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POLICE 40-44




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HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 10, 2016Govt to re-introduce all currency denominations with new designs, featuresDhrubo Jyoti |  

The government will re-introduce all currency note denominations with new designs and feature, economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das said on Thursday.

The government sprang a surprise on Tuesday by withdrawing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, causing an upheaval with millions of people holding cash savings hurled into uncertainty.

But the case will be different for smaller denominations, Das said. “Let me make it clear, the tender status of existing Rs 100, 50 or other denominations will continue to be legal,” the secretary said, as quoted by ANI.

Banks and automatic teller machines started dispensing new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes from Thursday. The new banknotes feature a radically new design, colour with additional safety mechanisms.

The government has said that people can deposit their cash in banks or get it exchanged. But the move has sparked widespread fear – especially among the poor who do not have bank accounts and keep their money in cash.

HINDU, NOV 9, 2016Rs. 500, Rs. 1,000 notes no longer legal tenderDecision taken to root out black money & fake notes, PM tells nation


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Five hundred and 1,000 rupee notes will cease to be legal tender from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a surprise address to the nation. He said the decision was taken to root out the menace of black money and corruption.

Notes of 100, 50, 20, 10, five, two and one rupee remain legal tender and will be unaffected by the decision, the Prime Minister said, adding that all banks and ATMs will be closed on Wednesday and ATMs in some places on Thursday as well.

Mr. Modi announced that existing Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000 notes can be deposited in an individual’s bank or post office accounts between November 10 and December 30. Currency value of up to Rs. 4,000 can be exchanged from any bank or post office per day till November 24 by showing a government identity card.

However, for 72 hours, government hospitals, railway, air and government bus ticket booking counters will continue to accept the old notes. Old notes will also be accepted till November 11 at petrol, diesel and gas stations authorised by public sector oil companies, consumer co-operative stores authorised by State or Central government, milk booths authorised by States as well as crematoriums.

The Reserve Bank of India will issue new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 notes starting from November 10. The new Rs. 500 note will feature the Red Fort and the new Rs. 2,000 note will feature Mangalyaan, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said at a media briefing late on Tuesday night. These notes will become available from November 10.

Once the ATMs start functioning, there will be a withdrawal limit of Rs. 2,000 per debit card, which will be increased to Rs. 4,000 later, Mr. Modi said in a 40-minute televised address to the nation. There will, however, be an overall limit on withdrawal from banks of Rs. 10,000 per day and Rs. 20,000 per week, which will be increased in the coming days.

Mr. Modi said there will be no restriction of any kind on non-cash payments by cheques, demand drafts, debit or credit cards and electronic fund transfer.

Without naming Pakistan, the Prime Minister made a pointed reference to cross-border terror which was being funded by forged currency notes. “In the country’s history of development, there comes a moment where powerful and decisive decisions are needed,” Mr. Modi said.

“Your money will be your money. You don’t have to worry about this. We have made arrangements to ensure that citizens suffer the least possible difficulty,” he said.

‘Surprise essential’

Justifying the last-minute announcement to demonetise the currency notes, a government official said that the move was necessary to stop terrorists and drug cartels “in their tracks.” “An element of surprise is essential, or else they would have made necessary arrangements,” he said. The official described the action as a “surgery since the tumour had to be removed to prevent recurrence.” He claimed that this will result in a reduction of inflation as conspicuous


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consumption will come down. According to him the “tumour of corruption could not be fought through tried, tested and failed methods” and it was time to employ new methods to defeat the enemies of India. Till March 2016, Rs. 14 lakh crore out of Rs. 16 lakh crore worth currency issued by RBI were in denominations of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000, as per the central bank’s official data.

TRIBUNE, NOV 11, 2016Demonetisation stunt: Drama as farceS. Subramanian

What we are dealing with is a supposed implementation of an unfulfilled election promise on combating the problems of the unaccounted economy. It is also possibly an attempt at curtailing the distribution of money to the electorate by opposition parties in a time of important Assembly elections.

The August 14, 2014 issue of the The Hindu carried a feature indicating that the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) had submitted to the Finance Ministry, in December 2013,  a confidential report on estimates of black money held in India and abroad by Indians. The report apparently suggested that — driven largely by the higher education sector, real estate transactions, and incomes from mining — the size of the black economy could be as large as three-fourths the size of the country's Gross Domestic Product. The then Finance Minister, we are told, did not place the report in Parliament. As far as one can ascertain, neither has the present Finance Minister.

In light of this record, it is hard to stomach the notion that the Prime Minister's dramatic address to the nation on the evening of November 8 is indeed, as he claimed, "…a fight against black money (and) corruption...". It is even harder to understand how the measures announced (such as they are) constitute an endorsement of the advertisement that “this government is dedicated to the poor.” The specific measures, as it happens, are rather short on detail and long on rhetoric. From what one can understand, the scourges of “black money”, terrorist funding, and the circulation of counterfeit high-denomination currency notes (Rs 500 and  Rs 1,000 notes) are to be effectively countered by abruptly declaring that these currency notes are no longer legal tender. However, these currency notes can be exchanged, within a finite period of time, for newly-minted higher-denomination notes in banks by declaring one's holdings of these notes, after identifying oneself by means of generally accepted documents of identity, such as PAN cards, Aaadhaar cards, ration cards, and so on. 


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There are a number of difficulties one faces in coming to grips with the objectives of this scheme. First, it is hard to know what to make of the Prime Minister's assurance that "your money will remain yours. You need have no worry on this point." Taken literally and at face value, this suggests that no one runs the risk of actually being questioned about possession of suspiciously large quantities of large-denomination notes. In such an event, we are speaking of "fighting black money" through the declaration of a general amnesty which converts 'black' into "white" by simple fiat, that is, by the exchange of old notes for newly minted ones. 

But surely, this cannot be quite right — for then why should anyone hesitate to declare all their high-denomination notes? Apparently, after all, one does need to "worry on this point". Presumably, people with unnaturally large quantities of high-denomination notes ought to be genuinely worried about identifying themselves as being in possession of such quantities, since their identities will, one imagines, be passed on by banks to the income-tax authorities. But then, what is an unnaturally large quantity? Is there a threshold level? Is that level variable across people or the same for all? In either case, how is it to be identified? And if one is found with holdings in excess of the threshold, presumably there will be a penalty levied on the offender. What is the rate of this penalty? By what principles is it to be determined? There is no clarity (nor, as far as one can tell, information) on these questions. If there is, indeed, no cause for "worry", then we are speaking of an amnesty; if there is cause for worry, then worried people will simply not declare their 'excess' holdings of large-denomination notes, which will, effectively, have been just straightforwardly driven into non-existence. There is no question, in such a scheme, of recovering unaccounted money, money owed to the state by defaulting on legitimate taxes.

There is a further complication to reckon with here. Bank account-holders with “small” or "below-threshold" holdings of high-denomination notes could "safely" exchange their low-denomination notes for "high" notes held by potential offenders, for a premium on their "low" notes. As an “honest” fellow in possession of high-denomination notes well in deficit of the specified threshold, I am in a position (if I should so choose) to, for example, exchange four 100-rupee notes, one 50-rupee note, one 20-rupee note, and one 10-rupee note (Rs 480 in all) for a 500-rupee note held by a fellow who is desperate to jettison his high-denomination notes. I can keep on doing so till I reach the threshold level. (The rate of exchange would depend on the threshold and the penalty specified by the monetary authorities.) The demonetisation scheme under review could thus lead to the emergence of a nice little market for low-denomination notes.


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Is this supposed to be an attack on the black economy? The unaccounted economy is a composite of holdings of under-valued real estate; over-invoicement and under-invoicement of imports and exports respectively; hawala transactions; holdings of gold; possession of consumer durables; and numbered accounts in banks in overseas tax-havens. The drama of "the fight against black money" which we are invited to witness (and digest) is the heroic battle against that proportion of "excessive" high-denomination notes in all currency notes which are held as a proportion of all forms in which unaccounted wealth and income are held in this country!

What of the costs of this demonetisation scheme? Consider the hardship to which honest people are being put in the cause of this drama. Ordinary people having to queue up in banks to declare and exchange their (meagre) high-denomination notes for new ones; poor people without bank accounts in unhappy possession of high-denomination notes (we are speaking of a country with a low banks/population ratio); the stresses and strains of a banking system which is already under duress and now has to cope with the sudden pressure of dealing with the demonetisation scheme; the distinct possibility that low-denomination notes may not be available with banks in sufficient quantities to deal with the demand for them; the requirement that very large numbers of blameless common people have to be inconvenienced, if not harassed, in order to sustain a poorly-thought out scheme of dubious benefit.  

What we are dealing with is a supposed implementation of an unfulfilled election promise on combating the problems of the unaccounted economy; and possibly an attempt at curtailing the distribution of money to the electorate by opposition parties in a time of important Assembly elections. It is hard to see this farcical demonetisation drama as anything like a serious and sincerely-intended "fight against black money and corruption", even if we, the people, are invited to feel privileged that we are being asked to make sacrifices in the cause of this splendid and self-denying initiative. 

Post-Script: After this piece was written, it has been clarified that the threshold is Rs 10 lakh, beyond which an individual is subject to investigation; if found defaulting on tax, the tax, together with a 200 per cent penalty, will be recovered from the offender. 

The writer is an economist.

TRIBUNE, NOV 10, 2016Bold action on black moneyPain apart, it's a well-executed operation

By invalidating the high-value currency, Prime Minister Modi has struck hard at the root of the twin problem of black money and fake currency. The surprise move was well-planned and well-


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executed.  Public inconvenience is there but it should be tolerated in national interest. Fake currency, terror and drug trade go hand in hand and are the enemy's known tools to cause damage to the country. Within the country, black money has inflated home prices to levels beyond the reach of ordinary people. Now demand may cool and prices fall. Ostentatious consumption will also take a hit. 

