Meenakshi Lekhi en Sat Dec 21 17:15:53 IST 2019 striking-the-right-notes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Recently, I came across an article targeting the Narendra Modi government. I am startled at the ignorance, and enraged to see the hard work of my government go unnoticed. Ignorance was bliss once, but publishing an article to misinform people falls under the category of illegal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The intentions of the Narendra Modi government, since 2014, have been crisp and focused, and, after six years of hard work, the results are for all to see. Enough has been said about the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, which was independent India’s most historic decision, or the ban on triple talaq that irked the alternate Muslim law-making institutions for empowering their women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, a number of micro-policies, which are not found in sensational news headlines, have touched every single life. You could not have imagined paying your vegetable vendor, or the next door grocer, through digital banking. Digital India initiatives like the BHIM app and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana were created with an intention to link every Indian to the banking system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Modi government had the guts to replace the 64-year-old Medical Council of India with the National Medical Commission and bring transparency in the medical education field. This was an area crying for reform for years. The intention was to end corruption.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The launch of Swachh Bharat Mission changed the way Indians perceived their own image internationally. It had a huge impact on the psyche of the rural population that believed nothing could change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ayushman Bharat Scheme revolutionised medical treatment in India. It was launched, as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage. This initiative has been designed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and the underlying commitment is “leave no one behind”. It helped 10.74 crore families get treatment in government and private hospitals. It is a shame that it could not be implemented in Delhi because of non-cooperation of the state government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had already mentioned various policies launched for the benefit of farmers in my last column. The PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna, crop insurance scheme, farmer pension scheme, launching of e-NAM, the latest agro bills, integrated management of public distribution system under one nation one card and Svamitva Yojana to create a record of land ownership in rural areas showed the government’s intention towards farmers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government recruitment system has been simplified through the establishment of National Recruitment Agency. Rural employment opportunities are being provided through Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojan and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-lll. The government created Jal Shakti ministry and launched Atal Bhujal Yojana for managing water with an intention to care for the environment. Hunar Haat, Honey Mission, and numerous other missions, under the newly formed skill development ministry, have become successful in providing employment opportunities at national as well as international markets for thousands of master craftsmen, skilled labourers and artisans. The allocation of a separate Harmonised System (HS) code for Khadi will help in creating its unique identity internationally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Modi government has hit the right notes with public with all the work it has done. It has touched base with all relevant areas that are directly linked with citizens. The intentions of this government have always resided within the hearts of the citizens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Oct 22 16:41:00 IST 2020 educate-the-farmers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The agitation against the new laws allowing farmers to market their produce outside the agriculture produce market committee (APMC) <i>mandis</i> is odd. The idea of unrestricted agricultural market access to corporates is the brainchild of the UPA government. The new laws are nothing but implementation of recommendations in the third report of the National Commission on Farmers, chaired by M.S. Swaminathan, in 2006. The commission found that there was a need for private <i>mandis</i>, and marketing linkages should be established through contract farming.</p> <p>The commission had recommended that the minimum support price (MSP) shall be at least 50 per cent higher than the average production cost.&nbsp;While finalising the National Policy for Farmers, the UPA did not accept this recommendation. However, the Modi government&nbsp;declared in the Union&nbsp; budget 2018-2019 that MSP shall be at least one and a half times over the cost of production, thereby increasing farmers’ income.&nbsp;Even a high-level committee of chief ministers—including chief ministers of non-BJP-ruled&nbsp;states of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab—had suggested&nbsp;limiting&nbsp;the powers of APMC, and using&nbsp;market reforms and the Contract Farming Act to ensure corporate sector participation to further facilitate export-oriented production. These were the basis for the farm reform bills to get passed in Parliament. A classic case of the Congress proposes, Modi disposes.</p> <p>The Modi government has always been a torchbearer of farmer-first approach. However, even with an increase in MSP (minimum of 50 per cent and maximum of 150 per cent)&nbsp;during Modi regime, smaller farmers in some&nbsp;states&nbsp;are unable to get MSP from the middlemen. And, they are&nbsp;forced to sell their produce at meagre&nbsp;prices because of hooliganism and local political influence.&nbsp;As per&nbsp;a&nbsp;NITI Aayog report, less than 30 per cent of the farmers had&nbsp;received MSP for their produce&nbsp;in 2017-2018.&nbsp;</p> <p>Neither the producer, nor the retailer, nor&nbsp;the customer reaps the benefits&nbsp;of MSP.&nbsp;Instead, the middlemen end up gaining a major chunk,&nbsp;which has a snowball effect forcing&nbsp;the farmers to take loans from the middlemen or from banks. Many farmers could not repay&nbsp;their loans, fell into debt trap and committed suicide.&nbsp;Harassment of farmers was part of the system.</p> <p>Contrary to&nbsp;the opposition’s claims, APMCs and MSP are&nbsp;still very much&nbsp;in place, and&nbsp;will&nbsp;continue to&nbsp;run in the new system. However, only the farmer can decide whether he wants to sell directly to the retailer or enter into a contract with a buyer.&nbsp;But, if we analyse the opposition’s moves in the past two years, we see&nbsp;a&nbsp;pattern of using social media and paid media to spread misinformation to malign the Union government.</p> <p>Only the middlemen of the APMC <i>mandis</i> and the local goons backed by political parties will gain from the current protests. Punjab and Haryana are the epicentres of the protests and it is not hard to understand why. As states are not permitted to levy market fee/cess outside APMC areas under the new laws, Punjab and Haryana could lose an estimated Rs3,500 crore and Rs1,600 crore, respectively, each year.</p> <p>Agricultural system in India is used to the APMC system, hence some resistance is expected. The only way to stop these protests is to educate the farmers. If the farmers understand the actual law, rather than believing rumours, their grievances will wither away. Government representatives should conduct more seminars to educate the farmers about positive effects of the new laws. The new system will create a prosperous and exploitation-free agricultural sector.</p> Fri Oct 09 18:22:32 IST 2020 more-hits-than-misses <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is a saying: A thief believes everyone else is a thief. That is the case with the so-called liberals and anti-government elements in India right now. Our prime minister exudes power and enjoys popularity like no other, which has led the anti-government lobby to unite and criticise the government. Yes, the situation is not ideal when it comes to keeping the spread of the novel coronavirus in check. But then which country has been 100 per cent successful in containing it? None.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The success and failure of any government are measured by the response from its citizens and its status compared with other countries. India has performed better than even developed countries with the best of health care systems. Another aspect is the quasi-federal structure of India. India does as well as its states do collectively, as they are the implementing agencies of Central policies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has touched a recovery rate of 80 per cent, up from 60 per cent in early May, and accounts for nearly 19 per cent of the total global recoveries—the highest in the world. India’s Covid-19 fatality rate is only 1.6 per cent of the total cases, which is one of the lowest in the world. Barely 0.2 per cent of the total active cases need ICU care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our health department took on the humongous task of providing adequate health facilities to citizens. The pandemic, in a way, forced the government to prioritise health care infrastructure like never before. In early March, when India had recorded only a handful of cases, 52 labs were authorised to carry out Covid-19 tests. As on September 19, the number has gone up to 1,771, of which 1,152 are government-owned labs. The idea was to have a testing centre in each district to minimise Covid-related travel, and we have achieved that barring a few exceptions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On July 7, the Medical Council of India directed medical colleges to set up labs that were biosafety level (BSL) 2-compliant, and informed that a failure to do so would result in them being derecognised. By August, 293 of the 540 medical colleges had BSL-2 facility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is ample focus on the standard of testing, too. The Indian Council of Medical Research hopes to have a BSL-2 lab—one that can run the RT-PCR tests—in every district. Wherever there are public or private medical colleges, their labs are being upgraded to BSL-2. Through the PM-CARES fund, 02,000 crore was allocated to supply 50,000 ‘Made in India’ ventilators to government-run Covid-19 hospitals. The number of beds for Covid-19 patients increased 14 times since June. India could not achieve these in the last 75 years but did so in the past five months and is proud of the work done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government also passed the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, making any verbal or physical assault against doctors, nurses or other health care providers a punishable offence. The government’s zero-tolerance attitude towards such offenders initiated this legislation, which is being applauded by the health care community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There have been more hits than misses in the management of Covid-19. By increasing the number of beds, ventilators, testing centres and PPE kits, India not only was able to display a good record on the global scene, but also pushed its local industry to produce the relevant machinery. These developments will go a long way in the betterment of the health infrastructure in India. Focused and effective measures for early identification through high and aggressive testing, prompt surveillance and tracking, coupled with standardised high-quality clinical care, have resulted in this globally acclaimed achievement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Sep 25 17:22:23 IST 2020 tiger-tackling-dragon-in-style <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India has banned 118 more Chinese apps, dealing another blow to China’s earnings from the huge Indian market. These apps not only are profitable to the Chinese tech companies, but also pose serious issues of questionable collection of personal data of users.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In response, China said that India’s ‘discriminatory’ measures violate World Trade Organization’s rules, and it urged India to correct its “wrong practices”. This a sign that every single step taken by the government of India affects China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategy to jeopardise the enemy, by cutting off its financial backing, has been successful and has already left Beijing sweating. The change in India’s FDI policy in May 2020, to specifically filter out Chinese investments through automatic route, kept a check on China’s domination in the Indian market. Based in a communist country, most Chinese companies have a political backing, and they have larger agendas than just profit-making. Capping FDI on Chinese companies saved the pandemic-battered Indian market from Chinese domination. The move was followed by banning 59 Chinese apps, and propagation of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign by the prime minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Approximately 14 per cent of India’s imports, amounting to billions of dollars, come from China. As per Acuite Ratings &amp; Research, India can substitute 25 per cent of these imports by locally made products in sectors such as chemicals, automotive components, bicycle parts, agro-based items, handicrafts, drug formulations, cosmetics, consumer electronics and leather-based goods. This, without any additional investment in infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Xi Jinping sees India as an enemy, and his key foreign policy objective is to reduce India’s role, growth and presence on the international platform. It is also visible that China does not care for its international image. After a successful informal meeting of the two leaders in Mamallapuram last year, the Galwan Valley incursion is nothing short of a betrayal. China wants to wage a war against India on one hand and continue trade on another, but it will have to decide on its choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s ban on apps and restriction on Chinese investment have led to similar demands in many European countries. Germany has already suspended an automatic route for Chinese investment. Japan, Malaysia and Australia have plans to divert their trade relations from China. The UK passed a new citizenship law for residents of Hong Kong, thereby making it easier for them to get British citizenship. Australia is on its way to formulating a similar law.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With strong support from the US and other global players, and strengthening of the MSMEs, toy, leather and automobile industries, India is capable of becoming self-reliant, and, more importantly, free from depending on China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the strategies were not working, the Chinese defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, would not have insisted on meeting his Indian counterpart thrice in the last 80 days. China’s attempt to change the status quo on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, even as military-level talks are under way, is a clear violation of agreements and will not be tolerated at any cost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maintaining a peaceful yet firm relation with a neighbour as aggressive as China is like walking a tightrope, yet the tiger is tackling the dragon remarkably well. How can we trust the Chinese who are ‘seeking peace’, when in reality they are working to get a piece of Nepal, Bhutan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, India, Bhutan and further more!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Sep 11 18:15:42 IST 2020 improving-learning-competence <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India is one of the few countries that have brought out policies in alignment with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015.</p> <p>The National Education Policy, 2020, (NEP) is yet another historic step towards realising the SDGs. The NEP has been carefully crafted to give our children the best of both worlds: the rich heritage of ancient and eternal Indian knowledge, and the modern ideology of providing freedom to choose. The pursuit of knowledge (<i>jnan</i>), wisdom (<i>pragyaa</i>) and truth (<i>satya</i>) is overtly visible in the policy.</p> <p>The NEP lays emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual. It is based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive capacities—both the foundational capacities of literacy and numeracy and higher-order cognitive capacities, such as critical thinking and problem solving—but also social, ethical, and emotional capacities and dispositions. With the quickly changing employment landscape and global ecosystem, it is becoming increasingly critical that children not only learn, but more importantly learn how to learn.</p> <p>The education system of India needed overhauling for long. We were following a 10+2 scheme of education, which will now be replaced by a pedagogical 5+3+3+4 system. Currently, children in the age group of three to six are not covered in the 10+2 structure as class one begins at age six. In the new 5+3+3+4 structure, a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age three is also included, which is aimed at promoting overall learning, development and well-being.</p> <p>The policy also honours native Indian languages and promotes teaching in mother tongue/regional languages up to class five to ease society’s fixation with English as a medium of education, and often as a measure of competence.</p> <p>The best feature of the policy is abolition of the stream system which forces children to study a pre-fixed set of subjects at the plus two-level by choosing either science, commerce or humanities with marks earned through mug-and-puke methodology. The glamorisation of the sciences as a stream and the hierarchical nature of the streams belittled other sets of qualities. This policy is a step ahead to place all subjects in horizontal boxes, rather than vertical, where no subject is superior to another. The NEP will also give freedom to choose individual subjects, say physics with geography, or accountancy with chemistry, at the +4-level to create a unique skill set for each individual. This will not only ease the pressure on students to prove their worth by taking up science at plus two-level but also thrash the rampant system of demanding cash by schools to grant science stream to students with low scores in their high school examination.</p> <p>Minorities are also comparatively underrepresented in schools and higher education. The NEP acknowledges the importance of interventions to promote education of children belonging to all minority communities, and particularly those communities that are educationally underrepresented.</p> <p>The NEP has been launched with a goal to improve learning competence of individuals. The NEP envisions a significant increase in public investment in education by both the Central and state governments. The proposal that the Centre and the states should work together to increase the public investment in education sector to 6 per cent of GDP at the earliest is unique in its own right. This will prove to be extremely critical for achieving high quality and equitable public education system that is truly needed for India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual and technological progress and growth.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament </b>•&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> Thu Aug 27 17:03:23 IST 2020 beginning-of-a-harmonious-phase <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is neither anti-secular nor anti-dalit. In fact, August 5, 2020, will be marked with a golden stamp in Indian history as Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Ram Mandir at the birth place of Lord Ram. The <i>bhoomipoojan</i> by Modi was the end of a civilisational exile, and the beginning of a new India, with its ethos entrenched in an ancient value system.</p> <p>Our model of governance is rooted in the<br> principles of Ram Rajya. August 5 was a historic day that lifted the spirits of the country from a pandemic-induced negativity.</p> <p>The construction of Ram Mandir cannot be branded as anti-secular because our Constitution does not discourage celebration of a religious activity. Rather, it strives to protect the religious sentiments of every individual. The Constitution does not promote agnosticism or atheism. It promises every individual the right to practise and preach his or her own religion within legal limits.</p> <p>We must note that the religious aspect of the Ayodhya dispute was not taken into consideration by the Supreme Court; instead, it treated the matter as a mere land dispute. Incidentally, the birth places of all religious figures in the world are well-protected—be it Bethlehem, Mecca in Saudi Arabia or Lumbini in Nepal. What could be a greater proof of India’s secularism than the fact that the birth place of the most revered Hindu god was treated as a mere land dispute? I cannot understand how celebrations of building a temple can be considered anti-secular or against the constitutional idea of a secular India.</p> <p>A staunch Hindu, I believe that construction of a mosque at the land allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board will not insult any Hindu in any manner. In another narrative, in a bid to undermine Hindu consolidation, some people have raised the issue of discrimination by upper caste Hindus against lower caste Hindus. They ignore the fact that the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra has a dalit, Kameshwar Chaupal, among its 15 members. He has been entrusted with the responsibility of supervising the construction of the temple. He is the same person who performed <i>shilanyas</i> for Ram Mandir in November 1989. And a dalit family was given the first <i>prasad</i> of the <i>bhoomipoojan</i> ceremony. It was sent to Mahaveer, a dalit, by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.</p> <p>I suggest that the so-called liberals put the bitter political mobilisations over religious issues behind, and look forward to inclusive governance. The construction of the temple is the logical result of the Supreme Court judgment; it should mark the end of an older, hostile phase of India and the beginning of a fresh, harmonious phase.</p> <p>India has a large population of Hindus who were historically wronged by invasions and destruction of their places of worship. So, there was a wave of happiness throughout the country on the auspicious groundbreaking ceremony.</p> <p>Lord Ram is the most venerable religious figure for Hindus, and his birth place has the greatest significance in our culture, texts and sentiments. There is no aspect of an Indian’s life where Ram does not inspire. His ideals of an inclusive, just and harmonious state are still instilled in every Indian and continue to influence us. It is unwise to malign the image of <i>maryada purushottam</i> Shri Ram with taunting words like anti-secular, unconstitutional and discrimination. We eagerly wait for the completion of the temple that will lead to a just and ideal Ram Rajya in our country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lekhi is member of Parliament • <a href=""></a></p> Thu Aug 13 14:12:07 IST 2020 crushed-from-within <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The disagreements between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot have added weight to a sinking ship: the Congress.</p> <p>Recent political developments in Rajasthan have been dramatic. The Congress government there, which was formed on a small majority, is struggling to survive.</p> <p>Gehlot’s removal of Pilot from the ministry has direct links with the party’s high command in Delhi, as the waning leadership is unable to keep its core players satisfied.</p> <p>A major reason for Pilot’s revolt is his desire to be declared the face of the party in the Rajasthan assembly elections of 2023. He also wants the high command to reward his supporters with either ministries or positions as head of corporations, besides the removal of Avinash Pandey as the general secretary and Congress in-charge in Rajasthan. Pandey’s loyalties are to Gehlot.