Friday, April 29, 2016

Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation

Jairam Ramesh has written a couple of revealing articles in The Hindu on GSPC, an undertaking of the Government of Gujarat. He has pointed out that Narendra Modi as the state's Chief Minister had repeatedly claimed that the company had identified huge oil reserves in Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin, a claim that  has not materialised so far. The author claims, perhaps not incredibly, that Modi's cronies have gained inappropriately from the contracts they procured from GSPC. The company's bank borrowings amount to nearly Rs.20,000 crore and its earnings are not enough even to make interest payment on the loans. (Company's annual reports for the past five years are not on the net and therefore Ramesh's assertions could not be verified. But he has quoted from CAG's findings and therefore is reliable.)

The charges are serious and need response from the Gujarat government or the company. Of course the company has been existing from 1979. This is an integrated petroleum company with many subsidiaries and associates. Subsidiaries include Gujarat State Petronet Ltd., GSPC Gas Company Ltd., GSPC Pipavav Power Co. Ltd., etc.

GSPC is in the process of expanding its transmission and distribution activity and curtailing exploration and production activity. Hits and misses punctuate the life of any oil exploration company. But sustained claims in the absence of any luck for a long time are indicative of either gullibility or downright chicanery. Modi can answer, but would he?

Jairam Ramesh has sarcastically pointed out that a current Deputy Governor of RBI (though not identified, it is Urjit Patel, a distinguished theorist) was a Director in the Board of GSPC from 2006 to 2013. Such a long association with the company obligates a response from him too. Are the bank loans for Rs.20,000  crore already classified as NPA? If not, what is the justification? On an issue as serious as this, reticence would only prove that something is seriously amiss.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Innocent criminals

One criminal may have abetted in the murder of his spouse. But he is such a hardened criminal that his suave demeanour would convince the gullible that his duplicitous words and acts are paragons of integrity.

Another may have betrayed nation's interest by showcasing a terrorist as an innocent lady. But his body language and unusual lapses in accent are a giveaway.

The third may have amassed wealth as if this entire country owes an unsatisfiable debt to this daughter-in-law of a bold mother-in-law. It may be clear as daylight that she is prodigiously corrupt aided by the synergy of Italian and Indian qualities. She would however argue, "Where is the proof that I am corrupt? I have nothing to fear because I am the daughter-in-law of my mother-in-law!"

Syed Firdaus Ashraf argues in that Sonia Gandhi would never be arrested since Modi knows that the Congress party if led by anyone else would become more formidable. It suits the BJP to keep the charges alive and embers burning.

BJP is doing a signal disservice to the nation and letting down the Indian voters by not chargesheeting these three criminals.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chidambaram right and wrong

The former Home Minister who was also the Finance Minister for some time has criticised the Modi government for its over-sensitivity to Raghuram Rajan's logical observation about the need to avoid complacency. Chidambaram is right in accusing the government of seeing ghosts where there are none.

His attempts to justify his volte-face in the Ishrat Jahan case are of course pathetic. His indefensible role in the jihad against Modi and unlawful amassing of wealth by his son will come home to roost.

A new controversy has now arisen where Chidambaram as a lawyer can air his views. The public spat between the CJI and the PM is a sad spectacle. Both the government and the judiciary are living in glass houses. The question is not who is more duty-conscious. The question is who is more indolent. Modi himself may be working tirelessly. But this cannot be said of the rest of the government. Chief Justice Thakur may be burning midnight oil daily. Other judges are not known for their indefatigable labour.

Modi and Thakur ought to realise that they are not speaking for themselves. They represent and lead institutions. Claims that government is more efficient than judiciary or vice versa will only attract sarcastic comments. The government that could not bear Raghuram Rajan's balanced observation cannot be expected not to respond to CJI's livid and lachrymose comments. Fun has only begun.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Article 356 and Justice Joseph

Under Article 356 of our Constitution, "If the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution", the President's rule will be the consequence. President's satisfaction is subject to judicial analysis and not subject to judicial caricaturing.

