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Sunday, August 21, 2011

EDITORIAL 20.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 20,  edition 000815, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.









































Thirty-two years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the historic 1979 Peace Treaty formalising the demilitarisation of the Sinai Penninsula — a contentious piece of land that had not known peace for generations — military tanks and armoured vehicles once again rolled into El Arish, the capital city of the Egyptian governorate of North Sinai, earlier this week as law and order in the region reached a point of complete breakdown. This is essentially because Sinai has been devoid of any law-enforcement personnel since January 28, when at the height of the 'revolution,' and amidst allegations of police brutality, President Hosni Mubarak withdrew all security agencies from across the country. While the Army quickly stepped in to take the place of the police in the rest of Egypt, Sinai remained unattended because the Camp David Accords prohibit Egyptian troops from entering the area. Eventually, Israel has had to allow a regiment of 800 soldiers to enter Sinai, but that is far from adequate to maintain law and order across the 60,000 square km of desert and mountains that make up the peninsula. The situation has been spinning out of control end-July onwards when Islamists attacked El Arish and killed six persons. Before dawn the next day, the crucial pipeline that pumps Egyptian natural gas to Israel and Jordan also came under attack. This is the fifth time since protesters took to the streets demanding the removal of Mr Hosni Mubarak that the pipeline in Sinai has been bombed. Today, the situation there has come to such a pass that there are widespread fears that armed Islamists will forcibly take over control of the area and declare it as independent from Egypt. Neighbouring Israel is particularly feeling the heat especially after militants from Gaza took advantage of the security lapse and infiltrated Israeli territory from Sinai to launch a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in the southern part of that country on Thursday. The attacks, which led to the death of at least seven civilians, has left Israel feeling vulnerable to such an extent that the authorites there have allowed Egypt to send in further troops as well as military tanks and heavy arsenal into Sinai in a desperate bid to secure the porous Egypt-Israel border. Jordan, whose border runs close to Sinai and is reeling under the pressure of domestic unrest, has also been shaken by this sudden collapse of law and order.

None of this bodes well for Egypt which even six months after Mr Mubarak's resignation is still struggling to script a peaceful, well-coordinated transition process. That his resignation would lead to lawlessness and anarchy across the largest Arab country was predictable; these are almost always the unpleasant by-products of drastic actions that are propelled not by practical reasoning but by a passionate outpouring of popular emotions. But now it is time that Egypt take responsibility for its own mess. Lawlessness within its borders and jittery neighbours outside are a recipe for disaster; one that will not only unravel the region's peace agreements but also take a heavy toll on global security. This must not be allowed to happen. Egypt, particularly, must ensure that the gains achieved over many years are not reversed in a momentary flux of popular emotion. ***************************************





The charges that are being levelled against the three-month-old Congress-led UDF Government in Kerala are powerful enough to make anyone think that corruption is endemic to that party and its allies, particularly in the context of the nation-wide protests the UPA is facing at the moment. In Kerala, the captain of the ship, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy of the Congress, is facing a court-ordered probe by the Vigilance Department in the palm oil import scam of 1992 which has cost PJ Thomas his job as Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Mr Chandy has already been forced to give up the vigilance portfolio he was holding after the court ordered the inquiry. The situation could get increasingly sticky for him even as the CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition prepares to launch a State-wide agitation demanding his resignation. At least four Ministers of the 20-member UDF Cabinet are facing vigilance probes on serious charges. Health Minister Adoor Prakash of the Congress is accused of demanding money from his own party colleagues to sanction ration shops when he was Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the former Chandy Government. Industries Minister PK Kunhalikutty, de facto supremo of the Muslim League, the second largest constituent of the ruling coalition, is charged with illegal wealth appropriation in the names of his relatives. Panchayat Minister MK Muneer of the Muslim League is facing two vigilance cases over public works allotment to contractors when he was in charge of that department in the former UDF Government. The headaches for Mr Chandy and his Congress, which is ravaged by group wars of unprecedented intensity, and the Muslim League do not end there. Reports are emanating almost on a daily basis, suggesting that the Muslim League is not necessarily the peace-loving party that it claims to be.

The now-dissolved MA Nissar Judicial Commission had received witness statements and investigators' reports that spoke of a possible Muslim League conspiracy behind the clashes that occurred in northern Kasaragod town in November 2009, the purpose of which was to ignite communal riots all over the Malabar region which has a substantial Muslim population. The Opposition has accused Mr Chandy of dissolving the Commission in order to save the Muslim League and some of its top leaders, including Mr Kunhalikutty. But what gives some relief to Mr Chandy, the Congress and its allies is the fact that the leaders in the Opposition themselves are not free from charges. For example, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, the powerful State secretary of the CPI(M), has lost the right to speak about the corruption in the UDF because he is facing trial as a key accused in the Rs 375-crore SNC Lavalin case which pertains to the biggest corruption scandal in Kerala's history. God's Own Country, it would seem, is hostage to tainted politicians and their perverse politics. ***************************************







The dissonance being experienced today springs from a society and nation in the throes of growing up. Our elected representatives have to be more responsive.

In corporate life, it is a taboo to make public forward-looking statements with regard to the affairs of the company. The fear is that it will cause sharp-hearing punters and investors to trade on the listed stock of the company based on such pronouncements, provide a straws-in-the-wind reckoning on which way it is likely to lean in the future and what profits could be made by speculating on such inclination. If the company is not listed yet, such statements might be seen as manipulation of investor interest for the future.

In the West, ravaged as their financial markets are by pirate-like excesses, and in India, buffeted by destabilising foreign winds, the procedure, admired once for the Gordon Gekko-style derring-do it showed, is now anathema. 'Insider trading' attracts criminal prosecution. If convicted, it tends to get the guilty fairly long jail sentences too.

Plus, there are hierarchical niceties which specify who is or isn't an 'authorised spokesperson', and just what he or she is authorised to speak or issue written statements on. Even the top brass is not immune to such restrictions on the principle a person always has to serve somebody. Of course, a person can feign ignorance of lowly operational matters when it suits him or her, but that is quite another matter.

Then again, all the information and persuasive pitching amount to an attempt at opinion-formation, which is also the objective of the media and their not so distant cousins, the politicians. The well-reasoned messaging seeks to influence, via the medium of the written or spoken word, timed well and accompanied wherever possible by the good picture.

Otherwise, it is just so much reportage, and though it is eminently possible to slant reports to suit a person's worldview, editorials in newspapers and talking heads on television channels provide a rather freer format. For long has it been known that fancy oratory can certainly give birth to the occasional good idea.

Politics, with its proximity to power via the electronic voting machine, has the inside track on this declamatory process in theory, necessary for that all-important gathering of votes, along with a liberal use of monetary and other inducements. But it is seen that a lot of the political messaging in India of late has been about feint and parry, essentially defensive manoeuvre, minimalist in scope and very little by way of the expected thrust of true leadership and the grand sweep of vision.

Our Prime Minister, for example, seems reluctant to voice his opinions altogether, as if expecting to be ridiculed in the midst of his chaotic governance. When he comes out to speak to the public or the media, he gives the clear impression that he is doing so under pressure from the Congress. In this prevailing climate of drift, most committed commentators sound like apologists of either the UPA or the Opposition as the case may be, or indeed the Left, which uniquely manages to appear opposed to whatever is going on, irrespective of whether it is formally supporting the Government or not.

All this caginess as the prevailing order makes for a dreary narrative that rarely takes the India story or plot-line forward for the hopeful. That we are going through tough economic times both at home and globally does not help either. Civil society comes across, alas, as mostly naïve, with a great deal of fury and thunder that still isn't tantamount to effective intervention, though Anna Hazare, with his simple and short sound bytes, may prove this perception wrong yet. At least he, along with his supporters, growing more numerous by the day, is trying to do something to clean up the mess. For that intention and effort Anna Hazare and his supporters deserve appreciation from those who do far less.

To carry the corporate analogy further, politics does not actually destabilise the polity with its manifestoes, however radical, even though most are rarely implemented. Election promises too are largely forgotten once a party is in power. But the fact remains that a great deal of governance is about policy-making and its implementation and has to be both continuous and viewed from a long-term perspective.

In a democracy, to find a Government that seems to say nothing at all about its future direction is both disappointing and distressing. Nothing that is, apart from occasional probing comments pronounced by the more quixotic among its spokespersons, aimed at shoring up its perceived vote-banks and trashing the Opposition. There is also the tactical ploy of taking recourse to routine and boring denials in stoic counterpoint to the criticism of the populace, the media, the judiciary and, of course, the Opposition.

Combined with a dysfunctional parliamentary session or two, even as it will be interesting to see how the political classes handle the current monsoon session in the end, the picture of rudderless drift and insouciant unresponsiveness is more or less complete. Not to mention the huge legislative backlog suffering from unforgivable neglect. Juxtaposed with a politician's natural urge to be economical with the truth, it makes the case for disinformation in place of transparency that much stronger.

Which brings us to the central point of the diminished quality of our democratic discourse. We have parliamentarians and State legislators who, like so many loutish schoolboys, do not uphold the grand traditions of parliamentary democracy, but instead trash them in full public gaze and media spotlight. We have institutions, set up by our founding fathers to be vigilant against subversion of the workings of Government, ruthlessly compromised by political interference — to the extent that they are more or less beholden to the Government of the day. A bureaucracy that is disconnected and suffering from the same malaise as the institutions. A judiciary, corrupt in parts and overburdened to the extent that it can barely dispense justice.

So where do we go from here? Is it the abyss of failure to implement the grand vision of the founding fathers of our republic, or are we on the verge of a renewal and modernisation in our functioning that will give us new hope and determination to succeed in the future?

It could go either way of course, but the balance of power seems in favour of an electorate growing more sophisticated in its needs and wants. Much of the dissonance being experienced today springs from a society and nation in the throes of growing up. Therefore, the elected representatives in our young republic will have to respond to this new and more demanding reality or be replaced by others who are more attuned to the times we live in and willing to do so.







Unlike the Mahatma, who connected with the masses with rhetorical algorithms formatted for all-round social development, this one panders to typical urban middle class selective morality. But Manmohan Singh can rest assured: Anna is no threat to the Constitution

I do not claim to be a scholar of Mahatma Gandhi's life and works. Yet as his admirer I find the relentless comparisons of Anna Hazare with Gandhiji very troubling. Anna Hazare may have embraced Gandhian tactics, but his larger vision remains unaligned with Gandhiji's.

Let's begin with Anna Hazare's view that corruption results purely from personal greed: this is obvious from his statements to the Press. It's also the thrust of his Jan Lokpal Bill. Gandhiji too stressed the importance of personal ethics: "Be the change you want to be," is one of his best-remembered sayings. But his vision was more profound; his diagnosis, more systemic. For Gandhiji, personal greed had a wider social context, and was also rooted in the unethical practices of the state.

Gandhiji would surely condemn the corruption that plagues India today. But unlike Anna Hazare, he would steer us towards the more preliminary question of, how did we get here?

In many ways, the character of corruption in India has not changed over time, though its scale certainly has. The middle class, which is the force behind Anna Hazare's movement, is quick to point out that corruption, prior to 1991, was due to the discretionary powers enjoyed by bureaucrats and politicians in our overly controlled economy. Liberalisation was supposed to change this. When it did not, it was easiest to conclude that not enough liberalisation had taken place, and that Indian public servants were especially morally depraved.

Neither assumption is true. Not only have we seen plenty of liberalisation, some of the worst cases of corruption in recent years are spawns of the liberalisation process — of deregulation, privatisation and the proliferation of public-private partnerships. Our public servants are also not unusually greedy. The problem is not only one of personal avarice, but of the incentives and opportunities to be corrupt.

From a Gandhian perspective, liberalisation did not transform the nature and objectives of the State, only its methods. We are still following what Gandhiji fundamentally opposed: a master-narrative of growth-at-all-cost that is at odds with the goal of a more equitable society and concern for the natural environment. We remain prisoners of a high modernist paradigm that pits us in a race to 'catch-up' with the West (and now, with China). So eager are we to compete in this global game of one-upmanship that we do not care what damage is done on the way.

The middle classes who have been galvanised by Anna Hazare —the businessmen who have poured money into his campaign —are particularly guilty of such deliberate blindness. Did they rally against the violation of environmental norms, the eviction of slumdwellers, and the early revelations of corruption that paved the way for the hastily built Commonwealth Games Village? No, because they were too captivated by the government's promise that the games would affirm India's 'world class' status. And for all their impassioned defence of civil society, did they support fellow civil society actors, such as the National Alliance for People's Movement, when it came to fighting against corruption related to the development of SEZs? No, because they were too seduced by the idea that SEZs will propel India into ever-higher orbits of growth.

The majority of Anna Hazare's supporters not only remain uncritical of the processes that generate corruption in our country, they actively endorse these processes. They consistently look the other way when confronted by evidence of corruption, either because they stand to gain materially, or because they are fired by an ill-founded sense of national pride. Gandhiji would have been against such shallow materialism and nationalism, as also against the arrogant refusal to acknowledge the work of others (Anna Hazare's supporters often behave as though they are independent India's first protesters — the only ones to raise the red flag of corruption).

If Anna Hazare's diagnosis of the problem of corruption is un-Gandhian, so is his prescription of a Leviathan-like Lokpal. While Gandhiji would probably not worry about the monitoring of elected officials by a 'Lokpal', he would surely oppose the creation of such a top-down monolithic institution, over which ordinary citizens appear to have very little control. An anti-corruption route more in keeping with Gandhian principles is that of the Right to Information campaign, which more genuinely empowers ordinary citizens, and creates space for the voicing of grassroots concerns through locally-grounded mechanisms such as Jan Sunwais (public hearings).

There are, however, aspects of Anna Hazare that are in fact Gandhian, such as his willingness to sacrifice himself for a cause. Given our country's history, labelling this as "suicide" is dishonest if not offensive. The government's justification of Hazare's arrest in the interest of "law and order" is also nothing short of reactionary, as is its fast-unravelling attempt to portray Hazare as corrupt. These are just the sorts of self-serving arguments the British used against Gandhiji.

The argument that Anna Hazare is a threat to parliamentary democracy is also disingenuous. Hazare is not calling for regime change, nor is he disputing the parliament's authority to make laws. Moreover, the concept of parliamentary supremacy is not absolute. What about popular sovereignty, the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created by the will or consent of its people, who are ultimately the source of all political power? According to this principle, the cornerstone of democracy, distrust of government is healthy. Many important changes would have not occurred had we left it up to lawmakers to enact just laws. Women would not have had the right to vote. African-Americans would have still faced the indignities of segregation. We would have not had our freedom. People like Gandhiji, Martin Luther King and even Malcolm X had to kick open doors in order to make way for more routine reform.

Unlike Gandhiji, Anna Hazare does not bring with him a profound analysis of the problem of corruption. But through his charismatic personality and ability to inspire — which are reminiscent of Gandhiji — he may have succeeded in shocking us into beginning a rigorous, countrywide conversation on corruption. One can only hope that a more systemic analysis will follow. I am not arguing that every protester must be armed with an erudite analysis of national and global problems. Gandhiji would have resisted such banal elitism. But it is the responsibility of the leadership of the Anna Hazare movement, which now has an enviable upper hand over the government, to develop a clearly articulated ideology that battles not just the symptoms, but also the root causes of corruption. Only then they endure beyond the one-man show they are today. Only then will Team Anna have the right to evoke the name of Mahatma Gandhi.

--Dr Mitu Sengupta is the Director of the Centre for Development and Human Rights, which was founded by her father, the late Dr Arju







What's the guarantee that the 'thousands' who are flocking to Anna Hazare's rallies today won't let him down — just the way their forebears reduced Gandhi to an empty icon?

Anna Hazare means well, but given that his charisma is unaccompanied by vision, there is a danger that some time soon the managers at the TV stations who are flogging him for TRP may leave him high and dry. Between Tuesday August 16 and Friday August 19 he thrived on somebody else's stupidity. With the drama now moving to another venue — Ramlila grounds — his advisers would do well to script for him a more substantial plot. Repeating ad nauseam the old anecdotes on corruption and rights is not enough; he has got to convince his supporters that his fight is winnable. And for that he has to identify more enemies, not rely on just the old whipping dog — politicians!

The ridiculous side of the Anna show is too obvious by now. More than one columnist, including some in The Pioneer, has highlighted it already. There are inconsistencies galore, mostly to do with his lack of sync with established democratic norms. What puts me off more is his hackneyed estimation of the empire of corruption. The man is totally blind to the phenomenon of corporate loot of India and the resultant deprivation of the poor masses. I am sure a lot of people are silently fuming about it already, and have been driven half crazy by the uni-dimensional depiction of the Jan Lok Pal campaign by a deeply corrupted media machine.

Shame is what I feel uppermost when I see the country's intelligent people pay unqualified obeisance to Team Anna's agenda. Most of them are acutely aware of the limitations of his programme, but are choosing to stay silent. Strategic silence is a phenomenon I am familiar with — having devoted five years fighting 'progressive' concealment of the crimes of Indian Communists in West Bengal — and I am aware of its power to weaken, nay destroy, the moral chromosome of society.

Anna Hazare is personally incorruptible. Many people see in him the reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, which is good copy for western newspapers. I have no problem with that because having read of and contemplated on Gandhi, I feel anybody who wears the right clothes (or doesn't) and espouses the virtues of simplicity has a right to that mantle. We easily overlook the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was a first-class politician, a master at the game of converting a handicap into a virtue. Anna Hazare is half way there, but given the state of contemporary India's politics and politicians, that's a lot.

Mitu Sengupta (Main) denies 'annalogy', but I'd like to play along. In 2011, Anna Hazare has exploded a mine concealed under the floorboards of India's public life by the father of the nation himself — money power in politics. Gandhi wooed fat cat capitalists to build up a solid financial base for the Congress (a fact not unnoticed by British intelligence, who used the knowledge to the hilt). He accepted their hospitality with indifference to the fact that their palatial homes were scenes of the worst forms of gender and caste suppression. One of the starkest legacies of Gandhi — which, of course, we won't admit to — is our culture of justifying crony capitalism. The industrialists who backed the Congress and the lifestyles of its leaders (while simultaneously inform on them to the British police) were rewarded with lucrative monopolies in independent India. Manmohan Singh continues to celebrate that tradition.

I'm not saying that there's big money behind him, but his reticence on private sector corruption has certainly left the door unlocked. If it is argued that taking up corruption facet by facet is just what Anna intends, then questions arise over the sub-faceting which has given obvious indulgence to the biggest source of financial corruption: India's self-obsessed, greedy private sector.

In June, Saturday Special had carried an article by a youthful chartered accountant, Chirag Sawant, which held that while the first Anna show (Jantar Mantar) was the "biggest" anti-corruption movement, we are still light years away from fighting the biggest field of corruption. Chirag has developed a detailed calculus on the extent of tax evasion — the "million Satyam scams" as he calls it — which are carried out daily and against which our self-righteous media wouldn't write one word. If Anna Hazare and his team have any morality, then they should amend their Jan Lok Pal proposal forthwith and add clauses to end the private sector's secret stranglehold over the public space.

The Indian private sector is not only a thousand times more corrupt than government; it is the very raison d'etre of "corruption". Revenue evasion is child's stuff — we are talking of anti-national economic crimes like money laundering, illegal repatriation of unjust profits, corrupt trade practices which kill off legitimate businesses, cynical destruction of environment protection laws, insider trading in bourses, labour exploitation — the list is endless. We don't ask the simplest question about government corruption — for whose benefit is it? The private sector of course. The hand that greases the palm belongs to the private sector, and ignoring that truism is the original Jokepal.

What great good would be brought upon India if clean governance is restricted to ministers and bureaucrats while the vast majority is left free to loot and plunder? The young men and women who flock around Anna Hazare are all part of a huge, formless animal called the "middle class", which has been numbed into silence by the cornered benefits of two decades of neo-liberal economic growth. The moral antennae of this class of society only respond to perceived assaults on their notions of "national pride".

His "crusade" against corruption is neither the first, nor the biggest. Acharya Vinobha Bhave's "Bhoodan" movement hit out at Nehruvian hypocrisy over land reforms. While Anna & Co. reduce corruption to monetary transactions, Vinobha Bhave understood it in far larger terms. He protested the corruption of the organising principle of our nationhood —equity — by the Nehruvian fork-tongued approach to land redistribution. With patient labour (and without squawking TV anchors in tow) over ten years, Vinobha Bhave succeeded in persuading landowners to relinquish over 2 million acres and had them mutated in favour of landless villagers. To call this essentially Delhi-centric, televised drama the "biggest" civil society action would not only be patently unjust, but also a denigration of national pride.

Anna Hazare, like Gandhi, will most certainly be dumped by the very people who have made him an icon. Sunday activists and rent-a-view celebrities don't a movement make. The maximalism which has given his campaign a romantic air will soon be its greatest handicap as it would probably lead to the unification of the polity against him. How, then, would he move to the next round? These are points to ponder as chatter fills our ears in the days ahead.

--The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer







Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attempted to depict Team Anna as anti-Parliament, but unhappily for him public memory is not so short as to forget the unseemly resistance he had erected against Parliament's demand for a JPC into 2G, the biggest scam

The UPA Government's faux bravado and final capitulation in the face of the frenzied public reaction to Anna's position has only underlined what we have been saying for some time now: pelf and hubris do not a government make.

Even as events unfolded around the hack attempts by the Government to silence the Lokpal crusaders, a showdown ensued in the two houses of Parliament which many now accept as the defining moment of this entire episode. Anyone who was watching the proceedings in Parliament on Wednesday would not miss the double whammy that leaders of Opposition in both Houses piled on to the ruling combine with distinctly non-linear and penetrating argumentation.

The PM's address to the houses, it could be said safely now, did more harm to the Government's cause than good. The specious tapestry of justification that the PM tried to weave crumbled quickly into a morass of rhetorical positions which were delectably unraveled by Arun Jaitley in his subsequent reply. But the point to note was the imperious attempt by the PM to subvert the public discourse and present it as a confrontation between civil society and Parliamentary democracy while evading responsibility for the police actions until the last. Though the treasury benches continued to howl in protest every time Mr Jaitley mentioned this, the truth carried — that nobody challenged the Parliament's role in law making and the Delhi Police is under the Centre. Thanks to the guileless maneuvering of the PM by his advisors, an issue about the substance of the Lokpal Bill metamorphosed into an issue of freedom to protest and of affiliated rights of the people.

In the Lok Sabha, the leader of Opposition scored a bull's eye and reduced the PM's position to tatters by asking who subverted parliamentary process first. The people who consciously disallowed the Opposition into the debate on the Lokpal and supped with the so called 'Annarchists'? Nothing more needed to be said. The pained and self righteous rebuttals looked more like apologies than arguments.

The Justice Soumitra Sen impeachment was the other highlight that inter alia only pressed the aching point —more corruption — throwing into gear newer arguments for demanding the Judiciary be tested more stringently under the new Lokpal. In effect, the Congress' dictatorial attitude and concomitant circumstances have converged in a planetary synchrony that leaves it at the door of the Congress for losing the confidence of the country. Come denouement, there would be nobody else to blame but its own sense of its divine right to rule.

Sections of commentators who have called the anti-corruption movement motivated and populist in a tinge of abuse are in fact paying it compliments — if these are motivated groups, so much the better. If they are popular, it goes to their credit. If anyone supports them — be it the BJP or the RSS, Ramdev or Sri Sri —more power to their elbow. Armchair punditry may be faulted for missing India's very own jasmine moment, but they should bear in mind that the people of this country smell a victory. Their only option is to be part of it.

Contrary to the insinuations of Congress spokespersons about the relationship between the maelstrom of the anti-corruption movement and the BJP and RSS, when I visited the venues of such protests, particularly Chhatrasal Stadium I found no collaboration even between the protesters who had gathered there. It took me about 45 minutes to identify team leaders and who had between them a posse of 20 or such like friends each of whom had converged of their own will or peer pressure. No organisation to back them up, I was asked by one to contribute money for candles. Another asked for some food and cold drinks. It was clear to anyone without blinkered vision that this country is very angry with the government. True, the post adolescent tribe that is growing by the day and leading the chant is not yet directly attacking the government, but to expect them to do so would be infantile — for one, they are far too unsullied by the demands of polarised politics to take sides, but also for the internal combustion of the movement which tends to blame politicians of all hues for corruption.

The BJP has exhibited statesmanship in underlining its open support for these 'referendumentalists' who are pointing to not just another point of view but also expressing disaffection with the subversion of the opinion they want to see sent to Parliament. The BJP must now focus of winning the hearts and minds of this blooded generation with a commitment and high idealism that defines its real ethos. In spite of the ambient cynicism against politicians and politics, my wager is that they would side with a party that has the gumption to accept that a right is a right, and one that is willing to fight the good fight.

--The writer is BJP's spokesperson.







Such thunderous times! Till the other day, life was simple. There i was, your friendly neighbourhood cop, enjoying the shade of a peepul tree, loving the occasional chai-paani, waving my lathi at monkeys and molesters, looking everywhere but at crime, managing traffic for VIPs, cutting challans for everyone else, patting pockets, counting haftas. Flexible and friendly, i was everyone's pal. Life was an easy beat.

But then this
Lokpal thing exploded, scattering slogans, topis and andolans everywhere! Who could've foreseen such a summer of discontent - Babas, babies and bahus spilling out, demanding an end to corruption, a start to good governance? Who could've foreseen the crowds and candles, TV vans and reporters, even that mysterious 'foreign hand' our government always spots at trouble spots? And who could've foreseen my own self turning from good cop to bad - and good again?

Fast things first; sabse pehle came Anna, electrifying Delhi in sweltering April. Yanked out from my comfort zone, i was posted to mind the throngs. They didn't mind the heat, milling about the old gent smiling gently but looking the sarkar firmly in the eye. Guess who blinked first? Sarkar asked civil society to tea and talks while we returned to normal life. All's well that ends swell, i thought, but i hadn't even collected my hafta's hafta when
Baba Ramdev arrived. Rumours flew that the super-slim Baba, while exhorting supporters to breathe in, breathe out, was also advising them not to receive - or pay - bribes. Gup-shup with government going nowhere, Babaji found himself at the short end of our stick. While we didn't spare the rod and spoil the swami, you didn't approve. And honestly, i could see why.

Criticism rained upon us - whom do we protect? The peaceful? The powerful? Why couldn't we be civil about activism? Just then, we had more agitation - and calmness.
Anna returned for a whole new fast. Initially, we thought it stunningly clever to simply arrest him before he could stop eating. Beating the doodh-wala, we reached his door at dawn. Anna found himself in our tender, loving care. But then, you protested - in hundreds and thousands - angrily, yet peacefully. With masses thronging our gates, chanting across the country, it was decided Anna was better out than in. We produced release orders with a flourish - only for him to refuse them!

Imagine our state - cops pleading with the new arrival to leave, the latter determined to stay. It looked like the jailhouse rock at the
Tihar gates might stretch forever. But as you sang with determination, proudly waved flags and patiently waited, guess who blinked first? Frankly, this one came from softer eyes. There's something infectious in this monsoon air, touching even us khaki-wearing types. I'm actually thinking of discounting that hoary old hafta thing! I don't know why. It may just be the fragrance of the people tree.



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It is a country where a cabinet minister is in jail for large-scale corruption; the public is seething with anger at the government for its callousness; high inflation continues to be a problem; and the government has raised an alarm about terrorists being trained across the border in Pakistan. The country mentioned above is not India, but China.

Surprised? But it's true, and just goes to show that even a political system without the handicaps of democracy does not prevent the kind of problems India has been facing. Yet there is a category of Indians - mostly middle class, growing in number, and disgusted with the state of our politics - that yearns for simple, quick solutions. Linked to that is a lack of patience for the checks and balances of democracy. And like it or not,
Anna Hazare has become the messiah who promises to satisfy their yearning.

The disgust that middle-class Indians feel for politics and politicians has not come about overnight, it has been brewing for years. Inch by inch, the political class has ceded moral authority. At times the vacuum in legislative responsibility and governance has been filled by judicial activism. At other times NGOs have stepped in. And through it all, the media has chipped away at political legitimacy by exposing one transgression after another. This disgust is now deeply entrenched and will not subside easily.

In the circumstances, it would have taken extraordinarily bold and decisive actions by the government to have a hope of persuading the agitators that it was serious about tackling corruption. Instead, what has been on display is foot-dragging and tactical blunders at every step. There does not appear to be any overall strategy to deal with the problem on hand. In case that sounds partisan, the fact is that Parliament's central hall is buzzing with similar sentiments expressed privately by MPs across the political spectrum.

While Anna Hazare's actions are textbook Gandhian civil disobedience tactics, the government seems to have been taken by surprise at each and every turn. That is ironic, considering that it is led by a 125-year-old party which was once headed by Gandhiji himself. What is odder still is a level of political disconnect in reading the signs. Take, for instance, the parliamentary discussion on Anna's arrest. Whereas a mea culpa might arguably have regained some of its lost political capital, the government instead focussed on explaining technicalities. But technical justifications can only go so far; they cannot dispel the perception that government actions have been inconsistent.

Of course, the entire political class, including the opposition, is responsible for the public's cynicism about politicians. And it is no one's claim that
corruption didn't exist prior to this government. Nevertheless, it is on this government's watch that the issue has come to a boiling point. And, in the parliamentary system of democracy, the onus rests squarely on it to introduce the necessary changes and build consensus around them.

There are three broad reasons why the government's response is in disarray. The first is inertia. After decades of seeing various corruption scandals eventually dissipate, even a year of scandals and agitations is still seen by some as yet another passing phase. Even as recently as a week ago some proponents of this viewpoint were predicting, wistfully, that Anna Hazare's second coming would be a damp squib.

Second, there has been a lack of leadership. Instead of a coherent chain of command, there has been no place where the buck has firmly stopped. Various ministers and other leaders have behaved like a hastily put together
football team, with whoever being nearest the ball at any given time taking a wild kick without regard to the direction.





                                                                                                                                                            TIMES VIEW



The upcoming F1 Indian Grand Prix is welcome in more ways than one. The FIA World Championship is the acme of international automobile racing and boasts of a massive viewership. In 2010, the global television audience for the marquee racing tournament was around 527 million. However, F1 fans in India have so far been denied the pleasure of an Indian Grand Prix. But come October 30 they will have their wish granted as the top names in motor racing - Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button etc - grace the Budh International Circuit in Greater Noida. Given India`s young demography, there is no reason why F1 racing can`t become a huge success here.

Indian fans also have an Indian team - Force India - to cheer on. This is bound to boost domestic interest and entice budding sportsmen to take up the sport. Besides, there are several auxiliary benefits of promoting F1 in India. For a start, the sport requires a massive amount of investment in infrastructure. Each F1 racing team is accompanied by an army of support staff - engineers, medics, pit crew, racing managers etc - and a huge amount of machinery. Providing the necessary logistical support requires major investment in hotels, transport, security and international standard sporting facilities. The physical infrastructure thus created will be a lasting legacy of the Indian Grand Prix.

Unlike the Commonwealth Games last year, the Indian Grand Prix will be organised and managed by private corporations and non-government stakeholders - such as the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India - along the lines of cricket. In addition to pulling in a sizeable number of foreign tourists, the Indian Grand Prix is also expected to boost the domestic automobile sector and create new avenues for growth. Put together, the first F1 race in India should receive a warm reception.

COUNTERVIEW: Waste of time, energy, money







Such thunderous times! Till the other day, life was simple. There i was, your friendly neighbourhood cop, enjoying the shade of a peepul tree, loving the occasional chai-paani, waving my lathi at monkeys and molesters, looking everywhere but at crime, managing traffic for VIPs, cutting challans for everyone else, patting pockets, counting haftas. Flexible and friendly, i was everyone's pal. Life was an easy beat.

But then this
Lokpal thing exploded, scattering slogans, topis and andolans everywhere! Who could've foreseen such a summer of discontent - Babas, babies and bahus spilling out, demanding an end to corruption, a start to good governance? Who could've foreseen the crowds and candles, TV vans and reporters, even that mysterious 'foreign hand' our government always spots at trouble spots? And who could've foreseen my own self turning from good cop to bad - and good again?

Fast things first; sabse pehle came Anna, electrifying Delhi in sweltering April. Yanked out from my comfort zone, i was posted to mind the throngs. They didn't mind the heat, milling about the old gent smiling gently but looking the sarkar firmly in the eye. Guess who blinked first? Sarkar asked civil society to tea and talks while we returned to normal life. All's well that ends swell, i thought, but i hadn't even collected my hafta's hafta when
Baba Ramdev arrived. Rumours flew that the super-slim Baba, while exhorting supporters to breathe in, breathe out, was also advising them not to receive - or pay - bribes. Gup-shup with government going nowhere, Babaji found himself at the short end of our stick. While we didn't spare the rod and spoil the swami, you didn't approve. And honestly, i could see why.

Criticism rained upon us - whom do we protect? The peaceful? The powerful? Why couldn't we be civil about activism? Just then, we had more agitation - and calmness.
Anna returned for a whole new fast. Initially, we thought it stunningly clever to simply arrest him before he could stop eating. Beating the doodh-wala, we reached his door at dawn. Anna found himself in our tender, loving care. But then, you protested - in hundreds and thousands - angrily, yet peacefully. With masses thronging our gates, chanting across the country, it was decided Anna was better out than in. We produced release orders with a flourish - only for him to refuse them!

Imagine our state - cops pleading with the new arrival to leave, the latter determined to stay. It looked like the jailhouse rock at the
Tihar gates might stretch forever. But as you sang with determination, proudly waved flags and patiently waited, guess who blinked first? Frankly, this one came from softer eyes. There's something infectious in this monsoon air, touching even us khaki-wearing types. I'm actually thinking of discounting that hoary old hafta thing! I don't know why. It may just be the fragrance of the people tree.





                                                                                                                                    REBOOTING INDIA



The Lokpal agitation led by 'Team Anna' is all the news. One of the emerging but rather neglected facets of it is the debate it is raising about the nature of democracy. In the long run, this may be more consequential than the Lokpal Bill.

Whether the Lokpal Bill we get will be some version of the government's draft or of the Team Anna draft is unclear. In all likelihood, it will not matter greatly, since the scale of big and small corruption in India has always threatened to overwhelm any Lokpal and will almost certainly paralyse the institution.

Of greater significance is the question of democracy. What do we mean by it in India? The Lokpal agitation has brought to the surface a number of viewpoints on democracy. One fairly popular view, voiced mostly by the crowds gathered in support of
Anna Hazare, is that democracy is respecting "the will of the people". Since the people are heterogeneous, the will of the people usually means what the majority (or biggest faction) wants, regardless of any other consideration. This is majoritarian democracy that everyone from the classical Greeks to Mahatma Gandhi feared because the majority might well choose to trample on the rights of a minority. Opposed to this is what is usually called liberal democracy, which in simple terms is the will of the majority tempered by the rights of the minority; rights which are protected by constitutional, judicial, and other constraints.

The Lokpal agitation has brought to the fore two other notions of democracy. The first is an idea that is beginning to be aired, as it was on a leading television channel by some activists this past Thursday evening - namely, the idea of a plebiscite in India to determine which Lokpal Bill should become law. In a plebiscite, everyone, not just MPs, would get to vote on the issue. Here is the notion of a plebiscitary democracy in which, from time to time, on matters of enormous significance, the entire electorate should be asked to cast its vote.

Yet another idea of democracy is protest democracy. In the debate over the correctness of using large-scale demonstrations and fasts, the defence of Team Anna's approach is that there are critical times when extraordinary measures must be taken, even at the risk of defying the rule of law and the supremacy of representative institutions. Corruption having crossed all bounds and the perversion of law and representative institutions having become unbearable, there is no option but to protest more or less continuously; to shock, to compel, and to speed up reform.

Critics of these forms of 'procedural democracy' say that democracy is more than a set of procedures and rules. Democracy must have substance. Some commentators have noted that below the surface, there is a strong current of substantive democracy that is driving the Lokpal agitation. There are those who insist that the real issue is ridding the country of corruption, that to say democracy is in essence to say clean government for all. This is democracy as public honesty.

Leftists and other progressives perhaps see in the agitation signs of anger over the economic and social inequalities rampant in India. There are those who see the issue of corruption as a lightning rod that has attracted all those who feel that economic change over the past 15 years or so has made a small segment of India extremely wealthy without benefiting the vast mass of the middle class and working people. Neo-liberal economic policies have increased inequality and therefore increased corruption. Other critics focus on continuing inequalities of opportunity and entitlement which are both long-standing, almost historical in nature, and which have deepened as a result of liberalisation and corruption. True democracy in this view is economic and social rather than procedural in nature. It is socialist democracy aimed at bringing about greater equality.

The Lokpal agitation has set in motion a churning. Part of this churning is over the meaning of democracy - is it primarily procedural or substantive? The question facing us is: what is the balance we want between these various conceptions?






Not everyone may want to buy into Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption, but he has certainly created a sellers' market. As the Annafest gets underway, local economies, which had slowed to a canter from the earlier gallop, have begun to pick up speed again.

So even as Anna goes into deprivation mode, those selling t-shirts, Gandhi caps, arm bands, flags, you name it, are laughing all the way to the bank. Oh, not to mention candle makers for those vigils. We are heartened by this and are reminded of a Native American custom called the potlatch. At time when the economy would be moribund, one or the other villager would throw a gigantic feast to which guests would be invited from all over the region. They would arrive to sing, dance and feast for days on end, engaging in barter and trade giving the flagging economy a boost. Similarly, those 'who are Anna' have and will give substantial business to those in the areas where the festivities around the relay fasts and speeches take place.

Street vendors are doing roaring business as those who are supporting Anna fortify themselves for all the heavy duty lifting that lies ahead. As for us in the media, this is a boon from the gods. In this rain and humidity, most of us prefer to sit in our offices venturing out only if absolutely vital. But now that the Anna show is on the ramp, we have to be out there. We have got the energy of Dracula after a blood transfusion and are striving to reach greater heights of hyperbole with each passing hour. While many are not buying what the politicians in government are trying to sell, the Opposition has readied its wares and has opened its stalls. The packaging is a little tacky but there is gathering interest in what is on offer. This has also given little known 'celebrities' a chance to sell their pedestrian wisdom to the nearest taker. No doubt, tapes of Anna's messages and a few ditties composed in honour of his crusade will soon be on sale, if they are not already. The more enterprising could turn this into a desi version of the Royal wedding. Anna memorabilia like scarves, ceremonial mugs, pens and ties could be marketed.

If this is mini-history in the making, many people will want a part of it. The possibilities are endless. A stirring theme song could be in the making and poets may set these developments to verse. A Bollywood film is definitely waiting to roll out. The issue is serious, but the atmospherics are elevating, even fun. Anna's message is — don't sell your soul to the highest bidder. But nothing wrong in putting more worldly items on the market at a marked up price.






Shammi Kapoor just isn't dead. One of Indian cinema's most sustained flirtation with experimentation is as decidedly interred too.

Shammi was a flexible, uncomplicated Kapoor. Perhaps to counter the intensity of his brother Raj — and the longstanding cerebral image of his theatre-loving father, Prithviraj — this large, younger sibling was chosen, unbeknownst to him, to add to the coffers of the family enterprise and also feed the tryst with the unformulaic by the leading movie moguls of the day. Shammi did his part. And did it obediently well.

His spontaneity, bred by his innocence, became box-office fodder. His limited, but perfected mannerisms, only endeared. His was an uncriticised B-grade status, which he A-graded with his continued success without ever upsetting the applecart of the leading — and conditioned — acting leviathans of the time, a tribe that counted a fledgling Rajesh Khanna, an effete Rajendra Kumar, a still-going-strong Dilip Kumar, and a mysteriously appreciated, gravel-voiced, ultra-stylised Raj Kumar.

Shammi's created his own niche. And it comprised, apart from a disdain towards losing weight, a fundamental and humble recognition of his status: he was the imperfect movie star. Imperfect enough to be experimented with a new physicality: unaesthetic, yet cute, gyrations accompanied with the promise of disheveling a mop of duly Brylcreemed hair by the third step of a dance number; with a still nascent editing technique of fight sequences: Shammi, therefore, nearly always won the round but not without suffering three slaps or kicks too many.

Shammi wore his black-eye manfully. His persona was an amalgamation of experiments, given the nation's growing fatigue with leading men who could do no wrong. An everyday guy was the need of the hour.

Elvis Presley, by then, was making his hypnotising entry into our drawing rooms. His foray into cinema was making waves in America by virtue of his songs and swiveling hips and not his abominable acting skills. But he endeared with what seemed like an undeclared fiat: go elsewhere if you are a Paul Newman acolyte. Few went elsewhere.

In India, too, it was time for a break from seeing a male lead wooing his love interest in ways other than winking from afar, peering from behind a convenient tree trunk and catching his excessively demure belle predictably unawares by cooing the first few notes into her unprepared ear.

Shammi broke the mould. He was not intense. He happily made mistakes, readily admitted to them, and initiated the process of reparation without the painful bout of introspection. Shammi did it uninhibitedly. Sporting usually an asphyxiating jacket, he bellowed the first notes of a song from somewhere near a tree (seldom behind it), carrying his affection (never a rose), and leaping a good four-feet shy of the heroine's stilettos in a show of more than undying love for her.

Shows of fitness and strength on the part of leading men in Bollywood till then were relegated to amateur editing when nervous fists attempted to injure while being a good half a yard from the target.

But Shammi jumped on to a running convertible down a hilly road with what surprisingly appeared as consummate ease. In the wake of the industry's initial unease with fight sequences, he was compelled to pack a sloppy punch against the baddies but with a believable aim to maim, teaching a lesson to those who dared heckle his over-coiffured love-interest.

And Bollywood picnicked with its one and only hero with whom you would feel at ease wearing your frayed casuals at the dining — and, of course, tippling — table.

Jayatsen Bhattacharya is a Kolkata-based advertising professional

The views expressed by the author are personal





Outside there was passion and intensity; inside reason and erudition. Outside, cries of Vande Mataram and invocations to Anna Hazare. Inside, references to history and invocations to the Constitution. Outside, angry people feeding soundbites to insatiable TV cameras. Inside, ideologically opposed men on Right and Left arguing calmly for the dignity of office.

The contrast couldn't have been starker, or more ironical. On a day when public anger against corruption was spreading from town to town, a different sort of battle, but also one against corruption, went largely unnoticed and unsung.

As police officials and Team Anna negotiated the nuances of fasting, the Rajya Sabha debate on the impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court took place away from public glare. There was no heckling, no rushing to the well, no personal malice, no cheap political jibes that we see so often on our television screen. This was Parliament at its finest, Parliament as our founding fathers must have imagined it, resonant with rapt attention and masterful debate.

Passed in the Rajya Sabha, the impeachment motion is historic, and not just for the quality of its speakers including Sitaram Yechury and Arun Jaitley. It coincides with the anti-corruption movement, much of it directed against the political class. Aware that the motion was being introduced at a time when Parliament itself was under attack, Yechury said he was introducing the motion as a "call of duty to my conscience and Constitution".

The impeachment motion is the first in the Upper House and the second in our Parliament's history (the first motion in 1993 against Justice V Ramaswami failed when the Congress abstained from voting). If it is passed in the Lok Sabha next week, Justice Sen will become the first sitting judge to be impeached. In his two-hour self-defence, Justice Sen dropped not-so-broad hints about corruption elsewhere in the judiciary, including a jab at former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan. The subtext is bogus (when others are crooks why am I being singled out?) and serves as a cautionary tale. Our Constitution provides for action against corrupt judges, even though it is used only in the rarest cases; Justice Dinakaran, transferred from Karnataka to Sikkim, for instance, resigned before impeachment proceedings could be brought against him.

There is a second message — to those who have lost faith in the system. Our institutions might not be perfect but they do work. In Azad Maidan and India Gate and Freedom Park there is derision for both government and Parliament. "If the Constit-ution says Parliament is supreme, then change the Constitution," reads one placard. Perhaps mindful of the ratings game, the TV cameras remained trained on the crowds. What a pity because what unfolded over two days was in fact exemplary Parliament, with the knockout punch being delivered by Arun Jaitley who not only rebutted Justice Sen's defence but raised larger questions about the need for a National Judicial Commission; about who judges should be accountable to and about preserving judicial independence.

But there is a third message and it goes to our politicians. Each time you rip a microphone or tear up papers or march out of the House (last year an entire five-week session was lost as Opposition MPs pressed for a JPC on the telecom scam) you harm the larger institution of Parliament. Excellence in debate, thoroughness of research, temperance of language and a united pursuit of national interest can't be aberrations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the powers and sanctity of Parliament cannot be outsourced to the rabble on the street. In that case, Parliament must rise more often — every day in fact — to preserve its own sanctity.

Ten, 20 years from now, how will we view the events of this past week — the one on the streets and the one in Parliament? Chances are that what we will remember is the rage of people frustrated by corruption and an unresponsive government. But spare a thought too for the day when the target of their anger, politicians themselves, rose to redeem parliamentary dignity on the day it was under attack.

Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer

The views expressed by the author are personal





The UPA's wounds are entirely self-inflicted. The absurd political mismanagement over the lokpal bill has led to this impasse

In the Inferno that is India today, public rage will either start an uncontrollable forest fire or take us to Purgatory where the flames may burn us, but will eventually cleanse our body politic. No matter where you stand on the efficacy of the Jan Lokpal Bill or the method and form of Anna Hazare's campaign, there is no doubt that because of him India stands at the intersection of churn and dramatic change.

Where we go from here depends on whether the government shows any ability for political initiative. So far it has failed entirely to demonstrate any such imagination. Forget leadership, it appears to have even abandoned an instinct for basic political survival. It has countered street anger and public disenchantment with a drab, dry and purely technical counter-narrative. The UPA has misread the fact that the cult of Hazare is less about the bill and more about being a lightning rod for middle-class angst against an inaccessible, emotionally aloof and seemingly arrogant political leadership.

In fact, sheer ineptitude and a series of missteps by the UPA led to this logjam, where the government has been so conclusively out manoeuvred. And it would be accurate to say that the real crisis that grips India today is not even that of entrenched corruption but a crisis of leadership.

In a week where India has decided to invoke the past in its search for a future, I thought it fit to turn to my favourite satirist Lewis Caroll, instead of my favourite national leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

Remember the Red Queen's Race in Through the Looking Glass?

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

But instead of running or even reacting, the government clung to complacent denial about the extent of the problem and a "slow sort of country" has now become a fast unravelling nightmare for the Congress.

Today it asserts — and rightfully — that the supremacy of Parliament in drafting legislation cannot be undermined. Indeed. But shouldn't the government have reached out to the political Opposition much earlier both inside and outside Parliament? Instead, it created a panel to draft the Lokpal Bill that shut out the Opposition parties from the process. Why shouldn't the Opposition leaders have found place on the drafting panel? Why shouldn't their opinions have been sought by the prime minister from the very start?

Today, the Congress has a point when it questions the derision among many of the protestors for electoral politics. Many of us have expressed our deep disquiet at the dubbing of this protest as a "second freedom struggle," a slogan that by its very existence ironically misses the fundamental freedoms that are already available to us in a functioning democracy. And some of us are outraged by the easy alliterations used for Tahrir Square and Tihar jail in the same sentence. The point about not trashing our democracy when so many parts of the world are battling for one is very well taken. Yet, hasn't the Congress completely alienated one section of this country's citizenry — its middle class. The truth is that India's political establishment has happily hobnobbed with the rich and electorally courted the rural poor. It's the middle class that has always been treated with contempt and neglect. Today, it is this class that is enjoying its moment of political revenge.

Critics of the Hazare campaign have questioned the media narrative as well, accusing wall-to-wall TV coverage of holding up a permanent oxygen mask to the protests. It's even been pointed out that Noam Chomsky's scathing commentary on the mass media -'Manufacturing Consent' would be re-written in TV studios today as Manufacturing Dissent.  But again, if the TV coverage of the protests is overdone, it only proves that the UPA's perennial disdain for the media — and the diffidence of its top leaders — has given its opponents the upper hand in the information battle. There is something so telling about the fact that 74-year-old Anna Hazare made effective use of the social media by releasing a YouTube message from inside jail and the PM of India's oldest political party is still to give his first interview to an Indian journalist.

And finally, whoever took the decision to send Hazare to jail needs to sign up for a Politics 101 class. How could the bizarre symbolism of sending an anti-corruption crusader to the same jail that houses A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi be lost on the government? In that single instant, the UPA de-legitimised the many voices that had tried to bring nuance and proportion into the debate around the Lokpal Bill.

From the beginning, the government has alternated between aggression and submission, eroding its own authority and legitimacy further and further. What should have been commonsense has become absurd political mismanagement. And absurdity recalls Lewis Caroll again.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

And whether pigs have wings."

In India today, everyone stands to get burnt in the "boiling hot sea." But the UPA's wounds are entirely self-inflicted. A failure of politics created this impasse. And instead of Wonderland, India feels more and more like Blunder-Land.

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV  
The views expressed by the author are personal




T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".

Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."

No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian






The Planning Commission's approach paper to the next Five-Year Plan has always been an opportunity to lay out the broad, sweeping, policy environment in which India is likely to operate. The Eleventh Plan is ending; the time for the approach paper to the Twelfth Plan is thus here. And, in its latest draft, it is clear what the commission fears the nature of the policy environment will be: drift. The paper lays out two alternative growth paths: one that sustained a GDP growth rate of 9.5 per cent, and the other one of 9 per cent. But it appears to abandon hope of the higher target altogether — and even sounded dicey about the lower possibility, indicating that a "business as usual" approach characteristic of this government must end. Nine per cent, it warns, is "ambitious", and impossible without the necessary "political will."

In other words, even the Planning Commission has become infected with despair that UPA 2 seems unable to get a move on with crucial reform. Continually derailed by political distractions, with little impetus coming from the major ministries, and even less political pressure from the Congress party to overcome the drift in reform, this government has failed for months to provide significant signals that would revive the India growth story. This point has been made several times in the past, including by the prime minister's own economic advisory council. The monsoon session of Parliament has been overshadowed by various political developments, and it is essential that the government not lose sight of its crucial legislative agenda. If nothing else, the land acquisition bill, the lack of which holds back industrial growth and urban planning, must be introduced before the end of this session. Other serious, impactful reform bills include those that emanate from the human resources development ministry to fix higher education, and from the mines ministry to clean up natural resource extraction. These are all problems that are both political and directly influence the industrial growth rate — as well as the employment and aspirations of India's young people. They cannot be delayed further.

The government must thus work with the opposition to end this long, reform-free period. The Planning Commission says the major difference between 9 and 9.5 per cent growth would come from industrial growth; it seems to have little confidence that industrialisation can be speeded up. Well it can — if the government speeds up its lawmaking.






Anna Hazare is what they call a hunger artist. Over the last two decades as a career dissenter, his preferred way of wresting victory has been to deny and starve himself. The cause can be small or large. He has fasted for specific action on cooperatives regulation or power supply to farmers, for example. It can be an eccentric project — like demanding a certain subsidy for papaya cultivation. Or it can be in the service of a larger goal, like transparency. His fast finally caused the government to give on the contentious question of leaving official file notings out of the RTI's ambit. Anna Hazare has fasted for 113 full days, on 15 occasions — and his methods have managed to bend the most immovable forces, as the UPA is now learning.

Fasts force the world's attention with their radical self-denial. They convey a commitment truly larger-than-life, that defies life. Hunger strikes have been used by many constituencies, from the Celtic starving at an enemy's doorstep to the tactics of IRA activists, from suffragettes to labour union leaders. They have a special moral force and historical resonance in India, a running tradition from Gandhi to Irom Sharmila, that uses fasts to protest injustice and to shame power. Potti Sriramulu famously died fasting for a separate Andhra Pradesh. They have also been directed at discrete political goals — like the competitive fasts in in Andhra recently, or Uma Bharti's Ganga fast. But whatever the reasons, Hazare's fast "against corruption" and for a specific conception of the Lokpal office, has now captured the spotlight.

But is fasting fair? Ambedkar put on record his dismay at Gandhi's fast over separate electorates for the "depressed classes", one that roughly settled the matter, and not to everyone's satisfaction. He identified the element of coercion and stubbornness in the method, one that Gandhi himself used very, very rarely. Indeed, conscious of this, Gandhi often explained the morality of both the ends and the means. Fasting is as much about interrogating oneself and the methods as it is about self-denial.






Friday's attack on the British Council compound in Kabul strengthens the doubts that began to be voiced as the US began its phased pull-out from Afghanistan last month. Those doubts find expression in a single question: are Afghan security forces competent enough and capable of defending themselves, let alone their country? Friday's attack was three-phased — a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near an intersection guarded by the police; a little later, a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle opposite the British Council gate, destroying a wall; finally, gunmen poured in through that breached wall and engaged in an hours-long gunbattle. The casualties, apart from the militants, were mostly Afghan policemen.

Not only is the Taliban repeatedly demonstrating its ability to strike anywhere of its choosing but Hamid Karzai's government is at its wits' end dealing with the changed Taliban tactics — for instance,

using rogue soldiers and policemen. A series of recent assassinations, most notably of Jan Mohammed Khan and Ahmed Wali Karzai in the same week last month, has announced that such attacks will no longer be sporadic and minor. While rogue security personnel expose how weak the recruitment filters are, the assassinations undermine Karzai's government and rob it of key deal-makers, setting back the efforts at stabilising Afghanistan.

Nato's withdrawal plans are hinged on weakening the Taliban enough so that Afghan forces can take over and also, perhaps, forcing the Taliban into talks. As the surge ebbs, Nato would gradually retreat from a "tactical" to a "strategic overwatch". But for that, Karzai's government has to deliver, primarily by demonstrating its ability to enforce stability. The political instrument necessary therein is patching together alliances with tribal groups, which in turn draws its strength from increasing security. On all counts, these attacks and assassinations set back the government and erase Nato's gains.







At least, two things about Anna Hazare's movement are indisputable: its dominant anti-Congress impulse, and its distinctly middle-class character. It is evident that middle India has turned against the Congress. Of course, the Congress apologists will say that it doesn't matter. That middle classes do not vote governments in or out, the poor in the villages do. Also, those voters in villages think differently. These Congressmen are wrong on both counts. Because it is a new India in a new, hyper-connected world. The size and the power of the middle class, after 20 years of reform, is enormously greater than the old-school Congress politician (which is how, funnily, you would now describe most of today's younger Congressmen) would imagine. The Congressmen are also the least likely to acknowledge that the anger that they now face on the urban street is a calamity they have themselves worked so assiduously on inviting upon themselves.

In its seven years in power, the Congress shunned the urban middle classes so much it has even stopped being on talking terms with them. The party can be forgiven for reading the 2004 verdict wrong, believing that the poorest Indians, irritated by the BJP's India Shining, voted the NDA out. But its refusal to read the 2009 verdict for its aspirational impulse was not merely poor political judgment. It also resulted from a cynical and intellectually lazy thought process. Inevitably, it developed into an auto-immune syndrome where the party has been busy preying on its own government and its own new vote-base among India's growing aspirational classes.

For seven years now, the Congress never bothered to send even a thank-you card to the middle classes that voted so overwhelmingly for it — in fact, in 2009, it voted for Manmohan Singh who was really the party's first, genuine middle-class icon. Worse, its own povertarian basic instinct had so locked its mind it failed to read the verdict correct. Its Rajya Sabha-ist megaphones continued to boast that its NREGA, loan waiver, increased OBC reservations, cynical oil subsidies and other such populist policies had won it a second term in power. If it continued to reach out to the poorest Indians, an Indira Gandhi kind of sweep was guaranteed for Rahul in 2014. It, therefore, did nothing for the urban middle classes, its leaders never spoke to them, and even indulged in rhetoric that made upwardly mobile, hard-working urban and semi-urban Indians think they were immoral or guilty. That they had no idea that a majority of their countrymen were still stone-poor, nor did they care. As if these aspirational Indians were criminals who vacuum-cleaned all the spoils of economic reform while a vast majority had been left behind. With Sonia and Rahul Gandhi not speaking to them, a sullen prime minister in a shell, and the NAC and other durbari civil society stalwarts and Congressmen constantly maligning reform and the government's policies, the middle class felt orphaned, alienated and rebuffed. Until they found their new interlocutors, and leaders, in Team Anna.

The Congress may not have erred like this if it looked at facts. In 2009, nine of our states had below poverty line (BPL) populations higher than the national average of 37.2. These nine states, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh, together account for 247 seats in Lok Sabha. Together, these have for more than 80 per cent of India's extreme poor. How many of these seats did the Congress win? Only 63, or just a quarter. Out of the rest, the less poor, and thereby more urbanised and aspirational states, it won its remaining 143, or almost half the seats on offer (296). Look at the party's performance in the poorest states of India (BPL figures in parentheses): Orissa (57.2), 6 out of 21 seats; Bihar (54.4), 2 out of 40; Chhattisgarh (49.4), 1 out of 11; and Jharkhand (45.3), 1 out of 14. If NREGA, loan-waiver and nanny-state yojanas were winning the Congress votes, then it would seem the benefits of those schemes were going to richer, less-deserving states. Even in Gujarat, in spite of Modi's sway, the Congress's strike rate was much better, at 11 out of 26. It is in keeping with the trend because Gujarat has been one of our fastest growing and urbanising states. Similarly, while the Congress clings to the delusion that rural India loves it, the fact is the party, or its allies, swept every major city in India with the exception of Bangalore. But its basic, outdated, socialist and povertarian instinct rendered it incapable of acknowledging, or even understanding, this massive churn in Indian society, and electorate.

So like a child that prepares for the exams by rote and regurgitates the answers he has mugged up, whatever the question, the Congress also started to repeat the old, inherited explanations for its 2009 victory. Worse, it did not want to acknowledge that an Indian electorate which, buoyed by a new wave of aspiration, had left the politics of grievance behind was responsible for its success. The real reason behind their 2009 victory was not in their inherited political scriptures, syllabus or textbooks. Following 2009, the party's political discourse started dipping more and more into socialist and rural-ist old-speak. Two general elections and so many state elections had shown that the one thing aspirational India cared about was education, and yet all reform in higher education stopped. Hear the voices now from Anna and his crowds. The complaint you hear most often is of bribery in school and college admissions. Nobody of consequence in the Congress has promised to quadruple seats in higher educational institutions, or set up a thousand new Navodaya Vidyalayas, or even double the capacity in school-starved metros by simply allowing greater FSI so schools could add more floors to their buildings: look at the way the process has been blocked by the DDA and the MCD in Delhi, for example. Our cities are rotting, power supply is a disaster, urban reform is at a standstill. Education, training, recreational facilities, all the things that enhance your quality of life and satisfy this new ambitious urban upsurge are in extreme short supply, and therefore make a huge flourishing market for rent-seeking, and cronyism.

At the same time, Rahul, Sonia and increasingly even a frustrated PM and his key cabinet ministers have stopped speaking to this rising new India. It is almost as if when the country is becoming so decidedly aspirational, and has blessed it already with two consecutive terms in power, the party is failing to re-connect with grievances of the past. This is the classic definition of a political auto-immune disease.

The times when you could rule India without its urban middle class are now over. Because the key pivots of democratic governance, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, civil society activists, and of course the media, all come from this class. If you alienate it, there will be hell to pay. This is a disaster the Congress and the UPA have brought upon themselves, and so early in their five-year tenure.










This week, the line blurred between reviewing news television and actually wondering about the news. That's what happens when news TV sets a nation's agenda: thanks so much, UPA.

I have, for some time, been chronicling with glee the self-importance and artificial excitement with which news TV has been filled. This week, however, I realised everything so far has been but practice. The main event is now: the full weight of TV's unreflective Anna-pushing has been unleashed on us for real.

There is so much that went spectacularly over the top: from Aaj Tak's visual of Anna holding the channel's logo up high, to Arnab Goswami's claim — delivered with his customary assurance — that the hundreds at India Gate were more Indians than had ever assembled at one place before. (Come to Eden Gardens during a match, sir, when there are 90,000 people inside. And 90,000 outside, with fake tickets.) These are not even isolated incidents; they are representative of the entire week. Those of us looking for absurdity on news TV felt this week like hard-working gold miners who've suddenly woken up in the Gurgaon Gold Souk after they shut the doors at night.

But surely the most ridiculous coverage came right at the end of the week, in the rapt coverage of Hazare's triumphant, Mandela-esque processional from the Dark Gate of Tihar to the Ramlila grounds — via, of course, Rajghat, where the ghost of Gandhiji is laughing himself silly. On CNN-IBN, the usually reliable Smriti Advani tried hard to sound like she had won a lottery she hadn't even entered: "Everyone wants to get close enough to Anna to give him a hug!" she insisted. Nor did flipping channels help. On one channel, a hyper correspondent described him as "the hero who has been fighting for their own cause"; on another, a reporter squealed: "Enough is enough! Everybody is ecstatic!"

Please don't think that this should be chalked up to youthful enthusiasm. Arnab Goswami, willing to come in early and spend his afternoon covering the riveting scenes of Hazare toddling around Rajghat, assured us that he had "unleashed Times Now's most senior reporters". Sure enough, Srinjoy Chowdhury came on-screen and said: "You saw the optimism in the air! Why have they bought flags? Why have they come from colleges?" (I seem to recall it didn't take much to get me out of college.) "For a man jailed for three days!" (If you call sticking your tongue out and refusing to leave Tihar being "jailed".)

Meanwhile, on-screen, it suddenly started raining at Rajghat, and Anna took off like a stocky rugby forward, edging his way past the cops, dashing comically for shelter. (Oddly, I don't remember any pictures of Gandhiji scrambling to get out of the rain.) For Goswami, this was yet another indication of Hazare's superiority to politicians, who tend to walk more respectfully and sedately around Rajghat. "How many of them can run?" he asked, like a lovestruck teenager. "I wish one of our politicians could do it! He is so fit! Like a 25-year-old!" I had already spent an appalled few minutes the previous day watching Anna's home-made webcam video from Tihar, where he pranced around gaily demonstrating his fitness, so I really didn't need any reminding about what a spry marathon-running type he was.

It wound up in Ramlila Maidan, with Anna sitting on a high chair above the crowd, having his blood pressure ceremonially checked by a doctor. He then waved his hands dramatically in the air like an orchestra conductor, while Kiran Bedi stood behind him bouncing up and down with a giant tricolour, and the PA system played the new Lokpal Anthem: "Desh meri, jaan meri, shaan meri/ Lokpal, Lokpal, pass karo Jan Lokpal." Goswami called it "the wonderful Lokpal song". The scene looked choreographed by whoever makes bad Doordarshan national-integration spots. Not even an inspired Times Now could have done as bad a job. (SMS joke doing the rounds: Dictatorships have the Arab Spring; democracies endure the Arnab Spring.) Speaking of DD, on one of the big news days this week, I tuned in to DD News to discover a lengthy prime-time discussion on the wars in Syria and Libya. Well done! Only NDTV's decision to give a prime-time slot to Katrina Kaif judging a moustache beauty contest — while everyone else was speculating on Hazare's arrest — pleased me as much.








The first thing that comes to our mind is — and this has nothing to do with this particular case — that even in 2003, when this misconduct was continuing, how come such persons get to be appointed? It really seriously means that we have to revisit that process. Originally, when the Constitution was framed, we had a system where judges were appointed by the executive in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Ordinarily, the government would be bound by the Chief Justice's advice.

