Tipu Sultan: Diverse Narratives

From couple of years around 10th November, BJP has been undertaking the smearing campaign against Tipu Sultan. Incidentally from last 3 years Government of Karnataka has been celebrating the anniversary of Tipu. As such he is the only King, who laid down his life while fighting against the British. This year around as November 10 approached, Mr. Anantkumar, the Union Minister and a major BJP leader from Karnataka, turned down the invitation of Karnataka Government to be part of the Tipu anniversary celebration. His argument was that Tipu was a mass murderer, wretched fanatic and rapist. At places there were protests organized by BJP.

Certain sections of the society also consider him a tyrant who engaged in forced conversions. He is also accused of promoting Persian at the cost of Kannada. It is also alleged that his letters to his Generals, claimed to be in British possession now, show that he believed that kafirs should be decimated. There is no dearth of such periodic controversies being raked up around his name. What is being propagated on the basis of some flimsy sources is that he destroyed hundreds of temples and killed thousands of Brahmins!

Incidentally just a month ago, Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, who has a RSS background, was on a different trip. He praised Tipu by saying that “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare.”Many BJP spokespersons, uncomfortable with this statement, undermined the President by saying that false inputs were provided to Rashtrapati Bhavan by Karnataka Government.

As such there are diverse attitude towards Tipu from within RSS-BJP stable itself. In 2010, B.S. Yeddyurappa, the BJP leader adorned Tipu’s headgear and held a mock sword, on the eve of elections. In 1970 RSS had published a book praising Tipu, calling him patriotic, this book was part of “Bharat Bharati” series.

On the other side noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad is all praise for Tipu to the extent that he supported the demand to name Bangaluru airport in his name. Karnad has also been stating that had Tipu been Hindu, he would have been accorded the same status in Karnataka, which Shivaji has in Maharashtra.

One recalls that Tipu has been made popular through the 60 episode serial based on Bhagwan Gidwani’s script, the ‘Sword of Tipu Sultan’, which also focuses on the fight of Tipu against East India Company. Tipu had corresponded with the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad to dissociate themselves from the British forces, the intrusion of which he saw particularly harmful for this region. This policy of his led to various battles against British. It was in the fourth Anglo Mysore war of 1799 battle that he lost his life. He has been immortalized in the popular memory of Karnataka people through folk songs. This is very much akin to iconization of Shivaji in popular memory in Maharashtra.

Why did Tipu use Persian as the Court language? It is important to recognize that Persian was the court language in the sub-continent at that time. Even Shivaji of Maharashtra was using Persian in his correspondence and had had Maulana Hyder Ali as his Chief Secretary, for doing this. Tipu was not a religious fanatic as he is being projected by them today. Tipu’s policies were not driven by religion. In fact, in his letter to Shankaracharya of Kamkoti Peetham, he refers to the Acharya as Jagatguru (World Teacher). He also donated rich offerings to his shrine.

When the Maratha army of Patwardhan plundered the Sringeri monastery, Tipu Sultan respectfully restored the monastery to its glory. During his reign, ten-day Dushehara celebrations were an integral part of the social life of Mysore. Sarfaraz Shaikh in his book ‘Sultan-E-Khudad’ has reproduced the ‘Manifesto of Tipu Sultan’. In it, he declares that he would not discriminate on religious grounds and would protect his empire until his last breath.

There is a charge that he persecuted certain communities. It is true. The reason for this persecution was purely political not religious. About these persecutions historian Kate Brittlebank comments, “This was not a religious policy but one of chastisement”. The communities targeted by him were seen as disloyal to the state. The communities he targeted did not just belong to Hindu stream he also acted against some Muslim communities like the Mahdavis. The reason was that these communities were in support of British and were employed as horsemen in the East India Company’s armies. Another historian Susan Bayly says that his attacking Hindus and Christians outside his state is to be seen on political grounds as he at the same time had developed close relations with these communities within Mysore.

As such the alleged letters in possession of British, where he is supposed to have talked of killing Kafirs and converting them, needs to be seen rationally, their genuineness apart. We have to see the person in his totality. When he has Purnaiyya, a Hindu Brahmin, as his Chief Advisor, when he is all respectful to Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamkotipeetham, it is unlikely that he could have been on a murderous spree of Hindus. British have been harsh against Tipu on purpose as he was the one to oppose the advance of British in India and wrote to Marathas and Nizam that we should settle things among ourselves and keep British out. Due to this he was singled out by British; who vehemently demonized their opponents. There is a need to have a balanced picture of this warrior king, who took on the might of British and could foresee that British are a different power, different cup of tea so to say, to be shunned at all the cost. In that sense, he is the pioneer in Anti-British resistance on this soil

The vacillations of communalists, from praising him to presenting him as an evil character are motivated attempts to uphold their communal ideology, nothing else!

Ram Puniyani




Empowering and employing rural Jharkhand

Junaid Kamal Ahmad, the Director of the World Bank in India, might not have even thought that his visit to tribal-dominated Jharkhand could present before his eyes live examples of rural women empowerment and self-employment, courtesy the innovative planning and executional approach of the State government. That he visited various tribal districts in the State and was all praise for the efforts is now an oft-quoted news.

Jharkhand might arguably be the most backward region of the entire Indian sub-continent but the way Raghubar Das’s government, through its various programs, including the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, has embarked on a mission to empower rural women and enhance the prospects of their livelihood while still staying in the villages, is not only praiseworthy but could also serve as an example to be followed.

Describing the efforts, Bishnu Parida – the CEO of Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Council (JSLPS) – says: “Under rural department, through JSLPS, we are implementing various schemes which are aimed at reducing or eliminating rural poverty and at the same time empowering rural women to take up gainful livelihood activities. The main program we are implementing is the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and through this we are promoting community institutions of poor, for the poor. And through these community livelihood missions, we are targeting rural households all across Jharkhand.”

Elaborating further, Parida says: “We are building their capacities, we are training them to take up gainful livelihood activities and also linking them to financial institutions, mostly banks, to avail credit, which is prerequisite for any economic activity. “

The programs are actually people led programs and the Government has gone a step ahead by even eliminating the NGOs and middle-men from the execution process. The community members are being directly trained with an aim to create a cadre of trained community professionals, who will eventually handhold their neighbours and household members.

Tells Parida: “In the initial phase we have our own professional team who are placed at cluster level, block level and district level, but subsequently we are also grooming and nurturing these community institutions through trained community professionals, and be it social mobilization, financial inclusion or even livelihood promotion, all these activities are being taken care of by the cadres only.” These community professionals have been provided quality technical inputs and then they are disseminating and sharing the knowledge with community members.

Giving further details, Program Manager with the Society Kumar Vikash says that the women self-help groups so created have been given the name Sakhi Mandal. A group of ten to fifteen women from the same socio-economic background, and from the same village, are grouped to form a Sakhi Mandal. While some funding is done by the society, and their micro credit plan analysed, they are passed on to banks so as to meet their credit needs.

Various cadres are being promoted, all of whom have their own success stories. One such cadre is PashuSakhi which seeks to promote livestock (goat/sheep/pig/poultry) rearing as a source of livelihood for rural poor especially women. PashuSakhi is a practicing goat farmer from the community (mostly an SHG member) who is promoted as para veterinary worker in the villages to give services to the goat rearing farmers from within their villagesfor better upkeep of their livestock. This has helped in reducing the goat mortality rate in villages where PashuSakhis are in operation. Till now access to on time, low cost, door-step livestock health care, first aid and knowledge has been a key constraint in livestock production, which has adversely affected poor people’s livelihoods.

Another innovative enterprise by Sakhi Mandals is the Ajeevika Didi’s Café. Through Ajeevika Didi’s café, JSLPS aims at creating a brand for restaurants, dhabas and catering in the form of an enterprise run by women entrepreneurs of Sakhi Mandals, thereby not only creating a chain of quality eateries all across Jharkhand, but at the same time also involving a team of women entrepreneurs from each village, cluster, block or district, to create high income business models.

Four to five Ajeevika Didi Cafes have already started operations while more are coming up. The Chief Secretary has recently issued instructions to all districts to push this innovative strategy on priority.

Ajeevika Didi’s café would be a community owned and managed brand aimed at providing livelihood to women entrepreneurs in Jharkhand. It will be a for-profit venture. Through these cafes, the people can also avail traditional, home-made, and healthy food away from their homes.

TabletDidi is another innovative program based on Narendra Modi’s Digital India program. Consequently, the women of rural India who did not even know how to use mobile phones are working on Tablets today to seek information, are also keeping accounts of others and even playing games and seeking knowledge through the Internet. Interestingly, there are more than 700 women in Jharkhand today who are working as TabletDidi, many of whom didn’t know till sometime back the difference between this electronic Tablet and the medicinal tablet that we consume upon falling ill.

Ajivika Krishak Mitra too are out there telling the poor villagers the latest techniques related to farming and training them in their use. Consequent to these efforts, several rural women have become self-employed and taken themselves out of poverty. Whereas they were unable to make the ends meet despite farming and working as petty labours, many of them are now sending their children to private schools.

Empowerment is the key to poverty alleviation and Jharkhand has realised it far earlier than most Indian states. This empowerment is happening through community institutions in the form of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Through nurturing and strengthening these community institutions and providing them with relevant training through professionals, it is possible to make a significant impact on the rural community.

Seeds of the good work have already been sown and the buds in the shape of results have already started showing!

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




Getting intimate with life-giving oceans

It was in 1998 when the Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) was established directly under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing Marine Living Resources (MLR) Programme. Since then, CMLRE has been organizing, co-ordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which inter-alia include mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.

Coming forward from that modest beginning about 20 years back, it became apparent that CMLRE has scaled a long journey towards progress and development when Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister, in the presence of Dr. M. Sudhakar (Director CMLRE) and senior scientist N. Saravanane, stressed the need to develop CMLRE as a national centre to coordinate all spheres relating to the sector and to develop further the country’s ecosystem-based management strategies relating to the seas,during his visit to the CMLRE institute at Kakanad, Kochi.