There will be multiple effects on the economy and how they all add up will be clear in the months to come. The use of plastic money and resort to paperless transactions may pick up further. With new 500 and 2000 notes in circulation, black money may return with time, unless the problem of generation is dealt with. On this front Modi's offshore success has been limited. Though an amnesty scheme was floated to tap unaccounted wealth stashed in safe havens abroad, it was hardly a success. Money is laundered abroad and it comes back legally into stock markets and real estate. 

Modi is the second Prime Minister after Morari Desai to take the bold, high-risk step, which is expected to hit the BJP’s core constituency of businessmen and traders. The loss may be more than offset by new admirers Tuesday’s action may get for Modi. Also badly hit will be political parties that have assembly elections to fight with undeclared reserves of cash donations. That electoral politics is funded by businesses in return for tax concessions and favourable policy decisions is well known. And that is the next cleanup area that invites the Prime Minister's attention. Elections should not cost that much. How to cut the cost is a challenge for which UP and Punjab offer an opportunity. Deprived suddenly of unaccounted poll money, political parties may willingly back this much-needed electoral reform. Democracy should not run on illegal money.

TRIBUNE NOV 10, 2016The grey in the fight against black moneyMukesh Prasad

The government’s decision to demonetise high-value notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will, hopefully, help to battle the twin scourge of rampant corruption and widespread tax evasion, besides modifying banking behaviour. However, for any long-lasting reforms funding of political parties must be transparent.

THE demonetisation of high-value notes, announced on television by the Prime Minister on Tuesday evening, is not the first time this has been attempted in India. It was done in 1978, and earlier in 1946. Obviously, it is not a panacea for all the ills it is supposed to or expected to


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solve. Nor is it a lasting solution as it would hardly need to be tried out again and again were it so fundamental, effective and long-lasting. It tackles the stock of black money to a large extent but not the flow, for which different and long-term measures are appropriate.

Having said that, the benefits are not to be discounted or dismissed either. There is no doubt that this move will immobilise huge hoards of unaccounted cash that fuel a parallel economy, drain resources, increase inequalities, encourage conspicuous and vulgar consumption, distort incentives, demoralise honest citizens and vitiate electoral politics and, hence, public life.

Apart from its economic benefits, it is likely, at least for the time being, to strike at the root of counterfeit currency, reportedly flooding many parts of India, by forces inimical to us. It will, no doubt, disrupt funding for terrorism and trade in drugs — both of which pose grave threats to national security and safety.

It is also likely to be more effective today than it was in 1978 or earlier for a variety of reasons. The size of the Indian economy is much larger today than it was in 1978; so is the likely amount of unaccounted cash hoarded by tax evaders and dodgers. Estimates of black money vary widely and their reliability leaves much to be desired. But no one contests the fact that it is out there in huge amounts and all the efforts of our tax collectors, whether by inducement , encouragement, threat or coercion, have failed signally in tackling the menace. This is evident by the fact that the tax:GDP ratio in India remains abysmally low. The efforts of successive governments and the agencies in trying to raise the ratio have met with modest success. The numbers of those paying direct taxes in a rapidly growing economy like India are a shame and those declaring incomes above a certain threshold are so minuscule that perhaps there would be that many in certain localities of Mumbai or Delhi alone, what to say of India. 

Economist Gunnar Myrdal's characterisation of India as a "soft state" has been proved right again and again by the twin scourge of rampant corruption and widespread tax evasion. Apart from the size of the economy, today is also a much better time to try to attempt behavioural change. When high-value notes got demonetised in 1978, the penetration of bank branches was extremely poor, the number of bank accounts very few and a preserve of the well to do. Alternative instruments for conducting transactions were just not available. Who had heard of credit or debit cards or instant bank transfers or internet banking? All were contingent on computerisation and those of us who happened to travel abroad even in the late 1970s were amazed to see these things there. Today, those who suffer from the impact of demonetisation may like to rethink their penchant for tax avoidance and cash transactions and may volunteer, to some extent, to join the honest and modern way of living.


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There is also much greater education, more awareness and a growing aversion to underhand practices.What can add to the incentive for not hoarding cash is the lingering threat of a repeat. Not in 30 years but might be in the next two years or so. Whether it happens or not is immaterial but the risk should be hovering over the heads of such evaders. Especially, when high-denomination notes are going to be reintroduced shortly and the temptation to revert to bad, old ways might be too much to resist for the habitual offender. Is this to say that there won't be serious attempts to circumvent the decision? Of course, there will be and many with large hoards and "smart" advisers will find buyers for the demonetised cash at a discount, especially such people who have cash in hand on their books or have no tax liability and who can use the legal window period for exchange for offloading a portion of this. Perhaps, the tax authorities have a plan up their sleeves to tackle such evasion but it does not appear an easy nut to crack as long as there are such huge exemptions from direct taxes in our tax system. Unless some government summons the courage to bite the bullet and limit, if not remove, these exemptions from the statute book the problem of black money is unlikely to get resolved substantially.

So, what are the immediate gains? Well, immobilisation of large hoards of black money, transfer of some of this to the formal banking system — adding to resources available for productive use. There will be squeezing of conspicuous consumption and vulgar display of money in weddings and the like. There will be leaner and cleaner elections in the foreseeable future, with political funding drying up, turning  off the tap for funding drug cartels and terrorism. In the longer run, there are chances of inducing some behavioural change with lesser reliance on cash and greater propensity to use banking channels and modern financial instruments that will enhance transparency and, hopefully, give buoyancy to tax revenues.

On the flip side, one cannot discount the ability of artful dodgers to circumvent the decision to some extent. Also, the contraction of spending, rather splurging, financed by black money leads to a lower demand for consumer durables, gold and expensive jewellery, after the conversion window. The same is true of high-end entertainment, travel and tourism,designer clothing and accessories. There will be a downturn in the realty market, especially the higher end and secondary markets.

The long-term view is to build on this opportunity to close the windows for tax evasion by limiting drastically, if not completely, channels for avoidance and evasion. The funding of political parties should be made transparent and above board. It must be made clear that the government would not hesitate to resort to this measure again, if compelled to do so. Let the Damocles sword hang over the heads of dodgers who have caused pain to India.

The writer is a former Secretary to the Government of India


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STATESMAN, NOV 8, 2016Impatient, innovative, inclusive India is future mantra: Prez

President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday asked the children to find solutions to the country's future problems by working on the mantra of "impatient, innovative and inclusive India" and create a socially equitable, institutionally tolerant and futuristically inclusive society.Mukherjee, who presented the APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Awards to the children who have excelled in their innovations, said, the children should be impatient and persistent to solve social problems.

"'Impatient India, Innovative India and Inclusive India' has to be the mantra for future. This mantra you must chant and internalise. The idea of India that we must work towards is of a socially equitable, institutionally tolerant and futuristically inclusive society," he said at the programme, organised by National Innovation Foundation, which works on grassroot innovations.

Mukherjee also advised the parents that they should not scold the children or accost them when they share some absurd questions or dream about a utopian situation with them.

"We often scold or accost our children when they ask an absurd question or dream a utopia. But have not the most remarkable progress been made by minds that could think ahead, dream big and make what seemed impossible at one time fully realisable," he asked.

Underlining tendencies of some parents to provided instant solutions to their kids, Mukherjee said children should be allowed to develop the habit of thinking on their own.

"Spoon-feeding at every step should be avoided. Well intentioned grooming by elders sometimes restricts the creative impulse of the child. "Such minds will not add to the start-up revolution which requires unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of our youth. In science and technology, a lot of the progress has been made by questioning prior explanations and connections, and forging new ones," the President said. Children from various parts of the country had gathered here and were awarded for their creative and innovative ideas. The awards were given to school children up to the age of 17 for their innovative and creative ideas. NIF got more than 50,000 ideas from 458 districts across the nation.

Minister of science and technology Harsh Vardhan and Ministry of women and child development Maneka Gandhi was also present in during the event.


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ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 11, 2016Prosecution shield for honest officers soon

NEW DELHI: All government servants may get a "shield" from prosecution as the Centre has okayed changes to the Prevention of Corruption Act to make it mandatory for investigating agencies, like the CBI, to take its prior approval before initiating a probe against them.

Minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh on Thursday said the purpose behind mandating prosecution sanction for government officers under the anti-graft law was to protect honest officers. "We have decided to introduce the anti-corruption amendment bill in the winter session of Parliament, starting on November 16. A provision for safeguarding all categories of government employees is being offered in the bill," Singh told reporters.

The minister said that the decision was necessary as the government wanted to ensure that the bureaucracy, "an essential tool of good governance", continued to work without fear or favour.

PM Narendra Modi had recently said that the government's job was to ensure safety of honest employees. The move is based on the recommendation of a parliamentary committee, which favoured making it mandatory for probe agencies like the CBI and police to take "previous approval" of the competent authority before conducting any enquiry or investigation against a public servant - be it peon or secretary to the government.

Such approval would not be necessary for cases involving "arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage for himself or for any other person", the panel said. The panel, which examined changes in the PCA, 1988, gave its report in August.

The Prevention of Corru- ption (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013. However, it was referred to the parliamentary standing committee, which submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha on February 6, 2014. On April 29 last year, the Cabinet approved amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act and pursued the amendment bill.


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TELEGRAPH, NOV 15, 2016The price being paid - Shock treatment, fooling people and Indian economic policy

Dipankar Dasgupta

There is an elementary piece of economic truth that remains unshaken since time immemorial. Put simply, it runs: "Nothing comes from nothing." Or, using economic jargon, there is a price to be paid to ensure any outcome that generates comfort. At the level of the individual, a decent dinner calls for a payment. At the level of society, weeding out black money from the system calls for hardships as well. To be borne by millions of innocent common men and women queueing up in front of ATM kiosks to withdraw measly sums of cash to try and satisfy their demand for daily essentials. According to reports, the hardship has been somewhat extreme, for one person at least is said to have collapsed as he waited for his Rs 2,000. And died, as non-resident Indians sitting in Japan were clapping and giggling away in vulgar merriment that the motherland they never intend to return to was being cleansed.

