New Age Edit Bureau
Sep 09, 2017
Aung San Suu Kyi must recognise
human rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar
Army chief General Rawat has
said nothing that should worry China
The moral consciousness
Nowhere people: the Rohingya
TRUMP: ‘SAD DAY’ FOR N KOREA IF
Indian-American Manisha Named
To Key Post
The economists are coming: Some
popular fallacies propagated by economic experts, and their policy consequences
‘All parties united against
Compiled by New Age Edit Bureau
to politicise Gauri Lankesh murder
Sep 09, 2017 07:27 am
It is most unfortunate how the
murder of a Bengaluru-based journalist, Gauri Lankesh, is being politicized by
vested political interests to suit their ends. The cold-blooded murder as she
got down from her car and sought to enter her home on returning from her office
is being used to sway potential voters in the Assembly elections slated in
Karnataka in a few months. It was unseemly how Congress vice-president Rahul
Gandhi, CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechury and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah
raced to attribute the murder to the BJP and the RSS because she (Gauri) was
ideologically close to the Maoists and opposed to the BJP-RSS ideology.
The needle of suspicion can
point in various directions of which suspicion of the BJP is one among them.
The Congress had much to gain from the public suspicion pointing to BJP-RSS
because it is looking for emotive issues to damn the BJP in the public eye for
electoral gains. Another theory is that
some Maoists were unhappy with Gauri Lankesh’s efforts to get Maoists to
surrender and return to the mainstream.
Without there being a shred of
evidence of BJP or RSS’ culpability, is it not downright irresponsible of
Congress and CPI (M) to blame the murder on them? The excessive hype by the
electronic media has demoralized people at large in the country many of whom
see a breakdown of law and order, which is an unfair conclusion to jump to.
Also, strangely, the Karnataka government has got away lightly without being
reprimanded for poor law and order and for the government’s failure to track
and nab those responsible for earlier murders of rationalist M.M. Kalburgi in
north Karnataka and of RSS activist Rudresh. The crass politicization must end
forthwith and the probe being conducted must be above board.
San Suu Kyi must recognise human rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar
The problem is not just the
fact that Myanmar does not recognise the basic human rights of Rohingya people.
It is that they are barely treated as human at all. When an aid ship arrived in
Myanmar earlier this year with food and emergency supplies, it was met with a
small group of protesters bearing the sign “No Rohingya”. The resistance to
even providing aid is a telling sign of how the Rohingya are treated in
Updated: Sep 08, 2017 16:31 IST
All human beings are endowed
with reason and conscience. These are the words in the opening lines of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most widely recognised statement of
the rights that every person on our planet has. There are some days however,
that can truly test the core belief that we all have the gift of conscience –
the ability to see the difference between right and wrong.
Wednesday was such a day, when
Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence on the disaster unfolding in Myanmar, the
country of which the Nobel laureate is the de facto leader.
In her first comments on the
military’s onslaught, Suu Kyi’s office claimed that the government is defending
all the people in Rakhine state “in the best possible way”. Her words are an
unconscionable response to the unfolding human rights and humanitarian
The reality on the ground is
that ethnic minorities in the Rakhine state are suffering appalling abuses from
an unlawful and disproportionate military campaign. Many of those on the
receiving end are the Rohingya people, the country’s long-persecuted mainly
Muslim ethnic group.
These are the facts. In the
early morning of Friday 25 August, a Rohingya armed group launched a series of
coordinated attacks on security forces in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Since then, clashes have continued, but with Myanmar’s military taking a
totally unjustified and hugely disproportionate scorched earth approach in
responding to the violence. Amnesty International researchers are receiving
numerous reports of widespread abuses, including of security forces opening
fire on civilians. Satellite images suggest evidence of villages being razed to
More than 150,000 Rohingya
people have poured into Bangladesh in that time. The vast majority of them are
women and children. The scenes at the border of Bangladesh are of biblical
proportions. Young children, the elderly, men and women have walked for days on
end through mud and torrential downpours, just to reach camps or villages where
there is little food, water or medical provisions to sustain them.
