Rahul Gandhi’s desperate plea to the United States to intervene in India is an affront to any nationalist who takes pride in rising India. This also explains there is something wrong with the Congress leadership and that they appear to have completely surrendered in the fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The abominable comment came during Rahul Gandhi’s online interaction with Harvard University professors and former US Secretary of State Nicholas Burns. He claimed that there was a wholesale capture of the institutional framework by the ruling dispensation and the US was not speaking against it. “I don’t hear anything from the US establishment on what is going on here in India,” he said.
How can a person who aspires to become the Prime Minister of India heap such an insult on the dignity of an average Indian? But before we try to understand Rahul Gandhi’s statement, we must not lose sight of the fact that this is not an isolated statement from the Congress.
This episode reminds me of the statement made by senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on a Pakistani television channel in November 2015, where he appealed to Pakistan to bring the Congress back to power in India for a better relation between India and Pakistan. A week prior to that, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had praised the then Nawaz Sharif government and criticized the Modi government for problems in Indo-Pak relations. And all of this on Pakistani soil.
The Congress was peeved at the astounding success of Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and were upset and angry. Aiyar is the same person who had said that Modi would never become the Prime Minister but was free to sell tea at the AICC headquarters. Such was the arrogance. Senior Congress leaders were smarting under the insult that a Modi victory had heaped on them and the aura that surrounded the dynasty.
The Indian National Congress had been formed as a safety valve so that the anger could get dissipated and the British Empire could survive by making a few adjustments here and there. Although India got independence, the tendency to look to the British for approval was palpable. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi chose the well-bred and Western-educated Jawaharlal Nehru over Sardar Patel to be India’s first Prime Minister. Nehru adopted the policy of non-alignment, but Congress leaders always looked towards the erstwhile USSR for support. What happened to then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent is still shrouded in mystery.
The tendency of Congress leaders to look to the West and other powers to strengthen their position in India is not new. But they seem to have forgotten that the world order has changed. There used to be a time when it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. But now the UK wishes to develop a congenial relation with India for its own good. The United States is powerful but it needs India the same way as India needs it. Those days are gone by when these important countries would be comfortable only with the Gandhi family or someone bred in the West.
Before making such an obnoxious appeal, Rahul Gandhi should have remembered how the Obama administration bent over forwards to extend a red-carpet welcome to Modi when he became Prime Minister. The US was forced to reverse its policy of denying a visa to Modi when he had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
This should also be seen in the context of the 65 Opposition members of the Indian Parliament, that included seven from the Congress, writing a letter to then US President Barack Obama, asking him to continue the visa ban on PM Modi. But Modi had not applied for a US visa. The people of this country had decided to make him the prime minister and forced the US to invite Modi.
The Congress and Left echo system created the same narrative when Donald Trump lost and Joe Biden won the US presidential race. They calculated that the Indian Prime Minister would have a tough time now that Trump was out. They made their fight so personalized that they forgot that India’s domestic politics do not shape the US’s policy. Modi was clear that he was dealing with the US President and not individuals. And so was the case with the US administration. Both Modi and Biden struck a chord of mutual respect and Indo-US relations seem to be on a new take-off, much to the envy of certain Indian leaders.
The new Quad initiative by the US and India, featuring in the itinerary of the first visit of US Defence Minister Lloyd Austin, also speaks a lot for those who want to understand strategic partnership. Austin’s other two visits were to trusted allies Japan and South Korea. India is not an ally of the US but a partner that can be trusted.
In such a situation, what prompted Rahul Gandhi to imagine that the US would interfere in India’s affairs to install him as a leader of substance? The US makes a prompt assessment of everything happening in this country. They know that Modi is getting stronger through a due democratic process. The people of this country have complete trust in him. But Rahul Gandhi and other leaders are failing to mobilise public support against the Modi government. Rather than trying to get the support of people, other parties are spending time criticizing the Prime Minister at a personal level.
The stand of the new US administration under Biden was clear when it supported the farm legislations in India and made the same arguments that the Modi government has been giving. This was despite the tweets by Greta Thunberg and Rihanna. Governments across the world understand the problems faced by democratic governments in pushing through reforms. This happened in the UK and the US too.
The last straw of hope for these shameless Indian leaders is the issue of human rights violations. The UK-based Amnesty had to go out of India not because it reported alleged human rights violations, but because it was violating Indian laws and doing unethical things. Thousands of NGOs have shut down because they refused to be accountable to the Indian system.
There is not even one incident of human rights violation where the Indian State has given any defence. The country has robust institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, a free press and the fiercely independent judiciary. But Rahul Gandhi finds fault with these institutions. In the age of digital media, no party would complain that the media is biased or manipulated. But Rahul Gandhi says the media is not independent. Not to forget that the Congress runs an English national daily called The National Herald. But if people do not read that considering it is garbage and spews venom against PM Modi, one cannot fault the Indian Prime Minister or the government for that.
