Opinion - Page 11

India: Reviving Congress

What a week where the Congress party has all but made a laughing stock of itself. Ashok Gehlot has landed himself in serious trouble. He is 71. A comeback is unlikely. He has been an active, reliable, astute leader, with


India: Kerala Government’s Pragmatic Industrial Policy

Not long ago,  industrial scene in Kerala was marked by labour unrest, confrontation, strike, violence, gherao  and even occasionally murder. The situation was so disturbing that some units like Gwalior Rayon in Mavoor had to be closed down and another important unit Benani Zinc in Ernakulam was permanently closed.

In such circumstances, the project promoters and investors were very apprehensive about setting up or investing in industrial projects in Kerala.  However, in recent years, there is not any big negative news about industrial unrest in Kerala in similar fashion as it existed earlier and it is rare these days.  Certainly, the confidence level of investors in starting ventures in Kerala has visibly improved. 

Many observers wonder as to what could be the reason for such an impressive transformation for better in Kerala. 

There is a view that around eight years back, marxist communist party and other communist party were in the opposition and CITU and other communist unions affiliated to  these political parties often created unrest and indulged in prolonged strike “to settle scores ” with the management.  At that time, industrial relations were seen by these unions in terms of class conflict and they believed in need for struggle by  the labour to get what they wanted.   With the marxists now being in power in Kerala for the past several years, the “lawbreakers”  becoming lawmakers could also be the reason for the peace in the industrial front in the state.

However, there is also a more charitable view that the industrial climate in Kerala has improved,  since industrial managements are now more accommodative and labour and unions have also realized that the working class lose more than what they gain by indulging in strikes and forcing closure of units.

In any case, it is now crystal clear that the ruling marxist party in Kerala has become more pragmatic in ensuring a  peaceful industrial climate and in targeting to achieve industrial growth, realising that this is the only way to promote employment and improve the state’s economy. 

This is a welcome sign and a few examples clearly prove this pragmatism.

LNG terminal in Kochi :

 LNG terminal of capacity 5 million tonne per annum for importing natural gas was set up in Kochi with several crore of rupees of investment by a private company.

However, this project suffered enormously in the beginning with low capacity utilization and incurring loss,  as the gas pipeline project for transferring gas to the user industries could not be implemented due to protests and agitation against the pipeline project. The original plan was to use the gas in Kerala and  also take the gas to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to the end user industries.

There was objection to the pipeline project in Tamil Nadu and  the Tamil Nadu government totally failed to ensure implementation of the pipeline project in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, there ware also initial protests in Kerala , which prevented the implementation of  the pipeline project towards Karnataka.

However, the marxist government tackled this issue in a very pragmatic way by convincing the trade unions about the importance of this project  and ensured the completion of the pipeline project to Karnataka from Kerala and thus saved the Kochi LNG terminal project from collapse.

In short, what the Tamil Nadu government could not do, the Kerala government did. The pipeline project was inaugurated by the Prime Minister sometime back.

Revival of Hindustan News Print Limited :

When the central government had kept   Hindustan Newsprint Limited  at Velloor in Kerala   for sale  along with other central public sector units (CPSUs),  the marxist party ruled government   took over the unit  from central government in 2019  by paying Rs.146 crore  . After the takeover by the Kerala government, the company stopped production  due to heavy losses.  After three years, the state government has now come with the revival  plan of the acquired company  and has commissioned the plant recently.  In the process,it has solved the labour issues amicably , ensuring peace that is necessary to revive the unit to achieve profitable  operation.

This is a remarkable initiative of the state government , showing it’s pragmatic approach to industrial   development in Kerala.

Vizhinjam port :

Rs.17500 crore Vizhinjam international sea port being built by Adani group
 is facing issues now due to agitation against the project by a section of fishermen and the agitation actively supported and led by Christian missionaries.  

The protest movement  resulted in violence  recently.

There is a general view earlier  that marxist communists are firmly against the industrial groups such as Adani and Ambani , accusing them of being “capitalist dragons”

However, marxist led Kerala government has changed it’s view on Adani group and entrusted this massive Vizhinjam project to Adani group for implementation.  Around a decade back , nobody could even visualize marxist communists entertaining Adani group to invest in Kerala.

This is a clear example to show the pragmatic policy of marxist led Kerala government towards the industrialization of the state.

 Kerala government has clearly and emphatically highlighted the industrial and economic importance of the port project and explained how it would benefit Kerala immensely.  Kerala government has clearly and explicitly expressed it’s resolve firmly to implement this project and rejected the demand of the agitators.  Kerala government has not succumbed to the pressure from the “working class”.

What is particularly more significant is that when Adani group wanted that the central government forces should be sent to Vizhinjam port area to protect the engineers and workers and the project from the agitators, the Kerala government simply said that it would have no objection for central government forces to be deployed.  It did  not make it a prestige issue.

Siverline project :

Kerala government proposes to implement  529.45-km railway line  to link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasaragod in the north, covering 11 districts through 11 stations within four hours, at a speed of 200 km  per hour .

Several  political parties in Kerala have opposed this project on various grounds. However, Kerala government has insisted that a holistic view of the project should be taken based on cost benefit analysis and pointed out several merits of the project and expressed it’s determination to implement the project.  Recently, Kerala government confirmed that   the central government has given permission for this project.

Such approach of the marxist party in power in Kerala is a far cry from it’s earlier stand on various issues that upset several project schemes in the state.

Need for more similar pragmatism in the coming years :

Kerala has enormous advantages in setting up industrial projects in several fields which need urgent attention from  the government.

Just one example.

Kerala is the only producer of rutile grade titanium dioxide in India with the production level of around 30000 tonne per annum. Kerala has plentiful  reserves of ilmenite , which is the  raw material for producing titanium dioxide pigment. India  imports more than 2 lakh tonne per annum of titanium dioxide  at present.

There is a glorious opportunity for Kerala government to exhibit it’s quality of pragmatism by setting up  large titanium dioxide project in the state with international participation.  Obviously, to set up large titanium dioxide project of capacity not less than one lakh tonne per annum, involving investment of around Rs.1000 crore ,  technical collaboration from well-established international companies are required.

In view of the strategic importance of the project, the prospective overseas collaborators are bound to ask for controlling equity participation in the project.  Kerala government should meet the demands of the overseas collaborators and quickly go ahead with implementation of the plans of this much needed project in Kerala.

If necessary, the Kerala government should not hesitate to give majority equity share to the overseas collaborators in the existing titanium dioxide unit Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd.,where  presently Kerala government own around 100 percent equity share.

Many more investment opportunities exist in the state and the present pragmatic approach of the Kerala government give hope for future industrialisation of Kerala.

The shifting demands faced by the NHS


Nobody talks of the ageing population in UK, they think it is only applicable in Japan. Nobody contemplates of the workforce in UK is reducing while the population is growing, especially after the mass exodus of migrant labour from Europe after Brexit. People are needing more care with GP’s unable to cope at their practice surgeries. People are needing more care this winter, allowing for more strike action disrupting ordinary life.

Prevention of disease, illness, according to the adage, is better than cure. Care, not only of older people, but of society is a necessity. Of course, we have a responsibility to help order people to live healthier lives, but we also have a “duty to protect” the young who are unable to cope with the stresses of life after COVID-19. They are at the forefront of depression, unable to find suitable employment opportunities. To put it simply, they are finding it near difficult, “to secure connected lives”.

The challenges faced by the NHS today are many. The main problem being lack of proper communication, or rather, a breakdown in communication. As the saying goes, “water, water, everywhere, but nothing to drink”. During the last decade the NHS has had workforce cuts, shortage of nurses, doctors, consultants, but at the same time an increase in hospital patrol security officers, to quell any disturbances, with an equally decrease in the hospital beds. No one, neither the Medics; the Hospital Administrators; the NHS; the Government; or even social media, have had the courage of their conviction, to state that better communication is needed, both within the service and external, to explain the “system malaise”.  

Why has there been a lack of communication?

The irony is that with the growth of digital technology, the internet, the apps, and the mobile, people of all ages across society around the world, seem to be more lonelier and isolated in their problems. The NHS is not an exception in this respect.  Have we ripped the heart out of our lives? Has Covid-19 and remote working made us “lose our humanity” or the need for personal interaction, on every level? Have we lost the need to care for others? Have our GP’s lost the human touch in remote consultation?

Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge in communication over the past 18 months has been adjustment in terms of logistics, technology, working practice, making cultural alignment. In many, if not most cases, it ultimately turned out to be feasible, productive, and somewhat popular work pattern, as flexible working, at present, suited both worker and employer. With the growth of new ways of working, as new technologies emerge, the NHS must also adopt and adapt technology that improves service for patients, as well as help their staff, at every level to do their jobs efficiently and efficaciously.

Why is change in the NHS so difficult?

The issue to highlight is that technology must be patient appropriate. New ways of working in patient care must not exclude old people who need the “language of kindness” in health service. Is time or cost of delivery a constraint? As we age, as we get older, we tend to get long term conditions and need more social care. The number people over 60 according to ONS, is expected to increase to 18.5 million in 2025; 75% of 73 year olds need care. There is more than one (1) long term condition, rising to 82% of 85 year olds. Selling a family home to pay for Care Home treatment, should not the sole criteria of Care. The Government must provide some funding for volunteer care services and to Local Bodies.

Change needs to be locally led with role of NHS England to support those delivering care.

NHS Trusts must make this change happen. Of course there may be performance limitations.

Optimising wellbeing of the young is another area of concern. Paul Farmer, CEO MIND, a mental charity, has highlighted challenges including mental health and wellbeing of the young millennials, caused largely by the sudden change in the way we work, after COVID- 19.  A recent study by NHS reported in Glamour magazine stated,  a quarter of 17-19 year olds have a probable mental disorder. Mental health has failed to recover since the pandemic among the young. The new generation Application Tracking System (ATS) and how employers utilise technology, how they advertise jobs, the language they use and process they follow, may cause mental stress to the young and needs scrutiny?

The vision for the future

The vision for the future is greater focus in prevention, patients more in control of Health Care and the spread of compassion and kindness in delivery of care services to both young and old. In this respect NHS Trusts to act firmly and fairly, with the provision of service delivery in Hospitals and GP Surgeries. Para Medics and Pharmacies to help GP’s with Government legislation put in place soon in health assessments and prescription of medication for people.

Patronizing The Culprits?


Blaming some particular religion, caste or creed and patronizing hatred-based extremism is the worst kind of terrorism. Be it the Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam or even Atheism, all philosophies guide their followers to a path leading to just one theme ‘love-humanity’. We see that the followers of all these philosophies have been doing a lot for the betterment of mankind since ever. Philanthropic approach towards life is the only approach all religious philosophies convey to their followers. Religious philosophies are never limited to the betterment of a specific group of people; all religions have an innate desire of flourishing and expanding and this desire could never be fulfilled unless the message they convey has universality in it; no doubt ‘love-humanity’ is the most universal message.

In Pakistan, a Muslim country, there is a 550-bed hospital in Lahore named Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. This hospital was established in 1921 by a Hindu Civil Engineer Sir Ganga Ram. At the time of its establishment, Sir Ganga Ram never intended to specify it just for the Hindu patients; because it was established for the patients, not for the Hindu patients only. Today hundreds of patients are being benefitted from it and majority of the patients treated here are the Muslims. Same is the case with the Gulab Devi Hospital in Lahore. This hospital was established in 1934 by Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai in the memory of his mother, Gulab Devi, who died due to tuberculosis in 1927. Another hospital in Lahore is Jan Ki Devi Jamiat Singh which was established by a Sikh doctor Jamiat Singh 85 years back. Multan is a very historical city in the South Punjab region of Pakistan. Here Women’s Christian Hospital is providing marvelous services to the women from surrounding areas. This hospital was established in 1899 by the Church Missionary Society. Same is the example of Aligarh Muslim University India which was established in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a renowned Muslim educationist. Now-a-days this university is considered a public central university and regardless of their religious beliefs, thousands of students pass out of it every year.

