Jayalalitha Jayaram (1948-2016), Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the foremost political figure in the Statre of her generation, was laid to rest on the Marina beach next to her mentor and inspiration M.G Ramachandran last week after a short illness. She had been unwell recently, was in and out of hospital, when she collapsed suddenly from cardiac arrest. Despite the best medical attention and care, she never recovered and passed away.
Jayalalitha was elected in four elections, the last two back-to-back, as State Chief Minister. She commanded a massive following, especially among the poor and traditionally down trodden, for whom she was always, and will remain, Amma (Mother). She empowered women through myriad welfare schemes, including mass education, setting Tamil Nadu on the high road to social and economic development. Tamil Nadu’s industrialization under her watch has made it into India’s automotive hub – the country’s Detroit, as it is now known.
Tamil Nadu’s politics over the past decades has been deeply divisive, yet in death Jayalalitha brought about a miraculous unity. Her erstwhile opponents, the DMK leaders were fulsome in their praise of her achievements, their grief at her passing a most moving spectacle. Hopefully the healing of past wounds between the DMK and her AIDMK parties would start to heal and build bridges between the two set up. Bringing people together on such a scale is indeed a mighty undertaking and a still mightier achievement when it reaches fulfillment.
Brilliant intellect, indomitable will
Those fortunate to have watched her extensive television interview with Simi Grewal were uplifted by Jayalalithaa’s poise and eloquence, her way with words and, not least, her transparent honesty. She was born into a Brahmin Iyyengar family of considerable wealth, which was lost over time, forcing her mother to seek a career in films to support the family. The young Jayalalithaa went to an excellent Covent school, where she excelled, hoping thus to build an academic life, but money was in short supply in the family coffers, Jayalalithaa’s mother persuaded her to make a life in the cinema. She entered it as a mere 16 year-old innocent, making 28 films with M.G Ramachandran, and matured into a star in her own right. She then entered politics following MGR’s death. It was a bruising experience, but she never wilted under the strain, her indomitable will seeing her through many vicissitudes.
Tamil Nadu was something of a backwater when Jayalalitha took over the reins, and under her direction it has emerged as India’s top five States. The presence at her funeral of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee and the great and good of Indian politics symbolized the stature she had come to acquire. She was quite easily the most remarkable woman in Indian politics since Indira Gandhi; and if circumstances had permitted, she could have led her country as prime minister, and a distinguished one at that. She certainly had the mettle and the brain power. Of her, we can only say a glory has passed. Whence comes another? (Hindu, Times of India, Telegraph, Mint December 7)
The continuing mayhem in Parliament has provoked the justifiable anger of veteran BJP and former Home Minister, L.K Advani into scathing criticism of unruly behavior and the weak performance of Speaker Mahajan, who keeps adjourning proceedings without censuring the guilty MPs and have them removed as she is empowered to do as per the rules. The guilty MPs belong mostly to the Congress party and the Trinamool Congress. As a result, there have been no debates thus far, which is the business of Parliament. Brawling and disruption have become the norm since the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marist) used to disrupt the house as a matter of routine during the period of Congress party rule. Having sown the wind the BJP is now reaping the whirlwind (Times of India, Hindu December 8)
Cash starved foreign missions protest
It’s nothing less than a disgrace that the cash starved foreign missions in New Delhi are forced to protest their present pligh, unable to draw sufficient funds from their own bank accounts for their running expenses. The files relating to this lamentable state of affairs are on the Prime Minister’s desk.
Frank Hans Dannenburg Castellanaos, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in the capital has complained that these these restrictions violate the Vienna Convention. A number of foreign missions have threatened to retaliate against Indian missions in their countries unless remedial measures are taken to allow function normally.(December 8)
Delay announcing Army, Air Force chiefs
There has been an unprecedented delay in announcing the next Army and Air Force chiefs. General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are due for retirement on December 31, and the traditional practice has been to name their successor a month before the date of retirement. The appointment papers are before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. Rumour has it that India may being readied for the long awaited change to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Defence Staff system, in which Admiral Sunil Lamba is likely to occupy the chair on the basis of seniority (Hindu December 8)
RBI holds rates
The Reserve Bank of India has kept the repo rate unchanged at 6.25 per cent and projected GDP growth in the current fiscal at 7.1 per cent as opposed to the previous estimate of 7.6 per cent. The RBI also announced that from December 10 fortnight it was withdrawing the incremental 100 per cent cash reserves ratio requirements imposed in November. Other points in the RBI statement reiterated upward pressure on inflation and the receipt by banks of Rs 11.55 trillion worth of deposits since November 8, while the RBI had circulated notes of various denominations adding up to Rs 3.81 trillion.
Demonetization winner, Paytem
There are early losers and winners from demonetization, as will be in any major enterprise of national significance. Paytem, clearly, is an outstanding winner. Vijay Shankar Sharma, Paytem’s founder explained the company’s success in a conversation with the Hindu newspaper (December 8). ‘Offline has been huge for us. Almost 65 per cent of transactions We have added nearly a million QR codes at points of sales during the past month. As far as digital payments go, offline shops in India are so deprived … it is a big opportunity to expand.
‘We are signing up new merchants aggressively. We signed up thousands of petrol pumps …I believe the push and attention that demonetization is giving to digital payments no amount of marketing and offers such discounts and card backs could have done this, ’ said Sharma.
The need to attract customers in rural area particularly through technology was of prime importance, so Sharma explained. ‘we have introduced a toll-free number … which users can call to transfer money. They simply need to dial the toll-free number from a registered mobile, enter the the recipient’s mobile number, amount and their Paytem PIN…transferring money is as easy as a call.’
‘We have also built a few product partnerships related to financial services such as wealth management and investment products. ..We already have 60,000 partners out of which we will build a business correspondents network …We will build the business correspondents network aggressively’, he concluded. More power to his elbow. (Hindu December 8)
Parallel economy in mainstream
Anuradha Rao, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, State Bank of India, said the demonetization would be a ‘big positive for savings being channelized into investments, an opportunity to work towards a cashless economy with the use of digital mode of banking. The parallel economy will merge into the mainstream and this again will help in growth and build a more efficient economy. Though there may be some short-term pain, the positive impact of demonetization will have on the entire economy will be immense.’ (Hindu December 4))
TIFR’s theory of superconductivity
Scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have made a landmark discovery that poses a challenge to the conventional theory of superconductivity. A team under Dr S.Ramaskrishnan of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics and Material Sciences has discovered bismuth semi-metal in bulk form becomes a superconductor. These results were published in the journal Science. Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity without resistance. (Hindu December 7)
Heart of Asia
The Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar was a two day affair. The centre stage belonged to President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and host Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both of whom laid into Pakistan’s export of jihadi terrorism into their respective countries. President Ghani mentioned Pakistan by name, Mr Modi did not, but his excoriating references to the jihadi threat were made with Pakistan in mind. India and Afghanistan were more closely aligned with more Indian military aid earmarked for Kabul.
There was the usual fevered media speculation concerning a possible Indo-Pakistan dialogue on the sidelines, but India was firm that no such conversation took place, and would not take place until Pakistani-sponsored terrorism had ceased. That was the message conveyed to Sartaz Aziz, the Pakistani representative. (Hindu, Times of India, Telegraph December 5).