T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue XII

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

April 2003

I N S I D E


Spotlight 

Deepak Lokhande

 

Editorial     

 

Column     

Yashwant Sinha     

                   

View Point      

Sushil Vakil

 

On Track     

M V Kamath 

         

Opinion

M K Dhar

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Ram Puniyani

 

Perspective

K G Joglekar

 

Last Word

V Sundaram 

 

                            


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P E R S P E C T I V E

Vajpayee's five years in office

K G Joglekar


The last five years have been a period of challenges and assurances for India and the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee. The nation was able to weather the storms that rose at home and abroad because of the determination of its people and the leadership of Shri Vajpayee. This compliment may seem strange but one has to take one’s mind back to 1998 when Shri Vajpayee assumed office. Three governments at the Centre had been formed and had fallen in less than two years. One of them headed by Shri Vajpayee had to resign in just thirteen days because a political party switched its allegiance at the last minute and in the second instance the government lost the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha by one vote. Frequent changes and the resultant instability created doubts in the minds of the people about the very utility of democracy for the country. It created doubts in other countries about any decisions that were taken by the Indian government. Both were dangerous because they not only hampered the march for the eradication of poverty and ignorance but threatened the very fabric of the political system as well.

Functioning

The Government of the National Democratic Alliance headed by Shri Vajpayee which came to power in 1998 reversed this dangerous trend of instability. It won the mandate of the people in the elections to the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999. What was more, India began marching ahead because of the ambitious programmes launched by the Government in all spheres of the economy. It becomes difficult at times for a political period which has a majority of its own to push through all the measures that it wants. The task becomes Herculean when an Alliance which has parties of diverse and sometimes divergent political ideologies is in power. It is a tribute to Shri Vajpayee’s leadership that he was able to keep his flock together. As the senior partner in the Alliance, Shri Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party had to agree to more adjustments than the others. Hardlines within his party have often criticized him for giving up on some contentious issues. But he has so far been able to convince them that like the other parties the BJP has to honour the pledges given in the manifesto of the Alliance.

He has had often to compromise so as to reach a consensus and win the support of the others for his views. It has, however, to be remembered that the compromise has been on the degree of emphasis and the priority to be given, in the form and not the substance. He has tried to give the maximum concessions to win over the critics. He persuaded the Finance Minister to give in to the demand of the farmers’ lobby and not raise the prices of fertilizers. But it has to be remembered that he has not allowed anyone to hold him to ransom. Whenever any minister has threatened to resign on an issue and the Prime Minister has found it difficult to agree to his demand, Shri Vajpayee has bid him good bye with a smile on the face. What is more, though he has not allowed such a person to stage a come back, he has kept the best personal relations with him.

Style

To work towards a consensus to the maximum extent possible and to meet the challenge when a consensus is impossible has been the hallmark of his approach not only with those in the Alliance but also those in the opposition. It was because of the understanding reached with the opposition parties that the two Houses of Parliament passed 42 bills during the winter session. All of them have received the assent of the President. The Government was able to bring forward several pieces of legislation last year. Out of them 93 bills have been passed. This is the highest number of pieces of legislation enacted in a single year in the last 25 years and the third highest since Independence. This number assumes significance when one remembers that the work of legislatures in the country is often disturbed by members who want to discuss other issues which they consider important. Legislative work, therefore, gets derailed. Viewed in this background, the progress of legislative work last year is indeed remarkable. It was possible because of the rapport established between the ruling Alliance and the Opposition. Even when patently false allegations were made against him, Shri Vajpayee rarely lost his cool and replied to the charges in a dignified manner.

Traditionally, India has had good relations with its neighbours. The only exception is Pakistan. In a bid to normalize relations with it, Shri Vajpayee undertook a bus journey to Lahore after taking over. He also had a summit meeting with President Pervez Musharraf in Agra. But it was soon clear that Pakistan was not interested in friendship with India. Even when Shri Vajpayee was shaking hands with the then Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Shareef, Gen Musharraf, then the Army Chief, was planning a large scale incursion in the sensitive Kargil area. He used the summit in Agra for a tirade against India. This was understandable because President Musharraf has himself confessed that no ruler of Pakistan can continue in office unless he rakes up anti-India feelings by raising the Kashmir issue. Successive Indian leaders have recognized this compulsion of the Pakistani leadership. Rarely, therefore, have they replied in kind to Pakistan’s vituperations. So has Shri Vajpayee. As he once observed one can choose one’s friends but whether one likes it or not one has to accept one’s neighbours. Hence, his effort to win over Pakistan to the path of peace and friendship. He tolerated the oral diatribe but it was impossible for him or for the people to tolerate the incursion in Kargil intended to cut off Indian troops in Ladakh. More important still, no one could tolerate the proxy war that Pakistan has been waging against India, first in Punjab and now in Kashmir.

