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New ideas of youth will take us to new heights






Vijay Darda : Last night the whole world was engaged in ushering in the New Year. You too might have celebrated a lot. You must have celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm, and you might have made some new resolutions too..!

In today's piece, I will only talk about resolutions. But before that let me tell you a true story that took place about 160 years ago. This story is about the person who had invented the light bulb so that our world could be illuminated. His name was Thomas Alva Edison!


Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in the United States. When he grew up, he was enrolled in school. A few years later, Edison returned home from school carrying an envelope. The teacher had asked him to give the envelope to his mother. His mother Nancy Matthew opened the envelope and started crying after reading whatever was written in it. Edison asked his mother why she was crying? Nancy lovingly caressed Edison and said, the school has written that your son is very promising, very intelligent, and our school is too small for him. After that, Edison did not go to school for many years. Mother taught him at home. With the passage of time, Edison's talent started to appear and shine. He invented bulb, developed phonogram, made movie cameras and invented more than a hundred things. By now the mother had left the mundane world. When one day he was going through the old things, he chanced upon the same envelope. When Edison read out the letter sent from the school, he wept. The school wrote: your son is mentally weak. We can not keep him in our school. He has been suspended!


Edison's eyes filled with tears. A principal had declared him mentally weak and a mother made him the world's greatest scientist.


Actually this story is trustworthy. Edison was not the person to follow the conventional path, so the school felt that he was mentally weak. The mother had faith in her son's curiosity, so she gave him strength. If you want to see your children on the new path, then it is important that you understand them and promote their thinking. Give them the power to realise their dreams. Trust them completely. In fact, if we succeed in taking our youth in the right direction, nobody can stop India from becoming a world guru!


Come on, let us resolve on the first day of this New Year that we will stand with our youth, give all possible help to fulfil their new ideas, new thoughts, and innovative imaginations. Long ago, Swami Vivekananda had said that 'Youth is our biggest power'. He was right then and today his statement is even more right because almost 65% of India's population is under 35 years of age. We hope that by 2020 we will be the youngest country in the world. The government is trying to empower this youth power at its level. While announcing the National Youth Policy in 2014, the government had said that the purpose of this policy is to identify the capabilities of the youth and empower them by providing opportunities accordingly and through this, to secure a place of pride for India in the comity of nations of the world.


But the biggest question at this time is whether our society is moving in the right direction in terms of youth power? It seems that the direction is fine but the speed is slow. Our young people have proved their talent but opportunities for many of them are not available for many reasons. Those who get the opportunity can not choose the path according to their wishes because the ambition of the parents is something else. We usually do not try to understand the aptitude of a child and what he or she wants to be?


After graduation, millions of youngsters face the question of what to do next? On the other hand, in the developed countries of the world, it becomes clear what the child can do better when he or she is still studying in the secondary school. Accordingly, the students there chart their future course of study.
Every effort should be made at the government level to provide opportunities but the family has to play a significant role too. I have seen many such examples wherein the child makes a very good painting or is interested in music, but efforts are made to make him an engineer or a doctor. The parents remain focussed only on the marks the child has scored. Nobody feels the need to whet the curiosity of a child. A desire in him should be generated to know something other than the school textbooks and he should be encouraged to do something new. If the Indian families learn to do this, we will be able to make as many youngsters talented as possible. Our children will also become great scientists of the world. Rest assured that if we promote new thinking, we will achieve newer heights!


Before I conclude
On the occasion of New Year, I am sharing a beautiful poem of my choice. It is written by poet Yogendra Dutt Sharma: 
Andheri raat nabh se chhant gayi hai
Hathili dhundh saari hat gayi hai,
Nayi raunak usha ke saath aai
Naye vishwas ki saugaat aai,
Naya utsaah hai thandi hava mein
Nayi asha achaanak haath aai.
(The darkness has left the sky,
The haze has disappeared,
The dawn has brought new light of hope,
New hope has warmed the cold air.
And ushered in new confidence)




