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Opposition parties must come together, says Sharad Pawar

Nationalist Congress Party president and veteran leader Sharad Pawar spoke to Vijay Darda, Chairman, Editorial Board, Lokmat Media, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Vijay Darda

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“You were the Agriculture Minister of the country for 10 years, but the country is witnessing farmers’ agitation today, will you lead the opposition by uniting them?”, “has the difference of opinion between you and Sonia Gandhi been settled?”, “did Uddhav Thackeray agree to be the chief minister on your suggestion?”, “will you hand over the reins of NCP to Ajit Pawar?”, what is the future of Congress?” While fielding such straight and direct questions put forth by the chairman of editorial board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha Vijay Darda, the NCP supremo and MP Sharad Pawar gave straightforward replies on a wide range of issues. Pawar said Pratibha Patil had the potential to become the chief minister but the Congress decided otherwise and that Narendra Modi does not talk to the Opposition and what he says is not entirely true. Obama should not have talked about Rahul Gandhi, for it is our country’s internal matter after all, Pawar noted and made it clear that he sees God in people.

Here is the full text of the free and frank interview with him.

Q: You should lead the country and that was your ambition too… There were two ideas behind asking this. One is that the secularism of the country should remain intact and the other is that Maharashtra should get this honour.

A: I have a different view on this. A person who enters politics or social field has some ideas. If there is a big gap between imagination and reality, one should not live in the shadow of that imagination. For example, in my case, it is spoken and written that I should go up to the national level, something should happen, etc. But on the other hand, it is not wise to dream of leading the country when you have just eight or 10 members in the Parliament. We must put forth the fact here. We have to admit that we don’t have the required numbers. If you do politics overlooking the truth and reality, you get frustrated. And I will never go in the direction where there is despair.

Q: Everyone agrees that there should be a strong Opposition in the current situation. Since the Congress or for that matter, its allies are not playing the role they should, the BJP is finding itself in a different position altogether in the country.

A: This is the fact. However, I will not blame the Congress alone. Those who do not approve of the policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party and who feel that there should be an effective alternative in this country, they should take on the role of uniting like-minded parties. And while doing so, the big parties should be ready for a little compromise. Now what is a compromise? Let’s take the example of West Bengal. West Bengal has a government led by Mamata Banerjee. Mamata Banerjee’s entire struggle is against the BJP. Under the circumstances, Congress or the Left parties which want to keep the BJP at bay should not take an extreme stand against Mamata. We need to think whether there is a way out of this by sitting face to face. This is happening in many states. The BJP is benefitting from this situation. As for me, I want to have a dialogue with the leaders of all the parties that are opposed to the BJP. We should try and see if anything positive comes out of this. But in the last four months, the process of convening meetings has stopped due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. Now the Parliament session will begin and maybe it will bring some opportunity (to hold meetings). But making an effort in this direction is necessary for the country.

Q: There are three big leaders in the country today. One is Narendra Modi, the other is Sonia Gandhi and the third one is you. In this situation, do you feel that you should bring all the opposition parties together and lead them?

A: No. I agree 100 per cent with you that we should sit together. I totally agree with the general feeling that we should create an alternative political force. But while doing so, focus should not be on any one person as it will never help bring about unity. Therefore, the decision to come together will have to be taken collectively. It is then that we will decide who will lead it. It can be anyone… one who is acceptable to all.

Q: But that person should have the ability to bring everyone together, isn’t it?

A: The ability to bring all together is just one part. The second part is assigning the person we trust with the responsibility to lead. But this is not for that individual to decide. All others should take a decision collectively which only will produce some result.

Q: Don’t you think that you are also responsible for the plight of the Opposition today?

A: We are all responsible, there is no dispute about it. But I think that when the right time comes to deliberate, we will have to think about all these aspects. That time is not very far. The Winter Session of Parliament is round the corner. At that time, everyone will get a chance to come together, to sit together.

Q: Do you think that in view of the current situation in the country, you can undermine and challenge Narendra Modi’s leadership?

A: Hatred for a person or opposition to a person for the sake of opposition will not work. When we talk of providing alternative, we should come out with alternative programme too. What we want to do, how we want to do, and through that we must try to win the trust of the majority of people. When we sit together, coming out with alternative only will not do.

Therefore, when we sit together, we are going to discuss everything like what our programme will be, who is going to lead, which path we are going to take.

Q: You always say I am retiring from politics. I will not contest elections now.

A: It is true.

Q: But Pawar Saheb, your mindset does not allow you to rest. So, you are a unique personality always moving among people, connected to national issues and always aware. When I ask myself who should I compare you with, I cannot see any competitor who can match you. If we want to say it in Hindi ‘Hame aap par naaz hai.’ There are many who may have political differences with you but in private they love you and you love them. My question is, what happened to your national ambition? Are you talking less on national issues? Your party’s stand on the farmers’ issue was also different. In such a difficult time, it seems that you have left these issues to youngsters to handle. What inference should we draw?

A: There are two things. Now that you have spoken of age, considering that, I myself feel that it is my responsibility now to mould the young generation. And when we talk about creating the new generation, we must give freedom to them. We should not interfere in everything. We may not like all that they do but that can be conveyed in private. I have adopted the policy that their image in public life remains intact. That is why I express my opinion in the Parliament or other meetings called for holding discussions. It is not that I do not talk. However, it is rarely that I take initiative and do it myself. Now, you have raised the issue of farmers. This issue has been discussed in the whole country, and it seems outside the country also. It is true that there is restlessness about the farmers in the country.

