Tuesday 02nd April 2019 16:56 EDT

The great Indian rope trick mutated from fiction to iconic fact, as the country’s first killer satellite soared into space bringing India membership of the exclusive club of, which includes the United States, Russia (both pioneering leaders) and China. That the announcement of the feat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led to an infantile controversy is laughable. Issues of grave national importance are made in India and abroad by the head of the executive branch of government. It was so after the Pokhran nuclear tests; hence there were no grounds for the present case to be made an exception to the rule. If Prime Minister Modi and his BJP stand to gain  electorally from the venture, so be it.

India’s Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) led by G. Satheesh Reddy and his team, with in-house science and technology, were the architects of this  epic achievement.

Significantly, the US denied visas to DRDO chief Satheesh Reddy and S.Guruprasad earlier this month to an Indo-Pacific conference, which had nothing to do with satellite technology. (Hindu, Times of India, Statesman   March 28). 

Sam Pitroda

Alas, for the saying, ‘when you have friends like this, who needs enemies? Who indeed?  Famed IT techie and entrepreneur, Sam Pitroda, expressed initial doubts about India’s air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed base at Balacot, issuing a subsequent embarrassed acorrection:  he was not questioning the veracity of the reported Indian strike, merely asking a question – prompted by a New York Times feature. 

But when did the paper become holy writ? It pontificated on Saddam Husain’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – fake news was it not, Mr Pitroda?  Hindu  March 18).

Campaign trail

BJP has selected former Test cricketer Gautam Gambhir as a parliamentary candidate from a New Delhi constituency, a city he where has lived since childhood.  Congress has selected Karti Chidambaram, son of P.Chidambaram, the former finance minister in the Manmohan Singh government.  Karti has been associated with numerous. scams (Hindu, Times of India, Statesman March 23, 25).  

BJP candidates

The ruling BJP announced its third, fourth and fifth lists of candidates, along with an extended list for Patna, the Bihar capital,  that excluded the high profile film star and party contrarian, Shatrughan Sinha, from his Patna Sahib constituency, his place taken by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Other BJP figures chosen included Sambit Patra (Puri, Orissa) K.Sundaram (Tamil Nadu), Pallab Lochan Das (Tezpur, Assam). BJP MPs standing down include part veteran, the 91 year-old L.K. Advani, 87 year-old Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar, Shahnawaz Hussain and Uma Bharati.

Lynching of Muslim family

The lynching of a Muslim family including, more shamefully, women and children by Holi revelers from an adjoining village in Haryana, was captured on video. Police have arrested a man whose face was captured on camera, and other arrests are expected to follow during the ongoing investigation (Hindu March 24).  

Economy, stupid

‘The economy, stupid,’ was US President Bill Clinton’s reply to a reporter who asked him about the prime issue in election campaign. Through the growing heat, dust and passion, India’s beating heart is its economy. The International Monetary Fund acknowledges that India is among fastest-growing large economies over the past five years at around 7-7.3 per cent. The country’s economic reforms were duly acknowledged, but more needed to be done, said the IMF spokesman. Indian voters turn out in large numbers because, in lesser or greater degree, they have witnessed improvements in their standards of living (Business Line  March 23).

Disinvestment goal exceeded

For the second successive year, the government has exceeded its disinvestment target of Rs 80,000 crore for the current financiar year ending March 31, 2019.The public sector Rural Electrification Corporation was oversubscribed by eight times against the base issue of Rs 3,500 crore, for example. 

India’s high-value unicorn club

Japanese telecom and internet giant Soft Bank has led a $413 million  financing round in e-commercial-focused logistics platform Delhivery valuing the 8 year-old company (in Haryana) at $1.5 billion. The transaction will make the Gurgaon-based startup the latest member of the unicorn club, the term for private companies valued over $1billion. The number of unicorns has doubled since 2017 (Times of India March 25). 

