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PM Modi’s big bang structural reforms finally bearing fruit

Indian economy is on the cusp of a big turnaround. While the IMF estimates an 8.8 percent GDP growth for India in the next financial year, Nomura predicts 9.9 percent and Goldman Sachs a massive 13 percent GDP growth.

Sanju Verma

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‘A virus has ravaged the world. We have never seen or heard of a crisis like this. The only way for India to triumph over the crisis is to strengthen our resolve so that our resolve is even greater than this crisis.”

These words by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sum up the steely resolve of this government that converted various adversities into opportunities all through 2020 for a better 2021. PM Modi further said, “There is an unprecedented crisis but India will neither get tired nor give up the fight against the coronavirus. We have to protect ourselves and move ahead as well. The special economic package would be the main component of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).This package is for migrants and farmers who work for the nation day and night, no matter the circumstances. The package will focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws. It will help small businesses, labourers, farmers. This will focus on the well-being of migrant workers too.”

Needless to add, PM Modi›s ambitious Aatmanirbhar Bharat package of almost Rs 30 lakh crore, tantamount to a solid 15 percent of India›s GDP, has been re-energising the economy across sectors by not only resolving supply chain disruptions but, more importantly, by boosting demand. As in the final analysis, demand resurgence is the fulcrum around which India›s economic momentum is taking shape.

The auto industry is a lead indicator and a precursor of where the economy is heading. Given the stellar auto sales of the last three months, it is safe to conclude that the Indian economy is gathering momentum. Maruti Suzuki, for instance, sold 1.64 lakh units in October 2020, which effectively means that Maruti sold more than four cars every single minute. Hyundai posted the highest ever November sales at 48,800 units in 2020, a growth of 9.4 percent, over the same month last year. Feedback from dealers suggests that demand for the SUV models of Creta, Venue and the newly-launched i20 has been so strong that the waiting period is anywhere between eight to sixteen weeks for these cars. Tata Motors also saw a big resurgence in demand, posting an impressive 108 percent growth, selling 21,641 units last month. The broader passenger vehicles segment in November 2020 saw a growth of 24 percent over the same period last year. Kia Motors and Honda saw a 50 percent and 55 percent growth in sales, respectively, in November year on year (YoY). Tractor sales surged by 48.34 percent in November 2020 to 89,530 units from 60,352 units a year ago, driven by a higher kharif output and good rabi sowing.

The Modi government’s focus on rural growth continues and outlay under Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 will only boost rural incomes further. M&M, the tractor behemoth, for example, sold 31,619 tractors in the domestic market during November 2020, a superb growth of 55 percent over last year. Escorts Ltd registered a growth of 30.9 percent in tractor sales in November 2020. The dealer and depot stocks continue to be low, indicating that the demand resurgence in the last few months was driven by genuine retail sales and not merely limited to inventory restocking ahead of the festive season or the “base effect”.

The positivity continued for the two wheeler segment too, with Hero MotoCorp Ltd, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, selling 5.91 lakh units in November 2020, a 14 percent jump over last year. In the recently concluded festival period, over 14 lakh motorcycle units were retailed by Hero in just the 32-day period starting from the Navratras till Bhai Duj. Apart from auto sales, the index of industrial production (IIP) rose by 3.6 percent in October 2020, touching a 8-month high, with the manufacturing sector posting growth for the first time since February this year and expanding by a good 3.5 percent. The manufacturing category makes up 77 percent of the IIP. A 3.6 percent rise in the IIP after a 6.6 percent contraction in October 2019 is indeed a vindication of the return to normalcy.

Consumer durables saw a robust 17.6 percent growth in October, as compared to a 3.4 percent growth in the previous month of September and a 18.9 percent decline in October last year.

Consumer non-durables, comprising essential goods with a broadly non-elastic demand, grew by 7.5 percent in October. More importantly, the construction segment grew by a healthy 7.8 percent during the month. Capital goods also entered positive territory in October 2020, growing by 3.3 percent YoY, after 21 months of decline. Electricity generation rose by a solid 11.2 percent in October 2020 after rising by 4.8 percent in September.

The IIP data complements a set of other broad economic indicators such as generation of e-way bills and goods and services tax (GST) collections, indicating the restoration of momentum in economic activity, after months of disruption caused by the Covid pandemic. For example, for two months in a row, GST collections were Rs 1.05 lakh crore each in the months of October and November 2020. The total number of GSTR-3B returns filed for the month of November was 82 lakh. Again, e-way bill generation in November 2020 was steady at 55.3 million, after clocking an unprecedented 64.1 million in October 2020, which was the highest ever since the e-way bill system came into practice.

A major indicator of the resumption of economic activity in the country was Fastag payments or automated toll payments, which have been deployed across all national highways in the country. In February, NPCI reported 110 million toll transactions which dropped to 84 million in March and a mere 10 million in April 2020. However, in October, with highway traffic becoming almost normal, there were 122 million transactions reported with Rs 2,137 crore being collected in toll payments. Bharat Bill Payments or BBPS has been a silent beneficiary of the pandemic. The numbers reflect a similar trend. If January 2020 saw around 15 million bill payments being done monthly, for October, the number jumped 58 percent to 23.7 million with almost Rs 4,000 crore being paid digitally. Also, the amount of bills paid digitally has jumped over 200 per cent versus data for the same time period last year. RuPay card usage for online transactions continued to hold steady at the 60 million level throughout the year, which is a good sign. In the festive October month, the amount of money paid through RuPay cards reached Rs 8,753 crore, up 55 percent from Rs 5,644 crore at the beginning of the year.

