Thursday, January 20, 2022

Some important dalit issues to be addressed by all political parties in Punjab and beyond

 

Some important dalit issues to be addressed by all political parties in Punjab and beyond

In the run up to elections in February, 2022, all political parties are gearing themselves to enter the corridors of power in Chandigarh. Most of them are busy in finalizing their candidates, preparing their election manifestos, formulating their strategies and making promises to woo the voters, as usual in a democratic set up. Out of 117 total seats in the assembly, 34 are reserved for SCs who form more than 32 % of the population as per the 2011 census (actually and obviously it is more). There are several issues both real and emotive which would engage the political outfits and the people and
would determine and influence the results of elections on March 10 such as; unemployment, fallout of Covid pandemic, slowed economic recovery, health, education, corruption, civic amenities, farmers issues in the light of the Kisan Andolan  among others, as real issues and emotive issues like, perceived nationalism, increasing chasm among the communities giving way to divisive tendencies and also short term and momentary issues like security (recent incident of PM’s security), fundamentalism in the wake of Khalistani agenda of some elements of the society, cross border nefarious designs to disturb peace, inter alia. Of course, all the people of Punjab are directly concerned with all this and would like the new dispensation to address these issues.

As a large chunk of the population belongs to SC communities, I would confine this, off the cuff, piece to some of the specific, both long and short term issues, concerning the SC communities of the state with a view to underline these for the information and benefit of the political parties and players who are falling on each other to woo dalit voters in one way or the other. The latest example of this is the request by all parties to change the date of elections from February 14 to February 20 in view of Guru Ravidass Gurupurab on February 16. It is a matter of satisfaction that Election Commission has taken an amicable decision in this regard. No political party objected to February 14 as the voting date till some of the dalit organizations registered their view point and wanted the date either be preponed or postponed. Some of these issues are:

Long Term issues:

i)                  Post-Matric Scholrships to SC students – Over the years, this issue has been a bone of contention among the students and educational institutions on one hand and educational


institutions and the governments, both the central and state, on the other. The ultimate sufferers are hapless SC students and their poor parents. An immediate attention is needed to settle this matter. This problem is not only irritating but also detrimental to the careers of young SC students. Political parties shall list it as a priority issue rather than paying lip service and shout from house tops that SC students should be helped in getting education and not reservations.

ii)               Share in village common land (Shamlaat) – This issue has been hanging fire since long but dalits are yet to get their sue share in the pie. Political parties should take note of it and give a much needed attention and priority to address this long standing and important issue pertaining to economic empowerment of the weaker sections of the society.

 

Short Term issues pertaining to socio-cultural aspects –

i)                  Tughlakabad Guru Ravidass Dharamasthan - Majority of dalit population of Punjab are the followers of Guru Ravidass. The Central Governments indifference and DDA’s highhandedness in the matter – first destruction and desecration of Guru Ravidass Dharamasthan, a historic site which was gifted by the then ruler Sikander Lodhi to the great Guru in 15-16th


century, in 2018, in the wake of agitation by the followers of Guru Ravidass, Government agreed to give 400 sq. meter of land and building of the Dharamasthan in 2019 and now again DDA’s demand of 4.33 crorers of rupees and allotment of land only for 30 years n lease has again raised the hackles of the followers of Guru Ravidass particularly in Punjab and UP. All political parties should consider and raise this subject with concerned authorities in Delhi to assuage the ruffled sentiments of dalits of Punjab. It is surprising that all political parties and their leaders are calling on Dera Sachkhand Ballan of Jalandhar for getting their blessings in the elections but nobody is interested in addressing the subject. It may be mentioned that Sant Niranjan Dass ji Maharaj of Dera Sachkhand Ballan is the Chairperson of the Committee formed by the authorities and BJP to oversee the re-construction of the Tughlakabad Guru Ravidass Dharamasthan and in spite of their disagreement and objections to the new demands of DDA uder the administrative control of the Central Ministry of Urban Development in Delhi. Dalits are furious over the matter which must be addressed, the sooner the better. The followrs of Guru Ravidass silently watching the response of political outfits and would respond appropriately in the forthcoming electoral slugfest.

ii)               April 14, birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar as International Day of Equality


