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Canada, Sikhs, India and Pakistan, By Inder Jit, 28 September 2023 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 28 September 2023

Canada, Sikhs, India and Pakistan

By Inder Jit

(Released on 13 October 1987) 

Vancouver: Canada has been a far cry from India for long. But it is not so anymore. Things have greatly changed for the better during the past three years, thanks mainly to the activities of extremist Canadian Sikhs of Indian origin, who first raised the flag of Khalistan in Canada as early as 1981--- more than three years before “Operation Blue Star”. Even today Khalistani flags fly alongside the Nishan Sahib at the old Weston Road Gurudwara at Toronto and at the impressive Gurudwara in Ross Street at Vancouver, popularly described as the “Headquarters of Khalistan”. Indo-Canadian relations touched their lowest point in the 1970s and the early 1980s, adversely affected by bitterness and misunderstanding over India’s peaceful nuclear implosion and by Ottawa’s failure in New Delhi’s eyes to deal firmly with its Sikh extremists. Canada is now alive and responsive to New Delhi’s feelings and demands, deeply roused by Indira Gandhi’s cold-blooded assassination the horrendous destruction of Air India’s Kanishka in June 1985 which sent 302 innocent persons to their watery grave. Indeed, relations between the two countries are today best described as being “close and, indeed, very friendly”. 

Nothing symbolises this more than the third visit of the Canadian Foreign Minister, Mr. Joe Clark, to India earlier this February in barely three years. The reason was summed up succinctly by Mr Clark during his visit to New Delhi when he said: “I have returned to New Delhi only 14 months after my last visit for three simple reasons: the growing importance of India in the world. The growing importance of India to Canada. And, the growing importance of Canada to India”. India’s economic relations have expanded enormously in the past few years. Our two-way trade reached $660 million in 1985 and several steps have been taken already to lay the base for greater growth. Canada has, for instance, opened a new trade office in Bombay. Nearly 50 Canadian firms exhibited their products in the Seventh Indian Engineering Trade Fair in New Delhi in February, where Canada enjoyed the status of a “Partner Country”. A Memorandum of Understanding on Industrial and Technological collaboration has been signed, a double taxation agreement ratified and the first annual Ministerial consultations held in February. The Canada-Indian Air Service Agreement has been renewed to enable expansion of the present direct air links by our two national carriers. 

However, the big question is will Ottawa be able to prevent Canadian Sikhs from actively funding and supporting terrorists and terrorism in India. Jathedar Talwinder Singh Parmar, who heads the Babbar Khalsa, and other militant Sikhs whom I meet in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada during a three-week visit to the country, left me in no doubt about their basic position. They stand for Khalistan and its creation as a separate independent country. “We have no choice after what has come to pass. There has been a breach of faith from the word go --- ever since India achieved independence. The assurance given by Gandhi, Nehru and Patel to our people have not been implemented. Now our Darbar Sahib has been attacked and our women and mothers assaulted... We have no place in India after the massacre of the Sikhs in New Delhi and elsewhere in India following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. No action has been taken against the culprits... Hundreds of our people are still in detention without trial at Jodhpur ... Yes, India is a powerful State. But we shall not let it rest in peace... We shall fight long as we have life in us...” Other militants echoed identical sentiments. Few saw anything wrong in seeking Pakistani help.“An enemy’s enemy is a friend”, asserted Jathedar Parmar. 

Pakistan is exploiting the situation to its full advantage. Sikh-Muslim Friendship Societies have been formed both in Canada and in the U.S. to promote Islamabad’s diabolical designs against India. A full-page advertisement carried by the “World Sikh News” offers its Sikh readers “Greetings from Sikh-Muslim Friendship Society on the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of the Khalsa”. The advertisement carries a photograph of Guru Govind Singh and below it two hands firmly clasped with the following legend atop: Hands Across Faiths. It also carried the names of the President (Syed Javed Shah), Vice President (Gurcharan Singh Dhillon), Secretary (Gurinder Singh Grewal) and Assistant Secretary (Sahid I. Mufti) ---and the addresses of the Head office and 14 Chapters. Importantly, the advertisement carries at the bottom and on its two sides a message which leaves no scope for any doubt in regard to Islamabad’s active involvement in the Friendship Society. The message, published in bold letters, reads: Support AWACS for Pakistan. This advertisement is, however, only a small part of the game Pakistan is playing even as it claims innocence in the face of conclusive evidence of its support to terrorist activity in India. 

