A Day in Ranthambhor

It was a hot summer morning in Ranthambhor National Park. Inhabitants had gathered around watering holes. Peacocks were trying to entice females. They had spread their feather widespread and strutting around.

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But deers around them had other worries. There was a rumour that a sambar deer has lost his life. In this era of social media, it is hard to hide bad news.

 

 

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Deer was murdered. Dead body was lying on a dried river bed. No body knows who did it, but people had some idea. A leopard was seen sleeping  on rock nearby.

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Without proof you cannot accuse anyone in even in a jungle. Problem was compounded by absence of scavengers like Hyena and Boars. Some said hyenas only worked at night. So most residents had to live with the smell of rotting body. Meanwhile a sambhar deer family decided to leave the park altogether. If there is no justice, why live in the park?

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So deers decided to call a meeting. A lot of members came. There were boars, crows, cranes and even a crocodile. It was decided to make a petition to the king.

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King was nowhere to be seen. One cub was seen sleeping in the shade.

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King himself was seen walking on a trail. He appeared to be weakend by the heat. King was in no mood to dispense justice. Last seen, was king lying on his back by water side on his summer cottage.

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There goes justice down the tube for residents of Ranthambhor national park.

 

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Animal Rights and Wrong : There are Two Sides to a Story

India is caught in the vortex of cow politics. It started with terrible lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in his home, which was followed later by mob lynching of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer. In between and beyond, there had been several instances of mob lynching and violence against cattle traders, transporters and beef / meat sellers. A state governments have closed down illegal slaughter houses. Many citizens have protested acts of vigilantism, slack and biased law enforcement, high handed behaviour of government/s and administration. Protests erupted against perceived intolerance and high handed behavour of state supported vigilante groups against citizens belonging to minority community.  Media attention drawn by such actions has brought embarassment to administrators.

In the middle of all these brouhaha, people trying to prevent cows from being slaughtered have tried to point out that cattle traders are not as innocent as being projected. They also resort to violence. It is claimed such a violence is never highlighted by media. Recently at least three such incidents came into light. One BSF officer when confronted cattle smugglers in India Bangladesh border in Tripura, was attacked. Injured officer lost his life a few days later. In another instance, an animal rights activist was attacked in Bangalore when she reported illegal cow slaughter in the city. In the same city,  a team of court commissioners, lawyers, police and members of cow protection NGO was heckled, chased and attacked when they went to investigate an illegal slaughterhouse.

As an average law abiding ordinary citizen, I strongly disagree with anyone trying to unilaterally enforce their point of view on my lifestyle. Let us talk about cow vigilante groups and animal welfare groups and their impact on our lives:

  • Members of cow vigilante groups hold cow in high esteem because of their religious belief. As a result, these people discourage, often violently, slaughter of cows. It is believed that action of cow vigilante groups have not only interfered with food habits of people, many people associated with leather and meat export industries have lost their livelihood. Loss to economy has been considerable.
  • Animal welfare groups look after interest of all animals. Members of these groups had made biology research very difficult. Functioning of organisations undertaking drug discovery research and contract biology research were severely affected due to interference by animal rights group. Even today, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a permission to use dogs and monkey for pharmaceutical research. In an industry where time and cost plays a very important role, animal rights groups have made processes very unattractive.
  • It appears that animal rights organisations are very vocal against targets that are concerned about their public image, organisations that play by the rule, and groups that do not resort to violence. Apart from pharmaceutical companies, government agencies that have tried to control population of nilgai, wild boar and wild monkey. Jalikattu, an annual bull taming sport in rural Tamil Nadu has come under  protective gaze of animal rights group. PETA has approached supreme court of India to stop Jalikattu.
  • Yet, the same animal rights groups like PETA look otherway when it comes to animal slaughter for food or during religious festivals like Idul Fitar. Anyone who has seen how chickens are coupled up in a small cage, may understand what I am saying. I have never been to an abbatoir, but I have heard horror stories about them. Yet thee groups were silent about mass sacrifice of animals during religious festivals like idul fitar.

It is not difficult to understand the importance of high quality animals for food as well as for experimental work. A diseased animal may be harmful as a food as well as may give erroneous result if used in experiment. From this angle. there is no dispute that interference of animal rights group has streamlined process of breeding, selling. procurement and use of experimental animals. These groups have force laboratories interested to do animal research, to create good quality experimental animal facility. Cost of research has gone up, but quality of research data has probably improved. But permission ot undertake studies on dogs and monkeys remain very difficult.

There was criticism when similar principles as pharmaceutical research towards breeding and procurement of animals were applied towards streamlining slaughter of animals for food. Like in pharmaceutical research, cost of doing business of animal slaughter went up. Many people went out of business. Chief minister of UP faced flak for being anti-minority.  While animal rights group remained quiet on the issue.  Now that an animal right activist has faced ire of people who make a living slaughtering animals, may be things will be different.

We all need clear transparent enforceable rule of law not vigilante groups enforcing their own ideas of right and wrong. Please outrage against loss of life and liberty on both sides of the divide. Then and then alone we shall look at issues in a dispassionate manner.

