Guest Post

By – Dr. Kaustav Bhattacharyya

St.THOMAS SCHOOL

‘WE HAD BRITISH COUNCIL, WE HAD SHAKESPEARE….LEARNING ENGLISH IN KOLKATA’
For my generation who grew up in ‘Calcutta’ as opposed to Kolkata the city, had a certain sense of pride and belonging to the world of English ‘lettres’ using the word in the French sense where it includes all written words in different forms like verse, prose and essays, i.e. the literary world of English language. We read and devoured English poets and dramatists with an affection which was devoid of any alien feeling of English being a language imported from elsewhere in the world. The city’s intellectual and artistic life was buzzing with plays, literary discussions, café’s, writer’s workshops and individuals passionate about English literature.

The learning of English language in good, old, fabled Anglo-Indian schools had a certain element of ‘dramatis personae’ about it, meaning one had to perform as an articulate speaker with sharp wit and imagination in English. The plethora of debating societies, elocution contests, public speaking events only testified to this desire to speak the language with confidence and strut on the stage and moreover these events were taken seriously. Years later I would meet successful professionals like medical doctors who would proudly confess that they won the Rotary Club speaking contest or British Council debating society in the year 1985 or 1969 and they treat this as a badge of honour. I recollect vividly the pillorying received at the Rotaract Elocution contest held at the St. Xaviers School as a participant and then returning with a certain glum resolving to plunge into tedious preparation for the next event.

Clearly for us it was not good enough to read and write correctly the English language but had to be able to express and articulate well; the culture of which has sadly dissipated. This was prior to the rise of post-colonial literature when English was spoken and written by our ‘masters’ writers who commanded the language with certain felicity, for most it was their mother-tongue and for select few it was work of lifetime passion and dedication, here I mean the likes of RK Narayan and Nirad C Chaudhuri. I recollect while being part of the editorial team of our brainchild STS school magazine ‘Flash’, writing an audacious article sometime around 1989 titled ‘Glasnost in the Literary and Cultural world’ where I spoke about a highly controversial novel penned by an Indo-Anglian writer and a highly provocative film both released around the same time. I was there discussing with my Headmaster in his august chamber about these trends in the literary world and the idea of freedom of expression. Looking back one might call this adolescence preciousness but those were the times when our teachers encouraged us to push boundaries of our thought.

Audacity was emblem of learning the English language; you should be able to speak and write boldly with sarcasm and wit. I feel the way one learnt the language in schools like St. Thomas School with its long tradition of Anglo-Indian education system was to make bold yet nuanced statements and expressing your thoughts which might question prevailing conventions and norms. However what really fueled the love of English language with our intellect and imagination were Shakespeare and British Council which I discuss below and were two of the most iconic forces shaping our encounter with the language.

SHAKESPEAREAN AFFAIR:
Being a student at STS in an Anglo-Indian school setting the task of learning English language well meant having learnt Shakespeare well, one’s knowledge of English is inadequate and incomplete without mastery or even basic grasp of Shakespeare. Metaphors like ‘Shakespearean English’ abounded in conversations about English language and literature and often phrases like ‘don’t try writing Shakespearean style’ or ‘you have learnt your Shakespeare well’ meant learning the Old Bard was serious business.

The l’amour with Shakespeare started for me and many of us precisely in my 9th standard when the play ‘Merchant of Venice’ was introduced into the English curriculum and stayed on till I completed ICSE which was the end of 10 years of schooling. Those days the Council for education stipulated that a couple of Shakespearean plays be taught as part of the syllabus and we ended up learning one each for the 10th standard and 12th standard. In the next phase of the Shakespearean l’affair it was ‘Macbeth’ which was part of the ISC course in English language and literature. In my case the play Macbeth was taught by the venerable Ms Manjula Ray who would dissect and dramatize those lines mellifluously.

Hence the entire Shakespearean dalliance lasted nearly 4 years with few sonnets thrown in and Hamlet being studied outside the ambit of school curriculum for staging plays. Who can forget the dramatic passion exuded by Mr. Allan Samuel while teaching the lines of the play, one was literally transported into that medieval world of intrigues and mystery??

Reciting with ease lines from the Shakespearean plays were hallmark of brilliance and there was something dashing about it. Acquiring a mastery of the nuances of the play, the theatrical plot and most important understanding of the context was sine qua non for being able to lay any claim to the learning of Shakespeare. We had film shows which were held on the school premises screening the plays like that of Macbeth and Merchant of Venice. Those days these films were screened on small TV screens connected to video recorders with huge reeled tapes. I recollect once I had to stand outside the classroom peeping through the window to watch the film on Macbeth since the seats were fully occupied. Many of these films were stage productions which had actors and actresses spouting the dialogues with animated expressions in very staid settings. Needless to add the thought of answering questions in English language papers in both ICSE and ISC drawn from both the plays made us enormously nervous and we thanked our stars when the Shakespearean saga was all over.

I must admit that I cringed when recently someone shared with me that they were taught Shakespeare in narrative form rather than learning the entire play with its dialogues and I realized times have changed.

BRITISH COUNCIL:
British Council embodied the finest, best and refined aspects of English language and literature. I used to travel down to the British Council where they had these small desks or what would be called workstations for watching the BBC films and drama. The films were available on video format and I think during late 80s the first adaptation in colour format arrived of the Shakespearean plays which we had learnt at school.

I was thrilled to watch the Macbeth production which was set outside the confines of stage and I guess it must have been Polanksi’s production of 1971. Besides the plays there were very interesting and informative films on current affairs, politics like the Soviet Union and World War 2. The iconic building of British Council was located on a busy arterial avenue with trappings of a boulevard called Shakespeare Sarani close to some of the old Victorian buildings and a hotel named Astor which was housed in an old-styled manorial edifice and was reputed for its kebabs and tandoor; quite ironic for the name and the architecture but then such was Kolkata’s magnificent cosmopolitan blend. It has always baffled me that most of the British Council libraries in India are located in rather modernist architectural edifices with concrete and glass rather than quaint colonial bungalows where the location would have been befitting. The British Councils staff were all very strict disciplinarians and had innate passion for the works of literature and arts hence one had to be careful with the books and tapes.

The staff was very eager to guide us through the collections and suggest enriching books and magazines. It was an absolute delight to be able to watch those drama films in dazzling colour with those humongous earphones whose sizes have shrunk over the years placed on your ears. There was no digital sound but the baritone voice of the actors and actresses transported one to the eerie, hair-raising, magical world of Elizabethan world of Britain where murder plots and intrigues ruled the roost. As a matter of fact whenever I visited a Tudor building or tavern located in one of those timber buildings had this constant sense of ominous things happening, Shakespearean plots never left my mind!! Apart from watching the films the next best draw were books on eclectic subjects like psychology, politics which were drawing my attention for the first time as one embarked to pursue university education.

In my personal case the literary critics were a fascinating genre of writing since it explained better what we read in our school lessons like Tennyson and Dickens, it assisted me to place them in the broader cultural and historical context and there was one A.W. Verity which I was quite fond of. There is one habit which I picked up which persists till today is the regular and routine reading of the magazine, The Spectator (British current affairs commentary magazine which is of Conservative leanings in its vision of society, culture and politics) and even subscribe to it online.

In conclusion, Kolkata schools were a wide spectrum when it came to imparting the knowledge of English language and instilling the love of it, there were some who were absolutely superb, old-school and pukka and there were plenty who barely made it into the annals of English-medium education. However the romance of the English language and its literature was in the air and for an Anglophile schoolboy who loved the language it was there for them to be explored, absorbed and relished. There were plenty of inexpensive bookstores where one could buy Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen or PG Wodehouse or for that matter Naipaul for a pittance and the sellers were well-versed in the literary nuances and could hold forth on the best works for verse and prose.

At many of these stores or in café’s one would run into English teachers or professors with thick-rimmed glasses and few in dhoti who would discuss literature and works of art in the most impeccable English accent. In the strictest sense of the term for most students of Anglo-Indian schools in Kolkata it was not an elitist endeavour requiring whole lot of resources to learn and appreciate Shakespeare and Shelley

Looking back those were wonderful and dreamy days for many of us students and would not trade anything with the experience of learning English language during the 1980s as a student of Anglo-Indian school in Kolkata.

