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QBullet: Modi Calls for Vikas, F-16s Part of Make in India & More

The day’s top stories, fresh off the press

Updated
India
8 min read
BJP’s leadership at the party’s National Executive in Delhi. (Photo: IANS)

1. Modi Calls for Vikas, Venkaiah Calls PM “God’s Gift to India”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called on party workers to focus on development and asked them to not to be diverted by non-issues as the two-day BJP national executive meeting decided on a roadmap to reach out to Dalits as well as rural and farm communities.

We need to focus on our own agenda. Let’s not get trapped by the Opposition. Vikas, vikas, vikas (development) is my only focus and it is our country’s solution to all problems.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley kept the ‘anti-national’ issue alive by affirming that nationalism was an article of faith for the BJP. The BJP also decided that the PM would visit Mhow in Madhya Pradesh (BR Ambedkar’s birthplace) in a bid to woo Dalit voters and focus on the upliftment of farmers.

While PM Modi spoke of vikas, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu called him “god’s gift to India” and a “messiah for the poor”. He also pointed out that a wax statue of the PM was being put in place at the Madame Tussaud’s Museum as he moved a political resolution.

While BJP has hailed its past and present members from time to time at party meetings, it is possibly a first that someone has been called “god’s gift”, that too in his presence. When Home Minister Rajnath Singh was asked about the reaction of BJP members to Naidu’s remark, he said, “I have not heard Naiduji’s speech.”
Report in The Times of India
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2. Embracing America’s War Machines: F-16 May Roll Out of Indian Factory

F-16 fighter jet. (Photo: iStockphoto)
F-16 fighter jet. (Photo: iStockphoto)

India was not happy last month when the US decided to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter jets. But now, according to a report by The Hindu, India may be able to undercut Pakistan strategically and manage a feather in its ‘Make in India’ cap.

Lockheed Martin, the US arms manufacturer that makes the plane, has said that it is in talks with the US government, the Indian government and Indian companies about “potential new production F-16 aircraft to address India’s fighter recapitalisation requirements.”

The question for India is whether the huge cost of such a deal is outweighed by economic and strategic implications.

For India, the calculus underlying any decision to accept Lockheed Martin’s presumed offer, which could come as soon as April 2016 given that it would then coincide with the visit to India of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, is complex and multi-dimensional. In terms of economics, the principal concern is that the F-16 is now in some senses going out of vogue in the developed world, and the US’ defence production appears to be increasingly leaning towards the far more advanced, stealth-capable F-35. In this context wouldn’t it seem more prudent for the Indian Air Force to continue relying on the Sukhoi and MiG platforms and the expected incoming 36 Rafales and then cover any shortfall in capability with the indigenous Tejas?
Report in The Hindu

3. Rajputs in UP Seek OBC Tag for Quota

First, it was the Patidars, then the Jats and now Rajputs have asked to be included in the OBC category in Uttar Pradesh so they can be eligible for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs. Members of the ‘martial’ community in Bijnor raised the demand.

Rajputs account for 7 percent of UP’s population. Many sections of Rajputs are extremely backward and need to be integrated with the mainstream. We will organise massive protests in the state (for quota). However, before we go on the streets, a delegation from the community will meet CM Akhilesh Yadav.
Devendra Kumar, Member, Rawa Rajput Sewa Samiti to The Times of India
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4. IAF to Evaluate Key Failures During ‘Iron Fist’ at Pokhran

IAF light combat aircraft “Tejas” taxies on the tarmac during the “Aero India 2015” (Photo: Reuters)
IAF light combat aircraft “Tejas” taxies on the tarmac during the “Aero India 2015” (Photo: Reuters)

Weapons not striking targets under simulated conditions are a major source of concern and the Indian Air Force (IAF) will critically evaluate why two targets were missed during an important training exercise on 18 March.

A US-made Paveway Laser Guided Bomb and the Soviet origin OSA AK-M surface-to-air missile both failed to hit their target during ‘Iron Fist’, an exercise held every three years to act as a deterrent, according to Hindustan Times.

Weapons not striking targets under controlled conditions are a cause of concern, but an IAF source said the possibility of 10 percent of weapons not functioning was built into the tactical planning process.
Report in Hindustan Times

5. Celebs in Kerala CPM’s Sight, Workers Upset

A file photo of CPI-M supporters. (Photo: Reuters)
A file photo of CPI-M supporters. (Photo: Reuters)

The CPI(M) wants to try out a new formula after Malayali actor Innocent beat Congress veteran PC Chacko during the Lok Sabha elections with its support. Party workers though, are not a happy with the decision to field celebrity candidates and are taking to the streets make their displeasure known.

Actress KPAC Lalitha, actor Mukesh and TV journalist Veena George are in the provisional list of CPI(M)’s candidates for the upcoming assembly elections.

On Sunday, activists of the CPM and its youth wing DYFI took out a march at Vadakkanchery, Thrissur, against the move to field Lalitha. They demanded a candidate who knows the pulse of the constituency. The protests came in spite of the party having warned of action against those working against the leadership’s directives.
Report in The Indian Express
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6. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, His Mantris Spent Rs 567 cr on Foreign Trips in 2015-16

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) with French President Francois Hollande (R) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 10 April 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) with French President Francois Hollande (R) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 10 April 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Budget documents show an 80 percent rise in the cost of foreign trips undertaken by Prime Minister Modi and his ministers. The total expenses estimated in the last went up by over Rs 269 crore. While PM Modi boasts of a leaner Cabinet than Manmohan Singh, the expense on foreign trips has been far greater. However, the PM has promised to spend less on his trips.

The UPA-2 Cabinet and its PM spent almost Rs 1,500 crore on travel between 2009-10 and 2013-14. In comparison, the travel bill of the NDA government in three years (between 2014-15 and 2016-17) is estimated at Rs 1,140 crore. The PM, however, has pledged to slash his expenditure on foreign trips by over 54 percent in the next financial year which will restore it to the level of UPA’s expenditure towards the end of its term in 2014.The travel bill of the Cabinet and the PM includes expenditure on travel by ministers, ministers of state and ex-PMs and the aircraft used by VVIPs — the PM, President and Vice-President.
Article in The Times of India

7. Quenching Our Thirst: The Only Sustainable Solution Is Mass Movements, Writes Vasundhara Raje

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. (Photo: Reuters)
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. (Photo: Reuters)

Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje has penned an article in The Times of India talking about the water crisis facing the country and particularly her home state Rajasthan. While Rajasthan has 6 percent of the country’s population, it on has 1 percent of its water supply.

Much of the article deals with the issue in broad strokes.

My passion for this issue is magnified by its close connection to gender and health issues; when you have to walk many kilometres to access drinking water for the family, guess who has to make the trip? 
Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje in The Times of India

However, Raje does give a specific solution, albeit from one of her own policies – the Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan.

The Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan includes the government, individuals, corporates, social, religious and caste organisations in aiming to make 3,529 villages self-sufficient in water over six months and 21,000 over four years. The areas were selected by remote sensing and mapping; the programme will seek contributions in cash, kind and labour; and the nature of conservation work will be customised from a menu of 106 different kinds of work by taking stock of the usage of water like for drinking, irrigation, livestock and other commercial purposes. This needs integrated thinking around soil moisture and surface, ground and rain water; this needs making running water walk, walking water crawl, crawling water stand and standing water percolate.
Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje in The Times of India
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8. India Is More Nationalistic Than Bharat Mata

(Photo: iStockphoto)
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Nationalism in India is growing, but not in the way some people think, according to columnist Manu Joseph. In an op-ed in the Hindustan Times, Joseph argues that a more nuanced and complex nationalism has taken root.

Not a long time ago, an Indian street protest would feature laughing men waving to television cameras. But now street demonstrations are serious, and they involve most sections of society. Also, every day common citizens are educating the poor, fighting with municipalities, taking on builders and politicians. One day, there might even be lane discipline, who knows.
Op-ed in Hindustan Times
RSS’ trademark khaki shorts. (Photo: Reuters)
RSS’ trademark khaki shorts. (Photo: Reuters)

Joseph argues that even the RSS, the ultimate symbol of regression and reaction to many liberals, is acknowledging this fact and changing with the times.

The seeming transformation of the most influential of all Patriots, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is a recognition of the changing ideas of nationalism. The RSS will soon abandon its traditional shorts. The Sangh’s push against the decriminalisation of homosexuality, too, is an acceptance that nationalism and modernity need not be arch-enemies. But it is still caught in an archaic form of nationalism that deals in cows and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
Op-ed in Hindustan Times

9. Polls for PM in Exile: Tibetans Flock to Majnu Ka Tilla to Make Their Vote Count

Tibetan student outside Chinese Embassy in India (Photo: ANI)
Tibetan student outside Chinese Embassy in India (Photo: ANI)

There was a prime-ministerial election in Delhi and you may not even have heard about it. Thousands of Tibetans-in-exile flocked to four polling booths in the capital to cast their vote for ‘Sikyong’ or prime minister.

Leyki Dorjee Tsangla, settlement officer (Delhi), said there are 2,054 registered Tibetan voters in Delhi. However, any Tibetan with a valid green book from any part of India would be allowed to cast their vote at any polling station. “Polling was carried out from 9 am to 5 pm at four centres in Delhi including Majnu ka Tilla, Buddha Vihar, Lajpat Nagar and Youth Hostel, Rohini,” said Tsangla. 
Report in The Indian Express

Voters included third-generation exiles born in Delhi and those who came to India in 1958, fleeing Chinese persecution.

Education is important but we also need a leader with experience. We have been in exile for years. We want our country back
Karma Dorjee (68) in India since 1962
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