நிதிநிலை அறிக்கைக்கான சட்டமன்றக் கூட்டத்தொடரில் தமிழ்நாட்டில் வாழும் இலங்கைத் தமிழர்களுக்குக் குடியுரிமை வழங்கக் கோரிக்கைவிடுத்துத் தீர்மானம் நிறைவேற்றப்படும் என்று வெளிநாடு வாழ் தமிழர்கள் நலத் துறை அமைச்சர் தெரிவித்துள்ள கருத்தானது, மாறுபட்ட சில கருத்துகளுக்கும் வித்திட்டுள்ளது. இலங்கையில் போர்ச் சூழலின் நடுவே தங்களது உடைமைகளைக் கைவிட்டு, உயிரைக் காப்பாற்றிக்கொள்ளும் ஒரே நோக்கத்துடன் இந்தியாவில் கரையேறிய காலகட்டம், தமிழர் வரலாற்றில் துயரம் படிந்த அத்தியாயம். தொண்ணூறுகளை ஒட்டிய ஆண்டுகளில் இலங்கையிலிருந்து தமிழ்நாட்டுக்கு வந்த அகதிகள் ஒரே மொழி, ஒரே வாழ்க்கை முறை ஆகியவை அளிக்கும் பாதுகாப்புணர்வின் காரணமாக இங்கேயே தங்கிவிட்டார்கள். இப்போது இலங்கை என்பது அவர்களுக்குப் பெரிதும் இளம் பிராயத்து நினைவுகள் மட்டுமே. இந்தியாவிலேயே பிறந்து வளர்ந்த இரண்டாவது தலைமுறையும் உருவாகிவிட்டது. இந்நிலையில், அவர்கள் இலங்கைக்குத் திரும்பிச்செல்லும் பட்சத்தில், அங்கு ஒரு புதிய வாழ்க்கையைத் தொடங்குவதற்கான எந்த ஆதாரமும் அவர்களிடம் இல்லை. தமிழ்நாட்டில் மாநில அரசால் குறைந்தபட்ச அளவிலேனும் மாதாந்திர உதவித்தொகையும் குழந்தைகளுக்கு இலவசக் கல்வி வாய்ப்புகளும் வழங்கப்படுகின்றன.
தமிழ்நாட்டில் உள்ள 100-க்கும் மேற்பட்ட அகதிகள் மறுவாழ்வு முகாம்களில் சுமார் ஒரு லட்சம் இலங்கைத் தமிழர்கள் தங்கியிருக்கலாம் என்று மதிப்பிடப்படுகிறது. மாவட்ட நிர்வாகத்தை அணுகி, தங்களுக்கு இந்தியக் குடியுரிமை வழங்கப்பட வேண்டும் என்ற கோரிக்கையை அவர்கள் தொடர்ந்து வலியுறுத்திவருகின்றனர். சென்னை உயர் நீதிமன்றத்தின் மதுரைக் கிளையில் தொடரப்பட்ட வழக்கின் தீர்ப்பிலும் அகதிகளின் குடியுரிமைக் கோரிக்கைகள் கருணையுடன் பரிசீலிக்கப்பட வேண்டும் என்று அறிவுறுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது. இந்தியாவில் குடியுரிமை பெற்றால் மறுவாழ்வு முகாம்களிலிருந்து பிற ஊர்களுக்குச் சென்று வேலைவாய்ப்புகளை எளிதில் பெற முடியும் என்பது அவர்களின் எதிர்பார்ப்பு. 2019-ம் ஆண்டின் குடியுரிமைத் திருத்தச் சட்டத்தில் ஆப்கானிஸ்தான், பாகிஸ்தான், வங்கதேசம் ஆகிய நாடுகளிலிருந்து வந்த இந்துக்களைப் போலத் தங்களுக்கும் குடியுரிமை வாய்ப்பு அளிக்கப்படவில்லை என்பது அவர்களது வருத்தமாகவும் இருக்கிறது.
இலங்கையில் பூர்விகத் தமிழர்கள் சிறுபான்மையினராக இருந்ததாலேயே அவர்கள் அரசியல் பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தை இழந்தனர். அதுவே போர்ச் சூழலை நோக்கியும் தள்ளியது. 1981-ல் இலங்கையில் 12.7% ஆக இருந்த இலங்கைத் தமிழர்களின் மக்கள்தொகை 2021-ல் 10.8% ஆகக் குறையும் என்றும் இது 2041-ல் 9.8% ஆக மேலும் குறையும் என்றும் கணிப்புகள் தெரிவிக்கின்றன. இலங்கைத் தமிழர்கள் இந்தியாவில் பாதுகாப்புணர்வுடன் வாழ வேண்டியது எவ்வளவு முக்கியமோ அதேபோல இலங்கையில் வாழும் தமிழர்களின் நிரந்தரப் பாதுகாப்புக்கு மக்கள்தொகையில் அவர்களது விகிதாச்சாரம் குறைந்துவிடக் கூடாது என்பதும் முக்கியம். இலங்கைத் தமிழர்களின் இந்தியக் குடியுரிமைக் கோரிக்கையில் பேசப்படாத இந்தப் பிரச்சினையும் கருத்தில் கொள்ளப்பட வேண்டும்.--Source: hindutamil.in
இந்தியாவின் ஆன்மா கிராமப்புறங்களில்தான் இருக்கிறது என்று அண்ணல் காந்தியடிகள் கூறியதன் பொருள், இந்தியா விவசாயம் சாா்ந்த பொருளாதாரத்தின் அடிப்படையில் அமைந்திருக்கிறது என்பதுதான். கடந்த ஆண்டு மாா்ச் மாதம் பொது முடக்கம் அறிவிக்கப்பட்டபோது புலம்பெயா்ந்த தொழிலாளா்கள் பல்வேறு மாநகரங்களில் இருந்தும் தங்களது சொந்த கிராமங்களுக்குத் திரும்ப முற்பட்டனா். விவசாயப் பணிகள் தங்களது வாழ்வாதாரத்தை உறுதிப்படுத்தும் என்கிற நம்பிக்கையில்தான் அவா்கள் அந்த விபரீத முயற்சியில் துணிந்து இறங்கினாா்கள்.
கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றின் முதலாவது அலை காலத்தில் ஒட்டுமொத்தத் தொழில்துறையும் முடக்கப்பட்டது. தொழில்துறை மட்டுமல்லாமல், சேவைத்துறையும், விற்பனை வணிகமும் கூட முடங்கின. அந்த நிலையிலும் உணவில்லாமல் கொத்துக்கொத்தாக மக்கள் மடிந்துவிடவில்லை. பொருளாதாரம் தளா்வடைந்தது என்றாலும், தகா்ந்துவிடவில்லை. போதுமான பருவமழையும், கிராமங்களுக்கு கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றுப் பரவாமல் இருந்ததும் நமது வேளாண் உற்பத்தியைப் பாதுகாத்தது. ஏன், அதிகரித்தது என்றுகூடச் சொல்லலாம்.
இப்போது கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்று கிராமங்கள் வரை எட்டியிருக்கும் நிலையில், மேலும் அதிகரிக்காமல் இருக்க வேண்டும் என்கிற அச்சம் மேலெழாமல் இல்லை. மூன்றாவது அலை உருவாகாமலும், கிராமப் பகுதிகளில் கொவைட் 19 கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்று கட்டுக்கடங்கியும் இருந்துவிட்டால் மிக மோசமான பொருளாதார வீழ்ச்சியில் இருந்து இந்தியா தப்பித்துக் கொள்ள முடியும்.
கடந்த நிதியாண்டில் (2020-21) அதற்கு முந்தைய ஆறு ஆண்டுகளைவிட நமது வேளாண் உற்பத்தி அதிகரித்து, விவசாயம் சாா்ந்த பொருள்களும் அதிக அளவில் ஏற்றுமதியாகி இருக்கின்றன. பொது முடக்கமும், கடல்வழிப் போக்குவரத்தில் தடங்கல்களும், அதிகரித்த போக்குவரத்துக் கட்டணமும் காணப்பட்டும்கூட ஏற்றுமதி அதிகரித்திருப்பது வியப்பை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது. முந்தைய 2019 - 20 நிதியாண்டைவிட, 2020 - 21-இல் வேளாண் பொருள்களின் ஏற்றுமதி 17% அதிகரித்து 41.25 பில்லியன் டாலரை (சுமாா் ரூ.3.06 லட்சம் கோடி) எட்டியிருக்கிறது.
இந்தியாவில் வேளாண் பொருள்களின் ஏற்றுமதியில் கணிசமான பங்கு வகிப்பது கடல்சாா் உணவுப் பொருள்கள் (15%). அதற்கு அடுத்த இடங்களில் அரிசி (20%), கிராம்பு, ஏலக்காய், மிளகு போன்ற மலை விளை பொருள்கள் (10%), மாட்டிறைச்சி (8%), சா்க்கரை (5%), தேயிலை (5%) காணப்படுகிறது. அரிசி ஏற்றுமதியில் 10%-க்கும் சற்று அதிகமாக பாசுமதி அரிசி ஏற்றுமதியாகிறது.
கடந்த நிதியாண்டில், கடல்சாா் பொருள்கள் ஏற்றுமதி சற்று பின்னடைவை எதிா்கொண்டது. இந்தியாவில் அதிவேகமாகப் பரவிய கொவைட் 19 கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றின் பாதிப்புதான் அதற்குக் காரணம். 2020 - 21-இல் 10.8% அளவிலான ஏற்றுமதி குறைந்து, 5.9 பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ.43,800 கோடி) கடல்சாா் பொருள்களுக்குத்தான் சா்வதேச கேட்பு காணப்பட்டது. அதேபோல, மாட்டிறைச்சி ஏற்றுமதியும் பாதிக்கப்பட்டது. உள்ளூரில் மாட்டிறைச்சிக்கான எதிா்ப்பும்கூட அதற்குக் காரணம்.
