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Bharatiya Jumla Party!

The Kashmir Monitor




By Subhash Gatade

“Change is in the air”!

A retired academic who had his last assignment as Vice Chancellor of a leading university said to me the other day, while we were discussing the contemporary political scenario. Frankly admitting that he had supported Modi’s candidature then and had even discreetly campaigned for him, during 2014 elections, he said that what a ‘disaster’ it has been these last four and half years to our polity with him at the helm of affairs.


What surprised me more was that he was from Eastern UP and belonged to one of the dominant upper castes in the region.

Interestingly ‘talk of change’ is not limited to the retired academic, this feeling is widespread. Talk to anyone on the street or listen to your fellow passengers on public transport and one can experience the change in the mood of the people.

Question arises why there is this perceptible change in the narrative despite the fact that media has largely – barring some significant exceptions – remained uncritical of the acts of commission and omission of the present dispensation and has opted to become what is derisively called as ‘embedded media’

The book under consideration “Truth in Fetters : Broken Promises and Shattered Unity’ written by renowned writer-activist Ram Puniyani – who has many books to his credit – and who has been very consistent in raising issues around secular politics, tries to answer this question.

Explaining the background of Modi’s ascent, how he was helped by a section of the Corporate houses and the media which created a ‘blitz in his favour’, how the propaganda of Gujarat Model of development caught the imagination of the people and how he benefitted from the Anna Hazare movement and even the Nirbhaya movement, he underlines how his ‘alluring promises’ – which were revealed to be basically ‘Jumlas’( gimmicks) to quote Amit Shah, President of BJP – helped him win the battle for Delhi and how under him power was increasingly concentrated and how under him benefits of corporates ‘’have become synonymous with development’( page 10). He shares a critical observation. ‘The lessons of four years of experience of Modi rule is a wake-up call for opposition parties to hang together, else the victim will be the very concept of democracy itself!’(Page 13)

The book is divided into eight sections and has thirty chapters is basically a collection of author’s articles which have appeared in different publications since ascent of Hindutva Supremacist forces led by Modi but it does provide an overview of the regime and how it faltered in delivering things despite getting comfortable majority.

The first section ‘Modi as Chowkidar’ tells how demonetisation ultimately helped the corporate world and unleashed untold miseries on ordinary people, explains how this ‘battle against black money’ as it was projected by Modi and Co. was based on a false premise :
Eighty per cent of the estimated black money is stashed away in overseas tax havens ; roughly 15 per cent of such wealth is in the real estate , gold and shares . Its only 5 % of money in the form of currency notes. It is to go after this 5 % that 86 % currency had been demonetised..(Page 18)

It also exposes how the likes of Neerav Modi – who ran away with Rs 11,300 crores and who was last seen in a group photograph with Modi at Davos ; Vijay Mallya, with 9,000 crores of bank dues and Lalit Modi escaped the dragnet of law machinery, thanks to their proximity with the ruling dispensation. This section ends with the poser to the ‘anti-corruption’ warriors’ like Hazare, Kejriwal who seem to be ‘sleeping when corruption of bigger order is in progress’ (Page 24) and once again brings forth the role of ‘RSS think tank Vivekananda International Centre’ and the full mobilisation planned by the BJP behind the Anna movement which brought the saffrons ‘rich political dividends’.

The second section IndianNation: Freedom Movement’ basically veers around the belittling of Nehru legacy and creating a false binary between Nehru and Patel. It is a different matter that Patel himself was very clear about it. In fact foreseeing that attempts would be made by interested quarters to drive a wedge between him and Nehru, he himself had categorically stated in Indore on 2 October 1950, just three months before his death:

Our leader is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Bapu appointed him his heir and successor during his lifetime and even declared it. It is the duty of the soldiers of Bapu that they abide by his orders. One who does not accept this order by heart would prove a sinner before god. I am not a disloyal soldier. For me it is unimportant what my place is. I only know that I am at that very place where Bapu asked me to stand.1
The author also tells that Patel had been very clear about the role of ‘Modi’s ideological parents – Hindu Mahasabha and RSS – in the murder of Gandhi and had said (Page 32)