The death toll is already
estimated to be in the high hundreds. But with UN investigators, aid groups,
human rights monitors and journalists denied entry, it is clear Myanmar is
happy to blindfold the rest of the world to stop us seeing what is happening in
northern Rakhine. We would not at all be surprised if, once independent
investigators are able to do their work, they will conclude that crimes against
humanity are taking place.
The Rohingya population of
about a million people are living in fear right now, but this is far from a new
experience for them. The violence we are seeing in northern Rakhine occurs in a
wider context of long-standing, blatant and systematic discrimination against
the Rohingya in Myanmar. They are a people who have lived through decades of
crushing persecution at the hands of a vindictive military, which is now led by
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Rohingyas in northern Rakhine
State are denied the right to a nationality and to participate in public life.
They face severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of movement, access to
education, healthcare and livelihoods. They are also unable to build or
maintain mosques or gather for prayers.
The problem however is not just
the fact that Myanmar does not recognise the basic human rights of Rohingya
people. It is that they are barely treated as human at all. When an aid ship
arrived in Myanmar earlier this year with food and emergency supplies bound for
the troubled state of Rakhine, it was met with a small group of protesters
bearing the sign “No Rohingya”. The resistance to even providing aid is a
telling sign of how the Rohingya are treated in Myanmar.
Unles the Myanmar authorities
make every effort to end the long-standing and systematic discrimination in
Rakhine State, people will be left trapped in a cycle of violence and
ButMyanmar is not alone in its
vilification of this friendless group. Across the region, the Rohingya stand
out as a persecuted people. In the midst of this crisis, India is pursuing a
cruel plan to deport the 40,000 Rohingya who have taken refuge there. At a
protest in New Delhi on Tuesday, a Rohingya refugee, Mohamed Irshad, summed up
the situation with a desperate plea: “We are also human beings. Please see us
as a human.”
It is against this backdrop
that Aung San Suu Kyi is blaming “terrorists” and claiming that her government
is defending all the people of Rakhine “in the best way possible”.
With her words, Suu Kyi has
taken a leaf out of the very same playbook used by hard-line authoritarian
leaders. She may not be pulling the strings of the military, but by acting as
the public mouthpiece and apologist for the unconscionable actions of the
military, she is enabling the continued vilification and dehumanisation of
Aung San Suu Kyi may be in
government but she is not in power – the military is principally responsible
for these abuses and only they can stop it. She does however have a moral duty
to speak out against injustice. After all, it was she herself who said “You
should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” She
like the rest of us, is endowed with reason and conscience, and therefore the
ability to do what is right and treat others with humanity. That is the bare
minimum that the Rohingya people are asking for.
chief General Rawat has said nothing that should worry China
By Manoj Joshi
General Bipin Rawat was
speaking at a seminar on the “future contours and trends of warfare”.This is
the kind of stuff military people are likely to speak about when they are
discussing issues in a seminar where issues are thrown up and scenarios
discussed. This is something that the Chinese side probably does not understand
because their military leaders usually speak to the public in tightly scripted
There was very little in Army
chief’s remarks at the inaugural of a seminar that should have occasioned the
kind of response it has from China. For one, they were not new. For another,
they ranged on a variety of issues relating to warfare, the current threats
India confronts, the primacy of the Army in the tri-services situation and so
But what seems to have got the
goat of the official spokesman Geng Shuang in Beijing is his reference to India
having to remain prepared for a two-front war situation relating to Pakistan
and China, and on Chinese hybrid war tactics involving information,
psychological, media and legal warfare tactics, along with salami-slicing
tactics in occupying Indian territory.
But Geng linked this to the
recent summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in Xiamen
and said that Rawat’s remarks went against the grain of the meeting where the
two sides had agreed on a positive agenda and endorsed a view that “differences
should not become disputes.” They had also spoken of the need for even more
dense military-to-military relations to prevent a recurrence of the Doklam
incident. The Chinese spokesman wondered whether the Indian Army chief had
spoken without authorisation or spontaneously, and “whether his words represented
the position of the Indian government.”
The answer to this is complex.
This is the kind of stuff military people are likely to speak about when they
are discussing issues in a seminar where issues are thrown up and scenarios
discussed. This is something that the Chinese side probably does not understand
because their military leaders usually speak to the public in tightly scripted
As for the Army, it has been
speaking about a two-front war scenario for some time now. Indeed, it actually
flows out of what is called an ‘operational directive’ by the defence minister
in 2008 which enjoins the military to be prepared to deal with a “two front
threat” from China and Pakistan. This directive led to the Army revising its
doctrine to cater for a possible two-front war.
Salami slicing tactics and
psy-ops are something that the Indian Army has seen first hand in its dealings
with its Chinese counterparts. For example, the Chinese claim line of 1956,
reaffirmed by Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959 saw the Chip Chap and Galwan river
valleys in the Indian side of the LAC. However, in 1960 China claimed both the
areas and subsequently occupied them. The same happened in Pangong Tso where
the 1959 line was at Khurnak Fort, but the 1960 line moved westward to Siri
Even today, the Chinese
continue their efforts to salami-slice. The incident in Depsang Plains in 2013
was an instance where the Chinese sought to establish shift the border
westward, albeit by a few kilometres. And of course, the latest was in Doklam,
though not in territory, but the Chinese did seek to harden their presence in
an area which they used to regularly patrol since 2008 or so.
Some blame for this most recent
contretemps probably lies with the media. None of the reports of the Army chief’s
remarks mention the fact that he was speaking at a seminar on the “future
contours and trends of warfare.” In delivering a lecture on the subject,
General Rawat naturally spoke about the Army’s doctrinal views on China, its
expectations, and on issues like the possibility of war between two nuclear
armed neighbours and so on. As for the media, it was invited and it reported
the General’s remarks. Whether or not he should speak on such issues is a
matter between him and the government, but presumably as of now, he seems to
have the authority to speak on professional issues that relate to his job.
We live in times where there
seems to be a fracture between consciousness and morality. But an expansion of
the former leads to a deepening of the latter
This verse observes the ways of
the jungle, where might is right. The phrase used for this in ancient Vedic
literature is matsya nyaya, or fish justice. This is not supposed to be the way
of culture. For humans have the wherewithal to overturn the ways of the jungle.
In culture, the mighty must not
feed on the meek; the mighty take care of the meek. This is dharma. When the
mighty feed on the meek, when humans behave as animals do, adharma is said to
prevail. This is Hindu morality. We find the first glimpse of this idea in the
3,000-year-old Shatapatha Brahmana (18.104.22.168) where the gods establish dharma
in the northern direction, which is indicative of stability owing to the
presence of the pole star, with waters, which is indicative of fecundity and
economic prosperity. “When the waters come, there is abundance and dharma. When
the waters do not come, there is scarcity, the mighty prey on the meek, and
there is adharma.”
In the 2,500-year-old
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.11-14), we learn, “A weaker man demands of the
stronger man through dharma just as one appeals to the king.” Thus, the king’s
role in establishing dharma, and creating an ecosystem where the mighty do not
exploit the meek, is established. Rules and traditions, niti-riti, are simply
tangible manifestations of the idea of dharma. A rule or a tradition is in line
with dharma only if it keeps the way of the jungle out of society. In the Ramayana,
the mighty Ravana succumbs to adharma, when he abducts Sita and keeps her in
Lanka against her consent. In the Mahabharata, the mighty Duryodhana succumbs
to adharma, when he refuses to share a needlepoint of land with his five
orphaned cousins, the Pandavas.
Hinduism also recognises that
the world is not static or homogenous. Everything is constantly changing
(anitya). Hence, rules and traditions cannot be static. Just as Vishnu takes a
different avatar in the different yugas, as per the Puranas, the Dharmashastras
say that all rules and tradition must be contextualised to place, period and
The ability to do this requires
that one expands one’s consciousness, and outgrows the ways of the jungle. This
means while an animal is driven by the instinct to see other creatures as
predator, prey, rival or mate, humans have the ability to outgrow such
instincts, and empathise with the other. This allows for emotions such as
compassion and actions such as generosity. Greater awareness means one can see,
without feeling threatened, the hunger and fear of oneself (sva-jiva) and of
This expanded consciousness
allows one to adapt rules and traditions as per context, while still being true
to dharma. This is how Vishnu is able to function differently in the Treta
yuga, when rules are respected, as Ram, the eldest son of a royal family, and
in Dvapara yuga, when rules are manipulated, as Krishna, the youngest son of a
cowherd family. The 3,500-year-old Rig Veda refers to the society it observed
as an organism made up of four groups of people (chaturvarna). The
2,000-year-old Manusmriti, however, uses it as a justification for social
hierarchy and casteism. This came to mean that the brahmana (priests) is
superior to kshatriyas (landowners), who are superior to the vaishyas (general
public) who are superior to the shudra (servants). This has been used to
justify Dalit exploitation and indignities. This goes against the morality of
an expanded consciousness described in the Bhagavad Gita (5.18).
