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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a glowing tribute to former president APJ Abdul Kalam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a glowing tribute to former president APJ Abdul Kalam in an article shared with Hindustan Times on Tuesday calling him his 'marg darshak'(guide) who epitomised the values of self-restraint, sacrifice and compassion.

Modi said the scientist-President never measured success by material possessions. "As a hero of our defence programme, he shifted horizons; and as a seer of the spirit, he sought to liberate doctrine from the narrow confines of partisan tension to the transcendental space of harmony,"he said.

Read the full text of the article below.
BHARAT has lost a Ratna, but the light from this jewel will guide us towards APJ Abdul Kalam's dream-destination: India as a knowledge superpower, in the first rank of nations. Our scientist-President -and one who was genuinely loved and admired across the masses - never measured success by material possessions. For him, the counterpoint to poverty was the wealth of knowledge, in both its scientific and spiritual manifestations. As a hero of our defence programme, he shifted horizons; and as a seer of the spirit, he sought to liberate doctrine from the narrow confines of partisan tension to the transcendental space of harmony.
Every great life is a prism, and we bathe in those rays that find their way to us. His profound idealism was secure because it rested on a foundation of realism. Every child of deprivation is a realist. Poverty does not encourage illusions. Poverty is a terrible inheritance; a child can be defeated even before he or she has begun to dream. But Kalamji refused to be defeated by circumstances. As a boy, he had to support his studies by earning money as a newspaper vendor; today, page after page of the same newspapers are filled with his obituary notices. He said that he would not be presumptuous enough to say that his life could be a role model for anybody; but if some poor child living in an obscure and underprivileged social setting found some solace in the way his destiny had been shaped, it could perhaps help such children liberate themselves from the bondage of illusory backwardness and helplessness. He is my marg darshak, as well as that of every such child.
His character, commitment and inspirational vision shine through his life. He was unencumbered by ego; flattery left him cold. He was equally at ease before an audience of suave, globe-trotting ministers and a class of young students. The first thing that struck one about him was that, uniquely, he combined the honesty of a child with the energy of a teenager and the maturity of an adult. He took little from the world, and gave all he could to society. A man of deep faith, he epitomised the three great virtues of our civilization: dama, self-restraint; dana, sacrifice; and daya, compassion.
But this persona was powered by the fire of endeavour. His vision for the nation was anchored in freedom, development and strength. Given our history, freedom had a political context of course; but it also included freedom of the mind and expansion of intellectual space. He wanted India to leap out of the under-developed trough, and eliminate the curse of poverty through inclusive economic growth. Wisely, he suggested that politicians spend only 30% of their time on politics, and 70% on development; a suggestion which he often followed up by calling in MPs from a state and discussing the socio-economic issues of their region with them. The third pillar, strength, was not born of aggression, but of understanding. An insecure nation will rarely discover the route to prosperity. Strength commands respect. His contributions in our nuclear and space achievements have given India the muscle to be confident of her place in the region and the world.
His memory is best honoured by the creation of new institutions that nurture science and technology, and enable us to find a beneficial equation with the awesome power of nature. Too often, greed makes us predators of our environment. Kalamji saw poetry in a tree, and energy that could be harnessed in water, wind and sun. We should learn to look at our world through his eyes, and with the same missionary zeal.
Human beings can shape their lives through will, persistence, ability and sheer courage. But we have not been given the right to script where we are born, or how and when we die. However, if Kalamji had been offered an option, this is how he would perhaps have chosen to say goodbye: on his feet, and in front of a classroom of his beloved students. As a bachelor, he was childless. But that is wrong. He was a father to every Indian child, teaching, cajoling, urging, exciting, clearing darkness wherever he found it with the radiance of his vision and the passion of his involvement. He saw the future, and showed the way. As I entered the room where his body lay in state, I noticed the painting at the entrance that depicted a few lines from an inspirational book he wrote for children, Ignited Minds. The good that he did will not be interred with his bones, because his children will preserve his memory through their lives and work, and gift it to their children.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The political India is changing. Modi hate mongers have lost space

The hundred days are over. Now let the action begin.
Modi critics don’t know how to handle a PM who knows his mind and has thought out a road map for India.
