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NEP’s Higher Education: PREPARING THE RECEIVERS, By Dr S.Saraswathi, 11 October 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 11 October 2019

NEP’s Higher Education

PREPARING THE RECEIVERS

By Dr S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR New Delhi)

 

No Indian university has found a place in the top 300 in the latest Times Higher Education World University rankings. Even the highest ranked Indian university -- Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru , has fallen from 251-300 bracket to 301-350. The number of  Indian universities in the list of 1,300 drawn from 92 countries increased from 49 to 56, but only six in 300-500 bracket.

 

Rankings were done on 13 performances grouped in five areas -- teaching (learning environment), research (volume, income, reputation), citations (research influence), international outlook (staff, students, and research), and industry outcome (knowledge transfer).

 

In the 5th Annual World Top 20 Project’s Global University Ranking to measure the quality of education and training for youth in the age group 18-25 and the university’s economic and social impact in promoting their country’s sustainable development, India has not found a place. The regional rankings of top five universities for Asia are monopolised by China and Japan for innovation, research, publications, facilities, teaching, employability, and social responsibility.

 

Best Indian institutions are generally characterised by relatively strong scores on teaching environment and industry income, but get poor scores on international outlook in regional and international comparisons.

 

Higher education is high in the agenda of international bodies and the major element in globalisation and internationalisation. Because of its role in promoting economic development and achieving the objectives of knowledge economy, its quality is a matter of extreme concern. It is time to find out the causes of our over-all bad performance. The deterioration pervades the entire educational world in India from elementary level to higher education.

 

The New Education Policy (NEP) envisages a gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 50 per cent in higher education by 2035 from the present 25.8 per cent. China’s GER stands at 39.4 per cent. We face a huge twin-problem not present in educationally advanced countries to increase enrolment and also to enhance and sustain standards. With the enormous increase in the number of first generation learners in colleges in many States, India’s performance is not that bad.

 

Proliferation of colleges is taking place, but not accompanied with expansion of appropriate faculty and facilities.  When degrees are looked upon as mere passport to jobs, education gets a different goal. Unfortunately, the New Education Policy does not adequately address the problem of recruitment of good faculty in colleges. The modes of delivery have to change and keep evolving with every improvement in technology. More than that, inadequate communication skills bother even college faculty.

 

Private higher education institutions are today occupying a big place and are recognised as major players and also stakeholders. Governance of higher education has become complex, overlapping and heterogeneous across countries.

 

As in all federal governments, higher education has to respond to both Central and State governments.  Many universities in India precede formation of the present federal structure and were enjoying considerable autonomy in their academic functioning. The educational system itself in India is a product of history both in contents and structure. It is also subject to major trends in federalism -- State traditions, political culture, and federal issues.

 

Legal and constitutional responsibility rests with the Central government for higher education unlike USA, Canada, and Australia where it rests with States/provinces. Coordination and determination of standards in institutions of higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions are in the Union List in the distribution of powers under the Constitution.  University autonomy and academic freedom are core concerns in higher education.

 

The objective of the NEP 2019 with regard to higher education is to revamp the system, and create world class multidisciplinary higher education institutions across the country. At the earliest, it must be readjusted, revamped and re-energised to fulfil the aspirations for higher enrolment and higher quality of education so as to provide for the needs of the age of  technological and communication revolution.

 

The aim of quality education at college/university level is not merely to impart subject knowledge, but also to develop good, well-rounded and creative individuals. Besides learning one or more areas of knowledge, education has many other objectives -- building character, constitutional values, intellectual curiosity, spirit of service, 21st century capacities across disciplines, constructive public engagement, and productive contribution to society. In short,  academic and skill education should be based on sound values to shape good citizens.

 

Too much of specialisation starting at early stages will be reversed under the new policy. Rigid separation of arts and sciences, and academic and vocational streams will be replaced by integrated courses. So also, professional courses will become integral part of general education built on holistic approach to ensure broad-based competencies and skills along with understanding of social-human-ethical context.