The hatred-based extremism is always a mischievous act of a small number of notorious people who have their ulterior motives behind. Groups consisting of such people could be found in every society and every religious school of thought. If the government is serious, such groups are crushed at very initial stages but in case the government is non-serious rather supportive to them, things become horribly disastrous. We have the ever-worst example of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ajodhya, India. That was 6th December 1992 when some Hindu extremist groups under the supervision of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party, ransacked the historic Babri mosque. The situation after this incident turned into a riot-like scenario and ultimately resulted in the killing of thousands of innocent people mostly the Muslims. The most pathetic fact with reference to this incident is the partial rather prejudice silence of the government of India. Indian Court acquitted all accused-figures particularly those who were very active members of the BJP. In other words the Indian judiciary denied justice and failed to hold people responsible for criminally razing down the mosque and to take to task all those who were responsible for this cruel lawlessness.

The partiality demonstrated by the Indian courts paved future-way for targeting of other Muslim religious sites especially in Kashi and Mathura in the Uttar Pradesh State. For the investigation of this sad incident a Commission was also set-up which concluded that the demolition of the Babri Mosque was meticulously planned and the mobilization of the cadres of RSS, Bajrang Dal, BJP and Shiv Sena in Ajodhya was neither “spontaneous or voluntary” but “orchestrated and planned.” The case of Demolition of the Babri Mosque had been under trial for many years, from inquiry commission to the lower courts and then to the Supreme Court but nothing could come out of as the courts intentionally ignored the on-ground realities. As a result of this intentional ignorance 32 accused, including senior RSS & BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti were acquitted. In short justice was denied to more than 200 million Indian Muslims. In this way, the verdict by Indian court delivered victory to hate, intolerance and chauvinism and thus encouraged the Hindu extremists to be harsher, more narrow-minded and more prejudiced in their approach towards the minorities in India. This criminal biasedness of the Indian courts shamefully confirmed Indian judiciary connivance with Hindutva agenda.

Recently on November 22, Georgetown University USA published a report titled ‘Is a Genocide of Muslims underway in India?’  It was stated in the report that there are more than 200 million Muslims in India whom the Hindu extremists see as ‘an impediment of Hindu nationalist’s goal of remarking India as Hind-only nation.’ The said report was shared at different forums and it certainly gave rise to various questions. Unfortunately such reports never reach the US authorities; if such reports have reached them, they would certainly have shifted their kind ‘patronizing-hand’ from the tormenters to the crushed ones.

Views expressed are personal

India: Chemical Industry in Tamil Nadu at Crossroads

When good investment opportunities in chemical industry exist which are known in a region and which are yet to be exploited, it can be said that the chemical industry in the region is at the cross roads. However, when there are good investment opportunities in chemical industry but which are ignored and focus shifted to some other sector, it can be said that the scenario amount to poor strategy.

Tamil Nadu government has now fixed a target for achieving one trillion dollar economy in the state by 2030. This is a bold and forward looking initiative and certainly this target is achievable, even though the year 2030 is only seven years away.

With the target of achieving one trillion dollar size economy, it is necessary to give due role and importance for the growth of the chemical industry, since several chemical products are feed inputs for several other industrial sector such as automobile, electronics, textile and so on. Growth of such chemical industry can promote chain of developments in number of other sector.

In Tamil Nadu, the ground reality is that very few major chemical projects have been set up in the state in the last several years. On the other hand, well established and large chemical and research projects have been closed down or have been given up.

There are number of such cases. A few examples are given below :

Sterlite Copper:

Sterlite Copper project in Tuticorin which was working for several years with good capacity utilization has now been closed down due to counter productive environmental activism, though several investigative studies on the functioning of the project by credible agencies have asserted that Sterlite Copper Project has not been causing pollution in Tuticorin region. The Green Tribunal have also ruled in favour of Sterlite Copper. Subsequent to the closure, the employees of Sterlite Copper and section of general public in Tuticorin region have appealed to Government of Tamil Nadu repeatedly to restart the Sterlite Copper plant. Sadly, Tamil Nadu government is not responding to such appeals.

Due to the closure of Sterlite Copper , India has now become an importer of copper , while India was exporting copper when Sterlite Copper unit was in operation.

Copper is a vital metal needed in several sector and international price of copper has now skyrocketed. The closure of Sterlite Copper in Tamil Nadu has really brought a bad name to Tamil Nadu that it is not an investor friendly state for chemical industry.

Natural gas pipeline project from Kochi

The proposed natural gas pipeline project from Kochi to Tamil Nadu has also been shelved now for no valid reasons , as some poorly informed protestors carried out agitation against the pipeline project without understanding it’s significance. The natural gas pipeline from Kochi to Tamil Nadu could have resulted in an investment of Rs.15000 crore, which is now not to be.

LNG terminal at Enoore :

LNG terminal has been commissioned at Ennore with capacity of 5 million tonne per annum. However, the capacity of the LNG terminal is very much under utilized , as downstream projects based on LNG have not been adequately set up in Tamil Nadu to utilize the natural gas , which only indicates the lack of forward planning. Commissioning the LNG terminal without facilities for utilizing the LNG fully is similar to the act of putting the cart before the horse.

Titanium dioxide project in Tuticorin

Tamil Nadu has large deposit of ilmenite ore in Tuticorin region and the earlier proposal to set up a large titanium dioxide project in Tuticorin based on ilmenite ore by Tata group had to be shelved, due to counter productive agitation and protest.

Presently, India imports more than 2 lakh tonne of titanium dioxide every year, whereas the raw material for production of tTitanium dioxide namely ilmenite ore deposit is adequately available in the state.

Tapioca based products :

Around 80% of the tapioca cultivation in India is carried out in Tamil Nadu. Tapioca provides excellent investment opportunities , for production of derivative products such as tapioca starch and several starch based products such as L-Lysine, Mannitol ,Citric acid and others , which are not presently produced in India and imported to meet the Indian requirement. There is potential investment opportunity of around Rs.1000 crores for setting up tapioca based complex in the state, which has not received attention so far.

Neutrino project :

Neutrino project in Theni district in Tamil Nadu has been hanging in balance for several years now, as protestors are blocking the project.

This is a research project of great importance and several credible agencies and scientific research institutions have clearly said that there would be no particular environmental issue due to the operation of neutrino project. One of the knowledgeable persons who wanted the neutrino project to be set up at the earliest was Dr. Abdul Kalam.

But, all these views have fallen on deaf years.

Crude oil exploration project :

Crude oil exploration project in delta region has also been blocked due to protests.

While there are several lakhs of acres of agricultural land in delta region, a few thousand acres allotted for crude oil exploration would not have made any difference to the economy of the delta region, particularly when the interests of the affected persons would be suitably taken care of by the government.

But , this project has also been blocked, ignoring the findings of the cost benefit analysis.

Magnesite project:

Tamil Nadu has large deposits of magnesite ore in Salem and nearby region, which constitutes one of the high deposits in India. This industry now is in stagnation stage.

By processing the magnesite ore, dead burnt magnesite (DBM) was produced earlier to meet the requirement of refractory industry all over India. As DBM production has considerably tapered now , India has to import large quantity of DBM. This has happened , since no attention has been paid to set up magnesite ore beneficiation plants in the state.

Nagarjuna Petrochemical project:

Nagarjuna Petrochemical complex in Cuddalore, which is a large project became a non starter and went into insolvency. Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation has an equity share in the project , however small it may be. Kolkata based group has purchased the unit in auction. It remains to be seen how and when this project would fructify , as revamping of the project is still in preliminary stage.

PCPIR Project

Government of India proposed to implement Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Regions (PCPIR) in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. However, this project scheme has been shelved due to agitation and protest against the project by some environmental activists, who could not appreciate the significant industrial and economic growth that would happen in the region , which would far outweigh any issue in this scheme.

Salt project:

Tamil Nadu is the large salt producing region in the country after Gujarat. This traditional industry in Tamil Nadu has not been modernised to improve the quality of the salt and optimise the process parameters and penetrate the export market.

This task has been carried out remarkably well in Gujarat state.

On the other hand, some of the land area where salt was cultivated in Tamil Nadu has been diverted to some infra structure project.

Suspension of production in some units:

Several prospective chemical units have been closed down in the past years in medium and small scale sector. Such projects include South India Viscose in Mettupalayam , Indag Products in Cuddalore, Trichy Distilleries and Chemicals in Trichy, Tamil Nadu Explosives in Vellore, several fire cracker units in Sivakasi region and so on.

The products produced by all the above units have high level of relevance to the country’s needs and they have been left high and dry for whatever reasons.

Where do Tamil Nadu chemical industries go from here?

One large project that has been announced recently is the petroleum refinery project in Nagapattinam. One only hopes that this important project would be commissioned as per schedule, though the work is in the preliminary stage at present.

There are also two or three medium scale projects announced such as hydrogen peroxide unit and a few expansions by some units to increase the capacity marginally.

The status of traditional industries such as leather and textile processing remain largely at the same level without much of significant modernization. The pharma units in Tamil Nadu are also largely stagnating and whatever proposals made are a few and far between.

While focused industrial parks such as for medicinal herbs have been announced, the progress appears to be slow and disappointing.

The most important chemical industry centres in Tamil Nadu are located in Manali, Cuddalore, Ranipet and Tuticorin. New projects are not being allowed in Ranipet, due to some environmental hazard caused in the area several years back by a basic chrome sulphate project. This issue of ground water contamination is yet to be sorted out by initiating necessary measures.

Other than a very few chemical projects mentioned above, with no other massive chemical projecst being proposed in Tamil Nadu now, one can say that Tamil Nadu is a net loser due to lack of focus for setting up chemical projects and the negative and counter productive attitude of some environmental and political groups against chemical projects in the state.

Of course, there have been good progress in other sectors such as automobile, auto component, auto tyres, electronic products and information technology. However, the lack of progress in chemical industry is conspicuous.

While periodical meetings take place in Tamil Nadu with participation of ministers , bureaucrats and top industrialists to discuss the prospects of chemical industries in the state, most of such meetings and conferences really end up as talk show , which is unfortunate.

Chemical Industries in Tamil Nadu have as much potentials as Chemical industries in Gujarat due to the availability of coastal belt, trained manpower and other advantages. Tamil Nadu stands far behind Gujarat in the development of Chemical industries. Obviously, the chemical project promoters including the promotional organisations in Tamil Nadu have a lot to learn from Gujarat.

Twists and Turns of Megatrends and Their Indicators in 2023

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today ~ Abraham Lincoln

We are barely a month away  from 2023 and the world has moved in unprecedented ways in 2022, forcing us to  hold our breath against the unrelenting winds of change.  A bewildered international community has witnessed a  rules-based international system being upended. Arbitrary and capricious geo political tactics; our implacable attitude towards climate change and lack of collective commitment; the exponential advance of technology playing to the inexorable strings of  Moore’s law ( the number of components in integrated circuits doubles every two years); the portentous disaster from nuclear abuse; and unexpected economic shifts, all stare at our faces as we prepare for a new year of hope. Hope that we may gradually get rid of the pandemic threat present and future; hope that the geo political trends will stabilize; and above all that we could have a better standard of living from the base of Abraham Maslov’s pyramid of needs to its apex.

Amidst this chaos, the megatrends we have so far identified – which are powerful global transformative forces that affect our existential future and change the global infrastructure, economy, business and society – will still remain. These megatrends are: shifting global economy; climate change and resource security; technological change; shifts in demography, social change and choices; population explosion and rapid urbanization; and inter connectivity.  All these have shown twists and turns, adding two possible trends which could possibly emerge as mega trends in the near future. These are  water scarcity and water wars (which can be identified as corollaries to climate change as well as geopolitics) and  the global rise of the middle class.