Division Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court headed by CJ K.M.Joseph transcended legal dignity while pronouncing that the President is not infallible, in the process of deciding the legality of President's rule. The High Court could have come to the same conclusion without passing comment on fallibility of the First citizen. Psychologists say that needless comments emanate from a bias or prejudice.

Newspapers have observed that CJ KMJ is a person of simple habits and is the son of K.K.Mathew, a former judge of the Supreme Court. While these are news-worthy, they are not germane to analysis of the present order of the court.

The Supreme Court was forced to stay the High Court's order quashing the imposition of President's rule for the simple reason that the High Court had not yet issued the written judgment. When the High Court was requested to stay its orders, the Chief Justice nonchalantly replied, "I will not stay my order. Go to Supreme Court." He must have known that an unwritten order would only attract stay from the apex court. Bias blinds a person.

Justice Joseph is only 58 years old. His record is apparently clean enough to merit elevation to the Supreme Court. He should not allow prejudices to abort his elevation. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Judicial highhandedness

The High Court of Uttarakhand did not cover itself with glory when it thundered,  " the president of India is not infallible and he, too, can go wrong. Therefore, the President's decision is open to judicial scrutiny.

"Absolute power can spoil anybody's mind. Even the president can go wrong and in such cases his decisions can be subjected to scrutiny. Indian courts have the power to scrutinize all orders."

This factual statement could have been conveyed better by avoiding the belligerent tone.

The court ought to have remembered that it too is not infallible. The court felt offended that there was an apprehension that the central government might revoke the president's rule before the court's decision was announced. The court is not supposed to work on the basis of apprehensions. Even if the central government ventured to revoke the Article 356 proclamation in a hurry, the government's action would continue to be justiciable. Courts exist to pronounce its views on legality or otherwise of actions. It is not in their remit to preempt apprehended actions even when their (actions') legality is arguable.

To use the current fashionable word, the court has only exposed its own 'intolerance' towards a political act. The majestic court has only demeaned itself by being 'pained' over a political controversy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chidambaram ,Raghuram Rajan and Nirmala Sitharaman

It is now known that P.Chidambaram as Home Minister had approved both affidavits relating to Ishrat Jahan filed with the court. His claim that the first draft which was reversed in the second was not approved by him is proved as false and misleading.

Raghuram Rajan has said that we cannot remain complacent about our economic growth and in the process referred to the proverb linking the blind and the one-eyed. He has since claimed that his words were taken out of contest.

Nirmala Sitharaman has accused Chidambaram of betraying nation's interest and has opined that Rajan could have chosen better words.

The revelation about Chidambaram is far more significant than the quibble over Rajan's words. Yet, The Hindu has given front-page coverage to Sitharaman's views about Rajan's words and has practically ignored Chidambaram's duplicity. A none-too-prominent inner page report on the controversy involving the former Home Minister was the only recognition by the newspaper. Scoops by rival media should also be prominently reported if they relate to national interests.

Monday, April 18, 2016


T.M.Krishna is generally considered as a musician with a difference. Therefore, he has a select group of fans which admires not only his music but more so his avowed principles.

He has many times spoken against the habit of charging the sabhas an exorbitant amount for music performances. His leftist streak won many plaudits.

It is therefore very surprising that he was given Rs. one lakh in cash for a music performance recently in Bangalore. It came to light only because he lost the amount and he has lodged a police complaint.

Receiving such an amount in cash is generally inappropriate. Cash receipts escape the notice of tax authorities. This stray incident also raises the unavoidable follow-up question of how many such receipts were effected.

T.M.Krishna will do well to clarify the attendant questions in order to retain the respect and regard of his fans. If he does not want to be a musician with a difference, he may choose not to be transparent but would in the process lose the right to sermonise to others.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

TCS: A new challenge

Tata Consultancy Services has been cruising comfortably for quite sometime. Till a few quarters ago, its financial performance was rated very high by both analysts and investors. It is an admirable cash cow for the Tata group.

