Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prejudices in reasonable minds

It is not uncommon to witness otherwise reasonable minds to vehemently disagree on certain issues of public interest. Yesterday, NDTV presented a discussion featuring Prannoy Roy, Narayana Murthy, Shekhar Gupta (of Indian Express) and Arvind Kejriwal. It was not surprising to hear all of them praise the efforts of Anna Hazare to centrestage the issue of corruption. The first three however took serious exception to Anna's controversial statements like "If Lokpal were in existence, Chidambaram would be in jail" and "Alcoholics may have to be beaten to wean them away from addiction". Since he was in a hopeless minority. Kejriwal could not defend Anna fully. Perhaps one way of looking at the issue is to trace the genesis of such statements to Anna's obsessive sincerity.

No human mind is completely free from bias or prejudice. "Stereotyping" is a bias most of us are prey to. Anna while reforming and transforming Ralegan Siddhi had come across many incorrigible alcoholics and he was privy to the resultant sufferings endured by many women and children. To him. the village was the universe. He formed a stereotype in his mind that consumption of alcohol and family distress go together. Similarly, some of the controversial acts and utterances of Chidambaram made Anna to fit him into the stereotyped version of a politician as a venal, arrogant person. Absence of direct exposure to social evils like alcoholism and its impact on economic conditions has enabled formation of a different kind of prejudice in the minds of PR, NM and SG. Because of inevitability of powerful prejudices like these, the otherwise wise people are forever condemned to disagree among themselves and let the sinister rule the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare

Comparison between Anna Hazare and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is inevitable in view of the ethical foundation of their approaches to social issues. Their modus operandi, atleast apparently, is similar. Hunger strike and Satyagraha lend commonality to their campaigns. How do we make a comparative assessment of  the roles played by these two gentlemen?

Gurudas Dasgupta, an erudite parliamentarian, avows there is no second Mahatma. In a caustic criticism of Anna's ways, the Bombay High Court says,"One man's Satyagraha may be another's nuisance". (This was what the British used to say!)  The Mahatma is held in high esteem by the entire country and rightly so. Ofcourse, praising the Mahatma's approach does not seem to preclude the self-proclaimed Gandhians from adopting unethical and corrupt ways in their life. Such Gandhians are a dime a dozen among particularly the politicians.

The Mahatma was a legend in his lifetime and has taken on divine dimensions in his afterlife. Therefore any earthly characterisation of even his mundane dealings is considered profane. Hence I attempt only a tentative comparison between the two giants.

The Mahatma was well educated in India and in the inns of London. He had advisors / followers like Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajaji, Satyamurthy, Vallabhai Patel and others. He was a gifted writer and an orator equally at ease in English and Hindi (and ofcourse in Gujarati too).  Most of all, he fought for India's freedom from aliens who had not forsaken all vestiges of integrity and decency.

In contrast, Anna Hazare is barely educated, had never been abroad to facilitate broader vision, and has to fight against a cabal of corrupt, dishonest and unethical persons whose overpowering aim in life is to amass wealth (if the economy is destroyed in the process, why should these venal elements bother?). He can speak only in vernacular languages.

If inspite of these disadvantages, Anna Hazare is able to make the kind of impact he has already made and has stirred the nation's conscience through his crusade (albeit misguided at times, because of the limitations mentioned above), is he not in some ways atleast (yes, I am commiting the sacrilege) better than the Mahatma?

Anna is no Mahatma. The Mahatma was no Anna either.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chidambaram's discomfiture

The Home Minister is embroiled in a spate of controversies. He is alleged to have gone easy on A.Raja who decided on pricing of 2G spectrum. His narrow victory in the last election to the Lok Sabha is legally contested. The latest controversy is regarding the grant of permission to withdraw a criminal case against a fraudulent hotelier. In this case, the minister had earlier argued in the courts in favour of the hotelier and lost the cases. Chidambaram has taken a position that he does not remember all his erstwhile clients.

On 22nd Nov 2010, we argued as follows:

"The ever-repulsive spokesperson of the Congress party has unconvincingly argued that CAG's report on 2G Scam refers only to "presumptive loss" to the exchequer and therefore the country is needlessly agitated over a non-issue.

Even before we could digest this argument, the normally sensible P.Chidambaram has sought to throw further light on the theory of presumption. "I place some 50-60 signatures in a day with the presumption that they are right to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps few may go wrong, but they were not malafide because the intentions were right." (The Hindu dated 22nd Nov.)

Is Chidambaram serving advance notice on the prime minister ? This specious presumption argument can be used by every decision-maker. So no one can be held accountable for any decision, for who will accept his intentions were wrong? "

One is afraid that Chidambaram's continuance in the cabinet has become untenable.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Harvard elbows out Subramanian Swamy

Subramanian Swamy has been handling two courses for the Harvard Summer School for a long time. The subjects were "Quantitative Methods in Economics" and "South Asian economies". Harvard has a tradition of reviewing each course every year. This year these two are the only courses being discontinued. Swamy is annoyed, perhaps naturally.

The courses are being discontinued only because Swamy had earlier written an allegedly inflammatory article in an Indian newspaper. Harvard university favours freedom of expression. Diana Eck, the well-known Professor of Comparative Religion at Harvard led the move against Swamy. She drew a distinction between what is unpopular and what is unwelcome. She characterised Swamy's fulmination against followers of a particular religion as 'unwelcome' and therefore she wanted a ban on Swamy's courses. Isn't there a further distinction between what is 'unwelcome' and what is 'intolerable'?

Harvard's decision may be a blow against freedom of expression which any academic institution should protect. However, Harvard cannot be blamed as partisan. Remember Lawrence Summers who had to resign from presidency of Harvard because he had made a politically incorrect statement on rarity of female professors in science disciplines?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Subramanian Swamy's latest letter to CBI

The following letter makes interesting reading:

Letter from Dr. Subramanian Swamy to Mr. A.P. Singh, Director, CBI, New Delhi

Please refer to the Written Complaint that I had submitted on November 28, 2011 to CBI through you, and on behalf the Action Committee Against Corruption in India (ACACI).

The letter is by way of additional information relating to the disclosure of offences committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
First, is the information from an article published in Schweitzer Illustrate in its November 1991 issue, which magazine is a highly respected and widely circulated magazine in German language, and published in Switzerland. This information discloses that the former Prime Minister, Mr.Rajiv Gandhi (now deceased), had about $2 billion in secret bank accounts in Switzerland, which is clearly disproportionate to his known sources of income as per his affidavit filed with his nomination papers upon becoming a candidate for Lok Sabha elections in 1991. This attracts section 13(1)(d) of the PCA. Although the information is two decades old, but you are aware that there is no time limitation for corruption cases under the PCA. Also even if Rajiv Gandhi is now deceased, his likely beneficiaries are his wife, Sonia, and two children, two of whom are public servants.
The second information is from Dr.Yevgenia Albats, a Russian scholar, holding a Harvard Ph.D and who was a member of the Inquiry Commission into KGB Activities which Commission was appointed by President Yeltsin of Russia. She subsequently authored a book titled: “A State Within a State: KGB in Soviet Union.” In that book, she disclosed the File Numbers contain evidence of the KGB payments to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his family members. This disclosure was confirmed by the spokesperson of the FIS, the KGB’s successor spy agency (equivalent of our IB and RAW combined) in a Press Conference in 1992, and reported by The Hindu, Times of India, and UNI. In 2002, the then External Affairs Minister Mr.Jaswant Singh had taken this matter up with the Russians and was informed by the Russian authorities that the GOI may send a senior representative of the RAW to Moscow to obtain authenticated records of KGB payments to Rajiv Gandhi and family.
Third, I have information that Mr.Rahul Gandhi was detained in Boston’s Logan Airport by US law enforcement authorities sometime in the later half of September 2001. He was in possession of $160,000 in cash which he did not declare upon arrival. US Customs require all amounts above $10,000 in cash to be declared, and if not every $10,000 installment carries a 8 year imprisonment, if convicted. This means Rahul Gandhi was indictable for a prison term of 144 years. However, the then Principal Secretary to the PM, Mr.Brijesh Mishra, to my knowledge, had intervened with US Secretary of State, and arrangements were made get to Mr.Gandhi released.
In his deposition to the US authorities before returning to London Mr.Gandhi had declared that the money was his, and he had drawn it out of his secret account in Pictet Bank, head quartered in Zurich, Switzerland. I may mention here later that while studying in Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA, Mr.Gandhi paid his Tuition and other fees to the College from his secret accounts.
New information has surfaced which is related to a Geneva court order, freezing the bank accounts of one Sanjay Pasari as reported in Pioneer of Dec. 7, 2011. Mr. Pasari reportedly was acting on behalf of certain Indian public officials. Investigation of this transaction will help ensure the restitution of illicit wealth stashed in tax havens provided Letters Rogatory for prosecuting complaints under PCA are obtained.