Uncertainty after Trump’s triumph





The American establishment and by its extension the rest of the world was preparing for an era where a woman would be the president of the oldest democracy. This was supposed to be a natural transition in a modern country that had elected a ‘black’ Barack Obama for two terms. There is a feeling of regret that this historic opportunity to make this big change has been lost. The pollsters and pundits were all predicting her victory, although the FBI announcement over fresh emails did dent Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. But on polling day she was still in the lead.
Well, the pundits can now chew on the reasons for Hillary’s defeat and the surprise win for Donald Trump who ran an utterly divisive and vitriolic campaign. In terms of lows, he touched two marks - one when he said that he would lock-up Clinton for the email scandal, and two when he said that he would accept the results only if he wins, otherwise he would maintain a suspense.
But now is the time to forget all those negatives and accept Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. This is the people’s verdict, and never mind that it has been delivered by an electoral system, that Trump had described as ‘rigged’ during the campaign.
The entire world is waiting with bated breath as to what would be Trump’s stance on divisive issues that brought him electoral victory but have huge consequences for millions of people and can cause untold sufferings. For instance, during the campaign he promised to deport all illegal migrants. Now there are 11 million illegal migrants in America; will he fulfill that electoral promise at a huge cost in terms of human misery that will result due to deportation? Or will he soften his stance?
Then there is the issue of health care reforms, the spiking of the nuclear deal with Iran, the pronouncement that the entry of the Muslims would be banned, and of course the issue of prosecuting Hillary Clinton and locking her up in jail? Besides, there is the promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico and making Mexico pay for it.
Let us not forget that these are the promises which brought him to power and drew millions of Americans to vote for him. Although going back on electoral promises is nothing new for politicians, Trump’s USP in this election has been that as a complete outsider in the corridors of power he stood for a change in the way Washington works. In fact, he blamed career politicians like Hillary Clinton and others for all the woes of America and promised to change all that. The people believed in this promise.
Indeed, this high-pitched rhetoric that appeals to the sentiment of a large number of people has often been chosen as the route to power by politicians. They make such promises to woo voters, with the realisation that the voters also know that such radical moves cannot be implemented without causing costly disruption. This rhetoric is seen by the people as a proof of the politician’s desire to be different and unconventional.
In so far as these ‘hot button’ poll promises are concerned, in the short span of time that has passed since his election as president, his advisers and to some extent Trump himself have been suggesting that they have no intention of following up on some of the more radical moves. But the clarity on these issues would emerge only after January 20 when Trump takes over as president and his cabinet is in place.
From an Indian standpoint, a Trump presidency could see a further up-swing in the India-America strategic partnership as he tries to keep China in check. His strong stance against Islamic jihad should see that he reins in Pakistan. But the most important aspect of this relationship would be the convergence of ideas between president Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as both belong to the rightist spectrum. If Modi shared a personal chemistry with the outgoing president Obama, he would quickly develop an ideological affinity with president Trump. The Indian-origin Americans who campaigned vigorously for Trump would also act as catalysts in strengthening this bond.
This prevails notwithstanding, the view held by policy experts on both the sides that over the past decade beginning with president Clinton’s visit to India and the role he played in taming Pakistan over the Kargil episode, all presidents - Democrats (Obama) or Republicans (Bush), have built upon the progress that has been achieved by their predecessors. So, it is expected that a Trump presidency would also carry the momentum forward.
There are some concerns about Trump pronouncements regarding limiting of scrapping H1B visas that allow Indian professionals to go to work in America. This is in the context of his remark that described “Indians and Chinese as job stealers”. It is hoped that this was just a part of the campaign rhetoric as he also said that he would welcome Indian investors and students. Now investors do not come without the people who work for them. So, his policies would have to change.
The world expects a leadership role for America in almost every walk of life. Its idea of the sanctity of individual freedom and the rule of law coupled with its liberal ethos is a cherished ideal for the rest of the world. It is hoped that whatever be his campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump as president would live up to this ideal. He may have trashed women in his campaign, but he cannot afford to forget as president that women constitute an important segment of the society and have to be given their due.
The same holds true for immigrants. It cannot be forgotten that America is a country built by immigrants. It is the willingness and openness of the American society and its people to absorb and assimilate the immigrants that makes the country a melting pot of everything that is divisive. For someone elected on the promise of making America great again, Trump has to internalise these features into his presidency.
Before I conclude
Laudable as the Modi sarkar’s move is to demonetise the `500 and `1000 notes in the attempt to end the menace of black money, it is also incumbent upon the government to ensure that common masses are not put to too much discomfort in the process of exchanging their old notes for the new ones. The first few days after the demonetisation have left much to be desired from the banking system, and it is hoped that this is just a temporary phase, and after a few days (not weeks) the normal system would be back.
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.




