ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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The President's address to the joint meeting of both Houses of Parliament is a medium through which the government communicates not only with the MPs present, but with the entire nation. The President's speech must therefore be couched in language which is unambiguous and easily understood. It is a well set Parliamentary practice that the government of the day provides the content of the communication to the President, the constitutional head of the elected government, through whom it is communicated to the people.
I'm not sure what sort of a draft was sent to the President's office, and while I mean no disrespect, yet I must record some glaring instances of faux pas, both of the verbal and logical kind.
Look at Para 2 of the speech: "Measures have been initiated to tapping demographic dividend to diplomatic initiatives, enhancing ease of doing business to putting in place a stable policy framework, empowering individuals to ensuring quality infrastructure, ending financial untouchability to making the country a manufacturing hub, containing inflation to stimulating economy, igniting minds to ensuring inclusive growth, promoting cooperative federalism to encouraging a competitive spirit among the states."
Can someone explain as to how the demographic dividend can be tapped to diplomatic initiatives, or how individuals can be empowered to ensure quality infrastructure, or why cooperative federalism must encourage competition among states? Surely, government is not thinking of sourcing our foreign policy and infrastructure quality control to the "demographic dividend", or promoting a cooperative federalism that opens competition among unequal states. Here is another illustration in Para 30 which says, "My Government has launched the 'Make in India' programme which aims to create a wholesome eco-system to transform India into a manufacturing hub." I'm not quite sure how the word "eco-system" applies in this context. Or did the President really mean "economic system"?
Para 31 states that "21 MSME clusters are being supported by providing soft skills and common facilities through 965 interventions." I wish the President had elaborated a little further on this, and explained to all of us what these 21 MSME clusters, the "soft skills" and the "965 interventions" were all about. To tell you frankly, I am pretty clueless myself, and might ask a question in Parliament to know more.
The references to Kashmir in the President's speech make me ponder that perhaps one noticeable outcome of the destructive floods and our outstanding national response is that terrorist activity has practically died down, and the talk of secession is no longer heard. The entire Hurriyat, except the loner Syed Ali Geelani, have expressly turned their face away from it, of course, in exchange of the promise that nothing will be done to whittle down the state's autonomy by attempts to tinker with the unalterable Article 370. It is the sacred duty of the Central government to make sure that no suspicion survives that this promise is just a dishonest ruse or deception. The Kashmiris, whatever their religion or class, are not disloyal to India and must not be accused of designs to secede and become part of Pakistan. We must resolutely defeat the obvious designs of our enemies to keep the pot boiling. Fortunately, the Chinese too have a more potent terrorist threat to deal with. But we must stick to our "Make in India" dream, and not allow the Chinese to flood our markets with cheap goods made in China.
The Kashmir floods, particularly in the Srinagar area were cruelly devastating. Scores of people were wholly ruined; shops on lower floors lost every bit of their valuable merchandise; residential apartments were demolished and upper floors collapsed on ground floors leaving no building material in any usable condition. Return to normalcy will require years of construction and rehabilitation at enormous cost. The Central Government did announce a contribution of Rs 1000 crores, but people are complaining that no money has reached the beneficiaries. As usual, there are no clear supervision or control systems. Does the Government contemplate any plan to redeem this sorry section of our citizenry? It is fortunate that the elections have yielded a democratic and stable State Government. The much advertised cooperative Federalism is now to be put to an urgent test, and responsible citizens are keeping a close watch. Expression of admiration of our armed forces and gratitude for their excellent service rendered during the catastrophe are perfectly in order, but now the civilian authorities must demonstrate their own efficiency and commitment.
The reference to terrorism and the nation's resolve to master it is welcome but I am unable to understand the reference to left wing extremism, which has been coupled with it in paragraph 45. Left wing terrorism is obviously a reference to the growth and activities of Naxalites in some areas of the country. The terrorism that India faces is based on religion gone astray, and the ambition of some indoctrinated maniacs to make Islam dominate the world and restore the khilafat, which rational Muslim Turkey abolished in the early 20th century. The Naxalite revolt actually started in 1946 in Andhra Pradesh, in Nalgonda district to be precise. It was a revolt by farmers and labourers against the cruelty and oppression practised by feudal lords, which deserves our admiration and support. From Andhra Pradesh it has spread to other parts of India. But the aims of this rebellion have nothing in common with those of the terrorists we encountered in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. Certainly, Naxal discontent, exploited by the communists for their political ends, must be eliminated, even though some of their leaders are highly educated and devoted to public service, and pose no threat to Indian sovereignty. But giving the real terrorists respectability by bracketing them with the Naxalites may be a faux pas in the President's speech.
I am disappointed that the speech makes no mention of the most urgent problem that confronts us, population control. The Biblical injunction, "Go forth and multiply" copied by Islam lost its context long ago. During those ages, God's bounty of earth was plentiful, sharers were few, and human fertility seemed to pose no threat to the quality of existence. But not so now. India's birth rate has to be reduced without fail and loss of time, and increase in wealth must far exceed the increase in population so as to provide a sustainable quality of life for all its people. China provides an excellent example of timely response and adopted a one child policy, and in 20 years reduced its population by about 300 million.
The government and the media must inform the people that almost all the population growth is happening in poor countries. The rich become richer and acquire more wealth, while the poor only acquire more babies. India's population during the last hundred years has increased from 300 million to more than 1.2 billion. No wonder government programmes for providing welfare and facilities to citizens, especially the poorest, always lag behind. In this demographic emergency, any religious group which advocates unchecked population growth is being nothing short of anti-national.
Lastly, let us look at Para 27, that is the government's commitment to "taking all possible measures to stop generation of black money both domestically and internationally". This has nothing to do with the pledge of seizing and repatriation, prompt identification, arrest and prosecution of the dacoits involved. But read the words that follow: "These measures include putting in place robust legislative and administrative frameworks, systems and process with due focus on capacity building, integration of information through technology, and fast tracking prosecution."
I have deliberately put at the end of this piece the six-line paragraph 27 of the President's address, dealing with black money. This has been my mission for years and was the Prime Minister's mission too during his election campaign. The only tragedy of my last years on this sorry planet is that it does not now appear to be a concern of the Prime Minister, though for long I have suspected that some selected for this great task are determined to frustrate it. This paragraph is conclusive proof of my conviction.
Compare the words of this ominous paragraph with the BJP election campaign promises, that (1) A fair estimate of the money robbed by these great dacoit is about 1500 Billion US Dollars roughly equal to about Ninety Lac Crores in Indian rupees; (2) the ruling Congress government has no interest in identifying the culprits or recovering the money; (3) the BJP government will cross all hurdles and get the stolen money back to India where it belongs; (4) that within 100 days the poor will get some lakhs each.
The President's speech does not refer to any of these representations, which get branded as falsehood, since not one of them has been fulfilled. Instead, the party president has put salt into people's wounds by blatantly declaring that the promise was just an election stunt. This is merely another way of telling the people of India that they acted like fools in putting faith in these promises. But what about Ram Jethmalani, who with all his experience as a criminal lawyer projected Narendra Modi as an avatar sent by providence for the salvation of India and the most exalted planet in India's horoscope? Let me assure my readers that I will not abandon this crusade against black money abroad till the last day of my life, however difficult the task has become. Legislation necessary to fulfil this promise approved by SIT and Supreme Court has been drafted and dispatched to the Prime Minister as far back as 19.11.2014, but as yet has not been enacted.