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Old Chinese habits die hard but have we learnt the lessons?

China’s questionable conduct regarding border and territory disputes has raised eyebrows time and again. What remains to be seen now is whether India can learn from history to prevent it from repeating.

Claude Arpi

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Indian Army

An often mentioned remark is: “History repeats itself.” Even in antiquity, a Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence was taught. When one looks at the history of the Communist Party of China since 1949, one can see that there is definitely some truth in this concept.

I experienced this “recurrence” a number of times during recent research on the Indian presence in Tibet between 1947 and 1962. Trying to put on record what happened to the age-old relation between India and Tibet is a rather depressing story, not only because it ended with the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet and a border war with China, but also because history seems to be repeating itself today, even in the minutest details.

Since our planet entered the ‘New Virus Era’ (which originated from China) in January, followed by the unexpected attack from the People’s Liberation of China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in May, the past events in Tibet kept coming to my mind. China seems to have never given up its quest to extend what it perceived as its territory; further, the brutal way to push its interests remains the same.

I remember the great historian R.C. Majumdar’s statement from decades ago, when he had rightly assessed the Chinese way of behaving, which went: “There is one aspect of Chinese culture that is little known outside the circle of professional historians. It is the aggressive imperialism that characterised the politics of China throughout the course of her history… Thanks to the systematic recording of historical facts by the Chinese themselves… we [historians] are in a position to follow the imperial and aggressive policy of China from the third century BC to the present day, a period of more than twenty-two hundred years… It is characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she should regard it as a part of her empire forever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.” Today, China’s claims have advanced further to earlierunclaimed new areas, and when the mindset does not change, history can only repeat itself.

The Communist regime probably still believes that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. It was true in Xinjiang and Tibet in the early 1950s, and it is a fact in Ladakh today. In 1949, hardly two months after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Mao had annexed Xinjiang, opening the door to Western Tibet which would be occupied a few months later.

 There is a recurrent characteristic of the Communists regime: First, it takes what it “needs”, then announces that it is ready to talk. The two-pronged strategic move had been followed in Tibet, with the military attack on Chamdo in October 1950, after which negotiations had been held in May 1951, forcing a 17-Point Agreement on a weak Tibetan nation. It was a typical Chinese approach. Later, Mao did the same thing in the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh. He built a road on Indian territory and sent Zhou Enlai, his Premier, afterwards to discuss with the idealist Indian Prime Minister.

Today, whether it is in the South China Sea, in Ladakh or elsewhere, China has followed the same pattern — it helps itself to what it wants and then offers to talk. At the same time, as we have seen recently in Ladakh (or 60 years ago for the Aksai Chin), Beijing remains intransigent and refuses to vacate any of the areas which have been freshly occupied.

Beijing has been unable to justify its action in one more ‘repeat’ of the kind of incidents seen in the 1950s, even with solid historical proofs Why is it so? In 1950, apart from a vague suzerainty, China had no proof that Tibet and Xinjiang ‘belonged’ to the Middle Kingdom (China’s suzerainty over Tibet was called by Lord Curzon a ‘constitutional fiction’). Ditto in Ladakh, where China cannot justify its military advance, even though, at the same time, the Chinese propaganda would like to make us believe that black is white or vice-versa. In March 1959, Mao had projected the Tibetan Uprising as the ‘emancipation of the serfs’, whereas the reality had been the very opposite. It was the greatest mass movement witnessed in the Land of Snows, with the entire population of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital revolting against the invaders. Meanwhile, today, the Chinese propaganda claims that India attacked China in Ladakh and tried to grab some ‘legitimate’ Chinese territory. The tragedy is that the Chinese masses have no choice but to believe their official media (as there is no other).

The two years preceding the closure of the Indian diplomatic missions in Tibet in 1962 saw constant harassment of the Indian diplomatic personnel in Tibet who had to deal with thorny issues such as the fate of Indian traders or the vicissitudes of the pilgrims to Mt Kailash. It is frightening to see that in each case, the Chinese authorities put the blame on the helpless Indian officials in Lhasa, Gyantse or Yatung.

Finally, the Chinese way to negotiate continues to follow similar patterns. At the end of 1953, negotiations for the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India” started in Beijing. The talks were to be settled in a couple of weeks. It took four months to arrive at an accord, and in the process, the Indian negotiator “forgot” to include the border (an issue still haunting India) in the package deal. On 23 March 1954, after three months of tough negotiations, the Indian Ambassador N. Raghavan cabled Delhi that the Chinese had objected to keeping open the old traditional route via Demchok in Ladakh. The Indian diplomat could not understand why.

