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Such a strange silence: India's stand on the Rohingya crisis

Suhasini Haidar
DECEMBER 01, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 30, 2017 23:32 IST

India’s reticence on the Rohingya crisis undermines its democracy and global standing

The Pope has been in South Asia this week, with the focus of his stops in Bangladesh and Myanmar on the
reconciliation and rehabilitation of more than 836,000 Rohingya (including 623,000 since August, according
to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration) who have fled gruesome violence in Myanmar.

Flurry of diplomatic activity

The Pope is by no means alone. In the past month, the U.S. sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Myanmar,
while a senior State Department team as well as the British and Canadian international development
ministers travelled to Rohingya camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar. Singapore’s Foreign Minister has made
trips to Naypyidaw and Dhaka, exploring a role for ASEAN countries to help in the crisis. And earlier this
month, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali took the European Union’s Foreign Affairs
High Representative along with the German, Swedish and Japanese Foreign Ministers for a survey of the
refugee camps. No Indian leader has, however, visited them.
In a rare shift of position from not involving itself in the internal politics of another
country, China decided to play a mediatory role in the issue, and Foreign Minister Wang
Yi went to Dhaka to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on November 18, and then to
Naypyidaw to meet President Htin Kyaw. Within days, Bangladesh and Myanmar
winds over India
announced an agreement to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees back to
Rakhine province in about two months, as part of what Mr. Wang called a three-phase
solution. It is significant that within the same week, Myanmar Army Chief Min Aung
Hlaing visited China for more talks on the Rohingya crisis, while the country’s other
power centre, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, is now headed to Beijing for three days.

Biggest nation, smallest voice

In this flurry of diplomatic activity, it would be natural to ask why India has been so soft-footed and silent in
comparison. As the subcontinent’s biggest nation, neighbour to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as the
country most likely to be affected if the numbers of Rohingya refugees continue to grow, India in fact should
be showing the most initiative in this crisis. Instead, through a series of blunders that began with Prime
Minister Narendra Modi’s own visit to Myanmar, India has allowed its voice to be muffled. Even as hundreds
of thousands were fleeing violence at home, Mr. Modi refused to refer to the Rohingya in his press statements
in Naypyidaw in early September. Nor did India refer to anything other than the terror strike by the Arakan
Rohingya Salvation Army while discussing the violence in Rakhine. It wasn’t until two days later, and after
some prodding from Ms. Hasina, that the Indian foreign office even issued a statement of concern over the
refugee crisis that had reached alarming proportions, something the U.S. has now called a clear case of “ethnic
cleansing”. Moreover, in Bali, India refused to endorse a 50-nation parliamentarian conference’s declaration
because it referenced the Rohingya. Every other South Asian country, including Buddhist-majority Bhutan
and Sri Lanka, endorsed the Bali declaration.
Later in September, the government began to dispatch humanitarian aid in an operation
rather grandly named “Operation Insaniyat (Humanity)”, but was only one of several
countries including the U.S., Turkey, Azerbaijan, Malaysia and others to do so. The
government’s consignment to Myanmar of a mere 3,000 “family bags” last week also
slipped notice given the large numbers of those displaced inside Rakhine and in
country? desperate need of assistance. The Indian effort, coupled with Foreign Minister Sushma
Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh, where she didn’t even spare time for a trip to the camps,
stands out not just in stark contrast to other nations, but to India’s own record. In every
way, the Rohingya crisis is mammoth, with around a million men, women and children in Bangladesh and
Myanmar living perilously. India, which has a tradition of rushing humanitarian aid and medical assistance,
doctors and volunteers to other nations — for example, after the 2004 tsunami, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis that
hit Myanmar, and the 2015 Nepal earthquake — has been seen to visibly hold back during the Rohingya crisis.

Position at the UN
Meanwhile, at the UN too, India’s voice has been consistently muted, ceding space to other countries to take
the lead on the issue. The U.K., for example, hosted a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
with Myanmar’s National Security Adviser and Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, attended by senior officials
from Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and the U.S. At the UNGA’s Third Committee
vote, India abstained on a resolution calling for an end to military action, one of 26 abstentions on the
proposal to send a UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar — 135 countries voted in favour of the resolution.
While India’s vote is consistent with its position on interventionist resolutions, it doesn’t mark itself out for
principled leadership of any kind. If anything, the votes have had a bearing on India’s standing in Bangladesh,
one of its closest allies in the region, whose leadership is struggling to cope with the flow of refugees as Ms.
Hasina braces for a tough election next year.

In short, all of India’s actions since the outbreak of this round of violence in Myanmar
have negated its position as a regional, subcontinental and Asian leader. Regaining that
stature will require a more proactive stance in being part of the solution to the crisis.

At home and in To begin with, the impression that the government’s decision to push out nearly 40,000
the world: on Rohingya living in India since 2012 is guided by its domestic political compulsions is
the Rohingya
issue not conducive to India’s international ambitions. Therefore, it may be necessary for
India to put its own concerns about repatriation on hold until it is able to work with
both Bangladesh and Myanmar on the issue, preferably in a trilateral format. This
should have been easier for India than for China, given it already works with them on regional issues as a part
of BIMSTEC. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)

Spell out the refugee policy

The government must also iron out internal contradictions on India’s refugee policy. Even though it is not a
signatory to any UN refugee convention, India has a proud tradition of giving a home to neighbours in
distress: from Tibetans in 1960s to East Pakistanis in the 1970s, from Sri Lankans in the 1980s to the Afghans
in the 1990s. More recently, the Modi government even changed its long-term visa rules to help minorities
fleeing violence from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. If India now says it cannot help
Rohingya, who are a minority in Myanmar, it is either saying that Rohingya are not Myanmarese or that
Myanmar is not a neighbour, both of which contradict previous positions. The government’s argument in
court that Rohingya refugees pose a terrorist threat wasn’t used for Sri Lankans or Afghans. India also has a
unique position as a country that is home to every religion practised in the region and must play to this
For all these reasons, India, which has high stakes in global and regional governance, must ensure its voice is
heard on the Rohingya crisis. Mumbling as part of a chorus while one of the biggest human tragedies is
unfolding across two of India’s borders does not behove a nation with global leadership aspirations. Those
questioning India’s push for a Security Council seat have often cited its record as a fence sitter at the UN. All
those critics must be silenced now by clarity in India’s position on an issue where abstentions cannot suffice.

Turning the corner

See Annex for the definitions of

capital spending, revenue
spending, consumer spending
& fiscal spedning, equity
financing & debt financing.

Ajit Ranade
DECEMBER 02, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 01, 2017 23:34 IST

The next few quarters call for focus on consumption, private investment, agriculture and exports

T here was a collective sigh of relief when the second quarter GDP data were released officially by the Central Statistics
Office (CSO). The government folks were relieved that a declining trend of four consecutive quarters of growth had finally
been reversed.
The forecasters and economists were relieved that the announced data had mostly conformed to their expectations. Industry
and business people were now hopeful that this was the first instance of a sustained upward trajectory of growth. GDP growth
came at 6.3% for the quarter ending September, higher than 5.7% in the previous quarter, but still lower than 7.5% a year ago.
The Finance Minister said that the effects of the demonetisation and initial rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) were
behind us. (In saying so, he implicitly endorsed the view that indeed demonetisation and the GST rollout had been negative for
the GDP, at least in the short run. But this is not the occasion for such minor nitpicking!)

Devil’s in the detail

All these responses of being assured that we had turned a corner are justified if we see some of the positive details from the
GDP data. For instance, industrial growth accelerated from 1.6% during the June quarter to 5.8% in this September quarter. Its
subcomponent, manufacturing, too grew faster at 7% compared to only 1.2% during the previous quarter. This data is a bit
puzzling since it seems inconsistent with the data on the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), whose growth is only 2.2%
during this quarter. The services component of trade, hotels, transport and communications also grew smartly at 10.5% for the
half year, as compared to 8.3% a year ago. So much for the good news.

Industrial revival is an absolute must for sustained growth in employment and output. It should also be
accompanied by an increase in private sector investment, which is still lacklustre. The portion of GDP
growth coming from fixed capital formation (which stands for investment activity) declined from 27.5%
in the first quarter to 26.4% now. This has to be closely watched, and needs high policy priority. All the
It’s the real
improvements in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) ranking are meaningless unless we see substantial
pick-up in private sector investment. More about this later.

There was one more silver lining in the data. The CSO says that GST collections data are provisional, and
could be an underestimate. To that extent an upward revision of the GDP data is possible in the future.

So if the GDP trend is satisfactory, why did the stock market react so negatively? It is of course hazardous to impute motives to
the stock marker index movements, since there are multiple influences, both domestic and global. Several caveats are in order.
The stock market has been scaling new peaks, even though GDP growth had been declining. The stock market is always a
forward-looking entity, a harbinger of things to come. Whereas the GDP data released by the government describe what
happened two or three months ago. The stock market is swayed by a relatively small minority of deep pocket investors (and
increasingly algorithms and bots), so its reaction is not representative of what’s happening to the broad-based economy. Even
so, despite these caveats, it’s useful to pay heed.
Impute - represent (something, especially something undesirable) as being done or possessed by
Spooked markets someone; attribute, assign, ascribe.
The market was spooked by the data on fiscal deficit. At this stage of the fiscal year, the deficit is running at 96.1% of the
annual target. Last year at this stage it was only at 79.3%. The revenue expenditure component (roughly salaries, pensions,
interest payments, etc), which is not the productive spending on items like infrastructure, is growing at twice the rate as
budgeted (10% against 5%). The higher deficit would have been acceptable had it been on account of higher capital spending,
not higher revenue spending. The government can either cut further into capital spending (which tends to be discretionary, or
can be postponed to the next budget year) or it can increase its market borrowing to tide over this year. Either way it is not
good news for the markets. That’s because the former implies lower economic growth, and the latter implies higher interest
rates. This could be the main reason for the markets crashing. Indeed, a fiscal slippage right after an upgrade by international
rating agency Moody’s does not sound auspicious. Rating agencies tend to be fiscal fundamentalists, focussing
disproportionately on fiscal deficits. They in turn influence bond investors, who might suddenly stop pouring dollars into
India’s bond and stock markets. But markets are notoriously fickle. They might very well be more jubilant if the government
exceeds its privatisation target this year.

Moving away from sentiments of Dalal Street, it is important to focus on the weaker components, which should become policy
focus area. As said above, private sector investment is still anaemic. It is constrained by low capacity utilisation, deleveraging
of balance sheets (as companies are reducing loan burdens), insolvency resolutions and large influx of imports, especially
manufactured goods. Second, consumption spending has started losing steam. Its growth went down a notch from the last two
quarters. Anaemic - lacking in color, spirit or vitality.
Nearly two-thirds of India’s GDP is consumption spending, and remains the key to sustaining the growth momentum. Its
slowing means that purchasing power both in rural and urban areas is under pressure. Mounting inflation rates are not
helping. The situation on job creation is still bleak. Large job creating sectors like construction, agriculture, textiles, leather
and tourism need to exhibit more vim. Spook (verb) - frighten; unnerve
(noun) - Ghost
Exports are the key
Vim- energy, enthusiasm
Finally, among the biggest worries are India’s exports. The world at large is experiencing one of its strongest growth phases.
Indeed, the International Monetary Fund has revised its growth projections upwards for most countries. In such a scenario,
India’s sluggish exports stick out like a sore thumb. When the world economy does well, India’s exports should be flourishing.
The exporting sector’s fortunes are closely linked with the manufacturing sector. Exports create jobs, especially in small and
medium enterprises. Why can’t India’s small enterprises sell on global portals like Alibaba and Amazon? What are the hurdles?
Is the GST framework (with delayed refunds) inhibiting the growth of exports? What are the policy and other bottlenecks?
These are the issues that we need to grapple with to sustain an upward growth path.
We need to acknowledge that unlike last year, this year the government has less fiscal room to pump prime growth. Oil prices
have gone up in the past few months, taking away the fiscal dividend. GST, Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act,
Insolvency Code are all great reforms for the medium to long term. But the next few quarters call for sustaining consumption,
inviting private investment, energising agriculture, and giving a big fillip to exports. We have our work cut out.

Ajit Ranade is an economist

The difference between capital expenditures and revenue expenditures is essentially the same
as the difference between capital expenditures and operating expenses.

Capital expenditures represent major investments of capital that a company makes to

maintain or, more often, to expand its business and generate additional profits. Capital expenses
are for the acquisition of long-term assets, such as facilities or manufacturing equipment.
Because such assets provide income-generating value for a company for a period of years,
companies are not allowed to deduct the full cost of the asset in the year the expense is incurred;
they must recover the cost through year-by-year depreciation over the useful life of the asset.
Companies often use debt financing or equity financing to cover the substantial costs involved
in acquiring major assets for expanding their business.

Revenue expenses are shorter-term expenses required to meet the ongoing operational costs
of running a business, and thus are essentially the same as operating expenses. Unlike capital
expenditures, revenue expenses can be fully tax-deducted in the same year the expenses occur.
In relation to the major asset purchases that qualify as capital expenditures, revenue
expenditures include the ordinary repair and maintenance costs that are necessary to keep the
asset in working order without substantially improving or extending the useful life of the asset.
Revenue expenses related to existing assets include repairs and regular maintenance as well as
repainting and renewal expenses. Revenue expenditures can be considered to be recurring
expenses in contrast to the one-off nature of most capital expenditures.

The purpose of capital expenditures is commonly to expand a company's ability to generate

earnings, whereas revenue expenditures are more commonly for the purpose of maintaining a
company's ability to operate. Capital expenditures appear as an asset on a company's balance
sheet; revenue expenses are listed with liabilities.

Consumer spending is another term for voluntary private consumption, or an exchange

of money for goods and services. Contemporary measures of consumer spending include all
private purchases of durable goods, nondurables and services. In a purely free market, the
aggregate level of private consumer spending in an economy is necessarily equal to the total
market value of economic output.

Many economists, especially those in tradition of John Maynard Keynes, believe consumer
spending is the most important short run determinant of economic performance. Other
economists, sometimes known as supply-siders, accept Say’s Law of Markets and believe
private savings and production is more important than aggregate consumption.
Investors and businesses closely follow consumer spending statistics when making future
forecasts. Every year in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts
consumer expenditure surveys to help measure consumer spending. Additionally, the Bureau
of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates consumer spending for monthly, quarterly and annual

If consumers spend too much of their income, however, future economic growth could be
compromised because of insufficient savings and investment. Modern governments and
central banks often examined consumer spending patterns when considering current and
future fiscal and monetary policies.
Consumer Spending as an Economic Variable - Consumption of final goods (i.e. not
capital goods or investment assets) is the end result of economic activity. This is because
individuals ultimately use these goods to satisfy their own needs and wants; economists refer
to this satisfaction as “utility.”
Consumer spending is the demand side of “supply and demand;” production is the supply.
When economists or policymakers refer to aggregate demand, they simply mean the
combined market value of all consumer spending within a given area, over a given period of
time and at a specific price level.

By its very nature, consumer spending only reveals the “use” economy, or finished goods and
services. This is distinguished from the “make” economy, referring to the supply chain and
intermediate stages of production necessary to make finished goods and services.

Most official aggregate metrics, such as gross domestic product (GDP), are dominated by
consumer spending. Others, including the much newer gross domestic expenditures (GDE) or
“gross output” (GO) reported by the BEA, also include the “make” economy and are less
influenced by short-term consumer spending.

Consumer Spending as an Investment Indicator

Consumers are, naturally, very important to businesses. The more money consumers spend at
a given company, the better that company tends to perform. For this reason, it is unsurprising
that most investors and businesses pay a great amount of attention to consumer spending
figures and patterns.

In fact, the American Association of Individual Investors lists real GDP as the single most
important economic indicator to watch. If consumers provide fewer revenues for a given
business or within a given industry, companies must adjust by reducing costs, wages, or
innovating and introducing newer and better products and services. Companies that do this
most effectively earn higher profits and, if publicly traded, tend to experience better stock
market performance.

Deficit spending occurs whenever a government's expenditures exceed its revenues over a
fiscal period, creating or enlarging a government debt balance. Traditionally, government
deficits are financed through the sale of public securities, particularly government bonds.
Many economists, especially in the Keynesian tradition, believe government deficits can be
used as a tool of stimulative fiscal policy.

Deficit spending is an accounting phenomenon. It is only possible to engage in deficit

spending when revenues fall short of expenditures. However, nearly all of the academic and
political debate surrounding deficit spending focuses on economic theory, not accounting.

Deficit Spending as Fiscal Policy - According to demand-side economic theory, a

government can begin deficit spending after the economy falls into recession. The famed
British economist John Maynard Keynes is often credited with the concept of deficit
spending as fiscal policy, though most of his ideas were re-interpretations or modifications of
older mercantilist arguments.
In fact, many of Keynes’ spending ideas were tried before “The General Theory” was
published in 1936. Herbert Hoover, for example, fought the Great Depression by increasing
federal government spending more than 50% and engaging in massive public works projects
during his four years in office between 1928 and 1932.
Laissez-Faire - a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs
beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights

What Keynes managed in 1936 was to give academic and intellectual legitimacy to deficit
spending programs. He argued a drop in consumer spending during the recession could be
met by a corresponding increase in government deficit spending, maintaining the correct
level of aggregate demand to prevent high levels of unemployment. Once full employment
was achieved, Keynes believed, the market could return to a more laissez-faire approach and
the debt could be repaid. If the extra government spending were to cause inflation, Keynes
believed the government could simply raise taxes and drain extra money out of the economy.

Deficit Spending and Economic Growth

Deficit spending is often misinterpreted as a pro-growth policy tool. This may be because
deficit spending is positively correlated with gross domestic product (GDP). However, since
one of the key components of the GDP equation is government spending, it is tautological
and not empirical that the two tend to rise and fall together.

As Keynes articulated, the main role of deficit spending is to prevent or reverse rising
unemployment during a recession. Keynes did believe there could arise a secondary benefit
of government spending, something often called “the multiplier effect.” According to the
theory, a single dollar of government spending might increase total economic output by more
than $1.

There are plenty of theoretical and empirical challenges to the notion of the Keynesian
multiplier. A huge series of econometric tests have been run, with various and inconclusive

If left unchecked, some economists argue, the effects of deficit spending pose a threat to
economic growth. Too large a debt, wrought by consistent deficits, might force government
to raise taxes, pursue inflationary monetary policies, or default on their debt obligations.
Additionally, the sale of government bonds crowds out private issuers and might distort
prices and interest rates in capital markets.
When a company needs money, it can take three routes to obtain financing: equity, debt, or
some hybrid of the two. Equity represents an ownership stake in the company. It gives the
shareholder a claim on future earnings, but it does not need to be paid back. If the company
goes bankrupt, equity holders are the last in line to receive money. The other route a company
can take to raise capital for its business is by issuing debt - a process known as debt

Debt financing occurs when a firm raises money for working capital or capital
expenditures by selling debt instruments to individuals and/or institutional investors. In return
for lending the money, the individuals or institutions become creditors and receive a promise
that the principal and interest on the debt will be repaid.
Debt financing occurs when a firm sells fixed income products, such as bonds, bills, or notes,
to investors to obtain the capital needed to grow and expand its operations. When a company
issues a bond, the investors that purchase the bond are lenders who are either retail or
institutional investors that provide the company with debt financing. The amount of the
investment loan, referred to as the principal, must be paid back at some agreed date in the
future. If the company goes bankrupt, lenders have a higher claim on any liquidated assets
than shareholders.

Cost of Debt Financing - A firm's capital structure is made up of equity and debt. The cost
of equity is the dividend payments to shareholders, and the cost of debt is the interest
payment to bondholders. When a company issues debt, not only does it promise to repay the
principal amount, it also promises to compensate its bondholders by making interest
payments, known as coupon payments, to them annually. The interest rate paid on these debt
instruments represent the cost of borrowing to the issuer.
The sum of the cost of equity financing and debt financing is a company's cost of capital. The
cost of capital represents the minimum return that a company must earn on ts capital to
satisfy its shareholders, creditors, and other providers of capital. A company's investment
decisions relating to new projects and operations should always generate returns greater than
the cost of capital. If returns on its capital expenditures are below its cost of capital, then the
firm is not generating positive earnings for its investors. In this case, the company may need
to re-evaluate and re-balance its capital structure.

Interest Rates on Debt Financing - Some investors in debt are only interested in principal
protection, while others want a return in the form of interest. The rate of interest is
determined by market rates and the creditworthiness of the borrower. Higher rates of interest
imply a greater chance of default and, therefore, a higher level of risk. Higher interest rates
help to compensate the borrower for the increased risk. In addition to paying interest, debt
financing often requires the borrower to adhere to certain rules regarding financial
performance. These rules are referred to as covenants.
Debt financing can be difficult to obtain, but for many companies, it provides funding at
lower rates than equity financing, especially in periods of historically low interest rates.
Another perk to debt financing is that the interest on debt is tax deductible. Still, adding too
much debt can increase the cost of capital, which reduces the present value of the company.
Equity financing is the process of raising capital through the sale of shares in an
enterprise. Equity financing essentially refers to the sale of an ownership interest to raise
funds for business purposes. Equity financing spans a wide range of activities in scale and
scope, from a few thousand dollars raised by an entrepreneur from friends and family, to
giant initial public offerings(IPOs) running into the billions by household names such as
Google and Facebook. While the term is generally associated with financings by public
companies listed on an exchange, it includes financings by private companies as well. Equity
financing is distinct from debt financing, which refers to funds borrowed by a business.
Equity financing involves not just the sale of common equity, but also the sale of
other equity or quasi-equity instruments such as preferred stock, convertible preferred
stockand equity units that include common shares and warrants.

A startup that grows into a successful company will have several rounds of equity financing
as it evolves. Since a startup typically attracts different types of investors at various stages of
its evolution, it may use different equity instruments for its financing needs.

For example, angel investors and venture capitalists – who are generally the first investors in
a startup – are inclined to favor convertible preferred shares rather than common equity in
exchange for funding new companies, since the former have greater upside potential and
some downside protection. Once the company has grown large enough to consider going
public, it may consider selling common equity to institutional and retail investors. Later on, if
it needs additional capital, the company may go in for secondary equity financings such as
a rights offering or an offering of equity units that includes warrants as a “sweetener.”

The equity-financing process is governed by regulation imposed by a local or national

securities authority in most jurisdictions. Such regulation is primarily designed to protect the
investing public from unscrupulous operators who may raise funds from unsuspecting
investors and disappear with the financing proceeds. An equity financing is therefore
generally accompanied by an offering memorandum or prospectus, which contains a great
deal of information that should help the investor make an informed decision about the merits
of the financing. Such information includes the company's activities, details on its officers
and directors, use of financing proceeds, risk factors, financial statements and so on.

Investor appetite for equity financings depends significantly on the state of financial
markets in general and equity markets in particular. While a steady pace of equity financings
is seen as a sign of investor confidence, a torrent of financings may indicate excessive
optimism and a looming market top. For example, IPOs by dot-coms and technology
companies reached record levels in the late 1990s, before the “tech wreck” that engulfed
the Nasdaq from 2000 to 2002. The pace of equity financings typically drops off sharply after
a sustained market correction due to investor risk-aversion during this period.

The gag on free speech

Gautam Bhatia
DECEMBER 04, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 04, 2017 00:53 IST

Recent actions by the Indian judiciary suggest a trend of creeping censorship

O n Wednesday, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Court, hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and
Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter cases, issued a gag order prohibiting the press from reporting on the court
proceedings. This order, allegedly issued at the behest of the lawyers for the defence has come only a few days after the
Allahabad High Court gagged the media from reporting on an ongoing case concerning an alleged instance of hate
speech by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, in 2007, who was then a Bharatiya Janata Party
parliamentarian from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

A growing trend
These two instances, which are not isolated, are representative of an alarming trend of creeping judicial censorship,
increasingly across large domains. The Indian judiciary has had a historically ambivalent relationship with free speech,
from upholding the constitutionality of sedition in 1962, to endorsing the law of criminal defamation in 2016.
Recently, however, it has begun to go further than simply rejecting constitutional challenges to the state’s speech-
restrictive laws. Traversing well beyond the bounds of the Constitution, it has begun to actively censor or compel
speech of its own accord, without even the existence of a parliamentary law on the subject. Recent, notorious examples
include the Bombay High Court constituting a “committee” to recommend cuts to the satirical film, “Jolly LLB 2”, the
Madras High Court telling condom manufacturers to have the illustrations on their packets cleared by the Advertising
Standards Council of India, and the Supreme Court directing cinema halls to play the national anthem before the
screening of every movie.

However, the CBI Court and the Allahabad High Court’s gag orders, are significantly more serious because they strike at
the heart of our system of democratic governance. The task of courts under the Constitution is to deliver justice, and a
functional democracy is defined by a justice system that is open, transparent, and, above all, public. The authority of
judges and courts, we must always remember, stems not from popular consent and periodic elections, but from their
fidelity to the laws and the Constitution, and the strength and quality of their legal reasoning. For these reasons,
“secret justice” — bringing to mind the infamous trials of the Star Chamber in medieval England — is a paradox in
terms. As the great British judge, Lord Diplock, noted, “if the way that courts behave cannot be hidden from the public
ear and eye, this provides a safeguard against judicial arbitrariness or idiosyncrasy and maintains the public
confidence in the administration of justice.”

Tracing the line

Unfortunately, however, the judicial gag orders, by the CBI Court and the Allahabad High Court, were enabled, at least
in part, by the Supreme Court itself (although it is questionable whether the CBI Court had even the power to pass a
gag order, let us assume, for the purpose of argument, that it did). In 2012, the Supreme Court held that in certain
circumstances, courts could pass “postponement orders” barring coverage of specific judicial proceedings. The court
framed the issue as requiring a balancing of two competing rights: the right to free speech, and the right to a fair trial.
Observing that sometimes excessive publicity could jeopardise a fair trial, the court held that to the extent it was
reasonable and proportionate, “prior restraints” on court reporting could be imposed.

There are, however, two problems with this. First, the idea that “media trials” might distort the outcomes of cases
makes sense in a jury system, where guilt or innocence is decided by a jury of twelve men and women who do not
possess specialised legal training, and need to be immunised from undue forms of influence. In India, however, we
abolished jury trials more than 40 years ago, and it is judges now who decide cases on their own. Judges, by definition,
are not only supposed to apply the law but also have to have the relevant training and temperament to apply the law
regardless of whatever public outcry that might exist outside the courtroom. The argument for fair trial, therefore,
betrays a startling lack of faith in the judiciary’s own ability to decide controversial cases objectively.
Second, and more importantly, the 2012 Supreme Court judgment failed to adequately limit the kinds of cases in which
these exceptional “postponement orders” could be passed; it failed to limit the duration for which they could be
passed. In fact, by using subjective words such as “reasonable” and “proportionate”, it left the door wide open for future
courts to issue sweeping gag orders, insulating themselves from public reporting and, thereby, public criticism. As
media and civil rights lawyer Apar Gupta noted at the time, the judgment was so “open to interpretation and probable
abuse” that, in the course of the years, it could well transform itself into a “gag writ.” The recent orders of the CBI Court
and the Allahabad High Court indicate that this is precisely what has happened.

Handling misreporting
It is often argued that the media reports court proceedings inaccurately; judicial observations are published out of
context just to provide good headline copy, and sometimes, there is outright misquotation. In fact, this was precisely
the reason cited by the Allahabad High Court to justify the gag order, although the court did not provide any examples
of “misquotation”. There are, however, laws to deal with inaccurate reporting, especially the Contempt of Courts Act,
which the judiciary has never shied away from invoking. Perhaps more importantly, however, there is a more
straightforward way of dealing with the spectre of misreporting: to make written transcripts and audio or video
recordings of court proceedings available to the public. Until that happens, to ban reporting of court proceedings by
invoking “misquotation” is to invoke a bogey at worst, and to throw the baby out with the bathwater at best.

Of course, there might be situations where inaccurate reporting could cause imminent damage. Imagine, for example,
the cross-examination of the principal accused in a communal riot, in an already charged atmosphere. There might
also be situations where a case involves arguments pertaining to national security, which cannot at that time be made
public. In these situations, a temporary halt on reporting could be justifiable, but it is in the very nature of these
situations that the bar would be limited to a single hearing, and only in the most exceptional of situations. The CBI
Court and the Allahabad High Court’s sweeping gag orders do not even come close to satisfying that condition.
Ultimately, the trial courts and the High Courts take their cue from the Supreme Court, which is the ultimate driver of
jurisprudence. And unfortunately, earlier this year, the Supreme Court passed a sweeping gag order of its own. While
convicting (the now retired) Justice Karnan of contempt of court, a bench comprising the seven senior-most judges of
the Supreme Court ordered that “no further statements issued by Shri Justice C.S. Karnan would be publicized”.
Whatever the special circumstances of that case, there is little doubt that such a command sends a clear message about
the appropriateness of sweeping gag orders, should a court feel that they are necessary.

The CBI Court and the Allahabad High Court’s gag orders demonstrate an urgent need for some conscious course-
correction by the judiciary. They come with a democratic cost that is simply too high to pay: sunlight, they say, is the
best disinfectant. Often, it is the only disinfectant.
Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based lawyer

Vidya Subrahmaniam The political ascent of Rahul Gandhi: Miles to go before...

DECEMBER 05, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 05, 2017 09:27 IST

Rahul Gandhi’s real fight will begin after the Gujarat elections

I n its August 12-18, 1990 issue, the now defunct Sunday magazine ran an interview with Rajiv Gandhi, months
before his assassination in 1991, with the introduction that while “face-to-face it is impossible not to like Rajiv
Gandhi,” in his public interactions he tended to be indiscreet and rash, which frequently landed him in trouble.
However, in the interview, the then Leader of the Opposition came through as a politician mellowed by defeat and
possessing the humility to accept that, “Yes, I made mistakes.” Rajiv Gandhi wondered why people were now more
appreciative of him when he hadn’t “changed a bit”. “When I say or I do something now, suddenly I’m told by media
and by other people, ‘It’s fantastic. Why didn’t you do this before?’”
Gaffe - an unintentional act or remark causing embarrassment to its originator;
Behind the transformation a blunder.
Twenty-seven years later, it is his son, Rahul Gandhi, who might have been transformed from “a nice guy prone to
gaffes” to someone suddenly winning appreciation. The best that was said of him was that he appeared to be
sincere but somewhat dull. As against this, there were the endless Pappu jokes triggered by his seeming gift for
saying absolutely the wrong things.
In 2007, he bragged that his family had broken Pakistan in two, which thankfully did not set off a diplomatic
crisis. In 2013, to the bewilderment of all, including the Congress, he spoke of Dalits needing the escape velocity of
Jupiter to succeed. Mr. Gandhi’s January 2014 interview to Times Now’s Arnab Goswami had Twitterati
wisecracking that Mr. Goswami ought to have been sued for harassing a minor.

In recent months, Mr. Gandhi’s public appearances have made people sit up and take notice — and for the entirely
different reason that nearly everything about him has changed for the better. The transformation was first noticed
on his tour of the United States, where on his campus interactions, he came across as sober, self-assured and able
to convey ideas, if not with scintillating intellectual depth, then certainly in a commonsensical way. However, he
has been a revelation on the Gujarat campaign trail; indeed if anyone has made a splash in this election, aside
from the young caste leaders who have shored up the Congress, it is Rahul Gandhi himself. Gujaratis are talking to
him and talking about him.
Although nowhere in the league of the phenomenal Narendra Modi, Mr. Gandhi has developed a distinct style of
his own. On the stump, he looks relaxed and confident, slow-delivering his lines to make them uncomplicated
and effective. His speeches are direct hits at the Prime Minister and his Gujarat model, and there are frequent digs
at the now dying Tata Nano, which he says was part of Mr. Modi’s agenda of “transferring wealth from the poor to
the rich.” To much giggling from the audience, he asks, “Any of you here seen a Nano on the road? You? Bhaisaab
His Gabbar Singh Tax for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) broke the Internet and the other runaway hit, vikas
gando thayo che (development has gone crazy) is apparently also a surrogate from the Congress stable. If there is a
light, fun quality to these coinages, what has earned Mr. Gandhi respect is the line he has drawn at abuse and
uncivil language in the face of coarse, low-level personal attacks from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mr.
And yet in a striking parallel with Rajiv Gandhi earlier, Rahul Gandhi’s team insists that he is what he always was,
believing in the same things — pro-poor, pro-farmer — he did earlier. And that people are warming to him and his
ideas in a changed environment. Not really. The evolution of Pappu to First Congressperson is best seen via his
earlier videos where he appears stiff and distracted, struggling to compose his thoughts, and beginning every
sentence with “Bhaiya — in short, the stand-up comic’s delight and quite the contrast to the easy camaraderie
evident in his recent outings.

Dents in the image

It is true, however, that this change would not have created the buzz it has, had it not coincided with the people’s
own willingness to look away from Mr. Modi, if ever so slightly, to a possible, tentative alternative. Up until now,
Mr. Modi was god in Gujarat. When he became Prime Minister, the rest of India was awestruck by the power and
authority he exuded, magnified by his victory with an absolute majority and the decimation of the Opposition.
Today, while the fascination with Mr. Modi undeniably remains, the first murmurs can be heard, among traders,
among the unemployed and in middle class households. The constant adjustments to the demands of
demonetisation, and now GST and Aadhaar, have devastated small businesses, the poor and the old, many of them
living in a blighted world beyond the dips and spikes in the national GDP.
But as everyone agrees, pitted against the combination of Mr. Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party national president
Amit Shah, and the humongous election cum public relations machinery they have created, Mr. Gandhi could be a
toddler taking his first steps to indulgent applause. Though his elevation to Congress President is imminent, the
challenges before him are immense. The Congress organisation is in tatters, its votes are shrinking, and the haze
around the party’s vision often makes it indistinguishable from the BJP. It is true that the Congress has always
held a range of ideas within it. But the party as a whole was conceived as centrist with a strong liberal core.
The Left and the right co-existed in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress but his absolute commitment to the idea of a
progressive, enlightened nation ensured that the centre prevailed. The innumerable unethical compromises the
Congress made thereafter are not Rahul Gandhi’s doing. But having inherited them, he has to find a way to
reassert the party’s founding philosophy and, more difficult still, make it saleable to voters swayed by the BJP’s
enormously attractive Hindutva appeal. Recently, the student-wing of the Congress, the National Students Union
of India (NSUI), fought and won the students’ union election in Delhi University (DU) on the slogan, “Take back
DU.” The NSUI promised a progressive vision based on gender equality and the freedoms to eat, wear and go out as
the students pleased, without being shamed as immoral.

Road ahead
The election the Congress fought in DU was tiny but the party went to the heart of what is wrong with India today.
Maybe Mr. Gandhi can start with a “Take back India” campaign. But that requires courage and the conviction that
the right way is the best way. That is not going to happen, judging by the Congress’s embarrassingly uneducated
response to the recent questions on Mr. Gandhi’s religion. The BJP’s multiple spokespersons amplified the noise
that television spat out: “Hindu or Catholic?”. Instead of asking why it’s wrong to be a Catholic, the Congress
produced photographs of Mr. Gandhi wearing the Janevu (sacred thread).
With all the anti-incumbency, such is the Modi legend that few in Gujarat will bet on the verdict. In any case, Mr.
Gandhi’s real fight will begin after Gujarat which is a two-party State. The rest of India is more complex with a
bunch of regional leaders, all ambitious for themselves. If this is problematic, consider the twin tags that hound
the Congress: dynasty and corruption. On dynasty, Mr. Modi is unbeatable. He is self-made and has ostensibly
shed his family in the service of Bharat Mata. Whether Mr. Gandhi, or indeed even the entire Opposition, can
summon the cleverness to turn the tables on corruption, only time will tell.
Ostensible - stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so,
apparent, seeming, outward, superficial, supposed, so-called, alleged, claimed,
purported, pretended, feigned,

India’s plural soul

Gopalkrishna Gandhi Triptych - a picture or relief carving on three panels, typically hinged together
DECEMBER 06, 2017 00:02 IST
vertically and used as an altarpiece intended to be appreciated together.
UPDATED: DECEMBER 06, 2017 11:28 IST

An assassination, a demolition and a portrait’s unveiling together spelt the polarisation of India

T he partitioning of India broke us, shamed us. It is estimated that nearly two million were slaughtered during
the weeks around Partition, almost no Muslim surviving in East Punjab and no Hindu or Sikh in West Punjab.
About 7.5 million Muslims left India for the newly formed state of Pakistan and about 7.5 million Hindus trekked
to the new India from Pakistan. Both sets of displaced persons were seeking the security of a religious majority,
their majority.
Gandhi’s scorching presence, the new government’s unwavering commitment to pluralism and the humanity of
millions of ordinary people saved the tragedy from becoming a cataclysm.
cataclysm - a large-scale and violent event in the natural world.
The triptych of an agenda a sudden violent political or social upheaval.
After that traumatic year, three dates, three events, shook Indian pluralism again. Gandhi’s assassination —
January 30, 1948; the Babri Masjid demolition — December 6, 1992, and the unveiling of V.D. Savarkar’s portrait in
Parliament House — February 26, 2003
The first of these three saw a believer in the criticality of India’s pluralism being put to death. The second
witnessed a pre-eminent Islamic monument reduced to rubble. The third valorised a man who believed India was
meant to be a Hindu Rashtra. The first was murder, the second vandalism, the third a celebration.
Those three form a triptych.
All three occurrences singed India’s plural soul.
Their “work” is still on. It is still affecting ways of thinking, acting, reacting.
The assassination was a carefully planned plot by people who owed allegiance to the concept of a Hindu Rashtra.
Its aim was threefold: punish, by murder, one who believed India to be the home of all the faith traditions in it,
reverse Gandhi’s idea of “Ishvar Allah Tere Naam”, pronounce the primacy and power of Hinduism in India. It was
meant to tell the Muslims of India that they were here by leave of the Hindus and that all talk of Hindu-Muslim
unity and equality was sentimental and meaningless.
Gandhi’s killing traumatised the country. It devastated Muslims in India. Who would, hereafter, be its rakhvala
(protector)? Nehru said that evening: “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” For
India’s Muslims who had said “no” to Pakistan and stayed back in India because they had faith in Gandhi’s India,
that darkness was real. Along with the light, the oxygen of confidence in the air fled, too.

Several years and countless Hindu-Muslim riots later, the unhealed wound on India’s plural ethos was violently
cut open once again.
Spiteful - showing or caused by malice
Another dateline
Ayodhya, December 6, 1992 is a dateline, a hate-line, a fate-line.
Babri Masjid, the 16th century mosque was built spitefully, it is said, on the exact spot in Ayodhya, where Rama
was born. In fact, the pious say, a temple stood where the mosque came up. The mosque had, over the years,
become a contested site, a Hindu v Muslim akhara. And on that day, Hindu muscle power asserted itself. Watched
by unwitting, unsure or captive seniors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and with a police force unable or
unwilling to intervene, 1,50,000 delirious Hindu kar sevaks brought the mosque down.
In the rubble lay all hope for Hindu-Muslim concord. In it lay shattered Muslim trust in India’s secular future.
And in it lay tattered, the Constitution’s guarantees about the freedom of religious belief.
The broken stones said more: Here rises, at long last, they proclaimed, Veer Savarkar’s dream of a Hindu Rashtra.
India partitioned was now India polarised.
Savarkar’s spirit must have felt more than fulfilled.

Moving over to Parliament

A decade later, the BJP in power at the Centre, decided that for Savarkar’s fulfilment to be complete, due ceremony
was in order. It decided to place in Parliament House’s Central Hall, along with portraits of the Greats of India’s
freedom struggle, a portrait of this freedom fighter as well. Savarkar was, of course, a fighter for India’s freedom.
On his terms, in his own light. With Mohammed Ali Jinnah, also a freedom fighter according to his own terms and
his own lights, Savarkar believed that Hindus and Muslims formed Two Nations. Jinnah realised his goal with
Partition. Savarkar did not, could not, for India insisted, through its Constitution, its laws and public policy
pronouncements, that it was secular. Asoka’s Lion Capital was, after all, the Republic of India’s new emblem.
Savarkar’ dream remained un-realised until the unveiling of the portrait. That completed the triptych.
The unveiling in Parliament House did three things. First, it placed against the Indian Republic a conceptual
alternative — Hindu Rashtra. Second, it made demolition the exact co-relative of construction. Third, it made Veer
Savarkar, the precise opposite number of Mahatma Gandhi. And thereby, his peer, alternative and equal. It
juxtaposed the Two Nations theorist against the One Nation preceptor.

An agenda at work
The assassination, the demolition and the portrait’s unveiling, together, go to spell a long word with a short
agenda: polarisation.
The ghastly terrorist attacks in Mumbai of 1993, in Parliament House of 2001 and again in Mumbai in 2008 may or
may not have been retaliatory for Ayodhya. I believe the attacks would have happened, Ayodhya or no Ayodhya.
For such is the blind bloodlust of terror, such the radicalisation of unemployed, callow youth in Pakistan. And
such the mutually nourishing agenda of polarisation.
That agenda, as I said, remains at work. The Ayodhya dateline etched hate, stretched fate — the fate of secularism
— to its limits. It continues to do so.
The demolition in Ayodhya was the first step. Like a bhumi-puja. The second step is the building of the temple.
The third, its consecration. And there will be as many more steps as the rites of polarisation require.

The building of a Ram temple at the site of the Masjid is not going to be easy. But keeping the idea of that building
alive is all too easy.
For polarisers, better than a temple built is a temple that is waiting to be built. It keeps spirits up, tensions high. It
keeps terrorists on the other side activated. And it keeps cadres on this side motivated.
December 6, 1992 is not a fading date in history; it is marked ochre red in the future calendars of the Hindu
Rashtra. For those who hailed it, the 25th “anniversary” of the demolition promises future sport. For those who
were aghast by it, it promises future struggle.

The struggle to keep polarisation at bay will be unrelenting for the memories of Partition and the mayhem of
terror will keep churning up hate, fear. Bigots face each other, unblinkingly. Their bigotry feeds each other,
untiringly. The higher the Hindu bigotry in India, the happier the Islamic zealotry in Pakistan. Polarisation is their
common nourishment.
But hate and fear are not a normal condition; fanaticism not a natural emotion. Plain common sense and Gandhi’s
miraculously still-alive spirit have staved off communal frenzy. Never more effectively than when bloodthirsty
terrorists sought to mutilate life in Mumbai in 1993 and then to maim the House of India’s Parliament in 2001. All
of India could have erupted then into communal frenzy, but it did not. Likewise, when Gujarat 2002 could have
spread, but did not. Pinion (verb) - restrain or immobilize (someone) by tying up or holding their arms or legs.
The India of Asoka, Akbar, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar is strong but pinioned under the blades of the Two Nations
theory. It is for the inheritors of their India to match the date-lines of hate and the fate-lines of death with the life-
line that Gandhi made from the essences, the intangible susman of his belief that India is One Nation and Ishvar
Allah two names, among other ones, for the One.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and Governor

Let us be realistic about the UNSC

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan
Spurn - reject with disdain or contempt.
DECEMBER 07, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 07, 2017 00:37 IST

If a permanent Security Council seat is unavailable, India must not spurn other proposals on the table

O ur recent victory in the hotly contested election to the International Court of Justice seems to have lifted
our spirits as a nation. We are justifiably proud of our success and of the skill and determination with which our
diplomacy was deployed. It would be prudent, however, not to interpret this in a way as to raise hopes of a
permanent seat in the Security Council.

The UNSC election

The two most prestigious organs of the United Nations are the Security Council and the International Court of
Justice. While the Security Council has 15 member states, the ICJ has 15 judges. Election to the UNSC is
conducted only in the General Assembly and requires two-thirds majority to get elected. Election to the ICJ is
held concurrently in the UNGA and UNSC and requires absolute majority of the total membership in each
organ. Veto does not apply for election to the ICJ. India has lost elections to both these organs in the past.

Of the two, the UNSC is by far more important from the national interest point of view. It deals with questions
of peace and security as well as terrorism and has developed a tendency to widen its ambit into other fields,
including human rights and eventually environment. In addition to the Kashmir issue, which Pakistan forever
tries to raise, there are other matters in which India would be interested such as the list of terrorists — Hafeez
Saeed for example. Since it is in permanent session, we have to try to be its member as often as possible.
The ICJ is required to represent the principal civilisations and legal systems of the world. The judges sitting on
ICJ are expected to act impartially, not as representatives of the countries of their origin. That is why they are
nominated, not by their governments but by their national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration based
in The Hague. To have an Indian judge at the ICJ, when we have an active case on its agenda regarding our
national in illegal custody of Pakistan might be of some advantage, though it would be wrong to assume that the
final judgment will go in our favour simply because an Indian is on the bench. He will surely act in an objective
manner. We will win because we have an excellent legal case and are ably represented by an eminent lawyer.
There are other bodies in the UN that are not as well known but are important enough to be represented on like
the ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) and the Committee on
Contributions. The former consists of 16 members elected by the UNGA on the recommendation of the Fifth
Committee of the UNGA dealing with the budget of the UN. Usually, the members are officers of the permanent
missions serving on the Fifth Committee. Most often, they are of the rank of first secretary or counsellor;
Ambassadors rarely offer their candidatures.
The Committee on Contributions recommends the scale of assessments to the budget and the share of each
member. This is a very important function, since the share decided by the UNGA applies to all the specialised
agencies, etc. Even a 0.1 % change can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have had
distinguished persons serving on both these committees, such as G. Parthasarathy, S.K Singh, as well as our
current permanent representative, ambassador Syed Akbaruddin. Some stalwarts have also lost these elections.
There is also the Human Rights Council; we have had almost continuous representation on it. The U.S. lost the
election to it a few years ago; there is widespread resentment against the P-5’s presumption to a permanent seat
on all bodies.

The veto question

Primarily at our initiative, the question of Security Council reform, euphemism for expansion, has been under
consideration since 1970s. There is near unanimous support for increasing the number of non-permanent seats.
The controversial question is about the increase in the category of permanent seats. The rationale for expansion
has been accepted in-principle by nearly all, but the difficulty arises when the actual numbers and their rights
are discussed.
India, along with Brazil, Germany and Japan, has proposed an increase of six additional permanent seats, the
other two being for Africa. The African group is demanding two permanent seats, recognised as reasonable by
every member, but there are at least three and perhaps more claimants for the two seats. Then there is the
question of the rights of the additional members. The G-4’s initial position was for the same rights as the
present permanent members, essentially the veto right. Over the years, they have become more realistic and
would be willing to forego the veto right. The firm position of the Africans is that the new members must have
the same rights as the existing ones. This is a non-starter.

The larger picture

The P-5 will never agree to give up their veto right, nor will they agree to accord this right to any other country.
(France supports veto for additional permanent members.) Also, the general membership of the UN wants to
eliminate the existing veto; they will never agree to new veto-wielding powers. Variants of the veto provision
have been suggested, such as the requirement of double veto, i.e. at least two permanent members must
exercise veto for it to be valid. The P-5 are not willing to dilute their self-acquired right.
Many member-states have been pledging support for our aspiration for permanent membership. This is
welcome and should be appreciated; it would come in useful if the question ever comes up for a vote in the
UNGA. Several P-5 countries have also announced support. The principal P-5 member opposing us is China. We
should not be misled by their ambiguous statements on the subject. It has to be underscored that there is no
way that India alone, by itself, can be elected as permanent member. It will have to be a package deal in which
the demands of all the geographical groups, including the Latin America and Caribbean group which, like Africa,
does not have a single permanent member, will have to be accommodated.
Even if the Americans are sincere in their support for us, they will simply not lobby for India alone; it will be
unthinkable for them to try to get India in without at the same time getting Japan also in. It is equally
unthinkable, for a long time to come, for China to support Japan’s candidature. The P-5 will play the game
among themselves but will stand by one another, as was evident recently at the time of election to the ICJ.
So, we should be realistic. If a permanent seat is not available, there are other proposals on the table. One
proposal is for the creation of ‘semi-permanent’ seats, according to which members would be elected for six-
eight years and would be eligible for immediate reelection. Given India’s growing prestige and respect, it should
not be difficult for us to successfully bid for one of these seats; it might be a better alternative than to
unrealistically hope for a permanent seat.

Getting back on track

C. Rangarajan
DECEMBER 08, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 08, 2017 00:42 IST

The GDP numbers are good but for growth to pick up further, we need to push private investment

T he national income numbers for the second quarter of 2017-18 has come as a relief. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has
grown at 6.3% year-on-year compared to 5.7% in the first quarter. The trend of declining growth rate quarter after quarter,
which was seen in the last one year, has been reversed. This is a welcome sign. However, doubts and concerns persist for some.

Signs of revival?
Is this a flash in the pan or is it a sign of a revival? Can we expect a further rise in the growth rate in the rest of the year? Some
people are disturbed by the excessive focus on GDP and its growth rate. It is true that development has many dimensions and
for a balanced view, one must look at all of them. Nevertheless, GDP is an important indicator of the performance of the
economy, and a faster rate of growth is most often a prerequisite for rapid social development.

What are the encouraging signs flowing out of the data on GDP for the July-September quarter? For this, we need to look at
sectoral growth rates. The most encouraging sign is the performance of the manufacturing sector which grew at 7% against
1.2% in the previous quarter. This is really a turnaround, if we don’t dispute the number. In the corresponding quarter in the
previous year, the growth rate was 7.7%. It appears that the manufacturing sector has come out of the disruptions caused by
demonetisation and more particularly, the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

Three other sectors which have grown strongly are the two subsectors under services — trade, hotels, etc., and public
administration — besides electricity and other utility services. The trade sector grew by 9.9% and there is some indication by
the Chief Statistician, T.C.A. Anant, that there could be some underestimation here.

Public administration grew at 6%, much lower than the previous quarters but still reasonably high. In fact, it is a good sign that
despite a lower growth of government expenditure, overall growth rate picked up. Some calculations show that excluding
agriculture and public administration, the GDP growth rate in Q2 was 6.8% compared to 3.8% in Q1. The electricity sector has
done well with a growth rate of 7.6% compared to 7.0% in Q1.
The growth rate in agriculture was low at 1.7%. This was to be expected because the growth rate in agriculture was very strong
the previous year. Even though the monsoon has been good, one should not expect a much stronger growth over a good year.
The construction sector grew at 2.6% only. It is yet to recover from the impact of demonetisation. But that should not come as a
surprise as demonetisation was directly meant to hurt the way business was being done in this sector.

