Archive for the ‘ Business & Politics ’ Category

NaMo’s Lok Pal

Finally the Indian Parliament has passed the Lok Pal Bill and we saw a lot of grand standing and credit posturing by all the political leaders of the Congress and the BJP.

Something surreal and sublime was happening in the country. For we Indians, used to seeing all political parties dispatching newly elected MLAs and MPs to some impregnable forts, blatant horse trading to cobble together majority, and parliament/ state assemblies being stalled for the silliest of reasons, this was a welcome change. The only time we saw our parliamentarians display unity was when it comes to their pay cheque.

Suddenly our leaders became goody two shoes. Post the Delhi elections we saw the victor and the vanquished, begging, prodding, and cajoling their biggest opponent Aam Aadmi Party to form the government. Parliament was ‘debating’, yes you read it right, debating on the need for an ombudsman organization, state funding of elections, electoral reforms, food security, price rise etc. Leaders were making ‘astounding discoveries regarding engaging people’. Basic principles of participative democracy is presented as ‘a bold new idea’. Our political class was displaying a new sense of exalted virtue and political morality. And India sure looked close to becoming a ‘paradise’.

Suddenly the leaders from Congress and BJP were graciously congratulating Anna Hazare for his contribution to ‘enact the Lok Pal Bill’. This was the same leaders who shooed away Anna and his India Against Corruption Movement, the last time around, ie., 2011, saying they were duty bound ‘to protect against outsiders trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament’.

This time around, Anna, on his part, graciously accepted the ‘compromise Lok Pal’ offered by the government and called off his fast at Ralegan Siddhi. But, the most curious part was that all the leaders who spoke, conveniently forgot the contribution made by Arvind Kejriwal. But lost in the din was yet another important news – ‘Gujarat got its Lokayuktha’. And that brings me to the reason for writing this article.

ModiBut before we start I would like to take the legal meaning of ‘Ombudsman’ from which the concept of Lok Pal was born. In Government/Politics and Diplomacy, ‘ombudsman’ is a commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.

Gujarat passed Gujarat Lokayukta Act in 1986, but almost from the time Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Lokayukta, has not been functional.

In 2001, when Modi came to power in Gujarat, Justice RM Soni’s was the Lokayukta. Justice Soni was appointed during Keshubhai Patel’s rule in 1998 and his term expired in December 2003 and the post has been lying vacant since then. From then on Modi scuttled every move to appoint a Lokayukta and make the Gujarat Lokayukta, functional.

Finally on 25 August 2011, the Gujarat Governor, Dr. Kamla Beniwal, appointed Justice R. A. Mehta to the post of Lokayukta of Gujarat. Justice Mehta was recommended for the post by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court S.J. Mukhopadhaya in June 2011.  A miffed Modi accused the Governor of running a parallel government in the state supported by the Congress and demanded that she be recalled.

The Gujarat government then challenged the appointment in the Gujarat High Court, arguing that the Governor could not make the appointment without the State government’s advice. On 10 October 2011, the two-member High Court bench gave a split verdict and in January 2012, a third member upheld Beniwal’s decision. This was a major blow to Modi.

The Gujarat government then approached the Supreme Court, however lost the case. The SC upheld the Gujarat High Court’s verdict that though the decision on Lokayukta appointment was made without consultation with or approval from Modi, it was as per the letter and spirit of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.

The Gujarat government appealed against the SC verdict twice, but lost. Even after the SC upheld his appointment, Justice Mehta however desisted from charge of the office, citing 23 reasons. The controversy over his appointment, he said, had ‘denigrated the office of the Lokayukta and it had lost all the grace and dignity.’ (Read full text of his resignation letter here)

This was Modi’s chance. As is the norm in Gujarat, Modi wanted to appoint his man-friday for the role of Lokayukta, but he knew that this would not stand the scrutiny of law. So he now framed a new bill – Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013.