Islamabad continues to encourage Canadian Sikhs to come to Pakistan and is using them as a conduit both for mobilising funds and arms and for promoting terrorist activity in India. At least seven Canadian Sikhs are known to be living in Pakistan for the past two years virtually as VIP guests, notwithstanding the show it has made of “arresting” and trying them for attacking Indian diplomats with swords on two occasions. The Vancouver Sun reported on September 27 last year that the Canadian President of the International Sikh Youth Federation, Mr Satinderpal Singh, “and his six companions of the Youth Federation travel freely in Pakistan, protected 24 hours of the day by Pakistani police, whom they order around like servants”. For the first six months, according to the Sun, “the seven resided in a comfortable Lahore Guest House”, a courtesy provided by the Pakistan Government. In July last, the seven Canadian Sikhs were still on bail pending trial. But they all jumped bail. Four among them are said to have crossed into India. Three Canadian Sikhs have been arrested so far and have provided important details of much that Pakistan is doing for training terrorists and sending them to India. 

Opinion is sharply divided on the precise strength of the hardcore Khalistanis among the Canadian Sikhs and their precise activities. Some place the number at “several thousands”--- 5 to 10 per cent of 1,50,000 Sikhs in Canada. Authoritative and well-informed sources in Ottawa and elsewhere, however, place the number of such persons at no more than 200 to 250. Estimates also vary in regard to the funds collected by them. Some observers believe that lakhs of dollars have been collected. But hardly any money has been sent to India. Most of it has allegedly been “swallowed up” by various leaders locally. Some of these large collections have even led to parting of ways. Jathedar Talwinder Singh Parmar has been publicly accused by Jathedar Tejinder Singh Kahlon, once his second in command, of having “deceived gullible Sikhs” to pocket 3 to 5 lakhs of Canadian dollars. But Jathedar Talwinder Singh stoutly denied the charge in his talk with me and denounced Jathedar Kahlon as having been hired to malign him. Yet the truth about the collections seems to lie somewhere in between. A majority ofthe Canadian Sikhs have been donating funds generously. According to one authoritative source, Canadian Sikh extremists are even stated to have financed the purchase of weapons worth $0.5 million from Europe for their men operating from Pakistan. 

All manner of stories have been sold to devout Sikhs, as discovered by a group of Canadian MPs who visited India earlier this April. Mr Benno Priessen, who led the delegation, told an Indo-Canadian gathering at the House of Commons on return that they would “no longer be misled by ill-informed opinion in Canada about conditions in Punjab”. Some Sikh groups in Canada had “expected us to come back from India and say conditions in Punjab were ripe for the creation of Khalistan”. But the complaints they had heard against New Delhi in Punjab were the same as those voiced in West Bengal, Maharashtra and the South. “Nobody mentioned the word Khalistan in Punjab”, he added. Not only that. Mr Friessen deplored what he called the prejudicial approach taken by radical elements in the Sikh community who would like to create an “independent” home for Indian Sikhs while living in Canada. He declared: “Before we left for India, Canadian Sikh groups had told us that we would not see a single Sikh in Amritsar in the age group of 20 and 30. But we saw quite a number of them all over the city and elsewhere, busily going about their business”. Importantly, MrPriessen stated that “no obstacles of any kind were placed inour travels all over the country...” 

What do the Canadians feel? Several bold and brave persons of Indian origin, notably Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, a Barrister in Vancouver and Mr Nirmal Dhindsa in Toronto strongly denounced the extremists and their activities which they felt were bringing a bad name to the community. Mr Dhindsa claimed that most of the militants were doing “roaring business”. Their strength, he said, was highly exaggerated as shown during the visit of Mr Harkishan Singh Surjeet, a member of the CPI (M) Politburo, in August last. The militants had denounced Mr Surjeet as the “greatest enemy of the Sikh Panth” and warned that he would not be permitted to address any meeting. Yet two rallies were held successfully --- one in Toronto and the other in Vancouver. An overwhelming majority of the Punjabis in Canada, he asserted, were not in favour of Khalistan. Mr Dosanjh openly attacked the militants some time ago as a bunch of “ruffians and goondas”, and added: “We have our own problems in Canada. Our battle and future is here.” The militants reacted sharply. He was hit on the head with an iron pipe one evening as he was about to get into his car. He fell unconscious and had to be given 80 stitches. Significantly, this has not deterred Mr Dosanjh from boldly continuing his opposition to the demand for Khalistan. 

