Editorials - 31-03-2021

The Mumbai muddle casts doubts on the integrity and autonomy of the entire force

What is currently happening in the Mumbai Police, a premier force with a manpower of around 50,000, cannot be brushed off as it raises questions about the very integrity of the police force.

On March 17, a duly appointed Commissioner of Police, Param Bir Singh, was shifted from his prestigious post after a tenure of just 13 months, though he was to serve a mandated two years. The move was seemingly for reasons other than incompetence or misconduct, but government sources cite mishandling of the Ambani explosives case by him, as a retaliation against Mr. Singh, who had gone to town with many charges against the State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.

An enraged Mr. Singh approached the Supreme Court seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Mr. Deshmukh and getting the transfer order quashed. The court, however, declined to intervene and asked him to go to the Bombay High Court.

Extraordinary situation

Why has this chain of events received such adverse publicity nationally? Perhaps because the dimensions of the incident are too large to ignore, both by the government and the public. What also makes it different from other murky episodes in the past is that a senior officer chose to rattle the establishment.

We do not yet know enough about Mr. Singh’s reputation or his motive. Whatever be the case, it is likely that he received support from the Opposition in Maharashtra to carry the struggle into higher forums. Even if he had been provided a plan charted out by the adversaries of the present State government, it required extraordinary fibre to go against the government. Some may look upon his conduct as unpardonable indiscipline; others could endorse it on the ground that an “unethical” government deserved such treatment.

Coming down to brass tacks, it has been alleged that the State Home Minister had fixed up a quota for the police to collect money from restaurants and similar joints. Apart from this, Mr. Singh accused the Minister of systematic interference in day-to-day police administration, especially in postings of lower functionaries.

The Minister is also said to have supported an infamous low-ranked police officer, Sachin Vaze, who has now been arrested in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case. Mr. Vaze had been under suspension for over a decade, which was revoked under the current government. He is said to have had access to the highest levels in the State hierarchy, which he abused to his own advantage. The kid-glove treatment for such issues raises questions about the police administration in Maharashtra.

Some charges against Mr. Deshmukh can be proved only partially, while others may remain disputed. One can also expect the State government to launch an offensive against Mr. Singh, who may have some influential friends in Delhi and the Opposition in the State Assembly. The episode, hence, naturally, has acquired huge political overtones. We can expect some fireworks for the next few weeks in the form of mutual trading of charges. And in such an environment, the common man’s trust in the police administration is irretrievably eroded.

The cynical truth is that perhaps none of the 30-odd police forces in India can claim that it is corruption-free or that its personnel policies are so transparent that they cannot be tinkered with by the political bosses. The difference between States in degrees of maladministration is, hence, only marginal.

The point, however, is that the fair name of the Maharashtra Police has been besmirched beyond repair by the mudslinging. A Supreme Court-monitored investigation may reasonably be expected to clear the air. The question is, how can such an investigation be fair with the accused Home Minister still in the saddle? The Maharashtra Chief Minister cannot shirk his responsibility in the matter. He needs to ask his Home Minister to step aside till he is cleared by an impartial high-level enquiry.

SC’s intervention

Although the Supreme Court has declined to intervene, public interest may soon demand that the court takesuo motucognisance of what has been going on in the Mumbai Police. This is because the episode has serious implications for the police nationally. It will be ideal if the court orders a probe by a team comprising primarily officers from outside Maharashtra. The model prescribed by the court in 2008 in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases should work in Maharashtra as well. Anything short of this will not seem credible and may not be able to ferret out the truth.

Complex questions

It may be remembered that in 2006, inPrakash Singh vs Union of India, the top court led by Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal went quite far in issuing specific instructions, including a fixed two-year tenure for the Director-General of Police (DGP) to ensure the independence of police from the executive. It is an entirely different matter that many States were slow to act on these directives. It is again debatable whether a rigid procedure for the appointment of a DGP and a fixed tenure of two years have helped make the latter a fearless entity, who would dare to ignore illegal directions from the executive.

Furthermore, even if the DGP is firm and honest, an unscrupulous political executive can just circumvent him and operate directly through the District Superintendent of Police (SP) or police station staff, who are highly vulnerable to threats. There is no remedy for this yet.

