Saturday, September 28, 2013

Is there a limit to prime minister's tolerance for nonsense?

Sanjeev Ahluwalia is Montek Singh Ahluwalia's brother. He wrote the following in his blog before Rahul Gandhi's 'nonsense' drama.

While it is possible to read this for what it is, some cynics may wonder if M S Ahluwalia's family is splitting its loyalties only to hedge its future against political uncertainties.

Joker or nonsense?

Rajiv Gandhi once said that members of the Planning Commission were a set of jokers. Manmohan Singh was the Deputy Chairman of PC at that time. Needless to add, Manmohan Singh swallowed the insult and did not respond.

Now, Rahul Gandhi has ridiculed Manmohan Singh's action in proposing an ordinance to protect the convicted lawmakers as nonsense. We can expect the prime minister to add this insult as an additional feather to his cap.

Whatever Manmohan Singh may be guilty of, one cannot accuse him of inconsistency. He would never react to what the Gandhi family says about him. He is beholden to them for generations for making him the prime minister. It is another matter that he chooses to act as a subprime minister.

Is he nonsensical or a joker? Or would you say both?

Grand Old Party's Grand Show

It is difficult to decide who should be appreciated more, Rahul Gandhi who demonstrates what is not leadership or his incorrigible acolytes for whom he is nothing but God in human form.

Rahul Gandhi's public dismissal of ordinance as nonsense that deserves to be torn up and thrown out reminds us of Rajiv Gandhi's public rebuke and transfer of Foreign Secretary, A.P.Venkateswaran. Inappropriate behaviour seems to run in families.

Shashi Tharoor says, "Rahul Gandhi speaking has given us a right to present our private opinion." That is, thus far his followers had no right to express their personal opinion. What a way to run the GOP! In fact, Shashi Tharoor is mistaken. Rahul has not endowed any such right to his followers.

It was very entertaining to see and hear worthies like Manish Tewari and Ajay Maken praising the ordinance and subsequently, after getting enlightened by Rahulji, shredding it to pieces. Greater versatility was never seen.

What will Manmohan Singh do now? He will thank Rahul Gandhi for his bold leadership and seek further lessons from him. India's destiny is in very able hands!

We have heard of masochists who enjoy pain and suffering. What do we call the likes of Manmohan Singh who enjoy insults to themselves?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rahul Gandhi's grandiloquence

Rahul Gandhi has at last spoken, and how magnificently! "The ordinance protecting the convicted politicians is nonsense. It is to be torn up and thrown away."

Why did the government ignore the young prince's views? Was it because the prime minister knew that Sonia Gandhi's views were different from Rahul's? Why is Soniaji silent?

Or, is Rahul reacting rather late? If so, why? Is it because he has started understanding nation's mood? Or, is he briefed about the ordinance only now? Is Subramanian Swamy justified in calling Rahul Gandhi a moron?

Has Pranab Mukherjee queered the pitch for the government by seeking clarifications?

Are the politicians playing out a big drama? Is it a ploy to minimise media coverage for the belligerent Modi? In the absence of good governance and transparency, we will never know the intentions of these sinister elements. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter to Hon(?).Manmohan Singh

The author retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains- he has made them his home.

By: Avay Shukla August 28, 2013 16:44

Dear Prime Minister,
In Hindu tradition and culture the concept of renunciation has always been valued more than the idea of acquisition, and even though you may not accept this for fear of offending your party’s minority vote bank, let me allay your fears by reminding you that this is something preached by the Abrahamic religions also.

I would, therefore, urge you to seriously consider this option in your own interest as well as in the larger interest of this unfortunate country.
The government headed by you has already taken the country back to 1990 in sheer economic terms, and in terms of other social and public values we have reached the nadir of the Dark Ages.

The country had great hopes from you when it voted you to power in 2004, and even higher expectations when it renewed your mandate in 2009 after your sterling display of vision and courage in the nuclear deal. But you only flattered to deceive, and for reasons which are now becoming obvious, relinquished any pretense of leadership or governance.

