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Poll Reforms --- Basic Issues Not Tackled, By Inder Jit, 6 July 2019 Print E-mail

Rewind

New Delhi, 6 July 2019

Poll Reforms --- Basic Issues Not Tackled

By Inder Jit

(Released on 22 October 1988)

 

Something is better than nothing. The electoral reforms now favoured by the Congress-I Working Committee, therefore, deserve to be welcomed. Nevertheless, the proposals made by the Vithal Gadgil Committee and those accepted by the ruling party’s High Command fall dismally short of expectations and promises made first by Indira Gandhi and then by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi following his election as Prime Minister in 1985. In his address to the Joint session of Parliament in January 1985, the President, Giani Zail Singh, said: “Governments are committed to a clean public life. They intend to initiate wide-ranging discussions on electoral reforms with political parties”. Subsequently, Mr. Gandhi in his address to the Congress Centenary Session at Bombay observed: “The country needs a politics of service to the poor. The country needs a politics based on ideology and programmes. To bring this about, we must break the nexus between political parties and vested interests. We will change the electoral laws to ensure cleaner elections. We will make political parties accountable for the funds they receive.”

 

Only two reforms have been enacted since early 1985. First, political harlotry has been banned through the anti-Defection Act. Second, Companies have been permitted again to donate funds to the political parties. A whole host of other reforms continue to cry out for attention and implementation. Even that which is now favored, amounts at best, too little that is new or sensational. Most Opposition parties have been clamouring for many years for reducing the voting age from 21 years to 18 years. In fact, some States ruled by parties other than the Congress-I have already reduced the voting age to 18 years for elections to the local bodies. The Election Commission since the time of Mr. S.L. Shakdher and various Opposition parties subsequently has been advocating the use of electronic voting machines and multi-purpose identity cards. Sadly, nay tragically, two grave maladies afflicting our electoral system have remained untackled by the Gadgil groups --- the scourge of money power and misuse of Government machinery. Little attention has been paid either to the use or misuse of the electronic media during the elections.

 

Mercifully, consideration has been given to the demand for public funding of the elections by almost all the Opposition parties, leading publicmen, jurists and journalists. But the idea has been rejected overlooking the vital fact that the proposal is only a means to an end --- breaking the link between money power and the polls --- and has to be viewed and put through as part of a package. The lapse on the part of the Gadgil group and the Congress-I Working Committee is surprising and, in fact, inexcusable in the light of the findings of two high power committees.

 

The Santhanam Committee went deep into the problems of corruption in 1964 and felt that the manner in which funds were raised by political parties constituted a “major source of corruption” in our national life. The Wanchoo Committee, set up in 1971 to make recommendations in respect of direct taxation, set up in 1971 to make recommendations in respect of direct taxation, held that money spent by parties on political and election activity were a principal factor in black money generation. As a measure to curb black money, the Wanchoo Committee went on to recommend not just election grants, but also grant-in-aid for political parties.

Much needed notice of these two reports was taken by three thoughtful seminars conducted by the Rajaji Institute of Public Affairs and Administration in Madras (Financing Elections in India), Bombay (Rooting Out Corruption in the Electoral System) and New Delhi (Electoral Reforms) in 1985 and 1986. These seminars were of the view that various evils, especially those of money power and misuse of Government machinery, could be tackled through an enforceable ceiling on poll expenses, state financing of elections, regulations of political parties, auditing of party accounts, an effective code of conduct, independence of the Election Commission and fair use of AIR and Doordarshan. Importantly, 60 participants at the three seminars included Mr. Morarji Desai, Mr. C. Subramaniam, Mr. Balram Jakhar, Mr. Ashoke Sen, Mr. Ram Niwas Mirdha, Mr. S. Shakdher, Mr. R.V.S. Peri-Shashtri, Mr. J.R.D. Tata, Mr. N.A. Palkhivala, Prof. Madhu Dandvate, Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. I.K. Gujral, Mr. L.P. Singh, Dr. G.V.K. Rao, Dr. M.S. Adiseshiah, Mr. P.G. Mavalankar, Prof. Buddadev Bhattacharya, Dr. Bashiruddin Ahmed, Dr. Aloo Dastur and Mr. Madhu Mehta.