After the became aware of these developments — after US counterparts alerted your Bureau the CBI has merely put Mr. Pasari in the Undesirable Contact Men’s list. But that is clearly insufficient. This development adds up to the ACACI petition submitted to you on November 28, 2011 in person urging the CBI to register a FIR.

Best regards,

Yours sincerely,
Subramanian Swamy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Misuse of Intelligence

Intelligence services in any country are  supposed to take care of threats to national security. It is reported by The Hindu that Indian intelligence services are generally utilised by their political masters to spy on opposition, within and outside their party. It is an extremely dangerous trend and needs to be arrested immediately. Intelligence resources are scarce and if they are misused like this, terrorist and other anti-national activities are at an advantage. This is an important issue that needs to be debated in the parliament. But does our parliament have time or concern for such crucial issues? Will the judiciary take suo-moto notice of this?

Kapil Sibal's warning to social websites

Kapil Sibal has been stung once again. He sees the world in black and white terms, no shades of gray ever. A typical lawyerly approach perhaps. Regarding the 2G scam, it was "zero loss". Now he has issued a stern warning to Facebook, YouTube and other social websites to desist from uploading "disparaging and defamatory" content. Apart from the fact that such a check may not be technologically possible, the minister should remember that these are international (or nation-less) sites and what is defamatory in one place may not be so in another. The minister has become sensitive on this issue because of morphed images of his party leaders appearing in the sites. Such incidents involving others are common. People in public life need to be a bit more tolerant and liberal.

Additions made on 7th December:

The following is a report from BBC:

"Before the press conference, Mr Sibal showed reporters morphed photos of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as well as pigs running through Islam's holy city of Mecca."

One wonders why the minister is mixing up Congress leaders and the holy city of Mecca. Devoted Muslims are capable of safeguarding their interest. The minister is deliberately communalising the issue of freedom of social websites in order to obfuscate that his only mission is to protect his party leaders from alleged denigration. The minister has only committed the blunder of providing wide publicity to what would have died down otherwise. In a lighter vein, Sibal must be hauled up for comparing the party leaders with pigs!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Succession Charade

Ratan Tata has announced that Cyrus Mistry, the son of  Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry and the brother of Noel Tata's wife, will succeed him as the chief of the Tata group. As reports go, Cyrus Mistry is a cultured gentleman who espouses humility and respect for governance. Prima facie, the choice is apt. Though only 43, Cyrus Mistry is well experienced in construction business and apparently receptive to advice from well-wishers.

Ratan Tata had earlier observed that his half-brother, Noel Tata, is not experienced enough to succeed him. The question that arises now is: Is Cyrus Mistry more experienced than Noel Tata? The answer may not be reassuring. Ratan Tata also made a mysterious remark, perhaps more philosophical than pragmatic, that Noel Tata's lack of readiness to head the Tata empire was partly his own making. This enigmatic statement gave the game-plan away.

Earlier, a 5-member committee was formed with a great deal of fanfare to do a "global search" for the successor. A world-wide search was made for more than a year only to discover that the target was in Tata's backyard. This brouhaha was, in retrospect, a deceptive ploy. Shapoorji Pallonji's family owns about 18% of Tata Sons. This family seems to have asserted its rights to manage the business empire. This is what happens in many business groups and there is nothing ethically wrong about this development.

However, what is disconcerting is the elaborate drama that was enacted to make us believe that the group was professional and mature enough to delink ownership and management completely. The search committee owes it to the Tata shareholders to inform them the rationale for the ultimate selection. There is no doubt (based on what information is available in the public domain) that Cyrus Mistry is a good choice. It is doubtful however if the committee could not have found a better choice.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fair value Accounting of own debt

Fair value accounting requires that assets and liabilities are valued not at historical cost but at current market prices. This extends to revaluation of one's own debt also. It has been revealed that 5 major banks in the U S namely the Citigroup, B of A ML, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs together have taken credit for more than 80% of their net profit totalling $16 bn for the quarter ended 30th Sep 2011 from this nefarious but permitted practice of revaluing one's own debt. Standard Chartered Bank desists from this practice. This practice is not unlawful though it is funny. In effect, a company or a bank in difficult straits says, "I am in difficulty. So those who have lent money to me may not recover the full amount from me as of now. This is reflected in the high spread on my Credit Default Swap. Accordingly, I revalue what I owe to others and cock a snook at my creditors. My profits are therefore bloated but this is strictly in terms of the concept of Fair Value Accounting." Ofcourse, the profits will get reversed when fortunes improve. This is a blatant anomaly that needs to be set right.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Deregulation of Savings Bank interest rates

RBI is known for its well-calibrated moves. It was sounding the banks for more than a year regarding the pros and cons of empowering the banks to fix their rates of interest on savings bank accounts. It is likely that many banks were already assessing the implications to their respective selves if deregulation happened.

Therefore it is quite surprising that public sector banks are now unable to decide on their strategies even a month after deregulation was announced. Yes Bank justified its name by taking a prompt decision. A few private sector banks reluctantly followed. The private sector behemoths, namely ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, are still ruminating.

Public sector banks continue to have a preference for administered pricing. RBI on its part could have been more clarificatory. For instance, can the banks provide interest on daily balances or minimum monthly balances or some other criterion of their choice? RBI has stipulated that multiplicity of rates is permitted only for balances above Rs.1 lac. What happens to those accounts which have balances above and below Rs. 1 lac alternately?

Kingfisher Airlines on the rocks

Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines is deep in the red. "Kingfisher Red" has become a self-fulfilling name. This aviation company anxiously awaits the emergence of some kind of a saviour. It is anybody's guess whether there will be corporate amputation or a corporate takeover. Mallya has started identifying external excuses for his self-inflicted misery. He has raised issues like "Should a business be forced to carry on despite loss?" (i.e. does not an airline have the right to cancel flights?) and "Does it make sense for the government to insist on catering to ungainly routes?"

He is a firm believer in "privatising profits and socialising losses". Hence the Civil Aviation minister was requested to come to his succour. Vayalar Ravi in turn sought help from the Finance Minister who turned to the Petroleum Minister. Not one to put up with the game of passing the misplaced buck, Mallya turned to the Prime Minister. The latter wants the ministries concerned to look into the matter. What else can a Prime Minister without authority do? Has it not occurred to Mallya that only the UPA Chairperson can ease him out of the quagmire?

Why is Kingfisher in this predicament? Unlike his father, Vijay Mallya keeps chasing glamour. This strategy does not always make business sense. There is a story (apocryphal?) of the Chairman of a bank who decided after travelling once by Kingfisher Airlines that a company that delights its customers so well cannot fail and thereafter started lending to the Airlines. He had overlooked the caution that excellent customer service is only a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for corporate success.

It will be unwise on the part of the government to pressurise the banks or the oil companies to extend a favourable treatment to an ailing company. That will amount to penalising the tax payers. Mallya should actively look for a buyer. Ego should not stand in the way of common sense.

Auditors' misdemeanour

We are coming across cases of delinquency among auditors with distressing and depressing regularity. The latest to hit the public domain relates to one of the "Big Four", Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

P.N.Sudarshan, a Senior Director of this reputed audit firm has recently admitted in a Hyderabad Court that they had succumbed to pressure in inflating the value of Jagati Publications, a media firm owned by Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of a former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

Sudarshan clarifies that the company's value was overstated to Rs.3500 cr whereas the value was assessed as Rs.2500 cr. He was also under pressure to show the date of his report as Nov 2007 though the assessment was done in April 2008. He was influenced by Jagati's former auditor, Vijay Sai Reddy. The latter is now vice-chairman of Jagati Publications.

It is unfortunate that the reputation of esteemed auditors is really up for sale.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Srijan Pal Singh

Srijan Pal Singh is an atypical alumnus of IIMA. He passed out in 2009 as a gold medallist and declined a job offer from Boston Consulting Group. He is now working with APJ Abdul Kalam. APJ and SPS have recently commended the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. They envision bright days for India when thorium replaces uranium as the fuel of choice for a power plant. Here is a 2009 report on SP Singh: (courtesy: Business Standard)

"IIM-A student chooses politics over placements

Vinay Umarji / Ahmedabad March 7, 2009, 0:19 IST

Opts out of placements to apply to national political parties.
If Krishna Chepuri, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), made history by interning with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Sitaram Yechury, another IIM-A student has now chosen politics over placements. Final year post graduate programme (PGP) student Srijan Pal Singh has opted out of placements to pursue his dream of joining politics.

The 25-year-old has applied to a couple of national political parties including Congress party and is awaiting reply.

“I had always wanted to work with political parties and be actively involved in politics. So far even as a student I had been trying my hand at politics in several ways. Now, I wish to get fully involved in politics which is why I opted out of placements this year in spite of having couple of offers in hand. I personally wish to work for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi," said Singh, who, after applying on the political party's website, is now lobbying in the political corridors of Delhi to fulfill his dream.
Singh's interests in politics can be linked his involvement in the Public Policy Group (PPG) course, for which a team of seven students were assisted by Members of Parliament (MPs) like Sitaram Yechury, Madhusudan Mistry and Harin Pathak to formulate a framework for constituency management programme, last year.

Under the PPG course, Singh, and his batchmates, also developed an information and communication technology (ICT) system under which citizens in several constituencies could register their complaints with their respective MPs through an interactive voice response system (IVRS) and avail prompt response from respective departments.

Singh, who has worked with several NGOs and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), also has an offer from the global agency in hand. Before pursuing a PGP degree from IIM-A, Singh graduated in mechanical engineering from the Government Engineering College at Lucknow.
This year, around seven students have opted out of final placements at IIM-A including Srijan. Another final year PGP student, V Krishnakanth, 24, has decided to set up his own career consulting firm to coach eng0ineering undergraduates for post graduate entrance exams. "Coaching is a very fragmented market and I observed that students rarely get all kinds of coaching at one place. Using my education at IIM-A, I will be coaching them on how to crack several entrance exams. While currently I will be focusing on engineering undergraduates, later on I will also train Std. XII students for SAT," said Krishnakanth"

SP Singh deserves best of luck.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Judicial intervention

What is accused as "judicial activism" by some may also be interpreted as " inevitable judicial intervention " . If the legislature and the executive abdicate their respective responsblity, the courts are obliged to intervene lest the system should implode. Ths may be kept n vew while reading the following report:

 Kerala HC judges ask people to protest against price rise

ET Bureau Nov 5, 2011, 05.47am ISTTags:prise rise
Kerala High Court bench

NEW DELHI/KOCHI: As occupy protests spread like wild fire in foreign capitals, a Kerala High Court bench has nudged people to come out against the policies of the government responsible for distress.

In an observation of the spiralling prices of commodities, a Kerala HC bench comprising Justices CN Ramachandran Nair and PS Gopinathan said the people of the country should react against the frequent rise of prices by the government.

"Price rise is equivalent to slow death. People of the country should come to the fore rather than political parties," the court said. The observation came during the hearing on a PIL against the latest hike in petrol prices. The oil companies had effected yet another hike in petrol price, by Rs 1.80 per litre with effect from Thursday.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Political bloviation and judicial ire

The saga of 2G scam meanders along keeping courts and CBI awefully busy. The Law minister Salman Khurshid unlawfully advises Advani not to speak about the scam as the matter is "sub judice" and as his utterances may influence the courts! What a poor opinion about the capacity of the courts!

The Supreme Court also has fallen a prey to political red-herrings and has started warning the media to abstain from misrepresenting the court proceedings. Markanday Katju, a recently retired judge of the Supreme Court who is now heading the Press Council repeatedly cautions the press not to give too much coverage to matters like cricket, astrology, actors etc. He wants the Press Council to be empowered to suspend publication of newspapers that do not ' behave'. He desires that visual media should also be monitored by the Press Council. He has already given vent to his ire against preponderant sections of the visual media which are screening programmes not to his taste. How democratic! One also wonders how ethical it is for judges to accept post-retirement jobs.

Added on 6th Nov: Saubhik Chakrabarti has quoted Marshall McLuhan in the Economic Times today: "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding." I hope Justice Katju reads this.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Lessons from Rajat Gupta

Rajat Gupta is obviously going through tough times. Charges against him are formidable and proving them will require enormous ingenuity on the part of prosecutors. Given the amazing skills of U S prosecutors and absence of political interference, Rajat Gupta's future is dark.

It is difficult to believe that Gupta succumbed to an error of judgement. He is too intelligent for that excuse to be accepted. (I am assuming he did what he is alleged to have done.) He must have been confident that chances of being caught were next to nil. Perhaps luck deserted him when he needed it most. Every dog has its day. It is equally true that every 'kutha' (dog) has its night too.

Congress party's loudmouth, Digvijaya, has drawn a strange lesson from this. He argues that Indian judges should learn to provide bail to the accused pending hearing and finality. Yes, Rajat Gupta is out on bail. Digvijaya should appreciate that the bail has cost Gupta $10 mn and his passport. The bail amount is a staggering amount of $10 mn though Gupta's gain from his crime is yet unknown and may be much less. Indian courts should insist on Rs.hundreds of crores as bail amount when the alleged crimes involve humongous moolah. In the meanwhile, the likes of Digvijaya will be better advised to draw relevant lessons. Will the Indian government let the prosecutors do their job without outside influence?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Customer Service at "Time" magazine

The following inconclusive and perhaps never-ending correspondence speaks for itself:

Ofcourse, readers subscribe to Time for its content and not for the gift. Yet, Time's response to complaint regarding non-receipt of gift is interesting. Reminders are invariably profusely thanked, best services are always promised and remedial action assured. Cooperation is requested. {I wonder what is meant by cooperation. Does it mean "please do not again remind us"?)  I am also asked to please get back to them for further assistance/clarification. Is this Marketing all about?

Dear Mr.Nigar,

I have not yet received the gift.

--- On Wed, 10/5/11, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "K.R.Srivarahan"

Date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011, 10:50 AM

Dear Mr. Srivarahan,
This is with reference to your e-mail in regards to the non receipt of gift.
We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to you due to the non receipt of the gift. Your details have already been sent to the department concerned to look into the matter and resolve it at the earliest. As per the status received from them, we would like to inform you that we are keeping a follow up for this case with the postal authorities to resolve the matter and in the meanwhile, we are once again arranging to send you the gift from our end. The dispatch date for shall be 13/10/2011, we shell also secure a proof of delivery for the same, we request you for your kind understanding and cooperation.
Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
(Customer Care) Executive
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Sunday, October 02, 2011 4:41 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511Dear Sirs,

Eleven months have passed since I started following up with you. How many more months should I wait?

--- On Fri, 7/22/11, Time Care wrote:From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "K.R.Srivarahan"

Date: Friday, July 22, 2011, 3:12 PM

Dear Mr. Srivarahan,

This is in reference to your e-mail in regards to non receipt of gift.

We are sorry that you had to contact to us repeatedly due to non receipt of gift. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us .We could not dispatch the gift earlier to you due to some unavoidable circumstances. However, we assure you that this time the gift shall be delivered to you with in 10-12 working days.

We request for your kind understanding & cooperation.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you for the best possible services; always.

Executive (Customer Care)
Please quote your Subscription Number: 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Monday, July 18, 2011 6:34 PM

To: Time Care


Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
Dear Mr.Richard Evans and others,

I have been following up from 11th Nov. 2010. Your assurances lack credibility. Please have a look at the spate of emails which are reproduced here.

--- On Tue, 6/14/11, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"

Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 11:17 AM

Dear Mr. Srivarahan,

This is in reference to your e-mail in regards to non receipt of gift.

We are sorry that you had to contact to us repeatedly due to non receipt of gift. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us. However, we regret to inform you that the shipment which was due on 25th May’ 2011 was withheld due to certain reasons. We are now expecting the same in next 8-10 working days and accordingly we have forwarded your subscription details to the department concerned and have instructed them to dispatch the gift on priority basis. We assure you that the gift would be delivered to you within next 10-12 working days. Kindly confirm the receipt of the same.

We would appreciate if you could kindly co-operate with us.
Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications. Assuring you for the best possible services; always. Regards
Executive (Customer Care)

Please quote your Subscription Number: 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2011 8:04 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

I have lost count of the number of reminders I have sent to you. Do you really mean what you write?


--- On Wed, 4/27/11, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "K.R.Srivarahan"

Date: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 1:39 PM

Dear Mr. Srivarahan,

This is in reference to your e-mail in regards to non reciept of gift.

We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to you regard gift. Due to some unavoidable circumstances we could not dispatch the gift earlier to you. We assure you that this time the gift shall be delivered to you within 15-20 working days time.
Hope you would understand our limitations and co-operate with us.Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
Customer Care) Executive

Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 7:09 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
I have NOT YET received the gift.


--- On Wed, 3/16/11, Time Care wrote:
From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "K.R.Srivarahan"

Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 2:46 PM
Dear Mr. Srivarahan,
This is in reference to your e-mail.
We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

We would like to clarify that earlier your subscription gift was sent through "Express Parcel Post", since you have not received the same, we had forwarded your details to the department concerned to look into the matter and resolve it at the earliest. As per the status received from them, we would like to inform you that we are taking the necessary actions against the the postal authorities to look into the matter and in the meanwhile, we have already arranged to send you the replacement gift.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.

(Customer Care) Executive
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2011 3:26 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
I have checked up with the local post office ; I was informed that no such parcel has been received.

--- On Wed, 3/9/11, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"

Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 4:40 PM
Dear Mr. Srivarahan,

This is in reference to your e-mail.

We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.
We are extremely sorry for all the inconvenience caused to you due to the non receipt of the gift. As per the status received from the department concerned, we would like to inform you that your subscription gift has been dispatched from our end, through "Express Parcel Post" vide EPP number 435. We request you to kindly check with the local post office and confirm the receipt of the same.
Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
(Customer Care) Executive
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Monday, March 07, 2011 7:19 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
We have been corresponding from November 2010 totally in vain.

--- On Thu, 1/27/11, Time Care wrote:
From: Time Care
Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"
Date: Thursday, January 27, 2011, 1:01 PM
Dear Mr. Srivarahan,
This is in reference to your e-mail.
We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

We are sorry that you had to contact to us repeatedly. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us. As per the latest revert received from the department concerned we would like to inform you that the dispatches of the gift of “Time 04 Piece Bag Set” is expected by 31/01/2011. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim. Hope you would understand our limitations and co-operate with us.
We request you to consider this incident in isolation & not as being a representative of our services. We appreciate your feedback which enables us to improve our services and also help us in our endeavor to achieve service excellence.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
(Customer Care) Executive
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 7:03 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
I am yet to receive the gift !!

--- On Tue, 12/21/10, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"

Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 1:23 PM

Dear Subscriber,
This is in reference to your e-mail.
We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

We are extremely sorry for all the inconvenience caused to you due to the non receipt of the gift. We would like to inform you that the shipment which was due on 30th nov’ 2010 was withheld due to certain reasons. We are now expecting the same in next 1—2 weeks and accordingly we have forwarded your subscription details to the department concerned and have instructed them to dispatch the gift on priority basis. We assure you that the gift would be delivered to you within next 3-4 weeks. Kindly confirm the receipt of the same.We would appreciate if you could kindly co-operate with us.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
Executive (Customer Care)
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:25 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time Subscription no. 12674511
I am yet to receive the gift.
K.R.Srivarahan--- On Mon, 11/15/10, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: RE: Time

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"

Date: Monday, November 15, 2010, 4:34 PM

Dear Mr. Srivarahan ,
This is in reference to your e-mail.
We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

We are sorry to hear from you, about the non receipt of the gift. We are taking up the matter with the concerned department to expedite the delivery of the gift and the same shall be delivered to you within next 3-4 weeks. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim and we promise you that the gift will be delivered to you this time within the given time frame.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you for the best possible services; always.

(Customer Care) Executive

Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Friday, November 12, 2010 3:33 PM

To: Time Care

Subject: Re: Time
Please refer to the covering letter of my cheque wherein I had clearly mentioned the details of offered gift. I do not have the offer letter with me now. I remember I had opted for travel bags.


--- On Fri, 11/12/10, Time Care wrote:

From: Time Care

Subject: Time

To: "'K.R.Srivarahan'"

Date: Friday, November 12, 2010, 11:00 AM

This is in reference to your e-mail.
We thank you for contacting us regarding the Time Subscription.

Further, we request you to kindly confirm the gift offer which you received at the time of subscribing to the Time Magazine, as our system reflects “No Gift” against your subscription.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.
Assuring you for the best possible services; always.
(Customer Care) Executive
Please quote your Subscription Number 12674511 in all future correspondence.

From: K.R.Srivarahan []

Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2010 8:04 PM

To: Time Care

I recently renewed my subscription for 3 years. I am yet to receive the promised gifts includng travel bags.

Update on 7th Nov 2011: The subscription gift was received today.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Money moves mountains

Faith may move mountains elsewhere, but in India money alone does miracles. Anna Hazare is an exception. He is able to arouse people's emotion against corruption. Advani's yatra against corruption is obviously a political gimmick. The main political parties, the Congress and BJP, trading bribery charges against each other is a fraudulent spectacle. We have lived with this tamasha for a long time and we may continue to tolerate this idiocy for some more time. But what is worrying is that even balanced persons have started making ridiculous statements in public with a show of righteous indignation. Salman Khurshid argues that if corporate honchos are jailed, economic development will suffer. We can extend the argument and say that if politicians are arrested, politics will get stymied. If erring cops are punished, criminal system will fail. So, spare the criminals and the corrupt and let a thousand flowers bloom.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Steve Jobs

The untimely death of Steven Paul Jobs was not unexpected. Combination of diseased pancreas and foreign liver is an invitation to early death. Heightened perception of mortality pushed Jobs to be more creative. While delivering the Commencement Address to graduating students at Stanford University in June 2005, he hoped that diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the year 2004 was the closest he got to a near-death experience FOR A FEW MORE DECADES. This was one of the very few unprophetic utterances we can ever attribute to the co-founder of Apple. If he had had a say in the design of his physiology he would have lived longer.

He was as fascinated with death as he was with the products designed by him. To him Death was very likely the single best invention of Life. He combined the philosophical and the practical when he exhorted the Stanford students, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." A legend is no more.

Added on 9th October:

Name any handicap or obstacle to progress, Steve Jobs faced it and yet succeeded. He was an illegitimate child, an adopted son, a college drop out, a struggling entrepreneur, an ousted manager, living with a transplanted liver and dying from a rare type of painful pancreatic cancer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

N R Narayana Murthy on IIT students

It is not surprising that whatever NRN says is heard with respect. Addressing a gathering of IIT alumni in New York, the software czar commented adversely on what he called "the lower and lower quality of students entering IITs". This is what the news agencies report:

Poor quality of students entering IITs: Narayana Murthy

Press Trust of India, Updated: October 03, 2011 13:51 IST

New York: Voicing his displeasure over the quality of engineers that pass out of the IITs, Infosys chairman emeritus N R Narayana Murthy has said there is a need to overhaul the selection criteria for students seeking admission to the prestigious technology institutions.

Addressing a gathering of hundreds of former IITians at a 'Pan IIT' summit here, Murthy said the quality of students entering Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has deteriorated over the years due to the coaching classes that prepare engineering aspirants.

He said the majority of the students fare poorly at jobs and global institutions of higher education. "Thanks to the coaching classes today, the quality of students entering IITs has gone lower and lower," Murthy said, receiving a thundering applause from his audience.

He said apart from the top 20 per cent of students who crack the tough IIT entrance examination and can "stand among the best anywhere in the world," quality of the remaining 80 per cent of students leave much to be desired. Coaching classes teach aspirants limited sets of problems, out of which a few are asked in the examinations.

