October 11, 2008

Coping with uncertainties and tough times

Finally, even the normally gullible Indian people who believe everything that the Government say, are finding out to their distress and disappointment the hollowness of the wonderful stories of economic growth dished out by Chidambaram from the time he became the Finance Minister. He showcased the growth story mainly touting the rising Stock Markets which grew to such high levels as could not be justified by the realities on the ground.

Then slowly, the reality hit the aam admi as well as the not so aam admi in the form of back breaking inflation for which this man acting as Finance Minister kept on blaming global situation and everything and everyone but his own mismanagement. This was followed by the crash in the Stock Exchanges and finally by the huge reduction in Industrial Production reflected in the IIP.

Even now, this man Chidambaram is in the denial mode and keeps on spinning fictional stories to calm the common man. It is doubtful if he on his own can come out with any worthwhile action plan to provide succor to the suffering millions. More likely it is that under the garb of reviving the slump in activity, he may just focus on giving steroids to his favorite housing sector so that they can sustain their price levels which are crashing now. He will also do his best to ensure that the Stock Exchange Indices rise, once again giving everyone a false sense of euphoria that the country is making progress.

Hard times are coming and the people themselves will have to find ways to deal with the developing situation as the Government that has lost all credibility cannot be relied upon any more.

Some practical thoughts on some ways to handle the present situation which is becoming more difficult are given below.

These suggestions are not for:

Those who are blessed with means far more than what they need
Those who know what is best for them
Those who think they know what is best for them

Investing money

1. Keep away from the stock markets. Do not buy shares in a bear market for the present. The prices of shares are a complex result of many factors:
a. The actual situation of a company
b. The actual situation of a specific sector and the entire economy
c. The expectations for the future with regard to the company, the sector and the overall economy
d. The sentiment of the investors which also takes into account global factors
e. The activity of FII (foreign institutional investors), which is a key factor influencing price movements. The FIIs may park their funds temporarily in the Indian sock markets or may be ‘hit and run’ players out to make a quick buck or may invest for speculative purposes. Some FIIs who might have invested for medium-to-long term may suddenly exit for any number of reasons including exchange rate changes, their own distressed conditions or more profitable avenues in other countries.
f. Domestic speculators and market players who may work with specific objectives and influence price movements even during a particular day.

The chart below shows the huge price movements on a single day in Sensex.

Do you have the wherewithal to track the market fluctuations every hour, every day and sustain variations of 1000 points in a single day?

If you are still adventurous enough to take your chances for any rise in prices in the short run, be also prepared to lose close to everything and bring distress to yourself and your family in case the present slide continues. Also note that what is important is what happens to the price of shares you buy and not the Sensex. Prices of certain shares like Realty have lost 75%- 90% in a short time. The uncertainty and risk are simply too high at the present time and to avoid losses and earn even a moderate return you may have to wait for two years. Pure gambling may be another option!

2. If you have money to invest, place the same in a Fixed Deposit in a nationalized bank after comparing the rates offered by a few banks as well as the penalty or loss of interest in case of early withdrawals. Investing in Gold would be the second option. Do not go under any circumstances for Multi Level Marketing Schemes which promise fancy returns for making certain members and carrying forward the chain.

3. Do not purchase a house at the present time when the market is crashing. Defer purchase. Consider the fact that the prices have gone up in the last three years by 350-400% which can not be justified on any grounds at all. The prices have been propped up just as the Sensex. (read article here for a background). The Realty Sector is facing hard times with buyers having disappeared. The Rentals in large cities are also dropping fast as the demand for rental places from domestic or international companies particularly in financial services and other service sectors is drying up. Many major builders are facing financial distress and are unable to meet their commitments. The shares of major Realty Companies have dropped between 75 to 90% since January, which shows the realities. Considering all these factors, it is advisable to KEEP AWAY from buying a house for the time being but keep a watch on the market to buy in case the market begins to rise due to Government policies that have enabled the builders to raise the prices artificially in the past. Buyers’ resistance is necessary to bring the prices down to a realistic level which is broadly 50% of the current levels.