In his interview Rahul Gandhi said, “To fight elections, I need institutional structures, I need a judicial system that protects me, I need a media that is reasonably free, I need financial parity, I need a set of institutional structures that allow me to operate as a political party. I do not have them.”
Rahul Gandhi is crying foul and trying to project as if the party is losing due to the manipulation of the entire system by the Modi government. This is the same process that had delivered victory to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, to the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, to Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, and to the TRS in Telangana. So, can anyone take Rahul Gandhi’s allegations seriously?
One incident of an EVM being carried in the vehicle of a BJP worker’s wife has been made to look like the entire election process is getting rigged. The car of the election officials had broken down and they had taken the help that was easily available. The fact that the vehicle belonged to the wife of a BJP candidate from another constituency came to light much later and the officials taking the lift were unaware of it. The Election Commission has acted tough and suspended four officials for violating the protocol of transporting EVMs, even as it held that there was no tapering and the lock was intact. The Commission also ordered repolling at that particular booth. Yet it has not satisfied Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress leader and his followers are trying to undermine trusted democratic institutions which are respected the world over. The Election Commission of India is one such that has also cooperated with other countries to conduct elections there. A few countries also use EVMs manufactured in India in their electoral processes. Questioning the Commission would mean undermining institutions elsewhere too.
The same is the case with our judicial system which is respected the world over for its fairness. Remember what a District Judge in London had said about former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, who had testified in the case of the extradition of Nirav Modi. He had termed Katju “an outspoken critic with his own personal agenda”. The judge called his evidence “less than objective and reliable” and said, “There is no cogent or reliable evidence that the judiciary in India is no longer independent, or capable of managing a fair trial even where it is a high-profile fraud with significant media interest”. Rahul Gandhi suffers from the same syndrome as Katju.
When the UPA was in power, Sonia Gandhi, as chairperson of the alliance, set up Congress fixers in the government to malign the image of Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Amit Shah, who was the state’s Home Minister. The CBI was set up against the IB and witnesses were created to fix both of them. These are well documented now. But Modi as Chief Minister never attacked the investigative agencies and faced the grilling of the SIT (Special Investigation Team) for 10 hours.
Nobody knows better than Rahul Gandhi and his mentors that these institutions can be misused. But none of these things are being said against any member of the Gandhi family. In fact, even core supporters of Modi say that the government was being too soft on the acts of commissions and omissions by these people when they were in power. The truth is Modi does not need to fix them. Law agencies are working at their own pace and the common man can hope that the guilty will be punished. Modi does not need to do all this to win elections. He is winning because people have developed faith in him as a leader who can be trusted. In the decadent and moribund politics of India known for corruption and chicanery, Modi has rekindled hope and emerged as a symbol of regeneration. Recognising this would help Rahul Gandhi reflect on lost opportunities and re-craft his political roadmap.
The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.
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PRIYANKA GANDHI’S ROLE IN UTTAR PRADESH POLLS
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is certainly busy making up for lost time as she bombards the people of Uttar Pradesh with a headline a day. If she is not taking on the cause of the farmers versus the Central and State Government on the Lakhimpuri Kheri murders, she is courting arrest trying to visit the family of a man who allegedly died in police custody. In between, she managed to evade the local police by smuggling herself out of her house in her car trunk and visited a Dalit colony where she visited a temple and swept the floor. A few days later she announced 40 per cent reservation for women in ticket distribution by the Congress, told the media that she was also working on a women’s manifesto that will include e-cycles and smartphones for college girls— and also happened to bump into her ally turned rival Akhilesh Yadav on a Lucknow flight where she congratulated him for taking all the `cowards’ away from the Congress— a reference to all the local Congress leaders who were leaving the party having lost faith in the Congress ticket.
The meeting with Akhilesh may have been by chance but she made the most of it by revealing to the media what she had told the SP leader (the line about cowards) and managed to make the most of the opportunity. While the SP camp is yet to comment on it, Congress sources also informed us as to how Priyanka sat in the economy while the socialist leader sat in business class. Later on Priyanka herself dwelt on this during her interviews with the media. Without attacking the SP leader directly she managed to convey two messages. One that he is taking turncoats whom the Congress had no use for and second, that she travelled economy class. (While Priyanka has started her media interactions, Akhilesh is yet to begin his apart from a few soundbites and appearances at conclaves.)
