Wednesday, May 11, 2011

EDITORIAL

Friends
The summer is already here. Mercury slowly inching up, with some signs of passing showers showing up here and there only to push the mercury further up rather than down.
Month of March ended with a high note for the Indian cricket defeating its traditional rival Pakistan fairly in the world cup Semi Final at Mohali. Of course it had all the drama as was usually seen with India-Pakistan cricket match. The VIP from Pakistan, who, although didn’t appear very unhappy with the outcome of the duel, made it a point to tell his counter-part that cricket diplomacy will have its positive developments. Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani was the invited guest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Mohali, and had made some appropriate noises and expressed happiness at the invite. Although a concession to India was made to allow Indian investigators to visit Pakistan, tentatively, one singular development has been the agreeing by the Pakistani authorities, to release Gopal Das, who has been languishing in Pak jail for 27 years. For this alone it can be ‘Jai Ho Cricket Diplomacy’.
Euphoria of victory against Pakistan in Mohali had not died, on 2nd April, India beat Sri Lanka in the final of the cricket World Cup at Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai. For a cricket crazy country it was celebration of an unparalleled kind.
The latest data released by the Census 2011 has informed a pleasant and positive development that the population growth has, after all, started dipping. For the first time since independence 2001- 2011 is the first decade which has added lesser population compared to the previous decade. From 1951 to 2001, every decade had shown increase in number over the earlier decade. In 1961, it increased by 68.1 million, in 1971 it increased by 109 million. In 1981 it increased by 135 million, in 1991, it increased by 163.1 million. In 2001, it increased by 182.3 million. But in 2011 it increased by 181.5 million, which is less than the previous decade. In percentage terms it came down by a whopping 4%. That’s indeed a very good news. But the sad fact is sex ratio has come down rather badly. Female ratio is 914 to the 1000 of males, the lowest since independence. A sad commentary on the cruelty of the society in committing female foeticide, something that should make the emerging super power shameful.
The Shanglu Committee, on CWG scam, has faulted former boss and his deputies in CWG organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi & Co., for the ‘extreme concentration of power at the top’ and ‘conflict of interest’ among his aides. It was never a secret that Suresh Kalmadi, wielded power far disproportionate to his political standing. A person hardly in the know of sports, being the Olympic Association Chairman for long years without break, was lording it over, with the accumulated financial clout he had cornered over the years without accountability, for acts of commission and omission had to, one day, face the music. And the music was deafeningly loud and clear. The report informs that his decisions and those of his cronies have caused some Rs. 1600 crore loss to the exchequer, only in the award of contracts. For all you know, it could only be the tip of the ice berg. Just like suddenly CAG came like a sledge hammer on Raja, this Shanglu report, incidentally a former CAG, has exposed the rotten underbelly of Delhi’s corridors of power. Power corrupts and absolute power-corrupts absolutely. The latest on the subject informs that Suresh Kalmadi is, after all, arrested, accusing him of conspiracy in awarding contracts in CWG. Yes truth should prevail.
We have heard of women going to the court for alimony or maintenance allowance from their estranged husbands. But Delhi High Court has recently ordered a wife to pay monthly allowance of Rs: 20,000/- so also to give a car to her former husband. The report without naming the couple had observed that the business, claimed to have been, started by the former husband was doing very well, but presently being managed by wife and their two children. It informs that the mother and children trio allegedly threw out the man of the house and grabbed the business. Husband opting for divorce demanded maintenance and the lower court had accordingly awarded Rs: 20,000/- per month, which was challenged by the wife in Delhi High Court. Now the court has confirmed the award along with the car. We thought men were bad. It’s a competitive world, why should women lag behind? Doesn’t matter the negative.
The news that 2G scam accused Shahid Balwa is a friend of NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar need not surprise anybody. Pawar is everywhere, where there is big money and big power. Everybody, who should know, know it, that he has his finger everywhere where there is big money. Haven’t we heard just some months ago, his role in Lavasa development! He had claimed he is a friend of Kilchands of Hindustan Constructions, the Lavasa city developers. His son-in-law and daughter were the beneficiaries of his friendship. Lavasa is only one of his contacts. There are far too many, or else how can he ever become ICC Chairman. The news about Balwa friendship alleges that Pawar and Balwa travelled to Dubai few times in the private plane of the later and so were Shashank Manohar, the BCCI President, Praful Patel another high profile NCP minister at the centre. Also travelled, it is alleged, were, wives of Pawar and Manohar, so has I S Bindra of Punjab Cricket Association, besides Haroon Logart, the CEO of ICC. It was a bit of jamboree. More the merrier, but why at the cost of the nation?
And suddenly comes the news that one Mukund Bhawan Trust involving Pawar’s family and Balwa’s D B Realty caused a loss of Rs. 15000/- crores to the state exchequer. The trust which was given 3.36 acres of government land in early 90s has managed to remove the decimal point with the active connivance of the then Pune district collector. Thus to-day it has 336 acres instead of 3.36 acres. And reportedly Pawar had stated he is not a friend of Balwa! This is Pawar, the ‘powerful’, for you.
News from Kandahar-Afghanistan, informs that 10 people were killed, mostly UN workers working there, as a sequel to the burning of Quran by a pastor in Florida’s Dove Outreach Centre, is an extremely sad one. If the Quran burning was bad enough, the killing of 10 innocents was worst. Why does West always take things for granted and acts insensitively to the detriment of others is a question that is baffling. While those who react violently, to an idiotic action of a stupid person, are responsible for the tragedy of this death of innocents, they need to learn how to cope with the western idiocy. Killing of innocents surely should spur the authorities in Florida to take punitive action against the pastor who caused the incitement. He should be made accountable for this stupid act which led to the death of innocents, some of whom may be U.S. citizens.
These are the days of competitive electioneering. We have heard of Free T.V. sets, Rice at Re: 1 a kg, free laptops and umpteen other largesse, beside cash and liquor distribution, which are promised to the electorates in Tamil Nadu. However this latest one from AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha should take the cake. The headline from Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu was “Jaya Promises trip to Bethlehem for Christians”. Addressing one election rally in Kanyakumari she has reportedly promised, “If voted to power in Tamil Nadu, my government will help devout Christians travel to Israel just like Muslims go for the Haj Pilgrimage”. A very imaginative departure from the run of the mill promises! Good luck to Jayalalitha!
So, the first chargesheet was filed by CBI on the 2G spectrum scam. According to the investigating agency, the country was put to loss to the tune of Rs. 30, 984 crores, and indicted A Raja and eight others. As has been stated earlier, it could be, too little too late, but surely better late than never. How much of this loss could be recovered, as and when it happens, may be difficult to fathom at this stage. A message would surely go down, loud and clear. Yes, things can happen, if there is will. CAG needs to be really hailed for the report, where it claimed that country has lost around 1.76 lakh crores. Of course the difference between CBI figures and CAG figures may have to be looked into for the greater understanding of the fraud. And by the way, where is Mr Kapil Sibal, the minister who replaced A. Raja, who said there is “Zero loss” to the country? The special CBI judge O.P.Saini, has reportedly gone on records saying “there is enough incriminating material to proceed against the accused”. Hope the actions of the judge sends right signals to all.
The Mangalore datelined report “Women assaulted post India-Pakistan match” made a sad reading. Two BPO female employees who were being dropped by the employees vehicles at about 11.00pm, were not only enquired about their late-night movements, they were even reportedly asked to dance with them and hail “Bharath Mata Ki Jai”. It is indeed a sad spectacle that police are forced to handle such unsavoury situations from local youth. Such incidents will only give Mangalore and Mangloreans bad name. One pub-attack already had made Mangalore a suspect destination, courtesy the sensation hungry media. Hope, incidents of this nature does not recur, and police take stern and quick action to stem the rot in the bud.
