Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Ban on Chinese apps is a timely and brave step taken by Modi government

akb3010The government on Monday night decided to ban the operation of 59 apps owned or backed by the Chinese, including the popular video app TikTok, UC Browser, WeChat, Shareit and CamScanner. The government said, these apps were “engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
Describing these as “malicious apps”, the government said, there were being used in mobile and non-mobile internet-enabled devices, and there were “raging concerns” about the “data security and privacy of 130 crore Indians”.
There were “several complaints about misuse of some apps on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an illegal manner to servers located outside India”, a press statement said. The government has asked Google’s Android play store and Apple iOS app store to stop the download of these Chinese apps and block the usage of those already installed. The government has warned that action will be taken against companies that do not comply with its order within the given timelines.
Law, Justice and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday tweeted: ‘For safety, security, defence, sovereignty and integrity of India, the government has banned 59 mobile apps. Jai Hind.”
This is a timely and brave step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi amidst growing tensions over military build-up by China near the Line of Actual Control. These Chinese apps had captivated millions of Indians and were making huge fortunes. For example, TikTok, a popular short video sharing Chinese app, earned about Rs 25 crore in revenue during October-December 2019 quarter in India, where 611 million Indians have so far downloaded this app. India alone accounts for over 30 per cent of TikTok’s worldwide 2 billion downloads. TikTok was targeting Rs 100 crore revenue during July-September quarter this year in India.
There are 800 million internet users in India who are enjoying the benefit of low internet costs and nearly half of them are below 25 years of age. The Chinese apps were catering to their hunger for content on mobile devices. The ban on Chinese apps is the first big step taken by the government, as a retaliatory measure, to hit Chinese business interests in India. This comes at a time when Chinese army continues to carry out massive build-up in eastern Ladakh, and the Indian armed forces are busy in mirror deployment.
There are intelligence reports that the Chinese army is planning to carry out another treachery near the LAC, and its air force has activated two or three air bases close to Ladakh in Aksai Chin. More than 50 Chinese fighter jets have been deployed and heliports have been built for landing and take-off of helicopters.
Clearly, China is trying to hard to test India’s patience and our armed forces too are ready to retaliate swiftly. India’s message to China is clear, as enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi: We want peace, but if any country dares to challenge our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we will give a swift reply.

Congress must come clean on its relationship with Chinese government over donations taken

akb1The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, set up in 1991 after the death of the former Prime Minister, is headed by interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi. It has on its board of trustees, Rahul Gandhi, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, P. Chidambaram and several other Congress leaders and family loyalists. The purpose of this Foundation was to work on issues like literacy, health, disability, upliftment of underprivileged and natural resource management.

This Foundation has now hit the news headlines for all the wrong reasons. BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda on Friday alleged that the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, headed by then PM Dr Manmohan Singh donated money in 2005 to this Foundation.

Nadda tweeted to say: “PMNRF, meant to help people in distress, was donating money to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in UPA years. Who sat on the PMNRF board? Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Who chairs RGF? Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Totally reprehensible, disregarding ethics, processes and not bothering about transparency,”

The BJP President further alleged: “People of India donated their hard-earned money to PMNRF to help their fellow citizens in need. To divert this public money into a family run foundation is not only a brazen fraud but also a big betrayal of the people of India. ..One family’s hunger for wealth has cost the nation immensely. If only they have devoted their energies towards more constructive agenda. The Congress’ Imperial Dynasty needs to apologise to the unchecked loot for self-gains!”

Late in the evening, the Congress Party spokesman in a statement replied: “Pursuant to the unprecedented tsunami in the last week of 2004, RGF received a modest amount of Rs 20 lakhs from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund in the financial year 2005, which was duly utilized to undertake relief activities in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.”

On media reports about the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation accepting donations from the Embassy of China and the Chinese government, the Congress party replied: “…a 2005 grant of Rs. 1.45 crores (was) received from Embassy of China to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation for the purpose (1) Disabled Persons Welfare Program and (2) research on Sino-India relationships”.

The Congress Party alleged that the Prime Minister and BJP President “ have unleashed a diabolical disinformation, distraction and diversion from the real issue of Chinese incursion..”

The Congress party statement conceals more than it reveals. According to some estimates, the donation from the Chinese government and Embassy of China to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (a think tank under RGF) was to the tune of $2 million between 2004 and 2006 and $9 million between 2006 and 2013.

And now, look how the Congress was manipulating public opinion in favour of a Free Trade Agreement with China way back in 2009 in lieu of these donations.

According to a news agency IANS report, in April 2009, an RGICS Fellow Mohammad Saqib carried out a feasibility study, ”India-China: Free Trade Agreement (FTA)”, in association with Purnachandra Rao.
The main objective of the study was “to gain a better understanding of an FTA between India and China”, analyse various trade issues and identify who would stand to gain and lose from such an agreement. The report concluded that China would be the greater beneficiary in all trade dimensions because of the efficiency of its economy.
The study concluded that “… both governments should decide to enter into FTA negotiations. The proposed FTA between India and China will be feasible, desirable and mutually beneficial. An FTA between India and China should also be comprehensive, with a free flow of goods, services, investments and capital,” said the study.
Again in June, 2010, another study was done by the RGICS. This study also proposed that an FTA between India and China would help bilateral economic relations, and that the free flow of goods, services, investments and capital would in fact benefit India’s trade sector more than China’s.
Critics of the Congress are asking whether there is some connection between the donations to the RGF, the Congress party think-tank lobbying for an FTA with China, and allowing the trade deficit to jump 33 times between 2003-04 and 2013-14.
In addition, questions are being posed if this donation to RGF has any connection with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Congress and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2008. There are demands that it is time that the Congress party comes clean on the MoU it signed with the CCP.
There are also demands that the Congress should make a full disclosure of its relations with CCP and on the contents of the MoU as this is essential in the national interest. The Congress is the largest opposition party in India and it has governments in several states, either singly or in alliance with other parties.
Critics point out that curiously, India’s trade deficit with China starts to balloon thereafter. Overall trade deficit with China increased 33 times, that is, from $1.1 billion in 2003-04 to $36.2 billion in 2013-14, under the UPA rule.
The question also arises over conflict of interests. How could an NGO, headed by a person who wielded unbridled power during ten years of UPA rule, took donations from the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, and also from her own party’s government through national relief fund, and also took donations from eleven public sector undertakings and seven ministries? Was it all a cosy arrangement during UPA rule to fill the family coffers?

There are media reports over how the UPA government was in a hurry to close the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) deal, in 2011 from which China would have benefited immensely, but Modi government, in the national interest, decided to withdraw from RCEP last year.

BJP leaders are now asking whether Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was so much short of funds that it had to take donation from the national relief fund, managed by the Prime Minister to grant relief to individuals and groups during natural calamities and major mishaps.

The matter does not end here. In 1991, when Dr Manmohan Singh was finance minister in Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao’s government, he had announced Rs 100 crore grant to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in his first budget speech in Parliament, to be given Rs 20 crore annually over a period of five years. Due to strong objections from the opposition, the RGF however declined to accept and said that the government should itself invest the funds in suitable projects.
Congress leaders must come clean about the party’s relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. Already, the Chinese media is misusing remarks made by Congress leaders over the LAC situation in order to create confusion. At a time when all the opposition parties stand united behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi, why is the Congress trying to queer the pitch, and that too, at a time of national crisis ?

