Sunday 25 June 2023

Asian allies worry that Blinken blinked in Beijing (The Sunday Guardian)

 Blinken’s China visit will do nothing to quiet fears in Taiwan that Washington will look the other way were there to be a total blockade imposed on Taiwan.

TAIPEI: Two of the defining images of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing last week were the underwhelming welcome accorded to him in the Chinese capital and the manner in which the CCP General Secretary read out the riot act to him at their meeting. There were no important Chinese office-holders to receive the man who is third in the line of succession to the Presidency, nor even a red carpet. Instead, Blinken walked along a red line painted on to the tarmac, a less than subtle indication of what his hosts expected Washington not to cross, not just at the Beijing airport but everywhere else in the world. And judging by the images released of the Xi-Blinken meeting so eagerly sought by the US side, the Secretary of State listened to the translated version of Xi’s homily in silence. Officials in the Department of State have been floating stories about the “robust” exchange of views that the two sides had, with Blinken leading the charge behind the privacy of closed doors. Yet it is difficult to disguise the fact that the Chinese side appears to have ceded no ground whatsoever from its maximalist position that whatever the CCP carries out through its agencies has to be accepted by the rest of the world, no country excepted. There were even reports on social media that the Secretary of State emulated the example of US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, who told the then dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein on 26 July 1990 that US Secretary of State James Baker had instructed her to tell him that the George H.W. Bush administration “had no opinion on Iraq’s dealings with the Arab world, including in Kuwait”. This was reportedly taken by Saddam as an indication that the US was not concerned about the future of Kuwait, and hence that his forces could move in and occupy that US ally without any blowback from Washington. Blinken was quoted in these reports as having in effect given a green light to CCP General Secretary Xi to invade and occupy Taiwan, something that is not just improbable but impossible, given the importance of Taiwan, including to the security of that key US ally in the northeast of Asia, Japan. The joker in the diplomatic pack is whether the Chinese side misconstrued Blinken’s mild and courteous manner, refined over years spent as a staffer to Senator Biden, as an indication that there was any inadvertent smudging of Washington’s red line that would be crossed were Beijing to attempt a kinetic change in the status quo over the Taiwan Straits.

Should China attempt a change through force of the status quo, the frontline would be populated by Taiwanese youth. Which is why it is no accident that they as voters have been migrating from the ruling DPP to the Taiwan People’s Party launched by former Taipei Mayor Ko wen-jie. The TPP says that there is no need to buy more weapons from the US or from anywhere else should they come to power, as the TPP would see to it that a cross-strait war is avoided. Such a policy is reminiscent of the stance taken by Prime Minister Nehru until the 1962 war with China, which was that India had no need of an expanded military as skillful “non-aligned” diplomacy would keep the peace between India and its neighbour China. Unilaterally reducing the kinetic defensive capabilities of Taiwan would meet one of the conditions required for the PLA to launch an attack on the island, while the other condition would be a tepid response to such an invasion by the US and its Quad partners Japan, India, Australia and South Korea. In this context, the response by the Biden administration to the furious and kinetic PRC reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s 2 August 2022 visit to Taiwan was not reassuring. Instead of a US carrier in the vicinity sailing towards the air and sea defence zone that the PLA was invading, the naval vessel and its accompanying fleet sailed away from the region even while close to a total blockade was imposed on Taiwan by the PRC for nearly five days. There was a reduction rather than an intensification of US air activity around Taiwan, almost as though a PRC blockade of the island (which would be the first stage of any invasion) would not matter. Such seeming pusillanimity was in contrast to the (admittedly much smaller) 1996 kinetic threats made by China to Taiwan, when two US carriers steamed towards the region and forced the Chinese side to abandon their show of force. Blinken’s visit will do nothing to quiet fears in Taiwan that Washington will look the other way were there to be a total blockade imposed on Taiwan. There is also the discouraging reality that NATO, despite its assurances of support to Kiev, has not sought to impose a No Fly zone over Ukraine and has restrained Kiev from attacking bases in Russia that are regularly causing havoc on the front line. How can Taiwan repel a PLA assault without attacking targets in the PRC? A reduction in the credibility of the US as the guarantor of Security has been why the neo-Nehruvian, former Mayor Ko wen-jie, has emerged as the favourite in the 13 January 2024 Presidential elections in Taiwan.

While spinmeisters in the Biden administration claim its response to the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine as a morale booster for the Taiwanese, in reality the images daily coming on television screens of battered cities across the country are feeding into a growing scepticism across the island nation that the US has the will to go into battle with the PRC over Taiwan. The way in which Ukraine is being pummeled into ruins is apparent, despite efforts by western media to portray the battle as going Ukraine’s way. Rather than a confidence booster, across Asia the war in Ukraine has become a cautionary tale for countries that were formerly confident of the ability of the US to defend them against PRC expansionism, something that western media appears not to have noticed.

Asian allies worry that Blinken blinked in Beijing

Modi and Biden script history in Washington (The Sunday Guardian)

 Although the United States and India have been the two largest democracies in the world from the period when India became independent 75 years ago, the India-US relationship has gone through several twists and turns, high points and dips, periods of storm and sunshine. Had Franklin Roosevelt survived throughout his last 4-year term rather than passing on almost at the start of it, and had B.R. Ambedkar or Sardar Patel been nominated the Prime Minister of India rather than Jawaharlal Nehru, the two countries would, from the start of their official relationship, have become the closest of friends. Nehru had the Old Harrovian’s prejudice of the New World, looking on the US as a bumptious newcomer to the galaxy of big powers. In contrast, the military in Pakistan began its odyssey of leeching on to one great power after the other. Prior to Independence, M.A. Jinnah had teamed up with Winston Churchill in a joint effort to ensure that the “beastly Hindoos” (in Churchill’s eloquent prose) got left with as little of British India as possible. Myanmar, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal and of course (then undivided) Pakistan were snatched from the control of New Delhi once the Congress Party took over the reins of power. Heavily under British influence, London worked hard at separating the Gulf countries from the close relationship that they had had with India during their time. The Indian rupee had been in general use within the Gulf region for a long time, but was replaced with other currencies as India was regarded by London with suspicion by many and distaste by more than a few policymakers in that capital because of the perception that Nehru was in the Soviet camp, a presumption that was untrue. Throughout the decades of the India-USSR relationship during Cold War 1.0 between Washington and Moscow, not once did India conduct military exercises with the Soviet Union nor permit a single Soviet soldier to be stationed in India. The obsession of Whitehall, soon adopted by the White House, to wrest Kashmir away from India and hand it over to its creation, Pakistan, led to a situation when there was very little option but to rely more and more on Moscow as protection against the British obsession to appease Pakistan through the gift of yet more Indian territory than was already handed over to it

Tethered as they were to the policies favoured by the ruling scions of the Nehru family, neither Prime Minister Narasimha Rao nor Manmohan Singh was able to craft a relationship with the US in the fashion that they favoured. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee alternated between bouts of Nehruvian dream think and Sardar Patel practicality. President George W. Bush made an error that finally led to the reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2022. This was to spurn Vajpayee’s offer of a partnership with the US to rout extremists in Afghanistan in favour of once again (as in the 1980s) outsourcing that problem to its creator, the Pakistan army, in 2001. In 2009, Bush and Manmohan Singh went ahead with the India-US nuclear deal, but it was only in 2014, with the coming to power of Narendra Modi, that the India-US relationship moved onto the fast track. During the 21-23 June State Visit by the Prime Minister to the US, what could be the defining relationship of the 21st century has come of age. India and the US are entering an era of technology partnership, as well as the beginning of joint production of cutting edge defence systems that will begin to reveal its full potential by 2029. It goes to the credit of President Biden that despite a well-funded campaign by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby to jettison the State Visit, he remained firm and understood its potential. In the era of Cold War 2.0, the US and India are indispensable partners. Together, both countries have the ability to ensure that the Indo-Pacific be rescued from the onset of hegemony and remain free, open and inclusive. PM Modi’s State Visit to the US is scripting history by placing the relationship between the two largest democracies on a trajectory that ought to have begun in 1947, but has been delayed for over seven decades.

Sunday 18 June 2023

Biden and Modi need to be ambitious (The Sunday Guardian)

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impending visit to Washington to confer with US President Joe Biden and address a joint session of both Houses of Congress has the potential to finally elevate India-US relations to the level that the challenges of the 21st century have made inevitable. It must be said that the Biden White House has shown wisdom and fortitude in resisting pressure from junior levels in the State Department in particular that are prone towards accepting the policy recommendations made by those expert backseat drivers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which have become severely diminished versions of their former selves. Their clinging on to the fantasy that the world is still in the midst of Cold War 1.0 between the USSR and the US has resulted in editorial policies that are reminiscent of those UK and US newspapers in the 1930s that saw Stalin’s USSR as the foe needing to be vanquished, of course with help from that somewhat loquacious Hitler and the country he ruled over, Germany. In an era when the pivot of history has shifted from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific and from Europe to Asia, the New York Times and Washington Post editorial content resemble a Ford Model T in the 1990s. Useful in their time, but a traffic hazard now. Both have unwittingly signed on to the Sino-Wahhabi and Sino-Russian campaign seeking to distance the United States from India. A well-funded, expertly crafted campaign that is both mendacious and vicious in tone has been launched against the Modi visit, but the White House and the Congressional leadership has held firm on its plans to welcome the elected Head of Government of the world’s most populous country that also happens to be a democracy. Both the Republican as well as the Democratic Party leadership understand the importance of strengthening rather than jettisoning the US-India partnership, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other outlets opposed to close ties between Biden and Modi notwithstanding.

Much of the malaise that has afflicted US policy comes from lower-level staffers who swear by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and who attend the many enchanting soirees that are held by “useful idiots” of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby. It was this group that generated a flurry of abuse against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the consequences of which have been predictable. With events such as the 2021 surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban taking place, doubts about US reliability have been replaced with the certainty in Riyadh that Washington is unhelpful in a crisis. As a consequence, the Kingdom has moved away from the US to become closer to the other superpower, China. The CCP has no qualms about assisting both sides in a conflict, so that whether it is Heads or Tails, it is the PRC that wins at the expense of those trusting their future to it. Slowly, however, despite the immense cloud of disinformation about its enemies and misinformation about its intentions, more and more policymakers in Delhi and in Washington are becoming aware of where the actual menace comes from. Spin has the capacity to create temporary perceptions that are distant from reality, but finally hard facts will prevail in the creation of the narrative. Despite the immense hype made by CNN, BBC and other Cold War 1.0 relics, the fact that Ukraine is being drained of its vitals and that the so-called Spring Offensive is but a fiction has become clear.

Unfortunately for President Biden, he has filled the top drawer of his administration with those who remained chained to the past, yet it is cause for optimism that he has adopted a futuristic course of action in extending a warm welcome to Prime Minister Modi. What is needed is for the US and India to agree on a partnership for peace and prosperity that is designed to deter aggression and promote growth in both countries. The 1971 Indo-Soviet treaty ensured that the US and China kept away from kinetically assisting those in the Pakistan military that were engaged in genocide in Bangladesh. A similar document establishing a 21st century partnership for prosperity and security between India and the US will have the effect of giving a boost to an all-round partnership between businesses, citizens and academe as well as deterring expansionist and aggressive powers from encroaching on the rights of smaller countries, such as what happened in the case of the Spratly islands that belong to the Philippines but which is presently occupied by the PRC. Both the US President as well as the Prime Minister of India need to ensure that their meeting this time places the relationship between the two countries in an orbit high enough to meet the challenges that have appeared for both in recent times.


Biden and Modi need to be ambitious

Neutral rules essential for multilateralism (The Sunday Guardian)

 The intention of Beijing is to get BRICS to accept RMB as the common currency, replacing the US dollar.

A visitor to China will find much that has been designed and built to impress, whether it be the massive skyscrapers or the multi-lane highways crisscrossing a city and the country. High-speed trains convey passengers at speed smoothly to numerous destinations, evoking awe in the minds of visitors. Older and even not so old buildings are razed to the ground and replaced with modern structures, and overall there is an impression of bustle that could rival cities such as Tokyo or Mumbai in the business quotient. Taiwan is very different. Although the per capita income of the small but significant island is over $33,000 as compared to $12,000 in China, the capital of Taiwan is unpretentious. The roads are smaller, as are the houses, not to mention that older buildings are allowed to remain rather than get torn down. Comparing the two sides, it would be difficult to guess that it is Taiwan that is in per capita terms more of a powerhouse than its much larger neighbour on the other side of the straits. The buildup of infrastructure in Taipei has been sedate as compared to that witnessed in Beijing. What is unmistakable is the difference in the ambience. Folks in the Chinese capital are more careful about what they speak and to whom. There is an invisible CCP-directed script that they adhere to so consistently that doing so has become second nature to them, so much so that they almost believe what they are saying to others, especially to foreigners. In contrast, people in Taiwan are relaxed about airing their views. Political parties and television channels each have their own script, all of which causes the ambient noise that is the cadence of discourse in democracies. While almost all the people across both sides of the Taiwan Straits come from the same ancestral roots, they have evolved into entirely different societies. Whatever was left of the mood for unification with China has been dissipated by the experience of once different Hong Kong, which has been pummelled into subservience to the CCP the way the rest of the PRC has. Whether it be within the PRC or in the littoral of China, locations such as ASEAN or even Taiwan, high-ranking visiting officials of the CCP walk with a swagger, steeped as they are in the belief that Might is Right.

