Manohar Parrikar: The Chief Minister next door-Nitin Gadkari

Manohar Parrikar: The Chief Minister next door

‘Manohar believed in pro-active but clean politics. He was among the most selfless politicians I have known, always ready to do what the party asked him. He truly epitomised our party’s spirit of Nation First, Party Second, Self last.’

My last meeting with my friend Manohar Parrikar was on January 27. He stunned everyone when he travelled from the makeshift medical facility at his residence to join me for the inauguration of the third bridge on the Mandovi river in Goa. Manohar Parrikar told me that he could not miss the historic event, and thanked me for helping Goa achieve speedy and all-round development.

Manohar Parrikar Goa CM

As I sat next to him, I couldn’t but feel emotionally choked. His voice was extremely feeble and he had a feeder tube inserted in one of his nostrils. Yet, his discomfort was not visible. What was visible was the indomitable “josh” to serve the people of Goa till his last breath, as he put it. Three days later, on January 30, Manohar presented the budget in the Goa Assembly in the same condition, addressing the House for nearly two hours. On February 4, he tweeted a brave message to the world: “Human mind can overcome any disease.”  

As I think of all the moments I have spent with Manohar Parrikar, I can only say that apart from his impeccable integrity, dedication and hard work, he has also emerged as an iconic inspiration for cancer patients. He has shown the world that a terminal illness cannot drain your commitment to the country.    

Manohar was my contemporary in public life. My association with him dates back to about 35 years ago. Both of us were inspired by the ideology of the RSS, its discipline and the sense of commitment it invoked in us towards nation-building.  

A brilliant student who did BTech from IIT Bombay, he entered Goan politics at the instance of the RSS to stall the growing influence of the regional parties in the state. He made his debut in the state assembly in 1994 from the Panaji constituency on the BJP ticket and went on to leave an indelible mark, not only on state politics but also at the Centre as the country’s defence minister.  

Parrikar’s tenure as defence minister was historic in many ways. The One Rank One Pension scheme was implemented, the Rafale deal was finalised and India carried out successful surgical strikes in PoK in response to the Uri attack. However, in his personal life, Manohar remained an epitome of simplicity and frugal living. Till a few years ago, he would sometimes drive a scooter to office even after becoming CM. As the defence minister, he often travelled in the economy class of low cost airlines. His needs were minimal. His focus was always on the larger picture. 

Manohar believed in pro-active but clean politics. He was among the most selfless politicians I have known, always ready to do what the party asked him. He truly epitomised our party’s spirit of Nation First, Party Second, Self last. In October 2000, Manohar staged an internal coup against a coalition government led by the Congress in Goa without indulging in any kind of horse trading. 

 Having been the CM of Goa four times, Parrikar has made a pivotal contribution in expediting infrastructure projects and minimising corruption. When I was the BJP president, I would constantly look up to him for new ideas and initiatives to spruce up our good governance agenda. 

Manohar quit as defence minister and returned to Goa as CM in March 2017, when we managed to woo parties such as the Goa Forward Party and MGP to support him to form the government. Since I was the overseeing the elections for my party, I have interesting memories of our working together to outsmart the Congress.  

However, since February 2018, Manohar had been fighting an arduous battle with cancer. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate but looking at Manohar’s zest and energy through this battle, we were hopeful that he will pull off the biggest coup of his life.  

But God had other plans. As I recall my association with Manohar, let me make another important point — in my knowledge never before has a leader from a state as small as Goa enjoyed a pan India acceptance and popularity. The reason is simple: Manohar was your next door CM, the kind of relative or uncle you could identify with or relate to, whether you met him at a government office or the vegetable market.     

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has aptly described Manohar as the builder of modern Goa. Manohar’s death is a loss for every Goan and every Indian. For me, the loss is deeply personal.  

(The writer is the Union minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, GoI)

Politics in Goa revolved around Manohar Parrikar-Ram Madhav

Politics in Goa revolved around Manohar Parrikar, irrespective of whether he held office or not

By – Ram Madhav

Manohar Parrikar’s greatest strength lay in his simplicity and transparency, and his reticent nature — not the positions he occupied or the policies he framed.

Sometime in the early 2000s, I visited Goa in connection with some RSS work. A meeting with the state’s chief minister was arranged at his residence in the morning before he began his official work. I was at the CM’s residence by about 8.30 am. After a few minutes, I found Parrikar, the then CM of Goa, driving in in his personal car, a Maruti Zen, if I remember correctly. A bit surprised, I asked him if there was no driver available that morning. The CM replied in a very matter-of-fact way that he uses his personal car every morning to drop his children to school. He used the services of the government driver only for going to the Secretariat later in the morning.

What is integrity after all? It is about “choosing courage of conviction over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy and, most importantly, choosing to practise values rather than simply professing them”. Parrikar lived a life of integrity. He never spoke about it or showed off.

manohar-parrikar-dies, Politics in Goa

He was not a great communicator. The longest speeches he delivered would have been about 20-30 minutes long. But his popularity had no limits. He was the glue that kept the BJP and the government in Goa going. Everyone surrendered before his exemplary personality.

A swayamsevak of the RSS since childhood, Parrikar personified quintessential RSS-ness: He was disciplined, unassuming, transparent and courageous. Those who have seen him from the days when he was the sanghachalak, local head of the Goa RSS, vouch for the fact that he remained unchanged through his political journey. Power and position didn’t change him. He was dedicated to his job, but detached from its aura.

Parrikar, who graduated from IIT Bombay in 1978, could have opted for a well-paying career abroad. Instead, he returned to his native town of Mapusa in Goa and got into a small manufacturing business. He became the sanghachalak of the Goa unit of the RSS at the relatively young age of 26. It was during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that I had first heard of this well-educated young leader of the RSS.

When the BJP decided to expand its influence in the erstwhile Portuguese colony, in whose struggle for liberation many RSS volunteers had actively participated in, the party commissioned several functionaries of the RSS, including Parrikar, to work for it. Thus started Parrikar’s political innings.

In his political career of 25 years, Parrikar held several important and prestigious posts. He became the chief minister of the state three times — first in year 2000, then in 2012 and finally in 2017. He had made a special place for himself in Goa politics, which had seen many ups and downs since the BJP started challenging the hegemony of the Congress. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in the last two decades, politics in Goa revolved round Parrikar. Whether in power or out of it, whether he was in Goa or in Delhi, Parrikar would control the state’s politics. “You may take me out of Goa but you cannot take Goa out of me,” he used to say.

