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India Hedge Fund Backed by ex-Goldman Exec Hits $500 Million in Assets

first_imgSteadview, an India-focused hedge fund seeded by former Goldman Sachs (Asia) chairman Mark Schwartz, has made 12 times the returns of peers with bets on consumer and tech stocks, helping the fund grow its assets to $500 million in nearly five years. Related Itemslast_img

Modi Ignites Language Wars in Lutyens’ Delhi

first_imgThe heart of Delhi is sore. Lutyens’ Delhi, the 26-square-kilometer hub of India’s political elite, bureaucrats, media moguls, journalists, top academics and writers, public intellectuals, as well as the wealthiest corporates, lobbyists, political PR brigade, connected lawyers, dynasty hangers-on, and bleeding heart liberals, is undergoing a tectonic shift. The deep roots it had grown since the dawn of Indian Independence, nurtured by the might of the Queen’s English, are being uprooted at a frenetic pace. Call it it the Modi effect.In July this year, an official circular from the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government asked ministers and bureaucrats to “prioritize” communication in Hindi, instead of English. It not only directed government officials to use Hindi during official electronic relays, to spruce up hitherto neglected Hindi versions of the government websites, but also to tweet in Hindi, as a part of the organized attempt to boost the “national language.” Its advocates assert that Modi represents “Bharat” while the previous government was the face of a lopsided “babalog” culture, represented by the insular Lutyens’ elite that has been perpetuating colonial-era privilege over generations, with plum English as its rude source of strength and class marker. This shift to Hindi has been paraded as a coming of age of a self-confident India, for whose teeming multitudes English exists as an omnipresent chimera and an instrument of discrimination.With the rise and rise of Narendra Modi, India’s first truly post-Independence prime minister, who also happens to be its least “classically educated” one, Lutyens’ Delhi is confronting a brand new reality. The man they had long dismissed as a provincial parvenu from the western state of Gujarat is now the most powerful man in the country, leaving his firm imprint on the territories that had been under their thumbs for over six decades. Delhi’s pride and the British-designed, sprawlingly landscaped Lutyens’ zone (named after the famous architect Edwin Lutyens), that boasts of the president’s residence or Rashtrapati Bhawan, Central Secretariat, which houses most of the ministries and government offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, is now home to the strongman from Gujarat and Hindi heartland, a far cry from the Oxbridge-educated ministers peopling the grand old party, the 129-year-old Indian National Congress, and the posh bureaucrats they presided over.With a chaiwallah prime minister now at the helm of affairs, it is not just the traditional political elite, but also the enormous English-educated urban middle class that has woken up to a changed circumstance. What is at play is a definitive battle for, if not the soul of India, but certainly, its seat of power, the deep state, its tools and instruments of wrenching and retaining political, economic, ideological and cultural supremacy.The old swaggering in English has lost its charm. Now it’s the confident, muscular utterances in Hindi, or some of the regional languages, such as Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, that will do the trick, nationally and even internationally. This was most evident when Narendra Modi, India’s 15th prime minister, addressed the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York City in Hindi to rapturous applause.Modi has certainly made the vernacular very cool, both in India and abroad.But this is not just individual bravura. Under Modi, there’s a more than active push to not just promote Hindi, one of the two official languages used by the federal government in its everyday activities and communications, but in fact, to root out English and its sphere of influence. Under the garb of promoting “rashtrabhasha,” or national language, Hindi is getting a boost it hasn’t witnessed since former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee encouraged its usage a decade earlier. However, this move has come under attack since no such provision for a national language exists in the Indian Constitution, and even though Parliament could so legislate, the Hindi belt faces formidable opposition in the Southern states, which bitterly resent the imposition of the North Indian language. Its civil servants, conversant in English and their state languages, scoff at Hindi, while its politicians, when visiting Delhi, doggedly stick to English, despite attempts to popularize Hindi through Bollywood and cultural centers for decades.However, for Lutyens’ Delhi, the abode of India’s traditional elite, especially those who inherited the massive administrative mantle from the British, preserving each piece of architectural marvel, ritual and procedural whims as well as the general Raj hangover in its extreme Anglophilia (which over the last two decades has translated into a love of everything American), this is a traumatic transition. Accepting the sudden indisposition of English language, and all its habitual benefits, including occupying the cushy posts and minting the benefits of crony pseudo-socialism of former Congress-led central government, is proving to be delirious for the Lutyens’ brigade. It’s oscillating between complete denial and absolute volte-face, either dismissing the Modi phenomenon as a temporary hiccup in a long innings of governance by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, or embracing the change without its caveats. It is not criticizing the ever-growing baggage of hardline Hindu nationalism that is piggybacking on this push for a highly Sanskritized Brahminical Hindi, and not the common parlance Hindustani, which is really a mix of Hindi languages and Urdu, as well as a smattering of English at this present juncture.Planting the English SeedFrom being Macaulay’s Minutemen to Global Indians, the story of English in India was a journey from an imposition to an addiction, at least for its power elites. “Who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia [?].” In the universal disparagement handed out by Thomas Babington Macaulay, this (half-)sentence remains the most-quoted verbal proof attributed to the nineteenth century British historian and bureaucrat’s typical racism and his prescient anticipation of English as the next world language. Every educated Indian, whether residing in India, or in the innumerable diasporic communities across the world, is aware that had it not been for Macaulay, and his (in)famous “Minute on Education” presented on February 2, 1835 before the Governor-General’s Council in erstwhile Calcutta, their uses and abuses of the English language, as much as the casualness with which the proximity to English is taken for granted by Indians all over, would have perhaps never happened.“Bleddy Macaulay’s minutemen! … English-medium misfits … Square-peg freaks” — thus screams a character in Salman Rushdie’s novel The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) in his effort to describe the class of people that Tom Macaulay, and indeed much of the liberal-imperial British establishment of early 19th century, had sought to create. In Macaulay’s own words, they were to be “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”“Macaulay’s Minutemen,” as this band of Westernized Indian elite came to be called, were the product of that primordial linguistic miscegenation that grafted English on the top of the language tree of the subcontinent and made the language the “grandmother tongue” of all subsequent generations of Indians.Whether it was at all necessary to install English as the official language of governance and education and immerse India in an up-to-date version of liberal British education, are considerations and speculations that eat up a serious chunk of academic writing in the departments of South Asian studies in leading global universities. Nevertheless, the primal English-ing of India and, the later “desification” of British and American cultural landscapes by the Indian-origin literary architects in the last quarter of the twentieth century, were indisputable and complementary essentials that guide our understanding of the broader and greater Indian consciousness in present times.So much so, that even Bollywood film scripts are written in English, the Hindi dialogue is transcribed in English, the instructions on the set and the pre-release interactions with media occur in English. What started out as a colonial era administrative apparatus is now the link language, connecting the Hindi/Punjabi/Urdu-speaking North with the Tamil/Telegu/Konkani/Kannada-speaking South, or the Bengali/Oriya-speaking East, or Gujarati/Marathi-speaking West. With 22 official languages, it was difficult to pick a national language, even though Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and undoubtedly one of the chief architects of modern Indian political consciousness, had put his weight behind Hindi. However, the backlash from the southern states had forced his government to relent and give primacy to English.Making it OfficialAlthough the Indian Constitution, during its unveiling in 1950, provided that Hindi would gradually replace English as the language of administration and empowered Parliament to legislate to such effect when the time is right, it proved to be a Herculean task that could never be accomplished. So staunch and violent were resistances from the South and East of India, particularly, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, that the Official Languages Act (1963) designated Hindi and English as the two official languages for the federal government, while various state laws, rules and regulations made subsequently framed English and the state language to carry out a similar function in regional provinces. However, certain core functions, such as legislating, arguing in Supreme Court (and several High Courts), as well as handing down judgments, were designated for English and only English. The justification for this was obviously to maintain continuity with the past, given that Indian Penal Code, written in 1860, was, along with Indian Civil Service, another gift of Lord Macaulay, and the Indian federal government was too steeped in Western liberal education to opt for a sudden termination of the apparatus. However, parliamentary proceedings could be conducted in Hindi and English, as well as, with the Speaker’s permission, in the member’s mother tongue, usually one of the 22 official languages accepted in India.While state governments dabbled in both English and the regional official language, Lutyens’ Delhi was heavily indebted to English, segregating its political and executive class from the vast expanse of suburbia, inhabited by refugees from West and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). While Lutyens’ Delhi, including the North and South Blocks where the ministries and departments of the Government of India are housed, as well as Raisina Hill (with the famous Lutyens’ bungalows), Janpath, Sujan Singh Park, Connaught Place, Sansad Marg (where Parliament House is located), belongs to the political, economic, social and intellectual top brass, the rest of Delhi remains almost cut off from this sanctum sanctorum, save for occasional public places like India Gate that still attract occasional strollers and lovers out for a happy time.But they cannot claim Lutyens’ Delhi, which happens to be one of the most expensive slices of the real estate pie that is sending land prices through the roof in India. Moreover, Lutyens’ Delhi, which is contiguous with landmarks of affluence, such as the Delhi Gymkhana Clun, the Diplomatic Enclave, Lodi Gardens with its magnificent Lodi-era tombs, Delhi Golf Club, National Zoological Park, Old Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Jho rBagh, Khan Market, is the last bastion of decadent aristocrats, only recently fawning at the now out-of-steam Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, flaunting their political connections with as much ease as the newest acquisition — Lois Vuitton handbags, Jimmy Choo shoes, Gucci sunglasses, highest-end iPhones and gadgets.Over the past two decades, since the time of late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the socialist restraint and educated austerity that came to be identified with Congress and Delhi’s political elite during the first 40 years since Independence, was gradually replaced by a thirst for Euro-American bling. The halting giving in to overt markers of money that started from Rajiv-Sonia’s drawing room at 7 Race Course Road during mid-1980s, was emulated and accelerated after 1991, when India liberalized its economy.English Augusts of DelhiWith globalization of capital, came the cultural tow. English was more widely spoken now, but the regional languages infused in English an enriching “glocal” flavor. Migration to Delhi escalated to astronomical levels, more than tripling its population in the last 30 years. Delhi was a veritable cauldron, bubbling with tongues, languages, people, customs, but somehow everything was sublimated into the officiousness of English within the Lutyens’ zone. Nothing could escape its grand snigger, and no amount of brilliance could outmatch the entrenched value of hereditary privilege, passed on through generations.Until now, Lutyens’ Delhi guarded its walls with a ferocity that was both casual and vicious, half-hearted and zealous. This traditional elite replicated itself in politics obviously, with more than half of Congress party leaders being sons and daughters of earlier stalwarts, but also in every other conceivable sphere of influence. Be it bureaucracy, judiciary, media, academia, business and commerce, public sector industries, lobbying sector, banking and finance, advertising or publishing, the coterie was tightly maintained and only selective entry was allowed to a chosen few outside this hallowed coven. Because the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had ruled India for 50 years of its 67-year-old Independence, there was no question of this status quo being challenged, at least not in its inner echelons of well-groomed power emanating from a pseudo-socialist aristocracy.While most of the Congress old guard could be said to be belonging to this category of uber-erudite, but distressingly delusional men and women, flaunting their proximity to 10 Janpath (the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi) or 7 Race Course Road (the Prime Minister’s residence), nothing beats the antics of the glib talkers of the St Stephen’s Club, such as Shashi Tharoor, and Mani Shankar Aiyar. Both are highly educated diplomats turned politicians, whose globe-trotting had endeared them to the inner chambers of Lutyens’ Delhi as well as the international circuits of political “soft power,” where smooth talking ambassadors discuss national fates over Scotch whiskeys and French wines.Aiyar, for one, had charted the entire arc that groomed and ushered in a typical Lutyens’ member: he attended Welham Boys’ School, The Doon School, St. Stephen’s College and University of Cambridge, where the crème de la crème of India’s top brass have been sending their children to become emissaries of the “babalog” culture. Aiyar had, in addition, the distinction of being close to Rajiv Gandhi, who was his junior in both Doon and Cambridge, and his proximity to Sonia Gandhi was unquestionable until, in the later half of UPA-II, he became something of a loose cannon. Forever dismissive and intellectually arrogant, he wore the sobriquet with pride. During Modi’s robust campaign to claim the top job in Indian government, the swashbuckling Aiyar taunted that Modi should distribute tea outside the Congress Party office in Delhi. The BJP strongman turned this jibe, reeking of class bias, into another campaign inviting people to debate issues over cups of tea (chai pe charcha). Aiyar lost his parliamentary seat, while Modi went on to claim Delhi in a landslide victory, ending the coalition era by gaining simple majority in Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.Another IndiaFollowing the Emergency-era Janata movement and its short-lived stints during 1977-80, 1989-91, 1998-2004, India witnessed an era of ramshackle coalition governments that were propped up by unruly allies unwilling to tow the government line. Each time though Hindi made a temporary comeback as an alternative to the insular, mai-baap culture of Congress-led political and bureaucratic class and their appendages in the public sphere. But never did it make a re-entry as colossal as it did during the buildup to Modi’s campaign. There were regional politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh or Lalu Yadav in Bihar, who spoke in the only language they knew: Hindi. Yet neither did their ambition pave the highway to Delhi, nor did they ever enthuse a whole generation of Indians in the manner that Modi managed to achieve, and that too within a period of just one and half years.From a déclassé strongman with the stellar sobriquet “Butcher of Gujarat,” Modi reinvented himself into the messiah of millions of aspirational Indians who had to fight it out from scratch. This was the India that thrived in its villages itching to partake of India’s miraculous growth story, and, according to Modi, not to be burdened by Congress’ politics of “welfare patronage.” Modi gave his rousing speeches in Hindi, wearing headgears from states, attacking the leaky schemes that the previous Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had legislated.Modi alluded to the son of the soil idea, attacking the “Italian widow” in Sonia Gandhi, the “pappu” in son Rahul, and the corrupt Congress corroding the idea of India. In all this, Modi’s strongest pitch was to sever the umbilical chord that attached India to Nehru and his idea of statist welfare, non-alignment, liberal education and secularism. Moreover, it was an idea that accepted that a country as vast as India would be ruled by a tiny minority of foreign-educated elite who wrote and spoke English with greater ease than any other language. After denuding English of its traditional sublimity, Modi rushed Hindi in to fill up the void.From his inaugural speech as prime minister to all the significant addresses, Modi has used Hindi, a language he’s comfortable in, to brilliant effect. With his penchant for high drama and inclination toward political bling, Modi heightens and modulates the pitch and tone of his rousing speeches in Hindi, at national and international podiums. During his maiden trip to the USA after nine years of visa denial over the Godhra riots, when Modi addressed Indian Americans at Madison Square Garden, before the 20,000 present at the venue