Shamed: Sceptics Of Smriti Irani Given HRD
All the doubters should have listened to the Minister speak at the Art of Living sponsored meet of International Women Entrepreneurs: Harmony, Evolution towards Perfection. The theme was Nations in Pursuit of Identity. One needed imagination, ideas and logic. A lady at the tea pre-start of the meeting told Smriti Irani that it was difficult for women to talk and raise their voice. Other women too had given their views. After her interaction with a couple of women who have done yeoman’s service in empowering women, Smriti addressed the congregation. Her ease exuded confidence, spoke extempore and kept her focus on the question raised.
The Minister’s speech in a matter of less than an hour showed her command over the English language, depth of her general knowledge, and wit inherent with her confidence. How many Ph.Ds could speak like her, yet the doubters go on being sarcastic. But she gave back to her detractors without seemingly taunting the others. “Ladies and Select Gentleman,” she began. Her next sentence was lost in loud cheering.”Women have no problem in talking, they have a problem in being heard,” she began and audience reacted with loud cheering.
The remarkable aspect of her speech was her stress on the Indian culture and values based on the Ramayana. “We have certain values from our epics like Ramayana.” She quoted from the Ramayana: “After his victory in Sri Lanka, when Ram was leaving, Vibhishan requested that he must declare the Golden City as his own. But Ram refused saying that his motherland is most beautiful and he did not want anything else.”
Closing her speech she said she hoped that in the pursuit of national identity the Indian belief Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is followed.
What was most interesting was the impact of her address on the well-educated and accomplished women from a round the world. One hoped a few sceptics about the ability to do well in HRD Ministry were there. Can anyone dare say she is not talented enough to be able to fulfil the responsibilities of HRD Minister?
..I doubt, for her speech delivery, her substance, her arguments and her general knowledge, history and culture reflected the depth of her understanding and above all her wit, which indicated her confidence.
Suitable “Boy” For Managing Disasters
The choice of R.K.Singh, the former Home Secretary and presently BJP Member of Parliament from Ara in Bihar, as Vice-Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), has been applauded all round. His posting has not been officially declared, but in Delhi, rumours and speculations have a tendency of becoming a fact.
The entire NDMA team appointed by the UPA2 was asked to resign which was complied with. The concept and mandate of the NDMA was drawn up when Singh was joint secretary. So he knows about it from the very beginning. Also Singh was in charge of disaster management when posted in Patna. His work during the disastrous Kosi flood is still remembered. The rest of the team would now have to be confirmed by the Prime Minister but he surely would take recommendations from Singh.
The delay in the official notification could be the rule that a member of Parliament cannot hold an office of profit. A source said that with the Lok Sabha in session, the government might get approval for an exception in the case of Singh, considering his credentials.
Golf At Dawn-Break
We all were bemused to learn that the secretaries of the Government of India—and this is not a case of grapes are sour—had to stop playing golf, the past-time of the bureaucrat who has climbed to the top. It is a symbol of eminence. But having become secretary after 32 to 34 years of service, playing golf was considered a sinecure and reward for so many years of sweat and toil. Quite a few of them escaped the drudgery of going through files after files, by going for leisurely lunches with a glass or two of vodka and tonic at the high-brow Gymkhana, Golf Club or India International Centre. Very few, one must point out, went for lunches on working days at Taj’s House of Ming or ITC’s Bukhara or Dum Pokht in Maurya. These serve superb food and stock best of liquor in their watering holes, but they are too public and could also give bad name. All these sacrifices had to be made not because the Modi’s PMO banned playing golf but because the secretaries were expected to be in the office before the clock chimed nine. The last few Golf-less and lunch-less weeks must have been quite upsetting for the babus at the apex. But these secretaries have grey cells. So now some of them, at the first break of dawn, land at the Golf Course and start playing at around 5-5.30 in the morning. This way they have the pleasure without the PMO showing its displeasure.
Reinforcing India’s Steel Frame
The perceptive Narendra Modi must have understood what Nehru implied when he commented that the bureaucracy in India is the government’s steel frame. This is why, as is well known now, he held one-to-one meetings with the secretaries. Although not very impressed by their presentations, he told them to take decisions whenever they could and he would back them. An empowered and ‘disciplined’ bureaucracy is working and revving up development and clearing projects. This has shown results. In the last 30 days road projects worth about Rs 40,000 crore have been approved. It plans to build 30 km of roads per day from 2016 and has identified 250 projects worth about Rs 60,000 crore for clearances in the next three months.
It has approved a $2-billion second phase of Project Seabird, Asia’s largest naval base in Karwar, Karnataka. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has spelt out industrial licensing policy for creating an indigenous defence industry by allowing up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment in the defence sector and expanding the list of items to be manufactured by the indigenous industry.
The decisions have had a cascading effect and enthused global markets. Foreign institutional investors are bullish. Investments have picked up and on July 1, international ratings agency Fitch projected that India would grow at 5.5 per cent in the next financial year, up from 4.4 per cent now, and at 6.5 per cent by 2016.