In the CCP-directed script, it is always China that is the peace loving country, that is never the aggressor. That any contrary impression is because of untruths peddled by US media. What had been concealed from getting expressed in the past is now openly said, which is that the US is the enemy. There are more than a few in the Biden administration who remain trapped in the fog of memories relating to Cold War 1.0, during which Beijing was an ally in the battle against Moscow. Joe Biden has been a Cold Warrior throughout his political life, and it is no accident that he was the prime mover behind the effort launched by NATO since 2022 to terminally weaken the Russian Federation, so that it dissolves into fragments. This is an eventuality that would be welcomed in Beijing, which would waste little time in seizing as much land in eastern Russian as it could. Not for the first time, by its actions Washington has speeded up the pace of the effort by the CCP to overtake the US not merely in GDP but in terms of global power and influence. To take a single example, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signed on to the numerous sanctions on Russia that have so affected global growth, and continues to believe that any large scale shift of US investment from China to elsewhere would be a disaster for the US a stand that has earned her the title of “useful idiot” of the PRC from Senator Tom Cotton. Not that Janet Yellen appears to have noticed, but even in recent times, the PRC has occupied huge chunks of land, air and sea space that does not belong to it. Each such acquisition is justified on the ground that it is Chinese territory. In the PRC telling of a wrong narrative, there has been no aggression against India, to take the example of the world’s largest democracy. All that the PLA soldiers were doing was to take a stroll in their own land when they were interrupted by Indian troops. In the CCP book, any territory occupied by China or which is a target of that country’s expansionism is by definition Chinese and has always been. Such are the rules of the game that Beijing would like the world to play by. The western world has often been accused by others of having set up a rules-based international order that they themselves ignore in practice whenever it is convenient to do so. Or to set rules that have the effect of perpetuating western dominance. In the longstanding tradition of copying the example of the US, the CCP is seeking to replace Washington and its western allies as the prime movers in global affairs while creating a set of international rules that are skewed to favour the PRC. The BRI is an example, where almost all the money spent flows back to China in some form or the other. A multilateral world calls for rules that are neutral between countries, not those that tilt in one direction or the other. Those countries that preach multilateralism while promoting a unilateral world order need to have their biases called out.

There was a lot of discussion within BRICS about using each other’s currency for purposes of trade. Had the idea been implemented, each of the members of BRICS would have been the gainers. However, it is clear that the intention of Beijing is to get the group to accept RMB as the common currency, replacing the US dollar. Which is why efforts to revert to the rupee-rouble trade that took place during the Soviet era failed. Behind the scenes, Xi persuaded Putin to ensure that the Russian Federation asked for payment for its oil not in rupee terms but in RMB. There is clearly no interest in Beijing for the rupee to begin to be used more widely as a key currency in international trade, as would have been the case were there to be a revival of the rupee-rouble agreement. Nor is there any desire in Beijing to promote the South African rand or the Brazilian real. Only the RMB matters or ought to matter. A fitting response would be for IBSA (India Brazil South Africa) to begin using each other’s currencies in trade amongst themselves, an initiative that could be taken by ASEAN as well. Genuine multilateralism calls for such moves, and not merely the exchange of a single dominant power or currency with another.

