Friday, November 17, 2017

International recognition

Moody's India upgrade is good. It is also a good news that the international rating agency like Moody's has not only praised economic measures taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also upgraded India's sovereign rating to BAA2 with a stable outlook from Baa3 earlier. This is the first time that Moody's upgraded India's rating since 2004. Moody’s upgrade of India’s economic rating can be interpreted as recognition of the raft of structural reforms taken by the current government over the last 3-4 years. This is the first time in 13 years that the international rating agency has raised India’s assessment – to Baa2 from Baa3 – indicating that the economy has moved from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’, and is on a high growth trajectory. Among the principal policy changes that have contributed to improving India’s rating are the implementation of a comprehensive reforms programme, including the introduction of the GST, the Aadhaar system of biometric accounts, direct benefit transfer schemes and measures to address bad loans. The upgrade essentially means that the cost of international borrowing will now become cheaper for the Indian government and Indian corporates, and also lead to a surge in equity markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took two important economic decisions. One is of demonetization and other is of GST. The entire nation affirmed faith in PM's speech that after 50 days of demonetization, all economic ails will be removed from the country. Black money, corruption, counterfeiting of notes, stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir, Naxalism and terrorism would be finished. PM with his declaration of demonetization in a televised addressed to the nation at 8 PM on Nov. 8, 2016, that all high currency notes of 500 and 1000 will no longer be legal tenders. He called up all citizens to exchange their demonetized high currency notes from banks. He appealed to the countrymen to bear with the problems in standing in a queue outside the bank for 50 days in the interest of the nation. The demonetized high currency notes of Rs. 500 and 1000 constituted 86 percent of total currency notes. If RBI report is anything to go by, about 99 percent of the currency came into the banking system. The expenditure on the printing of the news notes exceeded their value. This is one part of the result of demonetization. Its second part is its impact on small and medium business and employment in the country. If CMEI report is anything to go by, 15 lakh people were rendered jobless in the first three months of 2017 due to demonetization. As all economic activities came to a halt, there prevailed gloom in the market. With the introduction of GST, which is PM Modi’s pet economic move, the small and medium businessmen were harmed beyond expectation. Its official paraphernalia of taxation is so lengthy and computerized that it is beyond their understanding. The Moody’s may have upgraded India’s rating, but the ground economic reality tells a different story. The poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer. The gulf between the poor and the rich has also widened. So, it would be better if Modi Govt. had not patted its back merely at Moody’s upgrade India rating. Prices of all edibles and essential commodities are also going up and up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bonhomie in Indo-US relations

After the meeting of a quadrilateral coalition of four nations- India, the US, Japan and Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held bilateral meeting with the US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of ASEAN summit at Manila in the Philippines. The meeting between the two was held in a very cordial atmosphere and both appreciated each other's performances. PM Modi thanked President Trump for praising him whenever he got the opportunity. PM Modi also praised Trump's style of functioning. It clearly appears that the chemistry between the two leaders is very fine. Both showed warmth and affection for each other and they also gave clear hints that they would take the relations between the two countries to new heights. They not only talked about bilateral issues but also beyond that. Quadrilateral talks among the four nations were held to keep Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive. Though China sees it as grouping against it in Asia, it is its misplaced belief. It is only meant for establishing peace, prosperity, and amity among Asian nations. This type of grouping was formed earlier also but that it did not work and ultimately it was dissolved. President Donald Trump appears to be a very big fan of PM Modi. He has always spoken very high of him. With the US coming closer to India for the last few years especially after sealing the N-deal between the two countries, the strategic relations also got strengthened.US is the oldest democracy while India is the largest one in the world. So, the US and India can be natural partners. They are expected to be on the same page in dealing with international problems. But for that, both will have to rise above personal interests. It is the statesmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he impressed all the world leaders whom he has met so far. It is our PM's personal traits that all the leaders become impressed with him very easily. Both India and the US should work beyond bilateral issues. They should work for peace and development in the Indo-Pacific region. The US being the sole superpower of the world, it has greater responsibility in the development of Indo-Pacific region. It also must be ensured that no Asian country could try to establish its hegemony in the region. With XI Jing being in power for 5 more years in China and his military preparations, it is necessary for the US President Trump to act decisively so that no confrontation or collection of armed personnel could take place in the Indo-Pacific region. Since the US started