Monday March 25, 2019

Ramayana trail: How Modi government plans to revive the legacy of Lord Ram

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Modi Sri Lanka

By Harshmeet Singh

Prime Minister Modi concluded his three nation tour after making a slew of agreements and announcements in Sri Lanka. While moves such as handing over more than 27,000 homes to the war affected people in Jaffna and an assistance of $318 million gathered much attention, his announcement regarding Indian Government’s plans to establish a Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka went away unnoticed.  

Ramayana Trail

The establishment of a Ramayana trail is aimed at developing all the Ramayana related mythological spots in the country. Though the PM fell short of announcing any budget or a deadline for the same, he did mention that his Government would soon be sending a team of experts to Sri Lanka to visit all such places that can be included under this plan.

The government plans to develop a number of modern facilities around these spots to ensure a constant tourists’ influx which, in turn, would take India’s heritage to different parts of the world. The PM also said that his Government would be happy to assist Sri Lanka in developing a similar Buddha trail in India.

Common history of India & Sri Lanka

The extremely rich Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka derives its roots from ancient India. According to ancient texts of Sri Lanka, it was Indian Emperor Ashoka’s son, Mahinda, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Impressed by the message of Buddhism carried by Mahinda, the Monarch propagated Buddhist values to the entire Sinhalese population of the island. The historic Nalanda University also had a number of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks on roll before it was brought to the ground by Mohammed Kilji. Notably, around 70% Sri Lankans still follow Theravada Buddhism.

The Indian epic Ramayana gives a detailed description of the island nation. According to Ramayana, the island was built by Vishwakarma as a gift for Kubera, the Wealth Lord. Kubera was later overthrown by his stepbrother, Ravana. The story of Sita’s abduction at the hands of Ravana is one of the best known folklores around the world. The ‘Ram Setu’ or the ‘Adam’s bridge’, believed to be built by Lord Rama to take his army to Lanka to fight Ravana still remains one of the most significant common heritage points between India and Sri Lanka.

Ram Setu

Historically, the Indian railway network extended up to Dhanushkodi (south of Chennai) from where frequent ferry rides took the passengers to the Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. The ferry used to travel over the submerged Adam’s Bridge. A devastating cyclone in 1964 destroyed the railway facilities at Dhanushkodi which were never resurrected after that. This put an end to the ferry rides between Dhanushkodi and Mannar Island.

The shallow water over the Adam’s bridge doesn’t allow large cargo chips to pass through it. Hence, the large ships coming either from Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal are needed to travel around Sri Lanka to reach the other side. The construction of a canal through the ‘Ram Setu’ to ease out the marine traffic has been proposed multiple times, with the most recent project being ‘Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project’. Quite understandably, these plans didn’t go well with a number of religious groups who, presenting evidence from NASA’s satellite images, claim that this bridge was built by Lord Rama and has a high religious significance attached to it. Notably, the efforts to build this canal have also received thumbs down from a number of environmental experts who doubt the feasibility of such plans and claim that this could destroy the corals.

 Growing bonhomie through tourism?

A number of experts have lauded Modi’s methods of warming up to the neighbouring nations by giving references to our common heritage. As seen with many nations, tourism and common heritage can help the nations come together and solve a number of grave issues. Let’s hope the story between India and Sri Lanka goes the same way.

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .