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Greater accountability for the steel frame

Tuktuk Ghosh

Since the run up to the General Elections in 2014 there has been a huge buzz about minimum government and maximum governance. This claim has surfaced every now and then, often to reinforce the point about how differently the NDA government goes about the business of governance.

Among the stand-out differences can be put down the Prime Ministers direct and regular interactions with the steel frame, especially the top echelons. They began with informal get-togethers of all Secretaries to Government of India in November 2014 and April 2015 which went down well primarily because of the strong message of confidence communicated in their abilities-quotient and also the novelty factor.

These were interspersed with a series of one-on-one presentations by Secretaries to the PM on the highlights of policies and achievements of their ministries.

Almost as a logical accompanying step, PRAGATI was structured to deepen the interface between the Prime Minister, Secretaries and Chief Secretaries of States. PRAGATI is the ICT-based multimodal platform for pro-active governance and timely implementation. It facilitates close and intense concurrent evaluation of flagship programmes, mega-infrastructure projects and addresses important developmental issues. To date, some seven of these exercises have been held.

Obviously they have had a positive impact, both in terms of gearing up and preparing for scrutiny by the highest political executive and also on the consequential sanctity of the decisions taken as well as commitments made, thereby ensuring they did not slip off the radar screen into familiar oblivion. Most interestingly, the concerned Ministers or ChiefMinisters did not participate either in the initial presentations to the PM or the PRAGATI reviews. Whatever may be the reasons for it, the apparent departure from protocol is eloquent. The onus of enhanced performance appears to rest squarely on the bureaucracy in the PMs perspective. This is based on the Gujarat- model he followed and is observed in several States across the country. To bring it up front on the Central stage is noteworthy.

The Prime Minister has been holding brain-storming sessions with all (repeat all - and not a select few) Secretaries on governance issues and development policy. Here, too, Ministers and other dignitaries are on a select invitee-list and often the Cabinet Minister handling the subject under discussion does not feature in the list. The undergirding rationale repeats the unmistakable signals of the PM crafting his individualised reach-out mechanisms to those who, in his estimation, are really behind the wheels. Such sessions are a mint new concept and can expect to yield dividends in terms of efficient and impactful delivery, by engaging proactively and on a positive note with the vast in-house talent and knowledge resource available, which is often rather churlishly disregarded. It has the possibility of taking accountability to hitherto unexplored levels.

Eight Groups of Secretaries have been set up for focussed attention in specified sectors.

These have a broad sweep and relate to the following:

Good governance - challenges and opportunities

Employment generation strategies

Farmer-centric initiatives in agriculture and allied sectors

Education and healthuniversal access and quality

Innovative budgeting and effective implementation

Accelerated growth with inclusion and equity

Energy efficiency and conservation

Swachchh Bharat Ganga Rejuvenation.

Beginning 12 January, the Groups have been making presentations to the PM. The format for the presentations has been drawn up in such a manner that it focuses on actionable points and implementation-related aspects. Each of these Groups has members from different ministries. They have had to meet almoston a daily basis and coalesce their recommendations so that they ring authentic and convincing. By all accounts, they have done a great job.

For there to have been significant harmony and co-ordination amongst the Group members unravels many interesting prospects for collaborative and more coordinated functioning in the silo-encrusted legacy set-up that we are chained to. The details of the presentations are not in the public domain as yet. Hopefully, the Secretaries will be empowered, through formal authorisations of Cabinet, to translate the accepted innovative ideas into ground level realities within a given time frame, especially their more complex cross-sectoral aspects .

So far, so good. But as the sceptics would be quick to point out in jaded despair, there has been an overdose of diagnostics, analytics and road maps but theyve predictably languished in labyrinthine black holes after the initial hype and hoopla. And, more importantly, can this be among the most sustainable models of new-style governance and accountability, blessed by the PM, for energising the sarkari behemoth?

This is the great challenge for not only the PM but his entire team in the bureaucracy. It is ultimately about redefining the governance-experiencefor the ordinary citizen, which is actually being critiqued in real time now and will not wait for a distant election as in the good old comfortable - or our netas and netris, of course - days!

The writer is a retired IAS officer.


Supreme Court stays action against Kerala IAS officer for praising Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed proceedings, initiated by the UDF government in Kerala, against an IAS officer for praising Narendra Modi in 2013 in a newspaper article and has asked the state government to explain why it initiated proceeded against the officer on this count.

The IAS officer, Dr B Ashok, had in his article defended a proposed trip by the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to the Sivagiri Mutt at Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram district to inaugurate a spiritual cultural conclave.

The state government had opposed the mutt's invitation to Modi on the ground that he had failed to stop the 2002 Gujarat riots as chief minister. Rahul Gandhi had declined the mutt's invitation.

The IAS officer had written: "It is true that the Gujarat government might not have been effective in preventing the killings (in 2002) but such genocidal riots had followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi." He had also flayed the Congress vicepresident Rahul Gandhi for turning down the invite.

The UDF government had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. He was then ViceChancellor of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. Though he had approached the High Court that had refused to restrain the government from holding the inquiry against him.

The state government sacked him as vicechancellor for alleged violation of service rules, but the Kerala High Court reinstated him. In August 2015, the High Court upheld the disciplinary proceedings initiated against him. On Tuesday, however, a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar, issued notice on his petition challenging the High Court order, and stayed the disciplinary proceedings against him.

In his appeal before the top court, argued by senior advocate KV Vishwanathan and advocate Vivek Chib, the IAS officer argued that he had not violated any service rules as the vicechancellor of the university or any other civil service rules. He urged the top court to quash the proceedings against him.

The bureaucrat had written an article titled 'What if Modi comes to Sivagiri', on April 24, 2013, in the Kerala Kaumudi daily. This article had prompted the UDF government to censure him and also issue a chargesheet against him on the ground that it amounted to conduct unbecoming of an IAS officer. Stay on top of business news with The Economic Times App. Download it Now!


12 junior staff removed from PMO

NEW DELHI: 12 junior level personnel have been removed from the Prime Minister's Office and posted to various central government ministries.

Of them, three have been sent to Defence Ministry, two each to Agriculture and Cooperation, and Information and Broadcasting departments, and one each to Commerce, Food and Public Distribution, Higher Education, Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Road Transport and Highways, an order issued today by Department of Personnel and Training ( DoPT) said.

The order did not cite any reason behind relieving the employees of Assistant Section Officers grade from the PMO.

Meanwhile, 16 new employees have been appointed to the PMO.

The services of these employees, who were working as Senior Secretariat Assistants in various ministries, have been transferred to Home Ministry. They all will further be posted to the PMO, it said.


HINDU, JAN 19, 2016

A tale of two economists

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian publicly differed with RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and took a bet on accelerating growth. He is clearly losing

Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian started 2015 on an over-optimistic note. He is likely to have ended it in disappointment. The economy is slowing down: in the first six months of the financial year, real GDP grew 7.2 per cent, slower than the 7.5 per cent in the corresponding earlier-year period. In 2016-17 too, GDP growth will not be significantly greater unless some specific steps are taken, the CEA has said. Thankfully, there are few takers in the government for the main measure he is suggesting: a further pause on fiscal deficit reduction.

About a year ago, barely months into his job in the Finance Ministry, Dr. Subramanian projected a sharp recovery with growth of up to 8.1-8.5 per cent. He forecast the acceleration even though he did not expect any big-bang reforms (on this count, his forecast was correct). In his scheme of things, the spurt in growth would come from incremental policy pushes, such as to subsidy reforms, direct benefit transfers, and financial inclusion of the poor.

The brave outlook underestimated the weakness in the exports sector. It relied on the Rs. 70,000 crore of public investment that was earmarked in the years budget as suggested by him for building infrastructure to stimulate private investments. The stimulus he had designed was implemented. It proved insufficient to generate the growth impulses needed to kick-start the over $2 trillion economy and rekindle animal spirits gone numb in the dying years of the United Progressive Alliances 10-year stint due to policy paralysis and corruption scandals.

As things stand, it seems unlikely that industrial growth will cross 5 per cent. Growth in lending by banks to industry, a proxy for investment sentiment, hasnt budged from a 20-year low. Corporate balance sheets are burdened with mountains of debt. The worst exports performance since 1952-53 is inevitable.