References :

What is ‘Not in My Name’ all about? – The Hindu

BSF officer attacked by cattle smugglers dies | Business Standard News

Mob attacks animal rights activists, two constables trying to rescue …

200 Nilgai Shot. Required, Says One Minister. Unacceptable, Says …

 

Aarushi Talwar Murder Case , Many Questions Remain Unanswered

 

 Aarushi Talwar, a fourteen year old girl, was found murdered in her bedroom in NOIDA, a suburb of Delhi. Hemraj, the family helping hand, was also found murdered and his body concealed on terrace. The apartment where Aarushi lived with her parents had three rooms. Aarushi had one room to herself. Parents of Arushi occupied the room adjacent to Arushi’s. There was a servants quarter in the apartment where Hemraj lived.

 

The case was difficult because first it is believed that during initial investigation, crime scene was not secured. As a result a lot of evidence was destroyed. DIG of NOIDA police, further complicated the matter by making public pronunciation about character of Arushi and her parents. Aarushi’s  father was arrested, however, he was released. The case was handed over to CBI. First team of CBI had one line of thinking. However, they did not make much headway.

The second team of CBI was constituted and they pursued a different line of investigation. Finally, CBI submitted to court that they cannot solve the case because they do not have enough evidence. CBI wanted to close the case. However, Talwar family wanted CBI to continue investigation and find the killers. Talwar’s all along believed someone from outside the house had killed Aarushi and Hemraj.  Judge also did not accept CBI’s closure report and wanted CBI to continue. So CBI filed a report where they implicated Aarushi’s parents as the potential killer.

The verdict of the case came out in the week of 25th Nov, 2013. The CBI court pronounced Dr. Rajesh Talwar and Dr. Nupur Talwar guilty of murdering their daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj. There were a lot of criticism of the judgement. Many thought it was a travesty of justice. Higher courts, many experts proclaimed, will tear the judgement apart and acquit Talwars. Talwar family vowed to appeal to higher court. On 12th Oct, 2017, Allahabad High Court, gave Dr. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar benefit of doubt in the case and ordered their release.

It is good for Dr. Rajesh and Dr. Nupur Talwar that the judge in high court saw their point of view. There are still many questions that remain unanswered:

1.If there were four people in the apartment, why only two people were killed.

2. Dr. Talwar had claimed he had scolded one of the house helps a few days before the incident. This person may have had motive to commit the crime. Even if we accept this theory, why would this person kill Aarushi and spare Dr. Talwar? His enmity was with Dr. Talwar and not his daughter!

3. Two people got brutally killed, yet two others not only stayed unharmed but they slept blissfully! This is either plain concoction or there was no motherly instinct. Any normal person wakes up, if they subconsciously suspect someone entered their property or something wrong with his / her children.

4. If an outsider actually killed Aarushi and Hemraj, why would they drag Hemraj’s body to terrace? If we accept Hemraj was killed on the terrace, why would the killers care to lock the door?

5. One fully grown adult was killed, there was no noise and no one knew in a 3 bedroom apartment!

6. Dr Talwar repeatedly mentioned about a glass where there may be finger prints of killers. This glass, according to Dr. Talwar, was used by killers to drink whisky in Talwar’s dining room. Why would a killer/s first kill two people, then decide to drink in the place where they have a high possibility of getting caught? All the while the alleged killers enjoyed their drink, Talwars happily slept through! Is this possible?

7. There was no evidence of forced entry. Even it was, Talwar’s never knew as discussed above. In the morning after, when the maid came in the door outside was locked from inside.

The above are some of the mysteries that I could not understand. I do not think any one else other than Talwar’s could have killed the girl and servant, evidence for which investigating agencies could not furnish. If parents did not do it, and if point number 6 we accept, then someone known to Talwar’s had done it. That is why Talwar’s kept repeating killer was out there somewhere. Could it be then paid assassin/s? No one knows. May be Talwars have trained their mind to forget the incidence and they continue to believe that someone else other than them had killer their daughter. Judge saw through the charade, applied his mind and gave a verdict. We must respect it now.

 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Circumstances-that-point-toguilt/articleshow/26453542.cmshttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Circumstances-that-point-to-guilt/articleshow/26453542.cms

Aarushi murder case verdict leaves many questions unanswered, say legal eagles toi.in/Pd1mUZ/a24gk via @TOIDelhi #AarushiVerdict

 

Tale of Corruption: Fact or Fiction

The present government at the centre came to power with a promise that there will be no compromise against corruption. As a result, it became a matter of great discomfort when an article appeared in a web portal, The Wire.in, suggesting son of party president had benefitted after BJP government came to power at the centre in 2014.

