Saturday, December 27, 2014

Black Money and Bubbles

RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan whose name is often mixed up as Raghuraj Raman by Manmohan Singh (Mansingh Mohan?), was recently speaking to a news channel. He expressed his well-known mantra that RBI does not want to flip- flop in administration of interest rates. Therefore, he would rather wait till softened inflation becomes sustainable before deciding to reduce the Repo rate.

This conservative strategy is not necessarily a wise strategy. In the stock exchange, one cannot time the market. Similarly, money market also does not respect timing strategies. However, given RR's standing, very few people would point out that he is without clothes even if he is naked.

He pointed out how RBI was trying to prevent formation of bubbles in real estate. He referred to insistence of a minimum stake of borrower's equity stake in purchase of house. Ceiling for debt amount and floor for equity preempts bubbles.

Usage of black money in purchase of real estate, he said, further bolstered the equity. The Governor is bold enough to accept the almost universal reality of black money in such transactions. This, of course, is not a justification of black money. The government should take some strong measures against black money. Clarion calls from the judiciary alone will not do.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bharat Ratna: Masterly choice

The government has decided to award Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malavia. I am forced to mention the full name of the latter because Bharat Ratna to him was totally unexpected.

Congress, as is the unfortunate tradition in India for an opposition political party, deems it its duty to criticise each and every move of the government. But in this case, the government has been extremely clever.

MMM was the president of Congress four times. So, present day Congress leaders are unable to criticise the choice. He was also in the Hindu Mahasabha. Thus the government has shrewdly created a precedent to present what are called 'the religious right' in a positive light.

Historians like Ramchandra Guha may criticise the choice. Congress however is forced to accept the decision because otherwise it will again be ridiculed for not accepting any Congress leader save the Nehrus.

Guha's argument that there were many Indians who outshone MMM in patriotism and scholarship is beside the point because no one is above everybody else. Guha's plea that posthumous awards be avoided is worth considering.

The government, or whoever conceived the surprising idea, has cleverly exploited the coincidence of birth days of Vajpayee and MMM. In the absence of MMM's connection with Congress, leaders of the decimated party would have 'discovered' parallels between MMM and KKK.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

President's health

Shri Pranab Mukherji is supposed to have undergone angioplasty in the Army hospital in the capital today. Earlier he had complained of stomach pain. Investigations in the hospital revealed blocks in an artery. Angioplasty was done without loss of time.

When the Rashtrapathi Bhavan was asked about the reports, the press secretary deigned only to clarify that the President was likely to be discharged from the hospital by Monday. He would neither deny nor confirm the reports about angioplasty. So much for transparency.

In the USA, the public is deemed entitled to know about the health of their President as a matter of routine. Of course, Indian president is only a figurehead. But still ---

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Policing Corruption

Following is a report in The Hindu datelined Visakhapatnam 7th December:

"Lobbying for plum posts in important police stations began a couple of months ago. But of late, it has acquired a new dimension.
Earlier, lobbying was primarily based on caste lines.
At present, it is learnt that MLAs of various constituencies have set bid amounts for postings, depending on the importance of the police station.
On the one hand, the caste factor, the dominant being Kapus and Velamas, continues to hold sway, and, on the other, close confidantes of MLAs have been in touch with police officers, promising the desired posting for a price.
A senior officer said that he was approached by the personal assistant of an MLA for posting in a particular police station for a price of Rs. 15 lakh.
He informed The Hindu that the price varies on the income-generating capacity of the police stations.
Heading the list are Parawada, PM Palem and Pendurthi police stations, where shady land deals are on the rise due to expansion of the city limits.
Following them are the Harbour, Two Town, Three Town, Gajuwaka, Four Town, Fifth Town, and One Town police stations. The rate varies from Rs. 15 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh, says an officer.
According to an officer of Additional SP rank, the practice of lobbying for posts and the interference of politicians who desire to have his or her known officer in the native constituency is a known fact. But setting of such high stakes is something new.

He, however, wonders why police officers have to pay politicians for the postings!"

This is no news because everyone knows that this is a normal feature in every part of the country. "Auctioning" 'opportunistic' posts is a country-wide practice.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Squabbling economists

It is interesting to know how 'top class' economists rate among themselves. Raghuram Rajan accuses Paul Krugman of paranoia. To Stiglitz, the three R's namely Rogoff, Reinhart and Rajan are third-rate economists. Rogoff dismisses Stiglitz as a loose cannon. Lawrence Summers sees Rajan as a Luddite and his economic theories misguided.

Rajan does not spare non-economists also. Justice Srikrishna is, according to Rajan, schizophrenic. In turn, Justice Srikrishna finds Rajan to be a split-personality, one as an independent academic and the other as RBI Governor.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Justice Krishna Iyer

Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer who passed away today (4th December) was a legend in his lifetime itself. His compassion for the poor and the distraught was proverbial. He gave a human face to law. He made full use of his command over highfalutin words  to creatively interpret (distort, if you are not in agreement) legal provisions.

He was not without his share of controversy. He took recourse to 'democratic dharma' to grant a conditional stay to the Allahabad High Court judgment invalidating Indira Gandhi's "corrupt" election. Had he ruled otherwise, declaration of the infamous Emergency would have been non est. It is possible that he would have regretted, in later years, his out-of-the-way judgment.

He lived to complete 100 years. His demise is a great loss to whoever cares for the neglected and the forlorn. May his kind soul rest in eternal peace.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why is 'orange' so called?

In Tamil, 'oranju' means six and five (totalling eleven). Indian oranges commonly have eleven segments aka carpels. Thus the fruit's name might have originated from the Tamil word. Some oranges like the Persian ones typically have ten carpels.

Strangely, though many etymological interpretations are usually provided, this straightforward origin is not found anywhere. Are we uncomfortable with Occam's razor?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Faith or Sarcasm ?

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple case under argument in the Supreme Court keeps evoking a lot of interest among the public. A Bench of Justices T.S.Thakur and Anil R. Dave is hearing the case.

Gopal Subramanium, the amicus curiae in this case, has recommended fortification of the walls and floor of temple vaults containing precious articles. The Bench has disagreed saying that there is no immediate threat of pilferage. It is not clear what is the basis for this threat perception. The judges have observed that security arrangements have been made and the inventory of all articles has been completed.