The political atmospherics of India are changing. Modi hate mongers have lost space, and Modi critics, desperately looking for something to whip him for, are finding nothing. They remain just as shell shocked at his whirlwind schedule in the PMO, his travels in India and abroad starting from day one, as they were when he attained his astonishing majority in Parliament. They don't quite know how to handle a Prime Minister who knows his mind, and has thought out a road map of how he wants to take the nation forward in terms of internal governance and foreign policy. A PM who thinks out of the box, emphasises the importance of innovation and action, and makes it clear that he will be watching for delivery and results. So unlike what they have seen during the last decade.
The nation is absorbing this transformational change of governance with great satisfaction and relief. We have got our country back, and have a PM who shows great patriotism, commitment and determination for progress. For too long had India seen only a silent, withdrawn, proxy PM, with commitment not to national interest or efficient governance and results, but only to the Italian branch of the Maino Gandhi family, and their enrichment through the plunder of India in every conceivable manner. The nation has seen first-hand their corruption and economic crimes against India, their neglect of our security, during the last few years. Enough sordid details have emerged from the chronicles of Sanjaya Baru and Natwar Singh, about the pathetic state that the Prime Minister of India had been reduced to by his Italian benefactor.
Well, that chapter for India is mercifully over. We now have a PM tethered by nothing, with no remote or proximate controls. The institutions of governance he has inherited are either non-functional or corrupt. But he is not intimidated, and shows the same indomitable spirit, and determination towards reshaping the destiny of our country that President Roosevelt showed in his first 100 days after he became US President in March 1933, in a country beset with joblessness, homelessness, and with a collapsed economy and banking system.
The first 100 days must be viewed through statement of intent, and whatever initiatives are possible during this short time. In this regard, Modi has not failed India. Enumerate his initiatives during his first 100 days, that have struck his critics dumb, most importantly his phenomenal achievement towards financial inclusion. For a country of 1.2 billion people, and ten years of continuous corruption and subversion, positive results will take much more than a hundred days to manifest. Overhauling takes much longer than creating a new structure. But the right political and governance environment has been created, and even Modi's worst critics are in shock and awe regarding the pace of his initiatives — his overtures to the people, his reform and cleansing of systems, his messages to the bureaucracy regarding work ethic and achievement, his premium on integrity and performance, his transformation of diplomacy both in the neighbourhood, and in the larger strategic context to protect India's security.
Modi's critics cannot stomach the fact that in his very first bilateral visit to Japan, he has become an icon, exuding national confidence, diplomatic strength, energy and charisma. He transformed the idea of India to the world and inspired pride among our fellow citizens. The opposition has become so desperate that they have even stooped to criticising his gift of the Bhagwad Gita, one of the most revered books in the world, to the Japanese Emperor. Modi obviously anticipated this, and puckishly baited his detractors by announcing to his audience that his "secular" friends would be well employed for some time over his gift. And he was right.
Modi has started administrative housekeeping methodically, starting from punctuality and cleanliness, something long overdue. He is trying to weed out obsolete laws that crowd our bookshelves without meaning. I am sure he will do the same with obsolete policies and statutes that no one inside government ever reads or acts upon, and update them to suit present day requirements. He has provided a chance to all his ministers and top bureaucrats to come up with best ideas and plans within 100 days, and this will provide the beginning of his real governance.
As for flagship programmes, the permanent money guzzlers, fountainheads of the gilded pipelines from Delhi to the village, he has made it clear that the effete and defunct Planning Commission will now be put to sleep, and be substituted by a think tank for fresh ideas and innovation. The Planning Commission, though it served the nation's needs admirably after Independence, should have gone a long time ago, but no one has had the guts to shut it up. Besides, its several uses outside Planning were also evolving. Politicians discovered a platform full of berths to accommodate their favourites, whether they were geriatrics, Maoist sympathisers, or friendly NGOs, and least of all whether they possessed domain expertise in the subjects they were "planning" for. Similarly, the Planning Commission also provided a perfect dumping yard for unwanted members of the higher bureaucracy. As years went by, the Planning Commission also managed to acquire a delicious little kitty of Grant in Aid, which provided patronage to institutions and NGOs. Several useful studies were turned out by the Planning Commission, such as one about the Public Distribution System in 2004 that established that only 41% of the grain released by government reached households. But no one really knows how seriously these reports are taken by the ministries or even the vigilance agencies.
