Monday, December 28, 2015

Fits India to a T

Sometimes some statements made about other countries may apply to India also, probably even more appropriately. The Economist of Dec.19th observes as under with respect to Ukraine:

"1) "Efforts to tackle corruption are going less well. No prominent figures from previous regimes have been jailed.

2) No one has cleaned up the murky but lucrative system for claiming value-added tax rebates on exports. 'Some people are still claiming refunds for exporting air,' says Mr.Fiala."

The first para explains itself. The government of MMS was seething in corruption. Yet no minister has been brought to justice.

The export bills scam in Bank of Baroda, Delhi is perfectly defined by the second para.

The same issue of the magazine, in a different context, quotes Peter Drucker: "No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organised in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings." India as a nation does not seem to be organised in such a way. Can India survive?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

BJP in a fix

Kirti Azad has set the cat among the pigeons by questioning the goings-on in the Delhi and District Cricket Association which was under Arun Jaitley's presidentship for a long time. True to his name, the erstwhile cricketer considers himself a free bird to criticise the minister and thereby enhance his fame. It is strange that a party that promised corruption-muft rule had to suspend a parliamentarian from itself for raising issues of probity.

Arun Jaitley caused Ram Jethmalani's resignation from the Vajpayee government. Jethmalani's memory is too sharp to forget this and he is too this-worldly to forgive Jaitley. Karma bounces back sooner or later. Subramanian Swamy knows only too well that Jaitley is a buffer around Narendra Modi and that the latter is not convinced unless the former is convinced. Jaitley is an odd amalgam of arrogance and friendliness. He maintains a professional (he is an advocate of no mean repute) self-righteous and all-knowing exterior even as he deliberately and perhaps purposefully abstains from going after the corrupt. Swamy is not known to have any consideration for those aborting his moves.

Narendra Modi, perhaps egged on by Jaitley, has contemptuously sidelined the Margdarshak Mandal seniors like L.K.Advani. Advani continues to be bitter that Modi usurped primeministership which the former thought was his historically. It may be obvious to the bystander that the BJP under Advani could not have romped home in the 2014 elections. It is too difficult for the passionately attached (to power) to see the obvious. So leaders like Advani seize every opportunity to embarrass Modi and his present cronies.

K.P.S.Gill has accused Jaitley of misuse of power as DDCA President to further his daughter's legal-professional interest. In these circumstances, it will be befitting if Jaitley resigns his ministership and upholds probity in public life. His stature will get enhanced if an impartial enquiry gives him a clean chit. Any enquiry while he continues to be a minister may not appear to be fair. Though there are no allegations that Jaitley misused power for gathering pelf for self, his inability to ensure probity in DDCA is a grave enough charge that requires Jaitley to establish exculpatory evidence. Exercise of self-denial of ministership till his innocence is firmly established is expected of him.

Modi may find it difficult to find a suitable successor to Jaitley as Finance Minister though some may argue that Jaitley was not a good choice after all as FM. Such existential compulsions should not deter Modi from proving that he is not one to tolerate any deviation from the straight and lonely path. Will Jaitley and Modi rise to the occasion?

It is true that Sonia Gandhi continues as Congress President despite the bunch of inculpatory evidences against her in the National Herald case. But is she worthy of emulation ?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Impeachment or intolerance?

Justice Pardiwala, a judge of the Gujarat High Court, says in one of his judgments,

“If I am asked by anyone to name two things which have destroyed this country or rather have not allowed the country to progress in the right direction, then the same is, (i) Reservation and (ii) Corruption. It is very shameful for any citizen of this country to ask for reservation after 65 years of Independence. When our Constitution was framed, it was understood that reservation would remain for a period of 10 years, but unfortunately, it has continued even after 65 years of Independence.” 

This has stoked a huge controversy in the Rajya Sabha with many elders seeking impeachment of the judge. The judge subsequently withdrew this para from his judgment saying that this para was not essential for the decision in the judgment. The judge has obviously acted under coercion. Who would like to be impeached?

