A Neighbour Less Talked About – Myanmar

India’s neighbours are often in the talks, be it for good reasons or bad. Bangladesh and Bhutan are usually talked about for mostly good reasons, while Pakistan and China are talked about for mostly bad reasons. Nepal and Sri Lanka are talked about on how India helps its neighbours to grow. But there is a neighbour, about whom most Indians know very little about. Yes, that neighbour is Myanmar.

Myanmar has been a more failed state, than Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. Since independence, Myanmar could do little for its citizens, rather it has shrinked itself to complete isolation from the rest of the world. The most powerful unit in Myanmar is the Junta, which has recently for the second time overthrew the demographically elected Government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

After gaining independence from British rule, Myanmar slowly tried to build itself from its ruins. But in 1962, the military overthrew the Government and took the reins of administration upon itself. While military rule in some countries is not that bad, the military rule did more harm than good to Myanmar’s rise as an independent nation. Till 2011, the military rule did misery to the country, forcing its people into poverty, displacing thousands, killing minorities and threatening its own destruction.

The year 2011 brought about a sea of change in the politics of Myanmar, when elections were legally held for the very first time, and people chose Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader. However, it is alleged that Aung San Suu Kyi herself had little powers, especially regarding the Rohingya crisis, and that the military was still the decision-maker in politics. However, the demographically-elected Government was hugely popular among the masses, triggering panic among the junta that despite the country’s protectors, they are getting hugely unpopular.

Hence, a fresh coup was the result in 2021, in which the junta again overthrew the demographically-elected Government to fulfil their own needs. But now, together with the Covid-19 pandemic threw the country to chaos, and took the country’s economy to the brink of collapse. Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time, and so are a number of leaders of her party. India has seen a recent surge in migration of refugees from Myanmar to India.

However, India, having to deal with Pakistan’s terrorism, Bangladeshi illegal immigrants, Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Covid-19, and other factors, is not looking to meddle in Myanmar’s internal matters. India supports Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, but given the cruelty and harsh nature of the junta regime, it is not likely that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party is going to make a popular comeback anytime soon.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Downfall of Congress and Rise of New Parties in India

Since its inception, the Indian National Congress party had a stronghold in almost every nook and corner of India. This has been the case till the turn of the century, when Atal Bihari Bajpayee led the NDF to power. That however, did not last long and Congress was once again back in power with Manmohan Singh in the lead as the Prime Minister. Since the 2014 elections, the Congress is on a rapid downslide, and is fast losing its power in major states of India.

After heavy defeat at 2014 parliamentary elections, Congress made a comeback in 2018 in some states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka. Just when it was looking like Congress may get a slight edge over BJP, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections showed a one-sided election game with BJP retaining all major BJP-led states, and gaining foothold in areas where it had few followers. Bengal and Odisha were two states, where the BJP made significant presence within a matter of days. Punjab and Kerala were the only places where the INC showed some presence. Since then, it has only fared worse, losing even the states where there is no sign of BJP. The Left-Front retained power in Kerala while the recent Punjab elections saw Congress reduced to a mere regional party with insignificant presence in front of AAP. Neither Congress could stop BJP to snatch power in Goa where it performed the best, yet far below the expectations.

BJP has left its presence all across India, not only in the larger states, but also several smaller states. Major parts of north-east India are now BJP-controlled, with several local parties backing the BJP Government against Congress. Manipur, previously a stronghold of Congress, could not stop the massive success of BJP with the support of local parties like Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Front (NPP). BJP with 32 seats fared better than the majority, and with NPF and NPP backing with 5 and 7 seats respectively. Congress got 11 seats out of 40 in Goa, and with all other smaller parties backing, might have an outside chance of forming the Government, like how BJP came to power in 2017 Goa elections. But with MGP backing the BJP, history repeated as BJP retained power in Goa.

Punjab saw a new party rising in the midst of ashes left by Congress. The rise of AAP to an overwhelming majority in Punjab means the Congress has probably lost its last base in Punjab. But the worst for the Congress was in UP, where it was reduced to a mere 2 seats out of 403 seats. There is hardly any chance that Congress will come back in UP, with the rise of Samajwadi Party (SP) as the principal opposition to BJP. Despite the SP playing better than ever, BJP is way ahead of it by a huge margin. Uttarakhand, however, did not witness a opposition to counter the BJP, and Congress alone couldn’t make much of an impact.

Congress itself cannot pose a threat to BJP in the upcoming 2024 Parliamentary election. It is the rise of local parties like SP, AAP, Shiv Sena, BJD, RJD and TMC in various states of India which will make the BJP play its decisive strategy. Again, for those who oppose the current BJP regime, the recent elections have proved that BJP is not going anywhere. It has far more support and possesses far stronger leadership than most other political parties imagine.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Cycling Makes Comeback in India

Cycling was the most common method of personal vehicle transportation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, most developed countries in the world are promoting cycle transport to stem the pollution from motor vehicles. Bicycles have the least carbon footprint among all means of transportation as they operate using the energy of the rider. However, they are classified as slow-moving vehicles and are banned from entering congested streets in many cities across India. This limited the growth of this eco-friendly mode of transportation in the early 21st century.

In 2020, world transportation was shattered by Covid-19. Short journeys, for which people used to take auto or bus rides, are replaced by cycles. The unavailability of private cars, buses, and autos means the roads are nearly empty most of the time. So cycling on empty roads did not pose any hindrance to the traffic. In such a scenario, the Government allowed several otherwise-congested roads for cycling purposes. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, all have seen a spurt in the number of cycles and sales of cycles. A cycle is not only very cheap, but an effective mode of transportation for short distance journeys, and can be parked almost anywhere.

However, various independent surveys show that cycling is more a fitness sport than a transport. In lockdown situations, when fitness lovers are unable to move out to gyms or yoga, cycling comes to their rescue. Cycling not only keeps our body fit but also makes us go out in the sun. Various studies show that Vitamin D is linked with our immunity against Covid-19 and the major source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Thus there is a sudden growth in the number of cycle riders in the afternoon.

Seeing a positive response from the public, the Government is now thinking of making the congested cities suitable for large-scale cycle transportation. Cycle helps in reducing pollution, and also saves a lot of fuel. The commuters have also seen the benefits of cycling, both in terms of health and in terms of money-saving. There has been a 300-600 per cent increase in cycle sales across megacities of India. The best-sellers are expensive bicycles, specially meant for racing purposes. The rich section of the society, which previously did not feel the need to cycle, is now considering cycling as a means of staying fit. The Government now requires cycling as a safe form of transport. The Government should promote the development of bicycle tracks across cities so that riders can move from one part of the city to another without disturbing the traffic. The question is, after the pandemic, will the riders feel safe to ride across congested roads. The Government should create an atmosphere of prioritising cycling as a safe and effective transportation option, which not only the poor but also the rich can utilize.

Written by – Himadri Paul