PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO TAKE ITS TOLL AS GOVERNMENTS GASP FOR BREATH - The Daily Guardian
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PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO TAKE ITS TOLL AS GOVERNMENTS GASP FOR BREATH

Pankaj Vohra

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The Covid-19 horror story continues to haunt India as the Centre and several states find themselves short of both resources and answers to face the fresh surge in cases. The country recorded more than 3.5 lakh cases on Saturday, more than the total number of cases reported from several European countries in the past month. Four Congress-ruled states have already declared that they were short of vaccines and therefore not in any position to launch the drive for people above the age of 18 from next month. The Centre has claimed that there was a lot of rumour mongering going on regarding the efficacy of the vaccines and people should not give any credence to such gossip.

The ground reality is that India is facing an acute oxygen shortage with patients dying all over. The Union Government made a belated announcement that oxygen plants would be set up in all public hospitals with the money coming in from the PM-CARES Fund – a declaration which perhaps should have been made after the pandemic broke out last year. The lack of coordination and total panic among people have also made things extremely difficult and could easily create law and order troubles.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has extended the lockdown in the capital. thereby indicating that this may again get prolonged, if the situation does not improve by May 3. Kejriwal, being a former civil servant, has perfected the art of portraying things in such a manner that the blame is always on others. His bureaucratic grounding has taught him to first absolve himself of any responsibility and then take any measures. Secondly, while wearing the political hat, he knows how to embarrass his opponents by presenting a picture which shows them in poor light. The fact is that it is the sum total of mismanagement by the state governments and the Centre that has landed us in this soup. The lockdown is also terrible news for the economy with people being rendered jobless and losing their livelihoods. With the cost of living rising by the day, the money crunch could lead to food riots. For those who have taken loans from banks, the situation is extremely worrying. They have no way of meeting the EMIs with no money in their pocket.

India is in the middle of its worst medical crisis in years and the shocking thing is that no one is being either held accountable or answerable for this monumental mess. The extent of the pandemic is so vast, that once rural areas come under its impact, the death rates would multiply manifold. There is an urgent need to bring in specialists who should get full power to deal with this unfolding human tragedy. Hospitals which are using the disease to make quick money must also be warned of serious consequences. The country needs direction and not politics. Everything else can follow once this national emergency is over, possibly by the end of the year.

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Opinion

SONIA SNUBS G-23, BUT CONGRESS FUTURE REMAINS UNCERTAIN

Pankaj Vohra

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The Interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi, snubbed the G-23 leaders within her party but failed to answer several pointed questions regarding how decisions were being taken within the organization. At a Congress Working Committee meeting, held after five months, she hit out at the dissidents, reiterating that she was the party chief and instead of raising issues through the media, it would be better, if they met her personally to address the grievances. The short point is that for majority of the leaders, the Gandhis have been inaccessible and with no forum available within the party, they do not know how to get their views across. The CWC meeting turned out to be more an exercise of expressing loyalty to the family than an attempt to provide a road map so far the future strategy goes. As expected, the CWC members urged Rahul Gandhi to take over even though a schedule for the party elections was simultaneously announced. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik, three of the G-23 leaders who were present, found themselves outnumbered and decided to maintain a low profile. The underlining message sent out to the dissidents by Sonia was that they carried no weight of their own and were dependent on the High Command for any positions.

However, the interim president should have known that the senior leaders have never had any problem with her leadership by and large and if they had turned dissidents, it was because certain questionable decisions which did not bear the Sonia stamp but those of the Gandhi siblings had been taken, taking the cadres by surprise. When Kapil Sibal had stated a few weeks ago that we know who was taking the decisions and yet we know who is not, he had voiced the internal concern of the rank and file. The matter that has to be understood by the High Command is that several appointments made in the recent past were not necessarily going to enhance the position of the party in the respective states and it would be better that in future, the process of wide consultations was gone through. There are also apprehensions that many sensitive decisions were prompted by the Gandhi siblings without factoring in the ramifications since there was no one in their inner group, who had the capacity to manage the consequences of the fallout. What Sonia basically achieved at the CWC meeting was that she was able to maintain a status quo till the next year’s president’s election while making it abundantly clear that the family was not going to easily give up its ownership of the grand old party. However, politics is pregnant with all kinds of possibilities and if the Congress fails to win in any of the poll bound states next year, there could be serious repercussions so far as the leadership question goes. It is being generally perceived in political circles that Priyanka has fired up the cadres in Uttar Pradesh after her Lakhimpur Kheri visit, bringing the party back into reckoning in about 30 to 40 seats.

