Archive for January, 2018

Modi and the Economy …

Posted on January 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Annat Jain is the founder of Acropolis Capital Group, New Delhi, a private equity firm that invests in India.

“The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one important thing”

In a now famous essay written when he was an Oxford Don in the 1930’s, Isaiah Berlin classified people into foxes and hedgehogs as a means of making a distinction about people and the different ways in which they confront reality. Foxes, according to Berlin, may know many things, but a coherent worldview is beyond their comprehension. The hedgehog, however, knows one great truth, and steadfast in its pursuit, remains unreconciled until he/she reaches it.

This parable is perhaps the best way to understand Narendra Modi and his actions surrounding the economy. Modi is the hedgehog who knows what India needs to do to become prosperous, but importantly, is also willing to act upon it.

Indeed, PM Narendra Modi may be the only politician in contemporary Indian history who has undertaken structural reforms out of choice rather than, like our ex PM Narasimha Rao in the 1990’s, being compelled to do so.

Structural reform is thankless: costs are borne upfront, and rewards come later. (The currency for this transaction is political capital, and Arun Jaitley has paid the most for his role as the able knight who is the face of such change.)

For years, it was the very absence of these structural reforms that armchair foxes have bemoaned. Now that the reforms are occurring, the foxes are coming out of the forest, and unwilling to pay the price, claim that these are ill-timed, ill-conceived or ill-executed.

Through his decade-long executive leadership of one of India’s richest states, Modi knows what the foxes don’t: First, that there’s never a right time to make a hard choice, and second, the slowdown is the result of a fundamental fragility of the Indian economy baked into India’s economic foundation at its creation: the government’s overwhelming role in the economy.

Modi is seeking to eliminate this fragility by recalibrating the entire engine of India’s economic growth methodically: Jaitley’s increasing of the states’ share in the divisible pool of union taxes in 2015, digitization/demonetization of the economy in 2016, the GST in 2017,

That these reforms are happening without any taint on any senior politician of the government is in itself a first in India’s modern history. The republic was lucky to survive through years of pillage under the Congress, and if it were nothing else but just that the BJP is taint-free, we would still have much to be thankful for.

But Modi’s toughest test is yet to come. Just as Modi fought the culture wars and reshaped our national discourse on identity and nationhood for all time, and just as how he is transforming India’s foreign policy through a new Modi-doctrine, he must now dismantle the greatest vestige of Jawaharlal Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s legacy: the socialist superstructure that is the curse of India.

Only when he is finished, will he have succeeded in his undeclared personal ambition: to bury Nehru and Indira Gandhi forever.

To do so involves treating the economic organisation of a society not merely in transactional terms, but as a moral issue inextricably linked to individual rights and dignity, and moving wholeheartedly towards the only economic system that provides for such: a free-market system adapted to help those on India’s economic margins.

In doing so, he would do well to reduce his reliance on ever wiser economic councils and bureaucrats, but follow his hedgehog instincts which have yielded such sharp results in foreign policy and India’s culture wars.

(As an aside, I note with some amusement a lesson from my first class in economics with Professor Jagdish Bhagwati: “India did so badly in the 50’s and 60’s not because it had too few economists, but because it had too many!”)

This then, is the call to arms. In addition to a dogged focus on anti-corruption (a necessary issue for 2014 but insufficiently ambitious for 2019), Modi needs to speak to the country in civilizational terms about the manner of its economic organisation, and seek the mandate to put the nation on the path to double-digit growth for decades to come.

In practical terms, and as a first step, it requires the sale of the government-owned banks and PSU’s in their entirety. Not re-capitalisation, not mere NPA-resolution, not partial-disinvestment of loss-making PSU’s etc. A complete sale. These are giant black holes that destroy capital, or at best, use it sub-optimally. Modi cannot rebuild a nation without removing the termites from its foundation.

By seizing the time still available in 2017-2019 (and perhaps for five years thereafter), Modi may still live up to his own revolutionary declaration of 2014: “Government has no role in business”. Modi may represent the last best hope for the Indian economy to achieve true greatness. If Modi doesn’t do it now, India will be condemned to this middling, snakes-and-ladder growth pattern for another several generations.

