Current Affairs Current Affairs - 17 August 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 17 August 2018

General Affairs 

"Atal Bihari Vajpayee Died At 5:05 PM": Full Statement By AIIMS Hospital
  • Former Prime Minister and Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was admitted to AIIMS with a kidney tract infection and chest congestion on June 11, died this evening just past 5 pm. He was 93 years old. His death was confirmed by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

    Mr Vajpayee, a three-time prime minister, had retired from public life after his health turned frail. He was under the supervision of Dr Randeep Guleria, the Director of AIIMS. For over three decades, Dr Guleria, a pulmonologist, had served as personal physician to Mr Vajpayee.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mr Vajpayee this afternoon - his fifth visit since the veteran BJP leader was admitted at AIIMS. LK Advani, one of Mr Vajpayee's closest colleagues and his home minister in the NDA government from 1998 to 2004, was among the visitors. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi too visited Mr Vajpayee in the afternoon.

    Here is the full text of the press release from AIIMS informing about Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death:
    Media & Protocol Division - AIIMS, New Delhi

    Date: 16-08-2018

    Press Release

    "It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at 05:05 pm on 16.08.2018

    Shri Vajpayee was admitted in AIIMS on 11.06.2018 and was in the last 9 weeks under the care of a team of AIIMS doctors.

    Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today.

    We join the nation in deeply mourning this great loss." 

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Was My Closest Friend For 65 Years: LK Advani
  • Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was hospitalised at Delhi's AIIMS hospital for nine weeks, died today. He was 93. In a moving tribute, his closest friend and deputy for nearly six decades, senior BJP leader LK Advani, said "Atalji will be remembered as the pioneer of the first ever stable non-Congress coalition government at the Centre and I had the privilege of working as his deputy for six years."

    Following is the full statement released by LK Advani on Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death:

    I am at a loss of words to express my deep grief and sadness today as we all mourn the passing away of one of India's tallest statesmen, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague- in fact he was my closest friend for over 65 years.

    I cherish the memories of my long association with him, right from our days as Pracharaks of the RSS, to the inception of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the struggle of the dark months during the Emergency leading to the formation of Janata Party and later the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.

    Atalji will be remembered as the pioneer of the first ever stable non-Congress coalition government at the Centre and I had the privilege of working as his deputy for six years.

    As my senior, he always encouraged and guided me in every possible manner.

    His captivating leadership qualities, mesmerising oratory, soaring patriotism and above all, his sterling humane qualities like compassion, humility and his remarkable ability to win over adversories despite ideological differences have all had a profound effect on me in all my years in public life.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, The 1st Indian Leader To Address UNGA In Hindi
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first external affairs minister to deliver a speech in Hindi at the UN General Assembly, effectively raised India's stand on key issues like nuclear disarmament, state-sponsored terrorism and reforms at the world body.

    Mr Vajpayee, in his role as foreign minister and prime minister, visited the UN headquarters to deliver speeches to the UNGA on seven occasions from 1977 to 2003.

    Known for his great oratory skills, Mr Vajpayee first addressed the UNGA's 32nd session in 1977 as the foreign minister under the Janata Party government headed by then prime minister Morarji Desai.

    "I am a newcomer to the United Nations, but India is not, having been associated actively with the Organisation from its very inception.

    "As one who has been a parliamentarian in my own country for two decades and more, I feel a special sense of exhilaration in attending this assembly of nations for the first time," Mr Vajpayee said in the historic address.

    It was the first time that an Indian leader had delivered the speech in Hindi at the UNGA as other Indian leaders had opted to speak in English, the dominant language at the forum.

    It is said that Mr Vajpayee, who was also fluent in English, was the force behind uplifting Hindi to the international platform by using the language at the UN each time de delivered a speech.

    He touched the subject of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that the India "stands firmly for peace, non-alignment and friendship with all countries."

    "The vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum - the world is one family - is an old one. We in India have all along believed in the concept of the world as one family," Mr Vajpayee said.

    In his speech, he said that India looks forward to consolidating the process of normalisation of relations with Pakistan, not only to ensure durable peace, but to promote beneficial bilateral co-operation.

    In 1978, Mr Vajpayee again visited the UNGA as the foreign minister and raised the issue of nuclear disarmament.

    "There is no let-up in the arms race either quantitatively or qualitatively. Disarmament is still a distant goal; and the probability of a nuclear war looms over us like a menacing shadow.

    "India believes that partial measures such as the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons comprising the nuclear 'have-nots' are not likely to generate any genuine feeling of security unless there is, at the same time, significant progress towards nuclear disarmament," he said.

    In 1998, Mr Vajpayee returned to deliver a speech at the UNGA as prime minister and met then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in New York.

    "India has demonstrated that democracy can take root in a developing country.

    "I am confident that the Indian experience will prove that democracy can also provide the basis for stable, long-term economic growth in developing societies. That is the path that the people of India have chosen, and I stand before the Assembly today as the symbol of this new resurgent," he said.

    In 2000, Mr Vajpayee went to the UNGA to address the Millennium Summit of the UN. He spoke about terrorism, the danger of a nuclear war and India's nuclear programmes.

    "The danger of nuclear war remains a serious threat to global peace and security in the new era whose arrival is marked by this Summit.

    "India was forced to develop these weapons in 1998 because the principal nuclear-weapon States refused to accept the almost-universal demand for disarmament. Moreover, the spread of nuclear weapons in our neighbourhood made us especially vulnerable," Mr Vajpayee said.

    He returned to address the UNGA's 56th session in 2001 and talked about the policy of sponsoring terrorism by some states as the session was being held in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks.

    "We in India know from our own bitter experience that terrorists develop global networks driven by religious extremism. Their operations are supported by drug trafficking, money laundering and arms smuggling.

    "Some states follow a policy of sponsoring and sheltering them. Terrorists can only be countered through closely coordinated efforts of the international community," he said.

    In 2002, Mr Vajpayee again raised the issue of state-sponsored terrorism and nuclear blackmail in South Asia in his address at the 57th session of the UNGA.

    "In our South Asian region, nuclear blackmail has emerged over the past few months as a new arrow in the quiver of state-sponsored terrorism.

