Sunday, May 28, 2006

Four challenges

After the “end of history” Francis Fukuyama 2 - 5 - 2006 Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis – proposed in a 1989 essay, elaborated in a 1992 book – was the most influential attempt to make sense of the post-cold-war world. In a new afterword to "The End of History and the Last Man", Fukuyama reflects on how his ideas have survived the tides of criticism and political change.
In the seventeen years that have passed since the original publication of my essay, "The End of History?", my hypothesis has been criticised from every conceivable point of view. Publication of the second paperback edition of the book The End of History and the Last Man gives me an opportunity to restate the original argument, to answer what I regard as the most serious objections that were raised to it, and to reflect on some of the developments in world politics that have occurred since the summer of 1989.
I have been contrasted by many observers to my former teacher Samuel Huntington, who put forward a very different vision of world development in his book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. In certain respects I think it is possible to overestimate the degree to which we differ in our interpretation of the world. For example, I agree with him in his view that culture remains an irreducible component of human societies, and that you cannot understand development and politics without a reference to cultural values. But there is a fundamental issue that separates us. It is the question of whether the values and institutions developed during the western Enlightenment are
  • potentially universal (as Hegel and Marx thought), or
  • bounded within a cultural horizon (consistent with the views of later philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger).

Huntington clearly believes that they are not universal. He argues that the kind of political institutions with which we in the west are familiar are the by-product of a certain kind of western European Christian culture, and will never take root beyond the boundaries of that culture. So the central question to answer is whether western values and institutions have a universal significance, or whether they represent the temporary success of a presently hegemonic culture.

Of the many challenges to the optimistic evolutionary scenario laid out in The End of History, correctly understood, there are four that I regard as the most serious.
  1. The first is related to Islam as an obstacle to democracy;
  2. the second has to do with the problem of democracy at an international level;
  3. the third concerns the autonomy of politics;
  4. and the last is related to the unanticipated consequences of technology.

Dictators bask in adulation from western 'progressives'

Thank you, my foolish friends in the West Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is only the latest dictator-in-waiting to bask in adulation from western 'progressives', says Ian Buruma The Sunday Times May 14, 2006
When the Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas managed to escape to the US in 1980, after years of persecution by the Cuban government for being openly homosexual and a dissident, he said: “The difference between the communist and capitalist systems is that, although both give you a kick in the ass, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream. And I came here to scream.”
One of the most vexing things for artists and intellectuals who live under the compulsion to applaud dictators is the spectacle of colleagues from more open societies applauding of their own free will. It adds a peculiarly nasty insult to injury. Stalin was applauded by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Mao was visited by a constant stream of worshippers from the West, some of whose names can still produce winces of disgust in China. Castro has basked for years in the adulation of such literary stars as Jose Saramago and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Even Pol Pot found favour among several well-known journalists and academics.
Criticism of American policies and economic practices are necessary and often just, but why do leftists continue to discredit their critical stance by applauding strongmen who oppress and murder their own critics? Is it simply a reverse application of that famous American cold war dictum: “He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard”? Or is it the fatal attraction to power often felt by writers and artists who feel marginal and impotent in capitalist democracies? The danger of Chavism is not a revival of communism, even though Castro is among its main boosters. Nor should anti-Americanism be our main concern. The US can take care of itself. What needs to be resisted, not just in Latin America, is the new form of populist authoritarianism.
That Chavez is applauded by many people, especially the poor, is not necessarily a sign of democracy; many revolutionary leaders are popular, at least in the beginning of their rule, before their promises have ended in misery and bloodshed.
The left has a proud tradition of defending political freedoms, at home and abroad. But this tradition is in danger of being lost when western intellectuals indulge in power worship. Applause for autocrats undermines the morale of people who insist on fighting for their freedoms Leftists were largely sympathetic, and rightly so, to critics of Berlusconi and Thaksin, even though neither was a dictator. Both did, of course, support American foreign policy. But when democracy is endangered, the left should be equally hard on rulers who oppose the US. Failure to do so encourages authoritarianism everywhere, including in the West itself, where the frivolous behaviour of a dogmatic left has already allowed neoconservatives to steal all the best lines.

I'll try to at least start a draft whenever I can

Monday, November 22, 2004 Blog Rules posted by Dædalux at 4:44 PM
Since I'm new to blogging, and not entirely sure how to go about it, I figure I might as well lay out some groundrules. I know there are no 'rules' per se - that I'm free to write anything I want, but I still think some set of general guidelines might be useful. The whole point is not to restrict my blogging, but to focus my efforts and make it all worthwhile.
Rule#1 - Write regularly. I know that's obvious - and easier said than done. Still, I'll try to at least start a draft whenever I can, even if I don't have the time to complete it and post right away. As long as I have a general idea started, I can always go back and finish it when I do have the time.
Rule#2 - Be selective about what gets written. It'd be easy to simply write about the mundane details of my day, but I don't expect I'd benefit from recording useless trivia and I'm sure nobody else would want to read about that stuff either. It's not that I have to always write deep meaningful stuff, but it'd be better if I could focus on just one topic at a time, and try to pick things that might have at least some small significance or interest to myself (and hopefully others).
Rule#3 - Read other blogs, and post comments. If I just wanted to keep a diary, I wouldn't do it on the internet. The thing that makes blogging so interesting is the whole aspect of interactivity. Whenever I post, I always spend a few minutes reading through random blogs or checking back on a few of my favorites. Every once in a while I read something that really sparks my interest or sets me to thinking in a new way. No simple diary can do that. That's enough rules to start with. Perhaps I'll add more rules as I discover them. posted by Dædalux at 4:44 PM

