Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mental Healthcare Bill

It is reported that the Lok Sabha discussed the captioned bill for as long as five hours without any interruption and finally passed the bill. It is encouraging to note that our parliamentarians are capable of meaningful debate without being sidetracked. The Bill is significant because it addresses the usually neglected needs of those unfortunate persons who become victims of much-misunderstood emotional disturbance. The Bill sends the right signal to society.

Cynics however may argue that Lok Sabha took interest in the Bill because the parliamentarians themselves are the most adversely affected by mental disorders! Even so, it is welcome that our MPs have done something useful to society.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cricket and politics

Some cricket enthusiasts look askance at the victory of Indian team over Australia in the cricket test match played recently. They pooh-pooh India's win as one facilitated by intentionally prepared turning pitch. This is not cricket, according to them. Their contention is that cricket has to be played on a fast-paced pitch only. They do not recognise the fact that as per globally accepted cricket rules, the home team has the right to decide on the kind of pitch to be prepared, the only rider being that it has to be playable.

Some of these critics take exception to Virat Kohli's men getting aggressive. They forget that the Aussies are the originators of sledging and therefore it is par for the Indian team to be on the offensive. Their argument is that the gentleman's game should remain as such. Their blinkers can spot the deviations of the Indian team only. In brief, different rules apply to different teams.

A similar drama is being played out in the political arena also. Self-styled secularists question the credentials of Yogi Adityanath to become the chief minister of the most populous state in India. They ask, what has democracy come to? It matters little for them that Adityanath is the most popular BJP leader in U P and this party has won a humongous majority in the polls. If this is not democracy, it is difficult to fathom what is. The next argument is that he spews venom against a minority community.

On becoming the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath assured that he would faithfully serve all sections of people. Critics wonder how a leopard can change its spots. Whenever a jailed terrorist tenders a half-apology, the same critics want the terrorist to be released for has he not turned over a new leaf? So, you should trust a terrorist but you cannot trust the chief minister because the latter is calling your electoral bluff.

Rules framed by the spurious secularists are funny. If you pamper a community for garnering votes, you are deemed secular. If you dare to demand equality of all, you are a rabid communalist. If you plead for disintegration of the country, we will appreciate your parrhesia. If you speak against blatant discrimination, you will be accused of misusing freedom of speech.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Yogi Adityanath

Yogi Adityanath, nee Ajay Singh Bisht is the new chief minister of U P. Yogi literally means 'one who unites'. In a spiritual sense, yogi unites the jivaatma with the paramaatma. Adityanath, arguably the most popular BJP leader in U P, did unite voters with the party. The question now is would he unite the people with the government.

Paradoxically most of his statements in the past have been more divisive than unifying. Positions of political power are known to change people. It is moot if Yogi Adityanath would become a more mellowed person on becoming the chief minister of the largest state in India. Hopefully his incorruptibility would not change.

Narendra Modi is known to take big risks. Choice of the new chief minister is a typical manifestation of that trait of the prime minister. If Adityanath delivers good governance, it would go a long way in ensuring Modi's return to power in 2019. If he only follows the likes of Mayawati and Akhilesh without focusing on development, he will end up uniting the opposition parties against the BJP. Time will tell.

Monday, March 13, 2017

P.Chidambaram's objectivity

Mr.P.Chidambaram delivered the first annual lecture of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy on March 13th. Introducing him, Mr.N.Ravi of The Hindu said that Chidambaram was as objective as a parliamentarian in opposition could be.

Chidambaram proved Ravi wrong. Even limited objectivity of an opposition politician does not require one to twist facts and manufacture innuendo which the former minister did.

Trying to prove that the present government is not scam-free, he referred to easy availability of newly printed Rs.2,000 notes with relatives of ex-chief secretary of Tamil Nadu and some engineers in Karnataka as a scam. This is the result of venality of some bank officials and is not a scam of the government. (He also referred to Vyapam scam.) If he feels compelled to call the uneven availability of Rs.2,000 as a scam, it is an admission  that there is hardly any large scale bribery a la 2G or coal allocation.

He accused the government of not knowing how to deal with NPAs. Harsh measures, according to him, will only terrorise bank officials to avoid lending.  He did not feel it necessary to admit that the previous government was complicit in generation of huge NPAs. Was he hinting that bank officials were not the cause for bad loans which were encouraged by politicians and therefore the government ought to be soft on them?