In 1993, that system got changed by a judicial interpretation and the advice of the Chief Justice of India was binding on the executive government. That is the position today. Today, even though the government is a part of the consultation process, it can refer the case back once, but effectively, our experience has been — this was the experience when the NDA government was in power, this is the experience of the present government — that we are living in a system where judges appoint judges. The government, at best, has only a very marginal say. There is no other process by which there is any kind of participation in the process of appointment of judges.

Sir, both the pre-1993 system and the post-1993 system had several handicaps. The best in this country are not willing to become judges. We have to seriously consider why. At times, the selection process, where only judges appoint judges and the process is a non-transparent process, will always create situations where rumours in the corridors of the court and among those who are close observers of the judicial process will be far too many...

We should seriously consider a system which is being debated, about setting up a national judicial commission. The national judicial commission must have judges. It must have the participation of the executive. It can also have participation of the people selected by a collegium of some eminent citizens. It can't only remain the domain of the judges.

...The criteria for appointment today does not exist. Is it today the discretion of the collegium? Collegium is also a system of sharing the spoils. When the high courts recommend, members of the collegium share the spoils. This is an impression which close observers have. Therefore, discretion — whether the collegium system continues or we have a National Judicial Commission — must also be now statutorily regulated, so that arbitrariness can be avoided. After all, there have to be some objective criteria. Except elected offices, there is no other appointment which is made where there is no threshold criteria for entry...

Therefore, we need, I am glad the prime minister himself is here, a system where this should be seriously reviewed.

Secondly, sir, the matter of judges judging judges and nobody else participating in this is also an issue which requires a serious review and which requires to be referred to, in my opinion, the same national judicial commission.

The third issue is this. When appointments are made we have to seriously consider how the institution functions, whether it functions without any pressures. Today, whether it is politicised appointments, or it is appointments which lack credibility, or it is a subsequent lack of accountability or biases on account of relatives, religion, caste, or personal relationships, these are all areas where accountability and vigilance norms have to be improved and increased, so that the independence of the institution can seriously be preserved.

Sir, I have always believed that we must seriously consider this larger issue of almost every retiring judge, barring a few honourable exceptions, holding a belief that he is entitled to a job after retirement. Jobs have been provided in certain statutes; they are created by certain judicial orders. Therefore, a search for a job on the eve of retirement begins, as a result of which there is a serious doubt which is raised that retirement-eve judgements at times get influenced by the desire to get a job after retirement. Therefore, I think, when there is a bill pending with regard to increasing the retirement age from 62 to 65 in the case of high court judges, we should correspondingly think of... putting a stop to this practice of everybody being entitled to a job after retirement. The desire of a job after retirement is now becoming a serious threat to judicial independence.

...Separation of powers requires that every institution works in its own spheres. And if every institution works in its own spheres, it has to lay down the lakshman rekha of its own jurisdiction. But why is it necessary to lay down the lakshman rekha of its own jurisdiction? What happens if one steps into the other's domain? And I must candidly confess that this attempt to encroach upon the lakshman rekha is neither coming from governments of the day in the Centre or the states, nor is it coming from the executive or the legislature. Some serious sidestepping is coming from the judicial institution itself.

Therefore, we require a certain element of judicial statesmanship; we require a certain legislative vision so that we can maintain this separation of powers. Otherwise, what should be the economic philosophy of India? What should be our economic policy? Whether we go to the post-'91 policy of liberalisation, or we go to state controls is a matter entirely for the executive. Courts cannot say that it is neo-liberalism which is creating problems.

Courts cannot have an ideology. The only ideology that courts can have is commitment to the rule of law, and what law is made by Parliament.

...How Maoism is to be fought or insurgency in the Northeast is to be fought — we have gone through these debates in this House. That is the domain of the government. The government has to decide the policy. Courts cannot decide that policy. What should be the land acquisition policy? The government is seriously contemplating a new Land Acquisition Act. What should be the quantum of relief and rehabilitation?

Now, these are all examples from the recent past that I am mentioning, where the space or line of separation of powers itself gets obliterated and the encroachment, in most cases, is coming neither from the legislature nor the executive. Therefore, we need serious introspection and I, therefore, said that we need judicial vision, legislative statesmanship and vice versa in this country, so that the correct balance of separation of powers can itself be maintained.

From a speech in the Rajya Sabha on August 17, during impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen







While global and Indian MNCs are constantly vying for the consumer's attention, here is one that has surpassed all expectations. Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare from Ahmednagar was a flower vendor at Byculla, refused hafta, went underground. Then joined as driver in the Indian army. Went on to become a soldier and served at Khemkaran during the war. Resigned and returned to his native place and worked on water conservation projects. Highlights of his life thereafter — he started a new venture in 1991 called Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan, or public movement against corruption; received awards, amongst which were the Padma Shri and the Vriksha Mitra; went on an indefinite hunger strike in Alandi over forest issues, several agitations on corruption and the right to information. In 1997, Anna agitated in Azad Maidan in Mumbai to create mass public awareness about RTI amongst the youth; fasting at over 70 years of age; and gradually emerged... Brand Anna Hazare. Here are some tips that brands must learn from this most talked-about man.

Start small but have a big vision: Every brand has to work its way up. Being overambitious from the word go to conquer the world will lead to quick failures. Anna's patient efforts at positioning paid off. Even Nike, the iconic brand, began as a small distributing outfit in the trunk of Phil Knight's car.

Find that one strong connect with the consumer that is relevant and timeless, and reposition if you must: When Anna started working on water conservation, he quickly realised that corruption was a larger, universal problem, one that could be fought forever, so that Brand Anna could live forever. Marlboro talked of freedom, an idea that easily extends all over the world. Today, even though the tobacco industry is struggling, Marlboro's appeal has gone beyond its product.

Have a focused vision for the brand: Many brands reposition themselves so often that consumers don't know what they stand for anymore. Anna focused on two core, inter-related issues — corruption and RTI. Focus is essential, even through adverse times, after the brand has gained momentum. Amitabh Bachchan's temporary fall came when he attempted politics, and by his own admission, it is a mistake to think that one admired ability will automatically transfer to other endeavours.

Packaging is crucial: Your packaging must communicate what your brand stands for. Can you imagine Anna in jeans and a T-shirt or even a formal shirt? This is an error many brands make in the attempt to premiumise themselves. A mass appeal brand must look good but not expensive. If a Toyota began to emulate its own Lexus, it would kill the trusted brand. The package matters, as does the name. Would Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare have had the same impact?

Find a clear hook that you can peg your proposition on: The Lokpal bill was not known to over 90 per cent of Indians. So how did this one thing become a national issue? Corruption, while universal, is just a generalised nomenclature. A unique cause like the "Lokpal bill" arouses people's curiosity and provides an "India-unique" reason to rebel for a cause. Benetton's story of "United Colours of Benetton" put the brand on a totally different plane, aiding a cause that America was in danger of forgetting.

Time the media plan: Often MNCs just decide what is the right season and how much to say, and are unable to change course because the marketing plan is set. Smaller Indian companies are much quicker to react to market changes. Anna's crusade and its crescendo are perfectly timed. He has upped the activity when the pot boils over.

Activate your brand and let your consumers experience it: Had Brand Anna remained on TV and newspapers, it would never have picked up the momentum it has. Anna had to mingle with the masses, demonstrate his conviction. People had to become Anna, not just believe in Anna. Harley Davidson, one of the biggest cult brands, built itself through the Harley Club, where each user became the brand ambassador and the brand.

Innovate, innovate, innovate: Just when you think he has done it all, he surprises you with another. Forming the Tarun Mandal, giving up his awards, fasting, getting arrested, staying arrested, refusing freedom, getting Kiran Bedi on his side, getting the elite to get out of their cars and distribute pamphlets. For a brand to stay fresh in people's minds and to be seen as innovative, it must truly innovate. Cosmetic changes cannot fool people for long. What's the next exciting thing coming up from Brand Anna? Who knows? But surely he has more up his sleeve.

Opinion is split on Anna. Whether true or not, whether real or unreal, the concept of "Anna" has taken over from the persona that is Anna. Brand Obama too was a dream and change that Obama became symbolic of. Sustaining that can become difficult if not ultimately delivered. But undoubtedly at this time, Brand Anna is the most innovative, the most voted, the most talked about. Anna — voted the brand of the year.

By the way, Anna... who's your ad agency?

The writer is CEO, 'Product of the Year', India, and has worked in advertising for more than 20 years








The killings in Karachi

Some expected that political violence in Karachi would subside after the local government system was reinstated week. But over the last three days, nearly 60 people have been killed, including a former PPP parliamentarian and his friend. The 72-year-old former PPP parliamentarian, Waja Karim Dad, was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's man, and helped establish the party in Lyari. Following that murder, violence escalated, Daily Times reported on August 18: "Some half a dozen vehicles were torched as the city's downtown and surrounding areas changed into a battleground, where gangsters propelled rockets and hurled hand grenades freely, besides engaging in intense exchange of fire."

Seven bullet-ridden dead bodies packed in gunny bags were found in Karachi, and most of them were from Lyari, traditionally a pocket borough of the PPP. On August 19, The Express Tribune reported: "Bodies turning up in gunny bags also contain notes. Three bodies discovered within the remits of the Baghdadi police station had messages on a piece of paper that said: 'Do you want peace or war?' and 'Is this enough, or do you want more?'"

The Express Tribune reported that the violence was probably a result of a gang war: "Off the record, police officials admit that the violence is a spillover and a so-called chain reaction between two warring gangs in Lyari, namely the Arshad Pappu/Ghaffar Zikri versus the Peoples Aman Committee/Baba Ladla group. They also admit they are helpless in controlling the situation as the gangsters are allegedly supported by the ruling political party." The Karachi police has, according to Dawn, swooped down: "The city police on Friday claimed arresting over 100 suspects involved in terrorist activities and said that it had started an 'indiscriminate operation' against terrorists."

Floods revisit Sindh

Sindh, for the second consecutive year, is facing floods. Daily Times reported on August 18: "Devastating rains have triggered floods in southern Pakistan, affecting at least 700,000 people and forcing 60,000 from their homes... Villages have been flooded and crops destroyed in Pakistan's breadbasket, one of the worst hit areas in the unprecedented floods of 2010 that affected 21 million people and caused losses of $10 billion."

Looking back, forward

At a seminar organised in Lahore on August 12 by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), former prime minister Nawaz Sharif spoke openly of the prospects of peace between India and Pakistan. The Nation reported on August 14: "Nawaz Sharif has asked both Pakistan and India to move beyond the old thought process for resolving the outstanding issues marring relations between two nuclear neighbours... He mentioned that the Indian government had probed the Kargil debacle through a commission. 'A day will come here as well when a commission will probe the war,' he said, on the subject of India's ex-premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee stating that by waging the Kargil war, Pakistan had stabbed him in the back, and that 'If I would have been in Vajpayee's place, I would have felt the same way'." Sharif also spoke of constructing a road between Peshawar and Kolkata and the promotion of trade, and objected to the culture of competitively buying defence equipment when both countries have other pressing needs.

Opening stand

Former Pakistani cricketer Aamir Sohail has joined the PML-N, reported The Express Tribune on August 18: "Former Test captain Aamir Sohail was asked to join the party after a survey of youth revealed that the Tehreek-e-Insaaf's popularity hinges on Imran Khan's career as a cricketer. Sohail on Thursday announced that he was joining the PML-N in the 'national interest'... He said Khan was inexperienced and could not lead the country out of crisis."







The demand for global leadership has never been greater. The world is truly lost in trying to find a way out of the current crisis. America is imploding. Europe is crumbling. London is burning. The Arab Spring has lost direction. China and India remain internally preoccupied. If ever there were a moment for a global leader to step up, this is it. So why is no leader emerging?

First, the world has changed structurally, yet our systems for managing global affairs have not adapted. In the past, when the billions of citizens of planet earth lived in separated countries, it was like having an ocean of separate boats. Hence, the postwar order created rules to ensure that the boats did not collide; it created rules for cooperation.

Up until now, this arrangement has worked well. World War III did not follow World Wars I and II. But today the world's seven billion citizens no longer live in separate boats. They live in more than 190 cabins on the same boat. Each cabin has a government to manage its affairs. And the boat as a whole moves along without a captain or a crew. The world is adrift.

The G-20 was set up to provide global leadership at the height of the latest financial crisis. The group came together in London in early 2009 to save the global economy. However, as soon as the crisis receded, the G-20 leaders retreated into their cabins again. To make matters worse, some nations have become unmanageable. Just look at the United States.

The best candidate for global leader is, of course, Barack Obama. No leader gets as much global press coverage as Obama does. But he has no time to save the world. This summer a tiny group of crazy Tea Party congressmen held him, the United States and the world hostage.

In the next 14 months, Obama will only focus on his re-election. The world will not matter. Sadly, no European leader seems ready to fill this vacuum. Nor is there a Chinese or Indian leader willing to step up. Our global boat will continue to drift in the coming months.

The second reason no global leader has emerged: the geopolitics of the world are running at cross purposes with the geoeconomics of the world. Geoeconomics requires consensus; countries coming together. In geopolitics, we are experiencing the greatest power shifts we have seen in centuries. Power is shifting from West to East. All this creates deep insecurity in the established powers. They want to cling on to privileges acquired from previous days of glory.

Only this can explain the rush by Europe to reclaim the headship of International Monetary Fund when Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepped down. No one doubts that Christine Lagarde is a competent administrator. But is it wise for Europe to cling on to old privileges when power is shifting? And is it wise to choose a non-economist to run the most important economics organisation at a time of economic turmoil? A secure Europe may have ceded power graciously. An insecure Europe clings to privileges.

Third, political leadership is always preceded by intellectual leadership. For several decades, the Western intelligentsia provided this intellectual leadership. Indeed, they used to happily lecture the world on what should be done. Today, they are clearly lost.

As an Asian, I used to be regularly lectured by Westerners on the inability of Asians to slay their sacred cows. Today, the Western intelligentsia seems equally afraid to attack their own sacred cows. Surely, after the damage done by the Tea Party episode, an obvious question to ask is: have democracies become dysfunctional? Have special interest groups distorted the global agenda? Should some of them be disbanded?

Sadly, the parameters of intellectual discourse in the West have become narrower and narrower. Short-term political fights take precedence over long-term strategic decisions. Only one phrase captures the current Asian perception of the West: sheer incredulity. How could the best preachers on political courage and economic discipline in the world display none of it when the hour came?

In short, we are not going to get any great global leadership soon. And if we continue to drift, we will at least know why.






Taxing problems

The steady decline in tax GDP ratio of the central and state governments from 17.45% in 2007-08 to 14.73% in the budget estimates for 2010-11 points to serious problems in the country's taxation structure. Despite the plethora of schemes to increase the tax base, tax-to-GDP levels are even below what they were in the pre-reforms period – the tax-to-GDP ratio was 15.93 in 1989-90. Most of the decline has been due to the fall in the central tax collections, where the tax-to-GDP ratio has moved down by 2.42 percentage points from 11.9% in 2007-08 to 9.48% in the budget estimates for 2010-11. The fall has been marginal for the states' taxes.

Not surprisingly, given the determined shift in focus, indirect tax collections have fallen the most. While the tax-to-GDP ratio of direct taxes went down by 0.91 percentage points in the last four years, from 6.39% in 2007-08 to 5.48% in 2010-11, that for indirect taxes fell by 1.81 percentage points. A disaggregation of the central tax collections shows that the sharpest fall in tax-to-GDP ratio has been in the case of excise duties. While the tax-to-GDP ratio of excise duties dipped by 0.76 percentage points in the last four years, customs duty-to-GDP fell 0.43 percentage points. The sharp fall in the tax GDP ratios, both at the Centre and the states, point to the infirmities in the indirect taxes. Excise duty collections have been hit by the large outgo on cenvat credit in more recent years. And the reduction in excise and customs duties on oil products and other goods, following the global crisis and the slowdown in the economy, had even lead to a fall in collections of excise and customs duties in both 2008-09 and 2009-10.

While the fall in income tax-to-GDP ratios, from 2.07% in 2007-08 to 1.8% in 2010-11, is a problem that needs to be fixed, the biggest problem lies with service taxes. While the structure of the economy has moved decisively in favour of services—the sector's share is up from 42% of GDP in 1991-92 to 58% in 2010-11—the rise in service tax-to-GDP hasn't been as sharp. While industry accounts for about 28% of GDP, excise duties account for 1.82% of GDP ; services comprise 58% of GDP but the service tax-to-GDP ratio is only 0.91%. All of which underscores the urgent need for a combined goods and service tax.





Being in the PC business is not fashionable anymore, and no one knows this better than the world's largest PC firm—HP's Personal Systems Group accounts for a third of the company's revenues but under an eighth of its profits. This was obvious when, seven years ago, IBM sold its PC business to the Chinese firm Lenovo, and got worse with mobile devices and tablets beating PCs hollow over the last few years—in China, sales of Apple products have just crossed those of Lenovo! So it comes as no surprise that 72 years after Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard made their first PC in a garage, HP should want to exit the low-margin business, and that the company's board should want to stake its future in the higher-margin software business—apart from being the largest printer company in the world, HP remains one of the world's largest in the server/data-storage business. HP has paid a large price for this attempt at transforming itself. At $11.7 billion, the price it has paid for the UK-based Autonomy is 11.5 times its previous year's revenues and a 75% premium on Autonomy's closing stock price before the announcement. Autonomy specialises in analytic software that helps companies manage their data such as emails and phone calls as well as to glean out patterns from unstructured data streams including audio and video streams.

HP's transformation, of course, will require more than just spinning off its PC division and buying Autonomy. The price paid is large enough to mean that reaping the dividends will take a long time. It doesn't help that many of HP's attempts to transform itself, right from the time it tried a $25 billion deal with rival Compaq in 2002, haven't been successful. HP bought EDS Corp for $14 billion in 2008 to help build up its competitiveness vis-a-vis IBM, it bought 3Com for $2.7 billion in 2010 to take on Cisco and Palm for $1.2 billion to take on firms like Apple in the smartphone/tablet space—along with the PC division, HP has now decided to opt out of the smartphone/tablet space. Whether Autonomy brings freedom to HP remains to be seen, more so since others are making forays into the businesses that HP is vacating—Google just announced a $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola's mobile business a few days ago.






It is hard to know whether to applaud or lament the proposed $11bn (£6.7bn) purchase of Autonomy, the UK's biggest listed software company, by Hewlett-Packard of the US. The transaction, at an impressive premium to Thursday's closing price of about 78%, would trigger handsome pay-outs. These would be just reward for investors loyal to a data business whose value has gyrated with the tech cycle ever since it floated during the '90s tech boom. It is also apt recognition of the value created by founder and chief executive Mike Lynch, who would reap a personal windfall of more than $800m.

It is hard to know whether to applaud or lament the proposed $10bn-plus purchase of Autonomy, the UK's biggest listed software company, by Hewlett-Packard of the US. The transaction, at an impressive premium of 75%, would trigger handsome pay-outs. These would be just reward for shareholders loyal to a data business whose value has gyrated with the tech cycle ever since it floated during the 1990s tech boom. It is also appropriate recognition of the value created by founder and chief executive Mike Lynch, who would reap a personal windfall of some $800m.

Unusually Mr Lynch has made the tricky transition from academic to entrepreneur to FTSE 100 company boss. He is set to follow up by becoming a senior figure at a large US corporation.

But the acquisition also means that Autonomy, whose software sifts unstructured data for meaning, will no longer pursue what UK tech enthusiasts saw as its manifest destiny of becoming a "global gorilla"—a world-beating technology business in the mould of Google or Microsoft.

UK tech entrepreneurs, it appears, always end up selling out to the Americans. This reflects a greater US appetite for technological risk, as mirrored in steep Stateside tech float premiums. Another reason is that big US purchasers have powerful distribution networks through which to sell new technology. This underpins such transactions as Cisco's acquisition of London cloud computing start-up ScanSafe.

Three ironies are apparent in the proposed Autonomy sale. First, while its software identifies meaning within chaos, many potential UK investors were confused by the proposition represented by the company (supermarkets and banks are perhaps easier to grasp). Second, the business, which kept investors waiting for its own acquisitions, has unexpectedly fallen prey to one itself. And thirdly, Autonomy considered and rejected the idea of developing a smart search engine long before Google came along. Rather than aspiring to emulate that global gorilla, Autonomy might have pre-empted it, had circumstances been different.

Is the £3m fine levied on TalkTalk by Ofcom "disproportionate", as Dido Harding, chief executive of the broadband and telephone company claims? Not in a punitive environment where whey-faced yoof get four-year jail terms for abortively inciting riots on Facebook. By that vengeful benchmark, the communications watchdog should have bulldozed TalkTalk's headquarters and exiled Ms Harding to a penal colony off Belize.

But by Ofcom's modest standards, the fine for overcharging is a stiff one. Ms Harding, brought in to tackle chaos from the integration of Tiscali's UK business, was wrong to imagine that refunds and compensation of £2.5m would satisfy the regulator. Needling coverage of the fine by journalists of a consumerist bent will do little to burnish TalkTalk's battered brand. So the paradise where the company's reputedly high customer churn rate falls to levels closer to that of such rivals as Virgin must be postponed. Steve Malcolm of Evolution estimates the share's current underlying free cash flow yield stands at about 14%, against 11% for Virgin.

There is mileage in TalkTalk's affordable phone-plus-broadband offering. Ms Harding just needs to ensure that TalkTalk is thoroughly un-newsworthy from now on. Systems cock-ups occur regularly and are unremarked within most big organisations. It is the misfortune of consumer telecoms businesses to face tougher scrutiny. Get it wrong again soon, and TalkTalk's board will face a lynch mob armed with nooses fashioned from the company's own coaxial cable.

Toilers returning thankfully to their desks after fraught family holidays may doubt the wisdom of working with your nearest and dearest. But it suits some: the UK's top 10 family-controlled businesses raised their sales more than 10% to £35.5bn in 2010, according to the Institute for Family Business. The sector cheerleader reckons that family companies are weathering economic turbulence well. Probably because proprietors have traditionally handled debt as suspiciously as a rural vicar would a crack pipe.

The message that family companies are in it for the long haul is underscored by how little movement there is in the IFB's sales-based top 10. The top three companies are the same as for 2009: Associated British Foods, the quoted company controlled by the Westons; Stemcor, the steel business of the Oppenheimers; and Swire, the Asia-focused conglomerate set up by the Swires in 1815.





Job creation has emerged as one of the biggest challenges facing both advanced and emerging economies at present. This is unsurprising in the case of advanced countries, where firms are wary of expanding their workforce given the bleak growth outlook for at least the next couple of years. In developing countries like India, however, job creation continues to be unacceptably low despite strong economic growth. As a result, employment intensity in the country (number of employed persons per lakh of real GDP) declined to 1.0 during 2005-10 from 1.7 in the preceding five years.

While all regions in India are grappling with the problem of low job creation, the dynamics of employment creation vary across states. This holds true even for states with similar economic structures and growth performances. We have studied employment data from two states—Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu—to analyse this incongruity.

Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu both grew at nearly 10-11% during 2005-2010 as compared to 5% in the previous five years. The structure of their economies is also broadly similar. In 2009-10, industry's share in GDP was nearly 30% and 28% for Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, respectively. For the same year, the share of services stood at 62% and 63% for Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, respectively. In terms of size, Maharashtra's economy is twice as big as that of Tamil Nadu with a labour force nearly 1.7 times that of Tamil Nadu's in 2009-10.

Despite the similarities in economic structure and growth, employment grew by nearly 1.1 million in Maharashtra between 2005 and 2010, while it declined by nearly 1.4 million in Tamil Nadu. Urban employment in Maharashtra rose by nearly 1.9 million, while rural employment declined by nearly 0.8 million, largely in agriculture and manufacturing. In contrast, urban employment in Tamil Nadu rose by a mere 0.65 million during the same period, and it declined by 2 million in rural areas. As a result of poor employment growth, while the employment intensity of production (the number of workers employed per lakh of production) declined in both the states in the second-half of the last decade relative to the first half, the decline was much sharper in Tamil Nadu. In Maharashtra the employment intensity declined to 1.0 in 2009-10 from 1.15 during 2004-05. In Tamil Nadu it declined to 0.84 in 2009-10 from 1.4 in 2004-05.

Financial intermediation and business services accounted for the sharpest increase in urban employment in Maharashtra, at 0.72 million, amounting to nearly 45% of all-India employment gain in this sector. This was followed by an increase of nearly 0.7 million employment in public administration and social and community services. Compare this scenario with Tamil Nadu. In urban Tamil Nadu, employment contracted in major sectors such as manufacturing, public administration and social & community services. In addition to a sharp decline in agriculture employment, there was a substantial job loss in rural manufacturing jobs in Tamil Nadu.

The most striking contrast between these two states, however, is in the employment performance of the construction sector. Despite an overall decline in employment of nearly 1.4 million in Tamil Nadu, the number of people working in the state's construction industry rose by just over 1 million between 2005 and 2010. In contrast, construction industry employment in Maharashtra rose by merely 0.17 million during the same period.

The quality of jobs differed between the states because of differences in sectoral employment. With the growing employment in financial intermediation, business services and public administration/social and community services, salaried employment constituted a major share of the new jobs created in Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, most new jobs were casual in nature, and originated in the construction industry.

What could be the reason for this disparity? Maharashtra—especially in the major cities of Mumbai and Pune—has become a hub for financial and business services. Tamil Nadu has either failed to attract enough investments or faces a skill shortage in this sector. Manufacturing industries in Tamil Nadu, like the automobile sector, appear to have become more capital intensive. With insufficient employment creation in manufacturing and services, Tamil Nadu relied on the boom in the construction industry further supported by government-led employment guarantees and road work schemes.

While Maharashtra managed to create more and better jobs than Tamil Nadu between 2005 and 2010, the fact remains that even in Maharashtra, manufacturing employment contracted and services' employment growth slowed down sharply between 2005 and 2010 compared to the previous five years. This analysis raises an obvious question--what policies would persuade existing firms to hire more and create more firms across India in various sectors?

It is clear that high economic growth alone will translate into more jobs, as proven in the last decade. This growth needs the support of appropriate policies to facilitate job creation in manufacturing and services. Our policymakers have not been able to resolve the problems created by a two-speed labour market. On the one hand, a huge share of the population remains trapped in agriculture due to poor demand for low-skill labour in manufacturing. On the other hand, demand for high-skill labour exceeds the supply of the same. As for services, fast-tracking reforms in higher education will be essential to ensure future job growth in high-end services.

It is an acknowledged fact that overly strict employment protection restricts the job creation abilities of companies, as it hampers their ability to cope with dynamic business environment. While organised manufacturing in India is subject to harsh employment laws, services and the unorganised sector are less so. Internationally, Germany is a classic example that proves that flexible labour markets, supported by other government policies, help solve the unemployment problem. Germany had a chronic unemployment problem due to a highly regulated labour market. To counter this issue, in 2003, the country's policymakers introduced a series of measures that made the labor market more flexible. Subsequently, German companies have not only been able to create more jobs, but they have also succeeded in putting a lid on wage growth and maintaining their competitiveness. India needs to do something similar to create jobs for its fast expanding workforce. Needless to add, appropriate policies will play an important role in bringing about the necessary change.

The author is senior economist, CRISIL Ltd. Views are personal







It is a daunting task. Contamination from the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl has spread far and wide, across fields and farms, rivers and forests. Tens of thousands of residents have been forced to flee their homes.

But, shovelful by shovelful, one half-empty city on the edge of the evacuation zone in Japan is fighting to bring its future back.

Feeling forgotten and left largely to fend for themselves by the central government, officials in Minami-Soma, about 12 miles (20 kilometres) away from the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, have designated August as "Decontamination Month" in a campaign to woo spooked residents home.

Before the disaster, nearly 70,000 people lived in Minami-Soma. But, nearly six months later and despite relatively low radiation readings in most parts of town, more than 30,000 have left, nearly one-third of them from areas outside the official evacuation zone.

City officials fear that unless action is taken to demonstrate most of the town is safe for habitation, many may never return.

So, for the past week, the city has contracted local crews to hose down its schools, parks and community centres. The goal is to reduce by more than one-half the levels of radioactivity measured at places in the city where people gather.

The campaign has created a buzz of activity in the still-shaken town.

The work crews, clad in hazmat suits, also use bulldozers and power shovels to remove contaminated topsoil from public places, particularly school playgrounds. The wash off from the hosings and the mounds of contaminated topsoil are then moved to less-used areas and buried in huge trenches. For the time being, a large swath of Minami-Soma remains completely off limits.

That is because it is within a 12-mile (20-km) no-go zone set up by Tokyo days after the March 11 tsunami touched off meltdowns, explosions and fires at the Fukushima plant. All told, nearly 21,000 people were killed or remain missing after the tsunami, which devastated Japan's north-east coast.

But outside the no-go zone, contamination levels vary dramatically, depending on the local terrain. Still, most have stayed away because they fear for their health.

Some experts have reservations about the decontamination campaign. Hiroaki Koide, a radiation specialist and associate professor at Kyoto University's Research Reactor Institute, said simply removing the top three inches (5 cm) of soil has been shown to reduce radiation levels by about 90 per cent.

But he noted that the trees, roads and farmland near the decontaminated schools cannot be easily cleansed, and radiation from them can spread in the larger environment. Further, babies, children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to radiation-related illnesses, and are generally advised to avoid exposure whenever possible.

"Any exposure would pose a health risk, no matter how small," Koide said. "There is no dose that we should call safe."

Another problem that has slowed the central government from acting to help is what to do with the irradiated soil, wash off and debris in the long-term. — AP





With the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare winning the first round hands down and the United Progressive Alliance government capitulating to its demand that the Gandhian must be allowed to lead an indefinite fast without any restrictions worth speaking about, the focus shifts to what the agitation can expect to achieve in terms of an effective Lokpal Bill. The conditions seem propitious considering that the unintended consequence of a scam-tainted government's initial reaction — which bore the stamp of Pavlovian conditioning — has been the strengthening of the anti-corruption mood in the country. What the agitation symbolised by Mr. Hazare has succeeded in doing is to totally discredit the content of, and the motivation behind, the Lokpal Bill the UPA government has introduced in Parliament — which Prashant Bhushan, a key member of Team Anna, has taken to calling the 'Promotion of Corruption Bill.' The wise course for the government is to withdraw the Bill immediately, without standing on false prestige. Not to do so would only strengthen the popular perception, reflected in a number of public opinion surveys, that it is bent on perpetuating and covering up corruption.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's exposition of a "constitutional philosophy" in his August 17 statement in the Lok Sabha misses the mark by a mile. Even a cursory look at the history and sociology of how major laws are shaped in India and other parliamentary democracies shows that quite often they are the end product of movements and struggles of various kinds and that the proposition that it is "the sole prerogative of Parliament to make a law" is true only in the most literal, superficial, banal sense. Moreover, in the Indian constitutional scheme (in contrast to the British), Parliament is not supreme; it is the Constitution that is supreme. That said, it does not in the least follow that settling the terms of the anti-corruption institutional mechanism can be left solely to Team Anna or that its Jan Lokpal Bill, which has some impractical and unsound provisions, must be accepted in toto. In quite un-Gandhian fashion, a mood of triumphalism has taken over the current occupants of Ramlila Maidan. Mr. Hazare has stated that he would not budge from the venue until the Jan Lokpal Bill was introduced in Parliament; and Kiran Bedi, a widely admired member of Team Anna, was so carried away by the mood that she proclaimed, perhaps momentarily forgetting the slogan's authoritarian era associations, that "Anna is India and India is Anna." Democratic, progressive, political India needs to find its own way. It must use this favourable moment to push forward and shape a law that centre-stages the principle of independent, effective, and quick-acting investigation and prosecution of corruption, especially in high places.





