Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

India, China should join hands to become a world superpower

AKB_frame_56143 (1) (002)The two-day informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan on a ‘no agenda’ basis augurs well for India-China relations. In the past four years, there have been several instances of border transgression by the Chinese PLA on the Line of Actual Control, India’s objections to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through Pak Occupied Kashmir, a disputed territory, and notably, last year’s standoff at Dokalam on Sikkim-China border.

The two leaders are having a freewheeling discussion on issues like trade, border and terrorism. No joint statement will be made nor any joint briefing will take place after this informal summit, but it will lay the foundation of a stable friendship. China is now the world’s largest manufacturer, an economic superpower. It’s military might is no less. China’s economy is five times that of India’s, and it’s military strength is thrice that of India’s. But as former PM Atal Bihar Vajpayee used to say, ‘you can change your friends, but you cannot change your neighbours’. It will be in the interest of both India and China to forge friendship, and this will be beneficial for the entire South Asian region.

One should appreciate Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to improve relations with China. But, on Friday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in order to score a political brownie point, raised the issue of Dokalam and reminded the PM about this on his Twitter handle. When the standoff at Dokalam was tense last year, he had met the Chinese ambassador in Delhi. One can have differences on domestic issues, but it has been the tradition in Indian politics, to project a single voice on foreign police matters. It would be better if this tradition is followed. One should welcome PM Modi’s opening remarks at the summit that if India and China work together, they can become a big superpower on the world arena.

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Sheer negligence caused death of 13 children in Kushinagar tragedy

akb (1) (002)On Thursday morning, a school van packed with children was hit by a passenger train in UP’s Kushinagar district resulting in the death of 13 kids. The driver, it was reported, was busy speaking on his earphone while passing through the unmanned level crossing, and he failed to either notice the oncoming train or listen to the screams of children and passersby. A tragedy of such magnitude took place only because of sheer negligence of the driver, who himself died in the collision.

Leaders may express sympathy, officials may inquire, action may be taken against a few persons, and people at large may forget this mishap after a few days. But my heart cries out for those parents who lost their children. The government has granted ex-gratia assistance to these families, but this alone cannot mitigate the grief of the parents.

We should all think about how to prevent such accidents. Such mishaps cannot be prevented by making law, or posting staff at railway crossings. We should create awareness about the need to avoid using earphones while driving or walking across railway tracks.

For the last three decades, I have been hearing every Railway Minister promising to do away with unmanned level crossings, and funds are allocated for the same. I do not think this is such a gigantic task which cannot be completed in thirty years. On Thursday, Railway Board chairman Ashwini Lohani said that there were 3,470 unmanned level crossings across India. This figure is only for broadgauge railway tracks. This month, the government in a written reply in Lok Sabha had said that there are more than 7,000 unmanned level crossings. Piyush Goyal is the Railway Minister, and I have no doubts about his efficiency, because as Power Minister he had almost completed electrification of 18,000 villages in India. I hope, as Railway Minister, he will complete this work on a war footing and help prevent such mishaps.

As for the parents and guardians of school children, my suggestion would be that they should keep close watch on such school van drivers. In most of the cases, the drivers do not have valid driving licences, and a few of them drive under the influence of alcohol. If parents notice such things, they should immediately inform the school authorities, and if the latter prevaricate, then they should approach the police.


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Asaram’s crimes have brought a bad name to the world of saints

akb (1)On Wednesday, the trial court in Jodhpur gave life sentence to Asaram and 20 years’ imprisonment each to two of his associates in the rape case of a minor girl from Shahjahanpur, UP. Asaram has been convicted presently only in one case. There is another rape case pending against him in Surat, Gujarat.

Like a professional criminal, Asaram tried all illegal methods to get a clean chit. Witnesses were threatened and intimidated, there were attacks on some witnesses, and three of the witnesses died. It was because of these threats and intimidation that the courts, from lower to High Court and Supreme Court, dismissed his bail petitions twelve times. Asaram got a fake medical report made in order to get bail, but the fraud was soon exposed. On the Supreme Court’s order he was admitted to AIIMS, Delhi, where he tried to bribe doctors to get a report in order to facilitate bail, but the doctors reported this to the apex court, and another case was filed against the fake godman.

The thing to ponder over is: how such a man could become a self-proclaimed godman, and how millions of followers revered him as a saint. Asaram was actually running his business in the guise of religion, lands were forcibly acquired in several cities and ashrams were built on these lands. He declared himself as a god having “Brahma Gyan”. But the end was that of a demon like Ravan. The demon king of Lanka had disguised himself as a sadhu in order to kidnap Sita, and in the end he died in the battle against Lord Ram and his ‘golden’ kingdom of Lanka was reduced to ashes.

Asaram is not the lone charlatan disguised as a godman. There are many such charlatans in our society masquerading as godmen. So long as millions of devouts superstitiously believe in such godmen, no law, even the one providing for death penalty, will suffice. People may worship godmen, but they should not do so out of superstition, otherwise such wolves in sheep’s clothing will continue to roam around.

I want to make one point clear. Not all sadhus or saints in our society are like Asaram. Asaram’s criminal acts have defamed the Sant Samaj. There are many sadhus and saints, who selflessly work for the good of the society, and are actually rendering yeoman’s service. They are showing the correct path to society. They play a stellar role in reducing crimes in society. But today’s court verdict against Asaram has surely hurt them. There is the adage: one bad fish spoils the whole pond.

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At last, good news from Maoist-infested jungles

aajkibaat_frame_55452In a major operation on Sunday, C-60 commandos of Maharastra police alongwith CRPF jawans eliminated 37 Maoists in the forests of Gadchiroli bordering Chhatisgarh. They achieved this success after getting intelligence inputs about a secret meeting of Maoist commanders.

Those killed include several dreaded Maoist commanders and female Dalam commanders. At last, good news have started coming in about Maoists being eliminated in operations by security forces. Till now, over the last several years, there had been frequent reports of Maoists killing our jawans, and now, the trend seems to have reversed.

This will boost the morale of jawans fighting insurgency in the jungles, and will break the backbone of Maoists. If this trend continues, Maoists will have only two options before them: either to lay down arms and rejoin the mainstream, or to become sitting targets for our security forces.

While the bravery of Maharashtra police commandos need to be lauded, the role played by Home Minister Rajnath Singh cannot be overlooked. When 25 CRPF jawans were killed in Sukma last year, Rajnath Singh had said that he had nothing to say except that the forces will surely take action and the martyrdom of jawans will not go waste. The Home Minister did not say much since then, and today the action speaks for itself.

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Congress is setting a dangerous precedent by seeking removal of CJI

akb 2Seven opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday submitted a petition to Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu seeking removal of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on grounds of alleged improprieties. This is an unprecedented step in the annals of India’s parliamentary democracy, when some opposition parties submitted a petition seeking removal of the CJI.

The Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promptly posted his comments on Facebook saying “the Congress Party and its friends have started using impeachment as a political tool”.

Describing it as a ‘revenge petition’, Jaitley wrote: “Both Houses of Parliament as political houses have been conferred the judicial power of impeachment. Thus a judicial power is exercised by a political house. Each Member has to act as a Judge. He has to independently review the facts and the evidence. Decisions cannot be on party lines or dictated by Whip. The power is exercised in case of “proven misconduct”. Trivialising the use of that power is a dangerous event…. To use the power as intimidatory tactics when neither you have a case of “proven misconduct” or the numbers on your side, is a serious threat to judicial independence.”
Already there are rumblings and voices of dissent in the Congress on this issue. Senior leaders Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar have been Law Ministers in the past, and listening to their remarks, one can easily surmise that they are not happy with this move. If one listens to the comments and observe the body language of party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, an eminent lawyer himself, he was frequently using the phrase “an individual” without naming the Chief Justice of India.
My view is that this move by the opposition parties, led by Congress, seems to be an act of revenge against the CJI for severely reprimanding the petitioners in the Judge Loya verdict given on Thursday, for, what it said, trying to “settle political scores” through the PIL process.
The Congress party knows it well that it has no majority either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha, and the CJI cannot be removed by vote. But the targets appear to be two: One, a worried CJI may resign in a hurry and the party can claim a big victory, and Two, if the CJI does not resign, the party could utilize the opportunity to take potshots at Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, in the guise of targeting the CJI. According to a popular Bollywood lyric, this can be called “kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishaana”.
This act of the Congress is dangerous for our democracy and it will set a shameful precedent. For a democracy to be strong and thriving, institutions like the judiciary, the Election Commission and the Fourth Estate should be kept away from politics. Such democratic institutions should not be misused to settle political scores. This has been the long standing tradition of the Congress, and even most of its own leaders do not agree with this motion for removal of CJI.

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Whose verdict will Opposition accept, if it is not ready to accept SC verdict?

