Corruption & Good Governance apparently go hand in hand: Making sense of Modern India

On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées

Thus spake Victor Hugo. Literally translated it means, “One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas”. A more popular and paraphrased version of this is “No one can resist an idea whose time has come”. In one of my earlier posts, I had expressed optimism that with the rise of Narendra Modi on the national stage, the idea of good governance will gain currency and will find itself on the public agenda for deliberation that is in turn likely to eventually increase the demand for good governance.

However, one persistent worry about a country like India where politicians, media & bureaucrats only believe in mouthing platitudes rather than paying serious attention to the issues at hand is that such deliberations about good governance can be easily derailed or hijacked or obfuscated. Only I wasn’t prepared to find that a reasonably educated intellectual with a book to her credit would confuse the discussion around good governance, an idea whose time has certainly come in India. The person in question is Rupa Subramanya, co-author of a book called Indianomix: Making sense of modern India with Vivek Dehejia, a Professor of Economics at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I have seen some of Rupa Subramanya’s Wall Street Journal articles tagged as Rupa Subramanya Dehejia and my safe guess is that the co-author of the Indianomix book is/was her husband. The confused noises made by her are reflected in her tweet which is as below:


The implication of Rupa Subramanya’s tweet is that good governance and levels of corruption have no relation. That is, that even if there is good governance, one can still find high levels of corruption as she claims in her tweet about Tamil Nadu as an example.

Agreed that good governance as a concept is a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that the connotations associated with it are unclear. In the following passages, I have collated the relevant information that clearly point that combating corruption and ensuring low levels of corruption through mechanisms of transparency, accountability, rule of law are important elements that defines good governance right from the time when the term was beginning to be used. It is a shame that authors like Rupa Subramanya display such ignorance when commenting about important topics related to issues of governance and confuse the discussion on this important idea that is beginning to take root in the common man’s consciousness. It is my position that such intellectual sloppiness displayed by an intellectual like her (remember she has a book to her credit that apparently claims to assist in making sense of Modern India) must not be taken lightly, especially on an important topic of how India wants to be governed and that which has taken a good 65 years to come up on the radar of the common man. Hence my response through this blog post which is a little too pedantic even for my own taste. Anyway, I hope that the following pedantic notes should leave no one in any doubt as to the anti corruption essence of good governance, much less this person from Twitter who was obviously confused with the utterances of Rupa Subramanya.


Anti corruption and related mechanisms are necessary elements of Good Governance as discussed by various multilateral development institutions:

First up is an extract from Wikipedia about the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared in 1996 that “promoting good governance in all its aspects, including by ensuring the rule of law, improving the efficiency and accountability of the public sector, and tackling corruption, as essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper.”[8] The IMF feels that corruption within economies is caused by the ineffective governance of the economy, either too much regulation or too little regulation.[8] To receive loans from the IMF, countries must have certain good governance policies, as determined by the IMF, in place.[8]

The following are extracts from this 1999 report by IFAD that reviews the definitions and elements of the good-governance policies as developed by some of the multilateral development institutions till then. The extracts have been chosen to highlight those specific elements of good governance that clearly highlight that corruption is not deemed to be in the same spirit as good governance.

World Bank

In the 1992 report entitled “Governance and Development”, the World Bank set out its definition of good governance. This term is defined as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.

The report stated that the World Bank’s interest in governance derives from its concern for the sustainability of the projects it helps finance. It concluded that sustainable development can only take place if a predictable and transparent framework of rules and institutions exists for the conduct of private and public business. The essence of good governance was described as predictable, open and enlightened policy, together with a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos and an executive arm of government accountable for its actions.

Elements: In the 1994 report entitled “Governance: The World Bank’s Experience”, the recent progress made by the Bank in this area is set out under four different aspects, which provide a template against which its governance work can be assessed:

(b) Accountability. Governments and their employees should be held responsible for their actions.

(d) Transparency and information. The themes of transparency and information pervade good governance and reinforce accountability. Access to information for the various players in the market is essential to a competitive market economy.

The Asian Development Bank (AsDB)

Definition: In an October 1995 policy paper called “Governance: Sound Development

Management”, the AsDB outlined its policy on this topic. Good governance is defined as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.

Elements: The AsDB has identified four basic elements of good governance:

(a) Accountability. Public officials should be answerable for government behaviour and responsive to the entity from which they derive authority. The accountability of public sector institutions is facilitated by evaluation of their economic performance. The suggested specific areas of action would be in the building of government capacity through, for example, public-sector management, public-enterprise management and reform, public financial management and civil-service reform.

(d) Transparency. Information should be made available to the general public and there should be clarity as to rules and regulations. Access to timely information on the economy can be vital to economic decision-making by the private sector and can also serve to inhibit corruption.

The African Development Bank (AfDB)

Definition: Currently, the AfDB is in the process of preparing an institutional policy on good governance. The draft policy paper, dated April 1999, defines governance as a process referring to the way in which power is exercised in the management affairs of a nation.

Elements: The AfDB’s interventions in support of good governance will focus on the following elements, which will be translated into specific activities.

(a) Accountability. Elected individuals and organizations charged with a public mandate should be held accountable for specific actions to the public from which they derive their authority. In a narrow sense, accountability focuses on the ability to account for the allocation, use and control of public assets in accordance with legally accepted standards. In a broader sense, it is also concerned with the establishment and enforcement of rules of corporate governance.

(b) Transparency. The policies of the government should be publicly available and confidence developed in its intentions.

(c) Combating corruption. Assistance should be provided to fight the abuse of public office for private gain.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Definition: The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) definition of good governance is set out in a 1997 UNDP policy document entitled “Governance for Sustainable Human Development”.

