Why Universal Basic Income

The idea of a Universal Basic Income has been mooted for quite some time across the globe in various forums. So much so that such an idea has entered the public discourse frequently and even the average Joe has an opinion about whether it must be implemented or not. Universal Basic Income or UBI is a form of social security in which all citizens of a country are assured a fixed basic income regardless of their economic or social status.

The recently concluded Economic Survey by the Indian Finance Ministry dedicated a chapter to UBI in which Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramaniam talks about deliberating on UBI in India. The fact is that UBI is not new for India. A trial has been successfully conducted in rural Madhya Pradesh. The results so far have been encouraging. Yet, to implement the scheme on a nationwide basis remains a humongous challenge.

For starters, India already has more than 1000 public welfare schemes run under the aegis of both the central and state governments. Although several of these schemes are running inefficiently, abolishing them will be political suicide, even for a politician as popular as Narendra Modi. UBI can only work if these other welfare schemes and subsidies are abolished in favor of the universal income. In the Economic Survey, Arvind Subramaniam suggests a level of $9 per month for every adult Indian as the ideal level for a universal income which amounts to roughly Rs. 600 per month per individual. Subramaniam suggests that this amount, equivalent to roughly 5% of the GDP can be recouped by re-routing money from the numerous welfare schemes.

This brings us to the next problem i.e. should the income really be universal? What sense does it make to pay a destitute homeless man the same amount as is paid to Mukesh Ambani. In fact why even include the numerous people like Mukesh Ambani in the scheme at all? Don’t worry, Subramaniam has you covered. As per his calculations, only about 75% of the populace will be covered under ‘Universal’ Basic Income. However, the Indian state has been historically poor in identifying and separating the poor and needy from the well-off. This has been the chief reason for the failure of the numerous welfare schemes, apart from rampant corruption and red-tape of course.

Yet another argument against UBI is that it promotes laziness or disincentivises hard work. However, one can safely assume that a basic income of Rs. 600 per month is not enough for sustenance but still may be enough to abolish all subsidies and yet ensure that the poor can afford the basic necessities. Several arguments were put forth that such an income might be wasted away on alcohol and gambling. On the contrary, in the trial held in Madhya Pradesh, it was observed that such an income actually empowered women instead of it being a source of misuse in the hands of the menfolk.

The chief benefit of UBI though will be that it would enable the nation to pull a majority of its poor above the poverty line. This achievement is superior to what the governments in the past 70 years since independence have been able to do. On top of that, it ensures that the government’s welfare spending suffers no leakages, thanks to an almost universal Aadhar coverage. The only logistical upgrade required would be an easy access to banking services or greater penetration of digital payments.

By putting money directly into the hands of the needy, the government is eliminating scope for leakage and corruption. It also eliminates the paternalistic role of the government in which it assumed that people were incapable of making decision as to what should they do with their money. The government effectively hands over this responsibility to each and every individual thereby promoting greater freedom and less interference.

UBI promises to be a revolutionary idea, yet it is the immaturity of Indian politics that prevents us from implementing this idea. Such a revolutionary step is bound to ruffle the opposition’s feathers. There are several interest groups who will be negatively affected and who may make it their life’s mission to see that such a step is never implemented. All that matters is the will of the ruling party to implement such a step and for the people to give the government some time before they can reap the benefits of such a bold policy decision.

Demonetization – The Rights and the Wrongs

As the nation comes to grip with the fact that their money has overnight become virtually worthless, one can’t help but wonder about the origins and consequences of such a move. By effectively wiping out 86% of the cash in circulation, the Narendra Modi government has created a cash crunch so terrible that it may take months for growth to bounce back. This is where the media opinion has acted as the executioner by looking at the problem from a short term and naïve perspective, not realizing the wide ranging ramifications it can have.

First of all let’s understand the basic reason for this move. As touted by the Modi government, this move is a fight against black money and fake currency induced terrorism. Note how the Kashmir unrest that was at its peak died down instantly with no purported truce between parties concerned. This is the greatest achievement of this move and some might feel everything after this will go downhill. Now the fight against black money is a lot more complex than any of us can imagine.

