N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

Indian Democracy Thrives

3 mins read

 It is more than seventy years now, since India attained independence   from British rule and   drafted a well-balanced Constitution, which form the basis for Indian democratic process. Several national and state elections have been conducted and the victorious political party has taken over the governance in a smooth manner. Over the years, there have been building up of great awareness amongst the people about their fundamental rights and freedom of speech.  While for an outsider, it may look like a noisy democracy in India, with protests, allegations and counter allegations and even corruption charges being raised and framed and complaints about dynastic political culture being developed with number of political parties coming under the grip of family control, still the ground reality is that democracy as an institution is surviving and thriving.

Of course, in any democratic country, people have the freedom to express their views and involve themselves in public activities which may  be different for different people or different groups. In such situation, there is bound to be discussions and controversies about the way forward. The advocates of democracy would say that such conditions are the essence of democracy and noise in a democratic country very well proves that democracy is thriving.

In recent times, there have been allegations in India that central government and some of the state governments are curtailing the freedom of speech, indulging in arbitrary arrests and framing motivated corruption charges.

Of course, at the same time, it is also pointed out that freedom of individuals cannot be absolute in any society and liberty cannot be merely a personal affair and it has to be a social contract.  While freedom of speech and action are important, abuse of freedom of speech and action by any individual or group or political party has to be closely monitored   by the government and if necessary, restricted to ensure the orderly process of democracy.

Now, with the court verdict going against Rahul Gandhi, who is a Congress party member and his being disqualified from his parliamentary membership as per the prevailing law, the Congress party and several opposition parties have joined together and   are accusing the Modi government of taking arbitrary action against Rahul Gandhi and also initiating anti-corruption proceedings and investigation against several members of the opposition parties.  These opposition parties have coined a new term “Indian democracy in danger”, as if the process of Indian democracy have collapsed or derailed under the weight of what they call as “dictatorship type of governance by Mr. Modi”.

The question is whether Indian democracy is really in danger or whether such accusations are being made by certain political parties and individuals as a strategy to save themselves from being investigated against by the government. Now, these opposition parties have approached the Supreme Court claiming that investigative agencies are being misused and the court has agreed to hear the case.

One of the promises made by Mr. Modi during the election campaign and repeatedly after , is that he would eradicate corruption in India by appropriate strategies. Several proactive initiatives have been made to promote transparency in governance by introducing digitalization in a massive way to avoid middle men in transactions and so many other similar steps.  In the process, it is inevitable that the investigating agencies have to probe any corrupt dealing that it come across   and in the process raids  and enquiries  have to   necessarily take place.

It is important to keep in view that punishment for an individual for the corrupt dealings or any objectionable activity are provided by the judiciary and not by the investigating agencies or the government.  The criticism of the opposition parties against the so called “arbitrary investigation” is unacceptable, as it virtually means that investigation should not be carried out at all. How can corrupt dealings and objectionable activities be identified and brought to justice without launching investigations?

The other argument by the critics appear to be that only the members of the opposition parties are being targeted and not the members of the ruling parties.  In such case, the critics can file case in the court against the corrupt dealing of any ruling party member, which has not been done so far.  For example, it is said that Adani group is corrupt and Modi government has favoured Adani group in an unacceptable way. If it is so, what prevent the critics from taking the issue to the court, instead of confining themselves only to media outburst?

In recent time, several members of the opposition parties and critics have used several abusive term against Mr. Modi i and have gone to the extent of calling him as thief and so many other highly derogatory terms.  After using such abusive language against the Prime Minister, they have gone scot free. Is it not a proof that democracy thrives in India as even abuse of freedom to malign as important a person as Prime Minister is being tolerated?

Certainly, democracy is not in danger in India. It is as vibrant as democracy in any other country like USA, UK, Canada and so on.

One can even say that there are some aspects, where Indian democracy can even be a role model for other democracies in the world, when we see persons belonging to different political parties who criticize each other still maintain good personal relationships.

India: Modi Should Stand by Annamalai

2 mins read

Mr. Annamalai’s entry into Tamil Nadu politics,  after resigning from the post of  high profile  police officer at young age , reminds one about the freedom fighters before India’s independence when several highly qualified  persons even from low income  families  entered politics with high motivation to fight for India’s freedom.

Certainly, even the pledged critics of  Mr.  Annamalai cannot but agree that he has brought in a refreshing political climate in Tamil Nadu,  due to his caliber and sense of commitment to value system ,  which obviously are of much higher standards than the other political leaders in the state. Several of his public speeches and observations have been scholarly , whether it concerns philosophy or history or economics or politics.

Need  for  quality  leadership

In the last sixty years or so , Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by dravidian parties, when political and administrative corruption have gradually and steadily  become the order of the day.  The social life   and harmony in the state has been uprooted by lifting prohibition and in the process,  driving large section of menfolk into liquor addicts. As a result, life of several women particularly in poor families have almost become like one living in a hell, taking beatings form the menfolk.

