THE RAILWAY BUDGET OF INDIA 2015-16

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The Railway Budget of the Government of India was announced by the Railway Minister of India, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on February 26, 2015 at precisely 1:00 pm. Here, are the highlights and all the features backed up and mentioned in the annual budget by Prabhu, for all-round development of the Indian Railways(IR) respectively:-

Thrust:-

The IR has become the prime mover of the Indian economy. There is resource mobilisation for higher investments, decongestion of heavy haul routes and speeding up of trains, more emphasis on gauge conversion, doubling, tripling and electrification of tracks, consistent project delivery and improved passenger amenities and much safer and more transparent one. Hence, Indian Railways today continue to be the most preferred mode of transport for the masses.

The four goals required for Indian Railways to transform over the next five years are:-
a) To deliver a sustained and measurable improvement in customer experience.
b) To make IR a safer means of travel comprehensively.
c) To expand IR’s capacity substantially and modernise infrastructure, by increasing daily passenger carrying capacity from 20 million to 40 million, to increase track length by 20%
from 1,14,000 km to 1,38,000 km by 2016 and to grow the annual freight carrying capacity from 1 billion to 2 billion tonnes.
d) Finally, to make Indian Railways financially self-sustainable by generating large surpluses from operations not only to service the debt needed to fund capacity expansion, but also to invest on an ongoing basis to replace the depreciating assets.

Building Partnerships:-

This will require partnering with key stakeholders like the states, PSUs, multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations and other governments to gain access to long term financing and technology from overseas, private sector for improving last mile connectivity and to expand fleet of rolling stock and modernize station infrastructure.

Leveraging additional resources:-

IR envisages an investment of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore in the next five years to be mobilized from multiple sources to cater to funding i.e multi-lateral development banks and pension funds.

Revamping management practices, systems, processes and retooling of human resources:-

The targeted operating ratio for 2015-16 is 88.5% against 91.8% in 2014-15, which is the best in the last nine years. Also, IR will speed up decision making, tighten accountability, improve management information systems, training and development of human resources.

To set standards for Governance and Transparency:-

Eleven major thrust areas of the IR’s ‘Action Plan’ are:-

  • Quality of life in journeys.
  • Cleanliness with the motto – ‘Swachh Rail, Swachh Bharat’, new department for cleanliness, integrated cleaning by engaging professional agencies and training staff, ‘waste to energy’ conversion plants and new toilets covering 650 additional stations compared to 120 stations in 2014-15.
  • A 24×7 helpline number 138 will be set up alongwith a toll-free number 182 for security related complaints.
  • Ticketing operations will be electronically developed, maximum five minutes for issuing unreserved tickets, hot buttons for coin vending machines, single destination teller machines, concessional e-tickets for differently abled travelers, developing a multi-lingual e-portal, crediting of refunds through banks, proliferation of automatic ticket vending machines with smart cards and currency options, integrated ticketing system on the lines of rail-cum-road tickets and a Defence Travel System will be developed for elimination of warrants.
  • E-catering will be adopted for selecting meals from an array of choices, ordering food through the IRCTC website at the time of booking of tickets, integrating best food chains into this project, setting up of ‘Base Kitchens’ in specified divisions to be run by reputed agencies for serving quality food and expansion of water vending machines.
  • Hand-held terminals to Travelling Ticket Examiners(TTEs) for verification of passengers and downloading charts will be required, possibility of extending facility of SMS on mobiles as a valid proof of travel for PRS tickets and an integrated customer portal as a single interface to access different services. Also, there will be an introduction of a centrally managed Railway Display Network in over 2000 stations in the next two years, and an “SMS Alert” service will be developed to inform passengers in advance of the updated arrival/departure time of trains at all starting or destination stations.
  • Surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without intruding into privacy. A new project for introducing on-board entertainment on select Shatabdi trains on license fee basis will be launched. Mobile phone charging facilities will be provided in general class coaches and increased in sleeper class coaches.
  • 200 more stations will come under the Adarsh Station scheme, Wi-Fi kiosks will be set up and to provided at all ‘B’ category stations, plus a facility of self-operated lockers will be made available at all stations, provision of concierge services will be done through IRCTC at major stations and online booking of wheelchairs will be done on a payment basis for senior citizens, patients and the differently-abled passengers at select stations.
  • The capacity in all identified trains will be augmented to run with 26 coaches and more General Class coaches will be added in identified trains.
  • Rs. 120 crore for new lifts and escalators at all major junctions, newly manufactured coaches will be Braille-enabled and wider entrances for the ease of differently-abled passengers of railway stations.
  • Corporate houses and MPs will be requested to invest in improving passenger amenities at railway stations through CSR and MPLAD funds and every Divisional Committee in each railway zone will be chaired by the Members of Parliament.

Station Redevelopment:-

  • Station redevelopment policy will be revamped and processes will be further simplified by inviting open bids, present stations will be available for development on “as is where is” basis, to exploit the space and air rights on concession basis.
  • Zonal and divisional offices will be empowered for quicker decision making and land will not be sold for personal purposes. Also, there will be development of 10 satellite railway terminals in major cities of India with twin purpose of decongesting the city and providing service to suburban passengers.

Network expansion:-

  • Decongesting networks with basket of traffic generating projects is the topmost priority and also for last mile connectivity projects. Fast track sanctioned works on 7000 km of double/third/fourth lines and commissioning 1200 km in 2015-16 at an investment of Rs. 8686 crore.
  • Commissioning 800 km of gauge conversion targeted in current fiscal year.
  • 77 projects covering 9400 km of doubling/tripling/quadrupling works along with electrification, covering all states of India at a cost of Rs. 96,182 crore, which is over 2700% higher in terms of amount sanctioned.
  • Traffic facility works is a top priority with an outlay of Rs. 2374 crore.
  • In the North East states, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh will be brought on the Railway Map of India and direct connectivity to New Delhi will be provided.
  • Awards of 750 km of civil contracts and 1300 km of system contracts given in 2015-16 on Dedicated Freight Corridors(DFCs) and a 55 km section of Eastern DFC to be completed in the current year. Preliminary Engineering cum Traffic Survey(PETS) for four other DFCs is in progress.
  • 6608 km electrified and sanctioned for 2015-16, which is an increase of 1330% over the previous year.

Expansion of Freight Handling Capacity:-

  • Transport Logistics Corporation of India(TRANSLOC) will to be set up for developing common user facilities with handling and value-added services, to provide end-to-end logistics solution at select railway terminals through Public-Private Partnerships.
  • For the benefit of the farmers, a state-of-the-art Perishable Cargo Centre is under completion at the Azadpur Mandi in New Delhi with a scientific banana-ripening centre.
  • An air cargo sector will be developed to facilitate and integrate the movement of air cargo between railway stations and the gateway airports.
  • Policy for Private Freight Terminals (PFT) will be revised.
  • Automatic Freight Rebate Scheme for traffic will be expanded in the current fiscal year.
  • Long haul freight operations will be used extensively and construction of long loop lines will be expedited.
  • Distributed power system for multi-loco haulage will be accelerated.

Improving Train Speed:-

  • Speed of nine railway corridors will be increased from existing 110-130 kmph to 160-200 kmph respectively so that inter-metro journeys like Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai can be completed overnight.
  • Average speed of freight trains in empty and loaded conditions will be enhanced to 100 kmph for empty freight trains and 75 kmph for loaded trains. Loading density on all major freight bearing routes will be upgraded to 22.82 tonne axle loads.

Bullet trains:-

  • Feasibility study for High Speed Rail between Mumbai-Ahmedabad is in the advanced stage and report expected by end of 2015. For other high speed routes on the Diamond Quadrilateral, studies are being commissioned.

Upgrading manufacturing capabilities:-

  • Creation of job opportunities by upgrading the manufacturing capability.
  • Functioning of Indian Railways Production Units and Workshops would be reviewed to provide them a cutting edge.
  • Measures for technological upgradation and enhancing productivity will be undertaken to make them self-sustaining.

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Safety Onboard:-

  • An action plan is being prepared for areas where accidents occur frequently. A five-year corporate safety plan is expected by June 2015, indicating annual quantifiable targets.
  • Pending recommendations made by High Level Safety Review Committee headed by Dr. Kakodkar Committee will be examined by April 2015.
  • RDSO(Railway Development Space Organisation) will develop a suitable device with reliable power supply system based on theft-proof panels and batteries in consultation with Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO), using geo-spatial technology for providing audio-visual warning to road users at unmanned level crossings.
  • Radio-based signal design project has been taken up with the IIT Kanpur for warnings at unmanned level crossings.
  • 970 ROB/RUBs and other safety-related works will be done to eliminate 3438 level crossings at a total railway expense of Rs. 6581 crore, which have been sanctioned.
  • Train Protection Warning System and Train Collision Avoidance System will be installed on select routes at the earliest.
  • Modern track structure consisting of sleepers and heavier rails are being used while carrying out primary track renewals. Better welding techniques are being promoted and digital type machines will replace analogue type machines.

Technology Upgradation:-

  • Constituting an innovation council called ‘Kayakalp’ for business re-engineering and introducing a spirit of innovation in Railways.
  • A technology portal is being constituted to invite innovative technological solutions.
  • Strengthening of RDSO into an organization of excellence for applied research.
  • Four Railway Research Centers will be set up in select universities for fundamental research and ‘Malaviya Chair’ for Railway Technology will be set up at all IITs and in BHU.
  •  A Consortium of the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Science And Technology and Industries is on to take up identified railway projects for research.
  • An IT vision to be unveiled, information on latest berth availability station navigation system will be available. Barcoded tracking of parcels and freight wagons, automated parcel warehouses and integration of train control and asset management applications will all be done respectively.

Developmental Partnerships:-

  • The PPP cell will be revamped to make it result-oriented.
  • Projects for rail connectivity to many ports and mines are being developed under participative models and simplification of procedures and consistency of policy will be ensured.
  • A “Foreign Rail Technology Cooperation scheme” will be launched soon.
  • Joint ventures will be set up with states for focused project development, resource mobilisation, land acquisition, project implementation and monitoring of critical rail projects.

