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Will dictator Kim Jong-un listen to Donald Trump?




Vijay Darda : The world is constantly worried over the extremely bitter relationship between the US and North Korea. Both are nuclear-armed countries. The US President Donald Trump has been continuously threatening that he will destroy North Korea if it does not give up its nuclear programme. North Korea is a very small country but its dictator Kim Jong-un ridiculed Trump’s threat by saying that he is an old and eccentric person. After that, the slanging match started between them. Kim successfully test-fired one missile after another and even said that he has the power to destroy America. “If they try to destroy us, we will wipe out America,” he said. Thus, a warlike situation has been created.
Meanwhile, the news has surprised the world. South Korea’s National Security Adviser Chung Yong said that Trump and Kim will meet in May. The meeting place has not been clarified yet. However, one thing is certain that Kim will not go out of his country to meet anybody. So, will Trump  go to North Korea? Or will there be a meeting via video conferencing? Trump has also tweeted about the meeting, but the US has made it clear that Kim will have to take some positive steps first, and only then the meeting will be held. Thus, the suspense about the meeting prevails.
Let’s assume that the meeting will take place. So the question arises as to why did Trump and Kim who had vowed to destroy each other have felt the need to meet each other? I think Trump and Kim are both upset at this time.
Trump is facing challenges at the domestic level. His relationship with the media leaves a lot to be desired and the stories related to his personal life are becoming public. Trump has to do something like this at the political level so that the American media gets some new spice. Bill Clinton had used such tricks during his tenure. When his stories with Monica Lewinsky were hogging the limelight in the American media, he attacked the Alshifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in August 1998. That attack was controversial. The United States had to pay large amount of compensation to the factory owner, but Clinton had got an immediate advantage. By consenting to meet Kim, Trump has given a new issue to the media, regardless of whether the meeting proves to be beneficial or not!
Even for Kim Jong-un, the situation is becoming difficult to handle. There are so many restrictions on North Korea and the common man there is facing a lot of problem. China and Russia have been secretly helping North Korea, but the United Nations has been keeping a hawk’s eye on the situation. Many of the ships carrying goods to North Korea have been caught in recent months. North Korea has been getting technical support from these two countries, but after the screws were tightened further, the difficulties have increased. That’s why Kim Jong-un may be making such a move believing that he would get some relief on the pretext of this meeting. Kim’s move started only when North Korea announced the participation in the Winter Olympics held in South Korea. He had also sent many cheerleaders to improve the image of North Korea. South Korea has come forward to help in reconciliation because in case of war between the US and North Korea, the biggest sufferer will be South Korea. Kim’s missiles may not be able to destroy America, but will certainly destroy the rapidly developing South Korea! That is why South Korea does not want war under any circumstances.
There is no doubt that China has been continuously helping North Korea increase its potential so that America can be controlled in this area. In South Korea, the US has set up its base. It is important for China to take Kim’s support. Overtly, China has condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests but it remains North Korea’s staunch supporter. China too does not want war. If there is a war, China will have to pay a heavy price. Lakhs of refugees will reach there and the war will affect its business as well. In such a situation, if it helps Kim, it may have a direct conflict with the US. To avoid this, China wants Kim to meet Trump. However, China will never want resolution of the issue. It will continue to back Kim. So there is no need to expect much from Trump and Kim’s meeting. Once a country has acquired nuclear capability, it never destroys it. The past experience unambiguously proves it!
Before I conclude
Architect Balkrishna Doshi is a person who has enhanced the glory of India. He has been named the 2018 laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award. This award of $one lakh is equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the field of architecture. Born in Pune, 90-year-old Doshi is the first Indian to receive this honour. He will be felicitated and awarded in Toronto. This certainly is a matter of pride for every Indian. Congratulations to him!