Neutral rules essential for multilateralism

Sunday 11 June 2023

Chatham House needs to avoid the 1930s trap (The Sunday Guardian)

 Chatham House, otherwise known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), was set up in 1923 by a philanthropic couple in London. Originally intended as a brains trust for the promotion of the British Empire, the RIIA these days is concerned mostly with devising ways of increasing the influence of the UK in various parts of the world. Much of its work is admirable. This columnist visited Chatham House only once, and that was a decade ago. Memories linger of a stately structure and of the scholars within it, who were attentive and courteous even while hearing a point of view that differed substantially from those held by them. Neither side was converted to the other’s viewpoint after the exchange, but the afternoon passed pleasantly, and the conversation was often “frank” but always within the boundaries of friendly dissent. Having a view different from that of the prevalent view in Chatham House was not seen by its members as a capital offence or even a misdemeanour, it simply reflected different shades of the tapestry that constitutes genuine enquiry. Since then, the world outside Chatham House has become somewhat less respectful of points of view other than what those who are listening consider to be correct. Hopefully such a change has yet to penetrate through the walls of the RIIS, and that those having contrarian views are still welcomed inside for a chat over a bit of tea.

It has been ninety-three years since Adolf Hitler was handed over control of the German government. Chatham House has often been the subject of unflattering comments about the way in which the institute believed the Nazi Party to be amenable to reason once sufficient goodwill was shown to them in the form of concessions. It was not Hitler’s Germany that was regarded as the principal threat, but Stalin’s Soviet Union. Hitler had an appetite for aggression that only grew with each concession made to him, but this was not clear to many. For many policymakers, his inflexibly aggressive policies were not clear even after Hitler humiliated and made helots of the Czechs while cruelly rounding on the Jews. Hitler’s takeover of Austria was passed off as just the homecoming into the Reich of an essentially Germanic people, indeed that to which Hitler himself belonged. Earlier still, the re-occupation by force of the Rhineland was regarded as simply a political gesture that would not have much impact on the future, especially given the Nazi leadership’s claim that peace filled their minds and hearts. Considering what France and Britain had undergone during World War I, it was understandable that there was a desire in both countries to walk the extra ten miles, if that was needed to prevent another catastrophic war in Europe that could soon spill over elsewhere. Such a mood was pervasive within Chatham House. The few on the outside who understood the barbaric, insatiable nature of the Nazis were considered warmongers belonging to an inconsequential fringe. Those tasked with the preservation of British power and prestige celebrated rather than condemned the 1938 Munich conference. Now at last, at the expense of that tiresome fellow Benes and his tiny country, Hitler would be satiated and begin to behave in the manner someone who was regarded as admiring the English would. Of course, it did not happen quite that way. Instead of banishing the prospect of war, appeasement of the dictator and his “circle of evil” brought war unavoidably closer. A defence of the Rhineland from German occupation or a refusal to cede ground to Hitler at Munich could have averted war by destroying the cultivated myth of the inevitability of German successes under Hitler. Resolve to resist backed by force is sometimes the only way of preventing a catastrophic conflict.

Chatham House has many experts specialising on China, as well as two India experts. It is unclear whether the two have been effective in dispelling the notion of their colleagues that, for instance, the CAA is a law intended to expel Muslim citizens from India. Actually, despite its clumsy nomenclature, when it actually promises is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities in three countries in South Asia. Or to gently remind those who believe Kashmir should go to Pakistan “as it is a Muslim majority state” that there are almost as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan, a country where religious minorities are close to extinction. Oddly, the Pakistan experts in Chatham House double up as experts on Afghanistan. The Taliban and other Afghans have a view different from those who see Afghanistan as simply a satellite of Pakistan.

A lot of attention is being given within Chatham House in the devising of ways of persuading the CCP to follow international rules. Experience shows that the PRC does so only when it suits its immediate interests, but never otherwise. India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan are among the states that have had their sovereignty threatened or violated by the PRC. The roster of victims of aggression by China is growing. India is an essential link in the chain of alliances that are needed to keep the Indo-Pacific open to all. Yet not just Chatham House but the Conservative Party government itself appears to be allergic to the term “Indo-Pacific”, preferring to continue with the dated term “Asia Pacific”, even while the Indo-Pacific has become central to global security. The world is today confronting a predatory power that seeks to demolish by force or subterfuge the status quo in the Indo-Pacific as a step towards establishing its control over its waters and more. The South China Sea has already been practically gobbled up by the PRC, with the East China Sea next in its sights. There is, just as there was in the 1930s, considerable evidence that if appeasement of a predatory power ought not to pay in Europe (which is the rationale behind NATO’s present belligerence towards Russia), the same principle should be applied to Asia. It is not. Which is why Chatham House needs to get its bearings right in the 2020s in a manner that eluded it throughout the 1930s.

