Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review of Indian Economy 2015 – Marred by Politics :: A jaundiced eye-view

The year 2015 was some kind of a political nightmare for Narendra Modi – the politician. Probably for the first time since 2001 – when he was made Gujarat Chief Minister – never had Modi tasted such difficult situations and sadly for him, he could not give the befitting reply to his detractors – something he had made a sort of habit post-2002.
When calendar year 2001 ended, Modi was a shy Chief Minister, almost a reluctant ruler and often clueless how to capture ‘hamaro Gujarat’ for his saffron party. But since February 27, 2002 train compartment inferno at Godhra, he has shot into limelight by braving through all the challenging times.

Similarly, for him and certainly for his handpicked ‘BJP chief’ Amit Shah, the year 2015 in the ultimate analysis was a year of series of setback. The legislative business was stalled in Rajya Sabha. GST and Land Bill got stuck. Individually top ranking BJP leaders got embroiled into corruption scandals – Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and even Modi’s “eyes and ears” Arun Jaitley. 

Electorally, BJP lost two crucial polls badly Delhi and Bihar…. Minorities were isolated further with nuns and churches attacked, Awards returned and the unnecessary beef debate.
Has the countdown for the decline begun? Amid these, new challenges in 2016 remain putting back economy on track, fighting elections in some key states and intra-party differences as BJP veterans like L K Advani, M M Joshi and Yashwant Sinha likely to sustain more pressure against Modi-Amit Shah duo. 

But how has Indian economy remained unhindered – literally ! – given the mood in media and political circle otherwise as if India almost its Indianness in 2015??

A closer look at economy gives up a few take aways. Eight core industries, representing major infrastructure sectors, grew at 2.3 percent in the April-September period of the current fiscal, compared to a rate of 5.3 percent in the same period of the previous fiscal.

Analysts say the fall in growth rate is caused by lower expansion in electricity, coal and cement sectors and negative growth in steel and natural gas sectors.
The mid-year review lowered the economic growth forecast for the current fiscal to the 7-7.5 percent range, from the previously projected 8.1-8.5 per cent, mainly because of lower agricultural output due to deficit rainfall.

Globally, India remained a fastest expanding economy surpassing China. India's external position has improved. Forex reserves are a little above $350 billion in November 2015 as compared to a little over $270 billion in July 2013. Net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have increased to $17 billion in the first half of 2015-16 in comparison to $15.8 in the same period last year. 

In the words of Abhishek Lodha, managing director of Lodha Group, “2015 has been a year in which we think that the economy has started healing itself”. India’s GDP grew by an annual rate of 7.4 per cent in the July-to-September quarter, putting it firmly ahead of China, where growth slowed to 6.9 per cent in the same period. 
Another macro analsysis suggests, India’s growth has been “uneven and driven majorly by private consumption and public investment”. Well, it is established economic wisdom that for robust and sustainable growth, private investment needs to grow northbound graph while exports needs to revive. 
So, a safe conclusion is there are miles to go – to take out the country’s economy from the stage when even Dr Manmohan Singh was easily dubbed as an ‘underachiever’.
The government and the pro-Modi would insist that things are improving. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) is working on a proposal for simplifying of the overall framework encompassing all industrial sectors and galvanising it with the FDI policy. Reforms to be unfurled gradually in state electricity boards and FDI liberalisation would hopefully put the developmental agenda back on track. The government also plans to come out with bankruptcy guidelines for easier exits of businesses and give protection to lenders and investors.
In the words of Nirmala Sitharaman, the union Commerce Minister, India offers certain sense of stability, which today economies long to have. "India is an inviting investor's domain,” she said. I would like every investor to look at it," Sitharaman said during her visit to Washington in September.
True to her words, global demand, economy and prospects of looking at what could happen in next few months require a lot of light and positive energy. Left to him, the Prime Minister is alcoholic and is making his ministers work.

While detractors would call these mere rhetoric and use strong words like ‘nothing is happening’; looking at certain parameters, for an economy that faces challenges --- it is no less credit that it is able to sustain a certain momentum.

Post-Bihar polls, taking a corrective course, Modi government issued executive orders relaxing FDI norms. The year 2015 also saw Indian stock markets correcting the excess hype created in 2014 following Modi’s victory. The benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange index reached an all-time high of above 30,000 in March but steadily declined to finish the year trading at under 26,000. 
The year 2015 also saw Indian stock markets correcting the excess hype created in 2014 following Modi’s victory. The benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange index reached an all-time high of above 30,000 in March but steadily declined to finish the year trading at under 26,000. 
The continued logjam in the parliament led investors to worry and not without good reason. 2015 also did not bring the hoped-for growth in residential real estate even as bad days seem to be coming to an end.
India also made a move towards creating a more transparent regulated property market with right changes in the long-awaited real estate regulation and development laws.
Finally, to talk about India’s economy – one needs to talk about poverty – as this still remains a curse but also a responsibility. It is tragic that when the world and India as a nation has technological and even economic capacity to abolish poverty, perhaps the greed menace and the fear that quality of life of affluent would be affected is preventing policy makers to achieve so. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Governor Rajkhowa – Playing a Sage or Saboteur?

Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa’ decision to order convening of the state assembly proceedings in a school premises has again accentuated the debate that Governor’s office continues to be embroiled in controversies.

The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh J P Rajkhowa has made news in recent weeks. But more than hitting the headlines, he has yet again revived the debate about the powers and responsibilities of the gubernatorial post. Looking deep it ought to be stated that the office of the Governors is actually linked to a basic feature of our Constitution – the federalism. The Modi regime has rediscovered a phrase called ‘cooperative federalism’ trying to give a new spin to distribution of powers. 

Redefining Cooperative Federalism
That Rajkhowa is a BJP appointee and his role possibly putting weight behind Congress rebels in the on-going dissidence activity has given an impression that the constitutional position was being used to help the saffron party achieve political goals vis-à-vis the Congress.
The BJP that rules the centre is not the ruling party in several states. This obviously gives added urgency to the question of a proper redistribution of power between the centre and the states.
Rajkhowa’ decision to order convening of the state assembly – that ostensibly would have helped Congress rebels – has accentuated the debate that Governors office has been ‘abused’ in the past and is again being abused. Rajkhowa in fact joins the illustrious (sic) league of past Governors in northeastern states who had their share of controversy. 

Romesh Bhandari had made news in Tripura while the likes of Oudh Narayan Shrivastava and M M Thomas had their share of the cake in Manipur and Nagaland respectively. But talking about Arunachal Pradesh and the latest round of controversy, one finds a sense in the words of BJP state unit president Tai Tagak who says, “The recent political drama in Arunachal Pradesh presented the people of the state in poor light”.  Defection is a menace in the politics of northeastern states. If such unscrupulous defections of the law makers continue, can the people of these states project the good image of the region in this manner?

But was the Governor right in his decision? His order has been put on stay by the Guwahati High Court. Exercising his powers as provided under Article 174 (Clause 1) of the Constitution, Governor Rajkhowa had summoned the House. His office maintains that Governors enjoy discretionary powers.


However, the Guwahati High Court had stayed the decision of the Governor to hold the proceedings of the House in the makeshift premises. Predictably the episode provided yet another ammunition to the Congress in Rajya Sabha to stall the proceedings. But the bigger controversy on the role and powers of the Governors remain. 

To state a truism, this is an age old syndrome since 1960s and has hardly been attended to effectively. In the words of eminent jurist, Soli Sorabjee, andhad spoken in different context earlier – “it will be no exaggeration to say that no institution or constitutional office in the country has suffered greater erosion than the office of the Governor”.

The text book makes it clear that a Governor of a state is a constitutional representative and not subject to the dictates of the centre. But as because he/she holds the office till the pleasure of the President of India – the central government irrespective of party affiliations has been trying to force the Governors play its game. This brings us to the crux of the issue – on what really needs to be done to change the system.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Politics over Saradha : Didigiri

During her visit to Delhi in December 2015, Mamata Banerjee admitted that absence of enthusiasm from AIADMK chief Jayalalitha and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of Biju Janata Dal has virtually pricked Didi’s search for friends in national politics. “The federal front remains our goal…,” she said unhesitatingly adding these two leaders were not very keen. 

Mamata has been trying hard for a conglomeration of regional parties and in August 2015 held preliminary parleys with regional stalwarts like Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Farooq Abdullah. 
Search for greener grass!!
Now Mamata Didi has inched towards Congress also. But her politics in national canvas over Saradha is nothing new. In 2012 when she announced pulling out of the UPA, many Bengal watchers knew the FDI retail issue was just an excuse.
Mamata was getting annoyed with Manmohan Singh government as various central government agencies like ED were getting pro-active on Saradha. Her detractors like the Marxists allege that Mamata feared involvement of her “trusted men and women” in the scam and thus had opposed CBI probe. 

She had preferred only a SIT probe but Supreme Court had ruled otherwise and allowed CBI investigation. “The SIT Mamata government had insisted was only interested in hoodwinking the people. Their probe was a total farce,” said CPI-M leader Sujan Chakraborty. Similar to Sonia-Rahul’s ‘National Herald’ controversies – Saradha’s too is a rags to riches story in speed. 

Probe by SIT and CBI revealed that Saradha's annual collections went up from Rs 15 million at inception to Rs 10.08 billion in 2011-12 and Rs 8.5 billion in 2012-13. While Mamata claims Saradha came into being in 2006, it is also true by 2011-12, the state government also issued circulars to only keep newspapers owned by the chit fund group in all government libraries.
Dynasty and Law
It was around this time that the Saradha group spent millions sponsoring cycles, motorcycles, ambulances etc that Mamata Banerjee distributed to people in Naxal-hit Jangalmahal and other backward areas of Bengal. 

Didi’s anguish:
But not withstanding the ‘surprise’ element in Trinamool support to Congress both in Parliament and outside, was it was a pure simple camaraderie of the opposition camp as Sudip Bandyopadhayay, TMC floor leader in Lok Sabha, did his best to camouflage. “No one from Congress spoke to us in Lok Sabha on The National Herald. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia spoke to me and sought support in their protest as Congress members were not allowed to raise Dalit issue earlier,” Bandyopadhyay told this writer.

But the cat was out of the bag when the same evening, Mamata said she felt “sad” a senior Congress leader (Sonia) was being summoned for personal appearance in the court. Mamata almost forgot that in the process she was trying to redefine the basic issue of accountability of citizens towards the judicial authority.
In her enthusiasm to extend support to ‘madam Sonia’ – Mamata also forgot that Delhi High Court had rejected the plea hardly 24 hours before for exemption in appearance and had directed Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to appear before the city magistrate.

An embattled Congress perhaps had their reasons to cry in and around Parliament but Mamata Didi’s outburst was surprising even for the BJP camp in Lok Sabha. Essentially Congress was left ‘isolated’ when protesting over the court case and die-hard Congress supporters – the JD(U) also stayed away.

But the devil is elsewhere! Journalists in the new Banga Bhavan at Chanakyapuri – attending the high tea party hosted by Mamata – on December 8 - did not miss the point that probably the West Bengal Chief Minister looked “tensed”. She did not spot the characteristic smile, several scribes said later. However,  mercurial Mamata sought to play safe when she did not like to term the court orders “vendetta” and added: "I know the court has its power and freedom to issue such orders....but I also have freedom to express my opinion".

In fact, a senior Trinamool MP approached by a few journalists quickly responded saying, “it will be erroneous to link our camaraderie in opposition camp with Saradha chit fund scam”. 

Then was the reason political?
Is Didi apprehensive of Congress-Left tie up for ensuing Bengal polls?

The BJP has its organizational weaknesses in West Bengal but the determination of the party workers and encouraging response from upper castes and middle class of social stratification towards it has led state unit of saffron party to pledge for a “Trinamool mukt (free) Bengal”. It’s certainly ambitious target. In fact at a rally on December 1, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, administered an oath to the crowd who pledged "not to rest in peace till BJP came to power in Bengal".
Another BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh’s repeat appeal at the rally "Bhag Mamata Bhag" - that triggered a controversy last year – again seemed to have gone down well with the people.

It goes without saying for BJP – that is making a mark among educated and middle class – corruption of Mamata regime and Saradha chit fund scam will figure prominently as a major electoral plank. This irks Didi. 

And in quite helpless manner – the Saradha chit fund scam probe – leaves Mamata annoyed and takes away her composure. Even in 2014 she was furious more than once against Narendra Modi. Undoubtedly BJP will again take up the Saradha chit fund issue with all it’s mite – a case that has already forced one of her trusted aides Mukul Roy to quit TMC.

“With three Trinamool MPs and a former West Bengal minister (Madan Mitra) in jail, it makes political sense now for TMC to join forces with the Congress. What would have been topmost in Trinamool strategists’ minds, however, is the assembly elections,” said a report in The Indian Express. Among others former MP and editor Kunal Ghosh, believed to have spoken a lot on Saradha, is still cooling his heels behind bars. In February 2015, another MP Srinjoy Bose was arrested. A day after getting bail Bose quit Mamata party and also resigned his seat.

Moreover, after an ED notice popular actor Mithun Chakborty, also Mamata’s MP in upper House, is now likely to tender resign. The speculation remains on  whether he will spill the beans before ED and other central agencies. Mamata is again nervous.
On November 26, while addressing a rally in Kolkata, Mamata had expressed apprehensions that the powers in Delhi might unleash CBI or ED against her for her comments against intolerance and threat to communal harmony. “Many have been threatened to give a false statement. They have threatened our MP Mithun Chakraborty in such a way that he can’t even talk to me,” she had claimed.
No Fire-No Smoke??