Neglect of regional language is dangerous




Vijay Darda : A serious incident happened last week. On the first day of the Budget Session of the Maharashtra Legislature, immediately after governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s joint address to both the Houses in English, the Marathi translation of the same should have been read out, but the members kept waiting for 20 minutes in vain. Meanwhile, the Gujarati translation of the speech was on the track. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the education minister Vinod Tawde immediately went to the control room and started reading the Marathi translation of the speech. Naturally, the Opposition created pandemonium seeking to know why Marathi translation was not ready. The government also considered it a serious issue. Now it is being reported that the officer who was assigned to read the translation could not reach there in time. The government is considering taking action against him.
This incident raises a serious question. The question is whether justice is being done to Marathi language in Maharashtra? Is there any attempt to promote this beautiful and sweet language? Are we particular about teaching our children the best Marathi? Before exploring the answers to these questions, I would like to tell you that there was a great deal of thinking behind the creation of the states on linguistic basis. When the government functions in the regional language, the common man gets connected to it. The common man will be able to understand what his government is doing. The advantage of this is that people are able to convey their thoughts and feelings to the government. That is why the subjects related to the public interests such as agriculture, education, health have been kept in the state list. Almost all the states tried to follow this rule in the initial period, but English-mentality driven government system did not forgo its domination. After globalisation, the impact of English has increased so much that there is a big crisis facing regional languages.
I am not opposed to English at all. Knowledge of English is a must. Hindi is our national language, so the whole country should know good Hindi too, but this does not mean that we start neglecting our regional language. Do we see the dedication to the regional language as seen in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, in Maharashtra too? Marathi was given the status of official language of Maharashtra in 1966. From the point of view of statistics, Marathi occupies 15th place among the most spoken languages in the world. Going by population, Maharashtra is the second largest state in India. The state language of over 11 crore population is Marathi. But I constantly feel that the way Marathi is being attacked is a matter of grave concern.
Though Marathi as a subject is mandatory till 10th standard in Maharashtra, has it ever been analysed that what is the quality of Marathi teaching and its learning by children? Today in many homes, parents want their children to speak English instead of Marathi. Listening to the child speaking in English, they feel proud, but if the child starts speaking Marathi they become upset. Though such people are not insulting their mother tongue, they are according secondary status to it. Especially in the high and middle-upper classes, this problem is high. That is, it can be said that the person who progresses at the economic and social level appears to be linguistically closer to English. Just imagine what will happen after two generations? Then perhaps a lot of people may be speaking Marathi but they will be poor at the level of language. Then they would probably not even be able to read rich Marathi literature.
One thing to note is that development of any language is in accordance with regional culture. The sweet fragrance of that region is embedded in that language. Had it not been so, Sanskrit would have been the only language there. Why did so many other languages developed from Sanskrit? We have to understand that languages are not just the means of communication, but they are our entire heritage of culture. If we do not try to carry forward this legacy our regional language will become even more weak.
One more thing I would like to say is that Marathi language is not related to a person who is born in a Marathi-speaking family alone. Marathi language concerns every person who lives in Maharashtra. I would like to make it clear that if a person is Gujarati, his or her mother tongue would be Gujarati. But if he or she is staying in Maharashtra, his or her state language would be Marathi. It is essential for him or her to learn the state language here. Language is directly linked to bread and butter. If a Rajasthani person lives in Tamil Nadu, he learns Tamil without which his very survival would be at stake. Therefore, I believe that if any person is staying in Maharashtra, he must learn Marathi. I do not support Shiv Sena’s ideology. But I supported them when they launched the agitation to install sign boards in Marathi as well together with English. I believe everyone has the right to go, settle and do job anywhere across the country. But I also feel that the local Marathi people should not be neglected. There is a strong economic aspect to the language too. That is why the Chinese people are fast learning English and Hindi. And here, we are neglecting our own language.
Always keep in mind that the language develops at two levels; one at home and the other in schools. We will have to respect Marathi at home and make best of arrangements in schools for Marathi learning. But unfortunately, the government is not taking any initiative!
Before I conclude
According to a UNESCO report, India is at number one in disappearance of languages. Nearly 300 of the country’s 500 languages and dialects have become completely extinct. Nearly 2,500 of the world’s total 6,000 languages are listed as endangered languages. There are 199 languages or dialects which are understood and spoken by only 10 people and nearly 178 are such which are understood and spoken by only 50 people. This means, these languages and dialects will become extinct with these people.




Why is our banking system so weak?

Vijay Darda : People are reading and sharing a post on social media these days with great interest. This post is in the form of a letter to Nirav Modi. The letter goes something like this:
Nirav Modi,
Be happy wherever you are and keep prospering without worrying about the debt. The bankers will recover that debt from us in small amounts of Rs. 50s and Rs. 100s. We are repaying Mallya’s debt right now and will repay yours too after that. We are all accustomed to all this. We sometimes feel that we earn only to repay the bank loans of rich and famous like you; maybe we were born for this reason only. But don’t you worry even a bit, we all countrymen will emerge patriots by repaying every penny of the money embezzled by you!
This social media post may sound sarcastic but it is a fact. The scams and frauds that are committed in banks have to be compensated (read repaid) by the common man of this country. Simply put, the money which the banks have belong to the common man. You get interest at a fixed rate against the money you keep in the bank. But when you take a loan from the same bank, you have to repay the same at a higher rate of interest. This difference in the rate of interest is the profit of the bank which is run on this profit.
If the bank earns more profit, it is expected to pay interest at a higher rate on the deposit amount. But this is not happening because the bigwigs have defalcated money of the bank. The banks are convinced that this money is out of bounds for them. According to the figures available till September 2017, the amount of NPA stands at a staggering Rs. 7.34 lakh crore. Talking of NPA, the government would earlier put it at Rs. 1 lakh crore or at the most Rs. 2 lakh crore. But the accounting system which the then governor of Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan introduced made the situation all the more clear. The dead debt is much more than the amount which is being revealed today. Big corporate and business houses have gulped down the money of the banks. While someone has gulped down Rs. 2 lakh crore, some others have swallowed Rs. 1 lakh crore or Rs. 50,000 crore. The diamond industry and developers have embezzled largest amount of money of the banks. There are many people who are enjoying a lavish lifestyle at the cost of the banks. They own private jets and have arranged for luxury abroad. In reality, scamsters bigger than the likes of Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, are hiding abroad. Mallya, Modis and Choksi were exposed and action was initiated against them as they have been enjoying a lavish lifestyle. But what about those who have not been caught yet. Who will nail them? You would be surprised to know that in case of dead debt India is fifth in the world.
The question is how can the bank be so nonchalant after giving such a huge amount in loan? Banks sit quietly because they are involved too. If a farmer fails to repay even three installments of his hypothecated tractor, the same is seized. The recovery agent sent by the bank humiliates the farmer. The bank does not even think how that farmer would do farming and repay the loan when his tractor itself is confiscated?
Though the government talks of bringing about transformation for the poor, small traders and small industries, it is extremely difficult for the small and medium enterprises to get small business loans from the banks. Simply put, these banks literally kill entrepreneurship.
As far as the scam is concerned, people in the banking system conspire and connive with the scamsters. Had no one connived, would Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi or Mehul Choksi have succeeded in their nefarious designs and fled the country? How would the common man believe that the officers concerned in the government knew nothing! It is even more serious if they were really not aware that someone is fiddling with the country economy. If the Punjab National Bank scam started in 2011, why was it not detected for so many years?
Quite surprisingly, the very initiative to make the banking system completely safe has not been taken yet. The system will be termed safe only when someone trying to deceive the bank is caught at once! If the present situation prevails, it will become even more dangerous. While some people will flee abroad after committing frauds, the country’s economy will be ruined. Therefore, instead of blaming each other, those in the government should catch these scamsters and make sure that no scam occurs in future. Also, there is a need to make the banking board more powerful.
Before I conclude
The news from Bastar area in Chhattisgarh that a woman donated body of her young son to the medical college as she had no money to carry the mortal remains back to her village and perform the last rites, has disturbed me. How tragic! What kind of development is this which does not care for the poor! Not only the government but the entire society should think about this. Our real battle surely should be against poverty.

Rising prices: How long will the country suffer?