Discouraging signals
The most discouraging sign is the behaviour of the Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF). It is true that GFCF at current prices
grew at 6.3% in Q2 against 2.9% in the corresponding period last fiscal. This shows an improvement in terms of sentiment.
However, as the growth rate of GFCF fell below the growth rate of GDP, the ratio of GFCF to GDP has fallen from 27.1% to
26.4%. This is truly disturbing. The fall must be due to a decline in private investment, as public investment during this period
has done reasonably well. Without a rise in the private investment rate, sustained high growth cannot be maintained.

There are some doubts about the high growth in manufacturing. In this context, analysts draw attention to the disparities
between the rate of growth in the index of industrial production (IIP) and national income statistics. For example, in Q2 of
2017-18, manufacturing under IIP grew at 2.2%. There is, of course, a difference between the national income and IIP figures,
the former dealing with value added and the latter with total production. Nevertheless, such sharp differences raise some
concerns. In the new methodology in estimating value added in the manufacturing sector, corporate data play a major role.
This approach is not incorrect. Though many committees, including the one headed by me, on savings have recommended the
use of corporate sector data, some cross-checking is needed. The government has set up the National Statistical Commission
to give credibility to the Indian Statistical System. It must make effective use of it. Perhaps a clear statement from the National
Statistical Commission will help to put the doubts at rest.

The road ahead

What do the numbers say about the future? After staying at the same level for two quarters, gross value added (GVA) has
moved up. This may be broadly taken to mean that the decline in growth rate has bottomed out. Perhaps the glitches caused by
GST have been overcome. That only amounts to the removal of a negative factor. Therefore, the immediate prospect is some
improvement in the growth rate in the next two quarters. In the next two quarters, there is not much space for public
administration to push the economy. Last year, a reasonable rate of growth was achieved because of the strong growth of
government expenditure in all quarters. This year, at the end of the third quarter, fiscal deficit has almost reached the
budgeted level. Even after allowing for some slippage, it is unlikely that government expenditure can act as a driver of growth.
Thus, while one can expect the growth rate to pick up in the second half, any substantial increase depends on the behaviour of
private investment which remains intractable.

Yet another factor influencing growth is exports. India’s export performance has picked up in the current year. In terms of
growth rate, it was doing reasonably well. During April-September, exports grew by 11.52%. But there was a setback in October
with the export growth rate turning negative. However, the world economy is generally looking better this year. World trade in
2017 is expected to grow at 1.7% compared to 0.8% in 2016. Improvement in the external environment may help to raise our
exports. This may be another positive factor influencing growth, even though it is difficult to say how strong it will be. All in
all, it appears that the GDP growth for the year as a whole may be around 6.5%.

For growth to pick up in a strong way, policymakers need to address the issue of declining investment rate. As pointed out
already, the GFCF ratio has fallen to 26.4%. As late as 2014-15, the GFCF rate was 30.8%. Only when the reversal of this trend
happens can we be assured of a sustained high growth of 7% plus. The excess capacity built up during the boom period must
have been used up by now. A complex set of factors is keeping down the private investment rate. These factors need to be
addressed in order to push up private investment, even as the pace of public capital expenditures, which have shown a pick up
recently, is maintained.

Sectoral Growth Rates

                                                                           (% real growth, y-o-y)

  Q1 FY17 Q2 FY17 Q3 FY17 Q4 FY17 Q1 FY18 Q2 FY18

Farm and allied sectors 2.5 4.1 6.9 5.2 2.3 1.7

Mining & quarrying -0.9 -1.3 1.9 6.4 -0.7 5.5

Manufacturing 10.7 7.7 8.2 5.3 1.2 7.0

Electricity, utility services 10.3 5.1 7.4 6.1 7.0 7.6


Construction 3.1 4.3 3.4 -3.7 2.0 2.6

Trade, hotels etc. 8.9 7.7 8.3 6.5 11.1 9.9

Financial Services etc. 9.4 7 3.3 2.2 6.4 5.7

Public administration and 8.6 9.5 10.3 17 9.5 6.0


Overall GVA 7.6 6.8 6.7 5.6 5.6 6.1

Source MoSPI

C. Rangarajan is former chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and former Governor, Reserve Bank
of India

A stab in the heart of a peace process

Stanly Johny
DECEMBER 09, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 09, 2017 00:07 IST

Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem has dealt a body blow to Palestinian hopes

A n American President taking a pro-Israeli decision related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is no

surprise. The U.S. has largely favoured Israel throughout the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian
territories and East Jerusalem. It has offered protection to Israel in the UN Security Council, come to its
aid in times of crises, and provided it with advanced weapons. The U.S. has even looked away when Israel
was amassing nuclear weapons. In return, Israel has become America’s greatest ally in West Asia.

Despite this special relationship, previous American Presidents have been wary of recognising Israel’s
claims over Jerusalem. Even after the U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the
Administration to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City, American Presidents have
deferred the decision endlessly given international public opinion and the political and moral
sensitivity of the issue. It is this consensus that U.S. President Donald Trump has now broken by
recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Cutting off the oxygen

Mr. Trump’s supporters claim he was acting on a long-made promise, and that Washington remains
committed to the peace process irrespective of the Jerusalem move. They also say that Mr. Trump has
just shown the world he is a tough decision-maker and can act decisively while brokering peace between
the Israelis and Palestinians. But what these arguments conveniently forget is that Jerusalem is at the
very heart of an Israeli-Palestinian solution. By endorsing Israel’s claims over the city, the American
President has driven a knife into that heart. A President who promised the “ultimate deal” to resolve the
conflict has effectively dealt a body blow to the peace process.

This is not diplomacy. If this is a calculated move as part of a diplomatic package, the U.S. would have
held talks with both sides and extracted compromises, taking the peace process a step forward. If so, Mr.
Trump would also have said which part of Jerusalem he was recognising as Israel’s seat of power and
endorsed the Palestinians’ claim over East Jerusalem, including the Old City. Instead, Mr. Trump has
taken a unilateral decision giving the largest concession to Israel, perhaps since the Oslo process,
without getting any promises in return. His move will only strengthen the Israeli Right, which is dead
opposed to ceding any inch of Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state.

Was never recognised

History is not on the side of the likes of Mr. Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jerusalem has never been recognised as Israel’s capital by the international community. In the original
UN General Assembly plan to partition Palestine and create independent Jewish and Arab states,
Jerusalem was deemed an international city. The Zionists didn’t wait for the plan to be implemented by
the UN. In 1948, they declared the state of Israel and in the ensuing Arab-Israeli war, they captured 23%
more territories than even what the UN had proposed, including the western half of Jerusalem. Israel
seized East Jerusalem in 1967 from Jordan, and later annexed it. Since then, Israel has been encouraging
illegal settlements in the eastern parts of the city, with Palestinians being forced to live in their historical

The Israeli Right has always made claims over the whole of the city. In 1980, when the Likud government
was in power, the Israeli Parliament passed a basic law, declaring Jerusalem “complete and united” as its
capital. This move invoked sharp reaction from world powers, including the U.S. The UN Security
Council (UNSC) declared the draft law “null and void” and urged member countries to withdraw their
diplomatic missions from the Holy City. This is the reason all countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv
despite West Jerusalem being Israel’s seat of power for decades. Israel defying international norms and
UNSC resolutions is nothing new, but America publicly endorsing Israel’s illegal claims is
In an ideal world, had the U.S. been a neutral power broker, it should have put pressure on Israel to come
forward and engage the Palestinians in talks. This is because on the Palestinian side, conditions for talks
now look better. Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, recently came up with a
new political charter that signals a readiness to deal with Israel and accept the 1967 border for a future
Palestinian state — a compromise which has been compared to the group’s rhetorical anti-Semitic claims
in the past. Hamas and the Fatah, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas’s party that rules parts of the
West Bank, also reached a reconciliation agreement recently. This could have been used as an opening to
break the logjam in the peace process. Israel’s history suggests that it will not agree to any compromise
unless it is forced to do so. Over the years, it has continued its illegal settlements in the occupied
territories despite repeated warnings from the international community. If it was really bothered about
peace it would have frozen the settlements and agreed to having talks with the Palestinians.

American nudges
The only country that can put effective pressure on Israel is the U.S. American Presidents have done that
in the past without upsetting the U.S.-Israel alliance. Notable among them has been President Jimmy
Carter who practically arm-twisted Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin to join talks
with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and even with the Palestinians (whose claim over the occupied
territories was not even recognised by the Israeli Right those days). Mr. Carter’s attempts proved
successful as Begin and Sadat finally signed the Camp David Agreement. President Bill Clinton also
played a key role in the 2000 Camp David negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Ehud Barak,
which eventually failed to reach a deal. But since the collapse of the Second Camp David talks, American
Presidents have largely looked away from the issue. President George Bush’s 2007 Annapolis Conference
was no more than a photo op in the last days of his presidency. President Barack Obama’s focus was on
the Iran deal, while his administration offered full support to Israel at the UN. And Mr. Trump is least
interested in finding cues of peace on the Palestinian side and acting upon them by putting pressure on
Israel, the occupying force, for compromises. In his world, what matters is America’s cultural and
military alliance with Israel.

The real tragedy is the impact Mr. Trump’s decision will have on the Palestinian people. The hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians, who live in the annexed East Jerusalem without even Israeli citizenship, hope
to be free at some point in time. Likewise, the millions of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank
and the blockaded Gaza hope to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The U.S.
has struck a blow against these hopes. First they lost their city and now are losing even their claims. This
will only lead to their despair mounting. But if the history of Jerusalem states anything, it is that its
disputes cannot be settled by force. During the Crusades, both Christians and Muslims captured the city
using brutal force. The Ottomans ruled it for centuries only to have it lost to the British a century ago.
The Jordanians and the Israelis split it among themselves for two decades after the Second World War.
And, now, a millennium after the Crusades, the status of Jerusalem is still disputed. Mr. Trump’s move
may be a big shot in the arm for the Israelis, but a final settlement is still afar.

Arbitrary and irrational

Faizan Mustafa
DECEMBER 11, 2017 00:20 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 11, 2017 08:05 IST

Declaring triple talaq a penal offence does not stand up to first principles of criminal jurisprudence

T he proposal by the government to introduce a Muslim Woman Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill in the winter session
of Parliament — wherein a husband who resorts to instant triple talaq can be jailed for up to three years and fined — needs
closer scrutiny as there is stigma attached to criminal conviction. On August 22, 2017, a five judge Bench of the Supreme
Court, in a majority 3:2 judgment, set aside the practice of Talaq-e-Biddat (triple talaq); the minority view of Chief Justice J.S.
Khehar, who led the Bench, and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer was that triple divorce is a valid form of divorce.

If Parliament wants, it can enact a law on it. But nowhere in its judgment has the top court said that triple divorce is to be
criminally punished.

No longer valid
No one can question Parliament’s power to legislate with respect to personal laws under Entry 5 of the Concurrent List. But in
the Supreme Court judgment, the majority of three judges had already “set aside” triple divorce. Under Article 141 of the
Constitution, this is the “law declared by the Supreme Court”. Therefore, there is basically no need for any law as triple divorce
no longer dissolves marriage. But since the court did not explicitly state the consequences of its three pronouncements,
Parliament may say that the three pronouncements will count as one revocable divorce. This is the law in most Muslim
countries whose examples were cited by the government in the top court.

The stand of the government, which, citing data, said that its decision was influenced by over 60 cases of triple divorce even
after the Supreme Court’s decision is not correct. The belief that if wrongful conduct becomes a crime, people will refrain from
indulging in it is both erroneous and not been substantially proved by any authentic empirical research.

Since triple divorce no more dissolves marriage, its pronouncement is inconsequential and in no way adversely affects either
the wife or society. Thus no legitimate state interest is adversely affected. In making triple divorce a penal offence, the
government is in fact like the Rajiv Gandhi government after the Shah Bano case — accepting the view of conservative Ulema
who have themselves taken the stand that while triple divorce validly dissolves marriage, the person making three instant
pronouncements is liable to punishment. Are we going to insist on mens rea (guilty intention) or make triple divorce a ‘strict
liability’ offence which would mean that even if the person did not intend to divorce his wife, he would be punished for mere
utterance of the word “divorce” thrice? Since the cardinal principle of criminal law is presumption of innocence and the
burden of proof is always on the prosecution which has to prove the case beyond a shadow of a doubt, how will the poor wife
prove instant triple divorce if declared orally when no one else was around? The husband will be entitled to acquittal claiming
the benefit of doubt. Since the law makes the husband liable for the payment of maintenance, how will he pay maintenance if
he is sent to jail?

Even more crucial, is this question. On what basis has the Bill provided for imprisonment of three years?

Under the IPC

Why did the government not look at provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is the general criminal law of the
country? For what crimes does the IPC reserve imprisonment of three years? Section 148, which is on rioting and armed with
deadly weapon, has a provision of three years or with fine, or with both. Section 153A, which is on promoting enmity between
different groups, is also for three years, which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine. Section 237, which
punishes the import or export of counterfeit coin, has the same term. It is the same again with Section 295A (deliberate and
malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). These serious
crimes are in no way comparable to an individual who instead of taking three months to divorce his wife, just took a minute in
making all three pronouncements. Such divorces generally happen out of extreme anger when a person really does not know
the nature and quality of his act, and already an exception from criminal liability.

A cursory look at other sections shows these: Section 304A (Causing death by negligence); Section 147 (punishment for
rioting); Section 171E (Punishment for bribery); Section 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to
life); Section 272 (Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale); Section 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with
intent to insult the religion of any class); Section 290 (Punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for);
Section 337 (Causing hurt by act of endangering life or personal safety of others); Section 341 (Punishment for wrongful
restraint) and Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) have much smaller terms of
imprisonment and fines. Thus imprisonment of three years for triple divorce is excessive, arbitrary and irrational, and
violative of Article 14.

Ideally, divorce should not be treated by divorcees as the end of the world. Our women do not need men to lead a dignified life.
We must remove the stigma attached to divorces. Triple divorce should be nothing more than civil contempt of the Supreme

Faizan Mustafa is Vice-Chancellor NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. The views expressed are personal

A game of chicken in the Korean peninsula

Happymon Jacob
DECEMBER 11, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 11, 2017 00:55 IST

On North Korea, the world is way past tactical solutions. Only a comprehensive diplomatic solution will

T hirteen thousand kilometres. That’s how far North Korea’s newest Hwasong-15 missile can travel, which
puts the United States, its principal adversary, within striking distance. With nuclear capable intercontinental
ballistic missiles in its arsenal, and with hardly any workable U.S military options to disarm Pyongyang, nuclear
North Korea is now an inevitability and here to stay. Lessons from the tragic end of Saddam Hussein and
Muammar Qadhafi would further disincentivise North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un to give up his
weapons. Pyongyang’s neighbours, namely Japan and South Korea, and the international community, the U.S. in
particular, however, have not reconciled to this reality provoking a nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula.
The rationality of escalation
Kim Jong-un has been called all kinds of names, from a ruthless dictator to a madman. But Kim’s actions
consolidating his hold over power in Pyongyang or developing North Korea’s strategic arsenal show that he is
anything but irrational. More pertinently, his policy of taking on the entire international community is seemingly
premised on the classical military strategy of escalating to de-escalate — to initially escalate to unacceptable
levels so as to force one’s adversaries to make concessions in areas they otherwise would not. Being recognised as a
nuclear weapon capable state would be the foremost objective; survival of his regime and an eventual removal of
sanctions would be the natural consequences of such a recognition.
Given that Pyongyang is pursuing such an escalatory strategy when there is a great deal of great power
disharmony and American indecisiveness, the odds are heavily stacked in its favour. In this game of chicken, Kim
seems to be the winner.

Great power buck-passing

Ever since Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003, which led to the Six-
Party Talks to diffuse the situation in the Korean peninsula, the North Korean regime has played the great powers
against each other, exploiting their respective strategic calculations vis-à-vis Pyongyang, and each other. Having
outmanoeuvred the big boys, North Korea conducted several nuclear tests and has now reached a point of no
return, leaving the great powers stupefied and outwitted. Notwithstanding Pyongyang’s determination to go
down this road by all means, the differing great power endgames and their unwillingness to commit sustained
political and diplomatic capital, individually and together, to the Korean peninsula have contributed to the
current crisis in a major way.
Today, having exhausted all its strategies, from imposing sanctions to isolating North Korea, Washington has
neither any leverage nor is it in a position to make a successful military strike against the country. China is not
only worried about a lethal nuclear fallout in its neighbourhood and the potential rush of North Korean refugees
into its territory but also uneasy about what may otherwise be an excellent solution — a reunified Korea,
something Beijing thinks will undercut its rising regional predominance. Russia, having had clandestine dealings
with the North Korean regime in the past, also has no cards to play. And yet, if the unravelling of the Korean
peninsula weakens Washington’s standing in the region further, Moscow and Beijing would certainly not mind
Japan and South Korea, in a sense, then are the real victims in this game of great power buck-passing and
geopolitical expediency. Seen as arch-rivals by Pyongyang and located in what is arguably the world’s most
dangerous neighbourhood, Tokyo and Seoul would be the first to face Kim’s wrath. What is complicating their
plight even more is the shakiness of the extended deterrence commitments of U.S. President Donald Trump’s
“America First” policy.
Going nuclear would not take too much time or effort for either of these technologically advanced countries. The
lack of a firm commitment from Washington on security commitments could potentially prompt them to develop
a modest strategic arsenal which would have a domino effect for the region and the rest of the international
system. In a self-help world of such kind, the NPT-led non-proliferation regime as we know it would cease to exist.

Systemic crisis
At the heart of it, the crisis in the Korean peninsula reflects an endemic and worrying disorder in the
contemporary international system. For one, international diplomacy has failed in the region. The ability of the
great powers to compromise and reach a workable consensus to deal with global crises seems to have considerably
reduced especially with the arrival of Mr. Trump and the assertion of China and Russia. What is even more
worrying is this: the failure of the great powers to arrive at a workable consensus in crisis situations is perhaps a
sign of the times to come.
Second, the current crisis is further intensified by the deal-breaking tendencies of Mr. Trump. For instance, his
administration’s tirade against the Iran nuclear deal, the end result of long, arduous negotiations, is sending out
all the wrong signals to the international community. If Kim’s North Korea is decidedly revisionist, Mr. Trump’s
revisionist tendencies are equally damaging.
What is also becoming clear today is that isolating states that “misbehave” does not resolve conflicts. Be it
Pakistan, Iran or North Korea, isolating states in the international system can only further complicate existing
crises. The reason why we have been able to restrain the development of Iranian nuclear weapons is precisely
because the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) reached a historic
nuclear deal in 2015 despite pressure from within the U.S. and countries such as Israel to use force against Tehran.
Had it not been for this deal, we would have had quite a mess in our neighbourhood today.
Finally, and at a deeper level, the disarmament platitudes of the N-5 (or the five nuclear weapon states) and no
progress on their disarmament commitments have eroded the faith of the nuclear have-nots in the global nuclear
order. In an indirect but relevant way, such erosion of a normative global order has contributed to the North
Korean crisis. Therefore, those lamenting how Kim’s nukes will weaken the non-proliferation regime have only
themselves to blame for it.

The future
Now that Pyongyang has crossed the nuclear threshold, international sanctions and the use of force against North
Korea will not yield the desired results. It will lead to immeasurable human suffering within North Korea and in
its neighbourhood. We are way past tactical solutions, and, therefore, only a comprehensive, sustained and
diplomatic solution will work, though the result of which is uncertain, and the intent for which is non-existent
among the great powers at this point. However, if indeed Kim is “escalating to deescalate”, Pyongyang might be
open to such engagement especially since it has now gone beyond being forcibly disarmed. Moreover, for Kim,
talking itself would constitute a form of recognition for his regime.
The most unpleasant part of such a comprehensive solution would involve according de facto “recognition” to
North Korea’s nuclear weapons. In other words, North Korea has nuclear weapons and its delivery mechanism in
its custody, and there is no getting away from that fact, not now. If so, all we can do now is to consider how we can
live with a nuclear North Korea rather than think of impractical military solutions to disarm Pyongyang. For sure,
it would be a pity to add it to the list of states possessing nuclear weapons. But then there is a time to prevent
something from becoming a reality, and there is a time to accept when it becomes an inevitable reality.
The operational aspect of this approach would involve taking on board North Korea’s historical grievances,
involving the regional powers including China and South Korea to reach out to Kim, and reviving the dormant Six
Party Talks at the earliest. Revival of the Six Party talks is important precisely because entrusting China and or
Russia to solely deal with North Korea would be unwise. Moreover, multilateral engagement would also prevent
anyone from engaging in underhand dealings with Pyongyang.
Happymon Jacob is Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies, Centre for International Politics, Organization
and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The power play in peacekeeping

Portend - sign or warning that (something, especially something momentous or calamitous) is likely to happen

Manmohan Bahadur
DECEMBER 12, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 12, 2017 00:35 IST

Though Indian troops have led the way, the returns in UN power play have been low. The contrast
with China is stark

M edia coverage of peacekeeping operations is an area with many gaps. Consider for example, an
incident last week, where at least 15 peacekeepers and five soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC) were killed and numerous peacekeepers wounded by armed militants in one of the worst
attacks on United Nations personnel. A local Islamist extremist group overran the remote base. Most of
the dead and wounded are from Tanzania. Was there any media coverage in India? It would have been a
different story had they been troops from the West. In the midst of this, one must focus on China as its grip
on UN affairs tightens and it starts deciding policy, to the detriment of India.
China rising
Amid the buzz around Beijing taking centre stage in world affairs, the import of China’s deployment of its
first peacekeeping helicopter unit in the peacekeeping mission in Darfur has been lost sight of. Having
made a reluctant entry in peacekeeping, when it sent a small cadre of soldiers to Cambodia in 1992, Beijing
has become the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council
(UNSC). More importantly, China is now the third-largest contributor to the UN’s regular budget and the
second-largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget. News of any country supporting peacekeeping is
good, but what does this portend in Beijing’s quest for great power status? In a September 2017 report, the
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says: “China’s participation in UN operations offers... a
low-cost means of demonstrating their commitment to global stability... and allay(s) fears about its
military and economic strength.” But is the picture that simple for India in geopolitical power play?
The UN, especially the UNSC, is a blue-blooded political body, notwithstanding its charter of considering
all countries as equals. In practice, a nation’s voice is in proportion to what it contributes towards the UN,
especially funds — India’s contribution is only 0.737% when compared to China’s 7.92% and the U.S.’s 22%.
Troop contributions to peacekeeping do not get their due in UN power politics. Having led a peacekeeping
contingent, in 2005, I have seen first hand how pivotal posts in UN missions have always been with major
fund contributors. China is indeed a part of the picture.

Veto power
The CSIS report states that China has used its veto only 12 times, but two were cast where its economic
interests were involved, like in Myanmar and Zimbabwe despite these being low on human rights records.
What is more worrisome, however, is that two vetoes were also cast “over concerns over territorial integrity
pertaining to Taiwan”. China was against sending UN peacekeepers to Guatemala and Macedonia because
they had established diplomatic ties with Taiwan. When this self-serving act is linked with Beijing’s other
recent coercive actions such as against Mongolia due to a Dalai Lama visit, and against Japan when it is said
to have halted exports of rare minerals following the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain, the increasing
front-lining of China in international affairs via the UN has an ominous ring. Ominous - inauspicious
In 2015, China committed a standby force of 8,000 peacekeepers and a permanent police squad for UN
operations. In addition, there is a 10-year $1 billion China-U.N. peace and development fund and $100
million in military assistance to the African Union. It is no coincidence that Africa is where China has large
economic interests. Peacekeeping is said to be a cover for China to test its strengths in overseas
deployments. The deployment of a People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine off the Africa coast for anti-
piracy patrolling is totrain its seamen in long-distance operations.
Impacting India
Chinese involvement in peacekeeping, along with its higher funding contributions will put Beijing in the
driver’s seat in formulating peacekeeping mandates, thereby affecting India in more ways than one.

Is India losing out despite having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping
missions over the past six decades? We have also sent scarce aviation assets including Canberra bombers to
a UN Mission in Congo in the 1960s and helicopters to Somalia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. The truth is that
though our troops have been on the front line of facing danger (168 soldiers lost in UN operations, till May
2017), the returns in UN power play have been low. It was perhaps not a troublesome issue until now
considering India’s good relations with the other four permanent UNSC members, but will this continue
with China rise in the UN, especially with U.S. President Donald Trump’s preoccupation elsewhere?
Chinese opposition to India’s candidature for a UNSC seat and its repeated vetos on the Masood Azhar
issue are unwelcome indicators.
Peacekeeping missions are the raison d’etre of the UN and India’s generous contributions as far as
peacekeeping troops are concerned should be key in its argument to have a greater say in the affairs of the
UN. India must demand its pound of flesh.
Manmohan Bahadur, a retired Air Vice Marshal, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Air Power
Studies, New Delhi
Raison détre - the most important reason or purpose for someone or something's
Animus - strong dislike or enmity; hostile attitude; animosity.
Dithered - indecisive
Iffy - of doubtful quality or legality.

A working class act in America

Dipankar Gupta Billow - fill with air and swell outwards.

DECEMBER 12, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 12, 2017 00:36 IST

Donald Trump’s critics have overlooked the tremendous impact workers and unions had on his election

T he upcoming elections for the Governor of Alabama are being closely watched because it is a test of President
Donald Trump too. Some argue that it is his unconditional support of the controversial Roy Moore that has actually
filled, if not billowed, Republican sails. After all, current surveys conclude that Mr. Trump still has the faithful solidly
by him. Almost 62% of them believe he has done nothing wrong since his election. All things considered, this is not
that much worse than the 66% rating Mr. Barack Obama’s supporters had given him earlier.

Trump’s appeal
Regardless of what most journalists may say of him, Mr. Trump’s appeal is not in imminent danger. In fact, it tends to
flourish under fire. According to Reuters, when Donald Trump Jr. was accused of asking for Russian support, the
President’s popularity in swing states, like Ohio, actually got stronger.
Mr. Trump won in 30 states with a clear majority, but as Gary Abernathy reported in The Washington Post, in most of
these places not a single newspaper supported him. No wonder, people in the U.S. are still puzzling over Mr. Trump’s
victory. Some say it’s a fluke, others put their finger on gender bias, finally, there are those who believe that a freshly
minted nationalism explains it all.

But all of them, invariably, shut out the tremendous impact workers and their unions have had on this presidential
election. It is another matter what Mr. Trump might do during his term for the rich, but a large part of his campaign
pitch was directed straight at the blue-collar class. It needed that little bit to tip the scales in traditional unions-
soaked Democratic states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and that is what happened. Enough workers
deserted Hillary Clinton, ignored the call of unions, and voted Trump.

Why were workers upset?

Appearances can be deceptive for Mr. Trump’s campaign was not all bluster and boast. In fact, he may have well used
his head and carefully held a match to pent up past grievances among workers. These were waiting to explode for over
Incendiary - tending to stir up conflict, designed to cause fires
20 years and Mr. Trump blew the lid off, to perfection, with his incendiary attacks on Mexico and immigrants.
That he pulled this off so remarkably is because the current working class resentment began in 1993 when Bill Clinton
signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (or, NAFTA) Implementation Act into law. This was a monumental
show of bipartisanship, yet NAFTA was causing anger to many. As it allowed a freer movement of capital, and
sometimes labour, between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, organised workers, then and now, opposed it. They feared job
cuts would take place and that industries would move out -- both happened.

When Mr. Obama became President, expectations were kindled, especially among Black unionists (who are in a
majority), that some changes would happen on the NAFTA front, but nothing did. Indeed, animus against NAFTA was
so intense that many workers denied Oreo cookies to their children because the company had moved to Mexico.

Yet, big unions formally hung on to the Democratic Party even as it dithered over NAFTA. This is where Mr. Trump
made all the difference. He broke rank and opposed NAFTA like no other leader, Republican or Democrat, before him.
What also helped Mr. Trump look the authentic underdog champ was Ms Clinton’s iffy reputation in this department.
She was not just vague on NAFTA but also seemed like damaged goods to many because of her long, uncomplaining
stint on Wal-Mart’s Board. Unfortunately for her, this was at a time when that enterprise was being accused, right or
wrong, of unethical practices.

Black Americans did not warm up to Ms Clinton either. Black icon, Louis Farrakhan, clearly voiced his unhappiness
with her, and he was not alone. To complicate matters for Democrats, its solid ally, the working class unions, were
losing members fast, from 21% in 1981 to a mere 11% in 2015. In fact, the number falls to a low 4% if we just take those
who are below 25 years old. But Mr. Trump did not start this fire. Unions were emptying out long before he began his
campaign to be President.

For example, between 2003-2008, in the automobile sector alone, once known for its powerful organised working
class, as many as 1,71,066 jobs were lost and union membership dropped by 1,38,653. New industries, such as
construction, did not help either. Even here union membership fell from 86% in the 1940s to 13% today. Consequently,
unions were left with hardly any heft. In 1937 they had organised 4,740 strikes, but in 2014, they managed to pull off
just 11.
Fifty years ago as many as 28% of voters were from union households, but today less than 13% are. This left the large
majority of them to vote as they wished. The legal obligation to belong to an union has also now been lifted.

Workers might have felt compelled to back Democrats in the past because the alternative did not exist. The
Republicans, if anything, were even worse for they supported NAFTA with a straighter face and a wider grin. Now, at
long last, comes Mr. Trump, freely accusing NAFTA, and years of stamped down sullenness suddenly broke free.

Downturn of unions
The best decades for unions were in the 1930s and 1940s. Most memorable of all was the 1936 General Motors strike in
Flint in which spies, blacklegs, guns and clubs were in full display. Over a dozen lives were lost, but the union
eventually got what it wanted. The workers in the assembly line and shop floor won a 5% wage hike and the right to
talk to each other at lunch.

The subsequent downturn of unions not only hobbled the Democrats, but robbed workers of a listening post and a
wailing wall as well. This is because unions also contributed to family welfare and counsel. Even children of unionised
workers were better educated than the rest. In addition, as the famous Black scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, noted,
autoworkers’ unions helped tremendously in harmonising race relations, particularly in the 1940s.
This trend became stronger with the merger of the two largest unions in 1955. Yet, over the decades, unions kept
losing out, primarily because of the advance of disaggregated service industries and the closing down, or migration, of
large scale manufacture, such as of automobile production. Nor should we overlook the fact that, with time, fewer
workers are needed to produce more. Far back as 1930, workers made about 10 cars in a year, but today it is in the range
of 17-20, indicating a rise in skilled labour which may have hurt membership in organisations such as UAW.

According to Marquita Walker of Purdue University, a large number of those who were retrenched in the financial
crisis of 2007-08 stayed unemployed, or underemployed. When NAFTA piled on to all of this, it gave the Democrats a
hill too high to climb. As a result, Ms Clinton lost in traditional union stronghold states such as Ohio, Iowa,
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and it is this slide that finally brought about her downfall.
Mr. Trump’s victory was not a fluke, or a crazy outcome of unpredictable events, or pure jingoism. Fortune reports that
non-college graduates, who dominate the working class, continue to support Mr. Trump even today. Workers clearly
saw in Mr. Trump somebody who can lead, and not just tweet, from the front.
Dipankar Gupta, an eminent sociologist, was a professor at the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Retrench - (of an organization or individual) reduce costs or spending in response to economic difficulty,
make (an employee) redundant.
Human Rights & Indian Values
Neither civilisational ethos nor the mere enshrining of constitutional morality is enough to deliver on basic rights

D adri, Alwar and Rajsamand are names that must ring a bell for every aware Indian. In a little more than a year these have
been sites where a fellow citizen has been brutally murdered by another Indian. They should be a source of deep shame to us as
these were not random events. In every case the victim was a Muslim from the poorest sections of our country. Mohammad
Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Afrazul Khan were murdered for the identity assigned to them and the alleged guilt that is thereby
claimed to cling to them.

Acts of hate
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was quick to respond to the murder of Afrazul Khan stating that it
should not be seen as religiously motivated but as a criminal act. Not only is this difficult to sustain given the explanation by
Afrazul Khan’s assailant that he was only seeking revenge for “cross-community” marital relationships but it also ignores a
pattern in the three killings in question. In all cases the murders have been justified in the name of injuring the sensibilities of
Hindus. They are, for all to see, unmistakably acts of hate committed against a member of a religious minority.

Four days after the killing of Afrazul Khan on December 6, India celebrated Human Rights Day. December 10 is the
anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. As an early supporter
of the UN movement and a constant participant in its deliberations, India has, in international fora, constantly endorsed the
charter of rights that the declaration unfurled.
On December 10, at an official ceremony at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu said two noteworthy things.
He first affirmed India’s commitment to human rights emphasising the duty of governments to ensure them to individuals.
Second, he observed that human rights existed in India not due to some constitutional morality but because of the DNA of
Indian civilisation. To clarify what he meant he chanted from the Upanishad “Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavantu”, loosely
translated as “May all be happy”.
The Vice-President was obviously referring to the many assurances of the freedom of thought and expression and the right to
life and liberty in the Constitution, suggesting that their provenance lies in the immemorial history of the country’s
civilisation. While there may be a grain of truth in this observation it doesn’t count for much when it comes to repeated
violation of human rights in India, of which the murders of Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Afrazul Khan are instances.
Provenance - Place of origin; derivation, history of the ownership of an object, especially when documented
Role of government or authenticated. The records or documents authenticating such an object or the history of its ownership.
In the light of these violations, it may have been more helpful if the Vice-President had said that the constitutional provisions
are inadequate by themselves and the role of government is fundamental in advancing them. In fact, it is precisely because we
cannot rely on civilisational values that may or may not be enshrined in the constitution to deliver us rights that we adopt
democracy as the form of government.

Historically, votaries of civilisational values have struggled to break free of cultural prejudices and accord similar status to
other civilisations. Not very long ago, colonialism had been justified on civilisational terms, with the very term “civilised”
being used to differentiate the West from the indigenous populations of the lands colonised by Europe. It is perhaps this that
led Gandhi to respond to the query of what he thought of Western civilisation by saying, “I think it would be a good idea.”
Gandhi is unlikely to have been any softer on champions of the superiority of eastern civilisations.

Civilisational hubris abounds in claims of “the inclusivity of Hinduism” or “the egalitarianism of Islam”. Whatever be the
exhortations in the texts that underlie these religions, the history of caste and gender inequality in India and Islamic societies,
respectively, show them to have been neither inclusive nor egalitarian. It is clear that civilisational values, in our case Indian,
are far from sufficient to deliver us the rights that we seek to make our own.

Though the UN’s declaration of human rights is expansive, in his speech the Vice-President took it further to include social
and economic rights. It is clear that Indian civilisation has not had much success in ensuring their delivery. If any progress has
at all been made in the desired direction, it has been after the adoption of a democratic form of governance; an arrangement
that is distinctly non-Indian in its origins. In terms of human development, 21st century India is radically different from what
it was in the 20th century. That economic inequality has steadily risen and ecological stress is written all over the country
cannot take away from the fact that there has been progress of a form that has collapsed social distance. The rise to the prime
ministership of India of Mr. Narendra Modi is the best testament to this. There is social churning in India, with some of it
having come through affirmative action and some of it through economic transformation in which the more recent
liberalisation of the economy has had some role.

However, as India has managed to shed some of the centuries old practices that maintained social distance due to caste and
economic differentiation, newer axes of power have emerged. We have begun to see an unimaginable rise of violence against
women and Muslims. Hardening patriarchy and Hindu chauvinism are India’s unanticipated demons. These have taken us by
surprise, and as a society we appear to be incapable of handling them.

Ways to tackle intolerance

Our task of ensuring human rights in India is, however, made no more easy after rejecting the potential of civilisational values
and of the instrumentality of economic growth combined with constitutional morality in achieving such a state. While
“constitutional morality”, a term used by Ambedkar to appropriately reject any role for “societal morality” in the Republic, is of
course a useful guide to the courts when it comes to adjudicating between individuals, it is by itself helpless in preventing acts
of violence. The efficacy of constitutional provisions is entirely dependent on the government machinery entrusted to our
elected representatives. An effective protection of individuals, in this case women and minorities, from acts of violence
requires the power of the state to weigh in on their side. In too many cases of violence against women, Muslims and Dalits, the
Indian state is distinguished by its absence.
In a recent paper Canada-based economist Mukesh Eswaran demonstrated that it is possible to understand “9/11” and home-
grown terrorism in western Europe as a response to the historical wrongs inflicted on Muslim societies by Western powers,
notably the invasion of Iraq. This is a useful corrective to the collective gasp of incredulity let out by Western elites when
addressing the violence unleashed against them by Islamic groups. Transferring Eswaran’s reasoning to the Indian context,
one might argue that India should contain violence against its Muslims to ensure the safety of Hindus. But such crass
instrumentalism would be unworthy of a great civilisation. We want to ensure the flourishing of all the peoples of India not
out of self-preservation but because we want to be civilised. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, anyone?

Pulapre Balakrishnan teaches economics at Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana and the Indian Institute of Management,
Kozhikode, Kerala

Incredulity - lack of credence, disbelief, the state of being unwilling or unable to believe something

Printable version | Dec 13, 2017 10:42:42 AM |

© The Hindu
Aniket Aga
DECEMBER 13, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 13, 2017 07:59 IST

The judiciary’s brazen disregard for the RTI has now got a stamp of approval from a high court

A six-year-long farce concluded at the Delhi High Court on November 21, 2017, and the Right to Information (RTI) Act,
2005 is the worse for it. At issue was the right of citizens to get information from the Supreme Court , and by implication,
India’s higher judiciary, which has strongly resisted the RTI. The apex court summarily rejects RTI requests, and insists that
applicants exclusively request information under its administrative rules (Supreme Court Rules) framed in 1966, and re-
issued with minor changes in 2014. To see why the High Court’s judgment strengthens a culture of opacity in the higher
judiciary, we need to delve into the Supreme Court’s engagement, or rather persistent non-engagement with the RTI.

The background
In April 2010, a former schoolteacher, R.S. Misra, filed an RTI request with the Supreme Court Registry. He had earlier sent two
letters to different Justices, essentially demanding redress in a case before the apex court that he had already lost. In an
evident attempt at using RTI to fight a judicial battle already lost, he sought “action taken” reports on his letters.

The Registry could have lawfully disposed of this RTI request by simply stating that no such information was available.
Instead, the Registry rejected the application, and asked Mr. Misra to apply under the Supreme Court Rules. Mr. Misra
challenged this response before the then Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi.

In May 2011, appearing before the Commission, the Additional Registrar of the Court, Smita Sharma objected only to the use
of the RTI, and not to Mr. Misra’s request per se. She maintained that the Supreme Court Rules alone governed access to the
information he had sought. Claiming that the Rules were consistent with the RTI, she asked Mr. Gandhi to reinstate the
primacy of Supreme Court Rules over the RTI, in line with previous Central Information Commission (CIC) rulings.

However, as Mr. Gandhi noted in his decision, the Supreme Court Rules undermined the RTI in four key ways. Unlike the RTI
Act, the Rules do not provide for: a time frame for furnishing information; an appeal mechanism, and penalties for delays or
wrongful refusal of information. Finally, the Rules also make disclosures to citizens contingent upon “good cause shown”. In
sum, the Rules allowed the Registry to provide information at its unquestionable discretion, violating the text and spirit of the
RTI. Consequently, Mr. Gandhi held that the Supreme Court Rules are inconsistent with the RTI Act, and that the Registry
must respond to applications within the RTI framework alone.

A ruse
This was a landmark ruling. As many applicants, which includes this writer, have found, the apex court’s insistence on its own
Rules for providing information is a ruse. Between 2014 and 2016, I attempted to access documents related to a disposed
public interest litigation, filing requests under the Supreme Court Rules and the RTI Act. The Registry rejected both requests.
The Additional Registrar’s office told me quite transparently over the phone that it would simply not release the information.

Returning to Mr. Misra’s case, faced with an adverse order from Mr. Gandhi, the Registry filed a writ petition before the Delhi
High Court in 2011, prolonging the matter. In essence, the Registry turned Mr. Misra’s request into an RTI v. Rules contest, as it
has done for others too.

Justice S. Muralidhar of the High Court stayed Mr. Gandhi’s decision immediately without addressing Section 23 of the RTI
Act, which forbids courts from entertaining “any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this
Act”. The High Court did not justify how its writ jurisdiction applies to an appeal against a CIC order.

Another ruling
Six years on, this November, Justice Manmohan overturned Mr. Gandhi’s order. His judgment relies on four planks: Mr. Misra’s
application went beyond the RTI; Supreme Court Rules are consistent with the RTI Act; the RTI Act cannot apply to the
Supreme Court’s judicial functioning; and Mr. Gandhi should not have deviated from previous CIC rulings.

The first point is irrelevant, as the Registry could have disposed of the application under the RTI Act in 2010 itself. The issue
before the High Court was the Registry’s refusal to abide by the RTI Act. The second and third points are in contradiction. If the
RTI Act and Supreme Court Rules are mutually consistent, then why should the Registry privilege the latter? Moreover, Justice
Manmohan did not examine the obvious contradictions between the two. And if the RTI does not apply to judicial functioning,
then it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court Rules, and must be declared ultra vires or an overreach. The final point is even
more untenable. The CIC is not a court of record and Commissioners are not beholden to prior decisions.
The nub of the matter is that the Supreme Court Registry wants to provide information at its absolute discretion. Its brazen
disregard for the RTI has now got a stamp of approval from a court of record. The RTI has suffered another blow, not from the
berated political class or the much maligned babus, but from the “gems of institutions” enjoined to protect the law.

Aniket Aga is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. E-mail:

Nub - the crux or central point of a matter, a small lump

Printable version | Dec 13, 2017 10:31:36 AM |


© The Hindu
Amit Varma
Eschew - deliberately avoid using; abstain from
DECEMBER 14, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 14, 2017 00:13 IST

Politicians like Trump and Modi play to our worst impulses as people believe what they want to believe

T he most surprising thing about these Gujarat elections is that people are so surprised at the Prime Minister’s
rhetoric. Narendra Modi has eschewed all talk of development, and has played to the worst impulses of the Gujarati
people. His main tool is Hindu-Muslim polarisation, which is reflected in the language he uses for his opponents. The
Congress has a “Mughlai” mentality, they are ushering in an “Aurangzeb Raj”, and their top leaders are conspiring with
Pakistan to make sure Mr. Modi loses. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson has also launched a scathing attack
on Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi. None of this is new.

Mr. Modi’s rhetoric in the heat of campaigning has always come from below. From his references to “Mian Musharraf”
over a decade ago to the “kabristan-shamshaan” comments of the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh, it has been clear
that the otherness of Muslims is central to the BJP playbook. Hate drives more people to the polling booth than warm,
fuzzy feelings of pluralism. But, the question is, are the Congress leaders really conspiring with Pakistan to make sure
the BJP lose?
Answer: It doesn’t matter.
Cotton (verb) - begin to understand. He cottoned on to what I was trying to say.
No care for truth
In 1986, the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt wrote an essay named “On Bullshit”, which was published as a book in 2005
and became a surprise bestseller. The book attempts to arrive at “a theoretical understanding of bullshit”. The key
difference between a liar and a , ‘bullshitter’, Frankfurt tells us, is that the liar knows the truth and aims to deceive. The
‘bullshitter’, on the other hand, doesn’t care about the truth. He is “neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the
false,” in Frankfurt’s words. “His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except
insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says.”
The ‘bullshitter’ is wise, for he has cottoned on to an important truth that has become more and more glaring in these
modern times: that facts don’t matter. And to understand why, I ask you to go back with me in time to another seminal
book, this one published in 1922.
The first chapter of “Public Opinion”, by the American journalist, Walter Lippmann, is titled “The World Outside and
the Pictures in Our Heads”. In it, Lippmann makes the point that all of us have a version of the world inside our heads
that resembles, but is not identical to, the world as it is. “The real environment,” he writes, “is altogether too big, too
complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance.” Fleeting - lasting for a very short time.
We construct a version of the world in our heads, and feed that version, for modifying it too much will require too
much effort. If facts conflict with it, we ignore those facts, and accept only those that conform to our worldview.
(Cognitive psychologists call this the “Confirmation Bias”.)

Lippmann sees this as a challenge for democracy, for how are we to elect our leaders if we cannot comprehend the
impact they will have on the world?

Fragmented media
I would argue that this is a far greater problem today than it was in Lippmann’s time. Back then, and until a couple of
decades ago, there was a broad consensus on the truth. There were gatekeepers to information and knowledge. Even
accounting for biases, the mainstream media agreed on some basic facts. That has changed. The media is fragmented,
there are no barriers to entry, and the mainstream media no longer has a monopoly of the dissemination of
information. This is a good thing, with one worrying side effect: whatever beliefs or impulses we might have — the
earth is flat, the Jews carried out 9/11, India is a Hindu nation — we can find plenty of “evidence” for it online, and
connect with like-minded people. Finding others who share our beliefs makes us more strident, and soon we form
multiple echo chambers that become more and more extreme. Polarisation increases. The space in the middle
disappears. And the world inside our heads, shared by so many other, becomes impervious to facts.

This also means that impulses we would otherwise not express in polite society find validation, and a voice. Here’s
another book you should read: in 1997, the sociologist, Timur Kuran, wrote “Private Truths, Public Lies” in which he
coined the term “Preference Falsification”. There are many things we feel or believe but do not express because we fear
social approbation. But as soon as we realise that others share our views, we are emboldened to express ourselves. This
leads to a “Preference Cascade”: Kuran gives the example of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but an equally apt modern
illustration is the rise of right-wing populists everywhere. I believe — and I apologise if this is too depressing to
contemplate — that the majority of us are bigots, misogynists, racists, and tribal in our thinking. We have always been
this way, but because liberal elites ran the media, and a liberal consensus seemed to prevail, we did not express these
feelings. Social media showed us that we were not alone, and gave us the courage to express ourselves.
That’s where Donald Trump comes from. That’s where Mr. Modi comes from. Our masses vote for these fine gentlemen
not in spite of their bigotry and misogyny, but because of it. Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi provide them a narrative that
feeds the world inside their heads. Mexicans are rapists, foreigners are bad, Muslims are stealing our girls, gaumutra
cures cancer — and so on. The truth is irrelevant. Facts. Don’t. Matter.

Think about the implication of this. This means that the men and women who wrote the Constitution were an out-of-
touch elite, and the values they embedded in it were not shared by most of the nation. (As a libertarian, I think the
Constitution was deeply flawed because it did not do enough to protect individual rights, but our society’s consensus
would probably be that it did too much.) The “Idea of India” that these elites spoke of was never India’s Idea of India.
These “liberal” values were imposed on an unwilling nation — and is such imposition, ironically, not deeply illiberal
itself? This is what I call The Liberal Paradox.

All the ugliness in our politics today is the ugliness of the human condition. This is how we are. This is not a perversion
of democracy but an expression of it. Those of us who are saddened by it — the liberal elites, libertarians like me — have
to stop feeling entitled, and get down to work. The alt-right guru Andrew Breitbart once said something I never get
tired of quoting: “Politics is downstream from Culture.” A political victory will now not come until there is a social
revolution. Where will it begin?

Amit Varma is the editor of the online magazine, Pragati, a blogger at India Uncut and a podcaster at The Seen and the

Strident - loud and harsh; grating.

presenting a point of view, especially a controversial one, in an excessively forceful way.
Approbation - approval or praise


Printable version | Dec 14, 2017 10:43:02 AM |


© The Hindu

Whither disaster management after Ockhi?

M.G. Devasahayam
DECEMBER 15, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 15, 2017 00:40 IST

More lives of fisherfolk would have been saved if disaster management action plans were implemented properly

A disaster is an event causing extreme disruption in a society’s functioning. It results in widespread human, material, and
environmental losses which are beyond the ability of the affected people to cope with on their own. Most disasters — floods,
cyclones, earthquakes, landslides — are due to nature’s fury. When a disaster causes death and destruction, it becomes a
calamity beyond human endurance. This is what happened when cyclone Ockhi struck Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu
and parts of Kerala on November 29th night and 30th morning.
As per the information given by fishermen associations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, over 120 fishermen are dead and about 900
are still missing. Fishermen who ventured out into the sea to help in rescue operations reportedly saw bloated bodies floating.
They were, however, unable to bring several of these bodies back to the shore. The Tamil Nadu government continues to be in
denial mode as far as the number of deaths is concerned, although there is some consensus on the number of people missing.

Cyclone Ockhi has left a massive trail of destruction in Kanniyakumari district. It is here that the government’s rapid response
by way of disaster management should have stepped in.
Bloated - swollen with fluid or gas.
Failure in damage control
There are three basic failings in the government’s response: the cyclone warning was delayed; the warning, when it came, was
ineffective because it could not be conveyed to thousands of fisherfolk who were already out at sea; and once the cyclone
struck, there was no war-like mobilisation and action, which are the hallmarks of good disaster management.

Cyclone Ockhi’s devastation started within 12 hours of the first “rough seas” warning that was put out on November 29. Such
conditions may have deterred fisherfolk in other parts of Tamil Nadu, but not those in Kanniyakumari, which has among the
highest density of fisherfolk in India. Given the limited quantity of fish in nearshore waters, many fisherfolk have diversified
into deep-sea and long-distance fishing. Considering that their fishing voyages sometimes last from ten days to more than a
month, the Indian Meteorological Department’s timing of the cyclone forecast was futile.
The government’s own estimates suggest that 3,677 fishermen from Kanniyakumari and Kerala were lost in sea. On November
30 morning, action plans should have kicked in and the Indian Coast Guard, with its seaborne vessels and helicopters, should
have launched emergency search and rescue operations. Coast Guard ships should have taken along a few fishermen from the
villages as navigation assistants (because they knew where to look for missingpeople) and should have intensely combed the
area. Had this been done, hundreds of fishing boats and fishermen would have been found and rescued within the shortest
possible time.
Nothing of this sort happened, say fisherfolk in the worst-affected villages that I visited: Neerodi, Marthandamthurai,
Vallavillai, Eraviputhenthurai , Chinnathurai, Thoothoor, Poothurai, Enayamputhanthurai. The Coast Guard, they said, turned
a deaf ear to their pleas. Even when the Coast Guard reluctantly moved with some fishermen on board, all it did was to go up to
about 60 nautical miles and then stop saying that it cannot go beyond its jurisdiction.
Even so, the Indian Navy with its vast array of ships, aircraft and state-of-the-art technology should have stepped in
immediately. This too did not happen. The resultant outcry forced Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to come to
Kanniyakumari, conduct a review, and make some promises. A few days later, the government announced the rescue/recovery
of several hundred mechanised/motorised fishing boats and over 3,000 fishermen who had landed on the coasts of Gujarat,
Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. While the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy staked claim to this “rescue” mission, the
fishing community leaders say that all these boats and the fishermen drifted to the coast on their own.
What has happened to the National Disaster Management Act (2005), the National Policy on Disaster Management (2009), the
National Disaster Management Plan (2016) and the National Disaster Response Force and infrastructure created thereof? Did
the disaster management control room in Delhi function at all? Villagers have printed the photos of the dead based on eye-
witness accounts and the number is not less than 100. The government continues to dismiss this as being untrue.

The need for compensation

The cyclone has also resulted in massive losses to the livelihoods of people living in the coasts due to the destruction of crops,
banana, rubber, coconut and forest trees. Relief and rehabilitation is going to be a monumental task and the State government
alone cannot take the huge burden of providing a decent compensation to the victims of the cyclone.

This calls for the combined efforts of the Central and State government (departments of agriculture, horticulture, animal
husbandry and fisheries) and various departments (rubber board, coconut board, spices board, etc.) To get things moving, the
Central Relief Commissioner should immediately visit the district, make realistic assessments, and award reasonable
compensation immediately.

M.G. Devasahayam is a retired bureaucrat


Looking for balance in power

Harsh V. Pant
DECEMBER 15, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 15, 2017 00:38 IST

The Russia-India-China trilateral meet is New Delhi’s attempt to overcome challenges in ties with Moscow
and Beijing
A month after India was part of the ‘Quad’ discussion on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila involving
Japan, Australia and the U.S., New Delhi hosted foreign ministers of Russia and China this week. The Russia-India-
China trilateral held its 15th meeting in what can be construed as New Delhi’s attempt to get a semblance of balance in
its ties with Moscow and Beijing.

Scope of talks Semblance - the outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different.
The broader discussions, according to a joint communique of the 15th meeting, “took place in the backdrop of the
political scenario in West Asia and North Africa, numerous challenges in putting the world economy back on the
growth track, concerns relating to terrorism, transnational organised crime, illicit drug trafficking, food security, and
climate change.”

But what was perhaps interesting was Russia and China’s continued attempts to frame global and regional politics
through a similar lens, and the growing divergences between India and them. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
made it clear that he believes that India can benefit by joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative. “I know India has
problems, we discussed it today, with the concept of One Belt, One Road, but the specific problem in this regard should
not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues,” Mr. Lavrov said. Targeting India’s participation in
the ‘Quad’, he also underlined that a sustainable security architecture cannot be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region
with “closed bloc arrangements.” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also cautioned against “spheres of influence” and
“cliques” by arguing that China opposed “hegemony and power politics and disagree with the sphere of influence and
cliques and promote the democratisation of international relations.”

China, meanwhile, continued to take an aggressive posture on Doklam and its aftermath. Mr. Wang said in a speech
before his Delhi visit: “We have handled the issue of cross-border incursions by the Indian border troops into China's
Donglang (Doklam) area through diplomatic measures.” Though he suggested that “China and India have far greater
shared strategic interests than differences, and far greater needs for cooperation than partial friction,” he maintained
that “through diplomatic means, the Indian side withdrew its equipment and personnel which reflected the value and
importance of China-India relations and demonstrated sincerity and responsibility of maintaining regional peace and

Tension in the air

The tensions in the trilateral framework are inevitable given the changes in the global geopolitical environment. The
original conception of this framework was a response to a very different global environment. The proposal for a
Moscow-Beijing-Delhi ‘strategic triangle’ had originally come from former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov
during his visit to India in 1998, when he argued that such an arrangement would represent a force for greater regional
and international stability. This did not elicit as enthusiastic a response from China and India as Russia had perhaps
hoped for. Thereafter, the three countries continued to focus on improving the nature of their bilateral relationships,
maintaining a safe distance from the Primakov proposal. But, this idea of a ‘strategic triangle’ took a tangible form
when former Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, and India — Igor Ivanov, Tang Jiaxuan and Yashwant Sinha — met on
the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2002. Despite the fact that nothing concrete
emerged out of that meeting, it represented the first major attempt by the three nations to deliberate on world affairs,
and since then has become a regular feature of interactions among the three states.

The three nations had very different expectations from this trilateral. Russia’s role was key as its loss of power and
influence on the world scene was a major cause of concern for its leadership. There was a growing and pervasive feeling
in Russia that it surrendered its once-powerful position on the world stage for a position of little international
influence and respect. It is against this backdrop that Russia tried to establish itself as the hub of two bilateral security
partnerships that could be used to counteract U.S. power and influence in areas of mutual concern. While Russia
witnessed a downward slide in its status as a superpower since the end of the Cold War, China emerged as a rising
power that saw the U.S. as the greatest obstacle, if it was to achieve a pre-eminent position in the global political
hierarchy. As a consequence, China recognised the importance of cooperating with Russia to check U.S. expansionism
in the world, even if only for the short term. In fact, American policies towards Russia and China moved the two states
closer to each other, leading to the formation of a new balance of power against the U.S.

India’s stance
India, on the other hand, had different considerations, as it was still far from becoming a global power of any
reckoning. India saw in the trilateral a mechanism to bring greater balance in the global order as it believed that a
unipolar U.S.-dominated world was not in the best interests of weaker states like itself, even as strategic convergence
deepened between Washington and Delhi. Moreover, all three countries realised the enormous potential in the
economic, political, military and cultural realms if bilateral relationships among them were adequately strengthened.
As a consequence, the trilateral did not lead to consequences of any great import. It merely resulted in declarations
which were often critical of the West, and of the U.S. in particular. Yet this was also a period which saw significant shifts
in Indo-U.S. ties as bilateral relations expanded while Russian and Chinese links with the U.S. have witnessed a
downward shift.

The joint declaration of the recent trilateral meeting said: “Those committing, organising, inciting or supporting
terrorist acts” must be held accountable and brought to justice under international law, including the principle of
“extradite or prosecute.” It stopped short of naming Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-
Mohammed, something that India would have liked in line with the most recent BRICS declaration.
An arrangement that had started with an attempt to manage American unipolarity is now being affected
fundamentally by Chinese resurgence. Both Russia and India are having to deal with the externalities being generated
by China’s rise. While Russia is getting closer to China, India is trying to leverage its partnership with other like-
minded states in the wider Indo-Pacific region. As a multipolar world order takes shape, India will have to engage with
multiple partners so as to limit bilateral divergences.

The Russia-India-China template comes with its own set of challenges. China’s Global Times, commenting on the
recent trilateral, suggested that “the leaders of the three only meet with each other on international occasions,” adding,
“this indicates it does not have high status in diplomacy and cannot bear more functions.” While this may be true, New
Delhi’s continued engagement with the duo suggests that India is today confident of setting its own agenda in various
platforms. Just as China engages with the U.S. on the one hand and with Russia on the other, a rising India is quite
capable of managing its ties with Washington, Beijing and Moscow simultaneously. It will not always be easy, but in an
age when the certitudes of the past are fast vanishing, diplomacy will have to tread a complex path.
Harsh V. Pant is Professor at King's College, London and Head of Strategic Studies at the Observer Research Foundation,
New Delhi

Certitude - something that someone firmly believes is true.

certainty, confidence, conviction.

A closer look at the lines

V. Sudarshan
DECEMBER 16, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 16, 2017 00:29 IST

China’s remarks on bilateral ties and the border issue lay the initiative for corrective measures at India’s

Moribund - at the point of death, in terminal decline
L ast week, ahead of the 20th round of the now moribund talks between the Special Representatives of India and
China entrusted with finding an early settlement of the border question, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, after
meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, set out parameters that
he implied needed to be bilaterally addressed with urgency. In sum, the remarks constitute quite a lecture. They lay the
initiative for corrective measures comprehensively at New Delhi’s door and make it difficult to gloss over their
implications. Whereas, the statements made by New Delhi appear, in contrast, to be conciliatory and more hopeful.

The set of remarks, therefore, broadly underpin the direction of ties with China in the near term. A course correction is
being sought, months after the Doklam crisis has been perceived to have been set at rest.

The import
While it is not clear if it is a negotiating tactic, here is the listing, in no particular order of priority, so the import of the
Wang Yi stipulations is not lost in translation: that India-China relations were at a crucial moment at present; he used
the phrase “critical period” after he met Ms. Swaraj. That both countries needed to make the “correct choice regarding
the future direction of bilateral relations”. That the results of the efforts made for “overall development momentum
were unsatisfactory”. The most important thing to do was (emphasis added) “genuine cultivation of mutual trust”. So
long as mutual trust continued to be absent, “some individual issues will keep fermenting and spilling over, thus
eroding the overall situation of bilateral relations”. That the “Dong Lang incident caused by the Indian border troops’
illegal crossing of the China-India boundary into the Chinese territory was a severe test for bilateral relations… lessons
should be learned to prevent similar incidents from happening again”. That the two countries “should properly control
and handle problems left over from history and some specific issues in bilateral relations by putting them in the right
place of China-India relations, without politicizing and complicating them to hamper the overall development of
China-India relations”.
Mr. Wang also set out some tasks that needed to be undertaken: both sides should enhance strategic communications
at all levels, restore established dialogue mechanisms (emphasis added), deepen practical co-operation in various
fields “and meanwhile, well manage existing differences and well safeguard peace and tranquillity in border areas”. He
also specifically alluded to the benefits that await India were it to come aboard the Belt and Road Initiative, which New
Delhi has shown some reluctance towards. Thus some of the Chinese goals and the problems have been clearly set out
in public.

This is the clearest confirmation yet that the “dialogue mechanism” —where the two Special Representatives (SR) meet,
and set up with so much fanfare in 2003 — may have over the last decade-and-a-half or so, been more or less
transformed into an exercise in general fatuity. Just like the Joint Working Group that looked at clarifying the border
areas before the SRs came along. In the meanwhile, four Special Representatives have changed — Brajesh Mishra, J.N.
Dixit, M.K. Narayanan, as well as Shivshankar Menon. Will Ajit Doval, or the one who follows him eventually, or the
one afterwards, be able to make a difference?
Fatuity - something foolish or stupid
A slide
It is also significant that Mr. Wang’s candid remarks should come days after the tenth round of the Working
Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination on India China Border Affairs, (WMCC) which concluded with a
positive spin having been imparted to them as having been “constructive and forward looking”, but without firm dates
for the next meeting.

What a slide it has been. The SR dialogue was set up after lengthy diplomatic negotiations had yielded the “Political
Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question”. The hard-fought principles set out
that the eventually delineated boundary would “be along well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographical
features” and that the due interest of the settled populations in the border areas would be taken care of. It was expected
that the exploration for the framework for the boundary settlement would commence thereafter.
Graffiti - writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a
Clarity on the border wall or other surface
In the meanwhile, some of the expectations had rewritten themselves. The Joint Working Group — that had been
clarifying the border areas with a view to leading up to exchange of maps on a mutually agreed scale on where the Line
of Actual Control (LAC) lay in each others’ perception — had run itself into the ground. This was after sample maps
were exchanged in the Middle Sector without having been able to progress to the Western and Eastern Sectors. There
was a time when as many as four lines ran across the border areas: one where we perceived the LAC to be, one where the
Chinese perceived the LAC to be, one where we perceived the Chinese perceived the line to be and one where the
Chinese perceived where we thought our line lay. The last two lines were somewhat guess-worked from the military
graffiti, tell-tale traces that our armies leave behind when they foray into the border areas asserting perceptional
rights through patrols, the same way as animals mark territory. It is not even clear whether we have spoken of each
other’s perception of the LAC for the last decade. Liturgy - a public office or duty
This after China had till the middle of the 1980s seemed open to a process that would let India keep the areas in the
East while they held on to those in the West. The fond hope was of an “LAC plus” solution. That changed as well. As did
the pious intention to earnestly look for an early solution. Utterances of visiting Chinese premiers introduced new
nuances into the diplomatic liturgy, emphasising the complexity of the issue, underlining the difficulty of its
resolution, and, thereby, leaving it to future generations to grapple with. Instead of enlarging commonalities, what is
being expanded instead are the divergences: whether it is China’s opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers
Group, or its steadfast support to Pakistan’s mollycoddling of terrorist groups that are inimical to India, or its pointed
message to encourage Bhutan to settle its boundary dispute with China in a way that would make the Indian Army’s
presence in Doklam eventually redundant. Just look at the Chinese penetration of the area we consider to be our
backyard: whether it is Sri Lanka, Nepal, and now the Maldives. Can Bhutan be far behind?
To this day, even though a military hotline between the two army headquarters had been agreed upon years ago, it has
not materialised. This is something that would be logical, even imperative, given that both countries have improved
their border infrastructure in terms of roads and accessibility in such a way that increases the possibilities of troops
chancing upon each other. Therefore, transgressions will increase in terms of frequency, duration, depth, and intensity.
The aim should be to evolve a stronger mechanism to manage the border areas more effectively to ensure equilibrium.
This must include a more robust code of military conduct, even though neither side has sought to alter border reality
through use of force.

It is time New Delhi put more effort into strengthening India’s presence in those areas where we are present, where we
consider to be them as our border, and live with it rather than to wait for Beijing to alter reality again. It is easier to
make provisions to better live with it than to squander energies resolving it. If we don’t let the boundary question
detain us, we will be in a better position to enlarge the areas where we can more fruitfully, in the Asian Century, engage
the Chinese in line with the bilateral intentions that envisaged the simultaneous rise of both China and India.

Mollycoddling - treat (someone) in an indulgent or overprotective way

Squander - waste (something, especially money or time) in a reckless and foolish manner

Changed priorities

Meera Nangia
DECEMBER 16, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 16, 2017 00:30 IST

The government’s move will shift attention away from recovery of bad loans to selling assets
of defaulting corporates

I t is ironical that while the 2017 Forbes India List says that the combined net worth of India’s 100
wealthiest stood at a whopping $479 billion, top corporate borrower groups in India are unable to
repay loans and make timely interest payments.

Tackling NPAs Bugle - brass instrument

The government has taken the high moral ground to deal with the menace of non-performing assets
or NPAs that have brought many public sector banks on the verge of bankruptcy. It sounded the bugle
for errant promoters with its ordinance of November 23 amending the Insolvency and Bankruptcy
Code (IBC) 2016. Many are of the view that if the errant promoter is disqualified from the bidding
process it will lead to further losses for banks.
However, the ordinance is not likely to either eliminate errant promoters or hugely escalate bank
losses apart from the deep haircuts already suffered. It merely signals the government’s intent to
shift attention away from recovery of bad loans to selling the assets of defaulting corporates.

The May 2017 ordinance directed banks to accept deep haircuts on their non-performing loans.
However, there was no explicit direction from the government as the majority owner of public sector
banks to recall the outstanding loans and recover as much as possible against the personal
guarantees of promoters. Paean - a song of praise or triumph

Paeans are being sung in praise of corporate defaulters for their stellar role in the development of the
infrastructure sector. The Mumbai and Delhi airports are being cited as examples of the success of the
public-private partnership (PPP) model. The fact that defaulting corporates such as GMR
Infrastructure, GVK Power and Infrastructure, and Jaiprakash Associates borrowed more money than
they could repay is being overlooked and their inability to repay is sought to be justified by
“circumstances beyond their control”.
These corporates have not been downgraded on their creditworthiness parameter although the
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been monitoring all large loans through the Central Repository of
Information on Large Credits (CRILC) since 2014. Would the government show the same leniency to
the 32,000 odd home buyers of Jaypee Infratech and waive off their home loans since they may not
get possession of their flats due to “circumstances beyond their control” ?

Corporates-bank nexus
The fact that lending banks in case of large borrowers were operating as a consortium of a score or
more of banks obviates the need for any investigation into the corporates-bank nexus that caused
this loss of lakh-crores of depositors’ money. In all fairness, this hit being taken by banks for the sake
of development should be treated as a government bailout of the corporate sector. Alternatively, it
could be seen as the RBI making credit available to defaulting corporates at negative rates of interest.
The recent ordinance makes the resolution professional all powerful. It is now up to the resolution
professional to decide who will be eligible to bid for the defaulter companies or their assets.
The ordinance conveys the urgency of impeccable antecedents of bidders so as to exclude wilful
defaulters as well as companies whose interest and charges are outstanding for a period of one year or
more. An existing promoter is eligible to bid for majority control only if all dues are paid. A
defaulting promoter is not even allowed to bid indirectly through or along with other parties since
“connected persons” are excluded from eligibility. A strict interpretation of the ordinance would
mean that the loan accounts of each one of the 400-odd defaulter corporate borrowers are technically
classified as NPAs. Otherwise they would not have reached this stage of resolution.
These accounts are likely to have been through various rounds of unsuccessful restructuring in the
past. Having failed to repay even the reduced amounts of loan and interest to the banks, their past
credit history should raise serious questions on their antecedents. Hence, the promoters of these
companies should not qualify as eligible bidders. So far, none of the first 12 corporates referred to the
IBC has been debarred from bidding back their companies after driving them aground. Thus, the
ordinance creates the scope for disqualifying an existing promoter or including a rank outsider into
the bidding process.
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) is the regulator set up on October 1, 2016 under
the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The resolution professionals entrusted with the responsibility
of sorting out the insolvent companies or individuals can be registered with any one of the three
insolvency professional agencies. The IBBI is assisted by the disciplinary, advisory and technical
committees. A quick glance at the IBBI website reveals that the advisory committees on corporate
insolvency and liquidation are chaired by several top corporates.

While there is nothing unusual about government consultation with corporate India, the
appointment of corporates as heads of important corporate insolvency advisory committees under
IBBI does not inspire confidence in the credibility of the resolution process. The recent ordinance
may end up being used selectively to defeat the very objective of penalising the errant promoter. The
banks will only lose if resolution is sidetracked by the ensuing power struggle among corporate India
to purchase distressed assets at rock-bottom prices.
Meera Nangia is Associate Professor in Commerce, University of Delhi

Printable version | Dec 18, 2017 11:03:21 AM |


High road to democratic stability

Kanak Mani Dixit

DECEMBER 18, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 17, 2017 22:57 IST

With civic watch-dogging, Nepal, with its new Constitution, can turn history on its head

N epal has been in distress for two decades, since the start of the Maoist war in early 1996, through royal autocracy, palace
massacre, earthquake, foreign interference and communal polarisation. Finally, in a second try, the new Constitution was
promulgated by the Constituent Assembly in September 2015. The last roadblock to its implementation was overcome with a
series of local, provincial and national elections over the summer-winter of 2017.

The parliamentary elections of November 26-December 7 ended the 70-year tradition of the Nepali Congress (NC) setting the
political agenda in power or in dissidence. The Left alliance of the mainstream Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-
Leninist), or UML, and the Maoists have made a clean sweep to be able to form governments at the Centre and all but one of
the seven brand new provinces. (The elected MP vote count for the five ‘national parties’ came to 80-UML, 36-Maoist, 23-NC,
11-Rashtriya Janata Party and 10-Federal Socialist Forum.)

Constitutional confidence
While this weakening of opposition is cause for concern, Nepal finally seems set for a stable government with longevity
beyond a year. To begin with, Nepal’s adherence to republicanism, federalism and its own brand of secularism are now set in
stone, while earlier there was the fear of backsliding. The placement of elected representatives in three tiers from local,
provincial to national — including in the restive Tarai plains — means there is now buy-in for the Constitution from all
political stakeholders.

New Delhi’s overt show of displeasure regarding the constitutional promulgation too has been overcome
A new phase?
Nepal's historic through sheer national public will. The citizenry feels empowered for having participated in each key
episode of the last decade, including the People’s Movement of 2006, blocking attempts at communal
arson, and overcoming the five-month blockade of 2015-16.

The new Constitution marks an innovation in the South Asian landscape, with devolution of fiscal,
legislative, executive and other powers not to two but three tier ‘sarkars’.
Besides the national Parliament, the Constitution has empowered representative government in the
seven provinces, 17 cities, 276 towns and 460 village municipalities. Emerging from a history of
Kathmandu-centrism and two decades without elected local government, today an entire superstructure of representation is
in place. Says the constitutionalist Nilamber Acharya: “A system of democratic filtering is in place, and there is excitement
among the people to experiment with this new system.”
Debilitation - to make weak or feeble
Deuba’s debacle
While the caretaker Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, deserves all credit for guiding society through the maze of elections,
he did run a lacklustre campaign and will not be thanked for the debilitation of the country’s premier democratic party. While
NC voters remained loyal, the Maoist swing vote and the romantic call of ‘Left unity’ made all the difference.
During the Dashain holidays, the UML sprang a surprise, enticing Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’) away from
the Congress with the promise of 60-40% share of seats in the provincial/national elections of November-December. This was
a godsend for the Maoist party in decline. Mr. Deuba’s poor oratory could not stand against the UML’s firebrand Khadga Prasad
Oli, who rode the nationalist plank against the vivid backdrop of the blockade. Mr. Deuba’s dire warnings that the communists
as threats to democracy lacked credibility because of his own earlier embrace of Mr. Dahal.

Oli’s moment
All eyes are now on Mr. Oli, having emerged as paramount leader with both electoral and populist power. Under the new rules,
a no-confidence motion against a new government cannot be brought for two years, and it is likely that he will get to complete
a full five-year term. This situation has been unavailable to any of his predecessors in the entire modern era.

The new Prime Minister’s biggest success will be to ‘neutralise’ the Maoist party — through power-
sharing or unification — and Mr. Dahal may be agreeable as his main worry of late has been to keep the
cadre placated. In his previous stint as Prime Minister, Mr. Oli had almost brought the transitional
justice process to a successful closure, including accountability for conflict-era excesses. The peace
Nepal’s Left
alliance heading
process will not be complete till this is done, and Mr. Oli’s staying the course will ensure long-term peace
for landslide and represent a victory for liberal democracy.
win with 106
seats Beyond the Maoists, Mr. Oli will have to build a working relationship not only with the NC but also the
plains-based parties with whom he has been combative. Democratic stability would, ipso facto, release

Ipso Facto - by that very fact or act.

"The enemy of one's enemy may be ipso facto a friend"
long-pending economic energy for which the new Prime Minister will have to fight rather than join the crony capitalists who
have entrapped the political economy during the decade of “political transition”.
The economy has to start galloping, creating jobs for the young workforce, including the millions in West Asia, Malaysia and
India likely to return due to pushes and pulls beyond Nepal’s control. This requires movement on infrastructure projects,
agro-forestry, tourism, service industries and irrigated agriculture in the Tarai plains.

The new Prime Minister will need to mend fences with New Delhi, energised by the strength of his electoral mandate. Based
on the set of agreements signed in Beijing during his earlier stint at Singha Durbar, Mr. Oli is expected to accelerate
connectivity to the north, utilising the Chinese railway network that has arrived on the Tibetan plateau.

Kathmandu does not yet fully understand Beijing’s super-charged geopolitical agenda, but a confident Mr. Oli can be expected
to seek a respectful rather than obsequious relationship. As the commentator Jainendra Jeevan wrote last week, “We don’t
want another ‘India’ across the northern border.” Obsequious - obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree
Nepal having become a feeble international player due to autocracy, conflict and transition, Mr. Oli has an opportunity to
bring international respectability back to a level not seen since the time of B.P. Koirala in the 1950s. Insecurities having been
dealt with, the confidence of the new republic will also be seen in shifting the office and residence of the President of Nepal
from Shital Niwas to the former Narayanhiti Royal Palace.
The ride to democratic stability is bound to be bumpy, not least because the Constitution — written by politicians rather than
jurists and constitutionalists — is so ‘magnanimous’ that it will be a challenge to implement. Hundreds of laws need drafting,
the grey areas in the inter-relationships between the three levels of government have to be clarified.
The concurrent list detailing the rights and responsibilities of not two but three tiers makes Nepal’s experiment unique.
Already, one can sense reluctance among the topmost leadership and bureaucracy to devolve power to local government as
mandated by the Constitution. The newborn Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court will need to gear up to tackle the
deluge. Deluge - a great flood of water; inundation Profligate - reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources

There are enough triggers out there for social discontent to erupt. The profligacy of the last decade of “consensus governance”
has emptied the national coffers even as expenditure is set to rise to meet the needs of local and provincial administration. The
post-earthquake reconstruction of households, infrastructure and heritage structures has yet to gather steam.
There is a sharp difference in the economic status of the seven federal units, with Province No. 1 (in the East) and No. 3
(including Kathmandu Valley) the best placed in the GDP and human development indices. An equalisation protocol is the
need of the hour.
The power devolved to provincial and local government is liable to expose the population to mistreatment, from economic
crimes to human rights abuse. Civil liberty forums must rise to the occasion in all seven provinces, to watchdog all tiers. A
society heading out into uncharted waters amid economic, political and geopolitical challenges is asked to implement the
democratic, inclusive and social justice-oriented ideals that are to be found in the Constitution of Nepal (2015).

Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is founding editor of the magazine, ‘Himal Southasian’

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Printable version | Dec 18, 2017 10:58:04 AM |


How Gujarat was won

Sanjay Kumar
Shreyas Sardesai
DECEMBER 19, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 18, 2017 23:16 IST

Was the victory sealed by a late swing on account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaigning?

T he Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed only a modest victory in Gujarat, confirming some earlier
psephological predictions and ground reports of a close electoral contest. Two polls conducted by us at Lokniti, Centre
for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), one in end-October and another in end-November, had found the
electoral race between the BJP and the Congress to have tightened considerably. In fact, the November survey had
found the race to be neck-and-neck in terms of vote share. That trend, however, did not hold entirely till Voting Day. It
now seems that a last-minute swing by some voters towards the final stages of the campaign ended up giving the edge
to the BJP.

We say this based on evidence gathered from a post-poll, a survey of voters at their residences after they voted,
conducted by Lokniti. The poll reveals that over two in every five voters (43%) took a final call on who they would vote
for in the last two weeks of campaigning — and more than half of them (53%) said they voted for the BJP while only
about 38% went with the Congress. In fact, a majority of these late deciders are those who decided at the last minute,
either on the day of voting or a day or two before it. In 2012 the share of late deciders had been much lower, at 31%, and
back then they had split their vote evenly between the BJP and the Congress.
The question then is, what really happened, between the last week of November when our final
pre-poll took place and the second week of December when actual voting took place, that made
some disaffected voters planning to vote for the Congress change their minds? The answer to this
question is not so difficult to find.
behind The late shift
We believe that it is quite obviously Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaigning, which was for
the most part controversial and divisive, that played a role in turning a section of voters towards
the BJP, thus saving it from a possible defeat. This is the period when the Prime Minister, who is hugely liked in Gujarat
(by 72% of those surveyed, post-poll), campaigned extensively in the State. Starting from November 27 right up till
December 11, he addressed more than 30 election rallies across the State. Most of his speeches, especially the ones
made at rallies post-December 5, focussed on divisive themes. Mandir-Masjid, Mughals, Pakistan, Ahmed Patel,
Salman Nizami, etc., he practised classic dog-whistle politics by using coded language that might have stoked passions
among some sections of the electorate.

In our final pre-poll done in end-November, we had found only about 45%
Dog-whistle politics is political of Hindu voters to be voting for the BJP. In the post-poll, we noticed that
messaging employing coded language eventually nearly 52% of them ended up voting for the incumbent party.
that appears to mean one thing to the This is also three points higher than the Hindu support that the BJP
general population but has an
received in 2012. While our post-poll also suggests an increase in Muslim
additional, different or more specific
votes for the BJP compared to last time, at the same time it also points to a
resonance for a targeted subgroup.
consolidation of Hindu votes behind the party in Assembly seats where
the Muslim population is much higher than average. In constituencies
where Muslims in the population are less than 10%, the BJP’s lead over the
Congress among Hindu voters is only 4 percentage points. In seats where Muslims constitute 10-20% of the
population, the gap is six times higher at 25 points. And in areas where Muslims are over 20% of the population, the BJP
leads the Congress by 42 points among Hindu voters. In our pre-poll, these gaps had been minus-3, 16 and 11 points,

The Hindu card

Among the major worries of the BJP all throughout the campaign had been the Patidar disaffection with the party as
well as the Congress’s attempts to build a rainbow coalition of different castes by roping in young Patel, Dalit and OBC
(Other Backward Classes) leaders on its side. By giving communal overtones to the campaign, the Prime Minister
seems to have ensured a subsuming of some of these caste identities within the Hindu fold, thus helping the BJP hold
on to its bastion. We notice a shift away from the Congress among all Hindu communities, be it Patidars, Kshatriyas,
Dalits, and Adivasis, between the pre-poll and the post-poll. To be fair, it wasn’t just the BJP that played the Hindu card;
the Congress tried doing it too, albeit covertly. All throughout the campaign, Rahul Gandhi, who led the party
campaign, steered clear of raising issues concerning Muslim voters and instead chose to appeal to majoritarian
sentiments by visiting temples across the State.
However, eventually it seems that in this competition to woo the Gujarati Hindus, most Hindu voters, particularly
urban ones, were more convinced by Mr. Modi’s insinuations than by Mr. Gandhi’s attempts at asserting his Hindu-
ness. The Congress’s strategic abandonment of its pluralistic legacy for electoral gains is to our mind as worrying as the
communal rhetoric in Mr. Modi’s campaign.

Also, the fact that a seemingly neck-and-neck election can be turned around in such a short span by appealing to the
majoritarian impulses of voters raises troubling questions about the health of our electoral democracy.

A section of the Gujarati press may have also played a role, perhaps inadvertently, in effecting the
Bharatiya Tribal
Party opens late swing of some voters. A day after Mr. Modi raised a hue and cry at one of his rallies about
account in
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remark calling him a “neech kisam ka aadmi (a low type of
man)”, the hugely popular Gujarati newspaper, Gujarat Samachar, which has otherwise been quite
critical of Mr. Modi over the years, ran a headline on its front page: “Modi neech jaatino maanas
chhe: Mani Shankar Aiyar (Modi is a man from a lower caste says Mani Shankar Aiyar)”. While Mr.
Aiyar had described Mr. Modi as “neech”, the newspaper chose to give the remark its own spin, or
rather Mr. Modi’s spin, by adding the word “jaati” to it. Such misreporting of Mr. Aiyar’s comment
in sections of the press just a day before voting was to take place in Saurashtra-Kutchh and South Gujarat may well
have affected the mood of a significant proportion of voters. Our series of surveys in Gujarat suggest that on an average
about one-third of voters in Gujarat are daily readers of newspapers. Among such voters, the BJP’s lead over the
Congress widened from 8 points in the pre-poll to 14 points in the post-poll.

Uncomfortable questions
Winning the trust and confidence of a majority of voters election after election is no mean achievement, and there’s no
doubt the BJP should be commended for this. But at the same time the uncomfortable question we must be asking is
this — was this trust of voters won by the BJP fairly and squarely on the performance plank alone or whether a large
part of it was also won through divisive innuendos, falsehoods and fear mongering?
Shreyas Sardesai is Research Associate at Lokniti, CSDS. Sanjay Kumar is a Professor and currently the Director of
CSDS, Delhi

Insinuation - an unpleasant hint or suggestion of something bad.

"I've done nothing to deserve all your vicious insinuations"

Seeing through a glass darkly: on combating terrorism

M. K. Narayanan
DECEMBER 20, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 19, 2017 23:15 IST
To deal with the terror threat, there must be far greater sharing of intelligence among agencies worldwide

Y et another anniversary of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai has come and gone. Much
has changed since then and terror has evolved into an even more dangerous phenomenon. Recent variants represent a
paradigmatic change in the practice of violence.

A different genre
It is difficult to recognise the new generation of terrorists as a mere extension of the earlier lot of radical Islamist terrorists
who were influenced by the teachings of the Egyptian thinker, Sayyid Qutb, and the Palestinian Islamist preacher, Abdullah
Azzam, and adopted the practical theology of the Afghan warlord, Jalaluddin Haqqani. There is less theology today and the
new age terrorist seems to belong to an altogether different genre of terrorism.

This is not to say that the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai were not different in the methodology and the tactics used in the
September 11, 2001 attack in New York City. Nevertheless, the spate of recent attacks in Europe and parts of Asia, from 2015 to
2017 — beginning with the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January 2015, the major incidents at Brussels and
Istanbul Ataturk airports as well as the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, all in 2016, to the string of attacks in London,
Stockholm, Barcelona and New York, in 2017 — are very different in structure and the morphology from attacks of an earlier
Sanguinary - blood red color
Standing out from the crowd
A large number of terror attacks in the past three years have been attributed to the handiwork of the Islamic State (IS), and
reveal its leaning towards the “nihilism” of Sayyid Qutb. It is this which distinguishes the IS from many of the other radical
Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The IS’s recruitment techniques, especially its ability to proselytise over the
Internet, including “direct to home jihad” as also its more sanguinary brand of violence, set it apart from earlier variants of
radical Islamist terror.
Nihilism - viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.
Even while the IS has gained a great deal of prominence due to its brand of violence, other terror
networks have continued to be no less active. For example, al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The Boko Haram in
Africa has been responsible for more killings than most people would realise. Closer home, the Afghan
Taliban and the Haqqani network have carried out several spectacular attacks inside Afghanistan. The
Fifteen years of
the war on
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have carried out several attacks inside
terror Pakistan. Pakistan provides the wherewithal and the support to terror outfits such as the Lashkar-e-
Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad to launch well-planned attacks on Indian targets.

Most of these outfits continue to adopt earlier methodologies. These have proved no less effective than
those followed by the IS. The terror attack on a mosque in North Sinai, Egypt in November this year, which killed over 230
persons, is one such example. In December, the TTP was responsible for a terror attack on an agricultural training institute in
Peshawar, Pakistan. Differences among terror outfits, do not, however, preclude a complicated pattern of relationships when it
comes to operational aspects.

Incorrect perception
Understanding the constantly altering trajectory of terror is important before charges of intelligence failure are levelled. It has
become axiomatic to attack agencies of intelligence failure whenever a major terror attack takes place. This need not be the
case in every instance. The usual charge levelled is of the failure of intelligence agencies “to connect the dots”. Most often, this
is not true. There are many other reasons for adequate intelligence not being available to prevent a terror attack. The danger is
that a wrong diagnosis could prevent further improvements in intelligence collection and analysis.

One common fallacy is that intelligence agencies have remained static, are rooted in the past, and that
their personnel are inadequately trained to handle current day intelligence tasks. While there is room for
improvement, it is a mistake to presume that intelligence agencies have not made rapid progress and
Terror attacks in kept up with the times. Intelligence agencies today are well-versed in the latest techniques of
Europe: A
intelligence gathering and analysis. Agencies obtain vast amounts of information from both human and
technical intelligence, not excluding signal intelligence and electronic intelligence, intelligence from
satellites and photo reconnaissance, etc. This is apart from open source intelligence.

Agencies employ data mining techniques and are familiar with pattern recognition software. Today,
noise and signals constitute valuable meta-data. Analysing meta-data has produced more precise information and
intelligence than is possibly envisaged, and agencies well recognise the value and utility of this.

In addition, intelligence agencies have become highly adept in monitoring and exploiting open source material. Mapping and
analysis of social networks is today a critical aspect of their work. This is especially useful when it comes to unearthing covert
terror networks. Many intelligence agencies today have an extensive database of several thousands of terrorists and potential

Admittedly, intelligence agencies, like many other organisations, are risk-prone. They do make mistakes. Intelligence analysts,
like analysts in other fields, are particularly vulnerable. Problems also arise from inadequate sharing of intelligence across
institutions and countries. All these, however, are a far cry from the charge of an inability or failure “to connect the dots”.

The real problem is that when dealing with terrorism and terror networks, no two situations in the actual world are identical.
The nature of threats is such that they continue to evolve all the time. Both the 2001 terror attack in New York and the
November 2008 attack in Mumbai were one of a kind with few parallels at the time. Anticipating an attack of this nature
remains in the area of an “intelligence gap” rather than an “intelligence failure”. Most experts explain an intelligence gap as
one denoting an absence of intelligence output while an intelligence failure is one where, based on available evidence, no
warning was issued.

Newer challenges
One of the major challenges that all intelligence agencies face is a qualitative understanding of the newer, and many post-
modern threats. These newer generation threats, including those by terror groups and outfits, often lie “below the radar” or
beyond the horizon. Anticipating such threats and their nature requires intelligence agencies to be constantly ahead of the
curve. Anticipating newer threats is only partly facilitated by today’s technical advances such as new computing and
communication technologies. However, these alone are not often enough to meet today’s intelligence needs.
As problems become more complicated, and as terror networks become even more sophisticated, there
has to be recognition that the situation demands better understanding of factors that are at work.
Levelling mere charges or accusations against intelligence agencies of a failure to anticipate an attack by
not “connecting the dots” could be misleading, if not downright dangerous. All professional analysts in
America's gun
problem in five
whichever field they operate face the same problem as intelligence agencies, and vividly outlined by
charts David Omand, a former U.K. Intelligence and Security Coordinator as “seeing through a glass darkly
when the information available to them is incomplete or partially hidden”.

Alongside this, and to fill the gap, there is a case for far greater sharing of intelligence and information
among intelligence agencies worldwide than it exists at present. This is important to prevent another terror attack on the lines
of the Mumbai 2008 attack. It now transpires that certain foreign intelligence agencies had additional information about the
possible attack which was not shared in time, and which led to an intelligence gap. This could have been avoided.

More important, such a situation should never arise in the future. Terror and terrorism is a universal phenomenon. Every
nation is bound to share the intelligence available with it to prevent a possible major terror attack.

M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal

A pixelated campaign
an image in which individual pixels are apparent to the naked eye

Shiv Visvanathan
DECEMBER 21, 2017 01:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 20, 2017 23:49 IST

The BJP realises that the Indian voter might be quick to react but he is slow to change

E lection time as a ritual often presents a split-level reality. The contest, the struggle, the battle, the
debates provide an epic panorama of possibilities. One can think and wish aloud as the battle rages but
election day is a time for closure. It is not the magic of the battle that counts but the banal score. Results are a
narrowing down of the world into real articulations. Hopes and wishes disappear by the morning of counting

Banal - so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.

Prediction and reality
The Gujarat election of 2017 was a classic illustration of this paradigm. Even as the results were being touted
local, commentators and pollsters were proclaiming a Congress surprise. But as the numbers came in, hopes
of the Congress went down. The standard exaggerations between Rahul Gandhi as a naïve Boy Scout and the
Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine as professional came into play. The tentativeness of the last few weeks
was forgotten and Mr. Modi was once more the constant refrain.

The picture has become critically different. It is not possibilities but numbers that are
recorded. Suddenly, Mr. Gandhi is read in a different way. He is not a recharged leader
bringing a fresh look to the Congress, but a Johnny-come-lately, a Rip Van Winkle who
got up too late. Mr. Gandhi might be tactically precocious but Mr. Shah and the RSS are
Over 5.5 lakh
voters went with
the classic strategists. Mr. Gandhi is labelled an amateur and Modi-Shah
NOTA professionalism is re-emphasised.
One must stress on one event. As commentaries and broadcast go this year, election
coverage was the weakest one has seen. There was no sense of camaraderie between
experts, no attempt to explain the magic of elections. Explanations were bland and experts blander. In fact,
commentators became hagiographers, a chorus of admiration for Mr. Modi as the results became clearer. As
the morning drew to a close, one sensed a stereotyping of the two parties.
Bland - lacking strong features or characteristics and therefore uninteresting.
Targetting Hardik
The butt of the attack was not Mr. Gandhi, but Hardik Patel. Commentators felt Mr. Gandhi was naïve to have
emphasised the importance of personalities. As personalities go, Mr. Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh
Mewani attracted attention. They were the toast of the press for playing out the dissatisfaction against
development. But as results trickled in, there was a sense that all three were only personas, not people-
centred politicians who built elaborate networks. They sounded like false echoes against Mr. Shah’s style. Two
aspects were severely criticised. They were described as attention-grabbers, not vote-converters, openers
without the finishing touch. Second, their timing was poor. One cannot instigate a battle a few months before
elections and expect effective results. The election drama was no time for Twenty20 experts when aficionados
of the five-day Test had already taken control. Time had become a disadvantage for the new trio.

There was also a sense that the magic of development had remained durable for the urban voter. For the
urban and semi-urban voter, the promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held and worked. Even Surat,
where demonetisation had devastated the economy, returned the BJP almost full house. Urban was the magic
word for the BJP, while the Congress had to be content with its tribal, farm and youth following. Even here, it
is clear that years of RSS work in the tribal areas might one day nibble away this constituency. The Congress,
once a coral reef of coalitions, suddenly seemed even more vulnerable.
For the commentators, the moral of the story was that while individuals create instant drama, they lack the
epic pull of interests. Interest, not individuals and ideologues, is the gold standard of Gujarat politics. Anger
and dissatisfaction might surface occasionally, but interest is the cement that guarantees votes. This, many
admitted, was wisdom straight from Mr. Shah’s political handbook of elections. They added that when it
comes to delivery, Mr. Modi is a believable Father Christmas while the electorate reads Mr. Gandhi as merely
Aficionado - a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime.
connoisseur, cognoscente
promising. His promise is only a hypothesis next to the formidable interest clusters Mr. Shah has built over
the years.

One also sensed that memory was a major factor. It was not anti-incumbency that was a major theme. On
the contrary, most people could hardly remember the last time the Congress was in power. Mr. Gandhi and
the Congress might be good at articulating Patel distress, but when push came to shove, they lacked the
confidence as delivery boys of politics.
Memory affected other perceptions. While Congress rode on the myth of poverty, BJP rule had seen a decline
in overt poverty. Or to put it more sociologically, one realises that inequality had increased but poverty had
declined. This was particularly true of the urban voter who loved “achhe din” while destitution was restricted
to tribals and peasantry where the Congress campaign was more effective. The Congress, it was felt, had to
rework itself to reclaim urban middle-class India.

Congress vs RSS
There was also a sense that Mr. Gandhi’s Congress and its campaign were considered superficial. It was not
just their emphasis on personality or short-term scenarios, it was also that by emphasising individuals, the
Congress had no sense of organisations, institutions of memory. It could not match the years of sustained
work the RSS had put in, like the worker bees of election politics. The shakha could bury itself into a society
for decades and wait for its efforts to work. The Congress lacked this sense of the politics of duration. The only
sense of time it had was genealogical, but genealogies cut little ice in terms of organisational planning and

Despite all this, one had to admit that the BJP goal of 150 of 182 seats was distant. Yet
one also realises that 150 for Mr. Shah is not a number; it is a clarion call to battle which
motivates his workers. If they fall a bit short they admit they came close to the
impossible. If the miracle is occasionally achieved, the myth of the BJP’s invincibility
The rise of the
Saffron brigade
becomes more resonant.
One realises that the basic campaign the BJP is fighting — a mix of middle-class,
development and a lovely veneer of Hindutva works for the party. The party has read the
sociology right. The new urban voter is the darling of BJP posters. Even their sense of
psychology appears immaculate. They realise that regimes produce moments of discontent, but
discontentment as a phenomenon is fragile. It appears dramatically, but it takes hard work to convert
discontentment to votes. The BJP realises that the Indian voter might be quick to react but he is slow to
change. The BJP is better at local homework. A lot of this remains invisible to the media, but it is this that
produces the stuff of electoral politics. Amit Shah can rest content that he is still the master of interests and
everydayness. He is still the Machiavelli warding off Congress Boy Scouts.

Yet, the BJP cannot afford to be complacent. It is still rolling as a juggernaut but at times the ride looks rickety
and vulnerable. It senses, like other practitioners, that society is changing, that new configurations and
interests are appearing, new dialects of politics are being born. The present is safe in its hands, but the future
might prove the trickster it cannot defeat.

Rickety - poorly made and likely to collapse


Reconsider the Rules: on 2017 Wetland Rules

Neha Sinha
DECEMBER 21, 2017 00:04 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 21, 2017 01:10 IST

The 2017 Wetland Rules limit monitoring and omit important wetland types

E arlier this year, a judgment by the Uttarakhand High Court, stating that Ganga and Yamuna rivers are
“living entities”, captured the national imagination. It is worth noting that wetlands, the other major water-
based ecosystem apart from rivers, are at a moment of policy transition in the country. This year, a new legal
framework for wetlands was passed, the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, replacing
the earlier Rules of 2010. Also this year, the Supreme Court passed an order directing States to identify
wetlands in the country within a stipulated timeframe.

Going forward
The 2017 Wetland Rules have been criticised for doing away with strong wetland monitoring systems and
omitting important wetland types. At the same time, the Supreme Court order directs States to come forward
and notify wetlands. What then could be the way forward?
The 2010 and 2017 Rules for wetlands both emphasise that the ecological character of wetlands ought to be
maintained for their conservation. ‘Ecological character’ refers to processes and components which make the
wetland a particular, and sometimes unique, ecosystem. For example, as lagoons like Chilika (Odisha) and
Pulicat (Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh) are characterised by a mix of saline and fresh water, the flows of each
type need to be maintained; river flood plains contain wetlands that require conservation so they can re-fuel
the river with fish and other aquatic life during flooding.

In the 2010 Rules, some related criteria were made explicit, such as natural beauty,
A lagoon is a ecological sensitivity, genetic diversity, historical value, etc. These have been omitted in
shallow body of the 2017 Rules. There are a few reasons why this is problematic. First, there is multiple
water separated interest around wetlands. Multiple interests also have governance needs, and this
from a larger body
makes it absolutely necessary to identify and map these multiple uses. Leading on from
of water by barrier
islands or reefs. this, and second, it is crucial to identify ecological criteria so that the wetlands’
character can be maintained. The key to wetland conservation is not just understanding
regimes of multiple use — but conserving or managing the integrity of the wetland
ecosystem. Finally, restriction of activities on wetlands will be done as per the principle of ‘wise use’,
determined by the State wetland authority. Whether wise use will include maintaining ecological character
remains to be seen. Under the new Rules, no authority to issue directions, which are binding in nature to
desist from any activity detrimental to wetland conservation, has been prescribed to State wetland
Salt pans are an example how one use (of making salt) has trumped the other (of environmental balance). Salt
pans as ‘wetlands’ have been omitted from the new Rules. They were identified as wetlands in the 2010 Rules,
as they are often important sites of migratory birds and other forms of biodiversity. The omission in the 2017
Rules suggests that while saltpans do exist as wetlands, they do not require any conservation or ecological
balance. The inference can also be that it would be acceptable to tip the environmental balance or integrity of
such a wetland, which could lead to damage and pollution.

The case of Deepor Beel

The issue of wetlands being multiple-use areas — and subsequently being abused due to clashes of interest —
found centre-stage this year with the observations of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the case of
Deepor Beel.

Deepor Beel is a Ramsar site and a part of it is also wildlife sanctuary in Guwahati, Assam. (‘Ramsar Sites are
designated because they meet the criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance.’) This
wetland harbours a wide variety of biodiversity, and also suffers from intense man-made pressure — the city’s
municipal waste is dumped close to the Beel. Large, meat-eating storks (Greater adjutant storks) are
ironically found eating from the mountains of garbage at the site. Potential impacts of contamination or
poisoning from the garbage are still unknown. This January, 26 storks died. The fact that Deepor Beel (Beel
means water body) exists as a wetland does not prevent garbage dumping; this is a fate faced by many
wetlands. The NGT’s observations on Deepor Beel are interesting and symptomatic of what is happening in
several wetlands. In an inspection done by the judicial member of the Tribunal, it was noted that waste was
being dumped “not beyond the site but within it,” and “demarcations are made by drying out areas or cutting
off water sources”. These are classic ways of killing a wetland and turning it from a wet to a dry ecosystem; or
from a lake to a garbage dump or cesspool. The Tribunal has now asked for the “traditional” spread of the
wetland. Cartography - study and practice of making maps. Bulwark - a defensive wall, fortification.
Given all the modern uses of wetlands, or the use of the wetland only for its land, looking at traditional
cartography may be one way to understand catchments of wetlands. It may also be a way of restoring some
modicum of ecological character, identity or ‘rights’ to wetlands, as the river judgment suggested. There are
challenges ahead in identifying wetlands – multiple and competing use is just one of them. Understanding
the historic spread and ecological character will be an important bulwark for the way forward. Setting clear
governance systems would be the next. Without either, we are looking at a complete dilution of wetlands in
the country.
Salt Pan - flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white under the sun. They are found in deserts,
and are natural formations (unlike salt evaporation ponds, which are artificial). A salt pan forms by evaporation of a water pool such as a
lake or pond. This happens in climates where the rate of water evaporation exceeds the rate of precipitation, that is, in a desert. If the
water cannot drain into the ground, it remains on the surface until it evaporates, leaving behind minerals precipitated from the salt ions
dissolved in the water. Over thousands of years, the minerals (usually salts) accumulate on the surface. These minerals reflect the sun's
rays and often appear as white areas.

GST, a work in progress

M.Govinda Rao
C. Rangarajan
DECEMBER 22, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 21, 2017 22:50 IST

We need to immediately move towards three tax slabs, and eventually two

T he introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) raised much hope that it would herald the
emergence of a ‘good and simple tax’ with ‘one nation, one market, one tax’. However, there has been
considerable concern with the new tax, both in its structure and operational details, including the ease of
paying the tax and filing returns. Trade and industry have been grappling with the problem of payment,
filing the returns and claiming input tax credit, and exporters have been facing liquidity crises as the
zero-rating of the tax has not worked and refunds have not been forthcoming, with difficulty in filing
returns. Of course, the GST Council has been quite responsive to tweak the structure and operational
details to make it simpler. Yet, considerable work needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition and to
reap the revenue and productivity gains to the economy.

