Friday 29 June 2012

Unite against culture of greed (PO)

M D Nalapat
Regulatory authorities in the UK have imposed a fine totaling nearly $500 million on Barclays Bank, for “manipulating the LIBOR market”. Other large NATO-based banks such as HSBC are also under investigation. In line with the tradition within NATO of allowing financial wrongdoers to escape prosecution, unless of course they happen to be of South Asian ethnicity, no charges have been brought against any senior manager of Barclays. The fine, although seemingly large, is actually quite small in relation to the huge profits being made by uncontrolled speculation indulged in by NATO-based entities.

Over the past two decades, since President Clinton de-criminalised speculative activity in the US and permitted banks to gamble their deposits on making bets on the direction of commodity prices, uncontrolled greed and speculation has led to a huge rise in commodity prices. This inflation in price has been of zero benefit to ordinary persons, having almost entirely been cornered by a handful of individuals with close connections to the top within NATO capitals There is, in fact, very little of a gamble in the overwhelming majority of such transactions. The NATO-based financial institutions use the immense deposits trusted to them by gullible personages in the GCC, South Asia, Russia and elsewhere to rig markets in such a way that commodity prices keep moving up, no matter what the economic fundamentals. Is it coincidence that NATO has consistently followed policies that ensure that oil prices remain at elevated levels? After Iraqi and Libyan oil deliveries were affected by sanctions and by war, it is now the turn of Iran to have its oil cut off from international markets. Each time action gets taken that has the effect of prompting a speculative surge in commodity prices, different justifications get used.

The GCC countries are the most affected by the misdemeanors of financial agencies located within NATO. Having lost $1.3 trillion during the 2008 meltdown, GCC investors are on track to lose a further $2 trillion, once the Euro zone collapses, as is almost certain to happen by March 2013. However, so deep is their faith in NATO that GCC investors even at this eleventh hour continue to trust their savings to institutions within NATO, the same way as Russian oligarchs do.These oligarchs made money with ease, assisted by Boris Yeltsin and the mafia that surrounded the then President of Russia, and they are losing that money with equal speed, because of their faith in NATO-located institutions.

What is unfortunate is the fact that the populations within the NATO countries are innocent of any complicity in the deeds of a few acting in their name. Despite the presence of a few fringe elements, even in countries with a strong ethnic bias such as Germany, EU populations are tolerant and welcoming of diversity. If they had a media which told the truth about the market manipulations of the speculators ,they would themselves move to ensure that their governments stop backing the greedy cheats who are engaged in enriching themselves at the expense of Humanity.

The Holy Quran warns against usury, and against greed, pointing to the immense destruction of universal happiness that such behaviour brings. Sadly, many investors who claim to follow the tenets of the Holy Quran continue to trust their savings to institutions that are a byword for usury andspeculation. These people will have to account for their faith in speculators when the time comes for a reckoning. What needs to be done is for the GCC countries to join hands with others who wish to criminalize speculation, especially in commodities. There needs to be a clear international firewall between banking and speculation, as well as severe penalties on those indulging in speculation. Several European and North American opinion builders support such a move, realizing that unless NATO ceases to be a shield for the greedy and the rapacious, the alliance is doomed to fail. Soft power lasts, while hard power brings with it costs that are unbearable, such as what we have seen in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A dollar kept in institutions that promote usury and speculation is a dollar invested in a way that flouts the Code of Humanity revealed fifteen centuries ago. The Barclays example is the tip of a vast iceberg of similar transactions, all designed to increase the bonus packages of executives at the cost of values and even a few laws. Those who are opposed to usury need to come forward and support others similarly inclined. Commodity speculationhas severely affected the global economy, and the UN General Assembly needs to call a Special Session to discuss this menace, and how to put a end to it.

The GCC states ought to join with China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia in asking the UN to impose sanctions on the greedy few who are draining global prosperity simply in order to make mega-millions. NATO has to listen to the voices of its own citizens, and quit backing the greedy few against the rest of its own populations.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Border conflict laid aside as giants draw closer (Global Times)

Global Times | 2012-6-27 20:25:04
By M.D. Nalapat

In the past, relations between India and China have been much colder than are warranted by the many shared geopolitical interests of the two neighbors.

