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WHY ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS MATTER SO MUCH TO CONGRESS AND BJP

Priya Sahgal

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With polling on 6 April, it’s finally the end of this round of Assembly polls in all the states except West Bengal. The official reason why the polls in West Bengal were so staggered is the expected level of violence that has marred polling in the state. And this is not new, for the state shares a history of revenge violence between various cadres on the ground—earlier it was the Left vs TMC, and now its TMC vs BJP

However, what is important is the stakes at these polls. Let’s begin with the Prime Minister himself who has staked a lot in these elections—as he does with almost every election including local body ones in Hyderabad. But while the BJP has few stakes in Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, its stakes in Assam and West Bengal are high. Both these states for one will see the fallout of the controversial CAA Act, though in different ways. It is important for the BJP to retain Assam to show that it is not losing its hold over the Northeast, despite the CAA. Moreover, while the BJP has more than one strong regional leader in Assam, the Congress lacks a face. But what the Congress has is a formidable alliance and if the party manages to wrest the state away from the BJP, then it would go a long way in proving its leadership skills to the rest of the opposition.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi has curiously not been so involved in the Assam campaign as he should have been. Instead, he is focusing his energies in taking the Left head on in Kerala (instead of the BJP in Assam). Yes, he is an MP from the state but still one wonders as to why he is focusing so much in one state and not the other. The fact that the South has always been more receptive to the Congress, especially the Gandhis, cannot be his sole criteria. There has to be some strategy at play. Could it be that his advisors see Kerala as an easier battle than Assam and so are hoping to use this state as a case study for Rahul Gandhi’s comeback bid as party chief.

Don’t forget that the Congress’ inner party polls are slated after the Assembly polls. If the Congress fails to make an impression in these polls (this means winning one state for sure, two would help), then the G-23 has let it be known that it won’t let Rahul Gandhi’s candidature go uncontested. True, none of the G-23 has the heft and appeal of a Gandhi (within the Congress) but election losses have dimmed that appeal over time and if Rahul and his team do not deliver a win then it may encourage others to join the G-23. That is why there is a lot more at stake for the Congress than it is for the BJP.

However, if the BJP does win West Bengal then it will raise a lot of markers in the national narrative of the day. For one, this would prove that elections are fought more on national than state issues, for the BJP has talked more of Hindutva and CAA than it has about development and other local issues on the ground. Mamata Banerjee in her letter to the Opposition leaders has already raised a flag about federalism being in danger. And judging by what happened in Delhi recently and the way the Bengal campaign is being run, she could have a point. However, the elections in Bengal have only reached their half way mark. This battle is still being fought.

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Opinion

MIRABAI CHANU SETS THE PACE FOR THE INDIAN OLYMPIC CONTINGENT

Pankaj Vohra

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It was for the first time since India started participating in the Olympics that there was a podium finish for a sportsperson on the opening day itself. Mirabai Chanu, the unassuming weightlifter from Manipur, came very close to winning the Gold but had to settle for the Silver medal due to unavoidable circumstances. It is said that well begun is half done, and the young lady’s feat should inspire other medal aspirants in Tokyo where in 1964, India had avenged its defeat in Rome to Pakistan, to win the Hockey Gold, by beating the arch-rivals by a solitary goal. It was one of the most widely cherished moment by the entire country and sports veterans remember that game vividly till this day. Similarly, Mirabai’s performance despite several hurdles that had come her way, would be enshrined in the memory of every Indian for a long long time to come. There are very high hopes attached to the current Olympic contingent, and sports journalists have been predicting that they may come back with the highest medal tally when the games end next month.

Every Indian would be praying for the athletes, particularly for someone like P.V. Sindhu, who is in the best position to strike the Gold this time. Olympics are all about physical fitness and mental toughness which have to be tested against the best in that particular sport in the competition. Every participant has to have the ability to take on sportspersons ranked above them and beat them in that particular discipline by rising to the occasion by raising their accomplishing efforts. The Flying Sikh Milkha Singh served as an inspiration for every sportsperson in India even though he had failed to win a medal which should have been his at Rome in 1960. P.T. Usha was also an icon in the sports world. There are so many others who have made us all proud. When Abhinav Bindra struck Gold in shooting and the Tricolour went up with the National Anthem playing in the background, it was one of the most cherished moment etched in the minds of those who witnessed this spectacular achievement. The Indian Hockey Team was once considered to be the only medal hope for India though things have changed and other countries have raised their level of the game, relegating India to a position which should change. It was in Moscow in 1980 that the Hockey Gold medal had come to our shores the last time and the way things are, the team shall have to outdo their own expectations, particularly after losing 7-1 to Australia on Sunday. The Indian pugilists, the badminton contingent and Manika Batra, whose performance in Table Tennis has been exceptional, are amongst those who could have a podium finish. The legendary Mary Kom and the wrestlers also have high hopes pinned on them. The contribution of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar, Vijendra Singh, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and so many others, shall continue to inspire posterity. The Central and State governments have at long last started paying heed to Sports and therefore the endeavor shall bring results in the future.

