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Political Diary
VITAL OFFICE, NOT SINECURE, By Inder Jit, 24 November 2022 Print E-mail

REWIND

New Delhi, 24 November 2022

VITAL OFFICE, NOT SINECURE

By Inder Jit

(Released on 19 April 1983)

Thinking people anxious to see Centre-State relations function smoothly and develop along healthy lines will need to devote greater attention to the office of the Governor. Interest in the matter has been stimulated by the annual conference of Governors, especially the address of the President, Giani Zail Singh. Significantly, the President spelt out some of his own ideas and spotlighted the special role of Governors. Among other things, he said the Governors had a special responsibility as Chancellors of Universities and should help achieve “the real purpose” of education, namely, mould character and develop the mind and intellect. The President also stated: “I believe that Governors by virtue of their mature experience and objective perception of events can make valuable contribution to the administration of the State through impartial and sincere advice and counselling.” But the question is: are the Governors today in a position to offer impartial objective and sincere advice and play the role expected of them?

Impartially and objectivity are important at any time for a Governor, who is a link between the State and the Centre. But they are even more so today on two counts. First, Centre-State relations are under strain as never before and there is need to turn our thoughts towards ways and means of ensuring harmonious and cooperative relations. Second, the President has clarified that the Governor has to exercise his own judgment and discretion in the appointment of a Chief Minister when no single party commands a majority. One Governor, it may be recalled, had sought clear-cut guidelines in the matter, which relates to the most important power exercised by him. GianiZailSingh said there was no power vested in any authority to issue any directions to the Governor or lay down any codes or rules for his guidance. The Governor, he added, would “have to act according to the provisions of the Constitution and his oath of office in the light of the circumstances obtaining at the time."

Unfortunately, things today are not what they were originally envisaged by the founding fathers of our Constitution. Many healthy conventions built around the office of the Governor during the Nehru regime have fallen by the wayside. Indeed, few institutions have suffered greater devaluation over the past two decades. Things have come to such a sorry pass that a question mark has even gone up over the term of the Governor. He is no longer supposed to be appointed for five years, as stipulated in the Constitution. Instead, he is now supposed to hold the office only “during the pleasure of the President”, provoking a well-known former Governor to candidly comment: “Governors can now be fired at will. How can you expect anyone to be impartial, objective and sincere under such conditions.” Consequently, not many eminent persons are inclined any more to accept the high office and give the country the benefit of their experience and knowledge. The present set of Governors, undoubtedly, has some good men. But quite a few incumbents leave much to be desired, to put it politely.

Contrary to a popular impression, the office of Governor is not an ornamental sinecure. Nor is the holder required to be an “inert cipher”, to quote a colourful expression used by the late M.C. Setalvad in his Report of the Study Team on Centre-State relations submitted in September 1967. A Governor has a responsibility both towards the Centre and as the head of State. This task is rendered more difficult as he is required to do this more through influence than by the exercise of power. If Governors are to fulfill their obligations properly, nothing is as important as the need to ensure that only the right persons are appointed. As emphasized by the Setalvad Team, a Governor “must be a person who by his ability, character and behavior inspires respect. He must be able to display perception and judgment and an understanding of political and social forces and an insight into human motives. He must possess great reservoirs of tact, initiative and patience. He must have and preferably also experience of the affairs of Government and administration. Above all, he must be impartial”.

Admittedly, these qualities are not easy to find in a single person. Many of those who have filled the posts of Governors have fallen short of the standard or, shall I say, woefully short. But the real reason for this state of affairs is not the paucity of suitable persons but the “lowly place” given to the post of Governor in the minds of those responsible for making these appointments. Much of this is due to what experts describe as the existence of one-party Government at the Centre and in the States and the consequent development of a direct axis between the Centre and a State Chief Minister. Circumstances devalued the post and in the bargain thestandard of selection of Governors also fell. Regretfully, the post came to be treated largely as a sinecure for mediocrities or as a consolation prize for “burnt-out” politicians. Most of the persons selected were old men of the ruling party at the Centre. The Janata Party did no better when it ruled at the Centre, barring a couple of exceptions.

