Monday, May 29, 2017

7th Pay Commission: Lavasa committee takes positive view on allowances, HRA

The meeting on allowances as per the 7th Pay Commission will be held on June between the Empowered Committee of Secretarites (E-CoS) and Arun Jaitley. With central government employees waiting for a key update on allowances, sources say that the Ashok Lavasa committee has taken a favourable view on sticking points such as House Rent Allowance and other allowances.
The central government employees have been complaining about an inordinate delay on an announcement regarding allowances. However government sources say that the process would speed up following the meeting with Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley on June.

The Ashok Lavasa committee has taken a favourable view on sticking points such as House Rent Allowance. The 7th Pay Commission had given its recommendation of reducing the HRA for Central Government employees, depending upon the type of cities they live in. For those living in metro cities, the Pay Panel suggested bringing down the HRA from 30 per cent to 24 per cent. it also suggested reducing the HRA for Central Government employees living in villages.

Most demands will be accepted

During a meeting of the National Joint Council Chief Shiv Gopal Mishra and the Cabinet Secretary it was informed that the demands would be reviewed. Mishra was informed that all the demands would be reviewed. An assurance that all the demands would be accepted was also made.

On arrears

The NJCA has raised doubts on whether the demands on arrears on higher allowances will be accepted by the government. There would be further discussions on this. Sources indicate that the central government employees may have to wait a few weeks more for a proper update on the same.

Anguish, grief and frustration

After the meeting the Cabinet Secretary, P K Sinha assured that the Empowered Committee of Secretaries (E-CoS) will go through the Ashok Lavasa report. The NJCA chief also gave a letter on inordinate delay in implementation of the report of the Ashok Lavasa-led Committee on

The NJCA chief and several other expressed their anguish over various pending demands such as minimum wages and revision of fitment formula. The Committee on Allowance headed by Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had submitted its review report to Arun Jaitley last month.

What next on 7th Pay Commission allowances

The 7th Pay Commission was constituted in 2014 and it was implemented in June 2016. The Cabinet Secretary has said that he has fixed June 1, 2017, for the perusal of the report of the Allowances Committee by the ECoS. Soon after a memorandum will be sent to the Cabinet for consideration. After the Ashok Lavasa committee submitted its report on an allowance, the ECoS is expected to hold a discussion to look into the demands on arrears and allowances and a demand of increase in minimum wage.
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BSNL plans satellite phone service for all in 2 years

NEW DELHI: State-run BSNL is planning to extend satellite phone services for all citizens in two years that can work at any corner of the country and remain immune to breakdown of mobile services during natural calamities.

"We have applied to International Maritime Organisation. It will take some time to complete the process. In 18-24 months, we will be in a position to open satellite phones service for citizens in a phased manner," BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.

Satellite phones will able to work in any part of the country, even inside flights and ships, as they depend on signals directly from satellites located about 35,700 kms above the earth.

Traditional mobile networks cover around 25-30 kms around towers and can transmit signals to phones placed equal to or below the height of the tower.

BSNL has started satellite phone service using INMARSAT service which will be initially offered to government agencies and later extended to citizens in a phased manner.

The service will cover areas where no networks are present and be provided by INMARSAT which has 14 satellites.

Agencies handling disasters, state police, railways, Border Security Force and other government agencies will be given the phones in the first phase.

"The number of satellite phone connections in India is very little but once we open it for citizens, the whole dynamics in the market will change. The volumes will bring down the cost of service. We are charging only Re 1 over the cost that satellite firm will bill to us," Shrivastava said.

Call rates on satellite phones are expected to be in the range of Rs 30-35 in the first phase when there are only about 4,600 connections in the country.

"Satellite phones also cost Rs 40,000 and more. All the satellite phones are imported at present. Once we open it for citizens, the volumes will drive down the cost of calls as well as handset. Even, huge volume can attract satellite phone manufacturers to set-up their unit in India. We expect it to create a new ecosystem of satellite services in the country," Shrivastava said.

Satellite phones in India are presently provided by Tata Communications, which inherited the licence from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (now Tata Communications Ltd).

The services of TCL will be phased out by June 30, 2017 and all the connections will be transferred to BSNL.

There are 1,532 authorised satellite phone connections that can operate within the country and a majority of them are used by security forces. TCL has also issued 4,143 permits to maritime community for use of such phones at ships.

