BBC Film On Modi

Govt Blocks YouTube Vids, Tweets Sharing BBC Film On Modi

Multiple YouTube videos sharing the first episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question” has been blocked as per the directions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, sources said on Saturday.

Along with YouTube videos, the Centre has also directed Twitter to block over 50 tweets containing links to the concerned YouTube videos.

YouTube and Twitter complied with the government after directions were reportedly issued by Secretary, of Information, and Broadcasting on Friday using the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021.

UK’s National broadcaster British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a two-part series attacking PM Modi’s tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister during the Gujarat riots of 2002. The documentary sparked outrage and was removed from select platforms.

On Thursday, India denounced the controversial BBC documentary series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and described it as a “propaganda piece” that is designed to push a discredited narrative.

“We think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias and the lack of objectivity and frankly continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi during a weekly media briefing.

Even though the documentary was not made available in India by BBC in India, some YouTube channels appear to have uploaded it to promote an anti-India agenda.

Sources said that YouTube has also been instructed to block the video if it is again uploaded on its platform. They added Twitter has also been directed to identify and block the tweets containing the link to the video on other platforms.

This decision was made after top government officials from across several ministries examined the documentary and found it to be an attempt to cast aspersions on the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India and sow divisions among various Indian communities.

The sources added that the documentary was accordingly found to be undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign States. (ANI)

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Elections In J-K

Elections To Be Held In J-K After Voters’ List Compilation: Shah

In a major announcement, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said that the elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir will “full transparency” as soon as the work of compiling the voters’ list is completed.

Shah said that manner in which delimitation has been done in the region, representatives of the people’s choice will be elected.
“As soon as the work of compiling the voters’ list is completed, elections will be held in J&K with full transparency. Earlier the delimitation was done in such a way that only the representatives from the three families would be elected, no matter what you do. The delimitation that Election Commission has done, your own representatives will win the elections and rule,” Shah said while addressing a rally in Baramulla on the last day of his three-day visit to J-K.

Assembly polls to elect the government in the Union Territory are due since the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019. The Centre while abrogating the special status of the region, had said that the status of state will be given to Jammu and Kashmir at the appropriate time and the elections will be held after delimitation.

The orders of the Delimitation Commission were effective from May 20 with the Centre choosing the day for the move using powers of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

As per the final Delimitation Order, out of the 90 Assembly Constituencies (ACs) in Jammu and Kashmir, 43 will be part of the Jammu region and 47 for the Kashmir region keeping in view the provisions of Section 9(1)(a) of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 60(2)(b) of Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019.

The Delimitation Commission was entrusted with the work of delimiting the Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of Part-V of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 (34 of 2019) and the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002(33 of 2002).

Earlier today, Shah chaired a security review meeting with senior officials in Srinagar.

J-K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and other senior officials were present at the meeting including J-K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, top officials of the Army, paramilitary forces, state police and civil administration.

Before concluding his visit to the Union Territory, Shah will also launch and lay foundation stones for various development projects in Srinagar around 3.30 pm.

Earlier on Tuesday, the home minister visited the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra where he offered prayers. Notably, this was Shah’s first visit to the holy shrine after being appointed the Home Minister of the Modi government 2.0. His visit, during which he was accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister Jitendra Singh, coincided with the ninth day of the ongoing Navratri festival. (ANI)

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Mehbooba Alleges House Arrest, Police Says She Is Free To Travel

Amid Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday claimed that she was under house arrest and was prevented from attending a wedding in Pattan town in the Baramulla district. Srinagar Police, however, refuted the allegation.

“While HM is going around Kashmir beating drums of normalcy, I am under house arrest for simply wanting to visit Pattan for a worker’s wedding. If an ex-CM’s fundamental rights can be suspended so easily, one can’t even imagine the plight of a commoner,” Mufti wrote on Twitter.

Responding to Mehbooba Mufti’s tweet, Srinagar Police posted on its Twitter handle: “It is clarified that no restriction of any kind travel to Pattan, travel to Pattan was at 1 pm as intimated to us. The picture tweeted by her is of the inside of the gate with its own lock of residents who stay in the bungalow. There is no lock or any restrictions. She is free to travel.”

