May 19, 2006

Arjun Singh's Quota of Woes

see previous article

Quota Raj shall prevail

It is sad that in the largest “democracy” in the world, the Government of the country has to resort to playing games in order to deal with those who protest in a democratic manner against its backward looking approaches to resolving serious social issues.

As the legitimate protests against the Government’s proposed policy for special quotas for OBC get more intense, ministers in the Government and the politicians supporting such quotas for their own political ends are using all manner of tricks, subterfuge and other means, to divide, weaken and ultimately crush dissent.

In the last couple of days, the Government has been going through the motions of a mock “dialogue” with the protesting students and resident doctors but it is clear to everyone with a minimum of intellect that the sole purpose of such talks is to somehow see that the protests are subdued and stopped.

The actors in this drama being played by the Government and the political parties are many, but the pride of place at this point of time must surely be given to Arjun Singh.

He has played a pivotal role in the present controversy reaching such serious proportions and the manner in which he has acted ever since early April deserves to be recalled to appreciate the mischief and damage he has managed to do.

On the 5th of April, he let it be known that the Govt. would be announcing its decision on quotas for OBC after the elections as the same could not be announced while the elections were going to take place. Whether he actually said those words and the precise grammatical meaning of what he said is a matter of quibbling, which he has already done with the Election Commission after the latter called for an explanation. But to all those who read the news reports, he was not talking of an intention of his party or the Government but of an impending announcement of a decision. He was effectively making an unofficial announcement and saying that the formality would be completed after the election due to technicalities. That was what was understood. What he said was clearly an attempt to influence the voters (even though a little late in the day). Whether he said this at the behest of his boss or, for some reason of its own, is unclear.

In fact, before Singh spoke, the HRM Draft Bill was already sent back by the Cabinet Secretary in view of the forthcoming elections. This then, was the starting point of the mischief.

Then, when the students started agitations and wanted to meet him, he did not meet them. When he did meet, he took cover under E.C. directive and also talked of speaking to the Prime Minister.

All along in this series of events, he has maintained that the government was duty bound by the Constitution to introduce the quota. This was clearly a deliberate falsehood to mislead not only the agitating students but also the whole country. The Constitutional amendment is only an enabling amendment consequent upon the Supreme Court decision in P.A.Inamdar & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors., delivered on 12th August 2005. (
see here ). In fact, it is the Supreme Court which has suggested the Union or the State Governments to come out with ‘a detailed well thought out legislation’.

The 93rd Amendment merely states that the Government can make “any special provisions by law for the advancement of socially or economically backward classes” or SC/ST as regards admissions to educational institutions. (see the actual Act). It DOES NOT say that government must make such special provisions nor does it prescribe any time limit. “Special provisions” do not mean only reservations and quotas, except in the mind of a non-thinking Government with no vision. Furthermore, it is clear that in spite of the 93rd Amendment allowing the Govt. to make special provisions, any law that may be made will still be subject to judicial scrutiny in future.

A Union Minister who would complete 50 years of political life next year cannot be so ignorant as to say that government is mandated by the Constitution to introduce the quotas. The conclusion is clear that what is being said by him is to mislead. He actually said in a statement once again on the 18th May, knowing full well that it was not a correct representation :

"the Central Government is aware of all views expressed in this regard and shall take an appropriate decision on this issue without in anyway diluting the commitment arising out of the Constitutional Amendment in Article 15 (5)."

Not satisfied, he used the same point while launching a totally unwarranted and undignified attack on the National Knowledge Commission. With due respect to Arjun Singh’s long political life, it can be said that each of the members of the Knowledge Commission carry a lot of respect and are fully qualified to say what they have said with regard to education. In fact, its Statement on Reservations appears to be a well articulated and at the same time a restrained statement and contains nothing that should anger Arjun Singh, except for the fact that it makes public the views of its members. (
read here). Furthermore, the Commission is very well within its rights to have its say on the subject. Its very first Term of Reference is:

Build excellence in the educational system to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st century and increase India’s competitive advantage in fields of knowledge.

It is the duty and the responsibility of the Human Resource Ministry to respect and give due weight to the views of this body that has been given the task of building excellence in the educational system of India of the 21st Century – a task for which the older generation is simply not well placed to have a concept let alone a vision. Instead, Arjun Singh made various calumnious comments questioning whether they (NKC) were above the Constitution and even mischievously suggesting that they were wanting to thwart the will of the Parliament, that would depict the NKC in a confrontational role.

This tirade by a Senior Government Minister questioning another empowered body of his own Government was absolutely unseemly and deserves to be dismissed with sheer contempt.

Arjun Singh’s latest statements also deserve to be noted to understand how he is consistently tying himself into knots in trying to do a balancing act. He stated in the Parliament that Government was not working with a closed mind but will fulfil its commitment on quotas. Not having a ‘closed mind’ is completely false. This is evident from the fact that the Draft Bill was ready and already forwarded by him to the Cabinet Secretariat perhaps in the end of March 2006 to be placed in the Cabinet for approval. This in itself is evidence of the Government – not he alone – scurrying surreptitiously in a completely non-transparent and non-democratic way to push through its policy as law without allowing a public debate on such a fundamental and sensitive issue. It shows that the Government had indeed closed its mind.

What is more important and shocking is that contrary to the Supreme Court’s exhortation of bringing out a ‘well thought out legislation', not much thought seems to have gone into the proposal. The manner in which the matter has been finalised is an indication that the Government, in particular the HR Ministry, has not done its home work at all. When such a major decision having far reaching implications for the country is to be taken, it would be expected of the government to prepare and present before the public a strong case with full justification, facts and figures, a review of past approaches, actions and results, the vision for the future, the options available and considered and finally a convincing case for the option that is chosen. NOTHING OF THAT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN DONE. The Government seems not to have even bothered to consult beforehand, the Knowledge Commission, whose terms of reference place a focus on education, and whose inputs would be essential and invaluable in the context of the needs of the 21st Century. The only justification the Ministry and Government seem to have, is political need and expedincy as well as the opportunity arising after the Supreme Court judgement. This brings out an almost scandalous state of affairs prevailing in decision making within the government. Truly a sad commentary on a country preparing for the 21st Century.

Further proof of the closed mind of the Government is the fact that what the other auxiliary corps of ministers like Fernandes, Mukherjee, Ramadoss and Chidambaram are trying, is simply to get the students to end their agitation. Every one of the minsters concerned continues with the quota swansong. Palliatives being offered e.g. to increase seats, to ‘consider’ providing more finance etc. are just an eyewash and worth trash, first because they detract from the basic objections to reservations and second because their objective is simply to coax the students to give up. The democratic government of India thinks nothing of even serving sack notices or blowing lathis on demonstrating medicos (although they are expected to brave these for their cause) whose very careers and future are at stake. They are indeed not fighting only for themselves but also for other youngsters who will have to face the same situation in future.

