Indian politics and politicians frequently plumb the depths. What else can one say following the deplorable behavior of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad’s hooligan assault on a 60-year-old Air India manager at Delhi airport during an altercation over his demand for a business class seat, when the flight was exclusively economy. The assault – captured on camera - ended in a blanket ban on his future presence on any Air India aircraft or on any other of the country’s national airlines.
As a result Gaikwad has been forced to make long distance journeys by road or by rail. The Shiv Sena has been, and is, associated in the public mind with Mumbai’s underclass hoodlums. Gaikwad’s conduct was a demonstration of what can be expected of unruly elements among Indian politicians.
Mobs in Delhi run amuck
Mobs in the New Delhi suburb of Noida ran amuck, targeting Nigerian residents. Seven Nigerian students were hospitalized. Large-scale arrests were made by the police, and more are expected in the coming days and weeks.
The violence was triggered by the death of a local teenage schoolboy who died of a drug abuse. Stories that the Nigerians had peddled the drugs, without any evidence to back the claim, led to mob anarchy. This is not the first such incident have occurred in the Indian capital. Similar incidents - including an outrageous attack on a flat with African women residents – severely dented the Indian image in Africa, and it took a great deal of effort in damage control to repair the country’s tattered reputation across the African continent. Noida, the Delhi suburb where these disgraceful events occurred is under the administrative authority of the Uttar Pradesh government. Hence Sushma Swaraj, the Minister of Exterrnal Affairs, contacted UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who promised stern action against the hooligans. The Nigerian Ambassador in Delhi was assured that every possible measure would be taken to bring the offenders to justice. ‘Indians in Nigeria are not treated like this,’ complained an injured Nigerian. Indians would do well to introspect before pointing to racism in the West. That has become the flavor of all seasons. Indian culture that is commonly bandies about clearly requires considerable fumigation. Meanwhile, Sushma Swaraj, has her work cut out (TV channels, print media, March 27,28, 29).
Jihadi terrorism’s Tentacles
Government informed Parliament that 2016 had witnessed the highest level of youth involvement in jihadi terror activity in Kashmir. Home Ministry statistics reveal that 88 Kashmiri youth. Kashmiri youth with jihadi sympathies have taken to pelting the security forces with stones during firefights with jihadi terrorists, putting at risk the lives of the security forces.
Step too far
Understanding the limits of forbearance is not seldom the truest wisdom, for the men in uniform, too, are of the same flesh and blood flesh as the rest of us, and are also fearful of losing their lives in the line of duty. Stone throwing is no fun and games. General Bipin Rawat, India’s Army chief had pointed this out earlier, emphasizing that his first duty was to protect the lives of the men under his command. In the latest encounter with a holed up terrorist, three of his stone throwing allies were shot dead together with the principal. Those who take up the sword must expect to perish by the sword (Times of India, Telegraph, Hindu, March 29).
Telangana sleuth in UP terror group
An intrepid Telangana detective infiltrated an Uttar Pradesh terror outfit by pretending to be their Syrian handler. Thanks to his courage and smartness, three terror suspects, Danish Akhtar, Syed Mir Hussain and Atif Muzaffar were arrested before their plan to plant a pipe bomb on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train fructified. Four others were also arrested, while another, Saifullah was killed in an armed encounter with the police (Hindu March 26).
Roots of jihadi bias
Tunnel vision is the seedbed of jihadi culture: compromise and accommodation being the one of the fundamentals of civilized life is scorned and derided. Take a recent case at a Kolkata hostel for Muslim students: an organization called the ‘All Bengal Minority Youth Federation’ has demanded that a marble bust of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the hostel’s third floor, inaugurated by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Mani in 2011, be removed on the ground that Islam considers ‘idol worship’ reprehensible. (Hindu March 21)
Similar logic drives the Muslim clergy to oppose the judicial ban on the triple talaq of Muslim Personal Law. Its repeal, they claim, would violate the injunction of the Holy Quran. That being so, would it not be in their best interest to shake the dust of India from their feet and migrate to, say, Saudi Arabia or Qatar or, better still, to Pakistan, which translates as ‘Land of the Pure’ - a win-win outcome for all sides, surely?
