Free Air India from bureaucratic stranglehold and let it be run as an efficient business

Sydney, 23 June, 2018

https://www.news18.com/news/india/new-uniforms-exotic-cuisine-swanky-interiors-air-indias-premium-class-sports-maharaja-makeover-1787621.html

Government of India (GOI) tried to sell the loss making national carrier Air India (AI) recently, but nobody was willing to bid, due to the attached conditions for the sale.

Sale of AI has failed before too.

GOI under PM Narendra Modi has many business-friendly policies. AI is the national carrier. AI is and has always been under bureaucratic stranglehold, which has stifled its productivity and efficiency, and damaged its brand. Over the recent years, some serious efforts were made to change the situation, but the success has only been partial.

I travel with AI as my preferred airline. I have travelled economy and business class, and have found its services pleasant and comfortable.

Syd-Del-Syd is a profit making sector for AI, with 85%+ occupancy. AI is preferred by quite a lot of Indians in this sector. Non-stop flight is just one of them, but food and language are no less important. Contribution of people like myself in promoting AI has not been insignificant. Our contribution could even be better, if AI listens to the diaspora, instead of working with prefixed views and “I know everything” attitude.

In my view, GOI should prove its business-friendly credentials by appointing a board, with people, who have impeccable records to run successful businesses, and dismantle the bureaucratic stranglehold.

Sale of Air India is one option, and perhaps an easier option, but a better option is to turn around the business of running AIr India.

Air India deserves nothing less.

After all, it is our national Airline.

It should be a matter of pride for Indians all over the world to see a successful Air India.

Dr Yadu Singh

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Why, How and What of Uttar Pradesh Election 2017

March 24, 2017

During recent assembly elections in India, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had a landslide victory in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand. Indian National Congress (INC) had a huge success in Punjab. The political mandate in Manipur and Goa was fractured, but BJP was able to form alliance Governments there with smaller parties and independents.

The magnitude of verdicts in UP and Punjab was clearly unexpected. Aam Admi Party (AAP) was projected to win Punjab if pre-election opinion polls were to be believed, but the final result was not in favour of AAP. Instead, INC had an almost a landslide under Capt. Amarinder Singh’s leadership. AAP was a distant second.

 Yogi Adityanath (Chief Minister)                             

In Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha (Federal Parliament). Like 73 seats captured by BJP alliance in 2014 national elections, the landslide for BJP alliance in 2017 was also clearly massive. Their vote share this time (40%) was very close to what they had in 2014 (42%). The alliance won 325 (BJP 312, Apna Dal 9 and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party 4) out of 403 seats. Samajwadi Party (SP) of incumbent Chief Minister (CM), Shri Akhilesh Yadav won 47 seats, INC 7 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) under Ms Mayawati only 19 seats.  It was unexpected and nobody thought this will happen. BJP did not have a declared CM face in comparison to popular sitting CM, Shri Akhilesh Yadav, who had managed, only a few weeks before the elections, to have the full control of SP. The timing of this was probably too late. UP is known for a caste and religion-based voting, but it did not matter this time. All calculations based on specific castes and Muslim votes failed.

There were many factors, which gave a landslide victory to BJP and worked against others.

1. SP-INC alliance did not help them, largely because INC doesn’t have much influence in UP. There are reports that supporters of these parties might have not helped one another at the ground level. The alliance formation was announced too late and there wasn’t much time to get them to work together effectively.

2. SP-INC alliance pushed Jats of Western UP, a numerically important community in the region, to go in mass with BJP, instead of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, because of their political rivalry with Muslims in that region. This movement of the Jat votes helped BJP in Western Uttar Pradesh.

3. Excessive public focus on Muslim votes created a political backlash for SP-INC and BSP, thus creating a polarisation of Hindus away from them and towards BJP. Hindus felt that political parties were more focused on Muslim votes and didn’t care for their interests.

4. Hindu polarisation was accelerated when BSP gave 100 tickets to Muslim candidates and sought their votes in a very public campaign and “Muslim-BSP Bhaichara” meetings, under the leadership of BSP leader, Shri Naseemuddin Siddiqui and his son, Shri Afzal Siddiqui.