</p> <p>A few months ago in Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath of the Congress resigned as chief minister and the BJP returned to power, thus reducing the Congress footprint in the country. The exit of this 15-month-old Congress government came a year after the party had lost its government in Karnataka, where it had played second fiddle to the Janata Dal (Secular) despite having more numbers in the assembly.</p> <p>In Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia was at loggerheads with Nath and Digvijaya Singh, another Congress veteran, ever since the government was formed there. Scindia ran out of patience with the Congress, as the party made Nath the chief minister despite Scindia leading from the front in the assembly elections. Scindia’s supporters wanted him to be the party president in the state after being denied the post of the chief minister.</p> <p>Scindia, who has always maintained his stand as a public servant, threatened to hit the streets if the state government failed to waive farm loans, as promised in the party manifesto. But, to his disappointment, nothing worked in his favour, which must have forced him to leave the party. Finally, when it came to the crunch, Nath tendered his resignation by avoiding the crucial floor test ordered by the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Uncertainty looms large over the government in Rajasthan, and the Congress is in power in only four other states—Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, where it is just a fringe player assisting bigger allies, and the Union territory of Puducherry.</p> <p>But it is a leadership crisis that is plaguing the Congress, and the party is experiencing a battle between the young and the old guard. The young leaders are feeling uneasy and are joining the BJP where they feel their efforts will be recognised under its strong leadership.</p> <p>The Congress leadership is steadily crumbling in the hands of its nepotistic leaders. It has not looked beyond the Nehru-Gandhi household in 40 years, except during 1991-98 when P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri took over the charge.</p> <p>In the event of the demise of a national party like the Congress, regional outfits that have grown at the cost of the Congress will emerge as the opposition for the BJP.</p> <p>The last seven Lok Sabha elections have seen the steady rise of the BJP, and consequent decline of the Congress. Yet, whatever little hope that is there for the Congress is being killed by its nepotistic leadership and the continuous failure of trust of its major players in the regional political arena. With internal clashes brewing in Chhattisgarh and Punjab as well, it will be an uphill task for the Congress to remain relevant in national reckoning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Jul 30 18:25:47 IST 2020 transgenders-in-uniform <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a major push for gender reform, the Union home ministry is set to allow transgender persons to join paramilitary forces like the CRPF, the BSF, the CISF and the ITBP. We have already received approvals from the BSF, the CISF and the ITBP.</p> <p>The decision is in line with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, notified by the Central government in December 2019, under which no establishment can discriminate against transgender persons in matters relating to employment, recruitment and promotion.</p> <p>The transgender community has for long been the most neglected part of society. So much so that they are denied the basic human right to exist within the respectable confines of society, thereby pushing them to maintain their own secretive subculture in an almost parasitic way. They often support themselves by begging, through sex trade and petty businesses. The only times they are allowed into the ‘respectable settings’ are during child birth and wedding functions, where they earn their livelihood, and two minutes of limelight and respect.</p> <p>Not all transgender persons are identified at birth; some realise their identity as they grow up and find themselves caught in a wrong body. They often face harassment for their choices of attire, demeanour and behaviour. With minimal support from families—who tend to disown them because of societal pressure—no medical facilities for sex-change surgeries and lack of means to earn a respectable income, they are forced to live under shackles of poverty, relying on pre-defined roles to earn a livelihood.</p> <p>According to a study published in <i>The Diploma</i>t, 51 per cent of transgender persons in India have faced some sort of physical abuse at the hands of either their own families or in the form of mob-lynching. The widely believed stories about their magical abilities to curse or bless, their make-up smeared faces and gaudy clothing mask the stories of sex trade, exploitation, cruel and dangerous castrations, and constant humiliation. They lead a life of broken reality where they crave for respect and inclusion in society. Eleanor Roosevelt and her team drafted the most visionary document ever that was adopted at the UN General Assembly in Paris in 1948—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHR). It sensitised the world about conscience, kindness, and equality for all.</p> <p>Japan was the first country to recognise the third gender, when it passed an act in 2003. Even though it was a controversial law, as it mentioned gender identity could be a disorder, it still put the issues of transgender persons in the forefront. Later, the UK, Spain, Uruguay, Argentina and other countries followed suit and introduced their own versions of recognition of the third gender by law.</p> <p>In India, the Supreme Court gave a historic judgment in National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India case, declaring transgender persons to be the third gender that had the right to self identification, making them eligible for reservation in jobs and educational institutions, which later transcended to the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in August 2019.</p> <p>It is pertinent to mention that transgender persons enjoyed a special status in ancient Hindu society. Lord Ram brought transgender persons from the forest into the city symbolising their respectful inclusion. Lord Krishna let Shikhandi, a male born in a female’s body, take part in the Kurukshetra war. With the decision to let transgender persons take up leadership roles in paramilitary forces, the government is returning to the community its right to command respect, transforming its broken dreams into reality.</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Jul 16 17:31:00 IST 2020 funding-rajiv-gandhi-foundation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The shocking revelation that the Communist Party of China donated money to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), in 2006-2007, has put a giant question mark on the Congress-China alliance. This was at a time when a Chinese official had remarked that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory.</p> <p>Rahul Gandhi’s comments against the Narendra Modi government were already giving anti-national vibes when this news broke.</p> <p>Apparently, a Memorandum of Understanding&nbsp;was signed between Communist Party of China and the Congress in 2008 for exchange of high-level information, details of&nbsp;which are unknown. Natural questions arise as to why a country that had betrayed the Congress in the past was contributing to a foundation that belonged to a family. How did RGF utilise these funds? Also, what information was exchanged with China? I smell one more apex-level scam from the controversial Congress, but this time around it involves our arch-enemy China.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Nehru-Gandhi-ruled Congress has demonstrated an unnerving callousness with regard to national security and interests.</p> <p>The shady transactions in RGF do not end here. The analysis of annual reports of RGF shows that several Central government ministries, including home affairs, health and family welfare, and environment and forests have donated to RGF. Public sector undertakings like SAIL, LIC, Oriental Bank of Commerce and ONGC, too, have contributed to RGF. All this was carried out when the Congress was in power at the Centre between 2006 and 2013. It is a matter of national interest&nbsp;as to why public funds were being diverted to a private organisation which can easily be branded as a personal joint account of the Gandhi family, as it is chaired by Sonia Gandhi, and&nbsp;has&nbsp;Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi&nbsp;Vadra,&nbsp;Manmohan&nbsp;Singh and P. Chidambaram as trustees.</p> <p>Guess what, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, too, donated money&nbsp;to RGF, which makes no sense whatsoever. The PMNRF directly releases money for the welfare of the citizens. Then, why was it donating to RGF? If the intention of RGF was to work for literacy, science, women and children, as mentioned on its website, I am surprised why they could not improve facilities on the ground the regular way when the Congress was in power. The usage of a fund to evade taxes and secure black money is not a new concept, and RGF is its perfect example. Obfuscation is a hobby for the Congress.</p> <p>If we dig deeper, we find that Manmohan&nbsp;Singh, as the finance minister in 1992, tried to divert Rs 100 crore to RGF. Though the proposal was dismissed later, mala fide&nbsp;intentions of the Congress government can clearly be judged by this action. Even the first chief information commissioner was a former secretary of RGF who ruled that it does fall under the ambit of RTI.</p> <p>It does&nbsp;not end here. The&nbsp;Jawahar&nbsp;Bhawan&nbsp;was provided to RGF by the urban development ministry under the Congress-led government for free, even though the property was worth Rs100 crore in 1995.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress’s soft reaction against the Chinese government and&nbsp;Rahul’s secret meetings with Chinese officials during the&nbsp;India-Chinese stand-off&nbsp;at&nbsp;Doklam&nbsp;raise many uncomfortable questions for the opposition, and so does RGF’s transactional history. An official&nbsp;probe will yield the reality of RGF projects. But do we still need to decipher Congress’s Chinese connect?</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Jul 02 19:35:25 IST 2020 support-from-agriculture <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Union government is eyeing the positive growth in the agricultural sector to revive the Covid-19-battered economy. The agricultural sector accounts for almost 16.5 per cent of our GDP. Farmers, as a community, have kept the agricultural engine running. They have quietly harvested wheat, the main rabi crop, in north and central India, and even managed to notch up early kharif planting, topping last year’s figures. This can also be owed to the fact that the government had exempted farmers from the lockdown.</p> <p>The year 2019-2020 saw India’s agricultural sector grow by 11.3 per cent. According to NITI Aayog, this is the first time since 1980-1981, when farm sector growth has exceeded that of non-farm by such a wide margin. That farming activity has been relatively unaffected is also captured by the fact that retail fertiliser sales rose 45 per cent year-on-year in April.</p> <p>In the 2020 Union budget, the Union finance minister had said that steps would be taken to replicate zero-budget farming—that promotes use of locally available cow dung, cow urine, pulse flour and jaggery instead of chemical fertilisers and pesticides—in all of India, taking cue from a few states that practice it. Union government has also introduced appropriate new laws or amended old ones to firmly integrate farm markets across the country.</p> <p>We are moving towards stepping up our game to increase the export of agricultural produce as well as aquaculture to a level where we compete with global players like the United States, the Netherlands and China. We have the resources, but the major issue with Indian agricultural market is that it is fragmented. Every state has its own laws when it comes to sales of produce. The Narendra Modi government is trying to facilitate better coordination between states. Our farmers and supply chains are reorganising themselves to address a global market under the aegis of the Agriculture Export Policy, 2018. Commodity-specific administration bodies can be set up; promotion of agriculture clusters as well as contract farming will boost exports. Demand for basic agricultural produce in domestic market—arising from Covid-19-induced closure of lakhs of eateries—has decreased, and will not rise to pre-Covid-19 levels for at least a year. The extra produce can be exported.</p> <p>A strong performance in agricultural exports would mean better price realisation for farmers, increased awareness regarding good agricultural practices and consequently greater trust on quality.</p> <p>The different government agencies need to work in a coordinated manner to improve the quality of the entire food supply chain. While reforms in Agriculture and Produce Market Committee and contract farming may address long-standing concerns about farmers getting fair prices, a systematic initiative to address the logistics issues will make our agricultural exports hassle-free and more competitive. Developing the right kind of sea protocol for perishables is crucial to increasing exports. Better coordination between exporters and government bodies is required. Agencies like the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority and the Marine Products Exports Development Authority, which pursue market access request for India’s agricultural and aquaculture products, should be better-equipped.</p> <p>We need an aggressive approach in promoting Indian produce like basmati rice, ethnic and organic foods, herbs, millets and bamboo products to grab a larger market share in countries where these products have large demand.</p> <p>India has primarily been identified as an agricultural country. It is no wonder that in a pandemic-hit period, our roots will support to push the economy forward.</p> Mon Jun 22 08:24:45 IST 2020 support-dont-mindlessly-criticise <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The economic stimulus package of Rs20 lakh crore, announced by the Narendra Modi government is one tight slap on the faces of all his critics. The package was followed up by a series of announcements intimating how and where the funds will be utilised for the four Ls—land, labour, law and liquidity. It is a comprehensive package that has touched upon major sectors of the Indian economy, along with encouragement to supporting sectors. It is a clearly defined leap towards economic reforms that will help India become self-reliant and resilient.</p> <p>The Covid-19 virus has changed the face of the world economy. Import and export sectors have experienced a cascade effect. Self-reliance or ‘Atmanirbharta’ is the only way to be now. The prime minister is hell-bent on realising a dream that any economy strives to achieve, a sense of self-sufficiency and least dependency on imports.</p> <p>When the first case of Covid-19 hit the country, not even a single PPE kit was being manufactured in the country. But, within a span of less than two months, an average of 1.5 lakh PPE kits was manufactured locally. This impossible task was being realised by the hard work of the Central health ministry, with support from local industry. The critics, backed by the opposition, are trying hard to paint a dreaded picture, concentrating on a few negative cases.</p> <p>Due to the monetary help provided by the government, crores of poor, directly or indirectly, are being free-fed on a daily basis since the beginning of the lockdown. Financial assistance of Rs34,800 crore, using digital payment infrastructure, was provided to some 39 crore beneficiaries. The 20 lakh crore package includes Rs1.7 lakh crore for providing free foodgrains to the poor and cash to poor women and the elderly.</p> <p>The medium, small and micro enterprises are the backbone of Indian economy as they not only constitute 24 per cent of the GDP from service activities, but also provide employment to approximately 120 million people. They promote inclusive growth by providing employment opportunities in rural areas, especially to the weaker sections of society. The finance minister has announced Rs3 lakh crore emergency working capital facilities for businesses, including 45 lakh MSMEs.</p> <p>In another step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, no global tenders will be allowed in the government sector for up to Rs200 crore. The Centre also announced a scheme to provide homes to migrant labourers and urban poor at affordable rent. It has extended the interest subsidy scheme for middle-income families till March 2021 to boost housing demand. The Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme was also extended up to March 2021 and it will benefit approximately two lakh middle-income families. There was also the announcement of the one-nation-one-ration-card scheme to allow migrant workers to access public distribution system benefits from any fair price shop across the country. The schemes have proved that the government has its heart in the right place, caring for all with utmost sensibility and sensitivity.</p> <p>Apart from these, there is a series of other schemes and benefits that have been announced by the government, like a booster for animal husbandry and fisheries department for the holistic growth of the nation. The sad state of affairs is that the opposition chooses to stick to little loopholes it can find in the larger good of the country and spread make-believe stories against the Modi government in a constantly failing attempt to revive its sunken ship. It is high time the opposition realises that working with the Modi government to rebuild the nation in these testing times will be a smarter idea than to mindlessly criticise the policies and make oneself a laughing stock.</p> Thu Jun 04 18:04:36 IST 2020 short-term-service-long-term-gain <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The proposal by the Union government to induct civilians into the Army for a three-year tenure is truly a game-changer and a far-sighted one. However, it requires detailed analysis and deliberation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea certainly aims at overcoming deficiencies at various ranks. Thus augmentation of depleted manpower would be possible. In addition, this would attract more youth to join the Army, so that it becomes a young, lean, mean and efficient fighting force. In the Kargil conflict, officers and jawans with less than three years of service showed exemplary maturity and commitment, not hesitating to even sacrifice themselves for the country. Also, reduction in defence pensions, which make up around 30 per cent of the defence budget, could be a factor behind the implementation of short-term induction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though some western countries have a concept of short-term induction, comparing India with them would be unfair because of the magnitude of challenges faced by India on multiple fronts—the most volatile being the dragon factor and the terrorist sanctuary of Pakistan. Nevertheless, countries like Israel have proved that three years of military service is an adequate period, both for individual grooming and for the force to genuinely benefit from the jawan’s or officer’s services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, there are a few key factors to consider. The line of work for three-year commissions should initially be towards support and logistic services. It would be wise to not put them in the infantry, artillery or armoured units. The respect that an officer commands from his men would be greatly affected when it is known that he is going to leave them soon. In field areas, terrorist-infested areas and insurgency-prone areas, it takes a long time for a soldier to really get a feel of the terrain, understand the enemy, carry out analysis of threats, get used to daily life and the frequent gunshots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three years is too small a period for someone new to make a significant contribution to service and to keep the morale of his men high. Moreover, his objectives may be short-sighted and his focus may be more on self (to come out safe and sound in three years) rather than on the critical objective to be established in the line of duty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, it would be ideal for the Army to take in three-year recruits, train them in support services, groom them well, identify the exceptional ones and offer them a three-year extension. They can then be routed to the fighting units, and the soldier who is now well-settled into the ethos of the Army, in addition to his basic field work experience, will be able to contribute to the Army in a more significant manner. The best among them may be offered an option of another three-year extension, after which the most suitable soldiers can be offered a permanent commission. This would ensure that soldiers first get a solid grounding in the Army for a couple of years and those who choose to stay on will remain in the Army purely owing to passion and professional excellence and hence will go beyond the call of duty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Provision may also be made to give short-term recruits quotas in educational institutions for postgraduate studies and also for employment opportunities in public sector undertakings. In addition, it would be wise to give them an opportunity to attend a short-term recruit job fair, represented by private companies, giving them suitable opportunities for employment.</p> <p>Young friends, spend at least three years in the Army and you will keep winning for the rest of your life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri May 22 17:06:12 IST 2020 more-than-just-buildings <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Supreme Court has refused the petition seeking a stay on construction of the Central Vista project that aims to revive the Central Secretariat offices and the Parliament. In his refusal of stay, Chief Justice S.A. Bobde clearly mentioned there was no urgency for the project to commence and nobody was going to do anything during the Covid-19 pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite that, there was a strong reaction by the opposition, calling it a Rs20,000-crore project that overlooked the Covid-19 fiscal requirement. The source of this estimate remains unknown. There has been absolute transparency in the process and the official estimate is close to Rs7,600 crore. Considering that the Central government pays Rs1,000 crore annually as rent for its scattered offices, you can assess the project’s efficiency in the long run. Add to it the costs for daily travel allowance, number of vehicles to be bought and maintained, and so on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I believe the opposition party is aware that allocation and utilisation of funds takes place in a phased manner. The idea of linking the Central Vista project’s funds and Covid-19 is a propaganda to defame the prime minister and the Central government when the whole world is praising Indian authorities for tackling the pandemic efficiently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Central Vista project will prove to be an extension to the identity of the nation. The infrastructure of the Parliament building, North Block and South Block has great history. But the structures are old and do not cater to the needs of the functioning of modern India. They will be turned into a museum for the purpose of sentimental value, but a new structure will facilitate smoother movement of information across ministries. The Central government offices are scattered across 47 buildings in Delhi. For example, the finance ministry is in North Block, but the CBDT and CBIC—two essential tax bodies—have their headquarters around 10km away in South Delhi. Also, the Central civil services rules mention the stipulated carpet area of office space designated to ministers and subsequent officers, which is not being met for most of them. The Secretariat has grown considerably over the years and temporary setups have been installed to accommodate staff within the corridors. There are not even enough rooms to accommodate all the members of Parliament. The number of Lok Sabha constituencies is also expected to increase due to reorganisation, and their staff deserve at least an office within the Parliament. The century-old structure poses a safety and security concern for all Central government employees and the data that is stored within.