Wednesday, 26 January, 2022
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SubscriberWrites: From planes and pensions, democracy & politics or Covid deaths — everything is being hijacked

Irate subscribers suggest rewiring democracy, more women in politics, how to revive Congress, understand Modi’s popularity – and much more.

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Ever wondered how the most exciting years of our life span are spent on building careers and  earning money? Even then we live in a society where we are expected to work with full  determination but are not allowed to succeed financially. 

When I finished graduation, I was paid in pennies as it was “expected” of us to understand that the  firm is allowing you to have a practical experience which should be more important at the start of  the career. However, 5 years down the line nothing has changed. I come from a middle-class  family and my dad is into the construction business. Being an Architect, I had an open door for  me, but my interests lie differently than my father’s and hence I chose to opt for a career that I  could build on my own. 

Though the Britishers left we Indians didn’t stop treating people as slaves. It’s wrong if our  generation is treated like beggars where we are forced to take drastic steps like resignation and  only then the office offers a bait of promotion. When a similar situation came up, I was privileged  enough to give it up, as this is not the way I wished to be treated for investing my unreturnable  part of life. Alas, this fueled some discriminative behavior. Unfortunately, not everyone has a  choice, many of them are amongst the bread owners for their family. And due to the current call  of time, they are still stuck in firms with such unacceptable or rather I say inhuman behavior. Firms  are feeding on our current conditions and exploiting the youth and takes benefits of the  statement “Earn in the 20s and 30s to pay bills in 40s”. Unfortunately, the HR department instead  of making equilibrium is bending towards such cultures and indirectly promoting them, leaving us  with no hope but to suffer. 

Constantly we are been told to not compare ourselves with others’ progress, well my question is  why not? Why is it that some of us earn more while others don’t? Why are there no standard  salary slabs as per the experience? And why does the firm not make it a responsibility to pay as  per the experience? Instead, we are made to have discussions with the HR representatives, where  they bargain before buying us and excel in closing the deal with the minimum wage. Maybe the  current curriculum should add a subject where we learn to deal with such tactics. Even then the  system won’t change but we will at least be less anxious upon dealing with such situations. 

My decision to be the master of my own career does seem wary now from where I see it and this  happens to most of us coming from our field of line. It’s depressing if in the late 20s one still can’t  afford to own medical insurance or pay for the loan amount to own an apartment or any other  societal standard materials. One will point out to not adhere to these standards but would you be  okay if in your late 20s you can’t afford to have basic necessities of life?

Our creative minds are malfunctioning because of this tremendous pressure surrounding us,  which fails not the current system but for us. Sadly, we are not left with any other option but to  get exploited. Despite all the earnings the corporate culture wants to hoard money for the work  that we do and this passes on to the next generation in charge. But is that an attitude that we  would want to go forward with? I understand that not all have a choice or maybe they don’t  recognize it, but doesn’t it become our responsibility to stand up against this if we come from a  privileged cohort “who can own a choice”? 

With my family background, it is assumed that this person isn’t in need of finance as I have “a rich  Dad” to pay my bills. Never knew that corporates can make decisions or pass statements like this.  Why am I now allowed to own my place in this world? Why am I always undermined and not  given an opportunity to grow financially even upon proving my worth? 

These questions will keep troubling us and our future generations until we answer them by  standing up for ourselves now – “Standing up against the unjust and inequality”, and as Amanda  Gorman said – 

“For the is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. 

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

–Falaknaaz Patni

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I have a question for all Indians to think about. But before that, let me set some context with 5 premises.

First premise, it is almost about to be 75 years of Independence and may be with few conscious mind, let’s reevaluate few fundamentals things, “does it really takes that long to build a Nation!” Or, “What we’ve achieved in this 75 years comparing to other Nations which got its independence right around same time?”. Take a look around Singapore, Israel, few Arab Nations and this list goes on, we have plenty to compare with. Without over analyzing we know the answer.

Second premise, at this point in history, there is no doubt that Indians as a community has built  a massive reputation around the world for being successful in whatever they do, be it Software, Engineering etc. The potential of Indian talents are well established facts today. And from that perspective we can humbly say that we have made good use of our freedom. But as a Nation, World has a different perception of India, in fact it is an opposite purview.