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Opinion

Deriving inspiration from intellectual giants

Although the areas of operation of Acharya Jadgish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mookerjee were different, there were many similarities between the two. They were independent-minded and intellectually-curious men, serving humanity with selfless devotion; they left behind a legacy that is enormous.

Prof. Ved Prakash

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It is hard to make a distinction between talent and genius. Even then some differential psychologists and philosophers made occasional attempts but the exact measure of success attained remains somewhat doubtful. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made one such attempt. According to him, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see”. But in common parlance, this distinction does not find its ready expression. In fact, the two terms have been used interchangeably for a long time. Though it is believed that both are evenly distributed in a sizeable population but in practice, some countries seem to have them more in number than others. One might call them with whatever names, they are the ones whose scholarships have brought the civilization thus far and would continue to move it forward. India is known to have produced very many such scholars from the very earliest times. They have left behind a legacy of strong leadership in their respective areas of expertise. Life and work of such geniuses stand as a testament to their indomitable will and the courage to practice the ideals that they preached. The general populace would be proud in knowing about their remarkable contributions that have a significant bearing on education.

It should be the bounden duty of educational institutions to educate the coming generations with the life and work of such inspirational scholars. Two such contemporaries who had experienced a long and profoundly productive career in education and left a unique and indelible imprint happened to be Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee. Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose was born in Munsiganj, Bengal Presidency on 30th November, 1858, and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee was born on 29th June, 1864 at Kolkata. Although they were born in affluent and scholarly families yet they were sent to vernacular schools because of the firm conviction of their parents to study in their own mother tongue, to know their own people and to be at one with them. Both of them were extraordinarily talented with different dreams but had one thing in common, that they were deeply and passionately committed to excellence.

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Services but aborted his plan thinking that he would like to be a scholar ‘who would rule nobody but himself’. He was a multifaceted personality. He was incredibly knowledgeable in different fields of study. He was a physicist, biologist, botanist, and science fiction writer. He was known as one of the fathers of radio science. He became the most prominent first Indian scientist who proved by experimentation that both animals and plants share much in common. He demonstrated that plants were also sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise, and various other external stimuli, research of far-reaching depth of that time. Interestingly, he explored this phenomenon out of the burning curiosity that was aroused by his mother in him when she forbade him not to pluck ‘Tulsi’ leaves after sunset, as she had a belief that like humans the aromatic plant also goes to sleep after sunset. He had a very fertile mind full of original ideas. He had given his views on several concerns which have a strong bearing on education.

In his address to the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1896, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose pointed out that “The present system of university education does not foster the proper development of intellectual faculties and encourage originality. The exercise of mere memory at the expense of the other faculties cannot but be attended with disastrous consequences. When the brain is crammed with a mass or apparently disconnected facts, without any order or sequence, the state of equilibrium becomes highly unstable, and the shock of an examination is enough to upset it”. This address of his drew enthusiastic applause from a formidable audience. This was such an apt address that even today it is applicable, in one form or the other, to Indian higher education system.

Acharya Bose wanted students of science to learn how to use their hands, how to observe and how to avoid errors and as far as possible, to find out things for themselves, and take very little on trust. He wanted them to feel that science and scientific experiments are not merely confined to the laboratories, but that in nature around them experiments of surpassing interest are being constantly carried out if they would only see them. He was of the view that no real progress in science is possible in a country unless it aspires to take its due share in general advancement of science. He believed that the cause of science is international and scale of its benefits are universal.

Acharya Bose was of the view that “the highest expression in the life of a nation must be its intellectual eminence and its power of enriching the world by advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Discovery of truth was always at the heart of his intellectual endeavour. According to him, “Two different methods are essential for the discovery of truth, the method of introspection and the method of experimental verification. Aimless experimentation seldom leads to any great result, while unrestrained imagination leads to wildest speculation subversive of all intellectual sanity. The two methods must, therefore, be equally balanced, one supplementing the other”.

Acharya Bose was of a strong view that literature and science have a symbiotic relationship. In the multiplicity of phenomena he felt that one should never miss underlying unity and apprehend no insuperable obstacle in grasping it. He believed that both the poet and the scientist are set out for the same goal, that is, to find unity in the bewildering diversity. He believed that the status of a great university could not be secured by any artificial means, nor could any charter assure it. Its world status is only to be won by the intrinsic value of the great contribution made by its scholars. He desired that to be organic and vital, our national university must stand primarily for self-expression and winning for India her true place among the federation of nations, a guiding principle worth emulating.