Simultaneously, it is pointed out that any alliance with any other party in the State, may boomerang on the Congress. There are also serious doubts over the ability of Navjot Singh Sidhu to adhere to the party’s stand in Punjab unless he controls his impulsive actions and falls in line. He is certainly the stormy petrel of Punjab politics. In Delhi where the municipal polls are due, Anil Chaudhury’s leadership as the PCC president, has proved to be unsatisfactory since he has not been able to carry the rest of the leaders. It is being suggested that the best person to head the party in Delhi would be either Arvinder Singh Lovely or Hari Shankar Gupta. The Working Committee also failed to discuss the issue of opposition unity and it is evident that Sonia by declaring that she was going to heading the party, has sent out an important signal that without the Congress as the nucleus, no opposition federal front can be effectively formed. The Congress High Command is responsible for the state the Congress is in and by resigning from his position in 2019, Rahul had acknowledged this fact.

However, ever since then, uncertainty over his return has existed and this has harmed the party more than helping it out. The Congress needs someone who can assume the role of Ahmed Patel in sorting out things before they go out of control. For this the Gandhis have to prepare themselves to zero in on such a person from amongst senior leaders, who has the energy, understanding and the ability to carry everyone with the party. The road ahead is not going to be smooth with both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, posing pragmatic and hard challenges.

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Opinion

A recalibration of strategy

Many learned people and policy analysts have suggested that there can be no military solution to India-Pakistan disputes. However, it may well be true that, like in the case of Egypt and Israel, it might take a calculated military escalation before a long-term ceasefire can be restored.

Ankit Kumar

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The geopolitical developments of past few months have made India’s apprehensions of a two-front engagement, very realistic. While India has been locked in an attritional conflict with Pakistan and its state supported proxies in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) since the later part of 1980s, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has opened another front in Ladakh and on North-Eastern border. Both China and Pakistan are driven by the motive of capturing Indian territory. The deepening China-Pakistan nexus presents a more challenging security environment for Indian forces.

The biggest challenge that the Indian strategic planners are currently grappling with is developing an effective counter-strategy to the two-front war scenario. As after Pakistan’s Kargil war debacle, any full-fledged military adventure by it seems highly unlikely, its use of proxies and terror groups will continue unabated. Insurgency is cost-effective and serves the larger strategic goal. China on the other hand caught India by surprise in Ladakh and now sits in possession of more territory than it used to claim in 1959. The countless corps commander talks have made little headway and seem more like a ploy by China to buy time to impose a new reality on the boundary question. So, what is the way out for India?

Given the limitations of military resources at India’s disposal, India must make some fundamental changes in its military strategy. India’s priority should be to deal with China’s threat. The war of attrition with Pakistan is going to continue unless a better counter-strategy is formulated. Pakistan has been able to tie down a significant number of Indian security personnel and resources in J&K region. The 2003 ceasefire agreement, practically dead for all these years was resurrected in February 2021 amid surprise and much-needed relief for residents of border areas. But with the geopolitical situation changing in Pakistan’s favour with the victory of its proxies in Afghanistan, will the ceasefire continue to hold?

CALM ON THE WESTERN FRONT

The Indian security establishment believes that the February ceasefire is going to last, at least till Winter arrives. However, this seems more a case of wishful thinking. After a high of 4645 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in 2020, the Indian and Pakistani DGMOs (Director General Military Operations) notified in February this year that they have mutually agreed to adhere to the 2003 agreement. The ceasefire was needed by India too as it is caught in a tense stand-off with China in Ladakh. While reports suggest that back-channel talks between NSA’s Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Moeed Yusuf led to this, the Pakistani NSA was quick to disown it. Perhaps due to compulsions of domestic politics in the aftermath of the 5 August 2019 decision amending J&K’s special constitutional status.

The question remains – how does Pakistan benefit from the continual of ceasefire? In retrospect, it seems evident that the ceasefire with India became a necessity for Pakistan to devote its undivided attention to Afghanistan. That was the big prize for Pakistan’s Army. It appears Pakistan Army needed a stop-gap arrangement to ensure peace on their Eastern border, so they could focus on the Afghanistan situation. With its grip on Afghanistan strengthening, Pakistan’s Army would be keen to push for more infiltration of terrorists into J&K.

