At the outset wishing all our readers a wonderful new year and an eventful & promising 2012.
The change that we have introduced last month in splitting the earlier long editorial appears to have gone well with some readers who have responded. The only permanent thing in this world is change. We have tried to change hoping it is for better. Feedback so far is positive. Kindly keep in touch with your inputs. We do value them.
India is a happening place of all myriad things. We have dealt with most happenings under our new column ‘Month-in-Perspective". However Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing took the parliament by storm and went off as whimper. Why this had to be so hurriedly brought in as a bill, is unknown. But it had to beat a hasty retreat, because nobody was ready for it or at least most of the MPs wanted longer debate and more detailed discussion, since the decision would touch millions of Indians, especially those in the margins. Besides there are other far more important issues which are impediments to achieve the Millennium Development goals. India being in the Low Development Group in Human Development Index (HDI), it is an issue of serious concern. We have tried to discuss both HDI & FDI in Focus. Hope you will find it interesting. Do revert with your thoughts.
AMMU & KASHMIR: A Srinagar date lined report informed "Pastor held on conversion charge". One C M Khanna of All India Saint’s Church was reportedly arrested for alleged conversion. Report informed about his being presented before the Grand Mufti of Kashmir for explanation and has allegedly confessed his involvement in the conversion of Kashmir youth. Report did not inform of any untoward activity and whether the fundamental right to preach was violated. And everything appeared very straight. But, what if this conversion attempt was say in Madhya Pradesh, or say Andhra, or say Gujarat, would the report in the media equally be as straight forward? Wouldn’t the so-called whole secular media have cried hoarse, if there was any such arrest and a good number of intellectuals would have joined the street group in denouncing police power, and if it was a BJP governments then roof would be where the land was. Yes Grand Mufti cannot be wrong. But a Swamijee?! Our professional secularists truly suffer from selective myopia.
KARNTAKA: Controversy around an archaic ritual at a temple near Mangalore city occupied the local media space for quite some time without much sense in it. ‘Made Snana or rolling over the left over of meal’ in banana leaves is an obnoxious practice by a section of people in and around the temple town of Subramanya in the coastal Karnataka district of Dakshina Kannada. This ritual is practiced for generations. It could be over 400 years. Funny part is that the refuse or the left over has to be that of Brahmins and the superstition that such roll over’s shall bring health benefits since these residual food is, supposedly, believed to be germicidal in its reaction to skin ailments. While there is nothing to prove its veracity, it certainly leaves a creepy feeling viewing it being practiced. There are number of NGOs abhorring and opposing the ritual, the government appears to be in a quandary, having once banned and revoked under pressure. But, the authorities in the larger interest of societal health must take the call and put its foot down to mean business.
‘AR Infant Files Petition with CAT’ was a Bangalore datelined news. This was sequel to the appointment of Shankar Bidari as DG & IGP-Karnataka, who is reportedly junior to AR Infant. Claiming injustice to him, Infant accused the government of ‘overlooking my seniority and merit’. An year senior into the IPS, Infant did in fact had a better case. The question of merit may be a subjective issue. But his going to CAT will certainly raise uncomfortable questions. The BJP, the so called Hindu party, could have risen to the occasion, by going merely by the book, without having to walk an extra distance to be nice. This could have sent a positive signal. But politicians being what they are, interested only in short term gain. After all party with a difference proved no different at all.
Participating at the ‘Colloquium on Higher Education in 12th Five Year Plan', conducted by the Centre for Educational and Social Studies jointly with Karnataka State Higher Education Council in Bangalore, Prof R. Govinda, V.C of National University of Educational Planning, reportedly stated "Everybody is talking about establishing more IIMs and IITs. We need to focus on improving the lower level colleges which admit 90% of the student population". But then barking up the wrong tree has always been the bane of our policy makers and followed in letter by the policy executors. In most places they are manned by square pegs in a round holes, so delivery is always a problem. Academicians gathered at the convention expressed their apprehension at lack of focus on higher education. British framed the syllabus for making clerks out of the educational system. And it continued merrily for all 6 decades of post independent India. Hope the Bangalore noise reaches the portals of parliament.