Of late,. violence in public life have increased to an alarming level due to loss of value system in public and private life,  due to steadily declining standards of political leadership in the state.

The recent east Erode by election is a case study and immediate example to show the extent of deterioration in the political and social climate and value system in the state.

Obviously, there is urgent need for quality leadership to restore Tamil Nadu’s glory.

Kamaraj Era :

In such conditions, the young people, who have not seen or experienced the glorious administration of the former Chief Minister Mr. Kamaraj before the dravidian parties came to power , wonder whether such a person  like Mr. Kamaraj of great eminence and commitment to probity  could have  lived in Tamil Nadu and  ruled Tamil Nadu with such lofty standards at all.

Certainly, there is a widespread desire  and yearning amongst cross section of discerning people in Tamil Nadu today that a progressive  political climate with value systems with probity and transparency in governance  as existed in Kamaraj era. is urgently needed.

Today, there is a compelling need to bring back the glory  of Tamil culture and traditions and this would be possible only by replacing the dravidian parties with alternate leadership of much higher standards and commitment.

What Mr. Annamalai justifiably desires ?

When Mr. Annamalai entered Tamil Nadu politics, many people saw his entry with curiosity and disbelief , as sacrifice of personal interest for the sake of public cause amongst political leaders have become unknown in Tamil Nadu these days.

Certainly, activities of Mr. Annamalai   with courage of conviction and unbending desire to fight for rightful cause and backed by  high level of education and knowledge , has caught the imagination of the people.

For the sake of political compulsions, Mr. Annamalai is unwilling to align his party with other parties,   some of whose leaders are facing corruption charges.

Mr. Annamalai justifiably thinks that Kamaraj era can be brought back to Tamil Nadu , only by taking an uncompromising stand on principles  and guided by national cause and providing an opportunity for the people to exercise their franchise during the elections based on the need for value system  in public life.

Mr.  Annamalai  is certainly not interested  in taking a short term look to win elections in 2024 or 2026  for his party . Mr. Annamalai has made it clear that he is  willing to put forth utmost efforts and hard work to convince people to vote for his party  under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Modi..  This is the mental outlook and approach that would reflect on statesmanship quality of a political leader.

Prime Minister should stand by Mr. Annamalai in his quest for probity in public life and share his faith in people’s wisdom , if given an opportunity to exercise their franchise

Corrupt Politicians Are Known to Be Shameless but Now Fearless Too

3 mins read

The respect  and public esteem that politicians commanded in India was at the highest level , when they were fighting for the freedom of the country from British rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The freedom  for India was attained in 1947.  At that time, ethics and morals were considered as cardinal principles of politics.

Many stalwarts  with high level of personal integrity  and  lofty  principles and commitment to national cause such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari and so many others   were on the scene ,  who were respected  even by the Britishers and even as the  Britishers  harassed  them and put them in jail for their freedom struggle.

After independence in 1947, for around 15 years or so  ,  reasonably high level of standards were maintained in the Indian politics . However, with the passing away of the freedom fighters one by one who were replaced by next generation politicians , standards of politics started declining in the country.

The deterioration steadily became more  severe by the  year 1980  and beyond  when  corruption level amongst politicians  reached  alarming level and  became the order of the   day. People started losing faith and started thinking    that politicians remaining honest  would be an exception rather than a rule in India. 

In the year 2014 national elections, Mr. Modi campaigned strongly and promised to root out corruption in India in every sphere. As people were desperately looking for such  commitment from a political leader, people responded and Mr. Modi became the Prime Minister of India.

Again in the year 2019, Mr. Modi was elected  as Prime Minister of India ,  as people continued to believe that Mr. Modi could be the political leader who can root out corruption in India.  While Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministership is being applauded or criticised for several reasons, the ground reality is that most people are   impressed about the personal integrity of Mr. Modi and his success in leading the central government without any charges of corruption or nepotism against anyone of his ministers.

Mr. Modi is attempting to checkmate corruption by promoting transparency in administration , digitalisation of transactions, direct transfer  of subsidies to poor people  etc. But, corruption continues to prevail in India today.

Certainly, in the coming 2024 national election, by and large , people would evaluate Mr. Modi’s performance  based on his efforts to root out corruption in India.

Corruption free India nowhere looks   like emerging in the near future, inspite of the dent that Mr. Mod has made  in  the corruption climate in the country to some extent.  The challenge for Mr. Modi in  fighting corruption is  in reforming the calibre of  politicians in India . 

The problem is that majority of  politicians in India today are shameless  and do not think that indulging in corruption is anything wrong.  Now, further deterioration is seen  that these corrupt politicians are not only shameless but are  also becoming fearless.  Some of them seem to think that going to jail on corruption charges would  not be a bad idea , as they seem to think that they could gain  people’s sympathy and get their  votes. What sort of mindset is this?

