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The GDP debate: Making of V-shaped recovery

The handsome GDP growth in June quarter in the ongoing fiscal year is a precursor to a vibrant, full-blown recovery going forward. PM Narendra Modi’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat is coming to fruition.

Sanju Verma

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India’s gross domestic product (GDP) surged 20.1% in the April-June quarter of FY22, its best-ever fiscal-quarter numbers.GDP at Constant (2011-12) Prices in Q1 of 2021-22 is estimated at Rs 32.38 lakh crore, as against Rs 26.95 lakh crore in Q1 of 2020-21, showing a growth of 20.1%.

GDP = GVA plus Taxes, minus subsidies. Put differently, GDP = C + I + G + NX, where C stands for household consumption, I for investment, as in private final consumption expenditure (PFCE), G for government spending, also called government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) and, NX for net exports, after subtracting imports. The best part of the 20.1% GDP number announced for June quarter (Q1FY22) is the fact that PFCE or gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) rose by a massive 55.3%, showcasing creation of productive capital stock in the economy, with more being invested than being consumed.

As a thumb rule, if the government earns more from taxes than what it spends on subsidies, GDP will be higher than GVA. If, on the other hand, the government provides more subsidies than the tax revenues earned, GVA would be higher than the absolute level of GDP. In the first quarter of the current financial year (1QFY22), India’s GDP grew by 20.1% year on year (YoY), while the GVA grew by 18.8%. It is true that GDP and GVA had contracted by 24.4% and 22.4%, respectively, in Q1 of the last financial year. So did a low base effect from last year play a role in the stellar 20.1% number that was reported? Well yes, but only partially so. Critics of Modinomics never gave the Modi government credit for a high base effect, when the growth numbers were tepid. By the same logic, how can these armchair, doomsday peddlers now discredit the solid 20.1% GDP number, reported for the June 2021 quarter? The moot point to be noted is that with real GDP growth of 20.1% in 1QFY22, more than 90% of the pre-pandemic output and private consumption stand recouped. On the supply side, recovery of pre-pandemic levels is most significant in the agriculture and allied sectors, which are 108.2% higher in Q1 of FY22, than in Q1 of FY21. The manufacturing sector is almost completely at pre-pandemic levels, having attained 96% of pre-pandemic output.

Index of industrial production (IIP) data showed that mining, manufacturing and electricity generation have all expanded in double digits in the June quarter. Capital goods output has shown 110% growth, while consumer durables grew by 132.6% in the June quarter compared to the year ago period. Merchandise exports grew 45% y-o-y in August to $33.14 billion. Industrial output has jumped 45% in the April-June period of this fiscal, (FY22). Visibility of revival in consumer demand increases with household consumption up by 19%, in 1QFY22 compared to contraction in FY21. Pick-up in construction by 68% also shows signs of strong green shoots. India’s merchandise exports in July 2021 were $35.17 billion, an increase of 34% over July 2019. Merchandise imports also shot up to $46.4 billion, the second-highest in history, in July 2021, driven by non-oil imports, which bodes well. The Modi government has set a merchandise exports’ target of $500 billion for FY23 and $1 trillion in the next five years, which is commendable and achievable, given the outstanding trajectory, with June quarter exports this year at $95 billion, the highest ever in a single quarter. August exports rose by 45.17% to $33.14 billion, with April-August exports at $164 billion, a massive rise of almost 67% YoY.

Total consumption is at Rs 22.05 lakh crore in 1QFY22, which is 13.8% higher than the same period of 1QFY21. It is also 91.2% of the level in Q1 of FY20. Of this, government consumption is Rs 4.2 lakh crore, which is 107.4% of what it was in Q1FY21. Capital formation has also accelerated to Rs 10.22 lakh crore which is 55% higher than last year and is 83% of pre-pandemic levels. Exports were at Rs 7.7 lakh crore in Q1 of this financial year, which is higher not only than last year’s Rs 5.53 lakh crore by 39%, but is also higher than pre-pandemic levels by 8.7%. The agriculture sector has witnessed strong growth of 4.5% to Rs 4.9 lakh crore in Q1 of this financial year. The size of the sector is larger than it was in the pre-pandemic period by 8.2%. The mining and quarrying sector at Rs 81,444 crore is 18.6% larger than it was in Q1FY21 and is 98% of its size in Q1 of FY20.