There is urgent need to get the Centre to radically change its attitude towards gubernatorial appointments. The posts should not be treated as sinecures. Instead, they must be given due recognition as vital offices in India’s federal polity. Governors should be selected on the basis of merit, not of patronage and politics. In fact, much of this was emphasised by the Setalvad Team which also stated the following: “We cannot believe that enough men of the right calibre cannot be found in this big country... We would recommend that systematic and careful search should be made to locate the best men, and that this should be done not after a vacancy arises but well in advance. We would not go so far as to say that those who have taken part in politics should be totally barred from consideration. But we should suggest that the selection should not be confined to the party in power at the Centre, and that in fact the search for talent should extend not only outside the ruling party but outside the political sphere itself.”

In the past decade and more, there has been an increasing tendency to appoint retired civil servants to these posts. True, many among them possess a wealth of knowledge and have vast administrative experience. They also have talent and acumen in a remarkable degree. Some are even distinguished. However, the impression created in the public mind is that, by reason of their habit and training, they lack the degree of independence and impartiality which would inspire confidence at the State end. The impression persists even when some of them as Governors, including those who currently hold office or retired recently, have acted boldly and impartially. The answer perhaps lies in making two things clear, as much in the interest of the retired civil servants as of public men. First, it should be clarified that a Governor will hold office for a full term of five years except where he is no longer able to shoulder the responsibility or is guilty of any act not in keeping with the honour or dignity of the high office.

Two other conventions need to be established if a Governor is to function impartially and independently not only in relation to the Chief Minister but also to the Centre except where he must enforce central directions issued under the Constitution. As the Setalvad Committee observed, “it would promote independence and impartiality if all occasions were removed for the Governor either to seek support of his Chief Minister for the extension of his term or to curry favour with the Centre to obtain an extension or an appointment in another State.” The end in view could be achieved if a convention is adopted that a Governor’s term of office shall in no case be extended beyond five years. (The Constitution prescribes that a Governor shall hold office till his successor arrives.) Secondly, no person who is appointed Governor should take part in politics after his appointment --- and, what is more, after he has relinquished office.

One question remains: should a Chief Minister be consulted by the Centre before the selection of a Governor is finalized. Not a few argue that the convention set up during Nehru’s time for prior consultation with the Chief Minister should be done away with. There is no constitutional obligation, they assert, for such consultation as the Governor is to be appointed by the President. Moreover, they put forward two other points. First, a powerful Chief Minister tends under the arrangement to get a Governor for himself who is suitably pliable. Second, consultation with a Chief Minister does not have much meaning in a situation in which Chief Ministers come and go according to changing political fortunes. Nevertheless, experts are agreed that there is merit in consulting the Chief Minister beforehand, as strongly advocated by Alladi Krishnaswamy in the Constituent Assembly. Such a procedure, he said, would help establish “a close link” between the Centre and the “provinces”, as the States were then called, and avert the possibility of clashes.

Alas, the positive role of the Governor and his dual responsibility under the Constitution is still not understood. Much of the trouble in regard to the office of Governor has arisen because of the widely held but erroneous belief that the Governor is essentially a representative of the President in the State --- and is, therefore, subservient to the authorities at the Centre. Matters have been made worse by many of the Governors acting under this belief. (Instances are not unknown when Governors were provided drafts of reports which they then formally sent to New Delhi.) This erroneous belief has expectedly caused distrust in the States, especially those not ruled by the party in power at the Centre. The Governor undoubtedly has a responsibility towards the President, as reflected in the fortnightly reports which Nehru got them to send in accordance with a decision taken in June 1948. (Curiously, the Governors now send only monthly reports!) But the Governor also has special responsibility as the head of State. All in all, the Governor must be enabled to function impartially without fear or favour in the best interest of our federal Republic. -- INFA

(Copyright, India News And Feature Alliance)

 

Religious Conversions: DANGEROUS CHANGE, By Poonam I Kaushish, New Delhi, 22 November 2022 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 22 November 2022

Religious Conversions

DANGEROUS CHANGE

By Poonam I Kaushish

India is caught up in a battle royale between the Gods after a 17-year-old girl committed suicide as she was being tortured by her school to convert to Christianity to continue studying in Tamil Nadu. Resulting in Supreme Court terming “fraudulent and forced religious conversions a very serious issue and a very dangerous thing which may ultimately affect the security of the nation as well as the freedom of religion and conscience of citizens,” last week. It asked the Centre to specify steps it could take to prevent it.

