Monday, December 31, 2012

Strange Times

We are passing through odd times. We welcome deficits and abhor surplus. Fiscal cliff which is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts thereby leading to reduction in fiscal deficit is considered as an evil whereas allout efforts are made to jack up expenditure. Economists have their own reasons to argue why more is less and less is more.

It required a horrific assault on a hapless 23-year old girl to remind the nation that safety of women is a non-negotiable feature of any decent society. It is not surprising that an authoritarian state like China laughs at India's degenerate democracy which protects the indecent and cavils at the gracious.

May the new year change the times and bring decency back into our life. Would 2013 oblige?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The nation mourns

When a national political leader dies, the government declares a period of national mourning. This is a formality. Only on very rare occasions citizens really feel the loss. But today (29th December) was different. Entire nation spontaneously and silently mourned the passing away of the paramedic girl from U.P. who had been brutally assaulted in Delhi. A pall of gloom has enveloped the whole nation.

Response of the political class to this unfortunate series of incidents has been shockingly disappointing. The son of our President made his barbaric mindset transparent by his ludicrous comment. The government used its brutal police force to silence the protestors. Metro railway stations in the capital were shut down in a disgraceful manner. Even on 29th December at a time when the citizenry is keen to express its total solidarity with the cause of women, the shameless government has thought it fit to close the metro stations. It is a signal admission of government's incapacity to feel the public pulse and its ever-present readiness to abdicate its responsibilty.

It is pathetic that government's failures have been many. That a brutal assault on a woman can occur in a bus in Delhi was irrefutable testimony to administration's recklessness and dereliction of duty. Shifting of the girl to Singapore proved the sinistrality of the government beyond doubt. Her condition, according to many doctors, was such that even the slightest stress arising from the journey to Singapore would prove fatal. Why did the government take this inexplicable risk? Was the guilty government pathetically trying to prove its solidarity with the girl by making a show of caring for her? Has this misstep resulted in her death? No one can be sure.

29th December should every year be observed as the 'Day for protection of women's dignity'.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tactless Government

Concerned youth is reacting spontaneously to obvious lack of safety for women in our country. The government as usual was clueless on magnitude of student protests. Police forces tried to contain the agitation by adopting unjustifiable use of brute force. The medieval mindset of the powers-that-be came out clearly in their utterances.

The Delhi Police Commissioner was being interviewed by a group of girls in a programme telecast on Headlines Today. The Commissioner's words of wisdom included the revelation that women must take responsibility for their own safety! When a girl was curious to know what was government's responsibility in ensuring that women do not get raped, the CP outsmarted his own usual self declaring that men also find their pockets picked! The girl was unhesitatingly appalled by the Commissioner's total insensitivity.

The Home Minister once again proved that it is not required of him to know his job as long as he is in the good books of Soniaji. He went on praising the leadership qualities of the Congress President (incidentally another CP). Mr.Shinde made it clear that he cannot be expected to meet agitators. His argument was, "Would the home minister of India come out to talk to every group that protested? Would he have to face down protests by the Congress, the BJP or (hold your breath) the Maoists? If tomorrow a hundred tribals are killed in Chhattisgarh or Gadhchiroli, would the government have to go there?"

We are thankful to the Home Minister for clarifying that he is the minister for Gandhis' Home and not for the nation.

The taciturn prime minister condescended to address the nation eight days after the brutal incident. As the father of three daughters, he had no hesitation in sharing the concern of students. He has done his duty. Do not expect any action from him. Theek Hai? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gandhis and the Parliament

Many people wonder why the exemplary leaders of the Congress party, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi do not speak in the parliament. The Gandhis revere the parliament as a place of worship. They know that we are not supposed to talk inside a temple.

Some people wonder whether the Gandhis, during the rarest of the rare occasions when they are present in the Lok Sabha, understand what is going on. Again we need to understand what happens in a place of worship, whether it be a temple or a mosque or a church. Proceedings are in Sanskrit, Arabic or Latin. Most of us do not comprehend what is addressed to the Almighty. Similarly, the happenings in the parliament are Greek and Latin to the Gandhis.

How is Rahul Gandhi grooming himself to take charge as prime minister of the country? Witness what he did in the run-up to elections in Gujarat. He was the last Congress leader to visit and get out of Gujarat. As the captain-in-the-making, he was the last to leave the sinking ship in the state.

Let us not judge the Gandhis by our mundane standards. One may ask why Panditji was an active participant in legislative proceedings. Well, he was an atheist and therefore did not know how to conduct himself in a temple where he had never been.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

According to a PTI report, Ratan Tata has made a candid assessment of uncooperative attitude of Indian government towards industrialists. The report is available here:

While nobody can disagree with what Tata has said, he has unfortunately chosen to contest his own views. A statement issued by Tata Sons claims, "Mr. Tata has always supported the Prime Minister even when there was mass criticism of him, and the last thing he would wish to do is to be a critic of the Prime Minister, as has been reported."

Tata would not subscribe to the view that the Prime Minister is infallible. Tata should have realised before speaking out the truth that media would carry his views far and wide. People like Ratan Tata are expected to stand by their conviction.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cat vs Bear

The Economist in its edition dt.1st December hypothesises that the next prime minister of India will be either the catlike Chidambaram or the bearlike Narendra Modi. The magazine argues that PC's stars are on the ascendant, the only handicap being that Sonia Gandhi does not trust him totally. The article surprisingly does not refer to the much talked-about friendship between Chidambaram's son and Sonia's son-in-law.

The controversial article is given Here.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Possible impact of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

Arvind Kejriwal, the promoter of AAP, has decided that his party will contest elections without allying with corrupt elements. This effectively means that AAP will not tie up with any existing party. It will be an interesting scenario the shape of which is hard to guess.

However it is reasonable to believe that AAP will not have adequate financial muscle to see its way through in more than a few constituencies. At best, it may play spoilsport and enable one corrupt candidate to widen his victory margin over a less corrupt candidate.

Why do we say so? Suppose a contest is essentially between two parties as of now. The voters know that both parties are dishonest and corrupt. Public perception will also be that one of the two candidates (or parties) is less corrupt than the other. Say the perception is X is less corrupt than Y. Before AAP enters the fray, the exceptional voters who attach a lot of importance to political honesty would have voted for X. Only such voters will shift their allegiance to AAP. The inevitable consequence will be that the more corrupt party will romp home with comfortable majority.

It may be an irony. But politics and irony are close cousins.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

President's controversial meeting

Pranab Mukherjee was in Chennai on 30th November on an official visit. He also met a leader of a political party, DMK, at the latter's residence. Kanimozhi, an MP against whom CBI has filed criminal cases was also present during the private meeting.

We do not know what made the President meet Karunanidhi. Was it to thank him once again for making him the President? Did the President speak to him on behalf of the Congress party?

Whatever might have been the reason for this politically incorrect meeting, the President will do well to remember that our Constitution requires and our citizens expect that he keep a respectable distance from politicians of all hues. There is no need for him to prove again and again that he is beholden to his electors.


In the case of public sector institutions, we may paraphrase Murphy's Law to say, "If the service provided is not already at the lowest level, it will deteriorate fast until it reaches the nadir".

Speedpost services provided by the postal department used to be very user-friendly. Till recently, one could send posts till 7 p.m. in many post offices and till 5 p.m. even on holidays. Speedpost was competing effectively against private couriers.

All that has changed now. Such services are now closed at 3.30 p.m. on week days. Very few post offices will provide these services on holidays, and that too for fewer hours.

Similar deterioration is happening in public sector banks also. Branches which used to open at 8.30 a.m. are now changing to 10 a.m. Branches which were open on Sundays are having a rethink.

The motto is clear. Wherever possible, serve less.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Leveson Report (contd.)

The link for the Leveson report is given below:

It is seen that there is almost unanimous support for the recommendation that there must be an independent commission for ensuring that the press does not violate voluntarily agreed code of ethics. However, the suggestion that there must a statute providing legal recognition for the commission has already become controversial. The New York Times observes that any regulatory panel BACKED BY LAW is a big step in the wrong direction.

A very shrewd comment has been provided by Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He argues, "Adopting statutory regulation would undermine press freedom in the UK and give legitimacy for governments around the world that routinely silence journalists through such controls".

We can expect Manish Tewari and his ilk to draw wrong lessons from the report of Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Leveson Report

Lord Justice Leveson has just now presented his much-awaited report on the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. The presentation was organised with clockwork precision almost like a spacecraft launch.

He has explained the role of the press as one to inform, educate and entertain (I hope Justice Katju has noticed the entertainment part also). He expects the press to be unruly, opinionated and irreverent in performance of its duties.

Leveson has advocated the need for a statute to lend credibility to an independent self-regulator for the press. The report wants the self-regulatory body to be independent of newspaper editors, government and politicians. Expecting the impossible?

Similarity with the Indian situation becomes obvious when Leveson points out the slowness of criminal judicial process which is partly responsible for the outrageous behaviour of the press. Sensationalism of some parts of the press has rightly been condemned.