In sharp contrast, the Gadgil Committee comprised Mr. Gadgil and four others: Mr. Vishvjit Prithvijit Singh, Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mrs. Jayanti Natarajan and Mrs. Ambika Soni. Interestingly, Mr. Gadgil and Mrs. Ambika Soni alone have personal experience of the Lok Sabha poll. The other three are junior members of the Rajya Sabha. But this is only one part of the story. The Committee, for instance, concluded its observations on state funding as follows: “It can be said with certainty that the introduction of State funding will only add to the amount of money at present available for elections, and, while increasing the burden on the State, provide no concomitant benefit to its citizens. But in saying so the Committee has conveniently slurred over one vital aspect of this recommendation made by the three seminars and by Mr. Shakdher as Chief Election Commissioner. All were clear that “where the State finances the election, there should be no other source of funds available to the parties.” Simultaneously, they wanted the ceiling on expenses to be enforced rigorously and suggested ways and means of doing so.

Incredibly enough, the Gadgil Committee has not gone into the question of ceilings on election expenses, ceilings which have been reduced to a farce since 1956 when the Representation of People Act was comprehensively amended. Some of the main changes brought about were as follows: The period for maintaining the accounts was limited to the interval between the date of notification and the date of declaration of result. The requirement of declaration on oath before a magistrate in regard to the correctness of the returns was dispensed with. The period of disqualification was reduced from five years to three years. The disqualification incurred was only in respect of membership of Parliament and the State legislature but did not affect the right to vote. These ceilings were reduced to a bigger joke in 1974 through another amendment of the Act. Under this amendment, any expenditure incurred or authorized in connection with the elections of a candidate by a political party or by any other association or body of persons or by an individual (other than the candidate or his elections agent) is not deemed to be expenditure of the candidate!

The Commission has been protesting against these amendments time and again. In 1957 and 1962, it recommended that the legal provisions relating to election expenses should be amended drastically or totally repealed as the 1956 amendment had reduced the entire scheme of ceiling on poll expenses “practically nugatory”. In 1982, the Commission recommended a package of corrective proposals. These provided for inclusion of all election expenses incurred whether before, during or after the election in election expenses; declaration about the correctness of the returns; prohibition of election expenses being incurred by any person (other than the candidate or his election agent) or by club, association, society etc’ increase in the period of disqualification from three years to five years; and power to the Commission to scrutinize the returns --- and disqualify. The package also provided for political parties to spend money n a candidate subject to the proviso that such expenditure should be deemed to have been incurred by the candidate. But there has been no response from the Government so far.

Not only that. The Commission has also been urging the Government to incorporate in the Representation of the People Act as corrupt practices the following as envisaged in the agreed Model Code of Conduct evolved in 1968: (1) Ministers shall not combine their official work with the electioneering or Government vehicles for furtherance of the party in power; (ii) public places such as maidans etc. shall not be monopolized by the ruling party for holding election shall meetings; (iii) Rest Houses or Dak Bungalows or other Government accommodation shall be allowed to be used by other parties; (if) Ministers and other authorities shall not sanction grants/payments out of discretionary fund from the time elections are announced; (v) Ministers and other authorities shall not make any promise to the electorate of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc. which, may have the effect of influencing the voters; (vi) issue of advertisements at the cost of public exchequer regarding achievements shall be scrupulously avoided… but there has been no response from the Government here also.

