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The Hindu Editorial Pages

February 2015




Pakistans elusive quest for parity

Husain Haqqani


A needless
nion Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party
leader Ravi Shankar Prasad calling for a national debate on whether the words socialist
and secular should continue to be part of the
Preamble to the Constitution in the wake of the controversy over the Central government using a watermark of
the original Preamble in advertisements released in the
print media on the occasion of Republic Day which did
not have those words has set off a debate on a constitutional amendment made during the period of the Emergency. It followed the Shiv Senas demand that the two
key words be dropped altogether from the amended Preamble. In conceptually adding the words to the Preamble
by means of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act,
1976, wherein the words Sovereign Democratic Republic were substituted with Sovereign Socialist Secular
Democratic Republic, the Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to that Bill said it was to spell out expressly the high ideals of socialism, secularism and the
integrity of the nation, to make the directive principles
more comprehensive and give them precedence over
those fundamental rights which have been allowed to be
relied upon to frustrate socio-economic reforms for implementing the directive principles. That the working of
the Constitution shows shortcomings, that the insertion
of these two words was done during the period of the
Emergency under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and that
the Indian ethos is inherently secular, making the inclusion redundant, are the main arguments put forward
by the ruling dispensation now.
As many legal pundits have convincingly shown, the
Preamble embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values on which the Constitution is based. The
inclusion of the words socialist and secular is best
seen as an explication of the ideals modern India has
drawn directly from the freedom struggle. Upendra Baxi,
citing the great constitutional historian Granville Austin
despite his differences with him recalls how the
roots of the directive principles could be traced to the
1931 Karachi Congress resolution, and to the two
streams of socialist and nationalist sentiments in India
that had been owing ever faster since the late 1920s.
Even the Morarji Desai-led Janata Party government, in
which the Jan Sangh was a constituent, did not think it
necessary to delist these two words when they enacted
the 44th Amendment to nullify the objectionable features
introduced in the 42nd Amendment Act. Political scientists also emphasise that in the S.R. Bommai case, the
Supreme Court held that secularism is an integral part
of the Constitutions basic structure. With or without the
amended Preamble, the Indian Constitution will remain
secular, but the signal the dropping of the words would
send will be disconcerting to the minorities.

in schools
he inequities in infrastructure could not be
starker. While several schools continue to deny
the most basic sanitation facilities for poorer
children, a select band of them dangle air-conditioned classrooms and dormitories and other accessories before the more affluent ones. Repeated
knuckle-rapping by the Supreme Court over the years has
evidently had little effect on State administrations, as the
case of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana illustrates. In
October 2012, the Court had issued orders for the building of toilets in all schools within six months. That stricture was a sequel to a similar kind of intervention the year
before. The Supreme Court had stepped in yet again last
year, but to little avail. Matters have got no further in
2015. In this latest instance, a two-judge Bench has been
constrained to spell out to the governments of the two
neighbouring States as to what type of structures were
acceptable as safe and clean toilets. That is proof enough
that official specications were violated both in letter and
spirit. Such complacency on the part of the authorities
would hopefully be history given the increase in funding
for the purpose ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modis Independence day address.
Not unrelated to the situation in schools is the equally
callous attitude of many States with respect to the enforcement of the ban on manual scavenging that was
legislated over two decades ago. Underlying the indignity
heaped on public sanitation workers, as well as the insanitary conditions in schools, is a mindset of complete denial; that, if anything, compounds the problem. The
detrimental long-term effects, especially upon girls, of
prolonged lack of access to toilets have been well-documented. Where facilities exist, they are effectively rendered dysfunctional because of the most unhygienic
conditions in which they are invariably found. This aspect
may be linked also to the ratio of toilet facility to user of
1:40 for girls and 1:80 for boys, as per norms laid down by
the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Conversely, the UNICEF standard provides one toilet for
25 girls and a toilet and urinal for 80 boys. The adoption of
best practices in one area would critically inuence behaviour with respect to other health and sanitation indicators. Schools thus play a pivotal role in inculcating
clean and healthy habits among children, families and the
wider community. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu
is a torch-bearer of the countrys information and technology revolution. His counterpart in Telangana, K.
Chandrasekhar Rao, won statehood on a promise of development for the people. They have both committed
themselves to realising Mr. Modis mission of Swachh
Bharat. They have their task cut out. A toilet is not a
luxury not for human beings.



resident Barack Obama and Prime

Minister Narendra Modi carefully
omitted mentioning Pakistan during the U.S. Presidents recent visit
to India. But that did not stop Pakistani
politicians and media from warning America against trying to establish Indias dominance in South Asia. Amid talk of Pakistan
expanding security ties with China and Russia, its Foreign Office issued an official statement complaining that an India-U.S.
partnership would alter South Asias balance of power and create a regional
In reality, the Pakistani reaction reects
the Pakistani security establishment clinging to the notion of parity with India. For
years, Pakistan has ignored changes in the
global environment and accepted the heavy
price of internal weakness to project itself as
Indias equal. Islamabad also insists on resolution of the Kashmir dispute as the essential prerequisite for normal ties with its
much larger neighbour.

Equality and parity

The parity doctrine as well as the emphasis on Kashmir are rooted in ideology and the
two-nation theory that was the basis of Muhammad Ali Jinnahs demand for Pakistan.
For a country to base its foreign policy for
over 60 years on the same assumptions is
unusual. As the world around us changes, so
must a nations foreign policy. But Pakistan
has yet to embrace pragmatism as the basis
of its foreign and national security policies.
Pakistanis such as me realise that seeking
security in relation to a much larger neighbour is not the same thing as insisting on
parity with it. All nations are equal in international law but sovereign equality is not
synonymous with parity.
In any case, Pakistan is Indias rival in real
terms only as much as Belgium could rival

Pakistans strong reaction to the Obama visit to

India reflects its security establishment clinging to
a flawed notion of parity with India, when for
years it has ignored changes in the global
environment and accepted the heavy price of
internal weakness to project itself as Indias equal

books published in any language on any subject in Pakistan in 2013, including religious
titles and childrens books, stood at 2,581,
against 90,000 in India.
The parity doctrine also requires Pakistanis to see India as an existential enemy.
Textbooks still tell Pakistani children that
Hindu India threatens Islamic Pakistan and
seeks to terminate its existence. Hardly anyone outside of Pakistan believes that to be
Country comparisons
Nuclear deterrence and mutually assured
India is expanding by most measures of destruction usually freeze conicts and pave
national power while Pakistan has been able the way for dtente as they did between the
to keep pace with it only in manufacturing U.S. and the U.S.S.R. But little has changed in
France or Germany and Vietnam could hope
to be on a par with China. Indias population
is six times larger than Pakistans while its
economy is 10 times the size of the Pakistani
economy. Notwithstanding internal problems, Indias $2 trillion economy has managed consistent growth whereas Pakistans
$245 billion economy has grown sporadically and is undermined by jihadi terrorism and
domestic political chaos.

India is expanding by most measures of national power while

Pakistan has been able to keep pace with it only in
manufacturing nuclear weapons and their delivery systems
nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
Pakistanis are often not told of the widening
gap between the two countries in most elds.
For example, 94 per cent of Indias children between ve and 15 complete primary
school compared with 54 per cent in Pakistan. Every year, 8,900 Indians get a PhD in
the sciences compared with the 8,142 doctorates awarded by Pakistans universities
since Independence. The total number of

the Pakistani ideology after the induction of

nuclear weapons on the subcontinent. There
is little recognition that with nuclear weapons, Pakistan no longer has any reason to
feel insecure about being overrun by a larger
Indian conventional force.

Kashmir issue
The notion of an existential threat to Pakistan is now only psycho-political and ide-



Letter and aftermath
This refers to the report, Congress
goes quiet after Jayanthi storm
(Feb.1). Today, the Congress faces
its biggest crisis ever since it was
enveloped by corruption, scandals
and several other administrative
deciencies which resulted in its
crushing defeat at the hands of the
BJP in 2014. After the letter
bomb by party loyalist Jayanthi
Natarajan, one is sure that several
more Congressmen will now
abandon the sinking ship of the
Congress. What prompted Ms.
Natarajan to come up with
insinuations against Rahul Gandhi
only now? The timing and her
motives are indeed questionable.
Politics has only become a platform
for selsh and self-centred
politicians to secure power, a
special status, wealth and comforts.
M.Y. Shariff,
The fact that the Rahul Gandhi, the
target of Ms. Natarajans ire, has
not responded to her letter shows
that there could be some truth in
her charges levelled against him.
The way the Environment Ministry
functions appears to be murky and
laced with controversies and one
hopes that there is a thorough
probe into all its deals and
C.K. Subramaniam,
Navi Mumbai
It is the bane of Indian politics that
sycophancy is expected and even
encouraged. Rather than exhibiting
loyalty to individuals, families and
parties, when will our Ministers
show loyalty to the law, the
Constitution, morality and their
S.V. Venkatakrishnan,
Gone are the days when our leaders
were idealistic and used to stick to
one form of political ideology. The
episode, of Jayanti Natarajan
exiting the Congress, shows the
need for debate on internal party
democracy and interference of
party leaders in the functioning of

the executive. The new India is

witnessing a shift in the way
politics will run. The time is ripe for
all parties to improve their inner
party workings.
Badal Jain,
Jalgaon, Maharashtra
The fact that there was an
extraconstitutional authority in
UPA-I and -II has now been
conrmed by none other than a
staunch loyalist (Editorial, Jan.
31). The case shows that there
needs to be a thorough probe into
the spectrum and coal allotments,
the CWG, the eet purchase for
Air India and defence deals which
were clearly done ignoring the
Prime Minister and his directives.
The BJP/NDA government should
now be proactive and enact a tough
anti-corruption law.
N. Ramamurthy,
Nowhere in her press conference
did Ms. Natarajan allege that Rahul
Gandhi had interfered in the
functioning of the Environment
Ministry. It appears to be a case of
his office forwarding letters from
NGOs on environmental matters.
What is wrong in this? A careful
reading of her letter shows that
there is nothing explosive in its
C. Damodaran,
Vilayankode, Kerala

Choosing satyagraha
The people of Manipur are
sandwiched between the thrust of
AFSPA on one side and the equally
dreadful threats of insurgency on
the other Choosing satyagraha
over spectacle, (Jan.31). It is
heartbreaking to mention that even
after a decade of rigorous protest,
neither Irom Sharmila nor any of
her fervent supporters has yet to
bring about change as far as the
internal security of the state is
concerned. Peace will prevail only
when there is a genuine attempt to
work towards the development and
welfare of the people in Northeast
Yangthouba Mutum,

ological. Pakistan has already fought four

wars with India and lost half its territory in
the process the erstwhile East Pakistan,
which became Bangladesh in 1971.
As for Jammu and Kashmir, one need not
deny Pakistans initial claims to recognise
that it might not be an issue that can be
resolved in the foreseeable future. Jihadi
militancy, since 1989, has failed to wrest
Kashmir for Pakistan from India as has war
and military confrontation.
Islamabad should also evaluate realistically its hope of internationalising the Kashmir
issue. The last effective UN resolution on
Kashmir was passed by the Security Council
in 1957, when the United Nations had 82
members. Last year, with 193 members, Pakistans Prime Minister was the only world
leader who mentioned Jammu and Kashmir
at the UN General Assembly.

In the U.S.s calculations

U.S. economic and military aid ($40 billion to date since 1950) encouraged the perpetuation of Pakistans doctrine of parity
with India. Pakistanis thought that with the
support of external allies, Pakistan could
compensate for its inherent disadvantage in
size against India. But now Washington sees
India as Americas longer-term ally and
The size of Indias market and potential
for greater trade, investment and defence
sales are important elements in recent U.S.
calculations. But even immediately after Independence, India and not Pakistan was
deemed to be Americas natural ally. A 1949
Pentagon report described India as the natural political and economic center of South
Asia and the country with which the U.S.
had greater congruence of interests.
Indias decision to stay non-aligned in the
stand-off between the West and the Soviet
bloc, beneted Pakistan in its formative
years. India argued that it needed to benet
from both sides in the Cold War. Pakistan, a
new state unsure of its future and searching
for aid to bolster its economy and security,
stepped in to become a part of U.S.-led military alliances.
Pakistans old school diplomats, politicians and military thinkers are now upset that
they cannot count on the U.S. as the equaliser in their quest for equivalence with India.
China is already a close ally of Pakistan and
cannot tip the balance in Pakistans favour
on its own. In any case, it is unlikely that
China, with its growing Uyghur problem,
will remain unaffected by the global perception of Pakistan as an epicentre of Islamist
Voicing frustration with the major powers
over their redenition of their national interest will not help Pakistan advance its national interests. Just as it has belatedly
started acknowledging its terrorist problem,
my country would benet more by giving up
the quest for parity with India. We should
seek security and prosperity in the context of
our size for a territorial state, rather than an
ideological one. The process could begin
with efforts to address Pakistans institutional weaknesses, eliminate terrorism, improve infrastructure and modernise its
(Husain Haqqani, director for South and
Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in
Ambassador to the United States from
2008-11. His latest book is Magnicent
Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and
an Epic History of Misunderstanding.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
It was interesting to have a
contrasting two visually compelling
images loud military might and
quiet, inner strength. Nations, like
individuals, can mask their true
nature. Pride in the form of the
spectacle of weaponry is not
necessarily a source of comfort for
all. When the focus is on the ability
to bring about change through
violence, the state can mirror the
violence of the terrorists against
its own people. We all have the
ability to resist injustice by not
accepting it as a fact of life and not
amplifying it by reacting to it.
Velayudhan Menon,
Batu Pahat, Malaysia

Tiger count
One is happy that the editorial
(Jan.23) acknowledges the fact that
the science of conserving tigers is
mostly focussed on saving source
populations of the cat. However, a
major challenge facing tiger
reserves in India is the isolation of
the species (Panthera tigris) into 30
to 40 groups of discontinuous tiger
populations across six major
landscape complexes. A degree of
isolation can lead to the evolution
of local races.
The tiger has a very wide
ecogeographic range in Asia and
several, zoologically identiable
subspecies have been recognised.
Again, if the source population is
isolated, but the environment is
articially rendered favourable by
man, then such a situation becomes
conducive to the multiplication of
same and similar genotypes beyond
the carrying capacity of the
particular area. This appears to be
the case of the uctuating tiger
population in India: 2,000 in 1998,
1,411 in 2006, 1,706 in 2010 and
2,226 in 2014. The interphase
increase in the tiger population
conservation. Therefore, the chief
hurdle is inbreeding on account of
fragmentation. One way to increase
the genetic base is to have corridors
between tiger reserves, so as to help
in gene ow. But this is not
practical due to a paucity of land.
The only alternative left is in the

introduction of a genetically viable

tiger population from other
habitats to widen the extent and
nature of genetic diversity and
which can be done based on data
from genetic ngerprinting across
The dictum it all depends on the
green was perhaps forgotten in the
conservation in India, which began
with big cats and large mammals
due to their top position in the food
chain. The tiger-deer-grasswater link is too simplistic a
relationship to be applied to the
spectrum of diversity and
ecosystems. In situ conservation
has to be attempted on a holistic
basis, taking all forms of data into
account. In the ultimate analysis, it
is genetic diversity that matters.
India, once a tiger land, and now
spending crores on Project Tiger,
should now make an attempt to
focus on the importance of
diversity in the science of saving
A.N. Henry,

Vanishing playgrounds
It is true that rapid urbanisation,
with gated communities and
apartments, has now resulted in
less open space available for
children to play and enjoy their
time (Open Page, Those
disappearing playgrounds, Feb.1).
I know of a situation where
educational institutions have been
instructed to have a playground but
school managements nd ways to
get around this and avoid this
inspection. I am sure that the rise of
metabolic diseases among children
due to physical inactivity will
eventually jolt the authorities into
J.P. Reddy,
Nalgonda, Telangana

Physical play is the best way to

refresh the mind and is what helps
children maintain good health and
concentrate on their studies. It is in
play that children learn some of
lifes most important lessons, like
learning to lose but not to be a loser,
and not letting success go to their
heads nor failure to their hearts. It
also involves leadership and teambuilding skills, all of which cannot
be taught in a classroom.
T.S. Karthik,

R.K. Laxman
R.K. Laxmans spontaneity in
rendering humour and satire in a
single blend remains unmatched.
In 1998, he visited an Animation
Academy at Hyderabad, of which I
was the principal. After his special
lecture to the students, we gathered
at the conference hall for a coffee
break. When he picked up his plate
of cashewnuts, a stray y landed on
his hand. While trying to brush it
off, he said, See, this fellow is
following me wherever I go. One of
the students asked: Sir, how do you
know this one is the same y? Pat
came the reply. He was sitting next
to me in the aeroplane!
S. Jayadev Babu,
I still remember a two-frame
Laxman cartoon on how road
repair is done in India. The rst
said: Go slow,work in progress. In
the second it was: Go, slow work in
progress. At times, the truth is the
best joke!
J.K.V.R. Setty,

I once had the fortune of meeting

R.K. Laxman and asked him why
there was no common woman
instead of the Common Man. To
this he immediately took out a
sheet of paper from a pile, grabbed a
It is unfortunate that a lack of open pencil and drew his Common
spaces and playgrounds has forced Man standing in front of a mirror
children in cities to stay indoors that reected the image of Mother
and remain glued to computers and Teresa. His explanation was that
other electronic gadgets. The the iconic image at the back of his
current generation plays all mind was the great lady.
George John,
outdoor games like cricket,
football, tennis on computers!




The architects of West Asias chaos

Vijay Prashad


End the
haratiya Janata Party president Amit Shah
did well to try and quell the controversy over
the demands for dropping the words secular
and socialist from the Preamble of the Constitution. In his interview to The Hindu, he could not
have been more unequivocal: The BJP believes that
the Preamble, as it stands today, should remain. There
is no need to change it. What is now needed is for
Prime Minister Narendra Modi to endorse his political
aide, Mr. Shah, and give a public assurance on retaining
the two words, to remove any doubt about the stance of
the government on this issue. The point of concern is
not whether India needed the word in the Preamble to
be secular, but as noted in The Hindus editorial, A
needless controversy (February 2, 2015), the disconcerting signal that the dropping of the word would send
to the minorities of the country. While there is little
doubt that Mr. Shahs thoughts on the subject are
aligned with those of Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister can
make a big difference by distancing his government
from the controversy fanned by the BJPs far right ally,
the Shiv Sena. Otherwise, Ministers and party functionaries would feel free to stoke fresh controversies of
this nature every now and then.
While Mr. Shah seemed keen to end the controversy
over any change to the Preamble, he did not think the
political storm over the ghar vapsi programme undertaken by Hindutva outts would derail the development agenda of the government. Indeed, the BJP
president was intent on using the heat generated by the
programme of reconversion to Hinduism as an excuse
to push for a specic law on banning forcible religious
conversion. Mr. Shah, while defending U.S. President
Barack Obamas speech on religious freedom in India,
stuck to the Hindutva line that conversion is a problem,
and sought support for an anti-conversion legislation
without seeing a need for any further debate on the
subject. Actually, the divergence within the BJP on
these crucial issues is becoming increasingly evident
with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying that
ghar vapsi had no place in India, even while describing
Mr. Obamas remarks on religious divides in the country as unfortunate. This is another reason why Mr.
Modi must step in with an assurance that his government has no plans to bring in changes to the Preamble,
or to encourage communally divisive politics. Without
his intervention, the government and the party will
appear to be speaking in different voices on issues of
national importance. Development cannot bloom miraculously on a separate track insulated from the subversive political challenges of the day.

andemonium is the main current

from Libya to Iraq. U.S. President
Barack Obama dashed off from New
Delhi to greet King Salman, the new
ruler of Saudi Arabia. Both had a great deal to
discuss. Neither can be comforted with the
mess that their countries have made in West
Asia. Tragically, the only pathway they seem
to favour is the one that would create more
distress in the years to come. Plainly, their
example is Egypt, where both the U.S. and
Saudi Arabia backed the coup by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and now back his government despite repression against protests.
The murder of a young socialist, Shaimaa
el-Sabbagh, as she went to lay a wreath of
owers in Tahrir Square on the fourth anniversary of the Revolution against Mubarak, is
a sign of the rot. It did not stop an Islamic
State (IS) detachment from an attack in the
Sinai Peninsula, killing over 30 security personnel and civilians. In Libya, the Saudis and
the U.S. favour the strongman (Khalifa Haftar), as they did in Yemen (Abdullah Saleh). In
Iraq and Syria, both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia
disliked the dispensation and sought to undo
it. The Saudis are driven by sectarianism
against the rule of the Shia (and the inuence
of Iran). It is what turns them against the
governments in Damascus and Baghdad, as
well as the rebels in Yemen. Mr. Obama and
King Salman cannot solve the problems in the
region. They have run out of ideas. Others will
have to show the way.

Chaos in Libya
Libya. The Corinthia Hotel is Tripolis
most luxurious. It has been home to successive Prime Ministers, who fear for their lives
in the fractious capital city (Prime Minister
Ali Zeidan was abducted from there in 2013).
It is also home to the United Nations mission,
which held a Libya Dialogue in Geneva. On
January 27, gunmen entered the hotel and
killed guards and foreign residents (including
a security contractor from the U.S.). The Tripoli branch of the IS took credit for the
Chaos has been the governing mood in Libya since 2011. Two governments claim to run
the country each backed by militias, each
with foreign powers behind them. The U.N.
mission abandoned by the West after its
war in 2011 ounders to create a peace
process. The internationally backed government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani
sent a delegation to Geneva to join the U.N.-


An ICBM becomes
more versatile
ndias intercontinental ballistic missile, Agni V,
has been turned into an even more potent weapon of war. On Saturday, the Defence Research
and Development Organisation (DRDO) demonstrated that this missile, capable of sending a nuclear
warhead to targets over 5,000 km away thereby
bringing much of China within its reach could be
launched from a truck-mounted canister. The ability to
move ballistic missiles around makes it difficult for an
enemy to locate and destroy them. Placed in canisters,
the missiles can be easily transported and launched
with great rapidity in all sorts of weather conditions.
The canisters have another advantage as well they
make decoys possible. While these large truck-borne
missile containers can be detected by spy satellites
passing overhead and may well be noticed by observers
on the ground, it will be impossible to tell those that
actually carry missiles from ones that are empty. Thus,
any attempt at a rst strike to take out Indias nucleararmed missiles becomes far more uncertain and therefore a risky undertaking for any adversary.
However, launching a missile from a canister is more
difficult, especially when it involves a large missile like
the Agni V. The missile must be ejected from the
container, using a gas generator, before its rst stage
can be ignited. Although the DRDO had previously
carried out canister launches with the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the 700-km-range Shourya
missile, launching the Agni V in a similar fashion was
still a considerable technological challenge. Hurling
this 17-metre-long, 50-tonne missile clear of its container requires far greater force, which must be provided by large amounts of gas produced very rapidly. In
doing so, neither the missile nor its launch system
should be damaged. Saturdays awless launch shows
that the countrys defence scientists have indeed mastered this complex technology. Three successive Agni V
ight tests have gone without a hitch over the last three
years and DRDO officials say the missile will be ready
for induction into service after just one more trial,
which will be carried out later this year. However,
Indias strategic planners will need to bear in mind the
fact that Pakistan and China have deployed nuclear
weapons on their missiles in a way that goes beyond
conventional nuclear deterrence. Rather, their strategy
appears to create ambiguities over the escalation of a
conventional conict into a nuclear one. Consequently,
enhancement of this countrys long-range ballistic missile capabilities must go hand-in-hand with proper
planning to deal with situations that might lead to such
apocalyptic weapons of mass destruction being



control of the cities of Jaar and al-Husn. A

national dialogue went nowhere. The Houthis wanted a political settlement. Saudi Arabia
and Yemens government succeeded in getting the West to believe that the Houthis were
an Iranian proxy. Attention on keeping them
from the reins of power seemed paramount.
It is precisely what has failed, as the Houthis
have now seized control of Sanaa. Whether
the Houthis would be willing to be magnanibacked peace process. His main muscle rests links are not difficult to establish between mous in victory is to be seen; equally, would
with the renegade general, Khalifa Haftar, Derna and Syria-Iraq; ghters continue to the Saudis and the West accept any gesture
who has been running his own battle against nd their way back and forth via Turkey. from them?
Islamist militias in Benghazi under the name Echoes of IS resound between Derna and
of Operation Karama (Dignity). But al-Tha- Benghazi, where Ansar al-Sharia ghters take Part of a larger war
nis government is in the eastern city of To- comfort in the audacity of Abu Bakr al-BaghSyria. On the day that the Saudi King, Abbruk, exiled from the capital (Tripoli) and the dadis pronouncements. From the gutters of dullah, died, the Saudi proxy force in Syria
main cities (Benghazi and Misrata). It sits in defeat they seek the sensation of victory.
Zahran Alloushs Jaish al-Islam red rockthe shadow of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
ets into Damascus. Alloush had announced on
The government of al-Thani is a shell. It is No call for peace
Twitter that he would shower the capital
the heir to those who inherited Libya from
Yemen. Old tribal ssures in Yemen that with hundreds of rockets a day in response to
the West and the Gulf Arabs. Guns on the isolated the Zaydi Shia community led by the the regimes barbaric air strikes on Ghouta.
ground favour others. In Benghazi, the tide al-Houthi family have asserted themselves. The ght between Alloush and the governremains with a radical Islamist outt, Ansar In the name of the War on Terror, the long- ment of Bashar al-Assad has become a minor,
al-Sharia, which was formed after the fall of time autocrat of Yemen, Abdullah Saleh be- but nonetheless deadly, skirmish in the larger
Colonel Qadha. In the western part of Libya, trayed and killed the Zaydi leader, Hussein war in Iraq and Syria. Assads aircraft and
the movement known as Fajr Libya (Libyan Badreddin al-Houthi in 2004. A reasonable helicopters continue to drop barrel bombs,
Dawn) holds the cards. It includes the power- political settlement might have ended that killing civilians and combatants adding up
ful Libyan Shield of Misrata and the remnants conict, but Saleh would not have it. Fully the dead in this ghastly war. His enemies are
of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Their backed by the West, he used drone strikes and none the kinder, with their ruthless assault
on civilian areas now commonplace.
Israeli assaults inside Syria against the Lebanese
resistance group, Hezbollah, threatThe more audacious IS can be in its heartland, the louder
ened to complicate matters. A skirmish in the
the echo it sends to Libya and deep into the Arabian
Shebaa Farms, a part of Lebanon occupied by
Israel, could have turned into another war
between Israel and Lebanon. While rockets
ew back and forth, IS released a statement
that the declaration of an emirate in Lebanon
Prime Minister, Omar al-Hassi, lived in the disbursements to destroy his enemies. Rising would be premature. Beirut breathed a sigh
Corinthia and had to be spirited away by to the bait, Saudi Arabia which once de- of relief. Good news is rare in the region.
security guards. Libyan Dawn refused to go to spised Saleh gave in to its anti-Shia prejuFurther north, IS has suffered two military
the Geneva talks. The most powerful actor dice and backed Salehs war against the defeats. In Kobane, the Stalingrad of the
has stayed away from the anaemic process Zaydis. Saleh treated the Zaydis as the main Kurds, the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units
backed by the West. It illustrates the irrele- enemy, rather than al-Qaeda. The terrorist (YPG) nally ejected IS ghters. Air strikes
vance of the West in contemporary Libya (the group had been wiped out of Yemen, but then from the U.S. coalition helped weaken the
U.S. embassy to Libya is in Malta). Qatar and reappeared by 2004 through recruitment in supply lines for IS, although the porous TurkTurkey, the outside backers of Libyan Dawn, prisons, experience in the Iraqi insurgency ish border provided them with some succour.
call the shots.
and anger at the U.S. drone war. But Saleh did It was not enough. In Iraq, the Badr Brigade, a
It was only a matter of time for IS to estab- not turn his full re on al-Qaeda. His enemies Shia militia, struck IS in the province of Diyalish itself in Libya. The city of Derna has long were elsewhere. Operation Scorched Earth in la, which they liberated. Neither the Iraqi nor
been a radical Islamist recruitment centre. 2009 led to a Saudi invasion of Yemen to put the Syrian armies had any role in these two
Its inhabitants joke that Derna has sent the down the Zaydi insurgency. Tens of thou- defeats of IS. IS, however, is undaunted. It
most ghters to Iraq and Syria of any other sands of refugees ed the area; the death toll slinked out of these areas and found other
city. Last June, the Majlis Shura Shabab al- is unknown. There was no call for a peace places to nestle. An IS dash into Kirkuk took
Islam, an offshoot of Ansar al-Sharia, joined process. It was a ght to the end.
the life of a beloved Iraqi Kurdish leader,
IS. It declared that it would go after the marda
The Arab Spring in Yemen allowed the Brig.-Gen. Sherko Shwany; IS proved it real-nafous (diseased souls) that had hampered Houthi rebels to join in the protests against mains in the game. Squeezed in Iraq and
this oppressed Islamic State. Operational the Saleh regime. Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, took northern Syria, it might nally make its push
into northern Jordan. IS has held a Jordanian
pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, for a month,
and threatened to execute him only after the
fall of Kobane and Diyala. It has said it would
spare his life if Jordan releases a jailed Iraqi
suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi (her bomb
did not go off in a 2005 attack in Amman,
Jordan); negotiations over her release broke
down and IS executed two Japanese hostages.
The Jordanian pilot, it is believed, remains
with IS. Tensions rise in Jordan over the
kingdoms role in the coalition against IS.
This is precisely the kind of ssure that IS
seeks in Jordan. A move south would set
alarm bells ringing in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, a senior intelligence officer
from Jordan informs me that the U.S. attempt
to create a moderate force against IS has
fallen apart. The CIAs Msterek Operasyon
Merkezi, set up with its allies in Turkey, is
now threadbare. One after the other, rebel
outts have abandoned the CIA for other formations most recently, the Mujahedin Army joined the Islamic Front, a group that
includes the al-Qaeda affiliates, Ahrar alSham and Jabhat al-Nusra. Neither the U.S.
nor Saudi Arabia have a coherent agenda in
Syria. They remain committed to the overthrow of the Assad regime, but are also
alarmed by the growth of IS. The more audacious IS can be in its heartland, the louder the
echo it sends to Libya and deep into the Arabian Peninsula.
(Vijay Prashad is the Chief Editor at
LeftWord Books, New Delhi. He is a
columnist for al-Araby al-Jadeed and

Neither U.S. President Barack Obama nor King

Salman of Saudi Arabia can be comforted with the
mess that their countries have made in West Asia.
Tragically, the only pathway they seem to favour is
the one that would create more distress


Amit Shah interview
BJP president Amit Shahs
statement that there is no need to
change the Preamble (No need to
change Preamble: Shah, Feb.2) is
indeed a politically wise one, and
long overdue. His statement that
there should be a law against
forced religious conversion will
only lead to controversies. Instead,
religious organisations should
introspect over why some people
convert to another religion, and in
the process try to look into the
reasons why they do so. Caste, in my
view, is one such factor that still
dogs us. Though poverty and
exploitation may be the main
reasons, the state should step in and
implement programmes for the
removal of these factors, as part of a
constitutional agenda. It is only
then that political and religious
organisations exploiting religion
will take a back seat. This should be
the real governance that Narendra
Modi promised.
N.G.R. Prasad,

matters rather than indulge in petty

Meenakshi Pattabiraman,

Doctrine of parity

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
era of peace and amity. For this,
Islamabad must stop the everpervasive hate campaign against
India and realign its asymmetric
external and internal policies in
order to enable its rapid
development and progress in
various spheres. It must also close
down the breeding grounds of
terror which collectively pose
problems to the whole world. More
than this, the establishment must
stop being in denial, take moral
responsibility for any weaknesses
and correct them. There is no point
in engaging in futile hostilities and
wasting valuable energy on things
that should be invested in the
overall development of Pakistan.
Arjun R. Shankar,

The article, Pakistans elusive

quest for parity (Feb.2), coming as
it does from a seasoned diplomat of
Pakistan, presents an enlightened
view one that very few Pakistanis
might accept. Mr. Haqqanis article
is a very pragmatic comparison
between our two countries, right
from parity on the number of books
published, to the Kashmir issue
which is a thorn in our relationship.
If such a view is embraced by the
state of Pakistan, there would be no
disputes at all. Pakistan needs to
grow up not only for its own sake,
but also for the overall stability and
Ironically, our neighbour is still
peace of South Asia.
Dhanush Kumar, clinging to this perilous ideology,
Bengaluru while its economy is in ruins and
radical elements are threatening to
The diplomat has rightly outlined destabilise the country. In order to
the problems that are holding remain relevant in an everPakistan back. Since Independence, changing world, Pakistan has to
Pakistan has been trying to target focus on rejuvenating its economy,
India for various reasons. Its infrastructure and its education
Ever since the BJP came to power, it deliberate quest to retard Indias system that appears to be preaching
appears to be courting numerous equilibrium can be seen from its only hatred against India. Pakistan
controversies and encountering activities and policies, past and should view India as a friend and
many issues and problems. It is but present. It appears to have invested not as a foe; that will be a move
natural to question the government a huge quantum of energy in the benecial to both countries.
Vishal Banga,
on its proclaimed development wrong directions to counter and
agenda as it seems to be spending destabilise India. Being envious of
more time on solving these our growth and of new alliances in
problems. The recent controversy the neighbourhood will not solve its It is not so common to nd articles
over ghar vapsi is one such example. staggering problems. It is sad to quite pragmatic and frank, and from
One must not forget the words of note that Pakistan has weak a Pakistani diplomat! Pakistan
U.S. President Barack Obama on the parameters of development. In the should shed its delusion of being on
need to uphold religious freedom. It South Asian region, there must be a a par with India. India is rmly on
would be good for the ruling party to genuine balance among nations to the path to progress and
concentrate more on constructive boost economic ties and usher in an development despite Pakistan. It

wouldnt hurt Pakistan to take the

cue from India. Enlightened people
like Mr. Haqqani should help
Pakistan get out of its ivory tower.
Haritha Chaganti,

Sanitation in schools
The construction of a toilet is only
the rst step in a process (Editorial,
Feb. 2). Thought has to be given to
maintenance and its emptying, as
well as the safe connement and
eventual treatment of waste. I
would like to use this space to
highlight the work done by a
colleague, S. Paramasivan at
Wherever the Need India Services
based in Puducherry, which has
schoolchildren, many of them girls,
now having access to eco-toilets
that should have an indenite life
cycle due to the way they have been
constructed and managed. The
children will become agents of
change for families/villages, and the
hygiene message cast even wider.
David Crosweller,
Westbury, U.K.
At admission time and just after the
board examinations, one comes
across lists of an ever-increasing
number of schools and educational
institutes being opened on
sprawling campuses with every
classroom tted out with dozens of
fans/lights, and toilets on every
oor. At the same time, and away
from the media glare, there are
schools in many parts of the country
where buildings are non-existent,
and where there are no proper
sanitation facilities or even
electricity. The governments

initiative to build more toilets is

laudable, but merely constructing
more structures is not going to be
worthwhile if they cannot be used,
and only add to statistics.
It is important to keep existing
toilets clean and usable. At the same
time, there must be education on
hygiene and regular awareness
campaigns so that peoples
behaviour changes. Toilet use must
be encouraged, which will help
India achieve its goal of becoming
open defecation free (ODF) by 2019.
Good sanitation will ensure that
children inculcate good sanitation
habits early in life and bring about a
positive change.
T.S. Karthik,

Glory in tennis
To accomplish what Leander Paes
has done at age 41 is an incredible
feat of human perseverance and
durability. In a sport where one who
considered old, this is almost
surreal. This is even more
incredible coming as it does from a
sportsman who is not from a
traditional tennis-playing nation.
Even though he has bagged 15 titles
in the doubles format it doesnt
accomplishment. Paes achieved
glory with Martina Navratilova and
has now achieved another with the
other Martina and the former
queen of tennis Martina Hingis.
Its time we gave him his due and
spoke of him in the same breath as a
Tendulkar or a Dhyan Chand. He is
the icon of Indian tennis.
Anoop Hosmath,





Dispossession, development and democracy

Michael Levien


On expected
fortnight after surprising the markets with a
0.25 percentage point cut in benchmark interest rates, the Reserve Bank of India has
opted for a standstill policy on rates in its
bimonthly monetary policy review, which is along expected lines. When it cut rates on January 15, the RBI
had clearly said that any further easing would be contingent upon data conrming the disinationary trend
and sustained high-quality scal consolidation. Given
that there has been no signicant development on
either front, the central bank has decided to maintain
an unchanged stance on interest rates. However, to
improve liquidity, and in line with its policy of lowering
the Statutory Liquidity Ratio to increase availability of
funds for infrastructure lending, the RBI has reduced
SLR by 0.50 percentage points to 21.50 per cent. This is
expected to release about Rs.45,000 crore into the
system. While the RBI is doing its bit to reduce lending
cost and increase funds availability, banks seem reluctant to pass on the benet to borrowers. After the RBI
reduced rates last fortnight, only a couple of banks have
so far attempted to reduce their lending rates. Though
the transmission of policy rates by banks is always
sluggish in the down-cycle, the current reluctance by
banks is striking and is a direct result of the strain
caused on their balance-sheets by non-performing assets (NPAs).
Meanwhile, the RBIs bias towards further easing of
rates is very clear, but the downward momentum will
be determined by the pace of disination and the governments scal stance in the coming Budget. Though
inationary expectations are at their lowest in 21
months, the risks stem from the traditional upswing in
food prices at the onset of summer, the progress of the
monsoon and a turnaround in global crude oil prices
that have already rebounded from their lows in the last
couple of days. The RBI will also be closely watching
the governments scal math and its commitment to
keep the decit within targeted levels. While the current account decit is projected at a very comfortable
1.3 per cent of GDP for 2014-15, exports could suffer in
the coming months thanks to the problems in the
eurozone, which is Indias largest trading partner. The
central bank also has reasons to be wary about the
effects of the quantitative easing programme of the
European Central Bank on Indias nancial and currency markets. The projection of 6.5 per cent growth in
GDP in 2015-16 is realistic, but a lot depends on the
return of investment momentum and increase in consumption, both of which are sluggish at this point in
time. Cautious optimism could well be the catchphrase
to describe the countrys economic prospects in the

ince it was passed by Parliament in

September 2013, the Right to Fair
Compensation and Transparency in
Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation
and Resettlement Act (LARR) has been criticised from all sides. Farmers and social
movements have argued that LARR failed to
adequately compensate land losers, contained large loopholes such as exempting
irrigation projects, and, most importantly,
continued to allow land acquisition for private companies. Industrialists, developers,
and State governments, on the other hand,
have complained that the bill would delay
projects, increase the costs of land acquisition, and impede economic growth. It was no
secret that the government shared the latter
view, and it was no surprise when it diluted
many of LARRs key provisions through an
ordinance issued on December 31.
The ordinance effectively eliminates the
main features of LARR that gave rural people
some protection from arbitrary dispossession. First, it removes the requirement that
the government must obtain the consent of
80 per cent of affected people before taking
their land for a private project and, and 70
per cent of affected people for public-private
partnership project. The ordinance thus restores the ability of the government to acquire land for any private purpose it likes,
with no need to win the support of the affected. Second, the ordinance eliminates the Social Impact Assessments (SIA) that LARR
had mandated as a precondition for proceeding with land acquisition. This restores the
ability of the government to dispossess land
from people without even assessing its negative consequences, much less weighing them
against projected benets.
Without SIAs, there is no way to even
determine who is affected, thus undermining the bills promise that non-land owners such as labourers, sharecroppers,
artisans, and shworkers will also be compensated. In addition to these major changes, the ordinance increases the amount of
time that a government or company can
keep unutilised land, and removes LARRs
strong penalties for non-complying officials.
By making these sweeping changes through
an ordinance, the government has undermined, by executive at, the spirit of a legislative act that was passed with bipartisan
support after seven years of public debate
and revision.
What is surprising is the justication
some academics have offered for this undemocratic move. Defending the ordinance
in these pages (Improving an unworkable
law, January 7, 2015), the writer, Sanjoy
Chakravorty, argued that it would helpfully
keep down the cost of land acquisition,


threatens Japan
he purported beheading by Islamic State (IS)
of two Japanese journalists, and its warning
that Japan would be one of its military targets
in future, pose a challenge to Prime Minister
Shinzo Abes government. Its impact would perhaps
mark a critical shift in Japanese foreign policy and
public opinion. Japan has largely been insulated from
international terrorism in the past decade and radical
Islam has little or almost nil hold in the country. Japans pacism is embodied in its Constitution of 1946,
through which it has renounced war and outlawed
belligerent responses to international disputes. Japan
does not maintain an army with war potential, except
for the de facto Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) that
is intended to maintain peace and order. With a pacist
foreign policy that strongly distances itself from militaristic ventures, why is Japan now a target of Islamic
The fact is that Japans foreign policy has been undergoing several changes in the past few years. Prime
Minister Abe, a conservative-nationalist, has been
gradually rewriting the pacist Constitution, especially
since his 2012 re-election. The defence budget was
considerably enhanced, the ban on arms exports was
lifted and the capabilities of the JSDF were expanded.
A reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution now
allows Japan to use force to defend its allies under
attack. Also, Japans relations with the Middle East are
becoming more central and controversial. Being a
resource-poor country, it is one of the largest importers of crude oil from the region. Political stability in
the Middle East is in Japans own interests. Mr. Abe,
during his recent visits to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon,
Israel and Palestine, pledged $200 million in nonmilitary aid for countries ghting IS. He also promised
humanitarian and infrastructure assistance for those
ghting terrorism, as well as for refugees displaced
from Syria and Iraq following IS activity. Mr. Abes
attempts to gain prominence on the international stage
by playing a bigger role in the Wests counter-terrorism
policy has clearly drawn bitter reactions from IS, as
reected in the outrageous beheadings. With the widespread shock at these recent events, the Japanese public will be faced with important questions on how to
judge Prime Minister Abes proactive and gradually
militarised foreign policy. Regardless, Mr. Abe has unequivocally stated that the country will not give in to
terrorism and will work alongside the international
community to make them pay for their sins. It is
evident that Japans emerging foreign policy is in for
some testing times.


While liberalisations backers are not squeamish

in admitting that democracy is an impediment to
the free market economic model, farmers who are
dispossessed of land argue that they are
undercompensated and that the prot of private
companies is not a public purpose

the name of development. Most economists

assume that any higher value land use than
agriculture constitutes development and
thus a public purpose. But what constitutes
development, and whether that development is a public purpose worthy of dispossessing farmers, is not a technical or even
a legal question, but a political one. And it is a
political question that should be put in historical perspective.
During the post-Independence years, the
Indian state mostly acquired land for public
sector projects. Land acquisition for private
companies was legal under the Land Acquisition Act, but was limited in practice due to
the prevalence of a development model in
which the public sector built infrastructure
and controlled the commanding heights of
the economy. Most land acquisition was for
public sector dams, mines, and industry.
While tens of millions of people were dispossessed of their land for these projects, the
Nehruvian state was fairly effective at convincing the public that these projects served
the national interest in state-led development. Eventually, people began to point out
that this development involved dispossessing farmers and Adivasis with scandalously
little compensation. And by the 1980s,
groups like the Narmada Bachao Andolan
began to pose the more fundamental question: development for whom?

trial development corporations across the

Capturing the huge gap between market
prices and compensation prices is, in fact,
the primary motive behind much land acquisition in India today. We might call this gap
the dispossession windfall it exists only
because the government is willing to force
farmers into selling, and provides a subsidy
to whoever receives the land. The transparent injustice of this practice was one factor
behind widespread farmer protests that nally pressured the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) into passing LARR. But it is
important to note that LARR did not eliminate the dispossession windfall. LARRs
compensation formula involves multiplying
the circle rate not the market rate by
Calculating compensation
two in urban areas and four in rural areas (a
But there are several problems with his distinction, moreover, it leaves for States to
analysis. The rst is that it paints a mislead- establish). Although one might argue that
ing picture of how compensation is calculat- this multiplier is arbitrary, it certainly does
ed under LARR. While Mr. Chakravorty is not bring compensation prices up to market Climate of dispossession
This question has only become more relevant since economic liberalisation prompted
State governments to start acquiring land for
Capturing the dispossession windfall itself became the
private companies on a large scale. The repurpose of land acquisition as State governments quietly
forms of the early 1990s gave greater importance to the private sector, which began
morphed into land brokers for private capital.
demanding land not just for manufacturing
(which remained fairly stagnant), but for real estate, mineral extraction, and all manner
right that land prices have skyrocketed in prices. To argue that farmers are reaping a of infrastructure under publicprivate partrecent years, he is wrong to suggest that this windfall from LARR, and that the govern- nership (PPP) agreements. State governforms the basis of how farmers are compen- ment must reduce the costs for private de- ments, now competing with each other for
sated under LARR. Like the Land Acquisi- velopers is to reverse reality. It is still private this investment, began systematically action Act that preceded it, LARR takes as its companies and government agencies quiring land for private companies for alstarting point the lands assessed market val- that are reaping the dispossession windfall. most any private purpose that constituted
ue what is known as the circle rate. The Mr. Chakravortys argument amounts to a growth, whether elite housing colonies,
circle rate is based on the lands past agricul- defence of using eminent domain to gener- hotels, private colleges, or Formula 1 race
tural value and not its potential value as ate corporate super-prots.
tracks. This new regime of dispossession reindustrial, commercial, or residential land.
ached scale in the mid-2000s with Special
It is no secret that it is kept deliberately low In the name of development
Economic Zones and the practice of urban
to minimise stamp duty. The difference beThe second problem in this analysis is that development authorities simply auctioning
tween the circle rate and the market rate is by focussing on prices, it evades the more off acquired land to private developers. Capusually vast. The Greater Noida Industrial fundamental question of politics: why turing the dispossession windfall itself beDevelopment Authority (GNIDA), for exam- should a democratic government forcibly came the purpose of land acquisition as State
ple, became notorious for acquiring land at take land from farmers and give it to private governments quietly morphed into land broRs.820 per square metre and reselling it to companies? Since at least the English enclo- kers for private capital. The agrant injusticdevelopers at Rs.35,000. This itself was a sures, governments have justied taking es of this land brokering produced the land
fraction of the ultimate price of the high-end land from one group to give to another (usu- wars of the last 10 years, and generated the
ats to be built on the land. But GNIDA was ally wealthier) group with claims to be fulll- political pressure for LARR.
not alone this is the common practice of ing a public or national purpose. In the
The question now facing India is about
urban development authorities and indus- last century, this has usually been done in politics, not prices: should the government
systematically redistribute land from the
poor to the wealthy? Advocates of liberalisation say yes, ironically conceding that
growth in a free market economy requires
government expropriation of private property. They claim that this growth will trickle
down to the poor, including those rural people asked to give their land for it. They are
often not squeamish in admitting that democracy is an impediment to this economic
model. Farmers, on the other hand, have
voiced their scepticism, arguing not only
that they are undercompensated but also
that the prot of private companies is not a
public purpose. They express doubt that special economic zones (SEZ), hi-tech parks and
real estate colonies represent development that will provide them with jobs or
other benets. And they have used the institutions of electoral democracy to challenge their dispossession. The farmer
protests of the last decade, in short, represent a basic disagreement over the meaning
of both development and democracy.
The current government has ambitious
plans to push forward rapid growth through
private investment in mega-projects such as
industrial corridors, smart cities, and the
like. It has now shown that it is willing to
subvert the democratic process to get the
land for it. The most worrying question is
this: when the next round of farmer protest
erupts, what other threats to democracy are
in store?
(Michael Levien is assistant professor of
sociology at Johns Hopkins University,
Baltimore, U.S.)

which LARR had raised to unsustainable

levels. Claiming that LARR had created a
windfall for land-losers by doubling or
quadrupling land prices, Mr. Chakravorty
argued that the ordinance, while keeping
generous compensation levels in place,
would helpfully reduce the indirect costs
entailed by conducting SIAs and obtaining
consent from affected people. With Indias
peri-urban land prices among the highest in
the world, he still worries that compensation
levels are too high, and may make many
public projects unaffordable and private
projects uncompetitive. His solution is to
let States come up with their own polices
based on clear analysis and hard, detailed


Vandalism in Delhi


This is the kind of news that disturbs

you and makes you insecure in your
own country (Another Delhi
church vandalised, Feb.3). As a
Christian, I wish to express my
strong grief and fear as the silence of
the Prime Minister on such growing
acts of intolerance is both grave and
frightening. I wonder how one
cannot say anything when ones
party men come out with
statements aimed at polarising
communities in India. It is diversity
that has made India stand tall all
this while. Leaders who make
ignorant and vicious statements for
short-term political gains must
remember that the venom they are
injecting today into peoples minds
will continue to cause grave hurt for
generations together.
Ambili Thomas,
New Delhi

The BJP is apparently getting

unnerved by the AAPs condence
and hence is being relentless in its
attack, the latest salvo being that
AAP sourced hawala money
(Feb.3). One has to pose this
question to the BJP. Has anyone
dared question the crores of rupees
spent by the BJP on its election
campaign in 2014? It was carpet
advertisements, media coverage,
back-to-back campaigning and
money spent. Even the Election
Commission was wonderstruck as
the amount of money spent was
much higher than the limits set.
Why target only the AAP? It is also
evident that the government
machinery is being utilised by the
BJP to make an impact in the Delhi
Assembly election. Is it desperation,
nervousness or supreme arrogance
that is driving the BJPs actions?
Balasubramaniam Pavani,

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
extenuating circumstance can the
massacre be condoned. It has not
only besmirched the fair face of
India but also opened a Pandoras
box of issues about the intent of
attempted to further their interests
by politicising theriots. The
decision to probe theriotsafresh is
heartening, and it is hoped that the
perpetrators will get betting
retribution, and their hubris will be
demolished. But if the step has only
been taken to propitiate Sikhs as an
election gimmick, then it will only
add insult to the injury of those who
have borne the deadly brunt of
Shiv Sethi,
Ferozpur, Punjab

advocate in Vellore, Shri PS, in

trying to stop the pollution from
tanneries and chemical factories in
Vellore district. Ranipet has the
dubious distinction of being one of
the most polluted regions on earth. I
wonder how residents have
accepted this without any protest.
V. Balasubramanian,

As a former scientist with the

Central Leather Research Institute,
Chennai and Editor of Leather
Markets Monthly journal, I wish to
say that newspaper reports give the
impression that tanners in Tamil
Nadu have been callous, have not
taken sufficient measures and that
the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control
Board has not followed stringent
rules and regulations. It is the other
way round. Of all the tanners in
Even today we talk emotionally India, it is the tanners in Tamil
about the Bhopal gas tragedy Nadu who have spent huge amounts
rightly so and lament the in treating tannery effluents. As a
I feel the media are being too
inadequacy of compensation. But result of the huge cost incurred in
sensationalist. Have the media ever
nearer home, we appear to be totally treating tannery effluent, the cost of
raised the same level of concern
indifferent to the enormous damage tanning is very high in Tamil Nadu.
they have over this attack when
caused by unacceptable levels of
The Central government has
temples were destroyed? I feel the This refers to reports of the pollution. It was shocking to know declared leather to be a focus area
media are only attempting to exploit government being open to a how chromium-bearing waste from under the Make in India
minority sentiments by making reopening of the 1984 Sikh riots the
has campaign, and the industry is
unwarranted statements implying cases. I am deeply aggrieved to see contaminated the water table in getting ready to reach an export
that under the BJP, minorities are that the carnage that shattered the Ranipet, causing irreparable health target of $27 billion in the next ve
unsafe. There is absolutely no entire country from within has been hazards to residents (Some editions, years. Tanning is at the core of the
successive Two decades of callousness, leather industry. It is the Central
evidence of this. Hinduism, by politicised
governments only to gain political Feb.3). How will they be ever government that must bear 50 per
virtue of its values, is secular.
Satheesh Kumar R., mileage. The Congress has already compensated? One can recollect the cent of the cost of construction and
Mangaluru inicted many festering wounds on lone and valiant battle by an maintenance of effluent treatment

Probing 1984 riots

Ranipet tragedy

plants. The current method of

aeration of effluents needs to be
changed to a marine outlet mode
which is less expensive and easier to
adapt. In Italy, tannery effluents are
let out into the sea, after dilution,
two or three kilometres away from
the shore. Gujarat follows this
method for its chemical and
pharmaceutical industrial effluents.
V.N. Mohamed Hussain,
Association, based in Chennai, and
of which I am the secretary, would
like to express its concern over
frequent instances of industrial
accidents in Tamil Nadu. Almost all
such accidents take place due to the
non-observance of even minimal
safety standards. Workers are rarely
trained in safety measures and on
many occasions are not provided the
necessary safety uniforms and kits.
Industrial safety regulations are
well standardised and carefully
Government departments like the
electrical, boiler and factory
inspectorates, health department
and pollution control board are
duty-bound to monitor factories
and ensure that the rules and
procedures are followed. The case in
Ranipet shows that enforcement
officials should also be held
responsible for accidents.
N.S. Venkataraman,




The twist in the growth story

C. Rangarajan


Coal India success

and after
he government can justiably feel a sense of
relief at the success of the recent round of
Coal India Limited (CIL) disinvestment
which has brought in some much-needed
funds to its anaemic coffers. In what was the biggest
equity offering ever in the country, the offer for sale of
10 per cent of its stake in CIL fetched the government a
whopping Rs.24,557 crore, more than half of the budgeted proceeds of Rs.43,425 crore from disinvestment
this scal year. To put the CIL sale in perspective, the
government had managed to raise just Rs.1,719 crore
until now in this scal through the sale of shares in
Steel Authority of India. If the government is to keep its
promise of keeping the scal decit at 4.1 per cent of
GDP in 2014-15, achieving the budgeted revenues from
disinvestment is crucial. The budgeted scal decit for
the entire year was exceeded in the rst nine months
until December 2014 since tax revenues did not grow at
the expected pace. The government will also have to
look at non-tax revenues such as from disinvestment to
ll the scal hole. Hence the spectrum auction, coming
up in March, and the disinvestment in other PSUs such
as ONGC and NHPC, assume great importance.
The CIL disinvestment may not have been so successful but for some generous help from domestic institutional
companies. As much as Rs.11,360 crore, which is half of
the total sum raised, came from insurance companies
led by the LIC, with the latter accounting for a bulk of
the applications in this category. Of course, the LIC
may have seen genuine promise in CIL while investing
its money. Yet, this is nothing more than money moving from one hand of the government to the other given
that the LIC is wholly owned by the Centre. Of course,
foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have also put in
Rs.5,919 crore in the CIL offer, which is encouraging.
The government would do well to reappraise the entire
disinvestment programme which has so far, disappointingly, amounted to nothing more than selling off a
few pieces of family silver to tide over difficult times.
What is required is a privatisation programme whose
objective will not merely be to raise funds for the
exchequer but to reform the public sector space. The
government should identify public sector units that are
languishing for want of capital and technology and
bring in strategic private partners to rejuvenate them.
The trade unions too will be on board to support such
schemes that will safeguard jobs in these companies.
Eventually, the Central government should divest itself of enterprises in sectors such as steel and cement
production, focussing instead on improving social services such as health care and education.

he data on national income released recently give a new twist to

Indias growth story. The most signicant change is with respect to
the growth rate for 2013-14. While the earlier estimate showed a growth rate of 4.7 per
cent, the growth rate according to the new
estimate is 6.6 per cent. Much of the pessimism seen in the Indian economy during
2013-14 is not vindicated by the new data.
While the investment rate did show a sharp
decline during the last three years, a greater
part of it was due to the decline in the investment rate of households rather than the
corporate sector. Thus, the slowdown in the
economy was not as severe or extended as
was feared earlier. Nevertheless, it is useful
to review the developments so that the errors can be corrected and the country can
move on to the high growth path.

