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At 93, Grande Dame Of Hindi Literature Krishna Sobti Still Manages To Create Stir

New Delhi: The 53rd Jnanpith award for 2017 goes to one of the most celebrated Hindi writers, Krishna Sobti.
 
Following the unanimous decision amidst the members of the Jnanpith Selection Board, the 97-year-old is to be decorated with India’s highest literary honour, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Indian literature.
 
“Sobti is a path-breaking novelist. She has immensely enriched Hindi literature,” the statement by the board, chaired by noted scholar, writer and critic Namwar Singh, said.
 
Others on the Jnanpith Award decision-making body included Girishwar Misra, Shamim Hanfi, Harish Trivedi, Suranjan Das, Ramakant Rath, Chandrakant Patil, Alok Rai, C Radhakrishnan, Madhishudhan Anand and Leeladhar Mandloi.
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Insider’s Narrative

This memoir of Pranab Mukherjee, third of the trilogy, is a detailed and frank narrative about the clandestine orchestration in the government and the Congress party during 1996-2012. Mukherjee, the veteran insider, was once described by a magazine as ‘the man who knew too much’ and in this part he spews his knowledge and experiences in the corridors of power covering the period of 1996-2012, just before his ascendancy as the 13th President of the Republic of India. It gives a vivid account of his role in the party and the government and the trajectory of the Congress party since 1996 which he considers a threshold period marking the advent of coalition politics in India.

In the introductory chapter, he warns against disturbing trends in today’s politics, such as the declining time in Parliament devoted to debate, and legislation passed without proper discussion. He says that effective parliamentary democracy relies on 3Ds – Debate, Dissent and Decision. However, disruption has taken over the system, negating the very purpose of a Parliament. He is also concerned about the tendency to pass ordinances ignoring the Parliament.

The author is critical of the period of Emergency when he says that “self-correction in such situations is always a better option than self-justification”. But as a matter of fact, he took a principled stand and refused to give evidence when he was summoned by the Shah Commission which was investigating the alleged excesses of the Emergency.

In the Chapter ‘The Congress after Rajiv’, he shares the reasons for the decline of the Congress in the 1990s, viz. the economic reforms which largely affected the elite, and the potential benefits which were yet to percolate to the masses. This led to the rise of the BJP in the 1990s as an alternate to the Congress. It also coincided with another significant development across the nation’s political landscape – the formation of alliances by smaller parties to constitute a bulwark against the Congress.

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TREATISE SANS A NARRATIVE

 While editing the compendium of essays to focus  towards articulating a security strategy for India,  Gurmeet Kanwalhas not really succeeded in  creating cohesive narrative. The New Arthshashtra  A Security Strategy for India, may have essays from  some of the best known names in the field of  strategy but merely bringing in the names does not  really create a cause
 for dialogue, create a viewpoint which emerges from  interaction or evolves an opinion based on consensus. When Kanwal’s compendium, published by Harper Collins, fails to integrate the view points of the contributing essayists, how can it blame the policy makers of having not been able to formulate a
security strategy for the country despite “having fought five wars and being hemmed by nuclear-armed” states.
The official summary of the book says, “India surprisingly does not have a formally declared national security strategy. All the major powers of the world publish documents that spell out their national interests, identify their threats - political, economic, diplomatic or with regard to security - and draw up policies
 to deal with them. The absence of a similar doctrine makes India’s defence policy look ad hoc and creates the impression that the country is unprepared to realize its global ambitions.”
The editor of the compendium claims that “The New Arthashastra” attempts to recommend a national security strategy for India. He claims that the book has done the difficult groundwork for India’s political leaders and policymakers by bringing the best names - from within the community as well as from the armed forces and academia - to the ideating table. Ideating is fine but debating the issues would have been better appreciated.                                                   Though to be fair this collection has 20 high-quality essays, which cover a wide range of topics from nuclear deterrence to defence spending, the domestic production of weapons, and bracing for the wars of the future that would be fought in space and cyberspace. As Kanwal says these essays are rooted in the expertise of analysts with inside-out knowledge of their domains.