Before getting to the water crisis, mention must be made of the rise in middle class at the global level adding another twist in megatrends and that is the rise of Africa, and the significant economic shift toward the continent which cannot be relegated to the background anymore.  Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world.

Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and an Associate Editor at the Financial Times, and CNN’s global economic analyst says: “Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world. Sure, we are talking about people spending about $2-20 a day, but this is a huge increase from only a few years ago. In my mind, Africa is where China was a few decades ago. Massive, unorganized, underutilized, but with a huge untapped potential. Of course there are striking differences in culture, history and social structures (plus Africa is a continent comprising several countries), but they seem to follow a similar path towards growth.

On a same note, China seems to be entering a maturity phase after years of massive growth. Its economy is slowing down and its population is ageing. People are finally starting to spend more. Frankly, it reminds me a bit of Europe a couple of decades ago”.

The water crisis is mainly due to the unequal distribution of water. Water is crucially essential to human beings. Arguably, water is the essence of human existence and we can barely survive a few days without access to it. Historically, it is an incontrovertible fact that that human societies and civilizations sttled in areas that had abundance of water. In the modern world, growing population and the climate crisis are two contributary factors to the acute water crisis we face. Experts at the World Resources Institute have said: “Water is likely to cause the most conflict in areas where new demands for energy and food production will compete with the water required for basic domestic needs of a rapidly growing population”.

Within these megatrends – which take years to unfold – are indicators which are seen in the short term transitioning from year to year with characteristics that are embodied in megatrends. Ruchir Sharma, Chairman of Rockefeller International and Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Breakout Capital, and author of 10 Rules of Successful Nations, in a recent interview unfolded ten indicators.  I give below my understanding of what Dr. Sharma said at the interview with the caveat that any error in the  erroneous explication of Dr. Sharma’s views are mine alone.

Dr. Sharma began by saying that trends are determined on a decadal pattern, where economic trends evolve decade by decade.  In 2023, Dr. Sharma predicts that the United States will peak economically (giving a twist to the megatrend which indicates that there will be an economic shift from the West to the East) while the rest of the world would also rise. Also, in 2023 the top ten companies in the world will struggle in the next decade and small companies will flourish.  Dr Sharma sees a potential fall of the big tech companies which will still remain strong but diminish in growth and wealth creation.  Next year will also see a trend toward de-globalization where capital, migration and protectionism will take center stage, largely due to populism.  The trend that has already started on emphasis being laid on local goods and services will continue, prominent among which will be data localization, again as a corollary to rising nationalism, protectionism, and surveillance.  The end result would be that de-globalization will make way for localization.

Another trend identified is the shrinking working population where a distinct decline in working age population can be observed.  There will be fewer people joining the workforce, bringing to bear a negative effect on the global economy where fewer people at work would mean lower growth.  Another trend is that there will be changing consumer spending, particularly by the new generation – millennials who are between the ages 22-37 ( the generation gap is chronologically identified as Generation Z- under 21 years of age; Millennials – 22-37; Generation X – 38-55 years, baby boomers – 54-71, and the silent generation – over 72).  The new generation will perpetuate new consumption habits based more on experiences rather than material goods.  Gaming will be the largest generator of consumption and wealth creation.

Another indicator identified by Dr. Sharma is that populism will surge, and polarization will increase politically notwithstanding that it has already deepened to unacceptable proportions. Added to this disturbing trend will be the undesirable return of inflation due to low growth which will be the result of low employment. The Fourth Estate – the media – will continue to diminish in usage (and perhaps credibility) as people are receiving less news due mostly to the decline in print media.  Traditional media, which has been the bulwark of democratization of society will continue to give way to what Dr. Sharma calls the Fifth Estate – online news (such as twitter) which will continue to serve as the more popular medium.  Finally, there will be a continuation in the rise of inequality – which President Obama called the defining factor in our lives – as an example of which Dr. Sharma cites India, which had 49 billionaires in 2010 whereas there were 106 billionaires in 2019.

Admittedly, Dr. Sharma, who is an expert on finance and economics, focused more in his areas which inexorably have an impact on all the megatrends and indicators.  To this one might add public health, the resources of which were seriously impeded and impacted  to unbearable proportions during the Pandemic.   In 2023 one could look forward to a heightened sense of awareness in this area. There are four scenarios to envision as plausible: that the Covid-19 virus might stay on continually, whether in Pandemic form or not; that the Pandemic and the virus will go away like the SARS virus did; and that, depending on these two scenarios our lifestyles will change; or we would go back to living the way we were.

There are two certainties that the Pandemic would bring to bear in any of these scenarios.  These are a health revolution and a communication revolution of sharing information, both of which the world had not seen before in the intensity that they would be present in the future.  In this context the generation that would impact the next 5 to 10 years most would comprise the Millennials.  Whichever way we go in the scenarios mentioned above, Millennials would take center stage in the health revolution and the communication revolution.

India: Jointness Mantra


Almost 3 months after his appointment as CDS, Gen Anil Chauhan has maintained silence. He travelled to Def-Expo in Gujrat and along with three service Chiefs to NDA Khadakvasla, the cradle of jointness – symbolically a deft move. Initial briefings and scrutiny of feedback from Services on theatrisation are over. Integrated capability development requires a Joint Procurement Agency which was produced by Defence Planning Staff in 1988. The absence of institutional memory causes time and cost overruns.

CDS has become synonymous with integration and theatrisation, the task given originally to late Gen Rawat. Jointness was to be achieved in 3 years but no timeline was set for Integrated Theatre Commands. Not surprisingly, days after Gen Chauhan’s appointment as CDS, Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, in the run-up to IAF Day on 8 October, admitted that inter-service differences had not been reconciled and a discussion was warranted to find a solution to take theatrisation forward. He reiterated the traditional objections of IAF: the paucity of resources, just 30 fighter squadrons today and best case of 35 to 36 squadrons by 2035; 24X7 AD cover required concentration of resources and separating the two (AD Command and Theatre Command) will affect joint strategy.

Gen Rawat, not averse to shooting from the hip, had stirred a hornet’s nest by suggesting IAF was an extension of Artillery and essentially a combat support arm. ACM Chaudhari’s recent comments included a ‘future ready IAF to include space and cyber-space, abridged decision-making chain of command and need for a joint strategy’ while each service had its own doctrine. As a precautionary, he added:” IAF is not opposed to integrated theatre commands (theatrisation)”. He also advocated the need for an equivalent national security strategy. NSS is a vital document on integrating the whole of government effort that every President in the US is mandated to produce once in his term. Biden issued an interim NSS in March 2022 and on 12 October, a final one. The Biden strategy talks of ‘strategic competition with China, the US’s ‘most pressing challenge’. “We will effectively compete with PRC which is the only competitor with both the intent and increase the capability to reshape the international order while constraining a dangerous Russia’.

On India, it says ‘as it is, the world’s largest democracy and a Major Defence Partner, the US, and India will work together bilaterally and multilaterally to support our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific”. For a long time India used to define its military challenge as: while Pakistan is the immediate threat, China remains the long-term challenge. That was dramatically reversed by China’s incursions in Ladakh. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols DoD Reorganisation Act in the US brought about sweeping changes, especially on integration and jointness; almost simultaneously in the UK, the Heseltine reforms introduced the CDS legislation. India is allergic to the idea of a written document outlining national security objectives, their orientation, and their pursuit. No White Paper has seen the light of day even though India had a CDS for nearly three years. India is defiantly proud of its strategic autonomy and that it is among the world’s leading economies with the third largest military.

India feels that not articulating NSS is a strategy, though there is one. The Raksha Mantri’s Operational directive with 8 contingencies to three Service Chiefs is considered good enough. A Joint Services Doctrine 2017 on release was found with many loopholes. The Breaking News is that NSS is being scripted by NSA.

The current debate on theatrisation has turned into prioritising structures, strategies, and capability building. Movement on capabilities has been tardy due to insufficient funding and somewhat retarded by Atmanirbharta in absence of quality R&D and a developed military-industrial complex. The IAF is stuck at 30 squadrons for two decades and an RFP for 114 MRCA stagnates for 5 years. Legislation mandating conceptual and structural transformation through the CDS system instead of amendments to Service Acts must become the path to integration. NSA Ajit Doval who heads DPC is working on NSS from an integrated review of defence, foreign, and development -in other words, the Strategic and Technology Environment meshed with fiscal allocation.

Gen Chauhan is determined to press on with Eastern Land Command (China); Western Land Command (Pakistan); Air Defence Command; and Maritime Theatre Command. Northern Command dealing with LAC and LOC will be merged later with ELC and WLC. Air Space Command and Cyberspace Command commissioned in 2017 are likely to be operational shortly though there are teething problems with ASC. One other entity will also be operationalized shortly- the Special Operations Division consisting of Battalion Special Forces, Garud, and Marcos squadrons. This will later upgrade to Special Operations Command. Gen Chauhan must invite ACM Chaudhari for talks to smoothen wrinkles in establishing ITCs with as little difference as possible. Political oversight is essential to prevent irreconcilable differences. A periodic review will be useful.

Two Indian Saints with Similar Teachings and Different Ways


Kanchi Paramacharya and Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi are two great saints who lived in Tamil Nadu in India.

Kanchi Paramacharya was born in 1894 and remained as the Head of Kanchi Sankara Mutt in Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu from 1907 to 1994 (around 87 years ). Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879 and stayed in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu from 1896 to 1950 ( 54 years ) as an ascetic.

There are still people living amongst us who have seen Kanchi Paramacharya and Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi in person and heard them, now keeping memories fresh in their mind about these two great saints. .

Different ways :

Bhagawan left his place and reached Thiruvannamalai when he was a teenager and he had no guru ( teacher ) and Kanchi Paramacharya too was chosen as Head of Kanchi Sankara Mutt when he was a teenager , as his predecessor passed away without nominating his successor. Of course, Paramacharya has the traditional practices of Kanchi Mutt to follow, ,whereas Bhagawan has no such tradition to fall back upon.

While Bhagawan and Paramacharya were contemporaries for several years with Paramacharya staying in Kancheepuram and Bhagawan staying in Thiruvannamalai with distance between both the locations of around 200 kilometre, Paramacharya and Bhagawan never met in person. However, many disciples of Paramacharya have said that Paramacharya directed a number of devotees to visit Bhagawan in Thiruvannamalai and seek his blessings.

Paramacharya was the Head of Kanchi Mutt, with responsibility to administer the Mutt in all respects , conducting pujas and rituals as per the tradition of the Kanchi Sankara Mutt and delivering lectures to the devotees on Advaita philosophy and value systems in life. Kanchi Paramacharya travelled mostly on foot all over India and met a cross section of devotees spreading the Advaita philosophy and noble thoughts in simple language that even laymen can understand .

On the other hand, Bhagawan never left Thiruvannamalai and stayed there for 54 years.

Whereas Paramacharya followed the traditional practice of the Kanchi Mutt, Bhagawan developed a tradition. It is not clear whether Ramanashram in today’s style was intended to be organised by Bhagawan or the ashram developed slowly and steadily and inevitably on it’s own.

Another significant happening in Bhagawan’s life was that his respected mother joined him in Thiruvannmalai after the passing away of her husband. It is reported that some people objected to a widow ( Bhagawan’s mother) staying with him, as Bhagawan was an ascetic . Bhagawan brushed away such criticism with contempt and his mother stayed with him till her end. Bhagawan visited the Samadhi of his mother frequently to offer prayers.

However, as per the traditional practices of Kanchi Mutt , Paramacharya detached himself from his family totally and fully.

Similar teachings :

What is remarkable is that the fundamentals of the teachings of Paramacharya and Bhagawan are the same. Both Bhagawan and Paramacharya advocated prayers and meditation as a way of realization of God, which according to both the sages should be realized in the inner selves of men and women.

Further, the compassion and love for everyone around including animals was a unique attribute of both the sages. By such approach, obviously, the feeling of love and compassion in the mindset of individuals would promote peace of mind and promote a sense of detachment from worldly happenings in an appropriate way.

While the similarities of teachings of both these great saints can be extensively discussed , the fundamental aspects of the teachings is that everyone should direct his / her efforts to identify and realise the “bliss ” in inner self, which is often termed as “Ananda” in Sanskrit language

This basically reflects on the cardinal principle of Advaita philosophy that Jeevatma and Paramatma are the same and individuals should not seek to reach Paramatma elsewhere except in the inner self.

This approach succinctly reject the so called” rational” explanation sought to be given by some people about the origin and end of life and so called hell and heaven, which are sort of physical methods to explain away the concept of life and after life

Both the saints simply asked the devotees to realise the inner self , which means Jeevatma identifying with Paramatma and being one with it.

Obviously, when an individual elevates his mental thought process by sustained meditation to realise the Paramatma in inner self and emerge successful, that should be the end of the thought process. Trying to analyse the life process beyond this would be a futile and wasteful exercise that would lead to nowhere. This is the essence of Advaita philosophy, which both these great saints eloquently explained.

There is no doubt that these great saints will be remembered all the time in future , as their advocacies are universal and applicable to all human beings all over the world , wherever they may be.

Why is there a winter of discontent in UK?

The widespread industrial unrest in the run up to Christmas and into January 2023, is nothing new, as workers all over Britain demand better pay and working conditions. Their leverage is to cause the most amount of tolerance, inconvenience and resilience.

We’ve just come out of summer and autumn with rail and postal strikes, now we face strike action planned by Nurses, Teachers, Train drivers, Emergency services, Ambulance drivers, Civil Servants, all jumping on the bandwagon. After a decade of wage stagnation workers across the country are now calling for pay rises that match inflation. However, it is fair to say, that during the past decade inflation was below 2 %, but has now overshot expectation.  

The last time there was a winter of discontent that I can remember?

I reckon it was during the days of Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan.

I can remember the winter between November 1978 and February 1979 when rubbish on the streets piled up, not cleared for days, perhaps, weeks as “Bin men” Council workers went on strike. First, it was the private and later the public sector Trade Union workers, demanding Pay rises greater than offered by the Labour government. It was no joke, when lights used to flicker as power cuts made us to keep candles at the ready. Domestic services in hospitals were on poverty wages of £39.50 per week at that time.

We cannot of course, compare today’s scenario to either the days of the General Strike of 1926 or the strike in 1978/79. But, a picture is building of what this winter 2022/23 will look like.

Why the strikes in NHS, in particular?

How many of you know that 25,000 Nursing staff left their job in the past year, with staff shortages affecting patient safety?

How many know there are 47,000 unfilled NHS Registered Nursing posts in England alone?

Has this shortage anything to do with the minimum 5, sometimes 10 hour wait at A& E wards in hospitals up and down the country?

Nurses in UK are going on strike for the first time, the first official strike in their 106 year history, on 15 and 20th December 2022. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced it has reluctantly called a national strike over pay and patient safety. It said their action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses.

Emergency care will still be provided, under a “life–preserving care model,” but routine services are expected to be affected by the strike. RCN stated the level of service during walk outs will be that dialysis and planned surgery cancelled.

Nurses are paid according to their level of seniority and how many years’ experience they have. The Nursing career is not a bed of roses, but a bed of patience?

For those who hope to apply to fill these empty nursing posts, almost all nursing staff are on contracts under a system introduced in 2004 to bring together different pay scales across the NHS.

A newly qualified Nurse under 2 years’ experience earns £27,055 in England, topped up by London Weighting Allowance rising to £32,934 after four (4) years. A Senior Nurse – Matron earns £48,526 to £54,619 after five (5) years.

RCN Nursing Union is asking for 19 % pay rise. This Union wants a rise of rise of 4.5% above the Retail Price Index (RPI); a pay hike of 19.2%, which the Government says is unaffordable and unacceptable. National inflation is currently at 12.6%,

The Government accepted the Independent Pay Service body recommendation for 1 million workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year equivalent around 4 to 5% for most nurses.

The Government also states that for every one (1) percent rise it costs £700 million taking the total demand to £10 billion or 6.5 % of the total NHS Budget.

When are some of the other Unions on strike?

Railways, 40 million RMT members –

Walk out on December 13-14; 16-17; January 3-4; 5-7, 2023.

Postal Workers, 120 million CMU members –

Walk out on November 30; December 1, 9, 11, 13-15; 17, 23-24.

Buses in London, Unite Members –

Almost 1000 bus drivers to stage a series of strikes for 10 intermittent days in December.

Teachers   750,000 NEU and NASUWT members –

Balloting for strike action voting closing on 9 and 13th January 2023.

Emergency Services – 15 million Ambulance Staff/ Para Medic members, also thinking of strike action, of some sort, perhaps, a work to rule.

Will strikes cripple Britain?

The Unions believe that the wave of strikes hitting “every sector of the economy” this winter, will help get a square deal for their members.

But neither the Government, nor the General Public believe, that other being greatly inconvenienced, they will not be “broken”?

The Government wants a fair deal to keep the economy afloat; while “what the people expect, is that they get at least a square meal in a round can,” this Christmas, at an affordable price.

Indian Supreme Court Weakening Indian Election Commission


The recent observation of the Supreme Court that the country needs Election Commissioners, who will not shirk from even taking on the Prime Minister if required and not just “weak-kneed” yes men, has sent shock waves.  Obviously, by making such sweeping observations, which appear to be hasty, Supreme Court judges give the impression that they think that the Election Commission is not discharging its responsibilities properly and independently.

It appears that the Supreme Court has assumed an “elder brother attitude” towards the Election Commission, even though both Judiciary and Election Commission are independent constitutional bodies  Constitution makers have not said or implied anywhere that Election Commission is subservient to the judiciary.

Many discerning observers wonder whether the Supreme Court has the power and authority to act like a supervisory body over the Election Commission.

