Tuesday 01st August 2017 19:17 EDT

Future generations of Indians may well say of president, Pranab Mukherjee, that nothing so became his period in office than the leaving of it. At a time when Indian politics is more fractious than at any time within living memory, his leave-taking was a reminder of what the presidential office once was and meant to be: public service disposed with presidential dignity and integrity.

The sight of BJP leaders, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister(and Defence Minister) Arun Jaitley queuing up to pay their warmest accolades, and meaning every word was indeed a moving experience.

Mr Mukherjee arrived in Delhi in 1969 from West Bengal and became a member of Indira Gandhi’s Congress-led government. Thereafter, he rose in seniority and held every key cabinet post (barring prime ministership) from Finance minister to minister of External affairs and Defence minister and Home minister, and growing in stature. He was an outstanding parliamentarian, abiding by its rules and best practices, a passionate and articulate speaker, always respectful of the Opposition, courteous, friendly and approachable, with scarcely a querulous word or gesture.

As President of India, he was above party politics, listening to complaints against the government patiently, and passing them on to the appropriate minister. His relationship with Prime Minister Modi was warm and affectionate; his counsel, bred from long years in government, was frequently sought by PM, it was said, parfticularly on India’s core relationship with Russia.


Mr Mukherjee’s legacy was notable in other ways also. Passionately fond of reading –Bengali literature, and works of politics and history in English – he stocked the library of Rashtrapati Bhavan with an extensive array of books on a wide variety of subjects, including art and philosophy. Under his watch, stables were transformed into museums, locked rooms opened and rare carpets and movables discovered and put to proper purpose. The ambience of the presidential estate and its gardens and its magnificent architecture were opened to the public, reducing their remote grandeur to timeless, personal experience. .

Valedictory concerns

The theme of his valedictory address was that India was more than simple geography; that its civilization was the strength and inspiration of its foundational democracy. India’s time-tested values of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity were the enduring principles of democratic governance, vested in freedom of thought and expression, with moral and intellectual space for dissent. Recent lapses into mob violence and anarchy had distressed him profoundly, and as President, Mr Mukherjee lost no opportunity to voice his concerns. His term in office at a difficult time will be a hard act to follow. (Times of India, Hindu, Telegraph July 24).

New President sworn in

Ring out the old, ring in the new.The swearing in ceremony of President-elect Ram Nath Kovind was a grand and august affair, with the great and good of the land in close attendance. His inaugural speech acknowledged the values that had stood out throughout India’s immemorial past and were a guiding light to the present and future generations. (Prrint media, July 26).

Nitish Kumar out, Nitish Kumar in..

The once grand coalition of Bihar Chief Minister’s Janata Dal United (JDU), Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rajya Janata Dal (RJD), and the remoter Congress Party cloistered in Delhi, from where the mother-and-son Sonia and Rahul Gandhi pull the strings in a G major and G minor duet, has crumbled to dust. Tension arose between Nitish and Laloo, whose children and relatives have kept the family tradition of grand larceny in good order. Without the support of Laloo’s RJD legislators, the Nitish government would collapse. Nitish called Lalu’s bluff by switching partners, opting, instead for the ruling BJP dispensation in Delhi. The wires hummed, and the deal was struck in a day.

JDU-BJP che shots

Sushil Modi, BJP’s Bihar leader, is Deputy Chief Minister, as both took their oaths of office. RJD was left spluttering, Congress almost comatose. The ruling BJP at the centre are keeping an eye on their general election prospects in 2019, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India’s two most populous states, constitute the party’s support base. By retaining this support the BJP and Prime Minister will ensure victory and a further five-year term in Delhi The Opposition are in disarray, with Congress a busted flush (Times of India, Hindu, Telegraph July 26,27).

Geelani son-in-law, six others held

The national Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested seven Kashmiri Hurriyat operatives, including leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah ‘Fantosh’ Geelani for funneling money from Pakistan to jihadi groups operating in the Valley. The NIA tracked calls from stone-throwers to the seven arrested men.