5. Minister like Azam Khan did not help the chances of SP, because of his statements, which were not perceived by people to be in good taste. His statements only helped polarisation of Hindus against SP.

6. Smart social networking by BJP with Non-Jatav Dalits (Jatavs are about 10% of the total 21% under Scheduled Castes category) and non-Yadav OBCs (Yadavs are 9% of a total 39% under Other Backward Castes category) paid political dividends to BJP.

7. Demonetisation, despite some concerns and adverse media coverage, was popular among masses, and it did not create a political loss for BJP. Nobody knowns exact benefits to the nation from demonetisation, but its marketing certainly gave political benefits to BJP.

8. Law and Order has always been a problem in a big state like UP, but people had a particularly bad perception (real or imaginary) about it over last few years.

9. People like Gayatri Prajapati, a minister in the SP Government, did not help the image of the Government. Ordering of an FIR against him by the Supreme Court of India in the middle of the election did not help the SP Government’s chances.
10. There has been saturation media coverage of the recruitment drives, with a perception (real or imaginary) of these recruitment drives, selectively and disproportionally benefiting only a few castes over last few years.

11. Shri Akhilesh Yadav is a decent and educated political leader, but suffered political consequences from the perception that he was not in full control of the Government and bureaucracy, because of interference from some influential SP political leaders. Periodical bagging and lashing of his Government by his father, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav did not help. By the time he asserted and took control of the party, it was already too late.

12. Public infighting in SP and lack of campaigning by Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav created a perception about disunity in his political Party and their chances of a victory. There are suspicions that some SP political leaders worked against their own party due to infighting and to avenge the slight. Things would have been different if change-over in SP has happened at least 6 months earlier.

13. BSP did not succeed in its outreach to non-Jatav castes. Even Muslim votes did not go to it in big numbers.
14. Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s popularity and his intensive campaigning along with political management by BJP President, Shri Amit Shah, have played a huge role in BJP’s victory.

BJP has elected Shri Yogi Adityanath as the CM of UP, which has created a big news, not only in UP but also nationally and internationally. Yogi is an assertive and outspoken BJP leader, which, obviously, creates an army of detractors and as well as supporters, besides giving him an image of a hardliner.

Will he be a good CM is a question whose answer nobody knows with certainty today. On a positive side, he has already told all ministers to declare their wealth and properties within 15 days, and instructed bureaucracy to control law and order without any delay or favour. He has promised to govern for every person in UP, with the motto “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikash” which translates as “With everyone and for everyone”. We all know that perception alone may not tell the full story.

Contrary to the popular perception about him, it was pleasing to note that he has great relations with Muslim community in Gorakhpur, where many of his monastery’s managers are from Muslim community. (https://goo.gl/ZYj2xx https://goo.gl/des1Ie)

New CM is not known to be a follower of political correctness and has said many things, which many seasoned politicians will shy away from saying. A classic example of this is his questioning of so-called secular brigade (whose members are often derided in social media as pseudo-seculars) in India, which has a habit of hyping up of even minor indiscretions committed by the majority community, but goes into a totally silent mode when major wrongs are committed by the minority community. A classic example of this hypocritical behaviour is their lack of speaking against or doing anything worthwhile against the exiling of the community of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) from Kashmir by Islamists in that state.

Political success of BJP in UP was because they were better at networking and coalition formation with various groups, and were better able to tap into the concerns and anxieties of the people. Their deft management of BJP Government formation in UP can be evidenced by the appointment of two deputy CMs, to complement a CM from Rajput background (although he is a Sanyasi, which means he has no caste) with one deputy CM from Brahmin community and another from OBC community. There is ministerial representation from almost all important segments of society, including Muslims and Sikhs.

Keshav Prasad Maurya

Keshav Prasad Marya, Deputy CM

Recent UP election has done many things, and a huge victory to BJP

Dr Dinesh Sharma.jpg

Dr Dinesh Sharma, Deputy CM

and demoralising defeat for the opposition are not the only ones. It has given a serious blow to the reliance of political parties on castes and Muslim votes (19% of UP population). Political pundits are talking about BJP receiving significant support from people from even those castes as well as Muslims, who are not supposed to vote for BJP. Out of 42 Muslim dominated seats, BJP won 32 compared to only 6 in 2007, and 7 in the 2012 elections. And, the vote share of the BJP in these constituencies (39.2%) was very similar to their State average (40%). Also, 35 of the 42 Muslim-dominated constituencies had a Muslim candidate fighting from a major party, (either the SP-Congress alliance or the BSP; the BJP did not field any Muslim candidate across UP). Of these 35, 26 were won by BJP and 9 by SP. It appears that even many Muslims voted for BJP this time. (https://goo.gl/EYCkDM).

This election verdict will push all political parties to rely more on policies, not caste equations and Muslim votes. This is good as, after all, everyone including Muslims need the same good infrastructure, crime control, and development.
Yogi is an untested CM for the obvious reason, but he is the CM of Uttar Pradesh now. He should be judged by what he and his Government  will do in Uttar Pradesh, not some of his fiery speeches around the elections. People from UP want to have the best governance for everyone, and with the focus on development, infrastructure and jobs, and crime control, without any favour or discrimination for anyone. It would be equally fitting for every political party in UP to respect this verdict from the people, provide constructive support to the Government, not oppose everything for the sake of opposing, and get into the reaching out to the people with rational and balanced policies, which treat people as people, and not as some specific vote banks.

The sooner they accept that caste and religion have had their days, and better strategies are needed for getting people’s votes, the better chances they will have in returning back to the power in 5 years.

*A version was originally published in Desi Australia https://tinyurl.com/kncpzol

Dr Yadu Singh, Sydney, Australia
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Diaspora Indians should be given a fair go on demonetisation matters

Sydney, Australia, 23 February, 2017

Quite many people of Indian heritage (Diaspora Indians) are concerned and worried about their inability to change demonetised INR notes of 500 and 1000. Diaspora Indians include NRI (with Indian passports), People of Indian heritage with foreign citizenship (without PIO/OCI cards) and People of Indian heritage with foreign citizenship and PIO/OCI cards.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted Indian residents, who were not in India between 8 November and 31 December, 2016, to be able to deposit their demonetised notes at RBI branches in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Nagpur up to 31 March 2017. Non-Resident Indians, NRIs, (who have Indian passports) are able to do so up to June 30, 2017. Overseas Citizens of India (Foreign passports with PIO or OCI cards) or Diaspora Indians with foreign passports, but without OCI/PIO cards, are not able to deposit their demonetised notes at all.

Government of India is making a difference between NRIs and OCIs. This is totally contrary to what is the constitutional position for such people. NRIs and OCIs are supposed to have similar rights in India except that NRIs can vote and hold official positions in India, but OCIs can not. Different rules for different categories of Diaspora Indians is not right or proper.

This matter is being discussed actively among overseas Indians (Diaspora Indians) all over the world. I have been part of numerous such discussions in Australia.

The consensus appears to be as follows:

  • Overseas Indians with Foreign Citizenship, with/without PIO and OCI cards, and NRIs (with Indian passports) should be treated as equal for demonetisation related matters.
  • Overseas Indians with Foreign Citizenship, with/without PIO and OCI cards, and NRIs should be treated as if they are resident Indians. This means that they should be permitted to deposit up to Rs. 250,000 of demonetised Indian currency in the Reserve Bank of India if they can prove that they were overseas between November 8 and December 31, 2016.
  • Current permission to NRIs to deposit amount up to of Rs. 25,000 until 30 June, 2017, if they can prove that they were overseas in the relevant period, should be increased to up to Rs. 250,000. On this matter, NRIs and Resident Indians should be treated equally.
  • As explained below, many diaspora Indians and their families may have more than INR 25,000 because they have been visiting India with their families over many years. They therefore may well have more than INR 25000.
  • Many of the diaspora Indians (NRIs, Foreign passport holders with or without PIO and OCI cards) have old currency notes in their residences in India or overseas for a variety of reasons, which includes holding left over INRs by their family members during travels to India over several years. They should be allowed by RBI and their  Indian Banks, with whom they have NRO accounts, to deposit the amount, provided they can prove that they were overseas between November 8 and December 31.
  • Diaspora Indians (NRIs, Indians with Foreign Citizenship with/without PIO and OCI cards) may not be able to travel to India soon. The last date for such deposits should be extended to  up to December 31, 2017.
  • RBI should consider that it is often not feasible or economically viable for Overseas Indians to travel to India for a variety of reasons including the cost of an air ticket. Tickets costs INR 50,000 to travel from Sydney to India. It will not make any sense to travel to India to deposit a small amount.  It will be worth considering that Diaspora Indians are allowed to deposit their demonetised INR notes at the overseas branches of Indian banks or allowed to bring such money from others, with due authorisation from GOI missions overseas, and be able to deposit this money in relevant banks in India.