A government not shy of its business-friendly credentials should have picked up these stress signals early on and administered the remedies, but its mandarins were too excited: international agencies had declared that 2015 was going to be the year in which India would race past China (the Chinese economy is about five times as large as Indias) to be the fastest growing economy in the world.

It was. But that this had probably more to do with China slowing down rather than India picking up, and the stark difference in size made the comparison between the two economies irrelevant. But the cheerleaders among bureaucrats and ministers couldnt be bothered with technical minutiae all that mattered was that India is a bright spot in a gloomy global economy.

Why is growth slowing?

In the boom years during the UPA governments tenure, four engines had powered the economy. Of those, just two are still running: government investments and private consumption. Exports and private investments, the other two, are out of steam. The UPA years saw an investment boom, which was bound to turn sooner or later, and has.

Lower borrowing costs could restart the investments cycle but the hands of the Reserve Bank of India Governor, Raghuram Rajan, are tied. An agreement that the government and the RBI signed a year ago has made controlling inflation the main objective of monetary policy. The agreement formalised a policy goal that the central bank has always pursued anyway, except that it set the targets in terms of consumer price inflation. Moreover, government-owned public sector banks have been slow to pass on to borrowers the rate reductions that Dr. Rajan has announced. Banks are a cartel and keep interest rates high because higher interest rates mean bigger profits.

Dr. Rajan is well on course to bring inflation within the 6 per cent target that the government set around the same time the CEA made his cheery growth forecast. In fact, the rock star Governor, with whom the CEA has worked closely earlier in the International Monetary Fund, has had an excellent year. India was still one of the fragile five economies when the year began. Yet, it is the only one to have come out of the phase of heightened currency volatility and current account deficit instability that characterised the group. Besides, the purse-string managers of the governments budget in North Block, who havent yet let its fiscal deficit slip, Dr. Rajan too deserves credit for restoring Indias macroeconomic stability, which the government hasnt quite leveraged to push growth, just as it has been caught sitting on its hands despite the favourable global trends in oil and commodity prices.

On growth, Dr. Rajan has been spot on. By the end of the summer, he had cut the Reserve Banks GDP growth projection for the year not once but twice. In July, even as Dr. Subramanian was sticking to 8.1-8.5 per cent, Dr. Rajans call was 7.4 per cent.

The overconfidence in Delhi lasted till the last day of November, when new official data released, revealed a slowdown instead of the promised smart recovery. Within hours, the government cut its growth projection to 7.5 per cent.

In the following weeks, the CEA did a few mea culpas on earlier positions, raised fresh concerns about the state of the economy and declared the official data puzzling and unusually difficult to interpret. And he called for reassessing the governments commitment to fiscal deficit reduction.

Environment for lower interest rates

Abandoning the committed path for fiscal rectitude now will put macroeconomic stability at risk. It might end up hurting growth rather than supporting it with the government and the RBI working at cross purposes. How? To fund a wider deficit, the government will have to borrow more, which could push up interest rates and crowd out private borrowers.

Inflation might have been tamed but the Reserve Banks key interest rate, despite cuts adding up to 125 basis points in 12 months, is still high for a revival in investments and growth. Although higher public investments are desirable, the government needs to do all it can to create the environment for lower interest rates, not higher.

Public investments can be increased without deferring deficit reduction, though. There is a perceptible improvement in the quality of government spending with a shift towards capital expenditure. This can be built upon. Savings from efficiency in spending remain an underrated resource. The government ought to cross the political hurdles for strategic disinvestment. If the governments fiscal consolidation would distract from the demand in the economy, much of its spending will also add to it. Government employees salaries and pensions are set to rise as the Seventh Pay Commission award is accepted and disbursed. The hikes are bound to result in a surge in demand for goods and services. So are other transfers from the government.

The growth and the outlook wont seem as lacklustre if Dr. Subramanian had corrected his forecast earlier, as Dr. Rajan had. He publicly differed with Dr. Rajan and took a bet on accelerating growth, and it looks as if he is going to lose the bet.


Hollande declares economic emergency:French President unveils a euro 2-billion plan to revive hiring and catch up with a fast-moving world economy

Paris attacks: Hollande wants 3-month state of emergency, say sourcesFrench President Hollande to visit China next weekFrance plans constitution change to extend state of emergencyBarack Obama to host French President Hollande at White HouseUrge Germany to do more in IS fight: Francois Hollande

FrenchPresidentFrancois Hollandeon Monday pledged to redefine France's business model and declared what he called "a state of economic and social emergency," unveiling a euro 2-billion ($2.2 billion) plan to revive hiring and catch up with a fast-moving world economy.

The measures he proposed, however, are relatively modest, and he said they would not "put into question" the 35-hour workweek. With his country under a state of emergency since extremist attacks in November, Hollande did not seek to assume any new emergency powers over the economy. In an annual speech to business leaders, Hollande laid out plans for training half a million jobless workers, greater use of apprenticeships, and aid for companies that hire young workers.

Hollande's Socialist government has struggled to boost long-stagnant French growth or reduce chronic unemployment, which has been around 10 per cent for years. His chances of winning a potential second term may hinge on whether jobs pick up before next year's presidential vote.

Hollande stressed the urgency of updating France's labour-friendly business model in an increasingly border-free, online economy. The measures included a loosening of France's rigid working time rules, and a bonus of 2,000 euros to small businesses that hire young people.

He stressed the need to integrate youth from France's troubled suburbs, including minorities who face job discrimination, into the global economy. High unemployment in France's North African and African communities is seen as one of the factors driving some youths to violent extremism or the drug trade.

Some measures will be included in draft economic reform laws the government is presenting to parliament in the coming weeks.



Govt sets up panel for yoga education inuniversities

The decision to start a yoga department in all universities was taken at a consultative meeting of vice-chancellors, which was chaired by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, on January 2.

Paving the way for yoga in mainstream education, the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has set up a committee for setting up of Departments of Yogic Art and Science in universities across the country.

The panel has been asked to identify courses in Yogic Art and Science that can be offered, develop curriculum for the identified courses, define eligibility criteria for students studying yoga in higher education, prescribe qualifications for yoga faculty and determine modalities for faculty training, among other things.

The decision to start a yoga department in all universities was taken at a consultative meeting of vice-chancellors, which was chaired by HRD MinisterSmriti Irani, on January 2.

The committee was notified on January 15. It has been asked to submit its report within 45 days.

The 12-member committee will be headed by Prime MinisterNarendra Modis yoga teacher, Professor H R Nagendra.

Ishwar Bharadwaj, head of the Department of Yogic Sciences at the Gurukul Kangri University in Haridwar, Professor Neel Kamal from Baba Ramdevs Patanjali University in Haridwar and Rupen Bhowmick, working president of the Indian Yoga Federation in Agartala, are among the committees 12 members.

TRIBUNE, JAN 20, 2016


Universities can govern themselves: JNU ViceChancellorSopory was speaking at a press interaction at JNU a week before his retirement on January 27.

Written by Aranya Shankar

Referring to the recent trend of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in sending circulars to universities, asking them to celebrate various days such as Good Governance Day and Yoga Day, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor S K Sopory said it wasnt possible to follow all the directives and that universities were capable of governing themselves.

Sopory was speaking at a press interaction at JNU a week before his retirement on January 27. We do take some suggestions and celebrate some of these occasions which we think are good But it is not possible to follow all of them, he said.

While listing several achievements during his tenure including the NAAC accredition, creating a barrier-free campus and revamping the sexual harassment policy, Sopory confessed that his biggest failure was not to be able to construct more hostels.

We had funds for the past two years. But I havent been able to get permission to begin construction for over 20 months now, despite all the support from the Lieutenant Governor, Delhi Development Authority etc, the plan has got stuck with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, he said.

Initially, we had requested (permission) for cutting of trees but they (officials) kept saying it comes under the Ridge area. We were told to go to Ridge Management Board, which comes under the chief secretary. The board held a meeting two months ago during which the proposal was cleared but the university hasnt got any communication in this regard, he said, adding that he never thought the government will take so much time to decide.

Speaking about the recent controversy on JNU reporting the highest number of sexual harassment cases, Sopory said it only happened because students were given a platform to complain. Here, the GSCASH never says go someplace else. They always encourage filing of such cases, he said.

Counting the resumption of the JNU student union (JNUSU) elections in 2012 as one of his achievements, Sopory said he was happy to give students a healthy platform to raise their voice. Speaking toThe Indian Express, Sopory also acknowledged a change in the JNUSU composition over the last few years.

Now there is a member from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad also in JNUSU which wasnt there before. But coalition politics is good as far as students interest comes first. I only see them as JNUSU office bearers, not as individual party members, he said.

Sopory took over as the 11th vice-chancellor of JNU in January 2011. An eminent plant molecular biologist, Sopory began his academic career in 1973 as a faculty at the School of Life Sciences, JNU. As an academician I learnt research, as a vice-chancellor I learnt to work beyond my domain. Administration is a very different task but I enjoyed every bit of it, he said.

TRIBUNE, JAN 20, 2016

NationHC: Schools cant hike fee arbitrarily

The Delhi High Court today ruled that private schools had no right to commercialise education by arbitrarily hiking tuition fee, and that the government could intervene to regulate the fee structure in these schools.

Both the Director of Education (DoE) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which allotted land at concessional rates, could restrain unaided schools from charging excessive fees from students, a Bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath held in a judgment in a PIL case.

The schools cannot indulge in profiteering and commercialisation of education. The quantum of fees to be charged by unaided schools is subject to regulation by the DoE, the HC ruled.


Occupy UGC protest highlights the demerits in the merit system

Twinkle Siwach


Post-liberalisation, the nature of education and the scale of universities in India have undergone a major transformation. It was a time when global players were commoditising education and beginning to interfere in the principle of access to education as a fundamental right for the citizens. On the one hand, the quality of education being offered in governmental institutions was declining, and on the other hand, there was a rise in the number of private higher education institutions in India. The government believed that the move would help in providing education to more people, enhance their knowledge base, equity, development, etc. But it had failed to realise that the hiked entrance fees would bar many students from entering these institutions. Now, there are fewer state or central universities offering quality education, promoting research and research scholars with a subsidised amount of entrance/annual fees.

A student pursuing an MPhil or a PhD reaches an age where he/she doesnt want to be dependent on their family for funds. In the case of students belonging to economically backward communities, it becomes even more difficult to pursue education if there is no viable subsistence. This is particularly true in the case of women. In such a situation, it becomes the duty of the government to provide them assistance by educating them and giving them equal employment opportunities and wages.

In research universities, students are not merely consumers, they are doing value addition to the existing knowledge pool of society and deserve to get assistance from the government to pursue their research interests and produce relevant output. Research scholars are demanding a rise in the current scholarship fund from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 a month for MPhil students and from Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 a month for PhD students as they too have to come to terms with the rising prices of essential commodities and for many these scholarships are the only means of livelihood. Here, one needs to realise why one should opt for higher education. Is it possible to survive on ones own when the government decides to scrap the existing fellowships and later make them available for only those who fall under a specific merit or economic criterion? The other question is: How to define this economic and merit criterion for a student who has already cracked the entrance exam. The merit criterion is, in fact, narrowing the scope of fellowships to exclude many to opt for higher education.

Universities are meant to be socially inclusive. But the criterion is dividing the students by increasing the spirit of competition and decreasing their friendly exchanges. And we are left as computerised robots and not thinking individuals.

The Occupy UGC protest is a fight to save higher education in the country. In times of a global ideological and financial crisis, education seems to be the easiest target for cutting funds. Instead, it should be priority for any government and must get the highest budgetary allocation. Our education system is at stake. People who can afford go to foreign universities and those who do not have the time or money can decide between petty jobs and poor education.

Twinkle Siwach is a PhD scholar, Media Studies, JNU.The views expressed are personal.


Saffronisation? Raje scraps Cong textbooks, spends Rs 37 cr on new onesRakesh Goswami

The Rajasthan government is spending around Rs 37 crore on printing new textbooks for classes 1 to 8 as part of its larger plan to include historical figures such as Maharaja Surajmal, Hemu Kalani and Govind Guru, glorify warrior-kings such as Maharana Pratap, and question the greatness of invaders such as Mughal emperor Akbar in its social sciences content.

From academic session 201617, all 36 books being taught in the primary and upper-primary classes will be based on a new agenda that critics have described as saffronisation.

Rajasthans school syllabus was changed only two years ago, during the Congress governments regime. In 2012-13, new textbooks were introduced for all subjects pertaining to classes 1, 3 and 5, and modified social sciences textbooks were prescribed for students of classes 6 and 7. Later, in 2013-14, new textbooks were introduced for all subjects in classes 2 and 4, and a new social sciences textbook was brought in for class 8. All that has now been scrapped, with the Rajasthan State Textbook Board (RSTB) auctioning off the books.

Textbooks up to 2012-13, which are now obsolete, have been auctioned to clear our warehouses. We are printing 5.66 crore new textbooks for classes 1 to 8, and need space to store them, said RSTB secretary Deepti Kachhawaha. The board will also print 1.23 crore textbooks for classes 9 and 11 in accordance with the new syllabus.

Rajasthan (primary and secondary) education minister Vasudev Devnani had courted controversy earlier over his plans to introduce Surya Namaskar and Saraswati Vandana in government schools.

Unfazed by the criticism over the new textbooks, Devnani had told HT in an earlier interview that he was merely correcting distorted history and promoting Indian culture and values among students.

There is no saffronisation. Education should be above politics or religion. Some people with vested interests are politicising the issue, he had said.

However, educationists have termed the decision as the Hinduisation of education.

It is in the nature of right-wing forces to attack the education system when they come to power. This time, the nature of change is different because they are in power at the Centre too. They have come out openly against the idea of composite culture and secularity, said Dr Rajiv Gupta, former head of Sociology, University of Rajasthan.


SC asks Sanskriti to open 60% quota to all transferable bureaucrats (for now)

New Delhi, Jan 21 (PTI):The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Sanskriti School here to admit wards of all central government employees with transferable jobs within the existing 60 per cent quota for children of top top bureaucrats.

A bench of Justices A.R. Dave, C. Nagappan and A.K. Goel also stayed the implementation of a Delhi High Court order quashing the quota, meant for children of Group-A officers.

Sanskriti, set up for kids of top central government bureaucrats with transferable jobs, reserves 60 per cent of the seats for children of Group-A officers, 25 per cent for those from economically weaker sections, 10 per cent for wards of rest of the society and 5 per cent for its own staff.

The bench clarified that, for now, it was not taking into consideration the Delhi government notification quashing the management quota in all schools in the national capital.

The court admitted the appeals filed by Sanskriti School and the Union government against a Delhi High Court judgment.

The bench also took note of the submission that Sanskriti School and the Centre should come out with a scheme to categorise seats when the appeals would be taken up for hearing on April 6.

The Centre and school administration have assailed the high court's decision to eliminate the 60 per cent quota for wards of group-A officials, the highest class of government servants.

They have also sought an interim order allowing the institution to continue with the admission process under the old scheme till the matter is finally decided.

Now the court will decide as to whether the society running the school can be held as state or its instrumentality under the Constitution and hence, amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the apex court and the high court.

HINDU, JAN 23, 2016

By UGC norms, expulsion is discrimination

Four years ago, the University Grants Commission (UGC) officially acknowledged what was always known: discrimination along caste lines was a fact of college life. And the admission made its way to the UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012, drafted at an emergency meeting of officials called after the suicide of a medical student in the capital and a research student who was denied a guide.

The expulsion of students belonging to the Ambedkar Students Association by the Executive Council of the University of Hyderabad, leading to the suicide of Rohith Vemula, would have qualified as discrimination under the regulations notified on January 19, 2013. But they remained only on paper, leading many activists and intellectuals to believe that they should have been made into a law.

The notification deals with specific acts of discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion, language, ethnicity, gender, and disability. It defines harassment as unwanted conduct which is persistent and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile and intimidating environment or is calculated to induce submission through actual or threatened adverse consequences.