4. DO NOT take a loan to buy a house even if the interest rate goes down. Your loan is what actually fuels the rise and helps the builders to increase their prices artificially. A Housing Loan creates a demand at a price which is not justifiable. Remember that what is really important for the person who takes a loan is not primarily the interest rate but the principal sum that is borrowed. It makes little sense to gain a small advantage in interest rate if the sum borrowed is too large to service. The borrower ends up paying higher interest in absolute terms, the interest saving is gone and more amount is borrowed to finance the unwarranted profits of the builder. This is only one aspect relating to taking a House Loan. The second and more important aspect that affects you for the entire life of the loan is servicing of the loan and interest i.e. EMI. Housing Loans have to be normally repaid over a period of 20-30 years. The borrower has to have a perspective of the entire period of the loan. The longer the period, the greater the uncertainties. Consider that a young professional couple engaged in a service industry and earning a very decent combined income takes a loan. Typically, most of the income of one partner is utilized for paying the EMI to the bank. For successfully servicing the loan, it is necessary that the same comfortable income situation continues for a period of 20 years or more. Most housing loan borrowers taking an optimistic view of the future assume that in normal conditions, they would continue to service the loan over this long period. Is it possible to predict the future over such long time horizon? Is it safe to assume that the conditions would be normal throughout? Will there be no business cycles? Everyone must have become aware that surviving in the fiercely competitive globalised world is becoming an increasingly demanding task. Job security cannot be taken for granted. Whether it is the general economic conditions or the situation of a particular employer or the ability of the employee to perform better or worse relative to others, the uncertainties have grown as much as opportunities. While the decision to take a housing loan should not be influenced by pessimism, but certainly, optimism needs to be balanced by practical considerations, prudence and caution. In our typical case, if for some unfortunate reason one partner loses the job or is required to look after family responsibilities, how would the loan be serviced? In the anxiety to get a house, many borrowers would take a view “we shall see” or “we will manage”. If that happens, all to the good. If the situation cannot be managed and if there are loan defaults and distress when children are at a critical stage in their own career development, how would the situation be resolved? Extensions in EMI installments could be obtained only at a heavy cost, further aggravating the problems. It must also be remembered that in case of defaults in loan servicing, there can be a voluntary repossession or forced repossession. In either case, the consequences can be unpleasant. While the house is repossessed, the liability for the loan still remains. Everyone has seen the disastrous effects of an economic downturn. In USA, many owners who could not make the payments simply abandoned their houses and left. The genesis of the sub- prime crisis in the USA that has had reverberations all over the world and has virtually brought the entire developed world on its knees lies in defaults in repayment of loans taken by individual borrowers. It would be unwise to ignore what is happening before our eyes and which is greatly affecting everyone at this point in time.

Weigh the factors carefully

Normal Expendiure

1. Do not use credit cards to buy things unless you have money in the account. Do not buy with credit cards to spend tomorrow’s income today. Credit cards are convenient as they enable you to make cashless purchase and avoid hassles with handling cash. This must be taken as their limited purpose. Going on a shopping spree on the strength of merely a Credit Card not backed by money in the bank, is financial irresponsibility. To spend today out of future income is to leave that much less for the future. Further, many credit card owners simply pay the minimum amount payable to continue the Card and let the bills pile up. This has a heavy cost in terms of delayed payment charges and penalties collecting of which has become a fine art with the credit card providers. The more the penalties and delayed payment charges, the less money is left for genuine needs. There are many who believe that the more Credit Cards they have, the better off they appear to be in their own esteem and in the eyes of others in front of whom the cards are flashed. This is not true. You need only one good Credit Card or Debit Card to see you through most situations, unless of course, you are defaulting by turns on the many credit cards you collect. Then again, there is a cost to having a credit card which can be easily avoided. Before deciding on the Credit Card to take, it is also advisable to know their charges and penalties policy in advance. Avoid Net Banking unless you are thoroughly familiar with the pitfalls and are able to secure yourself completely against fraud.

2. Do not take any bank or private loans to buy durables, cars, houses, etc. The future is uncertain. Do not buy if you do not have the means to buy today.

3. When buying gadgets, durables or cars, look for the basic functionalities which you require. Any added features that are offered in different models or by different brands need to be compared with the higher price that you may need to pay. Only you can decide whether a particular added feature is actually needed and whether it is worth the price differential. In Metro cities, buy a car only out of necessity, not just for comfort or as luxury or status symbol. The availability of parking places for cars whether in the place of residence or on the roads is woefully stretched and will get worse. There is also an increasing tendency to buy Laptop computers in preference to the Desktop. When you buy a Laptop, you end up paying around 50% more compared to a Desktop, feature-for feature. Buy a Laptop only if you really need it and a Desktop will not do the work. Many branded Laptops have serious servicing issues and the service is oftentimes shoddy and slow. Again, if you are used to traveling with the Laptop and it is stolen or lost, apart from the Laptop itself, you can lose large data created after hundreds of hours of work, unless you routinely back it up on a Desktop.

