Opinion

A few suggestions on how Narendra Modi should reshuffle his cabinet

Arun Jaitley, Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani must go. Raghuram Rajan should be brought in.

There’s a rumour swirling around in Delhi’s political circles that a cabinet reshuffle is on the cards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is said, wants to deliver on his election promise of better governance and is therefore searching for new faces. But the truth is, he doesn’t have much to pick from.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and its partners in the National Democratic alliance have acute talent deficit and their bench strength doesn’t extend very much beyond what is seen in the cabinet now. The deficit is manifested in the underperformance and underachievement of the finance and commerce ministries, which are crying out for a change. Here then is an appraisal of Modi’s cabinet colleagues and a useful guide to help the prime minister through the reshuffle.

Arun Jaitley has shown no ability to understand the economy and what needs fixing. He is more fixated on fixing people and placing stories. Even his colleagues are not exempt from his proclivities. Lawyering is very different from redrawing the nation’s economic architecture, and a penchant for political gossip does not indicate political sagacity. Since he is too high profile now and too close to Modi to be dumped, Jaitley should be given the charge of the Ministry of External Affairs, so that he can be kept under the shadow of the Prime Minister’s Office and his inactivity and inabilities covered up.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who was the BJP spokesperson during the run-up to the general election, has a junior minister’s position and an economically critical portfolio. During her tenure as the Minister of Commerce and Industry, foreign trade figures – imports and exports – have gone southward. True, there is a worldwide slowdown, but that’s when you need to fire on all cylinders. She has shown no talent or temperament for the job.

Sushma Swaraj is a complete misfit at the Ministry of External Affairs. She does not have a worldview or knowledge of world affairs. Loquaciousness, or oratorical sophistication, is not knowledge. Yet, she has abilities and seniority. She is not divisive and can get a team to work. She is also mature enough to ward off cranks like Hindutva activist Dinanath Batra. I think Swaraj would be well utilised in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, where the incumbent is proving woefully inadequate.

Smriti Irani, meanwhile, could be sent to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, where her gift of the gab, sense of the news and topicality could be put to better use than in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Nitin Gadkari has the talent and ability to get things done and is demonstrating it in his present charge at the Minister of Road Transport and Highways. This is a vital area and he is best left alone at it.

Rajnath Singh has been a bit of a flapjaw without the gravitas needed for the Home Ministry. That said, Home is a toothless ministry. There are few charges left with it beyond shuffling around paramilitary units. Besides, the Ministry of Personnel is with the prime minister, and the Prime Minister’s Office dominates internal security. So leaving Rajnath Singh to himself in a toothless ministry will be a safe bet – the BJP heavyweight can do little damage there.

Piyush Goyal has done well in the Power Ministry. He should not be moved around. Also, since Jayant Sinha, the Minister of State for Finance, has fared well, he could be sent to the Ministry of Commerce to pull up foreign trade by its bootstraps. And Nirmala Sitharaman could be moved to the Ministry of Human Resource Development to work with Sushma Swaraj.

Manohar Parrikar may not be the ideal defence minister, but he shines in comparison with his predecessor AK Anthony. Besides who can replace him?

The prime minister does not have much in-house choice for the Finance Ministry. These are times for a person who can build multi-party consensus. I would commend Raghuram Rajan who has the ability, imagination and goodwill, here and abroad, to turn the Indian economy around.

Additionally, what Modi can do is get rid of a few contentious and querulous fellows. For instance, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, and Giriraj Kishore, minister of state for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. He should also dump Uma Bharti and hand over the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to Nitin Gadkari.

I feel sorry for Narendra Modi. He doesn’t have much of a talent pool to choose from within the BJP or the coalition. Alas, he’ll have to assemble a team from the slim pickings.

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The incredible engineering that can save your life in a car crash

Indian roads are among the world’s most dangerous. We take a look at the essential car safety features for our road conditions.

Over 200,000 people die on India’s roads every year. While many of these accidents can be prevented by following road safety rules, car manufacturers are also devising innovative new technology to make vehicles safer than ever before. To understand how crucial this technology is to your safety, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a car accident.

Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.
Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.

A car crash typically has three stages. The first stage is where the car collides with an object. At the point of collision, the velocity with which the car is travelling gets absorbed within the car, which brings it to a halt. Car manufacturers have incorporated many advanced features in their cars to prevent their occupants from ever encountering this stage.

Sixth sense on wheels

To begin with, some state-of-the-art vehicles have fatigue detection systems that evaluate steering wheel movements along with other signals in the vehicle to indicate possible driver fatigue–one of the biggest causes of accidents. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is the other big innovation that can prevent collisions. ESP typically encompasses two safety systems–ABS (anti-lock braking system), and TCS (traction control system). Both work in tandem to help the driver control the car on tricky surfaces and in near-collision situations. ABS prevents wheels from locking during an emergency stop or on a slippery surface, and TCS prevents the wheels from spinning when accelerating by constantly monitoring the speed of the wheels.

Smarter bodies, safer passengers

In the event of an actual car crash, manufacturers have been redesigning the car body to offer optimal protection to passengers. A key element of newer car designs includes better crumple zones. These are regions which deform and absorb the impact of the crash before it reaches the occupants. Crumple zones are located in the front and rear of vehicles and some car manufacturers have also incorporated side impact bars that increase the stiffness of the doors and provide tougher resistance to crashes.

CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.
CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.

Post-collision technology

While engineers try to mitigate the effects of a crash in the first stage itself, there are also safe guards for the second stage, when after a collision the passengers are in danger of hitting the interiors of the car as it rapidly comes to a halt. The most effective of these post-crash safety engineering solutions is the seat belt that can reduce the risk of death by 50%.

In the third stage of an actual crash, the rapid deceleration and shock caused by the colliding vehicle can cause internal organ damage. Manufacturers have created airbags to reduce this risk. Airbags are installed in the front of the car and have crash sensors that activate and inflate it within 40 milliseconds. Many cars also have airbags integrated in the sides of the vehicles to protect from side impacts.

SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.
SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.

Safety first

In the West as well as in emerging markets like China, car accident related fatalities are much lower than in India. Following traffic rules and driving while fully alert remain the biggest insurance against mishaps, however it is also worthwhile to fully understand the new technologies that afford additional safety.

So the next time you’re out looking for a car, it may be a wise choice to pick an extra airbag over custom leather seats or a swanky music system. It may just save your life.

Equipped with state-of-the-art passenger protection systems like ESP and fatigue detection systems, along with high-quality airbags and seatbelts, all Volkswagen cars have the safety of passengers at the heart of their design. Watch Volkswagen customer stories and driver experiences that testify its superior German engineering, here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Volkswagen by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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