The Connectere brings forward the mind’s eye and panoramic view of the young writing enthusiasts on various topics

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podcasts

The Connectere Podcast #72: The Sino-India Conflict 1962

The Connectere Podcast is an initiative to bring forth innovative ideas and opinions of the youth forward via the digital medium. Tune in to this episode of the podcast where Manav talks about the Sino- India War of 1962.

Here is the Spotify link for the podcast – https://open.spotify.com/show/4lBNc63mANGyz0iJ80WsOt

Political

Political discourse in the age of social media

Man is, by nature, a political animal”-Aristotle

People who grow up in Indian households are told right from the get go that there is quite a neat distinction between ‘political’ acts and ‘sincere’ acts. Parents tend to paint politics as an avenue which is dirty, crooked, violent and one which is inhabited by fools. On the other hand, the ideal children are those who put their heads down and study hard even if it means being ignorant about the political happenings of the world. There is a fundamental flaw in this distinction.

Bofors

The Bofors scandal: the scam which rocked the nation

In the much-anticipated Lok Sabha elections of 2014, the ruling Indian National Congress suffered an agonizingly crushing defeat at the hands of the Narendra Modi-led Bhartiya Janata Party. The results, though not wholly unexpected, sent shockwaves in policy circles throughout the world. Eminent scholars and political scientists, both Indians and foreigners, scrambled to arrive at an explanation for the humiliating defeat of India’s Grand Old Party. After careful analysis, they echoed a unanimous opinion, one which is hard to disagree with i.e., the biggest factor in INC’s defeat was its disastrous and age-old romance with corruption. UPA-II had been rocked with one major corruption scandal after the other. Caught up between the CWG and 2G scams, senior party leaders could only watch helplessly as the credibility of their beloved party crumbled by the day. However, this wasn’t the first time Congress had tasted defeat in a General Election on the issue of corruption. In 1989, only one scandal had been enough to drive Congress out of power. Hence, this article will attempt to trace the origin of INC’s preoccupation with corruption by breaking down the first high-profile political scandal in Independent India’s history: The Bofors Scandal.

The story began on March 24th, 1986. On this day, a multi-million-dollar deal was signed between the Government of India and Bofors AB, a Swedish arms company which was one of the oldest and most reliable in the world. The deal included the sale of 410 155 mm Howitzer field guns. These guns were invaluable additions to the inventory of Indian army as they gave the country an edge in cross-border firing along the India-Pakistan border. It was one of the biggest military deals in India’s history as a result of which PM Rajiv Gandhi’s ever-increasing popularity received a further boost.

Sweden also had cause for celebration as it was the biggest arms deal in its history. Observers had been sceptical about Rajiv Gandhi, who had taken over the reins of the country in an almost monarchical dynastic succession after the untimely death of his mother, Indira Gandhi, in 1984. However, less than two years after his mother’s death, his handling of the INC had drawn plaudits from around the country and this deal was labelled as one of the biggest successes of his administration.

However, it all came crashing down a year later. On 16th April 1987, Dagens Eko, a Swedish news agency, made sensational allegations claiming that Bofors AB had paid bribes to various politicians of the Indian National Congress in order to secure the contract. These bribes hadn’t been dispatched to India but instead to certain Swiss Bank accounts held by these politicians. Even though this report escaped the notice of most Indian news agencies, Chitra Subramaniam, a correspondent of The Hindu, managed to hear about it in a radio broadcast while she was working on another story in Sweden.

What followed was a brave tale of investigative journalism which was riddled with all sorts of political pressures and threats. Chitra Subramaniam established contact with Sten Lindstorm, former chief of Swedish Police, who had originally leaked information regarding the scandal. She obtained around 350 documents from Lindstorm that outlined how Bofors AB had paid around 640 million rupees in kickbacks to Indian politicians in order to secure the contract. The story was published in The Hindu and caused an instant uproar among India’s political elite. Although not many observers believed this at that point, but this news story was the beginning of the end of Rajiv Gandhi’s administration.

As the vociferous rhetoric of the opposition parties gathered steam, all eyes were on the Indian Prime Minister. In the first parliamentary session following the revelations, he denied all allegations against his government in a staunch and unrelenting tone. But no one was convinced, least of all his own Defence Minister and close confidante, VP Singh. Being a seasoned politician with respect across the aisle, he sensed an opportunity and decided to resign from his post as well as the party.

