Kerala watches political battles with a sense of déjà vu - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Policy & Politics

Kerala watches political battles with a sense of déjà vu

Vinod Mathew

Published

on

They say politics is about swings and roundabouts. They also say what goes around, comes around. Both sayings hold good for what is happening in the Kerala political spectrum these days.  In the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections, the last Left front had gone all out with a barrage of corruption allegations against the UDF government, leading the charge with a slew of controversial decisions taken by the UDF government, for which they coined a term from rubber cultivation. It was “kadum vettu” or slaughter tapping, the objective being harvesting as much latex as possible with least concern for the longevity of the rubber tree. An apt paradigm, as this mode of tapping is taken up when the time has come for replantation.

The UDF, led by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, did not quite have to wait for the slaughter tapping period or the last year of its governance to mount counter attacks against the LDF. The Opposition leader in particular has been leading his typical brand of crusade against a series of misguided decisions by the CPM-led government. Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has made a point to ridicule Chennithala and get applause from his fans by dismissing outright allegations, a closer look reveals remedial measures being taken as well.  

 The recent personal attack on Chennithala by CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan immediately after a party state secretariat meeting late last month suggests worry lines have emerged in the party about its government’s image taking a beating. He said Chennithala wears the RSS hat and that he was the RSS sarsanghchalak in Congress. Following media reports about CPI(M) politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai’s dalliance with the RSS during his high school days, SRP came out with the clarification that he was indeed with the RSS till he was 15 years old but became a Communist party member when he turned 18. Chennithala’s response was that his four decades in public life was an open book and he did not require a certificate from the CPI(M) secretary regarding his DNA.

 It is yet another matter that any RSS link is still seen as a political liability in Kerala at a time when the BJP has a near-total sway over most of the country. Yet, both UDF and LDF trade charges against each other for maintaining a secret electoral alliance with the BJP. Even as the state political architecture continues to be governed by these boundaries, there seems to be no dearth of scams that keep popping with predictable frequency.

 Therefore, it was with a clear plan that Chennithala began picking on the LDF government’s misdemeanours, one after the other. While it has always been the chief minister’s position that these salvos from the Opposition were of no consequence, that is getting to be a zero sum game as the corrective measures being taken are getting noticed by the public. So much so that even staunch Left supporters are finding it difficult to turn a blind eye to these setbacks. Result: Pinarayi Vijayan is finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss allegations raised against his government by the Opposition leader.

The most recent issue raised by the Opposition leader is the unilateral manner in which the Chief Minister has granted special favours to PwC allowing to set up a backdoor office in the state secretariat, based on the recommendation of the State Transport Secretary. Chennithala kept volleying questions at CM, pressuring him to come clean on why the state government was sold on having PwC Private Ltd as a smokescreen and sign up Hess AG Switzerland as technology partner with a majority stake to build electric buses jointly with Kerala Automobiles Ltd.  

It was a meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary on February 17, with five PwC representatives in attendance against three from the state government and two from Hess, apart from a Swiss national of Kerala origin who brought together the potential partners to the negotiating table that gave an inkling on what was being planned.  

 Excerpts from the minutes of the meeting:

The project envisages the exports of electric buses/ cars to Australia and other overseas destinations through Cochin and Vizhinjam ports, thus making Kerala an electric vehicle hub.

After detailed deliberations, and presentations, the meeting directed the PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) to submit the Detailed Project Report (DPR) by the end of March 2020. In the meantime, Kerala Automobiles Ltd. (KAL) can import chassis and start homologation works for approval of Automotive Research Association Of India (ARAI) to avoid delay. It was also proposed to sign MoU by the end of April 2020 after following all the required formalities.

 Following the ruckus raised by the Opposition, the state government said it had discontinued the services of PwC from the E-mobility project on July 18. But no such decision has been taken on Hess.  

“The cost that the state exchequer, struggling each month to pay it salaries and pensions, is phenomenal, as the CM keeps bringing in one international consultancy after the other. The `back-door’ office of PwC is being run by four `specialists’ and each one of them is being given a monthly remuneration in excess of Rs 3 lakh per month, more than what the Chief Secretary of the state is paid. All this cost is being borne to sanctify the entry of the Swiss electric vehicle manufacturer without a global tendering. It is clear there has been an underhand deal, giving rise to natural questions regarding kickbacks in the Rs 4,500-crore deal for 3,000 buses. Pinarayi Vijayan cannot keep saying I should not raise such corruption charges during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Chennithala.

Chennithala has also been leveraging charges regarding the absence of transparency and propriety in the PwC-Hess deal to keep raising the lack of veracity and logic behind the LDF signing a two-year, Rs 8 crore consultancy deal in the second half of 2020 with KPMG for Rebuild Kerala, a project envisaged almost two years ago after the first floods ravaged the state in August 2018. It was first claimed KPMG was rendering its services free of charge but somehow all that changed and the CM had no qualms about hiring the MNC at a hefty fee when the LDF government had less than a year to complete its term.

Chennithala has also been voluble in non-stop demand for the resignation of Vijayan, right from the days he caught the government between a rock and a hard place on the unauthorised transfer of personal health data of thousands of unsuspecting citizens of the state to the New York-based data analytics company Sprinklr, with Keralite Ragy Thomas, its founder and CEO.

The state government defended the decision to rope in Sprinklr when a specific study on Kerala by John Hopkins University, Princeton University painted a scary picture of 80 lakh Covid-19 infections in April and data needed to be generated. But the Centre was severely critical of the state government, citing breach of the citizen’s basic right to privacy. It was a huge win for Chennithala as the issue also began shedding light on many such forays by the state IT department and IT secretary M Sivasankar.

 Later, when Sivasankar get embroiled in the gold smuggling case due to his difficult-to-explain links primarily with second accused Swapna Prabha Suresh and by extension with first accused Sarith P S and fourth accused Sandeep Nair, it gave credence to Chennitala’s allegations about the CM going out of the way to protect the proactive role played his principal private secretary in the Sprinklr issue.

 Chennithala says the Pinarayi government is aiming to execute its version of slaughter tapping with the Dream Kerala project, pegged to be LDF›s development plank for the 2021 Assembly elections. One sure fire candidate would be the Rs 63,941-crore Silverline project connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod with a 532-km high speed rail corridor. Yet another one likely to be featured alongside would be the Rs 1,548-crore K-FON (Kerala fibre optic network) project. This is apart from the controversial E-mobility project that plans to manufacture 3,000 electric buses for the state transport at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore with Hess AG as majority partner. And Chennithala has started picking holes in each one.

Consider some of the controversies flagged by Chennithala, which have got the LDF government backtracking:

October 2018: The LDF government, facing heat from Chennithala-led opposition or its decision to issue licences to private companies to set up distilleries and breweries in Kannur, Palakkad and Ernakulam, calls off the plan.

November, 2019: College students Alan Shuhaib and Thaha Fasal were booked under UAPA by Kerala police for alleged Maoist links. Following persistent criticism by the Opposition, spearheaded by Chennithala, the CM in February 2020 requested MHA to refer back the case from NIA to Kerala police. In retrospect, the state police had better things to do like tracking terror links flourishing on huge volumes of contraband gold smuggled in most of 2019 and early part of 2020.

June 2020:  People of the state were jolted out of their April-May lockdown inactivity with astronomical electricity bills from the state utility. The CM initially chose to ignore the public outcry justifying the bill. Once the Opposition started raising the decibel level about a cashless government looting the public, it was forced to climb down on June 18, the CM said up to said up to 50 per cent of the additional charge would be underwritten.

It is in this backdrop, the persistent line of questioning by Chennithala gains credibility, going beyond Vijayan’s initially successful strategy of belittling and thus diminishing the gravitas of issues raised by labelling him politically naive and harbouring ambitions of grabbing the chief minister’s chair.  It is this game plan belittling the persona of the one bearing news that is backfiring now, almost like a jammed gun with the used shell not ejecting properly.

All this would not have been a walk in the park as there have always been many voices trying to drown out each other from the Congress camp.

Evidently, Pinarayi Vijayan was trying to leverage this inherent party weakness while brushing aside the Opposition leader›s charges in the early days. Clearly, Chennithala has been mindful of this all along.

 In sum, there could not have been a more ill-advised move than the attack mounted by CPI(M) state secretary against Chennithala. Not only did it boomerang, forcing senior politburo member SRP to clarify his foray into the RSS before seeing light, in this case red, it gave the Opposition a moral victory. Because, the message that came across loud and clear was that Chennithala had managed to rattle the comrades with his dogged single-mindedness. And that is almost as bad as showing your hand to the opponent a game of poker.

Vinod Mathew is a senior journalist based in Kochi.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

Policy & Politics

Textiles sector poised for a $100 bn export: Vikram Jardosh, MoS for Textiles

Industry should take full advantage full advantage of the global market shifts: Secretary, Ministry of Textiles.

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

The Government has set a strong aspirational goal of achieving $100 billion from textiles exports in thenext 5 years and we will remain committed to ensure implementation of all development schemes and bring in many more schemes in pursuit of this aspiration, said Darshana Vikram Jardosh, Minister of State for Textiles, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.

Government has already announced MITRA scheme to attract new investments and build mega textile parks in the country. Other significant programs including the launch of PLI scheme for achieving manufacturing excellence and RoDTEP for enhancing export competitiveness will help India to position it as a global leader in the sector.

The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of TEXCON: The 13th edition of the International Conference on Textiles & Apparel organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry today. A specialCII-Kearney report was also released on “Creating a competitive advantage for India in the global textiles and apparel industry”. The report covers the entire textile value chain and highlights the imperatives for both government and industry to bring global positioning for the sector.

Speaking on the occasion, Upendra Prasad Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Textiles said that the Government is making all efforts to proactively address the challenges and facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for the growth and development of the Textiles and Apparel sector. “We are capable to meet the domestic as well as the global market demands. I would like to urge the industry to take full advantage of the present global market shifts in establishing the excellence and prominence of India globally.”

Dilip Gaur, Chairman, CII National Committee on Textiles and Apparel & Managing Director, Grasim Industries Limited, Aditya Birla Group said, achieving breakthrough growth in Indian textiles will imply doubling down on multiple areas. The key ones include increasing share in MMF fiber and yarn, become regional leaders in apparel and fabrics and further augmenting India’s position as global home textiles leader. “Government of India has already shown strong commitment to this sector by launching multiple mega schemes in recent times which set a very positive tone for the future and to energize all industry stakeholders to take necessary steps forward in achieving the goals”, he added.

Kulin Lalbhai, Co-Chairman, CII National Committee on Textiles and Apparel & Executive Director, Arvind Ltd said, “The growing sentiment around “China plus one” sourcing is a golden opportunity for Indian textiles to stage a turnaround and gain back its leadership position as a lead exporting economy.” India is much better placed to maximize this opportunity as compared to competitors like Vietnam and Bangladesh because of India’s strategic depth.

Dilip Gaur, Chairman, CII National Committee on Textiles and Apparel & Managing Director, Grasim Industries Limited, Aditya Birla Group said, achieving breakthrough growth in Indian textiles will imply doubling down on multiple areas. The key ones include increasing share in MMF fiber and yarn, become regional leaders in apparel and fabrics.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Piyush Goyal calls for free trade within rules-based multilateral trading system

We must work to resolve issues posed by Non-Tariff Barriers in international trade: Piyush Goyal.

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

The Minister of Commerce and Industries, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday called for free trade within a rules-based multilateral trading system with honesty and transparency as core values. He added that wherever India faces an unfair or unjust treatment, it will take reciprocal action. Shri Goyal also emphasized upon the need for resolution of issues posed by Non- Tariff Barriers in international trade. He was addressing the 54th Convocation of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade in New Delhi today.

Referring to India’s recent achievement of 100 crore vaccines, he said that the milestone was the result a collective effort of 130 crore Indians and a proof of India’s ‘Atmanirbhartha’ and its resolve to leverage its capacities to the best possible extent and to serve the needs of the entire world.

Piyush Goyal said that a convocation is an important ceremony that marks the next step in the journey of the graduates when they grow from ‘acquisition of knowledge’ to ‘application of knowledge’.

He commended IIFT for contributing immensely to India’s external trade since its establishment in 1963. He said that IIFT has been widely recognized for its strong knowledge &resource base and has been consistently ranked amongst theleading business schools in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Underscoring the need for a committed and vibrant leadership in the field of academics in India, Shri Piyush Goyal called for enhancing exposure of our students to the best of technology, foreign law, economics, and international trade. Calling for tie-ups of Indian Universities with institutions of eminence across the world, he asked Indian universities to enter into sustained collaborations with such institutions.

Encouraging academic institutions to engage on a much larger scale with the industry, Shri Goyal asked students to take up internships with both the public sector and private players. Speaking of the opportunities offered by online education, Shri Goyal called for more exploration into online and hybrid modes of education.

Piyush Goyal told the students that they were graduating amidst one of the most disruptive events in the collective memory of our times. He emphasized that in the post-COVID ‘New Normal’, we can no longer play by the old rules. He called for using the disruptive interventions brought about by COVID to reorient our conventional, traditional thinking processes. Offering two cents from his versatile experience in foreign trade, Shri Goyal urged the students to ‘Learn, Unlearn, Relearn and Repeat’.

Piyush Goyal said that despite challenges, India under PM Modi has aimed to convert a crisis into an opportunity for transformation. He said that India is being looked upon as a trusted partner & we are engaging with like-minded nations e.g. EU, UK, Canada, Australia & UAE for early conclusion of FTAs.

Referring to India’s ambitious programmes like the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan for infrastructure and multimodal connectivity, Shri Goyal said that there was a need for planned, focussed efforts to create infrastructure in the country by breaking silos and bringing in synergy. “There is a need to bring in quality and productivity in all we do. A ‘Made in India’ product must be a guarantee to the world”, he added.

Applauding the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visionary leadership, Goyal said that India’s decisive leadership, strong industry, vibrant media and its resolve to uphold the rule of law, had made India a trusted partner to world nations.

Lamenting that India had suffered from several missed opportunities in the past, Shri Goyal expressed the hope that we would now be able to seize every opportunity available to us to grow. “The past is a stepping stone, not a milestone”, he added.

Observing that contemporary India was confident & yet dissatisfied, he said that dissatisfied, confident people are the ones who would change the world. He urged fellow Indians to never settle for less and to work together to make India a global leader.

On the occasion, Shri Goyal presented several awards for excellence to graduating students.

Encouraging academic institutions to engage on a much larger scale with the industry, Shri Goyal asked students to take up internships with both the public sector and private players. Speaking of the opportunities offered by online education, Shri Goyal called for more exploration into online and hybrid modes of education.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Builder hardware products from India have considerable global demand, says Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025: MSME Secretary B B Swain

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Builder Hardware is another performer making India as one of the top 20 suppliers with a 1.2 percent share in the world builder hardware export pie, said Som Parkash, Minister of State of Commerce & Industry

While addressing the Builder Hardware Expo, organised by EEPC India, virtually today, the Minister noted that builder hardware products from India have considerable demand across the continents.

Indian builder hardware product is one of the best performing segments in the Indian engineering goods sector which has been the key driver of merchandise exports from the country.

“Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and the construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025,” said Mr B B Swain, Secretary, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Swain stated that EEPC India with more than 60 per cent of its members representing MSME sector took several initiatives even during pandemic to provide global interaction opportunities to small players in the form of webinars and virtual Expos.

“The Government of India has been proactive to ensure that all the benefits of the MSME schemes reach the intended beneficiaries in time,” said Mr Swain.

EEPC India Chairman Mahesh Desai said that the four-day virtual Expo would provide opportunity to the Indian exhibitors to display an array of over 200 domestic builder hardware products to overseas buyers from nine focus regions and trade blocs.

“The buyers would comprise contractors, builders, building engineers, architects, landscape artists, interior designers, consultants and project management professionals,” he said.

Speaking at the Expo, EEPC India Vice Chairman Arun Kumar Garodia said India belongs to the league of leading builder hardware manufacturing and exporting nations.

“The Government of India has now set a National Mission of merchandise exports to reach US$ 400 billion within this fiscal, US$ 500 billion by FY-24 and US$ 1 trillion by FY-28 by making Indian products the only choice for global buyers,” he said.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

MOU SIGNED BETWEEN J&K AND GOVERNMENT OF DUBAI FOR REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT, INDUSTRIAL PARKS, SUPER SPECIALITY HOSPITALS

MoU will give UT a big developmental push: Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

Jammu and Kashmir administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Dubai for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, multipurpose towers, logistics, medical college, super specialty hospital and more.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon. This MoU gives out a strong signal to the entire world that the way India is transforming into a global power, Jammu & Kashmir is having a significant role in that as well.

This MoU is a milestone after which the investment will pour in from entire globe and is a big developmental push. Different entities from Dubai have shown keen interest in investment. Development has to be aspired on all fronts and we are on track, he added.

Goyal thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah for their focus and commitment towards the development of UT of Jammu & Kashmir. Recent industrial package of 28,400 Crore rupees is a testimony towards ensured development.

Terming it a momentous occasion for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha said that this development journey will help the Union Territory to scale new heights in Industrialization and sustainable growth.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa: V. Muraleedharan

‘India has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth,’ said V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

‘India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa and has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth”, mentioned V Muraleedharan, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India while addressing the Inaugural Session at the 2nd edition of the India Africa Higher Education and Skill Development Summit organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India today.

Muraleedharan elucidated that India is best positioned to partner Africa as we can offer affordable and high-quality education and skill development opportunities and make the young population employable and allow them to participate in growing economies of African countries. Elucidating on the strong Indo-African partnership in the domain of higher education and skill development, the Minister stated that capacity building and providing higher education opportunities with for the socio-economic development of our partner nations is a major element of our Foreign Policy.

India has long standing ties in education with Africa and over 2000 Indian faculty members have been involved in teaching and research activities of Ethiopian nations. Further, defence academies and colleges are being set up in nations like Nigeria and Tanzania. With a view to promote students from African nations to study in India, several initiatives have been undertaken like the Study in INDIA, ITEC programmes, Sir C V Raman Scholarship, collaboration of Department of Science & Technology with the World Bank to develop centres of excellence in African countries and the launch of e-VidyaBharti and e-ArogyaBharti Project, among others.

Dr Sarah Ruto, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education Republic of Kenya, emphasised that Kenya is working towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals with a special focus on select education-based SDG Goals. She mentioned that Kenya has a competency-based curriculum to meet the rising demands for tertiary education and there is focus on alumni network funding as well as partnerships to promote skill development.

Buti Kgwaridi Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science & Innovation, Government of Republic of South Africa informed that a bilateral cooperation treaty is being negotiated in education for exchange of students as well as to share best practices. He added that forums like IBSA and BRICS have also provided opportunities to address the developmental needs of the nations.

Dame Diop, Minister of Employment, Vocational Training, Apprenticeship and Inclusion, Government of Republic of Senegal informed that the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) which harmonises national policies particularly for human capital development and vocational training is a major step towards promoting employability. The Minister commended India for committing 130 million Rupees to Senegal to create science and technology institutes.

Dr Douglas Letsholathebe, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Government of Republic of Botswana highlighted that the commonality of English language based higher education system offers scope for greater cooperation between the countries. The Minister stated that the Botswana Vision 2036 aims at transformation from a resource-based to an all-ingredient knowledge-based economy focussing on education, training, and human resource development systems. Expressing the commitment to the youth, Botswana has joined the Generation Unlimited initiative as a leader thereby, playing a crucial role in forging multisector partnerships across geographies to provide greater access to skilling and livelihood opportunities.

S Kuppuswamy, Co-Chair, CII Africa Committee & Advisor-Group Finance & Special Projects, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said that the Indo-African collaboration has strengthened in the post pandemic era as the nations are collectively focusing on new age learning models and enhancing the role of technology in education. Emphasizing on the strong multilateral cooperation with Africa, it was highlighted that one of the most popular programs, the Study in India commonly called EDCIL offered by Ministry of Education offers around 900 scholarships to African students to study in India and Indian universities are also investing in promoting their services to the African community.

The two day Summit organised in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India will focus on Online education, Study in India and Skills Development programmes. Over 6 ministers from Africa and India participated at the Summit and event saw online registration of 600 delegates from India and Africa.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

INDEX NUMBERS OF WHOLESALE PRICE IN INDIA FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021(BASE YEAR: 2011-12)

Tarun Nangia

Published

on

Note: P: Provisional, F: Final, * Annual rate of WPI inflation calculated over the corresponding month of previous year

The month over month change in WPI index for the month of September, 2021 (as compared to August, 2021) was 0.07 %. The monthly change in WPI index for last six-month is summarized below:

Annex-I

All India Wholesale Price Indices and Rates of Inflation (Base Year: 2011-12=100) for September, 2021

Annex-II

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

Continue Reading

Trending