The recent remarks by Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan's main opposition party, show that there are politicians in that country prepared to stand up against the populist view of India as dushman humsaya or the "enemy neighbour." It would have been the easier political course for Mr. Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League(N), to fall in line with this idée fixe , born out of decades-long anti-India propaganda by the Pakistani state. He could have used it to score political points against the Pakistan People's Party government. To his great credit, the former Prime Minister has emerged as a voice of sanity and reason on Pakistan's relations with India. At a seminar organised by the South Asian Free Media Association in Lahore on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day, he urged his compatriots to conceptualise an economic rather than a military rivalry with India. He spoke of a motorway that would connect the subcontinent from Kolkata to Peshawar and from there to Central Asia. He also said it was time that Pakistan stopped blaming India for all its problems.

This is not the first time Mr. Sharif has taken such positions. He blames his military nemesis, Pervez Musharraf, for destroying his efforts to make peace with India in 1999 with the Kargil misadventure. Since his 2007 return from exile in Saudi Arabia, he has been a consistent advocate of building good relations with India. He has talked of "visa-free" travel between the two countries and the importance of building trade relations. He was the first to acknowledge that the Mumbai 2008 terrorist attackers were Pakistanis. Days after the May 2 Osama bin Laden raid by the U.S. military, he said, in defiance of the popular mood, that it was wrong to view India as the "number 1 enemy". Mr. Sharif deserves full praise for taking a rational view of India-Pakistan relations without fear of the attendant political risks. For India, the position espoused by Mr. Sharif is reassurance that bipartisan support exists for the steps, however small, that Islamabad has taken and might want to take towards normalising relations with New Delhi in the post-2008 climate. Unfortunately, the UPA government, beset by other troubles, has been at best defensive about its efforts to restart a dialogue with Pakistan. The opposition BJP has been of no help. It has chosen to fall back on a populist hardline position on India-Pakistan ties instead of leading from the front to create political space towards normalisation. It has something to learn from Mr. Sharif.





The activities of financial markets are often irrational. Prices go up for no apparent reason and then suddenly the mood changes. What's worrying about the latest spasm that has convulsed bourses in Europe, Asia and North America is that the sell-off is grounded in real and ever-more pressing concerns. Make no mistake, something serious is going on here.

That something can be divided into three parts. The first cause for anxiety is the global economy, and in particular the United States. The report released on Thursday, August 18, by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve covers only a small part of the Eastern U.S. but it has a good track record for charting the ups and downs of the world's biggest economy. The Philly Fed's barometer has just plunged deep into recession territory.

There are also simultaneous slowdowns going on in the rest of the world. Europe's economy has slowed to stall speed, the U.K. is still operating way below its pre-recession level and activity has come off the boil in China, even though to western eyes growth still looks amazingly strong in China.

Two-and-a-half years ago, financial markets rallied strongly on the assumption that the worst of the slump was over. There was relief that Great Depression 2 had been avoided. Now the talk is over a double-dip recession.

Concern number one has re-ignited fears about the health of the global financial system. Again, markets have been operating for the past couple of years on the assumption that large dollops of financial help from the taxpayer and a return to growth have made the global banking system immune from a fresh collapse. This always looked questionable, and now that activity is slowing markets suspect that some banks may go under. In the 1990s, the Japanese government prevented its financial system from collapse but only at the expense of creating zombie banks, neither alive nor dead but kept functioning thanks to the largesse of the state. The reason the sell-off in financial stocks has been more pronounced than the fall in stock markets as a whole is that investors believe Europe and North America now have their own zombie banks.

Reports that U.S. regulators are taking a close interest in European banks and comments from Sweden's chief financial regulator that it wouldn't take much for European interbank markets to freeze only serve to bring back memories of the long descent from credit crunch in August 2007 to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

At least then, though, governments were in a position to ride to the rescue. Today, governments are seen not as the solution but as part of the problem. The debt burden accumulated by the banks was, in effect, nationalised during the crisis. It was hoped this would prove temporary, but the persistence of weak growth means that a private debt crisis has now become a sovereign debt crisis. What's more, the markets sense that policymakers have run out of bullets to fire. They can't cut official interest rates, they find it hard to justify more quantitative easing when inflation is at current levels and almost every Western government is currently trying to cut its budget deficit.

Put all that together and you get the full Japanese package: weak growth, weak banks, weak policy response. That is not a good recipe for shares. Today Tokyo's Nikkei market is at less than 25 per cent of its level at the peak of the stock market boom in the late 1980s. (Larry Elliott is the Guardian's economics editor.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Two-and-a-half years ago, financial markets rallied strongly on the assumption that the worst of the slump was over. Now the talk is over a double-dip recession.





Gennady Veretelny was shot and wounded when he stepped forward unarmed 20 years ago to help stop a column of armoured vehicles in central Moscow, one of the few casualties of the last, failed attempt to preserve the Soviet Union.

It was a moment when Russians, largely cowed and passive subjects of Soviet rule for 74 years, massed in the streets to support the future President, Boris N. Yeltsin, demanding democratic change.

The writer Vasily Aksyonov captured the enthusiasm of many at the time when he called the 60-hour standoff "probably the most glorious nights in the history of Russian civilization."

But almost 15 years after the standoff, the man who now rules Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, called the fall of the Soviet Union the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."

Recent opinion polls as the anniversary of the standoff approaches this Saturday, August 20, come closer to the view of Mr. Putin than of Mr. Aksyonov. Few people said they viewed the events of 1991 as a victory for democracy.


"At that time in Russia, behind the Iron Curtain, we had only heard of democracy," said Mr. Veretelny, 54, who was at the time supporting himself as a driver. "We really believed the magical, beautiful word democracy. But a lot of things turned out not exactly the way we expected. We began to ask ourselves what we spilled our blood for."

In the decade that followed, chaotic social and economic changes as well as lurching attempts at reform gave democracy a bad name. Many people welcomed the stability that Mr. Putin brought, even at the cost of some democratic freedoms.

Mr. Veretelny is just one voice among 140 million Russians, and while his disillusionment is widely shared, many people appear to accept Mr. Putin's limits on political competition, civil society and the news media. An election that is set for early next year is unlikely to change the course of the country.

Mr. Veretelny was speaking a week before the anniversary at the home of Lyubov Komar, the mother of a young veteran of the Russian war in Afghanistan, Dmitry Komar, who was one of three men killed during the final night of the standoff. Mr. Veretelny was wounded when he tried to retrieve the body of Mr. Komar, which he said hung on an armoured vehicle as it roared forward and back trying to dislodge a trolley bus that had been moved to block its path.

"I saw the guy hanging off the armoured car," he said. "I put out my hands to help and I was hit in the shoulder. I thought someone would come take the body off, but it drove back and forth until the body fell on the asphalt."

The armoured cars and tanks pulled back soon afterward, marking the end of a coup that had tried to hold back the tide of change. On December 25, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev stepped down, bringing an end to the Soviet Union.

Since then, Mr. Veretelny has worked as an electrician, a police inspector and now as a small-business man on the fringes of Russia's economy. Until recently, his wife had a high-paying job as manager of a business, but she was laid off during the economic downturn. She said the couple lived comfortably.

Mrs. Komar, who works as a helper at a health club, still builds her life around the memory of her son. She echoes the view of Mr. Veretelny, saying, "If my son could have seen where the country was going, he wouldn't have been at the barricades."

Sitting in her apartment, surrounded by photographs that trace his growth from a boy to a soldier, she said she had given up on the political process.

"I haven't been to vote for 10 years," she said. "They'll do fine without me. They choose whoever they want, so why vote?" Like many Russians, she grew to despise Mr. Yeltsin for what she saw as his weak leadership, and she is now part of a large majority of Russians supporting Mr. Putin. But what she would really like, she said, is to turn back the clock.

'Comfortable in the U.S.S.R.'

"I felt more comfortable in the U.S.S.R.," she said. "You always had a piece of bread. You always had work. Yes, sure, you can go overseas now, but you have to have money for that and you have to go into debt. Now, if you don't have money you can't do anything."

A recent poll by the Levada Center, a respected polling agency, found that 20 per cent of Russians share her wish for a return of the Soviet Union, a number that has bobbed up and down between 16 per cent and 27 per cent over the past eight years.

Among those in favour of the Soviet Union, not surprisingly, is Mr. Gorbachev, who had tried to reform and preserve the Soviet Union but was thwarted by the coup and then by Mr. Yeltsin and the momentum of events.

"Some say over and over that the Soviet Union's collapse was inevitable," he said at a news conference on August 17. "But I keep saying that the Soviet Union could have been preserved."

Addressing journalists, he said: "You criticise Gorbachev: weak, Jell-O, more or less in those terms. But what if that Jell-O wasn't in that position at that time, who the hell knows what might have happened to us."

According to the polling agency, those who wish to return to the Soviet past are mostly members of the vestiges of the Communist party, elderly people, and people who live in small towns and villages.

The poll was conducted in person in July with 1,600 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Other responses suggest that Russians do want democracy, but democracy of a particular sort, with a powerful central government, something closer to what the country has today than some, like Mr. Veretelny, had envisioned. More than half the respondents, 53 per cent, said they placed a higher value on "order" than on human rights.

"We had so much hope, so much faith, so much inspiration for the future," said Mr. Veretelny's wife, Svetlana. "There was such a feeling of freedom and hope. We were all so happy seeing change ahead."

But now, according to the polling agency, only 10 per cent of respondents view those days as a victory for democracy. It said the number of people who called the events a tragedy had grown to 39 per cent, from 25 per cent at the anniversary 10 years ago.

"It is what it is," said Mr. Veretelny, who has slipped from hope into passivity. "We just have to figure that this is what we ended up with." — © New York Times News Service





Anna Hazare's fast seeking the acceptance of the Jan Lokpal Bill, and the widespread mass protests in urban India that followed his arrest from home, have shaken the government. Political parties have woken up to the depth of feeling against corruption. Two factors have come together — the fight for the Jan Lokpal Bill and the violation of the citizen's civil right to protest. The snowballing protests are seen to be against corruption. Obviously, the public are fed up with the day-to-day harassment they face. To put this in perspective, it is important to understand the benefits to society of tackling the huge black economy in India.

Some people argue that the black economy also generates jobs and production. For instance, they argue that a lot of goods are bought in the market using black incomes, and that leads to increase in production and employment. They argue that the black economy generates informal sector employment and helps the poor. Some go to the extent of arguing that India escaped the worst effects of the global recession in 2008, and the economy only slowed down, because a large amount of black money was floating around — which generated additional demand. Some justify bribes as "speed money" that enables work to be done faster. There is some truth in all this. Yet, it can be shown that the ill-effects of the black economy far outweigh its beneficial effects.

Think of bribe as "speed money." In order to extract a bribe, the bureaucracy first slows down work and harasses the public. If work was automatically done, why would anyone pay bribes? Thus, the system has to be made inefficient so that those who can afford to pay can get their work done quickly but the rest continue to suffer. The administration becomes rundown since rather than devising ways to work efficiently, it is busy thinking of ways to make money by setting up roadblocks to efficient functioning. This has spawned a culture of 'middlemen' and personal approach to officers. Things hardly happen in the routine manner. The corrupt need the middleman to insulate themselves from direct public contact lest someone reports them. The bribe-giver also, not knowing how much to bribe and how to contact the administrator in charge, finds it a convenient arrangement.

Much of the black economy in India is like "digging holes and filling them." That is, one digs a hole during the day and then another fills it up at night; the next day there is zero output but two salaries are paid. This is "activity without productivity." An example is of poorly made roads that get washed away or become pot-holed with every rain and need repeated repairs. Thus, instead of new roads coming up, much of the budget allocation is spent on maintenance. Teachers may not teach properly in class so that students have to go for tuitions. Not only families have to pay extra but the students find learning to be insipid and lose interest. This affects their creativity and future.

Consider how millions of litigants, their families/friends, and lawyers arrive daily in the courts. In most instances, the hearing in a particular case lasts just a few minutes. The next date, weeks or months away, is announced, and they go back home. Not only is justice delayed inordinately, but time is lost and expenses are incurred on lawyers' fees, travel, and so on. Cases that could be resolved in a few months go on for years, multiplying costs. The expense of delayed justice is both direct and indirect. Delay is often a result of the impact of the black economy. Honest people who lose hope start resorting to other means, which dents the notion of social justice and weakens society. This cost cannot be calculated in monetary terms but it is significant.

Because of the growing black economy, policies fail both at the macro-level and the micro-level. Planning or monetary policy or fiscal policies do not achieve the desired results because of the existence of a substantial black economy. Targets for education, health, drinking water and so on are not achieved because "expenditures do not mean outcomes." The economy does not lack resources but faces resource shortage. Much investment goes into wasteful and unproductive channels, like holding gold or real estate abroad. The flight of capital lowers the employment potential and the level of output in the economy. Capital sent abroad does not generate output in India but does so where it goes. A country that is considered capital-short has been exporting capital. A nation that gives concessions to multinational corporations to bring in capital loses more capital than it gets, and that too at a high cost, from foreign institutional investments or foreign direct investment. India's policies are open to the dictates of international capital because the country's businessmen and politicians have taken capital out in large doses since Independence. The costs are huge.

The direct and indirect costs are of policy failures, unproductive investments, slower development, higher inequity, environmental destruction and a lower rate of growth of the economy than would have been possible. India could have been growing faster, by about 5 per cent, since the 1970s if it did not have the black economy. Consequently, India could have been a $8-trillion economy, the second largest in the world. Per capita income could have been seven times larger; India would then have been a middle-income country and not one of the poorest. That has been a huge cost.

The black economy also leads to "the usual becoming the unusual and the unusual the usual." That which should happen does not, and that which should not keeps happening. We should be getting 220 volts electricity but mostly get 170 volts or 270 volts. Equipment burns out, so all expensive gadgets need voltage stabilizers. This results in higher capital costs; maintenance costs rise. Water in taps should be potable, but it is of uneven quality because the pipes are not properly laid and sewage seeps in. Thus, people carry water bottles, use water-purifiers and boil water at great extra cost. Even then, people fall ill. Some 70 per cent of all disease in India is related to water, so we spend extra on hospitalisation and treatment. Then there is the associated loss of productivity; the poor are particularly the victims.

Hospitalisation can be traumatic because of the large-scale callousness there. Public hospitals are crowded and the doctors are overworked. Due to unhygienic conditions, patients can get secondary infection or attendants can fall sick. In private hospitals the patient is not sure whether unnecessary tests are being done and whether visits by consultants coming to see them are needed at all. Even after all this, cure is not assured: the drugs may be spurious, the intravenous fluid contaminated, and so on. The poor suffer from the presence of a large number of quacks in the market who give injections or steroids or an overdose of antibiotics. It is by the sheer strength of the human constitution that in spite of these adversities, many people get cured.

The result of all this is that costs everywhere are higher than they need to be — raising the rate of inflation. If capital is over-invoiced by businesses to make money, the cost of setting up industry is higher. If poor quality grain is sold in the public distribution system, the price is higher. If children need tuitions because of poor teaching, the family's cost is higher, and so on.

At the social level, the cost is a loss of faith in society and its functioning. Hence many now seek individual solutions and discount societal processes. At the political level there is fragmentation, with States demanding their own packages because the belief that the nation as a whole can deliver has been dented. The demand for smaller States is a corollary because the bigger States neglect the less vocal regions. Each caste, community and region now wants to have its own party to represent its narrow interest, leading to the proliferation of smaller parties. Can the cost of this fragmentation and loss of national spirit be calculated?

New movements for a strong Lokpal, the right to education, food and information, are likely to recreate a common national ethos that is so necessary, and which may generate the political will to tackle the hugely expensive black economy. The fight for one is the fight for the other also.

(The author is with the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This article is based on his forthcoming book, Indian Economy since Independence: Tracing the Dynamics of Colonial Disruption in Society. E-mail:

Much of the black economy in India is like "digging holes and filling them." One digs a hole during the day and another fills it up at night. The next day, there is zero output but tw





Russia has dramatically stepped up diplomatic efforts to revive international talks on Iran's nuclear programme in an attempt to improve bilateral relations with Tehran and reduce the threat of a Western military attack on Iran.

Following a visit to Tehran by Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visited Moscow on August 16-17 to discuss details of a Russian plan to kick-start nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries comprising the five U.N. Security Council permanent members plus Germany.

The plan proposed by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last November and resubmitted in July this year, calls for a step-by-step approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear dilemma. As Mr. Lavrov explained, Iran should be rewarded for every step it takes to clarify outstanding questions about its nuclear programme posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We suggest that a roadmap be drawn up for each IAEA requirement that Iran must fulfil, starting with simpler questions and ending with those whose solution may require more time," Mr. Lavrov said during a visit to the U.S. in mid-July. "We are convinced that in response to each concrete, not declarative, step by Iran it is important to make a reciprocal step in the form of freezing sanctions against it and, as further progress is made, reducing sanctions."

The most important aspect of the Russian plan is that it does not contain a demand put forward by the U.S. and its Western partners that Iran stops uranium enrichment.

"If you fulfill all your obligations, you will enjoy all the rights which include the right to enrichment," Mr. Lavrov said.

Following his talks with Mr. Lavrov on August 16 Mr. Salehi said that Iran "takes a positive view" of the Russian step-by-step plan. He described it as an "important proposal" containing "good elements" that could be further "improved."

Analysts said Tehran endorsed the Lavrov plan because it sees it as a welcome departure of Russia from following the U.S. policy of raking up pressure on Iran. Last year, Moscow supported U.N. sanctions against Iran that were advocated by Washington and tore up a contract to supply S-300 air defence systems to Iran. This set in a period of frostiness in Moscow-Tehran ties that has now been largely overcome.

Nuclear plant; regional issues

Addressing a joint press conference with Mr. Lavrov on August 16, Mr. Salehi announced that the formal launching of the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear plant built by Russia will take place next month when Russia's Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko visits Iran for a session of the Russian-Iranian inter-government commission.

Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Salehi said their countries shared close or identical views on most regional problems, including Afghanistan and the turmoil in West Asia and North Africa.

The Russian and Iranian Foreign Ministers were careful to avoid giving a timeframe for the resumption of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group. Mr. Lavrov said Moscow was talking to both parties. "Everything depends on when the two sides are ready to sit down and discuss the existing problems," he said.

Washington has given a lukewarm response to the Lavrov plan, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voicing readiness only "to explore with the Russians ways that we can perhaps pursue more effective engagement strategies." At the same time she reiterated U.S. commitment to the "dual track of pressure and engagement."

Moscow is genuinely concerned about the ongoing escalation of threats against Iran. Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin feels that the NATO military campaign in Libya and mounting pressure on Syria could suggest preparations for an attack on Iran.

"The noose on Iran is tightening," Mr. Rogozin said in a recent interview to the Moscow-based Izvestia daily. "Plans are being drawn up for a military campaign against Tehran. We don't like at all the prospect of a large-scale war in the region."

Russian diplomats are not overly optimistic about an early breakthrough in the Iran crisis.

"I can't say we see any practical desire of the sides [Iran and the West] to give up their excessive demands," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a media briefing on August 15. "Western nations expect Iran to stop uranium enrichment, while Iran expects the West to cancel all sanctions and to recognise its right to enrich uranium."

For all its scepticism, Moscow would be happy if its new plan helps ward off the threat of a war in the Persian Gulf and improve its ties with Tehran.

Taking note of escalating threats against Tehran, Moscow gets down to business.









"Chappatis Are what you need, my friend
'Cos there aren't Enough naans To go round!"

From The Antoinettenama by Bachchoo

Once again someone has cranked up the debate about the Indian national anthem illicitly, including the territory of Sind. It's a trivial complaint. Tagore's celebration of the everlasting (well, till the planet is hit by a meteor or the Sun implodes) geography of the subcontinent shouldn't be tampered with despite the feeble objections of Pakistan.

Territories change hands. Sind was once part of the Persian Empire and was only annexed from the rule of the Mirs to British India in the 19th century. Territories come and go while Tagore's poem takes the longer view. Pakistan should understand that we are aware of the anomaly but can't do anything about it.
Not that words are sacred. New ones are certainly not!
My youngest daughter, who can discourse perfectly fluently on George Orwell or Shakespeare, imitates her peers by punctuating her social chit chat with "like". It annoys.
With language, though alas not with morals, persistent misuse gets elevated into usage. "Hopefully" used to be an adverb. It now means that the user hopes for a particular outcome. I can't bring myself to say the word but have given up the fight against it.
Using temperature to describe people, fashions or situations is so widespread that it has to be acknowledged and I do — How cool is that? A band or actor is said to be "hot" and that makes vague sensory sense. A woman is described as a "hottie" because she affects the temperatures of beholders.
Even so, some accepted usage still jars. A common computer virus is labelled a "Trojan". The word derives from Homer's Iliad in which the Greeks hide inside a wooden horse, pretend to withdraw from their siege of Troy and return in the night when the Trojans have pulled the horse into their fortress city. Troy is infiltrated and destroyed.
To make sense of the analogy, the virus should surely be called a Greek? Or even a Trojan Horse? (If any anti-viral software empires think of using the Dhondy Correction, please send the copyright cheque to the usual address.) Has this occurred to anyone else? Or am I being a bit pedantic? Oh dear.
Nevertheless, since I've started I'll finish. Another usage, slightly more obscure, that gets my goat — or even both my goats – is the misuse of the word "subaltern". I grew up in an Indian Army household and read a lot of Kipling and other British Army stories. The word "subaltern" always meant — and several dictionaries tell me it still means — an officer of a rank lower than a Captain. This would be a Lieutenant or a Second Lieutenant.
Reading a review of my recent book of short stories (please note that I have nothing to say about the review — it's very bad form to argue with or reply to these) I came across the word. The reviewer wrote that she was going to quote from the dialogue or language I attributed in one of my stories to the "Subaltern".
I couldn't for the life of me remember having included any subalterns or other Army ranks in the entire book. I read the quoted passage. This "subaltern" turned out to be a character I had created who was a poor boy picked up on the streets of Mumbai and jailed for selling bootleg fiction at traffic lights. He had no ambition to join the Army, leave aside its officer corps.
I have come across this peculiar, pretentious and frankly unevocative usage of the Army term before. I am told that poseurs at American universities have used it to describe poor people. A little research among academic friends tells me that the term was first used by Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist writer. I have always assumed that Gramsci, some of whose works I have read, wrote in Italian. His word for poor people, downtrodden people or those who he imagines are not normally portrayed in literature, must have been mistranslated by some fool as "subaltern". Why it was then adopted by reviewers is hard to explain. Would the poorer characters in Chaucer or in Shakespeare (think of Nick Bottom and the mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream) or the hundreds that throng Dickens' work be labelled "Subalterns?"
All very confusing.
It goes without saying that when Indians or Pakistanis write in English they have to transliterate the language of some characters who would not in the normal course of life speak it. So the Indian writer in English, be he Salman Rushdie or V.S. Naipaul, has to invent an idiom to represent the Marathi, Tamil or whatever. It is perfectly legitimate for a critic to say that the transliteration or the representation of the lilt and idiom of such representative dialogue is superb or unconvincing.
My own humble contribution to such a judgment is that very many of the Indian writers in English I have read are cloth-eared.
Their representation in English of characters who don't speak it is sometimes stereotypical in the manner of Peter Sellers and sometimes just grotesque.
The writer who did it brilliantly and still stands out for this achievement was Rudyard Kipling. If you don't accept that, read the scene in the railway carriage from Kim again and repent or marvel or both.






Justice Soumitra Sen seems all set to be impeached. In a historic move, the Rajya Sabha in an overwhelming majority has supported the impeachment of the judge for misappropriating funds. And since all political parties except one are unanimous in demanding his removal against the backdrop of a humongous mass movement against corruption, the motion is likely to be passed in the Lok Sabha too.

Which would make Justice Sen the first judge to be impeached. The judge says he is being made a sacrificial lamb to show that the judiciary is being cleansed.
Sure, the unprecedented groundswell of protest against corruption makes it difficult for the government to continue its culture of apathy and impunity at this moment. So Justice Sen, like several others supposedly involved in financial scams, from Suresh Kalmadi to A. Raja, may be paying for what people in power usually get away with. With mass protests erupting all over the country with a stoutly starving Gandhian at the helm, the public mood cannot be ignored anymore.
When Anna Hazare was arrested from my neighbourhood early Tuesday morning, the response was electrifying. "Jail bharo!" shouted enraged men and women of all ages, swarming police barricades, trying to court arrest. "Inquilab zindabad!" rent the early morning air. The common Indian was out on the streets, pulling out rusty slogans from the folds of history and using them as the sharpest weapons of democracy. Social networking sites pitched in, and the second phase of this huge country-wide mass movement burst into the political scene. The protests are going on, day and night, in neighbourhoods, public places, distant cities; in little pockets or large swarms, with or without candles, with or without banners, with or without political activists. It is a real mass movement. Which is forcing a callous and imperious government to be receptive to the people's demands. Routine sarkari highhandedness failed to handle this wave of emotion on the streets. The sarkar had tried everything, even accusing the Gandhian of corruption, and every move had fuelled the fire of protest. Now it was time to wake up and smell the outrage. The government decided to kindly adjust.
It is brilliant that the common Indian, accustomed to being ignored, denied rights and entitlements and slapped around, has finally found a voice in Mr Hazare and his team. It is wonderful that the masses can actually have their say and be heard. But this is temporary. This movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill is a fantastic step towards repairing our wounded democracy. But it is just a step. We need to cherish and build on this moment to strengthen our participatory democracy.
For the power of the people comes from numbers. Anna Hazare's muscle is provided by over 13 million people rallying around him across the country. The common Indian's power comes from the formidable army of fellow protesters. And they have come together to fight something that affects each one of them directly. Corruption has eaten into our lives like termites, leaving no one untouched. The fight against corruption is a personal fight for each one of the enraged protesters. And their less active supporters who don't take to the streets.
But not every cause will have this kind of public response. In Manipur, Irom Sharmila has been on a fast for more than a decade to protest Army atrocities in states under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The government has been force-feeding her through a nasal tube to keep her alive and ignoring her demands. It has not tried to stop the violence and abuse of power by the Army against its own citizens. Probably because AFSPA affects some Indians, not all. It doesn't capture the imagination of the whole nation the way corruption does. When the power of the people depends on numbers alone, there is a huge possibility of injustice being ignored.
We not only need a platform for protest, we need recognisable tools that are respected by the government, and most importantly we need the sensitivity suitable for the world's largest democracy. Without these, we cannot stop our desperation from sliding into riots and insurgency. Instead of steadily increasing spending on internal security, the government may wish to address grievances properly and be receptive to the needs of a fair, egalitarian democracy.
But unfortunately, the government's insensitivity defies even internationally-accepted traditional shaming gestures. In Nigeria in 2002, 600 village women had marched against the oil company ChevronTexaco. Threatening to strip naked to disgrace the company, they had demanded water, healthcare, jobs, education and other development basics. ChevronTexaco had agreed, thereby finally sharing the country's wealth with its poor. In India in 2004, dozens of naked, middle-aged Manipuri women marched behind a banner saying: "Indian Army: Rape Us". The Army had raped, tortured and killed Thangiam Manorama, 32, branding her a militant. The photograph of these furious women in national dailies had focused the nation's attention on Army atrocities in Manipur. Like the Nigerians, they had used their bodies as weapons to shame the tormentor and demand specific change. Unlike the Nigerians, they failed. Because their protest was not taken seriously enough by the political powers. It shows how little the government cares about its own citizens. No democracy can remain healthy when it ignores its people's miseries and desperation.
The Jan Lokpal movement has given the sarkar a unique opportunity to mend its ways. If the government wants to be truly receptive, as it claims now, it needs to enhance participatory democracy. And that is not built on numbers alone. It should take into consideration the intensity of the emotion fuelling the movement and the reasonableness of its demands, even if it affects a small number of citizens. That would be the yardstick for gauging the real success of Mr Hazare's amazing movement.

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at:






India's Parliament notched a first when the Rajya Sabha passed the impeachment motion against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court by the required two-thirds majority of those present and voting. The Lok Sabha too must return a similar verdict if the logic is to move forward. If it does, then the next step will be for the two Houses to send an address to the President seeking Justice Sen's removal. The judge, who has been accused of corruption, says he will seek to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is not clear at what stage such an option becomes available.

As for the parliamentary aspect of the procedure, the passage of the impeachment motion in the Lower House should be a routine affair if party positions that prevailed in the Rajya Sabha remain unaltered. It is clear that in this case the governing parties and the Opposition benches have by and large agreed to support the impeachment under way. Questions concerning the process remain, however. In India, the last trial by jury occurred in the Nanavati case in Mumbai in the late 1950s. But what happened in the Upper House on Thursday virtually amounts to trial by jury. Members not trained to evaluate facts and points of law were called upon to make an evaluation on a common sense basis of a complex judicial issue. Whether a case of corruption can be sustained in this manner will be open to question. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who is a distinguished practitioner of law, went on record to say that what had transpired in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday was not right. Justice Sen had been cleared by a division bench of the Calcutta high court — upturning a "guilty" verdict by a single-judge bench of the same high court — but this was described in the Upper House as a case of "collusive" judgment. This has irked Mr Chatterjee, and the matter does appear to be prejudicial.
It can be conjectured that in this season, when the mood against corruption has seized the country, the Rajya Sabha found it hard to let Justice Sen go free. The irony is that those who sat in judgment belong to a class which is the first among suspects on the count of corruption and cries for election reforms are commonplace. Justice Sen may well be guilty, but the case needs to be established more clearly, more transparently, in a more informed manner, and under a better-structured process. The allegation of corruption dates back to a time when Justice Sen was a lawyer. This tells us that the process of appointment and dismissal of judges is in need of an overhaul.


Dancing ain't dirty
Mumbai's movers and shakers have suffered a lot lately. Young clubbers who like to dance fear going to discos because the city's guardians — moral and legal — have been coming down on such establishments. There have been many instances of overzealous cops walking into clubs and arresting youngsters for alleged "obscene acts" — dancing. The poor kids have no place to shake their booty, and have to stay at home with boring parents. Politicians and cops have also imposed "guidelines" that have put a dampner on Mumbai's famed nightlife.
But succour has come from the courts. The wise judges of the Bombay high court have ruled that discos can stay open beyond 1.30 am and, more important, that dancing is not necessarily "dirty" and "innocuous dancing" can be permitted.
So is it time to shake a leg in celebration? Not quite. Much more must be done to restore Mumbai's reputation as the city that never sleeps. Going out now has become a chore and a bother. If the cops on every street corner checking for miscreants, potential terrorists or drunk drivers don't deter you, the high prices of food and alcohol will. So while we raise a cheer to the court's verdict, we will be doing it at home. Now if only the judges can make these discos affordable!








The Kashmir visit of an important political personality from the US namely Senator John McCain, has evoked mixed reaction in political circles. In a press conference he gave in New Delhi after returning from Srinagar, he said a few things with which the separatists and their cohorts would not be happy because it is contrary to their expectations. That is the reason why sections of print media pandering to J&K separatist ideology have tried to underplay the impact of his visit. They reckon that McCain is not holding any important official position in the administration or mandate from any influential group of the US. Therefore his comments are at best his personal observations and merit no significance to US' Kashmir policy and perception. No sensible person would want to give more than desirable doze of media hype to the event, but at the same time the visitor's importance in the political formulation of the US and of his visit to Kashmir, cannot be underestimated. On the basis of historicity of Kashmir issue as well as the ground reality obtaining at the moment, his comments, though only succinct have relevance as well as significance.
John McCain was Republican Party's running candidate from Arizona State for the Presidential election in the US in 2008. He lost to Barack Obama. People conversant with the American political culture know that the defeated presidential candidate remains a political heavyweight not only with his party but with the entire political structure. His opinion on national issues and more importantly in national security issues is always given considerable importance. He is convener of many important House Committees and member of many groups directly concerned with the administration. His position as policy planner of his party is hardly challenged. He briefs the President on vital global issues that have a bearing for the United States. Therefore to think that Mr. McCain's succinct remarks have no significance for Kashmir is to adopt ostrich-like attitude.
In regard to Kashmir he has said only one or two things that are important from the point of view of American perspective. He said he is encouraged by improved security situation in Kashmir. This is endorsement of government's policy of handling security situation in Kashmir, a situation created by externally sponsored armed insurgency in 1990. In diplomatic parlance this is clear and unambiguous recognition of terrorism and not so-called freedom struggle raising its head in Kashmir. Second important point that he made is that "Kashmir is an internal issue". That is what has been the policy and stand of the Government of India from the very beginning. This marks a definite shift in the perception of his political party that Kashmir is not a disputed territory but that the incursion made by the neighbouring country has jeopardized normal and administration in Kashmir.
Some commentators are trying to stretch the purpose of the visit to regional dimensions of a bigger conflict going on in Afghanistan and Af-Pak region. No doubt happenings in the contiguous region do have impact on Kashmir but that is not the whole truth. Whosoever among the mainstream political parties in the US is running the administration, the basics of American policy of strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in any country in the world remain stay put. The US is looking at India as the bastion of democracy in the South Asian region, nay in entire Asian region. As such the US has stakes in democratic institutions functioning fine in all parts of India. It has to be noted that New Delhi is making a unique experiment of running democratic dispensation in a Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir which has acceded to India in 1947 for the important reason of Indian Union providing a democratic, secular and egalitarian dispensation. How can the US ignore that indisputable reality? After experiencing how the contiguous regions to the west of Kashmir are becoming a huge morass of violence, mayhem, lawlessness and rabid conservatism, it was naturally reassuring for Mr. McCain to see with his own eyes how Indian State is trying to handle the externally sponsored terrorism and separatism in Kashmir through democratic and humanitarian means. What McCain has said shows that the USA has a far better and realistic understanding of Kashmir issue today that what it was some years ago.







There is a piece of very good news for vast population in Akhnoor-Rajouri-Poonch sector. Member Parliament, Jammu Poonch, Madan Lal Sharma had raised a question in the parliament about providing rail link to this area. In reply the railway minister said that the file in this regard was under consideration of his ministry since quite some time. He conceded that a vast population of the entire sector was looking forward to early Jammu-Akhnoor-Rajauri-Poonch rail link to mitigate the difficulties of connectivity. This is not a difficult terrain and except one or two tunnels, the rest of the topographical scenario favours a direct rail link. This is also an economically backward area. Rail link will boost the economy and open new avenues of employment for the youth. From strategic point of view also the link is of vital importance. We have a long border with PoK along this sector and a rail link would facilitate transportation of goods and quick movement of human beings. Rail link will also open the possibility of setting up profitable industries in the region, for example, the extraction of coal in Kalakot lignite mines. Once Jammu-Poonch rail link is established, the next step may be to extend the link via Mughal Road to Shopian in Kashmir. With that the connectivity prospect in he entire Jammu and Kashmir will assume new shape and dimension. It will immensely contribute to the economic uplift of vast population in the area. When the youth have opportunities for employment and work, they will have strong reason to abjure militancy and fight it out in their own interests. Keeping all this in view, the Railway Ministry should take up this project on priority basis








Irrespective of the outcome of the fast undertaken by Anna Hazare for the enactment of a strong Lok Pal bill to check corruption, one thing is certain that his current agitation will become a text book for any group or political party planning to launch a movement in future as it is the first campaign in India in which all modern means of communication have been extensively used with great impact.
It was the first agitation in which messages on mobile phones, internet and social media like Twitter and face books were used extensively. The use of modern tools of communication brought in participation of the internet savvy youth in the campaign in large numbers. It was no more a search for supporters in rural pockets or packing up people in buses and trucks to bring them to the capital in large numbers to join the protest march. The campaign managers also did not rely on the Railways to transport people in large numbers. The third unique factor of this campaign was minute to minute coverage provided by the electronic channels which made many wonder if it was a T.V led campaign or a civil society program. The result was a qualitative difference in the whom type of crowd that collected outside Tihar Jail where Anna hazare had been taken after his arrest or those who participated in candle march at India Gate and Jantar Mantar in Delhi or in cities across in India.
There was youth, but also concerned citizens like retired servicemen, professionals, housewives and young students many of whom bunked classes, to join the protest. Many were attracted by the curiosity factor and a sense of admiration for Anna Hazare whose appeal has been universal despite clumsy attempts by some Congress leaders who tried to paint him in dark colors. The curiosity about Anna was so overwhelming that majority of the participants did not bother about the cause for which he is agitating.
Lot of support came for Anna Hazare not because people felt that the Lok Pal bill supported by him would end corruption but because they did not approve of the unreasonable conditions imposed on him by Delhi police while undertaking his protest fast. More so over the last few months' corruption has become a real cause for worry for the people with one scandal after the other breaking out with a regularity showing how crores of rupees were being swindled.
One hopes that with Anna Hazare becoming the focal point the cause that is corruption will not be pushed in the background. There is genuine concern as most of the people polled in surveys while expressing support for the movement launched by Anna Hazare were found to be generally ignorant about the contents of the Lok Pal bill prepared by the Civil Society and Anna supporters. With restrictions waived and Anna having come out with flying colors in the first round his subsequent fast at Ramlila grounds will help in better understanding of the issues involved in fighting corruption and how far the institution of Lok pal can help in fighting the same. At the end of it the political parties will also have to take a call on it as the law on the subject will have to be framed by the parliament. The opposition parties which joined Civil Society activists in bashing of the Government will have to take a stand on subjects like inclusion of the members of Parliament, Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court and millions of Government servants under the jurisdiction of the Lok pal and thus create an unmanagable monster who would smack of authoritarianism instead of democratic ethos .
There is a lot which UPA led Government could have done differently instead of scoring self goals as has been the case so far. Some sane voices seem to be prevailing now and it has given up position of being in the role of an adversary to movement against corruption. In this process it has lost much of moral ground. It is true that important issues like fight against corruption cannot be outsourced to some well meaning civil society activists, but at the same time Government also cannot impose unreasonable conditions and deny right of speech and expression of views to public in general.
In this season of free communications, electronic channels providing round the clock coverage and free media all actions have to face public scrutiny and have to be transparent. Agreed there is no magic wand to check corruption but the Government must show its clear resolve and determination to check the same. In the current episode all political parties including opposition have lost credibility and space vacated by them has been occupied by the likes of Anna hazare and Swami Ramdev a serious threat to our Parliamentary form of Government. [NPA]







Sounds odd, but India Inc. is on sale, literally. Come-and-grab-it is the message of the proposed set of guidelines lately unveiled by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Suffice it to say, the new business or corporate takeover policy is not a handiwork of SEBI alone. Several connected government departments and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are believed to have actively contributed to the thought. The idea is to make it easy for foreign investors to take over good listed and widely-held Indian companies. Although this has not been said in so many words, but the targeted companies make it loud and clear. The policy is expected to lead a spate of FDI-led M&A deals.
Not many healthy Indian companies go for acquiring healthy domestic public companies, outside their group entities, through the normal market bidding process. Cash rich Indian companies mostly go for sick or sickly domestic companies having operational synergies for vertical or horizontal business integration or overseas acquisitions. Such corporate acquisitions normally proceed detailed negotiations with banks for loan restructuring and additional working capital facilities for running those companies sought to be taken over. Recent domestic examples include Mahindra (M&M) takeover of Satyam Computers and Jindal Steel's (JSW) acquisition of Ispat India's steel plant at Maharashtra.
Several new features of the SEBI's proposed takeover code make the policy a suspect of its purpose and target. Firstly, under the proposed guidelines, a business entity will be able to buy up to 25 per cent in another company without triggering the mandatory open offer. The present limit for such buying is 15 percent. Next, the acquirer has the option to buy a further 26 per cent in the company through an open offer (20 per cent, as per the existing policy) to fully take over its management. The new policy scraps the non-compete fee. The requirement of a total buy-out of minority shareholders, mandated in developed markets to protect the interest of small stockholders, has been left out to make takeovers further easy. It ignores the concerns of small minority shareholders. Minority shareholders will continue to be shortchanged during takeovers. Most large family managed stock exchange-listed Indian companies, where promoters' share is below 50 per cent, will become vulnerable to acquisition by outsiders or overseas predators.
The country is starved of Dollars. The foreign direct investment inflow (FDI) in corporate equities has dropped alarmingly in the last two years. On the other hand, India's foreign debt has been swelling to well over the RBI's foreign exchange (forex) reserves, first time in several years. The high inflation rate is eating into the vitals of the economy. Consequently, high interest rates on both borrowings and deposits are making corporate equities less attractive. On top of these, the Supreme Court scanner on Indian black money held abroad and their laundering centres, led by Mauritius, has scared away many foreign fund managers, who specialize in channelising these monies. Stock prices are naturally down. Time may just be ripe for overseas corporate raiders to pick up some good Indian companies having weak domestic holding patterns. It appears that the proposed takeover code is almost tailor-made to facilitate and spur such activities.
According to the latest RBI reports, tax-havens account for the biggest sources of FDI funds to India, almost 62 per cent of the annual inflow. Of them, Mauritius alone accounts for 42 per cent. Not surprisingly, an economically-beleaguered island such as Cyprus is also a major source of FDI, routing about four per cent of fund flow into the country. In comparison, the giant USA's contribution of FDI to India is just around seven per cent, less than even tiny Asian neighbor Singapore (nine per cent). Other prominent contributors of FDI to India are: the UK (five per cent), the Netherlands (four per cent), Japan (four per cent), Germany (two per cent), France (two per cent) and the United Arab Emirates (one per cent).
The FDI fund flow in new grass-root projects is dwindling. Honestly speaking, unlike in China, it was never very encouraging in so far as key areas of economy are concerned. Foreign investors have been mostly interested in making easy money in low technology areas and in projects or business acquisitions in soft areas such as soft drinks, fast foods, hi-fashion consumer products, financial and non-financial services. The sector-wise share of FDI investment has been the highest in the services area (21 per cent), followed by computer software and hardware (eight per cent), controversial telecommunications service industry (eight per cent), Housing and real estate (seven per cent), roadways, highways and other constructions (seven per cent), automobile (five per cent), power (five per cent), Metallurgical (three per cent) chemicals other than fertilizers (two per cent) and petroleum and natural gas (two per cent). The rest 32 per cent are in sundry areas, all below two per cent each.
There is hardly any foreign investment interest or FDI in critical high-tech equipment manufacturing. Power plants, telecom service providers, automobile manufacturers, mining operators, large construction companies, defence services, civil aviation, infotech industry, oil and natural gas exploration companies etc. are heavily dependent on imported hardware and technology. Overseas hardware firms, makers of critical industrial and defence equipment and manufacturers of micro-chips, have mostly avoided India to set up hubs despite a growing demand for these products in the country.
The FDI inflow, which started with a bang in 2001-02 showing a 52 per cent growth over the previous year, reached its peak in 2006-07 as it clocked a 146 per cent rise over 2005-06. The growth rate fell sharply to 53 per cent in 2007-08 and, thereafter, to nine per cent in 2008-09 and finally in the negative in the last two years. In 2010-11, the FDI inflow dropped by as much as 25 per cent over 2009-10. During the first two months of the current year, the flow of foreign capital in the primary market nosedived by 38 per cent. Simultaneously, the current volatile Indian secondary (stock) market has ensured steady outflow of hot money and uncertainty over FII inflows (non-FDI). RBI records show a combined FDI in Indian equity along with reinvested earnings and other capital between the years 2000 and February, 2011, at USD 193.74 billion.
Obviously, the SEBI has little choice but to offer new baits under which foreign investors are lured into acquisitions of existing profit-making Indian companies no matter even if they kill efficient Indian enterprise. Drugs and pharmaceutical firms, companies in entertainment business, power generating outfits, financial services firms, primary metals, cement and ceramic firms, chemicals, textile, processed foods and retail firms could be easy foreign takeover targets after the new takeover guidelines come into effect. More foreign takeover of Indian companies will no doubt improve the RBI's forex reserves in the short run. But, then, does anyone in the government truly care what impact such a policy would bear upon the Indian enterprise and Indian pride on the country's long term economic interest? It may not be wrong to believe that the country is no longer interested in protecting the interest of domestic enterprises and those hardworking and innovative entrepreneurs behind them.
The dollar scare is probably haunting the Union Government more than the 2G spectrum allocation scam. International borrowing is not a preferred option for the debt-ridden government, which spends about 50 per cent of its annual budget on debt servicing. An FDI inflow of USD35-40 billion per year is considered to be a crying need of the government. This explains the proposed changes in the corporate takeover code. Whether it will help achieve the desired objective is not easy to forecast under the current business and political environment. (IPA)








India has selected two multi-role combat fighters, namely, Eurofighters and Typhoon, but the final choice will be made in December. To begin with out of 126 fighters at the cost of $ 10.4 billion, India will buy out of shelf 48 ready to fly, and the rest will be assembled at Hindustan Aeronautical at Bangalore. Meanwhile, Mirage- 2000 will be upgraded by French manufacturers at the cost of $ 4.3 billion. The intriguing part of the acquisitions is that by the time all 126 fighters are delivered in a phased manner these may become obsolete. Probably, the defence ministry has not taken into consideration these factors for reasons well known to IAF top brass. Many defence experts have opined that instead of such deals India should buy more Sukhoi-MKI, and wait for sometime for the fifth generation stealth fighters for which it has entered into agreement with Russia. The stealth fighters are likely to be operational by 2017-18, at the same time the entire fleet of multi-role combat fighters will be delivered to IAF.
Given that the IAF will operate its 126 MMRCAs till about 2050, anything short of today's cutting edge would become irrelevant long before that. Broadly speaking, the critics' arguments were that the stealth fighters will not fulfil the role of MMRCA is partly true and partly convoluted. The stealth fighters as Russians claim will be capable of both striking ground targets and also will have bombing capacity deep inside enemy targets in the radius of 5000 km.
What are India's foreseeable security threats and how must the IAF respond? While Pakistan remains a lingering hangover, especially in its embrace of cross-border terrorism, it is diminishing as a full-blown military threat to India. The IAF's most likely missions against Pakistan centre on air-to-ground strikes: punitive raids against terrorist camps or ISI locations, perhaps in retaliation for yet another terrorist outrage; or pre-emptive strikes against Pakistani ballistic missiles when a nuclear launch against India seems imminent.
A devastating ground strike capability is also primary for contingencies on the China border. With Beijing relentlessly developing roads and railways to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has already built, and is increasing the ability to amass an invading force faster than the Indian Army can rush in troops to defend the threatened area.
With an attack imminent, or some Indian territory already captured, New Delhi's immediate response will inevitably centre on air strikes against PLA forward troops and the routes on which their logistics - ammunition, fuel, food, water and medical care - depend. In the 1962 debacle, one of New Delhi's most unforgivable, and inexplicable, blunders was to abjure the use of air power. This time around, as evident from the rapid creation of IAF infrastructure along the China border, India's first response will be with air strikes.
Given these requirements, it is evident that the IAF needs powerful ground strike capabilities. But the fighter pilots who dominate the pinnacle of the IAF have a special fascination for air supremacy fighters. The IAF has traditionally focused less on enemy ground troops and more on that fighter-jock ambition, shooting down enemy fighters in air-to-air duels.
The IAF's emphasises air-to-air combat capabilities - speed, rate of climb, turn rate, etc. - with ground strike capability a mere side benefit. Already deficient in air-to-ground strike power, the IAF's two major fighters under development - the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) - are primarily air supremacy fighters. The third fighter in the pipeline, the MMRCA, cannot share the same bloodline.
To mask its ideological proclivity for air superiority fighters, the IAF argues that the "multi-role" MMRCA can also strike enemy ground forces. Strike it can, but nowhere as effectively as stealth fighters.
The army has not forgotten the IAF's irrelevance during the Kargil conflict. When IAF fighters should have been supporting assaulting infantry by hammering Pakistani positions with air strikes, fire support came almost exclusively from the army's own guns. Meanwhile, the IAF was searching for a way to equip its Mirage-2000s (an MMRCA!) to deliver bombs accurately onto mountaintops. Without a world-class, customised strike fighter like the stealth this sorry saga could be replayed some day on the Sino-Indian border.
The basic argument for the stealth fighters remains Indian self-interest. Tomorrow's IAF must be a comprehensively 5th Generation force, using custom-designed aircraft for specific operational tasks. In the US Air Force, the F-22 Raptor obtains air superiority; meanwhile, US ground forces are supported by the F-35 joint strike fighter. The IAF cannot fall short on either of these counts. With the 5th Generation FGFA, an air superiority fighter, perhaps a decade away, the IAF must obtain a war-winning advantage from matching strike fighters. (INAV)



******************************************************************************************THE TRIBUNE





The process to impeach Justice Soumitra Sen has begun with the Rajya Sabha passing the motion. The debate was of high standard and showed the in-house legal eagles, including Arun Jaitley and Ram Jethmalani, had done their home work. Justice Sen has been charged with misappropriating money and misrepresenting facts about the misuse of money. He argued that his conduct as a judge was not under examination and the charges pertained to his role as a receiver of the Calcutta High Court.


If the Lok Sabha too passes the motion, Justice Sen may well become the first judge to get impeached in India's legal history. In 1993 a motion to impeach Justice V. Ramaswami, a judge of the Supreme Court, was moved but the Congress under P.V. Narasimha Rao did not issue the whip and Congressmen stayed away, enabling the motion to collapse. In the present charged scenario when everyone is talking of fighting corruption the MPs could not let an apparently guilty judge to get away without punishment. However, given politicians' indulgence in and tolerance of corruption, Justice Sen is a small fry. But a judge, like Caesar's wife, has to be above suspicion.


Jaitley and Sitaram Yechuri also used the occasion to attack judicial overreach. The frequent executive-judiciary turf war and procedural delays in removing a judge of doubtful integrity raise a question whether the present system needs a change. Judges accused of malpractices no longer resign on their own to maintain the dignity of the office they hold. Having the knowledge of weaknesses and loopholes in the judicial system and encouraged by Justice Ramaswami's easy escape, they like to put up a fight. Also important is the question: How do such persons get appointed to top posts? The appointment and removal of members of the higher judiciary need to be re-examined to ensure fairness in selections and dismissal without delay. The judiciary must clean up its act on its own to avoid political interference.









There was considerable confusion over the implementation of the Supreme Court's October 14, 2008, order about cut-off marks for OBC students, which has finally been cleared. Various central educational institutions were applying different yardsticks for admitting OBC candidates. Several central universities had adopted the practice of determining the minimum eligibility/qualifying marks for admission of OBC students with reference to marks secured by the last candidate under the general category. Due to this anomaly, many OBC seats remained unfilled and got diverted to the general category.


The court has now clarified that a factor (the marks of the last candidate in the general category) which is neither known nor ascertained at the time of declaring the admission programme cannot be used to disentitle a candidate to admission, who is otherwise entitled. At the same time, the apex court has also refused to lower the bar for OBC students further than 10 per cent, considering that they are "far better placed economically and socially than SCs/STs". Indeed, lowering the qualifying marks further would have led to a large disparity with the general candidates, thus affecting the excellence of higher education.


Equally significant is the court's order that an OBC seat cannot be converted into a general category one when an eligible OBC candidate is available. But to ensure that there is no confusion in admissions for 2011-12, the court has said that this judgement will not disturb central educational institutions which have already decided the minimum eligibility marks for OBCs based on the marks scored by the last candidate in the general category. Nor has it intervened in those cases where any unfilled OBC seats have already been allotted to general category students. That means that the re-defined provisions will be applicable fully only from the next academic session. 















Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad is under intense pressure from various quarters to resign and pave the way for a democratic system of government in his country. His blatant use of force to control the rebellion against his dictatorial regime has made the situation worse for him. The killing and torture of a large number of protesting Syrians has led to US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union clearly telling him that he has forfeited his right to rule Syria. Their strong message came after three Arab rulers — of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait — issued a virtual ultimatum to the Syrian ruler to quit or "face defeat". Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had asked the Syrian President to end all military operations against the opponents of his regime.


Encouraged by the cataclysmic happenings in Egypt and Tunisia, and the threatened survival of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Syrians in large numbers have been protesting against the rule of President Bashar Al-Assad since March but in vain. Now, it seems, his days are numbered. Washington DC has imposed crippling sanctions, freezing all assets of the Syrian government in the US. The UN has recommended that the Syrian regime must be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation into the atrocities it has committed against the protesting Syrians. However, the most serious blow to the Syrian President is the stand taken by the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. They have recalled their ambassadors from Damascus.


The three Arab rulers joining Western leaders in tightening the noose around the neck of President Bashar Al-Assad has exposed the sectarian character of the deepening crisis in Syria. The Syrian leader, who inherited power from his father, Hafez Al-Assad, is a Shia, belonging to an Alawite clan. The Alawite regime has been ruthless in handling any kind of resentment by the majority Sunnis. But today the Sunnis are not prepared to give up their fight because of the prevailing favourable atmosphere in the region. It seems Syria is heading for a regime change as it happened in Egypt and Tunisia.









Whenever there is a little economic wobble, the RBI informs us that the country's "fundamentals are good, but…" The same must be said of the current state of governance, a term that is wider than just government per se. The democratic ethos is well rooted despite flaws and distortions; the country is more united and stable than before; poverty and disparities remain but we are a somewhat better off and less inegalitarian society than before. We are trailing many other nations that took the road to development and modernisation after us. True, but exclude China, and India is at 1220 million and with its myriad diversities, larger than and as or more complex than all of Asia, Africa or Europe or the Americas.


However, the "but" remains and, like a virus, must be eliminated from the system before it consumes the body-politic. A random listing of negative reports over the past fortnight illustrates the point.


False encounter killings have been declared cold-blooded murder by the courts which would punish these with death as "rarest of rare cases". Rajiv Gandhi's killers' mercy pleas have been rejected by the President, 20 years after his assassination and a decade after death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court. The Home Ministry has now advised the President to reject the mercy petition of Afzal Guru, involved in the 2002 attack on Parliament House. Why mercy petitions should take many long years to decide and allowed to become a political football defies understanding.


The so-called queueing system for the disposal of mercy petitions seems very bureaucratic and the notion that it is for the government to dispose of petitions and for the President only to announce that verdict appears perverse. The government may advise, but surely the final decision should rest with the President in her discretion. Disposal should not take more than a few months at most.


The agitations and appeals to courts to stay the screening of Prakash Jha's film "Aarakshan" (Reservations), after clearance by the Film Certification Board, is another case of agitators threatening mob violence and muzzling freedom of expression - films, books, art, anything. Protest is one thing, violence quite another. Should the State cow down to thugs and bullies? The film is not anti-reservation, and arguments that there are no Dalit actors and actresses in Bollywood are no defence to extra-constitutional behaviour even by avowedly disadvantaged and oppressed communities. The SC Commission, which raised some objections (that Jha has said he will address), is a pretty supine body that successive governments have been content to keep that way. The Dalits have a strong case and deserve every sympathy and public support, but censoring films does nobody any good.


Members of the Sachar panel on the Muslim condition in India are fast losing heart that their salient recommendations — an Equal Opportunity Commission and the compilation of a Diversity Index, to target all backward communities with educational and other official promotional efforts — will be implemented any time soon. It appears to have got lost in crude vote-bank politics.


The lingering burden of vicarious "guilt" for the victimhood Hindutva groups still feel as a result of Mohammad Ghouri's invasion, and Partition continues to weigh heavily on Muslim Indians in many parts of the country. The prime victims of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 were Muslims who continue to be denied justice. The investigations and prosecution of post-Godhra cases were so biassed that the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court had repeatedly to intervene to secure a semblance of the due process. But now that exposures are cutting too close to the bone, the Gujarat government has begun a blatant administrative vendetta against honest officials who stood their ground, spoke the truth before the Nanavati Commission and SIT's, and turned whistle-blowers.


Sanjay Bhatt, Rahul Sharma and other upright IPS officers are now being hounded on frivolous grounds to shield Narendra Modi, around whom the net appears to be closing. The Home Minister has said that should these officers approach the Centre, the Union has the power to intervene, as it is the cadre-controlling authority of all-India service personnel who are also against any undermining of states' rights and federalism. This is an unsustainable argument. One only needs to recall Modi's infamous official broadcast statement over Prasar Bharati days after the holocaust that those who seek peace should not ask for justice. What a Faustian bargain!


Meanwhile, the Surat police is reportedly conducting a census of masjids and madarsas in the city, including information on maulvis, students and their denominations, affiliations, visitors and family connections. Hotels, restaurants and cyber cafes are being similarly surveyed. The city's police commissioner says this data bank will enable the authorities swiftly to contact the appropriate person as and when required. This appears a sinister, community-selective survey. A similar survey of Christians was conducted by the BJP government in parts of Madhya Pradesh some time ago. None of these activities appear entirely innocent to the communities concerned.


In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati's spending spree on refurbishing her residence matches her scandalous extravagance at state expense on memorials and mausoleums to Dalit heroes. She is now busy registering and withdrawing cases to wound or woe MLAs and others and ensure "loyalty".


The BJP continues to pursue various scams - as it should - but is again back to disrupting Parliament and not allowing the two Houses to proceed with the business before them despite being promised time to air their particular grievances. This is gross abuse of privilege and an assault on parliamentary democracy no less than Afzal Guru's. Worse, on an appeal by UPA floor leaders for cooperation, the BJP's lofty response is that they will decide this issue by issue, day by day.


Having criticised all and sundry in turn, Congress MPs have joined the rest in demanding the restoration of red beacon lights atop their cars to gain the right of way in Delhi in keeping with their exalted status and the urgency of their errands.The poet's comment was that "If everybody got their deserts, then who should escape whipping" !


The mollycoddling and ruination of Air India is a sad finale to the story of the once-proud Maharaja. Officials and staff have battened on the airline and brought it to its knees. Air India is best wound up and started afresh under private auspices as a commercial carrier.


The tale of bungling, delays and infructuous expenditure on the Katra-Qazigund Rail Project in J&K now coming out appears to be another case of lack of proper surveys and technical studies , coordination and oversight. Lalu Prasad and Mamta Bannerjee were too busy to notice or care.


As Anna Hazare readies to tilt with windmills in "India's second war of independence", India has got its comeuppance in cricket. Commerce, endorsements, hunts for Bharat Ratnas and individual records and the BCCI's greed overwhelmed every other consideration. Media hype ensured disaster.


This is the time to cure those "buts".








In the natural state, wine has no colour; neither red nor white and certainly not pink. And true wines do not "sparkle". When allowed to age adequately, they do become faintly golden. The Nirvana Biosys launch of the "Sherose Sparkling Wine" and that too pink in colour for the feminine touch, was a fancy, marketing ploy! Also is not Sherose onomatopoeic with the ages old brand name Shiraz which besides being the town of the Persian Sufi poet and wine aficionado, Saadi, is also the favored variety of grapes, of all wine-makers?


To return to the colours of wine, the truth is that when grapes of any variety (Green or Red) are squashed, the resultant liquid is simply "clear" which for convenience is termed white. However, over time the wine-makers learnt that, if the squashed detritus of the red grapes is allowed to mingle with the grape extract during the fermentation process, the emergent produce becomes red. Now, experienced producers can control the colour tint to rose or blush or even purple through varying the period of contact, between the red grape skin-sludge and the juice-extract, during the fermentation period. But the sole exception to all this is the wine made from rose petals which alone turns pink naturally on fermentation but is a rarity because the rose harvest is too meagre for mass production.


The sparkle in a wine is yet ingenuity. The vintners merely carbonate the white wine at a predetermined stage of fermentation which triggers the sparkle element and so promotes the white wine to the league of champagne! However, like the genie, the sparkle has to be kept shut inside the bottle which demands the walls of the champagne bottle be of a much thicker glass and have a sturdy cork-plug, almost the length of its neck. To further ensure that the sparkle remains captive, the bottles are stored horizontally always, thus facilitating the cork-stopper to remain moist, expand and remain an air-tight plug. Any wonder that champagne should be so expensive? And that when eased, the plug flies out with a loud bang and if misdirected, could shatter a window-pane or worse blind a fellow bibber!


Of course the gypsies of Romania will tell you that all this is prattle; what matters is simply the wine:


Fine, fine tastes the Red wine,


When one is twenty, and ready for love.


Fine, fine tastes the Red wine,


When one is thirty and full of love.


But when older, and alas, a bit colder,


All that remains is


The Red wine, The Red wine, The Red wine!









Operation Bluestar was over. The detained Akali leaders were released in March and April, 1985, after 14 months of detention. The time was ripe for peace. The state had been under President's rule for seventeen months since October 6, 1983. The president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, received a letter from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the 17th of July inviting him for talks on the 23rd of July in Delhi.


Negotiations had been going on with the detained Akali leaders even while they were under detention. The parameters under which the talks were to be held were announced by the Prime Minister when he visited the Martyrs' Memorial at Hussainiwala on the 24th of March. They were specific: "We are prepared to do anything within the ambit of the Constitution".


Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, as was his nature, conferred with Parkash Singh Badal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Both refused to accompany him for the talks. Surjit Singh Barnala and Balwant Singh were the two senior Akali leaders who agreed.


How the dilemma over talks was resolved


Unsure of whether he should go without the two, the Sant spent an uneasy night. In the morning when he went to his Gurdwara Sahib and took a "waak", the first lines were "Hoye ikkattar, milo mere bhai/Duvida chhadh, karam liv layee" (Come and gather together, O my brothers/Dispel your dilemma, and give yourself to the task at hand). He immediately wrote back to the Prime Minister accepting his invitation for talks.


The meeting took place at 10 in the morning of 23rd July, 1985, and the Rajiv-Longowal accord, covering eleven points, was signed the following day, the 24th. Those who opposed the accord continue to harp on the fact that it has not been implemented in full, thereby justifying their action. That is true as events overtook the accord.


However had Badal, Tohra and their factions stood by Longowal, a fully unified Akali Dal backing its president, in all probability the implementation would have been complete. What came instead was terror for ten years and social and economic misery for the state with over 35,000 Punjabis being killed.


Sant Harchand Singh was a soft-spoken and peace-loving man. He was shy and spoke very reservedly. He was not known to be decisive and relied on Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Parkash Singh Badal for consensus on an issue. He belonged to Gidariani village in Sangrur district, which at one time belonged to my maternal grandfather. He called my mother "Bhuaji".


As a young man he shifted to Longowal to look after the "Chulas" of Baba Ala Singh, the founder of Patiala state, which is perhaps why he was more free with me. His views about Tohra were that he was sly and mischievous and that Badal was a coward, a trait which made him indecisive.


Dithering and politics of survival


Before Operation Bluestar, while I was in the negotiating loop, many a time issues were on the verge of being resolved till Badal characteristically dithered. On some occasions even Tohra could not make him change his mind. His primary concern was always his life, and secondary, that a solution should emerge which ensured his return as Chief Minister of the state. This had been his modus-operandi throughout his political life.


Close to an election, "morchas" were announced, on any pretext. Successive governments then resorted to maintaining peace, and in the ensuing clash Badal would spend a couple of months in detention in some peaceable surroundings, while thousands of simple people from our towns and villages would be subjected to police firing, severe lathi-charge and incarceration in jail for long periods. He would then come out as a hero to take up the post of Chief Minister.


"Punjabi Suba", of which Badal was one of the architects in 1966, destroyed Punjab. It was perhaps the first time in history that a political party would demolish its own state to achieve a communal majority, a Sikh majority, solely with a political objective – to enable the Akalis, on occasions, to form a government.


What did people gain from Punjabi suba?