Everyone of the politician who have indulged in corruption which are very obvious  , call  the investigation against their misdeeds  as  vendetta , when  enforcement agencies catch them on some solid ground. Instead of feeling disturbed and shameful  for being investigated against and the charges against them certainly credible , the corrupt politicians  challenge the government and call the actions against them  as vindictive  and motivated.   With money power at their disposal , they are able to organise demonstration and protest  meetings  and issue false narratives  to mislead the gullible public.  Media is full of stories about corrupt politicians being hauled up and these corrupt politicians defending themselves and with no sense of shame or fear.

It remains to be seen how Mr. Modi would deal with such shameless and fearless corrupt politicians . Putting them down is a pre condition to ensure near corruption free in India.

The challenge before Mr. Modi is grim and he has to  live upto his reputation a s a crusader against corruption, before the forthcoming 2024 national election.

Obviously, Mr. Modi  has to be ruthless in dealing with the corrupt politicians, whether they  belong  to the  opposition political parties  or his own political party. One may think that  in the type of political climate in India today, where corruption  has become a rule rather an exception  and where corruption is no more confined to politics alone but also have trickled to all sorts of business activities at different level, Mr. Modi’s ruthless approach against corrupt politicians would   be met with fierce resistance.

The task is really daunting, as   several political parties are now  really controlled by dynastic   persons (family members ) ,  who  adopt all sort of strategies to amass wealth  by foul means and to protect their family interests  . In such conditions,  it has become necessary not only to catch the corrupt politicians but also their family members.

It remains to be seen as to whether  such anti corruption efforts would lead to a situation, where  Mr. Modi  would go down  by failing or go up by succeeding

Ukraine War Can Be Ended Only If Russia Would Desire

3 mins read

With over one year gone after the commencement of Russia Ukraine war, there is fatigue evident in Russia, Ukraine and worldwide about this war.  There is an overwhelming desire across the world that this unnecessary and counterproductive war with apparently no valid reason for the war should be ended forthwith.  Now, who can end this war?  This war can be ended only by Russia.

Russia started this war around a year back claiming that Ukraine wanted to join NATO and NATO would admit Ukraine, which would be a threat for Russia’s territorial security.  NATO denied any move to admit Ukraine in NATO.  However, this statement of NATO fell on the deaf ears of Russian leadership.  Many suspects that Russia started this war against Ukraine deliberately to occupy Ukraine fully and completely, as part of its territorial expansion plan. Possibly, this was part of a move to restore the Soviet Union as existed earlier.  Russia said that NATO would admit Ukraine only as an excuse to start this war.

Obviously, Russia’s calculation has gone wrong and it’s expectation that it would quickly run over Ukraine has not materialized due to resilience by Ukraine leadership and support of the NATO and USA for Ukraine. Probably, Russia thought that it would occupy Ukraine in quick time before NATO and USA could respond.

But for the support extended by NATO and USA, Ukraine would have been part of Russia by now and Russia would have been holding on to Ukraine forever. This would be similar to China entering Tibet around seven decades back and completely occupying Tibet for very long time now. The difference between Ukraine and Tibet was that in the case of Ukraine, NATO and USA actively supported it by supplying arms but in the case of Tibet, it was only a lip sympathy from USA, Europe and India and China had its way.

Today, Russia Ukraine war is taking place on Ukraine soil and Ukraine airspace and not that of Russia. While Russia is the offender, Ukraine is only defending itself to the best of its capability. While millions of Ukrainians had to flee Ukraine as refugees to other countries to escape from the Russian attack and hundreds of Ukrainians have lost their lives and infrastructure destroyed in Ukraine, nothing of this sort has happened in Russia.

Russia’s accusations against NATO and USA for providing arms to Ukraine is thoroughly unjustified, as Russia is attacking Ukraine with its superior military strength. What Russia wants is that it must be left free to attack Ukraine and take over Ukraine, while the rest of the world should only be observing the massacre done by Russian forces in Ukraine, with the world citizens sitting in the gallery.

There are some traditional critics of USA and NATO who say that USA and NATO do not want this war to be ended and so they are supporting Ukraine in variety of ways. Is not this argument baseless?  Many NATO countries really want this war to stop as economy of NATO countries is getting disrupted. Several demonstrations have been send in NATO countries by people demanding end of this war.

Possibly, one should even applaud USA and NATO for not entering the war directly and attacking Russia, which would have become a   world war. To this extent, they have shown certain level of responsibility and maturity in viewing this Ukraine conflict. By confining themselves only to supplying arms and starting a trade war against Russia by imposing sanctions to force Russia to behave and stop the war against Ukraine, NATO and USA have adopted the only option they have to stop this war mongering Russia.

Today, there is no justification for continuing this war, since NATO has said that it would not admit Ukraine and Ukraine has said that it would not join NATO.  In such scenario, there is no reason for Russia to continue this war.

