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2002 Gujarat riots: Despite request to CM Modi, Army lost a crucial day waiting for vehicles, says retired Lt. General

It takes three generations to forget. I do not want to reopen the wounds. I have spoken the truth about police and I stand by every word I have written.

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CM Modi Lt Zamee Shah

On the intervening night of February 28 and March 1, 2002 when Gujarat was engulfed in flames, Lt. Gen Zameer Uddin Shah, met the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in the presence of the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, at 2 am in Ahmedabad and gave him a list of immediate requirements to enable the Army columns to fan out to restore law and order.

But the 3,000 troops that had landed at the Ahmedabad airfield at 7 am on March 1, had to wait for a day before the Gujarat administration provided the transport — during which period hundreds of people were killed.

“These were crucial hours lost,” Shah, who retired as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff, has revealed in his upcoming memoir titled “The Sarkari Mussalman” (Konark Publishers) to be launched by former Vice President Hamid Ansari on October 13 at India International Centre here.

In the memoir, a copy of which is with IANS, Shah writes that the Gujarat government requested for deployment of the Army through the Union Home Ministry and the Ministry of Defence on February 28, 2002. The then Chief of Army Staff, General S. Padmanabhan was quoted by him as saying: “‘Zoom, get your formation to Gujarat tonight and quell the riots.’ I replied, ‘Sir, the road move will take us two days.’ He shot back, ‘The Air Force will take care of your move from Jodhpur. Get maximum troops to the airfield. Speed and resolute action are the need of the hour.'”

Upon arriving at the “dark and deserted” Ahmedabad airfield, he enquired: “Where are the vehicles and other logistic support we had been promised?” He learnt that the state government was still “making the necessary arrangements”.

“The crucial periods was the night of 28th February and the 1st of March. This is when the maximum damage was done. I met the chief minister at 2 am on the 1st morning. The troops sat on the airfield all through the 1st of March and we got the transport only on the 2nd of March. By then the mayhem had already been done,” Shah, who has been conferred Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal and Sena Medal for his services to the armed forces, told IANS.

Asked if the damage would be lesser had the army been allowed full freedom and provided with what he had personally asked Modi for, he agreed and said: “Most certainly the damage would have been much, much less had we got the vehicles at the right time. What the police couldn’t do in six days we did in 48 hours despite being six times smaller in size than them. We finished the operation in 48 hours on the 4th of March but it could have been finished on the 2nd of March itself had we not lost those crucial hours.”

He said that he is not blaming anyone in particular. “It may take some time in arranging transport but in a situation like that, it could have possibly been done faster,” he added.

He said the police were “dumb bystanders” while the “mob was setting fire on streets and houses”. They were taking “no action” to prevent the “mayhem” that was being done.

“I did see a lot of MLAs from the majority community sitting at the police stations. They had no business to be there. Whenever we used to tell the police to impose the curfew, they never did so in the minority areas. So the minorities were always surrounded by the mobs. It was a totally parochial and biased handling,” the decorated army veteran maintained.

Asked of the political links in the riot, Shah said that he does not “want to reopen any old wounds”, maintaining that the purpose of his memoir is “to tell the facts as they happened in Gujarat in 2002”.

“It takes three generations to forget. I do not want to reopen the wounds. I have spoken the truth about police and I stand by every word I have written,” he said.

The government had told the parliament in 2005 that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, 223 more people reported missing and another 2,500 injured during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Shah maintains in the book that the “official figures of deaths and damage do not reflect a true picture of the actual extent of the carnage”.

The book — packed with revelations as also his personal experiences in life, both as an army man and a Muslim in India — has been endorsed by at least two chiefs of army staff, including General S. Padmanabhan.

“Many eyebrows were raised when I nominate‘ ‘Zoom’ to lead the Army complement to Gujarat. Some seniors told me of their misgivings. I told them in no uncertain terms that the choice of troops and their leader was a military decision and not open to debate. The Army moved into Gujarat, led b‘ ‘Zoom’ whose ability, impartiality and pragmatic decision making, soon brought the situation under control,” Gen Padmanabhan wrote as an endorsement of the book.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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IFFI’s grand golden jubilee edition to trace its evolution

The first ever IFFI was organised by the Films Division, with the patronage of the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

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IFFI's grand golden jubilee edition

Panaji, Nov 22 : The grand golden jubilee celebrations of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) next year will look back at the glorious journey of the gala, and will focus on the business of cinema, according to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting officials.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Wednesday said the I&B Ministry, the state government, and the Entertainment Society of Goa, will work together to plan a roadmap for the 50th IFFI.

Elucidating on that, Amit Khare, Secretary in the I&B Ministry, told IANS here: “For the 50th anniversary, the golden jubilee of IFFI, the work will start from November 28. Right after the closing ceremony of the present edition, we will start working on next year’s event.”

“We would like to start early because it’s a great event. We would like to showcase what has happened from the first to the 49th edition. It’s not all of a sudden that we have reached this place,” he added.

In 1952, IFFI started with the participation of 23 countries with over 200 films as entries. This year, the numbers have quadrupled to a 1,000 entries from over 100 countries across the world, indicated the festival’s official website.

It has grown to be one of the most prominent and important film jamborees in Asia, screening some of the best national and international cinema and bringing together some of the brightest cinematic minds from across the world.

Khare said: “The journey started 49 years ago. That journey will be recounted (at the golden jubilee celebrations). There will be more focus on the business aspect… One is the glamour component of films, the other is the educational value and the the third is the revenue generation and employment creation.

“So, we will have emphasis on all three.”

The first ever IFFI was organised by the Films Division, with the patronage of the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

The inaugural edition took place at Mumbai, and the festival was subsequently taken to Madras (now Chennai), Delhi and Calutta (now Kolkata) in the next few years.

It was in 2004 that Goa welcomed IFFI with open arms under then Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s leadership. Over the years, the infrastructural progress in the state has only added to the festival’s prowess.

Khare said: “IFFI is growing every year. We have been having a country in focus, and this year, for the first time we have a state in focus as well — Jharkhand.

“We want to involve more and more states. India is, after all, a federation of states. Our states have a lot of talent in terms of filming, they have a lot of stories, so why not provide them a way.”

(Radhika Bhirani is in Goa on an invitation by IFFI organisers. She can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Tactical Infrastructure: Securing the future through trade

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Investments by countries to secure strategic financial and regional advantages have been strategies for a long time. In the face of rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics, a renewed push by India to secure crucial consumption supplies through partnering with trading nations is an area that requires attention.

India’s role will be both as a trading partner as well as a partner in infrastructure creation with the partnering nation. One needs to look across commodities and products that India is a big importer of to identify areas where it can add value through supply chain infrastructure creation. The infrastructure can span the spectrum from farmlands to ports. Identifying and removing bottlenecks in the supply chains of partner nations can help create stronger trade relations and more stable value of imports.

The first step in strategic infrastructure creation is identifying the most critical sectors and industries. This identification must be made based on two fundamental factors.

Firstly, one must determine the consumption sectors that will see increased demand given the rapid pace of urbanisation and rising incomes in India. Principally, this focuses on current imports. Identifying the most crucial import commodities, especially those that face significant price volatility, to create infrastructure in the relevant trading nations is a path that needs focus.

Secondly, policymakers need to watch for future sectors that will require imports for commodities that are not available in India. For example, for the renewable energy revolution to get further impetus and for electric vehicles to be deployed on a large scale, energy storage through batteries is crucial.

An article, “India’s Storage Opportunity”, by Manish Pant in “Power Today” magazine, highlights an interesting point: “India’s production of rare earth minerals like lithium and cobalt, which are essential components in storage batteries, is negligible.”

Securing lithium and cobalt supplies through trade partnerships that go beyond merely importing the commodity will be vital as the energy ecosystem transforms. While making the energy ecosystem completely free from imports may not be possible, a better-planned approach that sees the Indian government working with the private sector to create the infrastructure for securing strategic advantages is essential.

Primarily, India must ensure greater energy independence, and not a shift away from oil dependence to dependence on other commodities. While natural resource allocation in a country is beyond one’s control, strategic trade partnerships and infrastructure creation are not.

After the identification of the most critical industries is made, the second step is identifying nations that are growing the fastest in the sector. These are trade partners where India can add value through financing and partnering in infrastructure creation. The fastest-growing producers need not be the largest. The vital step is creating symbiotic relationships with long-term trading partners who benefit from Indian financial and technical expertise, and India generates value by securing supplies of essential commodities.

It is imperative to bear in mind that these strategic investments need not only be big-ticket. Whether for products that are increasingly being consumed or energy independence, it is vital to chip away to reduce the volatility around the commodity gradually. While better trade partnerships with the top five producers of any commodity is a step in the right direction, so is a renewed push to partner with smaller nations.

Investing in supply chain infrastructure in crucial products is a structural shift that will add value over decades. Gradual partnerships and tactical infrastructure creation by India that allows it to create and improve symbiotic relationships with trading partners is the need of the hour.

In the infrastructure space, it is crucial for each commodity with each trading partner to identify as to where in the commodity supply chain India can add value. As commodities transform throug” “space, time and fo”m” before reaching Indian markets, it will be vital to make the best use of Indian capital and expertise.

In summary, an agile approach to trade and infrastructure creation can aid India in creating a secure and stable source for essential commodities.

(Taponeel Mukherjee heads Development Tracks, an infrastructure advisory firm. Views expressed are personal. He can be contacted him at [email protected] or @Taponeel on Twitter)

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Analysis

Is Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna destined to remain a pipe dream?

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Other than food and water, shelter forms the third most important component of the basic human requirements. It was fitting that the government turned its attention to that. It wasnt for the first time, though, and will definitely wont be the last. For years, Indian cities have been clogged by ever-growing population and the inability to shelter them.

“Housing for All”, or the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), was intended to solve this issue. But will it? Launched with much fanfare in 2015, three years down the line, the achievement is anything but satisfactory.

The four components of the scheme include a credit-linked subsidy, in-situ development of slums, 35 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) and an opportunity to build individual houses. While the intentions look noble, at least on paper, in practice it’s far from it. The scheme has many glaring loopholes.

Take, for instance, the slum rehabilitation scheme. This component allows private builders to redevelop slums and, subject to certain conditions, avail benefits from the state government for each housing unit built. It basically involves taking a portion of a slum, building multi-storey flats on it and then moving the displaced people into those flats.

With frequent demolitions and evictions, it is almost impossible to provide paperwork to prove the permanent residency of a particular plot in a slum. Even if it is assumed that the evicted person rebuilds his house on the same exact plot each time it is demolished, the amount of effort required to produce documents like electricity or water bills to prove this is asking for too much. Though not mentioned explicitly, these dwellings are in many ways informal shanties and where basic amenities like electricity and water connections aren’t provided — they are managed illegally. Official documents, in many cases, just don’t exist.

The provision of a cut-off date to be eligible for availing the benefit means that people don’t have enough time to put all documents in place. Instead of getting rehabilitated, they are on the verge of getting evicted to make way for people who have documents to show. Corruption?

Now take a look at the credit-linked subsidy scheme (CLSS). The scheme provides for varying credit-linked subsidies to home buyers up to an income of Rs 18 lakh. The provision defines LIG (low income group) as someone with annual income between of Rs 3-6 lakh and an EWS (economically weaker section) individual as one with annual income below Rs 3 lakh. As per the Minimum Wages Act, the most that an unskilled sweeper can manage per annum is below Rs 1 lakh (monthly wages are pegged at Rs 8,238) and with the prices of most dwelling units much higher than this, they are surely going to be left out.

They can neither afford them on their own, nor are they eligible for any subsidies. Even for the ones who can get subsidies, the amount is too low to afford even a single room in big cities, forcing them to look for houses far from the city – which has its own problems.

Finally, individual house construction is just not happening. PMAY is also designed to help people repair or rebuild their homes, provided they can prove that the land on which their house rests is their own. It’s a well-known fact that most of the houses in slums have been built on government land and there is no way, other than a forged document, to prove otherwise. The government may very well claim that land for itself.

Another component of the scheme involves building affordable housing units on government land with or without the partnership of private developers. In such cases, where private parties are engaged, the subsidy is provided to the developers once they reach the plinth level. On completion of their project, they can sell half of their stocks in the open market and rest to the EWS and LIGs at government-sponsored rates, during which the subsidy received by them is passed on to the buyers. It doesn’t take much time to figure out that, ultimately, the subsidies are going to lie with builders, as, even with aid, EWS and LIGs can’t afford houses close to the cities.

Other than these loopholes, there are at least two more drawbacks to the scheme. One is its inherent design which makes it almost impossible to build affordable dwelling units in close vicinity of cities, and the other is the time involved.

With high land prices and low incomes, builders will be forced to move farther away from the main city to become affordable. But, people who work in cities cannot afford to live too far from their workplaces. The additional costs involved will negate any gain that they might have, which is negligible to begin with.

The other is the time required to get approvals. Despite all the hype about Ease of Working, the process still remains too complex and time-consuming. It takes anywhere between six months to a year to get all the necessary approvals. If the land is yet to be acquired, the project could take years, leading to cost over-runs and erosion in profits.

As a policy framework, PMAY needs a lot of fixing, some big and some small. While providing housing for all should be a priority, this cannot be achieved by a shoddy scheme. In its three years of existence, the scheme has not been as successful as it was envisioned by the Prime Minister. Most of the projects have been stuck at different stages. If the government wants the policy to work, it will have to clear the roadblocks with regard to capital, land, approvals and documentation.
Unless that’s done, PMAY will remain a pipe dream. The scheme should be made implementable in the way the Prime Minister intended it to be.

(Neh Srivastava is Under Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and President, Central Secretariat Service Officers Society, CSSOS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] )

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