The government in a co-ordinated effort is also out to discredit the media for ‘blowing things out of proportion’ - an exercise of trying to shoot the messenger. At the same time, a section of the media has reported that the government was trying to "mollify upper classes", an invidious hint to put the colours of a casteist approach on the part of the protestors. In fact, the protestors are doing exactly the opposite by wanting to maintain merit-based criteria. There is also innuendo of some political parties working behind the scenes!

Arjun Singh has led an early charge of the brigade without preparations and without a sound plan except one of ramming through, come what may. Now, with the pressures of vote-bank politics and with other political parties who see themselves as saviors of the OBCs breathing down its neck, the Government, it seems, will stop at nothing to push and rush through its quota policy, howsoever ham-handed it may have to become.

May 12, 2006

Retail FDI - Lessons in Misleading the People

Kamal Nath

Let me think.......

The Government and the Minister of Commerce Mr. Kamal Nath in particular, have become quite adept at creating confusion in order to achieve the objective of pushing and justifying a non-existent case for FDI in Retail sector.

After a short lull, the Government has again started floating the premise that the objection to inviting foreign investment in Retail stems from the opposition to big from the small. It is trying to mislead the people by suggesting that the entire argument against foreign direct investment in this sector is confined to the philosophical question of big vs. small. The apparent strategy is that the moment a few large domestic retailers come up, the government could claim that since large retailers are already co-existing with small retailers, there is no harm in having foreign retailers as well who are large.

The arguments against retail FDI are much stronger and fundamental and the main issue is whether FDI in this sector is essential and justified or not. The unequivocal answer to this is: NO. A policy of allowing FDI in this sector can only benefit the global retailers by giving them a permanent footing to earn billions in potentially the largest market in the world in future. This benefit would be available to them virtually free of cost because any investment they make would be only to create their own assets and run their own operations.

The second point which the Government, starting from the Prime Minister, have been at pains to highlight at every available opportunity, is that the country needs $ 150 bn. in FDI in the next few years. This argument is cleverly sought to be linked to suggest that FDI in retail is part of this need. This is just a smokescreen. The country does not need this amount in just any random sector. If the Government has done the home-work to arrive at this magic figure, it must have obviously also worked out the desired sector-wise composition of the $ 150 bn. estimate. Logically, this figure would include only critical areas of high priority like infrastructure and industry and certainly not a no-priority area like Retail where in any case the inflows cannot be large and where, in contrast, there is no worthwhile benefit. On the other hand, there is no shortage of domestic capital for this sector.

In fact, the Government has failed to show a single provable benefit from FDI in Retail sector, as already discussed in another article (see here). On the other hand, most of the arguments and assertions of benefits flowing some time in future (including the supposed big benefits to agricultural sector) that have been floated from time to time, have been comprehensively and admirably dealt with and effectively countered in a longish article elsewhere on the web, specifically as they relate to India (see here). Even the Left parties have demolished the Government's arguments in their discussions with the Government and in public.

The Government has now let it be known that the Commerce Ministry, along with the PMO is working out a proposal to permit FDI in specific branded products like sports goods (read "Nike"?). This very proposal gives the lie to the Government's lofty claims of FDI in Retail sector doing wonders for the country. By no stretch of imagination can it be claimed that allowing FDI in selective segments like sports goods or such other insignifcant area can do any good for the country at all. In even considering such a proposal, the government has practically destroyed its case in the main, for it is obvious that the only real beneficiaries will be the retailers that set up base under this proposed policy. In any case, such brand segments can very well make do with the franchise option available to them at present.

The conclusion is unavoidable that the Government's intentions do not indicate any public interest being served. Private interests, perhaps? Who knows.

What about the assurances to Wal-mart and others then, that they would be allowed? Hmmmm.... May be the Commerce Minister and the PMO still have something up their sleeves to spring a last minute surprise.

April 27, 2006

Quotas - an idea whose time has gone

Youth power - resisting injustice

Voice of sanity and sense
Kapil Sibal

Making others cry -
Arjun Singh

Mr. Arjun Singh, a life-long practitioner of fake secularism has been lately seeing himself in the role of the self-styled messiah of the minorities and OBCs.

In his desperate attempt to remain in the limelight in the face of an ebbing and lackluster political career and with fear of being consigned to oblivion by his own party, he is trying to play base politics that may well result in ensuring that the country is never rid of caste and religion based thinking and in dividing up the 'generation next' of the country.

In pushing for reservations for OBCs in higher education that will have far reaching repercussions on the country in the years to come, he is trying to fool the people by claiming that the government is duty bound to do so in terms of the mandate of the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution. This is a patently mala fide misrepresentation and a bogus argument. The 93rd Amendment simply makes an enabling provision that allows the Government to make special provisions for socially or economically backward classes of citizens related to admission to educational institutions. To buttress his argument, he is making much of the fact that the amendment was supported by all political parties. Even if that were so, the amendment DOES NOT PLACE ANY COMPULSION on the Government that it must impose the quota raj that is being proposed. For that matter, the amendment does not even say that the special provisions that the government is enabled to make must be in the form of reservations and quotas. (Read the actual Amendment Act).

It must be realised that it is the young generation of this country that is going to build its future. The V.P. Singhs and Arjuns Singhs who try to push for such reservations for petty career gains or politics of the vote bank are not going to be around to be accountable for their acts when the adverse impacts of such divisive policies become evident.

It is indeed heartening to note that the young generation has rightly come out to oppose the proposed reservations policy. From the interviews in the visual media with many of the young students, it is clear that there is strong logic, clarity and the courage of convictions behind their opposition. On the other hand, some of the advocates of such reservations have been seen and heard proposing palpably unintelligent and even laughable arguments. For example, one of the justifications proposed by a lady professor of a university in Delhi on a discussion on TV was to the effect that in any case there were thousands of applicants even with merit whereas the seats were not enough. Ipso facto, reservations would not matter, she seemed to imply. Another advocate for the quota said that there were students who had studied in schools where there was only one teacher. Therefore, such students needed reservations. Can any government that takes decisions influencd by such arguments be considered fit to govern in 21st Century India?

It is unfortunate that students who wanted to meet Arjun Singh and seek his explanations were stopped and manhandled. Arjun Singh, the politician that he is, shed glycerine tears saying "I was pained...that the students were not allowed to see me". Not allowed by whom?? Realising the mood the students, when he did meet them, he deftly took refuge under the Election Commission query to the Government on his earlier announcement and also sought to deflect his own responsibility by saying that he would speak to the Prime Minister!! At the same time, it is reasonably certain that wheels would have been already set in motion to identify the leaders of the struggle and divide or isolate them in ways that the politicians know best. If nothing else, Arjun Singh is a past master in handling opposition and dissent. He knows very well how to take the wind out of opposition and the same fate may await the well intentioned but politically naive students.

On the other hand, Kapil Sibal, who understands the Constitution as well as anyone else, who is the Science & Technology Minister and understands his own reponsibilities, publicly gave words to his thoughts that he does not favour any actions "that would dilute the levels of excellence". The country needs more such politicians who do not simply go by the caste and religion based vote bank games that the old school politicians have been practicing and continue to practice. The people also need to show the door to those politicians whose time has gone, and keep them from doing more harm to the social fabric of the country.