The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, was passed by the state assembly in April, 2013, but, unfortunately, on 2 September 2013, the bill was returned by Gujarat Governor. On 1 October 2013, the state assembly passed the bill for the second time. But this time Governor Dr. Beniwal was constitutionally bound to accept the bill. Thus finally Modi had his way and succeeded in subverting the Supreme Court decision on the appointment of Lokayukta.

Unlike the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986 the new bill provided primacy to the Chief Minister, over the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, in appointing the ‘ombudsman’. The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 empowers a selection committee chaired by the Chief Minister appoints the Lokayukta. The panel comprises the Speaker of the Assembly, a Minister, the Leader of Opposition, the State Vigilance Commissioner and a High Court Judge, ‘to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegium of five senior judges’.

The new Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any ‘public functionaries’ from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

Then we saw Jayaram Ramesh capturing headlines saying ‘Modi talking on lokayukta is like Asaram talking on rape’. Jayaram was spot on, but then you know that these politicians only put on a public show to deride each other in varying degrees restraining themselves only to varying degrees of their innate civility or belligerence as is their habit. But they go ahead and do what they want anyway – even change a law or bring in a new one to suit their whim and fancy.

Lokayukta is an ombudsman body which is supposed to look into irregularities brought to its notice against the decisions taken by the state cabinet and the administration. Then how can the Chief Minister who is the head of the state cabinet have supremacy in deciding who should be the ombudsman?

This not only belies fundamental logic and intelligence. To me, it is a travesty of the institution of the ombudsman, but also provides an indication of authoritarian incoherence and double speaks by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Heads up – the politicians win. Tails up – the people lose !!!

Cartoon : Courtesy Satish Acharya

Criminality in Indian Political System

For the first time, I had seen a ray of hope when in July 10, 2013 the Supreme Court of India upheld the 2004 Patna High Court ruling, which held that when a person in custody was disqualified to vote, he was also disqualified from contesting the elections.

This ticked the political parties in Parliament and they joined hands to amend the Representation of the People Act 1951 to negate the impact of the apex court verdict directing immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on being sentenced for more than two years in a criminal case.

Learned lawyers in Parliament like Kapil Sibal and Arun Jaitley introduced a provision to Section 62(5) which says “by reasons of the prohibition to vote under this sub-section, a person whose name has been entered in the electoral roll shall not cease to be an elector.” In effect treating a person in lawful custody in a criminal case as a voter and hence qualified to contest elections.

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The political parties of all hues backed the UPA Government on the move to amend the Act. To understand why this unity you need to understand the criminal antecedents of our elected representatives. According to an analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW), the Lok Sabha has 30% ie., 162 members have criminal cases against them. 14% have serious criminal cases. Our State Assemblies put together has 31% ie. 1258 members have criminal cases against them. 18% have serious criminal cases. In a break-up of political parties, 75% of Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs since 2004 have declared criminal cases against them, followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal with 46% such candidates and Janata Dal (United) with 44%. The BJP and Congress were at 31% and 22%, respectively.

Now you should understand the urgency. The apex court passed the judgement on July 10, 2013 and the amendments to RPA was rushed through in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on August 27, 2013 and September 7, 2013 respectively.  The amendments to the bill were passed within about 15 minutes in both houses, after a brief discussion. Some members of course wanted an elaborate debate on the amendments but the overwhelming majority of the House, including Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal, Leader of Opposition in LS and RS – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, pushed for its passage even without discussion.

Now the final nail on the coffin of this attempt to cleanse our Parliament of dirty politicians have been done by Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya.  Through their judgement they have effectively killed the collective hope of the people of India. It must be recalled here that in 2002 and 2003, two vital orders from the same Supreme Court had made it compulsory to candidates to file information regarding any or all criminal cases pending against them, their educational qualification as well as details of the combined wealth of the candidate and their spouses.

But I still have indomitable faith. My faith is in Aam Aadmi Party, for I find them as a few good men and women, who have taken a stand to clean the dirt in politics and I am willing to give them a chance.

My request to all my friends in Delhi is to go out and cast your vote for the Aam Aadmi Party and then we can build the movement to a credible alternative to these Criminal Politicians, across the country.

God Bless India.

PS : I am not a member of Aam Aadmi Party but just a Indian citizen tired of seeing the desperation of both Congress and the BJP. Both wants to make it a Presidential election showing a Pappu and a Feku. We know them, we have seen them in action. They have brought down the standard of debates in Parliament and election rallies to pits. We have also seen them both in action together in Parliament to scuttle the best opportunity to decriminalize the Indian political system.

Cartoon : Courtesy The Hindu & Copy Right Keshav

Con Artist Arindam Chaudhuri

The Caravan Dec 2010 Coverstory IIPMWas watching CNN IBN debate yesterday and was flabbergasted to see the pony-tailed crusader of quality education, Arindam Chaudhuri at his animated best. The obnoxious creep who has made a fortune off the aspirations and insecurities of India’s middle classes and who believes that all his students should pay a fortune to ‘study’ at IIPM, has filed lawsuits against publishers Penguin; magazines The Caravan, Just Another Magazine and Careers360 Magazine; authors Siddhartha Deb, Maheshwar Pai, Rashmi Bansal and even Google India on charges of “publishing, distributing, giving coverage, circulating, blogging the defamatory, libelous and slanderous articles.”

IIPM had earlier filed a lawsuit against The Caravan seeking damages to the tune of Rs. 500 million, in Silchar, Assam. Not in Delhi, where both the IIPM and the magazine’s publisher, Delhi Press, are based, but 2,200 km away from Delhi, 300 km from Dispur, Assam’s capital. The IIPM filed the case at the Court of Civil Judge in Silchar district, through one Kishorendu Gupta, who operates Gupta Electrical Engineers in a Silchar suburb, and is the first plaintiff. IIPM is the second plaintiff.

On Feb 14th, 2013 IIPM managed to have a directive issued by a Court in Gwalior. In pursuance of the court directive, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued an order directing Internet Service Licensees to block access to 78 URLs from India, 73 of which contained such criticism directed towards IIPM, ex-parte, without any pre-hearing notice. As a writer I am shocked how IIPM was able to play and cobble together a bureaucratic system of dealing with the Internet much worse than the censorship in place in Peoples Republic of China and thought that it will be appropriate that I too should contribute to my views.

I seriously wonder how a fraud like Arindam Chaudhuri is able to bend the system like this. Am sure in the coming days questions ranging from whether the court has the legal authority to give such an order to purge websites, especially of official organizations like University Grants Commission (UGC) to whether the order is flawed from lack of fair hearing opportunities given to parties affected, will be answered.

The most important point that was missed in the boisterous debate was that one of the URLs mentioned in the DoT order was a public notice given by UGC, dated July, 2012 confirming the unrecognized status of IIPM.

Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri accept it, you can make glossy brochures but the fact remains that IIPM is not recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which is the competent authority regulating Indian institutes of higher education. You better not count your chicken before they hatch!!!

Picture Courtesy : The Caravan (Dec 2010 Cover Story “Sweet Smell Of Success”)

Mango People in a Banana Republic

When Robert Vadra Gandhi (should I use Gandhi… I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Vadra takes the Surname of his wife’s family (Feroz Khan family) adopted), put up his status message in Facebook saying “Mango People in a Banana Republic” he was completely right.

“Mango People” as we are “Aam Admi” (in Hindi) and I am not disputing this, because I believe of the estimated population of 1.22 billion, 800 Members of Parliament (approximately 550 in Lok Sabha and 250 in Rajya Sabha) and their kin, the Congress Party President and her stooges put together could add up to 2000-3000 people who can be called ‘privileged’ and can be bracketed as “Non-Mango People”.

Once that is clarified the Aam Admi is indignant and fuming about the “Banana Republic” part of the comment. Arvind Kejriwal, the new messiah of Aam Admi, is adding fuel to the fire. But in my opinion Robert Vadra is correct in his observation.

“Banana Republic” is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between state and favoured monopolies. Whereby, the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands as private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility. An imbalanced economy reduces the national currency to devalued paper-money, hence, the country is ineligible for international development-credit, and remains limited by the uneven economic development of the country.

We Indians live in this big myth that the learned Dr. Manmohan Singh rules the country. The BJP would have us believe that Sonia Gandhi rules the country in proxy. But fact is that this country is a money making enterprise of Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian Businessman of Bofors fame. And this country is being operated as a commercial enterprise for the private profit of Ottavio Quattrocchi. Dr. Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram (who is the kajanji of the Feroz Khan Gandhi family) are indeed working really hard to bring the country to that status “Banana Republic”.

Kudos Mr. Robert Vadra Gandhi for the most insightful observation.  Thank You.

Picture Courtesy : hindustantimes.com

Much Remains Undone – Courtesy Tehelka

Check out Tehelka – India’s Independent Weekly News Magazine

The Naroda Patiya verdict comes as vindication for all those who resist. It is a hard-won victory with hard-won messages…

WHY THIS KOLAVERI DIdi

We Indian are known for our sense of humour and are comfortable to tickle our funny bone at another’s expense, but some folks, especially the political class, seem to be fairly thin-skinned when the joke’s on them.

When Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor in the chemistry department of the Jadavpur University, forwarded what he may have regarded as a harmless cartoon to his neighbour Subrata Sengupta, the West Bengal authorities, didn’t dissolve into a fit of giggles.

The cartoon (above), shows the Chief Minister and the Union Railway Minister exchanging dialogues from a popular Bengali film by Satyajit Ray which alluded to the replacement of Dinesh Trivedi by Mukul Roy as Railway Minister.

The militant Trinammol Congress workers, who at one time used to lecture the Marxists about the space for dissent in a democratic set up, visited the the offending emailer and conveyed their vigorous opinion about his humour. Then, the state’s machinary chose to visit again with full might and arrested both the professor and his neighbour.

According to the TC workers who attacked the professor it’s all part of a Maoist-Marxist conspiracy to besmirch the reputation of the new revolutionary CM Ms Mamata Banerjee. Watching all these drama unfold I have only one thing to say “Apni Boro Roshik Lok Toh” (Akka Bengali for “Have Some Sense Of Humour”)

And in order not to offend anybody’s sentiment giving the English translation of the Title “Why This Kolaveri Di(di)” – Why This Murderous Rage, Sister 😉

Silencing the Brave

If today the scams are tumbling out of the closet the primary credit must go to some excellent investigative journalism, not by the big TV channels but by journalists from small time newspapers. Therfore the news of the senior journalist Chandrika Rai and his family have been murdered to silence them is shocking.

Chandrika Rai, a freelancer for dailies Navbharat and The Hitavada, was found murdered at his Jabalpur residence along with his entire family – wife Durga, son Jalaj and daughter Nisha – in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district on February 18th, 2012, Saturday. Rai was exposing the dirty dealings of the illegal coal mafia in MP. This is not the first time such heinous act has been committed. The murder of journalist Jyotirmoy Dey eight months ago is still green in memory.

Also the statistics that during the past one year at least one RTI activist has been killed each month is a chilling news indicating how criminals have over law into their hands and the police appear to be unable to stem the rot. It is a reflection of the inefficiency of the state administrations all over the country and with curruption ruling the roost it appears to be clear case of political-criminal nexus that is playing havoc with governance.

By February 20th, 2012, Monday the mainstream media, confused about its own role conflicted between market valuation/TRP and authentic reporting, seems to have forgotten Chandrika Rai. The spat between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virendra Shewag took precedence over the killing of a fellow journalist, albeit from a small newspaper. As a viewer really hope that the mainstream media will abandon its misplaced priorities and redeem its credibility to some extend.

Photo : Courtesy DailyBaskar.com