brahmane gavi hastini
shva-pake cha panditah sama-darshinah
The wise one, full of humility,
views equally a brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.
Here, there is awareness of the
different groups (jati) of humans and animals but one looks beyond the
physical, psychological and status differences at the common soul (atma) that
enlivens all beings. This is what is alluded to as a single social organism in
the Rig Veda. In this state of self-realisation (atma-gyan), one is secure
enough not to feel the urge to venerate the “superior”, or humiliate the
“inferior”. One realises only insecure minds need to dehumanise others to feel
good about themselves. Binaries such as superior/inferiority are delusions born
of a crumpled consciousness. The desire to destroy diversity, and replace it
with homogeneity, is also a sign of crumpled consciousness. Thus, morality is
expressed in the expansion of one’s consciousness. The more expanded one’s
consciousness is, the more moral one is.
This is embodied in the idea of
a raja-rishi, a king-sage, like Janaka of Mithila, who has expanded
consciousness and so is able to uphold a moral code of rules and traditions.
We live in times where there
seems to be a fracture between consciousness and morality. Consciousness has
become the realm of the guru and morality the realm of the activist and the
policeman. This has perhaps the result of making consciousness expansion a
private activity, rather than a social one. Consciousness is expanded not just
by shutting our eyes in dhyana (contemplation) but by opening our eyes to
darshan (insight) into the ways of nature and culture, animal and human.
Failure to see the other leads the inflated, rather than expanded, self to be
self-indulgent at the cost of the other, encroach lands (as in case of
Duryodhana), and disregard consent (as in case of Ravana).
In the world of expanded
consciousness, one is deeply aware of the web of causality (karma) woven by
each action. After Lakshman cuts the nose of the belligerent Surpanakha,
neither Ram nor Sita know happiness for the rest of their lives. Calamity
follows calamity. And Krishna, though he establishes dharma, has to accept the
curse of Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas, as collateral damage. This is
what makes dharma, hence morality and consciousness, a subtle (sukshma) idea,
not simply an act of being good or bad, in the eyes of an approval-bestowing
people: the Rohingya crisis
India took extraordinary care
to stay on Myanmar’s right side this week by resisting any show of sympathy to
the Rohingya people. On his first bilateral visit to the country, Prime
Minister Narendra Modi said he shared the Myanmar government’s concerns about
“extremist violence” in Rakhine state, which has seen unprecedented violence
over the past fortnight. Meanwhile, at the World Parliamentary Forum on
Sustainable Development, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan abstained from the
Bali Declaration because of a reference to “violence in Rakhine state”. New
Delhi has traditionally been wary of internationalising the internal affairs of
its neighbours; on Myanmar, it has concerns about keeping the country from
spinning back into the Chinese orbit. But India must adopt a humane position
when dealing with a refugee population that is stateless and has no place to
call home. This week, when the matter of Rohingya refugees now in India came up
for hearing in the Supreme Court, government counsel refused to guarantee they
would not be deported. This was in line with the government’s indication to
Parliament last month that all illegal immigrants, including the Rohingya, who
number around 40,000, will be deported. The insensitivity of this plan is
exposed by the unfolding crisis in Rakhine, where the Rohingya people had been
living for generations.
The Rohingya have been fleeing,
mostly on rickety boats, for years now. But this exodus has picked up pace
since August 25, when an attack on police posts by an extremist Rohingya group
invited sustained reprisal from the army and local Buddhist mobs. The UN
estimates that about 270,000 people, more than a quarter of the entire Muslim
Rohingya population in Rakhine, have fled since then, mostly to Bangladesh. The
Rohingya have been the ultimate nowhere people since 1982, when a Burmese law
rendered them stateless, with the government arguing that they are Bengali.