If not Modi, then who? If not now, then when? The hedgehog knows.

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Background of Padmavati …

Posted on January 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

By Kamalpreet – a researcher affiliated with the University of Delhi and tweets at @KPSinghtweets.

To know why Karni Sena is doing what it is doing, you have to go back to September 1987, when the Rajputs of Rajasthan were the target of global outrage.

Karni Mata is a deity worshipped widely in Rajasthan as an incarnation of the goddess Durga. The goddess is particularly revered by the Rajput community and is the presiding deity of the royal houses of Jodhpur and Bikaner, thus occupying a prominent place in Rajput identity.

This Rajput tradition of deification of the chaste, ascetic female form – whether it be Rani Padmini or the 18-year-old Roop Kanwar, who burned on a funeral pyre in 1987 – has often brought the community in direct conflict with a modern, liberal society that views these practices as not just anachronistic but also oppressive and patriarchal.

The resulting fault lines have made the political careers of many an enterprising leader. In 1987, it was a young Rajput by the name of Kalyan Singh Kalvi. In 2017, it is his son.

The story of Karni Sena is intimately tied up with the story of its founder and chief ideologue, Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his quest to preserve what he considers to be the cultural core of his community.

To millions of anglophone Indians getting to know him for the first time among visuals of burning buses and vandalised theatres, Lokendra Singh Kalvi might come across as a regressive, ultraconservative fanatic.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sixty-two-year-old Lokendra Singh Kalvi is the son and scion of Kalyan Singh Kalvi, erstwhile union minister for Energy in the short-lived Chandrashekar government that came to power at the centre in 1990. The family have been hereditary landlords in the village of Kalvi in Nagaur district, located in the Thar desert in Rajasthan.

Rajputs of Rajasthan have traditionally been opposed to the Congress, viewing the party as being responsible for eroding the power of the erstwhile royals. Thus, Kalyan Singh Kalvi built his political career on a platform that stood against the overwhelming Congress dominance of the 1970s and the 1980s. At the same time, he was locked in a power struggle against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat – the then CM of Rajasthan – for the leadership of the Rajput community.

The year 1987 was one of those landmark years in the history of Indian democracy that are remembered today as having decided the political and ideological course of our nation. Starting in the second week of September 1987, news channels began carrying reports on the story of Roop Kanwar, an 18-year-old Rajput woman in a remote hamlet in northern Rajasthan who had allegedly been forced to commit the mediaeval Rajput rite of Sati – where a widow burns herself on the funeral pyre of her husband.

The Rajputs held that the act was performed voluntarily and in accordance with the community’s ancient customs and was thus outside the purview of the nation’s judiciary. Within the Rajput community, Roop Kanwar was immediately hailed as Sati Mata, a goddess worthy of being worshipped, just like Rani Padmini of Chittor.

The incident garnered international attention, with even the New York Times giving it prime coverage, and soon became a major embarrassment for the government of Cambridge educated Rajiv Gandhi. The collective wrath of the enraged executive and the outraged judiciary fell upon the Rajput community – over a 100 Rajput men and women were rounded up and charged with abetting the ‘murder’ of Roop Kanwar.

Among those who led the condemnation of the barbaric medieval ritual were Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the ‘Lion of Rajasthan’, and the widely accepted leader of the community till then.

A visibly wounded Rajput community withdrew to itself and closed ranks, shunning all contact with outsiders. The Rajputs felt that the Indian state had trespassed its mandate and encroached upon the religious and cultural rights of the community, while the media had unfairly portrayed them as barbarians.

Abandoned by their own leader, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the community had no voice and no one to tell their side of their story.

It was at this moment that Kalyan Singh Kalvi stepped up and became the face of the much-vilified Rajputs. From addressing rallies to giving interviews to prominent national dailies, Kalyan Singh Kalvi articulated in a nuanced manner the hurt of the Rajput community, presenting it to a nation whose collective conscience had been outraged by what they viewed as a regressive practice that had no place in a modern democracy.