One could go on and on. In the final analysis, however, there is a lot more to electoral reforms than what the Gadgil group and the Congress Working Committee have attempted to do. Regrettably, the Congress-I seems to be content to favour only such reforms as suit its poll tactics and prospects. Normally, status quo suits a party in power. But the Congress-I High Command would do well not to ignore the lesson of history. No party has a monopoly over power. In fact, not many among the powers that be and the Gadgil group may remember that the late Mr. C.M. Stephen as the leader of the Congress-I Opposition in the Lok Sabha strongly and eloquently pressed for State funding of the poll during the Janata rule! Clearly, there is need for the Government and the Opposition to have a proper dialogue on the subject and jointly bring forward comprehensive poll reforms in the interest of free and fair elections without further delay. There can be no half way house where the larger interests of our democracy and the nation are concerned. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance

Coaching Centres: ADD-ON TO TRUE EDUCATION, By Dr. S. Saraswathi, 5 July 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 5 July 2019

Coaching Centres

ADD-ON TO TRUE EDUCATION

By Dr. S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Dehli)

“Students have become slaves of coaching institutes. They are being taught only to face competitive exams. Coaching institutions are promoting rote learning and not imparting actual knowledge”, said Prakash Javadekar when he was the HRD Minister and working on revision of the National Education Policy of 2014. The remark is unforgettable and has to be recalled today, when we are considering the draft of the new policy released for public comments and views. 

This strong statement against coaching institutes that have grown as parallel educational centres throughout the country reflects feelings expressed by many educationists. It is also conveyed clearly in the Draft Education Policy. The Policy holds the existing coaching centres as “harmful” for children and wants to end what it calls the “coaching culture” by resetting the pattern and purpose of education.

It says: “The present examination and present coaching culture are doing much harm especially at secondary school level, replacing valuable time for true learning with excessive examination, coaching and preparation”.

The issue pertains to two major aspects of coaching centres – the reason for their growth and popularity, and the state of coaching institutes. The first is related to the quality of teaching and learning in formal educational institutions and their equipments and surroundings, and the second to the state of coaching centres and the way they are organised and conducted.

The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) reports that one out of every four students is taking  private tuition (25 %) in the country and in a couple of States, the percentage jumps to over three out of four (75%). Tripura and West Bengal in the eastern part of the country have recorded 81 per cent and 78 per cent enrolment of students in private coaching classes. Incidentally, it may be noted that coaching culture has been well established in many East Asian countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea before it spread all over the world to grow as a “multi-billion dollar global service-industry”  offering various coaching services outside schools.

Beyond schools, 20 per cent at graduation level and 15 per cent at post-graduation level are availing private tuition in the country. West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, and Manipur are the top five States patronizing private coaching away from regular schools.

The draft recognises severe learning incapacity prevailing  in  student community  across the country  and emphasises the need to focus on building a firm foundation for reading and arithmetic from class I. Poor education standards, particularly in rural students pointed out in various survey reports year after year stand in sharp contrast to brilliant performance of elite institutions and shatter the hope of bridging the huge educational gap in society and achieving equality through universal  education. One-fourth of the students are found unable to read texts even in their own language fluently and nearly 60 per cent are not able to do simple sums in arithmetic. The situation will nullify the benefits of Reservation Policy and Right to Education unless immediate measures are taken to maintain quality while expanding opportunities and concessions.

Coaching centres, known as “shadow education system” in some places are growing in number due to two divergent causes. One is to make up for the shortcomings of regular school teaching to prepare them to take annual school examinations and Board examinations. Another is to prepare bright students to keep their rank and score and help them to remain on top to be sure of admissions to their chosen courses.  

The system has far reaching implications for the organisation and process of formal schooling, for the very objective of “education for all”, and for the future of students of all economic classes. At the same time, out-of-school coaching makes a dent on the family budget which has to be accepted by parents as unavoidable cost in the pursuit for a bright future for their wards.

The chief characteristics of the coaching centres are their supplementary role to formal institutions, private management and operation, and limitation to academic subjects to cater to the grades in formal system of education or to the syllabus of particular admission or competitive examination. The preparation they provide is purely examination-oriented as the education system in India is built around written tests. 

Music and dance classes, teaching artistic skills, training in sports or yoga, learning classical languages for self-development and self-satisfaction do not come under coaching centres dealt with in the Draft policy.

The Supreme Court while dealing with a PIL on growth of “unrecognized” private coaching companies in the country in February this year stated that the private coaching centres need to be regulated as these cannot be wiped out, and asked the Union government to frame guidelines. What cannot be eliminated altogether must undergo necessary reforms. 

