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India’s biggest comedy of 2016: Black money eradication under PM Modi’s Administration

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Modi, Modi, Modi…. (this) was the slogan gracing the ears of participants across the country during India’s 2014 general election campaign. From cab drivers to highly paid officials, endorsement for Modi as their Prime Minister across the classes was strong. The youth and the new voters of India voted for Modi’s party the Barathiya Janatha Party (BJP) with belief of his magic word ‘development’.

Since Modi has taken office, the main opposition(the Congress Party), nick named Modi’s administration the ‘U-Turn government’. The Congress Party’s policies during the 2014 election campaign are criticized and regarded as failures; from ‘foreign policy’ to ‘Adhar Card’, Prime Minister Modi’s table was given more priority. His phrases would not give enough support to digital India, start up India, stand up India and other programmes. With the BJP completing almost its two years and six months in government, the part is now receiving more pressure from the voters. Particularly amongst the young graduates and job seekers who are eagerly expecting and waiting for Modi’s model of ‘development’ and his ‘good days’. Will Modi deliver by his promise?

People of this country are so patient in regards to Modi’s election dance because they still believe that he could deposit 15 lakhs in their bank account, a statement promised during his election campaign. The patience of India’s people should not be taken for granted by the BJP, however it should be acknowledged, understood and appreciated. Modi now has no way to turn, and has gave his attention to the slogan of eradicating the black money from India. But, with the question of disclosing the name of Swiss bank account holders, Modi is following a meek and tight lipped policy. Following this, in dictator-style decision making, the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world announces the demonetization decision of withdrawing Rs 500 and Rs 1000 from the public domain starting on November 8th. In the last 42 days the RBI has changed the rules of withdrawal limits 65 times. The ordinary people, from the daily wage workers to the middle class are enduring excessive queues to take Rs 2000 from the ATM for their daily survival. More ATMs are closed due to insufficient funds during this Christmas season causing public commotion and disruption in many areas across the country. Bank employees are also suffering with the unexpected burdens of work resulting in a scheduled strike.

The TV panelists of the BJP can be seen shifting uncomfortably when asked difficult questions from the anchor. They have no other reason to tolerate these interviews than defending the egoistic order of their prime minister. The BJP leaders and the cadres also sat through the effects of the economic disaster imposed on ordinary citizens, but did not speak out and voice their concern for the common people. Demonetization also hit Modi’s own minister in turmoil. The Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda’s brother passed away, but the Kasturba Medical College (KMC) in Mangaluru denied the release of the body “until the bills were settled either through the new notes or through a cheque.” Despite repeated requests from the ministerial side, he pours out his anger and wrath in front of the public, stating “If this is how you behave with a central minister, what happens to the common man who comes for treatment at a private hospital like KMC?”

On average, demonetization kills around 100 people (forbes.com). These are the very common people of India. India currently has 85 percent of unorganized sector employees, and to these people Modi is asking them to buy smart phones to help make the Indian economy cashless. The US got its independence 240 years ago, and yet around 50 percent of their transactions are in cash today. Around the world 85 percent of people are using cash for their transactions. Why is India expected to become cashless overnight? None of the people who use black money are suffering hardship, or waiting in seemingly endless queues or risk losing their lives. Through the bank officials and agents the black money is mostly converted into the new Rs 2000 notes easily. Modi is batting for the rich not for the deprived sections of the society, this rhetoric is the oppositions currents remarks against the prime minister. Ragul Gandhi rightly says: “You can make fun of me but kindly answer to the people’s questions”. This may be a sentimental statement by the opposition leader of the grand old Congress Party, but it reflects the public’s mindset.

Currently, the whole of India is suffering. Ordinary people gave their life because of the idiotic, short-sighted order of this one man. But the BJP party did not have any interest in lending their ears to the individuals who voted for them, the people on the ground. This is natural because any one in power always relays or backtracks. Modi claims that he got 93 percent of the people support, but who is this 93 percent? Modi forgets to correctly research the reality he is facing which shows the majority of his supporters are in the organized sector and already have smart phones in their hands. The ground zero report suggests that how many of the farmers, daily coolies, etc must have smart phones in order to participate in this survey in support of Modi.

