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Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18

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Let the Govt return to the table with clean hands and open mind, and the farmers reciprocate in the same spirit

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government has literally been on a collision course with the agitating farmers in several parts of the country, especially the more belligerent among them from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, demanding among other things legal guarantees for government procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP).

Now, with a reduced mandate, for which the angry rural communities have apparently been partly responsible with their anger being encashed by the Opposition, what stand the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under his leadership takes would be closely watched.

Therefore, all attention is focussed on the Prime Minister’s address at the much-hyped ‘kisan sammelan’ in Varanasi on June 18, his first big public rally after being elected for a third consecutive term as member of Parliament from the constituency and getting a record- equalling third consecutive term as Prime Minister after Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1962.

How massively the sammelan has been planned in dual mode can be judged from the fact that nearly two crore farmers from across states are expected to join physically and virtually, Invitations had also been extended to chief ministers of all states.

According to newly appointed Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister and former four-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, several Union ministers have been tasked to interact with cultivators and officials simultaneously by visiting 50 chosen Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country. Nearly 100,000 primary agricultural cooperatives have been approached to join the event virtually.

Early indicators have been emanating from the newly formed NDA government about its keenness to tackle the farmers’ agitation on priority considering that its continuation could seriously dent the NDA’s prospects in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand.

The agitation has serious implications for the economy too. It has the potential to severely retard the government’s push for accelerated growth to achieve the targets of India emerging as the third largest economy in the next couple of years and ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047.

According to reports, the first file signed by Modi after being sworn-in on June 9 was for approving the 17th tranche of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN), under which Rs 2,000 cash grant is being given to more than nine crore farmers every four months.

Secondly, in Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Modi has picked one of the most experienced BJP leaders to entrust the farm and farmers’ welfare portfolio.

On June 18, Modi will formally set the ball rolling for the transfer of Rs 20,000 crore directly to the bank accounts of 9.3 crore farmers under the PM KISAN scheme.

Krishi Sakhis

He will also induct 30,000 trained women ‘Krishi Sakis’ or farm counsellors belonging to self-help groups from 12 states by handing over certificates to them. These women have been trained in farm practices by the Rural Development Ministry under a memorandum of understanding inked with the Agriculture Ministry. These ‘Krishi Sakhis’ can expect to earn an additional income of Rs 60,000- Rs 80,000 a year. This scheme is another dimension of the ‘Lakhpati Didi’ scheme for rural women entrepreneurs.

The scheme has initially been started in 12 states – Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya.

100-day agenda

The ministry is also expected to formally release its 100-day agenda soon which is expected to make boosting output of pulses and edible oils, two items India still relies on imports to meet domestic demand, central to its future strategy to boost diversification of crops and increase farmers’ incomes.

However, given the mistrust, the negotiations between the representatives of umbrella bodies of the agitating farmers and farm labourers and the government, as and when these happen, will not be easy and cannot be expected to be wrapped up in a hurry.

The most ticklish issue of course is the farmers’ demand for legal guarantees for government to procure crops at MSP, which the government has clearly shown its unwillingness to fulfil despite having promised to do so, apart from repealing the three controversial farm laws, as part of a deal to lift the farmers’ nearly two-year siege of the National capital in 2020-21.

Farmers see in this unwillingness the Modi government’s hidden agenda of boosting the corporate sector’s involvement in agriculture, which they fear will, in the long run, destroy the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers and farm labourers.

Economists are also not exactly in favour of the government granting legal safeguards for procuring crops at MSP, as recommended by the MS Swaminathan commission, arguing that it does not make any economic sense and will not help the farm sector and the farmers grow. They contend that Swaminathan was a great farm scientist but not an economist to understand the intricacies of the impact that the implementation of his recommendations will have on the economy as a whole and the farmers in particular in the long run.

Alternative mechanism to MSP

A proposed alternative mechanism, Deficiency Price Payments (DPP), under which there is no physical procurement of crops at MSP by the government, but it intervenes to compensate the farmers for the difference between the MSPs for select crops and their market price if it rules at lower levels, is also not finding favour with the agitating farmers, especially in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

Whether under popular pressure, or suspected partisan considerations, they are not prone to reasoning and hell bent on the easy option of procurement of crops by the government at MSP.

In latest negotiations held during the farmers’ agitation 2.0 launched ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government team, headed by then Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, expressed its willingness to offer MSP for five years on pulses, maize and cotton to farmers who shift from the wheat-paddy cycle to cultivating these three crops as part of the government’s push for much needed diversification of crops. The offer was summarily rejected by the umbrella body of the agitating farmers.

The farmers’ agitation 2.0 had triggered pitched battles between the farmers, determined to march to the National capital on tractors, tractor trolleys etc, and an equally determined Haryana Police, which used all lethal means at its disposal at several places to stop them from crossing the Punjab-Haryana border for onward passage to their destination.

The police were using disproportionate force apparently having been given a free hand by the then Manohar Lal led BJP government, which itself was clearly acting at the behest of the BJP government at the Centre.

In retaliation, the angry farmers, frustrated the BJP candidates and leaders in their attempts to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in the rural areas in many parts of the country, especially Punjab and Haryana, by chasing them away despite heavy security provided to them.

Open-minded approach to talks

For negotiations to be meaningful and conclusive, the government needs to invite the farmers back to the table with clean hands and an open mind, and the farmers to respond in the same spirit.

Eventually, under the given circumstances, a common ground can be reached only through mutual accommodation, dovetailing the farmers’ interests (by satisfactorily addressing their concerns) into the country’s short and long-term interests.

Agriculture and allied sector is poised to grow and diversify at a much faster rate worldwide to meet the ever-growing requirement for safe and affordable food products of a rapidly growing population, including the demand for a wide variety of high value products driven largely by the young population.

Also, agriculture and allied has been identified as a key sector, along with manufacturing, services and others, to drive the country on a high growth path in line with its targets of becoming the third largest economy in the short-term and a developed nation by 2047.

Didn’t we transition from bullock-driven ploughs to tractors, combines, tillers, seeders and other modern farm implements! Now we need to look beyond the no-longer-sustainable wheat-paddy cycle towards newer horizons, keeping pace with the food demands of modern times and in the process improving the prospects for better farm incomes.

After all, change is the only constant, the earlier we accept it, the better!

LS 2024 Result Analysis: Modi 3.0 For The World, But Within, NDA Govt Could Usher Change

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Prime Minister bows before the gathering at the swearing-in of his ministry 3.0 at Rashtrapati Bhawan on June 9, 2024
  • Short of being defeated, Modi-led saffron party left severely bruised by the people’s verdict
  • Having reposed its confidence in him for a decade, increasingly impatient Nation puts Modi on final notice
  • Successes yes, but failures on some critical fronts, especially on employment generation, stings the ruling party
  • Arrogance, scorn for the Oppn, and dictatorial attitude rejected by the electorate
  • So has been targeted actions by investigating agencies against Oppn leaders to suit the ruling party’s political interests
  • Splitting parties to topple Oppn govts in states, and ‘washing machine’ actions have proved counter productive
  • Still No. 1 party: BJP is still by far the single largest party with number of seats nearly two-and-a-half times its nearest rival Congress, and greater than the entire INDIA alliance put together
  • Stability: With its NDA partners it still commands a clear majority and is geared to provide a strong and stable government
  • Results do not show any uniform trend across the country
  • BJP has suffered its biggest reverses from its LS 2019 tally, and overambitious LS 2024 targets, in the three largest states by way of seats – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal
  • At the same time, it has again swept Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Union Territory of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, adding Odisha to its near clean sweep
  • It also staged a near coup in the Odisha assembly elections, wresting the state after 24 long years of Naveen Patnaik’s BJD rule
  • It handsomely won, single-handedly or along with other NDA partners – all the three other states – Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim – which went into assembly elections simultaneously in various phases of the LS elections
  • The election results shut the mouths of the Opposition, which cried itself hoarse with persistent allegations of manipulation of EVMs

The results of the bitterly fought and highly vitiated Lok Sabha elections 2024 would mighty please all those who sincerely wanted to support the Modi government, perceiving it to be strong and steering the country generally in the right direction, but were increasingly getting impatient with its dictatorial ways and failures, especially on the employment generation front.

Particularly disconcerting was the arrogance and scorn with which the saffron party, and its government, was treating the Opposition and trying to destroy it, by misusing its brute muscle power to achieve its political goals.

So, here’s the largest and most powerful political party in the country, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), weakened, with a tally short of a simple majority mark of 272 by itself (it has been reduced to 240 from 303 in 2019), and having to depend for the first time ever on its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners to form a government.

While still being branded as Modi 3.0 for the world, to convey the message of continuity and stability, nevertheless the government’s critical dependence on its allies for its very survival would likely compel it to uphold the coalition ‘dharma’ of consultation and consensus.

A stronger combined Opposition in the Lok Sabha (INDIA Alliance, as it stands today, has a strength of 234 in the 543-member House, as against ruling NDA’s comfortable majority of 293) will also make it difficult for the government to push through legislations without proper debate, as had been happening in the past.

Political discourse vitiated

The political discourse during the elections, which stooped to levels that shamed the Nation, with personal attacks, distortion of facts and statements, fake news flooding the social media, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi being himself guilty of not holding back below-the-belt punches, has left such bitterness in its wake that it is sure to show its ugly face in the coming weeks and months.

The resurgent Opposition can be expected not to lose any opportunity to attack the government on every issue with the aim of keeping its momentum going. The prospects of more acrimony and more disruptions in Parliament remain high.

The diminished numbers of the ruling alliance in the Lok Sabha will probably also pose a serious challenge to the Modi government in its bid for nationwide roll out of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and push through some of the remaining controversial legislations on its agenda.

Its speculated intent to reintroduce the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) bill, governing the appointment of Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court (SC), and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts (HCs), could also run into rough weather.

Onus on government for conciliation

Under the given circumstances, the onus will lie on the government to start on a conciliatory note, put on hold any controversial decisions or legislations for the time being, open the doors for consultation with the Opposition parties on crucial issues, and allow fair time for discussion and debate in Parliament.

The changed circumstances could also create an atmosphere congenial for various autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies and agencies to reassert their independent functioning. These prestigious institutions had run into serious controversies of late for allegedly succumbing to government pressures and pushing its partisan agendas, seriously jeopardising their role as independent and impartial watchdogs.

Hopefully, the judiciary will start playing a more proactive role than it has been doing in speedily upholding the rule of law and the constitution in letter and spirit. The alleged ‘godi’ or ‘Modi’ media might also be compelled by the winds of change to adopt a more balanced approach towards the government/ruling alliance and the Opposition in the larger National interests.

Opposition assertion hard to digest

Redeeming himself: Rahul Gandhi

At the same time, taking a critical and holistic view of the elections, it would be difficult to agree with the Opposition assertions that with the reverses suffered by the BJP from its 2019 performance, and its overambitious targets set for the 2024 elections, the saffron party and Prime Minister Modi have lost the mandate of the people and the moral right to govern.

This narrative quite evidently is aimed at fuelling doubts in the minds of the people regarding the stability of the Modi led NDA coalition government and keeping its hopes alive for a likely opportunity in the not-so-distant future.

With 240 seats, BJP continues to remain the largest political party by far, eclipsing its nearest rival the Indian National Congress (INC), which is yet to reach the century mark (though it has nearly doubled its tally to 99 from 52 in 2019, when it failed to even secure 10% of the total Lok Sabha seats required to claim the post of Leader of the Opposition).

The saffron party’s tally is also greater than the combined strength of the entire INDIA alliance (240 against 234). Its national vote share, despite falling marginally from 37.3 percent in 2019 to 36.6 percent in 2024, is also nearly double that of the Congress’ 21.20 percent.

No comparison with wave elections in 2014, 2019

Overall, the 2024 outcome for the BJP is not all that bad, as projected by the INDIA alliance, considering that while in both the previous elections – 2014 and 2019 – there was a distinct Modi wave (2014 for change, and 2019 on account of the Balakot air strike on a terror camp inside Pakistan in retaliation to an audacious terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama area of Jammu & Kashmir), there was none in the latest elections.

The party has made up for its reverses by breaking new ground, and along with its NDA allies handsomely winning assembly elections in all four states which went to polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.

Coup of sorts in Odisha

The saffron party staged a coup of sorts in Odisha, where it swept the Lok Sabha elections, winning 20 of the 21 seats, and bringing an end to the 24-year-old rule of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government with a thumping victory in the state assembly elections.

The centre of focus in NDA 3.0: Chandrababu Naidu

With Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by Chandrababu Naidu back in the NDA fold, together with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party, the three alliance partners swept the Lok Sabha polls in Andhra Pradesh, winning 21 of the 25 seats from the state, and registering a landslide win in the state assembly elections to dislodge YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP from power.

BJP’s another NDA partner Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) won the lone Lok Sabha seat in Sikkim and scripted a landslide victory in the state assembly polls to consolidate its hold in the state.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP won both Lok Sabha seats and retained power with an overwhelming victory in the state assembly elections.

The ruling BJP also held sway in Assam, winning 9 of the 14 seats, with the Congress settling for 3.

Overall, in the eight North eastern states of Assam, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram, most of which have one or two seats because of sparse population, BJP won 13. The Congress tally of seven included both the seats in strife-torn Manipur, one each wrested from the BJP and its ally.

Keep me out of this! ‘Ram Lalla’s’ divine message!

Played his cards well: Akhilesh Yadav (right)

While BJP was able to maintain its hegemony in states like Madhya Pradesh (29 out of 29), Gujarat (25 out of 26), Himachal Pradesh (4 out of 4), Uttarakhand (5 out of 5) and the Union territory of Delhi (7 out of 7) during the Lok Sabha elections 2024, its biggest setback came from the state it had taken for granted for being the highest grosser to its national tally, Uttar Pradesh.

It’s tally in the state, which has the highest number of seats (80) in the country, nearly halved from a high of 62 seats in 2019 to 37, with a drastic fall in its vote share as well, from 49.6% to 41.4%.

Here Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), which spearheaded the INDIA alliance with its partner INC, outsmarted the ruling BJP-led alliance in social engineering by galvanising the non-Yadav OBCs, Dalits and minorities behind the alliance with its narrative that in aiming for 400-par for NDA, the BJP had a hidden agenda of subverting the Constitution and withdrawing the reservations for Dalits and OBCs.

In its overconfidence, following the perceived groundswell of popular support for the party over the ‘pran pratishtha’ of ‘Ram Lalla’ at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the BJP and its allies failed to counter this narrative and paid such a heavy price that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider himself lucky to have managed a third term from Varanasi, by a margin less than one-third of the 4.79 lakh victory margin in 2019.

In contrast, his arch-rival and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi won handsomely by 3.90 lakh votes from Rae Bareli, a seat vacated by his mother and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi. The contrast in their victory margins was made even more stark by the fact that Rahul Gandhi decided to contest from a second seat, after Wayanad in Kerala, at the nick of time on the last day of filing nomination papers.

The shocking results for the party in the state also sunk the giant killer of the 2019 elections, Union minister Smriti Irani, who had then defeated Rahul Gandhi in the earlier Congress bastion of Amethi by 55,000 votes. Seeking re-election to the seat, Smriti in her arrogance kept challenging Rahul Gandhi to a rematch but was tamed by a first-time contestant and Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma, losing by 1.5 lakh votes.