Improvements to Management Processes and Systems:-

  • System audits will be conducted for review of all processes and procedures.
  • Global benchmarks for key operating and maintenance activities will be set up.
  • Improving appraisal mechanism for the selection of projects and introduction of simulation tools for project planning and decision-making.
  • A constitution of a working group to modify present system of accounting will be set up for ensuring tracking of expenditure to desired outcomes.
  • Train operations to be audited.
  • Paperless working in material management system will be expanded.
  • Vendors to be integrated through the Vendor Interface Management System for providing single window interface to vendors.

Human Resources:-

  • A Human Resource Audit will be undertaken and there will be a focused Human Resource strategy to raise employees’ productivity in line with global standards.
  • A special training module on soft skills for frontline staff will be developed so that the customers feel welcomed and satisfied.
  • Setting up a full-fledged Railway University by 2015-16.
  • Improving delivery of health services to employees.

Energy and Sustainability:-

  • An Environment Directorate will be constituted in the Railway Board to give increased focus and thrust on environment management.
  • A Detailed energy audit for energy saving will be done.
  • Procuring power through the bidding process at economical tariff from generating companies, power exchanges, and bilateral arrangements. Such initiative is likely to save at least Rs. 3000 crore in the next five years.
  • Encouraging Solar Power as a part of the Solar Mission of Railways. 1000 MW solar plants will be set up by the developers on railway and private lands and railway buildings with subsidy and viability gap funding support of Ministry of Non-Renewable Energy in the next five years.
  • Water conservation mission including water audit and expansion of water harvesting systems will be done.
  • Accreditation for environment management will be extended.
  • Noise levels of locomotives to be at par with international norms and concerns related to wildlife will  be addressed.
  • Investing in Indian Railways is necessary for the ecological sustenance mainly due to efficiencies of fuel consumption.

Transparency and Governance Initiatives:-

  • A system of online applications will be introduced for two categories of recruitment as a pilot project.
  • All possible solutions will be explored to address the menace of corruption.
  • E-procurement value chain is being expanded.
  • Constituting a mechanism for making regulations, setting performance standards, determining tariffs and adjudicating disputes among licensees and private partners and the Ministry, subject to review in appeal.

Social Initiatives:-

  • Infrastructure-like stations and training centres will be made available for skill development.
  • Indian Railways personnel and their services will also available for this national cause.
  • Promotion of products made by Self Help Groups, consisting mainly of women and youth on the model of Konkan Railway will be done.

Tourism Facilities:-

  • ‘Incredible Rail for Incredible India’ scheme will be launched and promotion of training of auto-rickshaws and taxi-operators as tourist-guides on the model of Konkan Railway.
  • The coaches in select trains connecting major tourist destinations to travel agencies may be offered on a revenue sharing model.
  • IRCTC will start working on promoting the Gandhi circuit to attract tourists to mark the occasion of 100 years of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa.
  • IRCTC will also work on Kisan Yatra, a special travel scheme for farmers for farming and marketing technique centres.

Budget Estimates for 2015-16:-

  • The intention is to capture increased revenues and ensure appropriate investments so as to decongest the system and enhance line capacity.
  • Passenger earnings growth is pegged at 16.7% and the target budgeted is at Rs. 50,175 crore.
  • Freight traffic is pegged at an all-time high incremental traffic of 85 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of economy.
  • Goods earnings is proposed at Rs. 1,21,423 crore which includes rationalisation of rates, commodity classification and distance slabs.
  • Other coaching and sundries are projected at Rs. 4,612 crore and Rs. 7,318 crore.
  • Gross Traffic Receipts are estimated at Rs 1,83,578 crore, which will be a growth of 15.3%.
  • Ordinary Working Expenses proposed to grow at 9.6% over RE 2014-15 and the Traction Fuel Bill is anticipated to shrink further.
  • Higher provisions have been made for safety maintenance and cleanliness, lease charges and interest component of the current and previous market borrowings, at a growth of 21%.
  • Appropriation to Pension Fund is proposed at Rs 35,260 crore and appropriation to DRF is at Rs 8,100 crore.
  • Appropriation of Rs 7,616 crore is proposed to be made to the Capital Fund for payment of principal component of lease charges.

Plan Outlay for the Financial Year 2015-16:-

  • Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 40,000 crore for the IR’s annual plan. Rs 1,645.60 crore has also been provided as Railway’s share of diesel cess from the Central Road Fund. Market borrowings are projected at Rs 17,655 crore, which is an increase of about 46.5%.
  • Balance Plan outlay includes Rs 17,793 crore from Internal Resources and Rs. 5781 crore from PPP. Significantly, IR are allocating large amounts towards Doubling, Traffic Facilities,
    Electrification and Passenger Amenities.
  • The Plan Outlay for the current fiscal year is Rs 1,00,011 crore, which is an increase of 52% over RE 2014-15. It is anticipated that the plan size will get higher once resources from institutional bodies are formalized during the course of the ensuing financial year.
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WHY THERE ARE BASIC PROBLEMS IN INDIA?

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India is the world’s seventh largest country by area and the second most populated country in the world, only after China. India is one of the most rapid developing economies of the world. It has appreciated considerably in almost all sophisticated fields since its independence. The country is sometimes referred to as ‘The Flying Bird’, due to its quicker and smoother developmental activities. India is still a developing country, with still almost 40% of its people below the poverty line. It is racing away to develop substantially and join the league of developed nations by 2020. Today, I will highlight some issues which is hampering the economy and disturbing the fraternity of our society.

We begin with the issue of corruption. Corruption is the most widespread illegal activity in today’s competitive global world. It is a social stigma for the illiterate people who think that the upper strata of the society are robbing the lower strata’s already less and depleting resources. The rich people wants to expand their reach to particular places by giving or accepting monetary funds from a certain groups or individuals, to gain access to the resources possessed by a third party.

Morris Sr., an American political scientist, has defined corruption as – illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest or any third party concerned. It is generally considered an illegal activity by many. Nowadays, a term called ‘legal corruption’ is coming up, where people practise corruption openly and in the name of developing the economy. This is commonly practised across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where corruption rates are higher than the Gulf countries. Poverty, along with inequality, co-exists in large numbers.

Corruption in India is a major issue, and deemed harmful for a developing economy. This form of illegal practice is not new to the country. Corruption first came into being during the rule of Delhi Sultanate in the early 12th Century. According to historians, during the rule of Iltutmish, a ‘kazi’ named Mohammad Qausim was a witty and corrupt minister. He befriended many robbers and dishonest businesspersons and promised them that he would give them a treasure full of gold if they would kill and dethrone Iltutmish.

Owing to his cunning nature, his ‘friends’ managed to kill one of the trusted ministers of Iltutmish. Qausim was unhappy and decided to bribe them with a sack of rocks coated with golden paint. When the robbers and businesspersons came to know about it, they went to Iltutmish, who, at once, hanged Qausim, along with his acquaintances.

Corruption existed during the British rule in India. The Britishers used to bribe the Indians for their services, forced them to recruit people in the army, and made them believe that they would not hurt the locals and get better returns. Ultimately, they, like the locals, were treated harshly. If orders were disagreed, the Britishers would cruelly beat them black and blue or take away their lives.

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Even after independence in 1947, corruption has been increasing substantially, especially since 1970s. It has been considered a social, economic and political burden on many innocent people who fall prey to such nefarious activities. Political scientists in India have divided corruption based on scales, depending upon the extent and the nature of such activities:-

  1. Petty Corruption – This illegal practice is petty in nature and restricted to a small group or an individual. It is generally performed on a smaller scale, and can be easily curbed, as the network here is too small and restricted within a particular circle.
  1. Endemic Corruption – This form of corruption is mainly restricted to some special groups, which are primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or a process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system. It generally takes place on a slightly larger scale, where there is a better network of communication.
  1. Grand Corruption – This form of corruption occurs at the highest levels of any institution, group or a government post. It is generally widespread and has a well-built network of communication. It is a huge task to curb grand corruption, as this form is large and wide. Such forms of corruption are generally found in countries where red tapism is abundant and the elected governments are not democratic in nature.

According to a report jointly prepared and published by United Nations Agencies and Transparency International, India is currently ranked 96th in 2013, tied with Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Mongolia and Ivory Coast, up from the 106th position that was achieved in 2003. It is also said that around 55% of India’s population have performed either petty, endemic or grand corruption in order to satisfy their own necessities.

However, a report of the Transparency International of January 2014, has marked India at the 85th rank, significantly lower than China, currently ranked 100th. This ranking ensures India to have a lower corruption rate than China for the first time in the last 22 years. In addition, even after 64 years of democratic rule, this ‘bad omen’ has made the people so immune to corruption that they have learnt how to live with the system for such a long period. Since 2011, there has been a minute reduction in corruption activities due to some prominent anti-corruption movements, like the Anna Hazare’s ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. The key features of widespread corruption in India are:-

  • Excessive regulations, complicated taxes and complex licensing systems, which local people commonly call it as ‘Mafia Raj’ or ‘License Raj’.
  • Numerous government departments, each with opaque or transparent bureaucracy and discretionary powers.
  • Increasing monopoly by public and private sector industries on certain goods and services, and the lack of transparent laws and processes.
  • Lack of awareness among the people due to illiteracy. Some people are also made to believe and perform illegal and blue-collared jobs by the bureaucrats, in order to get money for their personal gains.

As government regulation of business was extended in the 1960s and corporate donations were banned in 1969, trading economic favours for under-the-table contributions to political parties became an increasingly widespread political practice. During the 1980s and 1990s, corruption became associated with the occupants of the India’s political system. Hence, corruption has been rising substantially since independence and at its peak in the mid-1970s.