He twisted facts when he said that Raghuram Rajan did not advocate harsh steps for recovery of bad loans. In fact, Rajan was acting tough (and rightly so) which angered the powerful borrowers who were happy to see his exit.

Chidambaram revealed that Rajan was against demonetisation and therefore he was sacked. An objective person will not elevate an assumption to the level of fact. He could have qualified it as a guess.

He referred to BJP not proposing any Muslim as its candidate in U.P. and compared it with exclusion of women, SCs etc. He could have avoided the comparison because BJP nominated the maximum number of women candidates and was not behind other parties in nomination of SCs, OBCs and MBCs. Whereas other parties betrayed their communalism by choosing too many Muslim candidates, BJP betrayed its communalism the opposite way. It ill-behoves a Congress leader to accuse another party of communalism since the Congress has always treated Muslims as a vote bank. Certainly it did not suit Chidambaram's agenda to accept that BJP was the least casteist party in the U P elections.

He asserted that none of the stated objectives of demonetisation was either achieved or likely to be achieved. He conveniently ignored the fact many have deposited high denomination notes which attract nearly 50% tax plus 25% interest-free deposit. These are the money which were earlier hidden and tax-evaded and which are now brought into mainstream. A former Finance Minister is expected to be more objective.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Massive mandate for Modi

Modi continues to be a popular leader. His sincerity and commitment are not questioned even by the opposition. At the national level, he towers over all other netas. His eloquence is unmatched. The only doubt prior to elections was 'would all these qualities matter in a state election?'

Ultimately they mattered because other parties committed many mistakes. 

1) Samajwadi Party imploded thanks to the family fight between Mulayam and Akhilesh. Akhilesh is the son of Mulayam's first wife. The second wife might have caused the estrangement between the father and son. Second-tier leaders in SP started taking sides and the party was vertically split.

 2) Akhilesh's association with Congress created further belligerence from the father who was supported by Amar Singh , a Narada-type character who fishes in troubled waters.

 3) Rahul Gandhi completely relied on Prashant Kishor, a strategist who is credited with shaping BJP victory in 2014 and JD victory in Bihar in 2016. This was resented by Congressmen in U P . Contrarily, Capt.Amarinder Singh of Congress shunned Kishor in Punjab.

 4) Mayawati started wooing Muslim votes away from S P and Congress. Muslim votes got split to the advantage of BJP.

 5) Some Muslim women voted for BJP, the only party that openly opposed triple talaq.

 6) Priyanka Gandhi, the look-alike of Indira Gandhi, could not campaign because her son met with an accident and she was taking care of him.

 7) Anti-incumbency also played its part. Akhilesh's government was at best patchy. Goondagiri was not controlled. Father and son split is rumoured to have been an artificial attempt to isolate the Akhilesh faction from thugs but the public saw through the gimmick.

8) BJP promised loan waiver for agriculturists.

So, in retrospect, the massive mandate for BJP is not surprising. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Electoral Math

5 + 2 =7 is arithmetic.

5+ 2 = 9 is synergy.

5 + 2 =3 is Congress.

Anti-incumbency and pro-Modi

Election results indicate that voters are keen to vote out the governing parties in the hope that others would do a better job. So, SP is out in UP, Congress in Uttarakhand, and SAD in Punjab (not so sad!). BJP is struggling in Goa and Congress in Manipur.

What does anti-incumbency mean? Are the incumbent ministries not doing well or are the voters' expectations too high? It is probably a combination of both.

BJP's extraordinary performance in UP is certainly the result of the Modi magic. His indefatigable energy and effective communication could not be matched by his opponents. He takes risks and gets rewarded in adequate measure. His demonetisation move was perhaps a shot in the dark with unforeseeable consequences. Even when things were not working well, he was able to keep the inconvenienced people in his side. That is a clear mark of leadership: Do not hesitate to take risk and even if things don't pan out well, limit the damages and focus on the plus points.

Friday, March 10, 2017

SC versus SC

The Supreme Court has issued an arrest warrant against Justice Karnan of the Calcutta High Court. The honourable judge has accused the Supreme Court of acting against him because he belongs to Scheduled Caste.

