Option in UP
It seemed till yesterday that the cycle is punctured before the race has begun. That the lotus is drooping even before the morning has arrived. It seemed till just now, that the elephant is brisk in its regal gait.

An out-of-context 2006 video clip of Mayawati is being circulated to damage her image and harm her chances in the coming UP election. This 30-second clip cannot be avoided and needs to be directly confronted. It is indeed a conspiracy and clever ploy by those forces who wish to hide their ulterior designs of both 'hard' and 'soft' Hindutva agenda and at the same time clip Mayawati's wings. She was soaring smoothly towards an inclusive, rainbow coalition of varied colours of the oppressed sections, beleagured minorities and even the socially privileged.

It is then that this invidious clip was released to spoil the growing ground-swell of all- round support for BSP under her comforting stewardship. Her broadside on DEMONETISATION as being like a 'concentration camp', RSS rethink on reservation, her repeated reminders that Una, Muzaffarnagar and Akhlaque will never be allowed to be repeated in the future, are ringing a bell in every heart. Who can forget her track record of strong, stable administration, social welfare measures, a no-nonsense-approach to communal riots and protection to women, farmers, minorities, oppressed sections and even others?

BSP is slowly but surely emerging as the only viable, stable option for all sections of society in UP. This is not the time for democratic, secular, progressive forces to allow such conspiracy against Mayawati to raise its ugly head.
Aurobindo Ghose, Delhi

Selling off BEML
Government of India (GoI) Ministry of Defence (MoD) holds 54% equity in Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) which is one of India's "navratna" industries with considerable business in defence production. MoD proposes to disinvest 26% of equity in BEML, leaving only 28% with MoD, by strategic sale with management control vesting in the business entity which purchases 26% equity.

BEML is well known as a competitive, profit-making PSU with over 50 years of experience, engaged in design, development and manufacture of defence sector requirements like special purpose trucks, armoured recovery vehicles, etc, aerospace components and missile components (e.g. Prithvi missile launchers), and a variety of sophisticated heavy earth-moving equipment (bulldozers, excavators, dumpers, etc.) which is the mainstay for the nation's mining and construction industries, Indian Railways and transportation, and the energy industry.

If anything BEML's array of products is a vital component of India's independence and self-reliance in national defence and security.

BEML has been conferred with the "Raksha Mantri's Award for Excellence" for best performance in exports, and "National Award for Import Substitution", besides at least 20 other awards over the years. Along with other "navratna" PSUs, BEML is an icon of India's growing self-reliance in the vital defence sector. Thus, BEML is a respected profit-making PSU under MoD's control.

In view of the foregoing, there appears to be little justification for the proposed "strategic disinvestment" of 26% equity in BEML. On the other hand, such disinvestment will reduce India's self-reliance in the defence sector (and other core sectors) and increase dependence on private business entities for national security. It will place vital manufacture in the hands of private entities which are primarily profit-based, not above colluding with foreign business interests which are against India's security, and raising the cost of products which will adversely affect the defence budget and defence preparedness. Disinvestment will constitute a strategic disaster, make mockery of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's declared aim of "Make in India", and will actually be a case of selling off India's strategic independence and sovereignty.
Sudhir Vombatkere, Bengaluru

Vol. 49, No.33, Feb 19 - 25, 2017