The essence of Article 324 of the Constitution

 Article 324 of the Constitution provides a reservoir of power for the Election Commission to act for the avowed purpose of pursuing the goal of a free and fair election and therefore, the Election Commission is in sole charge of determining the conduct of elections.    The terms provided under Article 324 of the constitution are of wide amplitude and empower the Election Commission to take necessary recourse to address the issues.

Obviously, Article 324 of the constitution clearly indicates that the Election Commission can act independently to conduct elections in a fair and free manner, based on the exigency of the situation and the ground realities, in areas where the law is silent.

This also means that the judiciary has no authority to question the Election Commission, whatever may be decisions.

A retrograde step:

Originally, the constitution vested with the Election Commission the responsibility of appointing the election tribunals to take decisions on doubts and disputes arising, in connection with elections to parliament and legislature of the states.

However, on the recommendation of the Election Commission in 1962, the trial of election petitions was entrusted to the judiciary and the institution of election tribunal was abolished.  Article 324 (1) was amended (19th Amendment) Act 1966, to relieve the election commission of the function of appointing election tribunals.

This has proved to be a retrograde step and against the desire of the constitution makers and made the Election Commission look subservient to the judiciary, which the Constitution makers never intended.

Has the judiciary overreached itself?

While the above amendment involves surrendering of the powers of the Election Commission to the judiciary as far as the election tribunals are concerned, the other powers and authority of the Election Commission remain intact.

In the past, several decisions of the Election Commission have been overruled by the judiciary, without recognising the powers of the Election Commission as per the Constitution.

In the process, the image of the Election Commission has been brought down in the public eye by the judiciary, which is a counterproductive development.

Questioning the appointment of Election Commissioners:

Now, the judiciary has taken one more step in spoiling the image of the Election Commission by questioning the appointment of Mr Arun Goel as Election Commissioner.  This appointment has been done by the government as per the set procedure that is followed ever since India’s independence.

At the same time, the Supreme Court judges have ignored the fact that serious questions have been raised in the country about the way of Supreme Court Collegium appoints judges for the Supreme Court and High Court, without transparency. The recent protest by lawyers in a few states against the transfer of judges from one state to another by the Supreme Court pointed to the fact that there are serious misgivings about the decision of the Supreme Court in such matters.

 Can we say that the Supreme Court questioning the appointment procedure of Election Commissioners is like the pot calling the kettle black?

Tenure of Election Commissioners:

Supreme Court judges have also criticised the brief tenure of the election commissioners and said that in many cases, the tenure was too short. However, the fact is that there are many judges who have short tenures and with the recent case of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court remaining in the job only for a few months.

The tenure of judges or election commissioners need not be a matter of concern, as they can do whatever they want within their powers even in short tenure.

Supreme court judges need to reflect on their observations:

The observations of the Supreme Court judges seem to question the capability and credibility of the Election Commissioners without any basis.

If Supreme court judges were to find fault with the Election Commission, in a scenario where both are constitutional bodies, can we say that the Election Commission can also find fault with decisions of the Supreme Court?

One constitutional body criticising another constitutional body is in bad taste and needs to be avoided.

Must we mix sport and politics at the Football World Cup?


The belief in the power of football to make positive contribution to progressive and sustainable change in the world was met with opposition before the start of the tournament in Doha, Qatar.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino wrote to the chiefs of 32 competing teams, demanding them to focus their time at Qatar to focus only on football. There was nothing wrong with this.

But each of the competing Football Associations felt it was tantamount to giving them a lesson how to play the game. It was considered as fighting talk, an intrusion.

The teams instead opted to send a reminder that neither FIFA nor the hosts, Qatar should declare war on the national teams.

Last month, (November 2022) the findings of a new research study led by Dr. Adam Scharif of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that international sporting events tend to trigger unwarranted repression, when host nations that were autocracies, some even dictatorships, used the different games as a way of persecution of their political opponents.

Anti-discrimination rainbow coloured “# One Love” arm-bands worn by thecaptains of teams was banned, with severe penalties – Yellow and Red Cards. England and Welsh Captains at the last minute had to change their bands before their matches on 21 November 2022. This made a large proportion of their fans feel very uncomfortable.

Besides, a former England football manager, Harry Redknapp told a news agency on the controversy surrounding Qatar, hosting the World Cup. We know the host country has strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws. “How they got it in the first place I don’t really know. But they got it, it’s there, we’ve gotto get on with it now”.

David Seaman, former England Goalkeeper also shared his thoughts stating; “Football is for everyone and not everyone can go there to watch the games.”

Both of them were in full praise for England’s squad. “I think we’ve got a fantastic group of players,” said Harry, which was echoed by David.

The bravery of the England’s Three Lions team kicked off their World Cup game with a historic 6-2 win, but it was opponents Iran who won the praise for their courageous protests over human rights violations, by risking their safety at home, by refusing to sing the national anthem, but fans booed them or made thumbs down signs. Female supporters were also seen with placards, “Women, Life, Freedom,” they had smuggled into the Khalifa Stadium in Doha to protest at the crackdown on women refusing to wear the hijab.

FIFA according to some fans have acted to brush criticism of human rights under the carpet.

Can FIFA or anybody stop protests?

The more you stop wearing of rainbow arm bands, and the hijab, or placards, the more it is counterproductive according to someobservers.

Harry Kane, England’s captain had to wear a FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband.

But, it did not stop Manager, Gareth Southgate’s men “taking the knee” before kick off in a symbolic gesture against racism.

Wales in their drawn game (1-1) against United States, on 21 November 2022, were also among seven European teams hoping to wear the “OneLove” armband in a country which outlaws same sex relationships. Through their Federations stated they would have paid the fines but “could not allow their players in a situation where they may be booked or even forced to leave the field.”

In addition, we were told that sixteen of Iran’s 25 Football squad, play for foreign clubs and so it is more or less impractical to enforce rigid rules unless for security reasons.

Alcohol sales are banned at all World Cup stadiums in Qatar, but that did not stop fans “rocking up” at their hotels, with wild parties.

Who is behind all these “antics” is anybody’s guess? Do they “act their age” or “is it human nature to rebel?

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