Remembering Gurudev: Celebrating creativity

We all know that Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, for the English translation of his own poetic work Gitanjali - An Offering of Songs - in Bengali. We also know that he is the creative mind behind our national anthem 'Jana Gana Mana...” But we do not remember him only as a Nobel laureate poet or the writer of our celebrated national anthem. For that matter he wrote songs that were later adopted as national anthems of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The Gurudev that we remember is someone who has through his speeches, writings and activities like setting up centre of learning the Santiniketan proved to be a crusader in the cause of modern India. His mission during the pre-independence era was to challenge the common perception that India was just a country of snake-charmers and superstitions, and was culturally backward. By personal example, the renowned novelist, dramatist and song writer left such a rich contribution to the world of literature, arts and music that it continues to have its imprint even almost seven decades after his passing away.
He belonged to an illustrious Brahmin family from Bengal - the Thakurs that have a 300-year history and though most of the attention has been focused on their cultural role, in sum their contribution is a composite one extending to commercial and political fields as well as the arena of literary and musical activities.
It was Gurudev who conferred the title of Mahatma on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and that is how we remember him as Mahatma Gandhi. In turn Mahatma Gandhi would address him as Gurudev. Quite clearly the Nobel laureate was impressed by the Mahatma’s ideas about nationalism and deeply admired his leadership of the independence movement, the devotion to non-violence and satyagraha. But it was a sign of the maturity of those times that these two crusaders of the independence movement had a relationship of deep mutual admiration even as they had crucial differences on some key issues.
For instance, when a deadly earthquake struck Bihar in 1934, the Mahatma described it as "a divine chastisement sent by God for our sins, the sin of untouchability."  Gurudev did not agree with this. In fact they had differences even over something as elementary as food. It is recounted that they used to discuss food and diet among other things. Gandhiji being a strict fruitarian, said, "To fry bread in ghee or oil to make puris is to turn good grain into poison. It must be a slow poison." Gurudev answered gravely, "I have been eating puris all my life and it has not done me any harm so far."
But their differences were not limited to such mundane things and extended to things like education and spinning the charkha that was Gandhiji’s favourite meditative activity. Gurudev was very keen on education: reading, writing, arithmetic and science, along with play. The Mahatma on the other hand, was very sceptical of formal education and thought that education should be acquired through work, in a practical way. The Mahatma was a great votary of bringing about personal improvement by spinning a wheel, whereas Gurudev felt that endlessly turning the wheel of an antiquated machine with a minimum of imagination and causes maximum boredom.
We remember such great men because more important than their differences are the lessons their lives hold for us. Apart from the various ethical, philosophical and practical lessons that we can draw from the lives of these two modern founding fathers of our nation, the most important thing that we can imbibe from their lives is that we should maintain mutual respect and admiration even for those with whom we have serious ideological or basic differences.
Or else we shall remain condemned to inane conflicts that simply sap our energies. Nor would the journey of our life have any meaning. I conclude by recounting a prayer to the Lord from Gitanjali as I offer my humble tribute to his memory:
Give Me Strength
This is my prayer to thee, my lord---strike,
strike at the root of penury in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor
or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.
The author is the chairman, editorial board of Lokmat Media and a member of Rajya Sabha

