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Has Xi Jinping found the answer to Hong Kong?



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What started as a demonstration by 12,000 citizens against a proposed legislation for extradition of criminal undertrials to China has escalated into a daily assembly of over two million protesting against Chinese ainterference’ in Hong Kong, an examination of police brutality under the gaze of international press and a demand for full democracy. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s counter-mobilisation strategy is reduced to maintaining radio silence. Not only did Lam lose all credit amongst the pro- democracy camp having described the June 12 protest as a “riot”, she has also lost support of the pro-Beijing (dare I say anti-democracy?) section of Hong Kong having suspended the extradition bill that triggered the protests. Additionally, there have been anonymous accounts of the Hong Kong police expressing resentment at being forced to play a violent role in what should have been a political debate.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been content to signal its superior capability to use force (Hong Kong law allows for the administration to call upon the People’s Liberation Army in tackling issues of “public order”). Many are disconcerted by the restraint being exhibited. Particularly following the incident last week where a group of demonstrators broke into the legislative house, vandalised the official emblem of Hong Kong by blackening out the name of mainland China, it was widely believed that the PLA would be called in to quash the protests. However, this has not materialised. Why? I believe, Xi Jinping has been learning from networked mobilisations around the world. Arguably, Mubarak lost Egypt the day he let loose his militia on horseback – scattering protestors in Tahrir Square – killing a dozen people. Despite the internet shutdown, the incident was broadcast live across the world – voices against his regime grew to a din and the rest is history. While there is no threat to Jinping’s presidency, the threat of economic sanctions and perhaps a trade exile against China motivate him to avoid a modern Tiananmen.

Hong Kong 2019 – A networked movement

Much like the 2014 Occupy Protests in Hong Kong, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York, Hong Kong 2019 has relied heavily on the internet for mobilisation and organisation. Such anetworked movements’ leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp to achieve quick amplification and scaling, set in place informal decision making structures allowing real-time tactical moves, and organize logistics. The protesters in Hong Kong have exhibited organisational capabilities that can be traced to learnings from the failed 2014 Occupy Protests. A 20- year old student leader says, “During the Occupy protests, most of us didn’t think about protecting ourselves, we used Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to spread messages. But this year, we see that freedom of speech is getting worse in Hong Kong,”.

Since 2014, WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption. Along with other P2P clients like Signal, Telegram and Firechat it afforded organisers the ability to communicate with large numbers in a more secure forum than public Facebook groups and Twitter handles. Complimentary offline measures such as using disposable cell phones, transacting in cash, purchase of single-fare tickets on public transport and even simply keeping faces covered during protests has helped prevent surveillance and thwarted counter-mobilisation efforts.

In addition, as identified by Zeynep Tufekci in her book Twitter and Tear Gas a key feature of radically networked movements is that they are often aleaderlessa¿. The informal and horizontal nature of the mobilisation means no individual(s) can claim formal leadership over the protest. Unlike the 2014 movement which was quashed through arrests of leaders, while the 2019 movement has witnessed numerous arrests of prominent figures, mobilisation hasn’t been impacted. As such, while activists and organisations such as Joshua Wong and CHRF have thrown their weight behind the cause, by design no individual has claimed leadership of the movement.

The State’s response

Early statements of the Hong Kong Administration such as a memo dated June 9 described the protests as “an example of Hong Kong people exercising their freedom of expressiona”. However, within three days, the rhetoric and force employed by the Administration radically altered. Rubber bullets were fired at protestors and Lam termed the congregation a “riot”. To date police action has resulted in four deaths, 230 injuries and over 560 arrests.

In addition to these measures on the ground, the Administration has taken steps online. Attempts have been made to individually penetrate channels of communication and intercept or corrupt information flows. On a macro level, the Administration has sought to spread misinformation amongst protestors – Lam’s announcement that the extradition bill is “dead”, while merely suspending it, is a classic example. In addition, the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov has stated publicly that he believes recent outages were results of DDOS attacks by “a State actor”. However, I believe Beijing’s counter-mobilisation effort go deeper.