This behaviour of parliamentarians reeks of intolerance. Under the garb of concern for the underprivileged, our political leaders have only been feathering their own nests.

The judge had also pointed out “countrymen should rise and fight against corruption at all levels, rather than shedding blood and indulging in violence for reservation. Reservation has only played the role of an amoeboid monster sowing seeds of discord amongst the people.”

Has the judge exceeded his remit by uttering the truth?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Why Rahul Gandhi was a dropout from college

The mystery has now been clarified. Rumours that the college authorities had asked Rahul Gandhi to drop out of college in view of his poor performance have now been trashed.

Rahulji has clarified that the RSS prevented him from completing his studies. "That is the way the BJP government is functioning. The mischief came from PMO. 100% I have no doubt. We will not accept this. I will continue to question."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Do Indians lack perceptiveness?

How perceptive are Indians? Not very. Ipsos MORI’s latest version of the Perils of Perception survey (2015)  highlights how wrong the public across 33 countries are about some key issues and features of the population in their country. The gap between perception and reality shown as 'Index of Ignorance' paints India in poor light. Among the countries surveyed, India exhibits the second largest 'perception - reality gap'. 

 The Ipsos 'Index of Ignorance' table
 1Mexico  Least accurate
 2 India
 3 Brazil
 4 Peru
 5 New Zealand
 6 Colombia
 7 Belgium
 8 South Africa
 9 Argentina
 10 Italy
 11 Russia
 12 Chile
 13 Great Britain
 14 Israel
 15 Australia
 16 Japan
 17 Canada
 18 Germany
 19 Netherlands
 20 Spain
 21 Norway
 22 France
 23 Sweden
 24 United States
 25 China
 26 Poland
 27 Ireland
 28 South Korea Most accurate 

Indians think 41% of us are obese / overweight whereas the reality is 30%
We think 21% of us are immigrants though only 0.4% is.
We opine that 33% of us are atheist / agnostic / non-religious, but the actual figure is as low as 0.1%
Average age of Indians is 27 whereas we think it is 49.
The most surprising finding is that we assume 60% of homes are connected to the net whereas in reality it is only 19%

What does all this mean? Is it an indication that we are very creative?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Relief for the unhappy

A report in The Telegraph dt.12 Dec. comes as a huge relief for the perennially perturbed. Worry does not kill or cause ill-health. It is ill-health that causes worry. So if you are usually grumpy, figure out if there is any underlying physiological or psychological cause. In case there is, go all out to cure the cause. If no such problem has been diagnosed, continue to be happy by being unhappy!

Being unhappy won't kill you, study finds

A study of one million women says poor health makes people unhappy - not the other way round

By Health Editor

Being unhappy or stressed does not increase the risk of ill-health and happy souls are no more likely to live longer, a major study has found.
The research on one million women, published in the Lancet, said the widespread belief that stress causes ill-health came from studies that had confused cause and effect.
The new study found that those in poor health were more likely to be unhappy – but that this was because of the illness they were suffering.
The 10 year project found no evidence that stress or unhappiness in themselves had any impact on mortality.
Study lead author Dr Bette Liu, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: "Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill.
"We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women."
The research, published in The Lancet, tracked the women over three years and then asked to rate their happiness.
Five out of six of the women surveyed said they were generally happy.
The women who were least happy were those who smoked, didn't do enough exercise and didn't live with a partner.
The strongest associations, however, were that the women who were already in poor health tended to say that they were unhappy, stressed, not in control, and not relaxed. This was true for overall mortality, for cancer mortality, and for heart disease mortality.
Researchers said other studies had that unhappiness decreased life-expectancy, when in fact it did not.
"It's good news for grumpy people because they don't have to add to their misery the fact that they might be killing themselves"
Professor Sir Richard Peto, Oxford University
However behaviours linked to unhappiness –such as smoking, bingeing on unhealthy foods, and lack of exercise – still increase the risk of an early death.
Co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, of Oxford University, said: "It's good news for grumpy people because they don't have to add to their misery the fact that they might be killing themselves.
"If stress makes you do something that's destructive then that leads to problems. Of itself it's not damaging.”
The main analyses included 700 000 women, with an average age of 59 years, who were tracked during a decade, during which time 30 000 died.
After allowing for any differences already present in health and lifestyle, the overall death rate among those who were unhappy was the same as the death rate among those who were generally happy.
The study is so large that it rules out unhappiness being a direct cause of any material increase in overall mortality, in women, researchers said.
He said the study was important because people often blamed themselves for illness, thinking that a positive attitude could have saved them
"There are a lot of urban myths,” he said. “People need to know that getting ill is not your fault, but illness can make you unhappy.”
Previous studies which linked happiness and low stress to lower mortality had not allowed properly for the strong effect of ill health on unhappiness and on stress, researcher said.
Prof Peto said: "Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women Study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rate."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Driverless car and liquorless bar

The Bombay High Court has not quashed the allegation that a person was killed and five were wounded. (I don't know why this allegation was not trashed by the Honourable Court.) What reinforces my faith in our judiciary is the legal finding that Salman Khan was possibly not drunk though he was returning from a bar and that the alleged vehicle which allegedly claimed a victim's life and wounded some was possibly driverless. It matters little that the actor was probably intoxicated and it matters even less that a person was killed because he was after all a poor person.

We normally hear about a victimless crime. This is possibly a criminalless crime. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Sonia Gandhi's golden opportunity

There is a school of thought that Sonia Gandhi denied herself the opportunity of becoming India's prime minister. In other words, she is supposed to have sacrificed what was within her reach. There are also people who say that she could not have become the prime minister and anyway MMS was only her proxy. That is, she gained authority without responsibility.

The Delhi High Court order in the National Herald case has given an opportunity to Sonia Gandhi to prove which view is correct. If she goes through the processes of law and gets investigated without demur, people will accept her bonafides. On the other hand, if she is bent on creating a ruckus, stalling the parliament and continuing her non-cooperation with the government, the contrary signal will be sent.

Till now, her reaction has been peevish. She says she has nothing to fear because "she is Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law." She does not say that she has nothing to fear because she has committed no wrong.

National Herald case

Delhi High Court has refused to cancel the summons issued by the Trial Court to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others to appear before the Trial Court. The petition in the trial court filed by Subramanian Swamy alleges that the Gandhis have unlawfully enriched themselves by acquiring Associated Journals Ltd. by dubious means. Evidence seems to support Swamy's contention. Therefore Justice Sunil Gaur of the Delhi High Court rejected the petition of Gandhis.

Text of the order is available here:

It is a pity that the Gandhis have such a stranglehold over Congress that the party members respect them more than the party. Some extracts from the order:

"It has to be kept in mind that AJL was a Public Limited Company, which had immovable assets having
value of crores of rupees. It is matter of record that Congress Party had
assigned the huge debt of `90 crores to a Section 25 Company i.e. Young Indian on receiving a paltry amount of `50 lacs only. For this, the Congress Party owes an explanation to its supporters, donors, etc.."

"Considering the fact that AJL has sizeable assets of `2000 crores, it
needs to be explained by petitioners as to what was the need to assign the
huge debt of `90 crores when this debt could have been easily liquidated
by AJL from its sizeable assets. Even writing off such a huge debt by the
Congress Party can legitimately attract allegations of cheating, fraud, etc..
Petitioners had gone step further in conspiring to get this huge debt
assigned to a Special Purpose Vehicle i.e. Y.I. and thereafter, to hijack
AJL via Y.I.. Such grave allegations levelled against petitioners cannot
be brushed aside lightly by relying upon judicial precedents cited, to
conclude that the ingredients of the criminal offences alleged are lacking.
To say the least, to do so would be preposterous. Such a prima facie view
is being taken in view of the fact that the assignment of the huge debt by
Congress Party to Y.I. was for a paltry sum of `50 lacs. This is certainly
questionable and justifiably attracts the allegations of cheating,
misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, etc.. Such a view is being
taken as it needs to be explained before the trial court as to how the net
worth of AJL can be negative when it has assets worth crores of rupees. It
also crops up in the mind of a prudent person as to why interest free loan
was assigned and why it was not written off. In any case, writing off
such a huge debt by a legendry Political Party is indeed questionable.
Instead of adopting such a questionable course, what was done by the
Congress Party is more questionable. It also needs to be answered as to
why the genuine shareholders were marginalized in the Extraordinary
General Meeting, which was attended by just seven shareholders. Such a
questionable conduct of petitioners certainly invites allegations of
committing the offences for which petitioners have been summoned. Is it
not criminal misappropriation of Congress Party’s funds? This aspect
needs to be addressed after respondent-complainant is cross-examined at
the pre-charge stage. It also needs to be examined at pre-charge stage as
to whether lacs of citizens who had donated to the Congress Party felt
cheated by assignment of such a huge debt to Y.I. who was managed by
none others than petitioners, who were Office Bearers of Congress Party
as well as Directors of Y.I.. Not only this, the main persons, who were
instrumental in allegedly siphoning off political funds were the recipients
of the assignment of the huge debt by the Congress Party and they were
the same persons, who had clandestinely acquired the control of AJL. All
this smacks of criminality. What species of criminal offence is made out
is not required to be seen at this initial stage."

 "Upon reading the complaint as a whole,
it emerges that the transactions of the Congress Party with AJL via Y.I.
are not a mere commercial transactions as these transactions legitimately
attract the allegations of cheating, fraud, breach of trust,
misappropriation, etc. "

"This Court is of the considered view that the gravity of the
allegations levelled against petitioners has a fraudulent flavour involving
a national Political Party and so, serious imputations smacking of
criminality levelled against petitioners need to be properly looked into.
39. After having considered the entire case in its proper perspective,
this Court finds no hesitation to put it on record that the modus operandi
adopted by petitioners in taking control of AJL via Special Purpose
Vehicle i.e. Y.I., particularly, when the main persons in Congress Party,
AJL and Y.I. are the same, evidences a criminal intent. Whether it is
cheating, criminal misappropriation or criminal breach of trust is not
required to be spelt out at this nascent stage. In any case, by no stretch of
imagination, it can be said that no case for summoning petitioners as
accused in the complaint in question is made out. Questionable conduct
of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find
out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this
initial stage. Such a view is being formed on a bird’s eye view of the
whole case and the observations in the impugned order of there being a
prima facie case have to be read in the context of there being sufficient
grounds for summoning petitioners."

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Chennai city collapses

 Denied electricity, newspapers, milk and net connectivity for three days, I have learnt that we can live without them. One unintended benefit was that I could sleep more peacefully probably because TV and computer were not allowed to distract me from diurnal rhythms.

The tragedy that struck Chennai was immense. Reports are that the city faced such a mess last only in 1906. Torrential rains in 1906 and now are liberally compared. One wonders how such elaborate notes were maintained in 1906.

Collapse of the ICU system in MIOT Hospital was shocking. It is similar to the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure which was also caused and aggravated by sudden deluge of water in the generator location. There should always be a back-up (called as redundancy in risk management) for such crucial functions.

Government authorities obviously were not able to cope with the challenge. It was funny to hear the Chief Secretary claim that "We take pride in managing the unprecedented situation successfully under the able guidance of the Honourable Chief Minister". Perhaps he did not mean what he said.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Flipkart CEO's flawed logic

Following news is interesting:

"Flipkart CEO and co-founder Sachin Bansal extended his support to Snapdeal, saying "brands don't buy into brand ambassadors personal opinions".
"This is a flawed logic. Brands don't buy into brand ambassadors personal opinions. @snapdeal shouldn't face this," he tweeted."
Aamir Khan is the brand ambassador under reference. If brands don't buy into personal opinions of brand ambassadors, why should the gullible consumers trust the personal opinion of such ambassadors that the product is worth buying? Such asymmetric logic should not fool people. If the ambassadors excel in whatever they do, the brand does benefit. If the ambassador mouths something idiotic, how can the brand be unaffected? I think that Sachin Bansal wants the association between Snapdeal and Aamir Khan to continue so that Snapdeal, a competitor, would suffer.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A noble but impractical idea

No one will question the desirability of democracy. Yet the fact remains that there are so many aspects of life which are eminently desirable, but not possible.

True democracy should satisfy two conditions: 1) Will of the people should prevail and 2) People should benefit from the system.

When the Election Commission was not robustly independent, the first condition was not satisfied because the ruling dispensation was at liberty to tinker with the ballot. Now there is unanimity that elections are conducted freely and fairly and therefore the first condition is met. If any citizen is too lazy to exercise the vote, we cannot blame the political system. So even if only X % of voters exercise their franchise, we need to accept that the final result reflects the popular will. So much, so good.

The political system will benefit the people if and only if the elected representatives are honest and the voters are really alert. Unfortunately, neither of these requirements is met in our country. Corruption is rampant among the elected. Ability of the ministers to understand their basic Constitutional obligations is suspect. A particular minister in Bihar is unable to understand a term in his mother-tongue while taking the oath of office. We cannot expect poorly educated and grossly dishonest ministers to sustain fair democracy. This does not mean education is a requirement. But, ignorance in association with deceitfulness is toxic to democracy. Politicians in India know that offer of freebies at the time of elections is an antidote to citizens' grievances.

Voters are not alert. At best, they vote for the least dishonest elements. They are reconciled that there isn't much variety of candidates to choose from. Even those who are relatively honest initially are lured by the attractions of office to opt for the easier way.

Added on Nov.22:
Unless the ruling and opposition political parties have national interests in their mind, democracy cannot succeed. Whether in power or in opposition, a political party should have the same consistent stand on any issue. Absent this, only chaos will prevail. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Backops back in the news

Subramanian Swamy has once again flagged the issue of credibility of the Gandhi-Nehru family. In several documents relating to a U.K.private firm, Rahul Gandhi who held 65% share in the company was shown as a British citizen though its Memorandum of Association named him as an Indian. Was it a mistake or did Rahul Gandhi become a British citizen for some time or was it a ruse to achieve something or get over some difficulty? Only Rahul Gandhi can clarify. But he has every right not to incriminate himself!

Following news appeared in 2012:

Janata Party President Dr. Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Rahul Gandhi owned a private firm Back-Ops Private Limited, on government property and indulged in fraudulent means to keep it afloat. Dr. Swamy said that the company had its office registered in a government bungalow in New Delhi, with the registration being in the names of Rahul’s sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra. There are also allegations of Rahul having given out conflicting turnover statements regarding the company’s assets declaration form before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This, said Dr Swamy, makes the company’s credibility dubious, with Rahul Gandhi holding 82% of the company’s shares. The company was closed down in a tearing hurry when Dr. Swamy raised the issue in Parliament in 2011.
Dr. Swamy said that Rahul Gandhi’s company received money from foreign sources without permission from the Reserve Bank of India. “The company itself had stated in 2005 that it received Rs 41 lakhs as foreign exchange,” he said in a written statement. ”Number one, he has earned foreign exchange, all the money that he has earned is through foreign exchange. No one is sure whether it is 41,00,000 rupees ($76,271.97) or 41,000 ($762.72) rupees. Secondly, they have shown their registered office as a government lodge. That is illegal,” said the Janata Party President, calling for a probe into the matter. He said he has already written a letter to the Minister of Corporate Affairs Veerappa Moily.
According to Dr Swamy, the setting up of a private firm in any government property is illegal. Also Rahul Gandhi had never made a mention of the company when he declared his assets before the general elections of 2004 and 2009. The company never filed for accounts in 2003 and 2004 either, which makes it a violation of the Companies Act.  ”The company was registered in 2002, but its accounts were filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) only in 2007,” he said.
“He has misused the privileges of a government residence. Secondly, he did not file the Registration Of Companies accounts. In 2011, they filed everything and also filed an application to close down the company, while making Priyanka the additional director. There are multiple frauds and we demand a probe into this. I am going to write a letter to Moily that this company is fraud. They should resign from Parliament as they have lied to it,” he said.
Swamy also added that  Rahul Gandhi managed the company’s accounts from Pictet Bank of Switzerland. However, more information on the nature of accounts could not be retrieved owing to the bank’s privacy policies. Sources have revealed that Backops Services Pvt. Ltd was registered on 22 May, 2002 for providing “back office and advisory support services to international and domestic clients”. A US citizen Ulrik R McKnight was appointed as Director. “Here again a violation of rules took place, with the Registrar of Companies not being informed about the appointment of a foreigner from 2005 onwards,” the statement from Dr. Swamy mentioned.

BJP'S political compromise with the Gandhi family will ensure that the Backops issue will soon be forgotten. The prevailing policy is, "Your turn of looting the country is over. Now it is our turn. Mavericks like Ram Jethmalani and Subramanian Swamy will be allowed their say. But we will have our way. Who can deny us, the dog, our day? Let us not lose our venal focus by trying to prove each other's guilt." In any other country the allegations like in Backops will be investigated and truth arrived at.ill soon be forgotten. Incidents like Backops which will be investig

Monday, November 16, 2015

Political compromises

Following news report from The Hindu on November 17 exposes the gap between the talk and the walk of the NDA government.

"The government on Tuesday gave a clean chit to former Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in a case connected to ‘benami’ property transactions involving his relatives.
Appearing in the Supreme Court, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said enquiries against former CJI sets a dangerous precedent.
The court however remained skeptical of the government’s stand. A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra said if “persons earning Rs. 100 buy properties worth Rs. 10 lakh, the source of the money should be investigated.”
Mr. Rohatgi said the brother and son in law of the former CJI are lawyers. Besides, the Income Tax investigation has turned up with nothing, he added. “We cannot do anymore,” the AG submitted.
Mr. Rohatgi said the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause was for a Presidential Reference to oust Justice (retired) Balakrishnan as NJAC chief and this has become infructuous as he has already stepped down from the post. “Nothing survives in the petition,” AG said.
"If the relatives can show they have the source..." Justice Misra persisted. But the AG said he would provide the bench with the status report of the IT probe in the case. Noting that there cannot be a further enquiry, the AG referred to how similar allegations were made in the past against another former CJI who recently passed away.
The government was granted an adjournment by the court. The case has been listed for further hearing on January 19."
NDA was voted to power with people trusting its high-decibel assurances to fight corruption and misuse of power. But, NDA in power has all along obliged the venal elements.
Justice Balakrishnan's shenanigans are widely known. But the government gives a clean chit to him because institutions or individuals, one criminal wants to help another. 
Ram Jethmalani gave evidence after evidence of black money but the government is conveniently tight-lipped. Subramanian Swamy keeps bringing out the unlawful manoeuvres of Congress leaders in many incidents including the National Herald case and now the citizenship duplicity of Rahul Gandhi. The government is determined not to upset the apple-cart.
Do we call this political compromise a pragmatic policy or subversion of national interest?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror in Paris and triskaidekaphobia

The mindless mayhem that occurred in Paris, France on November 13 may strengthen the hold of triskaidekaphobia on the superstitious.

Jesus was betrayed by Judas who was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Therefore, if the 13th day of a month happens to be a Friday, bad omen is attributed.

Superstition or not, the terrorist spasm set off by ISIS deserves total condemnation by all. It is high time that all countries united to put an end to terror. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could be the ignoble exceptions. Obama and Putin should fight this deadly menace together, forgetting their differences and selfish ends.

Countries like China and India which are at the receiving end of terror should be more vigilant and should not mind being less politically correct to target the obvious terrorists even if they are branded Islamophobic.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is diversity all about?

An AP report says, "In remarks Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Scalia noted that four of the high court's members are from New York City, one is from New Jersey and two are from California.
They are all either Catholic or Jewish. And all nine studied law at Harvard or Yale universities. Scalia questioned whether the court, therefore, expresses "the deeply felt principles of the country.""
There are nine judges in the US Supreme Court. Three are women. One is a black. There is an Hispanic too.Eight are physically sturdy and one (Ms.Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is puny enough not even to occupy a normal chair fully but intellectually robust!
By Justice Scalia's standard, the Indian Supreme Court is quite diverse. Its judges have studied in different law colleges. There are honest and dishonest members on the Bench. There are thinkers and non-thinkers too! But out of 28 judges, only one is a lady. The youngest judge is 58 years old. One (Anil R Dave) is a Chartered Accountant too! They have studied in different universities. Some are gold medallists (of course, many are not).

TheGuardian on Narendra Modi: Dr.Jekyll or Mr.Hyde?

Pankaj Mishra in a widely quoted article dated November 9 in TheGuardian refers to Narendra Modi as

" the divisive manipulator who charmed the world".  He also condemns him as an “…opportune manipulator of mass disaffection with uneven and unstable growth, who distracts a fearful and atomised citizenry with the demonisation of minorities, scapegoating of ostensibly liberal, cosmopolitan and ‘rootless’ people, and promises of ‘development’, while facilitating crony capitalism.”

He follows it up with a more balanced assessment. "More importantly, Modi was a symptom, easily identified through his many European and Asian predecessors, of capitalism’s periodic and inevitable dysfunction: he was plainly the opportune manipulator of mass disaffection with uneven and unstable growth, who distracts a fearful and atomised citizenry with the demonisation of minorities, scapegoating of ostensibly liberal, cosmopolitan and “rootless” people, and promises of “development”, while facilitating crony capitalism. To aspiring but thwarted young Indians Modi presented himself as a social revolutionary, the son of a humble tea-seller challenging entrenched dynasties, as well as an economic moderniser. He promised to overturn an old social and political order that they saw, correctly, as dominated by a venal and unresponsive ruling class. His self-packaging as a pious and virtuous man of the people seemed especially persuasive as corruption scandals tainted the media as well as politicians and businessmen in the years leading up to 2014."

The seemingly vitriolic article surprisingly presented in a reliable newspaper is available in the following link:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Raghuram G.Rajan

Dr.Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, has been elected as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). This is yet another indication of the respect monetary authorities all over the world have for Dr.Rajan. Winner of many international awards for his outstanding contribution to Financial Economics, he is the author of the cautionary treatise, “Fault Lines – How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy”.

His exceptional prediction of the 2008 global economic crisis (called the Great Recession) was a true feather in his cap though at that time many leading economists dubbed his views obscurantist. Lawrence Summers, a note-worthy economist cum administrator criticized  "the basic, slightly lead-eyed premise of [Mr. Rajan's] paper to be misguided." Others called him  an “antimarket Luddite, wistful for old days of regulation.”  Subsequent events proved Dr.Rajan’s clairvoyance and his detractors looked foolish.

Of late, he has been pleading for better coordination among central banks to ensure that we don’t easily slip into some unintended economic crisis. In particular, he is advocating early withdrawal from unconventional policy measures like quantitative easing. He is not against such measures per se, but he cautions that continuation of these for a longer time than necessary is fraught with grave risk to the financial system. No economist would dare to question him now.

This is the first time that an Indian is elected as either Chairman or Vice-Chairman of BIS. This is an occasion for us to get to know some details about BIS.

Chairman of the Board is Dr.Jens Weidmann who is also the President of the Deutsche Bundesbank. Interestingly, Weidmann is only 47 years old and younger than Rajan who is 52. The Board consists of 21 Directors whereas 60 central banks are members of BIS. BIS was established in the year 1930 at Basel, Switzerland under the Hague Agreement. The signatories to this Agreement were the central banks of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and a financial institution representing the United States.

There was a threat to the existence of BIS in the year 1944. The United Nations Conference in Bretton Woods which agreed to the creation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank also adopted a resolution calling for the liquidation of the BIS ! Fortunately, the resolution was put aside in 1948.

Earlier, during the World War II, BIS  temporarily moved from Basel to Chateau-d’Oex following the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and France.

What does BIS do?
BIS undertakes research and analysis of policy issues for central banks and renders consultancy services to central banks in management of foreign exchange and gold reserves.

It played a dominant role in formulation of Basel documents II and III which seek to regulate the risk appetite of commercial banks through capital requirements, liquidity and leverage guidelines.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Lessons from Bihar

Like any election result, the Bihar outcome also is not monochromatic in what it conveys. Nitish Kumar conducted himself decently as a chief minister without presiding over any loot. This was appreciated atleast by some people. Laloo Prasad had been out in the lurch long enough to make some people yearn for his comeback. His rustic humour appealed to some others. Though there was no inherent attraction between the supporters of Nitish and Laloo, there was no repulsion either as BJP had wished for. BJP did not field the few local leaders it has, with due importance. Modi and Amit Shah allowed themselves to be consumed by their arrogance and self-delusion, the inevitable by-product of power.

Exit-pollsters, post poll pollsters and even vote counting lead-readers exhibited their immense capacity to be ignorant of what was happening. "Indianomix: Making sense of modern India" authors Vivek Dehejia (Economics Professor in Canada) and Rupa Subramanya (Economic journalist) now have more grist to their mill and we can look forward to an expanded edition of their entertaining and educative book.

Where do we go from here? If Modi realises that Indians' proverbial patience is not that long-lasting, action is more important than words and there is no place for hate-speeches, people of Bihar will feel satisfied.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Meat eaters, beware!

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is a highly respected institution for its research on carcinogens. It is a subsidiary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is headquartered in Lyon, France. It employs about 300 scientists from more than 50 countries. IARC has 25 countries including India as its members.

 IARC’s Director, Dr.Christopher P.Wild is an eminent cancer epidemiologist who pioneered the concept of “exposome”. Exposome encapsulates the totality of human environmental (that is, non-genetic) exposures from conception onwards. It complements the Genome for an integrated understanding of various diseases.
IARC has classified carcinogens (substances causing cancer) into five groups. The following table represents the classification:

Group identification
Number of substances identified
Carcinogenic to humans
Probably carcinogenic to humans
Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
Probably not carcinogenic to humans

For example, Ethanol in alcoholic beverages is classified under group 1, Vinyl bromide and the poisonous pesticide DDT under 2A, Naphthalene under 2B, Ampicillin and Saccharin under 3. Caprolactam is the only substance placed under group 4.

On 26 October, IARC created a sensation by releasing their findings on carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat. The press release, inter alia, noted:

Red meat
After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.

 This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

 Processed meat

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

Red meat refers to all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.

 Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.

 Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.

This definitive identification of causal relationship between meat and cancer has naturally scared the meat industry out of its wits. (Association of meat consumption with obesity and cardiovascular ailments has been recognized for long.) The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has furiously reacted saying that “the report defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer. Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods.” But, IARC has stood its ground.

Processed meat contains sodium nitrate which on entering the human body gets converted into nitrosamine. Nitrosamine is a known carcinogenic. Some bacteria hosted in the human alimentary canal modify some components of even unprocessed red meat into nitrosamine.

It may be noted that like processed meat, tobacco smoking and asbestos are also classified as Group 1 carcinogen. This does not, however, mean that all these pose the same quantum of cancer risk. IARC has clarified that its classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.

IARC has cautioned that processed meat may cause stomach cancer also though the evidence for this is not deemed conclusive as yet.

IARC is a research organization whose Mission Statement declares that its objective  is to promote international collaboration in cancer research. The Agency is inter-disciplinary, bringing together skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be adopted and the burden of disease and associated suffering reduced.  IARC does not, however, issue any do’s and don’ts regarding consumption of food items.

Governments are expected to educate the public regarding the risk and benefits in consuming different food items. One hopes that our government will study IARC’s recent findings and make use of them while formulating its policies and advisories. Of course, there is no need to panic. It is not that every meat-eater contracts cancer. But it is better to be well-informed about the risks.