After the BJP’s victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections, some of us who had known Parrikar well felt he should now move to Delhi and play a bigger role at the Centre. Incidentally, the BJP had announced the candidature of Narendra Modi for prime ministership at its conclave in Goa in 2013 and Parrikar, who was the state’s chief minister at that time, played an important role in the making of that decision. Naturally, Prime Minister Modi liked our idea and sent word to Parrikar in November 2014 to join his cabinet.

Parrikar held the defence minister’s portfolio in Modi’s government for almost two-and-a- half years. One challenge that he tackled deftly was the One Rank One Pension (OROP) issue. As defence minister, he allowed direct access to the chiefs of the armed forces to his office and ran the ministry hands on.

Parrikar’s forthrightness dragged him into controversies occasionally. His views on Pakistan and his opinion on the no-first-use nuclear doctrine became debating issues in TV studios. But nobody ever disrespected or derided him. Everyone knew that his opinions were borne out of genuine beliefs.

His greatest strength lay in his simplicity and transparency, and his reticent nature — not the positions he occupied or the policies he framed. He would always be seen in his sandals and half-sleeved shirt, even at official events. People remember that he walked alone to the hotel after the BJP’s victory in the Goa assembly elections in 2012, only to be anointed as the state’s chief minister a few minutes later. Many will remember Parrikar sitting next to them in the economy class of flights. People also can’t forget images of him delivering the budget speech a couple of months ago, with an oxygen tube attached to his nose. Such was his dedication to the people of Goa.

Goa occupied the central space in his thinking and action at all times. He wanted the small state to not just remain a pleasure destination or a hub of film festivals. He suggested that the state be a destination for intellectual activity as well. He encouraged us to hold the annual Ideas Conclave of the India Foundation at Goa. He was keen that Goa should enter into a sister-state agreement with Hawaii in the US and develop maritime institutions in collaboration with the ones in Hawaii. In fact, everything had been worked out and the signing of the agreement awaited his travel to Honolulu.

He did travel to the US in February, only to bring us the bad news of advanced cancer. Parrikar did his best for Goa and the country. The only thing he probably missed was the desire to be an ordinary citizen again, in the last 10 years of his life. Providence wanted him to go as a working, not retired, man.

-(The writer is BJP National General Secretary and director, India Foundation)

Source-indianexpress.com

PM Modi influenced me to join BJP: Dr.FM Naik

PM Modi influenced me to join BJP to carryout  development work for Keonjhar: Dr.FM Naik 

Image result for Dr.FM NaikDr. Fakir Mohan Naik a medical officer by profession, an active social servant and a fearless young leader of a minerally rich but tribal dominated and backward district of Keonjhar in the state of Odisha always stand for the development of the district and development of the backward tribal population. In an interview to the Microstat in New Delhi Dr. Naik unveiledwhy he has left the government job of a medical officer? And why he opted the path of politics for the development of his people and the district? He also explained how he was inspired by PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji to join in BJP to carryout social service further for the people, which is his long cherished dream.  Excerpts;

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Q. Why you left your job as a doctor?

I left my job because Keonjhar is a tribal dominated district of Odisha. Though Keonjhar is minerally rich district and government generates a huge income out of that, but here the people are deprived of the basic necessities of life. In my last job as a doctor I could only focus on the healthcare sector that too in my area therefore my area of operation would be limited. So I left my job for a bigger cause and for the interest of my entire district, where I can dedicate myself for the overall development of my District.
Secondly, under PM Shri Narendra Modiji India is establishing new records and breaking old records and this is a golden period on the history of the country. Under his strong leadership the country is moving ahead with utmost speed and in every sector it will create milestones. The PM Modi’s dedication and commitment influenced me a lot and forced me to take a decision to join BJP to carryout my social service further by quitting my job. I know even under his leadership I can fulfill my dream of the development of my backward district Keonjhar.

Q. What are the social activities undertaken earlier?

Being in government job whatever little could be done towards the development of the district I have undertaken that. Since I am doctor I preferred to work on my strong area of providing better healthcare. We have undertaken:

  1. Health camps and awareness programs among the people regarding few dreaded diseases like, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Cirrohosis, jaundice and also towards reduction of Infant mortality and maternal mortality.
  2. Blood donation camps.
  3. Plantation for curbing pollution and creating awareness regarding pollution control since Barbil and Joda area are mostly affected by pollution because of the mining activities.
  4. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and drug eradication.

Q. Why you choose politics over social service?

Keonjhar is a neglected district in areas of providing basic necessities for the people like Healthcare, Education, Agriculture, drinking water, public transport and unemployment. I feel in recent past all the people’s representatives of Keonjhar have failed to address the issues or failed to influence the decision makers either at the state or the centre. So I felt I can raise the issues of Keonjhar at the appropriate forums where the basic necessities of the people of Keonjhar are addressed. And I feel politics is the best platform to fight for the cause of people of Keonjhar.

Q. What are your plans regarding the development of Keonjhar?

My plans regarding Improvement in Keonjhar district will be basically to cater to the weaker section of the society and also take care of the overall facility development in the district of Keonjhar.

  • For farmers the development of regulated markets so they get the best price of their produced agricultural products also setting up of Cold storage facility in Keonjhar district.
  • Special projects to be taken up towards the mining laborers and their children and establishment o f crèches for their children.
  • Utilization of District Mineral Fund towards the development of the district. In a report published in Indian Express the state govt has allocated 6438 cr towards 11434 different project in 8 districts where mines are in dominance. Out of the total fund allocated only 1100 hundred crores were utilized. To add to the misery out of 11434 projects only 771 projects were taken up in Keonjhar district with 90% focus towards high priority areas. But it’s unfortunate that the district administration has not able to submit the project reports and none of the high priority projects like drinking water, sanitation, pollution control have majorly taken up. To add to the misery the district collector has taken up project to construct 300 crèches in the entire district to cater to the children of the mining laborers in collaboration with a NGO from Jharkhand “EKJUT”. But nothing seems to have taken up. We Keonjhar people are not aware, why there is no progress in this and whose interest was intervened for which the project dint take up.
  • Would also priorities the Health sector in terms of Infrastructure development and staff availability to cater to the people of Keonjhar.

Q.What will be your focus areas in the development of Keonjhar?

Since Keonjhar is a Tribal dominated district and ay behind in development compared to the other district of our state.

My focus areas will be providing the basic amenities to the people of Keonjhar like Education: Education to all, crèches for the mining workers children Health care: Establishment of medical college which is pending since long where as the adjoining districts the colleges have already started, proving proper facility like staff quarters and other facilities which will motivate the medical and paramedical staff to join even in the remote areas.