He quickly formed his own party, Janata Party, which aimed to rally around the Bofors scandal in the hopes of toppling INC in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. Meanwhile, the pressure from the opposition parties and eminent newspapers led to the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee in 1987 to probe into these allegations. It was supposed to submit its report before the 1989 elections but due to intense pressure, it could not proceed with the investigations in an impartial manner. However, the mere speculation that his party may have unduly gained from the deal led to a sharp downfall in his popularity. As a result of this, Congress was thrown out of power in an emphatic fashion as VP Singh, heading a coalition of opposition parties and being supported by the BJP from the outside, emerged as the Prime Minister of India.

Since Congress was out of power, the stage was finally set for a credible investigation into the allegations. In January 1990, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed an FIR against Martin Ardbo (then president of Bofors AB) and alleged middlemen Win Chadda as well as the Hinduja brothers. It was claimed that these middlemen had acted as pivots while facilitating the informal contact between Congress politicians and Bofors.

However, the main middleman was alleged to be Ottavio Quattrocchi. He was an influential Italian businessman and was quite close to the Gandhi family. It was his alleged involvement in the case that led many to believe that Rajiv Gandhi had either benefitted or at least had possessed knowledge of what was going on. Less than 3 months after CBI began its enquiry, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE operative.

This horrific incident led to an outpouring of sympathy for the Gandhi family and as a result, the case was put on the back-burner. In addition to this, Congress came back into power under PV Narsimha Rao.  However, more evidence was uncovered in 1997 when Swiss Bank agreed to declassify information about 500 accounts allegedly held under phony names by Congress politicians. This breakthrough gave a new impetus to the case and in 1999, when the BJP-led NDA was in power, CBI filed a charge-sheet against Rajiv Gandhi, Quattrocchi, SK Bhatnagar (former defence secretary), Hinduja brothers and Win Chadda.

While all of this was happening on the political front, the Bofor field guns had come in handy while subduing Pakistan in the Kargil War. But complications had arisen owing to a severe lack of spare parts. Due to this situation, the Indian government had decided to lift the ban that it had imposed on Bofors in the aftermath of the scandal. Let’s get back to the investigation. It seemed like the perpetrators would finally be penalised. However, that was not to be the case. Win Chadda and SK Bhatnagar passed away in the second half of 2001 while the case was still on in the Delhi High Court.

Then in 2002, Delhi HC decided to stop the proceedings in the case but this was overruled by the Supreme Court in 2003. However, bowhile the case resumed, Rajiv Gandhi was exonerated by Delhi HC in 2004 on the grounds of lack of evidence. In 2005, even the Hinduja Brothers were given a clean chit by the HC. The only potential perpetrator now left was Quattrocchi.

The Indian government tried really hard to have him extradited from Argentina in 2006 but the Argentine judge ruled against it. One of the major reasons why the extradition had not actualized was because Argentina and India did not have an extradition treaty so there was no established mechanism to facilitate the extradition. After this failed attempt, it was decided that pursuing Quattrocchi was proving to be quite costly for India (250 crore rupees had been spent on it) and hence this pursuit was dropped. While the case dragged on, Quattrocchi passed away in Milan in 2013. He was not the only one to die that day because with him died the possibility that a person would face jailtime for one of the biggest scandals in Indian history. The fact that the Bofors scandal was systematically buried by the system is one of the biggest blots on the legacy of independent India.

The other article in this series:

Corporate Accounting fraud: Satyam Computers Ltd.

weekly analysis

The Weekly Analysis – Edition 33

There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Thirty Second Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. The U.S. sues search giant
  2. Longstanding Assam – Mizoram dispute
  3. Thailand anti-government protests
  4. The (food) grain of Punjab’s own Farm Bills
  5. Govt waives interest on interest for loans up to Rs 2 cr

The U.S. sues search giant

The US sued Google accusing the $1 trillion company of abusing the dominant position to maintain a monopoly in the market. Eleven U.S. states had joined the Department of Justice in the antitrust lawsuit against Google. The suit emphasises on particularly two things: search services and search advertising. This is the biggest antitrust lawsuit in the last two decades and could force changes to parts of a $1 trillion company that has become all but synonymous with the internet and assumed a central role in the day to day lives of billions of people around the globe.
Google dominance in web search, digital advertising, and smartphones’ software is the primary interest to lawmakers and regulators. The company processes around 90% of online searches in the United States and prevent rivals from gaining a meaningful audience. Hence, it has been accused of hurting competitors by giving priority in its search results to its products. Critics also complain tech giants take content from publishers and other websites and use it as a prepared answer directly in search results, rather than simply providing a list of links that send users to other sites. The DOJ lawsuit says Google harms rivals by cutting “exclusionary” deals with phone makers including Apple and Samsung to be the default engine on devices. It is a part of a strategy to lockup search distribution. The suit also gives new details about Google contracts with other complaints about maintaining its dominant position. For example, Google pays Apple $8bn to $12bn in ad revenue a year to make a google search the default on Apple devices.
Google denied it has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. Hence, it called the lawsuit “deeply flawed” adding that people use Google because they choose to be – not because they are forced to be – not because they can’t find alternatives. On the other hand, rivals say Google gives an unfair edge over the market. US Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said, “If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google”. This antitrust suit is the most significant legal challenge to a major tech giant in the decade and comes as US authorities are increasingly critical of the business practices of Google. They’re feared that if the government doesn’t enforce the antitrust laws to enable the competition, we could miss the next wave of innovation.