In any case, there is no substance in wholesale rejection of all coaching classes as bad in idea and harmful to student interests. Where reforms and regulations are required, a constructive approach must be adopted.

Odisha is the first State in India to introduce the Odisha Coaching Institutes Act 2017, which seeks to regulate their operation. Mandatory registration of the centres, with respective district collector’s office, and submission of details regarding the strength of students, qualifications of teachers, curriculum, etc.,   are prescribed. Bihar has also similar regulations. The Government of Maharashtra set up a panel of experts to draft rules to govern over 50,000 coaching centres operating in the State.

Kota in Rajasthan is said to be the epicentre of coaching culture having thousands of institutes. Their annual turn-over is estimated to exceed Rs.1,500 crore.

The draft policy prepared by the Kasturirangan Committee states that the system of Board exams for 10th and 12th classes leads to stress and promotes coaching culture. It suggests incorporating a flexible system spread over four years between classes 9 and 12 and students may be allowed to take exams in various subjects as per their convenience.

Changes in the present assessment pattern, which gives exclusive importance to the examination system, are recommended to shift towards testing only the “understanding of core concepts and knowledge along with higher order capabilities such as creative thinking, analysis and applications throughout the education system and in all subjects, and in all tests in schools and colleges, admissions, or employment.

The emphasis on the educational aspect of examination in the place of a race for marks, grades, and rank will introduce a world of difference to students mechanically memorising guidebooks and notes and frantically practising the art of reproducing verbatim what they are told. Examination reform will   drastically reduce dependence on coaching classes. It will alter the coaching culture altogether and convert coaching classes as a valuable supplement to formal education to promote “true education”. 

Consequently, the coaching centres operating as industrial-commercial houses will automatically change their objective and mode of coaching. Many of them may vanish without closure order.  

The physical conditions of coaching centres, which have come under severe criticism after the tragedy that took place in Surat, will also improve once there is no need to pack students in any kind of token shelter to tutor them to answer expected questions.---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

G-20 At Osaka: INDIA’S AMERICAN STAKES, By Dr. D.K. Giri, 4 July 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 4 July 2019

G-20 At Osaka

INDIA’S AMERICAN STAKES

By Dr. D.K. Giri

(Commentator, International Politics)

 

The much-hyped G-20 meeting at Osaka concluded once again with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out in flying colours, as per media reports. In keeping with Modi methodology of governance, his government both at home and abroad looks good on paper. Many would argue that the imagery is in consonance with the reality on the ground. Be that as it may, a perception caught in contestation. Let us reflect on the power-packed meeting of G-20 comprising major economics of the world.

 

Arguably, G-20 meeting at Osaka received so much attention, not because what exactly happened in the meeting, but due to what was cooking in the run-up to the meeting. Governments and their diplomats were strategising skilfully for the bilaterals between their Heads. Mike Pompeo, Foreign Secretary of the United States flew to New Delhi to queer the pitch for a smooth exchange between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi. Feathers were ruffled at both ends because of the tariff tension between New Delhi and Washington.

 

Donald Trump, a ‘Transactional President’ has been grudging America’s trade deficit with several countries, including, India, and under his ‘America first’ policy, imposing tariffs to make up the deficit. We shall discuss in a bit India’s response to it under India’s America strategy.

 

On G-20, many governments, more so our energetic and hyper-active Prime Minister, not only seriously participated in the meeting, he engaged in bilateral, plurilateral (BRICS, RIC, JAI – Japan, America, India), and of course multi-lateral meetings. As usual, he charmed his way to several heads of government. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison was so impressed that he said in Hindi, “Modi Achha Aadmi Hai” (Modi is a good man). Well, such effusive edification and utterances are no more than diplomatic niceties used as CBMs – Confidence Building Mechanisms. We need not be carried away with such hyperbolic statements by leaders.

