Category: Economy

Happy Independence Day!

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
-Jawaharlal Nehru

With these words spoken by Jawaharlal Nehru 70 years ago on 15th August 1947; the nation state which we call our homeland, India came into existence. From the tyrannical and despotic two century rule of the British, we finally got a chance to take our own decisions and shape our own future. But do we really cherish this hard-fought freedom?

It is an undeniable fact that over the years 15th August and even other national holidays have become normal holidays for the majority of us to sleep in late at home, and even I am guilty of it. However we need to change this attitude of ours. But the question which comes up is how can this change in mindset be brought about? I have thought long and hard about the answer to this question and finally I have been able to come up with a not-so-perfect, but yet, an answer.

To truly appreciate our country’s independence and achievements we need to have proper knowledge of the history of our country and most importantly, how our independence was achieved, the sacrifices made by our ancestors to achieve it. This can only be done by emphasising on the history of the freedom struggle in our education institutions. Majority of the people do not know what really went down in those years of struggle against the British; and it is the same people who completely dismiss the contributions made by some of the leaders of our national movement.

Pride. Taking pride in the achievements of our country is probably the most important step in truly appreciating and valuing the independence. We have come a long way since 1947, even though most people refuse to believe that. Pride should not be taken to such a height that we completely neglect the shortcomings of the government. It pains me when people belittle our country at every opportunity they get, criticism is an important aspect of democracy, but more than criticism it is constructive criticism which goes a long way in the development of any country, something which we as people of this great nation lack.

Another step which we should take is feeling loyal to our State (By State, I do not mean the federal states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar etc. By State I mean our country i.e. India). Most people confuse the State with the government and often ridicule those who say that ‘we support the state’ or we ‘we support our country.’ The terms State/Country and government are often used interchangeably. Government is simply the machinery which ensures the State functions smoothly but; the State, at its most fundamental level means the people. We need to develop a sense of loyalty to our people, the same kind of feeling should come in us when we see a fellow Indian in a foreign nation, this feeling should come even when we are inside India, because that is what a country is all about. Feeling pride, loyalty and goodness when we are with our own people who are united by common history and circumstances.

As the years go by, India is moving towards a bright future but this future will only be enjoyable if we develop this sense of pride and patriotism in ourselves, in fact this bright future can be achieved more quickly if we attempt to instil these feelings within us at the earliest. Happy Independence Day to my fellow Indians, lets make this a better year.

Priyamvad Rai

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National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog)

Arvind Panagariya stepped down as the Vice Chairman of the Indian Government’s think tank body, National Institution for Transforming India or the NITI Aayog. This marks the exit of a second policy maker in two years, the first one being Raghuram Rajan; who was the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Let us see what NITI Aayog is all about.

The NITI Aayog was created on 1st January 2015, it had replaced the 65 decade old Planning Commission. The two bodies are completely different in functioning, structure and even their composition.

The main objective of the NITI Aayog is to create an atmosphere of Centre-State coordination. This body ensures that even the State governments of India are included in the decision making. India has a history of disagreements between the Central and State governments and this body ensures that no such issues arise as it allows full integration of state governments into the decision making.

This body (NITI Aayog) is headed by the Prime Minister of India and is given the title of ‘Chairperson.’ The Chairperson has the power to appoint the Vice-Chairperson, who up till now was Arvind Panagariya. The Chairperson also has the power to appoint the CEO of the NITI Aayog, who is usually an Indian Administrative Service officer (IAS) and has the same rank as that of the ‘secretary to Government of India’ and is appointed for a fixed tenure by the Chairperson. Chief Ministers and Lieutenant Governors of all States and Union Territories respectively are members of the NITI Aayog. Along with them are 4 Union Ministers who are nominated by the Prime Minister. There are also specialists and experts of relevant fields who are members of the NITI Aayog and are invited by the Prime Minister, usually they are members for a tenure of 2 years and are kept on rotational basis; however their tenure can be extended if the Prime Minister wishes to do so.

The NITI Aayog also consists of ‘NITI Lectures.’ These lectures consists of talks by intellectuals from across the world with diverse background which allows for more innovation and intellectual input in the governing and planning of the country.

Planning Commission worked on developmental model of top-bottom (Centre to Village), Whereas the NITI Aayog is the opposite of it. It works on a bottom-top (Village to Centre) developmental model, which gives a more focused approach towards local issues. The Planning Commission would create plans which would be unifiorm for all State and Union Territories, but now the NITI Aayog creates plans which are State specific and region specific, so that issues are more effectively tackled. How does the NITI Aayog achieve this? It has region specific committees which look after the planning of their respective areas, this was an essential feature which was lacking in the Planning Commission.

Unlike the Planning Commission, the NITI Aayog is completely an advisory body, this means that it can only ‘advise’ the government on the course of development the government should take. Also, the Planning Commission had powers to distribute and allocate funds to the state, ministries and departments of the government. This is a power which the NITI Aayog does not have due to its ‘advisory’ nature.

There have been vast number of criticisms by the opposition and many citizens about the NITI Aayog, that it is the Planning Commission; only that it has been renamed to something else. However, it (NITI Aayog) is very different from the Planning Commission as I have stated above.  It improved Centre-State relations by making planning more transparent and co-operative. With inclusion of field specific specialists and experts, the body also has an intellectual side to it which is one of the most positive aspects of the body. The NITI Aayog was a step in the right direction.

Priyamvad Rai

One Belt, One Road

The infamous Silk Route, which extended all the way from China to the Mediterranean Sea was a crucial part of the economy of the ancient world. It was called the ‘Silk Route’ because the trade route was setup mainly for the purpose of meeting the demands of Chinese Silk in Europe. It was travelled upon by many famous travellers whose works shine light upon this route like Marco Polo (13th – 14th Century) who was also known as the ‘Silk Road Traveller.’ It (Silk Route) was probably the first step towards what we term as Globalisation as it had united the west and the east.

Moving to the present, China has launched an initiative called ‘One Belt, One Road’ (Referred to as OBOR henceforth), similar to what the Silk Route was; let us look at what this massive project is about.

OBOR is considered to be Xi Jing Ping, the Chinese President’s most ambitious project. It focuses on improving transport and communication links between the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. The project focuses on land as well as maritime routes. The project will definitely play an important part in boosting the domestic economy of China, as well as a bargaining chip in economic diplomacy between China and other countries. OBOR will help in increasing the regional cooperation of Asia and South Asia. It will also help the many developing countries who are participating in this project will also receive a boost to their respective economies

India opposes the OBOR project of China, it has stated many reasons for doing so. One of the main reasons for the opposition is that a certain section of the OBOR, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (Read the story about P.O.K. here). India considers the project as violation of the sovereignty of India and her territory. India’s stance on the OBOR is acceptable, but India shouldn’t reject the idea of OBOR wholly .

Experts may view OBOR as China’s tactic of accessing the markets of the participating countries in this ambitious project by coercing them into accepting the project. But I believe that it is vital that this project receives maximum support; in an increasingly hostile environment between nations in Asia and South Asia. Many political leaders around the world are advocating more on withdrawing from global relations and increasing isolationism. Like United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union or Donald Trump’s policy of closing the borders of United States to immigrants by increasing requirements of work visas (H1B visas) and stopping all flights from Middle East countries.

One Belt One Road is estimated to be completed in a time period of 20-30 years and will cost around $1 Trillion (US). It is a long time and large amounts of resources will be required to complete it; however, the return on the investment for the participating countries will be enormous and therefore India should also reconsider its stance on the OROB project as it will help in improving relations with China which have been quite strenuous in recent times. Also India is compromising on the bigger image for a regional, bilateral conflict and will lose out on the benefits the project will provide two or three decades down the line.

I hope the Government of India will rethink its stance, this will be opposed by most citizens of the country as it hurts India’s image internationally, but opposing OBOR also makes India look like a child who is sulking because he/she did not get something. A country needs to function taking short term as well as long term goals into account when framing their foreign policy and stating their stances on various issues and policies around the world.

Priyamvad Rai