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The setting that we work in is more than just buildings. They are symbols of the autocratic rule by the tyrannical British government. The layout is the exact opposite of what a central law-making body of a democracy should look like. There are large rooms for senior officials, positions held by the British at the time, and barely any space for the subordinate staff that was mostly Indian. The whole system reeks of the Indian ‘chalta hai’ attitude, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is strictly against.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Independent India could not afford to rebuild such powerful structures during its initial years. However, this was long due. After close to 75 years of independence, and with the withering of the colonial hangover, the project has more than just physical benefits. It will give a sense of Indian-ness to its citizens, who will be well represented by a structure that we can proudly call our own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri May 08 19:15:41 IST 2020 cushioning-the-blow <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The 40-day lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 has led to a sudden increase in expenses and a drop in revenue for the state. Even though we cannot stress enough the necessity of this lockdown, it does come at the cost of economic difficulties. The virus has affected the entire spectrum of the economy. Manufacturing units are shut, the share market is plummeting, demand for non-essentials is close to zero and traders, especially small ones, are fighting for their existence.</p> <p>The Reserve Bank of India has come up with liquidity-boosting measures to cushion the blow on the economy. RBI governor Shaktikanta Das vowed to do “whatever it takes” to sail through this crisis. The central bank has cut the reverse repo rate under the liquidity assessment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent. This is a further reduction from the 4 per cent reverse repo rate announced on March 27. This will discourage commercial banks from parking cash with the RBI and increase lending capacity, thus, increasing liquidity in the market. Changes in the repo rate, however, are not suggested since the inflation is anticipated to be lower in the following months.</p> <p>Another major announcement was that of conducting a second round of targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO) for an initial amount of Rs50,000 crore. The move is expected to help refinance non-banking financial companies and micro finance institutions to maintain healthy cash flow to the small and medium enterprises. The earlier TLTRO scheme mostly catered to public sector units and large corporations. Funds provided by NBFCs to real estate companies will be given similar benefits as of the scheduled commercial banks. This means that the date of commercial commencement of operations of real estate projects can be deferred for one year for reasons outside their control.</p> <p>Also, Rs50,000 crore has been released to NABARD, SIDBI and NHB to enable them to meet sectoral needs. This again will help in refinancing the regional rural and co-operative banks. These banks cater directly to agricultural labourers and other daily wagers who are currently in dire need of financial assistance. The government is expected to continue this cash flow for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>The RBI has increased the limit for short-term credit under the Ways and Means Advances (WMA) for the April-September period. The WMA limit for the Central government has been raised to 02 lakh crore from an earlier revised Rs1.2 lakh crore. The limit of Rs2 lakh crore is the highest ever and a sharp jump compared with the Rs75,000 crore limit in the same period last year. WMAs are a temporary loan facility provided to the Central and state governments to enable them to meet temporary mismatches between revenue and expenditure. The Centre released Rs17,000 crore to procure PPE kits and other medical equipment. The Centre and states are in critical need of funds that can be accessed quickly, and WMAs will prove to be quite resourceful.</p> <p>The RBI has also put restrictions on dividend payouts for the fourth quarter of the 2019-20 financial year by scheduled commercial banks. This will again increase liquidity. Stressed asset resolution timeline has been extended by 90 days, which will provide time and breathing space to lenders and borrowers.</p> <p>The world economy is experiencing a contraction due to Covid-19. However, the International Monetary Fund has projected a growth of 1.9 per cent in India’s GDP, the highest among the G20 nations. With these well-planned measures by the RBI and a fiscal boost expected by the finance ministry, the Indian economy is in safe hands even in these testing times.</p> Thu Apr 23 18:05:06 IST 2020 be-responsible-and-patient <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Tablighi Jamaat congregation risked the lives of millions in the name of religion. It is nothing less than an act of treason. Despite the orders banning any gathering of more than 200 people at one place, more than 2,000 Muslim clerics from all over the world gathered at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in New Delhi. They further dispersed to all parts of the country to preach. They took with them the deadly coronavirus acquired from foreign delegates at the meeting. Over 1,023 confirmed cases have been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat as on April 5, 2020.</p> <p>The people involved in this whole scenario showed utter negligence towards their duty as citizens. The explanation offered by them is that there was a lack of proper guidelines from concerned authorities. As a matter of fact, by the time the clerics started to travel across the country, the World Health Organisation had already declared Covid-19 as a pandemic and our prime minister had already announced the observance of Janata Curfew on March 22.</p> <p>The Delhi government, too, ignored the grave situation. At the moment, rigorous contact tracing exercise should be conducted to stop the further virus-spread by this “super spreader” event. The Delhi government also failed to provide adequate arrangements for migrant labourers. Meanwhile, stone pelting and spit attacks on health care professionals and police were reported in Indore, Madhubani, and Bhilwara. These incidents display the irrational behaviour of some of our fellow citizens. Such incidents may demoralise the frontline soldiers of this war against the pandemic. The peculiar case of one Kanika Kapoor, a Bollywood singer, came to light amid the Covid-19 panic. Despite the self-quarantine advisory, she attended various parties, exposing the attendees to the risk of transmission.</p> <p>These incidents compel me to wonder where we are moving to as a community. Do we not take our fundamental duties seriously? I feel that we are taking our able leadership and efficient administrative system for granted. Roaming around streets and not following social-distancing advisory has become the new definition of “cool” for some people.</p> <p>If we look at the measures taken by the Union government, they have been drastic and effective. Swift decision to lockdown the country for 21 days was necessary and was well-timed. Section 144 was implemented. Food packets and free ration are being distributed to help the homeless. The PM-CARES fund was set up to raise money to manage the pandemic. Doctors have been provided with free insurance up to Rs50 lakh. The police machinery is tirelessly working to ensure that the public follows the guidelines to minimise spread of the virus. Railway coaches are being set up as isolation wards. In Delhi, various community kitchens were set up to provide food to the helpless migrants. Aarogya Setu mobile app has been launched to track the spread and create awareness about Covid-19.</p> <p>Independent India is facing such a situation for the first time. The last time we were forced into a situation like this was in 1918 when the Spanish Flu spread throughout the world. The British government, as per reports, did not take effective measures to control the epidemic in India, and the flu killed 18 million Indians. We are lucky that we have a government that is hell bent on saving its citizens. The mighty, developed countries have surrendered to this virus. We are still in a better state. Yet, some have failed our country by their irresponsible behaviour. It is every individual’s responsibility to follow social guidelines with utmost sincerity and patience to win this war.</p> Thu Apr 09 16:24:25 IST 2020 the-fight-is-on <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Covid-19 outbreak has brought the world to a standstill. Sweeping changes are necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The interplay between the outbreak and the steps meant to vanquish it reveals a cruel paradox—the faster ordinary economic life shuts down, the faster the health crisis can be solved and faster people and businesses may gain the confidence to return to normalcy.</p> <p>Contact tracing is of utmost importance to fight the pandemic on the ground. The government has been working tirelessly to contain the coronavirus and have succeeded in delaying its community transmission. As I am writing this, we have only 415 positive cases and eight deaths. I feel we have done a commendable act by learning from the mistakes of Italy, Spain and the United States.</p> <p>In the United Kingdom, the idea of letting low-risk residents be infected by the virus as a way of generating immunity seems misplaced and disastrous, and it is a lesson to be learnt. The Janata Curfew implemented on March 22 was a success and I think even a lockdown of few hours went miles towards containing the coronavirus in our country. The country expressed gratitude to the health care workers and all those who are on the frontline in providing essential services in these dangerous times. In a move worthy of applause, the Gujarat government banned spitting in public to minimise the spread of the virus. This is the time to enforce no-spitting campaigns in public places.</p> <p>The dreaded third phase of the coronavirus spread is here, and the only effective ways to stop it are self-isolation, avoiding physical contact and maintaining good hand-hygiene. Section 144 has been imposed in various parts of the country. A complete lockdown is important because the wildfire-like situation leaves us with little or no time to make a daily wage labourers understand the importance of social distancing. Once it reaches the lower economic strata, we will start to face a horrifying situation.</p> <p>A major consequence of a lockdown is zero employment for daily wagers. State governments should take measures to distribute excess grains stocked in Food Corporation of India storage units through the public distribution system. They also need to create isolation wards and testing facilities in private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients.</p> <p>A quick revisit to the Indian format of living is also commendable which promotes vegetarianism, minimum contact with strangers, washing hands and feet before entering homes and the ayurvedic medicine system that stresses on strengthening immunity rather than the allopathic way of treating the symptoms.</p> <p>The prime minister’s decision to hold an emergency videoconference with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation leaders on combating Covid-19 was out-of-the-box thinking. The SAARC emergency fund has already been set up and will be operational by the time this piece goes into print. The fact that he made the videoconference available live indicates his desire to reach out to the public of SAARC countries and to support the strict actions being taken by respective governments. The cancellation of the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2016—after the Uri attack—had left the bonhomie of the south Asian cooperation faded, but the tragedy of Covid-19 may provide an opportunity for India to demonstrate its compassionate face to secure a region at peace with itself.</p> <p>Prime Minister Modi’s foreseeability can be assessed from the launching of Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014. It was allocated Rs12,644 crore and Rs12,300 crore in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Union budgets respectively. The spread of the virus is a reminder that being environment friendly is not a short-term choice, it should be a way of life much like our ancient Indian culture.</p> Thu Mar 26 18:14:51 IST 2020 getting-closer-to-the-us <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The recently concluded visit of US President Donald Trump to India has reinforced the bet on a longer-term convergence with the US, elevating the relationship to a comprehensive global strategic partnership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump’s visit has brought about a major defence partner agreement and Indo-Pacific alliance agreement. The US has supplied India with the latest lethal weapons and advanced technologies. It has extended financial assistance, trade concessions and market access on priority. It has extended political and diplomatic support at international platforms like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the Financial Action Task Force, the European Union, the World Bank and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has signed the deal to buy US military equipment worth three billion dollars. This will largely contain attacking helicopters. Another deal with ExxonMobil will see India import more liquified natural gas (LNG) from the US. This will majorly increase clean fuel usage in the country, along with reducing dependency on the Middle East for our fuel requirements. With this deal, India targets to achieve 15 per cent share of gas in the energy basket in 10 years, compared with the present 6.2 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During Trump’s visit, the significance of 5G wireless network and its requirement to be a way for freedom and progress was discussed. The US Federal Communications Commission Chairperson Ajit Pai, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman R.S. Sharma and Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash conducted meetings to propel the matter. 5G is the next generation of wireless technology, and if this materialises between the two countries, it will boost data speeds and propel the Internet of Things, with the potential to bring radical changes in agriculture, manufacturing, health care and education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The history of the Indo-US relationship has been a bumpy ride. After India’s independence from the colonial rule, India launched the Non-Aligned Movement. Even though the Congress government at the Centre maintained a non-aligned stand, the tilt was more towards the erstwhile USSR. On the other hand, the US-Pakistan alliance was a major peeve. A dramatic turn occurred in the 1990s—the Cold War ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and US-Pakistan relations plummeted, because of the latter’s clandestine nuclear programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The final blow to the US-Pakistan relations came with the 9/11 attack in the US, and it gave way to positive ties between India and the US. India and the US inked the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, an initiative that changed a three-decade US moratorium on nuclear energy trade with India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Narendra Modi coming to power, the Indo-US relations are at an all-time high. Former US president Barack Obama invited Modi to the White House, and Obama accepted India’s invitation as chief guest for the 68th Republic Day celebration in 2015. A few months later, India and the US signed the documents to renew the ten-year Defence Framework Agreement. In 2018, India and the US inked the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which gave India access to advanced communication technology used in US defence equipment, and allowed real-time information sharing between the armies of the two countries. The deal was under talks for over a decade, and it finally came into being.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi and Trump enjoy massive popularity in their respective countries and have been able to share the same in respective foreign lands as well. The Howdy, Modi! event was a huge success in the US and Namaste Trump saw around a million people cheering for the global leader at Motera Stadium. Though the trade deficit agreement is under discussion, it is safe to say that we have finally found a close ally in the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Mar 13 15:04:26 IST 2020 demand-command <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Supreme Court judgment granting women officers of the Indian Army the right to permanent commission and commandant positions is historic. It is an encouraging step for serving women officers and a great motivation for young girls aspiring to join the Army. The officers had already suffered emotionally owing to stunted professional growth despite potential, lack of job security because of ambiguous status of the cadre and because they had to serve under officers who were at most six batches junior.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Contrary to the United Progressive Alliance government—under whose tenure the affidavit was filed—Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisions a bureaucracy unbiased of gender. The present judgment resonates with his August 15, 2018, announcement of granting women permanent commission. The prime minister’s word is the political will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I took up this case in 2011 after an affidavit was filed by the then UPA government against the Delhi High Court verdict that had granted permanent commission to women officers. I did so because I strongly believe that bravery has nothing to do with gender, and a person’s placement in life should be decided on merit alone. If I, being a woman and a civilian, can be in charge of the election campaign in Srinagar, one of the most dangerous areas in the world, then why cannot an Army-trained woman take charge?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An order issued by the defence ministry, dated February 25, 2019, granted permanent commission to women officers in the Army prospectively from the date of the said order. This left the women officers who had already served the country for 25 years high and dry. The appellants had reservations that a meagre 332 (less than 4 per cent of total strength) women officers will eat up the vacancies at higher ranks. This was nothing but a predominant fear and prejudice in the minds of the male officers. The Army’s argument that women officers, considered as effective workforce till 14 years of service, are inefficient at commandant levels is the highest form of hypocrisy. The recent infamous remark by the solicitor general that male troops coming from rural areas will not adhere to women officers’ commands was irrational, to say the least.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Warfare styles are changing. Cyberspace is the new battlefield. Signal communications will have to work in the ever-increasing hostile electronic environment. Newer styles of destruction are invented every day and curbing these require more analytical skills than physical strength.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women were allowed in the armed forces in 1992 through short selection commission, which is for a period of 10 years extendable up to 14. They are posted at various remote locations such as Kashmir, as UN peacekeeping forces in Libya and Congo and even as decoding teams on the border with Pakistan and in northeast India, with bare minimum facilities to survive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi led the first all-woman Indian crew of circumnavigators in 2018. Captain Tania Shergill led an all-men Army contingent in the 71st Republic Day parade. The argument that women have biological differences that make them less efficient for the forces did not hold any water either—senior positions do not require much muscle power when compared with junior positions, as the job profile tilts more towards supervision, strategy making and decision making.</p> <p>By passing this judgement, the Supreme Court has proved that the idea of including women in all forms of workspace can be laid into policies. The battle was against the misogynistic mindset of the bureaucracy, and it had been tackled well. But how this will affect the working atmosphere of the Army for its women is yet to be seen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Feb 28 14:55:05 IST 2020 the-great-leap-forward <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, the core idea behind Budget 2020, is the way forward to construct a dynamic economy mobilised by inclusive growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The budget has kept its focus on boosting economic growth. Despite significant challenges to revenue mobilisation, the government has increased capital expenditure by 18 per cent in 2020-21.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Developing large solar power capacity alongside railway tracks and letting farmers build solar power generation capacity on unfarmable land is an excellent growth idea. The decision to shut down thermal plants will promote the renewable energy sector and strengthen India’s commitment to abide by international carbon footprint standards. Expanding the national natural gas pipeline network to 27,000km should enhance availability of natural gas across the country, while the proposed investment clearance cell should help in dealing with bottlenecks in the execution of projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A popular move in the budget was the decision to raise the deposit insurance limit to Rs5 lakh from Rs1 lakh. The decision to cut tax rates for the middle class, with the caveat that lower rates apply only to those who forgo other deductions, and the abolition of the dividend distribution tax at the corporate end were welcomed by the public. This means dividends will be taxed in the hands of the receiver, giving companies the ability to pay higher dividends. It makes manufacturing cheap, providing an incentive to global manufacturers to set up shop in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are about 4,83,000 direct tax cases pending at the income tax appellate tribunal. The announcement of a one-time amnesty for those who are fighting tax demands in various appellate tribunals will put an end to those exercises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Agriculture has been given a 16-point programme of support. Farm sector budget has been raised by 28 per cent. Agricultural credit target has been raised to 115 lakh crore. Special rail and flight services for the transportation of farm produce will double farmers’ income. A ‘one product one district’ scheme for better marketing and export of horticulture crops has also been announced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government proposes to bring out a policy to enable the private sector to build data centre parks throughout the country. Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications and cybersecurity. An outlay of 18,000 crore for the National Mission on Quantum Technologies has been proposed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A surprise element has been the decision to list the Life Insurance Corporation through an initial public offering. This will facilitate the valuation of the corporation and may fetch the government around Rs80,000 crore, if 10 per cent stakes are released. Social media may frown, but listing on stock exchanges disciplines a company and provides access to financial markets and unlocks its value. It also gives an opportunity for retail investors to participate in the wealth so created.