There have been security concerns on use of satellite phones in India.

Telecom regulator Trai has said there is a possibility that communication through such phones can be monitored by foreign agencies as their gateways are located outside India, it added.

Cognizant layoff plea closed in favor of sacked staff: Govt

The Cognizant layoff case has been closed in favour of employees and the company has been asked to hold talks one—on—one to resolve the issue.
“We have closed the case in favour of affected employees and suggested the company management to continue everybody and hold one—on—one discussion to resolve the issue,” Telangana Joint Labour Commissioner Chandra Shekaram told PTI over phone from Hyderabad on Saturday.
As many as eight employees had filed petition with the labour department, complaining against Cognizant for forced resignation as the company went ahead with a performance—based human resource review.
“Yesterday [Friday], a team from Cognizant met the joint commissioner of labour in Hyderabad,” the Cognizant spokesperson said. “We reiterated that allegations about employees being forced to resign are totally unfounded.
Cognizant has not conducted any layoffs and changes resulting from the company’s performance review process are consistent with the standard practice that has been followed by the IT industry for many years.”
The labour department has also advised the company management to give one more opportunity for the petitioners to prove themselves, Shekaram said.
“We have also advised the management to give all eight employees one more opportunity to prove their mettle,” he added.
The labour department also has advised employees not to resign, Shekaram said.
“We have advised the employees not to tender resignation because once they did that they would lose their right to petition us or move labour courts. A sacked employee has all the right to contest his termination,” he argued.
Out of the eight petitioners, three had resigned and “we have asked them to withdraw their resignations” for contention.
“The company has also accepted considering revoking resignations of the three employees and engaging them in discussions,” he added.
The company has not been given any timeline to resolve the matter.
FITE, a representative body of employees working with IT companies and call centres, had alleged that the US—based firm is illegally terminating thousands of employees by forcing them to resign. It held that highly—paid experienced professionals are being replaced by those with lesser experience and lower pay.
To a query, Shekaram said that if the employees are still unhappy with the outcome of the discussions, they can revert to the labour department or move the labour court.
“If they revert to us, we will try to deal the case within the parameters of the Industrial Disputes Act and take stern action. If the company has been found violating, we will punish them,” he said.
“Generally, it is not easy to terminate an employee,” he warned.
Under fire for its ‘employee separation package’, Cognizant President Rajeev Mehta had said the company has not made any layoffs, but conducted performance reviews to reflect on the work of last year and ensure the goals for the subsequent year are clear.
He also contended that the software player had offered the employee separation package in India and the US for the first time, unlike its peers, who keep taking such steps regularly.
It has rolled out a ‘voluntary separation programme’ for directors, associate vice—presidents and senior V—Ps, offering them 6—9 months of salary to make way for the new generation to move up the chain.
 source: Hindu Business line 

Migration to 5G will be challenging for India: Experts

NEW DELHI: Aligning with the global markets for 5G technology will be a journey full of roadblocks for India, industry stakeholders and experts said and pointed out that backhaul will be a major challenge in the migration from existing networks to 5G with less than 20 per cent Indian networks running via fibre optic cables.”One of the fundamental requirements for 5G is strong backhaul, which is simply not there and that is the most time consuming part and it is extremely expensive in today’s condition in India,” Jalaj Choudhri, EVP, Reliance Communications said.Backhaul is a network that connects cells sites to central exchange. Even if India is able to circumvent the challenges of standardisation and 5G truly becomes available by 2020, yet a good 5G network cannot be expected unless we have a reliable and strong backhaul.In India, 80% of cell sites are connected through microwave backhaul, while under 20% sites are connected through fibre. Analysts say microwave backhaul has bandwidth issue since it uses traditional bands providing 300 Mbps of capacity, whereas fiber-based backhaul can offer unlimited capacity and low latency, a perquisite for 5G applications.”Fibre infrastructure has to be considered civic infrastructure rather than a property of the service provider. The investment has to be made through civic bodies so that service providers can actually leverage that infrastructure,” said Choudhri.Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei’s director, marketing and integrated solutions, Chandan Kumar, said that besides identifying a new spectrum for the Indian market and harmonising it with the global spectrum strategy, there is a need for a robust backhaul network.”We advocate that robust backhaul network is a must for 5G adoption. Otherwise, we will be ready technology-wise and spectrum-wise, but if our backhaul is not flexible and sufficiently available, that could be a bottleneck for 5G adoption,” Kumar said.Larry Paulson, President, Qualcomm India, said telecom operators here will need to make a business case judgement on what are the leading applications for 5G.Experts believe 5G technology will be a gateway of sorts for a truly connected society. It is slated to power a host of new-age services such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, Internet of Things (IoT), connected smart cities, self-driving cars, remote control surgery to virtual reality.Likewise, a 5G-powered IoT environment could enable someone to connect his home to a wireless network by embedding it with electronics, software or sensor technology. A typical example could be a remote operation of a house’s security system.”Under 20% of total towers are fiberised in India, while global benchmarks are much higher. Fiberisation of towers will be key to increasing backhaul capacity.Furthermore, installation of higher capacity microwave links where fibre laying is problematic also a solution,” said Rohan Dhamija, head for India and South Asia at Analysys Mason.The commercial launch of 5G technology is likely to take place around 2019-2020 globally. In India, field, content and application trials will start around 2018.
Read more: Migration to 5G will be challenging for India: Experts