அரிசி உற்பத்தி செய்யும் கிழக்காசிய நாடுகளில் காணப்பட்ட வறட்சியும், அதன் விளைவாக உருவான உற்பத்திக் குறைவும் நமது வேளாண் பொருள்களின் அதிகரித்த ஏற்றுமதிக்கு முக்கியமான காரணங்கள். சா்வதேசச் சந்தையில் காணப்பட்ட இந்திய அரிசியின் விலைக் குறைவும்கூட காரணமாகக் கூறப்படுகிறது.
உலகம் முழுவதும் கடந்த சில ஆண்டுகளாக, குறிப்பாக கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றுப் பரவலுக்குப் பிறகு, இயற்கை வேளாண் பொருள்களுக்கு அதிக வரவேற்பு காணப்படுகிறது. மக்கள் மத்தியில் உடல் ஆரோக்கியம் குறித்த கவலையும், ரசாயனப் பொருள்கள் மீதான அச்சமும் இயற்கை வேளாண்மை பொருள்கள் மீதான வரவேற்பை கணிசமாக அதிகரித்திருக்கின்றன.
நமது வேளாண் ஏற்றுமதிப் பொருள்களில் 2.5% அளவில்தான் இயற்கை வேளாண் பொருள்களின் ஏற்றுமதி இப்போது காணப்படுகிறது. கடந்த நிதியாண்டில் 1.4 பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ.10,390 கோடி) ஏற்றுமதியாகி இருக்கிறது. முந்தைய நிதியாண்டைவிட 50% ஏற்றுமதி அதிகரித்திருக்கிறது என்பதை குறிப்பிட வேண்டும்.
இயற்கை வேளாண் பொருள்களில் பிண்ணாக்கு, எண்ணெய் வித்துகள், பருப்பு வகைகள், சிறு தானியங்கள், மலை விளைபொருள்கள், தேயிலை, காப்பி ஆகியவை முக்கியமானவை. மூலிகைகள்கூட ஏற்றுமதியில் வரவேற்பைப் பெற்றிருக்கின்றன. முருங்கை இலைப் பொடிக்கான வரவேற்பு பெரிய அளவில் அதிகரித்து வருகிறது. சோயா (46%), எண்ணெய் வித்துகள் (13.2%), தேயிலையும், காப்பியும் (9.6%), பருப்பு வகைகளும், சிறுதானியங்களும் (8.2%) என்கிற அளவில் இந்தியாவின் இயற்கை வேளாண்மை ஏற்றுமதியில் பங்கு வகிக்கின்றன.
இயற்கை வேளாண் பொருள்களுக்கு அதிகரித்துவரும் வரவேற்பை இந்திய விவசாயிகள் பயன்படுத்திக் கொள்ள வேண்டும். அதற்கு மத்திய - மாநில அரசுகள் வழிகோல வேண்டும். அதிகமாக நிலத்தடி நீரை உறுஞ்சும் அரிசி, கோதுமை, கரும்பு போன்றவற்றை மட்டுமே நம்பியிருக்காமல், ஏற்றுமதிக்கு உகந்த பொருள்களை நமது விவசாயிகள் உற்பத்தி செய்வதற்கான வழிகாட்டுதல்களை வழங்குவது அவசியம்.
மாற்றத்தையும், ஏற்றத்தையும் எதிா்கொள்ளவிடாமல் குறைந்தபட்ச ஆதாரவிலை இந்திய விவசாயிகளைத் தடுக்கிறது என்கிற கசப்பான உண்மையைப் பதிவு செய்யாமல் இருக்க முடியவில்லை.--Source: dinamani.com
Since the nationwide lockdown announced by the Prime Minister in March last year, the Indian economy has faced its worst contraction in history. Yet, the country’s stock indices, the Sensex and the Nifty, have almost doubled in price from the low that they hit in April 2020. Many analysts and even the Reserve Bank of India now believe that stocks are in a bubble. In this conversation moderated byPrashanth Perumal J.,Anand Srinivasan and Alok Jain discuss the current state of Indian markets. Edited excerpts:
Can you shed light on the divergence between the stock market and the real economy?
Anand Srinivasan:The markets are going up on liquidity. Basically, all central banks are printing money and this money has to go somewhere. So, what we are having is asset price inflation. The prices of gold, crypto assets, stocks, and even collectibles have increased dramatically. While we may look at the Indian market in isolation, we have to understand that this is not the only market that is going up. All equity markets are going up. When you see year-to-date comparisons, India is not in the top five countries whose exchanges have done well. There is a lot of money chasing very few stocks which are of high quality. Nearly 45% of the index is controlled by five stocks. The Nifty is trading at around 29 times its earnings and its price-to-book ratio is at 4:23. So, the markets are indeed highly overvalued.
Also, Nifty earnings per share is at Rs. 559, and Rs. 100 of this can be attributed to tax sops to corporations. These have driven prices of these companies up further. But the reality of the rest of India is different. India and the rest of the world are going through a K-shaped recovery where the rich are accumulating a larger share of resources from the rest.
Do current valuations worry you or even matter to you?
Alok Jain:We don’t look at valuations because our focus is on price trends. We follow the principle of “Bhav Bhagwan Che(Price is God)”. We believe that price incorporates all the information that is required to be incorporated into a stock. However, as Anand said, it’s a liquidity-driven rally. It is always a liquidity-driven rally. We tend to equate the real economy with the stock market at all times, but they hardly ever meet. That is the sole reason 90% of all economists and analysts in the market are not able to call what’s going to happen next. Traditional valuation models are getting broken because the whole money supply equation is changing. If Japan can trade at 34 times earnings, the U.S. at 28 times earnings, and China at 19 times earnings, Nifty could trade at 40 or 30 or 20. You take your pick and you can justify it there. Coming back to liquidity, the Fed has pumped about $5 trillion or so and so have other central bankers. We are sitting in a vulnerable situation across markets. So, there is no real model that you can rely upon for investing when there’s endless money flowing around. One should ride the trend till the end and not sit out of the market.
AS:Alok says everything is about liquidity. I will pick up two cases from history. Let’s talk about 1989 when the Nikkei peaked at 40,000. Now, 31 years later, the Nikkei is nowhere near 40,000. It is still about 30% below its peak. The Dow Jones in 1929 crashed from 800 to double digits. It took the index 25 years to recover this loss. So, this party has to come to an end sometime. We don’t know when exactly but the early warning signs are there. American inflation is running at 4% for the first time in many years and Indian inflation has been consistently higher than what the RBI projected 10 out of the last 12 months. Some say this inflation is transitory. But one year of inflation is not transitory. We have to wait and watch because as inflation begins to bite, that is when politicians will remove the punch bowl and the party will come to an end. I don’t see this happening until early-2022 because U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will not want to spoil the party now — his nomination is due.
Alok, what is your technical view on the market while looking at the charts?
AJ:From our perspective, nothing much has changed. The way we work is that we have long-term models which measure momentum and we then allocate across stocks. So far, we have not seen our models go to cash. As the market plateaus or starts to go down, our models tend to go into cash gradually and that has not yet started to happen so there is no concern right now about the uptrend. Over the last month or so, the markets have kind of stagnated. But there is enough opportunity and activity within the mid-cap and small cap space. So, nothing really has changed. There may be an episode of profit booking but that would be a very normal reaction. The fear actually is that any market could become the next Japan where the market spends years consolidating so that valuations can catch up with price. This could be just like what we’ve seen in the real estate market. In case liquidity keeps gushing through, we could be at 18,000 on the Nifty and the resulting pain could be deeper and longer. So, we need to be ready with a plan to exit the market.
AS:If I look at any of the big names who have made money over the last 150 years, they didn’t make money by riding the market. They made money only by staying invested and finding quality companies at good prices. Liquidity in the markets will come and go. From the late 1990s to today, America has been under the influence of steroids injected by the U.S. Federal Reserve. So we’re looking at a gush of liquidity over 20 years. But the history of markets shows that interest rate cycles do turn. It is hard to predict when the cycle will turn, but it should turn in the next five years. When the interest rate cycle turns, equities will witness a fall. That is the time to accumulate equities. In America, it was between 1969 and 1974 that Warren Buffett made most of his stock purchases. Then, there was the period in 1987 when there was a major crash. In 2002, there was a major crash again. The only difference is that the pullback in stock prices this time has been much faster and more violent, which has not allowed people like Mr. Buffett to buy. But markets still have pockets of values.
Alok, what is your take on the fundamentalist viewpoint on markets?
AJ:There’s nothing wrong in the fundamental view. The only question is, while Mr. Buffett is quoted so many times, how many people can act like Mr. Buffett? You can’t really emulate the qualities of great investors. So, we need to find more common man strategies, so that you can live your life peacefully and also have healthy returns on your money instead of just hoping for positive long-term returns. In Japan, the generation that started earning and investing money from 1990 has not seen any gains so far. How many would survive in that kind of an environment? That can happen to any country. So, just investing based on great names, quality and great fundamentals did not ensure positive returns to Japanese investors. There are very few lucky guys who can really say that they started investing 20 years ago and that they’re sitting with multibaggers. That’s not the average investor’s journey. Our approach to the market is very, very clear. We will not predict where the market is going. Instead, we will allow the market to tell us what to do.
AS:Since Alok said people have not made money in Japan, let me quote a story. About one and a half years ago, Mr. Buffett decided to buy in Japan. He went to the bank and took a loan of several billion dollars at near-zero interest rate, payable over 25 years, and bought five big companies which had a dividend yield of over 5%. He uses the dividends to pay off the loans and now basically owns a 5% stake in five Japanese business conglomerates free of cost. That is value investing. So, you basically get money free, you put it into a company whose dividend will pay off the loan with low interest, and then you can relax. This is the way it should be. I agree it is very difficult. It takes enormous patience. If people cannot do this, then the alternative is to buy the index for the long term. Just keep buying the index over the next 30-40 years and go to sleep. Put in 50-60% of your money into the index and the balance in bonds and go to sleep and the index will take care of it.
Does investing in the index sound like a sensible strategy to momentum investors?