The Planning Commission made substantial contribution when it was most needed, just after Independence. It created a template for India's future development, in terms of developing the economy, agriculture, manufacturing, education, health and nutrition, and all other imperatives in a nation newly freed from colonialism, a nation illiterate and poor, with no infrastructure or production base, and limited human resources. The administration and political machinery were still innocent, and did not believe that budget allocations were their birthright, as they do today. Implementation was more honest and disciplined, with role models of honour, who were part of the freedom movement. The Planning Commission operated in unison with the Finance Ministry regarding formulation of programmes, and allocation of Plan outlays and Budgets, there being no difference between the two, for both Central departments and the states. This proceeded smoothly up to a certain point, until Indian politics turned populist, probably around the 5th Plan, and the connect between Plan and Budget allocations broke down.
Gradually, Plan allocations, both to the Central ministries and states became more grandiose, but also more illusory, with no real correlation with actual resources reflected in the Budget. Plan discussions with states and Central ministries became a regular farce, having no relationship with actual budgetary allocations, or justification for actual requirement, resulting in arbitrary percentage increases in the illusory allocations without any rationale.
The Planning Commission by the 1990s had grown into an empire with little connect with the evolving needs of the nation. Instead of discarding outdated systems and spearheading innovation in the new globalised economic environment, it clung to its old lordship role, and became a bureaucratic roadblock, with an unnecessary veto on proposals from ministries and states. It had acquired an army of around 1,200 employees, duplicating roles of the ministries, and further delaying administrative processes. Generally, the story of the Planning Commission over the last two decades has been a repeat of previous Plans, a statement of new or previously unattained targets, equally illusory, and reams of unread paper. No serious questions were ever asked why Plan targets were never achieved.
There is no doubt that this "boxed in" empire that has fallen into rote, precedent and aversion to innovative thinking must go, if our country is to progress on the human resources and infrastructure fronts. It should be replaced with a crisp, nimble and modern system of addressing the nation's needs, not by being hostage to its past Plans, but by thinking innovative solutions and reform.
I am trying to think of some truly unique and innovative ideas that the Planning Commission has turned out in the recent past. I can only think of their novel definition of poverty at Rs 32 per capita per day in urban areas, and Rs 26 a day for rural areas, the cruellest joke of 2013 played on our people. And yes, the Planning Commission has also proved its Midas touch. It materialised a whopping Rs 3,500 crore, for something called the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an outfit that the Planning Commission attached to itself, making itself an implementing agency, quiet alien to its mandate. Montek Singh, an alter ego of Manmohan Singh used all his clout to make Aadhar compulsory, without any legal or statutory authority, and without any Parliamentary approval.
The Planning Commission has wandered a long directionless way in the last two decades. The Prime Minister's decision to scrap it and replace it with something more useful to the nation's contemporary needs has been very well received. The best expertise of the country must be used to present to government, the best innovative and practical solutions to overcome the chronic, deep rooted problems that persist in our country, and hold us back in the 21st century.
Article Credits -Shri.RAM JETHMALANI,The Sunday Guardian

Thursday, July 31, 2014

PM Modi fast tracks government, silently

Two months since taking office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has effected significant changes across the spectrum of governance at the Centre, almost always without media attention. While experts on the Modi model of governance say that it will take six months for the changes to be visible, and two years before a new structure of governance is completed for ignition of the economy towards 15% growth, senior officials say that the difference between Modi and his predecessors has already become visible across the bureaucracy. "The difference is much more than the cosmetic effect of coming to work early", an official disclosed, adding that "what is changing is the pace and quality of decision-making, now that we have a PM who is fully involved in both the initiation of policy as well as monitoring its implementation".