Quite obviously, the shortage of cash in the pockets of the unlucky ones living in India will ensure that they restrict their expenditure to commodities that are truly necessities. Since creating a shortage of currency in the economy was never known to be an antidote to profane corruption, essential commodities can well disappear for a while from the markets, hand in hand with dirty money. The example that comes readily to mind is the case of common salt. The price of salt soared for no obvious reason from about Rs 12 to Rs 300 per kilogram, if the news channels are to be trusted. In spite of claims to the contrary, in some areas of the country at least, salt appears to have turned into the scarcest of commodities. When an essential commodity turns scarce relative to the demand for it, people need to spend more to acquire it, and the spending in the present instance is taking the form of toilsomely acquired cash, recognized white cash, that is turning instantaneously into black money.

This of course is the least important of examples of the re-emergence of black money even as the common man is bearing the labour pains necessary to deliver a clean India. A new class of middlemen has sprung up that, according to reports, is exchanging bad money for good by charging a premium. How they are managing to get rid of the bad money they are accumulating is for the law keepers to figure out. However, there were at least two persons who were interviewed by television channels, one located in Delhi and the other in Mathura, who claimed to be ready to perform, and openly so. One of them was ready to give coins in exchange, quite independently of the total sum of money being offered. Hence, one probably hears further that Rs 10 coins too now stand banned. These individuals could well have been bluffing of course. However, given that the formal banking system is yet to penetrate vast areas of the country, one can easily guess the nature of happenings right now beyond the boundaries of the metropolitan areas.

Powerful moneylenders have not disappeared from our rural economy. Nor have poor farmers and landless labourers. These latter groups of people are doubtlessly being charged steep rates of interest for the white money they are borrowing to sustain their hand-to-mouth existence. Classroom economics, too, teaches us that interest rates rise with a fall in money supply relative


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to demand, although the channel through which the rise comes about is quite different.

The immediate impact of stripping Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes of their legal tender status is a fall in the money supply. This results in the existing money demand as a whole (that is, demand for currency plus money in the form of bank deposits) exceeding the new money supply (that is, the sum total of bank deposits and the reduced currency supply). Textbook logic tells us that the excess demand for money leads to a sale of interest bearing financial assets in search of non-interest bearing money required to carry out daily transactions. The rush to sell off such paper assets leads to a fall in their prices relative to the face value of their nominal returns. This works out into a rise in interest rates. Whichever way we look at it then, interest rates in general are likely to go up in the near future when the business sector, backed by the government, has been clamouring for lower interest rates. Ironically enough, we are told that Raghuram Rajan refused to serve a second term as governor of the Reserve Bank of India on account of his disagreement with the government over the very same interest rate issue. He was not in favour of low interest rates, given his concern about inflation.

Higher interest rates can cause a fall in the demand for loans to purchase durable consumer goods, thus slowing down the manufacturing sector. This will also reduce the demand for loans on the part of the manufacturers to purchase raw materials. In turn, this will weaken the demand for transport services required to deliver finished or semi-finished products and reduce along with it the incomes of daily wage earners in that sector.

There is yet another route through which such transport services can be affected, and this is not linked to interest rates. Given the telltale signals that the problem surrounding the shortage of currency is not about to disappear soon, many of the markets where cash transactions dominate will come to a standstill. In such markets, neither will the grocers be able to sell, nor buyers be able to buy. Consequently, business activities will dry up in the short run, which in turn will affect the transporters to these markets.

The price, then, is being paid and will continue to be paid till the cash supply turns normal in the economy. Normalcy, though, does not mean smoothly working ATMs alone. Let us recall that that a huge chunk of money has been banned from the system. Presumably the RBI will increase the money supply back to where it was before demonetization through repo rate reductions, open market operations and so on. The interest rate will fall again perhaps, but as most commentators have noted, this by itself is unlikely to eradicate corruption.

Instead it could well turn out to be a story of new black money driving out old black money. If demonetization turns out to be the chosen tool for getting rid of black money, then the policy has to be repeated over time. Perhaps this is what the government has in mind, going by the announcement heard from Japan. More is in store, we were told, beyond December 31. In the meantime though, the growth rate of the economy might fall during the second quarter. Combined with the first quarter low growth rate, the annual growth rate is almost certain to be lower than projected. And we have no clue at all about the inflation scenario that might emerge.

Robert Lucas, Nobel laureate and a founder of the rational expectations school of thought, had


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an important piece of advice for governments engaged with monetary policy. He believed, on the basis of his theory, that monetary policy was not likely to have any perceptible impact on an economy unless it took the shape of random shocks that caught the populace unawares. However, repeated random shocks, even if they produced the intended results in the immediate future, were likely to destabilize the economy and result in unwarranted economic cycles.

Perhaps the government of India has a lesson to learn from Lucas and should stop gloating over the shock therapies it is planning for the nation. A price is being paid right now, but one cannot fool all men for all time.

The economy had better improve in the not-too-distant future.

 The author is visiting professor of economics, Ashoka University

STATESMAN, NOV 8, 2016Bengal’s growth storyDebaki Nandan Mandal

Mamata Banerjee’s second innings after her landslide victory in the May election and the

decimation of the Opposition parties, began with a felicitation ceremony in June, organised by

the nine chambers of commerce and industry. “Is the market in an economic slowdown or are we

making it slow by just chanting Hare Ram Hare Krishna?” she asked the gathering. The message

was simple - she was spreading the red carpet for industrialists.

Later in July, she let it be known that she meant business. During a meeting with a US delegation

led by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas A Shannon, the principal item

on the agenda was investment in West Bengal. When she visited Italy and Germany, she was

determined to buttress the perception that the state should no longer be viewed as the graveyard

of industry.

Certain concrete steps have been taken to lay the foundation for industry. Last year, single-

window clearance for 38 industries, a process that can be initiated online, was introduced. In the

2015-16 budget, infrastructure received an impetus with a substantial allocation. Several road

development projects have been undertaken under public-private partnership, including the

Barasat-Krishnanagar, the Palsit-Dankuni, and Panagarh-Palsit projects. Sajjan Jindal of JSW

has recently announced big-ticket investment in addition to the cement and power plants at


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Salboni. A 2015 World Bank survey ranked the state 11th in the country in terms of doing

business. The growth story of the state influences decisions on investment. In 2014-15, West

Bengal was ranked fifth in the country with gross state domestic product of over Rs.8 lakh crore.

In terms of gross value, its growth rate of 10.48 per cent in 2014-15 was impressive compared to

the national average of 7.5 per cent.  However, critics argue that in an attempt to establish the

efficacy of its policies, West Bengal had included growth in informal sectors, such as beauty

parlours, restaurants, pubs and micro-shop establishments in the figures for industrial growth.

They have pointed out that the upward curve can be attributed to the phenomenal growth in these

enterprises, rather than in large or medium-scale industries. India’s Chief Economic Adviser,

Arvind Subramanian, has blamed the state’s ‘fetish’ for small and medium industries for the low

growth rate in the manufacturing sector.

This year, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation reportedly withheld the data

regarding Bengal’s GSDP and industrial growth since the figures varied by more than 20 per

cent from the standardised methodology of the Central Statistical Organisation that has to be

used by all states to calculate the indicators of growth. The orchestrated growth figures relate

largely to the unorganised sectors, represented by street vendors, dhabas and small units.

There has been a significant per capita income growth - at 12.8 per cent. This is an improvement

from the rate of 9.5 per cent in 2012-13 and compares favourably with the national average of

6.1 per cent. Detractors attribute this improvement to the low economic base during the Left

Front era. Besides, according to the 2011 census, the country has 4,13,670 beggars, of whom

Bengal has the highest number - 81,244 (20%) including 48,158 women.

The state government claimed in the budget of 2016-17 that its tax-revenue has more than

doubled to Rs.42,919.7 crore between 2010-11 and 2015-16. But the RBI’s comparative analysis

shows that Bengal’s OTR (own tax revenue) ratio to GSDP is 5.7 per cent - among the lowest in

India. An additional Rs.5,000 crore in revenue is expected after GST is rolled out, and this may

reduce the state’s debt-burden, now hovering around Rs.3,08,000 crore out of which around 55

per cent would come for repayment over the next seven years. According to the finance


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minister’s vote-on-account budget, debt repayment would rise to Rs.9,781 crore in the current

fiscal. At 35.5 per cent, the state’s debt to GSDP ratio is the highest in the country.

It may be relevant to mention the cost to the exchequer on account of some populist schemes. No

suitable answer to the question is available as to on why the state government made a donation of

Rs.15.62 crore, Rs.40.09 crore, Rs.64.15 crore and Rs.115 crore to clubs between 2012 and


The Prime Minister has asked NITI Aayog to monitor the state’s progress in five segments -

PDS, LPG connections, scholarships, allowances and MGNREGA. The state has reportedly

failed to achieve even 10 per cent success in each of these fields.

As the economy grows, people tend to migrate from primary to secondary/tertiary sectors in

search of jobs and a better livelihood. The state’s 11th position in terms of the ease of doing

business does not help much if the exodus of educated Bengali youth to Bengaluru, Hyderabad,

Delhi, etc., for better opportunities is anything to go by. It has slipped to the 15th position this

year though it has been categorised under the “aspiring leaders” group.