4. Avoid posh hotels and restaurants where you end up paying atrocious prices just for the ambience and for the pleasure of being seen in such places. Go to more moderately priced restaurants serving quality food at the same time. Try to discover the pleasures of cooking more often at home.

5. Mobile Mania: As in the case of other gadgets, pay only for the features you actually need. Do not be lured into frequently buying new models when your existing mobile exactly does what you need it to do. Avoid getting tempted to go in for various schemes which the service providers constantly keep on pushing through telemarketing at all hours. Remember, for any scheme that they propose as a favour to you, the idea is simply to fix your bill amount at a certain level so that it generates a regular minimum income to them from you. Avoid using the SMS service to send various comments to TV channels over their 5xxxx numbers. Do they care for what you say? It is simply a revenue sharing arrangement between the provider and the TV channel as these SMS are charged at a higher rate. Avoid SMS quizes to win huge prizes for answering simple questions. They are just meant to increase the revenues of the service providers. The more you SMS, the more you spend. Even if the mobile is handy, do not be tempted to talk or call someone or the other unless you really NEED to.

6. Gift Mania: Use your discretion about giving gifts. Do not indulge in needless gift culture by giving gifts indiscriminately. Avoid celebrating Husband’s, Wife’s, Father’s, Mother’s, Brother’s, Sister’s, Teacher’s, Lover’s, Hater’s or Friend’s Days. These are just meant to generate sales for vendors of gifts and cards. The sentiments towards your near and dear ones can be expressed at every opportunity and having a particular day to celebrate for the same is unnecessary.

7. Mall Mania: Malls are pleasant places to shop and pass time with your family on holidays. However, when going to a Mall, take a shopping list with you and buy only what you need and what is there in your shopping list. The shops in the Malls are very adept at using scientific techniques of merchandising and display. The primary intention is to lure and tempt you into impulse buying and somehow make the visitors spend more and more. Do not buy simply based on impulse when you see an article which you do not need. Go home, think, decide whether that article is worth buying and then buy it the next time.

8. Avoid Multiplexes. There is little need to pay 100% higher prices when you can see the same movie in a normal cinema hall which also is quite modern.

9. In general, look to get VALUE FOR MONEY whatever you buy, whether products or services.

10. Take up jobs in your own town or other town where you have a place to stay on a permanent basis. At any rate, avoid Metro cities tempted by somewhat higher salaries. The poor level of infrastructure in these cities makes for harsh living conditions apart from the physical traveling distances and lack of permanent accommodation.

While most of those who read these suggestions may find them mundane or unnecessary, they are given in the hope that a small minority may find them useful. These suggestions do not call for any real 'sacrifice', just for sensible use of what you have. In any case at the end of the day, it is for the people to think deeply and use discretion based on common sense and their own prudent thinking and in the light of their own realities.

If the article is useful, forward to others.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

September 19, 2008

Home Ministry - A Farce Carried Too Far

Delhi, the Capital of India - Safe and Secure

Blasts in Delhi 13th Sept. 2008

Expendable Human Lives

After the event .... The Soap Opera

12th Glorius Episode

"The ROAR of a Purring Cat"


Meetings...ACT I

More Meetings....ACT II

Grand Finale...... The End Result

In the last five months, India-awake has been highlighting the miserable and pathetic performance of the Home Minister.

The first article was written on May 20, a week after the blasts in Jaipur but much before the three terrible blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

The following lines described the performance of Shivraj Patil:
"The Home Minister seems to be all at sea and has so far succeeded only in enhancing the doubts and fears of the people. On the other hand, he continues to fumble when cornered by media with difficult and awkward questions like the delay in giving a recommendation to the President on the petition by Afzal Guru. Under his leadership, the Ministry even does not have an assessment of the extent of infiltration that is taking place from across the borders, especially Bangladesh. By no means is the task of the Home Minister of India is easy. But the task has to be done and cannot be left to someone who does not have a strong personality and a clear mind. The kind of wishy-washy image that Shivraj Patil has, could certainly be a factor that will embolden the terrorists to do worse than what they have done already." (see here)

True to the foreboding, the terrorists struck on 25th July in Bangalore and on 26th July in Ahmedabad.