Subramanium has also suggested that guards protecting the temple should be suitably armed. Responding to this suggestion, Justice Thakur waxed eloquent expressing his faith (or was it agnostic sarcasm?): "God himself is there. Then there is the Kerala police. (Oh, what a seamless movement from God to Kerala police?) You mean to say if both fail, these guards would be able to protect all?" The parenthetical observation is not of the court.

Apparently logical arguments are at times the antithesis of pragmatism. Availability of 'Redundancy' is very often a basic requirement of risk management. The judges will do better to recognise this.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Raghuram Rajan corrects C K Prahalad

The Indian Express reports:

"Rajan, himself is a renowned economist, said during a recent micro finance event, “I think Prahalad did a disservice by saying that there is a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. “My sense is that you cannot, in good conscience, make a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Make reasonable profits, but if you start making a fortune, it does start raising societal anxiety about how the fortune is being made”. 

Rajan has exhibited intellectual honesty and political incorrectness in correcting a widely-held thought.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Reliance does India proud

It is customary to treat Reliance Industries Limited, the corporate juggernaut, as a punching bag and accuse it of all possible deviations from governance guidelines. Consequently, when it practises rules of good conduct, it is scarcely noticed and even less appreciated. We don't give the devil its due.

Transparency International has released its 2014 report on 'transparency in corporate reporting' comparing and contrasting 124 global companies which are the largest listed companies in terms of market capitalisation. Of these, two are Indian companies, Reliance and ONGC.

The companies have been ranked under three parameters, 1) Reporting on anti-corruption programmes, 2) organisational transparency and 3) country- by- country reporting.

Overall Index Average Score for 124 companies is 3.8 out of 10. Reliance has scored 5.6 and ONGC 4.8.

Reliance occupies 9th position and ONGC 26th. Arcelor Mittal (registered in Luxembourg) promoted by Laxmi Mittal is ranked 6th.

Following table speaks for itself:

Overall index score (max-10)

Note: 'A' stands for reporting on anti-corruption programmes, 'B' stands for organisational transparency and 'C' country - by - country reporting.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Anand vs Carlsen Game 1

Honours were split in game 1 of the World Chess Championship being held in Sochi, Russia. The game was too sharp for an opening game in top level championship. Anand engineered it that way and yet became tense as the game went on.

The opening (Grunfeld Defence) was partially expected since Anand was sure to switch to d4 opening given his excruciating experience with e4 against the world champion. Carlsen was tentative in the opening game though he made a robust comeback in the middle game. Anand could draw the game thanks to a brilliant move towards the forcible end.

The game has ruffled Anand a little more than Carlsen. This has some predictive value. After all, in chess as in life, the more unruffled are the ultimate winners.

Carlsen has a 71-point lead over Anand in the current Elo rating. Overpowering an opponent with such a lead in a 12-game match can only be a trans-Six Sigma event. Anand is now ranked sixth in the rating. The four who rank between the championship players are Caruana, Topalov, Aronian and Grischuk. Interestingly all the top six belong to different countries namely Norway, Italy, Bulgaria, Armenia, Russia and India respectively.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Can Modi deliver on black money?

It is very pleasant to hear Narendra Modi's assurance that every black penny deposited abroad will be brought back. Can he make good on his promise?

His Finance Minister whose affiliation to the Delhi Gang is obvious is hesitant even to share whatever details are available with the government. He is not ashamed of parroting the excuse given by the earlier government which he used to make fun of.

Ram Jethmalani who is carrying on a crusade against black money lying abroad was conveniently removed from the BJP. If Modi had desired, Jethmalani could have been brought back to the party. (But why bring back an inconvenience?) The boisterous lawyer is forced to write letters to Modi and Jaitley because they are unlikely to be serious about the matter.

The irrepressible Subramanian Swamy has penned an open letter to Narendrabhai detailing six ways of bringing back black money. If he did not doubt government's intentions, he would not have written an open letter.

Therefore, all indications are that the tax evaders are too powerful and promiscuously present in all political parties to fear. Honest tax payers who are unwilling or too timid to cheat on tax may continue to revel in masochistic pleasure of doing the nation a good turn by coughing up taxes.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Congress' views and Congressmen's views

Indian National Congress is the most democratic political party in the world. It is the only party which dissociates itself from the views expressed by everyone of its members but does not disempower them from freely expressing their personal opinions. It is a miracle that there is a political party whose 'collective opinion' is not shared by any of its members and therefore is always at variance from the opinions of all its members.

P.Chidambaram wanted Sonia and Rahul Gandhis to speak more and more often. The High Command lost no time in qualifying it as PC's personal view and confirmed that the party does not toe this line.

Digvijay Singh desires that Rahulji should take over leadership because 'the Congress always favours young leaders'. (?) The party immediately declares that this is his personal view and not that of the party.

G.K.Vasan wants appropriate importance to be given to Kamaraj.  Expectedly this is shot down as an individual's opinion. He was not Kamaraj Gandhi after all.

Shashi Tharoor had the temerity to praise the prime minister's initiative for cleanliness. This certainly was not the party line.

At this rate, even if Soniaji or Rahulji expresses any opinion, the party may hastily dismiss that as their personal opinion. Is that why they do not take the risk of saying anything?

We now understand why Manmohan Singh was totally inarticulate during his prime ministership. He did not want to give a chance to the party to distance itself from his views.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Black Money kept abroad

The list of Indians who are holding bank accounts  in foreign countries is becoming curiouser by the day. On 28th October, the Supreme Court hollered that the government should give the list to the court positively on 29th. The Finance Minister in a fit of bravado claimed that the government had already handed over the list to SIT which is monitored by the Supreme Court itself. Following questions arise:

1) Why could the court not obtain the list from SIT itself?

2) If the names had already been shared with the SIT, why did the government hesitate to share it with the Court?

Who is fooling whom? When the list was handed over to the court in a sealed cover on 29th October, the court did not even open the cover and chose to hand it over to SIT for necessary action !

