I hardly know a family that has not had Covid-19. There is hardly an extended family that has not witnessed death or suffered from its after-effects or due to the unavailability of critical medical care. It is the severity and reach of the disease that makes it a pandemic.
But there is another side to this which is positive and not being reported because death is big news and recovery is not. More than 85 percent of people recover without hospitalization and it is only the 5 percent or so which needs critical hospital care. While I have heard news of the deaths of friends and associates, I have also heard news about entire families recovering very fast.
But the larger debate in the country is not about recovery or death: it is about who should be blamed for the pandemic. Very few are talking about China and the possibility that the virus has been unleashed to weaken India. A pertinent question to ask would be why countries similarly or worse placed such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have not reported the same severity. Have people there become very disciplined or has the health infrastructure there become better than India? This is something inexplicable.
When we are too emotional, particularly when we are deep in sorrow, our critical faculty refuses to work. We try to apportion the blame for death. Was it our inability to get a hospital bed or oxygen cylinder that led to death? Who is responsible for this? Surely the chief ministers, who are caretakers of health infrastructure in their respective states, can’t be responsible. They have done a splendid job by crying and trying to do politics and express their helplessness. A chief minister even said that he can’t reach every person and it was the responsibility of the residents of the state to save the state. No one found it objectionable.
People cried for oxygen and the chief ministers cried too, trying to blame the Union Government. There surely must be one person who is not allowing them to work for the welfare of people. To them it is the failure of the Central Government to provide oxygen to the states. However, when asked to explain why different states have performed differently, they have no answer.
So, the blame must lie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Why is he not crying in a country where talking is taken as acting, where bravado is seen as a sign of leadership? His critics are attacking with vengeance and creating optics that the pandemic has happened due to him and due to his inability to tackle the situation. Why did he address election rallies? Why did he allow the Kumbh Mela? Why did he not impose a nationwide lockdown like last time? Most attacks hover around these issues. Let us try to understand what the Prime Minister has been doing when the chief ministers were crying and doing politics.
Here is a prime minister who tries to work silently when a crisis comes and does not react to political statements since this is not the time to take the bull by the horns. He focuses on channelising his energy into finding solutions and works with double speed. If he also becomes a crybaby like the others, who will come up with a solution? I would not have defended him since the person who is the best speaker in the country does not need a minion like me to defend him. But I am angry. Angry that we seem to be losing our critical faculty. Facts and logic work no more.
Modi’s critics have been trying to systematically destroy him by painting a negative image. But he has come out with flying colours every time. This is because he believes in the philosophy of nishkaam karm (selfless work) and stithpragya (to stay steadfast in every situation)—the two ideals suggested by Lord Krishna in The Bhagwad Gita for a karmyogi. But we must ponder, are we doing the right thing by targeting a man without even a shade of civility? Society should not become so ungrateful. We should not crucify our saviour every time. We should learn from mistakes.
This pandemic has exposed the failure of our health infrastructure to give it an adequate response. First, nobody in the world had expected that the second wave would be so pervasive. Everyone thought this would be less severe. Can we blame Modi for this? The Supreme Court while asking the government to pull up its socks on fixing the oxygen supply also gave a tongue-in-cheek statement that should not be missed. The observation came on 30 April 2021. The Court held, “… the healthcare infrastructure inherited over the past 70 years was not sufficient and the situation was grim.” Can we blame the Prime Minister for this? In fact, he has brought the best healthcare facilities within the reach of the poor by enabling them to get best treatment under the Ayushmaan Bharat scheme. Till the time we have super-speciality hospitals in every district, let people not suffer.
We should not forget that till Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister, there was only one AIIMS that had been set up in 1952. It was Vajpayee who decided to open six AIIMS, one each in the states that did not have good medical facilities such as Madhya Pradesh (in Bhopal), Odisha (Bhubaneshwar), Rajasthan (Jodhpur), Bihar (Patna), Chhattisgarh (Raipur) and Uttarakhand (Rishikesh). Learning from Vajpayee, Dr Manomohan Singh as Prime Minister opened one AIIMS in Uttar Pradesh at Rae Bareli in 2013. When Narendra Modi came to power he decided to open 14 AIIMS to cover the entire country. Every state should have a centre of medical excellence so that they don’t have to rush to Delhi. His vision has been that the problems of a country of India’s size needs addressal on a big scale and a piecemeal approach would not work.
The Modi government has decided to open 157 medical colleges across the country, something that was never thought of. And the government is not withdrawing from the health sector. The number of government medical colleges would be more than those in the private sector. There were 215 private medical colleges and 189 government colleges in 2014-15. In 2019 there were 279 government colleges and 260 private colleges. The vision is to have at least one super-speciality hospital in every district.
Have we ever thought that there is a huge shortage of MBBS graduates and specialists in this country? There were only 50,000 medical seats in the country till 2014. In the last six years, 30,000 additional seats have been added, besides 24,000 postgraduate seats to promote specialization and excellence. A question needs to be asked here: why was this not thought of earlier?
The doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. This is just a statistical average. The situation is abysmal in some states. Bihar has one doctor for 28,392 people, followed by Uttar Pradesh (19,962), Jharkhand (18,518) and others. Even the national capital has one doctor for 2203 people, which is almost double the number in the WHO norms. According to a study by the Medical Council of India, Jharkhand would take 87 years at the present rate to reach the WHO norm.
