IANS-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, in a letter to his countrymen expressed that the nation has seen a massive transformation over the last decade. He added that the “Sankalp Patra is more than just a collection of promises,” as it outlines the collective aspirations and goals of the nation.

“With your trust and support, the nation has seen a massive transformation over the last ten years. While development attained an unprecedented speed and scale, a significant transformation has also happened in terms of mindset,” he wrote.

He also mentioned the achievable milestone of Viksit Bharat by 2047. “The nation is confident on its journey of becoming self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar). This is a big change from the atmosphere of desperation and frustration that the nation had experienced in the decade prior to 2014 due to the corruption, policy paralysis and misrule by the government of those times,” he wrote.

Stating that “We have gone from a nation that was in the ‘Fragile Five’ to a nation that is one of the top 5 economies of the world,” the PM acknowledged that “The most important facet of this progress is that the fruits of development reached everyone… The mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas has guided our actions.”

“Benefiting from our approach in basic needs like bank accounts, gas connections, toilets, water, electricity, etc, they [people] are also being empowered with new-age facilities like optic fibre connections, digital solutions, drones, etc,” PM Modi said, indicating that the nation’s growth has come from the drastic socio-economic transformation in the lives of women, farmers, fisherfolks, street vendors, small entrepreneurs, SC, ST and OBC communities, who are being directly empowered through technology-driven schemes and facilities such as JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile).

“Whether it is historic MSP hikes, the massive rise in procurement or making fertilizers available to them inexpensively despite globally high prices, direct income support through PM-KISAN, safety net of Fasal Bima, a renewed focus on millets, expanded access to local and global markets, several steps have been taken to empower them. Our Annadatas are also becoming Urjadatas due to the PM KUSUM scheme. Empowered by our Beej Se Bazar Tak approach, our farmers have done wonders for the country,” the PM stated, adding that farmers are the backbone of the nation’s progress.

The nation’s growth has been fueled by the government’s focus on ‘Vikas’ and ‘Virasat’, and India has been setting new benchmarks in growth of both ecology and economy.

Further, highlighting the significance of the youth, PM Modi went on to write: “The nation’s growth has been fueled by the achievements of our youth who have not only dared to dream big but also worked to realize dreams in various domains such as space, sports and start-ups. In the last ten years, whether it is education, employment or entrepreneurship, crores of new opportunities have been created for our youth.”

“At such a time, when our nation is ready to take off into a new phase of exponential growth, the Amrit Kaal, we seek your blessings for the roadmap that we are unveiling for the next five years. In the next five years, we will take our nation into the top three economies of the world, launch a final and decisive assault against poverty, open up newer avenues of growth in various sectors, further intensify our battle against corruption, unveil the next generation of reforms, and take several pro-people decisions and actions.”

“Our Sankalp Patra is more than just a collection of promises. This Sankalp Patra outlines the collective aspirations and goals of our nation, by our nation and for our nation,” the PM emphasized.

PM Modi concluded his letter by stating: “In 2014, we received your support to bring in a monumental transformation. In 2019, we received an even bigger mandate and ensured continued development and took big decisions. In the next five years, with your blessings, Modi guarantees that we will work 24 by 7 for 2047. Your aspiration is our mission. Your dreams are our responsibility. Let us create a nation that future generations will be proud of!”

 

Ritu Jha-

The San Francisco-based Bihar Foundation USA organized an event celebrating the annual Bihar Diwas in Milpitas, California on April 7. Many Bay Area community organizations attended the event, built around the theme “Bonding, Branding and Business.”

(R to L) Rajiv Sinha. president with Deepak Sharma, secretary, Bihar Foundation of USA, California.

The Bihar Foundation USA organizes free cataract surgeries in remote villages and helps budding entrepreneurs in the northern Indian state.

The foundation implements projects that promote health, art and culture from Bihar, and organizes outreach programs for the diaspora from the state, according to Rajiv Sinha.

Sinha, the foundation’s president and a member of the founding team, said since its inception in 2008, each year they observe the formation of the state of Bihar in 1912.

The foundation launched the “Adopt a Village” project in 2018-19 and put together its “Vision Bihar” program to eradicate blindness in the state. He said that many people at the event showed interest in working to improve 22 villages the team had lined up for assistance. Addressing the event’s theme, he said the team was indeed focused on bonding, branding and business.

“Last year we hosted two delegates from Bihar and organized “Bihar Business Connect -2023” in partnership with TiE Silicon Valley last July, Prior to that, we hosted Sanjay Kumar Jha, Bihar’s water resources minister, and his team.”

Sinha told indica that Tiger Analytics, based in Santa Clara, California, is planning to invest in Bihar. Right now they are limited to a Bangalore office in India.

As far as health goes, he said, the Bihar Foundation has provided more than 500 free surgeries and provided 1,000 free corrective glasses in six villages.

Shyam Chaudhary, executive council member of the foundation, described how people could help villages in Bihar. He came from Bhojpur in the state but now lives in San Jose.

Shyam Chaudhary, executive council member of the Bihar Foundation.

“Adopt A Village project is where anybody here can adopt a village in the Indian state by donating $1,000,” he said. “That will take care of cataract surgeries of at least 40 to 60 people. For surgeries, we have tied up with a very good 200-bed hospital in Kankarbagh, Patna: the Sri Sai Lions Netralaya.”

Chaudhary said that prescreened villagers who are deemed to need help are taken to the state capital Patna for surgery and a day to recuperate.

“It takes $22 to $25 to give patients their sight back,” he told indica.

The foundation’s Bihar intervention began about seven years ago when it joined forces with the Sri Sai Lions Netralaya in Patna.

Attendees at the Bihar Foundation USA event held April 7, in Milpitas, Calif.

“Donating [money] is one thing, but it is important for donors to know where the donation is going and how it is affecting people,” Chaudhary said, adding that the tie-up with the hospital ensured a stable and transparent process, particularly because it had the means to cover villages in a 200-mile radius around Patna.

Chaudhary, who joined the foundation in 2011, said it relied on help not just from within the US, but also from the Bihar government. Unfortunately, a change in government affected the dynamics of the relationship.

“The consistency is lost,” he explained, adding that the effort now was to make the organization autonomous and not reliant on personal connections alone, so that the work continues even during changes in the administration.

“I think there is a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “There is a lot that the new generation can do. I think new blood should take over and continue the journey that we have embarked on.”

One of the chief guests for the event was Rakesh Adlakha, deputy consul general and commercial representative at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Rakesh Adlakha, deputy consul general and commercial representative at the Indian consulate in San Francisco taking a look at the paintings.

“It is wonderful to see how the Bihari diaspora has promoted and preserved its culture so that it can be passed on to the new generations,” he said. He also judged a children’s painting competition held on the occasion.

Raj Salwan, the city of Fremont councilmember, has attended his share of events organized by the active Bihari community in the Bay Area.

“I have attended the Chhath Puja [a prominent Bihar festival] for the last three years,” he said, admitting that he did not know such a ritual existed, and adding, “Once I started going, I saw how dedicated they are.” He said that despite heavy rain, he had to help get permission to expand the festivities at Quarry Lakes in Fremont, Calif. so that more people could attend.

The Bihari community is very vibrant, and strong in the city of Fremont and the Bay Area, and they do a lot of good work,” Salwan said. “The community has great ancient ties to Buddhism, philosophers like Chanakya, and great religious leaders.

“I feel touched that we’re able to celebrate this rich culture here in America, our new homeland,” he said.

Salwan wants more cultural spaces for events like Bihar Diwas in Fremont.

Swati Sinha

“A lot of times the bureaucrats and the administrative officials don’t understand our rituals or festivals,” he said. “It’s important to explain to them what’s going on.”

Swati Sinha is one of those trying to help socially conscious startups. An executive fellow and mentor at Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship, a part of Santa Clara University, she is one of the organizers of the event.

“We help social entrepreneurs who work in sectors related to climate change, poverty, and women-run businesses,” she told indica. “We educate them and take them to the next level.” She said her team helps draw venture capital attention to businesses that have been there for three years or have $50,000 in revenue.

“We are expanding across India but because I have been part of the Bihar Foundation we will start with Bihar,” she told indica. “The Miller Centre offers a six-month course, which is like a mini-MBA and is free of cost because donors pay for it. Once the social entrepreneurs are ready, we will fly them over here to pitch their ideas before VCs. The Miller Center will sponsor their visit. We want all Indians to take advantage of this.”

Swasti Pandey and her group.

Besides the painting competition, the program included Bhojpuri and Maithili songs by Swasti Pandey and her group.

One singer, Ruchi Priyadarshini, said one song she sang, “Jai ho bhutal gaurav Bharat jan jan jriva haar, hamara pyara raja Bihar” was about the rich culture and heritage of her state of birth.