Interestingly, the memorandum submitted by the striking students, is framed in the context of discrimination along caste lines and states as subject matter: Expulsion of five Scheduled Caste Ph.D. research scholars from their hostel room on flimsy, concocted allegations made by a disgruntled non-SC/ST student.

At variance was Union HRD Minister Smriti Iranis statement at a press conference that repeatedly sought to downplay the caste angle in the death of Rohith Vemula.


Presidents office wades into V-C appointments in DU, JNU

Srinand Jha


The NDA government appeared headed for another round of bitter confrontation with the academia, this time over the appointment of vice-chancellors in two of the countrys most prestigious institutions Delhi University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The development comes in the wake of the resignation of nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar from the board of governors of IIT Bombay and the subsequent decision of Raghunath K Shevgaonkar to quit as the director of IIT Delhi.

Through representations routed through leaders of Opposition parties, faculty members of the two universities have sought President Pranab Mukherjees intervention into serious violation of statutory norms and interference by the human resources development ministry in the selection process.

Responding to one such representation sent by Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi, the Presidents officer on special duty (OSD) Suresh Yadav informed in a letter dated January 11 that the complaint has been forwarded to the HRD ministry for appropriate attention.

The NDA government has been systematically working at destroying academic institutions with aims of imposing a communal agenda, Tyagi alleged. Crying foul over the insertion of a fresh pre-qualification clause requiring applicants to have at least 10 years experience as professor, the teaching staff of the two universities are asserting that this was in contravention of the statutes laid down for the two universities by an act of Parliament.

Faculty members are also protesting the ministrys directive to the universities to place advertisements defining the format of the selection process.

Identical advertisements for the two posts were published in a Delhi newspaper on August 5 and August 15.

So far, it had been the search committees prerogative to conceive and follow a particular mode of selection. By setting out a defined format and inserting pre-conditions violative of the statute of the two universities, the ministry is attempting to tinker with procedures, possibly in pursuance of ulterior motives, one DU professor alleged.\

HT sent out a questionnaire to the HRD ministry on the issue, but no response was received till late Friday night.

In a separate memorandum to the office of the President, leaders of womens organisations and concerned citizens have also strongly objected to a particular candidate whose name has featured in the list of names forwarded by the search panel for the top job in Delhi University. The particular candidate has been accused in a case of sexual harassment.

A candidate with such a black mark should not have been considered at all for the top job, JNU professor Nivedita Menon said.



PM reveals 100 secret files on Netaji

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday released digital copies of the first set of 100 files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary here.

Modi arrived at the National Archives of India and met the family members of Bose. He then went on to release the files.

Earlier in the day, Modi paid tributes to Netaji and posted his 1944 proclamation on Twitter wherein Bose asked fellow countrymen to fulfil their 'duty' to liberate India.

"Remembering Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. His bravery and patriotism endears him to several Indians across generations," Modi had tweeted.

The initiative is an attempt to clear the air over Netajis mysterious disappearance as well as giving access scholars to carry out further research on Bose.

Modi had assured the family members of Bose in October, 2015 that his government would declassify files related to the national hero and make them available in public domain.


Netaji and the Mahatma - I

Arunabha Bagchi

January 23 is the most memorable day for all Bengalis. It is, of course, the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The day is particularly important this year, as our Prime Minister has promised to start declassifying the files relating to Netaji that our government has still not released 70 years after his presumed death in a plane crash in Taipei. There are doubts about the conditions of the most sensitive files, with many observers believing that they must have been damaged by moth, or by bureaucrats. Both UPA and NDA governments refused to declassify the files, despite repeated RTI applications made by concerned citizens. The latest refusal by the Modi government in November 2014 came up with the same outrageously lame excuse iterated many times before: Disclosure of the documents contained in these files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. Will we never be an independent country? Imagine the Chinese government issuing a similar statement to the Chinese people.

After Independence, the role of Netaji in our freedom movement has been increasingly downplayed by the Congress Party and the official historians to the point that Netaji was reduced to a footnote in our history textbooks for high school students by the time I left India in 1969. Then, in 1974, right after I came to Europe, I had a surprise encounter with an Englishman as we waited for the boat in the Hoek van Holland to go to England. On learning that I was from Calcutta, he startled me by starting a conversation in reasonable Bengali. As it turned out, he was an engineer at the Gun Shell Factory in Cossipore in the 1940s and had once lived in Saheb Bagan next to Chiriamore. He told me that had Netaji been born in his country, his countrymen would put up a Column for him next to Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square. This comment has been resonating with me ever since. If this Englishman were alive today, he would mention with a wry smile that his countrymen have put up a statue of the Mahatma near their Parliament instead.

The Mahatma and Netaji were, without doubt, the greatest freedom-fighters in their respective generations. That Netaji has virtually faded from our history books is attributed to Nehrus anxiety that the truth about Netaji might diminish his own unassailable position in India. But other leaders of the Congress were relieved as well. They must have been alarmed at Netajis audacity to contradict the Mahatma when their opinions differed. This was bound to create a bad precedent for them. It could not be tolerated in a country where leaders want to rule from their graves. This has led to the kind of dynastic politics we are witnessing all over India today, with the BJP and the CPI-M being the refreshing exceptions. Even Bengal has fallen prey to this destructive virus. An honest assessment of the differences of opinion between Netaji and the Mahatma is imperative for the future of our country. As our Prime Minister so aptly put it, There is no need to strangle history. Nations that forget their history lack the power to create it.

Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa in 1914 and got involved in the freedom struggle by joining the Indian National Congress. He first fought for delegation of certain powers to Indians by constitutional means, just as most others in the party. But everything changed with the massacre at Jallianwalla Bagh in April 1919, and the subsequent reaction of the colonial government to that unspeakable atrocity, and made a rebel of the once loyal Mahatma. By the end of 1920, Gandhiji took over the mantle of the Congress at the Nagpur session, where a policy of progressive non-violent non-cooperation with the triple boycott of legislature, law courts and educational institutions was adopted. This was followed eventually by the non-payment of taxes. The Congress even declared its goal as Swaraj that the Mahatma interpreted as Self-Government within the Empire if possible - and outside, if necessary. Gandhiji even promised Indians Swaraj before the end of 1921.

Netaji passed the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination in 1920 and resigned from his post in May 1921, while still in England, to devote all attention to the freedom of his country. On arriving by ship in Bombay, he went straight to meet the Mahatma who was staying there at that time. He wanted a clarification from the Mahatma on three points. Here are Netajis own words, Firstly, how were the activities conducted by the Congress going to culminate in the last stage of the campaign, namely, the non-payment of taxes? Secondly, how could mere non-payment of taxes or civil disobedience force the Government to retire from the field and leave us with our freedom? Thirdly, how could the Mahatma promise Swaraj (that is, Home Rule) within one year, as he had been doing ever since the Nagpur Congress? He was satisfied with the Mahatmas answer to the first question, but remained unconvinced with the reply to the other two. Although disappointed with the replies of his leader, Netaji went to Kolkata and vigorously participated in the non-cooperation movement under the Congress leader in Bengal, Deshbandhu CR Das.

As Netaji suspected, the year 1921 ended with no Swaraj in sight. Then on February 1, 1922, Gandhiji sent an ultimatum to the Viceroy, Lord Reading, declaring that if the Government did not promise to grant Swaraj in the next seven days, he would be obliged to start a movement for non-payment of taxes in the Bardoli subdivision of Gujarat. This electrified the nation and similar measures were being prepared all over India. Then in an entirely unrelated event, the police station of an unknown village, Chaura Chauri, was attacked by disgruntled villagers killing some policemen. When the news reached Bardoli, Gandhiji summoned the Congress Working Committee there and the committee, at his insistence, ordered the civil disobedience movement to be stopped throughout the country. The anti-climax led to a dramatic lack of confidence in the leadership and it took eight years before another serious movement for freedom could be launched in India.

Low-key efforts for obtaining Swaraj continued throughout the decade. The only significant development for us was the imprisonment of Netaji without trial in 1925 in Mandalay in Burma. The prisoners there were put in cages, like animals in zoos, exposed to the elements throughout the year. The other prominent leader ever sent there by the British was Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He died soon after his release. Netajis condition also deteriorated dramatically in the Burmese prisons. He was released in 1927 at the intervention of top government appointed doctors, B. C. Roy among them. The British instinctively realised who their most formidable enemies were, and concentrated on neutralizing them.

(To be concluded)


Netaji and the Mahatma-II

Arunabha Bagchi

|23 January, 2016

After his release from prison, Netaji concentrated on raising the consciousness of workers, peasants and students. He soon became hugely popular, particularly among the youth of the country who became increasingly restless with hardly any progress on the political front. This new generation of freedom-fighters was not satisfied with the Home Rule and demanded complete Independence from the British. This alarmed the party leaders, and before the Lahore Congress of the party, the Mahatma and Pandit Motilal Nehru met the Viceroy demanding immediate Dominion Status, a euphemism for Home Rule. Their demand was summarily rejected by the Viceroy and the Mahatma declared at the Lahore Congress that the goal of the party was, from then on, total Independence, or rather, Purna Swaraj.

Then in March 1930 the most dramatic movement for freedom was initiated by the Mahatma when he walked to Dandi from his Ashram and defied the British Salt Tax law by making salt from the water collected on the shore of the Arabian Sea. It set in motion a civil disobedience movement never seen anywhere in the world before, or since. The brutal attacks on non-violent protesters all over India got wide national and international publicity. The Government had to act and the Mahatma was arrested. Meanwhile, a bogus round table conference was taking place in London about a new Constitution for India, with kings of Princely States under British suzerainty, representatives of communal parties and religious leaders, with the exclusion of the Indian National Congress, the only legitimate peoples party fighting for the countrys independence.

The Government negotiated with the Mahatma to restart the Round Table Conference, this time including the Congress, with a vague promise of Dominion Status. Mahatma accepted the offer, stopped the civil disobedience movement at the height of its success, and went to London in September 1930.

What surprised Netaji was Gandhijis decision to be the sole delegate for the Congress, without the support of any serious advisors, in the middle of hundred-odd delegates claiming to represent all and sundry of the Indian people. The conference was a total failure for our cause of Independence and the Mahatma returned thoroughly dejected in December of that year.

This is how Netaji analysed the root cause of failure of the Round Table Conference-During his stay in England he (Gandhiji) had to play two roles in one person, the role of a political leader and that of a world teacher. Sometimes he conducted himself not as a political leader who came to negotiate with the enemy, but as a master who had come to preach a new faith-that of non-violence and world peace. Netaji knew well enough that the fringe Christian groups that surrounded the Mahatma in England had zero influence on the policy of the British Government. The civil disobedience movement was resumed in 1932, but this time the Government was well prepared and fatigue set in among the protesters. The campaign fizzled out after a while.

The story of Netaji being elected as the president of the Congress for the year 1938 and the opposition of the Mahatma to his re-election as the president in 1939 are well known. Netaji won his re-election by substantial majority despite this opposition. But there was an impasse with the selection of the Working Committee and finally he lost the no-confidence motion brought by the loyalists of the Mahatma. Netajis subsequent imprisonment (thirteenth in all), house arrest, his dramatic escape in the disguise of a ***kabuliwalah*** to Afghanistan in January 1941, then to Europe and finally to South-east Asia by a German submarine where he set up the Indian National Army (INA) are parts of the Netaji legend by now.

Netaji struggled for our Independence for twenty years as a loyal follower of the Mahatma. Gandhijis promise of Swaraj within one year did not come after eighteen years when the Great War broke out in Europe again. Netaji was not prepared to wait forever and decided to use the chaos of war to snatch India from the British yoke. An English patriot in these circumstances would do exactly the same. This explains the comment on Netaji by the Englishman I mentioned before.

As the Great War started, the British wanted an assurance from Indian leaders of their support in the war efforts just as it happened during the First World War. At first, the Congress was willing to cooperate. Then Gandhiji wanted an assurance of Independence after the War as the price for the support. No such assurance was forthcoming. Then there were some dramatic successes of the Japanese Army in South-east Asia. This forced the British Prime Minster to send a delegation led by Stafford Cripps to make a deal with the Mahatma. The delegation promised merely the Dominion Status and threatened to partition the country along religious lines. The Congress Working Committee rejected the proposal, and in his original draft resolution the Mahatma said, Britain is incapable of defending India .The Indian Army is a segregated body, unrepresentative of the India people, who can in no sense regard it as their own .Japans quarrel is not with India. She is warring against the British Empire. If India were freed, her first step would probably be to negotiate with Japan. The Congress is of the opinion that if the British withdrew from India, India would be able to defend herself in the event of the Japanese or any other aggressors attacking India. Then in May 1942 the Mahatma launched the Quit India movement. With virtually Marshall Law imposed on the country, that movement was also crushed.

Netaji unequivocally admitted that the Indian National Congress, under whose banner he fought for the Independence of his country most of his life, was the creation of the Mahatma. Gandhijis miraculous success in inspiring such vast number of ordinary people to fight for their country must be attributed to his single-hearted devotion, his relentless will and his indefatigable labour. Still, his three major campaigns through non-violent means to gain our Independence failed, although they progressively diminished the resolve of some British people to hold on to India. Netaji attributed the failure of the campaigns to yield direct results to two reasons. The first was lack of independent thinking and forthrightness of most of Gandhijis close followers. He thought that this was due to our habit of unconditional surrender to avatars and holy men. The second was that he (Gandhiji) has understood the character of his own people-he has not understood the character of his opponents. Netaji might very well have been wrong, but let his countrymen decide that.

All quotations in this article are from Netajis The Indian Struggle, Part I, a classic which, if completed, would rival Trotskys History of the Russian Revolution.




35% govt job quota for women

Patna, Jan. 19:The state cabinet today cleared the general administration department's proposal to grant 35 per cent reservation to women in all government jobs.

The decision is part of the seven promises that chief minister Nitish Kumar had made to the people before the Assembly elections.

From now on, 35 per cent of vacant posts in government will be filled up by women aspirants.

At present, 16 per cent reservation is for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, one per cent for the Scheduled Tribes, 18 per cent for extremely backward classes (EBC), 12 per cent for other backward classes (OBCs) and three per cent for women. The remaining 50 per cent is for the general category.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, principal secretary, cabinet coordination, Brajesh Mehrotra clarified that the existing quota of three per cent for women would remain. The 35 per cent quota will be for all other categories.

So for example, if the government advertises for 200 vacant posts and 50 per cent of that, i.e. 100, are in the general category, then 35 of these posts will be kept aside for women. The same formula will be applied for the other categories - SC, ST, EBC and OBC.

Nitish had earlier made a provision for reservation of 35 per cent for women in the recruitment of police constabulary in the state and 50 per cent in panchayats and local bodies, decisions that yielded rich dividends during the elections.

Principal secretary Mehrotra said that in the absence of eligible women candidates, the seats would be filled with male candidates in the respective reserved categories and that too during the same year of recruitment.

After winning the elections in November, Nitish has been working on fulfilling his promises made prior to the polls. He has already announced a ban on sale of country liquor from April 1.

In another important decision taken today, the cabinet passed the Right to Bihar Public Grievance Redressal Ordinance 2016, fixing accountability of public servants and making provisions for punishment for their failure to provide services within the specified time frame.

Though the Bihar Public Grievance Redressal Bill was passed in 2015 and was subsequently enforced in the state, it was lacking on several counts. Under the new rule, the public servants would have to explain the reason for the delay in rendering services to the aggrieved.

Mehrotra said there would be no fee levied on the services. Counters would be set up at different places across the state to collect applications from the people.

The officers earmarked for the job would review the complaints on a weekly basis and work out solutions.



Pulled to the Centre: - A blow against federalism

Prabhat Patnaik

The Narendra Modi government's decision to abolish the National Development Council is a further blow against the federal structure of our republic. True, the NDC did not have a constitutional status, and differed in this respect from the Inter-State Council, whose activation was often demanded by the Left, precisely because it was a constitutional body, for decidinginter aliaon the composition and terms of reference of finance commissions. But in practice the NDC had come to acquire the position of the supreme body on issues of planning and development in the country, a body where both the Centre and the states were represented.

