Sunday, November 30, 2014

No proof required : PDS or NREGA

No proof required: PDS or NREGA, corruption must go on

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The PDS facts are as follows: 50 per cent of the food disappears, and the poor receive only 24 per cent of the food that reaches the ration shop. (Source: Reuters) The PDS facts are as follows: 50 per cent of the food disappears, and the poor receive only 24 per cent of the food that reaches the ration shop. (Source: Reuters)
Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Posted: November 1, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: November 1, 2014 12:18 am.
There are several reasons why the case for retaining the NREGA employment system, as argued by 28 of India’s leading economists, should be dismissed.

First, India’s leading economists are likely to be just plain wrong, and naïvely so, in their assessment of the worth of the NREGA. While this job provision programme has been christened the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, I feel it is important to not besmirch the Mahatma’s memory with such a corrupt programme.

Evidence suggests that India’s leading economists have generally been on the wrong side of economics and economic history. When the developing world, especially in East Asia, began changing course in the early 1960s, many of India’s “leading” economists stayed behind — and behind enough to cheer political moves like the Emergency and economic views like bank nationalisation etc. No prizes for guessing that the dominant view of India’s “leading economists” (hereafter ILE) back in the 1960s was in favour of heavy state involvement in the affairs of the economy.

Though much has changed in the world and in India, the ILE view has remained broadly the same — with minor adjustments. The ILEs are not so brazenly left that they support import controls or industrial licensing — but they are left enough to support “dole economics”, or massive government intervention in the name of the poor (though not necessarily for the poor). For them, it is enough to stop all debate with the simple comeback line — yes, corruption is high, yes, there are problems of delivery, but at least some money reaches the poor. In their letter, the ILE state: “Recent research also shows that corruption levels have steadily declined over time… While corruption remains a concern, experience shows that it can be curbed…” I guess corruption, like beauty, is in the ideology of the beholder, or the economist.

It has been documented by several researchers (also see my article, ‘1960s thinking on poverty, only in India’, IE, July 18) that the public distribution system (PDS) of foodgrains is one of the most corrupt public delivery systems in India and perhaps the world. The extent of PDS corruption has been openly acknowledged by every government in power, including the UPA government. The magnitude of the corruption involved is mind-boggling even for those more knowledgeable about these matters, for example, Fifa and the BCCI. In the July 18 article, I documented that the poor (Tendulkar poverty line) in India received only 12 per cent of the money spent in their name. Further, about 50 per cent of the foodgrains allocated to the PDS just disappears into thin continued…

No proof required: PDS or NREGA, corruption must go on

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The PDS facts are as follows: 50 per cent of the food disappears, and the poor receive only 24 per cent of the food that reaches the ration shop. (Source: Reuters) The PDS facts are as follows: 50 per cent of the food disappears, and the poor receive only 24 per cent of the food that reaches the ration shop. (Source: Reuters)
Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Posted: November 1, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: November 1, 2014 12:18 am
There are several reasons why the case for retaining the NREGA employment system, as argued by 28 of India’s leading economists, should be dismissed.
First, India’s leading economists are likely to be just plain wrong, and naïvely so, in their assessment of the worth of the NREGA. While this job provision programme has been christened the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, I feel it is important to not besmirch the Mahatma’s memory with such a corrupt programme.
Evidence suggests that India’s leading economists have generally been on the wrong side of economics and economic history. When the developing world, especially in East Asia, began changing course in the early 1960s, many of India’s “leading” economists stayed behind — and behind enough to cheer political moves like the Emergency and economic views like bank nationalisation etc. No prizes for guessing that the dominant view of India’s “leading economists” (hereafter ILE) back in the 1960s was in favour of heavy state involvement in the affairs of the economy.
Though much has changed in the world and in India, the ILE view has remained broadly the same — with minor adjustments. The ILEs are not so brazenly left that they support import controls or industrial licensing — but they are left enough to support “dole economics”, or massive government interventio
- See more at:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

THIS IS NOT IT! KEM Magazine post by my Daughter


Whatever we are today is a result of the decisions that we all took at the crossroads of our lives. The one hundred and eighty of us took a decision - to be a doctor and here we are. It gives me nothing but great pleasure to be a part of this esteemed and glorified institution and to be a part of that small fraction of the world which endeavors to make lives of the people around them devoid of their “dis-ease”.

But as a member of this great institute, what I rejoice the most is being a part of the initiative by a group of people who stood up for their rights to practice medicine in their own country. Every time I enter the college I look up, only to see the name of Late Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas who made it possible for me and many others to realize my dreams.