Jain spiritual leader H.H. Acharya Lokesh Muni also spoke about Bihar’s glory and fact that Jainism was born there.

He said Bihar Diwas would not be complete without recognition of the first President of India Rajendra Prasad and leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan.

 

IANS-

The US has announced “ironclad” support for Israel as Iran launched scores of drones and cruise missiles against Israel in retaliation for the bombing of one of its diplomatic facilities in Damascus earlier this month.

US President Joe Biden cut short his weekend retreat at his beachfront home in Delaware to head back to the White House as Iranian drones were on their way. He had an hour-long meeting with his national security team that included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel. President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House,” said National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson on Saturday.

“His team is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies. This attack is likely to unfold over several hours. President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The US will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

The Iranian attack said to be coming in waves of drones, is in retaliation for the Israeli bombing of a building in Damascus that housed senior officials of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

An Indian-origin sophomore at San Jose State University was charged with arson and arrested on April 12. The youth has been alleged of setting two fires in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library when students were present on campus. The Cal Fire, the San Jose State University Police Department, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) Arson and Bomb Unit responded to the fires on March 31 and April 8.

The incidents of arson are being probed by the SJSU Police and Cal Fire department. The investigators have ascertained that the fires reported on the SJSU campus on March 31 and April 8 were incidents of arson. The officers also shared surveillance images of the potential suspect earlier this week. On April 12 the investigators arrested the student.

“All personnel involved worked tirelessly to canvass the area, review security camera footage, cultivate leads, and ultimately identify the suspect,” Cal Fire said in a press note. “The suspect was identified as SJSU sophomore student Amogh Upadhya.”

On his LinkedIn profile, Upadhya says that he researches computer vision using AI technologies such as Darknet YOLO and employs ROS interfaces to incorporate machine learning algorithms into the robotic control loop.

“As a Robotics Researcher at San Jose State University, I develop innovative solutions using robotics, machine learning, and cloud computing. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology/ Computer Network Systems, and I have earned multiple certifications and honors in these domains, such as DevOps on AWS Specialization and CCNA: Introduction to Networks. I am a motivated, results-oriented, collaborative team player, who values customer service, innovation, and quality. I am eager to apply my skills, technologies, and tools to real-world problems and projects, and to learn from new challenges and opportunities. I am seeking software internships that will help me grow as a software engineer and contribute to the success of the organization,” his profile reads.

However, the motive behind his alleged SJSU student’s arsonist tendencies is not clear. After being arrested, Upadhyay was charged with four counts of arson, and booked into Santa Clara County Jail. He faced a court hearing on April 12 and, is being held on $400,000 bail.

 

IANS-

Elon Musk is coming to India for the first time to spend at least 48 hours in the country later this month. As all eyes are on what the billionaire would announce during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and industry leaders, Tesla lovers have only one question: When will they finally be able to drive a ‘Make in India’, affordable EV?

A cheaper Model 3, which is the entry-level Tesla, can only be possible with local manufacturing of battery components and a strong EV supply system, for which Musk will surely have a substantial announcement to make during his maiden visit to the country.

Currently, Tesla prices are almost the same worldwide. The base variant of the Model 3 is priced at over $40,000 (nearly Rs 33.5 lakh).

According to senior analyst Soumen Mandal from market intelligence firm Counterpoint Research, the import duty will be eliminated by setting up local production by Tesla, thus paving the way for an affordable Tesla car.

Also, the cost reduction could be achieved if Tesla cars manufactured in the country come with fewer features compared to the ones available globally.

Mandal told IANS that certain hardware required for Full Self-Driving (FSD) mode could be eliminated and “Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) Level 2 could be included”.

Tesla can eventually produce 5 lakh electric vehicles annually that start from Rs 20 lakh in India.

To produce a Rs 20 lakh car, Tesla can also have a battery pack with a lower capacity than 50kW and the electric motors could be of lower power. The in-vehicle electronics could also be reduced with a smaller center display.

In the new EV policy, the Indian government has cut the customs duty to 15 percent (with certain riders) from the earlier 100 percent on imported cars.

A minimum investment of Rs 4,150 crore (about $500 million) will be required to set up the manufacturing facilities for EVs in the country.

According to industry experts, Tesla can generate at least $3.6 billion in revenue in India by 2030.

 

IANS-

While calling him the coolest PM in the world, leading Indian creators on Saturday gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a new name in the world of live stream gaming – ‘NaMo OP’, where OP stands for “overpowered”.

In a free-wheeling conversation with the Prime Minister at his residence in New Delhi, gamers decided to give PM Modi a new gamer tag.

A smiling Prime Minister said that India has already given him a name: ‘NaMo’.

The gamers replied: “We all have gamer tags. Since you are a Gen Z like us, we would now call you ‘NaMo OP’ (overpowered), as you are the most powerful person in the country, in our livestream chats.”

PM Modi also learned several gaming phrases like GTG (Got to Go) and AFK (away from keyboard), among others, which are used during live-streaming by the creators.

Later, PM Modi also played some indigenous games with the creators.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with the gaming community became a talking point in the nation, due to e-gaming’s vast engagement with the youth.

PM Modi’s outreach to the gaming community reinforced his resolve to maximize youth connection in the nation’s growth.

 

IANS-

Ladakh Apex Body (LAB), the key organization of protesters in the Union Territory (UT), has again announced that its leaders will conduct a march to the China border to draw attention to their demands.

Last week, LAB had called off the border march due to imposed restrictions by the authorities, aiming to avoid direct confrontation with the administration.

Speaking to the media, Sonam Wangchuk, a climate activist and LAB leader, announced that a small group of leaders would embark on a march to Changthang, traversing villages to raise awareness about problems faced by the people of the region.

Wangchuk highlighted concerns over the allocation of 40,000 acres of land to industrialists for solar power projects, further shrinking the already limited pasturing area in Ladakh.

He cited Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance that “not a single inch of land was taken by China” as a reason for expecting the administration’s cooperation for the march.

Wangchuk said that the march aims to convey a message to the people in Ladakh and outside Ladakhi people are losing their homeland in the absence of any protection under Schedule Six of the Constitution.

He added that LAB decided to continue the ongoing struggle through chain hunger strikes and protests without affecting the farming activities and tourism which has started picking up with the onset of spring.

While the exact date of the protest march remains undisclosed, Wangchuk assured it would happen soon.

LAB, supported by the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), has been carrying protests for the past four years.

 

Partha Chakraborty-

Partha Chakraborty

There are few things guaranteed in life – death and taxes, for example. Add to the list the third consecutive five-year term for Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India, or so it seems. At the end of his third term, he will be barely shy of being the longest-serving Prime Minister of the most populous country in the world.

India is a raucous, but functioning, democracy, elections are fair and efficiently administered, and grassroots participation is the envy of the developed world. Modi is not taking his return as guaranteed; his discipline, hard work and perseverance show as he cris-crosses the land shoring up support. National Opposition is essentially non-existent, much of the injury is self-inflicted. Regional parties are busy cutting up pies at their sweet spots, but unlikely to put up a worthwhile fight nation-wide.

India moved through COVID admirably, given its size and diversity. Generational leap in connectivity is near-total and far ahead of its peers. Aadhar scheme and the “India-Stack” is clearing out much of endemic corruption. Central Government prioritized supplying piped clean drinking water and clean toilets to every home, and digital inclusion at every level. Frequent visitors are shocked at the breakneck speed the nation is addressing its infrastructure bottlenecks, business approvals that used to take years now take two weeks. Center champions market-based solutions to everyday problems, when plausible, yet cognizant enough to extend a much-needed public distribution scheme by five years. My personal interests are almost exclusively in serving everyday Indian needs at the bottom of the pyramid, and I never saw a more optimistic view, cutting across demographics and geography, even when they are waylaid by economic cycles.

At 7.6% projected growth, India is the fastest-growing large economy. With half the population under 25, India’s capacity to produce, consume and pivot will remain unchallenged for decades. Internationally, India has clearly leaned in favor of the US-led Free World but maintains close ties outside.

You will hear none of that if you listen to pundits and academics. Hearing them, you will be forgiven to think India is an ISIS Khilafat in the making, only at the opposite end, that ruling interests are perversely majoritarian, that lawlessness is the only law of the land, and that the country is perpetually teetering on the edge of an economic collapse. Compare that with the story you could get a decade ago. India changed from being a darling of a struggling little duckling that could to a pariah, a hulking beast of the devil.

It begs to question what changed. What changed is simple. Aspirational India woke up and conveyed that she did not need the affirmation from what I call the “Arts Quad Faculty Lounge Mafia.”