Dr.M. Sudhakarwho has years of experience with the CMLRE says it is the only institute in India that is dealing with marine living resources in the deep waters. Elaborating on the major role played by CMLRE, he says: “CMLRE being the national centre established exclusively to address the marine living resources of our country has already made several focussed studies to assess the ecosystem processes, preserve and harness living resources. Our understanding has improved on these aspects to a large extent though still there are many unresolved issues, the prominent being (i) Is coastal pollution really significant and affecting marine living resources; (ii) what factors influence the marine fish distribution and their stocks; (iii) their breeding and recruitment grounds; (iv) effect of adverse environmental conditions like during El-Nino years of sea warming and ocean acidification; (v) wealth and records of bio-diversity in our Indian seas; (vi) unconventional fishery resources of deep-sea and its connection to coastal ecosystem, etc. Several concerted efforts have been planned based on our understanding of the seas, mainly by switching to the Ecosystem approach based studies. Towards this, in the first instance, CMLRE has taken-up two intensive projects during 2017-20: (a) Marine Ecosystem Dynamics of Eastern Arabian Sea (MEDAS), a mega multi-disciplinary ecosystem approach based time-series study involving multi-institutional expertise; and (b) Resource Exploration and Inventorization Scheme (REIS), both aimed to address major issues outlined above.”

CMLRE’s active engagements in deep seas can be understood by its various collaborations with several international activities viz. (i) Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS); (ii) Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); (iii) Belmont Forum – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; (iv) Convention on Biological Diversity and (v) Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) – a new legal instrument proposed under United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). Through these collaborations and negotiations combined with in-house focused research, India stands to showcase its strengths in assessing and sustainably harvesting our marine biological resources for future needs.

“As part of its marine biodiversity program, we try to identify the various species that are available in the Indian waters and we are now working on deep sea fisheries and distant water fisheries,” tells Dr.Sudhakar adding that CMLRE has also identified 5 species of ornamental fishes, which are in great demand abroad, and has developed the technology to breed them and multiply them.

Exploration and exploitation of Antarctic marine resources too is of paramount importance, particularly when 26 countries including India, that too from far off countries like Norway, have taken quota allocation in the Antarctic region for research and exploration. While countries like Norway are looking at Antarctic for its food alternative requirements, Dr. Sudhakar says “we will have to see how viable it is for our country and its requirements.” However, it is clear that CMLRE will require a lot of support from Govt of India if it is to carry forth its deep sea mission and work on distant water fishing and deep water fishing. The CMLRE director agrees that he is getting the desired support from the Government.

Somasunder, working as Adviser with Ministry informs that the Government of India is now planning for sustainable development which mainly covers life below the water. The UN has lately come up with a charter specifying special goals for oceans and India is a signatory to it. In a conference held recently to address the sustainable development goals mainly conservation, preservation and sustainability of ocean resources particularly in terms of pollution and its impact, the UN put forth national as well as global indicators. These are as follows: (i) Prevent, reduce, minimize pollution; (ii) Preserve, conserve and sustainable use of marine resources; (iii) enhance the scientific capability; and, (iv) Implement the UN framed laws to harness resources in sustainable manner.

Entire activities that are conductedpresently can be divided into four broad segments: living resources, non-living resources, ocean observation and infrastructure expertise, says Dr.Sudhakar. As part of its work on non-living resources, water currents are being used to meet energy and fresh water requirements. There are three plants working which produce 1 lakh liters of fresh water every day. Work is going on to commence 4 more plants in 4 different islands of Lakshadweep. Besides, a plant is going to come up soon which will generate energy from water and the same energy will be used to operate a desalination plant.

Elaborating further on this, Dr. Purnima Jalihal, the Project Coordinator with National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says: “We work with ocean energy forms which are waves, tidal (marine) current and thermal radiant. We have developed the first wave-powered navigational BUOY which will be useful for ports in our country. Also for the first time, we have developed a hydro-kinetic turbine which runs using the water velocity (marine current). Additionally, we have developed an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) which uses the difference in surface temperature of water and the temperature at depth to generate power. Power is used to generate steam which is again condensed using colder water from the deep sea and thus absolutely fresh drinking water is obtained. This technology has gone a long way in solving the fresh water requirements in three islands in the Lakshadweep.”

Dr.Jalihal further informs that NIOT is working to scale up the technology for use on islands with larger population. “NIOT has already been able to successfully show offshore one million litre per day desalination plant. This plant, to be powered by OTEC will be put up at Kaviratti. A two million litre per day plant design is now ready at Tuticorn Thermal Power Plant station which we have scaled up for use by the industry on commercial basis.”

Oceans possess a lot of non-living resources as well, and technological advances have made it possible to harness these resources. Wakdiker, the Program Head with the Ministry informs that a great deal of activity is concentrated on deep sea resources in saline, international waters. India was the first country which has been awarded an area of one lakh sixty thousand square km in the international waters of Central Indian Ocean for exploration of polymetallic nodules. The nodules are potato-like structures which are found at the sea-bed, about 4 to 6 km below the water surface. Tells Wakdiker, “We had the contract with International Sea Bed Authority, which is a UN body, and which looks at the governance of such areas in the deep seas.” Incidentally, Dr.Sudhakar is an elected member of the Legal & Technical Commission for Internal Sea Bed Authority.

The polymetallic nodules, available on the sea-bed in the form of potato-like structures, contain copper, nickel and cobalt, apart from manganese. However, it has still not been possible to develop the technology to extract the minerals from these nodules. China and Korea, besides India, are the three countries in the process of developing the technology for extraction of metals. It is envisaged that India will be able to develop first pilot demonstration mining by 2021. In this regards, lot of efforts have been made by scientists from NIOT.

NIOT is also working on another program for exploration of polymetallic sulphides. Consequent to India’s explorations in the Indian Ocean, a contract has been awarded last year to National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) to carry out further research in this field.

Informing further about NCAOR’s areas of work, Ravichandran says his organization is responsible for carrying forth scientific research in the Southern and Northern Poles besides the Central Pole, consisting of the Himalayan belt. Additionally, NCAOR is trying to study monsoon and also trying to map the entire Exclusive Economic Zone around India, a mammoth task considering the size of our country.

“In the polar areas, we are monitoring various parameters, looking at both and non-living,” says Ravichandran. NCAOR is running a station continuously, and analyses data collected from the stations in various poles in its labs on continuous basis. Elaborates Ravichandran, “We are the only organization working from North to South Poles. Scientists from all streams are working with us.” NCAOR also conducts various missions to the Antarctic on regular basis, in which scientists with expertise in various streams take part.

NIOT along with INCOIS is also doing its bit by providing advisory to the fishermen. Informing further on how it locates the potential fishing ground using the satellite data and tell the fishermen where to go for fishing, Shenoi, Director with INCOIS and NIOT says the data related to surface temperature and chlorophyll content in the ocean, till about 50 km from the shore are provided to the farmers which help them locate when and where to go in their search for more fishes. Today more than 4 lakh active fishermen out of the total estimated figure of about 10 lakh traditional fishermen in India use these services.

Elaborates Shenoi: “Fishermen wish to know how safe it is for them to go out fishing. We started providing them information called Ocean Page Forecast, where we provide forecast on wave, ocean current, ocean temperature and other related indices. Update is provided daily for the next 5 days. Normally small fishermen go out fishing for 2-3 days. These forecasts help them decide whether it is safe for them to go out.”

Third activity that is carried out is the Tsunami early warning system. Tells Shenoi: “We have the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System and UNESCO has designated us as regional Tsunami Service Provider. This means we have to provide Tsunami services for all the countries in the Indian Ocean whenever earthquake of magnitude more than 6.5 occurs. This information is provided to 22 other countries, besides India.”

In addition, now climate change issues are assuming greater importance. “This year we have started new activity for modelling from the point of view of climate change in relation to the Indian Ocean, which is warming up faster than all other oceans. We have constructed a global model and downsized it for the Indian Ocean region. Another new activity being taken up is to study Indian Ocean from the point of view of increased pollution levels as well as study the bio-geochemistry of water around India.”

All this would not have been possible without the high-tech Fishery Oceanography Research Vessel (FORV) SagarSampada with CMLRE besides two other smaller vessels. SagarSampada, now 33 years old, has served tirelessly to the needs of our country and continues to do the same even today, albeit with lesser efficiency. Dr.Sudhakar tells that “the process for the replacement of FORV has already been initiated and after lots of discussion and consultations, its technical specifications have been finalized. The new FORV with ultra-modern infrastructure will be the only deep-sea fishery vessel of the country after FORV SagarSampada and will hopefully serve as the backbone for further marine biological studies, very much on the lines of the services provided in the past by the now ageing SagarSampada.” Therefore, it is a matter of time when a state-of-the-art vessel will carry the Indian flag and torn past the waters of the Ocean in its attempt to get intimate with life-giving oceans.

Aziz Haider




Jharkhand: Bringing smile to farmers’ face

The efforts of the Jharkhand government to take development and benefits directly to the farmers have not missed anyone’s eyes. Not even the eyes of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi!

The initiative of Jharkhand Government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, to usher in a single window facility for farmers, has drawn the praise of Shri Narendra Modi, who saw it as an attempt by the Jharkhand government to bring smiles on the face of the State farmers. Speaking at a function in Jamshedpur, the Prime Minister said: “Everyone has talked and heard about the single window (facility) for industries, but your CM has come up with the novel concept of (creating a) single window for solving all the woes of farmers. You people are lucky to have government ready to fight and die for farmers.”

Needless to say, taking cue from Jharkhand’s initiative, several other states in the country have tried to follow this unique concept.

