Entrepreneur and philanthropist Shashi Soni, who is an inspiration to many young working women in India, recently interacted with NewsX as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. As part of the conversation, Shashi Soni not only reflected upon her journey so far but also shared some valuable lessons.
On her journey so far, Shashi said, “I was just a housewife and never thought that I would be able to achieve such a big goal. But my inner voice said that I have to work. My brother had a garage and I thought I could do something in the garage. I started going there, working with the mechanics and giving them spare parts. In the evening, I would make tea for the mechanics. They were very happy working with me and I was very happy working with them. Then, I ventured into the transport business. I had one vehicle, I put money in that and asked my brother what more we can do. To which, he said that we can take it forward as we have a petrol pump and a garage. After I started that business, I had 20 vehicles with me in a span of 6-7 months.”
“Post which, I again pondered what we can do more. The garage of our land was very big. So, I approached the government and it said that this was a green belt and we could only make it a public utility place. We thought of putting up a factory and my husband suggested that we can put up an Oxygen plant. After my son went to an engineering college, I took up the challenge. I started going to industry departments, financial institutions and meeting them. I used to take feedback from them as to what more we can do. It took almost one year to get the clearance. Everybody knew that there is a lady called Shashi Soni and it is her project. We were successful in that but after facing some big hurdles. After my elder son cleared his engineering, he expressed his interest in electronics. Metro people approached us for a project. We took up that and that project involved manufacturing of colour monitors. Moving forward, we ventured into the IT business.”
Speaking about venturing into the defence production sector, she shared, “When I came to Goa to see the factory site, the building was in such a shape that nobody would accept that we could have any kind of unit there, let alone defence. Today, we are the number one in India to get the licence. I took up the challenge, started collecting the contractors in the new environment. The word Aatmanirbhar is easy but becoming one is not easy because the rules and regulations of the government aren’t that relaxed.”
On a parting note, Soni shared a valuable lesson for young women entrepreneurs. “Always think about challenges. If a challenge is in front of you, you have to fight it out. One always needs a goal in life. If there is no goal, then you wouldn’t be able to move forward.”
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We are a vintage-inspired brand: Archana Kumari Singh
Archana Kumari Singh, founder of House of Badnore, shares her journey, and speaks about her label and excellence in design.
NewsX was recently joined by Archana Kumari Singh, founder of House of Badnore, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-list, where she spoke about her label and her excellence in design. Talking about the reason she started House of Badnore, Archana said,” I started my professional life as a journalist, I was a writer and then I went on to join a niche jewellery magazine, The Gems and Jewellery magazine of India. After many years of having a very exciting stint with the media, I decided to change my gear and that is how my life, my journey changed.”
Speaking about the products and the range of her brand House of Badnore, she replied, “House of Badnore is a brand which basically has accessories for men, women, and home, so it was a thought-out process but I wanted to cover the whole gamut of the product line, so there are some things for the home, some things for men and women both. I haven’t gone into the mainstream of creating serious apparel, or serious ensembles or big large furnitures; it’s all accessories because I do feel accessories are what completes everything around you.”
Asking about the USPs of House of Bandore, Archana said, “I wouldn’t say that we are a vintage brand, we are vintage-inspired. There’s a lot of romance around vintage, royalty, so we did want to pick up the vintage aspect of it, but we did not want to recreate vintage because that particular space is very crowded. Everything you see that we have brought out is inspired from the past but it is for the contemporary world, for a global platform. It is luxury, but affordable luxury; the products are aspirational and reachable.”
Talking about the impact of the pandemic on her brand and how she reinvented herself, she replied, “There’s been a lot of lessons that we have learnt, a lot of big companies brutally and ruthlessly lay off people in order to survive, but small enterprises like mine not only had the privilege of surviving but also had the privilege of being able to give. So, at House of Badnore, we thought that we would do our bit for the community. Through the lockdown period I had actually thought of the product line that could add. For the first two, three months there was no movement of business, nothing was happening, so all I could do was think and dream. As soon as the workshop started to function, I decided to add so many products that would involve different skill sets, crafts so; we were able to farm out work to people in order to keep them sustained.”
On her advice for upcoming entrepreneurs, Archana said, “I would tell them to actually listen to the universe sometimes, there are signs and signals that the universe sends to you. Don’t try and hold on to many things you cannot hold onto your future. Let the future unfold on its own. Trust the universe; trust the blueprint of your destiny.”
When women step up to build peace & harmony
Over 40 women achievers will brainstorm to find solutions for peace in South Asia at eShe’s ‘Indo-Pak Peace Summit Led by Women’.
Whenever Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a peace initiative to normalise relationships between the youth of India and Pakistan, holds virtual conferences between schoolchildren of both countries, the questions usually asked are: “Does your teacher give you a lot of homework too?” and “Do you like maths?”
“The initiatives have given the children a space to connect with their peers across the border without reducing them to their political and social identity,” says India convener Dr Devika Mittal, an associate professor at University of Delhi, who has been upholding the cause of India-Pakistan peace for several years. Students are invited to send one another greeting cards, and to converse in Hindi, Urdu or even Gujarati depending on the linguistic region, which often leads to expressions of amazement once they realise the ‘other’ is just like them.
Under all the rhetoric of hate that has dominated the media and political landscape over the past several years lie numerous stories of humanity, hope and a shared history. It is to highlight this truth that I, along with a group of intrepid peaceniks across various professions and time zones, have set out to normalise the conversation between Indians and Pakistanis, and to offer practical, grassroots solutions for long-term peace, be it in the form of literature, art, culture, cinema or through the optimistic voices of the youth.
Our initiative, titled Indo-Pak Peace Summit Led by Women organised by eShe magazine, is a virtual conference being held on January 16-17. The schedule includes talks by notable peace activists from South Asia and worldwide, including three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy, and panel discussions between award-winning filmmakers, global youth activists, writers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs. All 40 speakers are women.
As UK-based peace builder Dr Elworthy says in her new book The Mighty Heart: How to Transform Conflict (2020), “When women are included in peace processes, there is a 35% increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years longer. Why? Because male negotiators (often previous combatants) are primarily concerned with territory, resources and positions of power, while women bring to the table the concerns of orphans, the injured, the bereaved and the traumatised. When these issues are addressed, the cycle of violence can be more effectively interrupted and turned around.”
Despite women’s success as peacemakers and peace negotiators, only 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories to peace agreements were women during peace negotiations from 1992 to 2019. And considering that only 13% of parliamentarians in India and 20% in Pakistan are women at present, and that the current leaders of both states are more likely to pander to populist local narratives of enmity rather than sustainable, long-term solutions for peace in the region, we are unlikely to see any productive peace treaties emerging from our political leadership in the next few years.
And it will come at a cost—to both business and human lives, not to mention the thousands of crores spent on militarization and war. With leisure travel almost at a halt between the two nations at present, thousands of families have been forced to live apart for years on end. With the economy at a dangerous low, this further barricading of markets and business opportunities is unhealthy for the entire region. And with extremist religious jingoism increasing unchecked on both sides of the border, the rights of women, minorities and oppressed sections of society are tragically threatened.
No good comes out of shutting doors—just ask UK—and by fuelling hatred. For flourishing economies, healthy populations and social justice, borders must be open and the populations must feel safe. Peace is sensible, practical and necessary. Let us make space for the youth, the peace-lovers, the brilliant professionals and achievers with their feet firmly in the grassroots and the heritage of our two countries to step up and suggest sustainable solutions. Who knows? A generation of women may succeed where a century of men have failed.
Aekta Kapoor is the founder and editor of eShe, an independent magazine and blog that amplifies women’s voices and stories of our shared humanity. Visit eshe.in to register for Indo-Pak Peace Summit Led by Women.
IDENTITY, CULTURE AND THE AGE OF PARADOXES
The contradictions suffered by the latest forms of liberalism as well as neoliberalism are of a serious nature. On one hand, these ideologies—which have betrayed their colonial character in the last three decades since globalisation—advocate individualism; and on the other, these encourage people to define themselves by racial, sexual, gender and many other markers of identities.