Profile: Dr. Kaustav Bhattacharyya is an entrepreneur from Bengal engaged in the field of ecological water treatment and holds a PhD from Cass Business School, University of London in Management Sciences. Entrepreneurship and Business History being one of his favourite research topics.

Guest Post

By – Dr. Kaustav Bhattacharyya

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE IS RESTRICTED!

The worst nightmare has come true; Britain has voted to leave the EU or what’s known in common parlance as the Brexit in a widely attended referendum with a turnout higher than national elections with roughly 72pc and the verdict in favour being around 51pc; a rather decisive one. The results sent tremors like a political tsunami through the UK, EU and the entire world. At the heart of this referendum campaign and the concomitant disenchantment of the British ‘leave’ voters was the issue of immigration, unfettered and uncontrolled immigration. Lets us ponder what exactly is the volatile issue of immigration and what lies behind it; UK like most Western countries has restricted, selective process of accepting migrants but in case of EU it has to accept every EU citizen who is willing to work and live and grant the permission to do so.

European Union extended its frontiers and expanded its borders through a process called ‘Accession’, between 2004 till about 2007 and 12 new member states joined the EU. The citizens of these new member states of Accession countries were granted the free, unrestricted access to the UK labour market since UK is a member of the EU. This unrestricted immigration where individuals from new member states can enter UK and stay back and work had a cascading effect on the number of new migrants entering UK legitimately. To offer an idea of the scale of this European migration, the population of Eastern European migrants in the UK between 2004 and 2014 the 10-year period since the accession of these Eastern bloc countries rose from around 150,00 to about a million which is on an unprecedented scale for the British society.

Clearly the immigration from Eastern Europe was perceived to be a major irritant for most of the British voters and being part of the EU or membership of the bloc was seen as something undesirable and negative. Political parties and the politicians who were campaigning for Brexit championed slogans like ‘take back control of our borders’ and even the posters depicted doomsday scenes of millions of migrants marching into the UK. For the people outside of UK it is important to grasp the dimension of the issue of migration from newer member states of EU and the angst it has created which we may agree or disagree but certainly made an impact on the voter’s mind.

FREE MOVEMENT OF WORKERS AND FREE TRADE- SACRED ‘LAW’ FOR EU:
The referendum was triggered by among other factors the refusal of EU to allow the imposing of restriction on European workers having access to the UK labour market. The British PM Mr. David Cameron had stated following the results that the referendum was lost over the principle of unrestricted access travel and right to work among the EU citizens. The free movement of workers is a fundamental principle enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Freedom of movement of workers being a right includes the specific rights of movement and residence for workers, the rights of entry and residence for family members, and the right to work in another Member State and be treated on an equal level with nationals of that Member State. Interestingly the EU has actively promoted and facilitated this free movement of workers through the recognition of professional qualifications enabling the citizen to practice their profession without any obstacles. This has been ensured through a legislative instrument of a Directive 2005/36/EC (as modernised by Directive 2013/55/EU) which reformed the system of recognition of professional qualifications. Besides there is a EU-funded cooperation network EURES(European Employment Services) involving none less than the apex body of European Commission.

As a matter of fact what is strikes as an ‘unkindest cut’ for the Brexit camp is the fact that countries which are formally not part of the EU but enjoy access to the Single Market as members of the EEA(European Economic Area) like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and even Switzerland which is member of the EFTA(European Free Trade Association) and has access to the Single Market in some areas of Trade have to concur with the principle of ‘Free Movement of Workers’. Several EU leaders have put their foot down and stated unequivocally that if UK wishes to have access to its Single Market then it has to permit the free movement of EU citizens within its borders and their right to be engaged in employment, in other words ‘Free Market’ implies ‘Free Movement of persons’.

Apparently there seems to be an EU legislation which is part of the very essence of EU, i.e. Four Freedom, free movement of capital, goods, services and workers. In post-Brexit scenario the European leaders including European Council President Mr. Donald Tusk along with the French and German heads of state warned Britain that it cannot engage in ‘cherrypicking’ and if it wished to enjoy the access to Single Market then it has to accept the freedom of movement of EU citizens which is clearly the dotted red line and non-negotiable. Hence what can be concluded is that the freedom of movement of people is inextricably linked to the Single Market and the philosophy of Free Trade for EU leadership. In post-Brexit negotiations its evident that the EU key decision-making elites will not yield in this stance to the UK.

GATS WITH GLOBAL FREE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE – EUROPEAN MORAL HYPOCRISY:
Since the EU has so emphatically and forcefully linked the idea of Free Trade with Free Movement of People one needs to speculate if the same rules apply in the global arena where EU countries are prominent actors. The creation of GATS(General Agreement on Trade in Services) occurred in the same year, i.e. 1995 as when WTO located in Geneva, came into being as an international organization responsible for arbitrating free and fair trade armed with legislations and ability to penalize on erring nations which are member states. Hence in the global arena we do have legislative instruments which are supposed to link free trade in services with free movement of people and EU elites are not clamouring for anything unusual or radical. The fundamental guiding principle of GATS was the distinguishing of four disparate and distinct modes of providing services: cross-border trade, consumption abroad, commercial presence and presence of natural persons.

Most importantly the Mode4, which is defined as ‘Presence of Natural Persons’ supply is confined to temporary movement of labour to supply services in a foreign market without any rights or access to long-term residency or citizenship. It would be prudent to consider the record of EU enthusiasts of free movement of persons in the global arena while dealing with non-EU members states of WTO and needless to mention that it is nothing but distressing. We are all well aware of the collapse of the Doha round of talks due to the duplicitous position of the developed world with regards to free trade including that of services apart from agriculture. For a proper perspective let’s focus on the specific adopted EU position with regards to India in our FTA(Free Trade Agreement) negotiations and here Mode4 means of liberalization of services remains one of the most contentious issues.

According to the Delhi Policy Group think-tank the free movement of Indian professionals through EU remains the biggest stumbling block in liberalization and access to the EU services sector which is a priority for the Indo-EU FTA. It would be worthwhile to state here clearly that India’s case is only an instance of the developing country relationship with EU in terms of providing market access to the services sector through Mode4 and is representative of the moral hypocrisy of the current position of EU vis-à-vis the UK. The full-blown market access through Mode4 for India is curtailed through measures like work permits, visa regulations and recognition of professional qualifications. India had insisted that EU adhere to binding promises on liberalizing trade in services through Mode1 and Mode4.

Ironically the two most vocal countries in the post-Brexit scenario hammering on free movement of people as linked to free trade, France and Spain have instilled nationality and local language knowledge requirements as criteria for availing of positions in the services sector which have adversely affected opportunities for Indian service-providers. One of the most disputed issue is that of the recognition of professional qualifications for Indian professionals intending to provide services. The instruments and mechanisms which have been deployed by EU in hindering India are in the form of visa restrictions, economic needs test and quotas on the movement of professionals. Similarly it must be a poor testimony to our strategic intelligence and astute thinking not to recognize the contradictions of this GATS MODE4 Paragraph 4 of the Annex notes that the GATS “shall not prevent a Member from applying measures to regulate the entry of natural persons………. to ensure that orderly movement of natural persons across.”

What more clearer statement of intent we need to understand that the Western developed countries like EU were not serious towards global free movement of persons; when we have sanctioned and endorsed instruments to ensure orderly movement of natural persons which would be evoked constantly. Clearly we have to recognize that the GATS Annex on Movement of Natural Persons has integrated and wired in limitations which impede the free trade in services for developing countries. This clearly lets us conclude based on its interactions with India with regard to Mode4 means of services that the current EU intransigence on linking free movement of persons and free trade sniffs of outright moral hypocrisy and double standards.

INSULAR SOLIDARITY OF EU:
The intransigence of EU with respect to freedom of movement or people especially workers across the entire zone linked to free trade rules of Single Market in post-Brexit scenario now lies exposed as morally and ethically hollow in light of their conduct with India. The same insistent EU refuses to actively apply the same rules of game of free movement of people in the global arena which raises the question of solidarity and principled conduct. In other words the ‘principles’ are to be adhered to only when it concerns the citizens of the European geographical area who incidentally share the same ethnicity and race to a large extent. However I am careful to not accuse of EU elites being discriminatory on ethnic grounds since many of the societies are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.

This demonization of the ‘developing world’ citizens swarming Europe can have harmful consequences for EU in the long run since opening borders selectively will encourage prejudiced thinking. Routinely and actively EU institutions and its associated intellectuals deride and depict the ‘developing world’ or ‘emerging world’ as sweatshops filled with low-cost workers who are threats to its fabled social welfare state prosperity and ever willing to jump on the next ship or bus to EU. Many of us are aware of the distasteful video campaign promoting EU unity where the emerging world was depicted as menacing male figures threatening the chastity of a helpless, innocent women symbolizing EU.

When EU member states revoke GATS clause of ‘orderly flow’ as an alibi for restrictive visa practices and non-tariff barriers the message emanating is that of deep-seated anxiety and prejudice towards human beings who hail from different societies. Now EU elites should explain to the Brexit voters why the ‘orderly flow’ logic is not to be pursued in case of UK being recipient of largest number of migrants in recent history from Eastern Europe. Or the logic doesn’t apply when it comes to similar Europeans from new member states who albeit share traditions, culture and identity with their Western counterparts but only for Asians and Indians. I recollect a presentation made on Mode4 GATS services liberalization in Brussels where finally I thought of appealing to the sensible and practical nature of European policy elites.

There is a strong belief in the ‘soft power’ of EU in global theater where it is jostling for the high seat amongst the old, traditional powers like US, Japan and emergent ones like BRICS. The most fundamental essence of European soft power, which is its raison d’être, lies in the belief of playing by the rules, enforcing and adhering to global regulations rather than being the imperial bully. EU emerged as a powerful entity from the smouldering ruins of Second World War through its moral and cultural leadership making it attractive for countries to join the club. Amidst the brouhaha and cynicism of Brexit it is the historical chance for EU to implement a fair and equitable rules of freedom of movement of people cutting across the narrow confines of its geographical entity on a global scale.

Profile: Dr. Kaustav Bhattacharyya is an entrepreneur from Bengal engaged in the field of ecological water treatment and holds a PhD from Cass Business School, University of London in Management Sciences. Entrepreneurship and Business History being one of his favourite research topics.

What chance for rural India and rural media, in particular?

Agriculture never makes news! And all news today, urban news, right?

Unless there is some disaster like farmers’ suicides or some natural disasters! How sad and how our own priorities of living are corrupted.  Corrupted by whom?

ruralOur own politics and economics is one thing. Our own national traits, our own history have all given Indians their own twisted life’ beliefs and superstitions.

Modernity is a heavily-loaded word and it is also very urban phenomena, for agriculture, rural living and some such priorities are no more priorities with our own rulers!

Why this discourse?

This is no discourse, but certain disenchantment with our national priorities. Specially for Vadamalai Media, it is an uphill task given the normal priorities of development and government’s pro-business tilt.

Print media is in retreat, we are tired of hearing from the pundits and that is why we never got to hear any sensible person in government or pubic life talk of agriculture.

Anyway, our commitment is for enlightened agriculture policy-making and articulation of issues. Any way this is a country which had had a long history of famines under the British Raj. Just now we read a brief history of the Indian famines in the 1860s onwards, successive famines, in states like Odisha and also later in other parts and finally the most infamous for all, the Bengal famine of early 1940s.
A.O.Hume who founded the Indian National Congress was impelled by, among other things, the perennial debt of the Indian peasant. Soon after Dadabhai Naoroji wrote his classic, the Indian poverty and the unBritish Rule. So too his contemporary, another Congress President, R.C.Dutt.

Now, in independent India we had had our own failures and successes in tackling food shortages and the Green Revolution was a bright chapter.
Now?

Indian agriculture is a vast subject and a vast territory.
Our media venture in this area has found a niche market and a trusted clientale.

We have been helped to sustain this ‘rash leap into the dark’ by the sheer persistence. By the sheer commitment. A commitment that was borne of our own background.

A rural background that ties up to the land and the helpless farmer in far flung areas where angels fear to tread!

On the serious side, the majority of the Indian population is still poor and live in the villages.

India will remain for long (forever?) in the villages. (As in the rest of the countries in the world, right?).And right now, the average villager is suppressed and oppressed by several forces.

One is the neglect of the villagers by the government, including the incumbent government. Justice for the farmers, including their right to property. The status of this Constitutional right is yet to be settled. So too many other land-related issues.

Vadamalai Media, now in its 25th year, is also into digital space. Our website (www.agricultureinfromation.com) is the world’s largest agri portal. We intend to deliver our prompt and online services through the digital medium as well.

We have proved one or two myths also in our media journey. All media is not driven by greed and profit. Once journalism was categorised as journalism proper and the rest as development journalism. The pay and perks and social recognition were low. Whereas in urban centres high profile journalism thrived. Good perks, often tied with other thrown-ins like a part in Prime Minister’s foreign journeys etc.

Also, sometimes certain awards, the Padma and non-Padmas!
So, we had thrived and are able to stand up to the many pretensions and fears masqueraded as fighting for independent journalism.
Independent journalism, as of now, is non-existent. Journalists everywhere have become, it seems, endangered species.

There is everywhere, as they say in Europe, the rise of lliberalism, in media and in the rest of the society.

One reason for the devalued status of the media in the scheme of things is the media barons’ own greed and aggrandisement.
The growth in the Indian media, as on date, is fine for certain categories. Vadamalai publishes also in Tamil and Kannada languages.
We are small, not only beautiful but also reliable and trustworthy too!

Even the biggest corporate have acquired taste for media power.
So, when the politics becomes illiberal, the media too becomes party to this development and the successful politician, man or woman, who acquires power through sheer populism become paranoid and the fear of the media also percolates down the line. Also the independent judiciary are all distorted.

Media experts say that in India the regional language media is predominant; some 60 percent of the audience speak the regional languages. So, the quick-fix monopoly industry tries its hands in regional cinema and thus, the once healthy film industry has now become too bloated and produces some of the worst trashes in the name of popular cinema!

Even the art film, the quality cinema, even in some few languages like Marathi and Bengalis struggle to survive and find its feet.
A healthy country, a healthy government must have a vigorous and open-minded media policy, culture policy to encourage a healthy and free society.

The outlook right now is rather not comfortable. The DD is a drag. The film censor board is another disaster. How much valuable time and energy the country spent on getting clearance for one film!
All our art and culture institutions are almost shut up.

So, media and culture are subjects that, luckily, don’t lend themselves to talks by simpletons. Let us hope, there is a more open-minded room for so much that is more vital and valuable that is now left out of our present national discourse.

So, agricuture, agriculture media and such other priorities have to fight for a place in the sun.

Brand power of the agri media also needs attention.

Development has many meanings!

Prioritize the priorities!

Infant mortality data must be updated and made available for the public. Public debate must go for some modern day thinking on what constitutes development and economic growth.

Almost simultaneouhqdefaultsly. There can’t be excuses for any delay for all the states. So, let us have trust in what the Prime Minister says. Development, vikas, is such a beautiful word. Development, after a pause, also calls for priorities. So, we have to ask questions; try to answer some possible answers too.

Here, right now, there are certain priorities on which there is no clarity. What are the development priorities?

Just now, we read that in infant deaths, it reported that Bihar, Rajasthan and Gujarat makes news for the wrong reasons. These are the states, like Assam, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh and are doing better than Bihar, Rajasthan and, hold your breath, Gujarat. Gujarat, the PM’s own state is faltering behind even some of the most backward states!

Infant mortality is a key indicator of any development index; we would say even access to other state benefits, like rations, health and maternal health and education.

Yes, the time has come to realise how to prioritise the development indicators. Anyway, it is time that we better go back to old, original indicators like accessibility of resources at the disposal of the last man.

The PM’s many new initiatives like sanitation and even other dear programmes for the government like promotion of yoga etc seem to us rather lower down in any such modern development priorities.

Also, provision of latest data is also a high priority. Even on infant mortality, out of the 36 states and UTs only 23 states have put out their data on such a sensitive subject.

We feel that given the PM’s own obsession to use social media and other told and also in this time of Internet penetration we must have such sensitive data almost at the click of a button and there ant be any delay for this data.

What else is more urgent than reaching medical aid and medical facilities to all the maternity hospitals?

Considering the rural-urban divide and male-female data confirms there is something wrong in many states. Rajasthan and Bihar show an increase in infant mortality in rural areas. While Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh show no change over the previous year. Gujarat and Jharkhand and Rajasthan show worrying trend, an increase in female infant mortality in rural areas.

This is again very disturbing. In Gujarat and Bihar urban areas there is an increase in infant death areeas, while female infant death rates increased in UP.

This reflects that the growing share of population cannot afford to access healthcare facilities that are supposed to be in good number in India’s cities and towns. This is a vast subject for in-depth coverage and we limit here with one last observation. The predominantly urban Union Territory of Chandigarh has shown an increase in infant deaths, shockingly driven by a rise in female infant mortality.

So, there is a serious case here for the government to prioritise development goals. Certain goals may be noble (say, like promoting Yoga)but given the context of India’s development priorities, here is one instance of the infant mortality, no less than the maternal mortality which call for serious introspection and go for what is by all standards the first priority of all.

India to import wheat this year!

Farmer communications must become farmer-friendly.
Key agri economic data! Inadequate!
Wheat imports may surge to a decade-high!
Is the Indian economy moving?

NarendraModi5_20150526_350_630Modi asks party workers to embrace new thinking, ideas. Fine, these are the very words that are headlined in a leading newspaper by Prime Minister Mr.Modi at the National Executive Committee of the BJP at Allahabad. The Allahabad meeting of the party assumes significance because it was seen as a strategic step for winning the UP Assembly elections and also as a build-up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

MrAmit Shah, the party president had spoken at length on the party’s commitment and the government’s “resolve to balance reforms and growth, welfare and pro-poor policies. This almost sounds very old fashioned rhetoric.

Modi has gone further and said that the legacy of mis-governance and corruption and the need to get the economy moving. Is the economy moving?

Just in April came the news about the industrial production shrinking. Then, came the successive fall in exports for so many months.
Now comes the most damning indictment. India’s wheat imports could surge a new decades high?

Yes, India is looking at cutting import taxes after back to back droughts has reduced wheat output amid rising demand. India may import, as per reports, 5 million tonnes of what in 2016/17.The country’s output of the grain could decline by an annual 2.3 percent to about 85 million tonnes.

At five million tonnes, India’s wheat imports would be the highest since 6.7 million tonnes arrived in 2006/07 and way above the highest since 500,000 tonnes of last year, data from the US Department of Agriculture shows.

Higher than expected wheat imports by India, the world’s second largest producer and consumer of the grain, could boost wheat prices.
India had set a target to produce 94 million tonnes this year.
USAD is our reliable source about India’s agriculture, mostly on agri trade data.

Inside India, farmers are kept in the dark and it is not the Indian officialdom is either well-informed. There is a bureaucratic neglect at the top level when it comes to reliable information on agricultural data. Even for whether data we have to rely more on foreign TV channels and also USDA and some other private sources.

Of course, it was the BJP national meet and also in a State and city, Allahabad when the party is imagining a victory in UP. Politics apart, the meet also saw some ministers referring to the world recession that was cited for one reason why the Indian economy is not showing results.

International trade was also mentioned. But the point is that even as for real understanding, we don’t have a free media and what little there is it, the Indian media, is functioning in a robust manner.
We are not sure how far the PM is well-informed about the state of affairs in the media industry and the need for reform here too.
India media is also turning into an “illiberal” phase?

An India without the Congress? That is the slogan of the BJP party and the high functionaries. Is this a real state of affairs?

In the European context, they in Europe and even outside, speak of “electoral democracy”. Once you get elected in an election, however imperfect, then you justify your actions without the existence of an objective and free media.

Why, our own DD is still unreformed>Can we afford to have such a public service broadcasting, especially related to educating our farmers in farm-flung areas. So, our information reach in the farm sector also must be reformed and updated.

There is also no tradition of the Agri Universities engaged in gathering data in an industry-ready manner. No one, either in the ministry or at the lower levels cares to communicate with the farming community.

As a media we have to report some criticisms. Crony capitalism, paternalism are said to be influencing decision-making. There is a need for some deep introspection.