By emphasising the discolouration of the national emblem as an act of “radicalisma and a “threat to national sovereignty”, the State owned media has been instructed to whip up nationalistic fervour amongst citizens of mainland China. After an image of the Chinese flag thrown in the ocean surfaced online, the propaganda machine swung into overdrive -starting the hashtag #TheFiveStarRedFlagHas1.4BillionProtectors. The hashtag caught on – finding support from celebrities like Jackie Chan, while former Hong Kong chief executive Chun-ying announced a reward of 1 million HKD for information about the “culprit”.

Creating imagined enemies out of protestors is a tool of psychological warfare that could easily turn into an intra-ethnic conflict. And we are already seeing the first signs of this – A Chinese man assaulted pro-democracy protesters in the Hong Kong Airport. The incident was given a political spin and reported as evidence of growing radicalism in the protesters. More such reports have emerged. Perhaps the most alarming is the report from the University of Queensland in Australia, where a peaceful march in support of the movement in Hong Kong was attacked by pro-Chinese students. This was followed by an online doxxing attack against protesting students. Most tellingly, the Chinese consul-general, Xu Jie, has praised the “patriotic behaviour” of the attackers.

These are not isolated incidents. Xi is attempting to enlist the citizens of China in his attack on Hong Kong by playing on nationalism. He hopes to incite violence amongst the well organised pro- democracy protesters, giving him the moral authority to send in the PLA. Has Xi found the perfect tool to foil the surge of networked protestors or is China heading towards another Cultural Revolution? We will know soon – and it may set a precedent for counter-mobilization around the world.

(Akhil Bhardwaj is a practicing lawyer and a student of public policy at the Takshashila Institution. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])


Dealing with the Dragon – Covid as an opportunity for India




china india flag

In most nations, massive economic changes take place every 70-100 years, changing the nations totally. Sometimes these changes destroy the nations, or they take them to the top. The US had earlier phases of growth when they grew 7-10 times post civil war and American reforms including the ‘New Deal’ designed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was a series of reforms enacted between 1933 and 1939 that lifted the US out of the Great Depression and restored hope to the American people. It focused on the ‘three Rs’ of relief for the vulnerable, recovery of the economy, and reform of the financial system (familiar words during Covid crisis). The US again and the UK, the western world restructured themselves also during IR 1.0 and IR 2.0 and grew 5-6 times.

With the help of the US, China did a total restructuring during IR 3.0 and grew eight times. India could only grow 2.5 times. The growth rate depended on the efficiency of restructuring. All countries have now entered very disruptive periods of IR 4.0 and 5.0 requiring huge changes, and also hit by Covid, they require major changes in the administrative, financial and market systems, just to survive. And these changes could later be used for enormous growth. In normal times, our democracy may not have allowed these changes, hence the opportunity. (I have described the earlier changes in my book, Containing the China Onslaught).

We could not join the American market bloc in 1972, though we were shortlisted by US experts, due to Nixon’s strong prejudice against Indira Gandhi, she having convincingly won the Bangladesh war despite Nixon’s support to Pakistan. Perhaps, even if offered, we may not have joined due to our philosophical non-aligned stand, which was compromising our growth. All nations, including India, have to change now to survive Covid and this gives us an opportunity to collaborate with the best nations, practices and consultants particularly in the democratic world, keen to partner us against the tributary communist nation China, threatening everyone. The US supported China under the mistaken impression that it was helping itself against their Cold War enemy, Russia, but China emerged as its enemy/competitor. It might be in the interest of the US and other democracies to prop up India, to regain the ‘balance of power'(Kissinger’s term to define/justify the illogical China policy), particularly in the East.

In the words of David McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize winner: “All crises are also opportunities for radical reform, for re-aligning priorities, and for tweaking policies in pursuit of the greater common good.” History has shown that those who navigated in these perilous times better, gained at the expense of others. Mao failed in his new deal post 1950, but then took the unbelievable decision to go to the US for help, and this changed China. India also at the time of foreign exchange crisis in 1991, turned the crisis into an opportunity and launched reforms, but at a low speed and commitment, and lost out hugely to China.