Elements: Good governance comprises the existence of effective mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. Its essential characteristics are:

(b) Rule of law. Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially, particularly the laws on human rights.

(c) Transparency. This concept is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information should be directly accessible to those concerned, and enough information should be provided to render them understandable and monitorable.

(d) Responsiveness. Institutions and processes should serve all stakeholders.

(f) Equity. All men and women should have equal opportunity to maintain or improve their well-being.

(g) Effectiveness and efficiency. Processes and institutions should produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

(h) Accountability. Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil-society organizations should be accountable to the public as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organization and whether the decision is internal or external to an organization.

Update: 13 May: It appears Rupa Subramanya’s co-author Vivek Dehejia shares her cluelessness on Good Governance. Discovered his tweet just now.

Vivek Dehejia on GG


Mainstream media finds corruption irrelevant in Karnataka elections!

An impression is being sought to be made by the English language electronic mainstream media (MSM) about the incumbent party BJP’s loss in the 2013 Karnataka elections in that it can be attributed to a large extent to the Yeddyurappa factor. In other words, BJP’s poor showing was due to the potential BJP votes that got split by former Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa’s newly formed party KJP which in turn helped Congress winning in seats where the BJP & Congress were in a direct fight. By repeatedly emphasizing on this aspect, the English language electronic MSM is trying to portray that corruption was a non issue in the recent polls and that BJP’s loss was due to its own making when it decided to sack Yeddyurappa as CM when he was facing allegations of corruption; a move that eventually led to Yeddyurappa quitting the BJP and forming his own party, KJP.

I consider that argument in this short post and come to the conclusion that it is a huge leap of faith to ascribe a great degree of explanation to the Yeddyurappa factor. First up below are the statistics from the 2008 Karnataka elections sourced from the reports of Election Commission of India (ECI) that show the vote share percentage by parties (national & state) & independents.



The above figures show that BJP’s vote share in 2008 was 33.86% while that of Congress and JD-S were 34.76% and 18.96%.

Similar data is not yet available from the ECI so I rely here on the information procured from Twitter that claims that the respective figures in 2013 for the BJP, Congress,JD-S and KJP are 19%,  42%, 23% and 4%.


A comparison of the vote shares from these two elections show that BJP’s vote share has gone down by a whopping 14% points (from 33.86% to 19%) whereas the vote shares of Congress and JD-S have gone up by 7% points (from almost 35% to 42%) and 4% points (from 19% to 23%)  respectively. KJP’s vote share in this election is 4% and one can infer that the BJP votes that were split and lost by the presence of Yeddyurappa’s KJP is 4%. So, that means that a united BJP probably would have lost 10% points (discounting KJP’s 4% vote share that was lost).

Given this significantly large data point of 10% points, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that Yeddyurappa could have been such a spoiler for BJP that would drag BJP from being the ruling party to the number 3 party (behind JD-S). Certainly, corruption as an issue would definitely have influenced the voting decision. It seems too supercilious to suggest that the damage was done in large part by the Yeddyurappa factor even when one accounts for the strong casteist influences that unfortunately come into play in Indian elections. One would need a seat level analysis to make a strong statement like the one that the MSM has been making in relation to the KJP and BJP. From what I have seen of their analysis while being “on the go”, I would be tempted to believe that it was just a foolhardy attempt by the media to take the focus away from what is definitely going to be the main election planks in 2014; corruption and misgovernance.

Update: 9 May: A newsarticle in the Times of India today has come up with the seemingly final figure of vote shares. The following is the vote share: BJP (20%, down by approx. 14% points), Congress (36.5%, up 1.75% points), JD-S (20.1%, up 1.1%) and KJP (9.8%, that’s an almost 6% points difference between the information I used from the Twitter). Given the almost 10% vote share garnered by the KJP (the potential BJP vote), it would definitely seem so that the Yeddyurappa factor did play a substantial role in BJP’s poor showing as the English Language electronic MSM had suggested. Though I must point that these numbers take time to be collated and compiled and no one came out with any initial numbers till late in the evening yesterday, so it was really quite the leap of faith on MSM’s part (not unlike mine when I relied on a tweet for my figures!) without all the facts in order to emphasise the Yeddyurappa factor that ultimately seems to explain the BJP’s loss. One could infer that only about 4% is the vote share lost by the BJP on account of corruption & other issues disaffecting the voters.

The final word: 13 May: After reading a few newspaper articles and doing my own analysis to understand the results of the Karnataka elections, I find this article has managed to accurately sum up what happened in Karanataka elections. The summary & conclusion of that article is below in italics.  And the same is supported by analysis of party vote shares overall as well as seat level analysis; Yeddyurappa did knock off the BJP from its ruling position thereby confirming one of the sad facts about deep rooted caste biases in Indian society. I can only hope that this is the case only at the local/regional level and corruption & misgovernance will be substantive issues at the national level.

On 8 May, our Prime Minister’s Office “faced its sharpest indictment in the Supreme Court” for interfering into the “Coalgate” investigation by the CBI, which was being done under its direct supervision. On the other hand, ebullient Congress political managers were easily brushing off these scams, flushed with the victory in the Karnataka elections (8 May). The fact that the BJP lost Karnataka by changing their Chief Minister whose government was notorious for corruption but in that process earned his powerful community’s wrath, would compel them to rethink whether anti-corruption drive, divorced from caste politics, is a good electoral strategy at all. This is the essential problem in India.