The Chief Minister’s efforts oscillate between sundry populist measures and the drive towards

industrialisation. The first includes food security for 80 per cent of the population, free treatment

and free blood in government hospitals, 4 million cycles, Rs.80 lakh for school shoes,

scholarships and stipends for higher education for 3.3 million girl children and doles for the

unemployed. According to a modest estimate, these freebies or electoral sops will cost the state

exchequer more than Rs.10,000 crore.

Considering the state’s fiscal position, she has to scout for private investment. She has warned

the real estate syndicates not to disturb investors and their projects. The government has a

political compulsion not to acquire land directly. But land ceiling approvals, in excess of 24.8

acres in rural areas under Section 14Y of the Land Reforms Act, are now being given. Besides,

industrialists are also being encouraged to form consortiums to bypass ceiling constraints.


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However, the policy on SEZ is still unclear. The Infosys project in Rajarhat is yet to take off.

Wipro might also abandon its second unit in Kolkata, if it is denied SEZ status.

In a democracy with electoral politics, populism is the sine qua non for survival. But a political

leader graduates to a statesman if he/she can blend populist measures with bold decisions in the

interests of the state. In her second innings, Mamata Banerjee has the unique opportunity to take

the state to new heights by raising the development pitch and confronting the negatives.  If, in

the process, she loses some votes in 2021, so be it. Already, in the wake of the Supreme Court

judgment on Singur, some sinister forces are trying to encourage the gullible peasants to start a

movement for the return of their acquired land. This is bound to send the wrong signals to

potential investors. Miss Banerjee can assume the role of a Guided Democrat and thwart the

obstructive forces. She will then be remembered as the architect of Resurgent Bengal.

TELEGRAPH, NOV 8, 2016How to be a world leader- Coming out of the doldrums

Writing on the wall: Ashok V. Desai

The world has two big poor countries: China and India. Since World War II, they have had

rulers focused on putting poverty behind and making their countries prosperous. Till the 1980s,

neither had found the key to growth: China went through a long, painful ideological war; India's

ambitious government had poor mastery of economics and kicked the economy into one crisis

after another. When I was taken into that government in the early 1990s, I thought that the

controls on India's external economic relations had to be removed if we were to avoid crises.

That happened to some extent over the next few years. The economy was opened up, and we

have not had an external crisis since 1991; even if the government tried today, it could not have

one. But I was removed soon, and those who then ran the government did not find the key to

steady, rapid growth. As a result, China grew enormously faster than India. In 1989, India's per

capita income was $1100 and China's $900 at the same prices; India was 22 per cent richer. In

2015, the figures were $6265 and $13801; China was two-and-a-quarter times as rich as India.

It saddened me, but at least I was relieved that I had no responsibility for our miserable


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Denis Medvedev was the World Bank's India economist for three years; he went back recently

to become a lead economist in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship unit of the Trade and

Competitiveness Global Practice. As a farewell gesture, he and his colleagues did a report

claiming that it was now South Asia's turn to lead global growth, and proposing policies that

would turn it into the next export powerhouse. It is a long time since someone had the vision

and the insight to propose something ambitious for India. Medvedev's team covered South

Asia; here I will confine myself to India.

Over the past two centuries, one country after another has grown rapidly by becoming the world

leader in manufacturing: Britain, Germany, the United States of America, Japan, and most

recently, China. But China is running out of surplus labour, its wage costs are rising, and it has

made room for the next manufacturing powerhouse. It is India's turn.

India's share of world trade in 2010-14 was 1.5 per cent in goods and 3.2 per cent in services. It

has diversified its markets since 2000, but it is still exporting the same old goods and services,

and it is not exporting to richer markets.

It has to improve its export competitiveness; and the way to do so is to raise its total factor

productivity. It has done so to some extent in the past quarter century, but most of its growth

has come from greater inputs of labour and capital: its labour force has grown rapidly, and its

investment ratio has been high. It continues to have a large share of its workers in agriculture;

the potential for raising productivity by moving them into industry and services remains

correspondingly high.

In an industrial country, labour supply is tight, and firms can expand only by attracting workers

away from other firms. Hence workers move from firms with low labour productivity to firms

where workers produce more. This tendency is weaker in India and China; because of labour

surplus, even firms whose worker productivity is low can expand. Both countries could get

considerable growth if the dispersion of productivity across firms came down. But small firms

with low labour productivity - the ones we call SMEs in India - continue to proliferate; they


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dominated industry 20 years ago, and continue to do so. In the US, 40-year-old manufacturing

plants are six to seven times as large as new plants in the same industry. Even in China they are

two-and-a-half times as large. In India, they are hardly 40 per cent bigger. In other words,

growth in India is accompanied by proliferation of firms; firms do not grow, and hence do not

benefit from economies of scale.

India has a large agricultural sector; but its exports are small, and have diversified little from

what they were two decades ago. Two sets of errors have crippled agricultural exports. One is

the restraints on competition in the form of agricultural produce market committees; the

government has not yet implemented the reforms required to stimulate competition. The other is

the high level of agricultural protection, retained and reinforced after trade in industrial goods

was substantially freed up; the import restrictions keep agriculture internationally

uncompetitive. Minimum support prices artificially reinforce the effect of import restrictions.

Electronics industry tends to cluster. It requires skilled workers, who congregate around firms.

So competitive electronic industries are geographically concentrated. Concentration is

prevented in India by high real estate costs. They have much to do with obsolete real estate

regulations which make transactions costly and time-consuming.

Customs clearance takes big firms two to 10 days and small firms two to three weeks. A

container takes 11 days from Shanghai to Mumbai, and 20 days from Mumbai to Delhi. A

quarter of the time spent by goods in transport goes into stoppages officially required at borders

of states, cities and so on. The uncertainties thus introduced raise inventories by 27 per cent.

India is the world's second largest producer of cotton. It has a competitive yarn industry whose

exports have made Bangladesh a major apparel exporter. But India has lost out in the apparel

market. This is because it has higher import barriers on inputs; by securing the domestic market

for its own producers, it has made them inefficient and incapable of competing internationally.

India also comes out worse in buyers' perception of quality and timeliness compared to China

and Vietnam.

Thus, Medvedev and his colleagues expect that China would price itself out of world markets,


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and that India could take its place and achieve high export-led growth. But to do so, India itself

needs to become more competitive, and that requires dismantling of its import restrictions - not

just the remaining quantitative ones, but informal ones inherent in its poor ports, airports and

bureaucracy. India needs another surge of reforms; but it must be very different from past

reforms. It must involve modernization of the government, and the final abandonment of the

belief that protection of domestic industry is good for it.

We did considerable liberalization in the early 1990s; but as I found when I pushed reforms,

they were adopted because of the external crisis. The bureaucrats' and politicians' penchant for

protecting domestic industry and discriminating against external forces just went underground,

and reappeared once the crisis was over. India's worst enemy is the narrow, irrational

nationalism that pervades its ruling class; as long as it remains parochial, India will never

become a world leader, however fast it grows. In spite of its conquest of world markets and its

generosity towards other developing countries, China never became a world leader because it

was too parochial to make friends internationally. India will get its chance in the next decade or

two; but it too will fail for the same reason. The days of strutting and domination are gone; if

they are to realize their world potential, Indians need to understand their neighbours and listen

to them in their languages.


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HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 15, 2016Education panel recommends skill training for children from class 3Neelam Pandey

 |  Recommendations made by the Central Advisory Board of Education sub-committee included training teachers and keeping in mind the needs of the industry. (Rishikesh Choudhary/Hindustan Times)

A Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) sub-committee on skill and technical education has recommended introducing vocational courses from class 3 to ensure that school students undergo skill training from an early age.

The committee also mooted developing laboratories at primary schools to motivate students in this regard. The report was discussed at a meeting of CABE – the highest advisory body on education for the central and state governments – last month.

Besides this, the body recommended collating a list of skills vis-à-vis the regions they are required in, and integrating them with the education system. “During deliberations, the sub-committee made a number of suggestions, including the introduction of vocational education from the third standard. Also, it was suggested that state-of-the-art labs be developed even at the primary school level to motivate them,” said a source.

Many members also highlighted the need to focus on vocational education pertaining to skill sectors relevant to the states.

Other recommendations made by the sub-committee included training teachers, keeping the needs of the industry in mind. It also suggested ways to ensure that training in the agriculture sector reaches the backward sections of society.


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Sources further said the National Institute of Open Schooling is planning to introduce vocational education in class 12 with three vocational subjects, besides one language and one foundation subject.

The committee stressed on the importance of infusing the existing skill education and technical education courses in both school and higher-education levels at academic institutes. It also recommended giving parents a say in picking entrepreneurship training courses for students.“Teachers should play the role of a mentor, and help students pick the learning or entrepreneurship training of their choice in conjunction with their parents at parent-teacher meets,” said a senior official.

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 15, 2016Compulsory Class 10 board exams for CBSE schools from 2017-18: Javadekar

The government will reintroduce compulsory class X board examination for CBSE schools from the 2017-18 academic year, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said here on Monday.

In an informal conversation with reporters after a meeting with the Rajasthan education minister, he informed about the decision to reintroduce Class 10 board examination.

Javadekar also said state governments will be given authority to reintroduce Class 5 and 8 board examinations, a proposal for which will be tabled in the Cabinet and then in Parliament.“The decision to conduct class 5 and 8 board examinations will be left with the state,” Javadekar said.

The main focus of HRD ministry is on improving the quality of school education, specifically of government schools, he said.

Praising the initiatives taken in school education sector in Rajasthan, Javadekar said improvement in the quality of education in government schools have been brought in the state, which was 25 years ago called a “Bimaru” state.

He said that enrolment in government school in Rajasthan has increased by 15 lakh where Utkarsh Adarsh schools have been opened at panchayat level.


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The Narendra Modi-led government is working to improve academic standard and wants the curiosity among students to grow with education, the minister said.