“It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
In the operational doctrines of colonialist and imperialist ideologies, the conceptual path to normalising the coloniser’s culture in an invaded and/or occupied land often passes through what we may call the ‘Uniqueness Argument’. It works as follows: At the initial stage of colonisation, invasion followed by forceful occupation of parts of a country takes place, which is sometimes accompanied by a drastic demographic change of those parts. This almost always gives rise to political dominance by the invader over the land and administration of the invaded.
Then, a significant portion of the invaded and/or partly occupied land, originally belonging to the victims of invasion, is painted as a ‘unique’ cultural zone. This depiction is incessantly repeated through aggressive propaganda, using the powerful channels of academia and media. As the propaganda penetrates increasingly into all levels of public discourse, it acquires the air of an undisputable, default position from which all discussions around the subject must proceed—an unmistakable mark of ideology which is false consciousness. This is the stage of turning manufactured narratives into powerful discourses. It requires some time and a certain amount of indolence on the part of the intellectuals produced by the culture under siege.
The purported ‘unique’ cultural character of the demographically and/or politically colonised area is then exploited to project this area as a distinct sociocultural identity, altogether different from the mainland. As is the nature of invasions, such attacks advance from the border areas and move gradually inward. The very next step—and the most crucial one in the process—is to claim a distinct political identity of the colonised area. This is where benign and diverse cultural nuances are painted with the broad strokes of monolithic category-driven identity politics, and identity turns into a tool of power. Identity politics is thus activated.
The primary goal of this politics is to amplify intra-cultural nuances of the besieged civilisation and thus foreground them as cultural differences that are seemingly set in stone. In reality, however, those cultural nuances are hardly ‘differences’ per se; instead, they are the local expressions of a broader civilisational outlook—the local manifestations of an orthogenetic development (which is a series of gradual and slow changes occurring organically and brought about by internal or indigenous factors, as opposed to changes brought about by disruptions that are by nature sudden) within a great civilisation, such as India. The amplification of intra-cultural nuances is then forcefully applied in the discourse as well as in day-to-day actions, to cut off a region’s culture from its civilisational roots, from its fountainhead, so that the process of a cultural takeover by the predatory religion representing a foreign culture—the coloniser’s culture—is made easier.
Having achieved this, the next stage of establishing a cultural hegemony through the instrument of various social institutions, brought into the invaded land by the coloniser, is activated. This completes the process of cultural colonisation, granting it the kind of resilience which is difficult to break through for whatever remnants of the indigenous sociocultural structures that survive the onslaught. We are inclined to think that at such a stage, any hope of a cultural recovery, or ‘decolonisation’, requires nothing short of a deus ex machina.
The pathway described above is a mutant form of the more classic colonial strategies, a new algorithm if you like. The other interesting feature observable in the age-old phenomenon of cultural colonisation, employed generously by ancient Romans and ancient as well as modern Chinese—and perfected by the European colonisers in the last two centuries—is that of universalism. We have seen the European colonialists, and in recent times their civilisational inheritors the American neo-colonialists, employing the universalist argument in the most effective of ways to destroy variety which is not just the essence but indeed a precondition of life. This becomes evident from one look at the natural world.
In the natural world, lack of variety means death of organisms and extinction of entire species. At the genetic level, more genetic variety within a population ensures more phenotypic variation, which means greater variety at the level of observable physical properties of an organism, including the organism’s appearance, development, and behavioural patterns. Whether or not the organism has the ability to develop two or more alternative forms of gene, given it has access to a suitable environment that affects the development of the genes, directly determines the organism’s ability to survive. Universalism, on the other hand, robs a social organism (like a group of humans exhibiting various shades and nuances in their cultural practices in relation to the other, fairly similar or analogous groups of humans) of its incentive to increase variety as well as the suitable environment which could have helped it materialise new possibilities at the sociocultural level. It stunts the orthogenetic development of a culture, something which we have mentioned earlier in this exercise—something which is essential for the survival of the culture in a recognisable form.
The contradictions suffered by the latest forms of liberalism as well as neoliberalism are of a serious nature. On one hand, these ideologies—which have betrayed their predatory, colonial character in the last three decades since globalisation—advocate individualism; and on the other hand, these encourage people to define themselves by racial, sexual, gender and many other markers of identities and become obedient members of these multifarious flocks, which only helps aggravate the conflict and power drive inherent in identities. Paradoxically, emphasis on individualism has resulted in the multiplication of group identity markers—and consequently in more groupthink—instead of independent, original thinking in recent decades. Neo-colonialists are back in their erstwhile colonies through the backdoor portals created by institutions that were meant to be the torchbearers of freedom and anti-colonialism—which is yet another paradox.
Indeed, this seems to be the “Age of Paradoxes”, and no easy solution to any of its confounding anomalies seems to appear on the horizon. Things haven’t changed much since Dickens wrote: “We had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period…”
Ominously enough, the contemporary reader discovers that the accent tends to fall on the final words in that passage: “The period was so far like the present period”!
Sreejit Datta is Assistant Professor and Resident Mentor at the Rashtram School of Public Leadership. He heads the Civilisational Studies Practice at Rashtram. The views expressed are personal.
GOOD MENTAL HEALTH IS ACTUALLY A LIFESTYLE STATEMENT: DIYA GANGULY MALLICK
NewsX was recently joined by UK-based psychotherapist Diya Ganguly Mallick, co-founder of Psychonnect, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List. She spoke about her organisation which facilitates mental well-being, diagnostics, counselling and therapy service.
Talking about her reason for starting the organisation despite being an academic, Ganguly said, “Being born and raised in India, I have been exposed to traditional approaches like yoga, mindfulness meditation for mental health challenges, then my education and subsequent experiences abroad, on the other hand, exposed me to more scientific and empirical approaches for tackling the mental health challenges. I realised that I had the unique opportunity to actually merge these new approaches together or rather create an ecosystem that will be a confluence of the traditional Eastern approaches and scientific Western approaches.”
Speaking about how we can break the stigma and how her organisation is working to combat the stigma at the grassroots level, Ganguly said, “This is a very serious issue, not only in India but worldwide. In Psychonnect, we have two approaches to it—the first is driven to our very own initiative which is the ARK charter, where we try to endeavour through the superficial layers of human interaction and engage in deeper conversation, which talks about the various facets of mental health awareness, recognition, and knowledge on the subject. The second approach is to reinvent the context in which mental health is projected; we all know mental health is predicted in a negative or depressing way in media, news, etc, so it’s important that people think good mental health is actually a lifestyle statement just like being vegan or like yoga.”
Talking about how we ensure that safety doesn’t stop at physical health but also includes mental health, Ganguly said, “As I mentioned earlier, mental health is connected to physical health, people cannot look after their physical health without giving attention to your mental health and it is also important to emphasise here that whenever you talk about this pandemic, it has not only impacted our physical body but also on our mind.”
Talking about her journey in India, then in the UK, and how she actually decided that this is something that she would like to do, Ganguly said, “I narrate a story from my school days to answer this. I used to be a volunteer for an old-age home as a child and then one thing I realised that there were a lot of checks for physical parameters but there was nothing done for improving the subjective well-being of those people in that old-age home. That’s the time I realised I want to do something for improving people’s subjective well-being or improving their emotional state.”
THE PITFALLS OF PRIVATISING THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
In August 1947, East Punjab had just 4 lakh acres (out of 47 lakh acres) of cultivable farmland irrigated. The rest of the state had just 1,973 tubewells, and only 325 of these had an electricity connection! All this meant that the production of rice was just 11.3 lakh tonnes. Then came a series of infrastructure improvements, all sponsored by the government—the Bhakra Nangal dam was completed in 1963, with Norman Borlaug introducing high yielding dwarf Mexican wheat to India in the 1960s. Institutional infrastructure was carefully set up—the Punjab Agricultural University was necessary to adapt this wheat to Indian conditions, while the state’s local agricultural marketing body, Markfed, enabled farmers to sell their produce in a structured manner. Additional institutions like the Punjab Mandi Board, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and the Land Development and Reclamation Corporation were also set up during this period. The Food Corporation of India was actually instituted in 1964, with procurement of wheat happening a year later.
The local state government was proactive as well—when seeds from Mexico were imported, Punjab sent across a fleet of trucks to bring them by road to Punjab from the ports quickly, instead of awaiting rail travel. Meanwhile, to distribute such seeds to farmers, cloth bags were stitched by prisoners. Meanwhile, the state government also sought to import significant fertilizer inputs from Kandla Port; farmers were also offered financial help, along with tubewell connections and diesel pump sets (90,000 diesel pump sets were bought in 1965). Training was given to around 250 diggers who then formed additional teams to go and dig tubewells across the state. Very few other states had the institutional wherewithal to actually implement a holistic approach towards catalysing the Green Revolution. By 1968, Punjab started having record harvests of wheat. Over time, this success expanded to other crops.
To expect the private sector to foster such a revolution is folly, especially in other states where there is simply no institutional wherewithal. The Green Revolution was brought in by the state, not by contract farming.
BJP’S TRACK RECORD
There exists a huge chasm between the government’s words and deeds towards our farmers, with actions speaking louder than words. In 2014, the BJP election manifesto promised the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, which meant fixing the MSP at 50 percent more than the production cost. With no action for a couple of years, the PM came up with a catchy slogan about doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. Yet, by the end of the year, he announced the hardly-deliberated, ill-thought and even poorly implemented demonetisation, at a time when the kharif produce hit the markets.
In 2017, the government announced the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, but the devil lay in the details. Most of the MSPs announced—the MSP was announced over A2, with only three crops having MSP 50 percent more than A2+FL (bajra, arhar and urad), and no crop having MSP at 50 percent more than C2 costs (H. Damodaran, Indian Express, Jun 2017). In addition, the lack of actual public procurement of farm produce meant that some crops had to be sold at prices less than the MSP, and analysis reveals that farmers were denied around Rs 1,900 crore due to sale below MSP prices in last two months alone (Kabir Agarwal & Dheeraj Mishra, Indiaspend, Dec 2020).
The premise of MSP implementation, which should be a farmer’s right to minimum realisation, has thus remained elusive, with government announcements only providing an example of headline management.
TALE OF UP & BIHAR
Our track record in implementing laws for the “liberalisation” of the farm sector is abysmal. There is ample evidence that the absence of APMCs do not really lead to increased private investments. In fact, investments happen when long-term incentives are aligned, especially for farmer benefits.
Kerala, for example, never had an APMC Act, yet it is the State Government (and not private investment) that helps in market infrastructure for farmers’ benefit, despite its export-oriented cropping pattern. Bihar, in another example, deregulated the APMC in 2006 and, even after 14 years, is yet to witness a rise in private investment for market infrastructure. The lack of private facilities and constant degradation of public facilities actually led to a decreasing density of mandis in the state (NCAER, Nov 2019), leaving the farmers to the whims of private traders who could artificially depress farmers. NITI Aayog (Task force on agriculture, 2015) itself recognized that the abolishment of mandis, in absence of any alternate dry and cold storage facilities, has led to even fewer options for farmers. Simple changes in law, without providing incentives for alternate development, don’t attract investments.
The delicensing of the sugarcane industry in UP in 2006 has yielded similar results. Productivity has remained stagnant, and sugarcane farmers have long petitioned for improved prices. The state government announced a state advisory price, in addition to Fair & Remunerative Price by CACP, yet mill owners complain of low cane quality and farmers grieve about late or less payments. Meanwhile, private contribution for infrastructure development remains muted.
This Act provides for establishing a nation-wide legislative framework to enable contract farming, yet the stated objectives are far from the reality. The Act doesn’t provide details for empowering and protecting the farmers, while outlining the basic conditions of the contract that it may enter into with buyers (mostly corporates and large business). The Act allows private agencies to impose compliance burden on farmers, particularly with respect to quality, grades and standards which can be arbitrary and detrimental for the farmers. Allowing the buyer, the right to monitor standards, even during cultivation (Section 4.2.4), leaves the farmer with hardly any freedom to decide their farming operations, reducing them to perform paid labour in their own fields. To compound the issues, the Act is unclear on the party responsible for compliance with labour and social development standards, and risks such costs to be passed on to the farmer (Section 4.2.3).
Another fundamental issue with contract farming in India is the asymmetry in negotiating farming agreements between the farmer and the buyer. With more than 80 percent of our farmers being small and marginal, it is not difficult to understand where the bargaining power lies when it comes to finalizing “mutually agreeable” contracts. Even in its implementation, it provides farmers with little succour. The buyer may refuse to buy the entire produce on minor non-compliance, forcing the farmer to sell at artificially depressed rates. While the farmer has the option to raise a dispute, the resolution is three-level (conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority), making it cumbersome for the farmer to get his just dues.
In addition, contract farming has certain other challenges. Firstly, the purchaser, with his sole focus on near term profit maximization and ability to procure from a large pool of farms, may impose practices which may be detrimental for the land or farmer assets in the long run. Secondly, the purchaser may prefer to enter into contracts with only large landholders, in order to reduce administrative time and costs, thereby providing little to no benefit for 80 percent of our farmers. Thirdly, the purchaser is highly likely to shift to cash crops instead of edibles, thereby impacting the food security of the farmer and the society at large.
IMPACT ON PDS
Going by historical experiences, leaving farm procurement in private hands has led to a withdrawal of public procurement. The law allowing private mandis to be set up will actually lead to the dismantling of the APMC structure itself, as APMC mandis will cost taxes and compliance on part of the buyer, increasing preference for private mandis and deterioration in farmers’ terms of trade in reality. This remains further compounded by the consistent stand of the government to exclude any MSP-related provision in the farm laws. Public procurement, besides offering farmers a definite price return, also helps build food stocks which can iron out food price volatility and ensure adequate food grains for the PDS. In the absence of public procurement, the PDS’s collapse is inevitable, especially when an initial phase of surveys by the National Health & Family Survey (NHFS) indicate an increase in child stunting (the first since 1998-99).
The law also removes stocking limits for farm produce, intervening only if there is a 100 percent rise in horticultural produce or 50 percent rise in non-perishables, over preceding 12 months. This leaves food stocks vulnerable to hoarding and food prices susceptible to astronomical rises. This shall have grave consequences not only for the farmer, but for the entire country at large.
The writer is former Congress MP from Bhiwani and granddaughter or former Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal. The views expressed are personal.
A SECOND IMPEACHMENT WOULD MAKE A FITTING END TO TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY
After the violence carried out by Trump’s supporters at Capitol Hill brought the chaos unleashed under his rule to a peak, it is only appropriate that he face the infamy of being the first US President to face the impeachment procedure twice.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney had forewarned prophetically during the presidential campaign in March 2016 that “Trump was a fraud who had neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president”. Other older Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham too had warned against Trump. During the campaign, Trump himself had threatened, “If I become President, the media is going to have a problem”, and described the media as “among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever met”. In a February 2017 tweet, Trump, then the President, had called the media the ‘enemy of the American people’, a term, as critics noted, used by Stalin and Mao. It is thus intriguing that despite the complex electoral procedure established by the makers of the US Constitution to ensure that the office of the president does not “fall to men with low intrigue and the little arts of popularity”, Donald John Trump was elected the 45th president.
The unprecedented assault on Capitol Hill, the seat of US Congress, by the rioting supporters of Trump on 6th January, 2020, when the Congress was in a joint session to take count of the votes of the Electoral College, has proven to be the proverbial last nail on his presidency. The premeditated violence was so egregious that even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appealed to the lawmakers to finish the count in the wake of “the failed insurrection”. The votes were counted and the results declared by Mike Pence, the Vice President, a Republican, and the ex-officio president of the Senate. Joe Biden was declared elected, despite Trump hectoring, “Do it Mike, this is time for extreme courage.”