Vijay Darda :You will remember the election campaign in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party had raised a hue and cry over inflation. The discussion everywhere was focussed on the single point that the common man was reeling under the impact of rising prices of essential commodities. There were allegations that despite being an economist, Dr Manmohan Singh could not control inflation. Every leader of the opposition was shouting at the top of his or her voice that the Congress government did not care for the common man and allowed inflation go uncontrolled. There were other election issues too but it was the issue of inflation that dominated the electoral discourse.
The result was that even the common man believed that inflation would be controlled only when the Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power at the centre. With this hope, people voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Since then, they are just waiting for inflation to be brought under control. The government continues to release some data regarding inflation. These figures are so complex that they can only be understood by the economists. The common man does not understand them. He only sees what the cost of pulses per kg was last month and how much it costs this month. He only sees what the prices of vegetables were last week and what they are this week in the market.
Even if the government tries to show by releasing data that inflation has come down, the reality is that inflation is on the rise. If some part is seen directly, some other part hits us indirectly. For example, you can look at the prices of diesel and petrol. When the price of petrol increases, it directly affects the home budget. If diesel price increases, its impact ranges from grains to greens, and the prices of everything needed for the household increases because the freight increases.
Since the prices at the international market were rising rapidly during Manmohan Singh’s regime, the price of petroleum products was booming in India too. At that time, crude oil prices in the international market reached $105 a barrel. The government could not do anything even if it wanted to. Conversely, when the BJP government came to power at the centre, crude oil prices started to fall rapidly in the international market. At one time, it drastically came down to $48.50 a barrel. Had the BJP government wanted, the prices of petrol and diesel could have been brought down in the country too, but the government earned a lot of money by levying surcharges and taxes and thus increased revenue. There was no attempt to provide relief to the people.
When prices began to rise again in the international market, the government imposed this decision in such a shrewd way that now prices are fluctuating every day. Now, the fuel price increases by 25 paise some day or 12 paise the other. In this way, the prices continue to rise and they do not attract the attention of the common man. Today, the condition is such that the price of petrol in various cities of Maharashtra has gone up to Rs. 80 per litre and the price of diesel has gone up to Rs. 65 per litre. Due to this, inflation is also increasing rapidly.
I have always been demanding that if all things can be included in the GST, why are petrol and diesel not being included? The government has maintained silence on this issue because if petrol and diesel are included in the GST, they will be taxed at a maximum of 28 per cent, whereas now we have to pay more than 100 per cent by combining all kinds of tax and cess.
It may sound harsh but it is a reality that the government is not making any effort to reduce inflation. Rather, no minister or representative of the government wants to speak on this very serious issue. In order to divert the attention of the people and not make them mindful of the inflation, such issues are being raised or popped up that the common man remains embroiled in them. Even our media is not speaking or commenting much on the issue of inflation. So many sensational cases keep cropping up everyday that nobody pays any attention towards inflation. The person who suffers most from the impact of inflation has such a weak voice that it does not reach the corridors of power. Even the media, which itself is fast becoming a victim of inflation, is silent about it. The price of newsprint has increased by more than 30 per cent. Printing ink has become costly and the economic condition of the print media has worsened. It is surprising that neither the print media nor the electronic media is raising its voice over this.
Just think about that lower middle class person or the poor person whose monthly income is Rs. 10,000 or Rs. 15,000. Can his or her family think of something other than keeping the kitchen fire burning? Can he eat pulses and vegetables at the same time? The production of pulses increased by 38 lakh tonnes last year. Yet, why is it so costly? Can a common man think of drinking milk today? Can he bear the expense of his medical treatment properly? Not at all, and the number of such people is in crores. These people also voted for the BJP to help it capture power at the centre. Should the government not think about these people? It should but no one actually does. The wait for the promised ‘achhe din’ is becoming increasingly long. We are ready to wait long but how can we remain hungry today for a happy tomorrow! It is high time the government started thinking! The common man of this country is very upset! And the anger is growing deep within!
Before I conclude
Congratulations Avani! We felt very proud when you achieved the distinction of being India’s first woman fighter pilot to complete a solo flight in a MiG 21 Bison fighter jet! Your inspiration was astronaut Kalpana Chawla and you have become an inspiration to millions of girls who hail from small towns as you do. Avani, India has great expectations from you!




India can’t shut its eyes on Maldives









If China is able to get the Maldives, which has been our friend, to sit in its lap, the situation can really turn dangerous for us!