Asked about suicide by several students preparing for IITJEE at coaching institutes of Kota, Javadekar said a website IIT-PAL will be introduced for free of cost on which students will get facilities like study material, guidance by experts and discussion options.

HINDU, NOV 9, 2016Aligarh Muslim University forces faculty to retireMOHAMMAD ALI

The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) forced the AMU Teachers Association (AMUTA)

Secretary Mustafa Zaidi to retire for allegedly raising cases of financial corruption against the

Vice-Chancellor Lt Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah. The move led to widespread protests by his

fellow faculty but some of them also said that no one wanted to go public with their opposition

against the AMU decision due to “sheer fear of a witch hunt by the university administration”.

The AMUTA on its part strongly condemned the decision of the university’s Executive Council

(EC) to send Professor Zaidi on forced retirement, alleging that he was forced to retire because

he kept on raising the issue of alleged corruption, alleged arbitrary promotions and admissions,

and financial bungling in the university.


The AMU authorities, however rejected the charges of “witch hunting”. Professor Javed Akhtar,

Registrar of AMU, told the media that “Zaidi was charged with dereliction of duty, attempt to

create disorder and vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the campus, and false propaganda through

social media and internet. An enquiry by a retired judge of Allahabad High Court found him

guilty”. Importantly, the District and Sessions Judge of Aligarh recently issued summons to Lt

Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah, and 14 other officials of the university, in a case of alleged

fraudulent appointments at the prestigious institution.


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Shadab Bano, member of the AMUTA and its former secretary, said that “Prof. Zaidi was forced

to retire because, as AMUTA secretary, he protested against flouting of rules in admissions,

promotions and appointments, and administrative and financial irregularities.”

The AMUTA in an statement said, “it was because of Prof. Zaidi’s repeated protests that the

Visitor of the University, the President of India, ordered an enquiry into the working of the

university. The motivated action against the AMUTA secretary was aimed at preventing any

further revelation of this type from coming out”.


TELEGRAPH, NOV 10, 2016A lively, bitter contest- Lessons from the US election

Manish Nandy

The United States of America has just concluded its presidential election. Characteristically, it

has done so with colour and drama, on a scale that is truly striking. Does the election have

lessons for other countries, especially countries like India, that have democratic systems and

have a yen to improve their systems?

Of course, every country has something to learn from the electoral experience of other

countries: what to do and, equally important, what not to do. But, more specifically, the US

experience has special relevance for India because they are both large countries,

geographically and demographically, have a federation of states with sharply different

cultures, possess significant power and pride, swear by democratic structures and practices,

and harbour an intelligentsia intent on seeking, in Lincoln’s words, “a more perfect union.”

The 2016 election was an unusually ferocious contest. On one side was the left-of-centre

Democratic Party’s candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a professional lawyer and life-long

activist for liberal principles, who had served as First Lady, senator and secretary of state and

has the reputation for indefatigable work, punctilious preparation and eloquent articulation.

She rarely shirked a challenge and she never gave up. Her principal adversary was the right-


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of-centre Republican Party’s candidate, Donald John Trump, a billionaire and construction

industry tycoon, who had dramatically entered the race without prior experience in politics,

vanquished savvy aspirants to become his party’s nominee, decided to stand on a unique

platform politicos disdained and pursued an aggressive campaign strategy that left his party

confused but won him a devoted following.

The election was principally the story of their titanic struggle, though there were some other

fringe candidates, including Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, dedicated to small-

government laissez-faire policies, Jill Stein of the environmentalist Green Party, Gloria Estela

La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Darrell Lane Castle of the Constitution

Party, Rocky De La Fuente of the Reform Party, and an independent, Evan McMullin.

This unusually dramatic election showed, once again, how well the US has been served by its

sturdy two-party system. Despite the obvious disadvantage that it precluded many other

shades of opinion, it allowed for a highly disciplined process with numerous checks and

balances to yield a definitive result that could put term to all controversy. It also clearly

highlighted the policy differences and allowed a focused debate on the principal issues.

Surely the issues were muddied by the sexual peccadilloes of Trump (and implied reference

to the past sins of Bill Clinton) as well as the email irregularities of Hillary Clinton, but

themes of immigration, trade and jobs remained paramount.

Closely related is the role of the media, for they played a key role in keeping the main issues

in perspective and creating an informed electorate. The virtually unrestricted US media did

with abandon what they like to do and do well. Trump was a colourful character with an

unruly tongue, and newspapers and periodicals gave him free and extensive exposure. But

when he played fast and loose with facts or made lewd remarks, they gave those too extensive

coverage. There were some half-hearted complaints of media bias, either because Trump held

the media focus for too long or Clinton received the endorsement of most newspapers.

Admittedly, some of the coverage was shallow or frivolous, but the advantage of a totally free

media (evinced clearly by The New York Times’s defiance of Trump’s lawyers’ threat of a

defamation suit) in undergirding democratic processes was more than evident.


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As in previous years, a key and growing role was played by television, especially the cable

channels that flooded the eyeballs around the clock with every emerging detail about

candidates, parties, issues, statements, press conferences and campaign tours. A large staff

covered each new development countrywide, and was aided by contract specialists for data

analysis, graphic presentation and public relations. This year, the debates in which the leading

candidates battled one another drew a larger audience, rising to an estimated 100 million

people. Pundits like professors, journalists, writers, even historians and statisticians acted as

duelling commentators, adding richness to the spectrum of public discussion and dissection. 

Several US newspapers conduct or sponsor polls; all report extensively on polls conducted by

independent pollsters. Polling always does two things. It tells both the candidates and people

which way the wind is blowing, such as, which candidate is preferred or what issues are

dominant in the public mind, and even the reasons behind the choices. Also, from one week

to the next, it tells all sides the impact of every significant change in policy, strategy or action

of a party or politician. Polling is big business and, with evolving improvements in Big Data

gathering and pinpointed algorithms, it is gaining further importance. This election further

underlined the growing significance of polling sophistication in not just aiding campaign

planners but also in sensitizing democratic processes.

The US has a nil-understood, complex, indirect election process, embodied by the

constitutionally prescribed electoral college. Americans don’t elect their president by a direct

head-count vote. The popular votes elected the ‘electors’ from the 50 states, in numbers

dictated by their population, who, in turn, elected the president.

However, on the general election night itself, the presidential choice was known since the

electors’ party affiliation was known in advance. The college has 539 electors, and Trump

won by securing 289, well over the 270 majority votes required for victory. The main idea of

the system was to give the states importance, but the result has been the opposite: candidates

canvassed in no more than 12 states and focused closely on seven battleground states,

ascertaining by polling that the other states were already committed to the opposite party.


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Finally, the funding of the election. If in crime, cherchez la femme is a good working rule, in

elections it could be cherchez l’argent: look for the flow of funds. Trump and Clinton each is

reported to have spent above a billion dollar each. Thanks to the US Supreme Court’s

Citizens United ruling, the so-called political action committees and Super PACs can raise

vast sums without having to disclose their sources. This has opened the doors to business

tycoons funnelling massive money to candidates and gaining a disproportionate influence on

the choice of candidates, their preferred policies, party platforms and the election process

itself. The emphasis has shifted shamefully from educating the voting public to securing their

support by skilled publicity and skewed misinformation.

This year, these six crucial issues were somewhat obscured by the histrionics of a lively,

bitter clash of two colourful characters: a brilliant, ambitious woman with a long political

trajectory and a business mogul with a flair for the pithy phrase and shrewd self-promotion.

But these issues will remain and haunt the US political scene presumably long after these

vibrant figures have receded in the hinterland of history. The American people need to take a

hard look at their bilateral party system, the impartiality of their press and television, better

use of polling, functioning of the electoral college and the overarching question of the role of

money in the system.

For any large democracy, such as India, trying to achieve a half-way decent process of

educating the public on major issues and ensuring a fair election based on knowledge and

discriminating choice, there are significant lessons to be learned from this exciting exercise.

There must be reasonable free play of conflicting ideas and contradictory visions, but are our

political parties and their chosen nominees presenting the alternatives honestly and clearly?

Are the growing tentacles of our media and television helping the voting adults to untangle

the issues, weigh their options and choose what is best for them? How sophisticated is our

current data gathering, their timely analysis and the guidance of our pollsters, not just to guide

election strategy but also to improve party platforms and shape political leaders’ views? How

good is our electoral system and how well matched is it to changing social realities? Money

will play a role, but how can we make sure restraints will restrict that role to a modest and


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acceptable one?

These questions will merit some thought if our democratic polities are to do well in the

coming decades.

The author is an international development specialist based in Washington


HINDU, NOV 8, 2016Solutions after the smog

If Delhi’s crippling pollution crisis is to end, at least in the coming years, the Centre and the

States concerned need to adopt a two-pronged approach: make policy changes to help farmers

stop burning crop waste and tackle problems created by urbanisation. Every measure to curb the

release of pollutants is important since the weather pattern in the post-monsoon months causes

smog to persist. The capital experiences the inversion effect of air pressure retarding the

dispersal of the foul cloud. There has to be strong political will to implement a time-bound

programme that will stop the burning of crop residues — by one estimate about 90 million

tonnes is burnt on-farm — and put them to commercial use. As the eminent agriculture scientist

M.S. Swaminathan has pointed out, farmers are not at fault for trying to remove the waste from

the land, and they need help. In the northwestern States, they resort to burning straw to prepare

for a wheat crop weeks after harvesting rice. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute

published a guidance report four years ago on ways to use the residue, with an emphasis on

converting paddy straw into livestock feed, compost, raw material for power generation, biofuel

production and as substrate for mushroom farming. State support is vital for straw to be used as

fodder, and farmers should be assisted with supplemental stocks of urea and molasses, green

fodder and legume waste.