Several leading Canadians, including public men, publisher editors and professors, that I met across the board in Montreal,Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston Ontario, Calgary and Vancouver were agreed on one point: “the militants among the Sikhs of Indian origin, are not being fair to the country of their adoption by bringing into it their own problems. Once in Canada, they must act and function as good Canadians. If they still feel strongly about any problem in India, let them go back. But they have no business to embarrass Canada and harm its relations with friendly countries”. They were also agreed with the firm assertion made by Mr Joe Clark during his visit to India in February last when he said: “My Government is absolutely determined that Canada shall not be used as a haven for terrorists”. He also stated: “The number of newcomers intent on using violence to achieve political aims in their country of origin is small indeed. Nonetheless we take their people very seriously, and the threat they represent has become oneof our major security priorities. The Extradition Treaty exemplifies joint Indo-Canadian determination to fight terrorism”. Importantly, Canada has conceded in the Treaty some of the points desired by India --- even as Britain continues to drag its feet in the matter. Happily, these points are said to have sent much-needed signals to the militants. 

Where do we go from here? I put this question not only to Jathedar Talwinder Singh Parmar, but many others, including Mr Daljit Singh Sandhu, President of the Ross Street Gurudwara, which can seat 5,000 people at one time and has thick wall-to-wall carpeting. All had more or less the same answer to give: “Ask Mr Rajiv Gandhi and his Government”. When pressed, Jathedar Parmar said: “I agree with your view that there can be no lasting solution to any problem at the point of a gun or kirpan. We should surely try to seek a peaceful solution. Let New Delhi talk not only to the high priests at Darbar Sahib but also to other Sikh leaders and people who have suffered ... In Sri Lanka, New Delhi has secured amnesty for all Tamil militants. Why not the same for those in Punjab ... Faith and trust has to be restored”. Most people expressed strong disappointment that the Punjab issue had not been resolved. “The longer it drags on”, they said, “the worse it is for us”. A solution has undoubtedly to be found in India. But the Canadian Sikhs, too, will have to be clear about what they stand for. They first raised the flag of Khalistan in Canada in 1981 and also established so-called Consulates of Khalistan in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver the same year. All men of goodwill need to come together and assert themselves. Fortunately, they constitute an overwhelming majority of our people --- both in Canada and in India. --- INFA 

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


Women Leadership: VITAL FOR SOCIETAL CHANGE, By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee, 27 September 2023 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 27 September 2023

Women Leadership


By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee 

The passage of the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill renamed as ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ should give hope to nearly half of the country’s 950 million registered voter population that the ‘historic’ step will in the long run lessen the gender gap, which to say the least is dismal. While India boasts of being the world’s largest democracy, it ranks 141 out of 185 in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Report. 

There is at the same time, a nagging doubt when the Bill will translate into reality, as the delay in implementation by linking it to delimitation, which is to be undertaken after the Census as is mentioned in Clause 334(a) of the bill, is a grey area. While the Modi government assures urgent steps, some Opposition parties are sceptical whether the Bill’s execution will take place even in 2029elections, as there is no time limit. Plus, there is the additional demand for carving out an OBC sub-quota in the legislation and a ‘caste census’, which is shrouded in controversy.     

Be that as it may, the question of women’s reservation in State legislatures and Parliament was never about whether it will happen, but when. While reservations exist already at the lowest tiers of government in panchayat raj institutions, first introduced in 1993 by the Rajiv Gandhi government, four attempts made by previous governments to bring this Bill failed. It was first brought by Deve Gowda-led government in 1996, which went to a committee, but never  reached the Lok Sabha; the Vajpayee government brought it 1998, but wasn’t allowed to be introduced; again it was brought but discussion couldn’t take place; the Bill was then brought by Manmohan Singh government in Rajya Sabha, where though being passed it failed to make it to the Lok Sabha. 

With the incumbent Modi government facing its toughest elections in 2024 against a ‘united Opposition’ in 2024, INDIA bloc, the passage of the Bill may, as is envisaged, give it an edge. This, on the basis that at least the foundation has been laid, and that women voters, who are said to vote differently, would expect the political class to be more gender inclusive and appoint more women to leadership positions. 