Our fascination with Oxbridge dons reflects our colonial past. Even when we fought against the British, our thoughts were governed by their language and their curriculum. Post-independence, we extended our intellectual servitude to the Cambridge on the other side of the pond, and peer institutions. Still young as a country, we fit perfectly in their worldview. The elite in India, after schooling in elite English medium schools steeped in British traditions, routinely transitioned into these colleges, or wannabes inside India. Somehow, they fashioned themselves as the voice of the oppressed. We, the hoi-polloi, were trained to be in awe of these superhuman creatures and lap up their every word as scripture.

Today’s India is proud and different. English education is still prized, more to prepare an aspiring youngster to serve the whims of a Joe or Jane thousands of miles away, among other thing – a tool to move ahead, not to humiliate others. We learned to be particularly dismissive of a ‘foreign’ stamp in subjects not related to STEM, law or business. Inside India we have learned to identify and loathe their peers in academia, in ‘think-tanks,’ and inside NGOs. These are essentially the same folks who are physically in India but fueled by the same concoction of liquor, affected accents, and parroted talking points. Today’s India pooh-poohs these affectations, and sidelines these naysayers, especially.

Not only has India moved away, it pains the pseudo-intellectual class even more that the administration has made it a point to take them to task for failure to act within the boundaries of the law. No wonder they are crying foul at every opportunity. Supporters, especially abroad, continue to extend a platform, thereby completing the loop of positive reinforcement for entities and interests that never who are too sanctimonious to be held accountable.

Using a term that originated inside these Arts Quad Faculty Lounges, I will declare that Modi has decolonized the Indian mind.

What came out is the raw, the unadulterated but the aspirational. What came out bears some of the old wounds and it is okay if you do not find it pretty, it certainly is not manicured for others’ pleasure. But that is who we are, warts and all.  There is no reason not to be proud of that.

 

 

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

India Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra concluded his two-day visit to Washington D.C. on Friday, April 13, and met several White House executives.

During his visit, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks hosted Kwatra at the Pentagon to discuss priorities for strengthening the US-India defense partnership, including the implementation of the Roadmap for US-India Defense Industrial Cooperation.

According to the US Department of Defense press release, both countries applauded efforts to advance the co-production of fighter jet engines and armored vehicles, as well as the continued success of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) in promoting innovation and partnerships between US and Indian researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

Kwatra also held discussions with his counterparts at the US State Department and the National Security Council.

According to the Indian embassy press release, Kwatra’s meetings were in “keeping with the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and provided an opportunity to further advance our growing and future-oriented partnership.”

Among the officials he met were Richard Verma, the US Deputy Secretary of State, which is the highest position held by an Indian-American at the State Department; and Kurt Campbell, recently appointed the US Deputy Secretary of State, who is also the Biden administration’s czar on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad — a group of Indo-Pacific countries, India, the US, Japan and Australia.

Verma after meeting Kwatra posted on X [former Twitter]: “Productive catch up with Indian Foreign Secretary Kwatra on advancing ongoing #USIndia cooperation and the need for our countries’ close partnership for regional security and prosperity. #USIndiaFWD.”

Secretary Campbell posted on X [former Twitter]: “Delighted to welcome my great friend Indian Foreign Secretary Kwatra back to Washington for discussions on #USIndia cooperation and the Quad. Our partnership in the Indo-Pacific is closer than ever.”

Though not related to the visit, according to reports Kwatra is also one of the two frontrunners in the race for the ambassadorship to the US, which has been vacant after Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu departed Jan 31.

The other contender is Vikram Misri, India’s Deputy National Security Adviser.

[Photo courtesy: X (Twitter)]

 

By Justice Markandey Katju-

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

These days a celebrated self-acclaimed yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, the founder of Patanjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar, who has built up a financial empire with an annual turnover of Rs 45,000 crore[$6 Billion] selling fake medicines (claiming to cure cancer, corona, barrenness among women, etc without clinical trials as required by law ) is in the Indian news, after the Supreme Court’s strong critical remarks.

Baba Ramdev asserted that allopathy is useless against most ailments, though the whole world recognizes it as a true science, and he and his close associate Balkrishna themselves took allopathic treatment.

An FIR was filed against Ramdev by the Indian Medical Association, for insulting allopathy and spreading false facts, and now he is in deep trouble.

However, I submit that the exposure by the Supreme Court of the chicanery and swindle of Baba Ramdev is only the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous other ‘godmen’ in India, knaves, who have mass followings, ardently devoted to them. Hence, I call the vast majority of Indian society as a ‘baba bound society‘.

Most Indian folk love to attend the ‘pravachans’ ( religious discourses ) of these babas, many of whom are charlatans who have made huge amounts of money and live lives of luxury and splendor ( Baba Ramdev reportedly traveled in chartered planes, and had built up his huge business of selling his Patanjali Ayurved products ). The Indian masses have great faith in these ‘godmen”, holding them in reverence ( though most of them are rascals ). One may give a few examples.

Asaram Bapu was convicted of raping a minor girl.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted for the rape and murder of a journalist who exposed him.

There were allegations of committing murder and sexual harassment against Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi

Rampal was found guilty of murdering 5 women and an 18-year-old infant.

Nithyanand was charged with rape and abduction and has fled abroad.

Bageshwar baba has a mass following, and claims he can cure diseases and chase away ‘bhoots‘ (ghosts ).

Even the leading film star of India Amitabh Bachchan and his family went for his ‘darshan’.

There were allegations of kidnapping and rape against Kripaluji Maharaj, though these were later dropped.

When I was serving on the Supreme Court, imposed a death sentence on a ‘godman’ Swami Shraddhanand for murdering the ex-wife of an Indian ambassador, but my brother judge on the bench Justice Sinha differed from me and awarded only life sentence, and the 3 member bench to which the matter was referred imposed life sentence without remission.

The list goes on and on.

https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/seven-godmen-who-fell-foul-of-the-law/babas-behind-bars/slideshow/63912689.cms

There are pilot baba, baalti baba, mirchi baba, computer baba, and so on.

How does one explain the fascination of babas among Indians, and their mass following and popularity, despite many being charged with gross misdeeds?

The answer is that India is still a semi-feudal country, with religion having a powerful hold on the minds of men and women. Consequently, they fall prey to the designs of these ‘godmen’ who are unscrupulous intelligent organizers and manipulators. Many people having personal problems go to these babas, who they think will give some relief from their woes. Once addicted to them, they often become their blind and loyal adherents, apostles, and apologists, brushing aside any complaints against them as false and mischievous propaganda.

Coupled with the above is the fact that the pro-Hindu BJP government which has been in power since 2014 often supports these babas, and often turns a Nelson’s eye to their misdeeds. Many Union government ministers had close contact with Ramdev, and never questioned his false claims. Most of the babas have close proximity and nexus with the BJP, big businessmen, leading film stars, etc.

I submit that despite the strong observations of the Supreme Court the situation will not change until there is a radical transformation in the politics and society of India, and a complete metamorphosis of our people’s mindsets, but that is a long way off. Till then we will remain a baba-bound society.

 

 

IANS-

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Friday revealed that its headcount dropped by 13,249 employees (year-on-year) during the financial year 2023-24 (FY24).

This is the first time in 19 years that the leading IT software company witnessed a drop in headcount.

The company ended FY24 with 601,546 employees, according to TCS’s stock exchange filing.

TCS saw a decrease of 1,759 employees in the fourth quarter (Q4) of FY 2024 (January to March).

This marks the third consecutive quarter in which the company’s headcount has declined.

In the previous quarter, the number of employees dropped by 5,680 employees (quarter-on-quarter), and in Q2, the company witnessed a net reduction of 6,333 employees.

TCS reported a 9 percent increase in net profit at Rs 12,434 crore for the January-March quarter of FY24, up from Rs 11,392 crore in the same period of the previous year.

“The reduced attrition at 12.5 percent, enthusiastic response to our campus hiring, increased customer visits and employees returning to the office have resulted in great vibrancy in our delivery centers and elevated morale of our associates,” Milind Lakkad, chief HR officer, said in a statement.

The revenue of the company increased 3.5 percent to Rs 61,237 crore during the quarter.

 

By Dr. Muckai Girish-

Girish Muckai, founder and CEO, Rockfish Data

(MuckAI Girish is the co-founder & CEO of the Generative AI company, Rockfish Data, which is developing a state-of-the-art Synthetic Data Workbench Software for Data Scientists. The views in this column are his own)

As we all wade through the incredible era of life dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI), we can’t help but notice that not everything is perfect. In particular, it is not difficult to notice that bias is inherent in the datasets that we rely on so much for making AI transform everything, but often result in upending our lives. AI models in general and Generative AI (GenAI) models in particular are trained with available datasets. If this data turns out to be biased, then every aspect of the model and its prediction or classification or recommendation could be biased and could also have a massive bullwhip effect. Data remains a fundamental bottleneck in our ability to let businesses and consumers realize the full potential of the expected and associated benefits.

