Monday, September 25, 2017

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

The newly launched outfit, Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum (SCEEF) organized an awareness seminar “Opportunities for SC Entrepreneurs under the recently launched schemes of the Government of India” on September 19, 2017 in
Ludhiana. The seminar was hosted by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in cooperation with National Small Industries Corporation. It was a well attended and nicely organized programme. Social and community activist, Jiwan Singh ably conducted the seminar as Master of Ceremonies.

The inaugural session was opened with welcome remarks by Director (MSME) Major Singh. Prof. Akshay Kumar, General Secretary of the SCEE Forum presented a brief report on the first session of the SCEEF held on August 21, 2017 in Jalandhar. It is a good step and must be appreciated as it has been observed that generally no reports/minutes of such meetings are kept and things move on a ad-hoc basis. Prof. Akhsay Kumar raised very candid

queries about the social integration of dalits with the main stream of the society. Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Working President of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs made an impressive speech and urged the young entrepreneurs to make concerted efforts to avail of the schemes of the government to start new ventures, strengthen the existing ones and empower themselves. An RSS activist and OSD to Health Minister J.P. Nadda, Dr. Varinder Garg briefed the audience about the SC Sub-plan and said that we must try and get the SC Sub-plan initiated, executed and delivered for the economic up-liftment of the weaker sections of the society. He said that reservation was not enough. All other avenues must be explored and exploited to strengthen the affirmative actions for empowerment of dalits. Senior RSS functionary, Banveer Singh was the Chief Guest at the function. In his sober and calculated remarks, Banveer Singh said that RSS was fully committed to go all the way to help the neglected and marginalized segments of the society to stand up as equals. He frankly admitted that he was aware that many of you still lack faith in RSS and added that it was due to propaganda by the vested interests. Banveer Singh further said that we have decided and undertaken projects to engage dalits with their activities to mutual advantage and nation building.  Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission, who was the chief co-coordinator to host the seminar, spoke spiritedly and urged the audience to educate themselves and get ready to make full use of the liberal schemes of the government. He said we should not remain job seekers but should become job providers. The pleasant duty of presenting the Vote of Thanks fell on me which I performed hurriedly as we were running against time. I observed that it was gratifying to note that social outfits like RSS and economic and commercial entities like SCEE Forum were joining hands for empowerment of dalits. It would lead to the realization of lofty ideals of Babasaheb to transform our political democracy into social and economic democracy. I urged the aspiring SC entrepreneurs to gain a much needed sense of confidence and concluded with an Urdu couplet:

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर,
फिर तुजे दुनिआ में कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !

The technical session was held after a brief lunch break. Deputy Director of MSME, Kamal Singh gave an overview of the special schemes of the government of India to help and facilitate the budding businessmen from the weaker sections of the society. The representatives of FCI, Bhakra-Beas Board, NSIC informed and briefed the audience about the avenues and possibilities to become suppliers of goods and services to their respective organizations under the procurement policies to help the SC suppliers.  Coordinator of DICCI in Punjab, Shammi Kapoor briefed the participants about the procedure and process to obtain Business Aadhar registration with MSME and as a Vendor with NSIC. It was a good interactive session. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission intervened to assure the vocal and eager businessmen to be patient and approach the issues with understanding. He said that every effort will be made to streamline the advisory and facilitatory aspects of the SCEE Forum. I spoke briefly to rap-up the technical session and expressed satisfaction on the visible restiveness in the minds of young SC businessmen to do something. I advised the SCEE Forum to set up a cell in the organization to listen and redress the complaints and answer queries in consultation with MSME, NSIC, Banks and other concerned agencies. I also advised the SC business community, in its infancy, to hone-up their computer and English language skills to catch up with the overall business atmosphere. Appreciating their zeal to do something worthwhile, I concluded with yet another Urdu couplet:

कर खुदी को बुलंद इतना की हर तक़दीर से पहले;
 खुदा बन्दे से खुद पूछे बता तेरी रज़ा क्या है !

Let me conclude this write up on SCEE Forum with a little explanatory addition. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission is a force behind this newly floated forum to help and empower the SC businessmen as it is evident from its name itself. He called me for a meeting and asked for my agreement to join
them in this endeavor with my wide ranging experience, keeping in line with my thinking to pay back to the society. I agreed to his suggestion to associate myself with the outfit as its Chief Patron without any political baggage. I had a lingering understanding that Rajesh Bagha being affiliated to BJP and RSS must be acting on advice and direction from his political and cultural mentors. It was indeed so. The inaugural session of the Forum was held in Jalandhar on August 21, 2017. The RSS high-ups were not only present but were active. There interaction and speeches set the tone of the things to come. SC agenda, apparently, is high on their mind. They intend to rope SCs into their fold by owning the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar. My cursory analysis indicates that there is no harm. Let it be as long as my SC brethren gain out of the exercise. SCEE Forum will get all due support from the governmental agencies with regard to the empowerment of SC businessmen. RSS is harping on the Special Component Sub Plan for the SC which unfortunately remained on paper so far. We should take advantage of this. Moreover, it will be good for dalits to seek understanding rather than confrontation with the main stream of the society, to my mind. RSS, it seems, is fully aware of the fact that as of now dalits were skeptical and wary of the RSS and its Hindutava. They need to do something concrete to bring them along. Let them prove themselves. We have nothing to lose except our backwardness and poverty. That is why I am with SCEE Forum.