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The debt of the Central government has decreased by 3.5 per cent of the GDP. The World Bank’s ease of doing business index has seen India move up by 79 places. In the global innovation rankings, India has climbed up from 74th position to 52nd position. In the resolving insolvency rankings, India has reached the 52nd position, moving up by 56 places, and in the logistics performance rankings, it has improved by 10 points.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The budget capitalises on this performance by tailoring its initiatives to seek better living standards for all, yield more space to the private sector and draw investments and address climate change. Its success will be seen in the upcoming financial year with improving energy efficiency, growing ease of doing business and great advances in the condition of farmers and the general public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Feb 14 11:34:25 IST 2020 startups-to-jumpstart-economy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A startup is a young company founded by one or more entrepreneurs in order to develop a unique product or service and bring it to market. By its nature, a startup tends to be a shoestring operation, with initial funding from the founders or their families. It is a venture in search of enough financial backing to get off the ground. Its first challenge is to prove the validity of the concept to potential lenders and investors. In order to do that, they have to make a strong argument, if not a prototype, that supports their claim that their idea is truly new or better than anything else in the market.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The youth in India constitutes nearly 20 per cent of total population as per census 2011. The number is expected to rise to 30 per cent in the 2021 census. We need jobs, and startups create jobs. More than 1.87 lakh jobs have been reported by 16,105 startups recognised by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Great ideas attract investments from Indian as well as foreign investors. This brings more money in the market, and thus helps the economy. With the abolition of angel tax and the Securities and Exchange Board of India having classified angel funds separately, it is now possible for individuals to invest in units of angel funds. This opens up a significant opportunity for platforms and fund managers who want to manage angel funds and make the process easy for both investors and startups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With new technology, startups tend to innovate better. Swiggy revolutionised our dining experience. Flipkart connected the urban and rural India with pan India delivery of goods. Ola and Uber changed the taxi system in India. AddressHealth is changing medical services. Paytm changed the billing and payment system. And, many more startups are coming up every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Governments are intrinsically created to cater to and work with established economy. Bodies like NASSCOM, FICCI and CII are making their voice heard in a structured manner. They understand each other’s style of working. The government realises what traditional economy requires and expects from it. In contrast, startups tend to disrupt traditional economy. New technologies are used to carve out new branches in old sectors and sometimes create whole new sectors. The internet has become the backbone of the app-based services throughout the country. Change is good, and often leads to development. But it comes with its own challenges—the difficulties of venturing into the unknown, both for the startups and the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thankfully enough, India recognised this sector at a nascent stage and the hardships faced by the young and bright minds of the country. Startup India was an initiative that was launched in 2016. According to a report in Inc42, a media platform that covers Indian startups, between 2016 and 2019, as many as 15,113 startups were recognised under the Startup India programme across 492 districts in 29 states and six Union territories. Of these, 13,176 startups have reportedly created 1,48,897 jobs with an average of 11 employees per startup. Fifty-five per cent of the recognised startups are from tier-1 cities, 27 per cent from tier-2 cities, and 18 per cent from tier-3 cities. Forty-five per cent of the recognised startups have at least one or more women directors. The government made 22 regulatory amendments and approved 1,275 patent rebates in the last three years. Twenty-four Indian states have introduced a startup policy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the data above suggests, transparent, nimble and open handling of the “new sector economy”will help India achieve the $5 trillion economy faster.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jan 31 11:13:23 IST 2020 model-of-inclusion <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Delhi is a small city with respect to area. However, since it is a national capital and offers opportunities, people come here for livelihood, education and medical treatment. The city also offers seasonal employment to semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Hence, the prospect of livelihood increased Delhi’s population and the settlement of people in slums and unauthorised colonies (UACs).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recent National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Act, 2019, upholds the rights of people who have spent all their life in depravation. It will confer ownership rights on 40 lakh people. Inclusiveness is the essence of public policy, and inclusion of a disadvantaged section of the society in the city-building exercise by counting them among citizens is a start.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a policy brief document prepared by the Centre for Policy Research: “UACs are residential settlements built in contravention of zoning regulations, developed either in violation of Delhi’s master plans or on ‘illegally’ subdivided agricultural land.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They exist in Delhi because post partition, the northwestern part of India experienced the settling of people from Pakistan (now Indians), especially around Delhi. The refugees initially settled in camps with no resources, then eventually settled in these colonies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 92 per cent of those who migrated to these colonies had moved in before 1990. The literacy levels are very disturbing, with only 45.9 per cent having completed higher secondary education. The monthly family income during the time of the study ranged from Rs2,000 to Rs9,000. Only 13.9 per cent could earn more than Rs8,000. What is heart wrenching is that children also have to earn to sustain the family: 69.3 per cent of the children are made to work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per a paper titled ‘Regularising Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi, 2014’ by the Centre for Policy Research: “The first few waves of regularisation happened in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1993, when the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) was looking to regularise 1,071 colonies, an NGO called Common Cause Society approached the Delhi High Court to question the manner in which regularisation had been undertaken. In response, the court restrained the government from regularising any more UACs in Delhi.... In 2007, the government finally put guidelines before the court. [In 2008,] the government resumed its call for applications from UACs seeking regularisation. In response, 1,639 colonies filed applications, and in September, 2012, the GNCTD announced that it had regularised 895 UACs.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anna Zimmer wrote in her paper ‘Enumerating the Semi-Visible: The Politics of Regularising Delhi’s Unauthorised Colonies’: “Where land is not classified as residential according to the master plan, land prices are much more accessible. This is the situation where UACs have developed. In the investigated case, prices were less than 10 per cent of those for plots in adjacent authorised colonies.... New owners are in fact only leasing their land, house or flat.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since residents purchased their houses or lands from the original landowner, most new owners obtained only a power of attorney. To address this, the act has provisions to transfer full property rights. The government, by defining who is a resident, has strengthened the socio-legal and political position of the residents. According to Section 3(1) of the act, the Centre has recognised the property rights of the residents and has regularised such transactions as required to transfer such property rights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the implementation of this act, hopefully the Delhi government’s baseless rant on the issue will be put to an end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jan 17 12:25:38 IST 2020 opposition-duplicitous-stand <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The maintenance and updating of the National Population Register, an initiative of the UPA government, conducted under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, and passed in 2008-2009, has been approved by the Narendra Modi government. It is a mandatory prelude to the census data collection for 2021. The questions arising are illogical to say the least.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The history of the census of India can be traced back to 1865 when the British government first took up this difficult task of collecting data about the demographics of the citizens of British India. They faced various problems, from numberless housing in hamlets to threat from wild animals in tribal areas. The first census of India was released in the year 1871. However, the first census of independent India was issued in 1951. At the time, the national population was only 36 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The present census data collection will commence in April 2020. However, the NPR and the census are different. The NPR process collects demographic and biometric particulars of individuals. And the processes involves door-to-door enumeration. But, the NPR differs from the census in the sense that its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of those residing in India. The census does not identify individuals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, in the 2021 census, this distinction may no longer exist as the government is said to be planning to conduct it through a mobile phone application. The introduction of data collection through mobiles is a big win for the government’s Digital India initiative, as it curbs a humongous problem of generating and maintaining hard copies of data. Misinformation in hard copies of data prevailed before the digital system was set up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the census data is maintained centrally by the Registrar General of India. And, once the NPR data are recorded and ready, these details would be maintained in a population register at levels of village or ward, tehsil or taluk (sub-district), district and state. Together, they will constitute the National Population Register, with all data at the central level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aadhaar becomes an important tool in the NPR process as the data is to be collected through a mobile application. Those with Aadhaar need not give their biometric details during the NPR exercise. The NPR data was to be matched with Aadhaar data for de-duplication. But the final formula gave NPR an upper hand. It was agreed that in case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, NPR would prevail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There have been rumours about NPR being a prelude to NRIC as its timing has clashed with the much talked about Citizenship Amendment Act. False news is being spread about the NRIC. Blatant lies are being spread by the ones earlier defending the same. NPR was also updated in 2015. I am shocked and dismayed by such acts of deception. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former home minister P. Chidambaram had sanctioned crores of rupees for this exercise during their regime. Their duplicitous stand regarding the NRC and the CAA shows their desperation to pull down the Modi government. It is important to ask the opposition party how following the general proceedings as per the law is against the secular fabric of the nation. The fear instilled in Muslims by the opposition party is worth condemning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During World War II, when persecuted Jews were offered citizenship by some countries, was a similar offer made to other religious communities or was it against Christians? Let the writ of logic and reason run.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jan 03 14:40:53 IST 2020 citizenship-amendment-act-is-constitutionally-unchallengeable <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>ONE HISTORICAL</b> wrong has been rectified with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have migrated to India after facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. Pakistan had failed to abide by the Delhi Pact of 1950 (known as the Nehru-Liaquat pact) and protect the minorities’ human rights and right to worship. After 70 years of inaction, India has finally corrected the wrong thanks to the resolve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the clarity of thought displayed by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was furore in Parliament led by the Congress, but the amendments made to the Citizenship Act, 1955 do not put any Indian community at a disadvantage. It has, however, been asked why only Muslims are excluded from CAB. The answer is a counter-question: how can one be religiously persecuted in a state that practises the same religion? These three countries are Islamic states, unlike India which is not theocratic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The argument that the Ahmadiyas in Pakistan deserved inclusion in the CAB is misplaced because attacks on them are sectarian in nature, not religious persecution. Besides, one must remember that Ahmadiya Muslims had voted en bloc to go with Pakistan, a nation created on the basis of religion. Many of them have migrated to the UK and are vocal against India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sectarianism had led to genocide in East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh. Considering the sectarianism and ethnic violence in Pakistan today, the country seems to be witnessing the same “chain of events” as of the 1970s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hindus in Pakistan began coming to India from 1947. One of them, the dalit leader Jogendra Nath Mandal, had migrated to Pakistan on the assumption of peaceful coexistence there, but his dreams soon shattered. He documented the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan while resigning as minister of law and labour from the Liaquat government and returned to India. Many such “red flags” were raised about the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan. Had India then adopted a proactive approach, the need of the new legislation would not have arisen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Empirical evidence of the “receding rate” of minorities in the three countries explains their concerns of minorities. Where did these people who formed 20 per cent of the population vanish? Shouldn’t the UN High Commissioner for Refugees feel compelled to look into such “industrial-scale” extinction?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is well justified to treat these three countries as a “bloc” and to assimilate religiously persecuted persons from there overstaying in India (with constitutional safeguards pertaining to northeastern states in place). Article 11 of our Constitution allows Parliament to exclusively deal with laws, rules and regulations with regard to Indian citizenship. Citizenship amendment addressing religious persecution specific to this bloc is an exercise entirely different from making amendments on the basis of religion under the Citizenship Act. When we talk about Articles 5 to 11, it is clear that citizenship is a legal right and not a fundamental right. It is also clear that it applies to foreigners and not Indians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By virtue of Article 11 Parliament alone has the authority to make and regulate laws pertaining to citizenship. This falls in the realm of policy and is constitutionally unchallengeable. People from any religion can apply for citizenship; there is only some laxity in time in the new legislation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are 46 Islamic theocratic states, but no country for “Indics”. Hence India becomes the default option for them. This is the “Civilisational Obligation” of “India, that is Bharat,” as mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Dec 21 17:14:01 IST 2019 finding-a-way-together-to-fight-the-plastic-menace <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>You wake up and brush your teeth with a plastic toothbrush and with toothpaste from a plastic tube. All your kitchen supplies—from tea and bread to ketchup, flour and noodles—come in plastic packaging. We all remember the viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. Our country is full of such problems and more.</p> <p>In its ‘Fact Sheet on plastic waste in India’, The Energy and Resources Institute states that the seas off Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the worst polluted in the world. Toxic metals like copper, zinc, lead and cadmium contained in plastic debris have an adverse effect on the coastal ecosystem, it states. In 2014-2015, India’s per capita usage of plastic was 11kg. We use so much plastic that our cattle eat it and die of complications. I believe that this apathy to the suffering of the once-revered animals is compounded by the lack of awareness regarding proper disposal of plastic. In 2015, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told the Rajya Sabha that the total plastic waste, collected and recycled, was estimated to be 9,205 tonne per day; 6,137 tonne remained uncollected. Single-use plastics that we use for an hour or two takes 1,000 years to decompose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Quoting Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reports, TERI states that plastic contributes to 8 per cent of the total solid waste collected in the country. Households generate maximum plastic waste, of which water and soft drink bottles form the bulk. In India, around 43 per cent of manufactured plastics is used for packaging purpose and most are single use.</p> <p>In March 2018, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018. The amended rules lay down that the phasing out of multilayered plastic is now applicable to those that are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use”. The amended rules also prescribe an automated central registration system for producers or importers or brand owners, and that it should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers. The centralised registration system will be evolved by CPCB. While a national registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two states, a state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers or brand owners operating in one or two states. In addition, Rule 15 on “explicit pricing of carry bags” has been omitted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This Gandhi Jayanti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call to end single-use plastic (SUP) in India by 2022. An advisory was issued to all government bodies to ensure that they follow the guidelines and eliminate SUPs in all spheres in a phased manner so that the multi-million rupee industry of plastic production and its related means of earnings are not impacted in a shocking and haphazard manner. The advisory had a very positive effect as all government offices stopped using SUPs like styrofoam and straws since the date of its issuance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If we get to the grassroot level, a major chunk of SUPs is produced by corporate giants to package processed food like potato chips, chocolates and soft drinks. A system should be created so that the plastic produced is monetised for the consumers. For example, consumers should be able to give back plastic wrappers to the company that produced it at a minor cost so that it becomes the responsibility of the said company to recycle it. It is a great way to initiate sharing of responsibility by the whole community to make this world a better place to live for humans and other species.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Dec 06 14:20:00 IST 2019 the-happiness-goals <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a list of 17 key socioeconomic goals adopted by United Nations member states in 2015 as part of a joint effort to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), launched in 2000 by 189 countries. The USP of SDGs is that they are integrated in nature, and all goals are interconnected and inter-consequential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The basic difference between MDGs and SDGs needs to be understood. MDGs focused on U5MR (under five years child mortality rate), HIV, widespread illiteracy and gender inequality. The aim was to bring down the statistics by at least half, and concentrate on extremely poor and underdeveloped pockets of the world. SDGs, on the other hand, focus on all 193 countries, and urges the world to bring extreme poverty, hunger, gender inequality, health concerns, and environmental concerns to an empirical zero.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an interesting Indian tangent to the SDGs. The Atharva Veda has a hymn called Bhumi Sukta (63 verses) which says that earth is for all living beings and all have to work in harmony with nature to create ideal living conditions. It adds that the feeling of spirituality needs to be there. Until then, SDGs cannot be accomplished. Every small element contains infinite force within itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Integral humanism requires fulfilling one’s own responsibilities as a starting point to fulfil societal responsibilities.</p> <p>Where do we stand?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India, like other nations, has introduced major interventions to address these issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The percentage of people living below poverty line has declined from 45.35 in 1993 to 37.2 per cent in 2004-05, to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10, to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. The poverty gap ratio in rural and urban areas has declined from 6.08 per cent in 2004-05 to 2.70 per cent in 2011-12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government of India has undertaken many reforms in the country against the backdrop of SDGs, launching ambitious schemes such as the National Food Security Act, 2017, the National Nutrition Strategy and the National Nutrition Mission, which have the aim of promoting convergent approaches that reflect the multidimensional nature of food and nutrition insecurity, and addressing inequalities related to gender, age, disability, income, caste and region. This goal is closely linked with zero poverty, as decrease in poverty leads to increase in purchasing power of food, leading to an improvement of India’s rank in the hunger index.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SDG’s Goal 8 is to ensure decent work and economic growth for all. To achieve this, India has launched programmes like Make in India, Startup India, Skill India and Digital India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>​Our government is also committed to reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030, and to boosting renewable energy capacity to 40 per cent by 2030. We want to ensure that 40 per cent of electricity requirement is met through non-fossil fuels. An ambitious target of generating 175GW of renewable energy by 2022 has also been set.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage, the prime minister launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on October 2, 2014, which has been a huge success throughout the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Union government has crafted relevant policies, many of them innovative in nature, to ensure that all sectors work in an integrated manner to achieve the highly ambitious SDGs and to improve India’s international rankings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Nov 22 11:38:30 IST 2019 legalisation-of-abortion <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After a long battle, Ireland finally legalised abortions. The verdict came after the infamous case of Savitha Halappanavar, who died after doctors refused to perform an abortion, even though she had complications. The doctors tried to prevent a miscarriage and were waiting for the natural outcome. So her condition worsened. The heartbeat of the foetus was strong. This prevented the doctors from performing an abortion.</p> <p>The decriminalisation of abortions is a historic win not only for women’s rights but also for human rights. Giving birth and taking care of a child is a huge responsibility for parents in general and mothers in particular. Thus, the interference of governments is more of a violation of privacy than regulation of society.</p> <p>India also has strict laws relating to abortions. Section 3(2)(b) restricts the length of pregnancy termination period to 20 weeks, and it requires two medical practitioners to confirm that continuance of pregnancy would subject the foetus, or the mother, to considerable risk. It is applicable in case of pregnancies exceeding 12 weeks, but not 20 weeks. Another section, 3(2)(a), requires that in case of pregnancies not exceeding 12 weeks, abortion can be performed only if a medical practitioner forms an opinion that continuance of pregnancy would endanger the mother or the foetus’s life.</p> <p>There was this incident of denial of termination of pregnancy by the Supreme Court, after a 19-year-old mentally challenged orphan girl in Chandigarh was raped by a security guard. The girl’s pregnancy was detected in May 2009. A four-doctor multi-disciplinary board, with one psychiatrist, recommended that although she is physically fit, the continuation of pregnancy can endanger her mental health. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana, on these recommendations, ordered medical termination of her pregnancy. The NGO appealed against this order, and the Supreme Court ordered the girl to continue with the pregnancy. Such laws lead to unsafe abortions by women, putting their lives in danger.</p> <p>According to the data provided by WHO, every year, between 4.7 to 13.2 per cent of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion, and around 25 million unsafe abortions were estimated to have taken place worldwide each year—almost all in developing countries.</p> <p>The government, on August 2, 2019, told the Delhi High Court in an affidavit that it was working on a draft legislation to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The bill had been sent for inter-ministerial consultation. The High Court was informed by the government that is it working on a draft legislation to amend the MTP Act, 1971. This came into being after activist Amit Sahnu filed a petition pressing the government to amend the existing laws. The demands include increasing the safe period for legal abortions from 20 weeks to 24-26 weeks in a scenario of risk to the wellbeing of the mother and the foetus.</p> <p>The right to abortion must be seen as an extension to the reproductive rights as well as human rights. In a suo motu PIL filed in Bombay High Court, the court used the pro-choice perspective and ruled that the life of an unborn foetus cannot be given more importance than the life of the woman. The ruling that the unborn foetus is not entitled to human rights establishes that women’s rights, which include reproductive rights, are the mainstream part of human rights.</p> Sat Nov 09 12:50:42 IST 2019 modi-tribute-to-the-mahatma <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The essence of Gandhian thought lies in the execution of the ideas propounded by Mahatma Gandhi. Cleanliness and sanitation are ideas that reflect the essential beauty of Gandhian values and, hence, the honest implementation of these are a test of one’s commitment to such values.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In our scriptures, cleanliness is equated with godliness. Yamas (moral principles) and niyamas (rules) are the first two of the eight steps of Ashtanga yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; shauch (cleanliness) is the first niyama for a yogi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Islam, too, much emphasis has been placed on cleanliness that is not only restricted to ritual ablutions, such as wudu and ghusi performed during prayers, but also on toilet etiquettes and environmental hygiene. In Christianity, the Old Testament, particularly the Book of Leviticus, serves many instructions on personal and collective hygiene.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hence, our religions collectively mandate cleanliness for the faithful and emphasises that an unclean man is not able to stand before God. In this background, the emphasis of Mahatma Gandhi on cleanliness and sanitation becomes important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On many occasions, Gandhi ji said that cleanliness and sanitation were more important in India than independence. Gandhi ji, when he was still a practicing lawyer in South Africa, had come to attend the annual Congress session for the first time in 1901 in Calcutta. There, he was appalled to see the sanitary condition in the camp where people openly defecated in the veranda and in open spaces outside their rooms. When he contacted the volunteers, they said it was the job of the Bhangis to clean up the area, not theirs. Gandhi ji, still in his western attire, arranged for brooms and started sweeping the filth leaving everyone gaping in awe—though no one came to join him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, after the death of Gandhi ji, that spirit of cleanliness which he tried to instil so laboriously in the Congress, had vanished from its grain and the successive governments that came to rule after independence only paid lip service to the cause of public sanitation. Thus, it was important to reconstruct the broken chain of Gandhian efforts to make cleanliness and sanitation a mass movement again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this context, the efforts of our prime minister, who began Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on October 2, 2014, with the idea to make cleanliness a mass movement, becomes important. The fact that within the five years of launch of the mission the government constructed 10 crore toilets covering around 60 crore of Indian population, along with increasing sanitation coverage to 98 per cent of the rural areas, is a living testimony to the fact that Prime Minister Modi meant it in words and action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By adopting and implementing Gandhian ideas, the prime minister does not intend to claim ownership of Mahatma’s legacy or to use it for promoting his narrow political interests, as the successive governments had been doing so far, rather with this, he intends to inculcate the true spirit of Gandhism into the collective psyche of the nation for the gradual betterment of society.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Oct 12 11:21:06 IST 2019 ready-for-the-fight <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With the recent announcement of elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, the season of elections is once again back. These will be the first elections to be held after the Lok Sabha elections in April-May in which the BJP and its allies had won a resounding victory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This victory was built on the twin strength of the Modi 1.0 government—a spectacular performance in governance that delivered results to the common man on the ground in a clean and transparent manner and an assertive leadership of the prime minister that saw the prestige of the office soaring to a new height. Now, with state elections round the corner, both the reputations remain intact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Haryana, it was in 2014 that the BJP came to power for the first time on its own, winning 47 out of 90 seats in a triangular contest involving the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal. The party gave the mantle to Manohar Lal Khattar, the first non-Jat leader from the state to become a chief minister in 18 years. He led Haryana from chaos to development, while balancing the Jat and non-Jat aspirations in the highly polarised state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, as he completes his first term, his challengers are virtually eliminated—while the Congress is shattered by intense factionalism, the INLD has been driven to virtual oblivion. The municipal elections of December 2018, the Jind Assembly bypoll in January and the Lok Sabha elections, where the party won all 10 seats in the state, are only a precursor of the final picture to emerge after the assembly polls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Maharashtra, the NDA had registered an impressive win in 2014, winning 185 seats out of 288. This gave the BJP the first ever opportunity to have a chief minister from the party. The leadership was given to Devendra Fadnavis, a man who had risen from the ranks. Like Khattar in Haryana, he led an impressive government in Maharashtra, taking the alliance partner Shiv Sena successfully on board. Here again, the Congress-NCP are in bad shape and hence they do not stand a chance in the battle. I have no doubt that the BJP-Sena alliance will win the elections with more than two-third majority in the assembly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both Fadnavis and Khattar were dark horses in 2014. Yet, they managed to win the hearts of the masses. Moreover, Haryana and Maharashtra are two states dominated by farmers, where farm distresses have often been projected by the media to be a major factor in the polls. They have stood solidly with the BJP all through this. This only indicates that the people want nothing but performance, and where performance matters, no one can beat the BJP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the state elections, the BJP has got many things to talk of apart from its spectacular record of governance. The growing stature of India under the effective leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one such aspect that will certainly find resonance with the electorate. The global acquiescence to the Indian position on Article 370 is not something accidental; rather long diplomatic efforts have preceded it silently. The unprecedented Howdy Modi event in Houston last week is just a reflection of those emerging equations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, in a nutshell, the BJP is all geared up to enter the electoral fray while the opposition, especially the Congress, is back to their normal ways of negativity. I wish they had learnt the lessons the people have successively given to them over the past years through electoral drubbings and moved on to positive ideas. But, as Groucho Marx said, politics is the art of looking for troubles where there are none; the Congress seems to have perfected this art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Sep 26 16:49:30 IST 2019 republicanism-in-the-bjp <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Democracy is much more a moral commitment to the established republican principles than a mere theory of political governance to be practised as per exigencies. In the modern political context of India, however, it is just the reverse, where most of the political parties, that claim to be democratic, are hardly so in practice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If one finds a situation of crisis in the political morality of our modern times, it has much to do with the nature and character of political parties in India, most of which are feudal in structure and dynastic in functioning. This not only throws the principles of democracy in the air but also runs against the grain of republicanism. The BJP, though, not only stands out with a shining exception to the crisis but also comes up as a democratic lodestar that has carried the ethos of democracy in the nation all through its long journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After independence, the Congress, because of being the direct inheritor of the euphoria and the goodwill generated during the independence movement and afterwards, remained the mainstream political thought and choice of the majority. Jawaharlal Nehru, with his undisputed stature in the Congress, had, inadvertently, left no scope for emergence of the second rung leadership in the party to such an extent that everyone asked—“After Nehru, who?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, soon the question began to settle down as Nehru had begun the consistent political grooming of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, by making the latter his political secretary, dropping sufficient hints for the future; later he appointed her as the head of the women’s wing of the Congress in 1953, and subsequently the national president of the party in 1959—an appointment that saw her presiding over an aggressive movement in Kerala, leading to the unfortunate dismissal of the first elected communist government in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lal Bahadur Shastri proved to be a brief hyphen between Nehru and Indira, as his sudden demise facilitated that providential inevitability—the ascendance of Indira to the chair of the prime minister, with the help of K. Kamaraj, who, for the second time, had sabotaged all chances of Morarji Desai, the most deserving veteran in the Congress, to become the prime minister. Thus began a long tradition of family rule that over the period gave the Congress its defining character. The rot in the structure is so much that after Rahul Gandhi abdicated from the position of the party president in August this year, the party could not find a substitute outside the family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even regional parties like the DMK, the TDP and the National Conference have their own dynastic structures where sycophancy, servility and submissiveness determine the fate of the cadre in the organisation, instead of ability and performance. None of these national or regional parties could put an objective structure in place where younger generations with talent or abilities could reach to the top solely on merit and substitute leaderships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is where the BJP stands out. It is the only party that carries the proud sentiment of republicanism in its DNA and that reflects in its hierarchical structure and functioning. The structure of the party keeps throwing new and promising persons from the cadre to the higher ranks where they are mentored for bigger roles and given the right atmosphere to realise their potential. This is the only party where a booth-level worker, distributing pamphlets and writing slogans on the walls for the party in his formative years, can expect to reach to the top and become its boss one day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No wonder, despite the successive loss of stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Manohar Parrikar and Ananth Kumar in quick succession, the party has survived the jolt and moved on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Sep 12 15:41:32 IST 2019 recession-unlikely-to-hit-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>We learn from history that we do not learn from history. Post the 2008 recession, the global community had the opportunity to take structural measures in their respective economies, and to not repeat the mistakes of the past decades. But, the world forgot the lesson, and the global community today is once again facing the prospects of recession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US, buoyant over the economic recovery and growth in the first half of this decade, had taken up some reckless policy measures. President Donald Trump took to the populist route after he came to power, following a turbulent political campaign, and unleashed income tax cuts and concessions to the industries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It paid for sometime and industrial growth picked up, but eventually the benefits started bottoming out and a panicked Trump administration had to increase the interest rates. This, naturally, affected demand and growth. Further, Trump’s tariff wars with China led to the opposite of what he originally intended; it led to a slowdown in the industrial production of his own country as the cost of imports, especially steel, rose. The industrial production has now hit the negative side for the first time in the decade. This led to a slowdown in the economy and it would affect the prospects of Trump negatively in the next elections, which in turn would further make him press a series of more panic buttons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the problem is that the US is not alone; many global economies are facing the looming clouds of recession over their respective economies. Germany has already admitted the inevitable with finance minister Olaf Scholz pledging €50 billion to ward off recession. However, with China, to whom Germany sells most of its valued merchandise, already facing the heat of a downturn, such cash infusions may not be productive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China, already reeling under the lowest industrial production in 30 years—at 4.8 per cent—and fighting off a severe domestic debt crisis, is, unlike in 2008, not in a position to play the sheet anchor role to stabilise the global economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This leads us to the obvious question. Does India, too, face the danger of recession? With rate of unemployment being high, job losses across many sectors happening fast and slowdown in the demand, as reflected in the layoffs in the automobile sector, many have started voicing the concern. They cite contraction in the quarterly year-on-year GDP growth rate, combined with deceleration in the domestic and foreign institutional investment rates, and sluggish consumer demand as obvious signs of recession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, my answer to the question is a big no; India is not likely to slip into recession because most of our macro-economic parameters are currently strong, especially the inflation that is quite under control, giving us enough leeway to play with monetary and fiscal measures. The government is already on warpath to boost the confidence in economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Technically, recession is defined as slowdown in the GDP growth in three consecutive quarters. So, even if the April-June (Q1) figures show a negative trend and projection of Q2 happens to be slightly lower, there are strong indicators to support the view that the economy would improve successfully in the quarters ending Q3 and Q4, leading us again to a path of strong growth. Hence, caution would be a better approach to apply in the situation than panic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Aug 30 11:44:44 IST 2019 an-iron-laugh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Hardly anyone, on the morning of August 5, would have imagined they were set to witness the undoing of Article 370, an emotive political issue that created historical divides across the subcontinent. But, as in life, politics too has its surprises. And, as long as you have a Narendra Modi and his no-nonsense adjutant, Amit Shah, at the helm, there will be surprises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid an unprecedented display of grit and will power, the Modi government undid a constitutional provision that was long preserved in the annals of post-independence India as an inviolable territory. Any talk of venturing into that territory invited threats of violent repercussions. However, the government has taken the bogey of the threat head-on and managed to diffuse it into thin air.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Article 370 was a junky relic from the past, a result of the political ambitions of Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru’s perilous concessions to him, even at the cost of national interests. Over seven decades of political machinations by local politicians in Kashmir and the Congress at the Centre had turned the article—a purely temporary and transient arrangement—into a permanent feature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>History is witness to the day Article 370 was introduced in the drafts as Article 306A, on October 17, 1949, by the special representative of the state, Gopalaswami Ayyangar. It was vociferously opposed by the Constituent Assembly members. Nehru got the inkling, so he did not want to face them. From his foreign trip, he persuaded Sardar Patel, who, despite his strong opinions against it, obeyed his prime minister to get the article inserted into the Constitution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was no basis for conceding any special status to Kashmir as no other Indian state had been accorded such privilege. But, Sheikh Abdullah, who constantly conspired against Maharaja Hari Singh, the sovereign ruler of Kashmir, was instrumental in pushing for the article.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru’s affinity to Abdullah was so high and so inexplicable that, even during the attacks by Pakistani forces on Kashmir in October 1947, Nehru refused to talk to the maharaja, who had sent an urgent emissary to the interim PM for help. Instead, Nehru asked him to talk through Abdullah. Such blatant erosion of the maharaja’s authority by Nehru passed the political legitimacy to Abdullah through the back door. When Nehru realised his folly and fell out with him in 1953, much of the damage had been done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As has been well documented and well articulated by Home Minister Amit Shah, the special status to J&amp;K has favoured only a few political families, their cronies and the separatists, while the common man languished in poverty. Leaders with vested interests in Article 370 misguided the locals into believing that the article was the link to keep the state united with India, and that once it was gone, J&amp;K would separate from India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a big a lie. The link of J&amp;K to India was the Instrument of Accession, and Article 370 was a constitutional arrangement to enlarge the sovereignty of India over the state through the will of Parliament. Parliament has now chosen to amend the will, in the same way the Congress has done 44 times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Article 370 was a fraud on the Constitution of India. It was not only a means to keep the state permanently alienated from India but also an abridgment of the sovereignty of the nation. That is why the BJP, and the Jana Sangh before it, talked of abrogating it. All it needed was the iron-willed leadership of a Modi and a Shah to do it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The full integration of the last state into the Union of India is now complete. Our ancestors who struggled hard for the removal of Article 370 must be having the last laugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Aug 17 17:37:09 IST 2019 opposition-wants-to-play-china <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The ongoing budget session of Parliament, that also conflates the customary monsoon session into it, shall be remembered not only for holding one of the highest number of sittings in the very first session of any Lok Sabha, but also for completing its legislative business in an unprecedented manner. By extending the session of Parliament by ten more days, the government has set an ambitious target to pass at least 35 bills before the House breaks on August 9.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lok Sabha has cleared some landmark bills that were long pending for action. Some of the prominent ones among those passed from the Lok Sabha are the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019; the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and, of course, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, popularly known as the triple talaq bill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment Bill), this time, seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, to declare, inter alia, any individual as terrorist who is found to be involved in terrorist or disruptive activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to understand why it has been done. What is the purpose of adding the word ‘individual’ in the existing act? There is a larger purpose behind it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Designating a person terrorist will help the state freeze the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of such persons, groups, undertakings and entities, including funds derived from property owned or controlled directly or indirectly by them. The purpose of the asset freeze is to deny such designated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities the means to finance terrorism in the country for so long as they remain subject to the sanctions and are not de-listed under the established procedures. This measure will effectively cripple the designated terrorists and will force them to shut down their activities, institutions and terror camps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a very important change brought in by the government that will help it fight terrorism in the country in a very effective way. But, as usual, the opposition is uncomfortable with this measure without any convincing reason. The opposition wants to play a China; they want to put their own “technical hold” on designating such individuals as ‘terrorists’, who are found to be indulged in terrorist activities and who are the enemies of the state, much in the same way as China obstructed the UNSC for long from designating Masood Azhar as ‘terrorist’, exercising what it called, a “technical hold” on the proposal. I want them to remind that even China has backed off from its position and has agreed to designate terrorists as terrorists. So, what makes those opposition leaders still persist with their own “technical hold”?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I want the opposition to understand the strong mandate of the people of 2019; people want strong actions against terrorists. People want terrorists to be given a taste of their own medicine. This government is committed to doing that. We want to strike fear in the hearts of the terrorists. Terrorists must be terrorised by the state. That is the only way to secure the citizens and to protect them from fear, anxiety, loss and insecurity. Hence, I would advise the opposition leaders to not stand in the way of that noble action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Aug 02 16:07:57 IST 2019 ndiac-billaiming-to-create-strong-arbitration-friendly-jurisdiction-within-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The past fortnight has been very important in Parliament as many important bills, including the Union budget 2019-20, were tabled in the Lok Sabha. However, out of all bills tabled for discussion, I would single out the The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019, for special mention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019, seeks to establish an autonomous and independent institution, called The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) at New Delhi, for a better management of the arbitration process in India. It is again a landmark initiative of the Modi government that must be seen in its totality. The bill, in fact, is in continuation of a series of steps that has been taken by the Modi government to make India a global economic power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to understand the need of the bill and what it aims to achieve. The bill aims to institutionalise, regulate and streamline the corporate dispute resolution process which will have a cascading effect on the Indian economy and the global perception about “doing business” in India. For an international business entity, dispute resolution in its country of operation is as important as the setting up the business because it has a considerable impact on its overall operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arbitration is the settlement of a dispute arising out of a contract between two parties by a neutral third party, without resorting to formal litigations or court actions. The arbitrator, often an expert on the matter, hears both the parties, analyses the contract and makes a decision that is binding and enforceable through courts. The arbitration process is confidential, cheaper and speedier than the normal litigation process. Thus, arbitration offers an alternative dispute resolution system that is relatively less cumbersome.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At present, India has an estimated 3.1 crore cases, both civil and criminal, pending in its courts. Hence, an arbitration case would invariably take a back seat in Indian courts. Moreover, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996—the existing legislation to regulate arbitration process in India—was an inadequate legislation that did little to address the issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per a NITI Aayog paper by Bibek Debroy and Suparna Jain, India takes as much as 1,420 days to resolve a dispute and the cost is 39.6 per cent of the overall claim value! Globally, India is ranked at 178 among 189 economies on the ease of enforcing contracts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This called for urgent reforms towards creating a strong, arbitration-friendly jurisdiction within the country to make out-of-court dispute resolutions easy. As a first step in this direction, the Union government brought the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015. The present legislation to set up the NDIAC at New Delhi is a further step that seeks not only to create the required institutional arrangement to improve the arbitration structure in India but also to make New Delhi an international hub for alternative dispute resolutions by attracting experts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NDIAC Bill fits into the Modi government’s ambitious goal of making India the third largest economy in the world. The bill, when turned into legislation, will make India an investor-friendly country with an institutionalised arbitration ecosystem that would be robust and cost-effective for all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Jul 20 14:58:56 IST 2019 water-conservation-need-of-the-hour <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Someone said, “If you don’t want mental hydration then think about water conservation.” The need to conserve water was never more pronounced than it is now, when most of India is experiencing a shortfall in monsoon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>June 2019 was the fifth driest month in the past hundred years, when the rainfall over the Indian subcontinent was recorded less than 112.1mm, as against the normal long term period average of 166.9mm. This has led to water shortage in large parts of the country, especially in central and southern India. Many important reservoirs across Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have dipped to a critically low level of 77 per cent, leading to water crisis in these regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unless a water conservation plan is not started in a mission-mode across the nation, many important human settlements in the country may go completely dry, leading to a wide-scale demographic re-settlement and existential strife. That is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the Jalshakti Abhiyan with the hashtag “JanShakti4JalShakti”, to urge every citizen of India to join hands to save every drop of water. It was befitting that the prime minister addressed the urgency of water conservation through his first ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio broadcast after assuming office in his second term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Across regions, India will experience water shortage in view of the uncertainties of monsoon and extreme weather influenced by climate change. Further, increased pollution of water bodies through industrial discharge and flow of untreated urban sewage into rivers and lakes have further reduced the availability of water fit for human consumption. Hence, the prime minister has rightly urged people to make water conservation a people’s movement in the way they did with the Swachh Bharat. In this regard, his recent letter to all village heads, urging them to promote conservation of water in their respective areas, was well appreciated by village heads. Conservation, protection and augmentation of water resources have to be made a people’s movement where governments need to act as facilitators in the mass public exercise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is estimated that as much as 92 per cent of rainwater is let off to discharge in the sewage lines. Thus, a major portion of the rainwater is not being used to recharge the heavily depleted groundwater sources. The people in urban centres, on the other hand, are used to a lifestyle where water keeps flowing 24 hours in their bathrooms, swimming pools, gardens, jacuzzis and fountains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It calls for an integrated approach to conserve water by not only promoting water conservation technologies but also initiating a mass sensitisation drive to make people aware of the gravity of the situation and to stop the sinful misuse of water.</p> <p>How rainfall is not a factor behind the availability of water in a given area if proper conservation methods are adopted by society is evident from the fact that Jaisalmer, one of the driest regions of India with scant rainfall, is self-sufficient in water, whereas Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya, which receives heavy rainfall, isn’t.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It calls for an urgent and immediate need of water conservation by society, both in the rural as well as in the urban areas, by using both the traditional and the modern water conservation techniques.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jul 06 11:47:46 IST 2019 time-for-mamata-to-shun-sectarian-ideology-and-politics-of-appeasement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After the high of a long and draining election campaign, followed by celebrations of an incredible electoral victory, it was time to get back to the earthly ways of life. It was time to get back to work, to routine, to normalcy and to the people. To put it simply, it was time to get back into the grooves and to begin performing once again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have been among those fortunate who got re-elected to the biggest panchayat of the nation. However, each one of us in politics knows well that winning an election is not easy. It requires winning the trust of the people you work for. Such trust eventually comes from performance, at the individual and collective levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, in order to perform in a meaningful way, you need to go back to the people, and understand their needs and find solutions. You need to engage with them and make them active participants in the process of development aimed at their own betterment. That is the basics of democracy and electoral politics. So, heading back again to the people in my constituency and to work for their various needs in this new innings gives me a sense of pleasure and fulfilment. It gives me a chance to renew the trust.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best thing to emerge from the last election is that electoral victories in India can no longer happen on emotive or sectarian calls; people look to performance. Now, the people’s representatives will have to perform and prove themselves to get re-elected. This is the best thing to happen to democracy and this, certainly, is the biggest achievement of the Modi government. However, it seems the message is still not getting across to some politicians in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mamata Banerjee is one such politician who seems to have completely missed the writing on the wall. She still believes in the old school of politics where sectarian ideologies, backed by organised violence, are the formulae to win elections. She has been doing that for years and, in the absence of a strong and effective opposition in West Bengal, has been winning successive elections. However, her brand of politics has developed visible cracks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mamata’s sectarian ideology and her politics of appeasement have left the civic administration of Bengal plagued with anarchy and lawlessness. The common man is suffering because of the organised loot and terror unleashed by the local syndicates—a euphemism for an organised system of extracting money from the local people by the Trinamool Congress goons, in exchange for facilitating various services to them. However, times had changed and Mamata could hardly realise this until the BJP had pulled the rug from under her feet by winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In politics, you cease to grow if you fail to learn from your mistakes. A seasoned leader keeps his ear to the ground and adapts to the changing trends. But, Mamata seems to be stuck in the old rut. The various post-election incidents in Bengal, where violence and terror is being resorted to as a means to settle political scores, is reflective of her old mindset. The only means to survive and play a long innings in politics is—Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. However, Mamata seems to have overlooked this important lesson. She must punish the goons, no matter what religious belief they may hold, and provide safety and security to everyone in the state without discrimination. Terror must be substituted with performance. Else, the people of Bengal would give Mamata a befitting reply in the days to come.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Jun 22 11:15:32 IST 2019 big-message-from-a-big-win <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The 2019 elections, defying all speculations, resulted in a massive victory for the BJP-led NDA in the Lok Sabha. The landslide victory happened due to conversion of a humongous, yet silent, pro-incumbency undercurrent running across the nation—a gigantic Modi wave that few could foresee or imagine. This grand victory of the BJP and the NDA has many messages hidden that need to be understood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First, the victory is historic as it is for the first time in the history of Indian democracy that people have given a decisive mandate in succession to any non-Congress political party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, the massive victory to the BJP and the NDA has been the result of the people’s acceptance of the politics of development, as opposed to the politics of negation. The masses showed their preference to those who worked for them and brought transformative changes in their lives through genuine and honest efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, the electorate gave a decisive blow to the politics of lie and deceit, rejecting all false narratives built around lies, negativity and falsification of reality. Had demonetisation or GST been so bad as they were made out to be by certain political sections, the BJP would have been routed in the elections. Thus, there is a distinct message for many political parties and formations in the results—spreading lies and falsifying good work may cost you your political space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fourth, people have learnt to be wise and discerning while casting their vote. The citizens have learnt to vote purely on the practical considerations of life. Odisha sums up the situation well. Here, the Odiya voters voted overwhelmingly for a BJD government in the state, but they had no qualms in pressing the lotus button on the next EVM meant for Lok Sabha, as they wanted to have a strong government in Delhi. The same thing happened in Chhattisgarh. Such perspicacity in the vision of the electorate makes democracy stronger and mature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fifth, good governance is a great leveller. It has the capacity to bridge the deepest divide as seen in the election results when the famed division of the Indian society, along its various competing fault-lines, melted away. The mythical caste divisions of society, in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where grand alliances were made on the sole arithmetic of castes and religions, have been decimated. The BJP won 46 of 84 Scheduled Caste seats and 31 out of 47 Scheduled Tribe seats. The appeal of good governance has bridged all those divisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sixth message that the result throws is that of continuity. The masses have overwhelmingly accepted the policies and programmes being followed by the government and would obviously like most of them to be continued and taken forward.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seventh important message is the importance of organisational strength and network. The resounding victory to the BJP is as much a result of party’s organisational strength as anything else. A well-oiled organisational machinery, operating under the enterprising leadership of Amit Shah, proved too much of a fight for others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, the results showed that nationalism is the dominant ideology of the young and emergent India and patriotism the defining character. The charm and appeal of a strong leadership, as displayed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been the biggest factor that weighed on the mind of young electorate, who voted for him in overwhelming numbers. Nationalism is, and will remain, a factor in electoral politics for a large section of electorate from this point onwards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jun 07 16:55:15 IST 2019 lok-sabha-poll-results-lessons-for-the-opposition <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India, being the largest democracy in the world, has always been observed keenly by the global community—on how such a complex process of electioneering is conducted in the country with such ease and success. To conduct such a massive official exercise in a geographical region that has glacial and desert climates within a range of 1,500km, and that sees a diverse population of 1.3 billion, is not a mean task.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The general elections of 2019 had been unique in a number of ways. First, the sheer size of the electorate—90 crore voters, which is equal to the combined population of the European Union, the USA and the Philippines. With overall voting turnout at 67 per cent, it means that more than 60 crore people voted in the 17th Lok Sabha elections—which is equal to a combined population of the European Union and Japan! The number of first time voters alone was 8.4 crore, which is more than the total population of Iran, whereas the number of voters in the 18 to 19 age group was 1.5 million, equal to the population of Zimbabwe!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, this election has been the costliest election on earth till date with the estimated expenditure to the government exchequer being Rs 50,000 crore ($7 billion)—25 per cent more than the 2014 elections. In the 2016 US elections, the cost of the combined presidential and congressional elections was $6.5 billion. However, the figure mentioned is only the government expenditure; it does not include the expenditure incurred by candidates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The official records for money seizures during the election period has been a mind-boggling Rs 3,500 crore, out of which the cash component alone was to the tune of Rs 840 crore. This shows the volume of money flow that this election witnessed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, this election has seen a massive expenditure on social media which, according to some studies, has been around Rs 5,000 crore—a grand leap from 2014 when such expenditure was only Rs 250 crore. Most of such expenditures happened on account of promotions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp by the candidates. Some experts believe that the 2019 election was the first election that was fought largely on WhatsApp, as candidates and their supporters shared videos and audios to the chosen target groups with instant success.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fourth, this election was probably the most bitterly fought election in the history of India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the one side, had been pitted against a grand coalition of opposition parties on the other side. Modi has been the object of mocking, slur and personal attack long before the general elections. However, such slur and bitterness against Modi had increased multifold during the election campaigns that saw him being branded as ‘Hitler’ and ‘chor’. Even his benign spiritual trip to Kedarnath, where, after a long political campaigning, the PM chose to spend some quiet moments in a holy cave, went on to become an object of vilification. However, such vilification has not gone down well with the electorate which has answered strongly with their ballot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best way to deny the obvious and to belittle achievement, is to negate it. The opposition, led by the Congress, did its best to negate the development works of Modi by weaving a matrix of lies around him. However, the answer given by masses through the ballot must open their eyes. The voters’ mandate has nailed their lies. The lesson for the opposition is that, in a democracy, lies can never replace performance as the dominant political philosophy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat May 25 16:00:15 IST 2019 cornering-masood-azhar <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Amid the heat of election, we got something good to hear and celebrate. In a great diplomatic win for India, the 1267 Committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) finally listed Masood Azhar as a ‘designated terrorist’ on May 1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1267 Committee, created in 1999, lists individuals associated with Al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist organisations and enforces global sanctions on them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The announcement followed a decade-long effort by India to list Azhar a global terrorist. Azhar, following his release from the Indian prison in 1999, had founded the terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed, and had tormented India with a series of attacks, the most recent being at Pulwama in south Kashmir that led India to carry out air strikes on the terrorist camps in Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Listing of Azhar has been the culmination of a complex, diplomatic chess game played among the global powers over the past few months, with China on the one side and the rest of the permanent members of the UNSC on the other. With her profound diplomatic clout that the country acquired over the past years under the muscular leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India was in no mood to forgive Pakistan, the mentor of Azhar. India had managed to convince all members of the UNSC for listing Azhar as a global terrorist, except China which had been exercising a weird “technical hold” on the proposal each time. However, the Pulwama attack proved to be the final nail in the coffin, and all powerful nations rallied behind India. The support was so unprecedented that not a single nation opposed India when she chose to exercise her right to launch pre-emptive strikes on terrorist camps at Balakot in Pakistan. The camaraderie continued as the UNSC condemned the Pulwama attack masterminded by Jaish-e-Mohammed. Indian diplomatic manoeuvres had forced the hands of China into signing the condemnation in February.