Can India be First World?

We dream of leapfrogging to First World status, here’s how to do it in real life
By Sanjeev Sabhlok – What will it take for India to become a First World nation?

Such a question is about matters more important than mere economic growth.

It is about freedom, rule of law, justice, separation of religion and state. Such a question can reset our expectations and start a meaningful conversation about what we want to be as a nation.

It is time for us as a nation to step back and look at the big picture. The facts that face us are not pleasant.

Transparency International has ranked Indian governments as the most corrupt in the Asia-Pacific region. Our businesses, despite being one of the world’s best, continue to be let down by our governance system. We continue to rank close to the bottom on ease of doing business. We remain one of the least free countries in the world.

We do not protect private property. We do not have credible rule of law. The concept of justice is largely fictitious. There is very little infrastructure. Our school systems are dysfunctional. Vocational training is non-existent or of very low quality. And we continue to be one of the world’s poorest countries.

Second, we need to redesign our governance system. Today, neither ministers nor bureaucrats are accountable. They see themselves as rulers. We need to invert this mindset and hold our servant – the government – to account.

No First World country has India’s antediluvian, super-centralized IAS-type tenured service to govern everything. more> https://goo.gl/kjrftm

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At the root of all lynchings

Vigilantes don’t expect to be punished, victims don’t expect to get justice
By Amish Tripathi – Mob violence and vigilantism happens because the criminals expect to get away with it. Many victims don’t complain because they don’t expect justice to be done. And this happens because our criminal justice system is horribly inefficient.

According to government data, there are more than three crore cases pending in our judicial system. Justice VV Rao of Andhra Pradesh high court had said that at the normal rate of dispersal, it will take 320 years to clear the backlog in our courts! India is amongst the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of the percentage of under-trials as a proportion of total prisoners.

Many unfortunate people, who can’t possibly be tracked by TV studios in Mumbai and Delhi, continue to suffer systemic apathy.

This situation has led to the corruption of our society.

Why do the dis-empowered vote for criminals and strongmen?

Because they know that they will not get justice in a gummed up judicial system. So, the practical thing to do is to elect a strongman from your community and expect him/her to use political power to protect you.

The only long-term solution is a clean-up of the criminal justice system.

Police reforms (as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2006) must be implemented to give the force autonomy from political interference, better-trained and more manpower, and modern weapons. more> https://goo.gl/xf5pi7

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There’s no justice when the system damns the defenseless

By Shobhaa De – This is where the problem starts. It appears to be a clear case of a desperate man giving vent to his impotent rage against a terrible system that often indicts victims and finishes off their lives before they get the chance to prove their innocence. Dilip Pendse could well have been one such victim.

When something like this happens, you begin to wonder, what sort of a twisted and cruel system is this? And why do we as a nation not address the monumental problems our clogged courts create — especially for law-abiding citizens, often caught in a maze of legal issues that drag on for decades… and eventually cost a few their precious lives?

There are far too many elephants in the room right now. But we remain in denial, justifying and glossing over anything and everything that causes discomfort. Pending litigations take their toll on countless citizens, and yet we blithely talk about justice and how lucky we in India are, to have such a superb legal system and a Constitution that protects us. Technically and on paper, this is accurate. But the reality of our lives is entirely different.

We have become so accustomed to this atrocious system, we merely shrug when we come across another case getting hopelessly derailed, another person suffering because of legal shenanigans.

There is very little faith left in the intention and ability of the state to protect its own. more> https://goo.gl/SM6AfR

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Those who sow Hindu terror will reap Muslim terror

By SA Aiyar – A deadly mix of communalism and ultra-nationalism has stirred communal passions despite an absence of major riots. One more Muslim was killed by gau rakshaks in Jharkhand after Modi’s call for peace, showing how difficult it is to put the genie back into the bottle.

My fear is that, unless checked quickly, Hindu terror will be met with Muslim terror, and the country will go up in flames. If the state cannot protect Muslims, there is a high risk that they will devise their own armed squads for protection. Hindu-Muslim terror can escalate with the state a helpless spectator.

Modi wants to sell India to the world as a global manufacturing hub. That will not be possible if India’s fastest growing industry is lynch mobs. Economist Dani Rodrik has shown that the ability to manage internal conflicts is an important determinant of economic growth and prosperity. Since Independence, despite a thousand flaws, India has succeeded in managing its internal conflicts reasonably well, and reaped the corresponding social and economic dividends. That achievement is now in jeopardy. more> https://goo.gl/kGq4Fa

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Romeos to rakshaks: How violence became normal

By Pankaj Butalia – What neither the Prime Minister nor Rajiv Mehrishi will acknowledge is that hatred in human beings needs only a small trigger to turn violent — and the most effective violence is often self-righteous. So all the provocateur needs to do is provide a platform — it could be the train in 2002 or the cow in 2014. Once set in motion the instigator can easily disown his role in the affair.

A casual look at the emergence of new leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party over the past three decades reveals that violence has been the most effective stepping stone for many of them. There seems to be a pattern here whereby violence against disadvantaged groups, normally minorities, helps bring the individual to the notice of the party.

Once the goal is achieved, overt violence is renounced by the individual and we start to see the individual as a ‘normal politician’. The violence doesn’t end, however. It just gets outsourced to those lower in the hierarchy.

In 2002 this mantle of leadership through violence was taken up by the broad-shouldered Narendra Modi. By then he was a state chief minister and answerable to no one. He didn’t seem to have national ambitions and didn’t really care what the world thought of him as long as his core, aggressively Hindu-centric community didn’t desert him.

This changed once large corporate houses decided to back him as a ‘development man’ in 2011-12. Today, Modi is a statesman, above violence, and a man with a vision for the country. His image has a makeover. All violence is normalized. more> https://goo.gl/2Yv48h

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As parties out-Dalit each other, time to ask if we need a prez at all

By Shobhaa De – What the hell are these netas doing? What horrible games are they playing?

What will they tell the young of the nation when confronted?

That the next President of India will be appointed based solely on that dreaded ‘C-word’ — caste — forget any other qualification?

Caste has been India’s curse for centuries. Yes, of course we can’t wish it away. But surely we don’t have to brazenly endorse it and shamelessly manipulate caste issues in order to score political victories? As Indians, we desperately crave the watching world’s respect. We want India to be seated at the high table.

We talk about being a superpower. We send rockets into space and launch hundreds of satellites. We expect the world to gasp and applaud.

At the same time, we indulge in caste machinations of the lowest kind when it comes to the appointment of a person to the highest office in the land. We don’t feel embarrassed to openly discuss the ‘advantages’ of having a Dalit President. Without the slightest self-consciousness, we interject a ‘but’ into the dialogue (“Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit, but…”). What does that significant ‘but’ even mean? Why is it there?

Both individuals come with impressive educational and professional credentials. Why not focus on those? Why harp on their Dalit identity? As if there is nothing more to them than being born Dalit.

The time has come to seek a pan-India opinion poll on the vexing issue of continuing with this outdated and archaic ceremonial job.

Do we need a President at all? more> https://goo.gl/99WuPA

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If BJP wins 2019, will there be a 2024 election?

Don’t underestimate RSS opposition to the idea of India
By Salman Anees Soz – I believe RSS and BJP view the 2019 election as an important milestone in their desire to realize their long-standing dream of establishing a Hindu rashtra.

I believe the likelihood of India’s conversion to a Hindu rashtra has never been greater. Most government institutions are brittle. Indian democracy as we know it, stands at the precipice.

Two issues are of particular concern. First, there is very little acknowledgement of the possibility that there was always an alternative Hindutva idea of India and that it had significant support. Second, those of us opposed to Hindutva often do not look at the world from the perspective of its proponents. The game, however, has changed.

RSS is resolute in its “idea of India” as a quintessentially Hindu country. It has toiled hard for decades in pursuit of this vision. The Sangh Parivar has always had a core base of support. This leads me to believe that there was a section of Hindu society that felt aggrieved that after the creation of a country for Muslims, Hindus were denied their own country.

This grievance has simmered for decades as the Gandhi-Nehru vision prevailed and the first past the post system kept Hindutva forces from gaining power at the national level until 1998. The defeats of 2004 and 2009 delayed the project but the 2014 election finally provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Hindutva proponents. BJP had an aspirational narrative, an astute strategic approach, a compelling leader in Modi, boots on the ground and a real hunger for power. more> https://goo.gl/ZLj5b6

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India’s inward nuclear turn

It has taken 12 years for the Indo-US nuclear deal hype to give way to sober realism
By Brahma Chellaney – India, duped by its own hype over the nuclear deal, had announced plans to import Western reactors costing tens of billions of dollars. The Indian plans helped to motivate Toshiba to acquire Westinghouse – a takeover that ultimately proved a huge blunder, plunging Toshiba into a grave financial crisis.

Having invested considerable political capital in the vaunted Indo-US deal, India today confronts an embarrassing situation: the nuclear power promise is fading globally before New Delhi has signed a single reactor contract as part of that deal. To save face, India, with one of the world’s oldest nuclear energy program, has embarked on a major expansion of domestically designed power reactors.

Given that the Indian nuclear plant construction time frame averages seven years, India’s decision to ramp up its nuclear power capacity may contribute little to meeting its goal of making 24-hour electricity available to all villages and towns by 2022. But the decision will yield major economic dividends, including boosting domestic industry and creating tens of thousands of jobs. By providing $11 billion worth of likely manufacturing orders to Indian industry, the decision will help to transform the domestic nuclear industry.

In this light, the travails of the Indo-US deal may be a blessing in disguise for India. more> https://goo.gl/WXPswv

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Lessons from the ‘Chatur Bania’

Modi government should learn from Gandhi who never believed he had all the answers
By Sagarika Ghose – Today India’s government believes it has all the answers and is the sole repository of knowledge.

Self-doubt does not trouble the Narendra Modi-led dispensation, which firmly believes that it (and only it) knows what’s good for the people and, rather like Indira Gandhi’s sterilization program, the people have to simply be herded and goaded into obeying the mai-baap sarkar’s wishes.

Any questioning or disagreement is either plain wrong or agenda-driven or equivalent to treason.

On Aadhaar card too, Centre has made an ally of the courts to push its diktat that Aadhaar is a must while filing income tax returns. But was Aadhaar ever meant to be an instrument of fear or a device to dominate citizens’ lives? No, the limited aim of Aadhaar was simply to ensure better delivery for welfare schemes, not to be a regulator or inspector or a vehicle of surrendering private information.

The fact that Aadhaar amendments were pushed through as a money bill to avoid any discussion in Rajya Sabha shows that government had already made up its mind, was in no mood to listen or introspect or if need be change course. Like the religious fanatic who lives by absolute certainties, this government believes its knowledge is absolute. more> https://goo.gl/rvA9qD

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Modinomics rings hollow

Look beneath government hype, and signs of deep economic distress are evident
By Kapil Sibal – This government is in denial.

It believes that black economy has been given a fatal blow. At 7.1% India continues to be the fastest growing economy in the world. Spurt in public investment has created jobs. FDI flows are evidence of investors’ confidence in the growth story of India. Reforms have led to ease of doing business.

Let us critically examine each of these claims.

On November 8, when the prime minister announced demonetization of all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes freezing 86% of India’s economy. If this ill-thought decision was an attempt at eradicating unaccounted wealth then it failed miserably. Most cash is either invested in real estate, gold or is stashed abroad. Undisclosed cash in circulation represented only around 5% of unaccounted wealth.

Now that real estate is outside the GST net, cash will continue to be a factor in real estate transactions. What is alarming is that unaccounted cash entered the banking system and is slowly being withdrawn and reconverted into undisclosed cash.

Modi believes in seducing foreign investors in digitizing the economy, little realizing that most of India earns less than Rs 10,000 a month and seldom accesses digital platforms for bank transactions.

Record levels of Sensex, we all know, do not reflect the true state of the economy. With real estate giving no returns and interest rates down, the only option for investors is in equities. This is risky because once the bubble bursts investors will be badly hurt. more> https://goo.gl/PjHNHq

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