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.