This war can be stopped only if Russia desires to stop the war and the ball is clearly in the court of Russia. All in all, Russia stands accused as an invading country and the world sympathises with Ukraine as a victim of war launched by Russia.

Probably, Russia wants a face-saving formula to end this war which is going beyond Russia’s expectations. Only Russia has to evolve its own face-saving formula to end this war, as it cannot be the responsibility of the world to save the face of Russia.

Khalistan Separatists Aided by Migrant Policy and Freedom Elsewhere Target India

3 mins read

Canada, a   rich and underpopulated country with huge land space and considerable mineral deposits, has adopted a liberal migrant policy for the last several years. It is debatable whether such an approach is influenced by the fact that Canada is underpopulated or its commitment to welcoming migrants and refugees as a humane policy.

 It is uncertain as to whether such a policy approach by the Canadian government will do well for Canada in the long run. The question is whether it would cause serious internal problems, by resulting in demographic imbalance and cultural dissimilarities amongst the natives and migrants/refugees entering Canada from different countries with divergent backgrounds.

Germany has welcomed refugees in a big way from strife-torn countries.  Availing Germany’s liberal approach, a large number of refugees particularly from Islamic countries have entered   Germany and are unlikely to go back. Such influx of refugees has been allowed by earlier German government as a humanistic approach towards refugees but has already caused serious local issues in Germany. Several Germans are protesting against such influx of refugees, most of whom have no particular skill or reasonable level of education and with different habits and priorities in personal life.

There are other countries in Europe such as Belgium, France, Britain where also migrants/refugees from African and Asian countries have entered, causing local issues.  Australia is yet another country with similar problems.  USA is also not an exception to such conditions.

Some migrants turned into separatists

This approach of the above countries have created problems for other countries like India and Sri Lanka since some separatists targeting India or Sri Lanka have also joined the group of people entering the above countries in the guise of migrants/refugees.

Sri Lanka suffered from serious internal strife resulting in a civil war launched by   LTTE separatists, who found a safe haven in countries like Canada, Britain, France and others.  Now, India is facing problems due to the Khalistan separatists based in countries like Canada, demanding a separate Khalistan region from India.

Khalistan separatists tolerated:

These Khalistan separatists virtually act and behave like terrorists and are not concealing their readiness to use violent methods to achieve their ends.  While they are firmly footed in Canada, they have also in recent times gained foothold in other countries like Britain, and Australia.

 What is unfortunate is that the countries like Canada have allowed these separatists to get a foothold, in spite of the fact that it is well known that they have separatist objectives in other countries, which would inevitably destabilize the targeted countries of the separatists, with adverse impact on their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

in the name of their commitment to free speech, individual liberty and democratic procedures,  these democratic countries like Canada which are accommodating the separatists, virtually remain silent about the activities of the  Khalistan separatists, They do not seem to realise that the activities of the  Khalistan separatist groups are similar to the double-edged sword that has two sharp edges on both the sides.  While the targeted countries of the separatists suffer due to their activities, the countries accommodating these separatists will also be seriously impacted and this is already evident from several recent developments.

Violent acts:

Khalistan separatists have attacked several Hindu temples in Canada and Australia and they have not been caught and punished for their dastardly acts by Government of Canada and Government of Australia so far.

Due to the activities of the Khalistan separatists, the law and order scenario in countries like Canada, Australia have been disrupted to some extent and is likely that the disruption would become more severe beyond tolerable level in the coming period if their accommodative attitude towards separatists would continue.  

Recently, some Khalistan separatists have created huge law and order problem in Punjab state in India, where they attacked a police station with swords and arms, demanding the release of an arrested person. Unfortunately, the Punjab government panicked and released the arrested person, which inevitably have boosted the morale and confidence level of Khalistan terrorists.

Punjab government has said that these Khalistan terrorists who attacked the police station enjoy money support from overseas countries, where they have gained a foothold, obviously implying Canada.

Need for introspection:

 For a moment, the leadership in the Government of Canada, the Government of Australia and other countries should introspect as to how they would feel bad and concerned if a similar separatist movement against them would be encouraged or tolerated in some other countries, where these separatists would gain a place.

It is high time that in the name of liberty and freedom, governments in Canada, Australia, Britain and other democratic countries should not confuse themselves,  thinking that they would be right in accommodating separatists from other countries and providing them liberty and rights for free speech and unrestricted activities to cause disruptions in other countries.

If these democratic countries were to do so, it can be definitely said that they would become the cause for destabilizing other countries and creating pockets of tension in the world and disrupting global peace and harmony.

Is Lip Sympathy Enough for Harassed Women in Afghanistan and Iran?

3 mins read

Both men and women are children  of God  and obviously,  God has created men and women to compliment each other. The fact is that men need women and women need men and why  should men  think that they are superior to women in any way.

In all religions including  Islam,  nowhere it has been  said that  women should be subjected to any particular restriction by men.

While  practices of  denying liberty to women  by men were there all over the world in earlier days, most religions  and most countries have changed such approach over the years and reformed themselves.  Unfortunately, this is yet to happen  adequately in a few Islamic countries.

Holy Quran in several observations and guidelines have stressed the importance of women’s role and  insisted how women should be respected and their liberty should be ensured.

Due to inadequate understanding of the essential sayings  of Holy Quran and consequent misinterpretation, some Islamic countries , particularly Iran and Afghanistan have imposed extreme  restrictions on women even today.  Leadership of such countries are certainly acting against the tenets of Holy Quran.

Today, dress restriction for women is prevalent in several Islamic countries and muslim women are not allowed to pray in mosque where men offer prayers. The practice of muslim  man marrying several women   is prevalent  in several Islamic countries. Even in  secular countries like  India  , this practice is followed to some extent . In such countries, if muslim women were to defy   defy such   stressful conditions and insist on  their liberty to live as per their choice like the  other women in developed  countries , they could be harassed by muslim men in some cases . Such liberty craving muslim women would  be accused of violating the practices of Islam  , which is not true.

The recent protest by muslim women in Iran refusing to wear Hijab was put down   with force by the Iranian government. It appears that  such protesting muslim women have now been forced to go silent  by the authorities.

In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban government is insisting that women should not go for higher education and   even insist that women should not go to the male doctor for medical treatment whatever may be the severity of the illness. Are not all these practices obnoxious?  While in Afghanistan too there are some protests by muslim women against such restrictions, it appears that the protests of the muslim women have been silenced now by  the strong arm of the government.

The question is whether they would be any relief for such muslim women at all in these countries at any time in future.

Unfortunately,  so far,  only lip sympathy have been shown by rest of the world for these suffering muslim women. As usual , world body United Nations Organisation has passed some non binding condemnation about the harassment of  muslim women  in some countries and some women  associations  across the world have passed resolutions condemning the harassment of muslim women. These steps have not resulted in any tangible and real benefits to the suffering muslim women in   some Islamic countries.  In other words, the world opinion is virtually impotent  and the views expressed are nothing more than mere scrap of paper on which they are printed.

This is a very unfortunate situation today, where the leadership of the government in countries , where women are put to such harassment,  do not care for world opinion.  In this process , the fair name of the Islam religion in getting internationally  tarnished. 

To defend the liberty of the muslim women,  war is not an option against such countries under the control of merciless people with extreme views on the principles of Islam. 

At least, sort of strong international economic sanctions can  be imposed on such countries to make the government behave.  This has not been done in any meaningful way.

The muslim men  across the world who understand that Islam advocates respect for womenhood and not harassment of women and who value the reputation of Islam as a progressive religion , should voice their protest strongly against the harassment of muslim women in Afghanistan and Iran. . The silence of such progressive muslim men is evident and their protest is conspicuous by absence. It is high time that the world wide movement to restore the dignity of muslim women should be launched by progressive muslim men, that will have full support of the civilized world and would enjoy the grateful gratitude of harassed muslim women.

Pakistan Can Bounce Back Even Now, if it Wants

3 mins read

Facing severe economic crisis and near bankruptcy conditions and high inflation, citizens of Pakistan must be undergoing stressful time now. Apart from such severe economic crisis brought about due to combination of reasons and obviously several wrong decisions of the past, the frequent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Islamic extremism taking deep root in the country has created an unenviable situation.

Prime Minister of Pakistan and chief of army staff have themselves expressed their distress about such financial mess facing the country and obviously feel humiliated, as they have to plead for loan from other countries and also appeal for deferment of repayment schedule. Above all, the officials of International Monetary Fund are adding insult to injury by imposing conditions that should be adopted by Pakistan to avail financial support from IMF, even as those from IMF know that some of the conditions that they impose would add hardship to people.

All said and done, the question uppermost in the mind of Pakistan citizens and well-wishers of Pakistan around the world is where would Pakistan go from here. The anxious question asked is whether Pakistan would be able to come out of such turmoil at any time soon.

A careful analysis of the strength and potentials of Pakistan would only highlight the fact that Pakistan can come out of the present desperate situation, if the leadership in the government, chief of army staff and   enlightened people of Pakistan can reformulate the priorities and chalk out a time bound action plan in a pragmatic way.

 Certainly, other countries would respond to Pakistan’s need in variety of ways, if Pakistan government and people would convey the impression in a convincing way about such pragmatic policy and no nonsense approach and with hatred   and enmity for none. 

Pakistan has reasonably strong agricultural base and mineral resources, that can stand Pakistan in good stead in future, if only Pakistan government develop them adequately well.

Need for friendly relations with India:

The first proactive approach for Pakistan should be to restore   peaceful, friendly relation with India, which is possible. Indian Prime Minister Modi is fully focused on developing India industrially and economically and a war with Pakistan would be his last option.  India and Pakistan are spending excessive resources in building their military warfare due to mutual suspicion. This helps neither India nor Pakistan.