Longstanding Assam – Mizoram dispute

Assam – Mizoram boundary dispute once again came into the limelight following the violent clashes between the states in an area that spotlights the long-standing interstate boundary issue in the Northeast region. The boundary dispute between the two states has been simmering for more than 50 years now. Recent clashes twice over the territory between the residents of Assam and Mizoram broke down the status quo and allegedly constructed some temporary huts. People from Mizoram’s side went and set fire to them. This turns out to be a violent clash between them. According to an agreement between the government of Assam and Mizoram some years ago, the status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area. However, clashes have erupted from time to time over the issue.
No breakthrough has been achieved in ground-level talks to resolve the interstate border dispute where several people were injured in a clash over the issue last week. This northeast complex boundary dispute between present-day Assam and Mizoram, 165km long today, dates back to the colonial era when Mizoram was known as a district of Assam existed since the formation of Mizoram as a full-fledged state in 1987. Several dialogues held to resolve the border dispute have yielded little results. The boundary between the states follows naturally occurring barriers of hills, valleys, rivers, and forests and both sides have attributed border skirmishes to the perceptional difference over the imaginary line. Villagers in Mizoram and Assam, not fully aware of the boundary demarcation would often cross over to either side for various purposes. And now Mizoram has hardened its stand on the rift and has said it will get essential supplies from neighbouring countries like Myanmar if the blockade of Assam is not eased.
The Mizoram, however, chose to describe the incident as a fight against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and not an Assam versus Mizoram issue. Assam is committed to restoring normalcy in the interstate border area. The MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has asked Assam and Mizoram to maintain peace and display no aggressive posturing violence clashes that took place at the border between the states. And the central government is committed to resolving the border dispute and hopeful to bring a permanent solution by next year.

Thailand anti-government protests

A few days back, Thailand’s government had declared a state of emergency, banning all public gatherings and censoring the media, to tackle the growing anti-government protests in the country. Most of the protesters are young people and it has been a leaderless protest largely like the Hong- Kong protests. While it was joined by some groups like Free Youth Movement, Bad Student movement of high schoolers, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration who have been active participants of the protest. The latest cause that triggered anti-government protests was when last year the  courts banned the most vocal opposition party. Recently, the government seems to have relented and lifted the emergency, saying that it wants to hear the concerns and demands that the students have however, it is believed it has been done to just buy time. The king has made no public comment on it although he did make a sign of support for former junta leader Prayuth and also lauded a royalist demonstrator who had defied protesters.

Why are the students protesting?

Young people say they are fed up with an establishment that has undermined their democratic rights and the country’s progress. The protestors in Bangkok and other cities have three main demands: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha steps down, the constitution be amended to make it more democratic and reforms be made to make the monarchy more accountable. The protesters charge that Prayuth, who was army commander in 2014 led a coup and became the Prime Minister and also returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favour a pro-military party and thus, the protestors say that a constitution written and passed under military rule is undemocratic and needs to be changed. However, Prayuth refuses to step down as the deadline given by protestors passed which has brought the protestors back in action yet again.
The implicit criticism of the monarchy, which protesters believe wields too much power, has irked conservative Thais because it traditionally has been treated as sacrosanct and a pillar of national identity. Thailand’s royal family has been shielded from criticism by a strict lèse majesté law that carries a sentence of up to 15 years.
The democratic voice must be heard in Thai Protests not merely a promise of superficial democracy however, many Thais are worried about what comes next as according to a poll by the National Institute of Development Administration 60% of Thais feared violence between the rival groups or through the intervention of other parties.