"They somehow get through the joint entrance examination. But their performance in IITs, at jobs or when they come for higher education in institutes in the US is not as good as it used to be.

"This has to be corrected. A new method of selection of students to IITs has to be arrived at."

It is to be expected that NRN has formed his views analytically from his experience. There are two caveats though.

First, he was addressing those who had passed out of IITs. Alumni of any institution are generally pleased to hear that they were more diligent than the succeeding generations of students. Therefore, the applause that NRN received from the audience should not prejudice our mind . In other words, the applause was not objective approval.

Secondly, why blame the coaching institutions? After all they are only teaching the students. If they are able to sharpen the minds, what is wrong? There are many ways in which students learn. Coaching is perhaps the most focused way. One may even argue that if IITs are able to teach their students as well as the coaching institutions do, perhaps the quality of IIT students would be better ! (I am not saying that teaching quality in IITs is bad. I am only reminded of what Jairam Ramesh controversially said sometime in May this year: "The faculty in IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class".)

There is thus a huge divergence between the views of NRN and JR. I believe neither is wholly correct.

According to news reports, NRN also observed that examinations should test independent thinking of students rather than their ability to solve problems. What is the utility of one without the other? Can these two qualities be delinked?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The 2-G Tragicomedy continues

It is unbelievable that Salman Khurshid dismisses the note -or OM, the Office Memorandum- submitted by the Finance Ministry to the prime minister as bereft of "life". One does not fully understand what he means by this. But it is clear that he does not want us to take the note seriously. The note was prepared with factual inputs from various ministries and also Prime Minister's Office! If such a note is not to be taken seriously, one is at a loss to understand what should be taken seriously.

The CBI says Chidambaram alone could not have reversed Raja's unlawful action in allocation of spectrum. Only the cabinet could have done that! If this argument is accepted, CBI should start investigating the entire cabinet. Obviously when under political pressure, an institution will be confused about what it is communicating.

Chidambaram claims the issue (of relevance of the note to PM and his own integrity) is closed. Great! The accused himself decides that he is not guilty. Why do we need the CBI and the courts? What do they know which PC may not know?

Pranabda asserts (hesitatingly?) that he did not agree with conclusions emerging from the factual note though he forwarded the note to PMO. Did he note his disagreement in the note? No, how could he foresee the subsequent developments and the inevitable pressure from Soniaji to protect PC?

If the government survives despite all these shenanigans, it shows how weak the opposition is.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Manmohan Singh joins the panoply of jokers

One would have thought that Manmohan Singh was incapable of joining the ranks of Manish Tewari and Kapil Sibal in tearing the opposition to pieces. The prime minister has proved us wrong.

1) Manmohan Singh has discovered that the opposition is out to destabilise polity. He argues that since UPA government has been voted back to power after the "issues of 2006 or so" those issues should not be raked up by the opposition now. The murky issues of "2006 or so" are becoming clear only now. So what is the opposition supposed to do? Sit back and compliment the government ?

2) The honorable prime minister has now courageously blamed Dayanidhi Maran for genesis of 2G scam. "There was pressure from Maran to force the pricing of 2G spectrum out of the purview of a Group of Ministers set up to deal with the issue". What a great leadership! First yield to pressure; then when things go horribly and unconcealably wrong, blame the coercer!

Beware, Manish Tewari and Kapil Sibal. The prime minister has started eclipsing you both.

Joke of the year

According to media reports, CBI has asserted in the Supreme Court that the Union Government cannot give instructions to it on what it should probe ! "The CBI is an autonomous body and we don't take instructions from anyone." Who said the CBI does not have a sense of humour?

Monday, September 26, 2011

UBS CEO's resignation

19th September: Daily Mail Reporter:

"UBS boss Oswald Gruebel says he won't resign as rogue trader loss hits £1.5bn

UBS boss Oswald Gruebel said he would not be resigning, as the bank raised its estimate of losses racked up by London-based rogue trader Kweku Adoboli to £1.5billion.

Defiant: UBS boss Oswald Gruebel said he would not be resigning

The Swiss bank said the loss, previously thought to be £1.3billion, was caused by unauthorised trades on stock index futures made over the past three months. It said the transactions were within normal limits and slipped through risk controls due to ‘fictitious trades’ in complex financial instruments called exchange traded funds (ETFs), which were used to cover up losses.

UBS also countered suggestions that it did not notice the trades until Adoboli came forward, saying the 31-year-old trader – charged last week with fraud and false accounting – had been responding to the bank’s inquiries.

Mr Gruebel said calls for his resignation were ‘purely political’ and that he was ‘not thinking about stepping down’. He added that while he bore ultimate responsibility, he did not feel ‘guilty’ for failing to prevent the costly and embarrassing incident.

His defiant stance comes amid suggestions that Swiss regulators could tell the bank to hive off or close down its investment banking division, which houses the ‘Delta One’ desk where Adoboli worked. Such a drastic response would deal a huge blow to the City, where UBS employs some 6000 workers. "

24th September:

"UBS says CEO Oswald Gruebel resigns

agence france presse

ZURICH, 24 SEPT: Swiss banking giant UBS announced today that chief executive, Mr Oswald Gruebel has handed in his resignation, which was accepted by the board of directors, in the wake of a trading scandal. Mr Sergio Ermotti has been named as interim CEO effective immediately, a bank statement said, nine days after the arrest of a trader accused of a $2.3 billion fraud at UBS.

While the board “regrets” Mr Gruebel's decision UBS chairman, Mr Kaspar Villiger said in the statement Mr Gruebel “feels that it is his duty to assume responsibility for the recent unauthorised trading incident.”

Mr Villiger praised Mr Gruebel for “his uncompromising principles and integrity”, and acknowledged that during his tenure “he achieved an impressive turnaround and strengthened UBS fundamentally.” The board also said it would “fully support” the independent investigation into the rogue trading and would ensure that “mitigating measures” were implemented to prevent such incidents from recurring."
Is it not surprising that within the same week "uncompromising principles and integrity" dictate exactly opposite moves?
 Mostly in politics, but nowadays in business also, resignations are usually preceded by denials of any such intention. Why is it so difficult to accept that resignations occur due to external compulsions and have nothing to do with uncompromising principles and other utopian ideals?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

PM's conversation with Soniaji

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh had left the country for the United Nations when the political bomb blast occurred in India. A note placed by the Finance Ministry to the prime minister sometime in March 2011 emerged in the public domain through an RTI application and immediately created a furore among the impotent cognoscenti.

The note informed the prime minister that the then Finance Minister, P.Chidambaram could have prevented the 2-G scam. The note was prepared when Pranabda had become the Finance Minister. The war between PC and Pranabda (P vs P) was once again out in the open. PC is alleged to have spied Pranabda's activities not long ago.

Manmohan Singh had reached Frankfurt on his way to New York when he emboldened himself to call Sonia Gandhi to take directions from her on how to handle the developing crisis. The text of the conversation was made available under the Right to Disinformation Act.

"M: Madam, I am speaking from Frankfurt. I request you---  you--- you to please guide me what to say regarding the March note-----
S: This is what I don't like, why should you be frank ? Don't you want to continue in politics?

M: (Apologetically) I am sorry. Please guide me. Do I have your permission to observe omerta if the media wants my reaction to the note?
S: I know you will never grow up. Why are you exposing the Italian connection so amateurishly? If you don't know how to respond expediently, claim that you are observing mauna vratha. Better still, go on a fast against ---- ---.

M: Oh, madam, you know doctors have advised me against any kind of fast.
S: This is the problem with innocents like you. Don'y you know that you can claim to be on fast even though you may have normal food in private. Do you want me to teach you political dharma? There should be no connection between private practice and public pronouncements.

M: Madam, I now under--under--understand. I will sidetrack media's attention from the note.
S: Don't do anything stupid. You better leave it to professionals like Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari. They know what to say. They will convince the media, "What note? Where is the note? It is all in the evil mind of the opposition. Anyway, PC was never the Finance Minister. There was zero-loss in 2-G allocation. Do you want somebody to prevent zero-loss? What nonsense are you talking? Do you understand?" The media will then realise their folly. Don't worry. If Kapil and Manish fail to convince the people, Digvijay Singh is always there with his foot permanently in the mouth. He is also  endowed with 20-20 vision. He can see the hand of RSS everywhere.

M: Madam, what do I do if--if--if Supreme Swami   ---
S: I know you are as usual confused. You are mixing up Supreme Court and Subramaniam Swami.

M: Madam, yes you are right. What do I do if --if--Subramaniam Court---
S: It is the job of Attorney General to defend you from the hostile Supreme Court. If he does not do that, sack him and find another. If he cannot defend the unlawful, what is he for?

M: Madam, do I have your permission to speak to Pranab and PC?
S: Understand one thing clearly. PC is more reliable and capable. Don't you remember he could make unfair gains even from Fairgrowth Financial Services Ltd. promoted by Ratnakar? You cannot trust Pranabda. He is guilty of occasional spasms of honesty.

M: One last advice from you , madam. The note was received in my secretariat only in the month of March. I have not yet seen it. Should I now have a look at it?
S: I am happy I made you the prime minister. As long as you do not notice what is happening around you, you have my assurance that I will not sack you.

M: Oh, no ! I have misplaced the papers containing the speech I have to make in the UN.
S: Don't panic, Manmohanji. You get a copy from the Italian prime minister. If he is not to be found as is likely, get hold of somebody else's address and start reading it. Try to learn from your colleague, S M Krishna. Good Luck."

Needless to say, Manmohanji was feeling relieved.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mismatch in employment skills

The Economist says,

"The mismatch between the skills demanded by employers and those available in the market is a reflection both of bad choices by students, who have not thought hard enough about what will help them find a good job, and of education systems that are too often indifferent to the needs of the labour market and too slow to change even if they try. It is not just Egypt where the universities provide training for public-sector jobs that are no longer abundant yet fail to equip students with what they need to thrive in a market economy. Out of necessity, India is emerging as a model for tackling these problems, both because its companies have become expert in turning useless graduates into useful ones and because it has allowed industry to take the lead in creating a huge new programme to tackle skills shortages."

Is it so?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mani Shankar Aiyer spews venom

It is always a pleasure to hear or read M S Aiyer though no one would like to be at the receiving end of his sharp comments. Here is what he has commented on the Sports Minister Ajay Maken's epistle to the Prime Minister:

"Printed from Times of India

BA can't write such words, Aiyar on Maken letter to PM

Sep 10, 2011, 03.41AM IST

NEW DELHI: Taking on sports minister Ajay Maken, some would say even personally, former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Friday said Maken wrote to the Prime Minister at the behest of someone within the government, saying that "a BA (pass) graduate from Hansraj College" could not write the kind of words used in the letter.

In the letter, Maken had blamed Aiyar for playing an "obstructionist role" that eventually led to huge cost and time overruns in the Commonwealth Games.

Speaking to a news channel, Aiyar - without naming Montek Singh Ahluwalia - called him a "scrooge who runs the Planning Commission". The reference to Ahluwalia came in the context of Maken accusing Aiyar of not being thankful to either the PM or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Aiyar said, "It was clear to me that without the backing of the PM I wouldn't have even got from this scrooge who runs the Planning Commission even a Rs 600 crore a year that I managed to squeeze out of him, and if Mrs Gandhi wouldn't have been an ardent supporter of panchayat raj as her husband was I don't think they would qualled in front of my demands and therefore I don't think i have to grovel at the feet of the PM and the President. The Congress president and PM understand the nature of my gratitude to them."

As for Maken's letter, Aiyar said, "Firstly, we have to establish the authenticity of this letter. It contains words like 'dichotomous' which I cannot believe that a BA Pass from Hansraj College would know. So, is this really a letter written by him or somebody else cooked it up. So, I have written a letter to Maken yesterday to either certify the authenticity of the newspaper reports or to send me an authentic copy of the letter, because frankly the letter that he has written doesn't seem to either fit in with the character of the man I know."
Aiyar singled out the language of the letter and said, "There are such big big words used that unless Maken had a thesaurus by his side, I don't believe that he wrote that letter, perhaps I don't know may be he will let me know, whether he appended his signature to a draft prepared by someone else." Aiyar said unlike Maken, sports secretary Sindhushree Khullar "is in fact a very highly educated young lady, so it will be interesting to discover whether such a letter was ever written, whether it was authentic and whether it was drafted by Maken himself or whether he was given some assistance either from his own ministry or some other arm of the government of India in preparing that letter."
Asked about Maken's statement that Aiyar did not give credit to either the PM or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Aiyar said, "I don't think it's the duty of a minister to go around tom-tomming his personal thanks to a Prime Minister."

I wondered why Aiyer is so acrimonious towards Montek Singh Ahluwalia. I chanced upon the following old news item:


Issue Date: Monday, November 27, 2006 The Telegraph

All that glitters is not clout

- Mani daughter wedding a mini-summit, Montek son’s is quiet


Mani Shankar Aiyar with his daughter Yamini and son-in-law Adarsh. Picture by Prem Singh

Nov. 26: One is the father of the bride and a Union minister. But the foreign dignitaries who trooped in for the wedding made the venue look somewhat like a mini Saarc summit.
The other is the father of the groom and one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted men. But the wedding was largely a family-and-friends affair, though the grandeur was not missing.

DoNER minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s daughter Yamini and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s son Aman got married — not to each other — at ceremonies whose contrasting styles could be taken as beguiling pointers to the subtle shift in the power balance.

Yamini’s wedding to former Union minister Krishna Kumar’s son Adarsh was held today at Aiyar’s 14 Akbar Road residence, with the lawns rocking non-stop to Bollywood and Indipop numbers.
The celebrations have, in fact, been going on for three days and will spill over to tomorrow. But the talking point was the foreign dignitaries who were present.
Among the guests were Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, former Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and wife Naureen, the Bhutan agriculture minister and high-level representations from Bangladesh, the Maldives and other countries.

Cut to two days ago when Montek’s son Aman got married. The reception was held against the backdrop of the majestic Neemrana fort on the Delhi-Jaipur highway but the guests were mostly friends and family. The affair was not shorn of grandeur but not many political faces were on display.
Such nuggets are unlikely to attract much thought elsewhere but not in Delhi.

Political weathervanes are now busy activating their antennae to figure out whether the weddings offered clues to the changing power climate in the capital.

One pundit had this to offer: the glitz and the guest lists are inversely proportional to the amount of clout the two papas enjoy.
Montek is Manmohan Singh’s handpicked lieutenant and among some 20 technocrats/professionals who are calling the shots at the moment.
The others include members of the Planning Commission and the National Advisory Council; heads of the finance commission and the scientific advisory council; and the interlocutors for behind-the-scenes talks with the US, Pakistan and China.

On the face of it, politicians may appear to be in charge of big portfolios but in reality, their influence is on the wane. Their places are being taken over by highly skilled professionals who share Manmohan’s vision.
Some ministers claimed that colleagues like Arjun Singh, A.R. Antulay and Meira Kumar are not helping politicians by indulging in rhetoric on sensitive issues.
Against such a backdrop, any social occasion that offers a chance to showcase friends in high places becomes a handy barometer, though it need not necessarily reflect the full picture."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

No impeachmant, no punishment too ?

Justice Soumitra Sen of the Kolkata High Court defended himself in the Rajya Sabha. But the Rajya Sabha was not convinced and voted for impeachment. Realising that he was cornered, Justice Sen resigned from the court. The Lok Sabha will not go through the motions of impeachment. So far, so good. Will there be any criminal proceedings against him for his defalcation? It appears the answer is no.

A similar drama may play out in the case of Justice P D Dinakaran. Is this justice?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Delayed execution of death sentence

A lively debate is raging in the country regarding undue delays in execution of death sentences. There are people questioning the very wisdom of capital punishment. Since capital punishment is not (yet) outlawed in our country, the Supreme Court has wisely laid down that it is to be imposed only in rarest of rare cases.

Delays in implementation of any judicial decree are to be avoided. Whenever death sentences are awarded by the courts, the accused invariably go on appeals and if and when the judicial appeal process comes to an end they plead for mercy from the President. Delayed responses to such petitions has become the norm. Delays extending over a decade are pretty common.

Do such delays justify automatic commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment? Those who agree with this proposition argue that such inordinate delays are by themselves a cruel punishment and that the accused should not be subjected to another cruel punishment in the form of death by hanging. There is a logical flaw in this argument. The accused plead for mercy because they prefer to live as long as possible. When there is delay in response to their petition, they turn around and claim that not effecting the death sentence in time, that is allowing them to live longer, is a cruel punishment. This is a typical case of eating the cake and having it too.

Attributing cruelty to delayed response of the executive amounts to ignoring the cruelty suffered by the victims' families. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A curious case of corporate governance

Everonn Education Ltd., a leading provider of education service has claimed that "it would provide all cooperation to all concerned as necessary to clearly demonstrate its commitment and adherence to principled corporate governance". The company has said this after its CEO was caught red-handed bribing an Additional Commissioner of Income Tax. The non-executive Chairman of the company, J J Irani has since resigned from the Board of Directors. Mr.Irani is a former MD of Tata Steel Ltd.

Why should a company "affirm" its adherence to corporate governance after recklessly violating it? Can it not stop with confirming its readiness to cooperate in enquiries that are bound to follow? Does the company really believe that its claim of adherence to governance is credible? Crisis management requires transparency and frank admission of proven guilt. Mouthing non-existing allegiance to exemplary principles of conduct is a classic case of crisis mismanagement. Will corporates ever learn?

Farther away from home, the happenings at Sino-Forest Company, Canada are another instance of gross violation of principles of governance. The role of Ernst & Young has also come in for criticism. It is not clear how many more cases of corporate chicanery will come out in the open in the near future.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Capital Punishment and President's Accountability

It is moot whether capital punishment should be abolished or not. Convincing arguments exist for both retention and removal. As long as the provision finds a place in our legal scheme of things, it is incumbent on the authorities to perform their related functions diligently and in time. Vexatious delays in the legal processes and clemency proceedings are unpardonable.

Dilatoriness in decisions on mercy petitions is under intense debate now in view of the case relating to killers of Rajiv Gandhi. Four persons were awarded capital punishment by the courts. One of them, a lady, had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Since her guilt was not seen to be less gruesome than that of others, this is probably a case of discrimination in the eye of law. The other three pleaded for mercy eleven years back. Their petitions gathered dust in the Home Ministry for five years and in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan for six long years. Are not the ministers and presidents accountable for this inexplicable tardiness?

Perhaps this is one of the few cases where the ex- President Abdul Kalam owes an explanation to the nation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arundhati Roy on Anna Hazare's movement

The captious critic, Arundhati Roy is playing her usual carping game once again. A pathological believer in monopolising people's attention, she is seething with impotent anger that she is unable to wean people away from Anna's campaign against corruption. She discovers that the movement is funded by the World Bank and the Ford Foundation! What an egregious thought!

If the campaign is really supported by the WB and the FF, we should indeed be thankful to them. Read the baseless allegations of Roy:

".....Jan Lokpal bill regressive, Anna used as prop: Arundhati Roy

By Indo Asian News Service
IANS – 16 hours ago...New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) The Jan Lokpal bill is a 'regressive piece of legislation' and Anna Hazare has been 'used as a prop by foreign-funded NGOs' to lead the anti-corruption movement, writer and activist Arundhati Roy has said.

In an interview to CNN IBN, Roy said she is glad that the civil society's Jan Lokpal bill did not go through in parliament.
'I am extremely glad that the Jan Lokpal bill did not go through parliament in its current form,' Roy said.

'I think the legislation is a dangerous piece of work. You used the real and legitimate anger of the people against corruption to push through this specific piece of legislation, which is very regressive according to me,' she added.

Alleging that activist Anna Hazare, who spearheaded the anti-corruption movement, was used just as a prop, Roy said: 'It was an NGO-driven movement by Kiran Bedi, (Arvind) Kejriwal and (Manish) Sisodia. Three of them run NGOs.'

'I wanted to indicate why these NGOs are participating to mediate in what the public policy should be. World Bank and Ford Foundation fund the anti-corruption campaigns. Anna Hazare was picked up and propped up as the saint for the masses. He was not the brain behind the movement,' she added.

Talking about the Jan Lokpal bill, Roy said that it attempts to create a form of 'parallel oligarchy'.

'The Jan Lokpal team, including the chairman, is to be selected by a pool of elite people and they are a pool of elite people. You have a bureaucracy which will have the policing power, the power to tap phones, prosecute, charge and judge from the prime minister to the bottom,' she said.
Roy also questioned the media for its 24X7 coverage of Hazare's 12-day fast. 'For a nation of one billion people, the media did not find anything else to report,' she said, adding that 'certain major TV channels campaigned for' the movement. 'That's a kind of corruption for me at first place'."

What an outlandish idea! Media's focus on an issue of national importance is called as corruption! However, there is one elemental truth in Roy's outburst. Anna is not the brain behind the movement. He is the soul.

Arundhati Roy has proved her credentials to become a minister. Manmohan Singh may take notice.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Supreme Court Judge's dangerous plea

Mr. Justice Markandey Katju, a judge of the apex court has in a lecture in Chennai pleaded, "You must create a situation where judges are not put under pressure to become corrupt". He was saying that the judges are not adequately paid for their work. If non-payment of adequate compensation is reason enough to be corrupt, most Indians will be so. Pleading for appropriate salaries is one thing. But to reason that otherwise corruption will become more endemic is sinister. Such an argument is not much different from the Maoists' justification that if the government resorts to violence, so would they. Some idealistic solutions are impractical. Governments would never be totally pacifist. Salaries of judges or for that matter any group of employees would never be high enough to preempt the greed for more.

Mani Shankar Aiyar's false argument

Writing in The Economic Times dated 28th August, M.S.Aiyar argues, "I don't quite know what Anna Hazare is doing at the Ramlila ground when he ought to be laying siege to Dalal Street and the CII headquarters. For, while some of the corruption can be traced to the venality of politicians, all of it leads straight to business houses."

Well, this is a convenient argument to deflect popular anger away from the government. But is this a valid argument? If crimes go unchecked in a particular town, we do not hold demonstration against the criminals. We only question the police / state why they are not taking any effective action. There is an implicit contract between the citizens and the elected representatives who form the government that the latter would keep criminals at bay. There is no agreement between the corporate sector and the citizens that the former would stay away from venal ways. Therefore even if Aiyar's assumption that corporates are the fountainhead of corruption is correct, his conclusion that we should question only the corporates and not the government is absurd.

However if Aiyar is sincere in his expression, we expect him to organise a dharna in front of Dalal Street. We may know how many people support him.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ensuring effectiveness of Lokpal

Institutions like CBI become a let-down when the investigating official is (a) corrupt or/and (b) politically or extraneously influenced or/and (c) indolent. It is too well known that CBI is politically influenced. These three vitiating factors can be avoided in Lokpal if and only if he/she is chosen with due care by an appropriate authority. If the selection is made unanimously by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice, Prime Minister and Leader of the opposition as should be done in the case of CVC, the Lokpal is unlikely to suffer from any of the triple infimities mentioned above. Unanimity in selection is essential in view of what unfolded in the case of P J Thomas. (It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court bypassed the question as to whether unanimity is a legal requirement in the PJT case.)What happens if the committee members are corrupt? That is a second order question which should await its day for solution. It is however

helpful to remember that the incorruptible Justice Kapadia is a black swan and that we have more, substantially more, Balakrishnans than Kapadias. Recently Karan Thapar interviewed Salman Kurshid. The latter came up with an astonishing revelation that the government (at that point of time) was averse to insisting on Lok Ayukthas for all states because it was difficult to identify so many honest people ! When Karan sarcastically questioned if it was really that difficult in a nation of a billion plus population, Salman cynically put him down saying it was perhaps difficult even to find enough honest members for the Lokpal itself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anna Hazare's movement

Arundhati Roy says, "While Anna's means may be Gandhian, his demands are certainly not" (The Hindu dated 22nd Aug.). There are many who believe that his goals are acceptable, but his means are not. Thus we have many citizens who support his methods. Similarly there are many (not necessarily the same people) who endorse his objectives. The crowds at Ramlila maidan in Delhi and Sunday's unprecedented march of more than a hundred thousand people in Mumbai give the lie to arrogant minister's claim that a mere five thousand odd people do not reflect popular opinion.

After Kapil Sibal made the extraordinary remark belittling the movement, a "referendum" was conducted in Chandni Chowk, Sibal's constituency. Nearly 90% voted for Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal bill. The worthy minister again ridiculed  the referendum sarcastically commenting that the movement could have got 100% also. Various polls conducted by electronic media in different places revealed similar support for the anti-corruption drive. The minister is now observing "maunavrath".

Manmohan Singh who is normally too academically oriented to know the pulse of the people is now additionally advised by mendacious lawyers like Sibal. This certainly is not the way to lead the nation.

In the meantime, the unpopular government is trying all possible tricks to torpedo Anna's moves. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the least belligerent among the Congress spokespersons, has pleaded, "Give the Standing Committee a chance. Allow us to do our work." (How well they have done their work when such bills were earlier presented in the parliament !) Aruna Roy, a member of National Advisory Council which has the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, has joined a few others to come up with a last-minute red-herring proposal under the National Campaign for the right to Information (NCPRI). One of its brilliant recommendations is, "The prime minister should only be investigated if the full Bench of the Lokpal recommends such an investigation." This is again subject to another rider that a Full Bench of the Supreme Court has to concur with this recommendation. Have they omitted to say that the Full Bench should "unanimously" second the recommendation? In simple words, investigation against the prime minister is sought to be made a statistical impossibility.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Arvind Kejriwal vs Rahul Gandhi

Some mischievous elements who obviously do not have the interests of the nation in their mind are making a comparison between Rahul Gandhi and the Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal. This is what they are saying:


Mechanical Engineer -IIT Kharagpur
Job :-Tata Steel
Former IRS resigned from the Govt job(posted IT Commisioner's office)
Social Activist:-
Man behind (Right to Information Act).
LokPal bill
Awards Various Ashoka Fellow, Civic Engagement.
2005: 'Satyendra Dubey Memorial Award', IIT Kanpur for his campaign for bringing transparency in Government
2006: Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership.
2006: CNN-IBN, 'Indian of the Year' in Public Service
2009: Distinguished Alumnus Award, IIT Kharagpur for Emergent Leadership.
2010: Policy Change Agent of the Year, Economic Times Corporate Excellence Award along with Aruna Roy.
Fighting against corruption
.............He left his job in IRS to fight against corruption.

Education- failed to secure passing grades in National Economic Planning and Policy graduated by any how
job: Got ancestral political power and running through it
Award: he is making awards not getting it
Fight against Indians sentiments
For him Terror attacks are common thing...
we should not be worried of that.....let it happen(since they have z class security)
he will never talk about Govt. policies....and planning....since he
is not intelligent enough to grasp that.(claimed to be most eligible to be PM)
Won't talk about black money and corruption.
will never talk in Parliament.
No political vision and goals for nation .
Trained well to fool poor villagers with safed kurta ..nd khadhi(doing same in UP and other places.)

Great Grandson OF Nehru,
Grandson of Indira Gandhi....
Son Of Rajiv gandhi....
FRom Gandhi Family.....
..............Claimed to be next PM of INDIA ..Future face of congress.

Rahul Gandhi's credentials

It looks all but certain that the Prince Charming will replace Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. With a view to getting enlightened on the future Prime Minister's credentials, Ram Jethmalani has asked him the following questions:

"1. We have no objection to your mother's ambition to see you installed as India's Prime Minister. Obviously she did not entertain this ambition either for herself or any of her children in 1991. Are you prepared to take the nation into confidence and disclose the qualifications you have acquired since then to take into your hands the destiny of this complex and most populous and poverty stricken democracy?

2. Do you agree that the best available statesman in the country should fill that post? If yes, how have you convinced yourself that you are the one? We would not mind if your mother answers this question. We hope you will not turn to our dear friends Mani Shankar Aiyar or Abhishek Singhvi to ghost write the answers.

3. We are highly appreciative of the Election Commission which compels candidates for public office to disclose their material assets.

We wish they logically mandate the disclosure of intellectual assets as well. But if democracy is all about transparency, would you kindly let the nation know what academic qualifications you have acquired, when, how and from which institutions. It will help if you also tell the curious Indian nation what books you have read during the last five years; have you published any articles or any readable material on politics, economics, terrorism, war and peace? Is there any speech in Parliament, to the local Rotary Club or to a bunch of tiny toddlers with a single quotable quote that illumines or inspires and gives us some clue to your intellectual attainments? We know quite a few talented young men in the Congress party and naturally people would like to be satisfied that you are better endowed than them all. That your mother is Soniaji or your father was Rajivji is not enough evidence.

4. There have been oft-repeated charges of financial impropriety and worse against your family, including by the president of Janata Party, Subramanian Swamy, Swiss magazines and, most unusually in a book on the KGB. Why have you not responded?

If you plead ignorance of all the stuff mentioned in the questions you do not deserve to be India's Prime Minister any way.

Will the free press look into this serious business and make effective the People's Right to Know?"

Of course, let us not naively expect any answers to these questions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prime Minister takes no decisions

Anna Hazare wrote a letter to the PM seeking his intervention to be allowed to demonstrate against corruption. PM's reply is given below:

Here's the full text of the PM's letter:

"I have received your letter, carrying the date 14th August, 2011 and carefully read its contents.
Your grievance that the police has given you permission to protest and go on fast at JP Park only for three days needs to be addressed by the statutory authorities who have taken that decision. My Office does not in any way get involved in the decision making process. The terms and conditions on which you are entitled to carry on with your protest are decided by the statutory authorities concerned taking into account the prevailing circumstances and other relevant factors.

I would request you to address your grievances to the statutory authorities concerned.
We are all committed to the Constitution of India and to uphold it both in letter and spirit. "

The prime minister admits that "My office does not in any way get involved in the decision making process". Maybe he wants to refer to this particular issue of permitting anti-corruption fast. However the observation applies generally also. Many scams were allowed to occur because the prime minister is not in the habit of taking any decision. In the few instances where decisions were purportedly taken, decisions came from a "higher authority'.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Supreme Court's order on black money

We don't normally expect the judiciary to quote ,inter alia, Arthur Laffer, informational asymmetries, Washington Consensus, "Greed is good" philosophy, Gunnar Myrdal's "Soft state" concept, "Follow the money" principle, Prof.Rotberg  and that too in the same judgement. This is exactly what the Supreme Court has done in its order in the case filed by Ram Jethmalani raising issues relating to black money. The order is a logically reasoned and elegantly phrased magnum opus that deserves approbation.

On the contrary the Government has sought recall of the order. This shows the ethical deficit and abject poverty of social values among ministers and bureaucrats.

Many paragraphs in the order are worth quoting and are a delight to read. For example,

"15.In addition, it would also appear that in this miasmic cultural environment in which greed is extolled,
conspicuous consumption viewed as both necessary and socially valuable, and the wealthy viewed as demi-gods,
the agents of the State may have also succumbed to the notions of the neo-liberal paradigm that the role of the
State ought to only be an enabling one, and not exercise significant control. This attitude would have a significant
impact on exercise of discretion, especially in the context of regulating economic activities, including keeping an
account of the monies generated in various activities, both legal and illegal. Carried away by the ideology of
neo-liberalism, it is entirely possible that the agents of the State entrusted with the task of supervising the economic
and social activities may err more on the side of extreme caution, whereby signals of wrong doing may be ignored
even when they are strong. Instances of the powers that be ignoring publicly visible stock market scams, or turning
a blind eye to large scale illegal mining have become all too familiar, and may be readily cited. That such activities
are allowed to continue to occur, with weak, or non-existent, responses from the State may, at best, be
charitably ascribed to this broader culture of permissibility of all manner of private activities in search of ever more
lucre. Ethical compromises, by the elite - those who wield the powers of the state, and those who fatten themselves
in an ever more exploitative economic sphere- can be expected to thrive in an environment marked by such a
permissive attitude, of weakened laws, and of weakened law enforcement machineries and attitudes."

The detailed order is available in the following link: