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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#BlrLitFest - 14 | Arun Shourie On Fatwas, Fascism and Falling Over Backwards

On Fatwas, Fascism & Falling Over Backwards: Arun Shourie in conversation with Madhu Trehan
Day 3 -Stage 1



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

#BlrLitFest - 14 | Shekhar Gupta & Arun Shourie

Superstar Journalists, Arun Shourie and Shekhar Gupta in conversation.
Day 3- Stage 1


Monday, May 4, 2015

Let’s not be in a hurry to resolve border dispute with China: Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie, Narendra Modi, Modi government, PM foriegn visit, Modi China visit, Narendra Modi China,

'I certainly cannot say how he sees China. But the fact is that, while Pakistan is the immediate problem, China is the principal challenge in the long run.'

China sees India as a potential nuisance, let’s not be in a hurry to resolve the border dispute when the distance is as vast as it is now, Arun Shourie tells National Editor (News Operations) Rakesh Sinha in an interview days before Narendra Modi leaves for China.

How do you view the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to China?

Arguably the principal achievement of Mr Narendra Modi has thus far been the energy and the clear focus he has brought to foreign policy. A distinguished academic was pointing out the other day that the backdrop of each of the PM’s visits abroad has been China: those to Japan, to Fiji, to Australia, to the two Pacific Powers — US and Canada; the fact that our President was in Vietnam on the eve of President Xi’s visit to India; the Prime Minister’s visits to countries in the Indian Ocean. The GCF — the Greatest Common Factor — in these has been one: China. Hence, a clear focus.

Does this suggest that he sees China as the main problem for India?

I certainly cannot say how he sees China. But the fact is that, while Pakistan is the immediate problem, China is the principal challenge in the long run — and in part Pakistan is a problem because of China. China’s great skill has been the manipulation of power and the symbols of power. It has a definite view of its place in the world: that it must be the dominant power in Asia now, and the principal power in the world tomorrow.

And don’t forget the success that they have already achieved towards these goals. China is the most significant factor in international calculations today: its economy is five times that of India; its foreign exchange reserves are ten times ours; its defence spending is three-and-a-half times that of Japan. No country in Asia, and much farther afield, takes a decision without factoring in China’s likely reaction. On the contrary, even allies of the USA are only too willing to head for the Chinese door disregarding reactions of the US: look how 42 countries have already signed up for the Infrastructure Bank that will be dominated by China.

But isn’t the Chinese economy facing deep problems today?

Indeed, it is: the property and stock markets have swollen as bubbles. Local governments have been on a building spree through “shadow banking”. And so on. But China’s problems are not going to solve ours: all they can do is that they may give us a little more time. More important, who knows how China will react if it really landed in serious problems: will it lunge for external belligerence to divert attention of its people?

And please remember, nor is it just that they have acquired capacity, they have acquired the necessary reputation: that they are entirely capable of using force to enforce their interests and claims; that—the complete opposite of the US— China will stay the course: its territorial claims vis a vis countries that it regards as its rivals — Japan — or mere “squatters”— as it sees the countries with claims to the Spratly Islands, say.

Where does India fit into its worldview?

A fundamental objective of China’s strategic doctrine has been to “manage the periphery” — this originally meant the areas from which hostile hordes could descend and wreak defeats on the Chinese. But in general it means all areas from which China’s interests can be hurt: today, with the advance of technologies, etc., the US can affect China’s interests; and so, the US too must be managed. We, in any case, are literally on its periphery.

It views India as a potential nuisance—one that must be kept busy in South Asia. And it has a willing instrument in Pakistan to do so. The Wiles of War, a Chinese war-classic, advises, “Murder with a borrowed knife”! Second, the Chinese establishment has long felt that Indians are a docile people who will always be doing somebody’s bidding: first they did what the British wanted; then India was under the tutelage of the Soviet Union; now, in their assessment, it is becoming the instrument of the Americans.

Trade with China has grown to $70 billion today. Won’t this so enmesh the interests of India and China that China will come to value India’s partnership?

That is a complete delusion — the delusion that trade, and even economic interests in the large will deflect China from its central objective, of power, of domination. The Japanese leadership reasoned the same way twenty years ago. And see what they are experiencing at the hands of China today. Second, we must look at the nature of our trade with China: we are exporting raw materials — iron ore, bauxite — and importing finished goods: so many of our companies, for instance in electronic items, have become just traders in Chinese goods. Isn’t that precisely the kind of trade against which Indian nationalists, from Dadabhai Naoroji on, protested? And then, before going gaga over that figure of $70 billion, remember that is the total value of trade: it is made up of $15 billion of exports from India to China, and $5 billion imports from China into India!

What about soliciting Chinese investments, especially in what is one of the main priorities of this government, infrastructure?