 

What did India, led by Narendra Modi, do at Osaka, although a lot of stakes were placed on and Trump-Modi, and Trump-Xi-Jinping meetings in the fringe of G-20 last weekend. Modi’s speech covered women’s empowerment, digitisation, artificial intelligence, UN’s sustainable development goals, terrorism and climate change. He also pitched for a reformed multi-lateralism, energy security, disaster-resilient infrastructure, and ease of movement for skilled workers. These were on-going international issues, which may not raise heckles of many countries, except ‘terrorism’ which finger-points to particular countries.

 

As usual, Modi strongly spoke against terrorism, indirectly urging countries like Russia and China that their tacit support to Pakistan is causing bloodshed in India and elsewhere. At any rate, G-20 meeting was another opportunity for the major world leaders to meet collectively and on the side-lines to thrash out many issues in the interest of their people in particular, and the international community in general.

 

Obviously, the meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi-Jinping was of crucial importance as trade disputes between China and the US were dominating the thinking of those present in Osaka. Usually, every meeting between leaders is followed by a thaw in tensions. So it happened between China and the US. Trump held back imposing more tariff over USD 300 billion already done. He said, they were open to further negotiations between Beijing and Washington. But, to be sure, this is temporary truce.

 

The rivalry is going to resurface sooner than later. There is a radical shift of US position on China. Washington has had the option of either confrontation or accommodation with Beijing. The previous Administrations of Bush and Obama opted for accommodation, but Trump and his team chose confrontation and challenging China’s world ambitions. With this fundamental strategic shift, the power play between Beijing and Washington will continue in one form or the other.

 

A point to note is the cessation of US-China trade war will benefit India, so observe some commentators. But, it sounds altruistic and untrue, for two reasons. One, the tension will not subside. Second, India would benefit from trade diversion from China. About 300 MNCs were contemplating shifting their base from China. In addition, the US seems to be building India as a countervailing power to China. That is where perhaps India’s national interest lies.

To explore the above hypothesis, India too has little alternative to coming closer to the US, both in trade and security terms.

 

Let us get the trade issue out of the way first. New Delhi needs to convince Washington that an economically stronger India is better in US scheme of things. Trump need not have transactional relation with all the countries, including his actual and potential allies. The security and trade need not be linked. A stronger power or person will have deficit with a weaker person on country. For instance, one would have transactional deficit with his maid, or laundryman, or other service providers. India has negative trade deficit with many African countries.

 

Trump will do well to realise that US need not have trade surpluses or parity with each country of the world. It was, however, encouraging to learn that Trump is thinking ‘something big’ happening with India. We may have not access to what is Trump and his Administration planning or sounding out to New Delhi. US may be wary of New Delhi’s non-aligned stance, a blast from the past, or a multi-alignment strategy, pleasing one and all, as perhaps, Modi may like to do. The US may be ‘bullying’ or coaxing India to ‘fall in line’, become their trusted and permanent ally like Japan, and South Korea.

 

What is New Delhi’s position? Honestly, it’s not clear. New Delhi is attempting to oblige both the power blocs -- USA and China-Russia, or trying to separate Russia from China, and both Russia and China from Pakistan. Is either of the strategy plausible? Quite unlikely. China has surged ahead with BRI to gain primacy in Eurasian landmass and to oceans through the Maritime Silk Road. In both these, the Sino-Russian security and defence partnership is evident. Furthermore, given the proximity between Islamabad and Beijing, New Delhi entering this block is unlikely. So what are New Delhi’s options?

 

I have argued that New Delhi has avoidably been spending heavily on defence procurement to defend itself against Pakistan. In the event of a military confrontation with China, India is not adequately equipped however more it spends on defence purchase. So, is it not prudent both strategically and financially for New Delhi to hitch its defence to a bigger power like the US, like Japan and South Korea have done vis-a-vis China and North Korea respectively?

 

India’s reduced spending on defence will help its development and growth process. A security alliance with US will do New Delhi a world of good. It is time New Delhi replaces Russian platform with US supplies, or even better, India reduces spending on defence with American assurance for security cover in Indo-Pacific area.