Sir Asutosh Mukherjee was another legend of the same era. He was the first student of the university of Calcutta to earn double Masters degrees in physics and mathematics. He was the first Indian Vice-Chancellor who broke the colonial tradition of not letting Indian universities to have post-graduate departments for teaching and research on their campuses. He wore many hats during his long and eventful career, as a barrister, jurist, mathematician, educator and Vice-Chancellor. He remained the Vice-Chancellor of university of Calcutta for four consecutive two-year terms (1906-1914) and a fifth two-year term (1921-23). He was incredibly intelligent and bold. He had published his first research paper on Geometrical Theorem in the Messenger of Mathematics, Cambridge at the age of 17. It may be pertinent to know of Sir Asutosh Mukherjee in the words of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore,“Men are always rare in all countries through whom the aspiration of their people can hope to find its fulfilment, who have the thundering voices to say that what is needed shall be done; Asutosh had the magic voice of assurance. He had the courage to dream because he had the power to fight and the confidence to win — his will itself was the path to the goal”. It was because of these qualities of his that he was called the tiger of Bengal.

He pleaded for the freedom in the university, freedom in its inception, freedom in its administration, and freedom in its expression as he felt strongly that this is the very condition of vigorous existence in an institution engaged in the search for truth. He made fervent appeal to keep the universities free from the baneful influence of dogmas, whether they be official, political, religious or academic. He frankly recognized the kinship of the arts and sciences and the inherent interdependence of all study and research, supplement theoretical and professional instruction by organic connection with arts and letters. He said that he could imagine no step more unwise for an Indian university to take than to give exclusive prominence to studies peculiarly Indian.

In his convocation address to university of Calcutta in 1908, Sir Asutosh Mookerjee referred to a fundamental doctrine which he perceived lies at the root of university system of education and that referred to the medium of English in higher education. He was of the view that western life should reach us through western gates and not through latticework in eastern windows. He observed that the validity of this principle has not been seriously questioned. Academic freedom according to him, is a pre-requisite to self-education and culture. He appealed to young students not to submit to intellectual slavery and not to abandon their most priceless possession to test to doubt to see everything with their own eyes.

His oratorial scholarship and courage would continue to inspire the academic fraternity. He was a charming talker, with gay humour and a quite sarcasm. There is an interesting anecdote that relates to his accidental participation in a debate that was hosted by the university of Lucknow in 1924. The proposition of the debate which had been framed was, “That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministers and the Councils are justified in exercising control over the administration of the Universities.” He excelled in demolishing the proposal for the motion. It is not only difficult to summarise but also would not be wise to do so. Every argument he made led to losing of the motion by an overwhelming majority. The flavour of the arguments would necessitate going through the arguments the way they were presented by him. The force of his arguments is a pleasurable treat to hear on a subject of extreme relevance even today.

Although the areas of operation of Acharya Jadgish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee were different but there were many similarities between the two. They were independent minded and intellectually curious men. Both of them were extremely conscientious regarding their duty. They served humanity with selfless devotion and left behind a legacy that is enormous. The present generation of academia, as well as youth, can learn a great deal and draw inspiration from the eventful lives of these two contemporary intellectual giants.

The government may consider commissioning a project to bring out an anthology representing the quintessence of the life and work of eminent scholars India has produced and then make it available through NCERT and UGC to all schools, colleges, and universities. It would serve a double purpose. First, it would let the coming generations pay the greatest respect and reverence to the inspirational leaders of the academic world, and second their pioneered ideas and remarkable achievements would inspire posterity. Such a compilation would not only be worth a good read but could be a life-changing material for those who have a burning desire to succeed and leave a name behind.

The writer is former Chairman, UGC. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

RAJ KUNDRA’S ARREST PROVIDES INSIDE VIEW OF BOLLYWOOD’S XXX SIDE

Pankaj Vohra

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Business tycoon Raj Kundra’s arrest for allegedly promoting pornography, and in the process minting crores of rupees, has captured headlines of all TV channels and newspapers. However, there is nothing shocking in the revelations since it has been Bollywood’s best kept secret of how upcoming starlets and models are exploited by powerful people and often forced into pornography and prostitution. The visits of rich Sheikhs from West Asian countries to Mumbai and the frequent travel to these nations by several actresses including successful ones, were not only account of tourism but also had in some cases linked to sleazy activities. Kundra has close business connections with Dubai and some other places, from where members of the D-Gang often compelled prominent actresses to come and spend time in the lap of luxury. The Mumbai police that is probing the latest case is trying to ascertain Kundra’s links with the underworld as also with the late Iqbal Mirchi, an associate of Dawood who operated from London but passed away some years ago.