Ultimately, one may be inclined to believe that public expectations of police autonomy are hard to reach. Operating in a highly politicised atmosphere, where, at the drop of a hat, the ruling party can pressure the police to foist cases against those in the opposition, how can the force be completely insulated?

There is, however, no point in lambasting the political class without talking about the lack of integrity within the police forces themselves. India has often seen shocking episodes of individual policemen, including those in the coveted Indian Police Service (IPS), indulging unabashedly in large-scale corruption. This is despite the fact that police salaries have improved considerably, along with other welfare measures like healthcare and housing.

Even more striking is the fact that the IPS has many bright and dedicated officers with commendable idealism and high professional standards. If these young men and women themselves have not been able to give us honest policing, the future is indeed bleak. Mere finger-pointing at politicians will not salvage the Indian police from its current sorry plight.

The author is a former CBI Director

A new architecture of economic growth, which begins from the ground, is required to create better lives for the majority

Several lucky Indians have taken their vaccine shots and flown abroad. With relief, they are getting back to their own normal lives. A year ago, all Indians were startled to be locked in. And shocked too that millions had to break out of the Lakshman Rekha for shelter, food, and even water to drink. The novel coronavirus pandemic had exposed the precariousness of their lives. Relief was rushed for them, and vows taken that when the pandemic passes, we must “build back better”, and create a new, more resilient, and more just economy.

Global indices

In the country’s march to a $5 trillion economy, the Indian government and its advisers are keen to recover the many lost quarters of GDP growth. Have they lost sight of how poorly India’s economic growth has been serving its citizens? A Union Minister pooh-poohed the Global Hunger Index which places India 94 amongst 107 countries (https://bit.ly/2Pil6NO). International observers are wrong, he said, because Indians are very kind people, who even give sweets to a dog when she delivers her puppies, and such kind people would never ever allow a human being to go hungry.

The WHR20 Happiness Report released in March 2021 (https://bit.ly/3u6N6ml) by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network compares citizens’ own perceptions of their well-being in 153countries. According to the report, Indian citizens are amongst the least happy in the world: India ranks a very low 144th. Perhaps the Minister will say that Indian citizens themselves do not know what is happening in India.

Inequities have widened

Like aerodynamic stress-tests reveal structural weaknesses in the designs of aircraft, the pandemic has revealed structural flaws in countries’ economies. According to a report released by the World Bank, while India’s stock markets rose during the pandemic and the very rich became even richer, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 75 million. This accounts for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty, the report says.

While the rich are beginning to buzz around their global world again, a new architecture of economic growth is required to create better lives for the majority in India. The old global economy was very good for migrant capital, which could move around the world at will, its life made easier by countries vying to attract foreign capital, even bending their environmental and labour regulations to make it easier to do business. The pandemic has revealed that the old economy was not good for migrant workers, however. Their “ease of living” was often sacrificed for capital’s “ease of doing business”.

The Indian economy must grow to create more incomes for its billion-plus citizens. Until the incomes of all rise, India will be a poor country from the perspective of the majority of its citizens, no matter how large its GDP. Moreover, economic growth must no longer be at the cost of the environment. According to global assessments, India ranks 120 out of 122 countries in water quality, and 179 out of 180 in air quality.

Think of new frameworks

India urgently needs a new strategy for growth, founded on new pillars. One is broader progress measures. GDP does not account for vital environmental and social conditions that contribute to human well-being and the sustainability of the planet. These factors are ignored as externalities by economists; they are trampled upon in a rush to grow the economy. Several frameworks are being developed now to measure what really matters including the health of the environment, and the condition of societies (public services, equal access to opportunities, etc.).

Most of these frameworks seek to define universally applicable scorecards. The items measured are given the same weightages in all countries to arrive at a single overall number for each country. This ‘scientific’ approach does enable objective rankings of countries. However, as the Happiness Report explains, this ‘objective’ approach misses the point that happiness and well-being are always ‘subjective’. What matters to people depends also on the conditions of others around them. Wealthy people can be unhappy when they have less wealth than other wealthy people. Moreover, everywhere, fairness, and trust in others and in institutions, contribute greatly to well-being. Therefore, countries in which the spirit of community is high, such as the ‘socialist’ countries of Northern Europe, come on top of well-being rankings even when their per capita incomes are not the highest.

The analysis of sources of well-being leads to the conclusion that the universal solution for improving well-being is for local communities to work together to find their own solutions within their countries, and in their villages and towns. Leo Tolstoy beginsAnna Kareninawith the observation that all unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways. Locals know which factors in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals matter the most to them. Therefore, standard global solutions will neither make their conditions better nor make them happier.

Lapsing to the old ways

New ways must be adopted to create a new post-pandemic normal. Sadly, the old ways are returning. The government is back to chasing its $5 trillion GDP target. Wealth creators (large companies and wealthy individuals) are being touted as the solution for growth. Power is being centralised. Governance of the many by a few politically and economically powerful persons may work for a few, stroke-of-the-pen, bold reforms. However, like insufficiently tested vaccines and medicines, the side-effects of these bold solutions can cause great harm to the overall health of the system. The best medical treatments are those that help the system to heal itself. Therefore, communities must be allowed to, and assisted to, find their own solutions to complex problems.

What India and the world need to create a better world, post-pandemic, is a vaccine against indifference to the conditions of those less well off. The backwardness of backward classes is their god-given lot according to the religion of India’s majority. The purpose of their lives is to do the dirty work necessary to keep the upper castes clean. The philosopher Michael J. Sandel says inThe Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?that the ideology of ‘individualism’ — which believes that a person’s successes and failures are entirely that person’s own responsibility — is a disease that has infected societies in the West. It justifies indifference to the conditions of those less well off. It denies that societal conditions are responsible for the difficulties poor people have. It also conveniently hides that societal conditions have contributed substantially to the wealth of those well-off.

When only some shine, India does not shine. The government of India has begun a massive “India@75” campaign to celebrate, in 2022, the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. What is the scorecard of progress against which it will report whether India has reached the ‘tryst with destiny’ that it set out to achieve in 1947? The size of its GDP, the numbers of billionaires, the numbers of Indian multinationals, and the reach of its rockets in space? Or the condition of our holy Mother Earth ravaged by economic progress, and the conditions of hundreds of millions of citizens left behind?

Arun Maira is the author of ‘A Billion Fireflies: Critical Conversations to Shape a New Post-pandemic World’

Excellence in education depends on the quality of mentorship and not on the size or location of campuses

How many Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) should India have, and what should these institutes try to achieve? In their article, “Too many IITs, unrealistic expectations”(The Hindu, February 20), Philip G. Altbach and Eldho Mathews (https://bit.ly/3ubAri5) suggest that there should be between 10 to 12 IITs, that these institutes ought to be situated in big urban areas, and that they should focus on being “crown jewels”.

Excellence in education depends on the quality of mentorship; not on the size or location of campuses. To improve, faculties should be made bigger, and recruitment yardsticks should focus on quality and not quantity.

Core functions

The core functions of an engineering school are to: guide students along as they inquire and discover their interests in science and engineering; engage students with the interactions between technology, society, economics and the environment; prepare students for working careers as designers and gadget-makers, but also as entrepreneurs; invent new gadgets and discover new science, and enmesh all of these activities with local developmental needs. Overall, education at the higher secondary and college levels is really a nourishment that society produces to meet and bless the intense energies of young adults.

A lack of language and study skills causes some students to falter. Anecdotally, about a quarter of the incoming undergraduates need extra training and confidence-building measures in using the English language. Because the admission system is a testocracy, almost all the incoming students need to be dissuaded away from a mindset that focuses on strategic maximisation of points on multiple choice questions, and instead need to be goaded toward free inquiry and whole-problem tackling. A key problem in most engineering colleges is that the students should not only become skilled engineers but should also train to speak and write clearly.

Helping the new

The solution at many IITs has been to set aside time and resources towards initiating incoming students into college level education. At IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh for example, a five-week induction programme gently welcomes them into the academic setting and helps them feel at home. This phase also breaks the ice between students and faculty, making it easy for the students to get in touch with their teachers. This useful programme requires time and mentorship effort from faculty members.