“… as (a) result of the activities of these two bodies ( the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha), particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy become possible.. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the state.”2

We can also refer to his speech in Madras (1949), where he underlined how apart from other challenges before the nation the government was dealing with the ‘RSS movement’:

We in the government have been dealing with the RSS movement. They want that Hindu Rajya or Hindu culture should be imposed by force. No government can tolerate this. There are almost as many Muslims in this country as in the part that has been partitioned away.

We are not going to drive them away. It would be an evil day if we started that game, in spite of partition and whatever happens. We must understand that they are going to stay here and it is our obligation and our responsibility to make them feel that this is their country.3
The denigration of Nehru and glorification of Patel serves another dubious purpose for the Hindutva brigade. ‘As BJP’s ideological camp did not participate in the freedom movement, they do need an icon that was part of the freedom movement. This is why they want to iconise Sardar Patel’ (Page 32)

The third section titled ‘Hindu Nationalist Agenda’ deals with different themes ranging from the ‘Puzzle of RSS role in freedom movement’, attempts to ‘Change Constitution’ or questioning the idea of secularism, ‘RSS agenda in Education ‘and how with ascent of BJP not only ‘Scientific Temper has taken a hit’ but also one is witnessing ‘Death of Dissent’

No doubt much has been written about RSS’s non-participation in the freedom struggle or their Supremo’s instructions to cadres to keep themselves away from it (Page42- 43) what is less discussed how Atal Bihari Vajpayee, behaved during freedom struggle and how he had issued a ‘confessional statement in the court’ (Page 43) when he was arrested in the ‘Bateshwar incident’ which also helped him released from jail.

In the chapter ‘Gita, a Scriputre’ not National Book’ Ram discusses attempts by the BJP to elevate it to a book of philosophy rather than a religious scriptures ‘and explains how ‘Dharma spoken of in Gita is essentially Varnashram Dharma, which is a graded hierarchy, which is against the spirit of Indian Constitution’ and tells ‘State sponsoring a (Gita) festival is a violation of secular ethos. (Page 64). He also discusses how Ambedkar viewed Gita in his work ‘Philosophy of Hinduism’ and said ‘Bhagwat Gita is a Manusmriti in Nutshell’.

The section ‘History as Divisive Tool’ through various debates which have taken centrestage during these last four years – around Taj Mahal, film Padmavat or Tipu Sultan etc. – underlines how ‘With the Hindu Nationalist BJP in the seat of power, an exercise in history re-writing is being undertaken on lines parallel to what was done in Pakistan’ ( Page 79) whereas the section ‘The Communal Agenda’ taking up issues of killing of Afrazul Khan by Shambhu Lal Raigar, lynching for cow, opposition to organising Christmas fest etc discusses the growing communalisation of the polity and society.

“What has changed during last few years in the understanding of the likes of Shambhu and killer of Akhlaq, Pehlu, Juned or floggers of Una, is that they feel empowered due to the utterances from those in power. The subtle message percolated down is that it’s their government and they can get away with heinous crimes. When Central ministers come and put tricolour on the body of the accused of the murder of Akhlaq, what message will go down? (Page 105)

The last section focuses itself on the ‘Vilification of the Congress’ and the issue of ‘Left and Electoral Alliances’. Underlining the difficulties to ‘walk on the path of secularism in our country which has suffered the impact of ‘divide and rule policy’ the author makes an important point which needs further elaboration.

The present criticism of the Congress, it being called a Muslim party, it being called against Hindu interests, seems to be a continuation of the arguments which began with Hindu communalists in 1880s, via the articulations of Hindu Mahasabha-RSS-Godse, which have become intensified during last couple of decades.