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1975 Emergency – An Untold Story, an eyewitness account

AKB2610Forty-five years have passed since the day when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clamped emergency in India on June 25, 1975 in order to save her seat of power. Though much has been written on Emergency by historians, journalists and politicians, the present generation is still in the dark about what exactly happened during the Emergency.

It was on June 12, 1975, a brave judge of Allahabad High Court, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha unseated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on charge of adopting corrupt practices during her election campaign in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh. Already the nation was witnessing a massive movement spearheaded by Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan against corruption and price rise. The movement had started in the shape of a students’ agitation in Gujarat, and spread to Bihar, UP, Delhi and other states. The opposition was demanding the right to recall elected people’s representatives who had failed to fulfill the aspirations of the people.

Indira Gandhi appealed against the High Court order in Supreme Court, which granted her conditional stay, which meant she could sit in Parliament but would not be able to vote. As the demand for her resignation reached a crescendo, Indira Gandhi decided to impose Emergency, suspend the Constitution and ordered nationwide press censorship. Thousands of opposition leaders including Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, Parkash Singh Badal were arrested.

I still remember that dark night when democracy was throttled and the free press in India was fettered in chains. Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay became an extra-Constitutional authority wielding tremendous power. Top Congress leaders used to tremble in front of him. The entire country was converted into a jail, and there was widespread fear in the minds of freedom loving citizens.

I was 18 years old and was studying in Delhi University’s Shriram College of Commerce. I had joined JP’s movement. Arun Jaitley was the president of Delhi University Students’ Union and also headed the Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti on the national level. I was part of his team. When Delhi police went to Jaitley’s house to arrest him, his father, a prominent lawyer, engaged the police officers in a legal debate and that provided crucial time for Jaitley to escape from the backdoor. All of us, including Vijay Goel, met in the college hostel. By morning, nobody knew that top leaders like Jay Prakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Vajpayee, Parkash Singh Badal and others had been arrested.

As student leaders we had hardly any idea about the Emergency and its draconian provisions. We took out a procession inside Delhi University campus and shouted slogans against imposition of dictatorship. Slogans like “agar sach kehna bagaawat hai, toh samjho hum bhi baagi hain (if speaking out the truth is rebellion, then we all are rebels) still reverberate in my ears to this day. When the procession ended, Arun Jaitley addressed the students from atop a table inside the coffee house. We were surrounded by policemen. A few police officers, whom we knew, secretly advised us to vanish. I sat behind Vijay Goel’s scooter and escaped, but Jaitley was arrested and sent to Tihar jail.

We later came to know that under the Emergency provisions, all rights granted under the Constitution to citizens had been withdrawn, there was no freedom of press and speech, newspapers were censored, and policemen were given orders to shoot at sight. Most of the student leaders, including myself, went underground.

Vijay Goel and I decided to secretly bring out a newspaper, hurriedly named ‘Mashaal’ (flame). It was a handwritten newspaper, in which we wrote the entire background leading to imposition of Emergency. How Indira Gandhi’s election was set aside by Allahabad HC, why people were demanding her resignation, why J.P. had given the slogan “Singhaasan Khali Karo Ki Janata Aati Hai” . In the newspaper, we used to write how Sanjay Gandhi was wielding power as an extra-Constitutional authority. We also used to write about the condition of opposition leaders in custody and publish their messages. At night, we used to cyclostyle the sheets and secretly drop them in houses.

One night, Delhi police raided our secret place. Vijay Goel escaped in the dark. I was caught while gathering copies of cyclostyled sheets. I was taken to the police station, where I was first slapped and kicked. Policemen threatened to put me on ice slabs. I was a lanky, tall teenager, but I was unafraid of beatings by police. At night, policemen put me on a chair, and tied my legs from the front. They used sticks to beat the shins and tendons of my feet. Blood oozed from the wounds, but I do not know how I gained enormous courage during the torture. I refused to reveal the whereabouts of my colleagues.

At the age of 17 or 18, teenagers normally do not realize the true value of democracy and freedom. I was sad that freedom of speech and expression enshrined in our Constitution had been trampled upon. I was sent to Tihar jail, where I spent ten months. My days inside the jail is another story which I shall reveal at some other point of time.

The present generation can barely realize the amount of fear and despondence that had crept among the people during the Emergency days. At that time, there were no private news channels, nor social media. Only All India Radio and Doordarshan were the state-run media outlets that dished out news that the government wanted to convey.

I shall cite one example. Once Sanjay Gandhi decided to organize a Bollywood movie stars’ show in support of Emergency in Delhi. It was a musical evening organized by the Indian Youth Congress, which he headed. Most of the film stars, like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rakhi, Amjad Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar, R D Burman, Mukesh and other had to come at their own cost. Only singer Kishore Kumar refused to come. The same day, All India Radio and Doordarshan were directed not to air any of his songs. Kishore Kumar was banned from air waves and Bollywood film producers were asked not to include Kishore Kumar’s songs in their movies. This was the level of dictatorship that was prevalent in those days.

I have hundreds of such tales, which I shall reveal at a later date. In 1977, the darkness of dictatorship ended, and after 21 months of Emergency, the Janata Party swept to power, decimating the Congress in practically the whole of northern India. Both Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi lost the elections from Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively. The new Janata Party government amended the Constitution in a manner so that no future government can impose Emergency and suspend fundamental rights of citizens.

On this day, we must remember all those titans, who gave tremendous sacrifice to protect our right to freedom of speech and expression. In Tihar Jail, I saw RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, Jana Sangh and Samjawadi leaders, Akali and rebel Congress leaders staying together in peace and tranquility. All of them jointly led the fight for freedom. The people of India, through its power of ballot, gave a clear message that it was willing to face hunger, poverty and police atrocities, but it will never tolerate loss of freedom of speech.

We must remember the atrocities committed during the 1975 Emergency. The unity and solidarity that we saw 45 years ago, must not weaken today at a time when the nation faces a grave challenge from China. Today, the entire nation stands rock solid and united against China, except for some Congress leaders who are toeing a different line, for reasons best known to them.

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Why voices are being raised against Rahul inside Congress party?

AKB2610In recent weeks, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised several questions on the India-China stand-off at the Line of Actual Control. He alleged that China has occupied Indian territory and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has surrendered to China. He even went to the extent of using the phrase “Surender Modi”. Rahul also asked if the Chinese have not intruded into our territory then why were our 20 jawans martyred. He also asked why there was, what he called, intelligence failure in reporting the massive buildup by the Chinese army near the LAC.

The government has replied to most of Rahul Gandhi’s questions through facts, figures and pictures. These replies were necessary because China was taking undue advantage of Rahul’s remarks, and these were creating unnecessary confusion.

Broadly, Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi raised three questions: (1) Did the Chinese intrude into our territory by crossing the LAC, and if the answer is no, then why did the brutal clash take place in which our 20 jawans were martyred? (2) Was our intelligence sleeping when the Chinese army was carrying out massive buildup and bringing in artillery and armoured vehicles? (3) Whether Chinese army is still in occupation of our territory?

The government, on its part, has given detailed answers. The Chinese military buildup was a known fact and the Indian army had responded with a ‘mirror image’ buildup from our side in Ladakh. The government has also explained in detail how our army unit led by a commanding officer was treacherously attacked with stones and spiked iron rods, and how our jawans responded bravely and killed Chinese soldiers including their commanding officer.

The question about Chinese intrusions has also been answered. The Chinese troops have withdrawn from several positions, but were yet to vacate their positions in Pangong lake. Latest satellite images and reports indicate that the Chinese army has set up gun positions at the clash site in Galwan valley again, where our army had destroyed their observation post on June 15. There are also reports of Chinese military reinforcements in Depsang Plains. It seems that the Chinese have decided not to withdraw immediately in pursuance of the agreement arrived at the corps commanders meeting on Monday.

One thing is clear: the Chinese did not intrude into Indian territory in Ladakh, but crossed into no man’s land which does not belong to either side. Troops from both sides patrol the no man’s land, and the brutal fight took place on this very spot. This fact should answer Rahul Gandhi’s questions.

Another question that Rahul Gandhi also raised was: Why are the Chinese not revealing their casualty figures? The Chinese foreign minister and defence minister replied to this on Wednesday. They said China has indeed lost its soldiers in the clash with India, but they will not reveal the figures now.

Now that all the facts, figures and pictures have been revealed, Rahul Gandhi may probably not try to understand some of the replies in full. Even if he understands, he may not publicly agree to accept them. Therein lies the catch: it reveals that his intentions are not clear.

Rahul Gandhi is not asking questions in order to arrive at the truth. Had he asked questions about Modi’s strategy at the LAC, it was alright, but along with his queries he coined phrases like “Surender Modi”. He has been tweeting and asking where the PM was hiding, whether Modi is afraid of China. He also tweeted to say Modiji, do not fear, please come out and reply. Had Rahul not made such shallow remarks, he would not have faced the ire of his countrymen and even from his own party leaders.

At the Congress Working Committee meeting on Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi was practically cornered. A party leader from UP, who was formerly part of Team Rahul, said the party must ensure there should be no personal criticism of Modi on the issue of Chinese incursions. Rahul Gandhi flew into a rage and responded “ I am not scare of Prime Minister Modi. He can’t do anything to me. I will continue to criticize him. If people here have a problem with it, let the CWC ask me to keep quiet.” Rahul also said that he noticed many colleagues have avoided direct attack on the Prime Minister.

This is not the first time that Rahul has said that he was not afraid of Modi and he would continue to attack him directly. He had said earliest also that I do not bother what others in my party think.

Since 2014, when Modi became PM, Rahul has been making similar remarks. In the last elections, he used the phrase “Chowkidar Chor Hai”, he threatened that if his party came to power, Modi would be thrown into jail, he also said, if I speak for 10 minutes in Parliament, it will cause an earthquake, he also said, Modi can never speak directly to me by looking straight into my eyes because he fears me.

Rahul Gandhi has been making such personal attacks during every election. The question now related to those experienced leaders in his party, some of whom are now openly saying that such personal attacks against the PM should not be made. Why did this issue come up at all at the CWC meeting?

Rahul probably feels that these old, experienced leaders in his party are cowards and they fear Modi, but the truth lies somewhere else. Most of these leaders have used more tough remarks against Modi in the past, but after losing elections after elections, they have now realized that any direct attack on Modi causes more losses than gain to the party.

These experienced Congress leaders have realized that corruption and patriotism are two issues on which they can’t corner Modi. These leaders know that whenever Rahul took up these two issues before the people, his party faced tremendous losses. These leaders could have stood behind Rahul, had he won elections by making direct attacks against Modi. They would then have levelled more tough personal attacks against Modi. These experienced leaders now fully realize that by describing Modi as “chor” (thief) and “kaayar”(coward), Rahul is harming the party. That is why some of them got the courage to raise this matter at the CWC meeting.

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi considers himself as a brave chap, and believes other leaders are cowards. He is, therefore, unwilling to listen to reason. During last year’s elections, Rahul alleged corruption in Rafale deal and sought evidence of destruction caused by Indian Air Force attack on Balakot. And now with tensions mounting against China, Rahul is alleging that the Chinese have captured our territory, but he forgot that during previous Congress governments, the Chinese capture vast territory by crossing the LAC.

For Rahul, Rafale, Pakistan, China, USA are not issues, his one-point agenda is how to corner Modi. Because of Rahul’s wrong strategy, the Congress lost two general elections consecutively and lost several states. Rahul lost in his family borough Amethi.

The situation has now come to such a pass that both the young and old, experienced leaders, do not have faith in Rahul’s leadership. The endgame of Indian politics is that no political party or leader can survive for long without power. I have been talking to several top Congress leaders. They tell me in private that the party would not have faced such a worse situation had Rahul not taken such misguided steps. These leaders clearly say that they want a leader who can garner votes for the party. Already, voices of dissent are growing.

With India keeping a close watch, China must disengage in Ladakh, the sooner the better

AKB2610India and China on Tuesday agreed on “gradual, verifiable” disengagement from the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh with hopes that this would soon lead to reduction in deployment of troops by both sides. This was decided after a 15-hour-long meeting between 14 Corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major Gen Liu Lin.

The proof of the pudding now lies in the eating. The commanders had arrived at a similar consensus on June 6, but the Chinese troops treacherously attacked an Indian army colonel and his jawans in Galwan valley while withdrawing from their patrolling post.

India is closely monitoring the pullback through drones and surveillance aircraft. According to the agreement, there will be de-induction of additional battalions, artillery guns and armoured vehicles from ‘depth or near areas’ of confrontation site by both sides. The disengagement will begin in Galwan valley and Gogra-Hot Springs. An official statement issued by both countries said, “there was a mutual consensus to disengage. The modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both sides”.

There is however uncertainty about Chinese troops withdrawal from Pangong lake, where the enemy has put up dozens of new fortifications and pill-boxes and has taken up positions on commanding heights on the north bank of the lake.

Senior Indian army officers are satisfied with Tuesday’s agreement. China has been clearly told that it must withdraw its troops to April, 2020 positions, to which the Chinese army agreed. Those who know the working of Chinese army well, say that China needs to be kept on a tight leash. The Chinese army always tries to intimidate its adversaries first, and if the adversary is undaunted, the Chinese then withdraw.

Let me share one interesting observation. The ten Indian army personnel including officers, who followed the fleeing Chinese soldiers into their territory and were held captive, narrated on their return, how the Chinese officers were stunned by the ferocity of our jawans when they saw their commanding officer killed.

Our brave jawans were less in number compared to the Chinese, but they fought back ferociously, snatched the spiked iron rods from the Chinese soldiers and used their own weapons to beat them with. Our jawans killed several Chinese soldiers by slashing off their necks with the spiked rods. The Indian army officers who returned from captivity revealed that the Chinese commanders were worried about the brave Indian response. On Tuesday, army chief Gen M M Narwane reached Leh to meet the injured jawans and boosted their morale.

The Chinese commanders are now cautious about any further escalation after the death of their 43 soldiers, including a commanding officer. The question now is: what next?