Of ancient wisdom & fake modern gurus


Today, I came across this YouTube video of a talk given by the person known on this blog as P2S2RSg who was speaking at the recently concluded India Today Conclave 2013. The title of this session was “Is ancient wisdom in sync with modern living?” Listening and watching him in action, I have revalidated my earlier analysis that P2S2RSg is not a spiritual guru. Furthermore, this video has strengthened my view that P2S2RSg is an ignorant and inarticulate person who hides behind his public image as that of a “spiritual guru” spouting nonsense to fool gullible people. I suppose one would not go wrong in coming to the conclusion that he a fraud. What’s disturbing and disappointing is that there is a significantly large number of reasonably well to do and supposedly well educated Indian lower and upper middle class who believe that he is a genuine “spiritual guru”. And they have been swallowing his pearls of wisdom (I mean bullcrap) hook, line and sinker.

I have reproduced below the transcripts of P2S2RSg’s talk along with my comments which expose his basic lack of understanding of the subject matter that he tries to appear knowledgeable about. Also, you can see for yourself that much of his talk consists of incoherent, disjointed & meaningless sentences which do not even address the topic at hand.


 Wisdom is beyond time… like the sun is very ancient but yet today’s the sun ray is very fresh, its not an old stale rays… same with water…the river Ga Ganges is so ancient but today’s water is very very fresh. 

In the same way I would say wisdom is that something which is applicable to our life, which is new, which is fresh yet ancient.

That which upholds life, that you can call wisdom.

See the ignorant or fanatically religious.. the so called intelligentsia is fashionably atheist …And it is the wise one who know how to combine the old and new and make their life.

Like a tree it needs ro.. roots that are old and shoots that are new life needs to be adaptable and this exactly is ancient wisdom.

The very first hymn in Rig Veda says “rṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” 

“Aghniḥ” .. second hymn in Rig Vedas is (long pause)

“Aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” 

P2S2RSg first says that “rṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” is in the very first hymn in Rig Veda. Then he says that the second hymn in Rig Vedas (sic) is “Aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhi nūtanairuta”. The long pause he takes here and the repetition of almost the same verse with attribution to different hymn numbers got me curious and suspicious enough to check out the original Rig Veda.

I was also curious whether a “spiritual guru” of his standing could at least get right the very first hymn of the oldest of all Vedas i.e. the Rig Veda. And I was not wrong in my assessment of him; he got it all wrong. Look at it yourself here on this website or below where I have reproduced both the Sanskrit and English script.



As you can see the verse that he is quoting is not complete. It is supposed to be:

aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhirīḍyo nūtanairuta |

He neglected to add the boldened part of the verse as shown above. Also, what he refers to as Hymn 2 is really Hymn 1 and verse number 2 of Hymn 1. You would expect that someone like P2S2RSg would know this. Hell, even I would know if I were told once that the first Hymn of Rig Veda is dedicated to Agni (Fire) and the second is dedicated to Vayu (Wind) , the third to Asvins, the fourth to Indra and so on. A complete list of dedications can be seen here. Moving on to P2S2RSg’s talk briefly; he seems to be translating the verse from Rig Veda:

Modern and ancient rishis do it. The old and the new, they exist together and that’s wisdom.

I don’t know from where he got the translation of the second verse of Hymn 1 that he quoted wrongly to begin with but the translation is simply not satisfactory and is totally off the mark. The translation of that verse is thus as per this source:

“Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by ancient seers.”

Not only does he misquote and misattribute the hymn, he also mistranslates! Great going, you modern seer and “spiritual guru” attempting to bring the ancient wisdom in sync with modern living! So, there you see the proof in support of the statements I made at the outset of this blog post. The following lines contain the rest of the transcripts of his talk (that ends as abruptly as it began) interspersed with some poor attempts at humour through observation on my part highlighted in bold! If my attempt at humour doesn’t work, then I can only attempt to humour you by encouraging you to check out the comments on the YouTube video made by P2S2RSg’s followers. These zombies drool over the nonsensical garbage P2S2RSg spouts in this talk and show how they deserve each other’s company and their “spiritual guru”!

Look, like in technology and trade, tradition needs to be revived and renewed again and again. This is essential. And the vibrancy of India is that we were able to do this.

From ancient times, the tradition were kept ,certain aspects of traditions were kept intact yet we became vvvery much adaptable as time flew into the modern day ummm requirements in life and life’s challenges that one has to meet. What is really wisdom, why why should we be wise? Nobody wants to in suffering. Nobody want to uhhh be upset

(Here the camera pans to a part of the audience comprising of women. These women look visibly embarrassed and bored! One girl is even trying to get herself through this tortuous talk by playing around with two mobile phones. Another looks away from the “spiritual guru” tightlipped perhaps not to betray the disgust on her face)

That’s something which takes away from suffering… which gives us vision. It/which makes life vibrant and which connects you, the individual You to the universal You that exists in the universe and brings the immense satisfaction.. that small gratification doesn’t bring… is what is wisdom

(The camera pans to another lady who appears to be sitting there thinking, is that so!!?)

And it available in everybody… it’s nothing to do with education I tell you… you you will find wise people even among the illiterates in the villages, perhaps even more.They know how to manage their homes, they know to manage, keep harmony in the neighborhood, they know how to bring people together, (he failed at it, didn’t he?), and how to aahhh (with hands pushing) bring celebration in life, wisdom is that which brings celebration in life. It brings smile on your face. it keeps you healthy and gives you that intuitive ability to see life what is ahead of you

I would like to add one more thing, as we were talking about the thought, you know. I, I find the thought is like the gatekeeper of the house. Emotions are a little more powerful than the thought. You may think, oh, I am happy or you may put all your thoughts, but when some emotions come that they just barge in,, with such force, all the thought process you kept to yourself they just disappear.

 (The camera captures another woman sitting there looking perplexed)

Are are you are you with me what I am saying? You know you find that emotions are much more powerful than thought The situations overpower you though you want to say, oh I want to be happier, I am happy.. I am.. then suddenly what happens is a bolt of emotions comes up or some energy comes and all this disappears. So we need to work on several layers of our life. First: environment, body, breath. Breath is the link between mind and body. And then mind, the thoughts and then emotions which are even subtler and more powerful than that. And then beyond that is the energy field that the positivity, the radiance, the soul, the spirit that you are… that comes into play.

And all these techniques, meditation, and uh contemplative prayer as in Christian tradition or Buddhist, zen meditation. All these is to transcend the thought and reach to that level from where everything else runs. So that is like attending to the houseowner then the guard will listen to what the owner says. Thank you very much.

Will Katju sort out press media’s priorities: Case of SC judgments on Bombay 1993 blasts

On 21 March 2013, the Supreme Court gave its judgmentin the various appeals by the accused who were convicted on 12 September 2006 by a specially designated TADA court for their role in the 1993 Bombay serial bombings. The SC largely upheld the TADA court convictions while diluting a few sentences from death to life imprisonment (like for a majority of the 10 bomb planters who were sentenced along with Yakub Memon to death) or reducing the years of imprisonment. Importantly, the Supreme Court also confirmed the convictions of the Government officers (customs officers, police officers) whose cooperation ensured that the arms, ammunitions and explosives sent by Tiger Memon landed on the coast in Raigad district & were transported to their destination in Bombay without any intercepton, discovery & detention. In addition, the Supreme Court also condemned the key role of Pakistan and ISI in the 1993 Bombay blasts.

However, based on the front page headlines of leading English newspapers, one could be excused in thinking that Sanjay Dutt’s role in the aforementioned blasts was somehow more important than those of the many others convicted. Sample these front page headlines of 22 March 2013 (day after the SC judgments) from India’s leading English Language newspapers and what they mentioned about the various parties connected to the blasts.

Newspaper Front page Headlines Customs Police Pakistan
The Times of India- Mumbai edition Bees Saal Baad: SC gives Sanjay 5 yrs, Yakub death, spares 10 the gallows, puts Pak in doc Cops, customs feel the heat Cops, customs feel the heat In a first, SC indicts Pak for fostering terrorism
Hindustan Times- Delhi edition Sanju heads back to jail, Yakub to gallows No mention No mention SC slams Pakistan, ISI
The Indian Express- Mumbai edition Dutt gets 5 years, Yakub death No mention No mention No mention
DNA-Mumbai edition Errorist gets 5 years, Terrorist gets death No mention No mention No mention
The New Indian Express- (Bangalore edition) SC sends Dutt back to Jail No mention No mention No mention

While every single one of them mentions the convictions of Sanjay Dutt & Yakub Memon (with the exception of The New Indian Express that only mentions Sanjay Dutt!), only The Times of India mentions the convictions of the 10 bomb planters, customs officials, police officers and the role of Pakistan & ISI in the serial blasts; the rest were silent about the equally significant convictions of the customs officers (& police officers) without whom, in SC’s words, “they would not be in a position to smuggle the weapons required for the said blasts” that killed 257 and seriously injured 713. Nevermind the fact that it was the first ever terrorist attack where RDX (Research Department Explosive) was used on a large scale basis after the World War II; nevermind the fact that these coordinated blasts were the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian history with unprecedented damage to life and property; nevermind the fact that this was the longest running trial in India’s history that ended with convictions of key parties that were involved in the serial bombings, India’s leading English newspapers were fixated on Sanjay Dutt who was not even convicted under TADA act (under which the rest of the accused were convicted) but under the arms act for possession of arms without license. How the actor got out of the conviction under the TADA act is another story altogether detailed here. The summary above that shows very clearly the low importance and salience given through the front page headlines and mentions to the full context of the judgments is quite disappointing.

The media, especially the news media have an important role to play in a democracy by monitoring, investigating, reporting and criticizing government’s policies, actions and their progress so as to ensure good governance. Also, they inform the public about what are the important issues by their selection and coverage (or lack of it) of various events/issues. As Bernard Cohen said “Press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling readers what to think about”. This aspect of media is known as the agenda setting function of the media. In this case, the media (including the press) diverted the agenda from important issues relating to these convictions and instead is relentlessly pursuing the agenda on Sanjay Dutt’s conviction thereby trivializing the outcome of the long, tardy & painful judicial process.

Given the importance of this case, the media could have chosen to explore any number of angles and thus set the agenda for the public in relation to how it would serve the interests of democracy and good governance in India in as far as national security & other related matters of public interest are concerned. For instance, the media could have explored the role of corrupt & incompetent government officials (police/customs/coast guards) in sabotaging national security and the current state of preparedness and readiness to deal with similar events. It could also have explored the sad state of our judicial system that took such an inordinately long time to deliver justice and bring closure to the families of the victims of the blasts. It possibly could have looked at the role of underworld elements/Pakistan in destabilizing our nation. But no, our news media including the press choose to run along with the story relating to the most high profile of the convictions, that of Sanjay Dutt, to the detriment of damaging a narrative that could have been used to resurrect a public debate to seek answers about the efficiency and readiness of our national security systems that have failed with alarming regularity to protect the lives of our fellow countrymen.

What makes this episode even more disappointing is the silence of Markendaya Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI) whose objective and function it is,among others,

“to ensure on the part of newspapers, news agencies and journalists, the maintenance of high standards of public taste and foster a due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship”

to keep under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance”

“to encourage the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in the profession of journalism”

Katju thus far, for whatever reasons, seems either blissfully unaware or unconcerned about his responsibilities in as far as the above mentioned objects and functions of the PCI are concerned. I say this, since as of now, there is no comment from him even mentioning the poor display of the performance of the press as an institution supposed to keep foremost matters relating to the public interests & importance. The PCI, via Katju, doesn’t seem to be interested in attempting to achieve the first two above mentioned objects of the PCI above in a clear cut scenario whereby the press media has disastrously displayed its inability to do what is expected of them.

Katju has shown his concern about the lack of proper educational qualifications affecting the quality of journalists and their reportage that affects the quality of journalism. But he should know that journalists do not decide the public agenda; rather it is the people at the helm of affairs in media companies who do so.  For sometime now, there have been discussions on the social and online media highlighting this sad state of affairs of Indian mainstream media (including the press) detailing its poor and biased news reporting, reports of paid media, cases of opinions, half truths & lies dressed up as facts in reporting. Katju, then, should know that to improve the quality of journalism, the media outcomes need to be targeted which are controlled by the top bosses of these media companies. The focus should be on these media worthies rather than the hapless entry/mid level journalist attempting to make a career in a perverse environment set up by these top bosses that produces poor quality journalism.

We already know that Katju is an ambitious man; what remains to be seen is whether his ambition can be married with the cause of public interest and good governance in this country. I sincerely hope that he will focus his attention on his job as the chairman of PCI and delve deeply into the aforementioned matters. It is unfortunate that he chooses to spend more time on defending the cause of a private citizen who even in 2000, 7 years after the blasts, was in touch and was taking assistance from the underworld elements who have assaulted the rights of  this nation’s citizens to live without harm and fear.

Jayalalithaa violating the Constitutional spirit by barring SL players from IPL?

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s letter to the Indian Prime Minister informing him of her government’s decision not to permit IPL matches in Tamil Nadu is completely out of line as it violates the Constitutional guidelines in as far as it attempts to overstep the State’s powers to deal with an issue which is essentially a matter of Foreign affairs that is in the power of the Central government. The following is the part of the text of the letter to PM that is violative of the constitutionally defined clear roles for the Centre and State:

“The Government of Tamil Nadu will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu, only if the organizers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan players, umpires, officials or support staff would participate in these matches.”

Article 257 (1) falling under Part XI of the Constitution that deals with ‘Relations between the Union and the States’ states:

“The executive power of every State shall be so exercised as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive power of the Union, and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.”

In this context, Jayalalithaa’s letter informing the PM about not permitting Sri Lankans to participate in IPL matches played in Tamil Nadu smacks of contempt for constitutional guidelines. Her statement tends to prejudice the Central Government’s exercise of executive power when it comes to the matter of Foreign affairs (all matters which bring the Union into relation with any foreign country); a matter that is placed on the Union List as regards the distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and the State.

As far as I know, the Government of India grants visitor visas to foreigners to enter India and not specific states. Thus Jayalalithaa’s statement restricting Sri Lankans to participate in the IPL matches contravenes the spirit in which the Government of India grants visas to foreigners. Either the government must specifically state in their visas that entry to specific states is not granted or call out Jayalalithaa’s attempts to intervene in a matter that is outside her constitutionally defined scope.

The Guru & the annoying parrot


I had speculated in my earlier post on Param Pujya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji (hereafter known as P2S2RSg) that he has been preparing the ground to make a leap from the spiritual domain to the political. Sample these news items of the past 2 weeks and his pronouncement on the news about DMK pulling out of the UPA government. With this my speculation moves ever so slowly and surely towards an explanation of the reality of P2S2RSg’s plans for a larger role in public life. It is likely that the Volunteer for a Better India (VfaBI) platform will be used to mobilize people that are loyal to him when it comes to the vote during the upcoming general elections. For all I know, I might be dead wrong about this because a lay person can only understand very little of the give and take of electoral politics.

But this post is not about P2S2RSg’s political avatar but about my perception of P2S2RSg in his spiritual avatar so that I keep the promise I had made in my first blog post on P2S2RSg.

Ask yourself what you would regard as some of the defining characteristics of a spiritual guru. To my mind, a spiritual guru is expected to have a clear understanding of the spiritual precepts (s)he is teaching/propagating/interpreting and should be articulate in expressing herself/himself since it is important to the followers in their pursuit to understand & follow the spiritual path.  Also, I would think that a spiritual guru is one who is above petty ego hassles because (s)he has already attained that enlightened state of egolessness or is close to that or at the very least has a deep understanding of egoism & its pitfalls.

My opinion about P2S2RSg’s “spiritual guruness” began to form when I saw a few YouTube videos involving P2S2RSg’s inter-religious dialogue with Zakir Naik on the topic of Concept of God in Hinduism & Islam in the light of sacred scriptures. Those videos and P2S2RSg’s responses to that event much later on in front of two different audiences made up my mind about P2S2RSg “spiritual guruness”.

In this inter-religious dialogue between the two, Zakir Naik goes first and while discussing the types of sacred scriptures in Hinduism says this:

“In Hinduism, the sacred scriptures have been divided into 2 parts. The Shrutis and the Smritis. Shruti, in Sanskrit means that which is perceived, that which is understood, that which is revealed and the Shrutis are considered to be the word of God and they are more sacred than the Smritis.”

“Next type of the Hindu scriptures, we have are the Smritis. The word Smriti means to hear. It means to remember. It means memory.”

Now, I am not a Vedic scholar or know anything about the Hindu scriptures but even I can figure out that Zakir Naik has at best a partial understanding of what he is talking about in relation to Shruti & Smriti. The first part of his understanding about Shruti in that it refers to “that which is perceived, that which is understood” is wrong. Shruti means hearing or listening. Likewise for the first part of his understanding of Smriti which he thinks “means to hear”; here again he is wrong since he is obviously confusing Shruti with Smriti.

Zakir Naik then discusses the concept of God in Islam as well as Hindusim which is the subject of the dialogue. He then starts discussing P2S2RSg’s book titled Hinduism & Islam: The Common Thread where P2S2RSg, among other instances, attempts to draw similarity of Islamic worship of symbols/images/idols in the form of the black stone in Kaaba to Vedic form of idol/image/symbol worship. Zakir Naik disputes this assertion by P2S2RSg and then goes on to refute P2S2RSg’s claim in his book that Muslims copied the prevalent Vedic practice of washing hands and legs before offering prayers.

P2S2RSg, speaking in response to Zakir Naik’s opening speech, is clearly thrown off balance by the above mentioned line of argument, which he sees as flaw finding of his book then says this in his defense!!

“I know there are some mistakes in that book. I would have told him before also; this book was printed in an emergency, in urgency, when there were riots in Gujarat. I wanted this book to immediately go. I did not go to big scholars because I do not know much about Quran. I myself am not a big scholar but the intention he caught behind that is to bring people together. So that the Hindus respects the Muslims and the Muslims feel a sense of brotherhood and belongingness to Hindus. So, I am happy that though with the mistakes, which he has already pardoned me, he has accepted the intention behind it. You know, intention is what we need to see.”

After a Question & Answer session with the audience where Zakir Naik picks up some more faults with P2S2RSg’s book, they proceed to final responses where Zakir Naik brings up some more mistakes in the book. At this point, P2S2RSg is seen pleading with Zakir Naik & everyone else in the audience to drop discussions on the book because he himself knows that there are many mistakes in that book which is the reason why he stopped with a single edition of the book. The video is worth watching to see the embarassed explanation as well the frustration on P2S2RSg’s face; curiously from the time I downloaded that video yesterday from YouTube, it is no longer available!

But the story doesn’t end here with the inter religious dialogue event that showed P2S2RSg in a poor light as a spiritual guru who exhibits an aversion to engage in a debate when questioned about his own book.  In these two videos, set in the backdrop of the aforementioned event (one is in English in front of a largely disinterested foreigner audience and the other is in Hindi in front of his fawning AoL followers), P2S2RSg launches into a personal attack against Zakir Naik calling him a fool and a useless person who parrots indices and glossaries. He also says that Zakir Naik’s level of intelligence is lower and he did not want to debate him as only people with small minds and intellect indulge in arguments and debate; obviously P2S2RSg hasn’t heard of Adi Shankaracharya who went around India debating every intellectual on philosophical and spiritual matters! One can see the contempt on P2S2RSg’s face when he talks about Zakir Naik in a vain manner; something that is quite unbecoming of a spiritual guru. P2S2RSg also says that he accepted mistakes in the book because he did not want any fight or riots happening there! Seems like a convenient excuse for someone who was totally unprepared for the events and just could not come back with a response clearly exposing a lack of presence of mind (or shall I say Self since he is a spiritual guru?!) as well as a lack of mastery over the subject on which he himself has written a book. These two videos clearly show the kind of ego hassles he has and his strong need to defend his actions thus pointing to an egoistic personality. The conclusion can be drawn about the “spiritual guruness” of P2S2RSg in light of the two defining characteristics I had laid down earlier.

Social advertisements prop up the Indian media

A tweet about the relatively tiny job advertisement for a major public sector company looking for the important post of Chairman and Managing Director got me thinking about the huge number of government newspaper ads (job ads, tenders, notices, government campaign ads) that I have been noticing in newspapers of late.

A Google search came up with this article in a business newspaper that reported ad trends in the ad world comparing snapshot numbers from 2001 and 2012.  The article reported TAM media research’s Adex data on ad volumes measured in seconds for TV and CCMs for print and sought to answer the following questions:

“Who are India’s biggest advertisers? Which are the product categories that dominate advertising spend and which media are they spending money on?”

The answer to India’s top product category by ad spend confirmed my observation about government newspaper ads and revealed more. The answers to the above questions of India’s biggest advertisers and top product categories by ad spend is illustrated below:


As can be seen from the illustration above, it is “social advertisements” (ads related to social campaigns) in both print & TV that topped the category-wise advertisements in 2012. Social ads are essentially ads that typically serve the purposes of informing the public about the launch of a new welfare programme/project as well as reinforcing the benefits of an existing welfare programme while giving prominence to the benefactor (usually a political leader/government Minister/head of a public sector organization) usually by way of their mugshots.

The article also predicts that

“As social responsibility initiatives of companies increase and the government tightens its spending, the private sector’s contribution to social ad spends is expected to increase. So expect this category to maintain its presence at the top of the heap.”

Let me add to this prediction. The social advertisements category is going to remain at the top of heap for as long as a centre left government such as the current UPA dispensation stays in power. A government that pursues an active policy of redistribution through such populistic schemes as MGNREGA, cash transfer scheme will regularly keep reminding the public of its good work (even more so with the general elections just over an year away) through social advertisements that will also find its way on the digital media in addition to the current print and TV media routes. And also, as long as this social advertisements category and the government tenders/notice/job ads category (that is not covered in the TAM survey) exists, the media will continue to place government interests before the public interest for they know not to “bite the hand that feeds”.

The lost opportunity?: Anti rape bill

The Indian media, the social activists and the mainstream political parties like the Congress, CPI (M) & BJP are on the verge of losing a golden opportunity to stem the rising trend of rapes and sexual assaults against women; something that the public opinion has been strongly and overwhelmingly in favour of in the aftermath 2012 December Delhi gang rape case. This statement might be surprising given that the “anti rape” bill is being discussed in its draft form today with a view to do just that and has been discussed widely by the above mentioned groups in an unprecedented discourse about policy in India. The focus of the draft of the so called “anti rape” bill (it is actually Criminal Law (Amendment) bill), that gained momentum in the aftermath of the 2012 December Delhi gang rape case & the subsequent Justice Verma committee (that was tasked to look at existing legislations relating to women’s safety and suggest changes to check crimes against women) has been on specifying & defining new offences as well as on amending criminal laws to provide for greater punishment for sexual violence. The problem with the discourse around the bill as well as government efforts is that even though it quite importantly seek to do the above mentioned it misses a very important aspect of the justice delivery system; that of efficient and effective criminal prosecution to help the rape victims get justice.

The consequences of an inefficient & ineffective criminal prosecution are reflected in the inordinate delays in the trial & completion of rape cases (an average of 10-12 years ; as it is said justice delayed is justice denied) as well the low rate of convictions (averaging approximately 27% nationally) achieved even as an increasing number of rape cases are being registered over the years.

Take for example the status of the progress of rape cases in Delhi. In 2012, the number of convictions out of the 635 rape cases registered in Delhi is a shockingly low figure of 1. As for the rest of the cases, 403 were facing trials, investigations were pending against 348 and two others were discharged.

Consider the statistics on a pan India basis as given in the illustration below courtesy Wall Street Journal


Even as recently as the last two weeks, the Minister of State for Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha quoting National Crime Records Bureau said in a written reply about the trend of rising rape cases even as the convictions rates remained low and stagnant attributed the reasons to

several factors like inadequate and inefficient investigations by investigative agencies, deficiency of proper investigative infrastructure, prolonged judicial process etc

The above two outcomes of prolonged judicial process & low conviction rates are the symptoms of a deeper problem; that of a inefficient criminal prosecution system that is not independent and effective which has not been addressed as part of the bill that will be taken up today.

A 2006 report by Centre of Civil Society highlights similar problems taking the case of Delhi.

“The appointment of prosecutors is also a grey area; politicians, bureaucrats and big lawyers heavily influence the recruitment process. Even though there are many regulations regarding the appointment process, these are often overridden by the Executive, which would much rather have its preferred choices as ad hoc appointees. Prosecutors should be insulated from political pressure and an incentives-based performance approach should be emphasised. Internal audit mechanism to evaluate the standards on which the case was fought should also play a significant role in increasing the overall quality of prosecution.”

The anti rape bill is looking at changes in the criminal law by amending Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act. However, none of the proposed amendments in CrPC relate to the aspect of prosecution which is critical to reducing delays in the judicial process and in achieving convictions that will have a deterrent effect on such crimes.

The issue of criminal prosecution has a simple and elegant solution that has been explained by BJD MP from Odisha, Baijayant Jay Panda who has moved a private members’ bill to amend the Criminal Procedure code (CrPC) in a bid to check the alarming trend of criminalization of Indian polity owing to poor criminal prosecution. I am reproducing the relevant text from his article in a business newspaper last month:

“The third would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to enable independent and effective prosecution.

Furthermore, to ensure that proceedings don’t suffer owing to ineffective or biased prosecution, my third Bill proposes to increase accountability and transparency in the appointment of prosecutors so as to shield them from political interference. Though the Code of Criminal Procedure, as it exists, calls for “consultation” with the judiciary for all appointments to the post of public prosecutor, the requirement has been diluted through amendments in many states. Special public prosecutors are often appointed at the whims and fancies of the government and without adequate reasoning. This is done to suit special interests.

 While commenting on the independence of public prosecutors in India, the Law Commission held in its 197th report that any legislation that permits arbitrary appointment of public prosecutors, without proper checks, would violate Article 14 of the Constitution (the right to equality before the law). Therefore, to ensure free and fair trials in courts, it is vital that the existing provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure be amended.

My Bill mandates the establishment of a separate Directorate of Prosecution in each state with administrative control over all prosecutors in the state and answerable to the home department. It prescribes “concurrence” with the judiciary for the appointment of prosecutors at all levels. It also sets down an objective criterion to gauge the requirement of prosecutors. The Bill will also require a detailed and written explanation from the government about the reasons for each appointment to ensure transparency in the appointment of special public prosecutors.”

Despite the huge public opinion in favour of providing justice to the victims of rapes and sexual offences in the aftermath of the 2012 December Delhi gang rape case, it will be a tragic waste of the immense amount of emotional and intellectual energies expended by the Indian public if the public discourse and government efforts to amend policy does not eventuate in concrete steps to actually ensure justice for rape victims and create deterrents for such crimes. The media can still take up this issue to ensure that they do justice to their role as watchdogs of the Indian democracy and to play a positive role in the creation of a modern liberal democracy in India. Will it rise to the occasion?


Italian marines case: Italy guilty of perjury in India’s Supreme Court?

This morning India woke up to the news that Italy had shown the middle finger to India as well as the international legal fraternity in connection with the case of Italian marines’ shooting of two Indian fishermen in the Arabian sea last February. Italy’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said that the two marines accused of shooting dead the two Indian fishermen would not be sent back to India as India’s decision to try the accused marines in India violated the two accused’s rights, particularly on the principle of immunity for foreign state actors.