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However, there are certain ways to reduce the corruption level. Some analysts believe that one of the means for tackling corruption would be to curb the thriving use of financial resources by those who wish to stay in power. Various state governments, NGOs and individuals have suggested the following proposals:-

  • The Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 gives one all the required information about the governmental activities. Under this Act, one has the right to ask the central or state government on any problem one faces. There is a Public Information Officer (PIO) appointed in every government department, who is responsible for collecting information wanted by the citizens and providing them with the relevant information on payment of a nominal fee to the PIO. If the PIO refuses to accept the application or if the applicant does not receive the required information on time, then the applicant can make a complaint to the respective information commission, which has the power to impose a penalty up to Rs. 25,000 on the errant PIO. Hence, RTI can be strengthened and transparent in one way.
  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was set up by the central government in 1984 to advise and guide the central government agencies in the areas of vigilance. If there are any cases of corruption or any complaints thereof, those can be reported to the CVC. The commission also shoulders the responsibility of creating more awareness among people regarding the consequences of giving and taking of bribes and other illegal activities of corruption.
  • There should be ample establishment of special courts for speedy justice and trials can be a huge positive aspect. Strong and stringent laws need to be enacted that gives no room for the guilty to escape. In many cases, the employees opt for corrupt means out of compulsion and not by choice. Some people are of the opinion that the wages paid are insufficient to feed their families. If they are paid better, they would not be forced to accept bribes.
  • The one thing that needs to be ensured is proper, impartial, and unbiased use of various anti-social regulations to take strong, deterrent, and timely legal action against the offenders, irrespective of their political influences or money power. Firm and strong steps are needed to curb the menace and an atmosphere has to created where the good and patriotic intellectuals come forward to serve the country with pride, virtue, and honesty for the welfare of the people of India.

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The next problem existing in India is poverty. Poverty refers to the state of one, who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. In other words, it exists when people lack the means to satisfy their basic necessities. In this context, the identification of poor people first requires a determination of what constitutes basic needs.

These may be defined as narrowly as ‘those necessary for survival’ and ‘those reflecting the prevailing standard of living in the community.’ The first criterion would cover only those people near the borderline of starvation or death from exposure, and the second would extend to people whose nutrition, housing, and clothing, though adequate to preserve life, do not measure up to those of the population as a whole.

Poverty in India is widespread, and a variety of methods have been proposed to measure it. The official measure of Indian government before 2005, was based on food security and it was defined from per capita expenditure for a person to consume enough calories and be able to pay for associated essentials to survive. Since 2005, Indian government adopted the Tendulkar methodology, which moved away from the calorie anchor to a basket of goods and used rural, urban and regional minimum expenditure per capita necessary to survive.

Poverty has been associated, for example, with poor health, low levels of education or skills, an inability or an unwillingness to work, high rates of disruptive behaviour and improvidence. While these attributes have often been found to exist with poverty, their inclusion in a definition of poverty would tend to obscure the relation between them and the inability to provide for one’s basic needs. Whatever definition one uses, authorities and laypersons alike commonly assume that the effects of poverty are harmful to both individuals and society.

Although poverty is a phenomenon as old as human history, its significance has changed over time. Under traditional modes of economic production, widespread poverty had been accepted as inevitable. The total output of goods and services, even if equally distributed, would still have been insufficient to give the entire population a comfortable standard of living by prevailing standards. Several types of poverty may be distinguished depending on such factors as time or distribution. But there are two main types of poverty, which is prevalent in India:-

  1. Cyclical Poverty – Cyclical poverty refers to that poverty which may be widespread throughout a population, but the occurrence itself is of limited duration. In non-industrialised countries, this sort of inability to provide for one’s basic needs rests mainly upon temporary food shortages caused by natural phenomena or poor agricultural planning. Prices would rise because of scarcities of food, which brought widespread, albeit temporary, misery.

In industrialized societies the chief cyclical cause of poverty is fluctuations in the business cycle, with mass unemployment during periods of depression or serious Throughout the early 20th and 21th centuries, the industrialized nations of the world including India, experienced business panics and recessions that temporarily enlarged the numbers of the poor.

  1. Collective Poverty – In contrast to cyclical poverty, which is temporary or widespread, collective”poverty involves a relatively permanent insufficiency of means to secure basic needs – a condition that may be in general as to describe the average level of life in a society or that may be concentrated in relatively large groups in an otherwise prosperous society. Both generalized and concentrated collective poverty may be transmitted from generation to generation, parents passing their poverty on to their children. Collective poverty is usually related to economic underdevelopment.

Collective poverty is relatively general and lasting in parts of Asia, the Middle East, most of Africa, and parts of South America and Central America. Life for the bulk of the population in these regions is at a minimal level. Nutritional deficiencies cause disease seldom seen by doctors in the highly developed countries. Low life expectancy, high levels of infant mortality, and poor health characterize life in these societies.

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Poverty is quite abundant in India. It has existed for ages now. Poverty is not new to the country. During the British rule, many people were treated harshly and forcefully abducted strong men, who were considered the breadwinners of their families. These families often get into financial debts and if they went against the British, they would kill the entire family. Famines and droughts too, added to their miseries. Thus, forced poverty existed in pre-independence India.

When India finally gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, the percentage of forced poverty increased fourfold, most probably due to the after effects of the British rule and their autocratic policies. There was poverty everywhere and a feeling of gloominess and loneliness was being felt by the poverty stricken families. Many prominent leaders like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. B.R Ambedkar and others attempted to devise a poverty line to measure the poverty and introduced several poverty alleviation programmes. However, poverty still exists in India, mostly in rural areas even after 68 years of independence.

The World Bank has similarly revised its definition and benchmarks to measure poverty since 1990, with $ 1.25 per day income on purchasing power parity basis as the definition in use from 2005 to 2013. Some semi-economic and non-economic indices have also been proposed to measure poverty in India.  For example, the multi-dimensional Poverty Index placed 33% weight on number of years spent in school and education and 6.25% weight on financial condition of a person, in order to determine if that person is poor.

The different definitions and different underlying small sample surveys used to determine poverty in India, have resulted in widely different estimates of poverty from 1950s to 2010s. In 2013, the Indian government stated that 21.1% of its population is below its official poverty limit. The World Bank, in 2010 based on 2005’s PPPs International Comparison Program estimated 32.7% of Indian population, or about 400 million people, lived below $ 1.25 per day on purchasing power parity basis. According to the United Nations Development Programme, an estimated 30% of Indians lived below poverty line in 2009-2010. According to the data released by the Indian Government for 2014-15, the official poverty rate stands at 18.5%.

Rapid economic growth since 1991, has led to sharp reductions in extreme poverty in India. However, those above poverty line live a fragile economic life. Lack of basic essentials of life such as safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, health infrastructure as well as malnutrition impact the lives of hundreds of millions. The World Bank reviewed and proposed revisions in May 2014, to its poverty calculation methodology and purchasing power parity basis for measuring poverty worldwide, including India. According to this revised methodology, the world had 872.3 million people below the new poverty line, of which 179.6 million people lived in India. In other words, India with 17.5% of total world’s population had 20.6% share of world’s poorest as of now in June 2014.

According to a 2011 poverty Development Goals Report, as many as 320 million people in India and China are expected to come out of extreme poverty in the next four years, with India’s poverty rate projected to drop from 51% in 1990 to about 22% in 2015. The report also indicates that in Southern Asia, only India is on track to cut poverty by half by 2016-17.

Global Hunger Index (GHI) is an index that places a third of weight on proportion of the population that is estimated to be undernourished, a third on the estimated prevalence of low body weight to height ratio in children younger than five, and remaining third weight on the proportion of children dying before the age of five for any reason. According to a 2011 GHI report, India has improved its performance by around 25% in 24 years, from 31.4% to 18.8% from 1990 to 2014.

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Many poverty alleviation programmes have been launched and introduced by the central government in order to reduce poverty and bringing a balance in regional development altogether. These programmes are a combination of other programmes related to wage employment, self-employment, food security and social security. Some important programmes are listed as follows:-

  • The most important and the largest programme employed to cover the entire length and breadth of the country is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The NREGA bill notified in 2005 and came into force in 2006 and further modified it as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 2008. This scheme guarantees 100 days of paid work to people in the rural areas. The scheme has proved to be a major boost in Indian rural population’s income. To augment wage employment opportunities by providing employment on demand and thereby extend a security net to the people and simultaneously create durable assets to alleviate some aspects of poverty and address the issue of development in the rural areas.
  • The National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) is a scheme provided pension to old people who are the above the age of 60 who could not fend for themselves and did not have any means of subsistence. The pension that was given was Rs. 200 a month. This pension is given by the central government. The job of implementation of this scheme in states and union territories is given to panchayats and municipalities. The state’s contribution may vary depending on the state. The amount of old age pension is Rs. 200 per month for applicants aged 60-79. For applicants aged above 80 years, the amount has been revised in Rs. 500 a month, according to the 2012-13 Union Budget of India.
  • The largest urban poverty alleviation programme currently operating in the country is the Urban Basic Services for Poor (UBSP). It is based on the principle of community development involving the community, especially women to improve their communities and environment. This programme is implemented in 25 states and 6 union territories covering 296 cities. Ten million urban poor are benefited from this programme. More than 130,000 women work as volunteers in this programme. The programme is a partnership of city, state and central governments along with NGOs and UNICEF.
  • Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana or SGRY was launched in 2001. The three-fold objective of this programme is generation of employment for the rural poor, creation of community assets and infrastructure, and ensuring food and nutrition security for the rural poor. It covers all villages of the country and many villagers have been benefitted from this scheme.

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  • The National Maternity Benefit Scheme or NMBS provides a sum of Rs. 500 to a pregnant mother for the first two live births. The women have to be older than 19 years of age. It is given normally 8-12 weeks before the birth and in case of the death of the child the women can still avail it. The NMBS is implemented by states and union territories with the help of panchayats and municipalities. During 1999-2000, the total allocation of funds for this scheme was 767.05 crores and the amount used was Rs 4444.14 crores.
  • Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana or SGSY is a programme that was launched in 1999. The SGSY is a holistic programme and aims at covering all aspects of self-employment, namely, organisation of rural poor, training, participatory approach to planning of self-employment ventures and provision of infrastructure facilities, technology, credit and marketing arrangements.
  • Jawahar Rozgar Yojana or JRY was launched as a ‘Centrally Sponsored Scheme’ in 1989 by merging National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) and Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP). Its main objective was generation of additional gainful employment for the unemployed and under-employed people in rural areas through the creation of rural economic infrastructure, community and social assets with the aim of improving the quality of life of the rural poor, in order to eradicate poverty.
  • The Indira Awas Yojana was launched in 1985. This scheme aimed at creating housing for everyone. It aimed at creating 20 lakh housing units out of which 13 lakhs were in rural areas. This scheme also would give out loans to people at subsidized rates to make houses. It was started in 1999-2000. In 1999-2000, Rs. 1438.39 crores was used for this scheme and about 7.98 lakh units were built. In 2000-01, a central outlay of Rs. 1710.00 crores was provided for this scheme.
  • The Annapurna Scheme was started by the government in 1999-2000 to provide food to senior citizens who cannot take care of themselves and are not under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), and who have no one to take care of them in their village. This scheme would provide 10 kg of free food grains a month for the eligible senior citizens. The allocation for this scheme as of 2011-2012 was Rs. 350 crores.