China is always up to its nefarious tricks like carrying out sneaky intrusions on the LAC. Since China is not a democratic nation, matters pertaining to military are never discussed there in public. The entire Chinese media, whether print of television, is under state control, and is used as propaganda tool across the world. The Chinese media regularly circulates false stories, rumours and fake videos. The US does not consider the major Chinese media outlets as free media, but as “diplomatic missions” who serve the interests of their government. The US is thinking of imposing the same restrictions on Chinese media that are imposed on movement of Chinese diplomatic personnel.

Already there is a US intelligence report published in ‘US News’ about senior PLA officer General Zhao Zongqi, who is in charge of Chinese army’s western theatre command, having given orders to his troops to treacherously attack the Indians in Galwan valley. Gen Zhao is consider.ed close to President Xi Jinping. When Xi carried out purge of senior Chinese generals several years ago, Gen Zhao was not touched. He was given charge of Tibet and Xinjiang military districts, and since then there has been military buildups and LAC transgressions by the Chinese, that led to the standoff in Doklam in 2017, and then in Naku La, Pangong lake and Galwan valley.

The Chinese army also indulges in psychological operations by circulating fake videos, but they do not stand critical scrutiny. The lies are soon exposed. Like most of the Chinese products, their lies and tricks are not durable. The Indian leadership is preparing a tough policy, to counter Chinese designs, through different methods: militarily, diplomatically and economically.

Why India has told China that it must withdraw and reduce troops build-up in Ladakh

akb0210In the second round of top military level talks that went on late into the night for 11 hours on Monday, India clearly told China to withdraw its troops from Indian territory in Pangong lake area of Ladakh and remove its military build-ups in areas facing Galwan valley, Gogra-Hot Springs, Depsang and Chushul.

India reiterated its demand for restoration of status quo as it existed in mid-April, which implies that the Chinese army should withdraw its troops from Finger 4 to 8 on the northern bank of Pangong lake. There was no official word on the outcome of the talks between 14 Corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and Chinese PLA Major General Liu Lin. At the meeting, the Indian corps commander expressed anger over the barbaric attack on Indian troops by Chinese soldiers in Galwan valley.

In Delhi, Army chief Gen M M Narwane on Monday reviewed with senior commanders the operational ground situation and preparedness of our forces along the entire Line of Actual Control. This meeting will continue on Tuesday.

The overall morale of Indian troops is very high and they are raring to teach the Chinese a lesson for their treacherous attack which took a toll of 20 Indian jawans including a Colonel. The army chief will be visiting Ladakh soon to meet commanders and boost the morale of jawans.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh left for Moscow on a three-day trip to attend World War II Victory Day Parade scheduled for Wednesday. Rajnath Singh will be meeting his Russian counterpart and is expected to press for fast-tracking supply of weapon system and spare parts for Sukhoi and MiG aircrafts, T-90 main battle tanks and Kilo class submarines. India will request Russia to airlift these spare parts instead of shipping them by sea routes. India may also ask Russia to expedite delivery of the five squadrons of S-400 Triumf surface-to-war missile systems under the $ 5.43 billion deal signed in 2018.

On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will be participating in the Russian-India-China foreign minister level meeting through video conferencing, in which both the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers will take part. India has already made it stand clear: that it wants peace, but China must make amends for its transgressions and treacherous attack.

Indian armed forces are fully prepared to face any eventuality and round-the-clock vigil continues along the LAC. Presently, China has amassed nearly 23,000 troops in Galwan valley along with hundreds of infantry combat vehicles and armoured vehicles. These troops have set up tents and have come fully prepared. India has also deployed a sizeable number of troops to counter the Chinese challenge through mirror deployment.

China has taken aggressive postures against Japan and Taiwan also. Its bomber jets have entered Taiwan’s air space eight times in the last two weeks. China has also warned Japan of reprisal for renaming disputed islands claimed by both countries.

Clearly, China now finds itself in a tight corner and its leadership is desperately preparing to fight on many fronts. On the other hand, big powers of the West have openly extended their support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is confident of facing the Chinese challenge, and if there is any misadventure on part of the enemy, Indian forces are going to carry out a swift and decisive retaliation.

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Sonia Gandhi should look at what her Defence Minister had said on Chinese incursions in 2013

AKB2610At the all-party meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an emphatic remark. He said, “no intruder is present inside India’s borders, nor is any post under anyone’s custody”. On the Monday night clash in Galwan valley, the Prime Minister said, “our 20 soldiers attained martyrdom in Ladakh but they taught a lesson to those who tried to intimidate our motherland….Today we have the capability so that none can dare to look towards us with ill intention”.

Almost all opposition leaders, barring Congress President Sonia Gandhi, offered strong support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress president raised several questions relating to Chinese incursions in Ladakh and sought the Prime Minister’s reply. However, senior leaders like NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, and YSR Congress chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy said this was not the time to raise such issues and all political parties should present a united face to counter Chinese aggression.

The questions that Sonia Gandhi raised were: “On which date did the Chinese troops intrude into our territory in Ladakh? When did the government find out about the Chinese transgressions into our territory? Was it on May 5th, as reported, or earlier? Does the government not receive, on a regular basis, satellite pictures of the borders of our country? Did our external intelligence agencies not report any unusual activity along the LAC? Did the Military Intelligence not alert the government about the intrusion and the build-up of massive forces along the LAC, whether on the Chinese side or on the Indian side? In the government’s considered view, was there a failure of intelligence?”

The questions raised by Congress president made other opposition leaders uncomfortable. Most of them said, this was not the time and place for politicizing such an issue.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar said, it was not proper to ask whether our jawans were unarmed or not. “We should avoid such matters now as this is not the right time.” Pawar is a senior opposition leader and former Defence Minister and he knows what he is saying. He knows the intricacies of how the armed forces work.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, we have a strong leadership at the Centre and if any enemy country dares to browbeat us, we have the capacity “to gouge out their eyes”, and China must understand this.

Mamata Banerjee, known for her strident anti-Modi postures, too, said all parties must sink their political differences and support the Centre on whatever steps are taken to counter Chinese incursions. “We must chase the Chinese out of our territory and also end Chinese domination in our economy, whether railway, aviation, or telecom.

Even the DMK, a known pro-Congress ally, openly supported the Centre over the Ladakh issue. Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati also offered support to any decisions taken by the Centre to counter the challenge from China.

The Prime Minister replied emphatically to each question raised by Sonia Gandhi. He said, India has told China clearly that we want peace, but China must also know that India knows how to defend its territory.

Modi said, such a situation arose because earlier nobody used to question Chinese transgressions on the LAC, but now we have strengthened our infrastructure and have increased patrolling. It is because of these crucial steps that we detect transgressions by Chinese troops easily, and it is because of this China seems to be worried.

Let me tell you why Modi said that Chinese transgressions on LAC were not questioned in the past. In 2013, during the UPA rule, the then Defence Minister A. K. Antony had said, it is a historical truth that we did not create infrastructure on the border since independence. He said, the policy at that time was to leave the border area undeveloped, as this was much safer than a border with developed roads. It was because of this policy that airfields and roads were not built near the LAC.

It was Antony as Defence Minister, who had said in 2013 during UPA rule in Lok Sabha that China was far ahead of India in matters of infrastructure and capability. The result was: Chinese troops carried out incursions in Ladakh, and for 21 days, we had to literally beg the Chinese to withdraw.

This is not the case now. Modi said on Friday that we have strengthened our border road infrastructure near LAC and this was now yielding dividends. Patrolling by Indian troops has become easier. It was because of our patrolling that our troops came to know about Chinese incursions in Galwan valley and other areas. Now the Chinese aggressors are being stopped and their commanders are being questioned about violation of the sanctity of LAC.

I would not have mentioned Antony’s remarks in 2013, had not Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi raised questions about LAC. They should remember that it was their government at that time and their Defence Minister was making such remarks in Parliament.

And what do we have today? We have a confident, decisive Prime Minister at the helm. The Prime Minister is saying that India will repay in their own coin if any country meddles with our territorial integrity. The nation is proud of our brave and valiant jawans and their officers. Our defence forces have the capability to face the enemy. This is quite evident on the ground. On Friday, fighter jets and attack helicopters carried out many sorties near the LAC, keeping a hawk’s eye on Chinese troop movement.

China has now clearly realized that this is not the old India. This new India has a strong, decisive leader Narendra Modi, who had earned respect among world statesmen, and has enhanced India’s image in the international arena. China now understands that the entire political fraternity stands solidly behind its Prime Minister.

On the other hand, China has rogue nations like North Korea and Pakistan as allies. The world’s most powerful democracy,the United States, stands solidly with the world’s most populous democracy, India. China failed to get support in the UN Security Council, when it tried to raise the issue of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s overall attitude has now changed. India has changed the manner in which it used to deal with China. Modi’s India has shown how our jawans can act if they are attacked treacherously by the Chinese. Modi’s India has shown how it can carry out surgical strikes and bomb Balakot inside Pakistan, if terrorists blow up our CRPF vehicle.

Modi tried his best to extend his hand of friendship towards China, like he did with Pakistan. But the whole world now knows how devious the Chinese are. The world knows, how China spread the deadly Coronavirus across the world. The world knows how China manipulated COVID statistics and the WHO. Countries like Japan and the US are today giving incentives to their companies to come out of China. The same voices are now being heard in India, and the “boycott Chinese goods” movement is gaining pace.

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If the Chinese do not retreat to their old positions on LAC, India must act

AKB0410Ever since the treacherous attack by Chinese troops on Indian army took place in Galwan valley on Monday night, there have been many rumours circulating on social media, and it is shocking that some of our national level leaders also believe some of these rumours to be true.

On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “How dare China kill our UNARMED soldiers? Why were our soldiers sent UNARMED to martyrdom?” External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar tweeted in reply: “Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so. Long standing practice (as per 1996 and 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs.”

Rumours were circulated in social media that 35 to 40 jawans are missing and probably taken captive by Chinese army. The Indian army replied: “It is clarified no Indian troops are missing in action. All are accounted for.”

A picture of a rusted iron rod studded with nails was posted by some journalists on social media claiming these were used by Chinese troops on our jawans. The army clarified that no such weapons have been recovered from the Chinese.

On the casualty figures, the army late on Thursday night clarified, only 20 army personnel martyred, and nobody is presently critical in hospital. There are 18 soldiers presently in Leh army hospital, who will be rejoining duty within 15 days. 58 injured soldiers are in other base hospitals and will be returning to duty within a week. A total of 96 army jawans and officers came under impact during the Chinese attack. On one hand, our army is fully transparent, and on the other, the Chinese government is yet to admit that 43 of its soldiers died in the clash and a large number of other troops have been injured.

There are too many lies circulating on social media and Indians need to remain on guard. One rumour said, our jawans at the LAC did not have body suits and snow boots to withstand cold weather in Ladakh, and these were airlifted from Mumbai. There were rumours about how the Chinese troops intruded 20 kilometres (some said 60 km) into Indian territory and occupied our area.

All such rumours are baseless. The ground reality is that our armed forces – Army, Navy and Air Force – are presently in a state of operational readiness to guard our airspace and land and sea frontiers against any misadventure. The Chinese already know that they would be getting a ‘befitting reply’ for their aggression.

The government is now pro-active both on the diplomatic as well as strategic fronts. On one hand, talks are being held with China, and on the ground, our armed forces have increased their surveillance. Army and Air Force radars have been activated on the frontiers, fighter jets and helicopters are keeping watch on the Line of Actual Control, and naval warships are being deployed at strategic locations. Non-stop aerial surveillance is on all across the LAC from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, combat helicopters are carrying out recce missions, and all movements of Chinese army are being taken note of.

On Thursday, there were talks with the Chinese at the Major General level with Maj. Gen. Abhijit Bapta of Trushul division leading. The talks were positive, but inconclusive. Maj. Gen. Bapta was assisted by Brigadier, Operations and Colonel, Operation along with a Chinese interpreter. India has lodged its strong protest over the Chinese attack. The Indian side has clearly told the PLA to move back to its original positions as existed in April, and only then the situation would ease. The talks will continue.

I spoke to several senior army officers who have worked near the LAC and asked about Rahul Gandhi’s charge that our jawans were sent unarmed to embrace martyrdom. They pointed out that whenever our jawans go on patrolling on LAC, they never go without weapons, but there is a long-standing agreement between India and China, that no shots shall be fired on the LAC. I am surprised why Rahul Gandhi failed to understand this. He may now ask why our soldiers did not go with nail-studded clubs and stones, if they cannot fire a shot. Well, there have been casualties on both sides. If our 20 jawans were martyred, the Chinese lost 43 troops. How did our brave soldiers did this? Of course, they’re trained to retaliate.
I am also surprised over the remarks of Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab chief minister. He questioned, “why no orders to fire at the Chinese were given to our jawans” in the face of a brutal attack. Capt Amarinder Singh says,” if the unit was armed, as is being claimed now, the second-in-command should have ordered firing, the moment the Commanding Officer fell to Chinese treachery.” The Captain is a mature leader, he has been in the army, but he gave his reactions on basis of what he saw on tv channels,without checking out facts with the army.
In times of crisis like this, we should project a united face before the world. The entire nation, the government, and all political parties stand united behind our army, and this is not the right time to level accusations. The entire nation must stand rock solid behind the leadership of our Prime Minister. He is our supreme leader, elected by countrymen. The Prime Minister has already said, that the sacrifice of martyrs will not go in vain. So, let us stay united in this hour of crisis.
The nation is confident that our armed forces are strong, preparations are afoot to face one of the world’s super powers. India does not want war, we want peace. The whole world now knows the real intentions of the Chinese army, known for its treachery. If China does not follow the path of persuasion, and refuses to return to its original positions that existed in April in Ladakh, we should teach the Chinese in a language that they understand better.

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China knows its game is up

akb3010As the coffins of 20 Indian army martyrs moved to their native places on Wednesday, a tearful nation paid homage to the brave warriors who gave the supreme sacrifice in defence of the motherland. The coffins were sent to Samastipur, Hyderabad, Patna, Meerut, Mayurbhanj, Patiala, Gurdaspur, Madurai, Rewa, Birbhum, Sahibganj, Kanker, Kandhamal, Hamirpur, Sangrur, Mansa, Bhojpur, Saharsa, Vaishali, East Singhbhum. There were emotional moments among family members, even as local villagers demanded that India must retaliate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his opening remarks to Chief Ministers at a video conference on COVID situation, said, the sacrifice of our martyrs will not go in vain. He vowed that India will firmly protect every inch of the country’s land and its self-respect. Modi said, for us, India’s integrity and sovereignty is supreme and no one can stop us from defending it. “Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this.”