 

I know, some nationalists, as well as non-aligned advocates will cry hoarse on New Delhi compromising its sovereignty. Well, it is another discussion if India was non-aligned in true sense of the term, as the concept itself was impractical. As for the nationalists, shall we not go for India’s national interest, its peace, security, growth and development? Let us think about it afresh? For a New India!---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Innovation & R&D Focus: WILL IT REVIVE ECONOMY?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 3 July 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 3 July 2019

Innovation & R&D Focus

WILL IT REVIVE ECONOMY?

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

 

There is widespread discussion and debate on how to revive the country’s economy, what with preparations afoot to present the Budget. It goes without saying that in gearing up the economy and boosting manufacturing activity, innovation must be seen as the key. In fact, innovation is the basis for success, whether in industry or agriculture as this leads not just to an increased productivity at a low cost but also ensures economies of scale. Moreover, the quality of products based on sheer innovation assures their quality as well as an increased acceptability in the international market.

 

Though India ranks third among the most attractive investment destinations for technology transactions in the world, the government has reiterated that technology is a strong priority area with special focus to make it people science-centric and key element of economic growth is intrinsically related to development of appropriate technology. But it must remember that not just big units, but small and medium ones need to flourish in large numbers across the country with the right innovation and technology to meet global standards.

 

It is an admitted fact that the country is among the topmost countries in the world in the field of scientific research, positioned as one of the top five nations in the field of space exploration. The nation has regularly undertaken space missions, including missions to the moon and the famed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). India is among the world’s top five scientific powers and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its first Indian human mission by 2022 or even earlier.

 

While the need for innovation is widely felt across the globe, including in India, the required impetus unfortunately has not been given in most areas despite the Government’s ‘Atal Innovation Mission’, launched in 2016, which sought to focus on scaling start-up incubation centres and promoting innovation culture among schoolchildren. And, though the focus on innovation seems to have helped India improve its ranking in the Global Innovation Index, from 81st in 2015 to 57th in 2018, investment towards innovation in research and development is very low compared to an economy of India’s size.

 

In comparison, whereas India invests 0.67 per cent of GDP in R&D, mature economies say such as the US or Japan, invest around 3 per cent of their GDP. Thus, it could be said there is lack of world class research infrastructure in the country. However, there are projections that engineering R&D and product development market in India is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 20.55 per cent to reach US $45 billion by 2020 from US $28 billion in FY18.

 

In recent years, the government promoted research parks (RPs) and technology business incubators (TBIs), which would promote innovative ideas till these become viable commercial ventures. India is now the world’s third largest technology start-up hub with incorporation of 1,000 new companies in 2017.

 

The first issue that the Centre needs to work upon is the strengthening of its industry-academia linkages. At least the major universities in the country have to become the hub of research and innovation. Academic institutions could play a significant role in knowledge creation and its transfer. However, even if the criterion of knowledge creation is fulfilled to some extent, knowledge transfer is rather poor in the country.

 

One may mention here, that for the past two-three decades we have been hearing about lab-to-land transfer of technology, especially in the field of agriculture. Though some headway has been made in the past decade, primarily due to efforts of IITs and agricultural universities, the results in some regions of the country such as east and north-eastern parts are not quite encouraging. This has resulted in productivity not improving to global standards while agricultural diversification is not taking place to the extent necessary.

 

The lack of proper linkages between industry and academia is the lack of a collaborative strategy where the State governments have a vital role to play. Hardly a few universities have an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy. There is, therefore, a lack of clarity on who owns the IP and how will information be shared between parties.

 

There are some aspects of the IP regime where the conflict between government and industry is manifest. Most of these pertain to the pharma sector. Section 3 (d) is also criticised for setting higher standard for patentability than mandated by Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This aspect needs to be reviewed and a pragmatic approach framed.

                                                                          

India is aggressively working towards establishing itself as a leader in industrialisation and technological development. Significant innovations in the nuclear energy sector are likely as India looks to expand its nuclear capacity. Moreover, nanotechnology is expected to transform the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Apart from these highly sophisticated areas, there is need for innovation and technology to boost up the electronics sector as also ensure value addition in micro, small and agro-industrial sectors. 