It’s been said that the money is not a stock but a flow and this is not an effective way to target black money. However, one must realize the amount of political capital that Narendra Modi has at stake due to this move. This move hits hard at the middleclass traders whose businesses are essentially undergoing a recession as people begin to postpone conspicuous consumption. This is the principal vote bank of Narendra Modi and this move has the ramifications to upset this class and turn them against this government.

If Narendra Modi has effectively gambled on his chances of getting elected again, one must realize the amount of planning and thought that could have gone into the action. The government is not stupid. It has the vast experience and knowledge of the tax authorities and the Reserve Bank at its disposal. It would be childish to assume that the government has no idea about the loopholes in this action. As I hear from the community around me, people with reach have effectively managed to convert this money into gold, real estate etc. Others have found ways through commission agents to convert their old notes into new notes by paying the same amount as they would have if they had honestly paid their taxes before. Therefore, even though they get to keep their money, it is still unaccounted and they have ended up losing as much as they would have if they had been honest about it. Also it can come back to nip them in the bud.

Chances are we shall soon see action against other means of stashing this illicit wealth. If that does not happen, this move could be considered a mediocre success as far as curbing black money is concerned. Then again, politics is a game of optics and illusion whereby Modi is showing that he has the balls to take action against black money whether that happens or not is a completely different issue. This sole display of a 56 inch chest can garner him several followers.

Let us now move ahead to the way this move has been received by the country at large. Several media reports talk of the situation as an economic emergency. Almost all sources of media have decided that this move is anti-people and anti-poor. What they fail to grasp is that while they try to win this battle, the government has already run away with the war. No matter how many interviews, testimonials and alleged deaths are shown, the fact remains that the populace has at large taken this as a sacrifice for the greater good and a large majority has supported this move wholeheartedly in spite of the hardships faced. A major reason for the poor people supporting this move is the feeling of schadenfreude that they get as they for the first time see the rich industrialists running around to save their money.

This brings us to another problem in the Indian economy. The fact that a poor person can experience joy due to the suffering of the rich in spite of the fact that he himself must bear the pain for no fault of his speaks volume about the hatred and dislike of money. If India wants to project itself as a vibrant and open place of business, it must take note of the socialist behaviors of its masses. If the rural poor abhor their richer counterparts so much, one wonders whether we can really industrialize ourselves. What this schadenfreude shows us is that the rural and poor India despises the ugliness of a richer lifestyle and this has proven to be the primary impediment to our growth in recent times. We must shed this leftist idealism and root out populism if we are to realize the dreams of the aspirational India.

Several people have blamed the government for ineffective planning and faulty execution. For this move to have any significant impact, the element of surprise was of foremost importance. If anyone got wind of such a move, it would crash before taking off. Not to mention the government would be unable to postpone it as the common man would have already got an advance warning. By recalibrating ATMs in advance or by bringing about a sudden spurt in printing of new notes, the government would have risked rumors breaking out.

Another criticism is that by bringing in the Rs. 2000 note before the Rs. 500 note, the government made a massive error since no change could be found for the higher denomination note. Yet if you think about it, by printing in advance a radically different 500 rupee note when another note of the same denomination was in circulation, the government would risk rumor mongering. The same cannot happen with a brand new 2000 rupee note. Also, it takes the same time and effort to print a single note, whatever denomination it may be. By introducing a note of higher denomination first, the government can bring liquidity in the market faster as it can print 4 times the value in the same amount of time by printing a 2000 rupee note. So instead of having no money due to ATMs running dry people face only a little hardship because they cannot find change. At least they have valid and legal tender money. As far as the move to introduce a new 2000 rupee note is concerned, even I have my reservations. Although economically it makes sense as the cost of the note will be several times lower than its face value.

Finally to round it out with the medium and long term benefits. Real estate prices are sure to see a drop due to reduced liquidity leading to preference for banking transactions. The economy will definitely see a drop in inflation as people run out of hard cash to make purchases. It promotes and inculcates a habit of engaging in digital transactions for as many people as possible. It also ends up as a valid successor to the Jan Dhan Yojana so if you did not open a bank account voluntarily, the government is forcing you to open one now. Also the money that doesn’t come back to the banking channel effectively reduces the liability of RBI, although I shall not go into the technicalities of it as it is still vague as to whether this can be transferred as dividend to the government or not. Terror funding has definitely taken a hit and the menace of fake currency has been halted.

In hindsight, one must say that this move must have been planned long back. The government started with promoting bank accounts for all, Aadhar cards for all and mobile transactions. The JAM trinity was a precursor to this move and one cannot ignore, that if you had been a part of this, you would not have suffered right now.

Is the NDTV Ban = Abolition of Free Speech?

If you’ve seen the news these past few days, you must be aware about the ban by the government on NDTV’s Hindi news channel. Yet another example of intolerance and an indication of the impending emergency under newly christened, Hindu India. It has been alleged that the government is restricting free speech and by controlling the media, it is restricting free speech in the vibrant democracy that is India. This charge is nothing new for the Indian government; it has faced numerous such allegations in the past over such “high-handedness”. But let’s examine the facts a little more clearly.

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Diving a bit deeper into the issue, one is forced to ask whether the issue really is about free speech or not? The charge against NDTV India is of causing security concerns by airing live-coverage of the counter terrorism operation undertaken by the Indian forces against the terrorist attack on Pathankot air force base. It is the Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act under which such an action has been taken by the government. The charge that the order was arbitrary seems made up. The government followed due process by issuing a show cause notice to the channel and then forming an inter-ministerial committee to look into the charges. The channel’s representatives were given a fair chance to put forward their case to the committee before such an order was passed.

The first issue at hand is how did this entire issue become about free speech? It is the Indian Constitution that disallows such an act and it is purely related to security reasons and has no relation whatsoever to free speech. NDTV has received support across media circles and the media has effectively changed the narrative by focusing on free speech rather than national security.

NDTV then goes on to argue how information that it displayed was not harmful to national security and was already available in the public domain. It goes on to justify its stand by making petty arguments about how it revealed only vague details and in no way harmed national security. I’m sorry but since when has NDTV assumed the role of the nation’s national security advisor? Since when did we give power to mike-wielding TRP hungry reporters to determine what is and what is not harmful to the lives of the nation’s soldier? If NDTV feels that it has adequately analysed that its disclosures were not harmful to the nation’s security, why doesn’t it approach the honorable Supreme Court and attain a stay order on this ban? If it feels that it is being single out when actually all other channels were displaying the same information, it has all the powers of the constitution (the same constitution that mandates this ban) at its disposal to appeal against this “tyrannical” order by the government.

I doubt whether the government is engaging in a witch-hunt and has decided to punish NDTV just for the heck of it. One must examine the reason behind the constitution of such a law. This law was mandated by the botched up job that the esteemed Indian media did during the 26/11 terror attacks. Terrorist handlers from Pakistan saw the action on live TV and directed the terrorists towards actions that generated panic and positions of the security forces. A local politician trapped in the attack gave a live interview to a news channel thus compromising the hiding position of all those with him.

Such botch-ups clearly reveal that the media is incompetent to decide on whether it conducts itself in a manner that upholds national security or not. There is no iota of responsibility in these so-called journalists and any attack or criticism on their profession is seen as an attack on free speech and democracy itself. If the media desires to be the fourth pillar in the democracy and the upholder of values of free speech and expression, it must look into this word called Responsibility. It is their hunger for TRP that makes them bloodhounds trying to find a story. If the Indian security forces had allowed any reporter to enter the air force base during the attack I believe the reporters would have found a terrorist and interacted with them in their clichéd Takiya Kalam, “Aapko abhi kaisa mehsoos ho raha hai?” If free speech is important in a democracy, a rider must be imposed on its upholders.

The media must understand that it is not above oversight in any case.

How The Third World War Is Likely To Start

The question to be asked about the Third World War is when will it happen and not if it will happen. Because obviously, a Third World War is long overdue. Let’s rewind a little; the First World War started after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and other unsolved grievances, the Second World War was a manifestation of unresolved issues from the previous war. So how do you think the next war is likely to start? Let’s chalk out a probable scenario of how such a war is likely to take place.

The most likely scenario in my opinion was pointed out rightly by Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, chairman of executive council of the Madhya Pradesh Gaupalan Evam Pashudhan Samvardhan Board. So, based on his opinion, the Third World War will start over a cow. I had my doubts about it but acute insomnia over such a dreadful prediction and lot of free time brought me around to his viewpoint. Now, as we all know, in Hinduism cow is a much revered animal and people go gaga over religion.