For that, there is a need for the people in power to establish a proper dialogue with the representatives of restless sections. This dialogue is not taking place and that is why an extreme situation has arisen. Some concerns of the farmers are genuine. Some other issues are needed to be explained properly to them. ‘The politicians should look seriously into the issues of the farmers, is only what I want to say.’

Q: Can we say now that differences between you and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have been resolved?

A: For the last 10-15 years, we have been working together. When the government was formed at the Centre in 2004, I was sitting on the Opposition benches. Sonia Gandhi herself came to me and held detailed discussions with me. After that Dr Manmohan Singh and Pranabda interacted. Finally, we decided to work together. From 2004 to 2014, may it be Congress or NCP, we were all working together. We ran the government together. All the programmes were discussed after consulting each other. We went ahead only after arriving at unanimity on them. Today, our ideology is same on all programmes. Suppose there are 10 subjects and there is unanimity on eight. Two subjects can be kept aside because today there is a need to come together. This is our stand.

Q: So, is there something in the arrangement to ensure that Sharad Pawar does not become the Prime Minister?

A: No. We cannot ignore the fact that how many people are going to sit in the Parliament with Sharad Pawar.

Q: You and Congress are ‘united’. Looking at the kind of personality you have, don’t you think that your group could have been stronger?

A: I think it is not possible to work taking such an approach. In democracy, number is important.

Q: So, do you want to say that if the numbers are in your side, the individual becomes insignificant?

A: No. Both individual and numbers are important. The individual with numbers cannot be insignificant.

Q: Numbers can be achieved due to different reasons. Today, the Bharatiya Janata Party has the numbers. Don’t you feel that you should accept these numbers and work further?

A: How can we work with BJP? Our ideology is completely different.

Q: But people have accepted the BJP, haven’t they?

A: People had even defeated the Congress in 1977. The Janata Party government had been voted to power. People had accepted the Janata Party too. We had said that the experiment would not last long. You were also witness that government lasted only two years. We do not oppose people casting their votes in favour of Modi. We accept this fact. But the Opposition has the right to think how useful their promises and policies are for the long-term interests of the country.

Q: We always claim that this is Phule, Shahu, Ambedkar’s Maharashtra. But in the last 60 years, we did not give even a single woman chief minister to the state. What do you say about this?

A: You need requisite strength for that. And the party having numbers should choose such a person with majority. I don’t see a picture like that today. Pratibhatai Patil had the ability to lead the state as I perceive in my last 50 years of political career. But at that time, the Congress took a different stand. The same Congress party acknowledged her capability by having her elected as the President of the country later. She may not have got the opportunity here but she got it for sure at some other place and position. There are many states where women have become the chief ministers.

Q: But Maharashtra’s psyche is different…!

A: After all, it’s a numbers game; how to put the numbers together..?

Q: Yes, but when you had the numbers, even then…?

A: The situations during those times were different. Only the Congress was in such a position during those days. The Congress government gave Pratibhatai a chance, first in the government and then in the party. And finally gave her the opportunity to occupy the highest post of President of the country at the right time. Therefore, I will not say that she did not get a change in the state. After all, it was Maharashtra which gave the country its first woman President.

Q: It is said that the reins of the organisation should be handed over to the new leadership. What do you say?

A: The NCP has a strong band of young leaders. Among them are many who I can say are acceptable to people… Ajit Pawar, Jayantrao Patil, Dhananjay Munde and many more, I can give you a list… of leaders who are eligible to lead. They have good administrative ability and are ready to work hard.

Q: So, can they be the candidates in contention in future? To lead the NCP?

A: No, we don’t even think about any such candidature. For, the party is not faced with any such situation. And the NCP does not even have a majority anywhere. So why talk about it now. Today we are running a coalition government of three parties. We have taken a conscious decision and we all stand by it.

Q: Yogi Adityanath is in Mumbai. He says he will take Bollywood to Uttar Pradesh. On one hand, migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are coming to Maharashtra in hordes and on the other, the leaders from these states are speaking of taking Bollywood to Uttar Pradesh. What kind of politics is this?

A: Maharashtra and Mumbai have always thought of the country. Our people have investments in many parts of the country. We think of the country. Earlier too, the chief ministers of other states had come here seeking investments in their states. But if anyone thinks that this will weaken Mumbai and Maharashtra, I do not believe it.

Q: At present, the steering wheel of state politics is in your hands. In this scenario, what is your opinion about Raj Thackeray?

A: The steering wheel is not in my hands. It is in the hands of Uddhav Thackeray. Raj Thackeray has his own independent party. He expresses his opinion independently. There is a large section of the youths who support him. He may not have got the success he expected in the elections but that does not mean that the craze about him among the youths is on the wane.

Q: You joined politics at the age of 18 with the Congress flag in hand. You even campaigned against your own brother. The Congress ideology was instilled in your mind then and is still intact. Then how did you disassociate yourself from the Congress?

A: Our ideology was very close to the Congress and that of Gandhi and Nehru. Perhaps, it was not different from their ideology. Differences arose over the style of running the party. However, it is not an issue today. We are together and many times sit together. See in Maharashtra, we took initiative for working together and the government is working well here. I insist on copying this formula in other states. The Congress showed great maturity in this matter. If it shows the same maturity in other states like in West Bengal, this experiment can be executed there also. Congress is a greater party, its contribution and sacrifice are greater. Greater parties have to show the greatness of heart. However, in this process the importance of Congress cannot be ignored.

How is Narendra Modi working as the Prime Minister?

Don’t know. Communication is important in politics. I think this government is failing to communicate with the Opposition. On the 4th, Prime Minister Modi held a discussion with the Opposition regarding Covid-19. Leaving aside the issue of Covid-19, the PM has not interacted with the Opposition in the last four or five years.

Q: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that he followed in your footsteps in politics. He takes your guidance. But there is always a conflict between your party and the BJP. Why is it so?

A: What the Prime Minister Narendra Modi says is not entirely true. During the ten years when I was the agriculture minister of India, my view was that the person who would have the responsibility of the agriculture ministry would not be able to solve the problem of increasing the production of agricultural commodities by sitting in Delhi. He should go out into different states. State governments must be trusted. And we should cooperate in implementing the policy for agriculture and farmer. When I was holding the post, there were ten or twelve governments in different states with different ideologies including Modi’s Gujarat government. So, when it came to the farmers in Gujarat, I had a role to play in helping them wholeheartedly. This is because it is the responsibility of the agriculture minister to look after the interests of agriculture and farmers in that state. For the same purpose, I visited many districts in Gujarat with Narendra Modi. Tried to resolve their problems. So, people began discussing my connection with him. However, he did not change his political ideology. He helped us in the work related to agriculture. But when the election came, he made a very aggressive speech asking voters to defeat us. There was nothing wrong with that. It was their party’s role or their policy.

Q: What is the future of the Congress party in the country? Which direction is the party heading into? Is Rahul Gandhi an obstacle in this?

A: The kind of recognition the leadership has in any political party is very important. One thing must be admitted that I had differences with Sonia Gandhi or that family. There is still faith among the workers and leaders about the Gandhi-Nehru family. Whether it is Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, both of them represent their family, so the majority of people are of their opinion. And we have to accept this fact. It is the number two party in the country.

Q: Is the country ready to accept Rahul Gandhi’s leadership today?

A: There are some questions related to him. There seems to be less amount of consistency.

Q: I was asking about giving a strong alternative to the kind of leadership that Narendra Modi ji is currently giving.

A: Your question is correct. But which is the party that can give such an option? It is Congress. Now, which is the leader acceptable to the maximum number of people in Congress?

Q: They have not yet elected president?

A: It will happen. They will do so.

Q: When does your party have an election?

A: Elections are held every three to five years. It was supposed to happen this year but had to be postponed due to corona. There will also be election in the Congress. And when it takes place, there will be no different outcome.

Q: But Rahul Gandhi is saying he doesn’t want to be president?

A: Now after the election, you will know what happens.

Q: You are imposing the president’s post on him?

A: We don’t impose anything, their party may be imposing.

Q: You are the advisor of that party…!

A: I will not speak on their internal matter. That is their question.

Q: Many people are saying that now Pawar should lead the Congress?

A: It makes no sense. They have the right to make their own internal decisions in the Congress party. Tomorrow, someone will say that the decision in the NCP should be taken by the leadership of another party, our party may be small, but it will not accept it. It is the same for them.

Q: NCP is not a small party now?

A: It is smaller as compared at the national level.

Q: God was with you in all your journeys..!

A: People were with me.

Q: Don’t believe in God?

A: I consider people as God.

Q: You have successfully implemented the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) experiment in Maharashtra. People say it will work as long as you wish it to. What does this mean?

A: The stand of Shiv Sena in the state is accommodative. At the same time, the state leaders of the Congress are also acting sensibly. These factors are making our journey easier. Sharad Pawar’s wish does not affect the stability of the government and neither will we let it happen.

Q: You spoke about stability, my next question is related to it. Recently, there were reports that some officers tried to topple the MVA government. What was that matter and was such an attempt made in the past?

A: I also read such reports, but I did not go up to the root of the matter. I have full faith in the administration. It works according to the policies of the present government and works according to the policies of the other government whenever there is a change of guard in the democracy. The bureaucracy in Maharashtra works in accordance with the policies of its government. Therefore, there has been no such example in the past. One or the other individual might have worked in that direction, but it does not change the picture of Maharashtra.

Q: Did you suggest Uddhav Thackeray to be the chief minister so that this government can run?

A: It is not so. The number game was important for forming and running the government. Shiv Sena has the maximum number of MLAs, it is a fact and one must accept it. The second largest party was NCP and the third was Congress. We all accepted these facts and accordingly posts were distributed. We had decided to work together and are doing so. Our stand was that Uddhav Thackeray should lead his party.

Q: Is it true that Uddhav Thackeray was reluctant to become CM?

A: I guess he must be in a dilemma over accepting this post. We told him that Shiv Sena was the largest party, it was his moral responsibility and requested him to lead. We all insisted on it.

Q: Is it true that Congress was eying the CM’s post?

A: Congress gave consent to Uddhav Thackeray’s name. It meant the consent was from both Congress and NCP.

Q: Do you see Supriya Sule as the first woman chief minister of Maharashtra?

A: As far as I know, she is not interested in the state. She is interested in national politics. She is in the Parliament. She has received many awards for being the best parliamentarian. She has also won the Lokmat’s Best Member of Parliament award. After all, it is about one’s interest.

Q: The grapevine has it that some Congress and NCP MLAs are upset. They are about to leave their parties. Is it true?

A: I think this is table news, nothing more than that. Let me explain; it is true that some people’s representative gets angry sometimes when some issue from his or her constituency is not addressed. This happens in big parties as well as those which enjoy a majority. But no one thinks of leaving the party or doing something different. Absolutely not!

Q: The Union Government has brought three laws related to farmers. However, Maharashtra has already passed a Bill lessening the importance of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC). The then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government has also passed a resolution regarding contract farming. In such a situation, why are you opposing the farm laws?

A: We are not blindly opposing the laws. There is a difference between APMC in Maharashtra and farming in other states. The APMC in our state is an institution accepted by the farmers. Here, we people ourselves held consultations and a suggestion was mooted that farmers should be given freedom in some aspects. The decision was taken in Maharashtra. This means that the APMC remains in place. The farmer has a right to visit it and sell his produce. There are still certain restrictions on the purchaser to ensure that the farmer gets dues against the produce sold. There has been no compromise regarding all these things. Only one thing has been changed, Maharashtra has given permission to the farmer to sell his produce outside the APMC also. This is not happening only today. If you see, oranges from Nagpur are sold in the nook and corners of the country. This has been happening in the past too. Onion from Nashik is also supplied in the entire country. So do bananas from Khandesh. We have always given this freedom to farmers. If somebody is taking a stand to preserve this freedom, I do not oppose it.

Q: Why do such agitations take place then?

A: There is some difference in our system and that of Hindustan. Here, the purchaser is bound to pay the price agreed at.

Q: In our state?

A: Yes. Suppose, wheat is being sold. If a trader says he will pay Rs 2100/quintal during the auction, he has to pay that rate. Also it is not acceptable if he pays after a month. The payment has to be made within 24 hours, 48 hours or according to the rule set by the APMC. The complaints of farmers from north India are related to these issues only. Auction was done. A, B, C said he would purchase. He did it and paid 25 per cent now and did not pay the rest of the amount for two months, they say. This does not happen in Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, they have to pay within 48 hours or at the maximum within four days. When I go to Delhi, many farmers from Maharashtra come and meet me saying they sold their onion or orange in north India and have not received payment.

Q: So, do we say that the ongoing agitation is appropriate?

A: Farmers are demanding that they must receive 100 per cent payment of their produce sold. This stipulation should be made. We have made this provision in Maharashtra but there is a lack of such compulsion in the laws of the Central government. Feelings of farmers from north India, particularly those from Punjab and Haryana, are very hard in this regard.

Q: You were the defence minister too. What India should have done in the face of Chinese aggression in Doklam, Galwan Valley? What do you think?

A: In our country, the perception of the majority of people is more against Pakistan as compared to other neighbouring countries. My stand right from the beginning has been that the leadership in Pakistan and the military there often adopt a strange policy towards India. There is no denying it. But when it comes to the threat perception to the country, my clear view is that it comes from China which we need to be more cautious about. China’s strong position, its economy, its air force, army and navy cannot be ignored. China has a peculiar leadership. They have a lot of patience. They will not speak and do nothing. But they will announce their decision only when it suits them the most. Therefore, the real threat is from China. The threat from Pakistan is there, no doubt, but the one from China is greater.

Q: Former US President Barack Obama has strongly criticised Rahul Gandhi.

A: He expressed his views. Not all opinions are acceptable. I can say anything about the leadership in my country. But I will not discuss the issues that concern other countries. That much decorum has to be maintained. I think Obama’s that particular comment is like crossing the limit.

Q: That means he is leaning towards Modi, can we say that?

A: No, I will not say that Obama is leaning towards Modi. But I will not talk about the leaders of other countries. There is news in today’s newspaper. Referring to the farmers’ agitation in Delhi, the prime minister of Canada spoke in support of the farmers and attempted to knock some sense into the Government of India. The Indian government responded immediately. That is right too. This concerns our country and there is no reason for anybody to interfere in it. Similarly, it would have been far better had Obama not commented on the internal issue of our leadership.

Can you narrate two-three instances during your long journey which remained forever in your mind?

I am very satisfied about some things. I worked as the union minister for agriculture for a decade. The day I took the oath as the agriculture minister, a file was brought before me in the evening. I was the minister of agriculture as well as civil supplies ministry. The country was facing an acute wheat shortage and the file was a proposal to import it. It touched my heart that the country having agriculture as its backbone was forced to import wheat. I did not sign the file. The next morning, I received a phone call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sharad Ji, have you checked the stock? There is a need for making import at the earliest, he said and asked me to clear the file. Reluctantly, I cleared the file. However, this instance got imprinted deeply on my mind and made me restless. I worked in such a way during the next 10 years that the entire picture of food-grains production in the country was changed drastically. India had become the second largest wheat exporter of the world when I quit my office. Moreover, India had emerged as the second largest sugar producing country and the number one in rice export as well as in milk and fruits production. The outcome of my 10 years of work gives me great satisfaction. Ups and downs are part of your career. I was the chief minister of Maharashtra but lost the state after the 1980 Assembly elections. Of course, it is voters’ right. Governments come and go. Once there were 54 MLAs with me and 48 of them deserted me just three months after they were elected. I became a leader of 6 MLAs in a Legislative House from the leader of 54 MLAs. One thing I learnt is that ups and downs are inevitable for all and one should not bother about them much.

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Policy & Politics

NCRTC SIGNS MOU WITH SECL FOR USING BLENDED RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR ITS DELHI-GHAZIABAD-MEERUT RRTS CORRIDOR

Tarun Nangia

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In line with its vision to improve the quality of life of people, National Capital Regional Transport Corporation (NCRTC) has signed MoU with SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) today to harness blended renewable energy for RRTS. MOU has provisions to explore possible opportunities in electric/ transformative mobility, Hydrogen based economy, and other alternative sources of fuels and energy.

MoU was signed in presence of Jatindra Nath Swain IAS, Secretary (Fisheries), GOI & CMD/SECI, Vinay Kumar Singh, Managing Director/NCRTC and Mahendra Kumar, Director(E&RS)/NCRTC alongwith other senior officials of NCRTC and SECI.

NCRTC, as part of its Energy Management Policy, intends to maximize the use of blended renewable energy such as solar power etc. for meeting full energy requirement of NCRTC. SECI, being an industry leader, will help in arranging blended renewable energy to NCRTC round the clock at affordable rates for Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor and cooperation to extend the same for other future corridors.

Use of clean energy, through this association will ensure reduction in expenditure on electricity and significantly lesser CO2 emissions, which is essential for sustainable development.

This cooperation is a part of NCRTC’s long term strategy to make RRTS and NCRTC financially as well as environmentally sustainable.

NCRTC is adopting following measures also for energy efficiency in India’s first RRTS corridor-

1. All elevated RRTS stations and depots will be provided with solar panels.

2. NCRTC is targeting to generate minimum 10 MW renewable energy.

3. 40% of the total energy requirement of Delhi Meerut RRTS corridor is targeted to be procured/generated from renewable energy.

4. RRTS rolling stock will be provided with state-of-the-art regenerative braking system which converts train’s kinetic energy into electrical energy..

5. Regenerative braking will result in reduced wear and tear of wheels, brake pads and other associated moving brake-gear parts of rolling stock resulting in significantly less consumption of these spare part/items during train maintenance life cycle which again will result in substantial reduction in CO2 emission which otherwise would have been generated in the manufacturing and supply chain process of these spare parts/items.

6. RRTS trains will have push buttons for selective opening of doors on need basis. This eliminates the requirement of opening all doors at every station, thus leading to energy saving. RRTS rolling stock will have lighting and temperature control systems to enhance the passenger experience with less energy consumption.

7. All RRTS station and their premises, depot, office spaces and trains will be equipped with energy-saving LED lights.

8. Platform Screen Doors will be installed at every RRTS stations that will help in saving significant energy consumption in underground stations.

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Policy & Politics

TARGETED POLICY SUPPORT TO ENGINEERING EXPORT SECTOR NEEDED, SAYS EEPC INDIA

Tarun Nangia

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The growth in outbound shipments has been robust in the last few months and the outlook remains positive for the current year but rising cost of key raw materials especially steel is an area of concern, said EEPC India Chairman Mr Mahesh Desai.

As expected, the value of engineering goods exports jumped 53% to US$ 8.64 billion in May, 2021 as against US$ 5.65 billion in the corresponding month last year primarily due to low base effect and increasing demand from key markets.

“Soaring prices of various metals is a big challenge for the engineering goods manufacturers which were badly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdowns,” he said.

While hoping that the rates for the export promotion scheme RoDTEP would be announced shortly, the EEPC India Chairman expects the government to provide more targeted support as suggested by the RBI.

Announcing the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on June 4, RBI Governor Mr Shaktikanta Das had said that conducive external conditions were forming for a durable recovery beyond pre-pandemic levels. He further said that the need of the hour is for enhanced and targeted policy support for exports.

EEPC India Chairman said that while the export outlook has been projected to be positive in the current fiscal, there were downside risks too given that public health experts have predicted a possible third wave of the pandemic.

“The efforts must be made now to minimise the impact of pandemic on trade and business as protecting livelihood is no less important than lives. The plans should be in place to ensure goods movement, especially export consignments, are not affected by lockdowns, night curfews or any other restrictions imposed by states to prevent the spread of virus,” Mr Desai said.

Announcing the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on 4 June, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that conducive external conditions were forming for a durable recovery beyond pre-pandemic levels.

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Policy & Politics

India’s exports continue to perform impressively for third month in a row

FIEO president reiterated that though the government has announced a slew of measures to support exports, the need of the hour is to soon notify the RoDTEP rates to remove uncertainty from the minds of the trade and industry, thereby helping in further forging new contracts with the foreigner buyers.

Tarun Nangia

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Responding to the trade data for May, 2021, Sharad Kumar Saraf, President, FIEO said that the continuing impressive growth in exports by about 70% to USD 32.27 billion compared to a low base of USD 19.05 billion during May 2020, reiterate our assessment that order booking position of our exporters is not only extremely good but also the gradual opening up of major global markets and improvement of situation in the country is expected to push exports growth further. President FIEO said that growing by over 8% even on the base of May 2019 reflects a positive trend for the sector. Saraf particularly emphasised that the growth in labour-intensive sectors like Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item, Gems & Jewellery, Engineering goods, Leather and Leather Products, Ceramic products and glassware, Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products, Marine products, Spices, Carpets and Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. augurs well for the job scenario, which is most relevant in the current context.

FIEO Chief added that such a growth during the month has been mainly on account of growth in Petroleum products, Engineering goods, Organic & Inorganic Chemicals and Gems & Jewellery, the major contributors to the country’s export basket, which have shown impressive performance compared to May, 2020. He also said that 25 out of 30 major product groups of exports have either shown a very high growth or are in positive territory defying all the odds when there is still a bit of scepticism persisting in the global economy on the expectation of a third wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

Sharad Kumar Saraf further reiterated that continuing on with such a growth performance in exports during the second month of the new financial year not only shows signs of resilience of the exporting community facing squeezing profits but also the resolve of the government. FIEO Chief complimented the government for its continuous support during such challenging times. Increase in May 2021 imports by about 74 percent to USD 38.55 billion compared to the same period during the previous fiscal led to the increase in trade deficit of USD 6.28 billion, which is an increase of over 99.61 percent during the month and should be looked into.

FIEO President reiterated that though the government has announced a slew of measures to support exports, the need of the hour is to soon notify the RoDTEP rates to remove uncertainty from the minds of the trade and industry thereby helping in further forging new contracts with the foreigner buyers. Mr Saraf also reiterated that the government must address some of the key issues including priority status to exports sector, extension of Interest Equalisation Scheme beyond June 2021 till at least 31st March, 2024, release of the necessary funds for MEIS and clarity on SEIS benefits, resolving risky exporters’ issues and continuance of seamless refund of IGST and more importantly continuing with IGST option for exports to further give boost to the sector during these challenging times.

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Policy & Politics

Making it happen: Covid management in Sonipat

Imaginative planning, meticulous execution and untiring efforts by young IAS officer Shyam Lal Poonia and his team have helped the district sail through the second wave.

Anil Swarup

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Corona

Like many regions of the country, the second wave of the Covid hit the district of Sonipat (adjoining Delhi) really hard with the positivity rate reaching a high of 54.71% on 25 April 2021. With the second wave came different sorts of challenges of which oxygen supply was most critical, given the non-existent perennial supply system for the hospitals including the 500-bedded Medical College at Khanpur Kalan. 

The challenge of medical oxygen was altogether new for Sonipat like many other districts in the country. This, coupled with close to 60% patients coming from Delhi, led to quick saturation of bed capacity in Covid hospitals of the district by 25 April 2021. Consequently, a dual challenge of increasing oxygen beds on one hand and managing oxygen demand within the available quota on the other was faced. As on 24th April, the district was receiving a daily quota of 9 MT liquid oxygen. To add to the worries, the agency responsible for supplying around 4 MT daily oxygen to Medical College had pulled out. As the state allocated oxygen quota was being determined elsewhere, the focus was on mobilization of resources and managing within this quota for which the following line of action was undertaken: 

PSA Plant: A 200 LPM capacity PSA plant approved under PM Cares Fund was lying idle since February as the Agency didn’t install it and district health team didn’t realise its importance. With the help of one Prof. Jogendra from Pacific College, Sonipat, PSA oxygen plant was commissioned at Civil Hospital Sonipat on 30th April. This helped increase the number of oxygen beds at Civil hospital.  

Oxygen Audit: Nodal officer was appointed for oxygen supply and officers were positioned at each of the bottling plants and hospitals. A multi-pronged approach was adopted to prevent wastage and siphoning off of medical oxygen at bottling plants and in hospitals.  A formula was put in placeabout average consumption on the basis of guidelines issued by MoFHW. Accordingly, average consumption in all hospitals was calculated. A committee was also constituted for oxygen consumption audit in all hospitals. Quota was now being allocated to hospitals based on their patient load. These steps helped save 2-3 MT of LMO per day.  This resulted in the increase of oxygen beds from 605 to 791 by 1st May. Moreover, the district quota was increased to 13 MT on 2nd May by the Government which helped further increasing the number of oxygen beds to 950 including 90 ventilators.

Augmenting Oxygen Storage: By end of April, 2021, the district had only one Bottling Plant with storage capacity of 20 MT which was catering to more than 25 hospitals. Through concerted efforts two more bottling plants licenses were facilitated for medical oxygen and a storage capacity of 50 MT was added within 15 days.

LMO Tank at BPS Government Medical College, Khanpur: With a daily oxygen demand of more than 450 D-Type cylinders, the Medical College was the major consumer for oxygen in the district. With every passing day and increase in patient load, it was becoming difficult to maintain regular supplies through cylinders. With the help of one of the Bottling Plants, an LMO storage tank with 12 MT capacity was installed within a week at BPSGMC. This gave a major boost to oxygen supply at the Medical College and the number of oxygen-supported beds increased from 150 to 350. This also resolved issues related to oxygen flow pressure and refilling and transportation of oxygen cylinders.

PSA Plant at BPSGMC: To further augment oxygen availability in the district and to tackle any unforeseen situation in days to come, a PSA oxygen generation plant under CSR has been installed at Govt Medical College, Khanpur with a capacity of 1000 LPM. Installation of one more PSA Plant with 1000 LPM capacity by DRDO is under progress.

At one point in time, the district had more than 7000 active cases and 90% of them were under home isolation spread across the geography of the district. To monitor them on a regular basis was a challenge given the inadequate manpower in the field. 

With the support from young MBBS/PG medical students from BPS Medical College, a motto  – Chase The Patient – was coined. Tele-consultation services were provided for all home isolated patients. 120 PG students of the Medical College were engaged to monitor all the home isolated patients of the district. The students were divided into 15 area-wise teams, each team connected with their respective Community Health Centre (CHCs) and Urban Health Centres (UHCs). 

A team of IMA doctors was roped in which constantly supported patients with their COVID treatment, psycho-social care and post COVID recovery issues. Timely tele-consultation meant that scores of patients were provided early medical care and prevented from being hospitalized.

Even as oxygen bed capacity was being increased across the district, it was observed that admission in COVID facilities was leading to disconnection of patients with their family members, due to restrictions. This was especially true for those not possessing smart phones. Covid treatment protocols couldn’t be violated. However, families were especially feeling anxious to talk to patients and know their health status. The District Administration accordingly initiated e-Samvaad wherein 6 tablets have been provided to Civil Hospital, Sonipat and BPS Govt Medical College to facilitate interaction of admitted patients with their family members. During a fixed time slot, the attendant/ family members can now interact with their patient on video call through WhatsApp/ Google Meet/ Zoom. The Nursing Staff dedicates themselves for this purpose in the given time slot. 

Given the exponential rise in cases across Sonipat, it was important to set up a central COVID Control Room to address all citizen queries and to manage the situation on-ground.  A team of 40 teachers and operators was trained to work round the clock in three shifts. Dedicated helpline catering to all citizen queries around vaccination, testing, bed availability, oxygen cylinders, movement passes and for lodging complaints against black marketing, overcharging, were made operational.

