The World- A Red Herring

By Mansi Sangwan

And I often sit down to wonder, why the world is like this. Displaying each of its faces one by one. Sometimes a little abstruse, sometimes a little adamant. Sometimes a little volatile, sometimes a little placate. Sometimes becoming an amenity and sometimes the root cause of all our problems.

It includes all of us. You. Me. Your friends. Family. Enemies. Well-wishers and the backstabbers. All are here. Breathing the same air. Eating the same food. Wearing the same clothes and drinking the same water.

But still there are separations. Of caste, creed, religion, rich, poor, race, job, salary, status and the list is endless.

There are people begging on the streets and there are people sipping wine in elite restaurants. People making the days and nights count in order to survive and people indulging in wicked ways of earning money.

And this sense of inequality makes me curious. The cake is meant for everyone. One piece for each. But some greedy people pounce on the share of the altruistic ones too. Strange.

The fact that this dynamic world of ours makes the concept of Women Empowerment seem so viable sounds like a misapprehension to me. What can you expect from a bombastic man who doesn’t want a woman to rise above him and question his prudence.

This delusional act of keeping Ladies first phrase operative with the same mindset being transferred over ages is nothing more than putting wool over women eyes!

Men still want women to keep dancing to their tune even if she is the CEO and he is just an employee.

Thus, making the concept of women empowerment just a hot potato!

So just like this, the world feels like an alien to everyone, creating misery and chaos and then encouraging them to continue. To grow. In you. In me. In everyone. Deceiving. Lying. Its actions being precipitate and its intentions being unforeseeable.

But its far cry from what you see and what you expect it to be.

This is it then. The end? No.

In fact, Elvis has never left the building!

 

Decimating The Dragon: Tackling China

By Mayank Mittal & Madhurima Dhar

Amidst talks at the G-20 summit and the recent military standoff at the Doklam Border, the past decade has been a witness to the Indo-China relations transcending bilateral dimensions and acquiring global strategic significance.

The two countries together account nearly 37% of the world’s population and are among the world’s top trading countries with 35 countries naming China as their top trading partner and 6 naming India as theirs. They bear the mantle of the greatest economic and political threat to Western supremacy in the decades to come.

What is unprecedented in this power dynamic between the two nations is that these two aspiring superpowers share a border which has been the bone of contention between them. Thus, the rivalry between India and China is the “the contest of the century”. In this article, we try to break down this complex bilateral relationship between the two Asian power houses.

HISTORY OF INDO-CHINA RELATIONS:

Sino-Indian relations are often characterised by its peaceful border which is quite a feat considering the unresolved disputes between the two nations. The soreness in our relations was pointed out by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel in a letter he wrote to Jawahar Lal Nehru. Our acceptance towards Chinese control of Tibet was sealed in the Panchsheel Agreement of 1954, which has been infringed time and again. History is a witness to China’s policy of expansionism and aggressive intrusion into its neighbour’s territory.

The McMahon Line, which serves as the border between India and Tibet has never been formally recognised by the Chinese. Also, China claimed the region south of the McMahon line, controlled by NEFA(North-East Frontier Agency) which is now the state of Arunachal Pradesh. The successful invasion of Tibet in 1950 left India in a queasy position who still believed that a formal recognition of the McMohan Line could ease out the strain between the two countries.

However further violations of the Panchsheel Agreement, the building of a highway from Tibet to Xinjiang via Aksai Chin which was responded by India by granting asylum to the 14th Dalai Lama(fled Tibet in 1959), all acted as catalysts to an armed conflict.

Indians were no doubt handed a humiliating defeat in the Indo-China war of 1962 by being routed on both Aksai-Chin and NEFA front. The external pressure from both superpowers lead into China’s withdrawal, leaving NEFA in Indian hands. However, India was a weak nation back then, fighting with poverty and illiteracy. Our lack of resources in comparison to the Chinese and unpreparedness to fight on high altitudes did not help our case either.

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CHALLENGES:

The tag line “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” is an amplification of our relations with China. Time and again they have tried to tread upon our toes and has a long list of ongoing disputes with India and other countries. For example:

  • Illegal construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
  • Continuous support to its all weather ally Pakistan in the international forum.
  • Violating India’s territorial integrity in Arunachal Pradesh and J&K.
  • Despite India’s excellent record in terms of non-proliferation, China has misused it’s veto power by blocking our NSG bid.
  • Blocking India’s bid at the UN to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Azhar Masood as a global terrorist.
  • Challenging India’s sovereignty by building CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) in the disputed POK region.

The Doklam region (disputed area between China and Bhutan) in Chumbi Valley is the current flashpoint between the two nations. Indian troops are involved in a military standoff with the Chinese Army, thereby depriving the Chinese of constructing a road which hinders India’s access to its north-eastern states and gives China a greater access.

INDIA’S POSITION:

To counter China’s growing influence, India has taken steps both on diplomatic as well as military level.

India is actively trying to join export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group to strengthen its nonproliferation credentials and build up a strong case for NSG membership.

India and Japan have drafted AAGC (Asia-Africa Growth Corridor) to counter China’s OBOR.

To counter CPEC, India has come to a consensus with Iran and Afghanistan regarding the Chabahar Port.

The recently inaugurated Dhola-Sadiya bridge connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh was India’s way of telling China to keep off by bolstering our defence preparedness.

PROSPECTS:

There is a virtual agreement that the battleground for the Indo-China military rivalry is the Indian Ocean. The Chinese “string of pearls” which is a web of valuable ports and assets is countered by India’s naval build-up.

The course of Indo-China relations is integral to the economic growth in the two countries. The problem is that China doesn’t see India as its prime rival and has awarded that position to the United States.

It is not in our best interest to descend into outright hostility with the Chinese. Both nations have a lot to learn from each other in terms of economic policies and cultural integration of different ethnicities.

Perhaps it is time for India to put its best foot forward by coordinating with Japan, the USA and the EU in order to promote alternatives to Chinese economic exploitation in Asia and Africa.

India’s initiative to develop South Asian satellites for the SAARC countries is a great step in strengthening our interest in our immediate neighbours. We need to focus on delivering our existing commitments because that is where China scores over us. We need to work proactively on providing better alternatives to Chinese policies.

The two countries are capable of being more than just the Asian version of the cold war. They bear the mantle of leading us into the Asian century by having more productive and mature ties.

GST: The revolutionary reform 3.0

By Atulya Singh

It took a time of 17 years, 10 Prime Ministers and 12 Finance Ministers to implement the revolutionary tax reform GST in the largest democracy of the world. The present NDA government has termed it as reforms 3.0, which follows reforms 1.0 (the liberalisation of 1991) and reforms 2.0 (various reforms from 1998-2004 undertaken by PM Vajpayee’s government). Although, the GST that has arrived today is less than perfect but it has been the outcome of a herculean political exercise, fervent negotiation and a compromise reached between the Union government,29 states and seven union territories.

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True, there will be some initial implementation problems. Yet, fairly soon, the positive impact of GST should be available. Reforms 3.0 have already transformed five macro aspects of the Indian economy and there is more to come in upcoming days.

It is dramatically transforming India’s economy and in the long term will position our economy to be a globally competitive and innovation-driven. The six structural reforms that have already been accomplished are:

(1) Ending discretionary allocations of public resources.

(2) Massive formalisation of the economy.

(3) Sweeping changes in India fiscal policies.

(4) An entirely new method for setting monetary policy.

(5) Moving from a bank led to more equity led financing approach.

(6) a revolutionary set of social security programmes.

Each of these is a macro-level change impacting virtually all sectors and industries.

So, what is GST? Goods and Services Tax is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that will be levied on every value addition. During manufacturing and processing, value is added at each and every step and therefore GST will be levied on these value additions- the monetary worth added at each stage to achieve the final sale to the end customers

The Indian tax structure was divided into two- Direct and Indirect Taxes. Direct Taxes are levied where the liability cannot be passed on to someone else. But in the case of Indirect Taxes, the liability of the tax can be passed on to someone else. The total tax incurred by the retailer for purchasing the product and then selling it to the customer is passed as a liability to the customer and increases the burden on the consumer.

Good and Services Tax will address this issue after its implementation. It has a system of Input Tax Credit which will allow sellers to claim the tax already paid so that the final liability on the end consumer is decreased.

A nationwide tax reform cannot function without strict guidelines and provisions. The GST Council has devised a full proof method of implementing this new tax regime by dividing it into three categories. CGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government. SGST: where the revenue will be collected by the state government for intra-state sales. IGST: where the revenue will be collected by the central government for inter-state sales. Different taxes at the Centre and State level are subsumed into GST. At Central level, Central Excise Duty, Additional Excise Duty, Service Tax, Additional Customs Duty commonly known as Countervailing Duty and Special Additional Duty of Customs are subsumed. At State level, State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax, Entertainment Tax, Octroi and Entry Tax, Purchase Tax, Luxury Tax, and Taxes on a lottery, betting and gambling is subsumed.

The basis of Goods and Services Tax is the seamless flow of Input Tax Credit(ITC) along the entire value addition chain. At every step of the manufacturing process, businesses will have the option to claim the tax already paid the previous transaction. Earlier tax was paid on tax and along the way, the tax liability was passed on at every stage of the transaction and the final liability comes to rest with the customer. This is called the Cascading Effect of Taxes. In the case of Goods and Services Tax, there is a way to claim credit for tax paid in acquiring input.

So essentially, Good and Services Tax is going to have a two-pronged benefit. One, it will reduce the cascading effect of taxes, and second, by allowing input tax credit, it will reduce the burden of taxes and, hopefully, prices.

Therefore, the idea behind having one consolidated indirect tax to subsume multiple existing indirect taxes is to benefit the Indian economy in many ways.

It will help the country’s businesses gain a level playing field and will put us on par with foreign nations who have a more structured tax system. It will also translate into gains for the end consumer who do not have to pay cascading taxes anymore and there will be a single tax on goods and services according to various tax slabs implemented by the government.

The Goods and Services Tax aims at streamlining the indirect taxation regime. GST will subsume all indirect taxes levied on goods and service, including State and Central level taxes. The GST mechanism is an advancement on the VAT system, the idea being that a unified GST Law will create a seamless nationwide market. It is also expected that Goods and Services Tax will improve the collection of taxes as well as boost the development of Indian economy by removing the indirect tax barriers between states and integrating the country through a uniform tax rate.

Why I will always wait for my Hogwarts Letter.

By Manya Sharma & Madhurima Dhar

Merlins Pants! My owl must have gotten lost on the way to post this otherwise why would I be late in honouring the 20-year anniversary of The Harry Potter series.

“Harry-Yer a wizard.”, these 4 words not only changed the life of a fictional character but also of an entire generation. It transcended the boundaries between fantasy and reality. It made every reader wait for their Hogwarts letter at the age of 11, hell I am still waiting for mine!

Words are the most inexhaustible source of magic and that is precisely why, even after 20 years of its commencement, it is still such a phenomenon. Harry Potter changing the world and children literature is not an exaggeration but a reality.

The reason why Harry Potter imprints on us is because it bridges magic and morality. It helps us in formulating what our own world should look like. Fantasy stories can tell you a lot about what a civilisation values and the best fantasy stories help a civilisation value the right thing and that is precisely what JK Rowling has contributed to the world. One of the most powerful theme which resonates in the entire series is that of ‘identity’ and ‘acceptance’.

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Harry showed us that it is our choices which define us and with a strong will and relentless determination one can even overcome the invincible.
Hermoine not only gave us a lesson in bravery and what true feminism ought to be but also taught us the immense potential of books. Read and Read so that you don’t have to lift your sword, your tongue should be enough.
Ron taught us how our loyalties are central in shaping us. The trio always stood by each other even when the consequences are dire.
Sirius proved that the world isn’t all black and white but many shades of grey and everything in between. Harry displays the deep inculcation of this fact when he tries to save Malfoy (a person he loathes) in the last book and nearly dies in his attempt. It displays the immense maturity that the characters have developed over the course of time and how being truly mature means perceiving the difference between unpleasantness and pure evil.
Percy taught us that it is not cowardly to make mistakes, as at the end of the day we are all just humans, be it muggles or wizards. But true courage lies in accepting and remedying our mistakes.
Luna showed us that normalcy is over-rated. It is okay being weird and most importantly, it is okay being YOU even if it does not fit the societal-standards.
Molly and Lilly revealed the extent of power of a mother’s love. Like it is rightly said, “Hell hath no fury like a mother whose child has been scorned.”

Fred and George made us realise the importance of pursuing our dreams and passion and how essential laughter is in tumultuous times.

Through the course of the movie, we learn to draw a line between being powerful and being authoritative. Voldemort oozes power whereas authority is a trait exhibited by wise men and women.Harry and his friends discover themselves in an unconventional way. They seek responsibility and learn to respect the right authority which may not always be the government institutions.

The feeling of self-sacrifice is coherent throughout the series to preserve a convoluted world which seems beyond saving.
Harry Potter aided us in comprehending not only how our world should be but also how it ought to be. And that is what great books are capable of doing.
It’s a series read by people of all age groups and rightly so. J.K Rowling created a world that is so intricate and relatable that every chapter is a pleasure to read and every book a journey. Her writing grew with her characters, as did her readers.
In the words of the amazing Late Alan Rickman “When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ And I will say, ‘Always.”

Potterhead out.

TRUMP HAS BROKEN UP WITH MOTHER EARTH

By Madhurima Dhar

Francis Scott Key called America the land of the free and the home of the brave. But what valour and what freedom are they talking about if they can’t even stand up for Mother Earth.

Donald Trump recently pulled America out of the ‘Paris Climate Accord’, the biggest climate deal the world has ever seen. The Paris Agreement’s crucial aim is to keep the global temperature rise this century below 2ºC because once we go beyond this threshold the damage would be irreparable. Each country is required to set their own goals and reconvene every 5 years to ideally set more ambitious targets. What was so monumental about it was that it brought virtually the entire world to act. We are talking about countries like North Korea and China supporting this deal. Even Israel and Palestine reached a common consensus when it came to global climate change.

Trump says, “The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement, they went wild, they were so happy for the simple reason that it put our country at a very big economic disadvantage.” Mr Trump are you delusional? This is not some conspiracy against America, they were happy as they secured a landmark deal for the future of the planet. If the deal was an economic degradation of any sorts for the USA, the American businesses wouldn’t so vehemently support it. They didn’t only second the agreement but also made a last-ditch attempt to change Trump’s mind. 25 companies like Microsoft and Intel purchased a full-page ad in The New York Times arguing about how this agreement encouraged jobs and economic growth. My suggestion, they should have gone with Breitbart instead.

 

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Does this really come as a surprise? This is the man who tweeted about climate change as ‘expensive bullshit’ and a ‘hoax created by Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive.  Trump’s deep-rooted paranoia misled him into taking this step as he feared that America would no longer be allowed to set up coal plants. For starters, he should perhaps go through the agreement once as it does not even contain the word ‘coal’ in it for the simple reason that each country sets its own goals.

Secondly, Trump is concerned about the Green Climate Fund which facilitates projects in the developing nation helping them to adapt to the impact of climate change. Trump believes that this deal obligates America to commit tens of billions of dollars to the Green Climate Fund. This statement is completely misleading. Firstly, USA has committed only 3 billion dollars which are highest in terms of sheer dollars but we also must consider that it is the richest country and one of the top emitters. When you rank contributions as a fraction of GDP, USA ranks only 32nd. The deal does not commit or obligate America to do anything because the Paris Accord is not legally binding and has no enforcement clause. Thus, Trump’s description is largely deceptive, to say the least.

Coming to the drawbacks of pulling out. Firstly, is the harm of standing all alone in the world as he is right now being condemned by almost every major global leader including Emanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau. A bad brand name can stick with America for a long time. Most importantly are the adverse effects on the American workers, the very people Trump is claiming to protect because the world realises the need to shift to renewable sources and thereby setting up a new industry and creating countless jobs.

We used to joke about Trump destroying the world, seems like he is doing it. Perhaps mother earth is the one Trump should consider grabbing.