AKA (002)The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed all petitions seeking an SIT probe into the death of a CBI court judge  B H Loya in Nagpur on December 1, 2014. The apex court emphatically ruled that there was no ‘reasonable suspicion’ in the death of the judge, and that Judge Loya died of natural causes. The Supreme Court also slammed the petitioners for trying to “scandalize the process of the court”, which prima facie constitutes criminal contempt, but the court chose not to initiate proceedings. The court said, “PIL jurisdiction is being brazenly used by those who have an agenda to settle scores”.

The landmark verdict clearly notes that (1) there were attempts to settle political scores by using the case of a district judge’s death, and (2) attempts were made to scandalize the Chief Justice of India and other judges hearing the matter. One thing to note is that the individuals and organisations which filed the petitions were connected with each other, and their common target was BJP president Amit Shah.

I want to make some points unequivocally here. When advocate Prashant Bhushan raised fingers at the judges on the issue of probing Judge Loya’s death, and when advocate Dushyant Dave named Amit Shah several times, an impression was sought to be created as if everything was being done to shield the BJP president. Rahul Gandhi probably thought he had hit a jackpot, and he got a chance to level accusations against Amit Shah. Rahul Gandhi has this habit of making accusations over and over again, he named Amit Shah and Judge Loya’s death several times, and then persuaded other opposition leaders to join him to meet the President.

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How rumours fed by social media created a cash crunch crisis

aajkibaat_frame_53134 (002)On Wednesday, I spoke on the cash crunch crisis to experts connected with the banking system. From the information that I received from the Finance Ministry, it appears that cash ran out from ATMs in some cities, in several places ATMs failed to work, and this was spread as ‘cash crunch crisis’ on the social media.

The rumour mills worked fast, creating a scare in the minds of the people that cash maybe running out from banks. As rumours spread, more and more people started withdrawing from ATMs, and since the withdrawals were large and of a larger magnitude, the banks were unprepared and they could not fill up their ATMs with required speed. This led to problems for the common man.

On the whole, I find this to be a scare created by rumours circulating on social media. The government worked fast within 24 hours, banks were directed and ATMs were replenished with cash.

The situation now seems to be normal. It will however take a day or two for cash to reach ATMs located in remote areas. There is no need to be scared. It is standard practice for 75 to 80 per cent ATMs having cash at a given point of time, while other ATMs do run out of cash or face technical issues. Such a rate is prevalent in the US and other countries too. There is no cash crunch crisis as such. One has to remain alert and should stop trusting messages that circulate on social media, otherwise such difficulties may recur.

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Connecting cash crunch with Nirav Modi is nothing but a ‘jumla’

aka (002)On Tuesday, as reports about cash crunch at ATMs in some parts of the country came in, Congress President Rahul Gandhi in an acerbic remark said: “Modiji has destroyed the banking system. Nirav Modi fled with Rs 30,000 crore. We were forced to stand in queues as he snatched Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes from our pockets and put them in Nirav Modi’s pocket”.

Connecting the cash crunch issue with Nirav Modi’s fraud with PNB, is nothing but a political ‘jumla’ (empty remark) by Rahul Gandhi. By no stretch of imagination can both the issues be connected. As far as the cash crunch is concerned, it first trended on social media, the rumour mills then went on overdrive, and in many places in UP and Bihar, people stood outside ATMs to withdraw cash.

The rumours spread so fast that even Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had to react. He alleged that there was a conspiracy at work which was aimed at creating cash crunch in the market by hoarding Rs 2000 currency notes. On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi’s remark added fuel to the fire.

The facts are: Rs 15.22 lakh crore currency notes were withdrawn during demonetization, and presently there are Rs 18 lakh crore currency notes in circulation. The Reserve Bank of India has Rs 2.5 lakh crore currency notes in reserve, and daily Rs 500 crore currency notes are being printed. It would therefore be incorrect to say that RBI is facing a cash crunch. Overall, there has been cash crunch in some states due to mismanagement in logistics, and it is hoped that it would be brought under control in a day or two.

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The lies about ‘saffron terror’ nailed.

AAAka_frame_45118 (002)Eleven years after the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad, the Special   NIA Court on Monday acquitted Swami Aseemanand and four other   accused, with the judge saying that the investigation agency failed to   prove any of the charges.

This has brought to the fore the issue of ‘saffron terror’ coined by the   then UPA ministers P. Chidambaram and Sushil Kumar Shinde. Both   Chidambaram and Shinde, who are senior Congress leaders, had   claimed that they had documentary evidence in several terror related   cases, and got affidavits filed in court changed to support their charge   of “saffron terror”. At one point of time, during the UPA rule, an impression was created as if some radical Hindu outfits played a role in the Malegaon blasts, Ajmer shrine blast and Mecca Masjid blast.

The latest court verdict along with some other recent verdicts make it amply clear that genuine documents were removed from files and fake affidavits were filed to bolster the charge of “saffron terror”. This brought a bad name to India in the international arena. Even Rahul Gandhi went to the US and spoke of “saffron terror” being more dangerous than the ISIS.

Now that the accused are being acquitted in most of the terror related cases, the Congress cannot absolve itself by saying that since the BJP is in power, the judiciary has given such verdicts. Had it been so, all the accused in the 2G scam, in which UPA leaders were accused, would not have been acquitted. One should respect the verdict of the courts.

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Perpetrators of gangrape, murder of a girl in Kathua must get the harshest punishment

aaj-ki-baat_frame_14753An eight-year-old girl, belonging to Bakerwal community of shepherds in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, was first abducted and then gangraped for several days before she was brutally murdered. One shudders in horror after reading details about the inhuman and horrendous torture the victim went through.

It does not matter to which religion or community the victim belonged to. It also does not matter to which religion or community the perpetrators of this dastardly crime belong to, because such culprits do not deserve to be called human beings.

It is a question of humanity and we do not need politicians to explain that. The question is, what should be done now: the victim must get justice, and the perpetrators of the gruesome crime should get a deterrent punishment, which should be an eye-opener for all. Such acts of inhumanity lowers the trust and confidence that the common people have in law and it brings a bad name to the country on the world stage.

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Parliament session washout has weakened democracy

akbPrime Minister Narendra Modi and all BJP MPs are observing a day’s fast today to protest the complete washout of the recent Parliament session. A handful of MPs stalled proceedings daily and did not allow any debate or legislative proceedings to take place during the budget session, thus paralyzing the parliament of the world’s most populous democracy.

The budget session was adjourned sine die on April 6, and the ruling party had announced the same day that its MPs would sit on a day’s fast on April 12. The washout of parliament session amounts to sheer wastage of public money, apart from weakening the very fundamentals of our democracy.

But I do not think sitting on a day’s fast will have any impact on those MPs who stalled parliament proceedings. When we see the proceedings of the parliaments of the world’s powerful democracies in action, we naturally feel sad that our parliament never witnesses such lively debates. Parliament is constituted to ensure that the people’s representative could convey the wishes, aspirations and grievances of their electorates, and to watch people of different ideologies and persuasions engage in lively debates on issues of national importance. Parliament is not supposed to be a theatre for pandemoniums, and when such pandemoniums occur on a daily basis, our democracy is weakened considerably. If the parliament of the world’s most populous democracy is paralyzed, then there is very little space for a democracy to prosper.

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Trinamool Congress is subverting democracy in West Bengal

April Aaj-Ki-Baat_frame_67693 (002)All the main opposition parties in West Bengal – BJP, CPI(M) and Congress – have alleged that the Trinamool Congress has nearly “hijacked” the panchayat elections due on May 1, 3 and 5, by “forcibly” preventing opposition candidates from filing their nominations. The state ruling party, on its part, has rejected the charges and has claimed that opposition parties are unable to “find” candidates because of what it called “lack of organisational strength”.

The truth is, however, completely different. Suspected TMC activists hurled bombs injuring two former CPI(M) MPs when they went to file nominations. In one district, TMC supporters attacked and killed a BJP candidate when he went to file his nomination. There have been clashes between the opposition and TMC workers in most of the districts, vitiating the atmosphere that is required for a free and fair poll. In Birbhum and Murshidabad districts, the TMC has already “cornered” several panchayat samiti and zilla parishad seats as its candidates were “elected unopposed” in the absence of opposition. News channels have telecast videos of how TMC supporters beat up the daughter of a BJP candidate near Kolkata, when the latter went to file his nomination.

The role of the State Election Commission has become suspect under such circumstances. The State Election Commissioner on April 9 extended the last date of filing of nominations by one day, but after he was pressurized, the notification was promptly withdrawn.

Questions are now being raised about the credibility of the State Election Commission. One can understand the state administration and the police bowing to unreasonable diktats from their political masters, but it would be a black day for democracy, if the state election commission starts working under the pressure of the state government and ignore acts of violence and intimidation against opposition activists.


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