 

The policy is to entrust governance of higher education institutions with independent boards with complete academic and administrative autonomy. Regulatory system will be transformed to have only one regulator for all higher education including professional. Accreditation of basic parameters will be basis for regulations. Distinct functions like standard setting, funding, etc., will be entrusted to separate bodies. All higher education institutions will either be universities or degree granting autonomous colleges. There will be no affiliating university or college.

 

How far the changes envisaged will be able to correct the inadequacies in the present higher education system is a moot question. The policy, set out in over 400 pages, is highly ambitious aiming at multiple reforms in a situation when institutions are facing basic problems like inadequate teaching staff.

 

Many federal countries have constitutionally established the relative powers of the centre and units with regard to higher education. The Central governments in federal systems may devolve functions, powers, and funds to States, but this has not happened in India. There is generally an idea that a national system is necessary for primary and secondary education, but opinions differ on its importance for higher education.

 

In Canada, the primary responsibility for higher education is assumed by the provincial and territorial governments and despite this, a common model of the university has emerged and hence, there is no large migration of students. In Brazil, federalism has aggravated differences in the quality of education -- sub-national governments giving priority to local problems as in India. Brazil’s New Education Plan calls for the creation of a national system of education to coordinate the educational initiatives of different governments.

 

In Russia, establishing and closing universities, accreditation and control over them, basic financing and development of educational standards are with the federal government. The regions have the right to create and finance their own regional universities.

 

China has over 2,000 universities and colleges and is one of the major destinations for international students. Unlike in the West, private institutes are complements to State-owned public universities and are in need of better regulations. Poorer institutes are tied with model institutes to secure equipment, curricula and faculty development. 

 

Whatever adaptations we choose, education must remain a fundamental pillar of human rights, democracy, sustainable development, and peace promoting national unity and integration. To implement the countless proposals of the NEP and avoid chaos in the field of education, the receivers must first be prepared.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Hasina in India:TIES AT THEIR BEST, By Dr D.K Giri, 10 October 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 10 October 2019

Hasina in India

TIES AT THEIR BEST

By Dr D.K Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

 

Bangladesh Prime Minister Seikh Hasina was in India last week to bolster multiple ties. Of late, the neighbour has been the best in South Asia for India. This was underlined by the visit, as stated by the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque: “India and Bangladesh relations are at their best at present, however, we are keeping our eyes open on NRC”.

 

Significantly, the ties, especially under Hasina’s regime have grown. Despite the interwoven histories of both countries, and India’s critical role in Bangladesh’s liberation from the oppressive regime in West Pakistan, there were recurring irritants in bilateralism, mainly on sharing of river water and anti-India Islamic fundamentalism under Khaleda Zia’s regime, 2001-2006.

 

Such tensions have been eased by Hasina, who has stood by India at crucial moments. It was she who was the first South Asian head of State to boycott the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2016 following the terrorist attack in an Indian army camp in Uri, Kashmir. Again, recently, she almost endorsed the nullifying of Article 370 in Kashmir as an internal matter of India. Both her government and New Delhi are on the same page on terrorism.

 

Even more important from New Delhi’s point of view is Hasina’s dealing with China. Its main concern has been to prevent its South Asian neighbours from falling prey to Chinese temptation of economic aid etc. New Delhi’s long standing, trusted neighbour, Nepal is being seduced away by China with promise of aid and trade. Bangladesh too has been a part of ‘string of pearls’ strategy of Beijing to increase its presence around the Indian Ocean area.

 

China has promised an investment of US $24 billion in Bangladesh, compared to $2billion offered by New Delhi. Beijing also has offered to develop the Chittagong port, which carries 90% of Bangladesh cargo, and is the economic lifeline of the country. However, Hasina is moving cautiously to avoid falling into the Chinese debt trap. She has recently scrapped the Sonadia port plan to be supported by China.

 

Apparently, it looks good thus far. Let us view what transpired during her meeting with Prime Minister Modi and what could be the potential problem areas which might upset the apple cart of India-Bangladesh bilateralism. The main talking points were Teesta water, NRC and Rohingyas. In all, 7 pacts and 3 projects were inked between the two countries under four heads.

 

On defense, maritime and border security, a network of 21 radar system is to be installed by India in Bangladesh waters. It will help India detect any sea-born terrorist activity along its Eastern coastline, keep an eye on maritime neighborhood, and above all, monitor Chinese presence in Bay of Bengal. India is building similar coastal surveillance in Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Maldives. New Delhi and Dhaka agreed to carry on with border fencing to prevent miscreants from illegally crossing over.

 

Second was trade. A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is to be initiated in order to boost trade and bilateral economic activity. Notably, as Bangladesh is graduating out of LDCs, its exports to India have grown over $1billion. New Delhi has agreed to ease the movement of people with valid documents through border check posts like Akhura in Tripura, and Ghojadanga in West Bengal. Dhaka, on its part, has agreed to supply LPG gas to Tripura, and would allow its ports Mongla and Chaattogram to carry goods to and from Indian North East region.

 

Third, in sharing of River water, both countries agreed to work on sharing  the water of 6 rivers- Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dhara, Dudhkumar. In addition, Dhaka agreed to supply 1.82 cusecs of water from its river Feni to Shabroom town in South Tripura. There is acute shortage of potable water in the town as the ground water available in the area is not safe to drink. However, the stalemate on Teesta water continues and the pact agreed in 2011 is yet to be signed and delivered. Also New Delhi has not yet agreed to Ganga barrage project, which will allow Bangladesh to secure external funding.

 

The fourth area of cooperation covered connectivity through air, water, rail and road between two countries. Use of inland water for movement of cargo received immense importance in the negotiations. Under the protocol of Inland Water Transit and Trade, two inland water routes are to be made operational. These are Dhuliana to Aricha and Daudkandi to Sonamura, both include to and fro.

 

On road and rail, the BBIN Motor vehicle agreement is to be expedited for  goods and passengers; the Dhaka-Siliguri Bus service to commence; the frequency of Maitree express to be increased from 4 to 5 times, Bandhan Express from 1 to 2 times a week. New Delhi also offered to modernise the Sadipur Railway workshop and supply on a grant basis broad-gauge and meter-gauge locomotives to Bangladesh. And both countries will increase the air services from 61 to 91 services per week.

 

Both countries agreed to find safe, speedy and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State of Myanmar, as the issue has been of great concern to both. However, a greater concern was expressed by Bangladesh on the implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) beyond Assam. It is likely to affect the good relations with our neighbour. Already 19 lakh people have been identified as ‘illegal immigrants’ in Assam. Although, New Delhi sought to calm the concerns of Dhaka that NRC is a Supreme Court monitored process and the real picture is yet to emerge, Dhaka will remain worried about how many Bangladeshis may be treated as illegal residents.

 

It may be noted that India’s excessive focus on security issues is related to the promulgation and implementation of NRC. Taking it beyond Assam is most likely to affect our relations with Bangladesh and Bhutan.

 

Hasina was in New Delhi to attend the India Economic Summit as its co-chair. It was co-hosted by the Ministry of Trade and Commerce, the CII, and the World Economic Forum. The Summit was meant to showcase India’s ‘growing economy’ and tap the potential for the world market. Aptly titled, “Innovating India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World”, the Summit drew 800 leaders from 40 countries from diverse fields of civil society, arts and culture, science, business and academia.

 

Decidedly, Bangladesh Premier’s focus was on improving ties with New Delhi. Although she is friendlier than any of the former heads of Bangladesh, her speech to the India-Bangladesh Business Forum bespeaks her expectations from the biggest country in the South Asia region. She said: “We should move away from the majority-minority mindset, and respect the texture of pluralism in South Asia by maintaining its diversities in religion, ethnicity, and language”. She exhorted, “We should balance our geopolitical realities through friendship and collaboration”. Addressing her domestic audience, she said, “We cannot trade off long term interests for short term gain’’. Such meaningful statements enjoin the onus of restructuring social, economic and security policies. Will India, as ‘big brother’, heed this plea? ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Sea Level Rise: UN REPORT SPELLS DOOM, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 9 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 9 October 2019  

Sea Level Rise

UN REPORT SPELLS DOOM

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

 

In the back drop of the unique global strike demanding more positive action on climate change--possibly the first of its kind in recent years, encouraging comments by Prime Minister Modi at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York have turned the spotlight on not just national contributions pledged under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but also the possibility of India declaring enhanced ambition on cutting greenhouse gas emissions under the pact next year.

