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Indian Press (12 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Nip in Bud: Threats To Secular Writers Should Not Go Unpunished: New Age Islam’s selection, 12 Sep. 17

New Age Islam Edit Bureau


12 Sep. 17



Protecting our children

Asian Age

Who killed Gauri? We all failed her

By Antara Dev Sen

Is BJP looking for NCP as a new partner?

Free Press Journal

Demonetisation: Political gain, economic pain

By A L I Chougule

Inflection point in Kabul

By C. Raja Mohan

At Least Seven Dead After Shooting In North Texas

Daily Pioneer

Why the Bullet Train project, whose foundation will be laid by PM Modi and Abe, is the key to transforming India

By  Shailesh Pathak

Catch up time: Many states whittling down pendency of cases bodes well for justice system

Times of India

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/nip-in-bud--threats-to-secular-writers-should-not-go-unpunished--new-age-islam’s-selection,-12-sep-17/d/112497



Nip in Bud: Threats To Secular Writers Should Not Go Unpunished

Times of India

September 12, 2017

Hindu Aikya Vedi leader KP Sasikala, after lauding the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh, has publicly threatened secular writers at a function in Kerala. In her speech, Sasikala warned secular writers of the same fate as Lankesh and advised them to pray for their lives. Such publicly uttered threats amount to incitement to violence and demand immediate action by authorities. No one should be allowed to issue threats like these and get away with impunity – be that person a politician, a religious leader or a social activist.

In fact, the climate of intolerance prevailing in the country is a direct outcome of the impunity with which such threats are uttered these days. They are then justified with a misleading defence of free speech, often by those who have no time for free speech otherwise. In the US, for example, the First Amendment to the American Constitution gives wide latitude to free speech. However, criminal intimidation is taken very seriously and swiftly acted upon. Similarly, Sections 503, 506 and 507 of the Indian Penal Code punish criminal intimidation. However, these are hardly implemented, especially when the accused are people with political influence.

Unless and until hate speech and communal threats are nipped in the bud, there’s a serious possibility that murders like that of Lankesh or attacks on Dalits and Muslims by cow vigilantes will continue unabated. As it is India’s international reputation as a democracy governed by rule of law – an invaluable foreign policy asset as it confronts the China-Pakistan axis – has been diminished by recent events. But apart from such considerations the first job of any modern state is to provide security to its citizens. It should not fail in this basic function.



Protecting our children

Asian Age

Sep 12, 2017, 12:23 am IST

The SC is seized of the Gurgaon school murder and one hopes guidelines will soon be drafted to raise security levels in schools across India.

Are we failing our children? The psychopathic murder of a schoolboy and a girl’s rape on school premises, besides cruelty inflicted for minor infractions of rules, reveals a pattern of sadistic behaviour aimed at innocent, helpless young students who can’t retaliate. The murder in one school and the rape in another in the Delhi-NCR area left parents around the country dreading sending children to school in the morning — and having to worry all day till the kids return home. The very psychosis of a large number of Indians is suspect as they display thought disorder and action inconsistent with people living in a civilised nation. An entire generation of young people will suffer from the trauma of growing up hearing about these gory goings-on.

The Supreme Court is seized of the Gurgaon school murder and one hopes guidelines will soon be drafted to raise security levels in schools across India. The feckless way in which even basic background and security checks were ignored while hiring non-teaching staff and the inability to inculcate a sense of discipline in the teaching staff were apparent in these few incidents. We must consider ourselves a failed society if we can’t offer the minimum guarantee of safety in schools. A knee-jerk reaction will be to demand closure of schools in which such incidents take place, but the greater challenge is to make millions of schools nationwide more accountable. The authorities of the two NCR schools must face the legal consequences for their criminal culpability arising from sheer negligence in ensuring the basic security of children in their care.



Who killed Gauri? We all failed her

By Antara Dev Sen

Sep 12, 2017, 12:23 am IST

On the contrary, we see most criminals with political links go scot-free, and those who cannot dodge jail get new escape routes.