Also work toward the life threatening disease like malaria, TB and also curb child and maternal mortality. Facility management for the mining workers like providing them concrete houses, proper  drinking water and sanitation facilities, because they are still staying under inhuman conditions  leading to illness and early deaths.


Gopalpur-On-Sea Odisha’s Hidden Time Capsule- Anil Dhir

Gopalpur-On-Sea Odisha’s Hidden Time Capsule

By- Anil Dhir

Related image

Gopalpur-On-Sea was originally a small fishing hamlet on the southern coast of Odisha. Named after the ‘Krishna Gopal’ temple built in the 18th Century, the village’s antiquity stretches back to a much earlier age when Odisha had a rich maritime tradition. The early Kalingans had sailed to Java, Bali and Sumatra carrying the seeds of Indian civilization with them. It was a flourishing port on the eastern coast for years. The East India Company had built huge warehouses and godowns for trade with Burma. Even passenger ships sailed from the place, taking indentured labourers for the rubber plantations and railways in Burma and South East Asia.

Ultimate beauty of Gopalpur-On-Sea (Brahmapur)
Ultimate beauty of Gopalpur-On-Sea (Brahmapur)

In 1911, when the British shifted their capital to New Delhi, Kolkata developed a number of satellite getaway resorts like Kurseong, Kalimpong and Diamond Harbor. Gopalpur was known for its magnificent beach and was discovered as a perfect winter resort. Many Bristishers, Armenians and a few wealthy Bengalis made it their holiday home. Many Christian missions set up training schools and seminaries, a few of which still exist. Soon hotels and guesthouses lined the seafront. There were gas lights, wooden dance floors, and dancing and parties that continued till the early hours.

Gopalpur-On-Sea Odisha’s Hidden Time Capsule

The road rounds a curve and stretching infinitely are the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal. The British put the suffix ‘on sea’, similar to the names of little English fishing villages like Middleton-on-sea, Frankton-on-sea and so many others

The road to Gopalpur from the railhead at Berhampur meanders through coconut plantations and casuarina groves, before sharply dipping downwards through the narrow marketplace. The road rounds a curve and stretching infinitely are the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal. The British put the suffix ‘on sea’, similar to the names of little English fishing villages like Middleton-on-sea, Frankton-on-sea and so many others. The pristine beach, the picturesque fisher folk, swaying palms and the salubrious climate made it the favourite rest and recreation place for those who could afford it.

In 1914, Signor Maglioni, an Italian businessman was charmed by the palm fringed beach of the languorous place, where the silence was broken only by the breakers and the occasional coconut thudding on the ground. He established the ‘Palm Beach Hotel’ in 1914, building it in the Mediterranean architectural style. It was the first hotel of the State and probably the first beach resort of the country.

22-08-2015

Between the two World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) Gopalpur was overrun by the men in Khakis and became the eastern sectors base for ferrying out troops and supplies to Rangoon. In 1945, after the end of the World War II, India inched towards being an independent nation. By the 1947, most of the British had left Indian shores and the commercial activity of Gopalpur had dwindled to a trickle. The once vibrant emblazoned ball rooms gaped at open skies. The busy wharfs crashed down and the warehouses became seedy gateways for derelicts. After the British left India, even the rich Bengalis preferred to holiday in other places and Gopalpur began to revert to what it originally was – a small fishing village.

Many of the smaller bungalows along the seafront were taken over and developed by retired Anglo-Indians froGopalpur-On-Sea (Brahmapur)

m Kolkata. These guest houses had names like White Hart, Smith’s Place, Homestead, Ocean View, Christopher Lodge, Colbon House and Sea View, The Anchorage and Wroxham House and Blue Haven. They were run on the lines of British Bed and Breakfast cottages. Their location was fantastic, overlooking the blue Bay. Beautifully maintained, they were a stark contrast to the crumbling ruins that lay alongside.

Rai Bahadur M.S Oberoi took over the Palm Beach Hotel in 1946. On a chance visit to Gopalpur, his keen eyes did not miss the state of disrepair that the hotel had fallen to. His instinct smelled a bargain and Maglioni was only too happy to sell it for a paltry three lac rupees, thereby enabling the Oberoi legend to root itself as the ‘Oberoi Palm Beach’. After its door opened, the who’s who of the country, from Prime Ministers, to celebrities and royalty left their impressions behind along with their footprints on the sands of time.

On a recent trip to the place, I once again went and met Mrs. Rosalind Dutt, the innkeeper of the Mermaid Motel. I had stayed at the place years ago, and remembered how she made me walk her dogs in return for a free meal. She is the last of the old lot who has stuck to the place. Mrs. Dutt is of Armenian ascent, she had moved to Gopalpur in 1983, after taking over the old property of the Brahma Kumari’s on the seafront. She renovated the core structure from scratch, lovingly touching up the details, reinventing the old magic, preserving the memories. After the death of her husband, she ran the place for years. Her ill health forced her to convert into a girl’s hostel for a couple of years. She had a bypass surgery after which she came back and restarted the inn. She stays in a quaint cottage aptly named Dutt Cottage adjoining the Motel. The place is kept spic and span by her staff comprising of locals. They serve traditionally cooked food from the kitchen.

For me it was a trip down memory lane. I had spent a week at Gopalpur in 1985 and stayed at the place. We comprised of a group of ghost hunters and spent many nights in the ruined buildings which were believed to be haunted. After a week of ghost busting, we gave up and had returned disappointed. Mrs. Dutt had sternly warned against disturbing the ghosts and threatened to throw us out of her place.

22-08-2015

I met the sweet old lady and spent a couple of hours with her. I borrowed a bike and went around the small place, visiting the dilapidated old buildings. I visited two dozen of these old bungalows; all of them were in a state of near collapse. With plaster peeling off and tiles missing from the roofs, thick vegetation growing from the walls and roofs, they wore a forlorn air of neglect. Carved doors and windows hung loosely from their hinges. Some of the old grandeur was still evident, the roof beams and carven pillars had survived the years. Some of them still had the floor tiles in place.

Ocean View, the red bungalow that Geoffrey Moorehouse had written about in his book “Calcutta” is in a slightly better state, but abandoned. The road outside Mrs. Dutt cottage, like all the streets in Gopalpur-on-Sea, is adrift with sand which has blown up from the beach fifty yards away, leaving only a small channel of cracked tarmacadam for pedestrians in between its shallow banks.

There is certainly something else in the place. The easy familiarity, the otherworldly nature of a land that has escaped the world as it changes around it and the simple lives of the local fishing community is charming. Today, this small fishing village is again attracting attention and trying to become a popular holiday resort.

Courtesy -udayindia.in/August 14, 2015

Political stability, Decisive Leadership and a Clear Mandate – Their Relationship with Growth – ArunJaitley

Political stability, Decisive Leadership and a Clear Mandate – Their Relationship with Growth

 By- Arun Jaitley

Image result for arun jaitleyIndia’s post-Independence economic study can be divided into two parts with 1991 as a cut-off line. The regulated economy restricted India’s potential for forty years. From 1951-52 till 1990-91, India’s GDP grew by 4.2% per annum. The percapita income grew by 2% each year. The Consumer Price Index for almost a two-decade period from 1969-70 till 1990-91 rose by 8.2%. The fiscal deficit of the Central Government from 1980-81 till 1990-91 for a ten-year period was an average of 6.5%. Our external debt was 28.7% of the GDP at the end of the pre-liberalisation period.

The liberalisation of the economy not only improved the GDP growth rates but also brought millions of people out of poverty and improved the quality of life of a large number of Indians.

Post-liberalisation, it is important to analyse the GDP growth and the inflation data relatable to various governments under various Prime Ministers. The data reads as under:

Period

GDP Growth

Inflation

Prime Minister

1991-92 to 1995-96

5.1

10.2

P. V. Narasimha Rao
1996-97 to 1997-98

5.8

8.1

H. D. Deve Gowda / I. K. Gujral
1998-99 to 2003-04

5.9

5.4

Atal Bihari Vajpayee
2004-05 to 2008-09

6.9

5.7

Manmohan Singh
2009-10 to 2013-14

6.7

10.1

Manmohan Singh
2014-15 to 2018-19

7.3

4.6

Narendra Modi

While analyzing the above chart, two important facts have to be kept in mind. Firstly, that the average GDP growth of 7.3% during the five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a much larger base than that of his predecessors. The growth rates are higher. A higher growth rate on a larger base has a multiplier effect. Secondly, during the five years of UPA-2, inflation varied between 12.2% and 8.4%. In 2013-14, the UPA Government left behind an annual inflation figure of 9.4%. It took time for this figure to be moderated. In the five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the inflation figure has been 5.9%, 4.9%, 4.5%, 3.6% and 3.9%. Once it moderated in the first year of the present NDA Government, it has consistently been kept in check. The Modi Government fixed a Statutory Inflation Target of 4% +/- 2% as range of inflation.

When Prime Minister Modi came to power, India was the tenth largest economy in GDP terms in the world. Presently, the fifth, sixth and seventh economies namely United Kingdom, France and India are within a very narrow range. A marginal fluctuation of currency values alters the size of the economies. India, of course, is projected to grow next year at 7.5%. This will conclusively ensure that India, at the end of the next Financial Year, could possibly be the fifth largest economy in the world.

Needless to say, India’s fiscal discipline during the past five years has been amongst the best as compared to any preceding period. The McKinsey Institute reports that the size of India’s middle-class is growing very fast from 14% in 2005 to 29% in 2015. It is estimated to go all the way to 44% in 2025.

With the kind of transfer of resources to rural India which have been made in the past five years, a huge aspirational class is emerging even in the rural areas.

This is an indication of what the social profile, purchasing power and the quality of life of Indians are going to have, in the decades to come. To ensure that this happens as projected, it is a pre-requisite that India needs a decisive leadership, consistency in policy direction and a strong and stable government. An unworkable alliance with maverick leadership whose longevity is a suspect can never achieve this.

India today is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. Still we are not satisfied with a 7 to 7.5% growth rate. We are increasingly becoming impatient and want to break the 8% barrier. Ease of Doing Business Rankings for 5 years have improved from 142nd position to 77th position. We have now to get into the first 50, if not still lower.

Who should be India’s Prime Minister, if India were to achieve this? Should he/she be constrained by his/her rival aspirants who have reluctantly supported him/her out of mere dislike for a common opponent or does India need a Prime Minister with a clear mandate as in 2014. Only such a Prime Minister can deliver growth and satisfy the Nation’s aspirations.

:- The Writer is the Union Finance Minister GoI 

Yogi’s government: Need for course correction-Biswajeet Banerjee

Yogi’s government: Need for course correction-Biswajeet Banerjee

By-Biswajeet Banerjee

The employees were at leisure in Jawahar Bhawan, the building in Lucknow housing over a dozen Government departments, when the other day discussions veered to the Congress’ performance in three States where Assembly election results were announced recently. They were seen animatedly analysing the figures of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the Congress wrested power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the  broader implications for the parliamentary election which is around the corner. Expectedly, the discussion soon shifted to the Yogi’s Government’s performance in Uttar Pradesh and the possible scenarios in the 2019 general election. Surprisingly, all of them unanimously felt that the Yogi Adityanath Government’s performance in the State was dismal. They were of the view that the Uttar Pradesh Government had inflicted more harm to the Government employees than doing any good. Some even believed that the Yogi Adityanath Government was more concerned about lord Ram, Ayodhya and the safety of the cow than party workers or the aam aadmi.

Related imageIt was an amazing sight as none can even think of Government employees bashing the ruling party, that too during duty hours. Generally, State employees avoid discussing the functioning of the Government out of fear that someone might report them to their seniors or that they might earn the wrath of the establishment and its supporters. But the way these staffers continued with discussions reflected brewing resentment against the Government.

Is this rising discontent limited to Government employees? The answer is no. Even traders are angry because of the impractical way the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST). There is even talk of people losing jobs due to demonetisation, during which 86 per cent of the Indian currency was culled in one go. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in its recent report claimed that 3.5 million people lost jobs because of demonetisation. Not to mention the small traders who had to shut shop.

It would be wrong to say that the Government has not done anything for the people and the farmers. But the impact has clearly been diluted by pressing economic concerns.   The government has launched many people-welfare schemes as well as a minimum support price (MSP) to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices. Wheat and paddy purchase centres have been opened all across the State and a record purchase of food grains has been reported. This is the first time in the last 10 years that Uttar Pradesh has purchased over 45 lakh metric tonnes of wheat whereas the previous Government used to purchase only seven to eight lakh metric tonnes of wheat.

Nakal-viheen pariksha (cheating-free examination) conducted at basic, secondary and State university levels is another feather in the cap of the Yogi Government. Not just that, in a bid to establish a model for quality education, it also worked towards the introduction of NCERT courses at the secondary level. All of these could prove to be a defining moment for the education system in the State. One must also acknowledge the sincere efforts made by the Government to ensure doorstep health services. It launched a massive immunisation campaign to vaccinate over 86 lakh children up to 15 years  against encephalitis. The result is for everyone to see.  The number of encephalitis deaths has dropped dramatically. To cap it all, prices of essential commodities like pulses, rice and sugar, too, are under control.

Despite so many positives, why is it that the Yogi Government is facing flak? Is it because the ruling BJP, and the State Government in particular, has harped more on Hindutva? Has this been done on purpose because the BJP wants to capitalise on the support of the majority community as there is a thinking in the party that Muslims never vote for it, hence it is better to consolidate core votes than trying to affect an image change? Probably this is why Yogi Adityanath, who is the mahant of the prestigious Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, was appointed as the Chief Minister of the state.  Yogi is also a star campaigner of the ruling party and was given prominence after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. He campaigned aggressively in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. People close to him claim that he had a good strike rate in the election campaign. He addressed 74 election meetings in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the party won 49 seats. Some say his ‘strike rate’ was better than Prime Minister Narendra  Modi but nobody is ready to officially accept this.

The bigger question is, if Yogi Adityanath indeed has such a charisma, why is he failing to deliver? Why is he losing his grip over the State bureaucracy which is time and again failing to deliver? It goes without saying that Uttar Pradesh has never had such a hard-working Chief Minister, who has been on his toes all the time. He keeps reviewing projects from time-to-time and does not hesitate to reach ground zero, as and when required. He is the first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to visit all 75 districts in the 16 months of his tenure.

The only plausible reason could be that the Chief Minister is looking at development through the prism of religion. He has been a mahant for the past 30-odd years, so his thinking revolves around religion and Hindutva. He believes that entrenching Hindutva deep in the minds of the majority community would have a cascading effect and strengthen social votebases.  So, Ayodhya has taken a centrestage ever since Yogiji  came to power while the cow has become a political motif.

This thinking, however, has proved to be an albatross around the neck of Yogi Adityanath and his Government. In the name of cow protection, self-promoted cow vigilante groups have started harassing people on the slightest pretext of abusing the animal and creating their own sense of relevance. This has further alienated religious minorities and made them more vulnerable to Hindu nationalist groups. As a result the traditional cow melas, where cattle was traded for agricultural purposes, have vanished suddenly. Farmers, too, are facing stray cattle, which no longer milch, but are devouring the ready crop, giving a body blow to the farm economy. In western Uttar Pradesh, farmers have started locking stray cattle inside schools, PHC compounds or in any Government building to protect their crop.

In this scenario, the work for the Yogi Government as well as the BJP leadership has been cut out. Both need to not just deliver but win back the confidence of the people. With the BJP and its Government raising the aspirations of the people by several notches, through slogans like achche din, the masses clearly do not see any improvement in the promised quality of life, particularly in cities. The need of the hour is for the BJP Government in Uttar Pradesh to look beyond Ram temple, Ayodhya and the cow.

(The writer is Executive Director, News, The Pioneer, Lucknow)

Courtesy: The Pioneer 

Much ado about a mosque – Prafull Goradia

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Similarly, it is difficult to think of a masjid without a minaret or several of them. As it is well-known, the function of a minaret is to enable a muezzin to stand as high as possible before he issues the azaan or the call for worship. The higher he can stand, the greater the distance his voice or baang would carry and more would be the worshippers, who would attend the prayer. In the days where there were no loudspeakers, the height of the minaret was most crucial. An outstanding example of height is the masjid built by Aurangzeb on the banks of Ganga at Varanasi, which has two extremely tall minarets.

Taking a foreign example, the big mosque at Istanbul was earlier a church of Hagia Sophia. There, the church was converted into a masjid by raising four minarets as tall as the pinnacle of the dome. In rural Anatolia and its wheat lands, most masjids have a single minaret. But a minaret was there nevertheless. Or else, the baang would not carry.

Was the edifice Babri maqbara rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much hue and cry about the structure and the land on which it stood?

When this writer visited Ayodhya, he had heard a great deal about the Babri Masjid, as if it was some historic piece of architecture. This was early in 1991. The writer was surprised at the uncomely sight of this enormous rough-looking trinity of domes. More surprising was the total absence of anything like a minaret. This made him suspicious enough to enquire one by one, from three passing Muslim gentlemen, as to whether there was a mehrab or a mimbar inside, or a wuzooh for a wash before the prayer. A few minutes earlier, the writer was categorically informed by a skull cap-wearing gentleman that he could not go inside, hence the queries.

Whoever the writer talked to, including two shopkeepers, referred to it as the ‘Babri’ Masjid. The writer had not earlier, or even later, come across a mosque named after any individual. His suspicion continued about the nature of the edifice in the absence of a minaret and the presence of the name Babri. On subsequent contemplation, the writer felt that perhaps, the edifice was a maqbara of Mir Baqi, one of the military commanders of Babar in the latter’s invasion of India. The date of the building has been consistently given as 1528 AD.

Much ado about a mosqueBabar won the First Battle of Panipat in April 1526. He and his immediate men were new to India and were generally busy establishing their rule at Agra. How could Mir Baqi get the opportunity to visit Ayodhya; have the Ram temple demolished and have the huge Babri structure constructed — all in a matter of two years? In those days, five centuries ago, everything had to be done manually — breaking, building and all. It must have taken longer than two years. Babar died in 1530 while beseeching Allah, the merciful, to save the life of his ailing son Humayun.

Taking all these circumstances, — the lack of minaret and the presence of the name Babri among others — could it be possible that Mir Baqi did not forget the King he was beholden to, and admiring of? He took his time to build this maqbarah, probably larger than any in India, as a compact building in the loving memory of Zaheeruddin Mohammad Babar. In short, was the edifice Babri maqbarah rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much song and dance about the edifice and the land on which it stood? Up to a dozen of maqbarahs were demolished under the British rule in order to lay out Delhi’s Golf Course.

Incidentally, Sir Arnold Toynbee had visited Delhi and Bombay in the 1950s to deliver the Azad Memorial Lectures. This was at the personal invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru. During the course of his lectures, Arnold expressed surprise at having seen the masjid with tall minarets, as we mentioned above, on the banks of the Ganga, still standing. This despite India’s independence, at the holiest of holy places of the Hindus. He went on to say that on his recent visit to Warsaw in Poland, he saw the cathedral in that city as a Roman Catholic edifice. When the Russians had conquered Warsaw a century or more ago, they had converted the earlier Catholic cathedral into a Russian orthodox church. The poles could not tolerate this but were helpless. When they regained independence towards the end of World War I, they demolished the Russian church and rebuilt their own.

This pattern of behaviour was in evidence elsewhere too. Several wars were fought during the 1990s after the collapse of the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly the 1991-1995 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This was the biggest conflict in Europe since the World War II, causing massive terror and brutality with approximately 150,000 deaths and several million people forcibly resettled. Although the Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims, who fought this war, were Europeans of Slavonic ancestry, they had significant and irreconcilable differences in religion. The Serbs are eastern-orthodox Christians, the Croats were Roman Catholics, and the Bosnian Muslims are Slavs Islamised after the Turkish conquest. The Serbs have always defended Christian Europe from invaders, most notably the Ottoman Turks. The heroic Serbian defence in the Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman invaders in 1389 AD stands out as a landmark.

Conquering militias or armies in this 1992 inter-Yugoslav conflict destroyed the enemy’s religious symbols and built their own to symbolically mark the territory. For example, the capital city of what is today called the ‘Serb Republic’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was ethnically cleansed of all its numerous historic and newer mosques, with the Serbs also expelling the local Muslims, ostensibly in retribution for centuries of Ottoman humiliation.

Not only that, the Orthodox Serbs destroyed about 200 Catholic churches in Krajina in Croatia during their four year occupation of the town. This was Serb revenge on atrocities against the orthodox Church by the Croat Nazi puppet state during World War II. The Catholic Croats had then murdered over a 100 orthodox priests and three bishops, massacred about 1,000 Serbs in a town Glina and also razed its orthodox Church of the nativity.

Similar is the tale of Córdoba in Spain. It was originally a cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) but was conquered by the invading Moors and turned into a mosque in 784 AD by Abd al-Rahman. It was reconquered by 1236 AD by King Ferdinand III of Castile during the Reconquista. The centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. The kings who followed added further Christian features.

(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author)

Courtesy The Pioneer , 28 December 2018

Eighteen Months of the GST – Arun Jaitley

Eighteen Months of the GST

By – Arun Jaitley

Related imageThe Goods and Services Tax was implemented w.e.f. 1st July, 2017.  It hasn’t completed Eighteen Months of implementation as yet.  The GST has been at the receiving end of a lot of ill-informed and motivated criticism.  What has been its real performance?

The Pre-GST regime

India had the worst indirect tax system anywhere in the world.  Both the Centre and the State Government were entitled to levy a set of taxes.  There were seventeen taxes levied.  An entrepreneur, therefore, faced seventeen inspectors, seventeen returns and seventeen assessments.  The rate of taxation were exorbitantly high.   The standard rate of VAT and excise was 14.5% and 12.5% respectively.  To this could be added the CST and the cascading effect of tax on tax.  The standard rate thus became 31% on a large number of commodities.  The assessees had only two options – either to pay a high rate of tax or evade it.  Tax evasion was prevalent to a large extent.  India comprised of multiple markets.  Each State was a separate market because the rate of tax could be different.  Interstate sales became inherently inefficient because trucks had to wait for hours and days at the State borders.

The GST impact on 1st July, 2017

From the date of its implementation, the GST changed the situation radically.  All seventeen taxes were combined into one.  The whole of India became one market.  The interstate barriers disappeared.  Entry into the cities became open with abolition of the entry tax.  States were charging an entertainment tax ranging from 35% to 110%.  This came down radically.  235 items were being charged at either 31% tax or even higher.  All except 10 such items were brought down immediately to 28%. The 10 such items were brought down to even a lower rate i.e.18%.  Multiple slabs were fixed transiently in order to ensure the tax of no commodity goes up radically.  This contained the inflation impact.  Most aam aadmi items were placed in the zero or 5% tax bracket.  Returns became online; assessments will be online; multiple inspectors had disappeared.  The States were guaranteed that for the first five years they will be ensured a 14% annual revenue increase.

The revenue trends

A frequently made comment has been that the revenue positon has been disappointing.  The comment is based on an inadequate understanding of both the targets and the revenue increase.  The targets set for the State in the GST regime is unprecedently high.  Even though GST commenced on 1st July, 2017, the base year for revenue increase has been calculated is 2015-16.  For each year a 14% increase is guaranteed.  Thus, even when 18 months have not been finished since the launch of GST, on this day every State has a target of improving its revenue with three 14% increases compounded annually over the base year of 2015-16.  This is close to a 50% being reached in the second year itself.  It is almost an unachievable target.  Yet six States have already achieved it, another seven are within a striking distance of achieving it and only eighteen are still more than 10% away from achieving it.  By the third, fourth and fifth year, as in the case of VAT, the ability to increase revenues and closing the gap will substantially increase.  Those States which do not achieve the target of 14% are paid out of the compensation cess.  The requirement of compensation cess in the second year is expected to be much lower than the first year.  This increase in the tax collection has to be factored keeping in mind the significant rate reduction which has taken place in the GST.  The reduction in monetary terms amounts to about Rs.80000 crores per year.  Notwithstanding the substantial tax reduction, the GST collection in the first six months of this year has shown a significant improvement as compared to the first year.  The average monthly tax collected in the first year was Rs.89700 crore as compared to Rs.97100 crore  per month in the second year.

The rate rationalisation

We were faced with a situation with a large number of commodities being taxed heavily in the pre-GST regime.  The Congress legacy of indirect tax was a 31% tax.  We transiently put them in the 28% slab.  As the revenues kept increasing, we started bringing down the rates.  Most of the commodities have seen tax reduced. Today, barring tobacco products, luxury vehicles, molasses, air-conditioners, aerated water, large TVs, and dish washers, all 28 items have been transferred from 28% slab to 18% and 12% slab.  Only cement and auto parts are items of common use which remain in 28% slab.  Our next priority will be to transfer cement into a lower slab.  All other building materials have already been transferred from 28% to 18% and 12%.  The sun is setting on the 28% slab.

Of the 1216 commodities which are used, broadly 183 are taxed at zero rate, 308 at 5%, 178 at 12% and 517 at 18%.  The 28% slab is now a dying slab.  Restaurants are being levied a tax compounded under the composition of turnover at 5%.  Assessees with turnover upto Rs.20 lakhs are exempted from tax payment.  Assessees upto Rs.1 crore turnover can get a composition by paying 1% tax.  The composition scheme for small service tax assessees is under consideration.  Cinema tickets tax between 35% to 110% has been brought down to 12% and 18%.  The GST has helped in controlling inflation.  Evasion has also come down.

The net effect

Lower rate of taxes, increased tax base, higher collections, easy for trade and least interface in assessments with a significant part of the tax rationalisation over, the growth percentage in the years to come will increase.   The transformation has been done over a period of 18 months.  Any abrupt transformation could have been either detrimental to revenue or to trade.

The GST Council

The GST Council has had 31 meetings.  It is India’s first experiment with the federal institution.  It is a body that has behaved with utmost responsibility.  Several thousand decisions, including legislative drafting, rules drafting, notifications, fixing initial rates and rationalising rates have all been taken unanimously with consensus.  The political noise outside is inconsistent with the harmony inside the Council.

A personal thought with regard to the future road map

 With the GST transformation completed, we are close to completing the first set of rate of rationalisation i.e. phasing out the 28% slab except in luxury and sin goods.  A future road map could well be to work towards a single standard rate instead of two standard rates of 12% and 18%.  It could be a rate at some mid-point between the two.  Obviously, this will take some reasonable time when the tax will rise significantly.  The country should eventually have a GST which will have only slabs of zero, 5% and standard rate with luxury and sin goods as an exception.

Epilogue

Those who oppressed India with a 31% indirect tax and consistently belittled the GST must seriously introspect.  Irresponsible politics and irresponsible economics is only a race to the bottom.

(The Writer is Union Minister of Finance, GoI)

Rafale – Lies, Shortlived lies and now further lies- Arun Jaitley

Rafale – Lies, Shortlived lies and now further lies

By- Arun Jaitley

          All the lies spoken on the Rafale deal has been exposed. The Supreme Court judgement is clear. Every word said against the Government has proved to be false. Every “fact” stated by the vested interests against the deal has proved to be manufactured. Truth has once again established its primacy. The creators of falsehood will still persist with falsehood even at the cost of their own credibility. Only their captive constituencies will clap.

The credentials of the disruptors

          Rafale is a combat aircraft with its weaponry required to improve the strike ability of the Indian Airforce. India is geographically located in a sensitive region. It needs to protect itself. The need for such a weapon cannot be overstated. When such defence equipments are purchased obviously some suppliers loose out. The suppliers are clever people. They understand who the “vulnerables” in India are.

Image result for rafale          As a political opponent Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to the deal was a desperate attempt. It was the UPA Government which had shortlisted the Rafale as it was technically the best and the cheapest. PM Modi in an Inter- Governmental agreement struck a deal with the French Government to further improve the terms and conditions including the prices on which the UPA had agreed.

          Rahul’s opposition was obviously for three reasons :-

          Firstly, he could not tolerate the fact that PM Modi has run the cleanest ever Government in recent Indian history. It is a scam-free Government where middlemen and scamsters had to take refuge outside the country.

          Secondly, Rahul Gandhi has the burden of a stigmatised legacy which was tainted by Bofors. He was desperate trying to bring an ‘immoral equivalence’ between Rafale and Bofors. But Rafale did not have middlemen, no kickbacks and obviously no Ottavio Quattrocchi.

          Thirdly, with international cooperation and Governmental cooperation, scamsters of the UPA Government are now being extradited into India. There is obviously a scare of who will talk how much.

Rahul Gandhi got instant support from the “career nationalists” of Lutyens Delhi. The permanent PIL petitioners have always preferred disruptions over concerns of national security. They are willing to cooperate with any one who hurts India. A new job creation has taken place in Delhi with the “loud mouths on hire” and “subject experts” notwithstanding their conflict of interest. The disruptionists alliance was, therefore, quite wide.

The lies that were spoken

          The fundamental truth that Bofors was a choice both for quality and price by the UPA was forgotten.

          The first lie was that only one man – the Prime Minister decided the transaction and that no discussion with the Air Force, Defence Ministry or the Defence Acquisition Council was held. It     was alleged that there was no Price Negotiation Committee, no Contract Negotiation Committee and no approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security. Every fact was false. There were dozens of meetings of Contract Negotiation Committee and Price Negotiation Committee. The bulk of the negotiations were done by the experts of the Air Force and the transaction was cleared by both the Defence Acquisition Council and the Cabinet Committee on Security.

          The judgement of the Supreme Court notes with satisfaction that procedural compliances have been done and the charges on the same are misconceived.

          The second major lie was that as against 500 Million Euros negotiated by the UPA, the NDA paid 1600 Million Euros per aircraft. This accusation was ‘fiction writing’ and a poor one at that. The Government submitted a sealed cover before the Supreme Court giving details in a comparative chart of the UPA era pricing and the present pricing. It showed that for the first aircraft, Government negotiated a 9% cheaper deal for a bare aircraft and 20% cheaper for a weaponised aircraft compared to the UPA. Since the UPA had negotiated the supply of 18 aircrafts, this gain of 9% and 20% would have further expanded with the supply of aircrafts after the first one since a more favourable escalation clause negotiated by the NDA Government would have further widened the price gap. The Court looked into the prices and never commented adversely on the same.

          The third major lie that the judgement of the Court expressed was that the Government of India favoured a particular business house. The Court noticed that the Government has nothing to do with the choice of the offset suppliers which was entirely done by Dassault. After the Court judgement, this debate should have come to an end. But neither lobbyists nor political opponents will ever give up their brief.

The misconceived demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)

         The opponents of Rafale had a choice of their forum to put their facts, they chose Supreme Court as their forum.

          The Court conducts a judicial review, it is a non-partisan, independent and a fair Constitutional authority. The Court’s verdict is final. It can’t be reviewed by anyone except by the Court itself. How can a Parliamentary Committee go into the correctness or otherwise to what the Court has said. Is a Committee of Politicians both legally and in terms of human resources capable of reviewing issues already decided by the Supreme Court? On areas such as procedure, offset suppliers and pricing, can a Parliamentary Committee take a different view of what the Court has said? Can the contract be breached, nation’s security be compromised and the pricing data be made available to Parliament / its Committee so that national interest is severely compromised with?  This would be putting the price details of the weaponry in public domain. What was the experience of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the only occasion when they investigated a defence transaction?

          The B. Shankaranand Committee in 1987-88 went into the Bofors transaction. Since Parliamentarians are always split on party lines, it came out with a finding that no kickbacks were paid and the monies paid to the middlemen were ‘winding up’ charges. At that time only Win Chaddha appeared to be a middlemen. But then others including OttavioQuattrocchi, whose bank accounts got detected subsequently, were not entitled to any winding up charges. The reports / documents published by Chitra Subramanium and N. Ram in ‘The Hindu’ and all subsequent facts which came to light conclusively established each fact mentioned in the JPC to be factually false. It became a cover up exercise. After the Supreme Court has spoken the last word, it gets legitimacy. A political body can never come to a finding contrary to what the Court has said.