Days in college are way too hectic sometimes, especially the anatomy ones, but each one of us has come to terms with the fact that this is the life that we signed up for. Each day we survive the knowledge explosion and the guilt of not knowing all that we should. When my non-medico friends say “You don’t have a life” I don’t know how to retaliate because I can never make them understand the feelings of an aspiring doctor. The anticipation of seeing life come back to the momentarily dead and to be a part of miracles is all that we have as a solace to these harsh comments by our friends.
The teachers of all the departments have always tried to make the subjects easier for us. The Foundation Courses, Guest Lectures, Oration, Integrated Lectures, Seminars and Quizzes give us a break from the monotonous schedule of college.

Coming to our Seniors, they have been real fun people and a lot of help. Starting with our warm welcome at the Socials (which got ruined by certain “party poopers”) and the competitions exclusively meant for us to the “Fresher’s Hike”. Everything they did was to make sure that we felt at home at this college. They always helped us out and cleared our doubts no matter at what time we disturbed them at.

Around this time of the year, there’s so much to do from participating in various colleges’ fest to preparing for our own Aavishkar. Not to forget the incredulous task of making the Anatomy Seminars not sleep inducing. At the same time, post the first terminal examination, our little world of perfection (a habit since the school days) has crumbled and the harsh realities of a professional course are forcing us to be a little more serious about the studies. So much to do in this little time!

I would be lying if I say I’m not intimidated by the future but the 'happyness' of today, of being a fresher, overrides all the other feelings. As we look forward to the next few decades of our lives as doctors, if not knowledge then there’s one lesson that we’ve learnt from GSMC – Non Sebi Sed Omnibus, the rest we’ll learn soon enough because this chapter is not over yet!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Entrepreneurial Skill Needs an Inclusive Pathway

Entrepreneurial Skill Needs an Inclusive Pathway

Published: 22nd November 2014 10:00 PM
Last Updated: 22nd November 2014 01:56 PM
Married couples across the country almost started believing that kissing and hugging in the streets is the only way to express affection and confining it within their homes is being unfair to the spouse. The alarming rate at which media attention shifted to the hissing ‘Kiss of Love,’ it took a fizzing ‘Cabinet 2.0’ to divert media attention temporarily and also ensure that Swachh Bharat was not misunderstood as Smooch Bharat. The avoidable but continuing media discourse on the travails of marginal deviants has fortunately not blinded us from the birth of the new baby in the Cabinet expansion—Ministry of Skill and Entrepreneurship. Detached from Youth Affairs and Sports, this independent creation is essential for strengthening India’s economic backbone—its entrepreneurial skilled workforce.
Education has been identified as a major priority area in the post-2015 development agenda discussions involving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Education for All (EFA) and other multi-lateral global initiatives. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the primary school enrolment in South Asia has increased from the levels of 75 per cent in 2000 to 90 per cent in 2011. India’s response has been reasonable good in primary education with dropout rates not being very high as a percentage when compared to the numbers (because of the population size) of its South Asian neighbours Pakistan or Bangladesh. However, considering the size of the biggest South Asian nation, India, the number of non-schoolgoing children is still alarmingly high. Various socio-cultural barriers along with other policy bottlenecks are reasons for this massive exclusion which are clearly visible in the huge number of non-participant children or those at the risk of dropping out from school. The concerning trend is in the increasing dropout in the post-lower secondary school education and the risk of this number growing in the future. On one hand, retention is a good strategy to arrest this trend and on the other hand, developing sustainable models of engagement for the dropouts/potential dropouts is necessary to avoid a huge social crisis.
The focus of education must shift from enrolment to empowerment. An increased gross enrolment ratio is critical for progress, but equally critical is an alternate livelihood mechanism for school dropouts. They need to be part of the formal national skill development framework through an institutionalised mechanism designed for them. The vision of the Union Government in certain national tasks like Make in India, Swachh Bharat, Jan Dhan, Smart Cities, etc. has a common skilled workforce requirement that necessitates massive skill development programmes for school dropouts leading to job creation or self-employment opportunities. School dropouts cannot be left behind as academic outcastes.
Prof. R Vaidyanathan, in his book titled India UnInc. explores the Indian economic architecture through the lens of its proprietors and partners (P&P)—according to him, the real national economic players and not highly educated. The P&P constitute the entrepreneurial non-corporate sector which provides 90 per cent of the country’s employment and is 45 per cent of India’s economy, which is three times the corporate share of economy. It is unfortunate that this economic spine of our country is also the most neglected one. The formal banking system has failed to serve the small and medium enterprises with adequate financial support covering less than 10 per cent of the people involved in the non-corporate sector, forcing many to borrow at non-competitive costs of capital. Non-corporates cannot be left behind as financial outcastes.
The Ministry of Skill and Entrepreneurship jointly with ministries of HRD and finance needs to build a coherently synergistic model to ensure financial and academic inclusivity or ‘finandemic inclusivity’.
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development,SASTRA University