How Did Savarkar, a Staunch Supporter of British Colonialism, Come to Be Known as ‘Veer’?

Not only did Savarkar pledge his allegiance to the British in return for being released from prison, his propagation of Hindutva hurt the freedom movement by dividing society along sectarian lines.Prime Minister Narendra Modi folding his hands in front of Savarkar's portrait on his birth anniversary in 2015. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsVinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) – mythologised in popular imagination as ‘Veer Savarkar’ – not only refrained from participating in the freedom struggle after the British released him from prison on account of his relentless pleas for mercy, but also actively collaborated with the English rulers to whom he had declared his loyalty.

At the time when Subhas Chandra Bose was raising his Indian National Army to confront the British in India, Savarkar helped the colonial government recruit lakhs of Indians into its armed forces. He further destabilised the freedom movement by pushing his Hindutva ideology, which deepened the communal divide at a time when a united front against colonial rule was needed. Post independence, Savarkar was also implicated in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder.
Such is the man who was declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be “the true son of Mother India and inspiration for many people”, in his Twitter salutation to Savarkar on his birth anniversary on May 28 last year. In 2015, commemorating Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary, the prime minister bowed before a portrait of the Hindutva icon in remembrance of “his indomitable spirit and invaluable contribution to India’s history”.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley was quick to follow up on the act. “Today, on birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar, let us remember & pay tribute to this great freedom fighter & social-political philosopher,” he tweeted. And somewhere in the stream of Twitter accolades from numerous BJP ministers that followed, the TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai joined the chorus, albeit with a caveat. While he disagreed “with his ideology”, Sardesai said he honoured Savarkar’s “spirit as freedom fighter”.
A freedom fighter he definitely was, for a certain period in the first decade of the previous century, long before he’d begun articulating the notion of Hindutva. Savarkar was then an atheist and a rationalist, who had started out on a revolutionary road to rid India of her colonial yoke, asserting:
“whenever the natural process of national and political evolution is violently suppressed by the force of wrong, the revolution must step in as a natural reaction and therefore ought to be welcomed as the only effective instrument to re-throne Truth and Right.”
On sailing to England to study law in 1906, Savarkar founded the Free India Society to organise Indian students studying in England to fight for independence. In a famous declaration before the society, he said:
“We must stop complaining about this British officer or that officer, this law or that law. There would be no end to that. Our movement must not be limited to being against any particular law, but it must be for acquiring the authority to make laws itself. In other words, we want absolute independence.”
However, when the time came to pay the price for being a revolutionary under an oppressive colonial government, Savarkar found himself converted and transformed into “the staunchest advocate of loyalty to the English government”, to use his own words. This was after he was arrested and sentenced to serve 50 years in the infamous Cellular Jail on the Andaman islands after he was found guilty of supplying the pistol that a member of the Abhinav Bharat Society used to assassinate the then collector of Nasik, A.M.T. Jackson, in 1909.
‘Veer’ Savarkar pleading with the British for mercy
Barely a month into the hardships of prison, Savarkar wrote his first mercy petition, which was rejected in 1911. The second mercy petition, which he wrote in 1913, starts with bitter complaints about other convicts from his party receiving better treatment than him:
“When I came here in 1911 June, I was along with the rest of the convicts of my party taken to the office of the Chief Commissioner. There I was classed as “D” meaning dangerous prisoner; the rest of the convicts were not classed as “D”. Then I had to pass full 6 months in solitary confinement. The other convicts had not… Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts who came with me were.
…For those who are term convicts the thing is different, but Sir, I have 50 years staring me in the face! How can I pull up moral energy enough to pass them in close confinement when even those concessions which the vilest of convicts can claim to smoothen their life are denied to me?”
Then, after confessing that he was misguided into taking the revolutionary road because of the “excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907”, he concluded his November 14, 1913 petition by assuring the British of his conscientious conversion. “[I]f the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me,” he wrote, “I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of… loyalty to the English government (emphasis added)”.
“Moreover,” he went on to say, making an offer which few freedom fighters could even think of making, “my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious..The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the paternal doors of the Government?”
In his fourth mercy petition, dated March 30, 1920, Savarkar told the British that under the threat of an invasion from the north by the “fanatic hordes of Asia” who were posing as “friends”, he was convinced that “every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally co-operate with the British people in the interests of India herself.”
After reassuring the colonial government that he was trying his “humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect,” Savarkar went on to exalt the English empire: “Such an Empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence”. “But”, he added:
“if the Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate… This or any pledge, e.g., of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release – any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother.”
Finally, after spending ten years in the cellular jail and writing many mercy petitions, Savarkar, along with his brother, was shifted to a prison in Ratnagiri in 1921, before his subsequent release in 1924 on the condition of the confinement of his movements to the Ratnagiri district and his non participation in political activities. These restrictions were lifted only in 1937.
Savarkar. Credit: Youtube
Savarkar. Credit: Youtube
Self-glorification of a defeated man
One might have argued in 1924 that the promises he made about his love and loyalty to the British, about his readiness to serve the government in any capacity required and so on were a part of a tactical ploy – perhaps one inspired by Shivaji – employed to make his way out of prison so that he could continue his freedom struggle. However, history has proven him to be a man of ‘honour’, who stood by the promise he made to the colonial government. How then, one might wonder, did Savarkar acquire the title ‘Veer’?
A book titled Life of Barrister Savarkar authored by Chitragupta was the first biography of Savarkar, published in 1926. Savarkar was glorified in this book for his courage and deemed a hero. And two decades after Savarkar’s death, when the second edition of this book was released in 1987 by the Veer Savarkar Prakashan, the official publisher of Savarkar’s writings, Ravindra Ramdas revealed in its preface that “Chitragupta is none other than Veer Savarkar”.
In this autobiography masquerading as a biography written by a different author, Savarkar assures the reader that:
“Savarkar is born hero, he could almost despise those who shirked duty for fear of consequences. If once he rightly or wrongly believed that a certain system of Government was iniquitous, he felt no scruples in devising means to eradicate the evil.”
Without mincing words in the name of modesty or moderating the use of adjectives in the name of literary minimalism, Savarkar wrote that Savarkar “seemed to posses no few distinctive marks of character, such as an amazing presence of mind, indomitable courage, unconquerable confidence in his capability to achieve great things”. “Who,” he asked about himself, “could help admiring his courage and presence of mind?”
Perhaps in polite society, we ought to quietly look the other way with an embarrassed smile when an ex-revolutionist, after breaking down in prison, indulges in self-glorification under the cover of a pen name after his release. And, indeed, no one who did not suffer the conditions the inmates of that infamous prison on the Andaman islands had to endure, can claim the right to castigate Savarkar for refusing to contribute to the freedom movement after he was released from jail.
But his purporting of an ideology which destabilised the freedom movement by deepening the divisions along sectarian lines and his active rendering of support to the British government – which was determined to subdue the anti-colonial struggle – was a betrayal that must be hard to forgive, especially for a ‘patriot’ and a ‘nationalist’.
Derailing the freedom movement with his Hindutva ideology
The sectarian mindset, which eventually culminated into the articulation of Hindutva ideology, was evident – as Jyotirmaya Sharma has demonstrated in Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism – in the early Savarkar, that too from a tender age. Only a boy of 12, Savarkar, leading a pack of his schoolmates, attacked a mosque in the aftermath of the Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay and Pune in 1894-95. Holding back the Muslim boys of the village using “knives, pins and foot rulers”, Savarkar and his friends mounted their attack, “showering stones on the mosque, shattering its windows and tiles”. Recollecting the incident, he later wrote, “We vandalised the mosque to our heart’s content and raised the flag of our bravery on it.” When the news of Hindus killing Muslims in the riots and its aftermath reached him, little Savarkar and his friends “would dance with joy”.
The sectarian nature of Savarkar’s social and political thinking not only bred in him a deep-rooted resentment against Muslims but also clouded his understanding of historical events, leading him to perceive the 1857 War of Indian Independence as a retaliation by Hindus and Muslims against Christianity, in response to Britain’s efforts to Christianise India. In his 1909 book, The War of Independence of 1857, published during his revolutionary days, years before he had declared his loyalty to the British government, Savarkar wrote, quoting Justin McCarthy, “The Mahomedan and the Hindu forgot their old religious antipathies to join against the Christian.”
