Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.
A startling revelation has come to light that the government of the Peoples Republic of China and the Chinese Embassy in India have been funding the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi is the Chairperson of RGF, and its board includes former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, among others.
According to an RGF annual report accessed by IANS, in 2005-06, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation received a donation from the government of People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Embassy as two separate donors. These were listed as donors in the report in the list of general donors.
When contacted, former Finance Minister and RGF Board member P. Chidambaram told IANS, “You should put this question to the Chief Executive.”
According to some estimates, the donation was to the tune of $2 million between 2004 and 2006 and $9 million between 2006 and 2013.
Now, leap forward to 2009. The Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS) functions as a think-tank and carries extensive and relevant research on contemporary issues.
As per the RGF annual report, in April 2009, RGICS Fellow Mohammad Saqib carried out a feasibility study, ‘India-China: Free Trade Agreement (FTA)’, in association with Purnachandra Rao.
The main objective of the study was to gain a better understanding of an FTA between India and China, analyse various trade issues and identify who would stand to gain and lose from such an agreement. The report concluded that China would be the greater beneficiary in all trade dimensions because of the efficiency of its economy.
“There is a principal need for India to improve its commodity structure to balance its performance of competitiveness and complementarities,” the study said.
The authors suggested that India needed, at the minimum, to diversify its products. The study concluded that “there are always losers and gainers in the regional and free trade agreements. India and China can balance the gains and losses through an FTA”.
“Therefore both governments should decide to enter into FTA negotiations. The proposed FTA between India and China will be feasible, desirable and mutually beneficial. An FTA between India and China should also be comprehensive, with a free flow of goods, services, investments and capital,” said the study advocating an FTA between India and China, which will be beneficial to both the countries.
In June 2010, another similar study was conducted. RGICS researchers undertook a feasibility study on India-China trade sector ties through a possible FTA.
This built on the earlier work carried out during the 2009-10 period, in which RGICS Fellow Mohammad Saqib studied a possible India-China FTA along with Purnachandra Rao.
During the 2010-11 period of the project, the researchers examined trade trends between India and China in order to identify cooperative measures by promoting trade and investment liberalisation facilities, better understand FTAs and forecast future prospects.
The study found China to be more fully integrated into the world economy as a major economic powerhouse than India, in large part because of the comparative advantage of labour surplus. But the study also proposed that an FTA would help bilateral economic relations, and that the free flow of goods, services, investments and capital would in fact benefit India’s trade sector more than China’s.
Congress critics argue that this study was done despite the admission that China was already benefiting much more than India from the imbalanced trade.
Critics of the Congress are asking whether there is some connection between the donation to the RGF, the Congress party think-tank lobbying for an FTA with China, and allowing the trade deficit to jump 33 times between 2003-04 and 2013-14.
In addition, questions are being posed if this donation to RGF has any connection with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Congress and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2008.
There are demands that it is time that the Congress party comes clean on the MoU it signed with the CCP.
There are also demands that the Congress should make a full disclosure of its relations with CCP and on the contents of the MoU is essential for the interest of India, as the Congress party is the largest opposition party in India with governments of its own or in alliance in several states.
Critics point out that curiously, India’s trade deficit with China starts to balloon thereafter. Overall trade deficit with China increased 33 times, i.e., from $1.1 billion in 2003-04 to $36.2 billion in 2013-14, under the UPA.
Delhi government working on providing round-the-clock water supply
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the city government is working towards providing round-the-clock supply of water to the people, and also pressed on the need to improve both the management and accountability of water.
The Delhi Chief Minister said that there should be accountability for even one drop of water which goes out of a water treatment plant as a lot of water gets wasted and there is no management or accountability in the capital city.
Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal said, “We need to bring state-of-the-art-technology to the city. We are currently living in old times. We are working in the direction of providing 24-hour supply of water. No privatization is being done.”
“In a recent meeting with Delhi Jal Board officials, we decided that a consultant will be appointed to suggest measures that can ensure 24×7 water supply to every house. We will try and achieve this goal within five years,” he added.
He further claimed that the water in the capital city either gets stolen or leaked. “We want to improve its management and accountability. The consultant that we are hiring will tell us how to improve both.”
The 52-year-old leader also took to the micro-blogging website, Twitter, and wrote that with 24-hour supply of electricity, Delhiites will now get 24-hour water supply. He added that a Delhiite consumes 176 liters of water every day.
“We want to increase the availability of water in the capital, so that there is sufficient water. For this we are in talks with Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand government,” he added.
In veiled reference to RS, Om Birla talks about Dignity of Chair
Dignity of the House and its Chair is an important aspect of the parliamentary system, said Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla as he stressed that it is the duty of all members to respect the highest values that our democracy represents.
Birla’s observations come close on the heels of eight opposition members creating an unprecedented ruckus in Rajya Sabha following which they were suspended. The opposition had also brought a no-confidence motion against RS Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.
Birla said that both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are the images of India’s democracy and extensive debates and discussions were held in both the Houses of Parliament during the session.
He added that with the help of all political parties and Members, the productivity of Lok Sabha was at a historic 167 per cent. He also informed that despite the threat of COVID-19, the average attendance of Members of Parliament, during this Session was very high, which sends a very positive message and strengthens peoples’ faith in the democratic institutions.
Birla proudly asserted that the Lok Sabha sat for 60 hours instead of the allotted time of 37 hours. In fact, despite the curtailment of the Session due to COVID-19, the Lok Sabha was able to function optimally with minimal loss of productivity.
Referring to recent reports on Question Hour, Birla said that members were given regular opportunities to raise matters concerning peoples’ welfare. Birla also informed that 2,300 answers to Unstarred Questions were tabled in the Lok Sabha and 25 Bills were passed.
On a query on the demands of Members for the restoration of the MPLAD Scheme, Birla said that the matter was raised by Members across the political spectrum and hoped that the Government and other stakeholders would examine the issue as per merit.
Birla, while answering a question said that the work on the construction of the new Parliament building has started and that it would be completed within 21 months.
Hope pain of agitating farmers will reach Centre: Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday expressed hope that the pain of the agitating farmers, who braved the pandemic and the heat to protest against the agriculture Bills, will reach the Central government and it will step back from “destroying the farm sector with such ruthless disregard for the farming community”.
The BJP-led Union government had, “with its ill-conceived and unconstitutional farm laws, pushed the farmers to the brink, forcing them to come out on the roads and endanger their lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic”, he said, expressing grave concern over the plight of the farmers and others associated with the agriculture sector — the lifeline of Punjab’s economy.
“Maybe the distressing visuals of tens of hundreds of farmers out on the roads at hundreds of locations in Punjab, and in several other states, will touch the hearts of the Central leadership.
“Perhaps the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will now realise its folly,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.
Reiterating his commitment “to fight the draconian laws till his last breath”, Amarinder Singh urged the President not to give his assent to the Bills, “which were crafted to destroy not just the economy of Punjab and the food security of the nation but also the lives of lakhs of farmers and their families, as well as those dependent on the agricultural food chain for their livelihood”.
The Bills, if implemented, will have devastating effects for the border state of Punjab, as well as for the entire nation, he warned, charging the Centre with ignoring the farmers’ concerns to promote the interests of their capitalist cronies.
The Chief Minister said his government, along with the Punjab Congress, will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the farmers to oppose the Bills, and will take whatever steps needed, including moving the courts, “to scuttle the Centre’s dangerous attempt to demolish the state’s well-established farming network”.
Amarinder Singh also lashed out at the Akalis for their public posturing on the Bills, “which even the farmers had dismissed as crocodile tears”.
Reacting to the attack by Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal and his wife and former Union Minister Harsimrat Badal on him, the Chief Minister dubbed it a blatant tactic to divert attention from their own failure to protect the farmers’ interests and their shameful decision to stay on in the Central government, after actively supporting and defending the farm ordinances.
He said the Akali double standards had been totally exposed by the fact that they continued to be a part of the “anti-farmer ruling coalition” at the Centre and had, till date, refused to even come out with any public criticism of the Union government.
This drama of Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigning from the Union Cabinet is not enough to convince the farmers of the sincerity of SAD, he said.
Questioning Sukhbir Badal’s persistent refusal to pull his party out of the ruling NDA, the Chief Minister said the farmers of Punjab had seen through the Akali tactics, and won’t let them succeed in their despicable and greedy attempts.
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