The (food) grain of Punjab’s own Farm Bills

Much was made of the Punjab government’s plan to reject the three central laws on Agri markets and provide its own protection to farmers, especially on prices for their produce. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Amendment Bill assumes that the Union Act (APMC Mandi Bypass Act, 2020) would nullify the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism and would expose farmers to vagaries of market forces so far as their price realization for agricultural produce and fruits and vegetables is concerned. It also proposes to ensure a level playing field for proper protection of farmer interest. Therefore, farmers producing crops other than wheat and paddy like cotton or oilseeds, or even maize for which there is an MSP provision from the Union government can’t expect protection under this Bill.
The state again chooses to depend on the Union government and FCI for its wherewithal and does not care for other crop farmers who grow riskier and high-value crops. The MSP is declared for 23 crops. This means that other crop farmers or those trying to diversify under contract farming would not have the MSP protection of the Bills. Of course, this is a bad proposal per se as contract price can’t be tied to any other price especially, state declared prices as contract prices should be discovered by the two parties. This is so as contracting is also about benefits other than price which could be the yield, cost, or quality of the crop.
The state government has also provisioned for protecting its own revenue from agricultural produce transactions as both the Bills state: “the State Government may, from time to time notify a fee, which shall be levied on a corporate trader and/or on the electronic trading and transaction platform for trade and commerce in a trade area outside the markets established and regulated under the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961 and this fee shall go towards the fund to be set up for the welfare of small and marginal farmers.” This bill might not be in the best interest of the farmers in the long run and could end up decreasing their income ever further.

Govt waives interest on interest for loans up to Rs 2 cr

The government announced a waiver of interest on interest for loans up to Rs 2 crore irrespective of whether moratorium was availed or not. The Department of Financial Services came out with operational guidelines in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s direction to implement the interest waiver scheme, which is likely to cost the exchequer Rs 6,500 crore. As per the guidelines, the scheme can be availed by borrowers in specified loan accounts for a period from March 1 to August 31, 2020. Borrowers who have loan accounts having sanctioned limits and outstanding amount of not exceeding Rs 2 crore (aggregate of all facilities with lending institutions) as of February 29 shall be eligible for the scheme.
Housing loans, education loans, credit card dues, auto loans, MSME loans, consumer durable loans, and consumer loans are covered under the scheme. The lending institutions shall credit the difference between compound interest and simple interest with regard to the eligible borrowers in respective accounts for the said period irrespective of whether the borrower fully or partially availed the moratorium on repayment of loan announced by the RBI on March 27, 2020. The scheme is also applicable to those who have not availed of the moratorium scheme and continued with the repayment of loans. The lending institutions after crediting the amount will claim the reimbursement from the central government.
The Centre recently told the apex court that going any further than the fiscal policy decisions already taken, such as waiver of compound interest charged on loans of up to Rs 2 crore for six months moratorium period, maybe “detrimental” to the overall economic scenario, the national economy and banks may not take “inevitable financial constraints”. The top court is hearing a batch of petitions which have raised issues concerning the six-month loan moratorium period announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

Satyam

Corporate Accounting fraud: Satyam Computers Ltd.

The scandal of Satyam Computers has been widely regarded as the debacle of the Indian Financial System. Satyam’s case has been labelled as “India’s Enron” by the Indian media (Enron was a US-based company which was inflicted with a similar accounting fraud). It is the biggest ever corporate scandal in India amounting to more than Rs.7, 000 crores and is seen as India’s Most Colossal Financial Fraud. The fraud comprehensively exposed the potholes that existed in the corporate governance of India. Ironically, Satyam means “truth” in Sanskrit.

podcasts

The Connectere Podcast #71: Pre-independence Swadeshi Brands of India

The Connectere Podcast is an initiative to bring forth innovative ideas and opinions of the youth forward via the digital medium. Tune in to this episode of the podcast where Tanishka talks about the Swadeshi brands that were a part of the pre-independence Swadeshi movement.

Here is the Spotify link for the podcast – https://open.spotify.com/show/4lBNc63mANGyz0iJ80WsOt

Maji Maji

Maji Maji Uprising

Faith, as described by Martin Luther King Jr. is ‘taking the first step, even when you don’t see the full staircase’. Faith isn’t just a notion that people use to get through dark times, it gives us strength and helps in holding a community together. History is filled with narratives where people came together due to their common beliefs and brought about a change. One such story is about the Maji Maji uprising or the rebellion against the German colonizers. Their faith in Maji Maji (the sacred water) helped them to resist the oppression of Germans who were much superior militarily for roughly two years. This rebellion is considered by many to be the first of a kind where people from different ethnic groups came together to fight colonialism. This inspired many such revolutions against colonialism.

Canada

How did Canada get its independence?

The Europeans are known to have colonized the East and African countries throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. But little do we know that they spread out in the West as well and established rules in countries like Canada as well. That too for almost 400 years! This article takes you through the entire history of Canada and how they gained independence from the British.

How did Canada get colonized?

The first Europeans to make contact with Canada were the Norse settlers also called the Vikings who came in around 1000 AD and settled in the easternmost province which is now called Newfoundland. Under the orders of King Henry VII of England, John Cabot became the second European to ever set foot in Canada, in 1497. The English, however, did not intend to make a permanent colony.

John Cabot along with his continued exploring the rest of the continent and many other Europeans started setting sail to this newfound land. The Spanish and the Portuguese claimed territories during this period, but soon shifted their focus on South America.

A French maritime explorer named Jacques Cartier put a Cross in Gaspe Peninsula in 1534 which is in present-day Quebec to mark the French claim and called it Canada. The French tried to establish a permanent settlement under many explorers but failed every time. Although they did manage to set up ‘fishing fleets’ and make trading alliances with the indigenous people living there also known as the First Nations. It was due to French claims and relations with the colony that put Canada on the map and gave the country a name.

The capital of New France was Quebec City and it became an administrative hub for trade and other activities. The French Crown took over the settlement from the Company of New France in 1663. But not many people were interested in migrating to Canada and settle, thus the population of the French was quite less.

As the French were building upon their business, the British were also getting ahead on their settlements in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Hudson Bay. Their colonies were based mainly on agricultural lands.

Due to some overseas tensions, the English and French were involved in a power struggle which led to many wars between the two. The French were outnumbered by the British and allied with the Aboriginals. In 1763 the war ended with the Treaty of Paris and the French had to secede Canada to the British.

British Rule

Under the British, the Canadian economy was thriving not only on agriculture but also through the export of natural resources mainly timber and fur. Since it came under the British Crown, it served as extra territory for the American Revolution and the war between the Americans and the Loyalists. The people who were loyal to the British Crown came to be known as the Loyalists. The British army was defeated in the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 which forced them to flee New York in 1783. They took the Loyalists in and provided them refuge in Quebec. Since many others were arriving on the shores of St John River, a new colony, New Brunswick was created.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 marked the end of the war between the US and the British and a clear border was demarcated between Canada and the United States. The land that laid south to the 5 Great Lakes was formerly a part of Quebec and was now ceded to America.

Rebellions

Also known as the Canadian Revolution, the rebellions of 1837 were started against the British rule and the imposition of their political reforms. Protests broke out in both Lower and Upper Canada, leading to many arrests and even arson. The British sent Lord Durham, a colonial administrator, to examine the situation in the colony. He recommended a more responsible government and thus the two Canada’s were merged into the United Province of Canada under the 1840 Act of Union.

The Canadian Confederation

It was the process by which three Canadian colonies- Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the United Province of Canada were to be merged into a federation. The London Conference of 1866 led to the formation of the Dominion of Canada on 1st July 1867. The word ‘dominion’ was used for the first time as a description of a self-governing colony of British.

The Dominion kept consuming more and more land and expanded the confederation from the Pacific on the west to the Atlantic on the east. It was still in the British Crown and had not attained full autonomy yet.

However, after the Alaska Border Dispute which was related to the purchase of Alaska post gold being discovered there, the Canadians were upset with the British for the lack of their support to their colony and betrayal in the form of extension of support to America.

In 1905, Saskatchewan and Alberta were added as provinces. There was a rapid growth in the economy due to a growth in agriculture and increased migration. Wilfrid Laurier the 7th Prime Minister of Canada had signed a deal with the US to lower taxes on both sides. But Robert Borden the then leader of the Conservative party and the 8th Prime Minister wanted to integrate with the US economy and cut loose all ties with the British.

Cutting Loose the British

It was in 1931 when the British finally let Canada be a fully autonomous country and this could happen due to the Statute of Westminster which gave it full legal freedom and equal standing with England. However, the British still had the power to amend the Canadian constitution. In the meanwhile, Canada started to adopt its own identity with national symbols like a new flag.

It took a lot longer than expected for Canada to be fully independent of the British. The Canadian House of Commons and Senate passed a resolution asking Britain to revoke their constitutional amendments and let Canada be fully independent. It was in 1982 through the Canada Act when they were able to adapt their constitution. Canada is still a part of the British Commonwealth and the Queen of England is technically still the monarch of Canada.

Sources: Referred to Wikipedia

Referred to Independence report

The other articles in the series are:

Scottish First war of independence

Maji Maji Uprising

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