Even though there was no voting at NDC meetings, and decisions were supposedly arrived at through "consensus", these meetings were by no means a rubber stamp for the Centre. On the contrary, in the early 1980s, when Centre-state relations were at the core of a nationwide debate, there were quite a few stormy meetings of the NDC, with Jyoti Basu and Ashok Mitra mobilizing the chief ministers of Opposition-ruled states against the Centre's encroachment on states' resources and powers. And even though much of this fire had got extinguished by the time I got a chance to attend NDC meetings as part of the Kerala delegation under the chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, I still found many forthright statements being made at these meetings by chief ministers, some of whom also belonged to the ruling party at the Centre.

Of course, the habit of rejecting even concerted demands of states had already surfaced under the Manmohan Singh government, which, for instance, had unilaterally raised the share of states in funding the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in spite of the unanimous plea against it at an NDC meeting by state governments, including Congress-led ones. But, the Modi government has now carried this process of centralization miles further: it has simply done away with the NDC altogether, which means that the state governments henceforth will have no say in development policymaking in the country, as no other body comparable to the NDC either exists or is being contemplated. Indeed, the very fact that the Central government decided unilaterally to scrap the NDC without so much as a "by your leave" to the state governments indicates the utterly subordinate status that states have come to occupy under the present dispensation.

It may be thought that the governing council of the Niti Aayog, which includes chief ministers, would emerge as a replacement for the NDC; but the two councils are altogether different for at least two reasons. First, the Niti Aayog itself is of little relevance, because, unlike its predecessor, the Planning Commission, it has no funds being channelled through it. And second, the NDC was never the "governing council" of the Planning Commission. It was a body on its own to which the Planning Commission presented its plans, and specific programmes like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, for final approval; but it was never concerned with the "governing" of the Planning Commission.

Discussions on the general strategies of development of the country can hardly figure with any degree of meaningfulness at a meeting of the "governing council" of a largely irrelevant body like the Niti Aayog. And if perchance some chief minister does happen to raise such issues, then his or her attempt would be promptly ruled out of court for not being part of the meeting's agenda. Thus no matter how the abolition of the NDC is "sold" to the country, it constitutes indubitably a negation of the role of the states in development policy-making.

This fact becomes particularly ominous in the context of several other developments that are taking place, which also restrict the rights of states. The first of these is the doing away of the Planning Commission, of which the abolition of the NDC is a sequel. The Planning Commission itself was a departmental body of the Central government, and the fact that funds to states were routed through it at all, rather than exclusively through the Finance Commission which was a constitutional body, had been a source of controversy. But even as a departmental body of the Central government, it had at least enjoyed a degree of autonomy. With its demise, the role of Central ministries which are completely devoid of any such autonomy will increase greatly in the devolution of funds from the Centre to the states, which means a further compulsion on state governments to don the role of mendicants.

The second development is areductionin the relative magnitude of the total transfers from the Centre to the states that has been occurring lately. This assertion may appear odd at first sight in view of the 14th Finance Commission's raising the share of the states in the divisible pool, and the Central government's coy acceptance of this recommendation. But while doing so, the Centre has so reduced the transfers through other channels that total transfers as a proportion to the gross domestic product are headed for a fall. They have, of course, been falling for some time, but this trend is being carried forward.

According to calculations made by Sona Mitra of the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, New Delhi, the total transfers from the Centre to the states as a proportion of GDP, which was 6.4 per cent in 2010-11, 6.1 per cent in 2011-12, 5.8 per cent in 2012-13, and 5.6 per cent in 2013-14, fell to 5.4 percent in 2014-15 (revised estimate) against a budget estimate of 6.1 percent for that year. In 2015-16, the budget estimate itself was scaled down to 5.8 percent. The actuals clearly are likely to be even lower than in any previous year.

The third development is the Centre's frenetic attempts to introduce a goods and services tax. All sorts of absurd claims are being made about the rise in GDP growth rate that would ensue if a GST is introduced; and it is a symptom of the intellectual regression in our national life that such claims are not meeting with the derision they deserve. The GST would completely do away with the freedom of the states to fix rates for the taxes that are constitutionally under their jurisdiction. To an extent this has already happened with the introduction of the value added tax, but with GST even the multiplicity of tax rates that VAT allows will not be there. There is much talk of a "revenue-neutral" GST rate (which is supposed to leave total tax revenues unchanged compared to what would have accrued otherwise), but nobody knows what this rate is, and how the total revenue will be distributed among states to ensure "revenue-neutrality" for individual states.

But even assuming that there is no revenue loss at present, and that all present state governments agree to a GST, it still entails a violation of the spirit of the Constitution,because it takes away the right of any future government at the state level (or at the Central level for that matter) to impose tax rates of its choice.The essence of a federal polity is that different parties and political formations should be able to come to power at different times in the different states and should be free to pursue policies, including tax policies, of their choice. (Indeed, the same holds for the Centre.) And the essence of democracy is that the people should have such a multiplicity of alternatives before them and be free to choose between them. Fixing a uniform tax rate violates this requirement. It is possible to argue that it violates the "basic structure" of the Constitution and hence should not be accepted, even if a constitutional amendment is enacted for introducing a GST by meticulously following all the appropriate procedures.

At any rate, since states are the resource-deprived constituents of our federal polity, a uniform GST entails an unfair encroachment on their powers. And the Central government's obsession with the GST betrays only its eagerness to make life easier for corporate capital through an attenuation of the constitutional rights of the states.

An abridgement of the federal structure of our polity is in conformity with the perception of theHindutvaforces, who are oblivious of the diversity of this country and whose vision of a Hindurashtrais that of a unitary State. It is also in conformity with the neo-liberal ideal where states and even lower-tier entities likepanchayatsare denied the resources to experiment with alternative development strategies, but enjoy unrestrained freedom to entice domestic corporate capital and multinational corporations for the pursuit of "development". A unitary State, in short, appeals to both, and the moves towards such a State merely express the common predilections of the corporate-communal alliance that currently rules at the Centre.

The author is Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Del


PIONEER, JAN 20, 2016


The union health ministry on Tuesday approved the setting up of two National Centres on Ageing to boost up geriatric care in the country.

The centres will come up at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and Madras Medical College in Chennai.

The centres will be set up under the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) during the 12th five year plan period, said an official statement.

Among the major works to be done by the centre would be health care delivery, training of health professionals, research activities, besides having a 200 bedded in-patient facility.



Interest rates on small savings schemes like PPF may be reset every quarter

By Deepshikha Sikarwar,

NEW DELHI: Interest rates on popular small savings schemes such as Public Provident Fund (PPF), National Savings Certificate (NSC) and the Kisan Vikas Patra could soon be reset every quarter as part of the government's plan to peg them closer to market rates to reduce market distortions and help the cause of lower interest rates.

The government will also reduce the mark-up over the benchmark government bond rate for such schemes of small maturities to nudge short term rates lower.

High interest rates on small savings schemes have long been cited as a structural barrier to interest rates coming down as they compete with bank deposits, but are not subject to the same kind of market pressures as them. Because they stay high, bank deposit rates are forced to remain high and therefore prevent lending rates from coming down.

A senior government official said the first reset under the new rules will happen from April 1 this year and rates are expected to fall. A notification will be issued soon, this official said, adding that interest rates on schemes for senior citizens and a scheme for girl children were not likely to be revised.

Small savings' interest rates are linked to yields on government bonds of comparable tenure, but unlike gilts that are traded daily and see yields change, these change only sparingly.. The last revision in rates on these schemes was on April 1last year. Since then, market rates have moved south following a 0.75 percentage point policy rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India, creating a wide wedge between what the banks can offer and what is available on small savings.

State Bank of India, for example, offers 7 per cent on deposits of maturity of five years or more. Deposits of such tenure fetch 8.5 per cent in a post office small savings account. The PPF rate for a similar maturity is 8.7 per cent. This wide gap between small savings' and market rates impacts deposit mobilisation by banks as their ability to reduce deposit rates is adversely impacted. This impacts banks' ability to lower lending rates as well. A quarterly reset of small savings rate will ensure that distortion in the rates caused by the small savings is kept to a minimum, officials said. The weighted average yield of dated government securitieswas 7.94 per cent in April-September 2015 compared with 8.81 per cent in the first half of the preceding year, potentially opening up the possibility of an up to one percentage point reduction in the small savings rate.

In their pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this month, banks and financial institutions had also suggested quarterly benchmarking of rates.



Diplomacy & militarism

Prasenjit Chowdhury

Bruce Riedel, who had worked in the National Security Council of the White House and had attended the Bill Clinton-Nawaz Sharif meeting in 1999 during the Kargil war, has said that the Pathankot attack was designed to prevent any detente between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modis surprise stopover in Lahore. He claimed that the outrage and the attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan were the handiwork of the Pakistani terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) which the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had created 15 years ago. The villain, judge and the jury are known to each other.

It might be banal to recall how within three months of the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayees visit to Lahore, the Kargil war broke out in the summer of 1999. But it bears recall that the Kargil misadventure was followed by the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight 814, scheduled to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi, on 24 December 1999. J.N. Dixit in his book, India-Pakistan in War and Peace chronicled how during the Kargil conflict, the Pakistani authorities had not only pushed 1,500 to 2,000 well-equipped terrorist mercenaries into Jammu and Kashmir, but had also despatched subversive elements to other parts of India through Nepal, Bangladesh and some of the South-east Asian countries. Kathmandu, Dhaka and Bangkok had become operational bases of the ISI to generate subversive activities against India, particularly in its north-eastern states, where links between the Pakistani agency and violent secessionist movements are affecting the security environment.

Dixits account of Masood Azhar after his release confirmed the extent to which Pakistan had supported the hijack as well as Azhars political and terrorist agenda. Azhar was welcomed with great fanfare in the presence of Pakistani authorities. He addressed a series of public meetings for six weeks after his arrival in Bahawalpur, justifying the hijacking as an act of jihad (holy war). He admitted that his organisations basic political objective was to capture Jammu and Kashmir by force. His vision to recruit an armed cadre of half a million people to continue the jihad against India was the gist of his statements in Northern Sindh and parts of Pakistani Punjab. Audio-cassettes of his speeches were circulated not only all over Pakistan, but in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and north-western Rajasthan as well. There is evidence of an ISI network in different parts of India; post-Pathankot it is fair to question if all of them have been neutralised.

Therefore, the recent flip-flop over the arrest of JeM chief Masood Azhar once again proved to be a dampener. Some commentators suggest that the army continues to distinguish between good terrorists like JeM and LeT and bad terrorists like the Pakistani Taliban, to whom any diminution in tensions with India might risk the armys stranglehold on Pakistans national security policy. Pakistan is ruled by four interest groups or their coalition Rs: military, bureaucracy, feudal lords and industrial barons.

It is a pity that India could not take advantage of the defeat it had inflicted on Pakistan in December 1971. The Simla agreement is rightly perceived as Indias colossal political failure because of its inability to obtain a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The agreement was a weak expression of the Nehruvian foreign policy establishment in that it let Zulfikar Ali Bhutto off the hook in the peace settlement that followed the 1971 war. Bhutto informally agreed to the LoC after the war, but stopped short of formalising it before consolidating his position at home. Years later, when Musharraf proposed a peace formula, New Delhi lost the opportunity to have the LoC recognised as an international border. The rest is history.

Even if a civilian government led by Nawaz Sharif wants peace with India, Delhi will have to engage with several centres of power in Pakistan. It was during the time of Sharif that the Pakistan army launched a full-scale war against India in Kargil apparently keeping the countrys Prime Minister in the dark. This proved that the army and the ISI could act fairly independently of the political establishment, even if it involved fatal military adventurism. Islamabad persisted in feigning innocence about the presence of the worlds most wanted man close to Pakistans military academy.

How can India deal simultaneously with a pro-Western and pro-jihad Pakistan when the neighbour is veering towards anti-Americanism and protection for Islamic terrorists? Or worse, how can Pakistan save itself from imploding under the weight of its own contradictions?

If Pakistan could get away by inflicting a 26/11 on us or mounting an attack on Parliament, we have thus far remained content with a few drummed-up and symbolic hangings and nothing really very substantial. Earlier too amid more brazen instances of Pakistan violating the LoC, powerful vested interests had scuttled the peace process. It appears that Indias security and defence measures in relation to its neighbours have often been meekly accommodative and defensive and at best, reactively adversarial. While India seems to be in awe of a fiercely militaristic and nationalist China, even the three wars between India and Pakistan did not result in shifting the power asymmetry decisively in our favour. According to the Subrahmanyam Committee that examined the Kargil debacle, since 1991 the Indian intelligence agencies had pointed out the implications of Pakistans growing nuclearisation for managing the situation in Kashmir. Somehow, in India this failed to become part of the nuclear debate.

The Indo-China war in 1962 crushed Nehrus reputation as well as that of India and its army. It revealed how a country with huge ambitions was not able to protect its own borders. Earlier in the years of American hostility towards India, the US arms-supply relationship with Pakistan and later, the Indo-China war had taught India the crucial importance of maintaining a balance between goals and capabilities.

The cycle of India-Pakistan relations has a certain banal predictability. But without change of perceptions on either side, without the readiness to make adjustments and shed dogmas particularly regarding Kashmir, all talks are bound to fizzle out. While India must learn to secure its borders against a potential Sino-Pak axis, she must also try to become a hardliner state through a combination of diplomacy and militarism.



Delhi Govt forms panel to audit civic bodies accounts, BJP calls movemotivatedThe deputy CM cited difficulties being faced by people due to strikes by municipal employees, nurses and teachers.

The Delhi government Thursday appointed a committee to audit the accounts of all three municipal corporations and submit its report within a week. A Anbarasu, Secretary Revenue-cum-Divisional Commissioner, will head the committee, said an order by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

The deputy CM cited difficulties being faced by people due to strikes by municipal employees, nurses and teachers. To review the financial position of the civic bodies and to take stock of the grants under plan and non-plan heads to be released it emerged that the Delhi government has, in fact, released almost all its dues to the three municipal corporations, stated Sisodias order.

TheBJPdescribed the audit as politically motivated to defame the image of the corporations. State BJP president Satish Upadhyay who has been standing committee chairperson in the South municipal corporation said the financial matters of the corporation are managed by the administrative wing of the corporation and regularly audited.

East Delhi mayor Harshdeep Malhotra termed the process political drama and said it was aimed at delaying payment of dues to the corporation.


PIONEER, JAN 19, 2016


Interesting and exciting games were organised at the third and final day of the IPS Service Meet at the State Capital on Monday even as prizes for the concerned were given away by DGP Surendra Sinh in the three-day event.

Various sports items like Shooting competition, dragon boat race, archery, dog show, horse riding competition, kite flying competition, speed boat ride, water scooter ride, zipline, rock climbing and rappelling were performed.

The shooting was held at the 25th Battalion firing range and in the competition DGP Surendra Sinh and other IPS officers participated.

During the shooting event when DGP Sinh tried to fire several times but the gun failed to fire and the gun was immediately replaced by the on-duty police personnel after which he was able to take part in the shooting competition. However, Sinh said that he is not used to do firing with pistols and is comfortable with revolver due to which he faced problems in firing.

Superintendent of Police of Sidhi Abid Khan won the shooting competition while DIG Chanchal Shekhar and IG Balaghat DC Sagar stood second in the competition. IG Gwalior Adarsh Katihar and SP Anuppur Chandershekhar Solanki came third in the competition. After the shooting competition Hawk Force demonstration of tackling terrorist activities and attack was done.

At the 25th Battalion children and women enjoyed archery and paint ball firing. Dog show was organised at the event. The participants enjoyed the horse riding.

After finishing the events the participants reached Kerwa Dam and enjoyed boating with the family and friends.

Dragon boat race was held and two teams were formed for the competition. The team headed by DG Lokayukata Ajay Sharma won the race while ADG Purshottam Sharmas team came second and ADG SL Thousens team claimed the third position. Team headed by Anvesh Mangalam came last in the competition.