No one expected that Covid, a six month phenomenon would change the world and India irreversibly. Post-Covid India will be very different and if it is planned well, both by the central government and state governments, it can be a huge opportunity. Covid has ensured that we make these changes for our survival, and give up business as usual. Let me look at the compulsions of some changes, and start with the changes forced by the biggest impact of huge migration of labour and employment crisis first.

Labour exporting states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan etc have compulsively received large-scale semi to no skilled human capital in their states during the huge labor migration. This is also the time that digitization has hit the world and India. This is a great time to have a large scale reform and reorganizing the government departments, and reorganizing industry and other institutions, for long time results.

A large-scale migrant population earns less that Rs 500 daily in urban areas. Securing 80 per cent of this income in 100 km radius from their native place should be the primary effort, e.g. Uttar Pradesh should focus on large-scale infrastructure connectivity projects and building up new cities for better absorption of talent pool.

The pandemic has exposed fault lines in the global trade and financial architecture, disrupting our travel patterns, global manufacturing value-chains, and governance systems. The crisis brings home some potent lessons: individual health outcomes cannot be divorced from the health and hygiene systems of the community and that national borders are no defence against threats from nature, and that collective global action is increasingly a sine-qua-non for our own individual protection from such events. The hope remains that the Covid-19 crisis brings about a global epiphany regarding the need for saner responses to the other formidable(and less immediately visible) threat: the effects of climate change. Once this episode is behind us, if its only legacy is to bequeath us a wiser and more deliberative approach to balancing the often-conflicting objectives of economic progress and environment protection, then much good would have come of it. India has already taken leadership position in this effort.

Like other countries, India is also seeking to steer a judicious path between the need to insulate the population, and to revive the economic engine. The rigorous national lockdown has succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus, and the current thinking in the government is to open the country for business in a carefully calibrated manner, focusing on reviving sectors like agriculture (this sector should have received huge attention, but did not). The Covid crisis ensures that only this restructuring will prepare the base for our rehabilitaion, and then manufacturing, and services; while isolating geographic hotspots and vulnerable groups. The most compelling requirement for reviving the economy is to effectively manage the emergence from the lockdown, ensuring that supply chains are reopened, that manufacturing and service enterprises are free to operate, while ensuring basic health hygiene.

The first charge on the government is to protect the lives and entitlements of the most vulnerable people at the bottom of the pyramid — a daunting task, given that the unorganised sector represents over 90 per cent of the workforce. India has millions of migrant workers, who are in acute distress, bereft of income support or home comfort. The first round of relief has rightly been the package of Rs 1.7 trillion for the vulnerable, along with measures like reopening Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) work. Much more needs to be done, and much more is expected, particularly a stimulus-cum-relief package that is imminent at the time of writing. There are demands and expectations that this package will be in the region of at least Rs 5-6 trillion, around 3 per cent of the country’s GDP. This package could encompass fiscal stimulus, liquidity in the system, tax deferral, credit-protection, and business-continuity and sustenance assistance for small enterprises. The agriculture sector, which constitutes around 15 per cent of the GDP, but more than 50 per cent population needs immediate relief, in terms of facilitating market access for the current rabi crop under harvesting, as well as funding support for farmers to commit to the imminent kharif crop, come June.

Apart from agriculture, sectoral stimulus packages and prioritisation of relief and rehabilitation measures are warranted, given the substantial damages inflicted on sectors like tourism, hospitality, transportation, which have very large employment absorption levels.

Another area of focus needs to be infrastructure, not just for creating assets for the future, but also for absorbing employment in sectors like construction. The government’s recently announced National Infrastructure Pipeline of around Rs 100 trillion, could be re-prioritised by frontloading projects that soak up relatively greater levels of employment.