Once again, on 28th July, two days after the blasts in Ahmedabad, India-awake said:
"Shivraj Patil, who…, has developed the subtle art of putting the blame on the States, continues to dole out meaningless comments on how terrorism will not be allowed to succeed, where facts suggest a completely different picture.Shivraj’s lack luster performance has brought the country the trauma of experiencing loss of lives and property at the time and place of choosing by the anti national forces." (see here) Also see related article (here).

True to anticipation, the strike force of the terrorists and anti-national elements has reached the very doorstep of the seat of power.

And yet, not only the Home Minister, whose apathetic ways are known to the entire country, but even the slothful Government continues to prevaricate and procrastinate a week after the event.

Such is the tragedy of the people of the country that as of now, the Government does not exist as far as their safety and security are concerned.

Deeply angered and frustrated and yet utterly helpless in changing the Government at least for now, the people are left to fend for themselves and pray.

This is what comes from trusting an uncaring, incompetent and impotent Government.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

August 12, 2008

Cash - for - Votes Tapes, At Last in the Open

The TV Channel that participated in the sting operation to expose the murky goings on in the political arena to ensure a victory for the UPA Government in Lok Sabha Trust Vote, finally decided to show the tapes on all its channels on 11th August, 2008। (see the details here)

The Channel, in its wisdom had decided not to show the tapes immediately after the Trust Vote. The political party concerned, BJP, whose MPs had in the first place suggested to IBN7, a sister channel of CNN-IBN to participate in the operation, was obviously upset at the Channel’s decision.

Those who watched the CNN-IBN channel in the afternoon of 22nd July, 2008, where Rajdeep Sardesai strenuously argued with his colleague Ashutosh from IBN7 about why the tapes could not be shown at that time, were surprised at the reasoning put forward by Rajdeep who, amongst other things, said that the channel did not want to appear to be taking sides with any political party. Considering that the tapes were about politics where several political parties were involved, it is strange to suggest that the channel did not wish to take sides because obviously the tapes were bound to show one or more parties in unfavorable light. The viewers also saw him on the screen leaving the studio saying that he was rushing to the Parliament straightaway to hand over the tapes to the Speaker. The Channel also claimed that the tapes were the property of the Lok Sabha and hence it would be improper to telecast them. As it happened, the tapes were inexplicably not handed over on the same day but this was done on the next day. The channel also claimed that the operation was a part of a wider investigation started by it much earlier on its own initiative when rumors about horse trading started floating around. It is a different matter that its own investigation, other than the sting, apparently did not yield anything at all.

Amongst the arguments advanced by the Channel, it said that they could not show the tapes as their investigations were incomplete and that they needed to verify more. Even to lay people such a facile argument did not cut ice because after the Trust Vote, there was hardly any further possibility to continue the investigation and whatever the channel managed to tape till that time was all that it could hope to get. The Channel also claimed that it could not work on a time table of a political party but had to take its own decision on the timing. That is essentially correct but for a news media nothing is more important than bringing the news, particularly on larger issues, to the people in time. It is a hall mark of good news journalism to bring the news as it happens, ‘hot from the oven’ and fresh. So even for the Channel itself, it would be logical to telecast the tapes around the event rather than delay it.

The arguments and logic appeared so weak that people just did not believe that the Channel's decision was genuine. To buttress its stand, the Channel even got a former Solicitor General to give a written opinion in the matter, which basically was more of a subjective view and not strictly a legal opinion.

The Channel, respected for its high credibility and programming quality, and its Chief Rajdeep Sardesai have been roundly criticized by the people. The stand of this major Television channel has brought out important issues on the media’s freedom and its responsibility in the context of the public's right to know. Surprisingly and sadly, the other channels and media in general did not appear to seriously debate the issue of the Channel's stand on a matter of great public importance. It is indeed strange for a channel to say that it wanted a complete investigation before presenting it to the people. The media is certainly not an investigating authority. Sting operations have been done in the past and have been telecast too, but there was no claim that the operations presented a fool proof story. A recent case which comes to mind is that of the sting in the R.K.Anand-Kulkarni episode in the Nanda case.

