Cover Story en Sun Nov 20 12:24:51 IST 2022 ashok-gehlot-welfware-schemes-rajasthan-elections-2023 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Teeja Devi, 70, has only recently started using a smartphone. The elderly resident of Jhilai village in Tonk district, which is about one-and-a-half hour's drive from Jaipur, says her grandson is helping her master the gadget. She got her phone under the Ashok Gehlot government's scheme to give out free smartphones to women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A widow belonging to the Nai (barber) community, Teeja Devi has three sons. One of them works in Jaipur as a labourer and the other two are engaged in the traditional profession in their village. The smartphone is a prized possession for her. She uses it to listen to songs, besides calling up relatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teeja Devi's neighbour Meera Sain, too, has received a smartphone. She says her sons never bothered to get her one, but now she has one of her own. Kamla Devi Sharma, 85, is waiting for her grandchildren to help insert the SIM card into her phone, while 45-year-old Bhuli Devi is upset because her smartphone was stolen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The women of Jhilai may not be adept at using smartphones yet, but it is an acquisition that is making them feel valued and they thank Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for it. They got the phones two months ago, packed in bright pink and yellow bags bearing Gehlot's image. The colour scheme is a constant in the chief minister's campaign.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The phones were given under the Indira Gandhi Free Smartphone Yojana. Under the scheme, launched on August 10 this year, 1.33 crore women are being given smartphones. Eligible categories include widows or single women who are pension recipients, girl students, female family heads who have worked for 100 days under the rural employment guarantee scheme or women who have worked 50 days under the urban employment guarantee scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not very far from Jhilai, in the marketplace in Newai block in Tonk district, 75-year-old Narayan Sahu runs a shop selling sweets and savouries. Sahu and his 73-year-old wife, Anok Devi, have both had cataract surgeries. The entire cost was covered by the state government's Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana. “We did not have to pay any money for the surgery under the Chiranjeevi scheme. Many people here have benefited from the scheme,” says Sahu. Over 1.40 crore families in the state have been provided a Rs25 lakh insurance cover under the scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the state capital Jaipur, close to the inter-state bus station, a canteen is being run by a women's self-help group under the aegis of the government. The Indira Rasoi scheme provides a thali meal comprising chapatis, a vegetable dish, dal and pickles for just Rs8. There are 992 such canteens in the urban centres of the state, and it was recently extended to the villages, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Around 800 people eat in our canteen in a day. We provide them food in steel thalis, and they can sit here and eat in hygienic conditions with dignity,” says Sushila Kanwar, who runs the canteen near the bus station. Such interactions offer a few glimpses of Gehlot's massive welfarist push. There is a whole bouquet of schemes which Gehlot describes as his way of providing relief to the people who are suffering from rising prices. His critics have questioned many of the initiatives, calling them freebies, and asking how those will be funded, but Gehlot is banking heavily on the measures to create history―to win Rajasthan as an incumbent. This has not happened in the state since 1993, when the BJP won a second straight time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gehlot's populism push includes free health care, 100 units of free electricity for residential premises, gas cylinders at Rs500, a return to the old pension scheme, 100 days of guaranteed employment under the Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme and 50 per cent concession in ticket fare for women in state buses. Gehlot often says, <i>“Aap mangte mangte thak jaoge, lekin mein dete dete thakunga nahi</i> (You may get tired of asking, but I won't get tired of giving).&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 7, as the 72-year-old Gehlot embarked on the final leg of the campaign for the November 25 assembly elections with his 'Guarantee Yatra' in Jaipur, it was the culmination of the publicity blitzkrieg that he had unleashed several months ago. It takes off from the welfare schemes of the government and is seen as an effort to make the campaign more organisation-centric rather than person-centric, as it has been so far. Gehlot has not been named the chief ministerial candidate by his party, which insists that a collective leadership will take it through the elections. A course correction has been attempted of late by adding state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra's photo to the campaign material.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“After the model code of conduct kicks in, the government's welfare schemes are the party's schemes and not the schemes of any one individual. The chief minister belongs to the party, and the schemes that he brings are for the party,” says Dotasra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the past several months, however, Gehlot has ensured that his face is at the focus of the welfare schemes. His image is present on the food kits that the people received, on the bags in which mobile phones are given out and on the walls of the Indira Rasoi. Bright pink and yellow banners and other publicity material are splashed across the state, with the image of a smiling Gehlot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The three-term chief minister had taken the welfarist route in his previous two terms as well, with little success. In the run-up to the 2003 elections, he was lauded for his work in providing relief to the drought-hit people of the state. But the Congress won just 56 seats in the 200-member assembly. There was a flurry of populist measures before the assembly elections in 2013, too, but the Congress plummeted to 21 seats. Gehlot's critics are quick to point out that the welfare measures have not really helped him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, there is a distinct change in the manner in which Gehlot has packaged his welfarist agenda this time. He has also worked on his own image. He went on a publicity overdrive starting with this year's budget, for which he took out full page advertisements in newspapers. Gehlot took three hours to deliver the budget speech, which brimmed over with welfarist proposals. The budget was a precursor to a massive outreach programme that was pegged on the theme of giving people relief from inflation. And it came against the backdrop of Gehlot belying his mild-mannered exterior to fight tooth and nail to safeguard his position in the state, be it from the rebellion by his former deputy Sachin Pilot or the BJP's alleged efforts to destabilise his government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Always known to be a Gandhi family loyalist, Gehlot was also seen as having challenged their authority when his name was considered for the post of party president and the buzz was that Pilot would replace him in the state. There was an open rebellion by MLAs belonging to his camp. He made it clear that he was ready to protect his political turf at any cost. In the months to come, the party high command also reached the conclusion that its best bet in Rajasthan was to go with Gehlot's welfare agenda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Gehlot had come up with some good schemes before the 2003 and the 2013 elections. What is different this time is the aggression and professionalism with which the publicity campaign is being run. He has given immense importance to messaging, and it revolves around him. He was always seen as an old school politician, but he has embraced new ways of fighting elections this time,” says political analyst Manish Godha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier this year, around the time Pilot took to the streets to protest against the Gehlot government's alleged inaction on the issue of question paper leaks and the purported corruption that took place during the tenure of Vasundhara Raje, Gehlot launched a mass outreach programme based on the welfare schemes of his government. Around 3,200 Mehangai Rahat (inflation relief) camps were set up across the state. It was followed by the Rajasthan Mission 2030 initiative, aimed to draft a blueprint with suggestions from the people on how to make Rajasthan the most developed state in the country by 2030. A nine-day Mission 2030 yatra was organised in October in which Gehlot covered 18 districts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through all these initiatives, Gehlot has made an effort to come across as a leader who cares for the people. He hired the services of the digital marketing and political campaign management company DesignBoxed that has carefully curated his outreach campaign to reaffirm his image as a pro-poor, pro-welfare leader. They are behind the pink and yellow campaign material, the many interactions with different sections of society that were amplified by social media, and the use of campaign vehicles to take the message down to the grassroots level. Social media influencers have been brought on board. Even Gehlot's initial stint as a magician was played up in some of the publicity material.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gehlot's supporters point out that the BJP, dealing with its own internal differences, has been unable to put forward a face to take him on. Gehlot has deftly taken on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has led the BJP's campaign in the state, saying Modi is 'Vishwaguru' (world leader), while he is rooted in Rajasthan. He recently challenged Raje to an open debate, which was an attempt to highlight the fact that the BJP does not have a chief ministerial face, but has many aspirants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress, too, suffers from the perception of a house badly divided. Gehlot and Pilot were at loggerheads through most of the last five years. A truce was worked out between them by the party high command closer to elections, but it may have happened a little too late. What could work against the Congress is also its organisational weaknesses. Many office bearers and district presidents were appointed only this year, and this may affect the management of elections at the grassroots level, a factor worth considering when taking into account the BJP's robust booth-level machinery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the issues raised by the BJP is the alleged corruption in the Gehlot government, primarily connected to the many leaks of question papers of recruitment exams. It has talked about the 'red diary' in possession of sacked minister Rajendra Gudha who claims the pages of the diary have evidence of corruption by Gehlot. The Gehlot government has had to undertake a lot of firefighting on the issue, which includes bringing in a stringent law against paper leaks, but the party is wary of the impact it can have on the elections, especially since there are limited employment avenues for the youth in Rajasthan. “The Congress came to power promising the youth greater employment opportunities. No new employment avenues were generated. And they further betrayed the trust of the youth through the many paper leaks. Those involved in paper leaks had the protection of those in power,” says Rajasthan BJP president C.P. Joshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another factor that could come into play is the anti-incumbency against the MLAs. The Congress had earlier indicated that its surveys showed a high level of anti-incumbency against many of its MLAs, and a substantial number of legislators would not get tickets. However, a majority of them, across factions, have been fielded again. Of the 108 Congress MLAs, as many as 90 have been repeated. In Jhilai, for example, while the residents do not criticise the Gehlot government, many of them say that the local Congress MLA Prashant Bairwa is not very accessible. “He belongs to this village, yet he does not come for weddings or funerals. The local hospital does not have doctors. There are no teachers in the girls' school here,” says Meera Sain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, according to Amrita Dhawan, the AICC secretary who is the co-in-charge of Rajasthan, the Congress has brought in new faces to the maximum extent possible and has gone strictly by the report from the ground. “This is a perception built by the BJP, that our MLAs are unpopular. We did not fall into their trap and went strictly by public opinion. Wherever it was felt that there was a demand from the people to replace the MLA, we have done that. And where we have found that the person was on the margin and could redeem himself or herself, that person has been given another chance.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gehlot is seeking to script history. He is hoping his welfare measures will see him through. The challenges though are tough, indeed.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:39:49 IST 2023 rajasthan-chief-minister-chief-minister-ashok-gehlot-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Beti, you come to the chief minister's residence in Jaipur. We will have a chat there over a cup of tea. Don't get disheartened,” said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as a teenaged girl in Alwar struggled with a faulty sound system to get her views across to him over videoconferencing. The occasion was the launch of Gehlot's flagship 'Rajasthan Mission 2030' on August 23. Gehlot was interacting with college students, a majority of them girls, from different parts of the state via videoconferencing from Jaipur’s Birla Auditorium. He was seeking suggestions on what to include in the Mission 2030 document.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chief minister had only just resumed his public outreach activities; he had fractured the toes of both his feet. He spoke like a doting elder to the girls, encouraging them to speak up and asking them questions about their studies and families. He noted down their suggestions himself. When a girl from Udaipur suggested that her college should start offering postgraduate courses, he promised her it would be done and did so that very day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the past several months, Gehlot has had many such interactions―with students, farmers, women, businessmen―as part of a massive public outreach exercise based on his government's welfare schemes. That August 23 evening, Gehlot laughed off a question from THE WEEK on whether the Mission 2030 initiative―the stated aim of which is to find ways to make Rajasthan the most developed state by 2030―was also meant to convey to his opponents, both within and outside the Congress, that he was here to stay. But it was clear then as it is clear now that the 72-year-old leader intends to stay on. He is putting his best foot forward as he attempts to do what he has failed to do in his previous two stints at the helm―win the Assembly election as an incumbent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The magician-turned-politician is hoping that the relentless flurry of welfare measures and promises unleashed by him will do the trick and halt the revolving door politics of the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As he enters the final lap of the hectic public outreach he embarked on several months ago, Gehlot, in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, says these elections will be fought on the issue of social security and while the Congress has its schemes and seven guarantees to talk about, the BJP has no issue. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Rajasthan has had a track record of voting out the incumbent. Can your government buck the trend?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not true that no government has ever got a second consecutive term in Rajasthan. The Congress won five consecutive elections from 1951 to 1972. Again, the Congress won in 1980 and in 1985. The BJP also won two consecutive elections in 1990 and 1993. So there is no rule that a government cannot repeat. You will find out on December 3.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The 2018 election was a close contest, with the Congress reaching only the halfway mark (100 of 200 seats). How many seats do you expect the party to win this time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are doing much better than in 2018. The reason for this is primarily that the kind of schemes we have launched are unprecedented and have not been seen in any other state in the country. This is a trend-setting election in more than one way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your government has made a big push for welfare schemes, and it is unprecedented in many ways―from free electricity to free health care to free rations and much more. How big a factor will this be for the voters of Rajasthan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is what this election is about―social security. We have a vision of social security that goes beyond anything ever seen in India. Our seven guarantees for this election are taking the vision forward. These seven guarantees―be it an annual honorarium for women, LPG cylinders at Rs500, free laptop or tablet for students of government colleges, Rs15 lakh insurance cover for natural calamities, purchase of cow dung at Rs2 per kilogramme, English medium education in every school or a legal guarantee for old pension scheme―are the main issues in this election.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your opponents describe them as freebies or revdis. Questions are also raised about the impact of the schemes on the state's finances.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The state’s finances are today in a better shape than what I got in 2018. Don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. As for the freebies and revdis charge, it is insulting to the people of Rajasthan to call them ‘freeloaders’. They will give a befitting reply to this charge with their votes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana and the Right to Health law are being projected as major health care initiatives of the government. What about the need to develop public health infrastructure?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have started more medical colleges, hospitals and primary health care centres every year than what the BJP did in their previous five-year rule. Just look at the data. Our government, in the past five years, has opened 60 new medical colleges. During our tenure, 95 district and sub-district hospitals have been built compared with the BJP’s number of zero. The difference is quite stark indeed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Political observers say the decision to form 19 new districts was taken with an eye on elections.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a democracy, the government delivers what the people want. It is a government for the people. The people felt that they have to travel too far to get access to administration, and the increase in population also needs deepening of district administration. And since we heard their complaints and created 19 new districts, naturally they will take this into account while casting their votes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In the schemes launched in Rajasthan, are there indications of what the Congress's narrative will be for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The schemes launched by the Rajasthan government―as also those by the Congress governments in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka―tell you what the Congress ideology is. This is not about one Vidhan Sabha election or one Lok Sabha election. We are the party of Mahatma Gandhi. We work for the poor and the downtrodden. If you look at the vision of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, from MNREGA to food security, our ideology is <i>‘Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath</i> [The Congress stands with the common man]’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have spoken about the Congress's 'Mission 156'. Could you elaborate on that?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are going to win 156 seats minimum this time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ When you launched Rajasthan Mission 2030, was it also meant as a message to your detractors both within and outside the party that you are not going anywhere?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea of Mission 2030 is to chart a roadmap for the progress of Rajasthan. I felt that between election cycles, the need for a roadmap for the future is often neglected. I wanted public participation in planning a vision for the future to make Rajasthan India’s No 1 state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have said that the chief minister's chair is not letting go of you. Do you mean to say that you will continue to be the chief minister if the Congress wins Rajasthan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress high command will decide that. I am just a humble Congress worker. What I meant by that statement is that I am not enamoured with power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress has declared that it is going into these elections with a collective leadership, that there is no CM face.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, we are all together and fighting collectively. Look at the BJP, what a divided house it is!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you view the impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign in Rajasthan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Has it turned the election into a Modi vs Gehlot contest? This election is seven guarantees of the Congress versus lack of vision of the BJP. The BJP is unable to explain why people should vote for it. We are saying we have seven guarantees for the people that we are sincere about fulfilling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BJP is devoid of a CM face, with former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje pushed to the sidelines. How does that change the election scenario for the Congress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP in Rajasthan is leaderless, visionless, issue-less.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your government has been criticised by the BJP for the paper leaks that have taken place and they have also alleged political complicity in the leaks.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paper leaks are not a new phenomenon. Even during the BJP’s time, the High Court pointed out leaks, and still no exams were scrapped back then. What is different now is our swift action. The moment we saw trouble, we did not just sit on our hands and point fingers like other parties. In fact, in Uttar Pradesh, due to the fear of paper leaks, no agency is ready to conduct the exams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our government was the quickest to respond to this by filing a chargesheet and making timely arrests even if that meant nabbing high-profile individuals. We have made the strictest of laws. Recognition of involved institutions, too, has been revoked and government officials have been dismissed from their duties. Remember, in the past five years, we have transparently handed out jobs to three lakh individuals. And when we have had to, we have made the tough calls, like cancelling exams, because we are here for the youth. We are here for justice and fairness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BJP also accuses you of indulging in appeasement of minorities. Incidents such as the beheading in Udaipur have been taken up by them.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All their fake accusations will get a reply on December 3, when results will show that the people have voted for seven guarantees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have said that you believe in forgive and forget. After all the bitter remarks that have been exchanged between you and your former deputy Sachin Pilot, can there be a working relationship between the two of you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are always differences in a family but it is important to resolve differences amicably. I am glad we have been able to do that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your rivals say that whenever you have been chief minister, the party has lost.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I will reply to this on December 3.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you have any regrets that you had to drop out of the election for the post of Congress president? Would you rather have become Congress president than continue as chief minister?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I do what the party decides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Any concerns that the raids by the Enforcement Directorate on Congress leaders ahead of elections and the ED questioning your son Vaibhav will influence the voters?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ED is harassing my son and my party colleagues because the BJP is losing this election. It has ED; we have seven guarantees.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:37:48 IST 2023 former-rajasthan-deputy-chief-minister-sachin-pilot-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A few months ago, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chief Rahul Gandhi called a meeting to bring about a truce between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot. At the meeting, Gehlot is learnt to have remarked that he had seen the 46-year-old Pilot grow up. An uneasy truce was brokered, but it remains tenuous against the backdrop of the unrelenting rivalry between Gehlot and Pilot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Pilot says he has never responded in kind to Gehlot’s harsh criticism of him. He says he believes that, in the event of a Congress victory, the race for the chief minister’s post is open. He points to Gehlot’s failure in 2013 as an incumbent to win, reminding that the party had plummeted to 21 seats in that election and that he helmed the uphill task from 2013 to 2018 to bring the party back to the majority mark.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What makes you confident about a Congress victory?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajasthan has in the last three decades seen revolving door politics. But I am confident that this time we will break that trend. After our victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, we have strong tailwinds in the Congress organisation. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra energised workers across the country. We have implemented most of the promises made in 2018. Also, the BJP is not a united force and is in total disarray in Rajasthan, while we are working unitedly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you see any difference between 2018 and now? You were state party chief in 2018.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The difference is that now we are fighting as an incumbent. The last time when we fought as an incumbent, when we had a Congress chief minister in 2013, we came down to 21 seats in the 200-member assembly. From 21 to go to the majority mark in five years was a constant struggle. As far as my role now is concerned, I am working as hard as I can to ensure that the party wins.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How united is the Congress, given the backdrop of bitterness between you and Gehlot?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I raised some issues that needed to be addressed. I am glad that the AICC took cognisance of those issues. For example, paper leaks. The AICC leadership recognised it is an important issue and directed the Rajasthan government to take steps. It is not about individuals as much about the organisation and the Congress party’s prospects in the elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So you are putting all the bitterness behind.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some unkind words were said against me. But I don’t want to dwell on that. I have always believed that a certain level of decorum should be maintained in our discourse in public life, and I have never responded in kind. As Kharge <i>ji</i> and Rahul <i>ji</i> advised me, it is important to forget, forgive and move on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have your demands with regard to paper leaks and corruption in the Vasundhara Raje government been met fully?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I raised these issues because they were important to be considered since we were going to the polls. Some legal recourse was sought on some of the issues. Issues like reforming the Public Service Commission―we couldn’t do it in time because elections were declared, and one of the appointments made recently, just one day before the elections were announced, was an individual for whom the chief minister had to apologise for making that appointment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BJP has no CM face and their campaign is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi had led the campaign in 2018, too. We saw that happening in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka also. The BJP is getting pulled in many directions and they are going back and forth as far as their campaign strategy is concerned. The BJP is hoping that by default they will get to win the state, but that is not the case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The de facto face of the party in this election appears to be Gehlot since it is his face we see on all the publicity material.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have a Congress chief minister, obviously his picture will be carried. But as far as the Congress party is concerned, we have an age-old, tried and tested method as per which the elected MLAs together decide along with the leadership in Delhi who will get what responsibility. In 2018, I was the PCC chief and we all passed a one-line resolution authorising the Congress president to decide who will lead the government. Exactly the same thing will happen this time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Gehlot keeps saying the chief minister’s chair is not letting him go.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must realise that it is the party that makes the government; governments don’t make parties. If the chair is with the party, the party’s ideology, manifesto and policies can be implemented. And that should be the reason for us to want that chair. I am sure that is what he had in his heart when he said that. To say that I want something for my own personal gratification, that should not be the idea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Are you an aspirant for the chief minister’s post?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am lucky I got a chance to work in the state, in the Government of India, in Parliament, in the state assembly. I am now working to try and deliver the state and wherever I can contribute. What role I will have and what position I will be given, it all depends on the Congress leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress won Rajasthan in 2018, but did not win any Lok Sabha seat.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last time, some unique circumstances came into play just before the polls. I don’t think that is the situation today. Ten years is a long time. There is a fatigue factor. There is a lot of unrest among young people, farmers and others. The people are looking for an alternative, and the INDIA alliance is that alternative. After winning the state elections, we are well on track to defeat the National Democratic Alliance government in 2024.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:36:05 IST 2023 rajasthan-congress-president-govind-singh-dotasra-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ The Congress had won 100 seats in the last election. Will you better it this time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hundred per cent. We will do better; the BJP will do worse. Look at the BJP's campaign. It wants to create a narrative of 'Nahi Sahega Rajasthan [Rajasthan will not tolerate]'. What will Rajasthan not tolerate? We have given them so many guarantees―will Rajasthan not tolerate this? The BJP is not able to create a perception against us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BJP has raised the issue of Muslim appeasement by the Congress.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is an old <i>jumla</i> [slogan] of theirs. If the BJP has grown, it is only on the basis of religion, Hindu-Muslim, Kabristan-Shamshan, in the name of India-Pakistan, Ram Mandir. It has always tried to mislead the Hindu majority community. It benefited from it twice. Now, it should tell us what it has done to remove unemployment, price rise, or to double the income of farmers, to ensure progress of women or in the fields of education and health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The prime minister is always in election mode. The people have realised that they only talk, and it is the Congress that actually works for them, hence they will vote for the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BJP has no chief ministerial face this time in Rajasthan. How do you view that?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The prime minister himself said that Vasundhara [Raje] is not the face. He said that for the BJP, only the lotus is the face. In the prime minister's meetings, she used to be referred to as former chief minister. Now, in their banners, they call her just an MLA. All this is approved by the prime minister's office. You are coming here only to berate your former chief minister. You are talking about 2024, and you have no chance in 2023.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ We find only Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's face in the publicity material for welfare schemes. The entire credit seems to be going to him.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not like that. The chief minister's face is there on the schemes [as they are] the work of the government. But after the model code of conduct kicks in, the government's welfare schemes are the party's schemes and not the schemes of any one individual. The chief minister belongs to the party, and the schemes that he brings are for the party. The party worker takes it to the people, publicises it and also benefits from it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How big an issue is caste census in this election?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is our main agenda. Our government has issued orders to carry out a caste survey. And when our government will return, we will undertake it as a matter of priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is a perception about the Congress being a divided house.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The perception has changed. The situation was different a few months ago. But there was no <i>manbhed</i> (personal differences) but <i>matbhed</i> (difference of opinion). [Mallikarjun] Kharge <i>ji</i>, Rahul [Gandhi] <i>ji</i> sat with everyone, and all the issues were discussed with the CM and with Sachin [Pilot] <i>ji</i>, and after that, we are all together in every meeting, in every campaign.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Enforcement Directorate recently raided your premises and also summoned your sons for questioning.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP is desperate since it knows it is losing the election. They are trying to create this narrative that our government is corrupt. But the people can see that the agencies have become active only on the eve of the elections. During the raid, the ED did not find anything. They did not ask me any question. They just took my phone. I want to ask them why BJP leaders who have amassed wealth are not raided.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:31:47 IST 2023 bjp-election-schemes-poll-promises-in-rajasthan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The festive season is in full swing in Rajasthan. And it is raining offers, not just from commercial establishments, but also from political parties. Unsurprisingly, the offers from the political parties in the election-bound state are more enticing. The Congress moved early with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s seven guarantees. The BJP is readying its best package and it comes with a guarantee from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. So, it is the Gehlot guarantee versus the Modi guarantee, which comes with hindutva enclosed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi has already announced a big guarantee for the country―continuation of free ration for another five years. This is huge for Rajasthan, because the state is home to 4.4 crore beneficiaries of the scheme. This translates to more than 50 per cent of the state’s population. Rajasthan has 5.29 crore voters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The collective leadership in the state has led to a pool of chief ministerial hopefuls in the BJP, including former chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha MP and Jaipur royal Diya Kumari and the leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore. Despite the evident attempt within the party to sideline Raje, she has shown remarkable resilience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP is bundling the assembly polls with the 2024 Lok Sabha elections so that both have better resonance among voters. “Whom do you want to see elected in 2024,” asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah as he started his Rajasthan assembly campaign.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 2018 assembly elections, the party had lost more than 6 per cent vote share (securing 38 per cent) and 90 seats in Rajasthan. But, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls held five months later, it secured 59 per cent vote share and won 24 out of 25 seats. This time, it will bank heavily on the work done by the Modi regime in the last nine years and the benefits of various schemes which have flowed down to the voters in the state. The BJP promise is ensuring the delivery of every promise made by Modi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shekhawat said the Congress government had failed to fulfil its promises and had lost credibility. “The people have seen their corrupt practices, poor law and order, and paper leaks,” he said. “They will be rooted out.” The BJP is promising investigations into the paper leaks, including into the role of the chief minister, apart from probing the issue of alleged kickbacks detailed in the now famous red diary. There is also now a steady stream of leaders joining the BJP, which it says is an indication of things to come.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though pre-poll surveys have given the BJP an edge, this is likely to be a closely fought election. In 2018, 45 seats were won with a margin of less than 6,000 votes. That is 22.5 per cent of the total 200 seats―enough to be decisive in a close contest. There were 10 seats where the winning margin was below 1,000. The lowest margin was in Asind, which the BJP won by 154 votes. In fact, then state Congress president C.P. Joshi, who was instrumental in the victory (the Congress won 100 seats, while the BJP won 73), had lost by one vote. He was a frontrunner to be chief minister, but had to settle for being the assembly speaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In light of such potential close contests, the biggest worry for both the Congress and the BJP are the rebels―more than 30 of them―who are contesting as independent candidates after they were denied tickets. For example Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, who was a Raje loyalist, is contesting from Jhotwara, against Lok Sabha MP and former minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore of the BJP and the Congress's Abhishek Choudhary, the state head of the National Students' Union of India. In 2018, Shekhawat, as a BJP candidate, had got over one lakh votes from the seat even as he lost to the Congress candidate by just under 11,000 votes. During the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, rebels had spoiled the BJP’s chances in many seats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In keeping with its social engineering formula, the BJP has given tickets to 33 Jats, 34 dalits, 25 Rajputs, 20 Brahmins, and 11 Vaish and Gurjar candidates each. Ironically, the BJP, which brought the historic women reservation bill, has given tickets only to 20 women, seven less than the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women voters are very much in focus in the campaign though. It has highlighted poor law and order and several rapes during the Gehlot regime. “If the Congress government was to come again, women will not be safe to venture out,” said Diya Kumari. “The Gehlot government has failed on all accounts. BJP governments have shown how to maintain law and order.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The saffron party has also fielded some saffron-clad candidates. They include Baba Balaknath (also a contender to be chief minister), Otaram Dewasi, Balmukund Acharya and Pratap Puri. It is also hitting out at the Congress government for its “appeasement politics” and recounting communal incidents, such as the beheading of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Ayodhya Ram temple opening in January, the party is all set to remind voters of this achievement and invite them to visit it―free visits maybe on the cards as part of its election manifesto.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If elected, the BJP leadership will have a big decision to make―picking the chief minister from the pool of hopefuls. Almost 50 Raje loyalists have got tickets and she continues to be the party's most recognisable face in the state. She has also been campaigning across the state and staying away from controversies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, the chief minister chosen would be the one who can also ensure victory in the Lok Sabha polls.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:28:43 IST 2023 bjp-candidate-from-vidhyadhar-nagar-diya-kumari-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is a homecoming of sorts for Princess Diya Kumari. She entered electoral politics 10 years ago, winning from the Sawai Madhopur assembly seat in 2013. In 2019, she was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rajsamand with a margin of more than 5.5 lakh votes. Both these constituencies were away from her Jaipur home, and her family often complained that she was always “missing” as she focused on her electorate. But this election, she will be fighting from Vidhyadhar Nagar in Jaipur, which is also the party’s pocket borough. She is expected to win easily, as her family had ruled over Jaipur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am Jaipur <i>ki beti</i> (Jaipur’s daughter),” she tells voters in neighbourhood meetings. She is sought-after by voters, especially women. Many request for selfies, and she obliges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Diya Kumari joined politics at the behest of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. But now there is a buzz that she could have been brought in as a counter to Raje’s influence in the party. She, however, denies it. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It has been 10 years since you entered electoral politics. How has been the journey so far? How easy or difficult is it for royals to connect with people?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even though people think royal families are disconnected [from people], it is just the opposite. Royal families have always been with the people…. I have seen my grandmother (Gayatri Devi)… my father (Bhawani Singh), my mother (Padmini Devi) being always among people. I think it is much more easier for us to connect with people and for people to connect with us. The credibility factor may be more than others. And if you see all erstwhile royal families are in politics. People have faith in those families because of all that they have given.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jaipur, I am proud to be from a background where my forefathers have given the university, hospital, airport, railway station, sewage system, the roads and so many other things to the people of Jaipur. People know that, so connectivity is there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the issues you are flagging in this election?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress has just not performed. The crime rate has risen so much in Rajasthan, the law and order is zero, development is zero. They are doing all this communal politics, appeasement politics. This is for people to see. There is so much infighting in the Congress from the beginning, which hasn't stopped till now. In the last few months, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has just like a magician opened up a box to take out all these (welfare schemes). But the people have not benefited at all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It is said that you are a contender for the chief minister’s post.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I don't even think about it. This is not something I am even focusing on. That is not my job. The chief minister will be decided by the BJP’s parliamentary board, by our top leadership. Right now the focus is on winning this seat and winning our state, which we are totally committed to. We will win with a huge margin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ If the post is offered to you in the future, are you ready for it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No post is being offered to anybody.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Parliament has passed the women’s reservation bill. Still, women are not given as many tickets.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the party’s decision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is buzz that you are projected as a counter to former chief minister Vasundhara Raje within the BJP.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have nothing to say on this. I have very good relations with her.</p> Sat Nov 11 12:26:58 IST 2023 business-schools-in-india-are-resolutely-nurturing-a-new-generation-of-leaders <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is on a hot, dry day that we step into the 102-acre campus of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. The iconic old campus is closed for redevelopment. The new campus, which is right next to the old one, is neat and tidy. And, perhaps unexpectedly for India’s premier b-school, the sports facilities stand out. There is a well-furnished gymnasium, tennis and badminton courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a football ground, to name a few. But, then again, the body has to achieve what the mind can dream up. And, in the case of IIMA students, that is quite a lot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our leisurely stroll around the campus comes to an end when we bump into Vinoj. He is a first-year student from Coimbatore. We ask him about his lessons and quickly get an education on Toyota’s efficiency―he had learned about the company in operations management. Aditi Sharma from Delhi, another first-year student, excitedly explains how the pedagogy helps students become better decision makers. “Every day, one has to make decisions,” she says. “And that helps you make better decisions later, in your professional life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is, of course, referring to the case method, where students dissect scenarios faced by businesses. They discuss the problems and potential solutions. This broadens their perspective and prepares them to be reliable troubleshooters when they are faced with challenges in their own managerial careers. Prof Sunil Sharma, who teaches strategy at IIMA, says that the problems posed by the case studies do not declare that they are HR problems or operations problems. “Hence, students must have a holistic approach to problem-solving,” he says. “I feel that management education, at least at IIMA, has not changed much except for new themes, such as leveraging emerging technology to create solutions for society at scale.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The continuity in the approach to management education at IIMA is complemented by the continuation of best practices. Among them is the training of faculty. When IIMA was established in 1961, there was significant investment in hiring the best faculty and training them at Harvard and Stanford. “We continue to train our faculty in the same tradition,” says Prof Bharat Bhasker, director, IIMA. “Although we generally do not train them abroad [now]. Instead, the older faculty trains the new faculty here. Faculty is the key differentiation for IIMA. Our policies encourage them to stay and provide them the platform to scale up.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma says that the idea is to prepare students not only to be good managers, but also future CEOs. “If you are taking the best students, they should become leaders in any organisation that they join,” he says. “This has been our belief system. Business leaders should not just satisfy the aspirations of shareholders, but also the aspirations of multiple stakeholders, including the employees and society.” He adds that this has gained importance in the post-Covid world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Terms like sensitive and inclusive are being widely used by business leaders, he says. “This has been our learning approach,” says Sharma. “Also, we have never seen a course as a solution to everything, as there are multiple aspects in different courses which help a person lead an organisation.” He adds that the focus on being sensitive and inclusive means leaders should possess multidimensional intelligence, including emotional intelligence. “There is also an understanding that India is a very bright spot and there is a need to create local solutions,” he says. “The spurt in entrepreneurship has also created an interesting spillover. Earlier, a management graduate’s destination was a large organisation, but it can now be starting something on their own.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The growing startup ecosystem and the general reliance of startups on innovation and creativity has also had an impact on management education. “It is about new business models and expanding your worldview,” says Sharma. “[Understanding] how exactly societies operate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The perception of management education is also changing. “Earlier, an MBA was for fast career growth, but today it is required to be a successful manager and fast career growth is a byproduct of an MBA,” says Sharma. “It is now not just for students. We do programmes for IPS officers and bureaucrats. There is a broader appreciation for management education and its relevance in effectively leading an organisation.” He adds that IIMA today trains more than 5,000 managers a year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A key aspect that IIMs and other top b-schools continue to focus on is experiential learning. Prof Chandrima Sikdar, associate dean, NMIMS School of Business Management, Mumbai, says that focus creates a simulated dynamic business world for the students in which they can get used to functioning. “We also focus on integrating the learning experiences for our students,” she says. “In their third trimester, they engage in a capstone simulation project. This project is divided into two phases, with the first part completed before their summer internships. During this phase, they work within a simulated environment, gaining practical experience. After internships, they return with real-world experience and complete the project. This allows us to assess their progress in terms of perceiving and interpreting concepts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, we find the dean, Prof Vivek Suneja, sitting with a group of senior faculty members. He takes us through the challenges faced by today’s business leaders and how b-schools are preparing students for both current and future challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A major part of the responsibility for the economic prosperity of any country falls on businesses and business leaders, he says. As the world becomes more interconnected and complexity of information increases, the challenges for businesses are becoming greater. In this context, a business leader should be a jack of all trades and a master of one, says Suneja. “A leader has to synchronise across domains and cannot be the one who just knows marketing or finance,” he says. “A good business leader specialises in being a generalist. It is like a general doctor who knows enough of different things and can make sense of it [and can bring in specialists when required].” This is why at b-schools students are initially taught all domains, before they choose electives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Suneja adds that the biggest challenge that business leaders have to deal with now is climate change. He also says that students need to be taught to be intelligent about AI and other technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Venkat Raman of FMS, Delhi, who focuses on HR and health policy, says there is more scrutiny on business leaders nowadays owing to the increased societal expectations for responsible business and good governance. “Besides, the aspirations of the new generation workforce―Gen Z―and their work-related values pose a challenge [for their managers],” he says. “Many of today’s challenges are unprecedented. Hence, the management curriculum tries to provide an analytical framework and tools [to use in different scenarios]. He adds that management education may, to a great extent, help entrepreneurs to avoid uninformed decisions and judgmental mistakes in areas like finance, sales, market analysis, supply chain linkage and pricing strategy. However, it may also constrain out-of-box or creative thinking. “Those who go beyond confines of definitive frameworks would be ideal entrepreneurs,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nishant Verma is pursuing an executive MBA from FMS while working as an assistant general manager (corporate affairs) with a Maharatna PSU. He attends classes from 6pm to 9pm. He feels that the programe will help him gain a broader perspective on holistic aspects of business operations and hone his decision-making skills. “I have already applied strategic frameworks learned in class to solve real-time challenges in my organisation,” he says. “Having an MBA can enhance my credibility and open doors to higher leadership roles and diverse career opportunities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Vishal Talwar, director, Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, says there is a lot more pressure for a business to perform from a shareholder perspective. “As a business leader, one needs to understand that consumers today expect much more quality and the companies have to operate in a sensitive manner to meet their expectations,” he says. “This puts more pressure on and adds much more cost to the company. Brands have to be very careful as to how they are projected in the market and how they are able to relate to the market, and whether their processes are intact. All these things become a part of the arsenal for a b-school. We have to teach our students the realities of the business environment and governance issues.