A big ship needs a strong hand at the rudder-your hand- but you have handed it over to a motley crew of rank opportunists and faceless lascars who can only run it aground.

You were never a politician- a positive for most of the voters – and the two qualities that made us repose our trust in you were your honesty and your acknowledged status as an eminent economist. Today, both lie in tatters- you have betrayed our trust, not substantially but wholly, and therefore you must go.

Time to go Mr Prime Minister
Honesty is not divisible, and for those who exercise power there can be no nuances between personal honesty and public honesty. A person who allows others to loot cannot be honest. A Manager who does not raise his voice when illegalities are being committed by his subordinates cannot be honest.
A law maker who protects criminals cannot be honest. And a Prime Minister who does all this simply to remain in power cannot be honest. Your honesty has already cost the country dearly, Mr. Prime Minister, and we cannot sustain this cost any longer.

Your reputation as an economist may still follow you to Harvard or to the LSE after your retirement, but in this country its devaluation is proportionate to the devaluation of the Indian rupee. Where did you lose the plot?

You had everything going for you when you took over in 2004– an economy growing at 8-9%, a Current Account SURPLUS of US$ 10.56 billion, Foreign Exchange reserves in excess of US$ 400 billion, a comfortable net INFLOW of Foreign Direct Investment.
After nine years of your being at the helm, the growth rate is down to between 5% and 6% and falling, the Current Account has gone into a DEFICIT of US$ 20 billion and increasing, Foreign Exchange reserves are down to seven months’ import and depleting, the Fiscal Deficit is going to hit 6%, Foreign Exchange reserves are down to US $ 200 billions (with repayments of US$ 150 due before March 2014), there is a net OUTFLOW of FDI funds to the tune of almost US$ 7-10 billions every month.
The Rupee has reached an exchange rate of 65 to the dollar. Nobody believes Mr. Chidambaram anymore, the RBI Governor can only hyper-ventilate, and you, of course, continue to maintain your sphinx-like silence.

In the meantime inflation continues unabated, jobs are being lost by the millions ( unemployment actually rose by 2% between July 2011 and June 2012), Indian industry prefers to take its money abroad, infrastructure projects languish somewhere between Messers Jaiswal, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and a litre of cooking oil now costs more than two litres of beer! (Can you imagine, Mr. Prime Minister, what a field day Marie Antoinette would have had with this?!).

And this is at the precise time when the rest of the world is coming out of its downturn! No, sir, you and your band of forty thieves have been so busy with your petty politicking, with ensuring the survival of a particular dynasty, securing the financial well being of future generations of your party colleagues and allies, dividing communities and classes, that you have had no time for planning and taking decisions.
The only decisions you HAVE taken boggle the mind. We are already spending 75000 crores every year on our Public Distribution System: every single survey indicates that at least 40% of this, or 30000 crores is siphoned off by politicians, bureaucrats and middle-men. And now your govt. is determined to pour another 50000 crores into this bottomless pit through the Food Security Act! What for?

The BPL( Below Poverty Line) families and the Antyodaya (poorest of the poor) families are already covered under the existing PDS-the FSA will make no difference to them. Govt.’s own figures state that only 27% of our population is now below the poverty line; why then do you want to bring 67% of the population under the FSA, and spend a whopping 50000 crore on people who do not deserve this largesse?

And that too at a time when you have no money for infrastructure development or health and education( in both of which we now lag behind even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh!). Is it worth destroying a country just so your motley crew can win another election? Is this honesty, Mr. Prime Minister?

Had it been only the economic downturn we could perhaps have been more generous. For economics, as we all know, is not only a dismal science, it is also an uncertain one: as they say, even if one were to lay down all economists end to end, we still wouldn’t reach a conclusion!

After all, if Mr. Amartya Sen and Mr. Bhagwati cannot agree on what is good for India we can hardly expect you to have the answer. No sir, the economics is only a part of the mess: let me recount what the others are.

You have systematically sought to destroy every fibre of the democratic fabric of this nation. Constitutional authorities have been attacked publicly by your minions and sought to be humiliated at every turn: remember the diatribes against Vinod Rai and the Central Information Commissioner?

Statutory authorities like the CBI and the office of the Attorney General have been subverted and made to fall in line, your party’s line. Your oath of office demanded that you protect them, but you remained mute, as is your wont.

You have even done the unthinkable: set the Intelligence Bureau against the CBI, ensuring for ever that our premier intelligence agency will never cooperate with our premier criminal investigating agency- every terrorist, insurgent and crooks of all assorted types must be lining up outside Teksons to buy ” thank you” cards for you!

Such is your hubris that you have shown contempt for the orders of the Supreme Court even. The Court’s judgments, instead of being respected and seen as a matter for serious contemplation, are publicly criticised and sought to be by-passed by the collation of a consensus of those affected by the judgments (!) and a brute legislative majority.

So criminals can continue in Parliament. Merit will find no place in the selection of Doctors (at the senior most, Professor, level) even in Super specialty disciplines; minorities will get reservations in government jobs even though the Constitution forbids it.

This lack of respect for the final arbiter of the Constitution and the law is not only breeding a competitive defiance of the Court among other political parties but is also setting the stage for a show down with the judiciary a-la Pakistan and other banana republics.

You behave as if the Opposition is not part of the democratic process, that it is a nuisance that is best ignored; consequently, all communication between the two has now snapped, and the nation is a helpless witness to a Parliament that resembles a rugby locker room in both language and action and is in a permanent state of adjournment.

All parties are to blame for this, of course, but it is your party which laid down the rules of engagement. By refusing to walk the extra mile to accommodate even the legitimate demands of the Opposition, and by sabotaging time and again the Committees of Parliament, you have eviscerated this vital organ of democracy which under you has become as vestigious and irrelevant as your appendix.

Practically no legislative work has been done in the last two years: there are 116 bills pending in both Houses, of which 19 and 21 relate to financial and educational reforms, respectively, two of the areas that need immediate attention.

But your lack of concern is matched only by your shocking sense of priorities: instead of trying to push these bills, you have instead chosen to concentrate your fading energies on two other amendments that can only make politics murkier and more criminalised: removing the disqualification of convicted legislators, and exempting political parties from the RTI Act!

Perhaps the biggest price for your incompetence and your colleagues’ venality is being paid by our defense forces: all three are many years behind in terms of armaments and weaponry ( because another ” honest” Minister, Mr. Antony, will neither effect purchases from abroad nor allow FDI in defense production) and their very capacity to defend the country has been seriously eroded.

Who will defend our borders in such a scenario, Mr. Prime Minister- the lethal barbs of Mr. Manish Tewari, or the boomerangs of Mr. Digvijay Singh or the IEDs of Mr. Mani Shankar Iyer? Even worse, you have demoralized our armed forces by the constant interference of your Ministry and completely taken away their operational and tactical independence.

A succession of retired Army commanders have said so in recent times and the pusillanimous approach of our troops in response to violations of the LOC testify to this. (Of course, these same Army Commanders who have suddenly found their conscience and their voice also need to explain why they didn’t defend their operational independence more vigorously when they were enjoying the perks of their office!).

Under you we have become a whining nation- we whine when Pakistani troops shoot our soldiers, we whine when Chinese troops camp on our territory for weeks on end, we whine when Italian marines shoot our sailors, we whine when the Sri Lanka navy arrests our fishermen, we whine when our ex-President is frisked at an American airport.

Under you a once-proud nation is being kicked around by even a Maldives or a Bhutan. What in God’s name have you done to our image?

In communal terms we have always been a fractured society. But true leaders have in the past tried to bridge these fissures. To you, however, will go the dubious credit of widening and deepening these cracks between communities and castes.
In order to survive, your party has countenanced the retrograde decisions of allies that can only raise the confrontational pitch: earmarking of state budgets for a religious minority, reservations in jobs for the same community (which goes against the express provisions of our Constitution), reservations in promotions (which has been struck down by the courts), setting up of a central Commission to review the (criminal) cases of suspects of one community only.

It is your party which has put communalism at the center of the campaign for next year’s election, not the BJP or Mr. Modi. The former has consciously downplayed the Ram Mandir issue, and Modi had made it clear that development was going to be his plank. But this did not suit you since your party couldn’t possibly debate him on this plank, what with your miserable record of the last five years.

So you deliberately inserted the communal element, as did your allies, by harping only on the 2002 Gujarat riots. To his credit, Mr. Modi has so far not agreed to stoop so low, and I do not think your strategy will work.

But you have in the process vitiated the atmosphere for a long time to come, reopened old wounds that were beginning to heal, and provided a legitimate space for hot heads on both sides of the divide.

How much damage to the country is one Parliamentary seat worth, Mr. Prime Minister? How many more Partitions will you recreate to satisfy your party’s lust for power?

Your opportunistic creation of Telangana has sown the seeds of disputes and blood-letting in all parts of the country that will sorely test the federal integrity of our country for many years to come. There are twenty one more statehood specters waiting in the wings and by the time they are exorcised we may have ceased to exist as one nation.

Do I need to refer to the endemic corruption that your government has been indulging in these last ten years? And to your pathetic attempts to distance yourself from them, even though it is gradually becoming clearer with each passing day that you were aware of what was happening and did nothing to stop it? Why?

The quality of honesty, like that of mercy, cannot be strained: one cannot be honest and yet knowingly allow dishonesty on one’s watch.

Even worse, your increasing brazenness in the face of evidence against you boggles the mind: the Minister who doctored the Coalgate report has been made Special Envoy to Japan, a Minister whose nephew sold posts in The Railways for crores has not even been named in the charge sheet, the Minister on whose watch files relating to YOUR period of the coal scam have gone missing continues to bestride Shastri Bhavan like a colossus.
Who is this Faustian devil you have sold your soul to, Mr. Prime Minister?

Your deafening silence on all these matters-you have spoken in both houses of Parliament only fifty times in ten years-defies logic and conventional wisdom. And that leads me to speculate whether we are underestimating you.

Is there, after all, a method in your madness? Could it be that you are reconciled to losing the next elections and are therefore deliberately implementing a scorched earth policy?

That you will leave behind as a legacy for the next government an India that is bankrupt, ungovernable, riven by caste and communal conflicts, all its institutions destroyed?

An India that will soon be on its knees, begging for your party- the lone horseman riding in from the sunset, in Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s words, don’t forget-to take over the reins again, and save the country from perdition? But I forget, you never speak- so we’ll never know till the horseman is upon us.

Mr. Prime Minister, your party has stripped this country like a cloud of locusts. You have sown every type of poisonous seed known to your ilk and we shall be reaping the bitter harvest for many years hence. You have engendered an atmosphere of uncertainty,venality, indecision, communalism, opportunism, criminalisation and defiance of constitutional and statutory institutions which cannot be allowed to continue, for that way lies certain disaster.

Elections are nine months’ hence but we cannot allow this conception to come to full term: the seed sown by you can only destroy this country and must be aborted. The time has come for you to go, Mr. Prime Minister, and to go immediately.

Call for elections now, end the uncertainty, let us get on with our lives, give this country a chance to redeem itself. Do one last service to this nation, sir- stand not upon the order of your going, but go!

With best wishes,
Your’s sincerely,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Row over NDA vs UPA: Modi's falsification

Narendra Modi has egregiously claimed that growth in national income during the NDA regime (1998-99 to 2003-04) was higher than during the UPA regime. This claim is not borne out by statistics recently released by RBI.

According to this, GDP at Factor Cost increased as under:

1998-99: 6.68%
    99-00: 8.00%
2000-01: 4.14%
    01-02: 5.39%
    02-03: 3.87%
    03-04: 7.97%       Average: 6.01%

2004-05: 7.05%
    05-06: 9.48%
    06-07: 9.57%
    07-08: 9.32%
    08-09: 6.72%      Average: 8.43%

2009-10: 8.59%
    10-11: 9.31%
    11-12: 6.21%
    12-13: 4.99 %       Average: 7.28%

Mr.Modi should know that we are not living in Russia where they take liberties in altering the past also.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Raghuram Rajan's maiden policy review

Raghuram Rajan looked much less sure of himself today (20th Sept.) while addressing the media after the mid-quarter review of monetary policy than he was immediately after taking over as Governor of RBI. Has the responsibility of the post mellowed him already? Has he started feeling the pressure of the Finance Ministry?

Wit and cheerfulness associated with him were absent though the FED has postponed the much feared tapering. In the event, he has played rather safe. He has reduced one rate (MSF / Bank Rate) and hiked another (Repo). The CRR daily maintenance by banks has been reduced from 99% to 95%

BSE Sensex has dived. Rajan's brief honeymoon is probably over. Rupee was less reactive. We will have to wait and watch.

The Governor seems to depend on one Deputy Governor (Urjit Patel) more than on other three DGs. Perhaps not a very sound policy! Indications are that he defers to Finance Ministry more than what independence of central bank can accommodate.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chidambaram's joke on Governance

Today is Saturday. It is not surprising therefore that India's Finance Minister (I must mention "India's" because otherwise one may mistake he is Sivaganga's Finance Minister) Mr.Chidambaram is in Sivaganga and very likely opening some branch of a public sector bank. He is celebrating his birth day in a couple of days. We wish him well.

He has today commented that there are two kinds of governance and that UPA stands for long-term governance. The other type, according to him, only tries to create divisions among people!

“There are two types of governance. While we are peacefully implementing far sighted and forward looking schemes that will benefit the future generations there is another type which sows hatred and divides the people. They support one group of people, and try to suppress others,” he said without mentioning name of any party or person.

We have reached a stage where UPA has started talking about Governance. George Orwell would be proud.

Is Advani really sulking?

So, Narendra Modi has at last been named as BJP's prime ministerial candidate. There is no doubt that this has the overwhelming support of its members. Advani is apparently alone in opposing the choice and at any rate the timing of announcement.

Advani is an experienced politician. He knows when he is outwitted. Is he so dumb as to express his 'pique' so transparently? One doubts.

Then what is the drama about? Is the BJP trying to create an impression that Advani is the polar opposite of NaMo and therefore if, post the election, there is a need for offering an alternative, Advani will be put up?

If Advani's tantrums are for real, he is committing political suicide.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jairam Ramesh's discovery

Sometimes some qualities of a leader are so tactfully hidden from the hoi polloi that only some confidantes are privy to those extraordinary attributes. Jairam Ramesh wants us to believe (we do not know whether he believes) that Rahul Gandhi is a conceptual thinker.

“Mr. Gandhi’s style is different than Mr. Modi. He is low key...his style is more conceptual. Do not mistake his low key as reluctant style. He is doing things on ground,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Does the emperor have clothes? The most dismal truth about the Congress party is that everyone in this party feels obligated to make sycophantic prattles now and then. In the process these Congressmen denigrate the party more than the opposition can ever do.

In case the Congress party loses the impending elections, the ministers can only blame themselves for coming up with atrocious remarks that insult the intelligence of the aam aadmi. BJP which is a house divided against itself is only hoping that the public will continue to be entertained and nauseated by such puerile untruths.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Raghuram Rajan

Raghuram Rajan has started off well in RBI with an initial statement that is both brief and meaningful. His determination to stick to what he perceives to be right comes out clearly from his reference to Rudyard Kipling's 'If ':

"If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too:
Kipling’s reference to “men” only dates these lines, but his words are clear."

Rajan's message is subtle, but clear. He is ready to be different from others and yet he will relentlessly fight against forces of exclusion. One cannot avoid the thought that a person like Rajan would be a lot more beneficial to the nation as, say, prime minister rather than RBI Governor.

The Governor is accurate when he says, " The Reserve Bank is a great institution with a tradition of integrity, independence, and professionalism." But when he follows it up by adding, " To the existing traditions of the RBI, which will be the bedrock of our work, we will emphasise two other traditions that become important in these times: transparency and predictability", he is perhaps unwittingly uncharitable to his predecessors. RBI has never been opaque in its functioning. Its decisions have generally been logical and reasonable and therefore predictable though not always to the liking of Finance Ministers.