It is true that media has the right to publish or not to publish a news item and the timing when to publish a news item. However, the freedom and the right has to be exercised considering what is in the larger public interest. As in the instant case, it could hardly be used based on whether the channel will be seen to be favoring one or another political party. The Channel’s decision not to publish (show, in this case) a news of topical and great public interest was also in stark contrast to the media’s actions (particularly Television) in the Aarushi murder case. That matter was very sensitive for the persons concerned but the media did not think twice before hounding the family that was in grief over the loss of their daughter. Not only did they persist in hounding the traumatized family, most of the TV channels gave an almost daily dose of their sick and speculative theories based on their own "investigation" including IBN7 pointing fingers at the family being involved in some way. On a TV current affairs programme, most of the media persons present including Ashutosh of IBN7 vehemently and vociferously justified and defended their actions in the Aarushi murder case, claiming that the people’s right to know was paramount and that they virtually had a legitimate right to invade people’s privacy to the extent that it made normal life practically impossible for them. No one can deny that the media has more than one standard and is fully prepared to defend its actions, howsoever indefensible they be. The Fourth Estate appears to believe that it is always acting responsibly.

In the end, when CNN-IBN finally telecast the tapes, it once again gave unconvincing excuses and in essence said that now that a reasonable time had elapsed after the event, they had decided to show the tapes. It also said that they were not passing any judgment and it was left to the people to come to their own conclusions. THAT, IN ANY CASE WOULD HAVE BEEN SO WHETHER THEY DECIDED TO SHOW THE TAPES ON THE FIRST DAY OR AFTER AN ETERNITY. Rajdeep Sardesai certainly did not have to get the illustrious Soli Sorabjee, Fali Nariman, B.G. Verghese and Harish Salve essentially saying the same thing, to add weight and respectability to his decision. The situation would not have been different even if the tapes were telecast on the 22nd or 23rd of July 2008. Even if they were telecast then, the people would have had to draw their own conclusions.

Dealing with politicians all the time, Rajdeep also appears to see merit in using a bit of politics by defending his position vis-à-vis BJP’s displeasure. However, where he has lost his credibility is in the eyes of the people. Whether or not he gets a reward either in the form of a nomination for the Rajya Sabha or in some other manner for his timely exercise of the media's discretion, remains to be seen.

Incidentally, by a coincidence, possibly to demonstrate CNN-IBN's independence, IBN7 telecast on the 10th Augusut 2008, a programme (see details here and here) giving details of some apparently dubious dealings concerning a senior UPA Minister, Lalu Yadav. CNN-IBN can only hope that its dented credibility will be restored eventually.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

August 05, 2008

Another Home for Home Minister?

The internal security situation of the country is continuing to deteriorate.

aiming in the dark - at no one

Apart from the rising incidents of blasts in various cities across the country, the J&K situation also continues to boil due to a completely insensitive approach and the absence of any serious attempt on the part of the Govt. to bring peace to the troubled State where conditions are going from bad to worse.

One of the clear options before the Prime Minister, if at all he is half as serious about the internal security as about the Nuclear Deal, is to find another home for the present Home Minister. He is one of the three Ministers for whom the Prime Minister needs to find suitable positions urgently as suggested earlier.

This single action by the Prime Minister will show to the country that he is indeed serious about preventing a further downhill slide.

And incidentally, it will also show that he is capable of taking action in respect of a Minister who happens to be in the good books of his party boss.


The ruling of the Tribunal of the Delhi High Court on 5th August 2008, in the SIMI matter that the Govt. had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the continued curbs on this known fundamentalist group is yet another indication that the Ministry of Home Affairs cannot be relied upon to ensure the safety and security of the people of the country and that anti-national elements will continue to have a free run to do what they please to tear the fabric of the country apart.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

July 28, 2008

BJP on a pernicious path

The blasts that happened in quick succession over two days, 26th and 27th July, 2008, have shaken the confidence of the people in the Govt., whether Central or State, being able to protect their lives and thwart the evil designs of the anti-national elements.

This is a time for serious reflection and deep thinking to decide what can be done to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.