However, Pakistan is also witnessing an uptick in the attack by Baloch nationalists and TTP rebels from across Afghanistan. Several dozen Pakistani soldiers have died in these attacks this year alone. Pakistan anticipated this spurt in attacks which is why it began fencing its border with Afghanistan in 2017 at an estimated cost of over $ 500 million. Afghans, including a section of Taliban are against this and even the Pakistan government is not sure if it can stop these attacks. The Pakistan government seems out of options and is reportedly exploring talks with TTP to negotiate a peace. Whether Pakistan’s triumph in Afghanistan will prove to be pyrrhic victory, only time will tell. What is clear is that this does not augur well for the region.

With Pakistan firmly in control of affairs in Afghanistan, their forces on top of their morale by believing they have defeated another superpower, they would be eager to take the war to J&K. The recent belligerent outburst by Pakistani PM Imran Khan at UN General Assembly directed against the Indian government, certainly emphasises that they don’t think they would need peace on the border with India for much longer. Worth noting that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister had not raised the usual rhetoric about Kashmir in an informal meeting of SAARC ministers held in mid-February 2021.

With elections in Pakistan slated to be held in 2023, the Imran Khan government and its benefactor, the Pakistan Army, would have to show some “action” on Kashmir. They cannot be perceived as making peace with India as Nawaz Sharif was dethroned by the Army giving the same excuse.

The Indian strategy to deal with Pakistani designs has, by and large, remained unchanged. As a result of that India is not only facing a high cost in terms of lives in containing the insurgency in the Kashmir region but is also having to deal with significant casualties at Line of Control (LoC). Indian government indeed has conducted several operations to target the terrorists on their launchpads, but that is unlikely to change Pakistani behaviour. The terror attacks are now largely limited to Punjab and J&K. This might be due to India’s improvement in precluding terror attacks and due to Pakistani leadership trying to avoid international criticism in the aftermath of large-scale terror attacks like 26/11. However, there is a need to revisit the current strategy being followed to counter terrorist infiltration from across the LoC, which is the centre of focus and learn lessons from counter-infiltration strategy of other countries like Israel. Killing terrorists is not a measure of success and fighting a protracted insurgency should not be the job of the Army.

ISRAELI EXPERIENCE

Israel is one of the few countries that has thrice fought multiple front wars and continues to fight terrorism. This is something that Indian military planners need to look at and study considering that India too faces the risk of one. Going back in history, the current situation in J&K is somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s low-intensity war of attrition with Lebanon that it fought for 15 years (1985 to 2000). The war with Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, resulted in the death of hundreds of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers and ultimately forced IDF to undertake a humiliating withdrawal from the security zone, the territory it was holding in Southern Lebanon as a buffer. Parallels can also be drawn with the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan after a 20-year war.

It was not the first time that Israel was defeated by its opponent by forcing it to fight a battle of attrition. Egypt, after its defeat in the Six Day War in 1967, changed its strategy and engaged IDF in an attritional war from 1968-70 that ate away Israel’s military edge. Israel’s ostensible victory proved delusional, as the loss in men and materiel was significant. Egyptian forces, on the other hand, after getting rehabilitated thanks to generous arms support by USSR, nearly routed IDF in the 1973 Yom Kippur war which helped Egypt recover its lost territory eventually.

‘An attritive war is adopted as a strategy when one side perceives it to be weaker than the other and thus uses attrition to exhaust its enemy’s will to fight without making any concession’. For India the number of lives being lost is unacceptably high. According to government records 5,886 security personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in terrorist incidents from 1989 till August 5, 2019 – 80 in 2019; 62 in 2020; 16 in 2021 (up to June). While on the opposing side, most casualties have been young locals recruited by various terror outfits in Kashmir. Pakistan security forces have suffered fewer casualties of its personnel in its attritional war with India. This presents a scenario of unwinnable conflict for India, as it is unable to inflict any serious damage or cost on Pakistan.

The situation for residents of border villages is equally tragic. The LoC. Ceasefire violations results in higher civilian casualties than those of the military. As the past suggests, whenever Pakistan Army comes under increasing pressure, it escalates tensions with India. Therefore, it is likely that these things will occur with higher frequency until India inflicts severe cost. Ensuring that Pakistan remains on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List is important in this regard.

From its experience of cross-border terrorism, Israel has pioneered several countermeasures. The deployment of smart fences along with physical barriers is an important one. Smart fences are effective in stopping infiltration to a large extent as is seen in case of Israel’s fencing the Egypt border. Israel also uses drones to gather intelligence and at times to carry out targeted pre-emptive strikes. Of course, the adversaries faced by Israel and India are not similar. The terrain and climatic conditions are quite different, India’s being harsher. Therefore, India would have to pick and choose what might work for its security needs.

FINDING TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION

The cross-border raids that are carried out, like that in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) after Uri or in Myanmar in 2015, no doubt act as a deterrent, but only for a short while. There is also the risk of these raids resulting in casualties, the capture of soldiers, and resultant escalation. Pakistan is already exploiting drone technology to drop off arms and narcotics to its terror modules within India. Therefore, there is a case for India to learn from Israel and induct more technological platform to neutralise the technological advantage that Pakistan is trying to exploit.

Protecting lives of civilians and security personnel in a conflict zone should be the government’s foremost concern. The current government has shown commitment towards this. Project for construction of bunkers for residents of border villages have been sanctioned. And rightly so, as the Raksha Mantri had remarked that people living in border villages are “strategic assets.” Government has also tried to address the shortage in bulletproof vests for the soldiers deployed in the region. The project to install smart fence along the LoC is also moving forward. The introduction of technology for border security management is the solution. After the installation of high-tech fence all along Israel border, it has witnessed a sharp decline in number of infiltrations. The same smart fence has been installed by the US on Mexico border. Of course, no security measure is completely fool proof, yet this combination of i-tec and low-tec measures would certainly go a long way in helping better guard the borders and reducing casualties. No solution guarantees hundred percent result. There would obviously be some gaps. Terrorists try to get creative to beat the security measures in place. Something as rudimentary as tunnelling can sometimes defeat the huge investment that country’s make in installing the smart fences.

The government of India also needs to expedite the development of MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs and induct them for surveillance of crossing points and if possible, induct armed drones to neutralise terrorists on their launch pads or before they infiltrate. The induction of Predator UAVs by Navy would certainly help Indian security forces gain some on-hand experience of using these high-tech platforms.

CONCLUSION

Many learned people and policy analysts have suggested that there can be no military solution to India-Pakistan disputes. However, it may well be true that, like in the case of Egypt and Israel, it might take a calculated military escalation before a long-term ceasefire can be restored. Of course, India and Pakistan being nuclear powers, following a policy of brinkmanship might not be easy. Despite its precarious economic situation and causalities in the tit-for-tat ceasefire violations, Pakistan has shown little willingness for any lasting truce. The idea seems to be to keep the Kashmir cauldron boiling, as Pakistan’s aim is to deny India peace. There is no reason why Pakistani establishment would want to rein in their proxies. So, the onus is on India to better safeguard its personnel and borders.

The writer is a PhD Candidate at National Security Studies, Central University of Gujarat. Views expressed are writer’s personal.

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARYAN KHAN AND THE NCB

Pankaj Vohra

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Eyebrows were raised in legal circles when a special court hearing the bail application of superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan and two others, reserved its order till October 20th. This effectively means that that the three of the accused nabbed in connection with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raid on a Cruise ship earlier this month, remained in prison till that time. What is being considered unusual is that Courts normally do not reserve orders in a bail application case, particularly after the arguments of both the prosecution and defense are over. The practice of reserving the order is mostly witnessed in matters where the trial has ended and the Court has to give its final judgment. In the present instance, the learned Judge must be having compelling reasons for reserving his verdict and it is not certain that he may do so, one way or the other, on October 20th itself, since he could be pre-occupied with other important legal matters as well.

There is every possibility that the prosecution would have time to also file a fresh application to oppose the bail plea citing new evidences that have been unearthed in this period. The higher judiciary must monitor cases where there is an inordinate delay in reaching an inference by the Sessions Court. Mr Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, one of the most distinguished Judges of the Supreme Court had made his famous ruling more than four decades ago where he said that bail and not jail should be always considered when hearing matters pertaining to criminal charges. It is nobody’s case that if Aryan Khan is indeed guilty of breaking the law in the eyes of the court, he should go unpunished. However, when the NCB has been unable to unearth any drugs from his person, he is eligible for being considered for bail. Noted senior Advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr Vikas Singh has opined that the NCB had perhaps made a mistake in arresting him and was now attempting to strengthen its case subsequently. Whether that is true or not, only the court can decide. However, there are many loopholes in the entire raid which was conducted while not adhering to the accepted procedures. Even the former NCB Chief, Mr B.V.Kumar, has gone on record to indicate that the investigation was flawed. The Cruise ship should have been seized and not allowed to sail after the preliminary arrests and if the need had arisen to stop it, the help of the Navy and Coast Guard should have been taken. The hurry in which the NCB officials announced the arrest, cast several doubts on how the case has unfolded. The Cabins which were occupied by the accused persons should have been sealed after a thorough search. The most appalling aspect of the matter is that on day one itself, two private persons, one a BJP activist and the other a private detective, described as informers, were seen physically escorting Aryan Khan and his friend Arbaaz Merchant to the NCB office in Mumbai. This was indeed shocking and now it turns out to be that the private detective is absconding. The sloppy probe though defended robustly by the Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh, has come under fire from even political parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) whose leaders including Sharad Pawar and Nawab Malik have attributed motives to the central agency.

There is also a talk in political circles that the matter has been allowed to linger on so that the investigations into the Lakhimpuri Kheri incident does not get adequate coverage in the national media. For instance, on Thursday when the Uttar Pradesh police took the Union Minister’s son for Nishan Dehi (Renactment of the scene of crime), the matter was reported only in the passing while there was total spotlight on Sharukh Khan’s son. The prosecuting agency while opposing the bail has maintained that in a case under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), the accused cannot take the plea of being innocent unless proven guilty. It implies that anyone who has been booked under this Act is to be presumed guilty from the time he has been taken into custody till the Court finds him Not Guilty. The NCB has also come under fire for making small recoveries from various accused in Mumbai, particularly those connected with Bollywood to get magnified publicity. In the process, it has been not able to concentrate on its mandate of detecting international drug cartels and making huge hauls. The short point is that if Aryan Khan has infringed the law as is being made out to be as per the prosecution charges, the court must take cognizance. If it is a case of just harassment and there is an oblique purpose behind the arrest, the prosecuting agency should be rapped on the knuckles, and strict action should be taken against those involved. The Court’s ruling is final and the rule of law has to be respected under all conditions.

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Jal Jeevan Mission: The water revolution

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sanju Verma

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PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious scheme of providing piped water to every household in the country has been a massive success, as it has exceeded its target so far since inception. The flagship ‘Har Ghar Nal Se Jal’ has provided tap water to over 5 crore rural households, which is almost 20% more than the target. Also, over 8 crore rural households now have access to drinking tap water. 100% rural households of Goa, Telangana and Andaman & Nicobar Islands now have tap water connections with states like Puducherry, Haryana and Gujarat inching close to the 100% mark. Historically, access to clean and safe piped water has been a luxury, thanks to successively incompetent Congress led regimes for decades together.

Out of 19.19 crore rural households in India, only 16.87% of households had tap water connections till August 15, 2019, since the time of independence. This means, at the start of the scheme, only around 3.2 crore rural households had water connections, and that number has more than doubled after the launch of the scheme. Concerned about the lack of safe drinking water for rural households, PM Narendra Modi had launched the time-bound initiative— the Jal Jeevan Mission, on August 15, 2019. The aim of the initiative is to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all rural households in India by 2024. The initiative also touches upon other sustainable measures for water conservation, recharge and reuse through groundwater management and rainwater harvesting.

Jal Jeevan Mission is working in partnership with various States with an aim to provide potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on regular and long-term basis. While implementing, states are giving priority to water quality-affected areas, villages in drought prone and desert areas, Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe majority villages, aspirational districts and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana villages.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed on India’s water security, as is evident from his announcement of an allocation of Rs 3.35 lakh crore for the Jal Jeevan Mission, one of the most socially inclusive programmes of his government’s second term. A key focus of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is the “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” initiative, under which piped water will be supplied to almost 16 crore rural and peripheral households in India by 2024. When the scheme was launched in 2019, only 3.01 crore out of 19 crore rural and peri-urban households had access to tap water.

The gigantic task of taking potable water to all rural households got a further leg up with the 15th Finance Commission’s grant of Rs 30,375 crore to rural local bodies. The grant is being utilised for two components — first, the supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling; and, second, for sanitation and the maintenance of an open defecation-free status. Clearly, for the Modi government, big bang reforms and the provision of basic amenities and sanitation run in parallel. Work is also in full swing, with the likes of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Mizoram likely to provide piped drinking water to all rural households by 2022, two years ahead of the deadline. Goa has already earned the enviable distinction of becoming the first “Har Ghar Jal” state in the country, as it successfully provides 100% functional household tap connections (FHTCs) to 2.30 lakh rural households.

To strengthen water testing facilities, Goa is in getting 14 water quality testing laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) mandates the training of five persons in every village, especially women, in using field test kits, so that water can be tested there. The state is now planning a sensor-based service delivery monitoring system to monitor the functionality of water supply, i.e., potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality being provided to every rural household on a regular and long-term basis.

The “Nal Se Jal” scheme is based on a unique model under which villagers will decide for themselves about how much to pay for the water they consume. For example, large families will pay more as their consumption will be higher, while poor families or those with no earning members will pay less. Under this scheme, the Modi government will provide a minimum of 55 litres of water per person per day, which is commendable for the sheer size of the task at hand. The inspiration for this model came from Gujarat’s potable water supply scheme implemented by the Water & Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO). The WASMO scheme helped 79% rural households in Gujarat get potable water supply, which is the second-highest number in the country, after Goa.

In Gujarat, “paani samitis” (water committees) have been set up in every village, which decide the amount of tariff to be charged from the consumers. The final approval is given by the gram sabha. The committees comprise 10 to 15 elected members of the panchayat, of which 50% are women. The “Bank Mitras”, largely women, have made the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) one of the biggest financial inclusion schemes worldwide. Similarly, the “Nal Se Jal” scheme also deploys women in large numbers and will have villagers bear 10% of the capital cost of a project under the scheme, either in cash or in kind (in the form of labour). Once the project is completed, the villagers will get their money back and the responsibility for its maintenance and operation will be handed over to them. This decentralised model would help in giving a sense of ownership to the villagers and encourage community participation. While the Central government is there for providing most of the funds and hand-holding, it is the villagers who will decide what they want.

The fact that cleanliness, sanitation and access to the basics are at the core of PM Modi’s development mantra is also exemplified by the “Blue Flag” tag received by eight Indian beaches, in the very first attempt. In order to qualify for this tag, 33 stringent criteria relating to environmental standards, bathing water quality,educational, safety, services and accessibility standards must be met by the beaches. These beaches are now considered among the cleanest in the world and this is a recognition of India’s drive towards a clean environment and conservation.

In the last few months, Bihar has seen a massive push towards implementing PM Modi’s flagship “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” programme. Between 1 April and 30 June 2020, Bihar provided functional tap water connections to 4.39 lakh households, with a full year target of 1.5 crore households for the financial year 2020-21. PM Modi in 2020 inaugurated two sewage treatment plants (STP) — one each at Beur and Karmalichak in Patna — which would treat the water before releasing it in the Ganga to prevent the river from getting polluted. PM Modi also inaugurated water supply schemes for Chhapra and Siwan where 81,000 and 58,000 people, respectively, will benefit from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, besides laying the foundation stone for developing the ghats along the Burhi Gandak river in Muzaffarpur.

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is PM Modi. People are far more aware now with regard to the environment, which is evident from the fact that 5.16 crore people came together to form a 18,000 km long human chain across the state of Bihar last year,in support of the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali (WaterLife-Greenery) campaign recently.

Besides the “Har Ghar Jal” mission, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the national body leading the efforts for the cleaning and rejuvenation of river Ganga, has seen significant progress with the “Namami Gange” project, with over Rs 10,000 crore, out of the budgeted Rs 20,000 crore, spent. The project is not just about cleaning but also aims at improving the ecology, conserving biodiversity, protecting wetlands and springs and enhancing India’s water security. When the project started, around 3,000 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage was being dumped into the Ganga, with a treatment capacity of less than 1,000 MLD. But now, the treatment capacity exceeds 2,000 MLD and is likely to reach 3,300 MLD in the next two years. In Uttarakhand, almost the entire required capacity has been created, with four STPs in Haridwar (68 MLD), Rishikesh (26 MLD) and Muni Ki Reti (7.5 and 5 MLD) being commissioned during the last few months, during the lockdown. Similarly, in Kanpur, Prayagraj and Patna, STPs are being completed. All along the 2,500 km stretch of the Ganga, sewage capacity is being created. This includes areas like Patna where there was almost no sewage treatment capacity earlier.

The Modi government’s idea is not to build and forget. There is a built-in component for operations and maintenance in all his projects for 15 years. This government has moved beyond the construction era and entered the performance based era.Besides the above, “Ganga Avalokan” was also inaugurated by PM Modi, which is the first museum on Ganga and is aimed at showcasing the biodiversity, culture and rejuvenation activities done in the river. The museum is situated in Chandi Ghat, Haridwar.

It would suffice to say that for PM Modi, clean water is more than just a mission statement. Water scarcity affects every continent and about 2.8 billion people around the world for at least one month every year. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people also lack access to clean drinking water. Hence, PM Modi’s clarion call for water management is both timely and much needed, as India takes giant strides towards uninterrupted water sufficiency.

The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are writer’s personal

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Analysing philosophical perspectives through mathematics principles

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Indian knowledge tradition, if we look carefully at the various components, plays an important role in addition to expression, and displays a pseudo-form together with the form. Philosophers have termed it as Vagjal, ending it and merging it only in the element, and the name of identification with the element. Numbers are the best means of expression, and many spiritual problems can be solved by understanding the result obtained from operations on numbers in the form of elements.

The philosophical side of mathematics also gives an opportunity to develop a similar vision. Mathematical operations can be helpful in building bridges, buildings, architecture— from the point of view of process, this is the external view of mathematics. Apart from this, the processes of mathematics also provides an insight, which is very important for a mathematician to understand. In small operations, many such important topics are contained in a secret form, which also explains the relationship of life and the theory of cosmic bodies. Due to the utilitarian application of mathematics, we have gone so far from the philosophical dimension of mathematics, that it is too much effort to return to that dimension, and it is not enough to arrive at it spontaneously or in a short time.

To understand the philosophical nature of mathematics, we ought to have a broad view. Considering a circle or a triangle as just a figure, we have to rise above the calculation of its area, perimeter, base, perpendicular, radius, etc., and understand the expression which can express these shapes in a broad sense. For example, a triangle is not a mere figure, but a concept that shows the way from multiple to unity and again from unity to multiplicity, if the methods of study are those moving from the base of the triangle to the vertex or vice versa.

If made, then the study material and teaching method in the student’s mind can be planted with the practical seed of unity in plurality, and vice versa. Similarly circle is not only a figure of geometry but a means of expression of that concept, which shows the circular motion of this entire creation and the life of a person. In geography, for instance rock movement — contraction after continental displacement — Himalaya Mountains are in the place of Tethys Sea, and high mountains of Aravalli today turn into plains, in future might turn into trench or rift valley. From this point of view it is very important to analyze mathematical figures or operations.

When the vision of mathematics is so broad, then the formulas which will be applied on these concepts will open the mystery of the cosmic principles. A person who does not believe in God or the Soul can understand the nature of a force/law through mathematics. Mathematics talks about every concept that we spiritually experience in our daily lives. Our experience is that the world is changeable, but the direction of change tells us the circle, and at the root of this change is the ever-changing power, which remains unchanged even at the root of every change, is the ratio of circumference and diameter. , which we know as the greek alphabet pie.

Our ancient sages have used many experiments to describe the manifestation of the Rita (Universal reality) hidden in the root of every change. Similarly, no matter how many sides of the triangle keep changing, the change of these sides does not make any difference in the sum of the interior angles of the triangle, it remains 180° always. These examples given through triangles and circles are applied to every operation of mathematics, and gradually developing this mathematical vision leads man to the never-changing element inherent in change, which is closer to the concept of Rita.

Truth is relative, Rita is universal. The constants/coefficients found not only in mathematics but also in physics confirm broad concepts. There is a need to develop this type of vision at the level of higher education and research, and to develop a teaching method that increases thinking ability at the level of primary classes. This vision can be able to make a person who does not believe in God and the Soul realize the power by which all are bound, which remains unchanged even after being at the root of change, the regulator of many truths which is Rita.