At the heart of Kalvi’s argument was the burning question of the rights of a community over its history, culture, and past and to what extent could these be subject to the law of the nation.

Following Kalvi’s lead, many Rajput leaders finally came out in defence of the community and the agitation in defence of Roop Kanwar’s sati grew increasingly militant. Onkar Singh, a Rajput leader, and a former IAS officer, even publicly threatened that if the government continued to persecute them, the Rajputs would break away from Hinduism, like the Sikhs had done in neighbouring Punjab.

For Kalvi though, the bold move of defying the established progressive-liberal norms of the Indian state and the popular media paid rich political dividends. In a single stroke he not only dethroned Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the preeminent leader of the Rajputs, but had also emerged as a leader of national renown in his own right.

He was promptly rewarded with the presidentship of the Rajasthan unit of the Janata Dal.

As Kalvi’s clout grew, he became kingmaker, playing a key role in the ascent to Prime Ministership of a fellow Rajput, Chandra Shekhar Singh. The latter rewarded Kalvi with a cabinet portfolio – that of energy. There were talks in political circles that Kalvi might be headed for even bigger things, perhaps even the prime ministership itself.

However, just when Kalvi’s prolific career was about to reach its pinnacle, the leader passed away at a relatively young age of 58. In many ways, Kalyan Singh Kalvi was to the Janata Dal what Pramod Mahajan was later to be for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a charismatic young leader marked for great things but lost to the cruel hands of fate in his prime.

More importantly, Kalvi’s demise had two immediate consequences – Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was able to regain his position as the leader of the Rajput community (he was later to become the vice president of India), and a young Lokendra Singh Kalvi was to be left bereft of a political mentor just when he was beginning to test the political waters.

The young Lokendra Singh Kalvi repeatedly contested elections from multiple seats on BJP tickets but lost each time. He even tried his luck by going over first to the Congress and later to the BSP, but neither party gave him a ticket. Like his father before him, he needed burning, polarising issues to mobilise the community behind him.

He found these in the simmering caste cauldron of Rajasthan. Jat ki Beti, Jat ki Roti, Jat ka Note, Jat ka Vote , Sirf Jat Ko.

Caste matters in Rajasthan, perhaps more than in any other state in India. And Rajputs, despite being associated in popular imagination as the cultural and ethnic mascots of a Rajasthani identity, are far from the most numerous caste in Rajasthan.

Jats make up roughly 12 per cent of Rajasthan’s population and are the single largest community in the state, while Rajputs make up about 7 per cent. The other dominant communities include Gurjars, Bishnois, Meenas, Brahmins, Meghwals , Vaishyas, and Muslims.

The political and social life of the state is organised around complex and ever-evolving alliances and counter alliances among these communities.

For instance, the Bishnoi community, for whom the protection of all wildlife is a central tenet of their faith, has a history of antagonism with the Rajputs due to the latter’s custom of hunting wild animals. The Bishnois thus find natural allies in the Jats .

The Gurjars on the other hand have been ethnically and historically very close to the Rajputs. During the 7-8 centuries AD, Rajasthan was ruled by a dynasty known as the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty that successfully saw off a series of invasions of the Indian sub-continent by the earliest Arab invaders.

By the 12th century, the Gurjaras found themselves reduced to being nomadic shepherds and placed lower down the caste hierarchy than the Rajputs, though the two communities maintained close links. It was for instance a common practice among noble Rajput families to feed a newly born Rajput child at the breast of a Gurjar woman, in the belief that it would infuse in the young prince some of the ferocity that was the hallmark of the Gurjars.

Both the Jats and the Gurjars, in turn, often find themselves at odds with the Meenas who are an indigenous tribe of Rajasthan.

However, one equation that more or less remains unchanged through all these complex alliances is the rivalry between the Jats and the Rajputs. And for good reason.

Jats have typically laid claim to nearly a third of the 25 parliamentary seats from Rajasthan and 40 assembly seats in a house of 200 in keeping with their numbers. They play a decisive role in another 20 assembly seats. However, despite their overwhelming numerical superiority, the state has never had a Jat chief minister.

