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.