This running away with the message is a leaf that Priyanka has clearly taken out of Narendra Modi’s book. ( I know that neither will thank me for this comparision). Even on the day that the PM himself was at Varanasi to launch the Ayushman Bharat Infra Health Mission in his constituency, Priyanka Gandhi chose that same day to make her own announcement on health care. She tweeted that if voted to power the Congress would provide free treatment and healthcare up to Rs 10 Lakh. Taking a dig at the Yogi government she tweeted that: “Everyone saw the dilapidated condition of the health system in UP during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a result of the apathy and neglect of the current government. With the consent of the Manifesto Committee, the UP Congress has decided that when it forms the government in UP, any disease will be treated free of cost. The government will bear expenses up to Rs 10 lakh.”
She may have come late to the party—though her party workers point to her interventions during the Hathras rape and murder case, rallies against CAG, and her taking on the Yogi government on the issue of buses for the migrants— but she is definitely a major part of the Opposition’s narrative against the BJP. The problem is that the party lacks a ground-level structure and discipline to convert her initiatives into votes and two, her interventions through headline-worthy have been sporadic. Can she restore the faith of the people in her – and the Congress. A lot will depend on whether she chooses to contest the polls or not. Will she be part of the 40 percent women on the Congress ticket? “Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon” (I am a girl, and I can fight) is the Congress slogan. Will Priyanka be an active part of this slogan?
She is not revealing her cards right now but her leading from the front will make all the difference for that will pit her directly against Yogi Adityanath and his main contender Akhilesh Yadav. As far as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is concerned it will raise her stature from campaigner to contender. Otherwise, she runs the risk of being an Assadduddin Owaisi, who is seen as a spoiler at best. The decision is in her court.
NEP warrants rewriting school syllabus
Of course, we must analyse the past without being its prisoner— in the context of the present to build a resurgent India-the hub of global education, by laying the foundation of a sound, secure and holistic school education system to meet the aspirational needs of the 21st century.
Eyebrows were raised, and speculation spiralled, when a member of the Kasturirangan-led committee, set up recently to revise the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and lay down the broad guidelines for school syllabus and textbooks, said that the existing curriculum in schools dwells “too much on defeats”, and that “in the light of new facts, history should be rewritten”. The member, an ideologue, also remarked that textbooks should talk about the “fighting spirit” of rulers such as Maharana Pratap in battles against foreign invaders. When Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, HRD Minister in Vajpayee government, caused some revision in the school text books, it was considered by the left-wing as saffronisation of the syllabus. The revision of the extant NCF has been necessitated by the National Education Policy, (NEP), 2020. The NCF revision is not new or novel. It was last revised in 2005, and earlier in 1975, 1988 and 2000. The NEP incapsulates and condenses the recommendations of the Committee set up to formulate a Draft National Education Policy. It was a Herculean task to condense over 400 page report of the Kasturirangan Committee into a precise 68 page policy document, that is the NEP, which was approved by the Union Cabinet on 29th July, 2020. As Adviser to the Union Minister for Education, I recollect, the affable but indefatigable Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank had a series of mind storming and protracted discussions with senior bureaucrats, academics and scholars, apart from structured inter-ministerial discussions, leading to formulation of multiple drafts and eventual approval of the NEP 2020 by the Cabinet.
The NEP, the first education policy of the 21st century, aims to address the many growing developmental imperatives of India. The NEP envisages revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance and to create a new system aligned with the aspirational goals of the 21st century and the SDG4, while building upon India’s great traditions and value systems. The NEP unambiguously says that ‘the pursuit of knowledge (Jnan), wisdom (Pragyaa), and truth (Satya) was always considered in Indian thought and philosophy as the highest human goal. Admittedly, the purpose of education system is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values. The Policy envisages that the curriculum and pedagogy must foster a sense of respect towards the fundamental duties and constitutional values, bonding with one’s country, and conscious awareness of one’s role and responsibilities.
A host of wide-ranging measures have been taken by the Ministry of Education, the UGC, the NCERT and the CBSE to give effect to the provisions of the NEP as per the timelines stipulated in the Policy itself. The provisions of the NEP relating to Early Childhood Care, that is the foundational literary and numeracy and development of a new National Curriculum Framework for school education is a challenging task. This is so because, according to the empirical studies, and a fact reiterated by the NEP, over 85 percent of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in early years. The school curriculum and pedagogy are to be restructured in a new 5+3+3+4 and ‘learning is to be made holistic, integrated, enjoyable, and engaging’. The curriculum content would be reduced to make the school bag lighter. However, the core essentials of each subject would be retained to make space for critical thinking based on concepts, ideas, applications and problem-solving. Teaching and learning have to be made interactive, creative, collaborative, experiential with classroom sessions ‘regularly containing more fun’. The NEP speaks of empowerment of students through flexibility in course choices, multilingualism, curricular integration of essential subjects, skills and capacities, with local content and flavour by developing a new and comprehensive NCF for school education based on the principles enshrined in the NEP.
The task belongs to, and stands assigned to the NCERT by the NEP, but, probably conscious of the enormity and the complexity, the GoI has entrusted the task of drafting the NCF to a 12-member National Steering Committee (NSC) headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, who also headed the Committee on the Draft National Education Policy, 2019. Out of the 12 members, apart from Dr Kasturirangan who heads the NSC, two more eminent scholar members of the Committee constituted to Draft the NEP, 2019, namely Prof. Manjul Bhargava and Prof.T V Kattimani, have been retained. Prof. Manjul Bhargava is a professor of Mathematics in the Princeton University, USA- the recipient of Fields Medal. This prestigious award is given to mathematicians under age 40 by the International Mathematical Union, considered as the novel prize of Mathematics. Prof. Kattimani is a former VC of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University and the current VC of the Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh. The other members of the NSC comprise of eminent Vice Chancellors, distinguished scholars, renowned academics, domain experts and profound thinkers. The task before them is complex and colossal as they have to develop the new NCF within the framework of the NEP, 2020.
A member of the NSC, and a right-wing ideologue, has hinted at re-writing history and the textbooks ‘in the light of new facts’ of history. The precise mandate of the steering committee is to develop the NCF within the mandated remit. The NEP speaks, among other things, of incorporating local content and flavour as the students must know about their past, immediate surroundings and topography, India’s civilisational heritage, constitutional values, to develop the spirit of critical thinking and enquiry. The Policy advocates multilingualism, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong opportunities for all by 2030 by incorporating rapid changes in the knowledge landscape in the globalised world. The aim is to promote India as a global study destination by providing premium education at affordable costs so as to help ‘restore its role as a Viswa Guru’. Evidently, the founding fathers of our republic laid the foundation of a civic nation, and not an ethnic nation by crafting a republican democratic Constitution, solemnly affirming to secure to all its citizens: Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity— assuring the dignity of the individual.
When one speaks of India’s civilisational heritage and the need for inculcating the spirit of enquiry and scientific temper, the following Vedic hymn flashes across the mind: ‘Whether God’s will created it (the universe), or … only He who is its overseer in highest heaven knows, only He knows, or perhaps He does not know.’ In a steering committee of twelve eminences in diverse fields of knowledge, there may be an initial difference of opinion but when they talk together, deliberate, build consensus and bring unity of purpose having regard to the need to impart quality education and to make India a global hub of education, expectedly, they will surmount parochial considerations and develop the national curricular framework in perfect accord with the hallowed provisions of the NEP2020, staying clear of the potential carping criticism of the extreme left or the radical right, by not harking too much on the past. Of course, we must analyse the past without being its prisoner— in the context of the present to build a resurgent India-the hub of global education, by laying the foundation of a sound, secure and holistic school education system to meet the aspirational needs of the 21st century.
The writer is ex Addl Secretary, Lok Sabha and a member of the Delhi Bar Council. Views expressed are writer’s personal.
A member of the NSC, and a right-wing ideologue, has hinted at re-writing history and the textbooks ‘in the light of new facts’ of history. The precise mandate of the steering committee is to develop the NCF within the mandated remit. The NEP speaks, among other things, of incorporating local content and flavour as the students must know about their past, immediate surroundings and topography, India’s civilisational heritage, constitutional values, to develop the spirit of critical thinking and enquiry. The Policy advocates multilingualism, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong opportunities for all by 2030 .
THE PANDEMIC: US NEEDS TO CLEAN UP ITS OWN HOUSE, COUNTER CHINA
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the United States has admitted what was being suspected for a long time—that the US has poured money into gain-of-function research in China and that money has funded bat coronavirus research at a Wuhan laboratory. In a letter to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, last week, the NIH admitted that it funded the EcoHealth Alliance, which researched on bat coronavirus in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to try and see how the virus could be made more infectious than normal. At the same time, NIH claimed that the research being done by the EcoHealth Alliance could not have started the pandemic, because the genetic composition of that virus was different from that of the SARS-CoV-2. But such is the trust deficit resulting from the NIH’s unwillingness to share information, not everyone is ready to buy that argument.
EcoHealth Alliance, a non-governmental organization, is led by the now-infamous British zoologist Dr Peter Daszak, who has been in the forefront of pushing the no-lab-leak theory. He was the one who on 19 February 2020 had written a letter to the medical journal Lancet—co-signed by 26 scientists—saying, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin…and overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” The letter also made it clear that the Chinese should not be held accountable for the pandemic. It was again Dr Daszak who was part of the World Health Organisation’s investigation team that “probed” the origin of Covid-19 last year. He was thus responsible for shifting the whole focus of the probe, because of which China got away. In fact, he played a major role in shifting the narrative to such an extent that any question asked about China’s culpability in the spread of the virus got branded as “racism”. Questions are also being raised about how much the powerful Dr Anthony Fauci, who has been in the forefront of US’ fight against the coronavirus and who is currently the Chief Medical Advisor to the US President, knew about this. During a Congressional hearing earlier this year, Fauci had flatly denied that he knew that the NIH, through EcoHealth was funding coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The NIH is now claiming that Dr Fauci did not perjure himself in that hearing. However, according to media reports, EcoHealth Alliance has said that they had made all the research data available to the NIH as far back as 2018, thus raising grievous questions about what Dr Fauci has been hiding.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the NIH’s role in the gain of function research in coronavirus in bats has been problematic, and much of its efforts have been directed towards cover-up, when the need is transparency. As a result, the investigation into the origin of the virus has been compromised right from the beginning. The truth has been a casualty in the process. Considering the difficulties of cornering China over the spread of the virus, it is the US that will have to take the lead in speaking the truth and bringing those guilty of the cover-up to book, even if they are important people who are part of the administration. Until and unless the US leads by example, how can it lead the world in putting pressure on China to confess to its role in the spread of the virus? The investigation ordered by President Joe Biden into the origin of the virus was inconclusive. It could not determine if there was a lab leak or if the virus jumped from animal to human. The report was along expected lines, with China stonewalling any probe. But questions are bound to be raised about the US’ inability—or is it unwillingness?—to come to a definitive conclusion about the origin of the virus.
At this rate, where is the world headed? Millions of people have died from the virus. It has been one of history’s worst genocides and it is ongoing. Billions of people have been financially impacted. Will there be no justice for them? Will China get away with murder? The US is a superpower, it calls itself the world leader. It should live up to that claim and lead from the front in holding China accountable, for which it needs to clean up its own house first.
One billion doses: PM Modi must get full credit
While addressing the nation on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave full credit to all those who made the world’s largest vaccination programme successful.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be given full credit for the feat India has achieved of administering one Billion doses to Indian citizens. Although healthcare workers and the entire administration must get the credit, there was one man behind all of them who believed this was possible despite serious doubts raised by opposition and critics. And this was Narendra Modi. He kept inspiring people amidst chaos and ensured that the administration was totally focused on the target.
While critics kept raising asking how would illiterate population that did not have smart phones register under Co-win App and how could infrastructure be created overnight to administer the vaccine, Modi had immense trust that people would come forward and script India’s success story. While opposition parties were criticizing, he was working with scientists and bureaucrats and trying to tie-up the loose ends, learning from mistakes and applying correctives.
Debates after debates BJP spokespersons would be asked how would the Government achieve this impossible task. They asserted that when the Government had announced the target this would be achieved. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that India would be able to vaccinate citizens only by end of 2024, whereas, the Government asserted it would do so by end of December 2021. Modi always works to a plan and his dateline has been proved to be correct. By 21 October, the One Billion doses mark was already achieved. By end of December the country would add many more millions.
The Prime Minister never takes credit. He has always given credit to citizens for the country’s progress. While addressing the nation on Friday, Modi gave full credit to all those who made the world’s largest vaccination programme successful. He thanked, in particular, the health workers who took extra efforts to achieve the task. This gratitude to them and to people was there even in his mann ki baat on Sunday.
Modi described the vaccination programme as “a journey from anxiety to assurance that has made the country stronger” despite efforts by sections of opinion to create distrust. That this feat was achieved in nine months very few could imagine. But this was made possible because he trusted science and scientist and did not allow politics to deter their approach.
While addressing health workers in January this year in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha seat he represents, Modi had brushed aside criticism over emergency use of Covaxin produced by Bharat Biotech. He described the scientists as modern rishis who had worked day and night to devise the elixir for saving lives.
Modi clarified that he was guided completely by advice of scientists and not by what was said by political parties. “And when the go-ahead from the scientists came, we had to decide from where to start. Then we decided to start from health workers who remain in contact with patients constantly,” he told a gathering of health workers. During his address on Friday he said: “It is a matter of pride for us that India’s vaccination programme has been science-born, science-driven and science-based.”
Vaccination drive was launched on 16 January 2021 with target of inoculating three crore health workers and front-line workers. This proved to be a smart move to reduce vaccine hesitancy since people get convinced when doctors and health workers take the vaccine, Modi acknowledged. This helped them save many lives without fearing their own lives while treating patients during the second wave.
Now the task may appear easy, but the context should not be forgotten. It was efforts of these scientists that India developed its own vaccine and also became the centre for manufacturing the other one- Covishield. When more than a hundred countries are awaiting supply of vaccine to them to tide over the crisis, India is on the verge of a recovery that has become a shining example to the world. The WHO has lauded this achievement and given full credit to the political leadership.