A month later, on 24 April, Raghavan informed Delhi about a fight which took place between him and Zhang Hanfu, his Chinese counterpart. “It was a royal fight from beginning to end,” he reported. In the process, the Indian diplomats discovered that China had a big problem with Ladakh. It virulently objected to the Ladakh route being included in the Agreement, and Zhang quoted an oral understanding. “[China] would not like in writing even by implication to have any reference to Ladakh,” cabled Raghavan to Delhi. Why? Simply because the mountainous region was considered a “disputed” region, with China claiming part of it. The route has never been reopened since then.

History seems to repeat again and again, but one can hope that India has learnt some lessons from history and will be firmer and stronger than it was in the 1950s.

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

Opinion

TEJASHWI GETS JOBS BACK ON POLL AGENDA

Priya Sahgal

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If there is one thing that has stood out in the Bihar election campaign, it is the return to issues that matter. Initially there was a concern, especially when the Sushant Singh Rajput controversy surfaced that this might dominate the Bihar polls, more so when this was made into a Bihari asmita (pride) versus Maharashtrian pride. But, perhaps it was the pandemic and the real-life issues it threw up to the surface, one has not heard much about the Sushant Singh Rajput case on the campaign field. Instead, we are hearing issues that matter: jobs predominantly.

Yes, a lot of it has to with the pandemic and the job loss, added to the fact that a large part of Bihar migrates to states outside to find work. However, during Covid-19, they have been rendered jobless and had to return home to a state that doesn’t offer any alternatives either. Which is why when young Tejashwi Yadav, the RJD leader and the main face of the Opposition, promised 10 lakh (government) jobs annually, he hit a chord. Don’t forget the demographics of Bihar which has around 58 percent of its population between 18 and 40 years. Amongst these are not just first-time voters but also young graduates and job seekers. Initially the NDA made a mistake when it ridiculed Tejashwi asking him where he would find so many jobs. But sensing the mood on ground, the BJP did a quick turn-around and fielded the finance minister to launch its manifesto, which promised 19 lakh jobs. However bigger is not always better; it also has to sound realistic. Tejashwi was quick to pick up the mantle and announce that he had done his maths. There were already four-and-half lakh government jobs in the posts of junior engineers, doctors and teachers lying vacant. All he had to do was to create five-and-half lakh in his first year to deliver on his promise : What was the BJP’s game plan? 

The BJP still has to answer but at least the young Yadav has got it focusing on issues that matter. However, there are still enough party leaders who insist on talking about Article 370, Pulwama, CAA and that old bogey of nationalism at local rallies. When will the party realise that every election is not a test of one’s patriotism? And that it’s not the voters who are being tested but the politicians, on the basic issues of roti, kapda and makaan, not some grand ethereal concepts of nationalism. One thought the party might have learnt its lesson both in Delhi and Maharashtra Assembly polls when Arvind Kejriwal and Sharad Pawar thwarted every move by the BJP to make a local election into a test of nationalism by raking up CAA and Article 370. But, it seems as if the BJP hasn’t moved on. 

And for a party that claims nationalism as its calling card, how does it explain its promise of free vaccines only for Bihar? What about the rest of the country? Is the vaccine simply a sop to woo targeted vote-banks? Many BJP leaders including Bhupender Yadav have valiantly tried to explain this statement as a policy statement but while it may have some impact on ground, what does it say about the outlook of a party that claims to be India’s largest political outfit? 

As for Rahul Gandhi, he is also reminding the voters about the ills of demonetisation, of migrant workers who were abandoned by the Bihar government, and of course the threat from China, but given the fact that the Congress doesn›t have a sizeable on-ground presence one is not sure what impact his rallies will make. 

Bihar goes to vote today. On the eve of the first phase of polling, the opinion polls have given the NDA an edge. It also seems that Chirag Paswan›s choreographed little revolt hasn›t taken off (going by the opinion polls). However, reporters on the ground tell a different story. They talk of both Tejwashwi and Chirag Paswan making an impact (at least those appearing on my show Roundtable on NewsX) and even speculate on the possibility of the two coming together as a youthful alternative to the Nitish-Modi combine. Even if that does not happen and the polls are proved right, at least Tejashwi has managed to get the poll narrative to focus on issues that matter. That itself is no mean achievement.

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China’s border villages are a threat to India’s defences

Beijing’s construction of ‘Xiaokang villages’ and tourism infrastructure close to the Indian border is a worrisome development. It is time for Delhi to realise its consequences and take necessary measures.

Claude Arpi

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Tibet Work Forums (TWF) are large gatherings called every 5 to 10 years to discuss the policies of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for Tibet. They are regularly attended by the members of the powerful Politburo, including its Standing Committee, members of the CPC’s Central Committee, senior PLA generals, United Front Work Department officials and regional leaders.

One of the main decisions of the sixth gathering, presided over by President Xi Jinping, had been to develop tourism as the main activity on the plateau. Tibet thus became a large entertainment park, a thousand times larger than Disneyland, and brought nearly forty million Han tourists to the plateau in 2019.

While the previous TWFs completely escaped the Indian media, the Seventh TWF, held in Beijing on 28-29 August, got a wide coverage. It was a crucial event at a time when China is entangled in a tense face-off on the Indian frontiers, after Xi’s reckless moves in Ladakh. The Forum’s TV report lasted a record 14 minutes, mostly quoting Xi Jinping and showing the large ‘masked’ attendance, including the PLA’s Service Chiefs, highlighting the crucial significance of Tibet for the Communist Party.

It also came at a time when Beijing is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the so-called Liberation (read ‘invasion’) of Tibet, as well as the 55th anniversary of the creation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), which has never really been autonomous.

To understand the TWF’s importance for India, it is necessary to remember Xi’s well-known theory about the ‘border areas’: “Governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilising Tibet”. Since the month of May, we have understood better why China wants to stabilise and control its border: It needs to have a safe base for its military operations. The Sixth TWF had also decided on several poverty alleviation schemes, particularly the construction of hundreds of Xiaokang (‘moderately-well-off’) villages, some particularly close to the border with India.

Beijing’s unspoken rationale is that it is easier to control the ‘masses’ when they are sedentary and settled in well-connected villages (via wi-fi and surveillance cameras). It is a fact that today the whereabouts and actions of all the ‘resettled’ villagers can be controlled through their mobile phones and other surveillance gadgets. The development of these strategic villages is a crucial way to ‘govern the borders’ and has serious implications for India’s defence, as the demography of the border areas will be changed slowly by this.

In October 2020, Xinhua announced that China has realised a historical feat: It had eliminated absolute poverty. Wu Yingjie, Communist Party of China’s Chief of Tibet, called the achievement a “major victory”, as by the end of 2019, Tibet had lifted 628,000 people out of poverty and delisted 74 county-level areas from the poverty list. Wu particularly cited the relocation of population in new ‘model’ villages, looking like ghettos, where the populations can be better controlled and where Han settlements can be brought in.

The figures are mind-boggling, according to Wu: “To date, the construction of 965 relocation sites [villages] has been completed and 266,000 people have moved into new houses. The relocation programmes were carried out entirely on a voluntary basis.” It is estimated that some 200 of these villages are located near the Indian border.

The fact that the ‘relocation’ has been voluntary is extremely difficult to believe; the pretext to transfer large populations, including nomads, is due to the rarified oxygen in the plateau. This is a strange argument when one knows that the Tibetans had lived for centuries in these conditions and have since long acclimatised. This, however, may apply to the new Han colonies ‘sharing’ these villages in what is called ‘ethnic mingling’.

YUME, XI’S MODEL VILLAGE

How did this start? Soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress in October 2017, President Xi Jinping had written a letter to two young Tibetan herders, who had written to him introducing their village, Yume, north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Xinhua reported that Xi had “encouraged the herding family in Lhuntse County, in the Himalaya southwest China›s Tibet, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.” Xi had acknowledged “the family’s efforts to safeguard the territory and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families,” he wrote.

LINKED TO INFRASTRUCTURE

Most of the time, the Xiaokang villages are linked to infrastructure development, particularly on India’s border. Hundreds of examples could be given. To cite one, the Pai-Metok (Pai-Mo) Highway, linking Nyingchi to Metok, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, will be opened in July 2021.

On 12 October 2020, it was reported that the Huaneng Linzhi Hydropower Project Office (ominously, a dam company) was building the road in one of the most difficult terrains to effectively improve the current status of transportation from Nyingchi and Metok as well as the livelihood of the villages and towns along the route: “The project will be completed by the end of September 2022. After the completion of the Highway, the length of the road from Nyingchi City to Metok County will be shortened from 346 to 180 kilometres… and the driving time will be shortened from 11 hours to 4.5 hours.” The 67-km-long new highway will land a few km north of the McMahon line (Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh). In strategic terms, it will be a game changer and greatly accelerate the relocation of populations on the border.

OTHER VILLAGES

These Xiaokang villages are located all along the Indian border from Rutok in Ngari Prefecture in the West to Rima (opposite Kibithu) in the Lohit valley in the East. A few model villages have been built on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, others north of the McMahon Line in Tsona area.

A village which has received a lot of publicity recently is Jiru, located in Kampa Dzong (county), just north of the Sikkim border. An article in The People’s Daily stated: “The flower of national unity blooms on the border of the motherland.” It probably means that it will be inhabited by Han settlers. Jiru is “in the southwestern frontier of the motherland, with an average elevation of 5,050 metres, at a distance of 5 km from the China-India border, not far from seven passes [leading to India]. It is known as ‘the first village on the Sino-Indian border’,” says the Communist publication.

It is high time for Delhi to wake to the new reality and take effective measures to develop its own borders. Some steps have been taken in this direction; but can you believe that the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Actof 1873 remains in force on some Indian borders?

Beijing’s unspoken rationale is that it is easier to control the ‘masses’ when they are sedentary and settled in well-connected villages (via wi-fi and surveillance cameras). It is a fact that today the whereabouts and actions of all the ‘resettled’ villagers can be controlled through their mobile phones and other surveillance gadgets.

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TIME FOR INDIA TO COME OUT OF ITS RUSSIAN REVERIE

Joyeeta Basu

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If it were not apparent to those still enamoured of India’s decades old “bond” with Russia, Vladimir Putin’s latest statements should make it obvious to them that Russia and China mean business, together—which is not exactly good news for India. A few days ago, Russian President Putin made it clear that although his country did not have a military alliance with China, “our relationship has reached such a level of trust and cooperation that it is not necessary, but certainly imaginable, theoretically”. Putin’s statements, made at a video conference, gave interesting insights into Russia’s deepening commercial, military and even strategic ties with China. Putin mentioned “regular joint military exercises” with China and “high level of cooperation in the defence industry”, which included “sharing of technologies”. He talked about how “cooperation between Russia and China is boosting the defence potential of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army”. He said that he and his “friend”—”and I have every reason to call him a friend”—Xi Jinping, “continuously consult each other on what and how things need to be done”. He went on to elaborate how they were working together on aviation and nuclear engineering, apart from strengthening trade ties, worth over $111 billion. And most significantly, Putin raised the topic of Indo-Pacific, by saying, “we have to confront new threats. For example, the intention stated by our American partners to possibly deploy medium- and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.” The Russian President then added, “We undoubtedly will have to take reciprocal steps.” In other words, Cold War 2.0 just got colder, with battle lines clearly drawn, and to think that at least a section of the foreign policy establishment in New Delhi is still dreaming of bringing Russia into the Indo-Pacific construct—a construct whose sole aim is to build an anti China front to contain its aggression!

A bigger concern for India should be its armed forces’ deep dependence on defence platforms from Russia, including their maintenance. Apart from the fact that we are still doing rapid purchases of defence equipment from Russia when facing a threat from China. Perhaps it is time India wondered if Russia sharing technology with China may end up compromising India’s interests—for example in the case of S-400, which Russia has sold to both countries. Perhaps it is also time to pre-empt a situation where in future China blocks Russia from sending to India critical parts needed for the maintenance of defence systems Moscow has sold to New Delhi. If we operate under the belief that “Russia will not let us down” then we are in serious trouble. There is no place for emotionalism in statecraft. “Historic” ties with Russia and our loyalty to Moscow for giving us technology that the West did not want us to give in the past, have made us hang on to the coattails of Russia for decades, even though it was the clear loser of Cold War 1.0 and currently is half of India’s economic size. It is time to wake up from that daydream and realise that a Putin shunned by the West, has no option but to look towards “iron brother” China. Additionally, both countries have been wanting to carve out a world order not led by the US or the West—in fact that is the primary purpose of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which both India and Russia are members and whose meetings India was attending in Moscow very recently, in spite of the Ladakh standoff. It serves Chinese purpose to use Russia to hold India back in a nowhere land—not choosing a side in an increasingly US vs China bipolar world, a country without an ally at a time when only a united world can stand up to a malevolent power such as China.

