The saga of the Indian National Congress

After a long time, I am writing anything political but the events of the past few weeks have made me again have a look at the Indian political landscape. The Indian political landscape is abuzz with the entry of political strategist and mercenary, Prashant Kishore into the Congress and how is he going to transform the grand old party. I find it amusing, to say the least, because a single person who claims to have the ability to transform the political landscape is just another person aiming to grab power. And to buttress that point, I will just give the example of Arvind Kejriwal.

I have a few observations that might go against the current thinking. First, Congress might be more democratic that we might believe them to be. The reason most people don’t realize it because it is the Central leadership which is limited to the Gandhi family. But if you look at it, everybody wants Gandhi’s to be the leader, so that it keeps rivals at bay. Whenever a tough decision to be made in the state units it is referred to the Central leadership. So it has become convenient for the state leaders to avoid tough decisions while keeping the enemy in check. And, all the while the central Congress leadership, devoid of any power is wary of scaring whatever remains of its local leaderships. As a case in point whenever the Central leadership has asserted itself, we have seen people like Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam break away from the party fold. THe job of the central leadership is not easy but they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory by not recognising the ambitions of local leaders and identifying the right leaders.

The second is the role of Prashant KIshore is going to be. As I had mentioned earlier, I had mentioned him as a political mercenary. The reason is he has worked with almost everyone on the political spectrum, so that makes me doubt whether he is any way ideologically motivated to defeat the current government. The only thing in his favor might be that he is power hungry. But, being an outsider he might be able to effect changes in the grand old party where the writ of central leadership is ineffective. It might lead to an exodus of lot of leaders and might actually help in rejuvenating the party with a new batch of leaders. What Rahul Gandhi might have tried and failed due to the old-guard, Prashant KIshore might succeed.

Lastly, I want Congress to succeed, not because I believe they are much different from the BJP, it is always very important for a country to have a vibrant opposition. Right now what we see is a rag-tag opposition. The only alternative to Congress as of now is the rise of AAP but it will take time, while Congress despite being weak has presence and brand recall throughout India.

Advertisement

Loss of a friend

One fine evening while on a vacation during the Easter break, I suddenly get a call from a friend back in India. I was to say literaly on the top of the word at the highest peak in Germany. I couldn’t take the call but then I get a message which I saw later. It was just a one liner, that Karthick has passed away. It took a few seconds to register.

I called up my friends in Bangalore, to make sure that this is not a prank. How can a 35 year old guy, just ‘pass away’? It wasn’t a accident but rather he went away in his sleep. I was lost for words and I couldn’t gather the courage to call Karthick’s wife who also is a dear friend of mine. I was left pondering what is she must be going through? I didn’t know what to say or do to alleviate the pain she is in and at the same time trying to make sense of things.

I was in a predicament, given the news should I be upset and cancel rest of my trip due to losing a dear friend? But as the old memories started flooding back, I realised that is the last thing Karthick would have wanted me to do and that is grieve his death. Karthick or ‘KC’ as we used to call him was a hardcore Rajnikant fan. I met him first when I started working in my first job in Bangalore. The first few months things were more social than friendship. But slowly we became friends and had a huge gang who would drink, eat, travel all in that order. KC was the guy who wouldn’t shy away from treating us for absurd reasons and boy did he love his beer?

I have had so many fond memories with KC. And how cool he was with loss. I still remember we went to Hogenakkal falls with our gang and the ‘Coracle’ guy poured water on us, trashing our gadgets. KC lost his ipod touch and his Nikon DSLR while I lost my phone to water. BUt he was there all smiles and not a tinge of sadness( or he must have hidden it pretty well), while I was mourning the loss of my phone.

KC , was a workaholic and a person who never expressed much. I had some memorable trips and evenings with him which sadly won’t be reprised. As my wife said, how could he leave without saying goodbye? But when I did think about it , KC might have been a big fan of larger than life persona of Rajnikanth, but in reality he was a person who loved being hidden in the crowd and effectively doing his job. You have left a plethora of memories for me and others to remember you by. KC, my friend, wherever you are I do hope you are still spreading happiness. And, that last goodbye is still pending my friend.