This myopic approach reached a crescendo and the Government of India gave the Akalis what they wanted. With the creation of "Punjabi Suba" Punjab lost its mountains to Himachal Pradesh, and with it our forest wealth, hydro-electric and tourist potential. We lost our industrial belt of Faridabad and Gurgaon to the new state called Haryana, which was carved out of Punjab along with 80 lakh acres of prime agricultural land.


In 1973 the Anandpur Sahib resolution was drafted and it dictated Akali Dal policy in 1978. The salient demands mentioned in the resolution were a higher allocation of river waters and the transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas of Haryana to Punjab.


The first water agreement, the Indira Gandhi award, came about in 1976 simply because there was nothing to disagree about as everything earlier belonged to Punjab. The Sutlej river enters India form Tibet through the Shipki La gorge, which was in Punjab. The Beas has its origin in Kulu district and the Chenab in the Lahul and Spiti district, both belonged to Punjab. If the Akalis now want more river waters, why were these given away by them in the first place?


Chandigarh belonged to Punjab. Why was a situation created which took the city and all the villages of the Union Territory away from us? The Punjabi-speaking areas of the entire Punjab were ours as also the rest of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Was it worth giving these all away? The political ambitions of Mr Badal and the SAD prevailed over the interests of the state and the future of our people.


Between 2007-8 and 2009-10 Punjab's economy grew at an average of 6.6 per cent, that of Haryana at 8.03 per cent. In 2010-11 the Haryana growth rate touched 9 per cent. In per capita income the growth rate of Haryana grew at 11 per cent while that of Punjab lagged behind at 5.9 per cent. We have no industry worth the name. There is no future for the 47 lakh unemployed young boys and girls as Punjab's economy remains stagnant and mired in economic distress.


Punjab, once so very carefully planned and developed by the visionary Chief Minister, Partap Singh Kairon, who wanted a "Maha Punjab", is in ruins today. What did we get in return? The dubious distinction of having Badal four times as Chief Minister? And each time to head a non-performing government!


If today Punjab stands on the abyss of economic ruin with non-existent industry, a stagnant agriculture and 47

lakh youth unemployed out of a population of 2.72 crore, and a government and guaranteed debt burden of Rs 1.7 lakh crore, someone has to answer for it.


Political instability over these four decades since the Punjabi Suba agitation in 1965 has taken the state, a solvent and growth-oriented Punjab, to the brink of insolvency. This is the result of Mr Badal's 40-year dominance of the leadership of the SAD, and as a consequence, his contribution to the present state of affairs.


A number of books have recorded these events, and when a dispassionate history of that period is finally recorded, it would certainly indict these two, as have contemporary historians done so far, by passing a harsh judgement.


History won't forgive those who let down punjab


Sant Longowal died what he stood for – peace. He was shot dead on the 20th of August at Sherpur village in Sangrur district. A simple man, a good man, who died in an attempt to stop bloodshed in the state! The irony is that those who showed courage are gone, while others who opposed him live to prosper politically and otherwise in the era of peace that finally came to the state to which they contributed nothing.


After Sant Harchand Singh, former Finance Minister Balwant Singh, who showed both courage and foresight, succumbed to an assassin's bullet some years later. Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, deeply involved with the late Sant Longowal, is well aware of the role played by these two small men in high places. The last to die for peace in Punjab was our Chief Minister Beant Singh.


Had Badal possessed the quality of leadership required at the critical moment in our history, had he risen above fear and supported Longowal in his attempt to bring about peace in Punjab, perhaps Santji would have been with us today, perhaps peace would have come much earlier and the ten years of terror and bloodshed that brought the state to its knees would have been avoided. The legacy of Sant Longowal will live on in a peaceful Punjab. It is not for the Badals of this world to make an attempt to usurp it.


The writer is the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and a former Chief Minister of Punjab









Anna Hazare was arrested preemptively on the morning of August 16 and lodged in Tihar jail. He was released the same evening, but he refused to leave the premises. His fast had begun. Two days later, in an operation worthy of a James Bond movie, the veritable Dr Kiran Bedi, managed to sneak out a video statement of Anna to the nation. In that video, Anna appeared to be fully fit, beaming energetically, and conveyed an emphatic message. The agitation must go on.


He reminded everyone, especially the youth, that the mass protests were not because of him, or because he was in prison. It was because of corruption. "Corruption is so stifling" He said. You need a bribe for everything. For a ration card, for school admission, for a caste certificate, everything. "This is why prices are rising", said Anna. This pithy statement from the Gandhian should wake up the inflation fighters.


No official policy analysis or statement, neither from the Reserve Bank of India, nor from the Finance Ministry has mentioned, that corruption might be a contributory factor. (By contrast, the Election Commission (EC) routinely mentions, and laments the increasingly sinister influence of money power, and the flow of illegal funds during elections.)

India has been struggling with high inflation for almost three years. In our entire post independent history, we have not witnessed such sustained prevalence of broad-based inflation which has been so persistent.


It seemed initially confined to food products, especially pulses, eggs and poultry (the so called "protein inflation"), but very soon it spread to everything from industrial commodities, to fuel, sugar, and even to services like tuition fees, doctor's bills or taxi fares.


The RBI has been trying vainly to contain inflationary expectations by tightening money supply, in the hope that less money in circulation will cause prices to dampen. But no such luck, as yet. The global recession, the downgrade of US bonds, continuing unemployment in Europe and America, doesn't seem to be reducing inflation in India.


It took Anna to point out something obvious. If bribery is rampant, then the cash economy is not only flourishing, but expanding.


It cannot be completely hidden or inscrutable, because the notes are printed by the RBI. The RBI's own data shows that cash in circulation grew at an alarming rate which was 300 per cent more than in previous years. This is called "cash leakage" by monetary economists.

Cash leakage peaks whenever elections take place. The EC now insists that separate bank accounts be opened, to track candidate expenses.


More than 8,000 candidates stood for elections in 2009, for the fifteenth Lok Sabha. If you believe their filed expense statements, except for just four of them, nobody breached the expense ceiling of Rs 40 lakh. Most of them did not spend even half the permitted limit. But anecdotally we know that a lot of illegal cash was flowing, nay, overflowing in the system.

The same story applies to the five Vidhan Sabha elections of this year. The official limit was Rs 25 lakh per candidate, but the amount actually spent (as per the officially submitted expenses) was much below Rs 25 lakh. But cash leakage is huge.

Beyond elections, there are also the kickback payments in various scams. There is also the "black" component in real estate and housing. Anyone who buys a flat with black money cannot sell without recovering his "black component". The chain of black money cannot be broken easily.


On the day Anna made this connection, a Navi Mumbai college revealed that capitation fee for a post graduate seat in medicine was Rs 1.7 crore. Inflation and corruption, is there a link? If so, where do you stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill?


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The United States federal government and the country's generic (out of patent) drug industry are reportedly close to an agreement under which the latter will pay $300 million in annual fees for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inspect at least once in two years overseas plants from where active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for generic drugs sold in the US are imported. This is important for two reasons. One, 75 per cent of all prescription medicines sold in the US are generics and 80 per cent of the APIs used in all medicines are imported, mostly from India and China. Two, the cost-cutting healthcare reforms that the Obama administration has initiated would entail greater use of generic drugs. The new funding mechanism should speed up the approval process for marketing new products. The new fees are part of a package that also covers branded drugs and medical devices. Both the industry and the regulator have agreed on this financial proposal, so the US Congress is expected to pass it quickly.

Interestingly, the Indian pharmaceutical industry, which has a large number of FDA-approved production facilities and is the foremost exporter of quality generics to the US, has not been told about this proposal yet. Clearly, there is a huge lack of clarity. It is in the dark about the details of the fee structure. Will it be per inspection or per product? It also does not know how the fees will be shared between US manufacturing and importing interests and Indian manufacturer-exporters. Sources indicate that they will be happy to bear their share of the burden if it is done equitably. Otherwise, the fees will amount to a new non-tariff barrier. They can also be used as a weapon in intellectual property disputes. One US manufacturer speaks of the need to keep "falsified" drugs out. What on earth is this animal? Is it patent infringement or substandard and/or spurious medicines? There is a world of difference between the two.

Ideally, India should actively strive to build its own regulatory mechanism to ensure its pharmaceutical companies follow good manufacturing practices — which are as good as the best in the world. The whole Indian pharmaceutical story rests on the claim to marry high quality with low cost. But before it can be made possible, if the regulator of the number one importer makes its inspection and certification of Indian facilities more rigorous then it should be welcomed. The more better practices are mandated, the greater will be the spread of such a culture, which will also benefit Indian consumers. The process is akin to the role played by research and development facilities set up in India by global firms. The fruit of the effort is booked in a country where the company is incorporated, but India gains through the spread of skills and best practices. Finally, it is odd that an individual US industry must pay for the cost of policing it when the US treasury should pay for what needs to be done to protect its consumers. As stated earlier, this can lead to a cozy relationship between the industry and the regulator.






The news of a meeting of minds between the Union finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the government's policy on issuing licences to new private sector banks has been widely welcomed. India needs new banks and a transparent and robust policy framework will boost public confidence in the licensing process. Given the heightened public concern about transparent licensing procedures, it is most unlikely that the government and the central bank would do anything to invite criticism. Although the final policy framework will be made public next week, information suggests that the minimum capital requirement for a new bank would be Rs 1,000 crore, of which the promoters' contribution is expected to be fixed at 40 per cent, to be brought down over a 10-year period to half that. As several analysts have noted, the guiding principle for both minimum capital required and the ceiling on promoters' quota should be that they are consistent with existing and widely acceptable risk management norms. The new policy framework is also expected to limit foreign shareholding in new banks to 49 per cent. In defining policy on this issue, the central bank may consider the suggestion made by some analysts that the definition of "foreign shareholding" should include, rather than exclude, the category of non-resident Indians. In other words, anyone permanently residing outside India should be classified into one category of "foreign investors", for both investment and taxation purposes.

The most contentious and controversial issue relating to the policy on new private banks remains the question of whether "large industrial houses" should be allowed to own new banks. The existing policy, defined at the time of bank nationalisation in 1969 and subsequently tweaked, disallows it. There is neither global uniformity on the issue nor an accepted "best practice". Global experience does not establish that there is anything inherently right or wrong about permitting industrial houses to own banks. However, there is no pressing reason for the government to revisit the existing policy at this point in time. It has been reported that the Union finance ministry would like to liberalise the policy, with riders and caveats that would disallow companies in areas like real estate from investing in banking. It is best to leave the matter to the central bank's judgement, which is capable of defining who is a "fit and proper" applicant and what constitutes a "fit and proper" criterion for granting bank licences. The central bank would naturally consider issues like concentration of business power, the need for checks and balances even in the private sector, and the need to identify credible private sector entities that have the resources to set up and run a bank. There are ways in which the power and control that can be exercised by private owners over banks can be restricted and RBI has pointed to this in its original discussion paper. The central bank is the best judge of its capability to regulate, monitor and punish large private sector entities, and should base its policy on an objective assessment of its own capabilities to regulate the private sector.






The government deserves every bit of the stick it has been getting on the corruption issue. First it allowed ministers and others to run amok and swindle thousands of crores of rupees, then it refused to take action until its hand was forced, tried to shoot those holding up a candle to the misdeeds (the Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG, the media, judges, and of course Anna Hazare), suggested dark conspiracies against the country, and served up a Lok Pal Bill that did not measure up. Even now, it seems to have no conviction in the steps it is taking to deal with the widespread public outrage. Sheila Dikshit is allowed to brazen it out after the CAG has indicted her and her government on the Commonwealth Games, even as other scandals wait to get their share of attention — like the manner in which bilateral aviation rights were handed out to West Asian and other airlines when Praful Patel was civil aviation minister. So while it is true that Anna Hazare is stubborn to the point of unreasonableness on some contentious issues regarding the Lok Pal Bill, and may even be an unintended stalking horse for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the government gets no purchase when it makes even reasonable points. Think credibility gap — for which the government has only itself to blame.

But while corruption is both an important and an urgent issue, the country should be giving more thought to the evolving economic situation, which is certainly more important and is becoming more urgent as well. The worries about where the leading western economies are headed have reached new levels this past week, with talk of banks catching a virus — and reviving fears of a 2008 reprise. The stock markets have tanked in every country, and the Sensex is where it was four years ago. Unlike then, it is now on its way down. While the usual tools of market analysis suggest that this is now a bear market, we have the unusual sight of US treasury yields reaching 40-year lows, the opposite of what might have been expected after Standard & Poor's knocked it off its AAA perch. If money is heading for safe hiding places even if they are less safe than before, or going for gold, the message to absorb is the underlying nervousness about all other markets.

India is not an island. Growth forecasts for the current year have started slipping below eight per cent, with some going down to seven per cent. The next five-year plan target, says a Reserve Bank deputy governor, should be lowered to eight per cent (lower than the average for the last eight years). The old bombast about double-digit growth now belongs to some other planet, and the official talk of nine to 9.5 per cent growth too is history. Meanwhile inflation has become so endemic that 9.2 per cent is hailed as moderation! The government is trying to combat the charge of policy paralysis, but this Parliament session too may pass with little legislative work getting done.

A potentially dangerous global scenario combined with a loss of confidence at home means that the future may not be more of the past. Yet, it is growth that has kept the system humming, and social tensions under a lid, while providing the means for government handouts to the poor. The Swiss talk of a "magical hexagon", comprising six policy objectives: good growth, low inflation, balanced books, a clean environment, full employment and social cohesion. Of those six, India so far has been able to claim real success on only one, namely growth. Take that away, and the country may be on slippery ground.








As we watched the irony of the tables turning, with the government telling Anna Hazare that he was free to go and Hazare saying he did not want to leave jail, my husband commented wryly that it was blue ocean strategy – "how to create uncontested market space by reconstructing market boundaries" – being played out. Sections of India that rallied under the Hazare banner are devising their own blue ocean strategy too. Earlier NGOs used to try and force the government to act but recognised the limits of their own role as one of being a pressure group only. The Maoists, on the other hand, don't recognise the government's role in doing anything at all, and step in to do it all themselves. But the Anna-ists have invented yet another category of social activism that wants to job-share with the government in law making — we draft the Bill, you pilot it through Parliament; you implement it as a government, but we monitor your implementation.

Even if the Anna-ists calm down soon and this bout of activism fades, it reveals a lot about some of the fundamental changes that have taken place in India recently, which has taken many people by surprise, including the government of the day. And this question is one that has been engaging the more thoughtful print media compared to the frenzied electronic media with its ball-by-ball commentary on television. For a start, a lot of people were wondering why the middle class is not revolting about rising prices. Yet when it comes to corruption, there is an uproar. There has been a general consensus on and disapproval of the fact that when it comes to politics and voting and national issues, the middle class is apathetic. Yet when it comes to justice for Jessica or joining Hazare, there is an unexpected flood of response.

An insightful article on this appeared recently in the Indian Express by a young lawyer Vinay Sitapati. He suggests that Hazare supporters are the "new corporate middle class" that "has little patience with the politics of dignity and identity that are – for better or worse – central to Indian politics. For them, the state is about providing services for which they pay with their tax money. Representation and social justice have little meaning. Consequently, they have contempt for electoral politics and politicians and are deaf to the two biggest criticisms of the Jan Lokpal Bill: that the movement is unrepresentative, and that an all-powerful Lokpal might endanger democratic rights."

As Sitapati points out, the new paradigm of the citizen-state relationship is that of a customer-supplier. We pay you for services via tax money and you have not kept your end of the bargain. This underscores a point made a few years ago by a young European anthropologist who, after doing research in India, asked why Indians, including the poorer sections, think of themselves as consumers first and citizens later. She answered her own question by saying, "I suppose in your country being a citizen gets you far less rights than being a consumer." Modest-income consumers have already started eschewing government offerings and moving to private schools; when someone is seriously ill in a family and in a government hospital, they borrow money and take him to "private" to save him; pension will come from self-financial planning and using the private sector. The middle- and upper-income consuming classes are already purely private consumers of many public goods. They buy water, create their own electricity options through gen sets and inverters, use private education, private hospitals, private transport, private airlines, private banks, etc.

The differences in quality between the government and private are hard to ignore and even as the quality and cleanliness of our privately-run public spaces are improving, the quality of our government-run public spaces is deteriorating. Even as the rights and services we get as consumers are improving, our rights as citizens are getting worse. "Pay a bribe and let's talk" is the dominant theme in the latter case. Earlier, we did not know that anything better was possible in India. We were resigned to our fate. Now we do know that it is possible, because we see it and experience it. This, then, increases our rage against the government. High-decibel media exposés of government corruption adds to it — it seems to say our money could have worked much harder for us had it been used better. Saying I will stand on principle and not pay a bribe and not get my work done, give up earning potential for principle, is not an option. The middle class sees its power not in terms of the ballot box – in fact, as Sitapati suggests, it hates all things political – but in terms of noise and pressure and blackmail power with the media as its ally. It says I pay the piper so I need to call the tune because you aren't in tune with the rest of my world.

The Anna-ists are yet another representation of the "this as well as that" way in which India changes. They quote the ideals of democracy to get the right to speak and demonstrate, but don't believe in leaving the elected representatives to do their jobs. They use the Gandhi symbols of white-cloth topis mixed with the new-age symbols of candles. This isn't about ideology, it's about market exchange. The more we privatise and show ourselves what can be done, the more we expect "paisa vasool" from our government services.

The author is an independent market strategy consultant








Rahul Gandhi may claim leadership has been thrust on him because of the Congress President's illness, but he's jumped straight in, making the usually risk-averse Congress leadership stagger and blink a little.

A structured group of advisors was put in place to aid and advise Gandhi. So far it has met only for troubleshooting purposes.

The party has had to troubleshoot a lot lately. It is now clear that Gandhi's intervention got Anna Hazare out of jail and has created the feeling that "government" has "lost" and the "NGO" has "won". This is entirely consistent with Gandhi's view of politics: that NGOs, because they have no stake, usually bat for the underprivileged and in ethical politics, the balance of advantage must be in their favour.

The bulk of Hazare's followers are young people. But the Youth Congress (YC) launched no counter-mobilisation when its own government was being criticised and attacked. Instead, Gandhi deflected the Congress-led government from a well-thought out strategy of asserting the primacy of the Indian state, down a path where the government became a supplicant. The result? The government "lost" and an NGO "won".

This, the autonomy of YC from its parent body, has been the hallmark of Gandhi's politics. In Tamil Nadu, in the run up to the Assembly elections YC supporters thundered and railed against the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) — but the Congress had an alliance with DMK. When people saw that Congress leaders were publicly praising DMK, while YC leaders were attacking them, the credibility of both became questionable.

Gandhi has sought to democratise YC. He rightly believes that unless people have support on the ground, they cannot call themselves leaders. He has been successful, too. YC now has lakhs of cadres who have paid Rs 15 to become members.

But are they really there? For a young person in a distant village, say in Orissa, to get his photograph taken, provide proof of address and residence and other documentation, is not an easy task. Local leaders realise this; so members are made by someone who offers these facilities — a camera, the means to photocopy, etc. Naturally, money is involved. And who will cross-check membership claims?

Farsighted Congress leaders can see where the project is going and are looking for ways to infiltrate the youth fronts so that they are safe in the future. YC elections involve power and money.

Gandhi's idea is to build a party that is substantive, where Congressmen are well informed, disciplined and thoughtful.

In the hunt for fresh young leadership, on a (hypothetical) scale of 10, a person from an NGO background will get an eight. A person who wants to enter public service will get a five. The least favoured is a boy or girl who wants to enter politics and YC but is the son or daughter of a Congress politician.

In July, the future of the Goa government headed by Congressman Digambar Kamat hung in balance because the Alemao brothers – Churchill, public works department minister, and Joaquim, urban development minister – threatened to resign. The reason? Churchill's daughter Valanka was disqualified from YC elections because she had used strong arm tactics and accepted help from her father. A show-cause notice was served on her, and she replied to it but YC disqualified her. Kamat rushed to Delhi and Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla had to work on the Alemao brothers for two hours to tell them they were assets for the party and should withdraw their resignation. (The Congress has 20 legislators in the 40-member house). True, Valanka Alemao stayed out of YC. But the two leaders charged with threatening rivals to her, (and no paragons of virtue themselves) also stayed on in government!

Two days ago, in the midst of the drama over Anna Hazare, Gandhi paid a quiet visit to Pune, to commiserate with the families of farmers who had been killed in police firing, while they were protesting against land acquisition. The Congress is in power in Maharashtra. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has defended his government in the police firing, was absent when Gandhi visited. Keeping the chief minister by his side when he called on the families would have sent one message. Calling on the farmers behind his back sends quite another.

It's not that Gandhi has not been brave. Uddhav and Raj Thackeray made anti-north India remarks and issued dire warnings if Gandhi were to come to Mumbai. Gandhi ignored all that and took the next flight to Mumbai. But he could have done the same with the stone-pelters of Kashmir: gone to Srinagar and said, "Go on, throw the first stone at me. Talk to me. Tell me your troubles."

Instead he made a statement in favour of Omar Abdullah.

NGOs are good, well meaning. But they are usually not political and as someone said, vacant of ideology. Rahul Gandhi will be making a mistake if he turns the Congress party into an NGO. It's good to be brave. But you also have to be wise.






General aviation can help India be globally differentiated as well as socially inclusive and relevant

It seems to me that in this particular year – 2011 – your Foundation Day carries an added significance. First, because it marks 51 years since you moved to Bangalore in March 1960. 51 years is a good time to look forward and plan for the next 51 years. And secondly because today it is exactly one hundred years and a half years – to the very day – of the beginning of civil aviation in India. It was on 18th February, 1911 that the first civil aviation flight in India took off, carrying mail from Delhi to Nainital. Even at that time, this flight created a global first, because not only was it the first civil aviation flight in India — it was also the world's first air mail flight, carrying 6,400 letters. ….

But as in any field of human endeavour, it is never enough to look back with satisfaction. I believe that the aerospace industry in India is one of the most exciting businesses in the world. I am outrageously ambitious to see Indian aerospace take its rightful place in the world…To understand the context in which this ambition must play out, let us examine some key trends in the global aerospace industry.

The first trend is the growing demand for aerospace products and services in developing nations. Setting aside the significant projections for India's defence needs over the next decade, India's demand for civilian airliners is projected to exceed that of Australia and Japan combined. The "BRIC" nations together need more passenger aircraft than the US, which has historically been the biggest market for such aircraft. So it's a huge market out there. Can we use our joint expertise to get a part of it?

The second trend deals with the industry that provides those products and services. Gone are the days of the "vertically integrated" aerospace powerhouses. Today there are no "do it all ourselves" monolithic aerospace providers. Instead they have been replaced by a widely distributed network of suppliers and partners. …What can we jointly contribute to this global network?

The third trend is a happy marriage between developing nation's aspirations to be more than just consumers, and the necessity for the producers to be closer to their key markets. Starting with the need to support their products in new markets, the OEMs of the world increasingly recognise that they must invest significantly in those markets to ensure a fair balance of trade. Current cost structures in developing economies also make it inevitable that the OEMs increase their sourcing from the very countries that want to buy their products. So there is a life and a business beyond offsets — and we should be looking for opportunities in this space.

The fourth trend – one which the Mahindra Group embraces whole-heartedly – is the global realisation that waste and inefficiency are contributing to a rapid deterioration in our quality of life. … Can we work together to create green technologies that are relevant and also outrageously affordable? ...

Consider some numbers. India's strong economic fundamentals contribute to an annual GDP growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent. With 124 million air passengers in 2010, air travel is growing at a rate of about 12 per cent. Tourism is poised to grow at a rate of 9-10 per cent — all remarkable growth projections indeed. However 70 per cent of our country's population lives in rural areas with limited access to the best in education, health care and work opportunities. …

So what are the key enablers for these ideas to become reality? I believe there are two primary enablers. One: the way we approach aerospace technology acquisition and two the way we build public-private partnerships.

In technology development, we have historically maintained a strong policy of self-reliance, largely motivated by our strategic defence focus. But we clearly must also acquire new technologies to be globally competitive. In our view, we need to find the middle ground between "home-grown" technologies that are developed in isolation, and "transfer of technology" that carries the flavour of adopting someone else's existing answers. Our preferred term for this is "technology co-development", wherein we partner with established entities within and outside India to develop the next new solution.

Why is this important? Let us take the example of general aviation engines. We could adopt the path of licence-manufacture within India of engines developed abroad – what we call "technology transfer" – where the benefits are purely financial (through labour cost arbitrage and avoidance of duties). Or we could choose to indigenously develop a complete engine from first principles ("home-grown") wherein we are destined to repeat all the mistakes made by established entities over decades — and then develop a complete product support capability for the finished product. Instead of either extreme, in today's globalised world, it could be far better to embrace the idea of a partnership between established players and our own industrial and research expertise to jointly build upon existing knowledge and infrastructure to develop the next generation of products. This attitude shift would enhance our capability to generate future new technologies, and simultaneously make us integral parts of the global supply chain.

Achieving this level of partnership on the global stage is not a simple exercise. As I said earlier, our research organisations such as CSIR-NAL have develop an excellent research capability building on a strong Indian tradition of science and engineering excellence harking back over centuries. And their partner in commercialising this capability should be the Indian private sector that has grown up and come into its own on the global arena…

In conclusion let me say that you, in this audience are the new aeronauts, the ones who are constantly pushing new frontiers of air and space. So, in a way are we, because we too are constantly pushing the frontiers of business and growth. But we modern day aeronauts had some distinguished predecessors — the famed Argonauts of Greek mythology. ... They set out on their quest because finding the Golden Fleece was an impossible task that Jason had to fulfill in order to claim the throne that was rightfully his. And how did they do it? They did it by combining their strengths, by pulling together, by focusing passionately on the greater goal. We too have a throne to claim — a place for India in the global aerospace firmament. For us too, this is a task that may be as tough as finding the Golden Fleece. … I believe that we too can set forth together, like the Argonauts of old, and I hope that 50 years later, at your foundation day in 2061 we will be able to look back and say — we set out on a joint quest to put India on the global aerospace map, and we fulfilled it successfully.

Exclusive excerpts from a speech delivered in Bangalore on August 18. The complete speech can be read at:








Reports say that NTPC, India's largest power producer, plans a massive 10,000 mw hydel project in Upper Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh. Given that hydroelectricity is renewable energy, and further that the thermal to hydro mix has declined and fallen in recent years, the proposal to build an ultra-mega hydel project is to be cautiously welcomed, given the pitfalls and risks involved in planning so large a project in a remote border region. Tentative estimates suggest that the project would cost . 1,00,000 crore, and project implementation would stretch to a decade. Sound project management would be a key requirement; otherwise, project delays could shore up costs and make it unviable and uneconomic. And since such a large hydel project has never been attempted in the subcontinent, it may make sense to hive off the whole project into two or three modules, so as to keep better tab on costs and aid implementation.

The north-east's hydel potential is estimated at over 50,000 mw, of which a tiny fraction has been tapped. Given the steep gradient in what is a water-rich region, the north-east is well suited for hydel capacity with minimal storage and associated environmental costs. It would also make sense to step-up hydro capacity in neighbouring countries like Bhutan (estimated potential of 30,000 mw) and import power. India has committed to draw 10,000 mw from Bhutan by 2020. Yet the reality on the ground is that the 1,020 mw Tala hydroelectric is the only functional Indo-Bhutan joint venture, although the 1,095 mw and 990 mw Punatsangchhu I and II projects are underway. Meanwhile, NTPC's Siang project would be pathbreaking in scale and scope. With its current installed base of 34,000 mw, NTPC remains focused on thermal generation. The power major is already implementing hydel projects totalling 1,700 mw in capacity addition; its 800 mw Koldam hydel project in Himachal is slated to start generation next year. It may make sense for NTPC to separately list the Siang project while under implementation, so as to unlock shareholder value in good time, and also to keep a tab on project implementation and attendant costs with the investing public actively involved.






    There is no doubt that a logical and desirable outcome of the current situation in Syria would be that President Bashar Assad steps down and a democratic dispensation takes shape and assumes power. Even Arab governments, fearful of the widespread people's protests in the region, have started to express concern over the brutal repression unleashed by the Assad regime. The US, leading the western world with its long-standing antipathy towards the Syrian regime, has gone further and imposed new sanctions. The problem with that, however, is the blatant double standards the West has had when it comes to regimes in west Asia as well as on the pro-democracy protests. Bahrain is an elucidation of that hypocrisy. A mirror-image of Syria, where a minority Shia Alawite regime rules over a majority Sunni population, Bahrain, with a Sunni elite lording it over vast numbers of Shias, has seen vicious repression of pro-democracy protests. Saudi Arabia, now voicing displeasure over events in Syria, in fact took the unprecedented step of sending in troops to assist its allied Bahraini regime in 'controlling' the uprising in the Gulf state. In effect, troops of a Wahabi state were assisting a Sunni regime in repressing a Shia population — ostensibly to prevent the spread of Iranian influence. The West, almost completely, looked the other way as the prodemocracy movement was crushed in Bahrain.
The underlying cause for that western hypocrisy, with its criticism of authoritarian regimes in the region not allied to it, and tolerance for the activities of those it calls allies, is the unwillingness to upset the US-Israeli hegemony in the region. This also translates into almost all Arab regimes invoking the persistent Israeli threat to justify their repression and utter absence of democracy. Which state of affairs is precisely what the sweeping Arab protests were against. That western hegemonic principle means colluding in the denial of full change in countries like Egypt. Unless such cherry picking of democracy in west Asia ends, neither democracy itself nor a resolution on Palestine is possible.







It pays to be super-rich. Literally. Across the world, but especially in the West, markets are going through extraordinary swings as they head down. Yet, recent reports suggest that uber-wealthy investors have managed to do quite well even in these markets, thank you. What is it, you wonder, that these guys know that we don't? Nothing, really. Where the rich have the edge is that they have the ability to write million dollar cheques and forget about losses that would vapourise most other investors. This ability to take losses puts them on a rare plane where they can invest in instruments or funds that are deemed too risky for ordinary mortal investors. For example, property in central London, as well as south Mumbai or Delhi is still appreciating, but it'll take millions of dollars to buy into the stuff. That's because in recent years, places like Mumbai and Delhi have entered the pantheon of cities with the most expensive real estate in the world. Central Delhi's Khan Market is reckoned to be among the costliest commercial real estate on the planet.

Then, there's the regulation. Intermediate to small investors worldwide aren't allowed to enter markets where potential losses from short selling can be gigantic. This opens new doors for creatures like hedge funds and specialised derivatives created around esoteric stuff whose value might actually go up when markets are volatile or equities tank. The rich, able to bear losses as well as write huge cheques, aren't barred from these markets. And because the number of players here is small, the potential profits can be great indeed. No wonder that a Citibank division dealing with very rich clients had no trouble raising about $500 million to dabble in commercial real estate recently. Not there yet? Stick to fixed deposits.






Qualityindependent directors are hard to find today. Ask Azim Premji. India's third-largest IT company, Wipro, is about to join the horde of companies violating Sebi norms by keeping independent directors beyond the suggested nine-year maximum tenure.

The independent director situation in India has indeed become tighter in the last twoand-a-half years since the Satyam scandal shook India Inc. While the Satyam crisis did not bring any regulatory changes in its wake, research seems to indicate that, combined with the near-concurrent persecution of Nimesh Kampani, the episode has left a significant imprint in corporate boardrooms across the country.