Primarily, as over the years religious conversion has become the most exploited, explosive, social and political issue reaching an alarming situation as our political tribe and organisations carry on churning the religious conversions cauldron, by carrying out mass forced conversions of SC-STs and poor in rural and tribal areas via enticement of gifts, cash or inter-religious marriage labeled as ‘love jihad’. Last month the Madhya Pradesh police arrested three Christians for trying to convert Hindus.

In UP Chief Minister Yogi’s Hindu Yuva Vahini raided a church, accusing members of converting people. In Jharkhand, RSS aims to make whole blocks “Christianity free” and recently converted 53 families to Hinduism. Hindu Jagran Manch activists alleged Christian preachers from Bhopal and Kerala promise jobs and money to illiterate tribals' if they practice Christianity at its ‘Changai Sabhas.’

Pertinently, 77% of the new converts to Islam were Hindus and 63% women last year. Added a Vishva Hindu Parishad leader, “'Every year over 12 lakh Hindus become either Christians or Muslims.”

Turn North, South, East or West, the story is the same. Religion is turning out to be a question of money, big money. Recall, flush with funds from their US headquarters, a number of church groups allegedly converted hundreds of Hindus to Christianity in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra, Kashmir and Karnataka by giving them money and jobs post Independence.

As a counter the VHP and Bajrang Dal too established groups of armed youth, called Raksha Sena in every Chhattisgarh village to stop conversions to Christianity. And where conversions had taken place they launched the Ghar Wapsi (“Return Home”) in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Orissa for reconverting tribal Christians back to Hinduism.

Reminiscent of the flurry of orchestrated propaganda campaign and popular inflammatory and demagogic appeals launched by Arya Samaj and other Hindu revivalist bodies in the 1920s in UP, against the “abduction” and conversions of Hindu women by Muslim goondas, ranging from allegations of rape, elopement to luring, conversion, love and forced marriages to draw sharper lines between Hindus and Muslims.

To put an end to this 10 States: UP, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal, Rajasthan, Arunachal and Jharkhand have banned conversion in all but name by enacting anti-conversion laws that bar conversions but allow re-conversions to Hinduism. Assam has warned it will ensure jail term for anyone who harasses an Assamese girl or makes her a victim of love jihad by hiding their identity

All have enacted Freedom of Religion Act by making it not just an ‘issue’ but a criminal offence warranting a sentence up to 10 years, with a fine of Rs 50,000, in specific cases. Most States have made it mandatory that every conversion has to be notified in advance to the local Government authorities, including the district magistrate. Failure to do so can also invite prosecution.

In fact, Article 25 which lays down the tenets of freedom of religion has an important rider.  It specifies the limits within which religious freedom can be exercised. All persons, it states are equally entitled to freedom of conscience, and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health. 

Dispute, if any, can only be on the interpretation of the expression “propagate any religion”.  Suffices to say that the State will not allow its citizens to do whatever they please in the name and under the guise of religion.

Further, not many are aware the ‘love jihad’ programme started in 1996 with blessings of some Muslim organizations in Kerala, though the term was first heard in the State’s Pathanamthitta district in September 2009 and used in a Kerala High Court judgment three months later. Dubbing it ‘an alleged Muslim plot to forcefully convert young brilliant Hindu girls to Islam by having Muslim boys entrap them in love affairs’, it asked the State Government to consider enacting a law to prohibit such “deceptive acts of LoveJihad”.

Notwithstanding denials by Islamic fundamentalist outfits like National Democratic Front (NDF) and ‘Campus Front’ of Popular Front of India (PFI), the Kerala Government said that 2,667 women had converted to Islam in the State since 2006. Police figures on the other hand total over 10,000 conversions in the last four years alone. Add to this another 60,000 girls have been converted in Karnataka alone according to the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.  In the last two months UP registered over 40 LJ cases.

Interestingly, the UN guarantees the right to convert to another religion as a human right. Alongside many Western countries allow conversion while some Islamic nations have banned conversion from Islam to another religion while permitting conversion to Islam. Recall, a number of Dalits switched from Hinduism to Islam in Tamil Nadu’s Meenakshipuram district in the early 1980s.