Among several points raised by the article, the following are the key :

  • In 2013 , the company Temple Enterprise, recorded a loss of Rs 6,230;
  • In 2014, the company reported a loss of  Rs 1,724;
  • In 2015, company showed a profit of Rs 18,728 on revenues of Rs 50,000;
  • In 2016, the firm’s revenues jumped to over Rs 80.5 crore, a growth of 16 lakh percent;
  • Reserves and surplus turned negative to Rs 80.2 lakh from Rs 19 lakh the previous year;
  • Trade payables were Rs 2.65 crore, up from Rs 5,618 the previous year;
  • Short-term loans and advances were Rs 4.14 crore, up from Rs 10,000 the year before;
  • Similarities were drawn between the present case and another case involving son in law, Mr. Robert Vadra, of president of congress party;

As expected, opposition parties smelled blood. More so, keeping in mind upcoming Gujarat state assembly election. It was demanded that BJP president step down from his position. Prime Minister must explain and initiate an enquiry. It is expected that upcoming winter session of parliament will very likely be occupied with this issue.

Whether government will initiate an enquiry or not, it is for government to decide. The article appears to be erroneous and/or deliberately misleading on many facts related to financial health of the company in 2015 -16. A closer reading of the article indicates that while

  • revenue (total sale) of the company increased significantly in 2015 – 16;
  • profit (sale – expenses incurred) did not increase. In fact;
  • company reported a loss of 1.7 crore in the financial year 2015 – 16;
  • company owed money to its creditors;
  • company was closed an down.

The author had also tried to draw a parallel between the present case with that of land acquisition case of Mr. Robert Vadra. Alleged, key highlights of the case included the following:

  •  Haryana government had made an alteration to change of land use law, such that Skylight Hospitality of Mr. Vadra could acquired an agricultural land;
  • In a public sector bank, Mr. Vadra’s company had an account balance of 1 lac rupees. Yet, it could secure an overdraft of 7 crore. This amount was issued in the form of a cheque to pay land owner;
  • Actual fund was transferred to land owner, only when land developer paid the amount to Skylight Hospitality. Money transfer was contingent upon alteration in,  change land use rule, courtesy Haryana government;
  • Skylight Hospitality sold the land to DLF for 58 crore;
  • An official of Haryana government, Mr. Ashok Khemka, had claimed illegality in the   transaction and cancelled change of land ownership in the name of Skylight Hospitality.

In the present case, till this time, there is no alleged government complicity, there is no complainant, no involvement of any public sector bank. According to information in public domain, loan was obtained from a Non Banking Financial Company. Normally,  such organisations charge high interest rate. Loan was taken by mortgaging personal property. Loan was repaid back.

From the overall reading it appears that the author has misrepresented facts, either out of ignorance (unlikely) or to create an innuendo of possible corruption. In view of impending sate assembly election and alacrity with which opposition jumped on the fray, such a possibility does not appear to be unfounded.  It is only fair that son of BJP president has taken the matter to court. Many people have argued that such an action is an attempt to muzzle free speech. The Wire.in has refused to be bowed down in front of bullying tactics by government. It must be remembered that few years earlier, Mr. M. K. Venu, one of the editors of the web portal, himself had adopted similar tactics and had sued a magazine. So what is sauce for gander, must be good for goose.

 

1. The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah – The Wire

2. After OpIndia expose, The Wire selectively alters its story, gets further …

3. All you need to know about the alleged scam behind Robert Vadra’s ..

4. Outlook apologises to MK Venu for Radia tapes cover image – The Hindu

Diwali Fire Cracker Ban is Necessary

Supreme Court has banned sale of fire crackers in Delhi before this year’s Diwali. The decision will be used to monitor the effect of ban on air quality post Diwali. The decision is a tough one. On one side there is tradition of bursting crackers. I have seen it happening for last five decades. The ban may make many people that make crackers jobless. Many shopkeepers who have purchased fire crackers will lose money.

At the same time there is no doubt at this time of the year direction of air tends to change. Air is heavy due to chill in atmosphere. Wind does not blow strongly enough to wash away the smog. Smoke from burnt crackers tend to hang around close to ground. Smoke from burnt crackers hang over the city. One cannot see few feet ahead long after mid night. In addition to damaging human health, cracker burning is also cruel to animals. Many animals with sensitive ear drums feel pain due to loud noise. Many animals not used to loud noise become startled and afraid. 

Many people who are susceptible to airway disease, on Diwali night and aftermath of Diwali night, their health problems aggravate. It is true that air pollution is a chronic issue. One must tackle all problems simultaneously and in a systematic manner to address the issue of air pollution. But on and around Diwali there is accumulation of concentrated pollutants in different localities. At least this issue can be controlled with minimal colateral damage.

Many say this decision of supreme court is interference with tradition. I think traditions change with time depending upon societal needs. Open defecation is also a tradition given since how long this act is being practiced. Government is trying to alter behavioral pattern on open defecation. The same is true for cracker burning.  I think it is a good decision.

Indian Economy : A Few Facts

Recently, noted economists and former finance ministers, namely Mr. Jaswant Sinha, Mr. Arun Shourie, Mr. P Chidambaram and Dr. Subramaniam Swamy have attacked finance minister and prime minister for mismanaging economy. Some has blamed demonetisation for the slowing of economy. Others have suggested poor implementation of recently introduced Goods and Services Tax along with demonetisation to be responsible for low GDP figures. Apart from poor GDP number, critics have pointed out high unemployment, contraction of manufacturing sector, distress in agriculture sector, disruption of informal business opportunities all may be linked to poor GDP growth or contributed to it. Add to this distress high price of petroleum products also came under criticism. Though several others including prime minister of India have indicated that because of structural change in Indian economy there is a temporary slowdown, which will very likely recover soon.

I do not pretend to be an economist. I decided to study to get a better understanding of economic issues. In the best of times economy of India is as complex a subject as the country itself. Many people with great erudition have devoted their life in understanding and managing Indian economy. My understanding of the subject is rudimentary. Like every average human being, I understand than one should spend only as much as he / she earns. Otherwise, one may have to borrow and one may get into a debt trap if he / she cannot service his interest and payback his loan on time.

I started to read on the net about the state of Indian economy. I learnt that like an individual, government also borrows money and has to payback loan amount with interest. Fiscal deficit is a term that reflects difference between government earning and government spending.

Fiscal Deficit = (Government Spending – Government Earning)

Most governments borrow money for social spending, for infrastructure development and for many other reasons in national interest. Government issues a guarantee to borrower that it will return the money, by issuing government bond. Debt servicing is a term that includes the amount a government has to pay as interest plus the capital amount upon maturity of loan amount.

Debt servicing =( Interest on borrowed capital) + (return of borrowed capital at maturity)

Ratio of Debt servicing to Fiscal deficit was 0.7 in 2009 -10. It rose to 1.28 in 2014 -15. This ratio means in 2009, government was using 70% of borrowed capital in debt servicing. In 2014 -15, government was borrowing money to payback previously borrowed money and accruing debt. This is called a Ponzi scheme.

Financial Year 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Debt service : Fiscal Deficit

0.7

1.02 0.75 0.87 1.04

1.28

Vivek Kaul

In the second half of UPAII government, government was losing revenue due to scams, at the same time  government had to fulfil its social commitments, for example MGNREGA. So government borrowed money to fulfil her commitment and more money to pay interest and maturity amount for borrowed money. A key outcome of such a scenario is government is left with little money for spending on social schemes and government has to raise tax to generate more revenue.

Financial Year 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Inflation 3.8 5.6 6.5 5.5 9.7 14.9 9.5 6.5 11.1 9.1 5.6 6.3 2.2 3.4
GDP 6.2 8.4 9.2 9 7.4 7.4 10.4 7.2 6.5 3.2 7.2 8 7.1 5.7
Prosperity

Influx of money leads to inflation which touched close to 10%. While a lot has been said about slowing GDP growth in second quarter of 2017, a relatively less time is devoted on  inflation data. It has been suggested that for people to prosper, atleast 1.5% difference should exist between GDP figure and inflation. As shown in table above, though growth was high between 2008 to 2012 prosperity declined due to high inflation.  By contrast, despite demonitisation, we do not see an outburst of public distress may be due to low inflation and average GDP growth. However, situation may change if GDP growth declines further and inflation rises.

It is generally believed that economy takes a long time to show real time change. So one government may pay for sins of previous government. At the same time, economic sagacity of one government may be beneficial to popularity of next government. Policies of previous government possibly has forced the current government to find avenues to generate more revenue. Demonetisation, among many things it may or may not do, will bring more people under tax net. In a nation where only 2% citizens pay tax, this may be an important step to get more tax revenue. Similarly, Goods and Sevices Tax will likely force business people to declare more income and pay higher tax. Higher price of petroleum products is very likely related to an effort to generate more revenue.

We cannot ignore what people like Mr. Jaswant Sinha and Mr. Chidambaram has said on economy. They have based their arguments on existing facts. However, if is doubtful if in a politically charged environment, if these people have considered and / or revealed all facts.

MUDRA Scheme is Encouraging Self Employment

Prime minister Narendra Modi came to power promising to create 10 million jobs per year. However, jobs in formal sectors like manufacturing, trade, construction, education, health, information technology, transport, and accommodation and restaurant has actually not been very successful. Report suggest that job growth The total number of jobs created in the first three years of the BJP government would be 1.51 million–which is nearly 39% less than the 2.47 million jobs created during the three previous years.

It is true that government has not been successful in creating jobs in formal sector. Given more than 70% of jobs come from private sector, government may not have much control over job creation in private sector. According to estimates, big corporates in formal sector employs around 12.5 million people. Whereas, micro small medium enter prises (MSME) employee 125 million people.

Government has started to work at the bottom of job pyramid by trying to strengthen MSME sector through MUDRA (micro units development and regeneration agency). MUDRA scheme is a program where government gives loan in three categories sishu or small (upto 50000 rupees), kishore or medium (upto 5 lac rupees) and tarun or big (upto 10 lac rupees) to people who want to start their own business or expand their existing business. Almost 90% of loans were given in the small category in 2015 – 16 and 2016-17. Two crore new entrepreneurs, and 5.6 crore women entrepreneurs have availed loan. If new entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs are combined we get the number of 7.6 crore people who were give a loan to start a business.

2015 – 16 2016 – 17 Total
Money Disbursed (Crores) 132995 175312 308307
New Entrepreneurs (Crores) 1.2 1 2.2
Women Entrepreneurs 2.7 2.9 5.6
Type of Loans
Sishu Loan (Crores) 3.2 3.6 6.8
Kishore Loan (Lac) 20 26.6 46.6
Tarun Loan (Lac) 4 5.4 9.4
http://www.mudra.org.in

We do not know if these small ventures are still continuing. It is also not known, the women entrepreneurs who availed the loan were first time business people, or they had used the loan to expand their business? It can be taken with some certainty that around 2 crore new entrepreneurs were created. This is in line with promise of creating one crore employment opportunity a year. Secondly, if 5.6 crore women entrepreneurs are added to 2 crore, close 8 crore employment opportunities were created or stabilised.

 

Monthly Income

(Rupees)

Self Employed

(% of work force)

Salaried

(% of work force)

46 17
<5000 41 18.7
5000 – 10000 43 38
10000 – 100000 15 44.7
Report on the Fifth Annual Employment – Unemployment Survey, 2016

As is seen from table above, around 46% of Indian work force is in informal and self employed sector. In this category, majority people earn between 5000 – 10000 rupees per month. By contrast, only 17% work force is in salaried category. Nearly 45% of salaried people earn between 10000 to 100000 rupees per month.

It is not a surprise that most people like to have a job with salary at the end of the month. By contrast, self employment is given a look only as a second choice when they do not find a suitable job. A noted commentator claimed on national TV, “who wants to become tea vendor, if he has better option available?” It should be kept in mind self employment is not selling tea alone. It can involve a variety of different opportunities, if one is open and creative enough to tap the supply and demand gap. From the report card of MUDRA scheme, it is apparent that a majority of people who were granted loans were engaged in a wide variety of professions. The business these people setup using loan from MUDRA scheme, have helped many to build a home for themselves, send their children to school, some even employed another person. These are common aspiration of all citizens. By strengthening people at the bottom of job pyramid, government is creating a strong base. Given the vagaries of employment scenario it may appear that self employment may be a way to go for future. Government is trying to steer people in that direction.

 

  1. http://www.mudra.org.in/Default/DownloadFile/Annual_Report_Of_Mudra_2015-16.pdf
  2.  http://www.mudra.org.in/Default/DownloadFile/Overall_Performance_2016-17.pdf
  3. http://www.mudra.org.in/PMMYReport

Rohingya : India Must Tread Carefully

The decision of government of India to deport 40000 Rohingya muslims settled in different parts of India, has come under a lot of criticism. Some say, it is inhuman to deport Rohingya people to a country where they will be killed. Others say, Rohingyas are being deported because they are muslims, whereas other people from Tibet, Afghanistan, Bangladesh are allowed to stay. It is also said that such a deportation goes against India’s open door policy to all persecuted people since ages. Infact, given stature of India in the neighborhood, India must do much more and accept refugees. All these arguments are valid and true. But one must consider the following arguments against retaining Rohingya people and accepting more :

Terror Potential : Rohingya people are in a bad situation at the present time. One cannot rule out Rohingyas embracing pan islamic idea of creation of a islamic country. Terrorist violence may be a tool to achieve their goal.

In Myanmar, during second world war, Buddhist people were armed by Japan and Rohingyas were armed by British. Idea was Rohingyas would stop Japanese advance. Rohingya fought Buddhists, instead. Around 1946 – 47, Rohingya muslims wanted to integrate Rakhine province to East Pakistan. Jinnah did not agree. Realistically, if you want to break up a country, you are not going to generate a lot of goodwill. There is a lack of trust. Buddhists of Myanmar do not recognise Rohingyas to be their citizens. There is no certainty, that such a situation would not arise in India in distant future.

At the present time, terrorist groups like Harkat UL Jihad Islami Arakan (HuJI-A), Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM), Harkat-ul Yakin (HaY), Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) are operating in Myanmar. These groups are trained in Pakistan. These group are connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the Al Qaeda, theother Gulf-based jihadi groups.

An Al Quaida operative, Samiun Rahman, was arrested in New Delhi. This gentleman is an British citizen of Bangladesh origin. He has been a soldier of islam and fought all over the world. He was sent to India to set up base to recruit disgruntled Rohingya people to fight Myanmar government.

Abdul Quddus Burmi a Rohingya muslim based in Pakistan is an associated of Hafiz Saeed of Let. Burmi shared stage with Hafiz Saeed where threat was pronounced against India.

Terror attacks were organised in Bodh Gaya, Bihar as well as during election rally of Mr. Narendra Modi in Bihar. These attacks were believed to orchestrated as a protest to persecution of Rohingya muslims in Myanmar.

Rohingya issue has assumed pan islamic dimension with many governments of islamic countries and jihadi groups are speaking out in favor of Rohingya muslims.

Do not get involved in internal problems of Burma. India should not get involved in internal problems of Myanmar issue. Terrorists from Sri Lanka had killed one prime minister of India. India helped creation of Bangladesh.  Pakistan has not forgiven or forgotten the matter. Not every government of Bangladesh has been friendly to India. tied withAs and when Sheikh Hasina government loses power, next government will make India’s life miserable with jihadi groups operating in Pakistan as well as in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

India has a long border with Myanmar. Many terrorist groups take shelter in forests of Myanmar. So far, government of Myanmar has cooperated with India in tracking terrorists down. India cannot lose this cooperation. Besides, China is also eyeing business opportunity and military cooperation with Myanmar. If India becomes too preachy, we may lose our leverage with Myanmar.

Spend resources on Indian Citizens : India is not a very prosperous country? India is inhabited by nearly a billion plus people? Nearly 600 million of them do not have healthcare, education, drinking water facility. Many are desperately poor. Because of exploding population, Indian environment are degraded. There is pressure on forest. There is pressure on wild life. For every development work for greater good, people have to be displaced. Many cannot be rehabilitated. Every year, a large mass of humanity is displaced by flood. Should India take care of her teeming masses or should she be hospitable to outsiders? More so when rich countries stand by and plead helplessness? Finally, Rohingya people around 1947 wanted to secede from Burma and wanted to be part of East Pakistan as a muslim country.

Find Alternative Solutions Many open minded opinion makers has dubbed present Modi lead government to be biased, anti-muslim, anti-minority. This government is believed to curtail minority rights. Minority people are not considered safe in India. So why would any sensible person want to push Rohingya people, most of whom are muslims, into a cauldron of unsafe environment in India?

India had given refuge to many persecuted people. In those days, Indian population was not 1200 million plus. It has often been argued that Hindus are allowed in India. It must be remembered that India was partitioned because muslims did not want to live with Hindus. In that case again why bring Rohingya muslims to India. They should go to an Islamic country. By contrast, India is the only place on earth where a Hindu can take refuge in.

  • Myanmar Should Resolve Internal Problem : I think there should be pressure on Burma to give more representation to Rohingya people in administration. What is the guarantee that likes Kashmiri people, Rohingyas will not ask for independence? May be they will resort to terrorism. Already there is evidence pointing to that direction. Rohingya problem can be solved if world leaders ask Myanmar to accept Rohingya people, give them so say in decision making. And Rohingyas must be told that there may not be separate country coming out of Rakhine.
  • Rohingyas should be sent to resource rich and less populated Islamic nations : India was partitioned on religious lines. Though India is a secular country, it is still predominantly a Hindu country. Many muslims decided to stay back. They are welcome and given full right as citizens. Many well meaning distinguished individuals are requesting, pressurising government of India to take more Rohingya people. It is prudent for distinguished members of world community and islamic community should ask prosperous islamic nations to take Rohingyas. Some argue if India can give shelter to other refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal etc, why not Rohingyas? It must not be forgotten that India was partitioned along religious lines. So muslim Rohingya people should go to muslim countries. On the other hand Hindus who are fleeing from other countries may get refuse in Hindu majority India.

Bullet Train : An asset or liability

Now that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe have inaugarated bullet train project, there is a lot of questions being asked. Yes many are genuine questions. Is the project worth it at a cost of 110000 crore rupees covering a distance of 500 km? Critic like Mr. Akaar Patel  argue that there are so many trains (~200), great air connectivity, and a 6 lane expressway between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. According to report to become viable, the train has to carry approx. 100000 passengers daily. So why Bullet train?

Bullet train has minimal impact on Indian rail financing : The bullet train is likely to cost around 110000 crore rupees. Approximately 88000 crore rupees out of 110000 crore rupees, of the project will be financed by Japan at a nominal interest of 0.1% to be paid over fifty years. Spread over 50 years, India will have to pay 1700 crore per year plus interest (@0.1%) per year. The remaining expenditure of 30000 crore if spread over five years, will cost exchequer around 6000 crore per year. So in effect, bullet train has miniscule effect on Indian railway financing, which has a budgetary allocation of Rs. 55000 crore in 2017 -18, with 20,000 crore set aside address passenger safety related issues.

Bullet train has no bearing on safety issues of Indian rail : It has been argued that Indian railway is plagued by inefficiency, poor punctuality, poor hygine, frequent accidents and generalised poor safety record. So it is a valid argument that instead of spending on luxury items like a bullet train, Indian railway should address more mundane issues. As discussed above, if anything, bullet train project will not drain finances of Indian railway . Issues like safety, punctuality, hygiene etc are addressed by Indian railways separately. Let me look at two points here :

Railway is a public transport which is subsidised by government to fulfil its obligations to society. Yet railway needs money to address myriad issues it faces, including passenger safety. At least for a decades railway passenger fare has remained frozen, on the other hand number of trains introduced have increased. This may have impact on rail passenger safety due to impact on track maintenance.