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Another social issue which is continuously debated in India is literacy and unemployment. Both literacy and unemployment have somewhat a direct relationship. In a country, adequate literacy and employment rates should be required for skill and expertise, which is required for developing their nations, in both economically and financially stable way. If it is in the reversing trend, then the economy will grow slowly and crime rates will start shooting up, due to desolation and loneliness of not getting a job.

Before we come to the meaning of illiteracy, first let us know what do you mean by being literate in a brief sense? Literacy is a key for empowering one’s own personality. It is also the pathway for smooth socio-economic development. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. It involves a process of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

The inability to do so is called illiteracy. Illiteracy can cause havoc to both individuals and social development. Also, the economy gets hampered as the workforce does not have any knowledge and ability to carry out a particular task. Many policy analysts consider literacy rates as a crucial measure of the value of a region’s human capital. For example, literate people can be more easily trained than illiterate people. They generally have a higher socio-economic status thus they enjoy better health and employment prospects. Literacy increases job opportunities and access to higher education, as compared to illiterate people.

Literacy in India is a key for socio-economic progress. The literacy rate has grown to 74.04% (2011 Census of India) from 12% at the end of British rule in 1947. Although this was a greater than six-fold improvement, the level is well below the world average literacy rate of 84%. Of all nations, India currently has the largest illiterate population in the world. The 2011 Census, however, indicated a 2001-2011 decadal literacy growth of 9.2%, which is the slower than the growth seen during the previous decade. There is a wide gender disparity in the literacy rate in India.

The effective literacy rates in 2011 were 82.14% for men and 65.46% for women. The low female literacy rate has had a dramatically negative impact on family planning and population stabillisation efforts in India. The census provided a positive indication that growth in female literacy rates (11.8%) was substantially faster than in male literacy rates (6.9%) in the 2001-2011 decadal period, which means the gender gap appears to be narrowing substantially.

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There are many reasons for the low literacy rate, particularly among women in India. One of the main factors contributing to this relatively low literacy rate is the lack of proper school facilities as well as the sheer inefficiency of teaching staff across the government run education sector. There is a shortage of classrooms to accommodate all the students in 2006-2007. In addition, there is no proper sanitation in most schools. Severe caste disparities also exist. Discrimination of lower castes has resulted in high dropout rates and low enrollment rates.

The National Sample Survey Organisation and the National Family Health Survey collected data in India on the percentage of children completing primary school, which are reported to be only 36.8% and 37.7% respectively. Due to strong stereotyping of female and male roles, Sons are thought of to be more useful and hence are educated. Females are pulled to help out on agricultural farms at home as they are increasingly replacing the males on such activities which require no formal education. Fewer than 2% of girls who engaged in agriculture work attended school.

The right to education is a fundamental right, and UNESCO aims at education for everyone by 2025. India, along with the Arab states and sub-Saharan Africa, has a literacy level below the threshold level of 84%, but efforts are on to achieve that level. The campaign to achieve at least the threshold literacy level represents the largest ever civil and military mobilisation in the country. International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on September 8 with the aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Many policies and programmes have been launched by the central government in order to achieve a universal literacy rate by 2030. Some are highlighted below:-

  • The National Literacy Mission (NLM), launched in 1988 imparts functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 35-75 years. The Total Literacy Campaign is the principal strategy of the NLM for eradication of illiteracy. The Continuing Education Scheme provides a learning continuum to the efforts of the Total Literacy and Post literacy programmes. Ever since its inception the National Literacy Mission has taken measures to strengthen its partnership with NGOs and to evolve both institutional and informal mechanisms to give voluntary organisations active promotional role in the literacy movement. Now under the scheme of Support to NGOs they are encouraged and provided with financial assistance to run post literacy and continuing education programmes in well-defined areas.
  • In order to promote decentralization, the State Literacy Mission Authorities have been given the authority to sanction continuing education projects to Districts and literacy related projects to voluntary agencies in their respective states. The scheme of Jan Shikshan Sansthan or Institute of People’s Education, previously known as the Scheme of Shramik Vidyapeeth was initially evolved as a non-formal continuing education programme to respond to the educational and vocational training needs of adults and young people living in urban and industrial areas and for persons who had migrated from rural to urban settings. Now the Institutes’ activities have been enlarged and infrastructure strengthened to enable them to function as district level repositories of vocational and technical skills in both urban and rural areas. At present there are 221 Jan Shikshan Sansthans in the India.
  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Total Literacy Campaign) was launched in 2001 to ensure that all children in the 6-14 year age group attend school and complete eight years of schooling by 2010. An important component of the scheme is the Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education, meant primarily for children in areas with no formal school within a one kilometre radius.

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  • The centrally sponsored District Primary Education Programme, launched in 1994, had opened more than 160,000 new schools by 2005, including almost 84,000 alternative schools. Social Education, implemented in the First Five Year Plan (1951-56).The programme gave importance to literacy, extension, general education, leadership training and social consciousness.
  • Gram Shikshan Mohim is a movement for literacy in the rural areas started first in Satara district of Maharashtra in 1959 which was later extended to other parts of the state. The programme aimed at imparting basic literacy skills within a period of four months. Later, in the 1970s, it covered the rural areas of the whole country.
  • Farmer’s Functional Literacy Project (FFLP) was started in 1967-68 as an inter-ministerial project for farmers’ training and functional literacy. The project aimed at popularisation of high yielding varieties of seeds through the process of adult education in 144 districts.
  • Functional Literacy for Adult Women (FLAW) was started in 1975-76 in the experimental Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) project areas. The scheme included a component which enabled illiterate adult women to acquire functional skills along with literacy, to gain better awareness of health, hygiene, child care practices and in the process facilitated attitudinal changes.
  • National Adult Education Programme (NAEP) was launched on October 2, 1978. This was the first programme in India taken up at macro level to eradicate illiteracy through project approach. It was a massive programme aimed at educating 100 million non-literate adults in the age group of 15-35 years within a timeframe of five years.
  • Rural Functional Literacy Project (RFLP) is to impart functional literacy to all illiterate persons in 15-35 age group who are living in the rural areas by organising specified number of literacy centres in accordance with the norms and guidelines issued by the Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Government of India from time to time.

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Unemployment refers to the condition of one who is capable of working, actively seeking work, but unable to find any work. It is important to note that to be considered unemployed a person must be an active member of the labour force and in search of remunerative work. Unemployment is serious problem that our government faces. Our leaders are trying their utmost best to solve it wisely. If it is not solved sooner, a social revolution may take plea to have its solution.

The main cause of unemployment is the repetitive growth of population. Since independence the populations of India has increased by threes times its total. When people multiply, there raises the problems of unemployment and it becomes difficult for government to provide employment to a sufficient number of people. As a matter of principle it becomes the duty of government to provide employment to all as far as possible and we are blessed that our government is taking keen interest to solve this series problem of today. As the growth of populations is going unchecked, jobs and services in a given field commonly remains insufficient. When our youths do not find employment despite their best efforts, they get irritated and feel disappointed.

Underemployment is the term used to designate the situation of those who are able to find employment only for shorter than normal periods – part-time workers, seasonal workers or casual workers. The term may also describe the condition of workers whose education or training make them overqualified for their jobs.

Statistics on unemployment are collected and analysed by government labour offices in most countries and have come to be considered a chief indicator of economic health. Trends in unemployment and statistical differences among groups in the population are studied for what they may reveal of general economic trends and as bases for possible governmental action.

Full employment has been a stated goal of many governments since the Second World War, and a variety of programs have been devised to attain it. It should be pointed out that full employment is not necessarily synonymous with a zero unemployment rate, for at any given time the unemployment rate will include some number of persons who are between jobs and not unemployed in any long-term sense.

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Unemployment records in India are kept by the Ministry of Labour and Employment of India. From 1983 till 2011, Unemployment rates in India averaged 900 percent reaching an all time high of 9.4% in 2009 and a record low of 3.8% in 2013. In India, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force. Currently in 2015, India’s unemployment rate has increased slightly to 5.3% due to the slowdown of the Indian economy.

According to NSS Report from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India published in 2013, Kerala has the highest unemployment rate and ranks worst, while Rajasthan and Gujarat had the least unemployment rates among major states of India. The national average for unemployment rate stands at 10% currently. In order to reduce unemployment, government has made special efforts to develop small and cottage industries.

In 1995-96, about 33 lakh persons were employed in these industries. Many people are getting employment in organized public and private sectors. In 1995-96, nearly 340 lakh persons got employment in large industries. In 1961, the organized public sector provided employment to 70 lakh persons. It now provides employment to 1 crore and 92 lakh persons. Likewise, in 1961, the revamped private sector provided employment to 50 lakh persons. In 2000, it further provided employment to 89 lakh persons. Some special programmes related to curbing unemployment only are:-

  • The Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) was launched in 70 such districts of 13 states as were prone to drought. The programme has proved fruitful particularly in removing seasonal unemployment. In the Sixth Five Year Plan, the programme provided 17 crore and 70 lakhs employment opportunities. In the same period, a sum of Rs. 301 crores was made on the programme. In the Seventh Five Year Plan Plan, Rs. 474 crores has been spent for the programme.
  • This programme was launched in 1979 by the Government of India. It is called the National Scheme of Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM). The main objective of this programme is to reduce unemployment among the youth. During Seventh Plan about 11.6 lakh youth were imparted training under the programme. During training period, young men are given financial assistance. On completion of training, they are asked to prepare project report. Arrangements are made to get them financial assistance from the banks. Every trained youth is given a financial help varying from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 to start his work.
  • The national government has set up about 890 ‘Employment Exchanges’ for offering information on the possible vocational avenues. These exchanges do not provide employment directly but are of great assistance in directing the jobseeker to the possible areas of employment. The Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS) was launched in 1994, in 1752 backward blocks in the country. The main objective was to provide 100 days of unskilled manual work to the rural poor who are seeking full employment.