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist is a huge strategic success as it will freeze his assets, impose on him arms embargo and will ban his global travels, thus checking his menace quite effectively. It will now be difficult for Pakistan to extend him logistic support as it had been doing in the past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pakistan stood isolated in the global forum as India made her stand clear that she will not have any negotiation with any country on the matter of terrorism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UNSC committee resolution reflects the growing soft power of Indian diplomacy that has put the country at the centrestage of global fight against terror. This speaks volumes on what strong leadership does to a country. It also answers those who ask derisively what Modi has achieved by his foreign visits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri May 10 14:31:27 IST 2019 rahul-gandhi-tried-to-create-a-bofors-out-of-rafale-deal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” The same thing happened when Congress president Rahul Gandhi tried to fool all the people recently with his blatant lies on a specific observation of the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal case. However, in his misplaced enthusiasm, he did not realise that his lie might cost him dearly and constitute grounds for criminal contempt.</p> <p>The Rafale deal is a classic example of how a lie can be used as an expedient of political one-upmanship. Rahul, in his desperation, has turned lying into a fine art. With his compulsive addiction to lying, Rahul tried to create a Bofors out of the Rafale deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just in order to refresh things, I must mention that the government of India, following long negotiations between April 2015 and September 2016 entered into an inter-governmental agreement with the French government to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft from the French firm, Dassault Aviation, at a cost of €7.87 billion. The deal was struck after scrapping a long tendering process initiated in 2007 by the UPA government, which they could not finalise. The deal, finalised between the two governments, has been one of the most transparent and probably the most fiercely negotiated deal in the history of Indian defence acquisitions.</p> <p>However, the compulsive dissenters and rejectionists, like the Congress, had a problem even with such a clean deal. Citing allegations of corruption in the deal, a group of politicians and activists moved the Supreme Court to institute an FIR into the deal. However, the apex court dismissed the bunch of petitions challenging the deal with the observation that the court found no basis to “really doubt the decision-making process” in the acquisition of Rafale jets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subsequently, the cabal of dissenters, in view of some secret stolen documents of the MoD published in a newspaper, approached the apex court seeking a review of the decision, citing them as a fresh piece of evidence. The government of India opposed it in the apex court, citing that the defence ministry’s secret documents enjoyed the protection of the Official Secrets Act. However, the apex court, on April 10, rejected the government’s argument and ruled those documents as admissible piece of evidence before the court and, thus, it agreed to look into its December 14 judgment. So, that is it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, to the amusement of everyone, Rahul not only distorted this judgment but also imputed his own words to the Supreme Court to mean that it had admitted that some sort of corruption had happened in the Rafale deal. This illogical and mischievous inference constitutes a clear case of misrepresentation of the apex court’s judgment with the intention to drag it into the electoral battle for political advantages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the State of Haryana v. Ch. Bhajanlal, the Supreme Court had observed, “it is incumbent upon courts of justice to preserve their proceedings from being misrepresented, for prejudicing the mind of the people against persons concerned as parties in causes before the cause is finally heard, has pernicious consequences. Speech or writings misrepresenting the proceedings of the court of prejudicing the public for or against a party or involving reflections on parties to a proceeding amount to contempt.” Rahul’s words were in clear violation of the legal premises defined by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, and the subsequent judgments of the courts on it. Hence, I filed a case of criminal contempt against him in the Supreme Court.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The contempt proceedings puncture his ill-thought strategy to use lie as a political weapon to help him win elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Apr 27 16:10:26 IST 2019 comparing-the-manifestos-of-congress-bjp <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There has always been a difference between the top-down model of governance and bottom-up model of governance. In the former, the people in power sit in cozy rooms, closeted with armchair policy makers and rely on Ivy-League case studies to make policies. In the latter, inputs are taken from grassroots, and on the basis of empirical studies, policies are created to cause the intended impact. The two approaches define the difference between the election manifestoes of the Congress and the BJP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The three big issues that will define the outcome of the general elections will be development, farm policies and nationalism. And, on all three counts, the difference of approach between the manifestoes of the two parties is clear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress manifesto’s biggest idea—the NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojna) scheme—lacks credibility and conviction as no details have been provided as to where the money to fund the scheme will come from. None of the economists, including the names mentioned by the party, have a clear roadmap to implement it. In the absence of honesty to explain the mechanism, the scheme would turn out to be mirage aiming to draw the poor to it without offering anything in return. On the other hand, the Central government is already giving much better benefits to the needy population in an honest, sincere and time-tested manner, and the BJP, in its Sankalp Patra, promises to expand the same in future with better targets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress promises jobs to the youth, but gives no roadmap as to where these jobs will come from. No job can be sustainable unless it emanates from some kind of productive activity, but the same is nowhere in sight due to lack of vision among the Congress policy makers. Jobs come from development. With the promise of capital investment of Rs100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector by 2024, the manifesto of the BJP comes up with a huge fillip to growth and development that is sure to create great opportunities for employment across multiple sectors in the next five years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, the armchair vision of the Congress lacks a job-oriented growth plan. A separate kisan budget each year is not going to bring forth solutions unless any long-term vision is offered, which is nowhere in sight. On the other hand, the BJP has a firm and well-specified vision document that aims to double farm income by 2022, besides promising a massive investment of Rs25 lakh crore in the agrarian sector to address agrarian-rural issues in an effective way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress’s disconnect from grassroots is most obvious on the issue of national security. The mood and vision of the party is dangerous for the security and integrity of India. Besides other things, the Congress promises to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, that gives special powers to the armed forces in disturbed areas to contain insurgency. Any dilution of the Act would not only embolden the terrorists and the secessionists but also wreak havoc on the morale of the armed forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is clear that the Congress has totally failed to feel the pulse of the masses and the same is reflecting in its manifesto.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is a member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Apr 13 20:19:18 IST 2019 eight-point-report-card-for-narendra-modi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>American author Jill Telford once wrote—“Vote as though your life depends on it.” The same is valid in all circumstances. However, it becomes more relevant in the Indian context as the general election, the biggest festival of our democracy, has arrived on the centre stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the announcement of the election programme by the Election Commission of India on March 10, the formal process of choosing the representatives for the 17th Lok Sabha has begun. In seven phases, from April 11 to May 19, voters will choose representatives for 543 constituencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the 16th Lok Sabha walks into the sunset, it is time to pause and reflect on what this government has achieved. Here, I am not going to count the achievements of the Narendra Modi government, because the same is for everyone to see. What I am going to highlight are few parameters on which the electors must judge the present government, and the attributes they must look for in the next government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first parameter should be the delivery of government schemes and services to the targeted segments. If one judges honestly, one cannot deny that the delivery of schemes have never been so efficient and successful in the past as they have been during the Modi government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second parameter should be betterment in the living standards of the disadvantaged sections of the population. Here also, the Modi government has been successful as there has been qualitative improvement in the living standard of the poor people in rural areas and in urban pockets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third parameter should be the creation of opportunities for livelihood. Here also, with the kind of structural changes that this government has introduced, opportunities for livelihood have definitely expanded for each and everyone and the same will continue to grow if the policies continue in future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth parameter should be the ability of the government to lead the nation to the path of economic growth and development. On this count, the Modi government has met with great success as we have not only managed to keep our economic growth highest among the major economies of the world but also became the sixth largest global economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fifth parameter should be the ability of the rulers to run a clean, corruption-free and transparent government. It goes without saying that the Modi government has run its full term without any corruption or scam, which in the recent years had become the byword for governance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sixth, of course, should be peace and security of the nation, and no one can have any doubt over the fact that the country has been fully secured over the last five years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seventh parameter should be the ability of the government to take all segments of the population together and to make everyone a partner in the development. As one can see, the Modi government has always worked with the mantra of—Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas—and the same is visible in all the policy decisions that this government has taken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The final parameter must, of course, be the ability of the government to raise the prestige of India in the international community and forums. Even the worst critique would admit that the record of the Modi government has been spectacular on this count.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The above parameters must remain the bedrock of governance and the citizens must see whether the government they plan to instal next carries these traits or not, and whether the succeeding government will be able to take them forward. These of course are the issues on which your life depends in future. Hence, take no chance on it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Mar 30 11:28:34 IST 2019 temple-must-be-built-at-the-site <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The recent decision of the Supreme Court to refer the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case to mediation is a welcome decision. Finding an amicable solution to the nearly 150-year-old legal dispute would always be the best thing to have in the situation. However, taking into consideration the past efforts at mediation, one can hardly be optimistic of finding a solution through the route of consensus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we know, the Ayodhya dispute is about ownership of land on which a disputed structure, popularly called the Babri Masjid, stood till 1992, when the same was demolished by the kar sevaks, who believed that the structure was erected over a temple that marked the birthplace of Lord Rama. The Muslims dispute the existence of any temple at the site predating the mosque and oppose any move to construct a temple at the land.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first reference to a temple having been demolished and erection of a mosque at its place was made by Francis Buchanan, a surveyor under the British East India company, who claimed to have discovered an inscription on the mosque walls in 1814 that said that Mir Baqi, a general of Babar, had erected the mosque after destroying a temple, as per the order of his master. The fact was also repeated and recorded in the Faizabad District Gazetteer in 1870. Later, when Raja Sawai Jai Singh (of Jaipur) bought the land of the mosque and area around it in 1717, as a part of his effort to establish pilgrim centres in seven pilgrim cities of north India, his records mentioned the existence of a three-domed structure like a mosque, although the same was marked to be Janmasthan (birthplace), worshipped by Hindu devotees. Later, the records of a Jesuit priest, Joseph Tieffenthaler, had also corroborated the existence of the Janmasthan on the premises, circumambulated and worshipped by Hindus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a build-up to this view and following a long movement, the Naga warriors of Nirmohi Akhara, one of the prominent Vaishnavite monastic orders, had led an armed attack over the mosque in 1853 and claimed possession of it. However, the British government thwarted their attempts leading to a division of the site into two sections for both the communities. An attempt was made in 1853 to construct a Janmasthan temple, but after denial of the permission by the British government, lawsuits were filed. However, the lower court and later, the higher court, ruled to maintain the status quo. Later, following surreptitious placement of idols of Ramlala inside the mosque in 1949, the Jawaharlal Nehru government got the premises locked. However, Rajiv Gandhi ordered the locks to be opened in 1986 and allowed all Hindus to visit the place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The various litigations that had followed after 1949 led to the decision of the Allahabad High Court in 2010 to divide the disputed 2.77 acres equally between the three main claimants: Hindu Mahasabha, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara. The apex court is to hear the review of this judgment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nothing complicated the Ayodhya issue more than the collective cacophony of the Marxist historians who started muddling the scenario in the 1980s and 1990s when they lobbied weird theories, ranging from declaring Ayodhya to be an imaginary place to establishing Rama as a Mesopotamian king, and even an Egyptian pharaoh. Historians Romila Thapar and Vinay Lal declared Ayodhya as an imaginary place whose first existence was as a Buddhist inhabitation called Saket.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The centrepiece of the Ayodhya debate is the faith of Hindus that Ramlala was born at the site, and hence a temple must be built at the same site. Due to its strong cultural and religious legacies, Ayodhya enjoys a predominant Hindu atmosphere, which must be preserved. Hence, the process of mediation must take the above two factors into consideration without which no meaningful solution can be reached.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is a member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Mar 15 13:05:36 IST 2019 india-in-no-mood-to-forgive <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Those whom the gods wish to destroy, he drives [them] mad.” In the current situation, nothing more appropriate comes to my mind than this golden line by Leo Tolstoy from the classic War and Peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The horrific attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama in south Kashmir on February 14 was not just an attack on the 40 brave hearts who lost their lives, but, in reality, also an attack on the 1.3 billion Indians, and our sense of dignity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Pulwama incident has rightly aroused an unprecedented anger in the nation against its perpetrators who sit across the border in the safe havens of Pakistan and, with whom they share an umbilical relation for sustenance. As per their self-admission, Jaish-e-Mohammad has taken the responsibility for this attack. Jaish, a Pakistan-based Deobandi-jihadist terrorist group that works under the leadership of Maulana Masood Azhar, was created by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan after that country employed jihad in Kashmir as a legitimate part of its foreign policy in the 1990s. Since then, the organisation has changed several names to escape national and international sanctions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The involvement of a local youth from Pulwama, who volunteered to become a suicide bomber, points to the degree and extent to which Jaish has been able to penetrate into Kashmir and subvert some of its local youths. Such impressionable young people have been made to believe in the madness that killing themselves for terrorist causes would send them to paradise. I wish someone had taken to them the saner voices from their own community, such as that of Mohammad Tawhidi, the Iranian-Australian Imam who warned long ago to such misguided young people when he said, “If suicide bombing was a shortcut to paradise, whoever convinced you would have blown himself up before you.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is the real problem of militancy in Kashmir. The young people, who are recruited into such organisations as foot-soldiers of terrorism, are brainwashed into believing that terrorising and killing people happen to be the religiously-sanctioned obligations, ensuring them best rewards in the afterlife. Such acts by the subverted young people cause nothing but death and destruction, besides engendering a trail of sufferings for their family members. I wish they could hear the Dalai Lama who once said, “The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nation is, and rightly so, seething in a collective anger for revenge against Pakistan, which is the proven promoter, sustainer and nourisher of the terrorist organisations operating against India. Like always, Pakistan is in the denial mode, but this time India is in no mood to forgive. This government shares the collective anger of the nation and is committed to take all possible actions needed to get back at the perpetrators of Pulwama and to redeem the collective dignity of the people and the nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Being the land of the Buddha, Ashoka and Gandhi, India has always believed in peace and made it a part of its foreign policy. However, while dealing with the rogue state of Pakistan, it is widely being felt that peace has been given enough chances. The ‘New India’ does not want Pakistan to treat our past overtures of peace as a subterfuge for weakness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Mar 02 13:01:02 IST 2019 mamatas-political-misadventure <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The recent incident in Kolkata, where the chief minister of the state, Mamata Banerjee, sat on a dharna to protect the police commissioner was an unfortunate development for Indian democracy. It was an act of unprecedented brazenness, where a person holding a high constitutional position not only defied the law but also made a sinister attempt to politicise the executive and to make it an arm of the ruling dispensation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The charges of the CBI against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar pertain to the Rs2,500 crore Saradha chit fund scam—a failed collective investment scheme run by a consortium of more than 200 companies, collectively called the Saradha Group. It was being investigated by the special investigation team of the Kolkata Police, headed by Kumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the CBI, Kumar not only withheld vital piece of evidences seized from the accused persons but also tampered with documents with the apparent intention to dilute the case and to save some powerful people close to the chief minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let us understand why scams like Saradha and Rose Valley are different from regular scams. These groups, along with hundreds of other ponzi schemes that have failed over the past decades, would not have prospered without the active support of local politicians. It is well on record how the Trinamool Congress MPs, ministers and other functionaries promoted the Saradha Group and benefitted from it. Sudipta Sen, the head of the Saradha Group, had once brought a painting by Mamata at an astronomical price of Rs1.8 crore. In exchange, Mamata instructed all public libraries of Bengal to buy newspapers and publications from the Saradha Group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Saradha Group, as per the SIT, had collected Rs2,459.59 crore from nearly 17.4 lakh poor and lower middle class investors promising handsome returns. However, due to their unsound business model, undue political interference and immoral practices, the group collapsed in 2013, sending shock waves among lakhs of investors across West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Odisha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One reason of the collapse had been the bizarre investments of the group, where, under political pressure, it was forced to invest into heavily indebted and loss-making companies, apart from making unwise investments in print media and television groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his 17-page confessional letter to the CBI in April 2013, Sen revealed that he had paid large amounts to TMC leaders, who used to arm-twist him for financial favours. No wonder Mamata resisted tooth and nail any suggestion of a CBI enquiry in 2013. Instead, she constituted a SIT under the Kolkata Police to cover up the case. It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court in April 2014 that the case was handed over to the CBI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the long arm of the law has begun to catch up, Mamata has grown anxious as, on the eve of elections, she cannot afford murky skeletons to tumble out from her unholy cupboards. Mamata has made corruption a war cry around which she managed to draw none but a motley of corrupt leaders, who are already under high khauf (fear) of a determined chowkidar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mamata’s histrionics will prove to be a political misadventure as the nation has changed. India of 2019 is a nation that believes in probity, transparency, objectivity and propriety, and people will not allow anyone to cock a snook at constitutionalism and legal morality with such impunity. The corrupt must be brought to book through a fair trial—this is the war cry of the people of a new India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Feb 16 12:32:05 IST 2019 threats-issued-by-the-congress <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the prerequisites of a healthy democracy is the strength of its institutions. No democracy can survive and function in a country if its stakeholders stop having faith in the democratic institutions, or show open contempt for them for ulterior reasons. In India the principal opposition party, the Congress, has not only been denigrating democratic institutions repeatedly but also bullying many important institutions with the aim of disrupting their independence and to force them to toe the party line.