The air quality in Delhi and other northern cities is under severe stress also owing to factors

linked to urbanisation. Smoke-generating brick kilns around the national capital need to be

cleaned up through a state-guided modernisation programme, since they become active during


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the period when the weather is unhelpful. It is also important to pave all roads well to curb dust,

and show zero tolerance to civic agencies leaving exposed mud after executing projects. A more

diffused problem is the burning of waste and other materials by the poor who do not have access

to cleaner forms of heating in the winter months. If that is unavoidable in the short term, it is

certainly possible to clean up the transport sector. Delhi’s bus fleet should be augmented,

preferably doubled, with modern high-capacity zero emission electric vehicles of the kind being

introduced in Europe. Higher parking fees for private vehicles can pay for this. The capital —

indeed, all Indian cities — can achieve better efficiencies if transport data are opened up to build

smartphone apps giving users real-time service information. The Delhi government has

responded to the crisis by shutting schools and banning waste burning. It now needs a sustained

pollution control strategy to keep life normal throughout the year.


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TIMES OF INDIA, NOV 8, 2016Group D staff work may be outsourced in govt hospitalsRakesh Prakash

BENGALURU: Adopting the corporate practice of outsourcing housekeeping workto a third-

party vendor, the government has directed all deputy commissioners in districts to switch to the

"outsource-mode" for filling up 2,459 Group D posts in government hospitals.

Group D employees, in government parlance, comprise the lowest rung of the administrative

machinery who deal with routine duties. The other layers are: Group A - senior bureaucrats in

leadership roles; Group B - middle management; Group C - those who perform supervisory and

operative tasks.

In the hospital setup, Group D workers are usually the first point-of-contact for patients and

shape the latter's perceptions.

With health minister KR Ramesh Kumar trying to increase efficiency and accountability in

government hospitals, the idea of outsourcing ward assistants, sanitary attendants and drivers

was mooted. An order was issued on October 26 and deputy commissioners were directed to call

tenders and select vendors.


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Latest Comment

Congrats. Keep doing these type of good thingssreenivasa prasad

Kumar said recently: "It has been our priority to fill up vacancies, including that of Group D

posts, in primary health centres (PHCs), community health centres, taluk and district hospitals.

Vacancies in Group D do not augur well in the healthcare setup, so we have decided to outsource

these jobs keeping in mind the interest of patients." There are 13,965 sanctioned posts in the

Group-D category and 5,734 are vacant."

Health department sources said the move will increase efficiency among staff. "It is difficult to

manage ward assistants and sanitary attendants, especially in rural areas. Any action against

them for dereliction of duty often results in groupism and unruly scenes. However, such

situations can be avoided by outsourcing work to a third party and fixing responsibility. This is

precisely how corporate companies operate in the housekeeping field and we are trying to

replicate that in hospitals."


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DECCAN HERALD, NOV 11, 2016Move to reappoint judges welcome

The government decision to appoint retired judges of high courts as judges of various high courts

in order to clear the large backlog pending cases offers a temporary solution to a serious

problem. The decision is in accordance with Article 224A of the Constitution which provides for

reappointment of retired judges as an extraordinary measure. It allows high court chief justices to

appoint retired judges with proven integrity and track record, with the consent of the President,

to deal with the problem of rising pendency of cases. The proposal was actually made in a

resolution passed at the conference of chief justices and chief ministers in April this year. So

there is agreement between the executive and the judiciary on the proposal. The Law

Commission has also made the recommendation. Hence, it is likely that the decision will be

implemented soon without any serious objection from any quarters. There is a view that the

reappointment of retired judges will shut the door on young persons. But it seems to be a

practical and sensible idea in view the disagreement between the government and the Supreme

Court over the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges.

It should be underlined that the selections have to be done with due care and vigil to meet the

best judicial standards, even though those who are to be appointed were judges. Their conduct

after retirement will have to vetted to avoid controversies. The decision envisions reappointment

of judges for a period of two years or till the age of 65 whichever is later. While the move may


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be pursued, the long-standing proposal to increase the retirement age of judges also merits

consideration. At present it is 62 years for high court judges and 65 for Supreme Court judges.

There is no sound reason for the disparity in the retirement age. The government had once told

the Supreme Court that it is in favour of the proposal of increasing retirement age of HC judges.

The April resolution had set a target of clearing all cases pending for more than five years in the

first stage and then clearing cases pending for more than four years. Over 40% of the backlog in

high courts is over five years old. However, a permanent solution to the problem of shortage of

judges will only be possible after the deadlock over the MoP is resolved. The Supreme Court has

used harsh words against the government over the matter. The government thinks the court is

responsible for the deadlock. There is the need to find common ground so that re-gular

appointment of judges of the higher can be resumed


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TIMES OF INDIA, NOV 8, 2016Page by page, they make a flood-hit library functionalThis library ravaged by the 2015 December floods, was put back together by the relentless work of volunteers o... Read More

CHENNAI: First came the flood that destroyed the libraries in the city. And then came the flood

of books from bibliophiles across the country, which has got Chennai's libraries - wrecked by the

December deluge of 2015 - back up and running.

Contributors to this year-long effort of saving the city's public libraries came from as near as the

home of Chennai-based dancer Alarmel Valli to as far away as the study of a Kolkata professor

of English (thanks in great part to the efforts of politician-diplomat Shashi Tharoor who was

involved in getting the books to Chennai).

According to Chennai district Library Officer S Elango Chandrakumar, five of the 159 public

libraries in the district were destroyed by the floods, the one in Ashok Nagarbeing the worst

affected. "We were literally overwhelmed by the contributions of people and organisations. The

Tamil Nadu Foundation, for instance, which is formed of Tamilians in the US, contributed nearly

Rs 50 lakh worth of books. We would never have managed to get the libraries stocked and

renovated without their help," says Elango.


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Sujai G Pillai, who coordinates for the #Save the Library Movement, says that a few months

after the floods, when the virtual campaign was started, they did not expect the kind of response

they received. "We were surprised when the office of Alarmel Valli had heard about our cause

and sent in a donation of books. The movement was part of our ongoing One Library Per Village

project, where we are trying to create libraries in rural areas," says Pillai.

Writer-publisher and former MLA D Ramkumar, who is also involved in the movement, says

that one crore rupees worth of books were donated by the public, while around Rs 30 lakh were

purchased from publishers at discounts ranging from 50-90%. "Our volunteers also helped clean

up the libraries after the flood waters had receded," says Ramkumar, who adds that in

anticipation of erratic weather this year, the librarians have been asked to make plans to

safeguard the books. "It's taken a year to get things back in order," he adds.

"Our biggest individual contribution though came from a Najma Basu in Kolkata, the widow of

an English professor, who couriered more than several lakhs worth of books here," says Pillai.

Najma, who still lives in Kolkata, and is still holding on to 1000 books, left over from the 3800-

book collection that belonged to her late husband, says it was Shashi Tharoor who helped her

connect with the Save the Library movement by putting her in touch with Pillai. "My husband's

only desire before he passed away was to donate his books to a worthy cause. When I read about

the Chennai floods, and then heard about the libraries that were destroyed I knew I had found the

perfect resting place for his legacy," says Najma, who had approached Tharoor two years ago.

"He had promised me that my books would reach the right place. At least I know 2000 of them

have," she adds.

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 13, 2016Delhi’s historic libraries are in a monumental messManoj Sharma



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An air of decay permeates the premises of Hardayal Municipal Public Library (HMPL) -- the oldest public library in Delhi -- in the Walled City. The tube lights hanging low from the high ceiling illuminates the dark, cool space where thousands of books arranged on open iron shelves are gathering dust. Established in 1862, it has not added a single book to its collection and closed many of its branches in the last couple of years under a crippling financial and staff crunch.

The Hardayal library stands testimony to the ailing public library services in the Capital.The Delhi Public Library (DPL), set up in 1951, has also suffered government’s neglect for many years. More than half of the 35 branches of the library are managed by staff whose duties extend from loaning out and managing books to cleaning the premises. Several of them have studied up to Class 8 only.

“These people are polite but know nothing about books. At times I inquire about a particular book and get a blank stare in response,” says a library member, who does not want to be named, explaining what lack of trained, educated staff meant.

Several branches of DPL, which proudly describes itself as South Asia’s busiest library, lack basic amenities such toilets and drinking water. One of the oldest and biggest branches of the library in Karol Bagh with over 5,500 members is closed for visitors for over a month because of a legal dispute regarding the safety of the building with the landowner.

The DPL has already closed several branches in the past couple of years, including those in Wazirpur, Netaji Nagar and New Rajinder Nagar.

Until a few months ago, the DPL had not been able to pay pension to its retired employees. There has been no appointment at the library since 1996, and the current staff strength is 189 against the sanctioned 449. The library has not had a director and director general for past several years.

“To meet staff shortage, we are hiring library trainees on contract. The library has faced financial problems, but thing are improving,” says Ramsharan Gaur, chairman of the Delhi Library Board -- the governing body of the library.


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“We have recently paid four month’s pending pension to our retired employees. Soon, we will hire a director and director general also,” Gaur says. The DPL is an autonomous body under the union ministry of culture.

Things are far worse at Hardayal library.

Earlier this year, the electricity connection to the library was cut for non-payment of dues and it went without power for a couple of days.

Ironically, the library which has hundreds of rare books -- some over 300 years old -- has an annual membership of only 800 at its main branch in the Walled City.

Like the DPL, the Hardayal library has also shut several branches in the past year. The library had 31 branches till six months ago. Now, it has only 17 with a total membership of 2,071.

“Forget about buying new books, we have not had enough money for paying salaries. Recently, we got a grant of Rs 3 crore from Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor for conservation and rehabilitation of the main library building. Of the total grant, Rs 1.8 crore has been released to the MCD and the work will begin soon,” says Shobha Vijender, member secretary of the managing committee of the library.