When the Union Government had told the Court that it would have enough vaccine to inoculate 93-94 crore adults by the end of the year, the Supreme Court had sought a roadmap. Actually, very few were ready to believe that more than 900 million (90 crore) people would get the vaccine by the year end.
The liberalised vaccination procurement framework issued in April last month was based on scientific analysis of global best practices, SoPs of WHO and recommendations of experts. This allowed larger role for private players and gave operational flexibility to States. Besides procuring vaccine from indigenous manufacturers they could also seek vaccine directly from foreign vendors.
This met demand of various states for more power since Health is a state subject. Some States had promised free vaccines and were trying to project central government in poor light without realising that vaccine was in short supply. When some of the States floated global tenders, they did not get the response due to this very fact. Some vaccine manufacturers told the states that they would deal only with the Federal Government.
Rather than trying to do politics over vaccine they should have merely executed the vaccination drive. If they were sincere in their efforts, they could have remitted to the Centre the expenses for free vaccine promised. Their criticisms and approach demonstrated that they were merely trying to score political point. Their propensity to find fault with every decision taken by the Prime Minister created confusion and panic all around.
Some mavericks said that the Centre should invoke compulsory licensing and allow other players to make vaccine hardly realising that making Covid-19 vaccine required lot of bio-safety measures which others were not equipped with. The solution was to increase capabilities of existing manufacturers which was an easier option.
While explaining this Niti Ayog member VK Paul had cited the example of Moderna, a US pharma giant. Moderna had said (October 2020) that it would not sue company which makes its vaccines but not a single company did this. Vaccine making is not an easy process, he had explained.
Imagine the contradiction between a chief minister sitting in Delhi or Maharashtra talking about vaccine like an expert and the Prime Minister talking to world experts and leader on vaccine availability and administration and trying to devise strategy for the country. Who was better equipped knowledge wise or by the capabilities to decide? The former was only waving swords in the air without any knowledge or competence whereas, the real fire-fighting was done by the latter through cold calculated steps.
It is only after some opposition ruled States raised their hands in sheer desperation and created an impression that the task was impossible that the Prime Minister announced free vaccine for all and allowed private players to cater to those who were willing to pay. The opposition had created a mess of the situation and it was clear that they were not able to rise to the occasion. People were upset and angry and these States were trying to shift the blame to the Centre on one pretext or the other. While opposition attitude reflected contempt and derision of Indian efforts, the Prime Minister’s attitude reflected trust and confidence.
The opposition was found in the race to undermine India’s own vaccine. When Covaxin was declared as India’s answer to search for vaccine, the opposition questioned its efficacy without knowing that this was the amrit that would save people. They questioned emergency use authorisation without realising that these were Indian scientists who had recommended this and not PM Modi.
While Indian scientists rejoiced and the country felt proud, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor questioned saying this would be dangerous to use Covaxin. Questioning the Emergency use approval of Covaxin, former Union Minister, Manish Tiwary had said, “if the vaccine is so safe and reliable and efficacy of the vaccine is beyond question then how is it that not a single functionary of the government has stepped forward to get themselves vaccinated as it has happened in other countries around the world?”
One Congress leader from Bihar asked why had the Prime Minister not taken the jab first even when Modi had announced that nobody would jump the queue. The Prime Minister pointed out on Friday that the vaccine driver had kept the VIP culture away. Those who were eligible got the jab first. Others despite their political clout waited in the queue for their turn.
Samajwadi Party leader and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has crossed all limits of valid criticisms by terming the vaccine as BJP vaccine and declaring that he would not take the vaccine. This is what he said: “Main toh nahi lagwaunga abhi vaccine. Maine apni baat keh di. Aur woh bhi BJP lagayegi uska bharosa karunga main? Arre, jao bhai. Arre, apni sarkar ayegi, sabko free vaccine lagegi. Hum BJP ka vaccine nahin lagwa sakte (I will not get the vaccine now. I am telling you about myself. Am I going to trust a vaccine given by the BJP? Oh, get lost. When our government comes, everyone will get the vaccine free)”.
How ridiculous one can become was evident when Samajwadi Party MLC Ashutosh Sinha said that people might become impotent after taking Covid vaccine. Rumours were spread that vaccine intended to decrease population of some community.
All these increased vaccine hesitancy so much that people were often seen running away from health-workers deployed to inoculate them. Some delayed taking the jab for the fear that this would harm them. India’s vaccination programme and its success now must be seen in this context. There was one man who has been absolutely sure of science and his people. The world knows who he has been.
But there is no time to relax. One that the drive must be stepped up to bring all under vaccine drive as soon as possible. The festivals season, the country is witnessing, is a testing time. If proper care is taken and people keep taking the Covid protocols seriously, India would come out of the pandemic and move on to a faster economic recovery. The Prime Minister has appealed to people to make wearing mask a routine of their life. Just following this simple routine will save life until everyone gets fully vaccinated.
The festival season the country is witnessing, is a testing time. If proper care is taken and people keep taking the Covid protocols seriously, India would come out of the pandemic and move on to a faster economic recovery. The Prime Minister has appealed to people to make wearing mask a routine of their life. Just following this simple routine will save life until everyone gets fully vaccinated.
AMARINDER LIKELY TO HOLD WORKERS’ MEETING IN DELHI
In an obvious attempt to entice Congress activists to join his proposed new political party, former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is likely to convene a workers’ conclave in Delhi in the coming week. The erstwhile soldier is essentially banking on sitting MLAs, who may be denied renomination by Congress to meet him to discuss the current situation in the border state. He appears to be in no tearing hurry to resign from the grand old party while simultaneously working to weaken it from within. The strategy is clear that being a part of the Congress, he can always continue to meet his colleagues and fellow MLAs, and if the High Command was to act against him, the only action possible could be expulsion. This would also suit him since he would continue to be a member of the legislative assembly and can participate in the deliberations of the Assembly whenever it meets. The anticipation is that taking advantage of the intense infighting, the Captain may ask the Charanjit Singh Channi government to take the floor test at an appropriate time. The Workers meet in the national capital is designed to test the loyalty of some of those who benefitted from their association with him in the nine and half years he remained the Chief Minister. It is also to assess his own strengths and weaknesses before he floats his own party, the blueprint of which is ready. The battle-hardened Captain is likely to launch a twin attack on the Congress. The first would be to ensure that it is weakened from within and the second to put his own party on a firm footing. Unconfirmed reports from Punjab suggest that there were as many as 20 MLAs, who were expected to meet him in Delhi this week. Whether this happens or not would depend on how the Central leadership of the Congress is able to rein in various factions, which are working against each other. On Sunday, Pradesh president, Navjot Singh Sidhu lashed out at his own government and reminded the Chief Minister and his Cabinet that the real issues were being swept under the carpet while unimportant matters were getting undue attention. Anandpur Saheb MP, Manish Tewari also referred to the infighting and stated that he had not seen such chaos in the 40 years he has been with the Congress. He questioned the wisdom of those who constituted the three-member committee headed by Malikarjun Kharge to hear out the grievances of the MLAs. The exercise finally resulted in Amarinder being ousted. The Congress versus Congress war is only hurting the party and by introducing the element of personal attacks on the former CM, the political waters have been muddied further. Sidhu’s wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu continued her attack on Aroosa Alam, the Captain’s Pakistani companion and stated that she used her proximity with the former Chief Minister to get important postings done after receiving expensive gifts. Aroosa on her part told a news channel on Saturday that the photograph of hers with Sonia Gandhi, released by the Amarinder camp was from 2005, a year before she met the Captain. A lot of stories regarding Aroosa are doing the rounds in political circles and they are not helping anyone. Congress as in other states is totally unprepared to dictate the political agenda and the astute and perceptive Captain is certainly going to take advantage of this vacuum. However, for Amarinder to succeed in his designs, he would have to somehow get the farmers on his side. Without the peasants’ support, his political party would be a non-starter. Therefore, the speculation is that he might meet the Prime Minister before Narendra Modi leaves for Europe by the weekend and discuss the farm laws. Amarinder has to play his cards properly and should remember that actions driven by anger do not necessarily lead to political dividends.
Infrastructure through Gati Shakti will help build the nation
The spirit behind the Gati Shakti initiative by PM Modi will serve two purposes. One, fill the infrastructure gaps in various sectors to serve people’s needs to improve their living standards and second, expected additional growth of the economy of our country for 4% to 5% by 2025 will help the country to become a US$ 5 trillion economy.
Infrastructure along with good governance creates a conducive atmosphere for investment attraction from global entrepreneurs, which leads to the growth of the nation’s economy in the form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for better living conditions among the general public in the nation. Here, infrastructure consists of roads and other transport facilities for the best connectivity among affordable clean energy, reliable transmission and distribution, roads, railways, inland waterways, seaports and till end-user of the product and service, irrigation, industrial parks and social infrastructure for enhancing the human living standards in all the required parameters which has been stipulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under Gati Shakti plan. Whether it is Union or state governments, they should plan and implement accurately the infrastructure requirements in a particular state to connect other destinations across the country meaningfully.
Union government under the leadership of PM Modi has been giving utmost priority to all kinds of physical infrastructure post-2014 with the coordination of state governments for achieving US$5 trillion economy. Though there were infrastructure facilities that evolved gradually after Independence in 1947, those facilities were minimal and inadequate to serve the people of the nation. In these circumstances, PM Modi’s leadership of Bharat had intended for the improvement of all kinds of infrastructure in tandem with a proper blueprint worth around 100 lakh crore, as announced by PM Modi, flag off the Gati Shakti plan under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). Thereafter, PM Modi has insisted it time and again including his recent Independence Day speech from the Red Fort as the need of the hour as already it has been in progress and the present value of the projects have reached to nearly 111 crore to boost our country’s economy for the creation of huge employment-related opportunities for the youth.
The spirit behind the Gati Shakti initiation by PM Modi is to serve two purposes in tandem. One, fill the infrastructure gaps in various sectors to serve people’s needs to improve their living standards, and second, expected additional growth of the economy of our country to 4% to 5% by 2025 that facilitates to become a US$ 5 trillion economy. PM Modi led Union government has included sector-wise projects such as water, sanitation, social infrastructure, power, roads, railways, ports, airports, OFCs, hospitals, agriculture, and other infrastructure projects in the PM Gati Shakti road map. These projects have been in progress under the PPA system, consisting of the Centre share for 39%, the state share for 40%, and the private participation for 21% on 6835 projects and already 42 lakh crore worth of these 100 lakh crore projects are already in various stages in different states. The primary aim of PM Gati Shakti is raising the living standards of the people of the country and turning the country into an “economic force” with the initiation of these 100 lakh crore infrastructure projects.
Already, both Sagaramala and Bharathmala projects are vital in the process of infrastructure creation along with all other sectors to augment the GDP growth of our nation till Bharat reaches close to a manufacturing giant in the world. In this process, Make in India is a key initiative to achieve the ambitious US$ 5 trillion economy by 2025 for better living standards and infrastructure pipeline India provides. The bilateral trade between India and the US has grown from US$ 16 billion to US$ 149 billion in the last two decades and it has projected to reach over US$ 500 billion by 2025 with Greenfield or Brownfield projects. Already Vizag and Chennai Industrial Corridor (VCIC), Bangalore and Chennai Industrial Corridor (BCIC) are under progress and those are playing a prominent strategic role for the sea-based industrial infrastructure in South India under Sagarmala project for the estimated augment of GDP around 4%. Also, there is expressway road connectivity, railways connectivity, and air connectivity to the seaports and industrial parks and cities around it under Bharathmala projects.
The prestigious Delhi – Mumbai Expressway for 1350 km distance comprises various industrial parks with 92,000 crore project cost has almost completed and getting ready for service within a year with the estimated earnings Rs 1200 crore to 1500 crore per month. One more New 8 line Expressway has been announced by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to connect North to South of Bharath between Pune and Bangalore covering Surat – Nashik – Ahmednagar – Solapur – Akkalkot – Gulbarga – Yadgir – Kurnool – Chennai with an estimated cost of 40,000 crore with various industrial clusters with an aim to complete the project for service by 2024.
NHAI is playing the key role under Bharatmala project initiation to connect roads with railways, airports, and seaports for faster transportation connectivity to reduce the time log of the goods and travellers transport from one place to another part of our nation. In this process, where the National Highways around 90000 km were constructed prior to 2014 since Independence, it has reached more than 1,36,000 km till now by laying more than 46,000 km by NHAI for seven years of PM Modi led Union government. Further, NHAI is working with an aim to complete 2 lakh km roads as National Highways by 2025. The role of the Bharatmala project is vital for the connectivity of transportation in the Gati Shakti initiation of 100 lakh crore infrastructure projects.
How the funds are available for the PM Gati Shakti projects for 100 lakh crore is the big question raised by the critics. But the sector-wise projects and cost structure thereof planned beautifully and the same was announced in 2019 itself as NIP with a professional task force and already 42 lakh crore worth projects of various sectors under progress across the country with Centre, state, and private participation. Funds were planned by the Central government sector-wise through budget allocations, toll, and other revenues, National Monetisation Policy (NMP), disinvestments, and sources from financial institutions and similarly, state governments should have their plans for their projects approved under NIP and rest of 60 lakh crore to 70 lakh crore worth projects shall be completed in the next three years to gear up the economic activity with a sharp rise in the growth rate to reach the PM Modi’s ambitious US$ 5 trillion economy by 2025.
The writer holds a degree in commerce and works as an FCA. The views expressed are personal.
Union government has included sector-wise projects such as water, sanitation, social infrastructure, power, roads, railways, ports, airports, OFCs, hospitals, agriculture, and other infrastructure projects in the PM Gati Shakti road map. These projects have been in progress under the PPA system, consisting of Central share for 39%, the state share for 40%, and the private participation for 21% on 6,835 projects and already Rs 42 lakh crore worth of these Rs 100 lakh crore projects are already in various stages in different states.
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