A rudderless India, disconnected from her past

11/5/2005 6:01:08 PM From Mahadev Kochi, Nov 05
The Hindus are under siege today and to resist this siege they first need unity, said Dr Subramanya Swami fromer Union Minister. Speaking at a meeting of the Hindu saints in Mumbai recently, Dr Swamy said “We Hindus are under siege today, and we do not know it !! That is, what is truly alarming is that Hindu society could be dissembled today without much protest since we have been lulled or lost the capacity to think collectively as Hindus.To resist this siege, he said, we first need Hindu unity. Numbers [of those claiming to be adherents to Hinduism] do not matter in today’s information society.It is the durability and clarity of the Hindu mindset of those who unite that matters in the forging of an instrument to fight this creeping danger.
In 1947, temporal power was defacto restored to the Hindu majority. But theIndian state formally adopted secularism, which concept however was never properly defined or debated. For example, it left vague what an Indian’s connection was with the nation’s Hindu past and legacy. In the name of secularism, it was taboo for a public servant even to break a coconut or light a oil lamp to inaugurate an official function on the ground that religious symbols must not invade public life. Such orthodoxy was promoted by Jawarharlal Nehru and his Leftist advisers. But then government took over supervision of temples, legislated on Hindu personal laws, and regulated religious festivals, but kept aloof from the Muslim and Christain Religious affairs.The secularism principle was foisted on As a result, the renaissance that had begun in the late nineteenth century to redefine the Hindu identity [in contemporary terms and norms valid in a pluralistic society], was aborted by the confusion thus created in Hindu minds by a vaguely understood concept of secularism.
Electoral politics further confounded the issues arising out of secularism, and hence the Indian society became gradually and increasingly fragmented in outlook and of confused perspective. Hindu society became divided by caste that became increasingly mutually antagonistic. Attempts were made through falsification in history texts adopted for curriculum in the education system to disconnect and disinherit the contemporary Indian from the past glory of Hindu India. The intrinsic Hindu unity was sought to be undone by legitimizing such bogus concepts as Aryan-Dravidian racial divide theory, or that India as a concept never existed till the British imperialists put it together, or that Indians have always been ruled by invaders from abroad. Incidentally, the Aryan-Dravidian myth has now been exploded by modern research on DNA of Indians and Europeans conducted by Professor C. Panseand other scholars.
Modern India was sought to be portrayed by foreign interests through this curriculum as a discontinuity in history and as a new entity much as are today’s Greece, Egypt or Iraq. That curriculum is largely intact today. On the contrary efforts are afoot to bolster the disparagement of our past in the new dispensation today. A rudderless India, disconnected from her past has, as a consequence, become a fertile field for religious poachers and neo-imperialists from abroad who paint India as a mosaic of immigrants much like a crowd on a platform in a railway junction. That is, it is clandestinely propagated that India has belonged to those who forcibly occupied it. This is the theme around which the Islamic fundamentalists and fraud Christian crusaders are again at work, much as they were a thousand years ago, but of course in new dispensations, sophistication, and media forms. Thus the concept of intrinsic Hindu unity, and India’s Hindu foundation are dangerously under challenge by these forces. Tragically most Hindus today are not even cognizant of it.
The challenge today confronting Hindus is however much more difficult to meet than was earlier in history because the forces at work to erode and undermine Hindu faith, unlike before, are unseen, clandestine, pernicious,deceptive but most of all sophisticated and media-savvy. Tragically therefore, a much more educated and larger numbers of Hindus have been unwittingly co-opted in this sinister conspiracy directed by foreigners who have no love for India and who also see much as Lord Macauley saw in the nineteenth century, that the hoary Hindu foundation of India is a stumbling block for the furtherance of their nefarious perfidious game.Adherence to Hinduism is also being sought to be diluted in the name of modernity and this dilution is made a norm of secularism. Religion, it is advocated, is personal.
To be a good Hindu today is conceptually being reduced to just praying, piety, visiting temples, and celebrating religious festivals. The concept of a collective Hindu mindset is being ridiculed as chauvinist and retrograde, even fundamentalist.The concept of a corporate Hindu unity and identity however is that of a collective mindset that identifies us with a motherland from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean and it’s glorious past, and the concomitant resolve of it’s representative leadership defined as “chakravartin” earlier by Chanakya, to defend that vision. It is this concept and resolve that is being discarded or is just evaporating under the onslaught of the Nehruvian secularists.However pious a Hindu becomes, however prosperous Hindu temples become from doting devotees’ offerings, when the nation is in danger it is this collective mindset of the people that matters, and not the piety of the individual in that collective.Hindu society today lacking a cohesive corporate identity, is thus in the process of becoming fragmented, and hence increasingly in disarray.
This fission process is on simultaneously with the reality of millions of Hindus who go to temples regularly or walk to Sabarimalai or participate in Kumbh Mela.This is not what I mean when I speak of Hindu unity to this august gathering, he said. I am instead referring to the Hindu consciousness which encompasses the willingness and determination to collectively defend the faith from the erosion that is being induced by the disconnect with our glorious past.
What Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chatterjee, Sri Aurobindo, and Subramania Bharati had achieved by raising Hindu consciousness to that end, has now been depleted and dissipated over the last six decades. Even the patriotic and anguished writings of Dr. Ambedkar, and his oration in the Constituent Assembly for a strong united country have been vulgarized to advocate Hindu society’s disintegration. In his scholarly paper presented in a 1916 Columbia University seminar [and published in Indian Antiquary, vol. XLI, May 1917 p.81-95] Dr. Ambedkar stated: “It is the unity of culture that is the basis of homogeneity. Taking this for granted, I venture to say that there is no country that can rival the Indian Peninsula with respect to the unity of it’s culture. It has not only a geographic unity, but it has over and above all a deeper and much more fundamental unity---the indubitable cultural unity that covers the land from end to end”.
Ambedkar wrote several such brilliant books, but alas, Nehru and his cohorts so thoroughly frustrated him that in the end bitterness drove him to Buddhism. Thus, if this degeneration and disconnect are not rectified and repaired by a resolve to unite Hindustanis [Hindus and those others who proudly identify with India’s Hindu past], the Hindu civilization may go into a tail spin and ultimately fade away like other civilizations have for much the same reason.Of course, this sorry state has come about as a cumulative effect of a thousand years past of Islamic invasions, occupation and Imperialist colonization.
But we failed to rectify the damage after the Hindus overwhelmingly got de-facto power in 1947. For this transfer of power, we sacrificed one quarter of Akhand Hindustan territory to settle those Muslims who could not bear to live or adjust with the Hindu majority.That is, by a failure to usher a renaissance after 1947 India lost her opportunity to cleanse the accumulated dirt and unwanted baggage of the past. The nation missed a change to demolish the birth-based caste theory as Ambedkar had wanted to do. The battering that the concept of Hindu unity and Indian identity has taken at the hands of Nehruvian secularists since 1947 has led to the present social malaise. Thus, even though Hindus are above 80 percent of the population in India, they have not been able to understand their roots in, and obligations to, the nation in a pluralistic Hindustani democracy.
Today the sacrilege of Hindu concepts and hoary institutions, is being carried out not with the crude brutality of a Ghazni or Ghori, but with the sophistication of the constitutional instruments of law. The desecration of Hindu icons, for example the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt, is being made to look legal, thereby completely confusing the Hindu people, and thus making them unable to recognize the danger, or to realize that Hindus have to unite to defend against the threats to their legacy.

Brave new India

History is the philosophy of nations. And the Sangh Parivar has a very clear and candid conception of Indian history. Here was a great civilization whose glory spread from Sri Lanka to Java and Japan and from Tibet and Mangolia to China and Siberia. While it weathered the storms of Huns and Shakas and Greeks it wilted before the Islamic storms of the Turks. However, a 1000-year resistance saw this country bloodied but unbowed. Its civilization survived through the heroic efforts of the Vijayanagar Empire and of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh and countless heroes and martyrs.
In more recent times this torch was picked up by Swami Dayanand and Swami Vivekanada. And in the present century the good work has been carried on by Sri Aurobindo, Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and others.
The RSS, founded by Dr Hedgewar in 1925 and consolidated by Shri Guruji after 1940, is the heir to this heroic, historic heritage. It has nothing against Muslim Indians - as distinguished from Muslim invaders. Its position on this issue has all along been: "Justice for all and appeasement of none". But it has no doubt that we were and are a Hindu nation; that change of faith cannot mean change of nationality.
The RSS entirely agrees with Gandhiji's formulations that "There is in Hinduism room enough for Jesus, as there is for Mohammed, Zoroster and Moses" and that "majority of the Muslims of India are converts to that faith from Hinduism through force of circumstances. They are still Hindu in many essential ways and, in a free, prosperous, progressive India, they would find it the most natural thing in the world to revert to their ancient faith and ways of life."
While the status-quoists may be shaken by this emerging brave new India, the people of India have every reason to cheer the emergence of this rejuvenated India with the promise of Ram Rajya and with Rabindranath Tagore's prayer for "Eka Dharmarajya hable a Bharate" (Let there be one Dharma Rajya - a just and moral order - in India). # posted by Rubhi @ 10:12 AM

Friday, May 26, 2006

Who should run the country?

Who should run the country? Our elected representatives or the students of technical institutions? Matters of public policy are best left to the MPs. That is what the Constitution of India envisages. Street politics may be good Nukkad theatre but it can't be a substitute for the Parliament and its inclusiveness.
It's a shame to see the well-heeled medicos making a spectacle of themselves on the quota-issue. It's high time they should also learn a little bit of sociology and political science.

