Finding solutions to the world’s water crisis!

Water resources is a critical factor these days. So too the critical leadership that is sensitive and committed to augmenting water resources for agriculture and drinking water and for the general health of the economy and society.

What do we see on the ground?

riverVery narrow political and sectarian considerations. Take the daily newspapers. One regional party in the South, “the DMK slams Kerala’s plant to build check dams across the Bhavani River” runs a headline! Supreme Court says that the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal decree cannot be flouted. And on and on.

There are any number of smaller rivers and canals need to be attended to take waters further and further. Only when you live in a village you would realise how serious the water crisis is nowadays. Who is the implanting agency for water resources?

The water resources minister and the agri minister or their deputies must be travelling all the time. But they are nowhere to be seen nor we hear them about what they are doing!
That is the dilemma of a democratic government. There is so much to do, so much freedom for people’s representatives to do many useful things. But governance in a democracy always takes a beating!

With the widespread drought hurting the economy and the lives of vast mass of farmers, it is time to read anything that pertains to augmenting water resources and tapping all sources of waters. Just now we read a review of a new book on Meltdown in Tibet: China’s reckless destruction of the ecosystem from the highlands of Tibet to the deltas of Asia. By Michaeal Buckley (Palgrave Macmillan).

The Chinese has committed ecocide in the vast Himalayan land it had invaded in 1950, says the author who has also managed to get a foreward from the Tibetan monk, Dalai Lama.

Anyway, here is this book that details how Tibet is a quarter of China’s land mass. But here is some critical information on China’s water potential. Tibet’s 37,000 glaciers, its ecological status as the third pole, the largest store of ice after Antarctic and Arctic-and the great Asian rivers feeding five mega deltas-the Indus in Pak, the Ganges-Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, the Mekong in South East Asia and the Yangtse in China-all have their origin in Tibet!
The Chinese have mastered the giant skills to divert large rivers.

So, let us pause here and think how much the world can benefit by equitably distributing these mighty rivers for the larger benefit of those countries in need of big water resources?

Let us all know how much remains to be done as the great tasks of peace and finding solutions to the world’s water crisis?

You see that NGOs, the non-governmental organisations, are a time honoured legacy. In any country the world over there are various types of NGOs. More so in a democracy the atmosphere for NGOs spring up is so varied and very conducive to bring forth the spirit of the people to do so much good work in all areas of human activity and aspirations.

NGOSo, only those countries, more so the governments might think of curbing the activities of voluntary services by interested citizens and citizen group.

Now, the Modi government has come out with some clumsy arguments, not even any reasoned arguments for curbing the activities by banning, rather selectively and more so vindictively, the NGOs whose names are well-known to the public and also so appreciated by every international peer groups, including the UN organisations. We all know the allergy of the BJP and the RSS against some religious and communal organisations. Let us leave out the religious organisations, even the one US organisation going by the name Compassion and whose cause even the US Secretary of State, John Kerry pleaded with the Central government and we learn that those curbs were lifted simply because the pleading came from such high authority!

Now, the Home Ministry is blamed for its flip-flops, one day permission granted to seven NGOs, the very next day it was reversed!

What sort of government we are running in this country and that too a highly rated Home Ministry with very competent wings like Intelligence and RAW etc and you come out with the excuse of ‘national security’ issue in withdrawing license!

We all know by now who are all the victims. Teesta Setalvad’s NGO? She is a fighter everyone appreciates. She has a great pedigree, the name Setalvad must be enough. So, the record of her trust is very admirable, given the history of the Gujar riots and much that came after that great shame. So, the government must have handled her trust very carefully and much leeway must have given her, given her iron will to fight for her cause.

In fact, the government has made her NGO the most watched case in the days to come!

The Foreign Contribution Registration Act, FCRA, too has to be handled with great care for there are hundred and even thousands of NGOs, with some fat pay cheque and other with no foreign contributions and only the spirit and ideals to inspire those who are willing to do selfless service.