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  • The Prime Minister’s Integrated Urban Poverty Eradication Programme (PMIUPEP) has been implemented in 1995-96. This programme aims at to provide employment to the urban poor. It covers 50 lakh urban poor living in 345 towns. The central government will incur an expenditure of Rs. 800 crores this programme during a period of five years.
  • Lastly, the recent scheme launched by the central government is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. It is a scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion launched by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi on August 28, 2014. Run by Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, on the inauguration day, 1.5 crore bank accounts were opened under this scheme. By September 2014, 3.02 crore accounts were opened, with around Rs. 1500 crores were deposited under the scheme, which also has an option for opening new bank accounts with zero balance. Under the scheme:-
  1. Account holders will be provided zero-balance bank account with a RuPay debit card, in addition to accidental insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh.
  2. Those who open accounts by January 20, 2015 over and above the ₹ 1 lakh accident, they will be given life insurance cover of Rs 30,000.
  3. After six months of opening of the bank account, holders can avail ₹ 5,000 loan from the bank.
  4. With the introduction of new technology introduced by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a person can transfer funds, check balance through a normal phone, which was earlier limited only to smart phones so far.
  5. Mobile banking for the poor would be available through National Unified USSD Platform (NUUP) for which all banks and mobile companies have come together.

After thoroughly seeing all endless numbers of pro-poor policies and programmes implemented by successive governments, it is generally hoped, that such programmes, when enforced in a well-organised cadre, will benefit thousands of poor people, and this will contribute to the national income of our country and make India a economically friendly nation. After all, since the country has a rich diverse heritage and culture along with these people, developing and upgrading their lifestyles will certainly bring huge positive impacts and differences within the country, and ultimately, helping India to thrive with people of equal needs in the long-run and vice versa, as mentioned in the Indian Constitution.

A BIG MOMENT FOR THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DEMOCRACIES

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The full transcript of the historic ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme addressed jointly by Indian PM Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama on January 28, 2015 at exactly 8pm is given below:-

(SOURCE: THE TIMES OF INDIA)

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Today, Shri Barack Obama, President of the United States, joins us in a special programme of Mann Ki Baat. For the last few months, I have been sharing my “Mann Ki Baat” with you. But today, people from various parts of the country have asked questions.

But most of the questions are connected to politics, foreign policy, economic policy. However, some questions touch the heart. And I believe if we touch those questions today, we shall be able to reach out to the common man in different parts of the country. And therefore, the questions asked in press conferences, or discussed in meetings – instead of those – if we discuss what comes from the heart, and repeat it, hum it, we get a new energy.

And therefore, in my opinion, those questions are more important. Some people wonder, what does “Barack” mean? I was searching for the meaning of the name Barack. In Swahili language, which is spoken in parts of Africa, Barack means, one who is blessed. I believe, along with a name, his family gave him a big gift.

African countries have lived by the ancient idea of ‘Ubuntu’, which alludes to the ‘oneness in humanity’. They say – “I am, because we are”. Despite the gap in centuries and borders, there is the same spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which speak of in India. This is the great shared heritage of humanity. This unites us.

When we discuss Mahatma Gandhi, we remember Henry Thoreau, from whom Mahatma Gandhi learnt disobedience. When we talk about Martin Luther King or Obama, we hear from their lips, respect for Mahatma Gandhi. These are the things that unite the world.

Today, Barack Obama is with us. I will first request him to share his thoughts. Then, I and Barack will both answer the questions that have been addressed to us. I request President Barack Obama to say a few words.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):-

Namaste! Thank you Prime Minister Modi for your kind words and for the incredible hospitality you have shown me and my wife Michelle on this visit and let me say to the people of India how honoured I am to be the first American President to join you for Republic Day, and I’m told that this is also the first ever radio address by an Indian Prime Minister and an American President together, so we’re making a lot of history in a short time.

Now to the people of India listening all across this great nation. It’s wonderful to be able to speak you directly. We just come from discussions in which we affirmed that India and the United States are natural partners, because we have so much in common. We are two great democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies dedicated to empowering individuals.

We are linked together by millions of proud Indian-Americans who still have family and carry on traditions from India. And I want to say to the Prime Minister how much I appreciate your strong personal commitment to strengthening the relationship between these two countries.

People are very excited in the United States about the energy that Prime Minister Modi is bringing to efforts in this country to reduce extreme poverty and lift people up, to empower women, to provide access to electricity, and clean energy and invest in infrastructure, and the education system. And on all these issues, we want to be partners.

Because many of the efforts that I am promoting inside the United States to make sure that the young people get the best education possible, to make sure that the ordinary people are properly compensated for their labour, and paid fair wages, and have job security and health care. These are the same kinds of issues that Prime Minister Modi, I know cares so deeply about here. And I think there’s a common theme in these issues. It gives us a chance to reaffirm what Gandhiji reminded us, should be a central aim of our lives.

And that is, we should endeavour to seek God through service of humanity because God is in everyone. So these shared values, these convictions, are a large part of why I am so committed to this relationship. I believe that if the United States and India join together on the world stage around these values, then not only will our peoples be better off, but I think the world will be more prosperous and more peaceful and more secure for the future. So thank you so much Mr. Prime Minister, for giving me this opportunity to be with you here today.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Barack, the first question comes from Raj from Mumbai.

His question is, the whole world knows about your love for your daughters. How will you tell your daughters about your experience of India? Do you plan to do some shopping for them?

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):-

Well, first of all they very much wanted to come. They are fascinated by India, Unfortunately each time that I have taken a trip here, they had school and they couldn’t leave school. And in fact, Malia, my older daughter, had exams just recently. They are fascinated by the culture, and the history of India, in part because of my influence I think, they are deeply moved by India’s movement to Independence, and the role that Gandhi played, in not only the non-violent strategies here in India, but how those ended up influencing the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

So when I go back I am going to tell them that India is as magnificent as they imagined. And I am quite sure that they are going to insist that I bring them back the next time I visit. It may not be during my Presidency, but afterwards they will definitely want to come and visit.

And I will definitely do some shopping for them. Although I can’t go to the stores myself, so I have to have my team do the shopping for me. And I’ll get some advice from Michelle, because she probably has a better sense of what they would like.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Barack said he will come with his daughters. I extend an invitation to you. Whether you come as President, or thereafter, India looks forward to welcoming you and your daughters.

Sanika Diwan from Pune, Maharashtra has asked me a question. She asks me, whether I have sought assistance from President Obama for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Mission.

Sanika, you have asked a good question. There is a lot of worry because of the sex ratio in India. For every 1000 boys, the number of girls is less. And the main reason for this is that, there is a defect in our attitudes towards boys and girls.

Whether or not I seek help from President Obama, his life is in itself an inspiration. The way he has brought up his two daughters, the way he is proud of his two daughters.

In our country too, I meet many families who have only daughters. And they bring up their daughters with such pride, give them such respect, that is the biggest inspiration. I believe that inspiration is our strength. And in response to your question, I would like to say, to save the girl child, to educate the girl child, this is our social duty, cultural duty, and humanitarian responsibility. We should honour it.

Barack, there is a question for you. The second question for President Obama comes through e-mail – Dr. Kamlesh Upadhyay, a doctor based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The question says – “Your wife is doing extensive work on tackling modern health challenges like obesity and diabetes. These are increasingly being faced in India as well. Would you and the First Lady like to return to India to work on these issues after your Presidency, just like Bill and Melinda Gates?”

(Hon’ble Barack Obama):-

Well, we very much look forward to partnering with organizations, and the government and non-governmental organizations here in India, around broader Public Health issues including the issue of obesity. I am very proud of the work that Michelle has done on this issue. We’re seeing a world-wide epidemic of obesity, in many cases starting at a very young age. And a part of it has to do with increase in processed foods, not naturally prepared.

Part of it is a lack of activity for too many children. And once they are on this path, it can lead to a lifetime of health challenges. This is an issue that we would like to work on internationally, including here in India. And it is a part of a broader set of issues around global health that we need to address. The Prime Minister and I have discussed, for example, how we can do a better job in dealing with issues like pandemic.

And making sure that we have good alert systems so that if a disease like Ebola, or a deadly flu virus, or Polio appears, it is detected quickly and then treated quickly so that it doesn’t spread. The public health infrastructure around the world needs to be improved. I think the Prime Minister is doing a great job in focusing on these issues here in India. And India has a lot to teach many other countries who may not be advancing as rapidly in improving this public health sector.

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But it has an impact on everything, because if children are sick they can’t concentrate in school and they fall behind. It has a huge economic impact on the countries involved and so we think that there is a lot of progress to be made here and I am very excited about the possibilities of considering this work even after I leave office.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Mr. Arjun asks me a question. An interesting question. He says he has seen an old photo of me as a tourist outside the White House. He asks me what touched me when I went there last September.

It is true that when I first went to America, I was not lucky enough to visit the White House. There is an iron fence far from the White House. We stood outside the fence and took a photograph. White House is visible in the background. Now that I have become Prime Minister, that photo too has become popular. But at that time, I had never thought that sometime in my life, I would get a chance to visit the White House.

But when I visited the White House, one thing touched my heart. I can never forget that. Barack gave me a book, a book that he had located after considerable effort. That book had become famous in 1894. Swami Vivekananda, the inspiration of my life, had gone to Chicago to participate in the World Religions’ Conference. And this book was a compilation of the speeches delivered at the World Religions Conference.

That touched my heart. And not just this. He turned the pages of the book, and showed me what was written there. He had gone through the entire book! And he told me with pride, I come from Chicago where Swami Vivekananda had come. These words touched my heart a lot. And I will treasure this throughout my life. So once, standing far from the White House and taking a photo, and then, to visit the White House, and to receive a book on someone whom I respect. You can imagine, how it would have touched my heart.