Justice Karnan is due to retire on June 30th. Towards retirement, he is becoming more trenchant in his criticism of judiciary and fellow judges. His behaviour is very unusual. There are apparently no charges of corruption against him. This needs to be borne in mind because some people when accused of bribery etc. may attribute the allegations to communal factors.

The Supreme Court is agitated that he had chosen to disobey its orders to appear before the court for causing contempt of court. It will be more appropriate to subject him to psychological examination to know if any deep-rooted anxiety is plaguing him. It is worth introducing psychological tests for would-be judges.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

U P Elections

Trying to predict the results of U P elections is crazy. But it is crazier to pretend that one can avoid the urge to predict. It appears that all three major contestants namely BJP, SP and BSP have chances, at least theoretical, of being the largest single party, if not the party with majority of seats.

BJP's electioneering revolved around Narendra Modi. Ever indefatigable, he spent three days in Varanasi itself. Was he nervous that BJP was trailing? Did he want to ensure a higher proportion of victory for his party? Did he want to protect his territory, Varanasi, even if the party were to lose in other parts of the state? Perhaps only the prime minister knows.

Akhilesh Yadav rebelled against his father and the latter's supporters ahead of the elections. Nobody knows if it was a true rebellion or only a histrionic stunt in an attempt to temporarily distance himself and his group from the criminal cabal that brought disrepute to Samajwadi Party. Given the circumstances, the chief minister seems to have administered the state fairly well.

Mayawati had to face the departure of some second line leaders from her party on the eve of the elections. She has not antagonised any community in the recent past and hopes to benefit from the disgruntled elements in BJP and SP and also from possible strategic shifts from the voter base of BJP and SP.

If BJP forms the ministry, the state can look forward to favourable treatment from the centre. If SP triumphs, it will signal emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as a national substitute for Modi. If Mayawati wins, she can look forward to quietus on hostile actions from CBI and ED.

Let us wait and see.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Power or soft drinks?

Trade-offs are inevitable whenever factors of production are in short supply. Because the same factor of production can be used for making different items, we have to decide which items are to be produced.

Summer of 2017 is predicted to be sizzlingly hot. Water has already become scarce in many parts of Tamil Nadu. A petition was filed in the Madras High Court that in view of water famine the co-packers of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola must not be allowed to draw water from the Tamirabarani river. The court in all its majesty has held that the soft drink co-packers cannot be denied water supply. These packers together consume nearly 15 lakh litres of water every day.

At the same time, the Tuticorin Thermal Power Station is already partially closed because of paucity of water. Stoppage of entire power production is imminent if adequate water is not made available. It would make economic and ethical sense to prioritise consumption of water by farmers and electricity producers over consumption by co-packers of soft drinks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Chile as a model for development?

Chile does not make as much news as another South American country namely Brazil. Though Chile is much smaller than Brazil, Chile is performing better under many economic parameters. One distinguishing feature of Chile is its rapid development in terms of reducing absolute poverty. Yet, in the process relative poverty has become more acute.

The Economist sums it up beautifully:

"Chile is in many ways the most modern country in South America. Its institutions function reasonably well, its educational standards are among the highest and its levels of crime and corruption are among the lowest. Yet that has not brought equality. Although poverty has fallen sharply, income distribution is more skewed in Chile than in any other member of the OECD, a club of mainly rich countries (though not unusually so for Latin America). Just 5% of Chileans regard the distribution of income as “fair” or “very fair”, the lowest share in Latin America, says LatinobarĂ³metro. “It’s precisely because Chileans can see how wealthy their country is—from the Porsches and Maseratis in the streets of some areas—that they’re so angry about how that wealth is shared out,” says Marta Lagos of LatinobarĂ³metro."

Widening inequality may be unfair. But if it becomes unavoidable while pushing for the humanitarian cause of tackling absolute poverty, should we not say, "so be it"?

Oscars for audience?

What if Oscar Awards are introduced for audience also?

Best supporting audience Award goes to Tamil Nadu public for scoring 10 out of 10 for gullibility.

Best critical audience Award is bagged by the Congress party for picking non-existing holes.

Best creative audience Award is for Narendra Modi for inventing a dialogue missed by the story-writer.

Overall best audience Award goes to Rahul Gandhi.

Oops! There is a mix-up. Rahul Gandhi was never in the audience. The overall winner will be announced later.