Underlining the ‘strength of Hindu nationalist politics’ (Page 152) which broadly involved ‘consistent work of spreading ideology through RSS shakhas’ and the ‘state patronage of its activities’ and how the intensity of Hindutva has gone up during last four years which has inflicted severe damage ‘on the roots of democracy’ the author appeals to a section of the left that it should shun its old understanding vis-a-vis BJP and try to weave broader alliances to save democracy’.

A major strength of the book is the way it takes us to a tour of the last four years and explains how Modi magic slowly unravelled before us; although it has its own weaknesses as well. It does not deal with what experts term as the ‘growing isolation of the Modi regime’ even from its close neighbours.4the way its policies have shifted vis-a-vis its arch rival’ Pakistan or how even close neighbours like Sri Lanka are forced to say that RAW is planning to assassinate its President.5

Like all such collection of articles – which although give a flavour of the actual debates taking place around particular events – this book also suffers from a contemporaneity of sorts. One also wishes that the proof reading of the manuscript should have been more elegant to avoid some errors.

Truth In Fetters

Broken Promises Shattered Unity

Ram Puniyani

Media House, Delhi, 2018

Price 250

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Brazen statements on job shortage

The Kashmir Monitor



By Mihir Swarup Sharma

Back when Narendra Modi was just a candidate for the post of Prime Minister, he seemed to understand what India’s biggest problem was: jobs. He promised tens of millions of jobs would be created if he were voted to power – India’s unemployed young people would be transformed, he promised, into an army for development.

Four years later, this promise has turned into a weapon for the opposition. His predecessor, Manmohan Singh, pointed out last year that young Indians were “desperately waiting for the jobs that they were promised.”


The Modi government’s response has been typical: not harder work, not economic reform, but bluster. Two recent statements from senior ministers who should know better stand out. Piyush Goyal said that the large number of people who are lining up for jobs in the Railways that he oversees – over 15 million applied recently for a minuscule number of vacancies – did not in any way mean that there is a shortage of jobs in India. And Human Resources Minister Prakash Javadekar, whose job is indeed to prepare the Indian workforce for employment, has insisted that each and every sector in India has witnessed job opportunities. “We have to find out why people with post-graduate degrees apply for sweeper jobs in the government,” he said.

Well, minister, the answer is staring us all in the face: that there simply aren’t enough high-quality jobs available. Yes, even low-skilled government jobs provide security; but in a growing economy, the private sector should also be creating enough and better-paid jobs in such a way that security would be rendered irrelevant.

The fact is that when millions of Indians turn up for jobs that they are manifestly overqualified for, it cannot be seen as anything other than a failure of economic management on a massive scale.

There was not even the slightest remorse expressed by the ministers for whatever combination of circumstances may have arisen in the economy to cause this sort of desperation on the part of job-seekers. Nor was there an iota of compassion for these young job-seekers or a comprehension of the lack of choices they face.

Mr Javadekar even said that “people who do not work out of choice cannot be called unemployed”. Is it possible that Modi Sarkar imagines that everyone without employment prefers to watch things on their Jio phone rather than earn a living? It is impossible to overstate how out of touch that sentiment is. Even in the best case scenario, which is that the minister was referring only to the worrying decrease in the labour participation rate of women – fewer women in India are working, while in the test of the world more women worked as development progressed – it still reveals an inability to understand the real problems faced by job-seekers. If women are not going out to work, it is not out of “choice”. It is because neither law and order nor their social relations in their community have allowed them to do so. Is this not something a government should be concerned about – if, that is, it values half of India? Or should it just dismiss the crushing of womens’ aspirations as “their choice”?

The ministers complained that there was not enough data to prove that jobs were not being created. This seems to undercut various other claims made by government apologists that jobs are indeed being created – on the basis of the pension records kept by the provident funds, for example. Many economists have poked clear holes in this theory. At best, that reveals that under pressure from demonetization and the GST, some jobs are coming into the formal sector – but it does not reveal whether or not jobs are being created overall. While it is amusing to discover that not even the Modi government ministers believe its own propagandists, the politicians’ statements are still important. Their complaint about the lack of official data is shared by many.

