Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

All of us sorely miss the absence of Arun Jaitley

akb1508Memories refuse to fade even as 17 days have passed since the demise of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. His friends, acquaintances and admirers across the political spectrum remembered the departed leader at a condolence meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recalling Jaitley as “mera chhota dost” (my young friend) said “I miss my young friend each moment…We all have so many memories about Arunji , but think about me who had a long association with him for 30-35 years”.

In an emotional tone, the Prime Minister said, “One should never face a situation, when one has to offer condolences to a friend younger in age.” Modi is 69, and Jaitley passed away at the age of 67.

NCP President Sharad Pawar, aged 78, said: “Today I am unhappy with Arun Ji, because he had no right to go before me.”

Words are inadequate to describe Arun Jaitley’s talent and his multi-faceted personality. He was a gem of an individual – a man who never revealed to others, nor ever worried about his own difficulties. He was always ready to help out others in need. He always thought about how best to work for the society and the nation at large. He used to give sound advice to friends how to come out of tricky situations.

Arun had a huge repository of knowledge, and with his passing away, the world is the loser. The void that his passing away has created may be difficult to fill up.

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We must keep the morale of our ISRO scientists high

akbThe present status of Vikram Lander on the Moon’s surface is ambiguous. News agency PTI quoting an unamed ISRO official reported that the lander was intact, but was slightly tilted in one direction. In the evening, ISRO office sources said that they were not confirming this report.

Chandrayaan-2’s lander Vikram had a hard landing on September 7 and an ISRO official told PTI that the lander was “intact and not broken”. He also said that “it is in a tilted position. Though the lander hit the Moon’s surface hard while landing, it was still very close to the scheduled touchdown site as per the image sent by the orbiter’s onboard camera”.

Whatever may be the status, ISRO scientists are trying to their best to re-establish contact with Vikram lander. Science, after all, is a game of infinite probabilities. It is not necessary that every experiment or mission should succeed or come up to expectations. There is no need to abandon a dream only because of a single failure. There is always a next opportunity.

Our scientists and engineers at ISRO have done a commendable job over the years. In their first attempt (Chandrayaan-1) they sent our spaceship up to a distance of 384,440 kilometres to the Moon, and in the second attempt, the lander was in contact till 2.1 km above the Moon’s sufrace. Vikram, after all, landed on the Moon, though it cannot be called a soft landing.

It is true that we could not fulfill our aim to bring out the rover Pragyan on the lunar surface, due to this last minute glitch, but nevertheless we can say that our path is correct, our technology is reliable and we shall overcome whatever small obstacles that remain, in our next mission.

The entire nation is proud of our ISRO scientists and engineers. They truly deserve our congratulations. We must keep their morale high, and above all, we should trust their capabilities.

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India firmly stands by our ISRO scientists despite Vikram setback

akb1408All was well and the nation was awake most of the night watching with anticipation the descent of Chandrayaan2’s lander Vikram towards the Moon. Almost every one, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was waiting for the good news to come.

Vikram was descending with reduced velocity even as the brakes were being applied. When it was 2.1 km away from the Moon’s surface, it slightly veered off its trajectory and then suddenly lost contact with the Earth stations. Initially, there was suspense at the Mission Control Centre, as scientists awaited for the faintest signal from Vikram which never came. The suspense was followed by gloom, and ISRO chairman K. Sivan announced that communication with the lander has snapped, and data are being collected.

So near, yet so far. On Saturday morning, addressing the space scientists and engineers in Bengaluru, the Prime Minister unequivocally said that “our will and determination will not waver despite obstacles”.

Modi said, “Resilience and tenacity are central to Indian ethos. ..This is the reason, why despite so many obstacles, our civilization stands tall…I can proudly say that the effort was worth it and so was our journey.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that the main vehicle Chandrayaan2 was still orbiting the Moon normally and shall continue to do so. He praised ISRO scientists and engineers by saying that they have dedicated major part of their lives towards bringing glory to Mother India.

Modi said, “the obstacle came at the last step (descent of Vikram), but we will not waver from the march towards our objective….The desire to hug the Moon has increased all the more after today’s obstacle…You came as close as you could.”

Every Indian is today confident that our resilient space scientists will definitely find out ways and means to carry out another lunar mission with spectacular success. Our scientists tried to soft-land Vikram near the South Pole of the Moon, a terrain which no country has reached so far.

I am sure the “new dawn”, which the Prime Minister has spoken about, will soon come, thanks to the untiring efforts of our ISRO scientists.

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How Chidambaram failed in his bid to avoid going to Tihar jail

akbFormer Finance and Home Minister, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member P. Chidambaram was sent to Tihar jail on Thursday for two weeks by a Special CBI court in connection with the INX Media corruption case. He has been lodged in Jail 7, and on court’s orders, allowed to take his glasses and medicines with him.

Chidambaram and his top lawyers made desperate attempts, both in the Supreme Court and then in the Special Court, to prevent him from being sent to prison, but the Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar declined to free him on bail after completion of 15 days in CBI custody.

The Special CBI judge’s order came after a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice R. Bhanumathi and Justice A. S. Bopanna denied bail to Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case being probed by Enforcement Directorate. The apex court said “white-collar crimes are committed with minute planning and deliberate design and in such cases, custodial interrogation is needed and granting bail to an accused before arrest can hamper the probe.”

The Supreme Court said, “Grant of anticipatory bail, particularly in economic offences would definitely hamper effective investigation. Having regard to the materials said to have been collected by ED and considering the stage of the investigation, we are of the view that it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail.”

Chidambaram’s lawyers tried another trick by even offering surrender before the ED so that he could at least be placed in their custody instead of being sent to jail, but the ED lawyer said they do not require his custody at this stage.

Chidambaram had been brought to the Special Court on Thursday in a CBI vehicle, and in the evening he was taken away in a jail van to Tihar prison. Pictures of a former Finance and Home Minister sitting alone inside a jail van shall always remain etched in memory.

There was a time when big political leaders, despite facing serious cases, managed to avoid going to prison through legal subterfuge, but the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed the very definition of custody.

Chidambaram fielded the country’s top legal eagles like Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid, but failed in his bid to avoid going to prison.

The charges levelled against the former Union Minister are serious, and the ED is waiting soon after the CBI is over with its probe. If Chidambaram manages to get bail, after going to prison, the ED is surely going to take him into custody. The coming months are surely going to cause more headache to the Congress leader.

It is an irony of fate that Chidambaram was the Home Minister, when BJP leader Amit Shah was sent to jail. At that time, Chidambaram had remarked that the agencies were working independently, the judicial custody was because of a court order and the government had no role in it.

Now that the roles have been reversed, Chidambaram and his friends are crying political vendetta, though the fact remains that he has been sent to jail on court orders and the same agencies are working independently.

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Pakistan is totally confused over how to deal with PM Modi

akbOn Wednesday, the spokesperson of Pakistan Army, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor called a press conference to declare that his country will fight for Kashmir “until our last soldier, last bullet and last breath”. Clearly, it was an exercise in jingoism to boost the sagging morale of separatists who never expected that peace would descend on the Valley despite revocation of Article 370.

The Pakistani army spokesperson also said: “How can you even consider that we will reach a deal on Kashmir? Any deal on Kashmir will be on our dead bodies….We want to tell India that wars are not only fought with weapons and economy but with patriotism.”

In the last one month since the revocation of Article 370, the statements emanating from the Pakistani’s Prime Minister, his ministers and the army, clearly indicate that there is total confusion both in their army and the civilian government. Nobody in Pakistan knows how to tackle an astute statesman like Prime Minister Narendra Modi who can always spring surprises.

As of now, Pakistan is unsure about what next step to take. The world did not come out in support of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Most of the countries have clearly told Pakistan that Kashmir situation is an internal issue of India.