In a recent paper*, we compare the composition, characteristics and compensation of boards before and after the crisis for close to 2,500 firms to study the broader impact of the event on corporate boards in India. The findings are quite illuminating. Boards have become larger but controlling for other things, less independent (have fewer independent directors) after the crisis. Much of this seems to be the result of a "supply shock" in which independent directors have become more aware of the risks associated with board positions. In the three weeks of January 2009 after the Satyam fraud came to light, independent director exits soared to 109 from a monthly average of about 30 before the crisis. Over a longer horizon, independent director exits per year have risen by 20% in the post-Satyam period as compared to the three years before the crisis. The paucity of independent directors is reflected in the pay as well. The average pay of independent directors in the post-Satyam period has shown an increase of over 30%. Also the proportion of fixed pay has increased in their compensation packages. But even the pay rise does not seem to have been able to attract quality to board rooms. Independent directors are now less likely than before to be professionals (including lawyers/consultants, financial experts, and retired executives, civil servants and government officials). Also, notwithstanding the quality drop, independent directors have become busier, sitting on more boards than before.

As a reaction, many companies have now turned to executive directors. Executive director appointments have more than doubled in the post-Satyam period than before. Their proportion on boards has risen by 16%. This does not automatically follow from fewer independent directors, there are some directors who are neither. Non-executive chairmen have become more common — a move that brings down the minimum independent director proportion from half to a third. Among other things that have changed, board committees became more punctual and meetings are being better attended than before.

What to make of all these changes? They can all be seen as results of the crisis affecting a more or less efficient market for independent directors. As the media and investigative agencies hounded the directors, a virtual exodus of independent director resignations followed immediately. The independent directors reassessed the risks of a board seat — that a lifetime's reputation can be tarnished because of the hard-to-detect actions of an unscrupulous promoter. As a result, the existing and potential independent directors demanded a higher price for their presence in the boards. Realising the extent of the risks, they also want more certainty in compensation. At the same time, to the extent that it matters, they want to monitor the promoters for their own safety. Hence, attendance in meetings has gone up.

    But not all independent directors are the same. The ones with the most reputation to protect simply exited the market bringing a drop in quality. More firms are now left vying for a smaller pool of independent directors, raising the number of directorships per head.

But there is probably more to it than just a drop in supply of independent directors because of the now-more-obvious risks. India Inc itself may have started doubting the efficacy of independent directors in the boardroom. Firms are now opting for a non-executive chairman, which reduces the independence requirement and packing boards with more executives. That signifies a paradigm shift about the value of the much bandied about board independence. India Inc may have very well just started walking away from the idea, something it was anyway never too comfortable with. And the move is not wholly without logic. In a recent paper, Raghuram Rajan and his co-authors have argued that internal governance may well provide a viable alternative to the present system. Indian businesses may well agree.

The issues involved also assume particular importance as the government mulls over the new Companies Act. The Indian legal system currently draws no distinction between the responsibilities of independent directors and those of the "inside" directors. More importantly, all directors have an indefinable fiduciary liability that extends to any offence the company may commit, like issuing a cheque that bounces or allowing delays in employee provident fund payments. The independent director has virtually no control over such actions and yet is responsible to an equal degree with other board members for such offences. Therefore, one not only risks a lifetime's reputation by serving on a board, even one's liberty and property.

(Co-authored with Krishnamurthy Subramanian, who teaches finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad)

*Chakrabarti, Rajesh, Krishnamurthy Subramanian and Naresh Kotrike, After the Storm: The Unregulated Effect of a Corporate Governance Crisis on Corporate Boards, Working Paper, ISB












NILOTPAL BASU SENIOR CPI-M LEADER One Law is No Panacea for All Ills

Outpouring against corruption which is plaguing the moral fibre of the nation is being delivered to millions of homes across the length and breadth of the country. But what does this media overexposure do to the cause of ending corruption? The effect is an obvious obfuscation of the issues and possible solutions within our constitutional framework. The specifics of the current series of scams and corruption in high places clearly underline the coming together of a powerful nexus of politicians-corporates-bureaucrats to fleece the public exchequer.

Emergence of such a nexus became inevitable with the government receding consciously in relinquishing its control over natural resources — be it spectrum, or mineral wealth or petroleum and gas deposits, hills, prime urban land or rich agricultural land.

The development of industry and infrastructure based on these resources, which were mostly community assets, involved projects which were executed either directly by the government or by public entities. The new policy paradigm of handing over the ownership of these resources requires a rewriting of policy. The transfer of control also involves valuation. And it is complex, as it involves altogether new usage. A blatantly procorporate preference is leading to the emergence of the nexus to the detriment of public interest.

The attempt to arrest, if not actually end corruption, in this new setting would require multipronged reform of our existing institutions, processes and regulatory mechanisms to ensure transparency and public interest. The exercise will also have to retain the basic features of our constitutional scheme — separation and independence of the executive, legislature and the judiciary. So we need a strong Lokpal to ensure the integrity of the executive including the Prime Minister and the members of the legislature. We need an independent National Judicial Commission to oversee the conduct of judiciary. We need electoral reforms to eliminate money and muscle power in our elections. And we need more effective steps to stop the generation as well as for repatriation of black money. In itself, Lokpal cannot be a panacea for all ills.



Corruption in India is a high-profit and low-risk activity. This has resulted in rampant corruption. The anti-corruption laws are archaic. The anti-corruption agencies tasked with investigation and prosecution are not strong enough. The Jan Lokpal Bill seeks to deal with this — creating an effective deterrent factor for the corrupt. It will not end corruption because laws don't end corruption, intent does. That said, it will be a deterrent factor. At the Centre, corruption cases against senior public officials are handled by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). But its role is merely advisory and this is its greatest weakness. Most Lokayuktas are ineffective as they have no independent authority to undertake investigations and have limited resources. Moreover, the Lokayukta's have no authority over other vigilance agencies. The CBI is weak because it does not function independently.

Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal will not merely be an advisory body. It will have powers to initiate prosecution after investigations in a case. It will also have powers to initiate disciplinary proceedings against any government servant. It will entertain complaints directly from the public and will have police powers to register an FIR. It will also recover the loss caused to the government due to corruption by taking back ill-gotten wealth from the corrupt.

Some feel that in mandating the Lokpal to correct everything, it may end up doing nothing effectively. Others also feel yet another monster could be created by entrusting too many powers in a single individual. The second point has been dealt with by the Anna team. If there are charges against the Lokpal, you can go straight to the Supreme Court and seek justice there. As for the first, that can be ironed out. Another criticism against the Jan Lokpal is that the role of the people affected is that of mere complainants without any forum for participation for a resolution. This can also be resolved over time by ensuring greater empowerment of people through tools such as social audit, where the citizenry and the government work together to resolve governance issues.







In traditional security analysis, gender issues are deemed a 'softer' afterthought, rather than a constitutive element of peace and security. The weakness of this approach is that it misses crucial opportunities for engagement and resolution.

In all regions of conflict, the precariousness of women's bodily safety is accepted as a given. Kashmiris no exception. The July 22 allegation by a Kashmiri woman of gangrape by unidentified army men was thus not a surprise to many — it was either accepted as a symptom of a systemic problem, or dismissed as another unsubstantiated allegation by a woman from a community predisposed against the Indian army. The July 28 report on 'Half Widows,' released by the Kashmiri civil society group Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), captured how holistic understanding of gendered violence is lacking and pointed to an obvious, and thus far missed, opportunity for engagement in Kashmir. Gendered violence is mostly understood as violence against women's bodies. Perhaps this understanding is difficult to broaden also because it is precisely such violence that then attacks the pride of these women's male counterparts, and results in other forms of violence. However, while statistics of sexual violence are especially lacking in regions like Kashmir —due to a confluence of universal taboos around sexual violence, the overall South Asian cultural context, and the impunity resulting from tensions in Kashmir — several other pieces of data can help inform a more nuanced and useful approach to issues faced by women and girls, and thus also men and boys.

By conservative estimates, there are 1,500 'half widows' in Kashmir, says the APDP report. These are women whose husbands have 'disappeared' during the conflict, but have not been confirmed as deceased. These women live a life of perpetual limbo, which is cemented by failed legal mechanisms, and results in economic squalor, social isolation, and psychological trauma. Since the law does not deem them 'widowed,' these women are ineligible for administrative relief, and instead are solely dependent on their individual resilience, which may include begging in burquas (covering out of shame, rather than religion), menial labour, prostitution, or seeking aid from family members. Their children grow up vulnerable to exploitation (even child labour or abuse in orphanages) and impoverishment; face lack of education; and suffer psychological damage.
While governments negotiate solutions to entrenched disputes and discuss 'confidence building measures' (CBM), they overlook issues such as 'half widows.' Responding to the plight of 'half widows' with law and policy changes — such as creating streamlined systems of compensation and income-generating projects — would be a larger CBM than endless meetings, toothless interlocutors, or announcements of 'special investigative teams'. For ordinary citizens, whether in New Delhi, Islamabad, or Kashmir, peace largely means the same thing: "more than merely the absence of war; for ordinary citizens it is also inextricably linked to development and a better future," says the APDP report.

The population of 'half widows' not only provides a prime opportunity for visible action to alleviate the plight of disenfranchised women and children, but it also links directly to the 'hard' security issues the subcontinent is having a hard time resolving. Unaddressed needs of 'half widows' may fuel precisely the cycles of violence that political leaders claim to want to avoid. The APDP report cites the worries of Zara (pseudonym), a 'half widow' and mother of three teenage boys: "My children say, 'Today they are firing openly, and we see what is happening with the people…But with our father, who knows, they might have taken him to jail or killed him…we were too young to find out what happened there. But now we are no longer young.' They were especially angry throughout the 2010 violence, and wanted to join the protesters. I have to take my eldest son to a psychiatrist regularly, because he is always so agitated."

The recent gang-rape allegation is a stark reminder to such youth seething from lost childhoods, unfulfilled promises, and unaddressed violations. Beyond spending time on photo-ops to assess whether a woman minister is simply a prop or something to be taken seriously, or news-cycles that assassinate the character of yet another woman who alleges rape, the citizens, their governments, and the media would be wise to spend time understanding and responding to the gendered effects of protracted conflict. Just as peace and security discussions require lesser fixation on the sex or appearance of the political leader across the table, peace and security generation requires an investigation into women's overall experiences, beyond fleeting, sordid fascinations with direct inflictions on their bodies.

(The author is a lawyer and has been a fellow at Harvard Univ)








Most analysts would blame global cues for the current slide in equity markets and the fact that FIIs were net sellers on Thursday, pulling out some Rs 488 crore. That event appeared to mirror sliding stocks in the US and Europe, with the result that the Sensex closed more than 2 per cent lower, falling by 371 points. The ups and downs in value as the market wisdom goes, is here to stay. But here's a thought. The US and Europe have solid reasons for sliding stocks; both economies are facing rough weather, the former because of the reluctant recovery process and the after-effects of downgrading, the latter because of a debt contagion that at the very least will drain the EU of a great deal of its savings to keep its weaker members afloat. So if stocks appear 'manic depressive', to use Paul Krugman's memorable phrase, there is reason enough. But Indian stocks? Both the present and immediate future appear positive for the economy's fundamentals; India's growth prospects remain good even after discounting for a slide below 8 per cent in view of anti-inflationary policies. Interest rates here are much higher than in the US, where they remain less than 1 per cent. Yet, capital is moving out; since January this year FIIs have taken out Rs 13,000 crore, according to stock exchanges. One wonders why. Portfolio investors may be fickle friends but direct investments, too, are not exactly flooding in. Since September 2008, FDI has been falling after the consistent increase in the four years to $34 billion in 2007-08. Although the government maintains that there are signs of a turnaround this year, with inflows in May and June 2011 sharply up over the corresponding period in the previous year, it might be too early to come to conclusions. Admittedly, in the case of FDI, other issues than pure governance matter; environmental clearances, land acquisition problems and state-level problems can prove to be even more cumbersome, often stymieing projects as Arcelor-Mittal or Posco. So far, New Delhi, despite its many failings, at least provided some level of comfort. It is important to raise that bar sooner than later. Granted that there is some short-term turmoil but the long-term prospects must be recognised as good and, yet, direct investors too aren't rushing in.

The conclusion seems inescapable. The government's confused and helpless reactions to widely perceived misuse of political power gets investors nervous. When policymakers rely on the arrogance of a two-year old electoral victory and its police to arm-twist a democratic protest, the world feels that New Delhi cannot absorb and learn as much from peaceful dissent as it has from complacent consensus.






With growing signs of slowdown across sectors, persisting high inflation, and continuing governance deficit, India's economic outlook for 2011-12 has turned distinctly gloomy. The recent downgrading of the US government's credit rating by Standard and Poor's from 'AAA' to 'AA+' has only added to the growing uncertainty that could affect India's exports in the second half of the current fiscal.

According to Commerce Ministry officials, the 82-per cent-surge in exports, in July, and their healthy growth during April-July this year, was on account of execution of orders received well before the current crisis in the US and Europe began.

In fact, the healthy export growth also helped in the industry posting improved output during July, which is unlikely to sustain.

According to experts, exports of readymade garments, leather, gems and jewellery, in particular, are expected to be affected. If there is a second recession, it could also have an adverse impact on the IT industry.

Moreover, with inflation persisting at unacceptably high levels for a prolonged period, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to continue with its aggressively hawkish monetary policy stance even at the risk of sacrificing some growth in the short run.


The latest data released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO)had pointed out that theGross Domestic Product (GDP) growth during the fourth quarter of the fiscal 2010-11 declined to 7.8 per cent — the slowest in five quarters - against 9.4 per cent in the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

Though the RBI has retained its earlier forecast of 8.0 per cent growth in its First Quarter Review of the Monetary Policy released on July 26, it has referred to certain downside risks to this growth forecast. Simultaneously, it has raised its inflation projection for March 2012 to 7 per cent, up from 6 per cent projected in its May 3 policy statement.

On July 31, the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) has toned down its 2011-12 growth forecast to 8.2 per cent from the earlier 9.0 per cent. The PMEAC said that the lower growth during the current fiscal would primarily be on account of industry, which it now forecasts to grow at 7.1 per cent .

Investment slowdown

Going by the various economic indicators however, even these lowered growth forecasts by the RBI and the PMEAC now appear somewhat optimistic. For instance, there has been a significant slowdown in new investments and gross fixed capital formation during the quarter ended January-March 2011, and the outlook for the current fiscal appears all the more uncertain as companies have been postponing their investment decisions.

According to Mr Pronab Sen, Principal Advisor, Planning Commission, the investment slowdown had started much earlier and it had declined by nearly four per cent of GDP in 2009-10; it declined rather sharply in the later period. Though the demand in the economy is artificially propped up, new capacity creation in the industrial sector has almost come to a halt.

India's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) has declined to 53.6 in July this year from 58 in April — its lowest level in the last 20 months, with indications that it could come down further. This is also the lowest level for the index after the last global financial crisis, two leading foreign broking houses — Citigroup and Nomura - have pointed out, in their latest report on the state of the Indian economy.

To add to the worry of policymakers, the monsoon forecast has also turned gloomy, with the Met department forecasting below normal rainfall in the second half of the season. This is bound to bring down the growth of the agriculture sector significantly, at a time when food inflation continues to remain stubbornly high.

And not surprisingly, US investment bank Morgan Stanley has reduced its growth forecast for the Indian economy for the fiscal ending March 2012 to 7.2 per cent from 7.7 per cent.

It says India is headed for its worst period since the global financial crisis. Many economists also feel that the GDP growth this year may not exceed 7.5 per cent.


Unfortunately, the RBI has been fighting a lone battle against inflation for more than a year without any help from the government, either by way of reining in the burgeoning fiscal and revenue deficits or by improving the supply management.

The country has been witnessing a growing governance deficit at all levels and the much-needed reform process remains stalled.

The RBI has emphasised the need to address the supply side bottlenecks, especially in food and infrastructure, to bring down inflation. However, the entire governmental machinery appears bogged down in damage-control exercises following a spate of corruption scandals. There is also a total absence of co-ordination between different ministries.

The PMEAC has also added that the spate of corruption-related controversies during the past one year consumed the energies of the government and led to an unintended slowdown of initiatives to restore investment and economic confidence.

The latest Anna Hazare episode and the public uprising all across the country will only add to the policy paralysis afflicting the government.






I wonder if those who see a foreign influence on Anna Hazare's movement realise how close they are to the truth. As I argue below, unfolding global trends exercise a major influence on our social and political realities. Not, of course, in terms of the rather silly charges of conspiracy and the hidden hand, but in a deeper sense. Hazare's movement, aided unwittingly by the ruling establishment, has pushed all other burning issues to the background and now threatens to wipe out the monsoon session of Parliament.

This is indeed a great pity, as we were earnestly hoping that the session would be used for pushing forward a slew of important legislations which have been hanging fire since long. That would have been the only way to reverse the perception of policy drift and help get the economy back on the high growth path.

Perhaps, it is time for industry, whose interests will be vitally affected by the social and political turmoil that would ensue if the current impasse persists, to try and get the two sides to converge.

Let us not forget that the real cost of political turmoil is ultimately borne by the people who lose their livelihoods and incomes. Industry with its focus on possible loss of global competitiveness due to avoidable uncertainty and loss of production has a direct interest in ending the stand-off.


India should at this time be making extra efforts to ensure that its domestic investment climate remains attractive, its institutions are seen as robust and accountable, and social and political stability is maintained. Those among us who have delusions of creating a Tahrir Square in Delhi are doing the nation a grievous disservice.

The global economic and political situation is turning ominous. Stock markets all over the world, including ours, are reflecting this extreme nervousness about short-term prospects both in Europe and the US.

These two economies, which account for nearly half of global output, are spluttering and in real danger of grinding to a halt. I am told that nearly a quarter of the young population in major European countries is presently under or unemployed and in the US the long-term structural unemployment close to a fifth of the working population. These are frightening numbers in countries which are no more used to such sharp divides within their populations.

Europe with its under-capitalised banks, stubborn fiscal deficits, rising public debts, ageing populations, slowing growth and political divisions that are becoming sharper, is virtually on the edge of a precipice. The US recovery has pretty much ground to a halt and the expenditure cuts forced by the belligerent right wing of the Republican party will not help matters. Housing prices remain stuck at their lowest since the Lehman crisis and fears of a double dip recession are now more widespread than ever before.

The worst prognostications made by the indefatigable Paul Krugman seem to be coming true. But not only are his recommendations for greater public expenditure ignored, the Tea Party stalwarts are forcing cuts when they will hurt the most. The downgrading of US debt, stagnant consumer spending, persistent unemployment, and massive slowdown in corporate investment have stymied all prospects of a quick and robust US recovery.


All this does not bode well for US economic prospects which may get worse before they get any better. With the trans-Atlantic economies barely keeping their heads above water, the centre of gravity of the global economic activity, investors' attention and job seekers searches will inexorably shift eastwards to Asia, including South Asia and India.

All these global trends are directly and strongly related to Anna Hazare's movement. With dimming economic prospects in the West, investors are looking with greater interest and serious intent at prospects in emerging economies like India.

This greater interest by foreign investors translates into demands for, and greater pressure on, achieving more transparency in rules and procedures that affect investment.

We are just beginning to realise the higher governance requirements of attracting greater volumes of FDI into the country. Secondly, and more importantly, with the US and Europe not attractive any longer, the Indian elite does not have the escape route which took them away from the corrupt, dysfunctional procedure-ridden governance systems in the country. Now that they have nowhere to go, they have finally focused on the need to set things right at home. Better late than never. And this bodes well for us.

Thirdly, Indian industry, having expanded, globalised and hence being more exposed to best practices during the past two decades since liberalisation, speaks more freely and cogently against corruption and crony behaviour which puts the large majority of them, honest and hard working entrepreneurs, at a distinct disadvantage.

And finally, the global explosion in information and social networking has taken firm root and blossomed in India. The middle class now has unprecedented means to express its frustrations and mobilise public opinion.

All these factors, directly and intrinsically linked to the global phenomenon, have strengthened and reinforced Anna Hazare's movement. Rooting out corruption and rent-seeking from the system will require systemise changes, and not merely a single Bill, howsoever well crafted.

Given the economic crisis in the West, emerging economies like India are attractive destinations for investors. This translates into demands for improved governance, a key strain in the Hazare agitation.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




India's Parliament notched a first when the Rajya Sabha passed the impeachment motion against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court by the required two-thirds majority of those present and voting. The Lok Sabha too must return a similar verdict if the logic is to move forward. If it does, then the next step will be for the two Houses to send an address to the President seeking Justice Sen's removal. The judge, who has been accused of corruption, says he will seek to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is not clear at what stage such an option becomes available. As for the parliamentary aspect of the procedure, the passage of the impeachment motion in the Lower House should be a routine affair if party positions that prevailed in the Rajya Sabha remain unaltered. It is clear that in this case the governing parties and the Opposition benches have by and large agreed to support the impeachment under way. Questions concerning the process remain, however. In India, the last trial by jury occurred in the Nanavati case in Mumbai in the late 1950s. But what happened in the Upper House on Thursday virtually amounts to trial by jury. Members not trained to evaluate facts and points of law were called upon to make an evaluation on a common sense basis of a complex judicial issue. Whether a case of corruption can be sustained in this manner will be open to question. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who is a distinguished practitioner of law, went on record to say that what had transpired in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday was not right. Justice Sen had been cleared by a division bench of the Calcutta high court — upturning a "guilty" verdict by a single-judge bench of the same high court — but this was described in the Upper House as a case of "collusive" judgment. This has irked Mr Chatterjee, and the matter does appear to be prejudicial. It can be conjectured that in this season, when the mood against corruption has seized the country, the Rajya Sabha found it hard to let Justice Sen go free. The irony is that those who sat in judgment belong to a class which is the first among suspects on the count of corruption and cries for election reforms are commonplace. Justice Sen may well be guilty, but the case needs to be established more clearly, more transparently, in a more informed manner, and under a better-structured process. The allegation of corruption dates back to a time when Justice Sen was a lawyer. This tells us that the process of appointment and dismissal of judges is in need of an overhaul.







Mumbai's movers and shakers have suffered a lot lately. Young clubbers who like to dance fear going to discos because the city's guardians — moral and legal — have been coming down on such establishments. There have been many instances of overzealous cops walking into clubs and arresting youngsters for alleged "obscene acts" — dancing. The poor kids have no place to shake their booty, and have to stay at home with boring parents. Politicians and cops have also imposed "guidelines" that have put a dampner on Mumbai's famed nightlife. But succour has come from the courts. The wise judges of the Bombay high court have ruled that discos can stay open beyond 1.30 am and, more important, that dancing is not necessarily "dirty" and "innocuous dancing" can be permitted. So is it time to shake a leg in celebration? Not quite. Much more must be done to restore Mumbai's reputation as the city that never sleeps. Going out now has become a chore and a bother. If the cops on every street corner checking for miscreants, potential terrorists or drunk drivers don't deter you, the high prices of food and alcohol will. So while we raise a cheer to the court's verdict, we will be doing it at home. Now if only the judges can make these discos affordable!







The demand for global leadership has never been greater. The world is truly lost in trying to find a way out of the current crisis. America is imploding. Europe is crumbling. London is burning. The Arab Spring has lost direction. China and India remain internally preoccupied. If ever there were a moment for a global leader to step up, this is it. So why is no leader emerging? First, the world has changed structurally, yet our systems for managing global affairs have not adapted. In the past, when the billions of citizens of planet earth lived in separated countries, it was like having an ocean of separate boats. Hence, the postwar order created rules to ensure that the boats did not collide; it created rules for cooperation. Up until now, this arrangement has worked well. World War III did not follow World Wars I and II. But today the world's seven billion citizens no longer live in separate boats. They live in more than 190 cabins on the same boat. Each cabin has a government to manage its affairs. And the boat as a whole moves along without a captain or a crew. The world is adrift. The G20 was set up to provide global leadership at the height of the latest financial crisis. The group came together in London in early 2009 to save the global economy. However, as soon as the crisis receded, the G20 leaders retreated into their cabins again. To make matters worse, some nations have become unmanageable. Just look at the United States. The best candidate for global leader is, of course, Barack Obama. No leader gets as much global press coverage as Obama does. But he has no time to save the world. This summer a tiny group of crazy Tea Party congressmen held him, the United States and the world hostage. In the next 14 months, Obama will only focus on his reelection. The world will not matter. Sadly, no European leader seems ready to fill this vacuum. Nor is there a Chinese or Indian leader willing to step up. Our global boat will continue to drift in the coming months. The second reason no global leader has emerged: The geopolitics of the world are running at cross purposes with the geoeconomics of the world. Geoeconomics requires consensus; countries coming together. In geopolitics, we are experiencing the greatest power shifts we have seen in centuries. Power is shifting from West to East. All this creates deep insecurity in the established powers. They want to cling on to privileges acquired from previous days of glory. Only this can explain the rush by Europe to reclaim the headship of IMF when Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepped down. No one doubts that Christine Lagarde is a competent administrator. But is it wise for Europe to cling on to old privileges when power is shifting? And is it wise to choose a noneconomist to run the most important economics organisation at a time of economic turmoil? A secure Europe may have ceded power graciously. An insecure Europe clings to privileges. Third, political leadership is always preceded by intellectual leadership. For several decades, the Western intelligentsia provided this intellectual leadership. Indeed, they used to happily lecture the world on what should be done. Today, they are clearly lost. As an Asian, I used to be regularly lectured by Westerners on the inability of Asians to slay their sacred cows. Today, the Western intelligentsia seems equally afraid to attack their own sacred cows. Surely, after the damage done by the Tea Party episode, an obvious question to ask is: Have democracies become dysfunctional? Have special interest groups distorted the global agenda? Should some of them be disbanded? Sadly, the parameters of intellectual discourse in the West have become narrower and narrower. Short-term political fights take precedence over long-term strategic decisions. Only one phrase captures the current Asian perception of the West: sheer incredulity. How could the best preachers on political courage and economic discipline in the world display none of it when the hour came? In short, we are not going to get any great global leadership soon. And if we continue to drift, we will at least know why. Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, is working on a book about global governance and leadership.







If, as seems universally accepted, eggs is indeed eggs, then the only other certainty in an increasingly troubled world is that Alastair Cook will eviscerate every English batting record, apart possibly from the highest individual score. His technique, concentration and stamina are monumental; his ability to eliminate risk is awesome. Even Stuart Broad said he had to smile from the dressing room as he watched Cook elaborately leave a loose ball outside the off stump. He was on 290 at the time: dispiriting for bowlers, remarked Broad. You don't say… The first time I became aware of Cook's prodigious performances was in 2005 when he won the Cricket Writers' Young Player of the Year award. He had scored a good double hundred for Essex against the touring Australians, and I turned to my neighbour at the awards dinner, who happened to be one Michael Brearley, and asked what Cook was like. Brearley's expression left nothing to question: Cook was clearly, in his view, the real deal. And yet, and yet. Will children still unborn one day turn to us and say, did you see Alastair Cook bat? Just as we might find some rheumy octogenarian and say, so what was it like, watching Bradman bat? I wonder… In retrospect it's a good thing that Graham Gooch's 333, against India back in 1990, wasn't eclipsed. Gooch is a great and — because he is so understated — sometimes underrated figure. He is a 'tache-tastic and unfashionable hero who has done so much for Essex, England, Cook himself and, of course, the hair-plugs industry. And how many other great English figures have worn a moustache with such distinction? Clement Attlee, Terry-Thomas, the Beatles (briefly). It's not a long list. But gosh this England cricket team is scarily good. The bowling can best be described as "robust", in the post-riots policing sense of the word, meaning relentlessly brutal. But the feebleness of the Indian team is still baffling. Maybe they just don't like playing in jumpers. There's poor Rahul Dravid, statistically the best catcher in Test history, spilling a couple of dobblers in the slips, but togged out as if he was setting off on a trans-polar expedition, so he could barely move. After some lightish duties in the UAE and Sri Lanka this winter, England have some routine work at home against the West Indies, before a proper heavyweight contest against South Africa. But because of the blasted Olympics, that's only a three-Test series: first and second in the world and just a best of three. Whoever thought that up should find themselves on the wrong side of a bit of gang culture.






Last year, on August 15, The Asian Age published an article written by me, titled Did India Awake? In the article, I had referred to Jawaharlal Nehru's historic speech, delivered at mid-night of August 14-15, 1947, in which he had declared: "When the world sleeps, India would awake to light and freedom." Around this poetic expression, I had built up the proposition that India had indisputably woken up but was walking on an uneven and uncertain path. Today, when I look at the intervening period between last year's Independence Day and this year's, I find that India's path has become far more uneven and uncertain. In fact, the country has started tumbling over and is hurting badly. In this period of one year, India has seen its worst cases of "scams, scandals and swindling" — Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum and Bellary mines. These cases have no parallel in scale or sheer brazenness. Take, for instance, the Delhi Commonwealth Games, October 2010. The main objective of bringing these Games to India was to enhance its standing among the comity of nations and to make it a more attractive destination for foreign investment, besides providing a long-term boost to tourism. But, after spending over Rs 18,000 crore, all we were left with was a plethora of cases of corruption which have badly sullied the country's image. Between August 15, 2010, and August 15, 2011, three notable judgments were delivered by the Supreme Court. One relates to the Chhattisgarh Salwa Judum case (July 5, 2011), the second one to the case of sewage workers of the Delhi Jal Board (July 12, 2011) and the third (July 4, 2011) to the writ petition filed by Ram Jethmalani and Others for the recovery of black money stashed abroad. In all these cases, the Supreme Court has, in its own way, pointed the finger at some of the deep and dangerous pot-holes in the path on which India is currently walking. In the salwa judum case, the court order talked about how "the culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic policy" of the state is largely responsible for the Naxal/Maoist violence and how the "amoral political economy", coupled with scant respect for "the vision and values of Indian constitutionalism", has virtually created a "heart of darkness" in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh. With the same insight, the Supreme Court, in the Delhi Jal Board case, talks about how insensitive the state apparatus has become and how, even in the country's capital, sewage workers suffer "high morbidity and mortality" on account of the apathy of those whose duty it is to supply "protective gear" to them. In the Ram Jethmalani case, by constituting a special investigative team under the chairmanship of Justice Jeevan Reddy (Retd), to investigate and initiate prosecution against the holders of illegal deposits in foreign banks, the Supreme Court has left no one in doubt what it thinks about the growing incapacity of the governance machinery to tackle vested interests. It is this incapacity which has enabled tax evaders to stash abroad amounts which, according to the Global Financial Integrity Report, may total up to $1.4 trillion (`70 lakh crore) This one-year period also witnessed decline in various institutions of governance. The latest reports of the ministries and field organisations reveal that in 2011, "completion delays" alone are likely to cost the public exchequer additional Rs 1,20,627 crore, and that the biggest casualty would be the key infra-structure projects. The International Finance Corporation and World Bank's report, Doing Business 2011, ranked India low, at 134th position, on the list of 183 countries surveyed for "Ease of Doing Business". After the grim and gory tragedy enacted by terrorists in Mumbai in November 2008, which resulted in the death of about 170 innocent persons and showed the overall security apparatus of the country in extremely poor light, solemn assurances were held out to the public by the Central and state governments that counter-terrorism-machinery would be effectively strengthened. Massive resources were made available for setting up a National Investigating Agency and a National Intelligence Grid and also for upgrading equipment and operational skills of the police personnel. And yet, on July 13, 2011, the terrorists were able to carry out serial bomb blasts in the heart of Mumbai with ease and confidence. Not very different is the position with regard to the challenges posed by Naxals who are now working on a new strategy to infiltrate into urban areas. Their aim is to tap disgruntled workers in the informal sector, build a cadre of urban guerrillas to establish supply lines of arms and ammunition to the rural areas. In the economic sphere, too, the sign-posts do not point to an elevating path ahead. The prices of essential commodities have risen sharply, and inclusive growth remains on paper. The number of dollar billionaires has increased to 69. They together hold wealth equivalent to one-third of the country's GDP, while about 800 million Indians live on less than Rs 20 per day. Hardly any housing is being provided to the urban poor and that's why the number of slums in our metros is increasing daily. There may have been a few bright spots here and there, but the overall journey of the nation, during the year in question, has been extremely hazardous. Is it not time that all right thinking people of India got together to ponder over the numerous disabilities that the country has contracted while traversing the wrong path, and carve out a safer, surer and smoother course for the future? History tells us in no uncertain terms that those who do not care to see the warning signals of a gathering storm are soon engulfed and destroyed by it. Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister





am i proposing censorship? yes.