Travels in the time of Omicron- Part 1

So it took me two years, 3 doses of vaccine, and multiple corona tests before I made my way back home to India. I thought after 2 years of the pandemic and the disastrous handling during the second wave, I thought the Indian central and the state governments would be wiser. But was I wrong?

I traveled from Frankfurt, Germany to New Delhi and then onwards to Kolkata. So according to the rules, I had to carry a PCR report, which needed to be checked at Kolkata and I had to self-isolate and get tested after that. When I landed in Delhi, I had to undergo a PCR test after which I was allowed to pass through immigration and exit the airport. After I took the connecting flight and there was no check. I landed at Kolkata airport and again there was no checking. I went to my final destination and again there was no contact from the local authorities. After 7 days, I went to the local health center to get tested and they were surprised that I wanted to be tested despite having no symptoms. Apparently, they were unaware of the rules for foreign travelers. THe person who took my sample, well had no protective gear, even the mask was missing. This was around Christmas when omicron was just about starting to rear its ugly head all over India.

So, it made me realize that no matter which party is in power, there are a bunch of incompetent civil servants who are running the show with no accountability. The political masters are happy to just be in power and milk taxpayers’ money and have no wish to bring any meaningful changes. This happened in West Bengal, a state ruled by the Trinamool Congress and whose leader aspires to become the Prime Minister of India one day. If she is incompetent at the state level, what can we expect her to do at the national level is a question to ponder. Also while I was in Bengal, the number of cases rose dramatically and one of the measures that the state govt. took was to ban flights from New Delhi and Mumbai as they were going through the omicron peaks but, trains were allowed. And our airline also found an innovative way for us to get back to Delhi, They just rerouted us via Hyderabad. So that’s that of the travel ban.

I am writing this blog to highlight the lack of credible political leadership in India. The situation is so dire in India that people are slowly but surely getting fed up with the Central govt and Narendra Modi but when they look elsewhere there is no one credible face to replace him. Hence the people are happy with the status quo something which happened in the first 50 years of our independence when Congress was in power for the majority of the period as all opposition parties were deemed to lack the national presence and the required administrative skills to govern the country. I just hope that the educated people of our country do rise up someday and allow us to make the change for us to really go out on the path to development.

The mystery of covid vaccines in India

Today I write after a month of extreme stress in my home country. We saw heart-rending pleas for oxygen, plasma, medicine, etc on social media. Our governments were caught napping and basking in false bravado. This one month has destroyed the image of an emerging superpower, which was carefully being nurtured by the current govt. But despite all the missteps, there has been one glaring policy that has been appalling. End of April the Modi Govt decided to decentralize the decision-making process for the covid fight. At the peak of the second wave, the states were suddenly left to fend for themselves with vaccine acquisition being a state responsibility. At the same time, the govt announced everybody would be eligible for vaccinations without taking into account the vaccine stocks available or the vaccine manufacturing capacity as no advance orders were placed.

First, I would talk about our homegrown vaccine, Covaxin. They used old and tried and tested methodology of using an attenuated strain of the infecting virus for designing a vaccine. On paper, it was one of the best approaches but the issue was a lack of data. Despite the robustness of the approach, hard data is required to trust the vaccine. Just for reference by January 2021, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, and Moderna, all vaccines for covid19, released their phase 3 clinical trials data but it was only in March Covaxin published its phase 2 clinical trials data in a peer-reviewed journal while phase 3 data haven’t been released publicly but the company has claimed an 81% efficacy without any peer review.

Second, the approvals for the Pfizer vaccine were withheld because Pfizer wants protection from any claims arising due to the vaccine use while Moderna is yet to apply for certification in India. Why the govt. hasn’t been proactive in soliciting more vaccines including the single-shot Jannsen vaccine is a mystery. Other than that, one of the arguments I have heard is that none of the above-mentioned vaccines have been tested on Indians. Despite my limited knowledge of vaccines and clinical trials, I can just say that this is a pandemic and I am sure many people of Indian origin and Indians living abroad have been administered the vaccines without any major adverse events, and on top of that a vaccine which is safe for use in the majority of the western world wouldn’t essentially have severe side effects. Even an expedited process could have been designed for the Indian context given that Covaxin was approved for use in India despite having no efficacy data.

Third point is the definite opening up of vaccinations for all. The govt. could have managed the whole process better and on this, I can always sympathize with the govt. because given the scale of vaccinations there can be no foolproof manner to go about it. The only thing where the govt. slipped up was ordering enough vaccines. Last week of April announcement gave the state govt and the central govt one week to place all the orders and the vaccine companies to start manufacturing like a billion doses which in an ideal scenario would have taken a year or so. Vaccine manufacturing can’t simply be scaled up so fast.

This pandemic has exposed the lack of knowledge in our politicians and they are busy managing their image instead of solving problems. The Delhi CM, an engineer from one of the elite institutes of India decides to kick up an international diplomatic storm by classifying a Singapore variant of the virus which is the Indian variant in Singapore. Oops sorry, there are no Indian variants because that is insulting the country.

The dawn of a ‘NEW’ New Delhi

Recently the Government of India started work on the process of a 900 crore new Parliament building adjacent to the old Parliament which is almost a century old. On the flip side, it sounds like a very sound decision. An old building may not make sense to spend loads of money to future proof it. But the problem isn’t the new Parliament but wider redevelopment plans envisaged by the current ruling government of Shri Narendra Modi.

Why am I against the redevelopment, you may ask? I am against the redevelopment not due to my political leanings but rather more practical reasons. The first problem I have is the issue with congestion. The new plans envisage not only a new parliament but more buildings which will come up after demolishing some old buildings and destroying a significant green area. Amongst the new buildings, a new residence for the PM, and a huge office secretariat complex to unify all the ministries at the same place as planned. The reasoning behind the whole idea is that it will increase efficiency in the functioning of the ministries. But then comes my question, with the govt. Of India pushing for a ‘Digital India’, the physical proximity of offices sound like hyperbole. New Delhi, the central area despite being very well planned is still choc-a-bloc with traffic and centralizing all offices is going to make it only worse. If anything we have learned from the Covid pandemic is the ability to embrace remote working and it kinda worked despite our misgivings. Hence again I am not sold on the idea of centralizing the offices in a single place.

The second problem I have is with destroying the character of the area. The area is full of public spaces with loads of green cover. The govt. Plans to plant 10 times the trees which would be cut down albeit at a different location. Here we are talking about cutting down very old trees. I will just put in an image of the current vista(courtesy: Newslaundry).

Central Vista (Credits: World Monuments Fund)

Also with the new buildings coming up, p[ublic spaces would be severely curtailed. No on paper, we will have more(?) public space but whom are we kidding? With new offices would come security perimeters because it would be housing some of the most important Govt. officials at one location and in our country, security is more of a sign of status rather than a necessity (Half of our parliamentarians have criminal cases against them). I really don’t care about demolishing many of the ‘bhawans’ as they hardly add to the architecture and many of them are actually eyesores.

But again I believe that the government wants is to create a legacy. It is similar to what the medieval kings upon coming to power, build a new fort and city to celebrate and cement their legacy. So, despite despising the Mughal rulers of India, here we have the leaders of the ruling dispensation is busy emulating them. One of the lasting impacts of such projects is it creates employment. But in the midst of a pandemic, one would wonder that spending 20k odd crores on a vanity project when the healthcare system of the country has been found to be more than wanting makes any sense or not, I will let the readers make their own judgment calls.