Further, one does not start a tradition. One may start a practice and if it becomes consistent over a period of time it turns into a tradition.

What is the meaning of the following sentence?
 "The RBI will give out new bank licenses as soon as consistent with the highest standards of transparency and diligence." Rajan did pause for a while when he read this. Some word has apparently been missed out.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Manmohan Singh in St Petersburg

Russian media has started  adoring India's prime minister who is attending the G 20 summit after finding him to be the most hard-working leader among the G 20ers. He acceded to their request for an interview. The media was immensely pleased. The media conference endeared him to the journalists totally.

Media: Mr.Prime Minister, we are amazed at your ability to keep working tirelessly. What makes you busy when other leaders are taking it easy?

PM: I am searching for coal files. I will leave no stone unturned.

Media: Sir, how do you expect those files to be here?

PM: I know they are not here. I also know they are in my office in New Delhi. Since I have assured my parliament that I will search everywhere to retrieve the missing files I am searching here also.

Media: We admire your respect for your parliament. Yet we feel you need to search in your office only.

PM: You do not understand. Any search in my office will lead to some more embarrassing files. I have no right to cause embarrassment to my leader.

Media: Will your leader not be offended by your admission that the missing files are in your office?

PM: Only my leader advised me to keep the files safely.

Media: Sir, strange things are happening in your country. It appears the CBI wants to interrogate you.

PM: I am not bothered. I am ready to respond in my usual transparent style.

Media: Meaning?

PM: I will maintain stoic silence.

Media: Your Supreme Court has said criminals cannot contest elections. We understand your ministers including Kapil Sibal are bristling with anger.

PM: My government respects the judiciary. Unfortunately the Supreme Court has misinterpreted the law. In order to remove any confusion, we are amending the law to reiterate that only criminals can enter parliament.

Media: Mr.Prime Minister, we admire your ability to multi-task. Even as you address us, you are simultaneously speaking on the landline.

PM: That is my duty. I am on the hotline.

Media: With Pakistan PM?

PM: Oh no, I am seeking instructions from my leader how to respond to some of your questions.

Media: Are you worried that the opposition parties in your country are becoming stronger?

PM: That is why I am seeking advice from your President, Vladimir Putin.

The prime minister received some instructions on the hotline and the media conference ended abruptly.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Private Sector Financial Institutions

It is fashionable to have a poor opinion about banks and other financial institutions in the public sector. Recent happenings in private sector financial institutions indicate that this prejudice is grossly misplaced.

The Hindu dt. 2nd Sept., gives prominent coverage to a 'fraud' committed by ICICI Lombard and an incredible  nonchalance exhibited by Axis Bank. ICICI Lombard is reported to have chosen bogus beneficiaries for collecting premium from the Textiles Ministry under a centrally sponsored scheme.

Internationally acclaimed squash champion, Dipika Pallikal has filed a case against Axis Bank for deficiency in service. Instead of feeling apologetic for its obvious lapse, Axis Bank has made a virulent attack on her, questioning her lack of mental toughness to put up with such lapses.

How can institutions be so unprofessional?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Congress' fortunes

The Congress party has played its cards smartly in relation to Food Security Bill and Land Bill. This will generate a lot of votes for the party in the ensuing general elections. There is a tense sense of disbelief in the BJP circles. They feel they are getting outsmarted unexpectedly. This explains why the BJP leaders met the President of India to 'advise' him to order early elections to the parliament.

In a way the BJP has played into the hands of Congress. Congress leaders have been asserting that elections will not be advanced. Now if they want early elections, they can use BJP's 'advice' as an excuse. Congress party may want to face the electors before one more major scam comes out in the open. If the Congress party feels there is no hope for improvement in the economy in the near future, early elections are a better alternative for it.

Government has been giving a lot of assurances on Fiscal Deficit, Current Account Deficit, growth etc. These assurances are unlikely to be kept up. Congress may not want to face the day of reckoning before the polls. Thus there are many factors working in favour of early elections.