Violence has targeted them in phases, most notably beginning in 2012 when
inter-religious conflict forced them out in the thousands. In 2014, the Burmese
census refused to enumerate the Rohingya, giving them only the option to
identify themselves as Bengali. It is an irony that the period of Myanmar’s
transition to democracy, that too on Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu
Kyi’s watch, has coincided with the most heartless alienation of the Rohingya.
A UN report has called them victims of “crimes against humanity”, while
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has referred to the violence as “ethnic
cleansing”. This backdrop should worry Delhi, not just because its official
stance is casting it on the wrong side of the humane position, but also because
its deportation plans are perceived as being drawn by the sectarian pulls of
domestic politics. And as a regional power, India must answer the question: if
it is driving out a stateless people, where does it hope to send them?
‘SAD DAY’ FOR N KOREA IF MILITARY ATTACKS
Saturday, 09 September 2017
President Donald Trump has
warned the Kim Jong-un regime that it would be a “sad day” for North Korea if
it does not mend its ways and compels Washington to resort to military action
by persisting with its nuclear push.
“Hopefully we’re not going to
have to use it (military action) on North Korea. If we do use it on North
Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea,” Trump told a White House
news conference on Thursday, noting: “I can tell you that North Korea is
behaving badly, and it’s got to stop.”
After an initial comment that
he would rather avoid military action, Trump told a questioner: “Military
action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable.
It would be great if something else could be worked out. We would have to look
at all of the details, all of the facts.”
Taking potshots at his own
predecessors, Trump said: “We’ve had Presidents for 25 years now - they’ve been
talking, talking, talking -- and the day after an agreement is reached, new
work begins in North Korea, continuation on nuclear.”
“So I would prefer not going
the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen,” he
said, touting the US military’s growing strength. “Our military has never been
stronger…It’s been tens of billions of dollars more in investment. And each day
new equipment is delivered — new and beautiful equipment, the best in the
world, the best anywhere in the world, by far.”
Trump refused to go into a
question on whether a nuclearised North Korea but one that is contained and
deterred would be acceptable to him, commenting brusquely: “I don’t put my
negotiations on the table. Unlike past administrations, I don’t talk to them.
But I can tell you that North Korea is behaving badly, and it’s got to stop.”
The Trump administration has
been putting out mixed messages on how it would be dealing with the Kim Jong-un
regime that has brushed aside all warnings and sanctions and has gone on with
its nuclear and long-range missile tests.
While Trump himself threatened
North Korea a month ago with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if
it continued holding out threats to the United States, senior members of his
administration have sought to keep the door open for a diplomatic solution.
Trump, who was addressing a
joint news conference with visiting Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber
al-Sabah, said he would be willing to mediate in the dispute involving Qatar
and its other Arab neighbours.
“If I can help mediate between
Qatar and, in particular, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, I would be willing to do
so, and I think you would have a deal worked out very quickly,” Trump said.
Manisha Named To Key Post
President Donald Trump has
named Indian-American Manisha Singh to the key post of Assistant Secretary of
State to look after economic and business affairs.
If confirmed by the Senate, the
45-year-old Singh will assume the post that has been lying vacant with the exit
since January of Charles Rikvin, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
She is a former Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business
Affairs and has served as a senior aide to the US Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, a White House announcement said.
A resident of Florida, Singh is
currently Chief Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor to Republican Senator Dan
Sullivan from Alaska.
Singh, who has practiced law at
multinational law firms and working in-house at an investment bank, holds an
LLM in International Legal Studies from the American University Washington
College of Law and a JD from the University of Florida College of Law.
A native of Uttar Pradesh,
Singh moved to the United States with her parents as a child. She is licenced
to practice law in Florida, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.
economists are coming: Some popular fallacies propagated by economic experts,
and their policy consequences
September 9, 2017, 2:00 AM IST
Inbreeding has its dangers,
especially among prominent families. It is also dangerous among prominent
disciplines, economics being a case in point.
As policy makers like precision
and economists like numbers, after a short, sweet exchange of equations they
can hitch up for life. Consequently, economists find it unattractive to enlarge
their intellectual gene pool by making contact with others on the planet. It is
this failing that makes many of their recommendations questionable.
Take exports, for starters. It
is true that our performance here is miserable, but is currency devaluation the
best way out? Check out the consequences of this advisory. Well before our
exports get tastier, our import costs would rise as the machines we need to
make our goods are nearly always ‘foreign made’. No exporter can leave the
table before that bill is paid.
Consider in this connection an
interesting factoid. About 25% of our imports are petroleum related, but 20% is
on account of buying machinery from abroad, usually China. Further, the import
content of exports is about 25%, not including the vast, but incalculable,
second hand market for imported machines in the MSME sector. We talk at length
about our oil burden, about our gold fixation, but rarely do we discuss our
These machines are new age ones
and they don’t commit mistakes. They require high skills to make, but low
skills to operate. As India does not manufacture such equipment but only uses
them, it has led to the gradual de-skilling of our working class. Things have
come to such a pass that we now depend on China even for electric circuit
boxes; not too long ago we produced them in garages.
An industrial tailor in India
today needs about a month’s apprenticeship as the imported sewing machine, with
its many knobs and gears, is so versatile. With a flip of a switch it can do
almost everything – from stitching pillow cases to buttons to curtain pleats.
Likewise textile and car parts manufacturers, whether in Bhiwandi, Gurgaon or
Panipat, all use imported machinery, either brand new or second hand.
Under these conditions
devaluing currency, by RBI fiat, would kill the grass on our side of the hedge
as well. This brings us to a related misconception. Many experts believe that
our businesses long for skilled labour and feel dejected by its absence. This
is a convenient moon in June romance fiction.
The 68th round of the National
Sample Survey shows that just about 58% of those with a formal vocational
training found jobs. The remaining languish as unemployed, or self-employed. If
the scenic route leads to a dead end, why should one take it? Further,
according to an Accenture study, apparently a third of vocational school
graduates turned down jobs because the pay was low or the work profile
unsuitable. This is hardly evidence of a skill courting entrepreneurship.
India has only 11,000 training
institutes while China has 5,00,000. Not surprisingly, only about 2% in the age
group 15-59 in India have some skill training. At a higher level, things are
scary too. In IITs, India’s grey cell hub, faculty vacancies can touch 40%. A
look at the admission cut offs in Delhi University reveals a lot. Our best out
of school kids tend to opt for commerce and not physics, chemistry or maths.
This is where we could learn
from fast growing Asian economies without, god forbid, imitating them. They too
began from a poor industrial and educational base, but have since prospered
enormously. They climbed up leveraging their once cheap labour to move into
high skill industries. But when our exports were growing rapidly between
2003-08, at almost 18%, we did nothing of that kind.
On the other hand, we have many
economists who advocate a re-intensification of the low wage labour approach,
because it’s so easy. That this should happen at a time when the West is moving
into the era of driverless cars and intelligent automation, is both tragic and
anachronistic. This is why our past cling wraps our present and we just cannot
shake it off.
Third, the agricultural sector.
It is often argued that our public finances would get a pressure boost if only
we could tax agricultural income. True, there are some fat cows munching cud in
the fields, but the overwhelming bulk of farmers, almost 95%, have earnings too
low to be taxed. Nor should recurrent agricultural subsidies be viewed as
habitual offenders. From the US to Europe to Japan, farmers would perish
without these handouts.
Also, keep in mind that of all
professions, the highest rate of suicide is among farmers across the world. In
France, decision makers are seriously concerned about it today. The answer lies
in upgrading agriculture to industry by making it safe for small farmers to
lease out to big operators. But fear of the patwari and tenuousness of land
records prevent that from happening.
If none of this is convincing,
witness the road widening efforts on the Kalka-Shimla highway. The heavy
machines on the job are all imported, but there are thousands of local workers
too. Most of them are squatting by the hillside, chipping stones Neolithic
style. Expect delays, expect accidents too, because inefficiencies will
multiply as long as entrepreneurs find cheap labour, fresh out of villages,
profitable to employ.
Workers in sweat shops cannot
be turbocharged; they can only be flogged.
parties united against AAP’
September 9, 2017 | 3:20 am
Bhagwant Mann, 43, is the
president of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab. A noted Punjabi comedian, he
is well-known for use of wit and satire in his political speeches.
Mann entered politics in 2011
by joining People’s Party Punjab (PPP) and unsuccessfully contested the 2012
Assembly election from Lehragaga constituency.
He then joined AAP in March
2014 to contest the Lok Sabha election from Sangrur constituency. Mann won by
2,00,000 votes and has since then been the face of AAP in the Parliament. In a
telephonic interview with RANJEET JAMWAL, Mann speaks of the role AAP intends
to play in Punjab politics post its shocking defeat in the Assembly elections.
Q. AAP hoped to win the Punjab
Assembly elections, but lost to the Congress. What’s your assessment of the
A. It’s not bad to have hope.
So we too were hoping to win the Assembly elections, but we accept the public
verdict. There must have been some shortcomings in us or our poll campaign,
maybe we could not reach every household. Or maybe it was because of the tricks
played by our opponents. Both Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) joined
together to defeat us. However, after that we have restructured our party
organisation and we are taking feedback from every worker for the changes
required in the party organisation. Therefore, we will contest coming elections
with all seriousness. The main thing is AAP is just a three-and-a-half-years
old party and is the main Opposition party. On the other hand, the 97-year-old
party (SAD) has been reduced to just 14 seats in the Assembly. I feel people
first wanted to see us play the role of Opposition. Therefore, we will fight
for implementation of all the promises they (Congress) have made for total loan
waiver, jobs to every household or hike in social security pensions.
Q. Leadership changes have been
made post the shocking defeat in Assembly elections. How do you think it will
A. We have a proper team now.
Sukhpal Khaira is the leader of Opposition, Aman Arora (co-president) is
looking after the organisation work and I am overall party president in the
state. We have divided Punjab in five zones and district units have also been
reconstituted. So we will work for Punjab as a unit.
Q. Punjab has largely seen a
twoparty system and the politics has revolved around Congress and Shiromani
Akali Dal. How do you see AAP as a third force?
A. Punjab had a two-party
system, but at present we are the main Opposition party and the Akali Dal is at
number three. We have more Members of Parliament (four) than the SAD (three).
So be it in Parliament, Assembly or on the road, we will play the role of the
main Opposition with full dedication.
Q. How do you see the five
months of the Captain Amarinder Singh government?
A. Capt Amarinder has not come
to Punjab even five times in these five months. As head of state, he is not
visible and people have no idea about his whereabouts. Even the state Cabinet
is not fully formed. There is no agriculture minister in Punjab even as farmers
are committing suicide on a daily basis. The same goes for other departments
like sports and excise. Capt Amarinder is the home minister and gangsters are
on the prowl. They had promised jobs to every household, but not a single job
has been given. Be it sand mafia, liquor mafia, transport or cable mafia, the same
mafia raj is going on under the Congress government.
Q. Recently an FIR has been
filed against an AAP MLA. How do you view it?
A. It’s political vendetta. Are
only AAP MLAs corrupt all over India? The only threat is from them. The rest
(public representatives) are clean. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is raising
the issue of farmers, but the party is not doing anything for farmers in
Punjab. All these political parties — Congress, Akali Dal and BJP — have joined
hands against AAP to create hurdles for our party. This is because we are
exposing their scams, sand and land mafia, before the public.
Q. Drug menace is a big issue
in Punjab.What’s your view on it?
A. Taking the holy Granth Sahib
in his hands, Capt Amarinder had vowed to end the drug menace and drug mafia in
Punjab in four weeks and said all involved in the trade will be arrested. But
not a single big fish has been netted yet. When there was a demand for CBI
investigation against Akali leader Bikram Majithia for involvement in the drug
trade, it was Capt Amarinder who opposed it, saying Punjab Police is enough for
the job. This shows they all are hand-inglove. The drug trade is still going on
in Punjab. If you want to see it, go to the border areas. Drug trade can’t stop
by giving advertisements in newspapers. If we are to treat cancer, it can’t be
treated with balm, chemotherapy is required.