Since the 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India, there has been a "trust deficit" between the two sides. However, only once did this result in a conflict, in 1962, at the conclusion of which then Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai ordered the PLA to return to the positions that they had held prior to the border hostilities.

Since then, the Sino-Indian border has been among the most peaceful in the world, such that over large stretches of it, troops on both sides carry only sidearms rather than heavy weapons.

Today, given the rapid growth of linkages between India and China, it is inconceivable that there would be another border war between two countries whose geopolitical interests are so closely bound together.

The just-concluded UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro saw the usual meeting of minds between India and China, two countries that have a combined population of 2.5 billion.

At his meeting in Rio with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of the need for the two giants of Asia to work together in promoting harmony and development. Should India and China forge a close relationship, there would not be room for any outside power to dominate Asia.

Between 1960 and 1990, it was imperative for countries seeking rapid development to be strategically close to the US, as China was from the mid-1970s. Yet today, no country, at least in Asia, can make rapid economic progress unless it has friendly ties with China.

Even countries that host US troops, such as South Korea and Japan, understand that good relations with China are needed to keep their economies stable and prosperous.

Closer ties between the countries of Asia will create a win-win situation on the continent, accelerating its progress toward regaining the prime position that it enjoyed for centuries before being dominated and occupied by European powers.

As the continent's largest economy, China is key to such an integration of economic interests. Small wonder that outside powers who do not wish to see Asia overtake the NATO bloc in economic development are working overtime to convince other Asian countries that China is a threat rather than an opportunity.

Harmony rests at the core of Chinese tradition, which is why the wise policy of peaceful rise and harmony of Chinese figures like former leader Deng Xiaoping and current President Hu Jintao is the best way forward for China, rather than copying the militaristic and domineering approach followed by NATO members toward other countries.

Those countries and blocs that have for generations enjoyed primacy in the global order are naturally unhappy at the rise of China, and of the way in which the Chinese economy has established mutually beneficial linkages with countries across the world, whether in Asia, Africa or the Americas, not to mention Europe.

Tensions between India and China are not because of natural dissonance between the two sides, but have been artificially and arbitrarily created by outside powers in order to perpetuate the strategic distance between Beijing and New Delhi.

For how long should the people of the two countries be denied the immense advantages of a close working relationship between China and India? Should a transformation occur, and the ties between the two nations be unimpeded by outside interference, Indian and Chinese tourists would visit each others' countries in the millions rather than, as now, in the hundreds of thousands.

Indian and Chinese universities could collaborate to train scholars who would have the ability to compete globally, while Indian and Chinese movies and music would be as commonplace on both sides of the border as Hollywood.

Let the border issue, itself a legacy of European colonialism, be put aside. Until India and China march together, the 21st century will never evolve into the Asian Century.

The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Learn the right lessons from the US and UK (Sunday Guardian)