TAMIL NADU: As a nation we can probably pride ourselves with largest number of people suffering from mental poverty. While examples can be many, this one particular report coming from Chennai can substantiate the above claim. "Lack of incentive kills a solution to oil saving" wrote Karthik Subramanian, while saying "Carpooling has caught up globally, but not in India". Despite having 100 million internet subscribers, the effort of well meaning activists did not catch up. Karthik writes "We approached the government and the corporate sector to provide incentives for people who carpool. It is not enough to just put out posters asking people to do carpooling". What incentive is he talking about? Are we talking to small children? The fact you are saving fuel and therefore cost of petrol, you are saving the wear and tear of the car, less consumption can lead to less import of oil. Above all you are saving the environment from carbon monoxide by decreased burning of hydrocarbon. What more incentives are needed? The bottom line is, we Indians are a selfish lot. But listen to Udit Bhandari of www.indimoto.com, a website for carpooling launched in April 2006. According to him carpooling campaign lost because ‘people consider alone in their cars, is status symbol’. So damn the country and environment. Its, me and mine. Period.
HYDERABAD: So, like it or not, Sandal, as a missile, has come to stay. The latest to be hit or rather missed to be hit was Telugu Desam chief Chandra Babu. Is it a healthy development, for this to happen, now so often seen in public? Probably answer can be a bit affirmative. First of all it is better than being bloody or violent. It is a reflection of the frustration of the person throwing the foot wear. In a Mileu that we live, where addressing a redressal is a very labour intensive time consuming effort, this sandal missile provides instant and easy redressal. However it has to be admitted that while recommending it, may be deice, it does not seem to have any equivalent alternative.
KERALA: The issue of Mullaperiyar dam built in Idukki in 1886 has been bothering both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Built by British under an agreement with the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore, to provide adequate water to Tamil Nadu. Dispute arose after Tamil Nadu demanded the increase in dam height from the present 136ft to 146 ft, which would need repair and alterations. Being 116 years old structure, how much it will hold any structural intervention is an extremely deice proposal. It has reportedly, around 30 lakhs living downstream, who would naturally be exposed, should the dam cave in. That they have an issue, there is no doubt. But how serious, only structural experts can say. However as usual Jayalalitha, in her regal style has said that the fear is unfounded. Since she is not living there it is easy to say. The dam is a necessity, how much it would cost to rebuilt, is to be estimated. Both states need the dam, but Kerala has greater issue of human safety and it’s a huge number. While structural engineers may have the last word, it may be worth the money to see that Kerala’s concerns are adequately addressed.
MAHARASHTRA: A Mumbai date lined report informed "3 held for hurting religious beliefs". Reportedly three persons, Director, Producer and Publicist were arrested under different section of IPC, like hurting religious sentiments and malicious intension to insult religious beliefs etc, besides violations under Cinematograph Act, which are non-bailable offences. Police were acting on complaints by some catholic groups. Reportedly, the posters and publicity materials contained offensive depiction of stabbing Jesus Christ.On the face of it, if there is indeed a ‘depiction of Jesus being stabbed’, it is highly reprehensible and deserves to be condemned. It would certainly hurt the sentiments of all Christian faithful as well as disgusting to those with a larger canvass of thoughts. Fortunately, those three who were arrested for the blasphemous depiction are non-Hindus. Or else it would not be surprising for the entire media going hammer & tong condemning the three in superlative terms. And strangely no-body came to the defense of artistic freedom or the arrest as a blatant attack on creativity. Yes occasionally media men and women are caught with no garments on. That’s Indian media for you. Just to keep the memory fresh or rather to refresh it, readers are invited to Baroda University Fine arts deptt. exhibition. Some years ago a student had painted naked Jesus urinating from the cross into a W.C. The Christians protested. There was also couple of paintings of Durga giving birth to a demon through vaginal delivery and piercing the infant with a trident and some other equally sickening paintings. Hindus protested. Here both Christians and Hindus protested jointly at some point. Media was in a quandary. Anupam Katakam of the Frontline, even questioned this joint protest. Media, and a whole lot of it condemned Hindu outfits, for being violators of artistic freedom and all that crap that goes with it. None wrote anything about Christian protest. What do you do with such media men and women.
Can you believe it that a state government has withheld the salary of a senior police officer, reportedly for over 4 years for being honest to his job and for initiating criminal action against senior politicians? This is exactly what has happened. The Maharashtra govt. has not only not paid the salary for over 4 years but also kept the officer Sanjay Pandey on compulsory waiting for the said period without promoting this IPS officer of the 1986 batch.
R.R. Patil, the home minister of Maharashtra has still not acted on the CAT order which was later challenged by the govt. but the Bombay High Court turned down the govt. plea and ordered again to comply with the 7 month old CAT order to pay and promote. The State government has again failed to act, despite the court refusing to allow the govt. to appeal to the Apex Court. Why these government deptts are exposing themselves to be rapped by the judiciary time and again, is a serious question of inept and corrupt governance by these elected & selected representatives of ‘aam aadmi’. So, isn’t protest is the only way out for the frustrated people and their groups. But Bombay High Court has stated ‘It might be satyagraha for you but for others it might be a nuisance’, while disposing Team Anna’s petition for a waiver of charges.
Reacting to the hasty retreat by the UPA govt. on allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, after furore in parliament, Bhaskar Pramanik, the Microsoft India Chairman, was very acerbic in his observation. He has reportedly stated "It doesn’t make sense any more. For MNCs, India is no longer a preferred destination. We have lots of issues concerning our operation here". He was responding to a media query about the chances of an R & D centre in India. "Yes I am very disappointed with the govt’s decision to put FDI on hold" he has reportedly stated responding to a specific query. But this Mr Pramanik, is truly being 'pramanik' (honest) in being his master’s voice. He is concerned about the bottom line of Microsoft, which in turn will influence his take home package. And the host country can fend for itself. So what, he is an Indian? His first worry is himself and his company the Microsoft.
Jagdish Rattamani writes from Mumbai "Political leadership failed Nilekani". The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh really made a news, when he appointed Nandan Nilekani to head his pet project, ‘Aadhaar’, the Unique Identity Card. Now the whole project is in jeopardy, if one has to go by what the parliamentary panel has recommended. It has dubbed it as "unacceptable and directionless". Nilekani is one of a newer breed of professional business managers. And a very successful one at that. He surely would have applied himself to the job on hand. Reportedly, the house panel heard the UID chief Nilekani. Yet there appeared unanimity is terming the Aadhar project as "directionless" and that "it deserved to be shelved". The opposition came from representatives of all parties in the panel, namely Congress, CPI, BJP and BJD. The panel is chaired by BJP-MP-Yashwant Sinha. Even the Home Minister Chidambaram had gone on record saying that ‘UID cards can be generated using fake identities and stolen data. Thus even a terrorist can obtain a card!' Similarly BJP had said about Bangladeshi illegal immigrants getting Indianised by this UID. While it may be true that there could be problems, since India has its own unique set of problems, it need not be abandoned, now that process of issuing the card is already on. It can be halted for a while to incorporate safety features as feared by panelists and MHA. After all Nilekani is a person who will deliver, in time and without cost overrun, for the overall good of the country.
The session court in Vasai, a Mumbai suburb, has awarded 5 years rigorous imprisonment to seven members of one family. Crime was the barbaric killing of very tender aged siblings of 7 and 3 years, on 15th Oct. 2010. By any standard it was fairly quicker judgement. Killing was planned by the Jaiswal family including parents, as a sacrifice for a woman of the family who did not have child. To fulfill a desire, to what extent a human can fall, this dastardly inhuman and diabolic act is a testimony. Of course the 5 year RI with a small fine of Rs: 3000/- is no punishment at all for the sheer cruelty and perversion of beating so small children to death. Prosecution is reportedly thinking to approach High Court to enhance the question of punishment, In fact, any thing less than life imprisonment, would indeed be less.
WEST BENGAL: Talking to reporters in Kolkatta, former U.S Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill reportedly stated "U.S does not have clout to make Pak handover Dawood, Omar". It is eminently possible that he could be right at this point of time in the life of the relationship between the 6 decade old US-Pak friendship. For all these years, when U.S could have helped India, another democracy like U.S., in getting those two most wanted criminals in India, for crime against India in particular and humanity in general. But the successive U.S. leadership looked the other way, since it helped promote its own interest. Now that the relationship is at its lowest ebb, of course things are difficult, to nudge Pak to act. Now U.S. claims India as a great friend, probably for its market and the strength that India acquired over a period. In politics, as the adage goes, there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, only permanent interest.
Mamata’s regime is in the thick of happening and have occupied frequently the media space in recent times. If it began with theatrics, it did show honesty and sincerity in following days, however lately it slipped into total disarray. Especially the health management or rather medical management showed the rampant ineptness in handling of cases. Starting with some 30 deaths of infants in the state run B.C Roy Hospital, allegedly due to medical negligence. Some 3 NHRC notices have been served to Health Secretary of the govt. of West Bengal. But strangely nothing is heard from Bengal Babus.
Then comes the news of fire at upscale specialty AMRI Hospital, in which state govt. also has a stake. Here reportedly close to 100 perished, either by fire or by suffocation and later succumbed to injuries. Again pointing fingers at an endemic, deep rooted systemic malaise.
On close heels come the news of almost 150 having died of illicit hooch tragedy in West Bengal's Sangrampur and other villages not far from Diamond Harbour.
It is true all these are happening within the first year of Trinamool Congress government. Thus, for all you know, it could be the Left governments legacy continued to affect the new incumbent. Of course, given to politicisation of all issues, Mamata is not making things better. It is blame game all the while. It is a no holds barred Tu-Tu-Mai-Mai. Happenings are sad, but there is no point blaming any body. People are suffering, how do we address the suffering is the only issue. She must get down to real work while blaming her predecessor.
PUNJAB: There was this report datelined Chandigarh "Dalits detained, in Kuwait after contract expires". And NHRC or other so-called civil society, or even organisations espousing the cause of Dalits did not take cognisance of this report. Aren’t these Dalits Indians? So its "Indians datained in Kuwait after contract expires", should have been the title of the news. When shall, we the so-called learned, learn to accept all citizens of this great Mera Bharat Mahan as Indians first and Indians last? Why do we suffer from this mind set. I would think the paper and the reporter filing such denigrating reports should be hauled up.
NEW DELHI: With no holds barred observations by Dr. Subramanian Swamy against Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and his attempts at prosecuting the minister, comes the news that ‘Ministry of Home Affairs knew of Balwa’s link with Dawood’.
Deposing before a Delhi Court, Janata Party president reportedly informed that Swan Telecom was granted licence for the 2G spectrum despite the Home Ministry expressing reservation over it on the ground that its promoter Shahid Balwa has links with underworld fugitive Dawood Ibrahim. Under the licence Swan was allowed 13 circles for Rs: 1537 crores and soon thereafter Swan offloaded 45% of its shares to Etisalat, an UAE based company. 45% which works to Rs. 691.65 crores, was sold to Etisalat for Rs 4200/- crores . Thus Balwa enriched himself at the cost of the nation, by Rs 3508.35 crores, according to the CBI chargesheat. The other 55% accordingly would have got around Rs 5800 crores. In other words, in this one deal alone the country was poorer by Rs 8463/- crores.
So what CAG is talking about Rs 1.76 lakh crores loss to the exchequer does not appear far fetched. Besides, Subramanian Swamy has right queries regarding the alleged culpability of P. Chidambaram as Minister of Home Affairs. In any case MHA has lot to explain. But what about those allegations by BJP MP, who had, some time ago alleged that Sharad Pawar and the President of BCCI and their wives had travelled to Dubai in Balwa’s private aircraft? Why media somehow do not seem to follow up issues connecting and relating to Sharad pawar? Between P.C. and Sharad Pawar, later may be having far more skeletons that would lead to many uncomfortable questions.