 

While there is no dearth of scientists in the country and technology that helps manufacturing, especially in labour-oriented and export sectors would have to be given special support and attention. The lack of R&D in the private sector unlike other countries is a cause of concern and the government may evolve means to ensure that this sector keeps a part of the profits for technology upgradation.

 

Meanwhile, a recent report by Nasscom and consulting firm Zinnov found that engineering and R&D (ER&D) services and products are the fastest growing segments of the tech industry in India today. Such services and products constituted $36 billion of the total revenue of $177 billion of the Indian tech industry.  It was encouraging to learn that about 5 per cent of R&D is globally sourced and India has been the biggest beneficiary of that, accounting for 30 per cent of the total in 2018, up from 28 per cent in 2017.

 

The point that needs to be made here is that R&D has to be made available to not just big firms in the engineering, automotive and electronics sectors but to small ancillaries so that these can grow in a big way, increase productivity and improve quality standards. The ‘Make in India’ programme can become a reality only with the growth of innumerable micro and small sector firms spread across the country.

 

With experts harping on the need to move out, at least a part of the work force from agriculture, and job creation emerging as a big challenge, innovation and modernisation, specially of the small sector is imperative. However, innovation and adoption of technologies in the farm sector is equally important to increase productivity and ensure diversified products of quality. Pulse imports have to be totally stopped as also that of rapeseed oil through increased production in the country.

 

The attention of both the government and the private sector needs to be focused on research while ‘lab-to-land’ slogan has to become a reality and then only can innovation become a reality. Can the government not fix any guideline in the regard? The earlier it is done, the better as innovation could be the tool that will help gear up the economy.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Repeal Of Article 370: IS J&K MORE VITAL THAN BHARAT MATA?, By Poonam I Kaushish, 2 July 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 2 July 2019

Repeal Of Article 370

IS J&K MORE VITAL THAN BHARAT MATA?

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Knots and crosses. Everybody seems to be busy playing this game when it comes to strife-torn Kashmir. The Centre is busy disentangling Article 370’s knot while the Opposition is busy ensuring it is not unraveled. Both cite history, politics, legalities, Constitutionalities et al with the devil taking the hindmost!

 

The face-off started with Home Minister Amit Shah making plain that the Article which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir “is only a temporary provision and not a permanent one.” He was participating in a debate to extend the President's rule in the State and pushed the BJP’s pet issue, repeatedly mentioned in its election manifestos.

 

Predictably, all hell broke loose with the Congress-led Opposition slamming the Government,, “The Article is the only Constitutional link between the State and the rest of India. It is legally and politically inter-dependent. If one goes, the other goes too….The Article is irrevocable.”

 

What is it about Article 370 that raises political tempers and hackles? Can one justify why Kashmir should get ‘special status’? Given that the Article has become the biggest impediment to integration of J&K into the Indian Union and symbolises the emotional delineation between Srinagar and New Delhi.

 

Tragically, Kashmir has been mishandled since Independence. Unlike other 562 princely States which acceded to India after Independence, Nehru’s kid gloving handling led to the loss of one-third State to Pakistan in 1948. After Maharaja Hari Singh signed the “Instrument of Accession” power was handed to Sheikh Abdulla who said the final decision about this would be taken by State Assembly.

 

Thereafter, Kashmir was given special status and Article 370 imposed bestowing a separate Constitution. Also, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, the Central Government could make laws only with concurrence of the State Assembly, practically giving it the Veto power.

 

It stands to reason this became the most touchy feature of the larger Kashmir dispute specially within the States three regions: Muslim Kashmir Valley where the Article is sacrosanct, Hindu Jammu where its abrogation is vociferously supported and Buddhist Ladakh which demands Union Territory status.

 

Moreover, while a citizen has only Indian citizenship, J&K residents have two citizenships, live under a separate set of laws, including those relating to ownership of property which bars an Indian citizen from purchasing land/property in the State. Wealth Tax, Gift Tax & Urban Land Ceiling Act do not operate in the State.

Sadly, Nehru’s promise that Article 370 was a temporary provision and would get eroded over a period of time has turned out to be a chimera. Worse, it has been made into an “untouchable” provision. Whereby the President has no right to suspend the Constitution, Supreme Court orders are not applicable on J&K, Parliament has no power to legislate Preventive Detention laws, citizens from other State’s cannot get citizenship of J&K.