The manufacturing sector at Rs 5.4 lakh crore in Q1 of this year is nearly 50% larger than it was Q1 of FY21. It has also reached 96% of its pre-pandemic levels. Financial, real estate and professional services stood at Rs 7.9 lakh crore in Q1 of this year, which is 3.7% larger than in Q1FY21 and 98.5% the size it was before the pandemic struck. Following a dip in June 2021 due to the regional lockdowns, GST collection again rebounded to above Rs 1 lakh crore in July 2021, coming in at Rs 1.16 lakh crore. Average collection this financial year currently stands at Rs 1.13 lakh crore, which is the highest average since GST was implemented, in 2017. Since October 2020, GST collection has been in excess of Rs 1 lakh crore, every single month, for eleven months in a row, barring June 2021. Average daily e-way bill generation was 20.2 lakh in the week ended July 25, compared with 20.4 lakh in preceding week and 19.24 lakh in the first 11 days of July. More than 5 crore e-way bills were generated in July 2021.

PMI Manufacturing also moved back up, following a temporary dip, coming in at 55.3 in July 2021. Indian Railways has achieved the highest ever incremental freight loading of 17.54 million tonnes (MT) in July 2021, an increase of 18.43% over July 202, with total freight loading of 112.72 MT, as against the earlier best of 99.74 MT in July 2019 and as against 95.18 MT in July 2020. E-way bill generation improved pace in July, indicating a gradual pick-up in economic recovery. In the first 25 days of July, average daily e-way bill generation stood at 19.83 lakh, 8.8% higher than the average for June and 54% higher than the May level.

The country’s infrastructure output as measured by the Index of Eight Core Sectors rose 8.9% in June and 16.8% in May 2021. The July number was 9.4%. Domestic tractor sales grew 18.9% in June 2021. India’s infrastructure output, which comprises eight sectors including coal, crude oil and electricity and accounts for nearly 40% of industrial output, rose by 25.3% YoY in the first quarter of FY22. First-time Indian tractor industry crossed 1 Lakh tractor sales in June this year. The outlook remains positive for the months ahead as the monsoons progress favourably which could lead to increased tractor demand and government sops such as direct benefit transfers.

According to the Railway Ministry, with Indian Railways’ freight loading of 451.97 million tonnes in the ongoing financial year of 2021-22 as against loading of 336.74 million tonnes up to July 2020, the national transporter has also witnessed the highest cumulative incremental loading of 115.23 million tonnes i.e., 34.22% rise, over the same period last year in FY21. The cumulative performance of Indian Railways’ freight loading has seen solid growth over the same period last year in Iron ore at 18.07 million tonnes (43.88%), Cement 15.01 million tonnes (52.91%), Coal 55.83 million tonnes (37.11%), and the rest of other goods 10.45 million tonnes (38.42 %).

As per United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2021 (WIR), India became the fifth largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in the world in 2020. Gross FDI inflows have amounted to $32 billion in the first five months of calendar year 2021 (January to May), that is close to 37%, of the entire inflows in 2020. A CRISIL Ratings study of 43 sectors (accounting for 75% of the Rs 36 lakh crore outstanding rated debt, excluding the financial sector) shows the current recovery is broad-based. As many as 28 sectors (85% of outstanding corporate debt under study) are on course to see a 100% rebound in demand to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this fiscal, while 6 will see upwards of 85%.

A sure-fire sign that recovery is happening is when ratings agencies start making more ratings upgrades than downgrades. This means companies’ financials are improving and that growth is happening. Among sectors with the most rating upgrades, construction, engineering and renewable energy benefited from the government’s thrust on infrastructure spending, while steel and other metals gained from higher price realisations and profitability. Pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals continued to see buoyancy backed by both domestic and export growth. Besides regulatory relief measures, a secular deleveraging trend has provided India Inc. the balance sheet strength to cushion impact on their credit profiles. The median gearing for the CRISIL Ratings portfolio (excluding the financial sector) declined to 0.8x at the end of fiscal 2020 FY20 and then to an estimated 0.7x in fiscal 2021 FY21, from 1.1x in fiscal 2016.

The financial sector is also better placed today than a year back, given less stringent lockdowns and the systems and processes put in place to manage collections amid the restrictions. Support from the government and the RBI through emergency credit lines, moratorium and one-time debt restructuring for pandemic-affected companies have helped banks and non-banks, in curbing a rise in non-performing assets (NPAs).Credit profiles in the financial sector have been supported by higher capitalisation levels, better provisioning cover, and increased access to liquidity. 

The first half of this calendar year has seen fresh investments of $11 billion in Indian start-ups, with 20 new Unicorns making their mark in the last seven months. The Indian start-up ecosystem is now the third-largest in the world. The number of start-ups recognised by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has crossed 50,000 and is spread across 623 districts in India. Nearly 1.8 lakh formal jobs have been created by 16,000 start-ups which were recognised in the last financial year. The Indian start-up ecosystem is valued at over $240 billion. Several times more indirect jobs get created with a formalisation of jobs being created as well as aggregated by the start-up ecosystem. Once these startups achieve scale, they will be the fuel to power India’s growth trajectory. They are the linchpins of tomorrow’s business ecosystem. That several of them have started to consider listing in India is an additional positive. Many of these listed start-ups will eventually create wealth for not just their founders but for their employees and retail investors alike. Zomato, a loss-making food delivery company, managed a market valuation of around Rs 1 lakh crore, almost immediately on listing last month. Byju’s is valued at over $15 billion. Names the Indian public had not heard of till recently are now worth more than a billion dollars each. They include a diverse set of companies using digital technology to grow customers and operational scale. BharatPe, Cred, UpGrad, PayTm, Urban Company, Zeta, Meesho, Groww, Droom, Gupshup, CoinDCX and MindTickle are just some of the names that have emerged as billion-dollar and multi- billion dollar companies. The highest ever FDI inflow of $82 billion was clocked in the last financial year FY21. India Inc’s deal activity rose 3% to $13.2 billion in July.

The various relief packages of the Modi government ensured that essential food and cash was delivered to those who needed it, while also ensuring that MSMEs received adequate flows of funds and credit, to withstand the initial shock and also stand up once the pandemic receded. The fact that GDP growth moved from a contraction of 24.4% in Q1FY21 to a growth of 1.6% in Q4FY21 to a resounding growth of 20.1% in Q1FY22, shows how effective the various stimulus packages of the government were, in stabilising the economic shock and moving the economy back onto a robust growth path.

Does all this mean that India is on the path to a V-shaped recovery? The lofty increases in GDP and GVA are in percentage terms and while they look good, some naysayers claim that these numbers are merely a statistical illusion created by the very low base in Q1 of last fiscal. In times of massive crises, it is always better to look at the absolute levels to assess the state of an economy’s health. Percentage changes work well in normal times is what the doomsday purveyors claim. Well, no one disputes the fact that absolute numbers are indeed relevant. Equally, let no one forget that in 2020, the world including India was in the grips of a debilitating pandemic, the worst ever witnessed by mankind in over a 100 years. When the world fell, India fell too but the fall in India’s GDP was far lower than global peers. Don’t forget that in February 2020, India had overtaken the UK to become the fifth biggest economy globally, after having overtaken France to become the sixth largest, in 2019. Also, now that things are looking up, India is outperforming again, with the expansion in India’s GDP far superior to comparable global peers. The India Services Business Activity Index, compiled by IHS Markit, stood at 56.7 in August 2021, compared with 45.4 in July. The Composite PMI Output Index, too, rose to 55.4 in August, from 49.2 in the preceding month. Data suggests that the handsome GDP growth in June quarter in the ongoing fiscal year is a precursor to a vibrant, full-blown recovery going forward. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat is coming to fruition.

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

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Opinion

STIC TRAVELS APPROACHES GOLDEN JUBILEE WITH UNPRECEDENTED RECORD

Pankaj Vohra

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It was precisely 48 years ago, when former Delhi University Students’ Union president Subhash Goel launched his own travel agency, STIC, which at that time meant Students’ Travel Information Centre. His aim was, and is even now, to help students get international tickets at discounted prices to enable them to undertake trips abroad. No wonder that STIC, which is the General Sales Agent for 10 international carriers including United Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, has a track record that is unmatched by any of its rivals. STIC has over 25,000 vendors, among them a large number of registered IATA recognised travel agents, who buy their tickets through this agency which started from the Theatre Communication Building in Connaught Place, the site where Palika Bazar is located at present.

Goel had withdrawn himself from his family business and launched his enterprise with just a table and a chair at the building complex. During the Emergency, it was decided by the government to demolish both the Indian Coffee House and the Theatre Communication Building to make way for an air-conditioned underground market. The Coffee House was the meeting place for all intellectuals, most of whom did not endorse the political views of the then government. The consequence of the decision was that Goel who was the DUSU president in 1966 was left with no place to operate from. He did not lose hope and started selling tickets from an old Ambassador car, he owned and which was parked nearby at a parking lot. Shortly after that, he took up a counter at the Yorks Hotel and continued with his business. The inspiration for the travel agency had come when he had to travel abroad for a conference but had no money to buy the ticket. The then DU Vice Chancellor, Dr C.D.Deshmukh offered to pay for his trip but accepting the ticket from the authorities would have hurt his anti-establishment image. A friend in Mercury Travels told him that if he could get 15 persons to buy the tickets, he would get one ticket free. This he did in no time and discovered that the travel business was indeed money making. With some help from Dr Karan Singh, the then Union Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister and Rangarajan Kumaramanglam, the first NSUI president, whose father was also a Union Minister, Goel embarked on a new journey. It was a voyage of struggles and both he and his wife, embraced the challenge and worked tirelessly towards their targets.

Air Lanka was the first GSA milestone and subsequently, both Air Nippon and Virgin Atlantic were also introduced to the Indian traveler by STIC. Goel recognized that students would always be attracted towards his venture since in the past, another entrepreneur, also a Delhi University student, Inder Sharma had successfully started SITA travels. SITA was inspired by a US company, which stood for Students Information Travel Agency. Goel expanded his business by first acquiring an office at the Imperial Hotel, and later in the Chandralok Building on Janpath. Subsequently, his agency functioned from multiple locations, with the Headquarters in `G’ Block of Connaught Place. Goel has the distinction of being the youngest DUSU president and has his both daughters as his partners in his venture, which represented his undying spirit and deep resolve. STIC is a landmark of Delhi and its success story also demonstrates how a successful DUSU president became a successful entrepreneur as well.

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PM Modi: The visionary and innovator

Sanju Verma

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Prime Minister Narendra Narendra Modi has clearly been the most popular and powerful leader in independent India because he has always been his own person, never allowing others to define who he is, which eventually is the true hallmark of great leaders. 

SOCIO-POLITICAL MEASURES

On the socio-political front, clearly, the historic step of abrogating Article 370 which came into effect in 1950 and Article 35-A, which came into effect in 1954, figure high on the list of achievements. However,after Kashmir’s special status gone, vide a Presidential order and a historic decision on the floor of the Parliament on August 5,2019,people from anywhere in India can now buy the property and permanently settle in the State.With revocation of Article 370,the ball was set rolling for the return of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee their homes in 1990,in one of the most horrific genocides in 1990.

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

From banning instant triple talaq and making it a criminal offence,defining the nation’s first menstrual hygiene protocol, amending the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act of 1971,giving women reproductive rights over their bodies and increasing the foetal gestation period from 20 to 24 weeks, welcoming more women recruits in the NCC,to banning commercial surrogacy, women empowerment had been the cornerstone of Modi’s policy making. 

FOREIGN POLICY HEFT

Again,significant headway has been made on the foreign policy front. For instance, while the Quad was initiated in 2007, it was only on March 12, 2021 that the first, serious leader level Quad summit was held to thwart Chinese policy of expansionism and aggression that neither India nor like-minded nations have taken kindly to. One of the other big achievements of the Modi government was, forcing China to undertake a syncronized and organised disengagement, starting February 2021, post the Galwan stand-off. While under an incompetent Nehru, India was forced to cede 38,000 square kilometre of Aksai Chin, under Modi, India forced China to disengage, without ceding an inch of territory. Be it the surgical strike in 2016 or the Balakot strike in 2019, or for that matter the Galwan disengagement, strongman Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has always been driven by the “India First” approach. 

THE UNSTOPPABLE MODI FACTOR

The moot question then is, what about the “Modi Factor”? The charisma and connect with the electorate, popularity and indomitable capacity for relentless hard work are factors that make Prime Minister Narendra Modi a leader who is in a league of his own. To even try and create a false equivalence between the indefatigable Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee, a fascist,rabble rouser, limited to Bengal, is doing a great disservice to even the basic understanding of Indian polity. On May 28,2021, Mamata Banerjee kept the Prime Minister and Governor of Bengal waiting and what is worse, stormed out of a review meeting to discuss the impact of the recent cyclone, without bothering to make a presentation. Time and again, Mamata Banerjee has shown why she is a callous, deplorable leader, unfit for any national role in Indian politics and why TMC, the party she heads, is a certified party of goons and vandals.

A FAILED CONGRESS

Modi’s meteoric rise has led to the Congress Party’s rapid fall into oblivion, changing India’s political landscape irrevocably. The Congress has ceased to matter, after a string of debilitating defeats, with compulsive liar, Rahul Gandhi turning into a vacuous paper tiger on Twitter, whom no one takes seriously. The Left, barring in Kerala, has been wiped out. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav never had any national stature to start with and both these Parties were almost reduced to nothingness in the Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly polls in 2017,with SP winning only 47 seats compared to the massive 312 that the BJP won. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,while the BJP secured 62 seats from UP,Congress was reduced to 1 seat, Samajwadi Party, merely 5 seats and Mayawati’s BSP,to 10 seats.

The “Khan Market Gang”, has tried to resurrect the political fortunes of many failed regional satraps in a bid to checkmate the Modi aura, but these efforts repeatedly came to nought. Winning Bihar in 2020, despite a 15 year anti-incumbency, winning Assam for the second time in a row in 2021, with a thumping majority, raising BJP’s tally by 2467% from 3 to 77 seats in Bengal, forming the government in Puducherry, winning 483 of the 576 seats in local body polls in Gujarat with a 84% strike rate, raising tally in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls by 400% from 4 to 48 seats, winning the erstwhile, impregnable bastions like Dubbaka in Telangana and Pandharpur in Maharashtra, are a reflection of PM Modi’s unmatched, winnability quotient.

FARM REFORMS

On the economic front, the Modi government passed the historic Farm laws in September 2020, to empower India’s farm community. These laws had been pending for fourteen long years since 2006, based on recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and National Commission of Farmers. It needs to be mentioned here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agrarian reforms have been sweeping, far reaching and inclusive. Over 6 crore farmers are taking benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) paying a meagre premium of just between 1.5-2.5%.

What has the Modi government done for uplifting the well being of India›s farm community? The Modi government has been transferring cash directly to farmers, as is evident from the Rs 6000 per year that is paid to over 10 crore farmers, under the PM Kisan scheme. Over Rs 1.54 lakh crore has been paid via PM-KISAN, since its inception, in December 2018. From just 255 million tonnes in 2012-13,under an inept Congress regime,to 297.5 million tonnes in 2019-20 and 305.43 million tonnes in 2020-21, is a vindication of how India›s self sufficiency, with exportable surplus in the foodgrain space, has added to India›s economic heft. Besides agriculture, a bright spot has been the foreign portfolio investments (FPI) amidst the pandemic, with December 2020 recording the single highest-ever monthly inflow from FPIs at Rs 62,016 crore, surpassing the previous high of Rs 60,358 crore recorded in November 2020. The year 2020 also recorded the highest ever yearly net inflow of FPIs into equities, at over Rs 1.70 lakh crore. Do note that the huge surge of FDI inflow of $82 billion in FY21,is a vote of confidence from global investors, in the Modi government›s structural reforms. India›s forex reserves at over $642 billion,is a new high too.

LABOUR REFORMS

The new Labour Code seeks to transform India and rid it of outdated technologies and methodologies. The reduction in compliance burden would also facilitate expansion of establishments, helping to create jobs on a large-scale across a plethora of segments and sectors.

AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT

The Modi government announced a stimulus of Rs 2.65 lakh crore under Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0, taking the total stimulus since the onset of Covid, to Rs 29.88 lakh crore, which was akin to almost a massive 15% of GDP. The government’s contribution to the stimulus was 9%, with the remaining 6% came from the RBI. It is true that the Rs 1.97  lakh crore expenditure in the form of production-linked incentives (PLIs) to 13 new sectors will be over five years. That said, there is no denying the fact that Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 will have a multiplier impact on consumption, especially across stressed sectors, accelerate economic recovery and incentivise job creation through a virtuous cycle. Despite Covid-19 second wave, most global rating agencies and the IMF are predicting between a 9.3% and 11.5% GDP growth for India in FY22, amongst the highest worldwide. No other leader could have, or would have done what Narendra Modi did, in terms of unleashing some of the most historic reforms, during the pandemic, to shape a new India, better equipped to deal with a post Covid-19 global order.

GARIB KALYAN

The Rs 1.93 lakh crore allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP), Rs 11.03 lakh crore allocated towards the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan 1.0, Rs 82,911 crore for the PMGKP Anna Yojana (which was extended till November 2020) and Rs 12.71 lakh crore infused via RBI measures, announced till 31 October 2020, not only injected liquidity into money markets, but also increased purchasing power via direct benefit transfer (DBT), improved cash flows by recalibrating EMIs and provided access to cheap credit for MSMEs, migrants and farmers. 

INFRASTRUCTURE

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) plans to spend Rs 110 lakh crore on nearly 7,000 projects across sectors such as transport, communications, urban development, energy and water. The plan is a grand vision involving private and state-run players and many believe it is too ambitious in its scope.According to data, these projects include the Rs 3.66 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor and the Rs 1.09-lakh crore North South Dedicated Freight Corridor,amongst others.

MEGA COVID VACCINATION DRIVE

Every sixth person in the world is an Indian. Also, India has a high population density of 455 persons per square kilometre. In the given circumstances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to vaccinate everyone from 18 years onward is not only an extraordinarily bold move, but completely do-able too. In an unprecedented display of political will power and conviction,the Modi government,till date,has administered over 77 crore (770 million) doses,with over 57.86 crore people,given the first dose.

India’s daily positivity and weekly positivity rates at less than 3%.The active caseload too,is less than 2%,while the recovery rate is almost 98%.In August 2021 alone,India administered over 18.35 crore doses,with a daily average run rate of 59.19 lakh vaccines.Till 16th September 2021, over 11.16 crore doses were given, with a daily average run rate of roughly 74.4 lakh vaccines, which is excellent by any yardstick. What is however,gigantic,is the fact that over 2 crore,as in 20 million doses were administered on a single day on 17th September 2021, equal to the population of four New Zealand’s put together. To put it in lay man’s terms, of late, India has been on an average, vaccinating more people daily than the average number of people vaccinated in 18 major nations globally on a daily basis. 

VARANASI MODEL AND HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE

Clearly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a phenomenal job, with the Command and Control (CAC),Varanasi model, being a huge success story. While India’s electorally puny opposition has done absolutely nothing apart from blaming the PM, it is the Modi government which has done all the heavy lifting. The Congress ruled India for sixty years and could not even provide 47,000 ventilators. In just 14 months, the Modi government provided 60,000 ventilators to States. Despite ruling for 10 years between 2004-2014, the Congress under Manmohan Singh could set up only one AIIMS. In sharp contrast, in just the last 7 years, the Modi government has set up 15 AIIMS and the number of medical seats too has gone up by 70%, from 52,000 in 2014 to 88,250 now. Hence the Congress and its paid brigade of jaded acolytes, journalists and “Durbaaris”, have no political or moral authority whatsoever to wax eloquent about India’s health infrastructure. While the Nehru-Gandhi parivaar and their family retainers left India’s healthcare in a shambolic state, it is PM Modi who has been steadfastly putting the system back on track with almost 3 lakh crore dedicated to health spending in 2021-22, alone.

MAKE IN INDIA

Speaking of vaccines, Bharat Biotech’s homegrown Covaxin,made alongwith ICMR,is a tribute to India’s stellar Make in India, initiative. The telecom reforms and setting up of a Bad Bank,that were announced in the last 48 hours,will further propel India’s corporate sector and unleash animal spirits,by eradicating the NPA mess, left behind by successive Congress regimes, much before the Modi government assumed charge, in 2014.

Speaking of the virus, while Rahul Gandhi did nothing for the people of his constituency in Wayanad, besides trolling the Modi government on Twitter and Sonia Gandhi did zilch for the people of Rae Bareli, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been toiling hard 24/7 to ensure India’s war against Covid is taken to its logical conclusion. While the Modi model has been powering ahead, the Kerala model has failed miserably, with over 73% of India’s daily new Covid cases coming from Kerala alone.

The good news for Indians and India lovers is the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran the world›s biggest food security program amidst a full fledged lockdown in 2020, where-in every month,for 9 months in a row, 810 million people,including daily wage earners and migrant workers, were given free food grains.Basically,every month,for 9 months at a stretch,India fed a population that was almost 2.5 times,the size of the US in 2020 and likewise,the scheme is underway in 2021 too.

In 2021,in yet another ambitious turn of events,India is in the midst of the largest and most ambitious vaccination drive ever in mankind. Given his past track record of seamlessly translating vision into reality, PM Modi is set to deliver yet again! Don›t forget, India is a massive country with a population that is equal to the population of 196 countries. Solely due to the indefatigable conviction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite being a country that is widely spread out geographically, India has in the shortest time span vaccinated over 61% of its adult population with atleast one dose, despite the opposition promoting «vaccine hesitancy». Also, overall, more than 54 crore Coivid tests have already been conducted, keeping in sync with the larger goal of testing,tracking and treatment.

CONCLUSION

In the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, there is a quote which goes: “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones that we miss.” Well, the last two years of the Modi government have been extraordinary, for the sheer number of opportunities that were seized to create new milestones. “When the world is in crisis, we must pledge—a pledge which is bigger than the crisis itself. We must strive to make the 21st century India’s century. And the path to do that is self-reliance”—this powerful quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sums up the ethos of his vibrant political philosophy in more ways than one.

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