What was to stop the British government, which had passed a law against the practice of Sati (widow burning), from meddling further with Hindu customs by passing a law against idolatry, he asked. After all, “[t]he English hated idolatry as much as they did suttee.” Describing a process he perceived to be the destruction of Hinduism and Islam in India, Savarkar wrote in his book::
“The Sirkar (government) had already begun to pass one law after another to destroy the foundations of the Hindu and Mahomedan religions. Railways had already been constructed, and carriages had been built in such a way as to offend the caste prejudices of the Hindus. The larger mission schools were being helped with huge grants from the Sirkar. Lord Canning himself distributed thousands of Rupees to every mission, and from this fact it is clear that the wish was strong in the heart of Lord Canning that all India should be Christian.”
The sepoys, according to Savarkar, were the primary targets in this mission to spread Christianity in India. “[I]f any Sepoy accepted the Christian religion he was praised loudly and treated honourably; and this Sepoy was promoted in the ranks and his salary increased, in the face of the superior merits of the other Sepoys!”
“Everywhere”, he argued, “there was a strong conviction that the Government had determined to destroy the religions of the country and make Christianity the paramount religion of the land”. By thus giving religion an unwarranted centrality in his analysis of the causes of the rebellion, Savarkar, says Jyotirmaya Sharma, expressed jubilation in his accounts of the rebellion “at every instance of a church being felled, a cross being smashed and every Christian being ‘sliced’.”
While the seeds of communalism had been sown in his mind at a very young age, the poison fruit of Hindutva ideology was to blossom only in his late 20s, after Savarkar’s will to fight the British (or the Christians, as he often referred to them in his book on the 1857 uprising) had been defeated during his imprisonment. It was during his last few years of imprisonment that Savarkar first articulated the concept of Hindutva in his book, Essentials of Hindutva, which was published in 1923 and reprinted as “Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?” in 1928. This ideology was a deeply divisive one which had the potential to distract attention from the British and cast it on Muslims instead.
While he was careful to specify that Hindutva, or ‘Hinduness’, was different from Hinduism and encompassed a wide range of cultures including, among others, the “Sanatanists, Satnamis, Sikhs, Aryas, Anaryas, Marathas and Madrasis, Brahmins and Panchamas”, he nonetheless made it a point to warn that it “would be straining the usage of words too much – we fear, to the point of breaking – if we call a Mohammedan a Hindu because of his being a resident of India.”
“Mohammedan or Christian communities”, he argued, “possess all the essential qualifications of Hindutva but one and that is that they do not look upon India as their Holyland”. A cohesive nation, according to Savarkar, can ideally be built only by those people who inhabit a country which is not only the land of their forefathers, but “also the land of their Gods and Angels, of Seers and Prophets; the scenes of whose history are also the scenes of their mythology.”
The love and loyalty of Muslims, he warned, “is, and must necessarily be divided between the land of their birth and the land of their Prophets… Mohammedans would naturally set the interests of their Holyland above those of their Motherland”. One might wonder whether this line of reasoning implies that Muslims cannot be nationals of Pakistan or Afghanistan either, because they would place the interests of Saudi Arabia, wherein lie Mecca and Madina, above the interests of their own country.
Back in the 1920s, the damage that could be done to the freedom movement by his ideology did not fail to come to the notice of the colonial government. Even though Savarkar was released on condition that he should not participate in political activities, he was allowed by the British to organise the Ratnagiri Mahasabha, which undertook what is in today’s lingo called “Ghar Wapsi” and played music in front of mosques while prayers were on.
He was also allowed to meet K.B. Hedgewar, a disillusioned Congressman, who, inspired by his ideology of Hindutva, intended to discuss with him a strategy for creating a Hindu Rashtra. A few months after this meeting, in September 1925, Hedgewar founded the RSS, a communal organisation which, like Savarkar, remained subservient to the British.
In spite of the blanket ban on political participation, Shamsul Islam pointed out:
“The British rulers naturally overlooked these political activities as the future of colonial rule in India rested on the communal divide and Savarkar was leaving no stone unturned in aggravating the Hindu-Muslim divide.”
Savarkar. Credit:
Savarkar. Credit:
Collaboration with the colonial government
Savarkar was elected as the president of Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, the year when the Indian National Congress won what we today call a landslide victory in the provincial elections, decimating both the Hindu Mahasabha and that other communal party, the Muslim League, which failed to form a government even in Muslim-majority regions. But just two years later, the Congress relinquished power in protest when, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared India to be at war with Germany without any consultation.
In September 1939, the working committee of the Congress declared that it would render support to Britain’s war efforts in her time of crisis only if the colonial government recognised India’s independence and “the right of her people to frame their constitution through a constituent assembly”. When dominion status was the last concession Linlithgow was willing to grant to India, the ministers of the Congress resigned in protest.
