Who Will Make In India?

Firoze Hirjikaka

Mumbai has just witnessed an extremely lavish and exorbitantly expensive show of its industrial prowess entitled Make in India. Crores of taxpayers’ money were splurged on constructing a set worthy of Cecil B DeMille; and hundreds of thousands of non-VIP Mumbaikars were subjected to horrendous traffic snarls for a week as a garland of policemen graced the thoroughfare leading to the venue (and woe betide the ordinary Deshpande who got caught in the maelstrom). Girgaum Chowpatty was cordoned off for an entertainment spectacular worthy of Sodom and Gomorrah – and met the same fate. Our incandescent Prime Minister himself inaugurated the proceedings; and a beaming Maharashtra Chief Minister trumpeted how he had succeeded in bringing billions of dollars of foreign investment to his state. A good time was had by all.

Was it all worth it?

On the face of it – definitely. An impressive Rs.12.5 lakh crores of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed and everything came up roses. The question is – how much of this will translate into actual projects? I believe we will be lucky if even 10% of the promises are realized.

There is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Narendra Modi and his lieutenants may believe they have dazzled the visiting dignitaries with India’s technical and industrial prowess, but these investors are no babes in the woods. They look for security of their investments which, to a large degree, depends on the stability of the country in which they are being induced to invest. And they base their opinion not on government pronouncements, but on how the rest of the world perceives us.

Recent Protests and Revolts

Right now the image is not flattering. The country seems to be in turmoil. Students across universities are agitating and in revolt. The government’s attempt to portray this as a left wing, anti-national plot is not cutting any ice. Levying an absurd charge of sedition against a student leader – and that too by the Home Minister of the country – without any concrete evidence, have sparked outrage in the international community. Widely respected intellectuals like Noam Chomski have felt compelled to speak out. International newspaper giants like the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Guardian have written editorials lamenting what they perceive to be a growing manifestation of intolerance and insensitivity on the part of the ruling party.

The Patidar issue in the supposedly model state of Gujarat is still unresolved and their leader has gone on a hunger strike.  Then there is the agitation for reservations by Jats in Haryana that has taken such a dangerous turn that the army had to be called out. Most embarrassingly for the government, the agitators are holding the capital of India to ransom by denying water from reaching Delhi and disrupting rail services. In effect, they have imposed a blockade on the capital.

The Reel and the Real

The impression created is that almost everywhere in the country, communities are dissatisfied and rebelling. This is not the manufacturing powerhouse and prosperous shining India projected by PM Modi during his frequent trips abroad. The show of bonhomie characterized by hugs at summits does not mean much when it comes down to brass tacks. Foreign leaders are not influenced by what they are told; they go by what they can see for themselves.

Another reality is that most of the countries that seem eager to invest in India do not really regard our country as the advanced nation Modi is eager to portray. They see the grinding poverty everywhere; they see our commercial capital Mumbai awash in slums; they see trains crammed to capacity with hundreds travelling on the roofs. They see a significant proportion of the population of a “modern” democracy trapped in a medieval mind-set. Just recently, there was a report that a khap panchayat had issued a diktat forbidding girls under 18 from using cell phones.

Most perplexingly, they witness a phenomenon that is uniquely Indian. They see large groups of people aspiring – indeed agitating – not to get ahead, but to be classified as ‘backward’. They do this to be included in ‘quotas’ at the expense of merit. This is the antithesis of the can-do spirit that Americans, in particular, value so highly. Under these circumstances, who will want to Make in India?

So that is how it stands. A lot of hoopla, a lot of self-congratulation all round, delegates going back to their home countries reminiscing about how they were treated like kings. However, foreign investors are savvy enough to separate show from substance. Make in India and Start-up India extravaganzas are fine, but what Modi needs to do is to convince foreign leaders and businessmen that they are investing in a stable country, where their investment will not literally go up in smoke. I’m sure there is a lot of soul searching going on. It is the lure of cheap manufacturing and rising profits conflicting with apprehensions about security of their investment. Which view will win out? Only time will tell.

Firoze Hirjikaka is a retired civil engineer and freelance writer.  E-mail: leonardo8_99@yahoo.com

Hindu Raj Then, Saffron Raj Now

Dr. T. Hanuman Chowdary

Under the Government of India Act 1935, elections were held to provincial (now state) legislatures in 1937.  At that time, Muslims were a separate electorate and had reserved seats, roughly one-third more than their proportion in the provinces where they were in a minority.  However, not a single nationalist Muslim of the Congress could win a seat reserved for the Muslims.  In the six Hindu dominated provinces – Madras, Orissa, Bihar, UP, Bombay and Central Province – the Congress secured a majority and formed its ministries.  But no Muslim was found in those Ministries as no Congress Muslim won in the constituencies reserved for Muslims.

Hindu Raj in the Congress-ruled provinces

The Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah criticized the Congress governments for having ushered in Hindu Raj.  Every Hindu-Muslim riot was alleged to have been initiated by the Hindus and it was believed that the Hindus were abetted by the Congress’s Hindu Raj.  Among the charges levelled by the Muslim League against the Congress’s Hindu Raj were – singing of Vande Mataram made compulsory, hoisting the tri-colour flag on all buildings, discouraging the use of the Urdu language which led to its decline and ban of cow-slaughter.  Muslim culture and life were becoming insecure and their mosques, mazars and shrines were being desecrated.

Muslim League’s Riposte

To counter the atrocities by Hindu Raj and bring to the fore the grievances of the Muslims, the Muslim League set up three committees which issued three reports – the Pirpur Report (1938) under the chairmanship of Raja Syed Mohammed Mehdi of Pirpur, “Muslim Sufferings under Congress Rule” (1939) by A. K. Fazlul Huq and the Shareef Report (1939) giving an account of the grievances of the Muslims in Bihar.

At that time, there were no communists (like Sitaram Yechuri), no social activists (like Teesta Setalvad or Arundhati Roy), no casteist secularists (like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav) or Nehruvian secular-socialists (like  Digvijay Singh) or secular  intellectuals (like Js. Rajender Sachar) and Marxist eminent historians (like Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar) or self-styled secular fundamentalists (like Mani Shankar Aiyar) to take up the cause of the minorities and propagate the cry of their religion being in danger under Hindu Raj of 1937-39.

The then Viceroy Linlithgow, who was no friend of the Congress or the Hindus, had received the three reports submitted by the Muslim League on the atrocities of the  Congress’s Hindu Raj, got them studied and investigated, and absolved the Congress governments of all charges of atrocities and persecution levelled by the  Muslim League.

Day of Deliverance

On 2nd September 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Viceroy Linlithgow declared India too to be at war against Germany without consulting the Indian leaders and Provincial Governments.  This led to the resignation of the Congress Ministries; and that delighted the Muslim League.  Grabbing the opportunity, Jinnah called upon the Muslims all over India to observe 22nd December 1939 (incidentally it was a Friday) as the Day of Deliverance – deliverance from Hindu Raj.

Cut to the Present

As in 1937-39, since May 2014, we hear the “minorities” cry of them being in danger.  Their religion, lifestyle, food – in short, their identity – are all in danger.  The BJP governments at the Center and in the states are “saffronising” governance, and educational and cultural institutions. Sanskrit is being promoted, yoga, Surya Namaskarams and the compulsory singing of Vande Mataram are being imposed and the minorities are even deprived of having their staple foods (the beef ban).

In short, it appears that their very existence is threatened.  So we have persons like Mohammad Azam Khan, Samajwadi Party MP from U.P. petitioning the UN to stop the saffronising Modi government from persecuting Muslims in India.  This is reminiscent of the Nizam of Hyderabad petitioning the U.N. Security Council in 1948 that the Indian government was committing war-like acts and aggression on his peaceful sovereign state.

The minorities (i.e. Muslims) are now joined by their congenital allies – the Communists (eight so-styled parties in India), the secular intellectuals, the progressive writers, the casteists, the vote-begging regional Samajwadis, and of course, eminent historians (many of them Marxists) of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and finally, the (Sonia) Congress which, by now, is a captive of the minorities and claiming itself to be their sole protector.

Under the Congress rule, many government-patronized and funded institutions like ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research), ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations), NMM&L (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library) and the humanities faculties of Central Universities were infiltrated by anti-Hindus of various faiths, ideologies and interests.  It is these groups and the beneficiary writers and artists who, in league with the minorities, are echoing the 1937-39 cry of Congress’s Hindu Raj and raising the slogan of BJP’s Saffron Raj.

To say that minorities in India are in danger is a totally unabashed charge.  The BJP and its allies must unswervingly tread the path of justice for all, no favour for or discrimination against any faith, religion or Dharma.  The government should not retreat from actions that would make Bharat a prosperous, powerful, intellectual and ethical nation-state.

In conclusion, let me quote from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s book “Pakistan or the Partition of India” published in 1940.

“I do not think the demand for Pakistan is the result of mere political distemper, which will pass away with the efflux of time.  As I read the situation, it seems to me that it is a characteristic in the biological sense of the term which the Muslim body politic has developed in the same manner as an organism develops a characteristic. Whether it will survive or not, in the process of natural selection, must depend upon the forces that may become operative in the struggle for existence between Hindus and Musalmans.”

Dr. T. Hanuman Chowdary is Chairman, Pragna Bharati, Andhra Pradesh, Director, Center for Telecom Management and Studies and former Chairman and Managing Director, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited.  E-mail: hanuman.chowdary@tcs.com

Corruption and the state of our Republic

“Can corrupt politicians ever be punished in India?” Mr. N. S. Venkataraman questions and writes about the cancer that is eating up our country’s core.  As if on cue, some days later we receive Mr. Firoze Hirjikaka’s essay on the state of our 66 years old Republic.

We put the two articles in one post as the underlying theme is the same.  Mr. Hirjikaka, inter alia, touches upon corruption, which has become an integral part of the state of the Republic.  

We invite comments from readers.  You can “Leave a Reply” in the column at the end of the post.  Let’s have a lively debate on this topic of corruption which has affected all of us in some way or the other and also how you feel our Republic has fared.   Continue reading