Thursday, February 27, 2014


St.Stephen's College, Delhi is one of the most reputed educational institutions in the country, and perhaps in the world. Therefore, its alumni need to behave in an exemplary manner so that the image of their alma mater is not diminished.

Hence it is sad to witness the recent sordid behaviour of some of its well known products. It is now too early to forget the misdemeanour of Shashi Tharoor towards his wife, notwithstanding the clumsy attempts of authorities to whitewash the whole appalling episode. (Reading his article on "The Elitism of Merit" in Stephania, the alumni newsletter, I could not reconcile myself to the sinister disconnect between the writer's words and deeds.)

Another worthy who brings nothing but ignominy to the alma mater is Salman Khurshid. Recently, in a mood full of pique, he claimed, "R.K.Singh was a classmate of mine (at St.Stephen's). I never had a great impression about his intellect." R.K.Singh is a former Home Secretary in GOI. Khurshid is unable to realise that he is running down his college when he questions the intellectual fervour of his classmates. Of course, diversion of funds meant for the physically challenged by Salman Khurshid and his family is still in people's memory.

Mani Shankar Aiyer's pathological indecency towards his political opponents is another instance of Stephanian brilliance gone berserk. Some time ago, he was mean-minded enough to pontificate on the intellectual difference between IFS and IRS personnel. He was comparing his egomaniac self with Arvind Kejriwal.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Telangana: What does it presage?

 “The manner in which Telangana was born is an indication that this country is capable of taking difficult decisions,” the Prime Minister said in Lok Sabha. 

Our prime minister talks less. But what little he says could be shocking. What does one make out of Manmohan Singh's claim contained in his last address to the Lok Sabha?

The unruly scenes witnessed in both houses of parliament while 'discussing' the Telangana issue proved that indecency has no limits. What is there in the manner in which the state was born which makes our prime minister proud and confident about our ability to take difficult decisions?

Three indefensible features characterise this decison-making process. Srikrishna panel report was not fully disclosed to the parties concerned. AP Legislature's resolution was disrespectfully ignored. The Bill was introduced towards the fag end of the final session of the Lok Sabha. 

The decision in favour of a new state might have been justified. But our inability to take even a justifiable decision in a 'parliamentary' and responsible manner and on top of that to be satisfied about that manner condemns us to the status of vandals.

Friday, February 21, 2014

UBI CMD resigns

According to,

"Bhargava reportedly had a stormy stint at the bank after she brought up several issues of accounting malpractices before the central bank and was said to have had a run-in with other top employees at the state-run lender."

Archana Bhargava was the CMD of the public sector bank, United Bank of India. The view expressed by is the generally held opinion on what has happened in the bank. It is unfortunate that an executive who preferred to share the ills of the bank with RBI has had to quit. 

This is not a healthy situation. If bankmen begin to feel that careers are not sustainable sans compromise, it only means that the rot has gone deep. This is a real test for Raghuram Rajan's integrity.

Update as on 9th March:

Some insiders say that AB united all executives of the bank and made them into a team. She made them united against her!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jayalalithaa's deft decision?

TamilNadu government, aka Jayalalithaa, took a snap decision to release the killers of Rajiv Gandhi by issuing a three-day notice to the central government. In the absence of the specific deadline, the central government would have followed its usual practice of procrastination.

Jayalalithaa is criticised for the decision as well as for issuing a deadline. The deadline was inevitable in the light of central government's core competence of drift.

How about the decision? Is she justified in releasing the killers of a prime minister? Rahul Gandhi has commented that if even a prime minister's assassins are released from jail, how can a common man get justice? His personal grief is understandable but his comment denotes his understanding that punishment for a killer is commensurate with the position of the victim. This betrays a feudal tendency. All killers of human beings must be treated alike if the gravity of offence is similar. Gravity of the offence is not determined by the social status of the victim.

Manmohan Singh with atypical celerity has questioned the legality of the decision to release the killers. Apparently he has not studied the Supreme Court's decision which specifically ruled in the possibility of release by appropriate authorities.

The decision may be legal, but it is difficult to comment on its morality. What does Jayalalithaa gain by this decision? She must have foreseen the central government's objection which would pit the Congress party once again against the DMK thereby making an alliance between these two unholy partners even more remote. If the Congress and DMK fight the ensuing polls together, AIADMK's scale of victory might have been diminished. Jayalalithaa's deft move preempts this. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Made in India": a cause for concern?

Margaret A Hamburg, Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration of USA recently visited India. Purpose of the visit was inadequately noted by the Indian media. An American version is given below. Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's Health Minister, will do well to tighten supervision of drug manufacturing practices rather than mistaking his mission to be solely to help out frauds and crooks evidenced by the recent exit of honest secretary from his ministry.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Manmohan Singh, the master scamster

The secretary in the ministry of Health and Family Welfare refused his minister's (Ghulam Nabi Azad's) suggestion to recommend a scam-tainted person for a particular post under the control of the ministry. Consequently, the secretary was shifted. The scam-tainted person was Sonia Gandhi's choice. (You may wonder why state the obvious?)

P.Chidambaram publicly humiliated one senior civil servant because the latter's English was not Queen's. The civil servant represented his grievance to the prime minister.

An IPS official not endorsed by the CVC was appointed as Additional Director, CBI.

These and many more such instances reflect the decay occurring in governance. In most such instances, the honourable prime minister could have undone the damage or at least expressed his anguish. He did neither. His heart bleeds over disruptions in the parliament. But he is not affected in the least by unending array of scams manifesting under his nose.

Many people wonder how such a sincere and honest person could put up with so many scandals. Such people should reexamine their assumption!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Satya Nadella's ascent

Despite India's vastness and heterogeneity, some events evoke a near-unanimous reaction from its citizens. Recent examples are Devyani Khobragade's tribulation in America and promotion of Satya Nadella as CEO of MicroSoft.

Most Indians were angry with Uncle Sam for what was regarded as unfair treatment of the diplomat. Even more Indians are exultant about 'meritocracy' in America which according to them enabled and justified choice of Nadella as CEO. There are many similarities between the two protagonists.

Both are middle-aged. She is 40 and he is 46. Fathers of both are former IAS officials. They are both professionals. She is a medical doctor and is in diplomatic service. He is an engineer working for MicroSoft. The glaring difference between them is the attitude of their parents. Uttam Khobragade exploits his connections to the fullest extent to his and his daughter's benefit. He is convinced that the country owes a lot to his family. His political ambitions are unconcealed.

B.N.Yugandhar, father of Satya Nadella, is self-effacing and withdrawn. He does not favour public celebration of his son's success. Satya's spouse Anupama's father, K.R.Venugopal also is a retired IAS official. Yugandhar and Venugopal joined civil service together and were members of Planning Commission. Both were secretary to prime minister, P.V.Narasimha Rao.

Another major difference is that one's name is 'Satya' and the other's acts are characterised by 'asatya'.

Anita Raghavan, the author of 'A Billionaire's Apprentice', a popular book on the rise and fall of Rajat Gupta, says the following about Devyani:

 “She was one of the highest consular officials, and what do consular officials do? They approve and give visas to people. If there really is a difference between what she declared and what she actually paid her maid she is denigrating her office by lying on a visa application. It’s cowardly to hide behind diplomatic immunity.”

Satya Nadella's educational journey was not the traditional IIT-IIM combination. He was perhaps not academically 'smart enough' or was too active in extra-curricular activities to get into these premier institutions. (This is not to deny that much less smart students have been able to get into IITs and IIMs. Similarly, some such students have shone much more in co-curricular activities.) Satya has proved that IIT-IIM connection is not a necessary condition for an Indian to make a mark in the US.

Is his 'coronation' a proof of American 'meritocracy'? Difficult to say. 'Merit' is a flexible term that is interpreted variously in different contexts. It is possible that the merit that Bill Gates sees in Satya are his loyalty (working for more than two decades in the same company is an atypical behaviour these days) and his unwillingness to gamble on novel strategies that may rock the boat. Bill Gates is heavily invested in the company. His spectacular wealth consists mainly of MicroSoft shares. Therefore he abhors any uncertainty for the company. Who can be a better hedge against uncertainty than the time-tested Nadella?

Bill Gates is legitimately protecting his interests. It is a bit of a stretch to claim that he has rewarded 'merit'. This, of course, is not a reflection on the new CEO's credentials. The fact that he has been considered as worthy of this enviable assignment is an incontrovertible testimony to his prodigious capacity. Satya's performance as CEO is bound to be closely watched by his supporters as well as his detractors.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Prime Minister's perfidy

It is unfortunate that Manmohan Singh has once again proved himself to be sinistrally recalcitrant. The Lokpal Selection Panel consists of five members: the prime minister, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, a Judge of the Supreme Court and a jurist. While selecting the jurist, the government had proposed a panel of names including K.Parasaran , Fali S.Nariman and P.P.Rao.

The prime minister insisted on appointing P.P.Rao as a jurist. The leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha disagreed and suggested appointment of either Parasaran or Fali Nariman. Selection of either would have ensured unanimity in choice of the fifth member. But Manmohan Singh would have none of it.

Singh's approach has been peevish and political. This is not what we expect from a leader. Apparently, right from the beginning, Singh and his leader (or the leader and therefore Singh) wanted only Rao though other names were suggested more as a formality. Other three members of the panel rubber-stamped Singh's choice.

If post-retirement, Manmohan Singh ruminates over his arbitrary actions as prime minister, he will be overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

IDBI Bank: Is it reliable as a DEPOSITORY PARTICIPANT?

Many customers who have their demat accounts (for shares) with IDBI Bank are in a state of shock. The December 2013 statements sent by the DP disclose lots of transactions which were not authorised by the customers.

When the matter was reported to IDBI Bank, the bank silently despatched another statement without calling it the corrected statement and without offering any apology or owning their mistake. It is now anybody's guess what went wrong where.

Those customers who have not verified their statements may do so early.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

India's quality problems

It is not an exaggeration to say that there is an all-round deterioration in quality maintenance in India. Product quality is at a discount. Services quality is equally bad.

What else can explain Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programmes) 's observation that Alto 800, i10, Nano and Figo have failed standard crash tests and pose serious risk to passengers if crash speed is above 64 km/hour? Ralph Nader would say American cars are unsure in any need and unsafe at any speed. Let him try cars produced in India also.

If driving is unsafe, flying is worse. US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which is keeping track of aviation standards in those countries whose airlines fly into the US has now determined that aviation safety standards in India are not in consonance with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) requirements. Therefore India has been relegated from category 1 to category 2. (There are only two categories.)

In the previous post, reference was made to quality standards in a pharmaceutical company. Tolerance threshold for Indians is unfortunately very high.

The three instances discussed here are individually ominous. Release of information about all these around the same time makes us even more scared.