India’s cricket victory at the World cup Final, early April, has again spurred the talk about giving ‘Bharat Ratna’ to the batting wizard Sachin Tendulkar. While there are no two opinions about his ability with the willow, whether he is a right candidate for the highest civilian award can be mostly an open and shut case. Firstly there is no provision in the constitution to award Bharat Ratna to a sports person. According to the criteria at present, award is given for exceptional contribution in the fields of art, literature, science and social service. So prima facie, there is no case. Of course the Maharastrian pride, justifiably so, has demanded that this award should be given to the batting maestro. There are also many among cricketers of the present Indian team who have expressed such a desire. But do you remember the last World Cup Final that India won and the last winning runs that were needed! Dhoni, the captain didn’t run when there was scope for singles. Many felt he was not ready for the player at the other end, Yuvaraj, to score the winning run. Dhoni wanted to hit the winning run himself. If that perception is true, then it is very unsportsmanlike, and Dhoni has been acclaimed as the worlds best captain! Lot of these cricketers play for their own promotion, rather than the game, or the country. Without naming any body in particular, look at these players, when they are close to 50, how careful they become, or say after 90, how extremely cautious they are, to reach the hundred! So in the record books, it’s the 50s and 100s, not the national honour at stake. Then there are players who display their principles differently at different occasions. To pick names may be taken as pettiness. But it is these pettiness of players that adds up to a whole. Thus any talk about Bharat Ratna must be on blemishless antecedents in service of the nation. And sports, especially cricket, do not necessarily lend itself for such an honour, with humongous amount of money involved.
The news that Tendulkar wants to keep playing as long as he can, is not a pleasant one, from whatever viewpoint one likes to take. He has played great innings for India in all forms of cricket. He is probably the highest scorer with highest number of centuries. But Sir, he has been playing for over 20 years. He made, name, fame and huge fortune. In India of 1210+ millions, there are innumerable players with talent. They need opportunity to make their mark in national uniforms. Saurav Ganguli has retired, Anil Kumble has retired. They have retired at the peak of their performance. Anil Kumble even refused to play IPL for being treated as a merchandise by Vijay Mallya. For Mallya, they are like race horses. ‘If you don’t win, I don’t need you’ is his dictum. Now there are senior players like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, they should retire to make room for other youngsters in the Indian team. That’s like sportsmanship. They should not be like politicians, who simply would not like to leave the seat for somebody else. Until their death they want to enjoy the political power, if not themselves, their progeny. But the state largesse should remain a family affair. None for outsiders. This culture of ‘me and mine’ has to go, for the country’s progress with equity. Cricket is no different.
Besides, since Tendulkar has the passion, and love for the cricket is still there, as he has reportedly claimed, he must spend his time, energy and may be even some money to promote cricket in the state of Maharashtra. And surely the state government shall be more than happy to be of assistance in this noble venture.
Assam was one of the earlier states to go for polls for state assembly. There were 485 candidates including less than 10% women candidates at 38, for 126 seats. Congress government in the state is looking to repeat for the third time in a row to come back to power. There is nothing unusual in this report, except the high profile Non-Resident Assamese Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament did not vote in the election that passed off. Yes, you got it right, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly did not vote in the election to the Guwahati seat of power. Returning officer of the Assam’s Dispur constituency, J. Balaji said Prime Minister did not exercise his right to vote so also his wife Gursharan Kaur, where the couple are registered voters. Why didn’t the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife not vote in the election? What ever could be the reason, it is most unfortunate, especially as a Prime Minister, the non-performance of his constitutional duty to vote can send wrong signal. Besides, he never felt obliged to explain his absence at the polling booth on the day of voting. Should some school student happen ask why, the teacher may not have the answer. What kind of an example is he setting to the students of this country, expecially when Mr. Moili, the Union Minister has gone on record having spoken of compulsory voting?
‘Jo Jeetha Wohee Sikandar’, and our governmental systems reward only those who achieved. Look at the way our cricketers are showered with cash and freebies, starting with the Rs. 1 crore cash to all World Cup Squad members. There have been announcement after announcement by most state governments. And our Yediyurappa government went little ballistic by announcing prime plots to all members of the winning team, even when there was no Karnataka player. Reeling under scams, the Karnataka Chief Minister thought of probably deflecting the public attention. It is another matter that BSY has already withdrawn the award offer. But it’s a cruel joke on other sports persons or athletes from the state whose condition cry for attention, from infrastructure to cash crunch for sports activities. It’s a pan Indian state of affairs with no meaningful sports policy.
The nuclear reactor problem in Fukushima in Japan post tsunami has once again focused issue on safety in Indian reactors and the new Nuclear deal with U.S. The possibility of reactors being bought from France figured prominently with Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant having been cleared by MoEF, Jairam Ramesh. Of course political parties with their short term programme may not really take up issues in the larger interest of people and state. The fact remains that Nuclear Power is one of the safest, compared to all other forms of power generation. Our own experience with nuclear reactors in different parts of the country has been rather good. There was no recorded serious mishaps that endangered life and property. Thus given the experience and the technical expertise available within the country can be appropriately harnessed for the larger good. Although Japanese current experience can help us formulate our plan and action better, we must remain India centric in technology adaptation for its better and economic management with least possible imported component, not withstanding Prime Minister Singh’s promise to both Obama and Sarcozi.
Consistent refusal of former CJI K G Balakrishnan to disclose his income tax details under RTI combined with the former Supreme Court Judges seeking the removal of KGB as the current NHRC chairman, has only made life difficult for the former CJI. The group of judges and social activists have sought an inquiry into the alleged acquisition of benami properties worth crores of rupees by KGB during his tenure as the CJI, and have accordingly written to Prime Minister and the President. As such even as CJI, his behaviour was questionable in the Justice Raghupathi episode of Madras high court. He did not cover himself with glory when he denied the knowledge of anything wrong despite the knowledge to the contrary. Media must take it up the way it took CVC Thomas’ case where even government became helpless in protecting him and led to his unceremonious exit. In fitness, however, it is best that KGB quits himself, to save himself from the ignominy of being asked to do so.
Sad story of children, between the age of 7 & 17, slogging it out in the coal mines of Jarkhand made a pitiful reading. Total neglect of safety have made these child workers’ life very vulnerable. It is the stark poverty that has forced these children into these ‘rat holes’ called mines. Unscientific mining and lack of safety has led to unaccounted deaths of these poor child labourers employed despite stipulation not to employ children below 18 years. Their deaths are neither investigated nor compensated. It is an existence of total despair with no PHC or safe drinking water with all kinds of health problems. Yes, the government admits to the situation. May be they will wake up only when Moaists visit these ‘rat holes’. After all official response is never preventive but only curative and slow. That is the lot of poor people in India.