The library gets about Rs 3.17 crores annually in grants from the three municipal corporations, which, Vijender says, is barely enough to pay salaries and meeting other expenses such as electricity bills. “There are no funds for overall development of the library,” she says.

The Hardayal library has an acting librarian who worked for over thirty years in the accounts department before taking over the post a few months back. Like DPL most branches of the library are being managed by attendants who have studied up to Class 8 only.Throughout the day, drug addicts stay around the library building and the area in front of the main gate has been taken over by the parking mafia. “We have lodged complaints with the police but nothing has happened,” said Vijender.

“It is a sad commentary on us as a society that a library with such a great collection of rare books has been neglected for so many years,” said Aditya Sharma, a children’s writer, who is a regular at the library.


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A project report, Public Library Service in Delhi: Present Status and Development 2010 -2020, published this year by Raja Ram Mohan Roy Foundation, Union culture ministry, says that it is necessary to enact a Public Library Act to establish and develop a public library system in Delhi. The report also provides a road map for development of public library services in the city.

Prof PB Mangla, former head, department of library science, who wrote the report as a Tagore National Fellow, said the libraries in the city should be taken over by the Central government. “It is a matter of right than pleasure to have access to well-stocked library. A new law is necessary to create a robust public library system in the Capital,” he said.

Both Gaur and Vijender, however, are positive that their libraries will beat the odds.

“We are building new branches in Bawana and Ashok Vihar. We also plan to build a library in Patparganj. Besides, we are upgrading the existing branches,” says Gaur of the Delhi Public Library.

“We are celebrating 100 years of the Hardayal library building in December. We plan to organise an international conference on protecting, conserving and preserving collections of our literary heritage. The idea is to revive our library through awareness and community engagement,” says Vijender.

Hardayal Municipal Library

•Established in 1862 as part of a reading club for Englishmen.•In 1902, it was renamed as the Delhi Public Library and shifted to a small building in Kachcha Bagh with a staff of one librarian, one clerk and one peon•On December 23, 1912, a bomb was hurled at Lord Hardinge while he was on an elephant in a procession through Company Bagh (now the adjacent Gandhi Maidan). He escaped unhurt.•The procession was organised by freedom fighter Lala Hardayal. To commemorate Hardinge’s escape, the Delhi Public Library was renamed Hardinge Municipal Library.•In 1916, it shifted with its old book collection and furniture.•In 1970, the Hardinge Library was renamed Hardayal Library.•The library has hundreds of rare books. The oldest book in its collection, ‘A Relation of Some Years by Travaile Begvenne’, was written in 1634.


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Delhi Public Library

•Delhi Public Library was started as a UNESCO project in 1951•It has 35 zonal libraries, branches and sub- branches with a combined membership of over 1.30 lakh


TRIBUNE, NOV 10, 2016Notification on Police Rules to intensify IAS-IPS standoffGeetanjali Gayatri

The standoff between the IAS and the IPS lobby in Haryana over the notification of the Haryana Police Rules under the Haryana Police Act, 2007, is set to intensify even as the Home Department prepares to notify these “partially” in a bid to tide over the contempt case which comes up for hearing in the High Court on November 11.

Sources in the Home Department said that in response to the contempt case pertaining to notification of the Haryana Police Service Rules, the government was set to submit only the “service rules” which were merely its truncated version while shelving the notification of the rest for the time being.

“The court had directed the Haryana Government to frame the rules in the light of a case pertaining to lack of promotional avenues for a certain section of employees. Since the contempt essentially deals with service issues, we are notifying only the “Service Rules” for the time being. The court will be informed of this on the next date of hearing,” sources in the Home Department said. Sources said that till the finalisation of the Police Rules, the Home Department planned to continue with the British legacy on efficiency, budgetary provisions and reforms.

For the notification of rules on the various other aspects of policing, the Home Department maintains that a call will be taken later. “If we go by the draft police rules as recommended by the Police Department, Haryana will become a police state where they will be the challaning and compounding authority. The police, further, want all financial powers independently without


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being accountable to the state government. We will hold thorough consultation on that,” a senior officer said.

However, this “inordinate” delay in the notification of the Police Rules does not seems to have gone down well with the Police Department which feels that the notifying of the “service rules” and the shelving of the remaining rules defeats the entire purpose of the Supreme Court-mandated police reforms.

In a letter to the Home Department, Director General of Police KP Singh states, “The rules cannot revolt against the enacted provisions of law. The subordinate legislation cannot replace the parent Act.” When contacted, the DGP said that the finalisation of rules was “the jurisdiction of the Home Department”.

Sources in the police said that the move of keeping the finalisation of rules in abeyance was in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s 2006 verdict in the Prakash Singh case, pertaining to police reforms as also the recommendations of the National Police Commission, the Soli Sarabjee Committee among others.

TRIBUNE, NOV 8, 2016Going too far: Delhi Police needs to be disciplined

A JNU student has been missing since October 15 and this has not evoked the kind of protests

Delhi is used to in such cases. Earlier this year when a handful of JNU students had raised anti-

India slogans on the campus, it was turned into a national issue. What has changed? Is it because

the missing student is a Muslim? Or is it because the needle of suspicion points to some ABVP

activists? What has not changed is the Delhi Police’s high-handed ways. Instead of being on the

defensive at its failure to recover the missing student or even making some credible efforts to

find him, the police swooped on the JNU students. This was bad enough; worse was the

detention of the agitated mother and other relatives of the missing JNU student, Najeeb Ahmad.  

The partisan role of the Delhi Police under the BJP dispensation first surfaced with Kanhaiya

Kumar’s arrest. He was allowed to be beaten up by some lawyers. No charge sheet has been filed

against him so far. The objectionable slogan-raisers have been forgotten. Since then the police

has covered much more distance. In the AAP-BJP power tussle the Delhi Police is not neutral,

acting independently to uphold the law. No other state in the country has seen so many arrests of


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legislators. The police has not secured a single conviction in any of the cases involving 15 of the

AAP MLAs arrested for various offences. And that has not deterred it from making more arrests.

It is unlikely that the arrests of political opponents of the BJP are carried out without a go-ahead

from the very top. When Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were

detained during a visit to the grieving family of ex-serviceman Ram Kishan Grewal, the excuse

given was the police would not let hospital work get obstructed. Barring VIP or VVIP visits to

hospitals is welcome but will the rules apply to the BJP VIPs also? What remains inexplicable,

and inexcusable, is the detention of 12 members of the dead soldier’s family. Independent India

has frequently seen police excesses but seldom have these been so sanctioned.

TELEGRAPH, NOV 12, 2016An encounter too close- The Indian police: corrupt, inefficient, and partisan

Politics and Play - Ramachandra Guha

In recent weeks and months, ruling party ideologues as well as some television anchors have argued that anyone who criticized any aspect of the army's functioning was not acting in the interests of the Nation. Now there are many things to admire about the Indian army. Its professionalism, for one. Its sturdy secularism, for another. Its refusal to intervene in the political process, for a third. Its heroic work in providing succour during floods and earthquakes, for a fourth. Its bravery in times of low-intensity conflict as well as outright wars, for a fifth.

But, since the Indian army is composed of humans, it is not flawless. There is a fair degree of corruption in the procurement and distribution of supplies, for example. A few senior officers, both in service, and after retirement, have been involved in dubious dealings with arms traders. The army's record on the battlefield is also not entirely exemplary - consider the eastern sector during the war with China in 1962.

Still, on the whole, the Indian army has acquitted itself honourably in times of peace and in times of war. It remains, with the Election Commission and the Supreme Court, one of the few public institutions that has served India and Indians fairly and well.

One can, therefore, understand the tendency, among politicians as well as TV anchors, to give the army the benefit of doubt, to protect it from malicious or motivated criticism. But should the same immunity be extended to the Indian police? When the Bhopal jailbreak-cum-encounter killings took place last week, the TV anchor who is the Conscience of the Nation was on holiday. The first round of television debates had, alas, to take place in his absence. Here, the Bharatiya Janata Party spokesmen rejected all pleas for a judicial inquiry, saying that one could


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not question 'the integrity of the security forces'. When the Anchor/Conscience returned to work, that was also the line he took -namely, that those who raised questions about the veracity of the official version were anti-national, and complicit in acts of terrorism to boot. Men in uniform, he thundered, could not, and must not, be questioned.

Both party spokesmen and hyper-patriotic anchors used the term 'security forces' in the context of the Bhopal encounter. This was a tendentious attempt to gloss over the manifest differences, in form and function, between the army and the police. True, soldiers and policemen both wear uniforms which distinguish them from the ordinary civilian. There the similarities end. Where jawans are generally lithe and athletic, policemen are too often overweight. Where soldiers at the border are awake all night, policemen are too often asleep even when on duty during the day. While a vast majority of army men (officers as well as jawans) do not abuse their official position for personal gain, corruption is pervasive in the Indian police, and at all levels too. And finally, while army men have generally stayed clear of politics, in most states of the Union senior police officers have forged links with ruling party politicians.

Promotions and postings in the Indian army are almost entirely decided on the basis of talent and competence. It is senior officers who decide which junior officers get promoted, and when. On the other hand, promotions and postings in the police are largely decided by the political class. That is why in every state of the Union, with every change of government there is a massive reshuffling of police officers, with those favoured by the last regime being shunted off to obscure postings, and those favoured by the party now in power being given the most influential or potentially lucrative assignments.

Such was not always the case. In the first few decades of Indian independence, promotions and postings were largely decided internally, within the police itself. That transparent and open system produced some outstanding police officers, such as the ageless Julio Ribeiro. However, from the 1970s onwards, promotions and postings in the police force increasingly came to be determined by ministers and chief ministers. Once personal and political loyalty rather than professional excellence became the determining factor, inefficiency and incompetence followed.