PM Manmohan Singh arrives at Air Force station Palam to leave for his foreign tour to attend G-20 summit last week. PTI
oon after being sworn in (aboard Air Force One) as President of the United States after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Lyndon Johnson gushed to his mentor Sam Rayburn about the Cabinet that he had inherited from the late President. To a man, they were the creamiest of creamy layers, educated in the most expensive (and therefore the most prestigious) universities in the United States, and coming from million-dollar careers in the corporate world. Rayburn had been the Speaker of the House of Representatives for years, and he was not impressed. "I would be happier," he replied, "if one of them had run for sheriff once". Not a single person in the Kennedy (and now Johnson) Cabinet belonged to tiers other than the elite, and it showed in the way that they blundered into Vietnam and destroyed the Johnson presidency.
India's rulers apparently do not place much faith in the electoral system. The logic must be that any system which elects individuals such as those who have been responsible for governance in India over the decades cannot be much to write home about. This is presumably the reason why, thus far, not a single appointment has been made to the Election Commission of any individual who has fought even a panchayat election. From Chief Election Commissioners down to more lowly levels in the Election Commission, all the slots have been filled with officials. Thus the body tasked with superintending elections in India does not contain anyone with first-hand knowledge of what that entails, which is presumably why the EC has spent its energies in futile efforts at reducing election expenditure, whereas the worm at the core of the democratic process in India is the absence of inner-party democracy.
While the media in India — especially the print version — has clearly failed to unearth at least 90% of the muck that goes on in the name of governance in India, yet it is all that voters have in order to gain some insight into what political leaders are thinking about issues of the day. Unlike in genuine democracies, where politicians get subjected to intense media scrutiny, in India it is easy for a politician to not give a press interview at all, except the pre-digested variety that passes for media cross-examination in this country. A cake has to be judged in the eating, and the governance being served up to the citizen of the "world's largest democracy" is undoubtedly rancid.
So, despite the frowns of Katju and Sibal, what needs to be done is to institutionalise a regimen on live press conferences on the same lines as Prime Minister's Questions in the UK House of Commons. The PM ought to spend an hour each week before the media, with those getting a reply being chosen not by the media advisor of the day but by a draw of lots at the start of the conference. Once a month, there can be a similar interaction, this time with the foreign press.
And not just the PM. A similar freewheeling exercise needs to be conducted in the case of leaders of all national parties, as well as Union Cabinet ministers. Only by having to reply to sustained questioning will there be a climate of accountability within the government and the political system. Such a process would quickly expose those who are hollow inside, in that they are led by handlers rather than by their own convictions. There is much to condemn in the US or in countries such as the UK, but equally, there are facets to admire and emulate. Among the most important of these is the way in which politicians in both countries get questioned by the media. The press conferences of a US President or a UK Prime Minister are very different in tone from that of those conducted by journalists with, for example, the chairperson of the UPA. Unfortunately, it would seem that the UPA chairperson and her chosen PM are adopting those facets of US-UK life that are toxic anywhere, such as indulging those who impoverish millions through speculation. In contrast, Sonia Gandhi needs to set an example in transparency by coming forward and conducting an open press conference each week.
Or, in case there are valid reasons why this is not possible in her case, to get Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet ministers to open up to the media at least four times a month. The age of private ownership of political parties may take a while to retreat, but in between, there needs to be much more transparency about what our rulers have in mind for us.

Friday 22 June 2012

Sonia’s $12b gift to Europe (PO)

By M D Nalapat

Blood is thicker than water, so it is not surprising that Sonia Gandhi’s heart is firmly anchored in Europe, the continent of her birth. Almost every month, there are house guests from Europe in 10 Janpath, the stately mansion that has been set aside by successive governments in India to provide the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi a home. Now that Sonia’s two children are well into adulthood, the Manmohan Singh government has allocated two other bungalows for them, for daughter Priyanka and son Rahul to use as and when they deem it necessary.

Whenever the Congress Party has been in power, it has shown its gratitude to the Nehru family in myriad ways. This columnist recently left Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and while in Mumbai, crossed the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link into the city, returning from Mumbai to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. Although the media in India has been prompt in looking askance at the many statues of Dalit icon Kanshi Ram and his protege Mayawati that have been erected in Uttar Pradesh while Mayawati was the state’s Chief Minister, thus far they do not appear to have noticed the many tens of thousands of statues of Motilal Nehru, his son Jawaharlal, grand-daughter Indira and great-grandson Rajiv that adorn multiple locations in the country now once again under the control of the Nehru family.

However, relatives from the Kashmiri Brahmin side of the family (ie the actual Nehrus) seldom get invited to 10 Janpath, and hardly ever enjoy the exalted status of house guests. That privilege is almost exclusively reserved for relatives from Europe, especially Italy, the country of Sonia’s birth. Almost every month, either she or her children go to Europe, to luxuriate in the simple comforts of home after having escaped the stifling luxuries that their VVIP status automatically gives them in India, such as huge mansions, state-provided staff, convoys of automobiles, chartered flights and so much else that a grateful nation bestows on the mother, son and daughter who collectively constitute the Congress High Command.

Naturally, the language used while talking to each other is Italian, and naturally, while travelling in the Mother Continent of Europe, the family sheds the unfamiliar dress that is the uniform of politicians in India to slip into European garb, or very often American, such as denims and sports shirts. A respectful media, both national and international, do not even attempt to intrude into such private space. Sonia is lucky,in that the tribal instincts of reporters from the “civilised world” ensure that they almost always give her and her immediate family favourable treatment, while blacking out entirely the extended family, and its economic and commercial parameters. In India of course, the Income-tax department, the Enforcement Directorate, the Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation collectively ensure that their beloved Madam is not disturbed by negative reporting. Of what use is state power, unless it can be deployed in this quiet way, in order to protect the family that has given its name to almost every major government scheme in India?

This columnist is still, at the time of writing, a UNESCO Peace Chair. However, his views on the way in which certain countries in Europe have been seeking to return to the 19th century have apparently been noted in Paris, so it is very likely that this appellation may not be available for much longer. As with the broader UN bureaucracy, UNESCO too is heavily influenced by West Europe and its allies across the Atlantic Ocean, who regard as anti-democratic any opinion that does not fully conform to their own. However, despite the obvious risks of such a course, it would be impossible for the conscience of this columnist to permit the expression of views in the diluted form that would ensure an absence of hostility within influential quarters in the civilised world. If this means that the UNESCO Peace Chair tag be removed from his name, so be it Since their assumption of office in 2004,there has been a systematic effort by the Sonia-led ruling coalition to ensure that policies get followed which severely degrade the ability of India to compete against European commercial entities in the global market. Interest rates have been raised to levels that can only be described as criminal, having gone well beyond the level of classification as insane.

The latest gift to Europe is a cash transfer of $10 billion, evidently on top of the $2 billion already committed to the International Monetary Fund. That the euro is in a terminal state is obvious. There is no way that Italy and even France can escape monetary and economic disaster,it is just a matter of time. As for Greece and Spain, they are in a terminal state. Rather than throw money away by giving funds to an IMF controlled by Christine Lagarde for the sole purpose of getting the rest of the world to hand over their surpluses to the profligate in Europe, it would have been better to invest in gold or in assets, including assets abroad. Instead, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who knows the mind of his political boss well and has therefore been able to continue in office without interruption, has handed over a further $10 billion to the IMF. This at a time when the fiscal deficit of his recklessly extravagant government is reaching crisis levels. The Indian economy cannot afford to gift - for that is what any loan to certain European countries is - even $10 million. The economy is just two to three years away from bankruptcy. The decision of the Sonia-led ruling coalition to throw taxpayer money away is in line with other policies that favour Europe at the expense of India.

Of course, for the same reason why the media in India is quiet, so are the so-called “Opposition” parties, none of whom have protested with any vigour at this destructive decision. According to senior officials within the government,the $12 billion handed over to certain European states via the IMF will soon be joined by a further tranche of $10 billiion, discussions for which are going on. If it were not that the human consequences of such decisions on hundreds of millions of semi-starved people are so tragic, it could be termed the Theatre of the Absurd. A country with 300 million at starvation level throwing away huge dollops of cash at countries where the population enjoys an infinitely better life. Those that have will get mire, while those that are poor will find themselves even more worse off. This seems to be the logic of present-day geopolitics.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Monday 18 June 2012

Undermining India, Sonia style (Organiser)