Chandra Shekhar Solanki, Ashutosh Awasthi, Makrand Deuskar were in the team of Ajay Sharma. Mrs and Mr Santosh Singh and similarly, Mrs and Mr Shailendra Singh were in the team of Purshottam Sharma. Pawan Jain, K Baburao and Manish Shankar Sharma were in the team of SL Thousen and Aruna Mohan Roa, Alok Ranjan, Ravi Gupta and DC Sagar were in the team of Anvesh Mangalam. Joint Director of Public Relations department and Publicity officer of Madhya Pradesh police Pradeep Bhatia was awarded for handling the promotion of the event in better manner. In the prize distribution IG DC Sagar and IG Yogesh Choudhary were awarded along with their families. Pleased with organising the event properly Sinh provided ADG Pawan Jain with special prize.



A conservative turn- Excluding the poor

Mukul Kesavan

India's Constitution isn't perfect. No document drafted by committee can be. But itisa miracle. In the middle of the 20th century, against a backdrop of genocidal violence, the Constituent Assembly wrote the rules for liberal democracy on a continental scale. In the most unequal place on earth, the founders insisted that every adult had the right to vote and stand for election regardless of sex, education, status or wealth. In a stroke they made mass democracy the political norm, not a distant goal to be reached in baby steps.

They weren't magicians. India remained an ugly, hierarchical society riven by discrimination and prejudice. But at the level of political principle those prejudices were orphaned because the Constitution did not own them. It went further: it institutionalized affirmative action by reserving political, administrative and educational opportunities for Dalits and tribals, Independent India's most exploited and marginalized citizens. The Constitution was, in effect, a charter of political correctness, a blueprint for turning an old country into a new republic.

Political correctness is the term disgruntled conservatives use to snipe at civility and consideration in public discourse. The antithesis of political correctness is a conservative common sense that services thestatus quoby using arguments derived from tradition, culture and authenticity.

This could be your aunt sagely observing that it takes three generations of literacy for the 'low-born' to become fit for responsible white collar jobs. It could be a modern young professional barring the woman who cleans his lavatory from doing kitchen duties for reasons of hygiene. It could be a politician arguing that in a predominantly Hindu country it is reasonable to defer to Hindu sensibilities. It could be a sociologist claiming tribal people were best understood as primitive Hindus. Or it could be state legislatures passing laws to disqualify the uneducated, the indebted and the ill from contesting local elections because they were unfit to be leaders. All of these positions rationalize a conservative consensus where paternalism rules and the poor and marginal know their place.

It is a consensus that has never been hegemonic in republican politics, thanks to the radical inclusiveness of the Constitution. In a viciously unequal country like ours there aren't many institutions that nurture a sense of fellow-feeling that might bridge differences between the comfortable and the wretched, between people of one sort and people of another. Alone in the cultures of the world, India has no tradition of public places where strangers can eat and drink and talk. No cafs, no pubs, no coffee houses, no communal meeting places.

Which is why the great liberal moment when India's republicanism was forged was an exceptional time. The mass mobilizations led by the Congress, the inclusive rhetoric of an anti-colonial nationalism, created a sense of fellowship unprecedented in India's history. To be part of a great movement, to be jailed for your convictions, to know that men and women not like you had rallied to the same cause, was to be socialized into that great republican virtue, fraternity, before the republic was formally inaugurated. It wasn't broad enough, this sense of fellowship, to prevent partition, but it was strong enough to constitute an inclusive, scrupulously non-sectarian republic committed to mass democracy.

The great triumph of this Indian take on political correctness was that even sectarians were forced to use its vocabulary. Thus the 'integral humanism' of Deendayal Upadhyaya and the 'pseudo-secularism' of Lal Krishna Advani were attempts to ground majoritarianism in the terminological terrain of liberalism. The power of the idea of republican inclusiveness was perversely demonstrated by Advani's odd infatuation with Jinnah towards the end of his political career. And the idea of reservations as a way of creating a level playing field in an unequal society became politically sacrosanct, even for a right-wing party like the BJP.

But the election of Narendra Modi was both a symptom of and a catalyst for a conservative reaction against the republican virtues. Instead of liberty, equality and fraternity, we have, in recent years, been offered efficiency, respectability and paternalism. This is most obvious in the arena of local self-government, where state legislatures are allowed to frame eligibility criteria for contesting elections. One state government after another has tried to limit the participation of the poor in municipal andpanchayatelections. While the BJP-led state governments in Haryana and Rajasthan have done this in the most systematic and thorough-going way, the marginalization of the poor in local politics is a cross-party endeavour. A variety of political parties have tried to disqualify the uneducated, the indebted and the sick from political office, on the vicious assumption that the poor are responsible for their poverty, that having failed to fend for themselves they can't be allowed to represent others.

The contempt for the vulnerable in these laws is medieval, especially the enthusiasm with which they exclude the ill. The legal scholar, Anup Surendranath, writes inTheIndian Express that Odisha and Rajasthan disqualify people with leprosy from contestingpanchayatielections. Odisha bars those suffering from tuberculosis for good measure and, along with Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, prevents the 'deaf-mute' from local body elections. Rajasthan, according to Surendranath, takes this prejudice against the disabled to its logical conclusion, "...disqualifying anyone with a 'physical or mental defect or disease rendering him incapable of work.'"

It's interesting that the criteria used to disqualify the poor are 'secular': education, or a lack of it, debt, the absence of a lavatory, ill health. This is a classically right-wing agenda, aimed not at religious community or caste, but at a class, those who are chronically indebted, who can't afford an education or a lavatory, who can't pay a doctor's bills... in short, the poor. These laws won't prevent Dalits or women from getting elected topanchayatioffice because the seats reserved for them will be filled by women and Dalits who meet these criteria. They will merely exclude the poor within these categories. This is class war waged with election laws.

Remarkably, India's Supreme Court, so willing, otherwise, to intervene in matters of public interest, has consistently deferred to the right of state legislatures to discriminate amongst their citizens. Surendranath cites the 2008 verdict of the Supreme Court where it upheld Odisha's decision to bar those suffering from leprosy from contestingpanchayatelections, ruling that this did not violate their right to equality. In exactly the same spirit, the court endorsed the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act 2015 that effectively excluded half of Haryana's rural population from contesting panchayat elections. The Constitution and its interpreters no longer seem to stand athwart conservative prejudice, saying 'stop'.

The BJP's decision to allow its governments in two states to exclude substantial sections of their adult population from political competition is a daring one. Both Rajasthan and Haryana passed theirpanchayatacts early in the life of Modi's prime ministership. It remains to be seen how this move resonates politically. It could backfire. With legislative assembly elections due in India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, in 2017, this bill could be a gift for the Bahujan Samaj Party and its mainly plebeian support base. Its leader, Mayavati, could cite these bills as an upper caste BJP-led conspiracy to exclude the poor and the backward from the basic electoral processes of a republican democracy.

Alternatively, the BJP might succeed in rallying a plurality of votes around this paternalistic vision of governance by the respectable on behalf of the great unwashed. These laws and their endorsement by the Supreme Court have created an opening for an explicitly conservative politics; whether this can be consolidated into a conservative era depends on Modi's ability to do in Uttar Pradesh what he failed to do in Bihar: win India's poor heartlan


Changing the rules: - Poland's liberal democracy is threatened

Timothy Garton Ash

Poland, the pivotal power in post-communist central Europe, is in danger of being reduced by its recently elected ruling party to an illiberal democracy. Basic pillars of its still youthful liberal democracy, such as the constitutional court, public service broadcasters and a professional civil service, are suddenly under threat. The voices of all allied democracies, in Europe and across the Atlantic, must be raised to express their concern about a turn with grave implications for the whole democratic West.

And this needs to happen soon. For the political blitzkrieg of the last two months suggest that the strategy of the Law and Justice Party (known by its Polish acronym as PiS), and specifically of its one true leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is to do the dirty work of transforming the political system rapidly, even brutally, and then to show a kinder, softer, more pragmatic face. He has the parliamentary majority to do this (although not the two-thirds needed to change the Constitution), still considerable popular support, and, shockingly, the president of the country is behaving