The debate in Parliament on the Foreign Direct Investment in multibrand retail, of 51%, triggered an avalanche of protest. The FDI in retail business has exposed the political fault lines in UPA, where not merely its allies have let it down, but also had many of the Congressmen up in arms against Prime Minister’s decision. If you do not have your own people on board, how do you expect the opposition to save you? You only blame the opposition for having wasted the Parliament’s time? For a week, the winter session of Parliament drew a blank doing no business. Media goes to the town saying nation lost so many crores every day. But who is responsible? For a change can we accuse the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for this waste of time of the parliament and therefore for the cost, the nation has to bear? The way he asserted at the youth Congress meet, it appeared to be entirely his brain child. He didn’t talk to his allies, he didn’t speak to all Congressmen, his party M.Ps, and of course, he is averse to talking to opposition M.Ps, unless cornered. So there was all round amazement, why is Dr Singh bringing this issue of FDI in retail now, especially when his record as a non-political person in part, as a senior economic bureaucrat, or as RBI governor, he did not take any bold or dramatic decision or advised the government of the day. He acted only when late Narasimha Rao, as Prime Minister, instructed him to dismantle licence-raj and devalued the rupee. Of course what followed, as the cliché goes, is history. India experienced unprecedented boom. But FDI in retail is another ball game. Need far more consultations and multi faceted approach to handle it, since it involves lives of millions dependent on this business activity. The retreat probably was the only option. Yet FDI in retail may be good in parts, but can wait for another more opportune day and time.
Maulana Mohd. Ali Jauhar Academy, founded in 1974, confers awards on individuals for extra-ordinary contribution in their respective fields. Among the 8 selected for the award is the infamous former Congress Union Minister Jagdish Tytler. In all fairness, storm was only expected. Jagdish Tytler is allegedly one of the master minds of 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, and during the last election an insensitive leadership of the Congress gave him a ticket to contest the parliamentary election, only to be withdrawn at the last minute after an anguished protest. Thus if there is a call to boycott the award ceremony it is only in order. 45 civil activists including writers and journalist issued an appeal to this effect, The appeal reportedly asks other awardees not to accept the award as a protest against "the award being given by a religious minority group to a person who has been found involved in bloody riots against another religious minority and played key role in the victimisation of another religious minority". On the face of it, the demand is just, for the reason that the awardee, short of court judgement, is an accused of killing innocent people. But for these so-called activists to say that because the victims were members of a minority community and therefore another minority community should not honour him, is to undermine the very basis of their boycott. Jagdish Tytler is a criminal accused of murder of Sikhs and therefore he should not be given the award, or else you only legitimise his action, period. Where does the minority comes there. Killing is a crime against humanity and all killers should be in jail and not on stages to receive award. Why these civil rights activists mix up things with their myopic vision?
EPF scheme offering 9.5% for the year 2010-11 was a financial harrakeeri. Bowing to political pressure, the govt. had succumbed unreasonably, to the Left parties supporting the UPA. It knew very well, it cannot. But Left parties blackmailed it to submission. Now that the Left parties are not in coalition, and UPA govt. feels it can try to be realistic by paying only 8.25% which if paid could still leave a loss of a few lakhs. And if Employees' representatives arguments of 8.75% as payment is agreed, it could lead to over Rs 250 crores as deficit. The point here is how both the govt. and the Left parties have compromised the nation’s interest only to address the voting constituencies, and the survival of the UPA govt. Both said ‘damn the country, just help ourselves’. Of course whether any other co-alition, say NDA too would have succumbed, is a moot point.
"Inept babus to be weeded out after 15 years of service" is a welcome development. Indoctrinated into a legacy left behind by Britishers, the babudom has created deadwood galore, all across the country. Most of these babus are either incompetent, intolerant, unproductive or all of them together. They need to be sent home as early as possible lest their culture spread. In this case they shall be sent out when they turn 40. This is still the right age for them to find their appropriate vocation to keep themselves engaged. There will be life time pension any way. However along with, All India Service officers even junior staff should be sent home accordingly. Since at any given time 50% of government staff shall not be working mainly whiling away their time at the cost to the nation. At least their being sent out can save some cost. After all, they constitute the biggest item of budget on non-productive expenditure.
In the KBC shows, anchor Amithabh Bachchan must have signed hundreds of cheques to prize winners. But the one that he signed for Bihar’s Sushil Kumar, the lone and the biggest winner of jackpot Rs.5 crore prize money, is strangely waiting for encashment, informs a report from New Delhi. The advertisement revenue, the channel owners Sony make, must be good enough to make such payments. After all they are having the most expensive anchor on the show. If Amithabh Bachchan could be paid, which should be many times more than this 5 crore prize money, there should be no problem in getting paid. But there is this inexplicable delay according to the report. Of course, the channel would never have imagined in its wildest dreams that it may, one day, have to pay this big a prize money. But then, a public commitment is a question of integrity of the channel itself. It should not have been so delayed to become a news item. It can seriously erode its credibility with mega star Bachchan involved as anchor.
WORLD: Men, which includes women, are essentially same all over the world. From London to Lahore to Lanka, you find them everywhere – men with multiple standards. We all talk about freedom or rather right to freedom, quietly forgetting that every freedom has its equivalent or more, share of responsibilities. But responsibilities are always expected of others. Assange, yes, its our famous whistleblower, has hit again the dirty underbelly of power. This time it’s the money power. Reportedly he released about 290 files exposing the mass surveillance industry. According to Assange, some 160 Companies in 25 Countries that develop snoop technologies have been selling equipments to dictators and democracies alike, in order to intercept entire population – the mobiles phones, email a/cs, internet browsing histories. And we think its only happening in India. But it is a bad world out there. Yes, may be you are not able to trust your own shadow, following you. Assange even informs that he has evidence that China is hacking into Indian govt. emails, saying that Chinese were sucking out CBI emails. So you know, you cannot call any Space as your own. That’s the life come down to, take it or leave it.
One more instance of our double standard in public life came from far away New York. One of our best brains in public arena, Dr Subramanian Swamy has been rubbished by no less name than Harvard University, his Alma Matar. Ostensibly terming his article "reprehensible" the university terminated his association with it. The article which appeared in ‘The Hindu’ appeared very regressive in its tone and content. But that was his opinion. Similarly, as an entity, Harvard was within its right to cancel a course for whatever reason it might deem fit. But the question is, why they had to do it without giving him a hearing to know his side of the version and the logic which made him write what he wrote. After all U.S. is supposedly the Mecca of individual freedom. And there was nobody who questioned the move of Harvard, including from India. As for Dr Swami, while appearing unperturbed, he did react as saying "It is a dangerous principle, that stifles personal opinion".
We have always maintained, men, which included women as well, are same all over the world, from London to Larnaca to Latur. And comes the news that famed London School of Economics, the Alma Matar of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sold a Phd for a donation. And to whom? Believe it or not, to the currently captured son of Libya's Muammer Gaddafi, Saif Gaddafi. For the public consumption, the Phd was ‘awarded’ on the same day he made a donation of £ 1.5 million. Of course a Mangalore based university was routinely awarding Phds for those who donate Rs. 10 lakh or more which works to around £ 15000/- only. In comparison what LSE received was 100 times more. Of course LSE's brand equity was always prized. But then the bottom line is same, you sell Phds for money. And academically, Saif Gaddafi, reportedly had poor record and Oxford University had earlier rejected his application for admission to Masters degree in Development Studies, despite foreign office of Tony Blair pressuring it, way back in 2002. So keep smiling. We are all same beneath the colour of the skin.
A survey conducted by Saban centre for Middle East Policy has reportedly found that 65% of Israeli Jews prefer to see Israel as well as Iran without nuclear weapons and would opt for a nuclear free Middle East. The response was to a question ‘If Iran gives up nukes would Israel favour giving up?’ It was indeed a good question in the larger interest of the world peace in general and in Middle East peace in particular. The finding was indeed very matured and should take the balance 35% along. Friends of both sides should take it up from here to pursue it to a positive conclusion.