What is this country coming to?” The opening line of Girish Karnad’s compelling play Tughlaq has come back to haunt us. Karnad is among 25 Kannada writers and intellectuals who have been given police protection following the shocking murder of Gauri Lankesh. For thinkers are in danger. This is the age of hollow men, headpiece filled with straw, leaning together, with dried voices. We must not think for ourselves, or speak out. This is the age of submission, of silence.

Why else would writers need police protection? Traditionally, writers were protected by readers, by a society that valued writers, artists, teachers, thinkers. But for years intolerance of inconvenient thought has been growing — now we have allowed it to escalate into the shameless murder of dissent. From banning books to vandalising libraries and burning texts, from attacking art to hounding artists and chasing M.F. Husain out of India, to brazenly harassing anybody who doesn’t conform to my idea of my country. From Salman Rushdie’s book banned to placate Muslims to Wendy Doniger’s book banned to placate Hindus, we have come a long way while staying rooted to the same spot. Because we like to magnanimously grant wishes to interest groups for narrow political gain, often going against the basic principles that our nation was founded on. If we really believed in equality as guaranteed by the Constitution, maybe none of this would have happened.

So now, instead of introspecting on what went wrong, we are either gloating over the “well-deserved” murder of a gutsy journalist, or moving the dialogue towards who killed her. We know who killed her. We may not know who pulled the trigger, but we know who were behind it. We all were.

We have all failed Gauri, my old colleague from Sunday magazine. The State failed her, by allowing and encouraging “non-state actors” who wreak violence on critics and independent thinkers. The media failed her by either cowering before power or by supporting power beyond the call of duty, by being lured by profit, cosying up to the establishment, brushing aside basic journalistic ethics.

The new and more democratic media, the social media, is the Wild West of curious comments and jubilant jibes, where unmoderated hostility and violence roll on, gathering support in a realm that defies logic, facts and decency. Right-wingers were always cheerfully vocal on these forums, and moderates and liberals found getting down to that crass level beneath their dignity. So the bigots ruled the Internet, creating an illiberal reality that was a lie and deeply problematic for a pluralistic culture.

The publishing industry failed her. By withdrawing and pulping books that ruffled feathers and refusing to publish books that could be problematic they stifled dialogue and paved the way for this majoritarian rule over thought and ideas. The other nurturing ground of thought, education, is being tailored for years to suit this make-believe reality. We allow it.

The industrial houses failed her. By keeping their hands clean and their eyes focused squarely on the bottom line, by caring only about their own profit and not the larger profit of their country and their future generations, they quietly supported injustice and the deliberate destruction of the constitutional guarantees that made India such a wonderfully free, pluralistic democracy.

The police failed her. They failed to stop the murderers as they weaved their way through everyday life and picked out their victims in cold blood — killing Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi before they turned their guns on Gauri. They failed to stop, or nab, the killers of valiant reporters and editors in small towns and villages, fearless journalists silenced by corrupt politicians and powerful enemies.

Most importantly, the justice system failed her. Our old, smug, lugubrious, incredibly slow justice system takes decades to decide cases, and often palpably fails to deliver justice. It’s important that culprits are brought to book. It’s important that killers are punished. We need to see that criminals get no political protection.

On the contrary, we see most criminals with political links go scot-free, and those who cannot dodge jail get new escape routes. D.G. Vanzara, Gujarat’s notorious encounter cop, is back in the news contemplating a political career. And Maya Kodnani, convicted of organising massacres during the 2002 Gujarat violence, promises to get BJP president Amit Shah to court to testify in her favour. Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, accused of leading the 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi, still roam free.

The 1993 Mumbai blasts verdict has finally come. And following a curious verdict by the high court that almost legitimised the 1992 demolition, the Babri Masjid case is now in the Supreme Court.

