The miserable plight of the Congress is a matter of great agony for anyone who believes in democracy and secularism because a strong opposition is a very essential element of democracy, without which any government could be rendered autocratic. Being a firm believer in democracy I have continually written in these columns that it is both the need of the hour and essential for the good of the nation that the Congress emerges as a strong force in the country.
For over a year now, the party has not had a president. Despite it being more than a year since the 2019 electoral defeat, there has been no discussion on the way forward in the party. The frustration of the younger leaders is leading them towards disillusionment with the party. Jyotiraditya Scindia has quit the party. Sachin Pilot has already exhibited a rebellious streak. Ashok Chavan, Sandip Dixit, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad and other younger leaders like them should already have been on the next rung of leadership but are being steadily ignored. Can the party not understand that a generational change in leadership does not happen overnight, it takes decades to hone such a leadership!
Why is that the very Congress which used to be the heartbeat of the nation is out of power in so many states? It has been out of the reckoning in Uttar Pradesh for 31 years, in West Bengal for 43 years, in Tamil Nadu for 53 years, in Bihar for 30 years, in Odisha for 20 years and in Gujarat for 25 years. Even Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh considered as Congress bastions have been steadily slipping out of its hands. The Congress did return to power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 long years but could not retain the state for even 15 months due to internal strife. This happened because of the immature dealings of the partymen. The question is why have elections to the Congress Working Committee not been held in 23 years? How and why did the party which won 206 seats in the Lok Sabha as late as in 2009, get confined to merely 44 and 52 seats in 2014 and 2019 respectively?
An analysis will show that between 2004 and 2009, Dr Manmohan Singh ran an exemplary government. It was during his term that people got access to some excellent schemes like employment guarantee, right to education, food security and right to information. People were happy with the Congress but during its second term between 2009 and 2014, the government began to reverberate with the echo of scams. Commonwealth Games, 2G, coal, Adarsh society, railways and other scams came to the fore. Congress compelled many Union ministers, chief ministers and other ministers to resign for them. They are themselves responsible for creating the impression that the government is not just corrupt but also ineffective, but the truth is that the Congress could never present the correct picture of facts to the Parliament and among the people. While Sonia Gandhi was being kept in the dark during all this, Dr Singh was being deliberately crucified by people in the top echelons of the party. In fact, one top BJP functionary had even told me at the time that he was baffled and astonished by the way the Congress was behaving. It is our job to raise issues and oppose but why is the Congress going on the backfoot, he had asked.
So far as Soniaji is concerned, at her level she gave her best to the Congress. It is under her leadership that the party came to power not just once but twice in a row. She led from the front and it is her policies that had voted the party back to power a second time. In 2004, the UPA had proposed that she take up the job of prime minister but she sacrificed that office and set an example before power hungry people but Congressmen despoiled even that sacrifice in the interest of their petty agendas. These very same conspirators in the party revelled in the attack on Rahul Gandhi by the BJP which was attempting to trip him up politically. Actually the BJP was afraid that Rahul Gandhi’s success would be detrimental to its own interests, that is why they attempted to establish him as an ineffective and incompetent leader. On the other hand, Rahul was surrounded by a bevy of youthful Congressmen who might have been able to speak fluent English but were completely disconnected with grassroots realities. BJP successfully painted Rahul as a leader capable of only tweeting on social media. Rahul Gandhi is young and should have been able to attract the youth but that initiative too was seized instead by Narendra Modi. When Manmohan Singh found himself harassed by obstructions from some party leaders, he suggested that Rahul Gandhi be made prime minister but the latter turned down that suggestion. Later, he even turned down the opportunity to be the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. As a result, he lost the opportunity to display his leadership skills in full measure.