The Anna Hazare campaign for the enactment of Jan Lokpal Bill was the biggest news that the 24x7 electronic media covered in recent times. These T.V. channels have proved that hype can really take it places. But this was one campaign which deserved all hype. They had to wake up a governmental Kumbhakarna (a character in epic Ramaayana) from its long slumber. Despite Anna’s repeated written approaches, PMO allegedly remained incommunicado. As usual it was the casual approach, hoping nothing unusual shall happen. But Dr Manmohan Singh did not expect what followed. Anna stuck to his stand that he shall fast unto-death, if a joint panel is not formed to finalise the draft of Lokpal Bill. And on 5th April, he acted on his threat. For four full days that he kept the nation on tenter hooks, there was widespread response all across the country. Pressure on the government kept increasing and finally the government succumbed and accepted the demand for civil society participation in the panel formation. It was indeed a victory for people’s movement. But bringing of small children did add a bit of drama which was not needed. Besides, the 100mtr long pyrotech display was not in good taste. The organisers should have requested and expressed displeasure at this blatant show of the euphoria. After all it was the people’s serious movement. Display of show by bursting crackers is an anathema and is best avoided. It does not give dignity to the movement. It was not world cup victory. As soon as the panel was formed and announced, dissent among civil society started cropping up. For most part it appeared to be a case of heart-burn for some section of the media and the so-called activists, who felt, how a low profile bunch of people led by an equally low profile Anna Hazare can hijack the whole movement against corruption. These people, the so called intellectuals, who thought they have the exclusive right to decide what is right and wrong were unhappy that media really made Anna & Co. a kind of heroes. Then there were politically motivated insinuations on father and son Bhushan duo, then Justice Santhosh Hegde. They even tried with Arvind Kejriwal. But thankfully nothing really stuck. Digvijay Singh and Amar Singh tried to raise muck for their own political end. Fortunately, to cut short the whole sordid drama, government to their credit stated that these allegations raised in the media will not come in the way of the panel working. Hence all were put to rest. Hope the intended draft gets prepared and presented to the parliament before 15th Aug. 2010.
The law forbidding the Niqab (full face cover except eyes) in France did generate the expected heated debate. While it can be argued as a violation of human rights of Muslim women, it is, whether we like it not, a security risk. Besides, of course, it is a sign of backwardness, a relic of the distant past and Koran apparently does not subscribe to it. So why a section of Muslims insist on its wearing? In most cases, it is the men influenced by clergy who force women to wear burqa or niqab. But there are instances when women themselves like to wear burqa or niqab, but a miniscule few. But then, while you have migrated to a foreign country, it is in your own interest to accept the do’s and don’ts of the country. But insistence and assertiveness is a quality these men and women do not want to give up. And this causes disharmony and avoidable discord. Something a section of the Muslims, the world over, are not ready to accept. Sad but true.
Post return to Pakistan, the remarks by Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi, need to be taken in proper perspective. Indian Muslim clerics have condemned it terming Afridi as small hearted. While the words chosen by him may be wrong and some parts may be condemnable, the fact remains that the hype in the media and responses from some people speaking to the media was certainly not in good taste. After all it was a cricket match, and good side should win. An element of bad blood was indeed introduced in the media interaction discussing the possible outcome of the match between traditional arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Unfortunately we have a history we are yet to come to terms with, despite the distance of 63 years. Both need to grow up. Afridi in a TV interview had reportedly berated Indians for their “lack of large heart, unlike Muslims and Pakistanis” and criticised Gautam Gambhir for dedicating the win over Pakistan to victims of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. While large heart is a comparable streak and is subjective his criticism of Gambhir’s remark shows his ignorance and lack of sensitivity, something that can be termed as unsportsmanlike.
There is something of a umbilical chord between Bofors and Congress. Bofors is back again with vengeance. Remember Justice Vinod Yadav, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at New Delhi! “…… in the case of Quattrochi, as against the alleged kickbacks of Rs: 64 crores he received, the CBI had by 2005 already spent around Rs: 250 crores on the investigation which is a sheer wastage of public money” magistrate had stated while allowing the CBI to close the case. And, the Congress led UPA government’s Information Commissioner has officially informed recently, while revealing to an RTI applicant that the ‘actual expenses on the Bofors investigation incurred by the CBI totaled a little over Rs: 5 crores! This revelation has comprehensively exposed the deceit of the Congress party, and it was indeed shocking that a magistrate should buy an argument of CBI that ‘as against the alleged kickbacks of Rs: 64 crores Quattrochi received, the CBI had by 2005 already spent Rs: 250 crores on the investigation, which is a sheer waste of public money’. We had observed in our April editorial ‘knowing the details of the case of 25 years of this Bofors saga, how could a judge close his perceptive senses and pass judgement which is patently bad in law?’
The news that Obama is looking for second term was only expected. But his popularity, unfortunately for him, is dipping. The latest to overtake him is Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni, in leadership appraisal. It is stupid to compare presidentship of U.S. to a cricket match. But then this is how world reacts many a time, barking up the wrong tree. It is true that despite his silver tongued sweeping promises, he has failed to deliver most of his election rhetorics. But probably, after Harry Trueman, a Republican, he is the only human being to have occupied the WHITE HOUSE. The country is in a bit of financial mess, but is still the worlds biggest economy. You can’t set right in three years the humongous melt down the U.S. economy faced, with an unco-operative and non participative selfish tycoons from the Wall Street who still want their pound of flesh with huge pay checks and large bonuses. Out there the world is cruel. It is the same story everywhere, the rich and powerful want more for themselves. But the global underclass still need Barack Obama. Yes he deserves to win. Hope at the end of 8 years, at the worlds most powerful address, he would leave his indelible footprints on the psyche of average American.
This joker of a Digvijay Singh is at it again. This time it was Justice Santosh Hegde that he pin pricked. He thought something will come out of it for him and his party bosses to celebrate. But Justice Hegde, is not the one after power and position and hence decided to walk out. On learning about the avalanche of support for Hegde, this bloomer backtracked. The ususal “Maine aisa to nahin kaha tha’ followed. Close on its heels it was Mayavathi’s silly demand for a Dalit in the panel, and comes again Diggy Raaja with his “Unki baat mein dum hai”, and tried to stir the murky water which was already muddied with all and sundry having a pot shot at Anna Hazare Panel members of the Lok Pal drafting Committee. Suddenly Congress Gen Secretary fell silent, probably under instruction from higher ups, the government declared that not withstanding any controversy, the panel already constituted shall go ahead as agreed. At last some wisdom prevailed.
Granting of bail to Dr Binayak Sen by Supreme Court is the virtual slap for both the Chattisgarh trial court that awarded him life sentences and high court which refused to grant him bail. The observation of the Apex Court that mere possession of Gandhian literatures does not make one a Gandhian is very apt. From the beginning except the Chattisgarh Government, and by extension Chattisgarh police and by further extension BJP and its students' wing, the whole of India knew that there is no case against Dr Sen. But how-come BJP lost its sense of proportion, only to protect the interest of mining lobby, and commit crime against dedicated and committed social workers and barefoot doctors. After all it was Dr Sen who helped this Chattisgarh government in framing child centric health policies. But unlike the government, he was without any agenda, except that of serving the marginalised. But this government of Dr Raman Singh has the agenda of helping industry and business to exploit the mineral of the state who in turn give part of the loot to the government. And Dr Sen's activitites were uncomfortable to the govt. and therefore sending him to jail for life is the best option with the help of committed Judges.
A section of the print media reported, that there is trouble at the helm in The Hindu, the print media giant from South India. Kasturi & Sons Ltd, Chennai, the owners of The Hindu and its allied publications, is not known to be without its share of controversies. There have been problems in the past. Current imbroglio is between N.Ram and N.Ravi. N.Ram who has turned 65, is refusing to leave the position of Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and stopping N. Ravi to step into his shoes. According to N.Ravi, the present Editor-in-Chief is indulging in actions inconsistent with probity and fairness. On an earlier occasion, N.Ram was indicted by the Company Law Board for his arbitrary actions of removing the M.D of Kasturi & sons Ltd. Thus the people who shout from the rooftop about the probity in public life should equally stand mirror to their own actions! Mr N ram, if N.Ravi is right, better prove himself as an example of fairness. Or will he be like all his communist friends, who believe that “All are equal but some are more equal than others.” ?
Wikileaks published by The Hindu has really caught the imagination of news paper reading public of India. We have taken up the relevance of WIKILEAKS under focus. Hope you will find it interesting. Do revert with your thoughts. We value them. Rest as usual.


