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India story has been derailed: Remember ‘minimum government, maximum governance’?

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kapil sibal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised us a New India: sans corruption, business friendly, with a resurgent rupee, a great power that is recognised globally. His motto, ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ was to jettison the past and usher a resurgent India of the future. What we have witnessed in the last 40 months is just the opposite of what he promised.

Open corruption is brushed under the carpet. The biggest scam, waiting to be unearthed, is how institutional corruption led to conversion of black money into white with the banking system as a facilitator. Otherwise 99% of the cash economy relating to currency in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations could not have found itself legitimised by the banking system. No FIR yet and none will be registered.

Shell companies being sent notices is no answer. That may lead to income tax demands, the finalisation of which will take years. What is required to be investigated is how the money got converted. Which bankers were collaborating? Who were the high and mighty – businessmen, politicians and so on – involved? Who received commissions and to what extent? This will only surface if a criminal investigation is launched.

The off-the-shelf purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft from France does not seem kosher either. Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, got a lease of life in the process and India changed the structure of the deal. The agreement arrived at during the UPA tenure was to procure 126 aircraft at a cost of Rs 90,000 crore (approximately Rs 714 crore per aircraft) along with transfer of technology. NDA government’s decision to scrap the earlier deal – terming it as “economically unviable” – and instead deciding to procure 36 such aircraft in fly-away condition at a much higher price of Rs 59,000 crore (approximately Rs 1,638 crore per aircraft) without technology transfer, gives this deal a rotten smell.

In BJP governed states the situation is no less murky. Vyapam is the poster boy of corruption in Madhya Pradesh with the manipulation of admissions into medical institutions allegedly involving who’s who in government. That 50 people allegedly involved lost their lives is a scandal in itself.

CBI has proved to be a loyal ally of the establishment since students, parents and officials only are being prosecuted. The government in Chhattisgarh is allegedly tainted by the PDS scam, which too if properly investigated, is likely to make many heads roll. Modi has turned a blind eye to the serious allegations made and incriminating evidence unearthed.

The government is patting itself for jumping 30 positions in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings. Instead, the government should be concerned about its recent decisions, which have in fact decimated businesses. Demonetisation followed by an ill-conceived multi-layered GST was a double whammy for the informal sector. Jobs were lost, lives destroyed.

Small and medium business enterprises, especially the informal sector ill-equipped to mobilise capital, did not have the capacity to pay GST upfront. The GSTN has been a nightmare for the transportation sector and small businesses. Such teething problems, as the government puts it, may be the death knell for some enterprises.

To unleash predatory taxmen and investigating agencies on ordinary businesses spreads terror and dampens the animal spirits this government wished to revive. Continuous decline in GDP growth for several consecutive quarters and the resultant prospect of the economy growing at only 6.7% for 2017-18 has derailed the India story. FIIs may stabilise the rupee, but impact exports adversely.

Our strategy for the rupee is also not clear. Our increasing current account deficit is worrisome. We can only achieve the status of a great power if we are economically strong. Then only will muscle flexing pay dividends.

Every other day we lose a brave son of India on the Pakistan border. Recent turbulent events in Kashmir have not earned us laurels internationally. The episode at Doklam will have repercussions. China views us with suspicion and our cosying up to the US has fallouts.

Yes, India is important to the world for two reasons. First, as a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democracy. Second, with 1.3 billion people it has enormous market potential. Both China and the West wish our markets to open up further. That is why while politically our relationship with China will continue to be uneasy, the Chinese will flood our markets with their goods. And apart from selling us defence equipment, the US is keen to have us open up our agricultural sector.

In the last 40 months what have we leveraged both from China and the US to our advantage? Great powers take more than they give. We have from all accounts given more and very little has come our way. The position of primacy that we enjoyed with our neighbours has waned.