Barack there is a question for you from Himani from Ludhiana, Punjab.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):-

Well the question is “Did you both imagine you would reach the positions that you’ve reached today?”

And it is interesting, Mr. Prime Minister, your talking about the first time you visited White House and being outside that iron fence. The same is true for me. When I first went to the White House, I stood outside that same fence, and looked in, and I certainly did not imagine that I would ever be visiting there, much less living there. You know, I think both of us have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity, coming from relatively humble beginnings.

And when I think about what’s best in America and what’s best in India, the notion that a tea seller or somebody who’s born to a single mother like me, could end up leading our countries, is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries. Now I think, a part of what motivates both you and I, is the belief that there are millions of children out there who have the same potential but may not have the same education, may not be getting exposed to opportunities in the same way, and so a part of our job, a part of government’s job is that young people who have talent, and who have drive and are willing to work for, are able to succeed. And that’s why we are emphasizing school, higher education.

Making sure that children are healthy and making sure those opportunities are available to children of all backgrounds, girls and boys, people of all religious faiths and of all races in the United States is so important. Because you never know who might be the next Prime Minister of India, or who might be the next President of United States. They might not always look the part right off the bat. And they might just surprise you if you give them the chance.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Himani from Ludhiana has also asked me this question – did I ever imagine I would reach this high office?

No, I never imagined it. Because, as Barack said, I come from a very ordinary family. But for a long time, I have been telling everyone, never dream of becoming something. If you wish to dream, dream of doing something. When we do something, we get satisfaction, and also get inspiration to do something new. If we only dream of becoming something, and cannot fulfil the dream, then we only get disappointed.

And therefore, I never dreamt of becoming something. Even today, I have no dream of becoming something. But I do dream of doing something. Serving Mother India, serving 126 crore Indians, there can be no greater dream than this. That is what I have to do. I am thankful to Himani.

There is a question for Barack from Omprakash. Omprakash is studying Sanskrit at JNU. He belongs to Jhunjunu, Rajasthan. Om Prakash is convener of special centre for Sanskrit Studies in JNU(Jawaharlal Nehru University).

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):-

Well this is a very interesting question. His question is, the youth of the new generation is a global citizen. He is not limited by time or boundaries. In such a situation what should be the approach by our leadership, governments as well as societies at large.

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I think this is a very important question. When I look at this generation that is coming up, they are exposed to the world in ways that you and I could hardly imagine. They have the world at their fingertips, literally. They can, using their mobile phone, get information and images from all around the world and that’s extraordinarily powerful. And what that means, I think is that, governments and leaders cannot simply try to govern, or rule, by a top-down strategy.

But rather have to reach out to people in an inclusive way, and an open way, and a transparent way. And engage in a dialogue with citizens, about the direction of their country. And one of the great things about India and the United States is that we are both open societies. And we have confidence and faith that when citizens have information, and there is a vigorous debate, that over time even though sometimes democracy is frustrating, the best decisions and the most stable societies emerge and the most prosperous societies emerge. And new ideas are constantly being exchanged.

And technology today I think facilitates that, not just within countries, but across countries. And so, I have much greater faith in India and the United States, countries that are open information societies, in being able to succeed and thrive in this New Information Age, than closed societies that try to control the information that citizens receive. Because ultimately that’s no longer possible. Information will flow inevitably, one way or the other, and we want to make sure we are fostering a healthy debate and a good conversation between all peoples.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Omprakash wants me too, to answer the question that has been asked to Barack.

Barack has given a very good answer. It is inspiring. I will only say, that once upon a time, there were people inspired primarily by the Communist ideology. They gave a call – ‘Workers of the world, Unite’. This slogan lasted for several decades. I believe, looking at the strength and reach of today’s youth, I would say, Youth, Unite the world. I believe they have the strength and they can do it.

The next question is from C.A Pikashoo Mutha from Mumbai, and he asks me, which American leader has inspired you?

When I was young, I used to see Kennedy’s pictures in Indian newspapers. His personality was very impressive. But your question is, who has inspired me. I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin. He lived in the eighteenth century. And he was not an American President. But his biography is so inspiring – how a person can intelligently try to change his life. If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that? If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less? If people get upset with you that cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem?

He has addressed such issues in his biography. And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin’s biography. Even today, it inspires me. And Benjamin Franklin had a multi-dimensional personality. He was a politician, he was a political scientist, he was a social worker, he was a diplomat. And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life. I find his life truly inspiring. And I tell you too, if you read his biography, you will find ways to transform your life too. And he has talked about simple things. So I feel you will be inspired as much as I have been.

There is a question for Barack, from Monika Bhatia.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):-

Well the question is “As leaders of two major economies, what inspires you and makes you smile at the end of a bad day at work?”

And that is a very good question. I say sometimes, that the only problems that come to my desk are the ones that nobody else solves. If they were easy questions, then somebody else would have solved them before they reached me. So there are days when it’s tough and frustrating. And that’s true in Foreign Affairs. That is true in Domestic Affairs. But I tell you what inspires me, and I don’t know Mr. Prime Minister if you share this view – almost every day I meet somebody who tells me, “You made a difference in my life.”

So they’ll say, “The Health-Care law that you passed, saved my child who didn’t have health insurance.” And they were able to get an examination from a Physician, and they caught an early tumour, and now he is doing fine. Or they will say “You helped me save my home during the economic crisis.” Or they’ll say, “I couldn’t afford college, and the program you set up has allowed me to go to the university.”

And sometimes they are thanking you for things that you did four or five years ago. Sometimes they are thanking you for things you don’t even remember, or you’re not thinking about that day. But it is a reminder of what you said earlier, which is, if you focus on getting things done as opposed to just occupying an office or maintaining power, then the satisfaction that you get is unmatched.

And the good thing about service is that anybody can do it. If you are helping somebody else, the satisfaction that you can get from that, I think, exceeds anything else that you can do. And that’s usually what makes me inspired to do more, and helps get through the challenges and difficulties that we all have. Because obviously we are not the only people with bad days at work. I think everybody knows what it is like to have a bad day at work. You just have to keep on working through it. Eventually you make a difference.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):-

Indeed, Barack has spoken words from the heart(Mann Ki Baat). Whatever position we may hold, we are humans too. Simple things can inspire us. I also wish to narrate an experience. For many years, I was like an ascetic. I got food at other people’s homes. Whoever invited me, used to feed me as well. Once a family invited me over for a meal, repeatedly. I would not go, because I felt they are too poor, and if I go to eat at their place, I will become a burden on them. But eventually, I had to bow to their request and love. And I went to eat a meal at their home.

It was a small hut, where we sat down to eat. They offered me roti made of bajra(millet), and mik. Their young child was looking at the milk. I felt, the child has never even seen milk. So I gave that small bowl of milk to the child. And he drank it within seconds. His family members were angry with him. And I felt that perhaps that child has never had any milk, apart from his mother’s milk.

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And maybe, they had bought milk so that I could have a good meal. This incident inspired me a lot. A poor person living in a hut could think so much about my well-being. So I should devote my life to their service. So these are the things that serve as inspiration. And Barack has also spoken about what can touch the heart.

I am thankful to Barack, he has given so much time. And I am thankful to my countrymen for listening to Mann Ki Baat. I know radio reaches every home and every lane of India. And this Mann Ki Baat, this special Mann Ki Baat will echo forever.

I have an idea. I share it with you. There should be an e-book made of the talk between Barack and me today. I hope the organizers of Mann Ki Baat will release this e-book. And to you all, who have listened to Mann Ki Baat, I also say, do participate in this. And the best hundred thoughts that emerge out of this, will also be added to this e-book. And I want you to write to us on Twitter, on Facebook, or any other services, using the hashtags along with #YesWeCan.
Eliminate Poverty – #YesWeCan Quality Healthcare to All – #YesWeCan Youth empowered with Education – #YesWeCan Jobs for All – #YesWeCan End to Terrorism – #YesWeCan Global Peace and Progress – #YesWeCan.

I want you to send your thoughts, experiences and feelings after listening to Mann Ki Baat. From them, we will select the best hundred, and we will add them to the book containing the talk that Barack and I have had. And I believe, this will truly become, the Mann Ki Baat of us all. Once again, a big thank you to Barack. And to all of you. Barack’s visit to India on this pious occasion of 26th January, is a matter of pride for me and for the country.

Thank you very much!

A POWERFUL INITIATIVE BY THE PEOPLE’S MAN

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We all hear radio everywhere around our surroundings. Whether we are at home, or at office, or when we are travelling in a public transport or when we are driving a car. Radio is an effective medium as it gives detailed information of any topic or any current issue and is inexpensive too. It is easily affordable even by the poor, who do not have televisions or computers to get access of information. Another advantage is that it is captive and portable, as there are no power cords attached to the instrument and can be taken anywhere, if there are signal towers nearby.

In India’s context, neither any diplomats nor any higher post ministers have appeared in AIR(All India Radio), commonly known as ‘Akashwani’ for addressing issues to all the people of a nation since independence. However, our new prime minister, the ‘People’s Man’ Shri Narendra Damordas Modi, seems to have broken this tradition. The Prime Minister decided to take this initiative, because he wanted to listen to the people’s problems and sympathise with them. He also took a jibe on the Indian National Congress, saying that despite being the central power of India for almost 60 years or so, nothing have been done to alleviate social infringements and upkeeping of the lower class.

‘Mann Ki Baat’, which roughly means expressing one’s views from your mind, is a programme initiated and hosted by, none other than Narendra Modi himself. Under this programme, the Prime Minister addresses to the citizens of India freely by radio in both Hindi and English languages. He is usually expected to address the nation once or twice every month on the AIR. Having officially started on and from October 3, 2014, the programme aims to deliver the Prime Minister’s voice to the general masses of India from New Delhi.

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Since television and satellite connections are still not available everywhere in India, especially in the isolated, rural and less developed areas, radio was hence chosen to be the medium for the programme, owing to its wider reach. Also, since radio is a cheaper product than television, it is kept by every household in both rural and urban areas of India, in order to get updated reports. An estimated 90% of the total Indian population is reachable over this powerful medium. Additionally, various private FM radio stations in the urban areas of India are also allowed to broadcast the government recording of the programme.

The government-run Doordarshan’s Direct to Home(DTH) service ‘Freedish’, relays feeds of the 30-minute long episodes to the televisions and radio channels respectively. The programme has been well received by the target audience, especially the urban masses residing in metropolitan cities across the country. A survey conducted in the lines of estimating the show’s success, in six biggest Indian cities, has indicated that about 70% of the population had tuned in to listen to the Prime Minister’s address and had found it useful and helpful. The rural masses achieved an impressive rate of over 85%, owing to the only powerful medium they possess.

A senior official of the AIR said that the post recording of Narendra Modi’s address will be done by the AIR and also, will prepare a transcript, which is to be later translated in regional languages. The AIR would repeat the telecast in regional languages on its regional channels after the broadcasting has been entirely done. AIR Director General Farooq Shahriyar said it was a great encouragement that the Prime Minister had chosen the public service broadcaster.

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He also added that they were considering options on how best to telecast the live event on Doordarshan. The officials mentioned that people, whether from India or outside the country, who are interested in conveying their thoughts, ideas or questions to Narendra Modi should do it through the Mygov website. The Prime Minister, they said, is expected to respond to some of the feedback received from people on the website.

The first radio address was done on October 3, 2014, on the occasion of Dusshera. Firstly, he mentioned about the progression of his home state Gujarat and the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Referring to Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings, he urged the purchase and use of Khadi cloth, so that by buying Khadi, one can contribute towards bringing prosperity to the poor and downtrodden. Also, he reminded people of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan programme, that was launched on Gandhi’s birth anniversary a day before, and urged people to join the mission of making India a clean nation.

He also touched upon the recent success of the successful Mars Mission(Mangalyaan) and praised the scientists for their hardwork and success. He even quoted Swami Vivekananda’s story about the lion cub brought up by a sheep who later discovered his strengths when he came in contact with another lion. He said that as a 126-crore strong nation, we all have skills and only need to recognize those skills. He emphasized on taking the initiative, integrating individual strengths and unite to achieve goals. He also highlighted some of the points, that people have mailed him in the recent past like having more skill-based learning for school children, installing more dustbins in the country and other important social discussions.

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The Prime Minister has also encouraged every people to keep writing to him and share their thoughts on the website http://www.mygov.in, which is the official website of the Government of India. He expressed his happiness over how the radio has let him reach out to the remotest and poorest villages of India. Lastly, he emphasized that India belongs to each and every Indian citizen, and this sense of belonging should bring people together and become a part of the development.

In his second radio address on November 2, 2014, the Prime Minister talked about his government’s initiatives like those related to specially-abled children and cleaning the country besides social problems like drug addiction and poverty alleviation. He also paid tributes to the armed forces while referring to his visit to the Siachen glacier in Jammu & Kashmir on the occasion of Diwali on October 23, 2014 where soldiers live in difficult and freezing conditions.

With regard to specially-abled children, he announced that a special scholarship will be given to 1000 such children by the the Ministry of HRD(Human Resource Development). Rs. 1 lakh each will also be given to all Kendriya Vidyalayas and central universities for creating infrastructure for the specially-abled children, he added to this statement. His cleanliness campaign has generated a lot of awareness among the people, with the maximum impact created upon the children. Linking the cleanliness drive to healthcare, he said poor people were the worst affected by dirt as they fall ill which affects their livelihood.

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Mentioning about the use of Khadi, Narendra Modi replied that the sale of khadi products had increased by almost 125 percent, as he urged people to purchase khadi in his first radio address. Referring to this statement, Modi added that he never said to become a khadiwadi(a person making Khadi cloth) but to buy some Khadi to help the poor.

In his third radio address to the nation on December 14, 2014, the Prime Minister chose to talk about the menace of drug abuse exclusively, which is affecting some North and West Indian states. Calling the devastating drug addiction menace as a national pain, a concerned Narendra Modi said that the money spent by the youth predominantly on expensive drugs is like ‘ending your lives’. He also suggested that the youth could be falling into the drug problem because they have no goals or good thinking about life. In this context, parents should take some time out from their busy schedules and help their children to fix goals and work to achieve those.

In an emotional appeal to youths to say no to drugs, asserting that its consumption is neither a ‘style statement nor cool’, he also mentioned that a toll-free helpline would be set up soon to assist those affected persons seeking solutions. He said that the society as well as the government will have to work together to combat the problem effectively. Drug addiction is considered a malaise filled 3D – darkness, destruction and devastation, as it leads to the dark alleys of destruction and devastation to the younger generation. The Prime Minister added that a thinking process should begin immediately, to ensure that the country gets rid of this problem and further mentioned that he will try to involve celebrities from Bollywood, sports and other fields to campaign for a ‘drug-free India’.

In his fourth radio address last month, the showstopper was not only Modi but Barack Obama, who hopped in to India as the chief guest for the 65th Republic Day Parade on January 26, for the very first time. He also became the second President of USA to visit India, while still in power, after Dwight Eisenhower, who visited India in 1951 and 1952 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.

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On January 28, 2015, along with Modi, the US President also joined the Mann Ki Baat programme, that aired live at 8pm. The full transcript has been given in the next article as it is too huge for me to present here, given the WordPress’ strict page rules. It is indeed almost like two persons sharing their personal views to all over the world, about their experiences, obstacles and suggestions to overcome them.

THE RISE OF THE DARK HORSES – THE IRISH CRICKET TEAM

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Everybody knows cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, after hockey and football. In today’s world, cricket has become so popular in non-cricketing countries that the popular global sport has been followed everywhere and everytime, even if it is a club match or a high profile match. Well, judging that current scenario, cricket has now started making its appearance in other countries along with the 10 ICC(International Cricket Council) Full Member Teams – India, Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

The ICC, with its headquarters at Dubai, United Arab Emirates has designated each and every country coming forward to promote the well-renowned sport in each and every continent. They have also set up regions affiliated to ICC, known as the ICC Development Regions. The cricket giant currently holds a membership of 107 countries, equally divided into six development regions – North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Trans-Pacific. There are 10 full members, 60 affiliate members and 37 associate members.

According to the ICC’s Laws of Cricket rule, a full member of ICC denotes that the sport has been well established, along with new and sprawling cricket grounds and recognition of club cricket leagues. A country then gets the Test status, alongside ODI(One-Day International) status. An associate member of ICC implies that the sport has been firmly established in a country, but it has not yet covered further rules of the ICC. The sport body can or cannot grant ODI status as per their wishes, but cannot give Test status as yet. An affiliate member, as the name suggests, means that the country has got the recognition from playing club cricket leagues and have not yet played international matches.

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Well known non-cricketing countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, UAE and Hong Kong from Asia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji Islands from Trans-Pacific, Kenya, Namibia, Egypt and Zambia from Africa and Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands from Europe have made their countries proud by striding forward in the gentleman’s game, winning every matches they play comprehensively. However, associate countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Kenya, Namibia, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea have failed to gain the winning momentum, when they play against full member nations of the ICC. But, there are some interesting exceptions.

Kenya were really exceptional during the World Cup in 2003, held jointly by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. They even shocked powerhouses New Zealand and Sri Lanka in the group stages before losing the battle against India in the semifinals. Scotland and Netherlands both recorded their first victories against England and Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and winning against other teams once in the 2007 and 2011 editions. The Netherlands once again shocked England in the 2012 ICC World Twenty-20, that was held in Sri Lanka.

Now, finally I come to the main gist of the article after explaining about ICC and its structure in brief. International sporting events need surprises and underdog stories to keep them interesting. And the Irish national cricket team chose to provide it in a different manner. They were, in no uncertain terms, the favourite amongst the neutrals, and amongst the associate countries. Also, they were the only team that showed that they belonged in a global competition of elites. Their performances were an impassionate plea against the ICC’s decision to cull the number of nations playing the World Cup 2019, to be held in UK after this year’s World Cup, which is underway in Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland continues to inspire and bring everyone into attention, as a result of their stupendous performances, since the ICC upgraded the country from affiliate to associate member in 1993. Cricket in Ireland was not a very popular sport initially, though it was established long time back. It even ranks quite low on any list of Irish hobbies, preceded by association football, rugby, basketball and even golf. Having been a team of amateurs for a while now, Ireland, for the first time in their history, came into the competition with a talented bunch of professionals, with many of them playing in professional leagues and county cricket just across the Irish Sea in England.

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Things are changing drastically for Ireland, and its proof was evident in some of the most exciting cricket they have ever played. Building on where they had left off, in the 2007 World Cup, they defeated Pakistan for the very first time and in such a way, that it led to a sudden demise of Pakistan’s national coach, Bob Woolmer. Certainly, they proceeded to the super eights round, but lost out all their remaining matches. It was a great courage by this small country that they almost pushed every opponent team to fight till the very end.

Cricket Ireland, officially the Irish Cricket Union, is the governing body for cricket in Ireland(both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), and oversees the Ireland men’s cricket team and the Ireland women’s cricket team. The Union also organises the premier club cricket competition in Ireland, the Irish Senior Cup. Generally speaking, the women’s team have played more matches and won more matches, than their male counterparts. Due to their grand success, they were granted Test status in 2001.

An Irish Cricket Union(ICU) was formed in 1890, though its only function was to select an Irish international cricket team for playing only away games. The Irish Cricket Union was officially founded in 1923, and is made up of five provincial unions, namely the Leinster Cricket Union, the Munster Cricket Union, the Northern Cricket Union, the Connaught Cricket Union and the North West Cricket Union. Its powers initially were strictly limited and it was reconstituted in 1933, with greater autonomy. In common with a number of other Irish sporting governing bodies, the Union represents all of Ireland, rather than just the Republic of Ireland. In common with other sports, the Union therefore does not use the Irish tricolor, but instead employs its own flag.