Chatham House needs to avoid the 1930s trap

Sunday 4 June 2023

Implementation, not harsher laws, essential for success (The Sunday Guardian)

 During the period when the UPA was in office, there was a horrendous attack in 2012 on a young woman in a bus in the National Capital Region. As a consequence of the laws in force, one of the perpetrators, who had used a metal rod to commit unspeakable acts, was set free

after serving some time in a juvenile facility, while the others were subjected to the death penalty. There were two powerful legal minds in the Union Cabinet at the time, P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, and they worked out a new law that was expected to protect women from male predators in a way that Nirbhaya had not been. This columnist had then warned that in a country where enforcement left much to be desired, harsher laws would not enhance the safety of women. The new and more draconian Sibal-Chidambaram laws have since proved ineffective in controlling vile crimes against women. A recent case is that of a young woman getting hacked, clubbed and kicked to death in full view of both CCTV cameras and spectators.
Whoever was monitoring the camera feed neglected to inform the Delhi Police on time, for they were not around while the crime was being committed and when the perpetrator made a short- lived escape. Onlookers stayed away from seeking to prevent the murder, perhaps because the only way they would have been able to ensure that the assailant was halted would have been to use substantial force to disable him, and in that process, may even have ended his life. The worry of the uninvolved onlookers may have been that in that case, they themselves could be subjected to investigation and court processes that may drag on for years. Not to forget that perhaps they may themselves face accusations by some of “having used excessive force”.
Were the attacker sought to be restrained in a non-violent way, the odds were that he would have turned his knife on whoever was seeking to stop him from brutally killing the girl. More and more such killings of young women are being reported, and there will still be those who believe that the only solution to such crimes are still tougher laws. However, just as the death penalty in the US has not stopped that country from clocking up more murders in a year than the whole of Europe combined, neither will more extreme laws make a dent in such criminal actions. And, in the case of a harsh law, the process itself usually becomes the punishment even of the innocent. Nine out of ten under-trials ought not to even be in prison at all, and yet they are. A court case lasting years can send a family into poverty and despair more effectively than a war or a pandemic does.
Harsher laws are usually made with the best of intentions, but the assumption implicit in them is that those tasked with administering them unfailingly and efficiently implement such laws in the spirt in which they get passed. Such a premise is seldom borne out in practice. More than a few tasked with implementation are less than honest, while others may be less than efficient. Ultimately, empirical evidence shows that errors in implementation, whether accidental or deliberate, do happen. The Real Estate Regulatory Act 2016 (RERA) is an outstanding piece of legislation that has witnessed faultlines in its implementation. In a large southern state, for instance, for nearly three years the RERA board has been functioning under a serving official of the state government, and reports about collusion with builders against the interests of homeowners are multiplying. RERA is as robust an act as the Narcotics Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act 1985. Experience shows that the NDPS Act has been frequently misused as a weapon of vengeance or in the securing of a bribe. There was a recent case when an official implicated and jailed the young son of a celebrity in order to extort money from the parents. The clauses in RERA have been carefully defined, as for instance the clause that promises of time and material used will be kept or else the builder faces a penalty. It may or may not be a surprise that 25 of the 26 state RERA boards are headed by a retired official of Chief Secretary rank, so as to take advantage of the retirement age being 65 in such boards. Housing in India is a field that contains outstanding domain specialists, but domain specialists seem to find little or no place in RERA boards. Several of the apartments certified by such authorities are different
from what the law had intended, but few of the RERA boards seem to notice. A workers’ cess is being levied, but rather than get expended on workers toiling to build apartments, the moneys collected often get used elsewhere. Several RERA boards have shown a lenient approach
towards easily avoidable delays in completion, not to mention apartments made that are contrary to the provisions of the legislation. As for the show-cause notices provided for in the law, there are not infrequent reports of these being withdrawn once there is a “show cash”
instead. As for board members being held accountable for such lapses, these seem to be in low in number and in several states, zero even while anomalies persist that the law was designed to end.
A law is only as good as the way in which it is implemented, and the need is for not just the plethora of laws in the country but the IPC and the CrPC to be reworked . Such a process is taking place in the way history textbooks that devote much, much less than a tenth of the time
detailing nine-tenths of India’s journey through many millennia are. Nine-tenths and more of their teachings are about less than a tenth of the entire history of India. Law and order are central to double digit growth, but there is no getting away from the imperative of ensuring that implementation is as effective as a well-designed law.