Imaginative planning, meticulous execution and untiring efforts by this young IAS officer, Shyam Lal Poonia and his team have helped the district sail through the second wave. Positivity rate is now below 2% and hospital bed occupancy is less than 20%. They made it happen amidst trying set of circumstances. 

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Policy & Politics

Politics on Central Vista project unreasonable

A modern building equipped with the latest digital technology replacing the 90-year-old Parliament House is the need of the hour. Do you know that 12 ministries of the Central government are functioning from rented buildings and the government spends about Rs 1,000 crore annually to pay the rent? Around Rs 20,000 crore would have been paid towards rent only during the period I was in Parliament. This project is the need of the hour keeping the future in mind. If all the ministries are brought together, it will help them function even more proficiently.

Vijay Darda

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If we just keep trying to prove Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrong on everything, it will weaken the very existence of the Opposition. The voice of the Opposition will carry weight only if the opposition or protest will be constructive, and not just for the sake of it. Today some people are protesting about the Central Vista project, but they should understand that the first initiative was taken by the then Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar during the Congress-led government in 2012 to build a new Parliament building. The leaders of other parties including Atal Bihari Vajpayee had supported it.

Under the Central Vista project, the offices of the Vice President, the Prime Minister as well as all the 51 ministries will be housed under one roof. MPs will have offices. All the buildings will be connected to each other. This will benefit from the security point of view and help get rid of the problems people face during the VIP movement too.

The project will cost about Rs 20,000 crore and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to complete most of the important work of this project before the end of his second term in 2024. The rest of the work will be done later.

A section of the society is questioning the need to spend such a huge amount on the project in the midst of this pandemic when the economy is badly hit. People are also questioning the purpose and benefits of this project.

Normally, this logic may sound right, but if you understand things with a deeper perspective, you will understand how important the completion of the Central Vista project is from the administrative point of view keeping in mind the future. I have been a part of the Parliament for 18 years so I have seen and understood the requirements closely. Many of these buildings are dilapidated. It is difficult to work sitting there. The legislative section of India sits in the Parliament House whereas the President, Vice President, Prime Minister and officials of 51 ministries sit at different places. Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, North Block and South Block, and National Museum building were built in 1931. After that Nirman Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, Rail Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan were constructed between 1956 and 1968. Today, 39 ministries are housed in different buildings in the Central Vista area while 12 ministries are occupying rented premises outside.

You will be surprised to know that their annual rent is about Rs 1,000 crore and their distance from the PMO and other ministries is quite long too. Obviously, the administrative work gets hampered. So, is it justified to spend such a huge amount on rent? Just calculate how much rent the government would have paid till now. Around Rs 20,000 crore must have been paid only during the period I was in Parliament.

Another important point is that when the buildings were built in Central Vista and its surrounding areas, there was no digitalization like it is today. Now along with the security of Parliament House and ministries, there is always a big question for the security of digital files. Building a new complex will ensure better security for both.

India is a rising power in the world today. Priorities are changing, so it is very important that the entire Central government should be accommodated in a cluster of buildings equipped with modern technology so that ministers can easily reach out to each other, meet and interact. If 51 ministries located in the buildings being rebuilt in the Central Vista project are near each other, it will definitely benefit from the administrative point of view.

We also have to keep in mind that our population is growing, so surely the number of MPs will have to be increased too in future. Keeping this in mind, the new building of Parliament House will be built on about 65,400 square metres of land and have a large Constitution Hall, a lounge for MPs, a library, offices of several committees, etc. The Lok Sabha chamber will have a seating capacity for 888 members and the Rajya Sabha chamber will have the same for 384 members. Along with this, there will be ample space for the National Museum, National Archives and Indira Gandhi Art Museum and our heritage will also be displayed in a dignified manner.

Those who are critical of this project say that an amount of Rs 20,000 crore should be spent on helping the poor and providing healthcare facilities during the pandemic. But the question is whether the government is executing this project by diverting the funds meant for the poor or the needy? Of course not. The government is not rolling back any welfare scheme meant for the poor. All schemes are running as before. I believe that the poor must be helped and every government has been doing this. The point is we have to plan for the future too.

If we look at the post-independence history, be it Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee or any other person who has been in power, everyone has worked on planning for the future and that is why India has occupied this prime position today. If Rajiv Gandhi would not have dreamt of a technology-rich India, had we been where we are today? We must worry about the present. Problems should also be solved, but we should also dream of a better future. The office of our Prime Minister should also be state-of-the-art, equipped and secure like the Parliament and Presidential buildings of America, Russia, Britain and other developed countries. That’s why I want to say that there should be no politics, at least in the case of the Central Vista project. There are several other subjects for politicking.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

India is a rising power in the world today. Priorities are changing, so it is very important that the entire Central government should be accommodated in a cluster of buildings equipped with modern technology so that ministers can easily reach out to each other, meet and interact.

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Policy & Politics

DOES INDIA NEED POPULATION CONTROL LAW?

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The biggest problem in this country right now, which is not given any attention, either very narrow political thinking and cheap prejudice is slogans that is POPULATION. Currently the population of India is approximately 1.38 billions.second largest after china.

In 2015 India’s population was a whopping 1.31 billions, Productions shows in 2022 India will over take China to become world’s most populous country.Earlier predictions cited year 2028 for this to happen but India’s Population is growing so rapidly, that mark in 6 years advance.And it is not a matter of pride, over population leads to poverty, unemployment, climate change which pressure the natural resources, like- forest and land, leads to increase in social and religious conflicts, so overpopulation is regarded as the root cause of most of the problems in this part of the world.We are told time and again that India is the country with the youngest population, but the truth is that we have not done as much actively as we should about the population.