Again, net new enrolments with retirement fund body EPFO rose by 56 percent to 11.55 lakhs in October, as compared to 7.39 lakhs in the same month last year, showcasing the steadily rising trend in formal sector employment despite the pandemic. The net payroll additions were 14.19 lakhs in September 2020. Earlier, for April this year, net new enrolments stood at just 1 lakh. Hence, the recent buoyancy in payroll numbers is certainly a big step forward.

FDI inflow increased to $55.56 billion in 2015-16, $60.22 billion in 2016-17, $60.97 billion in 2017-18 and the country registered its highest ever FDI inflow of $62.00 billion in 2018-19. Moreover, India has attracted more than $74 billion in investments across sectors during 2019-20. Total FDI inflow into India in the last 20 years (April 2000- August 2020) is $693.3 billion, while the total FDI inflow received in the last 5 years alone (April 2014-September 2019) is $335 billion. What this means is that 48.34 per cent of the total FDI inflow into India in the last 20 years came in just the last 5 years of the Modi government. Clearly, Modinomics has resonated exceedingly well with international investors, given PM Modi’s landmark labour market, agrarian, banking and coal sector reforms.

During the financial year 2020-21, the total FDI inflow of $35.73 billion, received in just the first five months, is the highest ever in a financial year and 13 percent higher, compared to the first five months of 2019-20. Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) also pumped in a record Rs 1.42 lakh crore into Indian equities—the highest level of such investment in a calendar year since 2002—thereby, giving a huge thumbs-up to Prime Minister Modi›s excellent management of the challenges arising from the pandemic. Bank credit for the fortnight ending November 6, 2020 grew by 5.67 percent to Rs 104.04 lakh crore, while deposits increased by 10.63 percent to Rs 143.80 lakh crore.

In a recent report, the RBI too highlighted the strong economic recovery, showcased by high frequency indicators like credit growth and corporate earnings. Corporate profits rose 15 percent to touch an all-time high in the September quarter, as margins widened on better utilization levels. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) touched an “all-time high” of Rs 1.60 lakh crore in the September 2020 quarter, as against Rs 1.02 lakh crore in the preceding June quarter.

The RBI, however, underlined that the only ‘worm in the apple’ is inflation. Worries about retail inflation have, however, started abating, given that retail inflation fell to 6.93 percent in November, against 7.61 percent in October. Food inflation also fell from 6.37 percent to 3.94 percent in this period. As per the RBI, retail inflation should fall to 5.8 percent in the fourth quarter of this financial year and thereafter, decline even further and settle in the range of 4.6-5.2 percent in the first quarter of the next financial year.

If there is one thing that PM Modi has been consistently emphasising throughout 2020, it is the concept of «Vocal for Local». Last year, India produced more than 330 million mobile handsets and is the second largest mobile manufacturer in the world today. Xiaomi India Head Manu Kumar Jain acknowledged that 99 percent of Xiaomi›s phones are ‘Made in India’ and 65 percent of the parts are locally sourced. Again, out of Xiamoi›s 35,000-strong workforce, 95 percent are women! Global tech giant Apple is also keen on making India its manufacturing hub, with Apple contractor Foxconn assembling the iPhone 11 at Chennai earlier this year, apart from Pegatron and Wistron assembling other variants of the iPhone in other locations in India. This is a part of Apple›s plan to shift over 20 percent of its production volume to India, as India is more cost competitive, compared to China.

Prime Minister Modi, at the 125th CII session a few months back, said, “For making India self-reliant, five things are necessary—Intent, Innovation, Investment, Inclusion, Infrastructure. I would rather go beyond ‘Getting Growth Back’ and say, ‘Yes, we will definitely get our growth back’. For us, reforms mean having the courage to take bold decisions and ensure that it is implemented in a time-bound manner. India must reduce its dependence on imports and ensure that we make products in India. Products must now be ‘Made in India’ and ‘Made for the world’. We must first create a robust local supply chain to help India play a key role in the global supply chain. We have been working continuously to create a favourable ecosystem for investment and business. Lakhs of MSMEs in India are the engines of India›s overall growth. Today, the rest of the world holds India in high regard and has trust in our country. The world is looking for a trustworthy partner. India has the potential and capability to ensure that we are that partner.” These profound and sincere words from PM Modi clearly highlight the modern, globally competitive and India-centric approach of Modinomics.

To cut to the chase, green shoots in the Indian economy have taken firm roots, especially with the pace of GDP contraction slowing in the September quarter to 7.5 percent, from 23.9 percent in the June quarter. Manufacturing PMI hit a 12-year high in October 2020 with a reading of 58.9 and November too saw a steady reading of 56.3. Apart from that, with REPO at a 58 year low of 4 percent, forex reserves are at a historic high of $581.131 billion and the Modi government is doing a brilliant job of managing Covid, with India’s case fatality rate (CFR) standing at 1.45 percent, the lowest in the world, and the recovery rate at almost 96 percent, among the highest worldwide.

All in all, the Indian economy is on the cusp of a big turnaround. While the IMF estimates an 8.8 percent GDP growth for India in the next financial year, Nomura predicts 9.9 percent and Goldman Sachs a massive 13 percent GDP growth. Clearly, PM Modi›s big bang structural reforms are bearing fruit.

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

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Opinion

LEVERAGING NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION WITH SUCCESS ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS

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Man has been using language— both verbal and nonverbal— as a tool of communication for centuries that allowed him to interact with the environment and to regulate his social behavior. Nonverbal communication adds to the information as communicated through verbal format using multiple channels like facial expression, vocalizations, artefacts, gestures, spacing etc. According to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal that makes up 65–70 percent of the social meaning of a conversation. It is one of the most pervasive phenomena of our everyday life that accompanies us mostly unconsciously every minute of the day. The body sends a continuous flow of cues/signals, consciously or unconsciously, unravelling innermost feelings and thoughts, personalities, moods, often, more powerfully than with their words. It is therefore agreed that nonverbal behaviour provides fertile ground towards effective and efficient information transference, especially, nonverbal communication could be the most reliable source of information in situations where verbal communications are untrustworthy, ambiguous, or otherwise difficult to interpret. Freud, remarked that people watchers who watch/observe people can ensure themselves that no person can keep secrets from them, “If their lips are silent, their fingertips chat, betrayal oozes from every pore of their body”.

There is not one single universal nonverbal language. Different societies all over the world show widely differing behavior patterns making nonverbal communication a culture specific. In England, the nose tap gesture is a signal for conspiracy or secrecy, but in Italy the meaning changes and it becomes a friendly warning. Similarly, although most people in the world understand the movement of the head up and down to mean “yes” or “I agree,” this is not the case with Bulgaria. In fact, there are few factors that tend to have the greatest impact on interactions when crossing cultures. For instance, spatial relations and tactile communication are used differently in different nations. Americans, Germans, or Chinese, for example, tend to prefer larger amounts of personal space than do some Latin Americans, Italians, or Middle-Easterners. Likewise, there are cultures where during conversations touching on the arm, shoulders, or greetings with hugs or kisses etc. is very common, however, during conversations, in cultures of “keep your hands to yourself” touching is virtually non-existent and if it does occur, it can be a major faux pas. Further, mostly in some occidental cultures, direct eye contact is the way to go—it suggests confidence, respect, and interest in what the other person is saying. To look away may suggest being suspicious, shifty, and untrustworthy in most situations while as, it is just the opposite in oriental cultures where people expect and appreciate indirect eye contact when interacting.

Thus it evident that the nonverbal behaviour of an individual is profoundly influenced and regulated by the culture of a country. Misinterpretation of nonverbal cues at times can result into serious repercussions misunderstandings among people. Today, in the globalized world, where businesses are conducted across different countries, often, employees will be expected to listen to and communicate with diverse workforce who may come from different cultures displaying specific nonverbal behaviour that may not necessarily match with the nonverbal code of yours. Therefore, it becomes imperative for professionals operating globally, to study norms of interaction through a detailed examination of spoken and nonverbal interaction in the native and target language and are required to adapt their nonverbal behaviours to accommodate a particular international audience. This knowledge of nonverbal differentials across cultures will become a highly valued asset in a global community.

The recent outbreak of Covid-19 around the globe forced businesses to shift from traditional offices to physical to remote to hybrid way of working. People are wondering how can they substitute the lack of the richness of communication and body language inherent in face-to-face interactions on virtual platforms. However, the rules remain the same for telecommuters as well. The virtual conversations can be enriched the same way as the physical interaction by using the illustrator movements including gestures or other natural manners that accompany words that add meaning to verbal communication. While these body movements may not have a meaning that can be pinpointed, they serve to embellish/ contradict/substitute or complement a person’s words. Similarly, one can use affect display- such as the facial movements that can indicate disgust, anger, or amusement or a number of other emotions. Again, in any business or sales situations, people who are listening can apply regulator actions like they may nod and move their head in an interested manner, urging the speaker either to continue or explain or repeat. Further, non-verbal messages can be communicated in an online environment by means of the use of emoticons and bolded and italicized text. In order to portray anger, all capital letters can be used.

In the age of the virtual communication, nonverbal cues often speak louder than our words. Right kind of energy levels, speaking with passion, the tone matching the intent of the message could prove to be infectious on the screen as well.

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Opinion

Millennials, relationships, and the pandemic

The Wimpy Kid is in a way a metaphor for how younger people across the world have become more indoor oriented because of technology. If technology had made millennials more housebound, the arrival of this new deadly virus has compounded the problem.

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There are two ways that our changing world has affected relationships for everyone but more especially for millennials. Relationships with the family, with friends, and even romances are affected. The first cause for this is the advancement of technology and the second is the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the new technologies had shaped our world, and particularly affected the world of the millennials.

Youngsters these days spend a lot of time online on Facebook and Instagram aside from other platforms. On the one hand, this is great for relationships for you could conceivably connect with someone on the other side of the planet who shares similar interests. At the same there is the danger of ignoring the here and now— and I don’t only mean bringing your smartphone to the dinner table. You don’t want to keep the people who are part of your daily life, be it parents, friends or siblings, waiting endlessly, while you excitedly track down how many likes and shares you are getting for a particular post or engage with someone living in another city or country.

I remember picking up one of the Wimpy Kid books for my niece from the airport, which I read during the course of a flight from Dubai to Delhi. Now this particular book has an interesting storyline. The Wimpy Kid’s mother feels that her kids are too immersed in their smartphones and tablets; and so, she decides that one day in a week the family will have togetherness time and all electronic devices ranging from the smartphone down to the TV will be shut down. Incidentally Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, made a similar suggestion a few months ago. Anyhow, coming back to the Wimpy Kid, the story has a very interesting, and to my mind, appropriate twist towards the end. The mother cannot find the Wimpy Kid who has wandered off into the forest, but she manages to track him down through a tracking device she had installed in one of his shoes. Meaning that we cannot get rid of this technology; it is there to stay.

The Wimpy Kid is in a way a metaphor for how younger people across the world have become more indoor oriented because of technology. If technology had made millennials more housebound, the arrival of this new deadly virus has compounded the problem. Earlier parents may have been telling their children to leave their computer and go out and play a game or sport. Now they say, it’s better if you stay at home, and if you do go out wear a mask and keep a safe distance from others.

I recently met my nephew Dhruv and his wife Aarushi after a long time. Now Dhruv got married just a month before the onset of the pandemic. Both of them are working professionals and they were both asked by their companies to work from home, the same as I myself have been doing, in my job with the United Nations. When I asked Dhruv how they were doing he said something interesting. He said, “We are together all the time, 24 7, day and night, seven days a week. With this much proximity if you can still manage to like being together, it means that your relationship is really working.”

Dhruv and Aarushi were lucky, but the news has not been so good all around. Young and old married couples around the world have found it a challenge to be together all the time. In France there were so many cases of domestic violence as a result of enforced togetherness that the President ordered various hotels to be commissioned that could serve as places for women to stay in – women who had been abused or beaten by their husbands. Too much physical togetherness can be a problem but for some millennials, the problem was just the reverse. It was to get to physically meet their girlfriend or boyfriend, as the case may be during the time of Covid-19 restrictions. During the worst phase of the pandemic, when meeting people was discouraged, I came across this case in my neighborhood, where the boy told his girlfriend: “Let’s meet up at Mother Diary. We can chat with each other while we are in the queue, shopping for vegetables.”

Where do millennials go to for advice on relationship issues? In the past they could have confided in an elder but these days they often hesitate because the times we are living in are so different from those when their elders were young. Their viewpoints, and world view are also often very different. There are online resources millennials can turn to, or they could take advice from friends but one other place to turn to for advice and learning is books.

My new novel Star-Crossed Lovers in the Blue: Love in the Time of Corona, discusses some of the challenges faced by millennials. In fact, the story itself is about how the two main protagonists in the story, the merman Arj and the mermaid Utir, overcome various problems and obstacles to be together again. In the words of a reviewer, the story talks about love, joy, sadness, anger, trust, fear, mystery, everything in parts. The novel takes the reader through a roller coaster of emotions and discusses important issues concerning relationships, including the importance of trust. For instance, Arj is heartbroken when the love of his life, Utir apparently betrays him, but somewhere, deep-down, he trusts that she would not have done what she did unless there had been a compelling reason for her to do so. It is this very trust that takes him across the world’s oceans in search of Utir, and a potential happy-ending. No spoilers here!

The writer is the author of the book, Star-Crossed Lovers in the Blue. The views expressed are personal.

I remember picking up one of the Wimpy Kid books for my niece from the airport, which I read during the course of a flight from Dubai to Delhi. Now this particular book has an interesting storyline. The Wimpy Kid’s mother feels that her kids are too immersed in their smartphones and tablets; and so, she decides that one day in a week the family will have togetherness time and all electronic devices ranging from the smartphone down to the TV will be shut down. Incidentally Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, made a similar suggestion a few months ago. Anyhow, coming back to the Wimpy Kid, the story has a very interesting, and to my mind, appropriate twist towards the end. The mother cannot find the Wimpy Kid who has wandered off into the forest, but she manages to track him down through a tracking device she had installed in one of his shoes. Meaning that we cannot get rid of this technology; it is there to stay.

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Opinion

US MUST SANCTION PAKISTAN

Joyeeta Basu

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that some of Pakistan’s interests were conflicting with that of the United States and that Washington would reconsider its ties with Islamabad, are of immense significance. His was the first public pronouncement of the Joe Biden administration’s Pakistan policy. President Biden’s phone call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, which he and his men have been publicly hankering for, is yet to materialize, even after nine months of Biden being in office. This should give an inkling that not all is well between the two countries. But what was unsaid, was finally said at the Congressional hearing, where Pakistan came in for severe criticism for the role it has played for decades to keep Afghanistan on the brink, while nurturing and using all sorts of terrorist groups to serve its own interests. Blinken was clear that Pakistan has been “involved in harbouring members of the Taliban, including the Haqqanis”.

Blinken also said, “What we have to look at is an insistence that every country, to include Pakistan, make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government if it’s to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support… So Pakistan needs to line up with a broad majority of the international community in working toward those ends and in upholding those expectations.” Valid words. But how far is the US willing to go to punish Pakistan for the “duplicitous” role it has played—and still plays—specifically, by “using the US to defeat the US in Afghanistan”, as one of ISI’s ex chiefs, Hamid Gul had boasted? There is no reason to believe that a rogue country such as Pakistan will “line up with a broad majority of the international community” on the issue of Afghanistan, and thus give up the leverage it has acquired by installing a terrorist regime in Kabul. Instead, with the PRC as its backer, it now feels even more emboldened to continue with its misadventures. No US administration has taken any substantial action—except for some token aid cuts—against a rogue Pakistan, and this in spite of the perpetrator of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden found on Pakistani territory, right on the Pakistani military’s doorstep. Bizarrely, as the perusal of some recent articles in the US media show, even the discovery of Laden is now sought to be spun, at least by a section, as having resulted from Pakistan’s cooperation with the US. The US has publicly expressed its displeasure with Pakistan earlier as well, but when it comes to the brass tacks, Pakistan is still the US’ Major Non Nato Ally (MNNA), and thus eligible for special financial and military largesse. Public opprobrium has never translated into action from the US. Thus, Pakistan has got away with murder, every time. In fact, such was Pakistan’s confidence in US inaction—and in its own ability to gull the US—that it was, until recently, hoping even to come out of FATF’s grey list, because it was “helping” Washington to pull out American troops from Afghanistan.

However, this time it may not be so easy for GHQ Rawalpindi to get off the hook, in spite of the backing from the US Democratic Party’s pro-Wahhabi “progressive”—in reality, radical and regressive—fringe. This time Pakistan may have crossed the red line of “defeating” the US in a battlefield the superpower had invested itself for two decades. Ironically, things may not have come to such a pass for Pakistan, if Imran Khan and Company had not resorted to exulting over US’ exit from Afghanistan; or the GHQ had not inserted its pet terrorists such as the Haqqanis in the Taliban government. There is too much public scrutiny now of the role Pakistan has played, as evident from the severe criticism it received in the Congressional hearing. Also, no US President wants his people to see him as having been taken for a ride.

In spite of all this, if the US again falls into the trap of employing the arsonist to douse the Afghan fire, then it will have only itself to blame. Blinken must make good his promise to “reconsider ties” with Pakistan. A slight rap on the knuckles will not do, maybe by removing Pakistan’s Major Non Nato Ally (MNNA) status, or something similar. The need of the hour is sanctioning Pakistan and that is the process that the US must initiate.

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Opinion

Thoughts on the International Day of Democracy

UN’s most powerful organ, the Security Council is a face of unrepresentative and imperious decision making at United Nations which blatantly ignored even some most compelling demands made during the pandemic by nations beyond its five permanent members. So what provokes this world body to declare a day of democracy?

Amita Singh

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United Nations had declared 15th September as the International Day of Democracy way back in 2007. What made UNO to declare such a day when it has itself mostly failed to abide by the concerns of democracy around the world and across decades? Freedom House data has already shown that a global deterioration of democratic concerns is sweeping through the world like a tornado and democracies have been sinking into authoritarianism, militias or rule by mercenaries. Take for example the latest barefaced defiance of all UN resolutions in Afghanistan by just a small rustic group of medieval terrorists called Talibans, legitimized and made big by UN’s highest funding nation USA to smoothly squash civilian population, dump Geneva Conventions and human rights. UNO is repeatedly guillotined by powerful nations which are legitimizing their undemocratic decisions in many ways. UN’s most powerful organ, the Security Council is a face of unrepresentative and imperious decision making at United Nations which blatantly ignored even some most compelling demands made during the pandemic by nations beyond its five permanent members. So what provokes this world body to declare a day of democracy?

The Declaration came exactly twenty years after the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy in 1997. IPU is an international organization that has an observer status in United Nations. It is composed of world parliaments, parliamentarians and later several civil society organizations also joined in. IPU promotes democratic governance, gender parity amongst legislatures, empowers youth for political participation and ensures that nations adopt sustainable development in their models of progress. The 1997 Declaration was well researched as slippages in the democratic functioning of governments were abound. It also affirms principles of democracy, exercise of democratic government, and international scope of democracy. There exists a historical link to this declaration of 1997 which and can be traced back to people’s struggles during the 1980s against the stifling of democratic processes by authoritarian regimes. In 1988 a peaceful revolution in the Philippines called ‘People Power Revolution’ which was also called the EDSA Revolution getting this name from manila’s most prominent highway ‘Epifano de los Santos Avenue’ blocked by people to overthrow a 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. In Philippines, an innovative democratic model of governance was brought up through a movement of an International Conference of New or Restored Democracies (ICNRD) under the initiative of President Corazon C.Aquino of Philippines. In ICNRD’s international meet at Doha in 2006 this new model of democratic governance with a tripartite structure having three essentials participatory pillars ie; governments, parliaments, and civil society was explicitly recognized by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/253 of 2 May 2006. This movement of new and restored democracies acknowledged the fact that if even a single pillar of governance is weakened, democracy would derail. A year before the declaration of Democracy Day in 2006, another small Himalayan Kingdom state Nepal experienced what is known as ‘Nepal’s Magna Carta’ of 18th May 2006 when the Parliament unanimously voted to strip the King of his discretionary superior powers over people’s representatives. This day was hailed in Nepal as a ‘Democracy Day’ when all power that was vested in the King came under the power of people’s parliament including the 90,000 troops that the king controlled and in return all assets of monarchy became taxable.

Ironically, Qatar which a day ago had gone to meet the Taliban was given a lead by United Nations in 2006 to draft a text for a resolution on the democracy day by UN General Assembly. Finally, on 8th November 2007, the final resolution, titled, ‘Support by the United Nations system of Government efforts to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies’ was unanimously adopted by all UN member states to declare 15th September as an International Day of Democracy.

The Day of Democracy comes with an annual theme. Interestingly, the theme for 2019 was ‘participation’ and it talked of improving democracy by looking into institutional access and partnering with governments. Nevertheless, in 2020 it reverted to focus on basic concerns of democracy and selected a theme ‘2020 COVID-19: A Spotlight on Democracy’. In a very arbitrary frame of governance that lashed world events during the pandemic, there were raised concerns on due process of law, respect for international legal standards and right to access justice during crisis period which was being denied by democratic governments. In India as well, the execution of colonial era’s draconian ‘Epidemic Diseases Act 1897’ proved forbidding and humiliating to the underprivileged as they were denied transportation to reach their homes and one chief minister even allowed its administration to wash them with sanitizing chemicals as they enter a city. The 2021 theme remained undecided for long but then the focus garnered around the importance of ‘parliamentary oversight’ to maintain adequate checks and balance in any healthy democracy. It indicates that parliaments across the world have been failing to address their key role of maintaining a parliamentary oversight over an executive or a due process of law which should be followed in sustaining democracy. So, fear is that Parliaments which are a creation of democracy are now becoming threats to democracy.

A parliamentary system is a fusion of legislature and executive since leader of a majority party in Parliament is designated as the Prime Minister who then constitutes his Cabinet. Art 75 in the Constitution establishes that ‘pleasure of the President’ is the condition for a Minister to hold office and the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the House. There are mutual checks and balances to establish intra-institutional controls. There are several Parliamentary Committees including the Standing Committees which are constituted in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. These Committees especially Finance Committees such as the Estimates, Public Accounts, and Public Undertaking Committees are powerful committees to check the government’s overreach as well as the health of administrative systems during emergencies such as the pandemic. Judiciary remains independent and due to separation of power maintains its independent status of a watchdog of democracy. The former CJI Ranjan Gogoi emphasized the judiciary’s watchdog role in several public speeches that he delivered but on retirement he accepted being nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Watchdogs do not accept bones from those they are supposed to guard against. This relationship of greed with power was well brought out by former High Court Judge B.Kemal Pasha in his response to allegations against judiciary’s role in multi-crore Rafale deal. He said that judiciary should have ‘backbone’ to continue as the watchdog of the Constitution. He was referring to Art 142 under which the Supreme Court has immense power for judicial activism yet it said they have no power to intervene in the deal.The article 142 says, ‘The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India …….’This is how our Constitution was formulated by brilliant and experienced minds but a few ideological vanguards like Sai Deepak in a latest talk show with Shashi Tharoor boldly declares that to protect this ‘Constitution at the expense of civilization is grave injustice’. Many who do not understand the balancing act of our Constitution also fail to understand that civilization is sustained because of this balance which they are trying to disturb.

Democracy’s lungful of oxygen comes from its respect for human rights. While the Day of Democracy focuses on ‘parliamentary oversight’ it is nothing but an assurance to people that they would be safe and justice would be done. Parliament is a primary forum for protecting human rights but its only on its failure that judiciary and civil society has to barge in. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 captures this relationship of democracy and human rights in Art 21 (3), “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

The last perplexing question on democracy emerges from Art 21(3) mentioned above. This article is merely reflecting an 1861 model of John Stuart Mill’s ‘Representative Democracy’ which continued to be popular in post -second world war explorations of Comparative Politics Movement in the non-western world. These studies conducted in emerging post-colonial nations experimenting with their cultural frames of democracies saw elections as a primary representative act of democracy as even that appeared difficult. Seventy five years later with fairly well informed voters and high paced technology it is now well established that to think of elections as an assurance of democracy is merely stamping a procedure which has become a ritual. It rarely gets converted to substantive democracy in which those who elect also control their representatives through institutions of accountability and information dissemination. Much has been done to prevent substantive democracy through ordinances, notifications and laws which shrink space for public discourse and twist democracy into a one way ratchet. This has now raised questions of ‘democratic backsliding’ in which governments ritually hold timely free and fair elections through an independent election commission nonetheless institutions for the participation of people and voicing their concerns are locked up and enforcement agencies have personnel policies which turn exceptional clause of discretion into regular norm to appoint compliant officials. In a world governed by cyber interaction and veiled opinions, winning an election against poor and minimally educated may just be a sort of a digital craft in which a prowling cat can be presented as a gentle generous lion. Now that this obstinate pandemic has put everyone from primary school kids to the top governance officials over on-line internet based information, one would fail to imagine now what intellectual disaster is cumulatively going to stand against democracies in times to come.

Democracy is short-term representative governance and a long-term substantive life based upon a due process of law, access to justice, freedom of expression, and protection of human rights including gender rights. Freedom of expression may give some shape to substantive democracy but laws on inculcating ethics and integrity are weakening. Democracies have no viable alternative other than repression and surveillance. Unless this Day of Democracy is rightly observed we may continue to repeat Plato’s words that democracy is where donkeys march on roads with flags claiming to be perfect democrats.

The author is president, NDRG, and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.

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FREEDOM FIGHTERS DON’T DESERVE TO BE KEPT MERELY LANGUISHING IN HISTORY BOOKS

Priya Sahgal

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On September 14th Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a trip to Aligarh to lay the foundation stone of a university named after Raja Mahendra Pratap, a Jat icon and yet another freedom fighter who did not get his due during earlier regimes. Whether it was the quest for the 17 percent Jat vote in the state that is set to go to polls early next year, or part of the BJP’s larger game plan to rediscover and honour leaders other than those belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty; it was a recognition that was long overdue. As Mahendra Pratap’s great-grandson Charat Pratap Singh told the media, when he first heard about the project, “Der Aaye Durusth Aaye” (better late than never). Although Charat added that for the family it was not about politics, but giving respect where it is due, one cannot ignore the fact that all this is happening against the backdrop of a largely Jat lead farmers’ agitation in Western Uttar Pradesh; and that too a few months before the UP polls.

But back to the larger point. Without going into the current debate of cancel culture and rewriting history textbooks, there has been a glaring omission as to how some of our greatest freedom fighters have not been given their due honour. Take Raja Mahendra Pratap’s case for instance— he was an alumnus of the Muhammadan Anglo Oriental Collegiate School which now has been renamed as the Aligarh Muslim University. Influenced by the speeches of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Dadabhai Naoroji, he became entrenched in the Swadeshi movement and declared a jihad against the British rule, leading to the British declaring a bounty on his head. In 1915, he set up the first Provisional Government of India in Afghanistan as its President. This served as the Indian Government in exile during World War I from Kabul in 1915. In fact, as PM Modi told us at the event, it was after consultation with other revolutionaries and freedom fighters, Lala Hardiyal and Shyamji Krishna Varma that he went to Afghanistan. Later he also established the Executive Board of India in Japan in 1940.

Back in India, he contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1957 from Mathura defeating the Jan Sangh’s Atal Behari Vajpayee. Known for his social reform and his work for the downtrodden, he was also deeply influenced by Gandhiji and a firm believer in non-violence. Raja Mahendra Pratap was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1932. He also donated a sizeable chunk of land to his alumni the AMU in 1929. (Later in 2019 the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had asked that the university be renamed after the late Jat leader).

There is a reason for this digression into his bio data, because as I mentioned earlier, not much is known about the Jat King and freedom fighter. It is only now, after the Modi government decided to honour him that the media reached out to his family, and of course the internet, to find out what they could about this legendary personality. I have to confess, I have a personal reason for doing the same. Mahendra Pratap’s great grand-daughter, Meeta Pratap studied with me at the Welhams Girls’ School in Dehradun. For seven years we shared a dorm, discussed Doscos & Daphne Du Maurier, fudged our maths books, and mugged our history books. But, we were never told about the role that one of our classmate’s great grandfather played in our freedom struggle; and I am sure many like him are left languishing on the sidelines of history. Many more that we need to remember, honour and thank.

As readers of this column know I have often disagreed with the Prime Minister, but he has a point when he says there are so many who have struggled and sacrifised for our country but it is unfortunate that the ‘Gen Next’ is not told about their struggle and their stories. He has also promised that his government will make an `imaandar’ (honest) attempt to give these leaders their due. As he added, it is important for any youth who dreams big to know about Raja Mahendra Pratap for he spent every moment of his life in service of our country, first during the freedom struggle and later on through his philanthropy. Given that this is the 75th year of our independance, one hopes that many other such iconic stalwarts would be given their long overdue prominence and rescued from the dust of history.

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Kerala’s new woes: Narco terrorism and love jihad

Kerala Catholic bishop’s claim of ‘narcotics jihad’ is becoming a political flashpoint across the nation. To ensure peace and stability in the region, Kerala government has to take cognisance of the issues. If it does not, Centre should intervene, lest things go out of hand. 

Satish Kumar

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The Love Jihad has become the itching menace in Kerala. When the issue was raised by RSS, most of the liberal intellectuals called it political offshoots. This time it has been raised by a Catholic bishop. Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of Palai, has come out categorically, accusing a section of the Muslim community of targeting Christians girls through Love Jihad and ‘Narcotic Jihad’. These groups, according to him, have been using different strategies to run the show. Pointing to a sharp rise in cases of young Christian women being subjected to abuse or religious conversion after eloping with men from other community, the Bishop warned that these “jihadists” had already cast their nets over places including schools, colleges, training centers and even commercial centers. Regarding the “Narcotic Jihad”, the Bishop said the rising number of drug cases were a pointer to the practice’s existence. “These gangs operate out of the ice-cream or soft drinks parlors and restaurants run by jihadists and deploy different types of narcotics as a tool to destroy non-Muslims. These facts are reinforced by the rising cases of rave parties. The incidents of religious hatred in the domain of art and culture, programs that seek to cast aspersions on other religions, the business strategies like halal food, major real estate deals at inflated prices, parallel telephone exchange, armory shops are all part of larger scheming.

Five years earlier, the Hadiya case brought this issue to light. Many secular fronts and liberal thinkers wrote that it was an imagined story by right wing organizations. As things moved, and courts took cognizance of the matter, things became more transparent. National Investigation Agency (NIA) found the involvement of a team who are involved in the process of conversion of Hindu and Christian girls to Islam.

Jihad is an Arabic word, which is closely associated with Islam and its history. Jihad literally means making a determined effort to oppose something or achieve an ideal or a noble goal. However, with the rise of extremism in many countries, it is now being used rather negatively to denote the use of violence. The word ‘Love Jihad’ is a rather recent development. This manifestation of Jihad means using love and sex to convert people to Islam or establishing dominance over them. Love Jihad or Romeo Jihad is a process under which young Muslim boys and men target young girls for conversion into Islam by pretending as real lovers. In December, 2009, Justice KT Sankaran of Kerala High Court found indications of forceful conversions.

The radical Islamist organization Popular Front of India (PFI) has deep roots in Kerala. After the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a radical Islamist organization namely National Democratic Front (NDF) was formed. Simultaneously Abdul Nassar Madani launched a Muslim outfit called Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS). The PFI is an umbrella organization of various political and non-political entities and trusts like Campus Front of India, All India Imam Council Confederation of Human Rights Organization. According to a Home Ministry dossier, the PFI has around 60,000 regular members and 85,000 sympathizers in Kerala. Sathya Sarani Islamic Dawa Institute, a mysterious Islamic coversion centre also comes under the PFI.

MODERNITY AND ISLAMIC RADICALIZATION

Post-Independence India acquired a unique conceptualization of modernity. The marriage of a Hindu girl with Muslim boy was considered a great leap of modernity. The Nehruvian socialists in the name of secularism corroborated and were planted in campuses. To a large extent, the divisive agenda worked. It was more systematic because Kerala was under the political system of Left, or the Congress, or both combined. The change of political system at the center took it seriously. The issue was picked up by RSS. Many leaders of the organization went to Northern parts of Kerala and highlighted the matter with the Home Ministry. Ultimately the ISIS recruitments and radicalization caught the attention of the nation.

FACTORS OF RADICALIZATION

Kerala is not a poor state. The mushrooming of Islamic organizations narrates a different story. Youth of Kerala have been migrating to Gulf and other Islamic countries. Many of them move to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and several other countries. The funds from Saudi Arabia started flowing in. The funds were systematically used to wean the minds of youth. Over period of time, some of the northern districts of Kerala adapted the lifestyles of Arabs. Girls started wearing Arab dress code with burqa. Schools and colleges mushroomed with bearded males. TV evangelists like Zakir Naik became the most popular figure in the state. These were the early signals of radicalization of a state which was doing much better than any state of the country. In all cases, Muslim youths are radicalized by the educated class of Muslims such as Islamic clerics, Islamist editors, and mosque leaders. Hindu and Christians cannot open their shops during Ramzan. Charitable and black money pumped in Kerala in a major way, and mosques and churches are receiving lots of it. All NGOs of Islamists organizations have links with political parties.

They enjoy influences and power over them. On similar lines, Popular Front of India, (PFI) has been taking over control of mosques and some Muslims under its umbrella.

RADICALIZATION THROUGH ORGANIZATIONS

The Mujahid movement preaches a puritan version of Islam and opposes Sufi practices. It is from their corpus of ideas that grew the radical Islamist group National Development Front (NFD), now known as PFI which has roots in the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) a banned militant group which seceded from the Jamaat-e-Islami. By 1980 the Kerala branch of SIMI had declared slogans such as ‘destroy nationalism, reinstate caliphate’. Newspapers like Madhyamam, which is published by the Jammat-e-Islami, are radicalizing Muslim youngsters— radicalization proposing to establish an Islamic state. They create hate wave against the Hindu culture, and there is an attempt to wean away Muslim youngsters from local society.

COCKTAIL OF COMMUNISTS AND JIHADIS

Marxists are also rationalizing Islamic extremism. Marxism thrives on poverty. But Kerala is not poor. In Muslim dominated regions like Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kasargod, there is sign of Arabic culture percolating down. Keralite restaurants advertise Arabic foods. Northern Kerala looks like a mini-Pakistan. Dattatreya Hosabale, General Secretary of RSS said, “There is definitely some nexus between Jihadi terrorists operating in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala and the Communist Party of India (Marxisit) cadres”.

The same logic was endorsed by a historian. Tarek Fatah, author of Pakistani origin, once said “The alliance between Islamist and Leftists-Sharia’h-Bolshevism is a dangerous threat to free speech and democracy”.

ITS POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS

There are reports of Maoists joining hands with Jihadis. The experiment of alliances between CPI (M) and the Jihadis in Kerala succeed in forming a counter against the nationalist forces, its impact will be disastrous not only for India but for the entire world. The outfits have links with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahedeen. PFI has network with National Development Front (Kerala), Manitha Neethi Pasarai (Tamil Nadu), Karnatka Forum for dignity (Karnatka), and all organizations with radical ideology. Several other organizations splashed in other states like Peace Educational Foundation (Kerala), Jamait ul Muflihaat (Hyderabad), Discover Islam Education Trust (Bengaluru), Tauheed Educational Trust (Bihar), Islamic Research and Dawah Centre (Mumbai), Islamic Information Centre (Mumbai) have emerged during the last few years, which have provided direct access to indoctrination materials.

Nonetheless, the declaration by the Bishop is a reality. It has been said time and again that Kerala is slipping into the hands of terror groups. Love Jihad is a tool. The aim is to strengthen Islamic terror groups, meandering along with Maoist forces. Since the Indian subcontinent is facing the heat of Taliban occupying the driving seat in Afghanistan and flagging off Islamic terror signals, these issues will have larger implications. Therefore, between Kerala and Kashmir, there is a link.

The recent revelation by Bishop must be taken seriously by the state government. If it does not, the center must make a solid move to contain it.

Satish Kumar is Professor of Political Science at IGNOU, New Delhi. The views expressed here are his personal.

Jihad is an Arabic word, which is closely associated with Islam and its history. Jihad literally means making a determined effort to oppose something or achieve an ideal or a noble goal. However, with the rise of extremism in many countries, it is now being used rather negatively to denote the use of violence.

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