The Prime Minister also said, “India wants peace, but if provoked, India will give a befitting reply.” These were measured words delivered in a balanced manner by the Prime Minister in the nation’s hour of grief.

On the other hand, China adopted a belligerent attitude. Its foreign minister Wang Yi, during telephonic talk with our External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar asked India “to probe the conduct of Indian troops for crossing the LAC and severely punish those responsible.” Wang Yi went further and said, “India must not misjudge the situation or underestimate China’s firm will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.”

In response to the Chinese foreign minister’s belligerent words, our EAM Jaishankar responded sharply and said, “premeditated and planned action by Chinese troops was directly responsible for the violence and this unprecedented step will have a serious impact on bilateral relations.” He said, “the need of the hour is for China to reassess its actions and take corrective steps”.

What Jaishankar said was correct. The Chinese soldiers had come prepared to Galwan valley carrying iron rods, blades and sharp stones and their intent was to suddenly attack Indian jawans. Though our jawans were not prepared for this sudden attack, they fought back valiantly, and additional reinforcements joined in the fight inflicting heavy casualties on the Chinese side. The Chinese foreign minister’s anger was clearly over the casualties that their army has faced.

The people of India salute the valiant martyrs who gave their supreme sacrifice and refused to yield an inch of land. The measured words that Prime Minister Modi used in his remarks will send a clear signal to the Chinese leadership.

India will respond, at a time and place of its own choice. The Chinese know this, and are therefore resorting to many subterfuges. For 36 hours, they did not admit that their army had suffered big casualties, and instead blamed India for the violence. The Chinese know that the world will not accept its lies, and in order to obfuscate issues, circulated a propaganda video of a military drill to claim that Chinese troops are carrying out exercises to stop “Indian incursions” in Galwan valley.

On Ground Zero, both sides have disengaged from the flash point area in Galwan valley, and there was three-hour long talk between Major Generals of both armies on Wednesday, but this did not yield results. The satellite images from Planet Labs on June 16 clearly show how China had amassed more than 250 trucks and other military equipment in Galwan valley. There is tension in the area and the armies on both sides are on almost war-like alert along the LAC.

Looking at the mourning faces of relatives of our martyred jawans, every Indian’s blood is today boiling with anger. The entire nation wants that China must be taught a lesion so that it may never carry out such misadventure in future. For the sake of our martyrs, it is our collective responsibility to remain united, irrespective of political thinking, and stand firmly behind Prime Minister Modi in this hour of crisis.

The message must go to the families of martyrs that the entire nation stands united behind them and is prepared to give China a taste of its own medicine. India’s economy has already suffered a lot due to the COVID pandemic and lockdown, and another conflict with China may cause more losses to the economy. But we have to retaliate, come what may, at any cost, and our Prime Minister said so in so many words, that the sacrifices of our martyrs will not go in vain.

China’s allegation that Indian troops crossed the LAC and entered their territory is a plain white lie. The Indian army commander with hardly 50 jawans was supervising the withdrawal of Chinese troops, but the Chinese had come with murderous intentions. The whole world has seen how China stabbed India in the back in 1962 after chanting “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” slogans, and how it attacked Indian troops in 1967 in Nathu La on Sikkim border. China will have to pay the price for its treachery. This is a New India, not the India of 1962, when its army suffered reverses on the battle front.
China knows the strength of the Indian armed forces and it also knows India has a strong political leadership. The question is: why did China opt for the path of confrontation? Why did its troops treacherously attack our jawans?

The answer: China is worried that India has chosen the path of self-reliance (atma nirbharta) to become an economic power and it has changed its FDI policies to attract foreign companies. China knows that India is trying to attract multi-national corporations that are leaving China in the wake of COVID pandemic. Naturally, the Chinese leadership is looking towards India warily.

There are also domestic pressures in China due to economic losses it has suffered in the wake of the pandemic. China now wants to show to the world that the Big Powers cannot harm it, come what may. China wants to tell the world that a rising economic superpower India can never be a big challenge.

China was unhappy that the US President wants to include India in the Group of 7 summit. China does not want India and the US to come together. Already, the Chinese are facing worldwide criticisms over Hong Kong and Taiwan issues.

It is because of these reasons that China wants to flex its military might by creating tension on the Indian border. It also wants to divert attention of the Chinese people towards border dispute, but the Chinese leadership has probably failed to realize that the India of 2020 is not the India of 1962.

The Chinese saw how India did not stop construction of road near the LAC, and deployed army and air force to counter the Chinese threat.

On top of it, India’s Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister made tough remarks in the face of Chinese belligerence. The Prime Minister issued a clear warning to China, and our External Affairs Minister replied to his Chinese counterpart in a matching tone. The Chinese leadership did not expect that the Indian army would inflict heavy casualties and the Indian Prime Minister would adopt a tough stance.

China will now have to retreat from Galwan Valley because its planning has failed. China has realized that very few countries support it on the border issue in the international arena. China cannot win a war against India nor can it win a diplomatic battle with India. The Chinese leadership will soon realize that it will have to pay a big price for its misadventures.

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It is a typical Chinese ploy: China is trying to divert world attention from COVID

AKB2610In one of the bloodiest clashes near the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh on Monday night, 19 Indian army jawans and a Colonel of Bihar Regiment gave their supreme sacrifice. Blood was spilled on LAC after a long gap of 45 years, when Chinese troops, while retreating in Galwan Valley, suddenly attacked our officers and jawans with iron rods, nail spiked lathis and stones.

It goes to the credit of our valiant officers and jawans that they promptly retaliated resulting in 43 Chinese casualties. Not a single shot was fired. The nation salutes Col. B. Santosh Babu for giving the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the nation. We also salute all the martyred jawans who died while fighting this pitched battle that began at dusk and ended around midnight.

Talks between India and China are presently going on at several levels, but this worst clash raises questions about China’s ulterior motives. The overall picture since April this year in Ladakh has been one of deception and audacious treachery on part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

First, their troops carried out multiple incursions at several points in Ladakh bringing in heavy artillery and erecting concrete structures, then their senior army officers in prolonged talks with Indian counterparts agreed to disengagement, and at dusk, their troops, while retreating, suddenly attacked our Commanding Officer and his jawans. This blatantly exposes the nefarious designs of the Chinese army.

Here are the details about the clash. Chinese troops were supposed to retreat from Patrolling Point 14 (PP14) on Monday, consequent to agreement at the Corps Commander level meeting on June 6. The Chinese troops were supposed to retreat five kilometres into their area. Everything was going on as planned, under the watchful eyes of our 16 Bihar Regiment commanding officer. While retreating, all of a sudden, the Chinese commander provoked his troops to act. Their troops used iron rods, spiked sticks and stone boulders to attack our jawans. This hand-to-hand combat went on till midnight when both the troops disengaged. A large number of soldiers from both sides were injured.

