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Bravery of Indian soldiers in Israel

Vijay Darda : In my column last week, I had mentioned that Israelis love India immensely. Wherever I went, I was received with great warmth by all the people but one question they definitely asked me was: Why despite being a close ally, India voted against Israel on the issue of Jerusalem. This question was asked by so many people that it left me worried that this issue may well drive a wedge in the relationship of these two countries. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved that Israel is indeed the best friend of India and the Jews are very large-hearted people. A journalist had asked him how he viewed India’s opposition to the American proposal to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He took a liberal view saying that a single vote does not make any difference and the friendship of the two countries will continue without a hitch.
Jerusalem which became a hot topic at the United Nations over the last few days, is the holy city and centre of faith not only for Jews but for Christians and Muslims as well. The old area is surrounded by walls within the new city. This is the Heritage City. I visited this city and was impressed by its beauty and nobility. I learned that the Israelis see the Battle of Haifa as the first symbol of the establishment of the nation of Israel. I also learned that the school textbooks feature the tales of valour of Indian soldiers who were martyred in this battle. ...and I reached Haifa! It is about 160 kilometres from Jerusalem and 92 kilometers from Tel Aviv. Turkey had occupied Haifa at the time of World War I and the German army was supporting them. The army which the British sent through Iran to liberate this city from Turkey included the Jodhpur and Mysore Regiments of India, which had only swords and flags in the name of weapons. Imagine the difficulty that they must have faced while reaching there with their horses. There it was discovered that the Turkish-German army had mortars and guns in abundance! The British army ordered Dalpat Singh, who led the regiment to return but Indian troops refused. The soldiers said that beating a retreat is shameful. After that, Jodhpur and Mysore Regiments fought valiantly and liberated Haifa. It was September 23, 1918. As many as 47 Indian soldiers were martyred in that battle. Their names are written on a memorial. Some verses in Sanskrit and immortal messages of Gurbani have been carved there. Om Bhagvate Namah. On reading this verse, my heart danced with joy! I paid homage to the memorial of heroic soldiers. In fact, wherever I go, I always bow to the martyrs. There are many olive trees there which are considered sacred. Under the Olive Tree, Lord Jesus gave the discourse. I also saw a temple of Bahá’í. The Bahá’í community is the largest in India after Israel. In Delhi, Baha’is  have built an elegant Lotus Temple.
Israelis believe that victory in Haifa led to the rule of Britain in the area, which opened the way for Israel to become a separate nation in 1948. That is why on  September 23, the Israeli army celebrates Haifa Day. There are three statues installed in the memory of heroic soldiers of Haifa at Tin Murti Chowk in Delhi, and India celebrates this day with great pride. During Netanyahu’s India visit, India has taken a good step by renaming Tin Murti Chowk as Tin Murti Haifa Chowk.
During the visit to Israel, I had such a rich and varied experience that it is not possible for me to write about it all in this column. I went to Tel Aviv. I went to the Gaza Strip, where I only saw soldiers everywhere. I went to see the Dead Sea which is 430.5 metres below sea level. Its salinity is 10 times more than the sea. There is no living creature in it, but it has 34 per cent minerals, so many world famous cosmetic products are produced here. I will discuss about it all sometime in future!
Right now I am sharing those things from which our country can learn a lot. All the land is owned by the government and it is given on 99 years of lease. Kibbutz means collective community which cultivates land. Kibbutz owns everything from school to factory. They have their own transport system. Of late, people in Kibbutz have started keeping their own vehicles. They face shortage of water but through drip irrigation, they have increased agricultural production by 7 times in 25 years. Notably, they are using the same amount of water which they used to earlier. Here I would like to mention the Jain Irrigation of Jalgaon which has set an example in the field of drip irrigation. It has bought Israel NaanDan Irrigation. Now NaanDan Jain Irrigation is working in more than 100 countries across the world. Modiji, Gadkari and Devendra Fadnavis have all lauded the work of Jain Irrigation during their Israel visit. I admire the vision of Bhavarlal Jain and hard work of his sons including Anil Jain.
In Israel, I saw a large brinjal of the size of a watermelon! I saw tomatoes of different colours! Very tasty! They are so advanced in agriculture that they decide what would be the colour, size and taste of tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cucumber, potato or other produce. They have set an example in the world. They cut the stubble of the crop and bury it in the ground to make compost so as to make the soil more fertile. When I was watching all this, I remembered how the farmers from Lahore to Punjab and Haryana burn stubble causing fog and pollution in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states including Delhi.
Israel’s state-of-the-art and alert security system impressed me very much. On the return trip, I was tempted to bring some Medjool dates, the size of which was amazing. Security personnel at the airport first put dates in the large scanner and then checked it with a manual scanner. After this, they examined every single date. The whole process consumed one and a quarter hours and I was worried that I might miss the flight. On return, I was thinking why do we not make ourselves like Israel? They lack land, lack water, yet they grow up to 93 per cent of the foodgrains themselves!
Before I conclude
A pleasant experience of travelling to Israel was that many people praised my friend Union minister Nitin Gadkari. People said many leaders from India visit Israel. They invite us to come to India but when we go to India, they do not have the time to meet us, they said. Nitinji is an exception. He meets freely and treats them with great respect.

We must learn nationalism from Israel

Vijay Darda : Last week I was in Israel. What an amazing country it is! I have seen many countries of the world and tried to understand them, but no other country has impressed me as much as Israel! From agriculture to country’s security and discipline to nationalism, there are many things that we can learn from Israel. It is a matter of great satisfaction that Israelis love us from the bottom of their heart. Israel has stayed with us in every difficult situation.
This time I am going to take you on journey of Israel through this column. There is no direct flight from India to Tel Aviv because the vast majority of the sky belongs to Israel’s enemy countries. They do not allow the plane going to Israel to fly over their territory. That’s why we boarded the plane of Air Turkey from India, which reaches Tel Aviv via Istanbul. As soon as I got off the flight, I got introduced to my fellow traveller Simon. He is a diamond merchant. Mumbai is the capital of diamond business, so he came here. I asked him why was he going to Israel? I was shocked to hear the answer! Simon’s answer was: “I’m going to kiss my soil. My entire family lives in America. When I will land in Israel, I will kiss my soil, I will meet my relatives and return.”
I started thinking whether Simon is really going to kiss Israel’s land? When I reached Tel Aviv, I was stunned. People were kissing their land after getting down from the plane. It turns out that whenever people go out of the country or come back, they kiss the land first.
Indeed, Israel has no competitor in terms of patriotism. Jewish people love their country intensely and this makes them one of the world’s formidable military powers. Measuring 400 kilometres in length and 100 kilometres wide, Israel is surrounded by enemies from all sides, but no one dares attack this country. Seven countries had tried together in 1967, but Israel not only taught them a lesson but also took control of Jerusalem. This whole country is equipped with anti-ballistic missile defense system. Even anti-missile guns are installed in passenger aircraft of their El Al Airlines. It has its own satellite system which it does not share with anyone. Thanks to this system, it has kept the whole country internally safe.
During my visit to different cities of Israel, I observed exceptional discipline among the people. One of the major reasons for this is the necessity of military service. After high school education, boys and girls have to serve in the army for two years. There is no other country in the world where military service is mandatory for girls. Exemption from military service is granted in just two cases: If the girl gets married or the boy or girl goes abroad for higher education. The amazing thing is that nobody even thinks about taking advantage of these two exemptions. I know a billionaire family there whose child had the option of going abroad for higher education, but he told the family clearly: I will complete the military course first, then will go anywhere! Such is the feeling among the people of Israel!
This country was born with Jewish values and it also follows them. Jews may live anywhere, be born anywhere but they get citizenship of Israel with their birth. They can come to Israel whenever they want. Interestingly, Christian and Muslim settlers still have the same rights as Jews. During my visit, I realised that there is no yawning gap between rich and poor. Charity is the amazing tradition there. According to Jewish religion, from Friday evening until Saturday night, Shabbat, the spiritual time, is observed. I also kindled a candle during Shabbat. The particular thing that I learnt was that all machines are usually closed during Shabbat. We did not even get hot coffee. During Shabbat, if a person has earned profit from business, he will donate the amount to charity.
Along with faith and honesty, their commitment to technical excellence has ensured that Israel is ahead in every field. Jewish people are making waves all over the world. They control businesses like arms, banking, agriculture, diamond, newspaper, TV, etc. The specialty of the Jews is that wherever they went they never hurt anyone. They live with love. They respond only when somebody hurts their self-esteem. When their players were killed in Munich, they killed each one of the killers by carrying out a campaign for 20-22 years. We should learn this bravery from them.
Before I conclude
Since I reached Israel on New Year’s eve, I was hoping that the New Year would be celebrated with great fanfare, like in other countries of the world. But I did not notice such celebrations. When I asked, Israeli people smiled saying that this is not our festival. Our new year is Rosh Hashanah, which was celebrated on September 21 in 2017 according to the Hebrew calendar, and in 2018 we will celebrate the New Year on September 10.

