21-Dec-2005

In A Spot - 211205

The next installment. Seeking to downplay the money-for-questions episode, Ms Tavleen Singh offers this cure:
Systems need to be put in place that would permit legitimate lobbying and more transparency generally in the way our elected representatives and governments function.
Perhaps she would care to go through the travails of a Mr Jack Abramoff in the heaven of legalised lobbying, the US. The New York Times has provided just the concise summary of it here. There are no passionate arguments and denouncements that blogs like this carry. Just the facts. An excerpt:
Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.
Shaken and not merely stirred? When lobbying is legitimate? How can that be?

Incredible India

Of course, as soon as that alert was out, there had to be a new post immediately.

Looks like the unthinking are at large again. And they have brought the 'India Shining' fiasco back. Only, it is now 'Incredible India'. Agreed, the latter is from the Tourism Ministry. But when an Incredible India ad just shows up on TV, apropos nothing in particular, it is difficult to differentiate between the two.

Still, the adjective is well chosen. One cannot question the incredible'ness of India. A country which has more than half of its people illiterate and suffers from dire poverty, but is still counted as an emerging power. Pretty incredible. And India was shining too. All it needed was the light to fall on the correct places for the shine to appear.

Update: There is a website too.
Sporadic blogging alert, valid for a month or so, as I catch up with some 'work'. Will be posting, but a bit infrequently.

13-Dec-2005

Anirudha Bahal

Now, many more people must be swearing against Bahal, formerly of Tehelka.

Another aspect to this sting is that we seem to be taking the Westminster model too literally. Three British MPs were accused of similar money-for-questions scams in 1994 according to Vijay Times (reg'n required).

Boiled Brains Politicos

It is said about India that we never rejected invaders - we just assimilated them into our society. The British left fifty years ago, we're still assimilating them. U R Ananthamurthy, noted Kannada writer, to NDTV:
We can bring any word from English into Kannada. We just need to add a 'u'. Chair - chairu. Table - Table-u. Bangalore - Bangaluru.
Because that is what it is - taking an English word and adding a Kannada suffix to it. Bangaluru is not the original name for Bangalore. The original word, if one goes by accepted historial accounts, is Bendakaluru - boiled beans grains town. A bit different from Chennai, Mumbai, Thiruvantapuram. Politicos.

09-Dec-2005

Ghost Story

This I just present as something I enjoyed reading though I don't believe in ghosts.

State Of Parliament

DH rues the state of parliament. All this ruckus being raised because someone made some money on the side from a foreign government, with no real implications for the country's policy - they were out of power anyway. And all this from a party that hounded a news website into oblivion for showing its president accepting bribes on TV.

True, it was unethical if public figures accepted oil vouchers from the Iraqi government. But the person named in the report has resigned, though belatedly. Why not wait for the inquiries to be completed? What is the point asking for someone who has not even been named in the report to resign now?

Editors With Coloured Glasses

kmp writes in re Dayal, Pathak, ED:
The “mail-me-comments” is missing in your recent posts. Have the comments subsided?

Anyway, with reference to the above topic – the editor of “The Pioneer” is Chandan Mitra. He is an MP nominated by BJP. Chandan, Swapandas Gupta of India Today (maybe erstwhile I guess) are all BJP folks. Obviously they don’t see eye-to-eye with the Government (I mean the current one) irrespective of the policies.
That explains it.

And no the comments have not subsided - because they weren't too many to start with :-) I have removed the 'Mail me' link from my posts because I have reason to believe evil robots are roaming the web looking for mail-ids to which spam can be sent. And they don't understand that there are only so many 'Sexually-explicit' sites that one can visit given that a day has only 24 hours. And that I don't want any software products.

08-Dec-2005

From ET editorial:
We need not just greater allocations for the social sectors but an integrated agenda of socio-economic development. Its success would, however, ultimately depend on the ability of political parties to conscientise people into citizens, and then mediate between their aspirations and the state.
No denying that. But where are the ideas to accomplish that - to conscientise people into citizens?

Down-side Of Hygiene

A Nobel laureate's opinion from DH:
I know it’s not politically correct, but the biological fact is that the more hygienic conditions you live in, the more you become susceptible to diseases.
So it is true. Mum was right!

07-Dec-2005

Dayal, Pathak, ED

Staying with The Pioneer, it doesn't see eye-to-eye with the government on the issue of sending a separate ED team to Iraq to snoop around:
Looking at all the diversionary tactics being employed, it seems an attempt is being made to expand the ambit of the probe and deflect attention from the political aspects.
I don't see eye-to-eye with The Pioneer. After all, a long list of companies are mentioned in the Volcker report. Other delegations, including at least a NDA delegation, went to Iraq. Why not clear up everything? Of course, easier said than done, clearing up everything. But why not give the ED a chance?

The Editors Are At It Again

I noted how great editors think alike here. It's happened again. Today (7 Dec '05)'s editorial titled 'Diversions, distractions' in Vijay Times (registration req'd), is identical to The Pioneer's editorial of 6 Dec '05.

Do the two papers have some kind of agreement to share editorials? A quick mail is being shot off as we speak, to the editor of VT.

06-Dec-2005

Scapegoats

Natwar to go, which is as it should be if he did take the oil vouchers - either for himself or for his son. His going will not matter much since anyway he was being overridden in many foreign policy decisions. But the bigger question is: what is all this talk about being made scapegoats? His son is very clear that they are being made scapegoats. Scapegoats for whom? Very mysterious indeed.

Update: The Telegraph finds it inexplicable that Mr Singh took so long.

No Mobiles Please

I share my lack of mobile with these people. My reason for not carrying one would be closest to Mr A Ramachandra's. He says :
Humankind has managed all these years without a mobile phone in hand, why is it that we now regard cellphones as indispensable?
In other words, I'm an extreme late-adopter. And a bit too lazy to put in the effort of buying one.

05-Dec-2005

Means Are Important. Too

Not just the ends. From HT:
...should the BJP have brought someone like Uma Bharti into active politics in the first place? Most political observers would have strong reservations on this but then, the BJP used every conceivable method to come to power, whether using sadhvis and religious leaders or bringing in film stars. Having lost power, some of these leaders have become liabilities and the party does not know how to deal with them. If the BJP finds itself unable to stop the creation of political frankensteins, it will realise in due course that the people may find a way of dealing with it in future.
Relatedly, a BJP spokesperson (Javdekar I think) asked rhetorically with regard to Uma Bharti: "The party was good till last week, but then suddenly she says the party became bad. How is that possible?". Maybe it did not occur to him that she could put the same question to the party: "I was a good party leader till last week, suddenly they say I'm bad. Please explain it to me."

Deja Vu

Another flood situation made worse by man-made factors. Encroachments take the blame again as they did in Bangalore, in addition to other factors. From The Hindu:

District authorities and Public Works Department (PWD) engineers single out breaches in rivers, tanks, lakes, ponds, and canals as the major cause of the all-round devastation. While some breaches were natural — owing to excess storage and weakened bunds — many were man-made. Many encroachments have come up all along the Cauvery and its network of tributaries. The well-designed flood plains, called the padugai, have either been widened to form part of the riverbed or have been used up for cultivation and illegal construction. So what was meant to be a natural protective barrier against flooding became the first casualty. With this barrier gone, roads and farmland quickly went under the floodwaters. Even the normally bone-dry river Coleroon carrying well over three lakh cusecs of water!

The PWD engineers say under the old, somewhat rundown irrigation system that still exists in many parts of the composite Thanjavur district, the Cauvery was linked to a network of tanks through feeder channels. During a bountiful monsoon, all the tanks were filled up and the excess water drained into the irrigation system. Over the years — because such floods are not common — encroachments came up on riverbeds, feeder canals, and the draining system. These were not just huts or houses, but sometimes even constructions by the Government and local bodies. They came in the way of water flow and redirected the floodwaters to habitations and paddy fields, causing extensive damage. "When the natural flow of water is obstructed, it finds its level in other ways," explains a retired PWD Chief Engineer.

NURM

Launched. Will it change anything or will it develop snags mid-way and drop out of the sky?

03-Dec-2005

O Tempora

Samosa sans aloo, Bihar sans Laloo, Playboy sans nudity. Changing times. What good would the last be though?

02-Dec-2005

Electoral Reform

Return of the fast unto death, in a good cause. Though I do agree with the Oct 17 editorial that the writer takes such a dim view of in his opening paragraph, his point in the rest of this editorial is worth giving a thought to:
Corruption has become institutionalised over the years, and has crept into the judiciary, executive and legislatures. People have now come to accept it as a way of life. To capture power, and stay in power, all parties appear to be dependent on chargesheeters, criminals and dons.

Is there a way out? For quite a number of years, a group of very concerned citizens has been campaigning to inject probity into public life through electoral reform. Among other measures, they have recommended the compulsory audit of the accounts of political parties, the state funding of elections, the disqualification of tainted politicians from contesting elections, and above all the appointment of a Lok Pal with teeth.
Electoral reform seems to be the core problem crying for a solution if corruption has to go.

Far away from us, electoral reform has taken a first step in a tiny US state (via TPMCafe):
The legislation bans contributions by lobbyists, their spouses, and state contractors, limits political action committees, closes a loophole that permits corporate donations and creates a voluntary system of public financing.

By overhauling campaign laws crafted 30 years ago after the Watergate scandal, the bill upends long-established relationships between power and money, though few would predict precisely what might rise in their place.
Familiar problem, and a straightforward solution. Will the ripple reach and touch us?

Farmers Still Dying

The Hindu highlights the sorry state of the cotton farmers in one of Maharashtra's districts. High input costs, collapsed output prices due to dumping of subsidised cotton by rich countries, no access to bank loans. How will they make money?
Meanwhile, the advance bonus normally paid to cotton farmers has been scrapped. This amount of roughly Rs.500 used to be added on to the minimum support price for cotton declared by the Centre. The State admits it costs around Rs.2200 to produce a quintal of cotton. Yet the scrapping of the advance bonus means farmers will get Rs.1700 a quintal. A price last seen in 1994.
And the government responds like this:
No MP or MLA tried to even meet the NCF [National Commission on Farmers] team led by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. This, although the team had in tow the young Rana Patil, Maharashtra's Minister of State for Agriculture. It gets worse. The MLAs from the districts most affected are mainly from the Shiv Sena and the BJP. Why help your rivals?
Why indeed.

01-Dec-2005

High Oil Prices

Bush blames India (and China) for the high oil prices. The facts are:
The United States is the world's largest energy consumer, far outstripping China and India. U.S. demand for oil is about 21 million barrels per day, compared with 7.4 million barrels per day projected this year for China, according to the U.S. Energy Department. India's oil consumption was 2.2 million barrels per day in 2003 and is projected to grow to 2.8 million by 2010, according to the department.

The Real Money

While Mr Gowda cribs about a few hundred acres of non-prime land being given (at market rates) to Infosys, the real money is being given out by New York City to Goldman Sachs, about $1.75 billion (via Atrios).