It feels odd to start a column having failed to persuade oneself that what one proposes is sensible. My problem is this: Whenever I put the thoughts that follow to friends whose judgment I respect, they talk me out of my conclusion. Convinced by their counter-arguments, I banish the idea. Then I wake up in the small hours — and the idea's back. It is this: That should the civil disorder we saw a week ago turn into something more chronic than the chip-pan fire we've just experienced, then those who shape Britain's newspapers, television and radio ought to try — at least to try — to reach some sort of informal sector-wide consensus on a set of voluntary guidelines, necessarily imprecise, on how to report events honestly, factually and comprehensively, in ways less likely to sensationalise or amplify the drama. On the night of August 8, with the rioting at its worst in Britain, all the rolling TV news channels backed their reports, which they kept repeating, with what appeared to be looped videotape of burning buildings. So many sirens were coming out of people's TV and radio sets that it was hard to know whether the emergency was on the airwaves or in the street outside one's flat. After that, billowing smoke and orange flames became the media wallpaper of our week; and wailing police sirens the backing track. Anyone who works in journalism knows there are ways of ramping up or calming down a story without inventing or suppressing facts. Tone, prominence, vocabulary, sheer repetition are tools in any reporter's toolbox which, used skilfully, give shape and mood to a report without misrepresenting or even, strictly speaking, "distorting" the truth. It's disingenuous for us to claim that all we're doing is holding a mirror up to events: there's often a mood we aim for. I simply ask whether there might be national threats where it might be right for editors to talk to each other about what this mood might responsibly be. Well, now to the objections. They are formidable. I concede that they may be overwhelming. This is how my friends respond: 1. Admit you're proposing a kind of censorship. 2. Assuming you don't want government-dictated manipulation of the news, you must be asking media outlets in vigorous competition to dull down their own news reports. This would be an impossible demand. People would break ranks. It wouldn't work. 3. It isn't true that the media have dramatised the riots or inflamed public anxieties. They have simply reported the drama and the anxiety. 4. Hoodies and looters don't read the Times, the Telegraph or the Guardian. Most of them don't read at all. They weren't watching TV on August 8: they were rioting! They communicate by mobile phone, Facebook and Twitter, and it was these informal media that fanned the flames and brought new recruits to the disturbances. Let me attempt what response I can to each. First, that I'm proposing censorship, however subtle. Yes I am. We all censor ourselves, and are in turn censored, wittingly and unwittingly, by prevailing attitudes and our own sense of the public interest. We even accept that there are circumstances — war's an example — when the public interest may require systematised and codified forms of censorship. So this cannot be an argument about censorship in principle, but about where to draw the line. Second, that it wouldn't work. Maybe, maybe not. Many years ago a senior British politician suffered a serious family upset which would have been big news had his office not requested the media to observe a complete ban on mentioning it. The ban held. The public-interest argument for a voluntarily modified approach to riot coverage would be stronger than in that case; the interference with reporting less stark; so can we really assume that any attempt to coordinate editorial policy would be hopeless? Third, that all the media are doing, anyway, is making a dispassionate report. I simply don't accept that. Finally, that the traditional (and influenceable) organs of the media would be without impact on lawless youth. Not directly, I agree, but there is such a thing as a national state of excitement; it influences even those who do not see or hear the national media. Things permeate. A mood settles on everyone. By none of the objections, and by none of my replies, am I entirely convinced. So couch it like this: Would it be obviously futile for editors in due course to convene, informally and voluntarily, to explore at least the possibility that the broad outlines of agreement might be reached on how to report, without inflaming, any future crisis of civil disorder? I only ask.








DESPERATE situations, the old saying goes, demand desperate remedies. However does that justify taking resort to another cliché, robbing Peter to pay Paul? That query acquires much validity in the context of moves to conduct a special examination to facilitate army officers switching over to the police. The aim is to cater to a shortage of 1,477 officers (as on 1 January) in the Indian Police Service cadre. A move that would appear warranted in the face of India being among the most under-policed countries in the world. Yet does that not appear ridiculous when the Army is itself facing a shortage of over 11,000 officers (ten times more than the IPS) and that too in the cutting edge of young officers ~ the very ranks of  captain and major ~ for whom the red carpet to the police is being rolled out? The Army has been adversely affected by that shortage, men designated to the support services are now doing stints in the combat arms because of the heavy deployment in the insurgency-hit regions of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east. That same shortage has caused the military leadership to plead against an involvement in anti-Maoist operations since (principle apart) it would entail additional commitment of human resources. The Army is itself struggling to fill the vacancies in its officer ranks, the opening of a second officers' training academy is one such attempt.
It may be premature to comment on the possible success of the cross-force move. But given the deep, divisive rivalries between olive green and khaki there is reason to query the quality of the personnel who would contemplate moving to what is perceived (not that the perception is entirely valid) as a lesser force. It would be naive to believe that opportunity to serve till the age of 58 years (in the army there is a rank-age linkage) is the prime attraction ~ other, unmentionable "attractions" are the more likely allurement. Whether career-policemen would welcome, or be comfortable with men schooled in accordance with a different philosophy is another issue that needs examination. Then again, police functioning has a wider range of duties than what a soldier is trained to perform: and, yet again taking resort to a hackneyed cliché, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".




THE West, with Barack Obama playing the lead role, has turned the screws on Syria in a remarkably well-coordinated move to ensure the ouster of Bashar al-Assad's regime. Most importantly, it is a diplomatic offensive after the "humanitarian" military intervention in Libya turned out to be counter-productive. Thursday's bout of sanctions, announced by the US administration and buttressed with international calls for Assad's ouster, come after no fewer than 2000 people have been killed over the past five months. This by itself is testament to the ruthless severity with which the repressive regime has tried to suppress the people's movement. And the people may now wonder why it took the USA and the latter-day league of nations, formed in the wake of the jasmine revolution, as long as it did to coordinate this diplomatic push against the Assad regime. Nonetheless, the West has been able to advance the message that its patience with the President of Syria is exhausted. Viewed in the background of one-time ally Turkey's tough talk against Syria, Assad stands virtually isolated in the comity of nations. Indeed, Ankara's intervention in the affairs of Damascus has been a turning point in the Syrian crisis. 

It has now been reinforced with the robust diplomatic offensive of the Western powers, indeed a strident call for a regime change advanced by Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron. Both President Obama and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have been as blunt as they could be. "It is time for Assad to get out of the way". In parallel has the USA realised that "military intervention would be meaningless". A lesson appears to have been derived from the Libyan misadventure. As much is clear from Ms Clinton's statement that "the US understands the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle". That struggle can only deepen if Assad, in the manner of Muammar Gaddafi, remains impervious to international pressure. He heads a regime that has been rejected by the world powers.  Syria has reached a critical moment.




FACED with an emergency, Kolkata Police has stumbled again. Tuesday's heartrending accident on the AJC Bose Road flyover, that led to the death of a Class 12 student, points to an almost incredible lack of professionalism. Destiny be damned; Supriyo Ray may not have died unattended on the flyover had he been shifted to hospital in time. The failure of the police has been no less disgraceful than its response to the recent burglary and death at Ultadanga. Policemen dragged their feet in spite of being present nearby. Will a few fundamental questions get to be asked and answered?  Why did the police take 45 minutes to reach the spot despite the fact that Lalbazar's emergency trauma care unit was parked barely two kilometres away? To attend to mishaps is precisely the reason why such units are parked at certain intersections. The force must accept that its purpose was defeated on Tuesday. The boy was eventually sent to hospital in a private ambulance. Despite being informed, why was a constable made to walk the distance to convince the force that an accident had indeed occurred? Another riddle that delayed action once more was the almost chronically malfunctioning "100" helpline. Yet another is the total lack of control over speed along the flyover; Supriyo, who was riding pillion, died after falling off the motorbike that was running at breakneck speed. As often as not, teenagers use the flyover as a racing corridor.

The precaution, that has been announced in the aftermath of the tragedy, is another instance of trying to be wise after the event. Surveillance cameras are to be installed along the flyover; this should have been done long ago. Cameras must be manned and policemen present at either end of the flyover to nab those who break speed limits.  Above all, the response will have to be quicker; sluggishness on the part of the police can only deepen the tragedy. On Tuesday, the agony was prolonged in part by the police and in part by unresponsive passers-by. An office-goer had to block the road with his vehicle to make traffic stop. The tragedy has exposed the remarkably insensitive nature of Kolkata's civil society, an attitude that must in part be an outcome of the travails Good Samaritans often face in situations such as these.








THE recent movements in parts of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have violently reminded the nation yet again that the legal structure and socio-economic policies relating to land acquisition and development call for reflection.

The legal instruments that determine the process of development-induced displacement are the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the principle of  'eminent domain' of the State and the National Policy on Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2007 which replaced the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families, 2003. The national policy avowedly aims at striking a balance between the need for land to facilitate development and at the same time, protect the interests of the land owners, the tenants, the landless, agricultural and non-agricultural labourers, artisans and others whose livelihood depends on the land.
But a careful reading of the benefits to be offered to the affected families betrays a number of caveats. For example, land will be compensated by land only to the extent that "government land" will be available in the resettlement areas. Preference for employment in the project to at least one person from each nuclear family within the definition of "affected family" is also subject to the availability of vacancies and suitability of the affected person. Finally, training and the capacity for taking up suitable jobs or self-employment and scholarships for education are subject to "eligibility".

Despite these mechanisms and policies, farmers and tribal communities have repeatedly been displaced by government and non-government enterprises to set up dams, irrigation projects, mines and other industries without being given adequate compensation, rehabilitation or job opportunities in the development schemes. Worse, violence has been unleashed by the police and paramilitary forces as the arms of the state machinery to displace the population. One study calculated that two per cent of the total population had been displaced by development projects in the first 40 years of the country's planned development period (1951-1990). Of those displaced, however, 40 per cent were tribals though they comprise only eight per cent of the population. Those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat still remain the worst affected victims of monopolised authority of the legislature and flawed and incomplete implementation strategies of compensation and resettlement.

The agitation against forcible acquisition of land and unsatisfactory compensation and rehabilitation agreements have prompted the government to link their political calculations to the socio-economic adversities being faced by the displaced. The political mobilization over Singur was largely responsible for the CPI-M's denouement in West Bengal. And ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, the Centre and the Mayawati-led BSP are engaged in a tussle over the loss of farmers' land in Bhatta Parsaul. Despite the Union environment ministry's clearance and strong police presence in Gobindpur and Dhinkia villages in Orissa, attempts to "grab" land were thwarted by the people through the formation of a human barricade.

The Centre has pledged to introduce a fresh Bill on land acquisition in Parliament. In West Bengal, the Singur Land Development and Rehabilitation Bill was passed earlier this month. In Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court has questioned the Mayawati government's approval for the usage of land ~ acquired for development ~ for real estate construction. Meanwhile, the Congress is seeking the  views and suggestions of farmers across Uttar Pradesh, organised under the Kisan Sangharsh Samitis through a mahapanchayat (scheduled this month) for enhancing the quality of the legislation.

Any endeavour to bring about changes in the strategy of acquiring land or implementing schemes of compensation must first tackle the inherent ambiguities that can lead to displacement. They can even provide scope for judicial intervention in case of unsatisfactory implementation of policies. The principle of "eminent domain" has provided the rationale for acquiring land for public purpose. However, the term "public purpose" itself has remained ill-defined within the text of the Act. Successive legal enactments have steadily diluted the scope of the judiciary to adjudicate in cases of unsatisfactory compensation and unimplemented rehabilitation packages doled out during acquisition. The power of authoritative determination of quantitative aspects of compensation and resettlement has been left exclusively to political and administrative bodies. Three constitutional amendments clearly bear testimony to this trend.
In 1953, the validity of the West Bengal Land Development and Planning Act 1894 which provided for the acquisition of land after payment of compensation not exceeding the market value of land on 31 December 1946 was challenged. The party that received compensation claimed that it was inadequate. The Supreme Court ruled that compensation must be the just equivalent to what the owner has been deprived of. The Select Committee recommended the Fourth Amendment to the Land Acquisition Act and argued that "the quantum of compensation should be determined by the legislature and it should not be open to the courts to go into the question on the ground that the compensation provided by it is not adequate". By the 17th Amendment, 1964, the series of land reform legislation enacted by the states were removed from the jurisdiction of the courts and included in the 9th Schedule. In 1961, the Supreme Court held that the taking over of land under the "Kerala Agrarian Relations Act, 1961" was unconstitutional under Article 14 because a smaller compensation was paid for large tracts than for smaller holdings. [Karimbil Kunhikoman v The State of Kerala 1962 (1) SCR 829ff.] In reaction to the judgment, certain State land reform legislations were removed from the purview of the courts by including them in the Ninth Schedule. The 25th Amendment of 1971 got rid of the legacy of all the judgments that had raised issues of paying just compensation by replacing the term "compensation" in Articles 31 (2) with "amount". It barred the courts from questioning this "amount" on the ground that it was inadequate or paid in terms other than cash.

It has been pointed out of late that the compensation package should be determined in accord with the projection of the future appreciation of land following the emergence of development projects, and not just the present market price. The limited scope of seeking judicial redressal to contest unfair compensation or untimely rehabilitation obviously strikes at the root of the objective of the national development, displacement and rehabilitation policy. It seeks to make the displaced population 'significantly better off than they were prior to displacement, not just in economic terms, but also in terms of human development and security, in a reasonable time frame, and in accordance with their aspirations'.

Land is a fixed asset; the present trend of using agricultural land for development will inevitably continue. At the same time, development cannot be allowed to become the rationale for unilateral acquisition by the State and forced displacement. The unfolding of socio-political events in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh illustrate that pro-active leadership by politicians can help redress the grievances of the people who demand justice. The government must ensure a judicious mix of industrial and human development.  Beyond land reforms, it is essential to restore the balance of power and authority between the legislature and the judiciary. This will ensure a fool-proof system of guidelines relating to policy implementation as well as retrospective affirmative action by the judiciary to stem popular discontent.

The writer is Doctoral Fellow, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University






 HIS father, the late Rajesh Pilot, was rated as a dynamic Central minister and his mother, Rama Pilot, has also been a member of parliament, so minister of state for communications and information technology Sachin Pilot has politics in his genes. For the Congress, he is one of the upcoming politicians of GenNext. Born in Saharanpur, he completed his early education at Air Force Bal  Bharati School in New Delhi, did his BA (Hons) at St Stephens College, Delhi, and followed that up with an MBA from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, USA. On returning to India, he was inducted into the Indian National Congress on 10 February 2002. On 13 May 2004, he was elected to the 14th  Lok Sabha from Dausa constituency in Rajasthan by a margin of more than 120,000 votes and, at 26, became the youngest MP in the country. He changed his constituency for the 15th  Lok  Sabha elections to Ajmer after Dausa was declared a reserved constituency following delimitation. He defeated the BJP's Kiran Maheshwari by a margin of over 76,000 votes in 2009.
   Prior to becoming a minister, Pilot was a member of the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs and was also in the consultative committee of the ministry of civil aviation. He is married to Sarah Abdullah, daughter of Farooq Abdullah, National Conference supremo and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. He spoke to SRI KRISHNA on the plans and programmes of his ministry and made it clear the 2G Spectrum scam has had no adverse impact on the ongoing projects. Excerpts:


What has been the impact of the 2G scam on the telecom sector? Has it impacted on future plans?
I don't think it has impacted whatsoever. On the allegations made inside and outside Parliament, the Prime Minister and this government have taken very strong measures. All those connected, such as the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI, have chargesheeted the people concerned and they are in prison and steps have been taken to make sure tangible results come out. The Prime Minister himself has said that once investigations are over no matter how low or high the person may be, whether a bureaucrat or a politician, will be given the severest punishment and I think it is for all of us to see. As far as the ministry is concerned, we believe we are forging ahead with our plans because this country has to deliver the expectations and aspirations of young Indians. Our programme is to see that in the coming two years broadband is extended to all parts of the country, including remote areas of the North-east, for people should not feel they are not part of the telecom or IT revolution. They must be stakeholders and we are taking steps to ensure that all projects meet the timeline set for them. In the coming two years you are going to see a major shift in the landscape.
With such a huge area being handled by the ministry, what are the projects on hand to boost the telecom sector?
In the telecom sector today we have more than 800 million mobile users. We are now formulating a New Telecom Policy 2011 and the basic crux of this policy is to move towards delinking spectrum. What we are also going to do is to have stakeholders meet many times, which we have already started, so as to create opportunities. As a follow up to these meetings, three things have emerged.
First, spectrum is a very scarce national resource and I think the government must get a reasonable evaluation for it and it must be determined by market scan. We are basically custodians of the national resources of the people of India. We will evolve a policy where we will have a market-determined price of spectrum.
Second, we will focus on having a robust growth of the telecom industry. As you know, teledensity in the country was one per cent in 1995 and now it is 77 per cent. Mobile phones, too, have become accessible to people. We have the cheapest call rates in the world.  Third, to my mind the most important aspect is to make sure that the people have the best and the cheapest telecom facilities.
We are also working on technologies to evolve mobile banking, financial services, land records, so that the handheld set which we call mobile will very soon become your information centre and banking device and a whole lot of other things. Those are the broad features of the telecom policy. In the IT sphere we employ about 2.5 million people and there are about 8.5 million indirectly employed. India is emerging as a world power in IT but the more important aspect is how we ensure Internet penetration because today only 10-11 per cent of the population are online. What we want to do and which is also the commitment of the UPA government is to ensure that every single panchayat in the country will get the facility of high speed broadband Internet access. For that we have drawn up a plan to have optical fibre cable connection to the farthest part of the country, which would cost anywhere up to about Rs 20,000 crore.
In India we are always blamed for not having world class airports and roads, but I think my generation of politicians and this government in particular are focused on giving to younger Indians a 21st century infrastructure for IT. Once you have wireless broadband at very nominal rates and in every language with local content, it will change the entire structure of governance in the country. It will bring more transparency and we are working on this. As you know, any poor person, be it in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu or Orissa or any other part of the country, has to run from pillar to post to get information on land records. We have drawn up plans to computerise land records so that they become easily accessible. Telecom policy would be a catalyst for change. This would revolutionise society and empower people and also ensure that people don't indulge in corrupt practices.
What are the plans for improving the postal service in India, vis-à-vis Operation Arrow?
There are about 155,000 post offices in the country employing about 500,000 people. This department is three times the size of its counterpart in China. What we have now decided to do is to computerise all these post offices. We have set aside Rs 1,827 crore for Project Arrow, which has been a very successful endeavour. We are not only going to computerise post offices but also have facilities like e-mail and electronic money order and other services like ATM. There are plans to make it into a banking unit since just about five per cent of the villages in the country have banks.
The post offices would also be used for making payments to those employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. So, all in all, post offices will be playing a major role in the coming days. In view of the various facilities being provided by post offices, the footfall has been increasing here.






ANNA Hazare has caught the imagination of the nation. For the first time India's educated English-speaking middle class, a little less than one third of the population, has taken to the streets. No doubt the unprecedented coverage and exhortation by TV channels played a crucial role in spreading spread the movement. While Rashid Alvi's allegation of American inspiration or allegations by others of a foreign hand may be discounted, no doubt there are powerful interests encouraging the movement. Corporate honchos are uncharacteristically jumping on the bandwagon. Why, even SP Hinduja has made a stirring call against corruption through a newspaper article! Never mind how or why the nation has got galvanised in favour of Hazare. The bottom line is that Anna Hazare has become, today, the rallying cry for the people. So where do we go from here?
Hazare is not the solution to the problems besetting the people. He is the symbol of national discontent. Corruption is not the only cause of popular discontent. Police atrocities, total lack of governance, terrorism, inefficiency, subservient foreign policy and a host of other grievances do not arise from only corruption. Nor is the Lokpal Bill, conceived either by the government or by Team Hazare, likely to end corruption. Nevertheless, the present situation does offer a grand opportunity. There is prospect of a genuine cultural revolution that can reform the political system. Even more so than the Jayaprakash Narayan movement of 1977, there exists the potential for a paradigm change. I had some acquaintance with the origin and culmination of the JP endeavor. It ended in failure. If similar failure is to be avoided, I offer a few suggestions to Hazare and his supporters.
First of all, there is need for a concrete, specific and concise agenda required to bring about political reform. JP's movement had a simple catchword, "Total revolution". Team Hazare has a simple catchword, "Jan Lokpal". That is not enough for achieving a second Independence.  

The Lokpal Bill need not be dumped but integrated with the proposed agenda because it is already too deeply embedded in the national consciousness. As pointed out earlier, the proposed Lokpal can be confined to only political corruption, leaving the rest to the Central Vigilance Commission. Along with the CBI it can be made into a constitutional body accountable to the President. It can be clearly specified that the appointment and functioning of the Lokpal as well as the CBI and, indeed, all other constitutional bodies would be under the direct purview of the President without reference to the Cabinet. There is nothing in the Constitution that would counter this provision. The President, as the only official having the widest singular electoral mandate, is the appropriate functionary to act as the final arbiter. There would be other items in the proposed agenda for reform that would address all other major grievances. The time to formulate a consensus agenda for reform is now. Otherwise Hazare and his supporters could drift into chaos and confusion.

With the wide popular support already achieved by Team Hazare, it is a given that with requisite skill a national party can be created on the basis of an agenda for reform. Without a political instrument to implement the agenda, the movement's claims ring hollow. The new party should be formed on the basis of democratic principles with new membership drawn from the supporters who have taken to the streets. If any existing political party wants to join the new party it should be welcomed on the condition that it fully accepts the new party's agenda and dissolves its own identity before a full merger. Only then would the movement successfully challenge the prevailing political culture and system in order to introduce genuine radical change. The final step naturally would be to contest the general election and unseat the riff raff that governs India today.
People may think it too early to consider a concrete agenda and a new party. People would be mistaken. The sooner the public is educated about the endgame, the less the pitfalls to achieving success. Perhaps Team Hazare has already factored all this in its calculations. If it hasn't, it should. It requires a strong hand and a clear mind to hold the reins of a mass movement.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







By desire of Sir Louis Dane, E.C.I.E., Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, a committee has been formed under the presidency of the Commissioner of Delhi Division, for the purpose of making a loan collection of objects of historical and archaeological interest for exhibition during the coming cold weather. One of the old buildings in the Fort (the Chhoti Baithak or Mumtaz Mahall), which has for many years been used as a sergeants' mess, is being adapted to receive the collection, and to exhibit it to the best advantage. The combined collection will be on view on the occasion of the garden party which is to be given in the Fort in honour of His Majesty the King Emperor, but it is intended that it shall remain open during the whole of the cold weather. It is hoped that the collection will be the best of its kind ever exhibited in India, and it is sure to attract large numbers of visitors.
The objects that are wanted for the exhibition are objects of historical and archaeological interest, connected with the history of Delhi, or illustrative of the lives, both private and public, of its Emperors, the grandees of its court and its famous men. When the selection has been made, the contributor will be asked to send the selected articles carriage forward or by post, bearing, to Mr J.P. Thompson, I.C.S., Divisional and Sessions Judge, Delhi, or to the Hon Secretary, Mr Gordon Sanderson, Superintendent of Mahomedan and British Monuments, Northern Circle, Agra.










It only needed an issue like the impeachment of a judge to bring discontents out into the open. But the context should not detract from the arguments of Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), both of whom were vocal in their criticism of the way judges are appointed. They were ultimately speaking up for balance, since their main demand was that the executive play a greater role in judges' appointments. The dominance of the higher judiciary in the appointment of judges has long been the cause of simmering discomfort between the executive and the judiciary. The promise to form a national judicial commission has been equally long-standing, coming from different leaders at different times, generating debate, discussion and high-minded piety, without it ever coming to pass. The commission is envisaged as a broad-based panel comprising members of the higher judiciary and of the executive, and eminent citizens, that would include, among its other duties, that of appointing judges. The proposal has repeatedly tripped on the inescapable, if unspoken, issue of power. Whose word would be final, the executive members' or the judiciary's? Or even, who can veto whom?

In this less than dignified see-saw of points of view, the judiciary holds up the bogey of the politicization of judges' appointments as its defence against sharing the power to appoint judges with the executive and other non-judicial individuals. As is being repeatedly demonstrated, however, internal checks and balances that the judiciary claims are good enough are not adequate for balance and fail in providing transparency. That is the point of view presented by Messrs Jaitley and Yechury. It is a pity that this should be perceived as a disagreement at all. The judiciary in its wisdom may also see that transparent systems, whether of appointment or of promotion and transfer, would increase its stature and defeat its critics. This is particularly important at a time when the courts have been seen as activist, tending to overstep the bounds set by the overall threefold structure of the democracy, consisting of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Judges may come to their seats through various routes. In the United States of America, for example, federal judges are appointed in accordance with Article III of the constitution. That is, the US president appoints them and this is endorsed by the Senate. This is what would be perceived in India as a purely political appointment. In Britain, the system of appointment by the queen on the advice of the prime minister and the chancellor has recently been changed to one of open competition through the judicial appointments commission. This reform has clearly been made in the search for a middle way, for the sake of transparency and fairness. India, too, must find its own way to the same principles, even if the form of the national judicial commission is not considered ideal. There could be no better way to end charges of vested interests and opaqueness than a transparent system of appointment.







There was a time in Calcutta High Court when any ruling that the company law judge gave in open court was promptly negated by a division bench judge in chambers. There must be many other similar instances of confusion caused by overlapping jurisdiction even when the parallel centres of power are not unfriendly. N.R. Narayana Murthy the other day blamed the slowdown in decisionmaking and consequent stalemate in economic reforms on having "two leaders in the whole set-up".

Inevitably, promotions and banishments are attributed to what people perceive as the stronger of the two power centres. There are rumours of the other centre having to withdraw its candidate for plum jobs and of major policy decisions like the 123 agreement being delayed for clearance. Duality isn't altogether new. Some of the Emergency's miseries were laid at the door of what became notorious as the extra-constitutional centre of power right in the prime minister's own house. The contending interests of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Jaslok Sabha were jokingly held responsible for the chaos that accompanied the restoration of democracy in 1977. Even a prime minister who might modestly regard himself as primus inter pares and whose government's overall authority is circumscribed by the compulsions of coalition politics cannot be seen to share authority if he is to command the respect of 1.2 billion Indians and deal from a position of confidence with populist rabble-rousers.

This is especially necessary at a time of crisis when Manmohan Singh's masterly economic management must be seen to be matched by equally subtle and yet decisive political control. There's nothing personal in this; it's the system that must be saved. Jawaharlal Nehru's tussle with Purushottamdas Tandon had less to do with ideology than with proper relations between government and ruling party and the visible distribution of power. That's why Rahul Gandhi's reported assumption of authority within the party on his return from nobody-knows-where is welcome. Political theorists might question the legitimacy of the four-member committee and ask why Ahmed Patel is a member when the prime minister or a seasoned Congressman like Pranab Mukherjee are not. But considering the polity as it is and not as it should be, Rahul's involvement may help to re-establish the proper hierarchical order in relations between the party and the government.

Sonia Gandhi's mystery illness — newspapers abroad mention "skin or cervical cancer", "a history of weak lungs" and "diverticulitis, a condition which often leads to infection in the tissue that surrounds the colon" — offers an opportunity to review India's governance. The secrecy that surrounded the ailments of China's Dowager Empress and Bhutan's Shabdung may have been necessary for stability under monarchical opaqueness but is an unsettling factor at a time when democracy, which in India is peculiarly feudal at the best of times, is challenged from many quarters.

Attacking from one flank in a recent lecture, Santosh Hegde, the former judge who claimed the chief minister's scalp as Karnataka's Lokayukta, denied India's parliamentary system any representational value and blamed "the intoxication of power" for distorting Abraham Lincoln's noble concept of democracy. Power is monopolized, he lamented, by a venal and arrogant elite. Across the board, Baburao Hazare, a former army truck driver now propped up by no one knows who, seeks to usurp the functions of the parliamentary system and replace democracy with mobocracy in the name of a mythic civil society.

Manmohan Singh's credentials lie in banishing for ever the stereotype Indian as an emaciated, half-naked figure with a begging bowl that once featured in thousands of cartoons all over the world. The decisions P.V. Narasimha Rao and he took 20 years ago expunged from memory all trace of those bleak years of the Hindu rate of growth when India depended on PL 480 wheat to feed itself and was periodically ticked off for not being sufficiently grateful. Manmohan Singh's stewardship has since resulted in a thriving economy that is cushioned against the worst blows of global recession. It's naïve to say business has prospered in spite of the government because the previous 44 years showed that business cannot prosper without the government.

True, corruption takes heavy toll of prosperity but the uproar against it is possible only because, despite large pockets of abject poverty, the country is forging ahead. Yet, it's not the tangible signs of affluent modernity (small things like promptly delivered gas cylinders or easy telephone connections) that generate a sense of satisfaction in this 65th year of independence. The real pride lies in the self-evident proof of Narasimha Rao's assertion in Singapore in 1994 that the answer to the problems of democracy lie in not less but more democracy. Though some of Hegde's strictures are undeniably valid, his dirge isn't new. More to the point, nothing he says indicts the parliamentary system or suggests a superior alternative free of blemishes. His indictment is of the singer, not the song. If he is right, the same characteristics will undermine whatever system is adopted.

Until that deluge drowns all, we can take pride in a robust form of representative government that can reflect the popular will, give effect to public aspirations and act as a buffer against the bloodbath of Tiananmen Square or the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Britain's rioting and looting demonstrated that the most esteemed institutions even in the mother of parliamentary democracies can be in peril.

India's protective mechanism can succumb to internal weakness or external assault. The former lies in the duality mentioned earlier. The latter danger arises from the simplistic belief that a lok pal with authority over the prime minister will miraculously wish away all the manifestations of a cash economy that are such a daily irritant. Even Hazare doesn't have a magic wand to bring about miracles. But in his ignorance of parliamentary governance or the cabinet system, Hazare may not know it. He would not otherwise have asked of Kapil Sibal, "Who made him a minister? It comes as a surprise to me."

The whole parliamentary system which he is trying to take over probably also comes as a surprise to him. An Opposition has every right — indeed, a duty — to ferret out the government's weak points and attack there. But democratic decisionmaking (already weakened by the dual system) may not be able to stand up to the blackmailing pressure of outsiders who act as the Opposition's battering ram while professing to champion lofty causes.

The internal malaise, which also concerns power and ambition and also weakens the government at a time when the nation cannot afford weakness at the top is probably more lethal for it can become institutionalized as in pre-1950 Nepal where the Shahs reigned while the Ranas ruled. Being the self-effacing man he is, Manmohan Singh may not seek any advancement but public evidence of the right balance is necessary for stability as well as for his government's effectiveness. The term, Fourth Estate, was used in 18th- century England to indicate not a lusty press, but King George II's remarkable wife who was keenly interested in literature and philosophy and exercised considerable political influence. A contemporary couplet went, "You may strut, dapper George, but 'twill all be in vain;/ We know 'tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign."

The nation's thoughts are with Sonia Gandhi. Undeterred by the self-defeating and counter-productive veil of secrecy that surrounds her whereabouts and medical condition, Indians everywhere will offer their prayers for her quick and complete recovery. It would be a boon if, when she returns, the wisdom of her "inner voice" recommends a withdrawal from public affairs in her son's favour so that India is at last spared the Calcutta High Court's dilemma of one judge being able to negate another judge's decisions. A government is not a dual control car for the initiation of learners.


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