</p> <p>The recent case in point is the open threat by Anand Sharma, a senior Congress leader, to the CBI and the ED after the agencies initiated action against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Odisha Congress Pradesh Committee chief Niranjan Patnaik. In his threat, Sharma openly warned the functionaries of the CBI and the ED that they would face consequences for their actions when the Congress returns to power. Sharma is a senior leader of the party and had also been a Central minister. Hence, his words carry the conviction of the party.</p> <p>Both Hooda and Patnaik are facing corruption charges. Hooda has been accused in the Manesar land deal case; Patnaik and his son Navjyoti have been accused of involvement in a multicrore ponzi scheme, where an FIR has been registered against them for misappropriation of funds. Obviously, the Congress does not want corruption charges against its leaders investigated and acted upon.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the impunity with which the Congress issues threats to democratic institutions, stems from the relative silence with which the act is tolerated in the mainstream media, which does not bother to write editorials or hold studio debates on it.</p> <p>The threat issued by the Congress to the democratic institutions is not new rather. It is the latest in a long series of intimidations. The example of the Congress’s efforts to impeach the erstwhile chief justice of the Supreme Court, Dipak Misra, is still fresh in people’s mind, where the party tried to make a case of impeachment of the sitting CJI only because a bench led by him did not pass a judgment in the Justice Loya case a day before to its liking. The whole nation was stunned by the brazenness of the Congress trying desperately to tarnish the image of the judiciary, which is not only one of the most credible institutions of Indian democracy, but also one of its foremost pillars.</p> <p>Further, by raising illogical voices against the use of electronic voting machines in elections and by sustaining a mischievous campaign against the machines despite no evidence to support the bizarre claim, the Congress has demonstrated its willingness to go to any length to malign one of the strongest democratic institutions of India—the Election Commission of India. The latest drama of a charlatan, who made false claims in London over the vulnerability of the Indian EVM, with a senior leader of the Congress sitting by his side and sponsoring his fraud, bolsters the grim fact that the Congress would not wince in defaming our democratic institutions even on international forums should it serve its petty political interests.</p> <p>Under the Modi government, both their sense of entitlement as well as their propensity to treat the democratic institutions as helots, are gone. Such democratic disruptions would not go down well with the people of India, who have seen the real characters of a Congress government during a decade of the corrupt UPA rule. The masses will answer such threats to democratic institutions strongly with their votes.</p> Thu Feb 14 11:16:16 IST 2019 decoding-the-citizenship-bill <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The just concluded winter session of Parliament will be remembered for many landmark bills that were introduced in the house by the government and discussed in the house with flowing zeal and passion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many such bills became law. The most illustrious among them, in terms of its importance and future consequences, was the legislation to provide ten per cent reservation to the economically weaker sections of society in government jobs and education. It was a promise made by many political parties, but never fulfilled. The Modi government proved that when it comes to fulfilling promises and meeting the true ends of social justice, action requires a little more than mere lip service.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many important bills failed to make the cut—the prominent among them were the Triple Talaq Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The latter being one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted bills in recent times. Hence, it is important to understand what this bill intends to achieve and why it is not against Assam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, intends to award permanent citizenship to those Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Parsis who fled to India before December 31, 2014, as a result of religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The bill proposes to grant citizenship on the basis of a detailed evaluation and validation report from the district and state authorities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a fact that these three neighbours of India have had a long history of religious persecution in which the six mentioned communities have suffered the most. The migrant refugees from Bangladesh have mostly settled in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. Similarly, refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan have mostly settled in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A humanitarian refugee policy to deal with such specific forms of migration was the need of the hour. Such a need had always been under discussion since the days of B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru, and it continued even during the UPA governments, but could not take shape. Hence, the Modi government took up a task which was a historical requirement.</p> <p>The bill tries to identify and specify differences between illegal and economic migrants, and religiously-persecuted refugees. It aims to grant citizenship to the latter by reducing the normal requirements of residentship from 12 years to seven years. Further, it aims to prohibit illegal migration of Bangladeshis, mostly Muslims, who infiltrate into India under the garb of better economic opportunities. But the reality is contrary to this, as the economic activities and prosperity in Assam and adjoining areas is no better than Bangladesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill has raised concerns among some sections of people in Assam who fear that the bill, if enacted into a law, would change the demography of Assam by legalising influx of Hindus and other minorities from Bangladesh. Second, it is apprehended that such an action would negate the Assam Accord of 1985 which talked of identifying all settlers from Bangladesh, who entered into Assam after March 24, 1971, through preparing a NRC (National Register of Citizens) and to deport them as illegal migrants. However, such an apprehension is based upon fictitious presumptions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First of all, such a refugee with citizenship rights will not necessarily settle in Assam only. Rather, giving citizenship to such people would facilitate their movement to other parts of the country which offer better opportunities, as they need no longer fear prosecution. Further, the government is fully committed in protecting the social, cultural and linguistic identities of the Assamese people through the “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” mentioned in Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. For this, the Central government has already constituted a high-level panel that would look into various measures to ensure it, including giving reservations for the people of Assam in government employment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jan 18 14:35:41 IST 2019 triple-talaq-and-sabarimala-different <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The issue of gender justice versus religion has once again come to the centerstage of public discourse, with the introduction of a fresh bill in the Lok Sabha, criminalising the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims. Certain groups are attempting to defame the government by dragging the Sabarimala judgment into the debate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq allows a Muslim man to divorce his wife by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ three times in one go. This unilateral, arbitrary and irrevocable dissolution of marriage is a religio-cultural practice among Muslims; the BJP is opposed to this on substantive and procedural grounds. The Supreme Court’s pronouncement on the matter established that the practice is neither an essential feature of Islam, nor is it sanctioned by the Quran, the fountainhead of jurisprudence and law in the Muslim world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talaq-e-biddat is an unfair practice, which on a substantive ground, violates the fundamental principle of equality of the sexes and arms the man with an instrument of cruelty. On procedural ground, this practice violates the logical and elaborate process of divorce mentioned in different chapters of the Quran.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in August 2017—delivered through the majority opinion of a five-member constitutional bench—had outlawed the practice of talaq-e-biddat, holding it bad in law. The court had held that the practice violates the fundamental rights of women enshrined in the Indian constitution, and had advised Parliament to make a law on it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, in order to implement the Supreme Court’s judgment, the NDA government had introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha in the winter session of 2017 and had got it passed from there. However, because of opposition from the Congress and other parties, the bill could not be cleared from the Rajya Sabha. The government was forced to introduce an ordinance in September 2018, as incidents of triple talaq were continuing unabated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As compared to last year’s bill, the ordinance was improved with many safeguards against any potential misuse of the provisions. Under the provisions of the ordinance, inter alia, the offence committed was made bailable by a magistrate and was also made compoundable, leaving scope for mutual resolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to confound the issue and to deflect attention, a wicked attempt is being made to compare the triple talaq judgment with the judgment on Sabarimala with an intention to show dichotomy in the BJP’s stand. Let me clarify that Sabarimala is a matter of internal rituals and ritualistic practices of a religion, and the BJP honours it much in the same way as it honours the internal ritualistic practices of any other religion. But, triple talaq is not a ritualistic practice. Rather, it is a social aberration inflicting cruelty on women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sabarimala cannot be seen as a violation of the fundamental rights of women as the temple does not ban the entry of women per se, but only a specific category of women due to specific reasons. Moreover, women are free to visit any other Ayyappa temple in the country—nearly a thousand in number—where Lord Ayyappa is not enshrined in the specific form of an eternal celibate, as in Sabarimala, thus requiring the restriction. Hence, Sabarimala cannot be seen as a battle for gender justice in the way triple talaq is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi takes a different stand outside Kerala, and Shashi Tharoor has changed his stance along with the Congress in Kerala. Unlike the consistency shown by the BJP, the Congress has displayed opportunistic politics which changes itself with time and space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Jan 04 17:59:41 IST 2019 performance-wins-not-profanities <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An abusive man is not necessarily angry; he is just scared by your abilities, which he wants demeaned. Greater your abilities, sharper the abuses you will be subjected to. Nowhere else is the truth more glaring than in politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of late, politics of abuses and profanities have become the norm with the opposition, particularly, the Congress. It is a new political culture promoted by a few leaders who use verbal abuses as a means of political mobilisation aimed at winning elections. That is why, as and when the election season arrives, the gaali culture takes the centerstage in political campaigning. This election season is not an exception.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long been an object of verbal abuse by Congress leaders, who have used the whole gamut of profanities against him, ranging from ‘neech kisam ka aadmi’ to Hitler to ‘maut ka saudagar’. Congress president Rahul Gandhi himself got abusive as he called the PM a thief with the slogan—‘desh ka chowkidar chor hai’. Hitler, Ravan and Mussolini are just a few other epithets that have already been showered on him. Recently, Shashi Tharoor, a prominent member of the party, compared Modi with a scorpion sitting on a shivlinga with the vicious insinuation of hitting him with a chappal. The list is long and disturbing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress culture of abuses did not stop here, as their leaders went to the extent of dragging the family members of Modi into political mud-slinging. It is an act as unethical as it is reprehensible, as none of Modi’s family members is in politics. One Congress leader, typical to the culture of the Congress, has even questioned the lineage of Modi, implying that people with no illustrious lineage to boast have no right to occupy high positions. This is the archetypal Congress culture that cocks a snook at democracy and glorifies dynastic politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With each progressing day, the political discourse is touching a new low. A senior Congress leader from Rajasthan, C.P. Joshi, not only gave a bizarre statement on Brahmanism but also denounced Modi for talking on Hinduism. He suggested that only Brahmins are entitled to speak on Hinduism and, hence, leaders of implied low-birth, like Modi and Uma Bharti, are not qualified to talk on Hindu religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Getting abusive is a form of retribution by a person, failed in his or her attempt to better someone else through legitimate social and ethical means. Abuse is about entitlement, not abilities. A person feels aggrieved if he is not able to get something he feels entitled to and abuses those who he feels have usurped his or her entitlement. The gaali-culture in politics is borne out of a sense of deprivation where some leaders feel that they are entitled to rule the nation but have been deprived of it by others. As a result, they take recourse to profanities to get the better of their own frustration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, people are not fools. They respond to such filth judiciously. Each time the opposition took recourse to verbal abuse against Modi, the masses responded with ballots, returning him to power with bigger strength. Thus, the sooner the opposition gets back to the discourse of development and performance, the better it is for them. The lesson in politics is loud and clear—performance wins votes, not profanities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Fri Dec 07 12:47:01 IST 2018 relook-at-sabarimala <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After unprecedented opposition in Kerala to the Supreme Court’s judgment of September 2018—which allowed the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple—it is heartening to find that the court has agreed to review the judgment. The court, while overruling the Kerala High Court’s judgment of 1991, said that the practice at the temple banning the entry of women of menstruating age, violated the rights of Hindu women and was not in harmony with the Constitution as it subjected devotion to gender discrimination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sole dissenting member of the bench, Justice Indu Malhotra, rightly mentioned that notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion, and hence, the court should not interfere unless there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion. I believe, this philosophy should be the cornerstone of legal jurisprudence while deciding upon religious cases in India. But, the Sabarimala judgment of the Supreme Court has stood in opposition to this golden principle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sabarimala tradition is a fascinating amalgamation of Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Shakt, Buddhist and Muslim traditions that has built up a formidable cult of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabarimala, who is worshipped as a venerated warrior god by the devotees. Ayyappa is considered to be Hariharaputra—the son of Shiva (Hara) and Mohini, the feminine form of Vishnu (Hari)—thus representing the essential oneness of the transcendental reality of the Supreme Brahman, which is the essence of vedantic philosophy of ancient Hinduism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The association of Lord Ayyappa with the age-old Dharmasastha tradition of the south was an important development, as Dharmasastha is considered to be the original Hariharaputra deity and Ayyappa is regarded as one of his incarnations. That is why the Sabarimala temple till recently was known as Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple. The name was changed to its present form—Sabrimala Sri Ayyappaswami Temple—in November 2016.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deity in a Hindu shrine is personified and is a legal entity. Lord Ayyappa, being a celibate, can thus decide not to meet a woman. The devotees themselves need to pursue an austere life style, including practising celibacy, for 41 days before visiting the temple. Excluding menstruating women [who cannot complete 41 days because of their menstrual cycles] from the shrine is the core faith around the legend of Lord Ayyappa. The court failed to gauge this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is why its judgment is becoming increasingly difficult to implement with each passing day, as threats of mass suicide and other extreme forms of opposition are haunting the administration. The insensitivity of the CPI(M) government that treated the protests merely as a law-and-order issue and the persistent refusal of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take the stakeholders into confidence further complicated the matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must understand that it is not a gender issue because such a restriction is not extended to the thousands of other Dharmasastha temples across the nation where the deity has manifested himself in forms other than that of a naishtika bramhachari (eternal celibate), as in Sabarimala. Hence women of any age group are free to visit those shrines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Supreme Court now agreeing to review the Sabarimala judgment, it is hoped that the dissenting voice of Justice Indu Malhotra shall be given a more thorough, patient and meticulous consideration along with other persuasive facts on the table.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Thu Nov 22 16:04:17 IST 2018 much-more-than-a-statue <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Pay no attention to what the critics say, a statue has never been erected in honour of a critic.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer, was not, of course, saying this about the critics of the just inaugurated Statue of Unity. But, he, to their disappointment, would not have had anything else to say had he got the opportunity to address them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Critics have this monumental ability to rise above their petty differences and unite to criticise everything that happens for the greater cause. And, so is the case with the Statue of Unity. The 182m statue, the tallest in the world,—inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat on the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel—cannot be looked at solely through the prism of economics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patel is one of the tallest and most underrated leaders in modern history, as propagated in post-Independence India by the ruling class. To understand Patel’s contributions, one needs to understand the difficult history of his time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the midnight of August 15, 1947, the British left a territory that comprised two kinds of political entities—the British provinces, administered directly by the British; and the princely states administered indirectly through princes. Apart from these, there were enclaves controlled by different European countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The eleven British provinces instantly became constituents of the Union of India on August 15, 1947. But the 565 princely states held out. They harboured varied intentions—some wanted to remain independent, some wanted to form a confederation of princely states, while some others wanted to merge with Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This uncertainty posed a grave threat to the unity of India between 1947 and 1949. It was a challenging time, and Patel— the home minister and the first deputy prime minister—rose to the occasion like a true leader. He travelled countrywide, held negotiations, pacified the apprehensive and, occasionally, convinced the obstinate with a hint of sabre-rattling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He succeeded in convincing nearly all princes to sign the instrument of accession with India. The ones who did not—like the Nawabs of Junagarh and Hyderabad—faced military action. Hence, by 1949, all the states Patel was authorised to deal with had signed individual instrument of accession with the Union government. All except Jammu and Kashmir, which was under the direct control of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The instruments of accession were later skillfully converted into full merger agreements, under which the princes had to forego all territorial and administrative rights over their erstwhile states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, Patel is the unquestionable architect of India, and it is only fitting that the towering man is honoured with a towering monument that will remind generations of his monumental contribution towards a united India. The Statue of Unity is a small tribute to his mega-abilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this context, I find all opposition to this monument pharisaical. This statue represents our commitment to honour the true legacies of India and to carry them forward for posterity. Those who object to it on the ground of its cost and utility forget that the monument entails a wholistic development of the surrounding tribal areas and countryside with a network of expressways, tourism corridors, ecological parks and hospitality infrastructure that would create immense economic opportunities for the local population, without impinging on the ecology of the area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Honouring national heroes and preserving their legacies cannot be seen in economic terms only. Rather, it must be seen as an emotional return of the debt that we all owe to the Iron Man of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hence, like Sibelius, I would suggest people not to pay attention to such critics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lekhi is member of Parliament •</b></p> Sat Nov 10 18:47:36 IST 2018