Is Modi Government Targeting Opposition Leaders for Political Reasons?

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in India used to be a sleepy corner of India’s Finance Ministry and was not known to majority of Indians until recently. Mandated to investigate money-laundering and foreign-exchange violations, it rarely made headlines under the previous governments, including during the coalition led by the Congress party, which ruled from 2004 to 2014. Its record on money-laundering—a big problem in India—was particularly lackluster: it conducted only 112 raids and failed to achieve a single conviction.

Under Narendra Modi, the ED has become one of India’s most feared agencies. Since he became prime minister in 2014 it has conducted more than 3,000 money-laundering raids and secured 54 convictions. Most controversially, especially in the run-up to a general election due by May, it has targeted dozens of Opposition politicians, including at least five party leaders—while largely steering clear of bigwigs in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In March 2023, The Union government introduced changes to rules on money laundering which significantly widen the net under which the Enforcement Directorate (ED) can access the financial history of individuals and organisations. This has implications on all those the powerful central agency can now act against.

Is Modi Government Targeting Opposition Leaders for Political Reasons (TOI)The recent offensives against the Opposition Party leaders by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may owe partly to the BJP’s objective of winning the 2024 general election with a much bigger margin, which requires it to “discredit and disunite” its opponents, analysts across India say.

Indian investigators have raided multiple premises linked with a prominent rights activist in the national capital – a move that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s critics say is part of a pattern that has seen his government targeting political opponents two months before general elections.

Congress Party leader and a former Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information at the United Nations, Shashi Tharoor crticized the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India, accusing it of misusing central agencies to target political opponents. Tharoor expressed concern about the state of central agencies and independent institutions in the country under what he termed as “electoral autocracy.”

Highlighting that the ruling government is misusing central agencies for political benefits, Tharoor said, “Now we are seeing the government being quite shameless in misusing even those institutions that were meant to be independent like the ED, CBI, and law enforcement bodies, which were meant to chase wrongdoers. They are now being unleashed selectively only on those whom the BJP deems to be its political opponent.”

The recent offensives against the Opposition Party leaders by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may owe partly to the BJP’s objective of winning the 2024 general election with a much bigger margin, which requires it to “discredit and disunite” its opponents, analysts across India say.

The latest victim of this lopsided ED raids and arrests was on January 31st, 2024, when ED officers arrested Hemant Soren of the Congress Party and the chief minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand, on suspicion of money-laundering.

Soren is the fourth opposition chief minister to come under the scanner of the central investigation agency. Earlier,Is Modi Government Targeting Opposition Leaders for Political Reasons (Yahoo) former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and his associates were accused by the ED of being involved in an illegal online betting case. Baghel was named by the ED days ahead of the state’s assembly polls, which allowed the BJP to carry out a political campaign against the chief minister’s alleged corruption.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and his son and former deputy chief minister of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav have also been implicated in an alleged “land for jobs” scam. Lalu Prasad, who is severely ill, was called for questioning by the ED in a case that the CBI had first registered in May 2022 as a “land-for-jobs” scam. The CBI has named Lalu Prasad, his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi, and their son Tejashwi Yadav and two daughters Misa Bharti and Hema Yadav, along with 12 others.

Other opposition leaders, including Tejashwi Yadav, the former deputy chief minister of neighbouring Bihar state, and Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, have also been raided by federal agencies in recent months. Kejriwal’s deputy and one of his party’s parliamentarians are already in jail.

The ED raided the premises linked to AAP leaders in Delhi, prompting the party to accuse the Centre and the probe agency of intimidation. ED sources refuted the claims and added that the agency will take  “legal recourse.”

Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, too, has been served multiple notices by the ED in the excise policy case, in which his deputy Manish Sisodia and party MP Sanjay Singh have already been arrested. Satyendra Jain, another AAP minister in Delhi, has been in prison for around two years. Speculations are rife that Kejriwal may soon be arrested for refusing to present himself for questioning, as the chief minister has maintained that the questioning was politically motivated and a ploy to arrest him to prevent him from campaigning during the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

In the central Chhattisgarh state, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his associates were picked up by the ED officials right before elections in November last year. The BJP accused them of multiple scams, including an illegal coal mining deal, and used the charges as a major plank to win the state polls.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan is now facing the heat from central agencies. In its efforts to portray a negative perception on the Communist leader in Ketrala, the CBI pushed for a March or April hearing on its plea, ahead of the national elections, challenging the discharge of Pinarayi in an over-25-year-old corruption case, but the Supreme Court listed it for a final hearing in May.

The case is about an allegation that as Kerala power minister, Pinarayi visited Canada as “a guest” of Lavalin and decided to grant it a contract for the renovation and modernisation of three hydroelectric projects in Idukki. The CBI alleges the decision resulted in a loss of Rs 86.25 crore to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). The trial court and the Kerala High Court have discharged Pinarayi in the case. The CBI says the high court’s decision to discharge Pinarayi was “not correct.”

Several other Opposition leaders are under the scanner of the central agencies, including a former Congress minister in Rajasthan Mahesh Joshi in the alleged Jal Jeevan Mission scam, associates of a few Congress leaders in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in an alleged Haryana Urban Development Authority scam, and several local opposition leaders in southern states.

The Tamil Nadu government has moved the Madras High Court against the Enforcement Directorate (ED), opposing the agency’s recent summons to 10 district collectors in the state in connection with alleged irregularities in sand mining. The state’s petition on behalf of the collectors, in which it alleged constitutional overreach by the ED and a deliberate attempt to harass state officials, marks an escalation in the ongoing tussle between the state machinery and central agencies.

This can potentially be an election issue during the Lok Sabha polls, especially in Kerala, where the BJP is trying to expand its base and the CPI-M and the Congress have been the leading parties for decades.

The ED’s raids against the Opposition, however, have served the BJP readymade campaigns to target the Opposition and advance its own anti-corruption plank. Curiously, however, the ED hasn’t been able to substantiate many of its charges, with its conviction rate remaining at an abysmal low.

In yet another instance of abus eof power by the Modi government, a total of 141 federal lawmakers – 95 from the lower house (Lok Sabha) and 46 from the upper chamber (Rajya Sabha) – were suspended since December 14, 2023 for allegedly disrupting House proceedings, after they demanded a debate on a Parliament security breach.

Alleging that central agencies are silent in the BJP-ruled states, Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha added that 95 per cent of the cases registered by the CBI and ED are against politicians of the Opposition.

Calling ED, I-T department and CBI as the “jawans” of the Modi government, Mallikarjun Kharge, President of the Congress Party said that the prime minister is afraid because of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh and therefore the agencies are trying to scare the Congress. He questioned why action is not taken against BJP leaders despite them having money and property. He said that the BJP has a “washing machine” through which tainted people in BJP are made clean. He said the agencies get active ahead of polls and target only Opposition leaders.

As the Lok Sabha elections approach, there are allegations that the BJP is using government agencies to intimidate and stifle opposition voices. Interestingly, the ED has yet to initiate any investigations against leaders of the BJP and its NDA coalition partners. Such alacrity against Opposition leaders contrasts that with ED’s lack of any initiative in pursuing similar cases of alleged financial fraud against BJP chief minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma or deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar, against whom allegations of corruption were being vigorously followed up before he joined ranks with the BJP.

Old cases like Vyapam during the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh have also been put in cold storage. The same is the case of multiple small and big cases of corruption during the BJP rule in Karnataka under chief ministers B.S. Yediyurappa and B.S. Bommai when many of their ministers faced allegations of financial irregularities.

Sushil Sunny Agrawal, a 39-year-old former minister in Baghel’s cabinet, was among the politicians the ED raided before the state elections last year. “They mentally tortured us. The ED officials told me: ‘What’s in there to stay with the Congress? Join BJP, that’s where the future is,’” Agrawal said. “These agencies have become liaisons for the BJP. They deal on their behalf: If you go with Modi, you will be cleared from all this and stand a chance at a bright future.” Agrawal said the Modi government is “hijacking” the forthcoming vote by targeting Opposition leaders and activists. “Democracy has completely ended in India,” he said.

The upcoming general elections are keeping Agrawal on edge. “The BJP knows no limits. And they are in a full-on attacking mode, weaponising the central agencies to completely curb the opposition,” he said.

The Congress Party along with most Opposition parties expressed concern over the “worrying trend” of the ED being used as a “political tool” by the ruling BJP against Opposition leaders and also cited the raids at the residence of Rajasthan Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra.

Last April, 14 Opposition Parties moved the Supreme Court to challenge the Modi government’s alleged misuse of bodies like the ED. A delegation led by Congress Working Committee member Abhishek Singhvi met the Chief Election Commissioner and others when they also demanded disciplinary action against ED officials who are “misusing” their powers and violating the guidelines of the of the EC, which insists on “neutral, impartial and non-discriminatory” actions by agencies.

The politicization of central agencies is not limited to political leaders who are opposed to BJP alone. They have targeted businessmen, heads and staf of financial institutions, Bollywood stars and their families, Media personnel, Human Rights activists, Not for Profit Agencies and many other groups who are considered independent and oppose Modi regime’s policies and abuse of power.

The arrest and ongoing investigations on Chanda Kochhar is another typical example. The Bombay High Court on February 13, 2024 declared the arrests of ex-ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar in the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan fraud case as “illegal” as it upheld the 2023 interim bail order. The court had questioned the CBI over the delayed investigation since the FIR in 2019, while granting interim bail to the Kochhars. They were arrested on December 23, 2022, when their plea was pending. It ruled that the arrests were not in accordance with the law, citing lack of clarity on the reason for arresting them four years into the probe.

CBI officials raided the residence of former bureaucrat Harsh Mander and the office of a think tank, the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) in New Delhi, linked to him, alleging financial irregularities under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

Mander, a fierce critic of the Modi government’s Hindu supremacist agenda, served as an Indian Administrative Service officer for 22 years before he resigned in 2002 in the wake of the riots in Gujarat state when Modi was its chief minister. More than 1,000 people died in the violence, most of them Muslims, according to the state government.

Apoorvanand, professor of Hindi Literature at the University of Delhi and one of Mander’s close acquaintances, said he woke up to the “upsetting news” of the raids. “Mander and the civil society members have been relentlessly hounded by the investigative agencies,” he added.

The crackdown by the government is an attempt to establish a one-party rule in India, Apporvanand said. “When the opposition parties should be hitting the roads [to campaign] ahead of the elections, they are running from one agency to another,” he said. “The campaigns are distracted and their followers will be demoralised. You can practically achieve a one-party state without changing the constitution. From the civil society to academia, I can feel this fear – who’s going to be next?” said Apoorvanand.

“These raids or allegations of financial irregularities seem to have become a norm for the authorities to silence peaceful criticism,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division said. Several activists are currently facing charges, some under draconian terror laws. “When independent state agencies are seen to act in a partisan manner, with politically motivated targeting of dissent, it undermines India’s image as a country that upholds the rule of law,” Ganguly said.

The ED’s raids against the Opposition, however, have served the BJP readymade campaigns to target the opposition and advance its own anti-corruption plank. Curiously, however, the ED hasn’t been able to substantiate many of its charges, with its conviction rate remaining at an abysmal low.

The Wire reported that there is a four-fold jump in ED cases since 2014 and that 95% of the cases probed by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation against political leaders are from the Opposition. Although the ED claims that it has a high conviction rate of 96%, the figures appear to be misplaced if one factors in the number of cases it has closed since 2005. The ED registered 5,906 cases until March 2023 but completed the probe and filed a chargesheet in only 1,142 cases – out of which it has disposed of only 25 cases, a mere 0.42 of the total number of cases. Of those 25 cases, the ED has managed convictions in 24 cases, which is around 96% conviction rate as claimed by the agency.

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, “Like the politicians, the civil society or anybody who is a critic of this government is being targeted. This is the rise of a fascist state under Modi and unfortunately, the judiciary is doing very little or hardly anything to protect the rights and liberties of the citizens. Its independence appears to have collapsed.”

According to Tharror, “The institutions are those that give body and strength to our democracy, whether it’s parliament, whether it’s an independent election commission, whether it’s the information commission or the Reserve Bank of India. All of these institutions have found their independence vitiated.”

“Let the ED, income tax department, and CBI do their job, but how come all of their targets are from the Opposition? How is this possible that there are no other criminals anywhere but only in Opposition? Till now, nobody has given any satisfactory answer to these questions,” the Tharror said. “The respected V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) institute in Sweden decided to call us not a democracy anymore, but an “electoral autocracy” that is that, we elect our leaders but then they behave as autocrats.”

Southern Indian States Protest Alleged Fiscal Discrimination in New Delhi

Ministers and legislators hailing from the southern regions of India convened in the nation’s capital, New Delhi, on Wednesday to voice grievances regarding what they perceive as biased allocation of federal funds by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.

Led by the chief minister of Karnataka state, the protest underscores longstanding disparities between the more affluent southern states and their economically disadvantaged northern counterparts.

The five southern states of India are governed either by regional parties or opposition entities to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the upcoming protests scheduled to be spearheaded by the chief minister of Kerala on Thursday, February 8.

Bengaluru, renowned as a technological hub, serves as the capital of Karnataka, a state renowned for its substantial contribution to national tax revenues. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, known mononymously, informed demonstrators that over the past four years, Karnataka’s portion of tax funds redistributed from the central government had dwindled from 4.71% to 3.64% of the total national tax collection.

In addition to this, New Delhi had reneged on commitments regarding the allocation of grants, obstructed irrigation projects, and disregarded pleas for special funding to alleviate drought, Siddaramaiah lamented. Hailing from the primary opposition party, Congress, he criticized the federal policy of apportioning funds based on states’ populations, arguing that this system unfairly disadvantaged southern states which had effectively managed population growth.

“North Indian states did not tackle population growth,” Siddaramaiah asserted to the assembly of ministers and lawmakers gathered at Jantar Mantar, the primary protest site in New Delhi.

Protesters raised voices and brandished placards bearing slogans such as ‘Our Tax, Our Right’, and ‘Our Tax Money, Give it to us’, highlighting their demand for equitable distribution of tax revenues.

“Population control has become a curse for us. Is this not injustice?” Siddaramaiah questioned.

However, the federal government rebuffed these allegations, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissing them as politically motivated and affirming the existence of a well-established system governing fund allocation.

On Wednesday, February 7, Modi retaliated against Siddaramaiah’s accusations, decrying the emergence of a divisive north-south narrative.

“‘Our tax, our money’—what kind of language is this? I don’t discriminate against states,” Modi retorted during parliamentary proceedings.

Ambassador Eric Garcetti Hails ‘Multiplicative’ India-US Partnership

US envoy to India Eric Garcetti lauded the “multiplicative” US-India partnership during his address at the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce Conference on ‘Strengthening Indo-US relationship in Amritkal-Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ held on January 30.

In his speech, the Ambassador discussed ways to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the two nations by harnessing technology, AI, agriculture, and telecommunications among other powers.

“With technology, we see it harm people, divide people. But we could instead, the US and India together make sure that it connects us, and protects us,” Garcetti said in his address.

He also underlined that 2023 was the best year for the US-India partnership, highlighting strong people-to-people ties and a manifold increase in bilateral trade between the two nations, which positioned Washington as the number one trading partner to New Delhi.

“I am less proud, though it’s a good number, that India is just 10th for us, and I want to see you bring India in the single digits,” he said to the audience.

‘US, India thinks the same way through democracy’

Ambassador Eric Garcetti Hails ‘Multiplicative’ India US PartnershipGarcetti noted US cabinet members do not just visit India for a chance to see monuments like the Taj Mahal or with a touch-and-go attitude. Instead, they leave with concrete deliverables like greater cooperation and co production and development in the defense industry, such as the GE Engine deal.

“My message to my Indian friends is, I believe for the first time our heads are aligned, our hearts are aligned, truly. We think the same way now through democracies….So if our heads think together and our hearts feel together, the question is, can our feet now move together?” Garcetti asked.

He concluded by urging India and the US to “march together” for a more equal, just, prosperous, and safe world.

About the IACC Conference

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) was established in 1968. It is the apex bilateral chamber synergizing India-US economic engagement.

The ‘Strengthening Indo-US relationship in Amritkal-Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ conference brought together industry experts to discuss critical topics like investment, travel, and tourism. Esteemed speakers and distinguished guests included India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh; U.S. Intellectual Property Counselor for South Asia U.S. Embassy John Cabeca; and Commercial Attache Anastasia Mukherjee, among others.

India Ranks 93 In 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index

India fell from 85th place in 2022 to 93rd place in 2023 on the Index.

India has ranked 93rd, falling from 85th place in 2022, on the list of the world’s most corrupt nations according to the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released by Transparency International on January 30.

According to the index, most of the countries faced difficulty in controlling corruption in the public sector. For the twelfth year in a row, the average global CPI remained at 43, with more than two-thirds of countries scoring worse than 50. The CPI ranked 180 countries from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) based on assumed levels of public sector corruption.

India’s rank in Global Corruption Index

India Ranks 93 In 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (TOI)
Picture: TOI

The Transparency International report stated that India received a score of 39 and was placed at 93rd on the corruption perceptions index for 2023. However , the country’s its overall score remained essentially unchanged since 2022 when it was ranked 85 with a score of 40. The survey also stated that India’s neighbours Pakistan, with a score of 29, and Sri Lanka, with a score of 34, struggled with debt loads and the consequent political unrest.

Most corrupt countries

The countries with the highest scores on the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index were Somalia (11), Venezuela (13), Syria (13), South Sudan (13), and Yemen (16).”They are all affected by protracted crises, mostly armed conflicts,” according to the report. North Korea is also one of the most corrupt nations, scoring 172.

Least corrupt countries

Denmark’s “well-functioning justice systems” allowed it to top the list for the sixth year in a row with a score of 90, according to the report. Second and third place went to Finland (87) and New Zealand (85) respectively.

These were followed by Norway (84), Singapore (83), Sweden (82), Switzerland (82), the Netherlands (79), Germany (78), and Luxembourg (78).

Views on corruption in the public sector served as the foundation for the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index. It used information from 13 external sources, including research tanks, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and commercial risk and advisory firms.

The Coming-of-Age of Indian Americans

“Despite constituting less than 1% of the U.S. population, Indian Americans are 3% of the nation’s engineers, 7% of its IT workers and 8% of its physicians and surgeons,” wrote the popular Forbes magazine in 2008. “The overrepresentation of Indians in these fields is striking–in practical terms, your doctor is nine times more likely to be an Indian American than is a random passerby on the street.”

Sixteen years later, in 2024, the Indian American community has grown even stronger; their successes encompassing almost all areas of American life – living  the American Dream.  The less than four million Indian Americans appear to be gaining prominence and have come to be recognized as a model community, and a force to reckon with in this land of opportunities that they have come to call as their adopted homeland.

In 1960, there were only 12,000 Indian immigrants living in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Today, the number of Indian Americans or Indian immigrants has climbed to more than 4 million, census data shows. Historically, Indians in the US worked in medicine, science & technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs. Some, like the Patel community from Gujarat, took to the hotel industry and grew to dominate it. Others were entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley after the digital revolution of the 1980s.

In 1997, Ramani Ayer became the CEO of the Fortune 500 financial firm The Hartford, becoming the first in the list of Indian leaders heading American businesses. At present, 2% of the Fortune 500 companies of American origin — including Microsoft, Alphabet, Adobe, IBM, and Micron Technologies — are led by Indian American CEOs. One in every seven doctors in America is of Indian descent.

Among all these fields, if there is one area, where the influential Indian Americans have come to be recognized more than any other is the political arena, where they are seeking to win elections at the national, state and local levels, vying to occupy top jobs across the nation.

The Coming of Age of Indian Americans 3Ever since Gov. Bobby Jindal the first ever major Indian American presidential candidate who had sought to occupy the White House, there have been many others who have followed in his footsteps. Indian Americans have expressed keen interest in carving out their political space at the national table for decades, and now, the fruits of their labor are paying off, with more successes now than ever before.

Four years ago, it was then-California Sen. Kamala Harris, who made headlines and then elected as the vice president, becoming the highest-ranking person of Indian descent in the US government. The rise of Kamala Harris, daughter of an Indian mother, as the Vice President represented a coming-of-age of the Indian American community in the United States. Harris was born to civil rights activist parents a year before the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed; this Act relaxed the quota regime that restricted foreigners. At that time, there was one Indian American lawmaker in the US House of Representatives — the Punjab-born Dalip Singh Saund, also from California.

It’s still a relatively small number, compared with the country’s total population of more than 333 million. But Devesh Kapur, co-author of “The Other One Percent: Indians in America,” said he was not surprised to see three Indian Americans in the political spotlight in the 2024 race. “Indian Americans have been selected to be the outliers — they have been selected for success,” Kapur wrote in his book with Sanjoy Chakravorty and Nirvikar Singh.

The 2024 election season in the United States (US) kicked off and now with less than 10 months to go until Election Day and a week before the next Republican primary, one group that has emerged on the national political stage in a way they never have before in U.S. history: Indian Americans.

The current election cycle is shaping up to be historic for the Indian American community at every level, from local to the presidential. After months of campaigning, only a handful of GOP hopefuls were qualified for the last Republican Party Presdetial Debate; two of them were former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and commentator whose White House bid has skyrocketed his profile.

While insurgent candidate Vivek Ramaswamy bowed out after finishing fourth in the Iowa Caucus, former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, emerged with a strong showing and is now poised to give former President Donald Trump a run for his money in South Carolina primary on Tuesday, February 13.

“You have to sit and wonder, we have these two folks who are showing these all-star abilities — will we end up with an Indian American on this ticket?” said Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College and co-author of the Indian American Election Survey.

Harris, Haley, and Ramaswamy have many notable political differences. In a way, each is competing against the other in the 2024 election. But together, they represent a remarkable moment in American politics, experts say: Indian Americans account for about 1.3% of the country’s population, according to census data — and three Indian American politicians have risen close to the top of both major parties. “Mathematically, you would not have expected this,” said University of California, Riverside, public policy professor Karthick Ramakrishnan.

Haley had made history as the first female governor of South Carolina and the first Indian American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position, serving as the US ambassador to the United Nations in 2016. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country,” said Haley, as she announced her presidential campaign last February.

In addition to the leading Presidential aspirants, there are five Indian American members in the current US Congress —Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Shri Thanedar (D-MI) who are seeking re-elections this year. Each of them is expected to be reelected in 2024 due to the advantages of incumbency and their substantial campaign funding.

According to Indian American Impact, an organization dedicated to strengthening the political influence of the community, there are already more than 200 Indian Americans who are elected to positions ranging from school boards and city councils to state assemblies and senates across the country.

However, what is promising as the nation goes into another round of elections is the prospect of several candidates from a wide range of congressional districts across the country from New York to California, and from Illinois to Alabama, are aiming to join the ranks of the “Samosa Caucus.”

Kevin Thomas, a New York state senator vying to win the fourth congressional district, is a prominent Democratic contender to become the sixth Indian American member of the 119th Congress. The district, currently represented by first-term GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, has historically leaned towards the Democratic party, consistently supporting their presidential nominees in the past eight elections. This favorable trend significantly boosts Thomas’ prospects of winning the primary and securing a seat in Congress.

Ohio state senator Niraj Antani is seeking the GOP nomination from the state’s second congressional district. The 32-year-old, who has been in the state legislature since 2014, is expected to get elected to Congress if he wins the Republican primary, as the district is heavily Republican. “In Congress, I will have a steel-spine in standing for life, our 2nd Amendment rights, and for pro-growth economic policies. As a fiercely pro-Trump Republican, I will work hard every day for our community in Congress to ensure every Ohioan has an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Arizona State Rep. Amish Shah, the first Indian American elected to the Arizona legislature, is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Arizona’s first congressional district. Shah, an emergency physician, has raised more than $1 million for his campaign and will have a fair shot in November if he wins the primary in this seat, currently represented by Republican David Schweikert and leans slightly Republican.

Ashwani Jain, a former Gubernatorial candidate of Maryland, is running for Congress from Maryland’s 6th District. He says, “I am running for Congress in the district I live in and call home – not just to be Maryland’s first Millennial, first Asian-American and first Indian-American ever elected – but because I have specific policy solutions that will open the doors of opportunity for our community.” Jain, a cancer survivor, is focused on issues including immigrant rights, climate change, labor rights and raising teachers’ pay, reproductive justice, and gun violence.

Hoboken Mayor in the state of New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla is running for Congress from the 8th District. At Congress, Bhalla says, he “will be an advocate for New Jersey’s working families as he fights to make healthcare a right for everyone, tackle climate change, protect a woman’s right to choose, and build an economy that works for all New Jerseyans.”

Suhas Subramanyam and Krystle Kaul: Two Indian Americans are vying for the Democratic Party nomination in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. Krystle Kaul Kaul, much like Subramanyam, is focusing on issues such as national security, women’s rights, economy & jobs, healthcare, education, and energy & the environment. Subramanyam, a Virginia state senator has been serving in the state legislature for the past four years. Kaul, a veteran of the defence and intelligence community, is running on her national security experience. If either of them wins the primary, they would be formidable candidates to represent this Democratic-leaning district.

Susheela Jayapal, a candidate for Oregon’s third congressional district, and Rishi Kumar, who is running for California’s 16th congressional district are other Indian Americans, who are “strong candidates who have run for office before and have name recognition.” Jayapal had served as the commissioner of Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah County. In 2020, Kumar secured nearly 37% of the votes against the incumbent and fellow Democrat Anna Eshoo, who is now retiring, boosting his chances of victory in 2024.

Vimal Patel from Alabama’s 2nd district abd Nikhil Bhatia from Illinois’ 7th District are others who are in the fray to enter the Congress this Fall. Another Republican seeking to win on a Republican ticket is Dr. Prashanth Reddy from Kansas’ 3rd district is a physician, who is focused on defending the nation and standing up for parents and students in addition to securing the border, supporting law enforcement, standing up to China, and protecting taxpayers.

In addition, dozens of highly qualified and experienced Indian American candidates are also vying for statewide offices in this election cycle. Among those who have announced their candidacies for statewide offices, include: Minita Sanghvi, a Democrat currently serving as the Saratoga Springs finance commissioner, vying for the 44th state senate district in New York; Tara Sreekrishnan, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, running for the California state assembly from district 26; Ashwin Ramaswami seeking election to the Georgia state senate from senate district 48; and Seema Singh, a member of the Knoxville City Council, running for district 90 of the Tennessee house of representatives.

Irrespective of political differences, the Indian American community is happy about the sharp increase in their political participation, especially over the last three election cycles, and is proud of the rise of another of their own. As Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and United States Ambassador to China, had said: “In the last half-century, Americans of Indian descent epitomize how new waves of immigrants have been renewing our communities and our economy. ”

Shekar Narasimhan, founder and chairman of the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Victory Fund, sums it all, saying that while he is happy to see more Asian-Americans gain prominence in politics,  “A beautiful thing is happening: Indian-Americans are coming to the forefront. If our children see Americans with a name like Ramaswamy run, and a Khanna or Krishnamoorthi can win, that’s a good thing.”

Karnataka Congress Leader Warns of Southern Secession Over Alleged Central Fund Diversion

A Karnataka Congress leader, immediately following the unveiling of the interim budget today, accused the Central government of diverting developmental funds from south India to bolster the northern regions. DK Suresh Kumar, a Congress MP, warned that if this issue remains unaddressed, it might necessitate the southern states to seek autonomy, stating, “If we don’t condemn this in the upcoming days, we will have to place a demand for a separate country as a result of the situation the Hindi-speaking region has forced on us.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responded by accusing the Congress of promoting divisive sentiments. Chaluvadi Narayanaswamy of the BJP criticized the Congress’s stance, suggesting that instead of fostering unity (“Bharat Jodo”), they seem to advocate for division (“Bharat Todo”). He condemned the Congress mindset, drawing parallels to the partition of India in 1947, and questioned the party’s commitment to upholding the nation’s unity despite Rahul Gandhi’s calls for integration.

This discontent echoes Mamata Banerjee’s grievances in West Bengal, where the Congress, newly in power in Karnataka, aligns itself with her narrative of inadequate central funding. DK Suresh Kumar emphasized the perceived injustice faced by southern states, asserting, “We want to receive our money. Whether it is the GST, Custom or Direct taxes, we want to receive our rightful share… our share of money for development is getting distributed to north India.”

Recently, the Karnataka Congress administration released a white paper highlighting the disparity between the state’s contributions to the national economy and the funds it receives from the Centre. M. Lakshmana, a spokesperson for the state Congress, cited figures indicating that Karnataka’s tax contributions far exceed the returns it receives. Despite contributing significantly to corporate and other taxes, as well as GST, Karnataka is reportedly receiving disproportionately low allocations from the Centre.

The grievances are not limited to Karnataka alone. Similar concerns have been raised by Kerala and the DMK-led government in Tamil Nadu. This discontent culminated in Karnataka’s Congress government contemplating the formation of a coalition to challenge what they perceive as biased tax devolution by the Central government. Officials noted a decrease in Karnataka’s share of taxes from 4.71% to 3.64% under the current Finance Commission, further exacerbating the perceived imbalance in resource allocation.

Annie George Mathew Appointed As A Member Of The 16th Finance Commission Of India

Annie George Mathew, a senior of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA & AS) of the 1988 Batch has been appointed as a member of the Sixteenth Finance Commission on Tuesday, January 30th, 2024.

Annie George Mathew recently retired as the Special Secretary Expenditure from the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.  She has over 34 years of experience in areas of Public Finance, Financial Management, Government Audit and Accounts, and Public Procurement including Defense Capital Acquisitions, Human Resource Management

The 16th Finance Commission was constituted on 31.12.2023 with Shri Arvind Panagariya, former Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog as its Chairman. According to a government order issued on January 30, 2024, three full-time members of the 16th Finance Commission include former Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha; former Department of Expenditure official Annie George Mathew; and Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, executive director of policy consultancy firm, Artha Global. Dr. Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Group Chief Economic Advisor, State Bank of India will serve as a Part-time member of the powerful financial body.

“The chairman and other members of the commission shall hold office from the date on which they respectively assume office up to the date of the submission of report or October 31, 2025, whichever is earlier,” the order from President of India, Droupadi Murmu appointing members to the constitutional body stated.

AnnieThe Sixteenth Finance Commission has been requested to make its recommendations available by October 31, 2025, covering an award period of 5 years commencing 1st April, 2026. The Finance Commission usually takes about two years to consult stakeholders in the States and Centre and arrive at their conclusions.

The Finance Commission mainly decides the tax-sharing formula between the Centre and the states.  The Sixteenth Finance Commission’s terms of reference include a review of the present arrangements for financing disaster management initiatives and mooting measures to augment States’ consolidated funds to supplement resources available with panchayats and municipalities.

Per reports, in November last year, the Indian Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the Terms of Reference for the 16th Finance Commission. As per the terms of reference (ToR), “The Finance Commission shall make recommendations as to the following matters, namely: The distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them under Chapter I, Part XII of the Constitution and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds.”

The commission is expected to make recommendations on the “principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India and the sums to be paid to the States by way of grants-in-aid of their revenues under article 275 of the Constitution for the purposes other than those specified in the provisos to clause (1) of that article,” according to a statement issued after the Union Cabinet meeting on November 29.

Ms. Mathew was the Government’s nominee on the Boards of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) and Indian Overseas Bank (IOB).  She had served earlier on the Board of State Bank of Hyderabad.

She has varied experience in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department through her postings within the country and abroad.  She has also led audit teams working with different international and multi-lateral organizations like the United Nations, and UNHCR in Europe, Africa, and Asia. She has been a member of the International Standards Laying Committees on Auditing.

With her vast experience of working in public finance at various levels in the Ministry of Finance and her exposure to state finances during her tenure in various Accountant General Offices in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Delhi, Ms. Mathew has a deep understanding of  India’s Federal and State finances.

Ms. Mathew graduated from Miranda House and completed post-graduation from the University of Delhi and after that, joined India’s civil services as an IA & AS Officer.

India’s Population Dynamics: Religious Growth, Caste Challenges, and Demographic Projections

India has experienced a significant population surge since Partition, with numbers skyrocketing from 361 million in 1951 to over 1.2 billion in 2011. The United Nations Population Division predicts that India’s monthly population growth of about 1 million individuals could lead it to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030.India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

During the period from 1951 to 2011, all major religious groups in India witnessed growth. Hindus increased from 304 million to 966 million, Muslims from 35 million to 172 million, and Christians from 8 million to 28 million. However, there are indications that Christians might be undercounted in census data. This discrepancy arises from individuals identifying as Hindu to access government benefits meant for Scheduled Castes, which Christians are not typically eligible for. The 2015 National Family Health Survey showed that 21% of Christians interviewed identified as Scheduled Castes.

India’s caste system, a hierarchical social structure, has historically influenced societal roles and opportunities. Affirmative action programs, known as “reservations,” aim to mitigate caste-based disparities by allocating government jobs and educational seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. However, these reservations are not extended to Muslims and Christians, prompting debate over their exclusion from poverty-alleviation programs.

India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

India has implemented various measures to control population growth, including contraceptive promotion and penalties for large families. These efforts have led to a slowdown in population expansion since the 1990s, with growth rates declining for all religious groups. While Hindus remain the majority, the growth rate of religious minorities has tapered off, particularly among Muslims and Christians.

India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

 

Despite slower growth rates, India’s major religious groups continue to gain millions of followers. Hindus added 138 million people between 2001 and 2011, while Muslims increased by 34 million. Christians, however, experienced the slowest growth rate among the three largest groups.

 

India’s religious composition has remained relatively stable since Partition, with Muslims experiencing a modest increase in percentage share while Hindus declined slightly. Christians have consistently comprised 2-3% of the population since 1951.

India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

Minor religious groups, including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, have seen their numbers double or triple over the decades. Geographically, Christians are concentrated in Southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while Sikhs are prevalent in Punjab.

 

The 2011 census revealed about 8 million people identifying with smaller religious groups, with over 80 lakh claiming no affiliation with the six largest religions. The census allows for an open-ended response to religion, with over 83 smaller religious groups represented.

India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

Looking ahead to 2050, demographic projections suggest continued growth for Muslims and Hindus, with Muslims expected to comprise around 18% of the population. Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains, however, are projected to decline as a share of the population due to lower fertility rates.

India's Population Dynamics Religious Growth Caste Challenges and Demographic Projections

India’s population dynamics, influenced by religious demographics, continue to shape its societal landscape, with implications for policies and societal inclusion.

 

India Celebrates Republic Day 2024

India celebrated its 75th Republic Day today, with President Droupadi Murmu leading the parade and French President Emmanuel Macron as the chief guest on January 26th, 2024 in India’s capital, New Delhi.

The day marks the anniversary of India officially adopting its constitution, making it a sovereign republic. The parade, held in the capital, Delhi, went through the avenue of Kartavya Path (Path of Duty), formerly known as the Rajpath, which connects many important landmarks in the city. It culminated at the Red Fort, a 7th Century monument, about 7km (4.3 miles away).

The day celebrated Nari Shakti (women power), among others, and was marked by a series of firsts, from an all-women tri-service contingent to the reinstatement of the parade buggy.

Part of the parade is a display of the country’s cultural heritage as well as its military might. This year, President Murmu and her French counterpart Macron arrived at the Kartavya Path in New Delhi in a ‘traditional buggy’. For the first time, a French army contingent marched alongside counterparts from the Indian army, navy, air force, and paramilitary troops.

The themes for the parade were ‘Viksit Bharat’ (developed India) and ‘Bharat – Loktantra Ki Matruka’ or India – the mother of democracy.

India’s Republic Day, observed annually on January 26, marks a significant moment in the nation’s history. This day is not only about extravagant parades and tributes to the armed forces but is also a celebration of the finalization of the Indian Constitution. Without this foundational document, India wouldn’t have achieved the greatness it embodies today.

Republic day 5After gaining independence on August 15, 1947, India remained under the British Commonwealth, with the UK’s monarch as its head of state.

But the leaders of India’s independence movement, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, believed the country should be a sovereign, democratic republic. After Mr Nehru became the first prime minister of an independent India, his government began to draft a constitution.

The constitution was officially adopted on January 26, 1950.

Interesting facts about India’s Republic Day

As the 75th anniversary of India’s Republic Day approaches, the country gets ready to commemorate this historic day by showcasing the country’s military strength, rich cultural diversity, unity, achievement and progress.

Going back in time, the Indian constitution went into effect on January 26, 1950, and history continued to be written. The Constitution of India is crucial for citizens to follow as it acts as a legal and political structure, and also as a sign of democracy, justice, and individual rights.

Let us examine some fascinating facts about this auspicious day:
Dr. B.N. Rau, an Indian civil servant and constitutional adviser, was the first to draft India’s constitution. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar is known as the father of the Indian constitution.

The Drafting Committee which was established by the Constituent Assembly on August 29, 1947, was led by Ambedkar. The Indian Constitution is recognized as the world’s longest-written constitution.

The Republic Day parade is the centre of attention, drawing large crowds of spectators eager to see the amazing demonstration of India’s military prowess, cultural variety, and accomplishments.On January 26, 1950, India’s first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, unfurled the country’s flag.The inaugural Republic Day parade was held in 1950 at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, which had previously been known as Irwin Amphitheatre.The National Anthem, “Jana Gana Mana,” was originally composed as Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata in Bengali by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore on 11 December 1911.

On January 24, 1950, only the first stanza of the hymn Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata was adopted as India’s National Anthem, which is sung during Republic Day celebrations.With the themes of ‘Viksit Bharat’ and ‘Bharat – Loktantra ki Matruka’, the 75th Republic Day Parade at Kartavya Path on January 26, 2024 will be women-centric.As a first, the 2024 parade is to be heralded by 100 women artists with Indian musical instruments; 16 States/UTs and nine Ministries/Organisations tableaux. (IANS)

IMEC: Paving the Way for Global Prosperity through Economic Connectivity

Economic corridors are emerging as transformative agents, capable of fostering increased trade, foreign investment, and societal improvement across participating nations. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) stands out as a beacon of economic integration, promising to revolutionize interactions among India, the Middle East, and Europe. As we delve into the details of IMEC, its potential as a catalyst for global prosperity becomes increasingly apparent.

At its core, IMEC seeks to establish a multi-modal transport network, seamlessly integrating sea and rail routes, accompanied by innovative infrastructural components like hydrogen pipelines and advanced IT connections. The corridor’s game-changing potential is highlighted by its ability to significantly reduce transit times for goods, offering a more efficient alternative to the Suez Canal and projecting a 40% reduction in transit times. This efficiency not only expedites trade but also renders it more cost-effective, setting the stage for robust economic growth and expanded trade opportunities.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s characterization of IMEC as a “game-changing investment” underscores its potential to influence not only the regions it directly connects but also the global community. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) emphasizes the establishment of a “reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network,” showcasing the corridor’s potential to reshape global supply chains and international trade dynamics.

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen further emphasizes the corridor’s significance, branding it the “quickest link between India, the Middle East, and Europe.” This accolade positions IMEC as a major catalyst in reducing logistical costs and streamlining trade routes.

Beyond its role in trade facilitation, IMEC holds the promise of driving industrial growth and employment in participating regions. By providing an efficient mechanism for transporting raw materials and finished goods, the corridor is poised to stimulate industrial activity, addressing prevalent employment challenges. The correlation between enhanced transportation infrastructure and economic growth suggests that IMEC’s impact on job creation and industrial development could be substantial.

IMEC’s strategic importance extends to energy security and environmental sustainability. Access to the Middle East’s abundant energy resources is enhanced, bolstering the energy security of participating nations. The corridor’s emphasis on clean energy transportation aligns with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, presenting a model for sustainable development.

Furthermore, IMEC’s potential to attract foreign investment and strengthen diplomatic ties positions it as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, reshaping global trade dynamics and reducing dependency on traditional maritime routes. The corridor’s focus on cultural integration fosters connections among diverse cultures and civilizations, contributing to enhanced regional connectivity and peace.

IMEC is evidence of India’s strategic realignment towards the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCCs), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. This evolving relationship encompasses security cooperation, cultural ties, and technological exchanges, transcending a simplistic framework of oil trade and market access.

In the context of a shifting global landscape, IMEC represents a transition from a unipolar or bipolar world to a more multipolar system. By knitting together diverse economic, cultural, and political strengths, the corridor contributes to a balanced and resilient global system.

However, the success of IMEC is contingent upon the geopolitical stability of the Middle East. The region’s historical political unrest underscores the global necessity for peace in the Middle East. A stable Middle East is vital for ensuring secure trade routes, reliable energy resources, and unhindered knowledge and people exchange. It creates an environment conducive to the economic and technological collaborations envisioned by IMEC and contributes to global economic stability.

In conclusion, IMEC stands as a testament to the transformative power of economic connectivity, promising to shape a more prosperous and interconnected world. As leaders and nations come together to support this initiative, the potential for IMEC to catalyze global prosperity becomes increasingly tangible, fostering a future of shared economic growth, cultural integration, and geopolitical stability.

India’s Dilemma: Balancing AC Boom and Climate Crisis as Rising Temperatures Push Demand

In the scorching heat of India’s capital this summer, Ramesh found himself laboring under the burning sun to provide for his family. Despite feeling faint, he had no choice but to continue working. Living in a congested suburb in western Delhi with his extended family, Ramesh experienced firsthand the unbearable heat that has become synonymous with the city in recent years.

“The heat is becoming unbearable,” he lamented. “But we do not have a choice, we have to work.”

To cope with the rising temperatures, Ramesh borrowed $35, nearly half of his monthly salary, to purchase a second-hand air conditioner for his home. Despite its imperfections, including noise and occasional dust release, the AC was a necessity for his family’s well-being.

This predicament reflects the paradox faced by India, where increasing wealth and temperatures drive the demand for air conditioners. By 2050, India is expected to be among the first places where temperatures exceed survivability limits, and the demand for air conditioners is projected to rise nine-fold, outpacing all other appliances, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Ramesh’s struggle highlights a broader question raised by climate scientists: should developing nations bear the cost of reducing emissions when they are among the least responsible for the surge in greenhouse gases? At the recent COP28 climate talks in Dubai, India, a rapidly growing economy, was not among the countries that pledged to cut emissions from cooling systems.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the need for developing countries to have a fair share in the global carbon budget, but India finds itself at the forefront of the climate crisis. The challenge is how to balance development goals while ensuring environmental protection.

India’s population, especially in the more tropical southern regions, heavily relies on air conditioning for physical and mental well-being. Over the past five decades, the country has experienced over 700 heat wave events, claiming more than 17,000 lives. In June alone, temperatures soared to 47 degrees Celsius, resulting in at least 44 deaths and numerous heat-related illnesses.

According to a World Bank report, by 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress. With over 50% of the workforce engaged in agriculture, the risks are significant. As incomes rise and urban populations grow, the ownership of air conditioners has surged.

Electricity consumption in India from cooling, including AC and refrigerators, increased by 21% between 2019 and 2022, according to the IEA. By 2050, India’s total electricity demand from residential air conditioners is expected to surpass the total electricity consumption in all of Africa today. However, this demand exacerbates the global climate crisis, as many air conditioners use harmful greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and large amounts of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that, if unchecked, air conditioning-related greenhouse gas emissions could contribute to a 0.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century.

India faces a dilemma, caught between the need for economic growth and the imperative to limit cooling-related emissions. At the COP summit, 63 countries pledged to cut their emissions from cooling systems by 68% by 2050. However, India did not join this group. Despite this, experts acknowledge India’s important leadership in sustainable cooling domestically, though international partners hope for future collaboration.

Under the 2016 Kigali Amendment, India is phasing out HFCs and replacing them with more climate-friendly options. Radhika Khosla, an associate professor at Oxford University, emphasizes the importance of providing assistance to countries lacking access to adequate cooling to meet the costs of energy improvement.

“Cooling is now on the global agenda,” she said. “But the hard work must begin to ensure everyone can stay cool without further heating the planet.”

Passive cooling strategies, such as planting trees, creating water bodies, promoting courtyard spaces, and enhancing ventilation, are suggested by Khosla as sustainable measures. Installing ceiling fans can reduce household energy consumption for cooling by over 20%.

India has committed to reducing its power demand for cooling purposes by 20-25% by 2038 under its Cooling Action Plan, seen as one of the first comprehensive national plans globally. Renewable energy is growing rapidly in India, putting the country on track to meet its emission reduction targets.

Despite being a significant contributor to the climate crisis, India remains proactive in finding climate solutions, as stated by Leena Nandan, India’s secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

“We have gone on to scale up our climate ambitions,” she asserted.

However, the visible impact of India’s AC boom is evident in urban areas, with construction sites dotting the capital and the rise of high-rise towers. While some, like businessman Penta Anil Kumar, consciously opt for energy-efficient models, others like laborer Ghasiram, who struggles to afford even a second-hand AC, remain unaware of the emissions contributing to rising temperatures.

“The heat has gotten worse over the years,” Ghasiram said. “When I need to step out to work in the heat, I feel nervous. I prefer to not go out.”

Hindus For Human Rights Demands Restoration Of 141 Opposition MPs In Parliament

Hindus for Human Rights demands the immediate restoration of 141 opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The opposition MPs have been suspended from the Lok Sabha for causing disruptions after they raised concerns about the Indian government’s response to a security breach in Parliament.

India, the Mother of Democracy, has always encouraged healthy debates and open discussions among its politicians, and this rich tradition is undermined by the suspension of MPs.

The importance of dissent in a democracy cannot be overstated. It is through dissent that new ideas emerge, existing policies are challenged, and change is instigated. Dissent ensures that all voices, no matter how small or unpopular, are heard. Dissent holds power to account and prevents the onset of autocracy.

Democracy thrives not when we silence the opposition, but when we listen to it, engage with it, and challenge it. We strongly urge the Indian Parliament to immediately reverse its decision to suspend opposition MPs and allow them to serve the remainder of the winter session.

On Fifth Avenue, a giant puppet of Modi rode in a convertible, brandishing a banner: “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, OK?

PM Modi Addresses Allegations of India’s Involvement in US Assassination Plot, Stresses Confidence in India-US Relations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that India would thoroughly investigate any evidence presented regarding its alleged involvement in an assassination plot in the United States. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, he addressed the November incident where a US charge implicated an Indian individual in a conspiracy to murder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist leader in New York.

Mr. Modi emphasized that these allegations would not strain the relationship between India and the US, stating, “If a citizen of ours has done anything good or bad, we are ready to look into it. Our commitment is to the rule of law.”

The target, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, holds dual US-Canadian citizenship and actively supports the Khalistan movement, advocating for a separate Sikh state. US prosecutors alleged that Nikhil Gupta, a man associated with the Indian government, paid $100,000 in cash to a hitman to assassinate Mr. Pannun.

India has labeled Pannun as a terrorist, while he maintains that he is an activist, denying the accusations. These developments occurred approximately two months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of having links to the murder of another Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in Canada in June.

India has vehemently denied these allegations, accusing Canada of providing shelter to “Khalistani terrorists and extremists” threatening its security. The diplomatic tensions have strained India-Canada relations, with Delhi asserting that Ottawa has not shared concrete evidence supporting its claims.

Trudeau revealed in an interview with Canada’s public broadcaster CBC that he went public with the allegations after weeks of private diplomacy, intending to “put a chill on India” and discourage potential agents from carrying out further attacks in Canada. He noted a change in India’s tone following the US’s similar allegations.

Despite these challenges, Prime Minister Modi expressed confidence in the positive trajectory of India-US relations. He stated, “There is strong bipartisan support for the strengthening of this relationship, which is a clear indicator of a mature and stable partnership.” Modi dismissed the idea of linking isolated incidents to diplomatic relations, asserting that it is inappropriate to do so.

Moreover, he highlighted India’s concerns about the “activities of certain extremist groups based overseas.” The government has consistently reacted sharply to demands by Sikh separatists in Western countries for Khalistan. While the Khalistan movement witnessed its peak in India during the 1980s with a violent insurgency in Sikh-majority Punjab state, it has lost resonance within India. However, it still garners support among some members of the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Experts suggest that these recent accusations of extra-judicial killings of Sikh separatists pose a potential threat to India’s growing ties with the US. Despite the challenges, Prime Minister Modi remains optimistic about the strength and stability of the partnership between the two nations.

Parliamentary Turmoil in India: Record Suspensions Ignite Protests Amid Security Breach Fallout

India’s parliament erupted in heated protests as an additional 49 opposition MPs faced suspension, bringing the total to 141, all in response to their protest against a recent security breach within the parliamentary premises. Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of undermining democracy, the opposition witnessed a record-breaking suspension of 78 MPs in a single day. Most of the lawmakers are excluded for the remainder of the winter session, concluding on Friday, while a subset awaits the parliament’s privileges committee decision for potential extended exclusion.

The majority of the suspended MPs belong to the INDIA alliance, a coalition of opposition parties gearing up to challenge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming general election. Of the alliance’s 142 MPs in the 543-member Lok Sabha, 95 have been suspended, while in the 250-member Rajya Sabha, 46 out of 101 members face suspension.

Expressing dismay at the state of parliamentary democracy, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor remarked, “Unfortunately, we have to start writing obituaries for parliamentary democracy in India” following his suspension.

In response, the BJP accused opposition leaders of intentionally disrupting parliamentary proceedings, escalating tensions between the opposition and Modi’s government. Many opposition MPs had demanded a statement from either federal Home Minister Amit Shah or Modi regarding the recent security breach where individuals entered parliament, set off colored gas, and shouted slogans. Six individuals have been arrested, with the four protesters facing charges under an anti-terror law.

While Modi did not address the issue directly in parliament, he acknowledged its severity in a Hindi newspaper interview, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation. Shah, at a separate event, announced a high-level inquiry into the incident, accusing the opposition of politicizing the security breach.

Opposition MPs have also sought a parliamentary discussion on the security lapse. Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Congress party, criticized the government for sidestepping parliamentary accountability while granting interviews to the media. Manoj Kumar Jha, an MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, viewed his suspension as a “badge of honor,” asserting that it recognizes their efforts to pose challenging questions to the government.

Some opposition MPs, including Kharge, alleged that the government strategically suspended key figures to pass crucial bills without proper debate. However, federal minister Piyush Goyal labeled the opposition’s protest as a “pre-planned strategy” to disrupt parliamentary functioning and block essential bills. Goyal accused opposition MPs of disrespecting the parliament by refusing to comply with requests from the Lok Sabha speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman to refrain from displaying protest signs in the well of the house.

Unexpected Twist: Mamata Banerjee Proposes Mallikarjun Kharge for Prime Ministerial Candidacy in Opposition Meet

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who previously stated that the INDIA bloc would defer the decision on its Prime Ministerial candidate until after the Lok Sabha election, made a surprising reversal today by suggesting Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s name for the position.

In the ongoing Opposition INDIA bloc meeting, Ms. Banerjee put forward the proposal, receiving widespread approval due to Mr. Kharge’s prominent status as a Dalit leader in the Opposition. Reports indicate that twelve participating parties applauded the plan, with even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, often at odds with the Congress, endorsing the idea, citing it as an opportunity for the country’s first Dalit Prime Minister.

Mr. Kharge, however, declined the proposition, expressing his focus on working for the downtrodden. “We have to win first, and think what to do to win. What is the point in discussing PM before having MPs? We will try to get a majority together,” he stated when asked about the matter.

The Opposition, criticized by the ruling BJP for fielding candidates against Scheduled Castes and Tribes members during Presidential elections, faces allegations of bias against Dalits and tribals. The approval of Mr. Kharge is viewed as a testament to his stature among the Opposition parties and, conversely, a snub to Rahul Gandhi, whose candidature for the top post has consistently divided the opposition.

Discussing the meeting outcomes, Mr. Kharge mentioned that the contentious issue of seat-sharing would be addressed at the state level. “If there is any issue, it will be taken up at the Central level,” he added. Sources indicate that the Trinamool Congress and other parties have set December 31 as the deadline for seat-sharing talks.

The mega meet of the INDIA bloc, involving 28 parties, is part of a series of upcoming gatherings. Mr. Kharge emphasized the necessity of multiple meets across various cities to raise people’s awareness. “Unless we do that, we cannot raise people’s awareness,” he asserted.

New COVID Variant In India

Everyone is advised to wear a mask because the new COVID-Omicron XBB variant of the coronavirus is different, deadly and not easy to detect properly:-
   Symptoms of the new virus COVID-Omicron XBB are as follows:-
     1. No cough.
     2. No fever.
     There will just be a lot :-
     3. Joint pain.
     4. Headache.
     5. Neck pain.
     6. Upper back pain.
     7. Pneumonia.
     8. Generally no appetite.
   Of course, COVID-Omicron XBB is 5 times more virulent and has a higher death rate than the Delta variant.
   The condition takes a shorter time to reach extreme severity, sometimes without obvious symptoms.
    Let’s be more careful!
   This type of virus does not reside in the nasopharyngeal area and directly affects the lungs, namely the “window”, in a relatively short time.
   Several patients diagnosed with Covid Omicron XBB were finally classified as having no fever, no pain, but X-ray results showed mild chest pneumonia.
   Nasal swab tests frequently provide negative results for COVID-Omicron XBB, and cases of nasopharyngeal tests providing false negative results are increasing.
   This means that the virus can spread in the community and directly infect the lungs, causing viral pneumonia which can cause acute respiratory stress.
   This explains why Covid-Omicron XBB is very contagious, very virulent and deadly.
   Please note, avoid crowded places, keep a distance of 1.5 m even in open spaces, wear a two-layer mask, use a suitable mask, and wash your hands frequently if everyone is asymptomatic (not coughing or sneezing).
   Covid Omicron *”WAVE”* is more deadly than the first wave of Covid-19. So we have to be very careful and take all kinds of coronavirus precautions.
   Also maintain vigilant communication with your friends and family.
   Don’t keep this information to yourself, share it with as many other relatives and friends as possible, especially your own family and friends.
 Karnataka on alert as Covid cases surge in Kerala

Opposition Unites: MPs Strategically Opt for Suspension in Solidarity Amid Parliament Security Breach Fallout

In the midst of escalating tensions between the ruling and opposition factions concerning the breach of Parliament security and the subsequent suspension of 14 members, a senior leader from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) reportedly proposed a course of action during a meeting on Friday. Sources revealed that T R Baalu, a prominent figure in the DMK, suggested that all opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) should stage protests and willingly face suspension in a show of solidarity.

During the pre-session meeting of the INDIA bloc on Friday morning, held prior to the convening of the House, Baalu articulated his stance, emphasizing the need for continued opposition protests within both Houses and advocating for a collective suspension to support their fellow MPs. Specific reference was made to the suspension of Derek O’Brien from the Rajya Sabha, with Baalu asserting, “We all should continue our protest…and let them suspend all of us. We should not leave them (the suspended MPs) alone,” as reported by a source present at the meeting.

Following this strategic discussion, the opposition, as a united front, has decided to implement this approach in both Houses. N K Premachandran, leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), confirmed the decision, stating, “The INDIA bloc MPs, including leaders, have decided to take placards to both the Houses and get suspended in solidarity with the others.” This move comes in response to the suspension of thirteen MPs from the Lok Sabha for the remainder of the Winter Session due to their perceived “unruly behavior” while demanding a statement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding the Parliament security breach and a subsequent discussion on the matter in the House. Additionally, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien faced suspension from the Rajya Sabha.

The repercussions of this decision were evident on Friday, as both Houses witnessed immediate adjournments shortly after the 11 am meeting. In the Lok Sabha, opposition MPs swiftly converged at the well of the House, brandishing placards bearing messages such as ‘Save Democracy, Down Fascism’ and ‘We want PM and HM to come to the House to make a statement’. Simultaneously, they vocalized their dissent through slogans. The scene escalated when Congress MP Anto Antony ascended the steps near the Speaker’s chair, attempting to obstruct the secretary general.

This orchestrated demonstration reflects the opposition’s firm stance against the suspension of their colleagues and their determination to use parliamentary platforms to voice their concerns. The decision to willingly face suspension as a unified front showcases a strategic move aimed at drawing attention to the perceived injustice and fostering a sense of collective responsibility among opposition MPs. As events unfold, the parliamentary landscape is likely to witness further polarization and heightened rhetoric from both the ruling and opposition sides.

India Resumes Venezuelan Crude Oil Imports After Three-Year Hiatus Amid Eased US Sanctions

India’s Petroleum Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, announced that India is set to resume crude oil imports from Venezuela after a three-year hiatus, citing the readiness of several Indian refineries to process heavy crudes. With the United States easing sanctions on Caracas in October, Puri emphasized that India, as a major global consumer of crude oil, is open to purchasing oil from any country not under sanctions.

Puri stated, “Many of our refineries, including (IOC’s) Paradip (refinery), are capable of using that heavy Venezuelan oil, and we will buy…We always buy from Venezuela. It’s when Venezuela came under sanctions that they were not able to supply.” This move comes as at least three Indian refiners—Reliance Industries (RIL), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), and HPCL-Mittal Energy (HMEL)—have reportedly booked Venezuelan oil cargoes, expected to arrive in India over the next few months. Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) is also exploring the possibility of resuming oil imports from Venezuela.

India, specifically private sector refiners RIL and Nayara Energy (NEL), was a regular buyer of Venezuelan crude before the imposition of US sanctions in 2019, which led to a cessation of oil imports from Venezuela. According to data from commodity market analytics firm Kpler, the last time India imported Venezuelan crude was in November 2020. In 2019, Venezuela was India’s fifth-largest oil supplier, contributing nearly 16 million tonnes of crude, valued at $5.70 billion, according to India’s official trade data.

With Washington easing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector in October, allowing unlimited oil exports for six months, India is looking to capitalize on the opportunity. Venezuela, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and possessing the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is keen to expand its crude sales in major markets. India, being the world’s third-largest consumer of crude oil and heavily reliant on imports to meet over 85 percent of its demand, remains committed to procuring oil from cost-effective sources amid the volatile global oil markets.

The recent developments also shed light on Venezuela’s strategy to offer substantial discounts to Chinese independent refiners, historically its primary buyers during the sanctions. However, reports suggest that these discounts have narrowed in recent weeks due to the easing of sanctions and the interest of other buyers in acquiring Venezuelan oil. Caracas appears motivated to diversify its crude sales by extending discounts to attract buyers in other major markets.

India’s Supreme Court Upholds Abrogation Of Article 370 In Kashmir, Directs EC To Hold Elections By September 2024

India’s Supreme Court has upheld the Indian Government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and said that every decision taken by the Centre on behalf of a State can’t be subject to a legal challenge. On August 5, 2019, the Modi government announced the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 and split the region into two Union Territories.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant delivered the verdict on December 11, 2023. The five-judge Constitution Bench pronounced three judgments in petitions challenging the Centre’s move to scrap Article 370.

A Constitution Bench said, “The exercise of power by the President under Article 370(1)(d) to issue CO 272 is not mala fide. The President in exercise of power under Article 370(3) can unilaterally issue a notification that Article 370 ceases to exist”.

“The President did not have to secure the concurrence of the Government of the State or Union Government acting on behalf of the State Government under the second proviso to Article 370(1)(d) while applying all the provisions of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir because such an exercise of power has the same effect as an exercise of power under Article 370(3) for which the concurrence or collaboration with the State Government was not required,” added the bench.

Copy of canvas 1
Picture: LawTrend

The bench, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, pronounced three judgments – one by the CJI for himself and Justices Gavai and Surya Kant, a concurring judgment by Justice Kaul and a third by Justice Khanna concurring with the other two rulings. The Constitution Bench was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.

CJI Chandrachud reading out the judgement said that every decision taken by the Centre on behalf of a State under proclamation can’t be subject to a legal challenge and it will lead to the administration of the State to a standstill.

Supreme Court said that it has held that Article 370 was a temporary provision. “The proclamation of Maharaja stated that the Constitution of India will supersede. With this, the para of Instrument of Accession ceases to exist….Article 370 was an interim arrangement due to war conditions in the State. Textual reading also indicates that Article 370 is a temporary provision,” the Court said.

The Apex court also mentioned that the argument of petitioners that the Union government cannot take actions of irreversible consequences in the State during Presidential rule is not acceptable. “We have held that the state of Jammu and Kashmir did not retain an element of sovereignty when it joined the Union of India. We have arrived at this conclusion for the following reasons. First paragraph eight of the instrument of acession executed by Maharaja Hari Singh provided that nothing in the instrument would affect the continuance of the sovereignty of the Maharaja in and over the state,” CJI Chandrachud said. The CJI further noted that on November 25, 1949, a proclamation was issued for the State of Jammu and Kashmir by “Yuvraj Karan Singh”.

“The declaration on this proclamation, that the Constitution of India would not only supersede all other constitutional provisions in the state, which were inconsistent with it, but also abrogate them, achieves what could have been attained by an agreement of merger. With the issuance of the proclamation, paragraph of the instrument of acession ceases to be of legal consequence. The proclamation reflects the full and final surrender of sovereignty by Jammu and Kashmir through its sovereign ruler to India ” the CJI added.

The Supreme Court said, “The declaration issued by the President exercises the power and clause 3 of Article 370 is a culmination of the process of integration. Thus, we do not find that the President’s exercise of power under Clause 3 of Article 370 was malafide. We hold the exercise of Presidential Power to be valid.”

The Court also noted that Article 370 was meant for the constitutional integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union and it was not for disintegration and the President can declare that Article 370 ceases to exist.

“Concurrence of the State government was not required to apply all provisions of the Constitution using Article 370(1)(d). So, the President of India taking the concurrence of the Union government was not mala fide,” the Court noted.

The Supreme Court also directed the Election Commission to hold Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections by September 30, 2024. The Supreme Court said in view of Centre’s submission on restoration of statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, it directs that statehood shall be restored as soon as possible.

On September 5, the apex court reserved the judgement after hearing the arguments for 16 days.
The central government had defended its decision to abrogate Article 370, saying there was no “constitutional fraud” in repealing the provision that accorded special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for Centre. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, had opened the arguments, saying Article 370 was no longer a “temporary provision” and had assumed permanence post the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.

In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Kaul also recommended setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission to look into alleged violations of human rights by both state and non-state actors in J-K. Justice Kaul said it should be based on a dialogue and cautioned that it should not become a criminal court.

Reading out his ruling, CJI Chandrachud said, “The State of Jammu and Kashmir does not retain any element of sovereignty after the execution of the Instrument of Accession (IoA) and the issuance of the Proclamation dated 25 November 1949 by which the Constitution of India was adopted. The State of Jammu and Kashmir does not have ‘internal sovereignty’ which is distinguishable from the powers and privileges enjoyed by other States in the country. Article 370 was a feature of asymmetric federalism and not sovereignty”.

On the reorganisation of the erstwhile state of J-K into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the ruling said, “The Solicitor General stated that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored (except for the carving out of the Union Territory of Ladakh). In view of the statement, we do not find it necessary to determine whether the reorganisation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir is permissible under Article 3”.

The court, however, upheld “the validity of the decision to carve out the Union Territory of Ladakh in view of Article 3(a) read with Explanation I which permits forming a Union Territory by separation of a territory from any State”.

The SC directed, “Steps shall be taken by the Election Commission of India to conduct elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir constituted under Section 14 of the Reorganisation Act by 30 September 2024”. “Restoration of statehood shall take place at the earliest and as soon as possible,” added the court.

“The power under Article 370(3) did not cease to exist upon the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. When the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, only the transitional power recognised in the proviso to Article 370(3) which empowered the Constituent Assembly to make its recommendations ceased to exist. It did not affect the power held by the President under Article 370(3)”.

India’s Permanent Representative To UN Hosts ‘Mission Life’ Event On Millets

Millets have been an integral part of our diet for centuries. In addition to a plethora of health benefits, millets are also good for the environment with low water & input requirement. With the aim to create awareness and increase production & consumption of millets, United Nations, at the behest of the Government of India, declared 2023 the International Year Millets. To commemorate this, the  India’s Permanent Mission to the UN in ccordination with India’s Ministry of External Affairs is hosting various interactive activities around Millets.

India’s Permanent Representative To UN Hosts ‘Mission Life’ Event On Millets 2Mission LiFE, a global initiative for ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ is a groundbreaking step towards sustainable living, according to Ruchira Kamboj, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. Kamboj was speaking at a reception hosted by India’s Permanent Mission to the UN on December 4, 2023 at the UN headquarters in New York to highlight 2023 as the International Year of the Millet.

According to Kamboj, Mission LiFE and the focus on Millets jointly represent a holistic approach to sustainability. “It’s a clarion call for everyone, everywhere, to rethink their lifestyles and make choices that contribute positively to the Earth’s well-being,” Kamboj said. Earlier at the ‘India Roundtables’ panel discussion at the UN about Mission LiFE, Kamboj had said that the initiative focuses on mindful and deliberate utilization instead of mindless and destructive consumption.

Based on the Gandhian concept of Lifestyle for Environment and Human Flourishing to promote sustainable lifestyles and enduring peace, the Indian initiative was launched globally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Secretary General António Guterres in February 2023.

Acknowledging the need for global support to the initiative at the reception, Secretary-General Guterres said, “’Mission LiFE’s vision aligns perfectly with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. It’s a testament to how individual responsibility can foster a sustainable future for the entire planet.”

India is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of millet according to sources. Technically seeds, millets are small grains grown on poor quality soil with very little irrigation. There are nine kinds of millets which grow in India, including sorghum, finger millet, little millet, kodo millet, foxtail millet and barnyard millet. They all differ from each other in color, texture and size.

However, its consumption has largely remained in the rural areas, a scenario which, Modi has been working to change since 2014 to boost millet production and consumption. At the G20 summit in September 2023 in New Delhi, world leaders were served an all-vegetarian dinner predominantly made of millets. At the commemorating ceremony of the International Year of the Millet in February 2023, India organized a special exhibition on the occasion on different kinds of millets grown in India, their nutritional value and health benefits, and a reception with millet-based savories.

Millet and millet based fusion dishes have been introduced by well-known Indian restaurants and gourmet chefs including barley and sorghum salad, millet tortillas and dosas, sorghum pita pockets, ragi pancakes, millet risotto, ragi pizzas, and also millet  chips, chakli, noodles, breakfast cereals, and even millet-based beers.

The push for millets by India is based on their being environment friendly. They require less water and can grow in harsher climates, making them a sustainable choice while the world faces increasing water scarcity and global warming.

One of the highlights of last week’s special reception was a performance by Falguni Shah, a Grammy nominee, of her number, ‘Abundance In Millets’ originally ‘written and performed’ by Falu and Gaurav Shah with the prime minister who came up with the concept and contributed the lyrics and collaborated in creating it.

One of the lyrics by Modi goes, “The shared efforts of our farmers and us….will adorn India and the world’s prosperity with a new radiance.”

BJP Wins In 3 Hindi Heartland States in India, Congress Wins In Telangana

India’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won big in the Hindi heartland, wresting Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Congress while comprehensively beating anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress party failed to retain its bastions in the three states. However, the grand old party achieved significant success in southern India, wresting Telangana from K Chandrashekar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi. The Northeastern state of Mizoram has elected a regional party, the Mizo National Front, where the ruling BJP came a distant third. The elections results were announced on Sunday, December 3, 2023.

Of 90 assembly constituencies in Chhattisgarh, the BJP bagged 54 while the Congress won 35. In Rajasthan, the BJP got 115 of 199 seats.

The right-wing party was also likely to be re-elected in Madhya Pradesh for a record fifth term by winning 163 of 230 seats.

The Congress comfortably won Telangana state, which was ruled by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi party, formerly known as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Of 119 seats in the southern state, the Congress won 64, while the BRS got 39. The BJP won eight seats in the state.

Elections in the five states were held last month and more than 160 million people, or a sixth of India’s electorate, were eligible to vote. Polling in India is generally done in phases owing to the large population. “We always said we will win the heartland states,” BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda told the media. “The results are the outcome of our finest political strategy and work on the ground.”

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party should not get “disheartened by this defeat” and should start preparing for the general elections with INDIA parties with “double enthusiasm”.

Modi and leaders of Congress, led by Gandhi, criss-crossed the states, addressing campaign rallies and promising cash payouts, farm loan waivers, subsidies and insurance cover, among other incentives, to woo voters.

The election results indicate the voter mood ahead of the national elections in May in which Modi is eyeing a third consecutive term. At the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday evening, party members and supporters lined up on the two sides and Modi walked between them, waving. The activists showered him with flower petals, chanting “Long live Mother India” and other slogans.

BJP Wins In 3 Hindi Heartland States in India, Congress Wins In Telangana (NDTV)
Picture: NDTV

BJP’s performance was better than widely expected as opinion and exit polls had suggested a close contest between Modi’s party and Congress. Modi remains widely popular after a decade in power and surveys suggest he will win again next year. However, a 28-party opposition alliance led by the Congress has come together to jointly fight the BJP, posing a renewed challenge.

Modi told jubilant BJP members at the party headquarters the results suggested a third term next year was guaranteed.

“The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands for,” Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

BJP had suffered a setback itself when it lost the big southern state of Karnataka to Congress this year, as Rahul Gandhi, Congress Party leader worked hard to revive the party since its drubbing in the 2019 election and went on a 135-day march across the country covering more than 4,000 km (2,500 miles).

Rahul Gandhi has been instrumental in building the united opposition alliance, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA, after the Karnataka victory and his temporary disqualification from parliament after being convicted in a defamation case. Gandhi posted on X “the battle of ideology will continue.”

Politicians and analysts say state elections do not always influence the outcome of the general elections or accurately indicate national voter mood. Results of the last round of state elections before national elections have been misleading in the past.

The 2024 general election to India’s Parlaiument comes at a time when India is facing multiple challenges, including rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

Modi Announces Green Credit Initiative At COP28

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on December 1, 2023 that India has shown the world the perfect balance of ecology and economy. He made the remarks while delivering an address at the high-level segment of COP28 in Dubai.

“Despite India having 17 percent of the world’s population, our share in global carbon emissions is only less than 4 percent. India is one of the few economies in the world that is on track to meet the NDC targets,” the PM said adding that his country is continuously making progress to achieve the goal of reaching net zero by 2070.

He highlighted that targets related to emissions intensity were achieved 11 years ago while non-fossil fuel targets were achieved nine years ahead of schedule. Additionally, the PM underscored that efforts are being made to reduce emission intensity to 45 percent by 2030 and increase the share of non-fossil fuel to 50 percent.

“India has consistently given importance to the issue of climate in its G-20 Presidency with the spirit of One Earth, One Family, One Future,” Modi said enumerating the various green initiatives launched by India, including the Global Biofuels Alliance and Mission LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment.

Modi Announces Green Credit Initiative At COP28 (FE)
Picture: FE

Urging participation from the COP states, Modi announced the launch of the Green Credits initiative, a campaign that aims to facilitate mass participation as an effective response to the challenge of climate change. The program’s long-term goal is to restore degraded and abandoned land and river catchment areas through the issuance of green credits to plant trees there.

At a joint session, the United Arab Emirates and India officially launched the Green Credits initiative and unveiled a website that would compile policies and best practices that encourage eco-friendly behaviors.

The Prime Minister concluded his address by expressing India’s commitment to the UN Framework for Climate Change Process and proposed to host the COP-33 summit in India in 2028. In the hopes of a successful COP28, he advocated for an inclusive and equitable energy transition, as well as the continuous development of innovative technologies and their transfer to other countries, to propel collective progress toward a secure future.

Asserting that the world does not have much time to correct the mistakes of the last century, PM Narendra Modi on Friday announced a ‘Green Credit Initiative’ focused on creating carbon sinks through people’s participation and also proposed to host the UN climate conference in 2028, or COP33, in India.

Carbon sinks are essentially anything that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases.

What is it?

Addressing the high-level segment for heads of states and governments during the UN climate conference (COP28) in Dubai, Modi called for a pro-planet, proactive and positive initiative.

He further said the Green Credits Initiative goes beyond the commercial mindset associated with carbon credits, which are essentially permits that allow entities to emit certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

The Green Credit Initiative is similar to the Green Credit Programme, notified domestically in October. It is an innovative, market-based mechanism designed to reward voluntary environmental actions in different sectors by individuals, communities and the private sector.

‘India has walked the talk’

Asserting that India has presented a great example to the world of striking balance between development and environment conservation, PM Modi said India is among the only few countries in the world on track to achieve the national action plans to restrict global warming to 1.5C, the guardrail to avoid worsening of the impact of the changing climate.

Modi called for maintaining a balance between mitigation and adaptation and said that energy transition across the world must be “just and inclusive.” He also urged rich countries to transfer technologies to help developing nations combat climate change.

Meetings that matter

On the sidelines of the COP28 summit, Modi met with the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and said that India deeply values its strong ties with the Gulf nation.

Modi also met Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

While Israel has a war going on with Hamas, the other countries (Bahrain, Ethiopia and UAE) have deep economic ties with India.

Youth Heartbreak: Gujarat Launches Massive CPR Training Initiative as 1,052 Young Lives Lost to Heart Attacks in Six Months

In the past half-year, Gujarat has witnessed a tragic toll of 1,052 lives claimed by heart attacks, a revelation shared by State Education Minister Kuber Dindor on Friday. Shockingly, 80% of the victims fall within the 11-25 age bracket, a demographic that typically evades the specter of heart-related issues. Dindor, during a media address in Gandhinagar, underscored the urgency of the situation, emphasizing that these young individuals, despite lacking obesity concerns, succumbed to cardiac events. Disturbingly, the 108 ambulance service fields an alarming average of 173 cardiac emergency calls daily.

Expressing concern over the palpable fear gripping youngsters due to the prevalence of heart attacks in their peer group, Minister Dindor urged teachers to partake in a vital initiative. This initiative, spearheaded by the State Education Department, seeks to equip nearly two lakh school and college educators with the skills needed for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a critical intervention that can be life-saving during such medical emergencies.

Dindor lamented the unfortunate incidents where individuals met their demise due to heart attacks while engaging in seemingly innocuous activities like playing cricket or participating in garba, a traditional dance form synonymous with Navratri festivities. In response to this distressing trend, he called upon educators to actively engage in CPR training camps, highlighting the potential for them to become lifesavers.

To address this pressing need, the Education Department’s initiative entails organizing CPR training camps across 37 medical colleges between December 3 and 17. The ambitious goal is to train nearly two lakh school and college teachers during this period. A cadre of 2,500 medical experts and doctors will be on hand to impart essential knowledge and skills at these training camps. Participants in the program will also receive certificates acknowledging their completion of the training.

Minister Dindor emphasized the precedence of such training, citing instances where Bharatiya Janata Party workers and police personnel in the state had previously undergone similar programs. The scale of this initiative reflects a proactive response to the alarming surge in heart attacks among the youth, underscoring the gravity of the situation and the need for a collective effort to mitigate its impact.

725,000 Indians Listed As Illegal, 3rd Largest Illegal Immigrant Population In US

Numbering around 725,000, Indians form the third largest population of illegal immigrants in the US after Mexico and El Salvador, according to new Pew Research Center estimates.

As of 2021, the country’s 10.5 million unauthorised immigrants represented about three per cent of the total US population and 22 per cent of the foreign-born population, the research said.

Mexico, which accounted for 39 per cent of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants in 2021 numbering around 4.1 million, was followed by El Salvador (800,000); India (725,000); and Guatemala (700,000).

While the number from Mexico dropped by 900,000 from 2017 to 2021, the number of illegal immigrants from other countries grew rapidly at the same time. In 2021, this population was 6.4 million, up by 900,000 from 2017.

India, Brazil, Canada and former Soviet Union countries all experienced growth from 2017 to 2021.

According to new data from US Customs and Border Protection, an unprecedented number of undocumented Indian immigrants are crossing the US borders on foot.

From October 2022 to September 2023, 96,917 Indians were apprehended, expelled or denied entry for having entered the US without papers.

Since borders opened after Covid, the number of undocumented Indians in the US went up with 30,662 encountered in the 2021 fiscal year and 63,927 in the 2022 fiscal year.

Out of the nearly 97,000 encounters this year, 30,010 were at the Canadian border and 41,770 at the Southern border.

The Pew research also found that overall, about 7.8 million illegal immigrants were in the US labour force in 2021.

Among the US states, only Florida and Washington witnessed increases to their unauthorised immigrant populations, while California and Nevada saw decreases.

Meanwhile, the lawful immigrant population grew by more than eight million — a 29 per cent increase, and the number of naturalised US citizens grew by 49 per cent in 2021. (IANS)

Community Weddings In Rajasthan To Reduce Child Sex Ratio

According to the Census of India reports, Sri Ganganagar of Rajasthan State, India was the worst hit district in terms of child sex ratio, with only 850 girls to 1000 boys in the 0 to 6 year age group.  Several helpful interventions have been undertaken to address the problem of declining child sex ratios. One such initiative is the celebration of community weddings that was initiated in 2004.

Community Weddings In Rajasthan To Reduce Child Sex RatioCommunity weddings of girls from economically weaker sections are held every year at Dhan Dhan Baba Deep Singh Gurudwara. The Gurudwara Samiti, Sri Ganganagar Chamber of Commerce, and the people of Sri Ganganagar come together to organize this celebration.  It is open to all religions, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Truly a people’s event!

All of Ganganagar seems to gather for this event year after year! Dr Ashok and Dr Meeta Singh who studied at Armed Forces Medical College have been supporting this community function since 2005.

This year too, on October 29, we had the privilege to support and participate in this event.  Meeta undertook an overnight train journey to participate in the most precious wedding celebration of the year. Dr Meeta Singh was honored with Saropa by Gurudwara Samiti . Truly, this celebrates life and defines her volunteer role, community service and her mission towards enhancing dignity of the  girl child.

India-US Défense Ties Key Pillar For World Peace, Stability: Blinken, Austin

Amidst the ongoing conflicts in Israel, Hamas, and the Russia-Ukraine war, the ongoing fifth India-US 2+2 Ministerial Level Talks in New Delhi, has been described as very crucial.

US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, both are for meetings with their Indian counterparts, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Blinken has said that India-US defense cooperation is “a key pillar” for bolstering the partnership of the two countries in “international peace and security, and specifically, working to promote the rules-based order and uphold the principles at the heart of the UN Charter: sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence.”

“Our defense cooperation, which we’re strengthening again today, is a key pillar of that work,” Blinken said in his opening remarks at the 2+2 India-US Ministerial Dialogue that began in the national capital earlier in the day

Also in his opening remarks, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his opening remarks that there have been “impressive gains in building our major defense partnership over the past year, and that will help us contribute even more together to the cause of peace and stability. We’re integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our interoperability, and sharing cutting-edge technology,” he added.

India US Défense Ties Key Pillar For World Peace StabilityBlinken said the two countries were taking very concrete steps to deliver on the vision that President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward at their meeting in Washington in June.

“We are promoting a free and open, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific, including by strengthening our partnership through the Quad, with Japan and Australia,” he explained.

Blinken went on to say that “one significant way we’re doing that is by enhancing maritime domain awareness: sharing commercial satellite data with countries in the region to boost their capacity, for example, to combat illegal fishing, piracy, drug trafficking”.

“We’re also coordinating humanitarian relief and disaster response efforts in the Indo-Pacific. We’re harnessing together the power of innovation to make our economies more resilient and to make our communities more secure, while expanding inclusive economic opportunity.

“That’s evident in the cooperation on semiconductors and advanced biotechnology; on our unprecedented investments in deploying clean energy at scale in our countries as well as across the region; and our joint research and exploration projects in space,” he added.

The top diplomat mentioned the people-to-people ties between the two countries and the steps that are being taken to reduce visa wait times and facilitate travel between India and the US.

Jaishankar held “an open and productive discussion” with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken here on Friday on strengthening strategic New Delhi-Washington ties, the fallout of the raging Israel-Hamas war and regional issues including the geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The meeting took place ahead of the fifth edition of the India-US 2+2 Defence and Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue. “Pleased to meet with Secretary of State @SecBlinken this morning. An open and productive conversation on further developing our strategic partnership,” Jaishankar posted on X.

“This visit has a particular significance because we need to follow up on PM Modi’s June visit and President Biden’s September visit. This is a 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, so we take a broader view of what we are doing.”

The central focus of these talks is to address the ongoing conflicts and regional security concerns while strengthening the strategic ties between India and the United States. The agenda is expansive, encompassing the India-US Strategic Relationship, as well as exploring avenues to enhance bilateral relations and collaboration within international forums such as the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) and I2U2.

One prominent subject for discussion is the military standoff on the northern borders between India and China. Both countries have a vested interest in resolving this standoff amicably, thereby contributing to regional stability.

Another matter of great concern is the global security implications of the Russia-Ukraine war. As members of the QUAD, a coalition dedicated to ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific region, India and the U.S. are likely to deliberate on their respective roles in the context of this global event. The ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza region may also find a place on the agenda, with a focus on containment to prevent further escalation.

Government Denies Phone Hacking Allegations After Apple Alerts

Opposition Leaders Accuse Government of Hacking Attempts

Several Indian opposition leaders and journalists have accused the government of trying to hack into their phones after receiving warning messages from Apple. Apple’s alert stated that it believed the recipients were “being targeted by state-sponsored attackers” without specifying the attackers’ identity. The Indian government has dismissed these allegations, with federal ministers calling them “destructive politics.” However, they also noted that the government would “investigate to get to the bottom of these notifications.”

Around a dozen opposition politicians, including MPs from the Congress party and other opposition parties, confirmed receiving the messages from Apple. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi stated that he and his staff had also received the alert and expressed no fear, saying, “You can do as much [phone] tapping as you want, I don’t care.”

Some journalists, including Siddharth Varadarajan, a founding editor of news website The Wire, reported receiving the message as well. The government has asked Apple to participate in the investigation “with real, accurate information on the alleged state-sponsored attacks,” according to federal information technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Apple’s Statement on State-Sponsored Attacks

Apple’s support page for users explains that “state-sponsored attackers are very well-funded and sophisticated, and their attacks evolve over time.” These attackers target a “very small number of specific individuals and their devices.” However, Apple does not provide specific details about what triggers these threat notifications, as revealing such information could help state-sponsored attackers adapt their behavior to avoid detection in the future.

Technology analyst Prasanto K Roy explained that companies like Apple look for activity patterns to detect large-scale, coordinated malware attacks. While it is technically possible to attribute such attacks to a particular country or state agency, Apple prefers not to make specific attributions.

Political Reactions and Allegations

Indian politicians and journalists shared screenshots of the messages they received from Apple on social media, with some pointing out that no member of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had confirmed receiving the notification yet. Opposition leaders raised questions about the selectiveness of these notifications.

However, later in the day, BJP minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated that his colleague Piyush Goyal had also received the alert, prompting further discussions about the implications of the notifications.

Aam Aadmi Party MP Raghav Chadha connected the alerts to the upcoming general election and stated that they should be viewed within the context of ongoing attacks on the opposition.

BJP leaders responded to the allegations by calling them baseless and shifting the responsibility to Apple to clarify the meaning of the notifications.

Historical Surveillance Allegations

Several opposition leaders in India had previously accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of placing them under surveillance. In 2019, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit alleging that Indian journalists and activists were targeted by Pegasus, a surveillance software developed by Israeli firm NSO Group. NSO claimed to work only with government agencies.

In 2021, Indian website The Wire reported that over 300 phone numbers on a leaked database of thousands of numbers, associated with government clients of NSO, belonged to Indians.

Additionally, in the previous year, a political controversy arose after the New York Times reported that India had acquired Pegasus from Israel as part of a defense deal in 2017. The Indian government denied purchasing the spyware.

As the allegations continue to circulate, questions surrounding the notifications and their implications persist.

Jaishankar Emphasizes India’s Consistent Stance on Terrorism and Sound International Judgments

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, emphasized the importance of India maintaining a consistent stance on terrorism, regardless of where it occurs. He made these remarks in the context of India’s recent abstention from a UN resolution related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Jaishankar highlighted the need for India to uphold its credibility in addressing terrorism, considering its status as a victim of such acts.

During the UN vote, India supported Canada’s proposal to amend the resolution by including language condemning Hamas. However, since this amendment was not adopted, India chose to abstain from voting. Yojana Patel, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, underscored the global nature of terrorism, emphasizing that it transcends borders, nations, and races. She called for a unified, zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, regardless of differences.

Speaking at an event in Bhopal, Jaishankar elaborated on India’s foreign policy stances. He drew parallels between the importance of good governance domestically and making sound judgments on international matters. Jaishankar cited the example of India’s stance on purchasing oil from Russia. Despite international pressure, India stood firm on its decision, which ultimately protected its citizens from the adverse effects of higher oil prices and inflation.

Jaishankar pointed out that some European countries, which had advised against buying Russian oil, themselves continued to do so to shield their populations from negative consequences. He acknowledged that India faces pressure from the international community but emphasized that a strong and good government should prioritize the welfare of its people.

Jaishankar emphasized the need for India to maintain a consistent stance on terrorism, irrespective of where it occurs, to safeguard its credibility. He also highlighted the importance of making sound decisions on international matters, citing the example of India’s oil purchases from Russia and the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens’ interests.

Lanka okays visa-free entry for Indians

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has given its approval for the issuance of free visas to visitors from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. This initiative, introduced as a pilot project, took effect immediately and will remain in place until March 31, 2024. The announcement was made by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry, via a tweet.

“Sri Lanka Cabinet approves issuing of free visas to India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand with immediate effect as a pilot project till 31 March,**” Sabry posted on Twitter.

This move is a significant shift, allowing travelers from these countries to obtain visas for Sri Lanka without any charges. India, in particular, has historically been a major source of inbound tourism for Sri Lanka. In September, India led the statistics with over 30,000 arrivals, making up 26 percent of the total visitors. Chinese tourists were the second-largest group, with over 8,000 arrivals.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has faced challenges in recent years, primarily due to a decline in arrivals following the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, which resulted in the loss of 270 lives, including 11 Indians, and left over 500 people injured.

Beyond the tourism sector, Sri Lanka has been grappling with severe economic challenges since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The country is currently experiencing political turmoil, marked by protests calling for the resignation of President Rajapaksa.

The economic crisis has led to critical shortages of basic necessities such as food, medicine, cooking gas, fuels, toilet paper, and even matches. Sri Lankans have been enduring long queues outside stores for months, waiting for hours to purchase these essential items.

In light of these challenging circumstances, the Ministry of Tourism introduced a Cabinet Paper during a recent Cabinet meeting. This proposal suggested offering complimentary tourist visas to foreign travelers from five countries who plan to visit Sri Lanka for tourism.

The move to provide free visas to visitors from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand is seen as a step to revive the country’s tourism industry and attract tourists from these nations, with the hope that it will contribute to the country’s economic recovery and stability.

India-NZ ODI most-watched online sports event worldwide

India’s triumph over New Zealand in the ongoing 2023 ODI World Cup ended a two-decade-long drought. Faced with a formidable challenge from New Zealand, Indian Tech and Infra proudly declared that the India versus New Zealand match became the most-watched online sports event worldwide.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his heartfelt congratulations to the team, expressing on X, “Kudos to the Indian cricket team for their remarkable victory against New Zealand! This was a splendid collective effort where every player made significant contributions. The dedication and skills displayed on the field were truly commendable.”

The clash unfolded in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, and delivered an exhilarating showdown, featuring a track set for a 300-plus total. Mohammed Shami left an indelible mark by claiming five wickets for 54 runs, securing his second five-wicket haul in an ODI World Cup and joining the elite company of Anil Kumble. Virat Kohli, with his 95 runs, steered India to a four-wicket triumph over New Zealand with two overs to spare.

This victory marked the Indian cricket team’s first win against New Zealand in the ODI World Cup since 2003. It not only ended a two-decade-long wait but also made a significant impact in the digital sphere. The match captured the attention of 43 million viewers worldwide, making it the most-watched online sports event globally.

India to surpass Japan to become 2nd largest economy in Asia by 2030: S&P Global

India, currently the world’s fifth-largest economy, is on a trajectory to surpass Japan and become the third-largest economy by 2030, with a projected GDP of USD 7.3 trillion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s recent PMI report.

After experiencing rapid economic growth in 2021 and 2022, the Indian economy has sustained its robust expansion into the 2023 calendar year. India’s GDP is expected to grow by 6.2-6.3 percent in the fiscal year ending in March 2024, positioning it as the fastest-growing major economy for the year. Notably, Asia’s third-largest economy expanded by a remarkable 7.8 percent in the April-June quarter.

S&P Global predicts that the Indian economy will continue its rapid expansion throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024, driven by strong growth in domestic demand. This growth is further supported by a surge in foreign direct investment over the past decade, reflecting the favorable long-term growth outlook for India. Factors contributing to this outlook include a youthful demographic profile and rapidly rising urban household incomes.

The report forecasts that India’s nominal GDP, measured in USD, will rise from USD 3.5 trillion in 2022 to USD 7.3 trillion by 2030. At this rate, India’s GDP is expected to surpass Japan’s GDP by 2030, positioning India as the second-largest economy in the Asia-Pacific region. By 2022, India’s GDP had already exceeded that of the UK and France, and by 2030, it is projected to surpass Germany.

The current largest economy in the world is the United States, with a GDP of USD 25.5 trillion, constituting a quarter of the global GDP. China follows as the second-largest economy with a GDP of approximately USD 18 trillion, making up nearly 17.9 percent of the world GDP. Japan is a distant third with a GDP of USD 4.2 trillion, trailed by Germany with a GDP of USD 4 trillion.

The long-term outlook for India’s economy is supported by several key growth drivers. One of the primary factors is the substantial and rapidly growing middle class in India, which is fueling consumer spending. India’s expanding domestic consumer market, coupled with its large industrial sector, has made it an attractive investment destination for multinational corporations across various sectors, including manufacturing, infrastructure, and services.

India’s ongoing digital transformation is expected to accelerate the growth of e-commerce, reshaping the retail consumer market over the next decade. Leading global technology and e-commerce companies are increasingly drawn to the Indian market, recognizing the immense potential it holds.

By 2030, an estimated 1.1 billion Indians will have internet access, more than doubling from the approximately 500 million internet users in 2020. This growth in e-commerce, coupled with the transition to 4G and 5G smartphone technology, is fostering the success of home-grown companies like Mensa Brands, Delhivery, and BigBasket, whose e-sales have seen significant growth during the pandemic.

India’s substantial increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows over the past five years has continued, with strong momentum even during the pandemic years of 2020-2022. Notably, global technology giants such as Google and Facebook have been drawn to India’s vast and fast-growing domestic consumer market, contributing to the robust FDI inflows. Additionally, there has been a noticeable upswing in FDI from manufacturing firms.

India is expected to remain one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the next decade. This positions India as a pivotal long-term growth market for multinational corporations spanning diverse industries, including manufacturing sectors such as automobiles, electronics, and chemicals, as well as services industries like banking, insurance, asset management, healthcare, and information technology.

India, 5 th Largest Economy Ranks 111 out of 125 Countries in the Global Hunger Index

Even as nearly one million children of Gaza face a genocidal campaign by Israel driven by relentless bombing and a cruel embargo on essential supplies, the Global Hunger Index 2023 has drawn our attention to the growing pangs of hunger across the world. The GHI2023 report attributes the alarming global hunger scene to a combination of recent developments like the Covid pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war apart from deeply embedded socio-economic reasons and the rapidly worsening climate crisis. Now Israel’s genocidal siege and invasion of Gaza reminds us how in today’s world hunger can still be inflicted as a form of war. If Israel is not immediately restrained, we will soon witness a veritable famine and thousands of people dying of hunger and thirst in Gaza.

The GHI 2023 report indicates a general stagnation and even reversal on the front of combating hunger. The hunger index is calculated as a combined measure of four factors – undernourishment (among children as well as adults), child stunting (percentage of children below five years of age with low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition), child wasting (percentage of children below five years of age with low weight for their height, indicating acute undernutrition) and child mortality (the mortality rate of children under the age of five). The two most critical regions of the world in terms of the spread and scale of hunger are South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa with a GHI value of 27.0, way above the global average of 18.3.

Picture: IAS Compass

The biggest contributor to South Asia’s alarming situation is none other than India which has been steadily slipping in GHI rankings over the last one decade. With a GHI score of 28.7, India now stands at 111 out of 125 countries. Each of India’s South Asian neighbours fares significantly better than India – Pakistan ranks 102 with a GHI value of 26.6 while Nepal (GHI 15.0) and Bangladesh (GHI 19.0) have made remarkable progress occupying respectively the 69th and 81st positions. Sri Lanka, of course, still has the best record in South Asia with a GHI score of 13.3 and the 60th rank. Among the four factors making up the GHI index, India has the most alarming child wasting rate of 18.7% which reflects acute undernutrition. The overall GHI score of 28.7 puts India in the ‘serious’ category of hunger-stricken countries. Undernutrition is not just stunting the growth of millions of India’s children; an alarming 58.1 percent of India’s women suffer from various levels of anaemia.

The response of the Modi government to the GHI 2023 report has been similar to its standard response to all such global reports – be it the Oxfam inequality report or India’s alarming decline
in terms of press freedom or various other indices or measures of democracy. The Modi government lives in a perpetual denial mode and even contemptuously rubbishes these reports as foreign or western conspiracies.

India has been the only country to find fault with the GHI report, but the authors of the report have convincingly rebutted Modi government’s objections. The data used in the GHI report are
collected from verified sources including statistical updates issued periodically by concerned countries and studies by various multilateral agencies. The GHI findings are corroborated by other global studies on hunger and food security. The Global Food Security Index report released annually by the British weekly magazine The Economist placed India at 71st position out of 113 countries in 2021 and at 68th position in 2022. While India with 57.2 points was placed at the same level as Algeria, China stood at 25th position with a score of 74.2.

While the GHI report focuses on undernutrition, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality, the GFSI report is based on measures of food security driven by factors like affordability, availability, quality and safety and natural resources and resilience. The problem in India is now not so much with availability of food where India ranks 42 with a score of 62.3 as with affordability where India finishes 80th with a score of 59.3. The lack of affordability can only be overcome by running a powerful public distribution system, stopping profiteering of food and by improving the purchasing power of the common people. The Modi governmen’s policies are taking the country in the opposite direction. While the regime denies the shocking reports of hunger and lack of food security, in election time it projects the claim of distributing ‘free ration’ to 80 crore people as its biggest achievement. This claim itself is the strongest official testimony to India’s abysmal performance as revealed by the global reports on hunger and food security.

One look at the reports focusing on inequality, hunger and the conditions of India’s workers is enough to deflate the hype manufactured around the G20 summit and the celebration over the tag
of the world’s fifth largest economy. The government keeps talking of demographic dividends and empowerment of women.

The GHI report throws light on the alarming health conditions of India’s children and young women. Add to this the gloom caused by the trajectory of India’s jobless, nay job-loss, economic growth and the precarious conditions of India’s young working and job-seeking population and we know how the Indian people are being systematically impoverished and ruined. The question
of the Indian people’s right to food and effective and universal food security cannot be reduced to the Modi government’s cynical vote-seeking in the name of ‘free ration’. The GHI and GFSI
reports tell us that continued neglect of the agenda of food security is bound to push India into a bigger disaster.

“Dancing The Christian Hymns”

The first of seven online seminars planned for 2023-2024, by the hostess, Sylvie Lagache, a contemporary dancer, therapist with a master's degree in theology specializing in liturgy is
scheduled for November 4 at 4 p.m. on the theme: “Dance in the liturgy.” Says Lagache, “I will develop the importance of a spiritualized body for a liturgy that is less mechanical, flat, reduced to formalism, but more lively, celebrating the living.”

Lagache will develop the concept  of a “spiritualized body” for a liturgy less reduced to formalism, but more lively, celebrating the Living. She will also talk about mystical dance and the parallel between the bodily learning of a dancer and the learning of the inner way.  “Being in your body as a temple of God and dance the prayer,” says Lagache.

The first seminar will focus on mystical dance and the parallel between the bodily learning of a dancer and the learning of the inner path: breath, anchoring, verticality and meditation and projection (giving and receiving). We will dialogue together on the universal dimension of dance as unity between religions.

“I have chosen to present to you a dance on the Kyrie Eleison, because for me, it is the message that Christ came to bring, that is to say the inner movement that every Christian must go through:
recognizing his errors, his transgressions, his negative emotions (anger, fears…) for a possible transformation which is metanoia, conversion,” says Lagache. “It's going from the Old Man bent and closed in on himself to the New Man, straight and open, on the move! It is Man resurrected in Christ, a subject developed in my book “The Unified and Spiritualized Body.”

Lagache says, she invited to this seminar first of all people who have been with her, one Ana for over 30 years and the other Beto for over 10 years, in Brazil. Both continue basic classical dance
classes with breathing online. They will give their testimony in relation to dance and spirituality.  Then she invited a dancer and dance therapist from Ivory Coast who lives his Christian faith
deeply and who will come and talk to us about the importance of dance in the Church.

“So the dance that I propose is not of the order of representation, but rather it is a communion between Man and God and God and Man. It is a prayerful dance, because instead of praying with
words we will pray with the body. The gestures purport to express prayer, repentance, listening, contemplating, bowing, begging, rising up, receiving grace,” adds Lagache.

The zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9414526266. Visit:
https://youtu.be/dUK45NusSF8 . One can register at [email protected]

Exploring India’s Pursuit of a U.N. Security Council Seat and China’s Opposition

In the complex realm of international diplomacy, India’s quest for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and China’s persistent efforts to thwart it are deeply rooted in their ancient histories. As two of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, their interactions are colored by centuries of mutual distrust, and their intentions are continually scrutinized.

Drawing inspiration from legendary grandmasters of statecraft, both nations have honed their strategies to navigate this complex geopolitical landscape. The enduring philosophies of India’s Chanakya and China’s Sun Tzu, even though they lived over two millennia ago, continue to shape their approach to international relations.

For India, the G4, a coalition formed in 2004 with fellow Security Council aspirants Japan, Germany, and Brazil, symbolizes a collaborative alliance of like-minded nations. In contrast, China perceives the G4 as a challenge to its established influence as one of the Security Council’s five permanent, veto-wielding members, alongside the U.S., the U.K., France, and Russia.

These differing interpretations of the G4’s significance reflect the lessons drawn from their respective grandmasters. India’s adherence to Chanakya’s wisdom that “There is no friendship without self-interest” underlines its approach, while China draws on Sun Tzu’s advice that “Battles are lost when adequate calculations are not made in advance.”

Despite its growing global influence, India recognizes that securing a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council requires the collective consent of all five current permanent members, including China. New Delhi has garnered support from all members except China. Beijing has adopted a shrewd strategy, indicating that it would support India’s bid only if it disengages from Japan.

China’s approach aligns with Sun Tzu’s famous dictum, “All warfare is based on deception.” The reality is that China is uneasy about India’s ascendance on the world stage. To counter this, China has been fostering a close relationship with Pakistan, using territorial disputes and territorial claims on Indian lands to exert pressure and maintain an edge. This mirrors Sun Tzu’s principle: “The best strategy is to break the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

India, in response, has adopted a foreign policy stance of “strategic autonomy.” Following Chanakya’s counsel to “Attack and destroy your fear, as soon as it approaches,” New Delhi’s strategy involves confronting China where it is vulnerable before entering negotiations.
In recent years, India has positioned itself as a viable alternative to China for multinational manufacturers and has become integrated into U.S. strategic plans for the Asia-Pacific region. This strategic move has been so successful that the U.S. now refers to the region as the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating India’s influence. India’s commitment to building goodwill, particularly among Global South nations, is consistent with Chanakya’s advice that “A person’s goodness spreads in all directions.”

New Delhi’s diplomatic achievements, such as garnering support for the African Union to join the global body and facilitating consensus on important issues, underscore its readiness for a permanent Security Council seat. If the U.N. General Assembly voted today, India would likely secure the necessary two-thirds support due to its effective positioning as a spokesperson for the developing world.

Nonetheless, India must further advance its strategy to isolate China and question why it is pursuing this goal, as Chanakya advised. India needs to build consensus directly, refuting China’s claim of a lack of agreement regarding its accession. This could potentially place China “outside the global consensus,” a position Beijing strives to avoid.

In their diplomatic jockeying, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 summit in New Delhi aimed to diminish India’s influence. Surprisingly, his non-participation did not sway other leaders’ decisions to attend. China is undoubtedly devising a response to rectify past missteps in its efforts to contain India.

In this process, India can draw inspiration from Sun Tzu’s wisdom: “If you know your enemy and know yourself, you don’t have to fear the result of a hundred battles.” Understanding China’s tactics and its own strengths is crucial for India as it navigates the intricate world of international diplomacy.

Survey Reveals Consistency and Diversity in Asian American Hindu Identity

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center has shed light on the religious landscape within the Asian American community, with a particular focus on Hinduism. The findings provide insights into the faith and cultural connections of this demographic.

Approximately half of Asian American adults who self-identify as Indian continue to practice Hinduism, with 48 percent of respondents aligning themselves with this ancient religion. This statistic remains relatively stable compared to 2012 when it stood at 51 percent.

The survey also discovered that about one in ten Asian Americans now regard Hinduism as their religious affiliation, with 11 percent of respondents identifying as Hindus. This number has shown little change since 2012 when it was reported at 10 percent.

Furthermore, the survey revealed that 6 percent of all Asian Americans express a strong sense of closeness to Hinduism, often due to factors like ancestral or cultural ties. In total, two-thirds of Indian Americans either identify as Hindu or have a profound affinity for Hinduism.

Of those Asian American Hindus surveyed, one-third emphasized the importance of religion in their lives, while an additional 38 percent considered it to be somewhat important. The survey highlighted that approximately 31 percent of these individuals attend religious services monthly or even more frequently.

Hindus emerge as the group with the highest proportion among Asian American religious communities who incorporate altars, shrines, or religious symbols in their homes for worship, with a remarkable 79 percent adopting these practices. Among Hindus who place a high priority on religion in their lives, this figure rises to 89 percent.

Notably, approximately 92 percent of Asian American Hindu adults were born outside of the United States, representing the highest proportion of foreign-born individuals among Asian American religious groups.

In contrast, among religiously unaffiliated Asian Americans who feel a cultural closeness to Hinduism, a significantly higher percentage are born in the United States (35 percent) compared to those who explicitly identify as Hindus (8 percent).

When examining the socioeconomic status of Asian American Hindus, it becomes evident that this group exhibits remarkable achievements. A substantial 61 percent of them hold postgraduate degrees, in stark contrast to the 22 percent figure among all Asian American adults. Moreover, 44 percent of Asian American Hindus report a family income exceeding $150,000, which surpasses the 32 percent figure for Asian Americans as a whole.

The recent Pew Research Center survey has not only confirmed the resilience of Hinduism among Asian American adults who self-identify as Indian but has also highlighted the diversity within this community. While some strongly identify as Hindus and actively practice the religion, others feel a cultural or ancestral connection to Hinduism. The data also reveals that Asian American Hindus, as a group, have achieved remarkable success in terms of education and income, further enriching the complex tapestry of the Asian American experience.

India’s Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage

India’s top court declined to legalize same-sex marriages in a historic ruling delivered on October 17, 2023. This ruling affects what is now the world’s most populous country. And same-sex marriages are not legal there at this time.

The marriage ruling will be a disappointment for LGBTQ+ people in India, who had hoped the supreme court judges would recognise their constitutional right to marriage equality.
In a sign of how contentious the issue remains in India, the five-judge bench of the supreme court, led by the chief justice of India, said they had been divided on the matter, and four separate judgments were written by the bench. Two of the judges had supported same-sex civil unions but the majority verdict ruled against them.
Rohin Bhatt, one of the lawyers in the case, said: “Today the court has reaffirmed that queer citizens will be relegated to an unsympathetic legislature and an apathetic executive. We are second-class citizens, no matter how many judicial platitudes say otherwise. We will rise in rage and protest.”

India’s Supreme Court delivered the judgment on petitions advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and this decision has profound implications for the rights and recognition of LGBTQ+ individuals in the country.

Petitioners and Their Objectives

The court considered 21 petitions filed by same-sex couples, including those raising children together, LGBTQ+ activists, and organizations. The petitioners’ legal representatives argued that marriage is a union between two individuals, not restricted to a man and a woman. They asserted that laws should evolve to reflect changing concepts of marriage over time, with same-sex couples deserving the dignity and recognition of marriage.

Students and supporters of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) shout slogans, hold placards and pride flags as they take part in an LGBT+ Pride vigil organised after India’s top court on Tuesday declined to legalise same-sex marriage and left it to parliament to decide, at North Campus in New Delhi, India, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

The petitioners contended that the Indian constitution guarantees all citizens the right to marry a person of their choice and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. They highlighted that the inability to marry deprives them of joint bank accounts, co-ownership of property, and the opportunity to adopt children together.

The petitioners argued that the prohibition on same-sex marriage infringes upon their constitutional rights and relegates them to “second-class citizens.” However, the government and religious leaders have staunchly opposed same-sex unions, contending that they run counter to Indian cultural norms.

In April and May during hearings, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, leading the bench, described it as “a matter of seminal importance,” and these proceedings were “livestreamed in public interest.” The court reserved its order on May 12. Justice Chandrachud emphasized that they would not meddle with religious personal laws but would explore the possibility of amending a special law governing inter-caste and inter-faith marriages to include LGBTQ+ individuals.

This debate carries immense significance in a nation where tens of millions of LGBTQ+ people reside. While the Indian government reported their population at 2.5 million in 2012, global estimates suggest a much higher figure, possibly exceeding 135 million, or 10% of the entire population.

During the proceedings, the judges displayed empathy for the concerns of same-sex couples and pressed the government for its plans to address these issues.

Government’s Position

The government initially questioned the court’s authority to address this matter, arguing that it should be a decision for parliament. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, urged the court to dismiss the petitions, asserting that marriage could only occur between a heterosexual man and woman.

Government authorities also criticized the same-sex petitioners, characterizing them as “reflecting urban elitist views.” Remarkably, leaders from various religious denominations in India united in opposing same-sex unions, asserting that marriage should be reserved for procreation, not recreation.

Despite these strong objections from the government and religious leaders, the judges decided to hear the case. They clarified that they would not venture into religious personal laws but would explore the potential amendment of the Special Marriage Act (SMA) of 1954 to include LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Special Marriage Act: A Key Focus

In India, the majority of marriages occur under religious personal laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act. However, these laws recognize marriages only between couples of the same religion or caste. Consequently, if a Hindu and a Muslim sought to marry, one of them had to convert to the other’s religion.

This approach posed a significant challenge to the concept of personal liberty, a right guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Consequently, after India gained independence, the government introduced the Special Marriage Act in 1954 to facilitate inter-faith or inter-caste marriages.
The Special Marriage Act effectively detached marriage from religion, affirming that individuals did not need to renounce their religion to marry. This was a major step forward for personal liberty. During the court proceedings, the petitioners proposed substituting “man” and “woman” with “spouse” in the Act as a means of achieving marriage equality.

However, it became evident as the hearings progressed that amending this single law might be insufficient since numerous other laws govern divorce, adoption, succession, maintenance, and related matters, many of which fall under the purview of religious personal laws.

In a 2020 Pew survey, 37% of respondents believed homosexuality should be accepted, a substantial increase from 15% in 2014 when the question was first posed in the country. In a June survey by Pew, 53% of Indian adults supported legalizing same-sex marriage, while 43% opposed it.

Nonetheless, conservative attitudes towards sex and sexuality persist in India, and LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face stigma and discrimination. Lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, representing the petitioners, argued that society sometimes requires a push to acknowledge LGBTQ+ individuals as equals under the constitution, and legalizing same-sex marriage could be that catalyst for acceptance.

Empathy from SC Justices
The Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud and the four other judges ruled that amending the special marriage act went beyond the scope of the court, amounting to “judicial lawmaking”, and was instead the job of the legislature.
In his ruling, Chandrachud emphasised that LGBTQ+ people should have the right to choose their partners and co-habit and should not face discrimination under the law.
“Choosing a life partner is an integral part of choosing one’s course of life. Some may regard this as the most important decision of their life,” he said. He instructed the government to form a high level committee to examine the concerns, rights and welfare entitlements of same-sex couples.
“Queerness is not urban elite. Homosexuality or queerness is not an urban concept or restricted to the upper classes of the society,” added Chandrachud. He had also expressed his support for LGBTQ+ couples being allowed to adopt, but was overruled by the majority of the bench.
One of the petitioners, Mario da Penha, said it was “a day to be disappointed, but not to lose hope. There’s been tremendous work that has gone into these petitions, and many hopes and dreams of the queer community attached to them — to lead lives that most other Indians take for granted. The fact that the dream could not come to fruition today is a disappointment for all of us.”

“One Nation, One Election Concept By B.J.P. Will Disrupt The Democratic Process:” Anil Shashtri

Anil Shastri, son of late Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, was hosted by the I.O.C.U.S.A. in New York at Baldev Randhawa’s residence in New Rochell on September 28, 2023, to discuss current political dynamics in India. Mr. Shastri shared memories of his father and discussed the need to strengthen the I.O.C.’s hand to support the Indian National Congress party. He spoke in detail about how democracy is being diminished in India under Modi’s leadership and the importance of recapturing the letter and spirit of the constitution and saving democracy by defeating the ruling B.J.P. in the upcoming election.

“Unlike in last eight years, India’s electorate and young generation are now realizing their misperception of Narendra Modi’s rule, and re-election of B.J.P. for a third time could lead to a disaster. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi formed a broad coalition, “I.N.D.I.A.,” after winning states like Karnataka.” Mr. Shastri said. “Opposition parties like A.A.P., T.M.C., and NCP were reluctant to work under I.N.C.’s leadership before Karnataka elections. However, they now understood that Congress-led opposition with a one-on-one fight only can defeat B.J.P.,” he added.

He asserted that if any leader in India can answer Narendra Modi by looking into his eyes, it is Rahul Gandhi. Despite all the posturing, Narendra Modi is now afraid and feels threatened by the resurgence of the Congress Party. Anil Shastri criticized the B.J.P.’s “one nation, one election” concept, stating that simultaneous elections in the state and central governments would disrupt the Indian democratic process, potentially extending the President’s rule beyond six months, which needs a constitutional amendment and that the basic structure of Indian constitution is unchangeable. He criticized Modi’s government for deliberately using issues such as “one nation, one election,” etc., to divert the attention of the people from the real problems that they are facing. This is also a “Chunav ki jhumla” like depositing 15 lakh rupees in every citizen’s bank account.

Great leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastry and Jawaharlal Nehru thought their image would be magnified if the country’s image was built up. Contrary to that, Narendra Modi believes precisely the opposite, and Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister, used the recent G-20 sessions to build his own image, said Mr. Shastri.   He also advised the I.O.C. volunteers to use social media and other related technology to the maximum extent to change people’s perceptions in India by conveying reality and facts to them.

Anil Shastri recounted his father Lal Bahadur Shastri’s extraordinary determination, honesty, and hard work. He shared anecdotes about his father’s refusal to accept Russian and other countries’ aid during food shortages and his father’s determination to protect his self-respect as Prime Minister of India. Answering an audience’s question, Anil Shastri said that his father was so poor that he could not afford a boat ticket. He also rejected the free ride offer of the boatman and used to swim across the mighty Ganges to attend his school.

When asked why he swam, Lal Bahadur Shastri said to Anil Shastri, “When a person cannot protect his self-respect, he will not have the right to live.” Similarly, he said that he could not compromise with the self-respect of India by accepting money or any aid from other countries during a food shortage. He not only advocated but also gave up dinner once a week as a response to the food grains blockade by the major powers during the Indo-Pak war. The meeting commemorated the immense achievements of Lal Bahadur Shastri, such as the sowing seeds of the green revolution and the victory of the Indo-Pak war.

Harbachan Singh, Secretary-General, welcomed Shri. Anil Shastri and his wife Manju to the meeting. Mr. George Abraham, vice-chairman, described the goals and aspirations of the I.O.C. and emphasized the importance of close cooperation and dialogue. Mohinder Singh Gilzian, the President, introduced Anil Shashtri to the audience and lauded him for his dedication and commitment to the party.

Gurmit Gill Mulapur, Amar Singh Gulshan, Sophia Sharma, Dayan Naik, Sharath Chandra Vemuganti, Joshua John, Baldev Randhawa, Jose George, Paul Karukapallil, Thomas Koshy and Harry Singh also spoke.

John Joseph thanked host Baldav Randhawa for their generous hosting of the event and the Chief Guest Anil Shashtri and Manju Shastri for their kind presence.

How Did Mahatma Gandhi’s Portrait Come On Indian Banknotes

Throughout history, the lens of prominent photographers captured Mahatma Gandhi, but perhaps the most iconic image of him is the one adorning Indian currency notes. As the Father of the Nation, it might seem natural for him to be featured on India’s national currency, but this honor was conferred upon him several decades after India gained independence in 1947. In 1996, Gandhi’s image became a permanent fixture on all denominations of legal banknotes issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the nation’s central bank entrusted with overseeing India’s banking system. As we approach Gandhi’s birth anniversary, we delve into the origins of this portrait, the symbol it replaced, and the suggestions that have emerged for featuring other iconic figures on Indian banknotes.

The Origins of Gandhi’s Image on Indian Currency

The portrait of Gandhi on Indian banknotes is not a caricature; rather, it is a cut-out of a photograph taken in 1946, where he stands alongside British politician Lord Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence. This particular photograph was chosen because it captured Gandhi with a suitable smile, which was then mirrored to create the iconic portrait. Interestingly, the identities of the photographer behind this image and the person who selected it remain shrouded in mystery.

The responsibility of designing Indian rupee notes lies with the RBI’s Department of Currency Management, which must obtain approval for its designs from the central bank and the Union government. According to Section 25 of the RBI Act, 1934, the central government has the authority to approve the “design, form, and material of banknotes” based on recommendations made by the central board.

When Gandhi First Appeared on INR Notes

Gandhi’s first appearance on Indian currency occurred in 1969 when a special series was issued to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary. These notes, bearing the signature of RBI Governor LK Jha, depicted Gandhi against the backdrop of the Sevagram Ashram.

In October 1987, a series of Rs 500 currency notes featuring Gandhi was introduced.

The Banknotes of Independent India

Following India’s declaration of independence on August 15, 1947, the RBI initially continued to issue notes featuring King George VI from the colonial period. However, this situation changed in 1949 when the government of India introduced a new design for the 1-rupee note. In this new design, King George was replaced with a symbol of the Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath.

The RBI museum website shares insights from that era, noting that there were deliberations about selecting symbols for independent India. Initially, the idea was to replace the King’s portrait with that of Mahatma Gandhi. Design proposals were even prepared for this purpose. However, the consensus eventually shifted towards choosing the Lion Capital at Sarnath in place of Gandhi’s portrait. The new banknote designs largely followed the earlier patterns.

Consequently, in 1950, the first Republic of India banknotes were issued in denominations of Rs 2, 5, 10, and 100, all bearing the Lion Capital watermark. Over the years, higher denomination legal tenders were introduced, with motifs on the back of the notes evolving to reflect various aspects of new India, from wildlife motifs such as tigers and sambar deer to depictions of agricultural activities like farming and tea leaf plucking in the 1970s. The 1980s saw an emphasis on symbols of scientific and technological advancements as well as Indian art forms, with the Aryabhatta satellite, farm mechanization, and the Konark Wheel featuring on various denominations.

Gandhi’s Portrait Becomes a Permanent Feature

By the 1990s, the RBI recognized the need to enhance the security features of currency notes due to advancements in reprographic techniques such as digital printing, scanning, photography, and xerography. It was believed that inanimate objects would be easier to forge compared to a human face. Consequently, Gandhi was chosen as the new face of Indian currency due to his universal appeal. In 1996, the RBI introduced the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Series’ to replace the former Ashoka Pillar banknotes. This series also incorporated several security features, including a windowed security thread, latent image, and intaglio features designed for the visually impaired.

In 2016, the ‘Mahatma Gandhi New Series’ of banknotes was announced by the RBI, retaining Gandhi’s portrait while adding the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan logo and additional security features on the reverse side.

Demands for Inclusion of Others on Banknotes

In recent years, there have been calls to feature figures other than Gandhi on Indian currency notes. In October 2022, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the Prime Minister and the Union government to include the images of Lord Ganesha and goddess Lakshmi on currency notes.

Similarly, in 2014, there were suggestions to include Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and former President APJ Abdul Kalam on currency notes. However, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, addressing the Lok Sabha, revealed that the RBI had rejected these proposals in favor of retaining Gandhi’s portrait. He stated, “The Committee decided that no other personality could better represent the ethos of India than Mahatma Gandhi.”

Furthermore, then RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan emphasized that while India had many great personalities, Gandhi stood out above all others, and other choices could potentially be controversial.

The journey of Mahatma Gandhi’s image on Indian currency is a reflection of India’s evolving identity and the significance attributed to its national icons. While there have been calls to diversify the figures featured on banknotes, Gandhi’s enduring presence continues to symbolize the ethos of India.

India Asks Canada To Withdraw 40 Diplomats By Oct 10

India is learnt to have told Canada to withdraw around 40 diplomats from the country by October 10 amid worsening ties between the two nations, according to reports. The reports have said that New Delhi has conveyed to Canada that if the diplomats are not withdrawn by the deadline, they will lose their diplomatic immunity.

There are more than 60 Canadian diplomats posted in India.

Last month, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had alleged in Parliament that Indian intelligence agents may have been involved in the murder of Sikh pro-Khalistan hardliner Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the diplomatic relations have hit an all time low between the two nations. Following Trudeau’s allegations, both the countries had expelled a diplomat each. India had also termed Canada’s allegations as “politically driven”.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said: “Yes, we’ve informed the government of Canada that there should be parity in strength in our mutual diplomatic presence. Their number is very much higher than ours in Canada… I assume there will be a reduction from the Canadian side.”

Caring for the Old: On the United Nations Population Fund’s India Ageing Report 2023

A substantial portion of the global population is aging, and India is no exception to this trend. According to the India Ageing Report 2023 by the United Nations Population Fund, there is a stark reality on the horizon. The population aged 60 and above is projected to double from 10.5% or 14.9 crore individuals (as of July 1, 2022) to 20.8% or 34.7 crore by the year 2050. This means that one in every five people will be a senior citizen, with far-reaching implications for healthcare, the economy, and society as a whole.

In regions like Kerala and West Bengal, a growing elderly population is experiencing solitude as their children migrate in search of better opportunities. While advancements in healthcare have contributed to increased life expectancy, and declining fertility rates are observed in various countries, including India, there are formidable challenges in providing for a burgeoning elderly population. Within this overarching demographic shift, there are numerous other noteworthy statistics. Notably, elderly women outnumber their male counterparts. A 60-year-old person in India can anticipate living another 18.3 years, with women having a slightly longer life expectancy of 19 years compared to men at 17.5 years. In India, where female labor force participation stands at a meager 24%, it is imperative to ensure economic and social security for women to prevent their increased vulnerability in old age.

Furthermore, there are substantial variations between states. In 2021, most southern states reported a higher proportion of elderly citizens compared to the national average, and this gap is expected to widen by 2036. In contrast, states with higher fertility rates, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are also projected to witness an increase in the elderly population’s share by 2036, but it will remain below the national average. Overall, more than two-fifths of the elderly population belong to the poorest wealth quintile, ranging from 5% in Punjab to a staggering 47% in Chhattisgarh. Additionally, 18.7% of the elderly have no source of income, which exacerbates their economic vulnerability. A significant portion of the elderly population resides in rural areas and often faces economic hardships. Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive societal approach that encompasses physical and mental health, basic necessities like food and shelter, income security, and social care. Geriatric care should be tailored to their distinct healthcare requirements.

While there are several government schemes aimed at assisting the elderly, many remain unaware of them or find the application process overly complex. The National Policy on Older Persons from 1999 and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007 establish guidelines for the care of the elderly. However, to ensure that senior citizens can lead dignified lives, both public and private policies must create a more supportive environment.

India is witnessing a significant demographic shift with a rapidly aging population. This transformation has profound implications for various aspects of society, including healthcare, the economy, and social well-being. To address the challenges posed by this demographic transition, it is imperative to implement a holistic approach that encompasses healthcare, economic security, and social support. Furthermore, raising awareness about existing government schemes and simplifying access to them is essential to ensure that the elderly receive the assistance and care they deserve in their later years.

Tributes paid to India’s parliament at special session

Indian legislators, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have paid their respects to the country’s historic parliament building in anticipation of their move to a new facility. These
members of parliament made their remarks during the inaugural day of a special parliamentary session convened by the government, set to span a week.

Although the new parliament building was inaugurated by Mr. Modi in May, it had not yet been used for any legislative business until now. The session will transition to the new premises on Tuesday, following an event dedicated to celebrating the legacy of the old parliament.

This unique session occurs amidst criticism from opposition leaders who argue that the government has not been transparent about the full agenda for the week. The government has announced that eight bills are slated for discussion during this session. However, it’s important to note that this agenda could potentially change or expand as the week progresses.

Opposition figures have raised questions about the necessity of this special session to discuss these bills, given that MPs are already scheduled to convene later in the year for the customary winter session of parliament. Traditionally, Indian lawmakers meet for regular parliamentary business three times a year, encompassing a budget session, a monsoon session, and a winter session.

Prime Minister Modi initiated the special session on Monday by commemorating the parliament’s legacy since 1947, when India gained independence from British rule. The government has organized numerous events to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. During his speech, Modi described the departure from the old parliament as an “emotional moment”, highlighting the building’s rich history and its continued inspiration for future generations. He stated, “The biggest achievement of this parliament is that it has kept people’s faith in democracy alive” while also mentioning India’s successful Moon landing and hosting of the G20 summit.

Some opposition leaders shared their personal reminiscences of the old parliament while taking swipes at Mr. Modi’s government, alleging that it avoids answering questions and targets
political rivals.

In preparation for the special session, Mr. Modi had indicated that its duration might be “short” but would include “historic decisions” Special sessions are relatively rare occurrences in Indian parliamentary history. According to legislative expert Chakshu Roy, they are typically convened “for specific occasions, like commemorating parliamentary or national milestones.”

The announcement of this session last month had triggered criticism from opposition leaders,who raised concerns about the government's secrecy regarding the agenda. It also sparked intense speculation, with some pundits speculating that the government might call for early elections or consider changing the country's name from India to Bharat (following a controversy over a possible name change).
Other speculations included the possibility of the government introducing a landmark bill reserving seats for women in state legislatures and parliament. In response, some opposition
lawmakers held protests outside parliament on Monday, advocating for the introduction of such a bill.

However, the government has yet to confirm any of these speculations. Last week, after weeks of opposition criticism, the government released a “tentative agenda” for the session, which included four bills for debate. Among them was a controversial bill that would alter the process for appointing India's chief election commissioner.

Opposition parties have strongly objected to this bill, characterizing it as “undemocratic” and asserting that it would diminish the independence of the Election Commission and its officials. However, it’s worth noting that this particular bill was not part of the list provided to opposition leaders during an all-party meeting on Sunday.

NARI SHAKTI VANDAN ABHINIYAM:Women’s Reservation Bill Passes In Lok Sabha.

Justice for Indian women is elevated and recognized. The Women’s Reservation Bill, a significant Constitutional Amendment Bill that provides 33% reservation to women in Parliament and State Assemblies, passes in Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha manually voted, 454 MPs voted in favor of the bill, and two MPs voted against it. ( except for raising the salaries and privileges of MPs, there always will be opposition to everything. Fortunately, only two were against this bill!).

It was introduced in the Lok Sabha yesterday during the ongoing special session of Parliament.

Taking forward the resolution of women-led development, our government today passed a prominent Constitutional Amendment Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to expand the participation of women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas.”

The salient features of this Bill are as follows:

The Women’s Reservation Bill is named Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, the first bill tabled in the new Parliament building.

The bill has proposed that the reservation would continue for 15 years and that there would be a quota for SCs and STs within the reserved seats for women.

The reservation will come into effect after a delimitation exercise and will continue for 15 years.

As per existing law, the next delimitation exercise can only be conducted after the first census to be taken post-2026, which means that the bill cannot become law until at least 2027. Some reports have suggested that the women’s quota may be implemented by the 2029 Lok Sabha elections.

Once the bill becomes an Act, of the total seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of Assembly, 33% will be set aside for women belonging to these communities.

The number of women members in the Lok Sabha will rise to 181 from 82 currently once the women’s reservation bill comes into force, law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said.

Rotation of seats reserved for women in Lok Sabha, legislative assemblies, and the assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi would take effect after each subsequent exercise of delimitation, to be determined by the parliament, according to the bill.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill noted that the true empowerment of women will require greater in the decision-making process.

“The women of India will now have a role to play in policymaking,” says Home Minister Amit Shah on the Women’s Reservation Bill. Of course, it is bringing a drastic progress in the women empowerment in India.

2023, A Year Of Historic Milestones For India

India, a diverse and culturally rich nation, has been making waves on the global stage for several years. From hosting prestigious events to achieving significant milestones in space exploration; In 2023, India is set to witness a series of historic events that will captivate the nation and the world. From cultural celebrations to scientific achievements, here are four noteworthy events that will leave an indelible mark on 2023.

India’s Parliament Passes Women’s Reservation Bill

Picture : TheUNN

The women’s reservation bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, September 20th, with 454 members voting in favor of its consideration, and two against it. The bill seeks to reserve one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.

The bill- Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam- was tabled by the government on Tuesday, making it the first bill to be introduced in the new Parliament building. The legislation that seeks to enable greater participation of women in policy-making has been pending for over 25 years for want of consensus among parties

G20 Summit: A Global Diplomatic Powerhouse

India’s emergence as a global diplomatic powerhouse is evident as it is hosted the G20 Summit this year. This event brought together leaders from the world’s largest economies to discuss crucial global issues such as economic cooperation, climate change, and healthcare. India’s role as the host emphasizes its growing influence in shaping international policies and promoting cooperation on a global scale.

Chandrayaan: India’s Lunar Triumph Chandrayaan

India’s lunar exploration program, has been a source of national pride and a testament to the country’s scientific prowess. In 2008, India successfully launched its first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, which made significant discoveries about the moon’s surface and composition. This achievement was followed by Chandrayaan-3, the third mission in Chandrayaan programme which landed on the moon’s lunar south polar region on 23rd August 2023 making India the fourth country to successfully land on the moon and first to do so near the lunar south pole region of the moon showcases India’s commitment to space exploration and scientific innovation.

Miss World Pageant 2023: Beauty and Diversity

India has been a dominant force in the Miss World pageant, creating history by winning the crown multiple times and consistently making it to the top ranks. The country is now all set to turn into a runway to celebrate elegance, style, and the essence of true beauty with 71st Miss World 2023. This mega global event taking place in the month of November/ December is an opportunity for India to showcase its rich culture, hospitality and diversity, offering a substantial impetus to the nation’s tourism sector. 71st Miss World 2023 promises to be an extraordinary platform that celebrates the essence of beauty, diversity, and empowerment. Contestants from over 130 countries will gather in India to showcase their unique talents, intelligence, and compassion. They will participate in a series of rigorous competitions, including talent showcases, sports challenges, and charitable initiatives, all aimed at highlighting the qualities that make them exceptional ambassadors of change.

Cricket World Cup: A Nation’s Passion

Cricket is more than just a sport in India; it’s a religion. The country has hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup twice, in 1987 and 2011, and both events were monumental successes. The 2011 World Cup victory on home soil was particularly special, uniting the entire nation in celebration. India’s passion for cricket and the success of hosting such a prestigious event showcases the country’s ability to organize and execute major sporting events flawlessly.

India is earning a prominent spot on the world stage. The nation’s ability to combine tradition with modernity, diversity with unity, and innovation with heritage showcases India’s resilience, potential, and global impact. These historic events happening in India in 2023 encompass a wide range of interests, from beauty and sports to politics and science. They not only showcase India’s prowess on the global stage but also promise to be memorable moments in the nation’s history. (With inputs from IANS)

Why is India Having A Special Session Of Parliament?

A special five-day session of Parliament called by the government during ‘Amrit Kaal’ began on Monday, September 18, 2023. This comes amid an intense speculation about the government’s agenda for the rare move. The five-day special session of the Parliament began at 11 am on Monday. The session was held in the old Parliament building, and MPs moved into the new building on Tuesday, the second day of the special session.

Indian lawmakers, including PM Narendra Modi, have paid tribute to the country’s old parliament ahead of a move to a new building. While addressing media persons outside Parliament, PM Modi said that several important decisions will be taken during this special session of Parliament. The Prime Minister called on MPs to pledge to work towards making India a developed country by 2047.

The special session is being held amid criticism from opposition leaders who claim that the government has not disclosed all the business that could come up during the week.According to the government, eight bills have been listed for discussion during the session – but this agenda could be changed or expanded during the course of the week.Opposition leaders have questioned whether a special session was necessary to discuss these bills when MPs are set to meet later this year for the winter session of parliament.

Picture : Mint

Indian lawmakers usually meet for regular business three times a year in parliament – a budget session, a monsoon session and a winter session. On Monday, Mr Modi began the special session by commemorating the legacy of India’s parliament since 1947, when the country became independent from British rule. The government has held several events to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.

Modi said that leaving the old parliament was an “emotional moment” as the building was filled with special memories and that the structure would continue to inspire future generations. “The biggest achievement of this parliament is that it has kept people’s faith in democracy alive,” he said in a speech where he also mentioned India’s successful Moon landing and hosting of the G20 summit.

“Well, this building is full of memories as the PM also said, it is full of history. It will be a sad moment. Let’s hope that the new building has better facilities, new technology and more convenience for the members of the Parliament. But still, it is always an emotional moment to leave an institution which is so full of history and memories,” Shashi Tharoor added.

The new building

A day before the special session Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday hoisted the national flag atop the “Gaja Dwar” of the new Parliament building.For the new Parliament building, this will be the first session.

A new dress code has been announced for the parliamentary staff of various departments. The new dress code with floral motif for a section of staff has already kicked up a political row, with the Congress dubbing it as a “cheap” tactic to promote the ruling party’s poll symbol — the lotus flower.

Old vs new building

Designed by British architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the existing historic Parliament House Complex has stood for over 96 years and is a repository of India’s democratic journey. The new building has been designed by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management led by architect Bimal Patel.

All the political parties with a presence in Parliament have issued a whip to their Parliamentarians, directing them to ensure their presence during the special session.

The government has listed some bills and marking the 75 years of India’s Independence as its agenda for the special session.

But the Opposition has not seemed satisfied, indicating that the special session, possibly in the new building, may follow the old suit of shouting, sloganeering and ruckus over the government’s “hidden agenda”.

A special discussion on Parliament’s journey of 75 years starting from the “’Samvidhan Sabha” (Constituent Assembly) is listed on the agenda.Four bills including the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners to be taken up during the session.

And a custom

The customary all-party meeting was called by the government on Sunday on the eve of the special session of Parliament. Floor leaders of all parties attended the meeting.

Several parties made a pitch for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill, giving 33% quota to women candidates in elections. The government has responded by saying that an appropriate decision on the women’s quota bill would be taken at the right time.

Special sessions are not that common – according to legislative expert Chakshu Roy, the government has sometimes convened them “for specific occasions, like commemorating parliamentary or national milestones”.

Biden Reaffirms US Support For India’s Seat On The UN Security Council

During his speech at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed the unwavering commitment of the United States to reform the United Nations Security Council membership, thus supporting India’s primary goal of a permanent seat on UNSC. Biden emphasized support for other key US-India strategic endeavors including strengthening of the Quad partnership, advancing Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), and welcoming the African Union’s inclusion in the G20, accomplished during India’s leadership in that forum.

Addressing world leaders during the UN general debate, President Biden recalled, “In my address to this body, last year, I announced the United States to support expanding the Security Council, increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members. The United States has undertaken serious consultation with many Member States and will continue to do our part to push more reform efforts forward…”

Biden noted, “This month we strengthened the G20 as a vital forum welcoming the African Union as a permanent member by upgrading and strengthening our institutions… That’s only half of the picture. We must also forge new partnerships, confront new challenges…” adding “In the Indo Pacific, we’ve elevated our Quad partnership with India, Japan, and Australia, to deliver concrete progress to people of the region on everything from vaccines to maritime security.”

“Similarly groundbreaking efforts were announced at the G20 [in New Delhi] connecting India to Europe, through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel – will spur opportunities investment across two continents…” Biden added about the PGII initiative.

Picture : TheUNN

Over 151 Heads of State and Government are participating in the high-level week in New York, where four of the five permanent members of UNSC – Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom will be absent. US President Joe Biden is the only permanent member of UNSC who participated and addressed global leaders as well.

PM Modi, who successfully hosted the G20 Summit in New Delhi, will not be traveling to New York to address the UNGA session. Instead, India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar will address the session on September 26 and is expected to reaffirm India’s commitment to several vital issues including the Global South.

On the eve of the UNGA session, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that India’s participation during the current session will underscore its steadfast dedication to the “global cooperation, peace, and sustainable development.” This commitment is rooted in the vision of a unified global family and resonates with the sentiments articulated by PM Modi, according to Kamboj.

Emphasizing India’s focus during the UNGA session, Kamboj noted, “Firstly, as the current President of the G20, India will continue to emphasize issues that are vital to the Global South countries including climate action, finance, and the sustainable development goals. We proudly opened the doors for the African Union to join the G20 recognizing the importance of global collaboration to address contemporary challenges.”

Kamboj pointed out that the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration underscores India’s dedication to fostering sustainable economic growth and promoting environmentally friendly initiatives. This commitment is exemplified by the collective focus on an inclusive and action driven G20 agenda under PM Modi’s guidance.

On human rights and social issues, Kamboj added “We stand firmly for women’s rights, constructive human rights dialogues, and an intercultural dialogue for peace. India will Chair the 62nd session of the UN Commission for Social Development, the first time since 1975, that India holds this esteemed position.”

About UN reforms, Kamboj said India actively engages in discussion surrounding UNSC reforms with a primary goal of securing permanent membership and emphasizing the need for expansion of both permanent and non-permanent member categories. Furthermore, India will prioritize efforts to revitalize the Non-Aligned Movement.

On September 18, two members of G4 nations, Japan and Brazil met on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York and discussed ways to carry forward the G20 agenda under India’s Presidency.

“The two Ministers shared the view that Japan and Brazil will continue to strengthen cooperation as ‘strategic global partners’ and that they will work together towards the G20 Rio de Janeiro Summit next year, building on the achievements that led from the G7 Hiroshima Summit to the G20 New Delhi Summit,” Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Kamikawa Yoko, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Mauro Vieira said in their joint statement.

The Joint Communiqué of the Fourth Trilateral Meeting of the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations on September 17 also reaffirmed their leaders “commitment to promote effective multilateralism and welcomed the extension of G20 membership to the African Union.” Notably, the African Union was inducted as a permanent member during the recently concluded G20 Leaders’ Summit under India’s Presidency in New Delhi.

India Denies Role In Canadian Sikh Leader’s Murder

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said September 18, 2023, authorities were “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking New Delhi’s agents to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, an assertion India quickly dismissed as “absurd”.

The spat deals a fresh blow to diplomatic ties that have been fraying for years, with New Delhi unhappy over Sikh separatist activity in Canada. It now threatens trade ties too, with talks on a proposed trade deal frozen last week.

Each nation expelled a diplomat in tat-for-tat moves, with Canada throwing out India’s top intelligence agent and New Delhi responding by giving a Canadian diplomat five days to leave.

Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen is “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”, Trudeau told the House of Commons in an emergency statement on Monday.

He was referring to Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh population, three years after India had designated him as a “terrorist”.

Nijjar supported creating a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent, so-called state of Khalistan in India’s northern state of Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion, which borders Pakistan.

India’s foreign ministry did not disclose the name or rank of the Canadian diplomat it had asked to leave the country. “The decision reflects the government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities,” it said in a statement.

The ministry had summoned Cameron MacKay, Canada’s high commissioner, or ambassador, in New Delhi to notify him of the move.

ACCUSATION ‘COMPLETELY REJECTED’

Earlier, New Delhi urged Ottawa to take action against anti-Indian elements in Canada. “Allegations of the government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” it said, adding that similar accusations made by Trudeau to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been “completely rejected”.

It said the “unsubstantiated allegations” sought to shift focus away from “Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada”.

“We urge the government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil,” the ministry said.

Trudeau said he had raised the matter directly with Modi on the sidelines of G20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month, and had urged his government to co-operate with Canada to resolve it. Modi, in turn, conveyed strong concern to Trudeau over recent demonstrations in Canada by Sikhs calling for an independent state.

Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside the Indian state of Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.

Khalistan is the name of an independent Sikh state whose creation has been sought for decades. A Sikh insurgency killed tens of thousands of people in India in the 1980s and early 1990s before it was suppressed by tough security action.

Picture : WPLG

New Delhi has been wary of any revival, with a particular focus on small groups of Sikhs in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, who support the separatist demand and occasionally stage protests outside its embassies.

The United States and Australia expressed “deep concern” over Canada’s accusations, while Britain said it was in close touch with its Canadian partners about the “serious allegations”.

U.S. authorities have urged India to cooperate with the investigation, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday. Britain will continue trade talks with India despite Ottawa’s allegations as London is not looking to conflate negotiations about a trade deal with “other issues”, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson told reporters.

‘INCREASING STRAIN’

India has been particularly sensitive to Sikh protesters in Canada with some Indian analysts saying Ottawa does not stop them as Sikhs are a politically influential group there.

In June, India criticised Canada for permitting a float in a parade depicting the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, perceived to be glorification of violence by Sikh separatists.

Ottawa paused talks this month on a proposed trade treaty with India, just three months after both said they aimed to seal an initial deal this year.

Modi did not hold a two-way meeting with Trudeau at the G20 summit, despite similar meetings with other world leaders. Days earlier, metro stations in the Indian capital were vandalised with pro-Khalistan graffiti.

Trudeau’s allegations have put ties under increasing strain.

“Three months after the killing, no one has been charged. Nor did Trudeau say who his government believes carried out the killing,” independent geopolitical analyst Brahma Chellaney posted on X.

“But his unproven allegation, by sparking tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, will likely bring Canada-India relations to a new low.”

G-20 Establish Mechanism to Monitor Incidents of Hate, Targeted Violence

The G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, which was agreed on Saturday (9 September), reiterated the group’s commitment to promoting respect for all religions and condemned all acts of religious hatred, including those committed against holy texts and symbols.

The declaration noted the July 25 United Nations General Assembly resolution on “promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech” and stated: “In this regard, we strongly deplore all acts of religious hatred against persons, as well as those of a symbolic nature without prejudice to domestic legal frameworks, including against religious and holy books.”

Narender Nagarwal, who teaches Law at the Delhi University, while speaking on the G-20 joint declaration, said, “I do believe that the G20 New Delhi declaration of September 9, 2023, which denounces all forms of discrimination, hatred, and violence towards vulnerable ethnic groups, is a remarkable accomplishment of the conference. The G20 countries have always been at the forefront in tackling global issues, and the New Delhi Conference of world leaders has reinforced its commitment to confronting targeted violence and hatred on the basis of religion, caste or language against minorities as a critical issue that demands immediate attention and action.”

He added, “This declaration is a clear indication of the Group of 20’s collective determination to combat all hate crimes, including Islamophobic violence, against minorities. I welcome this initiative of the leading players of global politics and treat the declaration as a powerful message to those who overtly or covertly instigate Islamophobic hatred and other sorts of bigotry against ethnic and vulnerable groups.”

On the way forward, Nagarwal urged the G-20 leaders by saying, “I would appreciate if the G-20 secretariat established an observatory commission to investigate reports of hate and targeted violence against ethnic and vulnerable groups and submit progress reports to member states on a regular basis. The adoption of collective action sends a powerful message of unity, solidarity, and hope to the people of Indian society who have endured the burdens of hate crimes, discrimination and Islamophobic violence for far too long.”

Michael Williams, founder and president of the United Christians Forum, said, “Religious tolerance has been a part of the UN Charter, the Indian Constitution, and now our Prime Minister has reiterated this in the G20 Joint Declaration. I only hope that Mr. Modi will ensure its speedy implementation akin to the Demonetisation urgency and will continue to see it through like the GST policy.”

Williams added, “Prime Minister must ensure that anyone who indulges in hate speeches, religious violence, and religious bullying are brought to account so that such Joint Declarations actually have meaning and impact on the lives of citizens. They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but, with true implementation, this intent of the Summit is something India needs right now.”

Dr. Prem Chand, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, ARSD College, University of Delhi, observed: “Unity in Diversity is not only a line but it is the virtue which is inherently reflected in each aspect of our great country India. Historically and culturally, India has been nurtured by different religions and cultures. The spirit of the Constitution of India is secular and secularism is being practised by the India Government. Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights given by the Constituent Assembly of India to its Citizens. In this backdrop it’s a welcome step that G20 agenda has deplored the religious hatred and considered equality of all religions.”

Dr. Prem Chand added, “India is a multi-religious country but unfortunately some political parties are doing communal politics and they divide people only to grab power. In this scenario India should respect what is inherited and keep it to the values of the Constitution of India.”

John Dayal, a noted social and human rights activist, opined: “G-20 was sitting at a time when religious discord, sponsored mostly by ruling groups in India and in most other countries, have brought the world to the brink. Many Peoples Summits preceding G-20 had, in their call to put people first, highlighted the threat to the world leaders, it seems, successfully prevented any discussion on this issue. It was not high on the agenda anyway.”

Dayal said, “Big countries have lost whatever moral authority they ever had in naming and shaming regimes with a track record of religious bigotry and ill treatment of minorities. Apart from their own records in condoning the burning of the Qur’ān, for instance, in several European cities, the G-20 have turned a blind eye to infringements and absolute ignoring of the United Nations Charter and its focus on religious freedom and freedom of expression as the core values of a shared humanity.”

Joe Biden Expressed Concerns About Human Rights, Free Press With PM Narendra Modi

US President Joe Biden has said that he held “substantial discussions” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on ways to strengthen the Indo-US partnership and thanked him for his leadership and hosting the G20 Summit in New Delhi. Biden told reporters here in the Vietnamese capital that he also raised the importance of respecting human rights with Prime Minister Modi.

Biden, who arrived in New Delhi on his first visit to India as the US President, held wide-ranging talks with Modi and they vowed to “deepen and diversify” the bilateral major defence partnership while welcoming forward movement in India’s procurement of 31 drones and joint development of jet engines.

“I want to once again thank Prime Minister Modi for his leadership and his hospitality and hosting the G20. He and I have had substantial discussions about how we’re going to continue to strengthen the partnership between India and the US building on the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House last June,” Biden said during a press conference here.

“As I always do, I raised the importance of respecting human rights and the vital role the civil society and a free press have in building a strong and prosperous country with Modi,” he said.

Picture : ParadePhash

According to the joint statement issued on Friday after Modi and Biden held bilateral talks, “The leaders re-emphasised that the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, inclusion, pluralism, and equal opportunities for all citizens are critical to the success our countries enjoy and that these values strengthen our relationship.” Biden also talked about the “significant business” he had done in India during the G20 Summit.

“This was an important moment for the United States to demonstrate our global leadership and our commitment to solving the challenges that matter most to people around the world. Investing in inclusive growth and sustainable development, addressing the climate crisis, strengthening food security and education, advancing global health and health security,” he said. “We showed the world the United States is a partner with a positive vision for our shared future,” he added.

On the corridor connecting India to Europe with the Middle East and Israel, he said that are going to open up untold opportunities for transformative economic investment.

He said the “illegal war in Ukraine” was also discussed at the summit and there was sufficient agreement on the need for just and lasting peace.

Responding to questions, President Biden said his goal is to provide stability around the world by building America’s ties with Vietnam and other Asian countries as he insisted that he is not trying to start a “cold war” with China.

“It’s not about containing China. It’s about having a stable base,” said Biden, who is here as Vietnam was elevating the United States to comprehensive strategic partner.

Biden also said that he met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the G20 in New Delhi and ”talked about stability.” “It wasn’t confrontational at all,” he added.

525 Incidents Of Violence Against Christians In India in 212 Days In 2023

As we Indians are feeling proud of world leaders assembling in our country under the presidency of India led by the charismatic Prime Minister Shri Narender Modi for the G20 summit, there are Indians facing incidents of violence for practicing a faith that is of their own choice.

In the first 212 days of this year, 2023, 525 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported from 23 states of India in just 8 months as against 505 incidents in the whole year of 2022. June has seen the highest number of incidents with 89 followed by July with 80, 68 in August, 66 in March, 63 in February, 62 in January, 50 in May and 47 in April.

There are 13 Districts in India wherein practicing Christianity is becoming dangerous. Bastar is leading with 51 incidents of violence against Christians followed by 14 each in Kondagaon and Azamgarh, 13 each in Jaunpur, Raebareli and Sitapur, 12 in Kapur, 10 each in Hardoi, Maharajganj, Kushinagar and Mau, 9 each in Gazipur and Ranchi.

Three (3) large states of North India are witnessing the highest number of incidents of violence against Christians: Uttar Pradesh leading with 211 incidents followed by Chhattisgarh with 118 and Haryana with 39 incidents.

Picture : TheUNN

All these incidents of violence are by mob violence led by so called vigilante groups of particular faith who are allegedly receiving support from people in power. Attacks against Christians do not stop with mob violence only there are 520 Christians who have been arrested accused of false forced conversions with any proven evidence.

There are 54 cases of social ostracism predominantly occurring in the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. This exclusion involves denying victims access to basic resources such as village water sources, common roads, etc. Additionally, in certain situations, victims are prevented from harvesting their own crops, leading to adverse economic consequences.

This year also saw Delhi NCR experiencing incidents of violence with four recorded cases in which individuals conducting prayer meetings were confronted and disrupted by religious extremist groups. These extremists resorted to physical assault against the victims and used threats to coerce them into ending their prayer gatherings.

As per the reports recorded by the United Christian Forum (UCF), the incidents of violence against Christians have been increasing sharply and steadily since 2014: 147 incidents in 2014, 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 279 in 2020,505 in 2021, 599 in 2022 and 525 incidents in first 212 days of 2023.

This press release does not include the details of Manipur wherein, according to media reports, over 300 Churches belonging to various communities were destroyed, nearly 200 people died and over 54, 000 were displaced since May 3, 2023. While the situation remains tense and volatile, we will await the official report of the Government’s inquiry and investigation.

Ø  HIGHEST NUMBER OF INCIDENTS IN 13 DISTRICTS IN 3 STATES

Ø  520 CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN FALSE ALLEGATION OF CONVERSIONS

Ø  54 CASES OF SOCIAL OSTRACISM

Ø  2.5 INCIDENTS A DAY

Petition On Violence Against Christians Before Supreme Court Of India

The matter is coming up on 12th September 2023 before a bench led by the Chief Justice of India for final hearing. The Union government is opposing our petition. Our advocate Colin Gonsalves has submitted an interim prayer for SIT comprising officers outside the respective states to register FIRs, investigate and prosecute; police protection prayer meetings conducted by the Christian community and to provide legal aid to all the victims. For further details, please contact: [email protected]

Modi And India’s Global Influence Are Viewed Favorably

Last week, political leaders gathered in New Delhi for the annual G20 summit, the first ever to be held in South Asia. As international attention is drawn to India, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that views of India are generally positive across 23 countries.

A median of 46% of adults hold a favorable view of India, while a median of 34% have unfavorable views. In comparison, views of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which were collected in a subset of 12 countries, are more mixed: A 37% median say they have confidence in Modi, and a 40% median say they lack confidence in him.

The new survey examines views of India and its political leaders in and outside of India, as well as Indians’ views of other countries. The survey includes eight middle-income nations that Pew Research Center has not surveyed since 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, due to the challenges of conducting face-to-face interviews during the pandemic. Below are some of the key findings from the survey of 30,861 people in 24 countries, including India, conducted from Feb. 20 to May 22, 2023:

Indians are more likely than others to believe India’s power is on the rise. Around seven-in-ten Indians believe their country has recently become more influential, compared with a median of 28% across 19 countries who said the same in 2022. In those 19 countries, respondents were most inclined to say that India’s influence had not changed much in recent years (48% median), but only 19% of Indians agree with this view. Indians are just as likely as those in other countries to think India’s influence has become weaker in recent years (13% vs. a 19-country median of 13%).

Modi is popular in India, but has more mixed reviews internationally. About eight-in-ten Indians (79%) have a favorable view of Modi, including a majority of 55% with a very favorable view. In comparison, a median of 37% in 12 countries, most of which are middle-income, report having confidence in Modi to make the right foreign policy choices. Kenyans are especially confident, with 60% saying they trust Modi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, while Argentines are particularly skeptical. Just 12% in Argentina have confidence in the Indian leader. At least one-in-ten in each of these countries also do not offer an opinion on Modi.

European attitudes toward India have turned more negative over time. Favorable views of India have declined by roughly 10 percentage points or more in all five of the European countries where past data is available. The greatest change is seen in France, where just 39% now have a favorable view of India, compared with 70% in 2008. Notably, French adults are also less likely than they were in 2008 to share an opinion on India. In all other countries, people are more or about as likely to offer an opinion on India as they were in 2008.

Indians stand out for their favorable views of Russia. Whereas a median of only 14% across 22 countries have a positive view of Russia, a 57% majority of Indians see Russia favorably. Indians are also the most likely to have confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs among all publics surveyed. Likewise, the United States is seen more favorably in India (65%) than in many other countries surveyed. When it comes to China, India stands out for the opposite reason: It is the only middle-income country surveyed where a majority has unfavorable views of China.

International views of India and Modi

Negative attitudes toward Pakistan persist in India. Roughly three-quarters of Indian adults hold an unfavorable view of Pakistan. This includes 57% who have a very unfavorable opinion. Indians’ views of Pakistan have consistently been unfavorable since the question was first asked in 2013, with the share holding an unfavorable view of the country never dipping below 60%.

Outside of India, substantial shares in many countries surveyed do not offer an opinion on India and on Modi. In the U.S., this includes 40% who report having never heard of Modi. Some groups are more inclined to provide a response to the two questions: This includes men and those with more education in several countries. Younger adults are also generally more likely to offer an opinion on India. Within India, a quarter or more do not offer an opinion of Indian National Congress (INC) leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. (PEW Research)

How India Led the Way Toward a Human-Centered Future | Opinion

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.” These two words capture a deep philosophy. They mean, “The world is one family.” It’s an all-embracing outlook that encourages us to progress as one universal family, transcending borders, languages, and ideologies.

During India’s G20 Presidency, this has translated into a call for human-centric progress. As One Earth, we are coming together to nurture our planet. As One Family, we support each other in the pursuit of growth. And we move together towards a shared future—One Future—which is an undeniable truth in these interconnected times.

The post-pandemic world order is very different from the world that came before it. There have been three important changes, among others. First, there is a growing realization that we need a shift away from a GDP-centric view of the world to a human-centric one. Second, the world is recognizing the importance of resilience and reliability in global supply chains. Third, there has been a collective call for boosting multilateralism through the reform of global institutions.

Our G20 Presidency has played the role of catalyst in all three of these shifts.

In December 2022, when we took over the Presidency from Indonesia, I had written that the G20 must catalyze a mindset shift. This was especially necessary in the context of mainstreaming the marginalized aspirations of developing countries, the Global South, and Africa.

The Voice of Global South Summit in January 2023, which witnessed participation from 125 countries, was one of the foremost initiatives under our Presidency. It was an important exercize to gather input and ideas from the Global South. Furthermore, our Presidency has not only seen the largest-ever participation from African countries but has also pushed for the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20.

An interconnected world means our challenges across domains are interlinked. This is the midway year of the 2030 Agenda, and many are noting with great concern that the progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is off track. The G20 2023 Action Plan on Accelerating Progress on SDGs will spearhead the future direction of the G20 towards implementing SDGs.

In India, living in harmony with nature has been a norm since ancient times, and we have been contributing our share toward climate action even in modern times. Many countries of the Global South are at various stages of development, and climate action must be a complementary pursuit. Ambitions for climate action must be matched with actions on climate finance and transfer of technology.

We believe there is a need to move away from a purely restrictive attitude of what should not be done to a more constructive attitude focusing on what can be done to fight climate change. The Chennai High-Level Principles for a Sustainable and Resilient Blue Economy focus on keeping our oceans healthy. A global ecosystem for clean and green hydrogen will emerge from our presidency, along with a Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre. In 2015, we launched the International Solar Alliance. Now, through the Global Biofuels Alliance, we will support the world to enable energy transitions in tune with the benefits of a circular economy.

Democratizing climate action is the best way to impart momentum to the movement. Just as individuals make daily decisions based on their long-term health, they can make lifestyle decisions based on the impact on the planet’s long-term health. Just as Yoga became a global mass movement for wellness, we have also nudged the world with Lifestyles for Sustainable Environment (LiFE).

Due to the impact of climate change, ensuring food and nutritional security will also be crucial. Millets, or Shree Anna, can help with this while also boosting climate-smart agriculture. In the International Year of Millets, we have taken millets to global palates. The Deccan High Level Principles on Food Security and Nutrition is also helping in this direction.

Technology is transformative, but it also needs to be made inclusive. In the past, the benefits of technological advancements have not benefited all sections of society equally. India over the last few years has shown how technology can be leveraged to narrow inequalities, rather than widen them.

For example, the billions across the world who remain unbanked or lack digital identities can be financially included through digital public infrastructure (DPI). The solutions we have built using our DPI have now been recognized globally. Now, through the G20, we will help developing countries adapt, build, and scale DPI to unlock the power of inclusive growth.

That India is the fastest-growing large economy is no accident. Our simple, scalable and sustainable solutions have empowered the vulnerable and the marginalized to lead our development story.

From space to sports, economy to entrepreneurship, Indian women have taken the lead in various sectors. They have shifted the narrative from the development of women to women-led development. Our G20 Presidency is working on bridging the gender digital divide, reducing labour force participation gaps and enabling a larger role for women in leadership and decision-making.

For India, the G20 Presidency is not merely a high-level diplomatic endeavor. As the Mother of Democracy and a model of diversity, we opened the doors of this experience to the world.

Today, accomplishing things at scale is a quality that is associated with India. The G20 Presidency is no exception. It has become a people-driven movement. Over 200 meetings will have been organised in 60 Indian cities across the length and breadth of our nation, hosting nearly 100,000 delegates from 125 countries by the end of our term. No Presidency has ever encompassed such a vast and diverse geographical expanse.

It is one thing to hear about India’s demography, democracy, diversity and development from someone else. It is totally different to experience them first-hand. I am sure our G20 delegates would vouch for this.

Our G20 Presidency strives to bridge divides, dismantle barriers, and sow seeds of collaboration that nourish a world where unity prevails over discord, where shared destiny eclipses isolation. As the G20 President, we had pledged to make the global table larger, ensuring that every voice is heard and every country contributes. I am positive that we have matched our pledge with actions and outcomes.

India’s Youth Give Hope For A Brighter Future

In a world where one in five individuals under the age of 25 resides in India, it is evident that this young demographic wields considerable influence, comprising nearly half of the nation’s burgeoning population. As India takes its place as the world’s most populous country, Gallup data unveils an intriguing narrative: the youth of India, part of what’s often termed the “demographic dividend,” harbors a heightened sense of hope for the future, eclipsing the optimism of their older counterparts.

After India’s hard-won independence in August 1947, the nation witnessed a staggering surge in population, nearly tripling over six decades. In the 1950s, the average Indian woman bore over six children, sparking concerns about the ramifications of such rapid growth.

Today, these concerns appear increasingly obsolete. India’s fertility rate has declined in recent years, with women now bearing an average of two children. Concurrently, mortality rates have dwindled, bolstered by rising incomes and improved access to healthcare and education. Projections suggest that India’s population will gradually decline by the 2060s.

In contemporary India, individuals under the age of 25 constitute an impressive 47% of the nation’s populace. This youthful cohort is poised to spearhead India’s economic evolution for decades to come.

India’s Advancements for Children

Recent years have witnessed a perceptible shift in how Indians perceive their nation as a place for children to thrive. In 2022, an impressive 85% of respondents felt that children had ample opportunities for growth and learning every day, marking a 28-percentage-point surge since 2008. In this aspect, India stands neck-to-neck with Bangladesh as the leading South Asian nation for children’s development.

Significantly, this perception transcends generational boundaries, resonating with both young and old alike. In India’s southern regions, where educational and literacy rates are highest, a remarkable 92% of respondents believe that their country provides a conducive environment for children’s growth and learning.

Beyond this, 86% of Indians believe that children are treated with respect, indicating a nation that’s not merely growing in population but also making substantial strides in improving conditions for its youth.

Education Satisfaction and Global Connectivity

Another noteworthy trend is the growing satisfaction with India’s education system. In 2022, this satisfaction rate soared to 83%, partly explaining why Indians perceive their nation as an ideal place for children to learn and flourish. Those content with the education system are significantly more likely to regard India as a favorable environment for children (88%) compared to those dissatisfied (68%).

Historically, individuals with the highest education levels, i.e., tertiary or higher, were more satisfied with India’s educational system than their less-educated counterparts. However, this educational divide has markedly diminished in recent years. In 2022, the least educated were equally satisfied with their education system as the most educated, underlining the positive shift in India’s educational landscape.

Picture: Forbes

India’s youth are also embracing global connectivity at an unprecedented rate. A striking 50% of Indians aged 15 to 24 have internet access, whether through a phone, computer, or other devices. This contrasts significantly with a mere 11% of those aged 50 and older. This increased connectivity, likely driven by improved education and technology access, is fostering a deeper understanding of and stronger opinions about global affairs among India’s younger populace. Young Indians are emerging as the most vocal and engaged demographic when it comes to discussing the leadership of major global powers, such as the United States and China.

Youthful Optimism in Employment Prospects

Over the next decade, India’s labor force is anticipated to expand by over 8 million people annually, primarily propelled by a surge of educated young individuals entering the workforce. While providing suitable employment opportunities for this burgeoning workforce poses a challenge, it also represents a substantial opportunity for the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Despite relatively high youth unemployment, young Indians remain notably optimistic about their job prospects. In the previous year, 57% of Indians under 25 believed it was a favorable time to secure employment in their local area, marking the highest level of optimism since 2007.

Interestingly, this optimism extends more prominently among women than men, reversing a longstanding trend. Older women, in particular, are contributing to this shift, but even India’s young women harbor a level of optimism about local job prospects comparable to their male counterparts of the same age.

The Future of India’s Youth

In summary, India’s population is set to continue growing for at least four more decades, placing its youth and the children of tomorrow at the epicenter of its future development and prosperity.

The signs are encouraging. The youth, often deemed the torchbearers of progress, are brimming with hope for the future, surpassing the optimism of previous years. Regardless of age or educational background, Indians unite in their belief that their country is becoming a more favorable place for children to receive an education, be treated with respect, and thrive.

Despite challenges like high youth unemployment, the young generation in India remains steadfastly hopeful about their future employment opportunities. As education levels continue to rise, and technology spreads its influence, India’s future appears increasingly promising, as seen through the eyes of its vast and dynamic youth population.

UN Experts Share Concerns About Continuing Abuses In Manipur

UN experts have raised the alarm about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in the Northeast State of Manipur in India, including alleged acts of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, home destruction, forced displacement, torture and ill-treatment.

The experts pointed to an “inadequate humanitarian response” in the wake of the grave humanitarian situation in Manipur following the latest round of community conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei and the predominantly Christian Kuki ethnic communities that erupted in May 2023.

By mid-August 2023, an estimated 160 persons had reportedly been killed, mostly from the Kuki ethnic community, and over 300 injured. The conflict also reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people from the communities being displaced, thousands of homes and hundreds of churches being burnt down, as well the destruction of farmland, loss of crops and loss of livelihood.

“We are appalled by the reports and images of gender-based violence targeting  hundreds of women and girls of all ages, and predominantly of the Kuki ethnic minority. The alleged violence includes gang rape, parading women naked in the street, severe beatings causing death, and burning them alive or dead,” the experts said.

Picture: Frontier Post

“It is particularly concerning that the violence seems to have been preceded and incited by hateful and inflammatory speech that spread online and offline to justify the atrocities committed against the Kuki ethnic minority, particularly women, on account of their ethnicity and religious belief,” they said. “We are further alarmed by the reported misuse of counterrorism measures to legitimise acts of violence and repression against ethnic and religious minorities.”

The experts said recent events in Manipur were another tragic milestone in the steadily deteriorating situation for religious and ethnic minorities in India.

“We have serious concerns about the apparent slow and inadequate response by the Government of India, including law enforcement, to stem physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur,” the experts said.

The experts welcomed the fact-finding mission conducted by lawyers and human rights defenders in Manipur and the follow-up by the Supreme Court of India on the situation in Manipur, though the response could have come in a timelier manner. They urged the Supreme Court to continue monitoring the response of the Government and other actors, with a focus on justice, accountability, and reparations. “We are also concerned about reported criminalization and harassment of human rights defenders documenting the cases,” they said.

They urged the Government to step up relief efforts to those affected and to take robust and timely action to investigate acts of violence and hold perpetrators to account, including public officials who may have aided and abetted the incitement of racial and religious hatred and violence.

India Mulls Simultaneous Polls To Parliament And State Assemblies

After fulfilling key promises such as the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370, the ruling BJP is now focussed on the party’s agenda of simultaneous polls in the country.

The Modi government has constituted a committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibility of ‘one nation, one election’.

 Since coming to power in 2014, the Modi government has been a strong votary of simultaneous polls, citing financial burden caused by an almost continuous election cycle and jolt to development work during the polling period.

The Kovind-led panel will explore the feasibility of the exercise and the mechanism to see as to how the country can go back to having simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls, as was the case till 1967.

 India had simultaneous polls before — national and all assembly polls were held together in 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967.

 The latest move comes a day after the government called a special session of Parliament between September 18 and 22, the agenda for which is under wraps.

Picture: Bussiness Standard

Although there is speculation that the government could table the ‘one nation, one election’ bill in the upcoming session, it may not be the case given it will involve a long process of public consultations and feedback from various quarters.

 The primary challenge would be to sync the terms of various state assemblies with that of the Lok Sabha.

A 1999 Law Commission report had argued in support of simultaneous elections, but another draft report by the Commission in 2018 said that “simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.”

It would require multiple constitutional amendments, especially Article 83 and Article 172, which stipulate a five-year term for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, respectively, from the date of the first sitting.

With the BJP’s performance in state polls often inferior to its show in Lok Sabha elections, party leaders are of the view that simultaneous polls will result in national issues taking centre-stage and the ‘Modi factor’ playing a bigger role, stripping regional leaders of some of their sway.

Is India Going To Be Renamed Bharat?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has replaced the name India with a Sanskrit word in dinner invitations sent to guests attending this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit, triggering speculation that the name of the country will be officially changed.

Reports suggest, India is likely to be renamed Bharat. Buzz on the country’s name change gained ground after images of the official invite to the G20 Heads of State and ministers for a dinner being hosted by President Droupadi Murmu came to the fore. The invite shows the invite was from “the President of Bharat“.

Picture : Gulte

The name change from “India” to “Bharat” in the formal invite for a global summit, that will see Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak in attendance, could possibly be a hint by the Modi administration that India could soon be renamed.

Several Opposition leaders took to social media to share the invites to the dinner to be held on September 9th, that shed the country’s English name “India”. Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist government is rumoured to be looking to change the name during a special parliamentary session this month amid instances of the removal of the traces of previous governments and leaders, including the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, from official landmarks and buildings of national importance.

What is India officially called?

The official name for the country is mentioned in the Indian Constitution as “India, that is Bharat” that “shall be a Union of states”. The Indian Constitution was written and made public in 1951 and the issue had been heavily debated after India gained independence as well, in 1947.

Nehru, also a historian, had said in his book, Discovery of India: “Often, as I wandered from meeting to meeting, I spoke to my audiences of this India of ours, of Hindustan and of Bharata, the old Sanskrit name derived from the mythical founders of the race.” He had mentioned the three most popular names – Hindustan, India and Bharat – with their own roots to the geographical and historical relevance of the country.

All the official documents for the country in English carry the name “India” when referring to the Republic, its ministries, domestic and foreign correspondence, and even while mentioning leaders as Indian leaders. Valid identity cards like passports and voting cards use the term “India” as the official marker of citizenship. The documents published in colloquial Hindi language say “Bharat” instead of “India”.

Where do the names India and Bharat come from?

The earliest records used to identify the country reveal the usage of “Bharat”, “Bharata” or “Bharatvarsha”. These commonly used terms have found a place in the Constitution alongside “India”.

Bharat, a Sanskrit name for the country, comes from ancient Puranic literature and also from one of the two major epics of India – the Mahabharata – in which Indians are believed to be the descendants of king Bharat, a mythical figure Hindus claim had started the Indian race. Many historians believe it dates back to early Hindu texts. The word also means “India” in Hindi.

The name “India” gained relevance when the country was ruled by the British from the late 18th century onwards, and was prominently used in historical maps. After gaining freedom, the country’s new leaders did not do away with the usage, but incorporated it in official documents.

Who is calling for Bharat to be used?

After centuries of the country being known as India outside its borders, the Modi administration is pushing for the name change. This is coincidentally just weeks after the country’s opposition leaders formed an alliance bloc called “INDIA” – short for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance – in a bid to remove Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power in elections next year.

Several right-wing leaders of his party cheered on the probable use of “Bharat” as the only official name for the country on Tuesday, after photos widely shared across social media showed an official invite for India’s G20 summit asking foreign dignitaries to join the “President of Bharat” with no mention of India on the card.

Recent media reports about a “special session” of the Indian parliament, coupled with the photo of the invite, have also sparked rumours that BJP is planning to use the rare session to announce its intention to officially rename the country.

Why is it in the news now?

The biggest push came after the opposition rebranded itself as “INDIA” and claimed it wants to protect democracy and the idea of a united nation that it insists has been attacked by Modi’s Hindu nationalist party amid a sharp rise in attacks against other religious minorities in the country, prominently Muslims.

Right-wing political leaders from Mr Modi’s BJP, however, insist “India” was introduced by British colonialists, is a “symbol of slavery” and argue that a name change is an effort to reclaim India’s Hindu past. Large portions of India’s population, however, follow several different religions. Several of Mr Modi’s ministers have dropped India from their social media bios and replaced it with “Bharat” in the past few weeks.

Since then, some officials in Mr Modi’s party have demanded the country be called “Bharat”, without explaining how official documents, prominent national buildings, hospitals, colleges and universities using “India” in their name will be renamed.

INDIA Meet Gives Shape To A Unified Opposition To India

At their third conclave in Mumbai, INDIA parties resolved to fight the 2024 Lok Sabha polls together “as far as possible”. Amid speculation of early polls, the Opposition bloc set up a 14-member coordination committee as its top decision-making body.

Top leaders of the opposition bloc held talks in an informal setting in Mumbai on Thursday evening to chart out a concrete roadmap and evolve a structure for cooperation among the alliance partners.

Before the meeting, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was seen chatting with Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut and NCP’s Supriya Sule and Jayant Patil. Uddhav Thackeray and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar were also seen sharing light moments ahead of the meeting.

The Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary among others were present in the meeting.

“The meeting was good. You will know the details tomorrow,” Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray told reporters. Thackeray hosted dinner for the INDIA leaders after the meeting.

Picture : MINT

Against much anticipation, no seat-sharing formula could be finalised in Mumbai, indicating major differences among the parties. They also did not launch a logo for the alliance. Its resolution said, “Seat-sharing arrangements in different states will be initiated immediately and concluded at the earliest in a collaborative spirit of give-and-take.” The coordination committee has got the task of starting the work on seat sharing.

While a comprehensive action plan for taking on the PM Modi-led NDA government in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has been finalized at the end of the INDIA alliance meeting on Friday, the crucial discussions on a seat-sharing formula were left to state-level committees comprising leaders of various parties, Congress sources told the media.

The Congress and a few other parties have also identified 400 parliamentary seats out of the total 543 where a one-on-one fight with the BJP is possible and will push for such contests, a senior Congress leader said.

The INDIA bloc is in no hurry to appoint a convenor, but it has been proposed that a coordination committee of 11 members be appointed, the leader said.

 The INDIA bloc is likely to announce a coordination committee as well as unveil a logo for the alliance. The opposition leaders had earlier met in Patna and Bengaluru.

Not officially invited, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal made an unexpected entry at the conclave stage, leaving some Congress leaders miffed. KC Venugopal, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, reportedly complained to Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, the official host of the meeting, over the presence of his lawyer. Sibal, who had quit the Congress last year as he didn’t want to “hang on coattails of any party” was seen being warmly welcomed by NCP’s Supriya Sule.

In their second conclave in July in Bengaluru, the INDIA bloc’s resolution declared a national caste census as one of its demands. But in Mumbai, when JDU, SP and RJD pushed for the caste census demand, TMC opposed it.

Rahul Gandhi said PM Modi’s call of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ would never materialise just like the Britishers failed to finish off the party during their heydays. He claimed his party would replicate its win in Karnataka notched up a few months ago in poll-bound Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. “The INDIA alliance is going to defeat the BJP in national elections and the Congress party will win the polls,” he said.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge during the third INDIA meeting on Friday asked the alliance partners to be ready for more attacks from the ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming days due to vendetta politics and said “INDIA strength is making the government nervous”.

He also targeted the BJP and the RSS for increase in hate crime in the country and also accused it of trying to keep the states under check. Addressing the INDIA bloc leaders here on second day of the meeting, Kharge said, “The success of  both our meetings first in Patna and second in Bengaluru can be measured by the fact that the Prime Minister in his subsequent speeches has not just attacked INDIA but has also compared the name of our beloved country with a terrorist organisation and a symbol of slavery.”

“We should be prepared for more attacks in the coming months, more raids and arrests due to this government’s vendetta politics,” he said. The Congress leader asserted that the more ground INDIA alliance gains the more the BJP government will misuse agencies against the opposition leaders. He cited the example of the central agencies actions in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and recent actions in the states of Jharkhand and in Chhattisgarh.

“Today every section of our society — be it the farmers, youth, women, the marginalised, middle class, public intellectuals, NGOs and even journalists — all have been at the receiving end of BJP’s authoritarian misrule and 140 crore Indians are looking towards us with hope to relieve them of their miseries,” Kharge said targeting the government.

Hitting back at the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Kharge, who is also the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said, “The communal poison that the BJP and RSS have spread over the last nine years is now seen in hate crimes against innocent train passengers and against innocent school children. It is no surprise that when people involved in gruesome rape are released and felicitated in one part of the county, it encourages horrific crimes and parading of naked women in the other. In Modiji’s India the wife of a Kargil brave heart is also not spared.”

Kharge was referring to the recent killing of four people in train by an RPF constable, naked parading of women by a mob in Manipur, release of Bilkis Banu rape accused.

“It is the BJP govt’s apathy towards the marginalised that makes their leaders urinate on poor tribals and dalits and the culprits are left to roam freely,” he said referring to the Madhya Pradesh’s incident.

Slamming the government further, the Congress leader said that the Central government headed by the “Prime Minister wants to keep states under check. States are being denied their share of the tax revenues. MGNREGA dues to Opposition ruled states are not being given. Special grants and state specific grants are not released as per recommendation of the Finance Commission. Investors are forced to move their investments and projects out of opposition ruled states to states ruled by the BJP,” he said.

He also referred to former party president Rahul Gandhi’s press conference on Thursday questioning the Prime Minister’s silence on alleged stock manipulation by Adani Group.

“He (Rahul Gandhi) demanded a JPC probe into charges of round tripping and reports of Opaque Investment from Mauritius based Company. It is unexplainable why the Prime Minister is not getting the matter investigated?” Kharge questioned.

Kharge alleged that the BJP wants complete control on agencies and institutions — it is adamant on controlling the appointment of ED Chief, the CBI Director, Election Commissioners or even judges of courts across the country.

“Through the course of the three meetings INDIA alliance has successfully held the government accountable both within and outside Parliament as a united front. Our strength makes the government nervous and which is why it has further bulldozed important bills in Parliament, suspended our MPs on flimsy grounds, filed privilege motions against us, switched off our mikes, not allowed cameras to cover our protests and blatantly censored our speeches on Sansad TV,” he said. He also said that he would like to end on a positive note as the people of this country are our hope.

“The success of Chandrayaan 3 and our scientists from ISRO, success of sports people like Neeraj Chopra and young chess wizard Praggnanandhaa make us all proud. I want to congratulate all of them on their success for inspiring the next generation,” Kharge added.

Indiaspora’s G20 Forum Focusses On India’s Growth Trajectory

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti highlighted India’s remarkable progress, promoting a cohesive identity within concentric circles and emphasizing the diaspora’s role in fortifying the US-India connection. While participating in the Indiaspora deliberations at the three-day event from August 22-24, 2023, at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, the ambassador advocated addressing the overconcentration of power, fostering a serious approach to bilateral engagement, and acquiring skills, especially in complex domains like semiconductors. 

The G20 Forum by Indiaspora convened influential voices from around the world to deliberate on critical issues encompassing foreign policy, financial inclusion, climate change, gender equality, healthcare, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, sports, and trade and investments, and beyond. See below for a day-by-day summary of the event. 

M R Rangaswami, Founder of Indiaspora, highlighted the far-reaching impact of Indian doctors and academics worldwide, emphasizing the organization’s effort to document the diaspora’s contributions. A pivotal topic was the role of the diaspora during India’s G20 presidency, with Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Chief Coordinator of G20 India, discussing its significance within India’s ‘Amrit Kaal’. 

The discussions extended to philanthropy and its global impact. Atul Keshap, President of USIBC, highlighted the Indian-American community’s growth and influence, while Faizal Kottikollon, founder and chairman of KEF Holdings, shed light on his school’s transformative approach to public education in India and Africa

The event highlighted collaborations between the Indian diaspora and various countries, with representatives from Israel, Canada, Australia, and the UK underscoring the strength of their partnerships. Galvanizing Impact Philanthropy to India was the topic of a fireside  chat featuring strategic philanthropists Deepak Raj and Ashish Dawan. The crucial theme of ethical and responsible giving emerged in discussions, where experts like Aditya Jha, President & CEO, dgMarket International, Shanthini Naidoo, CEO, St. Vincent’s Curran Foundation, and Mittal Gohil, Executive Director of The Desai Foundation, stressed the importance of purpose-driven philanthropy.

Sessions also explored AI’s implications on economic progress and societal needs. Experts like Rohit Jain, CIO, Harvard Business School Alumni Association NC, Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO, BCT Digital, and Preetish Nijhawan, General Partner, Cervin Ventures, dissected the nuances of AI’s development, focusing on rational and existential fears, data biases, and the need for inclusive models. The event also celebrated arts and culture with a talk by esteemed Indian music producer, A. R. Rahman, who emphasized the need for infrastructure and spaces to preserve and promote artistic expressions globally. The day offered insightful discussions on diverse topics, showcasing the potential of the Indian diaspora’s engagement for a more interconnected world.

 

The Indiaspora G20 Forum concluded its third day with insightful discussions on various crucial topics. In the panel discussion “From Homelands to Global Markets: Cross-Border Trade & Investment,” experts emphasized the transformative nature of global value chains driven by geopolitical dynamics. The emergence of ASEAN countries and the strategic cooperation between the US, India, Australia, and Japan (the Quad) were highlighted as significant developments. A key focus was on the pivotal role of exports in economic growth and development, as expressed by Indiaspora member and Managing Partner at Celesta Capital, Mr. Arun Kumar, and CEO of the Centre of Australia India Relations, Mr. Tim Thomas.

The event’s subsequent sessions delved into diverse themes. Chairman of the Quad Investors Network at America’s Frontier Fund, Karl Mehta‘s talk emphasized the importance of innovation and investment in critical technologies for the Quad alliance, envisioning it as a hub for cutting-edge advancements. Discussions also centered around digital transformation, with Mr. Vikas Choudhury, President, Reliance Jio and Partner at Pivot Ventures, spotlighting the role of technology in India’s journey toward 2047. Another session, led by Chairman of Panera Brands, Mr. Niren Chaudhary, stressed leadership through resilience and the importance of values and character in shaping individuals’ impact.

The breakout sessions further enriched the dialogue. Unleashing soft power, diplomacy, and cultural capital were highlighted, with insights from Mr. Muktesh Pardeshi, Special Secretary and heads the operations and logistics of India’s G20 Presidency Secretariat, Ms. Anat Bernstein-Reich, CEO at BDO Consulting Israel-India Investment Banking and Business Development and others. The significance of the Indian diaspora in contributing to global goodwill and relationships was underscored. Moreover, discussions on driving knowledge sharing for India’s growth led by Dr. Sudhir Jain, Vice-Chancellor at Banaras Hindu University, and Sunder Ramaswamy, Distinguished International Economist and professor at Middlebury College, emphasized the role of education and collaboration in propelling the nation forward.

The final day included panels on venture capital’s role in inclusive development, with experts like Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman Axilor Ventures and Co-founder Infosys, and Mr. Prashant Pathak, CEO at Ekagrata Inc., discussing the impact of investments on technology development. Another panel addressed innovation, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility, highlighting the potential of these sectors in driving change. Mr. Peyush Bansal, Co-Founder, Chief Executive & People Office, shared his journey with Lenskart and the impact on eye care and awareness. And India’s Finance Secretary Dr. TV Somanathan spoke of the ways in which the diaspora can help India’s surge towards a $10 trillion economy.

Overall, the Indiaspora G20 Forum Day 3 showcased vibrant discussions on trade, innovation, soft power, and societal impact. The forum illuminated the Indian diaspora’s pivotal role in fostering global connections, leveraging technology, and shaping the nation’s growth trajectory. With the spotlight on inclusive development, technology-driven solutions, and sustainable progress, the event underscored the diaspora’s immense potential in shaping India’s future.

Chandrayaan-3, A Salute To Indian Scientists

Chinese master Laozi is credited with the saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. The journey of Chandrayaan-3 ended on the lunar surface on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023 at 6:04 pm when its lander with the rover inside gently touched the terrain about 600 miles off the moon’s South Pole unfurling the tricolour. It was nothing but pure ecstasy.

Now, let me narrate how the lunar journey began in India. The United Nations wanted to support the setting up of a rocket launching station. There were three contenders — India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It had to be in an area where the magnetic needle, when freely suspended, remained horizontal.

Alas, there was one problem, a big one at that. The areas identified as suitable in all the three countries were thickly populated. Thousands of people would have to be evicted and their houses or dwelling units destroyed. It would have been a great human rights violation. The UN did not want its image to be sullied in this manner.

Neither Pakistan nor Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known then, had the magic wand to clear the area of human habitation. Because of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed with Dr Vikram Sarabhai as its head.

Nehru contacted the Kerala Government to explore the possibility of getting Thumba cleared of the fish workers living there. He was able to convince Chief Minister R. Shankar about the greatness of the proposed Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) and how it would one day transform the nation’s image from a land of snake-charmers and rope-tricksters to a nation with the largest pool of scientists.

Shankar’s second-in-command was PT Chacko, who held both the Home and Revenue portfolios. In other words, he had the power to acquire the land and evict the people forcibly, if necessary.

Thumba was a short drive from the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, and he knew the imposing Cathedral Church at Pallithura nearby, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, considered the “apostle of apostles”. She is mentioned in all the four Gospels as one of several Galilean women who followed Jesus and supported Him and the other disciples out of their personal means. After resurrection, He appeared first to her.

Chacko also knew that the area Nehru was eyeing for the rocket project was inhabited by the Latin Catholics, a majority of whom were fish workers. They had immense faith in Mary Magdalene as their lodestar while they were fishing in the deep waters. They were not very educated but their attachment to the church was unwavering.

When the church bell rang for whatever reasons, thousands would assemble at the church in an instant. Chacko had a brainwave. He did not take long to call the bishop of Trivandrum, Rt. Rev. Dr. Vincent Dereira OCD, who was assisted those days by the Auxiliary bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Bernard Pereira. The former was a Belgian and the latter was from Thiruvananthapuram.

Chacko, who is himself a Catholic, talked to the bishop and convinced him that nothing mattered more for the church than the progress of the nation. “We should not be found wanting when the nation called for us to sacrifice’, he implored the ecclesiastical authorities.

Soon afterwards, Dr Sarabhai came to Thiruvananthapuram and on the suggestion of Chacko, he called on the bishop at his residence at Pallithura. He was accompanied by a young recruit of ISRO, who later became famous as the Missile Man of India and, eventually, the President of India.

When Sarabhai and APJ Abdul Kalam met Bishop Pereira, he had one suggestion: “Please attend the mass on Sunday”. The thought that might have occurred to the Hindu and the Muslim was whether it was the Bishop’s attempt to convert them to Catholicism.

As promised, the duo took their seats at the Cathedral Church of Mary Magdalene at Pallithura. When it was time for the sermon, the Bishop introduced the two guests to the faithful and told them that they were there to take over the church and his own house for a scientific project that the Government of India wanted to initiate. “When Jesus could sacrifice His life to redeem us, why can’t we sacrifice our houses, including my own house?”, he asked.

The faithful who had come to partake in the Holy Qurbana, also called the Eucharist, were stunned by the Bishop’s sermon. At the end, the bishop said a word of prayer that ended when the people said, “Amen” in a chorus. There was not a word of protest from anyone assembled in the church.

Abdul Kalam has in his autobiography titled ‘Wings of Fire’ describes how the church became ISRO’s first laboratory. The scientists also occupied the bishop’s house. His cattle shed became another wing of the laboratory. What followed was a story of faith and grit. 

About 500 families living in the area were relocated to another place nearby so that they could continue their fishing job. A new church, though less impressive than the old one, was built to meet their spiritual needs. Some of them were given jobs by ISRO. The new land where they were settled was owned by the church. Bishop Pereira was instrumental in building as many as 220 houses for the displaced.

There were political forces which tried to instigate the people against the church leadership but they did not succeed because the people’s faith in their spiritual leaders was unalloyed. 

Some of the people at Pallithura had to wait till a few years ago to get the title deeds of the land they now occupy. Yet, they never protested. The church which became the headquarters of ISRO had many idols, including that of Mother Mary, Jesus, Joseph etc. They were carried away in a gunny bag. Nobody considered it sacrilegious.

In contrast, there was a main road in New Delhi which could not be widened for many years because a religious shrine blocked the widening. Thousands of vehicles had to slow down or stop because of the chicken neck created by the shrine. This continued for nearly a decade.

To return to Thumba, nobody could have imagined that when the young scientists led by Sarabhai were putting together the first rocket, that on August 23, 2023, India would become the fourth country in the world after the US, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China, to hoist its flag on the moon, often described as the ultimate beauty.

Poets down the centuries have described not in so many ways how the Sun loves the Moon so much that he dies every day to let her breathe and, in return, she reflects his love. 

As I watched the lander on the Moon, I remembered someone saying, “Ten years ago, the Moon was an inspiration to poets and an opportunity for lovers. Ten years from now, it will be just another airport”. Few would have believed that ISRO had such a humble beginning but for a photographer who documented it for posterity.

It showed a part of the first rocket being shifted to the assembly area on a bicycle. Another showed a part of the rocket arriving at Thumba on a bullock-cart. Finally, on November 21, 1963, the first rocket blasted off from Thumba. One of my friends, John Philipose, was present there to watch the great event.

He was in his early twenties. One of his relatives was married to a Latin Catholic from the same area. In Thiruvananthapuram, he stayed in the house that belonged to PT Chacko’s private secretary. He recalls that moment: “We were all excited. We thought something big would happen. In the end, the rocket took off into the air leaving a hail of smoke. If my memory does not fail me, the rocket fell into the sea within a few minutes. To me, it appeared a version of the fireworks at the Shiva temple at Thrissur”.

When the rocket was fired, it ignited the minds of countless people in the country. They knew that it was a milestone in the country’s pursuit of science. Philipose is no ordinary person. He is a museologist. It was he who guided the government in setting up many museums, including the Parliament museum in New Delhi.

There is one museum, though not linked to the Philipose, which showcases India’s space journey. It is located in the same church where ISRO began in 1963. Today it is known as Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Museum. In any discussion on India’s space programme, let’s not assume that India was ploughing a lonely furrow. 

There are many to thank from that first launch at Thumba: the US, for the two-stage Nike Apache rocket; France, for the sodium vapour payload; the Soviet Union, whose Mi-4 helicopter gave the range clearance; and, of course, ISRO’s rocket and payload engineers. 

In 1975, I had the privilege of reporting the starting of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) from a few villages in Rajasthan in the company of journalists like John Dayal and photographers like Raghu Rai.

I have read with great interest ISRO chief S. Somanath having been quoted saying that all the scientific principles were contained in the Vedas, which the Europeans appropriated for their own scientific pursuits. I wish he had quoted at least one verse that helped him and his agency in launching Chandrayaan-3.

Nonetheless, I have great admiration for Somanath, who studied engineering at the Thangal Kunju Musaliar College of Engineering at Kollam in Kerala. The college was set up by a Muslim. He was not very educated. He was known as the Cashew King. He had 12 factories to process cashew nuts. He employed 25,000 to 30,000 people. No individual in the world employed so many.

With the money he earned, he could have built a house like the one in which Mukesh Ambani stays. Or, he could have built his own statue that could rival the Statue of Liberty. Instead, he used the money to set up the best engineering college, east of the Suez Canal. I am happy that Somanath is the product of Musaliar’s (1897-1966) vision for a better country.

Our space mission is on the right track. It has many ambitious programmes up its sleeves. One of them is to make a station as close as possible to the Sun to do continuous study of solar energy. A manned mission to the Moon is also on the anvil. 

The Russians have proved that they are no longer a space power, busy as they are fighting their own people in Ukraine. Their lunar mission had to be abandoned on August 19. Of course, China is far ahead of India in space technology but we are close behind.

Unfortunately, as our scientists want to take the country forward, there are forces at work which want to take the country back to the mythical period when esoteric plastic surgery was conducted and people moved about in aeroplanes that could move in four directions and perform feats as described in texts written with great imagination.

What we need is the scientific mind. When a person threw his cigarette butt away, he found that it caused a small flame that never extinguished itself. He got the area dug asking the worker to “Dig Boy, Dig”. That is how oil was found at Digboi in Assam. It was the first oil well in the whole of Asia. Even today it produces oil.

Had the man been superstitious, he would have built a shrine and started worshipping the flame calling it “Jwalamukhi”. We need to build a scientific temper among the people. If Chandrayaan-3 makes us more scientific in our approach to life, it will make India really the Vishwa Guru. Otherwise, we will remain calling one another, Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc forgetting that we are Indians. Courtesy: Indian Currents (www.indiancurrents.org)

Hindu Leader Removed From Parliament Of World’s Religions For Links To Hindutva

The Parliament of the World’s Religions has quietly removed Hindu religious leader Nivedita Bhide from its list of speakers at this week’s conference in Chicago after activists raised concerns over her links to Hindu nationalism.

MEE first reported last week that anger was growing over Bhide’s inclusion at the event over her links with the far right, but also her history of spreading Islamophobic disinformation about minorities in India, including Muslims and Christians.

A source familiar with the issue at the parliament confirmed to MEE on Wednesday that Bhide, the vice president of Vivekananda Kendra, a Hindu nationalist social service and “nation-building” organisation, had been removed due to her affiliations and her Islamophobic social media posts.

Earlier this week, Bhide, who was scheduled to address a plenary session at the conference on 16 August, was no longer listed as a featured luminary on the Parliament of the World’s Religions program.

Vivekananda Kendra also did not respond to MEE’s requests for comment.

Rasheed Ahmed, the executive director of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), welcomed the decision, but said it was worrying that Bhide had been invited in the first place.

“It raises a concern if there are other speakers who similarly profess or normalise Hindu supremacist ideologies while invoking diversity and other seemingly progressive and cultural symbolism,” Ahmed told MEE.

A history of Islamophobia

In 2017, Bhide was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian award by the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Activists said that she has routinely shared the rhetoric of right-wing Hindu nationalists who demonise prominent Indian activists.

 Targets have included Afreen Fatima, a researcher and activist, Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub, and the late Christian priest, Father Stan Swamy.

Bhide has also been seen participating in events either hosted or endorsed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu paramilitary organisation that aims to turn India into a Hindu state. She actively reposts disinformation, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia on social media.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions describes itself as “cultivating harmony among the world’s spiritual traditions and fosters their engagement with guiding institutions in order to achieve a more peaceful, just and sustainable world”.

Ahead of this year’s convention, titled A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights, programme director Phyllis Curott said the parliament was “uniting in a collective, courageous and clear reply to the most dangerous crisis confronting us today – authoritarianism”.

President Biden To Join G-20 Leaders In India To Address Global Challenges

US President Joe Biden is set to make his way to India from September 7 to 10 to participate in the G-20 Leaders’ Summit, an event aimed at tackling a variety of pressing worldwide issues. During this summit, President Biden will engage with fellow leaders in discussions encompassing critical topics, including the ongoing Ukraine conflict, as revealed by the White House on Tuesday.

The White House disclosed that President Biden plans to commend the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi within the G20 framework. This accolade underscores the significance of India’s role as the host country for the upcoming G20 world leaders’ summit scheduled for September 9 and 10 in New Delhi.

AP

This event is anticipated to bring together a notable assembly of global leaders, marking one of India’s most prominent diplomatic efforts. Having assumed the G20 Presidency on December 1, 2022, India took over this mantle from Indonesia.

At the forthcoming summit, President Biden will be actively engaging with his G20 counterparts in a dialogue aimed at addressing a diverse range of shared challenges. Among these issues, the focus will encompass collaborative efforts towards the clean energy transition, a critical element in the fight against climate change. The G20 partners will also be dedicating discussions to devise strategies for managing the socio-economic repercussions of the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

Highlighting the importance of global financial institutions, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the intent to bolster the capacity of multilateral development banks, including the renowned World Bank.

The goal is to enhance their effectiveness in eradicating poverty while simultaneously addressing the overarching global issues at hand. The discussions are expected to delve into innovative approaches to harnessing these institutions for tackling the intertwined challenges of poverty and global crisis.

As President Biden makes his presence felt in New Delhi, he will extend appreciation towards Prime Minister Modi for his stewardship of the G20. Furthermore, this visit will serve to reaffirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to the G20 as the primary platform for international economic cooperation. An additional testament to this commitment comes in the form of the United States’ decision to host the G20 summit in the year 2026.

In consonance with these developments, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser at the White House, indicated that President Biden’s conversations with his counterparts during the summit sidelines will revolve around several core themes. High on the agenda will be the issue of climate change, reflecting the urgency of global efforts to combat this existential challenge.

Equally pressing is the topic of Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, a situation that continues to elicit significant international concern. These engagements reaffirm the collective resolve of the G20 nations to collaborate in finding solutions to the world’s most formidable challenges.

President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to India for the G-20 Leaders’ Summit signifies a critical juncture for global diplomacy. The summit’s agenda underscores the importance of united efforts in addressing complex issues such as climate change and the ongoing Ukraine conflict. President Biden’s participation further reinforces the United States’ commitment to the G20 framework as a cornerstone of international cooperation, both through his commendation of Prime Minister Modi’s leadership and the nation’s future role in hosting the summit. The summit serves as a reminder that in a world characterized by interconnected challenges, collaborative endeavors among global leaders remain paramount.

A Solo Victory India Achieved In The Lunar Race

In recent weeks, a celestial competition took place, as both India and Russia raced to be the first nation to achieve a lunar landing in the moon’s southern polar region. On the 14th of July, India’s spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3, took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, carrying a lander weighing 1,726 kg, housing a 26 kg rover. Following this, Russia launched its Luna 25 lander, weighing 1,750 kg, on the 9th of August from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Eventually, on August 23rd, India emerged as the victor, with Chandrayaan-3 gently touching down in the polar terrain at 8:34 AM ET. S. Somanath, the head of ISRO, exclaimed, “We have achieved a soft landing on the moon,” celebrating the successful endeavor. Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed this sentiment, stating, “This success belongs to all of humanity. And it will help moon missions by other countries in the future.”

The fact that India and Russia were in a competitive race despite India’s 26-day lead was due to ISRO’s strategy of taking a leisurely five-week trajectory, maneuvering through multiple orbits around Earth before reaching lunar proximity. In contrast, Russia’s Luna 25 embarked on a quicker trajectory, aimed at reaching the moon in under two weeks, with both planned for landing around August 23rd.

DEccan Harald

However, a twist occurred. Luna 25 entered lunar orbit on August 16th but crashed into the lunar surface on August 20th after an engine firing mishap. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, conveyed that the spacecraft deviated from its intended path, leading to a collision with the moon’s surface.

Modi’s claim of a historic landing was substantiated. While the U.S., China, and the former Soviet Union had previously achieved soft lunar landings, none had reached the moon’s south pole. This location presents unique challenges due to its rugged and boulder-strewn terrain. ISRO’s achievement of navigating Chandrayaan-3 through hover mode at 850 meters above the surface, searching for a suitable spot, attested to both the spacecraft’s agility and the expertise of mission control engineers.

Despite the difficulties, the moon’s south pole remains a crucial target for space agencies and private companies. The area is believed to contain water ice and potentially frozen lakes in permanently shadowed craters. India’s Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, confirmed these theories, detecting icy regolith through onboard instruments and verifying water’s presence with an impactor probe.

The significance of these findings resonates with future lunar exploration plans. Water ice can be used for drinking water, oxygen production, and rocket fuel. NASA’s Artemis program aims to land astronauts in the south pole region in the coming years for such purposes, with China pursuing a similar goal by 2030.

However, the focus now shifts to Chandrayaan-3’s mission. Equipped with various instruments and a small rover, it will explore and study the moon’s surface. This research is a step toward understanding the region that may eventually become a home for human explorers.

The space race between India and Russia concluded with India’s successful landing in the moon’s south polar region.

While Luna 25 encountered difficulties and crashed, Chandrayaan-3 achieved a remarkable feat by touching down in a challenging area. The implications of this achievement for future lunar exploration and potential human settlement are significant, as scientists uncover the moon’s resources and prepare for further missions.

“The Indian Diaspora – A Bridge Between The United States And India”

US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti underscored the Indian diaspora’s unifying strength, urging collective vision and seamless border navigation, described the Indian Diaspora as “A Bridge between the United States and India.”

Garcetti emphasized the deep linkages between India and the United States, highlighting President Biden’s emphasis on India’s importance in the world and expressing his aspiration to live in Bodh Gaya for Buddhist studies, while speaking at the Indiaspora G20 Forum in India’s capital. Garcetti’s remarks further encapsulated the breadth of collaboration between the nations, spanning technology, trade, environment, and space, and the pivotal role of reciprocal investments in driving job creation and mutual development.

“He (President Biden) told me, when he asked me to come here to serve, he said, this is the most important country in the world for me, I think something that no American president has ever uttered in the history of our two countries,” he added.

SA Times

Referencing his early career and his willingness to work closely with India, Garcetti stated “But politics got in the way. I got elected to the student council and I promised I would serve, so my India dream kind of died, or so I thought. But the universe has a curious way of connecting people and dreams. Now suddenly I’m living that dream here when President Biden asked me to consider serving here.”

The US Ambassador said: “From technology to trade, from the environment to women’s empowerment, from small businesses to space, we used to say the sky is the limit, but now that we’re working together in space, not even the sky is the limit. From the seabed to the heavens, the US and India are a force for good and a powerful force to move this world forward.”

Garcetti also pointed at the large population and cited how significant that is. Garcetti said 4 million people represent 1 per cent of the population of America but 6 per cent of the tax base.“ They are 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs.”

No-Trust Motion Against Modi Govt. Fails With Walkout By India’s Opposition

The no confidence motion, passed by opposition alliance I.N.D.I.A against the Modi government, was defeated in the Lok Sabha after a heated debate Thursday, August 10th, 2023 amid a walkout by the opposition. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of not doing enough to stop the Manipur violence.

The no-confidence motion moved by Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi against the Modi government was defeated in the Lok Sabha by a voice vote. The Opposition bloc INDIA leaders staged a walkout while PM Modi was replying to the no-trust motion, which was put to vote in their absence.

Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla had accepted the motion by the opposition last week after which August 8 to August 10 was set for the debate on the motion.

This is the second time Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing a no-confidence motion.

The first such motion against the Modi government was introduced in 2018 over granting a special category status to Andhra Pradesh, which was later defeated.

Picture : VOIX

The Opposition’s walkout prompted a furious rebuke from PM Modi. “Those who don’t trust democracy are always ready to make a comment but don’t have the patience to hear the rebuttal. They would speak ill and run away, throw garbage and run away, spread lies and run away.”

The opposition had tabled a no-confidence vote in Modi largely to force him to appear and speak about the three-month-long crisis, about which he had refused to say more than a few words.

Only after the opposition had walked out did Modi make a few, brief remarks about Manipur.

After accusing the opposition of not having the “patience” to listen, he said: “I want to tell the mothers and sisters of Manipur that the country and the parliament are with you.”

The current session of parliament, which began on 20 July, has been dominated by the opposition’s anger at Modi’s refusal to talk about the violence that has engulfed Manipur.

Modi assured the people of Manipur that the government is working to restore peace in the violence-hit state. “The violence in Manipur is saddening. Crimes against women are unacceptable and the central and state governments are working together to ensure the guilty are punished, “I want to tell the mothers and sisters of Manipur that the country and Parliament are with you. I want to assure the people of Manipur that we will work to develop Manipur.” Modi said, “After 2014, India secured a spot in the top five [economies]. When you bring no-trust motion in 2028, we will be in the Top 3.”

In Efforts To Influence Elections, Modi Govt. Seeks To Replace CJI In On Poll Panel Selection Committee

In a controversial move, the Modi Government has introduced a Bill removing the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from a three-member panel to select the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners. Instead of the CJI, the three-member panel, when formed, would consist of a Cabinet Minister besides the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha, and the Prime Minister, who would head it.

The Bill is expected to allow the government to have more control in the appointments of members of the poll panel, an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering national and state election processes in India.

The Supreme Court in March had ruled that a three-member panel, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the CJI, will select the CEC and ECs till a law is framed by Parliament on the appointment of these commissioners.

Picture : Tribune India

The apex court’s order was aimed at insulating the appointment of the CEC and ECs from the Executive’s interference. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, in a unanimous verdict, held that this norm will continue to hold good till a law on the issue is made by Parliament.

However, the BJP-led NDA government has sought to influence the process and appoint its own men on the panel, and thus influence election process favoring the ruling party and its machinery.

According to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, a three-member selection committee headed by the Prime Minister, and comprising the LoP and a cabinet minister nominated by the PM shall select the CEC and ECs. More here

A slugfest

The bill was introduced amid an uproar by the opposition parties that accused the government of “diluting and overturning” an SC Constitution bench order. The BJP, however, said the government is well within its right to bring the bill.

“Read the Supreme Court judgement. It had suggested a transient method for appointment of the CEC in absence of a statutory mechanism. The government is well within its right to bring in a bill for the same,” BJP’s IT department head Amit Malviya posted on ‘X’, formerly Twitter.

The new bill will now neutralize the judiciary’s involvement in the selection process and is likely to initiate a new confrontation between the two branches of government.

This is one of many such disputes involving the Executive and Judiciary in recent years with both bodies differing in their views starting from the Collegium system to the basic structure doctrine.

Recently, the Centre passed the contentious Delhi Services bill on July 7 circumventing SC’s judgement to strip the control of civil services in the national capital from the elected government of Delhi. The apex court on May 11, had delivered a verdict that gave the Delhi government control of services in the national capital, excluding the matters relating to public order, police and land.

Opposition, critics call out government

Meanwhile, leaders from the Opposition have called out the Modi government and accused them of trying to turn the election commission into a “partisan” body.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he has always maintained that the government will overturn any Supreme Court order that it doesn’t like and this is a dangerous situation that can impact fairness of elections.

The proposed panel will have two BJP members and one from the Congress, and therefore, whoever is selected to the poll panel will be loyal to the ruling party, Kejriwal, who is the Aam Aadmi Party’s national convener, alleged on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Congress MP and the party’s whip in Lok Sabha, Manickam Tagore, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah want to control the EC by bringing the bill. “Modi and Shah want to control the EC as they are doing now,” Tagore wrote on X.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate called the Bill a “gimmick” to make the Election Commission a “complete puppet” in the hands of PM Modi. “Why does PM Modi need an election commissioner of his choice?  If this arbitrariness is not unconstitutional and unfair then what is?” Shrinate wrote on X.

TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Saket Ghokale said the Modi government “is making the Election Commission its own bunch of stooges” and called the bill a “clear step towards rigging the 2024 elections.”

Constitutional expert Gautam Bhatia wrote on X: “The bill will formalise executive control over appointments to the election commission (2:1 majority in the selection committee) – further moving towards an executive Constitution.”

Kerala Wants Name Change To Keralan

The Kerala Legislative Assembly, in a display of unanimous consensus, passed a resolution on Wednesday, urging the Central Government to formally acknowledge and adopt the name “Keralam” as the official designation for the southern Indian state. The move highlights the assembly’s determination to preserve the state’s cultural heritage and historical significance through this proposed alteration.

According to the resolution, the adoption of “Keralam” as the state’s official name would not only reflect the region’s unique linguistic identity but also reinforce its distinct cultural and historical roots. The term “Keralam” is deeply ingrained in the state’s history and carries a profound meaning, encapsulating its rich traditions and geographical characteristics. The assembly members unanimously emphasized that this change would serve as a tribute to the state’s vibrant heritage and its people.

In the words of the resolution, “The name ‘Keralam’ encapsulates our cultural essence and the spirit of our land. It signifies the unity of our people and their deep connection to the state’s diverse traditions.”

Picture : YouTube

The resolution further highlights the significance of “Keralam” in various historical texts and ancient scriptures. By reclaiming this traditional name, the assembly seeks to solidify the state’s identity and commemorate its illustrious past. The members of the assembly underscored the importance of preserving linguistic and cultural legacies for future generations, a sentiment that resonates deeply with the people of Kerala.

As the resolution gained unanimous approval, members of the assembly from various political backgrounds expressed their support and enthusiasm for the proposed change. The collective endorsement of “Keralam” as the official state name symbolizes a shared commitment to honoring the state’s rich cultural tapestry and upholding its historical integrity.

In the words of one assembly member, “This resolution is a testimony to our unity in diversity. It echoes the sentiments of millions who identify with the name ‘Keralam’ and recognize its significance in defining our heritage.”

The resolution’s passage also signifies the assembly’s call for a renewed sense of cultural pride and identity. By embracing the name “Keralam,” the state aims to project a strong sense of unity and self-awareness, while also preserving the linguistic and cultural nuances that make Kerala truly unique.

The Chief Minister of Kerala, lauding the assembly’s decision, stated, “The unanimous adoption of the resolution reflects the unwavering commitment of our representatives to our shared history. ‘Keralam’ is not just a name; it is an embodiment of our collective ethos.”

The resolution, once officially recognized by the Central Government, would solidify “Keralam” as the state’s official name, enshrining it in administrative and official documents. This step would affirm the state’s identity and further elevate its cultural and historical standing.

The Kerala Legislative Assembly’s unanimous adoption of the resolution to embrace “Keralam” as the official state name underscores the assembly’s dedication to preserving the state’s rich cultural heritage and historical legacy. This decision reflects the assembly members’ commitment to celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity, while also fostering a collective sense of pride and identity. As the resolution awaits Central Government recognition, it holds the promise of a future where “Keralam” stands as a testament to Kerala’s enduring heritage and unity.

Quoting the Chief Minister’s sentiment on the matter, “The unanimous adoption of the resolution reflects the unwavering commitment of our representatives to our shared history. ‘Keralam’ is not just a name; it is an embodiment of our collective ethos.”

Overall, the assembly’s move to embrace “Keralam” as the official state name is poised to become a significant milestone in Kerala’s cultural and historical journey, reinforcing its distinctiveness and underscoring its cultural resilience for generations to come.

India, 4th Country Ever To Land A Spacecraft On The Moon

India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat. The mission could cement India’s status as a global superpower in space. Previously, only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have completed soft landings on the lunar surface.

India is on the brink of a historic moment to land its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon that could make it only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat.

The Indian Space Research Organization confirmed  that Chandrayaan-3, which is Sanskrit for “moon vehicle,” is on track and “smooth sailing is continuing.” The spacecraft is set to begin its final descent to the moon’s surface on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. IST (8:15 a.m. ET). India’s space agency will livestream the landing attempt starting at 5:20 p.m. IST (7:50 a.m. ET) on Wednesday.

If successful, the mission could cement India’s status as a global superpower in space. Previously, only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have completed soft landings on the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-3’s projected landing site is also closer to the moon’s south pole than any other spacecraft in history has ventured. The south pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest for spacefaring nations, as scientists believe the region to be home to water ice deposits.

The water, frozen in shadowy craters, could be converted into rocket fuel or even drinking water for future crewed missions.

India’s attempt to land its spacecraft near the lunar south pole comes just days after another nation’s failed attempt to do the same. Russia’s Luna 25 spacecraft crashed into the moon on August 19 after its engines misfired, ending the country’s first lunar landing attempt in 47 years.

As Chandrayaan-3 approaches the moon, its cameras are capturing photographs, including one taken on August 20 that India’s space agency shared Tuesday. The image offers a close-up of the moon’s dusty gray terrain.

Meanwhile, India’s space agency has unveiled the latest captivating images of the Moon as its third lunar expedition makes its approach towards the lesser-explored south pole. The imagery has been captured by Vikram, the lander of Chandrayaan-3, which commenced its final mission phase on Thursday.

Picture : Earth Sky

Accompanied by a rover, Vikram is scheduled to make a landing near the lunar south pole on the 23rd of August. On Thursday, the lander successfully separated from the propulsion module, responsible for ferrying it to the Moon’s proximity. These monochromatic photographs provide intricate views of lunar rocks and craters, even featuring a snapshot of the propulsion module.

Chandrayaan-3 and Russia’s Luna-25 are currently at the forefront of the lunar race, both en route to the Moon’s southern pole with anticipated landing dates in the upcoming week. Notably, Luna-25, Russia’s initial lunar undertaking since 1976, when it was under the banner of the Soviet Union, initiated its journey last week.

The mission aims to etch history by executing a gentle touchdown on the 21st or 22nd of August, merely days prior to India’s own lunar touchdown. A successful Luna-25 mission could potentially place Chandrayaan-3 in the secondary position for reaching the south pole.

Picture : AlJazeera

However, India will mark a significant milestone as only the fourth country to achieve a soft lunar landing, following the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shared on Friday that the lander module has begun its descent towards a lower lunar orbit. Chandrayaan-3, the third installment in India’s lunar exploration endeavor, is anticipated to build upon the triumphs of its predecessors.

This endeavor comes 13 years after India’s inaugural lunar mission in 2008, a pivotal mission that unveiled the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar terrain and validated the existence of lunar daytime atmosphere. In 2019, Chandrayaan-2 was launched, encompassing an orbiter, lander, and rover components. However, its success was only partial, as the orbiter continues its lunar observations, while the lander and rover failed to execute a soft landing and crashed upon touchdown.

ISRO’s leader, Sreedhara Panicker Somanath, conveyed that the agency meticulously analyzed the crash data and performed simulation exercises to rectify the issues in Chandrayaan-3. The mission, with a mass of 3,900kg and a budget of 6.1 billion rupees ($75 million), seeks to rectify the setbacks of its predecessor. The lander module itself weighs around 1,500kg, including the 26kg Pragyaan rover.

The south pole of the Moon remains largely uncharted, with the shadow-covered surface area exceeding that of the lunar north pole. Experts propose that these shadowed regions might harbor water resources. A primary objective shared by both Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25 is to seek out water ice, a resource deemed crucial for potential lunar habitation. Moreover, water ice could serve as propellant for spacecraft voyaging to destinations such as Mars and beyond.

As India’s third lunar pursuit inches closer to its landing, Vikram’s awe-inspiring photographs provide a glimpse into the enigmatic lunar landscape. The concurrent missions of Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25 signal a renewed race to unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s south pole. While Luna-25 aims to rekindle Russia’s lunar legacy, Chandrayaan-3 aspires to fortify India’s position in the realm of space exploration. Both missions are fueled by the hope of uncovering invaluable resources that could potentially pave the way for human settlement on the Moon and facilitate interplanetary travel.

US Congressional Delegation Meets PM Modi, Strengthening Indo-US Ties

A Bipartisan US Congressional delegation in India for the nation’s 77th Independence Day met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, August 16, 2023 in New Delhi. During the meeting, Modi praised the bipartisan support as key to strengthening the bilateral strategic relationship between the two democracies.

The delegation included US Representative Ro Khanna of California, Democratic co-chair of the India Caucus, Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, Republican co-chair of the India Caucus, as well as Representatives Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Kat Cammack, R-Florida, Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, Rich McCormick, R-Georgia, and Shri Thanedar, D-Michigan.

Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, PM Modi said, “Glad to receive a Congressional delegation from US, including co-chairs of India Caucus in the House of Representatives, Rep. @RoKhanna and Rep. @michaelgwaltz. Strong bipartisan support from the US Congress is instrumental in further elevating India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.”

Picture : New India Abroad

Welcoming the delegation to India, PM Modi conveyed his appreciation for the “consistent and bipartisan support” of the US Congress and highlighted his recent visit. “Prime Minister fondly recalled his historic State Visit to the US in June at the invitation of President Biden during which he had an opportunity to address a Joint Session of the US Congress for a second time,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a press release on Wednesday.

“Prime Minister and the US delegation highlighted that the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is based on shared democratic values, respect for rule of law and strong people-to-people ties,” the PMO said.

During his June visit to US, PM Modi also attended various events, apart from the address to Congress. He was hosted by Biden as well as First Lady Jill Biden for a state dinner at the White House as well as a State Luncheon by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also met US Congressional delegation on August 16, and discussed the transformation underway in India. The two sides exchanged views on advancing the bilateral partnership between India and US. They discussed the global situation and collaboration between India and US on multilateral, regional and global issues.

“A good interaction with US Congressional delegation today. Glad they could join as we celebrated #IndependenceDay. Discussed the transformation underway in India, especially its outcomes of better governance. Shared our aspirations and expectations for Amritkaal. Also exchanged views on our advancing bilateral partnership. Shared perspectives on the global situation and our collaboration on multilateral, regional and global issues,” Minister Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

“Representatives Khanna, Thanedar, Waltz and others are doing a great service to the bilateral relationship in undertaking this visit. The Indian Embassy in Washington, DC and several other stakeholders have been working closely with them to create an impactful itinerary,” says Sanjeev Joshipura, the Washington DC based executive director of Indiaspora.

This historic visit holds symbolic significance, marking the first time Indian American lawmakers are part of a US House delegation to India, highlighting the growing influence of Indian Americans in US politics and their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations.

For Rep. Khanna, this is history coming full circle. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was an Indian freedom fighter who spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and later was part of India’s first parliament.

“As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we are proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to India. We will be there to discuss how to strengthen economic and defense ties between our two counties, the oldest and largest democracies,” Khanna said prior ro his visit to India.

“Both of us believe that the U.S. India relationship will be a defining one of the 21st century. India is a key partner in ensuring multipolarity in Asia and the denial of China as a hegemon. We must continue to strive to make progress and build our partnership based on our shared founding values of democracy, freedom of the press and assembly, and human rights. This delegation is a historic opportunity to drive further collaboration and advance shared aims,” Khanna said

Earlier this year, Khanna and Waltz hosted a historic US-India Summit on the Hill featuring panels and remarks from government leaders, experts, and Indian American leaders from across the country.

“His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was an Indian freedom fighter who spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and later was part of India’s first parliament,” the US government said in its press release referring to the history Ro Khanna and his family share with respect to the Indian Freedom struggle.

On his visit to India, Khanna said, “As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we are proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to India. We will be there to discuss how to strengthen economic and defense ties between our two counties, the oldest and largest democracies.”

US House Celebrates India’s Independence Day

US lawmakers are celebrating India’s Independence Day in a big way with a House resolution declaring it a National Day of Celebration and a bipartisan group traveling to New Delhi to attend the festivities at historic Red Fort.

The House resolution introduced by a group of lawmakers led by Indian-American Congressman Shri Thanedar declares India’s Aug 15 Independence Day as the “National Day of Celebration of the World’s Two Largest Democracies.”

Thanedar will also join a bi-partisan Congressional delegation led by Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna and Congressman Michael Waltz going to India to participate in the festivities including Prime Minister Narendra Modi address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on Aug 15.

The House resolution expresses the belief that the strong partnership between the United States and India, rooted in shared democratic values, will continue to advance global democracy and foster peace, stability, and prosperity for all nations.

Picture : TheUNN

Co-sponsored by Buddy Carter and Brad Sharman, the resolution says Modi’s official state visit on June 22, “anchored the two nations in a new level of trust and mutual understanding based on common interests and shared commitments to freedom, democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

“Americans with Indian heritage enhance public life in the United States as government officials, military personnel, and law enforcement officers who diligently uphold the principles of the US Constitution and contribute to the enriching diversity of the nation,” it says.

“It is proper and desirable to celebrate with the Indian people, and to reaffirm the democratic principles on which the two nations were born,” the resolution adds.

Meanwhile, the US Congressional delegation led by Khanna and Waltz, co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, will also visit Raj Ghat, a historic memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, according to a media release.

They will meet with business, tech, government, and Bollywood leaders in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and New Delhi.

Picture : TheUNN

The delegation includes Deborah Ross, Kat Cammack, Jasmine Crockett Rich McCormick and Ed Case. For Khanna, this is history coming full circle. “His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was an Indian freedom fighter who spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and later was part of India’s first parliament,” the release noted.

“As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we are proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to India. We will be there to discuss how to strengthen economic and defense ties between our two counties, the oldest and largest democracies,” Khanna and Waltz stated.

“Both of us believe that the US-India relationship will be a defining one of the 21st century. India is a key partner in ensuring multipolarity in Asia and the denial of China as a hegemon,” they stated.

“We must continue to strive to make progress and build our partnership based on our shared founding values of democracy, freedom of the press and assembly, and human rights. This delegation is a historic opportunity to drive further collaboration and advance shared aims.”

Earlier this year, Khanna and Waltz hosted a historic US-India Summit on the Capitol Hill featuring panels and remarks from government leaders, experts, and Indian-American leaders from across the country.

Khanna, 46, is the second Indian-American after Ami Bera to hold the position of co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans since its inception in 1993.

Narendra Modi Highlights India’s Unprecedented Growth Story At Independence Day Celebrations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said there has been an unprecedented surge in India’s exports and noted that India is now the world’s fifth-largest economy due to the efforts of 140 crore citizens.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on India’s 76th Independence Day, the Prime Minister said India will become the third-largest economy in the next few years.

“In coming years, India will be in the top three economies. This is Modi’s guarantee,” PM Modi said.

He said the government has taken several steps to tackle corruption, stop leakages and contain inflation.

“Today, inflation’s impact is felt by everyone, including us. However, India has taken resolute measures to contain and manage inflation,” PM Modi said.

“When we came to power in 2014, we were at the 10th position in the global economic system. Today, with the efforts of 140 crore Indians, we have reached the fifth position, This did not happen just like that. The demon of corruption that had the country in its clutches — we stopped leakages and created a strong economy.”

“Our primary goal remains the minimization of inflation, ensuring that the citizens of this great nation can lead prosperous and fulfilling lives,” he added.

For his 10th Independence Day address from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort, PM Modi carried forward a custom — of wearing colourful turbans — that has become his style statement on this day.

Continuing with his tradition from 2014, PM Modi donned a multicolour Rajasthani bandhani print turban with an off-white kurta and churidar for the Independence Day celebrations.

PM Modi was received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other dignitaries as he arrived at the Red Fort and began his customary address to the nation after raising the tricolour at the iconic monument.

This year’s Independence Day will culminate the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, which were launched by the Prime Minister from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on March 12, 2021, and will usher the country into the ‘Amrit Kaal’ (golden era).

He said India faced a struggle for several centuries before it gained Independence in 1947.
“I am talking about the last 1000 years because I see that there is opportunity before the country once again. What we do in this era, the steps we take, and the decisions we take one after the other will decide the direction, future of the country in the coming 1000 years,” he said.

“Today, we have demography, democracy and diversity – these three together have the ability to realize the dreams of the nation. The trinity of demography, democracy and diversity has the power to realize the dreams of the nation,” he added.

“Today, we have demography, democracy and diversity — these three together have the ability to realize the dreams of the nation,” PM Modi said.

As soon as the national flag was hoisted by the Prime Minister, flower petals were showered at the venue by two Advanced Light Helicopters Mark-III Dhruv of the Indian Air Force.

Modi appealed for peace in strife-torn Manipur saying that people across the country stand with the people of the Northeast state. “The whole country stands with the people of Manipur. Peace is the only way to resolve all disputes. The Centre and the Manipur government are making every effort to ensure that peace returns to the state at the earliest,” PM Modi said.

Modi expressed concern over the heavy rainfall that has wreaked havoc in many states. “…This time, natural calamity has created unimaginable crises in several parts of the country. I express my sympathies to all families who faced this….” PM Modi said. The prime minister assured that both the Centre and the state will help the affected families during times of crisis so they can start their life again. “I assure you about it”.

“Bharat Mata Is The Voice Of Every Indian” Rahul Gandhi

India’s Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday extended his wishes on India’s Independence Day to the people of the country and called Bharat Mata as the voice of every Indian.

Taking to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the Congress leader said, “Bharat Mata is the voice of every Indian! Happy Independence Day to all the countrymen.”

The Congress leader also shared his experience of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and said that he started the hundred and forty-five days walk at the edge of the sea and reached the soft snow of Kashmir.

“Last year I spent a hundred and forty-five days walking across the land I call home. I started at the edge of the sea and walked through heat, dust and rain. Through forests, towns and hills, until I reached the soft snow of my beloved Kashmir,” he said.

He also mentioned the pain he faced while continuing his yatra and the motivation that helped him in continuing the yatra.

Picture : Indica News

“Within a few days, the pain arrived. My old knee injury, one that hours of physiotherapy had banished, was back. A few days into the walk, my physio joined us, he came and gave me sage advice. The pain remained. And then I started to notice something. Every time I would think about stopping, every time I considered giving up, someone would come and gift me the energy to continue,” he said.

“The Yatra progressed. But soon the numbers of people became so large, the pain so persistent that I started to observe and listen,” he added.

Meanwhile, in view of the Independence Day celebrations, Delhi Police have beefed up security arrangements in the national capital.

Police personnel checked vehicles as security tightened up across the national capital on the occasion of Independence Day celebrations.

Various iconic buildings and monuments in India have been illuminated in the Tricolours lights ahead of Independence Day.

Old Delhi Railway Station, New Delhi Railway Station and India Gate were light-up as the city soaks in Independence Day fervour.

This year’s Independence Day will culminate the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, which were launched by the Prime Minister from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on March 12, 2021, and will, once again, usher the country into Amrit Kaal with renewed vigour to realise PM Modi’s dream of making India a developed country by 2047.

A number of new initiatives have been taken to celebrate the 77th Independence Day. A large number of guests have been invited as compared to last year.

Happy India Independence Day

Amidst the escalated issues of Manipur and uproar at the Indian Parliament it is worth noting that Indians and Indian Organizations across the continents commemorate its 77th Independence in many ways.
At this glorious time of reminiscing about the independence of India, we have to think whether we are enjoying the cream of absolute independence.
Many people who were there when India gained independence are still alive today. They have much to be proud of in the progress India has made. But at the same time, there is utter hate, remorse, and shame in today’s political unrest.
Does freedom mean the right to live as you want? Does it mean to speak ill of others and spread hatred against other religions or political movements? We had a few decades of showing fraternity and equality amongst citizens and organizations. Today leaders and their media try to spread lies about those with whom they disagree, even within our families, religions, or organizations.
It is not too late if each citizen and organization try to change their existing agenda of fighting each other and sharing the essence of humanity, love, and equality; no political or religious leader can steal the rights and privileges of Real Independence, as we find in dictionaries. We are sure that a change is inevitable.
This year’s Independence Day theme is ‘Nation First, Always First,’ corresponding with the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ initiative. The government aims to organize a series of celebrations that encompass the spirit of the historical struggles of the nation for independence.
Then despite all odds, we will attain, appreciate, and celebrate better Independence Days in the years ahead.
On behalf of the Global Indian Council, wish all Indians wherever you are
🇮🇳HAPPY 77th INDEPENDENCE DAY🇮🇳

‘Absolute Breakdown Of Law And Order In Manipur’

Saying that there was a “complete breakdown” of law and order and constitutional machinery in Manipur and the state police had “lost control over the situation”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday summoned the state Director General of Police (DGP) at the next hearing on August 7.

In a status report submitted to the court, the state government said a total of 6,523 FIRs were registered, including 11 related to violence against women and children; 252 people were arrested in connection with these FIRs; there were 5,101 cases of arson; and 12,071 preventive arrests.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud that two of the 11 FIRs on violence against women and children had been transferred to the CBI.

Asked what the state intended to do about the other FIRs, Mehta said they could be transferred to the CBI. The Bench, which included Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, asked if the CBI could investigate over 6,000 FIRs.

Mehta said all the 11 FIRs related to violence against women and children could be transferred to the CBI. The court could then take a call later, he said.

“But what about the remaining (FIRs), assuming they don’t go to the CBI? The state police is incapable of investigating. It’s so obvious they have lost control over the situation. There is no law and order left. Absolutely no law and order left,” the CJI said.

Mehta objected and said: “Your Lordships may not say that. There are repercussions. Statements can be used, misused”.

“We are in the midst of a war of a different dimension. So anything that’s said in the court will have repercussions,” Attorney General R Venkataramani said.

Pulling up the police for their “tardy” probe, the court questioned the delay in registering FIRs. “Look at the way the investigation is so lethargic. It appears that except for one or two FIRs, there was no arrest at all… statements recorded after such a lapse of time,” the CJI said.

“Not justifying, but given the situation on the ground, that (delay) may have happened. Maybe they were deployed more on the law and order front,” Mehta said.

“That means for two months, the situation was not conducive for recording FIRs… It seems to give us the impression that from the beginning of May until towards the end of July, there was no law… there was a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state. To the point that you cannot even…register an FIR, the police cannot make an arrest,” the CJI said.

“You may be right that the police could not make an arrest because the situation was out of control. An officer of the police could not enter the locality to make an arrest,” he said. “Assuming that is so, does this not point to the fact that there is a complete breakdown of law and order and of the machinery of the state,” he added.

In a severe indictment of the Manipur government for its abject failure to curb bloody Kuki-Meitei clashes and horrific crimes against women, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said there was an absolute breakdown of law and order and constitutional machinery in the sensitive border state in the past three months.

A bench headed by CJI D Y Chandrachud said the state government’s status report pointed to delayed registration of FIRs, lethargic investigation, big delays in recording of statements and only a small number of arrests.

When solicitor general Tushar Mehta said this could have happened because of the volatile situation on the ground, the bench said, “Assuming that the ground situation was such to prevent police from taking action against the accused, does it not point to the fact that there was a complete breakdown of law and order machinery in the state. If the law and order machinery cannot protect the people, where do they go?”

DGP summoned

The apex court ordered the Manipur director general of police (DGP) to appear before it on Monday with a break-up of FIRs lodged based on the gravity of offences.

He was asked to apprise the court on the action taken against the policemen who allegedly handed over to a mob the two hapless women who were stripped, paraded naked and sexually assaulted.

The state government said until July 25, the death toll from the ethnic strife was 150, with two Imphal districts accounting for 60 deaths, followed by Churachandpur 28, Kakching 21 and Bishnupur 20.

It said as many as 5,107 incidents of arson took place, with two Imphal districts recording 1,176 cases, Churachandpur 1,044 and Kangpokpi 1,124 cases.

Could Ethnic Conflict In India Become An Issue Modi Cannot Ignore?

It’s been the same old thing recently for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India: honorary pathway trips abroad, strip cuttings and political meetings at home.

However, he has largely avoided discussing the ethnic violence that has been raging for months in the northeastern state of Manipur. Mobs of the majority ethnic Meitei community have destroyed villages of the minority Kuki and other tribes, killing more than 150 people and forcing over 60,000 people to flee their homes.

The tumult has been broad to the point that huge number of public safety powers shipped off suppress the distress have attempted to reestablish quiet, with the region really parceled along ethnic lines in the thing occupants are portraying as a nationwide conflict.

However a few senior figures inside Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party have gotten more engaged with the emergency, the state leader has kept a concentrated on quietness.

The flash was a court deciding that undermined a fragile equilibrium by basically giving greater government advantages to the Meiteis. In spite of the fact that they control the switches of state power, they have had a little portion of the state’s territory.

Meitei mobs, which activists and rights groups contend are enabled by the state government, attacked tribal communities as they protested the ruling. India’s Supreme Court  has since proclaimed the lower court’s decision “totally genuinely off-base,” yet halting the violence was past the point of no return.

To drive Mr. Modi to address inquiries on the issue, India’s opposition groups depended on something exceptional last week: a motion in Parliament to vote against his government’s no-confidence.

The move, which is merely procedural and is Mr. Modi’s second such vote in his nearly decade in power, There is no chance that voters will remove his government.

Yet, it has featured how India’s most impressive forerunner in many years has reshaped the country’s parliamentary majority rule government. With an outright greater part in the governing body permitting him to obstruct and crash banter; a tyrannical national media that largely follows his lead and conceals difficult topics; Mr. Modi wields power increasingly unchecked by India’s political system’s previous guardrails and an overwhelmed judiciary.

Also, experts say what is happening in Manipur epitomizes India’s more extensive weaknesses even in the midst of the country’s ascent as a monetary and strategic power. Misusing homegrown separation points in the immensely assorted country opens room that foes at its boundary could take advantage of.

It also puts India’s military at risk. The division that is primarily in charge of providing security along China’s extensive border, where the two sides have been at odds for more than two years, sent troops to Manipur.

The opposition leader Gaurav Gogoi, who initiated the vote of no confidence, referred to it as an effort “to force” Mr. Modi, who rarely attends sessions or debates, to discuss Manipur.

Mr. Gogoi, deputy leader of the Indian National Congress party in the lower place of Parliament, said that the ethnic gatherings engaged with the savagery were spread across a few states and that “gradually expanding influences” were conceivable. In a region that has a history of violent insurgencies, he added, mobs had robbed police weapons depots, leaving approximately 5,000 weapons unaccounted for.

“The way that there are these weapons which are at large — monstrous number of refined weapons — is an extremely tremendous gamble to our public safety,” Mr. Gogoi said in a meeting.

Mr. Modi’s quietness, experts said, reflects how vital his image is for the estimations of his administering party, known as the B.J.P., around the following year’s overall decisions. He has been able to save state and local elections where the B.J.P. was having trouble because he is personally more popular with voters than the party he leads. Party pioneers need to try not to connect him in the public brain with Manipur.

Amit Shah, Mr. Modi’s  home minister, visited Manipur last month and told Parliament last week that he was able to have a conversation in the interest of the public authority. In addition, he and other officials informed the local media that Mr. Modi had been frequently briefed on the government’s efforts to restore order through security operations, legal action, and meetings between Meiti and Kuki groups.

Insurgencies based on tribal and ethnic grievances have plagued India’s northeast region ever since it became a republic seven decades ago. Many have resulted in fragile cease-fires, creating a delicate equilibrium between tribes competing for resources and land from New Delhi as well as a share of illicit trade along the border. Connections through the northeast, which have been prioritized by successive national governments, have the potential to expand trade with Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Southeast Asia as a whole.

The winding in Manipur “brings into question something beyond India’s homegrown story, more than India’s network story,” Avinash Paliwal, a researcher at SOAS College of London and the writer of a forthcoming book on India’s northeast ” You are making old wounds worse.

The Meiteis are to a great extent Hindu and the Kukis generally Christian, yet the savagery has been more along ethnic lines than strict.

Strains had stewed for quite a long time as Biren Singh, the Meitei chief minister of the B.J.P., adopted an inexorably biased strategy to the ancestral networks, especially the Kuki and the Kuki-Zo, portraying them as outcasts usurping land. In the ongoing emergency, he has portrayed the contention as between the state and what he named “psychological oppressors,” alluding to Kuki gatherings.

In any case, the Indian Armed force’s head of safeguard staff said the “circumstance in Manipur doesn’t have anything to do with counterinsurgency and is essentially a conflict between two nationalities.”

Mr. Singh has stayed in his occupation in spite of far and wide requires his renunciation, some from his own party. Ancestral administrators from the B.J.P. have basically denounced Mr. Singh of complicity in the viciousness..

Rather than holding Mr. Singh responsible, examiners said, the public authority has attempted to put a top on Manipur, hindering web access in the state.

As of late Mr. Modi talked diagonally about Manipur when a viral video on Twitter dodged the web closure. It showed a Meitei crowd strutting ancestral ladies stripped and attacking them. His remark zeroed in on the “disgrace” of the episode prior to lumping it with maltreatments against ladies and savagery during nearby surveys in resistance run states.

His administration moved to pressure Twitter into bringing the video down, and authorities told the neighborhood news media that the one who had recorded it had been captured.

The government has really divided Manipur — keeping Mr. Singh as boss clergyman to care for the Meitei regions, while the areas of Kukis and different clans are run from New Delhi, with the military attempting to keep a support zone, experts and occupants said.

“This ought to be a contextual investigation on how not to deal with the rule of law circumstances, not to mention ones of ethnic partitions,” said Vikram Singh, a previous senior police official.

Among those compelled to escape was Ngaliam, a Kuki lady in her 60s. At the point when she and her sibling got away from their town, her 38-year-old child, Thangkhochon, remained behind. The family claims that a mob with police assistance carried out the attack that resulted in his death. It was impossible to verify that assertion.

Ngailam, who utilizes just a single name, is presently at a help camp in the Churachandpur region. Via telephone, she said she was confused for how to sort her life back out.

Volunteer medical caretakers depicted her as melancholy and said she discusses how she feels remorseful for abandoning her child.

Lunminthang Kipgen, one of the nurses, stated in a telephone interview, “She wakes up crying in the middle of the night and saying, ‘My son is looking at me and blaming me for being alive.'”

India’s PM Narendra Modi To Face No-Confidence Vote In Parliament

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing a no-confidence vote in parliament due to a deadlock with the opposition concerning violence in Manipur, a state in northeastern India.

On Wednesday, a member of the opposition Congress party introduced a no-confidence motion, aimed at pressuring Mr. Modi to address the issue of ethnic clashes that erupted in Manipur between the Meitei group, the majority population, and the tribal Kuki minority in May. The violence has led to the deaths of at least 130 people and displacement of tens of thousands.

Despite the no-confidence motion, Mr. Modi’s government is unlikely to lose the vote, given that his party and its allies hold a clear majority in parliament. However, the move is expected to compel the Prime Minister to address the concerns related to Manipur in the parliamentary session.

Picture : AP News

The situation in Manipur escalated last week when a video surfaced showing two women being paraded naked by a mob, triggering global outrage and condemnation. In response to the incident and mounting pressure, Mr. Modi finally broke his silence on the matter, expressing his shame over the incident and vowing to hold the attackers accountable.

Federal home minister Amit Shah had also indicated the government’s willingness to discuss the violence in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. However, he accused the opposition of obstructing the discussions on the matter.

This marks the second time that Mr. Modi’s government has faced a no-confidence motion since coming into power in 2014. In 2018, a similar motion was brought forward, centered on the issue of granting a special category status to the state of Andhra Pradesh. That motion was ultimately defeated after a 12-hour debate.

To initiate a no-confidence motion, it must be presented in the Lok Sabha and requires the support of at least 50 lawmakers. Once accepted, the speaker will schedule a debate and vote within 10 days. If the government fails to prove its majority, it would be compelled to resign.

In the present case, two motions were moved on Wednesday—one from the Congress party and the other from the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. The speaker, Om Birla, has stated that he will finalize the date for the debate and vote after consulting with leaders from all political parties.

“We are well aware that the numbers are not in our favour,” Manoj K Jha, an opposition MP, said on Wednesday. “But it is not about the numbers, the PM will have to speak in parliament following a no-confidence motion.”

The opposition was “forced to move the no-confidence motion as it was the last weapon”, Congress leader Manickam Tagore said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing a no-confidence vote in parliament over the handling of the violence in Manipur. Although the government is expected to retain its majority and survive the vote, the no-confidence motion serves as a means to pressure Mr. Modi to address the concerns surrounding the ethnic clashes in the state.

The situation has attracted international attention, particularly due to a shocking incident involving the public humiliation of two women. The government has expressed its willingness to discuss the issue in parliament, but it has accused the opposition of hindering the process. This is the second time Mr. Modi’s government has faced a no-confidence motion, highlighting the political tensions and challenges the government has encountered during its tenure. The final date for the no-confidence vote will be determined after consultation with leaders from various political parties.

Rahul Gandhi Reinstated As Member Of India’s Parliament

India’s top court on Friday remained Rahul Gandhi’s defamation conviction, offering a pivotal respite for the beset previous seat of the country’s fundamental resistance who was precluded as a legislator following a preliminary he kept up with was politically spurred.

The  Supreme Court request prepares for Parliament to restore Gandhi’s lawmaker status and let his case be settled on merits in preliminary, permitting him to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 election.

Gandhi’s legal advisor, KC Kaushik, affirmed the decision to the Press Trust of India, one of India’s biggest news organizations, and said parliament ought to reestablish his lawmaker’s status “however quick as it might have been renounced.”

Gandhi, the former Indian National Congress leader, was viewed as at fault for criticism and allowed a two-year prison sentence in March, connecting with a discourse he made during a political race in 2019.

Gandhi’s Congress party criticized the conviction, blaming Modi for involving the courts as a method for removing him from parliament and quietness his faultfinders.

From that point forward, the resistance chief has been in and out of courts, battling for a suspension of his sentence that would permit him to be restored as a legislator.

Picture : PBS

Under Indian law, an individual from parliament can be excluded for political decision offenses including “advancing hatred between two gatherings,” pay off, unnecessary impact, or personation – the demonstration of casting a ballot while acting like another citizen.

In the event that a legislator is indicted for some other offense and condemned to a time of two years or more, they can likewise be excluded.

Addressing the Press Trust of India after the decision, Gandhi’s lawyer, K.C. Kaushik, said parliament ought to reestablish his administrator’s status “however quick as it might have been renounced.”

Gandhi was viewed as at legitimate fault for criticism by a court in western territory of Gujarat, for a discourse he made in 2019, in which he alluded to cheats as having a similar family name as Modi. Gujarat is the state Modi used to run prior to becoming prime minister.

The ensuing exclusion took steps to fix one of a handful of the resistance figures that had the sort of name acknowledgment to challenge Modi.

Gandhi strolled 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) across India last year to meet citizens and resuscitate interest in the Congress – a once strong party that has as of late battled to win votes.

In the main huge measure of elector opinion since that trial, the Congress unseated the BJP in pivotal state races in southwest Karnataka state.

Last month, the Congress and a few other  opposition parties held hands to frame a coalition, known as INDIA, in a bid to unseat Modi in the following year’s political decision.

Nonetheless, while the BJP can put money on the fame of Modi, the INDIA partnership has not yet advanced a pioneer to challenge him one year from now. Gandhi is one of only a handful of exceptional resistance figures considered to have the sort of star power and name acknowledgment to remain against Modi in an overall political decision.

He is the child of previous Indian  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. His grandma Indira Gandhi was India’s most memorable female pioneer, and his incredible granddad, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the nation’s founding Prime Minister.

His grandma was killed while in office, and his dad was killed by a bomb impact while he was battling in the southern territory of Tamil Nadu.

Indian Americans Hold Prayer Vigil at United Nations in Support of People in Manipur

Hundreds of Indian Americans from across the United States gathered in front of the United Nations at a prayer vigil on Saturday, August 5th, 2023 organized in solidarity with the suffering people in the Northeastern state of Manipur in India.

Violence and destruction of life, property and religious institutions has plunged the Indian state of Manipur into what many have dubbed a state of civil war as the two largest groups, the majority Meitei and minority Kuki, battle over land and influence.

The hilly north-east Indian state sits east of Bangladesh and borders Myanmar. It is home to an estimated 3.3 million people. More than half are Meiteis, while around 43% are Kukis and Nagas, the predominant minority tribes.

At least 130 people have been killed and 400 wounded in violence that began in May. More than 60,000 have been forced from their homes as the army, paramilitary forces and police struggle to quell violence.

The state and the federal government’s lack of adequate measures to contain the ongoing violence and the silence by the leader of the nation, Shri Narendra Modi have come under sharp criticism by the media, political establishment, civic groups, the Supreme Court of India,  and peace loving Indians as well as the global community.

Led by the Indian American community in the Tri-state area, the prayer vigil in front of the United Nations, praying for the perpetrators to come to their senses and for the authorities to reign in the continuing attacks on the tribal people, mostly Christians, was attended by more than 700 people.

Carrying placards, condemning the violence, praying for peace and urging the government to effectively intervene to stop the deadly violence, participants at the rally expressed solidarity with all the grieving people of Manipur. Prayers by the Clergy reflected the deep pain felt across the Indian American Community in the U.S. for the great calamity that has impacted the people of Manipur with immense loss of human lives and destruction of homes and churches.

The Prayer rally was initiated by a handful of concerned citizens that was instrumental in bringing together the Indian American community in several buses form the New York tri-state region. As per the organizers, “People from all denominations and regions in cooperation with FIACONA (Federation of Indian American Christians of North America) united for the cause of the Manipuri Christians who have taken the brunt of the suffering in the last 90 days.

President of FIACONA, Dr. Koshy George stated the purpose of the vigil at the beginning. “This is not a protest rally. We aim not to examine why the riots happened, who is responsible, or politics. We are here today to pray for the rule of law in Manipur, and obviously, there are limits as to what we can do to help. However, Prayer does not have any limitation.” He further clarified that “We aim not to condemn or oppose anyone politically.”

Dr. Anna George, a lead organiser of this event, pointed out that “when our brothers are in pain, it hurts us too. It is a reflection of this that so many people gathered here on the day off, putting aside all other programs,” she said. “People are being killed and become refugees. Women are sexually molested, gang-raped, and marched naked. People are without food, water, or shelter. Their anguish and pain are beyond our imagination,” she added.

“We have lived in India in harmony with various religious sects for years. But what has happened now? A genocide or massacre is taking place right before our eyes. One hundred forty-five people died. Sixty thousand people were left homeless. Over three hundred churches were destroyed, and One hundred seventy villages were burnt. It is continuing. Undoubtedly,  Christians are being targeted. These are massive human rights violations,” she said.

“We cannot be silent when we see the tears and lamentation of our brothers and sisters. So far, neither the State Government nor the Central Government has intervened adequately. It must end. This vigil also demands that the American media and government speak for us on this issue. It is a shame that this country is silent on women being abused and run naked,” Dr. George added.

In a remarkable speech, American activist and journalist Peter Friedrich pointed out that Manipur is a repeat of what was done in Odisha’s Kandhamal. “The police and the government need to do more. The central government is not moving. The U.S. government, on the other hand, pretends to have seen nothing. America is strengthening trade ties with Delhi while Christians are bleeding in Manipur. He also criticized the reticent American churches. As free people, we have a duty to fight for freedom. We are one in Christ. Let us unite and pray for Manipur from our knees. Let us act against the forces trying to suffocate the Christian people,” he said.

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas attended in solidarity with the victims. The only elected legislator to attend, Mr. Thomas clarified that “justice and peace should prevail and that the lives of all human beings are equal. There is no difference between Hindu, Christian, Sikh or Jain.” He called to work for a world where people live as one.

Bishop Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church said,” the wonderful thing about humanity is that we reveal ourselves in times of distress and how we come together in times of anxiety and frustrations because we care about justice, freedom, and peace. He urged the gathering to be resolute in fighting for justice and praying for those who are persecuted”.

Pastor Robinson Frank, a Catholic priest of the American Church, said that the governments should wake up and work to develop the legal system in Manipur. He said that the persecution of Christians in India also saddens us.

Wumang, a woman from Manipur, while sharing the experiences of violence in her homestate pointed out that their houses were burnt down in Imphal. They have a family of 28 members. They escaped by seeking shelter in an army camp. Later, they were transferred to Delhi. They are now living in rented houses. Mark Mang from Manipur described how his relatives were killed. His cousins, who were protecting the village, were shot dead by security forces.

FOMAA president Jacob Thomas said that India is a country with a secular constitution. He demanded that the government should act according to the Constitution. FOKANA leader Leela Maret appreciated those who took the initiative to hold such a prayer vigil. She said, “The sorrow of Manipur is our sorrow too, and there should be justice and peace.

Pastor Jacob George gave the opening prayer. Evangeline Jacob sand the American National Anthem, and Fr. Francis Nambiaparambil sang the Indian National Anthem. Pastor Babu Thomas, Dr. Sam Samuel, Pastor Itty Abraham, Rev. Dr. Taylor, Rev. Jess M. George, Rev. Dr. Hemalatha Parmar, Pastor Percy McEwan, Rev. Jatinder Gill, were prominent among those who had participated in speeches, prayers, and scripture readings. Mr. Mathew George expressed vote of thanks.

Special buses were arranged from various places. Organizers also submitted a petition to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights asking to protect human rights in Manipur, considering today’s gross violations. The petition pointed out that the United Nations has an obligation to intervene to protect human rights, life, and property in this situation.

The organizing committee was led by Anna George, Koshy George, George Abraham, Raju Abraham, Mathew George, Jimmy Christian, Mary Philip, Paul Panakal, Leela Maret, Pastor Jatinder Gill, Shaju Sam, V. J. Macwan, and several other community leaders from across the US.

Odisha State Launches “Lifesaver CPR” Program To Enhance Outcomes In Sudden Cardiac Arrests

History was remade in Odisha State, India, on August 1, 2023, when the Honorable Governor Professor Ganeshi Lal inaugurated the Second Mass Community Bystander Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training event at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology Convention Center in Bhubaneswar.

The statewide life-saving project was the vision of the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, who inaugurated the project in February 2023 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. The program is guided by the Indo-US Resuscitation Expert from Chicago, Dr. Vemuri S Murthy, Honorary Advisor (CPR), Government of Odisha (Health & Family Welfare) and Adjunct Faculty, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

About 1100 participants, mostly students from Kalinga Institute, were trained in Hands-only CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in 8 hours of intense training by Indian Resuscitation Trainers, led by Dr. Maheswar Parvat, Coordinator of Gandhi Alumni American Heart Association Training Center, Hyderabad, Telangana, helped by the volunteers of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, Odisha and AIIMS (Bhubaneswar).

Dr. Vemuri Murthy, in an exclusive post-training event interview, outlined the importance of preventive strategies to combat the number one global killer viz, Heart Disease, more prevalent among South Asians, including Indians and the Indian diaspora. He stressed the need to raise community awareness about preventive strategies such as a healthy diet with less fats and carbohydrates, exercise, control of diabetes and high blood pressure, weight reduction, and reducing stress with holistic approaches such as Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation.

In his team meeting with the Honorable President of India, Mrs. Draupadi Murmu, led by Mr. Krishna Kishore Jasthi at the Odisha Raj Bhavan (Bhubaneswar) on July 27, 2023, Dr. Murthy highlighted the importance of Community CPR programs to improve survivals in Sudden Cardiac Arrests. The Honorable President extended her full support to the CPR programs. She also pointed out the high prevalence of Tuberculosis among Odisha Tribals and the importance of Tuberculosis eradication programs.

Dr. Vemuri S Murthy, an Indo-US resuscitation expert, faculty member at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, has been appointed by the Government of Odisha as the State “Advisor on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” Projects. He is the first ever to be appointed by the Odisha State Government as the Health Advisor from the United States and will be involved with comprehensive Resuscitation- involved State projects.

Heart disease is a major Global Public Health problem. People of Indian Origin are at a four-times greater risk of heart disease than their Western counterparts and have a greater chance of having a heart attack before 50 years of age.

Dr. Murthy hopes the Life Saver Initiative of the Odisha State will also be implemented soon in the rest of the States in India.

Christians in India Suffer More Than Two Attacks a Day

(ZENIT News – Aid to the Church in Need / Manipur, 07.27.2023).- Violence in Manipur, India has been going on for more than two months, and has resulted in the loss of hundreds of churches and many lives. Added to this reality are 400 violent incidents against Christians in 23 states of India. The state that has experienced most violence is Uttar Pradesh, with 155 incidents reported. Last year during the same period – January to June –, 274 cases were presented of violence against Christians.

Six districts of Uttar Pradesh has registered such incidents: 13 in Jaunpur, 11 in Rae Bareilly and Sitapur, 10 in Kanpur and 9 in each of the districts of Azamgarh and Kushinagar. However, the greatest number of violent incidents against Christians is in district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh with 31 incidents.

According to reports registered by the United Christian Forum (UCF), the month of June 2023 witnessed the greatest number of cases against Christians with 88, that is, almost three a day. March followed with 66, February with 63, January  with 62, May with 50  and April with 47. During the same period last year, sadly, January was at the top of the table with 121 incidents, almost four a day. After 40 cases in May, there were 31 in February, 29 in April, 28 in March and 25 in June.

All these violent incidents against Christians occurred throughout the country, regardless of the political party in power. 23 states are witnessing such violence against Christians. Uttar Pradesh leads with 155 incidents, followed by Chhattisgarh with 84, Jharkhand with 35, Haryana with 32, Madhya Pradesh with 21, Punjab with 12, Karnataka with 10, Bihar with 9, Jammu and Cashmere with 8, Gujarat with 7, Uttarakhand with 4, Tamil Nadu with 3, West Bengal with 3, Himachal Pradesh with 3, Maharashtra with 3, Odisha with 2, Delhi with 2, Andhra Pradesh with 1, Assam with 1, Chandigarh with 1 and Goa also with 1.

The UCF reports that the incidents have been increasing markedly and constantly since 2014: there were 147 cases in 2014; 177 in 2015; 208 in 2016; 240 9n 2017; 292 in 2018; 328 in 2019; 279 in 2020; 505 in 2021; 500 in 2022 and 400 in the first 1909 days of 2023.

Despite being victims of all these atrocities, Christians are the ones that face more complaints than the accused, as the police doesn’t investigate or prosecute the perpetrators of the violence. There are 63 complaints presented against Christians over false accusations of conversions under the Law of Freedom of Religion. There are still 35 Pastors in prison with bail repeatedly denied. Moreover, those that are free on bail are imprisoned due to bureaucratic delays in the process of their release. Several representations of leaders of the Christian community continue waiting for an answer from the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior.

Petition to the Supreme Court of India

The matter reached a hearing on July 10, 2023 and the Indian government opposed the petition. It was then that lawyer Colin Gonsalves decided to present a petition so that the special investigation team would include officials outside the respective states to register complaints, investigate and prosecute. He also requested police protection petition meetings held by the Christian community and the provision of legal assistance to all the victims. For now, the last thing known is that the next hearing [would] be on July 14, 2023.

Violence and State Inaction in Manipur Condemned Across the World

The ongoing ethnic/religious violence in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur and the lack of adequate response from the state have been condemned by people and organizations around the world.

The violence erupted on May 3 after the Kuki-Zomi community protested against the Meitei demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The majority Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 percent and reside mostly in the hill districts.

Reports of tribal Kuki attacks on ethnic Meiteis circulated immediately after the protest, which in turn plunged the Imphal Valley which accommodates 90% of Manipur’s population into an outburst of violence against Kuki tribal Christians. At the same time, ethnic Meitei settlements in the Kuki-dominated hills surrounding the valley also were the targets of violence.

While the official death count now totaling around 150, with the overwhelming majority of the victims being Kuki Christians, human rights observers estimate the figure to be underestimated.

Nearly 60,000 people, most of them Kuki Christians, now have fled their homes to the Kuki-dominated hills and to other states to escape the arson attacks, and more than 300 churches have been burned and destroyed.

According to multiple media reports, a clear anti-Christian political agenda is in play in the strife, with the Hindu nationalist BJP state government condoning the targeted violence by Meitei groups.

The unprecedented attacks on Christian targets in Manipur have galvanized Christians across the country to participate in the street protests, including at the parish level in the southern Christian heartland of Kerala, where Hindu nationalists led by Modi have been trying to woo Christians to support the BJP by assuring them of “security.”

The situation in Manipur has also provoked international concerns. On July 13, the European Union parliament passed a resolution urging India to “take all necessary measures and make the utmost effort to promptly halt the ongoing ethnic and religious violence, to protect all religious minorities, such as Manipur’s Christian community, and to pre-empt any further escalation.”

The US is “shocked and horrified” by the video of an extreme attack on two women in Manipur and supports the Indian Government’s efforts to seek justice for them, Vedant Patel, Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department. a senior Biden administration official said.

The video showing two women being paraded naked and molested by a group of men on May 4 in Kangpokpi district surfaced on July 19, attracting condemnation countrywide.

“We were shocked and horrified by the video of this extreme attack on two women in Manipur. We convey our profound sympathies to the survivors of this act of gender-based violence and support the Indian Government’s efforts to seek justice for them,” Vedant Patel, Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department, told reporters at his daily news conference on Tuesday, July 25th.

Picture : Prokerala

The Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association of India has expressed its deep concern and condemnation regarding the several incidents of violence in Manipur, including the recent incidents involving women being paraded naked by a group of armed men. “Such incidents in Manipur, which have been taking place, since have not only brought suffering among the people of Manipur, but also have led to the loss of several lives,” a statement issued by the SC Bar Association led by its President Dr. Adish C. Agarwala, Sr., stated. “The Executive Committee expresses its deep concern over the incidents which have tarnished the humanitarian ethics to its core. We categorically condemn the gender-based violence and humiliation as it has far-reaching consequences on the victims’ physical and psychological well-being.”

It is noteworthy to state that from its very inception, the Supreme Court Bar Association has been in the vanguard of the movement for upholding, maintaining and consolidation of the constitutional values of democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. In its meeting dated 4th May 1951, the Executive Committee of the Bar Association consisting of legal luminaries like M. C. Setalvad, C. K. Daphtary and K. M. Munshi spoke of their deep concern against the first amendment of the Indian Constitution.

The prestigious and top Bar Association in the nation also condemned “the inaction of the state police in bringing the culprits to book for a long period of two months and the inability to generally tackle the debilitating violence in the state of Manipur. We call upon the state government and the central government to immediately take action to punish the perpetrators and prevent other acts of violence in the state, which are still continuing,” the statement signed by Rohit Pandey, Honorary Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Indian Americans and allies have held protests in the US states of California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts throughout the past weekend to condemn the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, which has left hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced. The protests were in part a response to a horrific video last week, showing two young tribal women being paraded naked while being molested by a group of men in the violence-hit state.

Other protest rallies and prayer vigils have been planned across several states including infront of the United Nations, condemning the government’s inaction and in solidarity with the suffering Manipuri people.

Pieter Friedrich, a well-known freelance journalist, has been on hunger strike since July 25 with a call on Representative Ro Khanna to speak about the Manipur issue in US Congress.  ‘One thing I know about Ro is that he’s passionate about human rights. It’s close to his heart and he has always been swift to speak about it, even on international issues, except when it comes to India. I want to stand in solidarity with Ro’s grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, who struggled for the freedom of India. I hope that Ro chooses to follow his grandfather’s example by taking this one very small, easy step of speaking on the House floor against the anti-Christian violence which is still happening in Manipur,’ Friedrich told the media. “What is happening in Manipur is far more awful than my experience of not eating. I hope and pray Khanna speaks out,” he said.  Two other people have also joined the fast in solidarity as of the 25th, he said.

“The Prime Minister’s reaction has come too late. He should have spoken out when the bloodshed started but just kept quiet all through,” Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal, who heads the Catholic Church in the strife-torn state, told the media. “Fear is pervasive even now [after 79 days] and peace remains a dream for us. Everyone is living in fear as violence keeps erupting in the [Imphal] Valley and its peripheries frequently,” added Archbishop Lumon, who heads the 100,000-member local Catholic Church in the tiny state in northeast India, which has a total population of less than four million people.

United Opposition Call Themselves INDIA

While politicians in the U.S. fuss and fret over whether there should be a third political party, India is preparing for a grand electoral fight between two alliances, one consisting of 26 parties and the other 38.

One month after the commencement of discussions on forming a united front against the BJP, the multi-party coalition has christened itself as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA. This nomenclature, decided upon during the Opposition conclave, reflects a noteworthy and politically significant collaboration between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress.

Additionally, the coalition announced that its next meeting will be held in Mumbai, tentatively scheduled for the latter half of August, with the Shiv Sena (UBT) acting as the host. Despite being a relatively recent entrant to the anti-BJP sphere, the Shiv Sena has faced considerable pressure from the BJP in Maharashtra. The Mumbai gathering may witness the Opposition parties’ first joint rally, as well as a decision regarding the appointment of an alliance convenor.

The Bengaluru meeting brought together representatives from 26 parties, a substantial increase from the 16 parties that convened in Patna on June 23. One of the significant outcomes of this meeting was the establishment of an 11-member coordination committee, comprising major parties, as well as a ‘secretariat’ in Delhi. The secretariat’s primary roles will involve campaign management and coordination of various sub-committees, each tasked with addressing specific issues.

The suggestion to name the alliance INDIA initially came from senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Before finalizing the name, Rahul sought the approval of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through K C Venugopal, the Congress general secretary (Organisation). Mamata readily agreed to the name but proposed that the letter ‘N’ should represent “new” instead of “national.” Subsequently, there was informal deliberation on whether the letter ‘D’ should stand for democratic or developmental. After a late-night discussion, it was decided that Mamata would propose the name at the meeting.

During the meeting, some leaders, including Nitish Kumar, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, and G Devarajan, expressed reservations about naming the alliance INDIA. However, Rahul Gandhi fervently supported the name, arguing that it would enable the Opposition to create an “INDIA vs. NDA” narrative, implying that Narendra Modi and the BJP were “against INDIA,” while all those opposing the BJP were “INDIA.” Alternative names like People’s Alliance for India and Progressive People’s Alliance were suggested, with Mehbooba Mufti proposing ‘Bharat Jodo Alliance’ in reference to Rahul’s successful Bharat Jodo Yatra.

The alliance’s coordination between Mamata Banerjee and the Congress did not sit well with the Left parties. Mamata was reportedly upset with Yechury’s remarks that “secular parties,” including the Left and Congress, would take on both the BJP and the TMC in Bengal. Amidst these discussions, the central theme emerged that the battle was not merely between political factions, but for the soul of the country, an idea encapsulated by the alliance’s name, Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).

It was emphasized that the battle for INDIA was against the NDA and its ideology, which seeks to stifle and subjugate the voice of the nation. Rahul Gandhi underscored that the parties would strategize and prepare an action plan in Mumbai to take their fight to the people.

She added: “All the focus, all the publicity, all the campaigning, all the programmes will be under the banner of INDIA. If anybody can challenge this, catch us if you can.”

Rahul said the battle is no longer between two political formations or Opposition and the BJP, but for the voice of the country which is being “silenced and crushed”. “The battle is for the idea of India. That is why we came up with this name… the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. That means INDIA. The battle is between the NDA and INDIA, their ideology and INDIA. And you know who wins when somebody stands against India.”

As of now, the composition of the coordination committee and sub-committees has not been revealed. However, these panels will play crucial roles in drafting a common program and communication points for the 2024 general elections, as well as devising a joint program comprising rallies, conventions, and agitations to rally support for the alliance’s objectives.

Ironically, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which will have ruled for ten years by the 2024 parliamentary elections, that is going to depend on the alliance with 38 parties. This notwithstanding the fact that Modi has been known to say that he alone is formidable enough for the entire opposition, the implication being that he does not need the support of other parties.

However, the reality of 26 opposition parties cobbled into an alliance by the Indian National Congress Party appears to have made the prime minister sit up and take notice. The opposition alliance came together in Bengaluru under the somewhat labored acronym INDIA or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. The acronym may have the feel of an unimaginative political hack’s slapdash creation, as a challenge to Modi and his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) it seems to pack considerable punch.

In a measure of that potential threat the BJP also quickly called a meeting of its own 38-party alliance in New Delhi even while some of its constituents mock the acronym INDIA.

That 64 political parties will slug it out for the votes of electorate of 600 million plus people in 2024 may seem extraordinary to an American watcher but it is quite routine in India, where according to its Election Commission there are 6 national parties, 54 state parties, and 2,597 unrecognized parties.

Although within INDIA there are parties that are antagonistic to one another, this coming together was explained by Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge saying, “We are setting aside our political differences to save democracy.” At a news conference to announce the alliance various leaders gave versions of how they believe the BJP and Modi were stifling opposition voices and violating the letter and spirit of the country’s constitution.

INDIA faces an uphill battle taking on the NDA with the BJP controlling more than 300 seats in the 543-member parliament. Despite mounting attacks on him by the opposition Modi remains highly popular. His party acolytes frequently boast that the next election is as good as won by them and there may not be any prospect for the opposition even in 2029.

However, there is serious belief that if INDIA manages to field one-on-one candidates against the NDA rivals across the country, they could defeat them considering there is a great deal of disquiet across the country over several existential issues such as rampaging inflation and high unemployment along with a certain amount of communal toxicity whipped up through social media.

Despite its latest defeat in the Karnataka state elections, the BJP rules in 15 out of 28 states and eight federally administered territories either on its own or with coalitions. It has deep coffers with a reported cash reserves of 19.17 billion rupees or over $233 million, which by the U.S. standards is rather minuscule but makes it the country’s richest party.

The acronym INDIA is politically fraught. BJP leaders are known to make a distinction between India and Bharat, preferring the latter to the former, on the grounds that Bharat is the historical entity rooted into hearts and minds of its people unlike India which is a western construct used by the political elites. There are already barbs doing the rounds of social media on that distinction. On the opposition’s side, they are already raising questions such as “Can the BJP take on INDIA?”

It is still early days to determine whether INDIA will shake up NDA but if the BJP’s response is any indication, they want to take no chances. There is every indication that 2024 will be an intensely fought elections where India’s core cultural and political identity will be a top issue at the front and center apart from the many existential crises.

They decided to form an 11-member coordination committee, when they meet next in Mumbai, to formulate the opposition’s strategy to stop the Modi juggernaut from securing third consecutive Lok Sabha victory in 2024.

A resolution

The front released a declaration of a “Samuhik Sankalp” — joint resolution — for implementation of the caste census among other programmes, and mentioning Manipur violence, role of governors and LGs, and demonetisation.

PM candidate and Gandhis

While Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said his party is not interested in having a PM candidate, Sonia Gandhi’s name was suggested as the chairperson of INDIA, with Bihar CM as its convener. Rahul said, “The idea of India is under attack today. The idea of an inclusive India is being attacked by the ideology of the BJP.”

India, US Resolve All 6 Trade Disputes During PM Modi’s State Visit

“The United States and India are pleased to notify the DSB (dispute settlement body), in accordance with Article 3.6 of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, that the parties have reached a mutually agreed solution to the matter raised in this dispute,” according to a communication of the WTO dated July 17.

The dispute panel has been urged by the two nations to limit its report to a brief description of the case and information that the two nations have reached a solution.

The exchange question which was settled relates to a protest documented by the US in 2019 against India.

India had forced extra traditions obligations on 28 US items including chickpeas, lentils and apples in reprisal to the US expanding obligations on specific steel and aluminum items.

Against this goal, India would eliminate extra obligations on eight US items, including chickpeas, lentils and apples, which were forced in 2019 because of America’s action to increment taxes on specific steel and aluminum items, government sources said.

Six World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes were settled during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent state visit to the United States, and these retaliatory tariffs on certain US products were lifted.

In 2018, the US forced an import obligation of 25% on steel items and 10 percent on specific aluminum items on grounds of public safety. In reprisal, India in June 2019 forced traditions obligations on 28 American items.

India Denies Visas To U.S. Panel On Religious Freedom

India has turned down a travel request for members of a U.S. government panel seeking to review its religious freedom, saying such foreign agencies had no standing to assess the constitutional rights of citizens.

Since taking power in 2014, the Indian government has faced criticism for attacks on Muslims and the panel has called for the world’s biggest democracy to be designated a “country of particular concern”, along with China, Iran, Russia and Syria.

The call by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was made in an April report urging sanctions against officials of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government after it excluded minority Muslims from a new citizenship law.

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the government firmly repudiated the surveys of the commission, which had little knowledge of the rights of Indian citizens, describing it as biased and prejudiced.

“We have also denied visas to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom,” he told a lawmaker from Modi’s ruling group in a June 1 letter.

The step was taken because the government saw no grounds for a foreign entity such as the USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights, he added.

Reuters has reviewed a copy of the letter to Nishikant Dubey, an MP who had raised the issue of the panel’s report in parliament.

USCIRF spokeswoman Danielle Saroyan Ashbahian said its team wanted to travel to India for constructive dialogue with the government.

“As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit, which would give it the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF in a constructive dialogue,” she said in an email.

The commission is a bipartisan U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state, and Congress. However, these are not binding.

India’s Opposition Parties Unite For 2024 National Elections to Counter BJP

The 26 opposition parties in India, which met in Bengaluru over two days, have resolved to bring out an “alternative political, social and economic agenda” to counter the BJP, even as seat-sharing arrangements to take on the ruling party on the ground remained a challenging hurdle.

The parties, including national and regional parties have been splintered at the national level, account for less than half the 301 seats the BJP has in the 542-member lower house of parliament. They have, however, sought to sink their differences to challenge BJP after Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, was convicted in a defamation case and disqualified from parliament in March.

While the multi-party front gave itself a name – INDIA, or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance – proposed by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar asked how a political alliance could be named INDIA. Caught by surprise, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and G Devarajan were not immediately convinced either.

Meanwhile, as all eyes were on the Opposition and NDA meetings in Bengaluru and Delhi, parties like BSP, BJD, JD(S), Akali Dal, BRS, YSRCP, INLD, AIMIM and AIUDF stayed away from either due to the politics at play in their states, their equations with specific parties, or their desire to come across as neutral.

Their campaign to unite all parties opposed to the ruling BJP got a shot in the arm in May when Congress trounced BJP in a key state election, exceeding expectations and gaining fresh momentum ahead of more state elections due this year and national elections in April-May 2024.

Although Modi remains popular and is widely expected to win a third term without much difficulty, opposition leaders say a joint campaign and straight, one-on-one constituency contests against BJP could turn the tables.

“Everyone has agreed that we will all work together in the interest of the country,” Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the eastern state of Bihar, of which Patna is the capital, told reporters.

“There is agreement to go together, there has been agreement to fight the elections together,” said Kumar, who hosted the meeting, adding that a second meeting would be held next month to seal Friday’s discussions.

Gandhi said the fight against BJP was an “ideological battle” and opposition parties were united in it.

“There certainly will be some differences among us but we have decided we will work together, work with flexibility,” Gandhi said.

India’s opposition parties have formed alliances to challenge governments – led by both Congress and BJP – in the past and win elections but have a mixed record of sticking together and running governments smoothly.

The Congress party has asserted that the Opposition unity would be “a game changer” for the Indian political scenario. This comes as the BJP conducted a grand show of strength of its alliance with party president J P Nadda asserting that 38 constituents of the ruling NDA attended the meeting.

Why is Modi Silent on Manipur?Manipur Issue Creates Pandemonium in Parliament

The Monsoon Session of Parliament has been facing continuous disruptions over Manipur violence since it began on July 20th. The violent killings, rape, and destruction of properties continued to rock Parliament as monsoon session proceedings in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have been paralyzed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Narendra Modi has said, it was ready for a debate in both Houses with a response from the home minister, but the Opposition parties remained adamant on their demand for a statement by prime minister Modi, which will be followed by a debate without any time restriction. They sought a statement by the Prime Minister on the Manipur violence “inside the House and not outside.”

The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned each day of the Monsoon session amid protests by Opposition parties who are demanding discussion on Manipur violence and a recent horror video that came out on social media platforms. In Manipur, the viral video showed two women, stripped naked, held and groped by a mob of men, and dragged to a field.

Chilling details

As the Manipur police launched a massive manhunt to nab all the culprits, an FIR filed in the sexual assault case on June 21 detailed how an armed mob, nearly a thousand strong, had attacked a village in Kangpokpi district and allegedly torched, looted houses, killed and raped wantonly before abducting the two tribal women.

Amid growing protests against the sexual assault of the two women in Manipur, the four arrested men were remanded in 11-day police custody while the house of another suspect was set on fire by angry locals in the second such incident in connection with the case.

The incident in a village in Kangpokpi district that was captured in the 26-second video took place on May 4, a day after ethnic violence erupted in the northeastern state.  The footage surfaced only last week and became viral after the internet ban was lifted. The government has asked Twitter and other social media platforms to take down the video of the incident since the matter is being probed.

‘Dismiss Biren govt’

The Congress party demanded that President Droupadi Murmu exercise her powers to dismiss the N Biren Singh government in the state.

Nationwide outrage

Eminent personalities in Manipur described the incident as “barbaric, shameful and against the human race” and demanded “strictest” punishment for the culprits.

Different tribal organizations in Jharkhand organized a protest march in capital Ranchi against the violence and alleged torture of women in Manipur.

In Assam, the Congress party organized an earthen lamp lighting program at its state headquarters, in Guwahati as a show of support for the two survivors in Manipur.

In Churachandpur, braving heavy downpour, thousands of tribals raised their demand for a separate administration and stringent punishment for the perpetrators involved in the crime.

Meanwhile, an organization of former militants has asked Meiteis from Manipur to leave Mizoram for their “own safety” citing “anger among Mizo youths” over the horrific video.

PM breaks silence finally, after months of violence

“Today, when I am standing by this temple of democracy my heart is full of pain and anger,” PM Modi said in his first public comments on July 19th about the Manipur violence, which has led to the killings of hundreds and the destruction of tens of thousands of homes and the displacement of millions in the past several months.

“I want to assure the countrymen that no guilty will be spared. Law will act with its full might and firmness… What has happened to these daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven,” he told reporters ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament last week.

Hitting out at the government, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the PM had broken his silence on Manipur, but it was “too little too late.”

A warning

A bench headed by CJI Chandrachud took cognizance of the video and warned that the apex court would take action if “nothing is happening on the ground”. A man who was allegedly part of the mob and was seen dragging one of them in the video was among four persons arrested last week.

The Congress Party has said that the Modi government was rattled by the Opposition unity under ‘INDIA’ as its members are ‘marjivdas’ (living martyrs) and it was the reason why BJP is showing signs of frustration. It said that northeast is an integral part of India and any unrest there will have implications on the national security of the country.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in New delhi, Congress Lok Sabha MP and party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “Northeast is one of the most integral part of India and if something happens over there then it will have far reaching consequences on the country and have direct implications on national security.”

Hitting out at the government over the Manipur violence that has been going on since May 3, the Congress leader said that the condition in the northeastern state is very bad and the Prime Minister himself before the commencement of Monsoon Session of Parliament admitted that the incidents that had happened in Manipur makes us to feel ashamed. Tiwari asked,  “Why cannot he come to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and speak there?”

US Defence Act Bill Opens Door For Deeper US Cooperation With India

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has put forward a proposal as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) to bolster the United States’ defense cooperation with India. This draft legislation, if implemented, would deepen collaboration between the two countries in key areas of defense and security. The SASC has called on the Pentagon to consider India’s eligibility for various security cooperation benefits, recognizing it as a major defense partner.

The proposed NDAA urges the US defense secretary to expand cooperation with India in crucial domains, including artificial intelligence (AI), undersea domain awareness, air combat and support, munitions, and mobility. Additionally, it advocates for joint efforts in counter-terrorism operations, maritime and border security operations, and military intelligence operations to build capacity.

The Senate’s version of the NDAA, though not the final act, carries weight as it enjoys bipartisan support and is based on inputs from the Department of Defense (DOD) as well as the result of increased engagement between the US Congress and India in recent months. High-level diplomatic interactions, such as the visit of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to India, underscore the significance of the partnership between the two nations in the context of competition with China.

The NDAA draft proposes four specific lines of effort to ensure India’s benefits as a major defence partner:

1. “Eligibility for funding to initiate or facilitate cooperative research, development, testing, or evaluation projects” in areas like AI, undersea domain awareness, air combat, munitions, and mobility.

2. “Eligibility to enter into reciprocal agreements with the Department of Defence for the cooperative provision of training” in areas such as counter-terrorism, border security, military intelligence, and cyberspace security.

3. “Eligibility to enter into a memorandum of understanding or other formal agreement with the Department of Defence for conducting cooperative research and development projects on Défense equipment and munitions.”

4. “Eligibility for Indian companies to bid on contracts for the maintenance, repair, or overhaul of DOD equipment located outside the US.”

The proposed legislation also requires the defense secretary to provide a briefing to relevant Senate and House committees on the status of security cooperation activities with India in the specified areas by March 1, 2024.

Sameer Lalwani, an expert on South Asia at the US Institute of Peace, emphasized the significance of this proposed legislation in enhancing the US-India defense relationship. He noted that the legislation moves beyond mere expressions of optimism and offers guidance on specific areas of focus and modalities.

Highlighting the next steps, Lalwani added, “But after assessing India’s eligibility, Congress may then have to tackle potential regulatory or procedural hurdles and appropriate the requisite resources to ensure these efforts of joint research, training, and sustainment remain robust and sustained over time.”

In conclusion, the proposed NDAA reflects the growing importance of the US-India partnership in the defense and security domain. It outlines specific measures to deepen collaboration, emphasizing the need to address challenges and allocate adequate resources for sustained efforts in building capacity and enhancing security cooperation. As the House of Representatives finalizes its version of the NDAA, the proposed legislation sets the stage for further strengthening the defense ties between the two nations in the face of shared regional challenges and interests.

Narendra Modi Receives France’s Highest Honor, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian and military honor in France. The prestigious award was presented to Modi by President Emmanuel Macron during a private dinner at the Élysée Palace in Paris. This marked the final engagement on the first day of Modi’s two-day visit to France.

Modi’s reception of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour is a historic moment as he becomes the first Indian Prime Minister to receive this distinction. The honor has previously been bestowed upon notable global leaders and eminent personalities, including Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. This recognition further solidifies the strong partnership and camaraderie between India and France.

The dinner at the Élysée Palace was a significant occasion where President Macron and his wife warmly hosted Prime Minister Modi. The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, described the award as a “warm gesture embodying the spirit of India-France partnership.” Bagchi’s statement emphasizes the significance of this honor in strengthening the bond between the two nations.

Prime Minister Modi’s recognition by France adds to the list of prestigious awards and honors he has received from various countries. In June, Egypt bestowed upon him the Order of the Nile, highlighting his contributions to international diplomacy. Additionally, Bhutan awarded him the Order of the Druk Gyalpo in 2021, the United States honored him with the Legion of Merit in 2020, and Russia presented him with the Order of St. Andrew in 2019. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates conferred the Order of Zayed in 2019, and Saudi Arabia granted him the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2016.

Modi’s international recognition through these honors reflects his significant contributions and influence on the global stage. These awards not only acknowledge his diplomatic efforts but also demonstrate the respect and admiration he has garnered from various countries. As India’s Prime Minister, his leadership and commitment to strengthening bilateral relations have played a pivotal role in forging alliances and partnerships worldwide.

In conclusion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s receipt of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from France signifies a momentous occasion in India-France relations. The honor, conferred during a private dinner hosted by President Emmanuel Macron, serves as a testament to the strong partnership between the two nations. Modi’s recognition as the first Indian Prime Minister to receive this prestigious distinction highlights his significant contributions to international diplomacy. Furthermore, his collection of awards and honors from various countries further solidifies his stature as a respected global leader.

India’s Growing Role in America’s China Strategy Fueled by Mistrust of Beijing

India’s position in America’s China strategy is growing as a result of mistrust of Beijing. In the meantime, the relationship between the United States and India has become fueled by cooperation on technological and geoeconomic issues.

For India’s part, public outrage has been sparked by China’s salami-slicing strategies to seize territory along the long Himalayan border between the two countries. New Delhi’s natural partner to counter China’s military advantages is the United States.

India has the potential to be a useful partner for the United States in the fight against China’s efforts to drive Washington out of the Indo-Pacific region and in restoring strategic equilibrium there.

As a result, pragmatism is in charge. Technological cooperation has benefited greatly from the easing of inhibitions between the United States and India that existed during the Cold War. Washington and Delhi have begun to collaborate on a comprehensive partnership that includes semiconductors, supply chains, defense coproduction, and digital public goods.

Given the growing landscape of geoeconomic rivalry between major powers, such cooperation is essential. China and Russia have intensified their geoeconomic ties ever since the Ukraine conflict began. New Delhi naturally feels constrained by the fusion of Eurasian energies to its north, given its historical reliance on Russian defense technologies and border issues with China.

India and the United States see each other as important players in their respective geopolitical and economic strategies.

Washington is establishing a new economic system based on cutting-edge technologies with countries like India and others who share its values. In the coming years, technology appears to be going to be the driving force behind relations between the United States and India. This will lead to enormous economic opportunities, increased national security for both countries, and the formation of a new geoeconomic global order.

The “new Washington consensus” was outlined by Jake Sullivan, the U.S. National Security Advisor, in April.

Restructuring supply chains through “friend-shoring” and “de-risking,” creating economic frameworks to avoid dependence on individual nations, and forming advanced technology coalitions are all essential components of this initiative.

“The Biden administration’s international economic vision is centered on a deeper partnership between the U.S. and India,” Sullivan stated to an Indian newspaper last month.

In May 2022, the U.S. and Indian efforts in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, space, telecommunications, biotechnology, defense, and semiconductors were announced as part of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies.

During Top state leader Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last month, he joined an “India-U.S. Greetings Tech Handshake” occasion to encourage associations between the startup biological systems of the two nations. The importance of the relationship to young entrepreneurs is demonstrated by the fact that Zerodha’s co-founder, Nikhil Kamath, was invited to the prestigious White House state dinner for Modi.

Another area in which the partnership is reaching its peak is semiconductors. India is seen as a crucial counterweight as the United States blocks the flow of technology that China needs to support advanced chipmaking.

While Modi was in Washington, U.S. chipmaker Micron Innovation reported that it would contribute $825 million to construct a semiconductor gathering and test plant in Gujarat, the top state leader’s home state. By the year 2020, the brand-new facility should be operational. Applied Materials, another key American chip tech organization, said it would set up a designing place in Bengaluru zeroed in on growing new advances for semiconductor fabricating hardware.

India was also welcomed into the Minerals Security Partnership, a crucial minerals coalition that included Australia, Japan, South Korea, and seven Western allies to support supply line diversification and security. In order to facilitate private investment and public financing, the purpose of this group is to share information on crucial opportunities in the mineral sector.

Several Indian businesses made investments in support of Washington’s efforts to increase domestic production of green technologies while Modi was in Washington. Epsilon Carbon will invest $650 million in a battery component factory in the United States for electric vehicles. VSK Energy said it would put up to $1.5 billion in sunlight based charger producing in Colorado and other U.S. areas. The Ohio foundry of JSW Steel will be upgraded for $145 million to support the production of offshore wind energy platforms.

Strangely, Modi likewise endorsed on to the Artemis Accords, a U.S.- drove astropolitical alliance to advance space participation. India attempted to reconcile the Artemis Accords with the China and Russia-led International Lunar Research Station effort for some time.

A lot of technical talent is required for the rapid advancement of advanced technology. Anecdotal evidence indicates that Silicon Valley is largely supported by Indian-born tech professionals and executives. India is a treasure trove of such talent. Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden have subsequently been coaxing the Indian American people group to get a sense of ownership with coordinating the tech areas of California and Bengaluru.

India and the United States are becoming increasingly entwined on a geopolitical and economic level. By building tough innovative establishments, the two nations can each propel their plans for Indo-Pacific security.

US To Return 150 Antiquities To India

India’s Culture Secretary Govind Mohan, briefing reporters Sunday on the third G20 Culture Working Group meeting in Hampi, said this is the first lot of antiquities that the Met has willingly agreed to return to India.

These will be among the 150 antiquities that will return to India from the US in 3-6 months, he said, adding that besides the 15 objects returned by the Met, the others are those confiscated by US authorities and kept in the office of the New York Attorney General. “We are making efforts to have our team go there, verify them and bring them back,” Mohan said.

According to an investigation in March by The Indian Express, in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the UK-based Finance Uncovered, a treasure trove at the Met was traced to antique dealer Subhash Kapoor who is serving a prison term in Tamil Nadu for smuggling antiquities.

On March 30, the Met issued a statement saying it would “transfer 15 sculptures for return to the government of India, after having learned that the works were illegally removed from India”. It said “all of the works were sold at one point by Subhash Kapoor, a dealer currently serving a prison sentence in India.”

Of the 15 items listed in the search warrant, 10 were flagged in The Indian Express report. Significant among these are the Celestial Dancer, a 1st century BCE Yakshi terracotta from West Bengal; a bronze sculpture of God Revanta Returning from the Hunt (10th century CE); and a 15th century Parikara (Backplate).

The other works that are set to return to India include antiquities in different mediums such as marble, terracotta and sandstone, span a period of 1,600 years, from the 1st century BC to the 15th century AD, and hold significant historical and market value, officials said.

Restitution of cultural heritage is among the main themes of the cultural track under India’s G20 Presidency. The 1970 UNESCO Convention enjoins upon all the signatories to voluntarily return all the artefacts that have either been taken there due to colonial plunder or post-colonial misappropriation through smuggling, theft or other such means, Mohan said.

“The 1970 convention has been discussed extensively among all the countries and there are some countries who are not signatories so far. We are trying to develop a broad consensus that at least all the G20 countries become signatories to the convention. India would be a big gainer from this process,” he said.

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India is pursuing agreements pertaining to the return of antiquities through both bilateral and multilateral routes. According to the Cultural Property Agreement signed between India and the US, which found mention in the joint statement after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit last month, “the US will do all that is within its power to intercept smuggled goods at the border and return them expeditiously”.

“With the US having accepted this kind of a framework, we are hopeful that the other countries will also look at something similar, if not identical,” Mohan said, adding that presently, India is pursuing bilaterally for such agreements with the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Australia.

As many as 50 delegates are attending the third CWG meeting, including those from member countries, guest nations and multilateral organisations. Progress has been made towards bridging opinions during deliberations and arriving at a consensus, Mohan said.

Is Rupee Going to be Internationalized?

An Inter-Departmental Group (IDG), constituted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has suggested that India must continue exploring alternatives to both the USD and the Euro to defend itself against economic sanctions. The group has recommended a host of measures to increase the acceptance of Indian rupee (INR) outside the country’s borders.

The group has recommended a host of measures to increase the acceptance of Indian rupee (INR) outside the country’s borders.

Among the short-term recommendations, the group has asked the bank to encourage opening of INR accounts for non-residents both in India and outside India as well as integrating Indian payment systems with other countries for cross-border transactions.

“An account in the currency of a resident country in the non-residents’ own jurisdiction allows them to leverage their existing financial relationships and provides them the flexibility to move funds and execute financial transactions in their time zone,” the working group chaired by Radha Shyam Ratho said in the report.

Additional recommendations include allowing banking services in INR outside India through off-shore branches of Indian banks and achieve higher level of trade linkages with other countries so that INR becomes preferred as a “vehicle currency” by other economies.

“The higher usage of INR in invoicing and settlement of international trade, as well as in capital account transactions, will give INR a progressively international presence,” the group emphasized adding that the internationalization will reduce the cost of doing business and reduce need for holding foreign exchange reserves.

Atrocities Against Christians In India Increasing Drastically Year-On-Year

The violence in Manipur has been raging for over two months now, and hundreds of churches and many precious lives have been lost. This year we have just completed half a year of 190 days and we have already witnessed 400 incidents of violence against Christians across 23 states in India with Uttar Pradesh leading the chart with 155 incidents. Last year during the same period (January to June 2022) 274 incidents of violence against Christians witnessed.

There are six districts in Uttar Pradesh which are witnessing incidents of violence against Christians with 13 incidents in Jaunpur, 11 incidents EACH in Rae Bareilly and Sitapur, 10 in Kanpur and 9 each in Azamgarh and Kushinagar districts. But the highest number of incidents of violence against Christians in a district has gone to Bastar in Chhattisgarh with 31 incidents.

This year, the month of June in 2023 has witnessed the highest number of incidents against Christians with 88 incidents (almost 3 incidents a day) followed by 66 incidents in March, 63 in February, 62 in January, 50 in May and 47 in April. Last year, 2022, the same period January won the sad distinction of being on top of the chart with 121 incidents (almost 4 incidents a day), followed by 40 in May, 31 in February, 29 in April, 28 in March and 25 in June.

All these 400 incidents of violence against Christians are spread across the length and breadth of our country, irrespective of which political party is in power. There are twenty three (23) states which are witnessing incidents of violence against Christians. Uttar Pradesh – leading with 155 incidents, followed by Chhattisgarh with 84 incidents, Jharkhand – 35, Haryana – 32, Madhya Pradesh – 21, Punjab – 12, Karnataka – 10, Bihar – 9, Jammu & Kashmir – 8, Gujarat – 7, Uttarakhand – 4, Tamil Nadu – 3, West Bengal – 3, Himachal Pradesh – 3, Maharashtra – 3, Odisha – 2, Delhi – 2 Andhra Pradesh – 1, Assam – 1, Chandigarh – 1, and Goa – 1.

As per the reports recorded by the United Christian Forum (UCF), the incidents of violence against Christians have been increasing sharply and steadily since 2014: 147 incidents in 2014, 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 279 in 2020,505 in 2021, 599 in 2022 and 400 incidents in first 190 days of   2023.

Ironically, despite being the victims in all these atrocities, it is the Christians who are facing more FIRs than the accused, as the police fail to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of such mob violence. There are 63 FIRs lodged against Christians on false allegations of conversions under the Freedom of Religion Act.There are 35 Pastors still in Jail with bails being denied repeatedly. Moreover, those who are getting bail find themselves still incarcerated due to bureaucratic delays in processing their release. Several representations by leaders of the Christian community to the President, Prime Minister and the Home Minister are still awaiting any response.

Update On Petition On Violence Against Christians Before Supreme Court Of India

The matter came up for hearing on 10th July 2023. The Union government opposed our petition. Our advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted an interim prayer for SIT comprising officers outside the respective states to register FIRs, investigate and prosecute; police protection prayer meetings conducted by the Christian community and to provide legal aid to all the victims. Next hearing will be on 14th July 2023.

India Denies Visas To U.S. Panel On Religious Freedom

India has turned down a travel request for members of a U.S. government panel seeking to review its religious freedom, saying such foreign agencies had no standing to assess the constitutional rights of citizens.

Since taking power in 2014, the Indian government has faced criticism for attacks on Muslims and the panel has called for the world’s biggest democracy to be designated a “country of particular concern”, along with China, Iran, Russia and Syria.

The call by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was made in an April report urging sanctions against officials of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government after it excluded minority Muslims from a new citizenship law.

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the government firmly repudiated the surveys of the commission, which had little knowledge of the rights of Indian citizens, describing it as biased and prejudiced.

“We have also denied visas to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom,” he told a lawmaker from Modi’s ruling group in a June 1 letter.

The step was taken because the government saw no grounds for a foreign entity such as the USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights, he added.

Reuters has reviewed a copy of the letter to Nishikant Dubey, an MP who had raised the issue of the panel’s report in parliament.

USCIRF spokeswoman Danielle Saroyan Ashbahian said its team wanted to travel to India for constructive dialogue with the government.

“As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit, which would give it the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF in a constructive dialogue,” she said in an email.

The commission is a bipartisan U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state, and Congress. However, these are not binding.

Indian Christian Day Celebrated in New York

New York: Christians celebrated the Indian Christian Day with prayers and tears in light of the great calamity faced by the Christian community in Manipur. The celebration, which was supposed to be held on July 3, the day of St. Thomas, was held a day earlier at the Cathedral Hall of the Malankara Catholic Church in Elmont, New York. It was a rare gathering of Indian Christians from across denominations, regions, and languages who lived in greater New York. Church Fathers, priests, and dignitaries arrived with blessings and greetings.

Bryan Nerran, who had to spend seven and a half months in prison in India on trumped up charges, and Rev. Mark Mang, a native of Manipur whose cousin died at the hands of the militants and others, pointed to the rapid changes that are taking place as regards curtailing of religious freedom in India. Several choirs from various churches with their Singing made the ceremony more devotional.

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Bishop of Marthoma Church, Isaac Mar Filoxenos Episcopa, who was the chief guest, mentioned the new trends by those in power to rewrite history. He went on to add that they may have political and social reasons to indulge in those efforts; however, the facts will not be erased from history. We should be proud of our history and heritage. The Bishop said, “Suffering and pain have also affected the people of Israel. They cried out while they were in captivity in Babylon. They lamented how we could sing God’s song in a foreign land. We are safe and content here in America. But we cannot accept the pains of our brothers in India. Let us pray for peace to be restored there. Let human rights be restored there. We may belong to different churches. But the important thing is that we stand together. We must stand together in the miseries facing humanity while accepting our differences. We owe it to ourselves to raise our voices. We must also be ready to die for the kingdom of God. As successors of St. Thomas the Apostle, we should be proud. The light of the gospel reached our country in the first century.”

“Saint Thomas is mentioned three times in the Bible. In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus decides to go to Bethany to comfort the family of Lazarus. But the disciples, knowing that there were people there who could kill him, asked if it was necessary. Once Jesus decided to go, Thomas said we could go and die with him. In the fourteenth chapter, Jesus speaks of himself and his departure. Then Thomas says: ‘We do not know the way you are going. How do we know that?’ To which Jesus replied: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. Those who know me know the Father.’ The third opportunity is to see Jesus after the ascension. Jesus sees Thomas, who says he will not believe unless he sees Jesus face to face and touches the wound in his hand. We always remember Thomas’s response looking at the hands, ‘My Lord and my God.’ We have the tradition of St. Thomas, who always stood firm in his faith. We should never miss it – Bishop exhorted.

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Bishop Mar Joy Allapat of the Syro-Malabar Church pointed out that even in America, there is no certainty of what will happen in the future. “After Manipur, some people said Kerala would be the next target. Christianity arrived in Kerala much before Europe Embraced it. However, today our brothers are facing difficulties back home in India. Historically we have faced persecution. However, Bible speaks about being strengthened in the face of persecution. As the Bible says, we are like sheep in the middle of wolves. Therefore, let us unite and encourage our brothers in Manipur,” the Bishop added.

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Rt. Rev. Dr. C.V Mathew of the Evangelical Church spoke about the Manipur situation and wondered aloud why the Indianness of Christians is being questioned. He implored the authorities to respect the constitution that guarantees the religious freedom of every citizen. He also encouraged the people to unite and support those in harm’s way. Rt. Rev. Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church applauded the organizers of the Indian Christian Day, pointing out that we would never give up faith because of persecution.

Rev. Mark Mang explained Manipur’s pain. He said he has been in America for eight years, currently serving as a Chaplain. We don’t know what heaven is like. But we think it’s all coming together so as this gathering. His cousin and four others fell victim to the unlicensed gun of the assailants while defending the village. The riot could have been stopped in one day. It didn’t happen. Three hundred fifty-four churches were destroyed, and it continues. It is not even possible to go and bury the dead bodies in the hospital. More than fifty thousand people are refugees in different states. There will be torture and killings, but in the end, God’s glory will be revealed there. Pray for us and bring help. He said that he is thinking of going to Manipur soon.

Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations President Koshy George (Fiacona) pointed out that it has been decided to celebrate St. Thomas’s Day, July 3, as Indian Christian Day everywhere. The day before, the celebration took place in Boston, and on July 3 rd across India as well. Efforts are being made to bring a new understanding that Christianity is two thousand years old in India, and St.Thomas came in A.D. 52 and was martyred on July 3, A.D. 72. There are thousands of denominations among Christians. But we all worship Jesus while believing in the Trinity. He asked if it would be best to set aside all our differences and meet at least for one day.

Guests were given a history of the seven and a half churches founded by St. Thomas and a report on atrocities in India. State Senator John Lou, Sibu Nair of the Asian Outreach Officer in the N.Y. Governor’s Office, Rev. Jacob George, and others spoke.

Rev. Wilson Jose offered the opening prayer, and Fr. John Thomas offered the closing prayer. Rev.N.K. Matthew offered a special prayer for the people in Manipur.

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George Abraham, who expressed a vote of thanks, pointed out that those who are from Kerala do not know much about civil wars. We don’t know the condition of being chased away from home and worried about the future in the corner of some school or abandoned building. He encouraged everyone to help those who are driven into such a situation in Manipur. FIACONA was formed when there was an attack on Christians in Dangs district of Gujarat. When Graham Staines and his children were burnt to death, we condemned such a heinous crime. Unfortunately, only a few people know about this organization. Many people from all spheres of life are working hard with dedication in defense of religious freedom everywhere. Some people have paid a heavy price for their advocacy. John Prabhudoss, the chairman, is currently barred from entering India. There is a fear that the OCI card is being weaponized to silence the critics abroad. He expressed hope that NRIs will be energized to defend human rights and religious freedom here in the U.S. as well as in India.

CSI Jubilee Choir, New York Men’s Voices, IPC Jamaica Choir Rev. Milton James (solo), and Bethlehem Punjabi Church sang.

Koshi George, Dr. Leno Thomas, Mary Phillips, Dr. Anna George, Koshi Thomas, Paul D. Panakkal, George Abraham, Raju Abraham, Matthew P Thomas, Matthew Eapan, Jerin Joe James, Pastor Jacob George, Shaimi Jacob, Koshi Thomas, Rev. Milton G. James (Sr.), George Chacko, John Joseph, Chuck Pillai, Don Thomas, Dr. Cynthia Prabhakar, Rev. Anadhasekhar Manuel, rev. Christer Solomon, Lona Abraham, and others led the way.

US Ambassador Garcetti Announces Significant Reduction in Wait Times for Tourist Visa Interviews in India

The wait time for first-time tourist visa interviews in the United States has been reduced by over 50%, United States Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said last week. He further emphasized that the goal for 2023 is to process at least one million visas and highlighted the improved speed of visa processing in India.

United States Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, revealed that the wait time for first-time tourist visa interviews in the United States has been reduced by over 50%. Speaking at IIT Delhi, Garcetti highlighted the goal of processing at least one million visas in 2023, expressing confidence that they are already more than halfway towards reaching that target. He emphasized the efforts to streamline the visa process, including reducing the need for in-person interviews and opening new consulates, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Indian professionals can renew their work visas without traveling abroad.

Addressing the audience at IIT Delhi, Garcetti said, “We’re already doing this. We’re currently processing more visas, faster, than the US Mission in India ever has before. We have set a goal for ourselves to process at least a million visas in 2023, and we’re already more than halfway towards reaching that goal.” “Our investments have brought real results, and we’ve seen wait times for first-time tourist visa interviews fall by more than 50 per cent,” he added.

Garcetti stressed the importance of expanding visa operations and increasing staff to remove barriers for qualified travelers experiencing the United States

“We’ll find innovative solutions to streamline the visa process, such as reducing the need for in-person interviews, which allows consular teams around the world to assist in processing visas for the growing number of Indian travellers,” the envoy said.

India and US are doing every bit of effort to make the visa process smooth and in that process, recently, during his interaction with the Indian community in the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Indian professionals can renew their work visas without travelling abroad.

“America’s new consulates will be opened in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. It has now been decided that the H1B visa renewal can be done in the US itself,” PM Modi said while addressing the Indian diaspora at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC.

India is going to open a new consulate in Seattle this year. Apart from this, Indian Consulates will be opened in 2 more cities in America. “Together we are not just forming policies and agreements, we are shaping lives, dreams and destinies,” said PM Modi.

US-India Partnership To Turn Dreams Into Reality: Garcetti

Ambassador Eric Garcetti lauds Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, emphasizes its potential to strengthen India-US ties and turn dreams into reality

United States Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti spoke about the importance of Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the United States in furthering India-US ties, which he believes have the power to turn dreams into reality.

Speaking at the “Peace, Prosperity, Planet, People : A New Chapter In U.S.-India Relations” event co-organized by the Asia Society Policy Institute and IIT Delhi, Garcetti used the phrase “Sapne sakar karna” (Making dreams into reality). He emphasized the need to work together for peace, prosperity, and the planet with a focus on bolstering bilateral security, promoting freedom, and people-to-people exchanges.

Sharing his experience of the PM’s US visit, the Ambassador said it as a momentous occasion during which he witnessed a profound celebration of the “defining partnership of this century” between the two great democracies.

“I saw history being made and our future framed,” Garcetti said welcoming the slew of joint initiatives announced across various fields which he believed could “change the world.” He highlighted IIT Delhi scholar, Anchal Sharma’s presentation alongside PM Modi and First Lady Jill Biden at the National Science Foundation (NSF), as one of his favorite moments from the visit.

The Ambassador acknowledged the shared dreams and visions of the Indian and American people, emphasizing the desire to leave a positive impact on the world. He highlighted the strong people-to-people ties between the US and India, stating that the Indian diaspora in the US plays a crucial role in fostering friendship and understanding between the two countries. He mentioned several statistics that reflect the close connection between the nations, including the significant number of Indian students studying in the US, the two-way trade volume, and the presence of Indian professionals in key sectors of the US economy.

Garcetti also shed light on the significance of visa policies in the US-India relationship. With over 200,000 Indians studying in the United States, he added, “We set a goal for ourselves to process at least a million visas in 2023, and we’re already more than halfway towards reaching that goal.”

Having completed his studies in India, the Ambassador expressed, “I may not be Indian, but India is a big part of me and has helped shape who I am today.” He went on to share his goal as an Ambassador was to present many more people with similar life-changing experience that he had while in India.

He concluded by stating India and USA are two sides of the same coin, and that he hopes to realize his dream of the countries partnering and bringing transformative changes to challenges together.

Australia Extends Post-Study Work Rights, Work-Hour Cap For Indian Students

Education/Immigration

Starting July 1, 2023, the working hours for international students per fortnight will go up from 40 to 48 hours.

Indian graduates from Australian tertiary institutions will have the opportunity to apply for an eight-year work visa starting July 1, 2023. Additionally, the work-hour limit of 40 hours per fortnight for all international students will go up to 48 hours.  This was done to address workforce shortages, as well as to ensure that student visa holders have enough time to dedicate toward studies while gaining work experience and supporting themselves financially.

The new visa rules are an outcome of a bilateral agreement signed between India and Australia in May 2023. Indian PM Narendra Modi and Australian PM Anthony Albanese signed a migration deal, which included a new pilot program called the Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early-professionals Scheme (MATES). The program was devised to benefit university graduates and early-career professionals, precisely 3,000 of them, to live in Australia for two years without requiring visa sponsorship.

Speaking of eligibility, candidates seeking to apply for the MATES visa must be under the age of 31. They must be pass-outs from recognized Indian universities with specialized degrees in the areas of engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology, Agricultural Technology, Renewable Energy, etc. Details regarding fees and visa processing time for MATES are yet to be announced.

Modi Visit Fuels Concerns Biden Putting Human Rights On Back Burner

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit is fueling concerns from activist groups that the Biden administration is putting human rights on the back burner.

During the visit, President Biden held back from public criticism of Modi’s handling of human rights and democratic values — issues that led a handful of progressive lawmakers to boycott his speech to a joint address to Congress.

The president, instead, rolled out the red carpet for Modi with a celebratory welcome and hug, a 21-gun salute and a state dinner with notable White House guests, a charm offensive underscoring India’s economic and foreign policy importance to the United States.

Biden had previously come under criticism last July for a fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to Jeddah that advocates argue effectively ignored the Saudi government’s human rights abuses.

White House officials contend that tough conversations with allies behind closed doors — including Modi — are more productive than grandstanding and scolding in public.

“The prime minister and I had a good discussion about democratic values. … We’re straightforward with each other, and — and we respect each other,” Biden said during a press conference alongside Modi at the White House on Thursday.

But critics say that puts little pressure on governments and leaders like Modi to actually deliver on reforms.

The Indian leader in particular is criticized for failing to counter anti-Muslim hate and is cracking down on civil liberties and press freedoms — issues that strike at the core of respect for democratic governments.

“I would argue that the administration needs to be more explicit about backsliding allies, practically recommitting themselves to fundamental freedoms and the respect for human rights as the basis for an evolving global order,” said Tess McEnery, who previously served as Biden’s director for democracy and human rights at the National Security Council.

During his campaign, Biden put human rights at the center of his foreign policy messaging and identified strengthening democracy — at home and abroad — as key to pushing back against autocratic governments such as Russia and China.

Yet in pushing back on Russia and China, the U.S. also needs allies. And that has complicated efforts with human rights.

The White House sees India as an indispensable partner in its strategy with China; its population of 1.4 billion people is the only market that can compete with Beijing’s.

India represents a needed partner in the administration’s efforts to diversify supply chains away from China for critical materials such as semiconductors and rare earth minerals that are the building blocks of those technologies.

Modi recognized the power that India holds during his address to Congress on Thursday. “When defense and aerospace in India grow, industries in the states of Washington, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania thrive. … When Indians fly more, a single order for aircrafts creates more than a million jobs in 44 states in America,” he said. “When an American phone maker invests in India, it creates an entire ecosystem of jobs and opportunities in both countries.”

The most robust applause from Congress came when Modi said the U.S. was one of India’s “most important defense partners” — an important statement given American efforts to turn New Delhi away from its reliance on on Russia’s defense industry and have it serve a bulwark against China’s growing military.

Being hospitable to Modi also has its domestic political benefits.

The U.S. is home to a more than an Indian-American community of more than 4.5 million people — a key voting bloc that the president hopes to hold onto ahead of what is likely to be a fraught 2024 presidential election.

“I think that President Biden is eager not to cede any of the, kind of, Indian-American community vote to the Republican Party,” said Daniel Markey, senior adviser on South Asia at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are largely united in supporting a robust U.S. and Indian partnership. A bipartisan and bicameral grouping introduced legislation Thursday to fast-track weapons sales to India in recognition of Modi’s visit.

And while more than 70 House and Senate lawmakers raised concerns over Modi’s human rights record in a letter to Biden ahead of the visit, only a little more than a handful of progressive Democratic lawmakers boycotted the prime minister’s speech.

“We are told that we must now turn a blind eye to the repression because of foreign policy concerns, even though human rights are supposed to be at the center of our foreign policy,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said during a policy briefing she hosted with human rights advocates after Modi’s address, which she boycotted.

Among the most pressing criticisms against Modi’s rule is the criminal conviction against Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, who was sentenced to two years in prison for negatively using Modi’s surname during a political rally in 2019.

Advocates have also warned about freedom of speech and press freedoms in India in the wake of a tax raid on the offices of the BBC in India in March, and cases of journalists being jailed.

Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization that tracks democratic freedoms globally, rated India as “partly free” in its Freedom in the World report for 2023. The group claimed Modi’s government and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party “has presided over discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population.”

“The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations, and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi,” the group wrote.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, argued that a balance can be met between calling out human rights concerns while also supporting the U.S.-Indian relationship.

“It’s because we value our friendship with the Indian people that we also have to speak the truth about human rights abuses in India that are ongoing, well-documented by credible observers and deeply troubling,” he said at the policy briefing hosted by Omar.

“We don’t raise these issues to discredit India,” he continued. “We raise them because we know from our own experience that if human rights problems are not confronted and resolved, they will fester and deepen and undermine a country’s promise.”

Markey, of the USIP, said the Biden administration prepared for blowback over the decision to keep criticisms against Modi in private, but added that its excessive references to sharing appreciation for democratic governance did itself no favors.

“I think they went even farther than maybe they needed to do, for Indian consumption,” he said.  “They leaned into the shared-democracy issue, rather than pulling back from it,” Markey added. “They gave a lot of ammunition to those who would suggest that this is just pure hypocrisy at this point, rather than kind of edging around it.”

McEnery, who is now the executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, said the Biden administration needs to elevate defending democracy and human rights to an “interest” more than a value.

That would mean doing trade and economic deals centered on good governance principles, she said, or reforming arms and security relationships based on human rights.

“I saw this firsthand a lot, where many good, hard-working people inside every arm of the U.S. government, including the National Security Council, tried to make the case for democracy and human rights as a vital national security interest,” she said. “And I would see that shot down time and again by others throughout the government.”

Modi’s State Visit To US: Warm Welcome and Key Agreements Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Lawmakers expressed a warm reception as Prime Minister Modi addressed the House Chamber, with applause and a standing ovation. The Washington Post highlighted the grandeur of the state dinner held at the White House, featuring a photograph of Prime Minister Modi alongside President Biden and the Bidens. However, the accompanying article pointed out that the event lacked genuine enthusiasm.

The New York Times featured a front-page photograph of Prime Minister Modi greeting US lawmakers with a traditional ‘Namaste’ during his address to the US Congress. The caption noted that Modi deliberately avoided mentioning the names of Russia and China. Inside the newspaper, there was extensive coverage of the visit, including a photograph of President Biden placing his hand on Modi’s shoulder as they observed the ceremonial guard of honor, with the Washington Monument in the background. The report highlighted the joint initiatives in various fields, such as telecommunications, semiconductors, and artificial intelligence, which symbolized the deepening ties between the two nations.

The Financial Times captured a photograph of both leaders standing for the national anthems on the South Lawn of the White House. The caption emphasized the commitment to a “defining” relationship between the world’s two largest democracies. The report on the second page elaborated on the technology and defense agreements signed during the visit, which included the purchase of US spy drones. The FT report also highlighted the US’s strategic intent to strengthen its alliance with India and engage allies and partners in countering China.

In a separate article titled “US, India announce agreements on technology, defense,” it was reported that both President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced significant agreements. Among them was a joint venture to manufacture GE fighter jet engines in India and efforts to secure supply chains for crucial technologies like microchips. The article emphasized the importance of these agreements in enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Overall, the media coverage reflected the ceremonial aspects of the state visit, with grand gestures and elaborate dinners. The agreements signed between the US and India in areas like defense, technology, and space cooperation demonstrated the intention to strengthen ties and foster a strategic partnership.

Indian Prime Minister’s Visit to Washington Signals New Era in US-India Relations

The recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington has ushered in a new era in the relationship between the United States and India. During his visit, Modi successfully advanced a seemingly strong bond between the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies, emphasizing cooperation on various fronts such as investment and trade. However, despite the fruitful discussions, Modi stopped short of explicitly endorsing a formal alliance or taking a stance on pressing global issues like the conflict between Ukraine and Russia or the longstanding border disputes between India and China.

This outcome is likely to result in a complex and ambivalent relationship, characterized by ongoing discussions and negotiations on trade, investment, and diplomatic and military priorities. While there may be occasional challenges and disagreements, Modi’s visit to Washington was undoubtedly a highlight that sets the tone for the near future. President Biden encapsulated the positive atmosphere during a state dinner at the White House, raising a toast to “Two great nations, two great friends, and two great powers.” In response, Modi lauded the India-America relationship, stating, “You are soft-spoken, but when it comes to action, you are very strong.”

Despite the cordial exchanges, Modi carefully maintained India’s historic position of neutrality in the power dynamics of Asia. While highlighting the close ties between India and the United States across various domains, he tactfully indicated that India would not abandon its reliance on Russia for defense equipment, including fighter planes. In his address to a joint session of Congress, Modi emphasized, “Today India and the U.S. are working together in space and the seas, in science and semiconductors,” underscoring the vast potential for cooperation. Throughout his three-day visit, tangible agreements were reached between Indians and Americans, spanning areas such as jet engines and supply chains.

President Biden, mindful of India’s relationship with Russia, focused on the overall potential of the India-American partnership, emphasizing their collective efforts in unlocking a shared future. Following their one-on-one conversation at the White House, Biden expressed optimism, stating, “Together we’re unlocking the shared future.” Both leaders, while celebrating the progress made, carefully navigated the complexities of global alliances and India’s strategic considerations, signaling that the path ahead for US-India relations will continue to be nuanced and multifaceted.

Biden emphasized the growing defense partnership and economic ties between India and America, stating, “We are growing our defense partnership with more exercises, and trade between our countries has doubled over the past decade.” Additionally, Indian firms were announced to be making significant investments totaling over $2 billion.

Addressing the sensitive issue of human rights, both Biden and Modi approached it with subtlety, taking into account the criticisms raised against Modi’s past. Biden acknowledged the value of universal human rights, highlighting that Indian-Americans of various faiths and backgrounds were pursuing the American dream.

Modi, while discussing the importance of negotiations and diplomacy for peace, aimed to reassure skeptics about India’s commitment to democracy and equal treatment of its citizens, irrespective of religious, cultural, or linguistic differences. He firmly stated, “Democracy is in our DNA, democracy is in our spirit, democracy runs in our veins. Democracy can deliver. There is no space for discrimination.”

Despite accusations of intimidation, political repression, and censorship of opposition parties and journalists during Modi’s tenure, he passionately defended Indian democracy in his speech to Congress. However, several members, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, boycotted his speech, criticizing Modi’s human rights record.

Modi, while emphasizing the shared values between India and the United States, described India as the “mother of democracy” and highlighted the country’s diversity. He focused on projecting himself as a unifying figure leading India towards a peaceful path in a turbulent world, calling for dialogue and diplomacy to prevent bloodshed and suffering.

Notably absent from Modi’s remarks were explicit mentions of India’s caste differences, poverty, economic disparities, or the ongoing border clashes with China in the Himalayas. While he acknowledged “dark clouds of confrontation” hanging over the Indo-Pacific, he emphasized the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, free from strategic leveraging of power and the need to combat terrorism.

Modi’s speeches aimed to present a unified vision based on the bond between India and America as imperfect democracies, evoking emotional responses and applause in Congress and the White House. He expressed optimism, stating, “We come from different histories, but we are united by a common vision. Democracy will shine brighter, and the world will be a better place.”

Biden emphasized the strengthening defense partnership and economic ties, saying, “We are growing our defense partnership with more exercises, and trade between our countries has doubled over the past decade.”

Modi defended Indian democracy, stating, “Democracy is in our DNA, democracy is in our spirit, democracy runs in our veins. Democracy can deliver. There is no space for discrimination.”

Modi highlighted the shared values between India and the United States, declaring, “We come from different histories, but we are united by a common vision. Democracy will shine brighter, and the world will be a better place.”

We Stand Together To Fight BJP In 2024 Lok Sabha Elections: Opposition Parties In India

Opposition parties convened in Patna, emphasizing the upcoming general election as a battle between “democracy and dictatorship.” The meeting aimed to present a unified front against the BJP, with a focus on setting aside past biases and working together. While no joint statement or seat-sharing formula was announced, the commitment to jointly combat the ruling party remained strong.

Highlighting their commitment to collaboration, the Opposition planned several future meetings, with the Congress scheduled to host the next gathering in Shimla around mid-July. Despite a few tense moments, particularly between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the overall atmosphere was cordial. Many opposition leaders urged the Congress to exhibit generosity, while the party, in turn, adopted a more reserved approach, prioritizing listening over speaking.

The meeting commenced with opening remarks from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, leader of the Janata Dal (United), and his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) colleague Lalu Prasad. Kumar expressed confidence that as the election draws nearer in May 2024, more political parties would join their alliance. Prasad, who made his first appearance at a political gathering following a recent kidney transplant, called on the Congress to demonstrate magnanimity and suggested that the dominant force in each state should be given precedence—a sentiment echoed later by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav.

Although Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge was encouraged to speak as the leader of the largest party present, he opted to listen attentively and reserved his remarks for the conclusion of the meeting. Sharad Pawar, the patriarch of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), expressed his desire for a joint statement to be issued, but other parties felt it was premature to do so at this stage. Arvind Kejriwal advocated for embracing the motto of “nation first, party second,” urging flexibility from each party.

Nitish Kumar, according to sources, stated, “As we edge closer to May 2024, many more political parties will join this block.”

The conversation then shifted towards the much-anticipated discussion on electoral arrangements. M.K. Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), emphasized that there cannot be a “single formula for seat sharing across the country.” He explained that it would vary from state to state based on the political dynamics in each region. This viewpoint was supported by Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, who deemed the idea of having one common candidate against the BJP in all 543 seats as “impractical.”

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal and leader of the Trinamool Congress, urged the opposition to strive for a “no vote to BJP” approach while being mindful that the fight should not devolve into a “BJP versus All” scenario. She emphasized that it should be framed as “BJP vs People of India.”

Rahul Gandhi, the former president of the Congress, addressed three key points towards the end of the meeting. He referred to Sharad Pawar’s comments, citing the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of the NCP, Congress, and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra as an example of how the opposition can overcome past differences and ideological issues. Gandhi emphasized that the Congress party would not be bound by its past preferences and dislikes, as unity among the opposition should begin with a clean slate. He also highlighted the BJP’s current monopoly over finances, institutions, and modes of communication, stressing the need for the opposition to build a common narrative to counter this dominance.

Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), emphasized that the opposition must prioritize addressing the issue of economic distress. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar criticized the BJP, stating that the party in power at the center is not acting in the national interest.

During a joint press conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Kumar condemned the BJP, stating that the party is not working in the national interest. Banerjee declared that the opposition would work relentlessly to stall the BJP’s progress, even if it meant facing challenges and adversity. She affirmed three resolutions: unity among the opposition, collective participation in the election against the BJP, and the organization of the next meeting in Shimla. She concluded by saying, “History has started from here.”

Mallikarjun Kharge mentioned that the next meeting would involve further discussions on region-specific political scenarios. Former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah expressed concern that the very idea of India is under threat. Mufti stated that democracy and various institutions in the country are under attack, highlighting that what started in Kashmir is now affecting the entire nation. Abdullah expressed hope for free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Left leaders D. Raja, Sitaram Yechury, and Dipankar Bhattacharya echoed the sentiment of moving forward together and fighting unitedly to reclaim the essence of the Republic. Similarly, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, leader of the Shiv Sena, stated that the first step towards a joint effort against the BJP has begun in Patna. They expressed confidence in achieving their goal through unified efforts.

Hemant Soren, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Akhilesh Yadav, and Lalu Prasad also addressed the media, highlighting that the meeting was the initial step towards their shared objective.

M.K. Stalin elucidated that “there can be no ‘single formula for seat sharing across the country'” and that it will vary based on the political equation in each state.

U.S -India Ties Represent The ‘Defining Partnership Of This Century: Modi During Address To US Congress

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a rousing welcome as he delivered a speech to Congress on Thursday, June 22, 203 celebrating the growing ties and shared ambitions of the world’s two largest democracies.

Modi made the rare address to a joint meeting of Congress on the same day President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted him for a state dinner, an honor reserved for the closest allies of the U.S.

Picture : TheUNN

“Now, when our era is at a crossroads, I am here to speak about our calling for this century,” Modi told lawmakers, drawing applause in the House chamber. “I can relate to the battles of passion, persuasion and policy. I can understand the debate of ideas and ideology. But I am delighted to see you come together today to celebrate the bond between the world’s two great democracies: India and the United States. I agree with President Biden that this is a defining partnership of this century,” he said. “Because it serves a larger purpose. Democracy, demography and destiny give us that purpose.”

While Modi has faced criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and advocates over human rights and his country’s reluctance to break with Russia in its war in Ukraine, the Biden administration and leaders of both major parties are unified in their belief that India is a vital ally for Washington’s top foreign policy goal — containing the rise of China — and a partner on defense, technology and energy.

Modi — who has dealt with violent clashes with China on the border it shares with India — visited at a time of rising U.S.-China tensions. “The dark clouds of coercion and confrontation are casting their shadow in the Indo-Pacific,” he told Congress. “The stability of the region has become one of the central concerns of our partnership. We share a vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Picture : TheUNN

“Now, the United States has become one of our most important defense partners,” he said to a standing ovation from lawmakers. Modi alluded to the “millions” of Americans of Indian origin, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who sat on the dais with him alongside House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Others in attendance were Indian American members of Congress such as the Progressive Caucus chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Biden surrogate; and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., the ranking member of the House’s select committee on China.

Before the speech, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, the co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, introduced a bill to add India to the list of favored nations for U.S. arm sales under the Arms Export Control Act, alongside NATO members and Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and South Korea.

“In the face of rising global authoritarianism, it is more important than ever for our countries — as the world’s two largest democracies — to respect and reaffirm the shared values that are the foundation of both of our countries, and to bolster democracy, universal human rights, tolerance and pluralism, and equal opportunity for all citizens,” Warner said in a statement.

Part of their goal is to cultivate closer U.S.-India ties that would help New Delhi break its dependence on Moscow for military equipment. The senators hope to add it to the annual defense authorization bill.

“We need to continue to encourage India to align itself with the democracies in the world and not the autocracies,” Cornyn said. “And obviously, history is a big influence here, because since — what, 1947? — the United States has been more aligned with Pakistan, and India was then forced in the arms of Russia. And obviously, they’re very dependent, still, on Russian weapons.”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, called on Biden to “prioritize the elimination of India’s significant barriers to U.S. trade and investment on the Indian subcontinent.”

The invitation for Modi to speak on Capitol Hill was signed by the top Democrat and the top Republican in both the House and the Senate, who mounted a show of bipartisanship to praise “the enduring friendship between the United States and India.”

Modi told the Congress members who gave multiple standing ovations: “Today, we stand at a new dawn in our relationship that will not only shape the destiny of our two nations, but also that of the world.”

India Rejects Joining NATO, Insists on Countering Chinese Aggression Independently

India has clarified that it has no plans to join the Western-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi marking the completion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar stated that the military alliance is “not suitable for India.” NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance comprising 31 member states – 29 European and two North American – with its primary objective being the protection of its members’ freedom and security through political and military means.

India’s critical stance comes just weeks after a prominent Congressional Committee suggested enhancing NATO Plus by incorporating India into the group. Currently consisting of NATO Plus 5, this security arrangement unites NATO with five aligned nations – Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea – in an effort to strengthen global defense cooperation. Including India would enable smooth intelligence sharing among these countries, allowing India to access cutting-edge military technology more quickly.

Despite these potential benefits, Jaishankar dismissed the proposal, stating, “NATO template doesn’t apply to India.” Notably, this suggestion from the United States emerged shortly before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to the country.

Why India should join NATO?

As per the US perspective, India should join NATO to protect its borders from neighboring China and bolster global security by countering the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Select Committee emphasized that “winning the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring the security of Taiwan demands the United States strengthen ties to our allies and security partners, including India.” By incorporating India into NATO Plus security arrangements, the US and India could build upon their close partnership to enhance global security and deter CCP aggression across the Indo-Pacific region.

What does India believe?

India, on the other hand, believes that it does not need to join the alliance, as it is capable of countering any Chinese aggression on its own. This is currently possible given the separation between the two countries by the Himalayan region.

Furthermore, China is presently grappling with a looming economic crisis. Recent datashowed a decline in China’s exports and imports, suggesting an economic rebound following the end of anti-virus controls is slowing due to weakened global demand and higher interest rates. China’s global trade surplus has also narrowed.

The US Congressional Committee recommends that the United States “should strengthen the NATO Plus arrangement to include India” and “strengthen diplomatic deterrence by supporting Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.” Additionally, they suggest amending the TAIPEI Act to ensure the US and its allies publicly oppose any attempts by the CCP to manipulate the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty through the misuse of UN Resolution 2758 or the US’ One China Policy.

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