Aware that the judicial system has become a bottleneck to growth, thanks to the inordinate cost and length of time of even routine litigation, the PM is setting up a National Litigation Data Grid (NLDG) "that would give immediate online information on every case being heard across the country, as well as the judges hearing the case". This would enable monitoring and feedback by the Supreme Court of efficiency in the disposition of cases, as also give the public accurate and real-time data about the progress of cases across the country. In addition, "the PM favours the appointment of 200 additional High Court judges to reduce the backlog", according to a senior official, who adds that "the objective is to ensure speedy justice and eliminate avoidable delays in the justice system".
A colleague pointed to the PM's directive that criminal cases against MPs be fast-tracked to ensure final completion within 12 months, and said that "the PM wants a similar result in all other cases as well". Efforts will, therefore, be ongoing "to utilise both modern technology as well as additional judges to ensure faster delivery of justice during the next five years". In the meantime, cases have proceeded even against very well-connected individuals, such as Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald case and Karti Chidambaram, son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in a case involving an ambulance service in Rajasthan.
Unlike in the past, when ministers operated as mini-PMs, running their fiefs they saw fit, not bothering about directives or advice from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), these days there is constant monitoring of all ministries and their political and departmental heads. An example was a minister hailing from Maharashtra, who had gone on a stroll outside his residence dressed in jeans and sports shirt, only to get a call from the PMO that perhaps such attire was "inappropriate" for a Cabinet minister to don in public. Another minister was queried about a huge dinner that he was in the process of holding at official expense, and was told by a PMO official that such an expense was avoidable. The dinner was called off.
Ministers are being made to justify the trips they have made by itemising the work done during such sojourns. "The purpose is to create a culture of accountability at the top", an official said, adding that "the hardest working member of the Cabinet is the PM himself, who seldom works less than 16 hours each day".
Price rise has been flagged as a major concern, especially of food items. In this context, speculators (who were allowed to operate in an uncontrolled fashion by the UPA) are sought to be curbed by the creation of a National Food Grid (NFG). This would "give accurate online data on the 3,600 mandis or major food produce markets operating across India, and thereby weaken the agricultural mafias now controlling the supply of food items from farmer to shopkeeper", a senior official said, adding that "each of these changes is coming straight from the top". According to him, Prime Minister Modi is also ordering the fast-tracking of an Agricultural Corridor from Punjab to West Bengal. Along this corridor, which would be served by modern highways and rail links, "village clusters are to be set up where vegetables and other food items could get processed", including for export. "We hope to ensure that the farmer and not the farm product mafia gets the benefit of farm prices", a senior official said, adding that "ending speculation will cool down the inflation fever that the mafias have created". He expected that "the kingpin speculators will soon be subject to prosecution for the economic crimes they were encouraged to commit when Manmohan Singh was PM".
Another boost to economic activity being proposed by Team Modi is a "Green Corridor" between Rajasthan and Gujarat, which would use solar power to generate significant volumes of electricity. Similar corridors are being considered across the country, so as to ensure an eventual transition from fossil fuels to non-conventional energy sources. Transport of people and goods across the country is being sought to be improved by identifying railway lines that can be improved to double existing speeds, while bottlenecks in highway construction are being identified for removal.
Interestingly, forest and environmental clearances that were a major block to economic activity during the UPA decade, are now going online, "with clear instructions from the PM that decisions should be taken within 24 hours", except in rare cases. Rather than freeze or roll back economic activity as was the norm during the past decade, "this will be balanced against environmental needs so that any decision will be in overall public interest", including the right of citizens to income and occupation.
Although news reports have appeared about the PM meeting Aadhar boss Nandan Nilekani and continuing the Aadhar program opposed by the BJP earlier, "in reality the scheme being finalised is not the same as Aadhar", according to an official. Instead, what will get created is a database of "bona fide citizens", which will be handed over to the Ministry of Home Affairs to create a National Population Register, "so that there is a clear record of every genuine citizen" as distinct from those who have entered the country illegally. "The data will be used to ensure that welfare benefits reach only those for whom they are intended", rather than ending up in the pockets of politicians and officials, as has been the norm till now.
Importantly, keeping in view the need for food security, field trials have been cleared for 21 genetically modified foods, to supplement the five already okayed, which include brinjal, rice and cotton.
The Land Acquisition Bill passed by the UPA "has made it impossible to set up a large-scale industrial unit in India", according to a senior official. Accordingly, changes are on the anvil that would lower the proportion of those affected consenting to land being acquired from 80% to 50%, while the definition of those who are "project affected" has been limited to husband, wife and children rather than — as previously — the extended family. Also, the "lapse clause" will be removed, so that those setting up units do not invest funds in the fear that the land will someday get reclaimed by the original owner. The officials stressed that this list, although long, is "only indicative, and there are many more such innovations being considered".
The expectation is that within six months, the removal of the blockages created during the UPA period will result in an acceleration of overall growth to the double digit number in two years. "The Prime Minister may not be visible on stage or on television screens, but the effect of the change of government is being felt across the Central bureaucracy", said an official, who added that on 15 August, Prime Minister Modi will for the first time "reveal the road map for what he and his team propose to achieve during their tenure in office".
Article credits-The Sunday Guardian
"True Knowledge means silence "

India needs a new Look West policy

I wish Will Durant was with us today. The last section of his great work, The Story of Civilization begins with The Age of Reason, which he chronicles until the Napoleonic era. I wonder how he would document the present retrogressive U-turn in the story of our civilisation, returning to the medieval pre-renaissance age of religious fundamentalism, and the triumph of barbarians. What comes foremost to my mind is the situation in the Levant and Middle East that has steadily been deteriorating in this direction for several decades now, converting cradles of great civilisations into graveyards of irrational jihadi extremism through the likes of ISIS and Hamas.
This week in Parliament, there was a discussion on the violence that has erupted and escalated between the Palestinians and the Israelis for some time. My friend Ghulam Nabi Azad, who opened the discussion on behalf of the Congress party, was heard in great silence. I too, heard him with great patience, though tormented all the time by the unfairness of his entire presentation. Throughout his speech, there was not one word of empathy for the six million Jewish people who were burnt alive in the furnaces of Hitler, or an honest recall of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem standing to attention beside the German Fuhrer enjoying salutes from the mass murderers employed by the German state. The only words I can use to describe them are that they were monsters wearing human hoods.
India had welcomed the Jewish people into our ancient pluralist society in the Malabar coast, much before the Christian era, where they settled peacefully and profitably, just as it had welcomed Arab Muslim traders several centuries later. The ancient state of Israel that had existed thousands of years ago was created anew in 1948, not by militant Jews or Zionists, but by a near unanimous vote of the United Nations. During the earlier British mandate years from 1922 to 1948, British rulers had encouraged Jewish immigration into Palestine and by the end of the mandate their population had grown to 30%. The United Nations rightly resolved that there shall come into existence two independent states of Israel and Palestine to coexist in peace and economic cooperation. Let us remember that the British partitioned India for a much smaller proportion of Muslims. While the Hindus and their political representatives in India accepted Pakistan, the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states did not. They attempted a military infanticide of the newborn state of Israel, and foolishly the Muslim Palestinians within the borders of Israel joined the jihad, thereby committing treason punishable by death.
India granted full recognition to the state of Israel, de facto and de jure. Arrangements had been finalised for the settling up of an Israel embassy in Delhi, but Jawaharlal Nehru went back on his promise on the advice of the venerable Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Israel suffered the indignity of having only a consul to represent it, confined to Mumbai with no permission to enter Delhi.
The collective military attack against Israel by all the surrounding Arab states and Palestinian forces in 1948 proved a humiliating debacle for them, and a disaster for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, from which they have not recovered till today. They are still living in miserable refugee camps, forced upon them because of a fanatical political leadership which is blind to reality. For the benefit of my friend Ghulam Nabi Azad and those of his ilk, let me recall something deeply imprinted in my memory. I was in Germany during the summer of 1967, when once again, surrounding Arab states had put together their military might acquired at enormous expense of wealth to wipe Israel off the world's map. I watched a television interview of Ahmad Al Shukeiri, a veteran diplomat elected as first Chairman of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), with a mandate to establish a Palestinian entity. A journalist asked him what he and his forces would do after entering Israel and subjugating the Jews. I still remember his blood curdling, jihadist response: "We'll allow the survivors to go back to the countries from where they came." And then he menacingly twisted his moustache and proceeded, "But Inshallah there will be no survivors." It is since then that I have ceaselessly been a supporter of Israel and its survival as a free people within secure borders and a democratic government, something almost unknown to the Arabs in the region.
This war of 1967 came to be known as the Six-Day War, an Israeli military miracle that ended in a massive and humiliating defeat for the invaders. Ahmad Al Shukeiri himself was discarded and Egypt lost Gaza, which it had earlier grabbed after the dissolution of the All Palestine Government in 1959, plus the entire Sinai Peninsula. Jordan lost the West Bank and Syria the Golan Heights.
Slowly the sensible part of the Arab world realised that their dreams of destroying Israel had become their worst nightmare. Gradually, subsequent negotiations came to accept Israel's right to exist. Fatah, which has been in occupation of the West Bank, has recognised the state of Israel, but Hamas that controls Gaza has not. Egypt, being politically the most mature, signed a separate peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and was the first Arab state to recognise it. Israel returned to Egypt the entire Sinai Peninsula along with all its expensive Israeli investment. Even today, Egypt does not sympathise with Hamas, and has closed the tunnels opening into Gaza, that are Hamas' lifeline. And if Egypt and Israel can live in peace, then why cannot the Palestinian state as well? Frankly, there is no other solution.
I am a genuine friend of both the Israelis and Palestinians. I have arrived at some firm conclusions about their future, which I must record for the benefit of those who share my concerns. My prescription is that:
1. All the states surrounding Israel must accord Israel recognition, both de facto and de jure.
2. All these states must be bound by treaties of perpetual peace and economic cooperation.
3. The international borders of Israel must provide it complete security to the satisfaction of the Security Council.
4. The United Nations must guarantee the immunity of Israel from any external aggression.
5. Israel will necessarily withdraw from almost all the areas that have come into its possession as a result of the aggressors' defeat in all the wars started by them to wipe Israel off the world's map.
If these conditions are fulfilled, I have no doubt that Israel will reconcile to the Corpus separatum for Jerusalem under an international regime, on the lines of the United Nations resolution of 1948.
There is then the vexed question of the return of the refugees who left Israel in response to the call of jihad by the neighbouring countries. According to the law of Israel and the law of every civilised state, they all are guilty of treason and if apprehended, liable to be sentenced to death. Every person who wishes to live in Israel must owe allegiance to that state. Any refugee who sincerely swears by the Holy Quran that he will be a loyal citizen of Israel and not commit acts of treason or terrorism against it, may well be allowed to return. This, however, is incumbent upon a host of confidence building measures, and it would be totally unreasonable of the international community to persuade Israel to accept potential traitors as Israeli residents. After having survived jihadic infanticide, Israel is not likely to commit political suicide.
I believe that the real enemies of the Palestinians are not Israel or the Jewish people or the US government. Their real enemies are those who have kept them in miserable refugee camps. A small fraction of the Saudi and Iranian wealth could have provided civilised conditions of existence, reasonable prosperity and wholesome occupations for all the Palestinians. An industrial Palestine would have been an economic competitor with Israel. The real enemies of the Palestinians are the Hamas, the Fatah, the Hezbollah, and the surrounding governments. The poor, misguided Palestinians are helpless pawns in the political chess of the Middle East.
Coming back to the Parliament debate, after hearing the first speaker from the ruling party whose presentation was incompletely articulated, and repeatedly interrupted, I left the House realising that an expelled member of the BJP would not be better off.
As for what the Hon'ble Minister for External Affairs said in Parliament, as reported in the newspapers, and what Hon'ble Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote the following day,
Real enemies of the Palestinians are those who keep them in miserable refugee camps.
Article Credits Hon.Advt.Ram Jethmalani "The Sunday Guardian"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Congress, Please Calm Down - The Governors Issue

The possible removal of Governors, appointed by the previous government, is in the news. Congress party spokespersons are questioning the propriety of such a decision by the Union government. To bolster their arguments, many are quoting the May 7th 2010 judgement in the BP Singhal versus Union of India case by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which followed the removal of the Governors of Uttar Pradesh (Vishnu Kant Shastri), Haryana (Babu Parmanand), Gujarat (Kailashpati Mishra) and Goa (Kidarnath Sahni) in July 2004. More on that verdict later because this issue, first, needs to be examined in totality, or else the woods will be missed for the trees. The Governor's post is an office of eminence. The actions of a Governor must therefore be in keeping with the dignity of the institution. However, throughout their tenures, Karnataka Governor H R Bhardhwaj and Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal regularly made news with regard to their partisan attitude towards the BJP governments in their respective states. A number of existing Governors like Margaret Alva of Rajasthan have nearly completed their tenures. Others Like Mr BV Wanchoo of Goa and Mr MK Narayanan of West Bengal might be required for questioning by the CBI in the Augusta Westland helicopter scandal. The tearing hurry with which Mrs Sheila Dikshit was appointed as Governor of Kerala, literally days before the UPA government's term expired, is also questionable. It can also be argued that her appointment to a constitutional office was to offer her immunity from any charge that may arise on account of the Shunglu Committee report on the Commonwealth Games scam. The Judgment by the Supreme Court in 2010 case states that "Under Article 156(1), the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President. Therefore, the President can remove the Governor from office at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause." However, this power (of the President to remove a Governor) " cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner. The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons. What would be compelling reasons would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case." The top court also said that "A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre." The court concludes by adding that "as there is no need to assign reasons, any removal as a consequence of withdrawal of the pleasure will be assumed to be valid and will be open to only a limited judicial review". From the judgement it is clear that the Union Government does have the power to change Governors as long as "valid and compelling reasons" exist. Former Attorney General of India, Soli J Sorabjee, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner in this case, in an article titled "On Governors, go by reason not whim" dated May 23rd 2014 in the Indian Express, concludes by stating "Apparently, hopes of successful judicial redress by governors who may be removed are not too bright. It would be befitting and also expedient if they resigned, rather than stuck to their gubernatorial chairs and tried their luck in the courts." Beyond the legal position, there are many broader issues to consider. Can the Congress party really argue against such examples on the basis of propriety? Nor can it be ignored that successive Congress governments through the decades not only removed and appointed Governors at their whims but also blatantly misused the office of the Governor especially with regard to Article 356 and the imposition of President's rule. Now that they are no longer in government at the centre, Congress Party spokespersons are displaying a convenient flexibility on stands involving principles. Precedence and the constitutional position both confirm that the Union Government enjoys the power to change Governors. Whether it chooses to exercise this right or not cannot be questioned, least of all by the Congress Party. In 2004, before removing four Governors appointed by the Vajpayee government, the Congress party ignored the fact that the BJP-led NDA government not only continued with Governors appointed previously but also granted a second term in 2000 to the Governor of Meghalaya, senior Congress leader Mr M M Jacob, who had served as the Minister of State for Home Affairs under Narasimha Rao. In light of all this, perhaps propriety might be better served if the said Governors displayed grace in considering resigning themselves. Or would they prefer a path of confrontation that demeans the very office of eminence that they seek to forcibly cling on to?
By Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Article Credits NDTV

P.M.Narendra Modi's Bhuttan Visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned home on Monday from his 2-day Bhutan trip. This was PM's first foreign trip since assuming charge. During Modi's tour, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to extensive development cooperation and discussed ways to further enhance economic ties.
Here are some of the key points of Modi's visit to the Himalayan nation:
1. India and Bhutan reiterated their commitment to achieving the 10,000 MW target in hydropower cooperation and not to allow their territories to be used for interests "inimical" to each other.
2. Modi inaugurated one of India's assistance projects - the building of the Supreme Court of Bhutan and laid foundation stone of the 600MW Kholongchu Hydro-electric project, a joint venture between India and Bhutan.
3. India also announced a number of measures and concessions including the exemption of Bhutan from any ban on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.
4. The two sides recalled the free trade arrangement between them and the expanding bilateral trade and its importance in further cementing their friendship.
5. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mooted the idea of an annual hill sports festival with India's northeastern states along with Bhutan and Nepal.
6. Modi announced doubling of scholarships being provided to Bhutanese students in India which will now be worth Rs 2 crore.
7. India will also assist Bhutan set up a digital library which will provide access to Bhutanese youth to two million books and periodicals.
8. Both India-Bhutan reaffirmed their commitment to extensive development cooperation and discussed ways to further enhance economic ties.
9. Modi described Bhutan as a natural choice for his first visit abroad as the two countries shared a "special relationship''.
10. The fact that the Prime Minister chose Bhutan as his first foreign destination assumes significance since China has lately intensified efforts to woo it and establish full- fledged diplomatic ties with Thimphu.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Obama will offer a $10 trillion carrot to Modi

US President Barack Obama intends to work towards making India a $10 trillion economy. Hence he is disregarding advice from Clinton-era officials to continue to adopt a hostile stance towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Authoritative sources in Washington say that the US President has decided to ensure that Modi receives "the same warm welcome that was extended to Manmohan Singh in the White House". Apart from a formal meeting in the Oval Office, "which would be the forum for substantive discussions and not merely a photo-op", the Prime Minister will be invited to a private dinner at the White House with President Obama, according to key sources on Capitol Hill. They point out that Modi will be "the only world leader attending the UN General Assembly in mid-September to get this level of Presidential attention", and that "this is a clear indication that President Obama seeks to distance his administration from the (George W. Bush-Hillary Clinton) legacy of seeking to indict Narendra Modi for the 2002 Gujarat riots". This reconsideration was first reported in The Sunday Guardian (Obama quietly reverses Hillary's 'get Modi' policy, 20 April 2014). In a sense what Barack Obama is seeking with India is similar to the approach followed by then President Richard Milhous Nixon in 1972 towards China, "of seeking to make the country a strong economic power". A senior US official said that "the intention of President Obama is to help India to become a $10 trillion economy", which would be five times higher than the present level. Another official warned that "the $6 trillion gap between Indian and Chinese GDP is upsetting the strategic balance in Asia, and needs to be bridged". He said that initiatives which had been stalled by Clinton-era officials in various departments for so long "will now get fast-tracked". These will include much greater cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism, space, education and science & technology than was permitted by the Clinton-heavy US administration thus far. "Nearly 30 co-production programmes between the US and India are to be proposed within the year," a senior official said, adding that "some of these have already been suggested, but were blocked by paralysis in decision-making of the Manmohan Singh government." The US has already publicly announced that it would like trade between the two sides to cross $500 billion annually in a few years, up from the present level of $100 billion. A source on Capitol Hill claimed that "Hillary Clinton and her folks adopted the schoolmistress approach of telling countries what they should do." In contrast, he said that "President Obama is more respectful of the choices made by different countries, even when these do not conform exactly to US needs." A high-level source added that "the intention is to work out an equal relationship with India, which would create a balanced power equilibrium in Asia and moreover tap into the synergies between US and Indian (private) business". His assistant said that the intent behind the new approach was to "integrate Indian business firmly within the global supply chain" and to "maximise job-creating investment rather than just financial inflows". He pointed out that "the hostile rhetoric (from Washington) on trade protection that was evident in the past has been muted, now that Modi has taken charge and there is finally hope of a businesslike approach towards US-India ties". Senior officials pointed out that "President Obama did not wait for a formal declaration (appointing Narendra Modi as PM) but called him personally on 16 May as soon as the electoral verdict was clear". He said that President Obama "wants to make a genuine strategic partnership with India among the most important parts of his foreign policy legacy, and towards that objective, wishes to engage intensively with Prime Minister Modi". Disappointing those who were hoping for a cool reception during the new Prime Minister's first US visit in mid-September, it is now clear that Narendra Modi will be given a full dose of the legendary Obama charm. "The President has ensured that his entire team is on the same page on the question of welcoming and working with Prime Minister Modi, including senior officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry (who were earlier adopting the Bush-Clinton line on him)," a key source on Capitol Hill claimed. US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal arrived in Delhi from Beijing on the early morning of 7 June for meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. She is expected to assure her Indian interlocutors that the bitterness of the past is now history, and that the Obama administration seeks to engage "closely and fully in a spirit of mutual interest and partnership" with Team Modi.
Article Credits Madhav Nalapat-The Sunday Guardian