 

Look at the absurdity. A Kashmiri girl looses her J&K citizenship if she marries any person residing elsewhere. But if she marries a Pakistani both will get J&K citizenship. Clearly, such a discriminatory provision not only compromises on the right to live with dignity but should have no place in Indian law.

 

Those hankering for its repeal argue Article 370 conveys a wrong signal to Kashmiris, separatists, Pakistan and internationally that J&K is still to become an integral part of India. It also delinks the State from the country’s mainstream, resulting in its non-development with money lining personal pockets. Woefully, this has lead to alienation of youth vis-à-vis jobs and livelihood whereby there is no Indian-ness among Kashmiris thereby depriving the State of industrial development thanks to doors being shut for outside investment.

 

This in turn leads to fostering a “secessionist psyche” and fissiparous tendencies whereby anti-nationalist elements thrive by receiving shelter from Pakistan consequently abetting cross-border terrorism. Indeed, Article 370 is a boon for Kashmiri separatists leading to proliferation of rabid anti-India leaders.

 

Pertinently, during the Constituent Assembly debate Dr. Ambedkar had cautioned Nehru that the Article would cause further division and create difficulties in the State’s full integration with India. Also, it would sow seeds of separatism in the Valley. Undeniably, his fears have come true.

 

On the obverse some Kashmiris underscore the 1975 Kashmir Accord between Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi which reiterated “the relationship between J&K and the Union will continue to be guided by Article 370.” Arguing that this was a categorical official assertion granting permanency to what originally had been adopted as a 'temporary provision' of the Constitution.

 

Bluntly, how is it possible that Kashmir agrees to be part of India but refuses to recognise or accept India’s Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State policy. Not only is this discriminatory but tantamount to the State being a part of India yet not a part. Ridiculous to say the least!

 

Undoubtedly, the Gandhi’s, Abdullah’s and Mufti’s like politicians of their ilk are looking at the short end of the stick, ignoring vital and more significant long-term implications for the country as a whole as well as separatist politics within and outside Kashmir.  Pakistan’s agenda is very clear; the unfinished agenda of Partition is annexation of Kashmir.

 

What next? Clearly, Article 370 completely derides the fact that Kashmir is an inseparable part of India by marking it as a special and different State, which spells danger for the nation State. Add to this, it has weakened and constricted the political and Constitutional integration of the State with India

 

It is not necessary to read the Chinar leaves to figure out that the end game has begun in Kashmir. It is too early to say which way the pendulum will swing as the Acts and the players are many and so also many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ which do not make a whole. But winds of change seem to be finally blowing over Kashmir. Trying to sweep away the cobwebs of mistrust, misgivings, deceit and sorrow and generate strong winds of public opinion. Hoping to reap a windfall of return to peace and sanity!

 

What is crucial is whether Shah’s political astuteness and vision will bear fruit. Much will also depend on how his “zero tolerance to terrorism” plays out. But as Uri and Balakot underscore the Centre believes in an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. Already, over 150 militants have been killed this year along-with separatist leaders being put under house arrest and security cover of 919 people withdrawn.  Alongside, it remains to be seen whether constituencies will be delimitated and the stand the Centre takes on Article 35A which places curbs on non-residents ownership of property.

 

Our leaders need to realize that Kashmir is a national issue, which transcends political planks, ideology, philosophy and thesis. The need of hour is imagination, innovation and impetus. True, one cannot expect dramatic success overnight as winning the minds and heart of the people is not going to be easy. But the Centre’s words of peace with dignity can act as salve to wounds. Perhaps even turn hatred into love.

 

But even as these words beckon a promise for the future, deep mistrust and lack of confidence is apparent. Kashmiris need to rise to the occasion. Keep above populism, cheap gimmicks and petty politics. Time to give peace a chance. Those who oppose Article 370 need to answer one question: Is Kashmir more important than India? What gives? ----- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

New Delhi

29 June 2019

 

 

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