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meeta Dasgupta, associate professor and area lead (strategic management) at Management Development Institute, Gurugram, says that the geopolitical environment has become extremely fluid and that was having an impact on the functioning and decisions of business leaders. While dealing with changes and challenges, businesses should also be sensitive to the needs of their employees and the impact their decisions are having on the environment, she says. She adds that Gen Z is clear on what they want to do in life. “Businesses have to deal with this generation not only as employees but as customers, too,” she says. “This generation has been born in the digital world and they do not shy away from experimenting. Management schools can build in the harder and the softer skills in the Gen Z students to help them to build teams and work in teams.” She says that b-schools have also realised that Gen Z work better when they have ownership of the sessions in the classroom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Jeevan J. Arakal, who teaches marketing and is chairman (executive education, branding and PR) at T.A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, says there is an increased focus on embedding liberal arts and humanities in the MBA curriculum. “This can create grounded and aware managers,” he says. “Management curriculum is evolving to understand big trends like the impact of a pandemic, the role of giants like China and the effect of geopolitical tensions. There is also an increased focus on cross-cultural communication and learning foreign languages.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ranjan Banerjee, dean and professor (marketing), BITSoM, Mumbai, too, highlights the focus on creating potential global leaders. “We do much more in terms of learning to lead in cross-cultural contexts,” he says. As the problems that business leaders are facing are increasingly unstructured and multidisciplinary, conventional tools may be inadequate and this is where management education can help, he adds. “[Through] the use of simulations which move from static case studies to multiple situations where students take decisions under pressure, they are able to understand the consequences of decisions,” he says. “There is also much greater emphasis on learnability. We must prepare leaders for multiple distinct careers in a lifetime, and learnability is a critical building block.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>VANDANA SONWANEY</b></p> <p>director, Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management, Nashik</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Businesses are in a transition phase given the disruptions caused by market dynamics, technology and the trailing effects of the pandemic. AI and ML are increasingly incorporated in every aspect of the industry, be it strategic decision-making or marketing. It is overtly clear that future business leaders at management institutes must have a working knowledge of AI-infused transformation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>K.M. SHARATH KUMAR</b></p> <p>professor and head, Faculty of Management and Commerce, Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a huge requirement of business/data analysts to support leadership to make optimal, effective and evidence-based decisions. [Therefore], students pursuing management programmes enriched by AI/ML modules along with digital transformation could be ready for senior positions and the scope for becoming future CEOs will be higher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>DEVINDER NARAIN</b></p> <p>senior director, corporate relations and human resource, Shobhit University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Management education equips aspiring entrepreneurs and startup CEOs with the essential knowledge, skills and resources needed to establish and grow their businesses. This strong foundation and the support they receive from management education programmes can indeed increase the chances of success for startups, making it easier for them to overcome obstacles and sustain their growth over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ASHWINI AWASTHI</b></p> <p>director, Institute of Management, Nirma University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shape of the workplace, unpredictable disruptions, demand for environmental, social, and corporate governance goals, the evolving role of AI, and post-pandemic customer expectations are some of the current challenges that business leaders face. Management education plays a catalytic role in bringing young minds face-to-face with such challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>KIRAN REDDY</b></p> <p>founder principal, AIMS Institutes, Bengaluru</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>AI could take into account the cognitive abilities of students, tailor personalised learning experiences and help in improving their skills on an ongoing basis. It can be used to analyse student performance and course effectiveness based on which educators can make data-driven decisions about curriculum design, teaching methods, and resource allocation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>P.R. SODANI</b></p> <p>president, IIHMR University Jaipur</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[To help entrepreneurs] IIHMR University has established the IIHMR Foundation. The foundation will significantly contribute towards an inclusive and healthy India. Moving well beyond its business activities, the IIHMR Foundation will contribute to a positive societal impact through diverse community engagement initiatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>V.M. BANSAL</b></p> <p>chairman, New Delhi Institute of Management</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, technology fundamentally transforms industries, work, and education. Leadership, beyond traditional management, now requires a deep understanding of technology, data analytics, and global navigation. Integrating AI and ML into management education is vital and institutions must adapt their curricula to harness technological advancements for transformation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Y. LAKSHMAN KUMAR</b></p> <p>director, Vishwa Vishwani Institute of Systems and Management</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Management education prepares [aspiring] entrepreneurs to adapt to the rapidly changing business landscape through several key strategies. They include focus on critical thinking and problem solving, emphasising digital literacy, making students think globally, instilling a mindset of continuous learning and honing collaboration and communications skills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>DAVISH JAIN</b></p> <p>chairman, Prestige Education Foundation, Indore; chancellor, Prestige University, Indore</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Business leaders today face a range of challenges, including rapid technological advancements, changing consumer behaviour, and global economic uncertainty. Management education plays a crucial role in addressing these issues by equipping leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge. Management education equips entrepreneurs with vital knowledge in finance, marketing, and operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>CAPT A. NAGARAJ SUBBARAO</b></p> <p>Dean, School of Commerce and Management Studies, Dayananda Sagar University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The primary aim of a business school is to craft leaders who can look to the future with confidence and forge new paths across myriad disciplines. Good business schools drive entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation is the specific discipline of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business or a new venture. It is how the entrepreneur creates new resources that generate wealth or embellishes existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SARDAR SIMARPREET SINGH</b></p> <p>director, JIS Group</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>AI-powered learning platforms, tailored to individual needs, provide instant feedback, enabling students to gauge their progress and make necessary adjustments. Moreover, these platforms simulate real-world decision-making scenarios, allowing students to apply their knowledge in practical situations. This is a powerful way to nurture critical thinking and decision-making skills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>JOE ARUN SJ,</b></p> <p>director, Loyola Institute of Business Administration</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the fundamental philosophies of education at LIBA is that singers must be tested on singing and dancers must be tested on dancing. Each student has unique strengths and they must be tested on their strengths not on their weakness. LIBA provides a learner-friendly ecosystem and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Learning is not just acquiring skills or knowledge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RESEARCH METHODOLOGY</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>PERCEPTUAL OPINION COLLECTION</b></p> <p>A primary survey was conducted in August-September 2023, where 198 academic experts, 605 current students and 30 recruiters from 17 Indian cities nominated the best b-schools in the country. The cities selected were major education hubs in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A closed-ended questionnaire was given to stakeholders, asking them to nominate and rank the top 25 b-schools in India and the top b-schools in their zones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perceptual score: Calculated based on the number of nominations received and the actual ranks given to the b-school in the All India category and in its zone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FACTUAL INFORMATION COLLECTION</b></p> <p>A dedicated website was created as an interface and the link was sent to more than 1,400 b-schools, of which 162 responded on time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Factual score: Information collected from the b-schools was combined by applying appropriate weights to each parameter as given below:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>PARAMETER WEIGHTAGE</b></p> <p>* Overall infrastructure 20% (Includes accreditations and safety measures like women's grievance redressal cell)</p> <p>* Faculty 12.5% (Includes teacher-student ratio, and publications and consultancy by faculty)</p> <p>* Teaching-learning and extracurricular 30% (Includes work experience and diversity of students, and alumni base)</p> <p>* Placements 37.5% (Includes average salary and average internship stipends)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RANKING METHODOLOGY</b></p> <p>Ranking is based on a composite score, derived by combining the perceptual score and the factual score. For b-schools that could not respond within the deadline, the composite score was derived by combining perceptual score with an interpolated appropriate factual score. B-schools that shared their data in the past two years were included. Therefore, factual data was considered for 215 b-schools―162 of which responded this year and 53 which had responded in the past two years.</p> Sat Nov 04 13:18:49 IST 2023 role-of-ai-in-management-education <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With the rapidly accelerating use of artificial intelligence and machine learning across segments, b-schools are in the process of updating their curricula in these areas. They are also integrating AI into their teaching methodology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sangeeta Shah Bhardwaj, professor (information management) at MDI Gurgaon, says that though there may be business leaders who are apprehensive about AI, they would have no choice but to adopt it when others start using AI-powered tools. MDI, which has a programme in business analytics, has also introduced courses like geospatial AI and AI in marketing. The geospatial AI course looks at the impact location data is having on organisations and in the startup ecosystem. It will introduce to students the principles for assessing or creating location AI-based products and interfaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“AI is being built as part of the process of learning management systems,” says Bhardwaj. “For instance, if there is an online group discussion, AI-enabled LMS will evaluate how students performed and will bring out traits like aggressiveness among other behaviour. This can help a professor in engaging students better.” She adds that students can also get personalised feedback regarding their career path with the help of AI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, while AI can be a good supplement, especially in quantifiable business processes such as finance, operations, supply chain and sales, it may not solve the complexities our business leaders face. “A few months ago, an American lawyer used AI to prepare a case,” says Vivek Suneja, dean, FMS Delhi. “When the case went to court, it had a lot of incorrect information. AI manufactured information; basically it falsified data.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, there are limitations to the use of AI in human behavioural processes and decisions such as people engagement, succession planning, leadership and values and culture. Human behaviour is not easy to predict. AI will keep developing and become more sophisticated, but it may not be able to replace human traits, says Vishal Talwar, director, IMT Ghaziabad. “Nowadays, the students are more evolved in using such technologies and how management institutions are able to harness and ride that particular wave is something that we have to decide,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Business leaders will also have to prioritise technology so that investments are made in the areas where the impact is on the quality of decision-making. “We have to look at robots and human beings working together,” says Ranjan Banerjee, dean, BITSoM, Mumbai. “Robots handle programmable aspects, leaving judgment, empathy, insight and relational aspects to humans. Management education will view technology not as a business function but as a horizontal, embedding technology in function.”</p> Sat Nov 04 16:46:52 IST 2023 ahmedabad-iim-director-bharat-bhasker-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ What are the trends you have observed in management education, both in India and globally?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> All businesses are going through major transformation or have already gone through transformation. So the workplace environment is completely new and, as a leading management school, we have to keep a track of it and prepare our students for that kind of an environment. Since we are creating future leaders, we should prepare the students to be capable enough to adopt [changing] technology quickly. They should also know how technology will transform and how the transformation will help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To prepare them for all this, we need to change our curriculum. The course names will be the same as we will still teach strategy, but now it is the strategy of a digital, emerging and innovative organisation. Earlier it was strategy focused on consumer tech, the high performing organisation or the stable organisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, organisations moved slowly and transformation was gradual. But, technology-based transformation is so quick that if you keep chasing the ball you will always be chasing. One must quickly guess where it is going to land and be there when it lands. This is the change in the corporate world. We are trying to map the same thing in our education system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How is the teaching methodology in b-schools creating better business leaders?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The case study methodology is aimed at simulating a corporate scenario in class and asking students to solve problems and how a manager or CEO came to that decision. It helps them become better decision makers. We have a huge stock of cases written by our own people and when our students go to the industry they face similar issues. It is like practising decision-making on a daily basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cases change in view of the new business environment. For instance, earlier case studies talked about the regulatory environment, but the current cases talk about the technology environment. We also put them in a multimedia environment―as one can simulate the environment better―so that the students can imagine what happens in a corporate boardroom. In the future, we are aiming to use the metaverse for classroom simulation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Business leaders have to deal with challenges such as economic uncertainty and cross-cultural adjustments. How is management education helping them excel?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>I do not think India is facing the kind of economic challenges that the west is. But, we prepare our students for resilience. Our HR faculty members work with them because we have believed from day one that Indian CEOs are not meant for India alone. There are many faculty members who train our students in cross-cultural aspects. We have a course here known as ERI (exploration, role and identity). The course tries figuring out your role and your identity. It brings out risk-taking capabilities of students. This in turn helps them to be resilient in uncertain business environments. If the captain of a ship panics during a storm, everyone panics. So, we need captains who do not panic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What qualities are new-age companies looking for in management graduates?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> New-age companies are looking for adaptability and the ability to solve problems as they do not have experts. For instance, in a startup everyone has to pitch in with ideas and solutions. Agility of such companies is very important and that comes when your teaching is decision-making and problem-solving oriented.</p> Sat Nov 04 16:45:14 IST 2023 nmims-mumbai-professor-and-associate-dean-chandrima-sikdar-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ What kind of new courses are being offered by management schools to deal with current business challenges?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Before Covid-19, certain aspects, like crisis communication, were not traditionally part of communication programmes. However, the pandemic highlighted the critical nature of crisis communication, making it a priority. Cross-cultural communication also gained importance, transcending geographical boundaries as regions became less relevant in the globalised world. Other aspects, such as understanding the psychology of the workforce, virtual coordination, empathy, and resilience, have also come to the forefront.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have introduced new courses to address the changing needs. Electives on emotional intelligence have witnessed increased enrolment. Mindfulness is now an integral part of our orientation, reflecting the changing dynamics of the business world. While the core hard skills of business, including critical thinking, tech integration and data fluency, remain essential, they must be complemented by a growing emphasis on softer skills. These softer skills, which are gaining prominence, are becoming an integral part of our curriculum to prepare students for the evolving business landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Will technologies such as AI and ML help in bettering management education? How will it help improve decision-making?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>AI and ML have rapidly revolutionised the business world, offering advanced data-driven insights. These technologies hold great promise in improving decision-making for business leaders. However, it is now the responsibility of managers and leaders to effectively interpret and utilise this data for strategic decision-making.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The real value lies in how these insights are used. Therefore, it is important to educate students to master the art of using AI tools, but with human intervention. This ensures that technology complements human decision-making and helps strengthen strategic business decisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How does management education in India compare with international b-schools?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I feel that we are pretty much the same, except that the emphasis of their curriculum on internationalisation, ESG, sustainability and climate solutions is more. Some have dedicated in-house units addressing climate and environmental concerns. Leading b-schools in India are consciously and swiftly moving in this direction. Everything has international implications in today’s interconnected world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How has the entrepreneurial spirit shaped up in the country in recent times?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> India is one of the fastest-growing economies of the world and is a significant bright spot on the world economic map. New opportunities are around the corner. With the rapid changes in the business world, the rate of job creation and destruction is going to pick up. It is time to be innovative and think out of the box. The policy support in India, with all of Startup India, Skill India, support to women entrepreneurs, is also now in its best form for entrepreneurs.</p> Tue Nov 07 11:36:23 IST 2023 lebua-hotels-and-resorts-founder-and-ceo-deepak-ohri-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ How has management education helped you in your career?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> B-school education is not a magic wand that makes you a businessman; it is a foundation. It gives you a perfect and solid groundwork. In b-schools we learn from the different case studies, successes, and failures, forecast and broader outlooks of the business environment globally. Management education should engage people in experiential learning like group studies, brainstorming simulations, and should enhance creativity as the first step to innovation. It is an instrumental tool that helps students become successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. With a solid foundation, you will always remember what you have learned, so the chances of failure become very less.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you compare management graduates at the time of your graduation with the more recent graduates?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>When I graduated, there were very few startups, and now we have plenty. It is a positive progress because startups have a lot of principles, passion, innovation, and creativity. When the organisation is mature, it becomes the organisation of the rules. When I look at the students from the US institutions whom I work with (he teaches in the MBA programme at the Florida International University in Miami), many want to create startups. There is passion and they base their organisation on principles. It was not the case when I was young. We sought opportunities with mature organisations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I believe that there is a need for a hybrid management model: 20 per cent principles and 80 per cent rules. Those who work under me are smart, intelligent and ask many questions about how you learn. What I noticed is that they do not have FOPO (fear of public opinion), but, at the same time, some make decisions too quickly or with too little information. I always tell them that life moves at its own pace. It is the same with business. You must make smart decision while considering all the factors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do b-schools create leaders who can manage crises? How has your personal experience been?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I always remember my strategy professor at IIM Bangalore. He taught me that in the case of a crisis, you need to remain calm and think in terms of short-term solutions and long-term strategies. You should plan for one year at least or even five years down the line to predict and understand the implications of your decisions. This helped me during Covid-19. At the time, everyone in the hospitality segment was letting staff go. I knew that the implications would be terrible once we were back and normalcy was restored. We were the only organisation in Thailand which did not let go of a single employee during that time, not even at our properties in India. That strategy course at IIMB helped me to understand that in times of crisis, you do not think of immediate results. You think of the future and the long-term consequences of your actions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What more can be done to improve management education in India? How can it be more effective in churning out future business leaders?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> India has an excellent management education system. I want to suggest experiential learning as 30 per cent of the curriculum and academics as the other 70 per cent. Such an approach would allow students to meet global leaders, look at real-world cases and learn the reality. Quality is essential for me and not quantity; therefore, it is crucial to add experiential learning into the curriculum to enhance the education system. It will elevate the b-school graduates from India to the top.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How relevant will management education be in the coming years?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In conversation with a friend I once discussed the construction of a building. He said that two kinds of stones are essential: the stone that is laid as foundation and the other stone that is the elevation―how that building is seen. B-school provides foundation and our work is the building’s elevation, our showcase of what we have learned and achieved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did an Indian management degree prepare you to be CEO of an international brand? And, what about cross-cultural differences and other challenges in the international scenario?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Indian b-schools position you for the global platform. Professors have globalised experience. My request to the young generation is to start learning [while] in the b-school, no matter where it is located. Because the curriculum of b-schools in India is as effective as the ones abroad. There is a necessary demand to add the experiential part, but I am positive that it is progressive change. B-schools open a horizon to look at life and we were well prepared and exposed to deal with international cultures. My school project that won an award was based on a concept where all cultures interact. I learned that in school.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Tell us a bit about your soon-to-be-launched international venture in the US.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I found my flagship project, something that is my complete passion. When I am in Napa, California, I feel it is my home. It gives me a sense of calmness and respect; people are there with you to make your project successful and the possibilities are endless. The new project that I will start in Napa is based on the hybrid hospitality model that I have designed: wine tourism, art and design district. I will start with an ultra-luxury boutique hotel with fine dining on-site.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second step is to build a brand representing the world’s most renowned wine regions―Napa, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja and Barolo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Management education opened the first door and then I saw many doors I needed to open myself. B-school gave me the courage to keep going and dream big. My brand―Let’s Just Dream―is named so for a reason. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to start with a dream. And it better be one that scares you. Once you have that you will never stop pursuing it. This is how big things are done in life.</p> Thu Nov 09 21:16:20 IST 2023 kamal-nath-is-relying-on-welfare-schemes-and-soft-hindutva-to-wrest-madhya-pradesh-from-the-bjp <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Congress veteran Kamal Nath, an old warhorse who has won many a battle in the political arena, electoral and otherwise, is fighting the toughest and most significant contest of his career. The 76-year-old is leading the Congress’s campaign to win Madhya Pradesh―the state has been under BJP rule for about two decades, except for a 15-month period after the 2018 elections when Nath was chief minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The party has once again put its faith in Nath. In what is a rarity for the Congress, it has named him the chief ministerial face for the elections. Usually, the party line is that the MLAs decide the chief minister after the elections. What is also surprising is the general acceptance of Nath’s leadership in the state unit, which is quite the feat for a party ravaged by vicious infighting in the past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seasoned leader, with a reputation of being a hands-on politician and a go-getter, has set himself a punishing schedule. Ever since pandemic restrictions were lifted, he has been on a hectic tour of the state, going right down to the block level, meeting people and also party workers. He has sought to amplify the perceived dissatisfaction with the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. The Congress’s assessment is that there is now fatigue associated with the BJP rule as also with Chouhan’s own image as a leader and administrator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the period after Nath’s government was toppled, in March 2020, he faced many challenges. MLAs were leaving to join the BJP and the party did not taste much success in the byelections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first indication that the tide was perhaps turning in the Congress’s favour came from its wins in supposed BJP strongholds in the 2022 mayoral elections. There had also been efforts to woo back leaders who had left with Jyotiraditya Scindia; the fact that some prominent ones returned was a morale boost. Samandar Patel, a leader known to be close to Scindia, made his way back at the head of a cavalcade of around a thousand cars from his constituency Jawad to Bhopal, a distance of more than 400km.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Closer to the elections, the Congress has carried out a Jan Aakrosh Yatra to highlight issues such as corruption and the Chouhan government’s alleged failure to act on issues of importance to farmers, youth, women and the marginalised. Central leaders such as party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have addressed rallies, but, taking a cue from the party’s successful Karnataka campaign, they are playing a secondary role. Nath is the prominent face on all campaign material and local issues are at the forefront.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, Nath apparently said no to the first public rally of INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), which was to be held in Bhopal. It is learnt that he did not want any distractions for himself and the state unit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath’s outreach has been based on a slew of populist promises, mainly his 11 guarantees that he promises to fulfil if voted to power. These include a monthly incentive of 01,500 to women, LPG cylinders at 0500, waiving farm loans, free electricity up to 100 units, restoration of the Old Pension Scheme, caste census and withdrawing cases filed against farmers during the agitation against the three contentious farm laws. He has sought to set the agenda and be in control of the narrative, and has not lost a chance to take a swipe at Chouhan for allegedly coming up with the same schemes that he announces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If you look at the Congress manifesto, all the aspirations of the people have been taken care of,” said Pratap Bhanu Sharma, vice president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress. “We have left nothing for the BJP to declare.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP, however, says the Congress has had to fall back on Nath because it has no other leader left to project. “The people of Madhya Pradesh remember the misrule during the 15 months that Nath was chief minister,” said state BJP president V.D. Sharma. “He stopped so many welfare schemes that were being implemented by our government.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Nath, who was seen as an outsider in state politics, this election marks a complete integration with the Madhya Pradesh milieu. The leader, who belongs to a business family, was born in Kanpur and brought up in Kolkata. He went to the prestigious Doon School and St Xavier’s College in Kolkata. He switched from business to politics over four decades ago. In the beginning, it was just about helping out friend Sanjay Gandhi during the turbulent 1970s. He soon became more closely involved with the party and joined the Youth Congress. In 1979, when Lok Sabha elections were announced, the party leadership asked him to contest. Indira Gandhi came for his nomination submission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He won from Chhindwara in 1980 and did so eight more times. He also played a crucial role in the downfall of the Morarji Desai government by exploiting the internal problems in the Janata Party. Indira did not forget this, and she introduced him to the people of Chhindwara as her “third son”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chhindwara is Nath’s fortress; it was his connection to Madhya Pradesh even as he held important positions at the national level. Nath has nurtured Chhindwara and knows the lay of the land like the back of his hand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an anecdote about BJP leader Prahlad Patel contesting against Nath from Chhindwara in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Patel had taken out a rally of jeeps and motorcycles as a show of strength. Nath responded by asking a mutual acquaintance to tell Patel that there was not a single jeep owner in the constituency whom he did not know. Patel lost to Nath by a huge margin, and when the message was finally relayed to him, he said, “Yes, he is absolutely right.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath has the reputation of being extremely sharp, very particular about time management and strictly no-nonsense. He works long hours, and once, when asked about what time he wakes up, he said, “You should ask me what time I sleep.” Unlike the homes and offices of other politicians, there are no hangers on; not because he does not get visitors, but because he ensures his office deals with the people in a very efficient manner. However, it is said that the desire to run a tight ship could make him appear forbidding and aloof.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Nath was made state unit president in 2018, he was identified more with the party high command than with people in his state. He was seen as an urbane, super-rich politician who did not have an understanding of grassroots-level politics. Some state leaders said this was his handicap in the 15 months he was chief minister; he did not have the required rapport and connect with the legislators or the party workers to prevent the exodus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When his government fell in 2020, Nath, it was felt, would move back to national politics,” said journalist and political expert Rasheed Kidwai. “But he did not. He proved the naysayers wrong by staying on. He took upon himself the task of retrieving lost ground.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath got more involved in the nitty-gritty of state politics, from extensively touring the state to meeting leaders and workers. But there are sections in the party that feel that he still falls short in his connection with workers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This gap, say his detractors, was visible in the protests and sloganeering outside his Bhopal house after the candidates’ lists were declared. It is felt that tickets ought to be given on the basis of feedback that one gets directly from the ground, based on one’s connect with the grassroots-level leaders and workers, and the process cannot be outsourced to agencies. However, Nath’s supporters say the tickets have been given on the basis of a very scientific selection process, based on multiple surveys. Nath, they say, has made an effort to deal with the disquiet over ticket distribution by reaching out to disgruntled leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An important aspect of Nath’s politics in Madhya Pradesh is his association with another party veteran, Digvijaya Singh. They are known as the ‘Ram Lakshman’ of Madhya Pradesh politics, but there have been occasions when all has not seemed well between them. An example is the recent controversy over Nath’s “tearing of clothes” statement―he apparently told people coming with complaints from Digvijaya’s area to go and rip his clothes to vent their anger.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the two have stood beside each other at crucial junctures in their political career and continue to work in tandem. In 1993, Nath had helped Digvijaya overcome the claims on the chief minister’s chair by Shyama Charan Shukla. In 2018, Digvijaya sided with Nath when the party high command had to decide between him and Scindia for the top post in Madhya Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath wielded significant influence in the state when Digvijaya was chief minister. And Digvijaya was seen as the power behind the throne when Nath became chief minister. Digvijaya, it is believed, has had to take a back seat in state politics because he is a prime target of the BJP and the RSS, which have labelled him ‘anti-Hindu’. He continues to work in collaboration with Nath in organisational matters and electoral strategy, and he is said to be building the ground for his son, Jaivardhan, to emerge as the next leader in the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath, on the other hand, has worn his Hinduness on his sleeve. He has often reacted to the charge of practising soft-hindutva by asking, <i>“Kya BJP ne hindutva ka theka le rakha hai?</i> (Can only the BJP practise hindutva?)”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He proudly declares himself a devotee of Lord Hanuman and has built a 101-foot statue of the deity in Chhindwara. He courted controversy when he hosted Dhirendra Shastri, the 27-year-old head priest of the Bageshwar Dham, at a religious event in Chhindwara, and appeared to be in sync with Shastri’s views on a Hindu Rashtra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath’s critics say that his aggressive pursuit of faith could backfire. “The Congress is contesting this election on a communal plank,” said Aslam Sher Khan, hockey player-turned politician who has represented the Congress in the Lok Sabha and has been a Union minister. “This is the first time the party is carrying out such an experiment, where it wants to project itself as a better Hindu compared with the BJP. This could result in alienation of the Muslim voter.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath is not affected by the criticism. He will do all it takes to win Madhya Pradesh.</p> Sat Oct 28 14:13:30 IST 2023 madhya-pradesh-former-chief-minister-kamal-nath-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>KAMAL NATH’S HOME</b> office in Bhopal’s Shymala Hills is abuzz with a steady stream of visitors. The bell inside rings constantly, informing his office staff he is ready to meet the next batch of people. The former chief minister is meeting everybody, from constituents to youth-wing members to ticket seekers to party functionaries and also supporters of disappointed ticket aspirants. What is drawing people to this posh enclave is the whiff of a possible victory and the fact that he is the Congress’s undisputed chief ministerial face in the assembly elections. Visitors have to leave their phones in a tray in the waiting area. He clearly feels he can do without unnecessary controversies in the crucial election.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At 76, he is leading his party’s campaign from the front. Time is of the essence for Kamal Nath, who will soon be travelling out of Bhopal. In the midst of a hectic schedule, the state Congress president talks exclusively to THE WEEK, exuding confidence that the people of Madhya Pradesh will avenge the toppling of his government in 2020.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kamal Nath says the people are fed up with the 18-year-old rule of the BJP and realise that this election is about the future of Madhya Pradesh. He rejects the idea that he has played the hindutva card in this election, saying religion has no place in politics. He also seeks to downplay the visit of controversial religious leader Baba Bageshwar to Chhindwara district, his stronghold, insisting he was just being a good host.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid the buzz about tensions between him and party veteran Digvijaya Singh, he insists they are old friends and the remark about tearing of clothes was made in jest. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ At the outset, I want to ask you whether I am talking to the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> You should ask the people of Madhya Pradesh, not me. The people of Madhya Pradesh will decide the chief minister. And I have full confidence and faith in the people because this is not an election of merely a candidate or merely a party. This election, which the people are realising, is about the future of Madhya Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is this election also about avenging what happened in 2020? Your government was toppled. It must also be a personal battle for you.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The people will avenge it. They know what kind of deals were made when the government was toppled. And the people understand the politics behind this. So [they will] avenge this and what has happened [over the years]―how there has been a complete misrule over the last 18 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Where does Jyotiraditya Scindia stand in the scheme of things in Madhya Pradesh politics at the moment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> That is for the BJP to decide where he stands. How am I to decide where he stands? The BJP has to decide where he stands and where he does not stand. What do I have to do with that?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How challenging was it for you to pick up the pieces after the setback in 2020 and prepare the party for this big fight?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> You must remember that we won the mayoral elections after 35 years; [that was] about 15 months ago. We won the mayoral elections in Morena, which is almost a suburb of Gwalior.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So that was when things started turning around for you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Well, it started 15 months ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In the previous election, there was a very narrow gap between the Congress and the BJP. So is there any safe number that you are setting as a target?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I am not setting any targets. That is not my way of doing things. My numbers are set by the people of Madhya Pradesh. And they will decide whom they want. And I have confidence in the voters of Madhya Pradesh that they will secure their future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the significance of this election for the Congress, not just in terms of winning Madhya Pradesh, but also national politics?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Madhya Pradesh has been a bastion of the BJP and the party itself says that this is the laboratory of the RSS. So, obviously, this is a major election and will have a national significance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is your assessment of the BJP in this election? We have Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigning here. MPs and ministers have been fielded. It has given a national flavour to the elections.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> That is the BJP’s strategy. Whatever they feel, they should do. Let them do [it]. Why should I have an opinion on it?</p> <p><br> Whoever they put up, we are going to fight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you counter this strategy aimed at bringing national issues to the forefront?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The people realise that this is a state election. In a state election, if the voters’ attention is diverted towards issues that are not state issues, it will be wrong for the state. The state election is on state issues. So we are confining it to that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you view the fight being put up by your prime opponent―Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Obviously, he is going to fight. Let him fight. He has been fighting for so long. He should fight. Let us see what happens. People now understand his governance in the last 18 years. And I am sure that people will want corrective action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress had won the elections in 2018. But the results in the Lok Sabha elections were completely different.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Let’s confine ourselves to the state elections. Lok Sabha elections will come after the state elections. And it depends on what happens then. I am confident that we will do well in the Lok Sabha elections, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress has announced a number of welfare measures in the run-up to the elections. But your opponents say they are not financially viable. Where will the money come from?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> What all has Shivraj Singh announced in the last five months as a desperate measure? Where will the money for that come from? He has desperately announced so many things. I announce gas cylinder, he announces gas cylinder at so and so price. I announce [schemes for] women, he announces [schemes for] women. And we have done a financial calculation. We are sure that we will find the resources to meet what we have announced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did you consult economic experts?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Of course, we consulted them. We made an estimate of what every announcement will cost. And then we took the call.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ A number of MLAs were not given tickets this time. Was there a feeling of anti-incumbency against them?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>There were some who said they did not want to contest. A few had some legal issues. Otherwise, we have given [tickets] to all the MLAs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There have been protests by leaders who were not given tickets.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> That will always happen. There are 4,000 applicants for 230 seats. So there will be a sense of disappointment. That is natural. It has happened in every election.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Any concern that it could affect the party’s prospects?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In the end, it is their disappointment that is coming forth. But I am sure that they will all work for the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is a feeling that the Congress is going really aggressive with the hindutva card in this election.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Where is the hindutva card? I don’t understand this. What have we said? The party and I have both maintained that religion has no place in politics and politics has no place in religion. It is the BJP that has played this card. We are not playing any card.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ But there was some unease in the party when you hosted Baba Bageshwar. There was this feeling that you were agreeing with his idea of Hindu Rashtra.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>He decided to come to Chhindwara. Chhindwara is my district. I cannot tell him not to come. It was his decision to come to Chhindwara. So he came. I was there for some time. What does that signify? It does not signify that I am agreeing or disagreeing with him. What he said was that I have come to the best place in the state, which is what he felt. It had nothing to do with hindutva. We used to do the Sarv Dharm Aarti (multi-faith prayer). Where is the Hindu factor in this?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Has opposition unity taken a beating in the state elections? No seat-sharing was achieved.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I don’t think so. We tried to do it with the Samajwadi Party. It was not a question of number of seats, but it was a question of which seats. I have to convince our people, too. The seats where our people said we were winning, we gave them to the Samajwadi Party. But the Samajwadi candidates were not that effective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you view the role of veteran leader Digvijaya Singh in this election?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Digvijaya Singh is a very senior Congress leader. He was chief minister [of Madhya Pradesh] for 10 years. He was president of the (state) Congress for 10 years. So obviously he has got a very big stature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How would you describe your association with him? Friendship? Partnership? Or, rivalry, like your opponents say?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We have a very old friendship and we continue to be friends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ But the banter between you two about tearing clothes was picked up by your opponents to suggest rivalry.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> What did I say? When people come to me from his area, they say, <i>“Ye nahi ho raha, aisa karna hai</i> (this is not happening, and this should be done).” Because they come from his area I said, <i>“Digvijaya ke kapde phado, mujhe kyun keh rahe ho</i> (Go, tear Digvijaya’s clothes, why are you telling me)?” What I said in jest was picked up as if there was a big fight between Digvijaya Singh and me. I said publicly that day in a very big meeting, with Digvijaya was sitting there, that I have given him my power of attorney to take all the abuses for me. Everybody laughed, and he said, ‘yes’. So what is there in that?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What will be the first decision your government will take if the Congress were to come to power?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It will be in the agricultural sector, for the farmers, and for the youth. These are the two biggest challenges in the state.</p> Sat Oct 28 13:56:32 IST 2023 how-bjp-is-trying-to-overcome-chouhan-fatigue-in-madhya-pradesh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>IF ELECTION</b> management had a template, the BJP has used it all in Madhya Pradesh―from making Prime Minister Narendra Modi the face of the campaign to bringing back old war horses into the battle. It is an all-hands-on-the-deck effort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With less than a month to go to the polls, the state is expected to set the tone for the Lok Sabha elections next year. But before that, the results will determine the future of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The longest serving BJP chief minister, Chouhan mixed welfarism and hindutva in equal measures to strengthen the party in the state. But now even his own partymen say there is a fatigue. He underwent an image makeover to overcome this, donning an aggressive avatar, bringing vigour in his body language and dialling up his connection with the voters. It remains to be seen if it is good enough to take on the Congress, and his competitors within the party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chouhan has been assiduously wooing women voters, with grand schemes for them. “You will miss me if I’m gone,” he told them in a rally in his constituency, Budhni.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there is no doubt that Chouhan is the BJP’s best-known face in the state, the party has decided to follow the collective leadership formula for the election. This is best captured in the election publicity material in which Modi is the focus, and Chouhan is only one among the 10 state leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP strategy has been to focus on different regions in the state, and it has brought in leaders like Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for the Gwalior-Chambal region, Kailash Vijayvargiya for the Malwa-Nimar region and Prahlad Singh Patel, Union minister of state for food processing, for the Mahakoshal region. This has set tongues wagging about other chief minister candidates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the crucial Gwalior-Chambal region, the party is also relying on Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. In 2018, the Congress won 26 of 34 assembly seats in this region, mostly owing to Scindia’s clout. When he left the Congress for the BJP, he took 22 of them with him. Interestingly, Modi attending the 125-year celebration of the Scindia School in Gwalior on October 21 set off the buzz that Scindia could be the surprise choice as chief minister if the BJP wins.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Malwa-Nimar region has 66 seats and it had been a BJP stronghold. But the party suffered a set back in the last assembly elections when the Congress won 35 seats. The region has 22 seats reserved for tribals. Tribals constitute about 21 per cent of the state’s population, and the BJP has been celebrating tribal icons like Tantia Bhil and Rani Kamlapati to engage with the community. Historically, those who won the tribal seats won the state. Last time, the Congress won 30 of 47 seats reserved for tribals in the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Making Modi the face of the BJP’s election campaign comes with two objectives―overcome the anti-incumbency and create a continuity in engagement with the voters for the Lok Sabha elections, which is only a few months away. <i>“MP ke mann main Modi; Modi ke mann main</i> MP (Modi is in MP’s mind; MP is in Modi’s mind)” is the theme of the campaign. Modi has visited the state 35 times since he became prime minister.</p> <p>The BJP has been fine-tuning its strategy since the days of the Karnataka assembly elections. Apart from the decision on collective leadership and pitting national leaders in state polls, the biggest change the party has made is relaxing the age ceiling for candidates. Two of its candidates, Nagendra Singh in Gurh and his namesake in Nagod, are above 80. Former ministers Jayant Malaviya, 76, and Maya Singh, 74, have been given tickets. Maya Singh was denied a ticket last time. These leaders were all looking at retiring when the party called them back into the fight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adding to the BJP’s anxiety are rebels, and resentment among those who have been denied tickets. There have been protests. “We are a cadre-based party. We have been in power for two decades. Naturally, there are many hopefuls who have been working for it. But it is not an issue; we are talking to them and they will come around,” said party spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In yet another deviation, the BJP has given tickets to relatives of politicians, though it has restricted it to one ticket per family. Vijayvargiya was given ticket, but his son, a legislator, was denied. Relatives of eight former chief ministers are in the fray on BJP and Congress tickets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Congress batting for caste census, the focus of the election has been shifted to OBC voters. The OBCs constitute more than 50 per cent of the state’s population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP has given tickets to 66 OBC candidates. It has always relied on the OBC vote bank; three of its chief ministers in the state, including Chouhan, were OBCs. Among the current hopefuls, Prahlad Singh Patel belongs to the Lodh caste, and Scindia belongs to the Kurmi caste, and Tomar from the Thakur caste. The outcome of the tightly fought election is likely to decide the political future of many leaders, as the party is nurturing a new crop of second-rung leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are not like the Congress, which is family-run,” said Bajpai. “We always had a collective leadership. People will be stunned by the results. It will be like in Gujarat.” The BJP won 156 of 182 seats in the Gujarat assembly elections in 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the campaign picks up, the BJP will be relying on Modi and the welfare schemes to make an impact. It has identified about 6.98 crore of the state’s 9.5 crore population as beneficiaries of welfare schemes. While the promise of double engine is alluring, it remains to be seen if it will be able to get the party another term.</p> Sat Oct 28 12:57:04 IST 2023 madhya-pradesh-bjp-president-v-d-sharma-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ What makes you confident of a BJP win?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In 2003, when the Congress was in power here, Madhya Pradesh was among the BIMARU states. It was lagging behind, be it in roads, electricity, water supply, and law and order during the time of the Digvijaya Singh government. When the BJP government was formed, the state moved from the category of BIMARU states to developed states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 2018 election, the BJP had got more votes [than the Congress]. Technically, just by a difference of three to four seats, and on the basis of false promises, the Congress formed a government by accident. In the 15 months that they were in power, the Kamal Nath government worked on the directions of the same ‘Mr Bantadhar’ (one who brings about ruin)―Digvijaya Singh―who had taken the state through a phase of bad governance and turned it into a BIMARU state. The Kamal Nath government discontinued many welfare schemes, be it of the Central government or the state, and snatched away the rights of the poor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance, the Ladli Laxmi scheme, which contributed to improving the gender ratio in the state, was stopped. The BJP government was depositing Rs1,000 into the accounts of tribal women. The Kamal Nath government stopped that. Financial assistance was being given to pregnant women―Rs4,000 during pregnancy and Rs12,000 after delivery. That was also stopped. Why? Kamal Nath said he did not have the matching grants to provide for the Central government’s housing scheme. But they had money to organise the IIFA awards around the same time in Indore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They turned Vallabh Bhawan (state secretariat) into a hub of corruption in the 15 months they were in power. The money was found right at the top. And farmers turned defaulters when the government did not waive their loans. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government helped these farmers pay their loans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How many seats are you targeting this elections?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Amit Shah <i>ji</i> had said in our meeting in Gwalior that we would strive to win more than 150 seats. That is our target.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ With Narendra Modi leading the campaign, has the state leadership receded into the background?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The state leadership is not in the background. Why should it be? After all, Prime Minister Modi is popular all over the world. He has brought glory to the country. In Madhya Pradesh, we are all working with team spirit. The BJP is a cadre-based organisation, hence as workers of the party, we are all going into the elections under a collective leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is it because of anti-incumbency that Chouhan is not being projected as the chief ministerial candidate?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Not at all. Anti-incumbency exists only if work has not been done. Here, so much development has taken place. The lives of the poor have been transformed. Around 13 crore people have risen above the poverty line in the country, and in Madhya Pradesh, 1.36 lakh people have benefited similarly…. The BJP government has worked for every section under its ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ mantra, and unprecedented measures have been taken to help the poor and carry out development…. Our brothers and sisters belonging to the minority communities would also agree that their lives have changed for the better under the BJP rule.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why were tickets given to MPs and even Union ministers in this election?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>This is an electoral strategy worked out by the BJP leadership. Senior leaders of the party, be it cabinet ministers or leaders who are office-bearers at the national level, are our strength. The aim is to infuse more strength into our electoral fight. Our leadership has come up with an effective strategy to make use of this strength.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress has named Kamal Nath its chief ministerial candidate.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Kamal Nath <i>ji</i> is completely demolished. The situation is such in Madhya Pradesh Congress today that we hear Kamal Nath saying, ‘Go, tear the clothes of Digvijaya Singh’. A competition to tear [each other’s] clothes is going on. There is so much nepotism in the Congress―when the media asked Kamal Nath about when candidates for the seven seats of Chhindwara (his stronghold) would be declared, he said it will be done by (his son) Nakul Nath. The Congress is not an organisation. The Congress is splintered into groups, with Digvijaya Singh working for his son and Kamal Nath working for his son. It is a contest between their sons. They have lost their identity. Digvijaya Singh cannot face the people. Kamal Nath cannot move around much. The Congress workers are suffering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Many BJP leaders have joined the Congress in the recent past.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> So many came to our party. A group of 28 leaders from the Congress joined the BJP. Their government fell. A few people with selfish interests, when they did not get a ticket here, decided to go to the other side. The Congress is devoid of leaders and is welcoming them. So if the Congress is ready to give them a chance only to lose, why should we worry? The BJP takes decisions based on what is good for the grassroots workers.</p> Sat Oct 28 13:58:15 IST 2023 congress-2023-election-strategies-in-madhya-pradesh-chhattisgarh-and-rajasthan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>AN INTERESTING IMAGE</b> came out of the June event in Jabalpur where Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra launched the party’s election campaign for Madhya Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Priyanka performed Narmada <i>aarti</i> alongside state Congress president Kamal Nath, a party worker dressed as Lord Hanuman grabbed eyeballs. A massive electric mace―Lord Hanuman’s weapon―revolved in the background.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier in the month, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh had organised a three-day National Ramayana Festival in Raigarh. Lord Hanuman (an artiste dressed as the deity) was present there, too, alongside Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. At the inauguration, Baghel underlined his favourite point―Lord Ram is the <i>bhaancha</i> (nephew) of Chhattisgarh; the state was the maternal home of his mother, Kausalya, and he also spent a large period of his 14-year exile in the forests there. Taking aim at the BJP, he added that the party had failed to highlight this association despite ruling the state for 15 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three months later, the Baghel government inaugurated the development work of three spots under the ambitious Ram Van Gaman Path project. The plan tracks Lord Ram’s exile route in Chhattisgarh―in the first phase, beautification and infrastructure development of 10 major spots have been taken up. The main highlight is the setting up of huge Lord Ram idols at these spots; seven are already in place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier still, in February, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced a slew of projects with a distinct saffron hue. These included a development package for temples, pilgrimage schemes for senior citizens, development of ecotourism spots or Lav-Kush <i>vatikas</i> (named after Lord Ram’s sons) and 0100 crore to cow shelters. He also cleared the setting up of Ved and Sanskrit Vidyalayas, and clinics and universities with a focus on Indian traditional medicine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In August, Kamal Nath’s hometown in Chhindwara hogged the limelight as much for a huge ‘Ram Katha’ gathering by Dhirendra Shastri of Bageshwar Dham as for the political arrows shot at Nath for being a <i>chunaavi</i> (electoral) Hindu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nath’s son, Nakul, the lone Congress MP from Madhya Pradesh, was the host of the religious gathering at Simariya Hanuman temple, which has a 101-foot idol of Lord Hanuman that Nath had installed in 2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid questions of the Congress leaders hosting a religious figure known for repeated statements on ‘Hindu Rashtra’, the Nath family managed to bring together heads of different religions on the concluding day of the Ram Katha, giving a “plural” touch to the event.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Nowadays, BJP people are more concerned about my faith and belief,” Kamal Nath would later post on X. “New terms like election worship, election devotion and political hypocrisy are being coined and they are seeking to break Kamal Nath’s magic spell. My suggestion is that instead of chanting my name, the government and the BJP should chant the name of the people. In this country, the public is God.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These developments in the poll-bound states in the Hindi heartland are neither isolated nor sudden. Political watchers said that the Congress was clearly trying to be on the right side of the majority voters and wanted to snatch from the BJP a major poll plank.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP has, successfully in some cases, painted Congress leaders as ‘anti-Hindu’ and given to minority appeasement. This has been a major poll plank in the northern states and the Congress has often seen the fence-sitting majority voter slipping away to the BJP camp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To counter this narrative, the Congress seems to be taking its soft hindutva approach further. However, the leaders rush to clarify that their stance is based on “personal faith, local culture and traditions” and is not for “political publicity or seeking votes like the BJP”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, they try to project that while being proud Hindus, their politics is not anti-Muslim or -Christian. Leaders such as Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh, who openly attacks the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, help in this regard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MAJORITY WORKS</b></p> <p>Political watchers said it made sense for the Congress to embrace saffron as these states have a low percentage of minority voters, especially Muslims. Therefore, the Congress probably thinks it should not be seen as an ‘anti-Hindu’ party in these states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a feeling that the Congress might actually benefit from the ‘well-thought-out’ strategy. Political analyst Rasheed Kidwai said the issue was discussed threadbare at the Congress Chintan Shivir in May 2022, and leaders from central/northern states had asked to be allowed to participate in Hindu festivals and rituals openly. “The Congress realises that the BJP has been able to polarise voters,” he said. “So, the party would like to highlight the fine distinction between their and the BJP’s hindutva brands. The Congress wants to project that the Hindu faith has primacy in Indian society, but its politics will not be at the expense of minorities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The minorities, for their part, seem to support the parties that can keep the BJP at bay; this was seen in West Bengal and Karnataka. “We might see the Congress giving two or three tickets to Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh,” said Kidwai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He pointed out that a recent pre-poll survey (by CVoter) showed 47 per cent respondents saying they trust Kamal Nath to protect the Hindu faith more than Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (41 per cent).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Responding to the increasing “Hindu-leaning activities” of the state Congress, Bhopal Central MLA Arif Masood told THE WEEK that faith was a personal matter and every politician had a personal right to it. “However, we in the Congress are clear that the country is run on the basis of the Constitution, which speaks for equality to all citizens irrespective of their religion, caste or creed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For all the talk about religion, said Raipur-based political writer Diwakar Muktibodh, harping on hindutva might not even yield much fruit. “Ram Temple and Ayodhya cannot fetch the BJP decisive votes anymore,” he said. “In Chhattisgarh, where people do not have a communal or casteist mentality, the BJP has started focusing on people’s issues and is seeking voters’ feedback for its manifesto. Baghel has anyway not left it any religious or cultural issue to play on. In my view, both parties in all three states will have to tell people what they will do for their welfare and development.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>DIFFERENT STATES, DIFFERENT STRATEGIES</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chhattisgarh</b></p> <p>In the tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh, whose economy relies on agriculture, Baghel introduced the Godhan Nyay scheme, under which the government would buy cow dung and urine from farmers and cattle rearers through cow shelters called <i>gauthans</i>. Women of the villages, through self-help groups, use this dung and urine to make vermicompost and other products. The scheme has been a success and has snatched away the “cow protection” plank from right-wing groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Baghel has also argued that his schemes are not about hindutva, but about the cultural identity of the state and Chhattisgarhi pride. As part of this, his government has revived traditional festivals and sports, declaring local holidays and holding a Chhattisgarhiya Olympics. It has also promoted <i>bore basi</i>, a traditional dish made from leftover rice soaked in water, which has been popular with non-resident Chhattisgarhis. Baghel has established the image of Chhattisgarh Mahtari on the lines of Bharat Mata as the symbol of the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given all this, state Congress president Deepak Baij, a young tribal leader, said hindutva was not an issue for the Congress to focus on. “Our election focus will be on youth and women; their involvement and role in the development of the state,” he said. “We will take the good work done by the government to them as well as other sections of society.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Leader of opposition Narayan Chandel, however, said the Congress’s hindutva moves were a reaction to the BJP’s nationwide influence. “The Congress has always been given to political appeasement,” he said. “Now suddenly it is talking about <i>gau mata</i> (mother cow); in truth, cows continue to roam the streets. There is no fodder, water or treatment for them at the <i>gauthans</i>. Similarly, when it comes to Lord Ram, the Congress called the Ram Setu and even the Ramayan imaginary. Now it is building idols and beautifying temples out of fear of being decimated by the BJP.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Baghel’s initiatives seem to have left an impact on the voters. Sevakram Sahu of Navagaon Lakhera, near Raipur, earned Rs20,000 last year by selling 100 quintals of cow dung; it helped him clear his debt. He added that villagers had started taking better care of their cattle because of the Godhan Nyay Yojana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deepak Sahu, sarpanch of Dhamni village in Raipur district, who visited a part of the Ram Van Gaman Path with two of his friends, gave mixed feedback. He said that while the Congress government had certainly worked to promote the Chhattisgarh identity, schemes like Godhan Nyay were not a total success as stray cattle were still a big menace in many parts of the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rajasthan</b></p> <p>Gehlot has made several provisions for the majority voters in the state, including earmarking Rs140 crore for restoration and renovation of temples in the 2023-24 budget. He has promised to develop temple corridors on the lines of Mahakal Lok in Ujjain at Khatu Shyam Ji and Govind Dev Ji.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking a cue from the Madhya Pradesh government, Rajasthan, too, has launched a free pilgrimage scheme for senior citizens; it has already taken 20,000 devotees on pilgrimage this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gehlot had also set up a Vipra Kalyan Board, or a Brahmin Welfare Board, in 2022 for temples and priests, and a Shri Krishna Board to woo the Yadavs in the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP, attacking Gehlot for his alleged minority appeasement, has brought up the beheading of a tailor in Udaipur and the Rajasthan High Court’s acquittal of all four convicts in the 2008 Jaipur serial blasts case. The Congress’s outreach to the majority community is aimed at blunting such attacks and to also preempt polarisation in the elections, said political watchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We work as per the Constitution, according to which all religions are equal,” said Rajasthan Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra. “If our government has come up with schemes for temples and helps senior citizens go on pilgrimage, we are doing it as per constitutional principles. We do not indulge in the politics of Hindu versus Muslim. The BJP will take steps that amount to targeting a particular community and will justify it by saying it is for development. They (Union government) made changes in Kashmir saying it would help bring more trade and industry to the valley, that Kashmiri Pandits would be able to return. But they have not even been able to conduct elections so far.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>State BJP president C.P. Joshi retaliated: “The real face of the Congress has been exposed. How can they be Hindus if they ban people who raise the slogan of Lord Ram? [They] do not allow processions for Ram Navami, but different rules apply to Moharram. They cannot fool the Hindu community.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Joshi also claimed that the BJP was not polarising society. “We do not provide schemes differentiating between Hindu or Muslim. Be it houses or toilets or the Jan Dhan Yojana or the health schemes or roads, the same schemes and facilities are provided to all. The Congress was the one who brought in this distinction between majority and minority.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Madhya Pradesh</b></p> <p>In a state where the Congress is not in power, the strategy is expectedly different. During its 15-month rule (December 2018 to March 2020), the Congress had initiated the Mahakal Lok project at Ujjain, announced the Ram Van Gaman Path scheme and also the construction of a grand Sita Mata temple in Sri Lanka. The Kamal Nath government had also opened new cow shelters and increased the grant to them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from building the grand Hanuman temple in Chhindwara, Kamal Nath often visits temples and participates in festivals and rituals. Even his display picture online is often in traditional garb with a religious mark on his forehead. Recently, the Bajrang Sena, a right-wing organisation working for ‘unity of Hindus and cow protection’, merged with the Congress, raising many eyebrows. Its office bearers claim it is different from other right-wing groups in that it “does not harass minorities” while doing its work and just wants to promote Hinduism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress has also been organising religious programmes at its headquarters in Bhopal; individual leaders, including former ministers and MLAs, are giving tough competition to BJP leaders in organising sermons of popular preachers. The Madhya Pradesh Congress has even set up a Dharmik evam Utsav Prakoshth (religion and festival cell) under preacher Richa Goswami, who said it was a platform for believers to participate in devotional programmes. “We never talk about politics,” she said. “Congress leaders are hosts of such events and thus are closely involved.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress has also established a Mandir Pujari Prakoshth (temple and priests cell) that is working to ensure autonomy for temples. “The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government announced that temples would be out of government control, but immediately afterwards district collectors in Dhar and Neemuch districts tried to auction the lands, which was stopped after our objection,” said Shiv Narayan Sharma, chairman of the cell. “This is about our rights and not politics, though the Congress is supporting our cause.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kamal Nath is clear about his and the Congress’s stand on the issue. “The Constitution says all religions are equal,” he told THE WEEK. “This has always been the Congress’s ideology. As I often say, I am a Hindu, but I am not a fool and we do not use religion as a political tool. This has nothing to do with elections.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>BJP state president Vishnu Dutt Sharma disagreed. “The Congress tries to come into this form only during elections,” he said. “Else, they are the people who attack and insult the religion whenever they get an opportunity. They take pride in doing so. Leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath and others have always done this. This election-time posturing cuts no ice with people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The common majority voter, however, does not find anything amiss with the Congress’s stand. Kishore Miglani, a 48-year-old businessman from Chhindwara, said he was a cow devotee and, despite his RSS background, he was upset with the way the BJP government dealt with cow protection issues in the state. On the other hand, the Kamal Nath government opened 1,000 new cow shelters in its short tenure and increased the grant from Rs1.25 to Rs20 per cow. “Kamal Nath got the highest idol of Lord Hanuman installed in Chhindwara out of personal faith,” said Miglani. “This was not for politics. Also, during the recent Ram Katha by Bageshwar Dham Maharaj, the Nath family organised it personally. Not a single rupee of donation was taken.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, he did add that issues like price rise and unemployment should be taken up more than religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scrap dealer Manish Shivhare, 44, from Shivpuri, said the Congress’s hindutva push was positive in the sense that the Congress has earlier been looked upon as an ‘anti-Hindu’ party. However, he did add that both parties had failed to take up the core issues like lack of electricity, price rise and high taxes, among others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>With inputs from Soni Mishra</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Oct 28 12:37:03 IST 2023 chief-justice-of-india-d-y-chandrachud-s-love-for-law <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Can law be in someone’s blood?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>If so, it must run in the veins of the Chandrachud clan. Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud’s grandfather and uncle were lawyers. His father was the 16th and longest-serving chief justice of the country, and both his sons are lawyers. Abhinav is in Mumbai and Chintan in London. When I point this out to him, he laughs. “Oh yes, that’s right,” he says. “This is the fourth generation of lawyers in our family.” Then he grows more serious as he explains why he mostly keeps to himself and his family. “I completely dedicated myself to the profession of law, and that left very little time for anything else,” he says.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To be sure, law has done much for him, right from the time he studied it at Delhi University. He did his LLM at Harvard, where he received the Joseph H. Beale prize, which is awarded to the student who tops the Conflict of Laws course. After receiving a doctorate in juridical sciences from Harvard, he practised at the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. He was designated senior advocate in 1998 at the age of 38, a designation rarely given to lawyers below 40. He was appointed a judge of the Bombay High Court in 2000, as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in 2013 and as a Supreme Court judge in 2016. He became the 50th Chief Justice of India on November 9, 2022, for a two-year tenure ending in November 2024.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But law has not just been a means of professional advancement for him. When people asked him when he would rise higher as a judge, he would ask himself, ‘Why did I take this job?’ “I did not take it to attain a particular position,” he says. “I took it for the love of what that job entails, which is really public service.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Law was his greatest solace when he lost his first wife, Rashmi, to cancer. “I had to hold on to my profession as a judge,” he says. “That was all I had. If someone were to take away my job in those days, there was nothing else for me to fall back upon.” He says that working for others was one way of forgetting his own problems. “When you work for others, you realise that the problems you face are not as big,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are early for our appointment at his home on 14 Tughlak Road, Delhi. He arrives from court a few minutes after we do and shows us into the tastefully done drawing room. “When I heard you were waiting, I left court early,” he says. There is much to be charmed about Chandrachud―the way he leans forward and gives you his full attention when you ask a question. The way he insists you taste the array of snacks that appear one after the other. “It is homemade,” he says with a smile. The way he seems unsure at the end of our conversation about whether he answered all the questions adequately. “I hope you got all you wanted,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If one were to define the essence of his charm in one word, it would be humility. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that we are speaking to the highest judicial officer in the country. This was one of the judges who had decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark judgment in 2018, thus changing the lives and relationships of thousands of Indians. This was one of the judges who, in the same year, had allowed women of all ages to visit and worship at Sabarimala, where age-old tradition had restricted their entry to the temple. This was one of the judges who had ruled in 2017 that the right to privacy was a fundamental right under the Constitution, thus impacting the authority of the government and global platforms like Facebook and Instagram to collect personal data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether it is working for equality, finding solace in spirituality, or overcoming a personal tragedy, the overarching theme in Chandrachud’s life has been a love for law. “He has no vices except for his obsession with work,” senior advocate Ajit Bhasme, who grew up with him in Mumbai, once said about him. Law has always been his lodestar. As Alan Paton put it in Chandrachud’s favourite book, <i>Cry, the Beloved Country,</i> “Because life slips away, and because I need for the rest of my journey a star that will not play false to me, a compass that will not lie.”</p> Sat Oct 21 17:05:34 IST 2023 chief-justice-of-india-d-y-chandrachud-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Shall we start from your childhood?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was a very shy child, probably because I was born late. I have a sister who is 14 years elder. My teachers advised my parents to get a pet dog to help me overcome my shyness. I got a pair―we had a male and a female. I am not sure whether that helped. In that sense, I was a combination of contradictions as a child. I had no stage fright, and I could perform on stage―recite a poem, participate in debates―but when it came to talking to people at a personal level, I had an element of shyness which, to an extent, continues even today. I don’t socialise much. I keep to myself and the family. It is also a product of my work. I completely dedicated myself to the profession of law, and that left very little time for anything else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My sister and I went to an English medium school, which was a new thing in our family. Both my parents went to Marathi medium schools, and they learnt whatever English they learnt only after standard seven or eight. Going to an English school in Mumbai was a very different cultural experience from what home was like. Home was always associated with our family culture and traditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We had our properties, but the family lost its land [after the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling and Holdings) Act]. Eventually, everyone had to depend upon a profession to sustain their livelihood. My father took to law, following his uncle and grandfather. My parents settled down in Mumbai to earn their livelihood. My father came here with very little family support. He would stay in a small tenement in Mumbai. My mother would carry clothes on her head to wash at the nearest tap. Though my father did very well as a lawyer, he always had this feeling that he had succeeded on his own. And he wanted to give us the benefit of a good education. When I went to school, it was very different from our parental upbringing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I moved to Delhi when I was still in school, and my father was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of India. We stayed in a house just opposite this one, at 13 Tughlak Road. I did not realise then that one day I was going to occupy the house just across. My school and college life in Delhi were much more egalitarian. School comprised of children from all strata of society. At St. Stephen’s, that feeling of economic elitism was not there. If there was a feeling of privilege, it was because the students were such great scholars―we had scholars, sportspersons, people who were good in the arts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A seminal incident in your childhood that shaped you as an adult?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The one person who had a very big impact on my life was someone who worked for us for close to 40 years. She came before I was born, from Ratnagiri. She gave me an insight into rural Maharashtra, which was in so many ways representative of rural India. She would tell me about the aspirations of people in the villages, though she was completely illiterate. She learnt to read and write in our house. My sister, mother and I would teach her. But otherwise, she had no formal education. But you would be amazed at her values.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What she taught me was something which an educated person those days might not have. She was extremely liberal and very rights-conscious. She made it a point that my friends in school should be people from the class of society which she represented. So, my best friends were children who lived either in our staff quarters or in the buildings in which we stayed. My parents would encourage me to go to their homes and play with them. Those were the days of rationing of food. I would go to friends’ houses whose daily fare consisted of food drawn from the ration shops. I would spend weekends eating and playing with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My parents never brought me up in an elitist way. They were extremely liberal, although they were very traditional in some ways. They brought up my sister and me on an absolutely even platform. One of my pet grievances was that my sister had far greater freedom at home in terms of her friends and lifestyle than what I was allowed, because I was much younger. I was the kid brother. My sister is now based in Indiana. She did law and topped Bombay University. After her marriage in 1971, she settled down in the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Did you know you wanted to do law from a young age?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was fascinated with law as a child. I would go to my father’s court once a week. Every day I would come home by the usual transport, but once a week when we had games at school, I would walk across to the High Court and get a lift from my father. I would always peer at the courts from the floor above. Through the latticed windows on the third floor, you could see the proceedings on the second floor. This was one of those old British buildings with high ceilings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That changed over time. When I joined college in Delhi, I realised that there was life beyond law. After I studied economics at St. Stephen’s, I was seriously interested in pursuing a career in economics and took admission at the Delhi School of Economics, but the law college started earlier, so I went there for a few weeks. After that I felt there was no going back from law.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before my grandfather, my family was predominantly agricultural. By and by, the family came to law and some of my uncles studied medicine. My great-grandmother came with her nine children from the village to Pune. She mortgaged her jewellery so that her children could do higher education. We have a tradition of being a family with very strong women. We have all grown to respect the women in the family who have been the guiding lights for succeeding generations. I still have in my prayer room a picture of this great-grandmother before whom I bow every morning, because I feel she was a person who brought the family from a predominantly agricultural livelihood into the bigger city that Pune was in those days, and set the family on the path of education.</p> <p><b>Your mother, Prabha, was a classical musician. Did you learn music as a child?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes. My mother was a trained musician, and a disciple of one of the most distinguished classical singers of our time―Kishori Amonkar, who was an exponent of the Jaipur gharana. My father had learnt music at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. They were related to each other, but they did not have an arranged marriage. They got married in 1943, and it was a big thing then not to have a marriage settled by the elders in the family. My mother and father encouraged me to learn music. I learnt to play the harmonium and the tabla as a child. I played the tabla rather well. At some point my father started telling my mother: ‘There is a danger that he is going to become a tabla player’, which in those days was a matter of some anxiety for parents. They were very orthodox in wanting you to become either a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. So that was the end of my tabla-playing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My mother’s guru, Kishori Amonkar, used to come to our house almost every week. I would sit behind the curtains when she was doing her <i>riyaz</i> and listen to her practising music. I would go with my mother every Saturday to her home and we would spend the whole morning there. I would be playing with her little children, but more often than not listening to the music that was being sung in the next room. Music used to move me so much that I would start crying. My mother used to wonder why her child cried so much after listening to music, but I think she never figured out why.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a college student, I worked as a disc jockey for All India Radio. When someone told me that AIR was recruiting people to do programmes for them, I went and auditioned. Interestingly, I used to do programmes in Hindi and English―the more serious genre of programmes in Hindi and the western music programmes in English. The Hindi gave me an insight into the language which I love and have been very closely associated with. Very often I would go to AIR at 5am to do my recordings and head to college after that. Sometimes I would come back after college and be there till 9pm until the programmes got over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What was your relationship with your father like?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He was a fun person and very fond of sports. One of his pet grievances was that I had become much too serious for his liking. But my father and I have had an evolving relationship. When I was young, he was to me a parent keen on grooming his child. As time went on, we became great friends. He was extremely open in his thoughts. He was willing to change. When I grew up, if I had a different point of view and I placed it before him, he would be more than willing to accept it. Our relationship was of a certain degree of equality and friendship. With my mother, of course, it was unconditional love. She was very loving, but she had to have her way, because she was a very powerful person in the family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My father never placed an overbearing importance on his own status as a CJI or even later, as an elder in the family. Even when he was CJI, he always had time at the end of the day to sit with me and ask me what happened in college that day. When I was in St. Stephen’s, he knew about all the gossip that I brought home in the evening about my teachers and friends. When I was a law student, if I was learning something in contract law, he would tell me just a small concept of contract law while I was sitting with him for a few minutes in the morning or evening, and he would open up a whole universe on that aspect of law. In that sense he was very involved with the family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coming to your family, can you tell us a bit about your marriage?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We got married in 2008, and Kalpana has been an enormous source of strength. We continue to be great friends. She is one of my greatest confidantes. One thing we both decided right from the inception of our relationship was that we should have the utmost confidence in each other. There is nothing about our lives that we have not spoken to each other about. In so many ways, Kalpana has helped me change. She is deeply concerned about societal values. She has very strong ideas on issues like gender equality, which is very close to her heart. She has helped me fine-tune my values and develop my own thoughts on gender and equality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We travel a great deal together, to the most rustic of places. We have travelled and trekked in Ladakh, the most inaccessible parts of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands―you just name the place in India and we have been there. But just as we have travelled together, we engage in very serious conversations. My association with her has helped me to evolve as a person. She has helped me find a mirror to my own soul. Sometimes what Kalpana says may not be very nice at that moment, but over time I have come to realise the value of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I proposed to her, Kalpana was a confirmed single woman. Amongst her group of friends, she was the least likely to get married, because she was so happy being single. She was working, and she was based in Delhi, while I was in Mumbai. We met through a fair bit of coincidence. When I asked her whether she would get married, she said, “Marry? Me?” She was absolutely aghast at the idea of somebody popping the question. She had never given a serious thought to getting married to me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She later told me that her close friends who knew we were seeing each other had told her that this relationship was going to end in marriage. She would ridicule the idea and tell them that I was just a great friend. “He’s in a different city, and we have our own lives we are leading,” she would tell them. I had to talk to her and she had concerns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When you get married when you are very young, you feel the world is very rosy and you are very optimistic with your life. When you get married a little later, you have a broader perspective in life, and that was what was worrying her. I was a judge and judges live very constricted lives. Your whole life revolves around your profession. You don’t socialise or mix that much. Judges traditionally are believed to be reclusive. Not that Kalpana is very sociable herself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the things that made us come together is that if we have some spare time, we love to be at home. Give us an opportunity and we would never opt to go to a party. Even today, we share the same space, but we are doing our own thing. I might be reading a book or listening to music, Kalpana might be watching a documentary or looking after our two lovely girls. We have made it a point in the last almost 15 years to ensure that we give each other adequate space. Kalpana knows that I need that time alone to reflect or sometimes digest what has happened through my day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What about your foster daughters?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Priyanka and Mahi have been with us since 2015. They first came into our lives when I was Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court. They are both special needs children. They moved with us from Allahabad to Delhi. There was virtually no school for these children in the village in Uttarakhand where they originally grew up. In Allahabad I got somebody locally to come and teach them alphabets and numbers. In Delhi, we were looking for a school for them. And we found this lovely school called Tamana, started by Shayama Chona. She always told us that these children had to be mainstreamed in a regular school. Though they are special needs children, their minds are razor sharp. Eventually, after a few years, they joined Sanskriti. We had some of the most amazing teachers in Sanskriti. They dealt with these children with so much of empathy and sensitivity, bringing out the best in them. We never imagined that these girls would come into our lives, but I feel that they have reshaped our lives in so many ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What do you like to do in your free time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I love music, and when it comes to music, I am still now at the point where I was when I was eight or nine years old. I have a very eclectic taste. I love Indian classical music. I also listen to western classical music. Even rock and pop―Bob Dylan, Abba, Dire Straits, Adele. These little girls (referring to his daughters) keep loading music on my phone which I listen to on my way to court and back. Then there are days when you just want to listen to some nice piano. Today I was listening to Philip Glass and his etude while going and coming back from work. My music preferences change with my mood, based on what kind of work I am doing in court. Also based on my experiences in my personal life at that particular moment. There are times when you want to listen to music that is soothing, other times when you want to listen to music that is uplifting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I love reading, too. At any given point of time, I read multiple books. I get tired of reading just one book. Right now, I have a collection of books on my bedside table. Kalpana always warns me that this mountain of books is going to fall over me if I touch it in my sleep. I read a lot of history and economics books. I have also been following a little bit of Urdu poetry. I am not very good at it, but I enjoy reading it. Since I became chief justice, however, I don’t have enough time. Earlier I could read 30 pages a night, now it has come down to 10.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>One book that has deeply influenced you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have been deeply influenced by this book by Alan Paton called <i>Cry, the Beloved Country,</i> written in the backdrop of the apartheid in South Africa. I read it in school, when I was very impressionable. I have read it so many times that there are pages of it that I [know by heart]. It made a big impact in terms of what it means to live in an era of apartheid and social oppression. I have been impacted by other writers as well, like Somerset Maugham and his books <i>Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence</i>, and <i>The Razor’s Edge</i>. I have been mostly influenced by people who lived their life in pursuit of a dream. That is something I have tried to imbibe in my life by pursuing issues that I feel strongly about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I fully believe that there is a message or reason why all of us are where we are as human beings. I always ask myself: What is the purpose of human existence? Why am I here? I ask myself every day. Why is it that I am the Chief Justice of India in this country of 1.4 billion people? I always try and find the deeper meaning behind life every day, by trying to do things that will make some little contribution to the world around me, because I believe that it is not in the big things that you can make a contribution. Of course you can do that, but for all of us ordinary human beings, it is the little things you do every day that contributes to making the world around you better.</p> <p><b>Are you very religious or spiritual?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am very spiritual. My father was also spiritual―he used to meditate. He was an acute insomniac, so he would not sleep for days on end. And he used to survive only because of meditation. I named my younger son Chintan, in acknowledgment of my father’s own life in meditation, because <i>chinta</i> means reflection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have this wonderful yoga teacher in Pune, who is now in his 90s. He used to always tell me: “I am here to teach yoga as exercise. What you get out of yoga in terms of your own spiritual evolution is for you personally. I will teach you the physical aspects of yoga, but be sure that there is something more than that.” I never forgot that. Yoga has been a very important source of my own spiritual evolution as a human being.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from that I spend a considerable amount of time in prayer every day. I don’t leave home without praying. Possibly the reason for that is my own background―my former wife passed away due to cancer. She was a cancer patient for almost a decade. We were trying to bring up our children who were very little, so that required me to bring out a lot of my own mental reserves. I feel religion gave me that―a sense of inner strength.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Going beyond that, [it has helped] my life as a lawyer and judge. Most lawyers and judges live their working lives among hordes of people. Our courts are so crowded. There is a heavy volume of cases. You have to be emotionally stable to handle your job as a judge. You have to decide as a judge, but you cannot become part of the conflict. You have to step away from it. So, in many ways, the time I spend in solitude very early in the morning gives me a sense of calm for the rest of the day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Do you believe in a particular god?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, I have my family deities. I have my family puja room, which is very typical of Maharashtra to which I belong. But when I pray, I have this perception of an eternal supreme being who governs the order of the universe, and therefore human destiny. But I don’t impose my religious beliefs on anyone. They are deeply personal to me. I do my work committed to the Constitution and its values. When I work as a judge, I am wedded to implementing the values of the Constitution. I don’t impose my idea of spirituality on anyone around me in my family. For instance, my wife finds a reflection of the supreme being in the beauty of the mountains, rivers, trees and birds. She is that kind of a person. My parents did not impose their religious beliefs on me, and I don’t impose my beliefs on anyone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the biggest struggle you have faced in life?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There have been multiple struggles at different stages of life. At a personal level, it was when I was the caregiver for my former wife. We had two young children. They have grown up beautifully, and I am so proud of both of my sons for what they have achieved in life. But that was a very difficult period. I had to hold on to my profession as a judge. That was all I had. If someone were to take away my job in those days, there was nothing else for me to fall back upon. There was no family wealth to sustain me. That is all I had―my work and my role as a judge. So, I had to ensure that I did not allow my work to suffer. I could not have turned down people who came to our courts seeking justice saying that I was going through a bad phase in life, because they were going through a bad phase in life as well. Handling home and work and so many different fronts, and ensuring that you maintained a balance, was a big challenge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were other low points as well. I was very attached to my parents. I lost my former wife and my father in the space of a year. She passed away in July 2007 and my father passed away in July 2008. But when you work for others, you realise that the problems you face are not as big. I think that working for others is a great solace for a judge. Even when my former wife was in and out of hospital, particularly towards the end, I would make it a point to go back to court, sit there for a few hours and do my assigned work for the day, and then go in the morning to the hospital and back to court, then go back again to the hospital, spend time with her, and then go home to prepare for the next day. My work has been a great stabilising influence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Ever been disillusioned with your work?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have never been disillusioned with my work, which is not to say I have not had problems. I have had setbacks in my professional life. I don’t want to speak about them now, because they are behind me. There are of course challenges you face in your work. People would ask me when are you going higher as a judge. And then you ask yourself, why did I take this job? I did not take it to attain a particular position. I took it for the love of what that job entails, which is really public service. If you focus on that, you won’t get disillusioned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You get disillusioned when you look beyond the purpose of your job, or the purpose of your existence. Sometimes when you aspire for things you cannot achieve, that’s when the disillusionment creeps in. Steer clear of that, focus on what’s happening in the present, and that’s one way of not getting disillusioned with so much that you see around you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The most urgent reform needed in the judiciary today?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not in Parliament. So I can’t speak about the reform that the legislature should bring about. The reform that we can bring about as judges is to make our processes much more efficient, more responsible, responsive, and accountable to our citizens. That change in the processes of the Indian judiciary is something that is required. We have inherited a colonial system. Our systems have changed. We don’t today operate the colonial processes. But our inheritance of what is essentially a colonial regime has to now completely give way to a more service-oriented regime that is more responsive to the needs of the people, to deliver more efficient and timely justice to citizens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Men and women you admire as great judges and jurists of India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s a tough one. Many of them are still around today, so I don’t want to embarrass them by referring to them by name. But talking about the greats of the past, I have been deeply impacted by some judges like Justice B.K. Mukherjea, Justice Subba Rao and Justice Patanjali Sastri. They were judges who really fashioned the law at a time when the Constitution was still unfolding. They had a vision in those times of what the Constitution should look like. I am also a great admirer of judges outside India. One of my icons is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for the work she has done for gender equality.</p> Sat Oct 21 17:01:55 IST 2023 israel-hamas-war-situation-analysis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At noon on October 7, Chaim Talker was working in his grocery store with his daughter at the Tekoa settlement near Jerusalem when he got a bot call (playing a recorded message) on his mobile phone. The message asked him to report to his IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) unit within two hours. He could hear emergency sirens warning of rocket attacks and he knew what the message meant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Traditionally, the message is known as ‘Order 8’. First mentioned in the Security Service Law of Israel (1949), it can ask any soldier to report for reserve service when necessary. There was mass mobilisation of troops during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, but at that time there were neither bots nor mobile phones. There would be an announcement on the radio or a letter would be dropped to the residences with codes of officers who knew that the call was for them and they would quietly slip away from their homes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dropping all work, Talker, 55, changed into his olive uniform, kissed his kids goodbye and set out to join his army unit. Along the way, as he travelled through the streets of Israel, Hamas cadre were butchering, shooting and kidnapping hundreds of innocent people, including women, children and the elderly. Hamas, the Iran-backed militant outfit that runs the Gaza Strip between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea, has openly vowed to destroy Israel and kill an Israeli hostage for every Israeli act of retaliation. “It is war,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Even though we did not start it, we will end it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hedged between the western ideals of democracy and the pressures of an unfriendly neighbourhood, Israel has been witnessing a major political churn of late. There have been major protest demonstrations and candle-light marches against Netanyahu over his decision to change the way the judicial system works. As internal turmoil kept the political class busy, Israelis were not surprised that rumoured intelligence reports from Egypt about “something big and terrible’’ were ignored. The besieged government of Netanyahu now stares at an uncertain future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, the Israeli intelligence, with an impressive history of swift counter-terror actions, had known through open sources about Hamas planning an operation, but its hide-and-seek games with peace on the Gaza Strip brought about a catastrophe. The Israeli airspace got lit up by nearly 5,000 rockets, and thousands of attackers on para-gliders, bikes and cars invaded Israeli homes, army bases, police stations and even old-age homes. The death toll soon hit 1,200, with 2,700 wounded. Hundreds are feared to be kidnapped and held hostage in Gaza.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The United States had its 9/11, India had its 26/11 and Israel now has 7/10,” said Anat Bernstein-Reich, president of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce. “Hamas has taken entire Palestine as hostage, and it uses the civilian population as human shields. They have built rocket launchers on top of hospitals and schools, knowing that the Israelis will think twice before attacking civilians.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It will not be a Six-Day War this time; it will be a long one to wipe out terrorists, said Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on October 9. Each and every Israeli is preparing for war in different ways. Hundreds of them are out on the streets, distributing goodies, raising national flags and offering emergency kits, sleeping bags, water, toothpaste and biscuits to soldiers going to war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An attack of this scale with thousands of rockets flying across the heart of the country can put a brake on civilian lives in many countries. But, for Israelis, counter-terrorism is a way of life, if not an instinctive responsibility. Every adult in Israel knows how to use a gun. The country has compulsory military service for those above 18―three years for men and two years for women―making self-defence a key component of life. “We have to be on high alert, much more than most people around the world,’’ said Jonathan, a Tel Aviv driver who ferries foreign tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaim Talker is prepared, and so are the three lakh reserve soldiers of the IDF. Even men and women in their 60s have been pressed into emergency service in the biggest mobilisation Israel has seen since its inception in 1948. “I have trained every year with the IDF since I was 21, but I also have two grocery stores. One is run by my wife and son, and the other by me and my daughter. Now she will run it on her own,” said Talker. The reserves are considered IDF recruits as soon as they are pressed into service. They get IDF salary and medical cover, and they continue to get salaries from their regular employers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talker and other Israeli soldiers are being deployed at various locations around Gaza as Israel prepares for what could be the bloodiest war in the country's history, coming exactly 50 years after the Yom Kippur War that saw more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers getting killed. The Yom Kippur War took Israelis by surprise as Egypt and Syria struck on Judaism's holiest day when the entire country was in prayers. Hamas, too, took advantage of the festival, as Israel was caught unawares despite having the world’s most advanced intelligence and interception systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dissimilarities are, however, glaring. Unlike the Yom Kippur War, the attack by Hamas is not a military one (already civilian deaths and injuries have surpassed the military ones) and no ethics of warfare are being followed. Hamas attackers entered civilian neighbourhoods and dragged out children, women, elderly, foreign workers and tourists, taking them to Gaza as hostages. Israel had left Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, but bloodletting never stopped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The region is divided into two,” said Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem. “The countries that want peace and prosperity and those that want destruction and radicalism.’’ She said Israel, Bahrain, the UAE and even Saudi Arabia wanted peace. “I don’t see any countries reversing the Abraham accords, but the road with Saudi Arabia may be a little longer now.’’ People like Hassan-Nahoum who have worked for the normalisation of ties between Israel and the Gulf states in the I2U2 (India-Israel-US-UAE) alliance are getting calls from friends across the axis hoping they can get back on track with normalisation with the rest of the Arab world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We don’t have any [Israeli presence] in Gaza,” said Cohen, exhorting the world community to condemn the attacks. “There is no dispute with regard to land,” he said. “We supply them water and electricity and try to give them work in Israel.’’ Hamas launched the attack from a crossing from where thousands of Gazans enter Israel every day for work. “The fact that they attacked this crossing, murdered soldiers and rendered it nonexistent speaks of the complete disregard Hamas has for its own people,” said Cohen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of late, more Palestinian refugees are allowed to enter Israel for work during festivals. There is an unsaid understanding, especially during Sabbath, on less vehicular movement, less communication and less action. “If complacency had set in at the borders, it also showed there was quiet and peace there,” said an Israeli. But the economics of terror was at work this time, said intelligence experts, and it blew the bridge of peace. A major worry is whether the 2.3 million people inside Gaza will have to flee to Egypt or suffer a terrible humanitarian crisis as their lifelines have been choked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Terrorism has been coming in waves,’’ says Brigadier General (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former IDF intelligence officer, who now serves as a senior research fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy. “There is plenty of anti-semitism planted in young minds,” he said, referring to multiple instances of car ramming and stabbing by the ''pay to slay'' gangs of Hamas. There are widespread indoctrination programmes aimed at preparing the youth for future strikes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I was in Tel Aviv on July 4, a 20-year-old Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians outside a shopping complex, and then jumped out of his car and stabbed anyone he could. He wounded nine people, including a pregnant woman who eventually lost her child. He was shot dead by a civilian.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, has been studying how youngsters are being groomed in Gaza to target Israel. The IDF, meanwhile, has been on a mission to take out militant groups inside Gaza through surgical strikes and to choke funding to these groups. Israeli intelligence officers say global aid for Palestinians is being funnelled to reward attacks against Israelis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel alleges that the Palestinian Authority (PA) runs a prisoner payment programme that provides monthly stipends to Palestinians who are imprisoned or injured by Israel. “The prisoners are paid 1,500 new Israeli shekels (031,000) a month for small crimes and the amount rapidly goes up to 8,000-12,000 new Israeli shekels for major crimes like murders,’’ said Kuperwasser. “That salary is more than the salary of a supreme court judge in the PA.” He said the PA spent nearly 1.3 billion new Israeli shekels annually on the project, which was 7 per cent of its budget.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, the United States enacted the Taylor Force Act aimed at stopping funding to the PA until it discontinued the practice of paying prisoners. Since 2018, Israel also started withholding funds from the PA, saying that an amount equivalent to the money paid to the prisoners would be deducted from the taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA and put into a separate account. That account now holds nearly 3 billion new Israeli shekels, which is being used to pay compensation to victims of terrorism. But the economics of terror seems to have overrun Israel as evident from the Hamas attacks on October 7.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were intelligence warnings that all militant groups in Gaza had joined hands against Israel. While Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza, were in favour of using firearms and rockets whenever they get a chance, some others showed a liking for Molotov cocktails, car rammings and stabbings. Unfortunately, the latest attacks have the imprint of all of them, including the signature beheading style of the Islamic State. Naturally, there is alarm beyond the Middle East.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“During the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war, there was talk about the lessons we learned from the omissions back then, and whether such an awful surprise can happen again,” said Bernstein-Reich. “The movie <i>Golda</i> starring Helen Mirren is on screens now, telling the story of Golda Meir who was our prime minister during the 1973 war―the only woman prime minister in our history. Who would have thought that history will repeat itself? Maybe we lost a battle, but we will surely win the war.”</p> Sat Oct 14 17:38:54 IST 2023 pradeep-kalliath-priest-in-jaffa-about-situation-in-israel <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>I HAIL FROM</b> a small village in Thrissur district of Kerala. I came to Israel in 2020 to serve the Indian community and since then I have been serving as a priest at St. Peter’s church, Jaffa. The Indian community here is spread across cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tiberias and so on. The areas affected by the war are mostly in the south, especially the ones near the Gaza border like Sderot, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The terror attack began on an important feast day of the Jews, which coincided with the Sabbath. Terrorists came and attacked innocent people without provocation. They even attacked old people, women, children and treated them brutally. One lady from Kannur in Kerala, Sheeja Anand, is a victim of a rocket attack. She is in hospital and out of danger.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People continue to be afraid as terrorists are attacking people on the road, inside vehicles and in their homes. As of now, the Indian community is safe. In most houses, there is a safety room and in other places there are bunkers where people take shelter when there is a rocket alarm. There is panic and roads are empty. We hope the situation will become better in the coming days.</p> Sat Oct 14 16:59:50 IST 2023 iran-targeting-israel-saudi-arabia-ties <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>MY DAUGHTER </b>is part of the IDF and was recruited two months ago. Her base is down south. My husband and I are very worried and we are praying for her safety. I have an older son, who is also in the IDF, but he is in a technical role, so I am less worried about him. But, first of all, I must say that this is nothing short of a massacre. It is the biggest attack on civilians in Israel’s history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few weeks ago, we were recalling the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war. Could Israel have another Yom Kippur war? Could we be surprised? Little did we know that a couple of weeks later, we will be in a situation when the country is in shock and trauma. We are trying to deal with a hostile situation which we have never had on this scale, where the elderly, the sick, the disabled children, the toddlers and the babies have been targeted. More civilians have been hurt than combatants, which is unheard of. The terrorists were targeting civilians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We pray that we can come up with a plan to get rid of the terrorists that are still here in Israel. Second, we need a plan to bring back the hostages. And finally, we should dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that has been built in Gaza with help from Iran and other genocidal regimes in the neighbourhood who want to put a stop to the effort to normalise ties with Saudi Arabia. I want to be an optimist. I have been involved with the Abraham accords and I don’t see any country reversing it. We pray the number of casualties doesn’t go much higher, and we can get back on track with efforts to normalise ties with the rest of the Arab world.</p> Sat Oct 14 16:56:36 IST 2023 an-israeli-family-is-taking-care-of-me-caregiver-soma-ravi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>I CAME FROM</b> Nizamabad district in Telangana to work as a caregiver in Israel 18 years ago. I have been living with an Israeli family for the past 16 years, taking care of their son who is physically challenged. They treat me like family, taking care of my needs. I have been earning well and supporting my family in Telangana where my wife and two daughters are living. Recently, my daughters have gone to the United States to study computer science and this was possible only because of my job. I earn nearly 6,500 shekels per month (Rs1.4 lakh). I hardly have any expenses here and send most of the money back home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I came here for work, we were aware of the risks, but everyone knew that Israel’s robust security apparatus could take care of it. Over the years, I have seen rockets being fired from Gaza and the Iron Dome taking them down. Even caregivers who live near the border have been safe all along. We are all so attuned to the security drill when the sirens go off. But this is an unprecedented situation in Israel’s history where terrorists have entered cities with weapons, butchering hundreds of civilians. There are also thousands of rockets being fired. I thought terror groups like Hamas would not target foreigners, but I was wrong as several were killed and taken hostage. The family I am living with is taking good care of me. But we are worried about those who have been kidnapped.</p> Sat Oct 14 16:54:20 IST 2023 women-children-facing-the-brunt-of-war-celeb-chef-reena-pushkarna <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>IT WAS BARELY</b> 12 hours into the war when hospitals got full with the injured. The massacre by the terrorists happened so fast that it was impossible for the army to get there on time. It has not only been raining rockets but the terrorists are roaming the streets, killing people mercilessly. Most of the families are still in bomb shelters not knowing what will happen next. We are glued to the television sets to see what is happening outside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Tel Aviv, the roads are deserted and my restaurant and other businesses are closed. All my Indian staff are at home, huddled in bomb shelters even as citizens are calling television stations telling the anchors to get the army and police to save them. It is a terrible situation. The atrocities by Hamas is absolutely horrific and unbelievable. I have been in Israel for more than 40 years and something like this has never happened. It is the brave civilians, especially women and children, who are facing the brunt of the war. An 85-year-old woman on a wheelchair was taken to Gaza as hostage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have been asked to stay indoors. The government is trying to help people and calm them down, but the war is still going on in the south. We have opened our homes to our Indian brothers and sisters for any kind of help. The world needs to stand with Israel. We are a strong nation and we will survive.</p> Sat Oct 14 16:52:28 IST 2023 former-idf-intelligence-official-yossi-kuperwasser-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The weapons used by Hamas terrorists were supplied from Iran which has been assisting them with technology and training,” says former top IDF intelligence official Brigadier General (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser. In an exclusive interview, he says much of the weapons used in the attack seemed to have been smuggled to Gaza from across the Egyptian border or through the tunnels underneath the border. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What caused the worst-ever terror attack in Israel’s history?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> We have several sensors, concrete fencing, barbed wires and all kinds of technology. IDF units are deployed along the fence on the Gaza Strip. The soldiers are not covering every metre, but they have positions from where they can see what is happening. And there are all kinds of cameras planted along the fence that allow us to see the entire area adjacent to the fence. Anybody getting close to the fence can be spotted. Somebody did something. I just don’t know what happened. The fence by itself cannot stop anything. Once they managed to destroy the fence and enter the area adjacent to the fence, they caught us by complete surprise. They enjoyed the benefit of surprise, they enjoyed the benefit of being more in numbers and the benefit of operating in many locations simultaneously. And this made it possible for them to cause such an unbelievably terrible massacre of so many people. It is a collective failure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Was there a delay in your reaction time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A </b>The terrorists brought explosives, destroyed the fence in certain places and came in with their cars. It was a very simple operation. It is surprising because we have observers who are supposed to look at what is happening. After missing the intelligence and early warning systems, nobody noticed that they were coming to the fence in so many places simultaneously. I feel there was a delay, because it took too long when it came to a situation like this. The terrorists were operating without any opposition and killing people without any interruption. Six hours is enough to kill hundreds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Did you face a cyberattack at that moment or did something go wrong with the technology itself?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> The cyberattack option was looked upon and it was refuted. But we will have to wait for the investigation to tell us what happened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Do you think human intelligence was missing? Is it time to go back to the basics?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> We have all the capability in the world, be it human intelligence, signal intelligence and visual intelligence. But even with all these, we came up with nothing. What we did not listen to was the open source intelligence where the Hamas terrorists were telling us in advance on open media what exactly was going to happen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How did so many weapons and vehicles reach Gaza?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Although some of the weapons were prepared by them, much of it came from Iran. The technology and the training are Iranian. The weapons possibly came [via Egyptian border] or through the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What kind of weapons were used?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> A lot of it may be personal weapons, but there were also some rocket-propelled grenades and Iranian anti-tank rockets. Basically, it is weaponry like the Kalashnikovs. The number of terrorists that penetrated were in the hundreds, using dozens of vehicles. They also used parachutes. They knew the terrain and the locations of police stations and army bases. You don’t need a lot of intelligence gathering to know that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How is Israel defending itself now?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> We are mobilising all our forces to face the eventualities. Our forces are deployed not only in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, but also in the northern part of the country to face the Hezbollah. We are also deployed in the border at West Bank. At the moment, we are at the highest level of reserves’ call up, ever. And the problem we have right now is that people are so angry with the Hamas that we have 150 per cent of them showing up. They all want to fight. We have called around 3,00,000 reservists. And we are bombarding the terrorists’ positions in Gaza and we will deal them a very big blow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Is it only the Hamas or have other terror groups joined forces?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Right now it is the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and groups like the Popular Resistance Committees. But there are many terror groups operating in Gaza and they are working together under a joint coordination command. The Hamas belongs both to Iran and to the Islamic State camps at the same time, they are on both sides.</p> Sat Oct 14 17:36:00 IST 2023 israel-is-trying-to-identify-breaches-and-learn-lessons-from-them <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Was it human error or tech failure that led to the deadliest terror attack on Israel in decades? And how did Israel’s cutting-edge systems―such as the Iron Dome, the land-to-air system built to intercept incoming missiles and drones―fail to prevent the attack?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts are studying five possibilities. One, the chances of a cyberattack that prevented observation screens from accurately showing the feeds from hundreds of cameras, radars and sensors that make up the Iron Dome system. The screens are monitored by young soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) stationed near the Gaza Strip. For now, says sources, this possibility has been ruled out, but a deeper analysis is under way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two, the possibility of major breaches in the “smart fence” that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip. The smart fence is a 20ft-high, razor wire-topped metal fence with an underground concrete barrier that runs for 65km along the Gaza Strip. Completed in 2021, it is equipped with cutting-edge surveillance technology to prevent underground and overground attacks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three, the possibility that Hamas terrorists disguised in military fatigues drove into Israeli territory undetected. Four, the IDF was so dependent on technology-driven electronic intelligence that it failed at a basic level―the gathering of human intelligence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lastly, the possibility that the IDF and intelligence agencies was so focused on the unrest in the West Bank that they failed to pay adequate attention to Hamas, which had been issuing threats publicly and announcing terror plans online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are all kinds of cameras planted along the fence that allow us to see every piece of area adjacent to it,” said Brigadier General (res) Yossi Kuperwasser, a veteran intelligence expert. “Something went wrong, terribly wrong. Once the war is over, we will be studying what happened and learning the deeper lessons.”</p> Sat Oct 14 17:19:23 IST 2023 palestine-s-ambassador-to-india-adnan-abu-alhaija-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Adnan Abu Alhaija, 72, has seen many a war. This one is no different. A free Palestine may not happen in his lifetime, but he lives in hope, and is even not averse to the option of living with Israelis if there is peace. Edited excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Do you think Hamas’s attack on Israel is a turning point for the Middle East?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> I wish this war did not happen. We had war in 2021, too. If you do not find a solution to the Palestinian cause, if the Palestinian people do not get their rights, we will see many wars. There are heavy casualties on both sides, especially now that the Israelis are bombing everything. Mass destruction to the infrastructure, to the buildings, to the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q The attack by Hamas was different from the earlier ones. How do you look at what happened on October 7?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> It is important to ask why that happened. Why have Israel's crimes in the West Bank for a few years gone without any accountability?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year, and before October 9, the Israelis killed 260 people in the West Bank. On October 9, they killed 16 people in the West Bank. I'm not talking about the death toll in Gaza. Settlers are going everywhere defended by the Israeli occupied forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Israel has said that these are human animals, and has cut off gas, electricity, water and food. How long can Gaza survive?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> This is a war crime. To describe 2.2 million people as human animals, only the Nazis can say that, or a fascist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The situation is very bad in Gaza. They might survive for less than a week. How can you live without water? The poverty in Gaza is more than 70 per cent. Some 2.2 million people are living in an open air prison. They are asking them to emigrate to Egypt. No one will emigrate. They can kill all Palestinians, But the Palestinians will never leave their land.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be fighting for his own survival.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> That is true for two reasons. First, if he is not prime minister, he will go to jail. Second, this is the most extreme government in Israel in 75 years. Whether it is [National Security Minister] Itmar Ben-Gvir or [Finance Minister] Bezalel Smotrich or the members of the Knesset [who hold extreme views] against the Palestinian people, they all have corruption cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q There has been a sort of mainstreaming of Israel.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Netanyahu thinks that if you normalise relations with some Arab countries, he will solve the Palestinian cause. Or he will go around, so the Palestinian cause won't be important. But we are the people who live there. If you normalise relations with the whole world, but don’t solve the problem of the Palestinian people, you will never get peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the West Bank and Gaza, there are six million people; and another two million are Israeli citizens. So historical Palestine is eight million people. He should find the solution for these people. The normalisation agreement won’t give him any advantage if he does not solve the problem with Palestine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What is the way ahead? There have been no conversations during the Netanyahu regime.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> The international community should put pressure. If you leave it to this extreme government, there will never be peace in the region, not just in Palestine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are asking for our independent state; 22 per cent of historical Palestine, which is in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. We are eager to live in peace with the Israelis. There are two solutions: Give Palestine their own state with the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital; or the one-state solution. We are ready to live together in a democratic state, call it whatever. Otherwise, the world should bring the leaders of Israel to accountability and put pressure from the US, the Europeans and all countries in the world, and force the Israelis and this apartheid regime to come to peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How do you see the situation evolving? Especially with the hostages.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> The situation is very bad. I hope there will be a ceasefire soon. Stop this massacre, stop the killing. In the end, these hostages have their own way. We also have 5,000 prisoners in Israel. We have about 160 children in prison. I think, for the hostages and the prisoners, there will be some kind of solution to release both of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What do you expect from India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> I expect India, as a friend of both, to be a mediator with some other countries. India is a very important country for us and for the Israelis, and important for the world. India has lots of relations all around the world, from the US to the Europeans to the Arabs. They can form a coalition to find a solution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q America has been pushing for Saudi Arabia to normalise relations with Israel.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Saudi Arabia is very important. They are the leaders and they support the Palestinian cause. We have heard many statements from Saudi Arabia about this conflict, calling for defending the Palestinian people and to find a solution. In any kind of normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian cause will be there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q The EU has threatened to withdraw aid for Palestine, though it was opposed by a few countries.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> The Europeans are hypocrites. Now they will remember the international law. They said that Israel had the right to defend itself according to international law. While Palestinians have more than 800 resolutions from the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, that is not international law, or the crimes committed by Israel in Palestine won't affect international law. I hope the Europeans will for once be honest and look at both sides from the same point of view.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Hamas controls Gaza, but not the West Bank. Do the Palestinians know who is going to speak for them? Ever since Yasser Arafat, there hasn't been one leader.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> I think the effect of Israel is there. To be united, there [has to] be negotiation between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian Authority and Hamas, or we go to election. The Israelis are refusing to let us hold an election in East Jerusalem, which has happened many times before. If we don't hold elections there, it will mean we are giving East Jerusalem to the Israelis. We will not do that. Crisis unites. As the Israelis are now calling for a national government. When someone attacks the Palestinian people, we will be united.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Are you saying Hamas will accept the two-state solution?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> They have said that more than once. I am not Hamas. I am not responsible for Hamas. But I have heard that from Hamas many times. But there should be a real solution; not what they have done in the Oslo agreement.</p> Sat Oct 14 17:28:42 IST 2023 maariv-former-editor-in-chief-ido-dissentshik-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Veteran journalist and businessman Ido Dissentshik was editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper <i>Ma'ariv</i>. He was on the director board of the International Press Institute and was chairman of the Weizmann Institute's executive board. Dissentshik served the Israel Defence Forces as a reserve and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He told THE WEEK that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have resigned after the Hamas attack on Israel. Edited excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How did Hamas manage to inflict such a blow to Israel?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Hamas always wanted the annihilation of the state of Israel. It is part of their raison d'etre. Why it happened on this particular day is a different question. They must have realised that they have some sort of an advantage and Israel failed to see what was being planned and prepared. Our country was badly surprised. It was a major intelligence failure and our military reaction was too slow and too late.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Did internal turmoil in Israel help Hamas? Was it the reason behind the intelligence failure?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> It is possible that Hamas and whoever helped them assumed that Israel was torn from inside with a major internal political and ideological rift. But I don't think this was a major reason. It was perhaps a major consideration for the timing of the attack. But the planning would have taken a long time, and it would have started even before this government came to power. I don't think the military and the intelligence were so obliterated by the internal rift. It is caused by a very bad case of a very bad government handling a very bad situation. But there is no doubt in my mind that the person at fault is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because he was not doing what he needed to do, to take care of the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q But the IDF and the intelligence apparatus should have been alert.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> That is something which I am not able to understand. There was a major strategic deception on the part of Hamas, and you have to commend them on this unbelievable operation. And I am the last one here to defend the Israeli military, because it was really a major, major failure. But four days later, we have managed to push Hamas back. Close to 1,800 Hamas fighters are dead. Our air force is doing terrible destruction in Gaza.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What next in Gaza?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> I can pretty much assume that two things will be happening: One is the constant bombardment of Gaza, and the other thing is a total siege. There is no electricity, no fuel, no food and no medicine coming into Gaza from anywhere. Now, the water situation in Gaza is very acute, because they don't have enough water. The electricity is working on generators, but the fuel will not last for more than 10 days or two weeks. There will be a humanitarian calamity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Will the Netanyahu government face major repercussions after this despite calls of national unity?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> I think Netanyahu should have resigned yesterday, but he did not. His government has a 64-56 majority in parliament, and if things are back to normal, they will use this majority to stay on in power. Nothing can force them to have an election before three years from now. Something has to break from within Netanyahu's own coalition. If some people desert his coalition and force him to resign, then maybe there will be a political change and also a policy and strategic change. But if this does not happen, there is no way to force him out. The only possible way to do it is to have at least six members of the Likud party tell him to go away and maybe choose a different leader. Or if he doesn't listen to them, they can cross over to the opposition and topple the government. He does not want to do anything that will undermine his total control in the parliament. So I don't know if it will happen, because if 1,100 dead people will not move him, I don’t know what will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Do you think Iran played a role in the attack?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Iran is supporting Hamas, probably with money and weapons and with all kinds of political and international support. Maybe they gave them some advice, but I think it would be foolish to say that this was done by Iran and not by the Palestinians. I think the Palestinians are pretty smart people, just like the Iranians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Do you see the Hezbollah activating the Northern Front?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ARight now, there is no direct Hezbollah involvement, but on October 9, there was an infiltration of a Palestinian group from Lebanon, which could have been a Hezbollah proxy. Israel has reacted and as a result, Hezbollah lost four people. Usually, this is enough of a trigger for the Hezbollah to react, but the group chose not to. You have to remember that the United States has sent an aircraft carrier group to the Middle East, and has asked everyone to keep away from this conflict, which may be some sort of a restraint on the Hezbollah.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Is a ground attack on Gaza likely soon?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> It is more likely than not. It is, however, not a smart move. But the wish of the Israeli people for revenge is so big that I don't think the military can withstand the criticism if it does not do something inside Gaza, as they say, with boots, and not from air. Personally, I would recommend to our military to make the siege very effective, and to strangle them very slowly until they are willing to have a negotiation about a lot of things. I don't know what Netanyahu will push them to do, because he badly needs a victory.</p> Sat Oct 14 17:26:19 IST 2023 head-of-the-israeli-directorate-of-defense-research-and-development-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The world’s first missile defence system, the Iron Dome, is facing its biggest test. More than 5,000 rockets were fired from Gaza on October 7, and though the Iron Dome intercepted most of them, many missiles hit the targets. The Israeli ministry of defence maintained that the Iron Dome minimised casualties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three months ago, THE WEEK interviewed the founder of the Iron Dome, Brigadier General (res) Daniel Gold, who is director at the Directorate of Defence Research and Development. Edited excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How did you plan and build the Iron Dome?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> In the late 1990s, I recognised the problem that missiles and rockets posed for Israel. I was head of the R&amp;D unit in the Directorate of Defence Research &amp; Development. I directed my team to explore options for developing a missile defence system. After the second Lebanon war, the government accepted our proposal for the Iron Dome.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Iron Dome is an innovative, mobile system that defends against short-range rockets. It is capable of successfully handling multiple incoming threats simultaneously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Iron Dome has been regularly upgraded. While the hardware has remained largely unchanged, software updates have enhanced its capabilities to deal with larger salvos. The Iron Dome has in recent times demonstrated an impressive success rate of 96 per cent in thwarting attacks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How are David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 weapon systems being used?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> The Arrow 3 air and missile defence system has been operational since 2015. It is capable of intercepting exoatmospheric threats at very high speeds. Arrow 2 has been operational since 2000. It was developed based on lessons learned from the Gulf War. It will be phased out and replaced by Arrow 4. The Arrow family primarily focuses on countering high-altitude, long-distance threats ―such as the Iranian Shahab and other intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>David’s Sling, which became operational in 2017, is designed to intercept rockets, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles. It successfully carried out its first interception during the Shield and Arrow operation in May.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How is Israel preparing for hybrid warfare?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A </b>We are working towards merging air defence systems with other defensive capabilities. One example of this integration is the inclusion of high-power laser technology into the air defence array. The overall system thus becomes more robust and effective in countering hybrid threats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Furthermore, Israel is exploring technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence for strengthening its preparedness for hybrid warfare scenarios.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Tell us about the Iron Beam high-power laser system.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> It has been under development for over a decade. In the last two years, there was successful demonstration of prototypes of the high-energy laser technology. The Iron Beam has now entered full-scale development. The ultimate goal is to integrate it into the Iron Dome. The Iron Beam is a game changer as it can significantly reduce costs associated with intercepting threats.</p> Sat Oct 14 17:24:02 IST 2023 how-israel-plans-for-hybrid-wars-of-the-future-with-the-cyber-dome <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, predicted that the future of Israel lay in Negev, a vast expanse of undulating desert 90 minutes drive from the bustling Tel Aviv. I went there to see this future in July, but all I saw were camels and cattle roaming the countryside. Vegetation was scarce. Seeds of a different kind were being sown in a 1,800-acre complex in Negev’s capital Beer Sheva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As men behind computer monitors are replacing men in foxholes in modern warfare, Israel has gone all in on cyber, be it for defence or for attack. It has pooled its best brains to design a ‘Cyber Dome’, on the lines of the country’s famous Iron Dome.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Cyber Dome is big data; it is AI; it is a medley of futuristic digital technology; and it is being composed by an ‘orchestra’ in the desert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the Cyber Dome will fight virtual wars, unlike the Iron Dome, the composition of their soldiers is not dissimilar. These are men and women drawn from the defence intelligence Unit 8200; J6 and Cyber Defence Directorate within the Israel Defence Forces (IDF); cyber units of the spy agency Mossad and domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet; and the ministry of defence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We call it the secret sauce,” said Gaby Portnoy, director general, Israel National Cyber Directorate. “While the orchestra (combined efforts of various departments) works outside, INCD does the internal work. We all work closely together. All the alerts we receive from the orchestra are used to improve our skills. We sit and talk together often.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Portnoy and friends are working with many partners to build and expand the Cyber Dome as part of a national and multinational strategy. This is especially important because of the ongoing war with Hamas; both sides have reportedly launched cyberattacks to create confusion and alarm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There has been a rapid cross-pollination between the military, academia, government and private industry in cyberspace in the past couple of years,” said Erez Tidhar, executive director, INCD. And all these players, be it the IDF or the private industry, are active in the desert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The uniting theme, perhaps, is the military’s stamp on Israel’s cyber industry. Israelis enrol for compulsory military training at age 18 (three years for boys and two for girls), but those as young as 15 are allowed to join elite cyber forces like Unit 8200.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“So, every three years, a new generation comes into cyber defence once they complete military training,” said Tidhar. “And, officers retiring from the defence forces join the private cyber industry.” In about half a decade, this cycle has given rise to a cyber ecosystem that has some of the best personnel and technology in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A common refrain is that the military-trained Israeli never retires. This has been a boon for the cyber industry. More than 33 per cent of the world’s cyber unicorns are Israeli. More than 40 per cent of the private global investment in cyber funding is in Israel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The “secret” of Portnoy’s secret sauce is the generative artificial intelligence platforms the IDF has quietly created. The IDF was one of the first in the world to use AI to thwart threats. Intelligence services use generative AI platforms, similar to ChatGPT, to filter important threats from the unlimited amount of intelligence flowing into their systems. The IDF uses these platforms to create its own protection wall and to bolster attack capabilities during war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Beer Sheva complex runs these AI-supported military programmes. Nearly 14,000 men and women in military fatigues fight enemies from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other state and non-state actors from China and Russia. “Anyone who carries out cyberattacks against Israeli citizens must take into account the price he will pay,” said Portnoy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ronen Bar, director of Shin Bet, said AI technology had been incorporated quite naturally into his spy agency’s interdiction machines (which assess threats). “Already, with AI, we have identified a significant number of threats,” he said. The moment such threats enter Israeli cyberspace, smaller war rooms of INCD’s Computer Emergency Response Team of Israel (CERT-IL) detect and kill them. CERT-IL has several war rooms in Beer Sheva. Interestingly, the space between man and machine is equally divided in these war rooms. One half is occupied by tattooed, nerdy youth who physically monitor real-time graphic data flowing in from each corner of the country on multiple screens. The other half is completely digital, running on AI and machine learning. It gathers, reads and interprets data to detect anomalies and alert the national systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike most countries, Israel is not embarrassed to admit to or share details of a cyberattack. “We want to be attacked. Send us the trojans and malware. It helps us prepare better,” said a cyber war room expert. “Not only will we prepare ourselves, we will tell the rest of the world how to do it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel has built assets for its own use and for the needs of other nations, too. “What Israel did differently was to become the first country to come out of the closet and make cyber technology a legitimate tool of everyday life,” said Isaac Ben-Israel, the father of the cybersecurity ecosystem in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel’s quest to defeat cyber weapons is at least a decade old; in 2010, the world’s first-known cyber weapon, Stuxnet, disabled a key part of the Iranian nuclear programme. “The idea is to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, and the Israelis have learnt it over the years,” said Ran Natanzon, head of innovation at the ministry of foreign affairs. “To begin with, the country had to cope with small desert land and water scarcity. We used our expertise in innovation and technology to turn these disadvantages into an advantage.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israelis adopted a similar approach in the cyber sphere as the first respondents to cyberattacks, developed a robust cyber security industry and then put it to dual technology use for military and civilian life. “Ingenuity and innovation are at the heart of Israel’s cyber industry,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every April 7, since 2013, anonymous groups around the world launch massive attacks on Israeli websites. They call it Hack Israel Day. “These attacks are not fully coordinated as they can be launched from any part of the world. They also occur anytime in any part of the country,” said Natanzon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Israelis have turned it into a learning experience. As the attacks are launched from different time zones, the cyber warriors come prepared; it is a day to order pizzas, settle in with a cup of coffee and go home late. The outcome―knowledge-sharing, patching up vulnerabilities and finding global solutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yigal Gueta, who cofounded the Israeli National Security Authority, which later became INCD, said attackers were constantly innovating to target operational technology (OT) domains that control entities like power generation, oil and gas, water supply, medical health and data centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Obtaining control of operational technology systems enables a potential attacker to create huge damage in the physical world with little effort,” he said. Gueta is the founder and CEO of ScadaSudo Ltd, a cybersecurity firm that protects critical infrastructure, defence companies and hospitals in Israel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Israeli companies are unique,” said Avner Isaac, a cyber expert at ScadaSudo, who has more than 40 years of military experience. “They are targeted for cyberattacks on a daily basis. This confrontation forces us to be very professional and innovative in our solutions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next challenge? Rein in AI. And these research labs are at it. They have found several vulnerabilities in algorithms in latest AI technologies. Deepfake technology, for instance, can mimic legitimate traffic behaviour and crash autopilot cars. Such scenarios can be mind-boggling. “Today, there is an AI component in every aspect of life,” said Ben-Israel. Be it driverless cars or smart homes. “Very soon, AI will control our lives,” he said. “Before that, we need to control it.”</p> Sat Oct 14 17:21:24 IST 2023 the-story-of-a-m-naik-s-vision-growth-and-expansion-of-larsen-and-toubro <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>What is common to Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, the light rail transit system in Mauritius and the Abu Dhabi International Airport Complex? They were all built by Larsen &amp; Toubro.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Founded in 1938 by Danish engineers Henning Holck-Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro in Mumbai, the company made its name in the engineering and construction space building landmark projects like bridges, airports, nuclear plants, factories, metro rail systems, defence installations, defence vessels, hydroelectric projects among many other things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the engineers from Copenhagen laid the foundation of the company, the credit for what L&amp;T is today goes to the Navsari-born Anil Manibhai Naik. He joined L&amp;T in 1965 as a junior engineer and, after 58 years, stepped down as the group’s chairman on October 1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik’s father was a schoolteacher, who left Bombay for his village in Gujarat in 1952. After earning a degree from Birla Vishvakarma Mahavidyalaya Engineering College in Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Naik joined Nestor Boilers, but soon left it for L&amp;T. “My dream was to go to L&amp;T and serve the nation. L&amp;T was the only platform, and today also is the only platform, which can serve our country,” he said in an exclusive interview.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik’s dedication and hard work saw him rise quickly in the company. He did not take a day off for 21 years, and used to sleep on his office desk frequently. He was appointed the CEO in 1999 and chairman four years later. Under him, L&amp;T grew into an engineering and construction power house. Along the way, it also expanded into areas as diverse as information technology, financial services and real estate. “Naik has been instrumental in making L&amp;T what it is today, a nimble-footed tech-driven engineering and solutions conglomerate,” said S.N. Subrahmanyan, who succeeded Naik as L&amp;T’s chairman and CEO.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Naik could connect the vision for the industry, the long-term strategy and short-term tactics with seamless ease. “He brought the spirit of entrepreneurship into the mindset of professional managers within L&amp;T,” said R. Shankar Raman, chief financial officer of L&amp;T.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, it has not always been smooth sailing for Naik. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he had to resist hostile takeover attempts by the Ambanis and the Birlas. Naik rarely talks about it, but he succeeded in keeping L&amp;T independent. “To me, L&amp;T is like a temple, and I consider myself its keeper. If anyone tries to take over L&amp;T, I am like a wounded tiger. I will do everything within my power to ensure that L&amp;T stays independent and adheres to the highest standards of governance,” Naik told Minhaz Merchant, who wrote the book, <i>The Nationalist</i> (published by HarperCollins), about him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik had a knack for turning crises into opportunities. When the company’s captive IT services business was plagued by high attrition, he converted it to an IT services provider, L&amp;T Infotech. Over the years, the company expanded to overseas markets, securing clients such as Motorola and Chevron. In 2019, L&amp;T acquired Mindtree to become the sixth largest IT company in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Naik’s standout achievement could be L&amp;T’s manufacturing complex in Hazira, Gujarat. L&amp;T bought the saline wasteland and the initial investment at Hazira was Rs42 crore, mentions Merchant’s book. Now the Hazira campus, or the A.M. Naik Heavy Engineering Complex, is a multi-facility manufacturing campus for heavy engineering, defence, shipbuilding and power equipment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another of his big contributions was, perhaps, bringing in meritocracy at L&amp;T. Earlier, promotions were entirely based on the years of service. Naik himself got a promotion only after 12 years. Now merit is the only key metric.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as L&amp;T was spreading its wings across sectors, the engineering, construction and contracts (ECC) business remained at the heart of the company, and Naik’s impact is visible the most here. He restructured the business, separating the heavy civil engineering business into one division and building factories into another. He decided not to take up projects that are less than Rs25 crore. As projects got bigger and bigger, it now does not do projects less than Rs1,000 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tremendous growth under Naik reflects on L&amp;T’s financials. Between 1999 and 2023, its revenue rose from Rs5,000 crore to around Rs1.83 lakh crore. “One aspect that makes Naik all the more special is his ability to visualise the future and plan for it well ahead. L&amp;T’s evolution and staying relevant can be largely attributed to this quality of Naik,” said Subrahmanyan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik groomed Subrahmanyan for more than a decade, and was proud that it was one of the smoothest transitions of power in a publicly held company. “He kept away his family from the business,” said Merchant. “There is no dynastic thing going on like we see in other companies. He could not only have become a promoter, but also promoted his family to positions of power. But, it is a completely professional succession,” said Merchant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Naik is happy man. “Why am I happy? Because the leader L&amp;T has will take the company forward,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik dedicated his life to L&amp;T, but he was clear that he will not own it. When the Birlas sold the stake Grasim owned in L&amp;T, an employees trust was created to hold the shares. L&amp;T Employees Trust now holds around 14 per cent, and is the largest shareholder in the company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik spent a lot of time with employees on the shop floor, and that helped him build excellent relations with union leaders. Merchant has quoted Shailendra Roy, a former director on the board of L&amp;T, in his book as: “Trade union leaders and workers always recognised Naik as a fair person and held him in high regard. This quality helped him negotiate and settle their charter of demands successfully over the years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naik is not hanging up his boots just yet. He will remain the chairman of L&amp;T Employees Trust, and the IT and technology subsidiaries for another year. He is also mentoring a clutch of future leaders in the 35 to 42 age group. They should be ready to take up leadership roles by 2032. “Mentoring is a big thing I do. Right now I am mentoring 40 people as a part of creating future leaders,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The leadership development involves a management education programme in association with IIM Ahmedabad, a global leadership development programme at Ross School of Business, Michigan, a programme in association with INSEAD Asia campus in Singapore, and a global CEO programme with Harvard Business School.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past few years, Naik has also been devoting a lot of time to philanthropy. He pledged 75 per cent of his income to charity, setting up the Naik Charitable Trust, which focuses on education and skill building, and Nirali Memorial Medical Trust, which focuses on providing health care facilities. The Nirali Memorial Medical Trust is named after his granddaughter whom he lost to cancer at two. Naik turned his personal loss into a philanthropic goal. The trust runs several facilities, including a multi-specialty health care facility in Mumbai, a radiation centre in Surat, and a health campus in Navsari, which has a state-of-the-art cancer care centre and a multi-speciality hospital.</p> <p>“He was ahead of the times in philanthropy and generosity as well, giving 75 per cent of his wealth to charity,” said Merchant. “His contribution to building a school and hospitals is extraordinary and predates the philanthropic work of many others.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My life and legacy are L&amp;T,” Naik wrote in his letter to shareholders this year. And he was “happy and content” that he was leaving it in “capable hands” to continue its exemplary record of service to the nation and society.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The famous Raj Kapoor number ‘Jeena yahan, marna yahan, iske siva jaana kahan’ is Naik’s favourite song. Nothing sums up more aptly his legacy and his sense of belonging at L&amp;T.</p> Sat Oct 07 17:32:09 IST 2023 former-l-and-t-chairman-a-m-naik-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>ANIL MANIBHAI NAIK,</b> 81, the long-serving boss of Larsen &amp; Toubro stepped down as non-executive chairman on October 1. He spent close to six decades at the engineering and construction company, overseeing its growth and expansion to a global giant. In an exclusive interview, Naik talks about his life at L&amp;T, succession and his philanthropic works. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You were with L&amp;T since 1965. Is there some emotional sadness about stepping down?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Though on paper I have spent around 60 years, in the hours that I have spent―15 hours a day, seven days a week, and not taking a leave―I am about 120 years. But in one lifetime, L&amp;T grew 92 per cent; what I inherited was only 8 per cent. In 25 years, I created a new L&amp;T.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not sad at all. I am a very happy man. My father told me not to take anything from anybody, because that is a liability. But if you give, it is a pleasure. So, at this stage in life, I am in a process of giving. In 60 years, I have collected so much I do not want to go without giving. I feel so happy that we have a very good successor. I was never mentored. I got one week’s notice to take over. I have been mentoring SNS (S.N. Subrahmanyan, his successor) from 2011. And he became CEO in 2017. When I first saw him in 2006, he was only a joint general manager. [He went up] from joint GM to GM to vice president to senior VP to joining the executive board. I sent him abroad for a year while he was a director. I was backing up his portfolio as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not emotional because I have been preparing myself for the past 10 years. My whole life has been L&amp;T and nothing else. My wife says she is a second wife; first wife is L&amp;T. I have slept on the office table many times. Even when my wife was young. I have been devoted to L&amp;T.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your first employer was willing to pay you better. You also had an interview with Philips. Why did you choose L&amp;T, that too for a lower level job?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> My ambition was to join L&amp;T. I joined Nestor Boilers because L&amp;T was interviewing only IIT students; one exception was VJTI (Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute in Mumbai). My father had left [Bombay] for the village and I went with him. He told me to go to Vallabh Vidyanagar [in Gujarat] and I went there. So I missed IIT. If I was in Bombay and my father had continued with his job, I would have gone to IIT Bombay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I joined a small company, but that experience was just the right one for me to join L&amp;T. When I made up my mind to move, I applied to 20 companies. I got interview offers from Phillips and L&amp;T. Phillips was more for electrical and electronic engineers. I was a mechanical engineer. L&amp;T would give me much better responsibilities. So I attended the interview and was selected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Nestor Boilers, I was being paid Rs800, as a workshop in-charge with 400 workers. General manager Gunnar Hansen of L&amp;T thought I was overconfident. Earlier, E.T. Baker (who hired Naik) had offered me Rs760 as assistant engineer. Hansen made it Rs670, junior engineer and unionised category. I accepted the job because my dream was to join L&amp;T and serve the nation. Money didn’t matter to me; even today, it doesn’t matter to me. I have never checked my salary slip in 60 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I became CEO, I got a call from a headhunter in Hong Kong offering me a job at a multinational as Asia manager. I told him I was not looking for a bigger job. I asked him to meet me, as I needed lots of good people. He never came.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You did not take leave for 21 years.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> As a student, I hardly attended class. Professors used to think that I would fail, but I would finally come out fifth or sixth in the class. When I graduated, I said the student life is over, I was going into business life and that is a completely different story. I enjoyed working so much.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People used to ask me when did I relax? I would say when I worked. And then they would ask when would I get tensed? I would say if I had no work. I was given more and more responsibility. That kept me occupied and interested. And I just did not feel like going home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, my wife was there. She suffered a lot. Many nights I slept in office and she used to be worried. She had to sleep in the flat alone. I should have thought about what she was going through, was it really worth it. But, that is past. Basically, you have to enjoy what you are doing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ L&amp;T’s strength was in engineering and construction. Over a period, it expanded into other businesses―from information technology to financial services. What triggered it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We started financial services in 1994. We were into industrial products―switchgear, petrol pumps, construction machinery. People who were buying these needed loans. So we had captive customers. It was not doing well, though. We changed the entire structure and the CEO. We also changed the profile of the business and we had 105 per cent increase in profit this year. Next year will be similar. And we have repaid Rs5,000 crore for non-performing assets. So the balance sheet is becoming cleaner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three years ago, L&amp;T Finance share was hovering around Rs50-Rs55. It has now gone up to Rs130. I would not be surprised if it keeps going up, because from a wholesale finance company, we have become a retail finance company. We had only 20 per cent retail business. Now we have 80 per cent retail and we want to take it to 95 per cent, if possible 100 per cent. So it will be like a bank. That will be a tremendous progress in overall L&amp;T Finance portfolio.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I took over, I wanted to form a five-year strategic plan. I called it Project Bluechip. Later on, as the company did well, we changed the name to Lakshya. After we implemented the strategic plan, I saw that we had 60 per cent attrition rate in our IT captive unit. We wanted to automise the processes of the entire company. We were the first company in the country to buy enterprise resource planning system. People were leaving because we were paying them L&amp;T salary, which was one-fourth of IT industry salary. We formed a company called L&amp;T Infotech, transferred the IT people there and started paying them IT industry salary. That brought down the attrition to 40 per cent. But 40 per cent was still a lot. Then I found that everybody wanted to go abroad, preferably the US. So, I said I would start an IT company to stop the attrition, because it was hurting the rest of the company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In August 2000, I went to the US for the first time and started meeting people whom I personally knew. I got the first [project] because the CEO was close to me. It was only $6 million. One and a half years later we got another one. Slowly I brought back some of the employees. Then I got the 16 smartest people from L&amp;T, oriented them for three weeks and sent them to London, New York and California, and I opened 12 offices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Defence manufacturing is an area largely dependent on government contracts. How do you see L&amp;T’s future in this?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There is so much talk about the Bofors gun. Our Vajra howitzer is much better than Bofors. We made 100 of them and hopefully we will get orders for 100 more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I wanted to do something for the country using L&amp;T as a platform, and defence was absolutely in the country’s interest. In 1950 we started nuclear, in 1975 we started aerospace, and in 1986 we started defence. Now we do about Rs12,000-Rs15,000 crore worth of business every year and are the biggest in the private sector. But the reason we are not able to get and do more is because the government keeps on nominating the public sector, and they don’t deliver for 8 to 10 years. The country is suffering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our urge was always to go into high-tech, and defence was high-tech. Defence work has application in many commercial areas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ When did you zero in on S.N. Subrahmanyan as your successor?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> SNS knows engineering and construction contract (ECC) inside out, as he came from there. I met him first in 2006. I met him because G.M. Rao (of GMR Group) wanted to build the Delhi airport. And he told SNS, who was doing selling, marketing and business development, that he wanted to see the chairman. I went and I could make out that the project would come to us. After that there was no looking back. When GVK wanted to make the Mumbai airport, they called me along with SNS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, it took years to get promotions. But I changed that by bringing in meritocracy. At that level you cannot be fooling around with seniority. Two people were a little sad that they were not getting a chance. But, I pumped them up and they have wholeheartedly accepted SNS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then I gave him additional responsibilities. In 2015, I sent him to the US for a year. As soon as he came back, I made him vice chairman. In 2016, we made him chairman of Hyderabad Metro and chairman of our defence shipyard near Kattupalli. After that, I went to the board saying that I had been watching this man for 10 years and mentoring him. I told the board my choice was SNS. The board agreed. In 2017, he was made CEO. I don’t think there are many such competent people in the industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you see the future of L&amp;T under his leadership?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It is [only] a matter of time that we make Rs3 lakh crore [turnover]. Now, we have got one high-speed rail job, which is worth Rs26,000 crore, and we are going to get a large job overseas that no one has ever dreamt of in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have for long batted for reducing imports and making in India. Do you think the environment today is conducive enough for industry and investment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Over time, the government was vociferating that no private sector, only government sector. So we didn’t get any job. Pioneering work was done by L&amp;T in the nuclear sector. But the government gave away projects to BHEL. When BHEL failed, they brought L&amp;T back after 10 years. Now again BHEL is lagging behind by five to seven years. Those were the days when I might have gone 30 or 40 times to convince secretaries that if you want to create a nation with power, you have to take everyone with you and make competitive bidding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What next for you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>The L&amp;T Trust, which owns L&amp;T, and L&amp;T, which manages L&amp;T Group, are two different pillars. I am still the chairman of L&amp;T Trust. So, I am just stepping aside. I am also the chairman of the IT and engineering services till next July. I have a timetable. Next year, I will give away both. I will continue as adviser for two years. I am the (honorary) Consul General for Denmark. But, I have said by 2025 March, I am out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You run charities in health care and education. Will that take up more of your time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> My son is in Navsari. My daughter-in-law goes to the school and hospital every Saturday. My sister’s daughter looks after education and skilling in the rural parts and health care is looked after by my son. My sister’s grandson has shifted from Mumbai to Navsari. So, I have good pillars now. I still sanction money and sign off on payments. Some day, my son will do that or whoever is the most competent will. It could be my daughter-in-law or niece or son. But, that time has not yet come.</p> Sat Oct 07 17:30:11 IST 2023 decoding-the-happy-bundle-of-contradictions-that-is-a-m-naik <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>TOUGH YET TENDER,</b> an exacting taskmaster yet a considerate team leader, A.M. Naik is a happy coalition of contradictions. It is a coalition that works, and how! He is known to have steamrolled opponents one morning and be on backslapping terms with them that very evening. He has several good friends in the industry and in government circles. But that has not stopped him from calling them out when he felt that they had slipped up. And, the best part is that his candid expression of disapproval did not affect the relationships in the slightest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although he has been covered intensely by the media, most people see only one facet of this many-sided personality. That is why insiders at Larsen &amp; Toubro say that one needs to spend a year with him to discover all the dimensions of this larger-than-life corporate leader. For obvious reasons, spending an entire year was not possible, but here, pieced together from a variety of sources are a clutch of stories about the head honcho of one of India’s most admired companies. Put all the jigsaw pieces together and you will get a picture of a Naik you may not have seen before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is hard-driving and intense. As somebody said years ago, he is the kind of leader who, if you do not do as he thinks, will ensure that you think as he does! Many would conclude therefore that there is no lighter side to Naik. But that is not true. He has a quick, quirky sense of humour that can suddenly enliven interactions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One well-known story goes back to Naik’s early days as in-charge of L&amp;T’s workshops. That was where he first put in place the building blocks of his formidable reputation. He would not take any slack even in the soporific night shifts, and was as obsessed with punctuality as he is today. The story goes that once Naik and his team were wrestling grimly with a problem in a critical piece of equipment for the hydrocarbon industry. It was a tough nut to crack and, try as they did, nothing seemed to work. Evening turned to night and night turned to the wee hours of morning. Finally, the breakthrough! “Basics, man! Basics,” exclaimed Naik, pointing to a solution that had apparently been staring them in the face. The clock high up on the factory wall showed 3am. Everyone then went home to get as much sleep as they possibly could. But one engineer overslept and reached the factory gate just a little past the scheduled hour. A stern-faced Naik stood near the punch card system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Why are you late?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Sir, you know,” the answer came in a stutter, “you know how delayed we were going home last night.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“So what,” snapped Naik. Everyone around froze. And then immediately, as if a favourable wind had blown away the storm clouds, the frown broke into a smile. “Coming to work on time,” he said, eyes twinkling, “is your duty. Going back after office hours is your pleasure.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s Naik for you. This equilibrium of opposites has been evident all through his career. When the large works complex at Hazira near Surat was coming up in the 1980s, it was all hands on deck and duty was 24x7. Land had to be filled in, columns to be erected and giant equipment put in place. There was not a minute to be spared. But late in the evening, the captain would round up his hardworking team and shepherd them all to dinner at Surat’s Kwality Restaurant. Manager, supervisor and everyone at hand would agree with Naik―no matter how hard pressed you are, we all scream for ice cream! If this had happened in our more brand-conscious times, Kwality would have made the Hazira crew its brand ambassadors!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most people feel compelled to swear either by modern technology or by the glories of our venerable tradition. Naik faces no such dilemma. He is a vociferous champion of technology. In fact, fellow industrialist Mukesh Ambani once said that you only need to talk to Naik once about some new technologies entering the market and he would be intrigued. Before you knew it, he would be incorporating the very same technologies into L&amp;T’s factories. But simultaneously, this technology aficionado is also deeply respectful of tradition. Naik is increasingly spending time on his three-pronged philanthropic initiatives for health care, education and skill-building, and has been voted the country’s most generous corporate philanthropist by a research company. Naik’s philanthropy encompasses extending generous grants to set up a traditional Vaidik School in Valsad, south Gujarat, where the medium of instruction is Sanskrit. The school’s aim is to restore the glory of our ancient land and re-establish the relevance of the Vedas. Naik is all in favour. After all, it is possible in Naik’s worldview to extol the wonder that was ancient India while exploring the new frontiers opened up by AI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like every Indian, Naik worships two gods with equal fervour―cricket and Bollywood. It is not just cursory interest, because nothing for Naik is ever cursory. He is often ‘batting coach’, ‘bowling coach’ and ‘selector-in-chief’, with strong views on batters who should be retained and those who deserve to be discarded. When a key match is underway, it is said that he would dart back to his room to check the score, before getting back to business without the slightest lapse of concentration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is also equally passionate about Hindi films. His biography―<i>The Nationalist</i>―quotes him as saying: “Once we (Naik and his college chums) saw three consecutive shows, from 3pm to 6pm, 6pm to 9pm and 9pm to 12am! That was just once. But two shows, one after the other, we did many times.” In his first year in college, his tally of films was a whopping 105. His perennial favourite was Dilip Kumar, and in one of the delicious twists of history, his Bandra home is next to where the actor used to stay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, neither cricket nor films can ever replace his year-round top favourite―work. Yes, he enjoys work. In fact, relishes it. Time was when he used to work 16 hours a day. That frenetic style may now be behind him, but he still clocks in long hours despite age taking its toll. In one incident recently, he was admitted to hospital for a condition that demanded close and continuous observation. But there was a hitch―Naik’s schedule indicated that he was to attend a board meeting. In his mind, health issues and hospital procedures could wait because missing a board meeting was unthinkable! He took special permission from the hospital to allow him to be driven to L&amp;T’s head office over 10km away. Permission was reluctantly granted, but the doctors insisted that he would be driven directly back after the meeting was over. The board meeting did get over as scheduled, but Naik then remembered that he was to interview teachers for the school he had set up in Powai. Hospital and drips be damned! Naik headed for the interviews. Fortunately, nothing untoward happened. What the doctors at the hospital did not realise, and what Naik’s personal physician knows well, is that work is the ultimate therapy for the ageing industrialist. As he once confided to an industrialist-friend: “I don’t know what rest is. Work is my hobby.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By all accounts, Naik today is a wealthy man, but you will not realise it. There is no flashy opulence, and not even a hint of ostentation. Years ago, he had told a magazine that he had only a couple of suits, which were deemed mandatory for major meetings, six shirts and trousers. When asked more recently if his wardrobe was now better stocked, he said the opposite had happened: “Now I don’t have those suits and shirts,” he said. “I am happy in my T-shirt.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The village lad from rural south Gujarat who made it to the top echelons of industry is busy mapping the future while consciously going back to his roots. A vibrant equilibrium of opposites, if ever there was one.</p> Sat Oct 07 17:28:01 IST 2023 l-and-t-is-preparing-itself-for-a-change-in-the-business-environment <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>LARSEN &amp; TOUBRO BUILT </b>its reputation as an engineering and construction company. But it is now a lot more than that, with a strong presence in heavy engineering, thermal power plants, defence, information technology, financial services, real estate and smart city projects. And the company is preparing itself for changes in the ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>S.N. Subrahmanyan, who succeeded A.M. Naik as chairman and managing director on October 1, said in his first letter to the staff that the world was going through massive changes and L&amp;T must be ready for it. Subrahmanyan had been groomed by Naik for almost a decade to steer the company into the future. But that future could well be very different from what the company imagined a while ago. It is restructuring old businesses like financial services and thermal power plants, and embracing new areas like renewable energy and defence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>L&amp;T continues to grow in its core engineering and construction space. Its order inflows last quarter surged 57 per cent to Rs65,520 crore and its order book stood at Rs4.12 lakh crore at the end of June 30, 2023, an all-time high. International orders comprised 42 per cent of total order inflows in the June quarter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Renewable energy will be a big focus area in this next wave of growth. “Given the compulsions of dealing with climate change and fully aware of the responsibility to contribute to a sustainable planet, the company has identified areas to work around green energy both as a manufacturer of equipment as well as an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) participant,” said R. Shankar Raman, chief financial officer of L&amp;T.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Already a large player in solar energy, L&amp;T is looking at green hydrogen as a key business in the future, with plans to invest around $4 billion in three to five years along with its partners. It has set up a green hydrogen plant at the A.M. Naik Heavy Engineering Complex in Hazira, Gujarat. The company is also set to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in NEOM, an ambitious smart city project in Saudi Arabia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>L&amp;T recently set up a joint venture with ReNew Power and Indian Oil, called GH4India, for developing green hydrogen and its derivatives like green ammonia and methanol. All three companies will have an equal stake in the venture. “As our participation in renewable energy space increases, we see a phased transition from executing fossil fuel plants,” said Shankar Raman. But these are still early days of worldwide energy transition and it would take a few years for the plans to take shape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just as the shift in the energy business is nudged by a global movement towards renewable energy, L&amp;T’s financial services business is also undergoing a big change owing to the growing demand for credit among retail customers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>L&amp;T entered the financial services business in 1994 with a non-banking finance company to provide credit to its construction equipment customers. Over time, it built a large wholesale loan book and entered areas like mutual funds and wealth management.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At some point the company was hoping to get a banking licence. But, with the Reserve Bank keeping large corporate houses out of banking and the financial business lagging within L&amp;T Group, the company restructured it. “The business portfolio of financial services business was built keeping in view the possibility of obtaining a banking licence. Given the regulatory stance, such a licence was appearing remote. The company decided to refashion its business portfolio by exiting wholesale lending, project finance, asset management and wealth management,” said Shankar Raman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year ago, L&amp;T Finance sold the mutual fund business to HSBC Asset Management for $425 million. Before that, it had sold its wealth management business to IIFL. The company is now focusing on housing finance, consumer loans, farm equipment finance, micro loans and loans to small and medium enterprises. Retail now contributes about 82 per cent of the overall loan mix. The goal is to take it to 90 per cent by March 2024. L&amp;T Finance has roped in former ICICI Bank executive Sudipta Roy as its chief operating officer and he will take charge as managing director and CEO in January 2024, when incumbent Dinanath Dubhashi will superannuate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not surprising, as retail loans have seen tremendous growth across the sector, around 25 per cent a year between March 2021 and March 2023. L&amp;T’s plan is to become “a significant player in retail and rural markets using digital technology and brand as a strong differentiator”, said Shankar Raman. L&amp;T Financial Services is expected to complete its transformation into a digitally-enabled retail powerhouse by the end of the Lakshya 2026 strategic plan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lakshya 2026, announced in 2022, envisages group revenue rising to Rs2.7 lakh crore by FY2026. The plan is looking also at strong growth in the IT and technology services as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Started in 1996, L&amp;T Infotech has been growing steadily over the years, both organically and inorganically. L&amp;T acquired Bengaluru-based Mindtree in 2019 and the two businesses were merged a year ago, creating the sixth largest IT services firm in India by revenue. LTI Mindtree reported a revenue of Rs33,183 crore and a net profit of Rs4,408 crore in 2022-23. Separately, L&amp;T Technology Services reported a revenue of Rs8,014 crore last year, and a net profit of Rs1,170 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Till about six years ago, the infrastructure vertical contributed almost half of the profits of the group. That has been gradually falling as the IT and technology services businesses have expanded. However, the IT services industry has seen a sharp slowdown in the recent quarters as clients in developed markets have cut back on spends or delayed decisions amid the economic downturn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shankar Raman is not too worried about these challenges. “As is the case with every business, IT services business also faces periodical challenges in the form of rapidly changing technology, talent availability, clients’ priorities, policy-induced visa restrictions and wage inflation. We are optimistic about the long-term prospects of all our services businesses,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past few quarters, the market has been worried about the declining margins at L&amp;T, especially in the infrastructure projects segment. In the quarter ended on June 30, margins in the infrastructure projects segment declined to 5.1 per cent from 6.5 per cent. But this is attributed to the legacy projects during the Covid-19 pandemic and high staff costs. “The margin that we are reporting presently is a product of cost committed towards project order book execution during the post Covid and Ukraine-Russia war period,” said Shankar Raman. “The disrupted supply chain resulted in sharp inflation of products used in engineering and construction projects. The wage cost also shot up considering the reverse migratory trend of workmen.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the fall in input costs, improvement of the supply chain, completion of legacy projects and higher margins from the newer projects, the company should report better margins from the 2024-25 financial year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As L&amp;T transitions into the future, its services portfolio―IT and engineering services, financial services, realty, ed-tech and e-commerce―constitutes 32 per cent of its revenues. The margins have historically been better in services business. Subrahmanyan, however, said engineering would always form the core of the company. “Going forward L&amp;T’s bouquet of services will keep expanding. But, that does not mean we will move away from engineering and construction, which has been our core expertise. Rather, we are exploring ways to move up the value chain to improve our margins in this segment as well,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subrahmanyan wants L&amp;T to be selective―choose projects involving a minimum investment threshold and aim for more complex projects. The company is also leveraging newer technologies, like 3D printing, in a big way to enhance productivity. “The innovations resulting from the digitalisation of our various processes have made project execution faster, safer and more accurate,” he said.</p> Sat Oct 07 17:25:04 IST 2023 bcci-president-roger-binny-exclusive-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Roger Binny was appointed president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India last year, his friend Santosh Desai had this to say: “He will do his job quietly, without much fuss. He is no-nonsense in a way, without being confrontational. If he sees incompetency around him, he will quietly call it out.” Desai should know, having opened the batting for Karnataka along with Binny in the Ranji Trophy for many years and later partnered him in running the state cricket board.</p> <p>In his playing years, Binny was the nicest man around. He still remains one. He only hurt rivals with the red cherry that swung both ways. No wonder he was a huge success in the 1983 World Cup in England, where he took a record 18 wickets, and in the World Series Cricket Championship in Australia two years later, where he picked up 17. Most underrated is his contribution with the bat in many an Indian win. Though he was a successful opener in Ranji Trophy—he and Desai produced an unbroken 451-run opening stand against Kerala in the Ranji Trophy, which stood as a record for many years—he rarely got a chance to bat up the order, thanks to established names like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Sandip Patil, Yashpal Sharma, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Kapil Dev. But, as he recalls in this exclusive interview, despite the star batters, most Indian victories in the 1983 World Cup were scripted by all-rounders whose 20s and 30s made the difference.</p> <p>Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Let us start with the 1983 World Cup. You took the important wicket of Clive Lloyd in the final. Are the memories still fresh?</b></p> <p>It doesn’t seem that long ago. No one gave us a chance. Even we were not confident after what happened to us in the previous two World Cups. But as things went on, I put it to the first game, that’s where everything changed for us [India beat the West Indies by 34 runs; Binny scored 27 and took three wickets, including that of Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd]. That really kick-started our World Cup.</p> <p><b>Was it the team combination that really made the difference?</b></p> <p>That’s right. It was the combination of the team. The playing 11. If you look at the matches, we won a lot of them because of contributions from the back half of our batting. Chipping in with 20s and 30s. From the numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8, everybody contributed. If you look back at the scores, that’s what really helped us.</p> <p><b>The only one in the squad who didn’t play a match was Sunil Valson. Ahead of one match you had a niggle, and Valson was told he would be playing. The following morning, you passed the fitness test. When Valson was told that he would be sitting out, he said it was was fine because you were the nicest guy in the team.</b></p> <p>I feel sorry for Sunil Valson. The best 11 had to be played. Valson’s handicap was that he was a specialist bowler. If he were good with the bat, he could have replaced one of us. You are better off having a person who can bat and bowl a bit. That is why he missed out.</p> <p><b>You talked about specialist bowlers and all-rounders. Do you think the Indian team selected to play this World Cup has the right balance?</b></p> <p>They have gone in with Shardul Thakur, who can bat a bit. We have Ravindra Jadeja, who can bat and bowl. We have K.L. Rahul, who is a great keeper as well. Bumrah, surprisingly, the way he batted against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, he looked like a batsman a bit. So, you can include him into that list.</p> <p>When we played the World Cup, there was a regular set-up. They had specialist fast bowlers.... All-rounders were not really much taken into account at that point of time. India really changed the attitude of teams. Say, if you lose five wickets, you have to depend on the next five to perform. If the last two are specialist bowlers, that’s going to be a bit of a setback for the team. It is always better to have somebody who can contribute at least 10 runs in the partnership. But having said that, teams now are going in with specialist bowlers.</p> <p><b>Apart from allrounders you also need specialists.</b></p> <p>True. What the team wants from the specialist is to make those quick breakthroughs up front. If he can grab a few wickets at the start, it makes things easier for the team to slow down the batting in the middle overs. But, I think, having two specialists is a luxury. Three is too much. You need players right up to number nine to contribute with the bat. Especially in the one-day format.</p> <p>If you see what happened to us in 1983, Syed Kirmani, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Madan Lal, all of us chipped in in most of the games. Though Kirmani scored only 10 runs in the match against Zimbabwe, he and Kapil Dev put on a century partnership.</p> <p><b>There was no pressure on you going into the 1983 World Cup. But in 1987, defending champions India played at home and there was a lot of pressure.</b></p> <p>In 1983, there were no expectations at all from the team. Basically, people expected you to just go there, have a holiday and come back. There was no pressure on the players, but each player was trying to perform. I was making a comeback to the team, and we all were trying to cement our place. In 1987, we were the favourites, and everyone said we are going to win. With that came pressure. In England, our fast bowlers got nearly 80 per cent of the wickets. That was not going to happen in India. We had to turn to our spinners to do the job. And the spinners didn’t really get the wickets for us.</p> <p><b>I remember Kapil Dev telling us a few weeks ago how the pressure was being built up: ‘You’re having breakfast in the morning, the guy serves you tea and tells you that you’ve got to win this game. You’ve got to beat Pakistan. Everyone’s involved.’ Does such things add to the pressure and bring about the team’s downfall?</b></p> <p>We learn to handle it. That is part of our game and it is not a worrying thing. Once you get into the field, you just put everything aside and play your game.</p> <p><b>Everyone will agree that we are one of the most consistent teams in World Cups after Australia. But, often, we are found wanting at the final hurdle. Look at what happened to us in World Test Championships in 2021 and 2023. Is this something that you have looked at?</b></p> <p>I think the players are aware of it. A lot of them have been in that situation before. In the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies [for instance], where we did not enter the knockout stage, a transformation was taking place in the team at that point of time.</p> <p><b>When you look at Indian and Pakistani players, they seem to be friendly off the pitch. Does that take away the intensity on the field? Or are you being a sportsman and a human being?</b></p> <p>Well, being a sportsman, you’ve got to acknowledge the other person. It’s not only with Pakistan. When you play Australia, we don’t want to lose. When you play England, we don’t want to lose. When you play New Zealand, we don’t want to lose. We want to win. Against Pakistan, there’s a little bit more, because of the pressure from everyone. The bearer at the hotel telling you something, the receptionist telling you something, the bus driver telling you something.... As we walk out to the field, people will be shouting, you have to win today. That is pressure.</p> <p><b>In the recently concluded Asia Cup, a reserve day was hastily arranged for the India-Pakistan match, which seems to have upset other nations. Did the BCCI play a role in it?</b></p> <p>The two teams took the decision along with the organisers, the Sri Lankan cricket board. The weather was really bad.</p> <p><b>You have been a selector. How good is the rapport between the selectors, the captain and the coach?</b></p> <p>The selectors, the captain and the coach meet up before picking the team. We discuss what is needed, they give their views without naming names. We take points from them. So, when the selectors meet, we know exactly what the requirement is from the team.</p> <p><b>So, does the captain or the coach tell you that they want a leg-spinner or a particular leg-spinner?</b></p> <p>They tell us the combination they need. If we don’t agree with them we deal with it later on. But most of the time we go along with what the captain and the coach have told us. That’s important.</p> <p><b>Earlier you had a Talent Research Development Wing, which helped you identify talent. Are you looking at reviving that?</b></p> <p>I thought that system was really good. It helped throw up a lot more cricketers. When you have some of the past players and coaches watching games, they are able to identify talent and put them through the system. Hopefully, next season, we are going to bring the system back.</p> <p><b>A few months ago Ravi Shastri told THE WEEK that the seniors are ready to be phased out of white ball cricket. Will this be the last World Cup for some of the senior players? With the T20 World Cup coming up next year, we need to look at newer talent.</b></p> <p>We have three different teams for the three formats. With the IPL, we now have the bench strength. In the West Indies tour, you saw some of the youngsters getting an opportunity. So, that’s what we look at in the future. Giving the players a bit of rest. People are getting injured because they are playing too many formats.</p> <p><b>So, are we going to see a completely new, young India in the 2024 T20 World Cup?</b></p> <p>Well, it will be India’s best team, yeah. You probably will have one senior player fitting into that slot. You can’t deny that. You can have one or two players playing all the formats.</p> <p><b>With the three formats, the IPL and the international tournaments, how is the BCCI going to manage players’ workload?</b></p> <p>In fact, we have discussed that. The three formats are going to take a lot out of players and we have got to reduce the load. By picking three different teams for the different formats, this thing definitely will be solved. The IPL franchises want their best team to play. For 5-6 weeks, they can take the best players, India’s best players, to play for the team. But the rest of it is for us to decide, considering their fitness and schedules.</p> <p><b>The 2023 World Test Championship happened 10 days after the IPL. How do you handle such a situation?</b></p> <p>Everybody is aware of the strain the players are going through. After the IPL, they had to play the bilateral series also. So, it has already been discussed. We had reviews on that World Test Championship and T20 World Cup in Australia. We didn’t really perform to our potential in the T20 in Australia. So, reviews have been taken. Now, we have to wait for this World Cup to be over and then start to chalk out things and try and make the best use of the players.</p> <p><b>Ben Stokes said, as England captain, he would understand if a player chose franchise cricket ahead of national duty. With T20 leagues mushrooming all over the world, how would you address that issue in an Indian context?</b></p> <p>Topmost in any cricketer’s mind is playing for your country. To play a Test [for India] was something out of this world. That’s what we all grew up for. Now, things have changed. There’s so much more cricket around. People have more opportunities to go and play elsewhere. So, it’s left to the player if he is going to stay in his territory. At some point, money doesn’t really matter. And nowadays, since the IPL began, there’s no shortage of funds for good players. So, he can be kept at home.</p> <p>Ben Stokes’s view is fine. They are all professional cricketers. In India, we’ve become totally professional in probably the last 10 years or so. Otherwise, most of us worked in offices and practised in the evening. Now, they [current players] don’t need to hold on to a job. So, it’s up to them whether they have got the mindset or the right to play for their country or go and do it elsewhere.</p> <p><b>But can the BCCI play a role in that?</b></p> <p>Well, see, we have already done it. Anyone playing the IPL cannot play in another [international] league. But in future. when things happen, we have to probably sit down and discuss this.</p> <p><b>If a player who has a 50-50 chance of getting into the national team is offered </b><b>20 crore by, say, a potential Saudi league... his life is set. They are already doing it in football and golf.</b></p> <p>See, once a player decides to go there, all his ties to cricket in India are cut off. It’s very clear. You can’t come back to cricket in India.</p> <p><b>Kapil Dev told us that players should make up the BCCI, but also that you need politicians to get something passed, especially in a country like India. Your take?</b></p> <p>It’s an elected body. If you’re a member, you can get into the election and a cricketer can come into a committee. Once you play for the country, you automatically become a member of the association. That gives you an opportunity to put your views forward. Some of them are top industrialists, top people who run the top offices. It’s good for the game because cricket is huge. We need people of that calibre to be part of the system.</p> <p><b>So you need different types of expertise.</b></p> <p>Absolutely. You need good finance people, good administrators. You need a cricketer to run the cricketing things. Former cricketers have to be in the system.</p> <p><b>Talking of expertise and administration, venues and dates were being changed two months before this World Cup. Was that a bit of a sour note?</b></p> <p>One issue we have to look at here is security. If something happens, like when we had security issues regarding the IPL, it’s going to be a black mark on Indian cricket. It’s not that the venues have been changed, but the dates had to be revised. You have to keep these things in order. We don’t want a small incident to tarnish our image.</p> <p><b>I think the issue was more about fans not getting tickets.</b></p> <p>The BCCI said a few years back that tickets should not be sold much ahead of the matches. You should sell them closer to the matches for various reasons. The ticketing was all given to an agency. And the demand is so much. Look at Ahmedabad. They still need more tickets. They have another 1,10,000 people waiting to get to the stadium. So we have to tread slowly and cautiously and give the fans their best. We have worked on [the in-stadium experience] for this World Cup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you ensure that Test cricket survives and grows?</b></p> <p>Our priority is Test Cricket. And there are so many areas that you have to improve. You look at the last series, when England played Australia. The classic series. That’s what will keep Test Cricket alive. We have to do that in India, too. No one comes to a match to see one batsman bat the whole day and score 110 runs. We have to bring the crowds back into Test cricket. Even the one-day cricket is dying. There is not much crowd in the one-day cricket. Pressure for tickets in a T20 game and a one-day game is totally different.</p> <p><b>In 1983, you played 60-over matches. A year later, it was brought down to 50. Do you see it going down to 40? Or do you see one-day cricket giving way to T20?</b></p> <p>We have to find a formula for the one-day games to be more interesting. Something that will keep the crowd entertained. You can’t have it close to a T20. In the one-dayers, you can play a bit of cricket. You don’t have to slog at everything. The one-day format has to undergo some change. They are working on it.</p> <p><b>How good are India’s chances in the upcoming World Cup?</b></p> <p>We’re playing at home, and the players are also confident. They’ve had a good Asia Cup. They’re looking good. But coming back home and playing the World Cup, that’s when things have got to be different for them. The chances are good.</p> <p><b>The chances could have been better had Rishabh Pant been fit. Can you update us about his status?</b></p> <p>His injury is quite serious. So, he needs a little bit of time. The more time the healing takes, he’ll be better off. He’s improved a lot. And he’s started training. It’s only a matter of time before he makes it to the national team.</p> <p><b>Can we see him in the 2024 World Cup?</b></p> <p>Maybe he will be back at the start of the new season next year. As in the case of Bumrah, we have to go slowly with him.</p> <p><b>How has your journey as the BCCI president been?</b></p> <p>I was president of the Karnataka cricket association before I became BCCI president. It was my last term and I was contemplating a retired life with my family, some farming, something different from what I normally do. And out of the blue comes this request and I was very happy to accept it. I was able to learn a lot more about the administration of the game, how it is done in other states.</p> <p><b>You talked about tapping the experience of past players. What about India’s most successful captain M.S. Dhoni?</b></p> <p>He has so much to contribute to the game. All of them. Even Virat Kohli, when he finishes up. Have you heard about Dhoni’s collection of bikes? For the rest of his life, he’s got to be active. It’s important. I mean, you can’t be sitting idle and brooding or watching television the whole time. He’s doing the right thing.</p> <p><b>Like you, Roger. You’ve got many avenues to keep your mind busy. You are an animal lover. You’ve got a farm. And you’re a doting grandfather now.&nbsp;</b></p> Fri Sep 29 19:33:17 IST 2023 indian-cricketer-yuvraj-singh-exclusive-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On August 25, Yuvraj Singh shared a picture of his family on his social media accounts and announced: “Sleepless nights have become a lot more joyful as we welcome our little princess Aura....” In the photo, Yuvraj’s wife, actor Hazel Keech, could be seen holding their son Orion, born a year ago, while Aura rested peacefully on daddy’s chest, sucking at a feeding bottle. Hazel smiled for camera, while Yuvraj had an aura of contentedness.</p> <p>Yuvraj became a serious contender for the India cap on the basis of his impresssive performance for the national under-19 team led by Mohammad Kaif, with whom he would later have a scintillating partnership at Lord’s that helped India win the final of the NatWest Series against England in 2002. Yuvraj hit a breezy 69 at more than run-a-ball and Kaif remained not out with an even quicker 87. Since then, Yuvraj has been part of several Indian conquests, and has won seven player of the series awards in ODI cricket. He hit the then fastest fifty in a T20 international in the 2007 World Cup (12 balls), in the course of which he took England’s Stuart Broad apart by hitting six sixes in an over.</p> <p>The man with the golden arm was made of steel. In the 2011 World Cup in India, while battling breathlessness, vomiting blood and poor form, he powered his country to the title 28 years after Kapil’s Devils ruled Lord’s. His returns: 362 runs at 90.50 and 15 wickets at an economy rate of 5 on flat subcontinent wickets. Not to mention the catches and electric stops on the field. After his treatment for lung cancer in the US got over in March 2012, he made a return to cricket against New Zealand later that year. In 2014, Royal Challengers Bangalore paid a then record &nbsp;Rs14 crore to hire him; Delhi Daredevils paid an additional&nbsp;Rs2 crore to get him the following year. He won the IPL with the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2016.</p> <p>Yuvraj played his last match, against the West Indies, in 2017, and retired from international cricket two years later. He later played in the Global T20 league in Canada and the T10 league in Abu Dhabi, which led to the BCCI turning down his request for a return to IPL and domestic cricket. In August, Indian captain Rohit Sharma lamented that the No. 4 position has been an issue for the team for a long time. “After Yuvraj Singh, nobody has settled themselves in the role,” he said. In this exclusive interview, Yuvraj talks about the issue and the possible No. 4s in the Indian team. He also talks in detail about the 2011 World Cup campaign, the allrounders and the current Indian stars, especially Shubman Gill.