It was a long time coming, but all the sweeter for the long wait, as India and Israel celebrate the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship. In an interview with Mint, Israel’s Ambassador in New Delhi Daniel Carmon, responding to a question on the relationship, said: ‘I think I would look at the past 25 years as a process …as a crescendo that goes beyond the political,’ referring to the safety and their development in every field. High level ministerial visits were now as routine as they were once rare, he said, but he called for deeper knowledge and awareness on both sides through people-to-people exchanges and business interaction that transcend formal government declarations. (Mint March 27).
IAF heads for Israel drills
A lot is happening below the radar, suggested the Mint interviewer. To which Ambassador Carmon ducked suavely to guide the ball to other more obvious directions such as agriculture etc. That said, the radar now reveals that the Indian Air Force is set to take part in the joint military drills in Israel. Other participants are the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Greece. ‘The joint aerial drills are being described as the biggest and most complex ever to be hosted by Israel. This is the first such participation by the IAF in Israel.
The IAF has acquired valuable experience from such drills, notably from the Red Flag exercise, hosted over Alaska by the United States last summer. IAF pilots and support staff were lauded by the US commander for their excellence. He had seen none better in such a challenging environment, he said. (Economic Times, March 23).
Debit card business doubles
Debit card transactions have more than doubled after demonetization. The change has been driven by small public sector lenders, whose usage of cards has incrased almost five times. Small cities are likely to spearhead debit card transactions, judging by trends available thus far. (Times of India M arch 17).
Aadhar card hailed abroad
The Aadhar card scheme, based on the biometric identifier for every Indian citizen was a social game changer when first introduced during the Congress regime of Dr Manmohan Singh. It was the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani, one of the founders of Infosys. In power, the BJP-led government has adopted it with immense enthusiasm, when in opposition they were at best lukewarm.
Now, however, the Aadhar Identification system has attracted a number of foreign countries, keen to replicate it. The list includes Bangladesh, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Russia. The World Bank’s Chief Economist, Paul Romer, says, ‘The system in India is the most sophisticated that I’ve seen. It’s the basis of for all kinds of connections that involve things like financial transactions. It could be good for the world if this became widely adopted.’ Identification is the first step to accessing services such as health and education in a world where 1.5 billion people can’t prove who they are. (NDTV).
GST Bills pass Lok Sabha test
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) took a significant forward to its final passage to the Statute book, when the Lok Sabha cleared four bills, setting the stage for 28 States along with Delhi and Puducherry to enact State legislation over the upcoming three months to roll out the new tax regime from July. The GST is designed as a game changer, making India a unified market. Much time and could have been saved if the BJP had supported the measure, first introduced by the Congress government of Manmohan Singh. Better late than never (Times oof India, Business Line, Business Line, Mint March 30).
India’s victory marred by ill-will
Beating Australia in the sylvan setting of Dharamsala to clinch a 2-1 victory in the four-match Test cricket series against Australia was a magnificent Indian achievement. The crowd at Dharamsala and TV audiences across the world saw the best of Test cricket.
The great German tennis star, Boris Becker, after losing to a better opponent on the day, exclaimed ‘ I have lost a tennis watch, not a war.’ The unfriendly comments made by Indian captain Virat Kohli and Australian sledging were unworthy of the spirit of cricket.
Steve Smith, the outstanding batsman of the series, apologised as Australian captain for going over the top, and Virat Kohli said his initial comments were blown out of proportion by the media. Kohli’s poor form with the bat, suggested Sourav Ganguly, a former Indian Test captain, was his involvement in distracting off-the-field controversies (Telegraph March 31).