There remains no doubt whatsoever that the efforts of Chief Minister Raghubar Das for Jharkhand farmers are unprecedented. Referring to these efforts, Puja Singhal, Secretary in the Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cooperative Department of the State says that in the last two and a half years, under the guidance and leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, her department has taken several initiatives. She further says that in the next two years, her Department is preparing several new interventions for the benefit of State’s farmers. Speaking on the single window scheme of Chief Minister, she says: “The scheme launched by our Hon’ble Chief Minister about one and a half years back was a unique initiative in the country and I think we are the only state in the country having such a scheme.”

Chief Minister RaghubarDas’ efforts, aimed at providing farmers with crucial information on government schemes, weather, pricing of agricultural products, soil health cards, seeds, fertilisers, crop insurance and loans, complements the Prime Minister’s push for the KisanSuvidha App, a farmer-specific mobile application and eNAM, a national electronic marketing platform for agriculture products. The KisanSuvidha App is a mobile application that provides weather forecasts for the next five days, besides information on process of agricultural products at 50 nearby mandis (agri-markets); diseases likely to affect crops; advice from agricultural experts; technologies; and dealers in agricultural equipment. Any farmer can download it for free.

Under the Single Window scheme, the agriculture department has started providing all kinds of information related to agriculture under one roof. The executional and financial targets of implementation of this scheme have been given to the districts. In many districts, grand information buildings have been constructed where officers and experts of agriculture, cattle, animal husbandry, fishery, land conversion, agriculture science centre, etc. sit twice a week and solve all the problems of the farmers.

Apart from this, all information related to agriculture is being given to the farmers by SMS. If the crops gets infected with worm, what will be the favourable time for cultivation of crops, fish farming, animal husbandry, information related to livestock breeding including cows, poultry, goat, piggery, duck, etc., their vaccination and treatment, various schemes of Government from which farmers can  benefit, how to make them self-dependent through adopting to agricultural work, income growth solutions, what to do if the animal becomes ill, every such information is now available on phone.

Puja Singhal points out that about 28 lakh farmers are dependent on farms in Jharkhand. There is total of 79 lakh hectares of land, out of which 38 lakh hectares is arable land. Out of this arable land, only 25 lakh hectares of land is being cultivated. Nearly 13 lakh hectares of land lies fallow. Under another very beneficial scheme, the Government has set a target to convert the fallow land into fertile arable farms; the work has already begun to meet these targets.

And to create greater awareness among the farmers, the Government has started the Agri Festival RathYatra, so that farmers are provided with up-to-date information about agriculture. The Government has also started supporting the farmers in areas such as crop and seed production, procurement and sale of crops, etc. Kisan Mitra have been appointed who are ceaselessly working to solve the various problems being faced by the farmers and help them increase the production of crops.

The use of solar energy in water harvesting operations, seed production, pulse production, soil health card, agricultural equipment bank and operation of agricultural machinery and irrigation pumps are other schemes being carried forward. Beej grams have been set up for farmers in the State so that farmers do not have to wait for paddy seeds. At the same time, special focus is being levied on pulses and oilseeds as rabi crops.

Elaborating on the other major interventions by the Jharkhand Government, Puja Singhal says “another major intervention has been that we have a separate agricultural budget for the last two years in running and the agriculture budget focusses not just on agriculture but also components from water resources department, component from energy department, components from rural development department and various other departments from which everything has been converged into a separate agriculture budget, to show the kind of focus which has to be given to agriculture.”

She further states: “The Government and the Agriculture department are committed to the development of farmers and for this all these schemes have been worked upon. Attempts are being made to implement many novel schemes for the benefit of the farmers.”

There remains no doubt that these programs which the Government has launched are reaping greater benefits for the farmers and due to these freshly launched policies, unprecedented development is already visible in the agriculture sector.

As Chief Minister Raghubar Das had said on an occasion that the water of the village will remain in the village and the water of the farm will remain in the farm. The depth of this sentence was not realized until the Chief Minister started implementing the various unique schemes for the betterment of farmers and took to developing agriculture in the State in a mission mode, so that the faces of the farmers of the State always remain smiling.

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




You cant Preach Self Respect to Empty stomachs

Interview with the Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. By ILANGOVAN RAJASEKARAN

IN mid July 2016, a video of a few Dalit youths being beaten and paraded by a mob for skinning a dead cow in Una in Gujarat went viral and triggered a mass movement for Dalit assertion that probably had few parallels in the history of modern India.

This battle for self-respect and dignity began with a 400-kilometre march by more than three lakh Dalits from Ahmedabad to Una braving threats and intimidation from Sangh Parivar elements and daring them with slogans such as “You may keep the cow’s tail, give us our land”.

One of the architects of the movement was Jignesh Mevani, a 36-year-old lawyer-activist who has been working for long on the Dalit land rights issue in Gujarat. As convener of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, he made Dalits take a pledge that they would not do jobs such as skinning dead animals that were linked to their birth in a particular community.

Mevani is going ahead with his ambitious mission of uniting Dalits and all progressive forces, including the Left, on one platform to launch a pan-India movement against the growing menace of communalism and to safeguard secularism and work towards establishing a casteless society. There are many sceptics within the Dalit community about this approach.

Taking on the Sangh Parivar in its den, Gujarat, he says, is not easy. He realises that making Dalits conscious of their right to live with dignity is a stupendous task, and his immediate objective is to defeat the caste-centric nationalistic Hindutva caucus. “If they are defeated, the fractures in society can be removed. But it is not possible unless Dalits bury their differences and join hands with progressive forces,” he says.

Mevani was recently in Chennai on an invitation from the Caste Annihilation Front (Jathi Ozhippu Munnani) and to attend a series of programmes. He spoke to Frontline on the Gujarat model of development and why it failed, the rise of the scourge of right-wing extremism, and the deep differences within the Dalit community.

Excerpts from the interview:

The Gujarat development model that Narendra Modi is said to have scripted as Chief Minister of the State from 2001 to 2014 is now sought to be replicated at the national level. But you have criticised it as a failure. Why?

The Gujarat model is a lethal combination of neoliberalism and communalism, which syncs perfectly with Modi’s “Goebbelsian rhetoric” of development.

Sensing the growing divide between the rich and the poor in the post-liberalisation era, corporate giants and the political dispensation have been trying to deflect the attention of the masses from their economic plight. Communal fascism and globalisation are made for each other. It is not a coincidence that the Babri Masjid demolition took place soon after the country adopted the neoliberal agenda.

Please substantiate.

Well. The Gujarat model has, in fact, left the once-vibrant Gujarat in tatters today. The State had healthy financial stability until 2001, but is facing a huge financial deficit today. Gujarat’s public debt, according to reports, stood at Rs.53,000 crore then but is Rs.1,65,000 crore today. It is no exaggeration to say that Gujarat is facing economic bankruptcy today because of the prioritisation of unviable and anti-people projects that benefit only the corporate class.

Social spending on public health and education, employment and infrastructure has come down drastically. Modi’s model of development is to rob the poor and pay the rich. He gave away even fertile land and “gauchar”s [grazing land] to corporate giants at throwaway prices, causing severe stress to the State’s economy and ecology, which in turn led to a serious agrarian crisis and forced nearly 1,000 farmers to commit suicide in a decade in the State. Even water meant for farmers was diverted to big industries. Is this a development model?

Do you mean to say that Modi’s development model, which seems to have brought him successive electoral victories, will actually be disastrous for the country?

Absolutely. His failure to create jobs and ensure sustainable growth has been the main factor behind the massive Patel agitation for reservation. The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, led by Hardik Patel, is campaigning for reservation under the OBC [Other Backward Classes] quota. Had Modi been committed to a sustainable growth [model], affluent social groups such as Patels would not have taken to the streets asking for reservation in employment and education, competing with the downtrodden. It is his gross failure that has created disharmony among various sections of the people in a once-peaceful State. This is his model of depravity and decay, which he attempts to implement across the country. Just imagine what will happen if he is allowed to pursue his mission based on “the Gujarat model”.

BOUND TO FAIL

Is it not premature to say that his model will fail?

His model is bound to fail. Renowned scholars and economists have said so. Gujarat has been a laboratory to test the Hindutva agenda at the micro level. Now these right-wing extremists have started implementing it at the national level. Modi is their face. The country’s development is not their agenda. It is not about economics and development. It is something sinister, a majoritarian agenda that attempts to communalise a secular nation. The youth and farmers have been cheated like never before. Has Modi ever visited the family of a farmer who committed suicide? He will never in future too. For him big corporate houses are important, not the common man.Modi is just a mirage and will remain a total failure.

Many claim and believe too that Modi has brought Gujarat to the fore. It is the successful projection of this image of him that has brought the BJP to power at the Centre and in many States today. You cannot deny that.

It is just a fairy-tale fantasy. His “’Vikas Purush” image is just a corporate construct. His agrarian policy in Gujarat was a mess. Despite the massive Narmada project, in which a huge amount of taxpayer money was spent, half of Gujaratis are left with no water today. More than a lakh manual scavengers [safai mazdoor] of the Valmiki community are struggling to get basic minimum wages. There has been no visible effort to rescue them from this menial job and rehabilitate them.

It is a carefully propagated image that Gujarat is shining. Do you know that it is not found among the top 10 developed States despite Modi having been in power there for four terms from 2001. Gujarat has the largest number of malnourished people in the country and one of the most corrupt regimes today.

Modi promised to build 50 lakh houses for the poor in the State. But not even 1 per cent of that has been completed so far. These houses, mainly built under the Indira Awas Yojna, were to be completed within the maximum time limit of two years. But the majority of them are still incomplete, though the State has claimed that the target has been achieved. The incomplete houses are shown as complete. A similar fate has fallen on other welfare schemes, too. These fudged figures expose the emptiness of the Gujarat model, which excludes Dalits and the marginalised.

But Modi claims that his development model is inclusive and has benefited Dalits and the marginalised.