Oversea Indians, whose numbers are about 30 million, send FDI of approx. USD 70 million annually, and are often mentioned in Prime Minister’s and other ministers’ speeches, as valuable members of India’s global family. They expect and deserve demonstration of their description of valued members of India’s extended family in the matters related to demonetised currency notes.

It is important that GOI demonstrates its intent by removing the discrimination against diaspora Indians in the matters related to  facilities for demonetised notes not only in comparison to Resident Indians, but also between different categories of Overseas Indians.

http://mha1.nic.in/pdfs/oci-chart.pdf has details of facilities for NRIs and OCIs.

“OCIs have parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial, and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.”

Diaspora Indians therefore request GOI to amend RBI notification appropriately. https://www.rbi.org.in/SCRIPTS/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10808&Mode=0

We urge Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley and Reserve Bank of India to give a serious consideration to our appeal.

Dr Yadu Singh

Federation of Indian Associations of NSW

fianinc1@gmail.com

http://www.fian.org.au

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Bundelkhand needs long-term policies and investment for its development

 

This is the press release from Indian Prime Minister’s office

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http://pib.nic.in/newsite/mbErel.aspx?relid=138741

Press Information Bureau
Government Of India
Prime Minister’s Office
(10-April, 2016 18:20 IST )
Union Government commits for Bundelkhand (UP) development

Prime Minister directs a high level review of drought situation in Bundelkhand, Vidharbha and Marathwada. First such review about Bundelkhand was held in Prime Minister’s Office on 09.04.2016. Chief Secretary UP and his team made a presentation and Secretaries of the concerned departments of Government of India were also present.

Relief Measures

High Level Committee chaired by the Union Home Minister has recommended Rs. 1304 crore for drought relief to UP under National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). The State Government would disburse the relief amount directly into the bank accounts of farmers within a week. It was decided that Government of UP will forward a Memorandum for Rabi 2016 soon. Ministry of Home Affairs will examine if an exemption can be given under SDRF on 25% limit and continuation of distribution of food component beyond 90 days.

Drinking Water : Chief Secretary, UP informed that a comprehensive contingency plan to address the drinking water situation in Bundelkhand region especially Mahoba, Chitrakoot and Banda districts of Chitrakoot division are ready. He further assured that drinking water will be made available.

Employment & Livelihood : Provision of extending mandays from 100 to 150 under MNREGS in the Bundelkhand for financial year 2016-17 was approved. State Government will ensure distribution of Rs. 700 crore released under the labour component of MGNREGS directly to the eligible beneficiaries via electronic payment system.

It was decided that to provide alternate source of income National Rural Livelihood Mission would be strengthened and intensified and coverage would be extended to all the blocks.

Food Security : Chief Secretary, UP confirmed that NFSA has been implemented w.e.f. 01.01.2016. Accordingly, food grain allocation has been enhanced in Bundelkhand. State Government was advised to ensure Aadhar seeding of MNREGS beneficiaries and ration cards on high priority.

Bundelkhand Package

During the meeting, implementation of previous Bundelkhand package was high on agenda. It was brought to the notice that Rs. 264 crore was released by NITI Aayog on 31.03.2016 to complete the committed liabilities on ongoing projects in UP as a one-time grant. It was agreed that the State Government would ensure completion of all ongoing 37 Piped Water Schemes on priority. Further, the warehousing marketing infrastructure built under the package needs to be better utilized.

Drought Proofing

It was also decided that water tanks, building of dug wells, farm ponds would be taken up on priority under various projects and schemes for Bundelkhand. CEO, NITI Aayog in consultation with State Government will explore the possibility of taking up fresh projects for drought proofing from the resources available under the package for Bundelkhand region.

Agriculture

It was brought out that Sesame is the most important Kharif crop in Bundelkhand. It was agreed that MSP for Sesame for 2016-17 be announced expeditiously. A bonus of Rs. 20 for Bundelkhand region over and above the MSP shall be considered. State Government would finalise a procurement plan for Sesame in consultation with Secretary, Agriculture.

To focus on boosting agricultural production and productivity in Bundelkhand region State Government will send a proposal for introduction of a new sub scheme under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

Crop Insurance : It was noted that the coverage of crop insurance scheme in UP is between 7 to10% only. However, the coverage in Bundelkhand due to distress situation is around 30 percent. More than 250 crores in Rabi 2014-15 and around Rs. 180 crore in Kharif 2015 has been distributed as claims benefitting around 3.34 lakh and 2.16 lakh farmers respectively.

State Government was asked to ensure maximum coverage of farmers in the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and it was agreed that the State Government would hold district wise camps to ensure that both loanee and non-loanee farmers are covered in a campaign mode.

Irrigation

Secretary, Water Resources was requested to ensure release of funds on priority for the nine ongoing projects under Repair, Rejuvenation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies.

CEO, NITI Aayog, Secretary (Water Resources), Principal Secretary (Irrigation), UP will meet on 12th April, 2016 to resolve various issues pertaining to Arjun Sahayak, Varuna and Banasagar irrigation projects. CEO NITI Aayog in consultation with State Government will also resolve the pending proposals of drinking water at the earliest.

Cooperative Federalism

It was also agreed that various development proposals especially under PMGSY, drinking water, village electrification etc. should have wider consultation with local public representatives especially Members of Parliament.

As per the Prime Minister’s vision and in the true spirit of cooperative federalism, Government of India and the State Government will together work for long term sustainable solutions to address the problem of vulnerable regions in natural distress.

***
AKT/HS
(Release ID :138741)

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My view

This is good, but more needs to be done to deal with economic backwardness of Bundelkhand. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Governments are also doing many good things for their parts of the region. UP Chief Minister announced several projects worth Rs 1400 Crore for the region recently, while delivering the UP Budget (http://tinyurl.com/jhy94bx).  Uttar Pradesh asked Central Govt for a Rs 7000 crore Bundelkhand package. Packages are fine and necessary, and the region deserves it, but there is a need for a systemic & policy co-ordination between various Governments for long-term outcomes.  I believe there should be a high-powered Bundelkhand Development Council (Bundelkhand Vikas Parishad), chaired by either Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi or Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh, or Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitly, and with membership of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Sri Akhilesh Yadav and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Sri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CEO of Niti Ayog and 2 Economists, to formulate comprehensive policies for long-term investment in and development of Bundelkhand. Significant encouragement including tax holidays and finance support should be provided to facilitate setting up of industries. This will generate employment and will help alleviate poverty.

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th April, 2016

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Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Crop insurance Scheme) is a life-saving plan for Indian farmers


Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), a new Crop Insurance Scheme, was announced in New Delhi on Makar Sankranti Day, 14th Jan, 2016. The Cabinet of Central Government gave its approval for the scheme a day earlier.

It is a life changing plan for Indian farmers.

It replaces NAIS (National Agriculture Insurance Scheme) and MNAIS (Modified National Insurance Scheme), which were not being utilized by farmers due to multiple inherent deficiencies.

PMFBY will be implemented from the coming Kharif (Monsoon) season. The premium rate for Kharif crops is 2% and for Rabi (Winter) Crops will be 1.5%. Commercial and horticultural crops will attract 5% premium.

Unlike previous schemes, where Premium could be as high as 15% and assured amount was capped, PMFBY is a boon for farmers not only because premium is very low but also because it mandates use of newer technology like Satellites and smart phones to make a more complete and accurate  assessment of the loss of crop in shorter period.

Beyond 2% and 1.5% premium rates for Kharif and Rabi crops respectively, the balance of the Insurance premium will be paid  by Central Government and State Governments on 50:50 basis.

Currently, only 23% of crops are insured. This is likely to go up significantly. Government’s goal is  50% in 3 years, but I suspect its acceptance among farmers will grow very quickly and it will reach much higher level soon.

Financial liability for the Govt for the current 23% crop coverage is Rs 31,000 crores. It will go up to Rs 57,000 crores when the crop coverage is 30%. At 50% crop coverage, this liability will Rs 88,000 crores.

India is predominantly an agricultural country, with about 60% of its people depending on agriculture for their living and income. Except for a few farmers, most of the people involved in farm-based activities have low and unpredictable income. Crop failure leads to destitution and precarious situation. Crops fail due to natural disasters including hail storms, excessive rains or droughts. They don’t seem to have a way out with failure of crops after they have invested in seeds, irrigation, insecticide and labour, and have hardly anything as a way of savings. The desperation and destitution end up forcing many farmers to commit suicide. It is reported that 3000 farmers in India have committed suicide over the last 3 years. Failure of crops affect them in multiple ways.

PMFBY is really a Life-saving scheme (Amrit Yojna) as stated by Agriculture Minister, Mr Radha Mohan Singh. It is indeed a historic scheme for farmers, as described by Home Minister, Mr Raj Nath Singh. I have no doubt that PMFBY will prove to be a boon for farmers.

It is crucial that PMFBY has mechanisms to assess the loss of crops promptly to allow the payments to the farmers within 2-4 weeks, instead of several months which has been the case with NAIS/MNAIS.

PMFBY should be reviewed annually and deficiencies thus detected should be rectified quickly. Like the Uttar Pradesh Government’s scheme of Rs 5 Lacs insurance money for farmers if they die an unnatural death, PMFBY too should have some provision of this nature.

I come from a farmer’s family in a village in Bundelkhand part of Uttar Pradesh, which is notorious for unpredictable rains, droughts and farmers’ suicides. It has been reported that approx. 400 farmers have committed suicide there over the last 12 months. I was in the region just a few days ago. Things were not looking good there this year too, after crops’ failure over the last 2 years. There is an ongoing drought there this year too.

 

Village pond

Village Pond

 

Farmers everywhere generally, but Bundelkhan especially, will need significant support this year, before the PMFBY comes into the picture from Kharif season after August 2016. Needless to point out that crops will not be ready until December 2016. Farmers will need support for seeds, cultivation and insecticide etc this year.

I hope that Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi and State Chief Ministers, especially Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Akhilesh Yadav, in case of Bundelkhand, will look after the farmers in the most compassionate way.

Farmers are our people too, and deserve to get full support for the sake of their and their families lives, health and well being.

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Note: A revised copy of this post was published in a US-based opinion site http://www.myind.net

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Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/22nd Jan, 2016

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Pankaj Saw died from a fall from the balcony in Macquarie Park, Sydney

Sydney, NSW 5th April, 2015

I received the sad and unfortunate news of the death of 29 years old Indian  IT professional, Pankaj Saw (working with Tech Mahindra for Optus) on 2nd April, 2015. Images of the white brick apartment block, located on the corner of Cottonwood Crescent and Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park, show a wooden railing missing from the top-floor balcony of the apartment where Mr Saw lived. Police are saying that the balcony railing gave way, leading to his fall 10 metres below on the concrete floor. A part of railing and his smashed phone were found nearby. He sustained severe head and internal injuries, leading to his death at the scene.

From reports, he was talking to someone on phone at the time of his fall. He had returned from India only a few weeks ago. He married to his wife in December 2014.

His wife, Amrita Gupta, is from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, the Parliamentary constituency of Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi. She has met representatives at PM’s constituency office in Varanasi and the local Mayor, Mr Ram Gopal Mohale, and made a few requests. She has expressed her fears that her husband might have been killed by racist violence.

Local newspaper, Dainik Jagran reported the following story today. I was sent a link of the story by a Varanasi local man, Ashutosh Narayan Singh on Twitter today.

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Sun, 05 Apr 2015 01:17 AM (IST) http://m.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/varanasi-city-12234096.html

वाराणसी : काशी की एक बेटी ने अपने सासद व प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी से पति का शव आस्ट्रेलिया से मंगाने की गुहार लगाई है। इस बाबत शनिवार को पीएम मोदी के संसदीय जनसम्पर्क कार्यालय में पत्र भेजा। जानकारी दी है कि पति की आस्ट्रेलिया में मौत हो गई है। आरोप लगाया कि वहां हो रही नस्लवादी कारणों से पति की हत्या की गई। पूरे प्रकरण की जांच की मांग की। इसके बाद परिजन महापौर रामगोपाल मोहले से भी मुलाकात की। महापौर ने विदेश मंत्री सुषमा स्वराज से वार्ता कर पूरी जानकारी दी। वहां से मृतक का पासपोर्ट समेत पूरा ब्योरा मांगा गया है। बताते हैं कि पाण्डेयघाट की रहने वाली अमृता गुप्ता के हाथ की मेंहदी अभी सूखी भी नहीं थी कि दो अप्रैल को आस्ट्रेलिया के सिडनी में टेक महेन्द्रा कंपनी में बतौर ईजीनियर कार्यरत पंकज की मौत की खबर आई। उन दोनों की शादी गत वर्ष दो दिसंबर को हुई थी। अमृता ने प्रधानमंत्री को भेजे गए पत्र में आशका जताई है कि उसके पति की मौत रेलिंग से गिरने के कारण नहीं हुई है बल्कि आस्ट्रेलिया में चल रहे नस्ली आतंकवाद की वजह से हुई है। अमृता ने इसकी जाच कराने के साथ ही पति के शव को शीघ्र भारत मंगाने के लिए प्रधानमंत्री से गुहार लगाई है।

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From all information available, Pankaj’s death was an accidental death and not due to any racist violence.

Contrary to exaggerated and mostly baseless reports of racist violence against Indians in Indian media in 2009-10, we did not, and still do not, believe we are subjected to any such thing in Australia.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/man-dies-after-falling-from-thirdfloor-balcony-in-macquarie-park-20150402-1md6vq.html http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-02/man-dies-after-third-floor-balcony-fall-macquarie-park/6366608

Police in NSW, as a rule, do a thorough investigation and submit a report to the Coroner. Post-mortem examination is also done in all such deaths. After post-mortem examination, the body is handed over to the relatives.

Indian Consulate in Sydney takes responsibility for the transport of the body of any Indian citizen to India.

I will try to seek further information in regards to the investigation from the Indian Consulate tomorrow, Monday, 6th April, 2015, and will update this post.

Our heart-felt condolences go to Pankaj’s wife and his family in India.

R. I. P. Pankaj.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney, NSW, Australia

dryadusingh@gmail.com

http://www.twitter.com/dryadusingh

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PS: This post has been forwarded to relevant people in Varanasi, UP, India.

    

Expectations from Prime Minister Modi

Dr Yadu SinghSydney, 14th November, 2014

Expectations from the Modi Govt

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is visiting Australia between 15th and 18th Nov, 2014. After attending G20 summit in Brisbane on 15th and 16th November, he will start his state visit. Indian community is excited with this visit. This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister after PM Rajiv Gandhi visited Australia in 1986. PM Modi will interact with the community in Sydney and Melbourne, in addition to addressing a Joint session of Australian Parliament.

Prime Minister Modi’s image is that of a decisive and a “can do” leader. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are optimistic that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

When I wrote a post in June, 2014, I mentioned many things which people expected. Many of those things have either been delivered or getting delivered. Prime Ministerial visit to Australia is one of them. Nuclear trade deal has already been signed when Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited India in September. Australian citizens getting the facility of Visa on arrival in India is another one which is in the process of getting implemented. Serious work is in progress in regards to Black money, stashed in overseas Banks. Supreme Court’s activism is playing an important role in it. Investigations and prosecutions are likely to commence soon. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, there are a few more things that people expect the new government to deliver.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. If USA, UK, Australia and most of developed and democratic countries as well as some countries in the region see no issues in granting dual citizenship to their citizens, then people argue that there is no rational basis for India to deny dual citizenship to Indians. PM Modi has the political capital to deliver this long-standing demand. A petition and campaign for Dual citizenship is running on Change.org (http://tinyurl.com/kxtlosw) and Social media presently (http://tinyurl.com/m4b4luu).

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) as well as politicians should be asked to review the Lokpal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier, and suggest steps to rectify weaknesses to make it an effective corruption fighting body. Such body should have sufficient resources to discharge its functions. Unlike previous Govts, this whole process to fine-tune this should not take more than one year from the time NDA Govt took office.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous Govt. People in it should be those who have significant presence, influence and interactions among Indians in their countries. The practice of Indian diplomats recommending their sycophants to become members of this body should be done away with.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian populations (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India. Its term should be for not more than 2 years.

Annual consultation between High Commission and Community: Previous High Commissioner of India in Australia, and current External Affairs Secretary, Smt Sujatha Singh, started a novel, and productive, mechanism to meet the community representatives in Canberra on a yearly basis. Representatives from all over Australia would assemble on a weekend to discuss and suggest things to Indian diplomats. Current High Commissioner, Biren Nanda, did not continue this practice. The communication from High Commission and community has been limited and confined to a small group of people, who are close to HCI. Previous practice of community consultation needs to be reactivated.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: Indian Australians will like to see formal and regular annual meetings between PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers, with venues alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015. This will accelerate bilateral trade which has come down to about $15 billion from previous high of $21 billion. This is important as Australia already has FTAs with Japan, South Korea and China.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider seriously funding such teaching courses in at least one University each in Sydney and Melbourne. Discussions should be had between relevant authorities to explore equal sharing of cost between Australia and India.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module. Indian regulations to facilitate this should be considered.

Recognition of TAFE diploma in India: Many Indian students come to Australia to train in TAFE institutes. Many then move on to Universities to complete degrees. In addition to the diplomas not being recognised to the extent that the students wanting to pursue this study in Australia do not even get the education loans, Association of Indian Universities (the peak body responsible for recognising foreign degrees) does not recognise even Bachelor degrees that may have resulted from a credit transfer after a diploma resulting in the degree component being lesser than 3 year duration. (Diploma to Degree). This is a unique feature of Australian Qualification framework and so should be understood by Educational authorities. Quite a good numbers of Indians in Australia have earned their degrees through this pathway. TAFE institutes are a unique institution and it will be beneficial for India to consider recognizing diplomas from TAFE.

Bilateral Internship positions for Australians and Indians: Institutes and Universities of repute in both countries should be encouraged to develop mechanisms to have short term (3-6 months) placements for students and researchers to enhance collaboration in science and research.

Indian media’s bureau/representatives in Australia: During 2009-10, Indian media reported issues involving Indian students in an exaggerated way, erroneously attributing racism in literally every incident. They did not interact with local long-term Indians. It was harder for media to have a grasp of the ground realities. It will be helpful if key media outlets consider basing their representatives in Australia to cover Oceania. With increasing trade related activities between Australia and India and with increased number of Indians here, there could be sufficient justification for such decisions. Indian Govt can encourage media houses to take up this matter. A good beginning could be of a posting a full time Press Trust of India (PTI) reporter in Australia.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: There are more than 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, with a big concentration in Sydney and Melbourne. People believe that there should be Indian cultural centers in Australia, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a center of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. Indian Penal Code and relevant laws should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. It is also felt that GOI officials often get embroiled in local community politics and play “favoritism” games depending on who they like or dislike. It is quite irrational and subjective. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh or External Affairs Secretary, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

In summary, it will be of mutual benefit to the community in Australia and India if the Indian government is proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th November, 2014

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