Why was action taken on mere suspicion?


Vijay Darda : A major question stems from the 2G spectrum case that is based on suspicion and rumours without any evidence.

Why was action taken on mere suspicion?

There is an ancient tale. Someone told a person that a crow took his ear away. The person did not try to check his ear and started chasing the crow instead. The crow flew away somewhere. For a long time after that, the person remained worried that the crow had taken his ear away. One day a wise person told him: “Brother, your ear is where it should be. Why don’t you just check it!”
The verdict of the CBI Court in 2G spectrum case spontaneously reminded me of this old story! How surprising and tragic that the then Union telecom minister along with the senior officials had to suffer in jail for the scandal that was not perpetrated at all on the ground and the conspiracy that was never hatched! Seven years later when the special judge OP Saini of the CBI court delivered the verdict, the fact came to the light and we learnt actually what the matter was. The special judge Saini wrote in his verdict: “I kept on waiting for seven years, every day of work; even in summer holidays, I sat in this court every morning from 10 am to 5 pm and waited that someone armed with legally acceptable evidence would come, but no one came. This indicates that all people were victims of a common perception, which stemmed from rumours, gossip and speculation.
The special judge Saini’s comment explains just how expert our system is in creating unrest. In fact, in 2008, the allocation of 2G spectrum was done in accordance with the first-come first-served policy. In 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said the allocation was done at the rate prevailing in 2001; had the allocation been done at the current rate, then the government could have got Rs. 1,76,000 crore more. The Opposition seized the point and started attacking the government by making the same remarks. No one appreciated that the rate prevailing in 2001 was applicable at the time the allocation was made. The attack was so strong that it was declared the mother of all Indian scandals.
The CBI started investigations and the then Union telecom minister A Raja had to resign. In 2011, he and Kanimozhi, daughter of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu M Karunanidhi, were arrested. Raja was accused of directly accepting money while Kanimozhi was said to have taken a bribe of Rs. 200 crore for her TV channel from industrialist Shahid Balwa and in return Shahid Balwa’s companies were allocated the spectrum by A Raja in a wrong manner. The then Union telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and A Raja’s former private secretary R K Chandolia were also arrested. Besides Swan Telecom’s general manager Shahid Balwa, former general manager of Unitech Sanjay Chandra, Swan Telecom’s director Vinod Goenka, Anil Ambani Group’s Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, Kusgaon Fruits and Vegetable Private Limited director Rajeev Agrawal, as also the company’s partner Asif Balwa, Cineyug Media and Entertainment director Karim Morani were also arrested. All of them languished in jail for different periods of time from 15 months to 12 months!
All the accused in the 2G spectrum case have been acquitted. The court found no evidence of any conspiracy or any scam! Now, a serious question arises as to who will make up for the time they spent in jail or restore their social standing or compensate for the mental anguish they suffered without any rhyme or reason? Who is guilty of defaming them, and will the government send those people behind the bars, who, on the basis of mere suspicion and rumours orchestrated the imprisonment of the well-known people of this country?
It is a very big crime in my eyes and I want that such people must be put in prison so that they will think hundreds of times before levelling accusations against any innocent person. The question arises is how were these people arrested without proof? Were there some people conspiring against the then government? I am raising this question because the fake scandal has inflicted the highest damage on the Congress.
Actually this is not the only case. Due to political rivalry, more such cases were created and innocents were implicated. The scams which have not happened, those who did not get a single penny were told they were involved in scams worth millions and billions of rupees. The way in which the truth has emerged in the 2G case, it will come out in the same way in other cases too. Those who play politics will have to understand that for some time somebody can be disturbed but ultimately the truth prevails. The government should take action against such conspirators who create ‘scam’ without proof.