More power to those who speak their mind against divisive policies and more power to the young generation to maintain clarity of their objectives and bring their present struggle to a conclusion that will strengthen the country in the future, not weaken it.


April 14, 2006

Narmada Bachao "Andolan" sucks in Aamir Khan

Sardar Sarovar Dam - Symbolising the aspirations of the nation

V.P.Singh and Soz -offering cold water?
Aamir - advisable to stick to "thanda cola"?

It is really a pity that Aamir Khan, generally considered to be a sensible person, got carried away by the false propoganda of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and by being present at their dharna at Delhi, tried to add glamor to an effort to mislead the public and browbeat the Government.

Medha Patkar and her cronies have been assiduously following the Goebbelian principle of telling lies long enough to make people accept it as truth. Unfortunately for the country and its people, they have succeeded in their efforts in making people believe that their 'struggle' is justified.

As Aamir Khan spoke, it was clear that he was not fully aware of the background of issues and had unwittingly walked into controversy by lending his voice to support the cause of the NBA.

For those like him who are not fully aware of how much water has flown under the bridge (or over the dam) in this matter, there are voluminous newsreports and other material available which also show the tactics adopted and half-truths that have been spread by Medha Patkar and her colleagues over a period.

For the uninitiated, an admirable analytical viewpoint on the subject can be read here and a perspecive specifically on Relief & Rehabilitation aspects can be read here.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan has been trying its best to raise their issues repeatedly before the Highest Court in the land, i.e. The Supreme Court.

In its Judgement given in October 2000, the Surpeme Court did not accept various contentiones of NBA and gave several directions to ensure that justice was done to the displaced people and at the same time that the project was completed expeditiously.

Even subsequent to that, various interlocutary applications were made by various affected persons. In one Order dated 9.9.02, the Supreme Court stated:

"Grievance Redressal Authority having been put in place, there is no reason for this Court to interfere.

As far as the dispute raised in this petition is concerned, that is over and final with the earlier decision of this Court. In case an oustee or a person affected by the Project has any grievance, it is open to him to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority.

It is also contended that land for land has not been given. If there is any person so aggrieved or has justifiable grievance, it is open to that person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which this Court.

It is made clear that full assistance will be rendered by the Narmada Control Authority as well as the State Governments to the Grievance Redressal Authority in the discharge of their respective functions.

This writ petition is disposed of in the aforesaid terms."

It will be noticed that the Supreme Court had unequivocally stated that it was open to a person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which the Supreme Court.

In another Order dated 16.4.04, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that:

"I.A.Nos.10 & 11. The prayer in these applications is to direct the respondents not to proceed with further construction of Narmada Dam by raising its height to 110 meters till all affected people are rehabilitated. The main grievance of the applicants is the subject-matter of two I.As.(I.A.Nos.4 & 7).

Having heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable length, we are of the view that for the present, no case has been made out to stop the ongoing construction raising the height of the dam. At the same time, it is necessary to note that the matter relating to rehabilitation of outstees is required to be examined by all concerned and implemented in terms of the award made by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, orders and directions issued by this Court from time to time, the orders and directions of Narmada Control Authority and that of Grievance Redressal Authrorities of the state concerned. Further, it has been brought to our notice by the learned counsel appearing for the applicants that the land in village Matanya, Tehsil Mahaeshwar and some of the other villages being proper cultivable land can be obtained/acquired by the State Governments and given to the oustees as a rehabilitation measure. The applicants may give concrete suggestions in this respect to the respondent-State of Madhya Pradesh. On receipt of such suggestions, the matter shall be expeditiously examined by the State Government. In case, the applicants/oustees are still not satisfied with the decision of the State Government, it would be open to them to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority. The said Authority shall also examine the grievance of the oustees as expeditiously as possible as the matter pertaining to rehabilitation of the oustees cannot be taken up or treated lightly. It may also be noticed that a positive approach has been adopted by the oustees that what they are concerned with is the proper rehabilitation and not the stoppage of the construction of the dam and they have approached this Court seeking stay of construction as they were not satisfied about the proper offer having been made to all affected parties for their rehabilitation and other related aspects of rehabilitation.

For the present having noticed aforesaid issues, we express no opinion."

Another detailed Judgement giving certain directions was also delivered on 15.3.05.

Realising that they were not succeeding in getting the Hon. Court to give Orders to their own liking, the NBA and Medha Patkar have started resorting to pressure tactics and have drawn in the news-hungry television media and publicity-hungry personalities to use them for their own ends. In doing this, they are amply demonstrating their lack of faith in the Judiciary if it does not show inclination to pass orders to suit their own agenda.

The Union Government, which has proved to be weak-kneed and worthless at times in tackling difficult issues, has apparently succumbed to the pressure tactics of Medha Patkar and others and has agreed to "review" the decision to raise the height of the dam.

It is high time the people stop supporting such uselsss 'struggles' when the development and progress of the country are thwarted. It is pertinent to note that the Narmada projects link the economic development of four states in the country viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajashtan and Madhya Pradesh with a total population of 264.20 million people.

But it is not a question of just these 25% of the country's population. The issue is whether a handful of objectors with their own unclear motivations can stop the progress of the country itself. What they are trying to do is to change the countours of a project that has come so far in the process of implementation during the course of which it has gone through every conceivable test including critical scrutiny of the highest judicial authority. If such agitations, by people who may be misguided or who may have their own motives, are allowed to succeed, it would lead to disastrous consequences not only for the present Narmada projects but also for any future development projects.

As for Aamir Khan, it is hoped that he would see through the game to suck him into needless controversy and, instead of sticking his neck out for the same, stick to his bollywood activities unless he feels that he has no future there.

March 07, 2006

Another Leaf from the UPA Book of Dirty Politics

Political Gain by any means ?

When Lalu Yadav, the Minister for Railways, appointed the U.C.Banerjee Committee to look into the so-called technical aspects of fire in the bogie of Sabarmati Express at Godhra, it was clear that the smoke screen of the ‘technical inquiry’ was hiding a sinister objective of impairing, if not altogether sabotaging, the due process of law.

That this was indeed the purpose of the inquiry, was evident because of the fact that when it was set up, investigations were already being conducted by the law enforcing agencies whose job it was to do so in order to establish facts and take actions according to law as warranted. The Railway Administration itself had conducted its own investigations. The Justice Nanavati Commission was already conducting an inquiry into the overall situation of riots in Gujarat and the events leading up to the riots including the fire in Sabarmati Express.

In the light of these, no other conclusion could be reached about the objective of the Inquiry other than that presented before. A case was already filed in the Gujarat High Court questioning the appointment of the Committee and an interim order was passed by the Gujarat High Court at that time in this regard.

However, the U.C.Banerjee Committee proceeded with its work and had earlier made public its interim findings that were contrary to the findings of other investigations conducted in accordance with the due process of law. The timing of the announcement of the interim findings appeared to be politically opportune for the UPA partners.

But what clearly reveals the dirty tricks mind-set of the UPA is the timing of the final findings of the Report of the Banerjee Committee. Mr. Justice Banerjee went on record to say that he was asked to submit the final Report by 7th March, which he did, by submitting the same on 3rd March 2006. The date March 7 is significant as it coincides with the date of the hearing in the Gujarat High Court and is conveniently close to the forthcoming elections in certain States.

The Gujarat High Court rightly showed its displeasure that Mr. Justice Banerjee made the findings public even as the entire matter was being pursued as per legal process. The Gujarat High Court was also right in prohibiting any action on the Report, till the judgment in the matter before it.

It is, perhaps, just as well that Mr. Justice Banerjee chose to make his findings public on the 4th March prior to its tabling in the Parliament by the Railway Minister. Had the Report been tabled in Parliament, events would have taken another course. Perhaps, Mr. Justice Banerjee partly realized this and at the cost of attracting unfavorable comments from the Gujarat High Court, made the findings public, enabling the interim orders from the Court to prevent the tabling of the Report.

The UPA Government has consistently shown a liking for stooping low for cheap and temporary political gains. Unfortunately, the Left parties who are normally cautious, have, in this instance, fallen prey and jumped onto the Lalu wagon by supporting this patently mischievous action to derail the due process of law, for doubtful political gains. History will judge all those who play the politics of appeasement without realizing the consequences. As for Lalu, whatever praise he has earned due to his handling of his Ministry is likely to be lost because of his mindless action in handling of this issue. He is likely to cause his own wagon to derail.

February 19, 2006

Indo-U.S. Relationship : New Dimensions

related articles here and here
also here

(Visualisation of conversation during Dinner party to be given by Mr. Manmohan Singh in honour of Mr. Bush (Big B) on March 2, 2006. )

Full backing

Big B: Hey Man, I wanna have a word with you in private, if I may.

(Both Manmohan and Mantek move closer to Big B. Mulford gestures to Mantek that Big B. wants to speak with Big Man, not him. Mantek moves back, disappointed.)

Mulford:(whispering to Big B) Mr. Prez., please do not address him as Man.
Big B: Why do you say that, he is Man all right.
Mul: No, no, I mean if you say Man, it confuses them whether you mean Manmohan or Mantek..
Big B: Oh, ok, get your point Dave, thanks.

(Big B talking to Mr. Manmohan Singh.)

Big B: So what's up? Tell me about the Nuke deal, how’s it goin on your side?
M: We are moving in the right direction Mr. Bush. I assure you I will carry everyone along. We will deliver on all our promises before you do.
Big B: Yeah, that’s important y’know. I have a tough task ahead convincing all those guys back home.
M: We appreciate what you said you were going to try to do for us Mr. Bush.
Big B: Sure will. I can do business with you, I told you when you came to the U.S.
M: (Smiles)
Big B: Talking of business, that reminds me. You know the Senators from Arkansas ain’t convinced yet. I am afraid; they are going to be tough nuts to crack. I told you about them back in US already.
M: But we are going to separate all our facilities as you told us.
Big B: Yeah, they know it too. But the folks from Arkansas are concerned about their own State, you see. They are getting impatient and they have to see a few Wal-Mart stores opening in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. I have to show that I have done something for their state too, not just India. Don't forget, Wal-Mart want to come here in India's interest. They can very well go elsewhere and that will be your loss, not theirs.
Mulford : (interjects) I hear they already have invitations from other countries. Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Lithuania......others..
Big B: Speed in decision making counts a lot.
M: I get your point Mr. Bush. Let’s hear Mr. Nath too on this.
Big B: Nut, who?

Mulford : (again whispers) Not Nut, Mr. Prez, Mr. Nath, their Commerce Minister.

(Big B nods that he has understood.
K. Nath joins the group.)

Mulford: Look here, Nath, the Prez. wants to know what has been done since Wal-Mart team met with you last year. It is nearly a year, you know.
Nath: Yes, we are working on it. I am confident that we shall overcome all the resistance. There is the usual problem with Mom and Pop shops that I need to tackle. I am going to convince them that what we are doing is for their own good. They will be able to sell their shops and get good money.
Mulford: So?
Nath: The Left parties are also making some noises... I have been trying to convince them too that it will help India in a big way. There will be backward linkages, cold chains and so on. Farmers will benefit. Above all, they will bring down prices by importing stuff from China and our manufacturers will also improve to meet the Chinese competition. Consumers will benefit. The lowering of prices will help our Finance Minister too who has been struggling to keep inflation under check. And also....
Mulford: (menacingly) See 'ere, you are only repeating what WE told you to enlighten you. The Prez. is not interested in all these stories. Enough is enough. Just do it that's all. Don’t fool around with us if you know what’s good for you.
Nath: (nervously looks at Manmohan Singh who avoids his glance)
Big B :(nudges Mulford) Let me handle this Dave, if you will.

Big B: Relax, Nath. They told me all about you. You are a nice guy. I know I can rely on you to do what we want you to do in your country's interest.
Nath: I am doing my best Mr. President. I won’t disappoint you. It is just that these Moms and Pops and Left parties..
Big B: I understand all that. Let’s put it this way: Can these small shops or the Left parties give you a nuke deal? Can they help India by doing what Wal-Mart and Boeing and other American businesses will do?
Nath: You are absolutely right, they can't. You can count on me to get Wal-Mart in. I think the Left parties also want us to do it because of Buddha, the Enlightened One, amongst them. So they would actually like it if we ignore them. We have already ignored the opposition because they are also supporting it by not opposing strongly.
Big B: So when do you think you can do it?
Nath: Very soon. We have finalized the concessions for them. In confidence, I can tell you that but for the objections from the Left, we were in favor of treating all Wal-Mart stores in the country as a single Special Economic Zone and giving them exemption from all Indian laws, tax breaks etc. We will still do the best without inviting trouble from the Left.
Big B: (smiles) That’s good then.
Nath: We are counting on Wal-Mart to transform the face of our agriculture. Our Agriculture Minister also feels that Wal-Mart can easily do what he could not do.
Big B: Hmmm
Nath: We are looking to them to export also our agro products in a big way, especially fruit.
Mulford: What fruit, Mango?
Nath: Yes, but we can offer Bananas too in a big way.
Mulford: You grow Bananas too?
Nath: Oh YES. You will be surprised to know, we are the largest Banana producers in the world. We produce 23% of the world’s production.
Big B: Wow, isn’t that something? Hey Dave, why didn’t we think of it before? The largest Republic in the world is the largest producer of Bananas. Makes a lot of sense. (laughs)
Mulford: Yes Mr. Prez. That’s it then Nath. Good luck to you. Let’s have a drink together and leave the Prez. with your PM.