FOCUS

WIKILEAKS & INDIA
J.SHRIYAN
"It means, he has a habit of reactively covering up allegations of corruption”.

This was The Hindu front page head line on 12th April 2011. It was a statement attributed to Julian Assange, the Editor-in- chief of Wikileaks. As I was reading the headline, I had absolutely no doubt whom was he referring to.
On 8th April, Mr.N. Ram, the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, had called on him with prior appointment for a tête-à-tête on the purported leaks of the cables from the U.S. embassy from India in particular, and its offices worldwide in general.
It is to the credit of The Hindu, for having published these India cables in its daily issues consecutively for some three weeks. These publications have been highly educative, on the way how things happen away from the public glare and audibility. Some may be the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Some may be half truth and some may be figments of imagination, but information and educative all the same. Surely these disclosures may not be gospel truths and need not be taken as thus. But surely they are indicative of where the wind is blowing, and have laid bare in the public domain, how some of our leading figures in public life think and act on diverse issues of national relevance, which hither to was unavailable in the public domain. By any stretch of imagination, it is indeed a signal service by The Hindu to the Indian public at large. It is indeed very praise worthy.
Coming back to the long front-page headline in The Hindu of 12th April, as I mentioned that its reference left me in no doubt, that Julian Assange was indeed referring to the worlds most educated, economist Prime Minster of India. That was the most devastating comment by anybody, anywhere on the persona of Dr Manmohan Singh, ever since he became the Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy.
As all Indians are privy to the knowledge that Singh was a reluctant politician, without, any allegation of whatever kind. He entered the cabinet of the first UPA government on 22nd May 2004, as Prime Minister on a very clean slate. Reams of paper were written about his blemishless and clean public image, so also about his apolitical nature. But the rough and tumble of India’s political culture has slowly but surely have degenerated the man in Dr Singh.
There was this Reader’s Digest compilation of most trusted public figures of India and Dr Manmohan Singh was ranked 7th overall, and called him the most trusted politician. But the question that was not answered was, what about Dr Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister. ‘As a Prime Minister, you belong to the whole country, not just to a political party. Your party affiliation should not come in the way of taking a considered and value based stand on issue on national relevance.’
Sometime last month, while speaking to state Chief Secretaries in New Delhi, Dr Singh had reportedly stated “Corruption dents India’s image, hampers good governance and need to be tackled boldly and quickly”. He spoke as the Prime Minister of India, and tried sending a serious and well meant message to all concerned. But what is the ground condition?
Sometime in Sept 2010, under advice from the government headed by Dr Singh, the Solicitor General of India. Goolam E Vahanvati told the Supreme Court ‘The Red Corner Notice was withdrawn a year ago. There is not a rubble of evidence to keep prolonging the case in the trial court. We have decided to withdraw all prosecution and close the case”. He was referring to Italian businessman fugitive Ottavio Quattrocchi. We are all privy to the knowledge that Bofors gun deal during Rajeev Gandhi regime was the single most high profile corruption tainted deal. The amount of bribe involved was Rs: 64 crores, which by to-day’s standard may not be exactly peanuts, but not a very big one by any standard. But in 1984, it was indeed a big one. In fact, Rajeev Gandhi lost power only because of Bofors scandal, and Italian Quattrocchi was a family friend and biggest bribe taker in this deal. No wonder BSP Supremo and UP Chief Minister cried hoarse, and justifiably so. While CBI is persuing cases against her, this Quattrocchi is allowed to go scot free only because of his links with the first political family of India. This is an open double standard in public life. Therefore the decision of the government of Prime Minister Singh to formally free the middleman Quattrocchi from any legal proceedings for his role in the Bofors gun deal in the early 80’s is indeed a huge black mark. Like one Mumbai based newspaper put it “Admittedly being a nominated PM Dr Singh might have found it hard not to carry out the wishes of his masters, but then a test of a real gentlemen, as against a mere time–server, lies in such difficult situations. Principled persons are expected not to compromise on fundamentals of Justice, Equity, Honesty etc., and are known to have sacrificed all material and worldly comforts for the sake of upholding higher standards. But unfortunately, Dr Singh all along has taken the path of least resistances when it came to carrying out the orders of his masters.” Thus unwittingly he too has become a party to the cover-up. So, isn’t Julian Assange repeating what the Mumbai paper has stated?! Although many Indian papers across India have, at times, did take this line of thinking, this is for the first time, that a high profile international website has given this kind of negative certificate.
While complimenting The Hindu and Indian people, he noted that “India has terrible corruption and something must be done about it and its encouraging to hear that so many people are now pushing strongly against it, including Anna Hazare, the Gandhi-ist”.
Continuing his talk to The Hindu, Assange reveals “India accounts for some of the highest amounts of deposits in Swiss Banks which must be questioned as to what that money is doing”.
Assange is a British subject, and is disturbed about this money stashed away in Swiss Bank. Our Prime Minister and our Finance Minister are in the meanwhile mouthing inanities, saying agreement about double taxation is being put in place and these agreements are making it difficult for the Indian authorities to disclose the names of account holders. In fact, on April 15, the central government of Dr Singh the PM and Pranab Mukherjee, the F.M., have reportedly declined to disclose in the Supreme court names of people who have stashed black money in foreign banks saying it is not possible to disclose information received from foreign governments under Double Taxation Avoidance agreement. According to press report, government has agreed to reveal the names of 6 persons having a/c with the bank in Liechtenstein. But the joke is, it is already availbale in the public domain, most of whom are trustees of Lilavathi Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai. To lend credibility to thier move, Finance Minister is preparing to make claim of income tax on these money held in Swiss Banks and trying to mislead the gullible public opinion, by saying government will recover this tax from these Swiss Bank a/c holders from India.
But what about the sums of the money? Isn’t it the Indian public money looted out of the system in some shady illegal deals? Finance Minister’s plan is to get only 30% as income tax to the exchequer and let the thief get away with 70% loot. Some private deal at work?! A kind of a quid-pro-quo?!
Assange talks about global black money or unaccounted money generation and its travelling to the Swiss Banks. Referring to the detention of Rudolf Elmer, who has claimed to have details in his possession of these bank a/cs, Assange tells The Hindu that “He is in a position where he has severely embarrassed the Swiss state, which gains nearly 50% of GDP from its banking”. According to him, Switzerland holds nearly 1/3 of all the worlds’ ill gotten dirty money which is privately owned. Thus, the power brokers the world over has used the opaque system within the Swiss state to retain their hold on this sleazy money, and Switzerland is lording it over this filthy empire to the detriment of governments of mostly poor countries. How-come global leaders are helpless in making the Swiss authorities to at least disclose the names of these secretive account holders?
For far too long Switzerland and its corrupt patrons had it very good. Its time they are made accountable. A tiny geographical land mass in the Alps cannot hold the whole civilised world to ransom.
Yes coming back to the Wikileaks’ Assange and the interlocutor N. Ram of The Hindu, here are two questions which needs reproduction along with the answers there to.
Q. In India, after the initial stunned reaction, the tone of the official response to our publication of the India Cables was set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh questioning or disputing in Parliament the authenticity of the cables and what the U.S. Embassy and consulates were reporting back to the State Department. Here is what he actually said in the Lok Sabha, our House of Commons, on March 18. He said the government 'cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communication.' This seems to have set the Indian government apart, from the rest of the world’s governments. Have you come across this reaction anywhere else?
A. We have not come across this reaction and this reaction disturbed me. Because Hillary Clinton had been involved in informing the Indian government, in December (2010), as well as many other governments, that this was coming. There has been no question as to the credibility of any document we have ever published in the last four years, let alone the (U.S. Embassy) cables – which have been authenticated by the very aggressive action of the State Department towards us and by hundreds of journalists from the most reputable institutions across the world.
That is why I said, I find that statement a deliberate, knowing attempt to mislead the Indian population. And that is something which is quite concerning. Because that is not just an allegation, it is directly from Prime Minister Singh’s mouth and he knows better than to do that. While I have heard - I have no proof but the consensus seems to be that – he is not personally corrupt, here’s a clear attempt to cover up for the possible corruption of other people. Rather than simply playing it straight, which he should have done, and say, “Look, there are allegations. They are serious and we will investigate them and come to the truth of the matter and give a full report to the Parliament.”
I think if he had taken that approach, he would have been served a lot better. So he has acted against his own interests and acted against the interest of his party, which is odd. So I would suggest it means that he has a habit that he was following rather than thinking things through – and a habit of reactively covering up allegations of corruption.
On 17th March, as a sequel to The Hindu publication, parliament was rocked with the explosive exposure of Capt. Satish Sharma's assistant Narchiket Kapur showing an U. S. Embassy staff, on the eve of confidence vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, chests containing some Rs 60 crores, being part of bigger fund, which party has collected, to purchase the support of MPs. Reportedly, aide also claimed that former MPs belonging to Rashtriya Lok Dal had already been paid Rs: 10 crore each to ensure they voted the right way on the floor of Loksabha. Wikileaks cable also informed that an attempt to buy Akali Dal MPs (8 votes) through Sardar Sant Chatwal, a controversial financier from the U.S., had ‘unfortunately did not workout’. And it was the same Chatwal who figured in the Padma awardees list in Jan. this year, which created a bit of furore. According to U.S. Embassy sources, which this cable is trying to put in public domain, even small planes and jets were spoken of as bribes by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.
As was only expected opposition parties used the information to catch the government with their undergarments down. After persistent insistance by opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to both the houses of Parliament to defend his government, or rather his Congress party that “No cash was given for votes”.
Referring to debate, the cable’s charge of a Congress Party worker's showing bundles of currency notes as bribe money to U.S. embassy staffer, he has reportedly stated “I would like, to make it clear once again that none from the Congress Party or the government indulged in any such unlawful act during the trust vote in 2008”. He insisted “We have neither involved in any such transactions nor authorised any one to indulge in such transaction”. The transformation of Dr Manmohan Singh, the economist bureaucrat, as a politician was complete. He did not blink while giving a certificate of 'No Wrong Doing' to his government and his party.
However it is interesting to note that former U.S Ambassador to India, David Mulford had reportedly stated sometime in March 2011, to put at rest any doubts on the veracity of the contents of these cables. He had said “The reports from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in general, are accurate reports!"
From the interiew that Times Now had recently with Wikileaks, Times of India, has published one explosive sentence attributed to Mr Assange "There is more Indian money in Swiss Banks than any other country", blowing the lid off the whole controversy on black money.
Here is another question and the answer there to.
Q. The India Cables have shown a nexus, sometimes unholy or dubious, between U.S. International policy and the interests of its big businesses, for example the Dow Chemical Company, or Boeing, or nuclear reactor suppliers. This nexus seems to be very evident in India as well. Do you think the publication of these cables will make a difference? Or is it something we have to live with, this nexus between powerful government policy and the interests of big business, in controversial areas?
A. Not all business is bad, obviously.Yes, I think big business are powerful and they are able to throw their weight around, in terms of the United States context, funneling money to congressional campaigns. The statistics for Washington is, 50 lobbyists per Congressman. So that’s an enormous amount of intellectual power being placed on each individual to manipulate them. Similar activities take place in other parts of the world where big companies, not just from the United States but from Russia and China and the United Kingdom specially, do try and manipulate and get inside levers of government.
What these cables do, is not stop that situation directly but make it absolutely clear that is going on.
Now it is absolutely clear how things happen beyond the prying eyes of the press, the activists and the people at large. Also clear are the way things are managed to the benefit of few at the cost of the nation and therefore the public. This has exposed the malpractices being practiced within the precincts of the offices and houses of people’s representatives and their influences peddling cronies, who live off the loot of the public money.
The path breaking efforts of the WIKILEAKS in bringing the sleazier side of the U.S. agenda driven politics, promoted at the cost of third world, is indeed a revolution of a kind. And The Hindu and its editorial board need to be congratulated for bringing this shady aspect of the world’s most powerful nation’s leadership in influencing course of events within India, so also for exposing systemic rot prevalent in the political life of the country. Therefore the relevance of WIKILEAKS vis-à-vis India is absolute. In fact, both WIKILEAKS and The Hindu should be nationally honoured for the yeoman service they rendered in public awareness.