Quick to grab the opportunity, the very next month, Savarkar, in his capacity as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, met Linlithgow. In the report about the meeting sent to secretary of state, Linlithgow wrote:
“The situation, he [Savarkar] said, was that His Majesty’s government must now turn to the Hindus and work with their support…. Our interests were now the same and we must therefore work together… Our interests are so closely bound together, the essential thing is for Hinduism and Great Britain to be friends and the old antagonism was no longer necessary. The Hindu Mahasabha he went on to say favoured an unambiguous undertaking of Dominion status at the end of the war.”
Two months later, addressing the Mahasabha’s Calcutta session, Savarkar urged all universities, colleges and schools to “secure entry into military forces for youths in any and every way.” When Gandhi had launched his individual satyagraha the following year, Savarkar, at the Mahasabha session held in December 1940 in Madura, encouraged Hindu men to enlist in “various branches of British armed forces en masse.”
In 1941, taking advantage of the World War, Bose had begun raising an army to fight the British by recruiting Indian prisoners of war from the British army held by the Axis powers – efforts which eventually culminated in his invasion of British India with the help of the Japanese military. During this period, addressing the Hindu Mahasabha session at Bhagalpur in 1941, Savarkar told his followers:
“ must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies…Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”
In reciprocation, the British commander-in-chief, “expressed his grateful appreciation of the lead given by Barrister Savarkar in exhorting the Hindus to join the forces of the land with a view to defend India from enemy attacks,” according to Hindu Mahasabha archives perused by Shamsul Islam.
In response to the Quit India Movement launched in August 1942,  Savarkar instructed Hindu Sabhaites who were “members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army… to stick to their posts,” across the country. At that time, when Japan had conquered many Southeast Asian countries in India’s vicinity, Bose was making arrangements to go from Germany to Japan – from whose occupied territories the INA’s assault on British forces was launched in October the following year.
It was under these circumstances that Savarkar not only instructed those serving in the British army to ‘stick to their posts’, but had also been involved for years in “organising recruitment camps for the British armed forces which were to slaughter the cadres of INA in different parts of North-East later.” In one year alone, Savarkar had boasted in Madurai, one lakh Hindus were recruited into the British armed forces as a result of the Mahasabha’s efforts.
Even though the British Army, with which Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha were collaborating, managed to defeat Bose’s INA, the subsequent public trials of INA officers at the Red Fort roused in the Indian soldiers of the British armed forces a political conscience, which played a crucial role in triggering the Royal Indian Naval Mutiny in 1946, after which the decision was made by the British to leave India.
In coalition with the Muslim League when Pakistan resolution was passed
That Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha actively collaborated with the British may not be difficult to comprehend, since it is widely known that the Hindutva groups regarded Muslims, and not the British, as their primary enemies. What is likely to raise more eyebrows today is the collaboration of the Hindu Mahasabha with the Muslim League.
When the Congress leaders were arrested during the Quit India movement, the Hindu Mahasabha, still presided over by Savarkar, entered into a coalition with the Muslim League to run the governments in Sindh and Bengal – a move Savarkar justified as “practical politics” which calls for “advance through reasonable compromises”.
After all, in spite of the deeply-held conviction by Savarkar and his party that the Muslims – whose holy land lies in a foreign country – cannot be regarded as Indian nationals, the Hindu Mahasabha nevertheless had a great deal in common with the Muslim League. Both parties made no contribution to the struggle for independence from the colonising empire and both were communal parties whose ideologies antagonised the prospects of India remaining undivided after independence.
Even after the Sindh assembly passed a resolution in 1943 demanding that Pakistan be carved out of India as a separate state for the Muslims, the Mahasabha ministers continued to hold their positions in the coalition government. Not entirely surprising, given that Savarkar had put forth his two-nation theory “a clear sixteen years before the Muslim League embraced the idea of the Hindus and the Muslims as two distinctive nations and demanded the division of India.” And when India was eventually partitioned, Savarkar blamed Gandhi for allowing Pakistan to break away from India, an accusation that stoked the fires of hatred against Gandhi among many of his close devotees, including his ‘lieutenant’ – Nathuram Godse.
The second part of this series will focus on Savarkar’s role in Gandhi’s assassination.
Pavan Kulkarni is a freelance journalist. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Three Years of Modi Management: The Numbers Don’t Tell a Good Story.

However much Modi tries to convince people that things are better today than in the pre-NDA era, his government has struggled to make lasting progress in most areas of India’s political economy.
If one simply goes by the key economic data released by the Modi government, the performance of the NDA over the last three years has been subpar. We are far from experiencing the achhe din Modi had promised in his election speeches in early 2014. Even after “refining” the methodology for calculating GDP and Index of Industrial Production the Modi government has ended up making the last two years of UPA look better and its own three years much worse. Remember, just a few months after taking charge, finance minister Arun Jaitley had confidently proclaimed that the economy had bottomed out and was on a rising trajectory. Three years later, most independent estimates of GDP growth for 2016-17 are about the same or even lower than the worst year of economic growth (6.9%) under UPA in 2013-14 when despondency was the dominant sentiment. The BJP, in its run-up to the 2014 elections, had heavily exploited this fact and raised the slogan of achhe din in its election campaign.
As things stand today, additional job creation in the organised sector under NDA has been less than half of what was experienced in the last three years of UPA. The Modi government is most embarrassed about this data released every quarter by the labour ministry. When the BJP president Amit Shah was pointedly asked about the sharp slowdown in the formal sector jobs in a press conference called to discuss NDA’s achievements, his reply was less than satisfactory. “It is impossible to provide jobs for 125 crores people … self-employment is a big source of employment,” Shah was reported as saying.
An uncharitable interpretation of Shah’s statements could be that most Indians in the job market must fend for themselves. Indeed, data does suggest that nearly 50% of incremental employment in recent decades has come from the ranks of the self-employed. This is mostly in the unorganised sector which constitutes about 85% of the total workforce of 480 million. No study has empirically determined the quality of self-employment in India though the skill development ministry believes only 5% of the total workforce has formal skills. One can well imagine the quality of the remaining 95% of the workforce.
The larger point is that the NDA government in its three years has not been able to reverse the status quo represented by jobless growth. The government has made an astonishing claim that the Mudra Bank loans of Rs 3.15 lakh crore disbursed to 7.5 crore poor must be seen as providing self-employment. The only problem here is that a substantial part of this portfolio was pre-existing and transferred to Mudra Bank from other public sector banks. Besides, many individuals who have borrowed up to Rs 5 lakhs from Mudra Bank were already in the self-employed category. And their commercial activity may not be big enough to provide jobs to others.
However much Modi draws upon his considerable communication skills to convince people that things are better today than in the pre-NDA era, the stark truth of worsening joblessness is not easy to counter.
Agriculture U-turn
Another sector where data clearly points to a worsening situation is agriculture. According to Ashok Gulati, the agriculture economist, “The three years of the NDA produced 1.7% growth in agriculture. In the last three years of the UPA, agriculture sector grew by 3.5%. Of course, NDA was unlucky to experience two back to back droughts in its tenure.” The fact, however, remains that Modi made a huge promise of ensuring 50% profit over costs to all farmers. A promise that his government has not been able to keep. Later, the agriculture ministry scaled down its commitment by saying farmer’s income would be doubled by 2022. This would mean at least 10-12% growth in their income every year until 2022. Recently, the Niti Aayog has said even this will be difficult to achieve because farmer incomes have hardly shown any significant growth over the last three years.
Other leading indicators also suggest that the economy is yet to show a secular, upward growth trajectory. Bank credit growth in the last six months since November has been around 4% and this is the lowest recorded in 60 years. We were told bank credit would improve dramatically after remonetisation as banks were flush with deposits. That does not seem to be happening simply because there is little demand in the economy. Private investment is still to pick up in three years of the NDA even though the government departments such as roads and railways have substantially upped their infrastructure spending. The Keynesian logic of public sector spending crowding in private sector investment had not happened so far.
In an article in Business Standard, Vinayak Chatterjee, a leading infrastructure consultant, has said overall infrastructure spending as a ratio of GDP is falling short by close to 4% of GDP annually in the 12th plan period (2012-2017). A shortfall of 4% of GDP works out to $80 billion or Rs 5 lakh crore annually. This is entirely due to the withdrawal of the private sector from infrastructure. This is largely because the bulk of the big infrastructure providing companies in India are among the 50 large groups who owe the Indian banks an outstanding debt of over Rs 10 lakh crore.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley recently said the problem created by these 50 companies had caused a paralysis in the activities of public sector banks. The NDA has delayed fixing this problem for three years and only recently it passed an ordinance empowering the RBI to deal with these business groups who fund elections of both Congress and BJP. The messy and corrupt political economy of the large bank defaults by corporates is still to unfold before our eyes. In its three years, all the NDA has done is to postpone dealing with this problem by simply blaming it all on the UPA. During this period the size of the problem loans has nearly doubled.
Since private investment has not been forthcoming, the slogan of ‘Make-in-India’ too remains unrealised. The NDA would find it difficult to name just a few billion dollar plus greenfield projects that have come in the stream. The claim of $45 billion plus foreign investment in 2016-17 is substantially in the form of acquisitions and takeovers of existing ventures by foreign companies. For instance, in 2016-17, the biggest chunk of FDI is in the form of the $13 billion acquisition of the Essar refinery by a Russian oil company. There are similar acquisitions in the new economy space.
Black economy and GST
Another claim by the NDA was to clean up the black economy. After several stringent measures such as passing a law to bring back illegal money from abroad and coming out with multiple income declaration schemes in 2016-17, aided by demonetisation, the government doesn’t seem to have collected much by way of taxes on undeclared incomes. The outcome of these measures must be weighed against the serious damage done to India’s informal sector by demonetisation. The NDA is still in denial about the loss of output and employment caused in the informal sector. Meanwhile, one still finds it difficult to sell property and receive 100% cheque payment anywhere in India.
For the first time since independence, a tax was named after the prime minister (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Cess), under which people who had deposited their 500/1000 notes in the banks could declare black income and then pay up 50% of that as tax. At the end of the exercise, the government has collected less than Rs 2,500 crore until March 31, 2017.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is another disruptive reform whose benefits will flow depending on the way it is implemented. Coming as it does just when the negative effects of demonetisation are yet to fully recede, one will have to see what impact it has on small businesses and traders. The government is worried that GST could cause inflation if businesses don’t pass on the benefits of lower tax to the consumers. After all, a lower inflation rate of 3-4% has been one achievement which the government would not want to fritter away.
Overall, in his three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been hugely disruptive in his approach to the political economy. He has deliberately chosen to be so in the name of pushing for “transformative change”. But the prime minister has stopped short of real transformation when it comes to making political party funding totally transparent. Party ideologues like Ram Madhav argue that the people of India are participating in Modi’s transformative ideas (demonetisation) even if they have to make sacrifices for it. Sympathetic columnist and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta has said that Modi’s complex ideas seeking fundamental change are still a “work in progress”.
One doesn’t know how these disruptive forces, social and economic, will play out in the future. The very people who are willing to make sacrifices by reposing faith in Modi could start asking questions at a later stage. After all, some of the most popular leaders in history have had to face such questions from time to time. Modi should be no exception.