Obviously, some people in Pakistan are obsessed with the Kashmir issue and generation of citizens have grown in Pakistan thinking that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan at any cost. This is totally a counterproductive approach, failing to view the issue with proper and dispassionate perspective, keeping the thought process in both the countries in view.

Whatever that have happened in the past, a certain portion of Kashmir is now with Pakistan and rest is under the control of India. Let it remain in the same way and let both the countries decide accordingly.

With a strong and forward-looking leader like Mr.Modi in charge in India, this is possible. Pakistan government has to explain to the people about the inevitable need to solve Kashmir issue peacefully in one way or the other.

With cooperation with India, Pakistan can profitably gain by fostering trade relationship with India in a variety of ways that will benefit both countries.

Need to emulate other Islamic countries

Pakistan should learn from other Islamic countries like UAE, Qatar, Egypt and   maintain healthy respect for other religions like Hinduism and Christianity, even as Pakistan remains as a deeply devoted Islamic   nation.

A strong public opinion   has to be built in Pakistan against Islamic extremism in Pakistan by   soliciting support from well-intentioned and noble Islamic scholars who understand the spirit of Islam which is amity and equity and not animosity and violence.

Pakistan is a democratic country and deeply religious one. There are liberal Pakistan based journalists, who are known to have courage of conviction and progressive views based on ground realities.

The media can play a very big role in restoring the glory of Pakistan by moulding public opinion and thought process in a positive manner and even reforming the politicians by constructive criticism and providing corrective recommendations.

People to people relationship of India and Pakistan:

The first step towards enabling Pakistan to bounce back is to   build cordial relationship with India by amicably settling the Kashmir issue, strongly putting down the terrorist elements from creating problems in Kashmir that is now under India’s control.

The recent visit of Mr. Javed Akhtar, a well-known lyricist and poet from India to Pakistan and his interaction with the Pakistani citizens give great hope about the future relationship with both the countries. One of the observations during interaction was made by a Pakistan citizen that   almost amounted to saying that Pakistanis love Indians and bear no ill will.  The Indian lyricist responded that Indians cannot be blamed for suspicions about Pakistan since 26 / 11 attack in Mumbai was carried out by terrorists from Pakistan killing innocent people. For this response, there was no protest in Pakistan.

Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, one of the greatest thinkers of India said several decades back that   the best way of building good relationship with India and Pakistan is to encourage and facilitate citizens from both these countries to visit each other and build cordial relationship between the people.  Present is the right time for this approach.

Views expressed are the author’s own

To Overcome Economic Crisis, Sri Lanka Needs “Less Democracy” For Sometime

3 mins read

What to make of the mindset and approach of these politicians in Sri Lanka?   Is it their  case  that international intervention is necessary to ensure local body elections?

by N.S.Venkataraman 

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has suggested that local government polls in Sri Lanka  should be postponed, in view of the economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka. The government has explained the   difficulty in mobilising necessary funds to hold elections.  The Government Printer, too, informed that it was unable to print ballot papers due to lack of funds.

Instead of appreciating the issues and cooperating with the government, some political parties  and some activists in Sri Lanka are demanding that local body election should be held as per the schedule.  They are threatening to organise protests and launch agitation to demand elections.

The entire world knows that Sri Lanka is facing  unprecedented level of economic crisis , bordering bankruptcy The country is  facing  humiliating condition of having to ” beg”   for   loan from international financing institutions  and appeal to those countries which have earlier extended loans to defer the repayment schedule, so that Sri Lanka will not end up as a loan defaulter. 

In such circumstances,   Mr. Wickremesinghe  was  elected as the country’s President  in July 2022.  With long years of exposure  to political and economic scenario  in Sri Lanka and with reasonable level of personal   credibility, the President has been trying his level best to sail Sri Lanka out of the rough water and restore it’s dignity as a vibrant nation in the global arena.  The task is not easy, as the President has to start virtually from a scratch.

In such conditions, in a matured democracy, all political parties and citizens in various walks of life are expected to show understanding and support to the President, as the urgent task and challenge is to retrieve Sri Lanka from the brink of economic collapse.

Several elections have taken place in Sri Lanka in the past and delay of one more election for a few months in  such adverse scenario   should not be viewed  in any irresponsible manner as to state  that  “such attempts to prevent elections mandated by law represent an unprecedented attack on democracy and the rule of law and pose a grave threat to the electoral process in the future”

The ground reality is that democracy in any country can not thrive on  “empty stomach”.  Therefore, giving precedence to   exercise people’s franchise, at the cost of national economy which is on the brink   and is facing distress conditions impacting day today life of millions of poor people ,is  absolutely unacceptable and against the national interest.

The commitment of some politicians and civil society members and  the members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to   the  nation’s interest  and their capability to appreciate and understand the grim situation,  has created some doubts   about them, in the view of discerning observers not only in Sri Lanka but across the world. 

It is particularly disturbing to note that some politicians have written to Colombo-based diplomats seeking their intervention in ensuring the timely conduct of   local body elections.  What to make of the mindset and approach of these politicians in Sri Lanka?   Is it their  case  that international intervention is necessary to ensure local body elections?  Can there be more humiliating act for the people of Sri Lanka than such approach of such politicians who want global intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs?

It is seen in many democratic countries that the politicians are not the best of people among the citizens and they occasionally cause havoc due to self centredness, parochial approach and sometimes even adopt  unethical methods to grab power.  In such circumstances, many thinkers  and political researchers  across the world are veering to the view that a controlled democracy will do world of good particularly to developing countries ,  in place of uncontrolled and chaotic democracy.

Today, if the elections were to be held in Sri Lanka, there would be acrimonious debates  , hate politics, corrupt  methods to win elections and perhaps even violence due to political clashes. These are the  possible developments that

Sri Lanka need to avoid at any cost. 

The focus of the country has to be on economic development  and economic development only. 

Sri Lanka has the most experienced person as the President and he needs time and support  to restore Sri Lanka’s glory.  This is the time for less democracy in Sri Lanka. If postponement of local body polls would mean less democracy, let it be so and it is in the interest of Sri Lanka.

Whither Anti-Corruption Drive in India

3 mins read

In the last nine years after Mr. Narendra Modi assumed office as Prime Minister of India, there is no doubt that India has achieved significant progress and has made rapid strides in multiple directions. Several infrastructure projects, welfare programmes, proactive policies towards industrial development and number of reform measures have been implemented. However, one area where there is not much of difference is in the level of corruption at different levels all over India.

While Mr.Modi has ensured that top administration in central government is nearly transparent without corrupt dealings, this is not so in the case of lower level of administration and in several states in the country.

Cross section of people living in various parts of India in different age groups, educational level and economic strata are of the view that the most serious problem confronting India today is the widespread corruption in government departments and public life. Not only several politicians, bureaucrats, but government employees at various levels are also indulging in corruption, widespread corruption is prevalent in private educational institutions, private hospitals, real estates and even in places of worship and other areas from bottom level to top level. Of course, occasionally , it is also seen that there are honest and incorruptible people in government departments and public and private sector organisations. They are few and far between. The non-corrupt person today is considered as an exception rather than a rule.

It is extremely distressing to note that many people have started thinking that corruption is the order of the day, whether in private or public sector activities. As a matter of fact, corruption has become cyclical , in that one person who takes bribe at one place also gives bribe at another place to get things done.

In spite of such conditions, Prime Minister Modi remains as the most popular leader in the country enjoying public confidence, as people believe that he is a man of great personal integrity and if anyone in India can root out corruption in India today , this cause can be achieved by only Prime Minister Modi.

On more than one occasion, Mr. Modi has said or give an impression by his decisions that the best way of rooting out corruption in India is by making changes in the system of transaction and administration. He has been stressing on the importance of massive and large scale digitalization as the best method of promoting transparency and rooting out corruption.

Mr. Modi has taken some steps in this regard by opening zero bank account for millions of poor people in India and ensuring that welfare fund for the poor people including agricultural farmers would be provided by bank transaction, so that middle men would be avoided and syphoning of the fund would be eliminated. This is good as far as it goes ,but certainly many other stronger steps are needed.

It is well known that most of the corrupt dealing takes place in the form of cash transaction. Therefore, high level of digitalization and minimum amount of currency in circulation is the strategy and pre condition that is required to root out corruption.

While the level of digitalization in the country has been steadily increasing, unfortunately the currency circulation has also increased to high level.

The currency circulation in value terms has soared from ₹17.74 lakh crore on November 4, 2016, to ₹32.42 lakh crore on December 23, 2022. Currency in circulation, which was ₹18.04-lakh crore in end-March 2018, jumped to ₹31.34-lakh crore in end-March 2022 and further to ₹32.42-lakh crore as on December 23, 2022.

With huge currency in circulation, many raids carried out by investigating agencies like enforcement directorate, Income tax authorities have seen huge bundle of currency notes worth several crore of rupees kept in the raided premises. Obviously, this bundle of currencies are the black money and corrupt money accumulated by evading taxes and indulging in corrupt dealings.

While campaign for honesty in public and private life by various sources have been taking place for long time in the country, this has not seen any reduction in the level of corruption in India. The repeated catching of corrupt persons by vigilance department have also not yielded much benefits ,as they are only the tip of iceberg.

The only way is to reduce rapidly the circulation of currency note in the country, which inevitably would lead to greater level of digitalization and transparency in transactions and bring down the currency led corruption. The recent rapid increase in currency circulation by Reserve Bank of India is a mistake with serious adverse consequences.

This situation has to be retrieved by steadily decreasing the level of high value currency notes in circulation.