(both move away)

Big B: (to Manmohan Singh) Nice guy, Nath. But needs a bit of a push from the top, I think.
M: I have been doing it but this young blood, you know how they are.
Big B: If he can do it, it will be a load off my head and I can convince the Arkansas folks. You know what?
M: What, Mr. Bush?
Big B: The Wal-Mart people in Bentonville have great confidence in your party President. They have a lot of hopes about her because of the enlightened economic policies like allowing Wal-Mart.
M: I am glad they think so of our party President.
Big B: Sure, they do. In fact, they are appreciative of the help they are getting from you guys. I am sure they will be happy to see your party win the next elections too. You could count on their goodwill.
M: I am happy to hear that.
Big B: Good work is always appreciated. Tell me how far have you come on your aircraft fleet orders. The people at home were a bit concerned that Airbus will walk away with the remaining orders.
M: That portfolio is handled by another of my coalition partners as you know. But I am sure, we prefer Boeing.
Big B: I hope so. Minister Patel knows a lot about US. Patels have a lot of motels out there. His boss Power is also quite practical. I do not see any real reason to worry. But Boeing is important for your economy. The people in Seattle and Chicago think so too.
M: Sure, we recognize it is in our interest to give preference to Boeing. We only give some orders to Airbus to keep Mr. Chirac in good humor.
Big B: Things are certainly changing since your government came in power. You are also establishing your party's credibility. It is evident from the way your party took actions on the Volcker Report. Condie told me it has had a lot of positive impact on your foreign policy too. It has helped in giving a new meaning to our relationship. By the way, I don’t see your computer man around. Where is he?
M: Computer man?
Big B: I mean the number cruncher, PC. A PC has all the figures, haha.
M: Oh you mean Mr. Chidambaram.
Big B: You got it right.
M: He is busy trying to think of explanations and reasons for the Budget proposals he just presented.
Big B: Yeah, its always difficult to convince people to see sense in the Budget proposals.
M: He can make himself sound convincing.
Big B: Tell you what, I’ll tell Aly to call up PC and give him advice on how to handle the economy. India is going to be a big economy and you’ll need a lot of expertise now.
M: Aly?
Big B: Greenspan. He can be a good ally.
M: Oh. We would surely appreciate that Mr. Bush. Shall I send PC over to meet with him next week?
Big B: Let me get back first and brief Aly what we would like him to suggest.
M: I understand.
Big B: Always happy to be of help to friends like you.
M: (raises his voice) Mr. Bush, I want to tell you something important.

(Others around them come closer)

Big B: What is it Mr. Prime Minister?
M: (raises his voice further) Let it be clearly understood. I do not want any misunderstandings later on. I want to say it with all the emphasis at my command. You should not think that we are going to do whatever you say.
Big B: (alarmed) Please calm down Man.
M: Don’t you Man me. Listen to what I say. I have told everyone about this in my country. Whatever we do is going to be strictly done in the light of the changing situation. We make our own policies. All our policy decisions are going to be taken in our own enlightened national interest. We will agree to do everything you suggest only because it is in our national interest and for nothing else. I hope I am making myself very clear.

(applause from the Indian side present)

Big B: (relieved) Oh that. Sure Mr. Prime Minister. I know you are very strong and firm about that as you told me back in the US. You can rely on me there. I always think of that and whatever we suggest is only in India’s interest. Have we not always done that? I worry about India’s interests just as I worry about Indiana’s interests. You know that.
M: I just wanted to make it clear once again. I will NOT do anything that is not in India’s enlightened national interest. Most certainly not.
Big B: I admire your firmness in saying this. That's how it should be. I sure am glad that you want to do everything in the interests of your meant nation.

(raises a toast) Cheers to strengthening of our new relationship.

Break for dinner…….

February 16, 2006

Retail FDI - Selling India short



One of the most provocative interpretations of globalisation comes from former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who has said the process "is really another name for the dominant role of the United States." [read here]

The Government has been talking a lot about FDI transforming not only the Retail business but also thereby, virtually the entire economy.

So far, the Government has NOT been able to show any single concrete and undeniable evidence of these benefits accruing to any economy of significance.

The way in which the entire issue has developed till date raises certain doubts which have to be clarified:

  1. Everyone has been talking of benefits of organised retail. The modernisation of retail trade is going to happen as a natural evolution as other parts of the economy are also modernising. This will happen without government doing anything and just leaving things alone.
  2. Modern retail may result in some advantages but there may be disadvantages too. In any case, the advantages of modern retail DO NOT mean that the country needs FDI. The Government is deliberately trying to confuse people by mixing the two. It has been misrepresenting and misleading and not working transparently.
  3. Allowing FDI in Retail is clearly going to give benefits to the foreign countries without corresponding benefit to the host country viz. India. Therefore, it would have been appropriate to use this as a bargaining point in multilateral trade negotiations. Instead, government is just giving away the bargaining strength.
  4. There is no worthwhile benefit to the country and this is a low priority area for FDI. The investors are going to reap huge benefits relative to their negligible investments by pulling out large dividends year after year. The present government has no right to place this heavy burden on the balance of payments which will have to be faced by future governments and the people.
  5. It is very clear that the Walmart lobby has very effectively 'handled' and 'tackled' those who matter viz. political parties and government administration as well as certain business interests. All of them are virtually pleading the case of Walmart while Walmart lets these parties and individuals work for them and goes about its planning for entry into India.
  6. As stated in an earlier article(see here), the Left parties are just making a show of protesting and getting upset. If they were really serious, instead of waiting for the Government to announce the decision, they would have mobilised protests already beforehand, which they have been only threatening. The Left parties have proven themselves to be as hypocritical as other parties. Their Chief Minister in West Bengal has already publicly stated that he would welcome Walmart and other FDI in Retail. The FICCI Secretary General further let the cat out of the bag by saying that SITARAM YECHURY,a CPIM politburo member is convinced about bringing FDI in Retail(read here). This means that CPIM is fooling the people and not capable of looking after their interests. The CPI is, in any case, too weak to take any firm stand at variance with CPIM or against the Congress.
  7. There is a serious doubt in the minds of some that allowing FDI in Retail is somehow also linked by the U.S. Government as part of the nuclear deal. Even if this condition may not be explicit because this is a trade matter and distinct from nuclear deal, this must have been told to the Indian government in an informal way.
  8. This decision of the government clearly shows that it has been heavily influenced and sucked into the sweet talk and pressure tactics of other countries mainly USA, even as the Indian government keeps talking of always looking after national interest etc.

February 01, 2006

FDI and the Left Parties

The Left parties have been consistently raising basic objections to the UPA governmment's moves to open FDI in Retail.

Despite these objections, the government coolly ignored them and went ahead doing what they wanted to do.

The dillema of the Left Parties came to the fore in an interview given by a CPI leader, Mr. Bardhan on a TV channel earlier this week.

When asked pointedly and repeatedly as to what they would do, the answer was that they would keep protesting.

There are two reasons why they would not like to go beyond making protests.

First, the government would simply overlook their objections, knowing full well that the Left Parties under no circumstances can rock the UPA boat.

Second, perhaps, they do this for a tactical reason. They will keep putting pressure on the Government at the Centre not to open FDI in Retail. At the same time, knowing that FDI in Retail will be opened, their West Bengal Chief Minister who is waiting in the wings, will be the first to take full advantage of the opening up by inviting some groups in the State, including Walmart.

This should be a pointer to the people to understand how political parties find strange ways to take advantage of policies that they resist and still manage to keep up their public face.

January 30, 2006

The USA - Exercising the Right of Interference

David Mulford

The United States seems to be increasingly confident that not only can it be ham-handed in putting pressure on the Indian Government to do its bidding, it can also take things for granted and interfere in the country's internal affairs at will.

The U.S. Ambassador to India, David Mulford has provided two public examples of the new-found U.S. confidence recently.

In the first, he openly warned India that the U.S.-India Nunclear deal under discussion would die unless India went along with U.S. in the vote against Iran. The Indian Government made weak protests.

In the second, he criticised the Left parties for their opposition to the Government's proposal to open FDI in Retail. Not only was this a clear breach of protocol and a brazen attempt to influence public opinion in the country, it also confirmed the strong vested interests of the U.S. Government in ensuring that this proposal went through. There is no reason to believe that the remark of the Ambassador was off-the-cuff or was his own personal opinion. It was apparently made with full prior knowledge of, if not on instructions from the U.S. Government. If indeed, it was his own opinion, it would not be wrong for people to think that he was holding a personal brief for Walmart, who has been trying its best and employing high pressure lobbying to gain entry into India.

Be that as it may, the Ambassador has gone way beyond the requirements of his office and unless the Government presses for his immediate recall from the country, it would be exposing itself as meek and weak in protecting the country's interests and pride.

January 25, 2006

IIM Games

Previous article here

A student from one of the Indian Institutes of Management has reportedly been offered a monthly remuneration of Rs. 16 lacs by a prospective employer.

Going behind this news item, it tends to simply highlight the game plan the IIMs have been apparently following in order to create an aura of awe about them and project them as Institutes of Excellence.

First, the IIMs restrict the number of admissions each year to a number that is far below the requirements of the country's growing economy. This is cleverly done under the garb of maintaining the level of standards but actually it is the number of admissions opened that determines the level at which the students are accepted.

Second, due to the gross imbalance between demand and the artificially managed supply, prospective employers are desperate to engage the MBAs by offering exorbitantly high salaries. Year after year, the IIMs use this fact to cleverly market their product viz. the MBAs in a way that creates a virtual scramble and a queue of the prospective employers at their doorsteps leading to further increase in the average remuneration offered to their MBAs.

As the demand-supply gap is magnified by the clever marketing, the employers tend to grab whatever talent is available even by paying unjustifiably high remunerations lest they be left without qualified managers.

What all this does is that it creates in the minds of the public in general and the employers in particular an impression that the IIMs turn out super managers. In course of time, even the IIMs themselves start believing that they are super institutions.

At the end of the day, however, the country is left with a large gap in the supply of managers to run the growing industry and service sectors.

There is all the more reason that as long as the Government continues to have a say in the affairs of these Institutes, it should exercise its influence to compel them to perform their tasks better, not just bask in the false glory of the high salaries that their students manage to secure.

Buta Singh...leaving after taking the salute

The Supreme Court's majority judgment holding the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly unconstitutional is an indictment not only of the Bihar Government but also of the UPA Government, of which the Congress Party is a major component.

So far, the Governor, Mr. Buta Singh is sounding defiant, having said that he would take the Republic Day salute on the 26th of January. This has been taken to mean that he would not resign of his own.

There are two ways to read his statement:

First, it is absolutely clear that he wants the powers-that-be to understand that much of the blame for what happened lies on them too. After having given a first report on the situation in Bihar, he gave a second report recommending immediate and urgent dissolution of the Bihar Assembly. By all indications, this second report was generated after his meeting with the Home Minister and the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the Home Minister actually prompted the Governor to give a report, which would facilitate the action of dissolution of the Assembly.

Therefore, in his own mind, Mr. Buta Singh is convinced that the Centre is equally culpable although the report itself was forwarded under his own signature. The apparent defiance shown by him is, perhaps, his own way of making the Centre squirm in discomfort. He, therefore, wants to say that he cannot be made the scapegoat.

This is true and at the very least, the Home Minister should quit his position on moral and justifiable grounds.

Second, he has only said that he will take the Republic Day salute. This should not be taken to mean that he will continue to remain in his position. In all likelihood, he will quit shortly after the Republic Day parade.

But the Government, more particularly the Congress party. is in a hurry that he should quit 'here and now' to prevent the target of focus from moving to the Centre. This is a repetition of what happened when Mr. Natwar Singh was compelled to quit to insulate the Congress party, the other 'beneficiary' named in the Volcker Report, from becoming the direct target of further attacks.

To further insulate the Centre from having to own responsibility for the Assembly dissolution debacle, the Government and, in particular, the Congress managers are trying to pick on and take refuge in the fact that two of the five honorable judges gave separate dissenting judgments. But this type of attitude is simply trying to avoid taking even moral responsibility for a perverse act that was virtually orchestrated by the Centre.

The imperviousness to political morality has come to be regarded as the Congress party's own contribution to the politics in this country. Unfortunately, this malaise is so infectious that none of the other political parties or politician individuals are now immune from the same.

January 20, 2006

Health Ministry's Smoking Blues


Hon. Minister for Health & FW

Unfortunately, the Hon. Minister is holding on to his idea of banning tobacco use scenes in movies and television, hoping that this will eradicate the evil of smoking and tobacco consumption in the country.

So far, the Ministry has not produced any credible evidence of cause and effect relation between tobacco use scenes in movies and starting of tobacco use by kids. i.e. any study that shows that 'x' number of kids did actually start smoking or tobacco use solely by watching such scenes in a movie. And if any such credible study was actually done in India, when and by whom was it done, what was the methodology and the size of the sample.

Secondly, the Ministry has already banned sale of tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age.

So, what is the real justification for continuing with his pet scheme?

And now, another 'brilliant' idea from the Ministry that will eliminate all the health problems of the country: ban on alcohol in chocolates.

January 19, 2006

IIMs - Mr. Arjun Singh is right

Mr. Arjun Singh, Minister for HRD

Indian Institutes of Management, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bangalore

Indian Institutes of Management, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Indore

The Indian Institutes of Management were established in various parts of the country under Government auspices and all manner of support by the Government, including their funding, to train business managers of India.

These IIMs have done good service over the years by turning out managers who have made a name for themselves in various businesses. Indeed, some of these IIMs have gained some reputation in other parts of the world, although they are far away from being counted amongst the top Institutes in the world whether in teaching or research studies.

NOT ONE of the IIMs of India figures in the rankings of top 100 global management schools of 2005, whereas China boasts of three and even Brazil, Mexico and South Africa figure in the list!!

Some of these IIMs are now thinking of expanding their operations in other countries. In this instance, the HRD Minister, Mr. Arjun Singh is absolutely right in rejecting their proposals in this regard.

His stance is quite logical, nothwithstanding comments of some academicians and industry leaders seeking full autonomy for the Institutes in their decision making.