Slowdown and its causes

Under the impact of the nancial crisis,
the Indian economy registered a growth of
6.7 per cent in 2008-09, after having posted a
growth rate exceeding 9 per cent for three
consecutive years. The recovery from the
impact of the global crisis was however swift
and sharp. The economy achieved a growth
rate of 8.6 per cent in 2009-10, despite a
severe drought. The growth rate rose further
to 8.9 per cent in 2010-11. Then the decline
began. In 2012-13, the growth rate came
down to 4.5 per cent according to the old
estimate and 4.9 per cent as per the new
estimate. In 2013-14 the growth rate was 4.7
per cent and 6.6 per cent according to old
and new estimates respectively.
The slowdown has been attributed to supply side bottlenecks, price shocks and weak
investment demand. Agricultural output declined in 2009-10. Coal output fell and the
output of iron ore also fell, partly because of
certain court decisions. International commodity prices, particularly that of oil remained high, despite the poor performance
of the advanced economies. The investment
sentiment was affected by various factors
including non-economic. Perhaps one policy
action which affected investors was the deci-

Reforms must be part of a continuing agenda.

The basic principle guiding reforms must be to
create a competitive environment with a stress on
efficiency. In many ways the coming decade will
be crucial for India as growth is the answer to
many of its socio-economic problems
sion to apply certain tax laws with retrospective effect. The stability of the tax
system became a cause of concern. Moreover, many good decisions of the government were either delayed or postponed. The
energies of the government were also absorbed in dealing with issues such as graft.
All these created an element of uncertainty
in the minds of investors.
However, recent data do not show a decline in corporate investment rate. While
earlier data showed the Corporate Gross
Fixed Capital Formation rate going down to
8.5 per cent in 2012-13, the new data show
the rate at 11.8 per cent in 2012-13 and 11.4
per cent in 2013-14. However there is some


Sustained high growth requires macroeconomic stability which has three dimensions
low ination, low current account decit
and modest scal decit. In one sense, all the
three are interrelated. We have had difficulties on all these fronts in recent years. The
moderation in ination has occurred only
recently. The Current Account Decit has
again come under control. We will be the
beneciaries of the fall in oil prices. The
scal decit continues to remain above the
level mandated in the Fiscal Responsibility
and Budget Management (FRMB) Act. The
commitment to bring down the scal decit
must be honoured. It is in this context that
subsidies require a relook. The subsidy regime needs reform in three directions. First,
there has to be a x on the total quantum of
subsidies as a proportion of GDP, second,
they need to be targeted and only directed
towards vulnerable groups and, third, there
has to be a rethink on the appropriate delivery system. Governments expenditures
need to be reoriented more towards investments and less towards subsidies.

mates. With the incremental capital output

ratio of 4, which has been normal for almost
a decade even, this lower investment rate
should have given us a growth rate of 8 per
cent. But the actual growth rate turned out
to be less. The rise in the incremental capital
output ratio could have been either because
projects were not completed in time or because complementary investments were not
forthcoming. In some cases, this could also
be due to non-availability of critical inputs
such as coal and power. This then points to
the fact that, in the short run, speedy completion of projects by itself can raise the
growth rate. In the medium term, we howev- Make in India
Going ahead, Make in India is a good
er need to ensure that the investment rate
guiding principle. It should imply producing
for India and for the world. Making only for
Making India the base for the production of goods and
India will convert it into a form of import
substitution. Making for the world makes
services for export is not a bad idea. But to convert this idea
the system more efficient. On the other
into reality, the Indian economy has to be much stronger.
hand, people wonder whether making for the
world is even meaningful in the changed
world context. It is true that extreme deevidence that new projects slowed down. goes up and the productivity of capital re- pendence on the external world can cause
According to a study done by the Reserve mains high. Only then can the country get serious repercussions on the domestic economy, when the world environment suddenly
Bank of India, the total project cost of new back to the high growth rate path.
investments in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14
Speedy completion of projects requires at- changes, as in 2008 and 2009. India however
were Rs.2,120 billion, Rs.1,963 billion and tention at the micro and at the policy levels. is not in any such danger. Indias exports as a
Rs.1,340 billion respectively. Contrast this While every effort should be made to remove percentage of GDP is still modest at 25 per
with new investments of Rs.5,560 billion in administrative bottlenecks, issues relating cent. Besides, Indias exports of goods do not
to the environment and land acquisition also constitute more than 2 per cent of the
need attention. The concerns relating to en- worlds exports. In this situation, making
Short and medium-term solutions
vironment and land acquisition are genuine. India the base for the production of goods
The fact that stands out is that the decline They cannot be wished away. We need to and services for export to other countries is
in the output growth was much stronger work out an acceptable compromise be- not a bad idea. But to convert this idea into
than the decline in investment. The invest- tween the compulsions of growth and the reality, the Indian economy has to be much
ment rate in 2007-08 was 38.1 per cent of concerns relating to environment and land stronger in terms of infrastructure and the
GDP. By 2013-14, it had come down to 32.3 acquisition. A process of consensus building availability of good human capital. Productivity of capital must increase which implies
per cent, even according to revised esti- needs to be initiated.
a more efficient system of production.

Reform agenda


Reforms must be part of a continuing

agenda. The basic principle guiding reforms
must be to create a competitive environment
with a stress on efficiency. There are still
several segments where controls dominate.
A classic example is the sugar industry. We
need to dismantle controls in a phased manner. The pricing of products should normally
be done by markets. Exceptions should be
made transparent and must be clearly
In many ways the coming decade will be
crucial for India. If India grows at 8 to 9 per
cent per annum, it is estimated that per
capita GDP will increase from the current
level of $1,600 to $ 8,000-10,000 by 2025.
Then, India will transit from being a low
income to a middle income country. We
need to overcome the low growth phase as
quickly as possible. In the recent period, a
number of schemes have been launched
aimed at broadening the scope of social safety nets. These include the employment guarantee scheme, universalisation of education,
expansion of rural health, and providing
food security. It has been possible to fund
these programmes only because of the
strong growth that we have seen in recent
years. Growth is and must be the answer to
many of our socio-economic problems.
(Dr. C. Rangarajan is former Chairman of
the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime

Cruel and
n January 30, the U.S. State of Ohio postponed all the seven executions scheduled for
2015 to procure a different anaesthetic drug
and develop a new protocol to execute death
row convicts using lethal injection. The announcement
came three weeks after the State decided not to use a
controversial anaesthetic, Midazolam, and two days
after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of
three Oklahoma death row convicts using the same
drug. Midazolam is used to put a convict to sleep before
other drugs are injected to stop the heart. Though the
intent behind using the anaesthetic is to reduce pain
when another injected drug causes death, the outcome
has been nothing but disastrous. Last year, the unproven anaesthetic failed to completely sedate prisoners, resulting in a few prolonged and possibly
excruciatingly painful executions in Ohio and Arizona.
For instance, in January last year, it took 26 long
minutes of choking, gasping and writhing before a
convict in Ohio died in a bungled execution. That the
experimental anaesthetic drug was chosen not on the
basis of scientic merit but information available on an
unreliable Internet website, reveals the downright callousness involved and the mindless pursuit of executions. In 2011, when European countries banned the
export of sodium thiopental and other anaesthetic
drugs used in executions and a sole American manufacturer halted sodium thiopental production, many
States turned to compounding pharmacies, which are
beyond the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, for the supply of untested and unreliable drugs.
There is no scientic basis to support the effectiveness of lethal injections using different drugs with
randomly chosen dosages and questionable quality and
administered using varied protocols: Ohio has a twodrug protocol while Oklahoma has a three-drug regimen. Another vital issue that makes the method highly repugnant is the failure to administer the drugs into
a vein. Such a asco in April 2014 led to a convict in
Oklahoma remaining alive for 43 minutes, often
writhing in pain and breathing heavily before dying
of a heart attack. The botched executions clearly demonstrate that the punishment very often ends up being
disproportionate to the crime, thus violating the
Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. If capital punishment by itself is abhorrent
and has no place in a modern society, executing prisoners using lethal injections is outright barbaric. The U.S.
has the dubious distinction of being a country with one
of the largest number of executions in the world. Ironically, 13 States account for almost all the executions; 18
States and the District of Columbia have repealed it.



Donation row
With the BJP accusing the Aam
Aadmi Party of money-laundering,
the electoral battle for Delhi has
been taken to the next level.
However, the party levelling the
charge in this instance must ponder
how it is spending money on media
advertisements in this instance,
huge money. There have been
front-page advertisements for 20
days. Where is all this money
coming from?
The ugly incident (AAP throws
probe gauntlet, Modi mocks it,
Feb.4) shows that all parties must
be transparent about their nancial
assets and open to public scrutiny.
At the end of this, one hopes the
people of Delhi get the government
they deserve.
Praneet Kumar,
Collection of funds to ght or stand
for elections has become the order
of the day. Can Mr. Modi or the BJP
provide us a source to the crores of
rupees that have been ploughed
into electioneering in every
election? Mr. Kejriwals demand
sounds reasonable. Therefore, why
single out AAP? All parties must be
open to investigation. Another
report, Most parties have no
records of donors (Feb.4) is
interesting given that most parties
appear not to have records of
donors and that more than 75 per
cent of funds raised by parties
between 2009-2010 and 2010-11
have come from unknown sources.
K. Malikul Azeez,
The BJP government appears to be
doing all that it can to win the Delhi
elections even if it means the
levelling of ugly allegations. As the
spearheading the campaign in
Delhi, he must check the facts as far
as his government and party is

concerned before launching a

tirade against other parties. Even
though it is common to hear about
such accusations and allegations at
election time, one wonders about
the extent to which politicians will
go to stay on in power.
Manju V.N.,
The Delhi Assembly election is an
acid test for AAP will Delhi-ites
have new loyalties and will they still
back Arvind Kejriwal? As the other
main national party seems to be
fast sinking and with regional
parties marginalised with the rise
and further ascent of the Narendra
Modi-led BJP in the last Lok Sabha
election, the results of this election
are vital to other parties too. It is a
matter of great interest to see
whether the AAP can stall the BJPs
Buddhadev Nandi,
Bankura, West Bengal
A party that claims its exclusive
honesty amid murky politics is
treading on thin ice when it says it
is open to investigation on
allegations of mysterious and
illegal funding. The party which
makes a show of its internal
democracy, transparency and
accountability cannot hide behind
such a defence.
Mr. Kejriwal is a former member
of the Indian Revenue Service and
must be well aware of the nittygritty of nance. Therefore,
profound statements will only give
rise to suspicion. It is quite clever of
AAP to shift the onus on to the
Anoop Suri,
New Delhi

On dispossession
Land acquisition is clearly a major
task before the government
(Dispossession, development and
democracy, Feb.4) as the conict
between balancing the democratic

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
ethos with developmental aims is
only bound to grow.
Dispossession should be treated
as constructive destruction and it
is incumbent on the government
and private players to help provide
due compensation as well as
meaningful livelihood avenues to
farmers who face dislocation and
displacement. In the long run, fair
compensation and successful
rehabilitation will be more
windfall gains in land acquisition.
The sooner the government
realises this the better.
Divyank Yaduvendu,
The article highlighted the neglect
of social impact assessments which
assume serious dimensions given
that most of Indias population
comprises unskilled labourers. Any
compensation is a short-term
solution and does nothing about
inclusive long-term growth. Even
though one cannot ignore the
benets of industrialisation, the
government would do well not to
acquire contiguous stretches of
land but allocate small parcels of
land in a cluster for the purpose of
industrialisation, reducing the
social impact.
Vikram Sundaramurthy,
Though LARR in itself was no
panacea for the high-handed
approach of the state towards its
citizens in the matter of land
acquisition, the ordinance is clearly
intended to favour private capital.
People are well within their rights
to differ with the powers-that-be
on the meaning of development
and democracy as the Constitution
guarantees their right to differ and
also their right to own property.
The state acquiring land for public
purposes is understandable, but to
say that private industrial growth
serves a public purpose as it

generates jobs is far-fetched and

seldom results in intended benets.
A.P. Govindankutty,
Cheruthuruthy, Kerala
Instead of having land acquisition
in the Concurrent List, it is better
to shift it to the State List. India is a
vast and diverse country and it will
be a stretch for the central
government to know in detail what
the basic regional problems are. On
the other hand, State governments
have the authority and are better
placed to negotiate things.
Shivakumar Hiremath,
Before acquiring land for any
purpose, there is the imperative
need to identify land that is fertile
and rich enough for cultivation.
Farmers also have to be provided
aid to procure seeds and manure
and get proper irrigation facilities.
They have to be encouraged to take
up natural farming with quality
seeds, organic manure and, most
important of all, good all-weather
storage facilities.
There are farmers who own large
stretches of land but who do not
have the nancial means to plan
cultivation. It is in such a situation
that the politician steps in with his
agenda. There has to be a regular
plan by which farmers are helped to
manage their affairs. Today they
are left to fend for themselves. Why
are we neglecting them when they
are such an integral part of our
economy? Dispossessing them and
making them jobless and incomeless is not good governance.
Sheela Chandrachudan,

Forex limit
The move to increase remittance
limits is welcome, but it must be
remembered that such increases
seem to be arbitrary. Instead, it
would be appropriate to set
statutory limits with gold as an

equivalent. In order for FDI ows

remittance limit should be raised
further to about $4.3 million (the
equivalent of 100 kg of gold). It will
also improve for small businesses
the ease of doing business with
minimal bureaucratic hurdles.
Mohamed Anwar Sadat,

IS and execution
After the beheading of the Japanese
citizens, IS militants have
committed another heinous act
(International, Most brutal
execution yet of a foreign hostage,
Feb.4). Leaders in the western
world are just providing lip
sympathy to the bereaved families
of the victims of inhuman killings.
Jordan has done the right thing
in retaliating by executing two
militants held in its prison for acts
of terrorism. Such a strong
response will send out a strong
signal to terrorists across the
M.V. Nahushsraj,

Three-parent babies
As a student of biotechnology, I do
not think that using science to cure
genetically inherited diseases is
bad. In the case of the threeparent babies, (International,
Feb.4), only 37 genes of the
estimated 25,000 genes in humans
come from the mitochondrial
donor. If by using science, people
can be made healthy, then it should
be allowed. If this is the only way
parents with mitochondrial defects
can have healthy children of their
own, I think that implementing this
technology is in no way wrong. This
does not mean making designer
babies just for cosmetic reasons is
right. Science by itself is good. Its
being put to good or bad use
depends on the user.
Karen T.D.,





Tangibles and imponderables of a visit

M.K. Narayanan


Dealing rmly with

y giving the marching orders to Union Home
Secretary Anil Goswami for trying to stall the
arrest of a well-connected politician by speaking directly to Central Bureau of Investigation officers, the Narendra Modi government has sent
out a strong signal to the bureaucracy that it will not
tolerate such transgressions. And coming at a time
when political functionaries and their associates are
increasingly embroiled in criminal cases, it contains a
message to high-prole suspects too, that the government will not brook any attempt to use power or
inuence to protect themselves from legal action. It is
also an unmistakable sign that the present regime
wants to insulate itself from any criticism that the CBI
is under its thumb. The United Progressive Alliance
regime failed miserably on that score, repeatedly rendering itself vulnerable to the criticism that it slowed
down or stalled investigation into several scams. In a
refreshing change of approach from a time when only
judicial prodding or media exposure led to some action,
Home Minister Rajnath Singh moved quickly to ascertain the facts from both the CBI Director and Mr.
Goswami himself before apprising the Prime Minister
of the development. While the details of what Mr.
Goswami had by way of explanation are not available, it
is quite obvious that his continuance became untenable as soon as he admitted to making the controversial
telephone call even as former Union Minister Matang
Sinh was being questioned by CBI investigators. Any
hesitation on the part of the government at this point
would have been indefensible.
The image of the CBI had taken a beating only recently when its Director, Ranjit Sinha, was ordered by
the Supreme Court to keep away from the probe into
2G spectrum allocation cases after it was found that he
had entertained some of the accused at his residence.
In the light of this, the latest action aimed at insulating
the agency from interference will come as a shot in the
arm for its officers. However, it is a matter of concern
that Matang Sinh, a former Union Minister arrested
recently in connection with the Saradha chit fund
scam, and whose arrest was sought to be stalled, could
have such access to the higher echelons of the government. Reports suggest that long after his party, the
Congress, lost power, and his own political fortunes
waned, Mr. Sinh continues to wield inuence in the
national capital. Were his connections limited to efforts to save his own skin, or did he inuence appointments or postings? The government should probe all
the leads it may have that indicate the extent of his
clout. It would do well not to treat the matter as closed
but order a full investigation into a possible deeper
nexus between bureaucrats and tainted politicians.

s the dust settles on a remarkable

odyssey by a foreign leader to our
shores, the time is ripe for stocktaking. Talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack
Obama comprehensively covered most facets
of India-U.S. engagement, and imparted greater depth to the relationship. The nal verdict
will, however, depend on whether issues touched upon, but yet to be completed, reach
satisfactory conclusion.
The Joint Statement, together with the
U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the AsiaPacic and the Indian Ocean Region, and the
India-U.S. Delhi Declaration of Friendship,
convey the impression that the worlds two
largest democracies have reached a common
understanding, positing closer cooperation in
the future.
It also highlights that Indias Act East Policy and the U.S.s rebalance towards Asia,
provide opportunities for India, the U.S. and
other Asia-Pacic countries to work closely to
strengthen regional ties. Accompanying this is
the Joint Strategic Vision to guide their engagement in the region.

Areas of cooperation
Several areas of mutual cooperation are
mentioned in the Joint Statement. These include defence technology and related aspects
as well as defence and homeland security
cooperation, with an emphasis on developing
new areas of technology cooperation. The importance of closer cooperation in dealing with
matters such as transnational crime, terrorism, narcotics, cyber and other threats, and
maritime security have been specically underlined. The statement commits India and
the U.S. to achieving a dening counter-terrorism relationship for the 21st Century.
However, it is weak on specics, and does not
specify the need for strong action against the
LeT and the Haqqani network in Pakistan.
The segment on civil nuclear cooperation
merely welcomes the understanding reached
on civil nuclear liability issues and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, adding that it looks forward to
U.S.-built reactors contributing to Indias energy security at the earliest. No assurances

While the Obama visit covered most facets of

India-U.S. engagement and imparted greater
depth to the relationship, its nal verdict will
depend on whether the issues discussed reach
satisfactory conclusion
have been given that the U.S. would effectively
press Indias case for entry into the Nuclear
Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar
Arrangement and the Australian Group. It
limits itself to an affirmation that India meets
MTCR requirements and is ready for NSG
The climate change segment contains routine references to enhancing bilateral cooperation on adaptation measures, as well as on
joint research development and technology
innovation. Specic commitments are
The Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacic and Indian Ocean Region is emphatic
about the need to ensure freedom of navigation and overight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. It calls on all

sides have set their sights on greater trade and

investment, and on developing their economic partnership further. The smart cities programme has been given a llip.
The nuclear breakthrough though is enveloped in a shroud of contradictions. The
administrative arrangement clause relating to
the intrusive tracking of material for Indias
nuclear reactors, has been waived following a
tacit agreement on sharing data with the U.S.
The status of Indias nuclear liability law and
the liability of suppliers of nuclear equipment,
however, remains unclear. Indias reliance on
Rule 24 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules 2011 to mitigate suppliers liability
aspects contained in Indias Civil Nuclear Liability Law of 2010 is likely to inhibit U.S.
suppliers from entering the Indian market.
The risk management insurance pool of

For a high-level meeting of this nature, the outcome in

terms of tangible results has been decidedly modest.
parties to avoid the threat of use of force, and
to pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means in
keeping with principles of International Law
and United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea (UNCLOS). The Delhi Declaration of
Friendship improves on the September 2014
India-U.S. Vision Statement, and calls for a
tangible and enduring commitment by the
two countries to harness the inherent potential of the two democracies, and upgrade the
unique nature of their relationship.
For a high-level meeting of this nature, the
outcome in terms of tangible results has been
decidedly modest. To step up economic engagement, the U.S. has promised nance facilities worth $4 billion. India has committed
itself to a transparent taxation regime. Both

Rs.1,500 crore again is unlikely to enthuse

foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment.

Factoring in China
The renewal of the 10-year Defence Framework Agreement is a case of routine extension
of an ongoing agreement. The codevelopment
and co-production projects announced under
the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative
have relatively modest objectives such as
mini-UAVs and the like. The U.S. side has,
however, agreed to explore the development
of two more high-end technologies.
The acid test for India would be how to
manage the fragile balance that exists between India and China, following implicit references in the Joint Strategic Vision
Document to Chinas growing economic and


Reconciliation in
rainbow land
he release on parole of a high-prole apartheid-era police officer convicted on 89
charges and sentenced to 212 years in 1996 is
yet another reminder of South Africas struggle to balance justice with reconciliation. The overriding imperative of securing peace and stability
between the once brutally oppressed majority black
communities and their erstwhile Afrikaner white minority rulers underlay the constitution of the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1994. Its vision entailed the avoidance of the potentially tortuous
course of divisive prosecutions and the award of amnesty for all those who would come clean during public
confessions before the TRC. Notably, the grant of amnesty was to be examined equally for those complicit in
politically motivated crimes perpetrated against the
white supremacist regime, as well as those in defence of
apartheid rule. Although about 1,000 security personnel and others admitted to brutalities they had committed against activists of the African National
Congress, just one Cabinet Minister pleaded guilty. A
former apartheid-rule President, whom a court had
implicated for unlawful acts, refused to testify. Another
former President never sought amnesty, pleading ignorance about atrocities committed by the regime.
Prime Evil, as Eugene de Kock was described, is
now to be released after 20 years in jail. But the 66year-old convict is not the rst of his ilk to be set free.
The grant of amnesty in 1996 to a top police official
within less than ve years of the start of a life term was
seen by critics as an attempt by the TRC to encourage
others to atone for their crimes. Another decision to
pardon a notorious killer was surrounded by questions
about the veracity of the confessions. Such has been the
chequered history of bringing closure to past wounds.
A perception that he was made a scapegoat for actions
authorised by political higher-ups, as well as his expression of genuine remorse to the relatives of victims,
have inuenced the grant of parole to de Kock. The
question of the nature of activities that should qualify
for pardon was controversial in the aftermath of the
release of Nelson Mandela and the restoration of democracy in the 1990s. The ANC had insisted that guerrillas charged with crimes in the armed struggle against
white minority rule were also eligible. On the eve of the
TRC hearings in 1996, there was even a legal challenge
from the kin of some of the victims arguing that they
could not be denied the right to settle disputes in a
court of law. To balance justice with reconciliation is
akin to making a choice between reason and emotion.
There is much to learn from South Africa on this.



Saradha fallout
Should such a top bureaucrat have
been given an honourable exit by
merely accepting his request for
voluntary retirement despite his
having committed acts of gross
misdemeanour (Home Secretary
sacked, Feb.5)? In order to send
out the right message, especially to
top bureaucrats, the Narendra
Modi government should have
initiated regular disciplinary
proceedings. Alternatively, Anil
Goswami should have been
compulsorily retired under
existing service rules. At the end of
the day, he got away and a bad
precedent has been set.
S.K. Choudhury,

period of the UPA rule was

completely overshadowed by
massive corruption.
S. Ramakrishnasayee,

Growth story

The solutions given in the article,

The twist in the growth story
(Feb.5), constitute an approach
that is palatable. Agreeing with the
writers views, there are reasons
enough to believe that our
economy will progress smoothly as
indicated in World Bank reports
(Global Economic Prospects,
January 2015) with the opening up
of the coal industry to private
investors, deregulation of diesel
prices to reduce the scal subsidy
bill, the relaxation of labour
market laws, and linking of cash
transfers with efforts to increase
By breaking his silence on nancial inclusion. In addition to a
allegations levelled by Jayanthi reduction in current account
Natarajan, does Congress vice- decit, plunging oil prices will help
president Rahul Gandhi expect a keep inationary trends in check
clean chit for his behaviour (Rahul by ensuring that consumers reap
takes on Jayanthi Natarajan, the benets. The initiatives by the
Feb.5)? First, he should not have government and the RBI to have
interfered in the functioning of a quality scal consolidation with an
Ministry and then created emphasis on capital spending,
problems, making it embarrassing elimination
for the Minister. If Rahul wants to subsidies and recapitalising of
help the poor, he can do so in his public sector banks will all go
capacity as an MP. He can raise in towards helping the economy to
Parliament the issue of the rights register a good enough growth rate.
Vishnu K.,
of tribals and the poor. He should
diplomatically and not in such an
autocratic manner.
D. Sethuraman, It is very encouraging to learn that
Chennai reservations do not affect the
overall efficiency and functioning
Rahuls defence is that he wanted of the Indian Railways, the largest
to safeguard the interests of the public sector undertaking (Quotas
poor. Had the UPA taken up do not hurt efficiency, says study,
environmental measures along Feb.5). I am sure that this would
with the execution of industrial apply to other departments where
projects, there would have been reservations are in force. The myth
industrial growth as well as that the quota system results in the
welfare. After all, there are two neglect of merit and efficiency
sides to everything we do. The stands nullied. The research has

Rahuls defence

Study on reservation

military strength and its assertiveness. Analysts see the document as demonstrating that
India and the U.S. now see each other as a
crucial partner in offsetting Chinas increasingly assertive role in Asia marking a significant departure from Indias past
unwillingness to forge a common front
against China. Redening the relationship is
also seen as a step towards reviving the Quad
(a security collaboration arrangement between Australia, Japan, India and the U.S.,
rst mooted by Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe).
Chinas initial reaction has expectedly been
unfavourable with a passing reference to the
effect that India cannot expect to butter its
bread on both sides. It was only in May last
year that Chinese President Xi Jinping had
mooted a code of conduct for Asian countries to resolve security issues among themselves which, incidentally, included a veiled
warning against forging alliances to counter
China. He had pledged to build a new sustainable and durable security cooperative structure so that security problems in Asia were
eventually solved by Asia. The Vision Statement is likely to be viewed by China as a
negation of this concept, and the warm reception accorded to Indias Foreign Minister in
Beijing, and the invitation to India to join both
Asia-Pacic Economic Cooperation (APEC)
and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
(SCO) as full members should not lull India
into complacency. Chinese thinking tends to
be elliptical and the Chinese mind tends to be
eclectic, contextual and relational.
China could well employ several levers to
queer the pitch for India. For many years,
China has avoided taking sides in the dispute
over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, on
the professed principle that regional issues
should be resolved by the parties concerned.
This could change. China could also exercise a
negative vote to prevent Indias entry into
the NSG. Chinese forays into the Indian
Ocean could become more intrusive. The issue of the Dalai Lama could be made into a
cause clbre, at a time when China has
managed to prevail upon most countries not
to grant him an audience.
Where the visit perhaps falls well short of
expectations given the newly coined term of
global partners is that apart from a reference in the Vision Document to the South
China Sea, the Joint Statement only talks of
an agreement between the leaders to expand
their efforts to address global development
challenges in such areas as health, energy,
food security, disaster management and womens empowerment. The nearest they came to
discussing strategic issues was to agree to convene high level consultations on Afghanistan
in the near future. Aspects such as the turmoil
in West Asia, the situation prevailing in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of South and
South-East Asia hardly nd mention.
One of the imponderables of the visit was
Mr. Obamas pointed reference to religious
freedom and gender inequalities in his public
address at the conclusion of the visit. Indias
political class displayed considerable forbearance in not publicly declaiming against the
U.S. Presidents violation of official protocol,
but cannot ignore the implications of what
this kind of chastising of Indias policies
amounts to. It could be mischievously interpreted, and come to haunt India later.
The fact that almost immediately following
his return, the U.S. President proposed an
over $1 billion worth of civil and military aid to
strategically important Pakistan (a sixfold
in foreign military nancing to Pakistan between 2014 and 2016) for ghting terror, economic development, safety of nuclear
installations and improving ties with India
also should not be underestimated.
(M.K. Narayanan is a former National
Security Advisor and former Governor of
West Bengal.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
brought out the positive impact of
reservations for the marginalised
sections. There needs to be
research into why there is a
stagnation of 55.75 per cent at the
entry level.
Mahalingam Yaaman,
organisation depends primarily on
the attitude of its employees, an
upgrade of staff skills and
employee-employer relations. The
study on the impact of reservations
in the Railways, where no negative
effect has been noticed, should not
be viewed from the angle of
reservations. Such an achievement
is the result of team work, which
includes both reserved and nonreserved categories, keeping in
mind the organisations interests
and without giving room to the
politics of reservations.
Kshirasagara Balaji Rao,

The pioneering study does not

reect the realities of day-to-day
working. This observation may be
true in the upper echelons of the
government and for those above
Group A. It is a different story in
the lower categories, where there
needs to be greater accountability.
R. Rangarajan,

With clamour growing in favour of

sustaining the reservation system
in public sector jobs and also a
demand for reservations in private
sector jobs surfacing from time to
time from pro-reservation and
political groups, there could have
been some restraint in publishing
the report.
The basis of the study
undertaken by Ashwini Deshpande
and Thomas Weisskopf and
concurring with the same is a
different matter altogether. We
cannot lose sight of the fact that the
report by the Mandal Commission
strengthened the voices of proThe deliberate propaganda by the reservation groups in following
that reservations
efficiency and productivity are employment
affected by job quotas has not been promotions. Do we interpret the
proven to be true by any study. It is results as evidence that the
in this light that this report must be underprivileged sections too are
viewed as it shows that efficient and there is no need,
reservations have nothing to do therefore,
with any decline in efficiency but reservation policy in its current
instead motivates those recruited form?
C.V. Vasudevan,
to the higher echelons through the
system of quotas to work harder
and thus improve efficiency.
Anyone who works in government The period of the study was
sector between 1980 and 2002. There
undertakings knows well that a should have been one after 2002
majority of those who get in for people who came in through
through open quota are far more reservations, looking at how they
inefficient than those who get in feel and evaluating performance.
Kolachina Rama Jagannath,
through the quota system. Still,
they are so prejudiced that they
blame the quota system for any fall
The primary fallacy of the
in efficiency and productivity.
K.V. Ravindran, argument is that you cant compare
Payyanur, Kerala efficiency within a closed group

without variability. The sampling

methodology is false. It should
have been compared with another
sample where affirmative action
doesnt exist, which is practically
analyses derived are undeniably
biased. It is clear that the study
stands invalidated. One fails to
understand what kind of message
the report wanted to convey.
K.A.R. Reddy,
The Indian Railways is part of a
sector where decisions are taken at
a higher level and the employees in
the levels below play the role of just
implementers. In order to check
for efficiency one has to go to the
revenue and health departments
where almost every employee plays
a crucial role that directly impacts
society. One wishes that a similar
survey had been carried out to
identify the number of corrupt
employees in the public sector.
Satishreddy Kanaganti,

On Bombay
This refers to the interview, When
Bombay was not heard in
Mumbai (Feb.5). It would have
been right had the Censor Board
summoned the composer of the
song and claried what was
offensive rather than taking a
unilateral decision. If this is the
way to do things, it would be
difficult for anyone to compose a
song, leave alone writing a script.
Bombay has become Mumbai,
Calcutta became Kolkata and
Madras became Chennai but their
stock exchanges bear the same old
names. Should Mysore pak become
Mysuru pak or Karnataka pak?
These are minor things and one
should not make a mountain out of
a molehill.
H.P. Murali,




Indias tango with the great powers

Srinath Raghavan


The battle
for Delhi
lections to the Delhi Assembly have always
attracted disproportionate national-level attention. It is voting today, February 7, for the
second time in a little more than a year. The
elections in December 2013 resulted in a hung Assembly. A government formed by the then-fledgling Aam
Aadmi Party, with the support of the Congress that was
pushed to the third slot after being in power for three
consecutive terms, lasted just 49 days. Rapid turns in
Delhi politics since the announcement of fresh elections have brought to the fore several questions that
have lingered since the parliamentary victory of the
BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi. These
relate to the sustainability of Mr. Modis centralised
model of Hindutva politics in a diverse polity such as
Indias, the possibility and the nature of an alternative
to it, and the future of the Congress.
The central figure in the Delhi campaign is AAP chief
Arvind Kejriwal, who transformed a loosely knit anticorruption movement that had social activist Anna
Hazare as its mascot, into a thriving political movement and party. Today it appears to be a credible
challenger to the Modi juggernaut. The partys impressive revival after its rout in the parliamentary elections
of May 2014 has put the BJP on the back foot and made
Delhi the first real contest for Prime Minister Modi.
The BJP had an easy ride in the 2014 rounds of Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand, sustaining a certain perception of
Mr. Modi being unbeatable. Halfway into the campaign
in Delhi, the BJP declared its newly inducted member
and former police officer Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate, restoring a practice it had abandoned
since Mr. Modi became its supreme leader. But Ms.
Bedis arrival on the scene seems to have only added to
the BJPs troubles and she has failed to provide Mr.
Modi an alibi to distance himself from a possible failure. If the BJP falls short of a majority, that will expose
Mr. Modis vulnerability, force him to hold back on his
unilateral, ongoing overhaul of the party, and put him
at a disadvantage ahead of the Assembly election in the
crucial State of Bihar in November. Inversely, a BJP
victory will keep it on the winning trail, and tighten Mr.
Modis personal grip on the BJP and politics in general.
Indeed, an AAP victory could hold out the prospect of
an alternative to Mr. Modi. The AAP could seek to
expand outside Delhi, but at the very least it will stand
out as a model where an unconventional leader with
some credibility galvanised public opinion for change.
In the midst of all this, the Congress commands limited
space in Delhi. Yet, these elections hold significant
lessons, and prospects, for its revival bid too.

he latest trilateral meeting between

the foreign ministers of India, Russia and China was held on shifting
strategic sands. It would be no exaggeration to say that the triangular relationship between these countries is entering a
new phase one that differs significantly
from the past. Indias ability to navigate this
unfolding terrain will not only impinge on its
relationships with Russia and China, but also
on its wider, international objectives and
The drivers of change in this trilateral relationship are primarily geopolitical and economic. The civil war in Ukraine shows no sign
of abating, nor indeed does Russias involvement in the conflict. The resurgence of the
fighting in eastern Ukraine has left the peace
talks in tatters. And Russian support for the
rebels has ensured that the Ukrainian forces
cannot gain the upper hand. Indeed, the Ukrainians have suffered heavily in the recent
fighting. This has led to a chorus of calls in the
West to arm the Ukrainian forces. Although
U.S. President Barack Obama has demurred
against this, several influential voices including Mr. Obamas nominee for Defence
Secretary, Ashton Carter have come out in
favour of providing heavy weapons to
Any such move will lead Russian President
Vladimir Putin to dig in his heels still deeper.
Russia already faces a raft of economic sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU)
and the U.S. The Russian economy is apparently wilting under the one-two punch of
these sanctions and the free-fall in oil prices.
The projected slowdown in growth, the depleting foreign exchange reserves, the rising
inflation, the downgrading of Russias credit
rating to junk status: all point to a serious
economic crunch. The economic sanctions
have already led Russia to tilt closer towards
China. The talk of providing weapons to Ukraine or imposing further sanctions will accentuate this shift.
The second driver of change is the re-energised relationship between the U.S. and India.
The U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision put out
during Mr. Obamas visit not only singles out
the South China Sea dispute but also commits
India and the U.S. to work together with other
democracies in the Indian Ocean and Asia-

Geopolitical and economic factors and the

re-energised relationship between the U.S. and
India are the drivers of change in the trilateral
relationship between India, Russia and China.
The cumulative impact of these two trends points
to a new, emerging configuration of the triangular
Pacific region. The wisdom of issuing such a
statement is debatable. Are we staking our
credibility before creating capabilities? Does
it needlessly restrict our room for diplomatic
manoeuvre in the event of a crisis in the South
China Sea? New Delhi insists that a strategic
embrace of the U.S. need not limit its relations with China. While this may be true in
some generic sense, we should not forget that
every move on the chessboard of international politics will invite countermoves. We do
not yet live in a world that is free of

of friendship with India. The treaty was eventually consummated at the height of the Bangladesh crisis of 1971. This crisis also saw the
American opening towards Maoist China,
which subsequently led to a strategic nexus
aimed at the Soviet Union. While New Delhi
and Moscow were pulled together by their
shared concerns about Beijing, India found
its choices being circumscribed in other areas
as well. For instance, after the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan in 1979, India publicly supported the Russians, while the Americans and
the Chinese covertly assisted Pakistan and
the Mujahideen against the Red Army.
India-Russia relationship
By the time the Cold War drew to an end,
The cumulative impact of these two trends there was a rapprochement between Russia
points to a new, emerging configuration of the and China. The collapse of the Soviet Union

Russia-China ties might become the strongest side of the

triangle. From Indias standpoint, this is historically

triangular relationship between India, Russia

and China. Going forward, Russia-China ties
might become the strongest side of the triangle. From Indias standpoint, this is historically unprecedented. New Delhis strategic
ties with Moscow first took shape in the late
1950s. The backcloth to the blossoming of
this relationship was provided by Indias deteriorating relationship with China owing to
the disputed boundary. At the same time,
ideological and strategic ties between Moscow and Beijing were coming apart. Although
the Russians played an ambivalent role during the war of 1962, Indo-Soviet ties, especially in defence, continued to tighten.
The clashes between Soviet and Chinese
forces in 1969 led Moscow to propose a treaty

also led India to look more towards the West.

Yet, at no point, was there a possibility of a
Russia-China entente of the kind that is now
crystallising. Nor did the normalisation of the
Russia-China relationship outweigh IndoRussian ties. Most importantly, the developing relationship between Moscow and Beijing did not impact on New Delhis immediate
All this appears to be changing. In June
2014, Russia announced the lifting of its longstanding embargo on arms sales to Pakistan.
In November, Russia and Pakistan signed
their first ever military cooperation agreement. The Russians argue that if India can
buy defence equipment from the U.S., why
couldnt they sell to Pakistan. The problem


India, China and

an opportunity
eeping up the momentum in India-China
relations, External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj came back from her three-day visit to
China with several deliverables including
a new Chinese openness in seeing India take up permanent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC). Previously, the Chinese had linked SCO membership with a greater role for Beijing in the South
Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Ms. Swaraj, during her first visit to China as External
Affairs Minister, built on the three meetings Prime
Minister Narendra Modi has had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. She also called on the Chinese President, a rare opportunity for any visiting Foreign
Minister. Clearance for the early operationalisation of
a new route to Kailash Mansarovar and a decision to
hold a session of talks between the Special Representatives tasked by the two sides to resolve the boundary dispute, are other takeaways. Her trip was also part
of preparations for Mr. Modis visit later in the year. As
reported in the Chinese media, President Xi himself
has set the agenda for taking bilateral ties to a new level
by suggesting that the two countries seize the opportunity of the century by combining their development
strategies. With a slowing economy and sluggish European recovery, China may be focussing on the Indian
market. It also appears willing to invest, following
Prime Minister Modis Make in India call.
It is in such a scenario of contact and consultation
that strong leaders such as Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi can
think about making some hard decisions when it comes
to the decades-old boundary dispute that keeps surfacing during major bilateral visits. So far, the coalition
nature of Indian governments has been seen as a major
obstacle to the give-and-take, compromise approach
on the border question. Today, Mr. Modi is in the happy
situation where he can take a political call on issues,
rising above intra-coalition pressures. In 2005, the
Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding
Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question
signed by the two countries had raised hopes for an
eventual settlement, but those have been belied. It
would also seem that President Barack Obamas successful visit to India around Republic Day has not
dampened Beijings willingness to take relations with
Delhi to the next level. Interestingly, India while talking to the U.S. and its other allies in the Asia-Pacific
about safety in the sea-lanes, has agreed to set up a
consultation mechanism on Asia-Pacific affairs with
China and Russia. Indias diplomatic success lies in
keeping several balls in the air at the same time.




A strong signal
While the speed and alacrity with
which the Modi government has
acted in sacking the Home
(Editorial, Feb.6), one waits to see
whether the government will
remain as impartial and firm when
its own party men or favoured
bureaucrats are found to be
involved in misdeeds.
The sordid episode brings the
focus back on the CBI as the article
by R.K. Raghavan (The price of
indiscretion, Feb. 6), points out.
That the CBI is subject to the
influences of three Ministries will
only result in its skewed
functioning, which will tell on its
impartiality and independence.
What we need is an investigative
agency that is not so dependent on
the government. It is here that
retired CBI Directors such as R.K.
Raghavan, D.R. Karthikeyan and
Joginder Singh could put their
heads together and suggest to the
government ways and means to
improve the image and status of the
CBI as an independent investigative
V. Nagarajan,

Impact of quotas
In the end, it is those who get
promoted to the top echelons who
can be a measure of the success of
the quota system in any
organisation, be it the railways or
public sector units (Quotas do not
hurt efficiency, says study, Feb.5).
At the lower levels, it is team work
that counts and which takes care of
the shortcomings of personnel
coming in through the quota system
contrary to the view expressed by

a letter writer (Feb.6). In the

railways, it is this group that
ensures efficiency in the C and D
categories. The other way of
measuring success is to introduce
the quota system in the private
sector and see how it works.
A.V. Narayanan,
The arguments against quotas are
not about their presumed impact on
productivity. Let us put aside the
caste-efficiency debate, that does
Affirmative action is unjust because
nobody is prepared to say how long
it will last. That is, it compensates
generation after generation among
historically marginalised sections
for the injustice suffered by their
ancestors. In the process, it has
created a new underclass the
descendants of the erstwhile
oppressors who feel they are being
made to offer disproportionate
sacrifices to atone for the sins of
their forefathers.
If we want a casteless society, there
has to be a time frame for
affirmative action. Would it be too
much to ask that at least the fourth
generation of independent India
will have no need to depend on state
quotas? The state has the right to
address historical wrongs, but does
it have the right to create new
sources of social strife and
perpetuate casteism?
V.N. Mukundarajan,
The report is a reiteration of the
basic truth that many casteconscious Indians refuse to believe.
Today, many object to the
reservation system, calling it unfair.
The reservation policy of the

for India, of course, is the strategic import of

such moves by Russia. Then again, we must
realise that our growing proximity to the U.S.
reduces our leverage over Russia. As does
Russias increasing tilt towards China. As always, a bit of history can be useful.
Back in the 1960s, the Russians first mooted the idea of selling military equipment to
Pakistan. The Indian response was swift and
sharp. In a meeting with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
bluntly said that nothing should be done
from which it could be inferred that the Soviet Union treated India at par with Pakistan.
India, she added, was especially worried
with regard to Soviet help [to Pakistan], as
such help might neutralise what we have obtained from the Soviet Union. Moscow
promptly backed off. The Russians did so because they needed Indian support in their
own problems with China. Moreover, India
unlike Pakistan was not an American ally.

Security architecture
The strategic picture now is rather different. Discussions in the recent trilateral meeting underscored the complexities that will
confront India. The joint statement issued in
Beijing makes the usual noises about the desirability of a multipolar world. Yet, several
points need to be unpacked. The statement
calls for a security architecture in Asia that
must be open, inclusive, indivisible and
transparent. The use of indivisible is interesting. This refers to the American pivot
and attempts at rallying its allies. By contrast,
the India-U.S. statement supports at least
rhetorically the U.S.-led efforts. The Chinese and Russians have clearly taken note.
Things would be easy for India if it confronted stark choices between the U.S. and
China. Consider the position taken by the
three countries on climate change. The statement hopes that in 2015, a legally-binding
instrument would be arrived at on the basis of
equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. This fits
with Indias negotiating position so far. But
the fact is that the U.S. and China have already agreed upon a plan that effectively
carves out an exceptional space for themselves and leaves little for countries like India
to work with. This is a nice example of the
G2 solutions for which India will have to
watch out.
Another instance of this might be in international trade. The joint statement affirms
that the World Trade Organization (WTO)
must remain the preeminent global forum
trade. This reflects their concern about U.S.
efforts to create new regional trading blocs in
Europe and Asia. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated by the Obama
administration aims to bring into force a very
different kind of Free Trade Agreements
(FTA) in Asia-Pacific, which will bring on to
the trade agenda a new set of norms and
standards. The Chinese have been explicitly
kept out of it by the Americans in the hope
that China will eventually have to come to
terms with this trade agenda. Indeed, as the
TPP negotiations near completion, the Chinese have informally conveyed to the U.S.
their desire to get on board. As in climate
change, a U.S.-China convergence on this issue will hurt Indian interests.
Then again, there are issues where the
three countries interests seem closely
aligned and in opposition to the U.S. They
have agreed to support a U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution prohibiting intervention and forced regime change. This
cuts against the idea of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which was introduced by the western powers through the UNGA and sought to
be built up as a norm governing
Indias relations with the great powers,
then, are entering a period of unprecedented
complexity. There are no pat solutions or
simple trade-offs. And every move we make
will be consequential.
(Srinath Raghavan is Senior Fellow, Centre
for Policy Research, New Delhi.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
government is neither a favour nor
an act of charity or a welfare
measure. It is only an affirmative
act aimed at the uplift of the
suppressed classes. Critics of the
reservation policy conveniently
forget how the lower castes have
suffered over the centuries on
account of denial of educational
reservations are not new to the
Indian system. White collar jobs
have been exclusively reserved for
the upper castes, while the most
degrading and dehumanising jobs
have been thrust on those outside
this. Remember what Netaji said:
Casteism and corruption are the
twin evils of this nation. The earlier
we weed them out, the better for
guarantees equality in social status
but it remains a distant dream for
those who are oppressed.
B. Kumaran Ravi,
It is clear that affirmative action
does not reduce productivity in any
sector and that quotas do not hurt
widespread and much debated,
Indias reservation policy is by far
poorly studied. Individuals from the
marginalised groups may be
motivated to perform well when
they reach decision-making levels
and senior managerial positions.
R. Balamurugan,
Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu

In need of freedom
The views expressed in the article,
Women need freedom, not
protection (Feb.6) may be true for
a western society but do not apply
to ours. I am sure that more than 99
per cent of Indian women would

prefer proper safety to freedom.

Once that is ensured, they will enjoy
the necessary freedom they want. I
have to add that while women may
be weak physically, they are strong
in terms of will power. So, providing
protection to women cant be
considered a reflection of masculine
Vivek S. Viswanath,
Ensuring a womans safety is
different from protecting her rights,
and our political parties are either
blissfully ignorant of this or
indifferent to her sense of freedom.
Evidently, our political class is too
male chauvinistic, as seen in the
tardy progress in ensuring 33 per
cent reservation for women in
Parliament. Gandhiji envisioned a
free India where a woman can walk
alone and freely even at midnight.
This is only a dream. It is equally
unfortunate that even being in the
midst of a large group of people does
not guarantee a woman safety
C.R. Ananthanarayanan,
I could not agree more on the need
for positive liberties for people,
irrespective of their gender, for selfactualisation and bringing out the
best in themselves for the greater
good. But unfortunately, like most
things that really matter, this
privilege too rests more with the
larger society where the state can at
most be a facilitator. In my opinion,
the state should focus more on
empowering its citizenry to enable
them to choose the correct (and
ethical) course of action.
Abhinav Garg,

All that an average Indian can think

of when it comes to the safety of
women is stringent protection.
This is on account of the parochial
view of a patriarchal system that
treats women as commodities to be
protected, marginalised and as
child-bearing objects.
Freedom in their sense is only
male-centric. It is agonising to see
even established political leaders
accepting this notion. A radical
change will occur only when efforts
are made to treat women as equal to
men and as those who desire equal
freedom and respect. Protests like
the Kiss of Love event in Kerala are
harbingers of this choice, which will
shake the Indian patriarchical
system out of its complacency
sooner than later.
Akhil K.,

Obama visit
U.S. President Barack Obamas visit
to India has not much to do with the
real gains for India (Tangibles and
imponderables of a visit, Feb.6).
The obscurity over the nuclear
agreement is pretty much clear.
Moreover, America is only trying to
make India its puppet in its socalled rebalancing of Asia theory
of an Asia Pivot. We will
essentially be a hedge against
Chinese plans. In this neobipolarism, India needs to give
much thought to what is in store for
We should also be clear about
what constitutes rebalancing and
interference. India must also be
careful not to spoil its relations with
its neighbours.
Tabish Naqvi,




Voters need a good enemy

Dipankar Gupta


Silence is not
an option
wo successive statements by U.S. President
Barack Obama within a span of nine days on
the shrinking religious tolerance in India
have created some utter. In the rst instance, as he wound up his India visit on January 27,
Mr. Obama underscored the point that countries that
are divided within along religious lines cannot progress; in the second one, on February 5, he said the acts
of religious intolerance that are being reported in India
would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. Though the
White House later said that the Presidents remarks
were not aimed at anyone in particular, they have
embarrassed the Narendra Modi government. The
Congress has seized the opportunity to attack the government for inaction in the face of the acts of intolerance, while hardline Hindutva groups such as the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad have seen in Mr. Obamas remarks a pattern of unwelcome interference. It is curious that Mr. Obama invoked two motifs that Mr. Modi
has repeatedly claimed to have been guided by rst,
the Constitution, and second, Gandhian ideals. It is
also curious that Mr. Modi invokes Gandhi on issues
ranging from cleanliness to diaspora concerns, but not
when it comes to the question of religious harmony.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitleys statement that
Indias huge cultural history of tolerance cannot be
altered by aberrations is perfectly valid, but such
well-meaning statements by themselves just would not
do. The point of concern is that the tradition of tolerance that Mr. Jaitley like most Indians takes pride
in, is being attacked and weakened. Liberties and values will have to be nurtured in order for them to be
enduring. That is the reason why Mr. Modis silence on
recurring reports of desecration of churches and intimidation of religious minorities by extremist groups has
become a matter of concern, as noticed also by the
outside world, and reected in a recent editorial in The
New York Times. More troubling is the fact that these
acts are being committed by groups that belong to the
larger ideological universe that Mr. Modi has been
associated with. This is not to overlook violence promoted in the name of other faiths, but the question
here is about the links of intolerance to political power
that controls the state. Mr. Modi has told his party
colleagues that he does not want to be distracted from
his economic agenda by contentious issues. Tolerance,
though essential for growth, cannot be reduced to an
instrumentality of growth, and the amiable coexistence
of diverse religious and cultural traditions is an end in
itself. The Indian Constitution enshrines a set of fundamental freedoms and rights. The government of the
day has a constitutional duty to uphold these rights and
freedoms. A government should not only be fair but
also be seen to be so, and needs to be outspoken in the
defence of constitutional values.

For a stitch
in time
very year, hundreds of precious lives are being
lost to the H1N1 inuenza, described by medical experts as just another preventable and
curable form of seasonal u. This year, the toll
has already crossed the 200-mark, and over 2,500 people are being treated in hospitals and in homes. Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra are bearing
the brunt of the pandemic. In Rajasthan alone, 85 people have died the highest in the country so far. Last
year, 937 cases of swine u, as the inuenza is commonly known, were reported, leading to 238 deaths. In 2012
there were 5,044 reported cases, which claimed 405
lives, while there were 5,253 cases and 699 deaths in
2013. The pandemic has been a regular occurrence in
India since 2009 when the rst case was reported. Even
then the public health system is unable to stop these
entirely preventable deaths. The level of preparedness
of the States affected by H1N1 to manage an outbreak is
often reviewed only after deaths are reported. This time
it was done after a former Chief Minister of Rajasthan,
the State Home Minister, and a Member of Parliament
from Andhra Pradesh tested positive.
The situation was reviewed by the Union Ministry of
Health and Family Welfare in terms of adequacy of
medicines and the readiness and training of doctors and
paramedical staff in public health institutions in the
States. A round-the-clock Outbreak Monitoring Cell of
the National Centre for Disease Control is attending to
public queries on H1N1 to keep people informed and to
dispel apprehensions, since January 24. On their part,
the States concerned have done their bit to tackle the
crisis, with Rajasthan going a step further by issuing an
alert, providing free treatment, and announcing the
setting up of task forces right up to the district level to
monitor the situation on a daily basis. Curiously, the
information, education and communication campaigns
to create awareness among the masses to protect themselves from the infection, and steps for timely treatment are launched only when the rounds of outbreak
peak. The States have now been advised to ensure that
steps are taken to prevent any increase in the number of
casualties by encouraging people to approach public
health facilities on time, and to educate them on preventive methods. The simple u becomes deadly as
patients come in for treatment only when things go out
of hand. Advance planning and readiness to deal with
the annual seasonal outbreak by means of simple and
cost-effective awareness creation by the public health
authorities, would go a long way in preventing deaths.


hat chance does anybody have

in getting normal citizens to
come out in praise of a dam
well built, or a road perfectly
laid? Next to nothing! Good work, up front
transparency and no swindles add up to a
political ho-hum; it puts collective action to
sleep. Now change the setting: factor in a
botched up dam and a potholed highway and
watch activism swell. No doubt about it: anger lls political sails like nothing else; not
contentment, never endorsement.
While there is little evidence of collective
goodwill yanking up politics, negativity is
the stuff protests are made of. The greater
this sentiment, the more knuckles it waves
in your face, the quicker it charges up political batteries. Likewise, our ballots are aimed
at keeping somebody out rather than getting
somebody in. We vote against those we dislike the most and not for those whose past
and present we think well of.
Just because voters are queuing up patiently, do not mistake them for pacic individuals. Their gradual progress to the ballot
box hides the fact that nearly all of them are
actually in a mission mode. It is the inability
to accept this truth that forces rational
choice theory to make its rst big misstep in
tracking voting behaviour. Barring card-carrying political cadres, ordinary people are
hardly inuenced by either a candidates individual merit or by a partys good looks.
What gets them going, if they ever get going,
is to make sure that somebody in that line-up
is thoroughly trounced, perhaps even disgraced. It is this rumble that makes for an
imagined movement though there is no ag
or banner to signal its presence. Voters get
their high not because their candidate has
won, but because somebody else has lost.
Contrary to what rational choice theorists
hold, voters rarely, if ever, grade candidates
on the basis of past performance and programmes. The positive will-do aspects of a
party manifesto are not nearly as compelling
to the voter as the scent of negativity. For
example, nothing had changed in Delhi since

Contrary to what rational choice theorists hold,

voters rarely, if ever, grade political candidates on
the basis of past performance and programmes.
The positive will-do aspects of a party manifesto
are not nearly as compelling to the voter as the
scent of negativity
Narendra Modi swept the polls in 2014. In
fact, reports suggest, he boosted foreign direct investment, charmed Barack Obama
and even unleashed a host of public projects.
Yet, by February 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party
made a sudden and spirited comeback. Was
this because after long months in the BJP
sun, there were some who longed for a little

Electoral history
What elements conspire to create this sort
of negativity is hard to imagine in advance,
which is why there is always an element of
the box office in election outcomes. In 2014,
Mr. Modi proted because public perception

pure negatives our electoral history records

many instances of unwelcome surprises.
V.P. Singh won because Rajiv Gandhi was the
most not-wanted person. Only later did his
supporters realise that the man they successfully pumped for was besotted by OBC
reservations. When Rajiv Gandhi came in,
the country had had enough of violence in
Punjab, but he soon brought upon the Babri
Masjid asco. Or, when Indira Gandhi was
defeated in 1977, voters had no idea what the
Janata Party stood for; in fact, even the Janata Party did not have a clue.
Much later, well after election fever subsides, the futility of ideologies and track records becomes evident. Only then analysts

Barring card-carrying political cadres, ordinary people are

hardly influenced by either a candidates individual merit or by
a partys good looks.

was against the Congress. Dr. Manmohan

Singh was inert and expressionless, and the
mother and son duo reeked of privilege.
They just had to go. As this mood gathered
momentum, so also did Mr. Modis prospects. His past record and future promises were
cast aside; what mattered most was that the
Congress had to lose; it had become such a
big turn-off!
It was only much later when Modi supporters untied the victory package that, to
their disbelief, Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath also tumbled out. By then it was
much too late; the delivery boy had already
left. On account of voter concentration on

begin to wonder why the losing party got

such a raw deal. After all, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), with all its aws, had
brought in the Right to Information Act,
challenged colonial land acquisition laws,
even initiated the womens reservation bill.
Much of that counted for nothing because
the negativity concentrate built around corruption in high quarters and an unattractive
leadership simply took over. Nitish Kumar
did a remarkable job in building infrastructure in Bihar, but his association with the
UPA stained him with that same negativity,
as it did the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
For most voters, whether they support the



right-wing elements to have a free
run. Mr. Modi and the BJP would
It is true that recent happenings do well to remember that they were
such as ghar vapsi ceremonies and voted to power not by Hindus
caused alone, but by people from other
trepidation in the minds of the religions as well. Their rights and
minorities and that the Prime interests need to be protected.
R. Sivakumar,
Ministers studied silence is
baffling (Obamas remarks on
religious freedom worry officials,
and New York Times editorial:
Modis dangerous silence, both Russia is a traditional ally of India,
Feb.7). One is reminded of the and has been with India through
Pascal quote: Men never do evil so thick and thin (Indias tango with
completely and cheerfully as when the great powers, Feb.7) The sothey do it from religious called foreign policy tilt should
conviction. One can cite the spate not be at the cost of hurting Russia,
of racial attacks in the U.S. as a blot especially at a time when it faces a
on America to counter Mr. range of sanctions imposed on it by
the West. Forging a good
Obamas concern about India.
One should also look at the relationship with Russia is more of
concern being voiced in the U.S. as a moral issue than one based
a result of it wanting India to entirely on any sort of commercial
remain a secular country and as a benets. India should prioritise its
sort of bulwark. It is time Mr. Modi national interests and act
shed his fence-sitting stance.
R. Sridharan,
Jithin Sriram B.,

A remark and editorial

A tango

Mr. Obamas remarks are uncalled

for and constitute an infringement
on Indias sovereignty. Since time
immemorial, India has been a
religiously tolerant country. No
doubt there have been some
aberrations, but the fact is that
Indians are tolerant in general. Has
Mr. Obama been advised correctly?
V. Tilak Subramanian,

Recent developments in the realm

of foreign policy indicate a clear
shift from non-alignment to multipolar alignment. It is stronger ties
with the U.S. that have won us
more manoeuvring space with the
Chinese on the diplomatic high
table. However, India must ensure
that its long-term interests in the
Asia-Pacic are not subdued by the
U.S.s plans for the region. There is
little place for zero-sum games in a
are multi-vectored diplomacy.
surprising. He should recollect
Amala S. Maheswari,
what Mark Twain said: India has
two million gods and worships
them all. In religion all other With the emergence of China as a
countries are paupers. India is the major market force to be reckoned
with and in the backdrop of the
only millionaire.
A.J. Rangarajan, declining image of uni-polarity, the
Chennai U.S. is bent on working out
strategic deals with both India and
I fully endorse the comments made Pakistan. The unprecedented
by the President as well as the tone complexity in Indias relations
and tenor of the Editorial. It is with the great powers will
unfortunate that the government, ultimately
which swept to power riding on a trajectory of changes in our foreign
constructive policy. Innovative diplomatic
governance, is instead allowing moves are crucial for India to


incumbent or not, they do not nely position

the candidates on offer in terms of an approval ranking. Rational choice theory may
think otherwise, but as far as the electorate
is concerned, it is really between two opponents, most of the time. There is, in one
corner, the person they want defeated, and
in the other corner stands a candidate that
the voter thinks can best do the job. The
voter is indifferent towards all other aspirants and they barely get a nod.
Rational choice theorists cannot face up to
this fact as it makes a mockery of their construct of the cold calculating individual. For
them, rational voters obey the principle of
transitivity whereby if A is preferred to B
and B to C, then A will always be chosen
above C. This obviously demands a nely
graded preferential ladder. In a real election,
however, the contest is essentially between
two gladiators where the principle of negativity trumps that of transitivity.
For the bulk of the electorate, what matters is that if a certain candidate has to be
kept out, who then, from among the rest of
the aspirants, can accomplish this end best?
If a voter wants A to be defeated, and if for
this job B is seen as the most suitable candidate, then the voter will choose B. This will
happen irrespective of whether or not the
same voters may consider C and D to be
better people, or parties, in isolation. In the
given context, however, they count for nothing; just a wasted vote.

Political versus economic decisions

What puzzles most rational choice theorists is why an individual even takes the
trouble to vote in the rst place. As a single
ballot will hardly change an electoral outcome, is it worth the effort to tie ones laces
and trudge to the voting booth? If rational
choice theorists put stock by this argument
it is simply because they believe that political decisions mimic economic ones. Those
who play the market must effectively value
and rank all possible investment alternatives
along the transitivity principle. To do otherwise would be unwise and foolhardy. But
elections are a different matter altogether,
and this is for two main reasons.
First, mobilisation, as we noticed at the
start, works best on the principle of negativity, which is not how economic decisions
take place. Second, and more importantly,
elections are a public event where one is
given a bounded time horizon within which
votes must be cast and an electoral decision
made. This opportunity will not come tomorrow; in fact, it may not come for the next
ve years. In contrast, the stock market rings
in a new beginning every morning and also
allows economic choices to be made and
unmade in a single working day.
In addition, elections take place in the
open. There is a marquee, a designated voting counter, polling agents and a buzz that
grows as the line of waiting voters gets longer. In many ways, this scene resembles a
mobilisation, a political crowd but without a
visible leader. What motivates the electorate
then is about the same as what galvanises a
procession. Substitute the anger against a
dodgy dam or a leaky pipeline with that
against actual politicians and parties, and
the drive to come out and vote becomes so
much clearer.
For politics and politicians, a good enemy
is a joy forever.
(Dipankar Gupta is Distinguished
Professor and Director, Centre for Public
Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar
University. The views expressed are

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
should be collected regularly and
breeding grounds for mosquitoes
destroyed. Knee-jerk reactions
whenever an epidemic breaks out
are not enough. The menace of
pigs, garbage and mosquitoes is
what needs to be addressed on a
war-footing. Unless the causative
factors behind viral attacks are
broken, more virulent forms are
bound to appear.
While I would agree with the
Dudley Surrao,
general tenor of Janaki Nairs piece
(For a newly imagined historical
temper, Feb.7) on the need to The new viral storm raging cross
respect alternative versions of the the country and that has claimed
past, her choice of illustration of 275 lives is alarming but appears to
the remarkable work by Kerala be evoking only a passive response
mathematicians in the 14th and from the government. Why is the
15th centuries was unfortunate. government so intent on citing
Her highlighting David Pingree as statistics rather than coming up
the authority who brought Kerala with a plan to deal with the spread
mathematics to the fore in some of swine u? Is there any
unnamed paper is ill-advised, when dissemination of information on
there are many more deserving the use of imported medicines or
candidates such as K.V. Sarma and even a target to keep the disease
Saraswathi Amma. The questions under control? The government
that have been raised by the has much to do to create awareness
presence of the Madhava School about the virus and the importance
quite of vaccination. It can also do much
extensively in recent years. to reduce the costs of vaccination
Whether they inuenced the and also make it mandatory in all
development of calculus elsewhere educational institutions.
Raviteja Vangara,
remains a moot point since no
smoking gun has been discovered
as yet. This remarkable episode of
Kerala mathematics should be
known to a wider audience. I would The Open Page article, The
recommend the reading of the regional preferences: which Mr.
relevant sections of the Crest of the Sreenivasan,
Peacok: Non-European Roots of reminded me of my time in a
(Princeton multinational company. We had a
University Press, 2011) and then number of Subramaniams and
moving on to A Passage to Innity each was known by his initials
(Sage Publishers, 2009).
A.S., P.S., M.S., K.S., S.S. It was
George Gheverghese Joseph, difficult
Vizhinjam, Kerala persons name but one had to be
careful. When I was transferred to
Chalakudy in Kerala, I faced a
The war on viral infections, and similar situation with the plethora
swine u in particular (Sunday of Antonys, Georges and Joses. I
Anchor, Feb.8) cannot be won faced a number of hilarious
unless its underlying causes are situations as I couldnt remember
eliminated. The rearing of pigs who was who.
N.C. Sreedharan,
within city limits should be banned
and strict measures should be
taken to prevent pigs from getting
into residential areas. Garbage Some years ago, the English

survive in the ever-changing global

scenario of shifting power
structures. In a tricky environment
where the U.S., China and Russia
are now moving towards a proPakistan bias, India will nd itself
in a catch-22 situation.
S. Sasseendra Das,
Neyyattinkara, Kerala

Historical temper

Which Mr. Srinivasan?

Flu in the air

wanted to know what the most

popular name in England was and
decided to do this by announcing in
a packed cinema hall in London
that Smiths house had caught re,
and Smith was to meet the cinema
house manager. Nearly 70 per cent
of the hall became empty instantly.
Thus, the English arrived at the
nding that Smith is the
preponderant name in England!
K. Pradeep,
The article took me down memory
lane and of my dance classes some
40 years ago. There were six
Meenakshis, as Meenakshi is a
common name in Madurai. In
order to identify us, our master
used a prex for each one of us. So
there was an LIC Meenakshi, a
Railway Meenakshi, a Bakery
Meenakshi and a TVS Meenakshi,
bearing the name of the offices
where our respective fathers
worked. Of course, with the
passage of time, Meenakshi was
conveniently forgotten and only
the prexes remained. One is
contention, What is in a name?
because it is the name that matters
Meenakshi Pattabiraman,

India and World Cup

Indian selectors appear to have
made a blunder in including injuryprone players in the squad for the
(Ishant fails tness test, Sport,
Feb.8). It is bound to be a handicap
for the defending champions in
their bid to retain the title.The
most surprising omissions have
been the omission of the last World
Yuvraj Singh, and in-form opener,
Murali Vijay. Our bench strength
has been reduced to the minimum
and with a poor track record for the
last four years in overseas
conditions, one fears the writing is
on the wall.
Jayanthy Maniam,
Navi Mumbai




The silence of the liberal Muslim

Hasan Suroor


The churn
in Bihar
utgrowing, even undercutting ones political
mentor is nothing unusual among politicians. To cite contemporary examples, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal had to
walk out of the shadows of their respective mentors,
L.K. Advani and Anna Hazare, to establish themselves
as figures of political authority. Bihar Chief Minister
Jitan Ram Manjhis revolt against his former mentor
and Janata Dal (United) leader, Nitish Kumar, is however in many ways one of its kind. For one, it was Mr.
Kumar who won the mandate in 2010. He had made it
for a second consecutive term riding a popularity wave
he had created on account of two features that defined
his politics good governance and social empowerment. Mr. Manjhi was an accidental inheritor of that
mandate, when Mr. Kumar decided to step aside after
the setback his party suffered in the 2014 Lok Sabha
elections. Mr. Manjhi had not earned what he now
claims to be his the Chief Ministers chair.
Mr. Manjhi began to dissociate himself from Mr.
Kumar soon after becoming Chief Minister, and sounded the bugle of revolt in an interview to The Hindu on
January 6, 2015, where he declared that his achievements in social empowerment were better than Mr.
Kumars, and that the next Chief Minister of the State
should be a Mahadalit, the lowest section of the Dalit
community that he belongs to. From then on, Mr.
Kumar had no option but to replace Mr. Manjhi, whose
rebellious reaction has complicated the matrix of caste
politics in Bihar. Mr. Kumars attempts to build a broad
social coalition ahead of the Assembly elections in the
State, due in October, by bringing together the backward communities, Dalits and Muslims, in an alliance
with the RJD, the Congress and the Left, will now have
to be fine-tuned. The BJP, with which Mr. Kumar split
in 2013 after a 17-year-long coalition arrangement,
opposing Mr. Modis projection as Prime Minister, is
hungering to bid for power in the State. Attracting a
good chunk of Dalit votes has been a component of the
BJPs winning strategy in Maharashtra and Haryana
recently. The party is using the chance to widen the gulf
between Dalits and the backwards to its own benefit,
yet is wary of getting too closely identified with the
unremarkable track record of Mr. Manjhi in governance, often marred by allegations of impropriety and
corruption. The ability of the regrouped factions of the
erstwhile Janata Party to resist the Modi-led BJP will
also be tested in the crucial State that elects 40 Lok
Sabha members. It is going to be an uphill task for Mr.
Kumar to recover the ground, but this is a fight he
cannot avoid, and it will have national resonance.

Muslim woman is accused of blasphemy, sacked by her employers,

dragged through police stations and
courts, and is forced to go underground in the face of a vicious hate campaign,
including death threats.
This is not a story from the badlands of
Waziristan, and her tormentors are not the
sharia-enforcing Taliban. It is happening
right in the heart of modern India in cosmopolitan Mumbai, to be precise with our
own Taliban leading the show.
The victim is a respected Muslim woman
journalist, Shirin Dalvi who edited a Mumbaibased Urdu daily, Avadhnama, until she got
the sack a few weeks ago for allegedly hurting
Muslim sentiments. On the basis of complaints by local Muslim groups, she was arrested, and multiple cases were registered
against her for outraging religious feelings
with malicious intent. She faces a jail sentence, if convicted.

A campaign of intimidation
Her crime? While writing about the Charlie
Hebdo controversy, she decided to reproduce
the magazines cover carrying a cartoon of
Prophet Mohammad to illustrate the report.
But she was also quick to recognise her mistake, and immediately made amends for it by
publishing an unconditional front page apology. This, however, has not satisfied the selfappointed custodians of Islam who continue
to hound her through a campaign of intimidation and vilification.
Dalvi has claimed that the same image was
printed in some other media outlets but she is
being singled out because she is a woman.
Her life, she says, has become a living hell.
Apart from having to do the rounds of police
thanas and courts, she fears for her life after
receiving anonymous threatening telephone
calls. Someone reportedly sent a message
through WhatsApp warning her, Maafi nahin milegi (You wont get forgiveness). Dalvi
has taken to wearing a burqa to escape attention, and she doesnt live with her family any
more lest any harm should come to them
because of her.
Meanwhile, attempts are being made in
sections of the Urdu press to tarnish her reputation and undermine her credibility. It is
being alleged that she has joined the RSS
womens wing and is a follower of Taslima
Nasreen. There have been reports claiming

While Muslims rightly resent being called upon to

condemn every act of Muslim extremism by
arguing why the community should be held
accountable for the actions of individual members,
the Shirin Dalvi case is about standing up for a
fellow Muslim being intimidated by the
communitys own lunatic fringe

that she took the decision to print the cartoon

despite attempts by a colleague to dissuade
her. But it has emerged that the said colleague
was not even in office that day having resigned a few days ago.
A senior Urdu newspaper editor has admitted that elements of the Urdu Patrakar
Sangh, which represents Urdu journalists, are
involved in the cases filed against Dalvi. Sarfaraz Arzoo, editor of the Urdu daily,
Hindustan, is reported as saying that only
one individual and not the entire Sangh is
against her. If so, why doesnt the rest of the
Sangh dissociate itself from that individual
and throw its weight behind Dalvi, a fellow
member of the Sangh?
Why am I being harassed even after publishing a front-page apology? Facing the com-

provided protection and appealing to those

who have filed cases against her to accept her
clarification in the right spirit with which it
has been given and to withdraw all the cases
against her.
The manner in which she is being hounded bodes ill for free debate and discussion and
for peaceful resolution of controversy. Besides, the incident is also being used as a
pretext to ratchet [up] public opinion, which
is a dangerous game and detrimental to freedom of speech and expression in a democratic
society, besides causing immense personal
harm and a threat to her life and safety, it

Absence of the liberal voice

But where are the liberal Muslim voices

India has no specific anti-blasphemy law, but certain

provisions of the IPC outlawing hate speech are being
increasingly abused to legitimise intolerance.
munity again has become a great concern for
me as there is still a lot of unrest. I have
avoided showing my face in Muslim-populated pockets. I have not gone back to my house
since the protest started. Our house has been
locked. Both my daughter and son are living
with relatives. They havent been able to get
their books, and they havent attended college
in the last two weeks, she told one
Surprisingly, her case appears to have gone
largely unnoticed by civil rights groups and
free speech campaigners. And, barring a few
isolated protests, Dalvi has been left to fend
for herself. The only strong statement I have
seen is from the Mumbai-based Hum Azaadiyon Ke Haq Mein demanding that she be

apart from a few who signed the Mumbai

Muslims rightly resent being called upon to
condemn every act of Muslim extremism by
arguing why the entire community should be
held accountable for the actions of its individual members. After all, the same test of accountability is not applied to other
But the Dalvi case is about standing up for a
fellow Muslim who is being intimidated by
our own lunatic fringe which, if allowed to go
unchallenged, could well turn against us tomorrow. It is our fight and we need to fight it
in our own interest.
Moreover, the issue is no longer whether
what Dalvi did was right or wrong. She has


disputes resolution
ecognising the optimism in Indian markets,
driven by a government that is encouraging
growth in trade and commerce, the Law
Commission of India (LCI) in its recent
253rd Report has recommended reforms that can support this economic growth from a legal perspective.
These are much-needed reforms in a growing economy
where commercial disputes are often complex and of
high value. The LCI has recommended the establishment of a commercial division in the High Courts to
ensure speedy disposal of high-value commercial suits.
It has proposed a bill, titled The Commercial Division
and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts and
Commercial Courts Bill, 2015, and substantive procedural changes in the form of amendments to the Civil
Procedure Code, 1908. The bill will define commercial
disputes so as to include ordinary transactions of merchants, bankers, financiers, joint ventures, partnerships, insurance companies and so on. These courts
will have jurisdiction to hear only those disputes valued at Rs.1 crore or more. A commercial appellate
division will hear appeals on the orders and decrees of
the commercial courts. The Chief Justice will nominate judges with expertise and experience in commercial matters to the commercial and appellate courts. All
pending commercial disputes beyond the specified value will be transferred to the commercial division.
These recommendations are aimed to ensure disposal
of cases expeditiously, fairly, and at reasonable cost.
The LCI had, in its 188th Report, recommended the
setting up of specialised commercial courts, but the
Rajya Sabha did not pass it then. The proposed bill is
the consequence of a re-examination of the previous
version tabled in Parliament in 2009. The LCI considers the suggested measures to be a pilot project that
would lead to more expansive structural reforms. In
the five High Courts with original jurisdiction, there
are 32,656 civil suits pending, marking a 6.27 per cent
increase in pendency over the previous year. One of the
reasons for the large pendency is the shortage of judges
in the original side of the High Courts. For instance, in
the Madras High Court only four judges were allocated
for the 41,702 cases pending on the original side in
2013. So the judiciary has to first tackle the root problem of high pendency rates and the mismatch between
pending suits and the number of judges hearing it.
Launching grand programmes or pursuing foreign investment without making necessary internal reforms
in an already slow and overburdened judicial system
will render these policies ineffective in the long run.
The LCIs recommendations are undoubtedly timely
and need to be taken up without undue delay.




Why the voter votes
In my opinion, the writer has
misread the minds and aspirations
of voters (Voters need a good
enemy, Feb.9). It is facile to say
that voters intend to outvote a
particular party in preference to
electing a stable and efficient
government. Going by the analysis
of the writer, the pertinent
inference drawn is that for voters,
the elections are nothing but a form
of spectator sport where people
vote to see their adversary
government defeated by a best
possible candidate. This is an
oversimplified depiction, rather, a
distorted reality. Voters vote over
critical issues such as water,
electricity, food, health, education,
employment, social security and
justice. Whosoever promises them
or delivers to citizens these basic
amenities gets their preference. In a
country like India with enormous
socio-economic inequalities and
injustice, voting is the most
powerful instrument available to
citizens to exercise their political
powers and choose a responsive,
sensitive, transparent and an
accountable government.
Anoop Suri,
New Delhi
The time has come for Mr. Modi to
choose one agenda that of growth.
Unlike Indira Gandhi, who was not
averse to splitting the Congress and
who opted for an unambiguous
agenda, Mr. Modi is not competent
enough to play a political gamble.
He cannot portray progress, to use
the words of the writer, as a good
enemy, nor will his association
with the right wing allow him to

portray the right-wing agenda as a

good enemy. This appears to be the
only reason behind his deafening
Also, as the writer points out, the
negative wave against a government
does play a role.
Rajeev Joshi,
Neral, Maharashtra

Legitimising intolerance
But while we leave Muslims to ponder over
this, the case has thrown up another disturbing trend that needs a wider debate. And
it is this: while India has no specific antiblasphemy law, certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) outlawing hate speech
are being increasingly abused to legitimise
intolerance. Section 295A of the IPC, which
comes closest to the notion of blasphemy,
punishes any speech, writings, signs or any
other visible representation intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens
with deliberate and malicious intention.
Its sweeping provisions have become a licence to gag free speech. At the first hint of
trouble, nervous law enforcement agencies
invoking a threat to law and order promptly
seek recourse to it, and set out to punish the
accused as is happening with Dalvi. Even if
the accused is finally let off by courts, given
the delays in the Indian legal system, the
person concerned remains effectively condemned for years simply at someones say-so.
The key question, which is invariably ignored, is the intention of the person accused
of hate speech. The individual must be shown
to have set out with deliberate and malicious
intention to hurt someones religious feelings. It is the definition of deliberate and
malicious intention that is often problematic. Courts have tended to devise a rule of
thumb whereby any perceived insult of figures venerated by a religious group is generally deemed to have been committed with
malicious intent.
With the police clamping down on grounds
of law and order and courts relying on the
inviolability or sacredness of religious beliefs,
we have ended up effectively with an antiblasphemy regime through the backdoor. It is
time to take a fresh look at a colonial law,
enacted in wholly different circumstances to
prevent discord among different communities, to bring it in line with the demands of a
more open and argumentative society.
In an ideal situation, we wouldnt need laws
to regulate what, ultimately, boils down to a
question of civilised behaviour by making
sure not to maliciously cause offence to others. But if we must need a law, it should be
more nuanced and its interpretation less laissez-faire so as not to encourage the likes of
Dalvis tormentors.
(Hasan Suroor is an independent

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.

vast nation of a billion people. What

heritage are we going to leave
behind for future generations of
Indians? I would still like to think
that the shrinking religious
tolerance exemplified by recent
happenings such as the ghar vapsi
ceremonies and conversions are
temporary aberrations committed
by misguided individuals who have
no basic understanding of the
The BJP government has a culture of our country.
constitutional responsibility and
E.E. Rajakumar,
duty to maintain constitutionally
guaranteed freedoms and rights,
especially those of the minorities It would be no exaggeration to say
(Editorial, Feb.9). Episodes of that the minorities are worried after
violence and attacks on places of the desecration of places of
worship of the minorities Delhi worship. The BJP cannot take
was an example and ghar vapsi credit for our huge cultural history
ceremonies with the ruling partys of tolerance. It is time Mr. Modi
support clearly demonstrate that and his government took steps to
the Modi government is lending a reassure the people that religious
helping hand to them. The print divergence will be respected. The
advertisements that appeared on media must also stand by this and
call a spade a spade when atrocities
Republic Day are another pointer.
If Prime Minister Modi still are committed against any group.
Leela Kallarackal,
chooses to close his eyes and
pretends that nothing is happening,
on the pretext that he does not want
to be detracted from his main It is unfortunate that we have to
economic agenda, one can predict learn a lesson or two from the
sermons of Barack Obama, who has
problems looming on the horizon.
S. Nallasivan, been quite forthcoming in his
Tirunelveli advice to India. It shows his lack of
knowledge of the history and the
The government should not only be heritage of a country which has
fair but also seen to be so, apart withstood ordeals in maintaining
from being outspoken in its defence communal harmony over the
of constitutional values. As a proud centuries. Hinduism is perhaps the
citizen of this nation, I hang my only religion that gives space to
head in shame at the way we have contradictory views. While one has
fallen from the pedestal we once to thank Mr. Obama for reminding
stood on and preached to the rest of us of the need for tolerance among
the world. We not only spoke of high religions, it would have been better
morals but also demonstrated our had he directed some of his advice
ability to live in harmony across a to countries that need them the

Religious freedom

already admitted she made a mistake and has

unconditionally apologised for it. She has lost
her job and is facing due legal processes with
which she is fully cooperating. What else do
her detractors want? Shouldn't liberal Muslims be protesting against her continued harassment, and putting pressure on the police
to make sure that such acts of thuggery stop?
If theres a law against outraging religious sentiments, theres also a law against
harassment and making death threats. Dalvi
may not have made a formal complaint for
fear of reprisal, but nothing prevents others
from filing a report against those she has
accused of hounding her. There are many
brilliant, liberal, Muslim legal activists, progressive Muslim journalists, writers and
womens groups but they all have preferred to
remain silent. Some have been reported as
saying that they are deeply concerned but
fear about the consequences of speaking out
on a sensitive religious issue. And this is the
really worrying bit: the liberal Muslim intelligentsias fear of putting its head above the
parapet and its reluctance to come out of its
cosy comfort zone of silence.
Quite understandably, nobody likes to
mess with thugs but a point comes when the
alternative to not standing up to them is to be
dragged down by them. We only need to cast a
glance across the border to see what happens
when such elements are allowed to go unchallenged because we think it is safe not to
mess with them. Whats happening to Shirin
Dalvi should be a wake-up call for all of us
liberal Muslims. We can ignore it only at our
own peril.

most. In this case, the Prime

Minister needs to clear the air.
G. Ramachandran,

Study on quotas
The conclusion that quotas do not
hurt efficiency is fallacious as the
output of a large organisation hides
the inadequacies and inefficiencies
of Group A and B officers
belonging to the underprivileged
categories (Quotas do not hurt
efficiency, says study, Feb.5). In
my experience as a former Chief
Engineer in the Railways, a
probationary engineer posted in the
field for the first time was removed
after one or two months due to his
application of the mind. He was
invariably posted in the drawing
office of the Chief Engineer and was
then helped by not only his
colleagues but also Group C staff
working in the office. He continued
with such help all through his
career, was promoted with some
delay and then retired from a fairly
decent post. The point is that the
output of the organisation was
never affected thanks to the efforts
of officers in the unreserved
There are exceptions too where
officers selected through the
reservation route work hard and
come up with individual effort and
excel in their performance. They
often did not want reservation for
their children and wanted them to
compete in the general category. In
my opinion, the reservation policy
can be continued with regard to
education but not for employment
or promotion. Those who are
disadvantaged must be encouraged

to study and come up by dint of hard

work. Coaching institutes can be
subsidised for the benefit of those
who are underprivileged. This will
be on the lines of employment in the
U.S. where African-Americans are
given preference if they show equal
V. Purnachandra Rao,
I believe that this study should have
been done using the extended
society and not just to Class A and
B employees. Had this study been
done in educational systems and
banks and the results compared
with those in other countries, there
would have been a much clearer
picture. I would also like to quote a
study which found that increasing
the share of seats reserved for
Scheduled Tribes significantly
reduces poverty, while increasing
the share of seats reserved for
Scheduled Castes has no impact on
Shikhar Misra,
Most of the respondents were
surveyed between 1980 to 2002. So,
there is ample chance that they are
reservationenabled employees of the Central
government. Where is the question
of their losing efficiency when they
are equally equipped (maybe better
equipped than their colleagues) to
compete with their colleagues? The
study furthers the case for
introducing the creamy layer
concept among SCs/STs so that
development is more widespread
across the base of the pyramid.
Anil Aleti,





Interpreting the AAP win

Sanjay Kumar


The Delhi
rvind Kejriwal has done something uncommon, extraordinary and outstanding by scooping up 67 of the 70 Assembly seats in Delhi,
leading a two-year old outfit, aptly named the
Aam Aadmi Party or the common mans party. The
sweeping scale of his victory shows that the aspirations
of the common voter for transformational politics have
embodied themselves in a wave that swept all the other
parties including the BJP to the fringes. It underscores
the rising expectations of ordinary people for transparent and accessible governance, delivering on promises.
The party and Mr. Kejriwal were ridiculed and caricatured by opponents for the agitations first over the
right to information and later against corruption that
built him as a politician. The AAP did not win a single seat
in Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections. But Mr. Kejriwal
stood his ground. He mobilised the widespread discontent among ordinary people with conventional politics,
offering them a new hope, of politics that offers clean and
sensitive governance. A cross-section of Delhis population cutting across age, class, caste and gender appears to have voted for the AAP, obliterating the
Congress and reducing the BJP to single-digit status.
They put their money where their hearts were, generously contributing from their hard-earned, tax-paid wealth
to AAP funds, which were open to public scrutiny.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the people of
Delhi to elect a Chief Minister who feared Modi. By
electing a Chief Minister who is far from being scared of
Mr. Modi, and has often dared to take him head-on, the
people of Delhi have refused to accept fear as a driving
force in their electoral choices. The Delhi result is a
categorical repudiation of the unilateralism that has
come to characterise the Bharatiya Janata Party under
the leadership of Mr. Modi and party president Amit
Shah. This tendency was most sharply exemplified in the
act of imposing a rank outsider, Kiran Bedi, as the partys
chief ministerial candidate at the last moment. Only
eight months ago, the BJP had won all seven Lok Sabha
seats in Delhi and led in 60 Assembly segments. The
dramatic downfall requires the BJP to look within and
acknowledge that sledgehammer politics, which may be
convenient in the short run, can rebound with disastrous
results not only for the party but also for the polity at
large. Mr. Modi represented change in May 2014. The
AAPs victory in Delhi must remind the BJP of the possibility that there can be change beyond Mr. Modi too. As
for the humiliated Congress, which failed to get a single
seat, the election result is another signal that it must get
its house radically in order. We wish Mr. Kejriwals Delhi
Spring well. But we also urge him to recognise that the
widespread expectations of his commitment to accessible governance are what have brought him to power.
Only then would it really be the rule of the Aam Aadmi.

he massive victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi does not
merely indicate very strong electoral support for the AAP; it indicates
the huge faith the people of Delhi have reposed in this new party and its relatively new
leader, Arvind Kejriwal. The man who was
labelled as a bhagoda, the man who was
blamed for running away without delivering
what he had promised to the people, has led
the party not just to victory but to a stunning
victory in Delhi. Hardly has there been an
occasion in Indian politics when a party has
registered such a massive victory. It was only
in Sikkim, when the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) managed to win all the 32
seats in the Assembly, twice in 1989 and 2009
and only one less during the 2004 Assembly
elections. There have been a few other big
victories by regional parties in different
States, but nothing when compared to the
victory of the AAP where it has won 67 of the
70 Assembly seats. The country has witnessed the 1977 Janata wave, the 1984 Rajiv
Gandhi wave, the 1989 V.P. Singh wave, and
this election certainly goes into the history of
Indian elections as yet another wave election, namely a Kejriwal wave in Delhi or
even more than that.

Dramatic change
After the massive victory of the Bharatiya
Janata Party during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP continued its victory march in
all the State Assembly elections held after
that. To many, it seemed the BJP was invincible. The victory rath of the BJP has not
only been halted by Mr. Kejriwal, but actually
wrecked by the AAP. For the BJP it is not
merely a defeat; this may be its most humiliating defeat, after it managed to win only
three seats and polled only 32 per cent of
votes. Compared to the 2013 Assembly elections, when no party managed to get a majority, the AAP has managed to improve its tally
by 39 seats, with its vote share going up by
nearly 22 percentage points. On the other
hand, the vote share of the BJP has declined
marginally by one-and-a-half percentage
points when compared to the 2013 Assembly

While one should not consider the Delhi

Assembly election result as a referendum on the
performance of the Modi-led government at the
Centre, this rout shows that despite the massive
victories of the BJP since the general election, it
still remains vulnerable in a direct contest
elections and by nearly 12 percentage points
when compared to the 2014 election. One can
hardly believe that the party that led in 60 of
the 70 Assembly segments barely eight
months ago would now be routed. It is important to understand what really happened
during the last eight months that has now
completely changed the electoral landscape
of Delhi of how a party, which led over its
nearest rival by more than 13 per cent of the
total votes, trailed behind that party in barely
a few months time.

Initially, though a large number of voters

seemed to have been polarised in favour of
different parties, some may have shifted
their voting preference from other parties to
the AAP at the very last minute of voting,
keeping in mind the prospective Chief
The projection of Kiran Bedi as the BJPs
chief ministerial candidate to counter the
popularity of Mr. Kejriwal seems to have
backfired. She not only failed to muster additional support for the party but also lost her
own election from the Krishna Nagar AsCampaigning style
sembly seat. Sensing that the Bedi card may
This is more a positive vote for the AAP not work, the BJP paratrooped a large numthan a negative one for the BJP or Narendra ber of its Members of Parliament, Cabinet
Modi. Had this been a negative vote for the Ministers and Chief Ministers to campaign

This election seems to have witnessed the sharpest class

divide among Delhis voters ... the Congress, which used to
enjoy large support among Delhis poor, has surrendered its
entire support base to the AAP.
BJP, the AAP may not have managed to register such a massive victory. While almost all
parties promised to provide electricity and
water supply at reduced rates, and greater
security for women, in reality, the entire
election turned into a referendum on the
AAPs chief ministerial candidate, Arvind
Kejriwal, and the AAP managed to benefit by
projecting himself/itself from this phenomenon. The popularity of Mr. Kejriwal was
much higher when compared to any other
leader. Even the votes polled by the AAP are a
clear indication that some sections of voters
voted for the AAP only due to Mr. Kejriwal.

for the party and help its candidates. The BJP

could not assess if this would help its candidates and it was a move that finally resulted
in a very aggressive, negative and personal
campaign against Mr. Kejriwal through advertisements in newspapers, which enormously damaged the BJPs prospects. While
the AAP remained largely positive in its campaign, the negative campaign of the BJP damaged the party to a great extent. This to a
great extent explains the massive defeat of
the BJP.
In such a victory, one would thought that
every section of voters would have voted for


The long road

to justice
he recent International Court of Justice (ICJ)
verdict absolving Serbia and Croatia of crimes
of genocide in the 1990s Balkan wars underscores the political sensitivities involved in
holding sovereign states liable for serious atrocities.
The litigation dates back to 1999, when Croatia alleged
genocide by Serbia during the 1991-1995 war over its
secession from the former Yugoslavia. In the bombing
campaign, over 12,000 civilians were killed; many
thousands were incarcerated and fled their homes following the occupation of about one-third of its territory by Serbian separatists. In its 2010 counter which
similarly alleged genocide, Belgrade contended that
thousands of ethnic Serbs were forced to flee their
homes in Zagrebs 1995 military offensive to reclaim
lost territory. In its ruling, the ICJ held that despite
large-scale atrocities and displacement of people on
both sides during the break-up of Yugoslavia, the intent
to destroy an entire population could not be proved
under the 1948 UN Convention on genocide.
Significantly, the ICJ had adopted a similar stance in
its 2007 verdict on the infamous July 1995 Srebrenica
massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serb
forces. There again, the court had opined that Belgrade
was not responsible for genocide, even as it maintained
that the 1948 convention had been breached insofar as
the countrys leaders failed to prevent the brutal killings. Clearly, the fine line between ethnic cleansing and
genocide is a politically ticklish matter for the Hague
court to determine in relation to inter-state disputes.
Conversely, the conviction of a number of top individual leaders for genocide by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) established
in 1993 serves as an instructive comparison. The Tribunal has already pronounced a guilty verdict on at least
five Bosnian Serb army officers of crimes of genocide in
the Srebrenica massacre. Although the verdict on the
notorious wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, is still pending, the many hurdles that
have been crossed to bring the trial to fruition are a
reassuring sign. Undoubtedly, prosecutions in various
tribunals continue to encounter formidable obstacles
in bringing perpetrators, often influential individual
politicians and others, to justice. Nevertheless, global
humanitarian law has evolved degree in recent decades
to provide victims of brutalities and witnesses a critical
forum to testify to violations. Enforcing transparency
and accountability within and across national boundaries is a long and arduous process. But the framework is
critical to render the world as a whole humane.



AAPs comeback
This was certainly the most
thrilling election after the Lok
Sabha poll. It is undoubtedly a huge
setback for the invincible BJP
which had deployed all its might.
The Kiran Bedi card, mudslinging,
the five-question policy and a
murky advertisement campaign all
seem to have backfired on the BJP.
Anshu Patel,
Dhanbad, Jharkhand

The Rohtak rape-and-murder

tragedy is another ghastly and
saddening episode of gender-based
barbarity in India. While it is
clearly an instance of sexual
violence, the angle of racial
motivation should also be
considered. There has been an
increase in incidents of racially
motivated hate crimes in the NCR
and north India in recent times. It
is time political leaders stopped
viewing such incidents as a
consequence of any failure of law
and order. Ideas of effective
education for the masses, gender
and culture sensitisation, stronger
security and legal frameworks and
more efficient and responsible
policing must be promoted,
discussed and debated.
S. Dutt,

The AAP has proven once again

that elections cannot be won just
with power, money and charisma.
It is all about a lot of hard work and
reaching out to the public. It is very
important now for the AAP to be
humble. Along with radical
changes in its way of governance,
one hopes it will successfully
implement every point mentioned
in its manifesto.
Divakar Pai, The BJP government appears to be
Kodungallur, Kerala progressing at a snails pace in the
matter of releasing the names of
Indians who have illegally stashed
The reports, Japanese tourist away black money in Swiss banks
raped near Jaipur and 8 held in (Probe new names too, Feb.10).
Rohtak gang-rape case (both No account-holder will admit that
Feb.10), were distressing. No it was black money.
government can set things right
Therefore, it is for the
unless each and every individual is government to order an impartial
morally upright. While the inquiry into the matter, chase
Nirbhaya case grabbed attention defaulters, track them down and
and brought about change, we do nail them (Top 10 names,
not seem to have kept the Feb.10). The prevalent practice of
momentum going.
allowing them to take the escape
Nidhi Tripathi, route after paying taxes should be
Varanasi dispensed with and the entire
amount seized, confiscated and
The incidents have shown that the transferred to the treasury.
M.Y. Shariff,
enactment of a stringent anti-rape
law is ineffective. Only a process of
swift investigation, trial and
punishment will deter those who The list of around 1,195 alleged
attack women. States that have a holders of black money and the
high rate of crime against women figure of Rs.25,450 crore is peanuts
should launch special drives at when
regular intervals to weed out anti- conservative estimate of Rs.70 lakh
crore of public money looted by
social elements.
P.K. Kalotra, unscrupulous
Gurdaspur, Punjab stashed abroad. This amount could

Black money trail

Still unsafe for women


the winning party, but still the AAP was far

more popular among the poor and the lower
class voters when compared to the middle or
upper class voters. Even during the past Assembly election, voters have remained sharply divided about their preferences on class
lines in Delhi, but this election seems to have
witnessed the sharpest class divide among
Delhis voters. The Congress, which used to
enjoy large support among Delhis poor, has
surrendered its entire support base to the

Voter base and support

What seems to have contributed to the
AAP victory is a very sharp polarisation of the
minorities mainly the Muslims, who constitute 11 per cent of Delhis voters. With their
concentration in about seven to eight Assembly constituencies, they were in a position to swing the elections in these
constituencies. The Muslim vote, which remained divided between the Congress and
the AAP during the 2013 Assembly elections,
seems to have shifted in favour of the AAP in
a big way. Had the 2013 Assembly elections
witnessed a similar shift for the AAP in its
favour, this election may not have been necessary.
The shift of the Muslim vote towards the
AAP had happened during the 2014 general
election, but the enormous popularity of the
BJP among various other sections of voters,
namely the Punjabi Khatris, the Jats, the
Other Backward Classes and various other
castes, negated the influence of the Muslim
vote for the AAP. Like in many other States,
the Congress has lost its Muslim support
even in Delhi. Though a sizeable proportion
of Sikh voters voted for the AAP, their vote
remains largely divided between the two
main parties.
Dalits seem to have voted for the AAP in
large numbers, though even among them, the
upper and middle class Dalits seem to have
sided with the BJP in sizeable numbers. This
explains to a great extent the AAP winning all
the Dalit reserved seats in Delhi. The Punjabis seem to have remained loyal to the BJP,
but this does not appear to have been enough
for the party to defeat the AAP. The land
acquisition ordinance seems to have negatively affected the BJP as sections of Jats, having land in Uttar Pradesh or Haryana, and
with a sizeable presence in many constituencies in outer Delhi, seem to have voted for
the AAP. This may have given the edge to the
AAP in many Jat-dominated constituencies.
The big question is this: how do we see this
defeat? Is this verdict a defeat of Narendra
Modi or of the BJP? While I would personally
not consider this to be a referendum on the
performance of the Narendra Modi-led Central government, this rout should mean
much more than a loss for the BJP. It has
once again shown that in spite of the massive
victory of the BJP in the general election and
the Assembly elections thereafter, it still remains vulnerable in a direct contest, as it has
happened in Delhi. Symbolically, this defeat
of the BJP will boost the morale of the leaders of the Opposition. We have seen Trinamool Congress workers celebrating on the
streets of Kolkata the BJPs defeat, but I
doubt whether this will in any way help in
consolidating the already existing electoral
base of regional parties in States going to the
polls in the next year or so. The dynamics of
electoral politics in States like Bihar or West
Bengal or U.P. are different; parties need to
strategise keeping this in mind rather than
misreading the message that the popularity
of the BJP and Mr. Modi have declined. If
they think so, they are making a huge
(Sanjay Kumar is Director, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
have enabled the financing of
several Five-Year Plans.
Arun Malankar,
The overall credibility of the Modi
government has been further
eroded with the publication of the
list (I-T dept. will check source of
money in accounts, Feb.10).
Finance Minister Arun Jaitleys
claim that the veracity of some
names would be checked and that
many of the accounts could be
legitimate gives us a clue on how
the investigation might progress.
That the names of prominent
corporate leaders and politicians
are there in the new list will have
the government in a dilemma.
P.R.V. Raja,
Pandalam, Kerala

Scientific ideas

Ramanujan said that unless god is

felt, anything that either math or
science offers is meaningless, it
proves that there are many things
Hence, science has to strive hard to
disprove religious declarations.
Information on communication
with cryptic clues is testimony that
the Devadasis had more suthras
than modern science could think
Chandrasekaran E.S.,

The liberal voice

While I agree with Hasan Suroors
take on the role of the Muslim
intelligentsia and its duty to speak
up in the case involving Shirin
Dalvi (The silence of the liberal
Muslim, Feb.10), I sincerely
believe that the intelligentsia as a
irrespective of whether it is about a
Muslim or a non-Muslim. I found it
worrisome that it was being made
out to be more the responsibility of
the liberal Muslim to respond in
this case, more so because it is an
issue that concerns a Muslim
individual. It shows that whenever
it comes to any religious issue, we
lapse into silence. Is it the fear of
being persecuted that stops us, or is
it sheer indifference? Either way, it
is a distressing situation and the
freedom of speech and expression
continue to be affected.
Chirasree Pal,
New Delhi

The article, Gods, theorems and

love letters (Feb.10), opened up
interesting perspectives on the
seamless coexistence of science
and religion across cultures around
the world. While many of us marvel
at the beauty of patterns and motifs
on and inside buildings of cultural
and religious importance, I wonder
how many people actually come
away wondering about their
information on techniques of
cryptography that were being
employed by Devadasis, in addition
to being illuminating, was an eyeopener on how there are still many
things that remain largely
I was surprised to read the article.
unknown and unappreciated.
Nirnaya Sarangan, Being the Editor of the Urdu daily,
Singapore Ms. Dalvi should have weighed the
pros and cons of her writings and
Many scientific theorems and acts, and should have been aware of
theories have been based on what possible public reactions and the
religions proposed a long while consequences.
ago. The Big Bang theory has been involved was ultra-sensitive and
copied from a religious text on the her action came at a time when the
creation of everything along with atmosphere was still surcharged
the formation of the universe. The with anger and animosity. In my
atom was decoded in the Vedas. opinion, mediapersons are often
When number theory icon the cause of many woes and

controversies, on account of their

work and reckless acts.
M. Nazar Sheriff,

Study on quotas
At a superficial level, it may appear
that reservations do not appear to
impact productivity (Quotas do
not hurt efficiency, says study,
Feb.5). I was in charge of the
railway workshop in Mysuru 40
years ago. There was a senior
supervisor from the reserved quota
who was not pulling his weight;
there were several warnings, his
trial period was extended many
times and he had to be reverted in
the end. His replacement came
from the Perambur workshop and
a trade union began to protest that
an outsider had been brought in. It
acquired a caste tinge. There was
soon a strike.
The matter reached the State
Chief Minister, Devraj Urs, who
wanted the chief personnel officer
of Southern Railways to brief him
on the issue. The officer wanted me
to come over with all the files to be
presented to the Chief Minister.
After the matter was explained to
him, he asked me one question:
They say production has not
suffered. If he was so incompetent,
how was it so? I told him, Sir, if
production suffers even by one per
cent and if I tell the chief in Madras
that because of so and so
production suffers, he will revert
me. If one persons work is
unsatisfactory, someone else takes
the extra load, either his superior
or his co-workers, so that
production does not suffer. As this
cannot go on, action has to be
taken. The Chief Minister was
convinced and told the union
leaders that they had to return to
work. Productivity is rarely
dependent on the work of a single
worker or supervisor, but is the
result of combined efforts.
N.K. Raghavendran,




A breakthrough that is no big deal

Suhasini Haidar


he Congresss failure to win even a single seat
in the Assembly elections in Delhi, a State it
ruled for an unbroken 15 years till end-2013,
only conrmed its members worst fears. The
Grand Old Party is in free fall and in the nine months
since it lost power at the Centre, its leadership has done
little to arrest the downward spiral. In quick succession
last year, the Congress lost Haryana, Maharashtra,
Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, States it had been
in power on its own or in a coalition. Its ranks have
witnessed a steady depletion with several high-prole
exits, such as that of G.K. Vasan and Jayanthi Natarajan
in Tamil Nadu, Krishna Tirath in Delhi, Jagmeet Brar in
Punjab and Birender Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh in
Haryana (the last two before the Lok Sabha polls),
making headlines. Further, the division of Andhra Pradesh, a Congress bastion till recently, has virtually
wiped the party out in both halves. Continuing feuds in
State units, from Punjab to Maharashtra to Haryana, to
name just three, simmer on. Yet another Antony Committee report, the post-mortem after its Lok Sabha rout,
has predictably not been shared even within the party.
A series of structured discussions led neither to a plan
of action nor a reorganisation of the party. All decisions
were postponed, citing the need to focus on the slew of
Assembly elections, now all over, and this years scheduled party organisational elections.
But the real reason for the delay in instituting changes is the resistance within the party and not merely,
though primarily among members of the old guard to
installing heir apparent Rahul Gandhi as party president this year. The resistance comes not only from
those who fear they may be pensioned off, but also from
those younger leaders who do not see a future for
themselves under his leadership. An overwhelming majority in the party believes he does not have what it
takes: he has neither demonstrated the ability to sustain
an idea or the hard work demanded of a full-time politician in a leadership role. There are now open whispers
in party circles of a possible split in the party should Mr.
Gandhi be elevated. The electoral verdict from Delhi
has not come a day too soon: if the BJP was trounced,
the Congress lost almost its entire vote base to the AAP.
The Congress party has to urgently recover this lost
ground by ensuring a return to its foundational principles that had won it the faith of millions in the past
decades. Otherwise it will face the prospect of extinction as other political formations take its place in the
contestation with the principal party in power, the BJP.

n an unusual move this week, the government sought to clear the air over the
India-U.S. nuclear breakthrough understanding announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, with a detailed press release
on the subject. The move was prompted by
several questions being asked over how the
two leaders had been able to announce a
breakthrough in issues that have held up
nuclear trade for ve years. The bottom line,
the government said, was that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act of
2010 remained untouched. However, it is the
governments reading of that law that is
problematic, especially as it concerns an issue which touches the life of every Indian: as
an energy consumer, a taxpayer, and a potential victim of any untoward nuclear accident.

While the government may continue to say that

the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act
remains untouched, its the governments reading
of that law which is problematic, especially as it is
around an issue which concerns every Indian: as
an energy consumer, a taxpayer, and a potential
victim of a nuclear accident
tween New Delhi and Washington is indeed a
worthy cause, its worth must be weighed
against the cost. In essence, in order to assuage U.S. supplier concerns over Indian liability laws, the agreement will end up being
billed to the consumer multiple times, and
ensure that the supplier pays virtually nothing at all.

The energy basket

Liability and cost

Lets be clear. The problem is not with the

India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. After all, nuclear energy is something India has made a
conscious move towards since 2000 in a bipartisan manner, with both the United Progressive Alliance and the National
Democratic Alliance governments pushing
ahead with it. By 2035, Indias projected energy demand is expected to grow by 132 per
cent and India will surpass China as the
worlds highest energy consumer according
to the latest BP energy outlook report. Given
Indias projected population growth, and the
worldwide push for clean energy, it is clear
that nuclear energy, with its low carbon content, and centralised land requirement, will
form a key component of our energy mix. As a
result, just last month, the government has
tripled its target to 63,000 MW of nuclear
energy by 2032, more than 14 times what is
produced today.
The problem is also not about making special concessions to the United States. If it
hadnt been for the American administration
led by President Bush, India would have had
few options to build its nuclear energy programme, and access fuel and nuclear supplies
from other countries. After the U.S. did the
heavy lifting in getting India a legitimate
place in the international nuclear regime, it
would seem churlish to suggest that India
should cut out U.S. businesses like GE and
Westinghouse from the market simply because they demand more favourable terms
than Russian or French ones do.
While the prospect of better relations that
the nuclear breakthrough will engender be-

To understand this conclusion, one must

break up the breakthrough understanding
Mr. Obama referred to, into two silos: liability and cost.
At every stage of the nuclear process, the
government has negotiated to minimise the
liability of the supplier (who could be U.S.,
foreign or Indian). To begin with, the Civil

water Horizon oil spill off the coast of Mexico found that not only was the operator BP
liable for the damages, but also Halliburton,
that carried out the construction of a faulty
well, and Cameron, the company that designed and manufactured a blowout preventor stack, that had malfunctioned. The
investigation teams report in 2011 was pathbreaking and got the supplier, Cameron, to
pay a settlement of $250 million. Given the
experiences of the costs of a nuclear accident
in todays times, and how much liability every part of the process chain must bear internationally, Parliament and the Indian
government may have revised the proposed
cap to a much higher gure than the $420
million it is and made the CLND Act more
stringent than it did then. In the unthinkable

The answers to frequently asked questions supplied by the

Ministry of External Affairs seem to be deliberately aimed at
easing the concerns of the suppliers, and not the concerned
Indian consumer.

Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010

itself capped all liability to 300 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) ($420 million or
Rs.2,610 crore). The gure was arrived at in
2010 after much debate, but it would have
been far higher today, given two events that
First, in March 2011, a tsunami off the
coast of Japan led to a technical fault and a
meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor
plant. To date, nobody knows just how many
people were affected by the leak, as officials
didnt categorise the casualties by cause of
death or injury as that would affect the immediate compensation they received. In
2014, various estimates put the damages and
clean-up between $100-$250 billion. Second,
in September 2011, the U.S. governments
joint investigation team on the BP Deep-

event of a nuclear blowout, it will be near

impossible to get close enough to the melted
core of a reactor to ever know just who was
responsible for it; so the fault of the supplier
will also be much more difficult to prove than
in the BP case.

More questions than answers

It is curious, then, that after the last round
of negotiations, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has put out an explanation that
only seeks to reduce the liability that suppliers will face. The answers to frequently asked
questions (FAQ) supplied by the Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA) seem to be deliberately aimed at easing the concerns of the
suppliers, and not the concerned Indian consumer. Under its explanation of section 17
(question 9), for example, it says the law


For cooperative
he views expressed by Chief Ministers at the
maiden meeting of NITI Aayogs Governing
Council last weekend, demanding greater
freedom to frame their own development
plans, vindicate the thought process that went into
conceiving the body that has replaced the 60-year-old
Planning Commission. Promoting cooperative federalism and giving States greater freedom in designing
their development plans were two of the key objectives
behind the setting up of the NITI Aayog. Chief Ministers, cutting across party lines, demanded that they be
given such freedom, with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy pointing out that schemes such as Jan
Dhan Yojana or Beti Bachao were of little relevance to
his State which already boasted of superior metrics in
both elds. Similarly, Rajasthans Chief Minister demanded that the number of Centrally-sponsored
schemes be reduced to 10, while Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar wanted such schemes to be
dispensed with altogether. If these demands prove
something, it is this: there can be no one-size-ts-all
approach to development in a diverse country like
India. And no longer can development be orchestrated
from the Centre alone; it is as much the preserve,
prerogative and responsibility of the States. Thus, the
NITI Aayog will stop with making recommendations;
implementing them will be the responsibility of the
An important decision made at the meeting was to
constitute a subgroup of Chief Ministers who would
study the 66 Centrally-sponsored schemes to assess
whether they should be continued, transferred to
States or dropped altogether. While doing this assessment, care should be taken to ensure that socially
important inclusion schemes are not either downgraded or dropped. There could be examples of schemes
that may not have national relevance but have resonance with particular States; these should be identied
with due care and alterations should be made only after
a consensus is evolved in the Governing Council. In this
regard, it is encouraging to note that inclusion of the
vulnerable and marginalised sections and redressing
identity-based inequalities are at the top of the seven
guiding principles for the Aayog as laid out in an e-book
published by the government. This should also reassure those who see the bodys mandate as promoting a
free-market economy which could come at the cost of
the less-developed States. Of course, the true test of
this governments commitment to inclusive policies
will come in the Budgets allocations to social sector
schemes. All the lofty ideals of the Aayog will come to
naught if the government, forced by scal considerations, decides to set aside lower sums for social

permits but doesnt require an operator to

make the supplier liable in its contract for a
nuclear reactor or part. It also says that a
supplier can be sued for damages only if it is
expressly provided for in a contract in writing. (question 8). What supplier would feel
obligated under the circumstances to sign for
liability in a contract, when it isnt mandatory according to the government of the day?
While the FAQ mentions that the state-run
operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd., would insist on such a clause, it
doesnt answer this basic question.
Nor does it answer what would happen in
case the nuclear industry is privatised and
the operator is no longer a state-owned
Next, the MEA release does away with the
right of recourse of a victim to sue the supplier in India directly (question 7) as well as in a
class action suit in foreign courts (question
13) where it says that section 46 on tort law
does not create the grounds for victims to
move foreign courts. All of this is done under the cloak of conforming to the International Convention on Supplementary
Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC
1997), but it doesnt explain why the government is going to such great lengths to exclude
the supplier for a law that had been debated
so hard in the Indian Parliament only so that
it would include the supplier. The contrast
between Arun Jaitleys article of September
2013, as Opposition leader, where he referred
to the hidden hand of nuclear vendors and
insisted on making liability for the vendor or
supplier mandatory and just 15 months later, when as Union Finance Minister, he was a
key part of the nuclear contact group meeting
that hammered out this agreement, could not
be more distinct.

Mounting costs
Finally, we come to the cost of the breakthrough to the Indian consumer/potential
victim. As a sweetener for suppliers, the MEA
has spelt out a nuclear insurance pool for
the Rs.1,500 crore that is the minimum required (questions 14 & 15) to be set aside by
law. Curiously, while one tier of the pool will
cater to operators, tiers 2 and 3 are meant for
the same suppliers who have largely been
insulated from any liability. The pool will be
made up by the government and state-owned
insurers administered by the General Insurance Corporation of India. In the unfortunate event of any incident, this pool would be
used to pay damages immediately to the victims, the government would be liable for an
additional Rs.1,110 crore, and after which the
International CSC fund would bear residual
damages (applicable only once India raties
the CSC). The supplier, it is made amply
clear, will pay nothing but a nominal premium to the insurance pool, which no doubt
will build into the cost of supplies.
To make it simple, the Indian consumer/
taxpayer will pay for the following: the cost of
land allotted to the nuclear reactor, the costs
of building and operationalising the reactor,
the cost of the insurance pool run by stateowned companies, the costs of half the pool
that the Central government will provide, the
cost of electricity per unit (expected to be at
least double that of existing reactors), the
immediate damages disbursed by the insurance fund in the terrible event of an accident,
the subsequent damages paid for by the Central government, and not to mention the legal
costs if the government or operator decides
to sue the supplier!

Confusing the consumer

The real problem, then, is that nothing is
simply put in the nuclear debate. Instead,
clever, complicated and arcane language has
been used to obviate the real meaning and
obfuscate its consequences for the consumer. Such simplicity may also explain how the
same set of Indian officials, negotiating with
the same U.S. administration for more than
ve years over the same law, were able to
produce a new and unique consequence, now
being called the breakthrough in the nuclear deal.




to see rst-hand the way the AAP
went about its campaign. The way
The AAP has more than decimated the party reached out to the people
its opposition, the Congress has was the main reason behind its
drawn a blank and the BJP has been huge success. People do not have
left stunned by the magnitude of its the time to watch television or
defeat (Feb.11). At the end of the listen to the radio, and what appeals
day, politics has a lot to do with in such a situation is to look for
perception. Arvind Kejriwal was roadside hoardings that they see
viewed as someone who is not while stuck in traffic, shopping or
corrupt and with his mind and just walking down the road. It is
heart in the right place. He is this medium that the AAP
someone who has had the courage understood. The party has also
and the conviction to apologise for been able to touch the youth.
S. Mishra,
his mistakes, not once but many
times. If Mr. Kejriwal succeeds in
delivering good governance to
Delhi, the possibilities are endless It was the 49 days of AAP rule that
and they might help him explore showed the people that democracy
really means a government of the
new political ground.
Irfan Shamim, people, by the people and for the
New Delhi people. Sixty years of Congress rule
and eight months of Modi
A new era in Indian politics has governance have convinced people
begun and it shows that values have that these parties garner their votes
not faded away from the minds of in order to protect corporate
Indians. Mr. Kejriwals self- interests. What we witnessed in
condence and boldness to face Delhi is the wave of common people
allegations are remarkable. He was against the political parties that
mentally prepared to do battle govern for the elite. It is the
against the giants in Indian politics manifestation of real democracy.
and he won.
The nation needs such waves to
Anjo S.J., recapture the true meaning of
Thiruvananthapuram democracy.
Sukumaran C.V.,
The Editorial and Cartoonscape
(Feb.11) succinctly summed up the
sweep by the AAP. Mr. Modi and I recall the AAP volunteers
Mr. Amit Shah must be left knocking on my door and politely
wondering how the simple broom brieng me about their plans,
handing over their manifesto and
became the Qutub Minar!
Sharath Ahuja, explaining the situation in Delhi, all
Bengaluru in uent English and with amazing
insight. If there is one thing that
As a resident of Odisha and as an stands out for the AAP, it is its
outsider, it was a great experience simplicity. There was nothing

The AAP win

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
supercial whether it was during
the campaigning process, in issuing
advertisements, funding methods
or reaching out to the people. Also,
how can one forget the partys
simple and effective symbol of the
jhaadoo? The AAPs win is another
simple lesson that elections are not
just about pomp and show,
loudspeakers and vanity, excessive
spending and unaccounted money.
Kshipra Pal,
New Delhi

enough time for these people to put

a plan in place to move the money
out. That such money could be used
to fund terror or used in even
money laundering has to be
remembered. The government
must burn the midnight oil to nd
an answer to this problem at the
corruption is the prime agenda of
the probe, it is also a matter of
international importance.
Seshan Iyer,

The issues relating to money power

in electoral politics (Paisa, power
and politics, Feb.11) and the fact
that the aam aadmi can bring about
electoral change need to be pursued
through a debate. The Delhi win is
an affirmation of the peoples
intolerance of the wide gap
between preaching and practice by
the political leadership. Till 2013,
elections in India were either won
or lost on the basis of money power
and/or slogans which were
forgotten post-election. In this
context, the 2014 general election
and the 2015 Delhi State election
stand out in their relevance as a
vote for change and a vote for
honest politics. The political
leadership must cooperate with
statutory bodies such as the
Election Commission to bring
about better order in the use of
resources mobilised by parties.
M.G. Warrier,

It is deplorable that the Congress

and now the BJP are adopting the
same arguments to avoid nding a
solution to the problem of black
money. Rather than grapple with
the complexities involved in
establishing the legality or illegality
government must think out-of-the
box. According to an agreement
between Britain and Switzerland,
Swiss banks will henceforth remit
to Britain the interest that accrues
on black money stashed away by
British citizens in Swiss banks.
Germany, while agreeing to Swiss
secrecy clauses to protect client
privacy, has just recovered 1.6
billion in taxes from illegal assets
owned by German nationals in
Swiss and Liechtenstein banks. I
think India too could resort to this
Kangayam R. Narasimhan,

Black money trail

Programme content

The amount of time being spent by

the government in probing the
names of Swiss bank black money
account holders would provide

(Aamir did not nd AIB Roast

funny, Feb.11). Responsibilities
and rights are two sides of a coin.
One must be aware of ones
constitutional duty to promote
harmony and the spirit of common
brotherhood amongst all the
people of India transcending
religious, linguistic and regional or
violence, as seen in the programme,
must be avoided.
Anand Reddy Yellu,
New Delhi

Mans oldest friend

The recent ruling by the Supreme

Court of India (Supreme Court
stands up for mans oldest friend
Feb.3) shows that those who
approached the court have failed to
impress upon the honourable
judges the extreme seriousness of
the stray dog menace that
threatens the safety of children in
the country. There are reports
abundantly available to cite the
serious injuries or deaths being
caused by stray dogs. Dogs do not
have to become rabid in order to
harm people. In the U.K., stray dogs
are considered not only a danger
to themselves, but can be a risk or
cause nuisance to members of the
public. Therefore, the law treats
all unaccompanied dogs on public
land as strays and the authorities
must seize such dogs and Which
must be taken to council stray
pounds After the 7-day period,
either rehome the dog to a new
owner, keep the dog at the kennels
I completely agree with actor or, following veterinary advice, put
Aamir Khan when he says, As a the dog to sleep is the rule.
Robert B. Grubh,
creative person I have the liberty,
but I also have the responsibility




Reset of a policy of equidistance

Ashok K. Mehta


Playing poker
in Sri Lanka
he Tamil question has been brought centrestage with the elected council of Sri Lankas
Northern Province passing a resolution accusing successive governments in Colombo of
carrying out genocide against the minority community
over six decades. Moved by Northern Province Chief
Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in the Provincial Council,
the resolution demands that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights investigate historical and
recent instances of genocide and submit its report at
the session of the Human Rights Council next month.
It also asks the UN Security Council to refer the matter
to the International Criminal Court. Thirdly, it asks
courts in countries with universal jurisdiction over the
alleged events and perpetrators, including but not
limited to the United States, to prosecute the crimes.
The resolution roundly rejects any domestic investigations. The timing of this strongly worded resolution is
no mystery. In the ve weeks since President Maithripala Sirisena has been in office after his stunning election victory, he has been preoccupied with the task of
fullling his 100-day charter of promises, which ambitiously includes the abolition of the executive presidency. Pulling together a diverse coalition with
conicting agendas is his primary challenge. For these
reasons, there has been signicant diplomatic chatter
that the international community must permit the new
government some time before it takes up the twin tasks
of investigation of alleged war crimes and human rights
abuses against Tamils and demilitarisation of the
North. The HRC session in Geneva is seen as crucial in
this context. Clearly, the Tamil National Alliance,
which is the main political grouping representing the
Tamils and rules the Northern Province, wants to ensure that these issues stay on the global agenda, and at
the same time test the will of the new Sri Lankan
government at a crucial point.
While the resolution may serve that purpose, its
maximalist tenor does complicate the political ground
for the Sirisena government even before it has properly
articulated a plan for addressing Tamil demands for a
just peace, harden as it will Sinhala opinion. The political and legal contestation over the use of the word
genocide will prove divisive too. Soon after the election, the new government gave an assurance of a credible domestic investigation into war crimes allegations.
New Delhi is rightly concerned about the impact this
could have on its diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Colombo to act on full devolution of political powers to the Tamil minority, a matter that is certain to be
on the agenda when President Sirisena visits next week
for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Colombo must be counselled against any knee-jerk
response on the resolution, and encouraged to come
out with a full-edged plan for reconciliation with the
Tamil minority.

oon after Prime Minister Narendra

Modi took office, an Indian TV channel held a discussion on likely foreign policy reorientation. When the
doyen of South Asian Studies, Stephen Cohen, was asked in which direction Mr. Modi
would tilt the U.S. or China without
hesitation he replied, China, adding, because it is the Asian century. Mr. Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping last year but
despite the fanfare preceding the visit, there
was little to suggest any strategic overlap.
Alas, Mr. Cohen was proved wrong after the
Modi-Obama Joint Vision Statement reected a sharp, strategic congruence. Mr.
Modi has reset the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments policy of equidistance between the U.S. and China and
dropped the political refrain that India will
not contain China.

Choosing friends and allies

In New Delhi last year, at a seminar, the
former U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert D.
Blackwill, posed the question: How can
New Delhi claim strategic autonomy when it
has strategic partnerships with 29 countries? After the latest Modi-Obama vision
statement, even less so. Strategic autonomy
and no military alliances are two tenets of
Indias foreign policy. Quietly, India has converted strategic autonomy to strategic interconnectedness
engagement. When the Indo-Soviet Treaty
of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation 1971
was signed, Mrs Indira Gandhi had requested the Soviet Union to endorse Indias NonAligned status, so dear was the policy at the
time. That multifaceted treaty made India a
virtual ally of the Soviet Union. Russia inherited that strategic trust and has leased a
nuclear submarine, provided high-tech
weapons to all three Services including technology for nuclear submarines and aircraft
carriers. At the BRICS meeting in Brazil last
year, when asked a question, Mr. Modi said
as much: If you ask anyone among the more
than one billion people living in India who is
our countrys greatest friend, every person,
every child knows that it is Russia.
On the other hand, differences over foreign policy with the U.S. are many including
over Syria, Iran, Russia, BRICS and the
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
These policy irritants will not go away. The
vision statement highlights (at the U.S.s in-

Given Narendra Modis growth and development

agenda, for which he requires the U.S., China,
Japan and others, he cannot afford to antagonise
Beijing. The U.S. is vital for Indias rise and a
hedge to China. So, New Delhi will necessarily be
on a razor edge. In any realisation of the Asian
century, Washington will be large and looming
sistence) that both countries were on the
same page in ensuring that Iran did not acquire nuclear weapons. The tongue-lashing
by Mr. Obama to Mr. Putin over his bullying
small countries has certainly embarrassed
Mr. Modi who was himself disingenuous by
inviting the leader of Crimea as a part of the
Putin delegation in 2014, which deeply offended the Americans.
What Mr. Obama and Mr. Modi easily
agreed on was Chinas not-peaceful rise
which could undermine the rule-based foundations of the existing international order.
So, Mr. Modi became a willing ally to stand
up to China. The synergisation of Indias Act
East Policy and U.S. rebalancing to Asia is
intended to ensure that China does not cross
red lines including the code of conduct at

cess because territorial claims on Arunachal

Pradesh got delegitimised after the unilateral withdrawal and worse, pushed India into
the U.S.s arms.

Defence ties
The rise of India which will punch to its
weight under a new self-condent leadership pursuing a policy of multi-engagement
is a manifest U.S. strategic goal. Defence has
been the pivot around which India-U.S. relations were rebuilt, starting in 1991 with the
Kicklighter Plan (Lt.Gen. Kicklighter of the
U.S. Pacic Command) who initiated the
multilayered defence relations which fructied in 1995 into the rst Defence Framework Agreement. It was renewed in 2005
and now for the second time this year, the

Strategic autonomy and no military alliances are two tenets

of Indias foreign policy. Quietly, India has converted strategic
autonomy to strategic interconnectedness or multi-vectored

sea. The two theatres of action where freedom of navigation and overight have to be
ensured were identied as Asia-Pacic especially the South China Sea and, for the rst
time, the Indian Ocean Region. This is a
veiled riposte to Chinese assertiveness in the
South China Sea. Mr. Modi had earlier mooted the revival of the Quad, an enlarged format for naval exercises between India, the
U.S., Japan and Australia. When it was mooted earlier in 2006, it was shot down by China. Underlying the strategic centrality of the
Indian Ocean Region is the realisation that
the existing India-China military imbalance
across the high Himalayas can be offset only
in the maritime domain where India has the
initiative. Beijing realises that teaching India a lesson in 1962 was only a tactical suc-

difference though is that for the rst time,

the vision statement has provided political
and strategic underpinnings to the agreement. What had also been lacking until now
was trust and the extent to which India was
prepared to be seen in the American camp.
Just a decade ago, while contracting for the
Hawk trainer aircraft with the U.K., India
inserted a clause that there will be no US
parts in it. This followed the Navys sad
experience of the U.S. withholding spare
parts for its Westland helicopters. Such misgivings have held up for a decade the signing
of the three alphabet- surfeit foundational
defence agreements of force-multiplication.
But we have moved on and purchased $10
billion of U.S. high-tech military equipment
and another $10 billion worth will soon be



The main reason why the electoral
result in Delhi is so special is this:
more than it being the victory of a
party, it is the victory of an idea an
idea that it is possible to win
elections in India without having a
coveted surname or overtly or
extremism; an idea that elections
can in fact be won by providing
robust and practical solutions to the
problems that people have to
grapple with, and above all, an idea
that political discourse in this
country can be restructured to
aspirations as opposed to their
basest fears. There is no doubt that
the road ahead will be tough for the
AAP, and that many of the proposals
that it wants to implement may not
sustainable immediately. But I
would much rather have a wellmeaning government whose only
fault is that it wants to do too much
for its people, instead of having one
that implicitly supports and
promotes fundamentalism, divisive
politics, moral policing and
unrestrained censorship.
While I dont believe this is a
mandate against Narendra Modi
per se, it would nonetheless help if
the ruling dispensation realises that
elections in such a vibrant and
thriving democracy cannot be won
by deifying just one man, without
addressing the challenges that
people have to grapple with.
Rahul Bajaj,

Dealing with China

What made Mr. Modi, who visited China
four times as Chief Minister, change his
mind on the choice of the country for primary orientation was the jolt he received
while welcoming President Xi Jinping to
Gujarat last year. Mr. Xis delegation was
mysteriously accompanied by a Peoples
Liberation Army (PLA) intrusion in Ladakh
which did not yield ground till well after he
had left. A similar affront preceded the 2013
visit of Premier Li Keqiang, making routine
the PLAs bad habits. While the UPA government had made peace and tranquillity on the
Line of Actual Control (LAC) a prerequisite
for consolidation of bilateral relations, border management rather than border settlement had become the norm. Seventeen
rounds of Special Representative talks on
the border yielded little on the agreed threestage border settlement mechanism. It was
therefore path-breaking when Mr. Modi
during the Joint Statement asked Mr. Xi for
a clarication on the LAC the process of
exchanging maps that had failed in the past
and led to the ongoing attempt at a political
solution skipping marking the LAC. Clearly,
we have moved full circle in calling for a
return to that process. Foreign Minister
Sushma Swaraj, who was in Beijing this
month, sought an out-of-the-box solution
for the border, in which category LAC clarication will not gure. Mr. Modi is determined not to leave resolution of the border
question to future generations as Chinese
leaders have persistently counselled. Mr.
Modi, in Japan last year, expressed concerns
over expansionist tendencies.
Chinese scholars I met in Beijing last year
said that conditions for settling the territorial dispute were not favourable because the
border is a very complicated issue, entailed
compromise and had to take public opinion
along. And most importantly, strong governments and strong leaders were needed for its
While Mr. Xi did promise last year investments worth $20 billion, the fact is that,
so far, Chinese investments in India do not
exceed $1.1 billion. Mr. Xis dream of constructing continental and maritime Silk
Roads are intended to complement the
String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean Region,
bypassing choke points like the Malacca
Straits as well as neutralising the U.S. rebalancing to Asia.

How will India walk the tightrope between the U.S. and China, given that the U.S.
is about 13,000 kilometres away and Beijing
exists cheek by jowl, peering over a disputed
border and with a whopping $40 billion in
trade surplus? Chinas reaction to the vision
statement has been to warn India against
U.S. entrapment. Operationalising the strategic-security portions of the vision statement will not be easy, especially as India has
no independent role in the South China Sea.
Once the euphoria over the Obama-Modi
statement dissipates, ground reality will
emerge. Instigating Beijing, especially in the
South China Sea will have costs like having
to deal with the full frenzy of the PLA on the
LAC with most likely ally, Pakistan lighting
up the Line of Control (LoC) the worst
case two-front scenario.
Given Mr. Modis growth and development agenda, for which he requires the U.S.,
China, Japan and others, he cannot afford to
antagonise Beijing. The U.S. is vital for Indias rise and a hedge to China. So, New Delhi
will necessarily be on a razor edge. In any
realisation of the Asian century, while China
and India are likely key players, Washington
will be large and looming, making a geostrategic mnage trois.
(Gen. Ashok K. Mehta is the convener of
the India-Pakistan and India-Afghanistan
Policy Groups.)

The Delhi victory

contracted. The most elaborate defence

cooperation programme after Russia is with
the U.S.

Risks and opportunities


A challenging
title defence
t is amid grim expectations that India embarks
on its defence of the cricket World Cup. The
team has been in Australia since November and
failed to win a single competitive game of cricket;
the batting, on bouncy pitches, has wobbled; and the
less said about the bowling the better. It is fair to say
that the publics condence in the side will not be
particularly massive when the campaign begins with a
high-voltage xture against Pakistan in Adelaide on
Sunday. Yet, India under M.S. Dhoni has proven itself
adept at limited-overs cricket. The team that rst came
together at the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and
won it against expectations is not ranked second in
the world without reason. In the likes of Dhoni, Virat
Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina, India has a set
of genuine match-winners, capable of inuencing the
outcome on their own. Pitches in Australia and New
Zealand may not be conducive to Indias style of cricket, but then no team, except the hosts, can claim to be
truly comfortable with local conditions. The tournament returns to Australasia after 23 years; it was in
1992 that cricket became a wonderful televisual spectacle with oodlights, white balls and coloured clothing.
The curtain goes up on Saturday, when New Zealand
meets Sri Lanka in Christchurch. The Black Caps have
made at least the semi-nals in 10 major ICC tournaments, but have only one trophy to show for it. Later on
Valentines Day, the games oldest rivals meet at the
Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia should consider
itself among the favourites, although the pressure of
playing at home can have an adverse effect on performances. In contrast, even Englands most optimistic supporters carry little hope of success. South Africa, a team
that has somehow lost in the most inexplicable of ways
time after time at the World Cup, appears overwhelmingly strong on this occasion. The ghosts of tournaments past can be banished if A.B. de Villiers and his lot
play to their potential. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, teams of
contrasting character, cannot be written off either. The
format of the World Cup 14 teams in two groups
means it will be a month before the rst quarter-nal
match is played, with the eight major nations all but
guaranteed a berth in the last eight. It has left the
tournament obscenely bloated at 44 days it lasts
almost two weeks longer than the FIFA World Cup and
more than twice as long as the Olympics. The ICC has
announced that the 2019 edition will be limited to 10
teams; it is a welcome development.


Department over allegations of

dubious funding, makes its victory
even more noble. One would also
like to ask Union Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley why his party is not
releasing the BJPs own donor list,
when 73.5 per cent of its donations
(between 2004-05 and 2011), or
about Rs.952.5 crore, came from
unknown sources. How can it
accuse its opposition of wrongdoing
while hiding its own sources? To
stop black money and ensure clean
election-funding, India requires
either state funding which seems
an impossibility or liberal and
transparent laws which allow not
only companies but also individuals
to contribute. Besides this, all
political parties must be brought
under the ambit of the RTI as India
needs clean and open-book politics.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,

Congress at zero
The fact is that a change of guard at
the helm of the Congress is the need
of the hour and an imperative
(Editorial, Feb.12). There must be a
rejig, a rejuvenation and a
restoration of its past glory if it is to
be reckoned with as an important
force in the Indian polity, and in
light of new political formations
and equations. What is most
disturbing is the complete absence
of an alternative secular party in the
present circumstances to take on
the BJP and function as an effective
C.A.C. Murugappan,
Kothamangalam, Tamil Nadu

One is reminded of the saying you

The fact that the AAP does not see reap what you sow. The Congress is
any political vendetta in the notice paying for its follies and its gradual
served on it by the Income Tax decimation is leaving it totally

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
clueless. The crisis in leadership is
evident. The resurgence of the AAP
is a stark reminder to all across the
political class including the BJP
that none should take the people for
granted. They are shrewd enough to
make a right assessment in this age
of information, and expect clean,
progressive and positive politics.
The AAP will make a perfect
ideological rival to the BJP. While
the Congress is out of the picture for
now, this will mark a shift in the
Indian polity.
Srinivasan Umashankar,

to write off the Congress, which has

a pan-Indian presence.
D.B.N. Murthy,

While it is true that the party lost in

quick succession some of the key
States where it was in power last
year, there is still no reason to
predict doomsday for the party. The
BJP was in a similar state and
predicament in the aftermath of the
2009 general election when it lost
The Congress needs to reinvent
itself as the real face of the aam
aadmi. A series of scams and
What ails the grand old party is scandals during its tenure, and the
rampant sycophancy. This is an partys deafening silence and
important lesson that every perhaps even its tacit approval of
political party must learn. Charisma wrongdoing, are the biggest factors
is the essential feature for a leader behind its decline.
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
to become tall. But at the same time,
a second level of leadership is the
favoured approach to save the
organisation. As a virtual infant in
the political arena, the AAP must That the government plans to put
learn this basic lesson to spread its on hold economic reforms such as
decontrol of urea prices and
S. Purushothaman, withdrawal of kerosene from the
Kovilpatti, Tamil Nadu PDS as a result of the Delhi verdict
is telling (Key economic reforms
Crisis is not new to the Congress in on the back burner, Feb.12).
its long and chequered history. Earlier, the view was that
Merely replacing the top leadership decontrolling urea prices was not
will not solve the deeply rooted only important from the viewpoint
malaise. It has to reinvent itself as a of the size of the subsidy bill but also
party that cares for the poor and the from the point of a balanced use of
oppressed. There is a disconnect nitrogen, phosphate and potassium
between the people, the cadres and nutrients. The NPK ratio in urea
the party leaders, as a result of should be in 4:2:1, at present
which it is unable to focus on issues 8.2:3.2:1; it is because of this that the
that affect the aam aadmi. Regional nutrient composition of soil gets
leaders should get more importance affected and urea along with water
if the Congress is to survive in the contaminates the water table.
changed context. It has to focus on
If the government is trying to
real issues and win back the show that it is committed to being
peoples condence. It is too early pro-farmer, it would not have

Reform go-slow

amended the land Act through the

ordinance route. The Finance
Minister should eventually bring in
the reforms as presented in Budget
2014-15. Even the Expert
Strengthen the Monetary Policy
chairmanship of Dr. Urijit Patel has
recommended that the government
should eliminate administered
Kumar Harsh,
It is strange that the need to halt
economic reforms is the lesson the
BJP has learnt following the
political setback it has suffered. I
strongly feel it is the untrammelled
activities of the Sakshis and
Togadias that have put off Delhis
Ramsunder A.V.,

Nuclear deal
Anyone who has gone through the
IAEAs CSC cannot deny that India
did go overboard with the CLND
Act (A breakthrough that is no big
deal, Feb.12); no other country
follows a supplier liability clause.
Lives are considered priceless but
in a practical world there seems to
be a cost associated with it and
whether we agree or not, where the
prices differ in developing and the
developed parts of the world. We
could still make the supplier liable
via contract but then the cost per
unit of electricity might increase
manifold. Is it practically feasible to
do so in a country where 70 per cent
of the population lives under $2 a
Siddharth Pandit,
Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh




A budget to transform
Pulapre Balakrishnan


Need to temper
resh revelations about the existence of a list of
1,195 Indians with accounts in a bank in Switzerland, estimated to contain funds to the
tune of Rs.25,420 crore, has escalated the
pressure on the government to make renewed efforts
to trace unaccounted money stashed away abroad.
There is little doubt that the probe will now have to be
widened to take the new disclosures into account.
However, the publication of the list by an international
consortium of investigative journalists may not automatically mean that all these accounts are illegal or
that the funds in them are tainted. That some prominent industrialists and other individuals have found a
place in this black list is cause for some excitement,
but should not give rise to heightened anticipation that
the country is closer than before to bringing home
wealth hoarded away in safe havens. In the public
imagination, the archetypal holder of a Swiss bank
account is the businessman who parks money in a
jurisdiction famed for its banking secrecy, or the political leader hiding corruption-tainted cash. It is not
known how many of those named in the fresh list of
offshore accounts said to be held by Indian nationals in
HSBCs banking arm in Switzerland fall under either of
these categories. Some of them have denied that they
had any illegal accounts or that they had any overseas
bank account at all.
The need, as pointed out rightly by Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley, is not for names, but hard evidence to
show that these accounts held black money. These
accounts will have to be scrutinised first to assess
whether its holders were entitled to operate them,
whether the money was legitimately acquired and liable to be taxed in India. After scrutiny of an earlier list
of 628, the government found that 428 of them were
actionable, and there were 128 orders of assessment. It
has launched prosecutions in 60 cases for wilful tax
evasion. The process ought to be completed by March
31 this year. These numbers provide some perspective
on the mammoth task at hand, and the clear absence of
any shortcuts. Expectations arising from these disclosures will have to be tempered. The government will
do well to continue efforts to act on the suggestion by
the Special Investigation Team that treaties signed
with other countries to curb black money be renegotiated. The Attorney General has also spoken about
new legislative measures on the treatment of unaccounted money abroad. Even while strengthening
transborder measures to check tax evasion, domestic
laws also require amendments to curb the menace.
Dealing with the black economy is a complex issue that
involves managing jurisdictions where confidentiality
is the norm, and negotiating an exchange of information based on an applicable legal framework.

ver the past eight months, the government has issued some strong
statements on the economy and
taken some bold steps aimed at
transforming it. As it prepares to present its
first real budget we may reflect upon the
direction that it should take.
First, we would expect a budget with a
focus, one that resists the temptation to
spread either allocations or interventions
too thin. If quickening growth is the objective, and the government has stated that it
is, the budget should address this objective
squarely by increasing the allocation for capital formation.
We know that the trajectory of the economy over the past decade is related to the path
of public capital formation, notably in infrastructure. To be effective in the context of
a significant slowing of growth, however, a
substantial hike in public investment would
be necessary. This will come up against the
programme of fiscal consolidation being
pursued. I do not consider it vital to stick to
the 4.1 per cent fiscal-deficit target announced for this year. Reports are that this
target may have been breached already. But
there is a more substantial argument.
In the present state of the economy
when there is excess capacity in manufacturing, adequate stocks of foodgrain and the
inflation rate is trending downwards we
have an opportune moment for a public investment-centred fiscal expansion. Tax revenues will rise following the resulting
expansion in output and the increased debt
incurred to fund the expansion is thereby
financed. This dividend has been termed,
cheekily but surely, a fiscal free lunch. It
also suggests that when there is a feed-forward impulse present in the economy, i.e., its
current state casts a shadow on its future,
fiscal abstinence when the economy is sluggish could actually lead to a worsened fiscal
balance in terms of the debt-GDP ratio, for
growth would have been lower. Nothing said
here detracts from sticking to fiscal consolidation as a desirable long-term objective. It
only suggests that its pace must not be
forced, but instead calibrated to the state of
the economy. Right now a rigid adherence to
a targeted fiscal deficit is not optimal. To
borrow from Keynes, the boom ... is the
right time for austerity. However, the fear is
that the government may currently be practising the reverse of this maxim. There are
reports that faced with the prospect of over-

In the present state of the economy, when there is

excess capacity in manufacturing, adequate stocks
of foodgrain and the inflation rate is trending
downwards, there is an opportune moment for
a public investment-centred fiscal expansion
shooting the target of 4.1 per cent for the
fiscal deficit in the current fiscal year, the
Ministry of Finance has advised a reduction
of plan expenditure. To do so would be foolhardy. Note that what is being called for is
only a temporary deviation from the target
for the fiscal deficit. Any fiscal expansion
may be reversed as its beneficial effects occur and the economy expands. However, this
may take up to three years or so given that
growth has slowed for about twice as long.

Make in India
The argument thus far is based on considerations of aggregate demand deficiency. But
there are also significant supply-side gains to
be had from public capital formation. These
supply-side gains feed into one of the governments major initiatives and also one that
is lacking even as it is very important for the
country. The first is the idea of Make in
India. The second is agriculture, which has

ment alone. There is a major role for the

State governments in this regard. So long as
we are interested not only in economic
growth but also in the participation in it by
individuals, publicly-provided infrastructure is what is going to make the difference.
While Special Economic Zones (SEZ) can be
useful, especially for raising exports, and
large corporates may push for them, I have in
mind the infrastructure needed to service
the segment of Indian manufacturing
dubbed unorganised. More recently
termed the MSME micro, small and medium enterprises sector, this sector produces close to half the manufacturing
output, comprises the largest number of production units, employs the largest number of
workers, and generates a significant share of
exports. What its firms need most is producer services. These range from electricity
to waste disposal and assured water supply.
These smaller producers do not have the

While sticking to fiscal consolidation is a desirable long-term

objective, its pace must not be forced, but instead calibrated to
the state of the economy. Right now a rigid adherence to
a targeted fiscal deficit is not optimal.
so far received less attention from the government than it deserves given its
There is a perception that the Make in
India initiative is pitched towards foreign
firms. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is
important both as a source of funds, foreign
exchange and technology, and conditions
must be created for a favourable entry of
foreign firms, but we can hardly ignore Indias entrepreneurs if we are interested in
the wide-spreading of prosperity. And, while
Indian firms rightly expect a predictable tax
regime and freedom from Inspector Raj,
they are also hobbled by the lack of adequate
infrastructure. This only the government
can provide, though not the Central govern-

wherewithal to supply these services themselves. On the other hand they would be
willing to pay for them.

Agriculture and rural India

For Make in India to progress beyond
promise, more than mere legislation is required. An attractive investment climate is
made up not only by favourable laws but also
by enabling producer services. Among these
are also information and advice. There is a
strong case for something akin to the agricultural extension service for the MSME
sector. It could be housed in the district
industries centres, which were instituted
nearly 40 years ago but have remained


The Internets
tempting presence
oward the end of last year, there was an uproar
when Indias leading telecom carrier Bharti
Airtel decided to charge subscribers extra for
use of applications such as Skype to make free
calls over the Internet. Airtel was criticised for violating
a key principle influencing Internet traffic, which is that
all data must be treated equally and there must be no
discrimination. The principle goes by the name Net
neutrality. Within days, the company beat a retreat on
its pricing move, saying it would wait for the regulator,
the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indias consultation paper in this regard. The paper is still awaited. In
contrast, there was hardly a whimper when a few days
ago social media giant Facebook tied up with Anil Ambanis Reliance Communications to bring to India a service
that critics globally believe presents a huge challenge to
Net neutrality. The reason is not hard to fathom. Facebooks offering,, unlike that in the Airtel
example, is free. The stated intention of the social media
network is to make available Internet to those who dont
have it. It is hard to find fault with such a mission.
Despite fast growth in recent years, the percentage of
individuals using the Internet in India is less than 20 per
cent. China and Brazil, in comparison, have already got
about half their populations accessing the Internet.
The catch then is in how has been implemented. In every country where it has been launched
India is the sixth offers a preselected
bouquet of websites free to subscribers of Facebooks
telecom partner, under a practice dubbed zero-rating.
Yes, this does mean millions of Indians could for the first
time in their lives access the Internet, albeit an extremely limited version of it. But there are numerous reasons
why it is difficult to see it as an altruistic endeavour. One,
the subscribers have no say in selecting the websites.
Two, the Internet ceases to be an open platform where
everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Three, in the
long run, could present a huge competitive
advantage to some, to the disadvantage of many. This is
all the more significant, because newer Internet adopters are going to do so via smartphones, which are becoming cheaper by the day. Indias smartphone sales are
exploding, almost doubling to 80 million units in 2014
compared to the previous year, and expected to double
once more this year. Also, Facebook and Reliance, both
having more than a hundred million users in India, are
not small entities trying out a novel practice here. In this
context, it will all boil down to what Indias official
position is on this. The telecom regulators much-awaited consultation paper will make that amply clear.



Wait for statehood
Unlike its first edition that lasted
but 49 days, this time round Delhiites have given the AAP an
unprecedented and overwhelming
mandate (PM non-committal,
continues, Feb.13). Therefore, the
party is duty-bound to deliver on all
its poll promises based on the Delhi
initiatives. Securing full statehood
to Delhi is one of the foremost poll
promises that were made, and any
attempt to shelve it on grounds of
technicalities or numbers will
amount to letting the people down.
The Congress leadership must help
the AAP and openly declare support
for the bill, thus demonstrating
statesmanship. This will also help
the grand old party regain some lost
ground in Delhi.
Ettirankandath Krishnadas,
Earning statehood for Delhi may be
one of the election promises made
by the AAP, but its leaders should
bear in mind that what really
matters now is not whether Delhi is
a Union Territory or a full-fledged
State, but whether it lives up to the
expectations of the people who have
reposed great faith in Arvind
Kejriwals ability to get things done.
The rest will follow.
P.U. Krishnan,

Sanskritised Hindi
The backdoor tactics being
employed to usher in Sanskritised
Hindi amounts to blatant cultural
chauvinism (A yen for Sanskritised

Hindi, Feb.13). If this dispensation

has shown enthusiasm and interest
for anything, it is in coining
acronyms, dime a dozen, for various
programmes and projects. What is
most silly is that catchy acronyms
are first invented and then
Ayyasseri Raveendranath,
Aranmula, Kerala
The move is definitely a retrograde
one that overshadows the BJPs
multiethnic, multireligious and
multilingual subcontinent, the
proclivity to propagate Hindustan
and Hindi is detrimental to the
unity of the nation and a real threat
to its existence. Hindi zealots in the
heartland are trying hard to replace
English with their mother tongue in
all spheres of independent India.
Naming Central schemes in Hindi is
a step that will alienate others from
the mainstream, and the Modi
government is certainly playing
with fire.
Annadurai Jeeva,
Srirangam, Tamil Nadu


A sector of the economy that has not so far

received even token attention from the government is agriculture and rural India in
general, though technically speaking Make
in India, can be said to include rural industry. It is not sufficiently well known that in
the past decade the real price of food has
risen by 25 per cent. This is completely out of
line with the experience of the richer economies of the world where the price of food has
shown a secular decline. Take China, where
the share of food in the household budget is
on average much lower than it is in India. As
less need be spent on it now, cheaper food
expands the demand for manufactures. The
general approach in India has been to increase the production of food, but the point
actually is to also lower its cost of production. Public capital formation in agriculture
has been on the downward trend for about
25 years now, preventing the yield increase
necessary for keeping price increase in
check. The trend needs to be reversed.
Whether in industry or in agriculture, expansion of the economys infrastructural
base increases productivity, driving growth
and enhancing the tax revenue needed to
finance the public debt. But more so, infrastructure empowers people more than
consumption subsidies do.
Having made a case for greater public capital formation, the issue of which projects to
undertake is a real one. There is no question
that the choice of projects should be done
carefully and the implementation rigorous.
The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana initiated some years ago would be an ideal vehicle for investment. After all, roads are
needed across the country, rural India would
be targeted and the overall outlay will be
substantial. Only, given Indias diverse geographies a flexible approach should be adopted and the States taken on board. Nothing is
gained by insisting on one-size-fits-all solutions, a feature that has plagued Central
schemes historically.

The suggestion that the budget be used as
the vehicle for expanding the capital base of
the country ought also to be seen from the
point of view of the mode of financing. The
much-vaunted PPP model for expanding infrastructure, in vogue for a decade, has broken down. Also, public sector commercial
banks are now undercapitalised having been
pressured to lend to long-gestation projects
which they are not suited to do.
Once again, some perspective is to be
gained from the experience of China where
the infrastructure has been built by the state.
In general, the importance of public capital
in the form of infrastructure for economic
growth, not to mention well-being, has been
underrated in the discourse on the future of
Greater public capital formation would
have to be financed. As already argued we
may expect at least some part of the increased debt due to the fiscal expansion to
finance itself. Two other possibilities are for
funds from consumption subsidies to be
channelled into public infrastructure and for
proceeds from disinvestment to be earmarked similarly. Consumption subsidies
other than on food for the poor should be
reviewed. The slide in growth after 2008
began as the government chose to privilege
consumption subsidies over investment. Do
we really need a subsidy for cooking gas
which we know to be regressive? The kerosene subsidy is known to abet criminality as
the stock is diverted to adulterate transportation fuel. The food subsidy could be
trimmed if the public distribution system
(PDS) is linked to Aadhaar and the buffer
stock reduced substantially. Increasing the
foodstock beyond what is necessary is not
only costly but also raises the market price,
leaving the poor without access to the PDS
worse off, thus defeating the very purpose of
government intervention. Narendra Modi
had promised maximum governance. Fortune, it is said, favours the brave and the
budget would be a good place to start.
(The writer may be reached at

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
embraced each other in blissful
camaraderie and the two countries
too would have discovered that they
can indeed be friendly. The truth is
that just as on the field, where the
respective teams let out a war cry in
absolute rivalry, soldiers and
politicians of both nations will
remain engaged in acts of
animosity. If the India-Pakistan
encounter in the World Cup is a
sell-out, it would not largely be
because quality cricket is being
anticipated, but because of the
partisan passions aroused by
supporters and followers of cricket
in the two countries, waving flags
and mouthing slogans. Had cricket
been such a great solution, the ICC
might have offered it as a ready
remedy to resolve the problems of
warring countries!
M. Shankar,

U.S. police atrocity

It was shocking to read the reports,
Madison police may pin blame on
Patel: lawyer, and India protests
U.S. police atrocity, both Feb.13). It
is beyond ones comprehension
how the police in the U.S. could be
so brutal and harsh in dealing with
an elderly person, especially when
he posed no danger. One finds it
ironic that not very long ago the U.S.
President was preaching tolerance,
something which his police force
does not believe in. The police
officers appear to have been acting
like mere robots.
R. Narayanan,

The heinous and unprovoked attack

by the Madison police on Mr.
condemned in the strongest terms
possible. Americans boast of their
democratic values and are quick to
gained sermonise on human rights to other
Independence (Reset of a policy of countries. Have they forgotten
equidistance, Feb.13), China knew about the track record of their
that we will always compete with it police as far as minorities are
as a regional power in terms of concerned? One hopes that the
military as well as economic Indian government raises the issue
growth. But in Indias case, it will be at the highest level.
That the game of cricket should at the cost of its growth. As the
Maradapu Srinivasa Rao,
spark a connection between any writer has presented a possibility of
two countries and which brings a a two-front scenario, along the LAC
smile of understanding and easier and the LoC, India will have to
friendship is debatable (Two boost its military presence right The reports, Modi temple plan
nations, one obsession, Feb.13). If along the border, from the west to dropped, and Temple proposed
that had been so true, the the east. But this will cost the for Mulayam (Feb.13), are not
relationship between India and treasury a great deal of money that surprising. Yet, one must ask why
Pakistan would have been elevated would be better spent for other people go to such lengths. A few
years ago there were reports in
to Hindi-Pak Bhai Bhai status, as important causes.
in Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai. The
Ashish Kumar, Tamil Nadu of a temple having been
players of both teams would have
New Delhi constructed in the name of a leading

A policy reset

A game of unity

Deifying leaders

actor and that even the sand she

walked upon was being collected
and worshipped. As a people,
Indians are over-sensitive and overenthusiastic, but there must be
limits to the extent to which we
gush about and uphold our leaders.
Vijaya Krishna Pillai G.,
Nothing can be more disappointing
than the news of a temple being
constructed in the name of the
Prime Minister. One did not expect
a person who claims to hail from a
humble background to allow such
sycophancy to spoil his name and
the expectations of citizens who
have voted the BJP to power as an
alternative to dynastic rule. If the
BJPs rout in the Delhi elections has
not sent out a clear message that the
Indian voter has come of age and
cannot be fooled by talk of lofty
ideals without any visible results,
one wonders when such parties and
their leaders will learn a lesson.
G. Rajagopalan,
Equating politicians or movie stars
to god is not new in India. But
building a temple in the name of the
countrys Prime Minister is quite
shocking. This kind of idolisation
makes a complete mockery of our
democracy. Mr. Modi expressing
his displeasure or disapproval over
it is not enough. He must see to it
that this never happens, and
convince his sycophantic followers
about its dangerous implications
for a pluralistic India.
Hamid Hussain,




Not measure for measure

Uday Balakrishnan


AAPs day
in the sun

elhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has

clearly indicated that he is a man in a hurry.
Even before assuming office on Saturday, he
had placed before Prime Minister Narendra
Modi his governments priorities. His tenor was conciliatory, his arguments seemingly reasonable while he
took care not to include in his Ministry controversial
Ministers from his first tenure. In his inaugural speech
as Chief Minister, Mr. Kejriwal said he impressed on
Mr. Modi the point that Delhi would not prosper without constructive cooperation between the Centre and
the State. The unstated part of Mr. Kejriwals message
was that he intended to set the agenda for Delhi. Yet the
AAPs demand for full statehood that, if accepted,
would give the Delhi government control over two critical areas of governance, land and the police will be
contentious, not least because the Centre would be
loath to give more powers and greater independence
of action to the new AAP regime. Mr. Kejriwal has
already broached the subject with Mr. Modi, who has
been non-committal. This is an issue that has larger
dimensions, and it remains to be seen how it unfolds in
the dynamics of relations between the AAP and the
Modi government.
Having come to power primarily on an anti-corruption plank, Mr. Kejriwals first goal will be to enact the
controversial Lokpal Bill. The failure to clear it in his
first stint in office had made him take the ill-judged step
to quit. Now, with 67 MLAs in a 70-seat Assembly, Mr.
Kejriwal should have no problem pushing it through
but, after that, it will require ratification by the Centre.
How that turns out depends on the BJPs disposition.
The last time, the 32 BJP MLAs in the Delhi Assembly
had opposed the Bill. While senior AAP leaders have
indicated that the party has learnt from its first innings
in power that a path of confrontation has its limits, the
likelihood of flashpoints in the coming months cannot
be ruled out as the tussle for the control of Delhi
continues. In governance terms, what can Mr. Kejriwal
do without getting full statehood? He may be able to
reduce electricity and water tariffs, but will remain
dependent on neighbouring States and the Centre for
supply. He may also be able to fulfil his promises on
education if funds are forthcoming, and certainly he can
make a difference in reducing everyday corruption.
Going forward, with the heightened public expectations
of the AAP as the party of the common person, Mr.
Kejriwal must demonstrate that his is a government
with a difference. He should take transparent steps to
unveil a governance structure emphasising accountability and accessibility. That is the real hope that the
AAP embodies to thousands of its well-wishers.

urchasing Power Parity or PPP has

validated a long held surmise that
the poorer countries are not as badly
off as they are made out to be nor the
richer ones as well off as they seem. A nominal GDP ranking puts India at tenth place
while a PPP one pushes it up to third, behind
the United States and China. The Big Mac
Index of The Economist loosely corroborates. Travelling to expensive parts of the
world from our country brings this home to
us tellingly.
A 2011 issue of The Economist published a
controversial piece Comparing Indian
states and territories with countries: An Indian Summary which purported to show
that for all its size and population, the economy of Uttar Pradesh was roughly just that of
Qatar, and Maharashtras no bigger than Singapores, while that of Tamil Nadu was no
larger than Angolas all very confusing and
probably wrong when in PPP terms, India as
a whole is placed third in the world. So, where
do we stand and what standard should one
pitch for to measure ourselves against the
rest of the world?

A land of opportunities
We would be wise to guardedly settle for
PPP. The world too has done likewise. India,
like those of several other similarly placed
countries, does have an economy worth several times larger than its nominal GDP indicates. This fact has not gone unnoticed
where it matters, especially in the boardrooms of multinationals or corporate India
which indefatigably seek to add an inch to
every Indiamans shirt tail. Some strong endorsement for this comes from the management guru, the late C.K. Prahalad.
Unsurprisingly, for companies like Suzuki
and Honda, India has emerged as their largest market for cars and two-wheelers and Vodafone, despite an unresolved retrospective
tax issue, is very much here to stay. India of
course enjoys the sheer strength of numbers.
Everything that happens here, as in China,
has to necessarily be on a gargantuan scale
invariably in several millions. It takes an outsider to marvel at our scale and make us
conscious of it. But the scale exists!
After China, India has more mobile owners
than any other country. The smartphone revolution has just hit us big and India is more
likely than not to emerge as the second largest market for that too. India is also one of two
largest motorcycle manufacturers. The


for peace

oubts over the durability of peace in Ukraine

despite the ceasefire that formally came into
effect on Sunday, represent a dangerous augury in the months-long, bloody and bitter
conflict between government and separatist rebel
forces. Prospects of any swift cessation of hostilities
were thrown into jeopardy after differences surfaced
even as the deal was being drawn up, with some players
advocating an immediate suspension of violence and
others insisting upon some preparatory delay. During
the run-up to Sunday, the objective of the opposing
forces seems to have been to consolidate their respective
positions. The sea coast near Mariupol and the city of
Debaltseve, which are in Ukrainian control, are said to
be critical for the breakaway republics of Donetsk and
Luhansk. Thus, uncertainty seems to have been written
into the accord brokered last week by the leaders of
France and Germany with their Russian and Ukrainian
counterparts. The current developments remind you of
how the September 2014 ceasefire fell apart almost as
soon as it was agreed upon, leading to a further escalation in the crisis that has now claimed more than 5,000
lives and led to the displacement of a million people.
The fluid situation on the ground is bound to strengthen the Congressional hawks, who have been urging
Washington to rethink the current provision of nonlethal aid in favour of backing Kiev with arms. Conversely, the conservative and social democratic partners in
Germanys ruling grand coalition, with French President Francois Hollande, have been almost categorical in
their opposition to any military solution to the crisis in
Europes eastern flanks. The German Chancellor, in fact,
made an analogous reference to the erection of the
Berlin Wall as she elaborated on Europes position on
Ukraine at the annual Munich security conference the
previous weekend. Angela Merkel pointed out that the
western powers did not resort to force to counter the
action. Republican Senator John McCains allusion, in
his speech at the same conference, to the response of the
western powers to the Berlin blockade provided shades
of the American stance. An unequivocal commitment to
finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict is imperative, given the interdependence between Europe and
Russia in the areas of economic and energy cooperation.
The conflagration in Ukraine also demonstrates that the
prospects for peace over the long term depend in no
small measure on containing nationalist tendencies in
the states of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In this context, the continued expansion of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) into
Russias neighbourhood about 25 years after the end of
the Cold War, could prove counterproductive.

With a plethora of government departments and

international organisations putting out so much
statistical data in the public space, often
contradicting one another, it is the governments
duty to clear the air with up-to-date and coherent
statistical data linking social and economic

country continues its run as one of two largest producers of rice and a third of wheat as
well as fruits and milk. Of course we know
that in per capita in agro and dairy products,
we are still way behind much smaller producers but are likely to get there thanks to
developments in science technology. In all
these segments India is sitting on the cusp of
an opportunity. If the green revolution surprised us, managed right, the future growth
in agriculture will astound the world.
E-commerce is another area we mistakenly thought we had lost out on. Just as we
were despairing at the success of Alibaba in
China, we now see serious investment coming into e-retailing. It is not for nothing that
Japans SoftBank is investing heavily in
Snapdeal; Ratan Tata, ever ready to spot an
emerging opportunity, had bet on it much
earlier. The best known of Indias e-retailers,
Flipkart, has attracted significant investors
too. Meanwhile, Amazon, even as it threatens

PDP chief Mufti Mohammad

Sayeeds endorsement of Prime
Minister Narendra Modis offer of
talks with his counterpart in
Pakistan, at the same time also
counselling him to engage with
dissenters within Jammu and
Kashmir, is not without political
significance (Feb.15). Coming as it
does from the probable ally of the
BJP, Mr. Modi would do well to pay
heed to this suggestion.
In this context, I would also like
to comment on the calling off of
Secretary-level talks last year in
protest against the Pakistan High
Commissioners meeting with
Hurriyat leaders: that was an
overreaction. What happens if the
Pakistan High Commissioner this
time round decides to repeat what
he did? Even though it is unlikely,
will India call off the scheduled
meeting again? If such a thing does
happen, it will be a diplomatic loss
of face for us. Though one might
presume that there might have been
initiatives on our part to persuade
the Pakistani establishment to
refrain from any such provocative
step, one has to wait and watch.
S.K. Choudhury,

Statewide indices for the world

wildfire on the web. India needs to proof

itself against this by coming up with some
convincing measures of its own that attract
rather than turn away potential investors
using available data without tweaking. A start
can be made by leaving the countrys PPP
ranking alone while more effectively highlighting and deploying region-wise as well as
State-wise indices for everything, from gender inequality to ease of doing business as
well as infrastructure and migration.
Internal rankings of States, as what a leading Indian magazine brings out annually, is
so much like water off a ducks back, that the
game changer will be when the country configures the rankings for global consumption.
This will become particularly important now
when States are competing with each other
for investments. This should also make State
governments sit up and take note that governance matters. Chhattisgarh is an early
mover here. It is carpet bombing the print
and television media with advertisements
that project it as an investment destination
of choice, with a visionary Chief Minister as
its efficient CEO. States with poor social indices will strive to match and possibly overtake the better off ones, creating a virtuous
circle. Then, there is something called shaming that every State would like to avoid.

The country as a whole is nowhere as bad Migrant labour

The debt the richer parts of the country
as these indices show but together they do
bring out that India is a poor bet only because owe to its poorer places is one of the dirty
we have been inept at better stating our secrets we hardly talk about, but look at the
vacant eyes of an emaciated young security
guard in Kochi or the young woman at a
construction site carrying material up preThe game changer will be when India configures the internal
carious ladders in Bengaluru, and you immerankings of its States for global consumption.
diately connect to their homes far away.
Millions are spilling out of Indias poorer
States to run services in the better off ones.
to leave, is expanding its footprint here. In- strengths while unfailingly adept at inviting Mumbai would not run for a day without
dia, it turns out, is a glass half full and filling attention to our weaknesses. The question to migrant workers and Kerala the entire
ask is should India be taken as a country at State would come to a grinding halt if the
rather than half-empty and emptying.
all for such indicators to stick? India is more near three million from Assam and Bengal as
Social indicators and evidence
populous than the whole of Africa and rough- well as U.P., Odisha and Bihar were to enBut before we start rejoicing we need to ly equal to Europe and the Americas com- masse go elsewhere. The Government of Inreconcile flattering national economic indi- bined on that count. We need a better way of dia would therefore do well to bring out an
cators with some very odious social ones. being compared clearly, it is absurd to rank annual State-wise status report on migrant
Indias ranking in the UNDPs Human Devel- the country alongside say Lesotho or Guinea labour detailing where they come from and
opment Report (2011) is 134. In gender in- Bissau the first has a population of less the jobs they do and how much they contribequality, it comes out marginally better but than three million and the other two. Singa- ute to State economies rather than ungratestill a rotten 129th out of 187 countries. Then pore, for all its achievements, is about the fully treat them as parasites. This should cool
on the ease of doing business, India is a mi- size of Bengaluru and its suburbs.
rampant xenophobia of the kind the Shiva
serable 134th, pretty much at the bottom of
Apart from the absurdity of comparing ap- Sena promotes and make us grateful for a
the heap. So things are that horrible. Or are ples with ladoos, such indices, as borderless India.
The Economist notes, blacken a countrys
they only being made out to be terrible?
We now learn that the government is
Given the scale of poverty in India, it is name. It can, as it states, also spread like about to release the religious mix of the
country as brought out by the 2011 census.
Leaks indicate that the number of Muslims
has gone up marginally, but where? In its
most miserable parts, where along with a
majority of Hindus, most lead ultra squalid
lives and are crying to get better. The most
important message, that the Muslims even in
very backward parts constitute the underclass, cannot be overemphasised though of
course some migration from Bangladesh into
Assam and West Bengal cannot be
We need statistics we can trust and be
informed. Unfortunately, with a plethora of
agencies, government departments and international organisations putting out so
much statistical data in the public space, often contradicting each another, we have very
little chance of being properly informed. It is
the governments duty to clear the air with
up-to-date and coherent statistical data linking social and economic indicators. Only this
can lead to more mature public understanding and reaction than one which suggests
that Hinduism is in danger or Muslims are
consciously having more children. In the
noise, one can ignore that fertility rates have
fallen among the Muslims too and if they too
could derive the benefits of economic development through education, their numbers
will fall just as fast. The last especially deserves to be widely known. In context, statistics can lead to better understandings;
deployed out of context, they can kill.
(Dr. Uday Balakrishnan is at the Centre for
Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of
Science, Bangalore.)


Talks with Pakistan

very difficult not to make these rankings

stick and lot of visual evidence exists. Mukesh Ambanis massive residence in Mumbai
coexists with a sea of slums nearby. Get out of
many of Indias airports, and most especially
Mumbai, and one is confronted with every
kind of misery one can think of. Stop at the
traffic lights and the poor of India come
knocking on your car window. The better off
in our country live in sanitised islands of
relative calm defended by the very kind
drawn from the ranks of those it seeks to
keep out. But as we all know, visuals, even
powerful ones, do not so much reflect reality
as point out the shocking that we tend to
ignore or deliberately disregard.


Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.

for any sort of dialogue. It must be

noted that Pakistan has not missed
any chance to complain about India;
one of the issues relates to Indias
quest for a permanent membership
of the Security Council. Pakistan
has remained a bte noire of India
and appears incapable of balanced
K.V. Seetharamaiah,

again points to the railways being

unable to get the basics right. All
issues of bullet trains and highspeed trains can come up for
discussion at a later stage. The first
task before the railways is to ensure
that the common person has a safe
Ganapathi Bhat,

Rail accident

There are too many accidents

involving derailments, perhaps
because of poor maintenance, aging
rails and rolling stock. It is a fact
that outdated signalling methods
and traction methods are still being
employed. One wonders how safe
even our railway bridges are. The
Indian Railways requires a
stupendous amount of capital to
technology, rolling stock, signalling
systems and the augmentation of
technical manpower.
V. Balasubramanian,

It is unfortunate that precious lives

have been lost in the train accident
near Anekal (Feb.14). The incident
once again raises issues of safety
and supervision, such as the quality
of tracks and signalling systems,
lack of modern technology and
virtually non-existent disaster
management preparedness. Now
that the budget is not far away, the
Railway Ministry must allocate
funds for manpower training and
safety management. The railways
should have a independent disaster
management cell in each zone, with
periodic reviews being done.
Manickam Ravindran, Neglected
Dubai continue to cause significant
morbidity and mortality in the
Irrespective of whether the cause developing world (Medicines in
for the derailment/accident was a India, for India, Feb.14). According
difference in track gauge or a rail to a study, of the 1,556 new drugs
fracture or even a boulder rolling on approved between 1975 and 2004,
to the tracks, the fact is that the only 21 were for tropical diseases
It is odd that India has to take the accident yet another one points even though these diseases
initiative to resume the talks. The to the railways inability to constitute over 11 per cent of the
dialogue of 2014 was stalled because maintain the tracks and to its global disease burden. Researchof Pakistans confabulations with failure to keep vigil over routes that based pharmaceutical companies
separatist elements. There is no need constant attention. It is sad focus on the most lucrative
point in India expressing its that there is very little attention products, rather than on what is
willingness for any resumption of paid to having adequate first aid most needed, a move that
dialogue without Pakistan first facilities on trains (Doctors save predominantly hurts the global
creating a conducive atmosphere Polish womans leg, Feb.15), which poor whose diseases will never be

Drug research

profitable enough to attract the

industry. The oft-quoted figure that
it costs over $1 billion to develop a
new drug is eye-catching but
difficult to verify. The real challenge
is to fund drug discoveries for
diseases that affect millions in
countries like India that struggle to
provide basic health care. A more
practical approach may be to
persuade big pharma, along with
our numerous national institutes
and research bodies, to become
engaged with diseases that are of
primary concern to our nation. Our
academia and national institutes
may not be able to do this on their
H.N. Ramakrishna,

Budget wishlist
Low oil prices and a favourable base
effect may well have been the
reasons for inflation moving
transform, Feb.14). However, the
Finance Minister should know that
items like education and health care
that constitute a significant
percentage of peoples income have
not been included in the inflation
index. Thus, the governments
inflation numbers have long
remained an artificial construct,
and not reflective of ground
realities. The situation now could
be similar to the one in June-July
2009, when inflation was negative,
but shot up to 7 per cent in
December 2009. The sharp decline
in inflation between then and now is
primarily due to the decline in oil
prices. Unlike in the U.S. or China,
food prices in India have been very
high, forming a substantial part of

an ordinary persons income. It is

also intriguing why the recent
reductions in the prices of petrol
and diesel have not been adequately
reflected in food prices. While there
is no guarantee that oil prices would
remain low for long, Arvind
Mayaram feels that Indias
Consumer Price Index data are
imperfect, and therefore not
entirely reliable as an indicator of
the inflation model. The budget
should take these realities into
consideration while formulating
tax-cuts and benefits.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan,
Much of the demographic dividend
that we are proud of is to come from
rural India. Therefore it makes
sense to promote and encourage
capital formation in this sector. Not
only does infrastructure-building in
agriculture boost productivity and
reduce the cost of production, but
also higher income generation as a
product of greater market access
will result in higher disposable
incomes. This in turn will enable
rural poor and lower middle class
families to encourage children to
pursue education rather than drop
out of schools and colleges. Even
the U.S. has been successful in
greater job creation concentrating
on middle class economics which
seeks to encourage the creation of
small and medium jobs. Indias
geographical conditions are suited
for multiple crop patterns in a year,
and this should encourage us
towards greater public investments
in this sector.
Harsha Vardhan K.S.,




A social role for NITI Aayog

Arun Kumar


Weakening the
JD (U) in Bihar
hether or not Bihar Chief Minister Jitan
Ram Manjhi wins the battle against former mentor Nitish Kumar, he is ensuring
his opponents will have a political cost to
bear for seeking to unseat him. Mr. Manjhi, who was
chosen to succeed Mr. Kumar after their party, the
Janata Dal (United), suffered a humiliating defeat at
the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok
Sabha election last year, is now wooing both JD (U)
members of the Assembly and the BJP leadership in an
attempt to stay on in power. In order to win over some
of the MLAs, the Chief Minister is keen on a Cabinet
expansion before the trust vote. But given that the vote
is only a few days away, and the majority of Mr. Manjhi
is in serious question, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi
would be well-advised not to accede to Mr. Manjhis
request. Neither the demands of governance nor political propriety require a Cabinet expansion at this stage.
Whatever Mr. Manjhis explanations, ministerial
berths cannot be blatantly on offer in exchange for
political support. Indeed, allowing a Cabinet expansion
at this stage will put a question mark on the propriety
of the Governors decision to give Mr. Manjhi time till
February 20 to prove his majority.
For the BJP, the only incentive for supporting Mr.
Manjhi is the prospect of an early election. The incumbent Chief Minister, who has been busy trying to
carve out his own political constituency among Dalits
and the poorer and weaker sections of Bihar, is also
working on longer-term plans. After offering free power to farmers with agricultural land up to five acres, he
held out the promise of extending it to farmers who
own up to ten acres if he got another chance at power.
By refusing to resign at the prodding of his party leadership, and offering sops to farmers and teachers, Mr.
Manjhi is eyeing Mr. Kumars support base. Already
Mr. Kumar has been deliberately cast in a bad light by
his successor, with hints that the JD (U) leader is
restless and unwilling to wait till the next election to
return to the chief ministerial helm. Mr. Kumars plan
to resign as Chief Minister to own responsibility for the
partys electoral defeat appears to have done him more
harm than good. In the popular perception the resignation might have a taint of insincerity, however unintended in the initial gesture. Instead of edging out the
BJP in the manner of Odisha Chief Minister and Biju
Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik, Mr. Kumar appears
to have left the field wide open to the BJP to gain
dominance even as other formations could take the JD
(U)s place in political contestation.

ITI Aayog has had its first meeting

with the economic experts. This
was crucial since the government
is trying to revive economic
growth. The economy has experienced slow
growth in spite of the revised national income data that has indicated faster growth.
Industry, exports and so on, have shown
tepid growth in recent years. The National
Democratic Alliances electoral promise of
an economic turnaround seems elusive in
spite of its accelerating reforms by liberalising foreign direct investment (FDI) flows
and land acquisition policies to signal its
pro-corporate sector and big business inclinations.

Contradictory views
The budget is first a macroeconomic exercise and then a micro one catering to sectors
of the economy. Two contradictory macroeconomic views are emerging from the government and its policy advisers. This is
similar to the policy dilemma that the United Progressive Alliance faced earlier. The
first view is to have a larger fiscal deficit so as
to boost demand. The other view is to cut the
fiscal deficit to keep the credit rating agencies (proxy for financial interests) happy so
as to prevent a downgrade of the economy.
The Finance Minister favours the latter
view and argues that a fiscal deficit imposes a
burden on future generations who will have
to repay the debt. This conservative view
assumes that resources are constrained, so if
the government spends more, the private
sector has less to spend. But that cannot be
true when the economy has spare capacity
and can produce more. Increased government expenditures then boost the economy
and lead to more investments via the accelerator. If increased spending is financed by
increased direct taxation, that is even better.
This is feasible in India since direct taxes are
around 7 per cent of GDP which is low when
compared to most other countries. But a
government trying to signal its pro-business
inclination would not wish to raise direct
taxes like income, corporation and wealth
Actually, tax rates need not be raised but
only the concessions given in taxes (these
are called tax expenditures and amount to
4.5 per cent of GDP) need to be curtailed to
get more resources. But this may also be seen
as anti-business. The other possibility is to


The menace of
plastic waste
f there is one type of municipal solid waste that
has become ubiquitous in India and most developing countries, and largely seen along the
shores and waterways of many developed countries, it is plastic waste. Much of it is not recycled, and
ends up in landfills or as litter on land, in waterways
and the ocean. For the first time, researchers have
estimated the amount of plastic that makes its way into
the oceans. While the estimate of eight million tonnes
of plastic being dumped into the oceans by 192 coastal
countries in 2010 may appear staggeringly high, in
reality the quantity would be many times more. Besides
estimating the total quantity, a paper published recently in the journal Science has identified the top 20
countries that have dumped the most plastic waste into
the oceans. At twelfth position, India is one of the worst
performers. It has dumped up to 0.24 million tonnes of
plastic into the ocean every year; the amount of mismanaged plastic waste per year is 0.6 million tonnes. In
the case of China, the No. 1 polluter, the coastal population sends up to 3.53 million tonnes of plastic waste
into the oceans each year. Besides the 11 Asian and
South East Asian countries, the U.S. figures in the list.
A study published in December 2014 estimated the
quantity of plastic floating in the ocean at nearly
270,000 tonnes. This is but a fraction of the total that
finds its way into the oceans. Other studies suggest that
the surface of the water is not its final resting place.
Alarmingly, an unknown quantity of degraded plastic
in the form of particles enters the food chain. Besides
affecting marine life, plastic that gets into the food
chain has serious health implications for humans. With
the latest study estimating that the annual input into
the oceans is set to double by 2025, there is an urgent
need to tackle the problem. A two-pronged approach
has to be adopted by the worst polluters to reduce per
capita plastic waste generation and cut the amount of
mismanaged waste by employing better waste management practices. Recycling is the best available way to
tackle the waste, though it is not the ideal solution.
India, which hardly recycles plastic waste, has its task
cut out. It dumps a huge quantity into the ocean although it generates a relatively small amount of this
waste per person 3 per cent of 0.34 kg per person a
day of all solid waste generated. The huge population
offsets the advantage of low plastic consumption in the
country. Cutting down on the use of plastic should also
begin in earnest, and the first item that has to be
targeted is the single-use plastic bag. The Union government recently refused to ban the manufacture of
single-use plastic bags; the least it could do to reduce
consumption is to make such bags expensive, employing the same rationale that has been applied for tobacco
products that are taxed heavily to reduce consumption.


The NITI Aayog could throw light on long-term

issues, with solutions that are not just economic or
technological but also social and political of
strengthening democracy, building institutions
and regaining policy space
tap the black economy (more than 50 per
cent of GDP, according to me.) This requires
political will which is not yet visible. The
business community, the largest generator
of black incomes, would see this also as anti
business it has been opposing introduction of general anti avoidance rules (GAAR).
Even if the economy grows faster due to the
reduction of the size of the black economy
and businessmen gain, they fear it since a
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
The NITI Aayog meeting does not seem to
have considered these deeper issues. Advice
was sought from former bureaucrats, journalists, industry lobbyists and academics.
Media reports suggest a lack of coherence in
the discussion or in the advice given. Some of
the invitees had been present in the Finance
Ministry pre-budget meeting last month. So,

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has

been consistently advocating
competitive federalism on almost
every occasion, but the very basic
concept that will help stimulate the
desired spirit of competitiveness
has been rightly elaborated in the
article, Not measure for measure
(Feb.16). The significant diversity
and magnitude of the population
that India has, needs to be taken
into account before an assessment
of its actual progress is carried out.
Preparing Statewise indices on
migration, education, religion and
other issues will help present the
true picture. It will not only force
the weaker States to perform well
but concomitantly ensure the
development of sound statistics for
Representing the Indian growth
story in single digits of
measurement cannot do justice to
our extensive diversity and talent.
As C. Rangarajan said while
deliberating on the poverty line,
India needs separate assessment
criteria for different fields.
Akash Singh,
While I agree that poor indicators
can create a negative perception
about a country, the writer has
failed to explain the rationale
behind high PPP, which is a
function of a banks retail lending
mechanism, thus giving a flawed
perception of the correlation
employability. The development
agenda of India should be based on
its cost of labour and investorfriendly reforms, with the focus on
pursuing the goal of indigenous

Inequity has grown in most countries

since the mid-1970s following the domination of global financial capital over policies
spearheaded by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These
policies have not only marginalised other
sectors of the economy but also promoted
bubble economies that are prone to periodic
collapse as it happened beginning 2007 and
from which the world economy has yet to
fully recover.
These policies promoted shadow banking
and all manner of opaque financial instruments that created economic instability. A
casino economy emerged with speculation
leading to a fictitious boost in paper wealth,
promoting a false sense of well-being among
individuals and increased consumption by
them. As inequality increased dramatically,
and there was the marginalisation of the vast
majority, there followed the Occupy Wall
Street movement, termed as the 99% v the
1% and which also popularised the term,
Main street versus Wall street.

failing states, from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq,

Libya, Nigeria to East Africa. The war in
Ukraine and the rise of IS are compounding
the problem.
Greece threatens the economic stability of
the eurozone. The new government there is
defying the dictates from the world of finance and has promised to end the austerity
regime hoisted on the people of Greece. The
Greek Prime Minister is telling the European powers that the economic rules of integration of the weaker economies of Europe
into the eurozone need change. He is arguing
that a substantial portion of the debt resulting from the earlier wrong policies needs to
be written off. The other troubled economies For people policies
Events in Greece and Mr. Obamas sugof Europe Portugal, Spain and Italy are
under increasing political pressure to follow gestion suggest that the time has come to
end the domination of finance capital over
Greeces example.
the rest of society. Policy space has to be
recaptured from the world of finance by the
democratic forces so that policies favouring
For India, which remains very poor and very unequal, policies
the people can be initiated.
based on the interest of finance capital and a narrow section of
The dilemma currently facing Indian policymakers reflects these global trends. Insociety can only spell disaster.
dias rightward drift started with the
Emergency in 1975 when Sanjay Gandhi
marginalised the left of Centre thinking in
what was the point of the meeting now when
U.S. President Barack Obama has pro- the Indira Gandhi government. The trend
it did not lead to clarity on long-term issues? posed increasing taxation of the rich while continued during the Janata regime and
Further, the time for incorporation of pol- giving more to the middle classes to reverse thereafter under the Indira Gandhi governicies in the budget is over since most of it the growing inequity there. This move not ment which had to approach the IMF for
would have been formulated by now. It may only has a political strategy underlying it but adjustment in 1980. Rajiv Gandhi, under
have been better to circulate for comments a also economic reasons that favour it. Given considerable influence of the liberalisers,
discussion paper on the Indian economys the Republican domination in the legislature pushed this tendency faster. With the New
slowdown and its global interlinkages.
and their conservative inclinations, it is un- Economic Policies in 1991 and the emerlikely that this proposal would be accepted gence of the World Trade Organization
Dilemma with global echoes
any time soon. But, other countries would be (WTO) in 1995, there was a paradigm
Indias current economic dilemma has forced to think about the idea, especially in change, with the policies of finance capital
global roots. The eurozone, Japan and Rus- the context of the developments in Greece.
becoming entrenched.
sia are in trouble, the Chinese economy has
For India, which remains very poor and
In 2011, Mr. Warren Buffett gave a call to
slowed down and the U.S. economy is the tax the rich more not only for the sake of very unequal, policies based on the interest
only big one that has improved. In such a equity but also to tackle the global economic of finance capital and a narrow section of
scenario, increasing exports in a big way crisis. This call was picked up in Europe with society can only spell disaster. These policies
would be difficult. Declining commodity 16 of the wealthiest French urging their gov- push markets and technology-based soluprices (like that of petroleum goods) signal a ernment to tax them more. Fifty wealthy tions which marginalise the individual. The
weakening global economy. Uncertainty is Germans backed this petition. In Italy, the underlying idea is that if making democracy
deepened by the arc of instability due to chief of Ferrari also lent support.
work is difficult, substitute it with technology. Those lacking faith in democracy and
social institutions are (in the name of the
poor) pushing an autocratic agenda based on
greater use of technology. The hard work of
creating and nurturing institutions that can
deliver to the people and strengthen democracy is sought to be circumvented. So, one of
the key proposals today is to push Goods and
Services Tax (GST) even if it does not suit the
needs of the vast unorganised sectors of our
economy and benefits the MNCs and big
business. The hard work of making taxation
simple and effective and shifting to direct
taxes is hardly on the agenda. Creating a
large number of jobs is secondary to cash
transfers, bullet trains for the elite and smart
cities for the upwardly mobile.
The flyovers of Delhi were built to ensure
smooth traffic flow but now have speed
bumps to slow down vehicles and which
leads to jams. The technological solution
failed because the institutional design of
management of urban traffic is flawed and
that is because policymakers did not go
deeper into the problem in their urge to
provide quick fix technological solutions.
The NITI Aayog could throw light on such
long-term issues (with solutions that are not
just economic or technological but also social and political) of strengthening democracy, building institutions, regaining policy
space and so on.
(Arun Kumar is the author of Indian
Economy since Independence: Persisting
Colonial Disruption.)


Statistics in context


growth and self-sufficiency.

The miserable plight of migrant
labour reflects the lack of
development in rural areas and in
north India.
Vikram S.,
It is always disheartening to come
across indicators that place India
in low positions. In this sense, the
article was refreshing, with an
entirely different perspective that
many wouldnt have imagined
thinking about. One needs to
question the authenticity of such
world data as they might be tools
used by the West to constantly
downgrade other countries.
Dhanush Kumar,

Day in the sun

The fledgling government in Delhi
needs to have a road map of its
goals, priorities and hurdles
(Editorial, Feb.16). Ministers must
travel as ordinary citizens do, using
public transport, face traffic jams,
and learn first hand the woes of
people. This is the only way there
can be remedies to problems. In
most foreign countries, leaders
attempt to experience the life of a
common man. In trying to do this,
Arvind Kejriwal will be blazing a
new trail.
M.K.B. Nambiar,

Hecklers veto
This is an age where information
spreads like wildfire (Using law to
bully comedians, Feb.16). Newage technological devices have
made it possible for the Internet to
become the hub of the mass media.
This calls for greater self-imposed
responsibility in ensuring that

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
where collective interests are
concerned, individual liberty must
yield to the greater common good.
Article 19(1) in the Constitution
envisaged the right to freedom of
speech and expression, but this
freedom does not give anybody the
licence to commit immoral and
indecent public acts. This is where
Article 19(2) comes into the picture
and ensures that the freedom of
expression is not absolute. Instead,
it is always subject to reasonable
restrictions imposed by the state.
Devendra Vijay,
New Delhi
While the article makes a spirited
defence of the AIB show which
has been attracting a lot of flak for
its abusive content and for the
obscene gestures that characterise
it the writer should have kept in
mind that the organisers of the
show were under the impression
that a disclaimer at the beginning
of the proceedings that the content
could be filthy and repulsive was
enough to save their skin. Of course
the show found its way into the
social media and attracted millions
of eyeballs, which sent the
disclaimer and everything else out
of the window! If the law has
stepped in and there have been
FIRs filed against the organisers, it
is not a case of any witch-hunt,
intolerance or anything of that sort
but only an application of the
provisions of sections of the law
that deal with such issues. Humour
that can be relished only by adults
is fine, but when humour becomes
filthy and offensive it ceases to
become a laughing matter.
C.V. Aravind,

online content for offensive

material is objectionable, we must
not forget that seeking judicial
intervention in each case relating
to an alleged violation is not always
the best way out. The recent
remarks by the Supreme Court on
the tremendous backlog of
pending cases necessitate the need
for alternative mechanisms to
reach a consensus. Clearing the
grey areas in Indian law, like the
ambiguous Section 66A of the IT
Act, is the need of the hour. A
transparent system for regulation,
if put into place, can brush aside
ambiguities, absorb unwanted
litigation and ease the burden on
the judiciary.
A. Anand Krishnan,

crackers and also bragging rights!

R. Vinod,
Our cricketing team has indeed
scripted a spectacular comeback.
Virat Kohlis stupendous century
was outstanding, and it was
heartening to witness the top
batting order regain its composure.
One only hopes that it keeps its
nerve and morale high.
M. Jeyaram,
Sholavandan, Tamil Nadu

It is heartening that India has

begun its World Cup campaign in
style. Pace bowler Umesh Yadav
deserves a pat for his double strike
in a single over, which effectively
tilted the scales in Indias favour.
With the mood in the Indian camp
upbeat, Team India should build
After a very sorry spectacle of on the momentum.
R. Sivakumar,
Indias performance in Australia,
the decisive win over Pakistan in
the opening match of the World
Cup will boost the morale of our What is heartening is the evident
team as well as the hopes of gelling of players and their
millions of cricket-crazy Indians. coordinated efforts. Virat Kolhis
be golden touch is appearing to work
discounted as it appears that the well, and his committed and
team has peaked at the right time. aggressive approach is quite
One of the surprises has been the laudable. The will to perform is
performance of our bowlers.
H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana,
R.S. Raghavan,

Six out of six

provided nothing less than
explosive entertainment. Before
the start of the World Cup, the
belief was that both India and
Pakistan were equal on paper, in
terms of experience and current
form. But Dhawan, Kohli and
Raina got back to form when it
mattered the most. I would say that
While the arbitrary censorship of its time to reach out for the

A scoreline of 6-0 is all very well

and extremely gladdening for the
Indian cricket fan. However, for a
true follower of the sport it does
little justice to the similarity in
passion, level of cricket addiction,
standards of performance and the
abundance of talent that exist in
both countries.
B. Shivashankar,





A Somalia on the Mediterranean

Vijay Prashad


New thrust in
India-Sri Lanka ties
elations between India and Sri Lanka have not
just been reinforced during the visit of President Maithripala Sirisena but have also
gained new direction and momentum. As Sri
Lankas closest neighbour that has ethnic links to its
most signicant minority, India is a huge inuence in
the island nations political, economic, social and cultural consciousness, and its world view. President Sirisena was hewing to a long and unbroken tradition of
newly elected leaders making New Delhi the rst port of
call for foreign visits. But in a departure from the routine nature of such visits, both sides signed four substantive agreements. Of these, the agreement on
Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
was the most signicant as it imparts a new strategic
element to bilateral relations. Since 2010, Sri Lanka has
wanted to utilise nuclear energy in industrial applications as well as in elds such as medicine and agriculture. Two years ago, Colombo had indicated it was
exploring such an agreement with Islamabad, with
which too it has a warm bilateral relationship. Its decision to move ahead on this front with India shows the
maturity of the new Sri Lankan leadership and the
importance it attaches to its relations with New Delhi.
The agreement envisages exchange of knowledge and
expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and
training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Two years ago, Sri Lanka had also expressed safety
concerns arising from the geographical proximity of the
Kudankulam nuclear reactors. That the signatory to the
agreement on the Sri Lankan side was Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka who had voiced the
concerns, shows that Colombo is now sufficiently
The two sides have also agreed to enhance their
defence and security cooperation in the existing trilateral format with the Maldives. New Delhi should press
any security concern it may have, such as that which
arose with the docking of a Chinese submarine in the
Colombo harbour, without dictating Sri Lankas choice
of friends and allies. The travails of shermen on both
sides of the Palk Bay received attention with Prime
Minister Narendra Modi and President Sirisena pledging to resolve them in a constructive and humanitarian way. Sensibly, shermens associations on both
sides are to continue talks begun two years ago to nd
their own solution. There were no public statements on
the Tamil question during the Presidents visit. Nevertheless, this remains top of the agenda in bilateral
relations. New Delhi must encourage Sri Lankas new
leadership to be determined in addressing the issues of
ethnic reconciliation and power-sharing with Tamils.

ibyas Islamic State paraded 21

Egyptian workers along the Mediterranean. The IS ghters, dressed
in black, then killed the Egyptians,
dressed in orange jumpsuits. One of the IS
men speaks, in English, of the beheadings in
Syria before he says, we are on the south
of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending
another message. It is a direct provocation
to both the Egyptians and to the West. The
sea youve hidden Sheikh Osama bin Ladens
body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with
your blood. The braggadocio is familiar, as
are the acts.
Within 24 hours, Egypt and the West responded as IS hoped. Three Egyptian jet
ghters bombed eight targets in the eastern
Libyan city of Derna, the hub of the Islamic
State. Italy and France are eager to join in
the intervention. Sources in the city say that
some civilians (including four children) died
in the Egyptian bombing, which also hit sites
associated with the entrenched Islamist
movement. Derna has been in the ledger of
political Islam since the 1990s. That it is now
in the claw of the IS should not be a surprise.
Fighters from Derna have long gone to ght
in the battleelds of modern jihad Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Foreign
ghters, such as the speaker in the video,
have also been known to take refuge there. A
pipeline drew ghters from Derna to northern Syria via Turkey, and then back home.
This pipeline was well known to western,
Gulf Arab and Turkish intelligence. They
had allowed it to ourish. It is precisely the
social consequences of that pipeline that
worries the Europeans.

Kuwait on the Mediterranean

In 2008, Saif al-Islam Qadha told a friend
that he wanted to turn Libya into Kuwait on
the Mediterranean. Oil-rich Libya had not
been able to convert its wealth into a paradise for its people. Over the course of the rule
of his father, Muammar Qadha, Libya had
turned the social wealth into social goods
high social indicators demonstrate this fact
amply. By the 1980s, however, it had become
clear that the Qadha regime had neither the
imagination nor the will to diversify Libya
out of its reliance upon oil exports and to
draw these newly educated people into the

In the cases of Muammar Qadhafi and Saddam

Hussein, opportunities to allow them to surrender
were squandered. It was as if the new
dispensations in Iraq and Libya could be created
from scratch. Rather than disappear, the older
currents would reappear in ways unforeseen in
western and Gulf Arab capitals

political system. Qadha tasked Saif al-Islam

to modernize Libya. They drew on expatriate Libyans to reform the system
which meant, all too often, steady plans for
giving away national assets to private hands.
Domestic unhappiness even from among
those who had no desire to remove the Qadha system was crushed. The most powerful challenge to the state came from the
Islamists the Libyan Islamic Fighting
Group, whose members were thrown into
prison, executed or exiled. Those in exile
joined the international jihadi networks.
In 2011, discontent against the Qadha
regime drew people onto the streets. The
mlange of groups that desired something
else was startling there were the highly-

West resulted in a NATO bombardment that

destroyed Libyas infrastructure. It produced the conditions for a free-for-all.
Libyan politics fragmented, with the archipelago of cities being held by their various
militias, with foreign backers nding their
own friends here and there, and with conict
over Tripolis resources at the centre of the
emerging civil war. Early signs of danger
were callously ignored by the new leadership
worker unrest in the oilelds over wages
and protests by former ghters who wanted
more from their new country. Neither the
workers nor the thuwar (revolutionaries)
saw the new government as theirs. The cult
of the thuwar was all that was permitted
the rebels could hold onto their guns and be

The Islamic State in Libya is not merely a Libyan problem but

a regional one. The chaos in the country has allowed radical
Islamists from across North Africa to take refuge there.
educated liberals who had beneted from
the oil revenue, the diasporic business elites
who had been collaborating with Saif al-Islam, the old jihadis who saw an immense
opportunity, ordinary Libyans who had
stayed in the shadows but now saw a place
for themselves. Rebellions are often produced out of such diversity, and Libya in 2011
did not disappoint. Sections of the military
hastily defected to the rebellion, the city of
Benghazi was lost to the Qadhas and then
the armed phase opened up. It would likely
have taken a long time for the rebels to
succeed, but in that interim they would have
had to create some form of political agreement. As it turned out, geopolitical enmity
against Qadha from the Gulf Arabs and the

treated as saviours, but they were not integrated into either a new military or into
the new institutions.

Complex alliances
Absent political agreement, chaos became
the mode in Libya from 2012 onwards. The
execution of Qadha in broad daylight had
the same kind of effect as the execution of
Saddam Hussein in Iraq in both cases,
opportunities to allow these men and their
supporters to surrender were squandered. It
was as if the new dispensation in both Iraq
and Libya could be created from scratch,
with the older regimes consigned to the dust
heap. But these older currents did not disappear. They would reappear in ways un-


Egypt strikes
gypt seems to have set its foot deep into the
Islamic State (IS) quicksand. Since Monday,
the Egyptian military has been carrying out
raids on IS camps and weapon storage areas
in northeast Libya. These attacks were in response to
the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians
kidnapped by militants claiming allegiance to IS. The
tragic fact, by now obvious, is that Egypts military
strikes are only a very partial solution to a continuously
expanding IS threat. To make matters worse, these air
strikes on Libyan soil would be seen as an assault on
Libyas sovereignty. About seven civilians, including
four children, have been killed in these air strikes,
which have damaged several residential areas in the
city of Derna. Having a relatively stable base in Syria
and Iraq, IS is now gradually carving out its presence in
Libya. Libya has been in a political vacuum since the
2011 uprising which led to the overthrow of Muammar
Qadha. The revolution has since been undermined by
political factions and rebels struggling for power.
Egypts attack on Libyan soil will only add to the existing lawlessness of that state, giving IS a better opportunity to dig in and strengthen its presence there.
Egypts President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been leading an internal battle against political-religious groups,
especially the Muslim Brotherhood, his largest opposition. But Mr. Sisis error lies in declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist group and equating it with more
violent ones such as IS and al-Qaeda. His crackdown
may even lead some local groups to pledge allegiance to
the IS in order to resist Mr. Sisi. This is in fact a strategy
that IS has been deploying to destabilise other states as
well. Jordan, for instance, was similarly provoked recently into a military strike following hostage beheadings, magnied by ISs use of carefully crafted visuals in
the media. But King Abdullahs commitment to ght
back against IS was not echoed by Jordanian public
opinion. To be clear, IS ultimately aims for greater
territorial sovereignty and a Caliphate, maintaining a
top-down model of power. But it is still through affiliations and decentralised networks with local groups,
spread from Yemen to Libya and parts of Africa, that IS
is attempting to gain political legitimacy. The recent
lone wolf terror attacks in Sydney, Paris, Copenhagen and so on are also instances of groups having
ideological affiliations to the IS brand. It is this decentralised and spectral nature of the enemy that may
frustrate Egypts military strikes as well. But the crucial difference between IS and all the previous Jihadist
groups is that IS will hope to exploit these decentralised networks to eventually strengthen its territorial,
sovereign political order.




Pre-empting China
India signing a nuclear pact with
Sri Lanka is a diplomatic master
stroke (Feb.17), especially since
China has been cultivating
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and
Myanmar, all to be befriended as a
means of balancing against India.
In the recent past, China has made
serious headway in its relationship
with Sri Lanka, with Chinese
military ordnance playing a key
role in the nal stages of the civil
war. On the contrary, India,
empathising with the plight of the
Tamils, found itself in an
ambivalent position. India was a
diplomacy, which meant that India
has been constantly on the back
foot in South Asia, unable to assert
itself in a manner its size would
suggest. After this move, the Modi
government must step up its
understanding to expand defence
including a trilateral format in the
region, especially with the
Maldives, to enhance Indias
position and prestige as a
dominant player in the region.
C.V. Venugopalan,

Policies for people

All successive Five Year Plans have
emphasised poverty alleviation as
the prime objective (A social role
for NITI Aayog, Feb.17) but the
fact that a signicant alleviation of
poverty has not happened shows
that there are aws in strategy.
Take the case of rural poverty
and the numerous and ambitious
programmes to reduce it. Almost
all these programmes, except
MGNREGA, are implemented by

the bureaucracy, which is neither

trained nor committed enough to
implement them. Consequently
most of these programmes remain
on paper. Statistical data, again
prepared by the bureaucracy, show
progress, but the ground reality is
the exact opposite. One can think
of what B.R. Ambedkar said: On
the 26th of January 1950, we are
going to enter into a life of
contradictions. In politics we will
have equality and in social and
economic life we will have
inequality How long shall we
continue to deny equality in our
social and economic life? If we
continue to deny it for long, we will
do so only by putting our political
democracy in peril.
Suresh Rangarajan,
NITI Aayog has to deliver results in
order to bridge the great divide
between the ultra-rich and the
abjectly poor. Nobody expects a
transformation overnight. The
least that can be done is to devise a
coherent policy shift that can
strongly convince its political
mentors to put in place a smart
economic formula for equitable
division of wealth and resources.
Tackling black money and
hoarding, taxing the super-rich and
distribution of surplus food stocks
must be some of its priorities.
Siju Vasudevan,
The idea of policy formulation
addressing the concerns of the 99
per cent is indisputable. The
question is that of strategy. One
should admit that in a democracy, a
government has to take the most

foreseen in western and Gulf Arab capitals.

In Iraq, many Baathists and cashiered army
men created an alliance with the Islamic
State. Much the same seems to have happened in Libya. It is the only explanation for
the Islamic States ability to take and hold
Sirte, the birthplace of Qadha and the epicentre of his inuence.
After NATOs intervention in 2011, radical
Islamists in Benghazi who had fought on
NATOs side formed Ansar al-Sharia. It then
turned on the West and was party to the 2012
attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi,
during which the U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. Recently, a rogue Libyan
general, Khalifa Haftar, has conducted Operation Karama (Dignity) against Ansar alSharia with mixed success. Many Ansar alSharia ghters have decamped to Sirte and
to Derna to join IS.
The Islamic State in Libya is not merely a
Libyan problem but a regional one. The
chaos in the country has allowed radical Islamists from across North Africa to take refuge
here. As well, older connections with radical
Islamists across the Sahara desert, in Mali
for instance, are part of their world. Al Qaeda
of the Maghreb, centred in Mali, had made
alliances with disgruntled Tuareg nationalists, kidnappers of tourists, and trans-Saharan smugglers (of people, drugs and
weapons). It operated as much as a criminal
gang as a franchise of al-Qaeda. IS has links
to these networks, including the trafficking
of goods and people. These are moneymaking enterprises that have supplanted older
trades as northern Africa suffers from acute
desiccation caused by climate change. Absent of alternatives, a growing Sahara grows

Regional solutions
A source in the Pentagon suggests that
Washington has no appetite for a serious
engagement in Libya. He spoke of the need
to rearm and renance the Egyptian military. Washington, it appears, would like
Egypt to take charge of this war against IS.
But bombing runs by Egypt have reopened
political ssures in Libya. The Muslim
Brotherhood-dominated government in Tripoli considers the Egyptian bombings a violation of Libyan sovereignty. Khalifa Haftar
has, so far, supported them as he did the
August 2014 air strikes by Egypt and the
United Arab Emirates around Tripoli.
Egypts entry into the conict is precisely
what the Islamic State wants. Egypts harsh
crackdown on all Islamists will likely afford
the Islamic State recruits inside Egypt. Pressure needs to be brought on the Egyptian
government to cease its harsh repression of
its critics. Rather than maintain peace, this
only creates the most dangerous extremism.
It is naive to believe that aerial bombardment here or there will sort out the problems
with the Islamic State. We have entered a
new period in the history of the region.
Longer-term strategies need to be worked
out. Last August, the foreign ministers of
North Africa met in Cairo to discuss the
security challenge posed by Libya. They zeroed in on two immediate steps that need to
be taken. First, that a unied government be
formed in Tripoli. The only way to allow for
this to happen is for the cold war between
regional parties to be ended. Tensions between the Qatar-Turkey backed Tripoli government and the Saudi-UAE-Egypt-West
backed Tobruk government remain. The UN
cannot facilitate a dialogue unless the regional enmity is lessened and unless pressure is brought to bear on all sides to join a
political process. Second, that the countries
organize a common effort to deal with the
issue of porous borders and trafficking. Included in this should be the trafficking of
jihadis from Libya to Syria, and from the
world into Libya. Nothing has been done on
this front. If a regional solution is not incubated, Libya is in danger of becoming a
Somalia on the Mediterranean.
(Vijay Prashad, a columnist for Frontline,
is the Chief Editor at LeftWord Books.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
balanced/popular decisions rather
than the most prudent ones. While
the efficiency of the 1 per cent
class cannot be ignored at times
it has to be even appreciated the
government should still refrain
from allowing businesses to thrive
using inappropriate means such as
corrupting lawmakers or oating
on black money in the name of
being pro-business. We have to
admit that crony socialism has
harmed post-independent India
more than capitalism per se.
Shashank Jain,
New Delhi
The present global crisis is caused
development in the major
economies. India should refrain
from following the same path. The
time has come for India to go in for
decentralised planning and scal
development is possible through
democratic decentralisation. The
recent decision by the government
to cut social sector spending on the
pretext of managing scal decit
shows the centralisation of budget
allocation without those at the
grassroot level having any say. As a
weak manufacturing sector and
infrastructure bottlenecks are
causing a lot of distress to the
economy, the expansion of public
investment is an imperative.
Balaji Akiri,

have faced a raw deal shows that

insensitivity and racial bias across
that nation. The root cause for the
police force being largely paranoid
in dealing with minorities and
suspects is the free availability of
guns, which is protected under the
Second Amendment to the
Constitution. Hence, they are
tarred with the same brush, which
is ironic, considering that the
immigrant talent. While legal
recourse in the U.S. is promising, of
what use is winning a lawsuit
against the authorities if the
innocent victim is unable to lead a
normal life or remains paralysed?
Varad Seshadri,
Sunnyvale, California

Plastic waste
It is shocking to know that India
occupies the 12th position among
192 coastal countries in its inability
to manage plastic waste (Editorial,
Feb.17). It is unfortunate that there
has been no initiative to ban the
use of single-use plastic bags. The
older generation uses jute and
cloth bags, but this hasnt caught
on as it is not considered hep
enough. Limiting the use of plastic
should become a part of the
Swachch Bharat campaign.
B. Ramya Devi,

The alarming statistical data on the

growing danger of plastic waste can
be reversed if the Central and State
The excessive use of force against governments curb the use of plastic
Mr. Sureshbhai Patel (In America, bags and promote small-scale
bias wears a badge, Feb.17) by the industries that use jute, fabric and
Alabama police leaves one at a loss paper to make bags. Very few
for words. Along with this, a series people realise the harm being
of incidents where the minorities caused by plastic at landlls. If they

Bias in America

are sensitised, I am sure things will

improve. Encouraging the use of
alternative eco-friendly materials
will also result in job generation.
Anjali Yadav,
While plastics as a material by
itself is not to be blamed, it is the
way we litter that causes the real
problem. Imposing heavy nes for
littering must be made more
stringent and plastic reuse
encouraged. On a visit to China I
found plastic bags were in use, but
there was no littering anywhere.
D.B.N. Murthy,
It is encouraging that in some parts
of Kerala, shopkeepers have
started asking customers to stop
using plastic carry bags. It needs to
be carried forward from here with
us taking the initiative to use
alternative packaging and also
highlighting the dangers of plastic
Plastic is made to last, so it
decays very slowly in the oceans,
breaking down into ever smaller
fragments. Researchers have found
turtles nesting among plastic
bottles and have discovered sea
bird colonies where the young die
after the parent birds fed them
plastic. Fish, sharks and turtles
have been found to die en masse,
entangled in discarded shing
ropes and nets. A new survey has
also found that common plastic
waste has been found all the way
from the continental shelf of
Europe to the mid-Atlantic ocean
ridge a distance of around 2,000
km from land.
Deepakkumar R.,




Politics of rape in Kashmir

Ayesha Pervez


Secularism is not
a policy option
n speaking up against violence and incitement of
hatred on the basis of religion, Prime Minister
Narendra Modi was seeking to correct a growing
perception that his government passively encouraged Hindutva groups that indulged in physical and
verbal attacks on religious minorities in the country.
Although the Prime Minister carefully avoided making
a distinction between majority and minority religious
groups while promising action against those inciting
hatred, there was little doubt that he was making an
effort to reassure religious minorities in the face of
provocation from Hindutva groups. Indeed, the venue
and the event where he spoke provided the context for
the speech: a meeting organised by the Catholic SyroMalabar Church in New Delhi, where churches have
come under attack in recent weeks. But the assurance as
such does not amount to much. Until now, Mr. Modi
had appeared reluctant to publicly reprimand or rein in
Ministers and Members of Parliament belonging to his
party when they crossed the lines of political propriety
with provocative speeches against religious minorities.
If his words are not followed up by action, and if he
continues to allow his Ministers and party colleagues to
incite communal hatred, the assurance would be bereft
of all meaning. In the last few months, the Modi government had been sending out confusing signals. While
those at the top in the government were careful and
correct in their speeches, those in the middle and lower
rungs tested the limits of law and propriety with virulent remarks. As a party, the Bharatiya Janata Party
looked as if it was torn between its role as a politically
responsible ruling party, and its need to cater to its core
Hindutva constituency.
Contrary to what many in the BJP seem to think,
secularism is not a policy option for a government, but
one of the original principles that inform the Constitution. Secular, as a word to describe the Indian Republic, might have been added to the Preamble only in 1976,
but the freedom of conscience and free profession,
practice and propagation of religion under Article 25 is
one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Protecting the right of all persons to freedom of
religion is the constitutional duty of the government of
the day. Indeed, freedom of religion is integral to any
democratic society, and India, by definition, cannot
remain a democracy without allowing its citizens the
freedom to practise a religion of their choice. A government that cannot ensure the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution equally to all its citizens will
quickly lose its political legitimacy and representative
character. Certainly, Mr. Modi would not want his government to hurtle down that path.

ast year at a seminar in Srinagar,

women from Kunan-Poshpora, twin
villages in Kupwara district of Kashmir, publicly recounted the night of
February 23, 1991, when soldiers of the Indian Army invaded their lives, privacy and
dignity. Masquerading as a cordon and
search operation to catch militants, the soldiers of 4th Rajputana Rifles, of the Armys
68th Brigade, entered the villages and
launched the most potent tool of repression
used in theatres of political conflict rape,
sexual humiliation and sexual torture.
Sexualised violence in wars and conflicts
is neither incidental, nor is it a question of
sex. When 125 soldiers lay down a siege over
a village, separate the men from the women
and sexually assault more than 50 women,
from ages 13 to 60, it is indicative of a systemic military practice. The intent was not
only to terrorise and traumatise the people
under assault they are often accused of
harbouring militants but also sending out
a message of retribution to the Kashmir resistance movement.
The survivors, who appeared in front of a
large gathering in Srinagar, for the first time
since the incident, were accompanied by
Syed Mohammad Yasin, the Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara in 1991. Yasin broke
down when he said: I was shocked to see the
plight of the women A woman told me that
she was kept under jackboots by the soldiers
while her daughter and daughter-in-law
were being raped before her eyes. A pregnant
woman was not spared either. The message of retaliation, humiliation and shame
was palpable.

Derailment of justice
In 1991, the Indian state on the basis of
an investigation driven with inherent biases
and as reported by Human Rights Watch and
Physicians for Human Rights called the
allegations a massive hoax orchestrated by
militants and their international allies.
Again, in 2014, during a hearing of the Kunan-Poshpora case, the Army counsel reiterated similar sentiments by calling the
statements of victims as stereotyped and
like recorded rotten stereo sounds that play
rape all over again. The case was reopened

The high-profile cases of sexual violence in the

Kashmir Valley show a pattern of intimidation
and threats that have been deployed by the
government, the police and the military so that the
cases do not reach the trial stage
in 2013 a year in which 70 more cases of
sexual violence by the security forces alone
were registered. It was a move that was jarring to the military establishment of Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for
Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights organisation representing the victims, and the
We Demand Justice for Kunan Poshpora
Survivors campaign, that filed a PIL in 2012
to reopen and reinvestigate the case, have
consistently highlighted how the Army has
been deliberately delaying the process.
The experience of those who are seeking
justice in this mass-rape case has been
marked by review petitions, intimidations
and the slandering of survivors and their
families, resistance by the Army in providing
information on the alleged perpetrators, and

Delhi, the whole country rose against it. But

in our case there was total silence. We dont
want any woman to suffer like us. We dont
want money or jobs but justice. We were
raped but through our struggle we will expose and dishonour the accused. It is our last
wish to get the accused punished.
This expression of a hope for justice and
an extraordinary determination to have
punished those who have violated them,
however remarkable it may be, at the same
time exposes a political incongruity. In
Kashmir, national pride is engendered in
soldiers and institutionally manipulated by
the state to humiliate a community in resistance. Would the criminal justice and legal
systems in Kashmir, an extension of this
very oppressive superstructure, dispense

Impunity serves as substratum to the invincible military

occupation of Kashmir.

a failure by the police in recording statements from the victims and witnesses and
carrying out investigations. Last month, the
judicial system of Kashmir further ensured
that the 125 soldiers continue to get away
when the J&K High Court, in a petition filed
by the Indian Army, stayed the ongoing investigations. In this case which Harsh
Mander, an Indian bureaucrat turned activist, called probably the single largest case of
mass sexual violence in independent India
the court did not deem it fit to hear out the
survivors and witnesses before pronouncing
a stay order.
During her public testimony, one of the
rape survivors confronted our national conscience, so often invoked in cases of sexual
violence in mainland India, with her emphatic words: when a girl was gang-raped in

justice to the survivors of sexualised military

This anomaly brings us to the formidable
institutions of impunity in Kashmir. The
Kashmir Valley, which has recorded a high
incidence of sexual violence in comparison
to other conflict zones in the world, has never seen a single prosecution in reported
cases that have dragged on for years between
institutions of law and state. Two verdicts on
rape of a mother and daughter in Banihal
in 2000 and another one, of a mother and
daughter again in Handwara in 2004 in
which armed personnel were convicted by
court martial, were later challenged in the
Jammu and Kashmir High Court and subsequently overturned. Extensively documented, by the local, national and
international human rights organisations,


Marching to
its own beat
hat the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a selfcontained world, with an internal logic all its
own, was abundantly clear from Mondays
player auction. Unlike 2014, this wasnt a year
for overhauls. With the exception of Delhi Daredevils,
which had Rs.39.75 crore to spare after releasing 13
players, most teams were looking to fix holes, not build
from scratch. And yet for all the talk of it being a
muted affair, in the shadow of the World Cup, without
the bombast of some of the earlier auctions the event
was evidence that the IPL marches to its own beat. Two
of the best batsmen in the world Sri Lankas Kumar
Sangakkara, the maker of more than 27,000 international runs, and South Africas Hashim Amla, the quickest to 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 One-Day
international runs went unsold. New Zealands Kane
Williamson, who cannot stop scoring at the moment,
attracted a mere Rs.60 lakh. But K.C. Cariappa, an
untested mystery spinner yet to play a first-class match,
commanded Rs.2.40 crore. And Yuvraj Singh, not
deemed good enough for a spot in the Indian team for
the World Cup, fetched Rs.16 crore, becoming the biggest buy for the second year running.
The cases of Yuvraj and Cariappa offer an insight into
both the dynamics of the auction and what the IPL has
become. Daredevils saw the appeal of Yuvrajs all-round
skills; his form in the Ranji Trophy suggested he wasnt
a spent force. There was also a desire, as one team
official put it, for an iconic player who will also make us
attractive to brands. The unique mixture of commerce
and cricket that Yuvraj still offered was compelling. And
so Royal Challengers Bangalore, which had released
Yuvraj to buy him back at a lower price, found itself in a
bidding war. Once the price escalated, the team with the
bigger purse Daredevils had the last word. But the
Delhi franchise didnt have its way when Cariappas
name came up. For, Kolkata Knight Riderss need for a
spinner with the element of surprise was more pressing.
With its star slow-bowler Sunil Narine under scrutiny
after being reported for a suspect action last September, the franchise, as CEO Venky Mysore said, was
willing to take a punt. It was a revealing line: there is
something of a gamble in most choices, a hope that the
player eventually justifies the money. But this is not to
say decisions are not well-considered. Rajasthan Royals
has built a reputation for unearthing value nobody else
divines and did just that while Chennai Super Kings,
which has put its stock in continuity, recalled Michael
Hussey. That both teams remain under a cloud in the
outside world, but went about their business as usual in
the auction, was merely more proof of the IPLs success
at creating an alternate reality.



Equal respect
The last nine months of the Modi
government have been spent in selfpraise and applause and imagining
good governance. Right from the socalled Clean India campaign to
other initiatives, nothing really
tangible has emerged. It appears
that Acche Din is just restricted to
the elite and the business class. The
government needs to realise that
marketing gimmicks have a shelf
life and that there has to be a
government that promises equal
respect to all citizens irrespective of
class and for all denominations.
Now that the Prime Minister has
ended his silence (Wont tolerate
violence against any religion,
promises Modi, Feb.18), we have to
wait to see whether right-wing
elements will be curbed.
Mohd. Zeyaullah Khan,

seen as a warning to any one

particular group as he made the
statement at a religious meeting.
One cannot deny the fact that a
large section of the downtrodden
are converted to Christianity in
many cases after being offered
inducements. This is a sore point
with those who belong to the
majority community. A way can be
found out of this through multifaith dialogues.
S. Kannakinathan,
Sullurpeta, Andhra Pradesh


are the inherent procedural impediments at

the level of the police and imposed by the
military to obstruct investigation and arrest.
The high-profile cases of sexual violence
like the Shopian double murder and rape in
2009, the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Handwara by a Deputy Superintendent of Police
in 2004 or the rape of a 25-year-old in Manzgam in 2011 unravel a pattern of intimidation and threats that have been
contemptuously deployed by the government, the police and the military so that the
cases do not reach the trial stage. In June
2013, the media reported apparent attempts
of interference and intimidation by Army
and intelligence officials with the process of
investigation in the Kunan-Poshpora case.

A political mandate?
Impunity serves as substratum to the invincible military occupation of Kashmir. By
virtue of the fundamental role it plays, it
demands certain protection from the state
whose sovereignty it purports to protect. In
cases of sexual violence, this institutionalised impunity faces an existential threat, for
a soldier under the Armed Forces (Special
Powers) Act (AFSPA), if acting in good
faith, has permission to shoot to kill on
suspicion, but cannot claim to have committed sexual abuse in the line of duty.
At the outset, we notice that impunity for
systematic or isolated sexual violence in the
process of Internal Security duties is being
legitimized by the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act, which is in force in large parts of
our country. It must be recognized that
women in conflict areas are entitled to all the
security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country. These
were words from the report by the Justice
Verma Committee that brought amendments in the anti-rape law of India. The
suggestions by the committee to bring members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel under the purview of ordinary
criminal law if accused of sexual violence
were rejected by the Indian government.
Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar, during the hearing of the Pathribal fake
encounter at the Supreme Court in 2012, had
said to armed personnel: You go to a place
in exercise of AFSPA, you commit rape, you
commit murder, then where is the question
of sanction? It is a normal crime which needs
to be prosecuted, and that is our stand. This
stand by the jurists of the apex body of law
was evidently incompatible with that of the
institutionalised impunity in Kashmir.
Resistance from the military establishment and the Indian state to a revocation of
AFSPA or to a dilution of its damning sections is not much of a conundrum when
understood from the lens of territorial integrity, however historically disputed that
may be. The structural issue that is significant in this paradigm of impunity is that the
Indian state has consistently and overtly
thwarted the demands and suggestions that
have called for bringing armed personnel
accused of sexual violence to justice. By foregrounding the instrumentality of law as a
means of denying justice, the state has consistently protected the perpetrators. And it
is in these very structures of power, oppression and denial that impunity assumes a
position of political mandate.
From last year, February 23 is marked as
Kashmiri Womens Resistance Day. The
brave and extraordinary women of Kashmir
will come together to commemorate yet another year of struggle against injustice and
retake a vow to challenge state-sanctioned
impunity. It is for us to interpret whether
their fight within the established legal system is in expectation of justice or to expose
symbolically its capability to deny it.
(Ayesha Pervez is a writer, social
development professional and human rights
researcher. Twitter:@pervez_ayesha)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
third of what coal-based plants of a
similar capacity would have.
In the case of solar PV plants, the
CUF is only about 20 per cent.
Therefore, solar plants on an
average are five times more capitalintensive
thermal plants. The biggest hurdle
is that however much one may
create solar power capacity, the
investment in conventional plants
cannot be reduced for the reason
that they are needed to meet peak
demand after the evening. In the
developed world as well as in China,
transmission and distribution
losses are put at between five to six
per cent, while in India it is a
scandalous 25 per cent. Reducing
T&D losses could help India gain an
additional 200 billion units
C.S. Jacob,
Navi Mumbai

It remains to be seen whether the

government will begin to walk the
talk on this sensitive issue. The
governments pronounced and
persistent association with certain
religious heads in a secular country
is what is creating unnecessary
distrust in the minds of minorities
and weakening the nations secular
Shivendra Bisht,
Lucknow After a long time, Indian diplomacy
That the Prime Minister has finally
spoken out against religious
seems to be on the right path
violence and intolerance is a
(Editorial, Feb.18), and I would say
welcome development. Mr. Modis Although the writer (Brightening it is the result of people recognising
response, though it has come after the future with the sun and wind, the advantages that a stable
much procrastination, might be the Feb.18) has touched upon the government can provide. Mr. Modi
result of the BJPs poor showing in limitation of solar plants in meeting must be appreciated for inviting the
the Delhi elections. It is strange that peak demand in the grid that falls Sri Lankan President to visit India
all this while the government and between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. when soon after his appointment. In this
consistently there is no solar generation he he stands out in contrast to the UPA
disassociated themselves from the has not quantified the huge cost which on account of its allies could
acts and provocations by the right associated with it. The earlier not use firm diplomacy to counter
wing. It is good that the Delhi result computation was that creating a Chinese growth in Sri Lanka.
will serve as a reminder to the solar power capacity of 1,00,000 Repeated voting in the UN against
government and the BJP that the MW would require an investment of the island nation only added fuel to
Lok Sabha election was won on the $110 billion, which comes to Rs.6.5 fire.
promise of development and crore per MW of installed capacity.
Ashish Kumar,
equitable growth. A religion- This is much on the lower side when
New Delhi
neutral law against conversion will compared to the cost incurred by
be a welcome step, but the Godavari Green Power or Reliance
minorities must be taken into Energy plants, that ranged between In the notification by the Ministry
confidence first.
Rs.16 crore and Rs.21 crore per MW. of Environment and Forests on the
Ashish Abhishek Gautam, Even taking a high capacity passing of the Recyled Plastics
Ghaziabad utilisation factor (CUF) of 30 per (Manufacture and Usage) Rules,
cent for solar thermal plants, it 1999, one of the clauses prohibits
Mr. Modis statement should not be would be able to generate only a the use of carry bags or containers

New thrust to ties

With sun and wind

Plastic menace

made of recycled plastics to store,

carry, dispense or package
foodstuffs. It also prescribes the
minimum thickness of carry bags
made of virgin plastics or recycled
plastics to be not less than 20
microns (Editorial, Feb.18). The
notification also requires that the
Plastics Industries Association
through its member-units will
measures. Further, the Municipal
Solid Wastes (Management and
Handling) Rules 2000 imposes a
responsibility on State Pollution
Control Boards to monitor
regarding groundwater, ambient
air, leachate quality and compost
quality, including incineration
standards specified in the schedules
to the notification, which deals also
with solid wastes. Plastic waste is a
part of this.
P.S. Subrahmanian,
Media reports some time ago said
the production and use of plastic
bags would be completely banned in
New Delhi. Officials were on record
as saying that the use of plastic
invitation cards and greeting cards
would also be prohibited. I feel this
is a right step and must be extended
throughout India. One finds that
thin plastic covers and bags are
often the cause for drainage
systems getting choked.
Mahesh Kapasi,
New Delhi
It might be worthwhile looking at
the Swedish concept of Extended
Producer Responsibility where the
manufacturer is responsible for the
disposal of everything that comes
with a product, including plastic
waste throughout its life cycle.
S.A. Karim,

The Union government should ban

the manufacture of single-use
plastic products and promote
alternative packaging systems.
Cant this be a part of the Make in
India campaign? The use of jute is
an ideal solution. In this context,
one can think of the first jute park of
India that was established in
Purnea in Bihar. Jute parks will also
help the small farmer.
Kumar Harsh,
The key to solid waste management
rests on the principle: reduce,
recycle and reuse. There is also a
movements that set apart time to
clean the environment. The
segregation of plastic waste at the
source itself can be a proficient
mechanism to initiate the recycling
of plastic products.
Shishir Galiya,

Nightlife plan
The Maharashtra governments
plan to make Mumbai the first city
in the country to be open 24x7 may
fetch business establishments and
the government more revenue, but
will be detrimental to health (In
Mumbai, the party will never end,
Feb.18). Has not the government
heard of the adage Early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy,
wealthy and wise? The step may
also encourage antisocial elements.
Though the Shiv Sena is
uncharacteristic in backing such a
move, Mumbai-ites must take it to
be a blessing in disguise. It would be
a breath of fresh air for those who
have been complaining about the
sons-of-the-soil phenomenon.
Shifa Sikri,




Opposites as competing possibilities

Shiv Visvanathan


hiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray has given a
new spin to the term SEZ. His proposal to
make Mumbai truly the Maximum City and
open up select non-residential areas for a vibrant nightlife has been welcomed widely in Mumbai,
especially by the young. He wants business districts
such as Kala Ghoda, Nariman Point and the Marine
Drive promenade in South Mumbai, and the Bandra
Kurla Complex and the Carter Road promenade in the
western suburbs to come alive at night. Flame-throwers, jugglers, live music without speakers, and open-air
cafes on Queens Necklace are alluring sights for the
young. The proposal now includes the conversion of
malls and mill-malls, a phenomenon unique to Mumbai, into Special Entertainment Zones (SEZ). The malls
have private security, and large parking spaces that can
accommodate heavy footfalls. Clearly, the idea has the
potential to boost the night economy of Mumbai, generating mass employment, opening up a new stream of
revenue for hoteliers, big malls deprived of footfalls till
the weekend and even night taxi-drivers. The government can rake in much-needed revenues as tourism
would inevitably get a shot in the arm.
Devendra Fadnavis, one of the youngest to become
Maharashtras Chief Minister, has accepted in principle the idea of creating designated night zones which
can be open 24 x 7. But, this idea requires deeper debate
on whether the citys already stretched infrastructure
can seamlessly absorb the additional burden of adequate security arrangements, especially for the safety
of women, increased means of public transportation,
enhanced street lighting and additional power, traffic
chaos, and the prospect of noise pollution. To make this
a demonstrable reality, two laws that govern Mumbai
need to be amended the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act, 1948, which mandates that employees at
eateries should not work after 12.30 a.m., and the
Bombay Police Act, 1951, which provides for establishments to be shut by 1.30 a.m. With the budget session of
the Maharashtra legislature days away, these amendments could be passed during the monsoon session in
July-August. However, it is natural for a city, scarred by
five major terror attacks since 1993, a series of shocking
drunk driving cases (523 on New Years-eve 2015),
brutal gang rapes at dusk, and incidents of molestations in crowded venues, to approach this issue gingerly and cautiously. Mumbai Police Commissioner
Rakesh Marias clearance to the proposal has boosted
the chances of the idea turning into a reality. The
challenge for the City that Never Sleeps is to ensure
that the dream of a Maximum City with high energy
levels is a fulfilling prospect for its citizens.

he victory of the Aam Aadmi Party

(AAP) in the Delhi election last
week granted the citizens of Delhi a
desperately needed respite from
politics. Newspapers look aimless and there
is already a restlessness of a news-soaked
nation waiting for the next combat. Yet, respites are therapeutic as they enable reflection and allow analyses to go beyond the
frenzy of instant predictions. It also allows
one to read politics in more creative ways
rather than worrying about percentage
points or incumbency effects.
The battle between the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has to be seen
playfully. This is critically essential especially as the AAPs strategists plan to scale up
AAP to the national level. I am not sure
whether this will work. The AAP cannot be a
standardised party; it has to be a collection of
diversities linked by a new style of politics.
The idea of the AAP as a juggernaut destroys
the idea of the AAP. The party has to be a
dialogue, a pollination of differences. If it
expands mechanically, it will be a disappointment. The AAP is a collection of dialects, showing how politics speaks different
issues in different places.

Scaling up the battle

However the AAP can scale up the battle
in a different way. The AAP and the BJP
should not be seen only as empirical parties,
but as imaginations. The battle of the two
parties has to be seen as a conversation of
metaphors, of imaginaries, of competing hypotheses. If we subject them to political
thermometers but forget the playful semiotics of the struggle, something meaningful
will be lost. It might be fruitful to compare
them as symbols and actually see Narendra
Modi and Arvind Kejriwal as caricatures.
Caricatures exaggerate properties to bring
out essential truths and possibilities.
Look at Mr. Modi today. He already
sounds stale, is literally repetitive. He needs
to be vitaminised with additional news. He
has to be fed events because Mr. Modi I feel
is no longer a presence. Without this artificial history of news, he feels like a robot. In

As the strategists of the Aam Aadmi Party plan to

scale up the party to the national level, they must
remember that if it expands mechanically, it will
be a disappointment. The AAP and the BJP
should not be seen only as empirical parties, but as
imaginations. The battle of the two parties has to
be seen as that of competing hypotheses
fact, he conveys an emptiness because he
cannot convey a stillness. Mr. Modi looks
like a designer creation, a soldier in perpetual uniform. At the end of the day, he seems a
perpetual collection of roles, a series of
masks, a collection of agendas but not a person. The challenge of wanting to be Prime
Minister and playing Prime Minister has
robbed Mr. Modi of a presence, a being and a
personhood. He is a project who is no longer
a person.

Adani. It is as if he needs the constant gossip

of externalities to sustain him as a media
Think of Mr. Kejriwal. The fashion gossips
feel he is a nightmare. A Monte Carlo sweater, which is a local product, is about as fashionable as he gets. He dons a muffler which is
every middle class males security blanket. A
silly topi literally caps what should be called
an ensemble. But this description is precisely what makes him endearing. His very indifference to dress signals a style of dissent. His
The image
ideas of fashion extend to his contempt for
Second, Mr. Modi in a few months has conventional politics, to the regalia of Rebeen transformed, from myth to history, public Day, which he sees as silly and

Arvind Kejriwal will succeed only if he resists absorption by

the Delhi elite, and remains an object of surprise and

from aspiration to power. He may not have

transformed the nation in six months but
has transformed the nations perception of
him. The asceticism has disappeared. He enjoys his own commodification. His attempt
to auction his suit was an effort to hide his
designer obsessions. In an ironic way, he
conveys the sense of power as conspicuous
consumption. One can no longer picture a
pracharak with an aryasamaj look. Today, he
is a designer commodity. He is compulsively
fashionable. To talk of him as the chaiwala is
no longer tenable. His chai is sipped in board
rooms; it smells of power and privilege. His
new shakha has the business dons like Mr.


Political boost in
challenging times
uling parties tend to have an advantage in
by-elections, but even so the victories of the
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
in Srirangam in Tamil Nadu and of the Trinamool Congress in Bongaon and Krishnaganj in West
Bengal are stunningly spectacular. For both AIADMK
general secretary Jayalalithaa and Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee, the success in the by-elections came in challenging circumstances. Ms.
Jayalalithaa, who was disqualified as a member of the
Assembly on being convicted by a special court in a
corruption case, saw in her partys decimation of the
opposition in Srirangam the strength to defeat the conspiracies hatched by political opponents. A setback in
Srirangam would have boosted the morale of the opposition in Tamil Nadu, and given rise to claims that the
people had lost faith in Ms. Jayalalithaa after her conviction. That the AIADMK candidate, S. Valarmathi,
bettered Ms. Jayalalithaas victory margin in the previous election was itself a sign that nothing had changed
politically in Tamil Nadu in the months after the trial
court judgment against her. In the Lok Sabha election
last year, the AIADMK, contesting without alliances,
had won 37 of the 39 seats in the State. That the legal
obstacles have not lowered her stature in the eyes of the
voters must have been comforting for Ms. Jayalalithaa,
who is trying to get her conviction overturned before
the end of the current term of the Assembly in 2016. The
opposition parties are even more divided now than they
were at the time of the Lok Sabha election, and the
AIADMKs biggest challenge comes not from its political rivals but from the legal cases against her.
Like Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Banerjee is also fighting
her way through scams. Several senior Trinamool leaders are under investigation for their role in the Saradha
chit fund scam, and Ms. Banerjee is backing them to the
utmost politically. Again like Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Banerjee spoke of people having replied to conspiracies
hatched by the opposition. With the Left parties in
disarray in West Bengal, Ms. Banerjee is concentrating
her political attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing its government at the Centre of using the Central
Bureau of Investigation for political ends. But while
legal setbacks can hurt politically, political victories
cannot help with the legal battles in criminal cases. Ms.
Jayalalithaa and Ms. Banerjee would have to meet the
legal challenges separately. With a little more than a
year to go before Tamil Nadu and West Bengal go to the
polls, both Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Banerjee are on a
good political wicket. That their main worries relate to
courts and cases, is a telling commentary on their political supremacy.




On secularism
The reports, Delhi polls, NRIs
forced Modi U-turn on faith,
Modi refused to speak out on
conversions, church attacks,
(both Feb.19), and Wont tolerate
violence against any religion,
(Feb.18), are disturbing. When
certain inimical forces raised their
secularism, the very basic trait of
our democracy, the Prime Minister
immediately to take pre-emptive
measures; the matter would not
have come to such a pass. It is also
surprising that Mr. Modi did not
pay heed to sane voices from the
minorities, and even the advice
from good friend Barack Obama.
That the Prime Minister has been
jolted out of his slumber only by
the election results does not
portend well for our country. Is
everything linked to grabbing
Vijaya Krishna Pillai G.,
Mannar, Kerala

Feb.19). The Prime Minister

should not take a generalist birds
eye-view of the situation but focus
on trouble spots and incidents
instead and immediately assuage
the feelings of those affected. He
should not only restrain his party
communal ill-will but also purge
such elements from his Cabinet
and the party. It is the utterances of
a few seers-turned-politicians
that are causing all the damage.
P.S.S. Murthy,

India is a secular country not only

because the Indian Constitution
says so but because the trait is also
ingrained in Indian citizens.
Secularism is the very nature and
lifeblood of this country, and
evidence for this can be found
throughout the history and
philosophy of India which has
accommodated a diversity of
opinions, thoughts and faiths. Real
Hindutva lies in respecting
diversity and in serving others.
Sarang R. Patil,
Solapur, Maharashtra
That Mr. Modi has said he will not
tolerate violence against any
religion, cannot be taken at face In a society where different
value. Mr. Modi is the most communities with different faiths
powerful Indian ever since the day converge, there is a compelling
he won the Lok Sabha election and need to have a glue to bind them all
virtually nothing can happen in in our nation. As a dissenting voice,
India without his approval. I would like to say that some
Therefore, it is naive to think that minority religions lure the gullible
the to convert even by attributing their
minorities, verbal and otherwise, woes to the religion they practise.
were without his tacit consent. This psychological warfare should
This is precisely why he chose to stop.
S. Purushothaman,
remain silent, till now. With the
Kovilpatti, Tamil Nadu
myth of his invincibility in winning
elections exposed by the Delhi
election results, he had to change The BJP government must ask
his tactics; hence, the new concern. itself how much of the common
Israel K. Mani, persons aspirations have since
Wellington, Nilgiris been fulfilled or have yet to be met,
such as womens safety and
The commitment to repair the empowerment, solutions to labour
secular fabric of the country should issues, a social security net for the
start from the top (Editorial, elderly, reducing inflation and the

Mr. Modi is a juggernaut, while Mr. Kejriwal

is a piece of jatra, improvised, indigenous, a
trifled tattered. Mr. Modi appears fit. He
behaves like a timetable. With Mr. Modi
around, one feels that India behaves like an
army, a land where unity is uniformity. With
Mr. Kejriwal in power, India is walking amiably. One shows urgency, the other invokes
care. They respond to two different rhythms
of time.

On change
One hopes they sustain the difference. Mr.
Modi feels he is a VIP. Mr. Kejriwal is contemptuous of the Lal Batti. The danger is
that Mr. Kejriwal threatens Mr. Modi as long
as he remains Mr. Kejriwal. Remember that
both came to power because of a society that
wanted change. Yet, civil society wanted
them to be catalysts, agents who affect
change but do not change themselves. Mr.
Modi, in an ironic sense, became the change
he wanted to effect. He sounds like an invention of a technocratic regime. Thankfully, Mr. Kejriwal still sounds anarchic. In fact
the word anarchy sums it up. For Mr. Modi it
is anathema; for Mr. Kejriwal, it is possibility. Mr. Modi stands like a Prussian, Mr.
Kejriwal looks like the next door Gandhian.
There is no laughter left in the Modi image.
Mr. Kejriwal has the sense to look both comical and humorous. His very vulnerability
becomes his strength. Mr. Modi wants to
create an India on an assembly line of
Imagine if Mr. Kejriwal changed, comes to
office in a safari suit, goggles in his shirt
pocket, a briefcase reeking of high class
leather. So far one cannot visualise this. He
seems more sensible and comfortable in a
loose shirt, sweater and muffler which somehow signals that his ideas have the same
amiably cared for quality. One has to now
ensure that Mr. Kejriwal retains this informality as Mr. Modi grows more and more
formal. Mr. Kejriwals politics will retain
that sense of surprise, while Mr. Modis future is a finality of ideas.

Mr. Kejriwal sees through the current pretentiousness of politics. He is not a native of
Lutyenss Delhi. This is what saves him unlike the Oxford educated lot around Rahul
Gandhi or the technocrats around Mr. Modi.
The very slapdash attitude to the folklore
and rituals of official power is his saving
Look at the two of them together. Mr.
Modi looks like an aspirant for a corporate or
United Nations job. Mr. Kejriwal looks like a
reject who has flubbed his last application. Of possibilities
I want to see the two of them as a fable, of
Mr. Modi oozes the serious. Mr. Kejriwal
conveys the sense of comedy and surprise. the nature of dissent and the fate of politics.
Style is not always superficial. It is a symptom, an embodiment of a certain idea. Style
connects to substance in a way we look at
ideas, present ideas, and live them out. In
this sense, Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Modi become evocative of two ways of life and politics. I think dissent as a life form needs a
different kind of sustenance. If it becomes
too digestible, it dies out or is absorbed superficially. Mr. Kejriwal and the AAP have to
remain a continuous debate about Indian
politics and democracy.
I hope Mr. Kejriwal as muffler man stays
the way he is. He will succeed only if he
resists absorption by the Delhi elite, and
remains an object of surprise and irritation.
Mr. Modi is already a Delhi man, a management man, a part of the logic of a certain
politics. Mr. Kejriwal should not be absorbable. The price of anarchy and dissent is that
it resists conversion. One hopes that the
years to come find Mr. Kejriwal mellower
but still a challenge to the orthodoxies to
come. I hope he remains naive, fluid and
unacceptable while Mr. Modi has been absorbed into the orthodoxies of change. I
hope Mr. Kejriwal remains a piece of gossip,
a hypothesis of possibilities as Mr. Modi becomes more priestly and formulaic. Mr. Kejriwal as muffler man confronts Mr. Modi as
management man in the India of today. I
wish someone would create a graphic novel
out of this great opera of opposites as competing possibilities.
(Shiv Visvanathan is a professor at Jindal
School of Government and Public Policy.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
removal of social injustices,
besides measures to boost
infrastructure and investment.
Venkatesh N. Muttur,
Hubballi, Karnataka

Terror boat incident

The government finds itself in an
awkward position now after failing
in its attempt to cover up the truth
in the Pakistani boat case
(Parrikar rejects remarks of Coast
Guard DIG, Feb.19). One still does
not know who the men were or why
they were there. The controversy
shows that there are still flaws in
the defence hierarchy and the
command chain. The Ministry also
needs to look into the stress factor
among our defence forces caused
by denial of leave or overwork in
harsh environments.
A.V. Narayanan,
Irrespective of the truth about the
incident, a serving DIG of the Coast
Guard cannot take a position
contrary to the one taken by the
government in its own judgment at
the highest level. The officer
deserves to be either sacked or
demoted after due process. The
Defence Minister has also not
covered himself in glory as he has
failed to fulfil his promise of
releasing all analysis on the
incident within three days. This
was after Navy and intelligence
sources cast doubts on the Coast
Guards version of events. The
truth should not be covered up in
the name of national security.
S.K. Choudhury,

Politics of rape
For several years, incidents of
sexualised violence by the military
and paramilitary apparatus against
Kashmiri women have been
documented by NGOs and human
rights groups (Politics of rape in
Kashmir, Feb.19). Despite these

appalling instances, there has been

almost complete immunity for the
perpetrators. In most of the cases
reported from Kunan Poshpora,
Saidapora, Bandipora, Wawoosa,
Tangmarg, Badrapai, Kulgam,
Shopian and Banihal, there has
been no justice for any of the
victims. The message is that the
state looks the other way as far as
sexual violence is concerned. If
India has to move forward, it must
ensure its women have full safety
and their rights are protected.
Thahira Hamid,
If the defender becomes the
offender, then there is no hope
left for the unfortunate women of
Kashmir. How can terror be
suppressed? The violation of
women will only lead to a
snowballing of grievances. One can
hardly imagine the trauma and
plight of the families of rape
survivors. It is not surprising that
we are unable to make headway in
Kashmir as we are simply unable to
win the hearts and minds of the
people. The government should
launch a programme of ethics and
guidelines for all armed forces
Sanjeev Tripathi,
New Delhi
Though there are numerous
instances of sexual abuse by the
armed forces in Kashmir, one
should also see this issue through
the lens of the deeper ground
realities. Rape and sexual abuse
have been used by terror
organisations as a weapon to
defame the Army. They wear Army
uniforms, have been known to
videograph entire episodes and
distribute such clips in institutions
to recruit youth for their agenda.
With such a move, they get fresh
recruits and also succeed in
alienating people from the Army.
However, as the disturbing truth in

the article shows, the criminal

justice system in Kashmir is in
need of a complete overhaul.
Womens safety will eventually
allow for national integrity.
Tabish Naqvi,

The mother tongue

The importance of the mother
tongue even as a means of
communication at home on a dayto-day basis is decreasing (Feb.19).
The first words a baby hears from
its mother is in the language of the
mother. When the scenario
changes and children shift to using
English and conveniently forget
the mother tongue, one does not
realise that it is tragic. It is very
essential for children to know their
roots in terms of country and
language. Getting children to learn
different languages from a very
young age is good, and it is amazing
how they switch from one language
to another while conversing.
Sheela Chandrachudan,
The UGCs request to all
universities and institutions to
celebrate Matrubhasha Divas on
February 21, conforming to
Unescos declaration of the day as
International Mother Language
day, must be appreciated. In India,
the mother languages are often
ignored and sometimes actively
repressed due to the notion that
they are underdeveloped and
lack the ability to capture modern
knowledge. The biggest threat is
posed by the current educational
systems that often refuse to use
mother tongues as mediums of
instruction or even to offer them as
elective subjects. The government
and private institutions must
diligently observe this day and
ensure that the mother languages
are held on to.
Hamid Hussain,
Melmuri, Kerala




Comedy without malice

Gautam Bhatia


Dealing with
broken marriages
helving the decision to allow an amendment of
the marriage laws to include irretrievable
breakdown as an additional ground for seeking divorce will be a regrettable step. This progressive amendment, conceived mainly on the
recommendation of the Law Commission and on the
strength of suggestions from the Supreme Court in a
number of cases based on the experience of administering divorce laws, would help expedite what has always been a difficult and painful process. The draft has
already been fine-tuned to protect the interests of
women and children affected by divorce. When the
amendment was initially introduced in 2010, it sought
to waive the waiting or cooling-off period of six months
before considering a motion for divorce by mutual
consent, but a parliamentary committee found this
unnecessary. Secondly, the panel wanted better safeguards for womens property rights and also desired
that the clause protecting the interests of children born
during the marriage be extended to adopted children
too. Subsequently, the draft was changed to the effect
that the waiting period could only be reduced by the
court under some conditions. If there was any evidence
that it would cause financial hardship to the wife, the
court cannot grant divorce without making arrangements for compensation, including a share in property,
to her. Financial arrangements should be made for the
maintenance of children, including adopted children
and unmarried or widowed daughters with no means of
financial support. The amendment was passed in the
Rajya Sabha in 2013, but not in the Lok Sabha.
A common argument from those opposing the present amendment is that the provision for divorce by
mutual consent adequately covers the situation of a
marriage lapsing into dysfunction. Groups purporting
to protect the rights of men also argue that a woman
could enter into a sham marriage and later walk away
with the husbands property by getting it annulled at
will. Some make extreme claims that it could destroy
the institution of marriage and even encourage live-in
relationships. Such scenarios should not be used as a
pretext to stymie well-intentioned amendments that
seek to break matrimonial deadlocks by recognising
breakdown as a judicially sound reason. In fact, the
Law Commission and the Supreme Court suggested
that irretrievable breakdown be added as a ground only
to put an end to the fault theory as the basis for
annulment. Giving up this legislative change to the
Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act will
be an unwarranted concession to moral conservatism.
The government would do well not to abandon the
long-overdue amendment that will take jurisprudence
forward, strengthening as it does individual rights.

resident Nominated: Members of

both Houses of Parliament today
nominated a stately Eucalyptus tree
as the 17th President of India. Because the President occupies a largely ceremonial position, said the Lok Sabha Speaker,
it was important to nominate something
that looked good and said very little. Soon
after the pleasantly surprised Eucalyptus
moved into Rashtrapati Bhavan with a mali
and a bag of manure, it left on a state visit to
People gather together. I am going to tell a
joke, says someone. Once there was an
American, an Australian and a sardar As
the joke progresses, the attention focusses on
a single line; faces lean in with expectation;
finally, the entire group releases a laugh, and
everyone goes back to the business of life.
In the land of Sardarji jokes, comedy is a
conditioned response working on a set rule.
Such regulation even extends into professional humour. Indian stand-up comedy may
have come of age, but its content is still an
unfortunate mix of ethnic jokes (Sir, yes, you
in the front row, you said you were from
Kerala, oh, thats why I couldnt see you), and
sexual innuendo (I see your hand is on the
ladys thigh; obviously thats not your wife).
The nature of such standup is not so much to
reflect on difficult issues, but to bite into
familiar fruit, and spit into the audience.
Loud, brash and filled with all the harsher
strains of shock value, comedy is just raucous
theatre. It builds on the theme of offence
using peoples affluence, their ethnicity or
sexuality, their background, the make of their

Comedy and content

The recent AIB uploaded videos on YouTube did the trick of getting national attention, not so much for the subjects of its
comedic roast, but the foul-mouthed racist
rant on caste, genitalia and sexual orientation. Despite serious humour in its content,
the delivery came under attack from extremist groups. As charges of obscenity and bad
taste were levelled by the far rights moral
policing, Anand Gandhi, a Mumbai filmmaker
sprang to the shows defence. I hope our
humour gets sharper, our dissent more rigorous, and our satire more offensive. Unlikely.
In the front line battle between the small

an nationhood; people questioned her allegiance to the flag. And, as she found out the
hard way, that Muslims of prominence had to
wear their nationalism on the sleeve.

Dealing with taboos

In any case, people in India are different in
far too many ways, to ever be viewed as a
cohesive, homogeneous mass. To be saddled
by poverty, to be illiterate, to live in a village
or a city slum, to be a Muslim or a Christian,
or a tribal, to be a woman, unmarried, to be
dark, was the ultimate humiliation in 19th
century India. Comedy centres light up with
these issues only because little has changed.
Several lifetimes and good karmas would be
needed to rise to Indias 21st century ideal:
Hindu, Brahmin, Male, Urban dweller,

The bite of satire is cloaked in serious intent only in

self-confident societies comfortable with each others

Today, the slightest provocation will rile the

most peace-loving of people to charge into
public forums. Nationalism, religion and
caste, have always been around as convenient
ploys for displays of prejudice; they are now
joined with gender, class, race and sexuality.

Reality and the stereotype

The important thing is to take offence; even
the smallest of indiscretions can leap off the
media pages and become a matter of national
shame. Tennis star Maria Sharapovas ignorance of Sachin Tendulkar had cricket fans
fuming, asking Indians to boycott her matches; a picture of Sania Mirza, tired and stretching after a match showed her feet balanced
near a flag. Her Muslim identity was quickly
brought into play against her regard for Indi-

Young, Fair, and Moneyed.

Shah Rukh Khans Fair and Handsome ad
only reinforces the stereotype. Even the
search for a fair skinned wife in the Indian
kitchen has not wavered since the dark ages. A
wheatish complexioned girl must shell out
several fridges, colour TVs and washing machines to compensate for her dreadful facial
deformity. One tending towards whole
wheat is already set for a frugal life of neglect
and loneliness a teacher in a village school,
a warden in an orphanage, an ayah for a diplomats family. Life is cruel, India only makes it
crueller. Skin whitening ads, khap panchayats, newspaper matrimonial classifieds,
all fall within a group that only reinforces the
traditional stereotype, ideas that can only be
countered with comedians taking them to


A thoughtful
f taken at face value, President Barack Obamas
closing address to the Summit on Countering
Violent Extremism could signal a repositioning
of the official White House line on the war
against global terrorism. The Presidents speech was a
carefully calibrated response to the recent wave of
attacks by militants from the Islamic State (IS) in those
countries that are part of the U.S.-led war in Syria and
Iraq. Rather than the shrill notes of threat and retribution that usually attend U.S. policy rhetoric on the
global war on terror, what the Summit heard from Mr.
Obama were thoughtful insights into the human rights
origins of terrorism. Speaking to a gathering of Ministers from nearly 70 countries, the UN Secretary-General and other senior officials, Mr. Obama made two
significant points. First, he made an exceptionally
strong plea to cut through the terrorist narrative based
on twisted interpretations of Islam that allows
groups like IS to act in the name of Islam. Secondly, he
directed the attention of his audience to the need to
transform the environments of economic impoverishment in which young people, trapped without education or any avenues of advancement, turn rich pickings
for terrorist recruiters. So if were serious about countering violent extremism, we have to get serious about
confronting these economic grievances, he declared.
While Mr. Obama deserves credit for outlining a
nuanced view of the social origins of terrorism, and a
more humane, long-term and inclusive approach to a
possible solution to extremism, it would be unrealistic
to expect a radical shift in U.S. policy towards this
phenomenon. Despite the softer rhetoric, the Obama
administrations response has been far sharper and
intensive than what was viewed as the heavy-handedness of his predecessor in office in conducting its
global war against terror. Across Pakistan, Yemen and
Somalia, the Obama administration launched more
than 390 drone strikes in its first five years. This is eight
times as many as were launched during the entire
George W. Bush presidency. The bombing of IS bases
by the U.S.-led coalition of nations in Syria and Iraq is
part of the continuum of war set by the invasion of Iraq
by the same forces in 2003. Fighting them today is a
deadly and ruthless war machine operated by religious
extremists. IS is a deadly menace to the civilised world,
with its acts of public brutality designed to radiate
terror. While the U.S. and its allies are compelled to
root out this sinister challenge, the imperative is for the
global community to move ahead on issues such as
Palestine which could conceivably lend more moral
force to anti-IS operations in the Middle East.



Document theft
It was just a day or two ago that a
senior corporate leader had
expressed his disappointment over
the pace at which business
decisions get cleared. Now comes
the news that policy papers were
being smuggled out of the Oil
Ministry (Feb.20). The corporate
leader in question should now know
where the obstacles stem from and
should raise the issue before the CII
and FICCI. The greed of individual
industrialists is often the root cause
of problems. It is also a fact that
government offices lack proper
security; one has heard of stories of
defence secrets being ferreted out
of the Ministry for a paltry
monetary consideration.
T.M. Renganathan,
Srirangam, Tamil Nadu
That there are well-oiled links
bureaucrats which control the
levers of power was revealed by the
Radia Tapes. One wonders how
much more sensitive material from
other Ministries has been taken
H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana,
The news is just sensationalism as
such theft has been going on for
over 50 years. There is always a
game of oneupmanship in
business circles, with big business
houses employing executives just to
government offices. With advances
in technology, it has become easy to
transfer information onto devices
and smuggle out data. Foreign
organisations have also mastered
the art of obtaining masses of

task. Perhaps Indian taboos are harder and

come loaded with years of guilt and recrimination. The position of women in society, the
preference for white skin, class and caste
more than any other place, a repressed society needs comedy to mirror issues that affect
us all. The impulse to cause psychic disturbance through comedy is the more difficult
refrain of satire. Certainly, comedy isnt the
relevant medium for serious debate on serious issues, but its ability to bring the subject
into the open, and relieve tension is a crucial
Of course, parody becomes all the more
irreverent in situations of affluence. In the oil
rich states of the United Arab Emirates, the
extremes of expenditure have always bordered on the ridiculous. Everything is available for a price. Already having conquered the
tallest structure, the biggest underground
market, the most expensive property, satire
there now lives in hyper reality: A Taj Mahal,
double the size of the original, serving as hotel
and casino, a 40 storied high-rise where motorised apartments can swivel around and
change views. With highway speeds of a miserly 100 kilometres per hour, the Department of Roads proposed a separate no speed
limit lane for platinum card customers; business centres in the better Dubai hotels advertised Geisha girls on a menu card stating
price and timing. When a culture lives on the
extreme of perpetual availability, it took
some doing to explain to some prospective
customers that, like the highway speed limit,
the Geisha girl menu was only a joke.
Society creates taboos out of uncomfortable historical association. The many years of
black oppression and slavery appear in contemporary American life in an inability to
confront history, and the collective discomfort felt when the derogatory reference to
African Americans cannot be openly repeated, but comes out as a self-conscious abbreviation, the N-word. As oppressors, whites
however can be called Honkeys without any
guilt. No one uses the phrase, the H-word.

Indian taboos are still too plainly visible for satire

to be effective. It may take several generations
before they become a talking point between
diverse groups. Till then, the chasm between those
who laugh and those who get laughed at only
Indian urban elite with a copycat mimicry of
American television tastes and the more conservative and increasingly vocal middle
class, the clash of liberal and traditional values is the newer, more visible divide within
the culture itself.
With millions writhing on the floor in uncontrollable laughter, comics liberally spray
the audience with an undercurrent of Indian
foibles peoples differences, the shrill hotheaded awareness of identity, religious practices, all come loaded with messages of hate.
The growing divide in society reflects in the
numerous splinter groups: good Muslims and
bad Muslims, good Hindus and violent ones,
Buddhist pacifists and Buddhist extremists,
Hindu activists and pious ascetics, Muslims
with their own political parties and agendas.

information from government

M.V. Nahusharaj,

AAP and the BJP

I am afraid it is too early in the day
conclusions on the one week-old
Kejriwal dispensation vis--vis
Narendra Modi (Opposites as
competing possibilities, Feb.20).
As such, the article is more a
reflection of the writers ideals and
wishes. While the growing trend of a
personality cult in respect of Mr.
Modi needs to be reined in, at the
present juncture much need not be
read into the extrinsic features of
Mr. Kejriwal.
Seshagiri Row Karry,

Sen and Nalanda

Nalanda is a unique project, revived
and to be developed as a great
centre of excellence in education
and knowledge (Sen to leave
Nalanda post, Feb.20). Therefore,
political interference should be
kept out of its affairs. Empowered
teachers and enthusiastic students
are what will enliven the academic
atmosphere. If Dr. Sen had
continued, there would have been
continuity in the universitys
academic development.
K.M.K. Murthy,

Band-aid solutions
The malaise that shrouds the
medical delivery system in India is
the product of insensitive, lethargic
and ad hoc policies that were
followed in the past (Band-aid
solutions for health problems,
Feb.20). The Medical Council too


Free speech
With a daily dose of rapes, burnt churches,
hacked housewives, unimaginable brutality
against tribals, female foeticides, road rage,
social protests, do such incidents have a place
in standup in India?
Obviously there is no place for the rigorous
and abusive openness of free expressions of
France and Denmark where under the satirical pen, nothing is sacrosanct. In India
however there is a difference between provocative and confrontationist, between mildly chiding and downright abusive. Even
though the lines are unclear, but luckily for
us, there are enough fringe groups, rabblerousers and thugs, who under the guise of
activism, will drown out any attempts at free
speech with their own free speech. As long as
you defend your right to be heard with your
life, I will defend my right to be abusive till
your death. In an open democratic secular
free speaking society, God-forbid if somebody
is in fact openly democratic, secular and free
So as stand-up comedy screams and hisses
about race and homophobia and rape, the old
drawing rooms and courtyards remain embroiled in selecting fair skinned sons in-law,
coyly draped bahus who will happily lurk in
domestic backgrounds, without ever sounding the horn of feminism or asking for equal
pay for equal work; people will remain abusive towards North Easterners, calling them
foreigners in their own country. The bite of
satire is cloaked in serious intent only in
self-confident societies comfortable with
each others differences. Indian taboos are
still too plainly visible and lurking too close to
the skin for satire to be effective. It may take
several generations before skin colour, race,
caste and gender issues become a talking
point between diverse groups. Till then, the
chasm between those who laugh and those
who get laughed at, only widens.
(Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based architect
and sculptor.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
often works with corrupt intent.
The growth of private medical
colleges has only made medical
education expensive, and there is a
providers and pharmaceutical
firms. Numerous private hospitals
have come up across the country
where the only intention seems to
be to fleece patients. There must be
a comprehensive National Heath
Policy to look into these problems.
That Kerala and Tamil Nadu occupy
a high pedestal is fortuitous.
Traditionally, people were healthconscious, aided by cheaper
indigenous medical systems. But
that situation is changing. As a
solution, State governments must
try and make medical costs
affordable by opening medical
shops that sell medicines at
discounted rates. Any piecemeal
attempt to improve the health
delivery system will be ineffective;
the Modi government should take
bold and comprehensive action.
K. Rajendran,
The article reminded me of my own
ordeal as a Central Government
Health Scheme (CGHS) beneficiary.
The scheme is a boon for Central
government employees and their
dependants. However, CGHS
hospitals are usually few in number
even in the cities, and with minimal
staff, leading to queues. Further,
doctors fritter away their time
causing severe distress to patients
who need emergency care. The
queues at the pharmacy ensure that
people spend at least double the
time taken for diagnosis to get
medicines. The complaint registers
never make it to the Chief Medical

administrative and disciplinary
steps were taken, the scheme can
work wonders in bringing relief to
the common person.
Siddhi Bangard,

Swine flu theories

The bizarre pronouncements (Feb.
20) by West Bengal Chief Minister
Mamata Banerjee that swine flu is
caused by mosquitoes, and by the
Mumbai Mayor that swine flu is a
heart disease, provide comic relief
in a week of dreary political news.
But on reflection, one is sad and
disturbed that the running of the
country at the highest levels is in
the hands of personalities who are
poorly informed. Maybe it is the
sign of a robust democracy that the
leaders are truly representative of
the people, most of whom are
ignorant and illiterate. But one
would have thought that they would
have at least cared to ask their
assistants to enlighten them on a
grave health problem threatening
the country.
A.N. Lakshmanan,

Shooting a tiger
It is with great anger that I write
this letter. We have killed yet
another big cat (Debate over
identity of tiger, some editions,
On the one hand we are quick to
brandish statistics and rejoice at the
fact that the tiger population has
increased, while on the other we are
quite happy to go on a shooting
spree. When will we learn to give
space to Nature?
T. Anand Raj,

It is unfortunate that the tiger was

handicapped because of injury and
had begun to prey on people. Now
the question to be debated is, what
method is to be adopted to tackle
problem-animals. Some of the
conservationists are of the opinion
that nothing can replace shooting.
But before resorting to this drastic
action, other methods have to be
explored. Tranquillising has its
limitations as one has to get close
enough. Also, the animal has to be
properly identified. The time taken
to spot the animal, take aim and
then shoot have to be accomplished
within a few seconds. A disabled
animal is on the lookout for easy
prey and a trap with a live bait often
works. The aim must be to catch it
alive, treat it and return it to the
forest. The tiger population is on
the mend; we must now give the
species a helping hand.
S. Subbarayalu,
It is rather painful to visualise the
pain and agony the human victims
must have suffered while being
attacked by the animal. To avert
tiger attacks, forest-dwellers in the
Sunderbans wear a tiger mask with
pronounced eyes on the back of the
head. In the Gir forests, every
Maldhari (tribal resident) carries a
thick stick covered with iron casing
at both ends to ward off attacks by
lions. Similar steps can be thought
of by the Forest Departments and
tea estate managements to protect
labourers from being attacked by
carnivores. I am a strong advocate
of tranquillisation and then
translocating the animal to a zoo,
instead of shooting it.
R. Krishnamurthy,




The lawlessness of humour

Sanjay Hegde


The return
of Nitish
ith Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar being sworn in Chief Minister of Bihar, a phase of political uncertainty has
come to an end in the State. But his return
to power also kicks off another phase of political realignment in the run-up to State Assembly elections
due before October. The political churn is likely to be
more intense than what has just been witnessed, and
that ended with the resignation of Jitan Ram Manjhi
who had earlier refused to step down in favour of Mr.
Kumar, who had won the 2010 popular mandate. Mr.
Manjhi had hoped for more active support from the
Bharatiya Janata Party to split the JD (U), without
which he could not have sustained his claim to remain
in power. But the BJP limited its support to merely
pledging the votes of its own MLAs to him.
The three strands in the drama that just concluded,
namely Mr. Manjhis deance of his one-time mentor
Mr. Kumar, the BJPs eagerness to goad Mr. Manjhi on,
and Mr. Kumars insistence on reclaiming the chair he
had abdicated in 2014 ostensibly as a matter of principle, hold out the factors that will play out in the coming
weeks. Mr. Manjhi, opportunistic as he was, also represents the ambition of the Dalits, who have not yet
emerged as a class in themselves in Bihar, unlike in the
neighbouring State of Uttar Pradesh. If the appointment of Mr. Manjhi, a Mahadalit, as Chief Minister was
in furtherance of Mr. Nitish Kumars politics at the
time, his rebellion was an inevitable outcome of the
same politics. The BJP nds an opportunity here, as the
empowered Dalits may not play second ddle to backward caste leaders and may look for greener pastures.
The BJP will, therefore, try to attract Dalits, as it
successfully did in Maharashtra and Haryana in Assembly elections in 2014. Mr. Manjhis role in the BJPs
scheme of reaching out to Dalits is yet to evolve, but his
outbursts against Mr. Kumar will certainly help the
BJPs Hindutva politics. The BJP, which was a junior
partner to the JD (U) in Bihar until the 2010 Assembly
elections, will lead an alliance of smaller parties this
year and will have more than a hundred Assembly seats
to offer to aspirants. That makes Mr. Kumars task of
keeping together his ock, comprising backwards, Dalits and Muslims, an uphill task. By allying with Mr.
Lalu Prasad, Mr. Kumar has laid the foundation for
building a social coalition of the backwards, which is an
attempt to revive Mandal politics with the support of
Muslims, as a bulwark against the BJPs Hinduvta
push. It is clear that Bihar in the coming weeks will
witness an intense battle between Hindutva and

n Stalins time, god had been abolished

and farming collectivised. A Soviet
farmer was asked by a central commissar how good the potato crop was. The
farmer answered, If all the potatoes produced on our collective farm were gathered
into a mound, the mound would be so tall that
it would reach the feet of god. The doctrinal
correct Commissar snarled, There is no god,
comrade, you know that. The unperturbed
reply came, there are no potatoes either.
This joke illustrates Freuds point in the
1908 paper, Jokes and Their Relation to the
Unconscious, where he saw jokes as telling
the secrets about ourselves to ourselves and
the world that we do not necessarily want to
As I read about the storm gathering against
the All India Bakchod roast, which has now
culminated in a Bombay magistrates court
ordering an FIR to being led against the
organisers and participants of the show, it is
time to examine the facts dispassionately,
because all of a sudden, humour has become
deadly serious business.

Integral to cultures
A comedy roast is an event where a celebrity consents to be laughed at. His friends,
peers, acquaintances and enemies gather to
insult him and provide general merriment to
those gathered around. Money collected from
the paying audience is often given away to a
charity of the celebritys choice. A roast is an
occasion for the celebrity to be brought down
a peg or two, for him to be able to laugh at
himself and to, all in all, show, that he is a
good sport who can have a joke made at his
This tradition of roasting grew out of the
comedy clubs in America and drew inspiration from a street game called The Dozens
which is often played on the streets in black
majority areas in the United States. The Dozens is a game of spoken words where participants insult each other until one gives up. It is
played in front of an audience of bystanders
who encourage the participants to reply with
matching and bigger insults to heighten the
tension and make it more interesting to

The courts will work their processes in the AIB

Roast case, but it is very rarely illegal to tell a
joke, or a whole series of them, to listen to one,
disseminate or laugh at one. The law does not
criminalise a joke. The law cannot allow itself to
be used as an instrument of suppression, of a
citizens right to speak sense or nonsense

watch. Serious research exists connecting

The Dozens to a Nigerian game called Ikocha
Nkocha, which when literally translated
means making disparaging remarks. Similar games have been noted in Ghana where
insults are frequently directed at family
members. The need to laugh at and be
laughed at is integral to many cultures. After
all, as Jane Austen wrote in Pride and Prejudice, For what do we live, but to make sport
for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our
On December 20, 2014, in an event that
raised around Rs.40 lakh for charity, two Bollywood actors, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, were roasted by other members of the

The jokes ranged from the risqu to the

rude. Like the stuff in all good professional
comedy, some jokes did make viewers drop
their jaws in disbelief (Did he really say
that?), howl with laughter, grit their teeth in
anger and wince with shock. But for once,
celebrities got people to pay to watch their
celebrity status get insulted. The trading of
insults humanised them and elevated the audience by enabling it to seemingly look down
on them.

Taking offence
Yet, like every fairy tale, it was those who
were left out who took the most offence and
caused the most trouble. The hitherto un-

Each of the sections under the Indian Penal Code is designed

with a specific affected person in mind. That person alone must
be permitted to set the law in motion and no other.
glitterati, with Karan Johar officiating as the
master of the roast. The panel of roasters
included the three comics, Gursimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi and Tanmay Bhat, who were
members of the comedy group, AIB. Other
attendees included Alia Bhat, Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha. By all accounts, the
roast was a huge success. Neither did the
persons roasted take offence to the insults
nor did any paying member of the audience
want his money back on grounds of obscenity
or otherwise. Everybody had a good time,
threatened no one and raised money for good

known Brahman Ekta Seva Sanstha was rst

off the block to le an FIR at the Sakinaka
police station. A Catholic organisation led a
civil suit for damages while a criminal complaint by a law professor resulted in a magistrates direction to launch a criminal
investigation. These two proceedings were
led through the same lady lawyer, who cannot be accused of being a publicity hound,
because she is a well known television commentator. The Bombay High Court was petitioned to look into the controversy. The
matter has not reached the Supreme Court as
yet, through a meddlesome interloper or offi-


The cost of
he failure of successive governments in India, especially those in States that have the
highest mortality rates among children
younger than ve years, to address the critical issue of training health-care providers in rural
areas to correctly diagnose and treat children suffering
from diarrhoea and pneumonia, has had tragic consequences. These ailments account for the maximum
number of under-5 mortality incidence in the country.
That the poor management of sick children by health
care providers is a major causal factor for under-5
mortality has been brought out by a study carried out
in rural Bihar. As other studies have shown, what is
true for Bihar will be largely valid for other States as
well. That the 340 health-care providers studied seldom practised what little they knew about treating
children suffering from the two heath complications is
a poignant reminder of the state of the health-care
system in rural India. Only 3.5 per cent of the practitioners prescribed the correct treatment using lifesaving oral rehydration salts (ORS) alone for children
with simple, uncomplicated diarrhoea. Instead, nearly
69 per cent of them prescribed potentially dangerous
drugs, including antibiotics, along with ORS; an equal
percentage of them prescribed drugs without any ORS.
The record was only slightly better in the case of
pneumonia. The quality of diagnosis also left much to
be desired.
These ndings explain why Bihar has the countrys
highest infant mortality rate of 55 per 1,000 live births.
In 2010, the under-5 mortality in India from diarrhoea
and pneumonia was over 600,000, the highest in the
world in terms of absolute numbers. In the same year,
India was one of the ve countries that accounted for
nearly 50 per cent of the deaths globally from diarrhoea and pneumonia in this age group. Hence, it is
hard to fathom why India did next to nothing to train
and equip health-care providers to diagnose and treat
children. Bangladesh has not seen any drop in the
incidence of acute diarrhoeal disease, but has reduced
its under-5 mortality rate by 75 per cent between 1980
and 2011, largely by reducing mortality from the two
diseases by means of better case management even in
rural areas. In 2006-2007, as much as 76 per cent of
children with diarrhoea in rural Bangladesh received
ORS, a 2013 paper in The Lancet says. India has indeed
done well in reducing under-5 mortality numbers
from 2.5 million in 2001 to 1.5 million in 2011. But with
only 10 months left to achieve the critical Millennium
Development Goal No. 4 of 38 deaths per 1,000 live
births among children under ve, India can ill-afford
to continue with its indifferent attitude to health care
in rural areas.



Stolen papers
The reports, Saikia sold info, says
ex-official, He was called Mr.
Petrol, and Stolen papers could
impact national security: police,
(Feb.22) are alarming. It is equally
unfortunate that there is politics
being played out in the midst of all
this, with the government claiming
credit for unearthing the scam. The
rst sign that things could go
wrong, as seen in the Radia Tapes
episode, should have set in motion
a revamp of the system. But things
seem to have been allowed to
The episode shows that
corporate bosses can indeed do
irreparable damage to national
interest. The political system
should now unite and work in
tandem to ensure that the nations
security is not compromised. The
easy access the corporate world has
to top decision-making processes
establishes the fact that there
exists a dual economy which is
paralysing and crippling the
nation. This nexus needs to be
Balasubramaniam Pavani,
With rising inequalities in India,
corporate greed was shamelessly
evident, but stealing secrets is
the limit. In a country where even
lobbying is illegal,espionageon the
government, much more serious
simply unacceptable. And the
indication that it has been going on
for decades makes it even more
disturbing. It is not only unethical
but also dangerous for the nation
and its economy. As it is,
corporates have been notorious for
exploiting the poorer and weaker
sections of society, contributing to
environmental degradation and
political corruption. In a socialistwelfarist democracy, where the
governments primary job is to

bureaucratic-corporate nexus was
always a bane. And nowespionage!
Is there no end to corporate greed?
In fact, it is such things that hurt
rankings globally. The culprits,
who are involved directly or
indirectly, must be severely
Pranav Shekhar,
New Delhi
The sordid revelations are a classic
example of what happens when
there is drastic liberalisation,
programmes, outsourcing and
opening up of the use of natural
resources to private players, PPP,
BOP models and a lopsided,
market-driven economy thrust
upon the nation in the name of
development and growth without
stringent and deterrent law
enforcing mechanisms, and special
courts in place to deal with
economic offences. Considering
the sensational revelation made by
one of the accused that this was a
corporate espionage scam worth
Rs.10,000 crore, the action being
taken cannot be termed as a
crackdown. Those arrested are
only the small fry. The sharks lurk
elsewhere. It would be interesting
to see how the government tackles
the offenders, considering that half
the ideas driving economic revival
now are private and corporatesector driven. Offending the
corporate sector can invite
Ettirankandath Krishnadas,


cious busybody!
While the courts will no doubt work their
processes in due course, a few obvious legal
truisms must be stated. It is very rarely illegal
to tell a joke, or a whole series of them. It is
not illegal to listen to a joke. It is not illegal to
disseminate a joke. It is not illegal to laugh at
a joke. The law does not criminalise a joke.
You can laugh at the world and you can laugh
at yourself. It is perfectly legal to do so.
Like obscenity, humour is very difficult to
dene, is subjective and is a matter of taste.
Even phrases from various statutes that criminalise some aspects of speech are delightfully
vague and use adjectives like grossly offensive, sexually coloured and obscene. Just
as lawmakers have struggled to dene these
offences, so too have judges who have applied
these standards to actual cases. The dilemma
is best exemplied by Justice Potter Stewarts
claim in the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1964
case, of Jacobellis v Ohio, where he dened
pornography as I know it , when I see it.
While lawmakers and administrators have
difficulties in dening or restricting speech,
people who seek outrage nd it very easy to
get outraged at almost anything that anyone
says beyond the bounds of politeness. What if
the joke is hurtful of someones sentiments?
What if the joke is obscene? What if the joke
provokes a riot? Can someone not be made
accountable for a joke that is in poor taste, or
disrespectful? These and other such like
questions seem to agitate the minds of the
grand-inquisitors of humour.

What the law says

In law, the answer is simple. There is no
general right to take offence at the contents of
another persons speech in a private environment. It is only when the speech is in a
public place, or causes annoyance to others in
a public place that criminal law is attracted, as
in Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code. If a
joke is specically defamatory of ones personal reputation, that person alone could go
to a civil court to collect damages. If the
speech was deliberately aimed at insulting a
religion, it may be criminally actionable under Section 295-A. If a joke is aimed at sexual
harassment, it may be actionable by the victim alone under the newly created Section
354A of the IPC.
What needs to be emphasised here is that
each of these sections is designed with a specic affected person in mind. That person
alone must be permitted to set the law in
motion and no other. Nobody has a general
right to take offence at another peoples jokes,
at other peoples expense. Except the person
who is directly impacted, no one else should
be granted locus standi, with respect to a joke
or its teller. No third party should intervene
to save the honour or reputation of any person or class of persons, who wink at or laugh
at a joke made at their own expense. It is only
when there is a personal stake, in the sense of
a loss of reputation or harassment, should the
law be set in motion. Even here, civil proceedings for damages should normally be resorted
to and criminal proceedings discouraged. In
other words, if I choose to let my friends and
family laugh at me as a lawyer, no other lawyer or family of lawyers must be allowed into
the court to take umbrage on my behalf, if I do
not wish to resort to the law.
The law cannot allow itself to be used as an
instrument of suppression, of a citizens right
to speak sense or nonsense. It is time for the
law to protect what the poet Faiz wrote in his
poem, Bol (Speak)
Speak, for your lips are free,
Speak, for your speech is yet your own,
Speak, for the truth is till now alive,
Speak, for your life is still your own.
(Translation mine)
(Sanjay Hegde is a practising advocate in
the Supreme Court.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
made fun of or disagreed with
totally. The interesting aspect of
stand-up comedy is that despite
the laughter value of a joke, it has
the potential to relax the rigidities
of cultural behaviour and also
ignite a meaningful discussion on
the ethical aspects of the content of
a joke. Only satire has such power
to easily invoke a healthy balance
to the argumentative atmosphere
in a taboo-ridden society such as
ours. So, AIB Roast should be
seen as good start to more such
narratives on deeply buried taboos
of our culture and society.
Harsha Vardhan K.S.,
It is convenient to say that standup comedians mirror the taboos,
stereotypes and malaises deeply
entrenched in a society. In an
open, democratic, secular, freespeaking society, a pen is mightier
than god and deadlier than a
missile. But what if the sarcasm the
comedian is enacting or playing out
is a reection of prejudices and
hatred he himself harbours against
a section of society? What if he is
portraying the general feeling that
society has inherited from the
Shashank Jain,
New Delhi

I found it hard to digest the fact

that there was an attempt to justify
the AIBs foul-mouthed acts that
catered to low-level intellectual
perversion in the name of comedy.
It was simply unacceptable. Yes,
we live in an era where society is
now broad-minded and where
there is freedom of speech, but
trying to justify the AIBs verbal
Building a truly progressive and violence is against Indias moral
tolerant society requires absolute values.
Pankaj Sharma,
freedom of speech, and not a
conditional one (Comedy without
malice, Feb.21); it should protect
and promote contrarian voices. No
idea should be too sacrosanct to be I am glad to see Dr. Amartya Sen

Comedy minus malice

Sen and Nalanda

stepping down (Wont reconsider

decision: Sen, Feb.22). This will
pave the way, potentially, for
theoreticians rooted in modern
quantitative analyses and free
market economics, and those who
are more in tune with the ongoing
globalisation of industry and
commerce, and with more
precision in thinking. I only wish
he had gracefully stepped down
without ring parting shots at the
Vembar K. Ranganathan,
Irvington, U.S.
While Professor Sen accuses
Narendra Modi of being opposed to
him and for having brought politics
into academia, can he deny that
there was no politics in his
appointment as Chancellor in the
rst place? Dr. Manmohan Singh
was the Prime Minister then. I also
nd it strange that most
intellectuals are free to criticise
Mr. Modi, but are not willing to
face the consequences for it.
Ratish Nair,
Nalanda University may have been
vulnerable from the start, as it is a
very different university with the
high-prole members of its
governing board from various parts
of the world. The temptation to
meddle in its affairs may have been
great. Therefore, one is in
agreement with Dr. Sen when he
says that academic governance in
India remains so deeply vulnerable
to the opinions of the ruling
It is a sad day when the political
class decides the fate of academic
matters and shows no respect for
excellence and merit. Politicians
should also ask themselves why
there is no single university in
India in the top 200 world
educational rankings.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,

Commerce and cricket

It was an eye-opener on how big
money chases even the untested
player in the highly market-driven
and richly priced arena that cricket
is turning out to be (Sunday
Anchor page: Playing for a price,
Feb.22). Playing for the country
and playing for money alone are
two different things altogether,
which the eye-catching visuals in
the article captured well. An
articial cricket market, perhaps
one that rivals the share market, is
being created by just cashing in on
the popularity of the game. The IPL
is here to stay and there is a need to
create a separate Special Purpose
Entity, independent of the BCCI,
for the purpose of running and
managing IPL matches.
The way the IPL has been held to
date shows how easy it is to grossly
misuse and manipulate the game to
the advantage of a few people. The
concept has value only from the
point of view of providing
opportunities to unsung players
and giving opportunities to
youngsters to mingle with and
learn from senior players of repute.
The modus operandi till now
administered or manipulated
shows that there is ample scope for
a review.
Vazuthur Raghavan,

Indias second win

Congratulations to Team India
that won the World Cup match
against South Africa with a stellar
all-round performance under the
captaincy of M.S. Dhoni. What
impressed me the most is the
manner in which De Velliers, who,
despite the defeat lifted his hat
while shaking hands with each of
our players and congratulated
them. It is a noble gesture worth
V. Sethumadhavan,




Secrecy and information theft

R.K. Raghavan


More like a flood

than a leak
t is akin to an organised industry. The systematic
pilfering from the Petroleum Ministrys office
in the heart of New Delhi of documents which
were then handed over to consultants and interested corporate entities for a price, has revealed a
frightening nexus. One account says that a night guard
would steal the documents while a peon would
switch off CCTV cameras to facilitate the alleged acts of
corporate espionage, some details of which are now in
the public domain. In addition to some low-ranking
staff members of the Ministry, two consultants and
representatives of ve top business houses have been
arrested by the Delhi Police in the case. Budget inputs,
minutes of a Cabinet meeting on disinvestment and
detailed documents on the petroleum sector, were
among the documents that were allegedly stolen by the
ring. The brazen manner in which these were pilfered
from Shastri Bhavan in Lutyens Delhi goes to show
that government departments can easily be subverted
by vested interests for corporate gains.
This rot might well extend to other ministries and
departments. While the facts of the present case will
have to be established in a court of law, it is unlikely
that company representatives were acting in their personal capacity. If it is proved, the top corporate groups
who are alleged to have beneted from the documents
that they procured through this organised system of
espionage will have much to answer for. It is likely that
the Delhi Police crackdown on the ring was triggered by
the concern expressed by National Security Adviser
Ajit Doval in October 2014 at how secret information
made its way to the media. Mr. Dovals letter spoke of
the need for rm action to prevent the media from
publishing secret documents that impinged on the
countrys national security. The NSA pointed out in his
letter, which was published in the media, that leaks
often emanated from government departments. While
a distinction must be made between this kind of pilferage and documents being leaked to the media in the
public interest by whistleblowers, corporate espionage
must be dealt with in a strong manner. Public interest
journalism and corporate theft of government information cannot be weighed on the same scale. In a
statement, the Aam Aadmi Party pointed out that the
actual beneciaries were still to be identied by the
police. The party hoped that the culprits who subverted the system to get undue benets will be booked
and interrogated in custody. The Modi government
must be commended for the actions taken by the Delhi
Police. But it will be closely watched, on whether or not
this investigation is taken to its logical conclusion. For
far too long, the big sh have escaped criminal justice.

overnment offices the world over

are notoriously porous. Even those
which boast of a high standard of
physical security sometimes do not
have a matching ability to protect their information systems. WikiLeaks is a striking
example of how even one of the most technologically advanced nations like the United
States can be found wanting in this area.
The appalling state of Indias public offices
is a case in point. The buildings that house
them take the cake for permitting shockingly
liberal access to vandals and marauders. The
disgusting state of hygiene in most of them in
itself bears testimony to their porous nature
and neglect, both of which certainly promote
an ambience that is least conducive to a security culture.

Porous and unsecured

While Central government offices are a
shade better than those in the States in terms
of visitor control, there is no scope for being
smug. This is despite the fact that the new
government at the Centre has done a lot to
block unauthorised men, including lobbyists,
from visiting government offices. In a much
less complicated universe, in the early 1950s,
Rajaji, as Chief Minister of the Madras State,
successfully kept out ruling party men from
the sacred connes of Fort St. George. This
has possibly not had the desired result as
reports of leakage of valuable information
from a key Ministry in the nations capital
All you need to secure entry into many
government offices in our country is a reasonably attractive-looking identity card, which
may not necessarily be genuine or whose validity has expired. Few questions are asked
after one gains entry. There are no sequestered areas which are out of bounds. Greasing
the palms of security staff to secure unauthorised entry is also not an unknown practice. Here again where there is deployment of
Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
guards, things are in fairly reasonable shape.
Elsewhere, the security staff are ill-trained
and clueless and therefore abysmally
Shastri Bhavan which houses many important Ministries including Petroleum and
Human Resource Development is the most
prominent among the many administrative
buildings in the capital which usually resembles a kumbh mela on most working days.
Those found on its campus constitute a spec-

Though the new government at the Centre has

done a lot to block unauthorised access to
government offices, the recent incident of the loss
of data from a key Ministry shows that loopholes
are still being exploited and much ground needs
to be covered in terms of enhancing security
trum, which includes inuence and information peddlers and hangers-on, watching the
hustle and bustle of the place. Those who are
there on genuine business form only a minority. The heist of documents from the Union
Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry should
be viewed against this backdrop.

Corporate angle

been bought over and the keys to the doors

leading into the offices secured for a price and
duplicated to gain entry. It was as simple as
that if press reports are true. This would
mean that important documents had either
been carelessly left behind on tables or stored
in cupboards with imsy locks. If the Delhi
Crime Branch investigation ultimately conrmed this, the staff concerned (possibly the
section officer/under-secretary or above) are
culpable, irrespective of whether they connived with each other in the crime or not.
They need to be disciplined if only for an
obvious lack of care in protecting valuable

We do not have an idea of what the stolen

papers at Shastri Bhavan constituted. Speculation is that they are on commercial data,
apart from overall policy indicators. The report that a few papers with national security
implications were also stolen has no corroboration as yet. What is feared as having been
compromised is what is ready meat for corpo- Security classification
rate interests, especially in the pre-Budget
There is nothing known to us till now
weeks. The temptation to pre-empt govern- which suggests that this was either a sophistiment decisions, and overtake competitors is cated operation or an intricate form of cyber

There is a case for extending the high standards which have

successfully protected information stored both in the Prime
Ministers Office and the Cabinet Secretariat, and possibly at the
headquarters of all three defence forces.
too much to resist in an ambience of sordid
venality. This is true of any rm which is low
on ethics and largely prot-oriented. This is
why we should not be overly surprised about
Shastrigate. The phenomenon will keep repeating itself at periodic intervals. The public
focus should be on what the government does
to identify the loopholes to reduce the frequency of such successful raids on government information storehouses.
Early reports point to no great technology
having been employed by the network that
was behind the conspiracy to breach Shastri
Bhavan. The alleged disabling of CCTVs in
the building was at best vandalism. A few at
the bottom of government hierarchy who
go by the generic name peons had possibly

crime. Media reports refer to the stand taken

in official circles that this was conventional
theft after taking advantage of the vulnerability (read greed) of the lowest functionaries.
There is also the claim that no great damage
was done because most sensitive information
was stored in computer systems, and whenever hard copies of crucial papers were required, the bare minimum was printed for
circulation on a need-to-know basis as it
should be in a modern-day office. If this stand
is ultimately upheld by the investigation, and
the theft is proved as one conned to physical
documents there is some extenuation that
will go in favour of the higher officials.
Fundamentally, there is a need for a hard
look at existing systems. There is also a case


on a roll
rdent fans of Indian cricket would have given a
lot in exchange for the teams current position
in the World Cup. With commanding victories
over Pakistan and South Africa on paper,
Indias toughest opponents in the league stage M.S.
Dhonis men seem likely to top Pool B and secure a
quarternal against one of the lesser lights of Pool A. Of
course, nothing in sport is so straightforward; plenty
can happen over the next month to change things significantly. But the wonder of it all is that such a state
currently exists. For, having spent two-and-a-half
months in Australia without a win, Indias credentials
were buried under the debris of defeat and despair. Not
too many knew that India had an ODI win-loss record
second only to Australia since the 2013 Champions
Trophy; and only a few assigned any signicance to the
fact that having won that very competition in England
and Wales and the World Cup in 2011, India was the
only side in the last four years that knew what it took to
triumph in a big tournament in this format of the game.
There were entirely justied questions about whether
India could summon its best in Australia and New
Zealand, where conditions demand considerable adaptation. But after two sensational Sundays, the team is no
longer a dark horse; it has now been installed as one of
the favourites.
Typical of Dhoni-led sides, India has done it in a
manner that dees easy explanation. Both in the previous World Cup and the Champions Trophy, the team
didnt so much repair aws as transcend them: the lift in
the elding standards of a largely unathletic side during
the 2011 nal was inexplicable, as was the dramatic
renement in batting against the moving ball in 2013.
Against both Pakistan and South Africa over the last
nine days, India was nothing like the side that had
struggled in Australia in the preceding months. The
batting was patient and calculated, with bursts of explosive hitting; although some momentum was lost towards the end, the totals put on the board were
excellent big-match scores. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat
Kohli shook off their poor tri-series form. Suresh Raina
proved again that pressure brings out his best, while
Ajinkya Rahane conrmed the impression that he is
unobtrusively becoming exceptional. Most striking of
all was the turnaround in bowling, written off as a
liability before the World Cup. Seamers Mohammed
Shami and Mohit Sharma and off-spinner R. Ashwin
found ways of defending and attacking without giving as
much away as they had in the recent past. The intensity
in the eld rose, enhancing the bowlers efforts. India
still isnt the best team in the event, but its rivals know
that on big days few sides handle the occasion better.




Free at last
complimented for its efforts in
helping secure the release of the
Jesuit priest Alexis Premkumar
Antonysamy (T.N. priest back after
eight months in Taliban custody,
Feb.23). One can take this to be a
sign that Afghans are gratied by
Indias help in aiding development
in the country; it is also a
recognition of growing friendship
between the two countries. The
Tamil Nadu government must be
government on this issue.
M.C.S. Pavan Kumar,
With no news of his whereabouts or
his well-being for eight months,
most of us gave up hope, more so
after reports of the gruesome
manner in which terrorists have
begun treating their captives. For
this happy ending, the government
deserves praise.
Tharcius S. Fernando,

Law and humour

Even though the aim of AIB Roast
was to raise money for good causes,
the point is that it should not have
bordered on indecency (The
lawlessness of humour, Feb.23).
The way chosen by the organisers to
be altruistic in this manner is also
disappointing. Any person of
standing should be prudent and
cautious about his utterances and
needs to contemplate deeply about
the social impact of his acts.
Shrinivas Sadashiv Paraddi,
Bagalkot, Karnataka
Look up any slang word and you will

often nd that it is demeaning to

women. In recent times it has
become very common to use such
words; especially if used in English,
it acquires an elitist tag. Whether
the organisers of AIB Roast like it
or not, the show was replete with
such slang. On the one hand we talk
about empowering women and
giving them equal status in this
patriarchal society, and on the
other, we encourage the use of
obnoxious slang to generate
I totally support the freedom of
Constitution, but I am against
programmes such as AIB Roast
because of its impact on the
younger generation. It is sad that
when one is short of creative ideas,
one has to stoop so low to create
Himanshu Bhardwaj,
New Delhi
The writer seems to have missed the
larger picture. My freedom of
speech is not absolute. Moreover,
when I am using a public platform
to express my humour, it becomes
equally important that I am
responsible for safeguarding the
interests of society at large. Existing
laws cannot be used as a shield to
propound expressions that hurt the
conscience of society. Moreover,
the producers of the show have to
realise the larger impact of their
show. Merely thinking about
schoolchildren discussing AIB
Roast programmes in a classroom
makes me wonder about the
disastrous impact of unrestrained
free speech.
Akash Singh,

for extending the high standards which have

successfully protected information stored
both in the Prime Ministers Office and the
Cabinet Secretariat, and possibly at the headquarters of all three defence forces.
What the investigation will have to address
next is whether the leaked information was
actually sensitive and classied. Without establishing this, it may not be possible to successfully press charges other than that of
theft and trespass against the conspirators.
We have a funny situation where many government organisations mark almost every
other document as either secret or top secret.
Very often the decision to classify a document
is taken at the level of under-secretary/section officer in a mechanical fashion and without any application of mind. The approval of
the joint secretary, subsequently, is said to be
Security classication is a double-edged
weapon. It no doubt vests sanctity to a record/note in circulation which it would not
otherwise gain. At the same time it brings
about a ludicrous situation in which everything that a department possesses is converted into a treasure that has to be protected
every working day, without the means required for doing so. When those who are accused in the Shastri Bhavan case are
eventually charge sheeted and taken to court,
some of them could take advantage of a loose
classication protocol, and are liable to be
discharged, if, at the minimum, the prosecution is unable to prove either a role in the
break-in or direct benet from what was contained in the documents.

Investigation and justice

A lot of scrutiny and application of mind
will be needed for successful application of
the Official Secrets Act (OSA). Incidentally,
the OSA is of 1923 vintage and a complicated
piece of legislation. There is one strong school
of thought which says that the OSA has no
reason to remain on our statute books after
the Right to Information Act of 2005. An
indictment of the accused under the OSA,
after thorough investigation, requires the
scrutiny of the Ministry of Home Affairs
(MHA) and its approval, after which a complaint can be led in the competent court.
A favourable outcome thereafter for the
investigator is usually dicey. Interestingly, a
person in charge of and responsible for the
conduct of business of a company is not liable
to punishment under the OS Act if he proves
that the offence was committed without his
knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence Section 15 (1). A company under the
scanner has already distanced itself from one
of its executives who has been arrested. These
are the factors that make a swift delivery of
justice to the aggrieved party, viz., the state, a
near impossibility.
The Modi government deserves to be complimented for its proactive decision to have
the suspects under surveillance and later
nabbing them. If it had lost some time in
bringing them to book, it is explained by the
fact that delicate operations such as these
have to be well thought out and executed at an
appropriate moment. There cannot be any
kind of heavy footedness in the matter.
There is the nal question that should nag
most of us. Should the investigation continue
to be in the hands of the Delhi Police, or
should it be transferred to the Central Bureau
of Investigation (CBI)? In this, one cannot
assume a categorical stand here. A lot will
depend on the kind of evidence that is ferreted out in the next few weeks. If there is a
nationwide conspiracy that emerges, or if investigation extends beyond our borders,
there is a case for the CBI stepping in. Otherwise, the Delhi Police are competent enough
to proceed on their own steam and carry out
the inquiries to their logical conclusion. To
see a ghost in the MHAs alleged reluctance to
call in the CBI will be unfair to both the
Central government and the Delhi Police.
(R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
on the rise in society. We used to put
up with various forms of humour,
some of them being crass and
tasteless like the ubiquitous
Sardariji jokes, Madrasi jokes in
Hindi lms and Brahmin jokes in
generalisations were enjoyed by
some, but the majority mostly
ignored or dismissed them with
uninformed prejudice. Now, a
whole grievance industry targeting
humour has taken birth. Its
distinguishing feature is about
people taking offence on behalf of
others public interest litigation to
protect the presumed honour,
communities, scriptures, religions,
and so on. The absence of locus
standi in many of the interventions
raises doubts about the intentions
of the so-called moral crusaders and
conscientious objectors. Arent they
hijacking the valuable time and
resources of the courts and the
police to enforce their agendas? A
little discernment here and some
common sense there might be
enough to identify what is blatantly
malicious and what is harmless fun,
even if it is coarse and avoidable.
V.N. Mukundarajan,

Leaving aside the legal fallout of the

programme staged recently, one
needs to examine dispassionately
the very need for it. Surely, as a
society we are not done with
everyday jokes, humour and
comedy that some perverted and
wicked witticism has to nd pride of
place. The fact that the programme
raised the hackles of certain
sections of society proves that the
contents were not in good taste and
There is no doubt that intolerance is denitely hurt their sentiments.

The organisers cannot take refuge

under the freedom of expression
when apparently it went beyond the
niceties of a chat and the
absurdities of a reality show. If the
purpose was merely to raise funds,
the participants could have done so
extravaganzas. And if it was meant
to be pure entertainment, it simply
failed to appeal to one and all.
Instead of roasting stars who are
merely reel-life characters, how
much better it would be if our reallife unscrupulous politicians are
roasted in that manner!
V. Nagarajan,

the path to reforms has to be clear

and the outcome certain.
The Railways should remain a
Central undertaking with civil
service status for its employees. The
controversial word privatisation is
a threat to the safety of the system
and the norms of democracy as the
incentives to the private sector are
Modications can be made in the
operational set-up along with the
goal of modernisation. A reasonably
well-functioning system should not
be disrupted.
T.V. Jayaprakash,

Railways and reforms Maan ki Baat

In the article, Railways, reforms
and resistance (Feb.23), the writer
says that the process of reforms in
the railways is complex and can
wellfunctioning system, with serious
consequences for the economy. It is
also certain that the railway budget
will be presented against the
backdrop of the deliberations of yet
another high-power committees
report which will once again look at
the question of how one can reform
the railways. Also, this will be the
rst full rail budget after a new
reform-oriented government has
assumed charge.
What ails the Indian Railways?
What needs to be done to set things
right? Nothing substantial is being
done to change things if the
remedies are so obvious. Reforms
are aimed at ensuring adequate
infrastructure sector to achieve a
growth rate that keeps ahead of the
economy as a whole. A quality
transport service has to be provided
at minimum cost to society. Also,

Prime Minister Narendra Modis

tips to students to overcome
examination-related stress were
inspiring (Life is much bigger than
exams, says Modi, Feb.23).
Performance varies from individual
to individual. The problem in India
is that there is constant comparison
of students and their performance
by parents and teachers, which
certainly impedes their progress.
S. Ramakrishnasayee,
Though scoring good marks is
essential, marks alone are not the
end. Life is also about the
application of knowledge one gets
from ones academic life and then
coming up with creative and
effective solutions to real-life
problems. Students do work very
hard throughout the year, and one
wishes them success. I can think of
the line: All your dreams can come
true if you have the courage to
pursue them.
T.S. Karthik,




Food insecurity and statistical fog

Jean Drze


The return of
Father Alexis
he details of how exactly India secured the
release of Father Alexis Prem Kumar remain
unclear. From the little that has emerged, the
Afghan authorities had managed to establish
contact with the priests kidnappers within days of his
abduction in the Herat province where he was working
as part of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international
Catholic advocacy group for forcibly displaced people.
The priest was the country director of the group, and at
the time he was seized, in the rst week of June 2014,
he was visiting a school run by the JRS in the western
Afghanistan province, where a month earlier, the Taliban had mounted an attack on the Indian consulate.
Considering that the missionary spent eight months in
captivity, there might have been protracted, even on
and off, negotiations that led to his release. Publicly, no
ransom demands were made nor other conditions laid
down by the abductors for handing over the 47-yearold priest from Tamil Nadu, but it is not unknown for
militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to have
taken hostages and demanded money for their release.
Though the Taliban have targeted and killed many
Indians in Afghanistan, it has been suggested that the
priests abductors may have been one of the many
splinter militant groups that operate in the Afghan
countryside. It is conceivable too that Iran on the other
side of Herats border and with not a little inuence
among some groups in Afghanistan may have played a
role in obtaining the release. All that can be said with
certainty is that a combination of Indias contacts in
Afghanistan, diplomacy and patience won the day. New
Delhi was clearly involved at the highest levels.
The safe return of Father Alexis from what must
have been a traumatic eight months for him, his family
and his community is a cause for celebration and relief,
so too that he appears unharmed, at least outwardly.
Less than two years ago, an Indian was killed in Paktika
province, and in 2010, six Indian workers were killed in
a targeted attack in Kabul. Away from Afghanistan, the
fate of 40 Indians captured by Islamic State (IS) remains unknown. Father Alexiss return has highlighted
that Afghanistan remains dangerous territory, and that
New Delhi needs to be ever mindful of the safety of the
3,000 or so Indians working there on infrastructure
projects, especially as Indias involvement in these
projects is a matter of strategic choice. With the departure of the United States' and other international
troops from Afghanistan ongoing, Indias role in Afghanistan is bound to come under greater strain and
scrutiny than before. It is now up to the Indian government to ensure that civilians do not become the collateral casualties of the Great Game in the

on leave
ahul Gandhi could not have chosen a worse
moment for self-introspection, coinciding as
it does with a parliamentary budget session.
The Bharatiya Janata Partys humiliating defeat in the recent Delhi Assembly elections, and the
unqualied support for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliances Land Acquisition Act that the
Modi government diluted in an ordinance and now
seeks to transform into an Act of Parliament provides the perfect setting for the Grand Old Party to take
on the role of an effective leader of the opposition in
Parliament. And, as Mr. Gandhi was the moving spirit
behind the previous UPA governments Land Acquisition Act, the Congress could have used the legislations
current cause clbre status to relaunch its heir apparent. The party had even announced that he would
address a public meeting on the issue at Delhis Jantar
Mantar on February 25. For Mr. Gandhi, therefore, it is
not just a case of another missed opportunity: the
leave of absence he has taken to reect on recent
events and [the] future course of the party has left
Congress president Sonia Gandhi embarrassed, and the
party faithful stunned and bewildered. So much so
that the official explanation that Mr. Gandhi would
shortly return and resume his active participation in
the affairs of the Congress is not being bought entirely
even by senior party functionaries which is also a
testimony to the marked lack of transparency within
the party.
The speculative explanations proffered by party
leaders, however, ranged from the plausible to the
bizarre. One, Ms. Gandhis coterie was resisting his
elevation and opposing the changes he wished to institute in the party. Two, it was a prelude to his exit
from politics, as Mr. Gandhi was tired of being the fall
guy, including after the recent Delhi polls. Three, he
was nally getting married. If there is no evidence for
the third explanation, Mr. Gandhi had planned a twomonth sabbatical starting in the last week of January,
before the Delhi polls eventually, Ms. Gandhi persuaded him against it. However, the rst holds a germ
of truth as the Congress is clearly engaged in its own
internal politics rather than in a project of revival. But
damaging as Mr. Gandhis leave of absence is for the
Congress, it is consistent with his known need for
frequent breaks. The Congress has shown no signs yet
of demanding an alternative leadership; it can now only
hope that Mr. Gandhi returns refreshed for the unveiling of a plan of action at the All India Congress
Committee conclave coming up in early April.



n odd silence has surrounded the

National Food Security Act (NFSA)
in the last few months as if food
insecurity were a thing of the past.
It may be recalled that the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP), far from opposing the Act, vociferously demanded a more comprehensive
law when the NFSA was being discussed in
Parliament in 2013. In some States, notably
Chhattisgarh, the BJP had taken the lead in
guaranteeing entitlements that were later
included in the Act, and also in showing that
the Public Distribution System (PDS) can be
reformed. Today, however, the Modi governments urge to get things done does not
seem to extend to the NFSA.

The implementation of the National Food

Security Act is mired in apathy and confusion.
A grave injustice is being done to millions of
people who live on the margin of subsistence. It is
not too late to remove the roadblocks, but this
requires a sense of urgency

for corrections this could take a long time.

Meanwhile, for better or worse, some States
have gone ahead and issued ration cards
based on the draft SECC list.
Aside from the delay, there are other
shortcomings in the SECC process. Even in
districts for which data have been released,
the draft list has important gaps. Also, it is
displayed in an odd format (pdf) that does
not lend itself to computer searches or tabulations. This is an embarrassing muddle,
considering that the Central government
spent some Rs.5,000 crore on this exercise.
In the absence of SECC data, some States
have resorted to shortcuts such as expanding
the old BPL list, instead of preparing a new
list of eligible households. These shortcuts
tend to be fraught with problems. The BPL
lists, often as old as 2002 or even 1997, are
highly unreliable. In some States, a welldened BPL list does not even exist there
are different lists in different places (e.g. on
the net, at the district level, and at the gram
panchayat level), inconsistent with each other. The SECC approach is an opportunity to
clean this mess and prepare a single, transparent, logical, digitised list of eligible
Bihars recent experience shows the benets of using SECC data to identify eligible
households, based on the exclusion approach. The outdated, elusive and often arbitrary BPL list has been replaced with a far
more reliable list, transparently linked to
SECC data that are available online. Since
the SECCs household listing corresponds to
the 2011 population census, the coverage of
SECC data is close to universal. There are, of
course, inaccuracies in the SECC data, but
judging from a recent survey of 1,000 households in four districts of Bihar, the errors are
rarely such as to exclude a household that
would otherwise be eligible under NFSA.
The main shortcoming of the Bihar process,
as things stand, is that the list of eligible
households is yet to be placed in the public
domain. Nevertheless, this approach is a real
breakthrough compared with the BPL census. West Bengal is now following a similar

responsible for the tardy implementation of that these steps, along with bold PDS rethe Act. In some respects, the blame clearly forms, can lead to drastic improvements in
lies with the Central government. For in- the system. This experience is not conned
stance, ever since July 2013, all Indian wom- to leader States like Tamil Nadu or Chhattisen have been entitled to maternity benets garh, but now extends to some lame-duck
of Rs.6,000 per month under NFSA. It is the States as well, e.g. Odisha. Even Bihar, one of
Central governments responsibility to de- the worst-governed States, has achieved reStep towards food security
sign a scheme for this purpose and to fund it. markable PDS improvements in recent
This is unfortunate because the nutrition Yet, this critical provision of the Act does not years.
situation in India remains critical. Very few seem to gure in discussions of the forthThe NFSA is an opportunity to consolicountries if any, had higher levels of child coming Budget.
date these achievements and extend them
undernourishment in 2005-6, the last time
across the country. The main stumbling
India collected reliable nutrition statistics at A new PDS
block is the identication of eligible houseIn other respects, the State governments holds. When the Act was being drafted, it was
the national level (under the third National
Family Health Survey). What happened also have much to answer for. This applies in assumed that the identication process
since then is hard to tell. Some surveys, in- particular to food entitlements under the would be based on the Socio Economic and
cluding a government-sponsored UNICEF PDS. The Act provides for the PDS to cover Caste Census (SECC). The idea was to use
survey, suggest signicant improvement. 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 simple and transparent exclusion criteria
Others, notably the second India Human Development Survey, point to very limited progress. This statistical fog, largely due to the
Even if substantial progress took place since 2005-6,
failure of the fourth National Family Health
levels in India remain higher than almost
Survey, does not help matters. What is clear
is that even if substantial progress took place
anywhere else in the world.
since 2005-6, undernutrition levels in India
remain higher than almost anywhere else in
per cent of the urban population at the na- (e.g. having a permanent government job or
the world.
It is no ones claim that the NFSA is an tional level the corresponding ratios are owning a motorised vehicle) to weed out
adequate answer to this problem. The Act higher in the poorer States and lower in relatively well-off households everyone
has serious aws, and leaves out some im- better-off States. Every eligible household is else would be eligible. SECC is the best availportant requirements of good nutrition (e.g. entitled to 5 kg of foodgrain per person per able database for this purpose.
sanitation). Still, effective implementation month at a nominal price (Rs.3, Rs.2 and Rs.1
of NFSA would make an important contribu- per kg for rice, wheat and millets respec- The SECC saga
Alas, the release of SECC data has been
tion to food security and improved nutrition. tively). This would mean that the PDS takes
Recent experience shows that a well-func- care of about half of the foodgrain consump- excruciatingly slow. According to the official
SECC website, a draft list has been retioning PDS makes a big difference to people tion of eligible households.
This new PDS does not require any in- leased for about three fourths of Indias diswho live on the margin of subsistence. The
Act is also an opportunity to strengthen val- crease in public procurement of foodgrains, tricts. However, data are missing for at least
uable child nutrition programmes such as beyond the levels achieved in recent years. It some districts in half of Indias major States.
school meals and the Integrated Child De- is mainly a restructuring of the system, with Where a draft list has been released, a nal Committee recommendations
Many other States, however, are unable or
broader coverage, lower issue prices and list is supposed to be prepared after giving
velopment Services.
Central and State governments are jointly clear entitlements. Recent experience shows every household an opportunity to appeal unwilling to follow this lead due to delays or
gaps in the SECC data. Rajasthan, the rst
State to implement NFSA, made a mess by
relying on an extension of the BPL list to
identify eligible households. Odisha, frusCARTOONSCAPE
trated with the delays, embarked on an entirely separate identication process based
on self-declaration a very risky venture.
Jharkhand, lagging behind in these matters,
has not moved beyond a series of vacuous
Just to add to the confusion, the recent
report of the Shanta Kumar committee recommends a reduction of the coverage of
NFSA from 67 per cent to 40 per cent of the
population. How this is supposed to be done,
halfway through the implementation of the
Act, the report does not explain. Aside from
threatening to cause havoc in States that are
already implementing the Act, the report has
created crippling uncertainties for other
States. How is, say, Jharkhand supposed to
follow Bihars lead if there is a possibility of
the expansion of PDS coverage being rolled
back any time?
On a more positive note, PDS reforms
have made remarkable progress in many
States even Jharkhand as they prepared
for the Food Security Act. It would take little
to remove the roadblocks, starting with the
release of SECC data, and ensure that the Act
serves its purpose. This process, however,
requires a sense of urgency that is wholly
lacking as things stand.
(Jean Drze is Visiting Professor at the


Joint session route
The governments strategy to opt
for a joint session to get around the
contentious issue of ordinances is
making a mockery of our
democratic system (Centre hints
at joint session route for Bills,
Feb.24). Democracy is all about
accommodating divergent views
and reaching a consensus. The
Modi government should reach out
aggressively to win itself support.
The Bills may be crucial to reviving
growth and imparting momentum
to the economic system, but
moving without the Opposition
will cause hurt to the processes of
democratic consultation.
K. Naresh Reddy,
It is evident that the government is
frantic and is viewing this more as
an issue that involves its prestige
than as a core national issue. The
purpose of debates in the Rajya
Sabha is to take a rational look at
legislation passed in the Lok Sabha
and to avoid gross mistakes that
may have occurred in the process.
Today, the government looks at the
Upper House merely as an
opportunity to settle scores with
political opponents. Nothing could
be more unfortunate.
A.G. Rajmohan,

Rahul goes on leave

It is surprising that Congress vicepresident Rahul Gandhi has taken
leave of absence just as the Budget
session of Parliament has begun
and when there is urgent need to
revamp the Congress after its
dismal electoral performances
(Rahul Gandhi takes leave, sets off
speculation, Feb.24). His act
shows that he is incapable of quick

and precise decisions, and his

absence from Parliament will cost
him a good opportunity to put the
NDA government on the mat on
various issues. In interpreting his
decision, can it be inferred that he
does not have any courage to face
Parliament? A budding leader
should not run away from
challenges but face them with
vigour as Indira Gandhi did. Rahul
grandmother continued to ght till
the end. Is he capable of emulating
her example?
J.P. Reddy,
Nalgonda, Telangana
Taking leave of absence is
something unheard of and
extraordinary in the annals of
Indian politics, especially by
someone who is being portrayed as
the face of a major national party.
His reasons to do so are totally
unconvincing. It appears that the
series of electoral defeats, despite
his sincere efforts, appears to have
unnerved him to the extent that he
is incapable of facing his political
opponents. One should not be
surprised if Priyanka Vadra now
makes an entry. One feels that it
may have been more apt and
dignied had Rahul accepted
responsibility for the defeat of the
Congress and resigned with dignity
rather than do something now, that
only leads to more intense
ammunition to the Opposition.
Arulur N. Balasubramanian,

Pursuit of power
One must agree with the writer
(In defence of the pursuit of
power, Feb.21) that it is essential
for the Indian National Congress to
revive itself and strongly re-engage
with the masses for the sake of a

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
secular, democratic India. Rahuls
decision to go on leave only shows
that he lacks the depth to explore
Indian political history and be
greatly inspired by the historic role
the Congress has played in national
affairs, past and present.
Going back to the article, one can
say that state power is not always a
prerequisite to organise and lead a
political movement. Many leaders
have achieved great success
without holding state power.
Indira Gandhi amassed power in
order to become a powerful, global
leader even though she muzzled
the media and crushed the
Her nemesis, JP, was able to
galvanise the masses against her
autocratic rule, and without any
state power. It was his mettle, his
intellectual and characteristic
strengths and his ability to
empathise with the masses, and
courage of conviction that helped
him succeed. K. Kamaraj wielded
great authority and inuence
across the land and became
kingmaker without the trappings
of state power. B.C. Roy shunned
all that and worked hard to build
the movement.
P. Krishnan,

becoming short-changed. The

sordid happenings at Shastri
Bhavan will only strengthen the
belief of the common man that the
rich and the powerful in India can
get away with anything. The new
government has to use all the
resources in its power to restore
our faith in the efficacy of the
Harsha Vardhan K.S.,
The possible scenarios that this
theft can result in are alarming.
amendments are required in the
case of the Official Secrets Act,
with provision for stricter
punishment of culprits and key
officials. A code of conduct should
be created for officials of various
Sanjeev Tripathi,
New Delhi

I focus on a line in the article that

says the authorities are not overly
worried about the theft as
important information is stored in
computers. Is the government
aware that cyber attacks are going
to be the future of war and that
they will ensure the degradation of
resources much before the start of
an actual war? Therefore, the
government needs to ensure that
cyber security is given prime
insider importance. I would think that it
crony makes sense to keep all critical
capitalists are all set to become a systems away from cyber space.
greater threat and danger to Also, all vital and strategically
democracy because the centre of important data can be handpower in Delhi still makes do with written and stored in secure
sloppy information management rooms.
Ashish Sharma,
and terrible security systems
Jind, Haryana
(Secrecy and information theft,
Feb.24). The discrete manner in
which capitalists are able to cover The article reminded me of the plot
the tracks of their misdeeds will of Irving Wallaces novel, The
only obstruct attempts at effective Second Lady, where the American
investigation resulting in the state security system is shown to be

Information theft

vulnerable and easy to breach.

Though a ctional account, it
appears to be ringing true in the
case of Shastrigate. It is quite
clear that this is an insider job. The
example of how Rajaji restricted
access to Fort. St. George in
Madras should be emulated and
will help enhance the system. One
wonders whether there is more to
the case than has been disclosed.
E.S. Chandrasekaran,

Social spend
At a time when the U.S. is tending
towards increasing taxes on the
rich to give more to the deprived to
achieve a measure of distributive
justice, India has been distributing
tax largesse to the corporate sector
to the tune of over Rs.5 lakh crore a
year (Social spend needs budget
boost, Feb.24). Thus, a total tax
giveaway of Rs.36.5 lakh crore to
India Inc. in nine years has been a
great drain on the exchequer.
Economists disagree that such
inordinate tax reductions for the
industry will necessarily result in
According to a new study by the
Institute on Taxation and
Economic Policy, whatever the
poor earn is likely to be more
heavily taxed than the earnings of
wealthier citizens. If similar data
were collected by any reliable
agency on India, the middle class
and the poor would certainly be
paying more taxes than India Inc.
With the cost of food, the cost of
education and the cost of health
care having increased enormously,
the Finance Minister must push
for a moratorium on taxexemptions to the industry to be
able to nd more money for social
sector spending.
K.R. Narasimhan,




Strategic patience on nuclear liability

T.P. Sreenivasan


over politics
he nomenclature for the PDP-BJP coalition
points to the pragmatism needed on the perilous path the two parties have bravely undertaken in forming a coalition government in
Jammu and Kashmir. Their coalition document is
called an Agenda for the Alliance, not a common
minimum programme. And the two sides have made it
clear that what they are forging is not a political
alliance but a governance alliance. Despite that,
their decision to come together is itself a welcome sign
that leaders both in the State and the Centre are willing
to put aside the extreme rhetoric of the election campaign to build a government that represents the mandate fractured along Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh lines,
and to cater to their constituencies there as one whole.
The road ahead is far from easy. Their interlocutors
have been well-advised to outline and face the issues
head-on, and that will be the most contentious part.
While the BJPs insistence on a debate on Article 370
has been set aside for now, no one can doubt that it is a
core principle for the party. The return of Kashmiri
Pandits to the Valley, and the rehabilitation and recognition of refugees from Pakistan, have been rightly
termed humanitarian issues and will need careful
handling. Already we have heard from the Panun Kashmir movement of its opposition to the BJP-PDP alliance. The PDPs demand for a time-bound revocation
of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, too, is a core
demand, and the PDPs agreement to nuance it will not
erase the groundswell against the Act in the Valley,
even as it seeks to push for its partial withdrawal and, as
the Justice Verma Committee recommended in 2013,
take crimes such as sexual violence out of its purview.
It will require a certain amount of statesmanship on
the part of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Chief Minister
not to fall into the trap his predecessors faced, in using
all these issues to score points against the Centre.
Above all, the part of their common agenda that will
demand the greatest amount of statesmanship from
the Centre, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in
particular, is the process of engaging all stakeholders
to work on a resolution of the Kashmir issue, in the
manner that both his predecessors, A.B. Vajpayee and
Manmohan Singh did, by engaging both Pakistan and
the Hurriyat separately. Mr. Modi has the benet of
their experiences, as well as their template of the fourstep process that has over the past decade shown its
potential, whether it was on the Line of Control ceasere, or on trade and travel across the LoC. The PDPBJP Agenda for Alliance now holds the key to coalitional harmony. It will also be an important pivot to
Mr. Modis plans for his subcontinental outreach.

month after the breakthrough understanding on the nuclear liability

issue was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, its practical value now
looks diminished, while its symbolic importance as indicating the willingness of the two
sides India and the U.S. to start a new
chapter in the relationship comes to light. It
was a willing suspension of disbelief on both
sides to move on to new areas of cooperation,
which have revitalised a dening relationship
of the 21st century.
The irony of the announcement on the progress in the nuclear liability issue is that its
architects were once the arch enemies of the
nuclear deal. As a Senator, Mr. Obama had
moved killer amendments to the deal in its
early years. Mr. Modis party supported the
liability bill to kill the deal, which they could
not defeat on the oor of Parliament. Neither
of them could have their heart in nding a
way to open nuclear trade with each other.
Mr. Obama would rather sell sophisticated
weapons and technology to India to restore
balance in bilateral trade. Mr. Modi has not
listed nuclear trade in his list of priorities.

The breakthrough in the nuclear liability issue is

not a solution but a declaration of intent to resolve
difficult issues. The final settlement may come at a
different time under different leaderships. For the
present, it is important to keep the dialogue going
for the greater good of India and the U.S., and it
may have value which goes beyond nuclear trade
The liability issue has not been resolved
and many loose ends remain even after the
announcement of the details. But the announcement of the understanding created
the atmospherics on the rst day of the Obama visit, leading to the historic declaration on
the Asia-Pacic and Indian Ocean Region Vision statement, the real breakthroughs in India-U.S. relations. The solution of working
around the liability issue gave fresh condence to both countries to move to strategic
cooperation and defence co-designing and coproduction under the Defense Technology
and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

Political significance



not the absence of a liability law that resulted

in poor compensation to the victims. The
ineptness with which India reacted to the
Bhopal tragedy was shameful, to say the least.
It was also intended to make India breach the
promise it had made to the U.S. government
that it would purchase nuclear material
worth $10 billion. In other words, it was a
political move to drive a wedge between India
and the U.S., and not to increase the possibility of higher compensation for the victims.
The lament that the present arrangement will
reduce compensation is, therefore, deceptive.
Those who have been nervous about India
getting closer to the U.S. are voicing it. They
rst expressed cynicism about a U.S. President being powerless, were then silent over
the success of the visit, and then took recourse to denigrating the liability

Many lawyers and analysts in both countries list deciencies in the new arrangement
A conspiracy of circumstances, however, by arguing vigorously that the law cannot be
made it imperative that Mr. Obama and Mr. bypassed by administrative action. The inModi should make progress on the liability
law. According to American commentators,
the liability law was a test of the new Indian
To those in the U.S., progress on the nuclear liability law
governments strategic global outlook and
was a test of the Modi governments strategic global outlook.
willingness to full its commitments. For Mr.
Modi, the solution to the liability issue was
For Mr. Modi, a solution was necessary to revive the bilateral
necessary to revive the bilateral relationship
in order to secure his primary objectives of
First Develop India and enhancing defence
technology. For both of them, it became a
symbol of a new beginning, marked by a dem- tention of the liability law was to impose Potential obstacles
Those who express concern over the imonstrated ability to overcome impediments, liability on the suppliers, and letting the supeven if it has left issues unresolved for the pliers off the hook would be morally and le- perfections of the arrangement should seek
time being. A show of solidarity was more gally unacceptable, they contend. Some in solace in the fact that nothing will change in a
important than the commencement of reac- India characterise the arrangement as totally hurry. The liability bill is not the last obstacle
tor imports. It was the legal solution for a against public interest and as a concession to India-U.S. nuclear trade. Many provisions
political issue.
with no tangible benets for India. They pre- of the export control laws will raise their
The resolution of the liability issue was on dict, not without reason, that it might be heads along the way even if companies in the
the wish lists of both the U.S. and India and it struck down by courts. They are not wrong in U.S. accept a settlement on liability, which
became the litmus test of the success of the law, but they miss the political signicance of contradicts international law. Mr. Obama is
visit. Apart from the business community of the move.
in no hurry to sell reactors to India and incur
the U.S., the other suppliers, such as Russia
What should not be forgotten in such anal- the wrath of the non-proliferation hawks for
and France, were also keen to have the issue yses is that the liability law was introduced in strengthening Indias nuclear capability even
resolved. Even the Indian manufacturers of Parliament by evoking the horror of the Bho- under safeguards. I was told by a senior White
components were nervous about the liability pal tragedy, but the real purpose was to block House official in 2009 that the U.S. had nothissue and its potential to wipe out their prof- the implementation of the nuclear deal at ing to lose by not having nuclear trade with
its. The sense of euphoria that was created by least with regard to the U.S. The tears that India. The U.S. had not manufactured reacthe announcement that the deal was done, were shed in Parliament by some speakers on tors for several years and these would have to
whether by design or otherwise, did more account of the Bhopal tragedy could well be be specially fabricated. India was free to buy
good than harm to the whole visit.
crocodile ones because they knew that it was reactors from Russia or France.

A test for India

the States
he broad contours of a cooperative federal
polity where the Centre and States engage as
equal partners in development is now emerging after the government on Tuesday accepted
the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission. The FFC, headed by former RBI Governor Y.V.
Reddy, has broken new ground by recommending a
move away from scheme and grants-based support to
States to a greater devolution of funds from the Centres
divisible pool of tax revenues. Thus, it has recommended that the Centre share 42 per cent of the divisible pool
with the States, which is 10 percentage points higher
than what is the case now. By accepting the recommendation despite the fact that it would lead to a sharp
drop in its own share of revenues at a time of scal
pressures, the Centre has sent out an unequivocal signal
of its commitment to the principle of cooperative federalism. The phrase was rst mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the context of his decision to
replace the Planning Commission with the NITI Aayog.
Indeed, the FFCs report, along with the setting up of
the NITI Aayog and the consensus on the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, are important components of the emerging federal landscape where the
Centre confers greater freedom and responsibility on
the latter by devolving greater resources to them.
Consequent to the higher devolution of funds, the
Centre is likely to re-evaluate several schemes that it
sponsors for the States. This is a natural consequence as
the Centre needs to offset its loss of revenue even as
States devise their own spending programmes tailored
to their needs. It is a fact that some States have been
weighed down by the need to cough up their share of
funds for Centrally sponsored schemes even if such
schemes are not relevant to their needs. For example,
for a State such as Kerala with its high literacy levels, a
scheme to promote primary education is not relevant,
just as one promoting power generation is not relevant
to a power-surplus State such as Gujarat. The key to the
success of this experiment in cooperative federalism
lies in how well the States use the higher revenues and
the accompanying freedom to frame their development
priorities. Some of the better-developed States such as
Tamil Nadu might feel aggrieved at a reduction in their
share of devolved funds, ironically because of their
better development metrics relative to other States. But
this is federalism at work, because the resources freed
up thus go to support another State that might be
lagging behind on development parameters and per
capita income. What is important is whether the FFC
has adopted logical and fair measures while designing
the allocations which it indeed has done.



Food insecurity
While there is no dearth of
committee reports before the
government of the day (Food
insecurity and statistical fog,
Feb.25) on how to improve the
functioning of the PDS, a World
Bank report estimates that
upwards of 45 per cent of all
commodities distributed through
the PDS is mis-targeted and/or is
shown to have an urban bias. As
the writer points out, the SECC
method is good, but why not
leverage existing NPR data and the
use of Aadhar to build a unied,
holistic prole that spans the entire
populace and use that for every
scheme of public delivery? The
Andhra Pradesh experience itself
shows that funds to the tune of
Rs.7,000 crore could be saved via a
Sustaining an ambitious Make in
India programme requires a
prudent and energetic workforce,
and the least that a government
ought to do for this is to make sure
that every segment of the
population is fed well.
Rajesh Tripurneni,

the ground realities in India. The

Decision Making theory is
relevant in this context. The
elimination of the existing PDS and
its replacement with the Direct
Cash Transfer scheme cannot
ensure simultaneous intake of
equivalent nutrients. However,
improving the existing system by
curbing leakages and managing it
using IT can yield results. By
pursuing the marginal incremental
approach, we can develop a
stakeholders and ensure the
effective functioning of the deeply
entrenched PDS.
Akash Singh,

Rahul goes on leave

Personally, I feel that Rahul

Gandhis timing of his leave of
absence is way off the mark,
considering his role in ushering in
the Land Acquisition Act, and at a
time when there seems to be a rare
kind of Opposition unity to take on
the government. Strategically, he
has missed an opportunity to
shepherd the Congress back into
the limelight. He must realise that
by virtue of being a political gure
The existing confusion over the with an inherited legacy he cannot
implementation of the National escape media glare as well as
Food Security Act has been further intense criticism from both within
the and outside the party.
recommendations of the Shanta
There has never been any
Kumar Committee. While its separation of the public and private
intentions deserve appreciation, domains of the life of Rahul, a
that is, ensuring effectiveness along person who is often ridiculed and
with scal prudence, it is also clear questioned over his political
that the panel has failed to realise capabilities, personal decisions and

Although the nuclear deal was hugely signicant for bringing India into the nuclear
mainstream, grey areas remain when it comes
to its implementation. The extent of full
civilian nuclear cooperation is yet to be dened. Does such cooperation cover the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of
spent fuel? The ghosts hidden in the Hyde
Amendment will emerge in the future if the
U.S. nds it necessary to report that certain
aspects of Indian foreign policy are contrary
to the vital interests of the U.S. The most
optimistic prediction is that a U.S. nuclear
reactor could be operationalised in India in
about 10 years. Many economic, political and
scientic developments would take place in
the interregnum, including changes in leadership in both countries.

The nuclear picture

A major factor to remember is the gloomy
prospect of nuclear power itself in the postFukushima world. Many countries have either abandoned nuclear power or are in the
process of reducing their dependence on it.
Even today, there is no clear estimate of the
lasting damage in Fukushima or the cost of a
clean-up, because of the extreme secretiveness of the Japanese authorities. Those evacuated from the affected areas are still in
temporary shelters, without realising that
they would not be able to move back to their
homes in their lifetime. India has decided to
carry on with business as usual, but it cannot
but review its position when it makes progress on alternative sources which may become substantially cheaper. The price per
unit of electricity generated with nuclear
power will increase when the insurance costs
and the costs of safety are added on account of
the latest developments.
The Kudankulam experience, of operating
imported reactors, is far from encouraging
and the popular movement against such reactors will only grow in the future. The rst
reactor at Kudankulam reached 97.68 per
cent criticality in January this year and not in
December 2008, as originally envisaged. The
criticality of the second reactor has been delayed again.
Russia has already red the rst salvo
against Westinghouse (U.S.) and Areva
(France) reactors by claiming that the cost of
electricity generated in the U.S. and French
reactors would be double the production cost
at Kudankulam. The cost of additional investments for insurance and installation of
safety equipment might make them unaffordable. The nuclear picture would change by
the time negotiations begin under the new
arrangement. Perhaps, Indias nuclear power
policy may change before the new rules on
liability come into force.
Teresita Schaffer of South Asia Hand has
characterised the nuclear understanding as
a leap of faith to gain a degree of comfort
between the two countries. At this point, it is
signicant that the two governments are trying to go together into uncharted territory in
dealing with a knotty issue. In other words, it
is a declaration of intent to resolve difficult
issues; not a solution to the liability imbroglio. The nal settlement may come at a different time under different leaderships. For
the present, it is important to keep the dialogue going for the greater good of the two
countries. The understanding may have value
which goes beyond nuclear trade. It was an
ice-breaker between Mr. Obama and Mr. Modi, which enabled them to wade into more
vital issues.
India is playing on several chessboards at
the same time. Every move may not appear
logical or productive and there may even be
setbacks. Some moves may have to be abandoned as the situation dictates. Mr. Obamas
strong pronouncements on religious intolerance in India may have already muddied the
waters. The election results in Delhi may be
another dampener. The move on the liability
law may be tentative and unsatisfactory, but
it was absolutely necessary for gains in other
areas. It may still be a liability, but other
assets may well be on their way. Strategic
patience is required to exercise strategic
(T.P. Sreenivasan was Governor for India
of the IAEA from 2000 to 2004.)

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
choices. Objectively speaking, his still has loyal voters and a strong
leave of absence has been sought party set-up all across the country.
to reect on recent events and the A turnaround is not impossible.
Himanshu Pandey,
future course of the party. This is
Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh
what the party needs now, and
without moments of reection selfClaim on Mother Teresa
assessment cannot be done.
Joyashree Sarma, Mother Teresa tended to people
Noonmati, Assam and children who were dying, the
destitute, those lying in the gutters,
There is nothing surprising in leprosy patients and those
Rahul Gandhis move; he was never abandoned and shunned by society
really present in the political arena (Mother Teresas aim was
anyway. Even Indira Gandhi had to conversion, says Bhagwat, Feb.
face defeat in the 1977 elections, 24). If that is conversion, India
but that didnt deter her. I hope should be proud of it. One has to
Rahul Gandhi stops his journeys express ones heartfelt thanks to
into the twilight zone and makes an the Missionaries of Charity for
effective comeback.
their seless work. I wonder if
Maria George, Mohan
Thrissur personally tended to a leprosy
patient in his life. He should
The problem that Rahul faces is understand that the India he does
that Sonia Gandhi, like most not represent is an inclusive
protective mothers, does not want society.
Terence DSouza,
to let her son into the battleeld for
fear of losing. Continuous electoral
losses have made matters worse
and Rahul is unwilling to share the Mr. Bhagwats attempt now to
blame as he has not been allowed to dismiss Mother Teresa as just
his another evangelist on a conversion
decisions. He is surrounded by a spree is ample proof that his
battery of politicians who both intention is to stir up a hornets
resist his decisions and then miss nest. A lifetime of service to society,
no opportunity to protect him from mainly to the poor and the
his misadventures. His escape destitute, fetched her many a
routes must be closed and he must laurel. She never inched from
face the heat. It is only then that he serving the sick and the ailing, and
will mature as a politician. One can these people included those with
cite the example of Akhilesh Yadav communicable
who was once in a similar wonders what compulsions made
predicament. Sonia Gandhi and her Mr. Bhagwat make such a
team should now take a back seat devastating statement on a saintly
and let Rahul lead. The Congress gure who gave so much and took

back so little. There are very few

individuals who are beyond the
pale of criticism, and the Mother
certainly ranks high in the list.
C.V. Aravind,
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind
Kejriwal was right on the mark
when he tweeted: I worked wid
Mother Teresa for a few months at
Nirmal Hriday ashram in Kolkata.
She was a noble soul. Pl spare her.
During my ve-year stay in Kigali,
Rwanda, in Africa, some of us from
India used to visit the Mother
Teresa home almost every month
and spend time with the inmates.
One of my friends was moved into
saying after a visit: I see God in the
nuns at this home. Over 95 per
cent of the population of Rwanda is
Christian. Had conversions been
her real objective, Mother Teresa
would not have started homes in
such predominantly Christianpopulated countries!
Albert PRayan,
To quote Christopher Hitchens,
Mother Teresa was not a friend of
the poor. She was a friend of
poverty. In his critique of her, he
went on to to say that instead of
helping the poor, she found their
wretchedness a useful plank to fuel
the expansion of Roman Catholic
beliefs. A former member of her
order even says that baptism of the
dying was performed without their
M.P. Muralidharan,





Dreams without a vision

Dinesh Trivedi


Towards a
modest goal
o laundry list of new trains to be started. No
announcement of new lines to be laid with
ambitious targets. No pet projects to be set
up in core constituencies of the ruling party.
Make no mistake, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhus
maiden budget is not a typical politicians budget; it
shows the deft touches of a professional who knows
what it takes to turn around a leviathans fortunes that
have been on a downhill ride in the last few years.
Whether it is the focus on existing high-density corridors where increasing capacity is cheaper and quicker
or the new talk of improving customer experience or
for that matter, the realisation that Railway finances
have to be made self-sustainable, Mr. Prabhu has ticked
all the right checkboxes. The budget speech reads more
like a vision statement than a report on the Railways
financial and operational performance. The only connection with past budgets is the decision to not increase
passenger fares but tinker with freight rates. Mr. Prabhus challenge, though, will be in implementing his
ambitious agenda, specifically in finding resources, financial and technical, to achieve targets. For example,
the Rs.8.56 lakh crore investment plan for the next five
years sounds impressive no doubt, but how is the Railways going to fund such a mammoth sum? With operating expenses consuming nine out of every 10 rupees
earned by the Railways, there just isnt enough surplus
to plough back into investment.
This is where the Railways needs to think out-of-thebox. Mr. Prabhu has acknowledged the problem and has
listed out several options to raise finances, including
borrowing from multilateral institutions such as the
World Bank and pension funds whose investment horizon would match the long-term plans of the Railways.
Clearly, Mr. Prabhu will have to draw heavily on his
finance background and expertise to make these work.
The Railway Ministers ambitious agenda comes
through in his plans for the coming fiscal too. For
instance, electrification of 6,608 route kilometres in
2015-16 compared to 462 km sanctioned in 2014-15, or
for that matter, the plan to spend Rs.96,182 crore in
doubling/tripling/quadrupling and electrifying 9,400
km of tracks, sound impressive but execution will be
the key. We have seen such ambitious plans in the past
falter at the execution stage. The projected improvement in operating ratio, a measure of efficiency, from
91.8 per cent this year to 88.5 per cent in the coming one
sounds impressive, but the fine print on expenditure
needs to be watched because this ratio is easy to massage. Overall, Mr. Prabhus budget is a break from the
past in taking a long-term view of the Railways future
by making it financially independent and operationally
efficient. He has five years to reach this destination.

or the first time in Indian parliamentary history, to my mind, no

Railway budget was presented. It
was only a budget speech by the
Railway Minister with a statement of intended, pipe dreams. In normal circumstances, a budget must have a vision, a policy,
destinations, and achievable targets with
timelines. Unfortunately, none of this found
mention in Mr. Suresh Prabhus speech.
And, Mr. Prabhu has left the road map and
achievability to Prabhu, God, Ishwar, call it
by any name or faith!
A Railway budget is essentially a huge opportunity for any government to push forward GDP growth by at least 2.5 per cent. So,
this government, in its second budget, has
lost the opportunity again. There was huge
expectation not only in India, but also across
the world for a completely new orientation
and a path-breaking budget from this government and Mr. Prabhu in particular. For a
government which has come to power with
such a thumping majority and promises of
Achhe Din, these expectations were not
unfounded. Its been a big disappointment,
to say the least.

A Railway budget is essentially an opportunity for

any government to push forward GDP growth by
at least 2.5 per cent, but the Modi government, in
its second budget, has lost the opportunity again.
The huge expectation not only in India but also
across the world for a completely new orientation
and a path-breaking budget has been belied

ence. Mr. Prabhu has very succinctly de- the four major metros constitute less than 16
cleanliness, per cent of the route, but account for more
entertainment, catering, etc, but what he is than 50 per cent of the passenger and freight
forgetting is that such measures, while im- traffic. These routes have reached over satportant in themselves, require massive ef- uration levels of capacity utilisation and are
forts not only in maintenance, but also in strained to breaking point at present. What
creating state-of-the-art infrastructure. Mr. is the remedy provided by the Minister? Fast
Prabhu forgets that the majority of the poor tracking of sanctioned projects of doubling,
struggle to get into a compartment. They tripling lines, and priority to last mile conqueue up sometimes a day in advance just to nectivity projects, without any timeline. In
get into a compartment. Compartments are the Railways, fast-track can be a deceptive
overcrowded by twice their capacity. In oth- word: there are currently 360-odd pending
er words, poor people still travel in unre- projects in the Railways kitty, some ranging
served compartments in inhumane from 30 years to 2 years.
Finally, the fourth goal to make Bhartiya
conditions. Customer experience cannot be
limited to the Shatabdi and the Rajdhani Rail financially self-sustainable is stated as
trains alone. Customers on these trains follows: Generate large surpluses from opFunding plan
would be more vocal perhaps, but the real erations not only to service the debt needed
The Minister proposes to invest Rs.8.56 help should be for the poorest of the poor.
to fund our capacity expansion, but also to
lakh crore over the period of 5 years, from
invest on an ongoing basis to replace our
2015-2019, but does not provide a plan of Talking about safety
depreciating assets. With an operating raSecond, nothing exceptional has been an- tio, even if Mr. Prabhu achieves 88.5 per cent
how the projects are going to be funded.
First, the financial condition of the Railways
is pitiable. With an operating ratio of 92 per
cent in 2014-15 (which implies less availabilThe four goals for the transformation of the Indian Railways
ity of capital for investments in infrastrucare each lacking in a definitive road map and are thereby
ture), it is difficult to finance any projects
from its own revenues. The budget places
unrealistic and sound like good intentions.
high importance on institutional finance and
long-term debt instruments as extra budgetary resource, but this supposition falls apart
on a simple premise: how does one expect nounced with regard to safety. The Kakod- next year, the Railways is left with less than
these multilateral and bilateral institu- kar Committee which was commissioned 12 per cent of revenues and in order to retions to invest, solely based on rhetoric, in during my tenure and whose recommenda- place the depreciating assets, which itself
an organisation which is mired in a financial tions the Ministry plans to examine in April will cost the Railways Rs.12,000-15,000
crisis, thereby undermining its financial 2015 gave its final report back in February crore. What kind of large surplus is he talkcredibility in terms of non-availability of a 2012. Why was this report gathering dust all ing about, and how on earth is he going to
revenue model? There is nothing called a these years? The precious loss of time and service the debt if he genuinely finds some
consequently the huge cost overrun, has generous but unrealistic businessmen to
free lunch.
His four goals for the transformation of meant that safety standards (or the lack of fund a loss-making project?
the Indian Railways, viz., improvement in them) have remained in an as-is state.
Third, with regards to enhancing capacity Lost opportunities
customer experience, safety, expansion of
Looking at the budget announcements,
capacity and making the Railways self-sus- of Railways: the Minister has by his own
tainable in terms of finances, are each lack- admission, stated that 492 sections of the there is an intent of 77 new projects (douing in a definitive road map and are thereby Railways are running at a capacity of more bling/tripling lines, etc) worth Rs.96,000
unrealistic and just sound like good than 100 per cent. And 228 are running be- crore, but does he really have the Railway
tween 80-100 per cent. Further, The Golden Board with him? Where is the sanctioned
Lets start with the first: customer experi- Quadrilateral and the diagonals connecting and funded plan to break the cycle of under-


The Oscar
his years Oscars were touted to be a Birdman
versus Boyhood race (though Wes Andersons
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Morten Tyldums
The Imitation Game and Damien Chazelles
Whiplash got a rich haul of nominations too), largely
because two much-loved art house favourites were up
against each other for contrastingly different styles of
storytelling. Birdman, a dark comedy on Hollywood, not
surprisingly received its most highly regarded honour,
named the Best Picture and taking three other Oscars
with it. If Boyhood was the framing of a sequence of
observational moments from life pieced together over 12
years in a naturalistic, organic, what-you-see-is-whatyou-get realistic narrative, Birdman was conceived as a
largely single-shot, seamless, open-to-interpretation,
layered narrative that is simultaneously real, theatrical
and larger than life. Boyhood is a unique portrait of
character, the most intimate coming-of-age film ever
made. It uses the premise to subtly explore the small
little changes that go into the loss of innocence. It is a
bittersweet film that has now attained a stronger cult
status after its loss to Birdman. Someday, it will officially
be seen as a prequel to the filmmakers Before Sunrise,
Before Sunset and Before Midnight films as the story of a
boy who becomes his father, sensitively played by Ethan
Birdman is a phenomenal film and its win is an even
more significant triumph for comedy as a legitimate high
art form and because it marks a return to the basics of
filmmaking seamless storytelling, powerhouse performances, great writing and terrific use of background
score during times when mainstream cinema is moving closer towards visual-effects-aided spectacles celebrating comic books and pornography, as the film
suggests. Inarritu made a film that dared to criticise this
trend, took an unflinching look at art, commerce, ego,
validation, life and death and showed Hollywood a mirror. This was a vision so meticulously crafted and powerfully realised that it was virtually editor-proof (Birdman
understandably did not get a nomination for Best Editing because it was seen as one long continuous shot).
The fact that Boyhood, a low-stakes indie experiment
done on a part-time basis, emerged as the strongest
Oscar contender against one of the most wonderfully
crafted, breathlessly beautiful and intellectually rich
films of our times is a win by itself, not a mere loss. It is
not surprising that the sixty-something Academy voters
related more to a man looking back at his life than a boy
looking forward to it. The films are not very different,
after all. You know theres a Birdman in Boyhood when
the father tells the son: Were all just winging it, you
know? The good news is youre feeling stuff.



The right touches
The Railway Minister has presented
a practical and pragmatic budget
instead of dwelling on populism
the factor responsible for the
misery inflicted on the Railways in
the earlier years. The four goals, of
cleanliness, safety, modernisation
of infrastructure and making the
selfsustainable, are most appropriate
and well-conceived. The use of
technology to provide innovative
facilities to passengers and greater
attention to womens safety, senior
disabilities are all welcome. On the
whole, it is a growth-oriented
budget and one can say that the
Modi Express has steamed off in
the right direction!
S.N. Srinivasan,

Kashmir politics
Realpolitik seems to have forged an
alliance of convenience between
the BJP and PDP in the best
interests of the people of Jammu
and Kashmir, who have reaffirmed
their faith in democracy (Editorial,
Feb.26). Even if an understanding
has been reached between the two
parties, given the stark contrast in
their ideologies regarding the
abrogation of Article 370 and the
revocation of the Armed Forces
Special Powers Act (AFSPA), one
cannot deny the fact that a pall of
uncertainty and even pessimism
over the stability of such a loosely
cobbled together coalition does
loom large over the horizon. With
the State being plagued by myriad

problems, it will be a daunting task

ahead for the incumbent ruling
coalition to resolve them.
Nalini Vijayaraghavan,
It is a positive sign for the people of
Jammu and Kashmir that the PDP
and the BJP have finally agreed to
move ahead. I like the terminology
used by the parties Governance
Alliance. It would set a healthy
precedent for our democracy that
for the sake of good governance,
ideological adversaries can come
together by shedding their
differences. The State needs a stable
government in order to provide
economic guidance, now both in a
shambles. It would be interesting to
gauge and interpret the trajectory
of the BJP-PDP alliance.
Anoop Suri,
New Delhi

Strategic patience
At a time when India is looking
forward to greater economic
cooperation from across the globe,
gestures such as the declaration of
a breakthrough in the nuclear
liability issue play an important role
in reposing the faith of investors
and allaying their fears over
unnecessary political interventions
(Strategic patience on nuclear
liability, Feb.26). At the same time,
it is important that the ensuing
debate is carried forward in the
public sphere and that all the
ambiguous clauses pertaining to the
Nuclear Liability Act are clarified
through press releases and
memorandums which can be


investment? Instead, there should have

been a focus to improve the operating ratio
to get cash generation going. Yes, there is
stated goal to get it down to 88.5 per cent but
there are no defined plans for improving
asset utilisation, reducing turnaround times
of wagons (which has taken a turn for the
worse), improving system velocity by upgrading signalling, powering-up underpowered freight trains, converting all local trains
to MEMU or DEMU, and implementing
modern technology such as distributed power, all of which is needed to get the operations in order and get cash generation
going. There is no plucking of such lowhanging fruit. Instead, the focus is on expensive high speed trains and train-sets which
they cannot afford or justify economically.
Such white elephant projects will suck out
all the investment oxygen from the smaller
projects that will actually improve the performance. For instance, train sets would cost
almost double those of conventional trains.
The train sets cannot run on the given infrastructure as you would have to have total
fencing of the entire route and ensure not a
single animal, leave alone people, would
have access to the track. So, the fact is, even
Delhi-Agra, on a high speed track, in present
conditions, will I think take another 2 years
at least.

Looking at the freight business of the Railways: freight has grown at an abysmal 3 per
cent over the last year, and coupled with an
increase in freight rates, there are possibilities of freight revenue migrating to road.
Already, competition from roadways has resulted in the share in total transport output
for road at 50 per cent, while rail stands
below it at 36 per cent. Passenger traffic
volume has in fact gone down by 3 per cent
from last year. The turnaround time of wagons has increased over the past 3 years, while
it should have decreased. There have been
no steps initiated to improve this parameter,
and accelerating the growth rate of freight
which is the bread and butter of the
Budget estimates for 2015-16 Gross traffic receipt is expected to grow by 15.3 per
cent to Rs.1,83,578 crore, passenger earnings
will grow by 17 per cent and incremental
freight traffic is 85 million tons, i.e. a growth
of nearly 8 per cent. All these lofty dreams
are extremely difficult, if not impossible to
achieve unless there is a quantum jump in
the productivity of the existing assets and
overall operational efficiency. Appropriation of pension fund has gone up by
Rs.6,000 crore but provision for depreciation continues to languish at Rs.7,900 crore
only as against Rs.6,800 crore in 2014-15.
Similarly, appropriation to development
fund is Rs.5,750 crore as against Rs.7,800
crore in 2012-13. In brief, the budget estimates for 2015-16 present a grim picture of
the financial health of the Railways.
One of the most important inputs which
Mr. Prabhu cannot avoid is the 7th Pay Commission, knocking at the door, and which
could go as high as double that of the 6th Pay
Commission: anywhere to the tune of
Rs.25,000-Rs.30,000 crore per annum, crippling the finances of the Railways even further. The total Plan outlay is stated as
Rs.1,00,011 crore, out of which institutional
financing is targeted Rs.17,136 crore, which
is doubtful.
It seems the much hyped dream run of the
bullet train has ended as reality has finally
sunk in, as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai track is
still in the final stage of surveys of about
Rs.300 crore per kilometre, and would take
at least 7-8 years in completion (being highly
optimistic), after 2-3 years of the process of
land acquisition.
It is quite evident from the budget proposals that inputs that use the experience of the
Railway Board have not been reflected. In
the official box where the Railway Board
members were seated, it was no surprise to
see the disinterest and lack of concern for
the Railways reflected all over their faces.
(Dinesh Trivedi is a former Union Railway

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
scrutinised to ensure that existing
laws are not diluted. As in the case
of the Land Acquisition bill debate,
when a strong public opinion was
elicited through continuous debate
and discussion, the government
must follow fair and righteous
policies taking cognisance of the
aam-aadmis concerns over the
nuclear issue.
A. Anand Krishnan,

from the U.S. President who

criticised the decision of Sony in
curtailing the release of the
Interview, due to intimidation by
North Korea. Can we even expect
such a defence of art from our
Harsha Vardhan K.S.,

Censor cuts

If according to RSS leader Mohan

Bhagwat, Mother Teresas agenda
was conversion (Feb.24), the whole
of Calcuttas population, if not the
entire West Bengal States, should
Christianity. Mother Teresa was
concerned about the destitute, the
sick and the dying. Can Mr. Bhagwat
and his ilk personally care for a
leprosy patient or anyone of those
people abandoned on the sidewalks
in our cities even for a day?
T. Geetha,

It is time the government stops

treating moviegoers as immature
and naive (Senselessness in
censorship, Feb.26). The Indian
audience is well aware of the
vulgarities, atrocities, violence and
unhealthy habits that prevail in
contemporary society and which
are reflected only in films. If
protecting the audience is such a
concern, then how should a film
based on a gangster be supposed to
be made if the director and script
writer are not allowed to capture
the real aspects of the underworld?
If the subject of the movie is said to
be too violent or erotically-themed,
then it is clearly meant for adults
and the Adult certification should
be warning enough for moviegoers
to make a rational choice. Citing
vague guidelines, the censor board
is only undermining the passion of
artistes, and in some cases
harassing filmmakers using the
arbitrariness of words like
vulgarity, obscenity or depravity
in the guidelines. As far as the fear
of security and compromising
friendly relations are concerned,
our government should take lessons

Conversion claim

The irrational remarks against a

Nobel laureate and a person who
has dedicated her entire life
towards the welfare of the destitute,
the diseased and the terminally-ill
deserve to be condemned. Had
Mother Teresa intended to spread
Christianity through her peerless
social service and transferred
millions of dollars of funded money
to the Vatican Bank for general use,
she wouldnt have felt it necessary
to serve the needy in our country.
The episode shows that so-called
responsible citizens of India lack
the courage to question Ministers
who stash away their loot in tax

havens as well as raise their voices

against those who cast aspersions
against an icon who selflessly served
the dispossessed.
Ippili Santhosh Kumar,
We must note that organisations for
charity and political parties and
religions which claim special
concern for the poor have a stake in
the existence of poverty and misery,
because if they ceased to prevail,
their own raison dtre would cease.
Their main objective is to make
poverty and suffering bearable so
that the poor and those who suffer
do not rebel against the powers that
have an interest in maintaining
status quo. Corporates they
belong in this category are not
reluctant to contribute fair
amounts for charitable work, as an
investment or for creating an image
Governments, which irrespective of
their hue have a stake in protecting
the interests of corporates, view
with satisfaction the work of
charitable organisations. From this
it is clear that what we need is not
charitable work but the creation
and maintenance of an equitable
government which ensures as a
right of the poor what charitable
organisations do in pursuit of their
own interests. To the extent that
such governments come to exist,
organisations would cease. Though
undoubtedly difficult, this is the
only really effective strategy for
eliminating poverty and suffering.
A. Ramachandran,
Ottapalam, Kerala




The building blocks to enduring ties

M.K. Narayanan


on growth
hief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanians rst Economic Survey is notable for
three main reasons. First, the overall sense of
optimism that it exudes and justiably so
on the economy and its prospects in the medium term.
Second, the emphasis on scal discipline, quality of
expenditure and public investment, mainly in the Railways, to give a boost to the economy. And nally, the
thrust on Prime Minister Narendra Modis pet
schemes of Jan Dhan Yojana and Direct Benet Transfers as means of eliminating leakages in the subsidy
mechanism and ensuring that subsidies reach those
who deserve it. Alongside, Mr. Subramanian has also
raised a question mark over the new data series on GDP
growth announced a couple of weeks ago, pointing out
that India is not a tiger economy yet as the data would
have us believe. Indias is a recovering economy rather
than a surging one, the Survey says, pointing out that
the numbers seem difficult to reconcile with other
developments in the economy. Other major economic
data such as on industrial output and trade and agriculture, coupled with anecdotal evidence, point to an
economy that is on the mend gradually and not to one
that is galloping away on growth. That said, there is
little reason to question the Surveys conclusion that
India is now in a sweet spot thanks to a government
that has a mandate for reform and a benign external
environment that has had a favourable impact on the
current account decit (CAD) and ination. Indeed, if
India does achieve the projected CAD of 1 per cent in
2015-16, that would be in large part due to the falling
commodity prices, particularly of crude oil.
The Surveys projection of a 8.1-8.5 per cent GDP
growth in 2015-16 is credible given the present economic environment, though the bets would be more on
the lower end of the band. Mr. Subramanian has reiterated his advocacy for public investment to act as a
booster dose. And, interestingly, he has picked on the
Railways as the growth locomotive, arguing that reversing the cycle of underinvestment in the Railways
can do wonders to the economy. This ties in with this
weeks Railway budget and its emphasis on long-term
investment; in fact, it is tempting to conclude that the
increase in gross budgetary support to the Railways by
a third to about Rs.40,000 crore is evidence of this
policy in action. Railways could be to the Narendra
Modi government what roads were to the Vajpayee
administration. The Survey has clear advice for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: control expenditure
through subsidy reduction, improve the quality of expenditure by spending more on investment and less on
consumption and borrowing only for investment. Will
Mr. Jaitley act on this in his Budget today?

ri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisenas decision, after his election, to

make India as the destination of his
rst foreign visit, possibly reects his
personal inclination towards India as a natural choice of a long-term ally. However, it is
important that it should not be viewed as an
indication of Sri Lankas desire to place all its
eggs in the Indian basket, or even as a willingness to cold shoulder China. India must
hence avoid the temptation to ash the V
Sign, before the race has begun, for considerable ground still remains to be covered.
A great deal has, however, taken place in
Sri Lanka in recent weeks that provides India
reason for satisfaction. The peaceful transfer of power in Sri Lanka and the absence of
any serious violence in its wake, is one. The
eclipsing of President Mahinda Rajapaksa
who, while distancing himself from India was
perceived to be aggressively courting China,
is another. Further, the coalition that has
come to power has many leaders, especially
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and
Chandrika Kumaratunga, who are old friends
of India. The scene is thus set for an improvement in India-Sri Lanka ties.

The India visit

Nevertheless, a lot of homework needs to
be done before Prime Minister Narendra
Modi embarks on his Sri Lanka visit. The
objective should not be as media headlines
would have it of pre-empting China, but
on trying to and building an enduring relationship, which, given the close affinities that
do exist between India and Sri Lanka, should
have been the natural order of things. Yet, the
two nations nd themselves separated by
much more than the Palk Strait.
Mr. Sirisena referred to his India visit as a
remarkable milestone. But, India and Sri
Lanka signed only three agreements viz., on
agricultural cooperation, on cultural cooperation, and a Memorandum of Understanding
on Nalanda University, none of which can be
regarded as signicant. They did conclude a
civil nuclear cooperation agreement which
amounts to a demonstration of mutual
trust, but has nothing strategic about it. It
only facilitates cooperation in the transfer
and exchange of nuclear knowledge and
As this was Mr. Sirisenas rst visit, the


ashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan
Bhagwats recent comment that the prime
motive behind Mother Teresas work among
the destitute and desperately poor was to
convert them to Christianity may have received approbation from BJP members, the Shiv Sena and assorted
right-wing Hindu organisations. But the rest of India
has responded differently, with people of all faiths
not merely Christians strongly expressing their objections to what they see as an unwarranted attack on
Mother Teresa, a revered gure. This last week, the
issue echoed in Parliament, with opposition parties
seeking a clarication from the Modi government. Cornered, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah
Naidu said that the government had nothing to do with
the RSS. This drew howls of protest from opposition
MPs, who pointed out that the ruling party benches
were lled with proud swayamsewaks. Indeed, Mr.
Bhagwats remarks are being widely seen as part of the
Sangh Parivars efforts to keep alive the controversial
project of religious conversions and ghar vapsi
Mother Teresa, who came to India in 1929 as a young
nun, became a naturalised Indian citizen and went on
to found the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic
religious congregation that in 2012 consisted of over
4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. Of course,
this is not the rst time that she has been the subject of
controversy: during her lifetime, she was accused of
being a marketing guru who used her celebrity status to
attract funds for the Missionaries of Charity from dubious sources. But the fact remains that when this is set
against the body of her work picking up dying leprosy
patients off the streets, washing their sores and allowing them a dignied death, for instance Mr. Bhagwats accusations seem trivial. It was this kind of
seless service for the desperately poor, not her ability
to convert souls, that made her such an inspirational
gure worldwide. In Kolkata, the city in which she did
most her work, she remains an icon, its most human
face. In 1979, she won the Nobel Peace Prize; a year
later, the country that she made her own awarded her
Indias highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, the
only time someone of foreign origin has thus been
honoured. In 2003, she was beatied as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. It would be a pity if an icon so treasured
by millions in this country for her service to the needy
is trashed just to serve the blatantly partisan agenda of
the Sangh Parivar, which often involves a periodic
questioning of the national loyalties of minority



If Narendra Modi was successful during his visits

to Bhutan and Nepal, it was because he showed
a subtle grasp of the importance of gestures and
interpersonal equations. He would do well to do
the same during his maiden visit to Colombo.
Positioning India as a counter point to China
could follow later
more critical issues were either not discussed
or possibly not gone into in any detail. However, India and Sri Lanka cannot afford to
delay for much longer discussing major issues like the devolution of power to the Tamils in the North, nor can they be avoided
during Mr. Modis Colombo visit. In fact,
they have assumed an air of urgency as Mr.
Wickremesinghe has observed that he would
like to go in for parliamentary elections soon.
Voting patterns in the recently concluded
presidential elections demonstrate the critical importance of the minority (Tamil and
Muslim) vote, and the coalition of the New
Democratic Front of Sirisena and the United
National Party of Wickremesinghe need

Buddhist factor

Mr. Modi would do well to be also properly

advised about certain other aspects that China angle
could make a difference from the point of
If Mr. Modi was successful during his visits
to Bhutan and Nepal, it was because he
showed a subtle grasp of the importance of
gestures and interpersonal equations. He
Irrespective of the party in power in Colombo,
would do well to do the same during his
underestimating the strength of feelings towards the Buddhist
maiden visit to Colombo. Positioning India
as a counter point to China could follow later,
majority and the extent to which a government in Colombo
given the existing ground realities, such as Sri
can make concessions would be an error.
Lankas debt trap. Sri Lanka owes China
substantial amounts on account of Chinese
aid and assistance for its developmental prothem to outvote the Sri Lanka Freedom view of the visits success. For instance, one jects, including the Hambantota and ColomParty.
of Mr. Sirisenas alliance partners is the pro- bo ports. Mr. Modi knows better than anyone
extremist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna that the largesse of Indias lines of credit
Critical issues
(JVP) whose track record has been one of simply cannot match that of Chinas. Nor for
A viable solution to the devolution issue is, total opposition to India. Another compo- the matter, does our track record of complehowever, unlikely without a major initiative nent is the rabidly Buddhist, Jathika Hela tion of projects compare with that of China.
coming from the Indian side. Mr. Modis Urumaya, which has turned increasingly milThere are reports that Mr. Sirisena has
team of advisers will have to do a great deal of itant of late with regard to its protestations assured China that his government is willing
brainstorming to come up with a solution as also its attitude towards non-Buddhist ele- to implement the consensus reached during
that at one level, can meet the aspirations of ments in the country, especially Muslims and Chinese President Xi Jinpings State visit to
the Tamils, and at another, ensure that the Tamils. How to steer between the Scylla and Sri Lanka last September. The President, recoalitions standing with the Sinhala Budd- Charybdis of Sri Lankas internal politics will portedly, has also underlined the enduring
hist majority is not seriously undermined. As have to be worked out.
nature of the friendly ties with China, dating
the architects of the 13th Amendment and
An understanding of the Sinhala Buddhist back centuries. Hence, scrapping any of the
the devolution idea deriving from the Indo- mindset might help. The Sinhala Buddhist ongoing projects funded by China may not be
Sri Lankan Accord of 1987 the Lankan majority in Sri Lanka, it is often said, suffers on the anvil. It would be better to be cautious
Tamils will look to India to ensure justice for from a minority complex, creating many and see how far the new Sri Lankan government readjusts its priorities, including its
ties with China, before taking any major
The realities of Sri Lankan politics also
make it easier for Sri Lanka to have a satisfactory relationship with China. There is also
the recent history of Chinas help to Sri
Lanka, dating back to the 1952 rice for rubber deal, apart from several other instances.
If Sri Lanka can be persuaded during Mr.
Modis visit to Colombo to step back from
becoming an enthusiastic supporter of Chinas Maritime Silk Road Project, this in itself
would be a matter of great geostrategic signicance. The Maritime Silk Road Project
employing an ancient Chinese metaphor
masks Mr. Xis ambitions to establish a dominant Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacic,
including building a network of port cities to
straddle the Indian Ocean. Location wise, Sri
Lanka will have a crucial role, and if it can be
detached from becoming involved, this
would amount to a signicant diplomatic and
strategic victory. However, India will be required to demonstrate greater chutzpah, if
countries in the region are to heed Indias
diktats. Its record in the Maldives in recent
years, and again most recently in the case of
the former Maldivian President Nasheeds
arrest, does not inspire much condence
about Indias determination.
(M.K. Narayanan is former National
Security Advisor and former Governor of
West Bengal.)


vision, went on to inict great
damage to the Indian Railways. The
Every time a railway budget is operating ratio of 92 per cent is an
presented, the Opposition attacks it example. It is only the Modi
with relish (High on semantics, government which has desisted
says Opposition, Feb.27), then from introducing new trains. On
proceeding to call it regressive, the budget proposals, it is only
anti-poor, general class passengers who would
thoughtless, populist, etc. I value an upgrade of amenities and
recollect a conversation with a cleanliness in rail travel.
senior railway engineer who told
S.P. Gaur,
me that the Indian Railways is the
only organisation which runs into
losses despite 110 per cent The major hurdle that the Railways
occupancy and utilisation of the faces in its development is its highoperating ratio which threatens to
railway services.
I nd it painful when this get out of control irrespective of
question is never answered by any several measures taken in the past.
government, and that there is never In the absence of any coalition
any attempt to correct this very political compulsions, one looked
ironic malady. I am not saying we forward to the Railway Minister
should increase fares dramatically, charting a road map to increase
but there must be a good economic revenue and to enhance efficiency
without any fear and favour. How
model for every organisation.
Pingali Gopal, the target of Rs.8.56 lakh crore will
Warangal be achieved remains to be seen.
C.P. Trivedi,
New Delhi
The increase in advance booking
period for reservation, from 2
months to 4 months (Now book Though
your rail ticket 4 months in announced a lot of new facilities
advance, Feb.27) has done nothing (The passenger is king, and the
to increase passenger convenience. graphic Passenger-friendly
This was prevalent earlier and signals, both Feb.27), we have to
passengers were happier when the wait and see whether they will be
discontinued. implemented in the same spirit and
Nevertheless, the Railways can alacrity
earn more from booking and announcements have been made,
cancellation charges since the and also without a compromise on
probability of cancellation will go quality!
up on the basis of a forecast of four
Given the level of penetration of
P.G. Mathew, (Technology to be tapped for
Kochi better services, Feb.27), it must be
remembered that a substantial
Former Railway Minister Dinesh percentage of the population is still
Trivedi (Dreams without a vision, illiterate and ignorant and does not
Feb.27) has been unfair to Railway possess 3R skills. There are also
Minister Suresh Prabhu in his people with locomotor disabilities
critique of the Railway budget. He who are unable to use their hands
ought to remember all those and ngers. Though embracing
ministers, and with dreams and a technology is a progressive

On the Railway budget

their cause. Indian Tamils also expect nothing less, and this will have implications for
Indias internal politics.
There are other thorny issues such as accountability, demilitarization and growing communalization of both the Sri
Lankan polity and the Army as also the
pending UNHRC resolution that will need
some kind of settlement. Each in their own
way impacts India-Sri Lanka relations to an

imponderables as a result. The two JVP insurgencies (in 1971 and 1987-89) well reect
this. During the LTTEs heyday, its targets
included Buddhist followers; several Buddhist places of worship were also damaged or
destroyed. This has left behind a legacy of
distrust and insecurity, which translates into
violent opposition whenever the demand for
the devolution of powers to the Tamils comes
Irrespective of the party in power in Colombo, underestimating the strength of such
feelings and the extent to which a government in Colombo can make concessions
would be an error. Given that the vote difference in the presidential elections was hardly
4 per cent and that Mr. Rajapaksa outpolled Mr. Sirisena in a majority of districts
across the state (other than in the Tamil and
minority belts) it may not be easy for the
coalition to make the kind of concessions
required for pushing through the 13th
Amendment. As it is, Mr. Rajapaksas United
Peoples Freedom Alliance has a clear majority in the 225-member Sri Lankan

Letters emailed to must carry the full

postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
approach, let us not forget that we
need to have an inclusive approach.
T.S. Karthik,

As an environmental enthusiast, I
can say that the budget lacks focus
in two areas: the greening of areas
abutting tracks and making best
use of Railway land. There is
Like in 2014, the Rail Budget has approximately 60,000 km (37,282
held out a lot of promise for general miles) route length of railway track.
passengers an emphasis on Useful tree species and fruit plants
cleanliness, CCTVs for security can help boost the revenue of the
but nothing positive appears to be Railways. The 43,000 hectares of
seen. Operation Five Minutes, to vacant land that the Railways has
purchase unreserved tickets, will can be utilised in an organised
remain a dream. Having lower manner if used for agriculture,
berths for senior citizens is a good aquaculture, or by commercial and
step and the software must be industrial establishments
upgraded in such a way that
M. Firozama,
whenever a senior citizen makes a
booking, he is allotted a lower berth
Some of the schemes are a revival of
Running the Indian Railways is a what was introduced more than a
challenge on account of these decade ago and which died a natural
factors: how will vermin that runs death. The introduction of a new
riot on trains be tackled? Rats and toll free number as a helpline serves
cockroaches are common. The food little purpose as these numbers are
served is bad, and also most trains always engaged or unanswered. On
run late. Washrooms in trains are safety, the less said the better.
terrible, with no soap or water. I
S.R. Krishnamurthy,
also feel that the amount of luggage
that can be carried in reserved
compartments needs to be
specied. The Railways will also be In the realistic analysis about the
better off if it introduces its own safety and security of women in
taxi service to ferry passengers to different megacities after sunset
their destinations.
(Unsafe after sunset, Feb. 27), the
Mahesh Kapasi, nding that Mumbai is perceived to
New Delhi be the safest metro offers a
modicum of consolation. But with
It is surprising that there was no plans being envisaged for it to
dedicated become a sleepless city, how much
freight corridors despite the longer will it be able to hold onto its
increase in freight charges with enviable position is anyones guess.
effect from April 1, and which What is most worrying is that the
would have certainly fetched huge capital city is greatly unsafe for
revenue for the Railways. Only women. One hopes that Delhi Chief
experts can explain how the Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be
Railways can install surveillance able to plug the loopholes in the
cameras inside womens coaches infrastructure. It is also the overall
without intrusion of privacy responsibility of the Modi
(CCTV on trains welcome say government to ensure that cities in
India are, by and large, safe.
some, no say others, Feb.27).
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
P.K. Varadarajan,

Unsafe after sunset

Winning the WOTY

It is no surprise that The Hindus
website has won the Website of the
Year (WOTY) India award for 2014
in the News and Information
category (Feb.27). Site content is
well balanced, both textually and
visually, and, thankfully, is not
overloaded with advertisements
that come in the way of one
enjoying undisturbed reading.
Using the best in technology,
The Hindu has seamlessly blended
itself across all platforms,
providing every category with
accurate and exhaustive content. In
the early days of the Internet there
were fears that newspapers would
become redundant. Thankfully,
these have been allayed and there is
a symbiosis between the print and
the online editions.
Sharath Ahuja,
As an ardent reader of The Hindu
for decades, the report made me
proud; it is almost as if it has been
won by a family member. What is
even more signicant is that the
selection has been very transparent
and that The Hindu has earned this
merit from the public, and not from
a select few.
The Hindu is the most complete
daily and maintains a balance
between tradition and technology,
bringing delight to its huge
readership base across the globe,
for both its print and online
editions. I recollect how a few years
ago, Khushwant Singh, the doyen of
the literary world, had picked
The Hindu as the most readable
daily in the world from over a
dozen morning newspapers that he
used to read. I wish that the daily
wins more such laurels in the years
to come.
R. Sivakumar,