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".

Justice Katju's unjustified pronouncements

Press Council of India and its Chairman are expected to regulate the functioning of the fourth estate. It is not in the ambit of their role to direct the press what to report and what not to report. They are not supposed to micro-manage the press to the extent of advising the journalists not to be swayed by "emotion". If Indian press of the forties had abstained from "emotional reporting" of our freedom struggle, the British would have been happy. Journalists have a mind of their own; if journos remain clinically objective in reporting events, newspapers would lose readership.

Justice Katju laments that the press became a part of the Anna movement. What is wrong in becoming a part of an anti-corruption movement? Is it unlawful? Should every newspaper echo Katju's views only?

Katju has gone overboard in in criticising Anna's plans to contest elections. Since when did the Press Council of India become an electoral authority? Katju's statement that JanLokpal would only result in doubling of incidence of corruption evokes continuous laughter.

Chennai Business School: Graduation Ceremony

The sixth Graduation Ceremony of CBS took place on 8th August. Mr.Laksminarayan of Cognizant advised the students to consider Entrepreneurship as an alternative. He spoke excellently about the convergence of knowledge, technology, application and enterprise which spawns enormous opportunities. He was also eloquent about TIME (Convergence of telecom, IT, media and entertainment industries). Mr.Amrolia, member of governing council and CEO, spoke convincingly on four essentials for sustained success in business and life: 1)Integrity and values, 2)Constant Learning, 3)Ability to face defeats and learn from them and 4)Ability to influence people which is an offshoot of building relationships.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Anna's erstwhile movement

All man-made systems, economic,political etc., are weighted in favour of the haves.Does it mean we have to live with corruption? No. Develop a manipulation-free investigative and judicial system. Staff it adequately and carefully and see corruption dwindling fast. This is what Anna's movement was advocating. Quibbling over who is more venal, the political class or corporates, is a time-wasting sideshow. When intellectuals dissipate themselves in such inert controversies, the vested interests are happy.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Anna's meanderings

Has Anna Hazare lost his way? This is the question that haunts the agitated minds of thousands of Indians who hoped that at last there would be an end to omnipresent corruption. His serial Satyagrahas are attracting less and less number of people.It is a mockery of Satyagraha's sanctity if you go fast because the government of the day is not listening to you and you terminate the fast for the same reason.There is no doubt that people are getting disillusioned.

Anna Hazare, or more precisely some members who have his ear, desires to enter electoral politics. This strategic change is beset with too many risks. Unwritten rules of "Indian democracy" do not favour the likes of Anna. In our elections, a corrupt candidate can be defeated only by a more corrupt candidate. Seeds of failure are embedded in Anna's candidates if they are what they claim to be (that is honest and incorruptible). Anna or whoever claims to speak on his behalf seems to believe that rules of our democratic game can be changed. I hope they are right, but fear that they are wrong. Corruption is too entrenched in our electoral system to be cleansed from within.

Anna should continue his non-electoral movement and should not take the risk of undoing whatever he has accomplished so far. He should be more focussed in his crusade against corruption. If in the process, corruption is reduced (eradication is impossible) by any meaningful measure, the country would remain indebted to Anna for ever.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Choice of ministers

It is certainly the prerogative of the prime minister to choose his cabinet colleagues. Manmohan Singh can select any person as the Finance Minister and the Home Minister. However to make a person against whom there is a spate of charges of impropriety (it is true that these charges are not proved; they cannot be proved or dismissed without an investigation) as Finance Minister is blatant disrespect for governance. Elevation of Power Minister as Home Minister immediately after a massive power outage is preposterous mistiming.