In this background, the statement made by Sushma Swaraj of the BJP in a press conference that "The blasts are a conspiracy to divert attention from the cash-for-votes scandal” as they have taken place in the BJP ruled States within a few days of the Trust Vote, is a pernicious attempt to bring crass politics into a serious issue. All right thinking persons will justifiably feel that these politicians are trying to stir up trouble by bringing up such far fetched and incredible theories. If at all Swaraj had any proof or was hoping that the ‘truth will out’ as stated by her, she should have waited for that to happen rather than making such a wild statement. Although Arun Jaitley softened the statement by saying that he saw it as a much wider conspiracy unrelated to any political party, this does not detract from BJP’s effort to sensationalize the issue without basis.

To be fair to the Govt. and the Congress in particular, this time round, they had behaved in a restrained and responsible manner fully recognizing the sensitivity of the matter. Apart from giving out subtle hints about the State Govt.’s responsibility, they had scrupulously avoided saying anything that would divert attention and bring the issue on the political football field.

Swaraj’s baseless and irresponsible statement, therefore, needs to be condemned and the BJP’s blatant effort to politicize the issue, for which there is no need, is bound to be viewed by the people with contempt.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

Home Ministry - Hum nahin sudharenge

The motto of the Home Ministry seems to be:
“Hum nahin sudharenge”.

Blast after blast after blast after blast, the Ministry comes up only with meetings and conferences within the Ministry and the States. Because the Ministry is bereft of any ideas on tackling terrorism and naxalism, the meetings and conferences always come to naught. The participants in this farcical drama, whether the officials of the Ministry, the intelligence agencies or the police as well as the State officials go back ever more frustrated and not knowing whether the Govt. has any notion or concept of fighting terrorists and naxals.

Shivraj Patil, who aided by the spokesperson of the UPA, has developed the subtle art of putting the blame on the States, continues to dole out meaningless comments on how terrorism will not be allowed to succeed, where facts suggest a completely different picture.

Shivraj’s lack luster performance has brought the country the trauma of experiencing loss of lives and property at the time and place of choosing by the anti national forces. This has already been discussed earlier in an article here just two months back before the present series of blasts.

It is high time those in power show the spine, if not to face terrorism, at least to replace Shivraj with someone else. Possible contenders for the position from the Congress stable would be Pawar(nominally NCP), Chidambaram and Arjun Singh. Even if they do not succeed in improving the situation significantly, at least this change will keep one of them away from the present Ministry where none of them have performed.

The dark horse (who also helped Govt. win the Trust Vote sweepstakes) , of course, could be Mulayam Singh, who has at least been the Defense Minister of the country earlier and a Chief Minister too.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

July 24, 2008

A blot on the UPA

waiting to be led

The entire country is utterly disgusted at the way in which the ruling UPA has managed to secure a majority in the Lok Sabha.

The people have understood the Govt. for what it is. The UPA allies may celebrate to their heart's content and pat each other on the back but the Aam Admi has seen it all. There is no need for the Govt. to say anything in its defence.

Counting the gains

Behind the scenes, ensuring success

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

July 23, 2008

Speaker of the Lok Sabha as Party Member

Lok Sabha and the Speaker, Mr. Somnath Chatterjee

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has taken the extreme decision of expelling Mr. Somnath Chatterjee from the primary membership of the party.

Mr. Prakash Karat, General Secretary, CPIM

The decision has understandably led to strong reactions from various sections of the polity. with many political parties expressing strong feelings against the expulsion citing his good work as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

While most people view his expulsion in the light of his position as Speaker, it must be recognised that Mr. Chatterjee is actually wearing two hats and there is a clear distinction between his position as the Speaker and his position as a member of the political party to which he belongs.

Mr. Chatterjee is a duly elected to the constitutional position of Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Clearly, therefore, regardless of his party affiliation, the party cannot remove him as the Speaker, for that depends upon either him or the body of parliamentarians that elected him.

Mr. Chatterjee is a veteran and highly respected Parliamentarian with a distinguished record of over 40 years standing. During his tenure as the Speaker , many believe that he has enhanced the dignity of the Chair of the Speaker. It is a different matter that despite trying very hard, he has not succeeded in bringing the weight of his seniority and authority to bear on the MPs of the present Lok Sabha who have made it a habit to show their unruly and undisciplined side at every opportunity. In any case, there is a strong consensus in favor of his continuing as the Speaker.

A political party can, however, ask a member to cease to hold any office occupied by the member if it decides that it is justified in doing so. When the party decided to withdraw support to the Govt., it took the view, rightly or not, that Mr. Chatterjee being first and foremost a member of the political party should also quit as Speaker. It is true that the Speaker is above political affiliation when performing his Constitutional duties. Moreover, the position relates to the Legislative Body which is distinct from the Executive. That in itself was a good enough reason for the Party to let him continue as the Speaker. The withdrawal of support of the Party was against the Govt. and the party ought to have distinguished that withdrawal from the fulfilment of the obligations of the Office of the Speaker of a Legislative body by one of its members.

However, the party took a view also considering the value of his vote in any upcoming Trust Vote and mounted pressure on him to resign as Speaker. Mr. Chatterjee, whose ego was already hurt because the Party did not show him the courtesy of consulting him before including his name in the list submitted to the President, did not oblige. On the other hand, he gave a rather frivolous reasoning for not resigning, namely, that he did not want to be seen voting together with the BJP. To say the least, this stand completely lacks in logic and it is surprising that such a senior and seasoned politician and parliamentarian even thought it fit to advance such a reason. Did he mean to say, that just because the Left parties see themselves as sworn enemies of BJP, they should give up fundamental positions on political issues because BJP also happens to have the same position for its own reasons? Taking this argument to the extreme, suppose that the Centre places West Bengal (perhaps along with a BJP ruled State) under President's Rule under Article 356 and if the BJP decides to bring a no-confidence motion in Parliament, would his Party have to oppose such a motion just because BJP is supporting it? It is quite absurd to propose such a flimsy excuse for not resigning. He also suggested that he was elected as Speaker unanimously. However, once he is elected as Speaker by the House, the fact that he also happened to be elected unanimously does not lend any more weight to his position as Speaker or to his decision not to resign. Such explanations, even in the eyes of objective observers were seen as reflecting his desire to simply stick on to the high position. Coupled with the fact that he refused to bow to the party’s express wishes on a crtitical issue, the eventual failure to defeat the UPA in the Trust Vote clearly seem to have led to his expulsion.

In so far as the action taken by the Party is in accordance with the constitution of the Party to which a member is bound, the expulsion is purely an internal affair of the party and the party would surely know all the implications of its actions. Many have tried to ascribe it to the personal egos of some, but really speaking in a Party with so much emphasis on party solidarity and unquestioned submission to the party discipline, such actions are not ruled out. While many feel that such harsh action should not have been taken against such a senior member, there is another side to the coin too. After all, being one of the senior most members of the Party, Somnath Chatterjee more than anyone else, ought to have known and anticipated the results of his failure to follow the Party's express wishes, also considering the surrounding circumstances.

On the other hand, despite the action taken by his Party, at this stage he would do well not to give up his position as the Speaker nor is it even necessary or desirable to do so. As seen during the Trust Vote on the 22nd July 2008, it is essential to have a person of his stature as the Speaker to give the proceedings in the House at least a semblance of credibility and a modicum of discipline to maintain the dignity of this august Institution, which has taken a severe beating in the last few years.

July 20, 2008

UPA -Boosting a sagging morale


This is simply an attempt to boost the sagging morale of the UPA two days prior to the Trust Vote in Lok Sabha on 22nd July, 2008 and keep them in good humor.

(without responsibility)

Last minute appeal by Uncle Sam

All parties are keeping their fingers crossed, not knowing whether they will be able to use them to make the "V" sign or left twiddling their thumbs.

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा

July 19, 2008

Sorry state of agriculture and food security

In the last few years, agriculture has suffered seriously due to a combination of apathy, indifference and lack of adequate attention by the Govt. This is largely seen as a personal failure of the Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar. (see related article)

Chidambaram has cited this as one of the reasons for the Govt.’s failure to manage the situation(see here) and even the Congress party by a resolution called for “better agricultural policies”. As a result of the situation which has aggravated in the last few years, the Govt. has been obliged to commit from the public treasury, over Rs. 700 billion towards writing off loans given to farmers.

The country had to import large huge quantities of sub-standard wheat due to inadequate procurement but ostensibly to create a so-called strategic reserve. On the other hand, the situation within the country remains uncertain. A famine-like situation prevails once again in key states such Maharashtra. There are protests in various parts of the country over non-availability of fertilizers and seeds.

Here are some pictures which highlight the present situation.

Results of the earlier famine

Waiting for the rain Gods - year after year

Food and Fertilizer warehouses


Chef not responsible for price, quality, contamination, or anything else

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा