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New law on quotas: Is the BJP bidding goodbye to economic reforms?

It was the perceived discontent over the absence of employment opportunities which made the government identify an additional 10 per cent of the population for affirmative action.

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Narendra Modi

Just as Narendra Modi mocked the Congress on the rural employment scheme by saying that it was a living example — “jeeta jagta smarak” — of the party’s failures, the parliamentary approval of a 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections under the government’s aegis underlined its inadequacies on the economic front.

Had the economy been booming and there were jobs aplenty, there would have been no need for providing the crutches of reservations for another group in addition to the existing provisions for the scheduled castes (Dalits), scheduled tribes (Adivasis) and the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

It was the perceived discontent over the absence of employment opportunities which made the government identify an additional 10 per cent of the population for affirmative action.

It may have felt that the initiative was all the more necessary because the popular angst over a moribund economy had found expression in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recent electoral defeats in as many as five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram.

The BJP’s earlier failure to cross the halfway mark in Karnataka must have also been seen by the party along with the latest setbacks as a warning sign in the months before the next general election.

Moreover, the defeats in the heartland states were attributed to the disquiet among the middle and upper classes over not only the BJP’s economic policies, but its social stance as well in the context of its hesitancy to effectively counter the judicial relook at the law on atrocities affecting the Dalits and Adivasis, which annoyed the middle and upper classes/castes.

The latest set of quotas, therefore, are aimed both to assure the new beneficiaries about jobs and education and to reaffirm the party’s long-established brahmin-bania bias.

The twin objectives are unlikely to have an easy run. For one, by exceeding the judicial stipulation about a 50 per cent limit on reservations by introducing the new quotas, the government courts the risk of running into legal difficulties.

For another, in its attempt to woo the middle and upper castes, the BJP may open the gates for the quota warriors to create mayhem with various demands. Already, an OBC leader has called for doubling the quota for his community from 27 per cent to 54 to bring it closer to his estimate of the actual number of OBCs in the country.

For a third, the BJP’s pro-upper caste tilt can alienate the Dalits, Adivasis and the OBCs to the electoral advantage of the party’s opponents, especially in the Hindi heartland.

At the same time, the few “forwards” in these parties of the backward castes can move towards the BJP, compounding the confusion created by the reappearance of the caste-based “Mandal politics” of the 1990s.

But how will this divisive brand of caste mobilisation play out in the new era of economic aspirations? In the 1990s, the promise of assured jobs was deemed enough for the caste-based outfits to reap electoral benefits, sidelining the Congress and compelling the BJP to turn to the temple issue to keep its Hindu flock together.

But, now, the provision of quotas will mean little in the absence of jobs, as Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari recently told the Marathis demanding reservations.

The BJP will have to contend, therefore, not only with the legal hurdle relating to the quantum of quotas, but also the charge of making promises in a vacuum, as it were, since the expectations of the unemployed are unlikely to be fulfilled.

But these are not the only criticisms which it will face. No less strident, especially among the middle and upper classes, will be the charge that the BJP is turning its back on the economic reforms unlike the period immediately before the last general election and for a few years afterwards when it was seen to be in the forefront of the private sector-led rejuvenation of the economy.

Now that Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan has called for bringing the private sector within the ambit of the quota system, the feeling may grow that the BJP will have no option but to follow this regressive advice since the government and the public sector will not be able to provide enough jobs for the needy.

Since the Congress, too, had called for reservations in the private sector in 2003 and has not formally dissociated itself from the party’s 1955 pledge to usher in a “socialistic pattern of society”, it can be assumed that the Indian political class will not hesitate to move backwards towards a licence-permit-control raj.

The fact that the new law on quotas was passed almost unanimously in the two House of Parliament with only a few courageous MPs showing that they still live in the 21st century is evidence that the political class across the spectrum not only believes in a controlled economy, but also has no time for meritocracy.

To them, all that matters is cynically favouring their respective caste- and community-based vote banks through quotas and the strangulation of a free market since investments will dry up in such a society.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off

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Earth Climate

Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

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Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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BenQ launches 4K home cinema projectors in India

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w2700 cinematic color with true 4k kv

New Delhi, Jan 22 : Taiwanese electronics company BenQ on Tuesday launched two new 4K home cinema projectors — “W2700” and “W5700” — with CinematicColor technology, projector-optimised HDR-PRO support and individual factory colour calibration in India.

The new projectors, “W2700” and “W5700”, priced at Rs 2.49 lakh and Rs 2.99 lakh respectively, are the world’s first 4K home cinema projectors, the company said.

“With this new range of 4K projectors, we are extremely optimistic that these will turn any room into a world-class home theatre with video enhancing technologies,” said Rajeev Singh, Managing Director, BenQ India.

Fuelled by DCI-P3 colour space, “W2700” delivers the highest level of image accuracy while the “W5700” projector provides a 1.6X big zoom along with 2D H/V lens shift that is ideal for audio visual (AV) rooms.

The HDR-PRO supported projectors also incorporate auto colour and tone mapping techniques to offer improved brightness and contrast range along with ideal image optimization for vivid video quality.

Designed with a compact profile, the light weight projectors facilitate tailored AV personalization with versatile short throw, big zoom and lens shift for a wide range of home cinema possibilities, the company said.

The projectors would begin shipping in the first quarter of 2019.

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