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”.

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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?

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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.

What’s Ailing Indian Cricket?

To say that Indian cricket is in a transition phase would be a gross understatement. The situation has been like this since one can remember. Questions about players’ place in the eleven emerge much more often than they should. The batting order sees more changes than dresses in a fashion show. How and why have we reached at a point when we must question the captain’s place in the side and rightly so?

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The answer lies deep within the structural composition of the team. The decline began soon after the 2011 World Cup victory. India’s away record became dismal, to say the least. Series after series, losses mounted with no ray of hope. The time had come for the seniors to hang their boots or were they booted out? Next thing you know young guys who had taken the IPL by storm composed the eleven, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Mohit Sharma to name a few. One would have thought that the team was finally ready. However, the key to any transition is the slow phasing out of the older players and the arrival of younger ones one at a time as they fight to make their mark. However, in the Indian team, the motley of players like Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer didn’t stick around for reasons ranging from ego, poor performances and injuries. The side lacked and still lacks a bowling spearhead. The pace department is hardly fixed as our pacers are usually unfit.

If one concentrates solely on the performance of Dhoni, based on his batting, he has left a lot to be desired. His role as a finisher is repeatedly being called into question and his batting at the death has been characterized by more hits and misses than boundaries. His tactics of playing it slow and taking the game to the last over have had modest impact, to use a euphemism. No wonder his batting and captaincy is being questioned. Perhaps somewhere in between Dhoni wanted to act more as a comprehensive batsman and less as a finisher. He was probably in two minds and ended up choosing the path which may not have been the best for the team. Realizing this now, he is trying to make amends, however, time has passed and Virat Kohli is knocking on the doors of captaincy. Dhoni must face the same fate that he subjected others to. For far too long he enjoyed the patronage of his godfather, N. Srinivasan.  Now that there is a change in the BCCI leadership, Dhoni’s freedom and autonomy along with a gross lack of oversight are at a risk. The no questions asked approach will no longer hold good.

The batting department has deteriorated to mind-boggling extent. While Rohit Sharma may be in a fantastic touch at the moment, he hasn’t been like this nor can he be like this for long. Sharma’s run-ins with inconsistency are hardly a surprise anymore. He has always had the strong backing of the captain and one can argue perhaps that it is bearing fruit now but at the cost of several losses earlier and the deprivation of an equal opportunity to players of the caliber of Cheteshwar Pujara. Shikhar Dhawan has time and again shown that he lacks any sort of consistency along with Suresh Raina. Under Dhoni, players are being extended a very long rope and a single good series or performance from a player is used as an excuse to include him while ignoring a slew of bad performances. The old adage comes to mind, “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” Perhaps the lack of proper team management and evaluation of performances has allowed mediocrity to permeate the highest echelons of Indian cricket. One can only hope that under the next captain, players are included in the team solely on the basis of their merit and not on them being in the captain’s good books or IPL franchise.

If one looks at the bowling department, barring Ashwin there has been no single player who has managed to retain his place. The pacers are injury prone and in their quest for speed sacrifice on line and length. One must remember a great loss to Indian spin community has been in the form of Pragyan Ojha who has been sidelined for quite some time and has always been overlooked in favour of second-rate spinners like Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel by terming them as all-rounders. If the definition of all-rounder was being a mediocre bowler and a pathetic batsman, they surely do fit the bill.

As we criticize the bowlers, why should we forget the coach? After Gary Kirsten, arguably one of the finest coaches India has had in recent times, we saw the arrival of Duncan Fletcher. He spoke little, did little and achieved little. His mild-mannered attitude was never really taken seriously by the players and one cannot imagine how he could have had any say in the team among the Dhoni-Srinivasan nexus. Perhaps he was the accidental coach and his position is widely similar to that of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.

Why should we forget the BCCI then? The most corrupt and mismanaged cricket board whose greed surpasses imagination. Srinivasan was the biggest cockroach that Indian cricket has dealt with. So much so, that the Supreme Court had to intervene to ensure his removal. Conflict of interest is something that the BCCI knows not. Its cash-cow, IPL has been marred by so many controversies that Pepsi ended its sponsorship contract so as to disassociate itself with something so corrupt. IPL has provided us with players that for some reason we think are fit to play test cricket.

At the end of the day, one can only hope for a revival in the team’s fortunes. While the BCCI leadership has changed, Dhoni’s position is yet secure despite being untenable. Somehow, one good score when the world criticizes him is enough to overlook a string of poor performances. As long as you do your job once in a while, you are allowed the liberty to indulge in poor performances as long as you like! The transition must now be hurried along and Kohli must be allowed to form his own team as soon as possible. Until then, Indian cricket is going to remain stagnant.

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.

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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.