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats and some Republicans, have accused Trump of “fomenting the violence with his relentless falsehoods” and want him impeached or removed. Albeit a few days are left for the inaugural ceremony of the new presidency, yet Democrats and a considerable number of Republican leaders and officials want that Donald Trump should be removed from office before January 20. Some lawmakers want that the 25th Amendment be invoked, and others desire that the President should be impeached. In fact, an article of impeachment signed by 218 Democrats is under consideration in the House of Representatives (the House), charging Trump with abuse of power to the effect that he “willfully made statements that encouraged, and foreseeably resulted in imminent lawless action at the Capitol”. The impeachment draft mentions Trump’s prior and consistent efforts to ‘subvert and obstruct’ the results of the election and references his call to the Georgia Secretary of State asking him to find more votes after losing the state to Biden. The draft goes on to say that ‘Trump has falsely claimed there was widespread fraud in the election, and the baseless claims have been repeatedly echoed by congressional Republicans […] President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coordinate branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
The Democrats have a clear majority in the House but the Republicans command a majority in the Senate. Moreover, the timing of a trial in the Senate is uncertain as the Senate is not set to meet until 20th January, which is the Inauguration Day of the new presidency. Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict, and this seems unlikely. Though many Republican senators have disparaged Trump’s actions, several Republicans believe that impeachment would divide the country further, just ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
Impeachment is not something which is new to Donald Trump. He was impeached by the House on December 18, 2019 on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Of course, he was acquitted by the Republicans, the Grand Old Party (GOP)-controlled Senate on February 5, 2020. Yet, Trump faces the ignominy of a second unprecedented impeachment at the fag end of his presidency. Normally, there is an impeachment investigation by the House and the evidence is sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which holds hearings, draft articles and sends them to the full House. The impeachment of Trump by the House in 2019 took three months. This time, with so few days left—and a feeling among Democrats that there is little need to investigate what happened, since most members of Congress were in the Capitol when the mob broke in—Speaker Pelosi may hold a floor vote with no hearings or reference to the House Judiciary Committee. Once the House votes to impeach, the article and evidence would be sent to the Senate, where a trial is held and there are final votes to convict or acquit. It would outlast the tenure of Trump. Recourse can also be the 25th Constitution Amendment which allows for the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to declare a President unfit for office, and the Vice President then becomes acting President. Despite widespread dismay, disbelief and discontent with Trump’s actions, there appears little chance, as Pence has ruled out recourse to the 25th Amendment. Many Republicans, even those who have criticized Trump, say impeachment would be unhelpful, as it would do “more harm than good.” But Democrats and some Republicans also feel that “it must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the US government.”
No American president has ever been removed from office by the impeachment process, and no president has been impeached by the House more than once. Impeachment proceedings were launched against four Presidents, namely, Andrew Johnson (1868), Richard Nixon (1974), Bill Clinton (1998) and Donald Trump (2019) but the motions failed. Nixon resigned before the proceedings were launched. Legal experts are divided into three camps over the desirability or otherwise of impeachments proceedings against Trump. According to one view, a president can be impeached only while in office. Another opinion is that, if the House votes to impeach while the president is in office, the Senate can proceed to a trial even after the president has left office. And, a third view is that the entire process can begin even after the president is out of office. No president has ever been impeached after leaving office. But as the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said, “Democrats will preserve every option” to force Trump from office, either through the 25th Amendment or impeachment. The impeachment motion is before the House, where it will be carried, but there is a rub in the Senate as the members of the GOP may stall the impeachment. In any case, whether Trump is impeached or not, the infamy of a second impeachment is a fitting denouement of his presidency.
The author is former Additional Secretary, Lok Sabha, and a scholar of comparative governments and politics. The views expressed are personal.
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