We are well into 2012 with January having gone, and Budget month in the offing. What Union Finance Minister shall offer to the nation has to be seen.
The change that we started from Dec 2011, in the editorial presentation continues to receive responses. We have presented two of them one for and one against. Of course there may be others too, wanting to tell us. We shall continue to present any feed back that would come our way.
Yes, Month in Perspective shall have its usual inputs. India is a vibrant democracy with all kinds of things happening all over the country - good, bad and ugly. We could do justice to only to a part of such happenings in our coverage due to the space constraints. Hope readers will appreciate our limitations. In focus, we have tried to understand the dynamics of the ever evolving relationship between two emerging power centres in the region - India and China. However the Chinese playing difficult had come to head in some areas of differences. This is an issue which needed not just a second look but needed to visit more. We have tried to go into the complexities of the relationship. Hope readers shall find it illuminating. Do revert with your thoughts.
ANDHRA PRADESH: When Andhra Pradesh DGP V. Dinesh Reddy stated that among the causes that leads to physical attack on ladies, scanty clothing by women is one of them, he did not mean that it is the only cause. It should have been taken at that. There is absolutely no doubt that provocative attire of women does attract far more attention than an adequately decently dressed lady. Of course this is not to suggest that burqua is the answer. Every outfit has its limits of extremes. DGP had reportedly stated that even rural girls these days wear churidars or salwar khameez. In fact, short of body hugging, tight fitted tailoring, the salwar khameez is the most decent dress. Sarees are supposedly a dress that gives dignity to women, especially Indian. But then this humble saree can also be very provocatively worn. There are women who wear blouses with back exposed from 2 inches to 12 inches. Similar is the case of sarees with mid exposure of similar length of 2" to 12". Any dress can be provocatively attired, and lets face it, the purpose is to look attractive. These days showing parts of the body probably is indicative of the emancipated modern women. But for our Harvard educated home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to say that ‘you can’t be going to a cocktail party in a swimwear’ is to stretch the argument too far. P.Chidambaram was responding to DGP’s remark. It is another matter that in India, even for cocktail party, PC would come in his trade-mark Dhoti and Shirt and his wife in Kanjiwaram saari like a dignified lady lawyer, that she is. Obviously he was only talking to the gallery since he was at the receiving end in the media for some time now, with his 2G baggage and Mallaperiyar dam remark, when Vayalar Ravi dubbed his observation as "political immaturity". The long and short of it is, what Shakespeare had said a century ago, in the play 'Hamlet', "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy. But not expressd in fancy; rich not guady. For the apparel oft proclaims the man" (which includes women as well).
There was this report from Nalgonda in Andhra Pradesh "Anganwadi Workers Protest". The report informed about the demand of these workers (AW) for payment of salary arrears, which is reportedly not sanctioned since last 10 months. Isn’t this horrendous? How can they live without their Rs: 2200/- only pm for AWs and Rs: 1200/- only pm for helpers? As such it is well below the minimum wages, and we are talking about Jaganmohan Reddy’s, the former Andhra’s CM's son, incredibly huge wealth which CBI is investigating, only because he rebelled against the Congress high command. What moral authority this Congress leadership has in talking about poor empowerment of aam aadmi in U.P., when they are bankrupt in A.P. These AWs cannot go on strike due to the fear of summery dismissal. If this is not exploitation of helpless women what else? Besides, the salary in the neighbouring Karnataka is far better at Rs: 3500/- pm to AWs and Rs: 1750/- to helpers. Of course, this too is well below the minimum wages, but certainly better than what Andhra Pradesh pays. Come to think of it that these AWs were the sole responsible cadre for realizing the goals of ICD schemes, which led to better health and better monitoring, the health of expectant mothers and those of pre-school going children, and they are being so shoddily treated by our governments – both in states and centre. Yes, inequity is our national shame, take it or leave it.
