could set up only one AIIMS. In sharp contrast, in just the last 7 years, the Modi government has set up 15 AIIMS and the number of medical seats too has gone up by 70%, from 52,000 in 2014 to 88,250 now. Hence the Congress and its paid brigade of jaded acolytes, journalists and “Durbaaris”, have no political or moral authority whatsoever to wax eloquent about India’s health infrastructure. While the Nehru-Gandhi parivaar and their family retainers left India’s healthcare in a shambolic state, it is PM Modi who has been steadfastly putting the system back on track with almost 3 lakh crore dedicated to health spending in 2021-22, alone.

MAKE IN INDIA

Speaking of vaccines, Bharat Biotech’s homegrown Covaxin,made alongwith ICMR,is a tribute to India’s stellar Make in India, initiative. The telecom reforms and setting up of a Bad Bank,that were announced in the last 48 hours,will further propel India’s corporate sector and unleash animal spirits,by eradicating the NPA mess, left behind by successive Congress regimes, much before the Modi government assumed charge, in 2014.

Speaking of the virus, while Rahul Gandhi did nothing for the people of his constituency in Wayanad, besides trolling the Modi government on Twitter and Sonia Gandhi did zilch for the people of Rae Bareli, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been toiling hard 24/7 to ensure India’s war against Covid is taken to its logical conclusion. While the Modi model has been powering ahead, the Kerala model has failed miserably, with over 73% of India’s daily new Covid cases coming from Kerala alone.

The good news for Indians and India lovers is the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran the world›s biggest food security program amidst a full fledged lockdown in 2020, where-in every month,for 9 months in a row, 810 million people,including daily wage earners and migrant workers, were given free food grains.Basically,every month,for 9 months at a stretch,India fed a population that was almost 2.5 times,the size of the US in 2020 and likewise,the scheme is underway in 2021 too.

In 2021,in yet another ambitious turn of events,India is in the midst of the largest and most ambitious vaccination drive ever in mankind. Given his past track record of seamlessly translating vision into reality, PM Modi is set to deliver yet again! Don›t forget, India is a massive country with a population that is equal to the population of 196 countries. Solely due to the indefatigable conviction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite being a country that is widely spread out geographically, India has in the shortest time span vaccinated over 61% of its adult population with atleast one dose, despite the opposition promoting «vaccine hesitancy». Also, overall, more than 54 crore Coivid tests have already been conducted, keeping in sync with the larger goal of testing,tracking and treatment.

CONCLUSION

In the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, there is a quote which goes: “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones that we miss.” Well, the last two years of the Modi government have been extraordinary, for the sheer number of opportunities that were seized to create new milestones. “When the world is in crisis, we must pledge—a pledge which is bigger than the crisis itself. We must strive to make the 21st century India’s century. And the path to do that is self-reliance”—this powerful quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sums up the ethos of his vibrant political philosophy in more ways than one.

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

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Opinion

LEVERAGING NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION WITH SUCCESS ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS

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Man has been using language— both verbal and nonverbal— as a tool of communication for centuries that allowed him to interact with the environment and to regulate his social behavior. Nonverbal communication adds to the information as communicated through verbal format using multiple channels like facial expression, vocalizations, artefacts, gestures, spacing etc. According to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal that makes up 65–70 percent of the social meaning of a conversation. It is one of the most pervasive phenomena of our everyday life that accompanies us mostly unconsciously every minute of the day. The body sends a continuous flow of cues/signals, consciously or unconsciously, unravelling innermost feelings and thoughts, personalities, moods, often, more powerfully than with their words. It is therefore agreed that nonverbal behaviour provides fertile ground towards effective and efficient information transference, especially, nonverbal communication could be the most reliable source of information in situations where verbal communications are untrustworthy, ambiguous, or otherwise difficult to interpret. Freud, remarked that people watchers who watch/observe people can ensure themselves that no person can keep secrets from them, “If their lips are silent, their fingertips chat, betrayal oozes from every pore of their body”.

There is not one single universal nonverbal language. Different societies all over the world show widely differing behavior patterns making nonverbal communication a culture specific. In England, the nose tap gesture is a signal for conspiracy or secrecy, but in Italy the meaning changes and it becomes a friendly warning. Similarly, although most people in the world understand the movement of the head up and down to mean “yes” or “I agree,” this is not the case with Bulgaria. In fact, there are few factors that tend to have the greatest impact on interactions when crossing cultures. For instance, spatial relations and tactile communication are used differently in different nations. Americans, Germans, or Chinese, for example, tend to prefer larger amounts of personal space than do some Latin Americans, Italians, or Middle-Easterners. Likewise, there are cultures where during conversations touching on the arm, shoulders, or greetings with hugs or kisses etc. is very common, however, during conversations, in cultures of “keep your hands to yourself” touching is virtually non-existent and if it does occur, it can be a major faux pas. Further, mostly in some occidental cultures, direct eye contact is the way to go—it suggests confidence, respect, and interest in what the other person is saying. To look away may suggest being suspicious, shifty, and untrustworthy in most situations while as, it is just the opposite in oriental cultures where people expect and appreciate indirect eye contact when interacting.

Thus it evident that the nonverbal behaviour of an individual is profoundly influenced and regulated by the culture of a country. Misinterpretation of nonverbal cues at times can result into serious repercussions misunderstandings among people. Today, in the globalized world, where businesses are conducted across different countries, often, employees will be expected to listen to and communicate with diverse workforce who may come from different cultures displaying specific nonverbal behaviour that may not necessarily match with the nonverbal code of yours. Therefore, it becomes imperative for professionals operating globally, to study norms of interaction through a detailed examination of spoken and nonverbal interaction in the native and target language and are required to adapt their nonverbal behaviours to accommodate a particular international audience. This knowledge of nonverbal differentials across cultures will become a highly valued asset in a global community.

The recent outbreak of Covid-19 around the globe forced businesses to shift from traditional offices to physical to remote to hybrid way of working. People are wondering how can they substitute the lack of the richness of communication and body language inherent in face-to-face interactions on virtual platforms. However, the rules remain the same for telecommuters as well. The virtual conversations can be enriched the same way as the physical interaction by using the illustrator movements including gestures or other natural manners that accompany words that add meaning to verbal communication. While these body movements may not have a meaning that can be pinpointed, they serve to embellish/ contradict/substitute or complement a person’s words. Similarly, one can use affect display- such as the facial movements that can indicate disgust, anger, or amusement or a number of other emotions. Again, in any business or sales situations, people who are listening can apply regulator actions like they may nod and move their head in an interested manner, urging the speaker either to continue or explain or repeat. Further, non-verbal messages can be communicated in an online environment by means of the use of emoticons and bolded and italicized text. In order to portray anger, all capital letters can be used.

In the age of the virtual communication, nonverbal cues often speak louder than our words. Right kind of energy levels, speaking with passion, the tone matching the intent of the message could prove to be infectious on the screen as well.

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Opinion

Millennials, relationships, and the pandemic

The Wimpy Kid is in a way a metaphor for how younger people across the world have become more indoor oriented because of technology. If technology had made millennials more housebound, the arrival of this new deadly virus has compounded the problem.

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There are two ways that our changing world has affected relationships for everyone but more especially for millennials. Relationships with the family, with friends, and even romances are affected. The first cause for this is the advancement of technology and the second is the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the new technologies had shaped our world, and particularly affected the world of the millennials.

Youngsters these days spend a lot of time online on Facebook and Instagram aside from other platforms. On the one hand, this is great for relationships for you could conceivably connect with someone on the other side of the planet who shares similar interests. At the same there is the danger of ignoring the here and now— and I don’t only mean bringing your smartphone to the dinner table. You don’t want to keep the people who are part of your daily life, be it parents, friends or siblings, waiting endlessly, while you excitedly track down how many likes and shares you are getting for a particular post or engage with someone living in another city or country.