The curriculum at IIT Mandi includes courses from a design and innovation stream, which includes a mandatory socio-technical practicum (https://bit.ly/2PbJpNy). This particular course has seen significant enrolment of visiting international students.

A substantial final year project can be nourishing and fulfilling for anyone completing an academic degree, because it presents an opportunity for focused work bringing together different strands of knowledge and skills on a concrete problem. Sadly, at many IITs, including the “crown jewels”, this final project is no longer mandatory. One of the key reasons for this regression is that the student strength has been increased without an accompanying, proportionate increase in faculty strength.

For all these reasons, and because our faculty salaries are lower than the international norms, it makes sense to hire many more faculty members than we do now. In a labour-surplus country like India, just as Arun Maira has suggested for the economy at large, we should readily use all the skilled labour that we can muster.

Recruitment and retention

Prof. Altbach and Prof. Mathews claim that faculty recruitment is such a big problem; that only around a dozen IITs can be comfortably staffed with world-class faculty. If faculty recruitment was indeed such a big problem, then why would sensible organisations dare to invest in private institutions such as Jio University, Mahindra Ecole Centrale, Shiv Nadar University, Krea University, and SRM University to name a few?

There are two existing problems with recruiting and retaining faculty members; both are self-made, and both can be solved.

The first problem is that not enough faculty members are hired, and that those hired are burdened with additional tasks such as running the canteen, etc. If there is indeed a scarcity of qualified faculty applicants, then would it be reasonable to burden the hired researchers with non-academic responsibilities such as: running the canteen, managing the placement cell, and managing tenders for various campus building works?

The second problem is that of inconsistency and group think in the hiring committees. Typically, recruitment has two stages: shortlisting by the hiring institute, and an interview in front on a panel that consists of mostly professors from outside the hiring institute.

If at the first stage, the shortlisting is done mechanically, then good and sometimes even excellent candidates can be weeded out. In specific, if shortlisting is done on the basis of the number of papers, size of grants won and the like, then those hired may be mediocre, paper-manufacturing mills. A better alternative is possible by reversing the existing two stages in recruitment, and explicitly flagging quality as a merit.

First, the external experts should prepare a short shortlist, and then the local hiring committees should attempt hiring from within this shortlist. The applicants should be required to submit information demonstrating the best aspects of their work. Each applicant should be asked to provide, in addition to their full curriculum vitae, their two best research publications, and their two best pedagogic materials such as a homework assignment or examination. At the first stage, the external professors could prepare a shortlist based solely on the two best publications and sample pedagogic materials. The statistics of outcomes of the external expert assessments can also supply clearer indications, of whether or not there is really a shortage of qualified applicants.

A waning fantasy is that only large companies and organisations can invent new technologies. This belief has been demolished by so many start-ups in the past few decades, that nowadays, even Prime Ministers preach the virtues of a start-up culture. So, why would anyone have low expectations from the smaller IITs, or from small but well-funded private colleges?

According to theTimes Higher Educationranking for the last year, the IITs at Ropar (Punjab) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh) are within the top 100 young universities of the world. But even ignoring such superficial rankings, the details are promising — the growth of IIT Mandi for example (https://bit.ly/3dbybAg). This IIT has as international a resident faculty body as any other IIT. In the last year, this IIT was seventh in the Atal innovativeness ranking (https://bit.ly/3m5i6jQ); an IIT Mandi project that developed a landslide warning system won the SKOCH award (https://bit.ly/39rcxa9).

Examples abroad

Remoteness is not a hindrance to excellence. Cornell University is located in the heart of rural New England, and has been excellent from even before the Internet age. And Cornell has a thriving start-up scene, even though the campus is not surrounded by industries. Japan’s newest world class University, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, is in the most remote corner within its territory, Okinawa island. In the coming post-COVID-19 future, remoteness that is hand-in-hand with connectedness may even attract start-ups.