In the last general Election 716 women candidates contested, of which 78 were elected. MPs have been elected to the 17th Lok Sabha. A marginal rise from 62 women MPs in 2014. In fact, representation of women MPs in Lok Sabha is slowly improving from 5% in the 1st Lok Sabha to 14 % in the 17th Lok Sabha. However, though the percentage has increased over the years, it is still lower in comparison to some countries. These include, Rwanda (61%), South Africa (43%), UK (32%), USA (24%), Bangladesh (21%). 

There can be no denying that more women need to enter politics as equal mainstream players on leadership qualities and political skills. This is imperative to counter the deprivation and exploitation of the opposite sex in various areas and in various ways. One may refer to Mahatma Gandhi who had said long back that those who “obstruct the rise of free independent women, also obstruct the rise of free independent men”. Gender justice is not about special concessions for women but an overall democratisation of public life that makes politics safe enough for all to enter, without having to endure violence or persecution from money or muscle power. 

Take for example the areas of higher education, country’s workforce or women’s safety—which should get a boost with a change in mindsets. While it is seen that more women are going for higher education and entering the workforce in metros and big cities, the total national picture is somewhat different. Reports indicate that huge numbers of women are dropping out of the workforce. A recent statistic shows that in the coveted Jawaharlal Nehru University, in the nation’s capital Delhi, there has been a decline in the proportion of female students in recent years though between 2014-15 and 2020-21, their overall enrolment rose from 45 to 49%. 

Insofar as safety is concerned, crimes against women show poor signs of abating. In the past two-three years, reports suggest that there has been rapid increase in cases of rape and molestation in some State, thereby indicating that the opposite sex is still considered subordinates to men in a patriarchal society. This year alone, a report found that as many as 1278 cases of rape and murder of women were registered across 28 States between 2017 and 2021 with Uttar Pradesh topping the list with a maximum of 218 cases. This perhaps isn’t the full picture as ‘at least 3000 cases, most unregistered’, took place during the above years.  

These examples reveal the harsh reality, that while India has made progress, its female population has big challenges of empowerment to overcome. Recall, while addressing the G20 Ministerial Conference on Women Empowerment in August, Prime Minister Modi said the most effective way to empower women was through a women-led development approach. “When women prosper, the world prospers,” because their economic empowerment fuels growth and their access to education drives global progress. 

But words, need to translate into action. The empowerment that is called for needs presence of women leaders, both at the regional and national levels, to enhance women’s participation in decision and policy making. A look at leadership positions suggests the road ahead is not easy. For example in 28 States and eight UTs there’s only one female Chief Minister today; In Modi’s Cabinet there are 11 women ministers out of 77, i.e. only one in every seven ministers. 

It would also be prudent to refer to a recent report ‘The Paths to Equal’ where India finds itself placed in the group of countries classified as low on empowerment in the first twin indices for women’s empowerment (WEI) and global gender parity (GGPI) brought out by UN bodies. The report for the first time assesses 114 countries on twin indices for women empowerment and gender parity in 2022. The empowerment deficit, according to WEI in India is 48% and gender gap according to the GGPI is 44%. However, India’s score in WEI is slightly higher than the regional average of central and southern Asia, where empowerment deficit is 50%. 

Political parties per se need to play an active role and not leave it to the government of the day with the uphill task of women empowerment. Quotas will take time, but at least the parties, both national and State, can set an example by allocating at least 30% of its seats to women candidates in the ensuing general election. A sign of genuine sincerity when they voted for the Bill. The earlier this happens it would be better for society and the country. ---INFA 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

‘Her Story’ Made: SWEETY, HERE’S TO WOMEN POWER, By Poonam I Kaushish, 26 September 2023 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 26 September 2023

‘Her Story’ Made

By Poonam I Kaushish 

‘Her story’ was made when Parliament passed the historic landmark 128th Constitution Amendment Bill Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam Bill providing 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies Thursday last. Twenty-seven years after it was first introduced in Parliament, with 454 for, two against in the House of People and unanimously in Rajya Sabha.

Undoubtedly India has come a long way from 1996 when the Women Reservation Bill was introduced by Gowda’s United Front Government but failed to clear Lok Sabha. It was re-introduced by Vajpayee’s NDA Government in 1998 but lapsed. In 2008 Manmohan Singh’s UPA 1 to again lapse 2010 due to high drama of MPs physical removal by regional satraps. Today, the opponents laid down their arms before an idea whose time has finally come.

Asserted a BJP Minister, “There was dire necessity of affirmative action to improve women’s conditions, as recent studies on Panchayats where there is reservations, have shown the positive effect of female political participation, leadership, women empowerment and allocation of resources. No matter, instances of them being used as proxies by men to win elections in States from Maharashtra to Bihar.

Its par on course for Opposition to carp. Congress’s grumble was delimitation and census were “poor excuses'” for postponement of women's quota, alleging the entire exercise was to create an election issue, without actually implementing it. “We wanted implementation from next year’s Lok Sabha elections itself along-with reservation for women from Other Backward Classes (OBC) besides SC and STs.” Reversing its 2010 position against OBC quota within a quota.

Cribbed a senior Samajwadi leader, “I am not belittling the Bill by saying it will only benefit ‘lipstick-wearing-short-haired women from upper castes’. The intent is good but the practical political outcome may be far different in the absence of quota within a quota”.  Added another, “it will be fight in a ‘ladies only’ compartment in a metro, nothing more”.

Not a few argue that it would perpetuate an unequal status of women as they would not be perceived to be competing on merit. Also, it restricts choice of voters to women candidates and diverts attention from larger issues of electoral reform, criminalisation of politics and inner Party democracy.

Instead, India should consider reservation in Parties and dual member constituencies. Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election might reduce incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency. Others, aver it would strengthen upper caste and elite rule and promote family politics. Men of this segment would ‘remote control’ their women to use political power.

Undeniably, politics of presence is crucial for effective functioning of our democratic system, as women constitute 50% of the population. Presently, even as we talk about more power to woman, a reality check bares some unpleasant home-truths. Women account for less than 10% of both Houses of Parliament.

Women legislators in Lok Sabha account for less than 15%  82 MPs, much below the global average of 24%. Think. If in 1950 women formed 5% of Parliament, today a mere 9% increase in the last 73 years is a sobering reminder of how slow progress has been. Consequently their under-representation not only reveals gender disparity but also constitutes gender deficit. With the Bill’s implementation this will rise to at least 181.

Shockingly, States like Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal and J&K don’t have a single women MP in the Lok Sabha. Women representation in State Assemblies is even more glaring. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka have fewer than 5%. Mizoram has none and Nagaland one. Surprisingly, Bihar and Haryana boast of 10% fair sex representation. Hence this lack of representation is problematic as legislation reflects the values of those who make it.

Worse, only 724 women contested polls out of nearly 8000. The Congress fielded 54 (13%), BJP 53 (12%), Mayawati’s BSP 24, Mamata’s TMC 23 (43%), Patnaik’s BJD 33%,  CPM 10, CPI four and one by Pawar’s NCP (his daughter). As many as 222 women contested elections independently. Four transgender candidates also fought while Kejriwal’s AAP fielded a transgender nominee. The situation in the Vidhan Sabhas is worse

More appalling are their educational qualifications. While 232 (32%) declared their educational qualification to be between Class 5 and Class 12 pass, 37 said they were just literate, 26  illiterate while the rest stated they were graduates according to the Association for Democratic Reforms.

Further, there are only a handful of women leaders today: Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati. Both Indira Gandhi and Jayalalithaa are deceased. So unlike the strong female contingent who fought alongside other freedom fighters, Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Durgabai Deshmukh and Savitri Phule, who not only defied the notorious patriarchal norms but also blazed a trail of women’s empowerment.

Unfortunately, post-Independence India, women slipped to a secondary status where not just leaders, women continue to remain the ‘unwanted’ and neglected sex. Yet, there is no dearth of women workers in Parties who are regularly sidelined and denied Party tickets to contest elections. Despite, 65%, women turnout compared to 67.09% men during 2019 Parliamentary elections and more women voting than men in 16 of 29 States.

Undisputedly, there is a paucity of strong women in politics with Party bosses often reluctant to trust them with handling the rowdy business of winning elections. Add to this a neglect of women issues in most elected bodies. The moot point is: Will this Bill correct centuries-old imbalances and stigma against women? Will increased participation of women in the political process lead to less female infanticide, fewer dowry deaths, bride burning and trampling of female aspirations.

Undoubtedly, Parties recognize that in a changing India, women marginalization, exclusion from power corridors and decision-making echelons is becoming unsustainable, hence  having more women in politics will improve the system and society. Their absence alienates women thereby undermining the system’s legitimacy.

Besides, Parties realize value of women power by the rising turnout of female voters who are slowly closing the gap with male turnouts. Their greater visibility and imprint in public spaces which are rising inexorably. Hence, women power acts as a potent force to ensure policies and legislation that affect their lives, is inclusive and representative of the population needs. Eventually, women-centric policies would heighten political efficacy among female voters.

At the same time one needs to watch out for the danger that gender politics can lead to a ferocious brand of political Puritanism. So far jobs, posts and seats in legislatures have always served as “apples of discord.”

Either way, the legislation has set the stage for a future where nari shakti will play a more substantial role in politics and integral to India’s democratic ethos. Clearly, if the Bill is implemented it will set a unique precedent as the only major democracy globally to implement such affirmative action.

True, the Bill is not a magical fix but a crucial leap forward for women empowerment and gender parity. One hopes it will not end up as an exercise in competitive, reckless populism at its worst. Today, women are at the cusp of a bright future as our leaders’ help them break the glass ceiling and give them their place in the sun. Femme Fatale is the way to go! ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)


Malls Closing, Stocks Fall: ECONOMY RISES WITH HIGH DEBT, By Shivaji Sarkar, 25 September 2023 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 25 September 2023

Malls Closing, Stocks Fall


By Shivaji Sarkar 

If the country is doing well as per popular belief, why then are shopping malls and showrooms across the country closing down even in well off Ahmedabad and seven other cities? It’s not a riddle but a reality that the world’s supposedly fifth or third economy has to strive with. Malls may not be indicator of an economy, some may argue, but precious wealth was sunk in it to showcase the economy. The showrooms, restaurants are in a precarious state almost everywhere. 

Stocks are crashing with the US announcing a possibility of a rate hike. In three sessions, or three days, the BSE lost 1600 points. The rising crude prices and weaker rupee has added to the problems.Let us go beyond. The stock market is in a tizzy and losing heavily during the week with the US toughening its interest rates. The rupee has sunk below Rs 83 once again. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) says either the funds are diverted or are not parked properly. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) finds savings dwindling. 

The country’s debts are on the rise and GDP growth is on government induced expenditure passed off as infra spending. The over Rs 2 lakh crore a year dole to 81 crore people and investments in demolitions and constructions also add to ‘satisfying’ GDP statistics. Often the growing fiscal deficit is ignored as a ‘normal’ phenomenon. The debts also continue to rise. 

According to the International Monetary Funds’ World Economic Outlook, the size of the Indian economy will increase from $3.2 trillion in 2021-22 to $3.5 trillion in 2022-23 and cross $5 trillion in 2026-27. It does not say that of this even in 2021, there was national debt of $2.43 trillion and it is rising. Maybe it is the Charvak economy of “rinamkritvaghritampivet” – have a lavish style even with a debt. 

The RBI finds India’s household savings slide to their lowest in nearly five decades. Net financial savings of households fell to 5.1 percent in 2022-23 (FY23) down from 7.2 percent in 2021-22. The Charvak debt economy hit them to as financial liabilities, debt, rose sharply by 5.8 percent of GDP in FY23 compared to 3.8 percent FY 22. It follows almost a national debt graph. 

The rate of increase in financial liabilities, loans, last fiscal was the second highest since Independence. In FY2007, it was sharper at 6.7 percent. The Finance Ministry has countered it with stating that gold sales have increased, and people are buying cars. Bullion market figures speak less. Many may be buying gold benama as private industrial investments have come down. This should be viewed as warning signs. The car sales are done on credit and is not diversion of savings. 

So are the closures of malls and showrooms. Knight Frank’s “Think India, Think Retail 2022 – Reinventing Indian Shopping Malls” reports stated that as many as 21 percent of 57 malls across top 8 cities are in different state of dilapidation. There are multiple factors behind the stocks of ghost malls in the country. These include: lack of due diligence, mall shortcomings such as size and ownership patterns, design issues, faulty layout with dark alleys, lack of customer walk flow management, low occupancy and lack of anchor tenants.As over 40 percent of spaces are vacant, the report calls these “ghost malls”. In itself,this is an indicator of low footfall, demand or sales.

Net financial assets are calculated by subtracting financial liabilities from overall financial assets, says the RBI. Household liabilities include loans from banks and Financial Institutions. Assets include bank deposits, investments in financial institutions and other instruments.In 2022-23, net financial assets declined to Rs 13.8 trillion against Rs 17 trillion in 2020-21. Net gross assets grew 14 percent in 2020-21. Consequently, liabilities witnessed 76 percent growth, outpacing the growth in assets. 

The rise in personal loan has been a trend before the 2007-08 sub-prime crisis. The world has seen how small credits had led to a global meltdown. Personal loans now account for more than two-third of total outstanding loans in the Rs 50 lakh category and more than Rs 50 lakh to 1 crore category. Even beyond this, there has been a sharp increase in personal loans in the last decade. 

While this has a positive side of dependence of the people on a continued income and possibly income growth, on the other side is that the tax-GDP ratio has not seen that kind of an improvement despite as is being claimed higher tax revenue collection this year. Unless the tax-GDP ratio shows a real rise, the government will find it difficult to reconcile the aspirations of the poor with their material deprivation. 

This is to be compared with the annual growth in the government and the private consumption. The sum of Private Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCF) was 4.9 percent in the June quarter. But the Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) was at 8 percent. This is for the fifth consecutive quarter when GFCE growth has been greater than the PFCE. It means private expenditure is at a lower level and the economy is driven by government expenses. It looks bright but it is led by huge government loans internal and external. 

This is reflected in high external credit of Rs 4.39 lakh crore, pointed out by the CAG in 2020-21. The audit points out to some irregularities in accounting as well. But the fact remains that government debts are increasing. It also points out that 15 PSUs were disinvested as well. In short, the finances need a proper management and is an indicator that the economy needs to be improved in a number of ways to have the best of the benefits. 

Levies and cesses collected by the Centre, which it is not obligated to share with the States, lie idle or are spirited away to other causes, violating the terms under which the cesses were supposed to be collected in the first place. 

There are numerous instances of improper accounting, funds being parked outside the government’s accounts, and the payment obligations of the Centre being deliberately suppressed to show lower liability or hidden in a forest of footnotes.This sums up why the shopping malls are not functioning or stocks are crashing, and it needs a lot to rev up the economy beyond the government finances.---INFA 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)


India-Canada Row: SPARKS PANIC AMONG SIKHS, PUNJABIS, By Insaf, 23 Sept 2023 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 23 September 2023

India-Canada Row


By Insaf 

The India-Canada row has triggered a nagging fear among Sikhs and people of Punjab. It’s critical that both governments resolve the issue at the earliest, is a serious refrain. The Shiromani Akali Dal President and MP Sukhbir Singh Badal met Union Home Minister Amit Shahon Thursday last and told him that he was receiving distress calls from Punjabis in Canada worried about safe and smooth travel facilities to their homeland. Similarly, students were concerned about their future. Likewise, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on Tuesday last said though the Centre has trashed the Canadian government’s accusations in the murder case of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and expelled a Canadian diplomat, the matter is “very serious” and will affect Sikhs at the global level. It’s having ‘a huge effect, Sikhs are being associated with terrorism, a wrong impression is being created, and it needs to stop. People of the nation shouldn’t suffer because of this”. The point that Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular, have made unparalleled sacrifices for the independence, security and integrity of the nation was driven home and ‘there can never be a compromise on that.’ Given that lives and livelihood of Sikhs is at stake, there’s need for sincere approach. Dialogue rather than knee jerk reactions is the need of the hour. The ‘sense of panic’ needs urgent attention. 

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Women Reservation

The passing of the 128th Constitution amendment bill, Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam is indeed a defining moment in the nation’s democratic journey. It has taken decades for it to see the light of day. Prime Minister Modi rightly said its “A tribute to the countless women who have made our nation.” But the wait is going to be long, perhaps in 2029. But a question mark hangs as the government will first have to undertakea delimitation exercise to redraw parliamentary and Assembly constituencies based on the census, when it happens. Besides, it will now require the approval of a majority of State Assemblies.While it has been passed in both Houses with all political parties on board, the Opposition leaders did call it a jumla, rather the greatest as if it had the will, it could have been implemented immediately.Just give tickets to 33% women, include the OBC…was a common refrain. Of course, the opportunity was also used by MPs to give credit to their leaders for not just voicing the demand but acting on the home front. Such as TMC’s MP Mahua Moitra who hailed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying she’s ‘the mother of this bill and had given birth to the original idea as 37% of TMC MPs are women’. Incidentally, the ruling BJD is Odisha shall have its first woman Speaker. The Revenue and Disaster Management Minister name was announced as the party’s candidate on Wednesday last and she gets elected uncontested. The Bill is an election strategy, but how many walk the talk will need to be watched.

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Cauvery Water Row

The release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu by Karnataka has literally run into troubled waters again. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, his deputy Shivakumar with all State MPs and Congress ministers called on Union Jal Shakti Minister Shekhawat on Thursday last expressing State’s inability to comply with Cauvery Water Management Authority’s order of releasing 5,000 cusecs of water per day for a fortnight (till September 280) to its neighbour. Reason:  drought-like situation as there’s rainfall shortage for 1st time in 123 years, scarcity of drinking water, protests by farmers and in distress there’s no formula to decide how much water is to be released. Luckily, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the Authority’s orders saying all key aspects must be considered--such as drought and deficit rainfall. Predictably, TN’s ruling DMK is peeved as it claims Karnataka never agrees to any proposals made by it in the dispute and whatever rights it’s gained is because it has approached the top court. Karnataka has sought PM Modi’s intervention to find a resolution by convening a meeting of four States – the two plus Kerala and Puducherry. The big question is can he pull it off?

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UP’s ‘Political Vendetta’

‘Political vendetta’ in Yogi’s Uttar Pradesh apparently has no boundaries. The Sanjay Gandhi Memorial hospital in Amethi, run by a Trust since 1989,with Sonia Gandhi as chairperson, was shut down after a female patient’s death due to alleged medical negligence. Amethi’s CMO said the hospital ‘was sealed on the day the patient died and hospital’s registration suspended until further orders. No patients will be treated there, and its administration won’t function.’Besides, a team shall probe cause of death and alleged laxity. The 100-bedded hospital’s CEOhas in turn accused the CMO of not giving ‘a fair hearing’ and its revocation decision taken ‘in undue haste’ (patient admitted on September 14 with complain of stomachache; condition worsened before undergoing gall bladder surgery; was referred to a private hospital in Lucknow where she died on September 16; on September 18 licence revoked). All services provided, including emergency and OPD are closed and 400 staff members’ future uncertain. The hospital will move court as ‘it’s an act of political vengeance’. Congress echoes the same and threatens to protest. Recall, in September 2018, at least 71 children died in a government-run district hospital in Bahraichand a year earlier 60 infants had died in Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College. In contrast these were not shut down. Why this?

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Maha Intrigues

Maharashtra political splits continue to be absorbing, be it NCP or Shiv Sena’s. On Tuesday last, Jayant Patil, State unit chief of Sharad Pawar-led NCP told reporters the Election Commission was being ‘unfair’ treating its case as ‘a dispute within a political party, when we have consistently maintained there’s no split!’ NCP supremo had written to ECI claiming he “never faced any opposition within the party or to his policies on any public platform…bu2t without giving him time, EC concluded there’s a dispute!” Interestingly, Ajit Pawar group’s leader and Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal too says there’s no dispute, “Some changes have taken place, such as of national president...Ajit Pawar is now party president and we have already communicated it to EC.” How EC deals with it all will be known on October 6, when both sides appear for a personal hearing. On Shiv Sena split, Speaker Rahul Narwekar is vague on when he shall decide the disqualification pleas filed against Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his set of MLAs. ‘I’m not interested in delaying the decision nor in a hurry which could result in miscarriage of justice,’ he says, notwithstanding Supreme Court on Monday last observing ‘This can’t go on indefinitely. Tell us about the time schedule.’ In its May 11 verdict, Speaker was directed to decide on the petitions within ‘a reasonable time.’ It’s never ending.  

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Kerala Tourism Jittery

Nipah virus is playing spoilsport in God’s own country. The tourism industry is looking at major losses ahead of its peak season. According to Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association, a ‘30% jump in booking cancellations’ has been reported in hotels in Kozhikode, where 7 districts are declared containment zones. A nagging fear lingers it ‘may deal a bigger blow’ if the situation worsens, countries impose travel restrictions and tighter visa regulations. So far, 130-odd people have been tested for the virus, while over 200, who came in contact with suspected patients, are under observation. The virus is a Bangladesh variant that spreads from human to human and while it has a high mortality rate, it isn’t highly infectious.This may help to gain confidence of the tourists. The silver lining is that tourism sector has shown resilience this year after a decline in the pandemic years. The first 6 months of 2023 saw a rise of 20% among domestic tourists--10.68 million against 8.89 million last year—and 172% surge in foreign tourists--287,730.Fingers are crossed that this challenging period passes. God willing. ----INFA 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



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