People would say it is not a big deal. That is the reason he was brought as the Prime Minister. One can’t disagree with this. Now let us look at the short-term measures taken for or immediate response given to the pandemic. During the first wave of Covid-19, the Prime Minister imposed a nationwide lockdown since he knew that the country was not prepared to face the crisis. His strategy paid off even as our economy slid to an unimaginable point. But the time was used to ramp up medical infrastructure and the pandemic was contained. His decision was criticised by many states that said it was unconstitutional and the states should have been given the liberty to devise their own strategies, that the Centre should limit itself to sending advisories or sharing knowledge, and that since the pandemic had differing extents and severity in different states, they should have had strategy that suited them.
So, when the country had enough PPE kits, sanitizers, gloves, masks and inoculated medical and paramedical staff, the states could be trusted with taking care of the crisis. Many leaders had opined that a national lockdown was not the right solution when most states had opted to go for their own versions of lockdowns.
On four occasions, the Union Government sent missives to the states saying that the second wave was coming and they needed to follow Covid protocol strictly. The Centre had written a letter to four states—Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal—in January 2021, asking them to take precautions and warning them about impending danger. On 21 February, the Centre wrote again, asking them to increase the number of Rapid Antigen tests and RT-PCR tests and impose strict and comprehensive surveillance. At that time, more than 74 percent cases were from Kerala and Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had also witnessed a spike. On 25 February, the Cabinet Secretary had a review meeting with seven states that had witnessed a spike—Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. On 27 February, the Cabinet Secretary had a review meeting with Telangana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and West Bengal. These states were advised not to lower their guards, enforce Covid-appropriate behaviour and also deal firmly with violations. Many such meetings took place, showing that the Centre was aware and that it kept asking states to prepare themselves. The Prime Minister held 28 meetings in April-May on how to deal with Covid-19.
The Central Government also told the Supreme Court on 30 April that it had been urging states to prepare for a second wave of Covid-19. The states, however, had not updated their data even after constant persuasion. It stated in an affidavit that it had asked states to prepare a district-wise estimate of beds and capacities in Covid care facilities, based on the trends of infection growth. Had the states followed the projection tool created by the Central Government and ramped up medical infrastructure, the situation would have been different, the Centre said.
On the supply of medical oxygen, the Centre said that of the total requirement of 8462 MT, 22 high-burdened states were already allocated 8410 MT. Also, the Centre was augmenting oxygen on a war footing such as it had already floated a short-term global tender on 16 April for the import of 50,000 MT of medical oxygen. Besides these, 551 PSA oxygen plans are being set up at district hospitals. This is apart from the 500 PSA plants being set up by the DRDO to augment oxygen availability. The signal-free Railway Oxygen Express is also running to ensure the supply of oxygen to needy states. The PM CARES fund has also been used to purchase 1 lakh portable oxygen concentrators and set up Covid hospitals in states, besides spurring the vaccination drive. The Prime Minister has reviewed the progress of converting nitrogen plants to oxygen plants and the process is underway in 14 industries. Further, 37 nitrogen plants have been also identified for conversion this way.
The Centre has also airlifted oxygen tankers from Germany, the UAE, Singapore and other countries using the Indian Air Force to meet the demand for cryogenic tankers for the supply of oxygen. As a part of Operation Samudra Setu II, seven Indian Naval ships—Kolkata, Kochi, Talwar, Tabar, Trikand, Jalashwa and Airavat—have been deployed for the shipment of liquid medical oxygen-filled cryogenic containers and associated medical equipment from various countries. The Army has opened its hospitals to civilians and paramilitary forces are running Covid care centres in various states. The Railways have provided 70,000 Covid care beds across the country and opened Railways hospitals for non-Railways patients. Leading industrialists have also diverted their industrial oxygen for medical needs.
The Prime Minister is the one who stressed the need to vaccinate people. Target groups were identified and allocation made for the vaccination drive. But our leaders politicised the vaccine as well, calling it a “BJP vaccine”. It appeared that they were playing at the behest of forces keen to weaken India. Crucial time was lost. A lot of politics was played regarding the price of the vaccines as if the government was making money out of it. The crucial factor is the reach of the vaccine and not the pricing. While the poor need to be given it for free, those who can afford it must pay to lessen the burden on the exchequer. Hopefully, now the states would go for faster vaccination. Those who can afford can take it from private hospitals as well.
Some critics also made a lot of fuss when India was supplying vaccines to the world for their critical needs such as the vaccination of their healthcare workers. This was not being done at the cost of citizens but as per protocol. India’s efforts have been appreciated the world over. Now that India is in need, the entire world is trying to help us. It is not without reason that French President Emmanuel Macron said that India does not need to listen to lectures from people on vaccine availability. India has helped many countries in making vaccines available and thus helped humanity. Prime Minister Modi’s appeal to countries of the European Union that the TRIPS waiver be given for vaccinating the entire globe without thinking of earning profits has been taken positively.
Enhancing vaccine production capabilities and giving vaccines to all in India and also the world has been the country’s priority. The Prime Minister is working for that. The government has already ordered 160 million doses of vaccine that would take care of things till July. The Centre has allowed states to procure vaccines directly from private players too. Since the Centre has decided to give the vaccine free to target groups and people above 45 years, 50 percent of the vaccines would go to the Centre and 50 per cent to states or private players. Subject to import licensing and approval by regulatory authority, private players can import vaccines. These importers can supply vaccines to states or private players. Sputnik V is going to be the first vaccine available in the private market. Dr Reddy’s Laboratory is already raring to go.