KARNATAKA: Port connectivity road was envisioned by late Srinivas Mallya, an iconic socio political personality of coastal Karnataka. Back in the sixties he had thought of having four laned road connecting all the ports from Mangalore to Karwar, and had accordingly got the NHAI earmark the land required all along the coast up to the border with Goa. Due to the economic upswing and Konkan Railway connectivity, the vehicular traffic, both commercial and private, had greatly increased. Hence the two laned road had to be upgraded. Need was felt in late nineties itself. But being union government what it is, it took its own sweet time to decide and act on four laning. First phase of the construction began in 2005, slated for completion in 2007 Dec., a stretch of just 35 kms, but IRCON, the civil construction wing of Indian Railways could not complete the job, even by end 2011, with almost 200% time over -run. Reasons could be many, but the fact remains there have been unscrupulous political interventions which led to litigations and delays combined with the visual governmental ineptitude, apathy and inefficiency. Now comes the news of the entire stretch being four laned from Talapady, bordering Kerala to Karwar bordering Goa, a stretch of 296kms.
If the stretch between Mangalore to Surathkal could hopefully be complete by 7 years instead of 2½ years by the govt owned IRCON, the road between Surathkal and Kundapur has been given on BOT basis to a private construction company. Hence the progress appears good. The latest news of the last phase of 189kms between Kundapur and Karwar, is being tendered on BOT basis. Reportedly some 40 companies have responded. Yes the IRCON experience has chastened the government. It is true that governments learn rather very slowly, but learning all the same. Yes John Kenneth Galbraith, a former U.S ambassador had hit the nail on the head when he had stated, in the sixtees, for the information of posterity, 'India is a Functioning Anarchy'.
A widow at 24 and a mother of 4 children already with no financial support from anywhere including government, and our economist friends and there are others too saying that population is not an issue but an asset. ‘The sad tale of child marriage victims in Heggada Devana Kote’ in Bangalore rural, was the report that hit the headline the other day. It was the story of rampant child marriage in the Beda Community, spread over a small area around Nagarhole Forests and Kabini backwaters. Reportedly community has only around over 1200 with women being more than men, they marry off their girls early at 15 years. But child marriage is a pan India problem and governments all over India have done precious little to address it. One of the reasons of multiplying number of children among poor is the child marriage. So we continuously produce malnourished children who when grow up become mostly unemployable, except as labourer. This kind of a population is a serious drain on our resources. We have hundreds of government schemes all across India to help poor people. But most of them do not address the root cause. Our population policies have always encouraged late marriage. But on ground nothing has changed. The seriousness of the socio-economic problem of the population increase has to be at the centre of our economic planning and we are only making right noises, a case of sound bite that does not bite.
"Convention to discuss steps to improve quality of education" was a news from Davangere. Speaking to press, the minister for Primary and Secondary Education Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, mentioned about the convention planned for later part of the month. Issues of shortage of teachers, innovative methods of teachings and many other student centric schemes are to be debated. While all these proposals are laudable and hopefully shall be taken up and implemented, the latest proposal of Bhagawad Geetha reading in schools is prima facie shortsighted and smacks of divisive under tones. Of course Bhagawad Geetha on its own, is a sacred text of deep insight into human intricacies. But the introduction of this scripture in schools, where students with multi religious background are there, this can be seen as a regressive measure in line with ideology of the ruling party. Of course, there will be many in BJP, who will favour the inclusion of Geetha, but surprisingly, even our Union Minister K H Muniyappa of the Congress has reportedly favoured the proposal. It will not be surprising that he may be ticked off by Congress high command. There are any number of issues to be addressed in respect of school education, and introduction of Geetha is certainly not a solution to any of them. Government must make schools student centric. In fact socially concerned individuals like Justice Rama Joise should spend time to think how to empower the student community rather than get involved in Geetha as the head of Bhagwad Geetha Abhiyan Committee.