This fact has long been a sticking point with the Jat community and certain sections of the community lay the blame squarely on the Rajputs. The issue gains even more urgency for the Jat community given the fact that in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, Jats remain firmly in control at all levels of the political machinery, in conformity with their numbers.

The closest Jats of Rajasthan have come to having one of their own in the chief minister’s residence is Vasundhara Raje Scindia – a Maratha scion married into the Dholpur royal family – one of the only two Jat princely states in Rajasthan. (The other being Bharatpur). While Raje is fondly referred to as ‘Jat Bahu’, her relations with the Rajputs have been turbulent for the same reason.

These ancient caste rivalries of Rajasthan took a precipitous turn with the implementation of the Mandal commission’s recommendations and reservations in government jobs became the new battleground for old rivalries.

In 1999, acceding to their long held demand, Jats were granted other backward class status in Rajasthan, thus raising the stakes in the bitter Jat-Rajput rivalry. As Gurjars and Meenas already had reservations, fears arose among the Rajput community of the complete erosion of their leftover clout.

In 1952, when the first elections were held to the state assembly, there were 54 Rajputs MLAs in a house of 160 while only 12 Jats were elected. By 1998, the number of Jats had risen to 42 while the Rajput numbers had been reduced to half of what they’d been.

It was at this point that Lokendra Singh Kalvi saw his big moment and decided to jump into the fray, quitting the BJP and founding his own party – the Social Justice Front (Rajasthan Samajik Nyaya Manch) that advocated for reservation for economically backward Rajputs. The party decided to contest elections across Rajasthan on its own, convinced that Kalvi’s call for Rajput mobilisation would be rewarded.

However, electoral success continued to evade Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his new venture ended in a debacle. He returned to the BJP, this time seeming to settle down for good in what appeared to be perennial political obscurity.

But the factious caste politics of Rajasthan soon threw up another opportunity, one that was too hard for an enterprising politician to resist. In 2006, Anandpal Singh, a gangster who had acquired a Robin Hood-like reputation in the Rajput community for standing up to Jat aggression, murdered two of his former accomplices, both of them Jats.

The Jats, smarting under their own set of grievances against the Rajputs, soon mobilised in record numbers and a series of protests and demonstrations rocked the state. The state government, bowing to the Jat pressure, responded by rounding up a number of young Rajput men believed to be accomplices of Anandpal Singh’s gang. This sparked resentment amongst the Rajputs who viewed it as systematic persecution by a state machinery increasingly dominated by Jats, Gurjars and Meenas owing to caste-based reservations.

It was at this turbulent point in the state’s history that Lokendra Singh Kalvi founded the Sri Rajput Karni Sena to mobilise Rajputs against a system that had, in his view, become heavily antagonistic to them through decades-long process of social engineering.

Thus, on 23 September 2006, the Karni Sena came into being with the avowed aim of ‘fighting political and social malice against the Rajputs’, and electing more Rajput legislators to the state assembly. The organisation soon found itself embroiled in repeated controversies, first over protests against the film Jodhaa Akbar and later over turbulent campus politics in Rajasthan University.

The Rajasthan University (RU), located in Jaipur, in fact became a prominent recruiting ground for the incipient organisation. In many ways, the university is a perfect microcosm of the greater caste-based politics that rules the state.

Jaipur is a bustling metropolis of over 5 million with its own metro service, an international airport, sprawling special economic zones and IT parks. At the same time, its crowded lanes, lined with artisanal wares produced by rural communities, camel-drawn carts, imposing castles, and the general chaos give off an indelible impression of a medieval town caught in a time warp.

At the Rajasthan University (RU) campus, middle class young men and women from the rural hinterland find themselves in a similar flux. Caught between the alien modernity of a strange metropolis and the familiar chaos of the past they left behind, they find comfort in the sense of belonging provided by caste-based organisations.

Even the hostels in RU are caste-based. Thus, you have Rajput hostel, Jat hostel, Gurjar hostel, Meena hostel, Yadav hostel and Muslim hostel.

