The Indian Express | 6 days ago | 18-09-2022 | 05:50 pm
Some very interesting developments over the past few weeks have caught the attention of the world and reinforced PM Narendra Modi’s vision of New India.INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenously designed and manufactured aircraft carrier, was commissioned into the Indian Navy. I was at the commissioning ceremony of this outstanding example of India’s capabilities in mega engineering and sophisticated technology and along with all other Indian citizens, felt proud that we’ve joined an elite group of nations—the US, UK, Russia, France, and China — that is capable of designing and constructing aircraft carriers.PM Modi also unveiled the Navy’s new ensign, an octagon inspired by the royal insignia of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Until now, St George’s Cross, the last vestige of our colonial past, remained part of the Navy’s flag. It took 75 years and a true leader to change it.Another defining milestone was when a Bloomberg research report confirmed that the Indian economy’s size had crossed that of the UK to emerge as the world’s fifth-largest economy. So were the opening of the grand, new Central Vista, the renaming of Rajpath to Kartavya Path, and the installation of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s statue under the grand canopy at the India Gate. India is making a statement to the world — that this is a confident New India that has finally shed its colonial mindset.In the past eight years of “sushasan” under PM Modi, the transformation of India has been deep and significant. Our nation has dealt with even the biggest challenges — such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Domestic vested interests have spared no effort in slowing down India’s rise. The perception of India as a weak, leaky, dysfunctional democracy has been changed to one that is seen as strong, resilient, welfare-oriented and commanding global awe and respect.Today, India is the fastest-growing economy with the highest ever FDI inflow — $83 billion. These feats were achieved in a period when the world was recovering from the after-effects of Covid and is still struggling to deal with it even as India has protected its people and their livelihoods with vaccines and expanding economic opportunities. This deep, decisive transformation during India’s “Amrit Kaal” is being spearheaded by a leader on a mission — one who works relentlessly, and lives a life single-mindedly dedicated to realising the vision of this New India and for the development of all Indians through sabka saath, sabka vikas.Unlike politicians and leaders (including in new avatars) who have promoted the corrupt “revdi culture” for decades, PM Modi has focused on expanding our economy. He has ignored short-term political impulses and concentrated on long-term investments, transformation and sustainable growth.The biggest stakeholders of India’s future – the youth – firmly believe in his vision of New India. The democratic discourse which for several decades had centred around turning minorities into vote-banks and/or corrupt freebie politics for the poor is now slowly and surely being changed by the PM into one that focuses on real issues like governance, corruption-free politics, benefits of economic growth and targeted welfare schemes. His political opponents including new entrants continue, despite the electoral rejection by Indian voters, to peddle their failed minority vote-bank and/or corruption-ridden “revdi politics” with even less and diminishing success.The impact of PM Modi’s leadership is there for all to see. While the world is still grappling with post-Covid economic disruption, the Indian narrative presents a sharp contrast. Take a look at the electronics manufacturing sector, which was in a moribund state just a decade ago. Today, India is the second-biggest mobile phone manufacturing country. The world’s biggest companies are investing in India to set up manufacturing units to Make in India for the world.As the electronics manufacturing sector grows, there will be a demand for semiconductor chips. The government is working hard to reduce chip imports and establish India as a global chip manufacturing hub. It has rolled out an incentive scheme worth Rs 76,000 crore to attract international semiconductor and display manufacturers. Earlier this week, Vedanta-Foxconn announced a Rs 1.5 lakh crore investment to set up a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Gujarat. It is projected to create near 1 lakh jobs in the state.PM Modi’s belief in “New India for Young India” is evident from the vibrant start-up and innovation ecosystem in India. With over 75,000 startups and 100 + unicorns, we are witnessing an exponential rise in job opportunities for young Indians. This is no tall claim – several global thought leaders have echoed this fact at various fora. During a recent visit to India, Patrick P Gelsinger, CEO of Intel, affirmed that he is “deeply optimistic about this decade for India”. Bob Sternfels, CEO of McKinsey, recently said that “it is not India’s decade, it is India’s century”. Bill Gates spoke of how India under Modi “has a lot to feel good about”. Their optimism stems not just from India’s demographic dividend, which will result in it having a fifth of the world’s working population by 2047, but also from the direction that PM Modi is steering India towards.The pace of progress that PM Modi is setting is rapid. There is more to come with the advent of 5G and thereafter 6G and our goal of becoming a trillion-dollar digital economy by 2026. PM Modi has set the goals for all Indians to make the next decade the “India Techade”. Our pran (commitment) for the next 25 years, during the Amrit Kaal, is to continue our good work on a mission mode, keeping in mind “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas and sabka prayas”.The writer is Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Electronics and Information Technology