– While observing and celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar in 2015-16, it was suggested and proposed in June, 2015 to the then EAM Sushma Swaraj to consider and make a demarche to the UNO to declare April 14 as International Day of Equality. The proposal was duly acknowledged by the Joint Secretary of the UNES Division of the MEA. The matter was taken up by the Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs under the stewardship of Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal of Punjab with PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015. Accordingly. For the first time, Ambedkar Jayanti on

April 14 was celebrated at the UN in New York in which an officially backed delegation headed by Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal participated and referred to, in his speech, the proposal on International Day of Equality and urged the GOI to take up the matter through proper diplomatic channels with the UN. Subsequently in May, 2016, on return from New Youk, Speaker Atwal submitted a report to PM Narendra Modi and requested him to consider and officially take up the matter with UN. Since then, we have been regularly reminding the GOI but the central government is blissfully silent on the subject. On this account, there is a considerable resentment and anguish in the community particularly among the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It is a matter of gratification to note that in 2020, City of Burnaby in Canada declared April 14 as ‘Ambedkar Day of Equality’ again in 2021, the Province of British Columbia of Canda made a similar pronouncement. GOI is yet wake up though they profess to own the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The comunity, I believe, is not oblivious of the action to be taken to awake the sleeping authorities. Perhaps the time has almost come. Since the matter falls in the preview of the Central Government, we expect the state governments to support the proposal and pass a resolution in the newly formed assemblies by the incoming state governments in this regard and forward it to Mahamahim Rashtrapati ji at the first instance. It will not only be a befitting tribute to the great leader, Babasaheb Ambedkar but also a good gesture to add to the emotional empowerment of dalits by way of cultural diplomacy like India’s initiatives in declaring International  Day of Non-violence in2007-08 and International Yoga Day in 2014-15.

iii)            Honouring of dalit iconic personalities of Punjab – Subsequent to the change of guard in Punjab in November, 2021, I wrote to Education Minister Pargat


Singh under intimation to CM Charanjit Channi to recognize and honour the founder of Ad-dharam Movement and a Gadri Baba, Babu Manguram Mugowalia of Hoshiarpur and a People’s poet and ideologue, Gurdas Ram Alam of Jalandhar by naming school/college in their respective areas after the names of these sons of the soil.  Hon’ble Minister did not even care to acknowledge my submissions. Any political party, I believe as apolitical person, who would consider and promise to act, would stand to win the people and gain their support. Any positive decision in this regard would tend to strengthen the emotional wellbeing of dalit communities.

With these humble submissions, I take this opportunity to wish all the best to all political parties and players in the festival democracy, Elections, 2022. Dalits are no more interested in remain sitting at the fringes. Anybody trying to ignore and side track the matters of concern and interest to them may do so at one’s own peril.

इक तर्ज तग़ाफ़ुल है ; सो वो उनको मुबारक ,

इक अर्जे तमन्ना है वह हम करते रहेंगे।

 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Advantage Channi – Punjab Elections, 2022

 

Advantage Channi – Punjab Elections, 2022

The die has been cast. Punjab is fully geared to participate and enjoy the festival of democracy – Punjab Elections, 2022. Election commission has declared the schedule and ‘Code of Conduct’ in this regard has come into operation, as usual. The filling of nominations by the candidates will start on January 21 till January 28, scrutiny of nomination will be done on January 29 and the nominations may be


withdrawn by January 31, voting will be done on February 14 and fate of the contestants sealed in the EVM machines. The counting of votes will be done on March 10 and results declared accordingly. By evening of the same day, it will be known which political outfit would form the next government in Punjab, amidst the Bhangra and Gidha of Democracy.