When Vishal Sikka took over as CEO of Infosys in June 2014, TCS started feeling competitive pressure. Tata group is known for its ethical standards despite a few well-documented departures from the straight and narrow path like what happened in the case of Tata Finance a few years ago.

Now a grand jury at Wisconsin has found TCS guilty of unlawfully benefitting from using a healthcare services software from Epic Systems Corporation in a way not authorised by the contract between the two firms. TCS has denied that its own hospital services software, Med Mantra, has in any way benefitted from Epic's product.

Nuanced details aside, TCS has received adverse publicity. Is the House of Tatas immune to industry's tendency to cut corners, ethical and financial, when circumstances turn adverse? If the answer is 'no', the reputation loss likely to be suffered by TCS because of 'Epic' problem will be immense. TCS of course will appeal against the jury verdict. It is too early to 'commoditise' the Tata brand. But it does not augur well that TCS  has apparently been caught with its pants down.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Harsha Bhogle

Harsha Bhogle was abruptly removed from the IPL commentariat. He is generally considered to be both cricket-knowledgeable and eloquent. What other quality is expected from a commentator?

He seems to have offended Indian cricketers by his frank opinions expressed during the recently concluded  T20 matches. BCCI is authorised to include or sack any commentator. But in the process, interests of cricket and listeners should not suffer.

One expects BCCI to be more professional.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New ideas for a new India

Sastra University and The Hindu have embarked on an overly ambitious plan to discover the clues to building an ideal India. In this effort they have been organising a series of discussions among argumentative Indians. The latest panel discussion took place in Chennai on April 9.

Moderated by Justice Prabha Sridevan, the speakers were Sitaram Yechuri, Swapan Dasgupta, N.Ram and S.Gurumurthy. Sitaram Yechuri observed that the Indian Constitution is a welcome departure from the Westphalian binary approach of majority and minority. His regret was that though we have institutionalised one man - one vote system and one vote - one value metric, one man - one value continues to be only a distant prospect. Political equality must result in economic equality if we are to achieve an ideal India. A nice thought. In her introductory remarks, Prabha Sridevan had earlier referred to two kinds of equality: the graveyard variety where everyone is pulled down and the vineyard variety where all are levelled up (a quote from Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa). Yechuri preferred not to take the bait.

Swapan Dasgupta was at his rhetorical best. He took serious exception to Yechury's singular dependence on Constitution to define what is an ideal India. India did not begin in 1950 when we gave ourselves the Constitution. Should we ignore our hoary past simply because of its Hindu content? Is not culture a contributor to what a nation is? He quoted Edmund Burke who said Society is 'a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born’. The essence of India is its diversity. Dasgupta sarcastically referred to the attempts to 'secularise' even Bharatnatyam !

N.Ram wanted adherence to principles of our Constitution. He stressed that secularism is a basic structure of our Constitution and therefore not negotiable. He regretted the rise of Hindutva and controversially equated it with terrorism. This view was sharply contested by Gurumurthy. Ram referred to Mahatma Gandhi as the tallest Hindu of the twentieth century and he was felled by a fanatical Hindu.

Gurumurthy opined that if India is not Hindu, it cannot be secular. He quoted various judgments of the Supreme Court to show that Hinduism / Hindutva is not what is defined by Yechury and Ram.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Raghuram Rajan's atypical optimism

RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, is known for his balanced views and measured statements. It is surprising, therefore, that he has now waxed eloquent on India's prospects.

"India could be on the verge of a revolution; everything is in place for a leap in production, whether it is in manufacturing or services." "Our young generation is willing to take the best of the world along with it."

It is worth remembering Alan Greenspan's words ("I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said.")

Have we understood Rajan clearly? We need not be surprised if he comes up with a clarification.