India’s misfortune is that Hindu, Muslim and Christian fundamentalism is growing thanks to political and intellectual double-speak. Whereby, secularism has degenerated from its lofty ideal of equal respect for all religions to a cheap and diabolical strategy for creating captive religious vote-banks.

Today it is being used by terrorist outfits to trap innocent citizens. UP’s Anti-Terrorist Squad recently arrested an Islamic scholar and 8 suspected terrorists for religious conversion by distributing money. According to the ISIS mouthpiece Voice of Koharasan the first Indian suicide bomber was a Christian Keralite converted to Islam. 

Pertinently, none of our leaders want to acknowledge they are the culprits nor willing to address the crux: Conversions takes place when poor of various creed and caste pleas for dignity, self-respect and economic betterment fall on deaf ears. Alas, leaving them no recourse but to freely grab monies offered by Hindu priests, Christian missionaries or Muslim mullas for their votes. 

It’s another matter that it fails to deliver them from caste-oppression. Add to this economic lollipops ---- jobs, schools, health facilities and social benefits --- dignity, self-respect --- one is face-to-face with instances of fraudulent conversion.

A way forward is a separate law be made to control such conversions or the offence should be added to the existing Indian Penal Code (IPC). And the Law Commission prepare a report as well as a Bill to control “Deceit Religious Conversion.

We need to consider a ban on conversion politics as there is no mysticism in the secular character of the State. The State is neither anti-God nor pro-God. It is expected to treat all religions and people alike. Today we live in a dangerous terror-infested world. High time we did a cost-benefit analysis and put a stop to converting religious gush into conversion slush! ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

Musk Leads Global IT Mayhem: HUGE JOB CUTS, SLUMP IN INDIA, By Shivaji Sarkar, 21 November 2022 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 21 November 2022

Musk Leads Global IT Mayhem

HUGE JOB CUTS, SLUMP IN INDIA

By Shivaji Sarkar 

The dismissal of Meta-Twitter workers, now mass resignationsand closure of its offices for a week signify deeper economic malaise as the IT majors are facing difficult situation due to income loss, rising inflation andUkraine war-led global tensions and recession fear.Elon Musk, who took over Twitter for $ 44 billion on October 28, says the company is losing $4 billion a day.

Even the Indian sector is feeling the heat and with a view to reducing flab, getting rid of workers under the ruse of moonlighting, a common phenomenon so far that benefitted the industry in cost-cutting as well as prospecting others expertise.

Cautious economists are visualisingthe setting in of a looming recession in the US and growth slowdown across the technology, making investors apprehensive. In September, the unemployment rate dropped back down to 3.5 percent, matching the lowest level since 1969 but there are fears of it being a short-term affair.If the primary sector is in crisis can a secondary IT sector thrive?

It singes even the Indian IT sector, whose margins have thinned. All majors are on to a job cut move in the name of moonlighting putting the blame on the workers. Even Paytm stocks tanked as Japanese SoftBank sold 2.9 crore shares. The purchasers are French SocieteGenerale, Morgan Stanley Asia Singapore and European BoFA Securities.

Almost all majors like Microsoft to Amazon have gone on to cut strength and freeze on hiring. Microsoft has given pink slips to about 1000 employees, Netflix sacked about 500, Snapchat 1000. Amazon has reduced workforce to 27000 but denies any firing saying it happened through normal attrition.

These are in addition to announced Meta reduction of 11000 workers, 13 percent of workforce amid TikTokassault and Twitter’s 7500. The two companies are having sharp cut in advertising and other incomes of late. It has also lost $31 billion in privacy update payment with another software major.

A global funding slowdown is leading an evolving crisis for companies cutting back on costs and apparent stiff competition leading to layoffs.The entire IT sector, is facing a problem post-pandemic, and being a secondary sector finds the heat more as it gets less outsourced work forcing it to restructure for sustaining itself. In this scenario the IMF has cut India’s economic growth estimate for FY23 to 6.8 percent but still it is better than most other countries.

The sector is in a wait and watch mode believing that the US recession may have least impact on them. But actual experiences may vary.Most Indian companies, Infosys, Wipro, TCS and even the educational platform Byju are reducing their staff numbers.