Before I conclude

A lot of greetings to the cricketers of Vidarbha Ranji Team! By reaching the finals of the Ranji Trophy, it has proved that there is strength in Vidarbha too! Vidarbha has been considered backward vis-a-vis cricket. A player or two have been bringing laurels on the basis of their personal talent, but this is for the first time that the Vidarbha Ranji Team has reached the finals of the Ranji Trophy. Let us hope Vidarbha emerges winner in the finals!




Delayed American realisation of Pakistan

Vijay Darda : Not all is well between the US and Pakistan. Pakistan would not have anticipated that the Trump administration would take such a stringent step. Suddenly, Trump said last week that in the last 15 years, Pakistan has just given America “lies and deceits” in exchange for a $33 billion aid and has provided safe haven to the terrorists. Soon the news came that the security subsidy of more than $ 1.15 billion was withheld. Nothing can be clearly said about how long this stay will remain. While the US is still showing severity, it also knows that Pakistan is the only surface route for it to reach Afghanistan.
It may be recalled that in May 2011 when the US Marines had entered Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan had blocked the way going towards Afghanistan. Then the US troops had to face a dilemma. However, it does not seem that this time Pakistan will try to show such adamance! The reason for this is that this time the US is annoyed. It has clearly said that Pakistan has sheltered terror groups like Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network and is not taking any action against them. If Pakistan tried to show any adamance, the Trump administration could go to any extent.
Actually, the US is trying to give a double message to Pakistan by blocking the aid. One is the message of destroying terrorist groups which are a headache in Afghanistan for the United States and the second message is that Pakistan should not sit completely in China’s lap! America is worried that China’s infiltration in Pakistan will harm its interests. Pakistan understands this, but it knows that the way China is supporting it on the issue of fighting with India, the United States will not support it. That is why it is trying to convey to the US that it is annoyed due to the close proximity of the US to India. So this matter is just a tug of war.
Should we be happy with the tiff between America and Pakistan? Should it be expected that Pakistan will rein in terrorism that thrives on its own soil? Will some of this benefit us in Kashmir issue? The only answer to these questions is that we should not form any opinion in a hurry. Of course, if Pakistan does not get American aid for a few years, it will have an impact on the Pakistan military’s strength. China is not so generous that it will compensate Pakistan for the financial assistance received from the US. The reality is that Pakistan has been helped by the US since the time it came into existence. After the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, Pakistan became a big ally of the US and in turn got US help. According to the report of the US think-tank Centre for Global Development and the US Congress, the US gave Pakistan $39.93 billion between 2002 and 2015.
America is also aware that Pakistan has misused the money it has been given to fight terrorism. Pakistan took action against those terrorist organisations which proved to be dangerous for Pakistan itself. On the other hand, it used this money to strengthen those terrorist organisations that could destroy India. The US has strong evidence that the 26/11 attacks in India have been carried out by terrorists sheltered in Pakistan. The biggest name among them is Hafiz Saeed.
The US has put a bounty of millions of dollars on the head of the world’s dreaded terrorist Hafiz Saeed, but did the US pressurise Pakistan to tighten the screws on Saeed? No, not at all! If the US desired, Hafiz Saeed would be paying for his crimes. So there is no harm in saying that America is not interested in destroying terrorism we are troubled with. It only sees its own interests. America knew that the military equipment it has been giving to Pakistan has always been used against India.
Now America is extending the hand of friendship with us, and it is due to China and Russia. Today the US is being challenged by the duo. America is looking forward to having a powerful nation with it in the form of India in South Asia. We have to be careful! America should understand that it takes two to make a clap!
For Pakistan, I would like to specifically say that it will have to open its eyes. It has to take care of its people. The terrorism it is nurturing to harm others will destroy it too.
Before I concluded
Recently, I visited Israel. I met many people there. Everyone asked the same question as to why India opposed the proposal to make Jerusalem Israel’s capital in the United Nations. Israel is a friend of India. As far as relations with the Arab nations were concerned, India could have abstained from voting. The Israelis are really very upset because of India’s stand.