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the rupee has “held back very well” against the US dollar when compared to other currencies of the world.The rupee breached the 81-mark against the dollar for the first time on Friday, before settling at 80.98, as the greenback continued to strengthen against all other major currencies following an aggressive rate hike announcement by the US Federal Reserve.When asked about the all-time low that the rupee hit against the greenback on Friday, she said the Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry are keeping a very close watch on the situation.On the rising inflation, the Finance Minister said the union government was taking all possible steps to check the price-rise situation and ensure that common citizens do not suffer.Sitharaman’s comments came at the end of her three-day tour of Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.Meanwhile, taking on the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance for criticising the new Maharasthra government over the planned Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor unit going to Gujarat, she said that those questioning the moving of plant after initially being proposed in Maharashtra should first respond on the four mega projects that were stalled during the previous government’s tenure.“One has to ask the MVA first on the four mega projects that were stalled during their tenure and then we will speak about one project that has gone to some other state from Maharashtra,” she said.Sitharaman said it was the slugfest between the ruling alliance and the opposition alliance as those in the previous government want to cover up their failures.“Those who exploited the cooperative sector did not think of setting up a separate ministry for its improvement as their efforts were to use the sector only for political gains,” she said, adding that the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bringing necessary changes to improve it.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxOn her assessment after Baramati tour, where she arrived to strengthen the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) base, the union minister said, “It was focused on meeting with organisational units in the constituency. It is essential for strengthening the party and its unit. Thus, the feedback was gathered from ground onBJP and its service to people.”She said the BJP cadre in Baramati has been providing good service to the public, mainly during the Covid period, adding that the local cadres informed her that only BJP representatives were on the field for service of people in Covid time.
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s Saturday protest at Pune’s Talegaon, the site for the proposed Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($20 billion) semiconductor project of the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV), has signalled a spiralling political row in Maharashtra days after the JV despite being in discussion with the Maharashtra government on the project for years switched to Gujarat.A political slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra since September 13, when the Vedanta-Foxconn signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for their semiconductor project, with the Opposition MVA blaming the Eknath Shinde-BJP government for letting the flight of the big-ticket project to the neighbouring BJP-ruled state.Attacking the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis dispensation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while addressing a party rally earlier this week, alleged that the government was “lying” on the issue and should be “ashamed” of the project going to Gujarat, even as he offered his support to it to bring the project back to Maharashtra. “Let’s come together and bring it back. I will also come with you,” he told the Sainiks.Cornered over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which was one of the biggest industrial investments projected to come to Maharashtra, the ruling camp is now desperately looking for a face-saver, with CM and rebel Sena leader Shinde reaching out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in this regard.Speaking to the Express Group last Sunday, Shinde said his government will announce a mega project for the state very soon.Vedanta-Foxconn project shift furoreAn industrial state like Maharashtra, which has almost all the key elements to attract investors – land, skilled labour, port, road connectivity, water, knowledge ecosystem – has been waiting for a mega industrial investment for years. While the state has seen various investments, from medium to large scale projects, coming to the state in the IT and automobile sectors among others, a mega investment has not fructified over the last decade despite the Magnetic Maharashtra summits and the “Make in India” investors summit in 2015 – when Foxconn had made its first investment commitment of $5 billion to the state.If the wait for Foxconn to invest in the state lasted for 7 years, losing it to a neighbouring state in a matter of two months or a quarter, was set to unnerve the political class and the residents of the state alike.While the continuous flow of new projects in any state keeps its economic growth on track, creates jobs for its people and also enhances social development, mega projects worth $3-5 billion or more give impulse and ripple impact that leads to the building of the ancillary industry, development of service sector and a thrust to the real estate, among other things.The Vedanta-Foxconn project had come as a hope for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under an accumulated debt of Rs 6.50 lakh crore, as the state