By M D Nalapat 
Organiser, 24 June 2012, issue

That the Maino Era would prove disastrous for the country, especially for the economy, was no secret to those who followed this columnist’s commentaries since it was ushered in after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Given the geopolitics of the Maino family, it was inevitable that policies would get followed that degraded the capacity of India to pose a challenge to the EU, the way China was doing. By 2007, the Indian corporate sector that was challenging its European competitors became so weakened by defective policies that it ceased to inspire fear in boardrooms across Europe. By the time that Maino Era II was ushered in by 2009, Indian corporates had become an object of derision in international fora.
Of course, given their pyschological dependence on the Mainos, almost no domestic commentator connected the dots between the steady depletion of India’s economic strength and the policies followed by loyal retainers of the Mainos, with Manmohan Singh as the smiling mukhota between Maino influence and the public. It was only by 2011 that the linkage became too obvious to ignore.
The distinguishing mark of the Maino Era is the way foreign companies, entities and countries have benefitted at the expense of their domestic counterparts. Some days ago, Fraport (which manages the Frankfurt airport in Germany, one of the most soulless and unfriendly terminals, with most operatives behaving in the manner of robots) declared that it was exiting the Delhi airport project. What the company failed to mention was the way it had ensured that the clueless Indian component of the Delhi airport management went in for purchase after purchase of super-expensive items from Europe, especially - you guessed it - Germany. Just as Indian business-persons recover their entire investment in a project by over-invoicing imports and under-invoicing exports, Fraport has ensured enough benefit to its core country interests to safely exit what has become a sinking ship because of its own mismanagement. Fraport shares a hefty portion of the blame for the high costs that have burdened Delhi, just as other Maino Era European partners have made the Bangalore airport just another bus terminal in terms of comfort. Needless to mention, except for a few ghostly hands protruding from the walls, there is nothing Indian about Delhi airport, nor is there anything local at Bangalore. In the Maino Era, the greater the distance from local traditions and ethos that expensive structures have, the better.
Misuse of official investigative agencies
Although none of them would dare to make the information public, for fear of harassment by agencies such as the ED, CBI and Income-tax (not to mention the ever-ready - to commit crimes on behalf of the powerful - police), those close to Indira Gandhi mutter in private that Sonia Gandhi prefers Videsh to Desh. That in dress (outside media attention), diet, lifestyle, travel and house guests, she has sought to ensure that her immediate family (which uses Italian to each other and Hindi to servants) see themselves as distinct from the billion and a quarter people who are steeped in the culture and traditions of this ancient civilisation. Yet so strong is the fear that the Orbassano-born lady generates in the minds of those who know her that even at this stage of their lives, RK Dhawan for instance restrains himself from coming out with the truth about the relationship of Sonia to Indira, including details of her many foreign sojourns during 1966-84, especially during crises, such as the 1977 defeat.
As for the PM, although he must have considerable information about the activities of “Madam” and her close friends and relatives, Manmohan Singh prefers to bury such facts under the grossly misused tag of “official secrets” rather than enforce accountability. In Maino India, the Oath of Office seems to be something to ignore the moment the words  get uttered. The only oath which matters is that of fealty to the whims and interests of a single family, which itself is a branch of the clan that has owned the Congress Party since the 1950s.
However, the Maino Era is much more than a continuation of the Nehru Era. Sonia has little time for relatives by marriage from the Nehru side of her extended family, preferring the company of those from the Italian side. When was the last time a Nehru relative was a house guest at 10 Janpath or was even invited to dinner? In contrast, there are a slew of visitors to 10 Janpath and the two other official residences maintained for the family. These guests are from Italy and from other parts of Europe, who enjoy VIP status the moment they alight from their flight. The Mainos do not travel light, certainly not from India, although while coming into the country, there may be a lower complement of accessories brought in. Given the Maino Fear Factor within the media and among other groups, it is no surprise that no RTI application has thus far succeeded in unearthing details of the house guests at 10 Janpath and their travels, as also the travel schedules of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka, despite the fact that MPs have a moral obligation to be transparent that ordinary citizens do not have.
If ever proof were needed that in the Maino Era, official agencies have degenerated into a collection of domestic servants of the Maino Dynasty, it can be seen in the CBI allegation that the mastermind behind the doings of former Andhra Pradesh CM Rajshekhar Reddy was his son Jagan. Police officers in both Hyderabad and Delhi are fully aware that the only “remote control” that the late Rajshekhar Reddy obeyed lives in 10 Janpath. They are fully aware of the many boxes of mangoes, tomatoes, brinjals and cauliflower regularly ferried to Delhi from Hyderabad by Rajshekhar Reddy. Any - repeat any - of the senior bureaucrats that have worked with Reddy are aware of the frequent occasions when oral orders from Delhi came, commands to bend and twist policies to favour certain interests close to what may be termed the “Congress High Command”. However, not once has the CBI investigated the linkage between the Congress High Command and the many doubtful orders passed by the then CM of AP and his team. Instead, the CBI would have us believe that Rajshekhar Reddy was a Rabri Devi to Jagan’s Lalu Yadav, obeying his son meekly in all crucial decisions.
Having long ago lost any sense of shame, officers in the CBI (and in the investigative agencies of government, led by the IB, whose Director is expected to soon get a gubernatorial position, the way others have, such as former NSG chief Wanchoo,who used to be too loyal to Sonia Gandhi, so deep was his subservience), do not dare to investigate the Congress High Command connection in the decisions taken by the now deceased CM of AP, nor indeeed in matters such as the Coal and Telecom scams. Instead, they protect a particular family, as indeed faithful servants in a feudal society are expected to do. In the process, truth becomes a casualty. Taking the example of Coalgate, those in the know claim, for instance, that the “overwhelming majority” of private beneficiaries of the coalfields practically given away under the nose of the Prime Minister got their largesse because of “the blessings of the High Command”. Will the CBI probe the officers responsible for the allocation, including those in the PMO who have a private line to 10 Janpath? Of course not. This is, after all, the Maino Era, where that clan is immune from any semblance of accountability, and has been so under successive PMs.
Although some of the malefic elements of the Maino Era have been operational since PV  Narasimha Rao took over in 1992 and filled his team with those who owed their primary loyalty to her rather than to him, it became full-blown in 2004, when Manmohan Singh became PM. So overwhelmed was the mild-mannered economist-bureaucrat at the honour done to him that several of his instincts and sensibilities seem to have been frozen in the face of the demands made by the “High Command”. While Narasimha Rao at least protected the dignity of his office, and every one in a way showed flashes of independence, especially in refusing to give Sonia any role in the framing of overall policies, Manmohan Singh has been completely steam rolled by her. Indeed, had he not taken over as PM, he would have had an excellent name in history books, instead of going down as an even bigger disaster than VP Singh. The PM has allowed his ministers to routinely bypass him for “consultations” with the many political and other operatives that cluster around 10 Janpath. Of course, each consultation is in reality a command, that results in dubious government orders getting passed.
Given that Manmohan Singh will not - or cannot - back a minister who defies orders from the “High Command”, it became inevitable that his team - without a single exception - regard Madam rather than him as their boss.
Despite her obvious influence in decision-making both at the state as well as the central level, despite the dizzy foreign travel schedule of her family members and their house guests, despite the luxurious way in which they live and move around, thus far the relevant agencies have not found the time to investigate the sources of - for example - the lengthy foreign stays of those close to the all-powerful Madam or who pays for the charter flights so frequently used. Should any officer dare to do so, she or he would be swiftly rostered out and most likely proceeded against by the ever-faithful CBI, hence it would be unfair to throw the blame on them. The fault vests with a Prime Minister who seems paralysed from acting against repeated violations of ethical and legal norms by his party bosses. Had the PM backed the officers of the investigative agencies, he would find enough sincere and decicated personnel in the ED, the CBI and the Income-tax Department to cast off their Maino Era chains and fulfill their obligations to the nation.
By 2014, when Sonia Maino and her merry men face the polls, the country would be on life support. Hopefully EVMs will not get used under an Election Commission comprising of supporters of the ruling dispensation to tailor a result to Maino specifications. Anupam Saraph and this columnist had come across several anomalies in the way the EVMs were used. However, even the opposition parties went by the Maino line that Navin Chawla was a thoroughly disinterested Chief Election Commissioner, and that none of his team had any biases, for example against the BJP. 
A 20th century BJP confronted a 21st century problem. The party - and the NDA - needs a 21st century approach.
A 21st century NDA would demand that civil servants refuse to obey an order unless the same be given in writing. Those who listen to oral orders will need to pay a harsh penalty for such dereliction of duty. There needs to be laws passed that can provide for summary punishment for officials guilty of transgressions, through special courts where the Bench will comprise of non-legal experts as well. The judicial system needs to be codified so that decisions get based not on interpretation but on fact, and where appeals become difficult and stay orders and injunctions given only sparingly rather than the lavish way in which they are given at present. The folly of Jawaharlal Nehru in believing that British practices - which evolved over centuries in the peculiar circumstances of that country - could be 100 per cent transplanted to India is getting revealed every day in the slow speed of justice and in the strangulating web of regulations that choke initiative and enterprise in India, regulations that have shot up manifold since 2004, for the first time since the 1990s.
It is no consolation that the Maino Congress has returned to the 19th century, when the economy of the country was strangulated and loot by the rulers reached extortionate proportions.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Thank you for what, Mr Chidambaram? (Sunday Guardian)