‘Minimum government, maximum governance’ has been turned on its head by Modi. The Hindutva brigade spreads terror. The state is intolerant. Freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Central investigating agencies do government’s bidding. If minimum government means government instead of discharging its responsibilities will concentrate on polluting the polity by polarising India, then Modi is succeeding.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath cares less about children dying in Gorakhpur and more about Ayodhya and love jihad. Modi spends more time criticising Congress than building India’s future. In the last 40 months Modi’s attempts at governance have paralysed India. He seeks to revive past RSS icons instead of creating an environment for our future icons.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Courtesy, This article is published in The Times Of India on 3rd November 2017.

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Lunar Eclipse: Chant these mantras for peace during Chandra Grahan

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Lunar eclipse

Lunar Eclipse 2020: The fourth and the last Upachaya Chandra Grahan (Penumbral Lunar Eclipse) of 2020 will take place today. Though Sutak is not applicable during Upachaya Chandra Grahan, the constant movements of the Grahas (planets) may cast an impact on zodiac signs. It may influence people’s natal charts. Hence, people must chant mantras to negate the negative effect of Grahan.

The Lunar Eclipse will have a duration of 4 hours and 18 minutes. It will begin on Monday at 1.04 pm and reach its peak at 3.13 pm. The Lunar Eclipse will end at 5.22 pm and will have a magnitude of 0.82.

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Uttar Pradesh law on love jihad seeks to divide communities, writes Kapil Sibal

The Ordinance also goes against the right to privacy. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing their partner’s religion

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Love Jihad

When laws are motivated by communally divisive agendas, they breed suspicion within communities, resulting in a sense of alienation. That in turn negatively impacts societal peace and harmony. Occasionally, it leads to sporadic violence. When such laws attempt to interfere with personal relationships or emotive issues of choice, which are at the heart of individual freedoms, the outcomes are even more disturbing. That explains why matters relating to marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance polarise dialogues and attitudes.

Such agendas germinate a majoritarian culture pitting “us” against “them” and give birth to electoral majorities. The road to power then becomes a relatively easy enterprise. The rise of right-wing assertions, a global phenomenon, is based on such engineered societal divides. The Uttar Pradesh government’s recent promulgation of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, relating to “Love Jihad” is yet another attempt, in a string of communally charged initiatives, aimed at reaping electoral dividends.

Love jihad is a concept the contours of which are blurred. However, in simple terms, all that it means is that if a Muslim boy, in love with a non-Muslim girl chooses to marry her and she embraces Islam, such a union will be looked upon with suspicion by the law and is liable to be declared void. This strikes at the root of individual liberty since such a union cannot be held to be legally suspect. It strikes at the core of the ‘right to privacy’, which is protected constitutionally.

The Ordinance also targets mass conversions, which have taken place in the past. These include conversions to Christianity in the 1930s, to Buddhism by Dalits in the 1950s and Mizo Christians to the Jewish faith in the 2000s. Those seeking to convert allure marginalised castes and tribes with hope, dignity and material enticement. Dr Ambedkar, disenchanted with the caste structure of Hinduism, converted to Buddhism.

The reasons for such mass conversions are complex and need to be addressed separately. Under the proposed law, those guilty of mass conversions are liable to face a jail term extending up to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. While it is justifiable to prevent conversion based on force, coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation and allurements, it is difficult to prove these elements if a Muslim boy and a non-Muslim girl or vice-versa exercise their free will to marry for reasons that are entirely personal. The reason why non-Muslims convert to Islam is because the children born in wedlock would otherwise be excluded from inheritance under Muslim law.

Absent this conversion, the union of a Muslim with a non-Muslim or vice-versa will be a difficult proposition. That is why the intent of the proposed law is suspect as it seeks to target conversion and not marriage. The Ordinance provides that in an interfaith marriage, if one of the partners wishes to embrace another religion, that person will have to inform the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate in writing at least two months in advance. A format of the application seeking permission for conversion will be provided by the government.

Under the proposed law, it would be the responsibility of the person embracing another religion to prove that such person was not converted forcibly or through fraudulent means. Those who abet, convince or conspire are also liable to be prosecuted. Any such violation of the law would entail a jail term of six months to three years and a minimum fine of Rs 10,000.