    "Dark threats were held out that actions by India to stamp out cross-border terrorism could provoke a nuclear war," he warned.

    Mr Vajpayee's last address at the UNGA came in 2003 when he criticised the world body at the 58th session, saying "the United Nations has not always been successful in preventing conflicts or in resolving them and cited the example of Iraq.

    He said that "we need to introspect on some of the assumptions that have been made over the years concerning the will and reach of the UN.

    "We realised that the United Nations does not possess magical powers to solve every crisis in all parts of the globe or to change overnight the motivation of leaders and communities around the world."

    Mr Vajpayee said that there is a need to clearly recognise, with a sense of realism, the limits to what the United Nations can achieve, and the changes of form and function required for it to play an optimal role in today's world.

    A 10-time Lok Sabha member, Mr Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics in 2005. He died in New Delhi today at the age of 93.

    Here is Atal Bihari Vajpayee's full speech at the United Nations General Assembly:

    "India recently accomplished a historic non-violent revolution. In a magnificent assertion of the indomitable human spirit, our people reaffirmed in March last their firm faith in a free and open society. Calculated efforts by forces of darkness and tyranny to destroy democracy were decisively defeated. The March revolution was clearly of far-reaching significance for our 600 million people. We are happy that its significance has been equally appreciated by freedom-loving people all over the world.

    Our people boldly upheld the basic principles, values and aspirations on which the United Nations was founded more than three decades ago, and regained their hard-won freedom and fundamental human rights. I have, therefore, great pleasure in bringing to the United Nations the greetings of our people and of reiterating, on their behalf, at this thirty-second session of the General Assembly, India's abiding faith in the United Nations as an instrument for maintaining global peace and security and for promoting orderly progress through co-operation among nations based on justice and equality.

    Our new Janata Government has been in office for barely six months. Nevertheless, much has already been achieved during this time. Basic human rights have been restored. The pall of fear that hung menacingly over our people has been lifted. Constitutional measures are being devised to ensure that democracy and fundamental freedoms can never be smothered again. But we are not going to rest content with this only. As solemnly affirmed by our Parliament on 22 July 1977, our people are determined to bring about by peaceful and legitimate methods "a socio-economic revolution, illuminated by democratic standards, vivified by socialist ideals and firmly founded on moral and spiritual values".

    I am a newcomer to the United Nations, but India is not, having been associated actively with the Organization from its very inception. For me, it is a great privilege to address this Assembly. Indeed, as one who has been a parliamentarian in my own country for two decades and more, I feel a special sense of exhilaration in attending this assembly of nations for the first time.

    What has added to my pleasure is to have in the Chair, Mr. President, the representative of a country which, together with India, was one of the founders of the non-aligned movement, and with which we have firm bonds of friendship. I extend to you, Mr. President, the cordial felicitations of my Government and myself on your unanimous election as President of the thirty-second General Assembly. Your election is as much a tribute to your personal eminence and wide diplomatic experience as to Yugoslavia and the role it has been playing in strengthening the forces of peace and stability. We assure you of our fullest co-operation in the discharge of your responsibilities.

    I also take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the outgoing President, Ambassador Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, the representative of our close neighbour, Sri Lanka, for steering the thirty-first session with great tact and ability.

    Mr. Molapo (Lesotho), Vice-President, took the Chair.

    May I also join the other delegations in paying my sincere tribute to our Secretary-General, Mr. Kurt Waldheim, who brings to his heavy responsibilities wisdom, patience and a deep commitment to the United Nations and its role in the promotion of international understanding and global well-being.

    I should, moreover, like to compliment Mr. Waldheim for his thought-provoking report to the Assembly in which he has candidly drawn attention to the challenging tasks that lie ahead. The United Nations, he has pointed out, "presents unrivalled opportunities" [A/32/1, sect. X11] and "is still to some extent, an Organization in search of its identity and its true role" [ibid.].

    The Janata Government stands firmly for peace, non-alignment and friendship with all countries.

    These policies have always represented India's national consensus and tradition Non-alignment is a projection of national sovereignty in international relations. Its essence is not neutrality but freedom, which is the natural consequence of the struggle for the liberation of our nation from colonial rule and the liberation of the human spirit from subjugation and oppression. We believe in the true independence of nation-States and their freedom to pursue policies in their best national interests, and to judge every issue on its merit.

    The new Government took the earliest opportunity, on assuming office, to declare its resolve not only to continue non-alignment but in fact to restore to the policy its original positive thrust. It is a matter of some satisfaction that our stress on genuine non-alignment and our decision to pursue the policy with vigour and dynamism has been understood and appreciated in its proper perspective.

    The vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum is an old one. We in India have all along believed in the concept of the world as one family. After many trials and tribulations there are prospects of realizing the dream in the shape of the United Nations which has reached near universality in its membership representing 4,000 million people of diverse races, colours and creeds. However, the United Nations should not function merely as a conclave of governmental delegations. We must see how this assembly of nations can be transformed into a parliament of men, representing the collective conscience and will of humanity.

    The United Nations Charter was a pledge not just by nations or for nations. It was a declaration on behalf of the peoples of the world to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and, what is, more, to build a new world order in true freedom.

    My thoughts are not in terms of the might and majesty of nations. Much more important to me are the dignity and demands of the common man. Our successes and failures should be judged ultimately by one yardstick alone: whether we are working towards social justice and dignity for all peoples, indeed for every man, woman and child. For its success the United Nations must become the effective voice of all humanity and a dynamic forum for collective action and co-operation based on interdependence between nations.

    Our own history and political experience have taught us that the real sanction, indeed the ultimate power, rests in the will and response of the people, not in governments. Thirty years ago under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi our people courageously fought the might of a great imperial Power and ended its domination over India without resort to arms. Earlier this year our people successfully frustrated attempts by a self-seeking regime to deprive them of their fundamental freedoms.

    What came to pass took many friends abroad by surprise. But to me the great political courage shown by the people came from our ethos and tradition. The individual in India has always been given the pivotal place in our religious and philosophic tradition. Our scriptures and epics have all along made one central point: the cosmos and creation hinge on the individual and his fulfilment.

    We have accepted all along that divinity may have many forms. Everyone in India is therefore free to pursue his own path to salvation, irrespective of birth or belief. At the same time, however, our seers, in an unbroken line from ancient Vedic times to the present, have taught us compassion and tolerance towards our fellow men. Gandhiji summed up the essence of this teaching in a favourite word: Antyodaya, which means "unto this last". This word, which he used time and again in his messages, signifies the concern which any society should have for the well-being of the poorest, the lowliest and the lost.

    I am, therefore, convinced that our national as well as international politics must be constantly permeated with the thought of man, his happiness and well-being, and his essential unity with fellow beings. I am not thinking of man in the abstract, in whose name tyranny has been perpetrated down the ages. What I have in mind is man of flesh and blood. Our central concern must be his joys and sorrows, his hopes and aspirations.

    We stand for peace-a warm, living peace-which is the bedrock of all our efforts. Peace, however, is not just the absence of war. The tenuous fabric of world peace could be torn asunder any time. Peace can be secured only by collective effort to end the exploitation and domination of one people over another and by eliminating glaring inequalities and imbalances between nations, and in the rights and opportunities for the world's peoples.

    Each nation-State has, no doubt, to preserve and promote its national interests. But no country can live in isolation within the four corners of its frontiers. We have to recognize the inevitability of global interdependence for promoting human welfare and happiness in every part of the world. And interdependence demands that we should all look beyond our national horizons and display a spirit of accommodation and sacrifice in order to share with the rest of mankind the fruits of progress and prosperity.

    The world has come a long way since India launched its national liberation movement against colonialism and imperialism. As an Asian country, we watched with anguish the enormity of the suffering and sacrifice of the brave Vietnamese people in their long struggle for national liberation.

    Their ultimate success is a shining tribute to the might and power of the human spirit and its indomitable resistance to subjugation.

    We are happy that the United Nations has rightly and properly mounted an international operation to provide assistance for the reconstruction of Viet Nam and for the rehabilitation of its people, a task in which my country is extending its full co- operation.

    It is with a feeling of great joy that we welcome the entry of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam into the United Nations. We also extend a cordial welcome to a new African State, the Republic of Djibouti. The entry of these two countries into the United Nations has taken this Organization one step closer to its goal of universality. We have friendly ties with both countries and look forward to working with them in closest co-operation.

    We mourn the passing of Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus, and pay our homage to his memory. The late Archbishop was a world statesman and one of the founding fathers of the nonaligned movement. He was the chief architect of the independence of Cyprus and its struggle to preserve its identity.

    The agenda before the Assembly is one covering a multitude of problems of current concern to the world. May I spotlight only a few specific issues which are of great importance and urgency and must take priority in our collective deliberations.

    Foremost among these problems is the momentous and agonizing struggle for human rights and freedom in southern Africa. India has always been opposed to unnecessary bloodshed and violence in national affairs and inter-State relations. It stands for non-violence and for resolving conflicts along the path of peace and negotiations. Even during the dark period of foreign subjugation, India adhered to certain basic principles: steadfast opposition to colonial oppression and total rejection of any form of racialism and suppression of human rights. India's dedication to these principles is even deeper today.

    The challenge in Africa is clear: whether a people have the inalienable right to live in dignity and freedom or whether a racist minority can be allowed to perpetuate injustice and oppression over the vast majority. There is no question that all forms of racialism must be eradicated, root and branch.

    Apartheid must go. Its continuance is a blot on humanity and a grave reflection on the United Nations.

    India would like to see the problem of Zimbabwe resolved at the earliest possible moment through peaceful means. It has thus welcomed the positive elements in the recent Anglo-United States initiative taken towards the establishment of genuine majority rule within a time-bound framework.

    We hope that the Security Council resolution adopted recently on the subject, resolution 415 (1977), will lead to a ceasefire and eventually to a solution of the problem.

    Much will depend upon the willingness of the illegal Ian Smith regime to see reason and give up its arrogance and intransigence. Until the Smith regime is ousted from power and freedom is restored to the long-suffering people, we cannot expect the freedom fighters to lay down their arms. In the meantime, India reaffirms its support for, and solidarity with, the patriotic forces of Zimbabwe, who are valiantly fighting for the liberation of their country against heavy odds. If world opinion continues to be wilfully defied by Ian Smith in a desperate bid to cling to power, the United Nations will have to exercise all its authority to widen its mandatory sanctions against the illegal minority regime and its South African supporter. That alone would hasten its collapse and help to restore to the people of Zimbabawe their inalienable right to determine their own destiny.

    The authority, credibility and prestige of the United Nations face an equally stubborn challenge in Namibia, which has the status of an international Territory. It remains to be seen whether the efforts of the Western Powers can bring about the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia so that the resolutions of the United Nations may be implemented. We condemn South Africa for its decision to integrate Walvis Bay, a part of Namibia, with the Cape Province. We also condemn South Africa for its reported plans to use a part of Namibian territory for nuclear testing.

    We stand by the South West Africa People's Organization and urge all nations to recognize its representative character. We cannot expect the people of Namibia not to resort to armed struggle if that is the only means left to them to achieve their goal of independence. However, the issue cannot be left to be resolved only by the efforts and struggle of that Organization. The United Nations has a collective and direct responsibility. It has by no means exhausted its capacity to discipline the South African regime into total withdrawal from Namibia.

    While in southern Africa we face colonialism and racialism at its worst, in west Asia there remains an even more explosive threat to international peace. Here, too, some basic principles are involved. First, no one can be permitted to enjoy the fruits of aggression. Secondly, no people can be denied their inalienable right to their homeland. Thirdly, all border disputes should be resolved by negotiation and not by force.

    There can thus be no recognition of the territories illegally occupied by Israel through the use of force and aggression, and they must be vacated. At the same time the Arab people of Palestine who have been forcibly evicted from their hearths and homes must be enabled to exercise their inalienable right to return to their land. All peoples and States in the region have the right to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. That is an essential prerequisite for a durable solution to the problems of the region.

    The United Nations must also reject and repudiate the recent efforts by Israel to alter further the demographic character of the territories occupied through new settlements on the West Bank and, in Gaza. Unless resolved satisfactorily and in good time, the problem would have disastrous repercussions far beyond the region. There is clearly urgent need to reconvene the Geneva Conference, with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in it.

    The situation in Cyprus remains unresolved. We still hope that bicommunal talks may be resumed and a solution will be found which is consistent with the territorial integrity, sovereignty and non-aligned status of the Republic of Cyprus.

    Economic issues are an increasingly vital dimension of international relations. The concept of a new international economic order based on equality and justice has already been accepted by the world community. We must now move forward to its early realization so that men and women everywhere may look forward to more just and equitable opportunities and rewards for their labours.

    I mentioned earlier the challenge and paradox of how to balance national responsibilities with the imperatives of unavoidable international co-operation. After over 30 years with the United Nations we recognize, better than before, that no nation or group of nations can become islands of prosperity in an ocean of poverty. The discussions on international economic relations have been going on for more than two decades. Even the modest targets set for the current Second United Nations Development Decade have been either disregarded or diluted. The transfer of resources and technology has never been sufficient to correct the accentuated disparities.

    All these problems were vividly explained and projected in the Conference on International Economic Cooperation, which ended in Paris this year. In the 18 months of long deliberations some progress was made, but results were deeply disappointing. A special fund is to be set up and some commitment to fulfil the allocation of overseas development aid has been reaffirmed. But the major problems of transfer of resources and technology and relief from the burden of debt remain. The common fund within the Integrated Programme for Commodities has been agreed to in principle but remains to be realized in practice.

    Arguments and theories are being put forward which do not show sufficient appreciation of the grave crisis confronting the developing countries. Perhaps that is due to the preoccupation of the developed nations with their own problems and difficulties. In many cases, what is being given by one hand is being taken away by the other.

    It is claimed that modern science and technology have the means of removing poverty and spreading the benefits of progress to the whole world. The fact, however, remains that the non-availability of the right type of technology for the developing countries is only accentuating the disparities between the rich and the poor. International commerce has undoubtedly multiplied in the post-war decades.

    But the advantage from its manifold increase has contributed mainly to the material progress and higher standards of living in the developed world.

    The problems of the easing of trade barriers for the developing countries and protection of remunerative prices for their exports remain more or less where they were following the energy crisis.

    The problem of oil-importing developing countries is so serious that they can look forward to nothing but mounting debts for survival.

    We recognize that developed nations have their own internal social and economic problems. But they need to lift their perspectives and policies beyond immediate and narrow national concerns. One could ask; Would it not be economically sound to facilitate a significant flow of financial and technological capabilities from the developed to the developing world as an enlightened answer to structural problems for their own economies? An increase in the purchasing power of 3,000 million people inhabiting the developing countries could well provide an answer to the problems of unemployment and economic dislocation in the affluent world.

    India has participated with vigour and sincerity in all the deliberations of the world community, not in a spirit of confrontation, but in the recognition that the world economic malaise requires a new sense of international interdependence.

    In this regard I venture to suggest an approach which was suggested many decades ago by Mahatma Gandhi. He was indeed a universal man. Only two days ago we celebrated the one hundred and eighth anniversary of his birth. He had a clear perception of the world economic order based on certain principles which, in my opinion, may be summed up as follows.

    First, all peoples have a right to the satisfaction of their primary needs, irrespective of the state of their economies, their levels of productivity, or their geographic location.
    Secondly, interdependence between nations must be without exploitation. Since there can be no genuine interdependence among unequals, action must be taken to correct this inequality.

    Thirdly, the developing countries must pursue paths of individual and collective self-reliance as part of their over-all strategy to secure the transfer or resources and technology from the developed world.

    Fourthly, despite their division into nation-States, the people of the world constitute one family. An integrated world economic order demands movement across frontiers, not only of goods, capital resources and technology, as at present, but even more so of people themselves.

    Fifthly, economic strategy should be directed towards the growth of employment rather than the growth of gross national product alone.

    Sixthly, there should be a world-wide movement against the extravagance of consumption, which tends to dehumanize and alienate man from his fellow-beings.
    Seventhly, the developing countries, no less than the developed world, must reduce the gap between their elite and their masses. An equitable world economic order can only be based on an equitable economic system within each nation.

    As the second most populous country in the world, the dimensions of our problems are immense. Our achievements are noteworthy, but challenging tasks lie ahead. As a country which has recently recommitted itself to the democratic path and the principle of rule by consent, our tasks tend to become more complex.

    We have no magic wand or instant solutions to the myriad problems inherited from the near and the distant past. But we have reason to be optimistic and confident. In three decades of independence, the traditional genius of our people has enabled them to show their capacity to grasp the new opportunities offered by science and technology and to bend these modern tools of innovation and advancement to serve our own national needs.

    While recognizing the advantages of international co-operation, we have sought to depend largely on our own effort for national progress and economic self-reliance. Our new Government is in the process of setting itself new priorities and removing the distortions that have crept into our policies and planning. On the economic front, we want to move away from the "growthmanship" and blind imitation of industrialised States towards integrated planning in which man is at the centre.

    We propose to concentrate more on the development of our rural areas, where an overwhelming proportion of our people live and will always belong. We do not seek affluence based on elitist consumption. Man must be judged by what he is, and not by what he has. We want to provide our jobless people with purposeful employment and fulfil the basic needs of the underprivileged masses.

    We seek to arrest, if not to reverse, the process of urbanization, which has become one of the biggest social and economic problems of the developing world-a subject on which Gandhiji sounded a note of caution many decades ago.

    Even as India struggles for a better tomorrow, it has demonstrated its willingness to share the benefits of its economic and technological experience with other developing countries. Our professional and academic institutions have been providing training and instruction to thousands of students from other developing countries in diverse fields of social and economic development. We stand for increasing co-operation with other developing countries to mutual advantage, without in any way seeking exclusive advantage, either economic or political.

    India seeks friendship with all and dominance over none. The Janata Government has actively sought to build bridges of friendship, understanding and co-operation with all countries. Attention has been paid, first and foremost, to strengthening ties with our immediate neighbours. This is the message I sought to carry to Nepal, Burma and Afghanistan in my recent visits. We look forward to consolidating the process of normalization of relations with Pakistan, not only to ensure durable peace, but to promote beneficial bilateral co-operation.