Two points. First, assume a contract is given to a Chinese firm to lay a rail track: won’t that involve the same problems—land acquisition, etc.—that an Indian firm would have to face? And if you are prepared to clear the way for that Chinese firm, why not for an Indian firm? Second, several types of projects and infrastructure have security implications: power, for instance, telecom infrastructure certainly. And China’s record in penetrating networks, for instance computer networks, has been documented time and again: you just have to read the Munk Center’s report on how China penetrated computer networks of over a hundred countries — including India, of course — and used this to send key data from these in real time to Chinese bases; or the earlier Cox Committee’s report to the US Congress: you just have to glance through these and you will see what we will be opening ourselves to if we were to allow them entry into infrastructure in sectors like telecom. So, my response would be: extreme wariness.

You imply that India isn’t able to meet the Chinese challenge or threat on its own. What should it do?

First, as we are not able to equal China’s acquisition of influence, yes, we must seek common ground with all countries that are apprehensive of China today—for sharing intelligence and assessments; for coordinating positions in international organisations and negotiations; for technology acquisition, etc. For instance, we must exert ourselves to the maximum to make common cause with countries along the Mekong that are as worried by the steps that China is taking to divert waters. But we must always remember that, just as we will not go to war to safeguard anybody else’s interests, no one will go to war with China, or even sacrifice any vital interest of its own because China has grabbed more territory in Ladakh or Arunachal, or because they are diverting Tibetan waters to the east and north of China. Look at the way NATO has remained paralysed over Ukraine. Hence, the first point is: closer relationships with other countries, most certainly; but there is no substitute for building what the Chinese call Comprehensive National Strength.

Second, true, there is a substantial backlash against China’s overt aggressiveness—from East and Southeast Asia to Africa to Latin America — but we have to be able to and adroit enough to take advantage of it. The first requisite is to follow up on the Prime Minister’s visits we talked of earlier: execute the projects that have been announced or agreed with those countries. We also have a reputation for forgetting about the agreements and announcements that were made and the MoUs that were signed, once the visit is over.

Let’s talk about the PM’s visit. What do you think he should bear in mind?

First and foremost, he must bear in mind how the Chinese swept Panditji off his feet. They zeroed in on his intense desire to be a world leader. Remember how Chou En-lai — one of the 20th Century’s great masters of diplomacy — dissimulated as an eager student: asking Panditji about Indochina, about world affairs. Soon, Panditji was asking him whether, in addition to what Chou had asked, he would not also like to know about the Arabs, about U Nu, about the difference between the two types of Buddhism… The next day, Panditji wrote to Krishna Menon that he had found Chou to be not well informed about world affairs, but that after their meeting he was better equipped! And how the Chinese completely bowled him over during his visit to China — with uncountable crowds, and the rest. So much so that, after a strenuous day, Panditji was writing a long letter to Edwina Mountbatten: a wave of freedom has swept over China because of my visit, he wrote . . . What a tragedy.

At the least, we should not fool ourselves. When President Hu Jintao came to India in 2006, the then Foreign Minister told our Parliament that, as a result of the talks, China supported India’s case for becoming a member of the Security Council. There was absolutely nothing to that effect in the Joint Declaration. In fact, China was even then blocking and continued to block all attempts to enlarge and reform the Security Council.

I would go further. As Mr Shyam Saran reminded us in his K Subramaniam Lecture, the Prime Minister must remember that the Chinese regard deception, double-talk to be just elements of statecraft, and would be astonished, even offended, if you held the deceptions against them. He recalled how, on his visit to Peking, Mr R K Nehru had told Chou en-Lai that China’s statements on Kashmir seemed to call into question India’s position in regard to J&K being a part of India. Chou had asked, “Has China ever said that India’s position on J&K is wrong?” We had taken this to be endorsement of our position. On a subsequent visit, R K Nehru drew Chou’s attention to the fact that by then Chinese statements had begun mirroring Pakistan’s position even more closely. He reminded Chou of what Chou had said on their last interaction: “Has China ever said that India’s position on J&K is wrong?” Chou now asked in return, “But has China ever said that India’s position on Kashmir is correct?”

The same sequence had been played out with Panditji directly. Panditji had remonstrated with Chou how Chinese government maps showed vast swathes of India to be part of China. Chou had said that these were “old Kuomintang maps” and the Chinese government had not had the time to check them for accuracy. Panditji had taken this to be an endorsement of our position in regard to the border with China. When some years later, Panditji pointed to the maps, and reminded Chou of what he had said earlier, Chou turned around and said in effect, “Indeed, these are old maps. We have checked them. They set out the border correctly.”

And now the same thing has been happening in regard to the agreement on principles for settlement of the border dispute that was signed in 2005.

Does this mean that India remains suspicious forever, does nothing to solve the border dispute?

Not at all. We should, of course, explore whatever measures can be taken to minimise incidents on the border. But we really should, one, not be in a hurry to “solve” the dispute — especially not when the distance between China and India is as vast as it has become; two, always remember that an agreement is worth something only if you can make it expensive for the other side to violate it.

But what if some local commander in Ladakh takes it into his head to take a swipe? Decides to thrust a thousand Chinese soldiers into Ladakh at the very time their President is in Delhi? Are relations between two great countries to be mortgaged to local commanders?

It will be worse than foolish to make-believe that the foray at the border or the reiteration of the claim to Arunachal is the work of some local commander, or some PLA general. The PLA has always been subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party. President Xi is the chairman of the Military Commission also. And especially these days, the PLA leadership is very much on the defensive because of the anti-corruption drive: a very large number of generals and other senior officers are under investigation.

Therefore, do not fool yourself into believing that what happens is without direction from the high leadership of China. And look, not at what they are saying, look at what they are doing. One of our wisest strategic thinkers, General V Raghavan, tells us how they lull others by talking “strategic reassurance”, even as they foment “tactical turbulence”. And in our case, they are moving fast to reinforce not just tactical but strategic inequality: from Arunachal to the ring of ports, to the projects they are executing in PoK; from the planned railway line to Kathmandu to the militarisation of Tibet; from blocking ADB loan for a mere technical study for a project in Arunachal to preventing reform of the Security Council; even as they forcibly alter the rules of international order in the South China Sea and in regard to the Air Notification Zone in East Asia . . .

So in your view what should the government be doing?

First and foremost, we must speak clearly to the Chinese about our concerns: about their assertions that Arunachal is just a part of “Southern Tibet”; about infrastructure projects they are executing in PoK [even before the latest announcements in Pakistan, there were already 35 of these]; about the transfer of arms, of atomic and missile know-how to Pakistan; about incursions across the border; about diversion of Tibetan waters; about the military bases in Tibet; about naval bases around India.

Won’t raising these issues guarantee a failure of the talks?

Josh Malihabadi put it well: Badi kartaa hai dushman aur hum sharmaye jaatey hain! The adversary rains evil and we cringe in shyness.

Raising issues apart, what more should the government do?

We must do everything possible to speed up development of the Northeast—and that does not mean just throwing money at the region; and ensuring that people from the region feel welcome and esteemed everywhere in India. Beware of opening up the border towards Kunming: that will only clear the gates for China to suck the Northeast into the Chinese “sphere of prosperity”. Second, we must reflect on what reconciling ourselves to Chinese occupation of Tibet has cost us. Our interests, our security are deeply intertwined with those of Tibet. There are several reasons why China is now fabricating and pressing its claims in regard to Arunachal. But one reason clearly is that it is preparing itself for the post-Dalai Lama time: that no reincarnation may be claimed to have taken place in Tawang, for instance, as is said to have happened in the case of the Sixth Dalai Lama. The slightest easing on such matters will have catastrophic consequences. Whatever the Chinese say, we must leave no one in any doubt that we will continue to support the Dalai Lama, and his successors.

We should go further and think in terms of a Buddhist civilisational challenge to China: careful observers of China report that large numbers of Chinese are turning again to dharma: including relatives of very high personages of the current government of China. But to do so, we must learn about Buddhism. We must revere those who practise it: especially the masters who are in India itself. Everyone will see through our efforts if we just use Buddhism as a device to attract tourists. Nor can we convince anyone that we are the land of the Buddha, that we greatly treasure the teachings and memory of the Buddha, and simultaneously try to snatch the Bodh Gaya temple from Buddhists.

What if you were asked to suggest just one or two things to the PM?

Don’t worry; I am not going to be asked. But if I were asked, I would say: one, do not disregard the institutional memory of the Ministry of External Affairs; more than that, two, spend time with those — persons like General Raghavan and Shyam Saran whom I mentioned — who have spent years and years studying China, and its methods. When you meet them, reflect carefully on views and assessments that are contrary to your instincts: remember the consequences that flowed from the heavy hand by which Panditji throttled the views which he said were contrary to his world view—those of the Counsel General in Lhasa, the Political Officer in Gangtok… to say nothing of the letter of Sardar Patel.

Source http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/at-the-least-we-should-not-fool-ourselves-arun-shourie/99/

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Arun Shourie on Role of Professionals and Entrepreneurs

Kotak Institutional Equities (KIE) Conference, 2015 had former Minister Arun Shourie speak recently on the topic of  “Preparing India for the Future“.
Commenting on the topic of his speech Mr. Shourie in his inimitable style began by saying
“Forecasting is a treacherous exercise specially if it is about the future but for us it is equally difficult to forecast the past.”
He talked of how suddenly the growth rate rose without any of us having any idea about it !
He also said that,
“One thing we should know is that future is going to be determined by the forces which are not in our control and our heckling is not going to stop time.
We feel that if we want to stop WTO then WTO will stop but the world goes on.
They are not going to slow down they are not going to muffle the effects of their advances on us just because we are not able to sort our problems out.
And we must also realise that people are much bolder in facing the future trying new things then governments.
Governments are more stuck in the ideas of past.
Take the case of GM crops – what is the area under GM cotton in Gujarat today ?  Almost completely. And now government is deciding whether there will be trials of GM crops or not.”
The second point that he raised was on why decisions we make now will have life and death consequences to future generations:
These developments will have life and death consequences on us as an individuals, organisations and as a country.
So the outcome will depend on how we prepare ourselves to either take advantage of those opportunities or to ward off their effects that are going to come.
We are going stay at even modest growth rate of 5 and 6% a middle income country let us say in two three decades.
At that time then youths will be demanding jobs which will then meet their aspirations.
In Punjab youth don’t want to work in agriculture sector.
If the country is not able to provide the right kind of jobs or if the government is not able to provide what other middle income countries provide then you will have social unrest.
In Punjab as we can see people are taking to drugs and other things because there is just nothing to do.
So relentless, unending accelerating change having life and death consequences in every sphere that is our future.
Mr. Shourie talked about how he has been writing about China and Islamic militancy since last 10 to 15 years but no one was ready to listen. He told his audience that we have vaguely heard about how China has turned its economic might into its military might and the effect that it is having. He added that what we don’t realise is that now every single month to map Indian Ocean China sends a submarine.
He asked how many of us are aware of it and if our media publishes this thing.
He  added that as yet it is a common knowledge and each and every intelligence agency knows it. He also told the gathered people that by now 1/3rd of Chinese trade is settled in their own currency and that Chinese currency is well on its way to become international reserve currency.
He elaborated on the consequences of Chinese currency becoming a reserve currency and if we are living up to it or not.
Mr. Shourie on excelling and meritocracy
Larger problem that he said for India is that there will be tremendous opportunities in the world but it will be a heartless world with no place for second rate persons and he added that in India we have made meritocracy elitist.
For us in India intimidation is argument as on TV debates and assault is proof.
He talked of how half the secretaries in the central government will be in service on the basis of birth and not merit. He said at this rate how can we compete with China. He said we should aim at being excellent where all the opportunities are available to all for excel and there is no deviation from that while we are doing complete opposite of it.
He said we learn from the US how to commensurate reward with the efforts.  He said instead of providing facilities to lift an individual we are diluting the standard.
On great leaders
A great leader is one who changes the direction. He gave example of P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He said that countries can face future only by robust Institutions. No leader who puts in 23 hours at work can change equip the nation to face the future without Institutional support. He said that leaders like Indira Gandhi had used institutions as instruments whether it is police force or CBI or court or universities where relatives were put as Vice Chancellors resulting in the Institutional Atrophy we suffer today.
On judging success of a government programme
A government programme can be considered successful to the extent it reduces role of government in our lives.
Mr. Shourie had his audience laughing out loud when he said that IT industry grew as government was not concentrating on it. He said that in the same way now that e-commerce is growing people should not talk much about it lest it attract government’s attention.
He further advised that it is not a good idea to expect government to do much about the higher education too.
Rather he said one should start a programme for deregulation of colleges and universities and that universities should say that we are affiliated to the government so we will not give any degree like IIMs and IITs do. They should only give a certificate and this will make sure that they are known by the merit and calibre of their students.
On what people can do
He said that till the time we do not change the process by which we chose rulers for billion plus people no major change can be expected.
He said he had written that there will be two classes, middle class professionals and entrepreneurs, in India whose creative energies will be stiflled by inefficient government.
He also was critical of media in not doing its role and paying servitude to the governments. He gave the example that how the media was hailing coal blocks bids while the truth was that 45% was bought by the likes of LIC.
He concluded by saying that to make India strong enough to face the future, the middle class professionals and entrepreneurs should come up with solutions, work solutions out in detail and make them part of the public discourse and make sure that the government follows that path strictly.
we should not be too understanding of the difficulties of the government

Friday, April 3, 2015

Arun Shourie on Preparing India for the Future

Arun Shourie, noted journalist, author and politician, spoke on the topic ‘Preparing India for the future’ at the Kotak Institutional Equities Conference 2015. Mr. Shourie also launched the book ‘The Making of India’ by Akhilesh Tilotia. Mr. Shourie showered lavish praise on Mr. Akhilesh Tilotia and highly recommended that the book be read.
Mr. Shourie began by stating that he prefers analysts to economists and on lighter note added that if an analyst wants those elected and in government to read the book then first one should elect people who can read. Continuing in a similar vein Mr. Shourie took a subtle dig at the political class saying once a person gets elected one becomes ‘sarv gyani’ and therefore sees no need to read a book. Mr. Shourie’s lament perhaps was at the declining intellectual quotient of Parliamentarians and those in Government over the years.
Mr. Shourie added that one should therefore write with an aim that common man will read it and it will become part of public discourse which will take the shape of an idea in the public domain subsequently. He added that once crises arise, then to both the rulers and the courts the ideas and solutions that are already in the public domain and part of the public discourse would  then come across as their own ideas and will thus see a greater likelihood of getting implemented with lesser resistance. He also added that in India everybody has an opinion but nobody has the facts. He had his audience in splits when he said that he sees that each evening on Times Now.
Alluding to the challenge in India of poor and mostly outdated data Mr. Shourie said that even when we have facts they are very dated and hence end up being of little use. Giving the example of a Survey during the UPA government Mr. Shourie pointed out how the then Government came to know that no meaningful jobs were created between 2005 and 2010.  The UPA then ordered one more survey in 2012 which found out that 15 millions jobs had been created in two years. He said this was like CBI during the UPA era making the kind of case  one wanted to suit the regime in power.
On Land Acquisition he said that it is surprising that only 3% land is taken up and if that is doubled also it will only come to 6% and that wonderful cities can be easily set up in completely non arable land. Mr. Shourie said that it was as if we are looking for excuses for not doing the most obvious things.
Mr. Shourie added that the flip side of this was that we do not even look at our successes. He gave the example of Indian Railways earning 154 billion rupees in 2014 through online ticket booking being completely ignored while Flipkart at 28 billion rupees is considered a success.
with the problems automatically solutions come
Mr. Shourie illustrated this with an example that when the law doesn’t allow hiring of people the solution comes in the  form of contract labour. He added that the moment something starts moving government stops it and people again come up with some other unique solution.
He further elaborated that our schools and colleges churn out unemployable graduates and so companies like Infosys and Tata come up with their own training programmes. For skill development companies come up with vocational courses. Mr. Shourie then went on to quote Professor Hayek and said that,
“Economies grow by human effort, not by human design”.
He went on to add that when by our lack of knowledge we insist on government’s intervention then there are unintended consequences which are not intended by us or government.
He gave the example of how in  the Agriculture Sector women get paid less than men. To balance this out the Government under NREGA pays equal wages to both genders. What is the result –  women lose out on jobs more as compared to men.
Mr. Shourie ended by requesting the author to come up with a sequel to the book where he talks of who should do and what.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Arun Shourie on UPA 1’s “dream team” back in 2009

Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie is not just a noted Indian journalist. He is a renowned author and politician. The collection of the speeches he delivered in the Rajya Sabha form the first two parts of the book “We Must Have No Price”.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
The 9th chapter is based on a speech that he delivered in Rajya Sabha about the situation that prevailed in 2009 when UPA 2 was just formed.
According to Mr. Shourie :
“And the team that has taken office this time is more reassuring. The principal ministers are persons of substantial experience; none of them has the sort of taint that marred several ministers in the first Manmohan Singh Government; equally important, the principal ministers are ones who are less liable to ignite the acrimony that characterised the last five years.”
He had also stated that,
“We must remember that, yes, the country has enormous potential and, in the last ten years, we have had but a glimpse of what can be achieved; but, it is just as true that, unless we mend our ways, unless we improve our governance and discourse, the country can get stuck in that well-documented pit, the middle-income trap: Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Philippines and so many other countries also registered spurts of high growth rats, only to get stuck before attaining their full potential. In a word, all sides have been afforded an unexpected opportunity to do right by the country; they must seize it, inside Parliament as much as outside.”
Mr. Shourie had also spoken in 2009 about how precariously dependent India is on the US for dealing with Pakistan as well as China when it came to its foreign policy. He had elaborated way back then as to how the US needed help of both Pakistan and China and so will not help India. Pakistan was needed by the US to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq till the time US found an honourable exit. China was needed to finance bailout packages that were necessary then to save its economy and financial system.
With regards to defence policies during his 2009 lecture in Rajya Sabha he had said that,
“Both in regard to internal security as well as fortifying ourselves against external aggression, we face a dire situation.”
Back in 2009 during his speech in Rajya Sabha he had talked about how the countries like the US and UK had totally banned the adoption of communication systems from potentially hostile countries which had proved to plant backdoors and triggers in such hardware and software. He had also told that in India the very same companies had, in spite of the strenuous objections of intelligence agencies, been allowed to install the very same sort of equipment across the country.
During the same speech of 2009 in Rajya Sabha Mr. Shourie had talked about how in spite of the fact that a “dream team” was said to have been in place during UPA 1, reforms remained at a standstill. He had also said that,
“For we should not forget that, because Reforms had been brought to a standstill, the momentum of growth had already begun to slow down well before the international economic meltdown. By March 2008, to cite just one example, over 25 lakh jobs had already been lost in the three sectors. Several reforms, like the dismantling of the Administered Price Mechanism in the petroleum sector, were actually reversed. Similarly, several initiatives which were going to restore our competitivene3ss, had been brought to naught: when we met industrialists in October 2008, we were astonished to learn that for almost nine months there had been absolutely no disbursements from the Textile Modernisation Fund.”
Mr. Shourie in his speech had cautioned UPA 2 in regard to disinvestment and said that proposal of selling up to 51% shares in governmental enterprises while government control over the enterprises will be maintained was the worst possible alternative.
Mr. Shourie had while quoting Sachar Committee Report also sincerely hoped that the UPA 2 Government would think again about where the measures which it is pushing for the ostensible purpose of helping Minorities will eventually lead the country to ?
Sadlt for India that advice from Mr. Shourie fell on the deaf ears of the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh led UPA Government.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Arun Shourie on the Environment debate


Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie, the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in 1982, wrote in his book ‘We must have no price’ about the UPA’s official position on the  environment some of which has its relevant even today.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
The four propositions on which India’s official position on environment had been articulated at various international fora in the past were :
1. On a per capita basis, emissions from India that harm world climate – COand the rest – are much, much less than those from the developed countries.
2. India is affecting perceptible, indeed substantial improvements – in area covered by forests (that is, in sequestering carbon), in energy efficiency (for instance, in energy-intensive industries like cement and steel), in improving the quality of air, etc.
3. Several of the measures and protocols that are being suggested will curb India’s growth rate, and, thereby, perpetuate India’s poverty.
4. And it is poverty which is the greatest pollution, it is also the greatest polluter: hence, India shall continue to strive to eliminate poverty and maximise growth. As they are the principal doers of harm, the developed countries must do their bit first before compelling countries like India into curbing their growth.
Mr. Shourie was of the opinion that the argument that others have problems, that others are exacerbating their problems and ours, is of little consolation: the deterioration that has taken place in India’s environment during the last 30 years because of things happening within India inflicts grave harm on Indians, here and now.
He also added that neither the then government’s draft on environment nor the pattern of development which underlied it were sustainable. According to him if things were to continue as they were, between then and 2050, close to 500 million people will be added to our cities. Mr. Shourie raised the question if India would be able to provide the quality of urban services that the urban resident of 2050 would demand. He added that India would have to do its bit, both for itself and also for the world.
While the amounts of emissions and pollutants that it releases per capital are lower than those of the developed countries, the totals of these are large, and, if Indians were to persist in acquiring consumption levels and adopting production processes of the developed world, these emissions will become fatally large because of the size of India’s population.
The renowned author and politician Arun Shourie, also suggested that India would be well-advised to set up national research missions to develop items such as the following:
» A cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic cell
» Cheaper and more efficient wind turbines
» The entire range of technologies and construction techniques that would enable us to set up off-shore wind farms along our extensive coast
» Technologies to harness tidal power
» An efficient hydrogen fuel cell
» Clean coal processes
» Desalination of sea water using solar and wind energies that are available in virtually endless supply along India’s long coastline
» Fast breeder nuclear reactors
» The thorium cycle for nuclear power
Mr Shourie stated that the entire discourse in India back then revolved around whether we will be growing at 6.7% or 7.6%. Quite apart from the fact that the way our GDP, etc. are estimated, such discourse places a concreteness on these numbers that is just not warranted, obsession with such growth rates obscures what is growing at these rates. Even a little reflection shows that were India to continue to pursue Western consumption patterns and production processes, twenty years hence all the steps taken together would have proven inadequate.
Mr. Shourie concluded by stating that there just aren’t the resources that could sustain that energy-intensive, high consumption, fossil-fuel dependent “growth”. Nor is it evident that higher and higher consumption and production of those commodities and services is what will contribute to what the Bhutanese have correctly identified as the goal towards which societies should strive – Gross Domestic Happiness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Modi going to be India's Hitler? : Karan Thapar to Arun Shourie



Published on Apr 21, 2014
As far as opinion polls go, there seems to be little doubt that a BJP-led coalition government headed by Narendra Modi will come to power at the centre this year. However, while some believe that Modi's brand of dynamic and decisive leadership is exactly the cure that an ailing Indian economy needs at the moment, his seemingly 'communal' attitude has also given many a big cause for concern. Arun Shourie, former journalist, author and former Union Minister in the previous NDA regime, in this candid interview with Karan Thapar, seeks to allay those fears.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

‘Modi may be an agent of change, but he has to reshape an entire ocean

‘Modi may be an agent of change, but he has to reshape an entire ocean’