Mehbooba Mufti then responded with the tweet, “I was informed last night by SP Baramulla Rayees Mohammad Bhat that I wouldn’t be allowed to travel to Pattan. Today Jammu and Kashmir police have themselves locked my gates from inside & are now lying through their teeth. Sad that law enforcement agencies are brazenly trying to cover up their tracks.”

Amit Shah arrived in Jammu on Tuesday and offered prayers at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra.

This is the second visit by Amit Shah to Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government in August 2019.

Meanwhile, Shah met people from different communities including Gujjar-Bakarwal, Rajput, Pahari, and Jammu Sikh Community on Tuesday.

On the second day of his visit today (October 5) Shah held a meeting with senior officials to review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

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Modi Replaced Stones With Computers, Jobs: Shah In J-K

Highlighting the Modi government’s development push in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Tuesday that the Centre had given computers and employment to youth who earlier held stones in their hands.

The Union home minister, who launched development projects of around Rs 1,960 crore in Jammu, was referring to past incidents of stone-pelting which would be frequently reported from the valley.
“After the abrogation of Article 370, people in J-K got benefits from various government schemes. Democracy is strengthened when people welcome the change. It is important to identify the three families of J-K which nurtured separatism instead of development,” Shah said.

He said the central government gave computers and employment to the youth who earlier held stones in their hands.

“Earlier there were stone-pelting incidents. But, no such incidents are there now. We have to understand the change that has come now. We identified those in the administration who were supporting terrorism and rooted them out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken out ‘Jamhooriyat’ (democracy) from three families in Jammu and Kashmir and has taken it to the people through 30,000 Panchayati raj members,” said Shah.

In the 70 years since independence, the Home Minister said only Rs 15,000 crore were invested in Jammu and Kashmir, but since 2019, an investment of about Rs 56,000 crore has been brought in the erstwhile state.

Shah further said that the youth of J-K will benefit greatly from tourism. He said 50 lakh tourists have visited Jammu and 22 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir in recent months.

“Earlier the delimitation was done only for the benefit of three families. For the first time post Independence, there has been a real delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir now, due to which the people of the hilly region have got their rights,” Shah added.

Shah, who is on a 3-day visit to J-K, reached Jammu Monday evening after which he met people from various communities including Gujjar-Bakarwal, Rajput, Pahari, and Sikhs.

He began his day on Tuesday with a visit to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra where he offered prayers. Notably, this was Shah’s first visit to the holy shrine after being appointed the Home Minister of the Modi government 2.0.

His visit, during which he was accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister Jitendra Singh, coincided with the ninth day of the ongoing Navratri festival.

Shah is slated to hold a number of crucial meetings including the ones regarding the security situation in the region on Wednesday. He will review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir at a meeting that is slated to be held at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar.

LG Manoj Sinha, top officials of the Army, paramilitary forces, state police, and civil administration will take part in this high-level meeting expected to begin at 10 am tomorrow.

Before concluding his visit to the Union Territory, Shah will also launch and lay foundation stones for various development projects in Srinagar tomorrow afternoon. (ANI)

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Akhilesh Politicising Kanpur Acccident

Akhilesh Is Politicising Kanpur Accident: BJP MP

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh Ashok Bajpai on Monday slammed SP chief Akhilesh Yadav for saying that the Kanpur accident was due to bad roads and added that instead of expressing grief, he was politicizing the incident.

Speaking to ANI, Ashok Bajpai said, “Instead of expressing grief over the Kanpur accident, Akhilesh Yadav is playing politics on it and I think it does not suit him.” The accident was unfortunate.”
Bajpai further slammed Akhilesh Yadav and said that during Yadav’s government, the entire road had potholes.

“During Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh there were no potholes in the road, the entire road was covered with potholes. It is now that the conditions of roads have improved and are one of the best in the state,” the BJP MP told ANI.

BJP Upper House MP from Uttar Pradesh further told ANI, “I feel pity for Akhilesh Yadav because most roads have been constructed under the Bharatiya Janata Party government, whether it is the government of Uttar Pradesh or the central government. Be it the construction of national highways or expressways or local roads, such large-scale roads were never built after independence”.