The story of second class Indians

A town around 200km away from the national capital of India is a quaint town named Hathras. Hathras was once known for its cotton and nowadays known as the largest producer of hing(asafoetida) a condiment essential in Indian kitchens and also holi colors. So why is this insignificant town the topic of discussion today? Because on the night of 14 September, a girl was gang-raped by 4 men in a field while cutting grass to feed the cattle. Her neck was broken, her tongue was gut and she was strangled with her own dupatta. She didn’t die but fought on for the next 15 days before succumbing to her injuries. In between, she was moved from the district hospital to Aligarh hospital and finally to the Safdarjung hospital where she regained consciousness for a few moments and gave the names of the alleged rapists. She was brave and fought for her life but maybe we didn’t deserve her to live. I won’t talk about caste, religion, or any other similar reasons which are being used to gain some political points.

This story is about the second class citizens of India, who live in tier 2/3 cities of India. In a wintry Delhi evening on 12 December 2012, a girl who was named Nirbhaya for her indomitable fighter spirit, was brutally gang-raped by 4 men in a moving bus, his friend brutally beaten and both were left to die beside the road. Sadly Nirbhaya passed away after fighting on for 14 days. It led to a wave of anger and protests, people across the country hit the streets protesting against the deteriorating state of law and order and increasing cases of violence against women. The media backed the citizens and there was a flurry of debates, opinion pieces, and coverage of the protests and police action. The rapists were finally executed in 2019 after 7 years which was to say the least fast by Indian judicial standards but I digress.

The gangrape of the girl from Hathras barely made the news. I traversed major Indian news sites and the major news channels and was surprised by the lack of coverage. I will start off with the so-called ‘nationalistic’ news sources. Swarajya had just one article which was also sourced from an agency feed while another champion of the right-wing Opindia which has a woman as an editor, failed to have a single article on the topic, but I did find a rape incident report for September in which two ‘Muslim’ men allegedly raped a ‘Dalit’ woman. Maybe for Opindia, this rape was juicier news than the Hathras gangrape. I went to other news sites and I will desist from commenting just have a look at the screenshots.

After the Nirbhaya case, there have been numerous rapes in India, according to Govt. of India stats in 2018, approximately over 33000 rapes were reported across the country. I will list a few heinous cases which never got any attention from the national media. In 2015, in a town named Ranaghat in West Bengal, a 72-year-old nun was gang-raped by men from across the border. In 2016, in a town called Bikaner in Rajasthan, a 17-year-old girl was raped and her body was found in a water tank in the college she was studying to be a teacher. In 2018, in Kathua in the erstwhile Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, an 8-year-old girl was raped and killed . in 2017 another 17-year-old girl was raped by a minister in the state Govt., it took her almost a year to get a FIR registered, and her whole family slowly killed off. And now this case from Hathras. If you want to read about more rape cases from smaller places in India which are gruesome yet fail to fire our imagination to protest please go through this link.

The sad part is our media is so big city-centered like if an incident doesn’t happen in a city like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, or Bangalore there is hardly any reporting. The major debates on our news channels are focussed more on drug use by celebrities, Pakistan, or other trivial topics. With increasing revenues of news channels, they are cutting their local state bureaus making ground-level hyper-local reporting a casualty. Now the news channels don’t need reporters, they just need a star anchor and have a shouting match during prime-time and are happily sponsored by major brands and at the same time being justified by increasing viewership of such mundane shows.

The noise over the passing of three farm bills in India

Recently (as usual) there was some drama over the passing of three agriculture focussed bills. The bills were passed easily through the Lok Sabha but when it came to Rajya Sabha we were witness to some legendary scenes of members of the opposition throwing rule books at the deputy chairman of the house, MP’s being thrown out of the house using house marshals, etc. So what are the bills which led to the drama? Let us see.

Bill number one was The Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill 2020., bill number two: The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020. And bill number 3: Essential Commodities(Amendment) Act 2020. So what do these bills are about? These bills seek to abolish the role of the state-run Agricultural Produce Market Committee(APMC), reducing the role of middle-men who would buy at low prices from the APMC run markets and enable direct entry of corporates to secure sales of crops. 