Writer is the Assistant Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Tilkamanjhi Bhagalpur University.

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RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH: FOUR YEARS SHORT OF ITS CENTENARY

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is four years short of its centenary. “Thank you, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA it was an honour, to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with you,” read a post on the Facebook page of Irving police department in the United States on September 22 this year. The post also carried a set of photos which showed a young Indian woman in a traditional dress tying Rakhi on the hands of a group of police officers in uniform and putting a Tilak on their forehead. The post became so popular immediately and earned over 5.8k likes and 1.4k comments.

This massive response is an indicator to a lesser known yet impeccable growth story of an Indian socio-cultural umbrella organisation which is celebrating its 96th foundation day all over the world. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which started its journey on the Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra to mark the victory of Lord Rama over evil Ravana, a date which fell on September 27 in 1925 with a mission to make the nation “a self-reliant, resurgent and mighty”, is no longer restricted to the 39,454 Shakhas or boundaries of the country only now. Its presence is felt overseas through its affiliates like Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) which is single-handedly carrying forward the message of Indianness and cultural inclusivity in every nook and corner on foreign soil.

The U.S. unit of HSS has the mission of “World Peace through Dharma”.  It elaborates, “Sangh, as the organization is popularly known, aims to coordinate the Hindu American community to practice, preserve, and advance ideals and values of the Hindu Dharma. HSS conducts regular values-based education programs for children, youth and adults through more than 220 branches in the US. We also organise service activities and community outreach projects.”

It adds, “Through our regular educational programs based on Dharma, we instil and promote discipline, self-confidence, teamwork, and the spirit of selfless service. Through service activities and outreach projects, we foster a sense of civic duty, responsibility, and volunteerism. HSS in the USA endeavours to instil pride in Hindu heritage among its members and to enhance appreciation of Hindus around the world, their traditions, and civilisation by the broader community in the U.S.” 

The HSS also has its footprint in Canada, a neighbouring country of the U.S. “Sangh is inspired by the idea that the whole world is one family and conducts activities across Canada in order to spread this message widely. The HSS has over 25 weekly meeting centers (shakhas) spread over Ontario, Quebec, Greater Vancouver Area (GVA), Alberta, and Saskatchewan,” it states.

In the United Kingdom, HSS runs over 100 activity centres (known as shakhas) and are attended by over 2000 people on a weekly basis. Regular activities include games, yoga, health & fitness, educational and cultural activities for all age ranges (from 4 years to 80 + years old). It also has a parallel women’s organisation called, Hindu Sevika Samiti, which was established in 1975.

The HSS (UK) further notes, “Hindu Sevika Samiti, through its activities, encourages girls and women to learn and promote, universal Hindu values, to build self-confidence, cultivate a sense of social consciousness and achieve all round development through our model of Sanskar, Sewa and Sangathan. This will lead to individuals to proactively contribute and eventually become integral members of the culture, society and country in which they live.»

Back home in India, the RSS has been scripting a different success story quietly. It recently reached out to the minority communities with an aim to bring them into its fold with a message to the Muslims for a greater cause of religious stability and integrity. In September 2021, the RSS also got in touch with the Christians. An RSS leader Valsan Thillenkery met Pala bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt following uproar over his remark of ‹Narcotic Jihad› and apparently endorsed his stand.

On the political front, the RSS has become the key driver to the ruling BJP›s organisational renaissance in the last seven years compared to the opposition parties, most of which are led and dominated by the old guards. 

For instance, the new face of the BJP in West Bengal unit is a young RSS functionary, Sukanta Majumdar, who won as a Lok Sabha MP only two years ago. He replaced his fellow parliamentarian, Dilip Ghosh, who is not only close to 60 years of age, but also had become an old face in the post. As a young chief of a state party which is in power at the Centre, Majumdar will get three years of preparation for the next Lok Sabha Election.

Thus, culturally and politically, the RSS has altogether achieved an enviable milestone nationwide and beyond which no outfit has been able to match in the last nine decades and perhaps would not be able to too. That is the mantra of its success.

And when the RSS celebrates its centenary after a few years, its global perception will make it more acceptable in more countries and draw the minorities including the Muslims closer to it.

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