Connect with us

Blog

Congress plenary sets stage for keen, bitter contest with BJP in 2019

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.

Published

on

Rahul Sonia

The Congress made a strenuous effort to energise its workers for the electoral battles ahead at the party plenary that concluded on Sunday, pitching itself as the real alternative to BJP while also expressing its willingness to cooperate with like-minded parties to unseat the Modi government in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The session, with fiery speeches of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, gave an inkling that the 2019 battle will be keenly fought and the campaign could get bitter as the election approaches.

The Congress gave indications that it will run a relentless campaign, try to set the agenda for the polls ahead and seek to put the Modi government on the defensive on various issues.

Amid calls for sustained hard work to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister in 2019, the party signalled it would not shirking from a presidential-style contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Image result for congress plenary

Much will depend on the outcome of the verdict in states going to the polls this year — Karanataka first and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh later this year. Except for Karnataka, the Congress and BJP are locked in a direct contest in the three other states.

The three-day plenary took place at a time when efforts are underway to forge a third front of parties opposed to BJP as also the Congress.

The speeches and the resolutions adopted at the plenary were a reaffirmation of the Congress claim of being the natural leader of the grouping of anti-BJP parties.

The Congress faces a stupendous challenge of building a counter-narrative against Modi to weaken his credibility among the people, win back sections that have drifted away and match the BJP’s deftness as a poll-fighting machine.

But it also has a natural advantage as a challenger to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and to the Modi government in 2019. In these battles, the BJP will be tasked with defending performance of its governments and beat anti-incumbency.

Image result for congress plenary

The Congress is also keen to make Modi’s 2014 pitch of “acche din” an albatross around the BJP’s neck.

Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party chief in December from his mother Sonia Gandhi, sought to energise the party rank and file and promised to address their grouse that well-connected within the party often “parachute” down at the time of ticket allocation at the cost of genuine, dedicated workers.

He also promised to make party leaders more accessible to workers by breaking the “walls” and giving more tickets to the youth.

With several state units plagued by factionalism, Gandhi indicated that he would enforce discipline so that party’s effort at winning elections is not wrecked in any way.

He framed the 2019 battle as a fight for truth by the Congress and for power by the BJP — likening it to the clash between the Pandavas and the Kauravas during the Mahabharata battle.

The “worker-centric” gathering was held in a different format than the past plenaries with leaders were not seated on the stage.

Image result for congress plenary

Rahul Gandhi said he had kept the stage empty for talented youth from within the party and outside.

Sonia Gandhi exhorted party rank and file not to think of personal egos and ambitions and work with determination to face challenges that are not ordinary.

While the party’s political resolution talked of adopting a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties and evolving a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections, its leaders, in their speeches, exhorted workers to work for party’s victory in the general elections.

They also said that Congress was the only party that can reverse the “ill-effects” of BJP’s economic policies.

There was hope that Rahul Gandhi would unfurl the Tricolour from the Red Fort in 2019.
There was also hope that Congress will “once again” become a party that represents the aspirations and expectations of all the communities and is the anchor of the political and social dialogue.

While the party’s four comprehensive resolutions – political, economic, foreign affairs and on `agriculture, unemployment and poverty alleviation’ sought to address concerns of various sections of society, Rahul Gandhi, in his concluding speech, focused on youth and farmers – two sections that are perceived to be getting disenchanted with the Modi government and represent a vast section of population.

More than half of country’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood and almost two-third of population is below the age of 35.

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.

By : Prashant Sood

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

Blog

No definition of green-firecrackers, too late to check: Environmentalists

Published

on

Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Oct 23 (IANS) While welcoming the Supreme Court’s verdict on imposing certain restriction on the timing of bursting firecrackers, environmentalists say there is no definition of green firecrackers, while raising scepticism if this will work this Diwali which is merely two weeks away.

The SC on Tuesday refused to impose a blanket ban on firecrackers, but restricted bursting only “green firecrackers” between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Pointing out that the peak smog episode of Delhi in 2016 and 2017 was around November 7 and November 8 due to the combined effect of stubble burning in neighbouring states, the date this year collides with Diwali on November 7, 2018.

While some environment organisations welcomed the decision, they pointed out the need for round-the-year imposition and check on other sources of pollution occuring from vehicles, industries and stubble burning.

“Issue of concept of green fire crackers, with limited amount of noise and emissions, had been raised in green courts earlier, but such things practically don’t exist in our country. PESO, however, can mark a warning system on firecrackers, but it’s too late for this Diwali,” says environment activist Vikrant Tongad.

Many activists believe that while stockpiling of firecrackers would have already been done, it would be extremenly difficult to check the standards of firecrackers.

PESO or the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation is the nodal organisation to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum. Supereme Court on Tuesday asked it to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly for reducing the aluminium content and submit its report within two weeks.

“The stubble burning is at peak right now and last year, Diwali was on October 19 and in 2016 it was on October 30. This time it’s at the time when Delhi has a history of suffering smog episode. Also, there is no concept of green firecracker, so SC’s verdict is not likely to help,” an environment researcher told IANS requesting anonymity.

The expert also pointed out that since the SC had allowed bursting firecrackers for two hours, imposing the restriction would be difficult.

In 2016, PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5mm, levels in some areas of Delhi increased to 1,238 on Diwali, which was about 50 times higher than the international standards. However, this effect was reduced in Diwali 2017 following a blanket ban, according to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report. Another post-Diwali assessment across four regions in Delhi found drop in levels of suphur, nitrous and particle pollution in 2017 as compared to 2016.

For instance, post-Diwali PM10 levels in Pitampura area was 690 units in 2017 against over 1,000 units in 2016.

a Greenpeace assessment had found that average PM 2.5 levels post-Diewali in 2017 were 181 microgram per cubic meters, which were 343 units in 2016.

“Like the issue of burning biomass, fire crackers too contribute only to peak episodes and has little to do with sources that pollute the air during most parts of the year.

“We have been witnessing the lack of seriousness shown to this public health crisis by both central and state governments in policy formulation and implementation for many years now,” said Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reacher at [email protected])

Continue Reading

Blog

Decoded: How smell of lavender helps you unwind

They found that linalool odour has an anxiolytic effect in normal mice. However, this did not impair their movement.

Published

on

fragrant plants
Fragrant Plants

Scientists have discovered that the fragrant flower lavender is relaxing and may help people unwind and could even be a safer alternative to anti-anxiety drugs.

The study, over mice, showed that the vaporised lavender compound linalool must be smelt — not absorbed in the lungs — to feel its calming effects, which could be used to relieve preoperative stress and anxiety disorders.

Mice show less signs of anxiety when they smell the fragrant flower.

“In folk medicine, it has long been believed that odorous compounds derived from plant extracts can relieve anxiety,” said co-author Hideki Kashiwadani of Kagoshima University in Japan.

The fragrant flower can also act as an alternative to current anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs like benzodiazepines, which is known to cause memory problems, male breast growth and birth defects.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the researchers tested mice to see whether it is the smell of linalool — i.e. stimulation of olfactory (odour-sensitive) neurons in the nose — that triggers relaxation.

They found that linalool odour has an anxiolytic effect in normal mice. However, this did not impair their movement.

This contrasts with benzodiazepines, and linalool injections, whose effects on movement are similar to those of alcohol.

“The results suggest that linalool does not act directly on GABAA receptors like benzodiazepines do but must activate them via olfactory neurons in the nose in order to produce its relaxing effects,” Kashiwadani explained.

“Our study also opens the possibility that relaxation seen in mice fed or injected with linalool could in fact be due to the smell of the compound emitted in their exhaled breath.”

Lavender could also be used pre-surgery or by those who struggle to take drugs, the team said.

Continue Reading

Blog

India’s economic growth not inclusive enough, inequality rises

Basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front.

Published

on

India Inequality

The Indian growth story has been far from perfect. That is not an understatement by any stretch of imagination. A growing challenge for the economy is the fast-evolving problem of inequality.

Most recently, James Crabtree in his latest book, “The Billionaire Raj”, claims that “India is one of the world’s most unequal countries.” His claim is based on the fact that the billionaire wealth as a proportion of the entire country’s output is the highest for India, except for Russia. The latest human development rankings released last week also corroborate his findings. India already ranks a lowly 130 on the index out of 189 countries but when adjusted for inequality, the scores experience a drastic fall of almost 27 percent against a world average of 20 percent.

What explains India’s dismal performance on the inequality front? Why don’t other developing countries face a similar problem? To put it simply, economic growth in India has not been inclusive enough. All the hype about the country’s fast-paced economic growth has not percolated down through the economy. The recently-released Social Progress Index can provide an explanation on why that is so.

The Index, which measures the extent to which a country can provide for the social and environmental needs of its citizens, ranks India at 101; a position it had achieved as early as 2014. India is the worst performer among all the BRICS countries and performs poorly than quite a few other developing countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia as well. The country’s abysmal performance on social and environmental aspects can explain its widening inequality to a large extent.

To first put things in perspective, the countries which are performing better on the Social Progress Index are managing to do so irrespective of their economic heft; that is, even economies that are poorer than India have ranked higher. But they have made it possible to have broad-based public participation in economic expansion by pursuing policies which allow for extensive schooling, higher literacy, better healthcare, widespread land reforms and greater gender parity. The only way to maximise the gains in poverty reduction for an economy is to make it more participatory, which is not easy to achieve if the webs of social barriers are not broken down through such policies. Economic advancement cannot be equitable if social opportunities are not enhanced on a wider basis.

China offers the perfect case in point for how a large economy can achieve equitable growth on a sustained basis. China was at the same economic level as India around 1980 when it undertook market reforms. At the same time, the country made investments in improving its basic education and health standards. When China soon became an export-led economy, the products did not particularly require highly skilled labour, but schooled and literate population nevertheless. The production of such basic manufactures for the world markets requires adherence to certain specifications and quality controls where good school education comes in handy. A healthy workforce is also imperative to ensure that economic schedules are not marred by illnesses and intermittent absences and that adequate productivity is maintained.

Thus, basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front. Surely it can continue to achieve high rates of growth with the rather limited bouquet of social opportunities that exist currently. In fact, a lot of complacency arises from the achievement of high growth rates on an aggregate level. But a status quo would only continue to widen the disparity across society that has already reached concerning levels. Most of India’s growth arises from industries which make excessive use of its historic accomplishments in higher education and technical training. The fruits of such a growth, therefore, are skewed on the wrong side of the income spectrum.

The problem with the inequality debate in India is that it is often argued that since poverty has dramatically declined in the country post-reforms, the trend of rising inequality should not concern policy-makers as it is a small price to pay. But, the fact that India is an outlier in terms of inequality among all developing countries, except an oligarchic Russia, should raise the alarm bells. Most importantly, if there exists a way where the gains from existing growth can be more equitably distributed, clearly that is the Pareto optimal path of development and worth striving for.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Most Popular