Two perfect storms — the pandemic and geopolitical disruptions: We also need to think beyond measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis, and around opportunities that may arise for India from global disruptions. Much of India’s economic reform of the early 90s was forced on us on the back of a public-finance crisis, and we also need to think beyond crisis management now, about how we can further refine our economic policies and modernise our infrastructure, particularly around logistics, for fostering more inward investment. The convergence of two perfect storms — the pandemic and the geopolitics-driven disruptions recently seen in global trade and investment flows — maybe India’s opportunity to become one of the key nodes of the global value chain. We need to set up two national missions, with the same zeal and focus that went into improving India’s ease-of-doing business rankings; one around reducing process friction for inward investment, and another for improving the ease of undertaking trans-national trade.

We all tend to put our differences aside and come together when faced with an external challenge, and that is presumably the most important element for emerging stronger and better, a pan-national coming together around common goals: alleviating distress, protecting the population, and creating better futures for every Indian. Supply chains, demand centers, and labour corridors would need to be restored while the country ensures that lockdowns are sharply targeted in the locations and for the activities required to contain the virus. The following examples highlight a few of the dependencies across Indian sectors and geographies:

  • In the textiles sector, cotton is bought in the western parts of India, yarn is spun in the north and west, weaving takes place in the south, and apparel is manufactured in clusters in the north and south.
  • In the chemical industry, the acetic-acid value-chain supplies diverse industries, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, paper, food processing, and construction. Any blockage to its supply chain would therefore have ripple effects in many other seemingly unrelated sectors.
  • Electronics manufacturing requires inputs from sectors as diverse as metal working, plastic molding, paper processing, chemical processing, and electrical supplies. Disallowing activity in any of them would affect electronics-manufacturing output.
  • Six states (including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, which account for 30 per cent of construction activity) rely heavily on migrant construction workers from other states. Bottlenecks in the return of migrants would affect building activity in such states.
  • Half of all drivers engaged in freight movement across the country come from just 14 districts, according to an analysis. Restrictions on the movement of people from these districts could affect the ramping up of national logistics activity.

Skilling of population: Large-scale job loss gives an opportunity to the government to re-skill the population for better jobs. Government should prepare a plan to re-skill the semi-skilled workforce at nominal fee. This will not only reorganize the human capital for future needs but absorb the shock generated through the job loss. The proportion of formally skilled workers in India is extremely low, at 4.69 per cent of total workforce, compared to 24 per cent in China, 52 per cent in the US, 68 per cent in the UK, 75 per cent in Germany, 80 per cent in Japan and 96 per cent in South Korea.

According to the latest India Skill Report (2019), only 45.6 per cent of the youth graduating from educational institutions are employable. To address this mismatch, it is imperative to understand the ‘return on skill’ (ROS) concept.

Copying the success of TVE model in China: One major reform mechanism utilized early on were the Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs) which were market-oriented public enterprises under the purview of local governments based in townships and villages in the People’s Republic of China. It is important to remember that TVE refers to companies located in townships and villages, not owned by township and villages. This allows us to work under the framework of consumption and intrinsic motivations driving early growth (privatization), and contributes to why the TVEs were successful in China during the 1980s. TVEs have been hailed as one of the wonders of the reforms by Chinese and foreigners alike. Their initial success came at a pivotal opportunity where farmers’ incomes by the mid 1980s began to stagnate, and the best solution to increase income was to stimulate non-grain and non-agricultural production. In 1978 TVEs employed amount 28 million people, but between 1984 and 1997 they created nearly 100 million non-farm jobs. Local governments tended to and fostered the developments of these TVEs for they saw these entities as regular sources of revenues in resource-constrained environments. The TVE reforms also allowed for labour forces in the rural areas to more efficiently engage in industrial outputs rather than agricultural outputs.

Even Deng noted the unexpected results: “What took us by complete surprise was the development of TVEs… All sorts of small enterprises boomed in the countryside, as if a strong army appeared suddenly from nowhere.” The results seem quite clear for it fuels individual incentives; the decision to relax the state purchasing monopoly on agricultural goods (a hallmark of Mao’s failed policies) to make them available to local rural industry allowed for the efficient usage of excess rural labour, processed agricultural products, and diversified production of a range of consumer goods and products for export. Statistically, the results are justified as the growth rate was exponential in its explosives, with rural industrial output growing at 21 per cent per annum from 1978 through the early 1990s.

I am no expert in the sectors I have dealt with. I have only given a recommended a direction the country will have to work. It is gratifying to see that lot of work has been done, but we have to go further with the help of experts.

(Pradip Baijal is former Secretary, Disinvestment and former Chairman, TRAI. He is the author of Containing the China Onslaught)

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No crisis can determine India’s future – PM Modi

Today, the time demands that we must stand on our feet, and we will have to move on our own strength. And for this, there is only one path: a self-reliant India (atmanirbhar Bharat).




Modi PM

Dear friends,

A year ago, a golden chapter was added to the history of Indian democracy. After decades, the people of the country gave a second opportunity to a government elected with a full majority. You have played a major role in writing this chapter. Today presents an opportunity for me to bow to you and honour you for your commitment to India and Indian democracy.

Had the situation been normal, I would have been blessed to be in your midst. However, the circumstances brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic have led me to write this letter and seek your blessings. In the past one year, your affection, blessings and active participation have given me fresh energy and inspiration. During this period, you have shown to the world democracy’s collective strength, which has become an example before the entire world.

In the year 2014, the people voted for a big change; you voted to change the policy and system (niti & reeti). In those five years, the country saw extricating itself from the quagmire of inertia and corruption. In those five years, the country inspired by Antyodaya has seen the change in governance in easing the lives of the poor.

In that tenure, on the one hand, the country’s prestige before the world grew, and on the other, we raised the dignity of the poor by opening their bank accounts, making available free cooking gas and electricity connection for them; and by building homes and toilets for them. In that tenure, whereas there were surgical and air strikes, there were also works for one-rank-one-pension, one-nation-one-tax GST and fulfillment of decades’ old demands involving procurement of crops under MSP for farmers. That tenure was dedicated to meeting several needs of the country.

In 2019, your blessings meant dreaming big for the country, for high hopes and for meeting the aspirations. The decisions taken in the last one year are the reflections of those big dreams. The people’s power fuelled by the common man is effulgently shining as the nation’s strength. In the past one year, the country had many dreams, many resolves as it also continuously took several steps towards realizing those goals.

In this historic journey, each community, each section and each individual has played one’s part responsibly. ‘Sabka sath, sabka vikas’ with this mantra, the country is forging ahead in all directions — social, economic, global or internal.

in the last one year, some important decisions have been in discussion, and that is why it is natural to for these achievements to linger on in our memory. Whether it was the topic of Article 370 for national unity and integrity, or the happy outcome of age-old conflict over the Ram temple construction, or the factor disrupting the modern social system, the ‘triple talaq’ or the symbol of India’s compassion, the citizenship law – all these achievements you remember.

Amid these decisions which came in quick succession, there are many other decisions and changes that have given new momentum to India’s development journey, have given us new objectives as we have strived to fulfill many expectations of the people. The constitution of the post of Chief of Defence Staff has led to increased coordination among armed forces. At the same time, India has accelerated its preparations for Mission Gaganyaan.

In this period, our priority has been to empower the poor, farmers, women and the youth.

Today, each farmer has been covered under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi. In the last one year, under this scheme, over Rs 72,000 crore have been deposited in the bank accounts of more 9.5 crore farmers.

To make available piped drinking water for the country’s over 15 crore rural population, the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ has been initiated.

To ensure better health care for our more than 50 crore cattle, a massive campaign for livestock vaccination is under way.

For the first time in the nation’s history, the government has decided to offer the facility of Rs 3,000 monthly pension for farmers, farm labourers, small shopkeepers and workers belonging to the unorganized sector after the age of 60 years.

A separate department has been formed to strengthen ‘blue economy’ and increase the facilities for fishermen. Similarly, it has been decided to constitute National Traders Board to timely resolve issues concerning business enterprises. About 7 crore sisters associated with self-help groups have been given more financial assistance. Recently, the loan amount available without guarantee for self-help groups has been doubled to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh.