 

Several aspects place the country in an unenviable position of having to reconcile conflicting imperatives: along with a declared programme of scaling up electricity from renewable sources to 175 GW by 2022 and even to 450 GW later, there is a parallel emphasis on expanding coal-based generation to meet peaks of demand that cannot be met by solar and wind power.

 

The irony of Modi telling the international community in Houston that his government had opened up coal mining to 100% foreign direct investment was not lost on climate activists campaigning for a ban on new coal plants and divesting of shares in coal companies. No less challenging is a substantial transition to electric mobility, beginning with commercial and public transport, although it would have multiple benefits, not the least of which is cleaner air and reduced expenditure on oil imports.

 

But this optimism of Modi was possibly lost in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report that underlined the dire changes taking place in oceans, glaciers and ice-deposits due to increased temperatures, further acidification, marine heat waves, more frequent extreme El Niño and La Niña events.

 

“Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions with increased temperatures, further ocean acidification, marine heat waves and more frequent extreme El Niño and La Niña events,” according to a summary of the report made available to policy makers. The ‘Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ updated scientific literature available since 2015, when the IPCC released its comprehensive 5thAssessment Report, and summarises the disastrous impacts of warming based on current projections of global greenhouse gas emissions.

 

“It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (high confidence). Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled. Marine heat waves have very likely doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity,” the report noted. The Southern Ocean accounted for 35 to 43% of the total heat gain in the upper 2,000 m global ocean between 1970 and 2017, and its share increased something around 45 and 62% between 2005 and 2017.

 

The 1.5°C report was a key input used in negotiations at Katowice, Poland last year for countries to commit themselves to capping global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century. “A major impact is in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Regions,” observed Dr Anjali Prakash, a researcher at The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) School of Advanced Studies, and among those involved with the report, adding, “Floods will become more frequent and severe in the mountainous and downstream areas of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, because of an increase in extreme precipitation events... the severity of flood events is expected to more than double towards the end of the century.”

 

In fact, flooding has already become a severe problem for the country and even this year, the rains came late and extensive floods took place. The erratic change in climate behaviour has been continuing for quite some time and there are predictions of this aggravating in the not-too-distant future not just in India but in many other countries in Asia. Even this year, in our country over 1900 people lost their lives and around 50 were reported missing in rain and floods, which affected over 25 lakh in 22 States, according to Union home ministry officials.

 

The special report has also echoed that four Indian cities -- Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Surat -- are projected to be affected by a one metre sea level rise by 2100 while several others are expected to face a severe water crisis. These four cities are among 45 such coastal port cities where even an increase of sea level by 50 cm will lead to flooding and affect a total of 15 crore people. Meanwhile, as per studies of Hyderabad based National Centre for Ocean Information Services, the government had informed the Lok Sabha way back on 21 December last that Mumbai and other west coast stretches such as Khambar and Kutch in Gujarat, parts of Konkan and South Kerala were “most vulnerable” to sea level rise

 

Clearly, threats posed by sea level rise have direct implications for India’s food security of hundreds of millions as its dependent on river water systems that could be adversely impacted by inundation. The studies also projected a sharp increase in population at risk from flooding due to frequent severe weather events.

 

Further, water demand has been rising sharply with every passing year and hydrologists have predicted that by the end-century, billions are likely to be gripped by water crisis with population explosion that will drive up demand for food and energy and the impact of climate change. According to the UN World Water Development Report, demand for water is likely to increase by 55%, though by current estimates, already over 800 million, if not more, do not have access to safe, reliable water. .

 

The deltas of Ganga, Krishna, Godavari, Cauvery and Mahanadi in the east coast may be threatened along with irrigated land and a number of urban and other settlements, according to the study. Due to the projected rise, there is also a possibility of coastal groundwater turning saline, endangering wetlands and inundation of valuable land and coastal communities.  

 

While many countries are on target to fulfil their emissions, it is believed that if such emissions are sharply reduced and global warming is limited to 20C,, sea level globally would rise by around 30-60 cm by the end of the century. According to the IPCC report, if collective mitigation targets of all countries under the Paris Agreement are achieved, it will still lead to over 30C rise in temperature by 2100, noting that sea level rise was rising more quickly than previously thought, due to accelerating rates of ice melts.

 

With a section of environmentalists predicting that the situation will turn alarming by the year 2050 even in India with ice loss in glaciers across the Himalayas having doubled over the past 20 years compared with the preceding two decades, scientists of Columbia University in a report a few months back, added fresh evidence on the impact of global warming on glacial melting. The accelerated melting will initially contribute to excess runoff during summers but, the researchers expect that the volume of water will taper off within decades as the glaciers continue to lose mass.

 

The looming crisis is undoubtedly a matter of grave concern and pessimists and hard core environmentalists suggest that very little can be done, keeping in view present policies and endeavours of national governments. Will there be a change in heart? ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Congress In Decline: A DEATHLESS LIFE, By Poonam I Kaushish, 8 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 8 October 2019

Congress In Decline

A DEATHLESS LIFE

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

In 476 AD one of history’s most legendary empires, the Roman Empire finally came crashing down after nearly 500-year run as the world’s greatest super power. In 2019, the ignominious decline of the 134-year old Congress runs on parallel lines. From leaders in jail for corruption directionless and dependant on its undaata it is staring at a lifeless and deathless life.

True, the Party which won India its freedom and ruled the country for nearly 60 years has weathered many a storm and come out trumps. But today, with Modi’s BJP becoming the central pole of politics the Congress holds out no hope as an alternative, instead it continues its fixation for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty by anointed Sonia as interim President, nearly 20 months after she handed over the baton to son Rahul in December 2017.

Is the Party in death throes facing an existential deep crisis? What does it stand for as Sonia along-with her trusted old lieutenants tries to keep the sinking ship afloat? Can it be saved at this late stage given it is engulfed in a dust cloud of falling structural debris? What happens to it next? Is revival possible? And does it even matter?

 

Think, Karnataka and Goa seem to have opened the floodgates of MLAs deserting the Congress in Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra and Delhi or defying its diktat in UP. Factional feuds has split the Party down the middle with leaders pulling in different directions in Maharashtra and Haryana which go to polls this month and have reared their ugly head in Bihar, Delhi and Jharkhand where elections are due next. Worse, it seems to have lost both its identity and function.

 

See how the Congress gave a walkover to Modi in celebrating 150 years of Gandhi’s birth anniversary. While the BJP made it an event to get across its political message of Swachh Bharat, the Party which the Mahatma once led as President showed total lack of political creativity and could only muster a speech by Sonia, tweet by Rahul and a padyatra by Priyanka.  

Political circles are curious whether Sonia can repeat her past record and make the Congress an election-winning Party once again. Is she capable of countering the formidable challenge to the Modi-Shah duo across India?

Pertinently, her leadership was not accepted pan India as evident by the Congress’s performance after she took over in 1998. Certainly, she led the Party to power at the Centre in 2004 and 2009 and won many Assembly elections despite the then formidable Vajpayee-Advani challenge, but the Party’s vote share remained the same since 1999, around 28%. It now hovers at below 20% which signals the Congress is headed for a death spiral.

Yet Sonia’s leadership qualities has brought on board disparate regional political forces like DMK, NCP and RJD. Whereby she could make the Congress an umbrella organisation of  diverse social groups, across castes, classes and religions.

“Undoubtedly, this is a difficult period for the Party and not the time for adventure as it is close to extinction and could probably die given its recent record. But it has nurtured elements of plural democracy which could outlive it,” asserted a senior leader. Adding, “There is a leadership vacuum of people who can make decisive, correct and timely decisions and execute them over a long period.

“Yet, it is hampered by the absence of strong ideology and solely reliant on the Family which binds it together. Compounding the problem it is dogged by paralysis over the last few years. Today, it is in difficult unchartered terrain, out of power for 10 years with an unbeatable BJP yapping at its heels.”

It urgently needs a structural response, reconstruct its organization, large interface and interaction to project an alternative ideological narrative to the BJP. For starters get rid of its ‘old guard’ who are gripped by the ‘Rajya Sabha syndrome’ and need to go as they neither have a mass base or public connect.

 

Alongside, it is needs money as a lack of funds is proving to be a major obstacle, hampering the Party’s ability to build a network of supporters, nurture new leaders and promote a populist electoral agenda to take on the Modi juggernaut.

Undeniably, Sonia realizes it’s an emergency as the Party is in Secular decline with a protracted inertia post its consecutive Lok Sabha defeats topped by a leadership crisis. In fact, Rahul’s resignation brought to the fore the ugly truth that the Party which has been in the iron-grip of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has no chairs left. This has exacerbated the sense of desolation within.

The ideological confusion in its ranks over crucial issues like abrogation of Article 370,  resurgence of Hindutva politics, debate on nationalism, arrest of senior leaders over corruption and the new political narrative being spun by Modi-Shah is weighing the Party down and further weakening its position. Adding insult a host of its senior leaders supported the Government on Article 370. Another defeat in the Assembly polls would further test the Party as a viable alternative to BJP’s hegemony. 

Further, it has no clear vision or rather a vision which seems to be disconnected from the twin objectives of fighting the BJP and reorganising the Party in a manner that can make it a fighting unit against an unstoppable opponent. Specially against the backdrop of the Congress’s shrinking vote nation-wide and the need to expand its organization and social base in States ruled by Opposition Parties.

Clearly, Sonia has her job cut out. She has to not only prep the Congress for the ensuing Assembly elections but also stem the growing disenchantment within. She needs to put to rest and not just paper over the schism between the Old Guard vs Young Turks which is deep and  widens with every passing day.

Alongside, the Party should clearly spell out its ideological position on crucial issues instead of beating about the bush and go back to real bread-and-butter issues to connect with the masses. Though it is still early to say how it would achieve this, it goes without saying that the sense of despondency that had gripped the Congress after the Lok Sabha election has somewhat eased after Sonia’s arrival.

Her choices are limited as there is little space for maneuverability. Either the Party could “trudge along” with the old guard “buying peace with the BJP” or elect a strong leader who would lead it out of the morass. But in the absence of a political plan, this last road too seems to be one leading to a kind of deathless death for the Party.

Some still think that the Congress has an option that it hasn’t explored fully --- that of bringing Priyanka Vadra to the fore. However, the 2019 election results prove that the Gandhis’ have lost their ability to draw peoples’ adulation. Either way it has to quickly get its act together or else will become as relevant as the Left is today.

Politics is a game of perception, Sonia has to use all her experience, sagacity and political connections to pull the Congress out of the quicksand it finds itself in. It remains to be seen how much she will be able to deliver. The earlier she starts the better as the Congress should not lead a lifeless and deathless life! ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Gandhi’s India:DISENCHANTMENT, by Shivaji Sarkar, 7 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 7 October 2019

Gandhi’s India

 ECONOMIC DISENCHANTMENT

            By Shivaji Sarkar

 

The nation pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi, a grass-root thinker, amid protests by farmers in Uttar Pradesh for more relief, the core sector turning negative, increasing government borrowings, rebuilding or destroying New Delhi’s heritage identity, opulence in lifestyle and sermons on Gandhian simplicity.

 

There is more. Gandhi told the nation to preserve ecology but in the name of creating real estate, the nation plans to build an unnecessary airport and destroy its aquifers in western UP, mere 60 km from Delhi international airport. Gandhi was not for destroying heritage. The recent New Delhi destruction of heritage buildings and city may have been planned for the real estate and construction boom. It certainly would destroy the aesthetics and over 100 years of a planned beautiful city that rarely sees traffic jam.

 

Over 90 per cent of tourists thrill to see six-century old London or UK, which has maintained its heritage look. Can’t India maintain its national Capital? No Gandhi can accept this destruction of a planned heritage.

 

For Gandhi, the farmer was a necessity. It was not for the kisan being the annadata – food grower – but also the centre of rural productivity. A kisan and his family through production of implements, handicraft, handloom, textiles and an array of goods for the society was contributing to the happiness of the society as well adding to one of the highest GDP of the world. India’s share was a constant about 25 per cent of global GDP for about 200 years till the arrival of the British.

 

Till about 300 years ago, India accounted for over a quarter of the world’s GDP, says “India: The Giant Awakens” report by Aberdeen Asset Management. Aberdeen is one of the largest funds and it is bullish about India’s growth.

