Sunday, July 20, 2008

COMMENT: The UPA's Vote of Confidence Or India's Quest for Self-Respect

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Tomorrow’s Vote is not about the survival of the UPA; it is about India’s self-respect. Never before has Parliament convened to discuss a more important issue- one whose consequences would not only decide the fate of a government but also determine the place India will take in the 21st century.

During the last general elections, the people of India voted out the NDA because they felt that it was doing very little for the poor. The UPA, therefore, is- if nothing else- a government of the poor, for the poor and by the poor. In my opinion, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government has been driven by only one consideration (inspired by the Mahatma’s talisman about the daridra narayan): how do we restore the self-respect of India’s poor, especially the farmers whose blood, toil and sweat feed us? The NREGA ensures that the sons & daughters of farmers no longer have to go begging for jobs in faraway city slums; now, hundreds of millions living in the villages can claim employment as a birth right. Not only do they live with self-respect, thanks to the NREGA, but in doing so, they are creating billions of rupees worth of rural infrastructure. Also, under the UPA, Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for foodgrains have more than tripled; farmers’ loans have been waived across the board. Never before in the history of India have the farmers got higher prices for their crops than now. The same goes for tribals. By enacting the Tribal Act, they have once again been made masters of their own homes.

Rajiv ji had forewarned at the historic Bombay AICC Session (1985) that of every rupee sent by GOI, only a fraction reaches its intended beneficiary. To ensure, therefore, that the benefits of the aforementioned schemes reach their rightful beneficiaries, the UPA has enacted the RTI. No other step has done more to weed out the cancer of corruption that is eating into the fabric of our society. RTI has not merely attacked the symptom of that disease, but its cause (lack of transparency). Henceforth, every citizen has a right to know what his government is up to, and to hold it to the test of accountability.

The above-mentioned steps- both historic and momentous- have gone a long way in restoring the self-confidence of those who had been left out from India’s march towards development for too long. The Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement too should, then, be seen in light of UPA’s overriding commitment to India’s self-respect. India is a nation of a billion people with a great and proud history and one of the world’s strongest, fastest growing economies- and yet for too long have we been denied our right place in the family of nations. Thus far, a select club of nations has decided who should have the right to keep what; and who should not. With the Nuclear Agreement, all that will change. As I see it- and as millions of other Indians see it- this Deal is the much-awaited & long-cherished Recognition & Validation of India’s Greatness by the world community.

Those who oppose it do so without reason; not only are they opportunists, they are also anti-national. Those who oppose it today are the same people who were in two minds about whether to condemn the Chinese aggression of India in 1962. Those who oppose it today by saying that the deal is pro-US should not forget that when the US 7th fleet was in the Bay of Bengal in 1971, a Congress government opposed it. Let there be no doubt that we have- and will- oppose the US- or for that matter, any other power- that seeks to compromise India’s self-respect. Those who oppose it today also opposed IT revolution ushered in by Rajiv ji in the 1980s; today those same people cannot live without mobile phones and the internet. Those who oppose the Agreement today would have happily settled for a less than equitable 1-2-3 agreement less than five years ago. Last but not the least, those who oppose this Vote today have very clearly succumbed to a Shameful Politics of Opportunism. They are not interested in India; they are only interested in grabbing power. By standing solidly behind the Nuclear Agreement, Congress has put Principles- most of all, the Principle of National Self-Respect- over any Opportunistic consideration.

The one true test of the Agreement- indeed any agreement- is its cost-benefit analysis. For India, this is a WIN/WIN situation: we will now have access to the latest nuclear technology and materials WITHOUT compromising in any way our national defense program. That is indeed a privilege extended to no other nation (which hasn't signed the NPT and CTBT). Moreover, the recent rise in petrol prices has exposed our nation’s vulnerability; never before have we felt more acutely the need for developing alternative sources of energy. Nuclear energy has tremendous potential: not only is it clean and cost-effective; it is also NECESSARY to power India’s drive towards the forefront of nations. It will enable us to fulfill Rajiv ji’s dream of making the 21st century- the Indian century.

In the end, the Vote is not only about us, but for future generations- our unborn sons and daughters- so that they don’t say that we compromised India’s interests at this crucial juncture in our history.


PS: You can read Dr. Saibel Farishta's excellent analysis of the Vote here.
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

On Golden Pond: Kumarakom, Kerala

Snapshots from our first family holiday of this millennium!

To read more comments, visit here & here.


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