SERIAL : 32

GANG LEADER FOR A DAY
The Hustler and the Hustled
While the oficial statistics said that 96 percent of Robert Taylor’s adult population was unemployed, many tenants did have part-time legitimate jobs-as restaurant workers, cabdrivers, cleaning ladies in downtown corporate offices, and nannies to middleclass families. But nearly all of them tried to hide any legitimate income from the CHA, lest they lose their lease or other welfare benefits.
There were also working men living in Robert Taylor, perhaps a few dozen in each building. But they stayed largely out of sight, again because of the CHA limits on how much money a tenant family could earn. Sometimes a man would leave home for a few weeks just to keep the CHA inspectors off guard. So when I or someone else they didn’t recognize came into an apartment, the men might head for the back room. They didn’t attend many tenant meetings, and for the most part they let the women handle the battle for better living conditions. The absence of men in Robert Taylor had made it that much easier for the gang members and pimps to essentially have the run of the place.
As I began compiling statistics on the illicit earnings generated by women throughout Robert Taylor, it became obvious that all their illicit earnings combined hardly constituted a lucrative economy. Selling food or candy out of your apartment might net you about twenty dollars per week. (Cordella Levy managed to do better than that, having persuaded a local grocery store to sell her candy wholesale in return for steering her customers to that store for their groceries.) Day care brought in five or ten dollars per day per child, but business wasn’t steady. A woman could earn more selling sex, but that was risky in a few ways. One of the favored moneymaking options, therefore, was to take in a boarder, which could generate a hundred dollars a month. There was never any shortage of people who needed a place to stay.
But I also discovered something more interesting, and probably more important, than the money that changed hands in these various transactions. Many households participated in a vast web of exchanges in which women borrowed, bartered, and pooled their resources to survive. One woman might offer day care for a large group of women, another might have a car contribute by driving folks to groceries, and other women might take turns cooking for various families. In some cases the members of a network maintained a fixed formula of exchange: If you cook my family five dinners, I’ll take care of your kids for two days.
Often a network of women would share their apartments as well. Let’s say there were five women on one floor whose apartments had maintenance problems (which, gives the condition of the buildings, wasn’t uncommon). There was little chance that the CHA would respond to all their repair requests, and the women couldn’t afford to pay five different bribes to Ms. Bailey or the CHA building manager. These women would pool their money to make sure they could pay the necessary bribes so that at least one apartment in their network had hot water and at least two had working refrigerators and stoves; perhaps one of them would also pay for pirated cable TV. Everyone would shower in one apartment, cook in another apartment, keep their food elsewhere, sit in the one air-conditioned room to watch the one TV with cable, and so on. To have your own apartment with all utilities functioning was a luxury that few people expected in Robert Taylor.
I met most of the neighborhood’s male hustlers by ganging out in the local parking lot with C-Note. He let people know that it was safe to speak with me .There were always a lot of men milling around, talking and drinking, who represented the diversity of the neighborhood hustlers: carpenters who did inexpensive home repairs, freelance preachers, truck drivers who worked off the books for local factories, car thieves, rappers and musicians, cooks and cleaners. All of them made their money under the table.
Most of them had once held legitimate jobs that they lost out of either misfortune or misbehavior. Until a few years earlier, they could have gotten a few hundred dollars a month in welfare money, but by 1990, Illinois and many other states eliminated such aid for adult men. The conservative revolution launched by President Ronald Reagan would lead eventually to a complete welfare overhaul, culminating in the 1996 directive by President Bill Clinton that made welfare a temporary program by setting time limits on just about every form of public aid – for men, women, and children.
For men like the ones in Robert Taylor, the welfare changes only exacerbated their poverty. They all learned to keep track of which restaurants and churches offered free food and which abandoned buildings were available for sleeping. Like the women, the men also had a network: One would cook while another looked for work while yet another tried to find a place for all of them to sleep. If they heard of a vacant apartment, they’d pool their resources to bribe the CHA building manager, gang leader, tenant leader, or who ever else happened to have the key. These men also passed along information to cops in exchange for “get out of jail free” promises, and they could always make a few dollars from CHA janitors- who regularly paid off hustlers to clean the buildings when they felt like taking a day off.
C-Note introduced me to Porter Harris, a bone-tine men, sixty five years old, who spent much of his time scoring the South Side for recyclable junk. When I met him, he was a pushing a shopping cart filled with wire, cans, and metal scrap, trolling the tall grass between the high- rises and the railroad tracks. Years ago, Porter told me, he was the on who dictated where various hustlers in Robert Taylor could work, sell, and trade, much as C-Note did now. But he’d had to leave because of a battle with a gang leader.
“Booty Caldwell, real name was Carter,” he told me in a southern drawl. “That was the one who kicked me out of here for good.” Porter picked at his few remaining teeth with a blade of grass. He wore a floppy straw hat that made him look as if he’d stepped out of a faded photograph from the Old South. “There were about ten of us. I controlled Forty-seventh Street to Fifty-first. I had this whole area-you couldn’t sell your soul without letting me know about it, yes sir.”
“Sounds like a good living,” I said, smiling. “You were the king of hustlers?”
“Lord, king, and chief. Call it what you want, I run that area. And then one day it all was taken away. By Booty Caldwell. He was part of the EI Rukn gang.” By the late 1960s, EI Rukn had become the most powerful gang in Chicago. They were widely credited with uniting many independent gangs, making peace treaties and cooperative arrangements that resulted in a few EI Rukn “super gangs”. But a federal indictment in the mid-1980s weakened EI Rukn, allowing other gangs, including the Black Kings, to take over the burgeoning crack trade.
From Porter, C-Note, and others, I learned that the most profitable hustling jobs for men were in manual labor: you could earn five hundred dollars a month fixing cars in a parking lot or roughly three hundred dollars a month cleaning up at the local schools. The worst-paying jobs, meanwhile, often required the longest hours: gathering up scrap metal or aluminum (a hundred dollars a month) or selling stolen clothes or cigarettes (about seventy-five dollars a month). While just about every hustler I interviewed told me that he was hoping for a legit job and a better life, I rarely saw anyone get out of the hustling racket unless he died or went to jail.
to be cont...

FEATURE

Is Tahrir square spirit catching up with Indian civil society?
P M Kamath

Two months back, in February, when I addressed several groups of people interested in international political issues like the developments then in Egypt, one question that was raised by many was: Will the Tahrir square spirit catch up with the Indian civil society? Then I was little hesitant to say a firm ‘yes’ as I reasoned that because of Indian society being highly pluralistic—divided on caste, sub-castes, regional, religious, language considerations, it is unlikely that we can present such an united front against the government in India!
I added further: That it does not mean Indians are not fed up with corruption and highhandedness at every level. You go to get a death certificate, you have to pay a bribe, you go to get your medical practitioner’s registration certificate you cannot get it without a bribe. You try to register a property you bought; you have to pay speed money. But if an encroacher pays a hefty bribe, he can get an encroached land declared as non-agricultural in his name! Though ‘slum’ as a matter of definition, refers to a cluster of temporary structures, with bribe you can get a single hut on a private school property declared as slum! But if you approach the very same government with a request to remove the encroached hut, government says they have no power to remove encroachment from a private property! In the absence of your willingness to pay a bribe you will run from pillar to post to get a small playground for school transferred to its name though reserved as a playground, by the very government! I give these examples from my personal experience as a managing trustee of a school run as a voluntary social work.
However, now I feel that Anna Hazare’s fast unto death has changed all that. He has provided an anchor of safety for every one who wants to liberate India from corrupt practices of bureaucracy and its supportive-guardian politicians. Young college students desire to join the movement as school students are excited about it. It is likely to develop as another movement as one led by Jay Prakash Narayan in the 1970s against Indira government with a major difference! And that is: Anna Hazare and others lending him support are all from outside politics. Om Prakash Chauthala and Uma Bharati when went at the Jantar Mantar, venue of Anna’s fast unto death, they were hooted out!
The government, however, thinks that Anna Hazare is set up by the opposition, which Hazare himself has rejected vehemently! After all, what is the demand of Hazare? Since government has been dilly-dallying for the last forty two years on drafting an effective Lok-Pal bill as the Super watchdog against the cancer of corruption afflicting top to bottom of the government, he is demanding that drafting be done by a committee with fifty percent government representatives and participation of fifty percent of civil society representatives of high integrity.
Of all the arguments against accepting Anna’s proposal, put forward by the government, stupidest one is: There is no constitutional provision for people’s participation in drafting of the bill! Hence, it goes against the very grain of parliamentary democracy! Those people who put forward such an argument forget the fact that parliamentary system originated through the Magna Charta, a charter of rights, drafted by a group of prominent people (Barons) - and not by the king’s corrupt ministers against the wishes of the King on June 15, 1215 AD. Even in terms of Austinian sovereignty, what King permits becomes the law! Hence, if elected parliament and cabinet accept a proposal mooted by the people, it becomes a proposal of the legally established government. After all, it has to be approved by the Parliament!
The present government is also worried about this becoming a precedent! Magna Charta has not become a precedent in England though it is part of British unwritten constitution. Extra-ordinary situations demand extra-ordinary remedies! But certainly it would, in future, provide Indian government a warning! ‘Behave or else people might be forced to act!’ Even if it becomes a precedent, it will only enrich the content of Indian democracy as established democracies in the US (state levels) or as in Switzerland there are provisions for initiative by the people to write laws and put for people’s vote. Let us make a new beginning in strengthening Indian democracy, now that the federal government has been wise to accept it.
But people’s power he now exercises should not make Anna Hazare to lose control of the popular movement, by his making too many of them at a short time! This fear arises from his demand aired even before the work on Lok Pal is completed, for getting the right to recall. This fear arises from the doubt whether Anna has a person-specific agenda—focused on Sharad Pawar. He had made a reference to him while referring to Group of Ministers appointed to study corruption. No doubt, Pawar might be corrupt in his view point, but there many other corrupt politicians at Centre. Corruption is there every over. Let civil society get consolidated first with the current initiative, not only at the federal level, but also at the levels of state and local, because, Aam Admi is much more harassed by the corruption at the state level and local than at the federal level though the magnitude of corruption and scandals at that level are high and more visible. Let Anna Hazare consolidate right to initiative before pushing for Recall. Let Indian democracy grow by evolutionary steps rather than through half-baked measures.
(Author is formerly Professor of Politics, University of Mumbai and currently Hon. Director, VPM’s Centre for International Studies, Mumbai & Adjunct Professor at Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Manipal.)

RTE and Literacy-Need to Ponder
J.Shriyan
Right to Education (RTE), is probably one of the biggest thing that has happened to India and Indians in recent times, especially for those in the margins. Reams of paper have been written singing peans for this new enactment emanating from the Directive Principles of State Policy. It is fervently hoped, that RTE will surely usher in an educated India, in not too distant a future. In this hope, there lies a certain element of euphoria. The question is how well placed is this euphoria?
To be really frank, the euphoria, that RTE shall bring about a significant change within a plan period, is highly misplaced.
Every citizen of every country, with an open society and a democratic way of life and governance, recognizes that the laws are made to enhance the quality of life of everybody, pari passu. That’s the basic intention of all enactments. But then we all know, just as well, that good intention and ground condition do not always go together. Unfortunately this is very true of those laws that came about to promote education, albeit with limited access.
For all these 63 years of post independent India, with 11 development plans having completed and 12th on the unveil, there have been huge investments in the education sector. But somehow close to 50% of Indians are still illiterate. Of course, Kerala claims to be 100% with most southern states being over 70% literate and other parts except BIMARU states, being over 60%. It is the BIMARU states with lower than 50% literacy have dragged the overall national % of literate men and women of India. But here what need to be emphasised is that within this 50% literate are those who can be called semi-literate. And sadly this semi literate is a good chunk of this 50% literates in the country. This semi-literates are the product of poor teaching methods of poorly trained teachers with low commitment, lower infrastructure with lack of governmental commitments.
Thus the question that came up after the publication of Annual State of Education Report 2010, (ASER) was “IS THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION MERELY MEANS THE RIGHT TO SCHOOLING?” Reportedly the survey reflected some very disturbing statistics.
The survey, conducted every year since 2005, is the brain child of Pratham Education Foundation through the private initiative of Ajay Piramal, who is also the chairman of this foundation. In 2010 it reached 522 districts, over 14,000 villages covering 300,000 households and some 700,000 children. The survey, ASER, finds out whether children in rural India go to school? How well they can read their own language? and whether they can do basic arithmetic?
The report informed “Even after five years in school, close to half of all children are not even at the level expected of them after 2 years in school. Only 53.4% children in class 5 could read a class 2 level text. Besides, there has been a decrease in children’s ability to do simple mathematics”.
According to the report “The proportion of Std I children who could recognise numbers from 1to9 declined from 69.3% in 2009 to 65% in 2010. Similarly, the proportion of children in Std III who could solve two digit subtraction problems decreased from 39% to 36.5% in the same period. Children in Std V who could do simple division problems also dropped from 38% in 2009 to 35.9% in 2010.
The visible negative features were primarily due to the poor quality of teachers in these government primary schools. This aspect was clearly reflected in the marked improvement in the basic maths of children in the government schools of Punjab, where they had emphasised on the quality of its teachers being recruited for these schools.
No wonder, the quality of teachers in these government schools have even worked up corporate personality like Azim Premji of Wipro group to have embarked on huge spending to create quality teachers through his private educational initiatives.
Yes improvement in the quality of teachers-qualified, inspired, so also well looked after- is the most important factor in bringing about realisation of lofty objective of education for all.
Initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan coupled with Mid-Day Meal scheme has improved the overall attendance and increased enrolment of children in schools. But unless the quality of the education is improved simultaneously it will be a cry in the wilderness.
Of course, the inspiring leadership at political level too has its own significant contribution. ASER discuses the declining trend of school drop-outs, reports that in 2006, 12.3% of boys and 17.6% girls were out of school in Bihar, in the age group of 11-14. However by 2010, these numbers had very significantly declined to 4.4% for boys and 4.6% for girls showing hardly any difference by gender. Surely the Nitish Kumar factor in the delivery system had worked wonder, something, Chief Ministers in other states need to ponder.
Thus, while there are many ills in the present system, there are also the positives, which need to be worked at for further improvement.
The core areas where improvements are needed, are better infrastructure, including separate toilets for girl students, better quality of food supplied to students, motivated teaching staff. Of course there is tremendous scope for the improvement of infrastructure, depending upon the availability of fund. However, provision of toilets to girl students, better food at Mid-Day Meal and committed teaching staff can make all the difference. Writer has the personal knowledge of schools where despite the former two demands having met, the last one-the committed teacher factor-has made all the difference. Yes, it is indeed true that a dedicated band of teachers can make all the difference to the ability of students in learning what is taught, and retaining what is taught, long after the annual ritual of tests and examinations are over.
Hence, the new law of RTE has its job cut out for the education scene of the country to be completely student centric, rather than creating statistics, which can truly conceal lies and more lies.

Deschooling Medical Education in India
Continued from last issue
Undergraduate course of study:
The first four years are all done on the bedside, most of it in the community where the true phase of diseases is seen. The present big teaching hospitals delude the student to believe that the filtered patient population of the tertiary care teaching hospital is the true incidence in society. The common minor illness syndromes that form the bulk of the disease load in the world on a given day with significant sick absenteeism in the industry are excluded from the teaching hospitals. The new system, “problem based learning,” will encourage better interaction between the teacher and the taught with both having equal curiosity to learn in a new atmosphere. The student is exposed to patients from day one in any medical school. This will make his ego get boosted to learn better.19
Very little of human anatomy, except the bare minimum, need be taught at this stage along with solving each patient’s problems and so are the other preclinical and Para-clinical subjects taught with reference to the patient at hand. That is what makes the teacher as curious as the student. The teacher will have to learn these subjects along with his/her pupils. In depth study of the relevant pre and Para clinical subjects are taught in the second four year course only for those that hope to become specialists. Investigation reports and their genesis are all learnt along with the problem on hand. At the end of the four years a student will have been exposed to the whole spectrum of illnesses. Another advantage is that the student gets better trained in the common illnesses that are commoner than one thinks they are.
Another lacuna in the present system is that the student does not get exposed to true public health needs, the health of the public. Clean drinking water supply, nutritious food, overall sanitation systems like toilets for every house, economic empowerment of poor women, educating the girl child in the villages up to, at least, the age 20 to reduce the fertility rate, avoiding the deadly carbon monoxide laden cooking smoke from coming into the village houses, necessity to let the villagers use the mosquito nets, importance of taking care of the need of specially enriched diet for the pregnant mothers to avoid still births as also to avoid the killer diseases in the child in its later life, judicious vaccinations using safe vaccines, disaster management systems for remote villages, dangers of alcohol and tobacco use, and the importance of poverty as the mother of most illnesses, the need to teach patients to be tranquil for better health need to be stressed in the course of four years to make the end product a responsible citizen of the community in which s/he lives. Inkling into pharmaco-economics would teach the future doctor to be parsimonious in prescribing drugs and ordering tests at the behest of the industry.20
Having learnt about the illnesses in detail the student is then exposed in the final year to the healing methods available in many of the complementary systems that have been authenticated by hard scientific studies of which there are many. There is a new journal, the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes (JSHO), with great scientists on its editorial board, trying to publish the authenticated wheat in all those systems rejecting the chaff by hard scientific methods and not using the statistical science of RCTs (randomised controlled studies).21 RCTs have been discredited lately.22 This will achieve two fold advantages. This teaching will make the student aware of the possibilities of proven healing methods in many other systems when modern medicine fails, as also does that remove the holier-than-thou attitude that the present modern medical doctors have towards the gems in those systems, many of whom have been useful to mankind for centuries and some of them are very much Indian like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Acupressure, Yoga, Meditation, Massage therapy, Reiki, Pranic healing etc.23, 24.
When the basic family doctor qualifies after four years study s/he could be interned with a good family physician in society for a year to follow the footsteps. Second year could be spent as a family doctor in a village. At the end of all those six years the student gets registered to be a specialist family physician in his/her own right to be let loose on the gullible public. The watch dog bodies that are built into the Indian system like the MCI etc. could be made to keep a careful watch on the ethical and moral standards of medical practice in the country rather than breathing down the necks of medical schools as it happens now. If they wish they could have an exit examination to screen the good from the bad doctors that have passed out of the colleges rather than measuring the class room size and the staff bio data as it is done today. Bad institutions will die a natural death if the majority of their graduates do not make their grade in the exit examination. Education institutions will then depend on the buyers market. The license raj will not improve the standards of education at all.