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Now that we have established that India will play a part in this role, let’s look at the spark which will ignite this war. No prizes for guessing, it will be Pakistan, because Indians lose their shit once we talk about Pakistan. Photos emerge of senior Pakistan politicians and army butchering unarmed Indian cows that have unwittingly trespassed into Pakistani territory and are labelled as RAW spies. Pakistan approaches the UN and releases tapes showing the cows eating grass on their side of the border near Lahore which is apparently a conspiracy to support secessionist movement in Baluchistan somehow. Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri calls for complete boycott of all talks with Pakistan and mobilization of troops.

Donald Trump, the US President will call on Modi and in his trademark style will ask us to build a border wall so Indian cows will not trespass and get involved in this bloody conflict. What follows is a tweet marathon by Arvind Kejriwal in which he blames Modi and the BJP for promoting drug culture in Punjab (by citing Udta Punjab) which led to the cows, who were high at the time, not realizing that they had crossed the border. Rahul Gandhi goes to a gaushala in Punjab and dines with the cows to show his solidarity with their cause. Protests begin across college campuses in India, especially JNU, once Kanhaiya Kumar proclaims that the cows were actually Dalits and the government is not doing enough to protect them. From being a symbol of Hindu Nationalism, the cow has now become a unifying symbol of Indian nationalism. The nation unites as one in condemning Pakistan.

Reports surface that cows across India refuse to be milked until their brethren are revenged. Losses mount on Amul and Mother Dairy. In such a circumstance, the central government has no choice but to call for massive troop movements. India and Pakistan are on the brink of war for the fifth time. China falls behind Pakistan because the Chinese don’t give a damn about human rights, why would they care about cow rights? Organizations crop up around the world (funded by Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri) calling for cow rights. Trump declares support for India because milk from Indian cows helped him ‘Make America Great Again’. Soon enough, American troops began arriving in Mathura to take blessings from Sri Krishna’s cows. “Holy Cow” becomes the war cry of the Indo-American troops as they train together. Other countries also start picking sides and as the first bullets are fired, the world is engulfed in yet another war leading a few people to ask, ‘How much cow is too much cow?’

Where India Shamefully lags behind Pakistan

Of course we know that India and Pakistan cannot be compared, India being this great country viewed as a future superpower while Pakistan being described as a radicalized failed state. However, there is one area where Pakistanis have put us Indians to shame. It is with a heavy heart and genuine shame that as an Indian I have to accept this. Pakistan is better at incubating startups than India is.

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Surprised? Well we have all these great IITs, so many engineering colleges, students etc. We have such a vibrant startup economy with success stories like Flipkart, Olacabs, Zomato, Inmobi and whatnot. Unfortunately, our government is not as supportive of these startups as Pakistan is despite the Startup India program.

You might now start to doubt me and ask “Well where are the statistics?” Unfortunately, no one has yet effectively compared our start-up economies due to their diversity. So here I present to you a comparison of Indian and Pakistani startups for your enlightenment.

Sr. No. Incentives India Pakistan
1 Free Unlimited Finance No Yes
2 Travel Facility Abroad for Business Purposes No Yes
3 Purchase of Devices and Machinery No Yes
4 Tax Free No Yes
5 Active State Support No Yes
6 Training and Development at No Cost No Yes
7 Conferences with Successful Foreign and Domestic Startup Founders at no Cost No Yes
8 Retirement and Family Pension No Yes

 

The above chart clearly represents why Pakistani startup economy is clearly in a much better shape than the Indian startup economy. The blame lies entirely on the Modi government as well as the previous governments for ignoring entrepreneurship and employment generation opportunities for the youth of this country.

India has failed to provide a robust infrastructure mechanism that allows founders to employ their full potential towards successfully converting a startup into a full-fledged business. Moreover the Indian mentality is such that parents would prefer their child to have a stable job with a stable salary rather than to venture out on their own. Since Pakistan’s overall economy is a bust, the youth do not find well-paying jobs and are forced to engage in self-employment which is creating an increasingly wonderful trend in this country of suicide bombers.

Moreover, unlike successful Indian startups, most of the Pakistani startups are involved in exporting their services which as everyone would agree is a lot better than capturing just the domestic market. While this does not mean that the domestic Pakistanis have not been influenced by these startups. A lesson lies here for the Indian bureaucracy and the government to allow a free hand to our startups and take a page out of their books.

Here’s a list of some of the most successful Pakistani startups:

  1. Lashkar-e-Toiba (huge exporter in the Indian market)
  2. Jaish-e-Mohammed (having vast business interests in India)
  3. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)
  4. Haqqani Network
  5. Al-Qaeda
  6. Taliban
  7. Indian Mujahedeen

While some of them may not have initially started out in Pakistan, they definitively would have failed but for Pakistan’s aid. Shame on India, for discriminating against foreigners; while Pakistan treats them all fairly. Even Indian startups are given adequate funding and machinery by Pakistan.

Yes we suffer from Brain Drain. Here’s why it can be good.

As Indians, brain drain or more euphemistically called human capital flight, is something we come across quite significantly. Owing to our high fascination for reproduction, emigration was always going to be a big issue for us. More troubling is the emigration of a highly skilled workforce. However, such actions are rarely unjustifiable. People leave the nation for better educational and employment opportunities which is their right.

A large number of Indian migrants pick the United States as a favored destination, ‘The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’. The Indian-American community has established a niche for itself and counts among several model minorities. “A model minority is a minority group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average.” It is principally the Indian Americans who are considered to be the most educated and wealthy of the Indian immigrants. And it is this diaspora which can contribute much more to India than it ever can by reversing this brain drain.

Indian Americans occupy chief spots in politics such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (both of them being the most notable). Indian Americans also occupy key spots in international tech giants such as Microsoft and Google (Alphabet Inc.). A Pew Survey found that the median income of Indian American household is higher than any other Asian subgroup at $88000 against a national average of $49800. We Indians take a lot of pride in throwing around names like Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Indra Nooyi, Nikesh Arora, etc. Yet it is time we ask how most of these IITians can give back to the nation. It is time the Indian American community contributes to India what a robust Jewish American community contributes to Israel.

Being a shade under 3.5 million, the Indian American community has a significant clout in academia and government. Yet just as the Jewish American community identifies solely with Israel, we Indians lack a unifying identity towards India. What works in our favor though is that most of these Indian Americans still have a large amount of folks back home and the Indians, wherever they maybe, pride themselves in having a highly rooted family culture.

It is primarily this soft power which Narendra Modi attempted to target in his Madison Square Garden address. Just like a robust Jewish lobby, the Indian expats must work towards forming an active Indian lobby. While such lobby groups do exist, such as the US-India Political Action Committee, their success has been limited considering the economic might of the Indian Americans. In contrast, Jewish lobbies have significantly influenced American policy making towards benefitting Israel in the Middle East. One cannot emphasize enough how such a lobby can benefit Indian interests now that India is vying for a bigger role on the global stage.

The Indian diaspora abroad can contribute significantly to the Indian economy as well by investing in India and sending back remittances. It is time that the government provides significant incentives to this community to mobilize the soft power it holds such as a dialogue on dual-citizenship for the expats making life significantly easier for them. The time has gone for right-wingers like Subramaniam Swamy to question the patriotism of Indian Americans like Raghuram Rajan. While the nation may still feel let down by the massive scale brain drain, effective lobbying for Indian interests is the best way the Indian diaspora can contribute to our growth story. To quote a cheesy cliché, “You can take the Indian out of India, but you can never take India out of the Indian”.

Raghuram Rajan: The latest casualty of Indian Politics?

As the Indian economy decides to take a leap of faith from the throes of sub-par growth to an era marked by stupendous growth, it is the rock and roll central banker that stands in the way. Or does he?

rajan

Raghuram Rajan, the awe-inspiring central banker is staring at the end of his term in September of this year with no evidence of an extension in sight. He took over the reins at the Reserve Bank of India in August of 2013 when inflation was sky high, growth prospects were well-nigh dead, the Rupee was in a tailspin and our hopes in a revival were as slim as the chances of a Donald Trump presidency. Since then, the wholesale price index has touched historic lows, the nation’s foreign exchange reserves have scaled historic highs and we have seen approval for eleven payment banks. The banking sector is churning for the better and hopes in a revival now look well founded.

It would be stupid to give credit for all this to Mr. Rajan. A lot of the credit goes to the Congress Party and Rahul Gandhi for being stupid enough to not get re-elected and for Modi to just show up on the scene.

Lately though, the Raghuram Rajan fanclub seems to be diminishing with the finance ministry being conspicuous by its absence. The BJP has unleashed its favorite bloodhound on Rajan, Mr. Subramaniam Swamy and I’m pretty sure Rajan’s not one to bite back. If all goes as per plan, Rajan might return back to the University of Chicago as a professor and Modi will get to put in another of his yes-men at the helm of the banking sector.

Mr. Rajan is not your everyday nationalist who is willing to put everything at line for the Indian economy. Yet, who is Subramaniam Swamy to put a question mark on Mr. Rajan’s nationalist credentials. One has no idea how the wheels of governance churn. It is not Mr. Rajan’s prerogative to stay here and fight the current regime tooth and nail. He should and will return to his cushy post abroad once the dust settles over his re-election. The question is, whether Modi and Jaitley want him to stay?

The stock market will show the nation that Raghuram Rajan is good news for the economy once it falls on the day a new central banker takes over. The autonomous Rajan is set to lose his job over his own opinions and refusal to fall in line with the government’s reading of what the economy needs. While disagreements are a good sign and no one wants conformity for the sake of it, but unleashing a hound like Swamy was a low blow from the government. While I derive utmost pleasure from the antics of Mr. Swamy in dealing with the Congress party, employing such tactics against a non-political technocrat who the government badly needs depict a lack of sensibility on the part of the government. It is unreasonable to think that Swamy is acting on his own motion. What has happened here is a tacit signaling from the BJP central command that Rajan is persona non grata and his handling of the economy is not in line with the government’s. To be honest, Rajan has had his job longer than Jaitley and Modi have and it was Rajan’s actions that have brought about a principal change in the banking sector and the economy at large before the Modi-Jaitley duo got a look in.

If Rajan decides to stay after the Swamy-show, it will be out of his big-heartedness. All that is possible if only the government realizes that Rajan is an integral part of India’s rise to being the next economic superpower and it is the combined efforts of a Modi-Rajan duopoly that will be required and not to forget an absolute absence of our left of centre friends, i.e. Congress, Kejriwal, Nitish, Mamata and whosoever harbors Prime Ministerial ambitions in the current political scenario.

Rising Intolerance; Myth or Reality?

Lately there has been a significant media glare on incidences of religious and caste based intolerance. Notice that I do not mention a significant rise but a significant media glare on such incidences. To set out the tone of this article right here, I would like to say that India is a diverse country with diverse interests pulling in different directions. Intolerance is as real as everything else in our nation. Unless you’ve completely cut-off from all news sources, you obviously know what’s been termed as the Dadri Lynching and the beef bans. This preceded another campaign by the intelligentsia, termed as rabid anti-BJP leftists by the BJP, of returning of awards conferred upon them by the nation. A string of writers, authors and scientists have put their weight behind this movement along with historians and the Sahitya Akademi.

The problem with this movement is it smacks of short-sightedness. These awardees have been around for long enough to see what the nation has been through. They have seen riots, lynching, corruption, terror attacks, human rights violations, need I say more? Nothing can be further from the truth that India is an epitome of peaceful and tolerant existence. This isn’t true today and certainly hasn’t been true since time immemorial. Being a nation so wide and diverse, incidences of religious intolerance will never be uncommon. There are always fringe elements in all communities who thrive in such environments. The point here is that the incidences of late are being magnified and blown out of proportion. No wonder the killings of people who eat beef or the murder of activists is condemnable. However, is this new in India? Have we not got used to these reports in the media? Have the writers, scientists and historians not seen the Sikh riots of 1984, Ayodhya 1992, Godhra 2002, innumerable corruption scandals? Where was this conscience then? Intolerance is not on a rise. It is the media that has jumped upon such incidences and projected an image that such incidences are uncommon when in fact such murders and lynching were so common that it never got reported by the mainstream media. Are the awardees so short-sighted that they do not realize a media-generated incident when it is staring them in the face or is there a deeper political controversy that is behind this?