This proxy war has now been going on for more than 20 years. Pakistan has been training, arming, equipping and financing terrorists for operations against India. According to one estimate nearly 50,000 people – innocent, men, women and children- have been killed by these terrorists. It is ironic that most of them were Muslims who were killed by men sent by a country which claims to be Islamic. India has been trying to persuade Pakistan to stop this cross-border terrorism but it has had no effect. The terrorists targeted centers of India’s political authority like Parliament House in New Delhi, and the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly building in Srinagar. For a time, India ordered its armed forces to take up positions on the forward line on the border with Pakistan and the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir. The terrorists killed innocent pilgrims in the Akshardham temple in Gandhi Nagar, Raghunath Mandir in Jammu and innocent women and children sleeping in an army camp in Kaluchak near Jammu. It became clear that Pakistan will not stop sending the terrorists to India.

This forced India to take up the stand that till Pakistan stopped this cross border terrorism India will not take part in any talks with it. The Prime Minister, Shri Vajpayee and other leaders have reiterated this stand. This must have been a bitter pill to swallow for someone who made every effort to win over Pakistan to the path of peace and friendship but failed. President Musharraf has since confessed that raking up the Kashmir issue and fanning the flames of hatred against India were essential for any ruler who wanted to continue in power in Pakistan.

Shri Vajpayee has given expression to his disappointment that while the United States talks about ending terrorism everywhere in the world, it does not put enough pressure on Pakistan to end the cross border terrorism against India. Washinton’s reaction to terrorism seems to be selective – it is terrorism only when targets in the United States or its embassies are hit. Otherwise, the US Government would rather turn the blind eye to the menace of terrorism elsewhere.

Development

It is remarkable that while the people of Jammu and Kashmir were fighting the menace of terrorism, elections were held to the State Legislative Assembly last October. By their active participation in the exercise, the people of the State replied to the threat of the bullet fired by Pakistan-trained terrorists with the power of the bullet. There have been protests in many places against the terrorists for the their wanton killing of innocent people. The Central Government is totally committed to working closely with the present government in the State, elected by the people to bring peace, normalcy and economic development. The Prime Minister has announced projects and schemes worth Rs. 6000 crore covering various spheres of development. The thrust will be on providing employment opportunities to the youth, relief to migrants affected by militancy and building the infrastructure. When the State acceded to India in 1947, the railway line stopped at Pathankot, 100 kms from Jammu. The railway line now goes to Udharpur and beyond in Jammu province. A major project costing Rs. 3500 crore is being implemented to extend the railway line to Baramulla in South Kashmir. This will not only help in the development of the area but also act as an integrating force with the rest of the country. The first train is expected to roll into Kashmir Valley before August 15, 2007.

Diplomacy

Since India was fighting the menace of terrorism single handedly, it was only natural for it to take a keen interest in the campaign to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had usurped the rights of the people and tried to push the country back to the Middle Ages. India’s interest was all the more great because the people of Afghanistan have had great respect for Indian leaders and friendship with its people. The approach was, however, low-key. India gave Afghanistan whatever help it could in fighting the menace of Taliban and continues to do so in its reconstruction.

The Gulf region is of great importance to India. Much of the crude oil that India imports comes from there. India and the countries in the region are major partners in trade and investment. More than 35 lakh Indians work in the Gulf countries. These countries may have differences among themselves but all have friendly ties with India. It is, therefore, only natural that India should be concerned about the unhappy situation concerning Iraq. Iraq has been a staunch friend of India but India cannot ignore the demands of truth. The Prime Minister put the Indian viewpoint succinctly when he told Parliament that whatever action was taken should be taken only under the authority of the United Nations. Any action taken unilaterally by any country will mean the end of the world body. He also stated that no country can impose a government on another and if there has to be a change of government it can be only according to the wishes of the people.

Some members of Parliament wanted that the Government should be more categorical and the country threatening unilateral action should be named. They forget two important facts. Firstly, India is not a member of the Security Council and though it may be interested in the happenings in the area so are many others. Secondly, India can only go thus far in criticizing the world’s only super power. What India wants about everything else is that there should be no war in the region. A war in the Gulf area will push up the price of crude oil, affect supplies, push up prices and once again throw the country back into a recessionary trend from which it is emerging. War may also mean lakhs of refugees fleeing back to the country as they did during the Gulf War in the nineties. India, therefore, does not want a war.

The war in Afghanistan, the threat posed by terrorism, and a severe drought in 14 States of the country cast a shadow on the Indian political and economic scene during the last five years. Also in the background was the persistent threat of a war in the Gulf region. There were genuine fears that all these factors would affect the growth of the Indian economy. Despite the general slowdown of the economy in most countries, the financial year 2002-03, the last of the five year period of Shri Vajpayee’s years in office, was a fairly good year for India. India continued to be rated amongst the world’s fast-growing economies. In the first nine months of the financial year, India’s exports grew by more than 20 per cent to reach 38 billion US dollars, i.e. Rs. 181, 300 crore. The total revenues from excise and customs rose by over 15 per cent during this period. Inflation remained at a moderate level. India’s foreign exchange reserves rose to 73 billion US dollars, i.e. Rs. 348, 429 crore. Though the Centre had to release foodgrains for relief of the people living in areas affected by the drought, the stocks of foodgrains continued to be comfortable and prices continued to be relatively stable.

Economy

After a period of gloom in the first four years, there was a turnaround in the economy last year. Though the country had to make contingency planning in the event of a war in the Gulf, the picture was no longer as gloomy as was once feared. This ray of hope is reflected in the Tenth Five Year Plan approved by the National Development Council. The Plan aims at achieving faster economic growth with a stronger thrust on employment generation and equity. To the surprise of many, the Plan document set a target of an annual rate of growth of 8 per cent in the Gross Domestic Product during the Plan period. What is more important, this growth rate is expected to generate five crore employment and self-employment opportunities.

These targets are certainly ambitious and sceptics have expressed doubts if they can be achieved. But the Document argues the case for these ambitious objectives by pointing out that unlike previous Plans, the Tenth Five Year Plan is not merely a resources plan. It is a Reforms Plan. The area of reforms in the economy is to be widened. State Governments are to be given incentives to carry out reforms. Non-financial barriers in the way of economic growth are to be removed by carrying out reforms in the civil service, judiciary, education but, above all, governance at all levels – the Centre, the States and the Panchayati Raj institutions. This last area of administration is of particular importance for the people living in the countryside. The Plan document does not leave things vague. It gives a detailed list of the legislative and administrative measures needed for transforming the goals and targets into ground realities.

What is envisaged is a total revolution of life at all levels and spheres-agriculture, industry, education and power generation. National security is high on the agenda and so is expansion and strengthening of the infrastructure. In the first 50 years of Independence only 556 kms. of four and six lane highways were constructed in India. At present, five kilometres of such highways are being built every day. The Golden Quadrilateral of world class highways to connect the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai is progressing ahead of schedule. Besides generating employment and giving a boost to the country’s cement and steel industries, the 6000 kms of highways will also mean an annual saving of Rs. 8000 crore on fuel and vehicle maintenance costs. Side by side with the development of roads, a Rail Vikas Yojana has been launched at a cost of Rs. 15,000 crore to put the country’s premier transport infrastructure on the fast track. The incredible growth of telecom services in India has made the telephone an affordable tool of empowerment for the common man.

What is the guiding spirit behind the efforts of the last five years and the Tenth Five Year Plan? In his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the last Independence Day, the Prime Minister, had given a call to the people to lift India from the ranks of developing countries to the rank of a developed nation by the year 2020. It is a stupendous task no doubt but the impressive achievements of the past, a proper management but, above all the determination of a hundred crore people will make it possible. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has said that the concentration should be on two mantras: effective implementation with people’s participation and effective communication for people’s participation.

Vision

The years since Independence have seen a steep rise in the population of India’s cities. The population of the cities increased from 15.9 crore to 21.8 crore between 1981 and 1991, and has further increased since. People from the villages rush to the cities in search of employment and a better life. The cities are bursting at the seams and are not able to provide basic amenities like houses, health, education, drinking water, or electricity. Slums therefore grow in the cities while villages are impoverished because of the flight of the youth, particularly the educated and skilled youth to the cities. It was at first believed that heavy industry would act as an engine of development and lift the surrounding areas from poverty to prosperity by promoting ancillary industry and other activity. This has not happened to the extent that it should have. In most cases the centers of heavy industry have become pockets of prosperity in a sea of poverty. Disparities have increased, giving rise to social tensions and despair. Successive Plans have tried to solve this problem but have been only partially successful — the countryside continues to be impoverished and the cities continue to grow into large clusters of slums.

The problem has so far defied solution. The answer lies in providing amenities available in the cities to the villages as well where two-thirds of the people live. Nearly 260 million people living there are mostly below the poverty line and want to join the mainstream of national life. They do not want doles or spoon –feeding. They are prepared to work hard to lift themselves from poverty to prosperity. What is needed is a mega mission for their empowerment. Pointing this out, President Abdul Kalam said in his address to the joint session of the two Houses of Parliament in February that the people living in the villages need four critical connectivities. First, they want good roads, transport services and quality power. Secondly, along with this physical connectivity, the people in the villages should have electronic connectivity. They should have reliable communication facilities. Thirdly, most professional institutions and vocational training centers should be opened in the countryside so as to give them knowledge connectivity. Lastly, market connectivity should help them to realize the best value for the products and services of the people and provide them ever-growing employment opportunities.

Vision 2020 is an assertion of the confidence of the people of the country and so is the 8 per cent annual growth in the Gross Democratic Product envisaged in the Tenth Five Year Plan document. The determination of the people can make the vision a reality. Both give a concrete shape to the dream that Shri Vajpayee has in mind. (PIB Features)

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