Infosys confirms employees losing their jobs due to moonlighting or dual employment a month after Wipro sacked nearly 300 employees. However, Infosys is now introducing a policy that would allow employees to take up external work. The firm has also set up Accelerate, which would offer additional work opportunities with prior approval.

Infosys says that it hired 40,000 freshers in first half of current financial year. Part of it is to match regular attrition. It says that it is financially sound, and its profits soared to Rs 6021 crore from Rs 5360 crore. It is banking on the US and European banking, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and utility firms. But its profitability is stated to be coming down. Its overall earnings have come down by 3.6 percent in a year.

The Tata Consultancy Services has 23.1 per cent margin, but it is lower by 2.4 percent. Its annual growth is almost at the level of the previous year. TCS’ total brand value is at $8.2 billion, ranking it among the industry's top four brands for the second consecutive year.HCL Technologies rescued hirings to about 2,000, also had lower margins at 17 percent.

The profitability may remain under pressure. They will have to manage with the fall in dollar value. This may put pressure on them not to upvalue costs in dollar terms. The rupee equivalent may show a surge in rupee terms. Though international operations may have to be managed as customers may be lukewarm to higher dollar costs. With inflation at 7percent they may not be able to reduce wage bill.

The IMF says that many of its downside risks of US recession flagged in its April World Economic Outlook have apparently begun to materialise.

Higher-than-expected inflation, especially in the US and major European economies, is triggering a tightening of global financial conditions. China’s slowdown has been worse than anticipated amid covid19 outbreaks and lockdowns, and negative spillovers from the Ukraine war. As a result, global output contracted in the second quarter this year.

The IMF baseline survey says growth slows from last year’s 6.1 percent to 3.2 percent this year and 2.9 percent next year, downgrades of 0.4 and 0.7 percentage points from April. This reflects stalling growth in the world’s three largest economies—the US, China and the Euro area—with important consequences for the global outlook.

In the United States, reduced household purchasing power and tighter monetary policy will drive growth down to 2.3 percent this year and 1 percent next year. China is having slowest growth at 3.3 percent in over four decades. And in the Euro area, growth is revised down to 2.6 percent this year and 1.2 percent in 2023, reflecting spillovers from the war in Ukraine and tighter monetary policy. It further warns of aggravating European energy situation and further downslide.

Inflation this year is anticipated to reach 6.6 percent in advanced economies and 9.5 percent in emerging market and developing economies. It has impacted cost pressures from disrupted supply chains and historically tight labour markets. Some US companies are facing almost Enron-type accounting failures, says Bloomberg.

The IMF is candid that the global situation, including in the Asia-Pacific regions, looks murkier, business growth dim facing tougher situation. A plausible alternative scenario in which risks materialize, inflation rises further, and global growth declines to about 2.6 percent and 2.0 percent in 2022 and 2023, respectively, would put growth in the bottom 10 percent of outcomes since 1970.

If the IMF is correct the coming days may see more difficult times, more layoffs and an overall murky situation across the world in which India would have to chart out a different course through boosting of consumption and industrial production.---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

India’s G-20 Presidency: COUNTING THE BENEFITS, By Dr. D.K. Giri, 19 November 2022 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 19 November 2022

India’s G-20 Presidency

COUNTING THE BENEFITS

By Dr. D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Relations, JIMMC) 

In the G-20 Summit at Bali, India will be handed over the presidency of the most powerful economic group and will host the 18th summit next year. As is his wont, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will add an Indian flavour to the summit. He did say so while taking off to Bali to participate in the summit, “India’s G-20 presidency will be grounded in the theme, vasudheva kutumbakam (world is family), or One earth, One family, One future”. This underlines the message of equitable growth and shared future for all. It is, indeed, a powerful line of emotive thinking.

India may transmit such a message to the world body, as Swami Vivekananda did in his iconic speech on 11 September 1893, to “world’s parliament of religions”, at Chicago. His address to Americans as sisters andbrothers shook as well as touched their hearts. However, the moot point is how much India benefits economically from Modi’s leadership of G-20 for a year?