We can get a ride in just a few minutes with a click on the phone; we can get anything delivered soon after we think about it. However, data is something we find lacking, almost always. This is especially true for enterprises. Though businesses collect a dizzying amount of data, it is increasingly becoming harder for the team that needs certain data for applications such as training AI/ML models, testing software, sharing data with collaborators and creating digital twins. This is primarily driven by data sparsity and sharing constraints. Unfortunately, data scientists are trying to live with the data they can get their hands on, which is often heavily biased.

Bias in data can be due to many factors including response/activity, selection, system drift, societal and omitted variable (please see https://towardsdatascience.com/survey-d4f168791e57).

Bias can be intended or unintended. The key is to find ways to recognize and tackle unintended bias. Intended bias, if driven by malicious intent, may require regulations and compliance frameworks and is beyond the scope of this article. Bias can also be in the model or in the data. Bias in models can be mitigated by tweaking the model itself. A more interesting and difficult problem is bias in the data and that is what we look at in this article.

The first step in dealing with bias is to recognize it. One should look at the input data to see if it covers various scenarios in a reasonable level – in other words, data visualization. As any above-average statistician would say, “always plot your data first”. One should follow this up with statistical analysis. For example, we can study the output of the AI model and comparing it against expected or normal outcome. Another way is to input a curated subset of data into the model and seeing the outcome and comparing it to what should have been expected. Realizing there is bias and which parts of the data exhibit bias is key to doing something about it.

The second step is to measure bias. The best way to measure bias is to see its effect on the model. The model outcome wrt a dataset population would be a key indicator of the impact of the data bias.

Finally, we have to find a way to mitigate bias. Bias in datasets can be mitigated by using the right data, rather than all the data. Synthetic data is a powerful way to make this happen. Synthetic data tools allow a data scientist to produce an unbiased dataset. Synthetic data tools can create data based on conditions or scenarios and that can be tailored to exactly or almost exactly mitigate the bias in the data, whether the bias is in one or more fields or features. Moreover, it allows the creation of more or less data points of a certain characteristic that would alleviate the inherent bias in the original dataset.

In addition to visualization and statistical analysis of the synthetic and augmented datasets, one can see the positive impact on the model by measuring and comparing the outcomes.

According to Allied Market Research, the global synthetic data market is expected to grow to $3.5B by 2031 at an impressive 35% CAGR. Thanks to massive advances in generative AI technologies, we can now generate synthetic data tailored to any needs. By being able to mitigate bias, we can ensure that GenAI technologies have a positive and lasting impact on our society.

 

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

With our huge pool of technical talent and immense natural resources India (in which I include Pakistan and Bangladesh, for we are really one country, only artificially and temporarily divided) should be today a mighty industrial giant, like the US or China, with our people enjoying a standard of living equal, if not higher than most of the developed nations in the world.

But the reality is that, despite all tall claims of being the fastest growing economy and the ‘Vishwa guru‘, we have massive poverty, massive unemployment, appalling level of child malnutrition (every second child in India is malnourished according to Global Hunger Index), skyrocketing inflation, an almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, etc.

A great nation with a known history of 5000 years, which had built mighty civilizations at a time when most Europeans (except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests, which had made outstanding contributions in science (e.g. the decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc), literature, philosophy, etc, which at one time had 25-30% of the world’s wealth and trade, is today lying in the grip of massive poverty, unemployment, malnutrition. lack of proper healthcare and good education, religious and caste conflicts, etc.

How could such a catastrophe happen, and what is the way out?

To my mind the reasons are:

(1) We are disunited, and

(2) Our masses have feudal mindsets, mostly being casteist and communal

To make our country great again, we must unite, and our masses must develop scientific and rational mindsets.

When hundreds of millions of Indians rise unitedly like a typhoon or tornado, it will be a force so powerful and so swift that no power on earth can resist it.

By unite, I do not mean giving up one’s own religion, language, or customs. We prospered under the Mughals, and before that under Emperor Ashoka, although our people had different religions, languages, etc.

Under Mughal rule India had 25% of the world’s GDP and 25% of the world’s trade, and Indians were perhaps the most prosperous people in the world.

The nefarious British policy of divide and rule culminated in the greatest tragedy in our long history: the Partition of India in 1947 on the basis of the bogus two-nation theory. Even thereafter, we are disunited, fighting each other on the basis of religion, caste or race. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic state, thereby making its minorities second class citizens.

India had declared itself a secular country under its Constitution, but it has today become a de facto Hindu state, with many atrocities on its Muslim and Christian minorities taking place. We waste our precious resources and energy in hostility with each other.

When Napoleon conquered and subjugated the German states, and Germans were lying distraught, dejected and downcast, the German philosopher Fichte (1762-1814) wondered about the cause of such a terrible calamity. He found the answer in the lack of unity and patriotism among the German people. In his famous ‘Addresses to the German Nation’ delivered in Berlin in 1807-8, Fichte explained to the German people what they were, and that German unity and patriotism was absolutely necessary for them to get out of their distress and predicament.

Similarly, unity and patriotism is absolutely necessary if India is to rise again, and this does not mean Hindu patriotism (which is propagated by some bigoted people today) but Indian patriotism, which means a burning desire among our people to abolish the curse of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare and good education, casteism and communalism, and to develop the scientific temper.

We must have patriotic, selfless, secular, modern minded leaders who are determined to rapidly modernize and industrialise the country, and raise the standard of living of our people, and give them decent lives. Also, to progress rapidly it is absolutely necessary that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (which are really one nation, sharing the same culture) must reunite under a secular, modern minded leadership.

We must see through the game of the developed nations who do not want us to be united and developed, as that will affect their economic interests. How will this be achieved, and when, one cannot say. But I am confident it will happen one day, though it will require a long, arduous struggle and tremendous sacrifices. A mighty historical endeavor and travail is ahead of us.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

The Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) has appealed to government agencies, various universities across the country, as well as nationwide student organizations to come together and address the spike in the death of Indian-origin students in the United States. FIIDS said that over a span of four to five months, a spike in deaths of Indian students in the United States has raised significant concerns among the Indian American community as well as Indian population.

Boston-based Dr. Lakshmi Thalanki, who collected data on the deaths of more than 10 students, noted, “The sudden surge of deaths among Indian students is alarming and suspicious.”

Khanderao Kand, chief of policies and strategy at FIIDS, said, “Indian origin students, according to Open Doors Report (ODR) are approximately 275,000, comprising 25% of total foreign students. They bring $9 billion per year in terms of fees and expenses. However, the recent increase in their deaths is concerning and, if not addressed, would impact their confidence in the safety in of US universities, potentially impacting the inflow of students further.”

FIIDS said it analyzed the causes of these incidents and found that they range from suspicious shootings, kidnapping, environmental deaths due to lack of safety knowledge (monoxide poisoning, hypothermia), mental health issues triggering suicides, and even suspicious accidents to violent crimes.

A statement said, “FIIDS would like to submit various recommendations to the Department of State, Department of Justice, Education Department, Universities, student organizations as well as Indo-American community. Furthermore, due to the sudden rise in deaths that are suspicious in nature, rumors are circulating around Indian American community about potential hate crimes especially as many deaths are clustered around east and mid-west Universities, e.g. Cleveland Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Some of them fear that the hate crimes are fueled by negative propaganda against the community. Even though FIIDS did not find any conclusive facts to support the rumors, they may need to be investigated to timely address their concerns.”

The organization put out a set of recommendations recently to “address various safety and well-being concerns faced by the international students.”

Enhancing Safety Education: Many foreign students might not be fully aware of the potential risks they may encounter in a new environment, such as extreme weather conditions or the prevalent crime rates in certain areas. Providing comprehensive safety education programs tailored to their needs can empower them to navigate their surroundings safely and make informed decisions about their well-being.

Improving Search and Rescue Procedures: Prompt response and effective search and rescue procedures are vital for ensuring the safety and well-being of students during emergencies or accidents. Enhancing these procedures can minimize response times and maximize the chances of positive outcomes in emergency situations, thereby safeguarding the lives of students.

Implementing Stricter Rules Against Fraternity Ragging: Hazing and fraternity ragging pose serious risks to students’ physical and mental health, leading to accidents, injuries, and trauma. Implementing stricter rules and regulations against such practices can help prevent these incidents and create a safer, more inclusive campus environment for all students.

Increasing Awareness of Risks and Safety: Many foreign students may be unfamiliar with the risks associated with living and studying in a new country, both on and off-campus. Increasing awareness of these risks and safety measures can empower students to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their peers from potential dangers, enhancing overall safety and well-being.

Providing Mental Health Support: Foreign students, particularly those facing isolation or cultural adjustment challenges, may be at higher risk of mental health issues. Providing accessible and culturally sensitive mental health support services can help address these challenges, ensuring students receive the support needed to thrive academically and personally.

