Tuesday, May 26, 2020


तेरे शौर्य की है ऐसी गाथा
तेरे सौंदर्य पर वो भारी पड़ी
तेरी चिता की राख की गर्माहट
ज्वाला से भी बहुत अधिक रही
करें कोटि प्रयत्न चंद तुच्छ मनुष्य
तेरी छवि को आज मिटाने की
पद्मावती, तू बस एक रानी नहीं
जीवन पर्यन्त तू अमर हुई।

तेरे हुकम रावल रतन की आँख
का तारा केवल तू नहीं रही
तू दूर आकाश में ध्रुव तारे
सी जग में यूँ तू ज्ञात हुई
तेरी वीरता से ख़िलजी थर्राया
तू वीरांगना श्रेष्ठ कुछ यूँ हुई
तू बस एक सुंदर रानी नहीं
मेवाड़ का अनमोल इक रतन हुई।

वो छल पारंगत क्रूर आक्रांता
जिससे बन लोहा तू भिड़ ही गई
तेरे प्राप्ति के हर संभव प्रयास को
तू आँधी बन छिन्बिन करती रही
तू बन चरित्र परिभाषा नई
हर पथ को प्रतिष्ठित करती चली
तू बन सिंहनी कर चली जौहड़
बनी आत्मसम्मान की नई गिरि

मरुथल में खिलते नहीं हैं पुष्प
तू बात असत्य कुछ यूँ कर गई
इतिहास स्वयं साक्षी था वहाँ
स्वयं धर्म बना तेरा अनुयायी
तेरी स्मृति महक रही आज भी है
तू भारत की ऐसी वीर हुई।
पद्मावती, तू बस एक रानी नहीं
जीवन पर्यन्त तू अमर हुई।

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Lost Story of Bihar's Industrialization


Today, this tweet came up to my knowledge, as I was walking through on the top trends on Twitter for a brief glance. What caught my eye was the image that was inserted in the tweet. Contrary to perceptions about Bihar being some agricultural rustic land, one saw some big plants having been named in the list. The tweet had an angry tone, and was asking that people are wanting to re-develop Bihar's industries so that the migrant labourers do not have to ever leave their state again. Ironically, while this topic rages on among the tweeters of Bihari origin, the topic seems to have hit a stonewall of silence, as if no one wants to talk about the story behind these pictures.


Migrants are not able to get work within Bihar has always been a major driver of the migrant exodus from the state. In 2015, when there were state elections, there was a detailed discussion after perhaps several decades in the news media about industrialization in Bihar. Perhaps it was a necessary question - more than a decade back Nitish Kumar had stormed to power with the promise of transforming Bihar. However, when one talks to the Biharis outside Bihar, one only hears from them about what I call the Patna mirage - the minute one steps beyond Patna, things are bleak as ever. What was ironic was that in places like Fatuha, a supposed industrial town that saw some industries working with government support, local people barely got any employment.

A classic example of the situation was a company called Lumbini Beverages. A plant for manufacturing soft drinks for Pepsi, the plant that had been operational since 1997 actually shut down in September 2019. Thousands of people, full time and contractual, lost jobs overnight, and they came on the streets. Ironically, the reason behind the closure was that Lumbini could not strike an agreement with Pepsi, and subsequently there were talks with Coca Cola, which also did not materialize. This news got buried under a host of Youtube videos that propagated the various mega projects that have announced investments in Bihar.

Now it has been a lazy argument that Jharkhand, once part of Bihar, was a big hub of industries, and somehow continues to remain so to an extent. However, it was never the case that other parts of Bihar did not have industries set up, which is where the picture raises a genuine question - what really happened?

A big factor of course would have been the fracturing of law and order in Bihar, courtesy Lalu Prasad. However, the story would have started much earlier - just like Bengal's industry decay can be traced back to 1977, one can certainly trace back a similar trajectory to the times of such leaders as Karpuri Thakur, who was continually sabotaged by his own partymen, particularly Lalu and Nitish, for 'failing to meet the people's aspirations'. Lalu too was a Nitish choice to sideline every other faction, and yet, despite being Minister for some time, he decided to part ways.

Of course, in general, the entire socialist ilk must bear responsibility for the fate of Bihar. In a write up for Uday India, long time Communist student leader and economist Mohan Guruswamy, who was friends with the slain Chandrashekhar Prasad, had detailed how everything, even economics, was seen as a casteist conspiracy, ably supported by the likes of Mohammad Shahabuddin and Sharad Yadav. To quote Guruswamy's words:

Lalu recalled some of the statistics in it and rattled off things from it like the credit/deposit ratios, the investment in irrigation and rural development, and the destructive freight equalisation policy. He had a somewhat different take on it though. He said it was an upper caste/class conspiracy to keep the people of UP and Bihar poor and backward. Sharad Yadav had no interest in such things. On the way back, Sharad Yadav told me that he had introduced me to the next CM of Bihar. VP Singh was curious to know what Sharad had to say. Among us Sharad Yadav, who had an infinite capacity for intrigue, was referred to as Mamashree, inspired by the portrayal of Shakuni in the then popular Mahabharata serial. I told him that Mamashree thought of Lalu as a future CM to take the place of the great Karpoori Thakur. VP Singh gave me a quizzical look, as if to say are you for real?

However, that is not the raison d'être alone. A significant period has passed since then, and many people perhaps are simply thankful for the fact that Bihar has not seen the crime wave that it became infamous for on that scale again for a long period of time. Even then, there are questions that remain, which never get answered. For instance, the 2019 Economic Survey poses some facts that make one wonder why there is not more industrialization in the state while questioning the policy adopted by the state in general:

  • Though Bihar contributed only 1.5% of the total industries in the country in 2015-16, the growth rate of such industries in the state was 10%, much higher than the national average of 4%.
  • Bihar has relatively lower productive capacity, which translates into low capital and labour returns. For instance, the average size of fixed capital per factory in Bihar was only Rs 3.39 crore compared to Rs 14.70 crore at national level in 2015-16.
  • Labour absorption capacity has also been very low in Bihar vis-à-vis other states. In 2015-16, the total employment in industries in Bihar was 1.19 lakh, mere 0.8% of the national average.
  • Similarly, the number of workers per factory was only 41 against 75 at all-India level. Interestingly, wages, salaries (including bonus) per person annually in factories in Bihar has not been particularly low. In Bihar, wages, salaries (including bonus) was Rs 1,19,305 per person annually in 2015-16, increasing from Rs 97,790 in the previous year.

With the varying questions in mind, I wish to find more answers to the problem. Hopefully, I will get guidance on the subject from those who know me and also find out more as I try to write (if I get the time on this subject)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID Relief Package - What Other Countries Have Done

Courtesy: The Hindu
COVID-19 has impacted economies across the world, forcing people to seek government assistance in times of desperation. India already announced the PM Garib Kalyan Package and there are talks of a package to help the besieged Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. Reserved Bank of India (RBI) too has announced a host of measures along with Ministry of Finance to ease compliance issues and infuse liquidity in the hands of the people to tide over the crisis. 

Interestingly in India, a debate has also started on the very need of a stimulus package given its potential impact on fiscal credit, led by Ila Patnaik and Haseeb Drabu. This section is advocating that instead of fiscal package, states should rather be allowed to raise funds on their own, an ability they lost with the implementation of the GST.

While the Indian government is working towards resolving the economic and human crisis in the most appropriate manner, we take a look at other countries and their economic packages during this period.

United States of America
The United States of America (USA) Senate passed a stimulus package of USD 2 trillion. The package was announced in the form of specific sector wise allocation announcements:
  • USD 532 billion for big business; USD 377 billion for small businesses, loans and grants to them.
  • USD 290 billion direct payment for families.
  • USD 290 billion to cover up for revenue lost due to tax cuts.
  • USD 260 billion unemployment insurance.
  • USD 150 billion for various states.

United Kingdom
With the Prime Minister of United Kingdom Boris Johnson temporarily out of the picture after being afflicted by COVID-19, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the stimulus in 4 packages:

  • Budget- First economic package of £12 billion allocation was announced during the budget delivery on 11 March.
  • On 17 March, he followed up with a £350-billion Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for government-backed loans and £20 billion of grants and tax cuts for struggling companies.
  • On 20 March, he announced Coronavirus Job Retention Program of £7 billion of extra welfare spending. Government would pay 80% of salaried employees’ wages capped at £2,500/month. This was extended on 26 March to also cover additional employers. 

Germany announced a €750 billion stimulus package, comprising a mix of direct support and loans to specific sectors. Announcements were made using a mix of approaches:

  • €400 billion for securing corporate debt on the verge of default.
  • €100 billion for public sector bank KfW for giving out loans.
  • €100 billion to prevent hostile takeovers of companies by foreign entities
  • €50 billion to help small businesses and people affected by it including €15,000 Euro direct cash transfer to firms.

Australia has announced a 3-step fiscal stimulus package, using targeted approach:
  • AUD 17 billion fiscal stimulus package was announced on 11 March, targeting small business, welfare recipients and low-income households. 
  • On 23 March, the second fiscal stimulus of AUD 66 billion was announced. This included AUD 46 billion worth of direct government spending for individuals and businesses and AUD 20 billion loan guarantee. 
  • On 30 March, a AUD 130 Billion Jobs Plan was announced. Government will pay wage subsidies of AUD 1,500/employee every two weeks to help struggling businesses retain employees.

Japan announced a two-step fiscal stimulus worth $1.1 Trillion on April 7, using a combination of targeted and broad category approach announcements. The announcements were in continuation of the $121 billion fiscal stimulus announced in December of 2019 by the Japanese Prime Minister
  • Payment of ¥100,000 for every citizen
  • Government backed loan programs.

Singapore has announced three stimulus packages totalling to almost SGD 60 billion. The package is a mix of broad category announcements, targeted approaches and economic approaches:
  • SGD 6.4 billion allocated from the Health Ministry funds. This is targeted aid for sectors like tourism, aviation, food alongside household cash handouts.
  • SGD 48 billion announcement that provided for scrapping of property tax for hard-hit sectors, wage support for businesses and freezing of government fees.
  • SGD 5.1 billion allocation for extension of wage subsidies and foreign worker levy waiver, and raises cash handouts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Seva and Karma – The Dual Helix of Causality and the Mandate to Engage

It is interesting to observe the idea of seva or service in the Indic darsanas. Whatever be the outlook towards life, the importance to service of others is given a lot of importance. This definitely arises from the intertwined helical relationship between karma and seva. A succinct example of the depth of embedding of seva in the philosophy of karma can be be found in the Srivaishnava sampradaya’s understanding of the Advaita marga as put out first by reformer saint Sri Ramanujacharya, who lived in the 12th century AD. As Mohan Sagar had elaborated in his short piece on Ramanujacharya’s darsana[1] highlights some important facts:

·   Each and every aatma or soul in a crude translation is in its essential nature, its svarUpam, a simple receptacle to the Lord's Grace, and a humble instrument to His Good. This nature of servitude is not only limited to the soul, but is indeed the nature of matter, as well.

·     Consequently, the Lord is likened to the Soul of the Universe, with all the myriad of souls, the bodies in which they reside, and the matter that are their material possessions, being likened to His Body, dependent wholly upon Him and serving as Instruments to His Good. It only stands to reason then that when we seek to love and serve God, we must be willing and able to serve what is His, namely His Body, this Universe.

·        When we go beyond the things that separate us, when we know that each and every one of us exists solely because of the Grace of God, and when we know that all living beings are in their True Nature servants to Sriman Narayana, we can begin to operate from this mood of serving the world as a means of expressing love and servitude to Him, nurturing and caring for each other such that we can serve Him better.

The nature of seva is also defined in its impact, both on the physical level and the metaphysical. It is well recognized that the conflict of what constitutes seva, the boundaries within which it gets defined, and its connection to karma are all limited in how individuals and societies relate within themselves and with other systems of belief and forms of social setups. Scale is appreciated, but not at the cost of the bhava or the sense of devotion that drives it. A classic example can be found in the parable surrounding Sri Rama’s affection for the chipmunk who brought tiny stones to build the bridge that would help Sri Rama’s vanara sena (monkey army) across the ocean to Lanka. As a rendition states Rama telling the vanaras, who made fun of the squirrel[2]:

“Always remember, however small, every task is equally important. A project can never be completed by the main people alone. They need the support of all, and however small, an effort should always be appreciated!”

This seva bhavana in turn helps to therefore fulfil both at the physical and the metaphysical requirements of humans, and has driven philanthropic efforts in India for millenia now. 

Seva does not go unrewarded in the matrix of religion, and does become ever more important as it is always about karma. The end goal of seva is not to gain heaven – rather, the end goal of seva is to ensure that your aatma gains mukti from the cycle of birth and death and become one with the Maker, a factor that makes the idea of service distinctly different from Abrahamic ideology of service to mankind, which is driven more by the idea of achieving heaven and coming closer to God. In this, the instructive guidance comes from the Dharmashastras, which clearly underline the need for people to be engaged with society through karma, which also includes seva. This can be seen in the way shastras talk about seva in improving the karma of humans. That philanthropy is dictated is a matter of fact reference for such scholars as P V Kane, who in a detailed note had this to say when criticizing the narrow view of missionary scholars of the West on the Dharmasastras[3]:

Every house-holder was called upon by the Hindu Śāstras to offer food according to his ability to students, ascetics and to all beings including the untouchable candālas and even dogs and crows. Every brāhmana who could teach had to do so without demanding any fee beforehand, Maṭhs were established in all parts of India for expounding religious books, feeding students and the poor. There are annasatras even now where hundreds are fed every day. No necessity arose throughout the ages for a Poor Law in India with its attendant evils well portrayed in Dickens' famous master-piece 'Oliver Twist’. The above were some of the different aspects of philanthropy and charity which are now dubbed social service.

Kane, in fact, goes on to further elaborate on the ancient nature of this sense of service, tracing it back to the Yajur Veda, which mandates the donation of cows to the sick people, and then finding evidences to the same in the Mauryan emperor Asoka’s reign, whereby hospitals were established even for beasts.

In the Buddhist and Jain realms, donations are extremely equally important. Service is again playing a major role in attaining moksha. In his introduction to the Niyamasara of Acharya Kunda Kunda, Uggar Sain had clearly enumerated hows every Jaina house-holder is supposed to perform six daily duties, one of which is Dana or charity, comprising of giving of food, knowledge, medicine, or protection[4]. Similarly, in Buddhist literature, one sees references to the importance of service and charity, as shown in the various Jatakas[5] or stories of the Buddha’s previous birth lives where he identified himself with the one who would engage in generosity, compassion and charity, and building many structures of service.

[3] Kane. P.V., HISTORY OF THE DHARMA ŚĀSTRA (ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL LAW), Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona 1941, viewed at https://www.australiancouncilofhinduclergy.com/uploads/5/5/4/9/5549439/history_of_dharma_sastras.pdf
[4] The Sacred Books Of The Jainas: Niyamsara (The Perfect Law) of Shri KundKund Acharya, Jagmander Lal Jain Memorial Series, Vol V, 1931 Central Jain Publishing House, viewed at https://archive.org/details/Niyamsara/mode/2up
[5] Tales of the Buddha retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki 1995, viewed at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/kawasaki/

What Vinay Sitapati Has Missed Out –The BJP-RSS’ View of India As seen in Fictional Writings by Deendayal Upadhyaya

  There has been a lot of discussion about Vinay Sitapati’s book on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the pre-Modi era, especially the Ju...