Arun Jaitley had claimed that some names in the list would embarrass the Congress party. P.Chidambaram in a show of self-declared righteousness says that he neither asked the officials to show him the list nor was he shown, when he was the Finance Minister. Is this a sign of integrity, abdication or histrionics? Only time will tell.

In the meanwhile, the irrepressible Subramanian Swamy is confident that the Gandhis figure in the list.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tesco and the Indian government

Tesco, Britain's largest supermarket chain, is caught up in an accounting scandal. Its profit has been overstated by around $420 million by an age-old trick of advanced booking of income and delayed recognition of expenditure. The company's CEO, Philip Clarke and Chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent have been forced to quit. Company's share has shed nearly 50% of its market value so far this year.

Credit rating agencies have warned of a probable downward movement in rating of the company's securities. The normally infallible investor, Warren Buffett has regretted Berkshire Hathaway's investment in Tesco.

Indian government had adopted this accounting trick during 2013-14 in order to 'contain' fiscal deficit. Cash system of accounting facilitated this manipulation. It remains to be seen whether the new government will persist with this pernicious practice.

Richard Broadbent will be remembered for a long time for his infamous and injudicious response when he was asked how he was not aware of what was going on in his company: "Things are always unnoticed until they are noticed". How come Manmohan Singh never said this?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rapid Action Government

Narendra Modi is changing the complexion of the government. The government's image is changing from that of an insensitive behemoth to that of an agile force.

The government has taken steps to amalgamate the scam-scarred NSEL with its parent, FTIL. Expectedly, FTIL and its shareholders including foreign institutions are up in arms against this swift move (the UPA government was dithering over NSEL's shenanigans). The process of re-allocation of coal mines on a transparent basis has started in right earnest inviting the inevitable protests from antediluvian communists. Floods in AP and J&K have evoked prompt response from the government. Civil servants at the centre are being reshuffled to make bureaucracy more responsive.

We seem to have woken up from a decade of slumber.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

BJP's volte-face on black money

It is shocking that Modi's government has adopted the UPA's argument regarding divulging details of black money stashed abroad. This amounts to going back on an assurance given to the public on the basis of which NDA came back to power.

BJP, hailed as a party with a difference, is only a carbon copy of the Congress party. As time rolls on, we are likely to witness scams and scandals reminiscent of UPA days. The Modi magic also has a shelf-life.

Modi's decision to continue the ailing Arun Jaitley as the cabinet minister in charge of two crucial ministries is not reflective of good governance. This is not to underestimate Jaitley's capacity or credibility both of which are high. Even a healthy person will find the combined demands of two crucial ministries to be taxing. Modi seems to be trading off principled politics for pragmatic economics. He was not voted to power for making this dubious choice.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Strange justice

Karnataka High Court refused to entertain the bail applications of Jayalalithaa et al keeping in view an earlier observation of the Supreme Court that corruption amounts to violation of human rights. The Supreme Court in its superior wisdom has chosen to ignore its own pronouncements and ordered bail for the four convicts.

Since all four have been granted bail, there are no special considerations like health conditions, gender, age etc. In case such treatment is not extended to various other convicts who have appealed or are in the process of appealing against their convictions, judiciary will be guilty of discrimination.

We have reached a piquant situation where every convict can remain out of jail till the Supreme Court disposes of their appeals. There is only one caveat. Can all these convicts (of whom some are innocent) afford the cost of dilatory and expensive litigation?

So there is bound to be one course of justice to those who can afford to pay the likes of Ram Jethmalani and Fali Nariman and another course for those who cannot. Nothing can be a more offensive travesty of justice.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Modi's false prediction

The Prime Minister confidently claimed before the elections that the Congress party would not bag even 10 seats in either Maharashtra or Haryana. All exit polls indicate that the Congress will get more than 10 seats in both these states.

Why did Modi mislead the nation? The answer is simple. He had hoped that Rahul Gandhi would campaign actively. Smart strategist that he is, Rahulji desisted from active canvassing and thus brightened his party's chances.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have reduced the Indian National Congress into Indian Notional Congress. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Who is saying what?

It is amazing that Shashi Tharoor could say this:

"Earlier during his speech at the function at the DG Vaishnav College, he said students awaited hard roads as challenges ahead in their lives.
"But you should believe in yourself, you should believe in the truth. I have been on those hard roads and that was the only way I was able to cope as well," he said."
Is this hallucination or chicanery?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sunanda Pushkar's death : Emerging picture

Details emerge over time. Cover-ups and obfuscations give way to evidence and clarity. But the process may take an excruciatingly long time. In the mean time, the main actors may even have died. The mystery relating to Sunanda Pushkar's unnatural death (it would have been called a gruesome murder but for the high-profile minister's involvement) is undergoing such a meandering process.

Had she been married to a commoner, such a nasty event would not have occurred. If it had happened, the cruel inhuman husband would have been arrested straightaway. But ministers seem to be immune from criminal investigations for spousal cruelty and uxoricide.

Sunanda Pushkar's relatives are now beginning to gather strength to speak the truth. Her cousin, Ashok Kumar, has voiced the most sensible and straightforward concern about the husband's obvious involvement. He has attributed Sunanda's son Shiv's so-called clean-chit to the minister to mortal fear.

The needle of suspicion matter-of-factly has right from the beginning pointed to one person and he has been allowed so far to walk free, travel abroad and curry favour with the new ruling establishment for ten months. Yet, the law continues to be otiose. National Commission for Women and various women's organisations should hang their heads in shame for letting down a murdered woman so shabbily.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Involving unclean minds in 'Clean India' campaign

Shashi Tharoor is one of the nine persons chosen by Narendra Modi to initiate the Swachh Bharat campaign. It is unfortunate that a misogynist Casanova who divorced twice and most likely murdered a third wife is enlisted for this national purpose.

Ever since Modi became the prime minister, the shameless Tharoor has been getting closer to him possibly to stave off criminal proceedings relating to Sunanda's death. Tharoor should not be allowed to continue mocking at justice to his departed spouse.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Manmohan Singh's autobiography

It is reported that the former prime minister has decided to author a book about himself to set history straight. One wonders whether he has obtained permission from Sonia Gandhi to express his views.