Lord Leveson is confident that his report will speak for itself. The 2000 page report would demand a lot of patience from the readers. Asserting that the press is the guardian of democratic values, he wonders who would guard the guardians. That is a million pound question.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

R.P.Singh's revelations

R.P.Singh , former DG (P&T),CAG has rubbished the calculation of 'infamous' presumptive loss stated in the CAG report on the 2G (non-) scam. He is not the first person to nail the CAG report.

Kapil Sibal had proved beyond doubt that there was "zero loss". P.Chidambaram, as objective and uninfluenced as ever, disagreed with Sibal's zero-loss theory, but confirmed that there was no loss. (Please see 'Chidambaram Doctrine' in the post dt. 2nd Sept.,2012.)

It is unfortunate that despite such forceful arguments against the misleading report of the CAG, many unpatriotic Indians remain fastidious and continue to have trust in institutions like the CAG and the Supreme Court. We are indeed lucky that the signatory of the report himself has now condescended to clarify.

Though many of the interviews of R.P. (Responsible and Prudent) Singh have been reported in various newspapers, the following interview has perhaps deliberately been ignored by mischievous media and therefore I am forced to make it public.

"Interviewer: Sir, did you sign the so-called CAG Report on 2G Scam?
R.P.Singh: You may say so.

I: Sir, only you know whether you signed the report or not. Your answer creates a doubt in my mind. Did you or did you not sign the report?
R: You may infer I signed.

I: Is it not possible that someone forged your signature? (The interviewer had earlier covered the Salman Khurshid Trust where several signatures were apparently forged for the 'benefit of the differently-abled'.)
R: How do I know?

I (impressed by Singh's clarity): Sir, assuming for the sake of argument that the report was indeed signed by you since you had never denied it earlier, don't you agree with the contents of the report?
R: This is where you are making the mistake. I only signed the report. I am not responsible for the report's contents. In fact, I have not read the report.

I (amazed at Singh's honesty): Thank you, Sir. Are you saying you signed the report without ever reading it?
R: You may infer so.

I (remembering what Minister P.Chidambaram had earlier said -reported in the post dt.22nd Nov., 2010- clarifying that a minister may sign so many papers every day and you cannot expect him to read all that he signs): I understand, Sir. But some mischievous elements expect you to responsibly own what you have signed. Are they expecting too much?
R: You may say so.

I: Sir, I appreciate your candour. Can you tell us the circumstances under which you signed the report (of course, without applying your mind)?
R: How do you expect me to remember when I have signed so many papers. Since you are asking me I will tell you. I distinctly remember that one day (though I do not recollect the date, month or year) around 6.30 p.m., I was told that the report must be delivered to the Ministry of Finance the next day. I had no choice but to sign.

I: Were you not interested in knowing what you were signing?
R: Not at all. But I knew I was not signing my death-warrant.

I: Sir, one last question. In your long eventful career, did you ever read whatever you signed?
R: To the best of my knowledge, I never committed that cardinal mistake."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bal Thackeray and Markandey Katju

Justice Katju has stated that he cannot pay a tribute to Bal Thackeray because of the latter's divisive politics. Thackeray's 'sons of the soil' theory militated against the country's Constitution and was unlawful. It ran counter to principles of federalism.

As Amartya Sen argues in "The Argumentative Indian", everyone has multiple identities. In addition to being a controversial politician Thackeray was also a creative cartoonist, a charismatic leader and a bold person who never minced words. Katju also has some Thackeray-like qualities in him: self-righteous, obstinate, intolerant of criticism, etc. We should judge a person by the combination of his qualities and not be prejudiced by just one aspect of personality.

Thackeray's creativity was exhibited through his cartoons, Katju's through his love for literature. The former vociferously supported inposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi. Though I don't know whether Katju had a similar liking for emergency, I believe he also must have been a votary of emergency to 'impose discipline'. Katju's views on the need for a third-party regulator for media support my belief.

Assuming that Katju was against emergency because it was anti-democratic, would he have abstained from paying a tribute to Indira Gandhi on account of this part of her personality?

Anyone, and particularly a judge, must abstain from forming a general opinion about a person on the basis of a single facet of the person's views or behaviour. Issue-based conclusion is the foundation on which impartial justice rests. I wonder what would have happened if a case against Bal Thackeray had gone before Justice Katju's Bench. Would he have recused himself because of his bias? Only Katju can answer.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Robert Vadra and Coal Block Auction

Coal Secretary is needlessly worried that coal blocks meant for auction have not received environmental clearances. He seems to be a babe in the woods. The situation suits Robert Vadra to a T. All that needs to be done is to sell the coal blocks to Rober Vadra. Out of patriotic instincts he will purchase the blocks so that government's fiscal deficit will ease.

Once the blocks are allotted to RV, green clearances will follow like night following day. RV will purchase at Rs.X and sell the same block after obtaining the green clearance at Rs.15X. Why not? He is an astute businessman. Just because he is someone's son-in-law, can we deny him his fundamental right to fleece the exchequer?

Which minister will refuse to give clearances for the sake of nation's son-in-law?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wal-Mart and India

FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) forbids any company listed in USA from bribing anyone anywhere in the world. Wal-Mart is presently facing an enquiry regarding possible corrupt practices in Mexico. Wal-Mart also is conducting its own internal enquiry.

The company (world's largest retailer) is now extending its internal enquiry to cover Brazil, China and India. This indicates that corruption is not country-specific and is present across national borders.

There is however an interesting difference. Wal-Mart already has many of its retail outlets in Brazil and China. In India it has not yet been allowed to open shop. Therefore we learn that corruption precedes business in India whereas corruption only accompanies business in other countries.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Future of India"

Haddows Road in Nungambakkam, Chennai is inundated with hoardings, banners and posters in praise of "King-maker", "Country's Breeze" (whatever it may mean), "Sivaganga's Simham", "Future of India" (God forbid), "Our Political Guru", etc. All these are in praise of, who else, Karthi P.Chidambaram, son of our Finance Minister. The occasion is celebration of his birth day on 16th November. Why this ostentation and why this sycophancy?

Needless to say, Jawaharlal Nehru whose birth day was on 14th November was all but forgotten save a few stray articles in some newspapers. Nehru never believed in developing a personality cult because he was impressive on his own as a thinker and a responsible patriotic citizen. The present generation of leaders and sub-leaders lack such desirable qualities and look for obsequious followers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where is Rs.1,76,000 crore?

Government of India was hoping to raise Rs.40,000 crore from the present round of 2G spectrum auction. But it could mobilise only around Rs.9,200 crore because of the present state of the economy, credibility of government and other adverse factors. Consequently, government's anxiety to contain fiscal deficit is under further strain.

It is shocking that the government is desperately trying to fish in its own troubled waters. Manish Tewari who is unreasonableness personified has unabashedly raised the question, "Mr.CAG, Where is Rs.1,76,000 crore?" If the CAG is bold enough to respond truthfully, he may say, "Mr.Tewari , search the pockets of your allies and leaders."

Does not Tewari know that the auction proceeds are a function of the shape of the economy? Prices are determined by market forces which constantly change. To equate 2008 with 2012 amounts to fooling the public.

The economist-prime minister as usual observes his maun vrat and thereby insults the nation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

India: A Breakout Nation or a Broken Nation?

In his bestselling book "Breakout Nations", Ruchir Sharma of Morgan Stanley Investment Management makes a thoughtful analysis of economic potential of various nations.

His observation on India is not encouraging. He says,"Under the current regime of drift, crony capitalism has become a real worry. Widespread corruption is an old problem, but the situation has now reached a stage where the decisive factor in any business deal is the right government connection. When I made this observation in a September 2010 Newsweek International cover story titled 'India's fatal flaw', I was greeted as a party spoiler. Top government officials told me that such cronyism is just a normal step in development, citing the example of the robber barons of nineteenth-century America. Prime Minister Singh, asked privately about the corruption problem, supposedly told people not to spoil India's image by going on and on about this."

In other words, don't keep telling the truth.

What happened in other countries ought to be a warning to us so that we will not replicate their mistake. Instead to consider such experience to be inevitable betrays our intellectual bankruptcy and moral waywardness.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

HSBC Bank on the mat

HSBC Bank has been found guilty of aiding money laundering by regulatory authorities in the U.S. Now Arvind Kejriwal has accused the bank of facilitating opening of deposit accounts in foreign countries without complying with prudent guidelines and enabling money laundering. The charges are serious and are based on depositions by erstwhile account-holders to IT authorities.

Government's response is ridiculous. It says that the accusation is nothing new. The government is already investigating. Investigations will continue till cows come home and probably till the bank is wound up. HSBC's reaction is strange. "HSBC Bank in India notes certain allegations made on Friday. The bank cannot comment on the specific details of the allegations..., which relate to issues in the past." In any allegation, the issues will relate to the past only. Would any complainant foresee the future and then make allegations on future events?

RBI must be concerned about these developments. Its reputation for fair play and agile monitoring is under test.

Updated on 11th Nov.: It has already become the joke of the country that it is easier, sitting in Delhi, to open an account with HSBC Bank, Geneva than with SBI, Chandni Chowk. This does not speak well of HSBC Bank.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Appalling Brazenness

The CAG Vinod Rai has spoken the truth and therefore has committed an impropriety. This is the sum and substance of the response of Congress party.

Manish Tewari has discovered that Vinod Rai was also a bureaucrat in the government and therefore he is also guilty of what he is accusing others of. Abhishek Singhvi has gone one step further and wants to know how the CAG would feel if another constitutional authority, the Supreme Court makes an adverse observation about him! Tewari and Singhvi outdo each other in their instantaneous and predictably nonsensical reactions.

Is it Tewari's logic that anyone who was once part of the executive should never make any observation on its working? Singhvi ought to know that judiciary has every right and in fact duty to pass strictures on whoever plays foul. If the CAG does something inappropriate and thereby invites court's comments, the CAG would not be so touchy as to carry on a crusade against the judiciary. It is time the Congress spokesmen grew up and realised they need not act like buffoons to be in the good books of their netas.

India, then and now

The Hindu dated 8th Nov.,1962 reported as under:

"Krishna Menon quits

Mr. V.K. Krishna Menon’s resignation from the Central Cabinet has been accepted. Mr. Nehru made this announcement at an unprecedentedly well-attended meeting of the Central Congress Parliamentary Party on November 7. Mr. Nehru praised the services of Mr. Menon to the country and said he was a talented and intelligent person and had devoted all his energies to modernise the armed forces, which the country had inherited from the British, along scientific lines and according to the needs of free India. He also praised Mr. Menon’s efforts to step up defence production. Earlier in the day when the Party Executive discussed the subject, 21 members out of 34, solidly demanded Mr. Menon’s removal from the Cabinet. Mr. Nehru argued that along with Mr. Menon he himself could not escape the responsibility for whatever might have happened."

This was how the Congress party functioned when Nehru was the prime minister. It is worth noting that the party executive was bold enough to demand the resignation of a minister who had committed an error. Equally impressive is the fact that the prime minister held himself also accountable for the faux pas.

Contrast this with what the present-day worthies do. For example when A.Raja adopted devious ways for allotment of spectrum and perhaps lined a few pockets in the bargain, no one from the ministry uttered a word against him. The all-knowing prime minister gave him a clean chit. When Raja became an intolerable liability, Manmohan Singh started distancing himself. This 'conscientious' prime minister claimed he was not responsible even for PMO's deficiencies! Wrong-doings were attributed to 'coalition dharma'. I wonder if the British prime minister who is also leading a coalition government ever advances an alibi like this.

Jawaharlal Nehru was not a paragon of virtue. But compared to the economist-prime minister, he was an angel.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

CBI official passes away

Suresh Kumar Palsania, a 44-year old official of CBI passed away on 8th November in New Delhi, apparently due to a blood disorder.

In normal course, this sad news would have been considered as an unfortunate development reminding us that we have no control over quirks of fate. This bold officer was investigating 2G scam and played a major role in filing of FIRs against Raja, Kanimozhi and others. Circumstances in the country are now so vitiated that we are tempted to see a conspiracy everywhere.

Coming as it does so soon after yesterday's pronouncement of the Supreme Court, it is a dreadful coincidence.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Supreme Court's SOS

Rajeshwar Singh, deputy director in the Enforcement Directorate is investigating the 2G scam under Supreme Court's monitoring. He has been harassed through multiple complaints against him lodged with ministries, MPs and a PIL filed in the Allahabad High Court.

The Supreme Court has taken serious note of this and has today commented, "If this is allowed to happen, then no one would be able to investigate the case. God has been very kind to Rajeshwar Singh. He is still alive!"

The Court has been pained to add,"It shows that it was done on the instructions of someone at the top in the hierarchy. We won't be surprised if that happens to anyone of us also". The court could not have been more bitter.

The Union Law Minister must be summoned by the Court and asked to explain what is happening. Perhaps the former Law Minister also has a lot to explain.

BJP in self-destruction mode

The Buffoons and Jokers Party has developed suicidal aspirations. Its President has managed to obtain a clean chit from an interested Chartered Accountant for all his murky business deals. The party (except some saner elements in it) claims there is no reason for Gadkari to resign. BJP should be ashamed to take a stand like this.

If Congress is corrupt and unethical, BJP is giving it a tough competition. These two national parties may as well get into a pact to apportion the nation into two halves between them and loot national wealth. After all what can the citizens do? They can protest or keep quiet. Either way, the parties are not going to mend their mendacious ways. Winston Churchill warned that Indians do not know how to govern. Congress and BJP are proving him right. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

What Abhishek Singhvi learnt from Gadkari

Though the leaders of Congress and BJP are adversaries in public, there is a lot of camaraderie among them in private. They help each other out in piquant situations.

Abhishek Singhvi was forced to keep away from media when his driver blew the whistle on his voyeuristic shenanigans. Singhvi got in touch with Nitin Gadkari to bail him out. Not one to let down his friends, Gadkari advised him to keep his Assistants, Barbers, Cooks and Drivers (ABCDs) in good humour by making them directors in his companies.

Singhvi had a small problem. He had not yet floated any company. "No problem", assured Gadkariji, "make them partners in your law firm". Singhvi pretended to be confused. His barbers, cooks and drivers were not qualified lawyers, how could they become partners in a law firm? He profusely thanked the BJP leader for his brilliant idea. He remembered that he had defended successfully many fake doctors in courts of law. Therefore what can prevent people who are not advocates from practising law? If they can practise, why can't they become partners in a law firm?

Singhvi felt ashamed that this noble thought had not originally occurred to him. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Responsive Prime Minister

In our letter to prime minister, we wondered why Abhishek Manu Singhvi has not been made minister for Law and Justice. We are pleased that Manmohan Singh has responded with his typical celerity. Economic Times in its issue dt.3rd November reports, "Congress has brought back A M Singhvi, a former AICC spokesman mired in a controversial CD row, as one of the leaders to put forward the party view in the electronic media." AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi has confirmed this 'welcome' development.

You may ask why Singhvi was rehabilitated so fast whereas it took a long time for Shashi Tharoor to stage a comeback. As you know Congress is a 'principled' party. Duration of political isolation is inversely proportional to gravity of misdemeanour. Don't be surprised if K K Tiwari is brought back to political limelight in the near future. The country cannot afford to lose services of such eminent patriots for a long time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Modi vs Tharoor

Narendra Modi made an uncharitable comment on Shashi Tharoor and his wife. The latter shot back saying that one must be capable of loving in order to understand the value of relationship.

Both should have exercised restraint in voicing their views. That said, one is amused that Tharoor is back in the ministry. Was there any enquiry into the circumstances which forced him to resign? How has situation changed now?

Modi and Tharoor have been brought up in different cultures. Modi thinks abstinence is a virtue. Enjoyment and celebration are the core of life for Tharoor. Each is entitled to his personal views. The differences need not be aired in public.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A letter to Prime Minister

Dear Hon.Prime Minister,

You have boldly exercised your prime ministerial privilege of reshuffling your ministry under Soniaji's direction.

You have also rightfully claimed that the ministry is now a balance of youth and experience. But your legendary modesty has restrained you from making the more legitimate claim of balance of efficiency and inefficiency and balance of the corrupt and the honest (or more accurately a balanced blend of the overtly corrupt and covertly corrupt). The aam admi will also notice the blend of royalty (Chandresh Kumari Katoch, sister of Maharaja of Jodhpur) and aristocracy (Shashi Tharoor of 'cattle class' fame).

More than a Prime Minister, you are an educator. You have successfully taught the ministers that they should not take their job seriously. Jaipal Reddy vainfully thought that his duty as Minister of Petroleum was to protect nation's interest by resisting the innovative accounting of the Reliance group. What an obscene thought! You have deftly removed Jaipal Reddy from that ministry. And you have brought in the more pliable Moily. I don't think that the presence of oil in his name is the only reason for this assignment.

Jairam Ramesh wanted to sanitise the country by taking the Sanitation portfolio seriously. You lost no time in transferring this portfolio to Bharatsinh Solanki.

The two ministers who have been taught not to take their job seriously have victory (Jai) in their name. If they really want to be victorious, they must learn to be like other ministers, that is to drift and not to take any initiative to protect nation's interests.

Your deft move must have sent a message to the other minister who thinks (what an atrocity!) that a minister must do justice to his / her portfolio. Jayanthi Natrajan must understand the irrelevance of one's portfolio in Manmohan Singh's cabinet. Why should she try to protect the environment when a minister's first and only duty is to protect the Gandhi family. She has got the reprieve now because she was ready to go out of the way to support Robert Vadra's dealings. She is on probation and must learn fast. She has 'Jay' in her name.

I appreciate your gesture in elevating Salman Khurshid and saving him from the embarrassment of behaving like a mafia don while continuing as Minister of Law and Justice. But my little mind is unable to understand why you have not utilised a golden chance to make Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the deciding authority on appointment of judges, the Minister of Law. Do you plan to make him the Chief Justice of India?

You have been unfair to S.M.Krishna. He had understood Globalisation much better than other ministers. Did he not read the Portugal minister's text in the U.N.? He has the vision to understand that in a globalised scenario, Portugal, Italy and India are all one and the same. Do you expect anything more from the Minister of External Affairs? But your move to make Khurshid the External Affairs Minister is very shrewd. When he invites ministers from foreign countries to visit India, he will also issue a challenge on how they will leave India.

Chiranjeevi as a minister is a smart move. After causing some catastrophe, he can legitimately claim he was only 'acting' and therefore not responsible for the consequences. You may remember that P.Chidambaram had earlier stated that a minister may approve / sign hundreds of notes every day and therefore you cannot make him responsible for all approvals. This noble principle must become a part of our Constitution to take the sting out of Arvind Kejriwal's venomous claims.

You have chosen Manish Tewari to silence any inconvenient person during cabinet meetings. You have taken the risk because you know nobody can silence you. Only if you speak you can be silenced.

There are two shortcomings which I request you to undo at the earliest. Please take back A.Raja in your Cabinet. He has not been more arbitrary than some of your other ministers. Anyway he has caused only 'zero loss'. (May be, is that why you are hesitating to take him back?) Secondly, Digvijaya Singh will be an asset to your ministry notwithstanding the presence of 'Vijay' in his name.

I know you have confidence in your new ministers. Now it is for them to live upto your expectations and create novel scams. Aam admi will be mightily pleased.

Yours Ever,
Gullible citizen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loud mouth in the ministry?

It is widely expected that Manish Tewari will enter the union ministry. And why not? He has proved his ability to defend all wrong acts without any compunction. Would he let any other minister speak in ministerial meetings?

Tewari is no doubt eloquent. But can eloquence substitute substance? If he joins the ministry, a big vacuum will arise in the group of Congress spokespeople whose only role is to defend the indefensisible and to ridicule the opposition.

Times of India reports that Tewari will be inducted with a view to lower the average age of ministers. Does it mean he does not deserve otherwise? Is this a deliberate viewpoint or an unintentional statement?

What will the prime minister do when Manish Tewari shouts in meetings? It will not make any difference to Manmohan Singh. For he never listens to anybody except Soniaji.

Why, and how much, do people cheat?

 Rajat Gupta continues to maintain that he has not contributed to insider trading and that he has not cheated. According to the jury, however, he disclosed the confidential information relating to Goldman Sachs Board to Raj Rajaratnam and therefore he did cheat.

Why did Rajat Gupta cheat? Nobel laureate, Gary Becker looks at cheating essentially as an economic issue. Becker considers humans as rational. A would-be cheat takes into account pay-off from cheating, probability of getting caught and severity of punishment.

Dan Ariely differs from Gary Becker and in his recent book titled "The (honest) Truth about Dishonesty", he refers to "Fudge Factor Theory". He argues, "Our behaviour is driven by two opposing motivations. On one hand, we want to view ourselves as honest (called 'ego motivation'). On the other hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money as possible ('Financial motivation'). These two motivations are in conflict. Our amazing cognitive flexibility enables us to secure the benefits of cheating and at the same time view ourselves as honest, wonderful people!"

Ariely also quotes from Jerome K Jerome's novel 'Three men in a Boat' where the author takes a jibe at 'conscientious cheating'. "I knew a young man once, he was a most conscientious fellow and, when he took to fly-fishing, he determined never to exaggerate his hauls by more than 25% 'When I have caught 40 fish' said he, 'then I will tell people that I have caught 50. But I will not lie any more than that, because it is sinful to lie.' "

Cynics may say everyone cheats. Reward-risk equation may be different for different people. Trade-off between ego motivation and financial motivation is conditioned by one's values in life. Perhaps going scotfree on one occasion tempts a person to cheat again.

The Rajat Gupta phenomenon will puzzle and engage behavioural economists for months.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rajat Gupta's remorseless regrets

Rajat Gupta who studied in IIT,Delhi and Harvard University and who headed McKinsey and was a Director in companies including P & G and Goldman Sachs has been sentenced to two years in jail and "impoverished" by $5 million fine. The punishment is much lighter than what the American law allows. The judge, Rakoff admitted to "wrestling with the 63-year old's extraordinary attributes and his disgusting conduct before handing down the sentence".

Gupta pleaded that he may be permitted to render social service in Rwanda and New York ghettos instead of being sent to the slammer. Many dignitaries including Bill Gates and Kofi Annan sought leniency from the judge in view of Gupta's unassailable contribution to society. Rakoff could not accept this argument fully because "while no defendant should be made a martyr to public passion, meaningful punishment is still necessary to reaffirm society's deep-seated need to see justice triumphant". The judge also rubbished the "Mother Theresa argument" (Gupta's social service merited his immunity from harsh punishment) and clarified, "It is unquestionable that Mr.Gupta is a good man. But the history of this country and the world is full of examples of good men who do bad things!"

Gupta's statement made in the court just before the sentencing was noteworthy for absence of 'mea culpa'. Gupta concluded his well-drafted statement saying, "As I come before you to be sentenced , the overwhelming feelings in my heart are acceptance of what has happened, of gratitude to my family, and friends, and of seeking forgiveness from them all. It is with these feelings that I hope to move forward and dedicate myself to the service of others." He did not seek forgiveness from those shareholders who lost money unjustly because of his indulgence / complicity in insider trading. Gupta continues to maintain his innocence.

Rakoff described Gupta's passing of insider information to Raj Rajaratnam as "disgusting in its implications" and a "terrible breach of trust". When Gupta's guilt is proved to the satisfaction of the jury and the judge and he refuses to own his culpability, fairness demands strict sentencing and not lenience. There is no place for inconsistency in delivery of justice. Judiciary is not a banana republic where the rich and the powerful and those with influential friends will be treated with velvet gloves.

Among the many reactions from Indian business people, Adi Godrej's was pejoratively notable. "I do not want to comment on individual case. However, I strongly feel that norms against insider trading in India are quite robust". What a revelation!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kingfisher Airlines

Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines has the most employee-friendly terminal benefits scheme in the whole world. It has the policy of paying career-long salaries to employees only at the time of retirement. The only catch is that it does not allow its employees to quit.

The government was mindful of Vijay Mallya's munificence and therefore did not take any action for a long time. When the pilots and engineering staff went on strike demanding payment of salary, a minister sought an audience with Mallya. Being as responsible as ever, Mallyaji condescended to host a meeting. The minister was overwhelmed by Kingfisher's spirited hospitality and readily agreed that employees did not recognise their responsibility. The minister advised his secretary not to precipitate the issue by placing any note. So it became Government's policy not to 'interfere' in the affairs of a private airline.

Vijay Mallya (a polar opposite of his father, Vittal Mallya) is getting harassed by all and sundry. In addition to the employees' unreasonable demand for salary payment, the payees of cheques want encashment of their cheques! One creditor had the temerity to approach a court of law! The judge who perhaps was not aware of Mallya's legendary hospitality went to the ridiculous extent of ordering a warrant for arrest. Which policeman would be a fool to arrest him?

Finally, Vijay Mallya (as the name indicates, he always wins) decided enough was enough. He advised the Ministry of Civil Aviation why it was high time that his planes were grounded to teach the employees a lesson they would never forget. The minister knew that Mallya was infallible and then did the needful.

In the last eight months, the employees had written thousands of letters to Prime Minister seeking his intervention. The Prime Minister has advised his office to look into the matter and not to brief him on developments. PMO is expected to follow up within a year or two.

Pot and Kettle

Allegations of impropriety and additionally perhaps illegality against Nitin Gadkari are too serious to be ignored. He has disproved the hypothesis that the BJP is a party with a difference. The pot and the kettle (Congress and BJP) are blackening the entire country.

RSS has mud on its face. It was instrumental in imposing Gadkari's leadership on the party. As if two mistakes make a right, RSS was also keen to enable Gadkari be the party's president for a second term.

It is horrifying to note that Gadkari has not yet chosen to resign. It is praise-worthy that Ram Jethmalani has called a spade a spade and has advised his own party to behave ethically.

It is common in the US for a businessman to turn to politics for a short time and then to come back to business. In India, the political "rewards" are too attractive for a businessman to give up politics

Judicial Wisdom

The Delhi High Court in a recent judgment philosophied, "A developed country is not one where the poor own cars but one where the rich use public transport". A nice thought indeed.

The case is Nyaya Bhoomi vs State of Delhi. The Division Bench consisting of JJ Pradeep Nandrajog and Manmohan Singh made the following interesting assertions:

"What is best may not always be discernible, the wisdom of any choice may be disputed or condemned. Mere errors of Government are not subject to judicial review. It is only its palpably arbitrary exercise which can be declared void. In complex matters, decision need not necessarily be empirical and could be based on experimentation."

The petition was against BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) corridor being implemented by the Delhi government. The petitioner's grievance was that the space mandatorily reserved for bus movement was much more than what was equitable while taking into account number of buses versus other vehicles. The judgment  argues that what is more relevant is the number of people using different vehicles and not the number of vehicles.

The petitioner's argument that "those who create wealth travel on the roads by cars and their time is precious too" did not weigh much with the judges.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Judicial inactivism

Politicians claim that judiciary has become excessively activist and keeps trespassing into executive and legislative jurisdictions. How one wishes that this accusation is true!

Actually, judiciary in India is inactive and almost dormant. Digvijay Singh, the curse of Congress, goes on saying that there are evidences of corruption against Vajpayee, Advani and their relatives. But his party or the government will not act on these. Is it not the duty of government and even of politicians (if they are true to their duty) to protect the nation from corruption?

When the judiciary turns a blind eye to this sorry spectacle instead of taking notice of how the nation is being plundered, is it playing an activist role? Our judiciary acts only when it is impossible not to act. Claim by a politician that he has evidence of corruption and yet would keep quiet should be made a cognisable offence. Judiciary ought to become more pro-active.The country is being taken for a ride by the unholy trinity of Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why a suave person becomes a turd?

Salman Khurshid's descent from decency to despicable behaviour has been rapid and shocking. He has hinted ever so crudely that Arvind Kejriwal can only enter Farukhabad, but he cannot exit. The minister threatens that his ink will be replaced by blood.

The prime minister (prime in what respect, nobody seems to know) true to his tradition keeps quiet. The president owes his position to Sonia Gandhi and so without her permission cannot question any minister's conduct however dismal it is.

Why has Khurshid sunk so low? Or was he only wearing a mask all these days and it has come off now? Defeat of his spouse in the Assembly election was taken as a personal affront by him. How can a commoner defeat a person from a "noble family"?

The minister's integrity is in a shambles. He is threatening violence against those questioning the bonafides of his Trust. Yet he is allowed to continue as our Minister of Law and Justice.

The party with a 'difference' namely the BJP is not raising this as a serious issue of lack of governance because its own house is not in order either. Caught between the corrupt Congress and begrimed BJP, the common man turns more cynical. Being an alumnus of St.Stephens and Oxford does not seem to deter a person from obnoxious behaviour.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Salman Khurshid's press conference

Salman Khurshid should be applauded for conducting a 100-minute press conference to defend himself against the allegations made by "guttersnipes". He was very articulate as is his wont and lost his cool on a few occasions which is not his wont.

He called himself a 'democrat' and also said his first instinct was to disallow the representatives of India Today from participation in the conference. There is an uneasy contradiction here. A democrat does not exclude anybody.

He has added a colourful description for his accusers. They are "hooligans in the street". He is a very honourable minister indeed.

He set the ground rules for the conference. He would deal only with what according to him are core issues. The core issue identified by him was whether the camps were held or not. This amounts to unintelligent skirting of the issue. The real main issue is forged papers were used to claim money from the government.

The minister gives a lot of weightage to people's pedigree. He was introducing a person as very distinguished because of relationship with a former Foreign Secretary. Owing to his fascination with pedigree, the minister feels that "hooligans in the street" have no right to question him or his Trust.

Salman Khurshid "blackmailed" Aroon Purie threatening that he will sue him and India Today group in the U.K. also. He indulged in a little bravado saying that "India Today" will become "India Yesterday".

Though the minister has to be congratulated for becoming as transparent as possible and yet not admitting the basic irregularities, he has not convinced the aam aadhmi that he need not resign. Nation's interest in terms of upholding principles of governance and retention of minister's own integrity demand that he quit forthwith.

Update: An observant viewer has pointed out that "a union law minister" is an anagram for "miniature son-in-law".

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why should Salman Khurshid resign?

CNN-IBN reports that Salman Khurshid has demanded the resignation of Aroon Purie and Arvind Kejriwal (apparently from India Today and India Against Corruption respectively.) This demand is perplexing. We are entering a new world where the ministers self-bestow the right to decide who should occupy what post in the private sector also. Vinaasha Kaale Vibhareeda Buddhi.

A minister especially the one in charge of Law and Justice ought not to go berserk. He has called Arvind Kejriwal and others "rabble rousers", "blackmailers" and "guttersnipes". The minister known for his felicity in English is aware that blackmailing involves  coercion by threat of public exposure or criminal prosecution. Arvind Kejriwal and India Today group have not threatened any exposure or criminal prosecution. They have disclosed the misdeeds of the Trust run by the honourable minister and his wife. His own patrician background has misled the minister to accuse Arvind Kejriwal a guttersnipe. Yes, Kejriwal was not born in a palace. His ancestors were not Presidents and Ministers.

Despite all this, Salman Khurshid is considered as one of the more decent elements in the central cabinet. Therefore, he has an obligation to maintain whatever remains of the dignity of his ministry.

Let us now see what the allegations against his Trust are. 1) The Trust has claimed money from the government by filing affidavits signe by government officials. The officials have provenly told India Today channels that their signatures are forged. 2) Camps supposedly held for distribution of materials to differently abled were not held. 3) Mrs. Khurshid produced an affidavit to prove the Trust's bonafides. The affidavit itself was forged. Thus there is prima-facie evidence that unlawful and unethical acts have been committed by a Trust whose Chairperson and Project Director are the Minister and his spouse.

The allegations are evidently provable or disprovable. All that was required of the patrician minister was to state facts and if possible to disprove the charges. On the contrary, he and his wife are behaving like guttersnipes calling the accusers unsavoury names. They are filing cases for defamation in multiple courts to immobilise the truth-seekers. This is not becoming of a minister. Therefore, he should resign from the cabinet, try to prove his bonafides and if successful claim damages from the accusers. Any other course of action is admission of guilt, misuse of power and trivialisation of democratic principles.

The prime minister cannot remain a mute bystander. He has a responsibility to uphold the decorum of his cabinet. He should not allow the nasty show to fester long. He should ask the minister to step down, prove his innocence and then if appropriate take him back in his cabinet.

In contemporary zeitgeist, any logical argument is only whistling in the dark. The future is indeed bleak.

Salman's slavery

"If he (Mr Kejriwal) had been (sic) just mentioned Robert Vadra, then we would not have replied. But he said Robert Vadra, who is directly related to Sonia Gandhi. So we have to reply on the behalf of Sonia Ji. She is the sole reason of what we are and where we are. The Congress chief is everything for us and we can even die for her."

The sycophant who said so is our Law Minister, Salman Khurshid. We are mistaken if we think his duty is to uphold the Constitution, protect the country against unlawful activities and bring the violators of law to justice. His only raison-d'etre is to protect the non-existing reputation of Sonia Gandhi and her family. Who said there is no slavery in India?

The minister also disgracefully referred to Arvind Kejriwal as "guttersnipe". What an irony! A blatantly immoral thief who has defrauded the nation by submitting forged documents is calling a decent well-wisher of the country a guttersnipe. The President, if he really protects our Constitution, should forthwith dismiss the unlawful minister.

Rahul Gandhi's distortion of drug problem

Rahul Gandhi has made a sensational statement that 7 out of 10 Punjabi youth are drug-dependent. The NewYork Times points out that he has misunderstood a survey finding. Even if the Yuvaraj is incapable of comprehending the nuances of surveys, his advisors should have done a better job. Here is what NYT says:

"Rahul Gandhi swept into Chandigarh on Thursday and declared that the border state of Punjab has a drug crisis. He said that 7 out of every 10 youths in the state suffered from drug problems – a remark that brought swift criticism from several political opponents in the state.

As it turns out, Mr. Gandhi was right and wrong. He was right that Punjab is facing a terrible drug epidemic. But he appears wrong in saying that that 70 percent of the state’s youth have drug problems. Nor is he the only one who has been wrong about it. That figure has often been cited in media accounts about the state.

So where did this figure come from, and why do people keep repeating it?

The answer can be found with Ranvinder Singh Sandhu, a professor at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. Last April, while reporting a story on the Punjabi drug crisis, we visited Professor Sandhu and asked him about the widely reported statistic. Merely mentioning the figure frustrated him, since he said his study has been widely misquoted.

Here’s what he says happened: in 2007, the governor of Punjab became interested in the drug problem and asked Guru Nanak Dev University to do a study. Mr. Sandhu spent about six months completing the study. His sample group was 600 people from different villages and urban areas in Punjab. Of these respondents, he found that 73 percent were between the ages of 16 to 35 with drug problems.

Sounds familiar, right?

Well, here’s the catch: ALL of the 600 people in the survey were drug addicts. Mr. Sandhu selected only drug addicts for his sample group. In doing so, he discovered that 73 percent of them were young people. This, of course, is very different from saying that 73 percent of all Punjabi youth have drug problems. Any studies assessing the overall drug usage rate among youths in the state either haven’t yet been done or haven’t yet been made public.

Yet, to the professor’s dismay, this is how his findings were interpreted in many media outlets after the study was made public. That figure was even cited in a court affidavit, he said.

“I have found that my study is frequently misquoted,” the professor said by telephone on Friday.

Despite the mixup, Mr. Sandhu said Punjab is suffering from a severe drug problem, as young people are becoming addicted to heroin and synthetic drugs. Drugs and alcohol often are often twinned together, and alcoholism is also rampant in the state. Yet Mr. Sandhu noted that the Punjabi government has a vested interest in not tackling that issue: the state has more than 8,000 state liquor shops, open at all hours, which collect more than $720 million in taxes.

“You can’t find a cup of tea in the morning but you can get a bottle,” he told us back in April.

On Friday, Manish Tewari, a Congress Party spokesman, continued to argue that Mr. Gandhi was not incorrect in his remark, and produced a copy of a court order citing the figure. (This is apparently the order that Mr. Sandhu says is inaccurate.)

In fact, three years ago, Mr. Sandhu said leaders of the local Youth Congress approached him. They are part of the party’s youth division led nationally by, yes, Rahul Gandhi. They wanted advice on a problem to tackle. He suggested drug addiction among youths. The leaders returned later with news: Mr. Gandhi had approved their involvement in such a project. Mr. Sandhu said he later gave three lectures to leaders of the youth and student wings of the Congress Party.

Still, it seems few people actually get his study right"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Temples and toilets

Jairam Ramesh's wise crack on toilets and temples is an anachronous imitation of Nehruvian logic. Nehru saw divinity in dams and steel plants and he made successful attempts to build them.

Jairam Ramesh's party has been in power at the centre and in many states for many years. What prevented it from improving sanitation and making open defecation unnecessary?

Temples, mosques, gurudwaras and churches on one hand and toilets on the other do not exist on either / or basis. Aam aadhmi believes in places of worship and have taken steps to build them. The government and ministers like Jairam Ramesh only pay lip service to sanitation and only keep talking about it. Let them spend their energy on improving sanitation instead of lining their pockets.

Manmohan Singh's innovative methods

Old timers say what cannot be cured must be endured. Manmohan Singh has a novel idea. What cannot be cured (by him) must be redefined and made non-existent.

He has proposed to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act in line with what he calls "international standards" and to punish bribe-givers so that they will not expose corruption. Bribery henceforth will not be accepting money as much as  giving money. Who said Manmohan Singh is not a politician?

Singh bemoans what he calls as "mindless negativity". Exposing instances of corruption is not mindless negativity, but is the only way to atleast partially get over the problem.

Singh has also condemned the use of RTI to 'ridicule' public authorities. Why do public authorities behave in a ridiculable way? Singh's logic is strange and subversive. It is an insult to "mango people" that the prime minister is talking like this. Does he want to prove that ours is verily a banana republic?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Governance in Banks

It is only to be expected that no public sector bank can refuse to give loans to Robert Vadra. (Someone said the letter 't' in Robert is silent.)

Corporation Bank had given an overdraft of Rs.7.94 crore to Sonia Gandhi's prodigal son-in-law in 2007-08 when his company had total resources of only Rs.1 lac. When questioned about this obviously questionable transaction, the present Chairman of the bank, Ajai Kumar has spilled the beans observing "You have to take the full picture"!

B.Sambamurthy was the CMD of the bank when this loan was extended. He claims he has no recollection of this overdraft. This means either he is lying (could the bank have been so munificent without CMD's knowledge?) or there were many other more outrageous transactions eclipsing this 'paltry' sum of Rs.7.94 crore. We can understand Sambamurthy's plight. But is such dereliction of duty expected of bank's CMDs who are supposed to protect bank's interests and not the interest of Vadras?

Update on 12th Oct.: Corporation Bank has denied having sanctioned any such overdraft. I am happy to stand corrected.

Update on 13th Oct.: It now emerges that Vadra's company's Balance Sheet discloses liability to Corporation Bank, but the bank has denied having sanctioned any such loan. This means that the money belongs to somebody else, a case of benami transaction facilitating perhaps money-laundering. If such a chicanery were committed by anyone else, the IT authorities will not keep quiet.

Unlawful Law Minister

Being a grand-son of a former President and son of a former respected minister does not automatically make a present minister noble or truthful. This has been proved by our Minister for Law and Justice, Salman Khurshid. A suave and articulate person may yet be a criminal. (A person who violates the law and indulges in the criminal act of forgery and usurpation of public money is by definition a criminal.)

Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust run by Salman Khurshid and his wife, Louise have illegally claimed money from the central government on many occasions without helping the disabled for which the trust was established. Look at the arrogance and lack of decency and propriety of the "Honourable" minister who says, 1)"My wife will reply to the charges" as if he is not accountable and 2) "Arvind Kejriwal deserves no reply. We will deal with him in future" (What? Are you going to finish him off? Aren't you ashamed, Mr.Minister to talk like like this?) The ignoble minister also says, "Before talking about transparency, let Arvind Kejriwal be transparent. Living in glass house, let him not throw stones at others. Let him declare where he is getting money from for travelling to various places." This is probably the stupidest comment so far from any Union Minister.

Let the minister be assured that Arvind Kejriwal atleast is not robbing from the public or the government unlike the minister. Arvind Kejriwal repeatedly says he is open to any investigation. What more transparency does Salman Khurshid want? Assuming for the sake of argument that Arvind Kejriwal is guilty of siphoning off public money (what a flight of imagination!), even then he has a right and , in the role he has assumed, a duty to expose the robbers aka ministers. 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Robert Vadra Nehru Gandhi

Robert Vadra, the illustrious son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi is a director alongwith his mother in a few private companies. These companies have been given interest-free loans and sold land properties at deeply discounted prices by DLF Ltd. These facts are proven by information in the public domain thanks to the efforts of Arvind Kejriwal. (These allegations have since been denied by DLF.)

If the normal logic applied in the case of the erstwhile minister A.Raja and Kalaignar TV before arresting Raja and Kanimozhi and in the case of erstwhile minister Dayanidhi Maran and Sun TV before seeking Maran's resignation, is relevant in the case of Robert Vadra, there is a prima facie case of bribery against Vadra also. DLF is alleged to have received favourable treatment from the state governments of Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan where the writ of Sonia Gandhi and therefore Vadra is supreme and cannot be disobeyed. ( Governments of Haryana and Delhi have now denied these allegations.)

However in our democracy what applies to ordinary mortals does not apply to any member born or brought into the Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi has issued a fiat to all ministers to defend Vadra. The Law Minister shamelessly argues that it is his duty to defend the Congress President as if he need not uphold the laws of the land. (Manish Tewari, a Congress spokesperson has rubbished the allegations and has categorically ruled out any investigation. What is there to investigate, he wants to know!) In a strange observation, Chidambaram has let it be known that he is not commenting on "rightness or wrongness" of transactions.

Robert Vadra has proved to be worthy of belonging to the first family of the Congress party. He deserves to be called Robert Vadra Nehru Gandhi.

BJP ought to be ashamed that even though it is the principal opposition party in the country, it is not able to unearth such corrupt practices. We are let down by both the ruling and opposition parties.

Arvind Kejriwal has characterised the denial of DLF as lies and half-truths. But he has not clarified why.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Secrecy over Sonia Gandhi's foreign travel

In a democracy there can be no secrecy about expenditure from government (public) funds except if it relates to defence matters. More so if it relates to expenditure for an individual. Even in the absence of Right to Information, the government has a duty to be transparent on this issue.

The government has been dragging ite feet without replying to an RTI application on expenditure incurred by the government on Sonia Gandhi's foreign travel. This relates not only to travel for medical purpose, but also to her other travels in the past eight years. Norms of good governance demand that even details of medical expenditure (including the nature of disease) should be disclosed if public money is used. Such expenditure may not be unlawful. But being cagey about disclosure is symptomatic of gross misgovernance and utter disregard for democratic norms.

As in any other issue, PMO has covered itself with shame by misdirecting the RTI application hither and thither. Manmohan Singh has demeaned his office beyond belief.

Update: The Hindu in an editorial on 5th Oct., says:

"An individual’s medical treatment is private information and, as the CIC has correctly pointed out, any personal expenditure on it cannot be the subject matter of an RTI application. But Ms Gandhi, as Chairperson of the UPA and the National Advisory Council, is a public figure and the degree of secrecy surrounding her medical condition is unusual for a democracy. While her privacy, like the privacy of all citizens, is paramount, the Congress high command should realise it is precisely the absence of any authoritative information that provides fertile ground for rumours and canards to spread."

It is a pity that the Congress party nurtured by doyens like the Mahatma has become politically paranoid and ethically bankrupt. 

Update on 6th October: PMO has clarified that government has spent only Rs.3 lacs and that too on only one travel abroad. Why did the PMO wait so long to clarify? PMO's credibility is so low that nobody believes what it says. Doesn't Sonia Gandhi enjoy the status of a Cabinet Minister and therefore isn't it expected that her travel bills are borne by the government?

Limitations of language

Coal Minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal has drawn adverse attention to himself by proclaiming that "as time passes a wife loses her charm". Ofcourse, he was talking in Hindi. His utterance has rightly been criticised as sexist and feudalistic. Women's associations have sought his resignation from the central cabinet.

Had he referred to 'spouse' instead of wife, people would at best have credited him with humour or at worst have accused him of misogamy, apparently a lesser evil than misogyny. His resignation would not have been demanded. Why did he say 'wife'? It appears that Hindi (as many other Indian languages) does not have an equivalent for spouse.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prime Minister's confession

Sometimes the Prime Minister speaks the truth. Yesterday (29th Sept.) was one such occasion.

According to a report in The Hindu, Manmohan Singh had an informal interaction with journalists soon after the swearing-in of the new Chief Justice of India. (Formal interactions are well-rehearsed and are therefore truth-proof.)

On UPA allies' apprehensions that the government's recent decisions could hurt their electoral prospects, the Prime Minister remarked,"We will do what is good for the country. We are far away from elections." The giveaway is that when the elections are nearing, do not expect the government to do what is good for the country.

Cliff effect of a possible downgrade of India's credit

In the month of June, 2012 global rating agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) threatened to downgrade India's sovereign credit rating to ‘speculative' from the lowest notch of ‘investment' grade. The report containing the threat was sensationally titled ‘Will India be the first BRIC fallen angel ?' Predictably, this warning was a red rag to bullish ministers in Indian government and they characterised the report as whimsical, tendentious and mischievous. It was argued that Indian economy was the second fastest growing among large countries (next only to China) and that India was capable of springing pleasant surprises.

Earlier in April, 2012, Standard & Poor's scaled down India's credit rating outlook from ‘stable' to ‘negative' with a warning of a downgrade if there is no improvement in the fiscal situation and political climate.

This chronology of events shows that deterioration in the state of Indian economy as reflected in economic data released during the April – June quarter was quite palpable. If India’s rating is downgraded (from the present BBB-) to BB+ or any rating below (also known as ‘junk’ rating), the economic consequences will be horrendous.

Many otherwise knowledgeable people criticize rating agencies for rating countries like Spain and Italy which are reeling under severe economic pain, higher than India. The reason for this apparent paradox is the disparity in their per-capita incomes. Whereas Spain and Italy have per-capita annual incomes of $ 31,550 and $ 31,090 respectively, India’s is only $ 3,560 according to World Bank’s assessment for the year 2010 under ‘Purchasing Power Parity’ principle. India is ranked 153 out of 215 nations. It is logical to assume that an economy with higher per-capita income can withstand economic shocks better. Spain is rated BBB+ and so is Italy.

If we look at the methodology adopted by S & P to award sovereign ratings, we will realize how shockingly imminent our downgrade is. S & P factors in political, economic, external, fiscal and monetary profiles of the country. Crucial determinants for political score are dynamics of policymaking and transparency of institutions. Who can deny that these are our Achilles’ heel now? It is interesting to note that when S & P downgraded USA from AAA to AA+ in August, 2011, it presented the following reason:

“the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.”

Economic score is determined, inter alia, by assessing income levels, growth prospects and volatility. India’s performance is poor on income levels; volatility is unfavourably high on account of continued dependence on monsoon and uncertain availability of infrastructural facilities like power.

Status of currency and external indebtedness are taken into consideration for external score whereas sustainability of fiscal deficit determines fiscal score. India’s fiscal position continues to deteriorate on account of government’s inability to optimize management of subsidies owing to political compulsions. Monetary score varies with credible monetary measures to tackle inflation. So whichever way you look, the chances for a downgrade in our rating are uncomfortably high.

Why Cliff Effect? : In economics, if the effect of an action is disproportionately high either positively or negatively, the effect is christened as “cliff effect”. If India is downgraded from BBB- to BB+, the consequential adverse impact will be immense. Though downgrade by a notch is normally not a significant development, fall from investment grade to speculative grade is considered as calamitously precipitous (and hence the cliff effect).

Many international investors detest funding speculative investments. Even those who are ready to lend will charge higher rates of interest. Generally, corporates will not get a better rating than the country’s sovereign rating. Therefore, even major Indian banks will face higher interest burden for funds sourced abroad. For instance, as on 31st March, 2012, SBI had deposits worth Rs.61,433 crore in its foreign branches and borrowings outside India equivalent to Rs.78,127 crore. SBI had also raised capital funds abroad in the form of innovative perpetual debt instruments equivalent to Rs.3,179 crore. Interest rates on these funds raised abroad will go up if India’s rating is junked. ICICI Bank’s deposits in foreign branches on 31st March, 2012 was equivalent to Rs.13,128 crore and borrowings outside India Rs.84,509 crore. Indian banks and other corporate will face two consequences: 1)Raising funds abroad will become more difficult and 2)whatever funds are available will attract higher interest costs.

Sharp differences in credit qualities of investment-grade and speculative-grade sovereigns are brought out by the following observation of S & P: “An average of 1% of investment-grade sovereigns have defaulted on their foreign-currency debt within 15 years, compared with 30% of those in the speculative-grade category. All sovereigns that have defaulted since 1975 had speculative-grade ratings at least one year before default.” These facts are chilling and one hopes that Government of India will do all it can to stave off a ratings downgrade instead of shooting the messenger (rating agency) when it is too late.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Supreme Court's apt observation

A 5-member Bench of the Supreme Court has held that auction is not the only legitimate method for allotment of natural resources. Whatever be the method, if public interest is served, it is constitutional. A report in The Hindu says,

"Justice Khehar, who wrote a separate but concurring judgement, said that natural resource should not be dissipated as a matter of charity, donation or endowment, for private exploitation.

“No part of the natural resource can be dissipated as a matter of largess, charity, donation or endowment, for private exploitation. Each bit of natural resource expended must bring back a reciprocal consideration. The consideration may be in the nature of earning revenue or may be to best subserve the common good. It may well be the amalgam of the two.

“There cannot be a dissipation of material resources free of cost or at a consideration lower than their actual worth. One set of citizens cannot prosper at the cost of another set of citizens, for that would not be fair or reasonable,” Justice Khehar said. "

Justice Khehar's observation is laudable. Had it become a  part of a binding judgment, it would have been more welcome.

Since this judgment is a response to a Presidential Reference, the judgment is not binding. However, the government is expected to keep the court's views in mind while allocating any natural resource.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Corrupt 'Power'

A public interest litigation has been filed in the Allahabad High Court questioning the legality of uneven distribution of power in the state. The VIP constituencies namely those represented by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, his wife, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Azam Khan enjoy 24-hour power supply whereas the other areas in U.P. suffer power disruption for many hours every day.

Such blatant misuse of power is obviously arbitrary, discriminatory and falls foul of law. It is hoped that the Court will put its foot down on such corrupt practices. Why is it that our leaders do not find it repugnant to violate all canons of decency and democracy?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Turncoats, all

In an interview published in Business Standard on 24th Sept., Montek Singh Ahluwalia is asked the following question:

"In December 2002, when the BJP was considering FDI in retail, Manmohan Singh, then the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, told the Federation of Business Associations of Maharashtra, 'India does not require these kinds of reforms; they would destroy employment.' What has happened in the last ten years to make him reverse his position?"

So much for the consistency of the economist-prime minister. Yes, all politicians are opportunistic chameleons; but we expect more decorous behaviour from an 'intellectual' prime minister.

You may wonder what Manmohan Singh had said in the Rajya Sabha in 2002. He never opens his mouth where and when he is expected to. Period.

Singh practises decennial turnabouts. Pro-reforms in 1991, anti-reforms in 2002 and pro-reforms in 2012.

There are arguments for and against FDI in multi-brand retail. But when politicians and particularly the prime minister use expedient arguments only to fool the public, they deserve to be booted out. In this context, Santosh Kumar Suman's act at Vigyan Bhawan was exemplary. Ofcourse, Manmohan Singh will continue his trickery unruffled. Will a robot ever get ruffled?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rahul Gandhi

Many of us do not know the greatness of Rahul Gandhi. We must be thankful to people like Shaktisinh Gohil, Leader of the opposition in Gujarat Assembly who remove our ignorance. He has recently proclaimed, "Rahul Gandhi is a very fine gentleman and highly educated". We may infer that Rahulji is as fine a gentleman as he is educated.

Rahul Gandhi is capable of achieving what Mahatma Gandhi desired but could not do. The Mahatma wanted the Congress party to be dissolved. Rahul Gandhi will go one step further and 'destroy' the party.

Eighth Wonder: Manmohan Singh addresses the nation

The prime minister took the nation by surprise by addressing it on Doordarshan. Earlier he had said that his silence was meant to protect dignity of the questions (whatever it had meant). So dignity of the questions was ripped apart in a brief 15-minute talk.

"I would be failing in my duty if I do not carry the reforms forward like was done in the year 1991." It is great that he has realised his duty. If only he had realised it earlier, scams might not have devastated the country.

"The world is not kind to those who do not tackle their own problems." That is why he allowed his ministers to feather their own nests.

"Much of the diesel is used by big cars and SUVs owned by the rich and by factories and businesses. Should government run large fiscal deficits to subsidise them?" Very interesting 'eureka' moment! Why did it take so long for the illustrious economist to realise this?

"The decision on LPG was based on a study that almost half of our people , who need our help the most, actually use only 6 cylinders or less." Which study? The so-called finding is very cleverly worded. More than 40% of our people do not use LPG.  This 40% is included in "almost half of our people".

"Taxes on petrol were reduced for the crores of middle class people who drive (sic) scooters and motor cycles." But the net prices are retained. If the concern is real, tax-reduction would have been higher.

"In a growing economy, there is enough space for the big and small to grow. The fear that FDI in multi-brand retail would hit small traders is unwarranted." Nice to hear. Is retail a win-win game where every small trader can grow his business even if a big fish enters the fray? Walmart's retail sales in America is in excess of $1 billion every day. Such a big player may enter India and yet the economist-prime minister thinks this development will not affect small traders? We cannot have a more optimistic CEO for the nation.

The prime minister is confident that FDI in multi-brand retail will reduce prices for consumers and increase realisation for the farmers' produce. He stopped short of saying how much different ministers will gain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Would the President apologise?

The British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg has apologised to the British public because he could not keep up his electoral promise not to hike tuition fees. He has also undertaken not to make any promise in future which he cannot keep up.

Our present President, Pranab Mukherjee when he was the Finance Minister assured the parliament that the government would not go in for FDI in multi-brand retail before evolving a consensus among all political parties. This promise stands broken.

The president has only two decent options: 1)He may advise the Union Government to abide by the promise or 2)He may tender an apology to the parliament for his inability to deliver on his own commitment.

Is it prudery to expect decency?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Argentina copies India

Montek Singh Ahluwalia forgot to copyright his intellectual thesis on poverty lines. His discovery that per-capita per-diem expenditure of Rs.28 in urban areas and Rs.22.50 in rural areas uplifts an Indian from poverty is too phenomenal to be forgotten ever.

Argentina has now stolen his magnum-opus and has stealthily declared that a six-peso food bill per day is all that is necessary to enable an Argentine to escape poverty. According to Economist, six Argentine pesos can fetch only one sweet biscuit.

We urge M.S.Ahluwalia to copyright his concept before other economies rush to banish poverty without acknowledging his contribution.

Perils of nascent democracy

Transition from dictatorship to democracy is a painful process. It is also very costly in terms of sacrifice of precious lives. Events in Iraq, Egypt and Libya are too recent to forget.

The present international crisis over a film produced by a madcap brings centrestage the travails of any fledgling  democracy. The TIME magazine argues:

"Before the Arab Spring, this chain of events would likely have been stopped early. Dictators like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Gaddafi either blocked internet access to prevent their people from seeing inflammatory material (among other things) or used their security agencies to crack down on protests long before they could reach critical mass. ----------- The tendency of democratically elected governments has been to look the other way and hope the demonstrators run out of steam. It doesn't always work."

Well said. However, it is neither desirable nor practical to get back to despotism. But we need to be constantly aware that a true democracy asymmetrically pits  law-constrained government against lawless thugs. Democracy demands patience and stoicism to bear unpredictable strains.

What if?

I wonder what would happen if the following not-so-improbable events took place:

1)Manmohan Singh is sacked from the Congress party for greeting Narendra Modi on his birth-day.

2)Montek Singh Ahluwalia is awarded Bharat Ratna for abolishing poverty from India by fixing a poverty threshold expenditure limit of Rs.0.00 per annum.

3)The Vice President Hamid Ansari receives a fatwa for not setting the Rajya Sabha on fire in protest against "Innocence of Muslims".

4)The minister Jairam Ramesh is shown the door for failing to originate any scam.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mass copying at Harvard

It is reported that more than 100 students in Political Science course in Harvard University had resorted to mass copying and other unfair means in a subject called "Introduction to Congress". The university is considering punitive steps against them.

What would have been the reaction if a similar event had taken place in India in a subject called "Introduction to Parliament"? The university would have applauded them for learning so quickly how to adopt unfair means which would stand them in good stead as and when they become parliamentarians. Students adopting unfair means and worse would immediately have got certificates of merit. Budding parliamentarians!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

White Revolution

The Father of milk revolution in India, Dr.Verghese Kurien is no more. He was a passionate and tireless genius who overcame many bureaucratic hurdles to place Anand in the world milk map.

His cousin, Ravi J.Mathai was another entrepreneurial genius. He stood down from Directorship of IIM, Ahmedabad when he felt he could not contribute any more as a Director. While he functioned as a Director, his contribution to IIMA was enormous. Ravi Mathai also promoted Institute of Rural Management at Anand at the instance of Verghese Kurien.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Kapil Sibal at his comical best

The incorrigible  comedian-minister, Kapil Sibal is now entertaining the country with what is arguably the zaniest statement ever made. After confounding the nation for months with the claim that there is no policy paralysis, he has now stated that private sector is responsible for policy paralysis. At the curtain raiser for India Telecom 2012 Conference, he has advised the private sector telecom operators "to rise above self-interest". All these days, economists have been misleading us into thinking that self-interest is the motivating factor for private sector. And we used to opine, wrongly as we now gather from the honourable minister, that ministers should rise above self-interest.

KS has lamented,"Each telecom operator when he comes to me , his focus is his business, his future." May we ask the humorous minister, what was his focus when he was practising law? Was it his business (profession), his future or country's future? If he deigns to answer, we will be treated to a season of unending laughter.

The minister further clarifies, "If self-interest continues to be the driving force for private sector players, their interests will be hurt ultimately." He has at one stroke turned Economics upside down.

He has also enlightened the physicists on Newton's Law of Motion. "If your self-interest is your driving force, then Newton's Law of Motion will apply. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. What will happen is your self-interest will be ultimately hurt."

We are unable to visualise funnier statements. But let us not underestimate Kapil Sibal. He is capable of providing more entertainment.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Conflicting views on "Conflict of interests"

Ministers in India may be corrupt, dishonest or arrogant. But you cannot accuse them of being short on innovative ideas.

Recently Mr.Subodh Kant Sahai, Union Minister of Tourism has come under "unjustified" fire on a charge of conflict of interest. He wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on 5th Feb. 2008 seeking his personal intervention for allocation of two coal blocks to SKS Ispat and Power Ltd. On 6th February, the ever-so-prompt Prime Minister wrote to Coal Secretary recommending appropriate action. Needless to say, the needful was done. Subodh Kant Sahai's brother, Mr.Sudhir Kumar Sahai is a Director in the company. If you are accustomed to contemporary ministerial standards of probity, you would ask "so what?" If you are an innocent layman or should I say, an ignorant nincompoop espousing an obsolete sense of ethics and fairplay, you would be aghast at the outrageous conflict of interest in the act of of a minister, supposedly a trustee of nation's wealth, recommending conferment of a bonanza to his brother at the cost of public exchequer.

The honourable minister ofcourse justified his action since he has done it "for the development of the State". In order to clear any doubts, he went on to assert "in future also, I would make such recommendations for the development of my State". The minister sees no conflict of interest in this 'patriotic' act.

Would the minister have recommended if his family members were not involved? The minister does not tolerate such stupidity of thought. He is categorical in emphasising "I would not recommend any person on the street (mathlab: a non-family member). We recommend somebody only after checking his antecedents (meaning: how he is related to me)".

I must confess I could not understand the theory of absence of 'conflict of interest' when a minister takes advantage of our Prime Minister's munificence to enrich his relatives. When the interests (duty to uphold public good and downright nepotism) conflict, how can we say there is no 'conflict of interest'? My doubts vanished the moment I grasped the significance of the Chidambaram Doctrine which clarifies that there is an ocean of difference between "no loss" and "zero loss". When interests conflict, it is not "conflict of interest". QED.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prime Minister's inappropriate remark

Following is a part of the statement submitted to parliament by the prime minister today:

"Postponing the allocation of coal blocks until the new system was in place would have meant lower energy production, lower GDP growth and also lower revenues. It is unfortunate that the CAG has not taken these aspects into account."

The learned prime minister ought to know that the CAG's remit is only to assess the propriety of allocation process and to point out financial loss to the exchequer. CAG is not supposed to look at perceived impact on GDP growth. One may argue that corruption lubricates the economic system and in its absence GDP growth may be lower. Is CAG or for that matter any other authority expected to condone corruption? It ill-behoves the prime minister to run down another constitutional authority and that too unreasonably. It is unfortunate that Manmohan Singh has made this remark.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fareed Zakaria's wilful blindness

Fareed Zakaria has joined the select band of eminently successful people whose feet of clay are ultimately exposed. Why does such a talented writer (a graduate from Harvard and Yale!) resort to plagiarism? Is this tendency an as yet unexplored aspect of what is popularly called as "Winner's curse"? Does the so-called "Progress trap" contribute to this ugly phenomenon? Is it possible that "Icarus paradox" inevitably takes its toll?

It is strange that persons and organisations which have gained glory in their respective fields do not desist from taking extreme risks that will eventually undo them. Rajat Gupta, Standard Chartered Bank and Fareed Zakaria are the names readily coming to our mind .

Rajat Gupta had everything to lose when he got close to Raj Rajaratnam. StanChart was probably aware that it was risking its reputation built over decades when it apparently misused the " U-turn" transactions at its NewYork branch. Fareed Zakaria could not have been blind to the possible consequences of plagiarism and to the certainty of being found out especially when he was copying a widely-read Yale professor.

These examples are most likely to figure in the next edition of Margaret Heffernan's best seller titled "Wilful Blindness".

Updated on 20th August: Time magazine suspended Fareed Zakaria briefly and reinstated him with unexplained haste. Given his "stature" in the world of opinions, it is possible that the magazine was afraid of losing him in case suspension lasted longer. Is he a person too big to employ?

Further update on 2nd Sept.: It is surprising that magazines like Time and Economist have chosen not to mention this unsavoury episode in their issues. It appears that unattributed copying was done by a ghost-writer for Fareed Zakaria. We cannot expect FZ to admit that he employs ghost-writers.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This is not film; this is not cricket too

When the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the violent situation in Assam, Jaya Bacchan is supposed to have interrupted. The minister responded saying, "This is a serious issue, not a filmy one". Arun Jaitley, the leader of opposition interjected and spoke against the minister "taunting" a member associated with films. Sachin Tendulkar lost an opportunity to advise the minister, "This is just not cricket".