Evening digest: 53 historians criticise 'highly vitiated atmosphere'

GN Bureau | October 29, 2015



After writers, artists, filmmakers and scientists, over 50 historians today came out strongly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not making any reassuring statement following concerns over "highly vitiated atmosphere" prevailing in the country. A total of 53 historians including leading names like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, KN Pannikar and Mridula Mukherjee have in a joint statement released by Sahmat raised their serious concerns over recent developments. "Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets," the statement said referring to the Dadri lynching incident and the recent ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni during a book launch function in Mumbai.

 "When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the writers to stop writing.This is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest," it said.

This was particularly worrying for historians who have already experienced attempts to ban their books and expunge statements of history despite the fact that they were supported by sources and the interpretation is transparent, they said. "What the regime seems to want is a kind of legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others, without any regard for chronology, sources or methods of enquiry that are the building blocks of the edifice of history," the statement said.

The historians expressed concern over the silence of the Prime Minister on the issue. "And when it is hoped that the Head of Government will make a statement about improving the prevailing conditions, he chooses to speak only about general poverty; and it takes the Head of the State to make the required reassuring statement, not once but twice." The statement urged the state to ensure an atmosphere that is "conducive to free and fearless expression, security for all sections of society and the safe-guarding of the values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past."

Arun Jaitley hits out at personalities returning awards
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday hit out at those returning awards as "rabid anti-BJP elements" and said some of them had gone to Varanasi to campaign against Narendra Modi in the last general elections. "Those returning awards are playing politics by other means. They are rabid anti-BJP elements," Jaitley, who also holds charge of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, told reporters on a question of returning of awards by writers and film-makers. Stating that space of the Left has reduced, he claimed that those returning awards were in a way electioneering against the BJP in Bihar polls.

Rejecting the charge that an atmosphere of intolerance was prevailing in the country, he said there was normalcy in the country and there was no atmosphere (of intolerance) for which the central government was responsible.He condemned all the incidents being dubbed as examples of intolerance and called for strict action against those responsible for it.

The union minister, however, said there was a disproportionate political reaction to the incidents taking place in the country and asked those returning awards if their conscience had pricked when corruption and scams to the tune of lakhs and crores of rupees were taking place during the UPA rule.

India's GDP revised downwards to 7.5% from 7.7% on weak agri growth
India Ratings on Thursday revised downwards to 7.5% the GDP growth forecast, from earlier estimate of 7.7%, for the current financial year because of weak agricultural growth. "The downward revision in forecast is primarily due to the lower agricultural growth caused by a deficient rainfall," India Ratings and Research said in a report on Thursday. It expects agricultural growth to expand 0.9% this fiscal from 0.2% of FY15. The report said that although the sector has over the years become more resilient to monsoon shocks, agricultural output in a large parts is still dependent on rains.

The encouraging part is the sowing of kharif crop for 2015. The total area sown under kharif crops till October 16, 2015 reached 103.88 million hectares from 102.66 million hectares for the same period in 2014, it said.

It added that although investment is showing signs of incipient recovery, a full blown investment recovery will take another 12-18 months. According to India Ratings, the industry is likely to expand 6.8% in FY16, 0.2% points higher than its earlier forecast.

National Tribal Advisory Council set up
The government has decided to set up National Tribal Advisory Council under chairmanship of the prime minister for real time monitoring of various tribal development programmes and schemes in the country. "A National Tribal Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be set up for real time monitoring of the ongoing programmes and schemes aimed at welfare of tribal people and development of tribal areas. The Council will meet once or twice a year," Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said while addressing the conference of principal secretaries of tribal welfare from various states on Thursday.

Oram also stressed on effective community participation in various tribal development activities. "Especially in schools, community participation is necessary so that these schools perform effectively in the interest of local people," he said.

The Minister further said that despite a substantial increase in infrastructure, the quality of education was not satisfactory and the members participating in the conference should discuss the issue and find ways to improve it.

Top Chinese military officer Fan Changlong to visit India, Pakistan
Fan Changlong, one of the vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission which controls the Chinese armed forces and is headed by President Xi Jinping, will visit Pakistan and India next month, China's defence ministry said on Thursday.  China and Pakistan describe each other as "all weather friends" and have tight links, and while Chinese and Indian relations have improved considerably since a brief border war in 1962, the two remain locked in a messy territorial dispute and deep suspicions persist.

Industry asks labour minister to defer amendment in Bonus Act
Employers' association AIOE has asked the government to defer the implementation of amendments in the Payment of Bonus Act to next fiscal so as to reduce financial burden on the industry, particularly small and medium businesses.

Keeping in view both the financial and operational hardships facing the industry, All India Organisation of Employers' (AIOE), an allied body of business chamber Ficci, has requested the government to apply the amended legislation prospectively -- from financial year 2016-17. President of AIOE Sanjay Bhatia has written to labour secretary Shankar Aggarwal for deferring the implementation as the applicability of enhanced bonus from April 1, 2015 is fraught with serious financial implications for the Indian industry, particularly the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises sector. Bhatia pointed out that apart from the burden of financial implications on the MSME sector, industries will face serious functional problems as the enhanced amount of bonus has not been provided for in the balance-sheet/accounts statement of the previous year i.e. 2014-15, which ended on March 31, 2015.

China has ended one-child policy
China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on Thursday, with the official Xinhua news agency saying that all couples would be allowed two children. It cited a communique issued by the ruling Communist Party after a four-day meeting in Beijing to chart the course of the world's second-largest economy over the next five years. The policy restricted most couples to only a single offspring, and for years authorities argued that it was a key contributor to China's economic boom. But after years of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement by a dedicated government commission, China's population -- the world's largest -- is now ageing rapidly, gender imbalances are severe, and its workforce is shrinking.

E-catering service extends to 1516 trains, 45 stations
With the objective of facilitating passengers to book meals of their choice in trains, e-catering service is now available in more than 1500 trains across the country. Besides serving in trains, the e-catering service, aptly named as "Food on Track", has also been extended to some major stations. Undertaken by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the railways catering arm, the e-catering service was initially started with 28 non-pantry car trains on a pilot basis.

India to see average growth of 8.8% in next decade
India's economic landscape is expected to undergo a major transformation over the next decade and is likely to achieve an average growth rate of around 8.8 per cent, a Dun & Bradstreet report says. According to the report, this increase in growth rate would culminate into high per capita income over the years. "We believe India has the potential to achieve a higher growth rate, given its domestic fundamentals," D&B said in a report titled 'Manufacturing India 2025' which outlines the country's growth journey during the next decade. "We expect India to realise its potential and achieve an average growth rate of around 8.8 per cent during the next decade," it said adding that with this, India's nominal GDP is expected to touch $ 3.4 trillion by 2019-20 fiscal and further to around $ 7 trillion by 2024-25 fiscal.

The report, however, cautioned that in case of delay or failure to implement key policy reforms, nominal GDP might reach to $ 6.2 trillion by 2024-25.

"The new mode of governance, a pro-business policy framework, improved business environment through simplifying processes, focus towards decentralised planning and greater empowerment of states, the demographic dividend and the rise of the middle class have enabled India to emerge as one of the global economic powers on the world map," the report said.

The report further noted that while services sector would continue to drive India's growth momentum, the industrial sector is expected to witness double-digit growth.

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