Creation of wealth is unlimited

In order to understand leftist economics, we must go all the way back to cave man economics, because that’s where it starts. And what do cave men believe? The default setting of mankind seems to be that wealth is fixed, so that it is a matter of fighting over one’s share--one persons gain is another person’s loss. People still struggle with the idea that the creation of wealth is unlimited, and that both parties of a transaction may benefit from it (such as in free trade).
In my opinion, the psychological mechanism of envy was evolved in the archaic environment as an expression of primitive economics. Remember, human beings are fundamentally social animals that evolved in small, face to face bands of only 20 or 30 individuals. Evolution actually selected these small human groups more than individual humans. Therefore, anything that facilitated the survival of these small groups was likely to be selected by evolution.
I believe envy was one of these factors, because envy is in fact a primitive form of socialist egalitarianism that helps to promote social solidarity. Remember, social solidarity is the purpose underlying what might be called the “envy theory” of primordial socialist economics, not the production of wealth. Indeed some (that is, I) might go so far as to say that nothing has changed in this regard: that the contemporary left is an expression of our primordial envy, which cannot help noticing that some members of the group possess more than others. Therefore, those with more must be attacked under the guise of equality...
As Helmut Schoeck pointed out in his book Envy, the economically successful society must function as if the envious individual does not exist. It must learn to recognize him in his many guises, and ignore him. posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:34 AM

Integral truth--of horizontal and vertical realities

Leftism attempts to eliminate evil without eliminating the cause of evil, which is in the human heart. In so doing, it causes deeper existential alienation, a more profound attachment to the very impermanent things that can never satisfy us. This doesn’t mean that we do not attempt to improve the world. Of course we do. But only in the context of perennial wisdom and total, integral truth--of horizontal and vertical realities. In other words, total "horizontal perfection" would lead to a kind of hell with no vertical escape. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:13 AM

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Socialism Isn't Dead

Capitalism is too important and complex a subject to be left to the economists...” --Jerry Muller
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 The Economic Mytholgap posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:34 AM 17 comments
Yesterday we were discussing Lee Harris’ important piece on Why Socialism Isn't Dead. In it he makes the key point that socialism’s irrationality is its greatest strength. Since it isn’t operating in the realm of logic, it is therefore impervious to being logically disproved. Although it fails time and again, its failure proves nothing, as failure is simply transformed into a step along the way to inevitable success.
This leads to the startling conclusion that “the whole point of the socialist revolution is not that human societies will be transformed in the distant future, but that the individuals who dedicate their lives to this myth will be transformed... in the present” [emphasis mine]. Paradoxically, the purpose of socialism is not to achieve socialism; rather, “the myth of socialism is a useful illusion that turns ordinary men into comrades and revolutionaries united in a common struggle...”
As I have written before, one cannot transcend religion, for religion embodies objective metaphysical truth. Therefore, if one tries to sidestep it, it will simply return in the form of sub-religious magical thinking, such as scientism or socialism. Just as religion is the most fruitful way to “think about ultimate reality,” capitalism is the most fruitful way to think about economics. But just as the person who rejects revealed religion falls back on “natural religion” (i.e., what can be revealed by the senses and perceptions), the socialist falls back on what might be called “natural economics,” that is, a flawed way of thinking about the creation and distribution of wealth that is more or less hardwired into our genes.Remember, only a tiny, insignificant fraction of mankind’s evolution has taken place under modern circumstances. Rather, 99% of our human evolution took place in what is called the “archaic environment.”
Where you situate the archaic environment is somewhat arbitrary, but let’s just go back to the emergence of archaic homo sapiens, which was half a million years ago. It is presumed by evolutionary psychologists that our human traits emerged and were selected during this period of time. Included among these traits would be our “natural” way of looking at the accumulation and distribution of goods.
So if we delve into the archaic environment, what can we learn about Economic Man? Certainly he wasn’t a capitalist. One of the most fascinating economics books I have ever read is The Mind and the Market, by Jerry Muller. What makes it so fascinating is that the book is not a history of economics per se, but a history of what people have thought about economics, which is mostly flat wrong, if not plain absurd. In this regard, it is similar to a history of medicine that looks at all of the crazy beliefs human beings have had about sickness and health. Until about a hundred years ago, you were lucky if most medical procedures didn’t actually harm you. It is the same with economics.
Until Adam Smith in the late 18th century, there was no understanding at all of how wealth was created. Hard to believe, but we are still fighting the same battle Adam Smith was, in that we cannot overcome something deeply irrational in the heart of man when it comes to thinking about wealth. By actually developing a true economic discipline, separate from all of the magical thinking that had previously pervaded the subject, Smith unwittingly detached the subject from its deeper irrational roots--as if he literally developed a “conscious economics” split off from “unconscious economics.” But this doesn’t mean that “unconscious economics” will disappear. To the contrary--like the Freudian unconscious, it will simply come back with a vengeance.

I am trying to live up to my name

From: "bibek anand"
To: "Tusar N. Mohapatra"
Date: Wed, 17 May 2006 01:20:31 +0100 (BST)
Respected Tusar Jee ,

Namaskar !

At the very outset , I want to make it clear to you that I place you in the inner-most circle of SAMPADA . Your steadfastness to ethical values and the attitude of not taking anything for granted really charms me . I am highly grateful to you , also for the opinion which you harbour for me .

I am a very ordinary person . The only quality which I can claim to possess to some extent is that I am not a buck-passer . This very trait ( I am indebted to the Almighty for getting it bestowed upon me ) is propelling me to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of ensuring SAMPADA as our socio-economic orientation . The interactions which I have been going through , are giving me the best possible instructions and lessons which could not have ever been imparted to me in any formal university .

Persons like you , are the shining stars in the present social firmament which is certainly dark otherwise .

Sensitivity demands that the more powerful and resourceful one is …… the greater also must be one’s commitment to the betterment of the lot of those whose very humanity is constantly being threatened by want and need . Only a sensitive person can enjoy the bliss of sacrifice . Being emotional leads to you to a state where you fully sympathize with your near and dear ones , but find yourself somewhat helpless in extending concrete help to them . However, without being a little bit emotional , sensitivity can not find it’s own place .

It is not enough to be right . Sometimes , if only in order to test our resolve , it is important to win something . But to win , we will need to engage and capture the middle ground and paint it in the colours we want . Polarizing the message simply does not help . It rebounds , makes caricatures of us . Good to listen to , easy to dismiss .

We must trace the root of the problems which keep nagging us . All the problems besetting us stems from our complete surrender to SAMPATTI attitude irrespective of the strata to which we belong . I am again reminding of you the greatest dissuading pitfall , i.e. Poor people need not be virtuous however sensitive persons are hard to come by . We are running very fast and we always want to escalate our cruising speed, but in this process , we are losing our aim . We want things to be shared , but at the same time , please spare me attitude at this moment , too engulfs us and a buck-passing trend continues unabashedly . Because of our indifferent attitude to the truth , evil things keep prospering and acquiring monstrous proportions . Lest such tendencies should completely stifle sane thoughts, actions and sacrifices in the form of rising above the selfish tendencies seem only solution .

People's problem should never become our business opportunities. Every one must be provided with gainful work and in gratitude to this great grace , each one of us , must have compassion in our heart . ( Hope you must have gone through my mail regarding flexible work schedule to secure the same ) .

Sensitive Governance is also a bedrock for a civilized ambience . You will be glad to know that my proposals regarding mandatory tests of character and relaxing age criterion so as to give opportunity to persons of fabric to enter the public services ( at any stage) has been attracting wide - ranging attention . ( I had sent those proposals to you also for your kind endorsement too .)

Governance is a task too sacred, to be left in the hand of demons in the garb of so called popular democracy. Don't you think , this great Nation / society ( I believe the whole world is one ) does need only persons of your ilk as the custodians , so that it's affairs may be steered on a right track . An enlightened, sensitive and selfless person like you can really bring about a marked change , because you understand the need of SAMPADA as our socio-economic orientation .

SAMPADA concept is the distillation of my experience of a decade witnessing the circus of life in the ring itself rather than watching from the cushy seat in the stalls. I assure you that ,with the benevolent help of true human beings like you , we will really transform the scenario to a positive state where there will be no strife , bickering and perhaps even heaven will be sending it's managers to take lessons from the inhabitants of the earth to learn the secret of a placid and tranquil life buzzing with constructive activities .

Watching a glimmer of hope in the eyes of a hapless person gives me the vision of God . Help if extended , for the sake of the fame is worthless . Nobody asked me to tread on the path of SAMPADA .

SAMPADA leads to SIMPLE Life.

S - Spiritual Development
I - Intuitional Development
M - Mental Development
P - Physical Development
L - Love your soul attitude
E - Emotional and ethical Development.

I observe an enlightened soul in you and hence please do not let it dampened . Why do you feel that powers that be , will never let good ideas fructify ? They are not doing any thing of this sort . It is our lack of faith in our own capabilities and indifference to the selfless social action , which is letting them free ground !

Are we creating any good example for others by sacrificing ourselves ? Buck-passing attitude on our part , facilitates an open field for the people with vested interests . If we are not creating an alternate system , then certainly we are supporting the present system .

In Hindi , my name is Vivek , which means capability of discrimination between right and wrong . I am trying to live up to my name . Owing to my personal sacrifices viz. starting career with the improvement of Cycle-Rickshaws instead of going for usual corporate openings , my recent chucking away from the job , when , my social endeavour was brutally disallowed ( In fact , here I felt the need of flexible working schedule ) , high personal integrity , simple living , complete devotion to SAMPADA cause ( I did not think twice in selling so many personal belongings so as to further the SAMPADA initiative , when no help seemed to be on anvil ) , deep study of scriptures and relating it to social dynamics . Hence you can always find an steadfast person in me , I assure you for it . Moreover all these revelations did not come to me at the fag end of my life .
I am in early thirties and having at least decade-long keen practical experience of watching the circus of life in the ring itself rather from the cushy seats from the stalls . Hence , never loose heart and do not withdraw from the call of your soul . I know the practical difficulty of treading on such a lonely path , hence I am courageous ! Now the situation has turn a better course . We are lumping together . I am sure that after a decade , the world will be very different from the present murky scenario . I have gained an effective insight of the dynamics of our socio-economic ways and how to steer them .

But , we must start in a big way . Merely scratching the surface will yield too little . Accretion is too hard and needs constant hammering . Let there be such a great tsunami of SAMPADA , so that even the die-hard protagonists would feel tempted to change their ways .

I can watch, the act of the Almighty granting his most benevolent grace to inspire you for standing for the cause of SAMPADA .

Last but not least , never feel that you are not with me in this magnificent endeavour . You are needed always and you are already with me sharing our concepts so as to fulfill our common aim which is nothing but a spark of inspiration from the benevolent Almighty . We may not be physically around for ever , but our inspiration will hover forever . Now I am realizing fast that the most urgent attention should be paid for the establishment of the contemplated center . Once it will be in it’s place , be ready to be a party to the great transformation being effected .

Regards !

Yours truly,

Bibek Kumar Anand
Convener "SAMPADA"

The tyranny of examinations

Sandeep Pandey Indian Express Posted online: Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Recently IIT Kanpur (IIT-K) witnessed its second student suicide in the past six months. Shailesh Sharma could not face the ignominy of failing in two courses and hanged himself on May 4. Earlier, Swapnil Dharaskar ended his life on November 30. It is quite well-known that to get into the IITs and survive a degree course there involves an excruciating, almost inhumane, process. These suicides, the outrage among students and the defence of the IIT examination system by the faculty prompt me to narrate my experience with experimenting with the IIT Kanpur examination system as a faculty member in ’93. The only course that I independently taught at IIT during my three-semester stay there was Control Systems for the final year Mechanical Engineering students.
Being a Gandhian by orientation, I firmly believe that examinations should be abolished. As a member of the Central Advisory Board on Education of the present government I have also raised the question in Delhi about the link between education and examinations. Personally I have never understood why — if the purpose of education is to acquire knowledge — it is necessary to pass or fail students by subjecting them to the examination process. I told my students that, as professor, my job would not be considered complete until I was able to make each of my students understand the subject I was teaching.
Examinations were a bureaucratic procedure which should not have anything to do with a professor. If a student failed an examination, the failure must be considered that of the professor and not that of a student. Although the student needs to put in efforts, it is for the professor to ensure that he comprehends what is being taught. If a student is lagging behind, or not doing well in a particular subject, it is the responsibility of the professor to ensure that the student catches up. Ideally, I would have liked to avoid examinations. But since I had to turn in a list of grades at the end of the semester, I came up with what I thought was the best possible compromise. I told my students that they would get unlimited chances to appear in an examination — which was not a written one — and the process will be complete only when they felt that they had put in their best performance.
The idea was to make students learn the subject at their own pace. Since I wanted my students to learn the subject, I decided to spend about 15 minutes with each to make them feel comfortable. If I saw that they had not put in their best, I would advise them to take the examination again. Sometimes the request for a repeat examination would come from them. Initially, I was apprehensive about the process going on indefinitely for some. But to my surprise no student took more than three chances. Four students came to me and told me that they were not interested in the subject. Since it was likely that they were interested in other subjects and wanted to spend more time on them, I decided to pass them with a ‘C’ grade. The rest got ‘A’s and ‘B’s.
Professor S.G. Dhande, the present director of IIT-K, and then head of Mechanical Engineering decided to discuss my experiment with the examination system at the weekly departmental meeting. There was a furore. Most faculty members were aghast that I could adopt such a “subjective” way of grading. I was asked how would I keep a proof of the performance if any student decided to challenge the grade awarded. But I explained that nobody could have any complaints in my system, because they had already put in their best. There were only a handful of younger faculty members who supported me, quoting the tradition of academic autonomy at IIT-K. I was told by senior faculty members that I should not repeat my experiment and must conduct a written examination the next time. I was of course not happy with this and revolted by conducting the next examination as a written one, but allowing unlimited time and a five-minute consultation mid-way for those who got stuck somewhere. The students had no complaints. I think some enjoyed the process as well as subject and I was happy to have conducted a humane examination.
But I remain a strong advocate of delinking the learning process from examinations. There are more non-intrusive ways of finding out how much a student knows if the purpose of examinations is only to evaluate the student. And when it comes to applying for jobs, employers would in any case conduct their own tests. People have already started thinking about it. Some of the most progressive schools considered are those which de-emphasise competition and concentrate on the development of humane values. If we want our students to become more sensitive to themselves and fellow human beings we must have an education system that does not destroy their sense of self-worth.