That is why the leaders in Pakistan are talking in different tunes at different points of time. Sometimes they speak about war, sometimes their Prime Minister speaks about peace and fighting poverty, and sometimes some other person speaks about fighting India ‘to the last bullet and last soldier till the last breath’.

The picture is clear. Both the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan are now confused, and apprehensive.

Pakistan’s economy presents a dismal picture, and it does not have the wherewithal to fight a long war. The only step it can take, and has been taking, is: push terrorists inside India. Two Pakistani terrorists have been caught by our army in Kashmir recently and they revealed on Wednesday how they were trained in Pak Occupied Kashmir and sent across the Line of Control.

Now that Pakistan has lost the diplomatic battle in the world capitals and at the UN headquarters, it has now asked its spy agency, ISI, to send trouble makers to world capitals like London, New York and other cities to organize violent demonstrations outside Indian embassies.

The Indian High Commission in London was attacked by Pakistani stone pelters twice, and India has asked the British authorities to take action. Such juvenile actions will ultimately be detrimental towards the interests of Pakistan.

The former US Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, has written in his latest book “Call Sign Chaos” that ‘Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world’.

Mattis has warned: “We can’t have the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world falling into the hands of terrorists breeding in their midst.”

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Centre must fulfill its promises to Kashmir at the earliest

AKb0409 For the first time since the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday met a delegation of panchs and sarpanches from Jammu & Kashmir and assured them that the government would provide them security and life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakhs.

Amit Shah said, funds will now be given directly to the panchayats for developmental work. He also promised them that “no land will be taken away from people”. Only government land in Kashmir will be used to build hospitals, schools, colleges and industries, Shah added.

During the meeting, the sarpanches made it clear to the Home Minister that they had no objections over revocation of Article 370, but they wanted that communication lines should be reopened at the earliest. Shah promised them that this would be done within the next 20-25 days.

Work has also begun for providing employment to nearly 50,000 youths in government, Shah said. Kashmiri youths are taking part in army recruitment rally in large numbers.

A full month has passed since the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, and not a single bullet has been fired so far. The situation, by and large, has been peaceful in the valley. India TV reporters spoke to villagers in the interior and most of the villagers said they trusted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sincerity and will in trying to bring prosperity to Jammu & Kashmir.

The people of Kashmir want that promises must be fulfilled at the earliest, jobs must be created and new industries, schools and hospitals must be set up. The common people have high hopes from the Centre and looking at their attitude, it seems that the fulfillment of promises is possible.

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Consular access to Jadhav was nothing less than a sham

akbAfter lots of dilly-dallying and a protracted legal battle before the International Court of Justice, Pakistan was directed by the ICJ to provide consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian national who has been given death sentence by a Pakistani military court.

On Monday, the Indian Charge d’Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was allowed to meet Jadhav in a ‘sub-jail’ near Islamabad, in the presence of Pakistani officials. “It was clear that Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims”, said our External Affairs Ministry spokesperson.

This was the first meeting with an Indian official since Jadhav was arrested by the Pakistani army in March, 2016. According to our MEA spokesperson, Jadhav looked clearly harried and he repeated the “confession” that he had already made. That confession was clearly made under extreme duress.

In his meeting with his mother and wife in 2017 too, Jadhav had made remarks which were clearly tutored and meant to support Pakistan’s claims that he was an Indian Navy officer sent to carry out terrorist attacks in Balochistan.

After Monday’s consular access, India has said that it would “continue to work towards ensuring that Jadhav receives justice at the earliest and returns safely to India”.

In response to a query as to why India accepted Pakistan’s offer after having earlier rejected it because of pre-conditions, the spokesperson said that the meeting was important to gauge the health and well-being of Jadhav. There is a possibility that India may ask again for consular access. This time, Pakistan had cited jail manual to deny permission to the Indian diplomatic to speak to Jadhav in private.

Until and unless Jadhav can speak fearlessly to Indian officials about the circumstances in which he was arrested and then allegedly tortured to give a “confession”, any such consular access with be nothing less than a sham. The International Court of Justice should take note of this in the light of the Vienna Convention.

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