</p> <p>Edited excerpts.</p> <p><b>You were the star of the 2011 World Cup despite the health problems. How did you go about it?</b></p> <p>I was struggling a bit in South Africa when it all started. That was just a month before the World Cup. I started to cough a little bit and I had blood in my phlegm. I just kept on ignoring it.... I had breathing issues as well.</p> <p>As the World Cup was coming, I told myself to forget all these. Because we had not won in 28 years, and it was happening in India. Obviously, the pressure was on. I told myself to focus on the game and see how it goes after the World Cup.</p> <p><b>Yeah, but it must have been tough, both emotionally and physically.</b></p> <p>Definitely. I was battling some personal issues as well because my form wasn’t great. I had four or five injuries before the World Cup. I broke my wrist, had two fractures in my finger and hand. I had a C4, C5 disc bulge in my neck, which really bothered me throughout the World Cup. So, my body was just falling apart and I was trying to keep it together.</p> <p><b>And then you play this important role of an all-rounder. But how important is an all-rounder in a World Cup team?</b></p> <p>An all-rounder is important in any World Cup squad. I was the main left-arm spinner in the team, although I consider myself as a part-timer. I was bowling 7-10 overs every game. Rules were different then; we had five fielders outside the circle in the power play, now five fielders are inside. So, it was harder for a part-timer to bowl. I was bowling regularly. I was not getting big runs, only 30s, 40s and 50s. But I was picking up wickets. I also contributed with my fielding.</p> <p>An all-rounder is very important for any team. The thought process is that if I don’t fire with the bat, I can do something with the ball, something on the field. Because, you are not going to score runs or pick up wickets every day. An all-rounder always has the ability to do something magical on the field, and change the game for the team.</p> <p><b>Who do you think is the best all-rounder in the Indian team?</b></p> <p>We have Ravindra Jadeja. We have Axar Patel. We have a line-up which is very deep in batting. The team is looking good also because Jasprit Bumrah is back. We are looking good. I had a few concerns before the Asia Cup because there were a lot of injuries. Winning an Asia Cup is not something which proves that you are going to win the World Cup. But it definitely proves that India is in good form. And you need a lot of game time before a big World Cup.</p> <p><b>Do you think in a World Cup in India, an off-spinner like R. Ashwin would have been crucial?</b></p> <p>Ideally, you should have an off-spinner. More than Ashwin, I feel leaving out Yuzvendra Chahal could prove to be a mistake. A leg-spinner is someone who will always take wickets for you. He is always a game-changer. Kuldeep Yadav is bowling really well. He is outstanding right now. But Chahal would have been quite dangerous. With Hardik Pandya playing the role of a third seamer, you could have picked Chahal instead of the fourth seamer. That’s the only question mark for me.</p> <p>But that’s going to happen in every World Cup. In 2003 World Cup, there was no VVS Laxman, in 2011 there was no Rohit Sharma.</p> <p><b>So we got the best 15 barring Chahal?</b></p> <p>I think so.</p> <p><b>I remember Rohit Sharma saying that since Yuvraj’s time we haven’t had a proper No. 4 batsman. What does it take to be a No. 4 batsman?</b></p> <p>No. 4 is a crucial position, escpecially if the openers get out cheaply. No. 4 batsman needs to have the technique to leave the ball, play the short ball well, and try and create partnerships. After I was dropped from the team, they experimented with Ambati Rayudu. He got a 90-odd in New Zealand, and when he didn’t get runs against Australia, just before the World Cup, they just dropped him.</p> <p>I remember the highest score by a No. 4 batsman for India in the last World Cup was 48 by Pandya. And then they kept on changing Vijay Shankar and got in Rishabh Pant with no experience. You can’t go to a World Cup with guys who don’t have any experience. Before our first World Cup, I had played 35 games and Kaif nearly 25 games.</p> <p>Coming back to No. 4, I think they now want K.L. Rahul to bat at No. 4. They have to give him 15-20 games in that position. In the Asia Cup, coming back from injury, he scored a 100. On a spinning track [in Colombo, against Sri Lanka] he scored a vital 39 runs. He is looking good right now, so they need to stick with him at No. 4. My biggest concern is that in the quarter-final or the semi-final—I’m pretty sure India is going to reach the last four—if your big guys like Rohit, Virat Kohli or Shubman Gill get out, your numbers four, five and six have to fire. So they have to be prepared for it.</p> <p><b>So who would be your five, six, seven?</b></p> <p>It would have been nice to have a left-hander, because I was a left-hander. If Rahul is batting at four, Ishan Kishan is doing well at five, you have Hardik at six. I think the problem is whether to bat Ishan at five or get Shreyas Iyer back (he is back in the team). Ishan did not make big scores in Sri Lanka, but he was fighting it out. He was trying to rotate strike on spinning tracks. What I really liked about Ishan is him trying to adapt to the situation.</p> <p><b>Ravi Shastri told THE WEEK that we need two left-handers in the top six or seven. Do you agree with that?</b></p> <p>I definitely believe it makes a difference, but you have to go with your best 11. In a T20 game, you need a left-right combination because you are striking from both ends. But in a 50-over game you need to have your best playing 11.</p> <p><b>Playing in India, the pressure would be immense for the players. How did you handle pressure in 2011?</b></p> <p>There was distraction with the media and people. We lost to South Africa a match we should have won and the media went berserk. Sachin sat down with the team and he said we need to stop watching TV, we need to stop reading the papers, and probably use our headphones when we’re among crowds and at airports. That really worked because the problem in India is people think Indian team will play, Indian team will win.</p> <p><b>In a different context, Kapil Dev was telling about how pressure builds up, when even the guy serving you tea in the morning tells you that you have to win against Pakistan.</b></p> <p>That is why you should use your pods and cut out the noise. Focus on the World Cup. Some of the guys might not play a World Cup again, so focus on winning this World Cup. Just be in a bubble. It’s just a matter of a month and a half.</p> <p><b>You said for some people this could be the last World Cup. Just like the 2011 World Cup win was for Sachin, do you think this one would be for Virat and Rohit?</b></p> <p>The guys should try to win it for Virat and Rohit, because you might not see them in another World Cup. Somebody like a Mohammed Shami might not play another World Cup.</p> <p>My relationship with Sachin was very special and I was like, I’m gonna put my body on the line for this guy.... After the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy, India has not won an ICC trophy in 10 years. There’s gonna be pressure and it depends on how how they handle it.</p> <p><b>You said this could be the last World Cup for Virat and Rohit. I remember Shastri telling me a few months ago that the seniors should be phased out of white ball cricket.</b></p> <p>If Ravi Shastri is saying it is time to phase out the seniors, then somebody has to give the seniors the real picture. The problem with Indian cricket is that they don’t tell the seniors what’s happening with them. When these seniors have given their heart and soul for the country, they need to be given their respect: ‘Listen, this is the hard truth. You know, you might not be looked at for white ball cricket in the future or something like that because you have to groom the youngsters.’ So the senior knows where his career is at the moment.</p> <p>They don’t tell you where you are, maybe out of respect. Maybe they don’t want to face the reality. We now have a good chairman of selectors [former Indian pacer Ajit Agarkar] who can bring in that difference.</p> <p><b>What is your take on past cricketers being part of the BCCI?</b></p> <p>People who really want to contribute to Indian cricket and want the administration to do better, those who love the game from the heart should definitely be in the system. Those who want to take the game forward and not just a big name.</p> <p><b>What is your line-up for the upcoming World Cup semi-final?</b></p> <p>I would pick five teams because there could be upsets—India, Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa. I thought about Pakistan, but I just feel South Africa is due.</p> <p><b>Who do you think is the best all-rounder in the world today?</b></p> <p>Well, there are lots of guys. There’s Mitchell Marsh, who’s doing really well for Australia. He’s been exceptional with the bat. Bowls really well. There’s Ravindra Jadeja. Ben Stokes is the number one all-rounder in the world right now, and England has brought him back to one-day cricket. This is the respect for a guy.</p> <p><b>Do you see Shubman as the next Virat, the next Sachin? He’s yet to be tested on the bouncy, seaming pitches. Do you think Shubman has it in him to play at Lord’s, the WACA and Durban?</b></p> <p>Shubman Gill has the potential to be the best player of his generation. The guy’s attitude is like that. He has been like that since he was 19, 20. He got 91 and got two 50s on his first trip to Australia. How many players have done that in Australia on their first trip? Yes, he’s not had success in England because it’s not easy batting there. He’s just a kid. I have no doubt he will score runs in Australia, South Africa and England. Look at his one-day graph. It has been exceptional. The way he’s going, I’m sure he will be one of the best players of this generation. I want him to have a good World Cup. At this stage of his career, he is fearless. He can be a game-changer for India in this World Cup. In the Asia Cup match against Pakistan, he opened up the game. He put the bowlers on the back foot.</p> <p><b>Do these kids come to you for advice?</b></p> <p>Whenever they come up to us, we talk to them. Tell them the mindset that is needed. In big tournaments, it is not about technique. It’s about mental toughness. It’s about handling the pressure and absorbing the pressure. You have to play the situation, right? You have to absorb that pressure. If you can do that, you can play at any stage.</p> <p>Shubman’s father spent his days and nights for his son’s game. Like my father did for me. We talk a lot whenever we get the time. I share my experiences with him and he is a very quick learner. Why he has gone up in this group is because he is very quick to adapt. Somebody like Virat did so in his generation.</p> <p><b>Did Stuart Broad talk to you about his retirement from cricket? Like, ‘I had a very good international career, except for you who screwed it up to a certain extent’. [Laughs]</b></p> <p>I am very happy for that guy. You got to give it to him. His career started with people talking about the six sixes. And he ends up with 600 Test wickets. He is a legend of the game. I think that moment changed his career. Because, from thereon, he was like, I am going to show the world what I am capable of. As he said in his interview, beast mode on. Taking 600 wickets is no joke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Sep 29 19:52:24 IST 2023 the-week-presents-yajurvindra-singh-in-conversation-with-sunil-gavaskar <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i><b>Sunny &amp; Sunny discuss the World Cup's thrills and possibilities. THE WEEK presents Yajurvindra Singh (Team India, 1979) in conversation with Sunil Gavaskar (Team India, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987)</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India will soon be engulfed by the euphoria of World Cup 2023. This tournament, since its inception in 1975, has established itself, and a team winning it is recognised as the world champion. Like the Olympics and World Cup football, it is held once in four years, and, therefore, it seems to have the same aura as those revered sporting events.<br> </p> <p>I, Yajurvindra Singh, have had the pet name “Sunny” since birth. I was a member of the Indian World Cup side in 1979. My roommate on that tour was none other than one of the greatest batsmen ever to play the game, Sunil Gavaskar. In the cricketing world, he was nicknamed “Sunny” and hence the battle of an identity issue emerged between us. His claim of the letter ‘U’ in Sunny and not ‘O’ was one that we, even today, are unable to find an acceptable solution to. This dispute has involved many intellectuals and even the well-read Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan. Sanity and maturity finally took over and we have now compromised and settled this peacefully, as of now. This was necessary, as we both live in the same building in Mumbai.</p> <p>The one passion that we both have is cricket and, especially, Indian cricket. Sunny ‘G’ and I are like chalk and cheese. He is meticulously organised and well-structured in every which way. For him, everything has to be well thought out, with a definite meaning/purpose to it. I live for the moment and enjoy a bit of uncertainty that goes with it.</p> <p>A whiff of nostalgia with the World Cup round the corner overcame me and a tête-à-tête with my old room partner seemed an ideal way to remember India’s journey over the past 12 editions of the World Cup.</p> <p>Sunny ‘G’ must be one of the only few who has been involved in every World Cup since its inception, a period of 48 years. He has been involved as a player, commentator and as an ICC representative, being part of their Cricket Committee.</p> <p>A trek to his eighth-floor flat brought about memories of our cricketing days together. Before sauntering out to meet him, my eyes fell on his book <i>Sunny Days</i> on my bookshelf. A peep into the very first page was a photograph that I took years ago, with a lovely message from him, saying, “One of those sunny evenings in Baroda, from one Sunny to another”, signed, Sunil Gavaskar.</p> <p>On entry into his airy and bright flat, a painting depicting the two Satya Sai Babas by M.F. Husain greets one and a sense of calmness pervades the place. Tea, with biscuits and<i> farsan</i>, took me back to 1979 when the two Sunnys had to share a pot of tea and a KitKat chocolate that came with it, as Indian cricketers were paid a paltry sum of £15 a day. We learned the art of sharing and cost-cutting pretty soon. A great way for team building was meals together and it did bring us much closer. We have all remained friends and hours fly by when we meet, reminiscing about stories and the days gone by.</p> <p>Sunny ‘G’ is very articulate and can act and mimic on the spur of the moment. Cricket, especially the World Cup, was on our agenda today and we took to it like ducks to water.</p> <p><b>ME (Yajurvindra Singh):</b> What are your wonderful memories of the World Cup?</p> <p><b>SG (Sunil Gavaskar):</b> Naturally, the 1983 World Cup win. It was sheer magic. Mind you, we did beat the West Indies in our very first match and that win did make us believe in ourselves. The other memorable moments were, one the best-ever World Cup innings played, when Kapil Dev made that brilliant 175 against Zimbabwe and the famous six by Mahendra Singh Dhoni to win the 2011 Cup.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> One has to also take into account that during Kapil’s knock there was no such thing as field restriction. His runs would have been many more, otherwise. One gathers that his shots had so much power that fielders were, at most times, just spectators fetching the ball.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> We were part of the 1979 side and you were also there in 1975, 1983 and 1987. What do you think brought about a change in the way ODI cricket was played and how it was perceived by the Indian team?</p> <p><b>SG:</b> Both in 1975 and 1979, we had very little experience and knowledge about the limited 60 overs game. The change came about in 1981 when we played 10 ODI matches, five against Australia and five against New Zealand. We then understood how to approach our batting, bowling and especially the field placements. Furthermore, it also taught us as to what type of players are required for this format. In 1983, we had six genuine all-rounders in our side, who could contribute with the bat as well as with the ball. Spearheaded by one of the best in Kapil Dev, there was always someone else who stood up to support him.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> SG, you have always been one who fought in the earlier days for equal status for Indian cricket in the world. In 1979, on our arrival in the UK for the World Cup, after freshening up at a hotel near Heathrow Airport, we were transported by bus all the way to Scarborough, Yorkshire. This was to play our warm-up matches against Pakistan. It was cold and rainy and we barely managed to play one afternoon and that, too, on a wicket where the fast bowlers were not allowed to bowl. The bosses at the MCC did not find it important enough to bother about India or Pakistan. What a change has come about today—any venue around the world will give its right arm to host the two teams.</p> <p>A funny anecdote that comes to mind involves you, SG. Imran Khan, with his Greek god physique and attitude to match would come to our dressing room wearing just his briefs. He always made a beeline to talk to you and, in doing so, flexed his muscles. Most of us made sure we had our shirts on and you, with that sarcastic grin on your face, played with a straight bat, even off the field. When he left, you imitated him, which naturally had all of us laughing a lot.</p> <p>The 1983 win and the World Cup moving to Asia in 1987 must have truly made you feel proud.</p> <p><b>SG:</b> India, after the 1983 win, established itself forcefully as one of the top sides in world cricket. The cup moving to Asia was a significant and historic move in which I.S. Bindra and N.K.P. Salve played a major part. As an Indian, one was elated and since then India has never looked back.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> Whether one accepts it or not, the World Cup tournaments in England did have their own charm and tradition. I feel that needed to be pursued and unfortunately it has been completely overlooked since then.</p> <p>I remember the photography session of all the teams at the Lord’s Cricket Ground attired smartly in their national blazer and tie. The renowned photographer, Patrick Eagar, took the photos from the first-floor balcony. Apart from the photo session, one interacted with other cricketers, many of them legends. Greeting and meeting them on equal terms gave one a feeling of achievement and assurance of being an international cricketer.</p> <p>The other was the banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. This, too, was a memorable moment, as the royal family lined up to meet each one of the participating cricketers and even joined us in the palatial hall later. This was a fabulous get-together of top cricketers. SG, you may not remember, but there were so many of them eager to meet you and I did take a bit of advantage by standing next to you. Even the present ruler of Britain, King Charles, wanted to converse with you.</p> <p><b>SG:</b> In 1987 in Delhi we all did gather together for a group photograph and a banquet to keep up the tradition. However, this apparently faded into oblivion later. Sad! As the photograph did have a significance attached to it.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> In 1987, you proved to us after scoring 103 runs in 88 balls against New Zealand at Nagpur that you had transformed yourself into a limited overs player. You retired soon thereafter and later became involved with the ICC, to head their Cricket Committee.</p> <p>What was the one change that you brought about that had an impact on subsequent World Cup tournaments?</p> <p><b>SG:</b> The ODI rules at that time did not permit the bowlers to bowl any bouncers. I felt it was unfair to the fast bowlers. Tailend batsmen with little skill, along with the comfort of not facing a short ball, were taking mighty heaves at the pacers. I changed the law to allow one bouncer per over for each individual batter. Presently, the law is one bouncer per over and I do not entirely agree with it being called a wide even if it is just above the head. A batsman should be able to play the hook shot to a ball that is just over the head, at a bat and glove height. A good bouncer is one that skims just above the head and one needs skill to handle it. Fast bowlers are once again suffering, as they bowl in order to keep the ball below the head height, and subsequently get pulled or hooked to the boundary.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> Coming to the present, who would you rate as your favourite team to win the cup? Naturally, both of us want India to win, what are your thoughts?</p> <p><b>SG:</b> India, with the win in the Asia Cup under their belt, are settling down well. I cannot fathom as to why the senior players have been given rest against Australia in the ongoing ODI series. Keeping up the winning momentum is essential for one to go into a tournament like the World Cup. The Asia cup in Sri Lanka gave the senior players enough rest.</p> <p>I am also a little concerned about the batting form of Rohit Sharma, who is a vital cog, both as a captain and in the Indian batting line-up. The Australian series would have been a perfect opportunity for him and India to beat Australia and put them into a negative mind-set. The injury to Axar Patel may prove a boon for India. The option of an off-spinner of the calibre of Ashwin could come in handy.</p> <p>I feel Kuldeep Yadav, who is bowling well, could play an important part in this World Cup for India. A majority of the batsmen in present day cricket do not watch the hand and hence play a wrist spinner off the pitch. Kuldeep is bowling a shade quicker; the batsmen are, therefore, getting less time to read him. This has made a huge difference in his performance which should augur well for India.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> I am a shade sceptical about Kuldeep. In the past, he has shown a tendency to get ruffled easily when batsmen start taking a toll on him. A wrist spinner needs a big heart and clever thinking, so one hopes that he has changed his mental approach sufficiently.</p> <p><b>SG:</b> Rohit is a captain who has faith in Kuldeep and that itself means a lot to any bowler.</p> <p>However, the most exciting aspect of the World Cup will be as to how top order batsmen will face Jasprit Bumrah. He is bowling superbly and apart from his vicious incoming deliveries, he has his outswing in place. How teams handle Bumrah’s initial four overs will be exciting to watch. India will be looking at him to take the initial wickets and his presence could be just the catalyst for the others to get wickets as well.</p> <p><b>ME:</b> I feel South Africa looks to be a good side as outsiders. They have a good bowling attack and hard hitting all-rounders who are now familiar with the Indian conditions because of the IPL.</p> <p><b>SG:</b> England and Australia are powerful sides. I feel the Indian think-tank missed a beat there [by not fielding seniors in the series win against Australia].</p> <p><b>ME:</b> The most important factor for me will be the fatigue and fitness factor. Travelling around India is never easy and playing 100 overs and recovering from it at the latter part of the tournament will be taxing for players. The support staff, especially the fitness trainers and physiotherapists, will need to play a major part to keep the players fit and well. The quality of the support staff will also play a major part in this World Cup.</p> <p>The other issue that comes to mind is that of the home advantage which one earlier had. This has diminished, especially in India. The players and coaches of most of the foreign teams are familiar with the Indian facilities and conditions. Most of them have been a part of the IPL franchises and are now well versed with an effective strategy for their respective national sides.</p> <p><b>SG:</b> You have a point there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>• • • • •</p> <p>I initiated the final part of our discussion which was about the pulsating theme song of the World Cup—Ranveer Singh dancing and prancing away like only he can to a beat that could make even a fit Virat Kohli think twice.</p> <p>SG opened the door to get into the car in his pristine and well-ironed white collarless shirt with a dark trouser and Modi jacket, which gave him that aura of a well-dressed professor. He was on his way to do a mentor talk for a corporate client and one wondered whether he had been asked to do one for the Indian cricket team as well. If not, India has truly missed an opportunity there.</p> <p>To get something more out of this intimate tête-à-tête, I asked Sunny ‘G’, known for his dance moves on a few occasions, whether he would do a dance with Ranveer if India wins the World Cup.</p> <p>With a twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous smile on his face, Sunny ‘G’ made a parting remark, “Sunny with an ‘O’, I will dance with Ranveer if India wins.&quot; He further added, “Just for your knowledge, Ranveer and I have danced in a cricket dressing room before. So it will not be an issue.”</p> <p>A quick goodbye was the most prudent way out for me, lest he insists on me doing the dance as well.</p> Fri Sep 29 19:07:00 IST 2023 top-players-to-watch-out-for-in-world-cup-2023 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a World Cup which is expected to be a tropical storm of runs and tall totals fuelled by T20-inspired sixes, you ignore the double-duty, multi-tasking disrupter at your peril. Be it the pure all-rounder or the leaders of either bowling packs or teams themselves, those who can bring their best or bring out the best in their teammates during clutch games will have impact that reverberates through the tournament. Here is the impact player from each team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Shakib Al Hasan</b><br> </p> <p><b>Bangladesh</b></p> <p>Is there any aspect of Bangladesh cricket that Shakib Al Hasan has not had an impact on during his 17-year career? The left-hander has gone from Bangladesh’s lone star all-rounder into role model extraordinaire for his countrymen and for the second time now, his country’s World Cup captain. Shakib now leads Bangladesh in all three formats, his career marking the highlights among his country’s top performers. In ODIs, Shakib is Bangladesh’s leading wicket-taker (308) and its third-highest run scorer (7,384). He has more World Cup runs and wickets than any of his compatriots. A cricketer with great pride of performance and a pursuer of excellence, Shakib must at once become captain, leader, legend at India 2023. Bangladesh have had a so-so 2023, their home series defeat to Afghanistan being a bit of a downer. If there ever is a time and if there ever is a man who can pull them out of their funk, it is Shakib.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Rahmanullah Gurbaz</b><br> </p> <p><b>Afghanistan</b></p> <p>Yes, Rashid Khan will always be a factor, but the Afghanistan batting will be fuelled at the top by 21-year-old wicketkeeper-opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz. While Gurbaz’s identity and international debut were driven by T20s (he has played across five leagues), in January 2021 he became the first Afghan batter to score an ODI century on debut, against Ireland. While ABD is Gurbaz’s hero for the 360º range, which is also the Afghan’s signature, Gurbaz follows from a long line of trailblazing ODI wicketkeeper-openers. Take a bow, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Adam Gilchrist, world champions both. This year, while Afghanistan have only played in 11 ODIs, they secured their first ODI series win in Bangladesh with Gurbaz hitting his ODI stride just in time. His eye-grabber of a performance was his run-a-ball 151 against a full-strength Pakistan attack in August. Pakistan eventually won by a single wicket with a ball to spare but if Gurbaz can combine his mayhem with stickability in the longest string of ODIs in his career at this World Cup, anything can happen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Mitchell Starc</b><br> </p> <p><b>Australia</b></p> <p>That Australia are walking on egg shells around Mitchell Starc’s fitness and his recovery from a groin injury is a sign. Not just of the five-time champions trying to ensure that their most incisive ODI bowler and big-match performer gets ready in time for the event he has made his own. But also of the fact that an ordinary 2023 ODI year will turn around when it matters most. Australia have played fewer ODIs this year than any other team in the World Cup, as of September 26, losing six of their 10 ODIs. Starc is pivotal, their new-ball battering ram in the power play, left-armer, with wicked bounce and mean in-swing at high pace. While injuries have plagued Starc, it is on the big stage that he stands tall. Starc has been leading wicket-taker in the last two World Cups—22 wickets at 10.18 in 2015 as the team won the title and 27 at 18.59 during a semifinal run in 2019. That is 49 World Cup wickets at 14.81. If Starc fires at CWC2023, he will become the spark that will light up Australia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Jos Buttler</b><br> </p> <p> <b>England</b></p> <p>As a triple-duty cricketer—captain, keeper and ice-cold middle-order finisher—Jos Buttler has already won a major white-ball title, the 2022 T20 World Cup. He comes to India with his team as title contenders just behind the hosts. Buttler represents what England are now feared (and watched) for: a radically aggressive approach in every form of cricket. Like the national team itself, Buttler, too, overcame the essential orthodoxy of English cricket, focusing entirely on the white-ball game, becoming what ESPNCricinfo called its “first T20 global superstar”. Buttler is a cricketer of equal parts aggression and calculation, destruction and calmness and boasts England’s highest ODI strike rate ever at 118. He owns the most filthily effective lap/scoop shot in the game, over the keepers head, against bowlers clocking past 150kmph. He has scored England’s top three fastest ODI 100s, this, too, when batting in the middle order, between mostly No. 4 and No. 6. They are calling England “Dad’s Army”, but their captain doesn’t mind. Rarely do young, raw sides have the best shot at a World Cup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Jasprit Bumrah</b><br> </p> <p><b> India</b></p> <p>No matter how much India worships its batsmen, there was no bigger welcome back for any other cricketer from injury than there was for Jasprit Bumrah, fast bowling wizard. A stress injury to his lower back kept Bumrah out of cricket for 11 months and, every day, India felt his absence as game-changer, breaker of partnerships and cool head in a crisis, across formats. Bumrah returned with only two months left for the World Cup and India could breathe again. He gets only 10-odd white-ball matches before the World Cup warm-ups begin to find his best rhythm. Yet, there is no better man to work himself into top gear when it matters most. Owner of fast bowling skills and guile, plus the ability to build and generate speed, Bumrah’s greatest asset is his mind. Which puts knowledge and experience and a dead-eye fish demeanour into best use in the white heat of contest. In the early round-robin weeks of an emotional, draining event, Bumrah’s calm presence at the top of his run up will be India’s biggest strength.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Bas de Leede&nbsp;</b><br> </p> <p><b>The Netherlands</b></p> <p>Did you know that among all the 2023 World Cuppers, only one heads his country’s batting and bowling averages this year? And is also the top wicket-taker for his team in 2023. It is the Netherlands’ Bastian Franciscus Wilhelmus de Leede aka Bas de Leede. The 23-year-old all-rounder, who bats at No 4 and bowls second change medium pace, comes from rich Dutch cricketing pedigree. His father Tim, also an all-rounder, played in every single World Cup that the Netherlands ever participated in. Over the last 12 months, de Leede has played in the IL20 and the Hundred and signed on with Durham for two years for red- and white-ball cricket. In his last competitive match, in July 2023, Bas was in red-hot form as the Netherlands beat Scotland to secure a precious spot at the World Cup—5-52 with the ball and then a maiden international century to chase down 277. Talk about a clutch player.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Trent Boult&nbsp;</b><br> </p> <p><b>New Zealand</b></p> <p>How does a 34-year-old bowler become an impact player ahead of his team’s run machines and eye-catching big hitters and express quicks? Shall we count the ways? To start with, Trent Boult bowls at an average of close to 140kmph, from the left-armers’ awkward angle, swinging the ball both ways. Plus, even if the conditions do not work in his favour, he has got the nous to find pace and movement through the air, like the great ones. Boult is wicket-taker, partnership-breaker and bowler with the ability to make his spells count—at an intimidating strike rate of 28.5. In the last year, heading into his mid-30s, Boult chose to pace himself, conserve his energies and reduce the wear and tear on his body. Between November 2022 and August 2023, he played zero international cricket, refusing a central contract with New Zealand Cricket, playing four T20 franchise leagues instead. He returned to national team only in September 2023, with eight wickets in his first two ODIs against England. Heading into the World Cup, Boult is fresh and hungry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Babar Azam</b><br> </p> <p><b>Pakistan</b></p> <p>There’s a reason why Babar makes it as Pakistan’s impact man over the fast bowling furies. Not merely because he is a captain, not given to internal combustion at the first sound, smell or sight of friction. But also because for his team, Babar the batter has the capacity to switch between irresistible force and immovable object. Babar is centrifugal force of Pakistan’s best performances. He keeps things tightly together, moving in the direction they need to be. At this World Cup in a country that is politically not permitted to host his team in anything but multilaterals, Babar in quality and demeanour is the perfect man to lead. Ignore the noise, eyes on the ball. It was white-ball cricket that brought him first notice, then fed his appetite for big scores and took him to the top. With solid batting fundamentals, Babar is already Pakistan’s most consistent ODI batsmen in history, at a strike rate of 89.12. Only Saeed Anwar has scored more ODI 100s, 20 (247 matches) to Babar’s 19 (108). The more he’s around, the greater the team’s confidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Matheesha Pathirana</b><br> </p> <p><b>Sri Lanka</b></p> <p>Can a fast bowler—okay, a very, very freaky-fast bowler—who made his ODI debut only five months before the World Cup, with 10 ODIs under his belt, be expected to be the main man? To become headline-maker and match winner? The magic around Matheesha Pathirana aka Baby Malinga is that he is an unknown quantity in ODIs. One who, at age 20, the greybeards say, is far more mature than the CurlyTopped One was at that age. The internet says Pathirana bowled a cricket ball at 175kmph. Right. That is probably the product of either a vivid imagination or a dysfunctional speed gun. Supposedly it was a wide, but please. With or without 175, Pathirana is a tearaway who will challenge and threaten batsmen in the World Cup, particularly those who have not played him previous. Which is half of the teams at the World Cup anyway. His slingy rockets from a low-arm action are just the starting point, an orientation challenge if you like for batters. Then there are his other gifts—pace, of course, then change of pace and the ability to produce toe-crushers on tap. Hello world, brace for impact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Heinrich Klassen</b><br> <b>South Africa</b></p> <p>If there ever was a player who exemplified the range and freedom that T20 franchise leagues have given cricketers around the world, middle-order mayhem man Heinrich Klassen would be it. The opportunity to make a good living outside of international cricket, through the IPL, CPL, SA20 and the Hundred, have added a fearlessness to Klassen’s game in the last 12 months. He has scored two ODI centuries this year, including a deafening, rumbling 174 in 114 balls against Australia. No batsman who has played in more than five ODIs this year has scored at a higher strike rate than Klassen’s 151.43. On the list of 2023 ODI six hitters who will be at the World Cup, Klassen (25) is third behind Rohit Sharma (30) and Shubhman Gill (29). What will make Klassen an asset for South Africa at a subcontinental World Cup is his success against spin—masterful at 194.02 in this year’s IPL against slower bowlers—and his ability to score runs across surfaces and conditions. Klassen could be the nerveless closer that South Africa have long yearned for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Sep 29 19:49:37 IST 2023 the-five-best-world-cup-centuries <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scoring a century in World Cups is a big deal. In 12 editions, there have been 196 centuries, including a few doubles. I did not report on the 1975 and 1979 World Cups. My journey began in 1983. These are the five best three-figure knocks I have seen in the last 10 tournaments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>5 Graham Gooch</b></p> <p><b>115 vs India, semifinal, Mumbai, 1987</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Gooch was</b> a powerful striker who put a huge premium on his wicket. He also had a penchant for scoring big against India. His 752 runs in three Tests against Mohammad Azharuddin’s team in 1990, including 333 at Lord’s, still evoke unhappy memories.</p> <p>Most painful, however, is the century in the 1987 World Cup semifinal. India were the favourites, but Gooch’s astute understanding and experience of playing in India on previous tours, coupled with how India had played in this World Cup till then, told him that his best chance on a dry surface lay in neutralising the spin threat of Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri.</p> <p>In the buildup to the match, Gooch asked for local spinners, especially left-armers, to help England in net practice. Some unknown spinners wheeled away for hours at different lines and lengths, and England’s batters, with Gooch leading the way, kept practising the sweep shot.</p> <p>In the match, Gooch turned this meticulous preparation into precise execution. His century was a marvellous exhibition of skill and tenacity, and ruined India’s plans. Maninder Singh got three wickets but at heavy cost; Shastri went wicketless. England amassed 254 for six—a hefty score at the time—and India were bundled out for 219 on a crumbling pitch. Off-spinner Eddie Hemmings claimed four wickets.</p> <p>Gooch’s brilliance took his team into the final, at the Eden Gardens, where they came a cropper against a young Australian team. Ironically, England’s collapse started with Mike Gatting playing a reverse sweep!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>4 Mahela Jayawardene</b></p> <p><b>103* vs India, final, Mumbai, 2011</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>This match, </b>which earned India the ODI World Cup after 28 years, is unforgettable for some superb fast bowling by Zaheer Khan and brilliant batting by Gautam Gambhir and M.S. Dhoni in a thrilling run chase. It also earned an unforgettable win for Sachin Tendulkar in his last World Cup match. But it was Jayawardene who set the tone for the match. A supreme stylist, he could evoke 'oohs' and 'aahs' with his delicate touch and sublime stroke play. He had the gift of timing and the art of finding gaps in the field. Belying the ease with which he batted, and his genial demeanour, Jayawardene was a fierce competitor. Tough situations often brought out the best in him, as in this match.</p> <p>He walked in with Sri Lanka in a vulnerable situation, having lost openers Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan for just 60 on a flat, true track. Joining captain Kumar Sangakkara—with whom he had forged several wonderful partnerships—Jayawardene steadied the ship. He took complete control after Yuvraj Singh dismissed Sangakkara.</p> <p>In the second half of his innings, he opened up with glorious strokes all around the wicket. The cover drives, hit on the up and making up a big chunk of the 13 boundaries he hit, were breathtaking.</p> <p>In the company of lower-order batters, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera, Jayawardene was able to take Sri Lanka to 274. It wasn’t enough to quell the formidable Indian batting. This is the only instance when a centurion could not help his team win the final. But Jayawardene’s unbeaten 103 is among the most majestic centuries in World Cup history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>3 Ricky Ponting</b></p> <p><b>140* vs India, final, Johannesburg, 2003</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Among the</b> most destructive knocks in World Cups. I would rate this century ahead of Adam Gilchrist’s 149 in the 2007 final against Sri Lanka, and on par with Clive Lloyd's 102 (vs Australia, 1975) and Viv Richards's 138* (vs England in 1979) at Lord’s.</p> <p>I did not see the first two tournaments. By all accounts, Lloyd and Richards batted with uncontrollable ferocity. But watching Ponting play in the 2003 final, I would venture that the West Indian <i>baahubalis</i> couldn’t have done better.</p> <p>Ponting was not just unstoppable, but also intimidating. India were a formidable side in 2003. They were missing Anil Kumble, but had an in-form Zaheer Khan supported by Javagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. It was a very effective bowling unit to support the strong and long batting.</p> <p>In hindsight, Sourav Ganguly’s decision to field first on a flat pitch was a mistake. But this was not to be known till Ponting had finished batting. By that time, it was too late.</p> <p>Matthew Hayden and Gilchrist put on 105 for the first wicket, which gave Ponting the perfect platform. Runs came in a fusillade as he unleashed strokes all around the ground. The hook, short-arm pull and square cut were his most productive shots, enabled by the bounce and pace of the pitch.</p> <p>In all, he hammered eight sixes and four fours in a knock that took the team to a whopping 359. By that time, the Indian team was waving the white flag.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>2 Aravinda de Silva</b></p> <p><b>107* vs Australia, final, Lahore, 1996</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In his</b> early years in cricket, Aravinda had the sobriquet of 'Mad Max' for his derring-do batting. He was not averse to taking big risks through overt aggression and improvisation. By 1996, he had become a consummate all-round batter who could combine aggressive stroke play with superb technical defence. This was backed by a fine understanding of match situations. In other words, he was by now a maestro.</p> <p>In the semifinal, his scintillating 66 had pulled Sri Lanka out of an early rut and helped them to a score (251) that proved too steep for India. But it was in the final against Australia at Lahore that he rose to his full stature.</p> <p>In many ways, this was a grudge match for the Sri Lankans. They had suffered insult and injury, especially when Muthiah Muralitharan was called for chucking when they had gone Down Under a little earlier.</p> <p>The Sri Lankans also had a point to prove to the cricket world at large. They were joint hosts of the World Cup, along with India and Pakistan, but teams like Australia and West Indies had declined to play in Sri Lanka for security reasons.</p> <p>The team, under Arjuna Ranatunga, was seething. The final against Australia came as opportunity for redressal in both aspects.</p> <p>Australia could not quite live up to the billing, scoring a modest 241 batting first. But runs on the board, especially in a final, can put the side chasing under enormous pressure. When Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana—the hugely successful pinch-hitting openers—were dismissed for 23, Sri Lanka’s goose appeared cooked. But the Aussies had to contend with Aravinda’s masterful form.</p> <p>A slight hobble belied his footwork in the middle. From the time he took strike, Aravinda came up with exquisite strokes to first thwart, then tame, the Aussie attack that included Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.</p> <p>Aravinda’s unbeaten 107 was a classic, putting him in the cluster of all-time greats and earning his team the coveted World Cup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>1 Kapil Dev</b></p> <p><b>175* vs Zimbabwe, Tunbridge Wells, 1983</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">My choice</b> as the topmost World Cup century is not from a final or semifinal, but from the league phase of the 1983 tournament. It might be argued that there have been several brilliant centuries—including a few doubles—in the early stages of the tournament as the pressure would be low. So, let me highlight the circumstances in which Kapil Dev’s innings was played.<br> </p> <p>Defeat in this match would have shut the door on India in the tournament. That was the turmoil which Kapil, as captain, faced before the match. Once the game started, it got excruciatingly worse as wickets tumbled in a heap on a moist, drying pitch that aided Zimbabwe’s seamers.</p> <p>Four wickets had fallen for a measly nine runs, forcing Kapil Dev to make a premature entry into the middle. Not much later, the score was 17 for five. India were in danger of being bowled out for fewer than 50 runs.</p> <p>From this stage, Kapil Dev effected a recovery that is the stuff of legend. Playing circumspect for a while, he rose to construct an innings that was to defy imagination. As he found his groove, strokes exploded from his bat to all parts of quaint Nevill Ground, leaving the Zimbabwe team dumbstruck.</p> <p>I cannot think of another World Cup century made under so much pressure. Given that Kapil was an all-rounder, not a top-order batter, the difficulty quotient was much higher. But such was his genius that he made it look ridiculously easy.</p> <p>For the impact that it had on the match, on the tournament, and on the future of cricket, Kapil’s 175 is my No. 1 century, not just in World Cups, but in the history of ODIs.&nbsp;</p> Fri Sep 29 19:48:28 IST 2023 the-week-brings-you-action-from-the-centre-and-the-sidelines-in-frames-from-the-twelve-odi-world-cups <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>2019</p> <p>It was one of those days where every ball found the middle­—mostly—of Ben Stokes’s bat, even if it was a throw from the boundary. Martin Guptill shot the ball in from long on, only for it to deflect off the bat to the boundary. Tom Latham could only grasp at air.<br> Umpire Kumar Dharmasena signalled six runs (two they had run and four for the boundary) and England found themselves within touching distance of their maiden World Cup. More drama ensued, but this moment captured the chaos best. England won the World Cup, beating New Zealand by zero runs. A boundary count decided the winner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2015</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Rubel Hossain ran in to bowl at James Anderson at the Adelaide Oval, he had history in his sights. A win would take Bangladesh to their first-ever quarterfinal in the World Cup. All they had to do was beat England­—a team in free fall—which they did by 15 runs. It was an iconic win, no doubt, but the bigger story in hindsight was the start of an English turnaround. The team traded in its cautious approach for a more free-spirited one, eventually winning the next World Cup at home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2011</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once again, England found themselves on the wrong side of the result against a less fancied opponent, this time falling to their neighbours Ireland in an upset for the ages. Chasing a target of 328, the Irish were 111-5 in 24.2 overs. Then came a hurricane called Kevin O’Brien, who smoked 113 off 63 balls to send the English packing in Bengaluru. John Mooney, who took four wickets, finished the match with the bat, striking a James Anderson delivery wide of midwicket for four. This was, at the time, the highest chase in World Cups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2007</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini. The four men that fell to Lasith Malinga in four balls. It was one better than a hat-trick, and as unconventional as his hairstyle. South Africa were 206-5 chasing 209. Then, Malinga got Pollock and Hall off the last two balls of the over. Chaminda Vaas, from the other end, bowled a maiden. Malinga came back and cleaned up Kallis and Ntini. 207-9. The match ended when Robin Peterson edged a ball to the third-man boundary to win the thrilling encounter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2003</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In doing so, we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe.” These were the words of Henry Olonga and Andy Flower, who sported black armbands in every match of the World Cup to protest the regime of President Robert Mugabe. Both players had to go into immediate and permanent exile in England. While Flower went on to be a reputed coach—his latest assigment is with Royal Challengers Bangalore—Olonga decided to pursue a career in music, and most famously appeared as a contestant on The Voice Australia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1999</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, Allan Donald did not run; yes, South Africa lost the semi-final; and yes, they became the “chokers” of world cricket. Not to be forgotten, though, is the fact that this was Lance Klusener’s World Cup. Not only was he Man of the Series, scoring 281 runs and taking 17 wickets, he also presented a prototype of what an ODI all-rounder could be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1996</p> <p>Battles on the field might be fierce, but the World Cup, as a global event, also acts as a medium for cultural exchange outside the sport. Here, English keeper Jack Russell paints in the Peshawar bazaar on Eid. His team had a rest day and the man swapped his mitts for a paintbrush, being as much of a curiosity to those around him as the place was to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1992</p> <p>Three lions members (from left) David Seaman, Paul Merson, Lee Dixon and Alan Smith glued to the television as they watch Imran Khan’s “cornered tigers” take on their home team in the final. The year was special for both sports—while cricket introduced coloured clothing in ODIs, a revolution in football began with the start of the breakaway FA Premier League.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1987</p> <p>There is still no consensus on how many beers Aussie batter David Boon downed on that flight to England from Australia in 1989. Some say it was 47 cans, while some others put the number at 52 and even 53. What they do agree on, though, is that Boonie loved a pint. Here, the man is seen with the World Cup trophy he won in India and, what else, a glass of beer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1983</p> <p>Before the Australians, the mighty West Indies were looking for a hat-trick of World Cup victories. Having won the 1975 and 1979 editions, they looked set for a triple as they entered the 1983 final. Underdogs India had other plans. In a victory that would change the course of the sport in the country, Kapil’s Devils pulled off a famous upset at Lord’s.</p> <p>The Indian spectators rushed the pitch to catch a closer glimpse of their heroes, taking with them a memory that would last a lifetime.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1979</p> <p>It was the final against England at Lord’s and the great Viv Richards was expected to come to the party. Of course he did, with 138* off 157, but it was Collis King who outshone King Viv that day. He hit 86 off 66, with 10 fours and three sixes, and had fans rush to the middle to pat him on the back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1975</p> <p>“I believe it was perhaps the first instance of a cricket match being disrupted by political protesters,” Sri Lankan player Ranjit Fernando told Wisden Asia Cricket. The Tamil demonstrators, protesting political oppression with banners, laid down on the pitch to get attention. They were swiftly bundled off the ground and the match resumed. Australia beat Sri Lanka by 52 runs.</p> Fri Sep 29 18:31:37 IST 2023 india-acquisition-of-haifa-port-in-israel-significance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Indian tricolour flying high on the mighty Mediterranean coast may surprise visitors to the Haifa Port. Gigantic cargo ships unload goods as varied as imported cars and tonnes of grains under the shadow of the national flags of India and Israel, reinforcing New Delhi’s rising geopolitical stature. India’s ambitions of having a larger strategic and commercial presence in the Middle East has found an anchor in the Haifa Port, which connects the east to the west. Indian and Israeli officials say that the acquisition of the port has placed India at a vantage point in the brand new regional transport corridor―the India-Middle East- Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), the ambitious infrastructure project announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 10.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Haifa is the perfect spot for India’s strategic foray into the region, as it was in this city, located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, that Indian soldiers fought one of the crucial battles of World War I. Indian heroes liberated the historic city in the Battle of Haifa in 1918, beating back Ottoman forces. The victory is commemorated as a proud moment in Indian military history as India and Israel celebrate a sense of camaraderie and friendship. It has now grown into a relationship of trust and strategic partnership across sectors such as defence, technology, agriculture and trade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As one enters the Haifa Port, which is within walking distance from the Haifa Indian Cemetery, the Indian influence is unmistakeable. This correspondent was welcomed by a staff member with a namaste. “A lot of Indian delegations are visiting us recently,” she said. “We are getting used to the language and culture.’’ She also shared her experience of visiting Mumbai and appeared excited about a forthcoming trip to New Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India and Israel have enjoyed political, defence and strategic partnerships for long, but the economic relationship came into focus ever since Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited partnered with Israeli chemicals and logistics group Gadot to win a government tender―in July 2022―to buy the Haifa Port. The deal worth $1.2 billion was completed in January this year. Haifa Port handles about 30 million tonnes of cargo a year. It houses the Carmel Terminal, the largest and most advanced container terminal in Israel; the east terminal, the longest in Israel; and the chemicals terminal, the only one in Israel for transporting and storing chemicals. The port is estimated to handle around 50 per cent of Israel’s cargo and is the biggest in terms of handling cruise ships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a “journey of dreams’’, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he was joined by US President Joe Biden and leaders from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Europe on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi to unveil the corridor that aims to connect India, Middle East and Europe. “This is a big deal, a game-changing regional investment. A future that presents greater opportunity, dignity and prosperity for everyone,” said Biden. The US is expected to invest in ships and rail networks that extend from India to Europe, connected by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. Clearly, the flavour of Bharat has transcended continents and is readying for an embrace beyond the Global South, by opening gates into the west.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In many ways, Israel’s relationship with India is based on goodwill and people-to-people contact. Elements of Indian culture and values are very much embedded in Israel,” said Jonathan Zadka, director, department of economic affairs at the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. “When our foreign minister visited India in May, he took with him a delegation of Israeli companies and representatives of chambers of commerce and industrial associations. The emphasis was to diversify the scope of collaboration in the economic arena,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IMEC provides an opportunity to expand this collaboration as it branches out into two distinct corridors―the eastern corridor linking India to the Gulf and the northern corridor connecting the Middle Eastern countries to Europe. There is unanimity among the project’s partners―India, the US, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union―that the multi-modal commercial corridor can change trade patterns between India, the Middle East and Europe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is the “entry’’ point of the geostrategic arc that extends over the Arab peninsula onto Israeli shores. With investments in Haifa, it is also the “exit” point in the Mediterranean Sea for shipping goods into European and American markets. It could lead to quicker access, less cost and wider markets. For example, New Delhi is looking at shipping goods from ports in Mumbai and Gujarat to Dubai from where a rail link would connect to Saudi Arabia, onward to Jordan and finally to Haifa, without having to go around the Arabian peninsula. Here, goods can take the sea route to Bahrain and Oman or to European ports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of this plan, however, lies the rebuilding and restructuring of the Arabian peninsula’s railway map. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are investing heavily in the project, aiming to integrate the region with neighbours like Israel and also with Africa and Europe by 2030. Alongside, Jordan is planning to build a nation-wide rail link with partial funding from Saudi Arabia, to connect it to the Red Sea port of Jeddah and also to Yemen and Egypt. Israel is pumping in a billion shekels (Rs2,100 crore) to expand rail links connecting its peripheral areas to Tel Aviv―and, if needed, to Saudi Arabia. With old hostilities forgotten and new bridges of prosperity being built in the region, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was fast becoming a central junction of the world economy. Ran Natanzon, head of innovation at the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, explained how his country coped with its small desert land and water scarcity. “We used our expertise in innovation and technology to turn these disadvantages into an advantage. The answer lies in trust and togetherness,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Capt Sandeep Mehta, president of Adani Ports, said the Mediterranean region was of growing interest. “The aim is to establish Haifa Port as a key hub in the Middle East and provide Israel with a unique opportunity to establish a trade route connecting the Mediterranean and the Gulf, bypassing the Suez Canal. The project is expected to cut shipping time from Mumbai to Europe by 40 per cent and allow Delhi to ship goods to Europe within 10 days via a connecting railway passing through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Israelis are already associating the Indian presence on its soil with adding strategic value, regional connectivity and commercial prospects for the entire region. There is hope that the close ties may facilitate the long-delayed free trade agreements between India and the EU and also with Israel. “India is not a trivial market, it offers a huge global outreach,” said Zadka. “Its complexities and potential need to be understood because this is a collaboration for the long term.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India demonstrated its influence in 2018 when it convinced Saudi Arabia to open up its airspace for Air India to reach Israel, breaking a 70-year-long ban on commercial planes flying over the Arab kingdom to reach the Jewish state. Five years later, the IMEC is being seen as a project that can replicate that success in shipping lines and rail networks for seamless transportation of goods and fostering deeper ties between people. “The Haifa Port will act as a major trans-Mediterranean maritime link to the European mainland, which will ease the transhipment of Indian goods to major markets in Europe,” said Ron Malka, executive chairman of the Haifa Port.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nuts and bolts of the corridor will be worked out in the coming months and years. But, even before that, India has scored two crucial wins. It has offered a viable alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the debt trap it could cause, which has left many countries disillusioned. Already, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signalled her country’s intent to exit the BRI in favour of the IMEC, paving the way for similar exits. Second, the EU and Arab partners are talking about the benefits of a cost-effective ship-to-rail transit network, laying electricity and digital connectivity cables and creating a pipeline for renewable energy resources, including hydrogen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, the list of tangible gains of bridging the gap between the east and the west is a long one. At a time eastern Europe is aflame with the Ukraine crisis and continues to deal with the winter gas shortage, neither economic dependence on China nor energy dependence on Russia is palatable anymore. It has put the Middle East and North Africa back on the centre stage in global energy manoeuvres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IMEC has also given the US a chance to project itself as a responsible leader to its allies and partners. Besides pumping in the dollars, the US continues to be a key player in the Middle East―first brokering the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE in 2020, subsequently joined by Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Washington is now wooing Saudi Arabia to join the initiative. The US sees the proposed corridor as a way to promote high standards of governance, social responsibility and environmental protection in global development. The White House also projects it as a way to enhance trade and investment, while addressing common challenges of climate change, terrorism and pandemics by strengthening partnerships with India, Europe and Arab countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A senior Indian official said the IMEC had created more room for New Delhi to expand cooperation with the US navy beyond the Indian Ocean, especially at a time when it is countering the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ with its ‘necklace of diamonds’ strategy. Incidentally, India and China are neighbours in Haifa, as well. In September 2021, the Shanghai International Port Group of China opened an automated container terminal in Haifa with the rights to run it for 25 years. The Chinese terminal is painted red and marks the dragon’s presence deep in the sea. But it is dwarfed by the massive old port of Haifa acquired by India. The Chinese asset is more compact, less attached to the mainland but is visible to the naked eye from the Haifa coast, serving as a constant reminder of the pervasive Chinese presence across the world, requiring India to be watchful. “With China, there are more sensitivities involved today because of its relations with the US. But it is not a country that can be pushed aside,” said an Israeli official.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel sees India as a crucial partner in its outreach to the east, especially with states in the Arab neighbourhood with which it had a tense past, and even with Iran. “India should play a larger role in Israel’s foreign relations,” said Anat Bernstein-Reich, president of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce. She said it was encouraging to see India’s growing relations with the Middle East. “With the Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab states aspiring for a new Middle East, India’s and Israel’s interests are only converging.” She said India had the ability to play a historic role in solving the Iran-Israel rivalry. “Iran very clearly states that it aims to wipe out Israel. India, being Israel’s friend, cannot ignore such statements.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem and co-founder of the UAE-Israel business council, too, is upbeat about the growing closeness between Israel, India and the Arab states. “The triangulation between India, Israel and the Gulf countries is extremely important. This regional partnership is a game-changer for all,’’ she said. It has quickly turned into multilateralism of a bigger kind with the new corridor in the making.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenges before the proposed corridor are manifold. It is likely to set off yet another round of geopolitical and geoeconomic manoeuvres in the region. Saudi Arabia is already in talks with Iraqi officials for a trans-Iraq railway and highway initiative to capitalise on the latter’s geographical position for easy movement of goods and people between the Gulf, Turkey and Europe. For India, which has been trying to open up a route to Central Asia via the Chabahar Port in Iran and Afghanistan for some years now, bypassing Pakistan, the IMEC offers a safer alternative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India, meanwhile, is aware of the fact that the proposed corridor will take time before it unlocks its benefits. The funding patterns for the Middle East rail links, the gaps and challenges in the desert region and the fine balancing of strategic interests have to be worked out. Domestically, the Indian maritime industry has its own challenges related to digitisation, implementation of new technologies, management of human resources and improving hinterland connectivity through rail, roads and highways. “There is the need for greater technological upgrade and integration,’’ said Mehta. “Implementation of artificial intelligence technologies and manpower training is essential to manage these changes without disrupting operations.’’ The government is taking several initiatives, including the Sagarmala project, which is expected to provide relief from last mile connectivity issues that cause severe congestion in ports. But more needs to be done on this account.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even with the euphoria of the proposed corridor, India and Israel realise that it was the classical pillars of collaboration that have laid the foundation for new sectors of partnerships. Sanjeev Singla, the Indian ambassador to Israel, and his team are busy cementing old ties while they work on future collaborations with Israel. The embassy in Tel Aviv is also attracting visitors clicking selfies and photographs, showing the growing Indian imprint in the region. “It is just amazing to see the current diversity of business interests, and the openness of both sides to seek collaborations. Earlier it was only IT, water and defence. Today, there are 20 major areas and it is just growing,” said Anat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The people-to-people contact has increased significantly over the years with Israelis turning to India for food recipes, yoga, ayurveda, music and films. Indian-origin celebrity chef Reena Pushkarna, whose restaurant Tandoori in Tel Aviv famously treats Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to Indian dishes on relaxed weekends, said the fact that she won the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman this year showed the transformation of Indo-Israeli friendship beyond defence and trade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Yochanan Grinshpon, who teaches at the department of Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that as a young man, he found his anchor in the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. “These are the biggest influence of my life,” said Grinshpon. Today, many Israeli students are keen to learn Sanskrit, besides other languages like Mandarin. “Most students want to learn Mandarin for commercial interests,’’ said Grinshpon. But as commercial interests shift eastward and India opens itself to newer opportunities in the Arab-Mediterranean region, the India-Israel embrace is only getting deeper and warmer.</p> Sat Sep 23 18:11:56 IST 2023 a-growing-friendship <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>$7.98 billion (around Rs66,000 crore)</b></p> <p>India’s exports to Israel in 2022-2023 (automotive diesel, diamonds, textiles, base metals, transport equipments, agricultural products and chemical and mineral products)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>$2.13 billion (around Rs18,000 crore)</b></p> <p>Israel’s exports to India, excluding defence (fertilisers, petroleum oils, machinery and transport equipment, pearls and precious stones)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>KEY INDIA-ISRAEL PARTNERSHIPS</b></p> <p><b>2017</b></p> <p>▸ Seven MoUs signed in innovation, technology, water, agriculture, space and science</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ The India-Israel industrial R&amp;D and technological innovation fund (I4F) received $40 million in 2017 (around 0260 crore then); renewed for 2023-2027</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>2018</b></p> <p>▸ Nine agreements signed―cyber security, oil and gas, solar energy, space science, air transport, medicines and film production</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>2021</b></p> <p>▸ Discovering lesser-known shared history, with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar unveiling “Bhoodan Grove” plaque in the Jerusalem Forest­ ―a reminder of the Gandhian concept of ashram or village as a self-sustaining unit and Israeli cooperatives kibbutzim and moshavim</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ Agreement on mutually recognising Covid-19 vaccine certificates</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>2023</b></p> <p>▸ MoU between Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Israel’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development for further collaboration in high tech areas such as artificial intelligence, semiconductors and synthetic biology</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ India-Israel mobility pact to help Indians to work in Israel in fields of construction, nursing and as caregivers</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ Climate technology projects on the cards</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>GROWING INDIAN FOOTPRINT IN ISRAEL</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian businesses are collaborating more with the Israeli companies. Notable deals include:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ Indian Oil Corporation with Phinergy to manufacture aluminium-air battery systems</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ SMV Jaipuria Group JV with Watergen for water-from-air technology products</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ TCS launching Israel’s first fully digital bank, besides other tie-ups</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and RITES bidding for Tel Aviv metro project</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>▸ Adani’s acquisition of Haifa Port from the government through JV with Gadot Group</p> Sat Sep 23 18:05:46 IST 2023 deputy-mayor-of-jerusalem-fleur-hassan-nahoum-exclusive-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem with links to Kolkata, is the first female face of the American, Emirati, Israeli and Indian partnership (I2U2). She is co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council. And, recently, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen gave her a new role in his ministry: special envoy for innovation.</p> <p>For India, Israel and the Arab world, Fleur is bringing together Jewish, Arab and Israeli women to be part of policy initiatives in the region where the political space is dominated by men. She calls Jerusalem the laboratory of the future of Israel as the demography of the city today represents the demography of Israel tomorrow.<br> She was born and raised in Gibraltar, where her father, Sir Joshua Abraham Hassan, was the first mayor and chief minister. Fleur studied law at King’s College, London, where she met her husband, Adam Nahoum. Adam's father, an Iraqi-Baghdadi Jew, was born in Kolkata. Iraqi-Baghdadi Jews moved to Kolkata almost 170 years ago and the lack of anti-semitism in India opened doors for a new life for many. Adam's family opened the famous Nahoum and Sons Bakery—one of the oldest surviving shops in Kolkata owned by Jews.</p> <p>In 2022, Fleur visited Kolkata with her children. “The triangulation between India-Israel and Gulf countries is extremely important,” she says. “India and Israel are great partners; India has huge human capital and there are 3.5 million Indians in the UAE. This regional partnership is a game changer for all.’’ Edited excerpts:<br> <b>How do you see the role of women in politics in Israel? What are the challenges?</b><br> It is ironic that India and Israel, born a year apart, also have had their third and fourth prime ministers as women and they are the only ones till now. We have not had a female Prime Minister since Golda Meir. In fact, people call it the Golda syndrome, where the exception proves the rule! I believe that we live in an unbalanced world and we won’t restore that balance until women are 50 per cent in decision-making positions. The more diversity around the decision-making table, the better the decisions.</p> <p>In Israel, in the Knesset (Parliament) we have gone backwards. We were almost 30 per cent four years ago, but now we are 25 per cent women legislators. In the local government, we have become better, but the numbers were so bad to begin with that nobody should be patting themselves on the back. Women formed 13 per cent of local government which has increased to 19 per cent after a campaign by the government. We have elections in October, so let us see what happens.</p> <p><br> Female mayors in this country are again 9 per cent to 10 per cent. A big part of the problem is that women don’t want to go into politics. In Israel, leaderships styles are very male oriented. When people compliment each other, they say he or she is a bulldozer! But is that the style of leadership we want? I think the need of the hour is more a female style leadership focused around listening, consensus building and empathy.</p> <p><br> <b>Israel has seen protests against the judicial reforms. Your views?</b></p> <p><br> I am part of the Likud party which is the ruling party and I personally believe there is a real need for some judicial reforms. We cannot have a situation where the president of the supreme court is more powerful than the democratically elected government. However, I believe the programme could have been presented differently, maybe with a longer consultative process. We hope compromise talks yield a result everyone can live with.</p> <p><br> I have been the head of key committees in Jerusalem and I always aimed to pass decisions with consensus. I am co-founder of Gulf-Israel’s women’s forum because I believe that women can make peace in a more sustainable way.</p> <p><br> In the Jerusalem city council, one of our main problems is that the ultra orthodox parties who form a big chunk of it do not allow female representation. So out of 31 city council people, there are only six women. Out of eight deputy mayors, there are only two women. The main problem we have with the ultra orthodox is not borne out of religious beliefs but the ethos. For example, exclusion of women in the public space is a problem as they won’t allow pictures of women in newspapers. So there is a built-in advantage for men which makes it harder for women to come up to top leadership roles.</p> <p><br> <b>How do you see the coexistence of different religions and communities in Jerusalem today? Are there concerns?</b></p> <p><br> The main issue in this city is that the secular are feeling threatened by the ultra orthodox and vice versa. Sometimes both complain they are not being allowed to live freely in their neighbourhood. The mayor and me try to balance the different interests and be as equitable and equal as possible. But it is not simple. We have a population that is growing exponentially in Israel. The average birthrate for ultra orthodox is 6.5 children and the Israeli average is 2.6 to 3 children, which is even higher than many developing countries. So we have an incredibly high birth rate. The demography is changing. I don’t like the word coexistence any more. It is about shared space and shared society.</p> <p>Jerusalem is the lab for shared society initiatives in Israel because the demography of the city today reflects the future demography of Israel when the Arab and ultra orthodox population will grow. Because we are the lab for the future, I believe the solution will also come from Jerusalem. So I am involved in many shared society initiatives involving Jews, Arabs, secular and ultra orthodox. I also believe the solution has to come from the grassroots and cannot be imposed from the top down.</p> <p><br> <b>How do you see India’s role in the success of the Abraham Accords?</b></p> <p><br> I visit the UAE a lot and recently I was in Morocco and Bahrain, which are Abraham Accord countries. The triangulation between India-Israel and Gulf countries is extremely important. India and Israel are great partners; India has huge human capital and there are 3.5 million Indians living in the UAE. This regional partnership is a game changer for all. I also say this because innovation in Israel is huge, but we are a small country and the playground is India with its huge market and potential. We have a natural synergy and mutual appreciation and respect which is the basis for many future partnerships.</p> Sat Sep 23 18:24:18 IST 2023 eli-cohen-israel-foreign-minister-exclusive-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER</b> Benjamin Netanyahu has lauded the US-backed plan to build a rail and shipping corridor linking India with the Middle East, Israel and Europe as the “great cooperation agreement” in Israel’s history. Foreign minister Eli Cohen says the US-brokered Abraham Accords―signed in 2020―has brought Israel closer to the Gulf nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Cohen says the accords have also created exciting opportunities for regional and multinational cooperation. At the heart of this expanding cooperation (between India and Israel) is the Indian footprint in Haifa. Cohen speaks about an Israeli strategic asset like the port being in the hands of an Indian company, and also about Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanting to strengthen the strategic alliance and sign a free trade agreement. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / How do you see the Indian investment in Haifa Port and its role in Israel’s integration with the Middle East?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Haifa Port is a strategic asset for Israel, and the fact that it is now put in the hands of an Indian company shows the level of trust and friendship our business ecosystems have in each other. The ultimate goal is to boost regional connectivity and increase trade opportunities in the region. We hope to see more such partnerships and collaborations take place between our business communities in future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What is the future of the normalisation of ties between Israel and Arab states?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> The US-brokered Abraham Accords have been a game-changer in bringing Israel closer to the Gulf nations that share common values and mutual interests. The accords have created exciting opportunities for regional and multinational cooperation in energy, sustainability, tourism, security and much more. Increasingly, we are seeing deepening people-to-people ties and business opportunities. Israel aspires to continue this regional development that started with the accords and to expand the circle of peace and normalisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Bilateral trade has increased but there is no free trade agreement yet. What are the challenges?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> The scope for trade opportunities between our countries is huge and there is a strong desire to finalise an FTA that hopefully will further strengthen our economic ties. I believe the scope of the FTA is far larger than trade numbers. We should discuss it with the vision of bilateral relations in mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / How do you see the friendship between the two prime ministers? Is a visit by Netanyahu to India on the cards?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A / </b>When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel in 2017, it was a historic first for an Indian premier. His famous beach picture with Prime Minister Netanyahu became a symbol of deep friendship and close ties between our countries and leaders. The following year, Israel reciprocated with the visit of the prime minister to India. He shares a special friendship with Prime Minister Modi and believes the strong strategic alliance between the two countries is a significant partnership benefiting both nations. We hope to have another visit soon by Prime Minister Netanyahu. The agenda will be to explore ways to further boost bilateral relations in different fields.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What has been a major milestone in the historic ties between India and Israel?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> One of the major milestones has been Israel joining the Make in India initiative. Now Israeli technologies and know-how are being transferred [for manufacturing] in India. Further, Israel continues to be India’s strategic partner. Beyond the continuous dialogue between many government ministries regarding agriculture, water, health, education, innovation, technology and more, there are plenty of activities under way, including joint ventures led by our business sectors and various organisations. This continued expansion of the India-Israel bilateral relationship reflects the strategic alliance between the two nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Defence cooperation remains a hallmark of India-Israel relations. What is the next step?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> The Indo-Israeli defence relationship has been a key pillar of the growing partnership. Our relations are based on three basic foundations: shared values, mutual interests and common challenges. With such well-synchronised defence cooperation, Israel was among the first countries to take up the call for the Make in India initiative and start joint projects with a manufacturing base in India. We have no doubt in Israel that R&amp;D serves as a growth engine for the local industry. That is why we are willing to create more platforms of joint R&amp;D to pinpoint shared challenges, discuss and find solutions together, and even manufacture them together. Both sides have a lot to gain from this collaboration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Agriculture and water are the other two key elements of this partnership. What are the goals?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> These two fields are so important that we have appointed two highly trained Israeli experts―an agriculture attaché and a water attaché―who are continuously working on the ground in India, reaching out to Indian farmers on a daily basis. Together both countries have established 30 fully active centres of excellence across India. More such centres are in the pipeline. These centres are increasing farmers’ yield and productivity while diversifying local crops and improving the quality of produce. These centres will gradually be expanded into villages of excellence, in partnership with state governments in India, which will further prove beneficial for larger populations. We also have a flagship water project under way in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, to address the water challenges in the region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What is the vision of the mobility pact allowing Indian workers to work in Israel?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> The vision is to facilitate and boost employment opportunities for Indian workers in Israel. The two countries are happy to collaborate to ease the process of arrival and recruitment of Indian workers. The mobility pact will also promote the protection of labour rights of these workers while working in Israel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Can you share the outcomes of the first I2U2 meeting in the UAE?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> I2U2 has huge potential and brings new opportunities. It combines the strengths and resources of Israel, India, the US and the UAE to find innovative solutions to address some of the most critical issues of current times, including food and water security, energy and health. The formation of this unique group has been possible [because of] the Abraham Accords (signed in 2020). These accords have strengthened bonds between nations and people, and contributed to the security and economic stability of the entire Middle East and beyond.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I2U2 was first launched during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Israel in October 2021. Since then, we have worked with members of the private sector from within the focus industries to find the right projects to begin with in conjunction with the I2U2 meeting. A lot of work has already been done to start implementation of specific projects in energy and food security, bringing together our countries and companies to steer the work ahead and make the outcomes more efficient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Israel is one of the three poles of West Asia. How do you see regional security shaping up and the threat from Iran becoming nuclear-capable?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Iran has funded terrorism, called for the disappearance of the State of Israel, and continuously attempted to obtain weapons of mass destruction that will allow the extremist regime to carry out its plan of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Middle East. The fingerprints of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard are all over the Middle East as well as Asia, Europe and America. Its terrorism reaches Lebanon through Hezbollah, Gaza through the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syria, Yemen and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Iran undermines global security and threatens the existence of the State of Israel. There is no other country that is threatened by another country’s public calls for its destruction, as it pursues the development of nuclear weapons. Therefore, we need to emphasise: we will never allow Iran’s terror regime in Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon. We are determined, and we will not hesitate to use all the means at our disposal for this purpose. We have already proved that we are capable of reaching Iran’s most hidden secrets, and I suggest that the Ayatollah’s regime does not test our capabilities. I call on the countries of the world: Iran is making the world a more dangerous place and is systematically violating human rights. Stop burying your head in the sand; it’s time to act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What are the terror threats facing Israel today?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> In recent years, Israel has experienced a sharp rise in the scope of attacks originating from Judea and Samaria (West Bank) in general, and more specifically from Jenin. Fifty-two Israelis were killed over the past year [because of] Palestinian terror attacks, many of which were carried out from or within the Jenin area. A total of 290 terror attacks were carried out across Judea and Samaria in the past year. Terror organisations embed themselves in the heart of a crowded civilian population; they operate command and observation centres, and place weapons and missile storage facilities (some underground) directly next to or beneath civilian infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel has promoted a permissive civil policy in the area, consisting of several civil and economic steps aimed at improving the livelihood of the Palestinian population and the local economy, as well as maintaining stability. Nevertheless, terror activities carried out by militants in the area have increased and continue to pose a security threat. Because of this continuous rise of terrorism in the region, the Israeli Defence Forces is operating in a direct manner against terror infrastructure, all the while maintaining routine security operations in Judea and Samaria. All IDF operations are conducted in a precise manner under consistent efforts to reduce harm to non-combatants.</p> Sat Sep 23 17:59:55 IST 2023 haifa-port-executive-chairman-ron-malka-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>TRADITIONALLY, GOODS</b> flowing between India and Europe have relied heavily on routes passing through the Suez Canal. After the acquisition of Haifa Port, Israel’s second largest port, by a consortium led by India’s Adani Group, it is being transformed into a world-class facility that can be an alternative route, besides challenging China’s growing footprint in the region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ron Malka, Israel’s former envoy to India, took charge as the executive chairman of the Haifa Port Company this year. He says the goal is to develop Haifa Port as a true gateway connecting the east to west. With India and Israel leveraging its strategic location to boost trade linkages between Israel, neighbouring Arab states and other countries, Malka says expanding the scope of the Abraham Accords to include Saudi Arabia would present new opportunities and open up new horizons. He also says that there is a long-term vision to establish railway connections between Haifa and west Asia through the UAE. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / How do you see the strategic purchase of Haifa Port by India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Haifa Port is widely regarded as the leading port in Israel across various aspects, including innovation, growth potential, and the range of activities it offers. Our vision is to transform Haifa into a world-class port and position it as a key player in the Mediterranean. Our goal is to develop it as a true gateway connecting the east to Europe and the United States, and vice versa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the decision to invest in Haifa Port was a strategic business decision, it was supported by strong bilateral ties between India and Israel. By leveraging our expertise and resources, we aim to enhance Haifa Port’s capabilities, infrastructure, and operational efficiency, enabling it to compete on a global scale. Through this endeavour, we strive to contribute to the economic growth and development of both countries while establishing Haifa Port as a premier maritime hub in the region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What role can it play in improving regional economic relations?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Traditionally, goods flowing between India and Europe have relied heavily on routes passing through the Suez Canal. Haifa port can potentially serve as an alternative gateway, providing more options and reducing dependence on single routes. Improved infrastructure can attract more businesses, stimulate economic growth, and create job opportunities, thereby boosting the local economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adani’s expertise in port management and operations can contribute to the transfer of advanced technologies and best practices to Haifa port. This knowledge sharing can enhance the overall efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness of the port, benefiting the regional economy as a whole. The acquisition can contribute to the broader regional integration of economies and facilitate smoother trade flows between Israel and other countries in the region. It can encourage joint ventures, investments, and the exchange of goods and services, leading to increased bilateral trade and economic cooperation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / The next step is improved regional connectivity, infrastructure and trade in west Asia. What are the short-term and long-term goals?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> In the short term, we are looking at strong partnerships in the shipping industry; we expect a substantial increase in cargo movement through Haifa Port. Through collaborative efforts of India and Israel, we aim to strengthen ties with neighbouring countries, fostering improved regional connectivity and trade. We aim to create a more modern and advanced facility capable of handling larger volumes of cargo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the long term, our vision is to establish railway connections between Haifa and west Asia through the United Arab Emirates. This ambitious project aims to enhance regional connectivity, facilitating seamless transportation of goods and fostering economic integration. The international involvement of governments, from the US to India to the UAE, and the engagement of organisations like the World Bank demonstrates the seriousness and potential of these projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / How different is reviving old ports from building new private port terminals with China?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> This is an excellent question, and indeed, these are two distinct tasks. We have entered a working port with its inherent advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, we cannot construct it entirely according to our preferences. However, on the other hand, we can immediately begin working to enhance and address any deficiencies we identify. It can be compared with taking an iconic existing building and renovating it with new ideas, rather than starting from scratch.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, we have the invaluable knowledge and expertise of the Haifa Port workers, which, when combined with the knowledge of Adani and Gadot, create a synergy that sets us apart from the Chinese or the new port in Ashdod.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / Which freight links are on the cards in next few years from Haifa to Arab states?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Shortly after the declaration of the Abraham Accords, signifying the normalisation of relations, the first ship carrying goods from the UAE arrived at Haifa Port. The MSC Paris marked the beginning of a flourishing trade relationship; ships from the UAE now make weekly calls at Haifa. And this trade trend is only growing stronger. Our business connections with Palestinian and Jordanian importers and exporters have been fruitful, as they regularly utilise Haifa Port.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, it is clear that we have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential in this area. Haifa is, and will continue to be, the ideal gateway for trade with countries located east of us. Expanding the scope of the Abraham Accords to include Saudi Arabia would present new opportunities and open up new horizons for us. We hope to establish connections with countries to the north of Israel. By doing so, we can proudly claim that Israel truly serves as a bridge between the east and the west. The intertwining of geopolitics and global trade has been a significant aspect for centuries and we are positioned to capitalise on this convergence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / How is port privatisation helping the supply chain?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> In the past, the Mediterranean ports in Israel were dominated by two government-owned port operators, resulting in limited competition. However, the landscape has shifted, and we now have five different operators, with four of them being private entities. This includes international players like Adani and TiL (Terminal Investment Limited, owned by Mediterranean Shipping Company). This will drive more aggressive competition and lead to improved services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the saying goes, time is money and better service translates to enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness. By embracing these changes and promoting healthy competition, we are confident that the Israeli port sector will continue to evolve, ultimately benefiting businesses and consumers alike while reducing costs and enhancing efficiency in the supply chain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What are the projects to transform the area around Haifa Port to maximise benefits?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> Haifa Port was constructed by British mandate exactly 90 years ago as a strategic hub to receive oil transported through pipelines from western Iraq. Acting as a loading point for bunker ships, it facilitated the distribution of oil across the Mediterranean. However, the port’s location adjacent to the city created a physical barrier, blocking the waterfront from the public. Now, we are embarking on a plan to reclaim this waterfront for commercial and leisure activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Plans are underway to establish the city’s first modern international cruise terminal, catering to the growing number of cruise ships choosing Haifa as their home port. These state-of-the-art facilities will undoubtedly enhance Haifa’s appeal as a premier tourist and business destination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q / What is the future of port cities like Haifa?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A /</b> The transformation of Haifa mirrors similar endeavours in port cities worldwide. The renovation of warehouses and the construction of public spaces, such as opera houses in Copenhagen and Oslo, hotels and museums in Cape Town, and bustling cafes and shops in Istanbul’s Galata district, have successfully revitalised these regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nevertheless, rejuvenating Haifa’s waterfront poses its own challenges. The railway divides the city from the piers, necessitating significant infrastructure improvements. However, we are optimistic about the forthcoming transformation of Haifa’s skyline.</p> Sat Sep 23 17:58:04 IST 2023 what-makes-deepika-padukone-india-s-most-successful-female-celebrity <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is just after noon on a sunny Friday in Mumbai when I am driving into Beau Monde Towers to meet Deepika Padukone. The security at the gate asks whether I want to go to her home or the office. “The office,” I reply. That’s the 30th floor then, just a few flights up from the apartment she has lived in in the posh gated community in Prabhadevi for 12 years, and shares with her husband of five years, actor Ranveer Singh. It is telling that the glamorous movie star has her personal and her official spaces in the same edifice, almost as if her heart and her head are of commensurate consequence.</p> <p>They clearly are. Padukone is having the most unusual year: 2023 began with the biggest blockbuster Hindi cinema has seen since Dangal (2016)―<i>Pathaan</i>―headlined by Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham and Padukone; it has collected around Rs1,050 crore (and counting) globally. Padukone’s net worth has reportedly snowballed to Rs500 crore this year, thanks to her investments in multiple startups, making her the richest female Indian celebrity. She was valued at Rs300 crore in 2020.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2016-2017, Padukone has been among the highest taxpayers in India, and the only female actor to be in the list of top 10 highest taxpayers. That year, she paid over Rs10 crore in taxes, and has retained her position in that list ever since. As per a Forbes report, she earned Rs48 crore in 2019 and beat celebrities like cricketer Rohit Sharma, actors Rajinikanth and Ajay Devgn to enter India’s top 10 rich list of celebrities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her carefully orchestrated career is a conscious decision, Padukone admits. “I think like an athlete…. My discipline comes from my sports background,” she explains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padukone, 37, is India’s highest paid female actor (not counting Priyanka Chopra Jonas as she has moved base to the US). She reportedly charges Rs12 crore to Rs15 crore per film, when there are barely any female stars who have crossed the Rs10 crore mark. Most of her films where she has played a pivotal role have been one of the highest grossing films of that year. Some of these are: her debut <i>Om Shanti Om</i> (2007), <i>Chennai Express</i> (2013), <i>Happy New Year</i> (2014) and <i>Padmaavat</i> (2018). In 2017, she starred in the Hollywood film <i>XXX: Return of Xander Cage</i> opposite Vin Diesel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She has endorsed several Indian brands such as Asian Paints, Jio, Dabur, Tanishq, and Axis Bank, as well as international brands such as Chopard and Levi’s. The last year alone has seen her appointment as global brand ambassador for three major international brands―the world’s richest fashion label Louis Vuitton, Qatar Airways and Cartier jewellery. Padukone is estimated to charge Rs7 crore to Rs12 crore per brand, subject to the number of days required from her. Unlike other film stars, she does not charge for social media posts. Nor does she charge for special appearances in films (including this month’s blockbuster, Shah Rukh Khan’s <i>Jawan</i>); most of them are for her personal friendships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As part of her endorsements, the last one year or so has seen her present the performance of <i>RRR’</i>s ‘Naatu naatu’ at the Academy Awards 2023 (making her only the third Indian to present at the Oscars; the first being Persis Khambatta in 1980, and the second Chopra Jonas in 2016). She was also a jury member at the Cannes film festival early last year, and was the first Indian ever to unveil the FIFA World Cup trophy in Doha in December 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When she signed with Louis Vuitton, the company said, “Following a strong collaborative relationship with the Maison, including an appearance in Nicolas Ghesquière’s novel-inspired Pre-Fall 2020 campaign, the award-winning actress begins an exciting new chapter of her journey with Louis Vuitton.” Cartier’s chief marketing officer Arnaud Carrez stated Padukone was an ideal fit for the brand as she embodied “the company’s spirit of creativity, universality and open-mindedness”. Adidas India’s senior director Sunil Gupta says, “As a global youth icon and someone who champions mental well-being and personal betterment, Deepika fits in beautifully with the brand’s ambition of creating positive change through sports and movement.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Levi’s quantifies how its brand image got a boost after signing on Padukone as a global brand ambassador. “Deepika’s association with Levi’s has helped us reach a broader audience, creating a new generation of Levi’s fans,” says Amisha Jain, senior vice-president, South Asia-Middle East, Levi Strauss &amp; Co. “She is not only an internationally acclaimed actor but a global youth and fashion icon. Her appeal transcends geographical boundaries, making her ideal to reach an international audience. Our co-created collection sees high engagement and interest from younger consumers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Padukone is keen on building her own brand. She owns KA Productions along with her sister, Anisha Padukone. It has established her as a film producer―she has co-produced <i>Chhapaak</i> (2020) and ’83 (2021). KA Enterprises has her father, the former badminton champion Prakash Padukone, as co-director, and invests in several Indian startups. Some of her investments include Bellatrix Aerospace, Drums Food International (owner of Epigamia yoghurt), Furlenco Furniture, hobby learning platform FrontRow (now closed down), Purplle (beauty products marketplace), Supertails pet supplies, Mokobara travel accessories, Atomberg Technologies and Nua sanitary pads. “I have just invested in Blue Tokai coffee. It has not been announced yet, but please feel free to break the news,” she teases. Padukone’s investments are the typical size of a Series A investor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much of Padukone, the businesswoman, has to do with hiring and collaborating with the right people. She launched DPKA Universal Consumer Ventures, which cofounded 82°E along with her fund manager, Jigar Shah. The skincare and wellness company, which marries ayurveda with science, raised $7.5 million in seed funding and was launched in November 2022. “Just as I started working with her, Deepika expressed her dream to build something entrepreneurial and leave a legacy beyond films,” says Shah, 37. “She needed a sounding board or a partner who helped structure the business for her. We could have done a joint venture or invested in something new, but I soon understood the depth of her vision. By the end of 2020, there was an influx of beauty companies and all of them wanted her involvement, but after I researched the space we realised the best way would be to do this ourselves.” An alumnus of Mumbai’s SP Jain Institute of Management, he was hired only in 2020 as director and head of investments across all asset classes. “She is the soul of the brand, her sense of purpose comes out clearly,” he says. “She controls the brand marketing and product lens, while I take care of the business and operations part.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vijay Subramaniam, as her primary agent, has seen her come into her own from close quarters. “What I have seen in my 10-11 years of working with Deepika is how she has eclipsed the norms of the box office,” says Subramaniam, group CEO and cofounder of Collective Artists Network. “Her first step was an ascent into the number one spot, the second was maintaining the spot. She is now in a space where she has transcended the ranking system altogether.” He strategises her career moves. “She now creates for a purpose,” he says. “She doesn’t need to promote 75 brands, do five films a year, or do PR for the sake of PR. There’s an ease to being Deepika Padukone and it’s quite a tangible thing.” Subramaniam says Padukone has turned into a GOAT, much like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar or even Roger Federer. “She has now achieved permanence,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The actor is also building an enviable real estate portfolio. There are the two apartments at the Prabhadevi complex. For sentimental reasons, Padukone has kept the two-bedroom Pali Hill apartment―her first in Mumbai. Last year, her husband and she purchased six floors of an apartment building at Bandra Bandstand, next to her good friend Shah Rukh Khan’s Mannat bungalow. The couple has also invested in a holiday home in Alibaug that is priced at around Rs25 crore. In 2021, she purchased an apartment in Four Seasons Private Residences at Embassy One, Bengaluru, as an investment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Friend and leading fashion designer Sabyasachi, who styled her wedding as well as the Asian Paints campaign, says Padukone remains a larger-than-life movie star. “Being 5’10” helps,” he says, laughing. “When you have an incredible face, an incredible body and incredible talent, you really have it all. Deepika works harder than anyone I know, she gets a lot of discipline from her parents. This is why she can balance films, businesses, relationships and still look gorgeous. Moreover, she is a consummate professional who relies heavily on her team―stylist Shaleena Nathani, makeup professional Sandhya Shekhar and hairstylist Yianni Tsapatori and others―and she understands it takes a village to create Brand Deepika and she keeps that village close to her.” The designer especially remembers how Padukone agreed to a magazine shoot for him knowing it would not make it to the cover. “But when life takes you to where you are meant to be, you just learn to relax,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padukone has been dragged into several controversies, mostly for gaining political mileage by riding on her stardom. A fringe party wanted to cut her nose for playing the role of a revered fictitious queen Padmavati in <i>Padmaavat</i>, forcing the film to change its title. A <i>jauhar</i> scene in the same film was panned for glorifying the practice. In 2020, Padukone visited New Delhi’s left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru University during a protest by students against campus violence, earning the ire of the ruling BJP’s supporters. Earlier this year, an orange bikini she wore in a <i>Pathaan</i> song offended the sentiments of those outraged against a ‘saffron’ skin show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrated image guru Dilip Cherian believes Padukone’s stardom has shone through her controversies. “She has retained her stardom and the controversies have been relegated to an aside,” he offers. “The undertones of politics have not been allowed to become the overlay. Deepika has shown that any song with sizzle will allow the controversy to fizzle.” Cherian further adds that international brands have thus chosen her to appeal to a large number of Indian audiences, both in India and abroad, who are their target consumers. “The mega brands have realised that brown skin in a pole position trumps everything else,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padukone is a well-known philanthropist, too. She is perhaps India’s most famous mental health advocate. In 2015, she founded the Live Love Laugh Foundation that creates awareness on mental health by also working in villages. The World Economic Forum awarded her for her efforts in the field in 2020. Padukone had also adopted a village in Maharashtra’s Ambegaon in 2010 and is responsible for providing electricity there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her marriage with Ranveer Singh, a massive movie star himself, makes them quite the power couple. Both have consistently occupied a spot in the Top 10 of India’s most valued celebrities, according to a Duff &amp; Phelps (a risk and financial advisory, now called Kroll) annual report. The two charge a premium for films and commercials in which they appear together. Padukone says they are quite unique, in that they command an identical balance of power between them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are also both self-made, a trait unusual in an industry famous for its generational surnames. Singh and Padukone have starred in several blockbusters together, but their onscreen chemistry is comparable to their off-screen ardour that garners as many eyeballs. They are almost always photographed in a well-coordinated wardrobe; the colours and styles match to a tee. They are always holding hands, matching steps with each other, and laughing at a private joke. Singh is often spotted driving her to the airport on her work commitments, signalling his support for her career.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrity paparazzo Viral Bhayani says their chemistry in public is unbeatable. “Most of our audience is college-going; Ranveer and Deepika make them believe in love. They make these youngsters hope for such affection in their own lives,” he says. “But my boys (junior photographers) are addicted to Deepika’s smile; they say it’s just magic. They actually don’t have a good day when she doesn’t smile at them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One may agree with Padukone’s team and endorsers that believe her to be the greatest female movie star of all time. But the beautiful girl is hardly done. She has potential blockbusters coming up: <i>Fighter</i> (2024) with Hrithik Roshan; <i>Kalki 2898-AD</i> with Prabhas, also slated for next year and said to be the most expensive Indian film ever to be made; <i>The Intern</i> with Amitabh Bachchan and Singham <i>Again</i>. The actor is also unabashed about her global ambitions and going beyond being a movie star.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padukone says coming from landlocked Bengaluru made her always want to live by the sea. What she also means is a sea of endless possibilities.</p> Sat Sep 16 12:14:47 IST 2023 bollywood-actor-deepika-padukone-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>We first met in 2006 when you had just signed <i>Om Shanti Om</i> (2007). How different were you as a person then? Did you, at that time, anticipate your superstardom?</b></p> <p>The person that I inherently am, when it comes to shyness and awkwardness, hasn’t changed. People talk of my success or confidence, but I am still such an introvert. I think a lot, I process a lot. Everything about me is internal, there is a lot going on in my head. But the little girl who left Bengaluru still exists in me. My upbringing and values are still the core of everything I do and every decision I make.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Did I anticipate the stardom? I knew I had a purpose; it’s just that my medium was cinema. My purpose was to make a positive impact. I wanted to challenge the system; I wanted to change ideas that people did not even question. Why can’t things be different or why can’t things be more than this? I knew I wanted to bring value and purpose into people’s lives and I just happened to do it through movies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How is life after </b><i><b>Pathaan</b></i><b> (2023)? What has changed for you, work-wise, with a film that crossed Rs1,000 crore at the worldwide box office?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It’s bizarre, because I’ve never been fascinated by numbers whether it was maths in school or the numbers of <i>Pathaan</i>. I was just happy that cinemas had come alive again, that people had come alive again. I was really grateful for that. But my journey sort of got its boost since <i>Cocktail</i>, 11 years ago. That is when people accepted what I could bring to the table as an actor. It’s because of what I bring to the table that <i>Pathaan</i> came to me. Of course, the film has now further cemented this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ I feel you have slowly and carefully crafted this journey of yours. Everyone who I speak to about you uses the same word: discipline. What makes you disciplined? What gives you this sense of professionalism?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I think like an athlete. All my role models are athletes. I am inherently still an athlete. There is no other profession that teaches you as much as sport does. My discipline comes from my sports background.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your career has seen you mix glamorous as well as more accessible roles―from </b><i><b>Chennai Express</b></i><b> (2013) to </b><i><b>Piku</b></i><b> (2015) and </b><i><b>Chhapaak</b></i><b> (2020). Is this deliberate?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It’s a combination of where I am in life, what I am offered and what I am capable of doing. As a craft, I am capable of doing <i>Piku, Chennai Express</i> and <i>Pathaan</i>. I believe I have the skill sets, so those opportunities exist for me. And lastly, I need to assess where I am emotionally at that point in life. My choice is not linear; this is my triangle of picking films. It’s almost a spiritual process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your biggest films are with Shah Rukh Khan―</b><i><b>Om Shanti Om</b></i><b>, </b><i><b>Chennai Express, Happy New Year</b></i><b> (2014), </b><i><b>Pathaan</b></i><b>. Are you his lucky charm or is he yours?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We are each other’s lucky charm. But honestly, we are beyond luck. We have a sense of ownership over each other. There is deep trust. I think we can be vulnerable with each other. I am one of the few people he is vulnerable with. There is so much love, trust, respect, and I think that luck is just the cherry on top.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The last one year alone has seen you at Cannes, the Oscars and FIFA World Cup. Do you still have global ambitions?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Yes, one hundred percent. I have global ambitions, but much of it is being beyond a movie star. There is a lot I want to do globally as an individual. I find it fascinating and strange at the same time to think that we were almost apologetic about who we are and where we came from. We have always overcompensated because of this. I don’t feel I need to move to another country or speak the way they speak in order to be accepted. Has the journey taken longer? Yes. But I sleep better knowing I am in my culture and I did it on my own terms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Tell me about your investments in startups. Why did you feel you needed to invest in businesses?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I just wanted to manage my money well. When you make the kind of money you do, you don’t want it just lying around. You want to invest it well. But I wanted to invest in companies whose values align with mine, and I wanted to help small businesses grow. I think it was important for me to add value, with my time and my money, to help Indian businesses. All my investments are in homegrown brands. I have just invested in Blue Tokai coffee. It has not been announced yet, but please feel free to break the news (laughing).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How did Louis Vuitton, the biggest luxury label in the world, come to you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> You have to ask them that, as no other Indian had been the face of a global giant before. My team kept telling me, “Louis Vuitton is trying to get in touch and they were interested in a campaign.” But I thought it was a prank. Plus, it was a global brand ambassador, not a “friend of the brand” or some such. I am too practical and pragmatic, I didn’t realise how major this was until I actually saw their campaign. I was shooting in Spain for <i>Pathaan</i> when they wanted to shoot the ad. It was decided they would shoot it in Barcelona. Then, weeks later, I was at Cannes as a jury member for the film festival. I was driving past the promenade, and to my right was this huge Louis Vuitton store with my face staring right back at me. That’s when I realised what had really happened. Ranveer (Singh, husband and actor) was with me and he photographed that moment. I have that picture on my phone. Everything I had manifested for what more we could do as Indians came true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You don’t charge for special appearances in films?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> No, I don’t. I wanted to be a part of 83 (2021) because I wanted it to be an ode to women who stand behind their husbands’ glory. I watched my mother do it. This was my homage to wives who make sacrifices to support their husbands’ careers. Other than that, any special appearance for Shah Rukh Khan, I am there. Same with Rohit Shetty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is it true that you still own the first home you purchased in Mumbai?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> You know I moved to Mumbai as an 18-year-old with just one suitcase. It had everything I thought I would need, like a model’s kit of a black bra, a skin-coloured bra, multiple types of shoes. I moved from one aunt’s home to another aunt’s home, and I took public transport everywhere. If I had to go to town (south Mumbai), I would take an auto to Mahim, since they don’t ply beyond that, and then change to a taxi. If I took a taxi all the way and back, that would cost as much as my day’s earnings. So the first thing I did was to buy a car and hire a driver―this meant that I could lug my shoot bag with me and I could safely doze off in the car.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it came to buying my first home, I found a dilapidated little two-bedroom apartment in Pali Hill, owned by an old Maharashtrian lady. But I could afford it, and it had so much greenery around and a lovely energy. I’m very emotionally attached to it and I’ll never give it up. It’s on rent now, and I make a little money from that (laughing).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why did you launch your skincare brand―82°E?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It’s a self-care brand. It’s authentic to who I am in its core values and belief systems. It’s a marriage of what is real to me and the gaps in the market. India didn’t have a great luxury beauty brand that wasn’t about ayurveda. The ethos of 82°E is between the east and the west. And it stands for who I am. I am very proud of who I am and where I come from, and that I have had access to a global outlook. The brand is a vision of that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It’s less than a year old, but is it profitable?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It is early, but we are definitely on track.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Ranveer Singh and you are called the number one ‘power couple’ of Bollywood. What does it mean to be a power couple? Do you command a separate rate for ads or films, than you do as individual stars?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Yes, we do charge a premium for when we come together. I think we are positioned quite uniquely. In that, there’s usually an imbalance in a power couple, but not with us. Plus, both of us have started from scratch and it’s something we are very proud of. To achieve success on merit and on one’s own terms makes us special.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How important is an ‘airport look’ for stars today? I think you have become a prototype―there are Instagram reels on a sea of actors who have begun to ape your style.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Nobody wakes up looking gorgeous. I have a professional who puts together my looks for me. But I don’t do it because I know there will be paparazzi photographers in places; I just like to dress up. I feel good when I look good and I enjoy getting ready. Ranveer loves that I enjoy getting dressed up, too. But to be honest, I dress for myself. Anything related to fashion and Deepika Padukone exists because I love clothes. I love planning looks, I give my stylists time and I am open to trying out new things. I love myself as a clotheshorse. Let’s not forget I was a professional model.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Who advises you on films?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I have a team that advises me. But it’s the triangle we spoke of that really matters to me. The final decision is always mine. I don’t discuss work with my parents or in-laws or even my sister, but yes I will update them. I do discuss a lot more with Ranveer since he is in the same profession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Who advises you on brands?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It’s the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ And finances?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I have a fund manager, Jigar Shah. He is also the cofounder of 82°E.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have had more than your share of controversies and been subject to severe trolling. But this has not shaken your star power, or your films. What do you attribute this to?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Half the time I don’t know I am being trolled. It doesn’t exist in my emotional bandwidth. My work doesn’t get affected because I have laser focus. I don’t have the bandwidth to focus on the menial or the trivial.</p> Fri Sep 15 17:31:23 IST 2023 regaining-paradise-in-jammu-and-kashmir <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Zia-ul-Islam, 32, keeps apologising for being hoarse. Like most boys, his voice cracked at 16, but it also became rasp by the scars inflicted in jail, where he was locked up alongside hardened militants in 2008.</p> <p>It was a summer of mayhem. Zia was 17. “Separatists had called for a 'Muzaffarabad <i>chalo</i> (Let’s go to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir)' agitation against the government’s decision to transfer a part of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. We were told that outsiders were snatching our land in violation of Article 35A of the Constitution. My friends advised me to focus on studies but I joined the protests,” he says. In the middle of the night on August 25, Zia was arrested on charges of stone-pelting and raising pro-Pakistan slogans from his house in Fatehgarh Sheeri in Baramulla.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zia was one of the first few juveniles to be arrested under the Public Safety Act in Kashmir. A year in prison earned him the tag of a stone-pelter, and every time there was unrest, he was kept in detention for days, sometimes weeks. There were seven cases against him that took 14 years of trials before the court granted him reprieve in 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I suffered 14 years for a mistake as a teenager,” he says. “I cannot sleep well even today. I dream of being in school and then I wake up shuddering. No one wanted to meet me. My classmates have become professors, police officers and doctors, but I could not fulfil my dream of becoming a lawyer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zia is a panchayati raj institution (PRI) member from Fatehgarh Sheeri, the hotbed of terrorism in Baramulla. He is also the change Kashmir is embracing today, delicately balancing peace and desperately breaking the shackles of violence and cynicism. For thousands like Zia, their cathartic release is no longer throwing stones, but building an edifice of peace in Jammu and Kashmir, brick by brick.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zia won as an independent candidate in the poll for PRI members in 2018, when the state was under President's rule. “The regional parties had boycotted the panchayat elections,” he says. The three-tier panchayati raj system could be the first step towards grassroot democracy in the valley. After the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, elections to the block development and district development councils happened for the first time in J&amp;K. “Elections to the panchayats, block development councils and district development councils have been one of the longest pending reforms in J&amp;K,” says Safina Baigh, chairperson of district development council of Baramulla. “Earlier, central funds used to flow into the coffers of MPs and MLAs and never reached the ground. There may be some hiccups today, but as decision-making and fund-flow shifts to the grassroot, more and more people will participate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are many more battles to be won, including the disenchantment that stands in the way of a better future. The conflict has tired out generations. “I don’t have the means to study and become a lawyer,” says Zia. “My life is over, but I want the kids in my village to fulfil their dreams.” He is building classrooms and a library next to the panchayat office in his village. The first set of 150 books arrived on August 20.</p> <p>Zia learnt English while in jail, reading books given to him by some generous police officers. “My mentor (an officer named Pani) changed my life,” he says. “I met him only for a few minutes, but I will never forget the way he counselled me. He made me think why terror mongers were turning us against our own people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kashmir's children have paid a heavy price for the insurgency. “I have grown up listening to Pakistan radio, reading extremist literature and felt a natural inclination towards the people there,” says Wajahat Farooq Bhat of Sheeri village. “We were taught real life begins after death. Gunshots were given in honour of anyone who died in action. Our joy was not earning college degrees; we fell in love with the idea of death.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By 2012, stone-pelting had become so commonplace that youngsters graduated to petrol bombs to impress peers. “I remember the first time I threw a stone,” says Wajahat. “It was on a bulletproof vehicle carrying a ballot box in 2014, and the window cracked. I became a hero in my locality.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When 22-year-old Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Kashmiri separatism, was killed in 2016, many Wajahats were born. Pulwama boys Mohammed Mudasir, 19, and Yawar Mushtaq, 20, who are currently studying BSc (operation theatre technology) in Chandigarh, used to carry stones in their school bags. “We were scared security personnel would come and pick up anyone,” says Mudasir. His father served in the J&amp;K Police. “My father counselled me but I used to go for stone-pelting after returning from school. One day, when I returned home late, my grandmother was waiting with a stick. She said I should kill her first,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yawar, son of a small-time businessman, says going to Chandigarh to study was the best decision in their lives. “We could not imagine how children roamed safely at night. We don’t talk about our past to college mates in Chandigarh, but no one is really bothered,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it isn’t the same for Kashmiri girls, who are still finding it hard to break from the past. Anika Nazir, 22, of Kupwara battled migraine and depression before she started studying medicine in Srinagar. “I belong to a family where all girls are educated but are not outspoken,” she says. “My brother and I grew up watching the turmoil, even though I did not step out to pelt stones. But I wanted to talk about it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anika joined the NGO Save Youth, Save Future as a volunteer. “I have seen both sides,” she says. “It is wrong to say the youth pelted stones for money. But, at the same time, some of the videos of violence were from Syria and Afghanistan, playing Kashmiri songs in the background and talking about the cruelty of the Indian state.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When she started using social media to bust fake news, she was branded a traitor. “I think girls are more radicalised than boys,” she says. “I studied in a women's college where they criticised my ideas, my public appearances and my way of dressing. Even my teachers did not support me.” But Anika did not let herself slip into depression; instead, she became a beacon of change. “I have my own YouTube channel and social media accounts, where I spread awareness and pro-India ideas.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kashmiris are slowly opening their hearts and minds to new thoughts. Faizan Gul, who runs the Global Youth Foundation in Baramulla, says his parents never voted, just like hundreds of families in the old town of Baramulla. “My parents felt no political party was worth it,” he says. “I haven’t voted till now. But I want to participate in the next polls.” Faizan feels the prevailing peace has nothing to do with the abrogation of Article 370. “I would say the credit goes to security agencies,” he says. “Baramulla used to be a hotbed of militancy in the 1990s and later in 2010 and 2016. Even the police could not enter here, but today it is safe.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has seen Punjab vanquishing militancy through the participation of people in development, and easing out the Army after it flushed out militants in the 1980s. It was the combined effort of the local police and the defeat of separatist sympathisers in the assembly elections in 1992 that ended the era of insurgency in the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The separatism in J&amp;K may be of a different kind, but the penetration of terror networks in the ecosystem down to the civil society has to be weeded out to establish the rule of law. It is a mammoth task, but the groundwork is being done. When the government was mulling the abrogation of Article 370, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval called in senior J&amp;K police officers and asked if there would be rebellion within the ranks. Many of them expressed concern, but Additional Director General Vijay Kumar told Doval that J&amp;K police had handled militancy at its peak, and it would continue to keep Kashmir safe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Vijay Kumar is overseeing the quiet transformation of J&amp;K Police’s elite anti-terror unit, Special Operations Group (SOG) or Cargo, equipping it to handle counter-terror operations without the help of other security forces. The elimination of The Resistance Front commander Adil Parray, who had gunned down two cops, was carried out by an SOG squad. In 2022, a Pakistani terrorist was shot by the SOG at the Dargah Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar. “The operation was over in 10 minutes with zero collateral damage,” said Iftikhar Talib, superintendent of police leading Cargo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A conventional operation, said Vijay Kumar, could have damaged the shrine, resulting in a law and order situation. He said SOG operations were conducted based on inputs generated by the unit itself. This giant leap in becoming self sufficient is facilitated by the training of the SOG by Army’s special para commandos, access to state-of-the-art weapons and the enabling approach of the Central government. The excesses of armed forces personnel and the indiscriminate killings have been a major concern over the years. In contrast, about 60 per cent of the SOG force belongs to Shopian, Baramulla, Srinagar, Anantnag and Bandipora, where militant activities usually take place, and they are careful about the civilians. “When we do an operation in a village, we have family and friends there to whom we are answerable,” said an SOG commando who was part of the team that carried out the Hazratbal operation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There have been incidents when cops were shot when they returned to their villages, but that has not deterred the youth from joining the police. The SOG has 73 camps across the valley, each consisting 30-40 personnel. It has also set up electronic surveillance units in every district and joint interrogation centres to synergise activities with other security forces operating in the valley.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to R.R. Swain, additional director general of police (CID), the three-decade-long debilitation of the system will take time to repair, and it may take longer to restore the trust and confidence of the people. “Everyone in J&amp;K has been made to balance between the Indian state and the Pakistani state,” he says. “Today, universities, colleges, schools, financial bodies and the vast network of religious institutions are approaching us saying that they were fed up of having a gun to their head and told what to do.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Swain is optimistic. “Unlike the neighbour, the biggest weapon the Indian state has is the rule of law,” he says. “We believe that it is this very law, which [the Pakistan-backed forces] have subverted, that will restore life into each one of these institutions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest institution is the state government itself, comprising the <i>babus</i>, policy makers and file-movers sitting in the secretariat in Srinagar. Before 2019, the corridors were so full of middlemen and power brokers that it was impossible to wade through them. The outcome was stalled development projects, corruption and nepotism. “I don’t know if people recognised the level of degradation,” says a government official who did not wish to be named. “The employees engaged through backdoor exceeded 2.5 lakh.” To make matters worse, the absence of a transparent financial system channelled the money to the wrong hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“One significant change post abrogation of Article 370 is transparency in government expenditure, functioning of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and a strict watch on the movement of files in the secretariat,” says chief secretary Arun Mehta. The government has dismissed 52 persons in key government positions under Article 311 for anti-national activity and 67 bureaucrats for nonperformance. In 2021, two sons of Syed Salahuddin, PoK-based head of Hizbul Mujahideen, were dismissed from service for alleged involvement in terror-funding activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are trying to make the system accountable,” says Mehta. “All government officials have to file an e-property return and their annual confidential reports online.” To weed out corruption, the process of e-tendering of projects has begun. “The beauty of an e-office is that you cannot destroy records and delays can be tracked,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The changes happening in Srinagar may take time to reach the rest of J&amp;K. Efforts are on to bridge the disconnect between the capital and the far-off areas, like building road connectivity to all villages of at least 250 people. Ghulam Hasan, <i>sarpanch</i> of Khiram village in Anantnag district, has witnessed three transitions taken place in the valley since 1950. “When I was born, there was neither militancy nor development,” he says. “We lived in the lap of nature but gradually terrorism gained foot in the region and we got caught between security forces and militants. Now people want the villages to be connected by road.” The road from Khiram to Achdhar, where Hasan lives, ends at a primary school. But there is no tap water and the nearby springs remain the main sources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gulam Ahmed Rather, who has been teaching in the school for 20 years, commutes several kilometres on his scooter every day. He points out that while the road has been built, there is no transport. “Locals are pooling in resources to create transport facility for emergencies,” says Dr Shazia Manzoor, professor at Kashmir University, who led the socioeconomic impact survey of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most visible change in Kashmir is perhaps boys and girls swarming playgrounds in brightly lit stadiums in remote districts. Ulfat Bano, 28, a football coach from Budgam, is one of the few people who created the trend of women football players wearing the hijab. It is fast picking up, as girls everywhere are getting into the field. “I was 16 when I started playing sports, but I always wanted to play outdoor games in my village,” says Ulfat. “Later, when I started coaching girls, many of them came up to me saying they want to play outdoor games like football. In 2013, I worked upon the idea with five friends to play football wearing the hijab.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, 85 of Ulfat's 350 pupils are girls. “The boys are from downtown or other conflict zones. Some were addicted to drugs. Now they are playing sports. For girls, we did not want to change the culture by making them give up the hijab,” says Ulfat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tariq Nazir, 26, another trainer, says some 220 women across the valley are playing football wearing the hijab―200 in six Khelo India centres and 20 in three private football clubs. Now schools have also taken up the sport. Nuzhat Gull, the first woman secretary of the Jammu &amp; Kashmir Sports Council, helped Ulfat take the idea forward in an organised way. “From the grounds in my village where I played football wearing the hijab, it is a dream come true to see Kashmiri girls in open stadiums playing football,” says Ulfat. The playground is clearly getting bigger in Kashmir.</p> Sat Sep 09 16:05:34 IST 2023 manoj-sinha-lieutenant-governor-jammu-and-kashmir-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>MANOJ SINHA'S JOURNEY</b> from the political hotbed of Uttar Pradesh to the political vacuum of Jammu and Kashmir was significant, as it came with the onerous task of winning the hearts and minds of people who had lost faith in the political class. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Sinha says there has been visible change. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What have been the major changes in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> While there have been many achievements post abrogation of Article 370, the noticeable fact is that J&amp;K, once infamous for street violence, has not had a single instance of stone-pelting [after that]. I don’t wish to elaborate on why it used to happen and who was getting it done, but it has become clear that it was part of an organised strategy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not more than 150 days would pass before there was a <i>bandh</i> call by terrorist groups or other Pakistan-sponsored elements, forcing schools, universities, colleges, trade and industry to shut down. The impact is unimaginable as the future of children got affected. Naturally, if a child does not go to school, it becomes easy to divert him into a wrong direction. The economy suffered heavily, which gave birth to a new kind of economy―parallel or conflict economy―where a certain kind of people hand in glove with the disrupters sitting across the border in Pakistan benefited and the poor suffered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now schools, colleges and trade are functioning and shops are open till late at night. The state has got a record 1.8 crore tourists so far [in 2023]. Naturally, the medium and small hotels, taxis, autorickshaws, houseboats and street vendors have got business, which is a big relief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The common man is able to live without fear. Infrastructure like power generation and distribution, and projects worth more than Rs1.5 lakh crore to build tunnels and highways are under way. The prime minister has ensured that there are state-of-the-art hospitals like AIIMS, medical colleges, health and wellness centres, two central universities, IIT, IIM and NIFT in J&amp;K.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What were the challenges in holding the G20 meet in Srinagar?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Concerted attempts were made by Pakistan-backed outfits to spread misinformation using social media and other means to disrupt the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting. We managed to thwart such attempts. Since the winter was prolonged this year, black-topping of damaged roads could not be done as temperatures were low till March. But we managed to complete the work because of the enthusiasm of the people. As tourism increased, more and more people flocked to Kashmir. The biggest demonstration of peace took place in July with the Moharram procession being held for the first time in 34 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the Covid pandemic, there was a drop in tourist influx, and militancy was another factor. Many countries had issued advisories to their citizens not to travel to J&amp;K. I am expecting many countries to take back their travel advisories after the success of the G20 meeting and the way foreign dignitaries and visitors shared their happy experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Last year saw the completion of the delimitation process and revision of electoral rolls in J&amp;K. How significant is this process?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> After the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, Ladakh got separated from J&amp;K and seven assembly seats were added. Aspects like which are going to be the assembly seats and what will be their boundaries can only be decided by the Delimitation Commission. The Delimitation Commission did its work with diligence by talking to people on the ground and meeting several delegations. Normally, before every assembly or Lok Sabha election, the process of revising electoral rolls also takes place and new voters are added. The old voter list is revised. That work has also been completed by the Election Commission. So, both the delimitation process and revision of electoral rolls were necessary for the election process to kick off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The next logical step is assembly elections. How soon will that happen?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Other than the assembly elections, all other elections have happened in J&amp;K, whether it is the 2019 Lok Sabha polls or the establishment of the three-tier panchayati raj system for the first time. As far as the assembly polls are concerned, the necessary steps of delimitation and revision of electoral rolls have been completed. The Union home minister had said on the floor of Parliament that the first step will be delimitation, then elections and statehood at an appropriate time. Naturally, the next step is polls. The Election Commission will decide when the polls will be held and whether they are to be held alongside the Lok Sabha polls. Whenever it directs, the J&amp;K administration will follow it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You flagged the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism at the G20 meet. How did the international community react?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> At several international forums, including the United Nations, India has flagged the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. I feel today the entire world has accepted that Pakistan is the terror hotspot of the world. Just as India is the mother of democracy, Pakistan is the mother of terrorism. The delegates at G20 have experienced it on the ground this time by interacting with the people here and realised that Pakistan has played a huge role in disrupting peace in J&amp;K.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How are you dealing with cross-border terrorism?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>The ceasefire on the Line of Control has brought relief to people living in border areas. Still attempts are being made to infiltrate and disturb the peace, and the Army and security grid in J&amp;K are daily thwarting such attempts. I am not saying there is 100 per cent success because of the terrain, but there has been a significant drop. There is good coordination and security forces have an upper hand. I can say militancy is on its last leg in J&amp;K. The clear approach of the Prime Minister of zero tolerance to terror will help establish permanent peace in J&amp;K.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There are new threats like drones dropping weapons and drugs in J&amp;K and neighbouring states?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Drones and tunnels used for narco terrorism and arms smuggling is an area of concern. There were repeated attempts by cross-border elements to bring drugs into J&amp;K, but the police and other security forces have brought it under control. DRDO and other technological institutions have been working to instal certain instruments on the border to detect and thwart it. The Union home minister is proactively addressing the growing concern over drugs. In J&amp;K, arrests and seizures of narcotics have increased and anti-drug programmes are being held at the panchayat level. The police is augmenting its use of technology to maintain law and order, punish culprits and control the drug menace through active policing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There have been targeted killings of civilians creating a new wave of terror.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There have been some incidents of killing of innocent civilians and that is because the top commanders of terrorist groups are being eliminated by security forces and terrorists have become desperate to show their presence and disrupt peace. It is a despicable act and each case is being investigated thoroughly by the J&amp;K police, not only to arrest the culprits but also to dismantle the terror ecosystem that supported such killings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do Kashmiri Pandits still desire to return and how are their concerns being addressed?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> All those people who are keen to return to J&amp;K are welcome. Certain unfortunate incidents had led to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley along with others creating a sizeable population of Kashmiri migrants who settled in Jammu and other parts of the country. The Congress government created a policy to grant 3,000 jobs and houses each but few houses were built and funds were not released as some of the houses did not fulfil the criteria. A similar number was added by the Modi government and today we have filled up 6,000 posts and given promotions that were long overdue. Today, land has been granted and another 3,000 houses will be ready by year end with adequate security arrangements. We have created grievance cells at district and state levels. At the social level also, there is a realisation that Kashmir is incomplete without the Kashmiri Pandits and J&amp;K awaits their return.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is fear of demographic change because of outsiders buying non farmland in J&amp;K, and domicile provisions.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There is no fear in the people, but certain vested interests have sown seeds of doubt in their minds. The protection of land rights available to people in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand has been kept in J&amp;K as well. No outsider can purchase agriculture land here. The only concession has been to the industry because if we see the figures, only Rs13,000-14,000 crore investment came to J&amp;K since independence. The new industrial policy has brought more than Rs80,000 crore worth proposals for investment, which is the highest in the country. On ground, more than Rs28,000 crore works are already under way. It must be kept in mind that the relaxation is only for hospitals, colleges, industries and hotels that will generate more revenue and employment. There are safeguards to protect the ecology and environment. In fact , some discriminatory laws preventing married daughters from owning land or denying voting rights to west Pakistan refugees are done away with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is concern about online radicalisation and recruitment by terror groups even as there are demands to improve internet connectivity. How will you balance the two?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> This challenge is there across the country and naturally it is more in J&amp;K. We are trying to use technology to tackle online radicalisation and the emphasis is on improving sports infrastructure for the youth. More than 60 lakh people participated in sports last year in J&amp;K. There are youth clubs in panchayats that are acting as a bridge between the government and the public. Cinema halls have been opened in Shopian, Baramulla, Pulwama and Kishtwar after 30-35 years. The youth of J&amp;K want to live normal lives and contribute to nation-building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Rebuilding J&amp;K is a long process. Do you agree?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Things that were spoilt in the past 70 years and deliberately worsened in the past 30-35 years cannot be rectified in four or five years. But the decision of the prime minister of abrogating Article 370 laid the foundation for rebuilding J&amp;K in letter and spirit. I believe when India celebrates the centenary of Independence in 2047, J&amp;K will be a key contributor to the growth story of the country.</p> Sat Sep 09 15:37:40 IST 2023 unseen-beautiful-places-to-explore-in-kashmir <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Last summer, a group of young tourists visited Suhail Ahmed Khan's residence at Keran village in Kashmir's Kupwara district. Situated on the banks of the Kishanganga river, Keran is about 135km from Srinagar. Part of the village stretches to the other side of the river in the Neelam valley of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Across the Line of Control, the river is called Darya-i-Neelam (the river Neelam).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The young travellers reached late in the night and were looking for a place to stay. Pleasantly surprised, Khan gave them a spacious ground-floor room, and offered them dinner. But they wanted just some tea. &quot;I woke up my wife, and she made tea and <i>makki ki roti</i> (flatbread made from maize flour),&quot; said Khan. The guests ended up spending four days with him. Later, they shared a video on YouTube about their time in Keran, praising Khan and his family for their hospitality and mentioning his phone number. Before long, Khan, who runs a pharmacy at the local hospital―the only place in the village with internet access―began receiving inquiries. Now there is a signboard outside his residence: &quot;Suhail Guest House&quot;.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keran and other areas with untapped tourism potential along the LoC, such as Teetwal, Bangus and Machil in Kupwara and Gurez in Bandipur, remained isolated from the outside world because of decades of turmoil. These areas were on the primary infiltration routes from Pakistan in the 1990s. For livelihood, the local people looked for government jobs and work as army porters. These areas were opened up for tourism after India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire along the LoC in February 2021, sparking optimism among local people. The government's decision signified at least a semblance of normalcy in Kashmir after the instability caused by the revocation of Article 370. It also holds the potential to bring these unseen gems to the tourist map and improve the lives of local people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keran is nestled amid picturesque meadows, verdant forests, meandering streams, bubbling springs, majestic walnut trees and diverse wildlife. A major attraction for tourists is the panoramic view across the LoC into the Neelam valley, where residents have constructed modern houses, hotels, restaurants and picnic spots accessible through well-maintained roads and reliable mobile connectivity. Both local people and visitors gather along the banks of the river, exchanging gestured greetings with those in Keran. Most residents in Keran and the Neelam valley are relatives separated by the LoC. On weekends, the influx of tourists increases significantly. After dusk, the entire valley lights up, creating a spectacle amid the cool breeze wafting in from the Kishanganga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Overcoming the inadequacy of infrastructure in Keran, local residents have converted their houses into affordable homestays. Additionally, there is the option for camping tents. Some travellers set up camps along the riverbank, and cook using portable gas stoves. Others use the readily available firewood. Khan has plans to put up tents on a vacant half-acre plot in front of his house next month, when the maize crop will be ripe. “After that, we will have all amenities,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An inconvenience for travellers is the lack of internet and mobile connectivity. Sidiq C.H. and Adil Abdul Razal, who came from Kerala, said they could not make online payments. &quot;Nobody carries cash in this digital era. Internet is a must,&quot; said Sidiq. Razal said people from both sides of the river should be allowed to meet and interact freely. Shafqat-ul-Islam, from Pattan in Baramulla, said ATMs, too, should be provided in the area. A favourite tourist destination in Keran is “India's first post office” (the first post office from the LoC), a quaint single-storey wooden structure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Local people in Keran argue that the government should have constructed the Sharda Peeth temple in their village, instead of in Teetwal. &quot;From Keran, the Sharda Peeth is just 26km away, while it is 47km from Teetwal,&quot; said a resident. The Sharda Peeth was a historical centre for learning and worship, dedicated to the goddess Saraswati. The ruins of the ancient site lie in the Neelam valley in PoK. The new temple at Teetwal was inaugurated virtually by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in March. He assured the Kashmiri Pandits that the government would establish a Sharda Peeth corridor akin to the Kartarpur corridor in Punjab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teetwal is also on the Kishanganga, close to the LoC. Located 167km from Srinagar and 82km from Kupwara, it is endowed with striking natural beauty. The road from Kupwara to Teetwal traverses narrow, rugged terrain, offering beautiful views of mighty mountains, lush valleys and lively streams. Teetwal also lies divided between India and Pakistan. The part of the village in PoK is called Chilihana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teetwal residents say the Sharda temple was built in their village because of its alignment with the traditional route to the Sharda Peeth. The construction was supervised by the Save Sharda Committee, predominantly managed by local people. Historically, the temple's site served as a base camp for pilgrims travelling to Sharda Peeth, and it once hosted a gurdwara as well. After the tribal invasion from Pakistan during the time of independence, local Muslims protected the property and returned it for the temple's reconstruction after 75 years. Alongside the temple, the gurdwara, too, was rebuilt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Our elders had instructed us to safeguard the land for Hindus and give it back whenever they returned,&quot; said Ajaz Ahmed Khan, a local member of the Save Sharda Committee. &quot;The credit goes to Ravindra Pandita, head of the Save Sharda Committee, who relentlessly dedicated his efforts to this endeavour.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple's construction stands out, owing to the intricate use of meticulously carved granite stones from Karnataka. The temple has attracted Kashmiri Pandits and other devotees from various corners of India. It has also rejuvenated Teetwal's historical significance and amplified tourist inflow. One of Teetwal's landmarks is the Teetwal crossing point, where an architecturally appealing footbridge across the Kishanganga connects Teetwal and Chilihana. The bridge was one of the five authorised crossing points for families separated by the LoC, which were opened as part of a joint decision between India and Pakistan in 2005. In 2018, these crossing points were closed because of allegations of terror activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gurez valley is another upcoming tourist attraction. Located 140km from Srinagar, it has remained relatively unexplored because of its proximity to the LoC. The valley has endured decades of firing and shelling from Pakistan, which has limited its exploration. The route to Gurez passes through a rugged pathway marked by steep inclines and the 11,672-foot-high Razdan Pass. The central hub of administration and business in the valley is Dawar. Dominating the horizon is Habba Khatoon, a 13,000-ft peak named after a 16th-century poet. According to local legend, Habba Khatoon, known as the nightingale of Kashmir, spent her youth at the base of the mountain that now carries her name. It rises like a pyramid above the valley, consisting of a dozen villages. Tarbal, the last village before the PoK, is on the banks of the Kishanganga and serves as a camping site for tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With improved infrastructure, Gurez possesses the potential to compete with popular tourist destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Its distinct landscape, the roaring Kishanganga and various trekking opportunities contribute to its appeal. The road through the valley offers captivating views of maize fields, while the villages with their exquisite wooden houses create a fairytale atmosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The inhabitants of Gurez, known as the Dard Shin tribe, speak Kashmiri and have a unique history. In the past, their influence extended from northern Afghanistan to central Tibet, encompassing regions like Chitral, Gilgit, Chilas, Bunji and Drass. Gurez was a historical stop along the Silk Route, and the valley has rekindled its allure as it connects Kashmir with Kashgar in Central Asia. It attracts a diverse crowd of tourists, off-roaders and nature enthusiasts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the advantages that Gurez enjoys, several challenges remain. Sheikh Mohsin, a local inhabitant, is unhappy that tourists are not allowed to stay overnight in certain parts of Gurez. Night stays across the valley, he said, would significantly improve tourism prospects. A university student, he said, educated young people there had very few employment avenues. “Government backing for tourism could pave the way for substantial job opportunities,’’ he said. Another young resident, Shabir Ahmed Lone, who holds an engineering degree, said the suspension of overnight stays came into effect after the security forces in the area caught a militant. &quot;Despite attaining my BTech degree, I rely on tourism for my livelihood,&quot; said Shabir. He said the poor state of roads was deterring tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For security reasons, visiting places along the LoC requires prior permission. Travellers from outside Jammu and Kashmir can apply online and receive clearance within 24 hours. J&amp;K residents need only present an Aadhaar card or a driving licence and fill a simple form and get it stamped by the police. The process usually takes less than 20 minutes. No permission is required for getaway locations in south Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One such unspoiled destination is Daksum in Anantnag, around 100km from Srinagar. The scenic spot boasts dense forests of pine, oak and deodar, freshwater springs and verdant pastures. It is notably less crowded than other tourist spots. The surrounding forests and hills offer ample opportunities for trekking through pristine wilderness, making it a popular choice for adventure enthusiasts. A herbal garden and the Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary provide a tranquil escape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>College students Shahid Bhat and Shahid Wani, both hailing from Naubugh in Anantnag, have seized an opportunity to earn a livelihood, given the steady stream of visitors to Daksum. They are active members of a cooperative of unemployed educated young men and women who collaborate with the tourism department in Daksum. Bhat said Daksum was home to one of the largest sheep farms in Kashmir, where various breeds were reared in their natural habitats. &quot;Some tourists express a keen interest in witnessing this unique aspect of Daksum,&quot; he said. Last year, a group of female foreign tourists who came to Daksum specifically requested for female guides. “After that, we included female members in our cooperative,’’ said Wani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government's decision to relax travel restrictions in Kashmir's uncharted landscapes aims at highlighting the return of peace after the controversial decision to revoke J&amp;K's limited autonomy and statehood. The move has evoked a favourable response among local people, especially the younger generation which has no idea about life in the region before the late 1980s when the valley slid into violence. It is proving beneficial for the local population and tourists, as it encourages them to explore Kashmir beyond its well-known destinations. The initiative has also revived Kashmir's sobriquet as 'paradise on earth'.</p> Sat Sep 09 15:36:23 IST 2023 jammu-and-kashmir-additional-director-general-of-police-cid-r-r-swain-interview <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>THE CHANGEMAKERS</b></p> <p><b>R.R. Swain, director general of police, CID</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE REPUTATION</b> precedes the man. Be it New Delhi, Srinagar or Islamabad, all tend to watch R.R. Swain closely, albeit for different reasons. New Delhi looks towards him for his astute understanding of Pakistan, as he has served at least a decade in intelligence. No wonder the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistan army are wary of his presence in J&amp;K. In Srinagar, he is the favourite of not only the law enforcement officers, but also the civil society. His reports have led to the dismissal of terrorist-friendly employees and he keeps an eye on terrorist sympathisers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As J&amp;K awaits its first assembly elections after the abrogation of Article 370, Swain explains how its constitutional bodies were hijacked by Pakistan. “Through Hurriyat, Pakistan told people that elections are <i>haram</i> and, therefore, people and politicians should stay away. Simultaneously, through gun-wielding terrorists, it started influencing the outcome of the elections,’’ says Swain. He has intelligence to show how terrorist networks increased the level of violence in certain constituencies to intimidate voters, affecting election results. Parties and candidates who stayed away from terrorists were contacted for secret support.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Swain says Pakistan made use of non-political platforms like bar associations to subvert the legal system. “The connection between such associations and terrorist-separatist networks are well known and any serious inquiry would lead to hundreds of instances of circumstantial and direct evidence of Pakistan's influence,’’ he says. “The biggest achievement Pakistan has had against India was not in increasing the numbers of foot soldiers among the terrorist ranks and improving their fighting abilities, but its success in placing embedded assets in important institutional and societal setups.’’ As the new war against terror is being fought on the borders as well as in the minds of people, Swain believes that India will prevail with the support of its citizens.</p> Tue Sep 12 14:07:31 IST 2023