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Economic Plugging: PANDEMIC EXPOSES FAULTLINES, By Moin Qazi, 8 July 2020 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 8 July 2020

Economic Plugging

PANDEMIC EXPOSES FAULTLINES

By Moin Qazi

 

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted the greatest pain on those who are already the most vulnerable. It has spurred great hardship and growing unease among low income families and micro businesses. The government’s initial response was a cash transfer in the accounts of 400 million households.

 

With conditions easing and economic activities resuming the government launched a massive rural public works scheme ‘Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan’ to empower and provide livelihood opportunities to the returnee migrant workers and rural citizens. The campaign of 125 days across 116 districts in 6 states aims to work in mission mode to help migrant workers. It will involve intensified and focused implementation of 25 different types of works to provide jobs and create infrastructure in rural regions with a resource envelope of Rs 50,000 crore.

 

While efforts are laudable we need to remember learning of the past while implementing such programmes. We need plans, systems, and mutual accountability. But before we have all of it -- economic plumbing--we must concretely understand what such a strategy means to people, who know best their own problems and have relevant and sustainable solutions.   

 

Local leadership is critical to driving ownership of social programmes. Successful programmes empower a community by valuing its voice and respecting its choices. This approach provides a guiding answer to oft-asked question: “What does development mean?”

 

The answer to modern development issues of people lies in nurturing local change agents. By building leaders within communities, we are ensuring our programmes can eventually be handed back to them, and run independent of original drivers. We need to design collective processes to develop an understanding of communities’ needs and then provide the tools, technical support, and guidance they need to build leadership skills.

 

It is critical to create a space where people can voice opinions, disagree with each other, and even criticise you. As an outsider, you are navigating years of patriarchy. We need to envision a new value-creating opportunity; one that builds a team of teams, creates synaptic architecture adaptive to such work, and then helps every person/group improve the vision/team/team architecture.

 

We need to hire individuals with entrepreneurialism and drive to create change on the ground.  You can’t solve problems of the “last mile” from headquarters. It takes local entrepreneurs to succeed -- guided by local wisdom, a deep appreciation of ground reality.

 

Each development agent will have to use her own creativity to ensure interventions deliver best value to stakeholders -- the State, donor agencies and recipients. You don't give a medical diagnosis on a page without seeing the patient, because there’s no one remedy that fits all. Good economic doctoring is similar: know the general principles and specifics. This is the only way to ensure that inequality and exclusion do not remain India's enduring heritage.

 

Another very popular quote by Tzu says, “To lead people, walk behind them.” Leaders can truly lead when they fully understand their team members and what inspires them. This knowledge comes with time and observation. Tzu’s words underline the importance of leading from a position of understanding. Real leadership is when everyone else feels in charge.

 

In development, as in public-policy areas, the question of values must be dealt with straight forwardly. In a programme, there may be as many goals as there are institutional or individual actors. The most crucial issues are not openly discussed at any level among stakeholders: not between collaborating agencies, not between donor and host governments, and certainly not between donor agencies and client communities.

 

Thus, ambiguities and inconsistencies remain unacknowledged and unaddressed and conflicts of the assembly rooms and boardrooms are pushed out into the field. The goals are left to be deciphered and outcome determined by the dynamics of the process.

 

There is a need for more inclusive policies that bring poor, rural populations into the economic mainstream to ensure rural development is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. It can be promoted through people-centered development in which beneficiaries become agents of their own development, participating in designing, decision-making and execution of processes. Moreover, strategies for inclusive transformation have to be context-specific so these build on local solutions that can best address local challenges.

 

We know there is a geographical dimension to poverty— its concentration in certain parts. Hence solutions have to be context-specific, cannot be derived from generic ‘best practices’ and may require adaptation over time. People won’t actively and emotionally participate in an intervention unless it has relevance to their lives and strengths. When communities take charge of projects, they too contribute through their labour/commitment, and engage actively with the system to ensure completion on time. This ownership also helps in ensuring assets thus created are maintained properly by the community. Professionals are only needed as facilitators, and this works very well for funders because they can get better outcomes at lower costs. 

 

Most development academics and professionals are researchers, with little real-world experience. The underdeveloped and marginalised communities are highly stratified, with each different from the other, and need development experts who understand the subtle nuances of dynamics at play. Intellectual sophistry cannot become a substitute for local-level social engineering. 

 

Global developmental and economic planning models have reduced India’s underprivileged to a set of abstract data. They have followed developmental agendas that fail to reflect the real, micro-level needs of communities and led to increased marginalisation and inequality for the rural poor.

  

Local leadership is critical to the success of any bottom-up effort. But local leaders may not immediately be apparent and we need to invest in developing them, who are typically under-acknowledged and under-supported so to be able to effectively engage with popular movements, community-based organisations, and grassroots activist groups. These efforts will also foster better citizenship and promote awareness of rights and obligations. This type of enlightened and engaged citizenry fosters a working democracy and ensures transparency and accountability.

 

For building an innovatively agile society we need to create workable and cost-effective solutions and scale these quickly. Through their individual and collective efforts, local entrepreneurs can lead significant change by building self-reliance in their geographies. They have potential to become local change-makers given their tremendous drive– but they often lack opportunities for training, education and are unable to access networks and finance.  They are an essential part of society and often don’t receive credit they deserve as policy drivers and implementers in India’s challenging developmental space.

 

There are many lessons to be brought to table from field experience. We need to understand the existing human conditions rather than hastily proposing templates that serve the interests of elites. Experts need to combines their knowledge with grassroots action and a wider community of practice. The incredibly evolving and complicated ecosystem requires better collaboration and partnerships for understanding, analysing, designing solutions, and undertaking impact studies to contribute to the wider knowledge pool within the sector.

 

This can give a better understanding of the key contemporary issues that are located at the interface between ‘finance’, ‘livelihoods’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’ several complex issues  interlock an entire web of cross-cutting issues and challenges.

 

There is need for integration of an entire gamut of resources, ranging from financial and human to markets and entitlements. When we address these issues empathetically, we can move ahead with a more self-assured, robust and proactive engagement towards inclusive growth and livelihoods development. What we essentially need is a community based, business-like approach, spanning grassroots action to policy advocacy.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

  

Rakshak Ya Katil?: LAW UNTO THEMSELVES, By Poonam I Kaushish, 7 July 2020 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 7 July 2020

Rakshak Ya Katil?

LAW UNTO THEMSELVES

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Last week tore to tatters the slogan: With you, for you, always. The sordid tale has it genesis in a father-son duo keeping their mobile shop open 15 minutes into curfew hours in Tamil Nadu’s Santhakulam, being arrested and brutally tortured by the police who hit their private parts and buttocks leaving deep wounds followed by death. Worse, they tried to cover-up but for timely intervention of the Madras High Court which ordered a CBI-CDI enquiry. Earning the ignominy of rakshak nahi, katil.

 

Predictably, the public disgust has sparked rage nationwide even as courts continue to receive complaints and physical evidence of police torture of over a dozen victims. In fact, the heinous cold-blooded custodial murders of Jeyraj and Beniks are a chilling reality of the police becoming all powerful wreaking havoc with horrifying impunity. An environment, wherein the men in khaki behave like bloodthirsty katils with the State maintaining a deafening silence.

 

Turn to any mohalla, district, city or State the story is tragically the same. Be it a minor offence or major crime, brutality and bestiality have become synonymous with the police. Want to get rid of somebody? Call up the “Policewala Katil” From bride-burning to road rage, out-of-court “settlements”, fake encounters and torture deaths it has trapped all with bullet-proof precision. Sending petrified shivers down one’s spine.

 

Two cases in point: It is not incidental that umpteen complaints of police rancorousness in Covid 19 times are rampant whereby the pandemic has become a pretext to short-circuit the rule of law.

Thrashing and abusing migrant workers, shop-keepers and hawkers for not paying hafta, people forced to hop like frogs for being on the road during curfew.

 

A complainant goes to file an FIR. The SHO refuses to record it if it pertains to the rich and powerful or demands money, threatens and shoos him away. A woman complainant is molested and raped, specially in notorious UP and Bihar. If the FIR is against a corrupt policeman, God help. Who will investigate it? How will evidence be collected? None of his colleagues will oblige, to protect their own. Leaving the petitioner with limited options: Go to the media, write to higher authority and hope to hell that somebody pays heed.

 

Less said the better of our polity. All know what is happening. Umpteen Police Commissions have been constituted and over 8 reports presented. Only to be dumped in raddi and forgotten. Why? At the crux: Who should control the police?  The State Government or an independent body?  A Catch-22 question, for our power-greedy netas to honestly answer and us to stupidly expect.

 

Experience shows how over the years the police has not only misused but also grossly abused its powers. Scandalously, it defies logic and acc­ountability with impunity thanks to protection from their political mai baaps in power who use them as an instrument of partisan agendas against rivals, businessmen, hoi polloi etc.

Questionably, is the police more sinned against than sinning? Are the main culprits politicians? The truth is midway. Both are two sides of the same coin’ enjoying bonhomie when it suits them. Both work in tandem in furthering their own self-interest wherein the police has been politicised over a period of time by the misuse of power over appointments and transfers. Consequentially, the system becomes self-perpetuating.

Politicians appoint police leaders who are pliable and even, sometimes, iniquitous. Chief Ministers use transfers as a danda to get cops to do their bidding. Both khakiwallahs and Ministers scratch each others’ back with no concern for public good and for upholding the law. Hence, criminalization of politics has given way to politicization of crime and political criminals. Resulting in complete brutalization and dehumanisation of the polity and police.

 

Yet, can the ‘upar se order aaya tha’ excuse isolate the police from blame when in the garb of maintaining law and order it thrusts a reign of terror? Is it true that a deeper rot in our policing mechanism has crept in?

Think. 'Encounters'' have become a common phenomenon in policing across the country. Public approval of this blatantly illegal practice follows the steady breakdown of the judicial system over the last few decades. This practice has resulted in making criminals of policemen. Remember the public’s gleeful joy when the Telangana police gunned down four rapists. Unless the judicial process comes back fast on track public pressure will succeed in perpetuating this uncivilized practice.

 

As things stand, frustrated officers with nothing to lose engage in abusive behavior which is compounded by unskilled junior and low ranking officials going along to please their bosses, earn their confidence and become partners in crime. Those who refuse are humiliated and given punishment postings. In UP the average tenure of DSPs is an abominable three months. Punjab, too, has a poor track record.

 

Of course, police is notorious for highhandedness and third-degree torture methods. Senior officers call it a normalised practice from the British era. Officers thrive by releasing photos of accused in police custody with fractured arms and legs. “Slippery toilets” at the station are cited as reason for their fractures to the magistrate. Notwithstanding, it is ‘normalised’ extra-judicial punishment “to criminal elements.” In every State there are often a handful of senior officers who endorse such extra-judicial practices for their flawed understanding about criminals and their origins.

 

Said a senior police officer, “compromises have become more a routine than an exception. This encourages corruption, which is an all pervasive phenomenon.” The problem is “hafta” and “chai pani” are considered a policeman’s birthright who get away by hiding behind netas for their venality. Recently, a Delhi Police DCP stood accused of amassing disproportionate assets worth a few hundred crores while a UP Police DG disclosed an Inspector General was under investigations for releasing a criminal involved in the Nabha jailbreak. 

 

Where do we go from here? The Government needs to equivocally spell out that police excess will not be tolerated under any circumstances. It must not only end the prevalent culture of impunity but also impress upon the force that due process must be upheld and that it is not a privilege but the citizen’s right.

 

Time to enact laws against torture wherein Parliament should ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and amend the Indian Evidence Act to make inadmissible any evidence obtained on the basis of police interrogations that involve the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or other illegal coercion.

 

Alongside, create a system of effective independent investigations into complaints of police abuse and misconduct. This is paramount against the backdrop there is no independent and effective investigations into complaints against the police. To reduce impunity Central and State Governments should undertake independent investigations and comply with the Supreme Court’s order in the Prakash Singh case mandating the establishment of a Police Complaints Authorities and provide such bodies sufficient resources and independence to carry out their duties in a way that creates public confidence.

 

Simultaneously, the Government should provide incentives for better police behaviour. Fill more senior and junior positions by promotions, not direct recruitment. Senior police officers should actively encourage juniors to innovate police station procedures and publicly appreciate them. The Centre should bolster the capacity of the National and State Human Rights Commissions and create a culture that rewards respect for human rights and professional conduct.

 

Clearly, the police will have to change radically in order to become people-friendly. The goal should be to reinforce the Rule of Law along-with the ethos shifting from enforcement to enablement. Law and Order should be divided into two separate departments. With a separate police force for each.

 

As Herman Goldstein succinctly said: “The strength of democracy and quality of life enjoyed by citizens is determined by the police’s ability to discharge duties.” Will the aam aadmi continue to rot behind iron cages at the hands of the policewala katil? A time to ponder and introspect: Kiska danda, kiski lathi aur kiski bhains?  ---- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

 

 

COVID-19 Family Gift: RISE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE By Dr S. Saraswathi, 9 July 2020 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 9 July 2020

COVID-19 Family Gift

RISE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

Gendered impact of infectious diseases noticed in some recent epidemics like ZIKA, SARS, and EBOLA is appearing in COVID-19 pandemic also as a crisis within a crisis. It concerns peace in domestic life which already faces problems all over the world.

 

A press report of a small survey conducted by the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective in 62 villages in 18 districts in the State informs that at least 81% of families reported some kind of domestic violence during the lockdown. Of these families, 25% were found to be facing acute hunger.

   

Stories of several instances of conflicts in families – between husband and wife, and between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law – and also abuse of children and the elderly appear in newspapers adding substantially to the global trend in increase of domestic conflict under healthcare restrictions on movements. Complaints made to the National Commission for Women (NCW) and some NGOs working for women have increased manifold.

 

Rudely threatened by the spread of the pandemic and thoroughly disturbed by drastic measures like lockdown restrictions, life at home is not the same as in pre-pandemic days. Household members compelled to stay at home experience among themselves more conversation, more interaction, and more sharing of everything at home. The consequence in many cases is not better understanding and bonding, but enormous increase in verbal and physical clashes.

  

“Stay at home, stay safe” seems to have become a self-contradictory dictum wherever home life is full of domestic conflicts of varied types and on different scale. This crisis within the pandemic, if left unchecked, may disrupt and weaken our fight against the main enemy.

 

Sexual harassment of women in the workplace and a chain of reports from women from different walks of life in the upper and middle strata of society giving rise to “Me Too” Movement in many countries have not subsided yet. The new wave of the age-old problem of domestic violence occurring at home is presently making news as a “gift” of lockdown meant to drive away COVID-19 infection. Neither the workplace nor the home seems to be a safe place for women who fall victims to the double-edged sword. Violence against women in shelter homes is also growing.  

 

According to some press reports, the NCW has registered an increase of at least 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints since the nationwide lockdown. Between March 25 and May 31, it received 1,477 complaints whereas in these months last year, only 607 complaints were received.

 

In April and May, 3027 complaints were received by the NCW across 22 categories of crime against women of which 1,428 (47.2%) related to domestic violence. During the previous three months from January to March this year, a total of 4,233 complaints were received in which 20.6% (871) related to domestic violence. NCW constituted a special team to handle these complaints expeditiously.

 

Increase in the number of cases may be indicative of more instances of violence or more reporting of cases, or both. In India particularly, domestic violence is silenced by victims themselves and their supporters who accept them as part of ordinary family life. A Tamil saying that “it is the hand that beats that hugs also” reflects the submissive attitude of the victims.

 

A study by UNICEF shows that children are exposed to at least 30 different forms of physical, verbal, and emotional violence and abuse in their homes and that the burden of household chores, and day-to-day restrictions are imposed solely on girls. UNICEF has cautioned that if early childhood development is not prioritized in COVID-19 responses, young children would face disproportionate risk and irreparable loss. A girl child suffers more than a boy inside the house.

 

More than three months ago, UN Secretary-General called for domestic violence “ceasefire” amid “horrifying global surge.” His aggressive attack that, “for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest…in their homes” and candid assertion that, “…lockdown and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But, they can trap women with abusive partners” highlight what many do not want to admit or speak in our country. He appealed for “peace in homes around the world” and urged nations “to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”. The UNO has to prevent violence everywhere “from war zones to people’s homes” as stated by the Secretary-General.

 

A comment from the WHO Regional Office in Europe echoes the views of the UNO that “every country in the region is already all too familiar with the scourge of inter-personal violence”. The nexus between compulsory “stay at home” and spurt in domestic violence in lockdown period is not unbelievable. Living conditions at home make “stay at home” a punishment for most people aggravating anger and frustration causing violent behaviour. Unemployment, loss of livelihood and decrease in income due to lockdown make domestic life miserable for those deprived of their work-life.

 

Lockdown certainly has no inbuilt condition to promote domestic violence. It has only aggravated the reality. If reports and statistics suggest a link between lockdown and domestic violence, lockdown is often blamed for restricting movements and normal activities which create psychological problems. But, the malady lies in gender relations prevalent in a society which includes sharing of work and responsibility in the household, mutual respect and regard among the members, acknowledgement of each one’s role and contributions in running and managing the household. Understanding and accommodating oneself to economic and other conditions of the family are missing in many families. That home is a joint enterprise is hardly acknowledged.

 

The UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) has already noted that domestic violence is one of the greatest human rights violations. It forewarned that the number of victims of sexual and physical violence by intimate partner was likely to grow if pandemic were to continue thus anticipating a severe blow to family happiness under COVID-19.

 

Several nations have initiated action to deal with this problem as a social-psychological one. In France, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Spain, pharmacies and supermarkets have become what is termed as “safe ‘go to’ places” where the utterance of a code word “MASK 19” signals an urgent request for protection from domestic abuse. In the UK, there is a national domestic violence charity called Respect which helps women and children seeking help against violence. Requests for help from women in distress were reported to be increasing in Australia also.

 

The Commonwealth Secretariat is working in collaboration with partner organisations in many other countries to check growth of domestic violence during the pandemic. The ILO and UN Women, and European Union have called upon G7 nations to take measures to promote gender equality amid COVID-19 crisis. Justice for Women Amidst COVID-19 has been developed by UN Women, UNDP, UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, World Bank, and Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies.

 

As national and international efforts to contain domestic violence amidst COVID-19 are on, India should also activate its machineries to implement legal rights and protection for women already in place. –INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

TN Custodial Deaths: MAKING A MOCKERY OF LAW, By Insaf, 4 July 2020 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 4 July 2020

TN Custodial Deaths

MAKING A MOCKERY OF LAW

By Insaf

 

Reprehensible! The alleged custodial death of father and son in a police station in Tamil Nadu has sent shock waves across the country. The brutality in Sathankulam and worse the cops thumbing their nose at Madras High Court-appointed magistrate makes a mockery of the rule of law in any civilised society. They had destroyed evidence, didn’t cooperate in the probe, and even tried to intimidate the judicial team, the court was informed. Earlier, witnesses had testified that “both father, P Jeyaraj and son J Bennix were beaten by lathis throughout the night, till early hours…” and initial findings showed the two were ‘stripped, tortured all of June 19-20 night and a baton inserted into their rectums’. Their crime: they had kept their mobile shop open during a curfew imposed in the lockdown! The State Crime Branch-CID on Wednesday arresting a sub-inspector after booking 6 policemen on murder charges, a CBI inquiry instituted, NHRC issuing notices to State DGP and SP to submit a report within 6 weeks and government paying compensation to the families is simply not enough. What begs urgent attention is the encompassing culture of immunity and those responsible for maintaining law and order literally getting away with murder. The probe wouldn’t have taken place but for public outcry. Justice must be done. Enough is enough.  

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Centre Provides, States Decline  

Scandalous! A mere 13% of 8 lakh metric tonnes of free food grains allocated for returning migrant workers reached the beneficiaries in May and June; Worse 11 States and one UT didn’t distribute even 1% of quantity they lifted during June. This appalling data is of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, after it released food grains in May under Atmanirbhar Bharat for those who don’t have ration cards, following criticism over woes of migrants leaving cities. While all 36 States/UTs lifted 6.38 lakh metric tonnes, or 80% of the food grains for 2 months for 8 crore people, they distributed only 1.07 lakh metric tonnes until June 30, i.e. only 2.13 beneficiaries. UP was allocated 1,42,033 metric tonnes, it lifted 1,40,637 metric tonnes but distributed just 3,324 metric tonnes; Bihar lifted all of 86,450 metric tonnes but distributed 1.842 metric tonnes; Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Tripura and Telangana didn’t distribute even 1% of quantity lifted; MP, Chhattisgarh couldn’t lift their full share whereas some others wrote to Centre citing inability as workers have moved out of their States. This time round it’s Too much, too late to handle.    

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Bihar’s Digital Campaign  

Virtual election rallies are a No-go with the Opposition in Bihar. It simply can’t match the BJP’s might At an all-party meeting of State Chief Electoral Officer, the RJD, CPI, CPM, BSP, NCP and RSLP voiced their concern arguing it would violate ‘level-playing field’ as ‘rich parties’ would have an edge. They aren’t wrong as the BJP is learnt to be preparing for the battle with l9,500 IT cell heads and 72,000 WhatsApp groups! A glimpse was available last month. The EC is keen to stick to schedule of October–November despite the pandemic. Already it’s convinced Law Ministry to allow Covid-affected patients and 65 years above to vote through postal ballots. Though it has decided to limit number of voters at each polling booth to 1,000, instead of 1,600, the Opposition demands only 500-700 and that campaigning allowed for small meetings/gatherings. Interestingly, BJP’s partners JD(U) and LJP are non-committal. Guess, they may end up being at the mercy of ‘resourceful’ big brother.    

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MP Guesswork Over

The guessing game is over in Madhya Pradesh. On Thursday last, after 100 days of forming the Government, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan finally expanded his Cabinet—of 28 new ministers, 20 are of Cabinet rank and 8 Ministers of state. But not before spending two days in Delhi trying to tie up loose ends with lots of contenders. It’s crystal clear that Jyotiraditya Scindia has extracted his pound of flesh after bringing down the Congress government of Kamal Nath on March 20. The new Cabinet has 12 of 22 former lawmakers, considered his loyalists, who joined his rebellion. Chouhan has also accommodated his senior leaders who were ministers in the past. There is one more hurdle that he needs to cross i.e. 12 ministers need to be elected to the Assembly in next 6 months to retain their posts. Over confidence would be a wrong strategy. A smarting Kamal Nath would try to pay back Scindia in his own coin. Whether he succeeds is another story.

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Hurriyat’s Future?

An vital chapter in Kashmir’s separatist movement ends. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, heading All Parties Hurriyat Conference for 17 years and one of the most well-know hawks in the Valley has called it a day. This after an ‘intense power struggle’ within the Islamabad-backed group including its chapter in PoK. Geelani’s exit though shall not make a difference to an already beleaguered Hurriyat, as the umbrella organisation of separatist groups, set up in 90s, has over the years lost both credibility and steam, given its various factions. Typical of his style, he didn’t stop keeping the pressure, but was peeved with his grip weakening over the PoK faction-- of younger lesser known leaders promoted by ISI “trying to be part of government and ministries” and the chapter embroiled in “internal bickering, fear of losing posts, financial irregularities”, etc. The ISI has its own take—of being let down by the Kashmiri separatist leaders for their inability to provoke people to hit the streets after J&K’s special status was scrapped last August. It now looks for fresh and young blood. Geelani can’t argue as his colleagues chose not to play a lead role. The leadership is now for grabs. But the big question is will it revive the Hurriyat or crumble before State power?

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Fruit Power Vs COVID-19

Fruit power to fight the corona virus! Tripura is all set to launch a Rs 100-crore scheme wherein it shall distribute free pineapple and lemon to its citizens in urban to build their immune system. The two fruits, abundant in the State, are known to be rich in Vitamin C and act as anti-oxidants to prevent the virus, says Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. The month-long scheme ‘Mukhya Mantri Corona Pratirodhak Abhiyan (CM Public Immunity Campaign against Corona)’ will begin today and the fruits’ juice is to be distributed every Saturday from 12-4 pm at 25 local urban bodies and sub-divisional offices. It turns out to be a two-in-one scheme, as other than the urban beneficiaries, local farmers will earn revenue. However, Deb will do well if he also gives a thought to intern doctors at Agartala Govt medical College, where on World Doctors’ Day, Wednesday last, they had to protest again non-payment of stipends for past two months, even after “working for 16 hours or beyond.” The government has assured it would be credited to bank accounts within a week. Hope it keeps its word, for the fruits to build immunity and lessen number of patients is a long way off. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

India-China Brawl:BUSINESS DOUBLES, by Shivaji Sarkar, 6 July 2020 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 6 July 2020

India-China Brawl

RUSSIAN BUSINESS DOUBLES

By Shivaji Sarkar

 

It is a global world. One button switches off, another opens. As India gets into a stand-off with China, there are other players who stand to gain. Russia is emerging as a supplier of critical arms and aircraft to many players, including India and China, though some Russian weapons are subject to American sanctions.

 

Yet China is not a major loser. It still has an advantage on various goods it exports to India for the quantity, prices and in many cases quality. Despite some fall in Chinese FDI in India, New Delhi has to work hard to reduce imports from China. The blocking of 59 apps is symbolic against China’s belligerence on the borders from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh. It hurts China but the crisis has triggered the swadeshi, indigenous production move.

 

Meetings with industry and policy makers have started and this may likely change the Indian manufacturing as well as rules and taxation system. The Delhi High Court’s direction to e-commerce platforms to display the country of origin of products is also likely to strengthen local manufacturing.

 

India has made small strides on defence production. Total indigenous defence manufacturing will not be easy. Even the mighty United States is dependent on Europe for many supplies. India has diversified supplies for strategic reason and with suppliers’ efforts in its basket the country can further strengthen indigenous production, a process the nation started since independence.

 

Russia, however, remains a strong supplier not only to India but to China too. The Russian economy needs stability, markets and it would not mind supplying similar wares to both the countries.

 

First, let’s find out what Russia is supplying to China. The list is not exhaustive.  Russian Rostec supplies 24 upgraded maneuverable Sukhoi Su-35 since 2015 worth over $2 billion. It also supplies ground support equipment and reserve aircraft engines. China has been on Russia’s most important Arms’ customers, including Su-27. Foreign sales are important to Russia for maintaining its military production industries. Meanwhile, western countries are not selling their sophisticated arms to China for fear of outwitting them.

 

India has been a trusted ally since 1960s and the days of 25-year-friendship treaty with Soviet Union by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in early 1970s. India has been recipient of many technologies, tools, arms and aircraft. Recall that MiG 21 and 27 aircraft once were the pride of the Indian Air Force. India also operates three squadrons of agile MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters upgraded with additional fuel stores, new radars, modernised avionics and air-to-ground capabilities.

 

In $847 million deal, MiG will upgrade jets to the MiG UPG over about the next two years. Russian agreement to upgrade 29 MiG airframes is stated to be a good move. A move to sell these to Algeria could not succeed. Interestingly, Russia has offered similar deals to China also for many weaponries.

 

All suppliers consider India to be a reliable partner as it does not infringe on copyright or goes into production of clones without a technology transfer deal. Despite some deviation by India to some western technologies, it revived late 1990s deals with Russia with Sukhois during the United Front regime to be followed up by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government.

 

Russia in a joint venture is producing Kalshnikov rifles at Amethi, Krivac frigates in Goa, selling Kamov 226T helicopters and is supplying almost 58 per cent defence needs. It has signed 15 MoUs in areas such as defence, air, and maritime connectivity, open a maritime route from Chennai to Vladivostok, train Indian astronauts for the manned Gaganyaan space project, expand bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025, sell LNG and have energy partnership. In short, Russia contributes to Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ effort.

 

On the surface, it looks good for India. But Russia considers China a natural ally and recently asserted that relations are now at their best. Cornered by the US sanctions, Russia is reaching out to East Asia, which is now divided between the US on one side and China and Russia on the other. Russian deals with China add to the capabilities of Chinese Air Force in East and South China Sea. In a way, it is developing into a wider repeat of the cold war.

 

It strengthens Russia and may not be bad for India, as China, Pakistan and some Al Qaeda type terrorists apparently are working in tandem. The Russian clout can keep China in check though expenses for border management increases. China is also an energy ally of Russia and is keen on having the deal of $400 ‘Power of Siberia’ gas.

 

The ties, however, are reportedly under some strain as Russia supplies more to India. Moscow is stated to be more comfortable working with India for a variety of reasons, including intellectual property rights. Infringements of IPR have reportedly helped China produce similar weaponries on their own. Still the Chinese market accounts for $2.4 billion of all Russian sales a year. It is small part of total Chinese procurements worth $31 billion. Chinese imports from Russia reduced over the years.

 

For geo-political interests, in the wake of US-NATO-Europe sanctions on Russia following the Ukraine crisis, Moscow intensified its ties with China in all sectors significantly since 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow during Russian Victory Day parade. Putin paid back the visit in September 2015 to join Chinese celebrations of the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan.

   

So the boycott of apps apart, India has to hone up its policies to counter Beijing in a number of ways. The wordy duel apart, India has to leverage its Russian relations to contain China, make more diplomatic moves so that its expansionism is kept under check.

 

By addressing the jawans at Leh, Narendra Modi has shown that India has the military capability, courage and diplomatic wherewithal to protect its borders. Russian gains can be turned into an Indian gain. The policy path of high prices, irrational restrictions, penalties and considering defaulters as criminals has to change. Modi has taken care of the Indians’ belly with Rs 90,000 crore free food grains till November; he also has to step up efforts to hit the Chinese belly without affecting Indian exports. Transformed rules and astute moves can ease the process of home production and create a vibrant India that should make Beijing wonder what hit it.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

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