It is a lie. There is a 300 per cent increase in violence against Dalit women in Gujarat today. The data provided in reply to a query under the Right to Information Act reveal that a total of 501 rape cases have been registered between January 2001 and December 2014 in the State. Dalits in 104 villages are living in perpetual fear of death since they suspect that the police who give them protection against casteist forces might withdraw at any time and expose them to danger. [The government has identified 11 districts, including Mehsana, Ahmedabad (Rural), Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar, as “atrocity prone”.] The world knows how Muslims were victimised in Modi’s Gujarat. Is this an inclusive model?

Why do you lay stress on the distribution of land among Dalits at a time when they face social ostracisation, an issue that needs to be confronted and solved  immediately?

This problem of caste-based discrimination is not confined to Gujarat. In the post-globalisation period, Dalits have become “double victims” of both caste and class discrimination. In the post-Una era, Dalits understand the evilness of the Hindutva forces, which actually nurture caste-based discrimination, and the importance of owning land. Economic empowerment will ensure them dignity, socially and economically.

In India, land determines the caste system. The redistribution of surplus land in the possession of caste Hindu feudal landlords among Dalits is essential for their uplift. I have demanded that five acres [two hectares] of land should be distributed to each landless Dalit in Gujarat under the provisions of the Land Ceiling Act and the Agriculture Land Ceiling Act. Many of the parcels of land that were allotted to landless Dalits remain on paper.

At a time when the rhetoric of manuvadis is growing shrill, one must realise that both caste and class should unite. One cannot preach self-respect to empty stomachs. The land issue lies at the core of this movement, the aim of which is to move towards an all-inclusive model. If one studies Ambedkar and Marx in the context of atrocities, one can understand that they endorse the point that land reform is the key tool for
empowerment.

Your views on coordination with Left and other progressive forces for Dalit liberation have been criticised not by Hindutva elements but by a few intellectuals and activists within the subaltern stream.

Yes, I am well aware of it. This sort of negativity and divisive approach, as far as I know, goes against the spirit of Amberkarism. Amberkarites interpret Babasaheb to their whims and create hurdles to the marginalised in their path towards emancipation and empowerment. Everyone knows that Ambedkar was not a Marxist, but can anyone deny the fact that he did have a class perspective? My objective is to place Ambedkar before the people in totality with his radical interpretations and also for critical appreciation. This would take one far closer to him and also to the Left, though it is imperative that we must engage with the latter continuously against its perceived dogmatic principles insofar as class is concerned.

An intellectual understanding of Ambedkar with an open mind will create the space to share commonness among the forces that are fighting communal and casteist elements even at the micro level. Unfortunately, the post-Ambedkar Dalit movement is a disappointment. There is hardly anything in it that can be called Ambedkarite. Given this, the character of mainstream Dalit parties is even more shocking. Dalit parties are caught in perpetuating identity politics, adopting whatever means that suit the individual leaders to achieve their political aspirations and power.

Ambedkarites, of course, can disagree with me. They have the right to do so. But in order to annihilate the monster of Hindutva capitalism that is waiting to devour even the meagre livelihood resources of subaltern society, is it not imperative for us to forge a broad coalition of the forces that propagate similar agendas? We must learn to agree to disagree.

Divided we fall?

Yes. We must realise that we are all sailing in the same boat targeting a toxic foe—Hindutva and its Varnashrama-based casteist structure. Ambedkar, in 1944, said that “the root of untouchability is in the caste system; the root of the caste system is religion attached to varna and ashram; and the roots of varnashramam is Brahminical religion; and the root of the Brahminical religion is authoritarianism or political power”.

The forces in Gujarat are systematically targeting Dalits and Muslims to construct a right-wing monoculture and identity. Today they have captured power at the Centre, and we need to keep that in mind. Our slogan in Gujarat, “you may keep the cow’s tail, but give us our land”, has no doubt stunned the right-wing communalists. It could be equated with the perspective that the Left propagates. So what if we Dalits and the Left have to work in tandem to defeat our common foe to achieve social and economic justice. I would say that Tamil Nadu is fortunately insulated against Hindutva machinations thanks to the legacy of the Dravidian movement and its leader [E.V. Ramasamy] Periyar.

What are your views on the Dravidian movement and the position of Dalits and Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu today?

As I mentioned earlier, Dalit politics across the country is caught in identity politics. But in Tamil Nadu, Dravidian ideology has more or less shaped the State’s overall social consciousness and kept the fundamentalist elements out. There is a morbid fear that the dilution of the Dravidian movement and the [weakening of] Dravidian political parties have created a congenial environment for the entry of right-wing forces.

Ambedkarites in Tamil Nadu, I understand, feel that the Dalit parties have not addressed the issues they are supposed to. They are also suspect that the present Dravidian political parties are OBC-centric and hence against Dalits, who form nearly 20 per cent of the population. This distrust and suspicion about the Dravidian movement, besides the Left’s class theory, cannot be dismissed.

But we must keep one thing in mind—you cannot dismiss the progressive forces outright. We can criticise their ideologies that are at fault. But can it be an impediment to join hands with them in the annihilation of communal fascism? Can we fight a lone battle against a formidable foe emerging as a monolithic entity? Then, it can never be an even battle.

While the Hindutva forces are getting united across the country, why have leaders like you and of other Dalit political parties not attempted to forge a common platform at the national level involving Ambedkarites, Marxists, secularists, Dravidians and others?

Yes, certainly. The foremost requirement is Dalit unity by removing the inherent “internal casteism” among us. We will be organising programmes to give shape to the structure of anti-caste politics. The Left in India has made some mistakes. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that Ambedkarite politics, too, has similar problems. I am not going to turn away anyone who wishes to join us in our struggle for our emancipation and empowerment.

The point is simple—even after witnessing what we are witnessing today, if the Left, the Ambedkarites and activists of the self-respect movement don’t come together, it will be disastrous not only for the nation but also for Tamil Nadu. With the kind of legacy Periyar’s movement has had here, we can definitely defeat the dark and devilish medieval forces like the Sangh Parivar and the BJP.

History will never forgive us if we don’t come together and stop the entry of such dark forces.

Dalit activists feel that the fight against caste oppression by the OBCs should be prioritised. They have a point. Unless you eradicate caste and the discrimination associated with it at the micro level, how can a social group be brought into the mainstream at all to achieve inclusiveness?

Agreed. The ultimate aim of any Dalit party or any Dalit rights group has to be the annihilation of caste, whether it is at the micro or macro level. Almost everywhere in the country, we see that most of the atrocities inflicted on Dalits are by the OBCs, who have been “Brahminised”. Also, the way in which the Indian state has carried out land reforms, the Sudras have become even more oppressive on Dalits. But without Dalits joining hands with democratic and secular forces, their cause cannot materialise.

Dalits have become cynical about many of these issues. Certain sections within the Dalit community propagate the belief that there is a Brahmincal conspiracy in everything. They believe that each Brahmin on this planet is out there to destroy the lives of Dalits, little realising that our problem is with Brahminism and not with Brahmins. So, yes, I agree that we need to be open to embrace the progressives, provided they are ready to join us in the annihilation of caste.

What is your suggestion for the eradication of caste?

My suggestion is that land reform is the most vital tool that can overhaul the structural change in society and give socio-economic empowerment to the marginalised. Caste is not just a sociocultural phenomenon, as it has a material foundation as well.

So I will keep coming to Tamil Nadu and the other southern States and try to launch a struggle for land reforms, which alone, I believe, can eradicate caste inequalities, and particularly for our Panchami land. So I will urge not just Dalits but all pro-poor and anti-caste forces to come together to launch a united struggle to retrieve the Panchami lands that were allotted to Dalits by the British, though I know it will be a stupendous task. This will be definitely our main agenda here.

Your dream of uniting secular forces against communal fascism appears to be far-fetched. How will you consolidate the different elements from within and outside the Dalit community for a united movement to achieve an egalitarian society?

We must create a joint platform of all like-minded and all anti-Sangh Parivar forces across the country. We cannot let our struggle languish in isolation. Me, Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid Shora and many other socially conscious stalwarts, activists and friends are already working on this. Hopefully, we will be able to show a trailer of this unity very soon, maybe before the Gujarat Assembly elections of 2017.

The Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch is successful in Gujarat. The task ahead of us is mammoth and not going to be easy at all. Dalits are now under the clutches of some cynical people—fragmented, confused and isolated. Bringing them together under one common banner and shaping it as a movement with class perspective is a no mean task.

But we will. Many in the States I travelled to, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have expressed their willingness to join us in this cause. I need the support of all to defeat our common enemy—Hindutva-propelled capitalism.

Our enemy has been identified. Now join us to retain the identity of the nation as an inclusive entity with its moorings firmly entrenched in its secular, caste-free and progressive ideology.




PDP-BJP coalition govt failed to address developmental aspirations of people of Jammu

Jammu Former minister and Congress leader Raman Bhalla has blamed the PDP-BJP coalition government of depriving the Jammu people of basic amenities. While addressing a huge public gathering at Shiv Nagar, Bandu Rakh, Kunjwani, Bhalla claimed that the unprecedented power and water crisis in Jammu highlights the apathy of the ruling coalition which had failed to address the issues of the people. Prominent among those present on the occasion include Sohan Singh, Sarpanch Kashmir Singh, Naib Sarpanch Satnam Singh Panch Gurnam Singh,Ghulam Farid,Rajinder Singh Lamardhar, Dr. Vijay, Sanjeev Katal, Puran chand. He said the situation in Jammu province had virtually turned out of control due to the severe shortage of drinking water and worst-ever power crisis during summer. “Despite persistent appeals to the government to ensure supply of basic amenities, no action has been taken. People are suffering, but there is no consolation from the government,” Bhalla added. He said lack of direction and political will have compounded the perception of political uncertainty in the state whereas the government should have tried to provide a hope of inclusive development, reconciliation and peace. The former Minister said the PDP-BJP government rather than engaging with aggrieved people with an aim to address their issues, had chosen to tread a path of isolation, arrogance and confrontation contradicting the promises made in the ‘Agenda of the Alliance’. He said Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution (CAPD) outlets lacked sufficient supplies and utility services were craving for maintenance. “The promise of 24×7 power supply has turned out to be a counter nightmare with unprecedented and unscheduled power cuts haunting the people of the state at the very onset of the winter season,” he said.

Addressing the women present in good number in programme, Bhalla said that the basic needs of one’s life becoming un affordable day by day due to soaring inflation. And the worst hit are the housewives, whose monthly budget has gone awry due to spiraling price hike of vegetables and fruits due to inflation.  Households in the City are finding it hard to manage their monthly budget because of skyrocketing prices, he added. Housewives in the City facing great difficulties in managing their monthly budgets and are not able to provide seasonal vegetables to their kids frequently because of higher rates.  This price rise is creating turbulence in their monthly budget. Inflation undoubtedly has an impact on the household expenditure as it affects the prices of practically all goods consumed and services availed on a daily basis – the most significant one being food. Skyrocketing rates of food articles like wheat and rice, which form the staple diet of state, have adversely affected the household budgets. Also the rates of other food articles like pulses, cooking oil, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products have increased many folds, he added. The hardest hit is the persons who receive fixed income, usually called as the ‘middle class’. Persons who live on past savings, rent, pensions, salaries etc., suffer during these periods as their incomes remain fixed.

Bhalla said that middle class people work really hard to take care of children’s education, livelihood in the times of sickness and even old age.And this price rise is really making it quite impossible to accommodate day to day expenses.  Maintaining that a majority of students in J&K still depend on government schools, state Govt has failed working towards safeguarding the right to education of an average student. Acknowledging that the government-run schools have a lot of scope for improvement, Bhalla demanded government to work on model schools where children, especially from underprivileged background, can reap benefits with proper facilities. Senior Congress leader strongly condemned the closure of 1300 Primary Schools, mostly in Jammu region.  He particularly mentioned that Various Primary Schools closed including Primary School Mohalla Jogian, Primary School Khwaskhan, Primary School Dharap. Bhalla said that the previous UPA Government  started Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan program  to achieve 100 percent literacy rate in India, spent a huge amount to build schools at every kilometer  to establish schools to give quality education to the kids  in far- flung areas. After this the literacy ratio got a boost but now the J&K Govt seems to be sabotaging the program of Govt of India with the closure of Primary school over which BJP is a mute spectator.  The Primary schools closed played a major role in the basic education in the far flung areas. But coalition Government of BJP and PDP is deliberately sabotaging it. Despite crores of rupees funds available to build infrastructure like school buildings, kitchens, toilets and other teaching aids including teaching staff but all the infrastructure and funds utilized to build this infrastructure are going to be wasted with the closure of Govt schools.

Bhalla further said that as the city gets ready to welcome the rainy season, there are serious concerns about the lack of monsoon preparedness. Even a moderate rain causes hardship for the denizens, who have to wade through water-clogged roads and sunken residential areas. The rain that lasted only an hour on last Wednesday exposed the fact that the city is still unprepared for the monsoon. The rain led to knee-deep water in even many main roads in the city, leaving commuters in lurch. Though Jammu is
gifted with several water channels, due to the apathy of the civic authorities, most of them are clogged with plastic waste and silt. The people of Bilal Colony and Pamposh Colony and adjoining areas projected their demands which include repair of roads, lanes and drains, construction of household latrines, fresh BPL survey, repair and upgradation of existing transformers, adequate supply of ration, kerosene oil, LPG, timely disbursement of old age/widow/handicapped pension, financial assistance for construction of pacca houses etc, but Govt always lend deaf ear to their grievances. Bhalla said that Govt must convey specific instructions to all the concerned departments to put in there sincere and dedicated efforts to provide every facility to people at their doorsteps which should be top priority of the coalition government adding that every effort must be made to strengthen the developmental infrastructure in rural areas. It is the duty of the authorities to mobilize resources, provide funds for the sustenance of this class of people which cannot be denied on the ground of financial constraints. The State Government is not taking any keen interest in executing the developmental works in Jammu region where the condition of roads is worst as their renovation and repair work was not taken up in hand during last two years now. The main reason for this being that the developmental works have suffered in Kashmir valley due to unrest and the Government wants to keep the works pending in Jammu too. The Coalition Government which is making tall claims about development has failed during the last two years of its rule to restore the vital roads in the City and its outskirts, Bhalla added.

Castigating PDP-BJP coalition for pushing people to the wall, Bhalla said Jammu region has been worst hit where the government is almost missing with administrative inertia reflected in every sphere. He urged the people of Jammu province to sit up to find if they committed a grave blunder by voting for the anti-Jammu BJP and if they came to the conclusion that they did, then they must get united to get rid of the anti-Jammu PDP-BJP Raj and work for a dispensation that is exclusively of them, by them and for them. Any failure on their part at this critical juncture would further deteriorate the situation. Bhalla said that since the BJP had miserably failed to live up to the people’s expectations by pusillanimously surrendering all the Jammu based issues for the lust of power, the people of Jammu region were giving overwhelming response to the policies of Congress Party. While flaying the BJP’s policy of deceit, duplicity and double standards, Bhalla cautioned the people not to get trapped again by the rhetoric and tall pronouncements of the party and exhorted them to support and strengthen their own Congress Party which alone had the capacity and audacity to raise the voice of the people of Jammu region besides combating the anti-national elements. On the local issues of Gandhi Nagar constituency, Bhalla regretted the total neglect of the constituency with not even a single new work taken up for execution during the last more than two years. He further regretted the abandonment of all development works initiated during tenure of Congress Govt.

Former Minister expressing serious concern over law and order situation in valley said that Kashmir is on the boil once again. Be it the abysmal turnout for polls in Srinagar which were preceded by widespread violence and arson, or the now common sight of ISIS and Pakistani flags being waived in Kashmir, Kashmir in 2017 is reminiscent of the turbulent years of 1989-90. It is amply evident that the PDP-BJP government in Jammu & Kashmir has failed completely and that the BJP, other than reaping petty political gains has gained nothing by leading the government in Jammu and Kashmir. The current round of violence, coming after the lawlessness that followed last year has seriously dented the prospects of peace returning to the valley for some time. Instead of talks about tourism, infrastructure and peace, it is time to acknowledge that Kashmir is entering a phase of an era where any hope of peace in near future seems a distant reality. For all its talk of action and taking decisive steps, observers are at a loss to understand Modi government’s approach towards Kashmirs, he added.

Jammu region is experiencing frequent power as well as water crisis. For the last few days the people of Jammu region experiencing scorching heat and shortage of water supply and unscheduled power cuts has further compounded the hardships of the common people,” he added. Bhalla said that when NC-Congress government was in power, once the offices move to Srinagar and vice versa, a minister used to camp in winter/summer capital on rotational basis for redressal of the public grievances on priority and
“also to give appropriate directions to concerned departments for immediate solution of problems faced by common man”.“The present government hasn’t adopted this practice and as a result the burning issues of the people remain unattended and delayed. This speaks of indifferent attitude of this government towards the genuine problems of the people.”Taking a dig at the government, Bhalla said that since the inception of this government “there have been always crisis in all fields may it be water or power”. “We can say this is not coalition but a collision government”.“People are craving for power and drinking water facilities, especially in these months of scorching summer but the administration seems to be in deep slumber which is evident from frequent and unscheduled power cuts for hours and scarcity of drinking water in most of Jammu areas,” he added.

He also expressed his anguish over the ‘harsh’ attitude of the government towards daily wagers who were on strike since the past few months. He urged the government to intervene into their pending issues and redress them. He further said since the Aadhaar card had been termed as a bonafide document, the requirement of the same had now become all the more important. “There is a good percentage of people to whom the Aadhaar card has not been issued due to which they are facing a lot of difficulties,” he said. Accusing the BJP of indulging in ‘double speak’ on the issue of West Pakistan refugees, Bhalla said the party which had promised to provide citizenship rights to the refugees before elections was now providing meager compensation with lot of hardships. The BJP had completely surrendered before the PDP and was lacking courage to put forth the genuine problems of people of Jammu in front of the government. It was more interested in remaining in the government for the sake of enjoyment of power, Bhalla added.

Bhalla said that the perpetuation of bias by the incumbent govt by divesting Jammu region of its legitimate share in various sectors as clearly noticed during the last two years was wholly unacceptable to Congress party. He regretted that 10,000 posts of SPOs sanctioned last year by the GOI for state were all allocated to Kashmir division to the neglect of Jammu region with BJP leaders most shamelessly issuing statements that it was necessary in national interest. Likewise allocation of 57 PG seats in H&ME Deptt to Kashmir as against 13 seats for Jammu Medical Colleges was highly opprobrious. He strongly condemned the unabated regional bias in selections made by PSC and SSB for various state-level posts during the last two years. Describing the situation in Jammu as highly explosive, Bhalla  said that people of the region were feeling cheated and betrayed due to their complete neglect. He regretted that while the stone pelters of Kashmir were assured compensation and govt Jobs, the highly qualified youth of Jammu including females were left to agitate on the roads with no takers for their genuine grievances. Similar was the position in other sectors including development projects, Tourism, Health, Power etc with PDP walking away with a lion’s share and BJP left flaunting a consolation prize in the shape of few crumbs, he said. The former Minister said the menace of unemployment was rampant in the region with thousands of daily wagers and contractual employees working in PHE, PWD, PDD, etc including NYC volunteers, SPO’s, temporary teachers, MG-NREGA employees, Contractual
Lecturers, NHM and ReT teachers, etc on the roads protesting for their genuine demands related to their salaries and regularization of services. He maintained that the Jammu youth had played a pivotal role in bringing BJP to power in the State but now with their hopes having been belied, they were only feeling cheated, humiliated and betrayed for no fault of theirs. He urged upon the people to unite so as to ensure that much needed healing touch was provided to Jammu region.