By Monday night, the casualty on Indian side went up to twenty, while there were 43 Chinese casualties, according to our army sources. The Chinese have not yet revealed their casualty figures.

I spoke to several senior army officers. They said, India should be prepared to counter any misadventure on part of the Chinese across the entire LAC, as they cannot be trusted. The Chinese are piqued over India constructing the strategic 255-kilometre Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road that connects the eastern part to Siachen glacier in northern Ladakh, all within Indian territory.

Building this road on a tough terrain was really challenging and it took 20 years to complete. From India’s strategic point of view, this road is very crucial and can provide the Indian army access to China’s Xinjiang highway. Seven years ago, the Indian Air Force had flown C-130 J Super Hercules transport aircraft to Dault Beg Oldie airstrip.

Since then China has been making preparations. It started amassing its troops at Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan Valley and tried to carry out incursions on May 5 in Naku La on Sikkim border. It brought in troops in army trucks camouflaged as garbage trucks. At the Pangong lake, the Indian and Chinese troops came face to face, but in Galwan Valley the stand-off continued. China had, by that time, amassed nearly 10,000 troops, and India had made up its mind to pay the Chinese back in their own coin. There was mirror deployment of Indian troops to face the Chinese.

After diplomatic and commander level talks, the Chinese withdrew nearly two and a half km from Patrol Points14, 15 and 17, and under a disengagement plan, the Chinese were supposed to retreat further. At last, they cowardly attacked our Colonel and army jawans while retreating.

Can China be trusted now? It has been dabbling in treachery since many years. This has been part of its history, and India needs to be on full alert. Our Prime Minister, Defence Minister are keeping a watchful eye of army’s preparedness under supervision of Chief of Defence Staff and tri-service chiefs, our External Affairs Ministry has been informing other world powers about Chinese incursions and movements.

These are on expected lines, but I firmly believe that the tension on LAC will soon die down and peace will prevail. We should hope so, and we expect the Chinese troops will retreat to their positions peacefully. And yet, there are nagging doubts in our minds: is this all a drama? Why is China doing so? Is China enacting a drama?

I can venture to answer these questions. It is no more a secret that the Chinese spread the deadly Coronavirus across the globe. The entire world now knows that China not only spread the virus, but also concealed facts from the world and it manipulated the World Health Organization. Had China alerted the world about the virus, the international community could have taken preventive measures in time and the lives of several hundred thousand people could have been saved.

China then supplied low quality masks PPE kits and testing kits to the world. Nations across the world, from USA to UK, France, Germany, Israel, Spain and Italy, are unhappy with China. One may ask what this has to do with the tension on the LAC.

I feel, the time has come for the world to teach China a lesson. Economic and diplomatic retaliations matter more than territorial incursions. Many countries have started blocking trade with China and Chinese goods are being boycotted. The Chinese leadership is worried and wants to divert world attention. The easiest way for China was to raise tension level on the Indian border.

I agree with strategic experts when they say that fomenting tension on LAC is a typical Chinese ploy, nothing more, nothing less. China cannot sustain tension on LAC for long, it only wants to give an impression to the world that its might hasn’t diminished.

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Why Sushant Singh ? Why did you do it ?

AKB2610When I heard the shocking news about Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide on Sunday afternoon, I had been thinking since then: how could this happen? Why did he take this extreme step? Agreed, he was facing problems, difficulties, but these are not permanent. He could have spoken to people he was closer to. He could have shared his pain with his close friends. This is not Sushant’s problem alone. Millions of people are facing such struggles every day. I therefore decided to speak about this matter in our prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night to convince people that life is everything. So long as you live, you may get your dreams fulfilled, but once you extinguish the flame of life, it is gone, forever.

Sushant was given his last farewell on Monday in the presence of his family members and co-actors. His mortal remains went through the post mortem process and, as of now, Mumbai Police does not find any foul play in his death. Police believe he died due to hanging and asphyxiation. There were no external injuries on his body. Bandra police has filed a case of accidental death. Police have recorded statements of six persons including Sushant’s sister and actor friend Sidharth Pithani. Four people used to stay with Sushant in his flat. There were two cooks from Bihar, a cleaner and Sidharth Pithani.

In his statement to police, Sidharth Pithani said, Sushant was having problems with his girlfriend for the last several months and there were frequent quarrels. Sushant’s family members were objecting to intervention of his girlfriend in family matters. The girlfriend also objected to Sidharth staying with Sushant in his flat. The girlfriend later left him to stay with a friend. Police was also told that the girlfriend had a quarrel with Sushant’s sister Ritu Singh after which the relationship became tense. Police is going to question Sushant’s girlfriend. Police was also told that Sushant had of late been speaking less to his family members and had confined himself to his flat during lockdown.
Questions are many, but nobody appears to have the right answer. One is yet to get a definitive reason for Sushant’s suicide. His career in Bollywood was on the right course. His first movie was a hit at the box office and his last film was a superhit. His films were getting both commercial and critical acclaim. His acting talents were being appreciated. He had three to four new projects in hand.
Sushant was 34 years old and age was with him. That is why his suicide has raised too many eyebrows. Most of the people in Bollywood are shocked. His suicide has become an issue for hot, intemperate discussions on social media.
It is being alleged that Sushant was being sidelined by some Bollywood biggies because he was an outsider. It is being said that some big names in Bollywood have refused to accept Sushant and were elbowing him out from big ticket projects. Charges of promoting nepotism are being levelled against some Bollywood biggies and outsiders are not being allowed in big films.
It is being alleged that Bollywood is now divided into several big camps. Actor Kangna Ranaut went to the extent of describing Sushant’s suicide as ‘planned murder’. She alleged that despite his brilliant acting, Sushant never got acknowledgment, nor did he get awards. Kangna mentioned some posts by Sushant on Instagram in which he was seen telling a lady fan that he had “no godfather in the industry”. He told her, if you want me to survive in Bollywood, go and watch my movie.

Just imagine. Sushant scored seventh rank in engineering entrance exam on All India level. He has been an Olympiad winner in Physics on national level, and here he was asking a student to watch his film despite his exam. Was he so much insecure and desperate?
Desperation shows in an actor when one knows if the film flops, there would be none to back him and he would stop getting work. In one interview, Sushant says there is nepotism in film industry and if fresh talents are not given chance, Bollywood would someday collapse.

Renowned director Shekhar Kapur who directed classic films like ‘Masoom’ and ‘Mr India’ had this to tweet on Sushant’s death. He wrote: “I knew the pain you were going through. I knew the story of the people that let you down so bad that you would weep on my shoulder. I wish I was around the last 6 months. I wish you had reached out to me. What happened to you was their Karma. Not yours.” Sushant was supposed to work in Shekhar Kapur’s new film ‘Paani’ but the project was cancelled by Yashraj Films.
Whatever may be the reason behind his suicide, everybody was unanimous on one point, that he was a very good actor and had a brilliant mind.
Sushant’s suicide is not the first, and we should all pray, it should be the last. We can only appeal to all: please do not choose this terrible path. There are solutions available for all problems. One can find ways out, one should be ready to face challenges and obstacles, howsoever strong they may be. Committing suicide is not the right path, it is not a solution. With one suicide, not only does a person dies, but the dreams of his family members and acquaintances too die.
Imagine the condition of parents when they find their children committing suicide. Their entire world goes down in shambles. There are many young men and women in film and TV industry. I want to tell them: Losing does not mean you accept defeat. Failing does not mean you lose hope for success. If you want to dream and become big, gain laurels, you will have to face bigger obstacles and challenges. Faltering once does not mean you can never get back in your stride. So, do not lose courage. When you start losing courage, think of those who love you the most, who want you to attain success, who have high hopes from you, and in whose dreams you appear.

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How Supreme Court judges pulled up Delhi government for deplorable conditions in LNJP hospital

AKB2610First of all, I want to thank Hon’ble Supreme Court judges Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kaul and Justice M R Shah for realizing the acute trauma of COVID patients in hospitals. The learned judges themselves said they felt sad while watching “horrible”, “pathetic” videos of patients lying among dead bodies in Delhi’s LNJP hospital on India TV.
“We are more concerned with the living than the dead. Look at the pathetic conditions in the hospitals. Bodies are there in the ward where patients are getting treated. The undignified manner in which bodies are handled, dumped..They are being treated worse than animals”, were the observations from the bench.
The bench also said: “Patients are in the wards and dead bodies are also in the same wards. Dead bodies are seen also in the lobby and waiting area. Patients were not supplied with any oxygen support or any other support, no saline drips were shown with the beds and there was no one to attend to the patients. Patients are crying and there is no one to attend to them.”
The bench then observed: “This is the condition of a government hospital of Delhi, which has a capacity of 2,000 beds. As per the government app, only 870 beds were occupied in LNJP hospital as on June 11. The government app itself gives details of beds occupied in government and private hospitals in Delhi. In government hospitals, the number of beds is 5,814, out of which 2.620 are occupied.”
The first lines in the apex court order made mention of India TV videos that were telecast on Wednesday night in our prime time show “Aaj Ki Baat”.
The apex court ordered the chief secretary of Delhi government “to immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients’ management in government hospitals..and take remedial action. Status reports with regard to government hospitals, patient care and details of staff, infrastructure etc. should be brought before the court so that appropriate directions can be issued on the next date of hearing.” The court has asked for the status report by Wednesday. A separate notice was issued to LNJP hospital.

The Supreme Court also observed: ‘Reports indicate that patients are running from pillar to post to get admission whereas a large number of beds are lying vacant in government hospitals…Close relatives of patients are not informed for several days about cremation, due to which families are not even able to attend their last rites.”

The bench asked: “..And why is testing so low in Delhi? Mumbai and Chenna are testing 16,000 to 17,000 whereas in Delhi, it is falling below 7,000. Media has highlighted this issue.” The apex court also issued notices to chief secretaries of Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal governments in this matter.

Reading the observations by SC judges, I felt some sense of relief. The apex court order raised hopes that patients may now survive the ordeal in hospitals. I expect patients will no more have to live with dead bodies inside the same ward. The SC order at least gives a ray of hope to expect that at least on some level, the cry of the living dead is being heard.

No evidences, no excuses or justifications or obfuscations are required after watching the videos showing “deplorable” conditions in hospitals. It is gratifying that the Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of India TV report along with other media reports and directed the governments to respond. During Friday’s hearing, the learned judges often mentioned the videos shown in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on June 10 at 9 pm.

When the court sought the opinion of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on India TV videos, he said, the visuals were indeed horrifying and shocking. The court then asked, how such negligence could happen in government hospitals because the videos clearly show that patients were dying and there was nobody to help them.

Justice Shah said with rising spread of Coronavirus, the need for more health infrastructure has increased, beds and doctors are needed, but the government has not come up with any such thing. He described as a shocking failure of the health care system.

Justice Kaul said, the videos shown on India TV clearly reflect the ground realities. He said, for God’s sake, watch the deplorable conditions of the patients, dead bodies are lying in wards, the court is more worried about patients who are alive, but when we find the undignified manner in which bodies are being handled, what will happen to patients who are alive? The judge said, videos shown on India TV leave no one in doubt that that the situation is deteriorating in Delhi. He said, conditions in Delhi government hospitals are pathetic, horrible and horrendous.

I have doubts whether the authorities in LNJP hospital have read the government’s guidelines for disposal of bodies. They might not be knowing how to take care of the body, once a patient dies of COVID. It was because of this that bodies were lying around inside the wards and in the passages and waiting area.

Let me narrate some of the points in the guidelines which health care workers are expected to follow while handling the dead body of a COVID patient.

First of all, they have to follow standard infection prevention control practice, which says that when a COVID patient dies, his body has to be cleared from the ward within half an hour, the close relatives of the patient must be informed, the bed on which the patient had slept must be disinfected, other implements and PPE kits must be sanitized, the body has to be sanitized with 1 per cent Hypochlorite solution and packed inside a leak-proof bag, the body must be kept inside the mortuary at 4 degree Celsius, and during last rites, limited number of relatives be allowed to have a last look at the deceased, and the final rites must be completed with full precautions. The guidelines minutely details the standard procedure for handling of bodies.

But the videos that we showed and which were seen by the learned SC judges clearly reflect that these guidelines were completely cast aside. Forget standard precautions, there was nobody to remove the dead bodies lying inside the ward and in the waiting area.

While in the afternoon, there was good news from the Supreme Court, there was one piece of bad news by the evening. I had expected that the LNJP hospital authorities would take immediate steps to improve care of their remaining patients, arrange oxygen, provide them medicines and food, but I was wrong.

The government did nothing for 36 hours after the videos were televised, and the result was: a 23-year-old young man Rajesh Singh Rawat, who was shown alive in the video, died on Friday. This is a black spot on our health care system. This young man was killed by our health care system. The brother of the dead COVID patient told India TV reporter Deeksha Pandey outside LNJP hospital that he had come to take his body. The young man was seen in Wednesday’s video as sitting on a bed, a few feet away from where a nude body lay under another bed. He was not in good condition at that time, but he was not suffering from acute breathing trouble either. Whatever Rajesh’s brother said can make any sensible person cry.
I am at a loss of words when I listen to relatives of COVID patients who lost their lives due to a callous and insensitive health care system. How can a common man trust such hospitals which are nothing but dungeons and hell holes.

The Delhi government issued a statement on Supreme Court’s order in the evening. It said, COVID pandemic was an “extraordinary” situation and it was trying its best to set up better infrastructure and provide quality health care to all patients. The state government said, it accepts the SC’s observation with “utmost respect” and “absolute sincerity” and was prepared to plug any gaps brought to its notice. It claimed that an NHRC team has expressed “satisfaction” with the facilities at LNJP hospital.

Delhi government may shrug off the tongue lashing that it got from Supreme Court, but both the government and LNJP hospital will have to give explanations to the apex court by June 17. It will now be up to the apex court whether it accepts their explanations as satisfactory or not.

Normally matter of law are discussed inside courts, but it is the nation that ultimately runs on popular sentiments. The common man views from his own prism the harsh realities that are prevalent in hospitals. In Hindi, there is a famous couplet from Kabir: “दुर्बल को ना सताइये, जाकी मोटी हाय | बिना साँस की चाम से, लोह भसम होई जाय ||” (Do not oppress the poor, its curse can destroy, like a leather that can inflame a fire to melt iron to ashes)

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