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February - March 2009


Political News

From Far & Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi


Vibrant Gujarat, CM Modi’s Great Achievement

The month of January is an important month for Gujarat. It is the time when bi-annual business conference takes place. It is an event, indeed a festival, eagerly awaited by NRIs as well as prominent Western and Indian industrialists who throng the commercial capital of Gujarat when they can mix business with pleasure.

This year is no exception, as some 800 official delegates and dignitaries, not to mention thousands of Western NRI tourists have descended on Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat, to enjoy the event, renew old friendships and make new friends, for whom Shri Narendrabhai, the CM of Gujarat is the hero, the politician behind this unparalleled success and prosperity.

It is mainly due to his efforts that Gujarat has a relatively corruption free administration, one of the lowest crime rate, the best infra-structure and business friendly environment on the Indian sub-continent that gives Gujarat a double digit growth that puts even China’s growth in shade and raises living standard of 50 million Gujaratis, irrespective of their caste, colour, creed or religion.

While China has closed down 60,000 factories due to credit crunch, Gujarat has few such worries, as her trade is diverse and not solely dependent on the Western consumer craze or credit crunch.

I would like to congratulate Shri Barry Gardiner, Stephen Pound and Manoj Ladwa, a few amongst many friends of Bharat and in particular Gujarat, for leading a delegation to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat summit. The EDM introduced by Barry Gardiner, the Chairperson of Labour Friends of India (LFI) was signed by a record number of MPs from all political persuasion, the figure touching 112.

It is pity that the intransigent attitude of the British Government is alienating many of our politicians in Gujarat and our High Commissioner Sir Dickie Stagg’s attitude is short sighted and like an ostrich, he is burying his head in sand which is extremely damaging for the wellbeing of our trade relations with Gujarat. He is cutting his nose to spite his face. Our arrogance sees no contradiction between Middle East terrorist outfits and law abiding state like Gujarat. God help us if we are heading towards “Vote Bank” politics.

Perhaps Sir Stagg’s action to stay away from such a highly successful business environment may reflect the attitude of the Foreign Office, led by green behind the ear Foreign Secretary David Miliband whose performance during Russian Georgian conflict was well below par, out of line with the rest of Europe, clearly showing his inexperience when it comes to crunch.

I wonder whether we can afford such inexperience at the highest level.

The representatives of this government are willing to visit and talk to Hamas, Fatah and similar organizations, some on the banned list but not to Modi and his officials who are respected throughout the world with the exception of USA and Britain.

A vision without action is regrettable but an action without vision is criminal.


Sarkozy, the voice of sanity.

France has always managed to remain neutral, unattached and has never claimed to have a special relationship with US. As a result France has avoided pitfalls, not to be drawn in wars inflicted on the West by egomaniac US president George Bush.

The charismatic French President Nicholas Sarkozy is now willing to risk a split with President elect Barak Obama by openly siding with Russia over the US plans to locate Missile Defence System (MDS) in the former Soviet satellite states of Poland and Czech Republic, ostensibly to protect US against nuclear armed missile attack from a rogue state like Iran. But in reality it is a ploy to subjugate the proud Russian nation.

In any case these missiles would be more effective if stationed in Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Alaska and the Azores Islands in the mid Atlantic. Stationing them in East Europe is like flying to New York via New Delhi! So whom US is trying to fool?

Russia is up in arms at the blatant violation of the unsigned but shake hands peace accord between the West and the old Soviet Union. No wonder Russia is threatening to station their own missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, bordering Lithuania and Poland.

President Sarkozy was quick to say that these US missiles are a threat to European peace and security, doing more harm than good. The deployment should be put on hold until after the conference on European Security he would be chairing next spring.

Even in Russia- Georgia conflict, France adopted a neutral stand, meeting Russian President and Prime Minister rather than acting like a bull in a china shop, the policy adopted by Britain, sending our green Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Georgia and Ukraine in an anti Russian posture that ruined our credibility.

It is time Britain should detach herself from American influence and join Europe to preserve peace and good relations with Russia. In any case president elect Obama may ditch Britain in favour of France and Germany, the real economic power in Europe.


Empty Talk from Jack Straw

Our society is full of men and women of straw. They are more visible, prominent in politics than in any other professions. So when Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary announced his misgivings and his desire to overhaul “Human Rights Act” (HRA) which he himself introduced in a hurry, some ten years ago when he was Home Secretary, we the voters have the right to be suspicious of his motives and involvement.

As usual, rather than admit that he was wrong, that HRA is a charter for sheltering the criminals, terrorists and paedophiles, sadists, he blames “Nervous Judges” for showing leniency, refusing to deport even the most dangerous terrorists and extremists, even though it is crystal clear that these criminals are a danger to the law abiding public and the security of this beleaguered nation, brought on by our reckless action in attacking Iraq under false pretence. Indeed our country is seen as a soft touch, a safe heaven by criminals of every shape, size and inclination. If Mr Straw would like to blame, then is it not the time to reform the judiciary as well?

Even Mr. Straw’s limited reform to redress the balance in favour of law and order will appealed, fought by tooth and nail by bleeding heart judges, politicians and a raft of Civil Rights lobby, many of their members earn a fortune, live a life of luxury on legal aid, funded by hard-up tax payers.

I would not be surprised if the next Labour Manifesto includes a water-down promise to reform of HRA, as a cheap propaganda to play on voters’ concern to gain political mileage, the promises which would be confined to dustbin once the election is over.

This act has created a compensation culture and rogue legal firms have sprung up like wild mushrooms that milk the legal aid to the tune of some £2 billion, turning ambulance chasing in to an art form borrowed from USA. Our ports of entry have the highest concentration of such legal firms which is the first port of call for illegal refugees who are well reversed in such laws.

Jack Straw would like to add a new dimension, a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to HRA to make it voters’ friendly. But it is doubtful how determined is Mr. Straw to stand firm against the furious legal protests from those who may lose the hen that lays golden eggs.

If Mr. Straw is serious in protecting this country, avoiding another 7th July or Mumbai type assault, then tinkering at the edges of HRA is not sufficient. He should not only abolish HRA but withdraw from EU’s Human Rights bill that would override any decision taken by our court or the parliament.

It is also time to look at the judiciary, to decide who is supreme, the unelected bleeding heart, even corrupt unelected judges who have a cushy job for life or the elected parliament whose members can be thrown out by the public if they fail to perform.


Is Boris a genius or a dreamer?

Boris Johnson may be deficient on many fronts but no one can say he is dull, lacks imagination or a political minnow. In fact not many politicians on the Conservative side could have defeated charismatic, exuberant ex-mayor Ken Livingstone.

So when Boris announced that a feasibility study is in consideration to build an Island Airport (IA) off Isle of Sheppey (IOS) no one was surprised, although it may sound like a fancy dream, a futuristic project for the next millennium rather than a reality, especially closing down the Heathrow airport, an icon and the pride of London, to make the island airport financially viable.

British newspapers were not slow to name the project “Boris Island.” Perhaps Boris Iceland would be more appropriate, as the projected financial outlay could be in the region of £30 billion, a conservative estimate. There is only one country that could afford to build such a project and that country is China, definitely not Britain, with our crumbling economy and financial meltdown, the legacy of our brilliant Chancellor turned PM Gordon Brown. The estimated building time is six years, which does not include the closing down of Heathrow Airport (HA) and converting it into a super business park. The Department of Transport (DOT) is about to decide on the fate of the third runway. If approved, HA would employ some ninety thousand people, an increase of some twenty thousand employed at HA at present.

Boris believes that it was the biggest mistake to site HA in such a densely populated part of London in the first place. It would be difficult to disagree with him, at least on this point. Boris agrees that it would be a slow process to close down HA and move to the new IA.

In a way the proposed location, two miles off the Isle of Sheppey where water is no more than 15 feet deep, is an ideal location with an indefinite capacity for expansion. Ferries or a bridge, even a road and rail tunnel would connect the IA to the mainland with direct rail connection with Paris and Brussels.

The flight path would be over the sea which would spare the residents noise and pollution. Boris would like to know what the alternatives are to the third runway at HA. I would say expansion of Stansted and Luton could be an ideal solution, the four major London airports situated in four corners, thus reducing the commuting time, traffic and pollution for all Londoners, as we all have an airport on our door-steps.

One thorn in IA project will be the environment lobby, as it may affect thousands of migrating birds that use Thames Estuary and the surrounding marshland, both as a summer and winter habitat, especially as our winters are becoming milder, a great attraction for Siberian migrating birds where the winter harshness is beyond endurance with -30*C temperature during winter months.

Both projects, the third runway at HA and the IA have supporters and detractors. But ultimately it would come down to cost which would not favour the Boris Island, even if Conservatives won the next election.


DRUGS IN OUR SOCIETY

The menace of drugs in British society is a well documented fact. But hardly any one in our community realises or would like to admit that it is fast creeping into our children’s lives as well.

Some parents find it difficult to believe that such a problem even exists in our community, as they still live in the past, in the world of pastoral and tranquil surroundings of the colonial Africa.

More people in India are getting HIV infection than any other country in Asia but people are unable or unwilling to accept this fact as it goes against our culture, social environment and religious beliefs. But burying heads in the sand like an ostrich only prolongs the agony and allows the problem to take root in the society. Mumbai has now an unenviable title of Aids capital of Asia.

In fact it would be difficult not to be affected by these problems that have taken root in the main stream British society, as we the Hindus are most amicable, friendly people among the ethnic minorities.

We do not find it difficult to mix with the indigenous people who form the main stream society, as having a pint of lager or a glass of wine after a long day at work or at weekends, in a pub or a social club. Going to a Christmas or Valentine day party is as much part of our culture as celebrating Navratri, Holi, Janmastami (Lord Krishna’s birthday) and Diwali.

It is said that Hindus and Sikhs, like Parses in India when they first arrived, have the knack of socializing with any one, mixes like a lump of sugar that dissolves in a glass of milk and forms a delicious drink that every one would like to have, irrespective of their religion, culture and ethnic background.

In a way this is a unique quality that allows us to be a part of the mainstream and harvest the benefits that mainly go to the mainstream society.

Mankind has taken drugs for centuries but it’s only in recent decades that the issue has exploded into such a tormenting and debilitating social problem.

At one time it used to affect a tiny minority at the top, today it effects every one, thus it is capable of destroying the very fabric of the society if not tackled in time.

So often young people catch the habit of binge drinking and drug taking when they go on holidays in the company of their mates. Holiday destinations like Cyprus, Ibiza and now emerging East European countries go out of their way to attract our youngsters where they can do what they like. Drinks and drugs are dirt cheap and readily available.

Once when we were on holiday in Cyprus, an elderly English couple had taken an evening cruise, believing it to be a cruise to observe dolphins, whales and to watch sun rising over the Mediterranean Sea. In fact it was booze and sex cruise where they take the ship outside the territorial waters so that no local laws are broken.

It would be difficult to describe or for a family oriented magazine like India Link to print what we were told. It would be suffice to say that it was easier for the youngsters to find a sexual partner among strangers, to take part in orgies than to buy a bottle of soft drink!

One may wonder whether it is the affluence, the readily availability of drinks and drugs or the rejection of the society and its principles that fuels such lawlessness and strange behaviours in our younger generation.

This is a very serious and a sensitive subject that should be discussed with care, and understanding if we are to face the problem that is eating into our society.

I would like to know the views of the readers who are in every day contact and work in this field.


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