Yet data is scarce, of course, for a very specific reason: the survey of unemployment in the country, conducted by the Labour Bureau every year from 2010 to 2016, was discontinued by the Union Labour Ministry – in a strange coincidence, the Survey showed sharp job losses after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power in 2014. So when the ministers – and earlier the Prime Minister himself – complain that there is no data on employment, what they should instead explain is why the government chose to stop collecting data on employment.

The reason, of course, is that this government does not want the release of any data that would reveal the true state of the economy. The manipulation of the backseries of GDP data revealed exactly how desperate it is to whitewash its unusually poor record.

The Modi government seems to believe that voters are comically stupid. That they will not only believe that jobs are being created, but also that mobs of people applying for a few government jobs is a sign of how many other jobs there are. That they will also believe that a lack of data that the government has itself organised can be replaced by earnest assurances from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet that large numbers of jobs have indeed been created.

The most reliable independent source for jobs data are the reports from the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, or CMIE. Their latest report, issued earlier this month, indicated that 11 million jobs had been lost in 2018. Think about that – 11 million jobs were lost, not created. This comes at a time when most economists believe that we need to create between 6 and 12 million jobs a year just to keep pace with the number of people entering the job market. Nor were previous years better – demonetization in particular wreaked havoc, costing millions of jobs.

There is little doubt, therefore, that Modi has failed to keep the promises that he made before being elected. The question is whether he will be held accountable for those promises. Perhaps if the Prime Minister or his colleagues had been open about their failures and accepted that they understood where they had gone wrong and how more jobs could be created going forward, they might have been able to retain some credibility. Instead, they have chosen to deny that a problem even exists and to pretend instead that the promises have been fulfilled. This is brazen even by the standards of Indian politics.

There are good reasons for greater urgency. India’s window to create high-quality manufacturing jobs – the sort that helped countries like China move up the income ladder – is closing. More and more processes are being automated, and the scope for mass manufacturing that takes in lower-skilled workers and gives them solid secure employment is narrowing. But the World Bank has insisted in a recent report that there is still enough time. Given its vast numbers of young people, it is India that should be benefiting from these last decades in which manufacturing will matter. But instead the government has failed to undertake genuine economic reform, relying instead on adulatory press handouts and ministerial statements – managing the headlines and not the economy, as Arun Shourie put it. India’s young people, lining up in their lakhs in the hope even of a job as a government sweeper, deserve better than this callous indifference to their fate.

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Is Rahul Gandhi emerging as a reliable brand?

The Kashmir Monitor



By Shuchi Bansal

The Congress’s recent victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have put the spotlight on its president Rahul Gandhi.

While an earlier column spoke of brand Modi and whether he has lost some of its sheen, little has been said on Rahul Gandhi and if he, as a brand, has come of age. Or whether, despite his party’s recent wins, it is too early to think of him as a dependable brand.


Interestingly, the resurgence of the Congress and that of Rahul Gandhi in particular seems to represent an almost textbook example of a challenger brand.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unexpected poor performance is also perhaps a classic case of what a market leader should avoid—complacence, overconfidence and petty-mindedness being on top of the list.

“While it’s true that Rahul Gandhi has a long way to go before he can match the perceived stature and the personal popularity of Narendra Modi, he has certainly been able to narrow the gap between them. I would say this is an outcome of some of his bold initiatives helped to a great extent by the missteps of the latter,” says Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting.

Dheeraj Sinha, managing director (India) and chief strategy officer (Asia) at Leo Burnett, agreed that Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a viable challenger with the recent wins in the Assembly elections.

However, he argues that challengers don’t win the game in India, leaders do. “Will Rahul be able to position himself as a viable leader of the country is the question. Just being a challenger won’t make it happen for the Congress,” he says.

Advertising veteran Sandeep Goyal who has done his doctorate in human brands, says that a challenger brand is defined by a mindset. It has ambitions larger than its conventional pool of resources and is prepared to do something bold. The most common narrative associated with the challenger brand is that of the underdog.

However, challenger brands are today more often focused on “what” they are challenging rather than “who” they are challenging.

“Rahul Gandhi is, therefore, by definition, truly a challenger brand. The important thing that everyone seems to be missing out on is that he is cleverly not really challenging Mr Modi but challenging incumbency, unfulfilled promises, growth agenda, and the performance of the current government, ‘mistakes’ like demonetization and GST (goods and service tax). In politics, these are really the ‘category drivers’. Rahul is also focusing on disenchantment/ unhappiness with jobs/economy, which is really challenging the ‘user experience’ with the current government,” says Goyal.

Sinha feels that Rahul’s underdog image helps him. He began his political career as a fumbling novice, which earned him the Pappu sobriquet.

“It’s because not much was expected of him is why his stock goes up every time he exceeds expectations, even for accomplishments that are less than extraordinary. On the other hand, his rival suffers a huge disadvantage for having set unrealistically high expectations, and whatever be his achievements, they are bound to fall short of the promise. This has no doubt negatively impacted both his credibility as well as popularity, which has helped Rahul Gandhi seize the narrative. When one starts at the bottom, the only way is up. The converse is equally true,” points out Sinha.

Brand Rahul seems to be gaining some traction. “His speeches have improved both in form and content. He is more consistent, more combative.

The hesitant, reluctant brand Rahul of yore is slowly but surely transforming into an astute leader who has pedigree and lineage,” feels Goyal.

Of course, none of this guarantees a defeat for the BJP, or a victory for the Congress, in this year’s general elections. Goyal says that as of now, brand Modi is stronger and better resourced, but beginning to fray at the edges.

Also, a bit hurt, if not bruised. In 2014, brand Modi epitomized “hope” and “progress.”

“In 2019, he cannot stand for Hindutva or Ram Temple or The Cow. That would be a big mistake. In 2014, brand Rahul was untested and nascent. In 2019, he is portraying himself as progressive, secular, empathetic and pedigreed… Both brands have their own appeal,” he says.

As Leo Burnett’s Sinha says, leadership brands need to appeal to the whole market.

Will brand Rahul be able to cover this distance from being a challenger brand to the leader brand in the next few months remains to be seen.

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Your waste: someone’s taste

The Kashmir Monitor



By Zeeshan Rasool Khan,

While we every other day listen to boastful claims that the country India is developing fast. It has become very difficult for most of us to accept the brute reality that here the people die because of hunger. Yes, death due to starvation is the unthinkable, reality of India. According to sources, about 14.9% of the Indian population is undernourished. Half of the world’s hungry live in India. Thousands are those who do not know if the next meal would be availed or not. Reports say, everyday 20 crore people have to hit the sack with an empty tummy. In the year 2018, many cases of hunger-death were reported in India. This bitter truth is being cloaked with bragging. Global Hunger Index 2018, which has placed India at a 103rd place out of 119 qualifying countries, is a testimony to this fact that India is not what media shows i.e., all is not well within the nation with respect to common masses. Howbeit, it is not any matter of berating the nation. There is no question of cutting anyone to size in connection with this issue. Instead, it demands serious contemplation from everyone irrespective of our positions in society.

One of the root causes of hunger is poverty that has been challenging to every developing country and India is no exception. Despite the reports of GHI, which says, the poverty level has reduced by 0.9 % since 2011 we must accept that our efforts have been too meagre to achieve any feat in this direction. Let us accept we have failed in defeating poverty. But, that does not mean we will rest on our laurels and let poverty-stricken die. If we cannot eradicate the gigantic issue of poverty but we have immense potential to secure poor. If we cannot build palaces for indigents, however, we can provide them shelter to hide at least. If we cannot raise their standard of living but there is no doubt that, we can mitigate their problems. Likewise, if we cannot provide them with sumptuous food, at least we can make sure that they will not sleep hungry, die due to hunger and starvation.