Vijay Darda : The Maldives is currently undergoing a crisis. President Abdulla Yameen has imposed emergency and the judges of the Supreme Court have  been arrested. These judges had ruled that the lawsuit against former president Mohamed Nasheed was unconstitutional. In the Maldives politics, Nasheed is the person who paved the path for democracy in the country. These days, he is in exile and after the latest developments, he has requested India to intervene for  restoration of democracy in the Maldives. Notably, the Maldives is a democratic country but its constitution is flawed. The judiciary is weak too. It is here that the genesis of the problem lies.
If you look at the history, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled the Maldives for 30 years. He was always close to India and openly shared friendship too. India also responded with friendship. In 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil militant group People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam had almost captured the Maldives with the help of local rebels, and Gayoom had to go into hiding to save himself. He sought help from America, Britain, India, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India then. He took a prompt decision. Within a few hours, Indian army landed in the Maldives and saved Gayoom as well as his government. The whole world saluted the bravery of the Indian army and the zeal of India.
Gayoom is a very good person. I got an opportunity to meet him and exchange views. As president of the South Asia Editors’ Forum, I went to the Maldives with a delegation. He hosted a banquet in our honour and continued to express his love for India during the conversation. As long as he was in power, India was closest to the Maldives. He did not allow China to come anywhere near him. But now he is not in power!
So the question being raised now is why the government of India is not taking any step after the latest developments? Three days back, the US President Donald Trump spoke to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. In fact, to understand the situation of the Maldives, we have to go back a little. When Gayoom was president, a journalist Mohamed Nasheed formed the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2003. He launched the movement and a new constitution was introduced in the Maldives in 2008. Subsequently, direct elections were held for the president’s post and Mohamed Nasheed himself won. Gayoom had to step down.
Nasheed was also close to India. But due to his advisors in Britain, he tried to allow the US and Britain in the Indian Ocean. This annoyed an influential class of the Maldives and his government was toppled in 2012. He too had sought India’s help then. But as he was more inclined towards the US and Britain, India did not intervene. The very next year in 2013, Nasheed received more number of votes in the first round of election, but the court declared that election invalid. In the second round, Abdulla Yameen, the step-brother of former president Gayoom, won and is still the president. He trapped Nasheed in a slew of lawsuits but the latter succeeded in leaving the country. To strengthen his grip on power, Yameen dismissed nearly a dozen MPs from their posts by levelling different allegations and slapping cases against them. The matter reached the apex court and the judges ruled in favour of MPs and former president Mohamed Nasheed. Now if these MPs are reinstated, the Yameen government can land into trouble and therefore, he imposed emergency in the country. He also put the judges in jail on the allegations of bribery. Not only that, two Indian journalists Mani Sharma and Aatish Raoji were also arrested.
Remarkably, Gayoom played a key role in bringing Yameen to power. But ignoring Gayoom’s stance, Yameen made friends with China. In spite of India’s opposition, he executed many agreements with China including Maritime Silk Route and is now allowing China to build hotels and resorts on several islands of the Maldives. In fact, tourism is the backbone of the Maldives’ economy. This country is blessed with incredible beauty. That is why China is keen to capture tourism here. It is also being stated that in the coming days, Yameen can also allow China to build a military naval base in the Maldives. China and Yameen are getting ready to do so. The worrisome aspect is the involvement of Pakistan in this crisis. Both India and America too are aware of this fact. That is why America wants India to intervene this time. As for China, it has taken a different stand altogether. It has said that the Maldivian crisis is that country’s internal matter. Neither the UN and nor India should interfere. By maintaining this, it has tried to signal that it will not tolerate any interference.
So what should India do? I feel that India should take some tough steps. It should impose harsh sanctions against the Maldives and ensure early elections to save democracy there. For, India can not shut its eyes on the Maldives because this part of the Indian Ocean is our area of influence. This is our main sea route. The presence of enemies like China and Pakistan will be fatal for us. China is trying to encompass us on every side. In such a situation, we have to show some nerve. It is not proper to allow the Maldives to sit in China’s lap.
Before I conclude
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has suggested that voting should be made compulsory. Basically, this idea is good but the question is how will voting be made compulsory? What will you do if a farmer does not go to cast his vote? Will he be denied official benefits? If a labourer does not vote, will he not be given employment under government schemes? What if an industrialist fails to vote? There is no answer to these questions. In fact, we will have to create such an awareness and understanding that every citizen of the country should feel inspired to vote.