Keeping the education of tribals’ children in mind, a campaign is under way to build more than 450 Eklavya Model Residential Schools.

The government has also worked expeditiously towards making better laws linked with common man’s welfare. Our Parliament has broken decades’ old record in conducting legislative business. That’s why several laws – the Consumer Protection Act, amendment to Chit fund law, and laws concerning more security for women and children – have been quickly enacted.

The government policies have led to bridging the gulf between the urban and rural lives. For the first time, the internet users in rural areas have outnumbered the urban counterparts by 10 per cent.

The list of historic works and decisions is very long. It is not possible to elaborate on all of them in this letter. But I would surely say that in the last one year, each day round the clock, the government has worked with full awareness, sensitivity, and has taken decisions.

just when we were moving quickly towards realizing our country’s aspirations, the corona pandemic surrounded India too.

On the one hand, there are countries with massive economies and most modern health services, and on the other, there is India with its huge population and so many challenges. Many people had expressed their apprehensions that when corona would attack India, the country itself would become a trouble for the world. Today, all countrymen have changed the way they look at India. You have proved that your collective capability and capacity are unprecedented in comparison with other more resourceful and prosperous countries.

You have shown that India alone holds the guarantee for a greater and better India – whether it was collective clapping or thali-beating or lighting the lamps, whether it was honouring of corona warriors by the armed forces, or following the Janata curfew or following the lockdown rules with sincerity.

In this crisis, no one can claim that nobody has been put to trouble or inconvenience. Our workers, migrant brother and sister labourers, those working in small industries, cart pushers and vendors, our shopkeeper brothers and sisters and those having small businesses have suffered immensely. We all are working together in an attempt to sort out their problems.

But we have to be careful that these inconveniences should not transform into a crisis of life. For that, each Indian has to follow all directives. We have to move forward with the same patience and courage that we shown so far. This is the reason why the situation in India has so far been manageable in comparison with other countries.

This battle will stretch on, but we are on way to victory and, to be victorious is our common resolve.

We can draw inspiration from those people who recently faced the Cyclone Amphan boldly. They worked hard to reduce the damage caused by the cyclone.

Under the given circumstances, there have been discussions as to how economies of India along with other nations will emerge out of the crisis. At the same time, there is this belief that the way India has surprised the world in facing coronavirus with its unity, the country can present the same example in the economic field — 130 crore Indians can not only surprise the world but can also inspire it.

Today, the time demands that we must stand on our feet, and we will have to move on our own strength. And for this, there is only one path: a self-reliant India (atmanirbhar Bharat). The recent economic package of Rs 20 lakh crore is a big step towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign. This campaign will usher in a new trend of opportunities for every countryman – our farmers, workers and labourers, medium enterprises and the youth associated with startups. India will reduce its dependence on imports with the sweat of its citizens, with their hard work and skills, thus becoming self-dependent.

you have continued to bless me with your affection in the past six years. The country has moved ahead with unprecedented pace with historic decisions and development. But I know there is so much left to be done. The country has many challenges and problems before it. I am making all efforts day and night. I may have some deficiency, but the country does not have any. That is why I place more confidence in you, in your strength and in your capacity. You, your support and your blessings are the energy behind my resolve.

The global pandemic has brought about a crisis situation, but at the same time, for us Indians, this is also the time for determination. We have to remember that no calamity, no crisis can determine the present or future of 130 crore Indians. We will decide our present and, the future too.

We will move ahead, we will race ahead to progress and we will be victorious. It is said in our country: “Kritam me dakshine haste, jayo me savya ahita-h” – meaning, in one hand we carry our deeds and duties and in the other, sure success.

I bow before you yet again with a wish for our country’s success forever. Best wishes for you and your family. Be healthy, be safe. Be aware and be conscious.

Your Pradhan Sevak

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Newspapers must convince people they are safe, compete with new media for ads: Javadekar





New Delhi, May 26 : Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, who holds the crucial portfolios of Information & Broadcasting and Environment, has the huge task of reaching out to people amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

A minister, who has the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drive the government’s image building exercise at this time, Javadekar is also entrusted with conveying the government’s policy decisions to the public.