Third premise, with current situation of Pandemic, which has crippled the entire world, we Indians disproportionally suffered the most. We always lacked good infrastructure and basic amenities, and for a long time it was an ignorable subject for us, as things were sort of moving on. Consequences of these we have always suffered individually, case by case basis, and hence we were lacking a collective consciousness to invoked enough masses to fix things up. But right now situation is different, lot many things surfaced, almost all people of our beautiful Nation have been affected by a humongous challenge that we do not wish for anyone. While few months back, we were dreaming about strong economy, and we were talking about becoming a strong Nation  to an extent that we can take over China. As of now time is different, current course of events has put our ignorance completely exposed to the World. People are dying due to shortage of oxygen, hospitals are running out of beds, insufficient medical services and let that sink in to our minds before we forget and move on, before we talk about every good economy and strengths. 

Fourth premise, let’s talk politics and governance, as apolitically as possible without bringing any political bias or inclination. For all ugly reasons political parties have already been over-discussed than they worth about discussing. If any of them would have worked, for heaven sake, country would not have been in this dire condition today. Let that be the tone of this topic and with a hand in our heart, let us take few steps back to declutter few things.

Fifth premise, a Nation where larger part of its population is still below poverty line, are Democratic principles our only choice? Take a deeper look, in one hand we see these infamous massive election rallies to bring naive and gullible people who are almost incapable of making their life choices, let alone electing leaders. While on the other-hand, they are made vulnerable to violent aftermaths of the election results, irrespective of whose outcome nothing going to make any difference in their life. These are the real things that we are dealing with and as this continues, we will be caught up with it for many more years.

Solutions are not easy, but lets talk, let’s challenge ourselves:

“Is democracy in its purest form working for India?”

Don’t want to attract easy autocratic, communists accusations, but seriously, when we talk about a Governance, are we left with only these choices? Let us start appreciating the fact that we are at a point in history with Internet in our palm, all good informations in our disposal, we can rewire and rewrite rules which aren’t possible at any point in time before. May be yesteryear of Internet youth who are now grown adults, should start questioning about these rules. Does democracy has to be manifested in ways, which we see is definitely not working. How about start new ways of thinking Democratic principles. 

How about thinking something completely new. How about a system where not all citizens have to vote. But only eligible few among them, citizens who cares, who volunteer to actively participate in society building activities, philanthropic works, be part of  not-for-profit services and build community; outside their professional hours, only they should be allowed to vote. A standard of independent bodies which may constantly update eligible “Electoral Philanthropic works” and certify eligibility. Such that even political leaders are chosen also among them. A system where people have to periodically earn their voting privileges by doing good work to the society. Let’s give it a name, Benevocracy = Benevolence + Democracy.

Can we rewire Democracy?

–Kishore Debnath

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Congress can’t be ignored and should not be ignored, but the whole problem is of its own making. This BJP makes even the RSS uncomfortable. But there is no stopping BJP as long as the Congress does not realise what’s its perception is in the people’s mind. It may not be of its own doing; it does not matter. What matters is what people think of it and what Congress can do to change it.

I have seen the world change in India in my lifetime. What have we become? Secularism does not and will not come just because it’s written in the constitution, or because the Congress said we are secular. India was secular because the people of India were secular but they no longer are. I remember when my grandfather was there, he used to have so many Muslim friends. Every weekend we were going for dinner or inviting someone to dinner. But life changed and I remember fighting with my father me a young idealist(14-15Years) speaking for the Muslims and my father voraciously in support of demolition of Babri masjid. 

How did all this change, how did we become so unsecular in such a short time. Congress just could not grasp the sense of loss certain section of Hindus felt. Muslims got Pakistan what did we get even after sacrificing so much in partition? Congress did it in its “GHAMAND” of knowing what’s good for the people. The Congress has always thought of itself as carrying the moral responsibility to reform Indian society, always looking at common people with contempt as if they don’t know and feel anything. Just because you are educated and intellectual does not give you the right to treat our feelings with contempt. Congress has created this poison you can call it PENT UP ANGER.

This drip-by-drip sense of being ignored over 50-60-70 years has come to the fore front now. Congress has not done much wrong but it has done right selectively. I don’t want to marry multiple times but if you take that right from me take from others as well. Why my sister has an equal right in my ancestral property and a Muslim sister does not. And Shahbano was the icing on the cake. I may not be accurate in my examples but I am trying to clarify the PERCEPTION.

Now to present. There was a time I really liked and admired Priyanka Gandhi, she had that spark. And when she went to meet her father’s killers. I thought that she has what it takes to lead Congress, but that window passed away. That was one of the biggest mistakes, I think. I don’t even like to hear what she says. She is just a shadow of her previous self.

Rahul Gandhi may be decent person, but did he think life will go on without doing anything or appear to be doing anything. He tried to replicate what Sonia Gandhi did with Manmohan Singh. Is it even possible in this age and time? Even Indira Gandhi was a minister before becoming PM. It’s this action of treating us like fools that fills me with hatred for him. How dare he? Maybe congress has an internal rule to not give any position to anyone before they are 65 and Rahul has decided to set an example. India is young we need a young government. Anyways Rahul is too old now. He should have married a nice Indian girl at the right time and I feel that alone would have benefitted him a lot politically.

 This is a new India. Ab governance chahiye. People can see through everything. Don’t lecture us. Do something. We know you are more educated you have all the professors of JNU behind you. Use that knowledge to create an atmosphere of peace. But please not by appeasing one community. It will take time but it can happen and congress can do it. Unless they do it, they can’t defeat MODI because they will keep playing with the insecurities of Hindus. Just waiting for people to get tired of BJP will not work.Modi has shown people are willing to forgive your mistakes, any mistake but you have to make them believe your intent was right. Congress has not been able to convince this to the Hindus.

I am fed up of this BJP. I might have supported it but now seeing the cracks in our society I am disheartened; it breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do. Congress is not changing and I can’t support their appeasement of Muslims. As a result, I end up voting for BJP.

I have just told my thoughts from a secular to a semi secular to secular person but not at the cost of losing my rights. 

–Nitesh Jain

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Dear Sir,

You take up important issues to enlighten us & declutter our minds through different episodes of ” Cut the Clutter”.

Your process of decluttering may perhaps bring some transparency, which is awfully lacking. Pension Payments to MPs & MLAs is generally talked about, without any clarity. Single/ Multiple pensions payments must be a very heavy burden on exchequer. We all ensure avoidance of taxes be it Direct or Indirect taxes, without caring how will the Govt fund development & Security infrastructure. If the elected representatives coolly siphon of money towards multiple pensions, it should be noticed and talked about like their process of unanimous wages/perks hike in the Parliament. In certain cases States have been bearing their individual Tax Liabilities as well, which is no short of a criminal act, when the people at large can’t afford decent living.

–S N Joshi

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The second wave of the pandemic has wreaked havoc on an unimaginable scale. Our  healthcare system crumbled. We ran short of oxygen and ICU’s. Whatsapp became the war  rooms for coordinating people. While the governments of the UK and USA had ordered  millions of vaccine doses as early as May 2020, our government sat upon this decision until  January 2021. When the situation improved after the first wave of COVID, we failed to ramp  up our health infrastructure.  

But is it the first time this government has put us in a difficult spot? Demonetization was a  disaster in all capital letters. Our economy was barely growing, thanks to the lack of reforms  before COVID. At present, it is gasping for breath and its “animal spirit” is already dead.  Unemployment levels are historic high. Last year, after the lockdown, we underwent a crisis  dealing with the mass migration of the poor from developed to underdeveloped states. 

With so much negativity, what makes this government win elections? It has created an  illusion of doing something. We are hardwired with this obsessive notion rather than doing  nothing. Imagine if the government decides to leave the system as it is. Then we would  accuse the government of being a sitting duck. 

So am I supporting policy paralysis? No. Our country needs a lot of good ideas and fairly  good implementation. But good ideas are often caught in the ideological battles and petty  politics. 

Now, how do you create an illusion of doing something? You can shock the people by  implementing things off-guard. But how do people buy this? As much as any reader of this  article hates to admit it, we are filled with self-doubts and are prone to indecisiveness. So  when we see a leader taking a decision “swiftly and stealthily”, our subconscious mind  creates a good impression of that leader. 

In the TV series House of Cards, the protagonist Frank Underwood, the fictional President of  the United States, breaks the fourth wall and explains, “You do not actually need me to stand  for anything, you just need me to stand – To be the strong man, the man of action. My God!,  you are addicted to actions and slogans. It does not matter what I say, It does not matter what  I do. Just as long as I am doing something, you are happy to be along for the ride. I do not  blame you for this. With all the foolishness and indecision in your lives, why not a man like  me?”. 

Whenever we talk of boldness, Mr Modi is often associated with that. The quote mentioned  above makes a lot of sense for this. In our personal lives, how many of us have dared to  question the decisions of our bosses? How many of us dared to talk to our parents and marry  the partner we want? In simple words, how many of us dared to be non-conformant in this  society. 

At this juncture, when we come across a Whatsapp forward explaining how “boldly” Mr  Modi has taken a “decision”. We tend to get carried away with that “boldness” because that is  what we want to be in our personal lives. We have to understand that image-building happens  psychologically

I wantonly quoted Whatsapp forwards phenomena to explain Modi’s persona. The liberal  intelligentsia fails to grasp the psychology behind this. The social connectivity in Whatsapp is  much more personal. The forwards we receive are from people who are close and whom we  can trust. Leading Publishing houses could offer the best rational editorials on why Mr Modi  is unfit to be the Prime Minister. Yet, the impact of the editorial would either reinforce the  beliefs of naysayers of Mr Modi or do nothing. 

In his groundbreaking book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman explains that we  have two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional;  System 2 is slower, deliberative, and logical.  

I came across a Whatsapp forward, which had a photo of Mr Modi grinning mischievously.  Below that, there was a long train of a message which started with “Modi’s masterstroke  makes China clueless”. An uninformed reader does not even have to proceed further to know  why. The impression has been made already. It happens at an instance as described in System  1. Reading an editorial requires a deliberate effort and application of mind and hence we  employ System 2 to consume content. 

If congress or any other opposition party wants to challenge BJP in 2024, they should be  imaginative. BJP indeed wins because it is an incredible election-winning machine. Hindutva  politics also has a definite role in its success. I appeal to the readers that we should not  overlook the psychological reasons for BJP’s electoral success.

–Subramaniam Gopalakrishnan

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The Covid-19 deaths are underreported. I am not disputing for the reasons:

  1. Our compilation system may not be so advanced to give updated figures on daily basis. At least this is our conception.
  2. Due to lack of medical facilities, many deaths which occur at home, are not reported especially in cases of ‘Poor’ where unreported death does not make any difference to the family.
  3. Improper segregation of  Covid and non-covid deaths.

Whatever it may be, another important factor is the belief that the Government-issued figures cannot be correct. Or to show our presence, we must disagree or show the world, Indian media is so honest.

US media has stated that India is underreporting. Our media instantly agrees.

Have we thought about why US media may be saying so !!! It is a shame for the USA to have figures worse than India. So make a face-saving statement. They know no one shall check their statement and they are the authority in the world.

Again, they may be correct, but why should we agree with them? I am a defence veteran. I have learnt that any statement made against my country, may it be right or wrong, it must be debated strongly in our favour.

–Vinod G

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Where is Indian politics headed? This is probably the question that has puzzled both the right and left in recent times courtesy of the very harsh second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. People on the left seem angry about why our PM is still not being held accountable for the great man-made disaster of mismanagement, which arguably has been even more severe and deadlier than the coronavirus itself. While on the right people are either taking a more and more orthodox route to defend the government or are simply indulging in the whataboutery (some seem to have had a real change of heart as well, albeit very few). And then there is also the argument that the academics and other commentators make about the policy failures of Modi-government, in fact, Mr Shekhar Gupta discusses this topic often in his Cut The Clutter episodes as well as in his National Interest section. 

In this article, I will briefly try to understand what is it that is still giving Mr Modi an edge over opposition and the cause behind his widespread popularity (though the latter has arguably declined recently). To begin with, though the Modi government might have weakened on the policy side, it hasn’t had a significant effect on its supporter base or its image largely because in so many other aspects it has been doing jolly well; these areas are precisely the ones they stand for and make the promises for — Hindutva. For all the lack of action or strength one may point out on the policy side, or the coronavirus (mis)management, the government has been able to balance it off by creating a fine equilibrium by exhibiting the same energies towards their imagination of our nation. The cornering of the social media platforms, arrests of the protesting groups/individuals, and on the other hand by empowering the religious fervour (Kumbhmela), and the unscientific opinions of Baba Ramdev. What this does is that the seemingly progressive narrative is now being chopped off and made to adjust to the party’s crude and frantic reality rather than the whole process being the other way round. One should not be surprised upon hearing the government speak more and more about the schemes for intangible religious and cultural development rather than the earlier promises of economic and financial development. Like Raghu Sanjaylal Jaitley says in his newsletter, “It is easy to cast democracy into a vessel that channels the passions of the majority…The easy way then to cover for failures is to continue fighting some mythical ancient regime or entrenched enemies who are undermining your efforts. This is imagined victimhood. When this becomes a political, social and cultural defence to any challenge…Facts don’t matter then. Only faith does.”

It seems that the Modi government is walking on very thin ice, or if you want to go for a more Indian picture of it — on a very tight rope. Any imbalance on either side may lead to the fall of this giant of a personality, popularity, and political party. The coronavirus situation has been making this rope walk only tougher and longer for this government. The government has been facing criticism from all sides lately, it remains to be seen whether this has any real effects on the mandate in the upcoming state elections. One wonders if the Modi-Shah duo still has some tricks up their sleeves to redeem the party, and the PM. We may feel assured for now of no funny business from the government for now, but what happens when the rope ends and it reaches safely onto the land?

Raj Dasani

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Ryanair Hijacking has far reaching consequences to the human rights movement:

In an act being termed as ‘state piracy’, the authoritarian President of Belarus- termed as the ‘last dictator of Europe’ by western media- Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered the interception of a Ryanair flight FR4978 and compelled it to land in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. It was carrying a self-exiled 26 years old Belarusian dissident political activist Raman Pratasevich from Athens to Vilnius. The plane was intercepted by MiG-29 fighter jets when it was flying over Belarusian territory. After Raman was detained, the flight was allowed to proceed to Vilnius. The dictators of the past would have taken immense pride on this act.

President Lukashenko has been the President of Belarus since 1994. He faced popular protests after the 2020 Presidential election which was questioned by international observers. Lukashenko had won his sixth term in the office with an 80% vote share. The main opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who secured roughly 10% of votes, had to eventually flee the country. The efforts to stamp out opposition have been going since the elections. The interception of Ryanair flight was clearly aimed at suppressing dissent in Belarusian diaspora. 

This has shocked everyone to the west of Belarus, including the EU and USA. The President of European Council, Ursula von der Leyen has promised swift punishment. The Belarusian sky have been declared unsafe for commercial flight and the pre-existing economic sanctions will become more crippling, which in turn will enhance Belarus’s dependence on its eastern all weather friend.

This remote event may appear irrelevant to us. But, it has some insidious implications. It has given a new tool to the authoritarian regimes to suppress dissent and has incentivized their aggressive territorial claims over which they may intercept flights carrying officials of hostile countries, rights activists, etc. When we travel over a long distance internationally, flights pass over many countries with an axe to grind. Thus, this step by Belarus is a blow to ‘the international rule based order’, otherwise a cliché term, which irritates revisionist powers like China and bemuses the keen observers of history.

‘Might is right’ has always been the way. The ‘Drone Policy’ of USA during the ‘War on Terror’ is a good example of it. Relatives of dictators that may pose a challenge, dissident journalist from kingdoms, renegade spies, etc. have been bumped off in the past. Supposedly kidnapped from Dubai, a Rwandan political activist, Paul Rusesabagina was put on trial in Rwanda on terrorism charges. Even Mr. Pratasevich was on a Belarusian terror watch list. After all, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Still, this was something entirely new.

The world of civil aviation isn’t a ‘wild west’. It has established norms of behaviour. The Article 3 of the Chicago Convention says that every state is to refrain from use of weapons against civilian aircrafts in flight, and if it must intercept the flight, the safety of aircraft and the lives of persons on board must not be endangered. Both of these precautions were not taken here. The convention allows for interception in special circumstances like preventing terror plots. And, this is where the international rule based order fails to restrain the authoritarian leaders.

There was a time when the terror organisations like Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, made hijacking one of their favourite tools. But, no matter how vile their foreign policy, the modern states abhor associating directly with the activities like hijacking, piracy, terrorism, etc. It is an anathema to the Westphalian states.

The Belarusian argument that the interception took place within its sovereign territory could be picked up by other no term-limit presidents, General Secretaries and Army Chiefs that dot our hostile neighbourhood. Of course, this can easily happen anywhere in the world. China is already known for prodding foreign governments like Turkmenistan to return the exiled Uyghurs for reasons implicitly understood. Something similar may happen to prominent Indian journalists, high ranking officials and exiled spiritual leaders.

We should recall that China already has an Air Defense Identification Zone in East China Sea and it is adopting a ‘salami tactic’ (peace by peace) for enforcing its sovereignty over the South China Sea. So, an interception over South China Sea, airborne or maritime, can’t be ruled out for long.

The message here is that the international rule based order is a necessity for a multi-polar world and a mid-level power like India must co-operate with other like-minded countries to reinforce the conventions of seas, airs and such, to ensure that the freedom to travel, trade and communicate are enhanced, especially when the balance of power is shifting day by day.

–Amankumar Jha

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We are already into the third decade of 21st century, a time that was supposed to  be characterised by women equality in all the spheres of life. However, in two  major parameters that countries use in modern times to determine the status of  women, i.e., the proportion of women in labour force and political representation,  present a grim picture- not only for India but across the world. India, evidently, has  slipped 28 places in Global Gender Gap report, 2020. 

It can be counter-argued that general election in 2019 saw an all-time high 78  women MPs however as a proportion of total number of seats, it has only  increased from 4.4% in 1952 to 14.3% in 2019. In the context of recent elections  in 5 states, West Bengal which is headed by a woman CM herself will only see 14  per cent women in assembly, while Puducherry will have an assembly with only  one woman member. Kerala, which is a top performing state in social and gender  gap indices, only has 11 women members in an assembly of 140. 

These numbers indicate a deeply patriarchal political culture where a woman is not  only expected to make many sacrifices at each step compared to their male  counterparts, but also harassed and looked down even by their own party workers.  The recent derogatory jibe at an incumbent CM by the prime minister of the  country himself doesn’t present an encouraging picture. Isn’t it unfair to confine  women only to their household responsibilities and defy their right to equality just  because our topmost leaders think otherwise?  

Most parties supported the 33 per cent reservation for women in the Parliament  however none of the parties even field this proportion of women candidates, let  alone winning. It has been more than quarter of a century since the 73rd and 74th  constitutional amendment act mandated one-third reservation to women at the  grassroot level of democracy. Still we see that most of the women leaders at local  level are just a proxy representative of their male counterparts.  

Winnability, no doubt, has gone down for the women candidates in last few years  but that is bound to get skewed as more number of women candidates contest.  Many researches along with real world examples have shown us that greater  participation of women in politics and leadership roles pave way for more citizen 

centric, ethical and empathetic public policies and governance models. The  handling of COVID crisis by New Zealand and other Scandinavian countries with  women leaders at the helm shows that women leadership is very much capable of  handling the complex problems of 21st century.  

A recent web series “Panchayat” comes to my mind where a young Panchayat  secretary makes an attempt to bring a woman Sarpanch out of the shadow of her  husband. In this light, the role of panchayat secretaries become even more  important. We need to empower them with more statutory powers and ensure 

more accountability upon them to uplift the social and political status of women at  the local level. 

India, the world’s largest democracy and a rising power needs to realise that no  country can be a superpower with half of its population marginalised and stymied  to break free in politics. It is high time political parties come out of the mindset that  importance of women in politics is only of a vote bank where promises of wages/ 

allowances for “housewives”, washing machines, gas cylinders, free public  transport, etc. are going to get the women votes. Parties should pledge to not only  promote these local leaders to the next level but also build capacity at the  ‘karyakarta’ level. Winnability shouldn’t be considered an impediment as long as  the ones at the grass-root level have delivered results and are willing to play a  politics of social cohesion. It’s not only the parties and their workers who need to  support their women leaders in unison but also the nudge is required towards  behavioural aspect of society to accept and support women leader as its  representative. 

Over the last few years, we have seen many local leaders emerging at grass-root  level especially in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu who are contributing  immensely in social integration. Election commission should lead the way by  ensuring women gets equitable representation in the election candidature and they  are provided a conducive environment while contesting and campaigning. 

Women MLAs in the recently concluded state elections are not going to having an  easy journey as their battles are likely to continue. However, we certainly can hope  that they can lead the way for women who wish to cross the household and  political barriers.

–Kshitij Tiwari

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In the current face-off between China and India, every nation lover, being evoked by some provocative speeches of politicians, is going gung ho on boycotting Chinese products in India. This sounds similar to what happened in the Indian subcontinent during the Swadeshi movement which was a part of Freedom struggle. But the scenario now is very much different from the one prevailing then. Now every country is dependent on each other with varying levels of dependency. For instance, there are countries like Singapore which would collapse if they stop getting their daily needs from its neighboring country Malaysia. Being a small island nation, it is not possible for Singapore to produce its own food and derive drinking water from underground. Though it can try on the limited land available, it cannot achieve the cost-benefit due to less scope in achieving economies of scale. So despite being well developed and having one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, the island city-state still tries to maintain a healthy relationship with the neighboring country so as not to hurt its trade.

To understand it better, let’s see from the angle of a company that needs some competencies for its day-to-day business activities. Companies don’t develop all the required competencies in-house as they know that achieving the cost-efficiency in every competency is next to impossible. So they tend to outsource some of their jobs. These jobs generally don’t require revealing the company’s trade secrets or which are completely different from their main business stream or which have high entry and exit costs. E.g. many companies outsource their employee transport to travel operators because of high entry/exit costs i.e. purchasing a fleet of vehicles and also this is not their main business stream. On the other hand, big companies with sizable employee strength may have the employee transport in-house, if they can achieve the cost efficiency through economies of scale.

Let’s consider a scenario where there are trade barriers between Nagpur and Shimla. In such a situation, just to become self-reliant, Nagpur shouldn’t invest in developing apple orchards and Shimla shouldn’t invest in producing Oranges. Because there are certain climatic conditions which are not suitable for growing these trees. Similarly, from ages, some industries are prohibited for some religions and castes. In short, before planning to become self-reliant one should consider factors like labor laws, red tape, natural resources, political stability, entry/exit costs, climate, religion, etc. If nations resort to protectionism by imposing tariffs and quota on imports, to support the local vendors, then the consumer will be forced to settle for substandard products and it may also sometimes kill the competitive spirit. Rather, nations should first try developing the competencies which are indigenous and innate. In the process, by achieving the economies of scope, these companies can then try to compete with foreign companies.

Border disputes, political affiliations, and religious differences, have a significant impact on trade. But ideally they shouldn’t determine the bi-lateral trade between two nations. Despite border disputes from decades, India still maintains trade relations with Pakistan. When Onion prices in India were skyrocketing, India had to import onions from Pakistan. Because Onion and Potato are the two critical vegetables in the Indian market which can even determine the fortunes of a ruling political party. But some politicians try to provoke a common man by pitching against the products of a particular nation to gain political mileage from the prevailing local sentiments. PM’s Aatma Nirbhar Bharat doesn’t preach killing the competition from foreign countries but to develop the indigenous talent to face the competition. And the ultimate goal is to provide the consumer with an option to choose from vide variety of high-quality products at a competitive price irrespective of the nation of origin. If killing competition had been the motive, then the govt. has got many tools and ammunition like tariffs, quotas, and taxation.

–Mallikarjuna Sarma

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.

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