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-Rajeev Kumar (Editor-in-chief)

Showing posts with label Hindustan Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hindustan Times. Show all posts

Thursday, January 21, 2021

अमेरिका में भरोसे की नई भोर (हिन्दुस्तान)

फ्रैंक एफ इस्लाम, अमेरिकावासी उद्यमी व समाजसेवी  


अमेरिका के 46वें राष्ट्रपति के रूप में जो बाइडन का शपथ लेना इसके इतिहास के एक सबसे दुखद और काले अध्याय का अंत होने के साथ ही उम्मीद व भरोसे से भरे एक नए युग की शुरुआत भी है। पूर्व उप-राष्ट्रपति और पूर्व सीनेटर बाइडन के राष्ट्रपति पद संभालते ही न सिर्फ अमेरिका, बल्कि पूरी दुनिया में एक नई सुबह तय है। बतौर राष्ट्रपति डोनाल्ड ट्रंप की प्रवृत्ति किस कदर विनाशकारी रही, इसे देश-दुनिया के तमाम मीडिया ने बताया ही है। ह्वाइट हाउस में बिताए गए उनके चार वर्षों में कई बडे़ रद्दोबदल हुए। मसलन, नस्ल संबंधी मसलों के खिलाफ अमेरिका ने जो लाभ कमाया था, ट्रंप ने उनमें से ज्यादातर को गंवा दिया। आप्रवासन को उन्होंने जमकर हतोत्साहित किया, जबकि गैर-यूरोपीय देशों से आए लोगों ने ही अमेरिका का निर्माण किया है। पर्यावरण से जुड़े सौ से अधिक प्रावधान उन्होंने वापस लिए। मीडिया सहित देश के तमाम संस्थानों को उन्होंने लगातार निशाना बनाया। और तो और, पेरिस समझौते, विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन जैसी वैश्विक संधियों-संस्थाओं से उन्होंने अमेरिका को निकाल बाहर किया, और विश्व नेता की उसकी छवि खंडित करके रूस व चीन जैसे देशों को उस शून्य को भरने दिया।

स्थिति यह थी कि ओवल ऑफिस से विदा होते हुए भी ट्रंप ने स्वतंत्र और निष्पक्ष चुनाव नतीजों को स्वीकार नहीं किया। अपने पूर्ववर्तियों के विपरीत, शांतिपूर्ण तरीके से सत्ता सौंपने के बजाय उन्होंने अपने समर्थकों को बगावत के लिए उकसाया। संक्षेप में कहें, तो अमेरिका में अलगाव की लकीर को गहरा करके उन्होंने अपना पद छोड़ा है।

विभिन्न मुद्दों को निपटाने और समस्याओं के समाधान के मामले में भी ट्रंप अमेरिका के अक्षम राष्ट्रपतियों में गिने जाएंगे। कोविड-19 से निपटने का ही मामला लें, तो इस देश के पास सबसे बड़ा और अत्याधुनिक स्वास्थ्य ढांचा है। इसे तो अन्य राष्ट्रों के मुकाबले बेहतर तरीके से इस महामारी से लड़ना चाहिए था। मगर कोरोना के कुल वैश्विक मामलों में 25 फीसदी से अधिक यहीं दर्ज किए गए और कुल मौतों में भी 20 फीसदी से अधिक मौतें यहीं हुईं, जबकि यहां वैश्विक आबादी का महज पांच फीसदी हिस्सा ही बसता है। सुखद है कि अब अमेरिका की कमान एक ऐसे नेता के हाथों में है, जो देश को इन तमाम मुश्किलों से बाहर निकालने में सक्षम हैं। अपने चुनाव अभियान में बाइडन ने मतदाताओं से वायदा भी किया था कि वह सिर्फ अपने समर्थकों के मुखिया के रूप में नहीं, पूरे राष्ट्र के राष्ट्रपति के रूप में काम करेंगे। जीत के बाद उनके यही शब्द थे कि वह समाज में बढ़ती अलगाव की भावना को कम करने का प्रयास करेंगे। इतना ही नहीं, सुकून की बात यह भी है कि अमेरिकी राष्ट्रपति के रूप में एक ऐसे इंसान ने सत्ता संभाली है, जो अमेरिकी संस्थानों में विश्वास रखता है, फिर चाहे वह न्यायपालिका हो, विधायिका हो या फिर मीडिया। तथाकथित ‘कंजर्वेटिव’ राष्ट्रपतियों के विपरीत, बाइडन तमाम परंपराओं का सम्मान करते रहे हैं। 

पिछले चार वर्षों में ह्वाइट हाउस ने ‘जवाबदेही-मुक्त क्षेत्र’ के रूप में काम किया है। बाइडन ने स्पष्ट कहा है कि उनकी सरकार में वह हर तरह से जवाबदेह बनेगा। नए प्रशासन से उम्मीद इसलिए भी ज्यादा है, क्योंकि विभिन्न विभागों व एजेंसियों के शीर्ष पदों को भरने में विविधता, विषय-वस्तु की विशेषज्ञता और क्षमता का पूरा ख्याल रखा गया है। माना जा रहा है कि नया प्रशासन जिम्मेदारी संभालते ही कोरोना वायरस सुधार पैकेज तो जारी करेगा ही, ऐसे कई आदेश भी पारित करेगा, जो ट्रंप के कई विवादित फैसलों को पलट देगा। पेरिस जलवायु समझौते में फिर से शामिल होने, विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन का हिस्सा बनने और मुस्लिम देशों पर लगाए गए यात्रा प्रतिबंधों को रद्द करने जैसे कदम इनमें प्रमुखता से शामिल हो सकते हैं। नई सरकार कोरोना वायरस को लेकर भी कई नियम बना सकती है। जैसे मास्क पहनना अनिवार्य बनाया जा सकता है, कोविड जांच का दायरा बढ़ाया जा सकता है, और किराया व देनदारी आदि भुगतान न कर सकने वाले लोगों की बेदखली रोकी जा सकती है। बाइडन प्रशासन कोविड-19 से युद्धस्तर पर निपटने के लिए तैयार दिख रहा है, जिसकी तस्दीक इस बात से भी होती है कि नए राष्ट्रपति सत्तासीन होने से पहले ही विशेषज्ञ व वैज्ञानिकों के संपर्क में थे।

इसी तरह, घरेलू व विदेश नीति, और राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा से जुड़ी टीमों के गठन में भी अनुभव और प्रतिभा को तवज्जो दी गई है। बाइडन अमेरिका को फिर से विश्व नेता बनाने के लिए तैयार दिख रहे हैं। यह वह हैसियत है,  जिसको अमेरिका एक सदी से भी अधिक समय तक जीता रहा है। अपने नाटो सहयोगियों के साथ संबंध सुधारने, और अंतरराष्ट्रीय मंचों पर ऐसी सक्रिय भूमिका निभाने के लिए यह तत्पर दिख रहा है, जो दुनिया के सभी देशों के लिए महत्वपूर्ण साबित होगा। निस्संदेह, बाइडन प्रशासन वैश्विक राजनीति और नीतियों में भी हलचल पैदा करेगा। नए राष्ट्रपति ने कहा भी है कि ‘अमेरिका इज बैक’, यानी अमेरिका लौट आया है, और हम एक बार फिर शीर्ष पर आएंगे। 32 साल पहले अपने विदाई भाषण में रिपब्लिकन राष्ट्रपति रोनाल्ड रीगन ने अमेरिका को ‘शाइनिंग सिटी ऑन अ हिल’ कहा था। खुशहाल अमेरिका की कल्पना करते इस मुहावरे का इस्तेमाल उन्होंने अपने आठ वर्षों के राष्ट्रपति काल मं् लगातार किया। रोनाल्ड रीगन ने, जो तब सोवियत संघ के साथ शीत युद्ध में मुकाबिल थे,  हमेशा अमेरिका को अच्छी ताकत के रूप में देखा था। विडंबना है कि डोनाल्ड ट्रंप ने अमेरिका को फिर से महान बनाने का वायदा तो किया, पर अमेरिका के इस चरित्र को 1,461 दिनों में खत्म कर दिया। रीगन जब ह्वाइट हाउस पहुंचे थे, तब बाइडन 39 वर्षीय सीनेटर थे। आज जीवन के आठवें दशक में वह एक बार फिर अमेरिका को अच्छी ताकत बनाने के लिए तैयार हैं, और देश को ‘शाइनिंग सिटी ऑन अ हिल’ बनाना चाहते हैं।

(ये लेखक के अपने विचार हैं)

सौजन्य - हिन्दुस्तान।

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

नेपाल को संदेश और सहयोग (हिन्दुस्तान)

पुष्परंजन, संपादक, ईयू-एशिया न्यूज 


नेपाल के विदेश मंत्री प्रदीप ज्ञावाली काठमांडू के त्रिभुवन अंतरराष्ट्रीय विमान स्थल पर शनिवार को जैसे ही उतरे, पत्रकारों का सबसे पहला सवाल था, प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी आपसे मिले क्यों नहीं? ज्ञावाली ने इसका जवाब न देकर 15 जनवरी, 2021 को भारत-नेपाल संयुक्त आयोग की छठी बैठक में क्या कुछ हुआ, उसकी प्रमुख बातें बताकर पत्रकारों से पीछा छुड़ाया। नेपाली विदेश मंत्री ने यह जरूर जोड़ा कि भारतीय रक्षा मंत्री राजनाथ सिंह से मैं मिला, और सुरक्षा सहयोग पर चर्चा के साथ कालापानी पर भी मैंने नेपाल का पक्ष रखा। इतना बयान दे देने भर से यह विषय नेपथ्य में नहीं गया है। विक्रम और वेताल की तरह बात वहीं आ जाती है कि प्रधानमंत्री मोदी मिले क्यों नहीं? नेपाली अखबारों के संपादकीय, वहां का सोशल मीडिया, समवेत स्वर में यह टिप्पणी कर रहे हैं, ‘21 अगस्त, 2019 को भारतीय विदेश मंत्री एस जयशंकर जब पांचवीं बैठक के वास्ते काठमांडू आए थे, तब प्रधानमंत्री ओली से भेंट हुई थी। प्रधानमंत्री मोदी ने समय न देकर नेपाल के राष्ट्राभिमान को आहत किया है।’ इससे यही प्रतीत होता है कि सातवीं बैठक काठमांडू में हुई, तो वहां के राष्ट्रवादियों का प्रयास होगा कि नेपाल के प्रधानमंत्री भारतीय विदेश मंत्री को मिलने का समय न दें।

लेकिन क्या यह प्रोटोकॉल का अनिवार्य हिस्सा है कि नेपाली विदेश मंत्री संयुक्त बैठक के वास्ते पधारें, तो प्रधानमंत्री से मिलें ही? इसे कूटनीतिक शिष्टाचार का निर्वाह कह लीजिए कि प्रधानमंत्री विदेश से पधारे बड़े नेताओं से मिल लेते हैं। 23 साल से मुर्दा पडे़ इस संयुक्त आयोग को विदेश मंत्री सुषमा स्वराज के रहते फिर से जिंदा किया गया था। सुषमा स्वराज और उनके तत्कालीन समकक्ष महेंद्र बहादुर पांडे ने काठमांडू में 26 जुलाई, 2014 को पहली ‘जेसीएम’ अर्थात ज्वॉइंट कमीशन मीटिंग की थी। मोदी काल में भारत-नेपाल संयुक्त आयोग की बैठकों को पुनर्जीवित करना अच्छा फैसला था, जिससे दोनों पक्षों की शंकाओं के निवारण और सहयोग के नए आयाम ढूंढे़ जाते हैं। इस समय नेपाल को तत्काल कोविड वैक्सीन की आवश्यकता है। भारत से वैक्सीन नेपाल पहुंच जाएं, तो इसे विदेश मंत्री प्रदीप ज्ञावाली को अपनी दिल्ली यात्रा की उपलब्धि माननी चाहिए। 15 जनवरी, 2021 की बैठक में स्वयं विदेश मंत्री प्रदीप ज्ञावाली ने कोविशील्ड व कोवैक्सीन के लिए भारत को बधाई दी है, और वह वैक्सीन की एक करोड़ 20 लाख डोज भेजने का आग्रह कर गए हैं। उधर चीन भी नेपाल में वैक्सीन कूटनीति खेलने के प्रयास में है। ज्ञावाली यह भी प्रस्ताव दे गए हैं कि नेपाल को इसके निर्माता सीरम इंस्टीट्यूट से वैक्सीन खरीदने की अनुमति दी जाए। भारत को इस पर त्वरित कार्रवाई करने की जरूरत है।

संयुक्त आयोग की बैठक में ज्ञावाली के साथ उपस्थित विदेश मंत्री एस जयशंकर, विदेश सचिव हर्षवद्र्धन शृंगला, उनके नेपाली समकक्ष भरत राज पौडेल ने कनेक्टिविटी, अर्थ-व्यापार, ऊर्जा, तेल और गैस, जल संसाधन, सुरक्षा, सीमा प्रबंधन, पर्यटन, शिक्षा, संस्कृति के क्षेत्र में आदान-प्रदान जैसे विषयों पर विस्तार से चर्चा की। मोतिहारी से अमलेखगंज तक पेट्रोलियम पाइपलाइन को चितवन तक विस्तार देने, इससे इतर पूर्वी क्षेत्र में सिलीगुड़ी से झापा तक ऐसी ही पाइपलाइन लगाने पर चर्चा हुई। जयनगर से नेपाल के कुर्था तक बड़ी रेल लाइन लग जाने से इस इलाके का कायाकल्प होना है, इसे नेपाली पक्ष भी महसूस करता है। रक्सौल से काठमांडू ब्रॉड गेज रेल पर यदि काम शुरू होता है, तो यह सबसे बड़ी उपलब्धि मानी जाए। साझा बैठक में पशुपतिनाथ रिवर फ्रंट बनाने, ऐतिहासिक पाटन दरबार का भंडारखाल बगैचा के कायाकल्प समेत पंचेश्वर बहुउद्देश्यीय परियोजना पर भी चर्चा हुई। मुश्किल यह है कि नेपाली मीडिया का पूरा ध्यान नकारात्मक खबरों पर केंद्रित रहा है। वहां इस बात की खोज होती रही कि कालापानी-लिपुलेख मुद्दे को विदेश मंत्री प्रदीप ज्ञावाली ने कितने पुरजोर तरीके से उठाया, और भारतीय पक्ष की ओर से क्या उत्तर मिला? मगर, भारतीय विदेश मंत्रालय ने इस बैठक पर जो प्रेस विज्ञप्ति जारी की है, उसमें कालापानी-लिपुलेख की चर्चा नहीं है। ज्ञावाली शायद ऐसा सोचकर दिल्ली आए थे कि प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी से मुलाकात में इस विषय पर चर्चा करूंगा। संभवत: यही वह बिंदु है, जिसकी वजह से प्रधानमंत्री भेंट को टाल गए। नेपाल के लिए यह राजनीतिक संक्रमण काल है। संसद भंग है और सड़क पर शीर्ष नेता हिसाब-किताब कर रहे हैं। प्रचंड ने आरोप लगाया कि ओली की कुरसी प्रधानमंत्री मोदी की वजह से टिकी हुई है, वरना वह  निपट गए होते। ऐसे संदेह वाले माहौल में नरेंद्र मोदी का ज्ञावाली से न मिलना, कूटनीतिक विवेक और गंभीरता को ही दर्शाता है। कालापानी-लिपुलेख से भी बड़ा विषय भारत-नेपाल के बीच 1950 की संधि को बनाए रखना है। ओली और प्रचंड का राष्ट्रवाद समय-समय पर इस विषय को लेकर जगता रहा है। इसमें पलीता लगाने में भूगोलवेत्ता, राष्ट्रीय जनसंख्या आयोग के अध्यक्ष डॉक्टर हर्क गुरूंग की बड़ी भूमिका थी। 23 सितंबर, 2006 को गुरूंग हेलीकॉप्टर दुर्घटना में मारे गए, मगर अपने जीवनकाल में यह निष्कर्ष दे गए कि 1950 संधि की धाराएं बदली जाएं। नेपाली कम्युनिस्टों को आपत्ति 1950 संधि के अनुच्छेद 2 पर है, जिसमें क्षेत्रीय अखंडता की चर्चा है, अनुच्छेद 5 को बदलकर नेपाल तीसरे मुल्क से हथियारों का अबाध आयात चाहता है, अनुच्छेद 6 में आर्थिक बाध्यताएं हैं, और अनुच्छेद 7को संशोधित करने के बाद भारतीय मूल के लोग वर्क परमिट के आधार पर ही नेपाल में काम कर सकेंगे। इन अनुच्छेदों में बदलाव दोनों देशों के नागरिकों के लिए परेशानियों से भरा होगा। 1950 की संधि को दुरुस्त करने के वास्ते, जुलाई 2016 में भारत-नेपाल के प्रसिद्ध लोगों का आठ सदस्यीय समूह बना, जिसका नाम रखा था ईपीजी (इमीनेंट पर्सन्स ग्रुप)। नेपाल की ओर से इस समूह के संयोजक हैं राजदूत भेख बहादुर थापा और भारत में भगत सिंह  कोश्यारी इसका नेतृत्व कर रहे हैं। ‘ईपीजी’ की रिपोर्ट अब तक सार्वजनिक नहीं हुई है, मगर नेपाली मीडिया पूरे विश्वास से कह जाता है कि भारत 1950 की संधि बदलने को तैयार है। ईपीजी की अवधि 2018 में पूरी हो गई, पर प्रधानमंत्री मोदी को रिपोर्ट अभी सौंपी नहीं गई है। रिपोर्ट चाहे जब भी सार्वजनिक हो, मानकर चलिए कि बर्र के छत्ते में हाथ डालने के बराबर है।

(ये लेखक के अपने विचार हैं)

सौजन्य - हिन्दुस्तान।

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Friday, January 15, 2021

All the President’s men and women (Hindustan Times)

By Dhruva Jaishankar

 

As Joe Biden takes office as the next President of the United States (US), his national security and foreign policy team has already taken shape. Biden’s longtime advisers — Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan — will assume the critical roles of secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively. Retired general Lloyd Austin has been nominated as secretary of defence. Former secretary of state, John Kerry, is to be senior envoy on climate; former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Avril Haines, has been nominated for director of National Intelligence (DNI); former ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, will head the US Agency for International Development; former deputy secretary of state, Bill Burns, has been named director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and former assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, will assume a special role as Indo-Pacific coordinator at the White House.



Others named to key policy positions at the departments of state (such as Wendy Sherman and Victoria Nuland) and defence (Kathleen Hicks and Colin Kahl), as well as in the National Security Council staff, are longstanding foreign policy professionals, many with prior working relations with Biden. Key economic and technology policy jobs — critical for international relations today — have also been filled by serious players, such as former chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, as secretary of the treasury.


Although some of these positions are subject to confirmation by the Senate, the incoming US national security and foreign policy team looks, on paper, to be one of the most experienced in history.


A common criticism of Washington policy insiders is that impressive resumes have not always translated into successful outcomes. What does the experience of the past four presidencies tell us about the challenges and predicaments facing an incoming US national security team when it comes to personnel and personalities?



The Biden administration will certainly avoid many of the personality-related pitfalls of its predecessor. Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned within weeks due to a scandal and his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had fraught relations with the foreign service bureaucracy and eventually the president himself. Retired and serving military officers who held key positions — such as secretary of defence, James Mattis, and national security adviser HR McMaster — also left office unceremoniously following policy disagreements with Trump on Syria and Afghanistan.


By prioritising political loyalists and dismissing critics, the Trump administration left important senior positions vacant for long periods of time. Policy inevitably suffered. (Somehow, those managing ties with India were able to survive the turmoil, with relatively positive implications for bilateral relations.)



Looking farther back, Biden’s advisers are also likely to avoid the experience of the first Bill Clinton administration in 1993. Despite Clinton’s background and penchant for international affairs, his initial priorities as president were domestic. In his first two years in office, he rarely met his CIA director (then the senior-most intelligence official) and his first secretary of defence, Les Aspin, resigned after only a year following the military debacle in Somalia. It was only in his second term, under a stronger set of principals, that Clinton was able to focus on foreign policy.


The experience of the George W Bush administration in 2001 offers a different set of lessons. At the outset, senior Bush administration officials boasted enviable CVs: Vice-President Dick Cheney had been secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld had held the same position 25 years earlier, secretary of state Colin Powell had been national Security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had a strong background in both academia and government.



But in the aftermath of 9/11, these officials were so certain in their own convictions that they stumbled into a costly war in Iraq, with only Powell striking a dissenting tone. Immense experience, it turned out, may have been useful for resolve and implementation, but proved a weakness in recognising and reconciling to new realities.


Finally, there was the experience of the Barack Obama administration after 2009. Obama initially assembled a “team of rivals”, a heavyweight group of principals drawn from the ranks of erstwhile competitors (Hillary Clinton), Republicans (Robert Gates), and senior military officers (Jim Jones). Many Democratic policy stalwarts, such as Richard Holbrooke, had to make do with smaller fiefdoms.


Policy often suffered as competing priorities and personalities clashed. Ambitious projects such as outreach to the Islamic world and nuclear disarmament were eventually shelved, as was any talk of a grand bargain with China. But, in time, a core group of Obama loyalists and technocrats managed to push through important initiatives on Iran, trade, and the climate crisis, although many were reversed by Trump.



Biden’s national security team will almost certainly avoid both the chaos of the Trump administration and the neglect of the early Clinton years, despite the immediate priorities related to Covid-19 and the domestic economy. The incoming team also does not suffer from the cliquishness of the early George W Bush administration.


One challenge will relate to managing a top-heavy national security apparatus with contrasting personalities and priorities. However, the presence of a core group of Biden advisers in key agencies suggests that coordination may be better than 12 years ago.


Dhruva Jaishankar is executive director, ORF America


The views expressed are personal.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

To truly become self-reliant, invest in research and development (Hindustan Times)

By Rahul Mazumdar


India has always been found lacking in terms of academia-industry linkages. This is a bedrock in developed economies.

India has long had a reputation about its ability to thrive on “jugaad technology” which can be loosely translated as innovative solutions which get around the rules. This needs to become a story of the past now. For India to evolve into a self-reliant economy, the importance of investment in research and development (R&D) is critical in this new decade.

Despite all efforts, the gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.6% in 2018. It has been hovering around this level for more than two decades. This pales in comparison to R&D investment in developed countries such as Japan (3.2%), Germany (3.0%), the United States (2.8%) and developing ones such as South Korea (4.8%) and China (2.2%) in 2018. Most R&D expenditure in India comes from the government and this is unfortunate.

A higher expenditure on R&D usually correlates with high technology exports. India’s share in high technology exports stands at 9.1%, while for China and South Korea, it is 31.4% and 36.3% respectively. To move up the manufacturing value chain and enhance competitiveness, there is a need to increase R&D expenditure in sectors which are import-dependent.

Though hundreds of international companies having set up R&D shops, utilising the talent pool at lower cost, Indian corporates have failed to keep pace.

The heightened need for R&D creates opportunities for financing its expansion. This will not only lead to augmenting exports but also reduce the country’s dependence on R&D-related product imports — something which can make the trade deficit more manageable. In fact, according to the government’s Invest India report, each $1 million invested in R&D in India per year by multinational corporations (MNCs) is likely to generate a demand for around eight to ten researchers.

In this context, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government may possibly consider setting up a credit facility solely for investments in R&D in industries in which India requires import substitution. The initiative would provide lending at rates lower than the prevailing repo rate, for 10 to 12 years, to finance investments that create technological and production capacity in R&D-intensive sectors.

To further ensure greater access for the R&D sector, the government can consider a sub-category under the priority sector lending (PSL) which will boost access to finance. However, there should be clarity on the list of industries to be covered in order to ensure that benefits are not skewed to select ones only.

India has always been found lacking in terms of academia-industry linkages. This is a bedrock in developed economies. In fact, private-public partnerships aligned with national innovation and industrial strategies such as China’s Industry-Research Strategic Alliances, Canada´s Strategic Network Grants, the Netherlands´ Top Sectors, Germany´s Innovation Alliances, Israel´s Magnet Consortium, and France´s Strategic Industrial Innovation Programme are all worth looking into.

The government should set up a mechanism wherein the grants received by Central Universities and technology and management institutes are linked to their collaboration with the public and private sectors and designed to produce concrete outcomes, not just cooperation agreements on paper.

Economies worldwide have graduated in the production chain from low and middle technology exports and have been focusing on R&D-related high technology exports which bring in greater foreign exchange earnings. In fact, Samsung’s global R&D spending in the first nine months of 2020 hit a record high of $14.3 billion and was equivalent to 9.1% of its sales amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This clearly demonstrates the importance such firms give to R&D.


India needs to show flexibility and offer differential treatment to Indian companies in the form of tax incentives, uninterrupted support, and stringent supervision. The upcoming Budget in 2021 could possibly be just the right moment to support R&D in the backdrop of the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative.


Rahul Mazumdar is an economist with EXIM Bank, India



The views expressed are personal.


Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Monday, January 11, 2021

In India’s lower judiciary, the absence of in-group bias (Hindustan Times)

By Sam Asher, Paul Novosad and Aditi Bhowmick

 

There is evidence from around the world that judges discriminate in favour of litigants who share their identity. For example, in Israeli courts, Arabs whose cases are heard in front of Arab judges get more favourable decisions than Arabs whose cases come before Jewish judges. In the United States, women are more likely to win sexual discrimination lawsuits when their cases are heard by female judges.

Much of the debate around judicial fairness in Indian courts has focused on Supreme Court or high court judges. The expansive lower judiciary, comprising more than 7,000 district, sessions, and subordinate courts, has largely been missing from this ongoing debate.



To fill this gap, we examined data on over six million court cases filed under India’s criminal codes between 2010–2018 across the country. Women represent 48% of the population, but only 28% of lower court judges. Similarly, India’s 200 million Muslims represent 14% of the population, but only 7% of lower court judges. We wanted to test whether these disparities lead to worse judicial outcomes for women and for Muslims. Measuring bias in criminal proceedings is not straightforward. It is not sufficient to look at conviction rates for different social groups, because other inequalities may result in differential outcomes. For example, it is hardly surprising, and not evidence of bias against men, that only 23% of individuals charged under the penal code are women.



Instead, we applied a statistical test that has uncovered judicial bias in courts in several other countries. We asked whether women or Muslim defendants on average get different decisions on their cases, depending on whether their assigned judge is a man or a non-Muslim. This test is credible, because neither defendants nor prosecutors in the judicial system have much control over the demography of the judge who hears a case. In fact, the legal system explicitly prohibits the practice of shopping for judges, noting that it “must be crushed with a heavy hand”.


This allowed us to compare two defendants who are alike in every way — of the same gender and religion, charged under the same section of the penal code, in the same month, with cases heard in the same district court — whose only difference is that one had her case heard by a female judge and the other by a male judge.



There is evidence from around the world that judges discriminate in favour of litigants who share their identity. For example, in Israeli courts, Arabs whose cases are heard in front of Arab judges get more favourable decisions than Arabs whose cases come before Jewish judges. In the United States, women are more likely to win sexual discrimination lawsuits when their cases are heard by female judges.


We expected to find the same kind of bias in India’s district courts. Our own prior research shows that Muslim men are worse off than Dalits and Adivasis in terms of upward economic mobility. The 2006 Sachar committee reported that Indian Muslims fare worse on every human development indicator, are over-policed, and are often killed in botched police encounters. Given a climate of prejudice, we had reason to suspect bias in judicial decisions.



To our surprise, across six million criminal cases, we found virtually no evidence of in-group bias among judges on either gender or religion. Male defendants did not get better outcomes when they were assigned to male judges, nor did female judges favour women. Equally, the judicial outcomes of Muslims were virtually identical whether their cases were assigned to Muslim or to non-Muslim judges. We found similar results whether we looked at case outcomes (such as acquittal or conviction), or at case processes, like delay.


We did find some evidence that male judges are more lenient overall than their female colleagues. But this is not evidence of bias, because male and female defendants get equally lenient treatment from male judges.


Our study is just one step toward building a body of evidence on the performance of the Indian judicial system. We found an absence of in-group bias in one context, but it does not rule out other forms of bias in the legal system as a whole. We did not have data to study in-group bias along caste or socio-economic lines. We also cannot rule out unequal treatment of Muslims or women in the system as a whole. Our study does not provide any reason to doubt the existence of widespread unfair treatment in other domains.



However, our research is optimistic about lower court judges, at least with regard to this important form of bias. If district and lower court judges display impartiality toward defendant identity in their rulings, they should be celebrated for it, even as other problems are rightly condemned.


Similar studies need to be done on police and prosecutor behaviour, and on outcomes in other courts. Our research was only possible because of the laudable efforts of the courts to make data on cases publicly available. The government should make available detailed microdata on all the other stages of the criminal justice process, such as police stops and arrests. If justice is served fairly, there should be nothing to fear from transparency. In the words of the great American jurist Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”



Sam Asher (assistant professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University) and Paul Novosad (associate professor of economics at Dartmouth College) are the founders of Development Data Lab, where Aditi Bhowmick is a research associateThe views expressed are personal.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Agri-reforms must focus on women farmers (Hindustan Times)

By Lalita Panicker

 

Women have been part of the agrarian crisis for a very long time, though largely overlooked. Women farmers need access to all aspects of the sector from technical training and pricing to marketing and finances

The ongoing farm protests have raised a host of issues that affect the sector, beyond the laws which are being sought to be rolled back. One issue which deserves sharper focus is the largely unseen role of women in the farm sector. They are involved in mostly non-mechanised, labour-intensive farm work, and much of its poorly paid, if at all. In India, according to a National Council of Applied Economic Research and University of Maryland study, women form at least 42% of the agricultural workforce though they own barely 2% of the cultivable land.



This is because they are excluded from land rights in a largely patriarchal social milieu. Many women farmers are not even aware of the entitlements they can get from the government as farmers. Owing to their lack of collateral, they cannot access credit or navigate choppy bureaucratic waters to get support for the right inputs for their crops.


There has to be gender-neutral institutional reform in agriculture for women to get their due. In most rural areas, men still dominate administrative processes which tend to work against women farmers. When a male farmer dies, the lack of access to land records, the aversion to take on powerful male family members, and the lack of awareness combine to exclude women from their right to land and livelihood.



Women have been part of the agrarian crisis for a long time, though largely overlooked. Women farmers need access to all aspects of the sector from technical training and pricing to marketing and finances. This becomes all the more urgent given the unacceptably high numbers of farm widows, left behind after their husbands have died by suicide. This leaves the woman to not only tend to the farm, if she is allowed to by moneylenders and predatory family members, but to also provide for her family with very little by way of resources. Since women’s work in agriculture is underreported, many are not even considered farmers so as to be entitled to the benefits that the State provides. The plight of tribal and Dalit women farmers is even more worrying.



The pandemic has left women farmers even more economically vulnerable, and added the burden of caring for out-of-school children and the sick and elderly. Covid-19 has also decreased remittances to women farmers left at home. With more migrants coming home, there is also greater demand on the land, putting the tenuous hold of women on land in greater jeopardy.


But there can be several positive interventions to help women farmers and the pandemic and its aftermath should be an opportunity to address the gender empowerment aspect of farming. Using the grassroots worker system, women can be provided inputs and encouraged to invest in the right tools to enhance productivity. They can be taught the value of nutritious crops for household consumption and sustainable and lucrative crops for sale. Mobile technology can be used to train women on appropriate agricultural practices as well as their rights and entitlements. They can also be encouraged to innovate in the form of farm-related businesses. Investing in women farmers helps in ensuring food security for their families and the community at a time when there is a crisis brought on by the pandemic.The farm agitation ought to highlight the importance of empowering our largely invisible women farmers.



The views expressed are personal.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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The economy is looking up | HT Editorial

The National Statistical Office (NSO) expects India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to contract by 7.7% in 2020-21, according to the first advanced estimates for GDP released on January 7. The projection is in line with various institutional and private forecasts, and paints a relatively better economic picture than the widespread consensus on a double-digit contraction up to a few months ago. While the recent recovery in economic performance — other high-frequency indicators confirm the trend — is a welcome development, it should not generate complacency on the policy front. Here is why.

Even though a 7.7% contraction sounds better than what was being predicted earlier, 2020-21 will be the worst year for growth in India. An economic shock of this magnitude is likely to leave significant and deep scars on businesses, in both the real and financial sectors, and on households. That the Indian economy was caught in a protracted slowdown even before the pandemic will make coping with the current crisis even more difficult. A large part of the Indian economy is in what is referred to as the informal sector. It is entirely possible that the economic indicators which have come in so far — the GDP projections are based on extrapolations from limited statistics — have failed to capture the extent of pain in the informal sector. Anecdotal evidence and corporate earnings for the first two quarters have highlighted how smaller entities have suffered disproportionately.


A substantial part of the ongoing economic recovery can be attributed to the fact that India has not faced a second wave of Covid-19 infections like the West. As the government gets ready to roll out its vaccination programme, the public health crisis will, hopefully, subside. However, it is also a fact that India’s fiscal stimulus was among the smallest for major economies in the world. Restoring growth going forward is going to be difficult without a big push from government spending. The Narendra Modi government has, to its credit, also unleashed important second-generation reforms in critical sectors such as labour and agriculture during the pandemic. These should generate tailwinds for future growth. But long-term expectations from these reforms can be compromised if the economy hits a demand-side constraint in the short-run. This should be the guiding principle of economic policy, especially in the next budget.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

The destructive legacy of Donald Trump | HT Editorial

On Wednesday, what was once unimaginable happened on the streets of Washington DC. After having conclusively lost the presidential elections, Donald Trump — who has, baselessly, claimed the process was riddled with fraud and he was cheated out of a victory — incited a mob to march to the Capitol Hill. Mr Trump first tried to block the election certification process by telling his Vice President, Mike Pence, the presiding officer of the Senate, to block the results. When Mr Pence, rightly, did not do so, he resorted to egging his supporters on to do so through mob action. In the process, he disrespected the electoral mandate; undermined a fundamental tenet of democracy — the peaceful transfer of power; eroded America’s moral authority globally; indirectly caused outright violence; and showed why he never deserved to occupy the world’s most powerful office.

The US will find it hard to live down one of the darkest days in its political and constitutional history. The mob violence only showed the hard task of democratic restoration that lies ahead of the Joe Biden administration. It revealed the absence of either principle or spine in the Republican Party — which enabled Mr Trump’s rise and looked the other way for way too long. And it will substantially damage Washington’s position to speak on the democratic deficit in the rest of the globe, at a time when the world is confronted with the rise of belligerent non-democratic States.

But it is important, to safeguard domestic stability in the US and other democracies, to understand how Mr Trump could do what he did on Wednesday in the first place. A leader obsessed with building a personality cult, who has no hesitation in trampling over constitutional processes and institutions, and who has a strong streak of ethno-nationalism based on demonising minorities, can easily turn into an undemocratic and authoritarian figure. All those who dismissed Mr Trump as merely idiosyncratic rather than as a danger to democracy itself underestimated his destructive instincts. He must be held accountable, immediately — for leaving the country and the world with Mr Trump enjoying executive power for another two weeks till the inauguration is laced with risks. The US has, for long, preached the values of democracy and accountability. It is time to put it in practice.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

India at the horse shoe table (Hindustan Times)

Whatever the opposition put up by China, if India shows it has the diplomatic skills to get other countries to work together, the case for it being a permanent member will become irrefutable. 

Whenever India takes a seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), there is excitement about the possibility of it translating into permanent membership. When holding one of the rotating seats, it is

a sensible ambition to make the case, through diplomatic accomplishments, for being a permanent member. But expanding SC is a tortuous process. At present, the window of opportunity for SC reform is closed. Not one of the Permanent Five (P5) members is interested in its expansion. After a year of battling with nature, much of the world sees multilateral responses to climate and health as the heart of UN reform and SC expansion as a quixotic quest.

India’s agenda sensibly focuses on what is optically useful and realistically possible. New Delhi has a traditional multilateral agenda, which revolves around counterterrorism, peacekeeping, trade, and, negatively, opposition to an intrusive human rights regime. Much of this remains relevant, but the coming years should allow India to take up new issues. Climate, public health, maritime security and digital standards stand out among the century’s new challenges. Much of this is on the fringes of the UN, but there will be considerable spillover. Global climate cooperation still uses the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as its foundational understanding. India has made nascent multilateral contributions in this space, such as the International Solar Alliance, but needs to become more involved in rules-setting. New Delhi has called for reform of the World Health Organization, but is yet to provide details. Maritime security is increasingly intertwined with the need to uphold the UN Law of the Sea against the revanchist tendencies of China. Global trade will increasingly be about data, a domain where India’s capabilities and policies will win points with other developing countries.

Whatever the opposition put up by China, if India shows it has the diplomatic skills to get other countries to work together, the case for it being a permanent member will become irrefutable. Multilateralism is the most difficult form of diplomacy, and SC membership, even if non-permanent, is among the best platforms

to display India’s abilities.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.


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Ghaziabad roof collapse: The challenge of maintaining public infra (Hindustan Times)

While the swift action taken by the administrationpraiseworthy, the roof collapse is symptomatic of a larger problem that is rampant across India — the failure of the government machinery to not just ensure good quality public infrastructure (all built with public money), but also force contractors to keep to guaranteed timelines and maintain infrastructure projects in good shape during their lifecycle

Last week, a roof collapse at a cremation ground at Muradnagar in Ghaziabad killed 24 people and injured at least 17 others. On Tuesday, Ghaziabad Police arrested the contractor who built the crematorium; four government officials, too, have been arrested. An initial report indicated that “substandard material” was used to build the crematorium, and there were other “design issues”, which might have led to the structural failure.

While the swift action taken by the administration and the police is praiseworthy, the roof collapse is symptomatic of a larger problem that is rampant across India — the failure of the State to not just ensure good quality public infrastructure (all built with public money), but also force contractors to keep to timelines and maintain infrastructure projects during their lifecycle. This lack of admin-istrative capability and criminal negligence is responsible for open borewells, weak flood embankments, wobbly bridges, and potholes in the roads, all of which have humanitarian conseque-nces. Slow police action, judicial delays when it comes to taking action against the culprits, and absence of political will to ensure quality projects add to the challenge.

Research from around the world (compiled by TheConversation, an academic website) throws up several reasons why governments slip up in implementing public projects. Announcement is often equated with accomplishment and officials lose interest when details are worked out; when things go wrong, those who speak up about the problems are dismissed, discounted or punished; many implementers suffer from optimism bias (what could go wrong?), and there is steady turnover of officials. These are valid explanations and structural reform is essential. For now, it is important that there is justice for all those who lost their lives in a needless tragedy.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Eyewash by Pakistan on terror again (Hindustan Times)

Pakistan’s song-and-dance routine to cover up its sponsorship of terror has begun again. Already Islamabad’s theatrics have devolved into farce. The global terror funding watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), meets this month and in February to review the degree Pakistan has adhered to a FATF action plan. The February plenary will vote to decide whether to remove or keep Pakistan on the terror financing grey list — or even move it to FATF’s blacklist.

Every time FATF meetings loom on the horizon, there is a flurry of faux anti-terrorist activity by Pakistan. Symbolic arrests are routinely conducted before every FATF meeting, and 2021 is proving no different. The new year began with the Punjab state counterterrorism department suddenly remembering that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander and mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 carnage, has been roaming around the state on bail for the past four years and it would look better if he were behind bars. A similar show as made of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Sayeed’s arrest just before FATF met in October last year. A total of 146 Pakistanis are on the United Nations most wanted terrorists list, including Lakhvi and Sayeed. Of those who target India, few are arrested, almost none convicted and none are ever punished.

The degree to which “Pakistani anti-terrorism” is an oxymoron was underlined just last week when the Sindh high court ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three accomplices, all convicted for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Sheikh had already been cleared of murder charges, his death sentence reduced to seven years in jail, and was only under lock and key for a three-month preventive detention. The court struck even this down and let Sheikh go free. Washington responded angrily and Islamabad put Sheikh back behind bars. The entire episode underlines that even in the most blatant cases, the Pakistani system has no interest in punishing the guilty and acts solely to appease external forces. The reasons for this lack of interest in justice are obvious: The all-powerful Pakistani military is the patron of these terror groups and has no interest in its role being outed in a court. Pakistan remains the global centre of state-sponsored terrorism with its present target being Afghanistan. It is hoped this simple fact finds reflection in the deliberations of FATF’s member-states.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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New virus variant a threat to the young (Hindustan Times)

According to Unicef, over 460 million children have been unable to access remote learning tools last year. The harms extend to their health too. Disruptions in health services in lower- and middle-income countries could contribute an additional two million under-five deaths. 

A new variant of the coronavirus that has taken hold in some parts of the United Kingdom (UK) has scientists scrambling to uncover its implications on the pandemic. Early signs indicate it may be capable of spreading faster by being better at how it infects people. A large epidemiological analysis by Imperial College London and others showed there was a significantly larger share of infections of the new strain among those found with the virus in people under the age of 20. While this is still an early assessment, and more studies are underway, it could potentially prolong Covid-19’s impact on children, who have not been the face of the crisis but have suffered in equal measure as among some of the worst-hit groups. The virus has arrested their educational as well as socio-emotional development as they are forced indoors to avoid a virus that can debilitate older member of their families, even if it doesn’t impact them directly.

According to Unicef, over 460 million children have been unable to access remote learning tools last year. The harms extend to their health too. Disruptions in health services in lower- and middle-income countries could contribute an additional two million under-five deaths.

These costs are rarely the most visible talking points. But these must be kept in mind as the new variant forces countries such as the UK to once again close schools. India must do everything it can to not be forced to take a similar step when it plans to finally reopen schools. We must make the best use of vaccines and containment efforts not just to save lives, but also stop the mounting costs to our younger generation.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Monday, January 4, 2021

New virus variant a threat to the young (Hindustan Times)

A new variant of the coronavirus that has taken hold in some parts of the United Kingdom (UK) has scientists scrambling to uncover its implications on the pandemic. Early signs indicate it may be capable of spreading faster by being better at how it infects people. A large epidemiological analysis by Imperial College London and others showed there was a significantly larger share of infections of the new strain among those found with the virus in people under the age of 20. While this is still an early assessment, and more studies are underway, it could potentially prolong Covid-19’s impact on children, who have not been the face of the crisis but have suffered in equal measure as among some of the worst-hit groups. The virus has arrested their educational as well as socio-emotional development as they are forced indoors to avoid a virus that can debilitate older member of their families, even if it doesn’t impact them directly.


According to Unicef, over 460 million children have been unable to access remote learning tools last year. The harms extend to their health too. Disruptions in health services in lower- and middle-income countries could contribute an additional two million under-five deaths.


These costs are rarely the most visible talking points. But these must be kept in mind as the new variant forces countries such as the UK to once again close schools. India must do everything it can to not be forced to take a similar step when it plans to finally reopen schools. We must make the best use of vaccines and containment efforts not just to save lives, but also stop the mounting costs to our younger generation.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

उनके चिंतन में हम सबका भारत (हिन्दुस्तान)

शक्ति सिन्हा, पूर्व आईएएस और लेखक 

                                  

आज अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी की जयंती है। एक लंबा सार्वजनिक जीवन जीने के बावजूद उनको समझना इसलिए अधिक मुश्किल है, क्योंकि महात्मा गांधी या जवाहरलाल नेहरू के विपरीत, वह बमुश्किल डायरियां अथवा पत्र-पत्रिकाओं में लिखा करते थे। अपनी हालिया किताब वाजपेयी : द इयर्स दैट चेंज्ड इंडिया  के लिए शोध करते समय मैंने उनके कई भाषण और कविताएं पढ़ीं, ताकि उनके नजरिए को गहराई से समझ सकूं। अपनी सोच को उन्होंने कभी विशेष रूप में जाहिर नहीं किया, लेकिन उनके शब्दों और कर्मों से वह साफ-साफ महसूस की जा सकती है।

मुझे एक ऐसा लंबा निबंध मिला, जिसे वाजपेयी ने अपने दोस्त एनएम (अप्पा) घटाटे के लिए लिखा था। उन दिनों वह वाजपेयी के भाषणों की एक पुस्तक डिसिसिव डेज  का संपादन कर रहे थे। मैं इसलिए भी खुद को भाग्यशाली मानता हूं, क्योंकि मुझे एक जीवनी का विस्तृत नोट भी मिला, जो वाजपेयी ने चंद्रिका प्रसाद शर्मा के लिए लिखा था। शर्मा भी उनके भाषणों की एक किताब का संपादन कर रहे थे। इन निबंधों को पढ़कर वाजपेयी की विश्व-दृष्टि के बारे में मेरी समझ और व्यापक बनी, विशेषकर इतिहास को लेकर उनकी अवधारणा और समकालीन परिस्थितियों पर उनकी राय को जानने-समझने के बाद।

पांच प्रमुख सिद्धांत हैं, जिन्हें वाजपेयी की विश्व-दृष्टि माना जा सकता है। पहला, जैसा कि राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ (आरएसएस) से जुड़े अधिकांश लोग मानते हैं, वाजपेयी भी इस बात से सहमत थे कि भारतीय समाज में विभाजन के कारण भारत विदेशी आक्रांताओं का आसान शिकार बना। उनका मानना था कि जाति-व्यवस्था ने भारतीय समाज को कई हिस्सों में बांट दिया है। इसमें हथियार रखने का अधिकार सिर्फ क्षत्रियों को दिया गया है, जबकि वेद और उपनिषद हर कोई नहीं पढ़ सकता। वह तंज कसा करते थे कि प्लासी के युद्ध में सिपाहियों से अधिक संख्या दर्शकों की थी, जो युद्ध का नतीजा तो जानना चाहते थे, लेकिन लड़ाई में भाग नहीं लेना चाहते थे। जब आरएसएस के पूर्व सरसंघचालक बाला साहब देवरस का निधन हुआ, तब वाजपेयी ने उन्हें याद करते हुए कहा- देवरस ने कहा था कि यदि अस्पृश्यता पाप नहीं है, तो कुछ भी पाप-कर्म नहीं है। इन अमानवीय भेदभावों को खत्म होना होगा।

दूसरा सिद्धांत, वह हिंदू परंपराओं में दृढ़ विश्वास रखते थे, लेकिन धार्मिक और कर्मकांडी नजरिये से कहीं ज्यादा वह इन परंपराओं को सांस्कृतिक व दार्शनिक नजरिये से देखा करते थे। आरएसएस के अन्य लोगों की तरह वाजपेयी भी मानते थे कि ‘धर्म’ की अवधारणा भारत से जुड़ी हुई नहीं है। भारत में ‘उपासना पद्धति’, यानी इबादत के अलग-अलग तरीके हैं। इनमें से किसी का सच पर एकाधिकार नहीं है। इस दृष्टि का खास पक्ष यह है कि मातृभूमि के प्रति निष्ठा धार्मिक विश्वास से ऊपर है। इस तरह उन्होंने ‘हिंदू’ शब्द को परिभाषित किया है।

इसका मतलब यह था कि इब्राहिम धर्म के अनुयायी को इस पदानुक्रम को स्वीकार करने में कठिनाई होगी, जो यह मानते हैं कि सत्य पर अकेले उनका एकाधिकार है। वाजपेयी का यह भी मानना था कि राष्ट्र को धार्मिक मान्यताओं के आधार पर अपने नागरिकों में भेदभाव नहीं करना चाहिए, बल्कि सभी मतों का बराबर सम्मान करना चाहिए, क्योंकि वे सभी समाज का हिस्सा हैं।

वाजपेयी की विश्व-दृष्टि का तीसरा मजबूत स्तंभ धर्मांतरण के प्रति उनका स्वाभाविक चिंतन था। 1988 में पुणे में दिए गए अपने एक लंबे भाषण के दौरान, उन्होंने कहा था कि भले ही इंडोनेशिया व अफगानिस्तान इस्लामी राष्ट्र बन गए हैं, लेकिन उन्होंने पूर्व की अपनी विरासत नहीं छोड़ी है। वाजपेयी ने विशेष रूप से उल्लेख किया था कि रामायण इंडोनेशिया की जीवंत परंपराओं का हिस्सा है, इसलिए वह आश्चर्य जताते हैं कि धर्मांतरण का मतलब अपनी सांस्कृतिक व ऐतिहासिक विरासत को छोड़ना क्यों है?

बिना कुछ विशेष कहे, कोई भी इसका अर्थ लगा सकता है कि देश के मुस्लिमों को विशेष रूप से भारतीय परंपराओं का पालन करना चाहिए। यह वही भावना है, जिसका इजहार जवाहरलाल नेहरू ने 24 जनवरी, 1948 को अलीगढ़ मुस्लिम विश्वविद्यालय के छात्रों को संबोधित करते हुए किया था। तब उन्होंने कहा था कि उन्हें भारत की विरासत पर गर्व है, और निश्चय ही अपने उन पूर्वजों पर भी, जिन्होंने हमें बौद्धिक और सांस्कृतिक रूप से श्रेष्ठ बनाया। यह कहकर उन्होंने छात्रों से पूछा था कि क्या वे भी यही महसूस करते हैं या फिर वे मानते हैं कि यह उनकी विरासत नहीं है?

चौथे सिद्धांत का गहरा जुड़ाव भारत की मिट्टी से है। यहां की साहित्यिक परंपराओं ने वाजपेयी के मानसिक विकास में खुराक का काम किया था। तुलसीदास की रामचरितमानस, जयशंकर प्रसाद की कामायनी, निराला की राम की शक्ति पूजा  और महादेवी वर्मा की कविताओं का उन पर गहरा असर था। प्रेमचंद के यथार्थवाद ने भी उन्हें खासा प्रभावित किया था। उन्हें जैनेंद्र (पत्नी और प्रेयसी), अज्ञेय (शेखर :  एक जीवनी) व वृंदावन लाल वर्मा भी काफी पसंद थे। ये लेखक उन्हें अतीत की याद दिलाया करते थे, पर लगे हाथ उन्हें उन चुनौतियों के बारे में सोचने के लिए भी मजबूर किया करते थे, जिनसे पार पाना बहुत जरूरी था। 

और आखिरी सिद्धांत, वाजपेयी को यकीन था कि भारत का महान बनना तय है, लेकिन महानता से इसे वंचित कर दिया गया है। अतीत हमारे लिए महत्वपूर्ण है, लेकिन हमें उसका गुलाम नहीं बन जाना चाहिए। राजनीतिक रूप से, शीत युद्ध समाप्त हो चुका था और उभरती दुनिया भारत को दुश्मन मान रही थी। वाजपेयी संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका के साथ आगे बढ़ने में सक्षम थे, जबकि उन्होंने उसको चुनौती दी थी और परमाणु परीक्षण किया था। मगर वह चाहते थे कि भारत और अमेरिका साथ-साथ रहें, क्योंकि वह जानते थे कि चीन का उदय असंतोष बढ़ाएगा। वह चीन के साथ भी संबंध सुधारना चाहते थे, पर अंतत: यही मानते थे कि भारत व अमेरिका स्वाभाविक मित्र हैं। जहां तक आर्थिक नजरिये की बात है, तो वह भारत की उद्यमशील सोच के हिमायती थे। वह लाइसेंस परमिट राज को नापसंद करते थे, जिसने भारत को काफी पीछे धकेल दिया था।

जाहिर है, अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी एक जटिल राजनीतिक शख्सियत जरूर थे, लेकिन इसमें कतई संदेह नहीं है कि उनकी विश्व-दृष्टि ने आज के भारत को गढ़ने में काफी मदद की है।

(ये लेखक के अपने विचार हैं)

सौजन्य - हिन्दुस्तान।

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

The battle over the next Dalai Lama (Hindustan Times)

India must begin engaging with other governments and immunise them against the coming pretender to the Potala Palace.

India must begin engaging with other governments and immunise them against the coming pretender to the Potala Palace.(AP)

 

Reincarnation is officially a geopolitical consideration. The United States (US) Congress has passed a Tibet Policy and Support Act that says the choice of the next Dalai Lama is the prerogative only of Tibetans. In addition, any attempt by the Chinese to interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession would result in sanctions against that country. The Act is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump who made history by allowing Lobsang Sangay of the Tibet government-in-exile to make his first visit the US State Department. Washington has urged other governments to pass similar laws.



While the Act reflects the Trump administration’s hard views on China, it also serves as a reminder of the coming global battle over the Dalai Lama’s succession. If traditional methods are followed, there will be a gap of over a decade before the 15th Dalai Lama will come of age. Beijing is fully expected to appoint its own Dalai Lama — and then use China’s economic and political influence to coerce other governments into recognising only their Dalai Lama. The new US law ensures that on reincarnation, Washington will stick to the straight and correct path. But other countries will find it harder to resist. One has only to see how Mongolia was brought to its knees after allowing the Dalai Lama to visit their country.


This begs the question as to whether India needs to do more. New Delhi’s position has been that it does enough by playing host to the Dalai Lama, the government-in-exile and the largest Tibetan refugee population anywhere. Tibetan leaders are discouraged from expressing political views against China while on Indian soil. However, the Ladakh border clash has shown Beijing no longer feels the need to abide by such informal understandings. The Dalai Lama succession is the type of high stakes issue China will feel no reason to hold back on. India should prepare itself for a modern-day avatar aggression. One, it should officially declare that it believes the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan sect leaders outside of China have the final say in Tibetan spiritual issues. Two, it must review its present policies regarding Tibetan refugees whose numbers in India are shrinking rapidly. They provide an important source of legitimacy for Tibetan leaders in India but now number less than 75,000. Three, India must begin engaging with other governments and immunise them against the coming pretender to the Potala Palace.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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The debilitating impact of pollution on the economy (Hindustan Times)

In a developing country such as India, there is a continuing debate on carbon-intensive growth versus environment and health. But as The Lancet study shows, increasing pollution load is erasing the very economic and human development gains that the country aspires to achieve

In a developing country such as India, there is a continuing debate on carbon-intensive growth versus environment and health. But as The Lancet study shows, increasing pollution load is erasing the very economic and human development gains that the country aspires to achieve(AP) 

 

Delhi suffered the highest per-capita economic loss due to air pollution last year in India, according to a study published in The Lancet on Tuesday. The economic loss due to lost output from premature deaths and illness attributable to air pollution (outdoor and household) as a percentage of state GDP was 1.08% in Delhi. The highest loss to GDP was recorded by Uttar Pradesh (2.15%), followed by Bihar (1.95%), Madhya Pradesh (1.70%) and Rajasthan (1.70%). Overall deaths and disease due to air pollution, according to The Lancet, is responsible for a loss of 1.36% of the nation’s GDP.



The impact of air pollution on the economy can be deep, yet not immediately obvious. For example, higher rates of asthma, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases can lead to reduced ability to work and lower participation rates in the labour force. Children susceptible to asthma attacks also miss school days, which can severely impact their learning and subsequently future growth, while health care requirements can result in their parents taking extra time off from work. Deaths of children and young people bring an economic cost through lost contributions to society and the economy, which can be large. Earlier this year, a study released by MIT Sloan said that a large-scale review demonstrates that air pollution is not only detrimental to people’s physiological health, but also their psychological health. It increases depression, and impairs cognitive functioning and decision-making.


In a developing country such as India, there is a continuing debate on carbon-intensive growth versus environment and health. But as The Lancet study shows, increasing pollution load is erasing the very economic and human development gains that the country aspires to achieve. The pollution-related losses will also hit the poorer states with weaker social infrastructure harder, deepening the already existing social and economic inequities further.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The PM’s message of inclusion (Hindustan Times)



At a time when Muslims feel a degree of insecurity about their place in Indian democracy, the PM’s words matter. 

 

On Sunday morning, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Delhi’s Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib to pay tributes to Guru Tegh Bahadur. He tweeted that it was an honour that the 400th birth anniversary of the Guru would be marked in his government’s tenure — and pledged to celebrate it in a historic manner. The PM’s symbolic appearance at a gurudwara comes at a time when farmers from Punjab, largely but not exclusively Sikh, have expressed their firm opposition to the Centre’s agrarian reforms. The protests have acquired an element of identity-based grievance too, and while policy differences are legitimate in a democracy, it is crucial that they don’t assume a divide which runs on community lines. And that is why the PM’s gesture was significant, for it indicated that the reforms were not targeted at a community, which is an integral part of what constitutes the Indian nation, and the government respected Sikh religion and heritage.


On Tuesday, PM Modi addressed the centenary celebrations of the iconic Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) — an institution that has contributed enormously in bringing modern education to Indians, largely but not exclusively Muslims, over this period. AMU is often the target of the foot soldiers of extreme Hindutva groups for its so-called Muslim character, and the institution has been unsure of its future. That is why the PM’s unequivocal tribute to AMU and its role in nation-building and deepening India’s relations with the world; his emphasis on the non-discriminatory approach of his government’s policies, including welfare schemes; and reiteration that the constitutional rights of every citizen are secure is significant. At a time when Muslims feel a degree of insecurity about their place in Indian democracy, the PM’s words matter.


Sikhs and Muslims — along with other minorities — help make up the cultural mosaic that is India. As they fulfil their duties as Indian citizens and exercise their rights — including the right to protest, organise, assemble peacefully — they must always have a sense that India is as much theirs as that of members of a religion that may constitute the majority, irrespective of differences on policies and legislations. The PM clearly recognised this and has reached out and reassured the country’s minorities at a time of ferment. It is now important that this message is internalised down the chain, both in government and in the ruling party.


Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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The rise in extreme climate events (Hindustan Times)

Rescuers work at the site of a mudslide triggered by heavy monsoon rain in Idukki district, Kerala,  August 7, 2020

More than 75% of India’s districts are hotspots of extreme climate events and are bearing the lethal effects of a rapidly-changing microclimate with loss of property, livelihoods and lives, according to a study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). The report notes that while India witnessed 250 extreme climate events between 1970 and 2005, the country recorded 310 extreme weather events after 2005.


That India has been at the receiving end of the climate crisis is known. According to the Climate Risk Index, 2018, the country jumped nine places in climate vulnerability rankings, and was ranked the fifth-most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Storms are escalating into cyclones, droughts are affecting more than half the country, and floods of an unprecedented scale are causing catastrophic damage. The Centre has done well in treating climate as a priority issue — but the scale of the destruction of lives, livelihoods and critical infrastructure warrants more action.


It is not just the Centre; states have a key role too. The State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) need upscaling and capacity enhancement. Many pilot projects on resilience are taking place; the effective ones need to be replicated quickly. There has to be a sharper focus on building institutional and human capacity and district-level localisation of SAPCCs so that the authorities can respond to changing climate challenges quickly and effectively. The report provides yet another warning that business-as-usual isn’t sustainable.


Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Nepal’s unconstitutional turn (Hindustan Times)

With this move, Mr Oli has destroyed his credentials and legacy — and even those who may have supported his belligerent nationalism against India have turned against him.

With this move, Mr Oli has destroyed his credentials and legacy — and even those who may have supported his belligerent nationalism against India have turned against him. 

 

To understand the scale of what has just happened in Nepal, and how unconsti-tutionally and undemocratically Prime Minister KP Oli has behaved, think of a hypothetical scenario from the India of 1950s. Imagine a new Constitution has just been promulgated with no provision for the prime minister to dissolve the Parliament at will; Sardar Patel is still alive and challenging Jawaharlal Nehru; Rajendra Prasad is the president but follows Nehru’s diktats; Nehru decides to dissolve Parliament soon after the first elections held under the Constitution after being reduced to a minority in his own party; the President accepts the decision; the Congress splits; all other political forces decide to wage a movement against Nehru; and elections cannot be held. India’s constitutional democracy, just years after its conception, falters.


This is what has happened in Nepal. Mr Oli — facing an intense challenge from his own party — has decided to dissolve the Parliament in violation of constitutional provisions. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, a close associate of Mr Oli, has given her green signal. The State apparatus is under Mr Oli. But the entire political spectrum, civil society, and media is against this action. Mr Oli’s own Nepal Communist Party has decided to take disciplinary action against the PM and is on the verge of a formal split. There is a big difference in announcing and holding elections — and Nepali political history is replete with instances when the failure to hold polls has led to further instability — and it is unlikely that polls will indeed be held. Mr Oli thus is in control of the State, there is no Parliament, and the Opposition is preparing to go on the streets. All eyes are now on the Supreme Court which should, ideally, rule against Mr Oli’s decision since it lacks constitutional sanction.


With this move, Mr Oli has destroyed his credentials and legacy — and even those who may have supported his belligerent nationalism against India have turned against him. It is a lesson that a chauvinist leader, who believes in ethnic supremacist politics and ultra nationalism, is also often undemocratic. Much against Chinese hopes, the Nepali communists will split — and this, frankly, is good for Nepali democracy. For India, it is important to read the situation right. It must not be seen as interventionist and let the domestic debate play out. But, at the same time, it must not be seen as backing Mr Oli — the recent rapprochement with him has led to doubts on the Nepali street — and stand up strongly for democratic principles.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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The virus throws up a new challenge (Hindustan Times)

 Announcements from London over the weekend that a new significant mutation of the coronavirus had taken hold in some parts of the country led to a reaction similar to the one in the early days of the pandemic. This new variant had more mutations than seen in any one variant before, scientists said, and had spread rapidly in the country’s south-east as well as the capital. Some of the mutations were previously linked to stronger infectivity. These three factors were enough to force the Conservative party government of Boris Johnson to announce a new lockdown in many parts of the country.


Within hours, thousands of people rushed to train stations to leave these regions before the restrictions came into force. Soon, several European countries, one by one, said they will not allow people who had been to the United Kingdom to enter. In many ways, this mirrored what happened in Wuhan at first, then China as a whole. Eventually, the virus spread over the world, which makes the reactions on Sunday by Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria -- and on Monday by India -- understandable.


But what happened at the beginning of the pandemic — the lockdowns, the travel bans and the inevitable outbreaks — is also a good reminder of the need to be pragmatic about any threat that there may be from the new mutation.


For now, it is not know if this variant causes a more serious disease, or if it can elude the immunity built by vaccines. What has been seen, however, that it is hard to stop the Sars-Cov-2 with travel bans, especially one imposed weeks since a virus has been in circulation (as this new variant has). The need at present is to improve surveillance, understand the new threat better, and quickly make any clinical, behavioural or scientific research adjustments we need to make without panicking.

Courtesy - Hindustan Times.

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