Why did the Prime Minister participate in elections? He could have said no. Is this a fair proposition? The Election Commission conducts elections and the Union Government provides the means and resources to conduct elections including paramilitary forces. When the Election Commission was reportedly toying with the idea of postponing elections in Bihar, every party had opposed and wanted immediate elections. That had also taken place when Covid was surging. The same was the norm this time. Nobody had problems with other parties or their leaders campaigning but critics had problems with the Prime Minister. You don’t create a different norm for the PM. And he did cancel his meetings towards the last legs of campaigning in West Bengal. BJP leaders including Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah cancelled all their election visits to the poll-bound state of West Bengal.
Why was Kumbh Mela allowed to take place in Haridwar? This could have been cancelled. It was for the state government to decide whether it was feasible to organise such a large mela and yet follow the Covid protocol. The Union Health Secretary had written to the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand on 21 March expressing concerns on the Kumbh Mela. The Union had warned the state about a surge in cases as people from affected states would also reach the mela. The state was also told that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar (i.e., 50,000 Rapid Antigen tests and 5,000 RT-PCR tests) were not enough and they must be increased as per ICMR guidelines. Strict quarantine and treatment were suggested for affected people. The state government had already shortened the Kumbh Mela from a four-month event to just one month (January-April to just April) in view of the adverse situation. But the decision proved to be a bad one. The Prime Minister did appeal to people and seers to make the mela symbolic.
Because of space constraints, I have focused largely on what the Prime Minister has done and how unfair we have been to his efforts. In the next, if needed, I would write how various chief ministers have failed their respective states.
The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.
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DYNASTIC DNA TURNS SAFFRON
Why did R.P.N. Singh quit the Congress and cross over to the BJP? For that matter, why did Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Sushmita Dev, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Ashok Tanwar quit the Congress? If you ask the Congress they will call these leaders opportunistic and point to all that the Grand Old Party has done for them, making some of them the union ministers and giving them party positions. In that Congress is right. These were all leaders who counted for something within the organizational framework. They were also once part of Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle, what was once known as his Camelot, harking back to a time when the Gandhis still retained their Kennedysque mystique. And if Scindia, Prasada and R.P.N. were made ministers solely based on their pedigree, well, then it was all part of the optics that the Congress wanted to convey. This was a party of governance, that had onboard the old guard as well as its vision for the future — young fresh minds, graduates from Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge, from Doon School, Miranda House and St Stephens.
Former Union Minister and Congress leader R.P.N. Singh addresses the media after joining Bharatiya Janata Party, at the party headquarters, in New Delhi on Tuesday. ANI
I recall when Jitin, Scindia, and R.P.N. were made ministers during the UPA government along with Milind Deora and Sachin Pilot. If they were accommodated into the Union Government it was not just because of their dynastic surnames (though there is a comfort in the familiar) but also because of the fact that they symbolized the then Congress way of life. It would also be pertinent to point out that all of them were Lok Sabha MPs and not brought in through the Rajya Sabha. Most them belonged to the Class of 2004 which had as its star debut Congress heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi. If the party promoted these faces, it was to further the narrative around its scion, Rahul Gandhi who was being groomed to take over the party some point in the near future. And it is not that they did not deliver. It was R.P.N. SIngh as Minister of State for Home who reached out to the youth protesting against the Nirbhaya gangrape. He did not make politically incorrect statements like some feudal heartland leader saying `Boys will be boys’ but reached out to them, taking delegations to meet both Rahul Gandhi and the then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. As Minister for Telecom and IT, Scindia roped in McKinsey to convert redundant post offices into centres of financial remittances in rural areas (Project Arrow) while Sachin piloted the new Companies Bill through Parliament in UPA2.
The reason this narrative collapsed was that Rahul did not live up to the script. While the others were given ministerial berths, he opted to stay out. And so a Scindia or a Pilot could never be given serious power lest they outshine Rahul Gandhi. Yes, they were made ministers (some in the middle of UPA2) but how many of them were `allowed’ to outshine their colleague and Gandhian peer? It is not that the BJP is any different. No one is allowed to take credit or outshine the Prime Minister (Ask Nitin Gadkari what happens when you do that). But, for all its flaws (or not) the Modi Model is winning elections. And that is what politics is all about. What if Rahul Gandhi had joined the government in UPA 1, learnt the governance ropes and took charge in UPA 2 with his team of young professionals turned politicians. Would 2014 have had a different ending? Maybe not but al teast it would have a fighting chance in 2024. Suppose the people lose faith in the Modi government by the next Lok Sabha polls and are looking for an alternative to the Modi Model? There is no Rahul model in place to give them an answer. Instead, we have Arvind Kejriwal offering the Delhi Model and Mamata Bannerjee offering her West Bengal model.
It is all very well for Rahul Gandhi to complain that `power is poison’ when he is made party vice president. Well if that is the case then perhaps he should be running an NGO pointed out RSS leader Ram Madhav during one of his interviews with NewsX. So, if an R.P.N. has left Congress he is clearly letting it be known that he doesn’t feel there is a political future for him in that party. Ditto for why Swami Prasad Maurya left the BJP. In fact, as one of R.P.N.’s predecessors told me while quitting the Congress, `being a Congress member from Uttar Pradesh is suicidal. A Congress member from Punjab still has hope but not from Uttar Pradesh’.
Judging by the Congress reaction, the party leadership is not too unhappy with the loss of these leaders. We are told that Rahul is in the process of building a new Congress, recruiting talent from outside such as Kanhaiya Kumar, and promoting non-dynasts from within such as Bhupesh Baghel and Charanjit Singh Channi. Well, at least there is a plan in place. Now what the party needs is some consistency.
How PM Modi’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat tackles energy crisis
In the backdrop of the need to ensure power availability at a reasonable cost across the country including states located far away from the coal pit head, PM Modi’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat under ‘One Nation, One Grid’ proved very successful.
The sustained efforts of the Modi Government during the pandemic including ‘pump priming’ with a multiplier effect on private sector investments and demand as well, has poised the Indian economy to resurge into one of the highest growth rates. Resultantly, the power sector, with a strong co-relation co-efficient with the overall economy, also witnessed buoyant demand for power with the spin-off revival of the generation and transmission sector. The unprecedented and erratic rainfall during the extended monsoon season of this year led to coal supply bottlenecks in the coal-fired thermal power plants in the country. However, with the timely intervention of the government, disruption in the power supply was averted.
In the backdrop of the need to ensure power availability at a reasonable cost across the country including states located far away from the coal pit head, PM Modi’s call for “Atma-Nirbhar Bharat” under the “One Nation, One Grid” proved successful as it was ensured that power was available in the grid from plants which were having sufficient coal stock. It is to the great credit of the Modi government that due to the flexibility introduced in the coal distribution policy, the country did not face any blackout as any shortage at the individual thermal power plants was substituted with coal stock available at other plants. In another visionary measure, coal import up to 10% had also been allowed to augment domestic coal supply to ensure that there was no loss of productivity infringing upon national income due to outages of coal-fired power plants.
The coal-based power generation in the country grew by about 14% during the last year (April to November 2021). Even though the international coal prices saw an increasing trend, to ensure the welfare of the consumer, the Government did not increase the price of domestic coal, since January 2018.
The domestic coal-based power plants have generated 20% more power in this period as compared to last year and ensured that there is no shortage of power in the country despite the steep decline in power generation by the imported coal-based power plants due to high prices of imported coal.
A sudden increase in power demand and high rainfall in the catchment area of some coal mines depleted the coal stock at the power plants i.e. as against standard 30 days of coal stock requirement, a few power plants had near-zero coal stock. However, before the problem could transform into a widespread crisis leading to blackouts and prolonged supply outages, the Government ensured, with effective intervention, that coal supplies to power plants were restored to meet the daily generation requirement.
The overall railway rakes loaded (till 28.12.2021) from Coal India Limited (CIL) sidings and washery sidings near CIL was 296.1 rakes per day which is an increase of 23% as compared to the previous year. Similarly, 259.5 rakes per day were loaded for the power sector from these sidings, which is an increase of 29% as compared to the same period of last year. CIL’s production was 413.64 MT (Apr – December 2021) (5.3% growth) which is very high despite the second wave of Covid during the year. The CIL coal despatch was 481.83 MT during the same period i.e. a growth of 17.64%, which is the highest ever despatch by CIL during this period. Also, the CIL despatch to the power sector was 386.5 MT which is also the highest ever coal despatch to the power sector. CIL is poised to produce 650 MT coal this year and despatch 682 MT this year.
The coal stock at thermal power plants of the country, which are linked with the coal companies, is more than 23.2 MT (sufficient for more than 12 days coal consumption). The coal demand from power plants for the last 4 months of this year is about 243 MT (from all sources) and the coal stock required is about 47 MT. The coal demand is going to increase in the medium-term (up to 2030 or so) although the relative share in total power generation may reduce due to larger integration of renewable power of 500 GW and achieve 50% of electricity usage from renewable sources of energy by 2030. The coal demand from the power sector is likely to hover around 900-1000 MT by 2030. Thus, in absolute terms, the requirement of coal is going to increase despite the anticipated change in the power mix basket.
The steps being taken to increase production are (i) Rolling auction for commercial mining (ii) Amendment in Mineral Concession Rules 2021 to allow 50% sale of coal after meeting with end-user requirement of linked plant (iii) Mine Developer and Operators identified by CIL (iv) A target of 1 Billion Tonne coal production by CIL by 2023-24.
Hence, despite liberalising import of coal during the coal crisis period, the Government, on the whole, has achieved Atma-Nirbhar Bharat by reducing coal imports for power generation by about 50%. India is making great strides in the power sector and it will not be long before we live up to PM Modi’s commitment of 500 GW of Renewable Energy by 2030.
JAMIA HAMDARD UNIVERSITY DESERVES TO BE A CENTRE OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
The year 2021 shall always be remembered as a year of success and pride that scripted glorious history in the journey of Jamia Hamdard. Placed among the top 25 universities of India, it has bagged the first position in the field of Pharmacy while its medical college has been ranked 22nd at NIRF in the country by the Union Government. What added another feather to the deemed-to-be university’s cap was its achievement at the UPSC examination for civil services the same year. As many as 10 students who were trained by Jamia Hamdard Residential Coaching Academy cracked the examination.
Jamia Hamdard was established by a renowned Unani physician, Hakeem Abdul Hameed (14 September 1908-22 July 1999). The Founder-Chancellor was a great philanthropist, thinker and visionary, who set up several institutions. He was honoured by several national and international awards including Avicenna Award presented by the erstwhile USSR in 1983 and Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Union Government. Hakeem Abdul Hameed was an honorary member of the Academy of Medical Science of the Islamic Republic of Iran and once was the Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.
His son is Mr Hammad Ahmed (President, Hamdard National Foundation, HNF-HECA) who has taken charge as the Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard University. He has been a member of HNF since its inception in 1964. His-decade long experience in charitable institutions is bound to inspire the University to attain new heights.
Mr Hammad Ahmed has been involved in Jamia Hamdard since before it gained Deemed University status in 1989. Over the years, he has served in the Executive Council, Finance Committee and various other advisory bodies of the university and has championed the growth of Jamia Hamdard through sustained personal attention and interest, with vice-chancellor Professor Mohammad Afshar Alam’s mission being implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) of the union government for improvement in the quality of education.
The Jamia Hamdard, which started its journey from a small Unani clinic in 1906 by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, has grown to its present form on account of the efforts of his illustrious son, Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who efficiently carried forward the philosophy and objectives of the Hamdard. In 1947, he planned to set up a complex of educational institutions which would concentrate on highlighting the contribution of Islam and Islamic culture to Indian civilisation and the development of Unani medicines for curing diseases.
For setting up a complex of research and educational institutions, Hakim Abdul Hameed purchased land in the Tughlaqabad area of South Delhi which was not inhabited in those times. In order to implement and execute the objectives of the Wakf as enshrined in the Wakf deed, Hakeem Abdul Hameed and his associates established several institutions for teaching and research. In 1962, Hakim Abdul Hameed set up the Institute of History of Medicine and Medical Research with the object of promoting education and research in the history of medicine, besides appraising the principles of medicine.
In 1963, Hakeem Abdul Hameed along with his friends and associates set up the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies with a view to promoting the study of Islamic Culture and Civilisation especially its contribution to Indian society and culture.
In 1972, Hamdard College of Pharmacy was set up. But it was 1989 when the dream of Hakeem Abdul Hameed was accomplished as Jamia Hamdard received Deemed to be University status from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Over the last decade, the Jamia Hamdard rapidly emerged as an outstanding institution of higher learning with distinct and focused academic programmes. The graduate programme in Information Technology and Computer Applications and post-graduate programmes in Information Technology, Computer Applications, Business Management, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are among the new courses. Undergraduate programmes in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are being introduced from this year.
Jamia Hamdard wants to provide international quality higher education under the NEP, which is expected to bring a sea change in academia. It aims to undertake cutting-edge research in the fields of social, natural science and technology and particularly promote the study of modern and traditional medicine systems, especially Unani-Tibb. This will usher in a holistic and integrated approach to healthcare and meet the societal education needs of underprivileged Indian communities.
Its mission of promoting the cause of higher education through modern styles of teaching and advanced research in the branches of knowledge the Jamia Hamdard is likely to develop core competence for and as may be in consonance with the emerging needs of India under the ambit of NEP.
Another ambitious plan of Jamia Hamdard is to co-operate, collaborate and associate with national and international organisations and institutions in any part of the world having goals wholly or partly similar to it and under the provision of the UGC regulations.
It also wants to offer the scope for higher education for excellence and innovations which may fit primarily at UG, PG and doctoral levels.
The Ministry of Education should contemplate bestowing the status of the Centre of National Importance on this prestigious institution, engaged in the service of mankind.
The author is Professor of Arunachal University of Studies, Namsai and also Former Media Advisor, Aligarh Muslim University. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
India’s war legacy cannot have colonial shadow on it
The India Gate was constructed as a British war memorial to commemorate the 83,000-plus soldiers who died during the First World War, from 1914-21. Out of these, the names of only 13,516 soldiers, including British, are inscribed on it
These are the most beautiful and inspiring lines enshrined as epitaph on the Kohima War Memorial in Nagaland. These lines commemorate those Indian soldiers who fought the Japanese during the Second World War. They constantly remind us that we are safe today due to the sacrifices of those brave soldiers. Although these thoughts were penned by John Maxwell Edmonds, they are relevant to all war memorials.
The brouhaha over the merging of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame with the Eternal Flame at the newly constructed National War Memorial is political and bereft of emotions that should define Independent India’s existence as a sovereign State. By the merger, this country is creating a new tradition where the sacrifice of every soldier on a daily basis is recognised and valued. The memory is being magnified and amplified many times over and evoking the right response.
War memorials have played an important role in the lives of nations. Different countries have created different traditions. Infosys Trust Chairman Sudha Murthy brilliantly describes how deeply touched she was when she visited Moscow and came to know of the tradition of newly married couples visiting the nearest war memorial after exchanging their marriage vows.
Every newly married couple is reminded that their peaceful existence in Russia is because of the sacrifices made by their ancestors. It is a tradition for couples to seek the blessings of martyrs in war memorials. This is a sign of gratitude that the nation pays to its heroes, she describes. Visiting a nearby war memorial immediately after the wedding and wearing a service uniform since everyone serves in the armed forces is a custom Russians have evolved over generations.
War memorials are supposed to create memories and thus must evoke the natural urge of giving thanks and determination to be better citizens. In countries where a brief stint in the military is a must, one does not need to teach the respect the army commands or should command. But in our country, where even the sacrifices of our brave soldiers are at times undermined due to political reasons, it is necessary to keep reminding ourselves that our national life depends on the daily supreme sacrifices made by these soldiers to keep the country together. The highest sacrifice is going to the war knowing fully well that you may not return to your loved ones.
Imagine a non-descript politician calling the Army Chief, “Sadak ka Goonda”, and getting away after tendering an apology. This happens when a politician starts seeing the Army as partisan to establishments. Instead of celebrating the victories of our armed forces, such people start seeing these victories with jaundiced eyes and ask the Army to give proof of their valour.
This shows that the ceremonial obeisance before the Amar Jawan Jyoti has failed to imbibe those right values. Dignitaries come and go after paying their respect to the makeshift war memorial at India Gate, but these have failed to create the right memories for us. A visit to a war memorial is not a ritual but a recognition of the supreme sacrifices made by the country to keep itself afloat.
I have often seen merry-making people visiting India Gate for picnics or partying or simply to have ice cream after dinner. But I have seldom witnessed them stopping by at the war memorial and trying to figure out the reason for the eternal lighting of the flames. The meaning of the rifle-turned upside down with a helmet on it is lost on most.
India Gate, the symbol of the British Raj, looks imposing and grand and has become a symbol of India’s capital. But has it acquired the stature of a war memorial? I have serious doubts. Those picnic-goers should not be expected to drown their passions in sombre thoughts. Sadly, the memories are not created. I bet you ask a common person who visits India Gate to spell out his thoughts after visiting the memorial. He would not be even able to explain the meaning. So, images about the visit are created but not the thoughts. You become a part of history, yet you do not know the history.
When the Amar Jawan Jyoti was inaugurated on 26 January 1972, it was to commemorate the memories of the 3,843 Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives while writing India’s triumphant military history in liberating Bangladesh in 1971. The makeshift war memorial was embedded close to India Gate (under the arch of the India Gate) and the permanent flame was lit in the memory of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. Gradually, it came to symbolise the sacrifices made by all soldiers.
The India Gate was constructed as a British war memorial to commemorate the 83,000-plus soldiers who died during the First World War, from 1914-21. Out of these, the names of only 13,516 soldiers, including British, are inscribed on it. Some names are of those soldiers who lost their lives in the Third Anglo-Afghan war. The foundation for this war memorial was laid on 10 February 1921 and was inaugurated on 2 February 1931.
Naturally, if you have the Amar Jawan Jyoti adjacent to or under the India Gate, memories would get mixed. The symbol of the British Empire exists side by side with the independent military victory of 1971. It does not have the names of freedom fighters of India or of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Bangladesh War or the other wars that India fought and won either before or after 1971.
While no one can take away from the valour of Indian soldiers who fought bravely and created a saga for their regiments during the First World War, the fact remains that Indians had no say in this participation. It was the British who decided their wars and forced participation. This was the history of British India and not an independent nation. While this would be respected as a relic of the past, it cannot truly represent an Independent India’s war legacy.
It is in this context that a demand was made about 60 years back that the country should have its National War Memorial. The armed forces proposed it in 1960 and the UPA government decided in 2006 that such a war memorial be set up nearby India Gate. But it ran into trouble due to objections from the Ministry of Urban Development on the heritage site issue of Central Vista. In 2012, the UPA announced the decision to construct the proposed war memorial but serious objections were raised by the Delhi Government under the late Sheila Dikshit.
It appears that while the Congress-led UPA wanted the war memorial, there was a section within the party that opposed it on the pretext that it would erase the memory of Indira Gandhi’s role in the Bangladesh War. But the agenda for a war memorial picked momentum when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The Government cleared the proposal for a National War Memorial at a Cabinet meeting in October 2015 and sanctioned Rs 500 crore. This was to commemorate all soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the history of post-Independence India.
The Government stated its objective: “This government will be establishing a War Memorial and a Museum with a deep sense of gratitude to honour those brave soldiers, who laid down their lives. The memorial will promote a sense of patriotism in the minds of visitors, and will award an opportunity to citizens of this vast nation, to express their token sense of gratitude to the brave soldiers, who laid down their lives for the motherland”. And the War Memorial was inaugurated just 400 metres from India Gate on 25 January 2019.
On 30 May 2019, Narendra Modi visited the NWM to pay tribute to the martyrs before taking oath as the Prime Minister of India for the second time. The seed for a new tradition was being laid. On 15 August 2019, President of India Ram Nath Kovind placed a wreath and observed two minutes’ silence at the NWM, instead of India Gate, before the start of the 73rd Independence Day parade.
The NWM is an awe-inspiring structure, spared over 40 acres and commemorates all soldiers who have sacrificed their lives. Names of more than 26,000 soldiers are etched in granite. It also contains the names of those who died during UN military operations. All the wars have been covered. The memorial intends to invoke deep memories that should serve as an inspiration and it does succeed in its purpose.
So why should one oppose the merging of Amar Jawan Jyoti with the NWM eternal fire? The memories are not being erased but new memories are being created. Unlike India Gate, when you enter the NWM you get transformed into a different world. Images of sacrifice and valour of our brave soldiers who made the country what it is today. Even two minutes of contemplation for them would be enough to remind us why we are safe today. The Congress and other leaders have made it appear as if this was an attempt to erase the memory of Indira Gandhi. This is ridiculous. She will always be remembered as an Iron Lady who made India proud, whenever the Bangladesh War is mentioned. But India won many wars before or after that and many soldiers sacrificed their lives. It is happening on a daily basis even today. How about giving them their dues? It makes no sense to have two war memorials at a distance of 400 metres.
And what a beautiful way to remind people of another great leader of the country who has been consigned to a few pages in modern history due to the political shenanigans of the Nehru-Gandhi family—Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The canopy at the India Gate that once had King George V, King of England, from 1939-68, will now have Bose, the person whom the British Empire dreaded. A befitting memorial to Bose on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary, which is celebrated as Parakram Diwas, makes us all proud.
The writer is the author of “Narendra Modi: the GameChanger”. A former journalist, he is a member of BJP’s media relations department and represents the party as spokesperson while participating in television debates. The views expressed are personal.
PRIYANKA NOT AVERSE TO A NON-GANDHI AS CONGRESS PRESIDENT
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has emerged as the most visible face of the Congress during the past few months, does not appear to be averse to a non-Gandhi becoming the chief of the grand old party. In fact, in an interview with an English News Channel, she said that the family would be open to the idea if that is what the rank and file want. However, this willingness to allow somebody other than the Gandhis to take over the organization at this stage is most unlikely since the controls for all practical purposes are still with the family. Therefore, the only way a non-Gandhi can become the Congress president is if the family backs such a person. The primary reason why there has been no serious challenge to the Gandhis from within the party so far is that senior leaders realise that it would be extremely difficult to dislodge them from their elevated position unless they decide to vacate the office for someone more capable and hands-on.
In the unlikely eventuality of this happening, the chosen person would have to be a politician who would be remote-controlled by them to a large degree. Amongst the current crop of leaders, there are only three who can steer the party out of its current crisis. However, there is no denying that they would need the patronage of the Gandhis who too would assist them only if it is not a long-time arrangement. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Kamal Nath who has won nine times from Chindwara and is currently the head of State unit and leader of Opposition in the Assembly is certainly a very capable politician. He has the capacity to pick up the phone and speak to any national leader, across party lines, something which not too many politicians can do. His credentials to lead the Congress which he joined in 1969 are very strong; Chindwara is the only area in the country where the Lok Sabha MP and all the MLAs belong to the party. This is not the case anywhere else. Kamal Nath was a classmate of the late Sanjay Gandhi in the Doon School and has access to the Gandhis. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has the huge organizational experience and has been with Congress since his NSUI days. He has run the state on multiple occasions and has both, expertise and proximity to the Gandhis.
Former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a mass leader and someone who can collect a a large number of people at a very short notice. His tenure as the CM is considered to be amongst the best in the State. The contributions and the capacity of these leaders are acknowledged by everyone else in the party. Either of them can also get the G-23 or dissidents on board if that eventuality arises. However, the problem that would come in the way cannot be ignored. The Gandhis cannot be wished away and even if they are comfortable with these leaders or someone other than them, their coteries would never allow the transfer of power to take place. The coteries have light weights and shallow people, who are both insecure and lack understanding of the party, its history, and ideology. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have both had long innings of controlling the Congress, directly or indirectly. The general belief within the party is that if the Gandhis have to be at the helm of affairs, it should be Priyanka from out of the three of them. She has displayed maturity and presence of mind during her campaigning in UP, though she lacks consistency and sometimes good political advise. She has been leading from the front despite realizing that the organisation structure in Uttar Pradesh was very weak and is a major obstacle to the success of the party candidates. Amongst several options being considered by her supporters as well as her to resuscitate the Congress could be a contest from Gorakhpur against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. This is something that would be opposed by her brother and mother. The only way Congress can survive is by reinventing itself. A split after the UP polls may become imminent. The developments could pave way for some drastic measures and could lead to a changed leadership scenario.
Caste, religion and other factors that will decide UP
Religion and caste are the biggest determining factors in the voting preferences of people in India, more so in Uttar Pradesh. It is a fact that out of political compulsions, BJP uses the religious card to woo Hindus, while other political parties ue appeasement to garner Muslim support.
The UP Assembly elections scheduled next month are one of the most defining events in the Modi-Shah era of Indian politics. Its outcome would decide how they could continue on their agenda of changing the very political discourse of the country.
Presently, some of the political pundits are elated over some defectors, claiming themselves to be the ‘mai-baps’ of smaller most backward castes (MBC), joining Samajwadi Party. The event is projected as the ‘might’ of the minorities and backward classes forming a ‘real secular’ coalition. In their understanding, this might cause an incurable injury to BJP fortunes in 2024.
These ‘experts’ argue that the caste alliances forged by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, given his secular credentials, developmental work, firm support of Muslims and farmers’ disenchantment manifested by the long-drawn agitation as well as failure of Yogi Adityanath in managing the pandemic and lacklustre performance of his regime, might make re-election of Yogi difficult.
Religion and caste are the biggest determining factors in the voting preference of people in India, more so in UP. It is a fact that out of political compulsions, BJP uses communal polarisation to woo Hindus while other political parties use appeasement to secure Muslim support.
Congress with 6.3% vote share and BSP with 22.25% in 2017 elections are totally out of the reckoning. In such a scenario, even the die-hard supporters out of compulsion would shift to other political parties than to allow their vote to go waste and/or provide an opportunity to a party which they totally abhor coming to power.
Hindus and Muslims are two major religious groups in UP. Muslims would go to any extent to prevent CM Yogi from securing another 5-year tenure as he has strongly resisted anything was pro-Muslim. They would like to vote for their most trusted party, i.e. Samajwadi Party, to defeat BJP. However, in a particular constituency, if a non-SP candidate is better placed to defeat BJP, they would vote for him. Whereas Hindus, other than the pro-SP Yadavs and the pro-RLD Jats, are also unlikely to support any candidate which would facilitate any SP victory in the state.
Caste wise, 90% Yadavs would vote for SP with only 10% going to BJP. Similarly, despite all the adverse issues, upper castes like Rajputs, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas and a faction of Jats would vote for BJP. For these castes, the “izzat of bahu-beti” (dignity of women) is more important than anything else. The prime motivation for these castes to vote for BJP is the improvement in law and order situation and neutralisation of criminal elements.
One generally hears from the ‘intellectuals’ that Yogi is promoting ‘Thakurwad’ in UP and Brahmins are disenchanted with him and might not vote for him. They argue that Brahmins, who solidly supported BJP, were expecting a Brahmin Chief Minister after the 2017 election and a major share in power. One would like to ask these intellectuals if SP or BSP would nominate a Brahmin as the Chief Minister of UP. Brahmins may be a little disappointed with BJP but are not so foolish to allow UP to revert to its old Wild-West ways. An ordinary Brahmin is also concerned about the “izzat of bahu-beti” and is not going to vote for SP nor would he waste his vote for Congress or BSP. As regards the allegations of indulgence in ‘Thakurwad’, it has no weight as no other caste has any complaint in this regard.
Some political analysts are reading the defection of some ministers and MLAs belonging to MBC and SC and joining SP as a sign of BJP’s OBC and Dalit base cracking and paving the way for SP rule in the state. These individuals left BJP after realising that they would not be renominated. Ask any ordinary person belonging to the Dalit or MBC if he would vote for SP candidate, the answer would be ‘no’ even if he is a Yadav. Dalits and MBCs are generally the victims of Yadav-Jat-Rajput ‘dabangai’ in rural areas and ‘gundai’ of mafias in urban areas. They may criticise Yogi on any other issue but are always appreciative of Yogi for improving the crime situation in the state. It has been BJP’s policy to groom youngsters into leadership role even in the Dalit and MBC communities, and this is the reason that these leaders have been spurned by BJP and forced to leave.
Farmer agitation hardly has any impact anywhere in UP other than in the area of influence of the Baliyan Jat Khap. RLD, which is known to have influence among Jats of western UP, supported the agitation along with all other Opposition parties and is hopeful of performing better this time. The live pictures of the agitation at Ghazipur border shown in the media would show a preponderance of Muslims and Sikhs, though the area hardly has any Sikh farmers. Muslims of western UP are very keen to throw BJP out of power and thus were strong supporters of the farmers agitation and contributed maximum manpower to the blockade at Ghazipur border. The allegation of Khalistani support to the agitation has also been there. Jats, like Yadavs, being land-owning communities compete with the latter and are not enamoured of Yadav rule. A large section of Jats in western UP has become ardent followers of BJP under the influence of Hindutva ideology. RLD is likely to improve its position from 1 to 3. On all the seats where Jat candidates have not been fielded by the RLD-SP combine, Jats would not be voting for the combine but for BJP. Incidentally, farmers of UP are sugarcane growers and have not forgotten how SP left huge sugarcane arrears of farmers unpaid, which were cleared by the Yogi government. Moreover, encouragement to sugarcane farmers by permitting ethanol production is likely to secure Jat votes for BJP.
BJP would be hugely benefitting from the weakened BSP and Congress. While the Muslims supporting them earlier would shift to SP, their Hindu supporters would be moving towards BJP. Jatavs, who are the committed supporters of BSP and dislike BJP, may also shift their vote to BJP to defeat their enemy, i.e. SP.
The direct delivery of benefits like house, gas, electricity etc has won the hearts of the poor, who were always promised big but delivered nothing. Even the so-called allegation of mishandling of the Covid-19 situation has not generated widespread disenchantment with the Yogi government.
In a highly polarised state like UP where most of the contests are going to be bipolar, voters will ultimately decide their vote on their preferred party/candidate and, more importantly, whom they want to keep out from power in all circumstances. On this criteria, those who want to keep SP out far outnumber those who want to see an SP government in the state.
The final tally of Congress is not going to be more than 2, BSP 7, with SP and allies tally being around 60 (+/- 5). BJP would retain its present strength or improve it. For BJP, the polling percentage would be of utmost importance. If polling exceeds 60%, BJP would repeat its previous performance, and if it remains below 51%, BJP would struggle to cross the majority mark.
Rajinder Kumar is a formmer special director of the Intelligence Bureau
Farmer agitation hardly has any impact anywhere in UP other than in the area of influence of the Baliyan Jat Khap. RLD, which is known to have influence among Jats of western UP, supported the agitation along with all other Opposition parties and is hopeful of performing better this time.
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