Elections in a democracy have usually been an interesting and exciting phase. It is more so, it seems, this time. It remained a bilateral matter between the Congress Party and Akali led coalitions from 1966 till 2017. But this time the scenario is different. It is going to be a four or even five cornered contest in most of the 117 constituencies with – 69 seats in Malwa, 23 in Doaba and 25 in Majha regions of Punjab. Dalits have a clout with 34 reserved seats in the total of 117. As of now it appears that there may be a fractured


mandate with no party having a clear majority.  The next government would be a coalition - Congress + or Akalis + or AAP + or BJP and PLC + with pre or post election alliances. Some of the prominent leaders like; Charanjit Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu of Congress Party, Sukhbir Singh Badal of Akali Dal, Bhagwant Mann and Harpal Singh Cheema of AAP, Captain Amrinder Singh of PLC, Ashwini Sharma and Manoranjan Kalia of BJP as PLC and BJP combine, are the likely faces as the next CM depending on the magic number of 69-70 +. All the outfits are fully engaged in finalizing their candidates in the run up to January 21, the first day of nominations. Akalis with its ally BSP and AAP have already named most of their nominees. Congress, BJP, PLC and newly formulated farmers party, Samyukt Samaj Morcha is in the process of completing the exercise to enter the Valentine’s Day rivalry, the day of voting on February 14.

The diverse issues would be at play – Kisan Andolan and its fallout, sacrilege issues, fallout of Covid pandemic, economy including employment and public services, drugs and sand mafia, dalit issues like Post Matric Scholarships and Tughlakabad Guru Ravidass Mandir in Delhi, PM’s security issue among others, to determine the outcome of elections. Some of the factors which would work in shaping the political landscape in Punjab would be – Akalis are not as united as before and are facing the elections without the BJP after a long time, Congress Party is also a divided house with ‘Sidhuism’ and ‘Tiwari and Jakhar  Homilies’ at work and the damage being inflicted by PLC of Captain Amrinder Singh, BJP has lost ground with losing Akallis as an ally,  PM Narendra Modi’ handling of the Kisan Andolan and dalit alienation by backing out of the announcement of having a dalit CM, Tughlakabad Guru Ravidass Mandir issue, shoddy public image of BJP’s dalit leadership, inter alia.  AAP, as in 2017 also, was ahead in the ‘perception game’ but unfortunately, it appears, is going the same way as in 2017 – alleged marketing of tickets ignoring the genuine claimants and aspirants, remote control and dictation by the Delhi elite, earlier Sanjay Singh and now Raghav Chadha, ignoring the sons of the soil, lack of visible leadership except Arvind Kejriwal, considered to be an outsider and Bhagwant Mann who is struggling still to find its due place and space, in spite of his ability to pull the crowds, in the Punjab’s APP hierarchy. Samyukat Kisan Morcha will mostly be a spoiler of the AAP and Congress kitties.

CM Channi at Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar
With this backgrounder, I come to the subject matter – the title of the blog ‘Advantage Channi’. With the growing awakening and increasingly evident empowerment of dalits with overall  33% population is set, ultimately, to determine and   shape the political and social landscape of Punjab and rightly so. It seems the situation, of late, has taken full circle. In spite of 33% share in the population,
dalits remained on the fringes of corridors of power due to socio-economic factors in the caste ridden society and economic inequalities on one hand and political machinations of political forces at work on the other to keep the weaker sections on the society on the margins. Things are slowly changing for the better due to the constitutional arrangements and relentless struggles of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Manyawar Kanshi Ram among others; like Babu Manguram Mugowalia. The very basis of democratic polity is ‘vote’ and the dictum of ‘one vote one value’ enshrined in
Struggle of Bbu Kanshi Ram

the constitution, of late, has started to show its efficacy. Since independence in 1947, it took more than 75 years for a dalit, Charanjit Singh Channi, to become the first CM of Punjab in 2021 against all odds. I don’t subscribe to the view that somebody did any favour to him and the fact is that it is becoming increasingly clear that dalits are no more interested in keep sitting on the fringes of the system though they are yet to address the ‘divisive forces’ both inside and otherwise willfully designed and unleashed by the ‘Thekedars’ of the society with Manuwadi mindsets. Nobody will make anybody the PM or the CM. Dalits need to stand own their own. It is a matter of gratification to note that this realization among the dalits is dawning and rightly so. Charanjit Singh Channi became the CM in the wake of these political considerations and compulsions at the fag end of the Congress Party tenure of five years as a stop-gap arrangement at the first instance till the February, 2022 elections.