awyers follow the briefs prepared for them by those who hire them, and Palaniappan Chidambaram is no exception. When G.K. Moopanar ensured that he was made Union Finance Minister in the 1996-97 Deve Gowda government, the present Home Minister had as his boss an individual steeped in the traditions of India, and wanting its people to succeed. Moopanar encouraged Chidambaram to reduce tax rates, announce an amnesty scheme to ensure that black money deposits got subjected to taxation, and overall run a tax administration that saw the people of India as decent rather than crooks. His 1997 "dream budget" created the conditions that enabled the NDA to carry forward the economic reforms initiated by P.V. Narasimha Rao during 1992-96. Of course, assiduous spin-doctoring by the formidable Montek-Isher (Ahluwalia) duo ensured that practically the entire credit for the reforms went to then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh rather than to Rao. Neither the PM nor his media advisor of the day (a dour bureaucrat, also from Andhra Pradesh) used to frequent the cocktail parties so beloved of both Montek-Isher as well as journos, hence the fact that it was Rao who was personally responsible for prodding a hesitant bureaucracy into implementing reforms has gone unrecorded. However, returning to Chidambaram, once he was made Finance Minister a second time, he once again sought to tailor his policies in ways that would please his political master, The Madam alias Sonia Gandhi.
Chidambaram is the initiator of the present collapse of the Indian economy, although the blame has largely been laid at the door of Pranab Mukherjee. Sharing Sonia's evident distrust of Indians, he introduced the culture of the Gestapo into the British-era working of the Income-Tax Department. The Bengal politician too has to hew close to the Nehruvian philosophy of his political supremo, that sees the people of India as children always needing adult supervision in performing the simplest of tasks. The Nehrus never believed in lowering taxes, only in boosting them. Indeed, Pranab Mukherjee in his previous avatar in the job has the distinction — if such it can be called — of having raised income tax rates to a level above 95% on the marginal rate, thereby creating the boom in black money that has been the delight of the overseas banking system.
Chidambaram is the initiator of the present collapse of the Indian economy, although the blame has largely been laid at the door of Pranab Mukherjee. He has joined hands with Kapil Sibal to create an interlocking web of new regulations that have brought growth rates in India down, down and downer. 
Sonia Gandhi wants government to be all-powerful, the way it was in the good old days when the British were here in droves, and not entirely as tourists. Palaniappan Chidambaram has sought to make her dream a reality, by joining hands with other acolytes of Sonia such as Kapil Sibal to create an interlocking web of new regulations that has, in tandem with the follies of the RBI, brought growth rates in India down, down and downer. All the while, Manmohan Singh smiles beatifically and talks not of the crashing economy but of his obsession, Indo-Pak relation. By 2014, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, working under the political direction of his benefactress Sonia Gandhi, would have reduced growth in India to below the 2.5% Nehru rate of growth. Perhaps another economist is needed to christen a growth rate of 1% as the Sonia Rate of Growth.
When Chidambaram was Minister of Finance, he made the Income-Tax Department release advertisements extolling the benefits that their taxes were bringing them. This columnist comes across these "benefits" each day in Gurgaon. Roads that destroy spinal discs and bring peals of happy laughter to automobile workshops.
Power that goes off more often than it comes on, thereby enabling the sweating that is so essential to keeping blood pressure down. A corrupt police that presides over territory where mafia dons rule. Sanitation and water supply that rivals conditions in Rwanda. No social security. All this in exchange for a huge tax load, both direct and indirect, not to count service taxes. Thank you for what, Mr Chidambaram?