There is no dearth of food. Credible reports suggest that India produces sufficient food to feed its population. However, access to the available food is lacking. And this inaccessibility is partly due to low income of people and mostly due to our behaviour of wasting food. It has been estimated that nearly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted every year. This wastage starts from processing continues up to packing, supply management, and consumption.Due to imperfect packaging methods and inefficient supplying system, a considerable amount of food is lost. According to one estimate, about 40 percent of fruits and vegetables and 30 percent of cereals are wasted and do not reach the consumers because of improper packaging and supplying techniques. Prevalent ways of processing and subsequent supplying of paddy and other grains result into wastage of a part of it. Common Fruit growers know it better, while packaging, what quantity of fruits is wasted. Fully ripened fruit is often discarded as ‘rotten’ because of apprehensions about its transportation. Same is the case with vegetables and other foodstuffs.

These squandered grains, discarded fruit and vegetables make a large part of wasted food. Imagine if these grains, ripe fruit, and vegetable reach any poor, how great it would be. At the consumption stage, significant levels of food wastage occur. The gluttony, most people are indulged in is itself a form of wastage. Some people eat like a horse without thinking about health risks that overeating leads to. They keep on inviting ailments rather than getting any benefit but never cogitate, how by exercising moderation in eating we can help others. The excessive food that we take can easily become a morsel for a destitute.

Our weddings, events, restaurants, hostels, and houses are a major source of food wastage. At weddings, a huge amount of food is wasted. A large amount of food including multiple dishes are served, which results in leftovers that finally finds a place in trash bins. It would have been far better to have control mechanism at our weddings for prevention of food-wastage. However, even in absence of a mechanism, we can play a significant role in reducing wastage of food by best use of leftovers. Leftovers from weddings and even from our homes, restaurants, hostels, and hotels are often thrown away. But there is an option for us to make better use of it. We can recycle leftovers. We can make many other dishes from it, which can be used for the next meal. Massimo Botturra of Italy – the world’s best chef has come up with this innovative idea. He has founded the association namely ‘Food for Soul’ with the motive to fight food waste. He uses surplus food /leftovers productively to tackle food wastage and nourish poorest people of the city. Most of Hoteliers and restaurateur, across the world particularly India, have followed suit that is a good sign. Others, who are not aware of this idea, should imitate the same .So that more and more necessitous are benefited. In fact, using leftovers to feed the poor living in our vicinity would be one of the finest uses of leftovers. By this way the uneaten edibles from our homes, restaurants, etc. can fill the bellies of many and eliminate their hunger.

Efforts are on throughout India and fortunately, in our state too, to reach out the hunger struck population. No doubt, some NGO’s are working to utilize extra cooked food and give it to needier. But, the challenge is big and efforts are small. Broad-gauge efforts are required that must be started from the individual level. While processing, packaging, supplying, and consuming, utmost care needs to be taken to check the frittering. Through this mindfulness, we can preserve lot of food and can make it available to the poor. In addition, if everyone would refrain from wasting food and take care of penurious people of respective communities, we can ensure food availability for a maximum number of deprived people.

It is worth to mention, feeding hungry cannot obliterate hunger as it is related to several problems. However, we cannot deny the fact that hunger itself is the root of various other troubles. Hunger deprives a person from growth. It increases the vulnerability of a person to a myriad of complications, which can have an adverse impact on social, behavioural, emotional, and physical health of a person. Satisfying one’s hunger can make him eligible to earn livelihood otherwise his destiny is elimination. So, we must think logically to gain the best of both worlds.

(The writer can be reached at: [email protected])

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