Infosys director warns of human resource crisis

ENS ECONOMIC BUREAU Indian Express Posted online: Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The war for talent is hotting up as the services industry is all set to hire three lakh engineers from the available pool of 4.95 lakh in the next fiscal. ‘‘The IT industry itself will hire a million people in the next three years, thereby putting a great constraint on the supply side. If the number of engineering seats, including those in IITs and IIMs, is not increased substantially, there will be a big HR crisis,’’ said Infosys Technologies HR director T. V. Mohandas Pai. Emphasising on the looming manpower crunch in the public sector units, especially banks, Pai said 3 lakh employees are going to retire in five years. Public sector units had not been hiring for the past 10 years and the average age of the public sector employee is 42 to 45 years.
If the government did not hire and train the employees now, it would become extremely difficult for it to get the quality manpower from private sector with escalating salaries, career growth, opportunities in the private sector. On the training front also, the government will have to struggle as the IT industry is spending as much as $2.6 billion on training and $5000 to train a single employee for 16 weeks. Pai added that higher education is in a major crisis. ‘‘Average age of head of departments in colleges is 52 to 54 years, BTech graduates are teaching BTech undergraduates, staff shortage and limited number of seats are the major issues affecting the sector,’’ he said.

The United States partakes in the shame

Editorial About That Free Trade . . Homepage Published: May 15, 2006
Global talks to liberalize farm and industrial trade are on life support, and there is not a single character in the cast of supposed free-trade advocates around the world willing to step up and be the doctor. Not President Bush, who has downgraded the stature of his trade office by appointing a technocrat, Susan Schwab, to succeed his political ally, Rob Portman. Not Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who has allowed the trade component of his campaign to end global poverty to fall by the wayside. And certainly not the European Union's trade chief, Peter Mandelson, who has not lifted a finger to prod big concessions out of the bureaucrats, labor leaders and farmers in France who live, eat, sleep and drink a steady diet of government subsidies.
After another in a long-running series of missed deadlines, things are looking grim. And that is a disgrace that highlights the complete hypocrisy of all those speeches about abolishing global poverty that the leaders of rich countries gave last year. This round of trade talks was supposed to finally address more than a half-century of unfairness in the global trade system. Back in 1947, when 23 nations agreed to start an international organization to promote trade and arbitrate disputes, the needs of poor countries mattered little. Industrialized nations were rebuilding after World War II, and they remained the economic masters of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Over the next 50 years, that club, now known as the World Trade Organization, aggressively dismantled barriers against trade in industrial goods and services — the areas in which its members hold a comparative advantage. That same club dragged its feet on dismantling barriers against trade in agriculture and textiles, where poor countries have an advantage. All of that was supposed to change after 2001, when, reeling from the Sept. 11 attack and under intense pressure from the developing world, America, Europe and Japan agreed to slash agricultural subsidies while further liberalizing world trade in services and manufactured goods. Since then, negotiators have, unsurprisingly, made big strides toward agreeing how to cut tariffs in the areas important to the rich countries: manufactured goods, and, to a lesser extent, services. But the talks are stuck on agriculture.
The Europeans are the most to blame. But that does not mean the United States does not partake in the shame as well. America has proposed cuts in subsidies to farmers, but it needs to go further. Meanwhile, back in Washington, where lawmakers are preparing for the midterm elections, there is talk now that America should extend, rather than modify, its farm support laws. That is going in the wrong direction. World trade talks are notorious for coming back to life after being declared dead. But for that to happen, someone has to call in the paramedics. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are the most likely candidates. There is still time to demonstrate that all that talk last year about making poverty history was not just talk.

Anti-quota protest organised by event managers

One agitation that didn’t rock By Kartikeya TNN 17 May 2006
Mumbai: Two young event managers for rock shows — Vijay Nair (22) and Girish Talwar (27) — who used their skills to good use during the anti-quota protest outside Raj Bhavan last week, are now facing the music. Fearing arrest on charges of inciting the students to violate prohibitory orders, they have now filed for anticipatory bail. Their bail application says the duo work with student bodies in medical and engineering colleges across the country to organise rock shows and therefore they enjoy a good rapport with the student community.
The plea says that when the opposition to the 93rd constitutional amendment meant to introduce the new quota system began, Talwar and Nair met students of IIT and AIIMS at Delhi who asked them to put them in touch with their counterparts in Mumbai. Once in Mumbai, Nair met students of IIT, JJ Hospital, KEM, Nair medical and other colleges and realised that he shared their views on the quota issue. Subsequently, Nair and Talwar took part in a peaceful protest at Azad Maidan on May 2 along with several students. They also studied the Mandal report which convinced them that the reservation policy was wrong. On May 13, the duo came to Azad Maidan to take part in the hunger strike and then like the other protesters, shifted to Raj Bhavan. Their plea says that in the ensuing lathicharge, Talwar suffered injuries on his arm, back and lower back and was later bundled off with the students to Malabar Hill police station. There he acted as a mediator between students and cops and helped them complete the formalities.
The plea says that police inspector Madhukar Sankhe asked Talwar to take eight students for a medical checkup but to ensure that they did not get admitted. However, when some students refused to get discharged, Sankhe blamed Talwar and detained him until 9 am the next day. The police also recorded four statements by Talwar, including one on video. The next big surprise came when Nair and Talwar heard police commissioner A N Roy telling TV reporters on May 15 that the entire Raj Bhavan episode was not a random event. It was actually planned by ‘‘an event manager and a member of a rock band’’. DCP Pratap Dighavkar said that Talwar and Nair were ‘‘self proclaimed leaders of the group’’ which led to their arrest. ‘‘We released them on bail that day after taking down their statements. The matter is now with the crime branch and it will proceed further on it,’’ Dighavkar added. Crime lawyer Nilesh Pawaskar said he could not understand how the police could arrest the duo. ‘‘Protesting and organising a rally is a fundamental right of every citizen,” he said.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In US, the university system is one of the drivers of American prosperity

"In the United States, your university system is one of the drivers of American prosperity," said Claude Allègre, a former education minister who tried without success to reform French universities. "But here, we simply don't invest enough. Universities are poor. They're not a priority either for the state or the private sector. If we don't reverse this trend, we will kill the new generation."
"Universities are factories," said Christine le Forestier, 24, a 2005 graduate of Nanterre with a master's degree who has not found a stable job. "They are machines to turn out thousands and thousands of students who have learned all about theory but nothing practical. A diploma is worth nothing in the real world." By ELAINE SCIOLINO Homepage Published: May 12, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Being Jhunjhunwala: Bull of the bourses

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has made his fame and fortune by calling the markets right. How he has gone with a starting capital of Rs 5,000 to a net worth of a few thousand crore rupees is now the stuff of urban legend.
Q: Now is there something about making money, about trading and business that is linked with this survival instinct?
A: You know, trading always keeps you on your feet, it keeps you alert. That's one of the reasons why I like to trade.
Q: What are these attitudes in life that you have got from your profession?
A: First thing I've learnt is that markets work. They are the best mechanism to build societies.
Q: You are philosophical about what you do, isn't it?
A: I am passionate, I don't know whether I am philosophical or not. I am observant surely.
Q: The India shining story, are you the face of that story, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala?
A: Well, that's not for me to say. I entered the market at Index 150. Today, the index is at 12, 000. It's eighty times. And you know, I too could have gone abroad, I am a qualified chartered accountant. I could have practiced. It’s a fact that a person who started in 1985 in India in stock markets, could meet with success. Which speaks for the volume of opportunities available here.
Q: Today, every move you make, every investment you make, every stock you put your money on is tracked, there are people who jump into the bandwagon, whether you like it or not. Does that pressurise you?
A: See Ma'm, I've no clients except my wife because I don't want to be answerable to anybody. But with her, I've no choice.
Q: Does it pressurise you, this performance anxiety? Like if I am a cricketer or a soccer player, and if I start performing well, there's always an expectation that every time I go into the batting field, I'll score a 100. Look at what's happening to Sachin Tendulkar?
A: But Ma’m, whether anyone's watching or not, I'm always paranoid about all my actions. And the likelihood of my actions being successful, say five years ago, or ten years ago or today, is only better to the extent of what better experiences I've had. I am fearless. I am not concerned about what people think. I am only concerned about my deeds.
Q: You are an icon, when it comes to someone who's successful at the stock market. Are there lot of Bunties and Bablis who want to become Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, you think?
A: I do get mail from a lot of people, who say they want to invest in markets, and follow my career path. What did I do, they want to know.
Q: Ordinary investors, retired people. Do you think there's an understanding that they want to be educated or they just want to make a quick buck?
A: See, markets are about money, but markets are also about knowledge. Markets are also about egos; markets are also about the satisfaction of having been proved right. Especially, when that right is from an original thought and not from a guided source or following somebody. So I feel the anxiety, curiosity and the anxiousness to know about the market; it's quite general. But markets being markets, the ability is quite limited in my opinion.
Q: Greed and fear, you said, are the two traits that have to be balanced. How does one balance them? Give us an anecdote, where you had to balance it.
A: Anuradha, it's like this. Suppose I invest in Titan. I bought 'x' number of shares, I was extremely bullish, right? And you know, I would have been greedy if I had put in more than certain percentage of my wealth into Titan. And I didn't do it out of fear that Titan might not do well. I might lose my principal.
Q: What about ACC? You sold ACC at lot less than what it actually went on to be?
A: Ma’m, about markets, they say, either don't come to markets or don't regret what you have done. Right? Naya gilli, naya dao. I think the second quarter 1991 result was the best ACC produced for the next 10 years. And after those results came, I sold the shares. I bought them for 300 and within three months, I'd sold them for 3,500. And the price went to 10, 000. I've no regrets.
Q: You have no regrets, but what principle drove you at that point, fear or greed?
A: I think I was neither being greedy nor being fearful, I was just being rational.
Q: Celebrating three years of the bull run, the BSE Index has gone from 3000 plus to 12,000 plus in just three years. And this investor says, it's going to continue that way.
A: You know, Sensex has gone from 3000 to 12,000 in the last three years. You know people are excited, everybody's making money and that's why markets are making headlines. As they say Teji me sab ka bol bala, mandi me sab ka muh kala.
Q: Every time the markets run up, people get extremely euphoric and they get very very nervous, isn't it? And you are the guy whom they run to defend the Bull Run?
A: There's no question of defending the bull run. See, we forget what markets are. Markets reflect economic truth and fundamentals. And I think India is going into a lot of unprecedented economic growth, I think the markets are only recognising that.

Commodity volatility starts hitting home

Even as speculators make merry in the commodity markets, prices at the retail level show quantum jump SURESH P. IYENGAR Indian Express: Monday, May 08, 2006
MUMABI, MAY 7: After overtaking the turnover of 131-year-old Bombay Stock Exchange, the three-year-old commodity market has begun showing it’s not behind the former in high volatility and speculative trades. Of late, the three national commodity exchanges—NCDEX, MCX and NMCE—have been witnessing huge volumes amidst hectic speculation and volatility. Part of volatility in the commodity market can be traced to a new breed of investors—day traders. This segment of investors, very common in the stock market, divert their money into commodities, sensing a hidden treasure. Day traders jack up the prices by creating huge demand and book their profit within a day. ‘‘We are well aware of the volatility on our platform. Our surveillance team runs daily check on prices of the products and margins are revised accordingly,’’ says P. H. Ravi Kumar, MD, NCDEX.
However, a school of thought feels that there is nothing wrong in volatility. ‘‘Markets are bound to face more volatility as the trade grows. The concern should be on manipulation rather on volatility,’’ says Sushil Sinha, regional head, Karvy Commodities. The exchanges, in turn, impose hefty margins to discourage speculative trades. High margins force investors to bring in a percentage of the total value of their position upfront. ‘‘Margins are a double-edge sword. While keeping speculators away, it can even scare a genuine investor away,’’ says Rajesh Shah, a commodity trader. Market regulator Forward Market Commission (FMC), which still operates as a department under the Agriculture Ministry, also keeps a close eye on volatility in the market and steps in when the situation gets out of hand. On many occasions, FMC instructed the exchanges to restrict the open position of a particular product facing huge volatility. By cutting the open position, traders will not be allowed to buy or sell in a product above the level prescribed by the exchanges.
Commodity prices at the retail level are also on the rise. Can the booming commodity futures market be blamed for this? ‘‘Partially,’’ says Arvind Sahu, a Mumbai-based economist. ‘‘India is among the fastest-growing Asian economies. As the buying power of people increases the product prices are also bound to go up. However, any sharp appreciation in prices needs to checked immediately.’’ The rise in prices of agro products has been a major concern for consumers. Prices of pulses have shot up by almost 38 per cent at the retail level. Urad on NCDEX, which has gained 38 since November on the futures market, has moved up 40 per cent in the last three months at the retail level. Similarly chilli, one of the hottest commodity in the futures market, has shot up from Rs 3,345 level on NCDEX in January to Rs 5,490 in May, showing an appreciation of 64 per cent. Almost all the agro products including chana, soya, turmeric, sugar and Jeera have appreciated.
‘‘Behind every seller at loss there is a happy buyer who is laughing all the way to bank. This is the market mechanism. If one is paying more at the retail level then there are lot of additional cost involved,’’ justifies Sinha. If an investor invested Rs 6,000 in gold a year ago, he would have made a profit of Rs 4,000 by now. Silver prices have doubled in last six months. However, housemaker Sheetal Kamble is not willing to buy Sinha’s argument. ‘‘As it is we are facing an imminent rise in LPG prices, the present rise in commodity prices will only add fuel to the fire,’’ she says. As the temperatures and volatility rise, the spotlight is on measures to ensure speculation in the futures market does not impact retail prices.

Hu’s eight commandments

Chinese takeaway C Raja Mohan Indian Express: Monday, May 08, 2006
After Hu Jintao, the President of China and Chairman of the CPC, issued a set of eight do’s and eight don’ts to improve the moral standards of Chinese people, the party has gone into an overdrive. Party units everywhere, from factories to universities, are getting members to memorise the ‘‘eight glories and eight disgraces’’ in study sessions. Posters are up everywhere and party volunteers are out in the street exhorting others and parading ‘‘model citizens’’. If you can’t hold your breath for the latest from CPC’s divinity school, here are the eight commandments first announced by Hu at the National Peoples Congress last month:
Love the motherland, do not harm it
Serve the people, don’t disserve them
Uphold science; don’t be ignorant and unenlightened
Work hard; don’t be lazy
Be united and help each other; don’t gain benefits at the expense of others
Be honest and trustworthy, don’t profiteer at the expense of your values
Be disciplined and law-abiding instead of chaotic and lawless
Know plain living and hard struggle, do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures
The New China News Agency called the edict ‘‘a perfect amalgamation of traditional Chinese values and modern virtues’’. The People’s Political Consultative Conference, a kind of upper House of the Chinese Parliament passed a resolution saying, ‘‘Let it be a paragon and common practice of the times.’’ All the hallmarks of a classic CPC campaign!
Communist Moralpolitik
Outsiders might be pardoned for thinking Hu had borrowed the code from scouts and guides. Liberals everywhere might smirk at the party state turning the nanny in China. Those seeking individual freedom will be reminded of the religious vigilantes in Saudi Arabia and Iran promoting virtue and punishing vice among the flock. In China, the party does nothing without due deliberation and political purpose. Don’t for a moment underestimate the seriousness of Hu and the CPC in trying to encourage eight virtues and discourage an equal number of disgraces.
Nearly two years ago Hu told the Central Party School about the urgent need to address the profound crisis in China by re-discovering Marxist thought, revisiting the essence of Maoism and renewing traditional Chinese culture. The CPC’s moralpolitik seems part of an attempt to build a ‘‘harmonious society’’ in China. It is based on the recognition that two and a half decades of explosive growth has generated unprecedented economic inequality, growing political unrest and a moral vacuum. If Mao Zedong led the revolution and Deng Xiaoping national development, Hu believes his task lies in rejuvenating the moral fibre of the Chinese society.
Analysts, however, say the campaign is really about countering growing levels of corruption in the party and state organs all around the nation. Hu fears that, if left unchecked, all-pervasive corruption could undermine the legitimacy of the party-state in China. All political campaigns in China, however, carry the inherent risk of turning against the establishment. In the next few months, the challenge for Hu and his colleagues would be to ensure that the high profile campaign on moral values stays under political control.
Rediscovering Buddhism
When the party-state in China begins to talk about morality and traditional values, it is but one short step towards finding religion. Not surprisingly Confucius has already been restored in China. In the last few months, the party has been calling upon school children to return to studying the analectics of Confucius. Now it is the turn of Buddhism. For years reports from China had suggested a growing number of citizens returning to Buddhist religion, that had been so actively discouraged in the early decades of revolutionary China. Next week the first ever officially sponsored religious conference, the World Buddhist Forum, will kick off in Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang. An official statement from Beijing says the Forum would offer ‘‘a high-level platform for Buddhists from around the world to have dialogue, exchanges and cooperation and a stage for Chinese Buddhists to exercise their wisdom’’.
About 1,000 monks and Buddhist scholars from about 30 countries are expected to participate in the four-day conference. Observers say the party might be hoping that a return to religiosity could provide a moral compass to the Chinese citizenry as well as much needed inner strength for disadvantaged sections to cope with adversity. Who said religion is the opium of the masses? In Communist China it might yet have a political utility.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

B.G. Verghese deserved better from his critics on Narmada

Not quite Mainstream Ramachandra Guha Indian Express: Friday, May 05, 2006
As a long-time reader and occasional contributor to Mainstream, I was dismayed at the personal attack launched on the eminent journalist B.G. Verghese by three writers, one of whom is this journal’s editor (Prashant Bhushan, Suhas Borker, Sumit Chakravartty, ‘Medha Patkar represents the Nation’s Conscience’, Mainstream, 21-27 April.) (The Indian Express had carried Verghese’s commentary,‘Quiet flows the Narmada on April 10, and an edited version of the response to it, by Bhushan, Borker and Chakravartty,‘Medha represents the nation’s conscience’, April 15).
I do not myself endorse Mr Verghese’s views on the Sardar Sarovar dam in particular and on large dams in general. I think he is somewhat romantic about them, and tends to over-estimate their (economic) benefits and under-estimate their (social and ecological costs). Still, one would hope that intellectual disagreement could be expressed through reasoned argument rather than by impugning the character of the person whose views one is disagreeing with.
In that issue of Mainstream, Ramaswamy Iyer takes the former course — presenting the anti-dam view cogently as well as impersonally — whereas Bhushan, Borker and Chakravartty take the latter course. They call Mr Verghese’s views ‘preposterous’ and ‘elitist’, and speak darkly of his motives and alleged class position, writing variously of ‘the elite whom Mr Verghese represents’ and ‘the classes that Mr Verghese represents’. At one point, they go so far as to accuse him of ‘opportunism and cooption of the worst kind’.
Now, as anyone who has himself been a journalist, or who is even casually acquainted with the Indian press, knows, Mr Verghese represents nobody but himself. He is widely and justly respected for his personal honesty, professional integrity, and independence of mind. He has never been anybody’s man, not a party man nor a proprietor’s man either.
Surely the writers of this article are aware that Mr Verghese was persecuted for his independence and honesty shortly before the Emergency? How many of us can boast of having lost one of the most prestigious jobs in Indian journalism because we would not compromise on our principles or be economical with the truth?
The article was in poor taste anyway, but it was made even less palatable when one considers whom the target of its vituperation is. Although one might disagree with his views on large dams — and this writer does — one must nonetheless acknowledge B.G. Verghese’s other, and seminal, contributions to the deepening of Indian democracy. In part this has taken the shape of maintaining the highest standards of integrity in the difficult yet vital profession of journalism.
Then there is Mr Verghese’s tireless work in attempting to bring justice and development to that forgotten, neglected, patronised, and exploited region of India, the Northeast. No mainland Indian journalist — or scholar, or activist — has done more to deepen our understanding of the ecology and culture of this region, to sympathise with their peoples’ aspirations, or to reconcile them with honour to the Indian nation as a whole.
Other writers who know Mr Verghese and his work better can perhaps add to what I have here written. But I think I have said enough to make it clear that the attack on him in Mainstream was inconsistent with the journal’s tradition and reputation and with journalistic practice generally. I hope the editor will do the decent thing and apologise, not for the views expressed in the article he co-authored, but certainly for the words in which they were cast. The writer is a well-known historian

The beauty of the Indian Constitution lies in its flexibility

Constitutional jurisprudence N.R. MADHAVA MENON Omnibus bringing together highly acclaimed essays written by a leading constitutional expert CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS AND CITIZENS' RIGHTS: A. G. Noorani; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 595. The Hindu Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The constitution is differently described as the fundamental law, the socio-political manifesto of a nation, the instrument of governance and the like, each signifying an important dimension of the document. It is a living thing with a body and a soul; the soul can possibly be found in the preamble and the chapters on rights, duties and directive principles of state policy. Constitutional questions are diverse and too numerous to engage academic writings and political discourses without end. It is more so with the Indian Constitution, one of the longest and a blend of many ideas and principles borrowed from constitutions across the globe.
The Constitution Review Commission set up by the NDA Government did make an assessment of the working of the Constitution over half a century and endorsed its viability, though it recommended few amendments to make governance more effective and accountable. The beauty of the Indian Constitution lies in its flexibility and its capacity to accommodate diverse interpretations and approaches advanced according to changing times and demands.
Rule of law
A.G. Noorani is a well-known commentator, widely read and respected, on constitutional law and governance. He has strong views on how governance needs to be organised and policies evolved. According to him, "Not one of the major institutions and high offices established by the Constitution has worked satisfactorily; be it the President, Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers or the Supreme Court of India." Most of the chapters in the book under review are well-researched pieces to establish this point of view with which, however, the reviewer begs to differ. The arguments are too many to be raised in the format of this review.
Be that as it may, the value of a work of this nature does not lie in the views and the conclusions drawn but rather in the research, documentation and analysis it presents. From this perspective the work is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the existing literature on the subject.
As the sub-title indicates, the book is an omnibus comprising several articles previously published separately on different occasions.
The central theme of all these articles is said to be "rule of law in democratic society." There are nine additional pieces introduced in this volume on a variety of topics broadly grouped under constitutional questions (relating to the chapters on the president and on the parliament) and citizens' rights, judges and state accountability (these include right to know, right to strike, contempt of court and selection of party candidates).
Constitutional questions
The author has attempted with fair amount of success to capture the "constitutional questions" around three major institutions namely, the president, parliament and the state. Several contentious issues relating to powers of the president are discussed taking events of constitutional history and decisions taken by successive presidents. He finds that only after Dr. S.D. Sharma became President in 1992, the office acquired some authority and significance.
An informative essay added to the current volume is a piece on the German legal scholar, Dieter Conrad, who is credited with having contributed the `basic structure' doctrine in the well-known Keshavananda Bharati Case (AIR 1973 S.C. 1461). Under this doctrine the Court upheld the sanctity of the Constitution by declaring that the amendment procedure is inapplicable to alter what it called the basic structure of the Constitution. In other words, the basic structure is not amendable.
In adopting the doctrine, Justice Khanna reportedly approved the following observations of Conrad: "Any amending body organised within the statutory scheme, however verbally unlimited its power, cannot by its very structure change the fundamental pillars supporting its constitutional authority." The doctrine, it is pointed out was adopted by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 1989 in Anwar Hossain Chawdhary's Case (41DLR 1989 App. Div. 165) expressly relying on the reasoning in the Keshavananda Case of 1973.
All the ills of the parliamentary system perpetrated by political parties which themselves functioned undemocratically with no sense of constitutional morality are explained by the author in relation to "irregular dissolutions", "defections", "bribery of MPs" and a number of related events which cumulatively tended to undermine people's faith in parliamentary democracy itself.
In a couple of additional pieces newly introduced to the section on Parliament, the author reflects on ethics of ministers and MPs. Written for Frontline in October 1994, Noorani found the situation far worse than it was 20 years ago when Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) launched his movement against corruption. Bribery of a legislator constitutes a breach of privilege of the House, not an offence in law!
The author, inter alia, suggests a series of steps to confront the situation including electoral reforms, an effective Lok Pal, a revised anti-defection law, a code of conduct and prompt public disclosure of important state contracts, permits and exemptions.
The second half of the book on the judiciary and citizens' rights is a compilation of 50 articles on the working of the judiciary, its accountability and the scope of select rights of citizens. Most of them written between 1966 and 1999 cover a wide range of issues, which came up for judicial scrutiny during that period. In addition, this part of the volume contains a section on the elections, the civil service and the political process.
With a clear sense of history and a broad perception of comparative constitutional law, the author has marshalled a large volume of data to advocate the importance of rule of law, values of pluralism, secularism and democracy, and the role institutions and individuals play in good governance. The author discerns a silver lining in an otherwise grim political scenario. He finds a remarkable awakening among the people after the Emergency. "The advent of investigative journalism and public interest litigation helped enormously as did the rise of non-governmental organisations," observes the author.
Contempt powers
There are half a dozen fresh papers added to this section which relate to protection of journalists' sources, right to know, contempt powers of courts, right to strike and party system. Quoting extensively from precedents in the U.S. and Europe as well as from the Press Council Act, 1978 and the Law Commission Report (93rd Report on Disclosure of Sources of Information by Mass Media, 1983), the author asserts that journalists are legally supposed to be protected from disclosing their sources in India as well. However, he wanted an amendment of the Indian Evidence Act on the lines recommended by the Law Commission to make the matter explicit.
On contempt powers of the courts, he advocates truth to be accepted as a defence, which incidentally is now accepted and enacted through an Amendment (2006) to the Act. However, he is critical of the Supreme Court exercise of contempt power in the Arundhati Roy judgment (Narmada Bachao Andolan V. Union of India and others (1999) 8 SCC 308).
The author argues that Roy was well within her right of free speech under Article 19(1) and (2) in making the statement on the Court's action. The author also writes that courts giving oral edicts to the press not to report the names of the judges who made observations during the proceedings are unconstitutional. Similarly, the Court's power to direct parties not to ventilate their grievances in the press while the proceedings are on in the Court is to be qualified since a total ban may not be constitutionally justified.
This book is a storehouse of information on a large variety of constitutional and legal issues written after thorough research and reflection. It is a valuable guide for academicians, legal practitioners, journalists and people in politics and government. Even if one does not agree with the author's views and conclusions, they do provide insights on legal reasoning and contextual judging on a large number of topics of public interest.
As stated earlier, the book is a consolidated version of two earlier volumes, one published in 2000 (Constitutional Questions in India) and the other in 2002 (Citizen's Rights, Judges and State Accountability). It is no doubt, a scholarly tribute to Indian constitutionalism and rule of law despite the inadequacies pointed out by the author. The production is of high standards and the price is reasonable. Above all, the style and clarity of the work are indeed inviting even for readers outside the field of law and governance.

Kaavya and Karvy

While Kaavya Viswanathan, is facing allegations of plagiarism,
Karvy is in soup for its role in the IPO scam.

Byomkesh Bakshi hazir ho

Khaleej Times Online Pandya's father makes last-ditch bid for justice 22 April 2006 AHMEDABAD — In a last-ditch effort to seek justice, the father of slain Gujarat BJP leader Haren Pandya has dashed off a letter to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and sought a fresh inquiry into the assassination of his son three years ago.
Outlook Web Bureau Apr 22, 2006 BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan (was) shot at point-blank range by his younger brother Pravin Mahajan....While Pravin, who has been charged with attempt to murder, was being interrogated at the police station, his lawyer Nand Kumar Rajurkar claimed that his client had a mental condition.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Asian countries should work towards unified currency

Dollar Dolour The Times of India Editorial Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Rising US trade and budget deficits pose a serious threat to the world’s confidence in the dollar. A sudden withdrawal of money in dollar-denominated assets would bring the world economy to a halt. How have we reached this situation? The US ran up a goods and services trade deficit of $726 billion in 2005, 18 per cent higher than in 2004. Higher oil prices alone do not explain the rapid rise of the US trade deficit in recent years. Its deficit with China increased by $40 billion to $202 billion in 2005, accounting for the entire increase in US non-oil trade deficit. The US borrows abroad to finance its trade deficit, China and Japan being among its principal creditors. These two countries invest in US securities in a bid to contain depreciation of the dollar, so that their exports continue to flourish. The dollar has been on an upward march between 2000 and 2005 despite the trade deficit widening over this period. This militates against market logic. The dollar is estimated to be overvalued by 30-40 per cent. For the world to avert a disaster, the dollar should depreciate in a gradual manner.
A sudden crash is, however, not a remote likelihood. The US internal or budget deficit, at $800 billion, poses a serious threat to currency stability for its inflationary impact, prompting the government to be secretive about money supply. In fact, inflationary expectations have started to erode investor confidence, as foreign governments are not buying US securities like they did earlier. They could turn off the tap if inflationary pressure erodes consumption in the US, rendering unviable their efforts to prop up the greenback. The US must rethink its tax cuts and war spending to rule out a run on the dollar. Interest rate hikes will not contain inflation when fiscal policy is so lax. The US must realise that while its consumption drives the world economy, its budget deficits cannot promote growth beyond a point. But the larger issue is: Why entrust the keys of world economy and finance with a fiscally and politically irresponsible country?
China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and India should work towards floating a unified currency along the lines of the euro, so that assets are not concentrated in a single currency. The euro emerged as an alternative to the dollar for many OPEC countries, Iraq included. In fact, this prompted a jittery US to step up its political involvement in the Gulf. The US should realise that the emergence of other strong currencies will enhance the dollar’s stability, even if that leads to the emergence of countervailing centres of financial and political power.