Now that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are visiting New Delhi for the 2+2 meeting, and signing the BECA, deepening India-US military cooperation, it is hoped that Indo-Pacific too will feature in the discussions and baby steps will be taken towards the formalization of the Quad, for that is the primary way to contain China. It’s time to choose a side—in our interest. Multilateralism, at best, is an excuse to continue to strike defence deals with Russia, when diversification and Aatmanirbharata should be our mantra. It’s time to come out of our Russian reverie.

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Opinion

How Modinomics has shaped Bihar’s political economy

Bihar has always been a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Critics only need to see the new manifesto and the report card under the BJP-JD(U) government to learn how the state has flourished under the PM’s vision.

Sanju Verma

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its manifesto for the Assembly elections in Bihar on 22 October 2020, with its first promise being the free distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, once it is approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The announcement led to a storm of criticism against the BJP by an intellectually and morally bankrupt Opposition. Clearly, like many immunisation programmes, the Centre will provide vaccines to all states at a nominal rate. It is then for respective state governments to decide if they want to give it for free or otherwise. Health is a state subject and the Bihar unit of the BJP has decided to give the vaccine for free. Hence, there is nothing wrong with what the BJP has promised. Interestingly, after opposing the BJP’s move, the Congress announced free Covid vaccines in Puducherry, showing blatant hypocrisy and duplicity.

In its ‘Sankalp Patra’, the BJP has promised 19 lakh jobs for the youth of Bihar and expressed its commitment to turn the state into an information technology hub, given India’s IT industry which is worth over $177 billion. Under the New Education Policy (NEP), engineering and other technical education would be made available in Hindi in the state. The manifesto has also promised the appointment of three lakh teachers in schools and higher education institutions within the next year and one lakh jobs in the health sector. The promise to construct 30 lakh pucca houses for the poor has also been made after stupendous success with constructing over 28 lakh houses for the poor in the last five years. Special emphasis will also be given to the establishment of 13 food processing parks, and a minimum support price will be put in place for pulses to help farmers in Bihar.

Besides these, digital counselling centres, the operationalisation of Darbhanga AIIMS by 2024, Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for the kin of a migrant labourer who dies suddenly in another state, a job and Rs 25 lakh for the family of a soldier who lays down his life for the nation, a micro-financing scheme to make 1 lakh women independent, IT infrastructure in Patna and Rajgir, free tabs for meritorious students in Class 9 and above, a sports university, and 4G and broadband service in all towns and villages are the defining points of the BJP manifesto, with PM Narendra Modi’s decisive stamp of inclusivity all over it.

Moving away from the manifesto and looking at hard numbers, what stands out is the fact that at over Rs 7 lakh crore, Bihar’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has grown from being just 3.19% fifteen years back, under the aegis of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), to a solid 11.3% now, under the BJP-JD(U), with a consistent average growth of over 10% in the last three years. The per capita GSDP of Bihar is Rs 47,541 at current prices and Rs 33,629 at constant prices. The main growth drivers of the economy in Bihar, which registered a double-digit growth and contributed towards real growth of the overall economy of Bihar during 2018-19, are air transport (36%), other services (20%), trade and repair services (17.6%), road transport (14.0%), and, of course, financial services (13.8%).

The fiscal deficit of Bihar was 2.68% of the GSDP, revenue surplus 1.34% of GSDP, and the outstanding public debt liability of the state government was 32.34% of the GSDP during the year 2018-19. What the fiscal numbers indicate is that the BJP-JD(U) combine has managed state finances very consummately, without borrowing recklessly or engaging in high leverage, which many Opposition-ruled states are guilty of. The revenue receipt increased by 12.2% whereas revenue expenditure increased by 21.7%, with the revenue surplus being a healthy Rs 6,896 crores.

Agriculture and allied activities, which are the mainstay of Bihar’s economy, contributing to 23% of the GSDP, have done tremendously well in the last five years. The annual growth rate of operational agro-based factories in Bihar was 16.4 % over the last 10 years, higher than the 2.5% agri-growth under an inept and corrupt RJD in the pre-2005 era.