So prima-facie it sounds like a win-win for farmers but why are the farmers in Haryana and Punjab protesting so much? It has to do with the fact that Punjab and Haryana are the major farmers of Rice and wheat. While wheat is the staple of much of north India while the rice consumption historically has been lower. So if the sale is made in an open market, the big farmers of Punjab and Haryana growing paddy are worried that they might take huge losses due to lower demand. Other states are kind of supporting the bill as they feel corporate involvement will lead to better storage, fairer price discovery, and as a result, increased incomes for the farmers. The govt’s role would be only to regulate the market instead of directly involved in buying unsold inventory. And any which ways only 22 crops are listed by govt for Minimum Support Price(MSP) and on top of the list would be paddy and wheat. 

Frankly speaking, I have little knowledge when it comes to the farming sector in India but it does sound like a reform towards a system in Europe and the USA but the govt. Needs to have enough checks and balances to ensure that like in Europe and The USA there are huge farm subsidies by the govt. Due to a fall in farmer incomes. And this is where my objection to the bills come. The Govt. refused to have any sort of discussion on the bills in the Parliament. I would have personbally liked a debate in the parliament where we could have gleamed the actual objections, pitfalls of the bill vs the advantages of the reforms but alas this govt. chose to bulldoze its way through the p[arliament.

The curious case of Delhi Riots and the misuse of the Government machinery

So secondary charge sheets were filed in the Delhi riots case. And to people’s surprise that the Delhi Police is hell-bent on linking all anti-CAA protests to the communal riots that left North Delhi scarred. So many prominent anti-CAA protestors like Yogendra Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, Jayati Ghosh, Apoorvanand, and Umar Kahlid, and Umar Khalid has already been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA). The funny part is a few days back a doctor from UP Dr. Kafeel AHmed who was arrested under the same act was released upon orders by the Allahabad high court and the charges under the act set aside.

Why have the people mentioned above have been named? Well, they gave speeches that exhorted the protesters to go to ‘any extent possible’ to stand against the law. The police in their hamhanded manner forgot nowhere the speeches attributed to the accused mentioned violent protests. They evoked Mahatma Gandhi, his principles, and national integration repeatedly. It is not surprising that 2 of the names in the list are professors, so if the govt. Can target the intellectuals it can scare the others into meek submission. And this is not even to do with the fact that BJP is the only party doing this.

In Maharastra, the Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has become suddenly the beacon of hope against nepotism and drug abuse prevalent in the industry. She said many things which make no sense but the ruling Shiv-Sena govt which is in alliance with Congress decided to respond first a minister abusing her and then the local municipal authorities moving onto her house to demolish ‘illegal’ constructions. Giving a 24-hour notice to a person and then initiating action against a person who has opposing views isn’t a sign of law enforcement but rather a dictatorship. This just goes onto show doesn’t matter who is in power, they love to use power to put down opposition. 

Back to the Delhi riots and there were many prominent personalities who have voiced concern against the CAA law passed in December but if those speeches imply that a stringent anti-terror law like UAPA can be used to harass law-abiding citizens then it would put serious doubt in minds of dissenters. Many of us don’t have a safety net so if we choose to dissent against the govt, let it be policy or law we have to be scared that we might be branded terrorists and our careers ruined forever by an endless cycle of courts and becoming untouchable in the job market. This sets a dangerous precedent and reminds us of the emergency imposed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then the PM of India who incidentally jailed many of the leaders from the current ruling party including the PM. Hence it is more perplexing that the same leaders who have already bore the brunt of Govt. power choose to follow a similar path to cling onto power.

The story of coronavirus pandemic management in India

At the time of writing India has become the second-worst affected country by coronavirus pandemic and the number of confirmed cases stands at 4,224,014. The daily rise in cases is slowly inching up towards 100000 cases a day with no signs of the infection slowing down despite almost 3 months of lockdown. While every other country has slowed down but India seems to have bucked the trend completely and continues on the n-1th wave. This blogpost aims to highlight what went wrong in India’s fight to contain the infection.