Cricket was introduced to Ireland by the British in the towns of Kilkenny and Ballinasloe in the early 19th century. In the 1830s, many of the clubs which were founded by them are still in existence today. Of course, the game of cricket was played and first introduced by the British in other countries, that were under the British Empire. The first Irish national team played in 1855 against the English national team in Dublin, where they lost. In the 1850s, an Englishman Charles Lawrence was responsible for developing the game in Ireland through his coaching. In the 1850s and 1860s, Ireland was visited for the first time by touring professional teams. Ireland’s first match against Marylebone Cricket Club was held in 1858, a match where they won comfortably for the very first time.

The game increased in popularity until the early 1880s. Two issues then affected the popularity of cricket and cricketers in Ireland. The first was the outbreak of the Anglo-Irish Land Wars, resulting from the mistreatment of tenants by absentee landlords, when landlord and tenant were alienated. The second was a ban placed on the playing of ‘foreign’ games by the Gaelic Athletic Association, which was not lifted until 1970 by the Irish Government.

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Anyone playing foreign games such as cricket would be banned from the extremely popular Irish games of hurling and Gaelic football, as it was popularly referred to as a ‘garrison game’ enjoyed primarily by the occupying British forces and the landowning protestant oligarchy they protected. Irish teams toured Canada and the USA in 1879, 1888, 1892 and 1909. On top of this, Ireland defeated a touring South African side in 1904. Their first match with first-class status was played on May 19, 1902 against a London County side, including the great W.G. Grace. The Irish, captained by Sir Tim O’Brien, lost the match convincingly by a whopping margin of 238 runs.

Reflecting the rising popularity of the game in Ireland, Cricket Ireland committed to developing the grassroots of the sport over the next four years. New plans were unveiled to provide a significant boost to the domestic game with a series of initiatives designed to strengthen the game on the island and help achieve the ambitious target of 50,000 participants by the end of 2015. The initiatives taken are:-

  • The ‘Get into Cricket Scheme‘ is a major new programme targeting schools and cricket clubs encouraging six to twelve-year olds to take up the game of cricket for the first time.
  • ‘The National Cup’ is a new domestic National Club competition for clubs not already competing in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup. This provides 32 new clubs with the chance to compete for an All-Ireland title and the opportunity to play cricket outside of their local area.
  • The ‘Better Clubs Initiative’ is an innovative programme supporting local cricket clubs across the country to improve their facilities. This programme is a volunteering initiative aimed at encouraging local cricket supporters, their friends and families to undertake work to improve the facilities at their local club houses and grounds.
  • ‘The Cricket Ireland National Awards’ is a major awards event recognising players, coaches, volunteers, groundsmen, officials and clubs for the contribution they make to the cricket sport in Ireland. This will be an annual event that commenced in 2012.
  • The establishment of a ‘Regional Academies’ is to develop and foster the young talent from the ages of 15 to 19 and ensuring a pipeline of players playing for the international team.
  • The relaunch of the ‘Inter-Pro Series’ as a precursor to setting up a first class domestic playing infrastructure in Ireland.

There are three international cricket venues in Ireland that have been approved by the ICC to host international cricket matches. The first one, the Castle Avenue in Dublin, hosted a match in the 1999 Cricket World Cup between Bangladesh and West Indies. The second ground, the Civil Service Cricket Club Ground in Belfast, hosted Ireland’s first ODI in 2006 versus Scotland. The Malahide Cricket Club Ground is the biggest ground in Ireland, with a maximum capacity of 15,000 seats.

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The Irish cricket team made it to the front page of all Irish and English newspapers and of course, all newspapers in every cricket loving nation, with one of the most exciting comebacks and upsets in the modern cricketing history. Kevin O’Brien, the 27 year-old all rounder, chose the match against big brothers England to play the greatest knock of his life. It was a knock so spectacular that he might just end up spending the rest of his career living up to it. His magnificent 113 helped the team to score a daunting target of 327 runs and won the nail-biting match with three wickets to spare, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, India.

Ireland has been a feeder country to England. Lack of infrastructure, money and opportunities has often led to good cricketers seeking greener pastures in the county cricket of England, followed by a chance to play in the English national team with a regular contract. Gavin Hamilton of Scotland did so in the last decade, and so did Ed Joyce of Ireland some years ago. But now, Ed Joyce is now back in the Irish cricket team.

Irish players Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell are under the scanner of the ECB(England & Wales Cricket Board) at the moment, while the very Irishman Eoin Morgan is in the English national cricket team, ironically after playing a major role in getting Ireland into the 2007 World Cup. For many of the Irish cricketers, England is where they eventually gravitate, not because they wish to but because they have to. Opportunities and the realistic need to play on a larger scale trump minor concerns of loyalty. Kevin O’Brien is the both leading run-scorer and leading wicket-taker for Ireland. Paul Stirling’s 177 is the highest individual score against Canada in 2012. More importantly, Ed Joyce’s score of unbeaten 114 is the highest individual score against a full member team, Pakistan in 2013. Kevin O’Brien’s 113 is also the second highest individual score against England in 2011.

The rapidly growing popularity of cricket in Ireland is showing no signs of slowing down, with junior participation numbers more than doubling in the last six to seven years. After Ireland’s dramatic win against Pakistan in 2007, a number of measures have been taken to strengthen the sport’s infrastructure all over the country. According to the Cricket Ireland’s website, there was a strong growth recorded throughout all categories in the survey undertaken by ICC, with the overall participation figure for cricket standing at 40,414 in 2014, up from 25,170 in 2011, which is an increase of about 70 percent. There has also been a 30 percent increase in the number of active coaches in Ireland, increasing from 910 to 1175 of them.

In a further sign of the game’s increasing popularity throughout Ireland, the number of teams playing the sport increased from 895 to 1056 competitive teams. There has been an incredible expansion in the number of junior teams across Ireland, while adult team growth has also been strong in the Connaught and Munster county areas, where the game has enjoyed a surge in interest following Ireland’s exploits on the world stage. The Cricket Ireland Development’s mantra is “Cricket For All”, and its team have worked tirelessly to promote the game throughout all the regions, with these results and the testament to the excellent work being carried out.

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The expansion in development work has been made possible thanks to additional funding and support received from ICC Europe Development Region and official Cricket Ireland’s sponsor RSA. Also, the RSA’s “Get into Cricket” initiative has proved incredibly popular at grassroots level throughout the country, and the programme has proven extremely effective at getting youngsters involved in the sport for the first time.

In Leinster, the development team has been instrumental in projects working with the disabled, while the Leprechaun Cup competition for primary schools has grown into one of the most successful youth competitions in Ireland, with over 53 schools taking part in 2012. In Munster, there is a renewed appetite for the sport, with new projects involving 17 new schools in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, and the first ever national schools mini-tournaments in Midleton, Waterford and Thurles being particular highlights.

The Northern Cricket Union’s development efforts to involve young women in the game has seen the formation of an Under-17 Inter-Regional squad for the first time, while the North West has promoted the game in non-traditional areas. St Columb’s College, the alma mater of three Nobel Prize winners on Derry’s West Bank, has seen the college entering the Schools’ Cup for the first time in their recent history. The development team has also been instrumental in helping new clubs in Maghera and Enniskillen find their feet too.

National Development Manager Tim Simmonite appreciated the measures of the Cricket Ireland and thanked them for their outstanding work which has been carried out across Ireland by the Development Team. Their passion and commitment to growing the game is clearly evident, and these superb figures are evidence of the that. He also gave enormous credit to the Provincial Unions and the constituent cricket clubs who have embraced the continuing changes in the game and have delivered high standards on the ground.

Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of the Cricket Ireland, has stated that it wants to seek actively to place Irish players into top-level cricket, by developing relationships with county cricket clubs of both Ireland and England, which will incorporate appropriate player release for their Irish international duties and feeder systems for developing Irish cricketers. The governing council sought closer links with the English county teams, encourage the development of age group cricket, and to introduce a professional element into the Irish game. They also want to take the Ireland cricket team on winter tours more often.

In 2013, Cricket Ireland set out a bold vision for the future of the game in the country. Deutrom outlined the ambition as he unveiled the new strategic plan for Irish Cricket. The plan sets out a series of stretching goals including increasing the number of participants in the game to 50,000, setting a target of reaching 8th in the ICC World Rankings, establishing a domestic first-class cricket structure and reinforcing cricket as the 4th major team sport in Ireland, all by 2016.

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Deutrom mentioned that ICU’s clear long ambition is to become a full member nation of the ICC by 2020. He also added that it was not a dreamy aspiration, but a real ambition founded on the playing talent being developed everywhere in the country, the growing passion and profile of the game, a sustained and proven track record of achievement on and off the field and a clear roadmap set out by the ICU for fulfilling its objectives. Phil Simmons, the coach of Ireland, extended his third contract for three more years, after taking the reins in 2007. Reflecting on the decision for extending the contract, Simmons said that he has enjoyed every minute of his involvement with the Irish cricket and have achieved great things, with more good things to come.

As an additional boost, Cricket Ireland also announced that they have offered 23 contracts to players for the 2015 ICC World Cup, which is a record number of player contracts. The contracts include 12 first-choice senior squad players on category A and B contracts plus an additional 11 players on category C contracts. Simmons added that a key part of cricket’s success to date has been the move to professionalism. With a plethora of players on full or part time contracts, it now has a structure supporting the senior squad as well as succession planning to make sure that the body can maintain the competitiveness on the international stage. The full list of player contract awards are given as follows:-

Category A: Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, John Mooney and Kevin O’Brien.

Category B:  William Porterfield, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Andrew White and Gary Wilson.

Category C: Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Connell, Tom Fisher, Shane Getkate, Nigel Jones, Rory McCann, Andrew Poynter, James Shannon, Max Sorensen, Stuart Thompson and Albert van der Merwe.

Lastly, it is hoped that the ICC will recognize the leaps that the Irish cricket has taken and ensure that it all does not fade away like the former giant-killers Kenya and Zimbabwe. Globally, cricket fans like us can only hope that we get to see some fresh and exciting countries playing in regular ODIs and T20s matches. Ten nations playing each other all through the year does lose its sheen after a lifetime of watching the game. It will push the TRPs(Television Rating Points) of all cricket channels if we see a taste of a new team taking on an old team and fighting for its glory and pride.