File photo of Mahatma Gandhi | Central Press/Getty Images
Great harmoniser of India’s diversity
Ramachandra Guha| Historian and author of ‘Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World 1914-1948’
Guha states that when Gandhi came back from South Africa he initially stayed at the house of S.K. Rudra, Principal of St. Stephen’s College. He even met the students of the college, however did not speak politics as his mentor (Gopal Krishna Gokhale) told him “not to speak on the subject until his year of travel had ended.”
Guha notes that three decades after this interaction, Mahatma Gandhi was murdered. “Himself a Hindu, whose religion was (as it were) fearless, Gandhi was murdered because he absolutely refused to push the Hindu political cause in a way which would suppress the Mahommedan.”
Guha then speaks about the various fasts, Gandhi undertook to ensure Hindu-Muslim unity. Including his fast unto death, which he only broke after he was presented with a peace pledge by two lakh Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Gandhi was assassinated shortly after on 30 January 1948. “However, contrary to what Nathuram Godse and his supporters had expected, Gandhi’s exit did not create an open field for Hindu extremists to operate in. On the other hand, it horrified the majority of the country’s Hindus, who were shamed into atonement by the of their greatest compatriot,” writes Guha.
His death also made Patel and Nehru bury their differences and work towards building a united and secular India.
India’s 1st CEC carried out a ‘great and fateful experiment’
Ashok Lavasa | 1980-batch retired Indian Administrative Service officer and assumed charge of election commissioner in 2018
Lavasa begins by talking about Sukumar Sen, India’s first chief election commissioner. Lavasa notes, “Sen was a remarkable son of India who transformed the dream of a democracy into an enduring model electoral system that few could have dreamt of at the dawn of freedom.”
Speaking about the task of conducting the first election in independent India, Lavasa states, “While India dared to dream, the world looked at it with anxiety and nervous apprehension. But then there were dedicated men who with their commitment, courage and capability went about the task of institution building that has stood the test of time and become the envy of the world,” and among these institution builders was Sukumar Sen. Sen was so committed to the herculean task, which won him a Padma Bhushan, that he personally went to each state and monitored the preparedness and attended at least one polling rehearsal in each state.
Aside from Sen, Lavasa notes that we also must “acknowledge the contribution of B N Rau, the adviser of the Constituent Assembly Secretariat under whose guidance the preparation of electoral roll was initially managed, the 16,523 clerks who spent over six months in comparing the rolls with delimited constituencies, the two Regional Commissioners MR Meher and TGN Iyer, about 700,000 polling duty personnel and nearly 340,000 policemen who were detailed for polling duties all over the country.”
Closure, not revenge
Indira Jaising | Former additional solicitor general and senior advocate
The Indian Express
In India’s criminal justice system, it is the state that prosecutes crime and undertakes persecution in the name of the people, argues Jaising. She notes, “The punishment is decided by the state acting through the courts — not the victim. The question about the goal of punishment, therefore, becomes pertinent.” She goes on to note that it has been established that capital punishment does not deter sexual offences, it only serves the cause of revenge. “This argument alone should be enough to declare capital punishment unconstitutional and is also the reason why several countries have abolished death penalty,” writes Jaising.
She argues, “We have rejected the system of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. As Mahatma Gandhi reminded us, such a system would make us all blind. What vision of justice can we then offer? Death to the convicts will not bring back dead victim. It will also not stop another rape incident.” She notes that it is here that healing for the victims and closure arises and that an appropriate vision of justice would include the acknowledgement of guilt as well as what we have become as a society
Our pharma regulator must wake up
Dinesh Thakur | Public health activist, and was whistleblower in the Ranbaxy case
Hindu Business Line
Thakur writes a scathing piece on the Indian pharmaceutical regulator — Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), which has in the past been called a “snake-pit of vested interests” by the present Health Minister.
In 2012, a Parliamentary Standing Committee accused the DCGI’s Central Drug Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) of colluding with drug manufacturers, and medical experts, explains Thakur. However, all subsequent inquiry reports “never saw the light of day”, he adds. Thakur blames the Health Ministry for inhibiting a “transparent investigation into the fraud against patients at Ranbaxy”.
In the Ranbaxy case, public health activists blamed foreign competitors for “undermining the faith in the quality of medicine produced by the Indian pharmaceutical industry” and “economic nationalism won the day”, he writes. The led to prohibition on exports to US, an “erosion of trust with Indian industries” and ramping up overseas inspections in India, he adds.
To redeem themselves, Thakur recommends that the DCGI and CDSCO commit to “comprehensive reform” and publicly announce it.
Don’t be deterred by the ‘crowding out’ effect of the fisc
Sandesh Kirkire | IMC PVG Chair
Sharang Dehadrai| Management student, JBIMS
Kirkire and Dehadrai argue that large foreign inflows “sterilised by RBI” can “move the inflation needle up” while the RBI is “extremely proactive” in government borrowing programme and thereby, managing interest rates.
They argue that there should be less concern about “crowding out” i.e. when “increased government spending…tends to reduce private spending”.
Based on a data set of RBI from April 2012 to September 2019, they claim local borrowing and spending by the central government doesn’t affect macroeconomic variables like inflation or deposit growth, “at the current deficit level”. Inflation and the repo rate tend to impact interest rates, they add.
Kirkire and Dehadrai conclude that India is a “unique money market” and there is no need for excessive worrying about the government “living beyond its means at this juncture”. Since government spending mainly drives the country’s GDP growth, “It could be a good way to put the economy on a higher growth trajectory” and maybe “revisit the entire FRBM framework”, they write.
Get the money matrix right
Vivek Singh| Additional finance secretary to finance minister
Karan Bhasin| Independent economist
Singh and Bhasin discuss the “worsening of state finances” given that eight states — Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu — are “currently in a revenue-deficit position”.
They criticise the quality of expenditure by state governments by looking at “social sector spending” and spending on education. Growth rate of the former fell from 16.5 per cent to 15.8 per cent from 2015 onwards while the latter fell from 15.9 per cent to 11.5 per cent, they write.
This is despite increased devolution to the states from 32 per cent of central taxes to 42 per cent as per the 14th Finance Commission, they add.
The authors claim this “revenue bounty has been squandered away by states in the form of expenditure on farm-loan waivers and other such subsidies” to meet vested political goals. Also, states haven’t focused on “their own tax revenues” given that GST collections have dipped from “55.1% in 2018-19 to 54.7% in 2019-20”, they explain.
Singh and Bhasin conclude that states have as much fiscal responsibility as the central government in bringing “discipline on the fiscal front”. “State governments are equal stakeholders in India’s growth story,” they add.
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