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This refers to your cover story Handyman Calls Again (April 8). It’ll be foolhardy to believe that the proposed Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) of the Congress is going to enthuse the majority of voters. It’s clearly a desperate attempt to make a statement before general elections and lure the poor citizens. The proposal also comes too late in the day. Since the Balakot air strike and the successful return of Abhinandan, any momentum lost in the assembly elections last year has swung back in the BJP’s favour.
The problem with NYAY is that the promise looks no better than a nebulous idea at present. It seems that it hasn’t been thoroughly thought through. Moreover, unlike the BJP, the The Congress is not adept at selling such half-baked ideas. Since the details are not worked out, so the follow up in the electronic and print media is missing. To build a narrative around the scheme, everyone should be talking NYAY. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the scheme’s very proponents do not seem to be sure of it. It’ll not be unjust for the Congress, if NYAY, the acronym also meaning fair, is unable to catch voters’ fancy. And the ham-handed approach of the grand old party alone is to be blamed for it.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
NYAY is completely flawed, only meant to lure poor voters and nothing else. Identifying the real beneficiary is just one part of the problem; it can’t be considered holistic. In reality, it’s a criminal wastage of the exchequer’s money if an outright ‘sop’ like this were to be implemented. Proper housing, education, employment and business opportunities are the way out from poverty.
Bal Govind, Noida
The mismatch between the net and print editions of Outlook is an eyesore. The headline under the “cover story” in the net edition of the April 8 issue read “Rahul Gandhi’s Nyuntam Aay Yojana Is The ‘Final Assault On Poverty’. Really?” while in the magazine, it was titled ‘Handyman Calls Again’. Such mismatch wouldn’t happen earlier. One has to wait for the print magazine to get the exact cover story headline, which is, I’m sure, considerably mulled over and has a literary touch to it.
Now, let’s talk NYAY. All political parties promise freebies to voters before elections. But people pay taxes to the government for spending on their general welfare and development, not for distributing largesse for purchasing votes to ride to, or retain, power. Earlier, it was sewing machines, colour TVs, household items, laptops and even jewellery. Rahul Gandhi’s proposed NYAY is the worst kind of example for freebies promised to voters. It is being claimed by the Congress that NYAY has approval of economists, experts, and even Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram says that the scheme is quite feasible. However, renowned public intellectual and author of India Unbound, Gurcharan Das, says it is a disastrous idea and an irresponsible populist election promise.
The ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan of the Congress is more than five decades old. It was the theme and slogan of Indira Gandhi’s 1971 election campaign, later used by Rajiv Gandhi and now by Rahul Gandhi in his campaign for 2019 General election. In spite of poverty alleviation schemes brought by various Congress governments including the much touted NREGA scheme, poverty remained intact.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-missile hit a live satellite in space, Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income guarantee scheme (MIG) could hit a jackpot on the ground. Successive governments trying to eradicate poverty have only made the poor poorer and the rich richer. Both the Congress and the BJP have been darned liberal in distributing largesse to the rich. According to Magsaysay Award winner P. Sainath the tax benefits lavished on the corporate needy in over 10 years works out to a cool Rs 42.08 trillion. In FY18 alone the BJP government wrote off bad loans worth Rs 1.2 lakh crore of the corporate poor! When such concessions in corporate income tax, customs duty and excise duty could cause immense losses to the national exchequer, the argument that the MIG will cost Rs 3.6 lakh crore every year falls by the wayside. The MIG will indeed be a godsend to the homeless, landless, tribals, families without a breadwinner and senior citizens neglected by their families. One would agree with Congress leader P. Chidambaram that the Indian economy has grown manifold over the years and the scheme is eminently implementable. If the government can’t mobilise enough resources in the beginning to fund the scheme, it should kickstart the scheme with a minimum remittance of Rs 3000 per month, to be increased to Rs 6000 over a period of time.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Rahul Gandhi has given a fresh coat of paint to the Congress’s decades-old ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan by announcing the scheme less than three weeks before the election. Although he described it as historic and a final assault to eradicate poverty in the country, we cannot know what impact guaranteed monthly income for impoverished families will have until the proposal’s contours are revealed. Till then, Rahul should focus on how to shift gears from a negative campaign against Modi to a positive campaign highlighting his party’s capabilities.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
The Congress’ promise to eliminate poverty with the ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan in 1971 and the National Food Security Act in 2013 was not fulfilled. Now Rahul Gandhi is promising a minimum income guarantee of Rs 72,000 per annum for the destitute. This is not only an exercise to fool the poor, but will also cost the exchequer a whopping amount. Considering that he hasn’t spelt out the details of the scheme or how it will be funded, his announcement seems rhetorical. The fact is that poverty could not be eradicated even after decades of the Congress being in power. Even if he manages to execute the scheme, the resulting fiscal deficit will be detrimental to the economy and put the clock of development backwards by several decades. Given the financial constraints and the condition of our economy, it is time leaders do not make big promises that are difficult to implement.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
They (NRI supporters of parties) love the country so much that they don’t live in it.
Manas P., Delhi
This refers to The Bhakt’s Overseas Call (April 8). The NRI community has developed strange allegiances over time. The newer poster boy has, of course, been Modi. The journey of this affair has been riddled with difficult twists and turns and it culminated in Modi’s win in 2014, giving a boost to the overseas followers of Modi. In the years after 2002, he broke out internationally as the discomforting face associated with the Gujarat riots. This could have embarrassed your average NRI those days as it didn’t show too well for their native country. But, over time, as the world, and not just the US, came to embrace neo-liberalism wholeheartedly, recent discomfiting histories were rendered useless. It would have been cathartic for our NRIs to see electoral India embrace the controversial figure who was a cause of international embarrassment. Any residual doubt in the mind of any NRI was cleared when America voted Trump as their president. So, most NRIs are only too excited to cheer Modi. His success is in a sense theirs, that they need not be ashamed of past misdeeds. That the rabid, communal bhakts are at home in this new world order. But what makes the other alliance strange? That NRIs are fans of Modi as well as their superstar, Shah Rukh Khan—the face of liberal, secular, entrepreneurial India—in the same breath.
Rashmi Shahni, Mumbai
NRIs are supporting Modi because they didn’t have to face demonetisation or GST. He’s doing great in optics, that’s the reason they like him. They’ve finally found in him an aspirational Indian like themselves. Even though they are numerically non-significant in the political scheme of things, they carry considerable symbolic value.
Ravi Anand, New Delhi
This refers to Bling Baba’s Offline Army (April 8). It remains to be seen that without the singing, dancing and filmmaking baba around, how long it will take for his influence to fade away. Hope that happens soon for the sake of many of his innocent followers so that they can exercise their democratic right independently.
Ratan Batra, New Delhi
In the April 15 issue, the heading ‘And We Have A Winner...’ under the ‘poliglot’ section wrongly mentions the amount of cash and valuables siezed in Tamil Nadu since the model code of conduct came into place. It is, of course, not “Rs 70.90 cash” and Rs 88.70 in gold et al” but Rs 70.90 crore cash and Rs 88.70 crore worth of ornaments. The error is regretted.
This is with reference to An Applecart Turner (April 1) on the resignation of an IAS officer from Kashmir, attributing the decision to unabated killings in Kashmir, lack of sincere outreach by the Union government, the threat to the special status of J&K and second-class treatment of India’s Muslims etc. In his social media post announcing his resignation, Shah Faesal, topper of the 2010 IAS batch, also expressed his concern over declining constitutional values. Relinquishing a prestigious job definitely needed exemplary courage with a conviction that few have. The mission he cherishes will test his capacity to organise a movement. He must struggle with perseverance against all odds amidst high expectations. The challenges would be exceptionally trying for him to surmount due to his being new to the ambience and the malicious intent of existing political forces to incapacitate him for their vested interests. We can only wish him good luck in his mission, although it looks like an impossible dream in the present circumstances.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This refers to Let This Political Will Triumph (April 8). The columnist’s suggestion that India should focus on Kashmir’s integration and not its ‘special status’ is easier said than done. For decades, we have seen deep distrust between mainland India and Kashmir, a chasm that has deepened after Pulwama and Balakot. Drumbeats of hyper-nationalism and so-called tough decisions by our political leadership may not be the answer in this tricky situation. In fact, the recent ‘thoughts’ of the finance minister on Article 35A are indicative of the narrow-mindedness of the political narrative and damages the key solemn assurance given to J&K. It strikes at the core of our federal structure, raising unnecessary heat when the need of the hour is to cool passions. What we need is an open, liberal, assuring response by a leadership that deftly engages with all stakeholders of Kashmir, which sheds the pretence of muscular nationalism that is often resorted to only for seeking political advantage.
Though the shadow of Pakistan looms large at the heart of the conflict in Kashmir, a belligerent response may not be the right answer. We have to admit that we can’t handle it by military adventurism. In the backdrop of our nuclear-armed neighbour and its steadfast allies, war is a non-option because of the resultant tit-for-tat escalatory spiral that could consume the two countries. The need of the hour is to have a sincere dialogue, not an egotistic, jingoistic, chauvinistic response. Kashmir needs to be freed from the tyranny of stuffy dominance.
“My tongue will tell the anger of my heart or else my heart concealing it will break.” Shakespeare catches the despair of an unheard voice in this line. Let Kashmir speak. Give Kashmiris an audience. Kashmir is already alienated and getting radicalised by the day. It is not political will that needs to triumph. It is Kashmir and Kashmiris that need to triumph.
The ball is in our court. Let’s help create a Kashmir where mothers don’t lament the loss of their sons, where fathers don’t go missing, where children go to school, where youth find employment—a prosperous Kashmir with a distinct regional identity and yet, very proudly an inalienable part of India.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Apropos Joining The SDG Dots (April 1), a certain kind of development at all costs is a bane for society and is bound to doom us. We have reached a point of no return and need to immediately rethink this paradigm of growth that focuses only on swanky, AC malls, multiplexes, smooth expressways, high-speed trains and mega-dams, even if millions are displaced and the environment suffers. To avoid this pressing danger and let the Gen Next enjoy fruits of true development, that is, assured health, education and livelihood, economic growth has to be sustainable. Sadly, our politicians are not addressing this issue.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This was written after I saw the ‘inboxed’ letter written by Harish Pandey in your magazine last week. It was titled Clear The Haze and it expresses concern over the direction the magazine has taken under the current editorship (April 8). I fully agree with his observation that the magazine’s stories and opinions are no more as reader-friendly and palatable as they once used to be. I too was a regular reader of ‘Vinod Mehta’s Outlook’ and would look forward to each and every issue back in those days. That Vinod would personally reply to our mails was one of his great qualities. Please know that I’m no longer a ‘buying reader’ of the magazine.
Jatinder Sethi, Gurgaon