Millennia before European thinkers

Henry KissingerHenry Kissinger

The world according to Gita: Millennia before European thinkers, Gita and Arthashastra embodied Indian tradition of realpolitik

November 21, 2014, 12:04 AM IST  in TOI Edit Page | 
World order in Hindu cosmology was governed by immutable cycles of an almost inconceivably vast scale — millions of years long. Kingdoms would fall, and the universe would be destroyed, but it would be re-created, and new kingdoms would rise again. The true nature of human experience was known only to those who endured and transcended these temporal upheavals.
The Hindu classic the Bhagavad Gita framed these spirited tests in terms of the relationship between morality and power. Arjuna, “overwhelmed by sorrow” on the eve of battle at the horrors he is about to unleash, wonders what can justify the terrible consequences of war. This is the wrong question, Krishna rejoins. Because life is eternal and cyclical and the essence of the universe is indestructible. Redemption will come through the fulfillment of a preassigned duty, paired with a recognition that its outward manifestations are illusory because “the impermanent has no reality; reality lies in the eternal.” Arjuna, a warrior, has been presented with a war he did not seek. He should accept the circumstances with equanimity and fulfill his role with honor, and must strive to kill and prevail and “should not grieve.”
While Lord Krishna’s appeal to duty prevails and Arjuna professes himself freed from doubt, the cataclysms of the war — described in detail in the rest of the epic — add resonance to his earlier qualms. This central work of Hindu thought embodied both an exhortation to war and the importance not so much of avoiding but of transcending it. Morality was not rejected, but in any given situation the immediate considerations were dominant, while eternity provided a curative perspective. What some readers lauded as a call to fearlessness in battle, Gandhi would praise as his “spiritual dictionary.”
Against the background of the eternal verities of a religion preaching the elusiveness of any single earthly endeavor, the temporal ruler was in fact afforded a wide berth for practical necessities. The pioneering exemplar of this school was the 4th century BC minister Kautilya, credited with engineering the rise of India’s Maurya Dynasty, which expelled Alexander the Great’s successors from northern India and unified the subcontinent for the first time under a single rule.
Kautilya wrote about an India comparable in structure to Europe before the Peace of Westphalia. He describes a collection of states potentially in permanent conflict with each other. Like Machiavelli’s, his is an analysis of the world as he found it; it offers a practical, not a normative, guide to action. And its moral basis is identical with that of Richelieu, who lived nearly two thousand years later: the state is a fragile organization, and the statesman does not have the moral right to risk its survival on ethical restraint.
The Arthashastra sets out, with dispassionate clarity, a vision of how to establish and guard a state while neutralizing, subverting, and (when opportune conditions have been established) conquering its neighbors. The Arthashastra encompasses a world of practical statecraft, not philosophical disputation. For Kautilya, power was the dominant reality. It was multidimensional, and its factors were interdependent. All elements in a given situation were relevant, calculable, and amenable to manipulation toward a leader’s strategic aims. Geography, finance, military strength, diplomacy, espionage, law, agriculture, cultural traditions, morale and popular opinion, rumors and legends, and men’s vices and weaknesses needed to be shaped as a unit by a wise king to strengthen and expand his realm — much as a modern orchestra conductor shapes the instruments in his charge into a coherent tune. It was a combination of Machiavelli and Clausewitz.
Millennia before European thinkers translated their facts on the ground into a theory of balance of power, the Arthashastra set out an analogous, if more elaborate, system termed the “circle of states.” Whatever professions of amity he might make, any ruler whose power grew significantly would eventually find that it was in his interest to subvert his neighbor’s realm. This was an inherent dynamic of self-preservation to which morality was irrelevant.
What our time has labeled covert intelligence operations were described in the Arthashastra as an important tool. Operating in “all states of the circle” (friends and adversaries alike) and drawn from the ranks of “holy ascetics, wandering monks, cart-drivers, wandering minstrels, jugglers, tramps, [and] fortune-tellers,” these agents would spread rumors to foment discord within and between other states, subvert enemy armies, and “destroy” the King’s opponents at opportune moments.
The Arthashastra advised that restrained and humanitarian conduct was under most circumstances strategically useful: a king who abused his subjects would forfeit their support and would be vulnerable to rebellion or invasion; a conqueror who needlessly violated a subdued people’s customs or moral sensibilities risked catalyzing resistance.
The Arthashastra ‘s exhaustive and matter-of-fact catalogue of the imperatives of success led the distinguished 20th-century political theorist Max Weber to conclude that the Arthashastra exemplified “truly radical ‘Machiavellianism’ . . . compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.” Unlike Machiavelli, Kautilya exhibits no nostalgia for the virtues of a better age.
Whether following the Arthashastra ‘s prescriptions or not, India reached its high-water mark of territorial extent in the third century BC, when its revered Emperor Asoka governed a territory comprising all of today’s India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and part of Afghanistan and Iran.
Excerpted from Henry Kissinger’s book , recently published by Penguin India World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Modi Revives India-Israel Ties

Modi Revives India-Israel Ties as Terrorism Threat Grows

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's public overtures to Israel since his... Read More
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is openly boosting ties with Israel, strengthening a relationship that has largely grown outside of the public spotlight over the past two decades.
India last month decided to buy Israeli anti-tank guided missiles and launchers, shunning a rival U.S. offer, and is reviving joint development of a long-range missile. The moves came soon after Modi held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first meeting between Indian and Israeli leaders in a decade.
Modi’s public overtures to Israel since his Hindu-dominated Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide election in May are bolstering a defense relationship as both countries face threats from Islamic terrorists. The previous Congress-led government kept ties with Israel quiet, partly over concerns it’d antagonize Muslim voters the party relied on for support.
“The relationship is coming out of the closet,” said Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “This is unquestionably the most pro-Israel government in India’s history. It’s one of the many signals of a more assertive India and one that takes terrorism very seriously.”
India, the world’s largest weapons buyer, has bought 41 billion rupees ($662 million) of Israeli arms since Modi took power six months ago. That’s more than the total value of Israel’s defense exports to India in the prior three years.

$150 Billion

In September, India made an 8.8-billion-rupee purchase of 262 Barak-I air defense missiles for warships, a deal that had been delayed for six years. A month later, it approved a 32-billion-rupee deal to buy 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 321 launchers built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. They beat out a U.S. offer to supply Javelin missiles manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT) and Raytheon Co.
Modi’s government is also reviving a five-year-old effort to jointly develop a long-range surface-to-air missile called the Barak-II NG. It was successfully tested in Israel, according to an Indian Defense Ministry statement on Nov. 10.
All this may just be the start. India plans to spend $150 billion to modernize its military by 2027, and Israel may be well positioned to gain. For starters, the military needs about 16,000 more anti-tank missiles, according to the Indian army.
“We think the sky is the limit,” Netanyahu told Modi when they met in September in New York. “We’re very excited by the prospects of greater and greater ties.”

Terrorism Threat

While the U.S., Russia and European nations are likely to remain India’s top suppliers of ships or aircraft, Israel’s missile systems, surveillance, and ordnance systems are designed for the kind of threats posed by hostile neighbors and terrorists, according to Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defense industry analyst for IHS Jane’s.
“Israeli capabilities -- this is important -- fit in with the military requirements of the Indian armed forces,” Grevatt said. “The threats they face are similar.”
Modi called for an international strategy to defeat terrorism while addressing Australia’s parliament this week, several months after accusing neighboring Pakistan of resorting to terrorism because it can’t win a conventional war. The countries have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed in full by both.
The planned U.S. exit from Afghanistan makes it more likely that Pakistan-based fighters who had targeted American troops will turn their weapons on India. In September, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said the terrorist organization plans to conduct operations in India headed by two Pakistani militants.

Israel Visits

Modi visited Israel in 2006 as chief minister of Gujarat, when he was ostracized by the U.S. and European countries over his response to 2002 riots in his state that killed about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Modi has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Other members of Modi’s BJP are also close with Israel. Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s first trip abroad was to Tel Aviv this month to discuss defense and security ties. Sushma Swaraj, Modi’s foreign minister, previously headed the equivalent of the Israel caucus in India’s parliament.
Modi is aiming to build up the local manufacturing base with a “Make in India” campaign, which includes modernizing the nation’s armed forces. Netanyahu told Singh this month that Israeli manufacturers, including the defense industry, could produce in India to reduce costs.
The selection of the Israeli Spike anti-tank missile over the U.S. Javelin “will not negatively impact our relationship with India or other possible military sales” to the country, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, said in an e-mail.