Without Comment:

"When brothers live together; they solve the most difficult problems - Xiongli Tongxin Qili Duanjin"

A chinese saying

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Hardeep Singh Puri – Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, IFS (Retired), one of the finest and most decorated diplomats of India, has been inducted into the Council of Ministers of PM Narendra
Modi. Puri Sahib is the right choice. IFS and we in the fraternity stand taller with this honour conferred on one of our senior colleagues. It is not the first time that IFS has contributed to the national politics and governance. K.R. Narayananan adored the Rashrapati Bhawan as President of India. M.H. Ansari aptly handled the position of Vice President of India. Kunwar Natwar Singh manned the coveted Ministries including the MEA with élan. Mani Shankar Aiyar remained a vocal Minister in PM Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Meira Kumar not only remained Minister but also occupied the coveted position of the Speaker of
Syed Shahabuddin
Lok Sabha. Romesh Bhandari remained in the thickness as Governor of UP and also as Lt. Governor of Delhi. P.N. Haksar, besides working as Principal Secretary to PM Indira Gandhi, worked as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. N.N. Jha became Lt. Governor of Pondicherry. Mohammad Yunus delivered
Yunus Mohd extreme right
as Special Envoy of PM Indira Gandhi many a times. Syed Shahabuddin served as an active Member of Parliament and one of the most articulate politians concerned about issues pertaining to minorities.  Brajesh Misra, J.N. Dixit, Shiv Shanker Menon contributed their might to the security of India as NSA in the governments of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and PM Manmohan Singh with Ministerial status. These sons of India, if I have not missed any name inadvertently, belonged to the IFS, a coveted civil service of India. I am confident that Hardeep Singh Puri will not be the last in the process. It is a matter of satisfaction.

Hardeep Singh Puri’s father Bhagat Singh Puri was also a diplomat. I have had the pleasure of knowing him in my initial years of service in the early 1970s. He was a dignified and cool officer fully justifying his name “Bhagat”, a thorough gentleman. It is a compliment. Later, I got the chance to work and interact with Hardeep Puri and his diplomat wife Lakshmi Puri in Sri Lanka in the difficult years from 1986-89. They were stationed in Colombo and I was posted in Kandy.  Both of them were always kind and available for any help and advice in the discharge of our duties. We all know that Hardeep Puri is one of the finest diplomats of India. He is a go-getter with quiet dignity. I always felt that Hardeep Puri had a special corner in his heart for the juniors and not well connected members of staff, perhaps, owing to his family background and connect with the IFS.

Visit to Rashtrapati Bhawan – I visited Rashtrapati Bhawan along with a delegation of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs headed by its Chairman, Charanjit Singh Atwal on September 8, 2017, as a member of the advisory committee of the Forum, to meet and congratulate the newly elected President of
India, Ram Nath Kovind. It was a short and brief but a memorable joint encounter with the first citizen of India. The visit revived and recalled my earlier several official visits to the seat of the highest constitutional authority during my long diplomatic career. I last visited  Rashtrapati Bhawan in August 2010 to meet President Pratibha Patil in the official programme of the HOMs Conference arranged by the Ministry of External Affairs.

President Ram Nath Kovind entered the meeting room with quiet dignity where we were all seated. Charanjit Singh Atwal and MOS Arjun Meghwal received him at the entrance and presented him a bouquet of flowers. Charanjit Singh Atwal made his crisp remarks to congratulate and wish the President all success in his coveted position. President Ram Nath Kovind responded with his usual
calm and cool style and thanked the delegation. Invoking Babasaheb Ambedkar, he said that we all must learn and follow the visionary leader in addressing many of the issues of concern and interest to the nation for our further progress. Charanjit Singh Atwal handed over a Memorandum on behalf of the Forum to the President in which my proposal to declare April 14, birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality was included. President Ram Nath Kovind exchanged pleasantries with us and left after a group photo with the delegation. I must acknowledge the involvement and behind the scene work being done by Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, the scion of Charanjit Singh Atwal for the functioning of the Forum of Schedule Caste MPs and MLAs. I am told that the grouping of Schedule Caste MPs was first initiated in the early 1950s by Babasaheb Ambedkar and since then it has been existing with some modifications conforming the current requirements. Hot and crisp snacks like samosas, pakoras and pastries from the traditional kitchen of the Rashtrapati Bhawan revived my memories. Incidentally, the GHO Hostess Anita, who was earlier working at Hyderabad House, was present to look after the hospitality. Since, I also worked for sometime in the Government Hospitality Organisation (GHO) of the MEA and later used to visit Hyderabad House frequently during the course of my duties, Anita happened to know me. She extended all courtesies.

President Ram Nath Kovind’s gracious spouse Savita is a family friend of my sister Kamla of Delhi. They were colleagues of about 40 years standing in MTNL. Savita Behenji along with their daughter came to Jalandhar in December, 2001 for the marriage of our daughter Vaishali. Later Ram Nath Kovind visited my brothers
in Jalandhar in 2006-07 as the President of the Dalit Morcha of the BJP to prepare for the visit of Lal Krishan Advani to Bootan Mandi, our native place. Kamla and her family visited their friend Savita Behen and her family at the Rashtrapati Bhawan the following day i.e. September 9 and met President Sahib too. Kamla and my brother-in-law D.C. Kumar asked me to join them to meet the first family of India but I could not avail of the opportunity to meet President Ram Nath Kovind in a more relaxed and personal setting as I traveled back to Jalandhar with my interlocutors and hosts at the Punjab Bhawan in Delhi, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal and Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of SC Commission of Punjab.

Without Comments:-
Ten sewer workers in Delhi have died in a little over a month owing to exposure to toxic gases in sewers they were cleaning. Death of workers in sewers is not new. It was reported from Mumbai and Bengaluru earlier this year.
A feature in the Hindustan Times of September 17, 2017 “Raising Stink”