Postgraduate course:
All the good medical schools and the larger well staffed hospitals could be selected to train postgraduates if they have the necessary infrastructure. Any basic doctor that wishes to train as a specialist should first qualify to get a junior position job in the above mentioned institutions for a year. At the end of that year he/she will sit an on line all India entrance examination to join the next three years of pyramidal growth as a specialist in those institutions that have adequate educational and patient material infrastructure. Those who fail the examination will have one more chance after three months to re-sit the examination. Failure for the second time will disqualify the student from going further unless he does the first year work again before re-sitting the examination.
The last three years are spent for hands on experience. Every student must be employed by the institution on a reasonable salary for maintenance in a residential capacity with staff quarters. Those that do not make the grade in certain difficult specialties could be eliminated by yearly evaluation in addition to the on going evaluation based both day to day performance and the log book details of the work that the candidate has done. This will ensure that the final year has much less crowd of students for the rest to get better hands on experience. Those that get thrown out of the pyramid in one specialty could try another specialty by sitting a simple entrance test for that new specialty when there is a vacancy. The job evaluation done by the teachers could be counterchecked by a senior censor who has not supervised the candidate. There could be designated senior specialists to do the job in their own region. Hopefully, this system will eliminate most of the corruption that goes on despite all the rules in the field of postgraduate education today. It might also bring out better quality specialists to be further trained either in the country or abroad if they so wish. This would also bring respect to Indian PG degrees as there will be uniformity of standards across the country with identical evaluation.

Continuing professional developmental courses: (CPDs)
These are not only mandatory but must be the responsibility of the institutions that have offered the degree in the first place. Regular on line self assessment scores must be accumulated to give 50% credit for the ten yearly recertification in all specialties excluding family practice where the recertification should only be recommendatory and not mandatory. A good human being with minimal training for six long years should make an ideal family physician. His theory knowledge is of secondary importance although it is advantageous to have family physicians also to have recertification less frequently. Education of doctors by drug companies, as is done now, through the multitude of “so called” conferences could be put an end to as most of them are used to buy favours from doctors by the drug companies. Out of the thousands of delegates only a few will attend the “scientific lectures” while the rest, along with their families, would be enjoying a well paid holiday at the cost of the drug companies. Doctors are wined and dined lavishly in these meets where, in addition, the drug companies bring their “thought leaders” from abroad to lecture and pontificate on their behalf in the guise of guest lectures most of which are company material being fed to the gullible doctors. Future doctors should understand the new science of CHAOS as the human body follows only this science.25
Conclusions:
Medical education in India is crying for reforms. We need to first educate society about the ills of the present system and then introduce a saner, more relevant and a humane educational system that, hopefully, will bring out good human beings who are adequately trained to “cure rarely, comfort mostly but console always.”
“The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.”
Alfred North Whitehead

concluded






TIT BITS

Banana peel excellent water purifier
Washington: The humble banana has uses beyond the realm of beauty remedies. Its peels can be used as an excellent water purifier, decontaminating drinking water of toxic metals. Researchers say minced banana peel performs better than an array of other Engineering Chemistry Research reports. Gustavo Castro and colleagues from instituto de Biociencias de Botucatu in Brazil noted that mining process, runoff from farms, and industrial wastes can put heavy metals, like lead and copper, into waterways. Heavy metals can have adverse health and environmental effects.

Cherimoya could be the next banana?
Washington: The cherimoya, or the custard apple, could be the next banana, as scientists have identified a gene defect in some plants which makes the fruits seedless. According to the American and Spanish scientists, who detailed their work in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the gene discovery may pave the way for producing seedless varieties of cherimoya, sugar apple and perhaps other fruit crops. Going seedless could be a big step for the fruit said Charles Gasser, a professor of plant biology at University of California Davis.

‘Bionic eye’ gets go ahead post trials
London: A bionic eye that allows the blind to see has been approved after thorough testing. Tests have demonstrated that the device is safe, which could mean that it eventually becomes routinely available on the NHS. Specialists said, that tests over almost three years had “impressed” beyond their “most optimistic expectations,” reports the Daily Express. Revolutionary retina implants work in conjunction with a camera mounted on a pair of glasses. They have already transformed the lives of 30 people during initial tests.

YEH MERA INDIA

Govt relaxes norms for hiring of relatives by directors
New Delhi: The government raised the monthly remuneration limit for hiring of relatives by directors without seeking prior approval of the centre, and increased the pay threshold for incorporating details of senior staff in the annual report of companies.
According to a Corporate Affairs Ministry notification, a company will not have to seek central government approval for hiring relatives of directors if monthly payment is below Rs 2,50,000. The earlier limit was Rs 50,000. Similarly, the government has increased the threshold annual remuneration for senior staff members from Rs 24 lakh to 60 lakh for incorporation in the annual report. Under the revised norms, companies will have to mention the details of only those senior employees who get Rs 60 lakh and above a year, or over Rs 5 lakh per month, in the Board’s report. Further, with regard to selection of such relatives of directors or managers of a listed company, the Ministry has maintained that it would be done by the Selection Committee. However, it has relaxed the same rule for unlisted and private companies.

When minister’s aide held shoes for him
Mumbai: State industries Minister Narayan Rane slipped into the shoes held by his aide, little realising that the gesture would invite flak.
Pravin Raut, a Class IV employee in the Minister’s office, held Rane’s shoes as the Congress leader was descending steps of the memorial of Shivaji Maharaj in Vidhan Bhavan after paying tributes to the Maratha king on his birth anniversary.
Raut held holding Rane’s shoes until the Minister’s feet slipped into them, much to the bewilderment of onlookers.
Shiv Sena was quick to take potshot at the Shiv Saink-turned Congressman. “Rane has gone Mayawati way,” a Sena leader quipped, referring to an incident last month when a personal security officer (PSO) of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had cleaned her dusty shoes with his handkerchief. And come to think of it, Rane also similar government employee before entering politics!

Retired-but can still be tried
Mumbai: In a significant move, the state government is planning to amend laws whereby retired bureaucrats could be charged for omissions and commissions committed by them while in service.
Making a statement in the Assembly, Minister of State for Urban development Bhaskar Jadhav said retired bureaucrats take advantage of loopholes in the laws and there is need to amend them.
“They feel that nothing would happen to them after retirement and at the most, they will lose their pension. However, the amount of pension is nothing compared to what they earned by committing irregularities while in services,” Jadhav said. He also told the assembly that the government was of the view that bureaucrats who resign from service should seek permission of the government before joining the private sector. Jadhav was replying to supplementaries during a calling attention notice regarding irregularities committed by former CIDCO vice-president and managing director G S Gill, which Leader of opposition Eknath Khadse said was to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore.
He said the irregularities pertained to allocation of land, change of land reservation, changing terms and conditions of accepted tenders. Khadse had demanded that bureaucrats should be barred from taking up jobs in private sector for at least five years after their voluntary retirement from government service.
The minister said two secretary-level committees were set up last year to probe decisions taken by Gill in the last six months before his retirement. The Secretary of Urban development found irregularities in 13 decisions taken by him, while the Finance Secretary found irregularities in eight of the total 23 decisions taken by the board of directors. Jadhav said accountability has been fixed on ten CIDCO officials and action was being taken. Similarly, the Urban Development Department has sought information from General Administration Department (GAD) to find out whether departmental inquiry can be initiated against Gill, who has now retired.
The minister assured that both reports which probed the irregularities in CIDCO would be tabled in the legislative assembly within eight days.

SC refuses to frame rules for protection of whistle-blowers
New Delhi: The Supreme Court refused to frame guidelines for protection of whistle-blowers in the country, saying that it cannot make law.
A three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice S H Kapadia refused to entertain a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for giving statutory protection to whistle blowers in the wake of the gruesome killing of Maharashtra Additional Collector Yeshwant Sonawane allegedly by an oil mafia.
The PIL by advocates-N Raja Raman and Ajay Mandyal cited a number of recent incidents in which whistle blowers have been killed or intimidated by mafia and political leaders to silence their voice against growing corruption in the country.
But the court refused to pass any order, saying that it was not possible to keep monitoring cases across the country. It, however, allowed the petitioners to approach the high court for protection of whistle blowers in a specific case.
It also said that the court cannot ask the government to pass legislation in this regard.
The petitioners had urged the apex court to direct the Centre to frame a law to ensure that complaints of corruption are dealt with promptly and whistle blowers like RTI activists, journalists and advocates are given necessary protection.

MONTH THAT WAS

Chinese vote in Assam polls
Tinsukia: Like in the previous elections the small Chinese community of about 250 in Tinsukia district of Upper Assam exercised their franchise hoping to see better times for themselves. Wang Shing Tung, who owns a popular chowmein and momo joint in Tinsukia town, said he and members of his community ensure that they do not miss even one election and always vote even though their dismal economic condition remains unchanged.
Tung said his community votes regularly during each election in the hope that the new government will have plans and schemes for their welfare and uplift.