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Whats up in Naga hills? Awaited ‘Mahayudh’ ! Chubatoshi versus Neiphiu Rio

Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang survived a major political crisis in February 2015. He mustered support of 59 MLAs in 60-member House but most of it was due to his good luck as he became a beneficiary of ‘no alternative’ factor. But merger of 8-Congress MLAs with NPF indicate veteran S C Jamir’s hidden hands and thus a more interesting political game in future.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

When Zail Singh threatened to fill Punjab jails with Assamese to crush anti-influx movement

Was Colonization of Assam an Hidden Agenda?

“   "Indiraji’s (Indira Gandhi) will  shall prevail. I shall do whatever she wants me to do. If she wishes it, tomorrow before sunrise, I shall fill Punjab’s jails with 10,000 Assamese to crush the movement”.
– Giani Zail Singh, Home Minister in Indira cabinet in an interview to ‘The Indian Express’ editor Arun Shourie in January 1980

Zail Singh, Indira and Kapil: 1983 Triumph
This remark sums up the paradox involved in resolving the illegal migration cobweb of Assam. On one hand while the natives felt threatened by the continuous influx from across the border in Bangladesh especially, on its part the central government under Indira Gandhi always presumed that things were under control or to be precise the ‘Assam agitation’ against foreigners’ illegal immigration can be crushed. But the reality was hardly appreciated by the Government of India especially in 1960 and 1970s when the problem perhaps was in its miniscule form and could have been handled easily.  

Old timers recall that in 1981, Indira’s handpicked Chief Minister, Mrs Anwara Taimur asserted that things were under her grip and her government saw no reason to deport foreigners – as was demanded by agitators especially students. Instead the government resorted to strong measures and police and security personnel – certainly at the directives of the centre – were let loose on the locals. “The Assam agitation was started by people and students but the violence came from the government side. Curfew and CrPC provisions were used liberally in towns and local Assamese people gathered fear to speak in public. 
And they come!
The merciless killing of Kharegeswar Talukdar in 1979 by security personnel was the beginning of it all,” says 80-year-old Hiranmay Borah, a retired government servant.

Locals saw a sinister plan from across the border in Bangladesh and also assisted by the Pakistan’s ISI for “allowing easy flow” of Bengali Muslims into Assam – which had abundant barren land and work opportunities. Some agencies and communist leaders later had even claimed of CIA hand – which allegedly launched ‘Operation Brahmaputra’ to destabilize India’s northeast.

But there are a few twists in the tale also.

Assam has been a victim of continuous ‘domination’ by demographic movement. Domination of the state has been sought by diverse number of social groups for diverse reasons. Even pre-Independence days, three main groups entered Assam with rather spontaneity – the Hindu Bengalis, tea garden workers and Muslims from the then East Bengal (that later became Bangladesh). 
While Bengali Hindus mainly came for jobs as part of British administration and most went back, tea-gardeners in much less numbers and Bengali Muslims in huge numbers actually came in and stayed. In fact, an estimate suggests by 1947 over a million East Bengal Muslims were settled in rural Assam. Historical accounts say Saiyid Muhammad Saadulla, an Assamese Muslim League leader, played a key role in that ‘settlement policy’. This was the beginning but just a tip of the ice berg.
Can Gogoi save Congress?
Visit to former students’ activist-turned-politician Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s constituency Nagaon in 2000-2001 had revealed that while Benagli Muslim population has increased substantially, there was a sharp decline in Assamese population – both Hindus and Muslims. Moreover, just as demographic situation upset social harmony in some of these hubs, by 1980s – the Left movement had sprang up. While Bengali Muslims inspired and assisted by ISI and Jamat-I-Islami in Bangladesh sought religious expansions, the Marxist comrades wanted to use the occasion for propagating their Leftist doctrine. 

Assam actually had turned into a small laboratory of demographic influx and domination. And by 2015 – when the Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011- was released, everyone was aghast as Assam’s Muslim population increased to 34.22 per cent, a quantum leap of over four per cent. 
But the Hindu population stood around 61.46 per cent. To top it all, 9 districts - Barpeta, Dhubri, Karimganj, Goalpara, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Hailakandi, Nagaon and Morigaon have turned Muslim majority – a major change from six Muslim dominated districts in 2001.
Obviously the influx issue will be a dominant and top of the election-politics agenda in Assam for next few months.  While the BJP and the regional outfit AGP will fight for the space, there’s also the crucial factor of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) – led Badruddin Ajmal which commands immense support base in Muslim strongholds.

The electoral puzzle in the state is thus getting truly complex and to an extent offers a worrisome scenario. Assam’s Nagaon to Daboka belt bordering Dimapur in Nagaland and hubs like Dhubri, Karimganj and Barpeta are already flooded with Bengali Muslims and the Hindus, sons of the soil (Assamese) and Bengali Hindus and other Indian citizens have been outnumbered. Natives believe that there is an organized methodology behind this demographic explosion.
Can Lotus bloom?

However, the Vote Bank politics has dominated the politics of Assam and influenced the policy on infiltration. 

Both AGP and Congress have been championing the cause of minority appeasement. In July 2008, Justice B K Sharma of the Gauhati High Court in 95-page judgement said, “the day is not far off, when the indigenous people of Assam, both Hindus and Muslims and other religious groups will be reduced to minorities in their own land and the Bangladeshis will become kingmakers”.  
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi quickly contested this in no unambiguous words stating, “Since my schooldays I have been hearing that Bangladeshis will become kingmakers in Assam”
In effect, many in Assam privately and otherwise regret about India’s help to Bangladesh freedom.

London-based ‘Evening Standard’ had summed up this paradox well in 1971 itself. “Victory belongs to India (freedom of Bangladesh and Indo-Pak war of 1971) but a big part of the human burden that drove India to war could be with her for a long time”. The agony continues. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friendship: St Anthony’s gang! The evolution of a Personalized Art

This blog is dedicated to fond memories of our dear friend Late Narayan Rao!

What comes between ‘Standing’ and ‘Outstanding’….perhaps it is something only a good friend can appreciate. 'Outstanding' is for ‘exceptional and good’ qualities and 'standing' can be linked to status! EVEN the status of being busy. We continue to be busy, Narayan Rao too would be busy in the world above all of us.
Where’s friendship in between?

A short story is generally given out as a personalized art – like a poetry; so what’s a blog piece! A personal journalism – facts concocted with drama, laced with emotions?
The evolution of that individuated art is bedeviled by the influence a personal touch that can leave someone stunned even in this century – when man seems to be getting busier than his shadow!! There’s no time man! – even the shadow won’t follow you literally. Who said, Albert Einstein at that age had predicted that machines will make man and also including woman its slave? The social networking often shows caricatures – man talking to man miles away for hours – and man leaving his next-arm partner isolated and dejected as he gets busy with the business of Whatsapp, Facebook etc etc.

Sanjay Sabherwal showed his OUTSTANDING quality for me – well in advance. He reached the destination well before scheduled time – after all the excitement of meeting after 30 years kept him move fast. More than surprising that was flattering – because he showed the extra-pace in meeting up a ‘poor journo’. 
The Kanpur man – and someone minting money from interior decoration business - has not been able to withdraw himself completely from the school-guy sentiments. I had thought of reaching before him and take him in my embrace. 

But a near perfectionist from the school days (1982-84) in Scotland of East – Shillong – St Anthony’s – Sanjay (read Sabherwal seth) stood in a corner and I helplessly found myself walking into his arms.
And, if you all 'respected and humbled stupid husbands' like me thought ‘wifely’ embrace is the best thing in the world – both Sanjay and me will differ. Don't we?
But why it was such an exciting hug – can be critically examined by outpouring of a bachelor!
Yes; on the wrong side of 40 – Samik Bhattacharya – diagnosed – with ‘wifely’ guys there can be often ‘suffering’ – the desi version makes it easier to understand – chir-chira-pan….Well this was stated by a yet-confirmed-bachelor Samik – who seems to enjoy his Single status pretty well!!
Oh boy! Samik surprised two of us because there was no prior word earlier about his making it to the meeting – during office hours !
Samik flanked by two idiots
Mind you, Samik made it to the meeting spot Dilli-Haat – fyi a brainchild of cricketer Ajay Jadeja’s mom-in-law Jaya Jaitley (yes, also an acquaintance of neta George Fernandes), keeping his office bosses and foreign ministry officials licking their fingers.
Instead he hosted Sikkim Momo starters for us and made us lick the last part of the chilly-chutney! Punjab da puttar – Sanjay said aptly, “abbey yeh toh lag gayi…” !!
Now don’t ask the “location”, Sanjay would feel that next morning! Me too…Mirchi sabko lagti hae bhai !!
But that’s FRIENDSHIP all about. Sanjay is here for a marriage, Samik had a busy work schedule and me – Bloody Journalism ….
For his part, for Sanjay “managing time” from a family affair like Punjabi marriage is tough game. ‘TODA YEH, TODA WOH……etc etc. But he managed. 
And as he said – something implemented in letter and spirit (don’t get ideas – we had harmful fruit beer) by Samik – NO MANAGEMENT SCHOOL CAN TEACH THAT.
Selfie Syndrome

“It’s in your heart buddy….,” said Sanjay and like a spirited Anthonian and yet in Punjabi style – added: Yeh toda dil ki baat hae…. ITS MATTER OF HEART MEIN…the La Boh spirit was in full-swing.

About such meetings, one must add: We had a similar ‘outstanding’ meeting with Supercop Dr Christopher recently. He knows the menu well. Anthonian spirit was more in action. But another Anthonian spirit is in Sanjay Das's efforts when he met our Late friend Narayan Rao's sister and took her to the school where a stone stands in memory of Narayan Rao. Merciless Bangalore roads took Narayan away from us.

Sanjay Das and Narayan's sister
Before one concludes, I ought to mention Palungthang Veipei also – from the bunch of people calling themselves I AM SORRY! He had humbled me – by his illustrious gesture when he decided to forego his official-babudom - Commissioner Manipur Govt. PROTOCOL – and ran like a school kid underneath a Metro bridge to take me in his arms. Yes, it too was a tight hug and ‘we’ loved it.

As the writing in the epitaph says: 
Meet u prince Narayan in the other world.
We will remember you dearest Narayan when we would have forgotten this world, may be !! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

National Herald case : Congress seeks to redefine 'Judicial' authority

Of course to start with the Congress party did the obvious – paralysed the winter session of Parliament and the little bonhomie seen – post Bihar polls – ostensibly to pass the GST in the beginning of the session went for a toss. Surprisingly, Mamata Banerjee backed Congress at this challenging time. But was it a pure camaraderie of the opposition camp as Sudip Bandyopadhayay, Trinamool Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha, said – or a “sad” issue as Mamata herself dubbed?

Who'll Summon First Dynasty?

“I am the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I am not scared of anyone. I am not disturbed,” thus asserted Sonia Gandhi, Congress president close on the heels of the Delhi High Court dismissing her and Rahul Gandhi’s pleas challenging summons issued to them in the National Herald case. This in effect sought to redefine the judicial interpretation in the country as if the members of the first political dynasty in the country cannot be summoned by a court.
Supposedly tutored well by his associates, Rahul again played a rather moralistic card and directly dragged the Prime Minister into the imbroglio. “Well I absolutely see a political vendetta. This is the way the central government functions, the way they think.....The case is one hundred percent political vendetta. Pure political vendetta coming out of PMO. It is their way of doing politics.....I have full faith in judiciary. We will see what comes out in the end. Truth will come out,” he said. The BJP could not stomach the charges lying down. While Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, dared Rahul to substantiate his charge in Parliament on the floor of Lok Sabha; his senior colleague M Venkaiah Naidu rejected Rahul Gandhi's contention that the case was "100 per cent vendetta coming out of the PMO". 

Confrontation Immense
Naidu in his style wondered if the Congress vice president was attacking former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh because the case was filed in 2012 when the UPA was in power and the PMO was under Dr Singh. He also pointed out that Dr Subramanian Swamy, a BJP leader who is the complainant in the case, was not in the saffron party when he had lodged it.
Important issue being discussed in the corridors of power is the timing of the whole episode. While it is an three-year old case the murmuring is it just came at a time when the Congress camp declined to cooperate with the government on the GST. 

Floated in 1937 by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Associated Journal Ltd – meant to publish The National Herald and ‘Quami Awaz’ in Urdu, decided to cease publication of its papers altogether in 2008. To put shutters down and payoff the remaining staff on its rolls and settle outstanding dues, the company required Rs 90 crore.
Congress party, as it was claimed, provided an 'interest-free loan'. And as part of a gripping capitalism-thriller, in 2010 a trust company, or a non-profit company, Young Indian set up with a paid up capital of Rs 5 lakh. It had Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi with 38 per cent each as share holders, and Motilal Vohra and Oscar Fernandez, both old family associates of the Dynasty, holding the remaining 24 per cent.

The genesis of the case – as smelt by Dr Subramanian Swamy – and now perhaps taken cognizance of the court lies in the fact that within a month of its formation, Young Indian took over the Rs 90 crore interest-free loan that had been provided to AJL by paying a princely sum of Rs 50 lakh to the Congress. The remaining amount was written off. In effect, AJL now owed Rs 90 crore to Young Indian, among whose directors were Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Oscar Fernandez, Motilal Vohra, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda.

“The deal is a sham, bogus, and a violation of several laws including Companies Law, the Income-Tax Act, Indian Penal Code Sections 405-08, 420, 467, and 193, Election Law, and Government Residence Allotment Rules,” Dr Swamy, then not a BJP leader, said in 2012 when he moved the court.
The story is akin to rags-to-riches as AJL as in 2012-13 with properties across India in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Allahabad, was believed to be worth more than Rs 2000 crore easily passed on Young Indian where mother-son duo have about 76 per cent shares daily.

Here let’s have a closer look at the complaints of Dr Swamy in the case:
The maverick Dr Swamy, as is popularly described, says, “Young Indian filed statements with the Registrar of Companies in March 2012, disclosing that the shareholders meetings were held in Sonia Gandhi’s government-allotted 10, Janpath. 
This is in violation of the law, since 10, Janpath, New Delhi, is government-provided accommodation which cannot be used for commercial purposes and business”. 

Moreover, the former Law Minister in Chandrashekhar government – which ironically was supported by Congress under Rajiv Gandhi -  says “over 80 per cent of the persons mentioned in the 2011 shareholders’ list filed with the RoC are deceased”, such prominent persons such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sharda Prasad, and GD Birla, as also some defunct Kolkata-based companies. 
“Hence the Board Meeting of AJPL handing over the company to Young Indian is a violation of the Companies Act and is an offence as well as a fraud on the public”. 
The Corruption Tiger !!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sonia-Rahul court summon: Mamata ko kyon gussa ati hae?

TOLERANT INDIA!!  Where are India-fleeing ‘khans’ , award-returning writers and liberals? Is the writ of law of the land cannot apply on Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul? What’s the new standard of Parliamentary democracy? A court summon resulting in paralysis of Parliament?

Why dedicated sickular India looking the other way? A joke seriously circulated is Sonia Gandhi's statue should be built up even in her life time in Parliament premises as she is trying to set new standard of Parliamentary democracy.

Meanwhile, however, the talk of the town is, ‘Why is Mamata Banerjee nervous’? Is Trinamool Congress solidarity with Sonia Gandhi in a legal case linked to Saradha chit fund scam and the related CBI probe? "I feel bad ..... sad that Sonia Gandhi was asked to appear in court. Persons who have been in politics for such a long time, it is not good that they appear in court. I feel bad about it," Banerjee told reporters here shortly emerging out of her meeting with Modi on December 8, 2015. But Didi’s body language spoke differently. 

Is Mamata losing the plot? Why she looked tensed?

Trinamool sources, however, later denied that the solidarity expressed by Mamata herself and also by her party in Parliament to Congress party on 'The National Herald case' in any case was linked to the Saradha chit fund scam.
"It will be absolutely erroneous to link our stand with Congress party with Saradha chit fund scam," a key party MP later said.

That her meeting with the Prime Minister on acute fund crunch in the state did not generate much optimism could be understood when she said, "Prime Minister merely said dekhenge (I will see)" to the demands for moratorium.
When asked if she was "happy" about her meeting with the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister merely said, "I am always happy".

She, however, stuck to her stand on the demand for central assistance to bail out the state from financial crunch and said, "this mess is not my creation, it's not my fault".
Sonia with kids and Mom-in-Law
However, displaying political nerves as TMC and BJP are likely to be in fierce contests in the ensuing assembly elections, she said, "....but I expect all kinds of challenges, if I could run the state with a monthly debt of Rs 30,000 crore....I can manage even no financial assistance from the centre".

But she hastened to add, "I am hopeful about the meeting with Prime Minister and hope he will deliver justice".

Now coming to The National Herald per se. My first interaction with the newspaper – founded by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru – was in Nagaland. The paper had a representative in the northeastern state in late eighties and early nineties – by the name XXX Pandey (first name kept on withhold deliberately).
The great tribute to Pandeyji’s journalism was paid by Nagaland secretariat staffers when some of them had called him ‘Kakaji’ – likening him to the popular TV character of the time for a serial on Doordarshan. ‘Kakaji’ character was played splendidly by ace actor Om Puri.

Another senior journalist Baikuntha Nath Goswami had paid another round of glorious tributes when he told some of us in All India Radio, news room, “even if you murder Pandey, he cannot write in English – I have been murdered”.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Beloved Journalism to ‘Bloo….. Journalism’: Transformation has come pretty fast

“Man Tera raazdar tha hee nahi;
Ab zindagi mujhsey sawal na kar”
(This heart could never keep any secret of life;

Why do you my life propose so many questions)... 
-         Sayed Mohsin Raza, Journalist, Islamabad

The previous blog piece on Narendra Modi’s  ‘Diwali Milan’ outreach to media tried to ignite a debate how hypocrisy has sought to murder today’s media credibility in India. I started journalism in late eighties …actually during my teens. Journalism though was unattractive financially and glamourwise, as many youngsters think today, to me it was not only a different and an exciting thriller of a profession. Actually after my ‘adventure with science’ flopped miserably like a pack of cards, JOURNALISM emerged as my SAVIOUR! To give it a romantic flavor – after my grand mom – Journalism became my first love ! The encouragement from senior Naga journalists and my All India Radio 'guru' Asheem Poddar is worth cherishing. 

And thus I remained only ‘non-Naga-journalist’ working with local papers in early 1990s in the state for quite some time covering political headhunting and insurgency!
No wonder, and often heard certain unscrupulous elements stating that my wings ought to clipped. So the thrill was also a bit risky?
And the ‘first love’ adulation remains and no wonder my wife finds journalism ‘her chief of rivals’ in every other sphere of life – perhaps including past-mid night and on bed!! Sorry, I am not getting vulgar! Books and newspapers more often accompany me and my pillows.
So when one finds the same ‘beloved’ Journalism in the shape as it is today -- conceivably I must try to draw a distinction between old school journalism – as I understood in my humble wisdom and hailed – and the journalism of today – where I am almost misfit!
Lesson for Papa: Daughter's tightrope walking
“Blo…. Journalism…is like that,” my onetime roommate Shashi Kumar Nair, ex-PTI colleague, used to often say and try to console me.

But what’s that ‘old school’ journalism? Before one ponders into a debate, it ought to be stated that most editors in the town have given up that ‘old school’ and hence this casualty stage. Difficult to find role models! You have guessed it right.  
Bertrand Russel once wrote: “Religions grow old like tress unless reformed from time to time”. 

Journalism too like everything dynamic – like religion - in this world needs changes. But journalism has actually ‘changed’ pretty fast and possibly towards a wrong direction. 

It needs a reform today but the bigger challenge is - it has to come inherently. And this looks difficult under the given circumstances largely because selfish motives of glamour and money have struck people. And sadly even freshers joining journalism in India today are guided into the noble profession with motives.
I am not suggesting earlier generations were saints. Things started deteriorating almost by the turn of 1990s. This coincided with liberalism of economy and advent of television and so called pink paper (business) journalism. The new era journalism brought in packet journalism and ‘gifted’ press conferences! Slowly the standards reached higher scale – it got mixed up with demand for flats, foreign junkets etc. Owners and Editors were no sacred cows (or any other animal) too!
Thus - the stage where we stand today. 

My understanding of journalism – which perhaps need not fit into today’s definition - is basically that - it is an ethical game guided by commitment of individuals towards the profession. 

This is a shortage today as very systematically things have been destroyed. In today’s journalism and especially among younger generation and even colleagues from our era, we find certain mandatory provisions lacking. 

These are wide reading, inter-disciplinary approach and importance of detachment. In fact we have just the opposite ‘virtues’ prevailing in today’s journalism. The vanishing act of reading has brought in mediocrity and below average qualities.  
Hence – even senior political journalists would not know that Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections are held every six years and not five!

On moral front, ‘jugadu’ journalism is the key stepping stone today – more so in large cities Delhi, Mumbai and various state capitals. Journalists no longer talk about ‘stories’ or working in challenging situations as opportunities! They talk about junkets, getting into official patronage and in the long run even closer to the throne – where it suits.

Some journalists and journalism organizations have second generation syndrome – because their papas and uncles thrived in practicing the ‘wrong’ kind of game – so you have generation next doing the same and doing it more intensely.
And when it comes to doing journalism per se – news channels and news papers have given up the role of ‘providing information’!
Social networking has made life almost like a nightmarish puzzle.  

Legendary Nikhil Chakravarty once said, “If can see the world going up in flames, your job is to communicate that there’s fire so that people can call the fire brigade”. But switch on the TV channels and you will tend to believe – journalists believe its their role to play the fire brigade. Hence covering Narendra Modi or writing about BJP means -  you have to write against them. 

You have to take up the role of a secular or ‘sickular’ player ! I have no issues with citizenship – the problem is with ‘neo-activism’ as the same anti-Modi brigade will do anything for selfies and the same crowd will try get closer to Arun Jaitley. Result is country’s Finance Minister is also known as the ‘Chief of Bureau’.  Thus the real story about journalism is far from over. 
Prism and Vision