History of GST
Introduction of the GST is an important reform and is a standard policy recommendation for every
country going in for the structural adjustment programme of the International Monetary Fund. This has
been a major money spinner and a source of productivity gain. According to Michael Keen, of over 165
countries which have adopted GST in one form or another, only five have repealed it (Belize, Ghana,
Grenada, Malta and Vietnam), but have reintroduced the tax later. The GST has taken centre-stage in
many countries and is considered important in view of the competitive reduction in corporation tax rates
due to high mobility of capital. It is also true that there is no “one-size fits all” GST and each country has
to adopt the structure depending on political bargains and operational feasibility. It is a major reform,
and even as every country makes a lot of preparations before it is introduced, it takes time to smoothen
the rough edges and settle contentious issues.
International experience shows that some features of the reform are inherently
desirable. It is important not to have too low thresholds. In fact, reasonably high
thresholds will reduce the compliance burden to a large number of small businesses
without much impact on revenue. Richard Bird and Pierre-Pascal Gendron, after a
All you need to
know about GST
detailed examination of a number of countries adopting GST, suggest that in
developing countries, a threshold closer to $100,000 would eliminate 75% of the
taxpayers with a revenue loss of less than 4%. (See Bird and Gendron, The VAT in
Developing and Transitional Countries, Cambridge University Press, 2007). Another
desirable feature of a successful GST is to have fewer rates. Multiple rates create classification problems,
are harder to administer and would require the general rate of tax to be higher. It would also invite a lot of
lobbying by special interest groups. Third, it is important to prepare well before the plunge. Most
countries take at least two years to prepare for the introduction of reform to ensure a smooth transition.
This is particularly necessary for developing and testing the technology platform, educating the tax
collectors and tax payers and to avoid any anomalies in the structure of the tax.

The Indian version

In the Indian context, given that the reform had to be evolved by taking into account the views of 29
States, two Union Territories with legislatures and the Union government, compromises are inevitable
and it is impossible to expect the structure of the tax to be ideal. As stated by Bird and Gendron, some bad
initial features may be an essential compromise to get the tax accepted in the first place.

It would have been preferable to evolve the structure with two rates, one lower on items of common
consumption and another general rate on consumer durables and luxuries. Notably, given that the VAT in
the earlier regime had predominantly two rates, it should have been possible to convince the States of the
need to fix the GST rates at two rather than four. In addition, the levy of three rates of cesses has further
complicated the structure. Having four tax rates and three rates of cesses should have been avoided. As
mentioned above, multiple rates create problems of classification, inverted duty structure and large-
scale lobbying. It enormously complicates the technology platform to ensure input tax credit
mechanism. It therefore appears desirable to move immediately towards three slabs with the final goal of
reducing the slabs to two. It would also have been desirable for the “fitment committee” to evolve the
rates by thinking afresh instead to merely adding up the excise and VAT rates to fit the item to the nearest
rate decided. This is particularly relevant in the case of commodities which are predominantly inputs as
in the earlier VAT regime they were placed in the lower rate category. Hopefully, the GST Council will act
soon on this.

Raising the threshold

As mentioned above, expert opinion based on international experience shows that there is much to be
gained by having the threshold at reasonably high levels. As mentioned above, international experience
is that a threshold closer to $100,000 would eliminate 75% of the taxpayers and the sacrifice in terms of
revenue would be less than 4%. Moreover, it is the small businesses which produce and trade in
commodities and services which are predominantly consumed by low income groups and therefore,
keeping the threshold high would be desirable from the viewpoint of equity as well. Considering this,
going further, it may be desirable to fix the threshold at ₹50 lakh. The revenue loss will be minimal but
ease of doing business will be high. The inclusion of petroleum products in the GST base will depend on
mainly the revenue gains from the reform. Nevertheless, it is a desirable objective and the GST Council
must act on it. International experience shows that including real estate may not be easy.

Steps ahead
There is some concern that the revenues from GST in the past few months are somewhat below
expectations. Things could improve as the new changes bring in stability and technology platform
stabilises. Hopefully the implementation of GST may help in augmenting income tax as well.
Strong political commitment, to implementing the reform, thorough advance preparation, adequate
investment in tax administration and taxpayer services, extensive public education programme, support
from business community and good timing of reform are the important pre-requisites for successful
implementation of the GST. It is also important to note that problems of transition to a major tax reform
are unavoidable and most countries go through this. In this regard, the approach of the GST Council must
be commended for being receptive to the concerns of businesses and in dealing with the glitches in
technology. Some of the noise heard is also due to the fact that all traders, in one way or the other, are
brought into the formal sector. That hurts some. The GST Council has recognised that it needs to carefully
calibrate the reform until the desired goal of a Good and Simple Tax is realised. Hopefully the GST
Council will keep the goals clear and consider the reform effort as a work in progress.
C. Rangarajan is former Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the PM and former Governor,
RBI. M. Govinda Rao was member, 14th Finance Commission, and is Emeritus Professor, National
Institute of Public Finance and Policy

Reading Rahul Gandhi’s hand

G. Sampath
DECEMBER 23, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 25, 2017 12:22 IST

By pitching a politics of love in opposition to a politics of fear, he may have just hit upon a winning

U ntil a few months ago, a politician could speak of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and expect to be taken seriously.
It was an eventuality that seemed both possible and probable. A few days after the Gujarat election results, it
would seem that the spectre of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ has been exorcised for the time being.

Exorcise - drive out or attempt to drive out (a supposed evil spirit) from a person or place
Diffident - modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence.
Dilettante - Dabbler, a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or
Four factors
One could discern four factors behind the upswing in the Congress’s fortunes in Gujarat, and these may well
constitute the core ingredients for a pan-India revival too.
The first is Rahul Gandhi’s comfort level in a leadership role. Never before has he looked as relaxed and confident
as he did leading from the front in Gujarat. For long he has been mocked as a bumbling neophyte lacking the
commitment necessary for the rigours of electoral politics. But as he travelled across Gujarat, addressing nearly 30
rallies, gone was the diffident dilettante mouthing ghost-written speeches. Instead, what the people saw was a
politician who was earnest, did not act like the entitled dynast he was said to be, and was eager to listen.

Bumbling - speak in a The second is Mr. Gandhi’s capacity for self-effacement, which enabled him to bring together
confused or indistinct
competing political egos for a larger cause. Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani
are massively popular, ambitious youth leaders representing different constituencies and
whose political agendas are often mutually contradictory. What united them under the
Neophyte - a person auspices of the Congress was their readiness to trust Mr. Gandhi. It is difficult to think of
who is new to a subject another Congress politician who could have pulled off this remarkable social coalition —
or activity. remarkable because it was based not on a cynical caste calculus but on substantive issues
such as employment, educational opportunities, unfair taxation, land rights, and agrarian
The third element, unlike the others, is a work in progress: organisational presence on the ground. The Congress
mostly managed this by drawing on pre-existing mobilisations such as the Patidar movement. But one instance
where it came a cropper was Surat. The textile city had become the epicentre of anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
anger in Gujarat. But the crowds that turned up for Mr. Patel’s rallies in Surat did not translate into votes. The
Congress’s near-absence at the ground level and the BJP’s superiority in booth management and financial
firepower made all the difference as the latter swept the city, winning 15 of the 16 seats. The Surat phenomenon is
bound to repeat itself unless Mr. Gandhi fixes the rot in the middle and lower rungs of the party and turns them
into reliable cogs in the organisational machinery.
Last, and most critical to the Congress’s electoral prospects, is the articulation of an alternative politics that is
credible, imaginative, and connects with the masses. And it is here that Mr. Gandhi has surprised everyone.
His speech after taking over as Congress president offered the clearest glimpse to date into his vision of politics.
Though not a full-fledged narrative, the outline suggested by his pronouncements has the potential to serve as an
alternative pole of mobilisation and affective investment.

Sets of binaries
By now, the contrast between Mr. Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is apparent to all. In terms of stature,
popularity, charisma, and accomplishments, the former is a David up against Goliath. But David may have found a
way to make the contrast work in his favour.
If Mr. Modi exudes power and authority, Mr. Gandhi personifies a low-key civility. If one evokes admiration and
awe, the other has the ability to inspire affection. If one is a great speaker, the other presents himself as a great
listener. Interestingly enough, of late Mr. Gandhi has shown a penchant for expanding these sets of binaries in a
manner that further sharpens the contrast between himself and Mr. Modi.

The binaries invoked in his recent pronouncements include a politics of love versus a politics
of anger; brotherhood versus hatred; truth versus falsehood; dialogue versus monologue;
Riffs - a short listening versus speechifying; arrogance versus humility; pluralism versus uniformity;
repeated phrase in diversity versus homogeneity; and above all, a politics of kindness versus a politics of fear.
popular music
His speeches in Gujarat were riffs on these themes interspersed with caustic commentary on
Bamboozle - cheat/ the Gujarat model, ‘Vikas’, the Rafale deal, demonetisation, the goods and services tax, and so
fool on. However, he astonished everyone by insisting that though the BJP wanted a ‘Congress-
mukt Bharat’, he did not want a ‘BJP-mukt Bharat’ since the BJP was also an expression of the aspirations of the
Indian people. Though he did not agree with their politics, his love, he said, extended to BJP supporters as well.
These are shockingly unusual sentiments in the dog-eat-dog world of Indian politics.
So much so that even the Nehruvian liberals are bamboozled. After all, what kind of a modern politician talks of
love? Love? Who votes for love and kindness in the age of gratuitous social media cruelty? Has he gone crazy?
Less puzzling and more unsettling has been his infamous ‘temple run’ in Gujarat. Mr. Gandhi stands accused of
conceding political ground to the Hindu Right by highlighting his Hindu identity during the Gujarat campaign.
Some have called it ‘soft Hindutva’, citing the strategic use of vermilion on his forehead and his silence on
minority issues.

This is a misreading, not unexpected from a puritanical streak of liberalism that is
susceptible to confusing form with substance. Mr. Gandhi’s temple run needs to be
understood in the context of a new political reality: India in 2017 is far more communally
polarised than it was in 2009, and Gujarat more so than any other State, with religious
Bigger battles
ahead for
identity overriding all else at the time of voting. The Congress has little chance of winning
Congress elections unless it reverses this mass ‘Hinduisation’ or neutralises it at election time.

Ejecting communal toxins from the body politic is a long-term project, best pursued as a
social movement or when the reins of power are at hand. With 2019 not far away, the only
viable political option in the short term is neutralisation. Mr. Gandhi seems to have understood this.

Smart secularism
His temple visits, from this perspective, are not ‘soft Hindutva’ but ‘smart secularism’ — one that acknowledges
the religious identity of the majority without lapsing into majoritarianism or compromising on the
constitutional rights of the minority. This is a tricky tightrope walk, and it remains to be seen how well he keeps
his balance. While it is debatable how many extra votes it garnered, one indication of its efficacy was the panic it
caused in the BJP ranks.
The Congress’s performance in Gujarat has given Mr. Gandhi what he has lacked so far: credibility as a helmsman,
which is kind of hard to establish when you have inherited your position at the helm. Second, it has demonstrated
that the Congress can take the BJP head-on and win. This rise in the party’s ‘winnability quotient’ would put it on a
stronger footing when negotiating alliances. It would also draw back into its fold the minorities in other States
who traditionally vote for the strongest secular party.
All said and done, by forcefully pitching a politics of love in opposition to a politics of fear, Mr. Gandhi may have
just hit upon the nucleus of an alternative narrative that the Congress has been searching for. The future of Indian
democracy may well be decided by a fierce battle between fear and love, fought in the hearts and minds of the
Indian voter.

Time for an icebreaker: on India-Pakistan relations

Suhasini Haidar
DECEMBER 25, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 24, 2017 23:46 IST

The intellectual partition of India and Pakistan does no benefit to either country

I n the late 1960s, shortly after the India-Pakistan war, the official in the Ministry of External Affairs
handling the Pakistan desk received a strange request during his meeting with the new Pakistan High
Commissioner. “I hope that you would deal with Pakistan as a foreign country,” the High Commissioner told the
slightly puzzled Indian official, explaining that the familiarity of Indian officials with both language and culture
of Pakistan ran counter to Pakistan’s desire to build their identity as a newly sovereign nation.

Two years apart

While the two countries had been physically partitioned, and borders and check-posts now controlled people
from crossing over, the ‘intellectual partition’ of India and Pakistan had not taken place at the time. Decades
later, it would be hard for a Pakistani envoy to make such a complaint. India and Pakistan are not just foreign
countries for each other, they are practically alien, with little to engage on in various spheres. The “intellectual
and emotional partition” of the two countries is even more stark today, exactly two years since Prime Minister
Narendra Modi landed in Lahore to attend his then counterpart, Nawaz Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding.
To begin with, Indian and Pakistani societies have learnt to look away from each other culturally. The process of
this partition, which began in the 1950s, when poets and historians began to construct separate histories, is now
complete, as Pakistani students learn a language more Arabic than Urdu, of a polity that begins in 1947, and
about an ancient history that relates to foreign invaders from the country’s west more than the shared history
with its east. On the Indian side, contemporary cultural linkages have been severed, with Abida Parveen and
Ghulam Ali no longer able to perform in India, Pakistani actors barred from work in Indian films, and a
television network stopping the very popular telecast of Pakistani soap operas. Sporting events are fewer, and
there is little “healthy rivalry” when Indian and Pakistani teams do meet: instead a defeat becomes a national
disgrace, while a victory is celebrated as a quasi-military conquest. Visas are still granted for pilgrimages on
both sides, but for all other travel they are tightly controlled and granted as exceptions to the rule. Seldom have
two countries which share language, idiom, music and religion been this closed to each other, including in times
of war.

Bilateral trade, which had developed a low but steady normal, could be reduced even further now: as Indian
development of Chabahar port in Iran circumvents Pakistan by sea, and an air cargo corridor to Afghanistan
replaces land cargo entirely. Effectively, India is willing to double its trade costs and spend billions of dollars
extra in order block out Pakistan, and Pakistan is willing to risk its trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia,
but won’t allow Indian trade to Afghanistan come through Wagah.
The only increased ‘trade’ is that of ‘trading fire’ at the Line of Control (LoC), where Pakistan attempts to push in
infiltrators over the LoC into India under covering fire, and Indian troops fire back, taking also a high toll for
civilians on both sides. After the 2003 ceasefire had been implemented, villagers on either side of the LoC had
returned to their homes and rebuilt schools along the area. Most of that peace has been undone by the past few
years of ceasefire violations, according to a study by the United States Institute of Peace called “A Line on Fire”.
From 12 ceasefire violations (CFVs) on both sides combined and one civilian casualty in 2006, 2016 saw 51 dead
in about 900 CFVs. The data for this year has surpassed those numbers, which includes four Indian Army
soldiers killed this weekend. Yet, neither side gives credence to claims of the other. Even after the surgical
strikes of September 2016, Pakistan’s government refused to accept India’s detailed account of the cross-LoC
The discourse on terrorism is even more divided. After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Pakistan admitted in public
statements at least that the perpetrators of the attacks would be brought to justice. Yet in the past three years,
the Mumbai trial in Rawalpindi has all but ground to a halt. The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operations commander
Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is out on bail, while 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, out of custody last month, plans to
stand for elections in 2018. On the Pakistani side, there’s growing belief that India funds groups such as the
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as insurgent groups in Balochistan. Mr. Modi’s public support for the
Baloch insurgency during his Independence Day speech last year did not help. The fate of Kulbushan Jadhav,
whose release from Pakistani custody in other times may have been decided by mutual negotiation and a
possible exchange of personnel, is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice.

Difficult calendar
While both India and Pakistan have recently appointed new High Commissioners to Islamabad and Delhi,
respectively, there is very little hope of any fresh initiative at this point. Pakistan heads into its electoral process
in a few months, once the Senate elections are done in March and a caretaker government is put in place. By the
time a new Prime Minister is in place there, the Indian general election campaign will begin to roll out. Given
Mr. Modi’s recent attack on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for meeting the new Pakistani envoy at a
dinner during the Gujarat campaign, and suggesting collusion between the two, it is unlikely that the political
atmosphere would allow for even diplomatic niceties to be maintained.
Yet, for a number of reasons, it is even more necessary for both sides to stem this intellectual partition today.
India has long opposed “third-party interventions”, but the lack of dialogue with Pakistan is imposing just that,
with every dispute between the two countries now being taken up at global forums: the United Nations,
Financial Action Task Force, International Court of Justice, and World Bank for the Indus Waters Treaty.
Second, with the U.S. drawing India into its Afghanistan policy, and China’s stakes in the China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor, the subcontinent is becoming an area of contestation by players bigger than both India and
Pakistan. Even in Afghanistan, their interests are being increasingly defined by the coalitional arcs being drawn:
with the U.S., India, and Afghanistan ranged on one side; and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban on the

The alphabet soup

India’s decision to stay out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in Pakistan
has also complicated its standing as a regional leader. While alternative arrangements such as The Bay of Bengal
Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,
Nepal (BBIN) initiative and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) represent some parts of the region, they
cannot replace the whole, and the region becomes easier to fragment, as China has managed to do by making
inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Finally, re-engagement will inevitably follow disengagement at some point, and the growing distance between
the people of both countries will be much more difficult for their governments to bridge in the future. Even
without bilateral talks, the two sides can explore simple engagements on the environment, medical tourism,
energy pipelines and electric grids in the interim. In a world where connectivity is the new currency, and
multiple alignments are replacing polar geopolitics, it is hard to justify the disconnected space that New Delhi
and Islamabad are hurtling into.

Hurtle - move or cause to move at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner


This year, on Jerusalem

Varghese K. George
DECEMBER 26, 2017 01:05 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 26, 2017 08:53 IST

India’s vote at the UN is in line with its leading power ambitions, and not just a legacy of nonalignment

W hen India voted on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution last week on the status of Jerusalem, going against the
wishes of the U.S. and Israel, many observers of its foreign policy were surprised. The resolution did not make a direct
reference to the recent U.S. decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and shift its embassy to the holy city from
Tel Aviv. Through the resolution adopted with 128 in favour to nine against, with 35 abstentions, the 193-member UNGA
expressed “deep regret” over “recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem” and stressed that Jerusalem “is a final status
issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant U.N. resolutions,” between Israel and Palestine.

India’s stand
The surprise over the Indian vote was not because it fell out of line with the country’s foreign policy as we have known it, but
because of an apparent deviation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new strategic thinking. Much has been written on the
‘Modi strategic doctrine’ but the concept has been pithily summarised by Mr. Modi himself and explained by Foreign Secretary
S. Jaishankar on earlier occasions — the goal is to transform India from being a ‘balancing power’ to a ‘leading power’ on the
international stage. U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy released recently offers support for this
aspiration of India to emerge as a ‘leading power.’
ALSO READ India’s Jerusalem vote can be interpreted as a continuing adherence to its traditional policy of
Affirmative vote: nonalignment. But a more appropriate interpretation of the vote is possible within the framework of
on US' move on India’s leading power ambitions. To do that, we need to also see the vote in conjunction with two other
votes in the recent past at the UN. The first was in June, when India supported a move by Mauritius to
take its sovereignty claims over the British-controlled Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to the
International Court of Justice (ICJ), against the wishes of the U.S.; the second was in November when
India won a seat on the ICJ, in spite of active opposition from the U.S.
On the Jerusalem vote in the UNGA, which is not binding, if India had voted against the resolution, it
would have ended up in the company of seven countries that joined the U.S. and Israel. These are
Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo, the combined population of which roughly
equals the population of Delhi. In the 2012 Gujarat Assembly election, Mr. Modi won more votes in the Maninagar
constituency than the population of four of these countries. Not exactly the group that India might want to lead, as second
deputy after America and Israel.

The second option was abstaining, along with Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Benin, Canada, Cameroon,
Croatia, Haiti, etc.

Of these, Canada, which used to vote with the U.S. on Israel resolutions, moved away from the U.S. position this time. Canada
and Mexico also face the threat of the dismantling of the North American Free Trade Agreement by the Trump administration.
As for Australia, its interests in West Asia are hardly comparable to India’s. In any case, not taking a position on an issue is
hardly worthy of an aspiring leader.

Supporters of the ‘leading power’ doctrine often argue, rightly, that India must be more forthright and
articulate in expressing its position on issues confronting the world. As it did, for instance, by speaking
up on the Belt and Road Initiative. So, abstaining was not an attractive option for an aspiring leading
Suboptimal - of power.
less than the
highest standard Many advantages
or quality. Suboptimal as it might be as a choice, voting for the resolution put India in the company of the
overwhelming majority of the world. It kept India in the company of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
(SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), groupings that India continues to value under the Modi
government. While BRICS and the SCO stayed together, the American-led NATO split on the issue, and even the Five Eyes
countries of the English-speaking West — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. — did not stay together on this
vote. And India has far more significant interests in West Asian peace and stability than many of these countries.

South Korea and Japan, treaty allies of the U.S. in the midst of a nuclear threat from North Korea, also voted for the resolution.
Yes, India voted alongside Pakistan, but that happens quite often. Some critics of the Indian vote have said Islamic countries
do not support India on Kashmir. In 2016, Pakistan raised Kashmir nine times at the U.N.; in 2017, seven times, a total of 16
times. There are 57 countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and statistically, there were 912 chances for a
statement against India on Kashmir over the last two years by an Islamic country. But it has not happened even once.
While India under Mr. Modi’s brand of Hindutva nationalism is seeking leadership status on the global stage, the U.S. under
Mr. Trump is undergoing a transition from being a hegemon to being a bully in its leadership role. The Jerusalem decision
itself and the rhetoric that preceded the UNGA vote is a stark demonstration of this new U.S. posture. The disruptive streak in
Mr. Trump opens new possibilities for India’s leading power ambitions, but that cannot be achieved by blindly following
American diktats. The Chagos Archipelago vote in June and India’s ICJ contest in November bear out that fact.
Mauritius wanted the UNGA to request the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on its sovereignty claim over archipelago as it
considers it as an unfinished agenda of decolonisation. The U.S. recognises U.K. sovereignty over the territory and they jointly
operate the Diego Garcia military base there. India voted in support of the resolution, overcoming the fear of a bilateral
dispute being taken to ICJ. “The process of decolonisation that started with our own independence, still remains unfinished
seven decades later,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said in a statement on India’s vote. The
resolution was passed with 94 countries voting in favour, 15 against and 65 abstaining.

In November, the U.S. supported the U.K. in its contest against India for an ICJ seat, as did all other permanent members of the
Security Council. India stood its ground and won the day as the UNGA overwhelmingly supported it, forcing other
permanent members to limit their support to the U.K., which finally withdrew its candidate. It is not difficult to draw a link
between the two votes.
Leading power ambitions are not realised by declaring unquestioning allegiance to anyone. If you see Nehruvian thinking in
this script, it must be read with the caveat that any resemblance is purely coincidental and not intended. If you are worried
that this might make the U.S. unhappy towards India, be assured, not any more unhappy than it can be towards the U.K. that
voted against it — after all, the U.S. had voted for it in the ICJ election against India. And the vote is only as much an
appeasement of the increasingly marginalised Muslims of India, as Japan’s vote for the resolution can be an appeasement of its
100,000-strong Muslims. Three UNGA votes over six months are more about multilateral diplomacy coming of age. India can
be great friends with the U.S. and Israel and still disagree with them on some issues.

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© The Hindu
A voice vote (dhvani mat) is used in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state assemblies to vote for certain resolutions. It
is used when there is a wide agreement on issues and in some cases where the house is not in order. It was used
during the formation of Telangana state, in forming the 29th state of India.


Bamboo not a tree: Parliament passes Bill amending Forest Act

NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 27, 2017 19:34 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 27, 2017 19:34 IST

The Bill permits felling and transit of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. However, bamboo grown
on forest lands would continue to be classified as a tree.

The Parliament on Wednesday passed a Bill to exclude bamboo from the definition of tree under the Indian
Forest Act, claiming it would improve the earnings of tribals and dwellers living around forests.
The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, which was adopted by the Lok Sabha on December 20, was passed by a
voice vote in the Rajya Sabha, amid a walk-out by member of the Congress, Biju Janta Dal and the Samajwadi
The opposition parties protested its passage saying the Bill was being passed in a hurry without proper
consultations with stakeholders and the states. Besides, they alleged it would favour the industrialists.

Replying to a short debate, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Harsh Vardhan said the Bill to
amend the 1927 Indian Forest Act would benefit the tribals, forest dweller and farmers as their income would
The Bill permits felling and transit of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. However, bamboo grown on forest
lands would continue to be classified as a tree and would be guided by the existing legal restrictions.
“I am really shocked to see that you (Opposition) can’t see the benefit of tribals and poor farmers who are
going to benefit after the Bill is passed,” he told the House amid protest from the opposition members.

Attacking the Opposition, which repeatedly questioned the government taking the ordinance route, Mr.
Vardhan said the process to make the Bill a reality was going on for a long time and the government could no
longer see tribals suffer in the country. “It took us 90 years to do it. It was long awaited in India. We cannot
allow tribals and poor farmers of the country to suffer,” he said.

On the Opposition charge that states were not consulted, the minister said that 26 states and union
territories had responded on the bill while 24 of them had supported it.
Mr. Vardhan said the Bill would not only increase rural income but also help in increasing green cover across
the country. Bamboo, the minister said, was used extensively in a variety of applications such as furnishing,
yarn, pulp and paper, handicrafts, decoration and musical instruments.

Earlier while moving the Bill for passage, Mr. Vardhan said the major objective of the amendment was to
promote the cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas and improve farmers’ income, keeping in mind the
Government’s “ambitious” target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
The Minister observed that after the amendment, all the legal and regulatory hardships faced by the farmers
and other individuals will be removed.
Dissatisfied with his reply, Congress, SP and BJD members staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha.
Participating in the debate, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had opposed the Bill, terming it as “very
misleading” and one which would work against the interests of tribals in the long run.
After the minister’s reply, Mr. Ramesh, a former Union Environment Minister, said it was most unsatisfactory
on all counts and walked out of the House. He was followed by his other party members.

Mr. Ramesh questioned the “urgency” of promulgating the ordinance when Parliament was in session,
alleging that the government was bringing the amendment to benefit private players and taking away the
control of the forest areas from the Gram Sabhas.
The Congress leader alleged that the bill was “trampling upon the rights of the Gram Sabha, which are
enshrined in the Indian Forest Act”.
Several opposition members including D. Raja (CPI), Pradeep Tamta (Congress), Viplove Thakur (Congress)
also opposed the Bill.

Countering growing inequality

Indian social policy must raise health and education levels all around, as China has done

T he release recently of the World Inequality Report 2018 has brought into focus an aspect of economic progress in India.
This is the continuous growth in inequality here since the mid-1980s. To grasp this, consider the reported finding that the top
1% of income earners received 6% of the total income in the early 1980s, close to 15% of it in 2000, and receives 22% today. As
this is a report on a global scale, we can see the trend in inequality across the world, providing a comparative perspective
across countries.

In particular, it enables a comparison of economic progress made in India and China. This is not
flattering of India. Since 1980, while the Chinese economy has grown 800% and India’s a far lower 200%,
inequality in China today is considerably lower than in India. The share of the top 1% of the Chinese
population is 14% as opposed to the 22% reported for India. The authors go on to emphasise that growing
High growth
does not
inequality need not necessarily accompany faster growth, observing that inequality actually declined in
necessarily China from the early 21st century. By then China had grown faster for longer than most countries of the
mean high
inequality, says
world ever did.
Lucas Chancel
Basket of indicators
The findings in the World Inequality Report serve as grist to the mill that is the study of the progress of nations. But before we
proceed to reflect on them we may pause to consider their underlying methodology. First, the results are based on the share of
top incomes. This is not invalid but some of the findings may alter if we adopt measures of inequality that characterise the
entire distribution. To be precise, the inequality ranking of China and India may now reverse. But this need not hold us back as
it is evident that China’s performance is far superior all round to that of India. China has grown faster, has far lower poverty
and far higher average income, and its income distribution is less unequal at the very top. The World Development Indicators
data released by the World Bank show that per capita income in China was five times that of India in 2016 while the percentage
of the population living on less than $1.90 a day was about 10 times less at the beginning of this decade. India has a forbidding
gap to traverse in all directions, but for now let us focus on inequality.

It is the comparative perspective contained in the Report that makes it useful. India-based researchers have for some time
now pointed out that the country is becoming less equal since 1991. Also, we need not turn to the experience of China to
recognise that growth need not be unequalising. We know independently that inequality in India declined for three and a half
decades since 1950 even as the economy grew steadily, though maybe not spectacularly. It is important to comprehend this
outcome if we are to understand the source of inequality in India, not to mention why India lags China.

Now, is a comparison of the progress made in China and India meaningful at all? Yes it is, for though
representing different political systems, they had both been large agrarian economies at similar levels of
per capita income when they had started out in the early 1950s. Moreover, the absence of democracy in a
society does not by itself guarantee faster economic growth and greater income equality. For a populous
inequality in
poor country to lift itself to a higher growth path and stay there requires imaginative public policy and a
India at its steady governance. We can see this in the divergent economic histories of North and South Korea. So
highest level
since 1922, says
what is it that China did better than India?
Lucas Chancel
The Chinese clue
If there is to be a meta narrative for China’s economic development, it is that its leadership combined the drive for growth
with the spreading of human capital. Human capital may be understood as a person’s endowment derived from education and
robust health. When a population is more or less equally endowed, as it was in China when it began to draw ahead, the human
capital profile of a country may be represented by a rectangle. Now the returns to labour would be relatively equal compared
to the country in which the distribution of human capital is pyramidical, which is the case for India. To see the latter better,
note that the share of the Indian population with secondary schooling is less than 15%. China had by the early 1970s achieved
the level of schooling India did only by the early 21st century. The spread of health and education in that country enabled the
Chinese economy to grow faster than India by exporting manufactures to the rest of the world. These goods may not have been
the byword for quality but they were globally competitive, which made their domestic production viable. The resulting
growth lifted vast multitudes out of poverty. As the human capital endowment was relatively equal, most people could share
in this growth, which accounts for the relative equality of outcomes in China when compared to India. An ingredient of this is
also the greater participation of women in the workforce of China, an outcome that eludes India.

While concluding this brief account of China’s progress, two points may be made. China is no exception
to the general history of progress made in East Asia, right down to the authoritarianism, only that China
has remained even more authoritarian. This makes it appropriate to term progress in the country as
growth through human capital-accumulation for there can be no human development without
‘Inequality pulls
back India’
democracy, whatever may be the health and educational attainments of a population. Recent revelations
suggest that the massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was far greater than
believed to be.

This brings us back to India. India has lower per capita income, persistent poverty and by all accounts
rising inequality. It may be said in the context that economic progress here has been neither efficient nor equitable.
Democracy per se cannot be held responsible for this. There are States in India with superior social indicators than China. This
shows that not only is democracy not a barrier to development but also that similar political institutions across India have not
resulted in same development outcomes across its regions. Nor can we remain complacent that democracy is combined with
superior social indicators in some parts of India when income levels are lower here than what China has demonstrated is

Deepening democracy
Given the growing inequality in India, the direction that public policy should now take is evident. There is need to spread
health and education far more widely amidst the population. India’s full panoply of interventions, invariably justified as being
pro-poor, have not only not spread human capital, but they have also not been able to prevent a growing income inequality.

A ritualistic focus on the trappings of democracy, from frenetic election campaigns to stylised skirmishes in the legislatures,
has not worked to deliver its promise. We now need to reorient public policy so that the government is more enabling of
private entrepreneurship while being directly engaged in the equalisation of opportunity through a social policy that raises
health and education levels at the bottom of the pyramid.

Pulapre Balakrishnan is Professor of Ashoka University and Senior Fellow of IIM Kozhikode

Grist to the mill - useful experience, material, or knowledge

Meta **** - Meta means about the thing itself. It's seeing the thing from a higher perspective instead of from
within the thing, like being self-aware.
Meta narrative - a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a
society legitimation through the anticipated completion of a (as yet unrealized) master idea.
Panoply - an extensive or impressive collection
Frenetic - fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way.

Post-poll ‘chalphal’ in Nepal

Rakesh Sood
DECEMBER 28, 2017 00:02 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 27, 2017 23:47 IST

As an ordinance holds up government formation, the Left Alliance needs to be largehearted to find a
way out

T he word ‘chalphal’ in Nepali means more than a discussion; it implies an interminable discussion, often
for the sake of it, to a point where in the heat and dust of arguments the way forward gets obscured. Nepali
politicians revel in this pastime. The post-election ‘chalphal’ currently underway in Kathmandu, unless
resolved with maturity, will lead to heightened polarisation in a society that has been in search of political
stability for nearly three decades.
This has been a watershed year when Nepal successfully conducted three elections — the local body elections
after two decades between May and September, followed by the first federal and provincial elections, under
the new Constitution, in November-December. The elections were reasonably peaceful and the results have
been accepted by all political parties but government formation remains uncertain.

The outcome
The new Constitution provides for a bi-cameral Parliament — a 275 member House of Representatives, of
which 165 are directly elected on a ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) system and 110 on the basis of ‘proportional
representation’ (PR); and a 59-member National Assembly (NA) consisting of eight members indirectly
elected from each of the seven provinces and three nominated members. The Parliament is then convened to
elect a new Prime Minister — not that there is any dispute about the fact that the Communist Party of Nepal
(Unified Marxist–Leninist) leader K.P.S. Oli will be the PM.
In October, the UML and the Maoists came together to form a Left Alliance with the
A new phase?
Nepal's historic prospects of a merger after the elections. Of 165 seats, the Left Alliance managed an
impressive tally of 116, with Maoists getting 36 seats. The Nepali Congress was reduced
to a distant third with 23 seats. An understanding between the Rashtriya Janata Party-
Nepal (an alliance of Madhesi parties) and Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum
helped them get 11 and 10 seats, respectively.

Interestingly, in terms of the vote count, the gap between the UML and the NC was
marginal — the UML getting 33.2% of the vote and the NC maintaining its share at
32.8%, with the Maoists following with 13.7%. Therefore, in the PR category of 110 seats, UML and NC were
close, getting 41 and 40 seats, respectively, with Maoists at 17 and the two Madhesi based parties claiming six
each. With a total of 174 seats in a House of 275, the Left Alliance led by Mr. Oli is well placed to form the

Government formation
Yet the Election Commission of Nepal cannot announce the results. The issue is the methodology of election
of the 56 members of the NA for which the electoral college consists of 550 members of provincial assemblies
and the mayors/chairpersons and deputies of the 753 local bodies. Two months ago, the government had
submitted an ordinance to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari proposing that the Election Commission frame
the rules for the NA elections on the basis of the single transferable vote (STV). This is seen as more
representative and enables preference votes to be counted. (Rajya Sabha members are elected on this basis.)
President Bhandari, a UML loyalist who owes her position to Mr. Oli, has not signed the ordinance. The results
of the provincial assembly elections have given the Left Alliance a clear majority in six of Nepal’s seven
provinces. Earlier this year, in the local body elections, the UML won the mayorships/chairmanships in 294 of
the 753 bodies, with the Maoists winning another 106. On the basis of the FPTP system, the alliance can win
42 of the 56 seats, giving it a brute majority in the NA. The UML is, therefore, pushing the President to reject
the ordinance.

The glitch is that the new Constitution provides for 33% representation in Parliament for women, with any
shortfall being made up in the PR lists. The precise shortfall will not be clear till the NA members have been
elected. Consequently, the names of the 110 PR members cannot be notified, and so the House cannot be
convened to elect Mr. Oli as the new Prime Minister. Other political parties led by the NC are adamant on the
STV system as being consistent with the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. Even the Maoists are
quietly supportive of the STV idea.
Mr. Oli is blaming caretaker Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for delaying tactics and the debate is
increasing polarisation. Mr. Oli is unlikely to get his way but needs a political face-saver. The Maoist leader,
Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, had joined the alliance thinking that he and Mr. Oli could share the prime
ministership by dividing up the tenure. Given the UML’s strong showing, Mr. Oli is not receptive to such an
idea and has suggested that Mr. Prachanda instead become chairman of the new entity once the merger
between the two parties takes place. Mr. Prachanda is unlikely to find this satisfactory as it cements his junior
status, but his options seem to be limited.

The NC has received a drubbing in the FPTP results but its vote share remains intact, which is more a
reflection of poor campaign management and disenchantment with the NC leadership than a dent in its
political base. Its old leaders have been defeated, pointing to the need for a thorough revamp. Madhesi groups
have put up a strong showing in Province 2 indicating that if they work together, they can be a potent force
for pushing a forward looking agenda. Further constitutional amendments on inclusivity will have to be
pushed through with persuasion rather than agitation and confrontation.
Drubbing - a beating; a thrashing.
The way forward
Having won a decisive victory, Mr. Oli now needs to display a degree of pragmatism and balance, both at home
and with India. President Bhandari has been urging consensus even as she keeps the NA election ordinance
pending, and the UML would be well advised to accept the STV in the interests of democracy. A hard line may
not only deprive Mr. Oli of his victory but also bring the office of the President into needless controversy.

On December 19, Mr. Oli undertook a surprise visit to Rasuwagadhi (on the Nepal-China
border) to announce its upgradation to an international border crossing and the entry
point for the railway link from Shigatse, nearly 550 km away in Tibet. The gesture was
noted in Delhi, as two days later Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned him to
exercises don’t
congratulate him on his election victory. He followed it up with a call to Mr. Prachanda
worry us: India and another to Mr. Deuba to felicitate him on the successful conduct of the elections.

Clearly, both sides need to get over the unpleasantness that marked Mr. Oli’s nine-
month tenure as Prime Minister in 2015-16. He blamed India for overtly supporting the
Madhesi agitation leading to the ‘economic blockade’ and held India responsible for Mr. Prachanda
withdrawing support in July 2016 and forcing him to resign. The Indian action, particularly the economic
dislocation caused by the ‘blockade’, generated a sentiment of anti-Indianism, effectively exploited in the
elections by Mr. Oli in the guise of Nepali nationalism. Except for this short period, however, Mr. Oli has been
consistently supportive of better relations between India and Nepal.
Playing the China card is not a new phenomenon in Nepal. In the past, China would advise Nepali leaders to
resolve differences with India. Things have changed with Nepal now an eager participant in the ambitious
Belt and Road Initiative.

While Mr. Oli is smart enough to see the risks of too close a Chinese embrace, Delhi too needs to rebuild trust
with Mr. Oli. This requires addressing concerns quietly and ensuring consistency of messaging. Fast-tracking
implementation of reconstruction and development projects promised after the devastating earthquake in
2015 would be a good signal and in keeping with Mr. Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.
Rakesh Sood is a former Ambassador to Nepal and is currently Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research
Foundation. E-mail:

Listen to these four girls: on the Panapakkam suicides

Petulance - the quality of being childishly sulky or bad-tempered

Camaradiere- mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.
Opprobrium - harsh criticism or censure.
Krishna Kumar
DECEMBER 29, 2017 00:15 IST
UPDATED: DECEMBER 29, 2017 00:03 IST

The tragic suicide of students in Panapakkam in Tamil Nadu points to the crisis that grips India’s
education system

P anapakkam is a rural town in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district. Last month, it was in the news when four
adolescent girls disappeared from their school, leaving their bags behind. Their shoes were later found beside
a sizeable well into which they had apparently jumped in order to end their lives. They were students of
Class XI. This is precisely the grade level at which a vast number of India’s adolescents feel seriously unhappy
and resentful. If you consult a typical textbook on adolescent psychology, you will find such emotions to be
common. The text will probably dwell on identity, self-worth and petulance. Teachers are taught about these
common symptoms, and those who learn them well enough to discuss them correctly get through their B.Ed.
(Bachelor of Education) examination without much cramming. When they become teachers, they soon realise
that passing the B.Ed. examination is a lot easier than dealing with real adolescents — boys or girls.

A poor record
The Panapakkam girls are reported to have been scolded by a teacher for their poor academic performance
and told to call their parents. The girls decided to avoid that ordeal and embraced death instead, thereby
displaying another familiar characteristic of the adolescent mind, namely, its preference for camaraderie in
taking a decision.

As a nation, our record of dealing with adolescents is rather poor. To be an adolescent
means that you don’t feel comfortable with what all is going on around you, but older
people don’t find it easy to deal with you. This is partly because adolescent behaviour is
often prickly and petulant. The larger reason, however, is that adolescents live in an
ideal world and measure everyone, including parents and teachers, by their utopian
suspended over standards. This is not merely an emotional response to an imperfect world; it is also
girls’ death
proof of their fully developed logical capacity. By defying the adults surrounding them,
adolescents develop their own identity as individuals. This is not easy, so they depend
on their peers to plan and decide. Their private fantasies are mostly benign and transformative. We can say
that adolescent dreams represent a nation’s wealth. In India, this wealth is mostly burnt up in preparation for

Ignoring or oppressing adolescents is not uncommon in other countries, but India’s case is somewhat
extreme. Over more than a century, our system of schooling has honed its tools to oppress and defeat the
adolescent. The tool used to subdue the rebellious adolescent mind is the Board examination. The term
‘board’ has acquired connotations of terror for the young on account of the darkness into which it pushes
them before some are let back out into normal light and further education. Boards of examinations maintain
a tight secrecy over how a young student will be marked and declared either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. Social history is rife
with instances of unwarranted failure and opprobrium of family seniors.

The matriculation examination is part of family lore in every part of India. Fear of
failing in it and thereby closing all doors to a worthwhile future figures in many
autobiographies written during the colonial period. Examination mania is instilled into
the young mind from the start of primary schooling. Popular understanding of
CEO conducts
inquiry with
education, which is widely shared in political and official circles, equates learning with
school students, performance on tests. The nationwide industry that specialises in offering help in
passing examinations and entrance tests makes no distinction between cramming,
cheating and learning. The Class X examination continues to ‘fail’ millions every

The Class XI hurdle

If an adolescent successfully survives the Class X examination, his or her ordeal enters a more complicated
phase, involving choice of subjects for the higher secondary examination. The Panapakkam girls who chose to
end their lives were studying in Class XI. We do not know how they individually came to choose the subjects
to study in this fateful class. For a vast majority of students moving into Class XI, the choice of elective
subjects is made by their parents or senior siblings and teachers. Subjects are seen as tickets to the future.
Some are regarded as solid tickets for a coveted future while others are seen as bogus tickets, carrying the risk
of life-long stagnation. These are, of course, stereotypes, but they persist as currency of practical wisdom in a
blind market controlled by Boards. No principal, teacher or parent dares to demand openness from a Board
about its procedures. A tight cover of confidentiality is maintained to conceal the abysmal quality of the
marking system, question papers and the evaluation process.

In the case of girls, school-related anxieties get compounded by older, entrenched anxieties associated with
gendering. Family and kinship fuel the apprehensions that girls internalise early childhood onwards about
their matrimonial future. Educating a daughter is often perceived as an investment towards her marriage.
The fear of being viewed as a poor performer at school adds to the stress at home. Teachers usually have scant
awareness of a student’s state of mind. When they ask students to bring parents to school, they assume this
will create additional pressure to encourage harder work. This simplistic logic carries great risk, as the
Panapakkam incident shows.

Assessing the Boards

The state of education being what it is at present, it is unlikely that the voices drowned in the well at
Panapakkam will be heard, but an effort must be made to do so. Boards responsible for the examination
industry must realise that that it is no longer useful to install helplines to provide just-in-time advice for a
16-year-old in despair. The entire Board examination system and the culture associated with it constitute an
endemic problem.

Plenty of ideas for reforming the Boards and the examination system they govern have been given over the
years. Some of these ideas have been put into practice here and there, as isolated steps lacking a wider frame
of reference to curricular reform. The National Curriculum Framework, 2005 insisted on coherence between
reforms in curriculum, examinations and teacher training. This perspective continues to pose a challenge to
an institutional structure marked by rivalry and turf wars.
Turf - the area that a group considers its own

Taking on the gatekeepers: on the Censor Board

As long as courts affirm ‘community’ claims, don’t expect the Censor Board to protect free speech
arlier this week, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) announced that a six-member panel was being
constituted to review the film Padmavati, before it could be granted a censor certificate and publicly exhibited.
Members of the panel include historians as well as representatives of the royal family of Mewar. The announcement of
the panel has caused both bemusement and amusement. What, after all, do professional historians have to do with a
piece of entertainment that is historical fiction at best, and the retelling of a myth at worst? And why has the royal
family seemingly acquired a veto over the clearance of a film? The task of the Censor Board is to ensure that a film
complies with the laws of the land and the guidelines of the Cinematograph Act, a task that does not require it to judge
“historical accuracy”, or to subject a film to the scrutiny of self-appointed community gatekeepers. It is a legal and
constitutional task, not a sentimental or popular one.
Amusement - Something that is amusing is entertaining or funny &
Requirements of any work Bemusement - to cause to be bewildered or to confuse.
Unfortunately, however, the Censor Board’s actions represent an approach towards the freedom of expression that,
despite its evident wrong-headedness, has been sanctioned by the Supreme Court on a number of recent occasions.
This approach has two distinct aspects. First, that in order to qualify for constitutional protection, a work must have an
objectively defined social value — that is, it must be good for something, whether it is spreading scientific or historical
knowledge, inculcating patriotic values, or advocating good social habits. Second, if the work refers to or is about a
certain segment of society, then that segment automatically acquires the power to decide whether or not it has been
“offended” by it — a power that is exercised by the self-appointed gatekeepers of the community.

Nick of Time - At the

last possible moment As an example of the second, take the recent travails of Jolly LLB 2, a well known satirical film
before a deadline or about the Indian legal system. Before the film could be released, there was an uproar because it
before something begins was alleged to have “insulted” lawyers and the legal system (although there is no law – and
or ends; just in time. probably with good reason – that prohibits people from insulting lawyers). A petition was filed in
the Bombay High Court. Ignoring what the CBFC itself had to say about this, the Bombay High
Grotesque - comically Court appointed a three-member panel of lawyers, to “review” the film. Where the High Court
or repulsively ugly or found the power to do so, and why lawyers were appointed to review a film that satirises lawyers
distorted. are questions that have no answer. In any event, the panel suggested four deletions. In the
meantime, the producers had rushed to the Supreme Court, which, however, declined to interfere. Faced with the
delayed release of their film, and the possibility of an eventual defeat in the Supreme Court, the producers swallowed
their pride, accepted the four cuts, and received clearance for the film in the nick of time.
There is something uniquely grotesque about appointing lawyers to vet a film that makes fun of lawyers, just as it is
uniquely grotesque to invite members of the royal family to vet a film that allegedly besmirches Rajput honour. The
idea underlying the actions of both the court and the Censor Board is that every self-identified “community” – no
matter how loosely- or ill-defined – has an automatic right of veto over any work of art, expressed through its self-
proclaimed and most noisy gatekeepers. This, in turn, goes back to the pre-constitutional idea that India is not a nation
of individual citizens, but an agglomeration of homogenous, clearly defined “communities”, and that it is these
communities that come to be the measure of all values. The Constitution, however, clearly repudiated this view when
it placed the individual – and individual rights – at its heart. Unfortunately, however, that lesson remains to be learnt,
and especially by the Supreme Court which, in 2007, upheld a book ban on the ground that in a country as diverse as
India, no community should feel offended or have its feelings hurt. The court didn’t see fit to say that in a country as
diverse as India, everyone should learn spirit of tolerance; that apart, who can claim the right to project their personal
hurt or offence onto their community as a whole is itself a difficult and complex question, which the court has so far
failed to answer.
Besmirch - damage (someone's reputation)
Repudiate - refuse to accept; reject.
‘Useful art’
Let us now go back to the first aspect of Indian free speech jurisprudence. Ever since the Supreme Court upheld the
constitutionality of obscenity law in 1964, it has given a clear indication that “useful art”, or art that can serve a “social
purpose”, may be exempted from the penal consequences of obscenity, or other similar speech-restricting laws. In
assessing the famous movie Bandit Queen, for example, the Court pointed out that certain disputed scenes – involving
sexual assault – were actually meant to instil revulsion and disgust in the minds of the readers, and in that sense, the
film was serving a socially useful purpose in depicting such scenes. And it is that motivation which, presumably, has
driven the Censor Board to rope in historians to screen Padmavati. If Padmavati, according to the historians, is
historically accurate, it will pass muster. But if it is “distorting history” (to echo the most famous complaint against it),
then it serves no feasible social role, and the state is justified in refusing it screening permission.

There are, however, two serious mistakes in this approach which undermine the entire system of
Heretical - believing freedom of speech and expression itself. First, even if we concede that art ought to have a social
in or practising purpose (which we shouldn’t), the task of deciding whether a particular work of art is “socially
religious heresy, useful” or not will be left to judges who, with the best intentions, will only end up reproducing
unorthodox, non- the dominant conceptions of what is useful. For example in Ranjit Udeshi (the obscenity case),
conformist, Justice M. Hidayatullah embarked on a two-paragraph critique that questioned the merits of D.H.
renegade. Lawrence’s writing, and probably everybody will agree that those two paragraphs are a standing
embarrassment in the annals of our constitutional history. However, this does mean that truly
heretical or rebellious work – precisely the kind of subversive work that a free speech guarantee is supposed to protect
– will always be persecuted. And second, there is simply no way of knowing what uses a work might be put to in the
future. The Churchmen who sentenced Galileo to house imprisonment were no doubt sure that the Sun revolved
around the Earth, and that Galileo’s research, apart from being heretical, was simply useless. That predication,
however, did not age well. Similarly, to decide – as this screening committee will do – whether Padmavati has
“distorted” history and therefore cannot be redeemed by the social purpose of art would be to declare authority over all
possible uses that art may have now or in the future.

A larger battle
The Supreme Court’s own ambivalence towards the freedom of speech was best exemplified earlier this year, when, in
upholding a book ban imposed in the State of Karnataka, the court refused to give any reasons for its opinion. The
CBFC is, of course, an independent body with an independent mandate. However, we need to remember that it is the
Supreme Court which, in the last analysis, sets the norms, principles and values that trickle down the judicial ladder.
Consequently, as long as the freedom of speech continues to be treated as a minor inconvenience that needs to be
regulated and controlled in the “public interest”, and as long as the court continues to affirm “community” claims as
having priority over individual freedoms, we cannot really expect the CBFC to protect free speech in a meaningful way.
The battle for free speech must be waged both at the bottom and at the top.
Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based lawyer

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