The condition has really worsened and is visible everywhere like- markets and public places,if you want to get an idea of the situation, just have an look in your locality

HIGH TIME TO IMPLEMENT THE LAW

At this time the country has come to a situation where there is a dire need of population control law, due to the increasing population day by day, ignoring the huge shortage of resources will prove to be our biggest mistake, because in a country like India without law and order It is impossible to remove any mismanagement of the population, so in view of the current population growth, it is very important to implement a population control law, and it should be such that the public can easily accept it, that is, the law should be made in such a way that the public understands their benefits. Come in and the public does not understand the collective loss in any way, earlier also the initiative was taken by the previous governments to control the population, but there were some such discrepancies in those rules due to which the governments failed.So now there is a need for a structure of such a law, due to which there can be a positive change and the country can move towards a development, due to the implementation of the law, there will be a huge hindrance in population growth and due to the general population rate, the supply of resources. It will also be completed smoothly and will help the country to be a developed country from a developing country.

National population policy:. Needs for planning of families would improve individuals health and welfare. Government of India initiated a comprehensive family planning programme (1952) . Family welfare Programme sought to promote responsible and planned parenthood on a voluntary basis.

Mainly focused on: Provides a policy framework for imparting free and compulsory school education upto 14 years of age, Reducing infant mortality rate below 30 per 1000 live births, Achieving universal immunisation of children against all vaccine preventable disease, Promoting delayed marriage for girls, Making family welfare a people centred programme.

SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS WHICH CAN BE USED TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM OF OVERPOPULATION

China’s one child policy:- Whenever we are discussing solutions for overpopulation China’s one child policy comes first mostly in our mind, they think that Indian government too should follow china and implementation this policy to restrict the birth of more than one child but most of the people don’t know that China’s one child policy was a failure thirty years later in 2015 they ended this policy. This policy lead to a huge gender imbalance and increase in female foeticide. This happened because like India, China to is traditionally a patriarchal society. Where people prefer at least one male child over a female child. So when the government restricted the number of the child to one to go for female foeticide to have a male child not girl, this led to a huge gender imbalance which made china a world’s worst sex ratio country in 2014 .that was 22 male is to 100 females.

This huge gap in made female population led to some ill practice BRIDE PRICE in which brides were bought in return of money, in few cases brides use to runaway with the money within few days of the marriage, so one child policy led to all these problems. So we can conclude the one child policy is not a good solution to fight overpopulation in case of India.

INDIA’S FORCED STERILISATION:- Forced sterilisation too was suggested as a solution to counter over population this infact had already been tried in india.

During the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1976 when her son Sanjay Gandhi lead a forceful sterilisation program, in which 10 million people were sterilised there were few of forceful sterilization people were compelled to go and get sterilised But surprisingly even after sterilisation 10 million people these was no evident of this on population growth no noticeable change was observed.

This shows forceful imposing of unplanned policies would not lead to a change and above all its very unethical to sterillise someone forcefully because reproduction is a very basic human right. No one should get to decide how many child a person can have its immoral and unethical.

So Forced sterilisation can’t be regarded as a solicitation in today’s world.

True solution to overpopulation :- So, it all melts down to this question that what can be the effective and realistic solutions against overpopulation. And answer of this is a little boring and it is the investment in education and health care and to understand this we must know,

WHAT FERTILITY RATE MEANS?

Fertility rate of a country is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her life time, if fertility rate of a country is 2 that means every woman in that country gives birth to 2 child, which means the number of people dying are equal to the number of children born. This makes population stable, this is why 2 fertility rate is called REPLACEMENT fertility “theoratically” but in reality many children die during the birth itself so realistically the replacement fertility rate is taken as 2.2 and if any country’s population is near about this replacement fertility rate then in future it will remain stable so to end over population we must aim to maintain fertility rate of country close to 2.2 and why I am saying that education is the only solution to fight against literacy rate, both are surprisingly interdependent higher the literary rate lower the fertility rate this pattern is observed in many places of the world over as well as Indian states for instances Kerala the state with highest literacy rate in india nearly 100% literacy rate has a very low fertility rate as Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan, Uttar Pradesh literacy rate very low and evidently the fertility rate is very high, infact very few states of India have fertility rates above 2.2 in whole India those are Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and because of these states India’s population is increasing because rest of all the other states have come down below this replacement fertility rate.

Population control Bill, 2019:- In July 2019, a bill introduced in the Rajya sabha by Rakesh Sinha. The bill is to control the population growth of India. According to world Population Prospect 2019 report by the United Nations , the population of India will overtake that of china within a decade. The introduced bill was signed by 125 MP and is yet to become an act of law.

•In 1976, population control and family planning were added to the third list of the Seventh Schedule under the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. Under this, the central government and all the state governments were given the right to make laws for population control and family planning.

Conclusion:- Many myth about increasing population like- Hindu Growth Suppose there is a poor farmer and he is told that you have children and if you get yourself and your wife operated.like-Suppose there is a poor farmer and he is told that you have two childrens and if you get yourself and your wife operated.So you will be given such amount by the government.

So how many things are involved here- Awareness,and he believes that oppression will be successful, In this, they understand the economic benefits, as in many backward classes, there is an ideology that there will be as many earning hands as there are people, then something should be done for them like people who are below the poverty line, if they get an operation on a child. If so, then such amount will be given by the government and legal action will be taken if there are more than two children.

There should be a nationwide discussion on population control, obsessive ideas should be sidelined. The law should be such that it encourages the public to do so, not the law that is forced on the public.

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