  • According to experts, a minimum of 2 hours at regular interval is needed for track maintenance. In busy routes, say Delhi – Kolkata, such interval is less than 20 min. As a result maintenance work has been affected.
  • If trains are deliberately delayed, to maintain tracks then it may lead to loss of punctuality. Managers and administrators allow passage of trains over tracks that have not been maintained adequately.
  • Rail accidents due to various causes have come down over the years.  The number of derailments remain a problem. Out of a total of 1,14,907 km track in the country, 4,500 km should be renewed annually. In 2015-16, of the 5,000 km of track length due for renewal, only 2,700 km of track length was targeted to be renewed.
  • Even though we agree railway fare is subsidised to help fulfil social commitment, let us compare fare of Indian rail and British Rail. So next time we criticise Indian railways for service, we should remember the numbers. Travel from Delhi to Kolkata, a distance of 1500 Km, costs around Rs. 3000 in an AC 2 Tier coach of superfast Duronto express. We get refreshments, lunch/dinner and breakfast / snack as part of fare. By contrast, a distance of London to Glasgow is 500 Km, costs around 150 pounds (roughly 15000 rupees). One has to buy snacks / meals from ones own pocket. Did this affect rail safety, it may appear so. So Indian raiway is heavily subsidised. Why not remove subsidy and pour on rail safety, speed and punctuality?

Bullet train may actually indirectly improve rail safety? Many non viable trains can be phased out, if people take liking for bullet train. More time will be available for track maintenance.

Why put all eggs in one basket?

If we go beyond routine utilatarian arguments and look slightly beyond,  we must appreciate that every country and society needs options. It is upto people to decide whether they avail those options or not. Take for example of travel between Delhi and Kolkata. A few years before Duronto express was introduced. Not one, but two. One for Howrah and one for Sealdah. One coould always argue what was the need? There were two Rajdhani express trains, and many other mail and express trains. Not to mention, there were at least five airlines operating between two cities – Air India, Jet, Indigo, Spice Jet, Go Air, Vistara. Today, we do not get ticket in any superfast train unless booked well in advance. People who used to travel by regular trains have moved up into superfast trains because it cut travel time. Given time bullet train may be similarly adopted by public. If it lower travel time from six hours to two hours, why not?

Many have argued that bullet train will cost more than air ticket. Railway minister has said ticket for Ahmedabad to Mumbai will be around Rs. 3000. It should be remembered that for an one hour air travel, one has to reach airport at least two hours before. So infact one is spending three hours to fly. If the time becomes comparable or less at same price, people may opt for bullet train.

Bullet train not at the expense of education, healthcare, and other social spending 

It has been said that Bullet train costs higher than Indian education budget. In India, children at the age of two are malnourished, have stunted growth, have poor intellectual ability. All these arguments are true. These issues have been there before bullet train arrived in India. Improvement in social welfare did not happen because of lack of funding, but for poor administration and accountability?

In the name of public transport, everyone knows what kind of infrastructure that was created. Railway stations used to reek with smell of human excreta. Public toilets were unusable. Public transport buses had godawful design. An able bodied male will find it difficult to board, forget about women, elderly and sick.

If public funding of social welfare should remain the topmost priority, then India must gt out of space research. Does anyone remember in initial days how much public funding was needed for the organisation to arrive a the stage where it is now. Space research has no direct bearing on public health, education, sanitation etc etc.

Only a shortsighted person pits one activity of government against the other. Like interim prime minister of India, Chaudhuri Charan Singh, had stopped preparation of India for Asian Games of 1982. Only after Mrs. Indira Gandhi came back to power, the activity was resumed.  Cancellation would have brought bad name to India as a host of an international event. Many intangible benefits accrued that cannot be counted in monetary terms. For example, expossure to international athletes, creation of an awareness to sports, and availability of sports infrastructure. Similarly, bullet train infrastructure will be an Indian asset. Indian engineers and technicians will learn how Japanese work and think and their dedication to work. All these will be good for India.

Gouri Lankesh, Always Ready to Offend

Gouri Lankesh was a journalist for Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada language news paper. She was a fierce journalist who was vehemently anti-establishment. She had written many articles condemning, ridiculing and maligning politics of Indian right and the present day BJP lead NDA government at the centre. So much so that BJP MLA, Mr. Prahlad Joshi had taken Ms. Lankesh to court for writing against him. Mr. Joshi had won the defamation suit. Ms. Lankesh was out on bail.

Ms. Lankesh was gunned down outside her home. Identity of killer/s remain illusive. Some believe, right wing organisations got her killed. Others believe, Ms. Lankesh got death threat from ultra left. Meanwhile, protests have been organised, opinion pieces have been written, prime time Television time alloted to debate rising intolerance in India and death of Ms. Lankesh. Though there is not an iota of proof about who killed Gouri Lankesh, many of her supporters, friends and well wishers have alluded to statements made by right wing leaders after news of Ms. Lankesh’s death emerged.

It is true some right wing supporters had expressed happiness at the death of Ms. Lankesh. A member of Karnataka state assembly has claimed Ms. Lankesh was killed because she wrote against the right wing politics. Many others had used very foul language against protests being organized in her memory. For examples, Mr. Nikhil Dadhich had said the ” a journalist died a dog’s death and all the sympathisers (referred to as ‘puppies’ in the tweet) are mewling following”.