Meanwhile Farooq Abdullah, a former Chief Minister of Kashmir, and father of former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has called for mediation by China and the United States to settle the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Father and son have held ministerial posts in the central government in Delhi. With friends like these, who needs enemies? (Times of India, Hindu July 25).

MIG-35 contender for Indian contract

Russia’s latest 4+++ generation fighter jet aircraft that was on display at the recent Moscow air show, attracted Indian interest. The Director General of the of the Russian of the Russian Aircraft Corporation Ilya Tarasenko, said the was the ‘best,’ claimed the MIG 35 would beat its American rival in air-to-air combat. He said: ‘We are proposing supply of the aircraft for tenders in India and we actively work with its Air Force in order to win the tender.’

The MIG 35 takes forward features from the MIG-29K/KUB and the MIG 29M/M2 aircraft. He confirmed India’s expression of interest in the MI-35. MIG representatives are exploring the IAF’s tactical goals in order to make adjustments, if necessary, to the aircraft’s strengths.

Acquisition route

The earlier MIG-21 have been the mainstay of the IAF for the past 50 years. The IAF is 12 squadrons short of its full operational strength of 42 squadrons. Each squadron includes 18 aircraft. Hopefully the government’s acquisition process will be speeded up to meet the country’s urgent security needs (Hindu July 24).

Indian pharma seek Russian deals

Responding to Russia’s call for collaboration in pharmaceutical products, Indian companies plan to send a team to St Petersburg in September to tap the vast Russian market. ‘We have asked the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India to indentify companies interested in Russia, and carry out a due diligence,’ said a government official (Business Line (July 26).

Agriculture: myths and reality

Crop industry specialists from the Mumbai-based Centre for Environment and Agriculture, together with the Tata Strategic Management Group have come up with facts and figures to challenge the myriad myths circulating about Indian agriculture. ‘A negative narrative has been built around Indian agriculture and we want to correct this,’ said Shanmugam Ganesan, an agronomist and advisor to the Crop Care Federation of India. The first myth is about India’s agricultural decline. The reality is that agricultural output increased from $87 billion in 2004-05 to $322 billion in 2015-16, a 12.6 per cent in annual growth.

Myths, Realities

Myth: Indian agriculture is food grain based. Reality: Fruits, vegetables. Animal husbandry contributes 60 per cent to the agricultural economy. India is the world’s largest milk producer and the second-largest of fruits and vegetables. Myth: India is over-dependent on the monsoon rains. Reality: India the most extensive irrigated area has system in the world (Telegraph July 19).

CAG critical of Railways food

The CAG has come up with a damning report on the sub-standard quality offered to passengers on long-haul travel.

Ammunition Shortages

It has criticized the Army for shortages of ammunition; and was scathing about the Navy’s poor performance in designing ships and dilatory methods in manufacturing them.

Unreliable Akash

Also, the medium-range surface-to-air Akash missile came under close scrutiny and its unreliability exposed. For instance, its record guaranteed a 70 per cent success ratio to 30 per cent failure, putting the missile’s touted reliability in doubt (Hindu July 22).

C-130 Js arrive in West Bengal

Two medium-lift transport aircraft the Hercules C-130 J, manufactured by Lockheed Martin of the United States, arrived recently at the Indian Air Force in Panagarh, West Bengal. More such planes are on order for service in eastern India. The C-130Js are to be used for the Special Forces and the new Mountain Strike Corps including two divisions. It is part of the Indian military build-up along the northern frontier with China (Hindu July28).

PM’s tribute to Abul Kalam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a fulsome tribute to the memory of APJ Abul Kalam, a former President of India between2002-2012, and before that a distinguished rocket scientist and architect of India’s missile development. Dr Kalam’s lifelong, consuming ambition was to see the progress of Indian science as the surest platform of the country’s all-round development. The Prime Minister opened a memorial to the late scientist-President in Rameswaran in Tamil Nadu, where Dr Kalam was born and lived his early life.. This site should be a place of pilgrimage, said Mr Modi, for youths aspiring to be achievers, overriding impediments and all. Numerous government schemes for economic and social uplift bore his name or were inspired by his developmental concepts. (Hindu, Busness Line July 28).

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