I remember picking up one of the Wimpy Kid books for my niece from the airport, which I read during the course of a flight from Dubai to Delhi. Now this particular book has an interesting storyline. The Wimpy Kid’s mother feels that her kids are too immersed in their smartphones and tablets; and so, she decides that one day in a week the family will have togetherness time and all electronic devices ranging from the smartphone down to the TV will be shut down. Incidentally Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, made a similar suggestion a few months ago. Anyhow, coming back to the Wimpy Kid, the story has a very interesting, and to my mind, appropriate twist towards the end. The mother cannot find the Wimpy Kid who has wandered off into the forest, but she manages to track him down through a tracking device she had installed in one of his shoes. Meaning that we cannot get rid of this technology; it is there to stay.

The Wimpy Kid is in a way a metaphor for how younger people across the world have become more indoor oriented because of technology. If technology had made millennials more housebound, the arrival of this new deadly virus has compounded the problem. Earlier parents may have been telling their children to leave their computer and go out and play a game or sport. Now they say, it’s better if you stay at home, and if you do go out wear a mask and keep a safe distance from others.

I recently met my nephew Dhruv and his wife Aarushi after a long time. Now Dhruv got married just a month before the onset of the pandemic. Both of them are working professionals and they were both asked by their companies to work from home, the same as I myself have been doing, in my job with the United Nations. When I asked Dhruv how they were doing he said something interesting. He said, “We are together all the time, 24 7, day and night, seven days a week. With this much proximity if you can still manage to like being together, it means that your relationship is really working.”

Dhruv and Aarushi were lucky, but the news has not been so good all around. Young and old married couples around the world have found it a challenge to be together all the time. In France there were so many cases of domestic violence as a result of enforced togetherness that the President ordered various hotels to be commissioned that could serve as places for women to stay in – women who had been abused or beaten by their husbands. Too much physical togetherness can be a problem but for some millennials, the problem was just the reverse. It was to get to physically meet their girlfriend or boyfriend, as the case may be during the time of Covid-19 restrictions. During the worst phase of the pandemic, when meeting people was discouraged, I came across this case in my neighborhood, where the boy told his girlfriend: “Let’s meet up at Mother Diary. We can chat with each other while we are in the queue, shopping for vegetables.”

Where do millennials go to for advice on relationship issues? In the past they could have confided in an elder but these days they often hesitate because the times we are living in are so different from those when their elders were young. Their viewpoints, and world view are also often very different. There are online resources millennials can turn to, or they could take advice from friends but one other place to turn to for advice and learning is books.

My new novel Star-Crossed Lovers in the Blue: Love in the Time of Corona, discusses some of the challenges faced by millennials. In fact, the story itself is about how the two main protagonists in the story, the merman Arj and the mermaid Utir, overcome various problems and obstacles to be together again. In the words of a reviewer, the story talks about love, joy, sadness, anger, trust, fear, mystery, everything in parts. The novel takes the reader through a roller coaster of emotions and discusses important issues concerning relationships, including the importance of trust. For instance, Arj is heartbroken when the love of his life, Utir apparently betrays him, but somewhere, deep-down, he trusts that she would not have done what she did unless there had been a compelling reason for her to do so. It is this very trust that takes him across the world’s oceans in search of Utir, and a potential happy-ending. No spoilers here!

The writer is the author of the book, Star-Crossed Lovers in the Blue. The views expressed are personal.

I remember picking up one of the Wimpy Kid books for my niece from the airport, which I read during the course of a flight from Dubai to Delhi. Now this particular book has an interesting storyline. The Wimpy Kid’s mother feels that her kids are too immersed in their smartphones and tablets; and so, she decides that one day in a week the family will have togetherness time and all electronic devices ranging from the smartphone down to the TV will be shut down. Incidentally Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, made a similar suggestion a few months ago. Anyhow, coming back to the Wimpy Kid, the story has a very interesting, and to my mind, appropriate twist towards the end. The mother cannot find the Wimpy Kid who has wandered off into the forest, but she manages to track him down through a tracking device she had installed in one of his shoes. Meaning that we cannot get rid of this technology; it is there to stay.

Continue Reading

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