If he wants to write the truth, he cannot but offend Sonia. If he desires, as usual, not to displease her, he cannot be truthful. It will be interesting to see the route he takes.

One hopes that the book will be in the form of a mea culpa. In case he turns economical with truth, his already low credibility will further get eroded.

Updated on 22nd Oct:

Manmohan Singh is reported to have denied any thought about an autobiography. Very surprising that an 'economist' is shy of communicating.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Supreme Court, Al Gore and Jayalalithaa's conviction

The Special Judge, John Michael Cunha has quoted the Supreme Court and Al Gore while finding Jayalalithaa guilty:

"Regarding corruption, the Hon’ble Supreme Court
in the case of Niranjan Hemachal Sashittal vs. State of
Maharashtra, 2013 (4) S.C.C. 642 has held as under:

“It can be stated without any fear of
contradiction that, corruption is not be judged by
degree, for corruption mothers disorder, destroys
societal will to progress, accelerates undeserved
ambitions, kills the conscience, jettisons the
glory of institutions, parayses the economic
health of a country, corrodes the sence of civility
and mars the marrows of the Governance”.

Al Gore, in his book “Assault on Reason” (Paper
Book Edition 2013, pages 72, 73) writes:

“If political and economic freedoms have been
siblings in the history of liberty, it is incestuous
coupling of wealth and power that poses the
dreadliest threat to democracy. If wealth could
be easily exchanged for power, then, the
concentration of either could double the
corrupting potential of both. Freedoms helix then
spirals downward toward unhealthy
combinations of concentrated political and
economic power”.

Heady Mix of power and Wealth is the bottom line
of this case. Huge accumulation of wealth by accused
in a short span of five years is a telling example of how
power would lead to concentration of unlawful wealth
posing veritable danger to democratic structure. "

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Types of Justice

Jayalalithaa's imprisonment has activated many discussions on what justice is about. Has she not done enough good to the public to merit condonation of corruption relating to early nineties? Are n't there other politicians who have been even more corrupt and yet not facing any punishment now?

Both are logical and ethical questions. The first question draws our attention to concepts of 'gross' and 'net' justice. Netting of good deeds from bad deeds is not a law of nature. Consequences of both good and bad actions need to be enjoyed and suffered separately. Nature believes in and ensures "Gross Settlement" though not on Real Time basis. RTGS is not in vogue here.

The second question addresses 'absolute' and 'relative' justice. We are able to experience justice in individual cases but are unable to make a meaningful, satisfying comparison of 'rewards' and 'punishments' faced by one vis-a-vis another person for similar turpitude. This is because the consequences may be spread over different time periods for different persons. Nature is unerring in punishing the errant.

Jaya's padhuka

The Hindu reports:

""'Since he is now a Chief Minister, he should not visit the jail, and that he should focus on administration'

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who has been convicted in the disproportionate assets case, on Tuesday refused to meet the newly sworn-in Chief Minister O Panneersevalm, when he went to meet her at the Central Jail in Parappana Agrahara, where she is lodged since September 27.
A prison official said: “Ms. Jayalalithaa conveyed the message through prison staff that as he was the Chief Minister he should not visit the jail, and that he should focus on administration…. This message was conveyed to him by the prison staff.” "

When Bharata went to forest to meet his brother Lord Rama during Rama's exile, the latter advised him to concentrate on administration instead of spending time with Him. Bharata pleaded with Rama atleast to give him His 'padhuka' so that he would administer Ayodya under the aegis of Lord's padhuka.
Similarly, if Panneerselvam had requested Jayalalithaa for her 'padhuka', she would have asked him, " Of 750 pairs of footwear, which one do you want?" Panneerselvam would have been flummoxed. I hasten to add that this conversation is only imaginary, the former chief minister's response only hypothetical and therefore does not warrant a defamation suit.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Justice John Michael D'Cunha : Jayalalithaa's nemesis

The Special Court in Bangalore has delivered an astounding verdict against Jayalalithaa and her associates today. She is imprisoned for four years and fined Rs.100 crore. She pays the penalty for her brazen act of amassing Rs.66.65 crore, an amount totally disproportionate to her disclosed sources of income during her first stint as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (1991 - 96).

The judge needs to be applauded for his boldness and , maybe, incorruptibility. There have inevitably been rumours that attempts were made to 'tame' him.

It is difficult to explain how a smart person like Jayalalithaa indulged in easily provable venality whereas the apparently less smart politicians in Tamil Nadu make hay without getting caught. It is possible that initial taste of power made her recklessly confident. In her subsequent stints as Chief Minister she must have become more careful, though not necessarily less corrupt.

Updated on 2nd Oct. :

Media reports point towards some possible chinks in the judgement's armour. According to a Supreme Court judgement, conviction and sentencing need to be spaced out in time and generally should not be in the same day to enable the judge to understand the arguments of prosecution and the defense regarding quantum of sentence. Has the learned judge erred in rushing to pronounce the sentence? Did he have a closed mind ?     ( A closed mind need not necessarily come to a wrong conclusion. But it is anathema to legal pundits.) Was he inadvertently conflating legality and ethicality?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mandolin Shrinivas

It is very unfortunate that the mandolin maestro has passed away at the young age of 45. The Carnatic music has suffered an irreparable loss. May his soul rest in eternal peace !

According to media reports, he died a week after a liver transplant. " Early this month (September, 2014), Shrinivas went to Apollo Hospitals with complaints of general weakness and loss of appetite. "He said he was traveling on a concert and maybe because of eating out, he felt unwell," said the doctor. "A detailed diagnosis revealed multiple problems: pneumonia, failing kidneys and acute liver failure. The problems were long-existing, but somehow he didn't realize it till it was too late." 

Through dialysis and antibiotics, doctors stabilized the lungs and kidneys and did a liver transplant. He appeared to be on his way to recovery when another bout of infection led to multiple organ failure. " (Times of India)

The transplant was performed on 12th September and he breathed his last on the 19th.

The following report is disquieting. "In a statement, Apollo Hospital said "the transplant procedure was uneventful, and his liver function showed signs of recovering. After initial improvement of five days, he developed a secondary lung infection leading to shock and multi organ failure." (The Hindu)

The uneventfulness of a transplant is not proven simply because the patient comes out alive from the operation theatre. It is only discharge from the hospital in a satisfactory state of health that would vouchsafe that the transplant was uneventful.

This is not to say that the hospital was in any way responsible for the untimely demise of a doyen of music. The chain of events however lays bare the lack of our mastery over the transplant imponderables.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"I, indeed, did my duty"

Asked to comment on Vinod Rai's criticism of his leadership, Manmohan Singh has responded with laconic  " I, indeed, did my duty". If we had thought that the prime minister's duty was to protect the constitution and the nation, we are totally misguided. PM's duty, if we understand the economist genius correctly, is to protect the scamsters from the law.

This is not the first time that Singh gives a sinister twist to meaning of duty. (Please see the post dated 5th October, 2005 on "Manmohan Singh and Bhagavad Gita".) One feels appalled that behind a misleading facade, Singh always had a crooked mind.

Singh will do well to enlighten the nation on all that he had done in pursuance of his duty.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ranjit Sinha's hospitality

A country-wide hue and cry has been raised over the CBI Director's visitors. Ranjit Sinha has answered the critics in a step by step methodical way. There was no visitors' log. Even if there was one, what was produced in the Supreme Court was not genuine. Even if it was genuine, he did not meet all of them. Even if he met all of them, he met them only to satisfy himself about the veracity of notings made against them by CBI's lower level politically-naive officials. So, where is the alleged misconduct by the Director?

Sinha wants the name of 'whistle-blower' to be made known. Who is the ungrateful / unreliable renegade who has stooped to the level of disclosing what his / her boss does? This 'namak haram' should be named, shamed and jailed. Nobody has the right to bring down the reputation of the CBI Chief.

How does the Supreme Court even think of entertaining an application against the conduct of the CBI Chief? Has it forgotten Thomas Fuller's famous dictum: "Be you ever so high, the CBI is above you"? The Supreme Court must be charged with contempt of CBI.

Let us not forget the noble role played by Manmohan Singh in ensuring Ranjit Sinha's appointment to head the CBI. He protected the 'Coalition Dharma' by favouring Lalu Prasad's saviour. It is a befitting coincidence that both Singh and Sinha have 'Sin' deeply embedded in their names.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The mystery called Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is accredited to be one of the all-time greats among physicists. His explanation of black holes and theory of expansion of universe is phenomenal. He has recently hypothesised the nagging possibility of the Higgs Boson aka the God Particle becoming extremely unstable and devouring the universe.

PTI reports:

"The elusive ‘God particle’ discovered by scientists in 2012 has the potential to destroy the universe, famed British physicist Stephen Hawking has warned.
According to Mr. Hawking, 72, at very high energy levels the Higgs boson, which gives shape and size to everything that exists, could become unstable.
This, he said, could cause a “catastrophic vacuum decay” that would lead space and time to collapse, reported.
“The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become megastable at energies above 100bn giga-electron-volts (GeV),” Hawking wrote in the preface to a new book called Starmus.
“This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light.
“This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming,” said Mr. Hawking.
The Higgs boson, also known as the God particle, was discovered in 2012 by scientists at CERN — who operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.
Hawking said the likelihood of such a disaster is unlikely to happen in the near future, however, the danger of the Higgs becoming destabilised at high energy is too great to be ignored."

Scientists are no doubt entitled to indulge in outlier thoughts. They need however to be cautious enough to avoid floating panic theories. Serial decay and origins of the universe are postulated in many religious scriptures. Scientists are not entitled to the luxury of ridiculing such scriptural thoughts and at the same time propagating their fancy theories on termination of universe. Stephen Hawking is not doing himself or science any favour by flip-flopping on his theories regarding black hole and expansion / contraction of universe. Sanity of thought presupposes a modicum of stability of views. Though foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, foolish inconsistency cannot be the hobgoblin of scientific minds.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Governor (Justice) Sathasivan

Appointment of retired Chief Justice of India as the next Governor of Kerala deserves to be welcomed. He was a non-controversial CJI and the UPA was in power when he presided over the Court. Therefore, there could not have been any quid pro quo between him and the present ruling dispensation.

The government should move away from the unhealthy practice of appointing political persons as Governors of states. The nauseating spectacle of governors resigning with change of ruling party in the centre must stop. Governorship should cease to be a sinecure or a refuge for criminals to dodge the consequences of their past venal ways.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jan Dhan Yojana

15 million savings accounts were opened in Indian banks on 28th August. Financial inclusion is certainly desirable. If accounts are based on targets, there is an inherent potential for misuse.

If KYC norms were too strict earlier, we are now erring on the other extreme. RBI has permitted banks to open accounts even if the depositor has provided proof only for an earlier address and the current address is only self-declared. When rules are relaxed, the probability of benami accounts increases.

What then is the incentive for opening benami accounts? Clean overdraft of Rs.5,000 per account is an invitation to aggravated bad debts. One can also open multiple accounts in different banks and get Rs.5,000 overdraft in every account.

Provision of accident and life insurance is a thoughtful step. Finance ministry deserves to be thanked for this social welfare measure the need for which was felt for a long time.

Narendra Modi, the shrewd politician, is shoring up his vote-bank through this scheme. Banks need to be extra-careful to prevent misuse of the scheme by fraudsters. It is too early to forget the IPO loan fiasco.

It is surprising that there is no dissenting voice from banks, commercial or central. Whenever there is no contradictory opinion that is openly expressed, we are seeing the beginning of some adverse development.

Added on 4th September:

It is surprising that it is not yet decided how and who will bear the premium for life insurance. It is reported that LIC is not willing to meet the cost by itself. Annual premium is expected to be around Rs.750 crore. This is a social expenditure which has to be met by the government. It is neither good politics nor healthy economics to herald a new scheme with many loose ends.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Corruption in Banks (contd.)