coming closer to India and distancing itself from Pakistan, an open field for China was left to set its feet firmly in the Asian region. Pakistan and China came close to each other. Apart from CPEC already in place, Pak even allowed Chinese troops to set their feet on its territory for war and other exercises. It is a dangerous development that Pakistan has now completely surrendered to China. China's free entry in Pakistan is not good for India. The US is required to be watchful of the development China in India's neigbourhood. President Donald Trump has often praised Prime Minister Modi the most recent instance was on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Vietnam where he gave credit for India's rising growth trajectory to Prime Minister Modi. Earlier at the G20 Summit in Germany too, the chemistry between both the leaders made heads turn. The bonhomie in relations was first seen this year in June during Prime Minister Modi's America visit when President Trump and First Lady Melania hosted him at the White House for bilateral talks.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Delhiites gasping for breath

Delhi air quality has gone down an all-time low. It shoots up to 451 on the scale where the maximum level is 500. The inhaling of Delhi air in the morning is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes. It is detrimental to healthy individuals and those who suffer from breathing, heart and throat problem. As per the IMA, this is a public health emergency as the city has practically turned into a gas chamber. When Delhiites woke up in the morning today, it seemed as if the city were shrouded in a thick blanket of smog with the visibility level very low and pollution level crossing all danger limits. Air quality in the capital is getting worse and worse and pollution level in the city reached to 451. All India Medical Association has rightly declared a public health emergency in Delhi. The situation is very grave and disturbing. Supreme Court mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has recommended the four-time increase in Parking fee and rationalizing the Metro Fare. It is time for the Central, Delhi, environment activists and the common Delhiites to make aware the people of the impending danger of pollution. The immediate need of the hour for the govt. in Delhi is to take emergency measures to meet the emergency situation. The rising level of pollution is posing a great threat to the health of the school going children in the morning. The pollution in the morning is inhaled by them profusely and that causes lungs and other throat related diseases. The worsening condition of pollution may cause health problems for healthy people. Those people who suffer from Cardiovascular and heart diseases have to be away from this type of polluted environment. This is not the first time that the Delhiites have experienced this thick cover of smog. It is a regular phenomenon for them. The Delhi Govt. must deal stringently with the people who violate norms meant for keeping pollution in check by using diesel generators all the time at their shops, offices and residences. The petrol run vehicles must be regulated in the city and the burning of stubble by the farmer in NCR and neighbouring states to clear the field be stopped. To deal with the problem of rising pollution effectively, the Govt. must introduce and well-managed and comfortable public transports on the road the number of the round of Metro every minute should also be increased. Delhiites would continue to experience worsening condition. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, high moisture level in the air has trapped emission from local sources and hanging low over the city in the absence of wind. A 'severe' Air Quality Index comes with the warning that air affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. The CPCB also recorded 'severe' air quality in the neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad. Due to smog-like condition, the visibility early in the morning remained low, causing problems in rail and flight movement. The Supreme Court mandated green body Environment Pollution ( Prevention and Control) Authority- EPCA has recommended a four-times hike in parking fee and reduction of metro fares during off-peak hours to tackle the severe air quality in Delhi- NCR. The Committee met in New Delhi in the backdrop of worsening air quality in the region and announced a series of measures under the Graded Response Action Plan. The measures also include complete closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers across the region till further notice.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lacking in action against corruption

Paradise after Panama papers have revealed the names of high and mighty, who have tax haven dealings, but despite the prompt order of probe, no action would be initiated on the report of the investigation. Though Centre has rightly ordered a probe by the reconstituted Multi Agency Group into the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' Paradise Papers, the most important thing is action on the report of investigation. It is welcome that the Govt. has taken prompt action by ordering the probe immediately after Paradise papers’ names came to light, which reflects how big and mighty people from all around the world commit irregularities and have tax haven dealings. They have unaccounted money so they deal with tax haven by conniving with the law of the land. Paradise and Panama papers are of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which have leaked the information about how political leaders, Bollywood actors, businessmen, doctors etc. have stashed their unaccounted money into tax haven countries. With the revelation of Panama papers, several governments all around the world, including our neighbour Pakistan toppled, but no action was taken by our Govt. against those powerful personalities whose names figured in them. So, mere giving order to probe into Paradise papers