The question is not whether the BJP is behind this or whether the RSS is communal, it is media that is stealing the government’s thunder by exaggerating on issues that it somehow missed out in the past decades thereby creating this image that we are becoming an intolerant society thanks to the present establishment. I say exaggeration not because the incidences are so miniscule that they do not deserve media attention but they have been provided disproportionate reel time than the precedent set by the media itself.

The liberals argue that the Prime Minister’s silence is hurting the nation. Modi must reel in the BJP loudmouths who seem to be more publicity hungry than Rakhi Sawant. However, a comment on each and every issue by the Prime Minister sets a very wrong precedent. Modi is not a silent bystander but a hunter biding his time. Like every other issue that the ignorant media and we as an ignorant nation have forgotten, the BJP knows that this too shall pass. Remember the December 16th Delhi gangrape that generated enough media hype for the world to call us rapists? This is an exact repeat of such a media-generated crisis. Rapes happened in India just as much as they did before and they take place around the world just as much as they did before yet when the media “takes up a cause”, for as long as it appears juicy to them, they make us believe what they want us to believe. The news channels and newspapers lack responsibility and their demands for freedom of speech appear less and less agreeable with their current conduct. No wonder China likes to keep a state-controlled media.

Reservation for the Unreserved?

There used to be a time in this nation, or rather before we were a nation, when being from a backward caste would mean a destitute life deprived of even the most basic amenities. Alas, the tables have turned! Being a backward caste today has its fair share of benefits. Reservation in jobs, educational institutions as well as promotions is ingrained in the Indian system.

reservation

Indians have more or less accepted this as the norm and are grateful to the Supreme Court for capping the reservations to a maximum of 50%. Because when votes are concerned, equality and fairness conveniently disappear. Yet, this is nothing new for us. We have always been lackadaisical and have found our own ways to deal with this. Then there was this 22 year old lad that took the Gujarat political sphere by storm.

Gujarat is a widely diverse state, like any other in India, with numerous castes and religions. Among Gujaratis, Patels or Patidars are at the forefront. Traditionally being engaged in agriculture, Patels have been succeeding in various fora, be it business, politics or immigration. Today, this community is economically, socially and politically among the most powerful communities in Gujarat, if not the most. The Chief Minister, numerous MLAs and MPs are Patels. Their sheer population has meant that governments have risen and fallen based on their support. So it seems a little strange as to why this community is demanding inclusion in the OBC quota when they have everything any community could aspire to have. Mind you, if the Patels fall under backward caste, no other Gujarati community can claim to be forward or upper caste. So if Sachin Tendulkar was rated as a mediocre batsman then can Ishant Sharma be called a good one? In no parallel universe can a Patidar possibly be backward class however, that doesn’t mean that there are no economically challenged people in the community who maybe deserve certain benefits available to OBCs, but not the community as a whole. If Patidars acquire the status of OBCs tomorrow, what’s to stop other communities who are as it is not as advanced as the Patels to demand such a status? The precedent would then state that everyone else deserves it. So if everyone were supposed to get reservation then would that mean that effectively no one got reservation?

Now the facts of the case are simple. Patels, largely an agrarian and business community, have realized that education will be tomorrow’s currency. However, not only Patel youth but all general caste communities have seen their deserving and meritorious students missing out on educational and job opportunities due to the long overdue scrapping of the anomaly that is reservation. As a state policy, caste-based reservation has failed to fulfill the needs of the vast populace and has instead bred hatred and led to violence. The Patels are the first ones after a long time to have risen against this issue, however their stand currently is impractical and their methods violent.

The show of strength and sheer numbers that the Patels are showing has effectively said that they are a majority with might, so on what basis do they deserve reservation? Hardik Patel, the leader of the movement is effectively holding the government hostage in terms of re-election which threatens to give rise to more vote-bank politics. Violence in any form must be avoided and the destruction of property has tarnished the sanctity of peaceful protest. If the government capitulates, it will open a Pandora’s Box. The precedents would have wide-ranging effects not only for Gujarat but the nation as a whole with more and more demands from various communities. The ramifications of this protest, whether successful or not, will show that reservation’s sell-by date has gone. Caste based reservation was as it is faulty and wrought with issues aplenty. Maybe reservation on an economic basis makes sense but since that would effectively end discrimination and vote-bank politics, it represents a conflict of interest for the politicians of the day. The methods and demands of the Patels maybe questionable but the issue they raise is an important one, that which has prompted caste-based discrimination in this nation for decades.

Nuclear Weapons = New Peacemakers?

World over nuclear flashpoints have been springing up like anything. These flashpoints have made the world much more unstable than what it used to be. Kashmir, Ukraine and Korea are amongst the most active and dangerous ones at present. Any escalation between the parties can lead to an all-out war with disastrous efforts which may never be mitigated. There is a definite arms race in South Asia, although not overt in its characteristics. With increase in weapons stockpile, we are at the brink of a nuclear war every passing day. Or are we?

While we may argue that nuclear weapons are undoubtedly a dangerous proposition, can we not say that they have prevented the skirmishes worldwide from turning into full scale wars? A perfect example is the Kargil War. India and Pakistan declared themselves as nuclear powers in 1998. This was followed by a brief Kargil War in 1999. Pakistan, riding on the fact that it had a sizable nuclear stockpile to counter India, occupied strategic Indian peaks leaving India red-faced. The Indian Army then undertook a serious challenge to oust these invaders and ultimately succeeded. What if the war would have continued? There was a serious possibility of it turning into an all-out war on all fronts with a high chance of involvement of nuclear weapons. However, I personally believe that it was the threat of the consequences of nuclear fallout which prevented both the nations from resorting to full scale devastation. In the end Pakistan anticipated Indian caution correctly. This was followed by a bold attack on the temple of the world’s largest democracy, the Indian Parliament, again leading to troop mobilization along the LoC. Perhaps in all subsequent years Pakistan has tried to provoke India and India has had ample reasons to resort to aggression yet perhaps it is the elephant in the room, aka, the nuclear weapons which prevents an all-out war.

India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throat since Independence and even after 1971, there have been ample instances where a war would have been justifiable. But the threat of international fallout and the inability to control the effects of a nuclear war has resulted in wars being fought at a micro level. Kim-Jong-Un may or may not have a nuclear stockpile but his veiled threats are enough to keep the Americans and South Koreans guessing leading to peace on stand-by mode. As the nuclear deal with Tehran has been signed off, the Middle East will become another nuclear flashpoint with Israel also being an alleged nuclear power.

All in all, worldwide, the possibility of a nuclear war has kept nations at bay which ensures that no skirmish turns into an all-out war with unimaginable consequences. With the number of instances of this being higher, one can correctly argue that due to the presence of nuclear weapons, many a war has been prevented from escalating. Nuclear stockpiles are playing a major role in de-escalating tensions.

The danger though is still very real. There are nations which possess the virtue of responsibility and in their hands these weapons have indeed become weapons of peace. India being one such nation. Despite ample provocations from Pakistan, we have managed to put off an impending war on more than one occasion simply by the threat of a nuclear war which I doubt Pakistan would have been able to outlast. However, was India to give Pakistan reason to start a war, would the ISI and the army hold back from going nuclear?

The threat of an atomic war seems very real with unstable nations like Pakistan being able to possess weapons of mass destruction. The civilian government in Pakistan has as much say as the President in India. It is merely titular and the army runs the show. The army and ISI’s goals are short-term and they would see a nuclear war as highly beneficial despite knowing India’s superiority. Besides this, Pakistan harbors terrorists which not only attack India but also Pakistan. Unstable nations like Pakistan would never be able to safeguard their stockpile so as to not let it fall in the hands of extremists. In fact they would have a conflict of interest from keeping these weapons safe from a LeT or ISIS for example.

So despite the nuclear weapons being weapons of peace in the hands of countries like India, US, Russia, etc. Pakistan and North Korea are the prime example of rotten apples whose immediate goals clearly take precedence over peace and stability. With responsible nations, nuclear weapons supplement diplomatic back channels to resolve conflicts from escalating into all-out wars but with unstable pseudo-democracies, they are indeed weapons of mass destruction.