BJP govt. in Bangalore is again at Lokayukta throat. The separate investigation, on top of Lokayukta report, by DCP V.S. D’Souza, on instruction from Home Ministry, has reportedly absolved over 190 police officers. The DCP has reported that there is not enough evidence to fix these policemen. As a senior police man he is certainly thorough in his investigation and reporting. But since this very investigation was ordered by the affected political government, it certainly raised questions of intent. Hence in all fairness DCP could have made a common cause with the Lokayukta, to get to the real truth. Of course Lokayukta need not be 100% right all the time, hence both could have co-operated. But this one sided negation by the Home department, prima facie, is certainly without conviction, . Is the undergarment of the govt at Bangalore showing?
The news about the Pakistani flag being hoisted on the Tahasildar’s office in Sindagi town in Bijapur has to be condemned and strict action taken against the culprits. As usual, the initial response has been that some anti-national elements have done that. And it was the invitation for trouble. Some youth organizations naturally demonstrated. But did they have the knowledge who did it? In the past there were such incidents and a section of the society was held responsible. But the police in Bijapur wasn’t sure this time, who can be held responsible? Surely it was the work of some anti-social elements. Despite groups like Sri Ram Sene and BJP activists staging demonstration, police kept their cool to arrest one Rakesh Siddaramaiah Math, the local president of Sri Ram Sene and six of his associates in the Sene. That was indeed a very serious development, with clear intent to whip up tension in and around Sindagi town. That Sene is a trouble making organization is a documented truth. It is only besmirching the name of Lord Rama aka Maryaada Purushottam. Not withstanding the denial of this Pramod Muthalik, who has no credibility anyway, they have to be severely dealt with by the Govt. of BJP in Bangalore. In their wisdom they should leave the matter to the local law and order agency, the police, to deal with it effectively, to show Sene its place.
RAJASTHAN: Salman Rushdie dimension in the Jaipur Literature Festival travelled from sublime to ridiculous. For days to-gether, it occupied print media space and 24x7 electronic media had a field day for days on. But who is this Salman Rushdie, an Indian immigrant in UK, writing in queen’s language. He has many books to his credit, but arguably not really a great writer. He hit the media high for his book ‘Satanic Verses’. Since this book was banned by the then government when it was published some two decades ago, ostensibly because it contained blasphemous reference to Prophet Mohammed. Of course, fanaticism in any form is indefensible. There were fatwas to kill him. But thanks to U.K police, he somehow survived for all these years. While fatwas and violent demonstrations are an absolute ‘no’, everyone has a right to protest, just as the writer has his right to write and express. They have got to be necessarily on the same wave length. In fact being a writer, he necessarily has to carry the burden of responsibility of being sensitive to his readers, especially in matters of faith. But Salman Rushdie, just like MF Hussain before him have been contemptuous of the feelings of faithfuls. Doesn’t matter which faith. If there is a protest, there has to be apology and matter is closed. If the exercise of your right of writing your thoughts voluntarily has caused any discomfort or pain, you are duti bound to say "I am sorry". Controversy sustains only when both sides take an arrogant stand about the rights only. However, while there should not be two opinions about the freedom and responsibility going to-gether, our media and men from the so-called intellectual writers, take ambivalent stand some time and deafeningly clear stand depending on who are the affected and protesting crowd. Chetan Bhagat, the writer, has gone on record "Banned authors are not heroes, they have hurt Muslims", commenting on the Salman Rushdie controversy. But when MF Hussain non-challently vilified gods and goddesses in his paintings, Chetan Bhagat or any of his ilk were not heard mouthing inanities. They condemned the protestors as communalists and that the painter’s freedom of expression was at stake. This is our intellectual writers, take it or leave it.
MAHARASHTRA:Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) of Mumbai has gone on record saying that it is worried about the poor conviction rate in the cases of corruption against government officials. But then it is the sad truth across the nation. And our policy makers from the portals of parliament have just thrown the spanner to get a strong Lokpal Bill passed. At one side, it was the incumbent government who lacked transparent seriousness in giving to the country an unencumbered ombudsman and opposition parties, divided as they are, had their own agenda. Yes, it is evident, Lokpal may not come after all with the requisite teeth as desired by Team Anna. Going back to ACB, it informs that all across the government spectrum employees demand bribe from Rs: 100 to over Rs: 15 lakh from all those who want to have anything to do with the govt. Yet, ACB Mumbai informs, despite only 235 cases registered against these employees of different departments, conviction rate was not even 40% at 81. And this was for 4 years from 2007/8 to 2010/11. As such 235 cases for 4 years itself was very low, and conviction at 35% to be exact, too was still lower. Here again only those who could not influence the course of events get convicted. Then you have those delaying tactics by lawyers make the cases Chaltaa Rahey – Chaltaa Rahey – like that plywood ad. That is the sad state of our Mother India.
What happened in Mulgaon village in the outskirts of Karad town, the home town of Maharashtra Chief Minister, has sent shock waves across the state. It reminded of the Bhotmange family’s barbaric molestation and murder, in Nagpur some years ago. This time mercifully, there was no murder. But a dalit woman was stripped, beaten for hours and paraded naked. Her fault was that her son had eloped with the daughter of an upper cast family. And police refused to entertain the compliant, saying that "such incidents keep happening in your community and we cannot help you". This is happening as India is completing 62 years as a democratic sovereign republic. Isn’t it a shame that such a thing is happening in the most progressive and prosperous state of Maharashtra. Probably Maharashtra government is saying, even in atrocities toward dalits we are ahead of others! And comes another news "Dalit worker burnt to death", reportedly for not paying the loan of Rs: 5000/- by a Maratha land owner Vashisht Dhake in Chinchole village in Beed district of Maharashtra. Come to think of it that family of the deceased, a dalit landless labourer, neither got any job under MNREGS nor shockingly, are they covered under BPL. "If they don’t, who does?" asks the D.C., Shivanand Taksale. This is Yeh Mera India.
NEW DELHI: With leaked news, from Finance Ministry officials, making its rounds that there may be an Amnesty Scheme for all those who want to bring back their ill gotten money stashed away in tax havens, it is becoming increasingly clearer that there is little seriousness from the Central government of the day to tackle black money. It was always known that Pranab Mukherjee, the incumbent Central Finance Minister, is the strong votary for Amnesty scheme. If memory serves right, in the 2010 Budget he had provided, reportedly an escape rout for the notorious Hassan Ali who is facing the Rs 100,000 crores claim from the Income Tax Deptt, an indirect proposal of this nature.
And comes the news that a staggering $128bn capital illegally flowed out of India in a decade ending in 2009. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI) study India is the 15th largest victim of illicit financial outflow that cost developing countries $: 903bn in 2009.
This is indeed a very large amount of money. In rupee terms it is more than Rs: 6,70,000 crores. This is the kind of money, flying out of the country, to land in tax havens. This study report of GFI must serve as a wake up call to the managers of the country’s dwindling resources. This report comes in the close heels of the report on wrong figures being dished out by ministry of commerce regarding the export of the country for 2010/11 being far in excess of the actual.
So, its not only that the country has failed to arrest the illegal flight of money, but also gave wrong picture of export earnings to pat itself in the back. So it is a 'Double Whammy'. A recurrent face of governance.
Sometime ago there was a news report making its round that Nitin Gadkari, the pot bellied president of BJP had ruled himself out as a probable BJP candidate, to the position of PM, in the event of BJP alliance making it to the Parliament. Of course, on the face of it, the proposal itself was laughable. What quality anybody found in this Gadkari is unknown. But the recent controversy of admitting those ministers of UP govt dropped by Maaya, has exposed the ethical standard of this Gadkari. His smart-alec move of not only making them members of the party but of offering them party tickets have invited a huge uproar even among party members. Earlier, when his daughter got married, the extravagance was reportedly funded by B SYediyurappa, the former CM of Karnataka. People like Nitin Gadkari will only hasten the fall of the party, which is anyway not doing too well either.
The controversy involving Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, on the date of his possible retirement has raised uncomfortable questions regarding the civil service culpability in matters of general importance. Gen Singh who is slated to retire on 31st May 2012, is reportedly unhappy that he is actually retiring before really attaining superannuation. Of course, as per the records available with the MoD, Gen Singh is attaining retirement on the above date. However according to the SSLC certificate, his birthday is 10 month later on 10th May 1951. In all cases of birth date recording, in official documents, SSLC certificate is the basic proof. Hence for whatever reasons, it has been recorded otherwise wrongly, could have been corrected. To this effect, reportedly the General has made written representation, but the ministry officials who decide on things like personnel matters of the army did not apparently entertain his representation. And unfortunately for Gen Singh even the Defence Minister has gone with the ministry’s decision. Of course there were issues like who will succeed Gen Singh. Reportedly there were 3 claimants due to three possibilities. If 31st May 2012 is the day, then A would have got the job. If April 2013 would have been the date, as desired by Gen Singh, then there could be B who could take over. But the 3rd possibility could have been if Gen Singh had resigned and go to court to press his case. So there are machinations at work, it is alleged, by all the three claimants and babus in the ministry are probably taking sides. If this is true then it is sad and bad. But we all know entrenched babudom in the corridors of power will not tolerate anybody encroaching their turf. This is Yeh Mera India. As we are going to the press, the issue is in the Apex Court and reportedly the union govt. has toughened its stand. Things are getting murkier.
It was CAG earlier, and now its PAC (Public Accts Committee) which blasted the army’s Canteen Stores Deptt. (CSD), managing its ration supplies. The report "Army ration supply practices rotten: PAC" said it all. There was this TV debate on the Army Chief's birth day fracas. Many former Army top brass took all kinds of stands, about the dignity and rights of the Army General V K Singh. But at no time any of them have gone on record about the sorry and pathetic state of the supply practices within the organization of the army. Of course they need not be blamed. The sensation mongering 24x7 electronic media didn’t bother much. Story of date expired grocery supplies had hit the print media on many earlier occasions through CAG reports. Some as old as 28 months beyond the expiry date. And none in the army top brass thought to respond, since it was only the jawans, the sentries, who were denied their basic need to have quality food. This aspect was highlighted by I & C on earlier occasions. But then eddies cannot create tidal waves. Yes, it is only when the main stream media take it up, the issues see brighter light of the day. Our jawans who are living in trying conditions in difficult geographical terrain need better treatment and deserved to be better looked after. Do you harken Mr. Antony?
In a situation of Chaltaa Rahey-Chalta Rahey syndrome, and increasing pending cases in courts across the country, the news that in 2011, Supreme Court has cleared 79000 cases is indeed good. Under the stewardship of the Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia, scene is quitely but significantly changing. Of course, even the law ministry under former minister Veerappa Moily too had its own share of initiatives in taking measures to dispose of cases as quickly as possible. Judicial reforms, especially the timings of the courts, elimination of holidays and week end offs, are thought to be of far reaching consequences, but still not been deliberated and agreed upon. Once, the sitting time of judges are increased with greater number of judges being appointed, the pressure can ease greatly. Hope this is taken up and implemented in the larger interest of the harassed litigant.
There was this report from New Delhi attributed to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) about employing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), hired from Israel, which will take pictures through clouds, fog and darkness. These UAVs are to send real time pictures while remaining unseen and unheard from the ground. These are to be deployed in naxal infested jungles in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Expected to be deployed from March, the pictures from UAV are to be used by Central Reserve Police Force helicopters to carry out raid on ultra hide outs. Now this is a plan of MHA. As a plan, it is reasonably felt that they should be known to as few people at the top as possible. Certainly not for public consumption, especially while dealing with ultras. How the Harvard educated, lawyer turned politician Palniappan Chidambaram did not think so? Certainly this knowledge is not likely to make the general public wiser, but ultras, who have their ears all over, shall surely think of plans to foil the efforts of authorities to nab them, or will make it as difficult as possible. We are yet to experience the efficiency of such operation. Hence discretion is certainly a better part of the valour while dealing with ultras, who have proved themselves better than police many a time.
WORLD: The skeleton from ISI cupboard is falling off at regular intervals. The latest is the Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai episode. Reportedly this U.S. based Pakistani has pleaded guilty of spying for ISI. We are given to understand that he is a Kashmiri separatist. He was organizing seminars and conferences on issues relating to Kashmir. Besides inviting Pakistani speakers, he was inviting Indians, which included people like Kuldip Nayar, Dileep Padgoankar, and others who have an ambivalent stand on Kashmir. Reportedly it was the ISI which would clear names of Indians to be invited. Indian electronic media in the past had questioned the participation by Indian journalists on the ethics of attending such fully paid trip with all hospitality and even expensive mementoes. As usual it was naïve explanations which left everybody dissatisfied. But the latest exposure by the U.S prosecutors at Distt. Court of Virginia has confirmed that "for the last 20 years Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the U.S government. As a paid operative of ISI he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with U.S. elected officials, funded high profile conferences and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision makers in Washington. He was running an NGO-Kashmir American Council. Yes Dilip Padgoankar, the high profile Kashmir Interlocutor & Co has a lot to explain.
That Taliban receiving Pakistan military equipment is a long held and confirmed view. That U.S military’s investigation reveals this truth is not a surprise. The probe led by Brigadier Gen Stephen Clark, into the Nov 25 U.S Air force strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers had exposed the convergence of area of co-operation between Pakistani Army and Taliban. 3000 Pakistan military issue rifle rounds packed into bandoleers, Pak Military issue binoculars and multiple sets of salwar kameez clothing made from Pakistani military uniforms were confirmed to have been found. The report, which mainly focused on the circumstances that led to the U.S strike that killed Pak soldiers has also revealed the deep suspicions of both U.S and Afghan troops on the trustworthyness of Pakistan as an ally in fighting terror. The report also spoke of insurgent training facility, command and control logistic hub was overlooked by Pak army posts, obviously finger pointing at elements in Pak army as those helping Taliban. This belief was always held by India for a long time, but U.S for its own sake and interest preferred to ignore, yes sometime chicken do come home to roost. But then damage is already done by then.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar was in India on a tour, attending Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas celebration in Jaipur, as Chief Guest. Like most persons of Indian origin, she called on her roots in Bihar’s non descript village of Bhelupur. It was from here that her ancestors, her grandfather in particular, had left Bihar to the Caribbean archipelago, as an indentured labour, probably forced by the then colonial masters, Britishers. As Mr.Bharat Jagdev, the then President of British Guyana had come to Nawawa village of Bihar in 2008, also in search of his roots, these were superbly success stories of Indian migrants doing extremely well in the development of human potential. As is visibly clear, those from their families, left behind in India are caught in a time warp that they still remained illiterate and poor landless labourers for all the 100+ years that have gone by. A sad commentary on the Indian governance of 64 years. Yes our successive governments of Free India-both federal and state-have failed to create an atmosphere of growth for all its citizens. In this context what Prime Minister Kamla Persad had said need to echo in the portals of Indian parliament. She had reportedly said "Let your children get education. This is the only passport out of poverty… the only way to lift the nation". Do you harken Dr Manmohan Singh, the most learned Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy? Yes it was only 3 years ago that an RTE was passed to make all Indians literate. But, when shall the deliverance come?
Giving unmistakable signs of fairness to the litigant irrespective of cast, creed, religion and even nationality, the Supreme Court of India has ‘quashed the death sentence awarded to a Pakistani’. Short of setting the accused at liberty, due to a split verdict, the apex court at New Delhi requested the Chief Justice of India to constitute another bench to have a last word on the case. Mohd. Hussain was found guilty of involvement in the Delhi blast that killed 4 and injured 24, was awarded death sentence by the Delhi High Court. Apex Court observed that 'prima facie it was not fair trial since there was no lawyer with the accused to defend him, hence a fresh trial is in order'. However, possibility of the alleged accused being freed appeared more since the intervention of the CJI is invoked, because he has already undergone 7 years of imprisonment on death row. The judgement truly reflected the IDEA OF INDIA. No wonder Suhail Seth, a political commentator had recently remarked in a T.V interaction "I am amazed at the Supreme Court.". Some lessons for the Pakistani Supreme Court?!