AJ:Interestingly, if you look at the index, the index itself is a momentum portfolio. Every six months, the index committee will sit around and throw out the laggards from the index, and bring in stocks that are rising. So, the index is actually a beautiful momentum index. You can buy index ETFs (exchange-traded funds) or index funds at a low cost and actually run a momentum strategy. That can be your base momentum strategy. Then you can take premium products and run premium momentum strategies. My short point here is that if the index itself is like a momentum strategy that really validates momentum investing.
AS:The index in India is a very shallow index. When I say index, I am talking about a broad index like the S&P 500. Unfortunately, we don’t have mutual funds which follow the BSE 500 in a big manner. The best you can do is buy the Nifty and the Nifty Next 50. If you get an index for the Nifty 500, buy the Nifty 500 and go to sleep.
The difference between momentum investing and the Nifty strategy is we keep the Nifty and buy more of it when the index goes down. What makes the difference between following the Nifty strategy and the momentum strategy is that I have to pay a 2% fee to the manager. In the case of the Nifty, I have to pay only 0.05% to the manager. This fee difference makes a big difference over a period of 10 or more years.
AJ:The S&P 500 is also similar to a momentum portfolio. It is rebalanced four times in a year instead of two times as is the case with the Nifty. And in the last decade, 200 companies have gone out of S&P 500 and 100 new companies have come into the index, so it is a beautiful momentum portfolio. Additionally, there is over 200 years of data showing that momentum as a factor has beaten other factors such as value and growth.
How do you see the markets going forward?
AS:I see this bubble continuing to play out depending on two things. One is inflationary expectations because inflation expectations will determine when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. If U.S. President Joe Biden allows inflation to run to 7% or 8%, then he may be forced to bring it down, and the Fed will be forced to apply the brakes very quickly. If this episode of inflation turns out to be transitory, the current momentum in stocks will continue for a year or so. It all depends on the inflation trajectory.
AJ:The inflation bogey is upon us, and I don’t foresee inflation dying out. More than inflation, real interest rates need to be watched, because a nominal interest rate rise may also get absorbed in the market. It will take some external event probably for the U.S. Fed to change course. So, the current trend seems par for the course.
We tend to equate the real economy with the stock market at all times, but they hardly ever meet. That is the sole reason 90% of all economists and analysts in the market are not able to call what’s going to happen next.
Father Stan Swamy passed away in a Mumbai hospital last week, on July 5, while his case for bail was going on in the Bombay High Court. On being informed of his death, the Bench hearing his case is reported to have observed, “with all humility at our command, this is a shocking news. We passed that order, to take him to the hospital of his choice. We have no words to express our condolences....” Fr. Swamy, 84, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, bilateral hearing loss, back pain and “generalised weakness”. His health had begun to deteriorate since his incarceration in Mumbai, after his arrest on October 8, 2020, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), in the Bhima Koregaon case. On May 28 he was moved to a private hospital, following a court order, but his condition had worsened. Meanwhile the court had continued hearing his bail application but not arrived at a decision.
Like the Bombay High Court Bench, Fr. Swamy’s many admirers in India and abroad would have been “shocked” at his death while still in custody. This important fact — that he continued to be in custody in Mumbai — will not be missed by those who followed the case, including human rights organisations abroad, for Fr. Swamy had wished to be allowed to return to Jharkhand, but tragically that was not to be. Naturally, even then the law would have taken its course in respect of the trial.
The Indian system’s treatment of Fr. Swamy has attracted substantial and pointed criticism from significant international quarters. Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, after his death, plainly made the accusation that he was arrested on “false charges of terrorism”. The European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, did not go so far, but said that the European Union had been “raising his case repeatedly with the [Indian] authorities”. In a statement on July 6 on Fr. Swamy’s death, Liz Throssell, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated, “We are deeply saddened and disturbed” and went on to describe him as a “long standing activist, particularly on the rights of indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups”. The United States State Department expressed sadness at his death and called him a “Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist”. And, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom “condemned in the strongest terms the deliberate neglect and targeting by the government of India that led to the death of Father Stan Swamy… long-time human rights defender”.
A defence that is wooden
While denying him bail, a special NIA court concluded that the “material placed on record thus prima facie denote[d]” that Stan Swamy “was not only the member of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist) but he was carrying out activities further in the objective of the organisation which is nothing but to overthrow the democracy of the nation”. This opinion clearly has not been taken into consideration nor has it been found to be credible by international observers. Fr. Swamy has continued to be described as a human rights activist.
It is also doubtful that the defence of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), that “Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law”, will find many takers in respect of the Fr. Swamy case, both with regard to his arrest as well as denial of bail.
In response to criticism in the case, the MEA, on July 6, also noted that “India’s democratic and constitutional polity is complemented by an independent judiciary, a range of national and state level Human Rights Commissions that monitor violations, a free media and a vibrant and vocal civil society. India remains committed to promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens (https://bit.ly/3kh4CCN)”.