The other day there was debate on NDTV on this very issue. What we find is that thinks to some redoubtable spirits like the advocate turned crusader, Prashant Bhusan, who through his NGO, the Common Cause, had fought many sensitive cases and thanks to him only big corruption scandals like 2-G and Coalgate saw the light of the day and herds rolled and the end result was the debacle of the great Congress party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Why? Because the NGO succeeded in exposing the 2-G and the Coalgate under the leadership of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi.

Yes, the Congress paid the price and the ex-PM sought a cool retirement shelter in the very heart of Delhi.

So, please don’t trivialise the services of the NGOs. Recognise their central role in a democracy, more so in a vast country like India where the problems of people, the citizens are varied and also get involved the citizens in educating, enlightening and also transforming the citizens, rather the docile citizens into active participants in the march of the nation towards a modern-day civilisational experience. All the more so why we should understand and appreciate the works and roles of NGOs in a strengthening and an open-society of our great country! Jai Hind!

There are still many problems, obstacles, on a day-to-day basis!
Decorum and decency in politics is decreasing?
Time governments and leaders exercise restraint!

Prime Minister has a great role and must see things are in their right places!
In recent days we see a sudden eruption of political misdoings, call it by what name you prefer there is a new sense of frustration at many levels. Of course, the Congress is desperate, we can understand the plight of the Congress party, its leaders are now embroiled in a tricky court case and no one knows where this battle, both legal and political, will lead the country to.  Then, there are the many CBI raids, right from the Delhi Chief Minister’s office to down south to a former Central Minister’s own offices.

In a time of such acrimony, it is natural to suspect political vendetta. Now, for whatever are the reasons, it is too much for a Chief Minister to call the Prime Minister names.

Some unpardonable expressions like psychopath and many such offending terms  which have all been quoted by the BBC all over the world is going  a bit far too  much. The domestic media is handicapped, there is fear and consternation and no independent voices are forthcoming to warn and caution about this state of affairs.

We need independent spaces, forums to discuss and debate such larger issues beyond the narrow confines of narrow party interests.

Unfortunately, yes, we have to say only  it is very unfortunate, the PM too in his wisdom  doesn’t seem to be doing  things in the way the country, the people, beyond again  any narrow partisan considerations expect the governance  to be fair, objective and with the needed speed and expeditious manner.

The apex court expresses concern over the delay in speeding up the appointment of judges to the higher courts.

Is this not an urgent priority? Why then the apex court expresses such a concern. Is this not the domain of the Law Ministry? Why the ministry seems to be lax and even lazy? Is this not the highest priority for the PMO to act? What explains the seemingly wilful delay?

So too the many other issues like the appointment of the Lokayuktas and many such high profile appointment. The chief information commissioner? It has taken so much time. Why?
The more the judiciary is seen as an obstacle, the more the common man suffers.

These delays only contribute to the many other ills in the polity and, why, even in the society.

Some very clever lawyers, there are many in Delhi, who are perched in Delhi, have created   havoc with the system, how the lawyers who have been minister, judges and they stay back and see to it that the justice system is loaded in favour of the most clever or criminal-minded and also the rich and the vested interests. With all noise and heat no real criminals are really punished, let alone sent to jail.

So, we can expect more trouble and strife in the coming days. To that extent the governance would come to suffer, delays would become our norm and we would be only carrying forward the old legacies.

Economic development is a very complex issue, as we see it. It is not the number of new investments and agreements with investors.
One bright spark is the latest India-Japan agreement which spells for the first time a take-off effect.

Certainly, the future of Indian economy and its political direction would certainly change for the better.

Bullet train for India is not just one more investment. The bullet train symbolises a new era of India reaching out to the moon.

Let Indian people get enthused with the new opportunities opening up for the new generation. Let India start looking to the East, Japan and China and let a new era of prosperity open up for a more better and safer world.