Earlier on Feb 22, the Supreme Court of India had permitted the two Italian anti piracy marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen off India’s coast after mistaking them for pirates, to go back to Italy for four weeks to vote in that country’s elections and meet their families.

While debate rages on if Italy has violated the reciprocal spirit of international justice, there are important questions that need to be asked regarding the accused’s intentions when they applied to the Supreme Court on Feb 22  to go home to vote in Italy’s general elections on 24-25 February. As per Economic Times, their application said that if they were permitted to travel to Italy, they would be able to “exercise their right to vote in their home town” for the general elections that would take place Feb 24-25.”

But the real reason might be something other than what was stated in their application. A close study of the notification for Italy’s general elections for citizens living abroad reveals the following two points that must be noted regarding the two options the marines had in order to vote in Italy’s elections:

“Voters living abroad and certain specific categories of Italian nationals temporarily abroad for reasons of service or international missions can vote by post in these elections.

Italian citizens wishing to vote in Italy must inform their consulate in writing. The notification MUST REACH THE CONSULATE no later than 3 JANUARY 2013 (10th day following the day the election was called).”

Given the two points as regards their two options (vote by post or vote in person in Italy), a couple of questions arise as regards their eventual choice to vote in person in Italy:

a) Did the Italian marines inform their consulate in India before 3 January 2013 (the cut off date to inform the consulate whether they will be voting in Italy or via postal ballots) that they would vote in Italy during the elections on 24-25 February and thus forgoing their option of a postal ballot?

b) If they did so, thus forgoing their postal vote, how could they be sure that their application to the Supreme Court would be approved (when the hearing itself was scheduled on 22 February; much after the cut off date of 3 Jan to inform the consulate of their decision to vote in person in Italy) and thus allowing them to travel to Italy to vote in the 24-25 Feb elections?

An answer to these two questions will determine whether Italy had already made up its mind about not sending the marines back well before 3 Jan 2013 when the marines were in Italy celebrating Christmas with their families till 4 Jan 2013 when they returned to India. Also, the answer to these questions will show if Italy had perjured in the highest court of India about the real reason of the marines’ application to go to Italy to vote in the elections; especially so since the option to vote in Italy was non-existent as on the date when the accused filed their application to the SC as the cut off date (3 Jan) to inform the consulate whether they would be voting by post or in person in Italy was already over.


The confabulating case of Sad(istic)anand Dhume

I had promised myself that I would keep myself out of the partisan debate that would undoubtedly arise in the aftermath of the Wharton Indian Economic Forum’s (WIEF) uninvite of Modi as a keynote speaker. Unfortunately, a chance reading of Sadanand Dhume’s article on WSJ blogs dissipated the determination behind that promise to myself. What drew me out to pen down this piece was the utterly shameful display of shifty standards on the part of the author in professing to stand for one thing even while leading the discussion to something else altogether.

Going by the title of Dhume’s piece ‘Why I’m not speaking at Wharton’, it would appear that it was a solidarity note in favour of Modi. But appearances are deceptive and shifty standards quite easily camouflaged by those who have practiced it for long years.

WIEF’s volte face can be best described as an undignified, unmindful & ungracious act unworthy of its image. One could construe it as an insult to Modi who had set aside some time for this event. To be uninvited from the event would then be rightfully seen as an insult to the time and effort that might have been set aside by the Chief Minister out of his other commitments as a public servant of the state of Gujarat. But Dhume, taking a sadistic view while taking pleasure in Modi’s uninvite situation, seems to think that WIEF’s action was more than a “ritual humiliation”. Now, as per me, the word “humiliation” has a connotation of showing someone in poor light. Going by the facts of what happened, it was Wharton that came up being shown in  poor light with its invite flip flop unbecoming of the stature of an organization that counts itself amongst the premier intellectual grounds in a free country like America. Instead, to then say that the act of uninvite was more than a ritual humiliation (of Modi) is nothing but a fanciful flight of Sad(istic)anand Dhume’s imagination.

Perhaps not content with conjuring up images of “ritual humiliation”, Sad(istic)anand Dhume creeps up on the unsuspecting readers and surreptitiously suggests that with “more courage and creativity”, the “humiliation” perhaps could have been even more extreme?. He suggests the format too quite helpfully:

The speech could easily have been followed by a question and answer session with students, or by a panel discussion on Gujarat that featured friend and foe alike.

Now, what are the kind of questions he would have liked?

To be sure, smart people disagree over important questions about his state. Has Gujarat struck the right balance between growth and equity? Should Mr. Modi be seen as a reformer or merely an efficient administrator? Have Gujarat’s human development indicators kept pace with its income gains? Are the lessons of the so-called Gujarat model, rooted in India’s most entrepreneurial society, replicable in states less comfortable with commerce?

The references to equity and human development indicators are shorthand to mean Muslim victimization when it comes to discussions about Gujarat under Modi’s rule. That is a stick that Modi’s detractors have consistently beat him with whence queering the pitch against him. Sadistic(anand) Dhume quite obviously also prefers the same.

Dhume also seems prone to moments of confabulation. He seems to remember at first that the law of the land that Modi is subject to has consistently exonerated him for his alleged role in the 2002 post Godhra riots.  Then suddenly Dhume imagines that America’s laws are in force in India since he finds the need to highlight the fact that “America has denied a visa since 2005” to be somehow important more than the fact of Modi’s exoneration by Indian courts. Decency requires an acknowledgement that the pain has been caused on both sides including on Modi’s. One has to remember that Modi is also a human being who, in addition to undergoing the demands of the country’s legal process, has withstood a media/intellectual trial patiently for well over a decade now. That Modi should be beyond reproach on those parameters after the clean chit given to him is something only smart people can understand.