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

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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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Arun Jaitley blames Auditors, Management for failing to detect PNB scam

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After five days,Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was quick to blame the PNB management and auditors for the Nirav Modi’s Rs. 11,300 crore fraud.It is pertinent to remind Jaitley that Dr Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister was charged for being responsible for the 1992 Harshad Mehta scam , therefore in the present context Finance Minister Jaitley cannot acquit himself of the eroding credibility of India’s banking system that has a direct cost on the country and the taxpayer and an indirect cost on borrowings and development as well.

Finance Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot absolve their constitutional and democratic responsibility for the enormous scale of the scam which has many dimensions including fake bank guarantees or letters of Understanding.

Firms associated with Nirav Modi got fake LoUs from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), which is distributed to other banks stationed overseas seeking credit.The fraudulent transactions worth Rs 11,400 crore by Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi has embarrassed the government that claims to provide scam-free governance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to campaign in 2018 and 2019 elections on giving corrupt free government as massive scams are coming to light and government is assisting capitalists to run away with taxpayers’ money.

PM Modi’s silence is amazingly stunning as he is not at all worried about India’s economy,one of the country’s biggest bank frauds, security and other problems of the common man but is rather living in his own false world and brags of giving good governance , acche din and Mann ki Baat where he continues on giving one sided communication.

Modi has fielded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Education Minister Prakash Javadekar  to defend the government and clean the blot that could not have taken place without “top leadership involvement”.

Modi should step down for the financial fraud as 293 letters of undertaking (LoU), many letters of credit (LC),
were issued during March, April and May 2017. Trying to hide failures of NDA government, the centre has sought the aid of seven agencies (Enforcement Directorate,Interpol,Central Bureau of Investigation,Income Tax department,
Central Vigilance Commission,Ministry of Corporate Affairs) both at home and abroad to investigate the entire scam
and investigators are conducting t searches at PNB branches and Nirav Modi’s properties.

Modi even claimed that his government had deregistered over 3 lakh dormant and shell companies listed with
the Registrar of Companies but How is it possible that the ministry of Corporate affairs failed to identify
the 200 shell companies of Nirav Modi and Choksi which the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement
Directorate found to have been used to invest the Rs 11,400 crore of fraudulently obtained money.

The Indian banking sector is already struggling under the weight of bad loansor the NPAs valued as high as $150bn.
and the government recently announced it would inject $32bn into the sector to help banks clean up their books,
but analysts have questioned whether the money is enough without reforming the banks themselves.The Bharatiya Janata Party is also diverting the attention by saying that the Nirav Modi scam occurred during UPA regime and trying to accuse the Opposition for their failure to detect scams.

 

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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India’s Sri Lanka challenge

From all accounts, India’s encirclement has begun with ruthless efficiency. Pakistan is gone. Maldives is about to fall. Nepal is almost there.

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70th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo

My wife and I recently visited Sri Lanka on a holiday with friends. For both of us, it was the first visit after almost 15 years. At that time, the idyllic island country was caught up in a deadly civil war that claimed countless lives and devastated the economy. When Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed power as the Sri Lankan President, he made the elimination of the Tamil Tigers his foremost objective. After 30 months of relentless assaults, the 26-year-old civil war finally ended in 2009, with the killing of Tamil Tigers (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and the ruthless decimation of his supporters.

It is argued that widespread human rights excesses occurred and that the Tamils were openly discriminated against. This is true. Yet, what is also true is that the island country finally saw peace for the very first time after decades of unrest, uncertainty and terrorism. The Sri Lanka we visited was in complete contrast with the one I had grown accustomed to, with gun-toting security personnel everywhere. Now there was a sense of calm. Even impatience, at being held back for so many years. It is as if it was time to claim the life that had been long denied.

For India, the end of the civil war and of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was good news. It had already declared the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, but domestic compulsions — with its allies in Tamil Nadu openly aligning with Prabhakaran — forced New Delhi to opt for covert support for the anti-LTTE military operations. Tragically, with the end of the civil war, history repeated itself and India, once again, lost its momentum. Today, we are on the brink of losing Sri Lanka to Beijing.

The Chinese presence in Sri Lanka is not covert. Far from it. You see them everywhere and the pace of the activity is hectic. Chinese dredging ships can be openly seen working at a furious pace. Work on the Hanbantota port has started. Chinese workers are everywhere, from shopping malls to pubs. Many are learning to speak Sinhalese. Hotels, roads and infrastructure, performing arts theatres, a swanky cricket stadium are not simply projects on the drawing board. People can see them. The importance of the visual should never be underestimated. And given the speed with which the Chinese execute projects, a real estate transformation is credibly under way.

Over a period of 12 years (2005–17), Beijing has poured in $15 billion into projects in Sri Lanka. The Chinese Ambassador conveyed an unambiguous message to India, which sees Chinese presence in Sri Lanka as an intrusion in its immediate sphere of influence, when he said, “No negative force can undermine the cooperation between Sri Lanka and China.”

For India, this is a disturbing development. Indian foreign policy has relied heavily on “time-tested civilisational links”. While this is undoubtedly appealing, there is an aspirational impatience among Sri Lankans that India failed to see and respond to with the scale, speed and imagination that only Beijing appears capable of.

It is common enough to hear Sri Lankans say how disgruntled and unhappy they are with the intrusive presence of the Chinese, who are loud and arrogant. It is like a deadly embrace but one that they find lucrative, if they wish to fast-track to a prosperous future. Artists impressions of future Colombo tell Sri Lankans that it will rival Singapore. It will bring in investments, tourism, employment and economic well-being. This can be seriously tempting.

From all accounts, India’s encirclement has begun with ruthless efficiency. Pakistan is gone. Maldives is about to fall. Nepal is almost there. And Sri Lanka is under an understandable hypnotic trance. India genuinely faces its most serious security challenge.

If India is to get its act together, it needs not only imagination but the speed and efficiency to deliver on its promises to offer Sri Lankans a future that the civil war denied them. For Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, India’s neighbourhood will be a disturbing challenge. The problem he would face is convincing the political, bureaucratic and corporate partners that India faces its greatest-ever security threat and one that we are on the brink of losing.

As the legendary chess player Bobby Fisher once remarked, “If you are playing the game, you play to win. But if you’ve lost the game, it’s because you took your eyes off the pieces and then, you deserve to lose.”

By : Amit Dasgupta

(Amit Dasgupta is a former Indian diplomat. The article is in special arrangement with www.southasiamonitor.org)

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Netanyahu threatens ‘to act’ against Iran

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Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has warned  Iran saying he was ready to go to war if Tehran continued to entrench itself in Syria. Netanyahu addressed the Munich Security Conference which was attended by International leaders.

Directly addressing Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and holding a piece of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel last week after it infiltrated its territory, Netanyahu during his speech said: “Do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed Israeli premier’s remarks and called them ‘a cartoonish circus.’

Equating Iran with Nazi Germany, Israeli PM drew many comparisons. “Let me be clear, Iran is not Nazi Germany,” he said. “There are many differences between the two,” he said, but, he noted, “there are also some striking similarities.”

He drew a parallel between the 1938 Munich Agreement, seen as a failed attempt to appease Nazi Germany, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has “unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger in our region and beyond.”

The tensions between Israel and Syria escalated after an Iranian drone that crossed into Israeli airspace was shot down by the Israel Air Force on February 10.

Bolstered by the support US President Donald Trump, the prime minister reiterated he does not support a full Palestinian state, but a “state minus.” Netanyahu said the Palestinians should have self-rule, but not the “freedom to threaten our security.” Netanyahu indicated that he has been discussing legislation with the United States that would effectively annex settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Condemning the remarks, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation termed it as “land theft” with US complicity.While Israeli police recommended the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Accusing Tehran of seeking a permanent military foothold in Syria by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in civil war entering its eighth year, Netanyahu said Israel could act against Iran itself — not just its allies — after border incidents in Syria brought the Middle East foes closer to direct confrontation.

Worried over the increase of Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Netanyahu stated that Israel would not allow Iran to establish military bases in Syria.

At a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of a major security conference in Munich, Netanyahu declared that the Golan Heights would “remain in Israel’s hands forever.”

The Syrian Golan Heights has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

 

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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