G-20 consists of strong economies of the world, represents 85 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of the global trade and 66 per cent of the world population. It began as G-7 in 1970s in response to the spikes in prevailing food and fuel prices. It came to be known as G-8 when Russia joined it in 1996. However, in the late 1990s, the financial crises affected a number of emerging economies in Latin America and Asia, threatening to spill over G-8 countries. That is when the G-8 countries began to expand to include other countries. After some experimentation, a solid grouping of 20 countries, G-20 was created in 1999 that included countries from global South to make it more inclusive and egalitarian. This group was a great improvement on elitist G-8, and different from the unwieldy 38-member OECD --- Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Now, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union. Spain is a permanent invitee. In addition, the special invitees are called in its summit. This year, the invitees include Cambodia, Fiji, Netherlands, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore, Suriname and the UAE. Also heads of several international agencies and regional bodies attend the summits. In Bali, those attending are UN, IMF, ASEAN and the African Union. The Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has also invited the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to address the summit virtually.

There is a troika of leadership consisting of the past president of G-20, the current and the future. For now, the troika is made by Italy, Indonesia and India. The next one will consist of Indonesia, India and Brazil, marking the transition of leadership from North to the South. Note that the summit is a combination of several ministerial meetings and working groups that have been at work for the past one year in the key priority areas, in the run-up to the summit.

The slogan of the Bali summit was ‘recover together and recover stronger’. It comprised three sessions: food and energy security, health partnerships for global infrastructure, and investment and digital transformation. Besides these working sessions, the G-20 leaders discussed key issues of global economy, environment, climate change and agriculture. To highlight the concerns about the climate change, President Jokowi invited and escorted his guests to the Indonesian mangroves and planted mangroves at the Ngurah Rai forest park; mangroves act as bio-shields against extreme climate change.

The summit took place against a backdrop which was neither desirable nor conducive to world peace, progress and security. The challenges in the environment, especially that of climate change, lack of progress in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and the perilous impact of Covid pandemic, the struggle for economic recovery, debt vulnerabilities, and to top it all, the ongoing war in Ukraine and its tragic consequences on food and energy security and inflation etc. The joint declaration issued after the summit which is based on consensus, covered a wide range of issues and concerns encapsulated in 52 points in 17 pages.

All eyes were on the war on Ukraine, which loomed large on the summit. The declaration said, “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stress it is causing, immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy”. From the statement, it's clear that not all member states condemned Russian action against Ukraine.

The second assertion made in para 4 of the declaration is, “It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability… The use or threat of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crisis, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war”. The last sentence echoes and reiterates verbatim the argument made by Modi to Russian President Vladimir Putin at Samarkand in Uzbekistan. He had said, “I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I spoken to you on phone about this.” Subsequently, this was endorsed by French President Emanuel Macron and by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his tour of India.

Now, on India taking over the presidency, what shouldwe expect as New Delhi’s contribution to G-20 and benefits it will accrue for the country. On his departure to Bali, Modi had suggested that India’s presidency will focus on green development, Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), digital transformation, inclusive and resilient growth, women-led development, a greater voice of developing countries in the global south in the economic world order and the need to reform the 21st century world institutions.

Admittedly, India begins the presidency of the most advanced economies from 1 December at a time of economic hardships and political polarisation in the world. A positive signal that came from Bali is that a joint declaration could be produced despite differences and division on the war in Ukraine. India had obviously a hand in drafting this declaration and its leadership has played a balancing and reconciling role in many such summits. Hopefully it will maintain that pragmatic role while hosting the G-20 and SCO in 2023 as their president. Moreover, New Delhi needs to ensure full participation of the countries in both these groupings, including China and Pakistan. New Delhi is planning to host about 200 meetings in the run up to the summit in September 2023.

Unarguably, the important strategic point to bear in mind is to prepare for and count the benefits resulting out of these meetings for India, which means the immediate restructuring of the Indian political and economic environment, to adapt to and receive international investment and cooperation. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

EWS Verdict: ENDING ABUSE OF QUOTA SYSTEM?, By Sagarneel Sinha, 17 November 2022 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 17 November 2022

EWS Verdict

ENDING ABUSE OF QUOTA SYSTEM?

By Sagarneel Sinha

It has been quite common to hear from the upper castes that the reservation system hampers growth. They often argue that the system discriminates against them and say it doesn’t judge based on merit. Not just this, but a section criticises the Dalits for getting benefits through the reservation system.

In fact, on social media platforms such as Twitter, it has been a daily routine for this section of upper castes to ridicule the Dalits and call them “fools”, who got jobs only because of the reservation system that doesn’t reward “merit”. In this battle, this section of “upper castes” is accompanied by a section of non-resident Indians, who too routinely disparage this system. The strange argument put by this section is that this system is the root cause of casteism; so to remove casteism, they argue, the reservation system has to be removed first. This section ignores the very fact that this quota system has been introduced to address the social injustice caused by casteism.

Actually, the bitter truth is that this section of upper castes has been unable to digest the fact that the socially marginalised Dalits have been progressing well, thanks to the benefits of the quota system. Having said that, it is also a fact that a section of them are marginalised due to economic reasons. As a result, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government brought the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota through the 103rd Constitutional Amendment. Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision of 10% reservation for people belonging to EWS for admission to educational institutions and government jobs. Obviously, many aren’t happy with this verdict as they view it against social justice. 

Before the introduction of the EWS quota, there have been reservations for Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Castes. Still, some gaps remain to be addressed but it is no denying that the reservation system has benefitted these sections of society. Similarly, this EWS quota addresses the economically marginalised section of the forward castes. True, the forefathers of a large section of “upper castes” were superior in society but that can’t be the reason to ignore the marginalised section of this caste.

The argument that the EWS takes away the benefits of the SCs, STs and OBCs is quite exaggerated as their quota remains the same. Currently, there is 15%, 7.5% and 27% reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs respectively. EWS is an additional quota, and it doesn’t interfere with that prevailing. For a society to prosper, the marginalised sections need to be uplifted. And EWS aims to do precisely this and is a welcome step as it addresses one of the economic inequalities of society. It is wrong to vilify marginalised people from the forward castes. Unfortunately, for a section of Leftists and Liberals, it has been a daily routine to unnecessarily criticise all the people of the forward castes because of some of the wrong deeds done by a section of their forefathers.  

Apart from this, due to EWS, the forward castes can no longer claim the reservation system discriminates against them. Many of them, who don’t use their caste to identify themselves and are habituated to calling Dalits, STs and OBCs “casteist”, today are going to benefit from the same reservation system they despised the most, only if they satisfied the criteria needed to come under the umbrella of EWS. Definitely, this strengthens the reservation system as now some of its fiercest critics are going to get benefits.

Coming down to sheer politics, it is estimated that the “upper castes” constitute around 25% of the country’s population. Currently, this section has been seen as the major vote bank of BJP, which too introduced this EWS quota to pacify the “upper castes” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Only a few months ago, it lost power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress, and it was said that a major reason for the defeat was the growing dissent of the forward castes against the BJP. Importantly, the party didn’t waste any time and was quick to introduce the EWS quota, which was beneficial.

The Supreme Court verdict on EWS quota has been welcomed by most of the Opposition parties, including Congress and CPM. The latter has only expressed its concern about the criteria to decide the EWS quota. It believes the present Rs 8 lakh per annum and 5 acres of agricultural land would allow a large population, which is not poor, to access benefits of reservation and this would discriminate against the poorest of the poor. However, one of the Opposition parties opposing the EWS verdict is the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu.

This speaks of the clout the “upper castes” enjoy in general among most political parties, which no longer are ready to ignore their issues. Remember, the Congress still has a committed vote bank among a section of the forward castes, particularly the Brahmins. And with the acceptance of the verdict the party has in a way pacified the anger of a section of “upper castes” that their interests don’t matter to any political party. Of course, the benefit of the reservation decision would in all likelihood pay off more for the BJP as it has maintained that the quota is aimed at empowering the EWS who don’t benefit from the caste-based reservation.

Lastly, there are concerns about the limit of reservations. This EWS exceeds the 50 per cent ceiling for reservations, however, in the end, their getting reservation should put an end to the bickering against the backward classes for bagging quota benefits. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks that remain within the reservation system that need attention for further reforms. A political consensus is thus critical, as the quota system did not give birth to the evils of casteism. Now that every caste is a beneficiary, the big question is whether the reservation debate will eventually end. Or will new demands from those ‘deserving’ and left out emerge? Remember, the reservation system opened the Pandora’s Box, and the lid may not be closed entirely. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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