A serious challenge to turn despair into hope




Vijay DardaIn the glorious history of Congress, Rahul Gandhi has the privilege of being elected as the president of the party at a young age. The critics may say that he is from the Nehru-Gandhi family, so he has been anointed. But the fact remains that every process of election has been complied with in his installation as party president. It was the long standing desire of grass root party workers that Rahul Gandhi should become the president of their party. I fully hope that he will surmount all challenges.
Rahul Gandhi is the  scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the culture and strengths of this family are ingrained in him. From Motilal Nehru to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and later  Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi all have made significant contributions in empowering the country’s citizens through the party. The entire world is aware of the contribution of this family, their participation in the freedom struggle and their sacrifices for the nation. Critics should keep in mind that people are not just honoured for nothing, one does not just gain the confidence of the people without earning their trust. It is not without reason that people of the country  showered their affection on Pandit Nehru or Indiraji. There was great sacrifice that went behind the earning of that trust, confidence and affection. Rahul Gandhi has now inherited that  legacy and will march ahead in his own quest for the trust and confidence of the people.
Here I would like to say that you can not compare Rahul Gandhi with Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi. Generations change with time. The important point is that ingrained cultural values do not change. The culture of Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family, their reverence for democracy, the struggle against communal forces, the intent of war against poverty has always been and still exists within both the family and the party. Congress has always strived to improve the condition of farmers, tribals, workers and the weaker sections of this country. Rahul Gandhi is also equally compassionate and committed to treading the same path.
Rahul Gandhi faces a lot of challenges. There was a concerted move to malign his image. In fact, according to the Goebbelsian doctrine,  a lie repeated a hundred times eventually ends up as the truth. In fact, defaming people without any basis has become an industry today. Although Rahul Gandhi's persona has proved the propaganda wrong, the times are such that communal forces, miscreants and social media can not be dismissed offhand or taken lightly. The Congress will have to fight these forces, perhaps the battles will be intense.
The serious challenge facing Rahul Gandhi is to combat the disappointment within the Congress and transform it  into hope. Today we see much enthusiasm in BJP and RSS workers, but once upon a time that was the Congress workers' USP. Everybody considered it a great honour to be called a Congress worker. People also used to declare their Congress credentials with pride even at the time of forming marriage alliances. Rahul Gandhi has to restore this honour to Congress workers. Soniaji tried to keep the Congress united with her untiring efforts. 
On a personal level, I have the knowledge that not everything worked out as per her wish, nevertheless she took everybody into confidence. Rahul Gandhi will also discover he will not get everything according to plan. He will also have to take everybody along. 
I would like to state one more thing that in current political scenario, money dominates all activities. Even to  organize a rally, contracts are issued right from  hiring vehicles and collecting crowds to getting people to clap. Congress is also not untouched by this. The original worker used to take people from the locality to the meeting place, used to hoist flags and spread ideas. But now this worker  is not visible anywhere. In the past people of the Seva Dal were entrusted with this task, now they are reduced to merely attending celebrations on  August 15January 26 or Congress Day in their uniforms and offer salutes.
NSUI is in bad shape. This platform to hunt for student leaders has been rendered useless. The dismal  status of Youth Congress is not hidden from anyone. That is the party's very base. New leaders will rise from there. But today, money matters so much in their appointments that no one without money can hope to become Youth Congress president or Mahila Congress president. People with innate leadership qualities thus are blocked from  coming  forward. This situation needs to be changed. Rahul Gandhi will have to keep himself away from the army of hangers-on. Today senior leaders also complain that their messages do not reach Rahul Gandhi. In fact, he will have to become a mass leader, whose doors are open to one and all. I would like to give the example of Sharad Pawar whom even a common worker can meet directly. And yes, the reluctant  attitude towards industrialists also must change. Some of these people may be wrong, not all. It is important to understand that industrialists make important contribution to the country's GDP. They are important partners in the development of the country.
Before I conclude
I congratulate Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu, because he has objected to the word "beg”, used by members while tabling documents. In my 18 years of Parliamentary tenure, I have always objected to the words in use from the colonial days such as “Your excellency”, “I beg to lay”, “Your honour” and VT (viceroy territory) on aircraft. 
I had also written  a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had made an appeal to remove these words. Now after the strong objection of the Vice President, I hope that such words will soon be removed from the proceedings.