and taking no action on the report of the investigation would never serve any purpose. And ultimately, it sends out the message that the Govt. at the Centre is not interested in acting against those people whose names figured in either Panama or Paradise. India's rank is 19th in Paradise papers as far as the name of the people in them is concerned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi always stresses the need for rooting out corruption from the country. But the time of issuing statements have gone. Now, action against corruption irrespective of connection is urgently required. Otherwise, the impression would go that Narendra Modi govt. is as lax as the previous one was in regards to fighting against corruption. ICIJ and 95 media partners explored 13.4 million leaked files from some of the world's most secretive countries. Prominent names from the US, UK, several other countries even India are shown to have tax haven dealings. From India to Washington, to London from Canada to Pakistan the new set of papers reveal how world’s rich and mighty has been indulging in alleged financial irregularities. Indian govt. has already taken cognizance and investigation units of the Income Tax Department have been alerted to take note of revelations for immediate appropriate action. It has been reported that many cases of offshore entities are already under investigation on fast track. The Government has directed that investigations in cases of Paradise Papers will be monitored through a reconstituted Multi Agency Group, headed by the Chairman, CBDT, having representatives from CBDT, ED, RBI & FIU. The most appropriate way to deal with corruption and black money is to take prompt action against all those, who are involved amassing ill-gotten money, irrespective of their connection. The time has come for action, and not merely issuing statement after statement about this and that achievement.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Corruption charges follow everywhere

By changing sides, the stigma of corruption charges against the political party leaders is not washed away. It is no logic that by joining the ruling BJP, the tainted leaders of Congress and other opposition parties are absolved of all charges. The two tainted leaders one of Himachal Pradesh and the other of West Bengal have left their parties and joined the BJP. The charges of corruption against them were leveled against them by none other than the BJP leaders. But now they have become clean only because they joined the BJP. It means the BJP is like the holy Ganges in which whichever tainted political leaders take a dip is washed off their sin of corruption. Pandit Sukhram was the Telecom Minister in Congress government of Narasimha Rao in 1996 when the investigating agency (CBI) during their investigation at his residences both at Mandi and New Delhi reportedly found bundles of notes of different denominations worth several crores in cash under his bed. Parliament was adjourned for more than two weeks over the bribery charges against Sukharam. The main leaders in Parliament who raised voice vociferously in Parliament were from the BJP. They stopped the Parliament to run for weeks over Sukhram issue. But when first Sukhram and then his son Anil Sharma in Himachal Pradesh left Congress and Joined BJP, they were considered, to be honest. What a standard parameter! It means it is clear that votes matter above everything for all political parties. There is no importance of moral, ethics, sanctity and character before votes for them. It is now clearly reflected that vote gathering capacity is the only factor in deciding the personality of political leaders. No doubt, Sukhram is still the most popular leader and has a strong grip on the voters in Mandi. Senior TMC leader Mukul Roy resigned from the party and joined BJP. He was close lieutenant of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He is accused of involvement in the famous scandals of Narada and Sharda. Again, it is none other than the BJP which had sought at the top of its voice for action against all those TMC leaders who were allegedly involved in Sharada and Narada Ponzi scandals. But now when Mukul Roy joined BJP, all the charges of corruption against him were of bygone days. BJP’s philosophy is that the past is past. Now see ahead and leave the baggage behind. BJP President Amit Shah laid the trap to enmesh Mukul Roy to strengthen his resurging party in Bengal. With the Left on the verge of total collapse and the Congress disorganized and disjointed in Bengal, BJP is emerging as the main opposition party in West Bengal. As Mukul Roy was considered to be very close to CM Mamata Banerjee since Nandigram Singur agitations against the Left, he has failed to connect with the people on the ground in West Bengal. He is not a mass leader like Mamata Banerjee. So, by taking Mukul Roy on board, BJP is not in a position to challenge her. She is still the way ahead of all other leaders of the state so far as the popularity graph is considered. Mamata Banerjee is the tigress of Bengal. She is connected with the people on the ground. Undoubtedly, BJP's vote share has gone up sharply in the last one or two elections but it does not mean that it poses any threat to Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Changing sides to wash off corruption taint is nothing but the political degeneration setting deeply in leaders and parties.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Shadow boxing between BJP and Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena is the oldest ally of BJP. It is in govt. with BJP in Maharashtra and at the Centre. There is more or less ideological similarity between the two parties. BJP is the bigger partner both in Maharashtra and at the Centre. Shiv Sena's political influence is confined to Maharashtra only while BJP is not only the national party but also emerged as the largest one of the nation. Just after a year and half of Narendra Modi govt. at the Centre, Shiv Sena started expressing reservation against the BJP openly. Though BJP has restrained so far in giving tit for tat to BJP to some extent, it now appears that breaking point between the two is about to be reached. Shiv Sena's Mouthpiece Samana's editorial stridently criticized the Demonetization and GST moves of the Narendra Modi Govt. In addition to that Sena Spokesperson Sanjay's Raut statement that now there is no longer Modi wave and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is capable of leading the nation will certainly sour relations between the two oldest allies. Shiv Sena's founder Bal Thackery also did not enjoy a very good relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is no cordiality of the past between the two parties - Shiv Sena and BJP- being represented by Bal Thackery and Vajpayee- Advani duo respectively left anymore. And if this situation continued to prevail, it would not be a surprise that both the allies would choose their own way. The root cause of strain in a relation between Shiv Sena and BJP is that the former is not getting as much weight in Fadnavis-led BJP govt. in the state of Maharashtra. At the Centre also, BJP in Modi regime attaches any importance to Shiv Sena. It is also the fear of Shiv Sena that the rising popularity of BJP and its tilt towards Sharad Pawar - led NCP in Maharashtra may cause a split in it. Praising Rahul Gandhi and demeaning Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the Shiv Sena's spokesperson must have political importance. BJP may not react to Sanjay Raut in the same tone and tenor, but the knot has already set in relation with Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena has officially criticized Demonetization and GST and observing the ire of small and middle-class business persons at these two economic decisions, it has predicted that BJP might loose Gujarat this time. The thinking of Shiv Sena has always been low, narrow, parochial and regional. It may not openly espouse the cause of regionalism, but its breakaway group Maharashtra Navnirman Samiti (MNS) led by Bal Thackeray's nephew Raj Thackeray openly resorts to goondaism against the autorickshaw drivers, Rickshaw pullers, small business persons, hawkers and others in Mumbai from north India, especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the state police and administration remain a mute spectator. BJP is the ruling party. BJP being largest national party, it should have immediately snapped its ties with this narrow and parochial party like Shiv Sena. Though Maharashtra Govt. is helpless in acting against the goons of MNS, who beat hawkers and auto rickshaw drivers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, hawkers have given them befitting reply. We are not supporting violence in any way by any side. But when no way is left and the govt. becomes silent over the alleged crime of Raj Thackeray's goons, the situation demands tit for tat. Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city. It is not only Indians but the people from all over the world visit. So, its cosmopolitan character must be kept intact. It will be better for BJP to snap the tie with Shiv Sena as early as possible. Otherwise, its own image is tarnished in the company of Shiv Sena. When Shiv Sena says that Modi wave has faded away, it means it has now no hope with BJP.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pak is deaf to US warning This is not the first time that the US has given a strong message to Pakistan to act against terrorists living in safe havens there. This type of message has been given to it a number of times in recent years. And all the US messages to Pak went unheeded. Pakistan never acted against terror on the US suggestion, advice, instruction, and dictation. The stark example of this is about the US most wanted terrorist Al-Qaeda boss Osama-bin-Laden, who was in safe havens in Abbottabad near Karachi in Pakistan, before being killed in the raid of his residence by the SEAL (US national navy). Pakistan had always been in denial mode about the whereabouts of Osama-bib-Laden while he was living there in safe havens. The duplicity of Pakistan is no longer a secret. It is known worldwide. The US is required to take direct action against Pakistan to show the world, especially, India that it wants at heart to fight against terrorism to finish. Though Pakistan has denied about the US wish list of about 100 terrorists whom the US wants to be handed over, the name of India’s most wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar are not on it. The US list does not contain the name of Hafiz Saed, the Mumbai terror attack mastermind who carries a bounty of 10 million dollars on his head, but has been under house arrest since January.Mostly the terrorists belonging to Haqqani network figured on the list. To fight against terrorism and act against the nation which aids, abets and support terrorism, it is necessary to take hard steps on the ground. Merely giving verbal warning time and again cannot serve the purpose. Rather, it emboldens the nation which sponsors terrorism. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he had a frank exchange with Pakistan leadership on US expectations in a fight against terror. Tillerson himself had made the US position clear, at a press briefing on the last leg of his 8-day visit in Geneva.During his recent visit to Pakistan, he said he had a frank exchange of views with the Pakistani leadership and made it clear that nothing could be achieved by lecturing, but the US was very clear about expectations and what it was asking. The US too should have clear intent while dealing with the issue of terrorism. If it continued to keep its interest uppermost as far as terrorism is concerned, its fight cannot be taken to the logical end. The time has come for the US to act against Pakistan. It is always in denial mode on the issue of providing safe havens to terrorism. So, it deserves to be given a hard blow to open its mind. Otherwise, the warning after warning will go in vain.