Bhutan: Small neighbour, big ideas




Vijay Darda When the royal couple from Britain Prince William and Princess Catherine recently visited the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan they presented a new rose "Queen of Bhutan rose" to the hostess queen for her English garden. It was fitting tribute to a kingdom that is fiercely protective of its culture, festivals, monks and pristine environment. As a tribute to this environment, the royal couple also trekked for three hours to reach the cliff top monastery -Tiger's Nest, some 10,000 feet above sea level and soak in some of the breath-taking greenery on the way.
Sandwiched between two Asian giants, India and China - Bhutan is a small country of the size of Switzerland with a population of just 700,000. But when it comes to ideas on eco-friendly sustainable development it is really into big ideas. Its civil servant turned politician prime minister Tshering Togbay is the most articulate exponent of the Bhutanese philosophy of relying more on gross national happiness index (GNH) instead of the usual norm of measuring a country's growth by the gross national produce (GNP). But in the same breath, he is candid enough to admit that the country needs development to fight poverty.

While speaking to high executives from the Wall Street at an event organised by the non-profit organisation TED (Technology, Environment, Design) Tobgay delivered a message that went viral on the social media with more than a million viewers. This is a paradigm shift, as the big countries are now hearing what a small country has to offer by ways of its experience in fighting climate change. He recalled that when at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in 2009, his country promised to remain carbon neutral for all time, no body heeded, no one heard. The governments were busy arguing with one another and blaming each other for causing climate change. But in 2015 in Paris when Bhutan reiterated its promise to remain carbon neutral for all time to come its voice was heard. "We were noticed, and everybody cared. What was different in Paris was that governments came around together to accept the realities of climate change, and were willing to come together and act together and work together," says Tobgay.

Now for some interesting facts about Bhutan. It is a democracy that has been ordained by a monarch. As Tobgay says, "We didn"t ask for it (democracy), we didn"t demand it, and we certainly didn"t fight for it. Instead, our king imposed democracy on us by insisting that he include it in the constitution. But he went further. He included provisions in the constitution that empower the people to impeach their kings, and included provisions that require all kings to retire at 65." The same king also mandated constitutionally that a minimum of 60 per cent of Bhutan"s total land shall remain under forest cover for all time. Currently, 72 per cent of Bhutan's land is under forest cover.

Indeed, this mandatory constitutional provision is the basis for Bhutan's sustainable ecological development. It is not only a carbon negative country, but it exports green power that cuts down emission in other countries like India. Energy is Bhutan's top export, and India is the only buyer. India and Bhutan have for long had excellent relations and India has for decades assisted Bhutan in developing its hydropower. Bhutan earned `975 crores from selling power to India in 2012 — that's nearly `13,500 for every citizen of a country of 0.74 million people. Bhutan has economically viable hydropower potential of 24,000 mw, of which it now taps only 1416 mw.

Thus unlike the oil-rich Gulf countries, which export non-renewable petroleum, mountainous Bhutan is rich in rivers and exports renewable hydropower. The first major project, the 336 mw Chhukha dam in south Bhutan, commissioned in 1988, was entirely funded by India.

But the more ambitious project for a sustainable environment developed is the Bhutan for Life joint collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and Bhutan that is based on the Wall Street ideas of generating a $40 million fund known as a project finance for permanence (PFP) deal. This fund will help the government of Bhutan transition over 15 years to where it can permanently finance the parks as part of its budget. It's a single closing, bringing together the public sector, development agencies, banks, foundation and individuals in a single project—in this case to achieve conservation at scale. The money is released as the government checks off its deliverables (such as a non-green vehicle tax), or ensuring that any revenue generated inside the parks stays in the parks. The idea is to build a modern Bhutan built on the bedrock of traditional good practices, crafted by the principles of conservation and sustainable development, ensuring progressive convergence of nature, culture and economic vibrancy. It shall conserve Bhutan's natural capital and address environmental challenges for sustainable development and healthy living.
However, more interest ' We are witnessing the daily impact of climate change in our lives and it is no more something that belongs to the distant past or something that would not touch our lives.




Monday, May 20, 2019