Nikhil Dadhich

Another gentleman went to issue death threat to journalists, with a statement one has died, time has come for others to meet the same fate.

Vikramditya Rana

These statements are repulsive. These statements are obnoxious. Any right thinking human being will not rejoice death of another human, no matter how serious may be the difference of opinion. Law minister in Modi cabinet, Mr. Ravis Shankar Prasad, has condemned such statements. Are these an evidence that right had killed her? I think not. It must be remembered that these statements were made after a concerted attempt by left parties and liberal media to blame right wing groups for Ms. Lankesh’s death.

One must not ignore the fact that Ms. Lankesh was a fire brand journalist as Ms Lankesh. She had an ongoing no holds barred feud with right wing groups. As listed below, some of the statements like calling prime minister of India

(i) an idiot,

Idiot(ii) prime minster of India to be in a gay relationship with Ausralian prime minister,

Gay

(iii) proposing to send soiled sanitary napkins to prime minister,

DJJA7I3W0AAPL5i

iv. or calling right wing supporters a product of rape,

Sex

All of the statements mentioned above are  not exactly in great taste.

In this day and age of social media, people from different corners of India can see what another person is writing. If one decides to offend, they should be ready to receive offense. And, such response may not come in sanitized Queen’s English. People will respond in the way they are comfortable. This is as much true for right as for left and for neutral. Do not cry intolerance and loss of freedom of expression, if you decide to offend.

Gouri Lankesh : Death of a Journalist and Spinning of a Narrative

Gouri Lankesh was a journalist for Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada language news paper. Gouri was killed between 7.30 and 8.30 pm in the evening of 6th Sep, 2017. She was opening her gate of her home, when assailant/s fired at and killed her.

At 9 pm in the evening, I was watching India Today TV program hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai. Rajdeep had dedicated the program on Gouri Lankesh and was busy building a narrative on intolerance and freedom of expression. He was interviewing Aakar Patel, Teesta Setalvad and others who are vehemently anti BJP. Remember police had not started its investigation yet. Within 24 hour, vice president of congress party, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, accused RSS – BJP ideology for the death of Gouri Lankesh. New York Times published an editorial implicating rightwing goons for an atmosphere of hatred, that eventually lead to killing of Gouri Lankesh. The article suggested PM Modi must condemn the murder. Several articles were published by noted intellectuals and journalists  like Mr. Ram Guha, Mr. Mukul Kesavan, Ms Saba Naqvi, and many others pointing at the climate of intolerance. Protests were held in several cities in memory of Gouri Lankesh. In one such meet, a non journalist Sehla Rashid, tried to eject and accredited journalist from Republic TV on charge that the channel was building false narrative on Ms. Lankesh’s death. Ofcourse, right narrative was right wing goons had killed Ms. Lankesh.
In the middle of all these arguments, debates, protests,no one answered a simple question, where is the proof? If police is clueless, if police has announced a reward of 10 lac rupee for any clue in the murder, how does all polictians, intellectuals, journalists, activists and even New York Times knew who killed Gouri Lankesh? If they know, why don’t these people share the information with police and accept the reward money? In the eventuality of  police investigation revealing that right wing was not involved in murder of Gouri Lankesh, then would New York Times still demand condemnation from Mr. Modi?
It is important to remember that Ms. Lankesh had fought a case with BJP members of parliament, Mr Prahlad Joshi. She lost her case. She was out on bail for making appeal to higher court. In the line of this evidence, does BJP has any motive to eliminate Ms. Lankesh? Brother of Ms. Lankesh had said on national TV that she was getting threat from ultra left. While her sister had said that it was right wing that were threatening Ms. Lankesh. A t matter which is so complex, should all concerned not hold their horses and wait for police to complete its enquiry and make an arrest?

It is amusing that people are asking for condemnation from prime minister, but keeping quiet about chief minister of state who is expected to oversee law and order. Gowri Lankesh murder is linked with those of Govind Pansare – Narendra Dabholkar – M M Kalburgi. It is important to remember that all these crimes happened when UPA II was in power at centre, and Congress governments in Maharashtra and Karnataka. No headway has been made in any cases. A leaked report suggest that a 7.65 mm pistol was used in the murder of Ms. Lankesh. It has also emerged that similar type of weapon was used in the assassination of Mr. M. M. Kalburgi and Mr. Gobind Pansare.  If police has such a viable lead, why are they not able to capture the killers? Mr. Kalburgi lost his life nearly two years before. It is plausible that police does not know anything beyond this information. It is also possible that, police may know the common link but fearful of revealing the same keeping in mind the power that be. In that case, it is doubtful we shall ever know who killed Ms. Lankesh.

According to Dhananjay Mahapatro, Committee for Protection of Journalists mentions names of  forty one Indian journalists, including Ms. Gouri Lankesh, who lost their lives since 1992. In addition, between June 1 and October of 2015, another six journalists were murdered. We have never heard of any outrage for these lives lost. May be Ms. Lankesh augurs a start. On the other, because Ms. Lankesh belonged to left, an outrage was orchestrated.