and another three million tuned to their television sets, Modi was embraced by the diaspora like never before.Modi-fication of Lutyens’ DelhiSince 2012, with a perceived resurgence of the regional languages and the increased penetration of Hindi-language news and television channels, media houses began pursuing an active policy of pumping in more money to the Hindi siblings of prominent English-language national dailies, such as Times of India and Hindustan Times. The regional language press is growing rapidly and becoming a greater source of revenue against a dwindling market for English dailies. National and assembly elections became platforms to launch or overhaul publications, and the vernacular press is having a field time making its presence felt even in the tightly-sealed corridors of Delhi. During the national elections this year the Gujarat model was much flaunted (even though by most measures it is just average), the highly effective public relations machinery at work, catapulted everything Hindi and Gujarati to a starry fame.After Modi won a massive mandate in the April-May 2014 general elections, Hindi returned with an unprecedented gusto. Lutyens’ Delhi watched in awe and felt a shiver down its spine as Modi invited topmost leaders and dignitaries from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries to attend his swearing-in ceremony. Since then, Modi has regaled audiences in Hindi, during televised addresses abroad, or during his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat broadcast on All India Radio.But the push came to shove when the government directed ministers and bureaucrats to switch to Hindi in official correspondence as well as prioritize Hindi while communicating with the world at large over social media. Reflective of a resurgent India, as well as emulating the biggest world powers, such as Russia, Germany, France, China, and Japan, that resolutely use their own language, the embrace of Hindi is being viewed as India finally shedding its colonial baggage and asserting its homegrown pride on the international dais. While critics charge that Modi’s Hindi push is part of its larger Hindutva bogey, they are far outnumbered by those who see in this an expression of newfound self-confidence, minus the crutch of British-aided language or statecraft.But Lutyens’ Delhi, the bastion of providential privilege, is shaken, stirred. While many still are batting for English, and even the government has since backpedalled, saying the circular to prioritize Hindi was meant for the Hindi belt only, bureaucrats are brushing up their written and spoken Hindi. Grapevine in the political corridors of India is that high-profile appointments are now being made keeping fluency in Hindi in mind, even though no overt discrimination against English has been cited so far. Bilinguality is being seen as an asset, while scientists are getting research papers translated into Hindi for broader appeal. Public servants in North and South Blocks are now presenting a different face, one that is less couched in imported tradition and more steeped in the miscegenation of here and now. Several reports in the Indian media have quoted former and current bureaucrats expressing either umbrage at the ongoing change in style or grudgingly welcoming it. Subhash Kashyap, a former official in Parliament, admitted that India was run on the colonial model that relied on English, but if Hindi was making a comeback on the national stage, it should not be resented, adding a caveat, “It should be a slow, natural process. It should take its own time, there should be no feeling of any language being forced.”Yet, as is clear in Nripendra Mishra, the principal secretary to Prime Minister Modi, a formidable knowledge of Hindi, particularly in its Sanskritized avatar, is an asset to anyone seeking to quickly rise in the current regime. Mishra, a former chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, is as much a votary of no-nonsense bureaucracy as the prime minister himself. Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, the heart of the Hindi belt, his Harvard background and rapport with ministers, he’s the perfect embodiment of the kind of India and Indian that PM Modi wants to bring about.Sanskritizing IndiaThe push for Hindi has been coterminous with a prioritizion of Sanskrit over German in the Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central government-run schools) across India. A sudden diktat by the Ministry of Human Resource Development announced that Sanskrit would replace German as the third language in all these schools, and there are thousands of them, to promote greater understanding of Indian culture. Despite major protest from the left-leaning liberal intelligentsia as well as the secular opposition, the language wars seem to be mirroring and facilitating each other. And behind all the linguistic shenanigans, there is the looming shadow of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the twin think-tanks that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party draws heavily from.The project of rewriting destiny and revisioning history has claimed the very soul and idea of India, at least the way it was envisioned by the founding fathers. From Nehruvian secularism and non-alignment and sublimating the religious, class, caste, language identities under the rubric Indian, it has now come to asserting  and flaunting one’s own identity, including religious.As the Modi regime appropriates neglected Congress-era icons, such as Sardar Patel, B R Ambedkar, to give Hinduism a push, the many ironies and nuances die several deaths. For example, trying to circulate Ambedkar as a Hindu, non-Congress icon is an affront to very cause that he lived for: to end the tyranny of caste within Hinduism.The strong Dalit movement has always defined itself against the Brahminical rule of upper caste Hindus, and no amount of political mollycoddling has until now yielded dividends to unite Dalits and caste Hindus against a religious other – such as Muslims and Christians.While novelists like Aatish Taseer, and his mother, journalist Tavleen Singh, find in the Modi regime a “civilization reclaiming,” rediscovering’ Sanskrit at Ivy League American universities and linking it back to a new, self-confident (or hyper-nationalist?) twenty-first century India, many fear this regress into a majoritarian straitjacket will completely tear apart the already ragtag fabric of multiethnic, multireligious, multilinguistic India.Tongue-in-cheek DemocraciesGiven that the two largest democracies in the world, India and America, share this historical vulnerability, it is both odd and ironic that in the current context, it is the United States of America, with its three million strong Indian American population, that is courting Prime Minister Narendra Modi most in his international forays. Barack Obama will be the first US president to be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2015. The Modi-fication of Madison Square Garden and of Lutyens’ Delhi, , cannot be understood without reading them together in this tightly knit and fast-paced chapter of contemporary Indianness, both within its territories as well as in its expansive diaspora.   The Snobs of St StephensShashi Tharoor (left) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.Perhaps no two people better personified the hubris and arragance of the St Stephens jet setters better than Shashi Tharoor and Mani Shankar Aiyar, both former diplomats turned politicians and cabinet ministers in the Manmohan Singh government.Aiyar, a contemporary of Rajiv Gandhi at the Doon School and the University of Cambridge, was particularly outlandish. He was once accused by a politician Amar Singh of taunting Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Hindi-speaking, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with the comment: “Oh that bloody Mulayam — he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited Uttar Pradesh at some point. Why don’t you check with Mulayam’s mother.”On another occasion he mocked fellow cabinet minister Ajay Maken, a graduate of a regional college, with whom he had crossed swords: “Firstly, we have to establish the authenticity of this letter. It contains words like ‘dichotomous’ which I cannot believe that a BA Pass from Hansraj College would know…. There are such big big words used that unless Maken had a thesaurus by his side, I don’t believe that he wrote that letter perhaps.”Accosted by students of Hansraj College to apologize, Aiyar was even more defiant, challenging them to bring together BA-Pass students from Hans Raj and St Stephen’s to pronounce “dichotomous,” asserting that “I do not believe the student from Hansraj will be able to do it.”Tharoor, who rose to become an under-secretary-general at the United Nations, was roundly criticized early in his political career after tweeting that he would travel “in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!” In April 2010, he was forced to quit as a minister after his links to the Kochi IPL franchise, which had granted equity to his then girlfriend, later wife, were exposed. Early in the election campaign, Narendra Modi mocked Tharoor’s “50-crore girlfriend,” Sunanda Pushkar. She was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Delhi hotel in January 2014.Soon after the elections, after Tharoor wrote several columns praising Narendra Modi, a bristling Aiyar derided his former cabinet colleague as a “sychophant” and a “chameleon” abhishek. Related Itemslast_img read more

Reimagining Democracy

first_imgThe spontaneous eruption of mass opposition to Pres. Donald Trump, the day after his inauguration, has brought the inherent contradictions of U.S. democracy into sharp relief. Trump was elected under U.S. election rules by prevailing in the electoral college, which games the system to the advantage of smaller states. But he lost the popular vote decisively — by close to 3 million votes.The popular uprising (by all accounts, the number of protestors in Washington, DC, alone was triple those who celebrated his inauguration a day earlier) stems from widespread fears of his misogynistic and autocratic streaks, as well as apprehensions that the Republican majority will steamroll minorities, opponents and dissenters.We will know in a few months whether the public misgivings over Pres. Trump are justified. The early signs are certainly unsettling. His inauguration speech demonstrated little grace and was a ringing call to arms for his most reactionary proposals. Within 24 hours of the inauguration, he was railing against the media over petty slights, such as the size of the inauguration crowd, and falsely alleging that millions of illegal voters had cost him the popular vote.Trump’s surprising victory and the rise of populism in the West is fraying the two contradictory strands fused in Western democracy — popular will on the one hand and individual rights on the other. At its core, democratic governance is responsive to the popular will. Absent its liberal strand —individual liberties — it can lend itself to, what Alexis de Tocqueville called, the tyranny of the majority.In the United States, the Bill of Rights, separation of powers in the Congressional, executive and judicial branches, free speech, etc., are all bulwarks against majority tyranny. Most Western countries, and to lesser degrees, new democracies, such as India, have embraced liberal democracy, constraining popular will by enshrining constitutional protections for civil and political liberties. The inherent contradictions between majority rule and individual rights exist in uneasy balance in the democratic enterprise, and always have for centuries.The rise of populism now — like the Alien & Sedition Acts in the 18th century and the Red Scare in the 20th century — is testing democracies and individual liberties are once again under siege wearing the time-honored mask of the evil “other,” this time of terrorism, Muslims and illegal aliens.Democracy is a deeply flawed enterprise. To begin with, there is the dubious process by which the popular will is constructed by appeals to passion, deception, manipulation, incumbency, manufacture of consent, money, gerrymandering of political districts, suppression of votes, etc. Besides, there is nothing inherently virtuous about majority will. As Winston Churchill famously said 70 years earlier, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”It is unquestionably preferable to alternatives such as monarchy and autocracy. But three centuries into the modern democratic enterprise, the comparative measures ought no longer to be the retrograde regimes of the Middle East or tin-pot dictatorships of Africa.The time has come to reimagine democracy, predicated on the first principles of individual rights and individual autonomy. Democracy was at best an imperfect instrument for its times, but it has outlived its shelf life, long before Trump stormed the White House barn.Political philosophers and activists should try to leverage the latest instruments of mobility, communication, networks, and globalization to envision a new and liberating political order that disrupts and erases national and parochial borders of both mind and territory that are driving the retrograde populists of the 21st century.170 years on from the publication of the last major revolutionary political tract, in the form of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, is surely long enough to reboot the human political imagination. Related Itemslast_img read more

UK Foreign Aid Spent on Keeping Indian Homes Cool: Report

first_imgHuge amounts of British taxpayer’s money are being spent on reducing smoking rate among migrant workers in China and to keep Indian homes cool during summer, according to a new report. Big grants are being provided by the Global Challenges Research Fund to the two countries despite protests against the United Kingdom making contributions to resolve their issues.The £1.5billion fund, managed by the Department of Business, aims to help developing countries by lending research expertise. The report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) showed that £133,584 UK aid was released to reduce smoking rate among migrant factory workers in the Guangzhou province of China, while another £121,403 was granted to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks in schools in India. A further £537,717 was given for a study to keep Indian homes cool during summer, while the School of Oriental and African Studies received £792,000 to study Tibetan verb.The report said: “The early rounds of GCRF funding were done in haste, encouraging UK research institutions to rely on existing research partnerships, which were mainly in middle-income countries.“The GCRF’s focus on research excellence may continue to advantage developing countries that already have credible research institutions, rather than directing investment towards poorer countries where capacity building may be most needed.”ICAI found 38 projects meant for India that will grant £1.5 billion between 2016 and 2021. China was granted 22 such projects.“The Global Challenges Research Fund has the potential to address important global development challenges…However currently there is a real risk that the fund’s resources will be spread too thinly to achieve truly transformative results,” ICAI commissioner Tina Fahm said.The Department for International Development (DFID) closed all funding programs for China in 2011, but the country continues to received monetary aid from other departments.The spending, was however, defended by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with its spokesperson saying, “The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) has shown how the UK’s expertise in research and innovation can lead the charge in solving some of the greatest global development challenges of our time, while also contributing to the stability, security and prosperity of the UK.“As with all Overseas Development Assistance investments, there are robust assessment processes in place for the GCRF which ensures the program benefits the world’s poorest people and provides value for money for UK taxpayers. BEIS will review the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.The UK ended financial aid to China in 2011 and India in 2015. Our support has moved to sharing skills, advice and expertise.”He added: “China and India remain home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, and continuing progress in middle-income countries is regarded as essential to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”British ministers are under pressure on improving ways to spend the taxpayer’s money after Prime Minister Theresa May promised to follow former PM David Cameron’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of Britain’s income on international development. Related ItemsBritain Foreign AidForeign Aid IndiaGlobal Challenges Research Fund IndiaICAI India grantIndependent Commission for Aid ImpactLittle Indialast_img read more

Aadhaar Helped Govt Save $9 Billion: Nandan Nilekani

first_imgIndia saved $9 billion with help from the Aadhaar Card system that prevented misuse of beneficiary welfare schemes, Nandan Nilekani, the first chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said on Oct. 13.“By having a unique number, you eliminate fakes and duplicates from your beneficiary and employee lists. That alone has saved the government $9 billion,” Nilekani said at a World Bank panel discussion on “Digital Economy for Development” in Washington.The UIDAI project, launched by the previous Congress-led UPA government in 2009, was supported by the BJP government under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi after coming to power in 2014. Nilekani, the 62-year-old non-executive chairman of technology firm Infosys, steered the Aadhaar system, the world’s largest digital identity number project.“It has really been a bipartisan thing. I was given a mandate by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on how to give everyone in India a unique digital ID. We have 1.18 billion in the system we have built with an architecture that could enroll 1.5 million people a day at 35,000 stations across the country,” Nilekani said.“We also have half a billion (500 million) people who have connected their (Aadhaar) ID to their bank accounts. The government has transferred about $12 billion to their accounts electronically real time, which is the world’s largest cash transfer system in real-time.”Nilekani pointed out that India is the only country in the world where a billion people carry out paperless, cashless transactions on their mobile phones using the Aadhaar infrastructure, and added that further lowering of transaction cost would lead to an increase in numbers.He stressed that the perception of what is digital infrastructure has to change from seeing it as a way to provide communication and internet to the new world of data economy, identity, authentication, frictionless payments and paperless transactions. This is what India has done, he said.Talking about the Supreme Court ruling upholding individual privacy as a fundamental right, Nilekani added that the apex court also laid down a framework for the government to work around this issue for achieving state objectives of national security, prevention of crime, protection of revenue or for social welfare.“The Supreme Court, however, said every time you circumscribe some privacies, there has be a certain law, it needs to be reasonable. It’s a brilliantly drafted judgement,” he said. — (With IANS inputs) Related ItemsAadhaar benefitsLittle IndiaNandan NilekaniNandan Nilekani AadhaarNandan Nilekani UIDAIlast_img read more

Hyderabad Great for Ease of Doing Business, Says U.S. Ambassador

first_imgU.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster on Nov. 27 described Hyderabad as marvel for ease of doing business and a model for the rest of India.The pat for the southern city came at a news conference he addressed on the eve of Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), beginning in the city on N0v. 28.He said he was impressed with the policies launched in Hyderabad to attract investment.“Enormous amount of U.S. investment has come into this city. Major US tech firms have their significant hubs here and this city is a marvel for ease of doing business,” said Juster referring to the transformation since 2004 when he had last visited Hyderabad.He lauded the Telangana government’s industrial policy, which provides for all approvals for a business in 15 days and also holds officials accountable for their actions.“It is the model for rest of country. When you see this type of reform process undertaken, the response from private sector will be increased investment as seen in Hyderabad. We hope to see elsewhere in the country as well,” said Juster who is attending the first major event after taking over as the new Ambassador.Asked about Moody’s upgrading India rating, he complimented Prime Minister Narendra Modi for significantly moving India up the ladder in terms of ease of doing business.“This is very important part in terms of economic reforms process that will help encourage US investment but the investment decisions are made by the private sector and not by the governments. These are really driven by the market place,” he added.Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, said five states had applied to host GES and two of them were shortlisted. He said Hyderabad was selected purely on the basis of merit.Stating that Hyderabad has created energy, tremendous vibrancy and huge amount of dynamism, he said it could beat other cities hands down. —(IANS) Related ItemsHyderabadKenneth JusterTelanganalast_img read more

India, South Korea Aim at Increasing Tourist Flow to 1 Million Visitors

first_imgIndia and South Korea signed agreements on increasing cultural exchange and flow of people between the two countries during the 16th India-Korea Strategic Dialogue held in New Delhi last week.The two countries have decided to give high priority to cultural and tourism exchange. On agenda is increasing in the next one year the total number of tourists to 1 million; the total number of exchange of students to 5,000, with special focus on science and technology; and the number of flights between India and South Korea to 150 times a week.The agreement on increasing the number of flights also falls in line with India’s aspiration and forecasts for it to become the third biggest air transport market by the next decade.Joint statement from the 16th India -Korea Strategic Dialogue held in New Delhi from 30th November to 1st December which was co-convened by Ananta Aspen centre and the Seoul Forum for International Affairs #mea #indiakorea pic.twitter.com/3PToGyEzco— India in ROK (@IndiainROK) December 7, 2017The joint statement said “first and foremost” the two countries want to maximize mutual efforts to upgrade the existing India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to increase investment and trade. In April, the two countries signed an agreement on shipbuilding as well.South Korea wants India to streamline business licenses, approval procedures and labor laws for foreign investors, while India wants Korea’s involvement in campaigns like Clean India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Clean Toilets, apart from electric vehicles.Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu visited Seoul in September 2017 to participate in the ministerial review of CEPA with his Korean counterpart Hyun Chong Kim. They spoke about increasing free trade between the two countries, an issue that was also discussed this time. Related ItemsIndiaSeoulSouth Korealast_img read more

Number of NRI Voters Sees Two-Fold Jump in 3 Years

first_imgThe number of Non-Resident Indians registering themselves as overseas electors saw a two-fold jump in the last three years, according to data from the Election Commission. However, the figure remains too low in comparison to the total number of people entitled to cast their vote.The total number of overseas electors is 24,348, Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary said on Dec.15 in a statement during the ongoing winter session of parliament. These include 22,428 men and 1,920 women. Despite having a column for transgenders in the form, no one has registered in the category. Out of 24,348 overseas voters, as many as 23,556 people are from Kerala while 37 persons are from Delhi.There were 1,003,7761 NRIs in May 2012, the report of the multi-agency committee that was exploring the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors, showed, PTI reported. Only 11,846 people were registered as overseas electors, the committee said, quoting the electoral roll data of 2014. Of these, 11,140 are registered as men while only 706 are women.The government tabled a bill in the Lok Sabha on Dec. 18 in an effort to enable overseas Indians to exercise their right to vote through proxy.Until now, overseas citizens with an Indian passport are eligible to vote only if they are physically present in the constituency they are registered in. This requires them to register themselves and then come to India so as to be present on the day of the election.However, according to the provisions of ‘Representation of the People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017’ introduced by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, those overseas Indians who are entitled to vote in India, can now appoint a proxy voter to cast their franchise on their behalf.The bill says the necessary provision of coming to India to cast ballot caused “hardship” to overseas electors.The draft law that has been introduced in India seeks to make the election law gender neutral. This will be done by replacing the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ to benefit service voters.In August this year, the Union government approved changes to electoral laws to allow Non- Resident Indians to vote in Assembly and Lok Sabha election from overseas.The proposal to let NRIs vote was taken up seriously by the Election Commission in 2014 when it received several requests in this regard — most prominently from the Ministry of Overseas Affairs. Related ItemsElectionsproxy votinglast_img read more

India, UK to Sign Agreement on Return of Illegal Migrants

first_imgIndia and United Kingdom is set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the return of illegal Indian migrants within a month of the identification of their residence status by authorities.The MoU has been timed ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Kingdom in March. It aims to streamline the process of the return of illegal migrants to India. “The process was not streamlined yet. The British authorities will first identify the illegal migrant, the Indian authorities will be informed and then the verification will be done by police agencies back home,” said a senior official, the Hindu reported.If the British authorities’ claim is found valid, travel documents will then be prepared and the person will be deported back to India, the report added. The time frame set for this process is one month.The United Kingdom has raised the issue of the return of illegal migrants many times with India.In 2016, as many as 2,782 Indians were estimated to be working illegally in different fields in Britain, while the corresponding figures for people from Bangladesh and Pakistan was 3,574 and 3,568, respectively. Indians were thus the third-largest group of illegal immigrants in the country that year, according to estimates based on data from the UK Home Office. The country claims that the figures have increased now. However, Indian agencies have only been able to find 2,000 Indians who are overstaying in the United Kingdom, the report added.The UK migration watch said in December 2017 that the country does not have an agreement with Brazil and India, “both of which are thought to be significant sources of illegal migration to the United Kingdom.”About 200 Indians were arrested between January and June 2017 in the United Kingdom. Operation Magnify involved raids at 253 properties in Leicester and London. These properties were housing individuals who were either overstaying their visa or had entered the country illegally.The Indian government is also seeking to know the United Kingdom’s position in court on extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya. Kiren Rijiju, the Indian Minister of State for Home, will lead a delegation to the United Kingdom soon. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit will overlap with the court hearing of Mallya’s case. Related ItemsBritainUnited Kingdomlast_img read more

At PIO Parliamentarian Conference, Modi Lauds Efforts of Diaspora in Preserving Indian Culture Abroad

first_imgAn effort to reconnect the diaspora with their ancestral land, the “First PIO Parliamentarian Conference” was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jan.9 in New Delhi. The participants at the event include legislators and political leaders of Indian origin from all over the world.As many as 124 parliamentarians and 17 mayors of Indian origin from 23 countries are in India to attend the event, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.Calling the gathering a mini world parliament, Modi asked the PIO parliamentarians to play the role of catalysts in India’s economic development. “Twenty first century is being considered the Asian century and India will be a major player in this with the growing stature of our country and you shall feel proud about our growth, hence inspiring us to work even harder,” he said, according to the Times of India. “Today, bodies like the World Bank, IMF and Moody’s are looking at India in a very positive way.”The event was attended by several Indian origin leaders from many countries, including Mauritius and Guyana. Modi made a special mention of the presence of former Guyanese President Bharat Jagdeo.The Indian PM noted that India is experiencing aspirational and societal changes and asked leaders to join hands. He added that values of Indian culture and civilization can guide a world that is gripped in instability.“Your ancestors had to leave India under various circumstances and that is why when you return to an Indian airport, you are reminded of your ties with this country. You have a desire to return to India and I understand your feelings very well,” Modi said, the Hindu reported.“On one hand, you have preserved Indian culture. On the other hand, your people have excelled in sports, arts, cinema in the global platforms and have contributed to your adopted country’s welfare,” he added.Calling the diaspora “permanent ambassadors of India,” Modi said that he makes an effort to meet NRIs and PIOs whenever he is on an official tour of a foreign country. “For enhancing our pride and dignity, you all deserve our appreciation,” he said.No matter where they are, I can imagine how happy your ancestors must be on seeing you all here: PM Modi at PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) Parliamentary Conference in Delhi pic.twitter.com/p2ieQ2BsU1— ANI (@ANI) January 9, 2018Modi also brought up the dialogue with ASEAN countries and how the leaders would be attending the Republic Day parade later this month. He also appreciated External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s work and accessibility on a social media platform like Twitter.Swaraj, on the other hand, in her opening speech reminded the participants at the conference of the contribution of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the success of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. “A total of 141 lawmakers confirmed their attendance and 134 leaders have made to this event today despite massive weather disturbance,” she was quoted as saying by the Hindu.The conference begins! EAM @SushmaSwaraj making remarks at the first PIO Parliamentarian Conference. Speech at https://t.co/lYk0nAoq6V pic.twitter.com/lCw336Ofil— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) January 9, 2018The event will feature a session on becoming a leader in an adopted countries and a discussion on Indian origin leaders enhancing India’s global role. “Gandhiji inspired people in Mauritius to get education and increase political awareness and that is why after few generations, they have achieved political leadership,” Swaraj told the leaders from Mauritius.“This (PIO Parliamentary Conference) is a great opportunity. Everyone is looking up to India for their support. India has a huge influence on International politics,” New Zealand MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said.Raj Loomba, a Member of House of Lords, UK, said: “India is changing very fast and people overseas are recognizing it. If we give chance to NDA to fulfill their programs, India would be much better. In previous govt, every day there was a scam, but in this govt, I haven’t heard of any.”120 MPs have arrived from over 20 countries for today’s PIO Parliamentarian Conference at PBK. India has the most diverse and educated diaspora in the world ! The banyan tree continues to expand and now covers most of the globe ! pic.twitter.com/tOgQIPSr4K— D. M. Mulay (@CPVIndia) January 9, 2018 Related ItemsDiasporaNarendra Modilast_img read more

Indian Minister Assures Help to Stranded Workers in Kuwait

first_imgStranded Indian employees of a company in Kuwait who have not been paid wages for months were assured of help by Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. VK Singh on Jan.11. Singh visited the unpaid Indian workers of Kharafi National, and also met the Kuwait Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah.Singh assured the workers that the Indian government would pursue the matter. “We will try to see that you get at least part of the dues. However, we cannot pressurize them too much, or else they may not pay even that amount. However, we will pursue the matter legally for whatever salary dues you are supposed to get,” Singh told the workers, the Times of India reported.As many as 2,000 Indian workers are stranded in Kuwait as they have not received wages from the construction company, Kharafi National, where they have been working for over a year. The visas of many of them have also expired, making their stay illegal as they wait for the company to settle the issue.Singh assured workers that the penalties for overstaying in Kuwait, as their visas have expired, will be waived off and that they can now return to India. He also informed them that he met Kuwaiti ministers and received assurances from them that the concerns of the workers will be discussed in the Cabinet.“Two years ago, when I came here, I understood the problem was severe and took up the issue of workers. However, it has not been totally resolved and has grown serious. We are making the best of our efforts to help you all. In fact, we are more concerned about you, than you are about yourselves,” he said.Minister of State @Gen_VKSingh met Mr. Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait and discussed Labour issues amongst other bilateral issues in Kuwait City. pic.twitter.com/NFaUNbIEgC— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) January 12, 2018Singh, during his meeting with the Indian workers, suggested that people from each state should list out their individual problems and submit it to the embassy. He introduced the newly appointed ambassador, Jeevasagar, to the workers.He also asked them to specify the details of the agents who sent them to Kuwait in an effort to check whether they have been authorized by the government.Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Jan. 10 also said that an illegal migrant would be brought back only after the concerned state government has lodged FIR against the agent. The cost would be recovered from the agent who sent the migrant abroad illegally.Meanwhile, Protector-General of Emigrants MC Luther said that a high-level delegation is going to visit Kuwait to look into the pending issues. The delegation will also try and resolve the situation being faced by the Indian employees of Kharafi National Company, the publication reported. Related ItemsEmploymentKuwaitlast_img read more

Tech Groups Write to USCIS in Support of Work Permits for H-1B Spouses

first_imgThe Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), along with 10 other businesses and advocacy groups, has written to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of the H-4 visa. Besides USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna, the letter was also sent to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security.A large number of H-4 visa holders are Indian wives of H-1B visa holders, and are allowed to work in the United States. The ITI, which comprises members such as Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and Microsoft Corp, urged the Trump administration to maintain the program because of its benefits to the American economy. “Rescinding this program would harm America’s economic competitiveness and hinder efforts to recruit and retain the most qualified employees,” they said.In the letter, the ITI wrote that the H-4 rule extends employment authorization eligibility for a limited number of H-4 dependent spouses. Individuals looking to obtain H-4 authorization already legally reside in the United States and are on the path to permanent residency. They are also eager to work in order to support their families, contribute to their communities by paying taxes, and utilize their skills to help the United States’ economy grow.The letter was co-signed by BSA | The Software Alliance, Compete America, CompTIA, Council for Global Immigration, FWD.us, Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), National Association of Manufacturers, Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), TechNet and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.ITI advocated that the H-4 visa holders often have experience and education in vital occupations and are qualified academic researchers, medical technicians and professionals, small-business owners, and have a positive impact on the economy.The letter was in response to the Homeland Security department’s announcement on Dec.15 that it is looking to end work authorization of the H-4 visa holders. The work authorization was permitted for H-4 visa holders in 2015 by former U.S. President Barack Obama. If the authorization is rescinded, more than 100,000 people will become ineligible to hold jobs. Related Itemsh-4 visaUnited Stateslast_img read more

New Manchester-India Partnership Aims to Boost Trade Ties

first_imgAiming to connect Indian companies with the northern parts of England, a new Manchester-India Partnership (MIP) was launched in the United Kingdom earlier this week. The public-private initiative will help boost trade, investment, science and innovation bonds between the two countries.The initiative was launched on Feb. 1 by economist Jim O’Neill, who coined the phrase BRICS for the group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It has been supported by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).The MIP will have permanent full-time teams based in Manchester, New Delhi as well as Bengaluru, PTI reported.“The Manchester-India Partnership is an exciting initiative, which recognizes the rising importance of global cities in forging strategic international partnerships. India is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies; it therefore makes eminent sense for Manchester to further develop its’ air connectivity, trade, science and cultural links with this emerging global power,” O’Neill said in a statement.He added that India could grow at 12.5 per cent due to the demographics of the country and could achieve a lot. This meant that there is a great opportunity for the Manchester-India Partnership than China as the demographics will begin to slow down in China.A major target for the MIP will be to encourage direct air routes to further broaden the existing economic and cultural links. Manchester Airport is already the sixth largest European air gateway into India.YK Sinha, Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, also laid stress on the fact that India’s achievements need to be highlighted more often by the global media. “There must be a reason why people are queuing up to woo India. There must be something right India is doing but I am afraid that story is not being well publicized,” he said.He added that as per the World Bank, this year the country will grow at 7.1-7.2 per cent and next year at 7.8 per cent.HE YK Sinha, High Commissioner of India to the UK applauds CII initiative with Indo British APPG to highlight positive news about India through the success stories of Indian companies in the UK and welcomes stronger links with Manchester. @HCI_London @UKinIndia @GrantThorntonUK pic.twitter.com/EpESvPMnHt— Confederation of Indian Industry (@FollowCII) February 2, 2018“The numbers show just how significantly Indian companies have been investing in Britain and how good that has been for job creation and innovation in our country,” Rona Fairhead, the Minister of State in the UK Department for International Trade, said. She added that Indian companies can continue to manufacture in India and the innovation can be done in Manchester.“We have seen first-hand how direct air links can stimulate significant increases in inward investment, exports and research collaborations and that is why securing a route into India will be one of the Partnership’s number one priorities,” Manchester Airport CEO Andrew Cowan said.He added that forging closer relationships with the world’s most important markets is key to the future prosperity of Manchester and the wider region.“We have seen first-hand how direct air links can stimulate significant increases in inward investment, exports and research collaborations and that is why securing a route into India will be one of the Partnership’s number one priorities,” he said. Related ItemsBritainmanchesterUnited Kingdomlast_img read more

Former President Nasheed Seeks Indian Intervention to End Maldives Emergency

first_imgFormer Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who is living in exile, urged India to use its military to end the political crisis in the Island nation. State of Emergency (SOE) was declared in Maldives for 15 days, starting Feb. 5 night, after President Yameen Abdul Gayoom said that the Supreme Court was in defiance of the constitution for ordering for release of political prisoners and lawmakers.Despite the declaration of the SOE, there will be no enforcement of a curfew and general movements, services and businesses will not be affected, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Maldives. The SOE doesn’t force any restrictions on travelling to or within the Maldives. All International and domestic airports, tourist resorts, hotels, guest houses, safari boats, marinas etc. are in full operation. International and domestic flights, seaplanes and all modes of transport are in operation, the Maldives government said on Feb. 6.The SOE could affect tourism in the Island nation but the government would want to make sure that all transport services, hotels, etc. operate without interruption as tourism contributes 33 per cent to Maldives’ GDP.On behalf of Maldivian people we humbly request: 1. India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges & pol. detainees inc. Prez. Gayoom. We request a physical presence. 2. The US to stop all financial transactions of Maldives regime leaders going through US banks.— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 6, 2018India and other nations have, meanwhile, issued an advisory warning to its citizens to defer all non-essential travel to the Maldives. At least 83,019 Indians traveled to Maldives between in 2017, an increase of 24 per cent in 2016.“The prevailing political developments in Maldives and the resultant law and order situation are a matter of concern for the government of India,” a statement issued by the foreign ministry said.“Indian nationals are, therefore, advised to defer all non-essential travels to Male and other atolls until further notice. Indian expatriates in Maldives are also alerted to the need for heightened security awareness, and urged to exercise due caution in public and avoid public gatherings,” it added.According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, about 25,000 Indian nationals and 108 Persons of Indians Origin (PIOs) live in Maldives.Maldives President Yameen Abdul GayoomThe emergency situation will also affect India as a large number of Maldivians come to the country for educational purposes and advanced medical treatments at hospitals in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Maldives also imports items, including essential commodities, that are restricted to other countries.India and Maldives have been at loggerheads recently after the Island nation snubbed India by suspending three councilors belonging to the main opposition party MDP for meeting India’s ambassador to Maldives, Akhilesh Mishra. The restrictions on meeting officials of other countries took place after Gayoom visited China and signed a Free Trade Agreement with Beijing. Related ItemsMaldivesMalelast_img read more

In a First, India Buys Stake in Abu Dhabi Oil Field

first_imgIndia signed five agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, which saw New Delhi buying a stake in Abu Dhabi’s oil resources for the first time. Modi met Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Feb. 10 in the UAE capital, where buildings were lit up in Indian tricolor.“We warmly welcome our state guest and valued friend, the Indian Prime Minister H.E.@narendramodi to the UAE. His visit reflects our longstanding historical ties and is testament to our friendly bilateral relationship,” Crown Prince Mohammed, also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, tweeted.The Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) was signed between ONGC Videsh, Bharat PetroResources, Indian Oil and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (Adnoc) on Feb. 10 for the acquisition of 10 per cent participating interest in Abu Dhabi’s offshore Lower Zakum Concessions. The concession will be for 40 years from 2018 to 2057, and 60 per cent of the participating interest will be retained by ADNOC and remaining 30 per cent will be awarded to other international oil companies, a statement issued by the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi said.“This is the first Indian Investment in upstream oil sector of UAE, transforming the traditional buyer-seller relationship to a long-term investor relationship,” it added.A participation fee of $600 million was paid by ONGC Videsh for the concession. The current production at the offshore is about 400,000 barrels a day and Abu Dhabi plans to increase the yield to 450,000 barrels a day by 2025. The deal is important since oil prices have increased again after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers have come to an understanding about limiting outputs after last year’s supply glut decreased oil prices.Other MoUs signed by the two governments include one that aims to institutionalize the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers in the Gulf country. India receives the most amount of remittances from UAE. Both of the countries will work to integrate their labor related e-platforms to end existing malpractices, combat trafficking and organize collaborative programs for education and awareness of contractual workers.Another MoU was signed for technical cooperation in railways. “The MoU will facilitate development of joint projects, knowledge sharing, joint research and technology transfer. The MoU envisages formation of a Joint Working Group for institutionalizing the cooperation mechanism,” the statement said.The Bombay Stock Exchange and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange also signed an agreement to enhance cooperation between both the countries in financial services industry. Another MoU was signed between the government of Jammu and Kashmir and DP World to establish a multi-modal logistics park and hub in Jammu comprising warehouses and specialized storage solutions. Related ItemsEconomyGulfUAElast_img read more

Long Island Restaurateur Testifies in Bribery Scandal Involving U.S. Mayor

first_imgLong Island restaurateur Harendra Singh testified under oath on March 22 that he raised tens of thousands of dollars for New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s political campaigns for favorable treatment by the city.In two instances, the Indian American restaurateur testified that de Blasio had asked contributions for himself or political allies, the New York Times reported. When Singh told him that had already met the limit, de Blasio said, Singh testified, “Do what you got to do, but I don’t want to know.”This was the first time that Singh gave details about his efforts to use campaign contributions publicly. His contributions amounted to $80,000 raised from others, and even more personally by using “straw donors” — a person illegally using another person’s money to make a political contribution in their own name — to be on the edge of the contribution limits. Singh did all this so he could get terms that benefited him during lease negotiations for one of his restaurants.Singh, who owns the Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City, had earlier secretly pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe de Blasio. He was a major campaign donor for de Blasio when he was running for the mayor position and raised $27,000 for the 2013 campaign.When asked if his contributions to de Blasio were bribes, Singh was reported to have said: “Yes, in exchange of help, you know, at Water’s Edge, getting the lease extended.”About de Blasio, Singh said: “He made many phone calls. His office was working very hard, from his deputy mayor to his assistant to his intergovernmental affairs person. Everyone was working.” He added in the same conversations that he and the mayor often talked about the lease and the donations. Singh is testifying as a prosecution witness in the corruption trial of former Nassau County executive Edward Mangano.Mangano, his wife, Linda, and John Venditto, a former Oyster Bay town supervisor, have pleaded not guilty to an indictment that made allegations about extortion, bribery and more, CBS New York had reported earlier.“Mr. Mangano lied and accepted bribes and his wife, Linda, had a $100,000-a-year year sham job,” assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz told the court. Gatz added that in order to maintain his lifestyle, the former attorney and county legislator took to corruption.The mayor, a second-term Democrat, however emphasized that Singh received the same treatment as any others in his constituency. He also has suggested that the restaurateur concocted the accusations to placate prosecutors and avoid jail for his own crimes.Singh has agreed to testify against Mangano, who reportedly received gifts like a massage chair, an office chair and wood flooring meant for his bedroom. He also accepted a $7,000 watch for his son.“I gave these donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the city agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me,” Singh had admitted earlier. Related ItemsIndian AmericanNew YorkUnited Stateslast_img read more

Malaysia Looks at Increasing Number of Indian Students in Institutes of Higher Learning

first_imgThe Malaysian government is looking into ways that can help increase the number of Indian students in matriculation colleges as well as public institutions of higher learning (IPTA), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said on March 24.Since the admission of Indian students in IPTA has not been within the target of 7 per cent till now, the government is planning to increase the number of matriculation places for them, Razak said on the sidelines of an event in Putrajaya, Malaymail Online reported.The target that Indian students should comprise 7 per cent intake at public universities within the next 10 years was set by the government in 2009. “We hope through various intervention, Indians can achieve the target in the near future,” Razak said, according to the Star Online.“As an inclusive government, we have always ensured no one should be left behind in the development of the country,” he said, adding that 100,000 households of the Indian community with the median income of the bottom 40 per cent (B40) would be able to participate in a special investment scheme in Amanah Saham 1Malaysia (AS 1Malaysia ) to be launched on April 7.The AS 1Malaysia program seeks to provide regular and consistent income stream while preserving the unit holders’ investment capital over a long term through a diversified portfolio of investment.“Further announcements would be made on the date. So far, 411.14 million units of shares have been subscribed by the Indian community through a distribution of 1.5 billion units of additional A1SM for the Indian community on Jan. 29 this year,” Razak said. “This is a very encouraging achievement. So, believe me that I want each Malaysian including the Indian community to feel hopeful for all in the country.”Razak added that the government will always check on the needs of all groups present in the country. “For the Indian community, the government launched the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) on April 23 last year with progress made in several areas,” he said.The MIB focuses on a multi-sphere upliftment of the bottom 40 per cent (B40 group) over 10 years. A nationwide survey of 2,087 respondents was conducted in 61 Parliamentary constituencies, which have a collective Malaysian Indian population of 1,290,195, to gather comprehensive on-the-ground knowledge of what is required or lacking within the bottom 40 (B40) in the Indian community.According to Razak, it is his vision to provide the right kind of education to the Indian community, including higher education and vocational training so that everyone can make use of their maximum potential.“Secondly, we need the support of the local community and family, because if you are a fractious community who do not support one another, then it is difficult to uplift the fortune of the community. You need to rally and work together, and the social as well as family values are important,” he said, the Star Online reported. Related ItemsMalaysiaNajib Razaklast_img read more

India, South Korea Sign Pact to Provide More Job Prospects for Indian Sailors

first_imgIndia has inked an agreement with South Korea that will open up the path for Indian mariners seeking jobs on Korean ships.“The signing of the agreement will benefit both countries,” Nitin Gadkari, the Indian Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, said in a statement on April 10. “Korea is a large ship owning nation. As of now, Korean entities own more than 500 foreign going ships, and need seafarers to work on their fleet. India has around 1,54,349 seafarers. The agreement will open up employment opportunities for Indian seafarers on Korean ships,” he added.Gadkari and his Korean counterpart Kim Young-choon signed the agreement for mutually recognizing the competency certificates of seafarers at a ceremony in Busan. The two leaders attended a business forum in Korea to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of port development, marine transport, logistics and energy development.Gadkari began his four-day visit to Korea on April 9, with a focus on taking forward bilateral cooperation between the two countries in areas like shipping, ports, inland waterways, highways, river interlinking and infrastructure sector.The Ministry of Shipping posted the latest development on the social media, saying, “This will help Korea with its big shipping fleet and India with its large pool of seafarers.”India inks MOU on Mutual Recognition of Certificates of Competency of Seafarers in presence of Shri @nitin_gadkari & Minister of Oceans & Fisheries of Republic of Korea #ROK. This will help #Korea with its big shipping fleet & India with its large pool of sea-farers. #Sagarmala pic.twitter.com/C49KKsnwEd— Ministry of Shipping (@shipmin_india) April 10, 2018“India signed an MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the Republic of Korea on mutual recognition of certificates of competency of seafarers. This paves the way for the two governments to mutually recognize the certificates of maritime education and training, competency, endorsements and medical fitness of seafarers issued by each other,” the statement from Ministry of Shipping said.Gadkari also visited the Busan Port and attended the India-Korea Maritime Cooperation Forum (IKMCF).In April last year, India and South Korea signed a pact to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of defense shipbuilding. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, the two nations had to nominate one shipyard each. India chose the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) at Visakhapatnam.“It will enable HSL to upgrade and modernize its facilities so as to enable it to execute naval projects in a timely manner,” Secretary of Defence Production Ashok Kumar Gupta had said at the time, PTI reported. Related ItemsEmploymentshippingSouth Korealast_img read more