Forget Davos Rhetoric, ‘Protectionist’ India Is Nowhere Near a Global Leader
SA Aiyar responds to the question of whether India is set to become a global leader in the 21st century in his column in The Times of India. Responding with a definite no, he explains that even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have harped on about the virtues of open economies at Davos, in India he has imposed a series of import duties on several goods, especially electronic goods.
The logic, according to him, is to follow China’s model of first using protection and subsidies to create large-scale factories and then dominate the global market. Aiyar, however, reminds us that there is no guarantee of such a happy outcome, given Indian policy interventions.
“India is still a poor, under-developed country, internally riven over what social and economic vision it should have for itself, with barely a thought about developing a new vision for the world. Regardless of Modi’s defence of globalisation at Davos, India is instinctively protectionist. Unlike a true globaliser, it does not see imports as a welcome way to get cheap goods from the rest of the world: it sees them as a threat to Indian employment, production and prosperity. It has long been world number one in anti-dumping duties, keeping company with Donald Trump.”
Fifth Column: Surreal India
Tavleen Singh, who usually writes in defence of Prime Minister Modi and his government, is aghast at the atmosphere of latent menace and terror in the country, especially with a video of Karni Sena attacking a school bus. They’re not a political party, they’re terrorists, she insists in The Indian Express, and goes on to point out that while there are instances of cow vigilantism and lynchings of Muslim and Dalits, Modi’s inviting Athiti Devo Bhava and globalisation speech at Davos was strangely surreal and jarring. A little bit like a horror movie, she says.
“The sickening attack by Karni Sena hoodlums on a school bus last week had a surreal quality when seen from Davos. Our Prime Minister had just left after giving a speech whose gist was that from ancient times India has believed that the world was one single family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. In a conference whose theme was building bridges in a fractured world, these words of ancient wisdom had real resonance. Then came those images of small children screaming in terror as their teachers urged them to hide under the seats of their bus to escape the stones and glass from broken windows. If the teachers had not been speaking in Hindi, I would have found it hard to believe that the attack was in India and not in some war-ravaged African country.”
Satyapal Singh Should Be Moved Out of HRD Ministry
Karan Thapar has simply had it with Satyapal Singh, Minister for Human Resource Development, who dissed the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. Writing for Hindustan Times, Thapar explains in point form with much patience why Singh doesn’t deserve to continue on as the Minister for HRD, including a serious breach of his constitutional duty.
“Finally, the minister is also in breach of his constitutional duty. Article 51A (h) states it’s “the duty of every citizen to develop a scientific temper.” Clearly Satyapal Singh is in breach of this requirement, not just as education minister and an MP but also as a citizen. So, should he continue in government?”
New Jobs: The 70 Lakh Boast
P Chidamabaram dissects, in The Indian Express, professor Pulak Ghosh and Dr Soumya Kanti Ghosh’s (academic) claim that 70 lakh new ‘payroll’ jobs will be created in India in the organised sector in 2017-18. He explains what exactly it will take to achieve this mammoth goal and also questions how the academicians have arrived at this figure in the first place. He doesn’t dismiss it entirely – he calls it ‘interesting’ but makes clear in no uncertain terms that it is just a bluff as of now until more research and study is done about this claim.
“Seventy lakh new jobs is a claim that will take one’s breath away. In the same article, the authors reported that the total ‘payroll’ stock as on March 31, 2017, was 919 lakh. So, it has taken the country 70 years to create a ‘payroll’ stock of 919 lakh jobs but, miraculously, in just 12 months, the country will generate 70 lakh new ‘payroll’ jobs — that is nearly 7.5 per cent of the current stock!”
Why Modi Chose Hindi Medium to Pitch India to the World
Swapan Dasgupta comments, in The Times of India, on the choice of language of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Davos – Hindi – while talking about globalisation and similar topics after a much hyped 21-year-gap. Why then this choice which many could regard as “clutter” in a world where the standard of progress is measured in dollars and ‘Big Macs’? Dasgupta reckons it signals self-confidence and also proves to those listening that he can bring India to the front of a globalised world while still being rooted in tradition.