The Spike “had been the original frontrunner” for India’s requirements and the decision “had been put on hold pending their review of our Javelin proposal. The Spike has already met their technical and field trial requirements, Javelin had not,” Kendall said.
The U.S. Javelin proposal “is still on the table” to meet India’s remaining requirements, he said.
Israel was the fourth-largest supplier of defense equipment to India in the three years to March, behind the U.S., Russia and France, according to figures submitted to parliament in August.
Until 1992, when relations between India and Israel were normalized, citizens couldn’t travel between the countries. India’s pro-Palestine stance started to shift in 1999, when Israel provided crucial weapons at short notice to India that allowed it to defeat Pakistan during a conflict in Kashmir.

Sharon Visit

Ariel Sharon was the only Israeli prime minister to visit India in 2003, the last time a BJP-led government held power. Since then, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has visited India four times, including two state visits, according to India’s foreign ministry.
While India’s foreign ministry says its friendship with Palestine is “an integral part of our time-tested foreign policy,” signs of a shift toward Israel were seen shortly after Modi’s BJP became the first party in 30 years to win a majority in India’s parliament. Swaraj, the foreign minister, in July rejected a request by opposition lawmakers for a resolution condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
Israel’s relationship with India “is very important to us, and we are placing a major investment in nurturing and growing that relationship,” said Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry in Jerusalem. “We’ve had an incredibly positive engagement” with the Modi administration, he said.
“Modi has a mandate,” said Harsh V. Pant, a scholar of international relations at King’s College London. “He can confidently take this relationship forward rather than be bogged down by the ideological affiliations of the past.”
To contact the reporters on this story: N.C Bipindra in New Delhi at; Natalie Obiko Pearson in New Delhi at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at Dick Schumacher

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Secular Sipahis – Tired, Retired and Clueless

Sonia Gandhi’s Secular Sipahi – Tired, Retired and Clueless

Sonia Gandhi's Secular Sipahis! Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and JD (S) supremo HD Deve Gowda at Nehru International Conference in New Delhi.
Sonia Gandhi’s Secular Sipahis! Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and JD (S) supremo HD Deve Gowda at Nehru International Conference in New Delhi.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is at it again. She has raked up secular rhetoric once again to revive the fading fortune of the party.
Addressing the Nehru International Conference in New Delhi on November 17, the Congress president said:
There can be no India without secularism… secularism was and remains more than an ideal. It is a compelling necessity for a country as diverse as India.”
Congress is organising the Nehru International Conference to commemorate India’s first Prime Minister’s 125th Birth Anniversary. The conclave aims at reviving the Nehruvian Socialism and while at it keeping alive Nehruvian Secularism it seems.
On November 13, while addressing the party workers in the national capital on the eve of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Birth Anniversary, the Congress president said:
Bharat ki aatma ki raksha ke liye bahadur secular sipahi bano (Be a brave secular soldier and protect the soul of India.)”
For Sonia Gandhi and her Congress, secularism starts with and ends at vote bank politics. Not to forget that in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress president had met Syed Ahmed Bukhari — the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid — and made a special appeal to Muslims to vote in a way to prevent split of ‘secular votes’. It would also be pertinent to remind the readers that way back in 2006, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on to say that Muslims have first claim on country’s resources.

The Congress’ politics and communalism have always gone hand in hand and history is witness to it. Esepcially the first term of the UPA under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership saw “Communal Socialism” peak with the Congress-led UPA Government appointing the Rajinder Sachar Committee in 2005 and the Ranganath Mishra Commission in 2004. Set up under the pretext of highlighting the social, economic and educational status of Muslims, both the Commissions ended up underscoring how the “secular” politics of the Congress and its allies over the decades have only hurt the Muslim Community far from helping it.

At a time when Sonia Gandhi has faced a series of setbacks and rumblings within the rank and file of her party have started to surface, Sonia Gandhi has resorted to that last refuge of every desperate politician in India – Secularism.

The Congress it seems  has learnt no lessons from the May 2014 general election drubbing nor from the continued mandate to the Narendra Modi to led BJP in the recent state elections as well. The “Secular Sipahi” coalition she cobbled together earlier today in New Delhi is a commentary as much on the Congress as it is on its leadership. With a “retired” Deve Gowda, a barely relevant Karat and a clueless Rahul Gandhi along side out of sight Mamata Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi’s Congress is desperately the Nehruvian Secularism card in a game whose rules have long been re-written by Narendra Modi.

That the Congress Party had to skip three generations to hark back on Nehru’s Political Legacy to revive its sagging fortunes is a sign of the depths to which it has plumbed this year.
Meanwhile its “Secular Sipahi” are all dressed up to battle long after the war has been lost !

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions. Information, facts or opinions shared by the Author do not reflect the views of Niti Central and Niti Central is not responsible or liable for the same. The Author is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


Saswat Panigrahi

Saswat Panigrahi is Senior Editor (News) at NitiCentral. He is a journalist having a natural interest in observing the political jigsaw with a concern for issues affecting the common man’s life. A swayamsevak in his own right, he is an ardent supporter of cultural nationalism. He has worked with The Pioneer and Zee News.

The Brains Behind Modi Sarkar - A 360 degree perspective

 How did a little-known think-tank end up supplying so many bureaucrats to the NDA government? Brijesh Singh reports - A Fact findling report by him published in Tehelka Magazine.

What do Ajit Doval, Nripendra Misra and PK Misra have in common? Of course, they are top bureaucrats whom Narendra Modi handpicked to run his team. There is another common factor. They all hail from New Delhi-based think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
Former IB director Ajit Doval was steering the ship at VIF as founder-director before he was appointed as Modi’s National Security Adviser. He was advising Modi even before the government was formed. In fact, it was Doval who came up with the idea of inviting South Asian leaders to Modi’s oath-taking ceremony.

After his stint as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman was over, Nripendra Misra became a member of the VIF’s executive council. Now, he is Modi’s principal secretary. There was a legal hitch in his appointment as TRAI law bars former chairmen from holding government positions. But Modi wanted him so bad that he tabled an ordinance to amend the law.

Former Union agriculture secretary PK Misra was associated with the VIF as a Senior Fellow. Now, he is the additional principal secretary to the prime minister.

Other VIF members whom the Modi regime has tapped for inputs include former RAW chief CD Sahay, former urban development secretary Anil Baijal, former ambassador to Russia Prabhat Shukla, former IAF chief SG Inamdar and former BSF chief Prakash Singh.

Former army chief Gen (retd) NC Vij has replaced Doval as VIF director. Sources claim that many other VIF members are likely to be enrolled in the government at significant posts soon. There are reports that former DRDO director general VK Saraswat, who is currently the dean of the Centre for Scientific and Technological Studies at VIF, might replace Chief Scientific Adviser R Chidambaram.
Interestingly, the first book that Modi released after assuming office was Getting India Back on Track. Its editor is none other than Bibek Debroy, who is the dean of VIF’s Centre for Economic Studies.

So, what is the VIF? Who are the people associated with it? When and how did the think-tank become a breeding ground of candidates to fill Modi’s bureaucracy?
VIF is Doval’s brainchild. After his retirement from the IB in 2005, he focussed his energies in creating the think-tank. On 10 December 2009, Mata Amritanandamayi and Justice MN Venkatachaliah inaugurated the foundation.

The VIF is affiliated to the Kanyakumari-based Vivekananda Kendra, which was established by RSS organiser Eknath Ranade in 1970. In 1993, the Narasimha Rao government allotted land to the Vivekanada Kendra in Chanakyapuri. And VIF was founded at the same spot.

The think-tank’s website introduces the organisation in the following words, “The VIF is a New Delhi-based think-tank set up with the collaborative efforts of India’s leading security experts, diplomats, industrialists and philanthropists under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra. The VIF’s objective is to become a centre of excellence to kick-start innovative ideas and thoughts that can lead to a stronger, secure and prosperous India playing its destined role in global affairs.”

About its vision and mission, the website adds, “The VIF is an independent, non-partisan institution that promotes quality research and in-depth studies and is a platform for dialogue and conflict resolution. It strives to bring together the best minds in India to ideate on key national and international issues; promote initiatives that further the cause of peace and global harmony; monitor social, economic and political trends that have a bearing on India’s unity and integrity.”

The VIF has many scholars as members of its advisory and executive councils, besides former army chiefs, former ambassadors, foreign secretaries, retired RAW and IB officials, bureaucrats as well as other key officials who have held top posts at the Centre (see box).

The VIF chiefly works in eight different areas: national security and strategic studies, international relations and diplomacy, neighbourhood studies, governance and political studies, economic studies, historical and civilisational studies, technological and scientific studies, and media studies.
The VIF invites scholars and experts from all over the world for conferences and lectures. It presents India’s outlook before the New Delhi-based diplomatic community and takes their inputs to further the country’s political, strategic, economic and cultural interests. It also holds dialogues with policymakers on current affairs. It gives policy advice to government representatives, MPs, members of the judiciary and civil society. It also carries out exchange of ideas with academic institutes and research centres.

“The foundation has done commendable work in the past 5-6 years,” says former RAW chief Anand Verma, who is now a member of the VIF advisory board. “Top-level research has been conducted in various fields. Numerous seminars of national and international significance have been organised. It has held dialogues with various global think-tanks. Senior officials, including government and nongovernmental ones, from all over the world are invited for interactions. Since the think-tank has its own rules, many of its discussions are not made public.”

Modi has had a long association with the VIF. Sources reveal that he constantly took counsel from this institute regarding economic and security issues when he was the Gujarat chief minister. In fact, the VIF core team helped Modi draft the blueprint of his election campaign.

“We were confident that Modi would be elected as prime minister,” says a VIF member. “That’s why we had been working on developing foreign, security and economic policies, etc. During the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, he was provided all the necessary inputs on various issues by the VIF. In fact, the major intellectual inputs for his political campaign in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu was organised by the foundation.”

Sources in the foundation confirm Modi’s affinity towards VIF, which prominent BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders approach for inputs on governance issues.

The links between Modi and the VIF became apparent last year. When Congress leaders attacked Modi in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, Doval jumped to his defence. The then VIF director argued that Ishrat was a member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Congress-led UPA government was politicising the whole matter.

In the run-up to the General Election, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal alleged that under Modi’s watch, industrialists made huge profits in Gujarat, while no actual development had taken place in the state.

Following the accusation, a group named Concerned Citizens sprang to life and came out with a statement that AAP was making unsubstantiated allegations in a bid to help the Congress in the General Election. The members included Doval, author MV Kamath, journalist MJ Akbar, former Jammu & Kashmir governor SK Sinha, former bureaucrat MN Buch and economist Bibek Debroy. It was clearly part of the foundation’s strategy.

The VIF’s major achievement has been the building up of an anti-UPA (read anti- Congress) atmosphere in the past few years. Sources close to the foundation claim that VIF members played a significant role in mobilising the anti-corruption movement across the country in 2011.
“In April 2011, the decision to create an anti-corruption forum under Baba Ramdev was taken here,” reveals a VIF member on the condition of anonymity. “It had been planned for almost a year.In collaboration with KN Govindacharya’s Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan, the foundation organised a two-day seminar on black money and corruption on 1 April 2011. Baba Ramdev, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi attended the programme. At the end of the seminar, an anti-corruption front was formed with Baba Ramdev as patron and Govindacharya as organiser. The members included Ajit Doval, Bhishm Agnihotri (ambassador-at-large to the US when the NDA was in power), Prof R Vaidyanathan from IIM Bangalore, Ved Pratap Vaidik, journalist and Baba Ramdev’s close aide, and (author and financial expert) S Gurumurthy.”


Meanwhile, Govindacharya organised a meeting between Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. VIF members devised a strategy that both of them will push the anti-corruption movement forward. Three days after the seminar, Hazare began a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. By the end of April, Ramdev had also announced an anti-UPA protest on 4 June at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

Rumour has it that the plan to corner the Congress was allegedly drafted by VIF at the behest of the BJP and the RSS. On one hand, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev were raking up the corruption issue and protesting against the government. On the other hand, the BJP was adding fuel to fire. This is why senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh kept referring to the anti-corruption movement as an RSS conspiracy. But as the movement reached its peak and the UPA government came up with absurd steps to tackle the situation, nobody paid him any heed.

The VIF’s alleged links with the RSS has come in handy for Modi’s critics. Sangh leaders regularly visit the VIF, while RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP leader LK Advani actively engage with it. Recently, Bhagwat was at the VIF to release former diplomat OP Gupta’s book Defining Hindutva. Since the VIF emerged out of the Vivekananda Kendra, critics believe it would be a mistake to consider the VIF separate from the RSS.

“VIF is an RSS project,” says a critic. “The first thing you notice when you enter the building is a photograph of Eknath Ranade. VIF is filled with right-wing officials. As they were marginalised intellectually, they created their own think-tank. It is a desperate attempt to get acknowledged in the intellectual world. If it is not so, then why does the RSS chief keep visiting the VIF?”
The critic provides some examples of the VIF’s alleged right-wing bias. “When the controversy over Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History erupted, Senior Fellow Makkhan Lal wrote that the incident has provided pseudo-secularists and anti-Hindus an opportunity to play their old trick where, in the name of freedom of speech, they bitterly criticise the Hindus,” he says. “While analysing the Lok Sabha election mandate, joint-director Prabhat Shukla wrote that the results were the outcome of the exploitation of Hindus, which has been going on for decades. Another fellow, Anirban Ganguly, wrote in his research paper titled Man and Environment in India: Past Traditions and Present Challenges about how Hinduism is intrinsically aware of the natural surroundings and that the tradition finds mention in the Vedas and Arthashastra. If it is not right-wing ideology, then what is?”