First, I would like to add that Coronavirus is a serious disease but in a country like India where more people die of dengue, malaria, TB, etc. India as a country responded with lockdowns because unlike the other diseases this disease afflicted the poor and the rich alike. The absence of treatment compounded the problem and the middle class and the elites of the country responded in a way never seen ever at least in India. 

The govt. for a change responded quite proactively by announcing a lockdown as a response to the pandemic to slow the spread of the virus. But what the government. Did before and after announcing the lockdown left a lot to be desired. Before the lockdown was announced travellers coming from abroad were allowed to go home without any tests or any need to isolate at home. This drove the first wave and spread the disease far and wide. Only thermal scanners were deployed in the airports to check for signs of increased temperature to detect infected patients. The govt. In terms of the looming pandemic, there was still wasn’t scaling up testing for covid19. So despite being proactive mover we failed to check the infections.

Once the lockdown was announced, the Govt. failed to properly indicate the length of the lockdown. All of a sudden millions of casual workers in Indian cities were left jobless and with limited means and uncertainty surrounding the length of the lockdown decided to take the journey back to their rural homes. But there was no transport available and the workers had to literally walk hundreds of kilometers and hardly practiced social distancing and to add on there was no rule yet on compulsory usage of face coverings. So there is no study which might indicate a few infected people in those huge crowds may have helped spread the disease to the hinterlands. Testing was negligible in the big cities so you can imagine what would be the state in the hinterland.

The testing in India was very lackluster, to say the least. India hit the milestone of 1 million tests a day only on 22 August 2020, some 147 days after the first lockdown was announced. So by the time, we might be testing enough the infection has spread wide and far. And one of the most puzzling things is that the govt. Even now doesn’t admit that community transmission is rampant and maintains there is no community transmission. With over 4 million cases I wonder how well the contract tracing is going on? I will give a few examples from states which despite not being ruled by the BJP have failed in performing any better than the central govt. The first would be Delhi. Delhi was staring at a gargantuan outbreak and daily around 4000 cases were being detected with around just around 10-15 thousand tests being conducted. There were stories of hospitals overwhelmed with patients and a lack of communication to family members of patients. The central govt. Intervened and the number of tests went up and more facilities were created to help manage the situation. Slowly things started improving but again the govt. became complacent, the number of tests remained stagnant around 20 thousand when testing needed to be scaled up significantly to make sure that the virus is contained well. Now Delhi is seeing a resurgence of numbers and the Delhi govt. Is scrambling to increase the number of tests and playing a blame game with the Central govt. 

The second case would be West Bengal. From 18 July onwards WB has been reporting cases around 2000 positive cases with 13 thousand odd tests and on 6 September the figure stands at 3thousand positive cases on around 44 thousand tests. During this intervening time, the number of cases has remained constant between 2 to 3 thousand despite the number of tests tripling.  On the outside, it seems WB has everything under control and the curve has been flattened very well but when you talk to people on the ground you get to hear stories and the backlog of test results, the state of hospitals be it public or private. Given a state with WB population (Around 91 million), the testing still remains very low. But the state govt. Even now has failed to scale up testing and keeps blaming the Central govt. For lack of tests. And this despite the fact that Indian test manufacturing companies are planning to export more than 10 million test kits.

The point I was trying to make is that the govt. Be at the state level or the central level has failed miserably to rise up to the occasion. The infection is widely widespread as indicated by the serological studies in the major cities indicating more than 30% of the population might have been infected already. And now the only way to control the infection is simply to test and isolate. There is no point anymore in contact tracing. The govt. Failed to scale up testing during the first 2 months of lockdown when it could have been effectively controlled. And this should be a lesson for us and put in proper operating procedures because this is not going to be the last epidemic and a good example would be the South Korean model. I am sure India will survive this pandemic not because we have amazing governance but rather we have always managed to survive for the last 74 years despite always being at the precipice and not just falling over.