“I would like to inform Akhilesh Yadav that special attention has been paid to the quality of the construction of the road during BJP rule,” he added

Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday attacked the ruling BJP over road accidents in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that the Kanpur tragedy was a result of the poor condition of roads in the state.

In a statement issued from the SP headquarters on Sunday, Akhilesh alleged that the road accident victims are not even getting ambulances under the BJP government. He also alleged that the injured in the Kanpur incident, in which 26 people lost their lives, were taken to hospital on motorcycles.

Akhilesh said that roads across UP are in shambles and are marred with potholes. (ANI)

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National Logistics Policy

PM Launches National Logistics Policy, Wants Better Speed

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched the National Logistics Policy in the national capital which, he said, was an important step towards the “making of a developed India”, while adding that the policy has come with a “new energy for every sector”.

In his address, PM Modi said, “In the Amrit Kaal, the country has taken an important step towards the making of a developed India. The echo of Make in India and India becoming self-reliant is everywhere. India is setting big export targets and is also fulfilling them. India is emerging as a manufacturing hub. In such a situation, the National Logistics Policy has brought new energy for all sectors.”

“India is emerging as a manufacturing hub. The world has accepted India as a leader in manufacturing. The National Logistics Policy has helped the manufacturing sector,” he added.

The Prime Minister called the policy a solution for many problems and said that it would lead to improvements of “all our systems”.

“There has been a constant effort to find solutions for fast last-mile delivery, resolution of transportation-related challenges, for saving time and money of our manufacturers and industries, all these subjects. The national logistics policy is a form of its solution. I believe that for the improvement of all our systems, there will be coordination between various units of the government working in these fields with a holistic approach. It will result in the delivery of the speed that we want to achieve,” he said.

The logistics policy is aimed at bringing down the logistic costs and improving the competitiveness of domestic goods in the global market.

India spends around 13 to 14 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on logistics costs. While countries like Germany and Japan, which are known for their developed logistics infrastructure and systems, spend just around eight to nine per cent of the GDP on logistics costs.

The logistic sector has more than 20 government agencies, 40 Partner Government Agencies (PGA), 37 export promotion councils, 500 certifications, over 10,000 commodities and a $160-billion market.

According to the World Bank Logistics Index of 2018, India is ranked 44th in logistics costs, far behind countries like the United States and China which are at the 14th and 26th positions, respectively. (ANI)

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My Years In Parliament House

I have never been a lawmaker, but am seized by nostalgia now that India’s Parliament Complex is set to go, replaced by another. A parliamentary correspondent for long, I am aware I am not breaching any rules, traditions or Privileges that govern the temple of the world’s largest democracy. I only exercise my right as a citizen, and a voter.

One assumed that members and ministers, parties and governments, come and go, but parliament’s surroundings and its ethos that have evolved over decades will continue forever. But that is not to be.

Designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, begun a century back and completed in 1927, it is set for retro-fitting, whatever it eventually means, to accommodate offices and other facilities, allowing more functional space.

There seems little consulting and debate on why it is necessary to demolish what is existing. It is expected to come up, rather hastily, by 2022, to mark 75 years of Independence.

Something is absent. Bhoomi Pujan or ground-breaking was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Neither the President who constitutes the Parliament nor the Vice President who is Chairman of the Rajya Sabha were part of the ceremony.

Times are a-changing in India. The plea that the existing structure is very Indian has fallen on deaf ears. It is based on Chausath Yogini Temple in Morena, Madhya Pradesh that Lutyens visited in early 1900s.

But old is gold in some other democracies. The United States Congress premises like the Senate Hall, are over 250 years old. The British Parliament building, over 400 years old, is under repairs and will reopened after five years. These structures were never replaced; only refurbished. 

There are other, equally modern, ways to accommodate more members and offices. An expansion rather than a hugely expensive (Rs 971 crore or $131 million) demolish-and-rebuild course would have sufficed.

ALSO READ: Foundation Laid For New Parliament

The new complex will be bigger, and more modern, we are told. Compared to the present 545-odd, it will have 888 seats in the Lok Sabha, with an option to increase it to 1,224. When is delimitation due? Granting that India’s is the biggest, which other democracy has such large number of lawmakers?

As plans unfold and get concrete shape, literally, the present round structure supported on imposing Gothic pillars will probably go. Incidentally, their number used to be a ‘difficult’ general knowledge (GK) quiz for students and those appearing for competitive examinations. Why, just walking past them has helped lawmakers and officials in frail health keep fit!

A model of new Parliament building

One is not sure if the new 21st century structure will keep the numerous statues and portraits that abound, from Chandragupta Maurya (321-296 BC) to the sages, saints and social reformers down the ages, to contemporary freedom fighters and pioneer parliamentarians. One can only hope they will be stored away safely, and restored with respect due to them.

For the uninitiated, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the two Houses are where the real action occurs. Issues are debated and legislations are discussed and passed. Before what media report as ‘pandemonium’ became a rule more than exception, attending it was educating. Opposition extracted information during Question Hour despite ministers’ efforts to hold it back.

I am lucky to have reported some of the most memorable speeches. Like Bikaner Maharajah Karni Singh opposing, and Jammu and Kashmir Maharajah Karan Singh supporting the abolition of the privy purses of erstwhile princely states. N K P Salve attacking incumbent premier Morarji Desai for alleged favours to latter’s son. George Fernandes defending the Desai Government, only to switch sides within hours.

Representing a thoroughly depleted opposition, Madhu Dandavate paid a moving tribute to an assassinated Indira Gandhi, mourning that while country had a new premier, Rajiv will never get another mother.

There was no glory, but certainly grace, in defeat the way V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee went down after defending their doomed governments.

There were orators like Hiren Mukherjee and Nath Pai who excelled in English and Vajpayee, in Hindi. Sadly, the era of oratory and orators who spoke without malice is long over.

Equally sadly, Parliament’s new plan does not provide for the Central Hall. It is tantamount to kicking off the ladder on which parliamentary democracy has climbed. There seems no place for such sentiments, anyway.

ALSO READ: Modi Govt’s Contempt For Parliament

Jawaharlal Nehru made his “Tryst With Destiny” speech here at the midnight hour heralding the birth of independent India. The Constitution was debated here. After each Lok Sabha election, Leaders of winning party or parties in alliance were elected here.

If exceptions are to be remembered, Acharya Kripalani and Jayaprakash Narayan chose Morarji over others in1977. Initially chosen, Devi Lal, to everyone’s surprise, put his turban on V P Singh’s head in 1989. And in 2004, Sonia Gandhi received applause and rosebuds, but eventually listened to her “inner voice” and passed on the premiership to Manmohan Singh.

Central Hall was where foreign dignitaries, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among them, addressed Indian parliamentarians. There is no other place where the President of the Republic opens the Budget session each February.

Central Hall has been the veritable gallery of greats of Indian democracy. Where and how 25 portraits from Mahatma Gandhi to Tagore and Netaji Bose to six of the former prime ministers and many opposition stalwarts will find their places? Will the 21st century Parliament leave behind those hallowed traditions of the twentieth? Is the ‘restoration’ going to be selective, as those opposing the new complex fear, with ample justification?

Beyond these ‘formalities’, Central Hall displaced parliament’s “human face”. Sad, again, that this must be talked in the past tense. Ministers and Members would meet here informally and sort out many things that they would be otherwise rigid about; where delicate issues and even stalled business were resolved.

Dubbed India’s most privileged coffee house – also the cheapest – Central Hall was where the media was allowed to join the lawmakers’ adda, to talk informally, gain perspectives, and gather political gossip.

There was mutual respect, even bonhomie. One could see Mamata Banerjee standing respectfully before Somnath Chatterjee who she had defeated in an earlier election. You could discuss with Sharad Pawar a no-no issue like farmers’ suicide in Maharashtra, or cinema with Sushma Swaraj or cricket with Arun Jaitley – even watch an ongoing cricket match on the two TV sets installed, over coffee and toast-butter.

What transpired there could be reported, but without attributing it to the place, unless one wanted to flaunt access to the high and mighty – and boast, as some scribes do, “Oh, I told so-and-so…”

Perhaps, it is just as well that Central Hall will be a thing of the past. Old world charm and some grace are bound to go with it. Like my witnessing opposition stalwart Chandra Shekhar fondly asking Chaudhary Randhir Singh, his erstwhile Congress colleague, “Aap ko Governor banva dein?” Three days later came the announcement: Chaudhary was Governor of Sikkim.

The writer can be reached at

Modi’s Gujarat Model Blown Apart By A Virus

How myths collapse when faced with reality! When Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014, his meteoric rise from chief minister to the national political stage was attributed essentially to the success of his Gujarat model of development which was touted to have transformed his home state into a living paradise. But six years later as India battles the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gujarat model of development is unravelling.

The fancy infrastructure in the state’s main urban centres, the uninterrupted power supply, the extensive road network and the flow of private investment have proved to be of little help in handling the rising number of novel coronavirus cases. 

For the record, Gujarat is among the top three states along with Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu which have the highest number of corona infections and deaths in the country. Till May 23, Gujarat had recorded a total of 13,300 coronavirus cases with a seven-day growth rate of 7.66 per cent and over 800 fatalities, second only to Maharashtra which tops the list. 

ALSO READ: What Rest Of India May Learn From Kerala

Unable to handle the corona crisis, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has consistently blamed the spread on the large number of Gujarati Muslims who travelled to Delhi in early March to attend a religious meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat, “a missionary movement”.

While this finger-pointing helps push the Bharatiya Janata Party’s communal agenda, the truth is that Gujarat is currently paying the price for its poor public health system. It is an acknowledged fact that successive state governments did not invest adequately in public health facilities. With the state showing little interest in this vital sector, it has been open season for private players whose medical services are more expensive and, therefore, beyond the reach of the poor. 

If Rupani is struggling today to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi has to share the blame as he did little to ramp up the rickety health care infrastructure in the state during the 13 years he was chief minister.   

ALSO READ: Statism In The Time Of Pandemic

The budgetary allocation for the health sector in Gujarat can only be described as meagre. The state’s outlay for health and family welfare sector was Rs.923 crore for 2020-21, down from Rs.10,000 crore spent in 2018-19. These official figures tell their own story. Even states like Rajasthan and Bihar, which are not exactly known for their high-quality health infrastructure, have higher budgetary allocations for the public health care facilities.

In that case, what exactly is the famous Gujarat model of development all about?  This model is essentially focused on building infrastructure – from roads and highways to tall impressive buildings, and attracting foreign and domestic investments. During the years when Modi was chief minister, Vibrant Gujarat summits, were organised every alternate year to attract private investment to the state. This high-profile event was chalked up as Modi’s personal achievement as it brought in private investment to the state. This open invitation to industrialists to set up shop in Gujarat also won him the support of the corporate sector which literally went out on a limb to support Modi’s candidature as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial face in 2014.

But in the process of building infrastructure, encouraging industrial growth and promising ease of doing business, Modi failed to pay sufficient attention to human development which clearly did not figure as a priority area for him. The result was that while Gujarat made impressive gains on the economic front and registered high growth rates, its social indicators lagged far behind. 

ALSO READ: How Covid-19 Will Change Our Lives

The economic strides made by Gujarat were flouted as a success story, worthy of replication across the country. However, this was only half the story. It failed to tell you that the economic gains had not percolated down to benefit the larger mass of people and had instead been cornered by a small affluent minority. The vast majority continued to live in poor conditions with little access to quality health care or hygiene standards. Whether it is the health of children or the mortality rates of adults, Gujarat does not boast of a good record.  

Then again the Gujarat model has not been kind to the large army of migrant workers who have travelled from as far as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar Odisha and Rajasthan to work in the state’s industrial units or in the unorganised sectors. Since most of the migrants are poor and semi-literate and, unable to speak up for their rights. 

If it was not for the corona crisis, the plight of these migrant workers would have gone unnoticed. They have been living and working in pathetic conditions with the host state failing to acknowledge their contribution to Gujarat’s economy. Denied their wages during the lockdown and no proper food and shelter, angry migrant workers in Surat and Vadodara have staged angry protests, which have even turned violent on occasion, to demand food and a passage back home to their native village.

And if it was not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the myth about the Gujarat model of development would not have been busted. It took a miniscule virus to expose the underbelly of Gujrat model.

‘Traffic At Shaheen Bagh A Mess But A Small Price For…’

Mohammad Atif, a 24-year-old M Tech student who stays in Shaheen Bagh, says the cause to save our Constitution is bigger than the minor inconvenience for the local commuters in the locality

I belong to Lucknow but have been staying in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area for several months at my cousin’s house. I came here to complete my M. Tech dissertation which coincided with the eruption of Jamia protests and the aftermath. And what a time it has been to be in Shaheen Bagh!

I had to visit my institute in South Delhi daily when the protests were in full swing. I did have to take a longer route to reach because of the arterial 2.5 km stretch at Shaheen Bagh being closed. The protest site isn’t disturbing people as much as the excessive blockades /barriers put in place by the administration even when some feel they are not needed.

ALSO READ: ‘Govt Must Talk To Protesters’

Even newspapers/websites are now reporting that a few of the alternative routes didn’t even need to be blocked and is causing problems to people unnecessarily, especially those travelling to and from Noida, Sarita Vihar, Kalindi Kunj, Jamia, and an alternative route to Faridabad.

Indeed travelling into and out of Shaheen Bagh is even more cumbersome for a daily commuter. For me too, with petrol prices remaining consistently high, travelling the extra stretch to reach my institute on a bike has increased the budget for sure, though not considerably.

ALSO READ: ‘Shaheen Inspired Kadru Bagh In Ranchi’

Many people who earlier used to get picked up and dropped at their respective houses for their offices in Noida now have to take the Metro as the cabs can’t enter inside Shaheen Bagh. This might be a difficult thing, especially for women who get dropped during the night. Moreover, travelling in the Metro also cause a dent in many people’s pockets. Middle class might not feel the pinch as much, but the lower income group for whom every penny is important, is finding it more difficult.

However, most locals are considering it as their contribution to nation-building and don’t mind suffering a little bit if the protest makes their voices reach the powers that be. Ambulances and school buses are moving easily though.

WATCH: ‘Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

The protest site is near the commercial hub of Shaheen Bagh, so many a shop, outlet etc. have been closed for two months now. It is affecting the livelihoods of people, but again they feel that they are contributing in saving the Constitution and all that it stands for. We just hope that a solution is reached soon and the government initiates a dialogue with the protesters.

There are a few residences near the protest site and I wonder how they are handling all the sounds from loudspeakers day in and day out, though I have been told and have witnessed too ke protest bahut tameez se ki ja rahi hai. Poora khayal rakha ja raha hai ke kisi ko koi pareshani na ho (The protests are being done in a very nice manner and care is being taken that nobody suffers because of the protests).

Union Budget 2020: A Missed Opportunity To Tackle Unemployment

Continued lack of employment opportunities for India’s youth has already led to disaffection among them and that is evident partly from the manner in which student unrest (albeit triggered by the Modi regime’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act) has spread. Half of India’s 1.3 billion people are below the age of 25. This year, it is expected that the average age of an Indian will be 29 years (for China, it will be 37). As education levels rise for young Indians so do their aspiration for good jobs and better standard of living. If employment rates don’t rise their hopes will not be met.

That could be a ticking time bomb. Many believe the countdown to an explosion has already begun. Educated urban youth in India have readily joined the movement against the Citizenship Act, which is being seen as discriminating against the largest minority community in India, Muslims, who constitute more than 14% of Indians. The youth’s opposition to the Act must be seen holistically. It is a symptom of the greater disaffection that young Indians feel. Even as the number of those who graduate from schools and colleges increases, their prospects of landing desirable jobs have diminished. Before long this could be a problem instead of the demographic dividend that a youthful India could benefit from.

In that context, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget has missed a big opportunity. The annual Budget in India has always been a mega economic event in the country. Finance ministers, regardless of which political party they represent, use the exercise, which ought to be a routine balancing of the government’s expenditure and revenue streams, not only as an opportunity to announce the government’s economic policies but also as a podium to offer sops and incentives to different sections of the population—an exercise that is seen as a means to garner electoral support from voters.

ALSO WATCH: Youth Slam Govt Over Lack Of Jobs

As a consequence, the media hype gets heightened and the Budget’s announcement in Parliament becomes a red-letter day for newspapers, TV channels and other publications. In recent years, as the Indian economy has become less regulated; tax structures have become simplified; and government controls on different economic sectors have loosened, the Budget’s importance has declined. It is no longer an event that offers governments a chance for grandstanding or making big announcements for changing policies or ushering in new economic strategies.

The Indian economy has been ailing in recent months. It is probably at the worst low point that has been witnessed in over a decade. Last year, GDP growth rate slumped to 4.8% from 2018’s 6.8%; prices across many categories of products, including food, rose; and sales of consumer products stagnated. Industries, including automobiles, white goods, and other categories held off investment plans as inventories of unsold products built up. The youth—65% of Indians are under 35—were impacted adversely too as estimates of the unemployment rate rose to nearly 8% at the end of 2019.

ALSO WATCH: Nothing In This Budget To Create Jobs

In her Budget, Sitharaman announced a series of incentives—personal income tax cuts; bank deposit insurance; and some infrastructure investments—but none of them were designed specifically to increase the potential for generating more employment. Most of India’s youth are based in rural parts of the country. Nearly 66% of Indians live in villages. And while 44% of Indians are employed in agriculture, the sector accounts for a shade over 15% of GDP. Labour productivity in the sector is low and many Indians are what economists call “disguised unemployed”—that is they work on farms but don’t add anything in terms of incremental output.

In fact, it has been argued that if rural youth, ostensibly working on overcrowded farms, get the opportunity to move to other sectors and find work, the productivity of Indian farms could actually go up. But there lies the rub. Where are those alternative jobs? India’s Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, and some of his ministerial colleagues have often stated that India’s youth have opportunities galore in the informal sector—to be small entrepreneurs who are self-employed. Those are facetious statements, designed more to divert attention from the real problem of unemployment than to alleviate it. Otherwise, how does one explain the phenomenon of post graduates and graduates applying in thousands for menial posts such as that of a government department’s peon or a municipality’s sweeper?

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Yet, there may be a kernel of an idea for employment generation in those statements. If the finance minister, in her Budget, had devised incentives for unemployed youth or other budding entrepreneurs to set up small businesses—through liberal grants of seed capital; subsidised land for building small manufacturing or trading establishments; and facilitation for marketing and distribution of products and services—that could lead to heightened entrepreneurial activities. Such incentives, if properly targeted in the rural and semi-urban parts of the country where agriculture or farm-related enterprises could move the rural sector up the value curve, it could see the blooming of millions of tiny, small, and even medium enterprises. In turn each of these enterprises could generate employment—not on a large industrial scale—but in modest numbers. If a tiny enterprise hires even four or five workers, 10,000 of them could hire 50,000 young people. The multiplier effect of such an initiative is easy to conceive.

To be sure, Mr Modi’s government, in its first term (2014-19) flagged off many well-publicised schemes: Skill India, which was aimed at re-skilling young Indians; and Startup India, aimed at handholding and helping entrepreneurs to set up enterprises. None of these has attained the levels of success that were envisaged or promised. If such programmes are conflated into comprehensive opportunities for fresh Indian graduates from schools and colleges and offered to them as they finish their education, particularly in rural and semi-urban India but also in urban areas, they could not only be opportunities for unconventional employment but also serve to build small enterprises by young entrepreneurs that could further employ other young people.

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Some of this is happening informally. But the need of the hour is for India’s government to formalise such activity and make it a widespread movement. The definition of a budget is to balance spending and earning; but in India, budget-making could also be the opportunity for governments to think out of the box and create something that could address what is perhaps the country’s biggest issue—a burgeoning population of young people but a diminishing prospect of finding employment for them. India’s youthful demography is unique. Nowhere in the world are there as many young people as there are in India. The strategy to find opportunities for them has to be equally unique. The Budget for this year offered a platform that could have been used to do just that. Sadly, that opportunity was missed.