What does this means for the world today? Tomorrow?

migrants-idomeni-g_3435444kCriticism on the US inaction or the controlled silence is enraging the entire world and it is likely soon to erupt in to even a wild cry and outrage. Already voices have come out calling this tragedy is a US making.

The US invasion of Iraq, supported by the UK, then the interventions in Afghanistan and now, the Syrian developments had all contributed to this new unprecedented crisis.

Is there a task for India here?

Some hard questions need to be asked. New and bold thinking, why even, a new world scenario needs to be drawn up. Here are some thoughts. The world is agog with new crises on the Syrian and other countries’ refugees’ influx into Europe.

Every day brings in new influxes of people in flight across the national boundaries. Hungary and Macedonia are the entry point s at the moment, may be tomorrow some other country’s name might prop up.

Human tragedies on this scale we haven’t witness for almost a lifetime, since the days of the Second World War. India is seen by the outside world, if not by we, as the largest democracy. As such   we have a duty to speak out our minds freely and in a transparent manner.

But it is a shocking that both the Prime Minister Mr.Modi and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi  are seen indulging in some cheap verbiage and it is demanding our own image as citizens of a free world  and the at too as a great democracy.

The BJP may be in power but India is seen as a bastion of democracy and a leader of the Non-Aligned nations which had seen these sorts of exodus of people, as it was at the time of Independence in 1947.Since then there had been many such exoduses, the exodus of the Bangladeshi refugees on many occasions.

Yes, we have had many controversies, that too by the BJP on the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants. We are even now facing the issue in many parts of the North east.

Apart from our own experience, we have now a duty to speak out our minds. It is unfortunate that our media is ironically cynical and no TV news channel chose to show on its screens the mind-racking scenes, the daily pictures make the world today a very dangerous place.

The latest developments, from the sight of the 3-year old toddler and following it, the opening of the doors of Germany, Austria and France, also the happenings on the crossing of the refugees  through Hungary, Greece and other national frontiers.

Now, what to do?
The question   till date is: Is this a European crisis? Or a global concern?

Why the UN is silent? Or much more seriously, why the USA is also in such a disgusting non-seriousness?

Mr.Ban-Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the UN says, rather openly and sadly too, that the UN Security Council has failed in the Syrian crisis?

What sort of an admission is this? The SG is not here the culprit. It is the members of the Security Council, the bigfive, USA, UK, France, Italy and China that we have to blame.

Yes, the world is baling these big nations who, by accident of history, find themselves cast in this crucial role. But then, these big countries and of course besides other big nations, like ,say India and China and of course we can’t forget the great role Germany and France are playing in welcoming the pouring refuges population a,, heart-rending scenes  and the way the EU responded is very laudable.

But then, as the international media is reporting that it is the big responsibility of the great nations, great economies like other countries in the Gulf and also outside, even Venezuela and other South American countries, every national must touch its conscience and see that refugees are the most persecuted peoples of any country, like the ones from which these people fleeing now, it is a universal phenomena. Migration is one thing. It is owing to economic factors. People have always been migrating.
For a country like India it is a historic experience. In the 1860s Indians went out as “coolies” to South Africa and elsewhere.

Today, Indians go out as technical hands to the USA and Australia and elsewhere. The Indians are very large population in all the Gulf countries. But this time, the great refugee crisis is the biggest after the Second World War.

Now, what next? How long this uncertain future for a looming crisis that is likely to persist, it seems, and no one, we mean, no one great country or great leader is speaking out.

Angela Merkel has emerged as the great voice of sanity.
She is a sure winner of this year’s Nobel. All good luck to the great lady.

Mr.Barack Obama is not talking at all these days. He must have done it already. Each day the US President remains quiet he is the loser. That would also tell on the country great many strengths and traditions like the media, academics and the great many sane voices.

So too the UK whose Prime Minister David Camera had made some weak noises.His words have no punch. Nor other great leaders.
Where is Vladimir Putin? This is a great opportunity for him to revive his fortunes. So too others like Mr.Modi who wants to project India on the international scene and who also wants a place on the Security Council.

India can emerge as the articulator of the issues and can also do many things.

We call upon the government of India and Mr.Modi in particular to constitute a high-power committee to deliberate and come out with a suitable response to this great humanitarian crisis.
India had played significant roles in many international crises. This is India’s great moment of reckoning. Please do something. Time is the essence of things.

The world as a whole can respond .It is for the UN to take the initiative.

Now, in a very belated and disappointing way the USA has chosen to speak out.

President Barack Obama, as the news reports put, in a brief Reuters report, “hundreds of Americans offered to take Syrian refugees into their homes and in an online petition to lift the limit on Syrian  refugees”. President Obama “ordered his team to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.”

Why this delay? When the flow of refugees everyday is increasing why this reluctant message from the richest nation on the earth. A country of migrants at that!

In fact, the USA should do more, more and comprehensive initiative to face this almost greatest humanitarian tragedy in the wake of the Syrian and other crises in Iraq and Afghanistan and in all of which the USA is the chief player!

The response of Obama is not very appropriate to say the least. It is not robust and it is not even adequate.

When the smaller nations of Europe, in terms of space and funds, it is the USA and its neighbours, say, Canada which can really accommodate more refugees.

Fortunately, this is not a migrant population and it is plain refugees escaping from persecution and other   suppressions and oppressions and it is plain that is what is happening in all these countries from which these people are escaping.

The plight of the boat people is really terrible and there is a need to respond to this challenge with all our modern equipment to save and take these people to safe locations on the shore.
No less is depressing the plight of the people who face in human persecution from the middlemen, the brokers and other exploiters, not the least from the national border guards, policemen and even women journalist who, as the pictures from Hungary flashed on the screens and that led to the immediate suspension of the journalist who  tripped a man running, sprinting with a child in Roszke village in Hungary. That outraged the whole world and the solution to the entry  through the national frontiers became somewhat easier, as the days went  on.

Now, the serious question is about    the next stage of the crisis.Beginning October 1st, the USA will let in 10,000  refugees. The US   is already letting in around 70,000 people from conflict zones as refugees each year. Fine. We have to appreciate that the USA is an open  society and the refugee issue is not new to it.

In fact, it is one of the biggest issues faced by the USA ,the biggest economy and power.

But then, this current situation is unprecedented.There is a new global scale crisis and the IS and other terrorist groups are entrenched in Syria and the war, the civil war, is going on for some years.

The UN is almost non-functional.Even for this world stand still, the USA has to bear some responsibility for it.
Even the UN reforms is a very weak   appeal by  other nations and the USA is non-committal in re vivi9ng the UN agency.
There are now ,as we see, no sane voices.

Most of the sane voices, where they are, the Nobel Laureates and others who have some credibility to speak out, are intriguingly  silent.

This is very disturbing. Even such personages like Pope Francis is talking something else!

Anyway, as far as some other nations are concerned, like Finland, why even the EU  Council President Lithuania’s  foreign minister, Linas Linkovicius, says, thankfully, a good word for the helpless victims of this exodus. He says   the educated migrants (refugees) could help create jobs! Oh, how nice, these positive messages.

Each and everyone can contribute  at this hour of crisis.
This is how humanity benefits.

The crisis  is not  within any sight of a solution.
The UN Refugee Agency  has said that the number of people expected to cross the Mediterranean  seeking refuge in Europe is likely to reach 4,00,000 this year and 4,50,000 in 2016.So,by 2016 the total number is likely to reach an unprecedented 8.50,000 people. And President Obama promises to take in only 10,000 in 2016!

Obvious, this US response is very inadequate to the current challenge faced by EU.

The US should more and takes in more  number of people. Also, the US and its allies and others also can explore other countries, more in the Balkan region which are willing to take more refuges and can  do more to help to manage the situation.

All these arguments don’t let out other countries, say in the Gulf region, even in Turkey and other neighbouring countries.
Some sensible and positive suggestions have come out. More would be expected in the coming days. How to engage  the world energies to find a tolerable world spec for everybody to live in human dignity.

Just now I read a column by Steve Hilton, a former adviser to British PM, David Cameron outlines some  policy initiatives. Creating a special economic zone near Jordon, Obama’s Open Government Partnership to create new opportunities even in such countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Algiers.

Whatever may be the compulsions on the  Western governments, this crisis is not the one to vacillate or delay decisions.
This is really a US-UK triggered chain of events.

It is for the wisest to act in some real seriousness.

Also, something has to be done to ease the current and expected harsh measures countries like Hungary and Macedonia  are imposing to prevent entry of new people. They are passing anti-immigrant laws and erecting fences across their borders. The TV news channels are also doing their bit of great service by showing footages of people in thousands travelling in buses and trains .
These are in any case the most harrowing experience of a generation of people who were least prepared to see such horrors of man-made tragedies.

The world has to wake up and get doing things that only an enlightened political leadership can do.

Public perception and private realities!
Indian states ranked in term of the ease of doing business
Some surprises and shocking ground level realities

indian-business-peopleThe so-called advanced states, Maharashtra and TN with good track record in industrialisation find themselves dumped down in the rank with Gujarat retaining its number one rank with AP, the newly carved new state beating the others with its second rank.
What is also shocking is the fact that the so-called backward states, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and MP are ahead of Karnataka and TN. TN is at 12th rank trailing, ironically, West Bengal, supposed to be a common laggard.

What then is the explanation?

States blame the World Bank with political bias. This is simply non-sense. Why the WB must play politics in this game.

The point here is that public perception is always at variance with brain-washing in which states sometimes excel.

Who don’t know that TN is also one of the most corrupt states and also bureaucracy is very strong and also there is no transparency, ministers are so blatantly dumped down by an unexplained concentration of power in the CM who alone decides things and it takes time and also circuitous routes.
Also, Karnataka is no less corrupt state.

One can guess what must be the reason why the backward states are ahead. Very likely that the BJP governments are alter and also ,let us give the credit to the devils where they are due, they are also clean as on date.

What else this ranking can convey otherwise.
Let us, the Indian citizens be clear of one thing.
Corruption is now all-pervasive, in almost all the states. There is any number of circumstantial evidence.

We can’t go into the details here. The top rung of all governments are not free from suspicions of all sorts.

There is any number of court cases, all pending, that involves big names and the apex court is also groaning under pressure to dispose of cases expeditiously. So too bureaucracy.

Even Mr.Modi seems to be aware of this and he seems to be therefore seen as going slow!

What else can be the explanation for things not proceeding fast?
May be wherever there are ministers like, say Mr.Gadkari, things seem to move faster. We also like to mention a few more ministers and they all seem to be pushing things forward.

As for the investors’ meets in other state capitals, there is good competition and this is a welcome development.

Karnataka for its part seems to have developed cold feet and postponed its scheduled meet. But it is always welcome to get the likely investors on a common platform.

Now, it is openly talked about corruption in the state governments, the bribe-taking ministers are always mentioned, press may not report it openly, LokAyukta, in Karnataka is a point. Who believed the institution was   was so deeply into corrupt pratices. So too political corruption.

As for political corruption, we have reached a stage in India where the public silently watch and know who are the ministers who had accumulated welath, 2,000 acres of land, a few hundreds of crores. These are the numbers that are in the public domain.
You can’t prove certain corruption cases and also you can’t pin down the leaders, poltiical parties that thrive on patronage from the big corporates.

So, public perception and the reality in private would always come out in a democracy. And India has a good democracy!