It added: “FIIDS is also launching a survey of Indian American students regarding their concerns and safety.” It exhorted students of Indian origin currently studying in any university in the US to fill out a survey “to understand the current situation and safety requirements of the international students, particularly those of Indian origin.” The survey can be accessed here.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex plunged almost 800 points on Friday amid heavy selling in frontline stocks. While the Sensex closed 793 points, or 1.06 per cent, down at 74,244.90, the Nifty ended Friday with a significant loss of 234 points, or 1.03 per cent, at 22,519.40.

Almost all sectoral indices ended in the red and the market breadth in the negative territory with 60 per cent of the stocks declining.

Among the Sensex losers, Sun Pharma was down 4 per cent, while Maruti was down by more than 3 per cent.

Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services, said the Indian markets consolidated amid worries over delayed US rate cuts, escalating Middle East tensions driving oil prices up, and subdued Q4 earnings projections.

Investors are questioning the feasibility of the US Fed’s anticipated three rate cuts this year, leading to underperformance in the emerging markets.

Meanwhile, the European markets excelled as the ECB maintained policy rates but hinted at a potential rate cut soon, Nair said.

Rupak De, Senior Technical Analyst at LKP Securities, said the Nifty slipped lower as it experienced a consolidation breakdown in the lower timeframe. The sentiment appears somewhat negative for the short term. However, there is observed support at 22,500 on a closing basis.

“As long as it maintains above 22,500 on a closing basis, we do not anticipate a significant correction in the market. Sustained trading above 22,500 could potentially push the index towards 22,650-22,700 once more. Conversely, a drop below 22,500 might initiate a correction of 200-250 points on the downside,” he said.

The six astronauts chosen to fly to the Karman Line, the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Aviator and entrepreneur Gopi Thotakura, selected to be part of the crew for Blue Origin’s New Shephard-25 (NS-25) mission, will become the first Indian-origin first space tourist, a company announcement said.

He is among the six persons chosen to make a journey to beyond the Earth’s atmosphere beyond the Kármán Line, the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. The line is 62 miles above sea level and is named after Hungarian-American engineer and physicist Theodore von Kármán.

Thotakura was born in Vijayawada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

According to Blue Origin, an aerospace company owned by Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos, Thotakura is “a pilot and aviator who learned how to fly before he could drive. He’s co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global center for holistic wellness and applied health located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. In addition to flying jets commercially, Gopi pilots bush, aerobatic, and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons, and has served as an international medical jet pilot. A lifelong traveler, his most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Gopi is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.”

The flight date is not yet announced.

Blue Origin said that each astronaut will carry a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation called Club for the Future. “This program gives students access to space on Blue Origin’s rockets, including an all-digital method to create and send postcards, which can be found here. The Club’s mission is to inspire and mobilize future generations to pursue careers in STEAM for the benefit of Earth.”

It added, “From an environmental standpoint, nearly 99% of New Shepard’s dry mass is reused, including the booster, capsule, engine, landing gear, and parachutes. New Shepard’s engine is fueled by highly efficient liquid oxygen and hydrogen. During flight, the only byproduct is water vapor with no carbon emissions.”

Others in the crew include Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate but was never granted the opportunity to fly to space.

Yajurvindra Singh

By Yajurvindra Singh (via IANS)–

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India Test cricketer from the 1970s, who co-holds two fielding world records. The views expressed here are his own)

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has all the cricket-loving followers glued to it every evening. This cricket entertainment has captured the hearts of the public. The close-finish matches have the ingredients that make it even more interesting. The T20 cricket extravaganza is not scripted and therefore it brings in the excitement of unravelling a mystery.

Each of the 10 franchise-based teams have a professional look to them, not only on the field but off it as well. The sides are so equally matched that to predict a winner at this stage of the IPL tournament is a very difficult ask.

Teams are still experimenting through permutations and combinations as to what would be the most effective side for them to field. One has to understand that the IPL has players from all over the world and from every corner of India as well. To get them to play as a unit and gel together, taking into account their different cultures, habits, languages and food preferences, is a huge task.

It gets even more difficult for players to deal with the professional support staff, most of whom are themselves in the process of understanding their scope of work and delivery. The cultural aspect of marrying it all together and getting players to showcase their skills and perform to finish as winners makes the IPL such an interesting tournament.

The two teams that have shown far more consistency than the rest are Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI). Both of them seem to have a structure that brings out the element of success even when they seem down and out. The aura that seems to emanate from them, one feels, is their powerful owners and the positive force and interest that they put behind their squad. Furthermore, Mumbai and Chennai have been very important centers of Indian cricket and therefore, they have an aura to live up to.

Unfortunately, the hard work and preparations by the franchise all go awry, when the major mega auctioning of players comes about every three years. Although, each IPL side does have the option of retaining four of their star players, dissolving the squad of 20 other players is quite unsettling for the franchise owners. In the three years, humungous effort is put in by the coach, and support staff and to rework on a new set of players is frustrating. It disrupts the system that has taken many moons to put into place. It also affects the loyalty and empathy that one would have derived from a long possible association between the players and the franchisees.

This disruption has a cascading effect on every aspect of the franchise operations. A new set of advertising and marketing material needs to be produced involving the new crop of players. Commercial sponsorship and signage are reworked upon. The process is a complete transformation of getting a new side in place on the park as well as in all the activities off it.

At the end of the year 2024, the mega auction will be held for the new 3-year cycle of the IPL. One gathers that the meeting to discuss the details is being held next week. All the franchise owners have been invited along with the core group of the BCCI Governing council involved with the IPL.

This is just the stage to take a more mature approach towards the retention of players by the franchise owners. The auction may be a glamorous television and media event to capture eyeballs, however, the system gets flawed because the buying of players makes it more like a fish market. One is, at times, amused to see franchise owners celebrate their purchase along with their astute think tank, for an unimaginable price. The celebration, one feels, is more on winning the bid rather than the player.

BCCI has to come forth with a more tangible solution by which a franchise that has put in such a lot of effort in the formation of their squad should be able to retain the majority of their players. The retention regulations should also allow the owners to have the 1st option to purchase any of their International and domestic players.

The most confusing part of the IPL at present for a layman is to remember the players and the franchise they play for. The chopping and changing that has taken place in the last 17 editions of the tournament has made it impossible for one to name the squad. Fortunately, the loyalty to a franchise team for a die-hard follower has continued and apart from a few star players, they are more concerned with following the fortune of the team rather than the individual players.

One realizes that the team and franchise-based ownership that prevails in Football, Basketball, Rugby, Baseball and other sports around the world is far more progressive than the IPL. However, the gradual move towards it is what will benefit and make it into a world-followed property.

A cricketer will then be able to truly access his market value, similar to Messi and Ronaldo in football.

The BCCI at present may be able to control and protect themselves from outside forces who are interested in exploring the growing popularity of T20 cricket. However, in the end, “Money Talks” and once the big corporate giants of the world come into play, T20 cricket could become a huge money spinner in the making.

The T20 World Cup’24 and the T20 Cricket in the 2028 Olympics will be just the precursor to it.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday raised India’s GDP growth forecast for 2024-25 to 7 per cent as it expects public and private sector investment along with a gradual improvement in consumer demand to drive up the growth rate. The ADB had in December projected India’s economic growth rate at 6.7 per cent for the 2024-25 financial year. The ADB also expects India’s inflation rate to come down going ahead.

“The Indian economy grew robustly in fiscal 2023 with strong momentum in manufacturing and services. It will continue to grow rapidly over the forecast horizon. Growth will be driven primarily by robust investment and improving consumption demand. Inflation will continue its downward trend in tandem with global trends,” the April edition of the Asian Development Outlook says.

For the 2025-26 fiscal, the ADB has forecast India’s growth at 7.2 per cent. The multilateral institution said exports are likely to be relatively muted this fiscal as growth in major advanced economies slows down but will improve in FY2025.

“Monetary policy is expected to remain supportive of growth as inflation abates, while fiscal policy aims for consolidation but retains support for capital investment. On balance, growth is forecast to slow to 7 per cent in 2024-25 but improve to 7.2 per cent in 2025-26,” it said.

To boost exports in the medium term, India needs greater integration into global value chains, the report added.

The increase in the ADB’s growth forecast is in line with the IMF and World Bank which have also raised their estimates for India’s growth with the economy clocking a robust 8.4 per cent growth rate in the October-December quarter. The country’s exports have also increased despite geopolitical tensions in the Red Sea region which have disrupted shipping.

India’s foreign exchange reserves have risen to a historic high of $645.58 billion for the week ended on March 29 and are sufficient to finance up to 11 months of imports.

The macroeconomic fundamentals of the economy have turned stronger with the fiscal deficit well in control following robust tax collections. The lower fiscal deficit will help control inflation as well as leave more money in the banking system for corporates to take loans for investments as the government needs to borrow less.

The big-ticket government investments in large infrastructure projects such as highways, ports and seaports have accelerated GDP growth, making India a bright spot amid the global slowdown.

Inflation has come down to around 5 per cent and is expected to fall further which is paving the way for stable economic growth ahead.

FILE PHOTO: Starlink owner Elon Musk

IANS–

Starlink, an affordable satellite-based internet service offered by Elon Musk-run aerospace company SpaceX, has transformed the way people access the web in remote and inaccessible parts of the world. Will Musk announce its arrival in India when he visits the country later this month? After several failed attempts, Starlink is geared up to launch satellite broadband services in India, which has close to 92 crore broadband subscribers, according to the latest data by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel currently lead the broadband market, followed by Vodafone Idea and BSNL. Starlink is set to soon get a license after clearing regulatory hurdles.

The government in December last year passed The Telecommunications Bill 2023 which allows spectrum allocation for satellite-based services without the need to participate in auctions.

The move favours companies such as OneWeb, Musk’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper.

According to experts, India’s digital economy is experiencing a period of significant growth momentum.

“The potential arrival of Starlink, coinciding with Musk’s visit, could serve as a further catalyst for India’s thriving digital economy,” Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, told IANS.

Increased digital access would empower citizens in ‘aspirational India’, fostering a wave of entrepreneurship, enhanced access to education and healthcare, and increased participation in the digital workforce.

All Starlink subscription plans include unlimited high-speed data on land with no long-term contracts or commitments. Starlink users can get download speeds up to 220 Mbps, with most of them receiving speeds of over 100 Mbps. The cost of Starlink services in India is not known as of now.

In the US, the basic Starlink Wi-Fi for homes in rural areas is $120 per month for unlimited internet sans contract. There are other data plans as well.

George Abraham

By George Abraham–

(George Abraham is Vice-Chairman and Former President of the Indian Overseas Congress. The views expressed in this article are his own)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims that their NDA coalition will win 400 plus seats for the upcoming parliamentary elections that will take place starting April 19. Is it even a realistic assessment, considering nationwide political dynamics? What is the purpose of making such exaggerated claims if they are not rooted in accurate data?

BJP’s history is replete with fraudulent claims and unscrupulous behavior. Why then should the public believe it now? In any case, this entire public relations campaign is aimed at enthusing the cadres.

Sam Pitroda, who pioneered India’s telecommunications revolution, retorted, “BJP can win more than 400 seats in the 2024 elections if issues associated with EVMs are not fixed.” He cited a report by The Citizens’ Commission on Elections, chaired by former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur, and said that the main recommendations of the report were to modify the current design of the VVPAT System to make it truly “voter-verified.”

BJP leaders are seemingly engaged in a psychological warfare where people are being conditioned to believe that Modi’s victory is inevitable. It has dual purposes: one is to demoralize the opposition and dispirit their grassroots, and the other is to set up the stage for any illicit operations that would benefit the party before a desensitized electorate. Their strategy is apparently working.

The public generally assumes that Modi’s third term is inevitable, and to them, it is just a numbers game as far as how big a majority his party could achieve. Is the Indian electorate so naïve as to believe a narrative created by the BJP without supporting facts?

However, the BJP is confident that a public that believes in the “Gujarat Model” can be swayed time after time and will fall prey to their deception once again.

An entirely different picture might emerge if one looks at the electoral map. Their carefully crafted plans may have little impact in South India. With Karnataka going back to the Congress fold, a repeat BJP win is unlikely. The victory in Telangana by the Congress, and the BJP’s lack of an alliance with TRS may also spell trouble for Modi’s party.

In short, BJP’s plan of building on the 2019 election results is further complicated by the setbacks in these two southern states. With 130 seats distributed among the five states and the union territory in the south, the BJP’s chances of making any substantial gains in South India will remain elusive.

Sam Pitroda

In the northern states, BJP swept almost each of them, creating its brute majority in the Lok Sabha. They have won all the seats in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Tripura. In addition, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, U.P., Odisha, and Chhattisgarh combined for 92% of all seats gained by the NDA coalition. It was an incredible win that even political pundits had a hard time explaining.

For any sane mind, that history will be hard to repeat. At present, the Modi regime is in the middle of a mushrooming corruption scandal involving Electoral bonds. If the current allegations of pay-to-play are proven, this BJP government may be one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of an Independent India.

This is the party that came to power, putting the Manmohan Singh government on the defensive as regards a number of alleged scams. Yet, they have far exceeded in excelling in corrupt ways while covering up their misdeeds from the public’s view. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the public is learning much more about the crimes and the exploitation the country has been subjected to.

For the BJP leaders, it is imperative that they stay in power not only to perpetuate their ideology and remake India in its medieval ways but also to be in the unenviable position of power where they will never be held accountable for their misdeeds and misgovernance.

It is common knowledge that the economy for the man on the main street is not working that well. Rampant inflation, increasing unemployment among the youth, and persistent poverty at the lower end of the strata have all clouded the high GDP numbers India boasts about.

The economy is working for the elites and the super-rich, who already own 40% of India’s wealth. It is crony capitalism at its best, joined at the hip by the governing establishment.

There is a limit to one who can exploit religious sentiment to win votes. The euphoria over the Ram Janmabhoomi Kshetra may be just about dissipated. Patriot games using CAA and NRC may also have found their boundaries. Therefore, despite all the bravado about winning 400 or more seats, the BJP team must be worried, and their internal polls must have indicated the same.

This is why we should be concerned about our elections being free and fair. It doesn’t matter whether the electorate is dissatisfied or opposition parties run a well-rounded campaign if the will of the people is not truly reflected in the outcome.

Some countries in the world would conduct pre-determined elections, whereas India stood as a champion of democracy, transferring power when people finally spoke through the ballot boxes. The question being raised by Sam Pitroda and others touches on this susceptible issue,

Free and fair elections are fundamental to a thriving democracy. One of the foremost indications of that effect is citizenship participation in the democratic process. It is every citizen’s right and duty to vote in the electoral process. Through that participation, they help to build a better democratic system that could effectively serve the public.

However, intimidation, corruption, and threats to citizens during or before an election are against the principles of democracy, and the same also holds true for manipulating the voter lists or the voting mechanisms. There ought to be transparency in the public square where those in power are genuinely accountable to the people, and the voters should be fully appraised of what decisions are made, by whom, and why.

Therefore, the Supreme Court’s query to the Election Commission on adding VVPAT to every EVM is sensible. Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a machine that prints a paper slip of a candidate’s name, serial number, and party’s symbol after a voter cast their vote. It displays a paper slip for seven seconds for the voters to check if their vote is cast for the chosen candidate. The paper slip then drops down to a locked compartment, and it can be used to audit voting data in the EVMs. Whether the handpicked election commissioners by Modi Sarkar would comply with the public sentiment on this issue will be critical in saving democracy for India and its future generations.

Speakers at the Education Leadership Summit organized by the White House

Ritu Jha–

Hundreds of higher education leaders, administrators, faculty members from various colleges, universities, and students attended the first-ever Education Leadership Summit focused on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPIs) and hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Held at the University of California, Berkeley on April 2; though the Vice President could not attend, Erika L. Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison at the White House read the letter from Kamala Harris that said: “The President and I are working to end disparities in educational outcomes for AA and NHPI youth and students of all ages.

“We are also committed to advancing educational equity. That is why we have invested over $6 billion in Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander serving institutions, and we have taken new steps to lower costs and make higher education more accessible. Additionally, we have forgiven nearly $144 billion in student debt for almost four million Americans.”

Harris also highlighted on the growing hate crime against the Asian community said: “We are also working to ensure that all people across our Nation can live free from violence, hate, and fear.”

Caroline Goon, director of external affairs of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, told indica on the sidelines of the conference, “It’s an honor for us to be able to convene on a national scale to talk about policy issues, and focus on professional and leadership development for these folks who work in the Higher Ed space because we want to think about the future of our workforce. These breakout sessions are designed to equip and train the next generation of leaders who can be on the stage next time we do this.”

On Indian American and international students facing a lot of challenges, including mental health issues, Goon said: “We have been going around the country doing listening tours at different campuses. We were at the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus, and at Queen’s College. We’re hoping to be able to go to a few more universities this year. We started the listening tour late last year. When we’re there, we do listening sessions with students to better understand what is happening on their campus, and what needs to be done. We bring our colleagues from other parts of the federal government with us so that we can really hear from the students, faculty, and staff. We are trying to do what we can in Higher Ed.”

Santa Ono, president of the University of Michigan, and a speaker at the conference, feels that in the higher education sector, Asian American leadership is the most underrepresented. “These gatherings where people can mentor each other and share best practices and experiences are extremely important. I’m very grateful to the Biden administration for organizing this event,” Ono told indica.

“It’s incumbent upon not only the university but also the nation and the state to do everything they can to support international students. We have many international students from India, incredibly bright and very resourceful. We have to do everything we can to make their acclimatization easy and to be supportive of them because many of them end up staying in the US,” Ono said.

Ajay Nair, president, Arcadia University

Ajay Nair, President of Arcadia University, during a panel with Ono on Effective leadership in Higher Education, shared his life story with the audience.

“My story begins when my mother came to the US from India. She was already married to my father and had given birth to my older brother. She made her way to the Middle East and then eventually to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised. She was separated from my father and older brother for several years. She didn’t have a college degree but had the technical training as a nurse. And there was a high demand for healthcare workers in the 60s. Unfortunately, when I was 10 years old, she passed away. She was the founder and breadwinner in our family and a source of inspiration for me even today. I share this story because for me, being in education, and higher education in particular, is in many ways to pay tribute and
to honor her legacy of courage and ambition, all the things that we love about our mothers. I carry that forward, and it’s part of who I am,” Nair said.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy at UC Riverside and the founder and executive director of AAPI data attended as well and talked to indica about a myth surrounding Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. “One thing we always try to combat is the model minority myth that Asian Americans and Pacific islanders are all succeeding, and they all go through the educational system in a certain way, that they don’t need any kind of special attention and support. But we know that many members of our community do need that. Immigrant students and, people who come from refugee backgrounds, especially with the pandemic, suffer from mental health issues, like any other young person. On top of that, language, and access for parents to be effective in terms of interfacing with the educational system. There are a lot of needs and challenges there. This summit recognizes the importance of special needs and challenges that Asian and other international students face and being able to support them,” Ramakrishnan told indica.

“At the college level, mental health support is needed, and support for students of different immigrant statuses. Especially at the community college level. In California, there are more Asian American students in the community college system than in the Cal State and the UC system. That’s why it’s really important for us to pay attention to the community.”

Vikash Reddy, vice president of research of a non-profit Campaign for College Opportunity expanded on the model minority myth told indica, “The model minority myth says that all Asian Americans are high-performing. But there’s a lot of variation within the community. You’ve got to think about different waves of migration that Asian Americans coming during the Vietnam War and Korean War era, come with a very different social capital than Asian Americans arriving previously. We need a system that people know about and understand and one that can support students from different backgrounds.”

Galvin Deleon Guerrero, President, Northern Marianas College, also on leadership panel told indica: “It’s really important that more attention is being drawn to the experience of AA and NHPIs in higher education, because it’s one of the fastest growing populations, but it’s one of the least funded groups. We find ourselves constantly having to assert ourselves to remind everyone that we are part of the American political family.”

Pallavi Guha, assistant professor of journalism at Towson University, an attendee at the conference, feels that “it’s very important that we start having these conversations focusing on the Higher Ed industry. Journalism is a small part of Higher Ed challenges and issues that we are facing here. I learned so much at the conference about funding that can be given to support institutions that are minority-serving. I belong to an institution that is a majority-minority institution, but I haven’t come across any funding that is for Asian American students or populations. I think all of these conversations would only help Asian American students. There are Asian American students who are interested in STEM, in business a lot. After having taught for almost a decade in journalism in different universities, I don’t see still a lot of Asian Americans in my classrooms. I hope that is also a conversation that we continue to have as a community.”

Another attendee, Khydeeja Alam, Community Leader and Executive Director, the California Commission on APIA Affairs, also felt that the South Asian representation at such conferences should improve. “There needs to be more South Asian representation in these events.

And that starts with taking the initiative to be more thoughtful about having representation from our communities,” Alam told indica. She also feels that mental health is an issue, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. “Mental health issues are across the board for all communities and they need to be tackled. What I’ve been hearing from our communities is hate is on the rise as well. Freedom of speech on campuses is really important, especially what our Arab American community is going through in light of the developments in Israel and Palestine. I urge our leaders to be mindful that they’re being equitable in their response and are listening to students and faculty on how to best represent and be mindful of how they can support a lot of these communities. Convening people is one thing we should be doing more of. When you bring such an amazing group of people together, there are bound to be sparks and aha moments that folks can take back to their own institutions.”

[Photos courtesy: Indica and Brandon Alexis Sanchez Mejia (University of California, Berkeley)]

Hardeep Singh Nijjar

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who testified at a public inquiry looking into foreign interference in Canada’s electoral process said that his government was firm on the issue of protecting Canadians, including addressing the killing of alleged Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in Surrey last June.

During a hearing of the Foreign Interference Commission, headed by Quebec judge Marie-Josee Hogue, Trudeau accused the previous Conservative government in the country of being “cosy” with the current Indian government.

Asked about foreign interference during the 2019 elections and redacted parts in the 2019 annual report of the NSI, Trudeau said, “In a public setting, I can’t speak to redactions made for national security. But, I will say that the principle that anyone who comes to Canada from anywhere in the world has all the rights of a Canadian to be free from extortion, coercion, interference from a country that they left behind and how we have stood up for Canadians, including in the very serious case that I brought forward to Parliament of the killing of Nijjar, demonstrates our government’s commitment to defending the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

“And the suggestion that we haven’t and we won’t do everything we can to defend Canadian rules and values and defend Canadians from foreign interference is simply misplaced,” Trudeau is heard in a video of the inquiry proceedings shared by Canadian newspaper The Global and Mail.

“Our government has always stood up to defend minorities in Canada and the rights of minorities to speak out even if it irritates their home countries overseas,” Trudeau said.

An investigation into the allegations of foreign meddling in Canadian politics was triggered by several media reports that cited unnamed sources and leaked documents.

A briefing document from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says that China “clandestinely and deceptively” interfered in the last two federal elections.

Trudeau appeared before the national public inquiry after several days of testimony from members of his cabinet, political party representatives, intelligence officials and senior bureaucrats. During the hearing, the Canadian Prime Minister spoke about the measures his government had taken to address foreign interference since assuming power in 2015.

Asked whether appropriate steps were not taken to expose foreign interference, Trudeau said, “I think that’s certainly a question one needs to ask of the previous conservative government that was known for its very cosy relationship with the current Indian government. Whereas our government has always stood up to defend minorities in Canada and the rights of minorities to speak out, even if it irritates their home countries overseas,” according to the video shared by The Global and Mail.

In a classified February interview with the Commission of Inquiry, Trudeau called it extremely damaging to the confidence of the people of Canada in the democratic process. A public summary of the interview was revealed at the inquiry on Wednesday, where Trudeau testified at an open hearing.

Trudeau expressed his frustration that intelligence leaked to media had been “sensationalized” and taken out of context, Canada-based CTV News reported.

According to the summary, Trudeau noted that these leaks were “particularly frustrating” as the Liberal government had placed robust mechanisms to track and combat interference, however, it was “painted as negligent in the media.”

Trudeau also considered that the leaks showcase the dangers of making conclusions based on a single piece of intelligence, without sufficient context and without analysing its reliability. Allegations of foreign interference in the past two general elections – suggestions triggered by anonymous leaks to the media resulted in calls for a public inquiry.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Trudeau mentioned “explosive nature of the media stories, stemming from unsubstantiated and uncorroborated intelligence shared by a leaker.” He said, “There are also things that were flat-out wrong.”

He stressed that the leaks were of “deep concern” as the government could not correct the record, in some cases, without mentioning the tradecraft Canadian security agencies use to keep people and their institutions safe, according to CTV News report.

Trudeau said, “If we say certain things, or if we contradict or deny other things, we could be giving our adversaries tools to actually understand how we go about detecting their interference.”

One of the leaks involved allegations against Canadian MP Han Dong, who left the Liberal caucus in 2023 after a media report claimed that he told a Chinese consular official to delay the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in 2021.

Dong refuted the allegation, which Trudeau only learned about through the media. The Canadian PM on Wednesday said he believes the allegation is untrue, but said he couldn’t reveal further details, citing a need for confidentiality and national security concerns.

He said, “There have been significant questions around both translation and summary of the actual exchange.”

Under a protocol introduced by the Liberals, there would be a public announcement if a panel of bureaucrats determined that an incident or a series of incidents threatened Canada’s ability to have a free and fair poll. There has been no announcement made regarding the 2019 or 2021 general elections.

During the two elections, the Liberals returned to government with minority mandates while the Conservatives formed the official Opposition.

The inquiry had already heard that China and other state actors tried to interfere. However, there has been little evidence so far to indicate whether they succeeded in it or not.

The former minister of democratic institutions, Karina Gould, said she was informed after the federal election in 2019 that Canada’s spy agency had seen low-level foreign interference activities by China.

Gould, who held the portfolio from early 2017 to November 2019, in a classified interview in March said that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service hinted the activities were similar to what had been seen in the past, according to a CTV News report.

Trudeau said that he received a briefing about Dong’s nomination race from the Liberal campaign director in an Ottawa airport lounge during the election campaign in 2019. He said he asked several questions about whether the allegations were substantiated and whether any complaints were made regarding it during the nomination process.

“I didn’t feel that there was sufficient, or sufficiently credible, information that would justify this very significant step … to remove a candidate in these circumstances,” Trudeau told the commission.

He stated that as Liberal leader he has previously decided to remove candidates in other circumstances. On Wednesday, a parliamentary committee released a final report after digging into allegations of foreign threats against MPs.

According to the report released by the committee, China took aim at Canada’s democracy with threats aimed at all MPs. The committee stated that a Chinese diplomat who was expelled over allegations of involvement in an intimidation campaign against Tory MP Michael Chong should be held in contempt of Parliament.

The report has 29 recommendations, which include that the House of Commons should do a better job briefing parliamentarians about threats and that CSIS undertake “culture change” to have more effective and clearer communication, according to CTV News report.

Committee members also want efforts to be made to better declassify and track intelligence, urgent legislation to form a foreign agent registry, improved briefings for election officials and a “thorough national security review.”

The Conservatives in a supplementary report have accused Liberals on the committee of trying to protect Trudeau from political embarrassment and preventing a complete investigation.

The Indian delegation headed by Lt Gen TK Aich DCOAS (Strategy) [Right], was briefed upon the capabilities of the Lightning Academy and Aviation Brigade.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

A meeting of the India-US Executive Steering Group (ESG) was held at the US Army Pacific Headquarters in Hawaii on Thursday. The Indian delegation led by Lt Gen TK Aich DCOAS (Strategy) was briefed on the capabilities of the Lightning Academy and Aviation Brigade, the Indian Army said in a statement posted on X.

The ESG meeting sets the framework to discuss and plan defence cooperation engagements between India and the US, according to the Indian Army.

In a post on X, the Indian Army stated, “India -US Executive Steering Group #ESG Meeting commenced at HQ US Army Pacific. The Indian delegation headed by Lt Gen TK Aich DCOAS (Strategy), was briefed upon the capabilities of the Lightning Academy and Aviation Brigade. The #ESG meeting sets the framework to discuss & plan #DefenceCooperation engagements between both the Nations.”

Notably, India and the US enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavours, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts, according to Ministry of External Affairs.

Earlier in March, the closing ceremony of the bilateral Tri-Service Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Amphibious Exercise between India and the United States, Tiger Triumph 2024, was held onboard the USS Somerset.

The Harbor Phase was conducted at Visakhapatnam from March 18-25, which included pre-sail discussions, Subject Matter Expert Exchange, Sports engagements, shipboarding drills and cross-deck visits.

Personnel from both the Navies celebrated the festival of Holi together on March 25 as part of the cultural exchange programme showcasing the vibrant and vivid culture of India,” the Indian Navy said.

Additionally, the Indian Navy stated that the sea phase was conducted from March 26 to 30, and it included units of both countries undertaking maritime exercises at sea, followed by the landing of troops at Kakinada for the setting up of a joint command and control centre and a joint relief and medical camp for HADR operations.

“Cross-deck helicopter operations involving UH3H, CH53, and MH60R helicopters were also undertaken between ships of the Indian Navy and the US Navy off Kakinada and Visakhapatnam,” the Indian Navy added.

The participating units from the Indian Navy included a landing platform dock, large landing ship tanks, including their integral landing craft and helicopters, guided missile Frigate and long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

The Indian Army was represented by one Infantry Battalion Group, including mechanised forces and the Indian Air Force had deployed one medium-lift aircraft, a transport helicopter and the Rapid Action Medical Team (RAMT).

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Confirming his upcoming maiden visit to India, Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday said he was looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking to his official handle on Wednesday, Musk posted, “Looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister @NarendraModi in India!”

According to sources in New Delhi, Musk, on his maiden India visit, might make the much-anticipated announcement of Tesla’s maiden plant in the country. Musk will likely meet Prime Minister Modi on April 22 in the national capital, according to Reuters. Apart from announcing Tesla’s maiden foray in India, Musk is also expected to disclose details of the automobile major’s plans for the country, going forward.

However, the final agenda for Musk’s trip to India is yet to be confirmed.

It was reported earlier that Tesla officials were exploring potential sites in India for a manufacturing plant, which is anticipated to necessitate an investment of between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Tesla’s interest in expanding its presence in the Indian market has intensified, with the company actively searching for a suitable location to establish a cutting-edge manufacturing facility.

According to sources, both the state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat have extended attractive land offers to Tesla for this purpose, signalling significant progress in India’s electric mobility landscape.

The proposed manufacturing plant aims to cater to both domestic and international demand for Tesla’s electric vehicles. This move aligns with India’s new EV policy, which seeks to promote sustainable transportation and reduce carbon emissions.

Under the government’s EV scheme, which aims to position India as a preferred manufacturing destination for EVs equipped with advanced technology, several key objectives have been outlined.

These include attracting investments from global EV manufacturers, promoting the adoption of advanced EV technology among Indian consumers, and bolstering the country’s Make in India initiative.

Tesla’s entry into the Indian market holds immense promise for the country’s economy and environment.
The establishment of a manufacturing plant and increased procurement of auto parts from India are expected to create jobs, foster economic growth, and strengthen the domestic manufacturing ecosystem.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Praising his host country’s developmental journey, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti said that anyone who wants to “see the future” should come to India. He called it a “great privilege” to head the US mission in India. In his address at the ‘Impact & Innovation: 25 Years of IPE Global Making Development a Ground Reality’ event in Delhi, Garcetti said that if anyone wants to work on the future, they should come to India.

Ambassador Garcetti said, “We have the most beautiful view, I think, of this ballroom, of the passion, of the belief, of the purpose, of the peace that you live in, the work that is done by IPE and the collaboration between so many of us that are lucky to call India our home for a period of our lives. I often say, if you want to see the future, come to India. If you want to feel the future, come to India. And if you want to work on the future, come to India. And I have the great privilege of being able to do that every single day as a leader of the United States mission.”

Garcetti said, “When I was studying Hindi as an 18-year-old, I learned a saying, ‘Alag Desh Alag Rivaaj’, it was kind of another country, another custom. And the saying we have this in many languages is, you know, do in Rome, as the Romans do. In other words, every place is different. And those customs are unique. And while that is true, certainly the customs of America are different than those of India.”

“Even within our countries, the custom from one town or city to the next is different, one state to the next is different. I think increasingly the work that we are doing here, that we are privileged to do is the American mission. We now feel more that it is do desh and there is ek Dil, one heart, that when we come together, it is no longer two different systems, but one vision,” he added.

Praising IPE for having gender equality at the panel discussion, he said, “We want to make sure that whenever we sponsor something and participate in something, we don’t just give lip service to the idea of gender equity, but we try to embody that. And IPE has done that so beautifully here today and stirred my heart in looking at the stories of the women that we are privileged to work with alongside you and the government of India, to further health equality, to further the idea that economic opportunity shouldn’t be defined by your gender or your gender geography or the wealth of your parents, but by the dreams in your heart.”

“Last thing I’ll say, because instead of going through all the programs that we have together, and we often talk about the four p’s, that peace, prosperity, our planet and our people define the work of the United States mission here, together with our partners across the globe, with fellow diplomats and missions that are here, and of course, led by the Indian government. We don’t come here to teach and preach. We come here to listen and to learn. And when asked to have the privilege to work alongside you, whether it’s in the digital domain, whether it’s in the climate action that we take, we know that the work we have is urgent and the success of it has to run through every girl and woman in this country and around the world, in every marginalized community.”

G20 Sherpa and former NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant at the IPE Global event

Former Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant praised IPE Global for its work, calling it “top class” as it works with a tremendous amount of passion, energy and dynamism across various sectors. He mentioned that he has worked with IPE on learning outcomes, improving health outcomes and nutrition.

In his speech at the same event, Kant said, “In my long evenings in government, I’ve had the pleasure of working with all the top consulting agencies across the world. And I must say that IPE global is really top class. It’s top class because it works with a tremendous amount of passion, it works with a tremendous amount of energy and dynamism and it works across a range of sectors where you make a difference to human lives.”

“It’s worked with me on learning outcomes, on improving health outcomes, on nutrition. They worked with me on improving, doing the holistic development of islands in India. And every time I can tell you that they surpass any other consulting agency because they actually believe in delivering on ground. So all credit to Ashwajit and his team. His team is really, really, truly brilliant and outstanding,” he added.

Praising US for its continuous support for India during its G20 Presidency, Kant said, “We had several challenges during G20. But one country which stood with us was the United States of America. All through our G20, United States of America always said that India must succeed in bringing consensus on a range of challenges that we were confronted with not merely these challenges but the challenge of geopolitical crisis of Russia, Ukraine and we were able to bring leadership and bring consensus on many of these issues thanks to the United States of America.”