Arun Shourie, minister in the  previous NDA government, added depth and intellect to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet.
Former Union minister Arun Shourie talks about the ‘impenetrable fog’ that surrounds those who assume office and how the media makes it more dense.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What do you think about the government and the buzz around PM Narendra Modi’s style of functioning?
I don’t want to use harsh words but the  consensus seems to be that when all is said and done, more is said than done. I am sure sincere efforts are being made and they may yield results, but as Akbar Allahabadi said, ‘Plateon ke aane ki awaaz toh aa rahi hai, khaana nahin aa raha (The  plates’ sound can be heard but the food is not coming)’.
Harish Damodaran: Why is the food not coming?
In every government, including this one, the focus is on announcing new schemes. Each scheme adds a task to the hands of the government/state. People in office think their marks will depend on the number of schemes they have announced. Yet, in spite of all the talk, we do not attach importance to the State — its functioning, personnel, institutions, rules, etc. With the kind of personnel any government in India chooses for institutions, does it show they attach importance to the State? We always think of reforms as one scheme — GST aayega ya nahin, insurance Bill pass hoga ya nahin. But the real theme of reforms has been to reduce the role of the State in our lives. We continue to do the opposite. That’s why things don’t happen. And rationalisations develop for this. An article commented on Mr Modi’s Cabinet. It said there is the Pareto rule that says institutions and governments are run only by 20 per cent. You only need 20 per cent who are good. So, we seem to think of putting good persons in only two-three ministries.
Even today, the main instrument relied on is bureaucracy. But bureaucracy is not what it was 30-40 years ago, you don’t have L K Jhas or B K Nehrus. A civil servant I met recently said: ‘I am going to retire in 15-20 months. Ten years after my retirement, I will be subjected to some CBI inspector. So, why should I take a decision? Let the minister take it.’ Thirdly, you could still rely on civil services but induct experts. But that can only be effective if you put them not in decorative advisory positions but in decisive ones.

Dilip Bobb: So you don’t think Modi is an agent of change?
He may be an agent of change as an individual. But no matter how big your oar is, you have to change, reshape an ocean. It’s not just about simplifying reforms. The depth and pervasiveness of reforms has to be great. To reform, say, the CBI, you can’t just change the director, but the training of persons who are at the cutting edge — the inspector, the investigating officer. How long will it take to do that?
Same is with the the lower judiciary. In November last year, a policeman came to our home with a non-bailable warrant of arrest for my wife — if she didn’t report at 10 am in a Faridabad court the next day, she would get a five-year punishment. Shocked, I asked why. He said she refused summons five times. But I said we got no summons. He offered no explanation.
At the court, I asked the woman magistrate why an arrest warrant was issued for my wife. She said she refused summons. I said we got none. She said, ‘Sometimes our people don’t deliver summons and write they have been refused.’
She said we were sent summons for building an ‘illegal’ farmhouse  and asked if we had a plot in the Aravallis. I said the plot was registered in our name for a few months. We needed money to build a house near Pune, so we sold it. We didn’t place a single brick there. The public prosecutor said, ‘Yes, it’s not their plot and they have built nothing there.’ The judge, however, said: ‘But now the process has begun. I can give your wife bail but only till the next hearing when she has to appear physically.’
So, my wife is out on bail for refusing summons which were not served, for building a house which we have not built on a plot which we don’t own. The lady magistrate has gone, a new person has come. He says, ‘I know you have done nothing. But if I let you off, people will say it was done under political pressure or that you’ve paid me.’
So the reform has to be much deeper. When people assume office, they forget how deeply the system has to be changed. They get surrounded by an impenetrable fog of self-satisfaction. And media makes the fog more dense. Their photographs are everywhere. The industralists says you are ‘almighty’s gift to us’. I am told secretaries have started speaking this way. They think change has already come. Our job is to keep them awake.

Amitabh Sinha: Going by high-pitched campaigns like Swachh Bharat, cleaning Ganga, or reviving Sanskrit, what do you make of the priorities of this government?
Swachhta is a wonderful idea. It involves both society and the State in cleaning public spaces. If the State succeeds in generating a movement, it would be very good. On Sanskrit, there is the either/or thinking — similar to over the three-year vs four-year courses at Delhi University. What is the fault of those who are learning German? If you are so keen, introduce Sanskrit as an optional subject, then increase the capacity to learn… Maybe a lot of YouTube videos, CDs… Over three-four years, introduce the whole thing. It becomes a painless transition.
Rakesh Sinha: What do you make of the move to dismantle the Planning Commission?
Dr Y V Reddy had said that throughout, even when it was not a great intellectual resource, the Planning Commission was regarded as a referee between the Centre and states. But the perceived proximity between Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia made the Planning Commission look like an instrument of the Centre. So, it lost credibility.
The Planning Commission had asked me to write a paper on reform. I had interviewed officers and asked them to characterise the Commission. Somebody said ‘a parking lot’, another said ‘gaushala (cowshed)’. I told an officer that his colleague had called the Commission a gaushala. He said, ‘A gaushala has cows that give milk. This is a place for derelict cows.’ So, if you appoint such personnel, the institution loses credibility. You could improve the Commission by getting the best personnel.
Mr Modi’s presumption, I think in this case, was formed by the resentment of the previous 10 years as a CM against the commission.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Do you see the current government as an extension of Modi’s campaign — one person at the top and the Cabinet not very varied or delivering governance at the doorstep? 
India is diverse and very large. I am using the words of a very big man, whose name I cannot tell you. ‘It is not a municipality, it is the federal government of India,’ he said. It cannot be run by small numbers.

Raj Kamal Jha: One of the most visible things Modi has done is on the diplomatic front — his visits to the US, China, Australia, Japan. How do you view India’s international relations under the new government?
Modi certainly thinks on a different scale, and laterally. I remember his phrase: ‘Arrey, yeh theek nahi hai, kuch dhamakedaar idea do (This is not okay, give a bombastic idea).’ You can see that in foreign policy: one is emphasis on neighbours, and secondly, looking at China. I endorse that, but it should be done at a lower profile. If you look at it from the Chinese viewpoint, all these are acts of provocation. If you want to provoke them, you have to be prepared for the backlash. In Japan, Shinzo Abe has a stridently anti-Chinese rhetoric. Vietnam is in non-lethal conflict with China. I am all for alliances and intelligence exchanges with them, but don’t rub it in the face of China.
What has China done? Without any fanfare, they signed an MoU with Nepal for the development of districts. They have announced $65 billion for development of infrastructure in Pakistan.
We are going all over the world (talking) about our acquisitions and orders. I fear we are doing things with a visibility, which will provoke China.

Surabhi: Critics say there is intellectual paucity in the government — no Planning Commission or PM’s economic advisory council.
Three PMs valued ideas as ideas: Panditji (Jawaharlal Nehru), Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The others seemed to be practical men. Maybe that is what India needs, but ideas are also necessary.
Rajgopal Singh*: What is your opinion on age limit for political appointments at the Centre?
I am past 72 or 73, but I felt this is the wrong criterion even when I was younger. Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi were young men. What did they do? The two biggest reformers in India, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee, were older men. Look at a person’s capacity to contribute. Harish Damodaran: The PMO interacts with the secretaries and the ministers are nowhere. Is it sustainable — ministers with no power and bureaucrats all powerful?
The first part may be correct, but not the second. I had taken up this view with Mr Modi before the formation of the government, that given the quality of people the electoral system throws up, he would have to ensure direct contact with secretaries who would, generally speaking, be better than ministers. But do secretaries know how much they can decide? I don’t know. Do ministers know how much they can decide? I don’t know. What is the limit? Can they appoint directors on their own to Coal India, to Air India, to banks? Under Vajpayee, you would be given a charge and could do anything.
Praveen Swami: This government has announced grand schemes but has not given out details about their execution. Do you believe there is a lack of vision or do you believe a few people close to the government saying there is a great deal going on?
A PM can only give a sense of direction, he can symbolically do a few acts so others take it up. But if the others are uncertain about what they can take up, then details do not get worked out. Maybe it is a reflection of that. Such campaigns have to be carried to the toilet on the road. But maybe the Transport Ministry doesn’t know, so they don’t work out the details.
About the 100 smart cities, by now, we should have been told the essence of smartness… In the case of Swachh Bharat, we should not look upon it and ask whether Modi will succeed or fail. Then it becomes merely Modi’s campaign.

Abhishek Angad*: How do you think the government is handling issues about Muslims? 
I agree with Modi’s general approach, which is to provide facilities across the board, not on the basis of caste or religion. Whenever we provide benefit based on a criterion other than economic, politics is played around it. Development requires focus, and Modi has to ensure that focus, which means you must also control the fringe elements. You cannot talk development in Delhi and love jihad in Muzaffarnagar. It distracts. If love jihad was so dangerous, how did the phenomenon stop after voting?
Ajay Shankar: The Modi wave still seems to be prevailing. When and how will there be a reality check?
The reduction of oil prices has put blinkers on people’s eyes and has delayed a reality check. Otherwise, by now, with the fiscal deficit and diminishing oil prices, if for the first seven-eight months the targeted deficit would have been consumed, a reality check would have come. As Swaminathan Aiyar said, it’s not just achhe din, but also achhe sitare.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Would you accept a role in government if offered?
Nobody offers me, what to do? (Laughs.) Faiz Ahmad Faiz had said, ‘Kuch hum hi ko nahin ehsaan uthane ka dimaag, woh jab aate hain mail-ba-karam aate hain (I did not want to take on another obligation, whenever she came, she came determined to endow her favours on me)’.

Ajay Shankar: What happened during the famous pre-government meeting of yours?
The post-government meeting should also be famous. First newspapers give you the job, then next day say you are disappointed (laughs). I’m neither appointed, nor disappointed.
*EXIMS student Transcribed by Aslesha and Saikat Bose

Source http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/modi-may-be-an-agent-of-change-but-he-has-to-reshape-an-entire-ocean/

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