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Jaitley blames 1971 mindset for lost opportunities of last decade

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By NewsGram staff writer

New York: India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blamed the mindset of 1971 that believed in slogans and redistribution rather than growth and higher productivity for the lost opportunities of the last decade and said India is trying to make up for it now as decision-makers are under people’s pressure to ensure the country reaches its full potential.

Speaking at Columbia University here Monday, Jaitley said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “was overpowered by someone” whose thoughts were stuck in 1971 without directly name Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi and he seemed to give Singh the benefit of the doubt.

He said that unlike 1971 this was an era of rising expectations of growth and people see the potential for India to achieve 8 percent or 9 percent growth. No people put pressure on decision-makers to achieve this potential, he added. In 2015, the nation cannot exist on slogans alone as in 1971, he said alluding to Indira Gandhi’s massive election victory that came with her call, “Garibi Hatao,” or “Vanish Poverty.”

The rationalisation of subsidies carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, he said, was the “unsung revolution in India.”

Jaitley was the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies at Columbia University’s School of Public and International Affairs. The founding of the Center is financed by Deepak Raj, who is the managing director of the private investment firms Rush Brook Partners and Raj Associates, and his wife Neera.

Jaitley touched on the key changes that were taking place in India that impacted the economy. Realising that international investment is important to raise resources for development, India is dealing with the issues that discouraged it.

India had a bad reputation for ease of doing business and a change in governance is taking place at the central level, he said. No ministry holds up clearances, which are done in days, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally reviews projects that are delayed.

A concept of “competitive federalism” was taking root with states now vying to make themselves attractive for investments, he said. Even Kerala and West Bengal, which had a leftist orientation, have stated to reorient themselves, he added.

On taxes, he said “we lost credibility with the world” because of the retrospective taxation issue. “Aggressive taxation” has not produced results because ultimately it is overturned by courts and the government taken steps so now the fears of retrospective taxes have been put to rest.

In dealing with natural resources, the previous government used a discretionary process, which led to the scandals in mining and cellphone spectrum allocation, he said. Now the government was letting the markets decide the allocations in a transparent manner, he added.

Jagish Bhagwati, the eminent economist, said that Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution were made into rights enforceable by courts and when there isn’t economic growth commensurate to pay for the entitlements, deficits rise hurting development.

Bhagwati, who is the director of the Center, criticised the prevailing shallow discourse on India in some quarters in the US. As an example, he took at dig at the op-ed pages of The New York Times, which, he said, relied on people from think tanks who do a little thinking and then go after India on tanks.

India’s Ambassador to the US, Arun Kumar Singh, said that the Center should promote a better understanding of India among a broader section of the US and help shape the narrative. He mentioned the use of “loaded words” like “outsourcing,” which has a negative association. While virtually anything bought in the US is made outside in places where the manufacturing has shifted, that is not called outsourcing, a word used when tech sector jobs move to India;

Another example he gave was the perception of Indian and intellectual property rights. While India is often portrayed as not conforming to the norms, the tech sector has said that it had no problems with the country over intellectual property rights, he said. In entertainment, both Indian and US industries had concerns, he said.

Only the pharmaceutical sector had made an issue of intellectual property rights in India and these were because of corporate reasons, rather than actual patent issues, he said. He said that there was growing interest in India among businesses and among students. In many universities there was a demand for teachers to teach courses on India, he said.

Among the reasons for the deepening ties between the US and India seen in the dramatic increase in trade between the two countries and in close political and strategic ties, Singh said was the role of the Indian diaspora: There were 110,000 Indian doctors, many working in remote areas; 40 percent of all the hotel rooms in the US are in Indian-owned businesses, and 140,000 students from India are studying in the US.

Moreover, Indian companies have invested $15 billion in the US and created 90,000 jobs, Singh said.

Deepak Raj said India is now at a critical juncture and is poised for a breakout in creating jobs and providing better health and education. He said he wanted the institute to be a part of the solution in meeting these goals.

The school’s dean, Merit Janow, outlined the center’s goals of promoting new policy-oriented research and dialogue on the Indian economy and disseminating the information to policy-makers, researchers and students.

(Arul Louis, IANS)

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Know How Grammy Award Winner Inspired by PM Modi to Dedicate Music to Environment

From songs like "Ganga" - depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians - to his Grammy-winning album "Winds of Samara" - which speaks of peace and global harmony

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grammy award winner, modi
"What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment," Kej told IANS in an interview here. Wikimedia

A chance meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2015 in New Delhi inspired Bengaluru-based Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej to dedicate his life and music to the cause of environment.

Since then, Kej, who has represented India on global fora, performing at venues including the United Nations General Assembly in New York and UN Headquarters in Geneva, has been using music to flag ecological issues to policymakers and public the world over.

“What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment,” Kej told IANS in an interview here.

From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street.

With the aid of compelling visuals, Kej’s music, and collaborations with global music artists, highlights the deleterious consequences of urbanisation, climate change and human-animal conflict.

modi, grammy award winner
From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street. Wikimedia

“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented.

Kej, 37, bagged Grammy in 2015 for the ‘Best New Age Album’ for “Winds of Samsara”, created along with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. He is also recognised as the ‘United Nations Global Humanitarian Artist’ for his music with environmental consciousness.

The subjects of Kej’s music include, the rising air pollution in global cities and towns, the perils being posed to wildlife due to urbanisation and the story of Republic of Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean off Fiji, whose coasts are receding each year due to rising ocean levels due to global warming, among others.

With 15 studio albums released internationally, 3,500 commercials, three feature films in Kannada and over 100 music awards in 20 countries to his credit, the conservationist-musician’s album “Shanti Samsara” was released by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Change Conference in Paris, held from November 30-December 12, 2015.

The album, conceived after his meeting with Modi, had Kej collaborate with about 500 musicians from 40 countries, for songs like “Ganga”, throwing light on the pollution plaguing the river, and on “Earth and Water”.

“Politicians and policymakers are used to statistics and numbers, but when one approaches them through art, it makes a lot of difference. I have seen politicians change their perspectives towards environmental causes after attending my concerts,” Kej asserted.

The element of environment and nature in his work comes from his own experiences. For instance, he composed the song “One With Earth” – which highlights natural farming and the need to give up chemical fertilisers – after he lived with the tribals in Andhra Pradesh’s Araku Valley to understand their lifestyle and traditional farming techniques.

Grammy award winner, modi
“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented. Wikimedia

Born in 1981 in North Carolina in the US, Kej moved to Bengaluru with family when he was eight, with intense love for music and nature.

“As a child, I felt music and nature were connected and found music in the sounds of nature, birds and animals. I used to look at music as a way of understanding history, cultures and emotions from different parts of the world. A lot of my education was through music,” said Kej, who was part of a rock band “Angel Dust” during his class 12th from Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bengaluru.

Even as Kej pursued a dental science course on his father’s advice, he continued to create music and decided to pursue it full-time on completing the degree.

“Like most musicians, I started my career with popular music and later turned to heavy metal and jazz. I finally zeroed in on world music as it connects with the people the world over, irrespective of the language they speak,” Kej recalled.

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As a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in the renowned Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in this tech hub, the musician believes his job is to approach environmental subjects artistically.

“Numbers don’t hit people as hard as visuals and art can. My job as a musician is to drive the numbers and data through emotions,” Kej added. (IANS)