The ‘act of god’ and the Indian economy

The ‘act of god’ and the Indian economy

India faced it’s first economic contraction ever in recorded history after independence. The Indian GDP fell by 23.4% in the April-June quarter. And guess what is the headlines in some of the widely watched Indian news channels: Who or what led Sushant Singh Rajput to commit suicide? To say the least it is bizarre. So in the next few paragraphs, I will explain why the heading and what a bioinformatician feels about the Indian economy.

Just a day before the Indian economic figures were announced, the Finance minister Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman, an alumnus of the much-maligned Indian Jawahar Lal Nehru University declared that the contraction in the Indian economy is expected and the Govt. couldn’t do much given the current coronavirus pandemic and it is a ‘ACT OF GOD’. I found the statement amusing not because she was lying but it was an easy way of deflecting the responsibility from the ruling party. I am not much of an economist but the Indian economy was already in the doldrums as the growth had slowed down to around 4% in the previous quarter reflecting a wider malaise in the economy and the pandemic simply managed to make an already bad situation worse.

The response of the Indian govt has been very strange to the slowdown brought about by the pandemic. Worldwide the major economies even the Trump govt. Decided to put more money into the hands of citizens in the form of tax cuts and COVID-specific allowance along with tax cuts for corporates so that job loss is minimized along with trying to maintain the spending by the public. On the contrary the Indian govt. Decided to provide stimulus to corporate India in the form of tax breaks which will be incurred in the future so it hardly helped the companies with the cash situation while creating uncertainty over jobs being saved over time. Nobody knew what was exactly the govt stimulus except for the fact it touted some big numbers out of which hardly 10% was a real hard cash component and the rest was to be accrued over time. A confused policy left nobody any wiser and it led to the amazing numbers as we can see today.

Now I will talk about the supporters of the govt. Look at the image below which was shared widely over the social media and many of my ‘educated’ friends sent to me.

Looking at the image we would be like ‘ Wow, at least we are not the worst-performing economy’. But the image hides lots of things. First is that the USA is the hardest hit economy and the fall in GDP reflects that but again the figure for the USA has been annualized that is calculated as a prediction for the whole year based on the previous quarter which was actually around 10% when compared to the June-mar quarter. While the Indian GDP data was for the Apr-Jun quarter(2020-21) and was the fall based on the same quarter for the year 2019-20. So the comparison isn’t exactly apples with apples but gives a certain comparison. Only UK reflects the impact of coronavirus in an economy that had the highest deaths in the European Union and the uncertainty in the economy due to the looming BREXIT. So it is now clear that the Indian economy was the worst-performing amongst the 20 biggest economies of the world.

So what is the problem with the ruling NDA govt? The problem is that the govt. is not acknowledging the economic slowdown. Second is the govt is instead of reducing the tax burden on the citizens, the govt has been increasing taxes on Petrol and Diesel, the primary fuel of the economy despite historic lows in the global prices. And not only the BJP govt but also the non-BJP state governments. are also guilty of using taxes on fuels to mop up extra revenue due to shortfall in other areas of revenue collection. The supporters of the govt. are somehow ok with historical high fuel prices when the prices are the lowest in the global market which is surprising because once upon a time the same people were furious over the previous govt when they had tried to de-regulate fuel prices and make it based on global prices when the global prices were above 100$/barrel. The govt. Somehow doesn’t have its ears to the ground and joblessness and lack of new opportunities are building resentment in the large youth population of India. The only thing that is saving the ruling party in the elections is the lack of a credible face in the opposition ranks. The opposition needs a charismatic mass leader otherwise this govt. Will keep getting a free license to keep getting away with murder.

The next quarter will determine the real quantum of the economic slump in India. With the economy opening up and the surge of cases in COVID patients in India somehow I am a bit skeptical of the economic outlook. The govt. As usual, is managing the headlines in the major media outlets spectacularly. The only bit of positive news coming out of India right now is from the Indo-china border with the Indian armed forces flexing its muscles and thwarting the attempts by the Chinese PLA to alter the status quo at the disputed border. For a change, India has acted proactively after the setbacks in the past few months and it has taken the upper hand in the border skirmishes.