Pakistan’s Peace Paradox

Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir has meant that the valley has always remained a flashpoint over the decades. Peace has eluded Kashmir ever since independence and repeated blows have been dealt upon Kashmiris who require nothing more than peace and tranquil. In this turf war between these two nations, the sole sufferers are the people. While both nations allege violation of UN statutes by each other, the gunfire continues abated.

Over the years politicians from both sides have tried to establish friendly relations but in vain – most infamous being Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s trip to Karachi and the subsequent Kargil war, for which the erstwhile BJP government drew flak. Every time an Indian leader puts a hand of friendship forward, he runs the risk of being bitten by the snake that is the Pakistani Army. Talks often break down and the two nations often chide each other in public after such incidences.

Even after innumerable instances, India has not registered the fact that the civilian government in Pakistan is more for show than for actual ruling. Civilian governments come and go as the army pleases and while these governments may genuinely want peace, it is not at all in the interest of the army or the ISI. No matter how many peace accords one may sign with the government of the day, it is but a faux pas. The army always has the last laugh in Pakistan and if a Prime Minister fails to go along with the army’s wishes, they’ve got a coup on their hands.

The bonhomie displayed by Modi and Sharif at Ufa shows how Indian governments have no other choice but to participate in such photo-ops for the rest of the world to see that we’re trying to resolve our issues though mutual dialogue when actually covert actions have become the norm. As often quoted, most nations have an army, while in Pakistan it is the army which has a nation. Pakistan has never acted like a nation, for the benefits of its citizens but is a breeding ground for terrorists and anti-India activities. In these circumstances, peace with Pakistan is for fools. With ceasefire violations becoming more and more frequent, Pakistan has its priorities laid down. It is for us to decide whether we like to be treated like a tennis ball, being bounced on either side of the court, or we wish to hold the racquet once in a while just to see what it feels like!

For too long, Indian leaders have fallen prey to this cycle of appeasing Pakistani politicians, only to be backstabbed by the army. Then again efforts to reconcile take place ignoring the giant elephant in the room a.k.a. Pakistan’s sponsor of terrorism. Why must we continue with this pathetic little charade? The answer is simple. India is trying to orchestrate itself as the big brother in the neighborhood and that image won’t go out unless Pakistan remains unhinged. Dialogue with Pakistan is fruitless and will be. We must ensure that we do not give up our dignity in the hope for some reciprocation of peace.

The Burma Conspiracy

As the hyperbole dies down, so remains the blunt truth. The Indian Army, in all its bravado, conducted a covert operation in Myanmar/Burma to neutralize the northeast militants as revenge and/or justice for the brutal murder of Army jawans. The attack was supposed to send a signal to militants as well “certain nations” who harbor ill-will, to say the least, towards India.

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Under the cover of night, as the Indian Army sought vengeance, the government would have sat in a puddle of sweat. The operation was a risk vs. reward compromise and thankfully the Army returned without any casualties. As the government and its ministers beat their chests, a parched nation rejoiced. Not only do our neighbors but also the citizens view the nation as being too soft against militants. We have in the past tried to resort to soft diplomacy and its results haven’t been great so far. As we pride ourselves in being non-violent, our enemies have no qualms about killing our citizens. One has to give in to the fact that the Modi government has taken an absolute no-nonsense approach.

However, that said, what is important to be noted is that Modi being a great promoter with astute marketing skills has given this attack a kind of halo. As ordinary citizens we may never actually know if previous governments engaged in such attacks, which are usually classified. Therefore, while we may praise Modi for showing balls and it may be true to some extent, he may have done nothing more than follow a well-defined policy. We have no conclusive yardstick to measure it by. The Indian Army and intelligence agencies are capable of conducting such operations in hostile environments like Pakistan or Afghanistan as well if need be. By sending an open warning to Pakistan, we have done nothing but create a mountain out of a molehill.

Yes, the Myanmar strike required bold decision-making on part of the government. If anything went awry the government would have to bear the liability. However, we must question ourselves that the praise that we shower on the government of the day for this attack is not unfounded. By beating the drums, BJP has effectively communicated to us that they have a government which doesn’t develop cold feet when confronted with challenges. The publicity of such attacks is to some extent justified. It acts as a morale booster to the nation as a whole and conveys important messages to hostiles.

Here’s the problem; by over-publicizing this attack, we have embarrassed Myanmar which allowed us to effectively violate its sovereignty. As we try to portray the bravery of our soldiers and the unflinching attitude of the government, we are shaming an ally by indirectly accusing them of harboring terrorists. The government, in its bid to scale a massive PR attempt might have gone a tad over the top, the lessons of which should have been learnt after the PR disaster in the Nepal earthquake.

To be fair, unless evidence appears to the contrary, we may assume that after a long time we have a government that actually takes the nation’s sovereignty seriously and will at any cost uphold its integrity, even at the cost of some embarrassing public relations nightmare, which will only be collateral damage.