But would there be the Mumbai blasts — masterminded by Muslims, as we love to say — if there were no Mumbai riots, masterminded by Hindus? Would there be the Mumbai riots if the Babri Masjid had not been demolished by the Hindutva fundamentalists led by the BJP? Would the Babri Masjid be demolished if the then Congress government had not opened the gates to the Ram Janmabhoomi site in order to please the Hindus? Would the “secular” Congress feel inclined to please the Hindus if it hadn’t tried to please the Muslims by supporting the Muslim clerics in the Shah Bano case? We could go on and on…

No, Gauri’s killing was not planned today. It was being hatched for decades. As we slowly moved away from constitutional guarantees and curbed our rights and freedoms as citizens. As we paved the way for the slow stifling of dissent. And the murder of diverse opinions.

We need to stop believing that it’s beneath our dignity to respond to the “fools” who attack our culture hoping for a Hindu rashtra. Our media needs to recognise the dangers it is leading our country into by selfish commercial interest, fear or the greed for power. We need to realise that mischievous news and debates on TV can mislead and harm us. We need to get our hands dirty, as citizens who care, to reclaim our identities as citizens who matter.

We need to fight the factless, tactless, graceless, unethical trolls on the social media and the deluded people in real life — friends, family, colleagues — who may be armed with false information and righteous indignation.

We wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t allowed our politicians to play with our sentiments, if we hadn’t tried to take shortcuts in our battle for identity politics. Stop it now. They are at your door.



Is BJP looking for NCP as a new partner?

Free Press Journal

Sep 12, 2017 07:23 am

The controversy over whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered National Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supria Sule a berth in his newly-reconstituted cabinet is nothing for BJP to be defensive about. With the Shiv Sena constantly bad-mouthing Modi and the BJP, the latter can hardly be faulted for looking for an alternative to Sena from Maharashtra.

Time and again, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has been causing acute embarrassment to the BJP which is its alliance partner by opposing its key policies like demonetisation of high value currency, the non-allotment of an additional berth in the Union Cabinet and on myriad other things. Uddhav and Shiv Sena have revelled in mocking at the BJP while continuing to be a junior partner in the coalition in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena leans on the BJP for survival in the municipal corporation in Mumbai but its acrimony towards Shiv Sena is open and vicious.

While Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says in the ‘Sena’ mouthpiece Saamna that Pawar had told him that Supriya Sule had indicated to Modi at a meeting between the three of them that she would be the last person to join the BJP, Ms Sule has flatly denied that she had any such meeting with Modi in the presence of her father Sharad Pawar and that she had said anything like this.

Uddhav Thackeray is peeved that the BJP does not give him the kind of mileage that he deserves as a coalition partner. Perhaps, that’s true. But can he force it out of the BJP especially when he is so scathing in criticizing Modi government’s policies. Uddhav can hardly lose track of the fact that the BJP and Shiv Sena had fought the electoral battle in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 separately after they parted ways and it was the first time the BJP was able to emerge much stronger. Again, in 2019, if the Shiv Sena ties with the BJP continue to be strained, such an eventuality may arise. Whatever the BJP may say, it is looking at an alliance with NCP if the alliance with Sena snaps again.



Demonetisation: Political gain, economic pain

 By A L I Chougule

Sep 12, 2017 07:18 am

Demonetisation of high value currency notes on November 8 was described by economists as ‘economic anarchy’.  The government projected it as a momentous fight against black money, terror funding and counterfeit currency. Whether demonetisation was a success or failure has been a subject of contentious debate. The government claims that it is a success as one of the principal objectives of demonetisation was to gradually bring down the quantum of cash in the system and an integration of the informal economy with the formal one. However, several prominent economists have called it a meaningless and painful exercise of ‘exchanging notes’ that gave a body blow to the economy. Drowned in the debate is the economic cost and significant under-achievement of original demonetisation objectives.

The government is loath to acknowledge that demonetisation came at a heavy cost. Economists had predicted the chilling effect of demonetisation on informal sector, agriculture, employment and growth. What the government is not willing to admit is: not only demonetisation was a failure, it wasn’t worth the kind of disruption the country and economy went through. Incidentally, not only the government was informed by the RBI about the potential cost and benefit of demonetisation, the central bank had also suggested alternatives to demonetisation which could achieve similar objectives. So, what was the cost of demonetisation? What did it achieve?

Politically, demonetisation was in perfect sync with Prime Minister Modi’s image of an anti-corruption crusader. People supported demonetisation out of genuine resentment against black money. Urging people to bear it all for the sake of nation to end corruption and black money was a great idea that connected brilliantly with ordinary people. Demonetisation received overwhelming support because people were made to believe that it was all for the good and came with high decibel noise and justification of its necessity to cleanse the system.   Another reason for widespread support was: people genuinely believed that demonetisation would extinguish black money menace permanently. It is why, despite changing narrative, the political cost of demonetisation was almost nothing for the government. On the contrary, the prime minister channelized people’s anger against black money into a definite gain for himself and his party.

But in economic terms it was an audacious blunder. One plausible reason for economic cost of demonetisation not getting required attention could be the absence of an international precedent or a credible economic theory to back demonetisation. Hence arriving at a definite figure was a long drawn out process. However, the consensus was that the impact on growth would be around 1 to 1.5 per cent of GDP. GDP data released by Central Statistics Office (CSO) on August 31 amply proves that demonetisation had a significant impact on growth in the last two quarters: 5.7 per cent in April to June quarter of FY-18, a three-year low, and 6.1 in January to March quarter, down from 7 per cent in the third quarter of 2016-17. This had an impact on the overall growth in 2016-17 at 7.1 per cent, against last year’s upwardly revised 8 per cent growth.

The immediate and dominant objective of demonetisation was neutralising black money. India has traditionally been a cash intensive economy. According to RBI estimates, 78 per cent of all consumer payments are done in cash. The currency in circulation before demonetisation was 12 per cent of GDP. The note ban invalidated 86.9 per cent of the total currency in circulation. Black economy was conservatively estimated to be around 20 per cent of GDP. As the stock of black money is not held in cash but wealth, black money in cash was conservatively estimated to be only around 2 to 3 per cent of currency in circulation. RBI’s annual report released on August 30 revealed that 99 per cent of the demonetised notes had been returned to the central bank. This number does not include the old notes deposited with District Central Cooperative Banks and the notes within Nepal. Thus the shortfall of Rs. 16,050 crore could be made up once these notes are returned to RBI. This invalidates the government’s earlier claim that a significant amount of currency – around Rs. 4 to 5 lakh crore – held by people would be neutralised.

As money flowed back into the system, the goalposts changed and digitisation became an emphatic theme of demonetisation. Migration from cash to digital payment is a very slow process, made even more sluggish by the convenience and preference of using cash. India is also largely a cash-based economy. Currently there are about 10 lakh outlets with 14.6 lakh electronic terminals accepting card payments. The average usage of plastic money in India is less than three transactions per user per year. While the number of cards is steadily rising, there is little doubt that India’s reliance on cash is overwhelming. Currency in the system, for instance, fell sharply between November and January, from Rs. 11,642 billion to Rs. 9,921 billion. During this period electronic payments, according to RBI data, peaked in December at 957.50 million transactions, compared with 671.49 million in November.

However, following the expansion in currency, there has been a decline in electronic payments from 893.89 million transactions in March to 862.38 million in July. This dip indicates that once sufficient currency was back in circulation, the system gradually started going back to the earlier equilibrium. The lesson here is that people were forced to migrate from cash to digital payment mainly because of cash drought and hence not sustainable in the long run as digital mode of payment is concomitant with economic development. Currently the currency in circulation, according to RBI, is Rs 15.6 lakh crore, against 17.9 lakh crore during pre-demonetisation days. This is 2.3 lakh crore or 12 per cent less than the earlier balance, hardly a gain that the government is claiming as an achievement.

Demonetisation had its pros and cons. It definitely gave the prime minister an image makeover.  But it also contracted economic activity in agriculture and informal sector, disrupted supply chain, dented growth and cost 15 lakh jobs. Significant drop in GDP growth and 99 per cent of banned notes returning to RBI are major indicators of demonetisation’s failure. While the original objectives of demonetisation were not achieved, added objectives could have been achieved through other means. Perhaps the most important benefit is the fear it has generated among non-compliers of indirect and direct taxes. As for formalisation of economy, more than demonetisation it is the GST which will speed up the process.



Inflection point in Kabul

By C. Raja Mohan

September 12, 2017 12:04 am

India’s current plans to intensify strategic cooperation with Afghanistan could well mark an inflection point in its regional security politics. If its approach to Afghanistan has long been marked by excessive caution, Delhi now seems ready to make bold.

India’s new activism in Afghanistan could turn out to be of a piece with its much acclaimed management of the recent Doklam crisis on the China frontier. Yet, there is no denying India’s manoeuvre in Doklam was essentially defensive. It was about raising the military and political costs for China and deterring Beijing from escalating the confrontation and persuading it to accept a negotiated settlement.

In Afghanistan, Delhi is entering a very different domain. It is now preparing for involvement in a conflict that is once removed from its own borders. The lack of geographic access has always reinforced independent India’s tentativeness in Afghanistan. The NDA government, led by Narendra Modi, seems open to testing the limits of that geographic constraint.

Delhi’s renewed activism comes at a moment when Kabul and its international partners are fighting with their backs to the wall. The Taliban, with its sanctuaries in Pakistan, has gained considerable ground in Afghanistan over the last few years. On the positive side of the ledger, President Donald Trump has certainly reaffirmed US military and political commitment to Afghanistan last month. But many fear that it might be too late to reverse the negative dynamic in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration is hoping that by mounting pressure on Pakistan to give up its support to the Taliban, it could alter the outcomes in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has reacted angrily, and has turned to China to counter the new US policy towards Afghanistan.

Although Delhi got Beijing to sign on to a statement at the BRICS forum last week demanding an end to terror sanctuaries in Pakistan, India knows that one swallow does not a summer make. Beijing is nowhere near abandoning Islamabad. As a rising power, China seeks to shape its periphery. It hopes to have a say in Afghanistan’s long-term political evolution in collaboration with the Pakistan army.

Kabul is certainly enthused by Trump’s decision to try and change Pakistan’s behaviour. But Kabul, like Delhi, will keep its fingers crossed on the tenacity and effectiveness of Trump’s commitment to Afghanistan. Both are deeply wary of the current political turbulence and policy volatility in Washington.

But unlike Delhi, Kabul is eager to enlist China for a larger role in Afghanistan. Given American uncertainties, Afghan leadership believes only China can now restrain Pakistan. Kabul also sees Beijing’s massive resources as critical for Afghanistan’s economic development.

India’s past partners against the Taliban in the late 1990s — Iran and Russia — are today looking at Afghanistan very differently. Both Tehran and Moscow see the Islamic State or Daesh as their main threat and have been engaging the Taliban. All these factors point to the challenging picture in Afghanistan.

Amidst this geopolitical churn, Delhi can no longer put Afghanistan’s economic and security problems in separate compartments. Thanks to a large American military presence in Afghanistan and a relatively peaceful environment after the US military forces ousted the Taliban at the end of 2001, it was possible for India to focus on the economy. Today the deteriorating security situation makes developmental work in Afghanistan harder. Even as it recalibrates India’s economic engagement with Afghanistan, Delhi must necessarily consider greater security cooperation with Kabul.

India had in fact signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan at the end of 2011 that called for expansive bilateral military cooperation. Despite the clamour from Kabul, Delhi seemed hesitant to move forward. Part of the problem was India’s sensitivity to Pakistan’s neuralgia about Delhi’s expanding role in Afghanistan.