Marriage between two people is personal to them. It allows either of them to opt out of the marriage. In addition, the person victimised is free to allege use of force, coercion, fraud, undue influence or misrepresentation against the other. In the absence of any of these, it is unthinkable that the law mandates a person who voluntarily embraces another religion to seek permission to prove that the decision was not actuated by any of those elements. Reversal of the burden of proof in matters of personal choices of a life partner may be legally unsustainable.

The obligation to seek permission for conversion two months in advance is fundamentally arbitrary and a violation of the ‘right to privacy’. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing the religion of the partner. The state can certainly regulate acts of forced conversion but the starting point of such regulation has to be a complaint made by the individual who opts to convert. In most of these cases, it is the parents who complain that their daughter has been fraudulently enticed into a relationship and is a victim of forced conversion.

The Ordinance allows members of the family of those who convert or any relative to lodge an FIR. This makes the Ordinance an instrument of harassment in situations where interfaith marriages are voluntary.
We have seen this being played out in Hadiya’s case in Kerala. The couple went through trauma when Hadiya’s husband and some organisations were targeted for allegedly having induced her to convert to Islam. This was despite the fact that she constantly denied the allegations, asserting that she had embraced Islam voluntarily and much before she had met her husband.

The drama was then played out in court after the Kerala High Court held the marriage to be void on grounds that there was no reasonable explanation given by Hadiya for her marriage to a Muslim without the consent of her parents. Finally, while appearing personally in the Supreme Court, she unequivocally stated that she had married her husband of her own free will and converted to another religion much before her marriage. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was asked to investigate the circumstances in which Hadiya had married and converted.

The NIA decided to widen its investigations. From a list of 89 such marriages, it investigated 11 cases and in the absence of prosecutable evidence, all such matters resulted in closure. The bottom line is that the Ordinance serves a political purpose. It is yet another way to polarise our polity. The issue is emotive and seeks to divide communities. The constitutionality of such a legislation when challenged should be decided with utmost speed. The court, hopefully, will find such laws to be antithetical to the constitutional ethos and our civilisational values. Any attempt to delay adjudication would only be playing into the hands of those intending to divide and not unite India.

This article first appeared in the newindianexpress on Nov 30, 2020 under the title ‘The perils of an economic oligarchy’. The writer, a senior Congress leader, is a former Union minister.

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China to build dam on Brahmaputra river despite concerns raised by India, Bangladesh

China will implement the hydroelectric project downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra River) in 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), said Yan Zhiyong, chairman of Powerchina which is tasked to build it.

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xi jinping

Beijing: In yet provocation amid the ongoing India-China standoff, Beijing is moving ahead with plans to build a hydropower project on Brahmaputra river in Tibet likely to have an impact on lower riparian India and Bangladesh.

The proposal for the same has been made in the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan and is slated to be implemented from next year.

“China will implement the hydroelectric project downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo river in 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and its long-term goals through 2035 made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China,” said Yan Zhiyong, the chairman of Power Construction Corp of China (Powerchina), tasked with the construction of the project, according to government mouthpiece Global Times.

As expected, the Chinese leadership is viewing the project from a security lens as well.

“The project could serve to maintain water resources and domestic security,” added Yan while speaking about the project at a conference on Thursday.

“There is no parallel in history… it will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry,” Yan told the conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering.

The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 were adopted by Plenum – a key policy body of the Communist Party of China (CPC)- last month.

The details of the project will be released after the formal approval of the same by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in early 2021.

Implications for India, Bangladesh

The proposal for building a dam on the Brahmaputra river, which originates in China, has sparked concern in lower riparian states India and Bangladesh. Beijing has downplayed such fears.

As a lower riparian state, India has rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers under international law. The Indian government has earlier expressed its concerns to Beijing and urged it to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activity in upstream areas.
Yan added that the hydropower exploitation of the Yarlung Zangbo River downstream is more than a hydropower project. It is also meaningful for the environment, national security, living standards, energy and international cooperation.

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