India needs a bold government
Within days of his re-election, President Barack Obama was out to meet Asian leaders at the East Asia Summit in the Cambodian capital of Pnom Penh. That underscored the importance the region has begun to acquire as a playground of global forces in a rapidly changing world power balance. By some coincidence the other major power in the world, China, also underwent a change in leadership within its one-party regime. At the other end, in Myanmar change is occurring with a slow movement from military autocracy to democracy.
Economy inspires little hope
The prospects for the 12 months ahead form the core of expectations at every Diwali. This year there were lights as usual but there was little to cheer on the economic front. The Congress held a chintan baithak on Diwali eve and no one could have missed the lack of enthusiasm in the Congress ranks itself. Sonia Gandhi’s rhetoric attacking the Opposition would not mask the reality of the government losing its credibility with one scam after another coming out. The party is put off because the CAG, Vinod Rai, publicly charged the government as ‘brazen’ in its decision-making. The party says he was crossing the ‘Lakshman rekha’ set by the Constitution on the functions of the CAG.
The government should ask what makes eminent constitutional authorities, one after the other, do this? Is it not their severe disappointment with the functioning of the prime minister? Not in the recent past has the Centre been openly described to be caught in a ‘policy paralysis’.
India’s Malala lesson: Do not fan the flames of orthodoxy
The shocking incident in the jihadi-infested Swat valley of Pakistan where Islamists shot at 15-year old girl Malala Yousafzai for daring to campaign for the right of girls to go to school has stirred the conscience of the world, including some in Pakistan. Even Pakistani army chief General Kayani who visited the seriously wounded girl in hospital, described Malala as “an icon of courage and hope… fighting to preserve (values) for future generations”. President Asaf Ali Zardari described her as his own daughter and called for a struggle against the militant mindset.
The popular outrage within Pakistan following the incident has kindled hope of things changing for the better in this Islamic country. This optimistic sentiment is best illustrated by the Newsweek (October 29) cover story’s headline, “‘The Girl Who Changed Pakistan’ and the accompanying blurb that reads: ‘The 15-year-old girl who may finally turn the tide on extremism.’
Leadership deficit in UPA
Last Friday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to frighten the nation into accepting his set of ‘reforms’ by repeatedly warning that the country was on the edge of economic collapse just as it was in 1991 when he stepped in as the savior-reformer finance minister.
The fundamental question is what and who brought the country back to the 1991 position when economic collapse stared it in the face? Between 2004 when Singh became the first nominee prime minister ever to hold that position in the country and now it is eight years. That is long enough time to assess his impact and now he admits that after eight years of his rule the country is back or about to be back to the 1991 position. So here is ‘progress’ by going backwards!
Fudging facts on minorities
How does one explain Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement that the rise in Muslim population in the state was due to high levels of illiteracy leading to larger families among Muslims than among others? The report about his press conference states that he ‘dismissed the suggestion that illegal migration from Bangladesh has led to high growth of Muslim population in the state but blamed illiteracy for the high birth rate among the community’.
Forget the fact that same Tarun Gogoi had said a fortnight earlier that illegal immigration needs to be checked as that is responsible for the troubles in lower Assam. Even his blaming the illiteracy among Muslims as the reason for the high birth rate among them is far off the mark. Let us take a state where the illegal immigration does not exist — Kerala. The decennial growth of Hindus there is 20 per cent as per the 2001 census and of Muslims is 36 per cent.
Congress gains as Assam bleeds
In Assam, for all the assurances the Centre and the State are giving the people of the western part of Assam on security, more incidents of killing have been reported recently. That calls into question the ability of the Congress government in Assam and the UPA government in New Delhi of maintaining basic law and order.
The irony of these assurances is that the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is urging the camp inmates to return to their homes while the killings have taken place exactly among those who took courage to return. So much for his administering the state.
India’s jaundiced secularists
Nobody would have objected to some Muslim organisations protesting in Mumbai for the violence in Assam that has sent lakhs of the people in Kokrajhar and other adjoining districts into government aided relief camps. However, the protests in Mumbai that flared up into an attack on the police, on the media and ransacking of shops nearby had clearly a communal origin.
Assam violence a fallout of vote bank politics
The longer the Congress rules Assam, the greater grows the threat to India’s security and demography. Just take a look at the recent events in Kokrajhar, one of the worst districts affected by the flood of illegals. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blames the Centre for delaying the deployment of the army. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visits the relief camps and says that the “pain and suffering the recent incidents have caused to a large number of people have saddened all of us”. He lets in the word “ethnic conflict” and says it is “unacceptable and must stop”.
The gloves come off to reveal Walmart fist
The Obama lesson to Dr Manmohan Singh in economic policy for India has rattled even the Congress leaders. It specifically mentions, among others, New Delhi’s lack of progress on FDI in retail. That gives out the real purpose of President Obama’s criticism of Indian economic policy.
The US retail giants are over-eager to penetrate India’s growing retail market and capture it before it blooms into a trillion-dollar business for a consumer collective which is 300 million people now and could be at least 500 million in another five or six years.
Manipulations for Presidency
Pranab Mukherjee, till the other day the Union finance minister, may not believe in the bad omen attached to the number 13. He has been occupying house with the number 13. If he wins the battle for the highest constitutional post he would be the 13th President of India. His sangfroid on number 13 may all be justified on the basis that the number has brought him luck rather than misery as it is supposed to do by most people. He may, however, be putting on a brave face.