Maben Rabi is a Professor at the Østfold University College, Norway. He received a B.Tech. degree from IIT Madras, and has worked as an Assistant Professor at IIT Mandi

There is a need to acknowledge the project’s appeal andthe intricacies of representation in order to counter it

Modern democracies are erected upon the twin pillars of rights and representation. While rights define the minimum due of individuals and communities vis-à-vis the state, representation enables the diverse voices in a polity to be heard. However, most critiques interrogate Hindutva through the limited lens of representation, arguing that it essentially represents interests of upper-caste Hindus. This is a misleading claim.

A case in point is West Bengal, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 18 seats in the last Lok Sabha election and secured 40.3% of votes, including five out of 10 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and both the seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. This is not an exception. Earlier, the BJP registered victories in Tripura and Uttar Pradesh and has continually dominated Madhya Pradesh and Bihar on the back of widespread subaltern support. Even then, academia is in denial about the ideological resonance of Hindutva among the subaltern sections because of a flawed understanding of the Hindutva project and its relationship with the politics of representation.

A tool for mobilisation

The claim that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) aspires to revive an old, ritually sanctioned, caste-based social order is incorrect. Often, examples like the introduction of policies like reservations for Economically Weaker Sections are advanced to bolster this claim, ignoring the fact that parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Janata Dal (United), which were catapulted to power by the Mandal agitation, put up only a tokenistic opposition to it. The ambition of Hindutva is not restricted to pushing a certain policy — it is to convert Hinduism into an ethnic order and reconstitute it as a race, a term repeatedly employed by Savarkar. This entails the process of simultaneous inclusion of the marginalised within Hinduism and the exclusion of the Muslim and Christian ‘other’. As a result, Hindutva has always nurtured a disdain for rituals. They are only a means of political mobilisation and reinforcing the Hindu identity, bereft of any innate sanctity. This is apparent in the party’s duplicitous stance on eating beef, a practice it opposes in the Hindi belt but condones in the northeast.

In India, the imposition of a modern state on a traditional society under colonialism destabilised the Hindu social order and gave rise to the politics of Hindutva and social justice. Modernity provided the hitherto unavailable language of rights and mechanisms of representation. Marginalised communities used these resources for ensuring upward mobility through representation and complemented it with struggles for moral and spiritual self-determination. The latter primarily included demands for inclusion within the Hindu fold via renegotiation of tradition. It was only when these demands of renegotiation remained unfulfilled that a section of subaltern communities rejected Hinduism and embraced Buddhism.

In the post-Independence era, while the JP movement presented an ideological critique of the excesses of the state and foregrounded the safeguarding of the rights of citizens, the parties born out of the movement gradually embraced the politics of ‘impoverished representation’, wherein who was being represented became the sole concern, while what values were being represented ceased to matter. It is this model of ideologically unanchored identity politics, based solely on representation, which paved the way for Hindutva’s rise. The project has cracked the code of such representational politics and successfully mobilised subaltern communities, producing a string of subaltern leaders like Narendra Modi, Uma Bharti, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Keshav Prasad Maurya, Renu Devi, Tarkishore Prasad, Sarbananda Sonowal, Dilip Ghosh, etc. It must be emphasised that while the BJP has left the representational matrix untouched, it has clamped down on the domain of rights, as is evident by wanton invocation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the introduction of laws against ‘love jihad’, steamrolling Bills through Parliament, enabling opaque political funding through electoral bonds, facilitating the corporate takeover of the economy and destabilising elected State governments. The present model of the politics of representation is incapable of addressing these issues that confront our democracy.

Democratisation has increased the thrust towards ritualistic inclusion within Hinduism, and hence, it seems unlikely that mere representational rejigging will dent Hindutva’s hegemony. A challenge to Hindutva requires a complete reorientation of politics from demographic imperatives to democratic ones, for which the opposition needs to foreground issues of rights and transparency along with representation.

The author is a former PhD Scholar at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU

For women dairy farmers, cooperatives and unions are a pathway to financial stability

The achievements of women dairy farmers in contributing to India’s ‘White Revolution’ are perhaps the greatest cause for celebrating the Women’s History Month in March. That this has happened despite around a majority of dairy farmers owning only small landholdings — typically households with two to five cows — is also a testament to the success of the dairy cooperatives models that were at the heart of Operation Flood.

The approach made it possible to enhance backward and forward linkages in the dairy value chain, paving the way for freeing small farmers from the clutches of middlemen, and guaranteed minimum procurement price for milk. A study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) indicates that 93% of women farmers who receive training alongside financial support succeed in their ventures, compared to the 57% success rate of those who receive financial aid alone. Institutionalising such inputs, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) now organises farmer’s orientation programmes across the country, under which women farmers are trained in scientific best practices on animal health, fodder quality, clean milk production, and accounts management.

Enhanced incomes

According to latest data, there are more than 1,90,000 dairy cooperative societies across the country, with approximately 6 million women members. A study conducted on Women Dairy Cooperative Society (WDCS) members across Rajasthan showed that with the income generated through dairying, 31% of the women had converted their mud houses to cement structures, while 39% had constructed concrete sheds for their cattle. Importantly, women-led cooperatives also provide fertile ground for grooming women from rural areas for leadership positions. In many instances, this becomes the first step for women in breaking free from traditional practices.

This was amply demonstrated through the testimonials of women dairy farmers highlighted by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying on the International Women’s Day earlier this month. Among the many stories that stood out, it was heartening to hear the account of Prem Bai from Rajasthan who never had access to education or formal employment but experienced a life transformation after she became a member of the Bhilwara Milk Union. She is now the main breadwinner in her family and recently bought 25 acres of land with the income she earned through dairy farming.

Another major challenge in this sector is information asymmetry among farmers. Statistics indicate that small and marginal farmers have access to only 50-70% of the resources that large and medium farmers have. Once again, the presence of collectives in the form of cooperatives and milk unions plays a significant role in enhancing the knowledge and bargaining power of women.

Women-led companies

Recent years have seen the rise of women-led dairy unions and companies. To this end, the NDDB has played a proactive role in setting up women-led producer enterprises like Shreeja Mahila Milk Producer Company, which was started with 24 women and now has more than 90,000 members, with an annual turnover of approximately Rs. 450 crore.

Last year, Amul Dairy released a list of 10 women dairy farmers who became millionaires by selling milk to the company. For instance, Navalben Dalsangbhai Chaudhary from Vadgam earned almost Rs. 88 lakh by selling 2,21,595 kg of milk in 2019-20, and Malvi Kanuben from Dhanera earned about Rs. 74 lakh by selling 2,50,745 kg of milk. Innovation in organisational structures has also spurred consistent growth in this sector.

These testimonials of individual women dairy farmers are all the more remarkable for the fact that many of them have not had a formal education, but through the process of dairying and working with larger collectives, such as milk unions and cooperatives, they have mastered the nuances of finance and marketing.

Atul Chaturvedi is Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Views are personal

In Puducherry, the BJP is trying to leverageits position as the ruling party at the Centre

A month after the Congress government in Puducherry was brought down through engineered resignations of its legislators, the Union Territory is preparing for an Assembly election that could transform its political landscape. It is a battle that would primarily test a wounded Congress’s ability to woo the electorate by playing the victim card and the BJP’s strength on the ground. A political non-entity till then, the BJP had only token political representation through three nominated MLAs. Five years ago, 29 of its 30 candidates forfeited their deposit. Now, it is contesting in nine seats in an alliance led by the All India N.R. Congress (16 seats); the AIADMK gets five seats. The Congress has ceded ground to its allies, allotting 13 seats to the DMK and one each to the CPI and the VCK. It is contesting only in 14 of its 15 constituencies — seven fewer than in 2016. In Yanam, the second seat from where AINRC leader and former CM N. Rangasamy is contesting, it has skipped fielding anyone. In an election season where perceptions somewhat influence public reception, the Congress has done itself little good by not fielding former CM V. Narayanasamy. The BJP has gone to town claiming he is scared to face the people.

The battle is essentially between these two alliances. The BJP with its insatiable political appetite is not merely fancying its chances on the strength it draws from the Central government. Irrespective of the outcome, it is in mission mode hoping to make electoral inroads. The manner in which its leaders, parachuted from Karnataka, camped for months to not only wean away Congress and DMK MLAs but also engage with voters through its ‘pagepramukhs’, points to its determination. It has allegedly begun directly contacting voters using phone numbers linked to Aadhaar cards, which the Madras High Court has directed the UIDAI to probe. Projecting the erstwhile Congress government as being incapable of delivering on its promises, the BJP is pushing the development agenda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to make Puducherry the ‘BEST’ — a Business hub, Education hub, Spiritual hub and Tourist hub. Though Mr. Rangasamy has declared himself the CM candidate, the BJP is stubborn that legislators will elect the head of government. Given this political game plan, the Congress cannot hope to win sympathy by merely screaming about the “murder of democracy” and the governance hurdles posed by former Lt. Gov. Kiran Bedi. It will have to work with the DMK, leaving behind the bitterness over conceding more seats, if it wants to earnestly challenge the BJP. For the people, the attraction of the BJP is the access it provides to central funds. But the tenure of Ms. Bedi was not the best advertisement for what the ruling party at the Centre can do.

People on both sides need to be aware ofthe sensitivities in India-Bangladesh ties too

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war of liberation and the centenary year of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showcased the deep history the two nations share, their future plans and the challenges ahead. At the events, which included an emotive ceremony in Dhaka, a cultural programme, India’s conferring of the Gandhi Peace Prize posthumously on Mujib, and a visit by Mr. Modi to the Bangabandhu (Mujib) memorial at his hometown in Tungipara, the leaders paid homage to the nation’s founders, millions massacred by the Pakistani military regime in 1971, and those who died fighting for Bangladeshi freedom, including nearly 4,000 Indian soldiers. India’s role in the creation of Bangladesh was highlighted by Ms. Hasina as she thanked India for its aid, and later, for providing her shelter when members of her family, including her father Mujib, were assassinated. Mr. Modi wrote in an editorial of the hope for aShonali Adhyaya(Golden Chapter) in South Asia that Bangabandhu may have brought about had he not been killed. The two leaders built on their December 2020 (virtual) meet by bolstering plans for connectivity and infrastructure projects with a framework for cooperation on trade, along with other MoUs on sports, education and disaster management. India-Bangladesh ties in the past 15 years, since Ms. Hasina was elected, have been marked by new areas of cooperation and an ability to resolve specific differences. Ms. Hasina’s decision, beginning 2009, to shut down anti-India terror camps and to hand over nearly two dozen of India’s “most wanted”, reversed mistrust. Mr. Modi’s push to conclude the long-pending Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, and to accept an international tribunal verdict in favour of Bangladesh that resolved a 40-year-old maritime dispute, built confidence as well. Other issues, if unresolved, could pose challenges.

The joint statement noted the need to resolve the dispute over Teesta water sharing, and six other rivers. The problem of Bangladeshi civilians being killed at the border has dented relations. The Modi government’s concerns over the treatment of Hindus, an impetus for the CAA, were highlighted as the PM performed two templepoojasand addressed a rally of minority Matua Hindus. The visits raised eyebrows in India as they took place even as West Bengal went to vote, but it became clear they will have repercussions in Bangladesh as well: protests against Mr. Modi’s visit turned violent, with at least 11 members of the Hefazat-e-Islam shot dead by police, and reprisal violence against the Hindu minority by Islamist mobs. The events only underline the need for a deeper understanding on both sides of the sensitivities of the India-Bangladesh relationship, even as its many successes are counted and celebrated.

Dacca was captured by liberation forces of Bangla Desh to-day [March 30], a secret radio broadcast monitored here [KRISHNAGAR] said. The West Pakistan troops had pulled out of Dacca after days of heavy fighting, it said. The freedom-fighters, broadcasting from a newly set up radio station in Dacca, reported that the Pakistani martial law administration had shifted its headquarters to some other place, and announced that the headquarters of the sovereign People’s Republic of Bangla Desh would be established in the liberated former provincial capital soon. The radio said, “Dacca has been conquered by the liberation forces and the People’s Republic of Sovereign Bangla Desh established.” It asked freedom-fighters to chase the fleeing enemy. The radio added, “The (remaining) occupied areas will come into our hands in a day or two.” The broadcast concluded with a tribute to the “lakhs of martyrs”. The radio said later that it was broadcasting from a newly set up wireless station in Dacca.