 

That indeed was the dream of Gandhi. His disenchantment for large monopolised industry is criticised as his opposition to industrialisation. Gandhi had love for technology but he never wanted technology to monopolise or ignore the man, for whose benefit it is needed.

 

Thus, he wanted the farmer to remain the pivot for the economic growth, an aspect the British tried to destroy. It created severe famines in 1770 in Bengal -- killing a third of the population, 1865 in Orissa, 1873 in Bihar to 1943 Bengal famine -- total of 10 catastrophes. Recent studies by IIT, Gandhinagar faculty Vimal Mishra finds that the 1943 famine was the result of British policy despite a 10-year good rainfall between 1935 and 1945.

 

But rumblings of farmers in UP, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and several long marches have not been able to draw much attention. Piecemeal doles or yearly pensions may have helped them a bit but have not focused on the inherent problems. Their biggest grudge is selling crops at prices less than the MSP. Sugarcane farmers dues rise by 54 times in a year to Rs 15,565 crore in 2018-19 (now stated to be about Rs 25,000 crore), according to Minister of State for Consumer Affairs D R Dadarao.

 

Uttar Pradesh farmers’ demands include regular waivers on loans. Gandhi would not have supported it. The kisans are ignored and their Rs 5 lakh crore budgetary support is a loan mechanism. Post-demonetisation the cash crunch and monstrous bank rules added to their misery. They are unable to contribute to the market sales and this has hit GDP growth.

 

That is exactly the reason for more government borrowings. Recently, the RBI was forced to give Rs 1.76 lakh crore dole to the government, which is now mulling another Rs 2.68 lakh crore borrowings. But it needs to rethink in terms of Gandhi. The spree of borrowing cannot be a solution unless the savings rise. It is coming down critically for government policies of taxing it and reducing interest rates.

 

The consequence is in reduction in industrial activities. “The last two quarters have been particularly tough for the industry because of subdued demand. There is need to reverse consumer sentiment”, says Shanti Ekmbram, President, Consumer banking at Kotak Mahindra.

 

Now growth worries are escalating with the output of core infrastructure sector contracting for the first time in more than four years in August. Output of coal (-8.6 pc), crude oil (-5.4 pc), natural gas (-4.9 pc) and electricity (-2.9 pc) and cement contracted. The view now is that the pickup in IIP in July did not signal the start of a recovery. The IIP is expected to fall to sub-1 per cent in August.

 

Amid this crisis, the industry wants further subsidy by clamouring for interest rate cut by RBI. It forgets that the lower interest rate is playing havoc with the consumers with low returns on deposits. Gandhi always criticised such doles as it causes deprivation of the poor.

Let us not forget that the UPA incentives in 2008 to industry and rate cuts led to the severe NPA crisis of over Rs 12 lakh crore. Much of it has not been repaid and book adjustments were done. The PMC bank in Maharashtra or IL&FS collapsed for these reasons.

 

Banks continue to be in crisis and dumping heavy unethical untruthful charges on the people. This is against the banking Gandhi had propagated. He promoted banking because it had people-friendly rates in his time. Today, he would have definitely deprecated unethical banking practices.

 

Demonetisation, some may, believe has reduced corruption. In reality, it has hiked it in all spheres because the perpetrators say, “the risk has gone up”. So the taxwala down to the chief medical officers have raised their cut money. If one needs to open a clinic the going rate is Rs 1 lakh, which was less than Rs 50,000 a few years back.

 

Gandhi may have been outdated in his industrial outlook but not his ideology of ensuring business honesty. Today, business wants results “whatever the means”. This is playing havoc. Small biz and entrepreneur, for who Gandhi tolled is nowhere today. His simplicity has been replaced by exhibition of opulence and big unreal sloganeering. The nation is unable to afford it.

 

The NITI Ayog is in a quandary and can call for round table with political parties, industry and social leaders how to inject Gandhian honesty and ethics in biz, banking and society for ensuring an all-round national morality and growth. That is it. The nation has to adapt Gandhi in practice for that would be the only honest tribute to the father of the nation and to create his dream country.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

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