The CAG ambiguity

          Defence transactions go to the CAG for an audit review. CAG recommendations go to Parliament and are referred to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose reports are then placed before the Parliament. This was factually and accurately stated by the Government before the Court. The audit review of Rafale is pending before the CAG. All facts are shared with it. When its report is out, it will go to the PAC. Notwithstanding this factually correct statement made, if an ambiguity has emerged in the Court Order, the correct course is for anyone to apply / mention before the Court and have it corrected. The past practice is that if in a factual narration anything needs to be corrected, any litigant can move to the Court for the same. This has been done.  It must now be left to the wisdom of the Court to state at which stage the CAG review is pending.      The CAG review is not relevant to the final findings on procedure, pricing and offset suppliers. But bad losers never accept the truth. Having failed in multiple lies they have now started an innuendo about the Judgement. Having failed in their initial falsehood, the Congress is now manufacturing further lies about the Judgement.

I am certain that the Congress Party will prefer disruptions over discussion on Rafale during the current session of Parliament. On facts it lied. The judgement of the Supreme Court conclusively establishes the Congress Party’s vulnerabilities in a discussion on defence transactions. It will be a great opportunity to remind the nation of the legacy of the Congress Party and its defence acquisitions – a great opportunity indeed for some of us to speak.

Writer is Union Minster of Finance, Government of India  

Illegal immigrants pose threat to India’s integrity-Swapan Dasgupta

Illegal immigrants pose threat to India’s integrity

By Swapan Dasgupta

One of the most touching stories I read recently in the British press centred on the kindness and modesty of former British Prime Minister Clement Atlee. Till last week, few were aware that the understated Labour Party leader had sponsored a Jewish woman and her children and facilitated their asylum from Germany, then under the grip of Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism. He hosted the family in his home for four months and never spoke about it, even when it was politically rewarding to do so. His was part of the unspoken kindness that we often encounter from strangers, especially in foreign lands.

Image result for illegal bangladeshi immigrants in indiaThe issue of refugees is touchy and emotive. Historians have unearthed the enormous difficulties that Jews, intent on fleeing from certain persecution, deportation and, eventually, murder in the Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s faced formidable obstacles trying to get out and find sanctuary. Britain was said to be very inhospitable but, yet, some 80,000 Jewish refugees did manage to secure asylum in that country till the outbreak of the War. If Britain was said to be mean-spirited, the US was no better. Although some Jewish notables such as Albert Einstein made America their home, draconian immigration rules resulted in only 21,000 refugees from Europe making their way across the Atlantic between 1934 and 1943. Although people remember the stellar role played by individuals such as Eleanor Roosevelt in getting persecuted Jews over to the US, the state as a whole was unsympathetic — this despite the fact that the US was by no means an overcrowded land.

I invoke the story of Atlee for an obvious reason. After the details of the Holocaust came to be widely known, the post-1945 attitude to refugees has veered between extreme humanitarianism and pragmatism, both compassionate and hard-headed. Germany, for understandable reasons, has been the most welcoming — a reason why its compassion has also been the most misused. Sweden too has an impressive record, while the Britain has always found a place for notables who found themselves on the wrong side of the political divide in their host countries. Sri Lankan Tamils, Iranians, Vietnamese and Afghans have benefited from the humanitarianism of the West.

However, as most people now agree, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to allow nearly a million refugees from Syria, Iraq, North Africa, not to mention those from Afghanistan and Pakistan who joined the bandwagon, was a step too far. Apart from encouraging others to somehow get to Europe, knowing they wouldn’t be turned back, it has changed the debate over refugees and, by implication, immigration.

Today, Europe is in the throes of a virulent anti-refugee backlash that has destabilised politics in Germany, Italy and all the Scandinavian countries. In another corner of the world, Australia has clamped down on those who are seen to jump the queue for entry to a country that still encourages immigration. Some countries such as Poland and Hungary have flatly defied European Union directives and closed their doors to all refugees.

This debate is not inconsequential for India. As an independent country, India began its innings by having to cope with some seven million people displaced in two wings of the country. Since then, there have been influx of smaller numbers of Indians from Burma, Tibetans from China, not to mention the uninterrupted trickle of Bengali Hindus from East Pakistan/Bangladesh — an influx that peaked during the 1971 crisis and war. On top of that there has been a steady flow of illegal migrants into West Bengal and Assam, and most of them can’t be called refugees by any stretch of the imagination. In the 1980s, Assam witnessed a massive ‘anti-foreigner’ movement whose political after-effects still linger.

In the past year, India finally chose to enough is enough. The demands to accommodate Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in India has been met with a flat refusal by India. New Delhi has instead focussed its attention on trying to create conditions within the Rakhine province of Myanmar that would allow the refugees to go come from the makeshift camps in Bangladesh. Although some Rohingyas have managed to enter India illegally courtesy some local patronage in West Bengal, their numbers are small. However, India’s refusal to assume responsibility for another lot of refugees has incensed the NGOs and professional liberals who maintain this is against the traditions of sanctuary extended by Indian society over the ages — the example of Parsis and Jews.

At one level the issue is about overcrowding but more important it is about the devastating impact of demographic change. Tripura is a State when refugee immigration has transformed a province dominated by tribal people into a Bengali-majority province. In Assam, there are many districts bordering Bangladesh where the indigenous Assamese people have been turned into a minority. Today, Assamese-speakers within Assam are for the first time in a minority. In West Bengal, the religious demography of border districts has altered dramatically and created communal tension.

India is among the few countries that has a refugee problem but no statutory guidelines for refugees. Ad-hocism, discretionary approaches and cynical vote bank politics has created absolute mayhem in eastern India. It is time to take stock before the situation becomes explosive. Today, in many places, the very integrity of Indians are being threatened by the growing clout of non-Indian illegal immigrants, a minority of whom are refugees. We are also witnessing a systematic easing out of the religious minorities from Bangladesh — a process that has nothing to do with the official policies of the Sheikh Hasina Government.

These are issues that are certain to come to the surface after the dust from the Assembly elections settle down after December 11. The question is: Should India’s approach be guided by mushy emotionalism or a hard-nosed acknowledgment of national interests? This column is an early warning of an impending storm.

– 25 November 2018 | The Pioneer

Link- https://www.dailypioneer.com/2018/columnists/illegal-immigrants-pose-threat-to-india—s-integrity.html