But it is a matter of great satisfaction again and a matter of surprise to many of his own colleagues in the party that Channi Sahib proved himself in a short span of three months or so and made a definite place for himself as a leader to be reckoned with as a ‘wonder of democracy’. By now in the run up to the elections, just a month away, Channi, it seems, will be a ‘catalyst’, if the Congress Party serious intends to retain power. This ground reality would not be easy to ignore and if anybody do so, it will at their own peril. Channi, it seems, will be and shall be the face of the Congress Party as the next CM of Punjab. Now I come to the question as to why I say so, obviously, people would be interested in knowing it. First, the entire political scenario is undergoing a big, much needed transformation - ‘power belongs to the masses’ in a democratic polity. Second, Channi is a suave, educated and cultured son of the soil with an ordinary background who could succeed in public life and make a definite space and place for himself with sheer grit and hard work. His earthy and easy demeanor to conduct himself as an “Aam Adami’ stole the show from the so-called Aam Adami of the

CM Channi at work as an Aam Adami

AAP, Congress Party’s major opponent in the fray.  His latest slugfest with the ruling dispensation at the Centre on the PM’s Security issue made him a Pan-India leader over-night. He turned the tide and visibly made the issue as Modi Vs Punjab, rightly or wrongly, it is hard to say till the report of the Supreme Court directed enquiry report comes. In the wake of the PM’s Security issue, Channi became a much sought after personality in the media, both print and electronic and also social media. Channi Sahib came out as a man of sterling worth on the camera in spite of every best by the vested interests in the media to catch him at wrong feet to carry the agenda of his distracters and opponents. Channi defeated all these designs. He also proved himself as an administrator with heart and mind.  I am confident that the Congress High Command in Delhi is not oblivious of these ground realities and will reward their foot soldier, Charanjit Singh Channi to encash their wish to repeat their hold on power at their traditional Vote Bank and avail off the ‘Advantage Channi’ offer of the Vote Bank.  I am also certain that Channi has come a long way and has already thrown his hat in the ring. There is no going back. I believe so. As PM Narendra Modi listed Advantage India in “Demography and Democracy” to convince the world leaders, it is exactly true for Channi also in the Punjab context. I, as apolitical observer, wish Charanjit Singh Channi all the best in the coming days and conclude with an Urdu couplet:

अपना मुकद्दर आप बनाते हैं अहले दिल;

हम वह नहीं जिन्हें ज़माना बना गया।

 

 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Guru Ravidass Gurughar at Tughlakabad in Delhi (Begumpura Chetna Diwas – February 16, 2022)

 

Guru Ravidass Gurughar at Tughlakabad in Delhi

(Begumpura Chetna Diwas – February 16, 2022)

Guru Ravidass Temple at Tughlakabad in Delhi, an important religious and social site belonging to the followers of Guru Ravidass, a great saint of 0f 16th century, is again in news for wrong reasons which are beyond comprehension. It appears, to a lay man like me, that it is nothing but condemnable


highhandedness on the part of Delhi Development authority an organization under the administrative control of the Ministry of Urban Development of the Government of India. Before I proceed further, let me give a brief background of the whole matter which is potentially an explosive issue which has a direct bearing on the socio-religious fabric of the society.

The site of the temple at Tughlakabad was visited by Guru Ravidass on the invitation of Sikandar Lodhi in early 15th century and Sikandar Lodhi gifted a vast track land to Guru Ravidass with reverence and regard. Since then there existed a temple and pond (Chamaranwala Johar). Later after independence, Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 declared the land as “Shamlat” (Common land of the village). It was the first legal onslaught by the authorities to grab the land from the followers of Guru Ravidass. The management of the Guru Ravidass Dharamasthan should have been or must have been contested this deceitful decision at the first instance but we all know these hapless people did not have any organization and wherewithal to so. As early as 1959, the residents and followers of Guru Ravidass of the area formed an umbrella outfit called ‘Guru Ravidass Jyanti Samaroh Samiti and started further development of the area, about 3 acres, including the Gurughar which as formally inaugurated by the then Railway Minister of the Government India who himself was a follower of the great Guru, Babu Jagjivan Ram. The land sharks and the vested interests in the Government willfully tried their every best to snatch the prime site from the followers of Guru Ravidass and they succeeded in their designs in August 2018 after a 27 years long legal battle against the poor and hapless followers of Guru Ravidass. It was a matter of great pity that even the Supreme Court could not see and recognize the historic facts and sensitivities of the under privileged and suppressed people, the followers of Guru Ravidass. I have no intention to interfere in the judicial process. One may draw one’s own conclusion in the caste ridden society. The temple was destroyed and demolished, amounting to sacrilege, ostensibly on the orders of the Court in August, 2019. It was an unprecedented act of high-handedness by the authorities and the ‘Thekedars’ of the society, much against constitutional, social and spiritual morality and tenants of social justice. The cardinal values of ‘Equality before law’ were willfully ignored and sidelined. Did it happen to any other historical religious place belonging to any other community anywhere in India? The answer is straight NO. I am reminded of a poetic assertion of Allama Iqbal:

शूद्रों के लिये हिन्दोस्तान गम खाना है;

दर्दे इंसानी से जिस का दिल बेगाना है।

It was but natural that the followers of Guru Ravidass were up-in-arms to oppose and condemn the demolition of the holy site of the community. The protests led to ‘damage control’ by the Government of India and the Judiciary by agreeing to rebuild the temple at an alternative site. It was a most bizarre idea and the followers of Guru Ravidass, the aggrieved party, rightly
rejected the offer and argued ‘Can the site of the Ram Janam Bhoomi be changed? The political parties and social outfits like RSS, VHP, etc. paid lip service in support of the protesters, the Government relented a bit and finally agreed to allot 400 sq. meter of land at the original site to rebuild the demolished

Gurughar in October/November, 2019. CM Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi tried to fish in the troubled waters to corner BJP and win over dalit constituency and promised to build a grand temple at the sight. BJP’s dalit leadership overwhelmingly praised and 
thanked the Government of PM Narendra Modi for the magnanimity shown in this regard. The outfits like Guru Ravidass Vishavpeeth, the mouth piece of RSS took credit and announced to chip in for the rebuilding of the temple. The Sants and the spiritual Deras of the dalit communities, who were booed by the BJP and RSS to support the GOI in finding a solution and not to side with the genuine protesters, were made to support the Government decision much against the demands of the followers. Anyway, as the followers of Guru Ravidass are poor and do not have much say and position in the power structures of the country, there was no option but to agree to the Government machinations and proposals in this regard.  

But that was not to be. The Government of India through DDA again took a U-turn and issued a notice in November/December 2021 to the management of Guru Ravidass Gurughar at Tughlakabad to pay about 4.3 crore Rupees for 400 sq. meters of land and the land will be given on a short term lease of 30 years. It tells very poorly of the sensibilities and credibility of the government. It is a mockery of the whole system. How many temples and Gurudwaras of historical importance have been asked to pay money to the Government? Whether the holy places belonging to the other communities are on lease? What the Government wants to convey and do? It is beyond comprehension.

My immediate provocation to write on the subject, as a lay man, was the news in the media of January 5 that CM of Punjab Charanjit Channi, himself a follower of Guru Ravidass, has offered to pay the demanded money for the holy site at Tughlakabad. While I appreciate the gesture of CM Channi, I strongly feel that it is not the way to deal with the issue as it will not address the high-handedness and Manuwadi mindset of the authorities which is the root cause of the matter. Where


is CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal who made big promises earlier? Where is the dalit Ministers and MPs, particularly of the ruling BJP? Where are the proponents of ‘Samrasta’ who profess to retain the socially oppressed and suppressed in the Hindu fold, the main stream of the society? I write this with anguish as I myself believe in the concept and ideal of ‘Samrasta’ in the society to bring about and strengthen bonds of harmony and fraternity as visualized in the Constitution of India.

All said and done, my considered view in this regard is that nobody would do anything for the oppressed and suppressed that are traditionally condemned by the tyranny of the social setup. The suffering and affected masses, perhaps, are required to stand up and assert their position themselves under the law of the land. The time has come. How could it be done or should be done? It is question I leave it to my intellectual, educated and awakened brethren of the community and followers of the great Guru Ravidass to think over and consider the response to the ill advised decisions of the DDA under the nose of the Central Government in Delhi. I have a suggestion to make with a view to initiate and ignite this struggle to free ourselves from the tyranny of caste and prejudice – The forthcoming Gurupurab of Guru Ravidass on Feb 16, 2022 may be observed as a Begampura Chetna Diwas to register our protest against the demolition of the historic and holy site of Guru Ravidass at Tughlakabad in Delhi and register our demand to restore the status quo ante at the site before its demolition’. The followers of Guru Ravidass should take due note of their power and strength given in the Constitution – One Vote One Value – and generate much needed heat to bring the political forces to their senses democratically so that they think twice before they ignore and harm the interests of the community any further.

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर;

फिर दुनिया में तुझे कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता।

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

 

 Pleasant Moments - Interaction with the Punjab Police Brass

 My new acquaintance with IGP - PAP, Dr. S.K. Kalia, IPS pleasantly turned into a close friendship as proverbial love at first sight. I met Dr. Kalia on December 4 at a social event, Kewal Vig Awards hosted by our common link, Journalist Jatinder Mohan Vig in the memory of his father, at Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Hall and developed instant mutual liking. Kalia Sahib, later, invited me to his office, along with my friend and colleague from the IFS fraternity, Rajinder Bhagat, his old friend, to a friendly chat on matters of mutual interest. Then only, I came to know that Kalia was retiring by the end of the month.

With Dr. S.K. Kalia and his wife

Kalia Sahib was kind to invite me and my wife, Vidya, to carry forward our association, to his official farewell dinner hosted by his office and colleagues at J.F Ribeiro Officers Mess at PAP Complex on December 28. I was extremely happy on this thoughtful gesture and participated in the sumptuous dinner over a couple of ‘Chotta Pegs’ of assorted drinks. I was reminded of my own memories of association and interaction with J.F. Ribeiro  way back in 1989-91 when he was seconded to the Ministry of External Affairs as Ambassador of India to Romania of Nicolae Ceausescu, at that time considered to be one of the safe heavens, in view of security threats to him on his role and action as one of the strong and effective DGPs of Punjab. I was the Under Secretary of East Europe Division in the MEA and Ribeiro Sahib was attached to our Division before taking up his diplomatic assignment in Bucharest. I, as a junior officer responsible for Romania, found Roberio Sahib as one of finest officers in the top IPS hierarchy and an excellent human being, without any pretensions. Later, subsequent to Revolution and demise of Ceausescu and his regime in 1989, I went to Bucharest, as an official representative of the MEA, soon after the change, with a plane load of medicines in AN 32 - transport carrier of the Indian Air Force, for the suffering people of Romania as a friendly gesture by India. Ambassador J.F. Ribeiro received us at the airport and made all the necessary arrangements for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the concerned authorities of Romania. It was a pleasure to enjoy his gracious hospitality at India House, Ambassador’s official residence. Kalia Sahib further humbled me by inviting me to his retirement
With DGP IPS Sahota

luncheon on January 1 at Jalandhar Golf Club at the PAP campus itself. It was a fine sunny afternoon to usher ourselves to the New Year, 2022 with good piping hot food and lovely drinks. Both these occasions provided me much sought after opportunity to meet the top brass of IPS fraternity, both retired and serving, living in and around Jalandhar. It was satisfying to note that the seniors and colleagues of Dr. S.K. Kalia spoke very high of him formally and otherwise. I could feel that Kalia Sahib must be an officer of total dedication and unimpeachable integrity.   DGP IPS Sahota, one of finest IPS officers and through gentleman and his gracious wife, I must write without any reservation, impressed me very much with their easy and friendly demeanor like the legendary J.F. Ribeiro. Jalandhar Police Commissioner, Naunihal Singh, with
With Police Commissioner Naunihal Singh

an impressive personality, was, as always, in his spirits at the luncheon. I liked his good gesture to bring along his young IPS colleagues for their social and cultural expose in their promising careers ahead. Retired seniors like DGP M.S. Bhullar, DGP Ranjan Gupta among others also showed up to register their appreciation of Kalia Sahib. It was advantageous for me to meet and interact with some big-wigs in and around to enrich my social reach namely; Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar, Ghanshyam Thori, Commissioner Jalandhar Municipal Corporation, Karnesh Sharma, DIG PAP, Babu Lal Meena, Retired IPS Shammi Kumar, Principal of Police DAV School, Dr. Rashmi Vij and her husband, Chief Executive of Hotel Radison among others. It was a good and pleasant beginning of the New Year, 2022.

With Kalia Sahib and his sons
Thanks Kalia Sahib for making it possible for me to enter the New Year in the company of good people around. I take this opportunity to wish you, your gracious wife and two well educated and groomed sons all the best in the years to come. We will continue, Inshalla.


Postscript:-

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." - Albert Einstein

 

 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year – 2022

 

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year – 2022


I completed 71 years of the journey of my life – Yeh Jo Hai Zindgi Thodi Khatti Thodi Meethi – in December, 2021. Life continues, so far so good. We are saying Good-Bye to the Year 2021 and Hi to the New Year, 2022.  Before I do the usual stock taking exercise to close the year, I take this opportunity to wish my readers, friends and fellow countrymen all the best and Happy New year. May God bless us with further happiness and prosperity and to live with a sense of fraternity and harmony in the society at large?

The Year 2021, to my mind, remained a difficult year not only for India but for the world at large primarily due to Covid Pandemic and resultant economic slowdown and also tensions pertaining to geo-political developments all around. India being a prominent stakeholder in the world order, it was natural to get affected and live with the situation as best as was possible. PM Narendra Modi’s Government and also Governments of the States of India, it was a matter of satisfaction, did their best to meet the challenges before the country in spite of many odds, both obvious and also self created.  

On the internal front, with mixed outcome of failures and success as termed it by the Hindustan Times on December 27 “2021: For India, a year of mixed fortunes”, we reminded on track generally, in spite of difficult situations. Against the onslaughts of the pandemic, we could surge ahead in the much needed vaccination of our people. Though late the government responded to the Kisan Andolan and


succeeded in pacifying the farmers finally by withdrawing the alleged ‘black agricultural laws’ resulting in ending the avoidable standoff between the farmers and the government. The internal security situation with regard to Naxals, Khalistanis, separatists in the J&K and other sensitive areas of the country, by and large, remained satisfactory. Developmental agenda, particularly upgrading of national highways, it appeared, was given much needed priority. The economic activity was restored in the aftermath of pandemic. On the other hand, our failures in responding to the challenges were also too many to list; price rise, inflation, unemployment, corruption, religious fundamentalism resulting in intolerance and giving rise to fissiparous tendencies, constitutional morality, fears and insecurity among the minorities and the socially undermined segments of the society, remained glaring. Parliament could not function properly due to uncalled for and avoidable disruptions. The Government and the Opposition remained at logger head which was not a good sign for a parliamentary democracy. Yet another gratifying aspect was that our players did well at the Japan Olympics in 2021, in this regard, perhaps we have arrived but we are yet to reach. We are to remain alert and responsive in addressing these issues and have a fresh look on the warnings given by our founding fathers particularly father of the constitution Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar.  Babasaheb gave the following three warnings in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949:-

‘If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do?

The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions”. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’Connell, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.’

On the external front, let me remind my readers that in diplomacy it is said that external policy is an extension of internal situation. First of all, therefore, we need to set our house in order. Our immediate neighbors, China and Pakistan kept us on toes in one way or the other. We cannot afford to lower our guard and must prepare ourselves to secure our borders and watch our interests both militarily and diplomatically. The emerging situation in Afghanistan remained yet another big irritation and worry. The security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, primarily on account of China’s increasing profile, kept us engaged with the other stake holders. Our

Diplomacy at work

security interests and energy supplies from Central Asia and Iran, our extended neighborhood, obviously, kept us alive to further strengthen our relations with these countries. India being a large country, with an independent outlook, cannot afford to be a camp follower. We are to balance our dealings and approaches with the big powers like Russia and the USA. It is a matter of gratification that India’s foreign policy remained responsive and effective in watching and promoting
our national and international interests under the dynamic leadership of EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar and our diplomatic machinery. International engagement in the wake of Covid pandemic, kept us alert to deal with the situation in cooperation with the international community.  We could deliver, so far so good, to keep India’s flag high.

At Ambedkar Museum and Memorial at Pune
As regards my own, I kept my self busy in reading and writing in my own humble way and wrote 52 blogs in the year 2021 on matters of interest and concern to the community and the society at large. It remained a matter of great satisfaction for me that most of the blogs got critical acclaim from discerning readers. My friend Prem Chumber, Editor-in-Chief of the esteemed Ambedkar Times and Desh Doaba, two weeklies being published from California in the US, was very supportive in carrying my blogs in the Ambedkar Times. I must say a big THANK YOU to Prem Chumber ji and wish all the best for further success in the years to come. With regard to my reading to educate myself, over the year, I read some good books and reviewed them in my blogs. It was a satisfying exercise. With regard to my social and community responsibilities and activities, on April 14, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, I was invited by the Vidya Dham to their function to commemorate the greatest son of India in the contemporary times as Guest of Honour and also as the Chief Guest at the function arranged by the Jalandhar Regional Passport Office. In July, Atmanirbhar Global Chamber of Commerce and Industry, headed by my friends Ambassador Anil Trigunayat as and Anil Mehta, honoured me by appointing   as a Senior Adviser to the apex chamber. In August, I visited Pune on the invitation of Social Studies Foundation to deliver a lecture on the theme ‘Silent Contributors to
the development and progress of modern India’ and to release the special issue of the ‘Unheard Voices’. The Pune visit provided me an opportunity to visit the esteemed Symbiosis University and pay obeisance to Babasaheb Ambedkar at the Museium and Memorial named after the worthy son
of India and rightly called “Prerna Bhoomi’ thoughtfully hosted by the Symbiosis University. It was an added honour to hoist the Tri-colour, as the Guest of Honour at prestigious Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics on the Independence Day on August 15. In September, I spoke at a Webinar arranged by the Civil Services Mentor and my friend, Ahsanul Haq on the theme – Caree
r Opportunities and the IFS which was attended by more than 150 civil services aspirants from India and abroad. Released book 'Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar - Jiwan Te Chintan' along with Hon'ble Governor of Punjab, Banwari Lal Purohit. Various online web- TV outfits like Dalit Dastak, Punjab Grand, Navi Raah, Doordarshan, All India Radio, and The Print among others invited me for interviews and talks on matters of interest and concern to the people. I found this exposure very useful and beneficial. Though the GOI is blissfully silent on the proposal of April 14, birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar as International Day of Equality under the aegis of the UN yet I did not lose hope and kept on reminding the EAM and PM and also other stake holders on the proposal resting with MEA since June, 2015 and resolve to keep pursuing the proposal, keeping in line with the poetic message of Allma Iqbal:

हर दर्दमंद दिल को रोना मेरा रुला दे ;

बेहोश जो पड़ें हैं शायद  उन्हें  जगा दे.

It was disappointing that due to the Covid pandemic difficulties, neither we nor my children in Sweden and Canada could see and see each other for the last two years. Hopefully, the New Year brings in good times and life goes on as usual. But the matter of concern and worry remains with yet another wave of Omicron which is feared to knock us down again. I am not a pessimistic but we need to on our guards. The governments and concerned bodies like the Election Commission should not be oblivious of the resultant fall out of forthcoming state elections scheduled for early next year in spreading the pandemic by huge public gatherings and rallies which tend to throw all norms and protocols to the wind as happened last year during the West Bengal other elections. The second worry which I may share here, which requires serious consideration and thinking, is successively dwindling ‘constitutional morality’ in governance both on the part of political class and also the so called ‘steel frame’, the bureaucracy. Babasaheb Ambedkar rightly said in the speech referred to in the preceding paras, “I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution. Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. We would ignore this reality at our own peril. It is a matter

Cheers and Happy New Year

of gratification that in spite of all failures and difficulties, we are on rails. It was possible only because of the Constitution of India so laboriously framed by our forefathers, particularly Babasaheb Ambedkar. Let us take a solemn pledge on the close of the Year 2021 and ushering in the New Year, 2022 that ‘We Would Not Fail Our Founding Fathers. With this, I once again greet my fellow countrymen and international fraternity and wish them Happy New Year, 2022.