P. Chidambaram the former Finance Minister of India recently said that Modi should apologies to the people of India for making them suffer. Well, by following this path the BJP has a chance to rectify the mistake but it seems this will not happen. The BJP ministers are not able to open their mouth. They don’t have any voice under the Modi’s dictatorship. Many scholars say that enacting demonetization in the hope of eradicating black money is delusional. “Demonetization in a booming economy, like shooting at the tyres of a racing car”, says an Indian development economist Jean Drèze.

Dr.Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India says, “Demonetization is an organized loot, legalized plunder”. The ruling elite of this country can take Dr.Singh’s statement as political; however, the prudent Indians should not go in this direction. Dr.Singh is a noble economist turned politician, and according to him the demonetization effect drags the GDP down by two percent. A two percent loss of GDP means losing the productivity of three lakh crore rupees and has a direct impact on India’s employment. But Modi is fiddle like the King Nero. The demonetization is not an economic policy to curb black money or fake money. It is a blind attack on the poor people of India and will be remembered as India’s biggest comedy of the year 2016. The broken egg cannot be get stitched back together, and unfortunately poor Indians have no other choice and no other way to go but accept and face the consequences.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

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South Asia

India Ranked at Top as the Most Dangerous Country for Women

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Thomson Reuters Foundation in its recent survey released on June 26, 2018 ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women.

More than 500 global experts on women’s issues took part in a survey covering areas such as healthcare, discrimination, cultural traditions, sexual and non-sexual violence and human trafficking. Not enough was being done to tackle the dangers women faced, they said. India was ranked fourth in a similar study conducted in 2011.

Afghanistan and Syria were ranked second and third in the study, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia. The only western nation in the top ten was the USA. The foundation said that this was directly related to the #MeToo movement

According to government data gathered in the study, crimes against women in India rose by more than 80 per cent between 2007 and 2016. Nearly 40,000 rapes were reported in 2016, despite a greater focus on women’s safety after the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi in 2012 that prompted nationwide protests and led to tougher laws against sexual abuse being introduced.

India recorded 539 cases of sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016, 170 per cent from 2006, a report from last year suggested. However, campaigners have said that those figures are only the tip of the iceberg; a 2017 survey by India’s National Bar Association found that nearly 70 per cent of victims did not report sexual harassment.

Manjunath Gangadhara, an official at the Karnataka state government, said: “India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women. Rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated. The fastest-growing ecnomy and leader in space and technology, is shamed for violence committed  against women.”

Some observers pointed out that the study, while it took in wider streams of figures, was primarily based on opinion.

Upasana  Mahanta, of Jindal Global University in Delhi, told The Times: “I’m not sure that India is any more dangerous now than it was six years ago. In terms of progress, having only legal provisions  will not make the difference. Most studies show that women in India are mostly victims of violence from their partners or family members. Which shows they are hurt because they are women, regardless of cultural, economic or social factors. Women are basically being put in their place through violence.”

In the past year several prominent rape and murder cases involving children have led to the introduction of the death penalty for those convicted and speedier trial process for violence against females.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development declined to comment on the survey results, said the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news network’s philanthropic arm.

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South Asia

Pakistan: A New Space Era

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Pakistan’s fragile economy and resource restraints are the main hurdles in the way of technological development, especially in space affairs. Therefore, it is so obvious that Pakistan governments’ priorities were off the beam in term of emphasis on space technology. Notwithstanding, Pakistan has taken a small step by launching two indigenously manufactured satellites, Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) and Pakistan Technology Evaluation Satellite-1A (PakTES-1A) into orbit using a Chinese launch vehicle.

PRSS-1 is an earth observational and optical satellite, which will allow SUPARCO to analyze its imagery requirements in terms of land mapping, agriculture classification and assessment, urban and rural planning, environmental monitoring, natural disaster management and water resource management for the socio-economic development of the country. After the launch, Pakistan has joined the elite club to have its own remote sensing satellite in orbit.

Pakistan is an active participant of international cooperation of Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). The APSCO is an inter-governmental institute functioned as a non-profit independent body with full international legal status. Its Members include space agencies from Bangladesh, China, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey. The recent launch of satellites by Pakistan is an extension of support given by APSCO. Therefore, it is the conceding fact that after the successful launches of PRSS-1 and PakTES-1A projects, the space collaboration between Pakistan and China with respect to APSCO will be further strengthened.

The launch of two new satellites will facilitate SUPARCO in developing indigenous capabilities in space technology and promote space applications for socio-economic uplift of the country. Recently, an international conference on the Use of Space Technology for Water Management was hosted by the SUPARCO in March 2018. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) – were jointly organizing the Conference. The conclusion of the conference was that there mote sensing satellite technology i.e. PRSS-1, have validated established competences in terms of water resource management.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming a water-stressed country and according to some estimates, it could face mass droughts by 2025. In this scenario, a remote sensing satellite will be very beneficial in accumulating the data for future plans to fight against this evolving threat. PRSS-1 will use remote sensing techniques to outline the surface water bodies, assess meteorological variables like temperature and precipitation, estimate hydrological state variables like soil moisture and land surface characteristics, and fluxes such as evapotranspiration will be compiled by scientific methods.

Pakistan along with other South Asian states is the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Satellite remote sensing is a useful scientific tool in understanding the climate system and its changes. The technologies and information related to space contribute a fundamental role in climate knowledge, science, monitoring and early warning. Space-based information can subsidize to calculations of the vulnerability of societies to climate change and can help monitor the efficiency of adaptation strategies.

Agriculture holds a great significance for Pakistan and being an agrarian economy, all institutions should be playing a positive role for consolidation in the agriculture sector. The professions related to agriculture i.e. farmers, agronomists, food manufacturers and agricultural policymakers can concurrently augment production and profitability by using space-based technology. The best apparatus to monitor and enhance agriculture development is a remote sensing satellite, which provides key data for monitoring soil, snow cover, drought and crop development. Remote sensing satellite can assess and record precipitation for farmers to assist them in scheduling the timing and amount of irrigation they will need for their crops. Precise data and examination can also benefit in forecasting a region’s agricultural output well in advance and can be critical in anticipating and mitigating the effects of food shortages and famines.

In this era of technological advancement, the Global community today faces a series of non-tradition threats such as climate change and the management of depleting natural resources. In the backdrop of emerging requirements of societal and economic development, geospatial technology is evolving as a top technological domain in the 21st century. The technologies related to earth observation and remote sensing techniques are getting growing interest from the academia, scientists, governments and industries. Pakistan is increasing its efforts in managing natural resources, enhance sustainable urban and territorial development initiatives, facilitate the conservation of forests and valuable biodiversity habitats. Space technologies must benefit all countries; therefore, the international community must support Pakistan to ensure the peaceful application of its space programme.

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South Asia

Pakistani elections spotlight the country’s contradictory policies

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A virulently anti-Shiite, Saudi-backed candidate for parliament in Pakistan’s July 25 election symbolizes the country’s effort to reconcile contradictory policy objectives in an all but impossible attempt to keep domestic forces and foreign allies happy.

Ramzan Mengal’s candidacy highlights Pakistan’s convoluted relationship to Islamic militants at a time that the country risks being blacklisted by an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog.

It also spotlights Pakistan’s tightrope act in balancing relations with Middle Eastern arch rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran while trying to ensure security for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), at US$50 billion plus the crown jewel of China’s infrastructure-driven Belt and Road initiative and its single largest investment.

Finally, it puts on display risks involved in China’s backing of Pakistan’s selective support of militants as well as the Pakistani military’s strategy of trying to counter militancy by allowing some militants to enter the country’s mainstream politics.

An Islamic scholar, Mr. Mengal heads the Balochistan chapter of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ), a banned successor to Sipah-e-Sahaba, an earlier outlawed group responsible for the death of a large number of Shiites in the past three decades.

Pakistan last month removed Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the head of Ahl-e-Sunnat from the Pakistani terrorism list, at the very moment that it was agreeing with the Financial Action Task Fore (FATF) on a plan to strengthen the country’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime that would keep it off the groups blacklist.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met with Mr. Ludhianvi in recent days.

Military support for the participation of militants in elections was “a combination of keeping control over important national matters like security, defense and foreign policy, but also giving these former militant groups that have served the state a route into the mainstream where their energies can be utilized,” a senior military official said.

Critics charge that integration is likely to fail. “Incorporating radical Islamist movements into formal political systems may have some benefits in theory… But the structural limitations in some Muslim countries with prominent radical groups make it unlikely that these groups will adopt such reforms, at least not anytime soon… While Islamabad wants to combat jihadist insurgents in Pakistan, it also wants to maintain influence over groups that are engaged in India and Afghanistan,” said Kamran Bokhari, a well-known scholar of violent extremism.

Citing the example of a militant Egyptian group that formed a political party to participate in elections, Mr. Bokhari argued that “though such groups remain opposed to democracy in theory, they are willing to participate in electoral politics to enhance their influence over the state. Extremist groups thus become incorporated into existing institutions and try to push radical changes from within the system.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr. Mengal was uninhibited about his relationship with Pakistan’s security forces. “No restrictions at all. I have police security during the election campaign. When I take out a rally in my area, I telephone the police and am given guards for it.,” he said. Mr. Mengal said of the 100 ASWJ operatives arrested in the last two years only five or six remained behind bars.

A frequent suspect in the killings of Hazara Shiites in Balochistan, Mr. Mengal led crowds in chanting “Kafir, kafir, Shia kafir (Infidels, infidels, Shiites are infidels),” but is now more cautious not to violate Pakistani laws on hate speech.

Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights reported in May that 509 Hazaras had been killed since 2013.

Many of those killings are laid at the doorstep of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a violent group that split from Sipah/ASWJ but, according to a founding member of Sipah still has close ties to the mother organization. ASWJ denies that it is still linked to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

Suicide bombers killed 129 people this month in an attack on a rally of the newly founded Balochistan Awami Party, widely seen as a military-backed group seeking to counter Baloch nationalists. The Islamic State as well as the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Mengal was the alleged conduit in the past two years for large amounts of Saudi money that poured into militant madrassas or religious seminaries that dot Balochistan, the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

The funds, despite the fact that it was not clear whether they were government or private monies, and if they were private whether the donations had been tacitly authorized, were widely seen as creating building blocks for a possible Saudi effort to destabilize Iran by fomenting ethnic unrest among the Baloch on the Iranian side of the Pakistani border.

A potential Saudi effort, possibly backed by the United States, would complicate an already difficult security situation in Balochistan, home to the port of Gwadar, which is a key node in China’s massive investment in Pakistan and has witnessed attacks on Chinese targets.

It would risk putting Saudi and Chinese interests at odds and upset Pakistan’s applecart, built on efforts to pacify Balochistan while not allowing its longstanding, close ties to the kingdom to strain relations with its Iranian neighbour.

The Pakistani military’s strategy of easing militants into the country’s mainstream politics is also not without risks for China that in contrast to its South Asian ally has adopted an iron fist in dealing with dissent of its own, particularly in the troubled north-western province of Xinjiang where China has implemented extreme measures to counter Uyghur nationalism and militant Islam.

If successful, it would create an alternative approach to counterterrorism. If not, it would reflect poorly on China’s selective shielding from United Nations designation as a global terrorist of a prominent Pakistani militant, Masood Azhar, a fighter in Afghanistan and an Islamic scholar who is believed to have been responsible for a 2016 attack on India’s Pathankot Air Force Station.

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