It will not be misplaced to say that the Trojan horses within the Congress have always succeeded in confusing the party high command. Those very leaders who never had even an iota of a notion of the grassroots reality were the ones who became the generals of the party. This is the very reason why many past chief ministers, ministers, MPs or legislators quit the Congress and joined either the BJP or other regional parties. Today, apart from the Congress even its frontal organisations like Mahila Congress, youth Congress, NSUI, Seva Dal and INTUC have become impotent and ineffective. Their leaders are not rooted to the ground. They just want power. Even Mrs Indira Gandhi’s centenary came and went without a single reminiscence. Moreover, when an MP from Uttar Pradesh attempted to character-assassinate Rajiv Gandhi in the Rajya Sabha, it was Jaya Bachchan who rose to the latter’s defence, while other Congress leaders remained mute spectators. Quite contrary to this, the RSS and BJP has strengthened all its frontal organisations quite potently. They have left no stone unturned to popularise Narendra Modi and all their other ideological gurus all over the world.
While they are well within their rights to do that, the question is why the Congress is not doing the same. It is my assessment that because no one speaks the truth at home everyone remains astray. Everyone lives in a dream bubble. The Congress did not even have an inkling of when the BJP captured India. But it is still not too late. Moreover, better late than never! It is very necessary for Indian democracy that the Congress revive itself forthwith. To this end it is very necessary and imperative to elect a young leader and, along with him, a team that is rooted to the grassroots realities. Soniaji should continue to guide the party until she is able to do so. Without her the party simply has no choice today.
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
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‘If you want a change, choose me’ : Tharoor on Congress president poll
In the upcoming presidential election of the grand old party, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reiterated on Saturday that his contest against senior party member Mallikarjun Kharge “is not a battle.” Following days of turmoil surrounding the intra-party troubles in Rajasthan, Tharoor and Kharge finally submitted their nominations for the crucial elections, which are set for October 17, on Friday.
“This is not a war. We can belong to different schools of thoughts. Let the members decide,” Tharoor told news agency ANI in an interview on Saturday. “All I am telling the members is that if you’re satisfied with the functioning of the party, please vote for Kharge Sahab. But if you want a change, choose me.. If you want the party to function differently.”
His remarks came as news spread that the Gandhis were endorsing the 80-year-old Kharge for the top party position. On Saturday, Kharge announced his resignation as the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, a day after more than 30 leaders surprised many by end-of-nomination support for his candidacy. In contrast, Tharoor was not accompanied by as many senior leaders.
“But there is no ideological problem here. Whatever the message has so far of the Congress will continue to remain,” Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday, dismissing any differences.
Even though the Gandhis made it clear that they would no longer be running for president post, their management has continued to draw criticism. Regarding the family’s importance for the party in light of the BJP’s dynastic politics allegations.
Kharge resigns as Rajya Sabha Lop, following ‘one person, one post’ formula
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge submitted his resignation as Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House as he filed his nomination for the party’s chief post, after the Udaipur announcement of “one person, one post.”
“I hereby tender my resignation from the post of Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, consequent upon my filing of nomination for the post of President, All India Congress Committee,” Kharge said in his letter to interim party president Sonia Gandhi.
In February 2021, Kharge took over as the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House following Ghulam Nabi Azad’s retirement. If Kharge, who is considered to be the front-runner, is chosen as the party president, the Congress may need to find a new LoP in the Rajya Sabha.
Although the selection process for Kharge’s replacement won’t begin until the results are announced, party leaders said that Digivjaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, or Ranjit Ranjan may be possible candidates.
According to party insiders, Singh, who opted out of the race to support Kharge, might emerge as a possible successor to Kharge. “He doesn’t hold any organisational position and a leader from the Hindi belt can also act like a balancing factor,” said a leader, adding that senior party leader Mukul Wasnik may also be considered. Among women leaders, Ranjit Ranjan, a fierce orator from Bihar, or Gujarat’s former leader of the Opposition Shakti Sinh Gohil could also be considered, said a Congress leader from Rajya Sabha.
In an April 2022 decision, the Udaipur Chintan Shivir demanded that the policy be put into effect at all party levels.
Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan, decided not to run for president of the Congress after Rahul Gandhi’s strongly advocated “one person, one post” formula sparked an uprising inside the state party last week. A majority of Congress MLAs in Rajasthan staged a separate meeting and prevented the adoption of a one-line resolution authorising the party leader to propose Gehlot’s replacement.
As ‘Bharat Jodo’ enters Karnataka, rattled BJP gives front-page ad that distorts history: Jairam Ramesh
As Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered the BJP-ruled state, according to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday, the BJP placed a front page advertisement in a Kannada newspaper. Ramesh said in a tweet, “The advertisement mischievously distorts history as usual. Savarkar propounded two-nation theory & Jinnah ensured it got done. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Jan Sangh championed partition of Bengal.” BJP is rattled by the yatra’s success, the Congress leader continued.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi entered the election-bound state of Karnataka on Friday. There, the yatra will travel 511 kilometres across seven districts in 21 days.
Rahul Gandhi remarked in a statement at the beginning of the march’s Kerala leg that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the voice of the nation and that no one can stop it.
“Entire control is lying with the (Central) government. If we speak in Parliament, they shut our microphones,” Rahul Gandhi said.
A new Rahul Gandhi and a new Congress party have emerged from the Bharat Jodo Yatra which forced the BJP and the RSS on the backfoot, Jairam Ramesh said on Friday. “People asked who is ‘thodoing’ (breaking) Bharat for Congress to do Bharat Jodo, our answer is Mr Modi’s ideology, policies, personality is thodoing Bharat. Because economic inequality is increasing, social polarisation is increasing and political over-centralisation is increasing, the Congress is doing this yatra,” Jairam Ramesh said.
Rajnath Singh Urges Industry cooperation to take Indian defence sector to new heights
Government Steps to Improve Defence Industry manufacturing eco system are showing results: RM
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh exhorted the Indian defence Industry to make new investments and lay more emphasis on research & development to scale new heights. He was addressing the 117th Annual session of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PHD-CCI ) held in New Delhi on September 30th, 2022. “Make new investments, put more emphasis on research & development, and harness its full potential to take the Indian defence industry to new heights. This effort of yours will be very important not only for the defence industry, but also for the overall growth of the entire country,’ he said.
Raksha Mantri added that the Indian defence sector offers immense potential and the companies even from abroad see opportunities. PHD-CCI being one of the oldest industry associations having many national and international members could act as ambassador of the Indian defence industry. “Your roots are spread far and wide in the country and abroad. You can fulfil your role by communicating with all the domestic and foreign companies, connecting them with the Indian defence industry and acting as a bridge between these two,” he said
Appreciating the PHD-CCI for scheduling a dedicated session on ‘Make in India: A success story of India’s Defence Indigenization’ Raksha Mantri said that this is equally related to the national security, and the economic progress of the country. National security is one of the most important components in the progress of a nation. The social, economic and cultural upliftment of the nation are not possible without security.. India had paid the price in past for neglecting national security. Even after independence not enough attention was given to make defence sector strong and self-reliant, he lamented.
Striking an optimistic note, Raksha Mantri said that Indian defence industry is progressing steadily in partnership with private sector.”There was either no way for the private sector in the past to enter the defence sector, and even if there was some scope, the industry was not ready to set foot in the defence sector due to various reasons”. These reasons were lack of political will, appropriate policy to incentivize their entry, high investment and long gestation period.
Raksha Mantri noted that the government has removed these bottlenecks and played the role of an incubator, catalyst, consumer and facilitator in the case of private industry. Several steps have been taken by the Ministry of Defence, under the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Self-reliant India’ initiatives of the Government, to change the old traditions, and to create a manufacturing climate, in which the public and private sectors could participate.
Elaborating upon the far-reaching reforms undertaken by the MOD to bolster the private sector participation in defence sector, Raksha Mantri said that Government labs opened to the private industry, transferred technology at zero fee, provided access to test facilities, and upfront funding through DRDO was provisioned.
The Ministry of Defence has issued 3 positive indigenization lists of 309 items which will be procured from domestic vendors as per norms. Three lists have also been issued by Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), in which more than 3700 are Line Replacement Units, Sub-systems and other Components. In addition, an iDEX initiative has been launched to encourage innovators and start-ups. The policy decision has been taken to increase the limit of FDI to 74% by the automatic route, and to 100% by the government route in special cases. Government has taken several steps like introduction of defence industrial corridors– two Industrial corridors have been set up each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, corporatization of OFB which creates win-win situation for armed forces, industry, start-ups and innovators, said Raksha Mantri.
He further said : “The magnitude of all these efforts is beginning to come before us. Today we are not only producing to meet our own defence needs, but also fulfilling the defence needs of many other countries under ‘Make for the World’. It is a matter of great happiness that defence exports have increased manifold from what we used to have, and have reached Rs 13,000 crores last year. We used to be counted as one of the biggest arms importers in the world until now. But today we are one of the top 25 arms exporting countries of the world. We have targeted a turnover of Rs 1.75 lakh crore in defence manufacturing, including Rs 35,000 crore from exports in aerospace, and defence goods and services by 2025.”
PHD-CCI is one of the oldest chambers in the country. Since its establishment in 1905, it has been proactive National Apex Chamber working at the grass-root level and with strong national and international linkages. The Chamber acts as a catalyst in the promotion of industry, trade and entrepreneurship. PHD Chamber, through its research-based policy advocacy role, positively impacts the economic growth and development of the nation.
Indian Railways to release its new All India Railway time table
The Ministry of Railways will be releasing its new All India Railway Time Table known as “TRAINS AT A GLANCE (TAG)” effective from 1st October, 2022. The new Trains at a Glance will also be available w.e.f. 1st October, 2022 on Indian Railways’ official website i.e. www.indianrailways.gov.in.
Highlights of the new time table are as follows:
I. Indian Railways runs about 3,240 Mail/Express trains which include Vande Bharat Express, Gatimaan Express, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Humsaafar Express, Tejas Express, Duronto Express, Antyodaya Express, Garib Rath Express, Sampark Kranti Express, Yuva Express, Uday Express, Janshatabdi Express and other types of trains. In addition, about 3,000 Passenger trains and 5,660 suburban trains are also operated over the Indian Railways network. The volume of passengers carried daily is about 2.23 Crore.
II. To clear extra rush and meet passenger demand, more than 65,000 Special train trips were operated during 2021-22. About 566 coaches were permanently augmented to increase the carrying capacity.
III. Maximize the utilization of rolling stock:
i. During review of the lie over of rakes it was observed that the rakes can be better utilized for extending the existing services or increasing the frequency. This would maximize the utilization of the rolling stock and provide better connectivity to the travelling passengers.
ii.During the year 2021-22, 106 new services were introduced, 212 services were extended and frequency of 24 services was increased.
IV. Proliferation of Premium Trains:
i. At present, Vande Bharat Express trains are operating between New Delhi – Varanasi and New Delhi – Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra. One more Vande Bharat Express train has been introduced between Gandhinagar Capital and Mumbai Central w.e.f. 30.09.2022. It has been proposed to introduce more Vande Bharat Express trains over the Indian Railways network.
ii. Tejas Express services offering onboard services like entertainment, local cuisine, wifi etc. are also being proliferated over Indian Railway network. At present, 7 pairs of Tejas Express services are operational over Indian Railways.
V. Provision of Corridor Blocks in the working Time-Table of the divisions:
To provide sufficient time for the maintenance of the fixed infrastructure like track structure, signaling gears, overhead equipments, it has been planned to ensure provision of fixed corridor blocks. The duration of these corridors blocks will be from 3 hours in each section. This will not only improve the reliability of the assets but also enhance the passenger safety.
X. Conversion of Rakes ICF to LHB:
The conversion of Mail/Express trains operating with ICF design rakes is being undertaken to improve passenger safety and provide faster transit with better riding comfort. Indian Railways converted 187 Rakes of ICF to LHB for the period of 2021-2022.
VII. Efforts to improve punctuality of late running trains:
Necessary changes in the time table have been incorporated to improve punctuality. Due to concerted efforts the punctuality of Mail/Express trains has improved by about 9% as compared to the punctuality during pre Covid (2019-20).
viii. Standardization of rakes:
The rakes at different maintenance depots have been standardized by integration of the rake links to improve flexibility in operations and thereby help in improving punctuality.
IX. Replacement of conventional Passenger trains with MEMU/DEMU:
In the year 2021-22, 60 number of conventional passenger services have been replaced by MEMUs thereby increasing the overall mobility of the system.
X. Availability of Trains at a Glance as “e-Book”:
As a part of digitalization of train Time Table, Trains at a Glance (TAG) will now also be available as ‘e-Book’ which can be downloaded from IRCTC website (www.irctc.co.in & www.irctctourism.com).
Strict Action against defaulters: Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav
Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, conducted a detailed review on 30.09.2022 on measures and actions planned towards abatement of air pollution by all stakeholders concerned in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, in the wake of poor air quality conditions generally prevailing during the period between October – January each year,
Union Minister impressed upon key sectors that contribute to air pollution and are critical in the ensuing 3-4 months period. He emphasized that source of air pollution such as paddy stubble burning, open biomass / municipal solid waste burning, industrial emissions and particulate matter / dust emissions from construction / demolition activities and roads / open areas were directed to be focussed for concerted preventive and mitigative actions.
Union Minister directed for timely and effective implementation of various components of the detailed plan of actions, developed by the NCR States and Punjab, pursuant to CAQM Framework / Directions on management of paddy stubble burning. Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change called upon Punjab to expand the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer through pro-active action by the State Government specially since a very marginal increase had been proposed in the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer i.e. form 7500 acres in 2021 to merely 8000 acres in 2022.
Chairman, CAQM also emphasized the need of time bound implementation of the action plan particularly by the State of Punjab. Optimal utilisation of available crop residue management machinery with the states was identified as a key factor towards effective management of stubble. Extensive use of technology and mobile applications for mapping the demand and supply of such CRM machinery through the CHCs and cooperatives was emphasised upon during the meeting. It was also stressed upon enhancing the net of PUSA bio‑decomposer application for in-situ management of the stubble. Towards ex-situ utilisation of paddy straw various options are now being progressed with including biomass power generation, bio-ethanol production, CBG production, co-firing in thermal power plants, fuel for industrial boilers and other misc. applications, composting, cattle fodder and misc. commercial applications in furnishing materials and packaging etc. Progress on co-firing of biomass in thermal power plants has not been up to the desired levels and the Minister called for immediate corrective measures by Thermal Power Plants to substantially enhance co-firing. The Minister asked CAQM to utilize his statutory powers to take action against the defaulting the Power plants and also any other defaulting entities.
Union Minister expressed his concern and dis-satisfaction with the preparedness of Punjab in taking concrete action on the ground towards Air Quality Management while pointing out that the State Government had not planned adequately for management of almost 5.75 million tons of stubble which is a huge gap and was likely to have an adverse impact on the air quality in Delhi and NCR region.
The Minister exhorted the need to switch over to clean fuels for industrial applications and directed for a quick transition to clean fuels as per the approved standard fuel list for NCR as directed for by the CAQM. Controlling heavy pollution from a large number of diesel generator sets operating in NCR was also identified as key action area and the Minister emphasised on strict implementation of restrictions on use of DG Sets and emission control measures in this context.
The review highlighted the need for effective dust control measures in various anthropogenic activities, construction / demolition activities, roads and open areas. Effective utilisation and augmentation of mechanised road cleaning equipment, water sprinklers and anti-smog guns by NCR State Governments / GNCTD was also emphasized during the meeting.
Considering the criticality of air pollution related mattes including the weather conditions around Diwali festival, the Minister directed for special and timely measures to control the air pollution levels.
As air pollution in the region is a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral phenomenon, spreading across geographical boundaries, the Minister reiterated the need for collective and concerted efforts of all the stakeholder agencies, departments in the State Govts. and public at large towards abatement of air pollution in the region and to this effect directed that all directions, orders and guidelines of the CAQM / CPCB/ State Pollution Control Boards be implemented in right earnest and critically monitored / reviewed periodically by the authorities concerned.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change including Secretary, Chairman, Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), Secretary in-charge in the State Govts. of Punjab, Haryana, UP and GNCT of Delhi, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, NCR State Pollution Control Boards, DPCC and other major stakeholders participated in the review meet.
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