Critics and Section of Indian Media Less Than Fair to Adani Group

4 mins read

In recent days, when Adani group has become the “talk of the country” for whatever reasons, the criticism against Adani group has been mostly levelled by financial researchers, credit rating agencies, economists and a section of politicians. It is conspicuous that the performance and contribution of Adani group to the technological and industrial growth of India has not been highlighted or has been largely ignored by the critics while voicing criticisms.

Spectacular growth:

There is no doubt that the growth of Adani group during the last one or two decades have been spectacular.  Normally, this sort of growth should be admired, particularly when such growth has happened in industrial and infrastructure sectors and not by mere money manipulation or playing in share market.

One would be fairer in discussing about the Adani group if it would be realized that such growth has happened due to bold and heavy investment in the economically vital and much-needed growth-oriented sector such as solar energy, mining, port development, airport management, power transmission, road construction etc. Obviously, Adani growth has happened in tune with the growth in sectors, where Adani has invested. 

Infrastructure projects – A calculated risk:

It is well known that ventures in infrastructure projects have certain elements of risk in view of the high investment involved, possibility of cost escalation, long gestation period, low margin and possible shifting of government priorities and policies from time to time with regard to development plans. In such circumstances, there are not many project promoters who would like to dip their hands in infrastructure projects. Until recent years, with the private sector largely hesitant to invest in infrastructure projects, governments have to invest and manage such projects.

In recent years, with the development of concept that the government is to govern and not to do business, the governments have been looking up to private sector to venture into infrastructure projects and government policies have been redesigned accordingly.

In such a scenario,    Adani group has entered into ventures in infrastructure projects with rare courage of conviction and certain level of responsibility to contribute to the national development programme.

 It is sad that due credit has not been given to Adani group by critics for such proactive and dynamic approach.

Wherever Adani group has been given contracts by the government for such projects, Adani group has participated in the tender in the competitive bidding process and have won the bids.  These are all transparent activities.

Fund management:

Given the nature of the infrastructure projects, large finances are required and Adani group has preferred debt to rise these finances, with free-floating shares of its listed companies that are available for trading and trading being a small proportion of the total.

The critics allege that Adani group floated shell companies, claiming to be independent, to part finance in tax havens abroad that was then used to acquire the shares of Adani firms. The critics call it as share manipulation.

One of the so-called tax havens mentioned was Mauritius. However, Mauritius government has now clearly said that it has reviewed the allegations made by US-based short seller against the Adani group and has not found any breach of regulations in the country by Adani group.

While allegations have been made, nothing has really been proved, even while Adani group has strongly denied all the allegations.

What is happening here is that Adani is facing media trial and the US-based short seller must have been laughing up its sleeve that its’ vague allegations have become such a huge topic for national debate in India.

Government support:

Another allegation is that the Government of India has been supporting Adani group.

Per se, there is nothing wrong or unusual in this, as the task of the government is to support investors in industrial promotional activities.

When Tata group has placed an order for Airbus from France and Boeing from USA, the Presidents of France and US expressed their happiness.  This is as it should be, as leaders of the government must involve themselves in promoting projects and supporting project promoters from their country. This should be so in India also and Government of India supporting an industrial group from India is certainly appropriate. Certainly, every industrial group in India do expect such support, which Government of India is extending.

So long as Adani group has functioned within the framework of laws and whatever methods adopted by it to raise finance are as per the terms of law, Adani group need to be recognized for its positive contribution, instead of mudslinging.

Strong fundamentals:

Those who have been observing the performance of Adani group on the ground would tend to agree with the claims of the Adani group that it’s fundamental strength lies in mega-scale infrastructure projects, execution capabilities, organisational development and O&M management, which are of global standard. The institutions who have invested in Adani group or extended loans do not seem to be worried and this is more than clear from the fact that the Rs.20000 crore FPO was fully subscribed on the due date.

The only people who seem to be “worried” are the critics and section of media and politicians, who are not the stake holders. They are only observers.

The role of Watchdogs and laws in India:

Unfortunately, SEBI, the watchdog in India, has been vague in putting forth it’s comments on Adani episode, which has created media speculation.  Many have developed suspicion as to whether   SEBI has discharged it’s responsibilities as a watchdog adequately well.

Obviously, one gets an impression that India’s framework of laws is not adequate for SEBI to act as a true watchdog.

If India had such well planned and adequate framework, a regulator like SEBI could have given it’s verdict within a few days to debunk the report, India as a country is unable to do so because Indian laws are archaic and enforcement mechanisms too slow.

In any other country, Adani could have taken such short sellers to court and sued them for damages. Adani is unable to do that because of the problems of the Indian legal system.

Supreme Court of India thought it fit to entertain a case about the Adani episode created by US based agency, which is surprising and create confusion about laws and regulations in India and jurisdiction of court in such matters.

However, India has an opportunity to strengthen our governance and enforcement framework so as to ensure such strong players remain strong and more emerge.

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