    Four days ago, on 30 September, the representatives of India and Bangladesh initialled the text of an agreement on the Ganga waters issue. It is a comprehensive understanding covering the short-term problem, and lays the foundation for a long-term solution to meet the optimum requirements of both countries.

    This problem has bedevilled the relations between us and our neighbour for 25 years. The agreement vindicates our faith that so complex a problem, affecting the economy and lives of millions of people of two neighbouring nations, could only be resolved in a spirit of shared sacrifice and mutual accommodation through sincerely motivated bilateral negotiations.

    Many political changes have taken place in the last year in South Asia. Even so, it is a tribute to the people that the area is today freer of tension than it has been for decades. If, indeed, South Asia can find a recipe for peace and co-operation, all of us with similar burdens can then devote greater attention to development and to constructive endeavour. In fact, it is in this context that we make the special plea that the area around us-the region enveloping the Indian Ocean-should be made free of great-Power rivalry and bases which can be used for aggressive actions. In the wider context, India welcomes the continuing search for detente-detente not only in Europe but everywhere-so that the benefits flowing from it can be enjoyed by all.

    Year after year scores of resolutions have been adopted at the United Nations calling for general and complete disarmament, in particular nuclear disarmament. The arms race, with the resulting arsenals of fearsome weapons, has reached such an alarming stage that the world is poised on the horns of a strange dilemma. We are told that nuclear weapons are necessary as a deterrent against war and that it is only the assurance of their use that constitutes the core of deterrence. We do not accept that thesis.

    We believe that nuclear weapons are dangerous whether they are in the possession of one country, some countries or many countries. We are not only against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are against nuclear weapons themselves. India has been consistently opposed to the acquisition and development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, India was the first country to plead at the United Nations more than 20 years ago for a ban on the testing of all nuclear weapons. The great Powers were not in a mood to listen to us at that time. When they were ready for it, they signed the partial test-ban Treaty. That was 14 years ago. The world rejoiced and believed that a comprehensive test-ban treaty was close at hand, but we are still waiting. More nuclear- weapons tests have been conducted since the partial test ban than prior to it. Weapon tests under ground are being conducted even now. There has been no progress in nuclear disarmament.

    We are not a nuclear-weapon Power and have no intention of being one. The new Government has reiterated this position in unambiguous terms. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Morarji Desai, has said that India would not go in for nuclear weapons even if all the other countries in the world did so. We did not sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons because it was a discriminatory and unequal Treaty. Nothing has happened since that Treaty was formulated nearly 10 years ago to change our view.

    India embarked upon a programme for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy nearly 25 years ago. We continue to be committed to it. We fully share the view that non- proliferation of nuclear weapons should not be confused with non-dissemination of nuclear technology. We shall oppose, as before, any moves or measures that would stand in the way of the peaceful utilisation of nuclear energy. We shall also oppose moves or measures that are discriminatory in nature. At the same time we are prepared to co- operate whole-heartedly with other countries in discussing ways and means of putting an end to the danger of nuclear weapons.

    It is both urgent and necessary for the political mind to free itself of military logic and for the political will to assert the force of reason and reverse the nuclear arms race in the direction of nuclear disarmament. We trust that the discussions in the special session on disarmament to be held next year will identify the priorities in nuclear disarmament and help the formulation of a time-bound programme of realistic and concrete measures for disarmament without further delay.

    Already the establishment of the new international economic order is being delayed because of diversion of scarce resources to the futile arms race. World military expenditure is estimated to be more than $300 billion annually at current prices. Of this amount 90 per cent is accounted for by developed countries, which is equivalent to 20 times the official development assistance now given by them to developing countries. Even 5 per cent of the total expenditure incurred by the developed countries could vastly help the efforts of the developing countries to achieve many of their modest economic goals. Disarmament is thus vital not only to ensure peace and security but to promote speedy economic and social progress.

    A great deal undoubtedly remains to be done. We often complain of the lack of will or progress.

    However, there is no occasion for cynicism and despair. Despite our many disappointments the family of the United Nations has an impressive record of achievement. I would commend the work of the ILO, WHO, UNESCO, FAO, UNCTAD and many other bodies within the United Nations system. Given the required funds these bodies could do a lot more to alleviate human suffering and promote wellbeing.

    A case in point is the WHO efforts to eradicate malaria, which is again raising its ugly head: Its programme to eradicate this scourge from the globe is estimated to cost about $450 million-half of what is spent daily for military purposes-yet the programme is dragging for lack of funds.

    India is convinced of the necessity of supporting, strengthening and developing the United Nations as a universal Organization, not only for preserving peace among nation States and promoting respect for human rights, but also for fostering economic co- operation and harmonizing the actions of States.

    This is clearly a vital task facing the international community.

    In the final analysis, I return to my basic theme. The greatest task before us, which envelops all the issues confronting mankind, concerns the welfare of man, regardless of race, colour, creed or nationality. All our problems, the questions of war and peace, economic malaise and rapidly diminishing natural resources, must lead us to one conclusion: in our interdependent world each one of us is his brother's keeper.

    The single all-embracing item on our agenda is the future of man, and it will remain so in the years and decades to come. Man inherited, developed and still nurtures this good earth and is nourished by it. If we realize that his survival is inextricably linked with that of millions of others as never in the past, we shall reach the only answer to the requirement of our times: national sovereignty must adjust itself to international interdependence.

    On behalf of India I pledge before this Assembly that our country will never be found wanting in its resolve to share in the sacrifice for the ideals of one world and for the welfare and greater glory of man.

Nuclear Tests Ordered By Vajpayee A Watershed For India: Foreign Media
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former prime minister who transformed India into a nuclear-armed nation and ignited a weapons race in South Asia, died Thursday.

    The 93-year-old had been ailing for some time and on June 11 was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences suffering a range of illnesses, where his condition deteriorated.

    Known for his engaging speeches, Vajpayee led India's right-wing coalition governments from 1998 to 2004, overseeing sweeping policy changes in telecommunications, education and privatization of state-run firms. He will be remembered for his repeated efforts at talks with neighbor Pakistan, improved relations with the U.S. and India's second nuclear weapons test in 1998, more than two decades after the first detonation in 1974.

    Two months after his Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition came to power, Vajpayee ordered detonation of three underground nuclear devices on May 11, 1998 at Pokhran in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. In defiance of a global outcry, two more tests were conducted at the same site two days later.

    The U.S. imposed economic sanctions, while some European nations and Japan halted aid. Pakistan responded with its own atomic blasts two weeks later, ignoring appeals from world leaders to show restraint.

    "The nuclear tests in 1998 were a watershed moment in India's history," said Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. "They served as an early but resounding reminder of India's status as a rising power. But the nuclear tests also set India and Pakistan on a new and escalatory collision course that they remain on today."

    Yet, Vajpayee's involvement in efforts with Pakistan's then President Pervez Musharraf to launch a dialog on Kashmir remains "one of the most promising, and only, true attempts to launch a formal peace process on the subcontinent," according to Kugelman.

    The son of a school teacher, Vajpayee was born in 1924 in Gwalior in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. A lifelong bachelor and amateur poet, he was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's parent organization. Vajpayee's first taste of politics came in 1942 when he was arrested briefly for joining the Quit India Movement that hastened the end of British colonial rule five years later.

    "His passing away marks the end of an era," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement. "He lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades."

    State of Emergency

    He worked as a journalist before joining the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the fore-runner of the BJP, in 1951 and was elected to the lower house of parliament six years later. He was detained for a second time with other opposition leaders in 1975 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency and suspended elections and civil liberties. Once restrictions were lifted two years later, her Indian National Congress party suffered a heavy defeat at the polls.

    Vajpayee became foreign minister from 1977 to 1979 in the country's first non-Congress government.

    As BJP president from 1980 to 1986, he worked with long-time colleague Lal Krishna Advani to build the party. The BJP later supported a campaign to build a Hindu temple on the site of an ancient mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, eliciting votes of many Hindus, India's majority religious group.

    Nuclear Club

    Their efforts paid off with the BJP forming its first government in 1996. Vajpayee became prime minister but the administration lasted only for a fortnight. The BJP won subsequent elections in 1998 and 1999.

    Having long promised to carry out nuclear tests if elected, Vajpayee wasted no time. In an interview with India Today magazine days after the explosions, he declared India to be the newest member of the nuclear club.

    "We do not want to cover our action with a veil of needless ambiguity," he said. "India is now a nuclear weapons state. Ours will never be weapons of aggression."

    Pakistan Conflict

    With the nuclear tests behind him, Vajpayee's time in office was punctuated by crises and later peace moves with traditional rival Pakistan. He traveled to Pakistan for talks in February 1999, only for fighting to erupt two months later in the Kargil region of Kashmir as Indian soldiers sought to push back Pakistan-backed forces that had occupied Indian-controlled territory.

    A second effort to improve ties in 2001 ended in failure as talks with Musharraf collapsed. Tension flared again following a terrorist attack on India's parliament in Delhi in December that India blamed on Islamic militants it said were supported by Pakistan's security agencies.

    Talks began again in 2003. While the BJP lost the general election the following year to a resurgent Congress, the peace process survived until the attack on Mumbai in November 2008 by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants based in Pakistan.

    Gujarat Riots

    At home, Vajpayee further liberalized India's economy by allowing foreign stakes in non-state-owned banks and insurance companies, and hastening state asset sales.

    He was criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups for not removing the then BJP chief minister of western Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, after riots in 2002 killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. India's Supreme Court in 2009 ordered an inquiry into Modi's actions during the rioting, which victims' families have said he abetted. The Supreme Court ruled Modi -- who became prime minister in 2014 and will seek re-election next year -- had no case to answer.

    Vajpayee gradually retired from active politics after the BJP's 2004 defeat, restricting his role to backroom guidance and writing cryptic poems. His adopted daughter cared for him in his senior years. In 2014, Modi's government declared his birthday would be celebrated as 'Good Governance Day.' In 2015, he was given India's highest civilian honor 'Bharat Ratna,' which means Gem of India.

7-Day Mourning For Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Holiday In Many States On Friday
  • A seven-day state mourning has been announced by the central government as a mark of respect to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who died after prolonged illness at AIIMS in the national capital. During this period, the national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout India.
    The former prime minister will be accorded a state funeral on Friday.

    Mr Vajpayee, the BJP's tallest leader, was admitted to hospital on June 11 with a urinary tract infection and chest congestion. A statement by AIIMS said his condition had been deteriorating over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. "Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today," it said.

    The home ministry announcement, which formally notified state governments about Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death, did not declare a public holiday.

    The union cabinet later made an exception to the precedent, under which a holiday is only announced on the death of a sitting prime minister or president.

    Many states including Punjab, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Odisha have, however, announced a public holiday for Friday as a mark of respect to the former prime minister who was considered one of the country's most respected politicians.

    In a departure from the standard protocol, the union cabinet also decided to close government offices in the national capital on Friday afternoon. An official said it had been decided to give half-day holiday on Friday afternoon, the day of the funeral.

    According to standard home ministry protocol. a holiday is only announced on the death of a sitting prime minister or president.

Business Affairs

How Atal Bihari Vajpayee's economic policies paved way for India's growth
  • P V Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh are credited as the architects of economic reforms in India - albeit under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. But, it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who rolled out the economic template and policies that would be followed by the prime ministers who succeeded him.

    While there are plenty of people who praise Vajpayee for his dignity, his unfailing courtesy, his wit and his oratorical skills and his ability to take the opposition parties along, the economic contribution of his government is often overlooked. He attracted some brilliant and committed and highly educated followers, gave them critical portfolios and set about fixing many of India's long standing problems.

    So you had Arun Shourie rolling up his sleeves and chalking out a blue print for selling off ailing PSUs, which the government should never have been running. You had Yashwant Sinha moving to simplify taxes and free up businesses even further and creating an atmosphere conducive for attracting more foreign direct investment. (And later on Jaswant Singh carrying on the path of liberalisation after taking over as finance minister). You had Major General B C Khanduri setting up connecting India through the highway projects in a systematic and planned manner. And you had Pramod Mahajan changing the telecom policy that would allow mobile penetration across the country at affordable rates, and make India the cheapest country in the world when it came to mobile telephony rates.

    In between, a change in the budget had allowed IT services companies to charge all expenditure on their Y2K business as revenue expenditure, and which in turn led them to grow at breakneck speed. Finally, the Vajpayee government brought in the Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs), the first move to help banks deal with their bad loans, and the credit bureau.

    None of these were easy. Vajpayee was running a coalition government with all its attendant pulls and pushes. The RSS was reportedly not very happy with him either because they saw him as too liberal and too welcoming of foreign direct investment. And, post Pokhran, many developed countries tried to stymie India's economy in big and small ways. He also had to deal with the Kargil war.

    In the political and diplomatic arena, Vajpayee was soft spoken and suave and not frightened of extending the olive branch to Pakistan for peace talks. But he had enough steel inside - which Musharraf found out in the Kargil war. Equally, Pokhran showed the world that India was not just a nuclear power, but perfectly comfortable in showing off its capabilities on the nuclear front.

    Vajpayee is no more, but no one can doubt his contribution on economic, political and diplomatic fronts.

How Atal Bihari Vajpayee propelled Indian IT
  • Somewhere in the middle of the budget speech, in the spring of 1999, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha made a brief, but significant announcement.

    The Y2K bug would hit computer systems and databases in 2000 - to save memory space, premium commodity in those days, computer systems often were programmed to use the last two digits of a year - 1999, for instance, would be programmed as '99'. But there was no way to write 2001 as '01' since this could signify 1901 as well. Indian information technology companies saw a boatful of opportunity in debugging the systems of global multinationals. They deployed armies of software engineers to fix the glitch; for the first time many of today's IT giants could break into and win deals from the likes of Bank of America, American Express, Goldman Sachs and Citibank.

    But what of domestic Indian companies who would also "spin into a chaos"?

    The NDA government had an idea.

    "Mr. Speaker, Sir," began Sinha. "We are all conscious of the fact that the Information Technology sector is going to be the sector of the future. The immediate crisis, which is looming over this sector, is connected with the Y2K Problem, which will hit us at the close of the current calendar year. I get the impression that the corporate sector is not adequately seized of the dangers which lie ahead on account of this problem. In these circumstances, to assist the business sector to overcome the Y2K Problem, I propose that all expenditure incurred in making their systems Y2K compliant be allowed as revenue expenditure in the next financial year," he announced.

    This was just one in a series of decisions, between 1999 and 2004, that attempted to change the face of, and facilitated the rise of India's nascent information technology sector. The IT industry was tottering at around $6 billion in 1999-2000. It is more than a $150 billion industry now. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister in these years (1998-2004), would repeatedly emphasise the importance of technology in preparing India for the millennium. Every budget of his government had something to offer to the sector.

    The most popular was of course the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), first announced in the EXIM policy of 2000-2001. SEZs were intended to provide comprehensive facilities at one place for export production, such as procurement of duty free equipment, raw materials, components, etc. This resulted in improving the competitiveness of Indian IT exporters.

    The same year, the government proposed to reduce the customs duty on several items, everything from computers (20 per cent at that time to 15 per cent), microprocessors (5 per cent to nil), memory storage devices, mother boards, floppies (big then, obsolete now), CD ROMs (dead again), integrated circuits, and data graphic display tubes for colour monitors.

    The next year, the Vajpayee Government extended the concessions given to the IT industry under Sections 10A and 10B of the Income Tax Act. Companies at that time lost these benefits in the case of an acquisition, or a change in ownership. These restrictions were proposed to be removed.

    Interestingly, Vajpayee and his ministers understood the importance of venture capital funding - start-ups, as we know it today, weren't around. Technology entrepreneurship was mostly about IT services, and a handful of Dot Com companies. There were no real products, or e-commerce. India's most celebrated start-up, Flipkart, came in 2007. It must have taken quite some foresight for the government to propose a liberalisation of the tax treatment for venture capital funds in the budget of 2000-2001. SEBI were to be the single point nodal agency for registration and regulation of both domestic and overseas venture capital funds from here on.

    "The tax laws and SEBI guidelines are being formulated accordingly," the Finance Minister said as he presented the budget. "I should add that this liberalisation will give a strong boost for Non Resident Indians in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to invest some of their capital, knowledge and enterprise in ventures in their motherland."

Vajpayee's legacy: Laying the foundation for India's telecom revolution
  • When former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government in 1998, the telecom sector was in a complete mess. The telecom companies were bleeding and the teledensity was quite low. The usage of telecom services didn't gather pace due to expensive call rates (data didn't exist at the time!). Long before the Reliance Jio's big entry into the sector, Vajpayee government took some historic decisions to fast-track the growth in the telecom sector. Here's a list of some crucial decisions:

    1. Since the introduction of New Telecom Policy 1994, the telecom sector growth picked up considerably. The teledensity jumped from 1.2 per cent in 1994 to about 2.3 per cent in 1999. Despite such high growth rates, India lagged behind some matured countries in terms of telecom penetration. The biggest bottleneck to the growth was high annual license fees that operators were supposed to pay to the government.

    2. The NTP 1999 shifted to a revenue sharing model, whereby telcos would be charged one-time entry fee in addition to revenue sharing - about 15 per cent of their annual revenues - as against a multi-year license fee till then. The license was extremely high in those days. Telcos operating in metros were paying Rs 6,023 per subscriber license fee to the exchequer. Since the costs of services were high, the customers were charged exorbitant rates. In 1998, for instance, the income call rates were Rs 16.80 per minute, and the outgoing rates were even higher.

    3. In 1999, some 22 cellular operators reported combined losses of Rs 7,700 crore. The revenue sharing model gave a huge fillip to telecom companies to invest in infrastructure. With lower revenues to share with the government, the telcos were able to lower tariffs which, in turn, led to higher consumption of telecom services and better teledensity.

    4. During the Vajpayee era, the government was able to separate the policy formulation arm (Department of Telecom) from the service provider arm (BSNL). BSNL, which was founded in 2000, was corporatised with an aim to compete with private operators. For the first few years, BSNL was able to garner significant market share - equalling the customer base of Airtel by 2004. In a 2015 statement, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that "Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre had left BSNL with a profit of Rs 10,000 crore." But since then, the state-owned telecom operator is going downhill.

    5. Setting up of TDSAT (telecom disputes settlement and appellate tribunal) in 2000 was a step to reconstitute telecom regulator TRAI and take away the judicial powers from it. The job of TDSAT is to resolve disputes in the sector, and its orders could only be challenged in the apex court.

Remembering Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The financial reformist
  • The perception about BJP, before it came to power in 1998 (it ruled till 2004), was of a party promoting 'swadeshi'. It was seen as a party which opposed liberalisation or reforms. However, in his tenure as the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee emerged as more of a reformist. He had two finance ministers - Yashwant Sinha, who managed the exchequer for most of the time, and Jaswant Singh, who was brought back from foreign ministry to swap the portfolio with Sinha. Here goes the list of big reforms and ideas that got implemented in Vajpayee's tenure.

    A proposal to lower the shareholding in PSBs

    It was a bold decision from the BJP-led NDA government, when they talked about reducing the minimum government holding in PSBs from 55 per cent to 33 per cent. This proposal was mentioned in the union budget by Yashwant Sinha. The government's idea was noble as it wanted to keep away from PSBs, by allowing wider public shareholding. There was a heavy burden on the government budget to keep pumping capital into PSBs. But this idea never saw light of the day, as it was politically suicidal, with bank unions up in arms. The government also had a thin majority in the house, so couldn't pass such a proposal without discussion or protest in the parliament.

    Setting up of credit information bureaus

    India never had credit bureaus to collect the information from all banks and keep a record of defaulters and good borrowers at one place. The bank defaulters (credit card, personal loans etc) had a free run, as they moved from one bank to another, without banks knowing their credit history. The government then had set in motion a proposal to set up credit information bureaus. CIBIL was set up in 2000 and later more credit bureaus came up. Over the years, the credit bureaus have helped in creating a good credit culture especially amongst the retail borrowers. Today, borrowers with good track record get good deal from banks, whereas bad borrowers have to clear their names before they get loans.

    Setting up of ARCs

    The Vajpayee government also set up an institutional framework for dealing with bad loans in the banking system. The banks were not very successful in their recovery efforts, whereas courts were also not helping in faster recovery of the bad assets. The government allowed creation of specialised asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), to buy assets from banks at a discount, by paying a marginal amount upfront and the balance in security receipts (SRs). ARCs are still relevant today and many reforms have been done to make ARCs more effective. ARCIL was the first ARC that was set up in 2002. Today, there are dozens of ARCs active in India.

    Allowed foreign banks to operate as subsidiaries in India

    Foreign banks operating in India operate as branches of the parents. Vajpayee government took a bold decision and allowed them to be set up as a subsidiary of the parent.  The idea was to allow them more freedom to operate in India, if they convert from branches to subsidiary model. These regulations were further refined later, but not many banks were interested in the subsidiary model because of taxation and other stiff guidelines like meeting priority sector obligations. But this move in itself was a big move.

    Increasing foreign investment limits in banks from 49 to 74 per cent

    There were many reforms in relaxing the investment limits for foreign institutional investors in debt as well as equity. One such big reform was the higher limit of 74 per cent equity in banks. The limit was enhanced big time from 49 per cent to 74 per cent during the BJP-led NDA Government. This brought more liquidity in the stocks of Indian banks as domestic institutions were not very active.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's key policies that shaped Indian economy
  • 'India Shining' may have been a failed marketing slogan for Lok Sabha elections in 2004, but former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an administrator and orator par excellence who led that campaign after running the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for five years, did indeed lay the foundation stone for several things that took India forward in the later years.

    One and a half decade after Vajpayee demitted office, he is today remembered as a leader who took forward India's telecom revolution, laid the foundation for massive infrastructure projects - road, rail and air, in a size and scale that matched the Nehruvian-era. He is also known for introducing social development schemes, including making education a fundamental right. He charted a new diplomatic path by encouraging people to people engagement with Pakistan (Delhi-Lahore bus route), declared India's nuclear power capabilities to the world and kick started a disinvestment process that saw privatisation of non strategic public sector enterprises.

    It was not without reason Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after inaugurating the Magenta Line of Delhi Metro recently, observed that the first traveller in Delhi Metro train was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The first line of the capital city's life line was inaugurated during Vajpayee's time. In fact, Delhi Metro today is a beacon of the country's urban mobility. In terms of roads too, the much talked about Golden Quadrilateral Scheme, which linked the four metro cities Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai was his dream. The other grand vision was that of a network of all weather roads that criss-cross villages across India. Pradhanmantri Gramin Sadak Yojna helped movement of farm produce, and improved access to healthcare and education.

    The mobile revolution started during his time as NDA government decided to slash call rates and thereby bring in more competition in the telecom industry. The rest is history. If India's telephone penetration rate was in single digits before Vajpayee's New Telecom Policy, mobile connectivity has taken off in such a manner that it is today the key pillar of the Central government's JAM (Jandhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) plan for financial inclusion. Despite its increased thrust on spending, Vajpayee was keen on managing India's fiscal deficit arithmetic. In fact the Fiscal Responsibility Act was introduced during his time.   

    Narendra Modi government is known to have shown keen interest in the development of India's North Eastern states. In fact, what Modi government is doing is something which Vajpayee had started off when he set up for the first time, a separate ministry for all round development of North Eastern States.

    Vajpayee's achievements did not happen in a conducive atmosphere. Unlike the absolute majority BJP government enjoys today, Vajpayee had steered a coalition government that depended on its NDA partners. Neither was the global economy, nor India's security threats very friendly. Gulf war was troubling global markets, spooking oil prices, and India had to fight a war in Kargil to buy peace.

    The best witness to Vajpayee's performance as the India's Prime Minister will be his predecessor Manmohan Singh. When he followed Vajpayee as Prime Minister in 2004, India's GDP growth was inching towards double digits, inflation was under control and India was, at least in terms of numbers, shining.

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