In a near horror finish, the BJP could not defend the Ayodhya turf as well. It lost the Faizabad seat, which encompasses Ayodhya, to the Samajwadi Party by a margin of nearly 55,000 votes.

The INDIA alliance was also by far the largest beneficiary of the slide in vote share of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) from 19.2% in 2019, when it was in alliance with the SP and won 10 seats, to 9.39 % in 2024 when it contested alone all 80 seats in the state but could not win a single.

Bad politics in Maha

The real men in Maharashtra: Sharad Pawar (left) and Uddhav Thackeray

Maharashtra, another big state with 48 seats, proved to be BJP’s undoing due to its bad politics. The unpopular way in which the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance government of Shiv Sena, National Congress Party (NCP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) was dethroned by engineering break-ups in the two regional parties and having their election symbols snatched from them, apparently created a sympathy wave in favour of the alliance. As a result, MVA got the better of the ruling Mahayuti alliance of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, Ajit Pawar’s NCP and the BJP by 30 seats to 17.

Citadel unscathed despite unrelenting attacks: Mamata Banerjee (left)

Among other setbacks to the BJP’s targets was West Bengal, the state with the third highest number of seats (42), where it was expected to make major inroads into the Mamata Banerjee citadel, but lost ground instead. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo weathered the Sandeshkhali storm and the numerous corruption charges against her government to improve the party’s Lok Sabha tally from 22 seats in 2019 to 29 seats, with the BJP reduced to 12 seats, down by six seats from 2019, and INC squeezing in one seat.

Apart from Uttar Pradesh, the BJP suffered reverses in other Hindi heartland states like Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana as well.

Man of all seasons: Nitish Kumar (left)

In Bihar, the resurrected NDA alliance comprising the BJP, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Bilas) and others, though it triumphed the INDIA Alliance 30 to 9 seats, fell short of its tally of 39 out of the 40 seats in 2019. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejaswi Yadav failed to weave the same magic for the INDIA alliance in the state as Akhilesh Yadav did in adjoining Uttar Pradesh even though the alliance had much higher hopes from Bihar.

Things also did not work out well for the BJP in Rajasthan, where it lost 11 seats from its 2014 and 2019 landslide of 25 out of 25 seats despite wresting the state from the Congress in the assembly elections just seven months ago.

In Haryana, the resurgent Congress led by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda sliced off half of the 10 on 10 BJP tally in 2019, compelling the BJP government, with a new chief minister, to scramble in view of the assembly elections around the corner in October.

Warning bells for Cong in Karnataka

The saffron party received eight seats less than its 2019 tally of 25 out of 28 in Karnataka, when it was in power in the state. But the 19 seats the BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance won this time, despite the Congress having stormed back to power in the state with a massive mandate in the May 2023 assembly elections, has sent shock waves in the grand old party. The stark message is that its various welfare schemes have not resonated well with the electorate.

Among other southern states, the BJP doubled its tally in Telangana, matching the ruling Congress’ performance with eight seats.

In adjoining Andhra Pradesh, the re-stitched NDA alliance led by Chandrababu Nadu’s TDP swept the polls, winning 21 of the 25 seats, decimating the ruling YSRCP led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (4 seats) and the INDIA alliance, which drew a blank. Among the NDA partners, TDP won 16 seats, BJP three (it drew a blank in the 2019 polls) and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party won two seats.

In the backdrop of former chief minister and ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM’s) executive president Hemant Soren’s arrest in a corruption case, the BJP suffered a backlash from the tribal communities and lost all five Lok Sabha seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand.

Having won 12 out of 14 seats in the state in 2014 and 2019, the BJP and its alliance partner All Jharkhand Students Union Party (AJSUP) bagged three fewer seats this time (BJP 8, AJSUP 1) with the JMM-INC alliance gaining as many, to take their tally to five (JMM 3, INC 2). The state goes into assembly elections in six months.

This is in sharp contrast to BJP’s performance in another tribal dominated state Chhattisgarh, where it won 10 out of the 11 seats months after it won the assembly elections and made a tribal the chief minister.

A foothold in Kerala

The BJP created history by opening its account in Kerala. Its celebrity candidate, veteran actor Suresh Gopi, avoiding a hardline Hindutva agenda and pursuing a liberal campaign, made a giant kill in central Kerala constituency of Thrissur, defeating his nearest opponent from Communist Party of India (CPI) by nearly 75,00 votes. Congress stalwart K Muraleedharan was relegated to the third spot on his home turf.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) swept the polls, winning 18 of the 20 seats.

However, despite a strong push, the saffron party with its alliance partner S Ramadoss’ PMK failed to open its account in Tamil Nadu. The ruling DMK along with other INDIA alliance constituents, including the Congress, made a clean sweep of all 39 seats in the state and the lone seat in the Union territory of Puducherry.

Warring Omar, Mehbooba suffer personal defeats

The first Lok Sabha elections, held after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two independent Union territories, saw two big guns, both former chief ministers, fall silent.

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JK-NC) Vice President Omar Abdullah lost to independent candidate and former MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid, also called Engineer Rashid, in Baramullah. Rashid is currently incarcerated in Tihar jail in a terrorism funding case.

Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JK-PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti fell to JK-NC candidate Mian Altaf Ahmed in Anantnag-Rajouri.

The third seat in the Kashmir region, Srinagar, was also bagged by JK-NC.

BJP did not put up any candidate in the region. It won both the seats in the Jammu region – Jammu and Udhampur.

The INDIA alliance, which also included the Congress, fell apart in the state after Farooq Abdullah’s JK-NC and Mehbooba’s JK-PDP failed to agree on a seat-sharing deal, resulting in the two regional parties putting up candidates against each other in all three seats in the Kashmir region.

Both parties supported the Congress in the two seats in Jammu region, but the grand old party could not open its account.

Agitating Ladakh choses independent

The incumbent BJP suffered an expected defeat in the lone seat in the Union territory of Ladakh, becoming a casualty of the protracted agitation in favour of the demand for Sixth Schedule rights for Ladakh to protect its fragile ecosystem and restoration of its statehood.

The main contest in the largest Lok Sabah constituency in the country, with a spread of 1,73,266 sq kms but with just 1.82 laakh voters, was expected to be between the BJP and the Congress, but eventually an independent candidate and a ‘haji’ from Muslim-dominated Kargil area, Mohammad Hanifa Jaan emerged victorious, defeating his immediate Congress rival with a comfortable margin. Haji is associated with the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) which joined the agitation spearheaded by environmental activist and Ramon Magsasay award winner Sonam Wangchuk.

AAP among biggest losers

Among the biggest losers in the elections has been the embattled Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Though it increased its strength in the Lok Sabha from one in 2019 to three this time, its dream for a clean sweep in the two states it governs – in alliance with its INDIA partner in Delhi (4-3 seat sharing formula in favour of AAP) and singularly in Punjab – stands shattered.

While its top leadership, including party supremo & Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, being in jail in a money laundering case associated with the Delhi liquor policy may have been one of the major factors for the ‘jharu’ party’s disappointing performance in Delhi, the incident of alleged beating up of party’s Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal at the Chief Minister’s official residence by his trusted associate while the chief minister was on bail for electioneering also slurred the party’s image.

Similarly in Punjab, from where it won its three seats, the party’s confidence of grabbing all 13 seats was shattered by the Congress’ unexpectedly impressive showing with seven seats. The two seats won by Sikh hardliners, including a jailed ‘Khalistani’ activist, should also serve as a warning signal for the Bhagwant Singh Mann led AAP government which needs to urgently take strong and decisive steps to address the simmering extremism in the border state.

Earlier in a byelection, necessitated by the resignation of Bhagwant Mann as Member of Parliament from Sangrur following the AAP’s landslide victory in the 2022 assembly elections in the state and his ascendancy as chief minister, another Sikh hardliner Simranjeet Singh Mann of the Akali Dal (A) had surprisingly been elected MP from the seat. AAP wrested back the seat this time.

Giving credit where it’s due

Jumbo council of ministers: Modi 3.0 after the swearing-in ceremony

The BJP’s compulsion of forming a coalition government for the first time with the help of its NDA partners, following the electoral reverses suffered by it, can be compared to market corrections in stocks.

Narendra Damodardas Modi cannot be denied credit for emulating India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s feat in 1962 of being sworn-in as head of government for a third consecutive full five-year term.

Given that the BJP still is the goliath that dwarfs its allies, the transition from a single party government to an alliance government has been rather smooth, with none of the hectic and arm-twisting prolonged bargaining that goes with coalition government formation.

Two berths each for the two largest partners – Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP with 16 LS seats and Nitish Kumar’s JDU with 12 LS seats – and 11 berths in all for all allies in Modi’s 72-strong jumbo council of ministers appears to have satisfied all sides, at least for the time being.

The allocation of portfolios has also not kicked up any controversies within the NDA even through Prime Minister has retained the core ministries like Defence, Home, Road Transport & Highways, Health, Agriculture, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Commerce & Industry, Petroleum & Natural Gas, Education, Railways, etc. with the largest ruling party.

To signal continuity, he has allocated these portfolios to the same ministers as in Modi 2.0, barring Agriculture, which goes to former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and Health, to which outgoing party president JP Nadda returns after his Modi 1.0 innings at the helm of the ministry.

Some of the immediate tasks ahead

  • Shedding the path of confrontation, and adopting one of consultation and consensus
  • Doubling down on efforts to find an amicable solution to the burning more-than-yearlong Meitei-Kuki ethnic strife in the Northeastern state of Manipur, which has claimed scores of lives and resulted in displacement of hundreds. Despite its complete failure the BJP-led N Biren Singh government continues in office, and PM Modi’s absolute silence on the issue is worrying.  Had it not been a BJP-led government, it would probably have been dismissed by now. This has raised serious questions over the government’s political will to quell the violence.
  • Negotiating an early and lasting solution to the belligerent farmers’ agitation by restoring mutual trust and returning to the table with clean hands and an open mind; finding a balance between the farmers’ and the country’s long-term interests
  • Chalking out a clear roadmap for targeted skilling and re-skilling of the workforce on a massive scale keeping emerging trends in mind, and taking focussed and determined steps to ensure accelerated employment generation
  • Removing the flaws in the ‘agniveer’ scheme of recruitment to the armed forces in the wake of its nationwide opposition in its current form. The process is already under way and bearing finalisation.
  • Not appeasing or alienating entire communities, but building trust through persistent and constructive engagement with them
  • Greater focus on education, health and environmental protection; massively scaling up the nationwide monitoring and regulatory apparatus for guaranteeing pollution-free air and water, and adulteration-free food and drugs
  • Continue to strengthen the government’s efforts and initiatives in the civil and defence fields to achieve the goal of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’
  • Keep exploring opportunities for improving ties with neighbouring countries, especially India’s hostile relations with Pakistan, China and Maldives with new approaches

 

Kangana Embroiled In Another Controversy; Claims Woman CISF Official Hit Her At Chandigarh Airport

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Video grab from Kangana Ranaut's X account
The woman CISF official was reportedly angry over Kangana’s past disparaging remarks against women participants in the longstanding farmers’ agitation

Actor-turned-politician Kangna Ranaut’s keeps getting dragged into controversies because of her social media outbursts on a diverse range of issues and developments, especially her strong personal seemingly nationalistic views.

She got embroiled in another controversy on Thursday when she alleged that a woman constable of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) apparently from Punjab, deployed at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chandigarh International Airport, hit her on the face and verbally abused her apparently without any immediate provocation.

Kangana, who recently won the Lok Sabha elections from Mandi constituency in Himachal Pradesh on the BJP ticket, is reported to have arrived at the airport to board a flight for Delhi to attend a party meeting.

In a video shared on her X account, Kangra claimed that the incident reportedly happened when she was coming out of a cabin after a routine security check. She alleged that a woman CISF official from an adjoining cabin moved close to her, hit her on the face and started hurling verbal abuses at her.

She claimed that when she asked the woman CISF official why she did that, the official asserted that she supports the farmers’ protests.

“I am safe, but my concern is that the terrorism and extremism which is breeding in Punjab, how to tackle that,” she remarked.

The woman CISF official, later identified as Kulwinder Kaur, was reportedly angry over Kangana’s past disparaging remarks against women participants in the longstanding farmers’ agitation shared on her X account along with a picture of some women protestors which she later deleted.

The official has reportedly been placed under suspension with immediate effect and a departmental inquiry initiated into Kangana,s claims.

On reaching Delhi, Kangana is reported to have lodged a complaint with CISF director general Nina Singh.

This is a developing story, and the facts of the matter will become clearer after further investigation by the CISF authorities.

Question-Mark Over Functioning Of EVMs: First Hand Account By Polling Agent Of Opposition Candidate

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Greater awareness of digital footprint of vote polled on VVPAT unit raised voter confidence

Manipulation of electronic voting machines (EVMs) to alter the outcome of elections at various levels has been an oft repeated charge by the Opposition parties whenever they lose the battle to win the people’s mandate, and its echo is only getting louder.

So, when an opportunity came to volunteer as a polling agent of Manish Tewari, the joint Congress, AAP and INDIA alliance candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, for one of the polling booths in the southern sectors, I grabbed it with both hands.

Having already had a taste of contesting the 2021 Municipal Corporation Chandigarh (MCC) general elections as a candidate of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which in its very first foray, quite unexpectedly emerged as the largest party in the 35 member House, I was keen to closely observe the proceedings inside of a polling booth and try to figure out how the EVM could be manipulated, at least at the booth level.

So, on D-day (June 1), after collecting my authorisation letter and voters’ lists etc. from the temporary local office of the Congress party, here I was reporting to the presiding officer for the specific polling booth exactly at 5 a.m., as instructed by the local election in-charge of the party.

The presiding officer was ready for duty but other polling officers were still getting ready (there were tell tale signs of the entire four-member polling party having slept the night on the floor in the polling booth itself with only fans to help them beat the oppressive heat wave sweeping the region and the mosquitoes). The presiding officer asked me to come back at 5:30 a.m., which I did. Eventually polling agents of only two candidates reported to the presiding officer (the other representing BJP candidate Sanjay Tandon).

We were both allowed to match the serial numbers of the three machines being used – the control unit, the twin voting machines with 20 voting options, including one for NOTA (none of the above), and the VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) unit.

Mock voting & paper trail

Following this the entire setup was completed and the mock voting exercise was undertaken with both of us polling agents taking turns to press the button against each of the 20 options to complete the mandatory 50 mock votes. We were witness to the paper trail of each of the mock vote polled dropping into the box compartment of the VVPAT unit.

All these paper slips were also shown to us for further confirmation. The mock polling was then officially closed from the control unit. Thereafter, the total number of mock votes polled (50) flashed on the display screen of the control unit, followed by the number of votes polled against each of the 20 options, including NOTA.

On satisfactory conclusion of the mock voting drill, the control unit and the VVPAT unit were duly sealed under our watchful eyes. The twin voting units were already sealed.

The setup was again readied for the actual voting, which began dot on time at 7 a.m.

I sat in the polling booth right through the entire polling process. My BJP counterpart, however, took a few hours break in-between by availing the services of a ‘relief agent’ only to return late afternoon to oversee closure of voting at 6 p.m.

Thereafter, the polling officers displayed on the control unit the number of total votes polled to match with our own count, which we confirmed. They also gave us a break-up of number of male and female voters before again sealing all the three machines in their respective boxes.

Total number of votes polled, out of 1069 votes assigned to the polling booth, were 670, making it 62.68% voting percentage. Female voters (357) outnumbered their male counterparts (313) by 44.

All nature of voters on sultry day

On an expectedly sultry day, with intermittent clouds and wind providing some respite, we got to meet and interact with all nature of people, men and women, young and old, some very old and frail needing constant assistance, and some very enthusiastic first time voters.

Despite braving the high 40s temperature, there were many optimists who joked and laughed with others to while away their time while waiting in long queues in the first half of the long polling hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. which saw bulk of the polling.

There were also not-so-optimistic people, some blaming the politicians for all the ills of the country and airing their intent to press the ‘NOTA’ button, the last of the 20 options on the twin EVMs, and others rubbishing the entire voting process through EVMs as “farcical”.

An odd angry young man was even heard saying that he will demand of the polling staff to give him a paper trail as proof of him having availed his voting option. There were no voices of support. But when he did vote, and apparently saw the digital trail of his vote on the VVPAT unit before the beep sounded, he left not so angry, though not exactly smiling.

Anger over slow pace of voting, reasons thereof

The voting process was taking its own time, with on an average one minute being spent on each voter, leaving the voters waiting in long queues, separately for ladies and gents, agitated.

After satisfying us two polling agents that a voter bearing a certain voter number had come to the right polling booth and has not already cast his or her vote (this took just a few seconds), each voter subsequently went through two poll officers sitting next to each other to verify antecedents before he or she was allowed to vote.

There were also delays in the process of verification due to various reasons. Voters, especially the elderly and the unfamiliar, were taking time to understand how and when to press their desired button on the EVMs and how to confirm that the vote had indeed been recorded. Watching this happening quite often, an initiative was taken to brief voters inside the booth and those waiting outside about what to expect and do on approaching the voting and VVPAT units. This helped hasten the process a bit.

There were scores of cases of voters being flagged in the voters’ list for not being found at their voter addresses during the process of verification of their residence status by election officials. These cases required intervention by the presiding officer of the polling booth, who cleared them for voting after taking a signed written undertaking from them along with their thumb impression.

A lot of voters were carrying mobiles, despite these being prohibited inside the polling centre/booth, and insisting on showing digital proof of identity, which the poll officers quite obviously declined to accept because of the prohibition on carrying mobiles.

Not carrying voter slips

There were also a few very casual voters, who did not carry their voter slips (mentioning their voter number) to the polling booth. We, as polling agents, were required to verify their voter numbers from the voters’ list with the help of their residential address, again a time consuming exercise.

One senior citizen, who was requested to go get the voter slips which he claimed to have forgotten in his car, started flaunting the high positions held by several of his family members to impress on us to trace their voter numbers from the voter lists. Half a dozen of his family members were voting at the polling booth. Not inclined to oblige the overbearing voter, we still did, considering the oppressive heat, but at the cost of precious time being wasted and holding up others in the queue.

Keeping bubbly little girls happy

Some of the bright and bubbly little girls, mostly accompanying their mothers, insisted on voting too. To make them happy, the obliging polling officers put an indelible ink mark on their finger too and allowed them to accompany their mothers to the twin EVMs to vote.

All in all, despite the heat and the sweat, it indeed was a worthwhile learning and engrossing experience interacting with all nature of people.

Suggested Key Learnings For Election Commission of India

  • Look after the polling staff much better by vastly improving their working and living conditions, which are currently pathetic, to say the least
  • Relook at basic amenities for the voters at polling centres especially in inhospitable weather conditions like the oppressive heat wave this time around
  • Need to further cut down on paperwork and  equip the polling officers with more digital tools to speed up the process of voting
  • Aggressively keep exploring the possibilities of shifting the entire electoral process online, with a view to making it a reality some day in the future

Who Will Win Chandigarh Seat In Lok Sabha 2024? Will ‘Mayorgate’ Sink BJP!

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The infamous 'Mayorgate' image of an anxious presiding officer glancing at a CCTV camera (File photo)

The centrally administered territory has traditionally been going with the party perceived to be winning at the Centre

One would expect that the infamous ‘Mayorgate’ pictures of the ruling BJP-imposed presiding officer anxiously glancing at a CCTV camera while blatantly indulging in cheating to reverse an imminent party defeat during the process of counting of votes in the tense mayoral elections in Chandigarh, which sullied the centrally administered territory’s fair name as a beautiful and well planned city, should be enough grounds for the voting population to reject the saffron party in the June 1 Lok Sabha polls, but the seemingly done thing is not over just yet.

With the window for campaigning officially closing on Thursday (May 30) evening, the fate of the two main candidates in the fray, who have slugged it out in sweltering heat wave conditions, hangs in the balance.

Sanjay Tandon (left) and Manish Tewari

Both candidates – incumbent BJP’s Sanjay Tandon (60) and Congress candidate Manish Tewari (58), who is representing the INDIA alliance and is aggressively being supported by the bloc’s other major constituent, the AAP – are claiming overwhelming support of the electorate.

Amidst the heat wave, campaigning from both sides has largely remained confined to the mornings and evenings. Both sides have had their national heavyweights joining their respective campaigns with well-attended rallies.

While the candidates have remained confined to small neighbourhood get-togethers in the city area, and some larger gatherings in the villages and colonies, it has largely been left to the rank and file of the respective parties to make the door-to-door effort, whatever has been possible in the heat.

Both candidates have faced their fair share of opposition from within their parties. Both sides have also been actively indulging in ‘breaking’ dissatisfied leaders from each others’ camps in an apparent effort to portray their rising acceptability by the electorate. How much of these crossovers actually translate into transfer of votes is anybody’s guess.

Being a centrally administered territory (Union territory), Chandigarh is heavily dependent on the central government for just about everything, including its development financing and framing of laws, which need Parliamentary approvals. No wonder then that barring an odd occasion, the electorate in Chandigarh has voted for the party perceived to be forming the government at the Centre.

The odd exceptions, as per available records, have been Srichand Goyal of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (now BJP) way back in 1967 after Indira Gandhi of the Congress took over as India’s first woman Prime Minister in 1966, and Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal, who won a second term in the Lok Sabha in 1999 when the BJP emerged as the largest single party and formed a national government with the support of other parties.

Bansal won two more consecutive elections in 2004 and 2009 (his 3rd and 4th term in the Lok Sabha) when the Congress party led UPA governments with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The Congress stalwart was however swept away by the Modi wave in 2014 and 2019, losing to actor-turned-politician Kirron Kher, who was ‘parachuted’ to Chandigarh by the party in 2014.

‘Outsider’ tag

Though Kirron Kher, grew up and completed her education in Chandigarh, she was branded a ‘parachute’ candidate because of her long absence from Chandigarh while pursuing her acting career in Mumbai.

By the same arguement, the current Congress-INDIA alliance candidate Manish Tewari, although he was born and brought up in Chandigarh and started his political career here, is being attacked by the BJP as an ‘outsider’ since he has been pursuing his higher politics and career as a Supreme Court lawyer largely while being based out of the National capital.

Starting his student politics from a local college and then graduating to a higher level as national president of the students and youth wings of the Congress under the patronage of Rajiv Gandhi after the assassination by terrorists of his father VN Tewari, a Congress Rajya Sabha member, in Chandigarh just before Operation Bluestar in 1984, Manish Tewari had all along been seeking to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Chandigarh, but his efforts were frustrated each time because of the sway Pawan Kumar Bansal has held over the Chandigarh affairs of the party all these years.

But during this period, Tewari, who held various important positions within the party, including that of its National spokesman, and in the government as Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, managed to win the party nominations to contest from Punjab constituencies located around Chandigarh.

He was first fielded from Ludhiana Lok Sabha constituency in 2004, an election he lost to SAD-BJP candidate Sharanjit Singh Dhillon in a three-cornered contest. In his second attempt he won the seat in 2009, skipped the 2014 elections and won from Anandpur Sahib, a constituency which shares a border with Chandigarh, in 2019 (is incumbent MP).

Now that finally the party high command has picked him over the veteran leader Bansal, matching a younger BJP candidate with a younger candidate of its own, Tewari is apparently under pressure to make the opportunity count.

The AAP factor

As a representative of the INDIA bloc, he has the cushion of support from a resurgent AAP, which surprisingly emerged as the largest single party in the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh elections held in 2021 in its very first foray and has since wrested the Mayor’s post from the BJP with the help of the Congress after the Supreme Court overturned a fraudulent election result earlier this year.

After several rounds of floor crossing by councilors from different parties since the 2021 General House elections, the AAP and Congress currently have a collective strength of 20 councillors in the 35-member House. Though the electorate votes differently in a National election compared to a local election, Manish Tewari is banking heavily on these elected representatives to provide him lead from their respective wards.

He also seemingly has the added advantage of BJP’s huge loss of face due to the recent mayoral election misadventure, and the long absences from, and neglect of the constituency by incumbent BJP MP Kirron Kher, resulting in the Union territory plummeting from the top 5 in the national swachhta rankings (though some lost ground has been recovered in the latest assessment).

Debate challenge

Drawing strength from his long years of experience as a parliamentarian, a Union minister and as a National spokesman of his party, Tewari has been persistently challenging his main rival Tandon, a first time Lok Sabha candidate, to a public debate on local, national and international issues from any neutral non-partisan platform.

Tandon, who has headed the Chandigarh unit of the party for 10 long years and run the election campaigns for his party in several states, has steadfastly avoided taking on the challenge and posed a counterchallenge to Tewari to explain his shifting political playgrounds – from Ludhiana to Anandpur Sahib to Chandigarh – and asking him where next after Chandigarh.

Tandon more grounded in Chandigarh

To his advantage, Sanjay Tandon, son of a BJP stalwart Balramji Das Tandon, who started his political innings as a Sangh pracharak and later remained deputy chief minister and minister in several SAD-Jana Sangh/BJP governments in Punjab, and later governor of Chhattisgarh, has been more grounded in Chandigarh as compared to Tewari, who most times was away to Delhi and hence not rooted in the Union territory.

More recently, during the Covid pandemic Tandon, a chartered accountant and cost accountant by training, was at the vanguard of efforts by the party and an NGO run by him to organize food packets for vulnerable sections of the population and blood donation camps for Covid patients.

More organised campaign

The BJP and Sangh cadres also appear to be more organized and coordinated in their campaigning as compared to the largely individualistic efforts of the Congress and AAP leaders and workers at the grassroots level.

Will Modi resonate?

As in the case of previous two Lok Sabha elections, when BJP candidate Kirron Kher was banking heavily on the Modi factor to tilt the scales in favour of the party, Sanjay Tandon is also hoping that Modi will once again resonate in the electorate. The difference this time, however, is that there is no wave in favour of Modi, and his personal charisma is on the wane. Modi has also skipped Chandigarh in Lok Sabha 2024 elections while campaigning for the party in neighbouring Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

With apprehensions rising of a low voter turnout in the highly urban constituency due to the intense heat wave, parties are concerned which way the tide will turn in such an eventuality on D-day (June 1). Voting will take place on June 1, Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vote we must before proceeding on our planned weekend outings, if any, to maintain the good health of our cherished democracy. It is our right, as well as responsibility.

ENJOY THE VOTING!

 

Next-Gen Manufacturing Must; Prudence Advised At CII Chandigarh Forum

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Mangal Dev, Head - Hitachi Rail Systems (India & South Asia) and Director - Hitachi India Pvt Ltd, delivering the keynote address during the inaugural session of the ‘Next-Gen Manufacturing Forum 2024’, organized by CII Chandigarh on Thursday (23.05.2024)

 

Industry leaders, experts and innovators at ‘Next-Gen Manufacturing Forum 2024’, organized by CII Chandigarh on Thursday (23.05.2024), were one in emphasizing that adoption of Industry 4.0 is absolutely necessary for the industry to survive and thrive, but cautioned that adoption of new technologies and processes should be well thought through and done in critical processes in which technology will make a real difference.

The forum, with the theme ‘Unleashing Manufacturing Potential through Technological Breakthroughs,’ held at the CII Northern Region Headquarters in Chandigarh, highlighted the crucial role of Industry 4.0 technologies in transforming India’s manufacturing sector into a global leader. Keynote speakers and panelists shared valuable insights and experiences on how emerging technologies can drive growth, efficiency, and competitiveness in manufacturing.

 In his keynote address during the inaugural session focused on ‘Exploring the Boundless Potential of Technology in Industry Expansion, Mangal Dev, Head – Hitachi Rail Systems (India & South Asia) and Director – Hitachi India Pvt Ltd, stressed the need for MSMEs to integrate modern technologies and processes to increase efficiencies and global competitiveness. If India is to become a global hub for manufacturing, then MSMEs will have to play a crucial role. They should be able to directly access the global markets without the involvement of middle layers, he added.

Impressing on the need for skilling and re-skilling the work force in the country, he said value addition per capita is very important to drive sustainable growth. Here India is lagging behind countries like China, USA, Japan and Germany, he observed.

Abhijit A Nanoti, Conference Chairman & MD, Indian Steel & Wires Ltd (a subsidiary of Tata Steel), talked about the need to engrain smart manufacturing into the DNA of every organization so that efficiencies and productivity can be improved along with achieving international standards of quality and economies of scale for global competitiveness.

He gave the example of the success of the toy industry in China, where efficient toy-making machines were mass produced and toy-makers were encouraged to scale up leading to economies of scale and reasonably affordable price of toys.

 V Ramachandran, Conference Co-Chairman and Director & Chief Operating Officer, V Guard Industries Ltd, focussed on the need for developing and strengthening digital supply chains and standardising operating systems on the shop floor for optimum outcomes.

Moderating Session I with the theme ‘From Legacy Systems to Smart Factories: Implementing Industry 4.0 Solutions in Manufacturing’, Pallab Kumar Dutta, Managing Director, Accenture Consulting, said the world is transitioning from instant decision making to data-driven decision making. He informed that a recent study undertaken by Accenture had revealed that the maturity level in adoption of Industry 4.0 received a big push during the pandemic, increasing from 40% to 50%. But, at the say time, the study also highlighted the large gap in its adoption between the MSMEs and the big companies.

Yatinder Nath, Plant Head, Mahindra & Mahindra (Swaraj Tractor Division), participating in the session on the theme ‘From Legacy Systems to Smart Factories: Implementing Industry 4.0 Solutions in Manufacturing’ in the Next-Gen Manufacturing Forum 2024’, organized by CII Chandigarh on Thursday (23.05.2024)

Participating in the session, Yatinder Nath, Plant Head, Mahindra & Mahindra (Swaraj Tractor Division) shared his company’s own experience to say that as volumes increase and various variants within tractor models increase, the complexities of managing the hundreds of components on the shop floor also increase substantially, necessitating assisted manufacturing.

Ashok Kumar, Director, Deloitte Touche Tomatsu India LLP, highlighted the track and trace process to keep a tab of the thousands of components which go into the making of electronic products to keep costs involved in fulfilling the warranties under check. If such track and trace processes are not employed, false warranty claims and litigations can play havoc with the warranty off takes of the manufacturing companies, he added.

Another panelist, Karan Vasa, Director, Contech Power Products Pvt Ltd, an energy efficiency start-up, gave the example of a chemical plant client, which achieved a 9 % reduction in energy consumption with the deployment of a machine learning algorithm and use of sensors and energy management system.

Sharing an experience of a large automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Nishant Kumar, Pre-sales Head – Digital Manufacturing, Siemens Digital Industries Software, said with the integration of a planning & scheduling system, the materials manager of the large factory was able to more efficiently manage the inventory of various materials, which otherwise was a chaotic exercise.

Dwelled on issues of maintenance of machinery raised during the session, the panelists informed the audience about the availability of affordable predictive sensors which can detect in advance when a machine is expected to go sick so that proactively measures can be initiated for its maintenance. Then there are also sensors which can monitor the quality of parts, components being manufactured.

Addressing the various concerns of the audience regarding modernization of processes, automation, induction of technology etc, the panelists informed that technology adoption is not as expensive any more, as is generally apprehended. The only consideration for success is that technology adoption has to be well thought out, whole-hearted and executed within defined tight timelines. Getting stuck in pilot projects is not an option, they added.

Among other points highlighted by the panelists were that MSMEs should not be afraid of failures in the process of upgradation of technologies, but rather be prepared to learnt lessons in midway appraisals and make course corrections.

Regarding the concerns of the workforce in the adoption of modern technology, the panelists suggested that the workforce likely to be rendered redundant should be reassured that it will be re-skilled and suitably redeployed.

In Session II, on the topic ‘Charting the Path of Excellence: Overcoming Challenges, Building Capabilities in Smart Manufacturing and Cyber Security’, moderated by Shabal Goel, Vice President, Avalon Consulting, reference was made to a recent study which has estimated that India needs to create 115 million jobs by 2030 to be able to accommodate the rapidly growing new entrants into the job market. A large part of this huge ask has to be fulfilled by the services and manufacturing sector, it was highlighted.

In the process of technology induction, the panelists advised the MSMEs to draw up a clear short, medium and long term roadmap. In the implementation stage, feedback needs to be taken at regular intervals for any corrective actions that may be required.

The MSMEs were also given tips like initiating small and simple steps with focused business objectives in the modernization process, and not attempt too much too soon. Since these small and medium enterprises are very conscious about the costs involved and possible hidden expenditure, these manufacturing units would be well advised to identify critical processes in which technology will make a real difference.

The panelists in this session included Pradeep Naik, Head – Business Strategy (Oil & Gas) Tata Communication Ltd; Taranjeet Bhamra, Vice Chairman, CII Chandigarh and CEO & Founder, Agnext Technologies Pvt Ltd; Rakesh Atre, Associate Vice President, Munjal Showa; Kunal Mehta, Global Product Owner Digital & Data Platforms, Kimberly Clark; Dr Pushpendra P Singh, Dean (R&D), Project Director (iHub –AWaDH), IIT Ropar; Ashit Saxena, Partner – Supply Chain & Operations, PwC India; and Raghav Grover, Director of Strategy, JREW Engineering Ltd.

 

Chopper Crash, Which Killed Iranian President Raisi, Kicks Up Intriguing Questions

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Rescuers at the site of the Bell 212 helicopter crash which killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi
The American made civilian Bell 212 helicopter was several decades old; Company discontinued production in late 1990s; long list of Heads of State/Govt to perish in air crashes

The crash of the decades old twin-rotor blade twin-engine Bell 212 helicopter, in which the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed along with the country’s foreign minister and six others, has thrown up some intriguing questions which have become the subject for a worldwide debate among experts.

The actual facts would emerge only after a time-consuming high-level commission of inquiry ordered by the Iranian authorities. But among the most glaring observations is how the authorities in the Islamic state could risk ferrying two of the highest ranking politicians in the country together in a decades old civilian aircraft, which stopped commercial production as early as in the late 1990s. As per protocols followed worldwide, heads of state and government travel by military aircraft.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash

According to the Iranian state media, others travelling with the President, apart from Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, were Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province Governor Malek Rahmati, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative to East Azerbaijan, a couple of security officials, besides the pilots.

Raisi’s helicopter in a convoy with two other choppers was flying back to the Iranian provincial capital of Tabriz, the largest city in the mountainous northwestern region of Iran, from the Iranian-Azerbaijanian border, where a cooperative dam project between the two countries was inaugurated jointly by Raisi and his Azerbaijanian counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

The convoy is reported to have hit foggy and rainy weather, which unexpectedly developed around the mountain range. While the other two helicopters landed safely in Tabriz, the Iranian President’s aircraft went missing, and after several hours of search and rescue operations, hampered by extreme bad weather, the wreckage of the helicopter and all eight bodies, including of the pilots, were located and recovered.

The several hours taken to locate the site of the crash has also raised questions over the Iranian government’s preparedness and lack of technology to undertake search and rescue missions in remote and rugged terrain and in extreme bad weather conditions.

Eventually, as per the Turkish Defence Ministry, the site of the crash was first located with the help of an Akinci UAV and a Cougar-type helicopter with night vision and heat-sensing capability sent by the Turkish government on receiving a request from the Iranian authorities.

According to a report by CNN, even before the Iranian authorities ordered a high level commission of inquiry into the crash, Iran’s former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif laid the blame at America’s door. The channel quoted the former minister as having told Iran’s state TV that, “One of the causes of this heart-breaking incident is the United States, which by sanctioning the sale of the aviation industry to Iran caused the martyrdom of the president and his companions.”

Representative picture of Bell 212 helicopter

The aging American-made Bell 212 is a twin rotor blade helicopter, the commercial production of which was stopped towards the late 1990s. While human error of judgment in the dense fog and rainy conditions appear to be the most likely cause of the crash, poor maintenance and lack of spares as reasons cannot be ruled out, according to experts.

American broadcaster ABC quoting its contributor Col. Steve Ganyard, a former fighter pilot and a former State Department official, said that it a “fairly classic mishap that occurs when helicopter pilots try to skirt underneath weather in very mountainous terrain.”

The ABC report further quoted him as saying, “And when you’re flying in the mountains and you have very low visibility, there’s a natural tendency for helicopter pilots to begin to sort of descend and try to get lower and try to get underneath either the fog or the cloud layer. And they know that they can set the aircraft down if they need to. But often times it leads to tragedy.”

Some of the previous Heads of Sate/Govt Who Perished In Air Crashes

1936: then-Swedish Prime Minister Arvid Lindman died in an air crash just after taking off in dense fog.

1940: Paraguayan President Marshal Jose Felix Estigarribia died in a plane crash.

1958: Interim President of Brazil, Nereu Ramos, died in a plane crash.

1959: Barthelemy Boganda, president of the Central African Republic, died after his plane crashed.

1966: Iraqi President Abdul Salam Arif died in a helicopter crash.

1969: Bolivian President Rene Barrientos died when his helicopter crashed.

1977: Yugoslavian Prime Minister Dzemal Bijedic and his wife died in a plane crash.

1979: Mauritanian Prime Minister Ahmed Ould Bouceif died in a plane crash.

1980: Portuguese Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro and Defence Minister Adelino Amaro da Costa died when their plane crashed after takeoff.

1981: Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos Aguilera and Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Marco Subia Martinez lost their lives in a plane crash.

1981: Panamanian President Omar Torrijos died when the small plane he was flying crashed.

1986: Mozambican President Samora Machel, some of his ministers and others died in a plane crash.

1987: Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami was killed in a bomb blast in his helicopter.

1988: Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq, his five generals and then US Ambassador to Pakistan were killed in a plane crash suspected to be due to sabotage.

1994: Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana were killed when their plane was shot down.

2010: Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and several others were killed when a plane carrying them to a Russian city crashed into a forest area.

Chandigarh Skin Clinic: Hi-Tech, No-Frills For A Win-Win Affordable Experience

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The top-of-the-line dermatology and cosmetology machines at the no-frills Chandigarh Skin Clinic

 

A highly experienced, committed and ethical consultant dermatologist-cosmetologist, state-of-the-art technologies and machines, many of them US FDA approved, and a simple, no-frills clinic, that is the  formula the newly opened Chandigarh Skin Clinic in Industrial Area Phase II has adopted to give customers the best of services at most affordable rates.

Frankly, at first sight, the clinic looks just too simple for a place offering high-end medical cosmetology and dermatology services. But a brief interaction with Dr Jatinder Kaur, consultant dermatologist-cosmetologist with 34 years of government and private practice, and the promoters, who themselves are in the business of medical technologies and equipment, is enough to convince us that the formula adopted is very practical and tailor-made for providing what is claimed as “absolutely safe and affordable services” to large sections of people, for whom these have so far remained a far cry, going beyond their means.

So, first thing first, as Dr Jatinder Kaur lists out, among the treatments available at the clinic are unwanted hair growth, acne treatment, scars treatment, skin infections, psoriasis, freckles treatment, pigmentation, hair fall & dandruff, warts & skin tags, nail diseases, ageing skin & wrinkles, vitiligo, moles and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Among the high-end equipments the clinic boasts of are US FDA approved Diode Laser Machine, Microneedling Radio Frequency, US FDA approved ND Yag Q switched Laser Machine, Optimum Pulse Light System,  Hydrafacial System and Co2 Fractional Laser &  High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU).

Explaining some of the treatments offered, Dr Jatinder Kaur says laser hair reduction provides the ultimate solution for unwanted hair. It works because lasers are able to target melanin in the hair follicle, disabling it from further growth and putting an end to routine shaving, irritation and waxing.

Hydrafacial treatment has emerged as a revolutionary and highly sought after solution for individuals looking to rejuvenate their skin, and Carbon facial is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure which utilizes the power of laser technology, combined with a carbon-based serum, to rejuvenate the skin, address various skin concerns, and promote a radiant complexion.

She further shares that Micro Needling and MNRF are non-surgical skin rejuvenation techniques using tiny needles to stimulate collagen production, reducing fine lines, scars, and improving skin texture.

Also available is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, which uses the patient’s own blood to stimulate healing and tissue regeneration.

Then there are Chemical Peels which reduce or improve wrinkles, blemishes (Melasma) and pigment spots. Sun exposure, acne, or just getting older can leave your skin tone uneven, wrinkled, spotted or scarred. A chemical peel is one of the least invasive ways to improve the appearance of your skin, Dr Kaur informs.

Similarly, there is Mesotherapy, a minimally invasive technique that involves injecting a customized blend of vitamins and nutrients into the skin; and High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), a non-invasive procedure that uses focused ultrasound waves for tissue tightening.

The clinic is assuring customers of providing customized solutions for a healthy skin and a rejuvenated look by combining medical knowledge and skill with the latest technological advancements. The treatments offered, apart from being claimed to be safe and affordable, come with a promise of being long lasting as well.

Qualifying the affordability factor

Giving us a sense of the affordability of the rates the clinic is charging vis-a-vis comparable facilities being offered elsewhere in the market (of course minus the frills), Dr Jatinder Kaur, who also provides her services at charitable institutions and free medical camps, informs that they charge just Rs 2200 for a full face laser hair reduction (market rate Rs 5,000-7,000), Rs 1200 for a hydrafacial (market rate Rs 5,000-8,000), Rs 600-800 for chemical peels (market rate Rs 2,000-3,000).

Care to give it a try!

www.chandigarhskinclinic.com

Can Country Be Held To Ransom! Now Jaipur, Lucknow Schools Get Hoax Bomb Mails

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Picture used for representative purpose only
Security agencies need to quickly find a way to track the culprits and neutralise them

Emboldened by the failure of the Indian security establishment to crack the source of the recent spate of hoax emails threatening to blow up schools, hospitals, airports and other mass gathering venues in various parts of the country, have further emboldened miscreants or anti-India forces in their game of spreading large scale panic.

In this continuing string of emails, dozens of schools in Jaipur and a few in Lucknow were targeted on Monday, which happens to be the 16th anniversary of the synchronized serial bomb blasts in Jaipur in 2008 in which 71 people lost their loves and dozens of others were injured.

As happened on all previous occasions since May 1, when 100+ schools in Delhi and other NCR areas received bomb threats on mail, these threats after thorough searches were found to be hoax. Nevertheless, taking no chances schools evacuated their students and staff, and bomb detection and disposal squads had to be rushed to all the venues.

Despite independent and coordinated efforts, specialized units of various security agencies have so far not been able to trace the source of these emails since these have apparently been sent using virtual private networks (VPNs) or proxy servers, which make it very difficult to trace the IP addresses of the senders.

After the threats in Delhi-NCR, schools in Gujarat were also targeted.

Yesterday (Sunday), several hospitals in Delhi and 12 airports, including IGI Delhi and Jaipur, were targeted with bomb threats through emails.

These threats, coming as they are in the midst of heightened security nationwide in the wake of the ongoing elections, are a cause of worry for the security establishment, which cannot afford to take chances, and panic in the general public.

The security agencies need to quickly find a way to track the culprits. Can they allow the country be held to ransom!

With 10 Poll Promises, AAP Supremo Pitches ‘Kejriwal Ki Guarantee’ Against ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’

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Delhi chief minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal announcing his 10 guarantees for LS elections 2024 in a press conference in Delhi. Also seen are Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann and other senior party leaders
‘I don’t want to be the Prime Minister’, he states but his assertive messaging speaks otherwise

By announcing 10 guarantees for the country, which he presented as a vision for new India, without which a country cannot become powerful, and pitching “Kejriwal ki Guarantee” against “Modi ki Guarantee”, Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal has let it be known in no uncertain terms that he is a contender to replace Narendra Modi as Prime Minister should the INDIA bloc outperform the BJP led NDA alliance in the Lok Sabha elections and storm to power.

Announcing these poll promises in the form of guarantees, including 200 units of free and uninterrupted power supply across the country, free education and full statehood for Delhi, in a press conference at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday, though Kejriwal clarified that “I don’t want to be Prime Minister,” he at the same time asserted that “it is my guarantee that when the INDIA Alliance forms the government I will ensure that these promises are fulfilled.”

However, in his assertions the intent was more than clear. “BJP has always failed on its promises. My guarantees have a proven track record. Now, people have to take a call whether to go for ‘Kejriwal ki Guarantee’ or ‘Modi ki Guarantee”.

In response to a query, Kejriwal gave further vent to his assertiveness on the issue when he said, “I have not discussed these (guarantees) with my INDIA bloc colleagues. But I’m sure no INDIA bloc leader will have any problem with these.”

The question is, with the INDIA alliance partners failing to agree to a common minimum programme before the polls, and each of its major constituent parties showcasing their own set of poll promises and guarantees, what should the electorate expect from the alliance to convince itself to vote out the BJP led NDA.

The 10 guarantees
• 24-hour electricity supply with the first 200 units of power free across the country
• Promise of making arrangements for free education for all and making government schools better than private schools
• Infrastructue and facility build up at government hospitals at par with private hospitals
• India’s land to be freed from China, Army to be given a free hand
• Agniveer scheme launched by the Narendra Modi government to be scrapped
• Farmers to get guarantee of Minimum Support Price for their crops
• Full statehood to be ensured for Delhi
• Plans to create two crore jobs every year
• Promise to get rid of the policy of giving safe heavens to corrupt people, free the country from corruption
• Plans to simplify Goods and Services Tax (GST), eye on surpassing the trade capacity of China