SC raps Mah Satyam’s arrogant stance v/s govt
New Delhi: The Supreme Court censured Mahindra Satyam, formerly Satyam computer, for writing to the Government adopting the tone of “arrogance” in the case relating to Rs 617 crore income tax demand, which is being re-assessed by the tax authorities. Asking the company to withdraw the letter, the apex court expressed displeasure at its tone and tenor that indicated as if Satyam was dictating an order to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The court said the company had misinterpreted the assurance of the tax department that it would set aside its earlier order seeking Rs 617 crore in Income Tax.
“Instruct them (Satyam) to withdraw the letter. This is not the way,” a three judge bench headed by the Chief Justice S H Kapadia said when senior advocates Harish Salve and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, were making submission for the IT firm.

Indian saves 10 on death row at Sharjah-UAE
Dubai: A Sharjah court has waived the death sentence awarded to eight Indian youths for the murder of a Pakistani national after a Dubai-based Indian hotelier paid blood money to the family of the victim on their behalf.
The murder took place on July 11, 2009 following which 10 men, eight Indians – all from Punjab – and two Pakistanis, were arrested.
The death penalty of two Pakistanis have also been waived off after Dubai-based hotelier SP Singh Oberoi paid blood money.
“Death penalty has been waived off for all the 10 accused, eight Indians and two Pakistanis. They have to serve three years of imprisonment of which they have already completed 21 months. So they will be free in another six months and deported directly to their home countries,” Oberoi told PTI.

Gunmen kills 6 women in Iraq
Mosul (Iraq): Gunmen stormed into a notorious and poor district of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing six women and a man, police and medical sources said. “Six women and one man were killed by gunmen who stormed into a home in Al-Tanak neighbourhood of Mosul,” a police major told AFP of a poor district known as a location for brothels, which are illegal in Iraq.

Explosion kills 23
Kabul: A team of suicide bombers shot their way into the compound of a road construction company in eastern Afghanistan and detonated a truck loaded with explosives, killing 23 people and wounding about 60, the Afghan government said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which the interior Ministry said occurred in the Barmal district of Paktika province. The ministry said three attackers went up to the gate of the Zahir construction company, shot the guard, and then drove a large truck that was full of explosives into the compound where they detonated it.

Hindi radio station in Oman?
Dubai: The owner of several commercial radio stations in Oman has backed a Hindi radio station in the country as a new way to reach out to the Hindi-speaking expatriate community in the country. Maqbool Hameed Al Saleh, chairman of Entertainment Network Co has supported the idea of introducing a Hindi FM channel in Oman, a Times of Oman report said. With over 700,000 Hindi speaking expatriates residing here, a radio station in Hindi will be a great medium to connect with them. Al Saleh is the owner and operator of Hala FM in Arabic and Hi FM in English. The channel will not only play popular Bollywood music but will also focus on content like news, views and contests, thereby allowing a larger section to take part in this interactive platform, the report quoted Al saleh as saying. Neighboring UAE has several Hindi and Urdu stations that are popular with expatriate communities. Al Saleh said the channel will also serve as a medium to educate non-English and non-Arabic patrons about the government and also enable the Indian consulate in Oman to interact directly with the community.

Japan dumps radioactive water into sea
Tokyo: Japanese engineers dumped tones of contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea as they pumped coloured powder in a desperate measure to trace source of dangerous leakages in reactor complex, reports PTI.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, which operates the nuclear plant northeast of the capital, began disposing of 10,000 tonnes of water containing low-level radioactive substances in the Pacific Ocean from the plant. The dumping of the water that was about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits will help make room to store more highly polluted water filling the No 2 reactor turbine building as it was hampering the plant’s restoration work, TEPCO said. “There is a need to release already stored water in order to accept the additional waste water,” officials said.

Trade gap with China up 13 times in 5 yrs
New Delhi: India’s trade deficit with China has grown 13 times between 2004-05 and 2009-10, whereas the bilateral commerce increased by three-and-a-half times, reflecting a huge advantage which accrued to the neighbouring country. While India’s merchandise trade with China went up from USD 12.70 Billion 2004.05, the figure reached USD 42.37 billion in 2009-10. However, a big imbalance against India accompanied the growing commercial relations between the two countries, according to the latest RBI data. From USD 1.48 billion in 2004-05 the trade balance in favour of China grew up to USD 19.21 billion in 2009-10. In the recent months, imports from China have gone up by a huge 365 per cent in 2010-11, sources said.

Glaxo to pay Rs 71.21 cr for DPCO violation
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has directed pharma major Glaxo India to pay Rs71.21 crores to the state in a 20-year-old disputes over pricing of the drugs scheduled under the Drug Price Control Order. The dispute was over the pricing of-Betamethasone Alcohol, Betamethasone 17 valerate and Betamethasone di sodium Phosphate-formulation used for manufacturing medicines for skin-related problems and fungal infection. It directed the pharma major to deposit the amount difference in the Drug Price Equalisation Account.

ABRACADABRA

Sex-education via bathrooms-The Chinese way
Beijing: Allowing boys and girls to peep into each other’s bathroom to understand gender roles seems to be the new Chinese way to teach sex education in school.
Third graders at the Chaoyang district school in Beijing received their first lesson in sex education in the form of a toilet tour. Giving children an opportunity to peek into the other gender’s bathroom is a way to help boys and girls understand gender roles under the new initiative, educators said. “Children tend to be curious about the bathrooms of the opposite sex,” sex lecturer Hou Wenjun at Anhuili Central Primary School told Beijing News. Hou believes that education starts with curiosity.“A tour to the bathroom lets children see what behavioural differences there are between the two sexes.” Now an official part of the school’s curriculum for grades one to 6 (ages 6 to 11), sex education begins with the fundamental subject of fertillisation, a report in the state run Global Times said.
Students first viewed a Power Point presentation illustrating how sperm fertilise eggs. When asked how gender is determined, the students came with guesses such as “it depends on what Mom wants” and “bigger eggs grow into boys while smaller ones make girls.”
Visiting the bathroom can be a good technique in teaching gender codes to students, Zhang Meimei, sex education expert at Capital Normal University said. “The bathroom of the opposite sex can be a mysterious place. I have known a lot of third-and fourth-grade boys who would sneak into the lady’s room just to see what it is like,” Zhang said. “Sex educators can take this curiosity and turn it into knowledge of social norms regarding sex.

US judge, 103 still at work!
Wichita (US): In a courtroom in Wichita, Kansas, the day begins much as it has for the past 49 years: Court is in session, US District judge Wesley Brown presiding. But what happens next is no longer routine; it’s a testament to one man’s sheer determination. As lawyers and litigants wait in respectful silence, Brown, who is 103, carefully steers his power wheelchair behind the bench, his stooped frame almost disappearing behind its wooden bulk. He adjusts under his nose the plastic tubes from the oxygen tank lying next to the day’s case documents. Then his voice rings out loud and firm to his law clerk, “Call your case”. Brown is the oldest working federal judge in the nation, one of four appointees by President Kennedy still on the bench. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointment, and than no one have taken that term more seriously than Brown. “As a federal judge, I was appointed for life or good behavior, whichever I lose first,” Brown quipped in an interview. How dose he plan to leave the post? “Feet first,” he says.

One in five Britons don’t visit the dentist
London: At least one in five Britons do not go to see the dentist because of the high cost. In a survey of 11,000 people, conducted by the National Health Service (NHS) Information Centre and the Office for National Statistics, 26 percent of adults said the dental treatment they opted for was influenced by cost, and 19 percent delayed treatment for the same reason, according to the Daily Mail.
People say the expense affects their choice of treatment. Some opt to have teeth removed rather than pay for costlier preservation methods such as root canals.
A similar research for the British Dental Association said the economic climate led to a surge in cancelled or deferred appointment and a rise in emergency treatment.

Denied salary, imam locks mosque
Dubai: Disgruntled over the non payment of the salary, an imam in Saudi Arabia locked the doors of a mosque and prevented worshipers to perform the prayers, media report said. According to the report, the Saudanese imam is said to have locked the place of worship after a benefactor volunteered to pay the salary for leading the prayers but failed to provide the money. Attempts by the inhabitants of the small village in the Wadi Al Dawaser to persuade the imam to call off his strike or least to open the mosque so that they could pray could not change his mind, according to Saudi daily ‘Al Yaum’. “People look forward to more spiritual commitment through prayers and reading the Quran during the holy month, but this imam is taking action against us,” a resident was quoted by the newspaper as saying. Around 60 people pray regularly at the mosque, the newspaper said. “We have repeatedly appealed to the authorities to appoint an imam so that we do not have such problems,” another resident reportedly said. “We should never have a repeat of such a dilemma”.

Government secretive on secrete accounts !
New Delhi: The Centre again declined to disclose in the Supreme Court names of people who have stashed black money in foreign banks, saying it is not possible to disclosed information received from foreign governments under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. The Centre, however, agreed to reveal the names of six persons who had deposited money with the Liechtenstein Bank in Germany and who are being prosecuted by the government authorities.