saw it as a golden opportunity to give impetus to both its sluggish investments and channelise it towards job creation after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.Terming the Vedanta-Foxconn project loss as a major setback for Maharashtra, a top economist, who has been closely watching the state’s progress over more than three decades and has been involved with various governments in the state with regards to its development, said, “It takes a long time for mega projects to fructify as a lot of home work has to go into it and bureaucrats, political class are involved. So in that sense the loss of Vedanta-Foxconn is a big setback. Also when I take a closer look, I don’t see a mega project in the vicinity and so it is both loss of time and opportunity.”While the state had also announced a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project in Nanar in 2015, which promised to generate over 1 lakh jobs, it has failed to see the light of the day. The new government is, however, hopeful to revive the project.As regards the past mega investments in the state, the two that made their mark were the $3 billion Enron power project announced by the US major in 1992 and the $13 billion Jaitapur nuclear power project for which the agreement was signed with the French company in 2010. While Enron ran into trouble and also resulted in financial loss for the state, its debacle led to a power crisis, with the state running into power deficit for several years as power producers stayed away from committing investment in the power sector in view of the expected big capacity addition of 2,000 MW through Enron’s natural gas-based Dabhol power project. Also, the Jaitapur nuclear power project has not been able to take off in the manner it was envisaged.The politics of economyWith the latest big investment opportunity gone, the Maharashtra government is now hoping for a bigger project and is counting on the BJP-ruled Centre’s blessing. However, even as Shinde exuded confidence in pronouncing that Maharashtra will bag a major investment in the coming days, Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Fadnavis has exercised caution warning that “Maharashtra will have to initiate concrete steps to rebuild the confidence of the investors.”The government is also hopeful of benefiting from a “double-engine” government — a BJP government both in the state and at the Centre. While the Vedanta-Foxconn project might have been lost due to the lack of the Centre’s intervention (CM Shinde’s July 26 letter to Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal showed that Vedanta had asked the state government to get the “Central Government alignment”), the current government still hopes to capitalise on a “favourable” central government. This “alignment” has already led to breakthroughs in some key infrastructure projects in the state such as the land acquisition approvals for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train project, clearance for the metro car shed land in Mumbai, and the Dharavi redevelopment project. These projects could not move ahead during the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, comprising the Sena, BJP and Congress, as the state and Central governments used to be locked in a recurring tussle over them.While the state government has redoubled its efforts to clinch a big-ticket project ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, slated for late 2022 or early 2023, it is working on multiple fronts, including the revival of the Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project. At the Mumbai industrial conclave last week, Fadnavis indicated his government’s resolve to revive the refinery project. He said, “The refinery project is high on our plate. But the inordinate delay has made it difficult to match the same scale. Even if it is taken to its logical end it will be on a smaller scale.”Another project under process and being discussed on priority is Wadhawan Port at Raigad. With access to natural deep draught the project when completed will have the potential to anchor even the biggest ship across the world.Concerned over losing the the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, Shinde and Fadnavis seem to be hopeful now that they will get the Centre’s backing for these critical large projects in Maharashtra.It is also important that the state improves its record over the conversion of signed MoUs into real investments on the ground. In the past 7.5 years the state hosted two major investment events — Magnetic Maharashtra and Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0. The first Magnetic Maharashtra was held in 2018 under the then Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena coalition government. At the end of the three-day conclave, the state had then signed 4210 MoUs with promised investment of Rs 16 lakh crore, of which around Rs 12.1 lakh crore was investment from private industries and Rs 3.9 lakh crore was a proposal signed between the Centre and state governments. However, only 50 per cent of the total proposed investments, which were signed, could be realised and have been since at various stages of implementation.The second Magnetic Maharashtra was held under the MVA government in 2020 when Vedanta-Foxconn had committed their semiconductor project to the state, subject to the approval from the Centre.Although the Vedanta-Foxconn project’s departure from the state has now given the Opposition MVA a handy weapon to score points against the BJP-Shinde regime, nobody is disputing the state’s ability to “overtake” Gujarat.The Leader of the Opposition and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, said, “We had promised a 1,000 acres land parcel to the company in Talegaon. If Vedanta-Foxconn has buckled under political pressure to relocate the project it is a sad comment on politics.”Taking up the political challenge, Fadnavis has pledged to outstrip Gujarat in coming days. At least two projects show promise and are cited to show the BJP’s success — the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) complete with two nodes, Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area and Dighi Port Industrial Area, and the Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC). While Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area is being developed as a large-scale industrial cluster, the Dighi Port Industrial Area will become a port as well as an industrial hub. On the other hand, the AURIC is a greenfield smart industrial city spread across 4,030 hectares with investments of Rs 5,500 crore with the state government estimating that it can generate more than three lakh jobs over the next 15 years.The politics of rivalryThe creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat on the same day, May 1, 1960, through reorganisation of states was not a smooth affair. Mumbai (then Bombay) was the bone of contention between them. To ensure Mumbai remains in Maharashtra, a long-drawn agitation, Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was launched in 1956. About 105 people lost their lives in this movement. In this background, Maharashtra versus Gujarat has always been a fraught discourse.Despite the co-existence of both Marathi and Gujarati communities in Mumbai, the faultlines remain. And following the switch of the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, the Opposition has again brought this debate to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Confronted with the in-house challenges following a major split within, the Uddhav-led Sena seems to have got a major political issue on a platter that it hopes would cut ice with the people besides helping the party to hit back at the BJP. This assumes more significance as the BMC polls may be held over the next three-four months, which will settle the key question whether the Uddhav Sena would be able to retain its hold over the BMC that it has been able to do successfully over the last 25 years.The BJP-Shinde alliance, on the other hand, has been sensing an opportunity in the upcoming BMC polls to bring an end to the Sena rule from there and deal a body blow to Uddhav’s party. It, however, reckons that if Maharashtra versus Gujarat narrative gains traction, it might be “politically fatal” and hence they are going all out to quell the controversy and promise a mega industrial project for the state soon.Even as the BJP-Shinde combine has set higher electoral targets for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — in the previous 2019 polls, the BJP had won 23 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats and 105 out of 288 Assembly seats in the state — a polarisation along Maharashtra versus Gujarat lines might undermine it. Demographically, 65 per cent of the Maharashtra population is youth with an average age of 27. No political party can overlook the youth aspirations given its presence and potential to make or wreck the electoral results in the state. And the departure of a mega semiconductor project — which is regarded as the industry of the future — from the state makes for bad optics, both in the eyes of the state political class as well as its youth.The NCP’s youth leader and Karjat-Jamkhed MLA, Rohit Pawar, says, “We are not against any state’s development. But the question is why sacrifice Maharashtra youth. Why should our next generation pay the price?” Now, this may be question, which cannot go unaddressed for long as it is not just about employment and financial implications but also the aspirations of youth, whose vote base could play a big role in the electoral outcome.
At 13, Rajasthan’s Independent MLAs outnumber non-Congress and non-BJP parties and at least 10 of them are Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s supporters.In the CM’s tussles with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot in the past, these MLAs often gave him an edge but they may be now looking at an uncertain future as Gehlot may have to step down if he gets elected Congress president. At least one pro-Gehlot Independent MLA has changed his tune when it comes to Pilot who is said to be the Congress leadership’s choice to take over as CM if the veteran leader moves to Delhi to head the party.The Independent legislators played a crucial role in getting Gehlot chosen as CM after the 2018 Assembly polls that had seen the Congress fall one short of the majority mark of 100. Most of them are former Congress leaders, and even Union ministers, who were denied a ticket but went on to win without the party’s backing. The pro-Gehlot Independent MLAs promised to support a Congress-led government only if the 71-year-old was made the CM. This effectively put paid to Pilot’s ambitions for the top job and he had to settle for the deputy CM’s chair. When Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and the party in 2020, these MLAs again sided with the CM. They stayed in hotels and resorts with Congress legislators while Pilot and his group of 18 MLAs camped in Delhi and Haryana for over a month. The Independent MLAs also voted for the Congress in this year’s Rajya Sabha elections.Given the level of support Gehlot enjoys among this group, it was unsurprising when Sirohi MLA Sanyam Lodha recently said the CM should be allowed to hold on to his post even if he becomes the Congress president. Lodha, who is an advisor to the CM, told reporters, “Indira ji, Rajiv Ji, Narsimha Rao ji, all stayed both Congress presidents and prime ministers. In the context of Rajasthan, I would like to say that Ashok Gehlot sahab has done excellent work in four years. He started schemes for the welfare of the poor, and did unprecedented development work … Only by projecting his face can the Congress benefit from these works. I feel that he should stay the chief minister and lead the Congress.”In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, Gehlot said though the “one person, one post” principle laid down in the party’s Udaipur Declaration was meant for nominated posts and not ones for which elections are held, a person holding two posts would not be able to “do justice to the Congress presidency”.Some of the former CongressmenLodha is a three-time MLA from Sirohi. In 2018, he was among the veteran leaders denied an election ticket by the Congress. At the time, Pilot led the state unit and fielded young candidates, some of whom had a background in student politics. But the move backfired.Lodha defeated both the Congress candidate and sitting BJP minister Otaram Dewasi, who headed the first cow welfare ministry, in the election. The other Independent legislators in the Gehlot camp are former Union Minister and Khandela MLA Mahadeo Singh Khandla, Shahpura MLA Alok Beniwal who is the son of senior Congress leader and former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, Gangapur MLA Ramkesh Meena, and Thanagazi MLA Kanti Prasad.Of the 13 Independent legislators, three have maintained relations with Pilot. They are Om Prakash Hudla, Khushveer Singh and Suresh Tak. With Gehlot now set to contest the Congress presidential elections and the party leadership said to be in favour of Pilot as the next CM, Dudu MLA Babulal Nagar, who is among Gehlot’s advisors and staunch supporters, praised the former deputy CM.Nagar sparked a controversy last week by saying in a public meeting that anybody chanting slogans other than “Rajiv Gandhi Amar Rahe” and “Ashok Gehlot Zindabad” would be jailed. He spoke a day after shoes and bottles were hurled and “Sachin Pilot Zindabad” was shouted when Congress ministers were speaking at the “asthi visarjan (ash immersion)” ceremony of Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla.But, the Dudu MLA recently told reporters, “Pilot is a young leader of Rajasthan, of India. He has a long life ahead of him. He has a personality and that is why I feel that nobody can reduce his number (marks) or increase it. He has the ability and is doing politics according to it. I have seen him at that time when he was not in politics. I have been a kattar samarthak (staunch supporter) of Rajesh Pilot ji (Sachin’s father), have been his worker.”
The Gujarat Assembly elections in December will decide whether the public wants BJP leader Amit Shah’s son, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son or their own children to become a prominent figure in the future, said Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia in Patan district of North Gujarat on Friday.On the third day of his six-day Gujarat tour, Sisodia, who is campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said “For BJP workers, I want to tell you that only (AAP convener and Delhi CM) Arvind Kejriwal ji can give you good schools for your children and good hospitals.”Addressing a public rally at Balisana in Patan, Sisodia said, “This time’s change is not a change of party but rather a change for your household. Till now, the only change that has been happening is either make Sonia Gandhi’s son a big man or make Amit Shah’s son a big man. First time, Kejriwalji is coming and saying that you vote, and your child will be a big man…”He added, “Making your child a big man is not something that the Congress, the BJP or the AAP can do… Only a school and college can… There is a Mehsana BJP leader, who I won’t name since you know it. This leader, before coming into politics owned a four bigha land, today he owns 1,000 bighas. Here leaders become rich.”In his second public address at Unjha, Sisodia continued, “If you vote for the BJP, then Amit Shah’s son becomes a big man. If you vote for Congress then Sonia Gandhi’s children become big.”Continuing with education as the primary plank of his campaign, Sisodia said at Balisana, “The Gujarat government has not created a post for computer teachers in government schools in the 21st century. If someone in the world hears that there is no computer teacher in a state in India, they will laugh at us. If you are not teaching children in the 21st century about computers, what are you teaching them? If you don’t have posts for computer teachers in the 21st century, then shame on such education and shame on such government. I am worried.”Sisodia also visited the Umiya Mata Temple at Unjha in Patan and addressed a second public rally at Unjha“I’m seeing politics change. I started working in 2013 and today we can’t believe that we are seeing a day when we are talking about schools from a political stage,” Sisodia said.Meanwhile, Isudan Gadhvi, AAP national joint general secretary, who has been accompanying Sisodia in his Gujarat tour so far, met protesting mid-day meal workers outside the Patan collector’s office.Speaking to media persons outside the collector’s office, Gadhvi said, “They are demanding higher wages, lower gas cylinder rates, and it is only natural that their demands are met. I promise that within two months of AAP coming into power in Gujarat, we will fulfil all their demands, will get them the right vegetables,…we will ensure to bring children out of malnutrition by providing quality food.”
AHMEDABAD: The city on Friday recorded 30 new Covid cases, taking the active cases to 221. The state recorded 125 cases while the active cases reached 1,023. Two deaths -- one each in Jamnagar city and Tapi -- were recorded, taking the death toll to 11,031. Six out of 33 districts had zero active cases. Fifteen other districts had less than 10 active cases. In 24 hours, Gujarat vaccinated 598 persons for the first dose and 2,186 for the second. In all, 5.43 crore were administered the first and 5.39 crore, the second dose of Covid vaccine. TNN