Speaking on the progress of mega development projects being implemented in Jammu, Bhalla said that all the projects are moving at snail’s pace be it expansion of Jammu Airport and extension of Runway, Multi-tier Parking and Commercial Complex proposed to be constructed at General Bus Stand Jammu, development of Tawi River Front, construction of protection works, water treatment plants, development of reclaimed land into recreational areas and development of tourist facilities along the banks of the River Tawi, sewage project for Jammu city, multi-level parking facility at City Chowk Jammu, construction of New Legislative Complex, construction of barrage on River
Tawi, Jammu Ropeway Project, from Peerkho to Bahu Fort, construction of Ring Road around Jammu, from Raya Mode at Nagrota Bypass, construction of new Medical Colleges in Jammu region, four-laning of Jammu-Akhnoor road. The progress of potable water augmentation for Jammu city, formulation of Master Plan and implementation of Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme and AMRUT going on with no momentum at all. People of Jammu region are being neglected and discriminated despite repeated assurances from BJP. “The state government should honour the commitment made to the people of the equitable development of all the three regions of the state. He said BJP had assured of development of all the regions and that the differences and the alienation existing between people of Jammu and those of Kashmir Valley would be eliminated.

“In the tourism sector, Jammu got merely 20­25 per cent funds allocation and out of 13 newly identified tourist spots for development, Jammu has only four whereas rest are in Kashmir province”, he added. He said that the Tawi Lake Project in Jammu which was scheduled to be completed in March, has been extended for two years. Bhalla claimed no serious efforts are being made about the diversion of four streams carrying the city garbage in the Tawi River.”In the allotment of indoor stadiums, out of 12 indoor stadiums envisaged only three are allocated to Jammu region and nine to Kashmir province with two in Ladakh. The Congress leader said the discrimination is being faced by the people of the region in the matter of development of roads, infrastructure, irrigation, agriculture and horticulture sector. Bhalla cautioned the government of a great resentment brewing among the people of Jammu province and therefore immediate steps need to be taken for the redressal of grievance of the people. Bhalla said no appropriate strategy has been devised to create attractive assets in and around the winter capital to sustain tourist footfall. He described Jammu as a repository of rich heritage reflected in its historic temples and
monuments.




Anatomy of Basirhat (West Bengal) Violence

In an insane act of violence two people lost their lives in Basirhat (West Bengal, 04 07 2017). From last quite some time the social media is abuzz that WB is turning Islamist, Hindus are under great threat, their condition is becoming like that of Pundits in Kashmir. The section of TV media projected the view that WB is not safe for Hindus but is a heaven for Muslims. Angry posts are also declaring that Mamata is appeasing Muslims, Islamist Radicals are growing in Bengal with support from the Mamata Government etc.

This act of violence was provoked by a facebook post. (July 04, 2017) Once it was known in the area as to who has done the posting, they surrounded the house where the 17 year old boy <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/fb-post-communal-violence-leave-west-bengal-town-divided-scarred-4737945/>lived.

The posting was derogatory to Muslims. As the atmosphere was building up the state machinery kept silent,till the aggressive mob of Muslims surrounded the house. Police intervention was too late. While the boy was saved despite the angry mob which was demanding that boy handed over to them BJP leaders got hyperactive and visited the area as a delegation. They tried to enter the hospital to see the dead body of Kartik Chandra Ghosh (age 65), Muslim attackers had killed him. This attempt of the BJP leaders was to derive political mileage from the situation as BJP claimed that Ghosh was President of one of the units of BJP while Ghosh’s son denied it.

The Governor of West Bengal K.N. Tripathi reprimanded Mamata Bannerjee for the violence. Seeing his attitude Mamata got upset and called him as the one belonging to BJP block level leader. Same Governor has been called as a dedicated soldier of Modi Vahini by one BJP leader Rahul Sinha. The communal violence has taken a political color, BJP accusing chief minister Mamata Banerjee of appeasement of Muslims while the ruling Trinamool Congress is alleging that BJP is out for inciting communal passions <http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/hindu-man-dies-in-west-bengal-violence-clashes-erupt-in-basirhat-again/story-O1j8VjMqPCdgSdCYQRyVVJ.html> to benefit electorally. Surprisingly with this violence, where two people have lost their life, BJP is demanding the President’s rule in the state, while the law and order has already been restored within a week’s time.

The picture in Bengal is very complex. A section of Muslim leadership is repeatedly doing violence in response to hurt sentiments. Earlier also violence was unleashed by Muslims in Kaliachak when one Kamlesh Tiwari had posted something offensive against Prophet Mohammad. The feeling of impunity enjoyed by this section of Muslim leadership is giving a big handle in the hands of Hindutva forces, for which this yet again is opportunity to polarize the society along religious lines. Here in Bengal they don’t have to create the issue of ‘Holy Cow’ or ‘Ram Temple’, it is being provided by this misguided section of Muslim leadership.

The picture is being created that Bengal is in the grip of Islamization as earlier Kaliachak violence and now this violence are being cited to show that Hindus are unsafe here. There was no loss of life in Kaliachak incident but yes there was loss of property, though. The core theme of BJP-RSS propaganda is built around Hindu victimization <http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rise-of-rss-in-west-bengal-has-rocked-mamata-banerjee-s-boat/story-f3zNciQeghSwMgOCsyOrSM.html>
The role of government has been far from satisfactory in this violence as it had time enough to control the situation but it did not. The law and order machinery must ensure prevention of the buildup of such incidents. By and large one can say that effective system can prevent most of the riots irrespective of who is the offender. Here the Government should have acted in time.

Surely Mamata’s alleged appeasement of Muslims does not apply in economic matters. The fact is that the economic conditions of Muslims of Bengal are among the worst in the country. The budgetary allocation for minorities in Bengal is much less than in many other states.

At the same time the communal polarization by the BJP is coming up with the menacing speed. In a state where Ram Navami (Lord Ram’s birth day celebration) was practically unheard of, this year around the Ram Navami procession was taken out with frightening swords in hands. Lord Ganesh festival is also being promoted in the state where Ma Durga had been the main deity so far.

Finally, who benefits from the violence The studies of different scholars on communal violence in India like those by Paul Brass point out that there is an institutional riot mechanism, the core part of which is the impunity enjoyed by the offenders, the abysmal role of justice delivery system as a whole. Another significant study from Yale University <http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/bjp-gains-in-polls-after-every-riot-says-yale-study/articleshow/45378840.cms>
tells us that in the places where communal violence takes place, in the long run at electoral level, it is BJP which stands to benefit. Those who appease the Muslim fundamentalists should note this and see to it that that to discharge the constitutionally assigned duties are the essence of governance irrespective of the community involved in the violence.

Let’s summarize the anatomy of violence in Bashirhat. Stage one the offensive post on face book, two fundamentalist radical sections of Muslims unleash violence number three the approach of the state government fails in preventing the violence. Number four BJP carries on from there and worsens the atmosphere by playing out videos which showed that Muslims were attacking Hindus in Basirhat. It turned out that videos were not from Bashirhat at all. They were taken from Gujarat violence of 2002. Also clips of a Bhojpuri films showing the molestation of Hindu women were recklessly circulated <http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/fake-photos-bjp-sambit-patra-basirhat-times-now-twitter-facebook-kerala-cow-beef-yogi-adityanath/1/997740.html>,the impression being given that this is happening in Basirhat. The same was claimed by BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who said that he had news of Hindu women being raped http://indianexpress.com/article/india/fb-post-sparks-clashes-in-west-bengal-district-centre-rushes-forces-to-north-24-parganas-4736077/> in the affected area. And lastly drums are beaten about victimization of Hindus in Bengal. One just hopes it will not lead to polarization of communities leading in a state where so far communal violence had been reasonably under check.

Ram Puniyani




Portends of brighter days ahead – Slew of initiatives mark 100 days of Yogi-raj in UP

It has been 100 eventful days since Yogi Adityanath assumed charge as the Chief Minister of the most populous state of India. This period, already being fondly referred to as Yogi-raj by his friends and well-wishers, is remarkable because of slew of initiatives taken by the new government in Uttar Pradesh, all aimed at the common man. Actions of the young Chief Minister, who took two deputy CMs in his cabinet citing his own inexperience in managing the affairs of a State, already portend brighter days ahead for the State. Though some of the major decisions have created ripples in the political community and society at large, the sheer dynamism that reflects from the actions of initial days shows that we should be prepared for more public-centric and not populist measures in the days ahead.

It has been just a little over 100 days since Yogi Adityanath Government took charge in Uttar Pradesh. Slew of important decisions and instructions aimed at good governance and better administration have become the hallmark of these initial days.

People’s welfare foremost! This seems to be the mantra working behind all decisions. With roots in BJP’s Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra (Pledge for People’s Welfare) – the manifesto that brought the party to power in the State – the State Government has given instructions to keep the salient points of the Sankalp Patra in consideration while finalizing the budget.

It is apparent that the CM means business. Instructions have been given that responsible officers are posted at all important positions and a citizen’s charter is prepared by each department for quick redressal of a citizen’s problem, and with a view to enhance the trust of the common man towards the Government.

Moving towards implementation of every promise that BJP made in its manifesto, the CM in his very first Cabinet meeting told his colleagues to take on corruption, lawlessness, casteism and the politics of appeasement and stressed forcefully that there will be no discrimination in the name of caste, religion or sex. Addressing a gathering in Gorakhpur, he said: “There will be no discrimination in name of caste, religion and sex. There will be overall development.”

In one such step, the women’s welfare department has put forth a proposal to make marriage registration mandatory for all in the State. The couples who are not registered will be deprived of benefits from Government schemes.

The Chief Minister has issued a timetable of meeting MPs and MLAs from the State. In a letter addressed to all State MPs and legislators, Adityanath said that the people of the State have voted them to power with great expectations and they have to give much of their time to their constituencies. He also mentioned that this arrangement of meeting these lawmakers has been rolled out to ensure immediate redressal of problems faced by the people and better coordination with public representatives.

Another major step taken is to scrap the manual tendering process in Government departments and replace it with online tendering and procurement systems to bring in transparency. “Manual tendering process is being scrapped from all Government departments and e-tendering and e-procurement system will be implemented,” CM Adityanath said.  Under e-procurement and e-tendering process, all work including e-registration, e-coding, tender creation, tender publication, tender purchase, submission and bid opening will be done through electronic medium.

In order to increase fertilizer capacity and create more jobs in the process, it is important that the mothballed fertilizer plants are revived. With a view to create the revival roadmap for the Gorakhpur Fertilizer Plant, the Government has taken the initial steps by approving the proposal for exemption of stamp duty for transfer of land to Hindustan Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd.

In another Citizen First initiative, instructions have been issued by the Government to observe Tehsil Diwas and Thana Diwas as Samadhan (Solution) Diwas. Instructions have been issued to senior officials of various police stations and Government departments that monthly progress of disposal of cases in SamadhanDiwas should be reviewed and apprised to respective senior officials.

Upon taking over the realms of the Government in the State, Yogi Adityanath has also cracked down on VIP culture in the State. Leading by example, the CM has said that no minister in the State will be allowed to use red beacons atop vehicles. He has also downgraded security cover of 46 VIPs and done away completely with that of 105 others.  “Those who are enjoying security cover for the sake of status symbol should be prepared to part with them,” he said.

Strengthening Law and Order

Moving ahead with execution of poll promises of BJP, the State has taken lead in banning cow slaughter and cattle smuggling. The safety of women under the governance of the young CM of Uttar Pradesh too will be the topmost priority in the future. As BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain stated in an interview: “Yogi Adityanath’s agenda is to ensure security and safety to women in Uttar Pradesh and incidents like eve-teasing, molestation, rape, etc. will not take place.”

Giving an open challenge to the anti-social elements in the State to either abide by the law or leave the State, the CM has issued instructions to run state-wide campaigns to prevent incidents of molestation, indecency, obscene exhibition and comments, towards women and girls. The Anti-Romeo Squad – a poll promise of BJP – formed to prevent sexual harassment cases has generated great headlines recently. The CM has directed the State’s top officials to chalk out clear guidelines so that there is no “unnecessary harassment” of boys and girls. The Government has also issued directives for taking quick and effective steps on incidents of harassment and acid attacks.

Instructions have been issued for taking strict action against criminals, smugglers, land mafia, etc. without any discrimination. Police have been told to get into direct communion with the common man and take cognizance of even the supposedly insignificant and minor incidents. They have been instructed to identify the potential trouble mongers and those who risk security and peace, and take proper action against them.

The CM has also instructed the Chief Secretary to make the legal process more effective, reliable and impeccable in criminal cases.

Medical and Health-Care

Giving a mammoth target to officials at the State Health Department, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed opening of 3000 generic medicine stores in the State. To be started under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jann Aushadi Pariyojana, the stores will provide generic (unbranded but equally safe versions of branded) medicines at least at 40-50% lower rates. He has also ordered that the process to achieve the target set should begin with immediate effect as this measure will ensure “availability of quality medicines at affordable prices to all.”

CM Adityanath has also ordered to make health education program compulsory in Government schools. Additionally, he has envisaged 40 yoga centres in existing Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopath hospitals in 40 districts of UP. The CM is also taking steps to create awareness for yoga among masses by ensuring greater participation in International Yoga Day (June 21), each succeeding year.

The CM is personally monitoring steps to ensure better and timely health measures for the citizens. He has given strict instructions to take steps against sex determination and female foeticide, as well as against the ill-educated physicians who at times con their patients. He recently rolled out a campaign in 38 districts to eradicate the deadly encephalitis disease that claims the lives of hundreds of children every year in Uttar Pradesh. Some 40,000 children have died of the disease in the past four decades in the region.

And as a major relief to medical aspirants, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences will be offering additional 150 MBBS seats for admission, thus taking the total number of seats to 1,990. Furthermore, 3 hospitals of Lucknow viz. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (Civil) Hospital and Balrampur Hospital, have launched online patient registration facility in a bid to reduce waiting time of patients at OPD counters and streamline the rush for out-patient consultants.

Agriculture and Farmers

Decision to increase procurement of wheat from 40 metric tons to about 80 lakh metric tons is a major step in this area. Poor farmers of the State are likely to benefit enormously through the recently announced farm loan waiver scheme.  Loans of more than 86 lakh farmers, worth about Rs. 36,000 crore, have been waived off in a major initiative. Banks have been asked to issue loan waiver certificates to the bona fide farmers after the forthcoming Budget. The maximum limit for crop loan waiver will be Rs. 1 lakh per farmer. And true to its word, the BJP Government in the State has started cracking the whip on erring sugar mill owners who have not been paying cane farmers their dues in time.

Moreover, in the next 100 days, few of the sugar mills in UP are planning to modernize their complexes by adding power cogeneration and ethanol plants.

Sugarcane Development

In the short period in which the current government has been in office, the sugar cane farmers have been paid to the tune of Rs. 21 thousand 570 crores.

Food and Supplies

The UP CM has also reviewed the working of Food and Civil Supplies Department and has said that officers should ensure that the children and beneficiaries of the public distribution system, who’s Aadhar Cards have not been made so far, are not deprived of their quota of ration.

Mining

The BJP, in its vision document for the State assembly polls had promised to end the illegal mining. In a tough measure to take on the mining mafia in UP, the Government has hiked the penalty on illegal mining by over 20 per cent and the provision for jail sentence has also been increased from six months to five years.

Turning UP into a developed State

“We will fulfil all our promises. Uttar Pradesh will be turned into a developed state. We need your support to make that happen,” these are the words of CM Yogi Adityanath in a public gathering in Gorakhpur. Many more examples of exemplary work done by the CM can be given, but for space constraint. Factually speaking, CM Yogi has started the UP innings by delivery. And he is making preparations and setting the stage to turn UP into a developed state in the near future.

By Aziz Haider

 (Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




Making interactions with our Mother Earth

As the name suggests… it is all about Mother Earth. The apex ministry that deals with all complex interactions across various components of the Earth, comprising the atmosphere, oceans,  cryosphere, geosphere and biosphere is aptly named the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). The endeavour is to build a desired synergy between earth and the life on it, for improving the quality of services in order to effectively minimize loss of life and includes providing weather, climate, ocean and seismological services to the nation, exploring polar regions, and discovery and exploitation of marine living and non-living resources.

Achievements, no doubt, are many and are increasing gradually as India excels more and more as a technological powerhouse, on its journey to become a global power. This gives enough reason for Dr. M. Rajeevan, the Secretary in the Ministry to feel elated, who sees last two to three years as particularly eventful with major achievements in weather, climate, ocean and seismological services and enhancement of technical capability by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Dr.Rajeevan describes the MoES mandate in these words: “The national agenda includes promotion of discovery to provide new perspective on earth systems; better understanding of earth processes and application of this knowledge for sustainability of the Earth and its natural resources along with strengthening all associated services for enhancing the societal benefits. The policies and programmes of the Ministry are largely being pursued through mission mode projects jointly implemented through its institutions like India Meteorological Department; National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting; Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology; National Centre for Antarctica and Ocean Research; National Institute of Ocean Technology; Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services; Centre for Earth Science Studies; National Centre for Seismology; Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology and Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management.”

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Hon’ble Minister for Earth Sciences with the Government of India feels MoES is poised to play a leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region as India emerges as knowledge super power. This will be achieved “by way of expanding cross-linkages and extending technical support to our neighbouring countries insofar as the weather and its associated services are concerned. The demands for better and precise weather, climate, ocean state forecasting and earthquake monitoring services are increasing. There are special demands from different sectors of economy for customized support services. Other focus areas could be on generating ocean thermal energy, exploration of ocean resources and exploring polar regions.

Needless to say, the various programs being run by the Ministry of Earth Sciences include a wide variety of applications of immediate relevance to our quality of life. Several major milestones have been accomplished in the recent past under various programs and newer thrust areas have been added to the portfolio of activities in response to India’s felt needs in areas pursued by the Ministry. Moreover, leveraging India’s innate excellence in research and development has resulted in enhanced performance of detection and reporting systems.

Dr. Gopal Iyanger, Joint Secretary in the Ministry informs that our skills pertaining to weather and cyclone prediction over the region have improved remarkably in past years. This was evident in the Ministry’s predictions related to Tropical Cyclones, Phailin, and Hudhud and extreme rainfall events in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir and also the floods in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Dr Iyangar tells it is due to successes in technology made during recent years that while the cyclone of 1999 resulted in deaths of thousands of people, the cyclones in recent years have resulted in deaths of less than 50 people.

“It is important to have quality observations which can monitor how the weather is developing and also provide the input in a timely and efficient manner,” adds Dr.Iyangar. This has been possible due to acquisition of fast computing resources which has improved our weather and cyclone prediction capacity, thereby bringing in a paradigm shift in numerical modelling activity for operational weather forecasting.

“Weather forecasting is also of tremendous importance to those in agri-businesses. Forecasting is no longer the concern of the upper end ‘big’ farmers now. Through the Ministry’s ‘Gramin Krishi Mausam Sewa’ we are now reaching about 128 agro-climatic zones spread all over India. Cuurently, about 21 million farmers are receiving crop specific agro-meteorological advisories through SMS in vernacular languages. Services are provided for specific crops as well. Our forecast goes twice a week and lead time is 5 days. Variables covered are maximum-minimum temperature, rainfall, wind direction and wind speed and soil moisture. Ministry has formulated a plan to have district agro-metallurgical unit in each of the about 660 districts in India. By the end of 2020, we will have these units in each of the district headquarters.”

“We have launched the Rs. 400 crore National Monsoon Mission to provide more accurate monsoon forecast to all concerned up to the block level,” informs Dr.Harshvardhan. He further said: “To make weather forecasting with higher accuracy in the mountainous North-eastern region, most modern Doppler weather radars have been installed in Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya, Mohanbari in Dibrugarh (Assam) and Agartala (Tripura).” The Ministry has now made it possible to generate reliable dynamical model predictions in all time scales, short to medium range (up to 10 days), extended range (up to 20 days) and seasonal (up to one season0. It is also possible to make accurate forecasts for summer temperatures and heat waves, winter fog and monitor the air quality.

The Minister also informed that MoES had launched a Rs. 475 crore project and set up two mega centres at Koyna in Maharashtra and Shillong in Meghalaya for the study of earthquake prediction. Experts consider the North-east the sixth major quake-prone zone in the world.

The country has made remarkable progress in earthquake monitoring through setting up of National Centre for Seismology. Real-time seismic monitoring network consisting of 82 field observations including two telemetric clusters, in NCR Delhi and the North East, have been set up to estimate earthquake parameters within shortest possible time. Significant earthquakes are being auto-located and first information is sent within 15 minutes using both Indian and global seismic stations configured in the network. A 2-station VSAT-based seismic telemetry network has been established for real time monitoring and reporting of seismic activity in the North-eastern region of India. Facilities have also been created for scanning, vector digitization and systematic archival of seismic analog charts of historical importance in electronic form.

The Ministry has also embarked on a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional effort of microzonation of various earthquake prone cities in India. Microzonation of Guwahati, Sikkim and Bangalore has been completed on 1:25,000 scale and Delhi on 1:50,000 scale. These efforts will have direct application in disaster mitigation and management, urban development, planning, design and construction, and risk assessment to existing life and property, defence installations, heavy industry and public utilities and services, etc.

And to know more about the Mother Earth, Scientific Deep Drilling has been carried out in the Koyna Intra-Place Seismic zone in Karad, Maharashtra with an aim to measure in-situ physical properties of rocks, pore-fluid pressure, hydrological parameters, temperature and other parameters of an intra-plate, active fault zone in the nearfield of earthquakes – before, during and after their occurrence. A set of 6 cores have been drilled so far with logging and heat flow measurements. These observations will help to understand physical processes of reservoir induced earthquakes.

“These and related achievements include a wide variety of applications of immediate relevance to quality of life. India’s innate excellence in research and development has been leveraged to enhance performance of detection and reporting systems. Newer thrust areas have been added to the portfolio of activities in response to India’s felt needs in areas pursued by the MoES,” tells YS Chowdary, the Minister of State in the MoES.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan elaborates on the reasons further: “All this would not have been possible without appropriate investments in augmentation of observational network, enhancing computing resources and intensifying research in modelling. By using our timely and improved services, farmers and fishermen have received substantial economic benefits. We need to further improve the dissemination strategy to increase the outreach and also to ensure the benefits of it accrue to many more farmers and fishermen.”

All this is important because life matters the most. And life matters only because our Mother Earth matters!

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




Knowledge and technology for the socio-economic benefit of the nation : An interview with Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister

The mandate of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) is to provide services for weather,  climate, natural hazards, ocean, coastal state, hydrology and seismology and explore the marine  living & non-living resources and the polar-regions for the socio-economic benefits to the nation. The services provided by the ministry are being effectively used by different agencies and state governments for saving human lives and minimizing damages due to natural disasters.

1) Your Ministry has been excelling as knowledge and technology enterprise in the field of Earth Sciences and giving socio-economic benefit to the society. Kindly give your views?

Over the past few years, the quality of weather, climate, ocean and seismological services provided by the ministry has improved due to systematic efforts in augmenting atmospheric, coastal and ocean observations and survey, geophysical observations, polar research, developing adequate modelling strategy, conducting cutting edge research and investing in human resources development.

The Ministry in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)provides the crop-specific Agromet Advisory Services (AAS) to about 21 million farmers (as compared to about 7 million farmers in 2014), resulting in annual economic benefits worth Rs. 42,000 crore for farmers cultivating 4 principal crops (wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton).

IMD is planning to improve these services further and take them to about 60 million farmers by 2019.

Fishermen have made an annual profit of Rs. 3000 crore from PFZ advisories by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) which reach 2.75 lakh fishermen (as compared to about 1.05 lakh fishermen in 2014).

In addition, cumulative economic benefits exceeding RS. 370,000 have accrued from Ocean State Forecasts (forecasts of waves, currents, sea surface temperature, etc.) to fisher folk, shipping industry, oil and natural gas industry, Navy, Coast Guard and other stakeholders have improved considerably during the last 3 years. The cumulative economic benefits exceeding Rs. 370,000 crores have been accrued from these ocean state forecasts.

INCOIS has also been designated as Regional Tsunami Service Provider (RTSP) by IOC/UNESCO entrusting the responsibility for providing tsunami advisories to Indian Ocean rim countries.

2) What are the new developments in the area of improving forecasting of weather in India?

Under the successful National Monsoon Mission, dynamical and improved prediction systems have been implemented for generating short-range to seasonal monsoon forecasts over the country. This was possible due to systematic research, investments in infrastructure development like observations, high performance computers and training of young scientists. The loss of lives during the last 3 years due to tropical cyclones has reduced to less than hundred as compared to the thousands during the previous decade.

Forecasts for heat waves

To provide adequate warnings about heat waves and associated health hazards, MOES for the first time started issuing forecasts for heat waves over the country, which were very successful.

Observational Campaigns

Many observational campaigns have been taken up as special atmospheric observations help us to understand model deficiencies and to improve prediction models. As part of it, a large-scale joint India-UK observational campaign was carried out during the period June-July 2016.

3) What has been your Ministry’s policy towards exploration and exploitation of ocean resources, both living and non-living?

An area of 75,000 sq.km has been allotted to India by the UN after India conducted an extensive survey of 150,000 sq. km of Central Indian Ocean where exploration and harvesting of minerals such as gas hydrates, polymetallic sulphides and polymetallic nodules rich in Cobalt, Nickel and Copper is being carried out.

As a first step towards harvesting the nodules, a seabed crawler based mining machine was developed and demonstrated at a water depth of 500 m. A mining machine is now being developed for 6000 m water depth. To test the strength of the soil at those depths an in-situ soil tester that goes up to a depth of 5462 m also has been developed.

A deep water work class Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was developed to aid the exploration of deep ocean minerals up to a maximum depth of 5289 metres. A shallow water remotely operated vehicle (ROV) rated for 500 m with scientific payloads was developed and used for exploration in lakes and to examine the health of coral reefs in Andaman Islands. That was also modified and put to work in the polar regions of Antarctica.

Also, the Ministry through its constituent unit, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) is developingindigenized technologies for producing clean drinking water from the ocean. Currently there are three desalination plants operational at Kavaratti, Agatti and Minicoy which are individually producing 1 lakh litres of water per day. NIOT is providing technical support to the Lakshwadeep administration in installing six more desalination plants in the islands each with a capacity to produce 1.5 lakh litres of water every day.

Efforts are also on to establish an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant of 1.5 lakh litres of water every day capacity at Kavaratti in U.T. Lakshadweep (identified as priority program by NITI Aayog) by 2019. The demonstration could lead to viable OTEC powered large scale desalination systems.

 4) Can you brief on how the Ministry has been translating the knowledge and insight themes gained into services for societal, environmental and economic gain?

Scientific deep drilling in the earthquake prone Koyna-Warna region of Maharashtra is one area where our services are directly benefiting the society. Scientific Deep Drilling in Koyna, Maharashtra was initiated in 2016, aimed at setting up of a borehole observatory at depth of 3 km for direct geophysical measurements leading to a better understanding of the mechanics of faulting, physics of reservoir triggered earthquakes and preparing an earthquake predictive model. The drilling has now reached up to a distance of 3 km.

Air pollution is a serious social problem, affecting our environment. To understand the gravity of air pollution problems, a System of Air Quality forecasting and Research (SAFAR) provides location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 24 hours in advance. The Ministry has also commissioned the fourth SAFAR system at Ahmadabad recently. The advantage of this system is the capability of predicting air quality during next 2-3 days in addition to real-time monitoring of air quality.

As regards to the socio-economic benefits that accrue from Agro-meteorological Advisory Services(AAS), Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) Advisories and Ocean State Forecasts(OSF), we have already talked about it earlier.

Another area is the establishment of Desalination Plants in the Lakshadweep Islands, which are extremely useful inserving the drinking water requirements of island community.

 5) What are the Ministry’s future plans?

A National Mission on Deep Ocean Research is being implemented as a comprehensive, holistic mechanism, which will bring in more economic benefits through living and non-living resources, attract young students and researchers to challenging and exciting areas of Ocean Science and Technology thus creating many jobs and business opportunities.

A new program has been launched for improving the weather and climate services in the north-eastern region by commissioning of the state of art systems like Doppler Weather Radar, GPS sonde system, Heliport Automated Weather Observing System (HAWOS), etc.

A Decision Support Systems (DSS) has been developed based on predictions of a) Tropical cyclones and associated damages over the Indian Seas and 7 days in advance with the 24/48/72 hour Land-fall errors of 30/60/100 km respectively, b) Severe weather (heavy rainfall, urban floods, fog, air pollution emergencies, heat and cold waves) at district/block level 3-5-days in advance and c) location specific now-casts of thunderstorms, lightning, wind storms and flash floods (3-12 hours in advance). Similar system has been developed for detecting earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 and above and dissemination of information within 3 minutes of occurrence.

Coastal Mission for an integrated coastal multi-hazard warning and dissemination system for addressing Hydro-meteorological (Storm Surge, Sea-level Rise, High Waves), Geological (Tsunami and coastal erosion) and Ecosystem related (Coral Bleaching and Harmful Algal Blooms) hazards and related services too has been developed.

A Marine Observing System has been set up along the Indian Coast (MOSAIC) for providing water quality monitoring and warning services for coastal regions.

Aziz Haider