“At the same time, there was a domestic dimension. For many Indians, the importance accorded to Modi at Davos was a source of immense pride and recognition of India’s hard-earned place on the world’s high table. His speech was closely monitored within India. The invocation of India’s spiritual heritage and his critique of over-consumption may have had a niche global audience but these themes were primarily aimed at Indians (not least within his ideological ecosystem) who are sceptical of India’s rush to be integrated into the choppy waters of global capitalism.”
Out of My Mind: Suicide Wish
Meghnad Desai, writing for The Indian Express, brings up the story of Jyoti Basu, India’s longest serving chief minister who could never become the prime minister because his party, the CPM, refused to give him permission to do so. Desai calls this a blunder on behalf of the Left, and brings it up because it seems to him it is happening all over again with the Left disguising egos and personal jealousies as matters of principles.
“This piece of history is only worth recounting because it is happening all over again. Sitaram Yechury, the friendliest face of the Left, was of course denied his place in Parliament because once again party rules matter more than national interest. Now, as general secretary, his proposal for an alliance with the Congress in 2019 has been rejected by the party in favour of a rival proposal for a ‘principled’, i.e. suicidal, refusal to join such an alliance.”
Gandhi and the Idea of an Anti-Chauvinist History
Ramachandra Guha, writing for Hindustan Times, remarks on Gandhi’s contribution to the documentation of history, despite immersing himself in literature about religion and ideals. Guha writes that even before historians got to the point, Gandhi recognised that it was not always possible for them to rise above their biases and yet must strive to record history objectively.
Quoting the Mahatma replying to a letter from KM Munshi, Guha writes, “Can you, as a historian, forget the whole of Muslim history? Even if you can do so, can you make the whole of India forget it? Can you reverse the flow of water and make it go upward?” This is relevant to Guha today, because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and in the states seem determined to wipe out all traces of Muslim and British influence on India.
“Historians had to write about the aam aadmi and not the khas aadmi, and they had to record struggles based on non-violence and not merely battles fought with guns, tanks, and bombs. Meanwhile, Gandhi also made a categorical distinction between history and myth. As he put it in 1930: ‘To us, however, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are not historical works but treatises on religion. Or, if we call them histories, they narrate the history of the human soul; they do not tell of what happened thousands of years ago, but depict what takes place in the heart of every human being today’.”
On Auschwitz Liberation Day, a Bunch of Thoughts for India
Manimugdha S Sharma packs a punch in The Times of India, as he compares the decade preceding the holocaust in Germany to the signs of fascism he notices around him in India today. He especially points out to the uncanny similarity between how the media, when reporting on communal violence or corruption, is maligned as being out to ‘get Modi’ and how the press in Germany was put down as a “jewish plot” out to vengefully harm the Führer.
“Yes, in case you didn’t realise, today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. An anniversary that all of us in India should never forget. The way humanity was shamed in the extermination camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz should never be allowed to forget.Because when you forget that, you let people who say “a Muslim has no right to a seat” in a train get away. You let people who announce a bounty on the head of a filmmaker and an actress on primetime television get away. You let a Union minister, who attends the funeral of a lynching accused whose body is draped in the national flag, get away.”
Inside Track: Post-Modi Diplomacy
To end your Sunday morning read on a lighter note, here is Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express with the latest scoop on the going-ons within the hallowed halls of Parliament. Look out for why Amit Shah was seen stretching his legs in front of journalists, what happened when the Press Association was asked to move out of office and Rahul Gandhi’s plans to improve the attendance of the Congress party president.
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not meet Rahul or Sonia Gandhi during his recent trip to India although it is customary in diplomacy for visiting heads of states to also speak to the leader of Opposition. This was the accepted practice until Narendra Modi came to power. As PM, Modi decreed that a meeting with the Opposition leader should not be included in the official protocol by the Ministry of External Affairs. When the Congress protested that this was against accepted democratic tradition, the government took shelter under the fig leaf that the Congress did not have 10 per cent of the strength of the Lok Sabha to be officially recognised as the main opposition party. In the past, many important foreign dignitaries, including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, have requested, through their diplomatic channels, for an interaction with the Gandhis, despite such meetings being unofficial.”
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