Mr. Arjun Singh is right on all counts.

First, the Institutes were established with a clear mandate from the Government that envisaged that they will train and nurture the talent within the country and help the country achieve distinction in the field of business management. Although the IIMs have been doing this, they have still to reach very many areas of the country where young boys and girls with talent are unable to get first class training in business management. In the absence of adequate facilities, hundreds of young people are deprived of the opportunity to become the future business managers.

Second, considering the existing and projected growth of the Indian economy, the country will need trained managers in large numbers which the existing IIMs are clearly not in a position to provide without expanding in other parts of the country.

Third, inspite of their tall claims of being centers of excellence, students from India continue to go abroad to get trained in prestigious business management institutues and universities in other parts of the world. Once there, they have plenty of opportunities in the host countries and the talent which rightfully should be helping their own country India, is lost for ever in foreign countries. If the IIMs are indeed providing the high quality training that they claim to provide, , there is no reason why an Indian student should still yearn for a foreign university.

On the other hand, if the IIMs are really providing such a high level of education which is projected in public perception, they should be able to attract students from abroad, even from developed countries, for training here.

In this situation, regardless of the emotional hue and cry for autonomy from all and sundry, it is quite out of place for them to think of spreading their operations in other countries.

The priorities for these IIMs are clear:
  • To improve their standards of training to a level where not only the Indian students stop thinking of going abroad but also where students from the developed world recognise the mettle of these Institutes and seek training by coming to India. They need to get international recognition in the true sense in their own right.
  • To expand their operations in other parts of the country where there are no facilities for training in their sphere of specialisation viz. business management.
It is hoped that despite showing signs of softening, Mr. Arjun Singh will not change his perfectly valid stance and not allow the IIMs to get the benefit from the Government support, supply of land and public funds received by them over the years, by going abroad.

It seems rather strange that the Institutes which are supposed to develop clear strategic thinking of the highest order in their students, themselves have skewed thinking about their own raison detre and responsibilities towards the country.

Let them make optimum use of the infrastructure they have already created within the country and also create new centers within the country rather than squandering resources on creating new infrastructure in foreign lands. They need to focus themselves on fulfilling their obligations towards the Indian society rather than yielding to flights of fancy. It is immaterial that some of them might be generating adequate revenues and creating a corpus with their own earnings, for that cannot be the criterion for allowing them to do what they please in the name of autonomy.

January 18, 2006

Illegal Constructions in Delhi-Two cheers for the Rule of Law

It is heartening to note that the Delhi High Court has remained steadfast in its directions to the MCD to demolish unauthorized constructions within Delhi. The Court has also given directions to carry out the task regardless of the status of the persons who might be affected. The Court has also directed for power and water to be disconnected for such constructions. It has also given eminently sensible directions to identify the builders and developers who were responsible for the unauthorized constructions and put their names in the Sub-Registrar’s office and on websites.(see)

It is clear that given bureaucratic and political will, it is not difficult to find solutions even to difficult-sounding problems.

For a change, even the Congress Party local leader Mr. Rambabu Sharma has given instructions to his party functionaries in the MCD to carry out the demolitions and take actions against erring officials. The people can only hope that instead of confining its actions to junior functionaries, it will send a strong signal by bringing to book, in the first instance, the senior-most officers in the chain of command, whose responsibility it was to supervise their juniors.

That there is a human aspect involved in these demolitions cannot be denied. But when a corrupt bureaucracy and an apathetic or conniving political class consistently ignores the law, there is little choice left to firmly establish the Rule of Law. The extent of corruption, apathy and connivance can be gauged from the disclosure by the Mr. Kapil Sibal that 80% of the constructions in Delhi were unauthorized!! This state of affairs in the Capital City of this ‘great’ democracy clearly shows the scant respect for law the builders, developers and municipal authorities have – a malaise seen in all parts of the country.

It is only to be hoped that the Delhi Government does not show the naked and brazen disregard for observing the law as the Maharashtra Government did recently by passing an Ordinance to nullify the effects of Court Orders. True, the Government was within its rights to do so. But in the eyes of the general public and the world at large, it will remain a colorable exercise of the right to wash out the sins of the criminal negligence of the administration in encouraging the disregard for law.

The development in the Court today deserves two cheers. The third is reserved for the time when the final judgment is pronounced and the consequential actions by the authorities reach their logical end (if that happens).

January 15, 2006

Use of animal and human products

Urokinase is an enzyme used as a life-saving drug in the management of thrombo-embolic disorders.

Wonder what it is made from?

see the following site:

Another product Suglicotide is made from porcine duodenum.

For some other randomly chosen information on use of animal products in food and drugs, visit here and here.

Vegetarians be cautioned:

The contents may not make for pleasant reading.

January 14, 2006

Defense Counsel for Quattrocchi

The Law Minster, Mr. Bharadwaj and the Minister of State in PMO, Mr. Pachouri, have admirably performed their roles as counsel for Quattrocchi of Bofors fame.

It is unclear whether they had the blessings of the Congress Party Leader or the Prime Minister or both in pursuing with the British Crown Prosecution Service to defreeze certain Bank accounts in the name of Ottavio Quattrocchi.

Unfortunately, their initiative is back-firing and one or both may end up losing their jobs as Ministers.

It is relevant to consider the following points on this subject:

1. The Law Minister was absolutely right that after such a long lapse of time, the CBI has not been able to make any headway as far as the case proceedings are concerned and it is unreasonable to continue to freeze the money in the accounts.

2. It is equally true and indeed, sad, that the prime investigating agency of the Government of India has not been able to do enough either due to incompetence or indifference.

3. While the views of the Law Minister on the subject may be valid, he had no business to take upon himself the role of the prosecuting agency and bypassing the legal channels, approach the Crown Prosecution Service with the request to de-freeze the accounts.

It is becoming evident that the various Ministers in the present Government are increasingly behaving as a law unto themselves.

This is what happens when there are extra-constitutional authorities that can influence the career paths of Ministers and lesser functionaries in the Government. The Ministers then work either on directions or on their own initiative to remain in the good books of their mentor.

January 08, 2006

Agenda for Brinda Karat and the Health Minister

Considering the serious concern that Com. Brinda Karat and the Union Health Minister apparently have for the sensitivities of vegetarians in the country, it would be desirable for them to focus now on the following:

1.Use of gelatin for pharmaceutical capsules should be banned.
Alternatively, all medicine manufacturers who encapsulate their medicines, should be required to take a licence to use products derived from animal matter and also declare on the package/strip containing the capsules if the capsules are made from gelatin derived from animal matter.

2.Use of Dicalcium Phosphate or Glycerine derived from animal matter for manufacturing toothpaste should be banned.
Alternatively, all toothpaste manufacturers who use Dicalcium Phosphate or Glycerine derived from animal matter in their toothpaste should be required take a licence to use animal based products and also to declare on the packages the ingredients which are derived from animal matter.

3. Use of Gelatin which is derived from animal matter should be banned in all food products such as confectionery, ice creams etc.