Foreign Exchange

India’s foreign exchange reserves have risen to $405.638 billion in the week   March 15, The all-time high of $426.028 billion was in the week April 13, 2018. Decline  has been followed by brisk revival, with  inflows of foreign funds in Indian equities (Statesman March 24). 

India abstains on Israel Resolution

India, along with 14 other countries abstained from a UN  Human Rights Council  condemning Israel for its violence in Gaza. The resolution was adopted with 23 countries supporting it and 8 against.  It is a measure of the altered Indo-Israel relationship that a resolution that once would have commanded Indian support received an abstention  (Times of India March 23). 

Yasin Malik jailed, JKLF banned

Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik has been arrested and his organization banned. The Ministry of Home Affairs issued the statement on the separatist leader and his group under India’s anti-terror laws   This came a day after the Jamat-e-Islamia was proscribed.

Ethnic cleansing

‘Yasin Malik was the mastermind behind the purging of Kashmiri Pandits and is responsible for their genocide,’ said the Secretary Home Department, Rajiv Gauba in New Delhi.  The decision followed a Cabinet Security Committee meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thirty-seven cases of violence including were officially lodged with the police by members of the public. Malik has been placed in solitary confinement in a Jammu jail. The Pulwana suicide bombing , leading to the deaths of paramilitary personnel was clearly the trigger for a tougher government policy on Kashmiri jihadis. (Hindu March 23).

Minor killed by besieged jihadis

The body of a 12year-old hostage was discovered when jihadis belonging to the Laskar-e-Toiba were surrounded and their hideout stormed by an Indian security force. Four jihadis were killed in the encounter in the Kashmir Valley. Despite efforts to rescue the boy, before the final assault, the security entering the site discovered his charred body. A security force spokesman said they had tried every persuasion including appeals from a nearby mosque for the boy’s release, but to no avail.  Count this as a casualty of war, for war it is (Hindu March 23).

IAS topper starts new Kashmir party

Former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Shah Faesal has decided to float a new political party called the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples’ Movement. Buoyed by the enthusiasm among Kashmiri youth,  Shah Faesal, who topped the IAS list in 2010 wants his party to make a fresh start, having turned down offers a parliamentary ticket, ruling out his fledgling party’s participating in the forthcoming General Elections.. Shah Faesal may well be Kashmir’s coming man (Hindu March 17, 24). 

India’s next Navy chief

Vice Admiral Karambir Singh has been appointed India’s 24th Chief of the Naval Staff in succession to Admiral Satish Lanba, who is due to retire on May 31, 2019.  Vice Admiral Karambir Singh is currently the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Fleet headquartered at Visakhapatnam (Hindu March 24). 

India gets first Afghan cargo via Chabahar

India received its first consignment of goods from Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar constructed with Indian finance and engineering. Chabahar is a port and a rail hub for Afghanistan which has been denied transit access through Pakistan to India. Chabahar will become a hub for Indian exports to the Caspian region and thence to Russia and Belarus. (Hindu March 14). 

TMC snubs Rahul Gandhi

On a visit to Bengal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi attacked the Chief Minister Mamata Banneree’s Trinamool Congress for its poor development record.  TMC  General Secretary Firad Hakim replied: ‘Mr Gandhi is not aware of the proactive steps taken by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for farmers such as the crop insurance …. the Congress has few prospects in West Bengal so, Mr Gandhi should not waste his  time here.’ (Statesman March 24).

Supreme  Court warns TMC on Sarada scam

The Supreme Court has warned the Trinamool Congress the Sarada scam was extremely serious and would be given the utmost priority in cases coming up before the Court (Hindu March 27).

Judiciary, Army trusted: political parties distrusted

An opinion poll conducted by the Azim Premji University and Lokniti, across 12 Indian States reported that Army obtained 88 per cent trust rating, while the judiciary as a whole, from district courts High Courts and Supreme court esrned a an approval rating of over 60 per cent, with political parties 55 per cent distrust rating (Hindu  March 24).

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