A politician from Maharashtra, who rose from the ranks and was a powerful voice for the BJP as its spokesperson, Javadekar spoke to IANS in an interview on the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, the road ahead in Jammu and Kashmir, the state of the print media and the economic package, among other prime issues. Here are some excerpts:

Q: How is your state (Maharashtra) performing to contain Covid-19 as the situation there, particularly in Mumbai, is worsening day by day?

A: It is unfortunate that the situation is worsening in Mumbai. There, late action (by the state) is responsible for this scenario… had immediate action been taken, the situation could have been better and the spread would not have been like this. But I think that the situation will improve. This is a peak and after that, it (the spread of cases) will go down.

Q: Being the Information & Broadcasting Minister, how are you reaching out to the people and creating awareness about the pandemic? How does the Ministry respond to the queries of the public?

A: We are available 24×7. I and my officials are available and are giving official information to everybody, giving interviews, and highlighting every initiative of the government. Now we are one year into the government, we have collected all the achievements and one of the major achievements is the fight against Covid-19.

Q: You have referred to Jammu and Kashmir. Do you believe that post-pandemic, the political process will start in the Union Territory?

A: There is already a political process on in the Union Territory and even the internet has been restored. Only two leaders are under detention and there is complete normalcy.

We can expect elections in the Union Territory after the situation normalises post the pandemic. A decision with regard to the election will be taken. Local body elections have been conducted and it was quite a success.

Q: You are the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. The lockdown has had a positive effect on the environment as carbon emission has gone down to 30 per cent. So is India is thinking of moving towards non-renewable energy?

A: We cannot switch over to non-renewable energies in one day. We have a process and under Prime Minister Modi ji, we are working towards it. We are the fastest growing non-renewable energy sector in the world. (But when the lockdown is lifted), there will be thermal power, there will be pollution coming from factories, from vehicles and the water will be also polluted with the discharges… though the BOD will be limited to 30 mg/litre, which is allowed. So when this process of restarting industries and vehicle moment takes place, you cannot be too romantic that the climate would be like what it had been in the lockdown period.

Q: You have said that the economic package will restart rejuvenating the economy, but the opposition is saying that the government is afraid of ratings and that is why it is not giving money directly to the people…

A: How they (the then Congress-led UPA government) dealt with the 2008 and 2009 crisis… we have taken lessons from that and we have corrected ourselves on so many measures. The Aatma Nirbhar package is very comprehensive and sustainable for reviving the economy.

Q: Do you think that a stimulus is needed for the media industry? Many editions are closing down. Can we expect a package for the media also?

A: If we look at the media industry, people not buying newspapers because of the fear of coronavirus and the distributors are also not distributing newspapers… it is not the government’s fault. I am surprised to see that no newspaper is creating awareness and running a campaign to awaken the people… the newspapers must run campaigns that they have nothing to do with coronavirus spread.

About the retrenchment going on in the media sector due to lack of advertisements, it may be for two months, but advertisements are crowding in the new media sector such as radio, television, and the digital media because newspapers are not getting published on the full scale. There is a shortage of advertisements in the newspaper sector, while radio and TV are full of advertisements.

Q: The Prime Minister has been saying ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ and Aatma Nirbhar Bharat now but what about the way the pandemic has been handled in the media, with one community being targeted for the pandemic?

A: The Government of India does not target any community and there has been one instance, but it is only done in the media. The government treats everybody alike and there has been no targeting of any community.

Q: With the government completing one year of its second term, what are the achievements which are to be highlighted, and how does the government plan to take the country forward post the pandemic?

A: We have the priority of both the pandemic and the economy because the revival of the economy is also necessary and the pandemic is not going anywhere until we find a vaccine and vaccinate all the people. But the Government of India is managing the situation very well… the world was predicting that India would be having 50 lakh cases and 5 lakh deaths, but that has not happened and it will never happen.

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