Writing in The Hindu, C.R.L.Narasimhan, a respected financial journalist makes the following observation:

"The usual way senior executives of government banks get into trouble is through the actions of their subordinates in which case it becomes a question of vicarious responsibility. It is likely that where the number one person actually instigated the action that leads to criminal behaviour on the part of one or more of his subordinates he will be clever enough to camouflage his own role.
That leads to the puzzling question as to why Mr. Jain was brazen enough to demand a bribe over the telephone (and that too the one which he normally uses). A person with even half the intelligence a CMD of a bank has (or presumed to have) would have a thousand other ways to ask and receive bribes if he wants to be corrupt.
It is also logical to think that the vice-chairman of a large corporate ‘negotiating’ a bribe with a senior executive of a nationalised bank would be more discreet."
The writer has subtly indicated that corrupt deals are normally transacted in a more recondite and esoteric manner so that the guilty will have easy escape routes. Those conversant with banking transactions tend to believe that corruption is very rampant.
Therefore, Narasimhan's conclusion that " However, their top executives certainly do not deserve to be tarred with the same brush just because of the alleged corrupt ways of one of them" strains our credulity.
It is more realistic to say that  honest bankers are not yet totally extinct.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are we Constitutionally secular and socialist?

When our Constitution was enacted, we were only a sovereign democratic republic. The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution made us 'socialist, secular'. This Amendment was initiated by Indira Gandhi for political, ulterior motives. Indira Gandhi's and her successive governments brought in many regressive steps in the name of socialism and secularism. There is a need to revisit this gross mistake.

According to Wikipedia, Hormasji Maneckji Seervai, a jurist and an eminent authority on the Constitution, severely criticized this amendment stating that the newly inserted words are "ambiguous" and "should not have been inserted in the Preamble without a reason"

Amendment to the original preamble is an extreme measure that is supposed to happen only when the system of government changes and not because it serves the narrow interests of a political party. The preamble of the Constitution as originally expressed must be reinstated. 

Socialism and secularism are defined and also manifested in different ways. Therefore, they cannot qualify a Republic. We have to unravel all government institutions that seek to promote either of these two ill-defined concepts. Proposed abolition of the Planning Commission is, therefore long overdue.

Restructuring at the RBI

Reserve Bank of India has of late issued a spate of circulars on credit restructuring. Now it is going one step further and contemplating an organisational and HR restructuring to cope with emerging economic realities. In a jargon-studded notification, the RBI says:

"The Reserve Bank has been deliberating on a broad Human Resources (HR) restructuring exercise. The purpose of the exercise has been to align the organisational resources and structures of the Bank with the needs of the domestic economy and changes in the external environment.
The proposals essentially revolve around bringing functional synergies in operations by grouping departments into clusters and also leveraging human resources to bring about greater professionalism and specialisation so as to enhance the effectiveness of the Bank’s operations and policy making. The proposals involve professionalization of HR functions in the Reserve Bank, including a more effective Performance Management System and responsive and proactive skill and leadership development programmes.
The restructuring proposals and the grouping of departments into five functional clusters have been widely discussed at various levels in the Reserve Bank. One of the proposals envisaged the creation of an additional position of a Chief Operating Officer of the rank of Deputy Governor to head one of the five functional clusters.
The proposals were discussed in the Reserve Bank’s Board meeting. The Board approved the broad contours of the proposals. It advised the Reserve Bank to operationalise the restructuring, while taking into account the need to continuously keep communication channels open with stakeholders as the process moves forward. It also asked the Reserve Bank to initiate a dialogue with the Government on the additional post of Deputy Governor and the legislative changes that will be needed. The Reserve Bank will proceed further in the matter keeping such advice in view."

The economic media have been unsparing in their observation that the RBI Governor is trying to bring in his friend and classmate, Nachiket Mor as RBI's COO. Mor could be an apt choice.

But this move raises an interesting statistical puzzle. Isn't casting the net wider a saner alternative than confining one's search to one's classmates or friends? Cronyism among regulators may not be much better than crony capitalism. One may expect Nachiket Mor who stayed away from consideration as ICICI Bank CEO to preempt the Governor's suspected move to rope him in.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Doctor - Patient Relationship

We come across different types of doctors in our daily life. Some are quite good in diagnostic skills and very courteous in dealing with patients. Such doctors are perhaps very few in number.

Some medics are experts in diagnosis, but patient - unfriendly. Patients normally put up with them valuing them for their expertise and adjust themselves in order not to get exposed to doctors' ire.

Yet some others are patient-friendly, but unfortunately are not adept at diagnosis. Patients tolerate them if they have minor ailments and sometimes gain access to better skilled-doctors through the friendly doctor.

The fourth category is society's bane. Their diagnosis is faulty and patient-relationship adversarial.

I had the misfortune to come across such a doctor last Monday and Thursday. He is an eye-surgeon practising in Mandavelipakkam, Chennai. I accompanied a patient who had red right eye. The eye-doctor lost no time in 'diagnosing acute viral conjunctivitis'. He had a ready-made prescription on his table. He only wrote the name of the patient on the prescription and asked him to come back on Thursday for review.

When the patient visited on Thursday, the doctor insisted that it was a case of acute viral conjunctivitis. He added it was an infection and would spread unless adequate precautions were taken. He was aware that there was no problem in the left eye and that the ailment had not infected others. He continued to maintain it was viral, an infection and the affected part was conjunctiva.

The doctor orally abused the patient and warned him not to 'keep telling others' that the doctor was useless. The patient was surprised at this uncalled for warning. I confronted the doctor protesting  against wild allegation and warning. (I don't know if the doctor was getting frustrated with his inability to diagnose.) The unprofessional doctor took exception to the patient and me saying that the symptom (redness of eye) had worsened since Monday. He claimed that only doctors can comment on symptoms, as if the affected patient knows nothing about his own symptoms. Obviously, the doctor was mistaking symptom for the ailment causing the symptom.

Taken aback by the doctor's callous rudeness and un-Hippocratic behaviour, we went to another eye-doctor. This doctor examined the patient as any doctor is supposed to do and clarified that the ailment was not viral, not an infection. It was diagnosed as iritis, an inflammation of iris which surrounds the pupil of the eye. The doctor advised the patient not to use the inappropriate medicines prescribed by the other doctor. Iritis is a more serious problem than conjunctivitis (aka Madras eye).

I understood from this doctor that it is very difficult for an eye-doctor to mistake iritis for conjunctivitis. Some doctors specialise in doing the difficult !

Friday, August 15, 2014

Modi's Independence Day address

Narendra Modi's maiden independence day address is a far cry from Manmohan Singh's innumerable addresses. It was extempore. It was not soporific. It dealt with quotidian issues. There was no announcement of a new scheme named after Rajivji or Indiraji.

Expectedly, the Congress has denounced the speech. "Bogged down in pedestrian issues" claims Manish Tewari. If sanitation, safety of women and aid for the poor are 'pedestrian issues', the prime minister should continue to concentrate on such issues speech after speech. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Demeaning the Presidency

It is customary for politicians in power to advertise their 'achievements' periodically. The President is not supposed to be a politician looking for flattering references.

It is unfortunate that the ASSOCHAM has released an advertisement 'congratulating The President of India on Two successful years of Governance and Statesmanship' !

Rashtrapathi Bhavan should publicly disapprove such sycophantic releases.

Daughter on Manmohan Singh

"Strictly Personal" is the biography of Mr. and Mrs. Manmohan Singh written by their daughter, Daman Singh. It is but natural that the book is full of unadulterated filial compliment to the former prime minister. In an interview with The Hindu, the biographer has said,

"Basically, my father started his career as a lecturer in Punjab University. He’s never applied for any job ever since, the offers just came to him. That’s how he went to the UN, to Delhi School of Economics, to the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Planning Commission, RBI etc etc etc. That’s how he became finance minister. That’s how he became prime minister. So, I suppose his work sort of spoke for itself."

It is not surprising that there is no reference to her father becoming Chairman of University Grants Commission through a subterfuge. As is well known and as vouchsafed by Arun Shourie and others, Manmohan Singh in a way appointed himself to head the UGC. When Chandrasekhar had already become a care-taker prime minister, Singh placed a pre-dated note to him for approving Singh's appointment as the chief of UGC. Obviously Manmohan Singh knows how to protect his personal interests. It became clear later on when he allowed his ministers to run amuck that he cared little for the nation.

Yes, Manmohan Singh is perhaps better than many other politicians. He is however not a saint. 

Law is an ass

Law is not an ordinary ass; it is an abominable ass. In the year 1989, a huge fire broke out during the celebration of Founder's Day of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. 60 persons died in the mishap and over 100 were gravely injured.

The company deposited Rs.6.95 crore in the court as its earnest effort to compensate the families of victims. Of course, the loss was too grave to be monetarily compensated.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against company officials for negligence which led to the fire accident. The Supreme Court on 8th August quashed the criminal proceedings because the complaint was barred by limitation as it was filed three months after the offence came to the knowledge of the inspector. It is strange that criminality can be extinguished by mere lapse of time before a complaint could be lodged.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Salman Khurshid's strange logic

Salman Khurshid is known for his perverted logic. In an interview with Times of India, he has made the following observation:

"He  (Natwar Singh) has indicated that the decision (on Volcker report regarding food for oil scam)  was hurried because he was too close to Sonia Gandhi and then fingers may point at Sonia Gandhi?

That is right. If you are close to your leader. If you are far away from your leader then there is no problem, but if you are close to your leader, what perceptions get created and therefore you have to do damage control. You can't allow if something happens and if I am seen as close to my leader, I must be dispensed with because we need to protect our leader. What are leaders there for? Leaders have to be protected, in the faith and confidence that if you are right your leader will turn around and protect you as well. If it is a choice between you and your leader, your leader must be protected first and your duty becomes to protect your leader."

It is usually said that leaders exist to protect their followers. Here the shameless follower claims with all obsequiousness at his command that followers should protect their leaders. One cannot become more slavish. Of course, Khurshid must have meant that the reference was only to Sonia Gandhi's leadership.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Corruption in banks

S.K.Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Syndicate Bank has been arrested on charges of corruption by CBI today (2nd August). The surprise is not that CBI has sensed bribery in Syndicate Bank. The shocking surprise is CBI's inability / unwillingness to identify corruption in so many other banks.

It is generally believed that the positions of Executive Directors and CMDs in public sector banks carry a price tag. Only those who pay a 'decent sum' to powers-that-be are promoted to such privileged positions. It is rationalised that such payments are recovered by charging speed-money from borrowers.

This is not to say that all top executives are mercenaries. A preponderant majority perhaps is. Venal politicians have an unhealthy say in bank appointments.

Friday, August 01, 2014

"Venomous" and "obsessively suspicious" Sonia Gandhi

Natwar Singh has characterised Sonia Gandhi as venomous and obsessively suspicious. In normal circumstances, 'one life is not enough'. But anyone associated with Sonia Gandhi is bound to feel that one life is more than enough. If in doubt, ask Manmohan Singh.

It is not entirely her fault that Sonia Gandhi is what she is. Undue obsequiousness of Congress leaders demeaned the party. Natwar Singh was not an exception as long as he was in the GOP. Almost all Congress leaders feathered their respective nests while continuing to pay obeisance to Her Royal Highness as an insurance to procure impunity from accountability. 

Natwar Singh asserts that Rahul's vehement resistance was responsible for Sonia Gandhi's reluctance to become the prime minister in 2004. At that time, she had claimed that she was going by her 'inner voice'. Sonia could easily have said that her inner voice supported Rahul's opinion and that her conscience was the deciding factor. But this did not occur to her because of her lifelong duplicity.

Rahul Gandhi has not yet responded to Natwar Singh's assertion. We do not know if he is now in India at all. According to Natwar Singh, Priyanka mentioned Rahul Gandhi's minatory request to his mother to stay away from prime ministership in the presence of Sonia, Manmohan, Natwar Singh and Suman Dubey. Therefore, this information obviously cannot be wrong. In the year 2004, Sonia Gandhi took the country for a ride with her histrionic and mendacious 'sacrifice'. We were as gullible as anyone could be.

Sonia Gandhi has promised to write her autobiography. Which ghost writer would oblige her in the changed circumstances? In an uncharacteristic manner, Sonia Gandhi has got openly provoked by the submission of her erstwhile confidante. Hopefully, at least now the Congress leaders would show her her place. The party and the country have suffered enough.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Filibustering in AGMs

The season of annual general meeting of shareholders is now on. Though not well attended, some meetings are purposeful and shareholders are able to get relevant details.

IDFC had its AGM in Chennai today (29th July). Today is a public holiday for Eid. As per the Companies Act, 2013 AGMs can be held on any day including Sunday. The only prohibition is that it cannot be held on any of three national holidays namely the Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanthi. Under the old Companies Act (1956), a company had to seek special permission from central government to conduct AGM on a public holiday.

IDFC shareholders were assured that they would be allotted perhaps one share of the to-be-promoted IDFC Bank for every share in IDFC. It was verily manna from heaven for the otherwise disappointed shareholders.

Some shareholders habitually filibuster in such meetings not realising how unhelpful they are. It is high time that the chairpersons of such meetings allot only a pre-determined time say 5 minutes to each speaker. Protecting the indefinite right of expression of a shareholder cannot be at the cost of other shareholders.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Judicial mess

Justice Markandey Katju has stirred up a hornet's nest by disclosing certain unsavoury details about appointment of an additional judge in the Madras High Court. The facts of the case have been questioned by some and the timing of disclosure has been lambasted by many.

The facts are indisputable because they had been verified earlier in a public interest litigation filed by Shanti Bhushan (Shanti Bhushan and another vs Union of India - 2007) in the Supreme Court. (Though one may disagree with Bhushan's political views, he deserves respect for championing the cause of justice in many petitions he has filed.)

Timing of disclosure may be motivated. All actions have a motive. Motives behind an action do not necessarily delegitimise the action. It will be hypocritical to pretend otherwise.

So, where do we go from here? The most important learning points from this incident are that political interference in judicial appointments is undeniably present and that higher judiciary lacks the moral courage to resist political pressure. Facts like that Manmohan Singh was an active collaborator in commitment of egregious impropriety are too well known to be recounted here. So we stay away from the obvious.

Therefore we need to create a system or modify the present system of judicial appointments so that political pressures will be kept at bay and the selectors of judges will act ethically.

Formation of a judicial appointments commission whose members will be nominated by a team consisting of the prime minister, leader of opposition, chief justice of the supreme court etc. has been advocated by many legal luminaries. This suggestion is blatantly fraught with political gaming and therefore will only transport us from frying pan to fire. It is better to keep all politicians including the prime minister and the leader of opposition from this exercise. They have repeatedly proved their incapacity to rise above narrow politics.

The present collegium system is theoretically sound. It was misused because judges with feet of clay had become senior most judges. In addition, opacity characterised the functioning of the collegium.

Laying out clear criteria for selection of judges and mandating transparency in collegial decision-making processes are the way to stem the rot in judiciary. The rest is a matter of detail.

Added on 28th July:

It is uninspiring to note that erudite lawyers like Soli Sorabjee and Fali Nariman are questioning the wisdom of Katju's criticism of delinquent chief justices. Their argument is specious and misleading. According to them, Katju should not comment on Justice Ashok Kumar because the latter is no more. Katju should not comment on chief justices because it will bring down the image of judiciary. So, avoid comments on the dead and the living. What are they afraid of? 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carnage in Gaza

It is very unfortunate that hundreds of civilians are getting killed in Gaza even as the world looks on in stupor. All steps should be taken to stop the fatalities forthwith.

It is also worth analysing who is responsible for the massacre. The current episode was sparked by the murder of three Israeli youth. Though it is not firmly established if this was the handiwork of Hamas, Israel strongly suspects their hand. It is surprising that the entire world barring the U.S. is blaming Israel for the continuing strife.

Fatah, another group of Palestinians, does not support Hamas. There is no strong popular revolt against Hamas only because it is a violent group that exerts unbearable pressure on the populace to fall in line. Hamas has stockpiled armaments in places of worship and education.

It is a real test for human intelligence to arrive at a permanent solution to this apparently intractable problem. Intransigent Israelis and petulant Palestinians are not contributing to a lasting solution through their prejudiced positions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Allegations of impropriety by former CJIs

Justice Markandey Katju has 'exposed' complicity of three former chief justices of 'Supreme Court' in retention of a 'corrupt' judge. The expose is credible though inordinately delayed.

It is easy to ask why Katju did not prevent / expose the venality when it occurred. As a typical career oriented person, he did not want to throw away the chances of elevation to Supreme Court. Was he derelict? Yes. Did he commit a crime? Obviously, no.

What about Justices Lahoti, Sabharwal and Balakrishnan? Their active connivance was culpably criminal.

There is no denying that power corrupts. A High Court judge becomes accommodative or reticent in order to become a Supreme Court judge. A Chief Justice of the Supreme Court remains pliant to the government of the day in order to retain opportunities for post-retirement sinecures.

But someone has to bell the cat. Indian voters trusted the BJP to reinstate principles of governance and morality. It is not good governance to let the past offenders go scotfree. The ruling party seems to be playing ball with the Congress so that possible skeletons in its own cupboard do not tumble out. This is expedient politics and not responsible governance.

The government should order an enquiry and hold the former chief justices accountable. Any other course of action is despicable compromise.

PS: Justices Lahoti and Balakrishnan have understandably denied the allegations.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Malaysia Airlines: ill-fated or negligent?

Two major disasters for the same airline within such a short time cannot but make us sit up and wonder what is happening. Even before any reasonable explanation is available as to what happened to MH 370, tragedy has struck Malaysia Airlines yet again. MH 17 directly flew into a war zone and put to risk the lives of its passengers.

Aviation authorities had permitted commercial flights above 32,000 feet in the area under reference. MH 17 was flying at 33,000 feet. Malaysia Airlines may therefore justifiably claim that it was not blatantly irresponsible. But airlines are supposed to guard against any foreseeable threat whatever be the remoteness of possibility. British Airways and Air France had stopped overflying this risky territory a few months ago. In comparison, Malaysia Airlines was decidedly negligent.

This disaster is much more consequential than what prima facie appears. It is extremely sad that so many lives have been lost. If by chance many Americans had been in the flight, Obama could not have avoided bombing the Ukrainian rebels. Thus, World War III was barely averted.

It is surprising that the aircraft carrying the Indian prime minister was also scheduled to take the same air corridor. How can Air India be so reckless? The unavoidable conclusion is that we are more lucky than intelligently aware.