Investigations conducted so far have revealed that the businessman along with his close associates, his brother-in-law, amongst them, persuaded young starlets to come and participate in film shootings of pornographic films. In his own defence, Kundra continues to maintain that his movies were about erotica and had nothing to do with pornographic stuff. The police maintain that in the past one year and a half, he had made more than 100 blue films that were circulated through an app which had nearly two million viewers, This way he had minted huge amounts of money. In fact, two starlets, Poonam Pandey and Sheryl Chopra have directly accused him of exploiting them and pushing them into the XXX trade. In all fairness, two other actresses, Rakhi Sawant and Gehna Vashisht have come out and supported the film maker, whose wife, Shilpa Shetty too has been asked to join the probe.

Both Shilpa and Kundra had also promoted an IPL team and the allegation against them was that they were mixed up with the strong cricket Mafia operating out of Dubai and London. However, this charge has to be substantiated by a court of law. It is a well-known fact that many Bollywood starlets have been acting in pornographic films made by groups settled abroad. Although it may not be proper to name them, yet their activities on the blue celluloid are not hidden from anyone. The charge of making pornographic films was once also levelled against the producer director (a foreigner) of an award-winning film starring a well-known Indian actress in the mid-1970s. This particular director, who also owned a chain of other businesses had parked himself in the suite of a five-star hotel in the Delhi from where he operated. He had to leave after the Hotel management learned of his activities. There were many Indian actresses in the past few decades who got mixed up with international pornography following their failure to pursue a successful career. There were some others, who were forced to abandon their boyfriends and live with members of the D-Gang. In fact, Mandakini, the heroine of Raj Kapoor’s `Ram Teri Ganga Maili’, had married Dawood himself and now lives in a cosmopolitan city in South India. Kundra’s case could just be the tip off the iceberg. More skeletons would fall out once the Mumbai police completes its investigations and uncovers the sleazy side of Bollywood.

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Modi 2.0: Analysing the dynamics of PLI scheme

The Modi government’s ambitious Production Linked Incentive scheme in ‘speciality steel’ to attract an additional investment of Rs 40,000 crore will employ over 5.25 lakh people of which 68,000 will be by way of direct employment.

Sanju Verma

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On July 22, 2021, the Union Cabinet approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of Rs 6,322 crore for the Speciality Steel sector to create over 5.25 lakh jobs and attract Rs 39,625 crore worth of investment. This is yet another instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, setting the tone for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and thereby reducing the dependence on the import of steel to fulfill the country’s needs. There is a cap as far as the incentive is concerned at Rs 200 crore per entity. This is a demand-driven scheme and it will fulfill the country’s need for steel and create multiple export opportunities.

Specialty Steel is used in some form or the other in air-conditioners, fridges, solar energy structures, high strength/wear-resistant products like construction equipment, armour bodies, specialty rails used in high-speed rails, alloy steel wires used in crankshaft walls, tyre tracks and of course electrical steel used in transformers or electric motors. The Modi government’s ambitious PLI scheme in Speciality Steel to attract an additional investment of Rs 40,000 crore will give employment to over 5.25 lakh people of which 68,000 will be by way of direct employment. The duration of the scheme will be for five years— from 2023-24 to 2027-28.

With a budgetary outlay of Rs 6322 crore, the scheme will lead to a capacity addition of 25 MT. Speciality Steel has been chosen as the target segment because out of the production of 102 million tonnes of steel in India in 2020-21, only18 million tonnes of value-added Steel/Speciality Steel was produced in the country. Apart from this, out of 6.7 million tonnes of imports of steel in 2020-21,4 million tonnes worth of import was of Specialty Steel alone, resulting in forex outgo of Rs 30,000 crore. By becoming Aatmanirbhar in producing Speciality Steel, India will move up the steel value chain and come at par with advanced steel making countries like South Korea and Japan.

It is also expected that the Speciality Steel production will become 42 million tonnes by the end of 2026-27. This will ensure that 2.5 lakh crore worth of Speciality steel will be produced and consumed in the country, which would otherwise have been imported. Similarly, the export of Specialty Steel will be over 5.5 million tonnes as against the current 1.7 million tonnes. The benefit of this scheme will accrue to both big players, as in, integrated steel plants, and to the smaller players (secondary Steel players) too.

Specialty Steel is value-added Steel wherein normal finished steel is worked upon by way of coating, plating, heat treatment, etc., to convert it into high value-added steel which can be used thereafter in various strategic applications like Defence, Space, Power, Automobile Sector and Specialized Capital Goods. There are 3 slabs of PLI incentives, the lowest being 4 per cent and highest being 12 per cent. The PLI scheme for Specialty Steel will ensure that the basic Steel used is ‘melted and poured’ within the country, which means that raw material (finished steel) used for making Specialty Steel will be made in India only, thereby ensuring that the scheme promotes an ‘end to end’ manufacturing within India.

The Modi government’s Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the food processing industry to support the creation of global food manufacturing champions commensurate with India’s natural resource endowments in the international markets with an outlay of Rs 10900 crore. The food processing sector in India encompasses manufacturing enterprises in all segments, from micro to large industries. India has a competitive advantage in terms of resource endowment, a large domestic market and scope for promoting value-added products.

Achieving full potential of this sector would require Indian companies to improve their competitive strength vis-à-vis their global counterparts in terms of the scale of output, productivity, value addition, and linkages with the global value chain. Supporting food manufacturing entities that seek expansion of processing capacity and improving brand equity abroad to incentivise the emergence of strong Indian brands is the key motive of PLI.

Increase in employment opportunities of off-farm jobs, ensuring remunerative prices of farm produce, and higher incomes to farmers are the other benefits of PLI.

For the promotion of Indian brands abroad, the scheme envisages grants to the applicant entities for in store branding, shelf space renting, and marketing. Scheme will be implemented over a six year period from 2021-22 to 2026-27. The scheme will be rolled out on an India basis and shall be implemented through a Project Management Agency (PMA). The PMA would, inter-alia, be responsible for appraisal of applications/ proposals, verification of eligibility for support, and scrutiny of claims eligible for disbursement of incentives. The scheme is “fund-limited”, i.e. cost shall be restricted to the approved amount. The maximum incentive payable to each beneficiary shall be fixed in advance at the time of approval of that beneficiary. Regardless of achievement/ performance, this maximum shall not be exceeded.

The implementation of this scheme would facilitate the generation of processed food output of Rs 33,494 crore and create employment for nearly 2.48 lakh persons by the year 2026-27 which is excellent news. The PLI scheme would be monitored at the Centre by the Empowered Group of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The Inter-Ministerial Approval Committee (IMAC) would approve selection of applicants for coverage under the scheme, sanction, and release of funds as incentives. The concerned ministry will prepare an annual action plan covering various activities for the implementation of the scheme. A third-party evaluation and mid-term review mechanism would be built into the programme.

Outgo on incentives in next six years will be Rs 10,790 crore, increase in sales will be at Rs 1.20 lakh crore, incremental sales in 6th Year will be Rs 33,494 crore, cumulative additional investment will be Rs 6057 crore, increase in exports in 6 Years will be Rs 27,816 crore, increase in employment at end of Year-5 will be 2.5 lakh people per annum.

Apart from food processing ,South Korean company Samsung Electronics, Taiwan’s Pegatron and Foxconn and Singapore’s Flex are looking to either set up new units or expand the existing units to avail benefits under the PLI scheme for electronics. These companies have either received approval or are in the final stages of negotiations to benefit from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) production linked incentive (PLI) scheme, for making mobile phones and certain other specified electronic components. What exactly is a PLI scheme for electronics? Well, as a part of the National Policy on Electronics, the IT ministry had notified a scheme which would give incentives of 4-6 per cent to electronics companies which manufacture mobile phones and other electronic components such as transistors, diodes, thyristors, resistors, capacitors and nano-electronic components such as micro electro-mechanical systems.

According to the scheme, companies that make mobile phones which sell for Rs 15,000 or more will get an incentive of up to 6 per cent on incremental sales of all such mobile phones made in India. In the same category, for companies that are owned by Indian nationals and make such mobile phones, the incentive has been kept at Rs 200 crore for the next four years. The scheme will attract big foreign investment in the sector, while also encouraging domestic mobile phone makers to expand their units and presence in India. The PLI scheme will be active for five years with financial year (FY) 2019-20 considered as the base year for calculation of incentives. This means that all investments and incremental sales registered after FY20 shall be taken into account while computing the incentive to be given to each company.

For the first year, the total incentive to be given has been capped at Rs 5334 crore, while for the second and third years it has been kept at Rs 8064 and Rs 8425 crore, respectively. In the fourth year, the incentive will be hiked substantially to Rs 11,488 crore, while in the fifth and final year, the incentive to be distributed has been capped at Rs 7640 crore. The total incentives over five years have thus been kept at Rs 40,951 crore for the electronics sector. Which companies and what kind of investments will be considered? All electronic manufacturing companies which are either Indian or have a registered unit in India will be eligible to apply for the scheme. These companies can either create a new unit or seek incentives for their existing units from one or more locations in India.

Any additional expenditure incurred by companies on plant, machinery, equipment, research and development, and transfer of technology for the manufacture of mobile phones and related electronic items will be eligible for the incentive scheme. However, all investment done by companies on land and buildings for the project will not be considered for any incentives or determine the eligibility of the scheme. Apart from new players, companies such as LG India— which already have manufacturing units in India— have also shown interest in the scheme. In the budget-category phone segment also, companies such as Lava, Dixon, and Karbonn have applied to give a further boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an empowered, aspirational and transformative India.

Beyond the technicalities, the PLI scheme is aimed at reducing the compliance burden, further improving the ease of doing business (EODB), cutting down logistical costs for various industry segments, and is expected to increase the country’s production by $520 billion in the next five years. In the current year’s Budget, about Rs 2 lakh crore was earmarked for the PLI scheme with a focus on job creation. An average of 5 percent of production is given as incentive. Over the past 6-7 years, several successful efforts have been made to encourage ‘Make in India’ at different levels and the PLI scheme is at the forefront of indigenisation.

PM Modi has on umpteen occasions, stressed the need to take a big leap forward in terms of self-reliance, as well as to increase the speed and scale of local manufacturing, by creating multi-modal infrastructure to reduce logistics costs and constructing district-level export hubs.

The government, Modi said, believes that its interference in everything creates more problems than solutions and “therefore, self-regulation, self-attesting, self-certification are being emphasised”.

“We have to attract cutting-edge technology and maximum investment in the sectors related to our core competency,” the PM added.

Underlining the difference between the earlier schemes and those of the current government, the Prime Minister said that earlier, industrial incentives used to be open-ended, input-based subsidies, but now they have been made targeted and are performance-based through a competitive process. About PLI benefits,13 sectors have been brought under the ambit of this scheme and it would benefit the entire ecosystem associated with these sectors. With PLI in Auto and Pharma, there will be very less foreign dependence related to auto parts, medical equipment and raw materials of medicines. The energy sector will be modernised in the country with the help of advanced cell batteries, solar PV modules, and Specialty Steel, and the PLI for the textile and food processing sectors will benefit the entire agriculture sector as well.

Even during the pandemic last year fresh investment of over Rs 1300 crore was seen in the mobile manufacturing and electronic sectors, creating thousands of new jobs. On a different note, the United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets and more than 70 countries came forward to support India’s proposal and unanimously accepted it in the UN General Assembly. This is a big opportunity for our farmers, which will get added traction, thanks to the PLI scheme in the food processing sector.

Again, IT Hardware is estimated to achieve Rs 3 lakh crore worth of production in the next four years and domestic value addition is expected to rise from the current range of 5-10 per cent to a far higher range of 20-25 per cent in next five years. Similarly, Telecom equipment manufacturing will witness an increase in value addition of about Rs 2.5 lakh crore in the next five years alone. In the Pharma sector, there is an expectation of more than Rs 15,000 crore investment in the next 5-6 years under PLI, which will lead to Rs 3 lakh crore by way of added Pharma sales and a massive rise in Pharma exports of over Rs 2 lakh crore. Further, trust has increased in Indian medicines, medical professionals, and equipment across the world, especially after the development of Covaxin, produced jointly by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Bio-Tech, in a fitting tribute to Indian scientists and of course the political courage of conviction of PM Modi, who has always encouraged scientific temper. It would be apt to conclude with a quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who recently said: “Time for phrases like ‘Hota Hai-Chalta Hai’ is now a matter of the past. India is growing rapidly and the world has high expectations from us. We cannot let this opportunity go”.

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

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WE NEED TO DEVELOP A PANDEMIC-RESILIENT SOCIAL WORK SYSTEM

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The social work profession in India which is fraught with many challenges is now witnessing unexpected hurdles due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The fieldwork training in social work education— which is a very important component of the department— has been severely crippled by the pandemic ever since it outbroke. The gap which existed between classroom teaching and fieldwork practicum has further widened. This is going to produce a batch of social work students who will be lacking in the skills required for the fieldwork.

Barely any initiatives are taken by the professional social work associations to revamp and redesign fieldwork practicum. Unless and until we develop new innovative and uniform ways of conducting fieldwork practicum, the present pattern of fieldwork training will be questioned by the students and practitioners in the long run. Now the situation warrants laying down a complete roadmap for redesigning fieldwork methods/modules in the light of the pandemic.

CHALLENGES WE ARE FACING

For years, we have been advocating for the inclusion of indigenous approaches and fieldwork practices in the social work curriculum which is otherwise dominated by Euro-centric approaches. The lack of integration of social work research and indigenous practices in social work education has emerged as a major challenge in social work education. Besides, the challenges posed by the pandemic have highlighted the exigencies to provide timely and adequate training to students to enhance their communication skills and adaptability to communication technologies.

NITI Aayog has recently initiated the process for constituting the National Social Work Council (NSWC) as an umbrella body for the social work profession to ensure standardization of social work curriculum, teaching, training, practice, and academics. However, the pandemic has posed new challenges before us which cannot be dealt with pre-pandemic ideas and strategies.

It’s sad to mention that most of the social work professionals were not visible on the ground during the pandemic, as they are ought to be. However, people from other professions and educational backgrounds came forward as social workers. They lead from the front and receive appreciation from all and sundry. In such a situation, demand for licensing for social workers will be another historical blunder for the social work profession.

NSWC is a welcome step but the demand of a section of social work academicians to give it powers on the lines of the Medical Council of India seems non-practical. It raises a fundamental question as to whether social workers require specialised skills like that of a surgeon or a medical professional. It was probably due to these non-practical demands and disputes, the NITI Aayog has reportedly stalled the process of NSWC.

Instead of putting efforts into improving the standards and quality of social work education in universities, massive campaigns are being undertaken for licensing of social workers which are completely based on western paradigms and the framework of social work practice, and this is against the ethos of social work practice in India. The sorry plight of the social work profession in India is an open secret. It’s time to confess that the social work profession is still suffering from an identity crisis that was further deteriorated by the pandemic.

CREATING A TASKFORCE

There is a great need for an integrated approach in social work practice to pool the resources and engage them in the management of the Covid-19 crisis and similar challenges in the future. We need to develop a pandemic resilience curriculum for social work and enable our future social workers for quick deployment in the management of epidemics, pandemics, and natural disasters in coming times.

Therefore, the creation of a National Social Work Task Force (NSWTF) in line with the National Disaster Taskforce, seems the need of the hour. All the social work students at various schools of social work should be registered in the National Social Work Task Force and should be attached to various hospitals and local Panchayatiraj Institutions. They should be deployed required to create awareness drive, distributing reliefs, working for rehabilitation, and distributing masks, etc. They can mobilize the people towards the effectiveness of vaccination. Besides, social work practitioners and youths working with National Service Scheme (NSS), National Cadet Corps (NCC), and Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK) should integrate with NSWTF for better training and deployment. This will provide ample opportunities for social work students to practice fieldwork practicum during the pandemic and will also help in managing similar challenges in the future.

The Nationalist Social work organizations contribute immensely to mitigate the suffering of the people. So, the creation of the National Social Work Taskforce will create opportunities for students of social work, and this will be extremely helpful for national development and our collective social wellbeing.

Furthermore, social work academicians in India should engage in developing Indic theories of social work from the vast Indic literature and best practices in the field of social work. We need to conduct academic research on successful social work experiences by various Indian icons who had done and are doing wonderful work for community development and social well-being in the fabric of Indian circumstances. We also need to develop a criterion for the selection of social work modules which should have an adequate emphasis on the degree of achievements in line with the predetermined objectives of the project. Social work educators need to develop new modules and uniform fieldwork training practicum in the larger interest of student’s fieldwork learning and social work profession.

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Opinion

Taliban’s growing Afghan grip and Pakistan’s myopic terror policy

China and Russia, which are supporting Pakistan, have been very apprehensive of Islamist terror outfits. In the long run, Pakistan, in one way or the other, seems to be pushing itself into a quagmire of trouble and miseries.

Satish Kumar

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The recent attack in Dasu proved the fact that Pakistan-generated terrorist camps are not in the control of Pakistan. Pakistan was making lame-duck excuses, Beijing said strongly in the face of Islamabad’s claim describing the incident as a “bomb attack” and demanding punishment for the perpetrators and steps to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions, and projects in Pakistan. The incident took place in the Dasu area of Upper Kohistan district of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Chinese engineers and construction workers are helping Pakistan build a dam, which is part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — thirteen people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed. It also noted that there have been previous attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

The US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and strategic gain of the Taliban is called the victory for Pakistan. It seemed so in the short term. The speedy withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has been matched by the swift advance of the Taliban across the nation. Taliban leadership has claimed that it is in control of 85 per cent of Afghan territory. Whether the Taliban claims are accurate or not, there is no doubt that it is gaining military ground. The US army camp and arsenals were being captured by Taliban. The peripheral areas are under Taliban dominance, but major urban areas are out of its control. It should not be forgotten that during the first phase of Taliban rule major cities were out of its control. Taliban and Pakistan are in cohorts.

Pakistan not merely engineered Doha Peace Deal but nurtured and guided the Taliban during American onslaught since 2001. The current Chinese role in Afghanistan made Pakistan more viable. The ISI (Inter-State Intelligence) is the main body of Pakistan that trained and strategized Taliban. Therefore, it is quite natural to see that the future roadmap of Afghanistan is going to be designed by Pakistan’s military and ISI. But that is surface reality. The Inner Dynamics look different.

In the long route, Pakistan seems to be pushing itself into a quagmire of trouble and miseries. There are solid reasons to establish this truth.

Pakistan-Afghanistan relations had not been very cordial. Both countries were on verge of war twice— in 1960s and 70s— on the issue of boundary disputes. Afghanistan-Pakistan boundary is spanned almost 2600 KM long which is called Durand Line, sketched in 1893. Afghanistan never recognized this boundary line. Pakistan government has been fencing the boundary since 2017 which was opposed by Afghanistan. The Pashtun factor is another canker in bilateral ties. There is a bad Taliban and good Taliban for Pakistan. The bad Taliban is considered Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has strong sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The current external powers like China and Russia which are supporting Pakistan, have been very apprehensive of Islamic terror outfits. The drama is scripted to large extent by Pakistan but actors which are in the lead role in the game are not under the control of Pakistan. There is a great possibility that ensuing civil war-type conditions in Afghanistan will spin-out from the basket and hit Pakistan badly.

Let us examine each factor in detail. The Pakistani Taliban, called the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), operates in the country’s northwestern region. The Pakistani army had forced the TTP fighters to retreat, but they are now feeling emboldened by the changing dynamics in Afghanistan. Since the start of the year, the TTP has claimed 32 attacks inside Pakistan. A UN report last year stated that more than 6,000 TTP fighters had taken refuge in Afghanistan. Pakistan, which helped the Taliban rise to power in the 1990s, is now worried about a resurgence of the TTP, a group that has been blamed for 70,000 deaths of civilians in the country since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. TTP may see an opportunity to attack Chinese projects to influence policy in Islamabad.

As the Taliban makes gains, many Afghans are fleeing villages for the relative safety of bigger cities. Pakistan expects 500,000 refugees from Afghanistan, and authorities have said they will be kept in border camps. More than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees are already in Pakistan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Not merely refugee camps are going to be eye shore for Pakistan military but many of the TTP fighters will move in disguise as a refugee. This could trigger incessant terrorist attacks in different places of Pakistan including Chinese projects. The CIPEC could be the prime target. It will have a chain reaction for Pakistan.

Secondly, the Durand Line issue has continued to complicate the unpredictable nature of the Afghan-Pakistani relationship since the birth of Pakistan. No Afghan government, including the present one headed by President Ashraf Ghani, has ever recognized the legitimacy of the Durand Line, which runs through mountainous terrain and remains largely unpoliced. The Durand Line, which is viewed by many Afghans as an arbitrary and nonsensical reflection of geography, history, and culture, is an existential issue for Pakistan. Over a period, numerous studies suggest that the Durand line is legally void, hence Pakistan has no legal right to control over the territories, which Afghanistan considers as its own.

Third, Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas probably will continue to be poorly governed and the source or supporter of cross-border instability.  With a population of about 39 million and growing at 2.33 per cent annually, it has a GDP of $19 billion, placing it among the world’s poorest countries. It ranks 173 out of 177 in the world HDI rankings. Almost 45 per cent of the GDP is due to grants from America and its allies, Saudi Arabia, and some from even countries like India. Afghanistan’s own revenues are less than 10 per cent of its GDP. The other numbers in Afghanistan are equally distressing. In 2015, the country produced nearly 7,000 tons of opium and converted almost 670 tons of heroin. Afghanistan now produces 87 per cent of the world’s heroin.

Pakistan’s strategy of terror will derail Afghanistan economic and social status in post US withdrawal. Neither America nor India is going pump money to revamp the gap. Chinese support is limited to its strategy and connectivity for CPEC. Therefore, the second phase of Taliban rule under the supervision of Pakistan is set to be disastrous for South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular. There is a huge youth population and majority of them are unemployed. So, youth could be cannon for unrest and political turmoil.

Fourth, Taliban has close links with as many as 20 terror groups who operate across the region from Russia to India. Their activities are already visible on the ground, and they pose a significant threat to the region. The resulting Kingdom of Afghanistan was and remains ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Today, Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group within the country, but they represent only 38 percent of the population. An almost equal number of Pashtuns live across the border in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. Ethnic Tajiks comprise a quarter of the population. The Hazaras, who generally inhabit the center of the country, represent another 19 percent. Other groups— such as the Aimaks, Turkmen, Baluch, Uzbek, and others comprise the rest. Linguistic divisions are also focused. In addition to Dari (the Afghan dialect of Persian that is the lingua franca of half the population) and the Pushtun’s own Pashtu, approximately ten percent of the population.

Fifth, neither Moscow nor Beijing would want to see Afghanistan becoming the nursery of international terror again under the Taliban. For China, potential Taliban support to the Xinjiang separatist groups is a major concern. Russia does not want unrest to percolate down in Central Asian states. Afghanistan shares its boundaries with three Central Asian states. Tehran cannot ignore the Sunni extremism of the Taliban and its oppressive record in dealing with the Shia, and Persian-speaking minorities. America has left but still holds the sway. If things become worse American pressure tactics can twist Pakistan’s arms.

Finally, the contradiction between the interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan is an enduring one. While many in Pakistan would like to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate, Afghans deeply value their independence. All Afghan sovereigns, including the Taliban, will inevitably look for partners to balance Pakistan. The current condition is very fluid. Most likely Afghanistan is moving towards civil war. That could be detrimental not merely for Afghans but for Pakistan too.

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