The per capita consumption of electricity in Bihar has risen from 145 kwh in 2012-13 to 311 kwh in 2018-19, implying growth of 114% in the last six years. Under the “jungle raj” of the RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav prior to 2005, just 22% of Bihar had access to electricity, but today, that number is 100%. Similarly, access to pucca roads has gone up from being at 34% fifteen years back to as high as 96% today. This is the biggest vindication of how PM Modi’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwaas” initiative has touched the life of every common Bihari and, thereby, redefining the concept of inclusivity. The BJP-JD(U) alliance’s flagship programme of “Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali”, to tackle issues related to climate change and environmental degradation, has worked wonderfully well too. 

In a big development in 2018-19, Bihar also made it mandatory for all departments to make their purchases through the GeM Portal. In the same period, the share of social services expenditure in total expenditure increased by a good 200 basis points. The BJP-JD(U) has been providing subsidies of 90% on drip irrigation and 75% on sprinkler irrigation, making farming cost effective, lucrative and less dependent on monsoons.

Interestingly, 75% of total migration took place due to marriage in the last few years, as compared to 46% at the all-India level in 2011, under a thoroughly incompetent Congress-led UPA regime, when migration happened due to the lack of career-related opportunities. Only 2.9% of the total migration from Bihar in the last six years took place due to work/employment and business, which busts the fake information that people from Bihar under the BJP-JD(U) alliance have been migrating due to lack of employment opportunities.

Bihar was also the sixth highest state in terms of building additional road length (1,30,799 km) during 2008-2017. It was also at the third position among major states of India in 2017 in terms of rail route per thousand sq km of area. Presently, the rural tele-density in Bihar is over 46 connections per 100 people, and urban tele-density is more than 149 connections per 100 people. With a share of 4.9% in 2019, Bihar is also in the top 10 in terms of the share of branches of commercial banks. There was an increase of 14.8 percentage points in the literacy rate of Bihar too, which has improved significantly from 47.0% under the corrupt RJD regime in 2001 to 61.8% in 2011. The expenditure on education in the state increased at an annual rate of 13.8%, while that on health registered an annual growth rate of 20.8%. 

In recent years, the JEEVIKA scheme has received recognition at both national and international forums for its excellent achievements. The objective of this scheme is to provide sustainable income-generating assets to extremely poor households, including those who were traditionally involved in the production and sale of country liquor or toddy before the imposition of liquor prohibition in April 2016.

No discussion on Bihar is complete without elaborating on the “jungle raj” of the erstwhile RJD regime and the disgraced RJD leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was convicted and sent to prison for the IRCTC scam. The CBI chargesheet included charges pertaining to criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420) and other relevant sections of the IPC. It is reported that the tender process was rigged and manipulated and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party (Sujata Hotels). The IRCTC scam was limited just to Lalu but extended to a wide network of RJD members and close associates of Lalu, showcasing political greed and corruption at its worst. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that the politically conscious electorate of Bihar will ever vote the RJD back to power, given its dubious record, infighting between Lalu’s sons and a clueless Tejashwi Yadav who has no political acumen. How can a party (RJD) deliver corruption-free good governance when its patriarch is behind bars after being indicted by the law of the land?

PM Modi inaugurated two other major railway projects in Bihar in 2016, apart from the Munger rail project, in Patna and Mokama, over the river Ganga, with the total cost of these three aforesaid rail projects standing at over Rs 7,000 crore. Hence, those who falsely allege that BJP has been talking about development in Bihar only in 2020 with an eye on the Bihar polls are completely oblivious to facts. The hard truth is that good governance has been an ongoing mantra for the BJP-JD(U) combine. Last month, Modi dedicated the Kosi Rail Mega bridge to the nation and inaugurated projects such as a new railway bridge on the Kiul river, two new railway lines, five electrification projects, one electric locomotive shed at Barauni and a few others. As much as 90% of the rail network in Bihar has been electrified over the last six years and more than 3,000 km of the railways have been electrified. Work on the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) is going at a faster pace and about 250 km of the corridor will fall in Bihar. Of the 41 big river bridges in the state, 25 have been constructed during the NDA’s 15-year rule, while 16 were built between 1947 and 2005. The NDA government will take up the construction of another 21 bridges. Clearly, the NDA has worked at fever pitch for the welfare of Bihar, transforming it from a “Bimaru” to a vibrant state. More importantly, the rapid growth of Bihar is in many ways a vindication of the pervasiveness of Modinomics, Prime Minister Modi’s famed economic philosophy.

“Bharat’s heart is Bihar, Bharat’s respect and pride is Bihar, Bharat’s culture is Bihar. Bihar is the call for independence, the call for ‘sampoorna kranti’ (complete revolution). Aatmanirbhar Bharat’s flagship is Bihar. Whether it is for the security or development of the country, the people of Bihar always stay in front”—this powerful quote by PM Modi sums up the mood of the electorate and the relevance of Bihar in the national scheme of things.

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

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RSS CHIEF TOUCHES ON CHINA, CAA IN VIJAYADASHAMI ADDRESS

Pankaj Vohra

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The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, queered the pitch for the Bihar elections when during his annual Vijayadashami, he touched upon the contentious CAA issue while simultaneously referring to the Chinese build up on our borders and the need to tackle unemployment. Bhagwat, who is known for his candidness, also reiterated that Hindutva was the essence of this nation and therefore should be recognised by one and all as it symbolised our rich traditions and culture.

The RSS chief’s observations on China were significant since they amounted to sending a message to the government as well as to people that India needed to become stronger both economically and in scope to counter this ambitious neighbour. The comment evoked a strong reaction from the Congress with its former president, Rahul Gandhi, urging the RSS and the BJP to come forward and explain how much land had been encroached upon by the Chinese. The BJP’s weak response pertained to what had happened in 1962 under the Congress rule. However, Bhagwat did not mince words while describing the expansionist tendencies of China with which the world and the entire international community was familiar. Both Vietnam and Taiwan have experienced the desire of that nation to annex territories belonging to others. The only way to counter this was to make ourselves better equipped economically, militarily and in every way. He warned China that India was in favour of maintaining good relations with its neighbours but its friendliness should not be mistaken for its weakness.

Bhagwat’s reference to Hindutva was on expected lines. It has been the belief of the RSS and many other organisations that India’s secular character was because its people were deeply steeped into the value system that we have inherited over the generations. In the past, Bharatiya Jan Sangh and BJP stalwarts have maintained that we were a secular country only because we are predominantly Hindu. Besides, the traditions and heritage are linked to our collective outlook regarding the world.

Bhagwat’s views on CAA have drawn sharp reactions from the Opposition. His view is that the CAA was not meant to deprive any Indian citizens of his or her rights. Neither was it aimed at curtailing the population of any community. The debate remained inconclusive due to the coronavirus pandemic which has severely affected our day-to-day life. His advice on Covid-19 was that it has to be tackled by following all precautions as stipulated by the experts.

However, what could make the BJP worry is his mention of unemployment and the need to step up measures to tackle it. The pandemic had compelled many migrants to return to their villages. However, they had no choice now but to return back to the cities where they may have to struggle to find jobs. The joblessness was in fact a major challenge before the government and creating employment was paramount to revive economy. The problems which we were facing were interlinked and thus needed a concerted push.

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Opinion

Desirous of jobs but devoid of skills

Formal institutions of vocational education need to be developed and strengthened to meet the demand of each sector by offering standardised programmes of acceptable employability.

Ved Prakash

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The traditional Indian way of human resource development, particularly in vocational sectors, has largely been non-formal in character. Farmers, craftsmen, potters, weavers, masons, carpenters, carpet makers, toy makers, goldsmiths, cobblers, painters, and a host of other such skilled workers learn their crafts and acquire knowledge and skills by participating from the early years of their lives in various occupational activities. Such workers undertake these activities in the form of apprenticeship and acquire skills on the job. The training they receive is so invaluable that it helps them acquire proficiency of a fairly good level in the shortest possible time. Additionally, this system inculcates cultural values, social norms and wisdom, which have their own significance. Although this system has been in vogue and is likely to stay in the future, it suffers from certain drawbacks. Some of them are the lack of infrastructure and material, lack of quality in terms of skills and standards, lack of equivalence with formal education and training programmes in the concerned areas, acquisition of a limited range of skills and the absence of a system of accredited certification needed for career mobility.

The traditional system is also not able to meet requirements fully in terms of the number and the quality of products. Consequently, a majority of children learning through the system are not able to find alternative employment. On the other hand, higher academic education is creating a class of individuals desirous of jobs but devoid of skills. This is primarily due to lack of an interface between institutions and industries. This calls for the restructuring of the present system in such a way that it begins producing human resources with the desired levels of skill and competence. Formal institutions of vocational education, therefore, need to be developed and strengthened to meet the demand of each sector by offering standardised programmes of acceptable employability. Considerable thought has been given to this aspect in independent India but with pint-sized success.

A lot of attempts have been made to see the success of vocational education as an integral part of school education, but results have been lukewarm. The history of vocational education in post-Independence India can be traced to the report of the Mudaliar Commission (1952-53). Notwithstanding telling recommendations, it did not lead to any worthwhile results and the scheme remained a non-starter more or less. The issue was taken up again in right earnest by the Kothari Commission (1964-66) which suggested the streaming of higher secondary education into distinct academic and vocational streams. This recommendation was pursued with great care and transparency but experience tells us that the success rate has been quite appalling for a variety of reasons including public perception about the mediocrity of vocational programmes as compared to academic programmes. It was found to be quite prevalent in the surging middle-class population which wishes to see their wards become doctors and engineers rather than apprentices.

Skill and knowledge are the driving forces for economic growth and social development in a country. In a growing economy with a vast and ever-increasing population like ours, the problem is twofold. On one hand, there is an acute shortage of trained quality labour, and on the other, a large section of the population which possesses little or low job skills. Consequently, there is a peculiar situation in the country. While large segments of our youth remain unemployed or underemployed, there are emerging job positions both at lower and middle levels for which suitably equipped personnel are not available. Careers in healthcare, office management, medical record transcriptions, technical writing, advertising, the automobile industry, hospitality, printing and publishing industries, call centres, to mention a few, are receiving increased attention. There is a huge problem of mismatch between education and employment. Over-qualified candidates, in large numbers, are often found seeking jobs in the lower ranks of services.

India can no longer afford any slippage in new skill development initiatives which would ensure the success of vocational education. As the economy continues to transform, large-scale sectoral shifts in the working population are inevitable, particularly from agriculture to other sectors of the economy. These sectors would, however, require significantly different and often specialist skill sets which would obviously require training and skill development. Realising this, the Government of India, through various agencies, is progressing and focusing on developing skills. The various initiatives and steps taken by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, National Skill Development Agency and National Skill Development Corporation have formulated several initiatives to bridge the gap between demand and supply of a skilled workforce, thereby setting the foundation for contributions to nation building. Although India has now a determined approach to provide skilled youth with the tools to contribute to their own career and the country’s socio-economic development, some of the initiatives require a greater focus.

The goal of skilling five hundred million youth in the country can be realised if the Skill Development and Education Ministries establish greater levels of coordination. They need to appreciate that such a situation is best handled not outside the schooling and university system but within those systems. Handling vocational education requires inputs from different domains of knowledge which can be available within the premises of schools and universities.

Since vocational education is a continuum from the school stage onwards, there is a need to underscore some specific concerns. First there is a need to identify context-specific vocational programmes, including vocational programmes for which the eligibility should be higher secondary pass and programmes which would require the background of a university degree. Second, there is a need to specify the requirement of infrastructure in relation to vocational programmes in terms of facilities for workshops and hands-on-experience in an industry or a related institution. Third, there is also a need to identify which programmes could be offered in conventional institutions and which would require a stand-alone institution. Fourth, the curriculum of the programmes may be visualised in such a manner that it has four distinct parts namely life skills, work skills, internship and preparation of employment. Fifth, the course content and training component of the programmes may be so designed that they promote creativity, analytical ability and flexibility. Sixth, all programmes may be made part of the community, for the community and by the community. These are the issues which call for strengthening of the existing vocational programmes and introduction of more relevant programmes besides their expansion throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Vocational education at different stages of education as envisaged in the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 is the need of the hour in the context of the problems of unemployment and underemployment. The need of vocational education gets further accentuated on account of the high percentage of exclusion and elimination from the formal system of education. Issues such as these can be addressed at a faster pace if the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

The goal of skilling five hundred million youth in the country can be realised if both the ministries establish greater levels of coordination. They need to appreciate that such a situation is best handled not outside the schooling and university system but within those systems. Handling vocational education requires inputs from different domains of knowledge which can be available within the premises of schools and universities. Moreover, the basis of the success of any programme as a part of education is largely dependent upon the feeder from the lower stages of the education system. If the foundation laid as part of school education is not strong, it will have its effect on the success of the program as a subject in the domain of higher education.

Therefore, it is extremely important to make strong efforts for vocational programmes to be nurtured in educational institutions jointly by both the Ministries in close coordination with the industry. The success of vocational education would eventually depend upon the interface between the skill providers and the industry. The bottom line is that this linkage needs to be institutionalised towards the success of better employability of pass-outs by the two systems coming closer to each other.

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

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