This, no doubt, is true as a general proposition. However, these words will inevitably be refracted through the prism of denial of bail to an ailing, very old man who was considered by influential sections of international opinion to have been an activist for the tribal people, assisting them in the preservation of their rights and their way of life. Also, inevitably, they will not be able to forget that it took almost a month for the jail authorities to provide a straw, sipper and winter clothes to Fr. Swamy, as Parkinson’s disease made it difficult for him to hold cups or glasses. The ‘straw and sipper’ may become a visual metaphor, for words too paint pictures. These aspects, among others, will raise questions about the MEA’s statement especially among Christian church groups abroad because Fr. Swamy was a Jesuit priest and it will not be unnatural for them to take some interest in the matter.
Perceived path of the state
All this will also be viewed in the context of the events of the past few years, when international liberal opinion has been deeply concerned by what it perceives as the direction taken by Indian society and polity. There is of course no question of pandering to such opinion on India’s core security interests in issues relating to terrorism from abroad and indiscriminate violence driven by ideology-driven direct perpetrators of violence against the state causing,inter alia, the loss of innocent lives. However, diplomacy requires engagement with international liberal opinion, not wooden and inflexible assertions of general principles only. The Government has refused to engage with either domestic or global liberal opinion.
What has to be realised is that even as the national public culture and mores seek to shed the vestiges of both their anglicised and Persianate past, it needs to retain the old value of caring. Indeed, a strong and effective state can and must also be a humane state, which it hardly was in the case of Fr. Swamy. When India embarked on the great national enterprise after Independence, it did so on the principle that it would achieve development not through an authoritarian polity but a democratic and liberal one, despite the obstacles and challenges that lay in the way.
For the superior judiciary
Yes, special laws were, and continue to be required to meet the challenges that arise from violence that cannot be confronted under the ordinary criminal statute. Their application, however, requires constant review. As jail is the rule and bail the exception for those charged under special laws, there should be very strong evidence to substantiate these charges. But in some cases, this is obviously not so. Consequently, the accused while languishing in jail for many years are acquitted during trials indicating that there was insufficient evidenceab initioto lock them up. This is unacceptable and the superior judiciary needs to redress the situation through an audit of such cases. Fr. Stan Swamy’s case should provide an impetus to put such an audit machinery in place as India approaches the 75th year of its Independence. It will also reassure international opinion that India is a responsive state.
Vivek Katju is a former diplomat
It is an accepted axiom in a democracy such as India that the Executive shall abide by the Constitution. By the same logic, the bureaucracy is answerable to the lawfully elected government. It is this unassailable legal position which keeps a check on police conduct in a democratic nation.
Writing just after a Minneapolis police officer was sentenced in the United States, on June 25, to 22-and-a-half years in prison for the horrific murder of a hapless citizen, George Floyd, and the enormous media publicity it has received the world over — Floyd was videotaped in May 2020, that showed him dying as the officer was kneeling on his neck — my uneasy feeling is that government and public distrust of the police will further widen. Even a straightforward and law-abiding policeman will hardly be believed. The onus will be on him to prove that he is honest and humane.
The Minneapolis court verdict will no doubt receive support from everyone who believes in a system of checks and balances. My question, however, is whether happenings of this kind and our own horrific episode in Sattankulam, Tamil Nadu, when in June 2020, a 58-year-old father and his 31-year-old son were subject to police brutality and died, justify further curbs on the police authority to investigate an established crime. I know well that I will be in the minority when I plead for at least a slightly kindlier view of police conduct and more latitude to them in the standard operating procedures which they follow, especially when they investigate a complicated crime.
Top court’s observation
It is in this context that I cite a recent Supreme Court of India observation (https://bit.ly/2VCeBYS) that courts have no authority to direct an investigating officer to in turn direct the arrest of any particular individual connected with a crime. This view should be examined in the background of growing instances of subordinate judicial officers, and even High Courts sometimes, directing the investigating officer to effect the arrest of a particular individual who has come to adverse notice as a suspect in the commission of a crime.
I am happy that the highest court of the land has intervened in the matter. I have come across many instances of courts bullying police officers, asking why ‘x’ has been arrested and not ‘y’. Such directions cut at the roots of criminal justice ethics, because the bedrock of English jurisprudence that we have adopted with some modifications is the principle that anyone hauled up by law should be considered innocent unless he is proved guilty The direction to the police with regard to arrests during a criminal investigation is harmful to police morale and cuts at the roots of field policing. Court observations that smack of a lack of faith in police ability and integrity will make grass-root level policemen even more arbitrary than now and force them into carrying out questionable actions that will cast aspersions on an officer’s ability to think for himself.
I strongly believe that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) vests sufficient discretion in the investigating officer to take such decisions as arrests and searches, and even the dropping of further action after registering a first information report
Court interference — mind you, it is not intervention — in the day-to-day investigation is not only undesirable but is also not sanctioned by law. I am of the view that except for the Supreme Court, in whom the Constitution vests enormous authority and discretion which are not questionable, the lesser courts shall not give directions in the matter of arrests and searches.
Courts should remember that the police are a well-established hierarchy that is obligated to ensure objectivity during a criminal investigation. Every investigation is supervised by at least two immediate senior officers. In the more important cases, there are a few more levels. It is their duty to ensure that every investigation is handled lawfully and impartially. Where supervisory officers fail in their duty because of sheer indolence or buckle under external pressure, they deserve to be pulled up by courts. But not before they are found guilty of indifference or malfeasance.
FIR is mandatory
We need to educate the Executive and the common man that it is now well-established law that a first information report is not an act of charity to the aggrieved complainant. It is mandatory that every police station in the land should register a complaint under the relevant sections of a statute the moment a cognisable offence is made out in the complaint. The complaint may be false or frivolous in order to settle personal scores. But the basic requirement is registration.
There is another safeguard against police misconduct. The CrPC makes it obligatory for the investigating officer to write a diary that details the action taken every day following registration. To such a diary are attached witness statements. When in doubt, the competent court, which already has a copy of the first information report, can demand to see the case diary. If the content of such a diary establishes the complicity of an individual, the court can question an investigating officer as to what he proposed to do on the basis of such evidence. Directing an investigating officer to go ahead with an arrest even before he has scrutinised the evidence collected is unsustainable in law.
Holding up a mirror
I am not pleading the cause of police officers, many of whom are burdened with the task of unravelling the truth in a complicated occurrence. I also concede that there are many dishonest police officers at all levels who work overtime to sabotage an investigation with a view to saving an offender or are waiting to please a rank outsider for monetary consideration. To paint all police officers with the same brush is hugely unfair to a majority of investigators.
To sum up, I would place the blame for the ills that affect the police, particularly in the area of criminal investigation, squarely at the door of many senior officers who are waiting to be browbeaten by outsiders or are looking for unethical avenues to aggrandise themselves.
R.K. Raghavan, a former Central Bureau of Investigation Director, is currently Professor of Criminal Justice and Policing at the Jindal Global School, Sonipat, Haryana
The recent demise of thespian Dilip Kumar has led to an outpouring of grief on social media and quite rightly so. The nation has just lost one of its most consummate actors who will always be cherished for his versatility. While reminiscing his work, people will discussDaag,Naya Daur,Madhumati,Sagina Mahato,Shaktiand other films. Though he had retired from acting and was ailing for a long time, his presence served as a reminder of a sensibility that has now come to elude the contemporary Hindi film industry.
Standing up for causes
Kumar was a successful actor, a superstar so to speak who never withheld from speaking his mind or endorsing the causes that he believed in, most of which were humanitarian. He was regularly involved in relief work during the various riots that rocked Mumbai. He stood resolute with Deepa Mehta when she was vilified and attacked during the release of her controversial film,Fire. Kumar frequently spoke against and denounced acts of fascism and majoritarian fanaticism. In the late 1990s, he went to Lucknow to express solidarity with the cultural organisation, Sahmat, after it met with a vicious attack by communal goons. Kumar’s detractors bayed for his blood and often threatened him with consequences by regularly protesting outside his Mumbai residence, but the actor refused to yield to political pressure.
This idealism or ability to confront the truth is a rarity in contemporary Bollywood. Increasingly, over the last few years, its films have taken a hypernationalistic turn, often distorting history to please a certain majoritarian sentiment. This distortion of history via film is an effective strategy aimed at proselytisation. There are several examples of such films, includingKesari,TanhajiandPanipat. The trend of such films has increased. Several are in the pipeline clearly with an eye on commercial benefits.
What are the top stars of Bollywood doing to combat the climate of hate that prevails in the country? Most of them have gone silent. Some who spoke up in the past were viciously trolled into silence, their films threatened with boycott. Commercial gains have suppressed larger interests. At the end of the day, it is a commerce-driven industry, and the personal wealth of the stars is also determined by the prospects of their films. However, this same lot that can’t stop talking about Kumar as an inspiration to them needs to engage in some self-reflection. Here, perhaps we also need to ask: was Dilip Kumar part of a different India where an actor could protest and still get work without the fear of larger curbs? It must be said that Kumar was also enthused by the progressive ideals of a newly independent India which the current lot of superstars lack completely.
Far from reality
The ongoing pandemic has further radicalised our viewing habits. With a surge of OTT platforms, there is a new access and heightened awareness amongst the mainstream Hindi cinema audience about other Indian film cultures such as Tamil and Malayalam. New as well as old films are released and available on these platforms. Watching Malayalam and Tamil cinemas specifically alongside contemporary Hindi cinema has made audiences realise that the larger questions and concerns facing the country are perhaps posed in those film cultures beyond the glamour citadel of Mumbai whose cinema seems to be increasingly irrelevant to the reality of contemporary India. Contemporary Hindi cinema has nothing to compare with films likeKarnanorVeyilmarangal. Purely fantasy-based escapist cinema can never outperform cinema confronting the real. What will Hindi cinema do when this realisation dawns upon its audiences? May be Kumar’s death could be reckoned as a wakeup call to attempt necessary course correction.
Kunal Ray teaches literary and cultural studies at FLAME University, Pune
India’s relations with China have been in deep freeze for over a year. The crisis on the LAC remains unresolved, and tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides still remain deployed in forward areas. Against this backdrop, Wednesday’s meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Dushanbe assumes significance. Their last meeting in Moscow, in September 2020, took place in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clash and at a time of a tinderbox-like situation south of Pangong Lake, with troops and artillery dangerously close to each other on the heights of the Kailash Range. A political agreement then paved the way for both sides to disengage in February, but the agreements in Galwan and Pangong Lake, where both sides have put in place no-patrolling zones, have not been followed at other disputed sites, in Depsang, Demchok, Gogra and Hot Springs.
Will the Dushanbe meeting similarly break the impasse? The initial readouts from both sides do not inspire confidence. Mr. Jaishankar said the unresolved situation was “visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner” and “assessing the overall relationship”, it was peace on the border that provided “the foundation for the development of ties since 1988” when the post-1962 freeze ended. Mr. Wang did not appear to view the boundary dispute with the same seriousness, instead calling for it to be kept “in an appropriate place” while “expanding the positive momentum of bilateral cooperation”. Where both sides did agree is in their assessment, as Mr. Jaishankar put it, that “a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side”. The difference from Moscow to Dushanbe is that China, which last year was equally concerned after India’s counter-deployments to take the heights of the Kailash Range where even shots were fired in warning — the first firing since 1975 — now appears to be in no hurry to restore thestatus quoelsewhere. India, having declared that normalcy cannot be possible without disengagement and de-escalation and signalled its intent with measures including scrutiny on Chinese investments — bilateral trade, however, is still booming beyond pre-pandemic levels thanks to huge imports of medical supplies — will now have to stay the course to underline its resolve on restoring thestatus quo. Mr. Wang also said that Beijing’s “strategic judgment on China-India relations remains unchanged”. Whether China’s PLA, which has been dragging its feet on negotiations to restore the LACstatus quosince February, shares that judgement remains to be seen. The only way for Beijing to demonstrate that is indeed the case will be to resume negotiations on the LAC at the earliest. Unless a full restoration of peace and a de-escalation on the borders happen, the relations in all other spheres will remain cloaked in distrust.
The latest inflation data based on retail and wholesale prices are yet again flashing cautionary signals as spiralling costs continue to dog the pandemic-hit economy. CPI-based inflation stayed stuck above the RBI’s 6% upper bound for the second straight month, with June’s provisional annualised 6.26% only a touch slower than the six-month high pace of 6.3% registered in May. Inflation at the retail level was largely propelled by sharp increases in key food item prices including oils and fats, which surged almost 35% from a year earlier and gained 2.9% from May’s levels, as also egg, which jumped 19.4% year-on-year and 6.2% from the preceding month, and pulses and products, which climbed 10% from June 2020. As RBI officials reviewing the State of the Economy in the central bank’s monthly Bulletin released on Thursday observed, fuel inflation, which excludes petrol and diesel, surged to a record 12.7% in June driven by LPG, kerosene and the rural poor’s mainstay, firewood and dung-cake. And, disconcertingly, LPG and kerosene prices have also registered increases so far in July. Transport costs remain persistently high as both petrol and diesel prices continue to rise, with the former now averaging Rs. 102.92 a litre in the four major metros as on July 12, and diesel at almost Rs. 94, according to the Bulletin article. With global crude oil trending higher, the unabated rise in domestic transportation costs is bound to reflect in retail prices of farm produce and products shipped from factories.
Wholesale price inflation also stayed stubbornly high at 12.07% in June, after May’s record 12.94%, as price gains in the fuel and power category soared 32.8% annually, and those of manufactured products edged up to 10.88%. Medium and small-scale industrial units, already struggling to cope with the pandemic’s impact on demand and overall finances, now face rising raw material and input costs. With manufacturing activity contracting in June for the first time in 11 months as per IHS Markit’s PMI, the economy is visibly struggling to regain traction in the wake of the second wave, which has eroded demand and consumptive capacity in both urban and rural markets. Add to this the looming possibility that this year’s monsoon rains may be less than adequate, either temporally or spatially, disrupting agricultural output and the outlook for both inflation and growth gets significantly clouded. With cumulative rainfall since June 1 being 5% below average and 12 weather subdivisions spanning 37% of the country’s area experiencing deficient rainfall as on July 15, and the pandemic still nowhere near under control, the risk of precarity and hardship rising in the rural hinterland is very real. The Government must, at the very least, cut fuel taxes to ease the burden on consumers.
The Government has taken the final decision to bring forward a far-reaching Constitution Amendment Bill during the current session of Parliament drastically amending the amending processes of the Constitution [New Delhi, July 15]. The Bill seeks to empower Parliament to make any law in furtherance of the Directive Principles even if such law contravened the fundamental right enshrined in the constitution. The Government proposes to introduce the Bill within the next fortnight and get it passed before the end of the budget session, unless it runs into some unexpected procedural difficulties giving the Opposition an opportunity to stall it. The constitutional experts of the Government are still struggling hard to remove the legal lacuna and smoothen the rough edges to ensure its easy passage by securing the widest possible support in both Houses of Parliament. While the ruling party has the requisite two-thirds majority of its own in the Lok Sabha, the Government will be obliged to do deft lobbying in the Rajya Sabha to make doubly certain that this Constitution Amendment Bill does not meet with the same fate as the Privy Purses Bill last year.