Will India Miss The Bus To Success?

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Let’s not kid ourselves. India has squandered away its time like a carefree youngster in his 20s. While other Asian nations like China, Japan and South Korea were busy ramping up its manufacturing sector, we were too busy in wars, emergencies and communalism. Our policies were ad hoc in nature. Governments came and went, merrily mismanaging the public funds and trying hard to stay in power while fulfilling coalition pressures. As India was on the threshold of bankruptcy, Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh appeared like the knights in shining armor to rescue the nation. More than twenty years later, the Modi government is realizing that what was done in the Rao-Singh era was too little, too late. Manufacturing never really took off as the other Asian giants had already capitalized on that front. Finally some sense prevailed as Vajpayee-era reforms ushered in the growth of the service sector.

BPOs sprang up in Indian metros and suddenly India became the world’s call center. Today, the service sector is the largest contributor to India’s GDP despite employing only a quarter of our workforce. Agriculture on the other hand employs more than half of India’s work-age population, all the while contributing a meagre 14-15% to the GDP. This gloomy statistic shows us that India’s agricultural workforce is highly inefficient and our demographic dividend has indeed become a liability. All this while, the manufacturing sector has languished due to India’s stubborn bureaucracy. It is this red-tapism that Modi wishes to target as he promotes his Make in India campaign to give a much needed boost to India’s manufacturing sector. However, as manufacturing becomes much more capital-intensive, tough questions arise regarding employment opportunities in this sector.

The focus is now on India’s agriculture sector. The insufferable correlation between the employment generation in the primary sector and its contribution to GDP clearly suggests that India has many more farmers than it needs. This here is a clear case of disguised unemployment wherein additional labour joins the primary sector due to its inability to find suitable employment in the other two sectors. As many studies cite, several of India’s farmers don’t own the land they till. They work as labourers on farms and would gladly take up employment elsewhere if given the opportunity to do so. A major portion of land owners have such small land holdings that they can barely make a living out of what they produce. These farmers usually take huge loans via the unorganized banking sector at preposterous interest rates. Add to this the uncertain weather phenomena leading to crop destruction and you get suicidal farmers. The primary sector now faces a demand and supply problem. There are too many farmers and they fail to get a remunerative price for their produce.

So the government is forced to raise minimum support prices (MSPs) every time there’s a crop surplus. When there’s a crop failure, the government must compensate these farmers by introducing various subsidies to prevent farmer suicides. As weather isn’t something we have been able to control, such situations occur every other year. Basically, India’s government has been throwing money at the farm sector since time immemorial and nothing positive has come out of it ever since the green revolution. Like Albert Einstein said,

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”

Maybe, the time has come to try a different approach. This is why the Land Acquisition Bill holds the key to India’s success or failure (assuming India hasn’t already missed the bus). With the majority that Modi has received, if he isn’t able to pass this bill, democracy in India has failed. Now the land bill is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it gives much needed impetus to industry and will certainly be the first step in transferring the excess workforce in agriculture to industries. Therefore, while being pro-industry, this bill is NOT anti-farmer. The reason the government is being pressurized to withdraw this bill is that India has too many stakeholders who rarely know the salient points of any step the government takes. Profits have dried up in the farming sector and the Indian farmer cannot sustain a family based on subsidies and MSPs during crop failures and bumper crops, respectively. Therefore, resources must be transferred ASAP from the primary to the secondary sector of the economy. Also to emphasize, the current wave of farmer suicides has nothing to do with the land acquisition bill but has everything to do with crop failure. The Land Acquisition Bill will allow surplus workforce to exit the industry and also get remunerative price for their land like farmers in Gujarat (areas near Sanand) got under Modi. The opposition must, for once think about the nation’s welfare rather than play petty politics by scoring brownie points with Indian farmers. (However, the situation Congress finds itself in is pitiable and of course projecting Rahul Gandhi as the savior of Indian farmers is more important than actually saving the Indian farmer).

The second reason why the passage of the land bill is necessary is much more symbolic in nature in the greater scheme of things. As the government reaches its one year anniversary, it has precious little to show in its report card. While I personally believe that the government needs greater time to make a significant impact, India is not in any position to wait. Industry leaders are already shifting nervously in their seats as much needed policy improvements are stalled. The populace is growing impatient each day, largely due to the tall and exaggerated claims by Modi himself. Now in this scenario, if the government has to withdraw the land bill it will cause widespread disillusionment among industry leaders. The development agenda and Make in India will take a major hit, probably never to recover. After a long time, the people of India were given a glimmer of hope and they delivered by giving Modi the majority he deserved but if Modi can’t find something useful to do with his majority thanks to the Sangh’s minority bashing and an unpatriotic opposition, democracy will have failed India. Which is why, the land bill is the key not only to India’s economy but also the idea of the nation.

Aam Aadmi Party: A Failed Experiment?

AAP2

To understand the situation that the AAP finds itself in, we must first get back to the roots of the party. Birthing from the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement, AAP became a conglomerate of the righteous and ideologically superior mob. It gave hope to that virtuous fellow who always criticizes governance but could never do anything about it. To quote Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel,

“It started as a pilgrimage

Exalting minds and making all

The burdens light”

But all that was not to be. What the makers of AAP have failed to realize is that politics isn’t a principled man’s game but a pragmatist’s way of life.

AAP’s idea was to promote good, clean and transparent governance, which is every individual’s right. It was banking on the fact that it was totally non-corrupt and occupied the moral high ground as far as the two leading parties, BJP and Congress are concerned. This is what garnered it support from Delhi’s middle and lower classes, tired from the deep-rooted corruption, which victimized them on a daily basis. AAP was promising a new system, making the people the most significant stakeholders of governance. Now that they’ve had a taste of governance, they are realizing how difficult it is to deliver what they have promised.

The system is in such a state of rot that the government of a small state has no option but to adapt or fail. Kejriwal has realized that greasing palms is a way of life in India and as long as it gets the job done most people never seem to care. By alienating corporates, AAP will deprive itself of donations, rendering itself incapable of fighting the Congress and the BJP in the long run. By providing free water and highly subsidized electricity, it is hijacking the state’s revenue in order to gain brownie points. I believe that Kejriwal has finally decided to make the shift from an idealist to a pragmatist and other members of the AAP cannot handle this.

Everyone joined AAP thinking they were here to make a difference. They were all closet idealists who had revolutionary ideas if only someone could give them the platform to implement them. Kejriwal is now taking away this hope from them and no doubt it’s hard to digest. But that’s politics for you, it turns the most righteous into the sinfully realistic, which is the only way to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of politics. Anyone who thinks the system can change is only promoting a naïve, pipe dream which cannot be realized. AAP tried to showcase this dream to the public, playing on people’s idea of an idealistic society, only to fall on their face once they realized it wasn’t possible.

AAP promoted the idea of internal party democracy (something that Congress should learn). However, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have failed to realize the limits of this policy. Today AAP exists because of Kejriwal and Kejriwal exists because of AAP. Just like the Gandhi family exists because of Congress and Congress exists because of the Gandhi family. Just like Modi exists because of BJP and BJP exists because of Modi. The difference in all these scenarios is that Modi and Kejriwal exist because of their popularity among the masses. Need I say more?

Yadav and Bhushan need to realize that Kejriwal is the center around him the party has to rotate and despite the fact that they would’ve sworn to party democracy before, they have to accept Kejriwal as the boss and not the first among equals. By acceding to this reality, AAP will break its promise to the public and turn just like any other political party in India. It has to do this to survive. The party cannot be run in the way they promised to run it earlier. If Kejriwal goes, Yadav and Bhushan go back to becoming a political analyst and a lawyer, respectively.

Not only is this holier-than-thou agenda a recipe for failure, it will fail to bring AAP allies in the long run. If AAP wants to keep its promises of being non-corrupt and uncompromising, it can never ally with any other political party due to its strong ideological stance against all things bad in politics. If AAP doesn’t let go of this stance, its stint in politics will end sooner rather than later. Perhaps Kejriwal has realized this (remember the allegations of bribing Congress MLAs). But here’s the catch, once AAP lets go of this ideological stance of it, it becomes frighteningly like the Congress. A left-of-center approach is common among both parties, which is responsible for the deep-seated rot in the economy. AAP has no agenda left and the Congress will steal its thunder time and again thanks to its experience, pragmatism and financial soundness.

To summarize AAP’s journey in politics:

ENTERPRISE BY NISSIM EZEKIEL

It started as a pilgrimage

Exalting minds and making all

The burdens light, The second stage

Explored but did not test the call.

The sun beat down to match our rage. 5

We stood it very well, I thought ,

Observed and put down copious notes

On things the peasants sold and bought

The way of surpants and of goats.

Three cities where a sage had taught  10

But when the differences arose

On how to cross a desert patch,

We lost a friend whose stylish prose

Was quite the best of all our batch.

A shadow falls on us and grows . 15

Another phase was reached when we

Were twice attacked , and lost our way.

A section claimed its liberty

To leave the group. I tried to prey .

Our leader said he smelt  the sea 20

We noticed nothing as we went ,

A straggling crowd of little hope,

Ignoring what the thunder ment ,

Deprived of common needs like soap.

Some were broken , some merely bent. 25

When, finally , we reached the place ,

We hardly know why we were there.

The trip had darkened every face,

Our deeds were neither great nor rare.

Home is where we have to gather grace.