Finding itself pitted against the much better organised Jat Mahasabha, the young Karni Sena soon jumped into the thick of action on campus when in 2009, it mobilised Rajput support over an incident involving a campus brawl between a Jat and a Rajput student. The issue had immediate repercussions outside the campus and forced the powers that be to take notice of the Karni Sena, and Lokendra Singh Kalvi.

Again, in August 2016, the Jaipur Development Authority sealed off the gates of the Rajmahal Palace, a property owned by the Kacchwaha Rajput royal family of Jaipur. The Karni Sena mobilised large scale Rajput protests, portraying the move of the ‘Jat Bahu’ Vasundhara Raje-led government as another instance of persecution of the Rajput community.

The authorities eventually relented and the victory significantly bolstered the prestige of the Karni Sena within the Rajput community, and of Lokendra Singh Kalvi as the protector of Rajput interests.

From Roop Kanwar to Padmavati makes a full circle for Kalvis of Nagaur. With Padmavati, the life and political career of Lokendra Singh Kalvi appears to have come full circle. It was exactly 30 years ago that his father had taken a great gamble in championing a seemingly illiberal and unpopular cause, emerging in the end as an articulate conservative leader of not just the Rajput community but of the entire political right.

Today, Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his organisation are making a similar statement against a state committed to affirmative action and an established modernising liberalism that seems to be encroaching upon what the community sees as its personal domain.

For the Rajput community however, the issues involved are those of the protection of memories and rituals they hold sacred, and the extent to which other ethnic groups in a democratic state can appropriate these scared aspects of their culture for popular entertainment. Or so, the Karni Sena wants us to believe.

Whether Lokendra Singh Kalvi will be able to fashion out any credible political gains out of the chaos that he has unleashed remains to be seen. It is equally likely that the whole spectacle might just be the final display of fireworks before his stuttering political career finally sinks into oblivion.

For now, however, Lokendra Singh Kalvi remains the man of the moment.

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India – Where it Stands …

Posted on January 30, 2018. Filed under: Business, Searching for Success |

SA Aiyar – Economic Times –

I was asked on TV whether India was emerging as a global leader with a global vision for the 21st century.

Absolutely NO, I replied.
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 ..

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Republic Day – 70 Yrs after the Brits …

Posted on January 27, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Rahul Devesh in The Tribune – Two Republics poles Apart – Jan 26 2018

Soon, the UT Adviser took the guard of honour and the parade began. All seemed in sync. Policemen, NCC cadets and schoolchildren marched past us. Parents were busy taking pictures and making videos of their children taking part in the celebrations. Students from the School for Blind in Sector 26 were greeted with applause as they were participating in the function for the first time in 27 years. The message was that the republic had marched ahead.

However, this was all that I had seen since childhood. Still, at the venue, it was largely a republic of well-off. Away from it, I saw another republic, with people more numerous, having no time for the celebrations. It was a republic of juice vendors, rickshaw-pullers and homeless, struggling for food, shelter and clothing. As the city was bracing for another day of activity, on the way to my hometown, I met a tiny republic of homeless near Sector 34.

Some families had started waking up. They were homeless, certainly beggars. One of them, a woman, named Sangeeta, waved at me. She wanted food for her children. I went to her. She, along with three children, not more than two to three years of age, was sitting beside a bonfire. A pant of a child was burning to keep them warm. The children were seen holding empty lunchboxes. She, along with her family, had come from Udaipur, Rajasthan.

They made both ends meet by selling balloons and buntings. They slept on the footpath. Quilts and some utensils constituted their property. She won’t spend days at Raen Basera as she claimed it was not safe for the children. Some children had been stolen from there, she claimed. She never celebrated the Republic Day or Independence Day. Giving them some money, I bade adieu to them.

The same struggle was of Rahees Babu, a tea stall owner near the Judicial Courts Complex in Sector 76, Mohali. He was not homeless and was earning decent. Luckily, he had two children who were studying in a school and had gone to celebrate the day.

However, despite the fact that it was a holiday, he had come to work. He wanted to buy a house, for which he had been struggling for the past 13 to 14 years. He had applied for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana long ago, but did not know about any progress. However, he was not dejected altogether. He had hope, if he worked well. But for how long? He did not know.

As I rose to wish him goodbye, I asked him if “Sasta Bhojan” was still being served outside the judicial complex. With a smile, he nodded in affirmation. But it had displaced some vendors to build another republic and sustain them.

Their contrasting but still somewhat similar plight reminded me of what Robert Frost had once written:
The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

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Governance – Lesson from the Roman Empire …

Posted on January 27, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, Roman Thought |

Courtesy Wikipedia

The rulers commonly known as the “Five Good Emperors” were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.The term was coined based on what the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli said in 1503:

“From the study of this history we may also learn how a good government is to be established; for while all the emperors who succeeded to the throne by birth, except Titus, were bad, all were good who succeeded by adoption, as in the case of the five from Nerva to Marcus. But as soon as the empire fell once more to the heirs by birth, its ruin recommenced”

Machiavelli argued that these adopted emperors, through good rule, earned the respect of those around them:

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus had no need of praetorian cohorts, or of countless legions to guard them but were defended by their own good lives, the good-will of their subjects, and the attachment of the senate.

The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, opined that their rule was a time when “the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue”.

Gibbon believed these benevolent dictators and their moderate policies were unusual and contrasted with their more tyrannical and oppressive successors. Gibbon went so far as to state:

“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus’.

“The vast extent of the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded respect.’

“The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws’.

“Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom”.

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Chandigarh & New Delhi – the Cities …

Posted on January 25, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

Maninder Singh who grew up in Chandigarh, writes in the Tribune.

Before the iconic city of Chandigarh came to be built, the newest city in the sub-continent, from Khyber to the Irrawaddy, was New Delhi, whose first brick was laid in the course of the “medieval” Delhi Durbar of 1911.
The comparison between Edwin Lutyens and Le Corbusier is stark. Though, for both of them, these were their greatest projects, Lutyens employed Indian themes and used typical Indian building blocks such as red sandstone.

Both of them did take advantage of the natural elevations, such as Raisina Hill, for locating their iconic buildings.

The great Frenchman used the alien Portland cement, a substance that heats and enervates in summer and cools to freezing lows in winter. The red sandstone that built New Delhi’s magnificent structures has aged splendidly. The cement used in the great public buildings in Chandigarh has lost its shine and sheen, making these well-designed structures look faded and jaded.

If you look up the Raj Path, from the vantage point of India Gate, there is a grand symmetry. North Block and South Block are mirror images. In Chandigarh, the symmetry is in the shapes and sizes of the sectors.

Lutyens’ architectural style has been described as Indo – Saracenic or Anglo-Saracenic and there were, accordingly, domes, “jaalis”, and Indian motifs such as elephants, stately prancing peacocks, even sculpted cobras atop pillars, and typically Indian floral designs.

Le Corbusier was an acknowledged master of modern architecture and seemed fond of boxy buildings, with such concepts as sun-breakers.

While the roads in Chandigarh meet at right angles, in New Delhi, radial avenues radiate as spokes from the giant wheels of roundabouts.

Down these roads, Lutyens had traditional Indian fruit trees planted, such as “jamuns”, which would sustain bird populations and even monkeys and langurs, much to the distress of the populace in the last few decades.

In Chandigarh, splendid flowering trees such as laburnums and silver oaks, imported from other climes, were planted.

While the British came to the old imperial capital of Delhi to mark the stamp of their imperium, the original planners of Chandigarh was the firm of Mayer, Whittlesey and Glass of New York, whose public face was Albert Mayer, had a chance that few architectural entitles would ever have – the God-given and the Government of India given destiny to locate and plan a new capital city.

Commissioning a fixed-wing aircraft, the architects and town planners flew along the Shivaliks from the Yamuna river, near Dehradun, to Pathankot. Flying across three of the five great rivers that made up the old Punjab, the location they came up with was considered baffling.

Taking advantage of the epic state-sponsored project, they overcame the constraints of history and geography by locating the new capital of a first divided, then tri – sected, Punjab on a sandy alluvial, non-descript water-deficient mango-dotted stretch between two shallow and seasonally rain-fed streams.

Having started Sec 7 and Sector 8 both with three sub sectors, they had to pull out due the death of Albert Mayer, where upon the Project was handed over to Le Corbusier, the Frenchman, who opted for Four subsectors to make the Sector, self supporting. It is noteworthy that there is NO Sector 13 and if the Nos of any two North South Sectors is added, the Total is divisible by 13 !!!

Yet, for all that, it is Chandigarh’s iconic public structures, clustered in the Capitol Complex site, that are today a proud part of the UNESCO World Heritage, a legacy of the original creative untutored self-taught architect of French-Swiss extraction, whose image embellishes the ten Swiss-franc paper currency of his country.

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China’s Massive Stride Forward …

Posted on January 24, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

US’s National Science Foundation and National Science Board have recently released their biennial science and engineering indicators which provide detailed figures on research and development (R&D), innovation and engineers.

But its true message is in a different direction, “China has become,” concludes Robert J. Samuelson in a column, “or is in the verge of becoming – a scientific and technical superpower.
This is not entirely unexpected given the size of the Chinese economy and its massive investments in R&D, even so, he says, “the actual numbers are breathtaking”.

1. China is the 2nd largest spender in R&D after the US, accounting for 21% of the world total which is $2 trillion. It has been going up 18% a year, as compared to 4% in the US. An OECD report says that China could overtake the US in R&D spending by 2020.

2. China has overtaken the US in terms of total number of science publications. Technical papers have increased dramatically, even if their impact, as judged by citation indices, may not be that high.

3. China has increased its technical workforce five times since 2000 to 1.65 million. It also has more B.Sc. degrees in science than any other country and the numbers are growing.

4. The US continues to produce more PhDs and attract more foreign students. But new international enrollment at US colleges was down for the first time in the decade in 2017. The Trump administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric and actions are scaring away students.

5. China has begun shifting from being an assembler of high-tech components, to a maker of super computers and aircraft and given the pattern of its investments in R&D and technology development, it is focusing on becoming the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum communications, quantum computing, biotechnology and electrical vehicles.

As of now, the US still continues to lead in terms of the number of patents and the revenue they generate.

China has also become a more attractive destination for foreign students and is now occupying the third slot after the US and the UK.
This year, it is likely to gain the second spot.

China now has a serious programme to attract its own researchers back to the country. The thousand talents plan targets scientists below the age of 40 who have PhDs from prestigious foreign universities. The government offers 500,000 RMB ($80,000) lump-sum to everyone enrolled in the programme and promises research grants ranging from one to three million RMB ($150,000-$300,000).

The funding for the programme is growing and in 2011, China awarded 143 scientists out of the 1,100 who applied, and in 2016, 590 from 3,048 applicants. Individual Chinese universities are offering several times that sum.

One specialist in advanced batteries from an MIT post-doctoral programme was offered a salary of $65,000, $900,000 as research grant and $250,000 to buy a house.

The report also flagged the serious deficiencies in US higher secondary education where in 2015, average maths scores for the 4th, 8th and 12th graders dropped for the first time.

In the field of R&D and patents and revenue accruing from them, the US remains ahead, but the recent anti-immigration trends pose a serious long-term risk to the American supremacy because in essence, the US has been the best in harvesting talent from across the world.

Of course, the quantity of money or the number of research papers by itself does not automatically translate into leadership.

The US remains the world leader in investment in basic research (17%) versus 5% in China.

It remains the leader in top quality research, attracting the best and the brightest of international students and in its ability to translate basic research into revenue-generating intellectual property.

But the Chinese have been putting serious money into key areas which they aim to become world leaders in the next decade or so.

One of these is AI where the government and Chinese corporates are moving in a big way.

Just recently, Chinese tech major Baidu announced its decision of setting up two more AI labs in the US, one focusing on business intelligence and the other on robotics and autonomous driving.

There is little point in flagellating ourselves by putting the Indian figures alongside those of the US and China.

Given the profoundly anti-science attitude of our government leaders, things are not likely to change in a hurry.

But it is worth looking at the latter’s trajectory because some in India still see themselves as competing with China.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Davos to attract investment, presumably in high-tech areas, it is worth reminding ourselves that Science and Technology is the Core of the Economic Foundations of an Advanced Country, which China says it intends to become by 2050.

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.

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Bill Gates on Indians …

Posted on January 24, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, Searching for Success |

As a person, dear Bill was seldom regarded as the best of guys but his views on India n Indians do make a lot of sense …

India is the richest country in the world, “Even if you sell the temple bells in India, it could become a superpower”

But the funniest thing is people fail to understand that they are like Servants in their country. ………. Owing to which a farmer commits suicide cursing God and his misfortunes

The poor fail to recognize the true culprits behind their poverty.

The youth remain unaware of the people responsible for his unemployment.

Do you gather ‘Punya’ by offering hairs to God? Really?? Does prosperity come to you by offering a coconut??

In realty… Hair and coconuts offered make big business.

What does one achieve by offering Gold/Silver?? In fact these are just auctioned off.

Of what use is such Charity? Try to donate seeds to farmers. Try to help in a poor girls marriage.

Try to adopt an orphaned child. Try to feed a hungry person. Try to help a handicapped person.

Donate needed books to a village school library. Try to donate to an old age home.

Schools in villages have no shelter but temples have Marble flooring.
Parents make hundreds of queries for donating Rs 200/- to a school but donate in thousands to a temple with eyes closed.

Will such a nation become a superpower in the real sense?

We call ourselves an agricultural nation and our farmers commit suicides in almost every state.

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An NDA Cadet’s Father Writes ….

Posted on January 21, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Letters of an NDA Cadet’s Father to his Son’s Div Officer –

1. I have sent Vikas to National Defence Academy. My duty ended there. If he is not performing well in the Academy, then I suggest you review your own performance, because it is your responsibility to make him do the needful to pass all the subjects.

2. Girte Hain Shah-Sawar Hi Maidan-E-Jung Mein; Woh Tifl Kya Gire Jo Ghut-non Ke Bal Chala Karte Hain! (It is only those who ride a horse in the battle field who fall; How can cowards fall who walk only on their knees).

3. My son has dreamt to become a pilot and by shifting his stream to Social Studies you are taking him away from his dream. Vikas may fail, but he will learn. I have handed my son over to you. Do what is required. You can kick him, kill him, but I want to see him, as an Airforce Pilot.

Hard work and grit paid off and the Boy joined the IAF and won the Vayu Sena Medal

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WW II n Indian Army …

Posted on January 21, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Courtesy Gen Bhimaya …

The USS Missouri and the USS Arizona are the chief attractions in the Pearl Harbor Museum. They represent “the triumph and the tragedy” of World War II.

A tour of the museum fills one with the flashbacks of the momentous attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as the gravitas of the surrender ceremony.

During my visit to Pearl Harbor, I had feasted my eyes on these memorabilia.

Contrary to popular belief, India was not represented in this surrender ceremony, whereas a small country, such as Netherlands, was, because it was a major power, with colonies to boast.

Brig (later the COAS) Thimayya represented the Indian Army at the surrender ceremony in Singapore. This signal honor was bestowed on him because he was the only Indian officer (of undivided India) who had successfully commanded a Brigade in operations.

It will be interesting to note that the British prejudice against Indian officers spilled over to their American cousins: witness the desperate but unsuccessful attempts of MacArthur to prevent Indian troops entering Japan as a part of occupying force.

It is in spite of this prejudice, not because of it, Indian officers and troops excelled in combat

Lt Col SS Kalha DSO, MC and Bar, 2/1 Punjab, Lt Karamjit Singh Judge, VC, Major S.K. Korla, DSO, MC are some of the gallantry winners and the Burma campaign under Gen Slim was a clear vindication of the prowess of the Indian Army, properly led–an aphorism that rings true and often, even now.

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