Com. Brinda Karat should immediately take up these issues through the national Television Media, to be followed up by the necessary statements and action by the Union Health Minister.

This would be a good beginning and more areas of focus could be added on later.

January 07, 2006

Continuing antics by Brinda Karat and Health Minister

see previous

Suddenly realising that she had put her foot in the mouth by trying to malign Ayurved, Brinda Karat changed tack and said that her main issue was the alleged flouting of labour laws by Baba Ramdev's Pharmacy and not the presence of animal parts in his medicines. At the same time, on Television, she kept repeating her allegations about the use of animal and even human parts in the medicines.

She tried to project that it was Baba Ramdev who was diverting focus from violations of labour laws. It was actually she who started the controversy in the first place and in the process led many people to believe that she and her party were somehow acting to bring Ayurved into disrepute at the behest of vested interets. Her subsequent protestations that it was because of her party that Ayurved was sustained in Kerala, that she was herself practising Yoga and that she wanted Yoga to be taught in schools were just glib and lame excuses which did not fool anyone. In the same breath she continued to level charges against Baba Ramdev's pharmacy which were not related to labour issues.

She should be aware that the Indian people, howsoever gullible they may be, will not be taken in by double-faced politicians for long and that her actions have generated tremendous resentment for her party.

But while Brinda Karat may have had her own reasons, it is really the role of the Health Minister that needs scrutiny.

It is bizzare that he jumped to the help of Brinda Karat in what was essentially a labour issue (by Karat's own admission).

In various statements from his side, he has consistently implied that all was not well with the products manufactured by Baba Ramdev's pharmacy. He also mentioned in this context that proper testing was not done by various manufacturers, leading people to infer that he was talking of Baba Ramdev's pharmacy. He is also reported to have said that the Government was thinking of changing the laws to prevent false claims of cure, once again, the inference being that it was somehow related to Baba Ramdev's activities. His very first action of getting involved in an issue within the domain of the States was enough to raise eyebrows.

There is something really amiss about his actions which are either out of ignorance or deliberate intent.

In either case, the Prime Minister should call him to explain his actions. The country cannot afford to have as Health Minister a person whose actions knowingly or unknowingly are harming the reputation of Indian Traditional systems to the obvious benefit of vested interests.

January 06, 2006

Maligning Ayurved

earlier post

Brinda Karat's uninformed or deliberate comments and the Health Minister's support of her without proper basis have created tremendous confusion and shock amongst the people.

Innocent people have become confused about Ayurved because for so long, we Indians have been accustomed to rely on Western medicine.

It is necessary to clarify some basic issues as regards Ayurved:

1. People do not take Ayurvedic Medicines BECAUSE they are 'vegetarian', but because of their belief in their curative value.

As far as medicines for treating diseases are concerned, the concept of 'vegetarian' or 'non-vegetarian' is irrelevant. The function of all medicines should be to treat the disease and this applies to every system of medicine whether Western or Eastern. There is no 'moral' or 'ethical' issue involved, as grandly proclaimed by Brinda Karat. The only moral issue for a medical practitioner is to treat the patient with all the means at his disposal to bring relief to the person from disease.

As Lalu Yadav, for once, said aptly, whether a medicine contains bones of Manav or Danav is irrelevant as long as it gives relief from disease.

If those who are out to malign traditional medicine, like Brinda Karat, are so concerned about people being given 'non-vegetarian' medicines, they ought to also know that the pharmaceutical capsules which millions of Indians have become accustomed to pop into their mouths while taking Western medicine, are made from Gelatin. For those who do not know, Gelatin is made by boiling skin, bones and connective tissues of animals. (For those interested in learning where else is gelatin used in the food that they consume without a second thought, this article may be of interest)

2. Ayurved also never claims that all its medicines are only herbal based, although a vast majority of them may be based on material of plant origin.

3. Ayurvedic medicines make use of materials of plant, mineral as well as animal origin. The aim of ayurved is to preserve life and protect from disease and not to treat patients with just 'vegetarian' medicines. Therefore, it is immaterial whether the medicines are derived from plant, mineral or animal origin.

4. There are a number of standard treatises on Ayurved which contain procedures and formulations for medicines to treat various diseases. The First Schedule of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 lists 86 treatises concerning Ayurved and Sidha systems and another 13 treatises concerning Unani system. A vast majority of the Ayurvedic medicines are based on such prescribed formulations although a number of proprietary medicines containing variations in ingredients are also being made available by various manufacturers. Apart from the products generally available, Ayurvedic practitioners also give patient-specific formulations to individual patients based on their diagnoses and applying their own practical knowledge and experience.

5. The manufacture of Ayurvedic medicines is already governed by The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, contrary to the impression that is sought to be created that Ayurvedic medicines are not regulated.

6. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 prescribe specific rules for manufacture, labelling, packaging, limit of alcohol, Government analysis and inspection,as well as standards. The same rules apply for Ayurvedic, Unani as well as Sidha medicines.

The above will serve to give some basic information to the people who are frequently misguided by vested interests and pseudo-intellectuals like Brinda Karat.

January 05, 2006

Harming Indian Traditions

The action by Comrade Brinda Karat in talking nonsense about the medicines made by Baba Ramdev's pharmacy could be excused. This is because her remarks were made out of ignorance about Ayurved and to further her own agenda of securing 'justice' for some persons who were at one time engaged by the Divya Yoga Pharmacy.

Indeed, one will find any number of such so-called Indian intellectuals whose knowledge about India and Indian traditions is next to zero and they could not care less in any case about them.

However, it is quite another matter when the Health Minister of the country is gullible enough to be taken in by her representations and act at her bidding.

It was really shocking to find the Health Minister himself choosing to make a statement that samples of medicines 'said to be' from Baba Ramdev's pharmacy contained animal matter. This was a most damaging and irresponsible statement by the Health Minister who, in the same statement also said that it was yet to be confirmed if the medicines were indeed produced by Baba Ramdev's pharmacy. Although the second part of the statement was correct, by making the ambivalent first statement, he at once destroyed the faith of a lot of people. There was no need for the Central Government to say anything when they had already referred the matter to the State Government.

More of his immature approach was also to reveal itself when he said that since the samples were received from an MP, his Ministry was 'duty bound' to test the same. WHAT DUTY, Mr. Minister? The administration of drug laws and licencing issues including testing is the responsibility of the States and one wonders why the Union MInistry had to take it upon itself to test the samples instead of requesting Com. Karat to follow the procedure and approach the State Goverment.

By this one act, the Minister, who is supposed to have more knowledge than Com. Karat, has possibly brought the entire UPA government another embarrassment by stepping out of line.

In fact, people are wondering whether the Ministry has allowed itself to be used, knowingly or otherwise, in this whole affair to bring Indian Traditional Medicines into disrepute.

It was heartening to hear other sensible people in the UPA like Ambika Soni and Lalu Yadav taking a mature approach.

It is a living shame that in India, we are still left with vestiges of the slave mentality in every sphere. And, these are the people who would not let India come into its own.