However, KG Suresh, editor of the foundation’s magazine Patrika, rubbishes such allegations. “I don’t understand why there is so much negative reporting,” he says. “A picture is being projected as if everyone in the foundation is roaming around in khakis. It is wrong to link the foundation with the RSS. We are totally apolitical. Neither the BJP nor the RSS is funding us.

“We are neither pro-BJP nor anti- Congress. When the UPA was in power, we backed the government on the Devyani Khobragade issue. Similarly, we supported the UPA in the land swap deal with Bangladesh, while the Opposition raised a furore. Hence, it is wrong to call us anti- Congress. It is true that the top leadership of the BJP and the RSS take inputs from us on various issues, but even Congress leaders participate in our seminars.”

Verma is also at pains to emphasise that the VIF has no political leanings. “The think-tank is absolutely non-political and secular,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the RSS. The sole objective of the foundation is to find solutions to the various challenges before the country.

“I don’t look at the RSS the same way as the Congress does. What wrong is the RSS doing? It is only trying to restore the esteem of the Hindu community. Those who don’t understand it, abuse the Sangh. It is establishing the ancient sanskritik principles. It’s doing good work.

“When Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech in Chicago in 1893, it caught the world’s attention. But he was criticised for giving rise to a new Hinduism. If even Vivekananda is not considered secular, then who can be considered so?”

Agrees Maroof Raza, a consultant and strategic affairs expert with Times Now, who regularly participates in various programmes organised by the foundation. “Although there are rumours about VIF’s association with the RSS, no right-wing bias has come to light,” he says. “In fact, the foundation is doing excellent work.”

To buttress his point, Verma adds, “Recently, we organised a conference on the Kashmir issue and members from the PDP, Congress and National Conference took part in the discussion. (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief ) Maulana Mahmood Madani also visited the foundation recently. So has the head of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Even the Dalai Lama has attended several programmes here.”

Adds another VIF member, “When the UPA was in power, many PMO officials attended our seminars. In fact, minister Kumari Selja came here to release a book.”
Shedding light on the VIF’s objectives, Verma says, “Among significant issues taken up by the foundation, one is to present the correct cultural, traditional and spiritual aspects of India. We have studied from books that offered a distorted version of our history. Today, we learn history from books prepared by the British and (Thomas) Macaulay. Their objective was to make us feel inferior and destroy our fundamental Indian values. We need to know our actual history and the foundation is working towards it. The history of India is being rewritten in 10-11 volumes, of which half are ready.
“It was necessary to establish VIF. The situation was such that whenever someone talked about Indian culture, Leftist intellectuals would dismiss him or her. They felt he or she was preaching Hinduism. The Leftist historians see RSS conspiracy in anything that involves culture.”

Adds Suresh, “Indian history must be nationalised. The Left has already been marginalised politically. Now, it will be marginalised intellectually. We had been on the margins so far, now it is their turn.”

Another VIF member echoes the sentiment. “Most of the think-tanks are governed by Leftists,” he says. “Ours is a platform for non-Leftists and nationalists who were considered untouchables in the intellectual world.”

On the subject of funding, Verma says, “This institute is funded by people from all over the world. It is not funded by any government organisation. People like you and me fund it.” In 2013, VIF reportedly received donations worth 1.5 crore.

Verma rubbishes allegations that the Sangh Parivar played a part in the appointment of Doval and Misra, saying that their elevation was made purely on merit. “I know the bureaucracy inside out,” says Verma. “I can declare with conviction that they have no match in the entire civil services. Just as they say about Modi, there is nobody like Doval.”

But are they not close to the Sangh Parivar? “Doval is a completely apolitical person,” he replies. “Yes, personally he may have cultural preferences, but in public life, he is very professional.”

As VIF basks in the newfound limelight, foreign dignitaries are making a beeline to the think-tank. Just days after Doval’s elevation, two Chinese delegations came calling. The same day, a 17-member British team, including Royal College of Defence Studies commandant David Bill, visited the place. Later, a delegation from the US Army War College held discussions with VIF’s security experts on nuclear weapons. Experts from the French Atomic Energy Agency and diplomats also paid a visit to discuss various matters, including security issues.

As more and more VIF members join the Narendra Modi sarkar, it is a no-brainer that the think-tank will play a key role in formulating the country’s foreign, economic and security policies.

Translated from Tehelka Hindi by Naushin Rehman
(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 31, Dated 2 August 2014)