The UPA government seemed to put the normalisation of relations with Islamabad above the logic of deepening military ties with Kabul. The Modi government is aware that its activism in Afghanistan will beget significant reaction from Pakistan. But Delhi may need to develop a new proposition — that substantive strategic engagement with Afghanistan is a necessary component of India’s Pakistan policy.

In the past, India’s regional policy was widely described as “reactive”. To be sure, there were major exceptions — Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s military intervention to liberate Bangladesh and her son and successor Rajiv Gandhi’s despatch of an Indian Peace-Keeping Force into Sri Lanka in 1987.

The series of weak coalition governments that followed Rajiv Gandhi had, however, made caution the dominant theme of India’s foreign policy. Although India’s potential to play a larger regional security role became a part of the national discourse during the UPA years, the Congress leadership seemed paralysed by self-doubt.

Modi, however, seems less inhibited. If the defiance of China in Doklam was one side of the coin, the new foray into Afghanistan could mark the other. The PM is betting that strategic rewards in Afghanistan might be as large as the risks. Delhi is realistic enough to know that it does not have the power to unilaterally define Afghanistan’s future. But India can certainly hope to develop some leverage and influence the outcomes in Afghanistan and the Subcontinent’s north-west through purposeful actions on the ground.



At Least Seven Dead After Shooting In North Texas

Daily Pioneer

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 | IANS | Washington

A gunman killed seven people at a home in the US state of Texas before he was shot dead by police, media reported.

The incident happened on Sunday night in Plano, a Dallas suburb. It is believed the shoot-out was prompted by a “domestic dispute” at the party for fans of NFL team the Dallas Cowboys, the US media reported.

Police spokesman David Tilley said the shooter was killed by the first responding officer after an exchange of gunfire.

Seven bodies were found in the house. Two others were wounded in the shoot-out and taken to a hospital, the authorities were quoted as saying by the New York Times.

The motive behind the shooting had not been established yet.

“That’s still unclear,” said Officer David Tilley, a spokesman for the Plano police. “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

The episode began a few minutes after 8 p.m., when the police received reports of shots fired at the house. “Our first responding officer heard gunshots, made entry in the house and confronted the suspect, ultimately shooting and killing the suspect,” Officer Tilley said.

One witness said she heard between 30 and 40 shots fired around 8 p.m. local time.



Why the Bullet Train project, whose foundation will be laid by PM Modi and Abe, is the key to transforming India

By  Shailesh Pathak

On the eve of the foundation laying of India’s first High Speed Rail (HSR or Bullet train), jointly by Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi, let us not forget a Railway board chairman from 1968-69 who reportedly said, ‘India does not need a Rajdhani Express. In a poor country such air conditioned trains are luxuries, best avoided.’

Thankfully he was overruled, and today we have Rajdhanis, Shatabdis, Durontos, Gatimaans and many other AC express trains. Similarly, when Maruti-Suzuki started producing cars in India, professional critics carped about how ‘poor India’ does not need more cars beyond the Ambassador and Premier Padmini. Today, after nearly three decades, Maruti has created lakhs of jobs for Indians and a thriving ecosystem of component suppliers in Gurgaon.

More recently, Delhi Metro has been attacked for being very expensive and elitist. But several studies have shown the Metro’s contribution to Delhi NCR’s job creation and development. The HSR project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is a similar paradigm shift for creating jobs for Indians. This would go on to become the first of the ‘diamond quadrilateral’ of bullet trains connecting major metro cities in India.

We’d see an entire ecosystem come up around manufacturing of locomotives and rolling stock for future bullet trains, as well as the entire component value-chain, with thousands of suppliers. ‘Make in India’ would get a fillip, and going forward India would manufacture and export bullet train technology hardware and software to other countries in the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, being promoted jointly by India and Japan. Perhaps most significantly, human capacities would be created in training and execution of large infrastructure projects in India and abroad.

Low-cost flying has enabled many Indians to switch from train to air. This has improved connectivity and business, but is quite regressive in ‘economic rate of return’. Short-haul flights use imported aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and are large carbon emitters, hurting the environment.

As an example, Mumbai-Delhi is perhaps one of the busiest air corridors in the world. If we can replace at least half these flights with HSR, there would be significant emission reductions. Strategically, imported ATF would be replaced by electricity produced within India. Such HSR trains would run from city centre to city centre, cutting down long airport commutes and lengthy security drills. This choice would be good for the Indian traveller.

The Shinkansen HSR was launched in Japan in 1964. With improvements, it is faster and better today. Initially developed by Japanese government entities, using state finances and borrowings, only in 1987 was the system handed over for operations and maintenance to JR (Japan Rail) companies. Shinkansen trains have perhaps the best safety record in HSR, and they are a treat to ride in.

Another country with a quick HSR rollout is China, which has developed about 22,000 km of HSR since 2007-08. I flew from Shanghai to Beijing in 2 hours 40 minutes, longer than Mumbai to Delhi. HSR trains take a mere 4 hours 29 minutes for the same distance. Imagine reaching Mumbai from Delhi in less than 5 hours by train, with attendant environmental benefits.

Add to that your cellphone and data in uninterrupted roaming, and getting to HSR station in the city centre quickly. Such HSR stations would be fully linked to multi-modal transit options, reducing private cars. On the Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR, cities chosen for brief stops would attain much quicker job creation.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR project will be a singular achievement for India. Japan has been our valued partner earlier, with Delhi Metro financing. Japan is now largely funding the HSR project, on extremely generous terms. It will be a technology and project execution demonstrator for Indian infrastructure professionals.

Many joint ventures between Japanese and Indian companies would emerge, as transfer of technology and training of trainers has already begun. Key learnings from HSR would translate into better execution for many other infrastructure sectors. The set of competencies created by this HSR project will contribute to a quicker and more robust process of building India.

In a few years, dear critics, we hope you will be riding the first of India’s many high speed trains, leaving your misgivings at the departure station.



Catch up time: Many states whittling down pendency of cases bodes well for justice system

Times of India

The success achieved by four states and one union territory in reducing cases pending for over 10 years in lower courts to less than 1% of total pendency is a significant achievement. Together these five – Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala – have just 11,000 cases pending for over 10 years against a corresponding national pendency count of 22.72 lakh cases. Of these, Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh are administered by the Punjab and Haryana high court. This is no overnight achievement but the result of unwavering focus over years.

For a decade, Punjab and Haryana HC has fixed annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases and criminal cases where accused is in custody for over two years. The action plans also reveal how the HC is perfecting its processes by shifting from monthly to quarterly review of judicial officers’ performance to curb malpractices like hasty disposal which undermine the quality of justice dispensed. Recent years also indicate a focus on narcotics related cases, a particularly trenchant problem in Punjab. This is how a dynamic justice system proves itself responsive to societal needs.

States like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi also recorded very low pendency of 10-year-old cases. The laggards – Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and Bengal – have some catching up to do. It is possible that these states have the highest number of vacant posts, poor infrastructure, and judicial recruitment examinations that do not match the standards set by better performing states. In this context the national district judge recruitment examination mooted by Supreme Court to raise quality of district judges and dispel perceptions of irregularities in judge selection deserve consideration.

Incremental measures like restricting adjournments, curbing summer vacations, and audio-visual recording of court proceedings along with real-time data monitoring of case status will produce a transformative effect. Ironically, it is at higher courts where answers to judicial pendency remain to be found. 28% of cases (1.06 lakh) pending in Punjab and Haryana HC are over 10 years old. Most HCs are in a similar situation but the Centre-SC standoff has stalled judicial appointments and depleted high court strengths. When justice is delayed it creates incentives to break the law. For ordinary people, lower courts are the first stop for justice. By raising the bar they make the Indian state work as it should.


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