This inefficiency and incompetence were spectacularly on display in the recent jailbreak in Bhopal. As The Indian Express reported, in 2014 a retired police official had warned the Madhya Pradesh government that the Bhopal Central Jail was anything but secure. "... given the structure of the jail building," he wrote, "its vulnerable points, illogical security arrangement and deplorable condition of staff, it would be wrong to presume that everything is OK if no major incident takes place. God is helping but it would be a mistake to presume that he will continue to offer help."

The Bhopal Central Jail has some 3,300 prisoners. The jail staff assigned to guard them number 139. This seems too few in any case, and, to compound matters, on the night of the jailbreak as many as 80 members of the assigned staff were on duty elsewhere, protecting the homes and families of the chief minister and other ministers. This high degree of political absenteeism in an already under-staffed prison undoubtedly made it easier for those eight prisoners to escape.


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Responsibility for the jailbreak, and for the death of the brave guard, Ramashankar Yadav, who died trying to prevent it, must therefore lie with Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his government.

Once the jailbreak had occurred, the duty of the police was to arrest those who had escaped, and bring them back to face the charges for which they had originally been arrested, as well as the fresh charge of fleeing prison. The police who went in search of the criminals were heavily armed, and could have captured the escapees without danger to their own lives. Yet they chose to shoot them all dead instead. Whether this was done in a spirit of revenge or to please their political masters one does not know. But it seems clear that the Madhya Pradesh police knew all along that this was, in the words of one of these officers-turned-predators, a ' farzi' or fake encounter.

The depressing truth is that what happened in Bhopal could have happened anywhere in India. Jails in other states of the Union may be even more understaffed and less secure. And the policemen in charge may be even more inclined to please ministers than to ensure law and order. Meanwhile, encounter killings have taken place across India: they were once common in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh and communist-ruled West Bengal, and they are now common in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh. And they have regularly occurred in the insurgency-hit states of Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir as well. Nor is it only violence-loving Maoists and terrorists who have been subject to extra-judicial killings by the police; so have petty criminals, and plenty of altogether innocent people too.

The three words that best capture the conduct of the police force in any or all states of the Union are: Corrupt, Inefficient, and Partisan. In a rare moment of self-criticism, the Mumbai police admitted in July 2014 that they experienced a trust deficit among Muslims, who saw them as 'communal, biased and insensitive', as well as 'ill-informed, corrupt and lacking professionalism'. The second part of this verdict all Indians regardless of religion would endorse.

I began this column by referring to the attempts by party spokesmen and TV anchors to suppress critical analysis of the jailbreak-cum-fake encounter in Bhopal. Far worse, because of the official position he enjoys, were the remarks in this context made by the Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju. To those who raised questions about the Madhya Pradesh government's version of events, Rijiju answered (as quoted by The Telegraph): "First of all, we should stop this habit of raising doubts, questioning the authorities and the police. This is not a good culture. But what we have been observing in India is that people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions."

Rijiju's remarks were foolish and irresponsible. For the minister's oath of office requires him to provide the citizens of India with a police force that is honest as well as efficient. And the happenings at Bhopal illustrated afresh that the state of the Indian police is truly abysmal. Their incapacity to guard the ordinary citizen, their lack of honesty, their propensity to violence, their inability to resist the often malign demands of their political masters - all this brings shame to India. As laid down by the Constitution, it is the duty of the home ministry, of its ministers and its officers, to correct the malfunctioning of the police force. In this duty, past governments


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(often wilfully) failed, and, judging by Rijiju's remarks, this present government will (wilfully) fail too.


TELEGRAPH, NOV 14, 2016The Trump effect- A cautionary tale

Mukul Kesavan

Great political upheavals have intellectual consequences. When the Soviet Union disappeared, it took communist politics and Marxist scholarship with it. It wasn't just Stalinist intellectuals or bureaucratic communist parties that were orphaned; the independent Marxist Left, like the State in realized communism, also withered away.

The intellectual death of old-style Comintern communists was predictable. There was historical precedent for it. The dissolution of the Khilafat, aka the Ottoman Empire, left Khilafatists in the 1920s in the undignified position of being clients without a patron, ideologues without a cause. Boris Yeltsin was pan-communism's unlikely Atatürk and, like Kamal Pasha, he dismantled an empire to forge a nation, creating a historical trajectory that gave us Vladimir Putin's Russia. It wasn't surprising, then, that post-Soviet Stalinists were consigned to political limbo once 'actually existing socialism', their ideological anchor, actually ceased to exist.

What surprised everyone, though, was the knock-on effect this had on Marxist intellectuals who had given their lives to build a socialist view of the world fiercely independent of the Soviet


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Union and its apparatchiks. Not only did the communist parties in Western Europe die unmourned, engaged intellectuals willing to call themselves Marxist became an endangered species, so marginal as to be irrelevant to contemporary debate or politicking.

It sank in gradually that the inert, totalitarian hulk that was the Soviet Union, had, merely by being there, acted as a place-holder for the possibility of a socialist alternative to the bourgeois West. Its death mightn't have ended history, but it certainly kayoed the socialist imagination. A useful, if trivial, way to think about this is the ideological distance travelled in a single generation by the Miliband family: from Ralph Miliband, intellectual peer and comrade of such lions of British Marxism as Edward Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm, to his sons, David and Edward, hapless bearers of Blairism, Labour's poisoned chalice.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Donald Trump's election victory might be intellectually and politically more significant than Indian liberals imagine. 'Might' is the key word here; we don't yet know if the ascent of Trump signals the end of America's claim to being the standard-bearer of liberal democracy. He might be an aberration, impeached inside a year as David Brooks suggests in his column in the New York Times. But since Brooks is generally wrong about everything it's probably safe to assume that Trump is here to stay. If he does serve out a term (or two) in the White House, will the liberal ideal in society, geopolitics and democracy, suffer irreparable global harm?

I can hear a chorus of Left and liberal voices retort that they haven't seen the US as the global sponsor of liberal ideals for many decades now and they are right. It can be argued that the reverse is true, which is to say that for the readers of the New York Times or Le Monde or the Guardian or the Hindu, America is, by a kind of ideological default, the sponsor of neo-colonialism, the patron of Third World despotisms and the hammer of movements of resistance worldwide. Why, then, should the world's progressive causes be mortgaged to the health of whatever passes for liberalism in the US?

This is a good question, one that should be taken seriously. One answer might be that in a connected world, the intellectual weather in any country is inescapably linked to the intellectual climate worldwide. The collapse of the Left's ecosystem in the wake of the Soviet Union's demise helps us think of the complicated ways in which political structures prop up styles of thought. There is a reason why the Right in India or the US or Britain or France complains of being marginalized by the mainstream media and the academic world. And that reason is that liberal and leftish ideas, regardless of the dominance of the Right in this country or that, have enjoyed a moral ascendancy over the values and ideas of the Right. Liberal democracy, religious freedom, civil liberties, individual rights, gender equality have trumped (no pun intended) for many decades now, the Right's causes: family values, nativist nationalism and patriarchy's long rearguard action. Whether intellectuals elsewhere acknowledged this or not, the rhetorical hegemony of liberal ideals in the West helped underwrite their convictions.

In the US, striving for a more perfect union has historically meant making the liberal values of its Constitution accessible to more and more citizens, specially groups that had been excluded by prejudice and bigotry. But there has always been an alternative, illiberal understanding of the


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republic, a quasi-Confederate vision of American destiny which saw the Civil War as the wrong road taken. With Trump and Pence, that vision has scored a famous victory. From Russia to Turkey, from Hungary to India, a belligerent, xenophobic, majoritarian nationalism has remade democracy in its own image. With Brexit and Trump's triumph the Anglosphere seems to have joined this ugly cohort.

There's a reason why Marine Le Pen gloated over Brexit and rejoiced at Trump's victory. "It's the emergence of a new World," she said. "It's the end of the 20th century." Her strategist, Florian Philippot, was more categorical: "Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built." The recruitment of America to the cause of populist reaction matters globally in a way that Hungary's membership or Turkey's doesn't. It makes it more likely that this turn to the Right is an inflection point, not an aberration.

Should this concern liberals in India? It isn't hard to think of progressive political commitments in India that are deeply felt, historically rooted and specific to the political life of the republic. The Indian liberal's concern for due process and civil liberties in the State's wars against Maoist or secessionist insurrections, progressive solidarity with movements that meld the right to livelihood with environmental concerns such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the broad resistance against Vedanta and predatory, extractive capitalism, the republic's existential struggle against majoritarianism, all of these are home-grown causes that owe little to foreign precedent or example. Isn't it feeble to imagine that the progressive movements and causes of the subcontinent need the winds of a Western liberalism to fill their sails? Aren't they robust enough to sustain themselves? We could argue that given the hypocrisies of Western liberalism and the atrocities inflicted in its name on the rest of the world, America's domestic upheavals ought to make no difference to our political lives.

We could, but we would be wrong. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. When America or India decide that even lip-service to the liberal ideal of inclusiveness is unnecessary, the air that liberals breathe everywhere, grows a little thinner. The claims of nativist nationalism to authenticity become more persuasive. Thus Matthew Schmitz in the Spectator wrote after Trump's win that "Voters sense the need for a deeper solidarity and a higher order than liberalism can give them". Who would have thought that Trump's explicit appeals to misogyny and racism could be translated into something as respectable and resonant as that sentence? Just as 'yuge' nativist victories make bigotry plausible, great liberal defeats can make progressive causes seem perverse.

The fate of the independent Left after the collapse of the Soviet Union is a cautionary tale; fine minds and good causes can be ambushed by history. In the aftermath of Trump's victory, it's important to acknowledge, for the sake of self-awareness and self-preservation, that our task as liberals just became harder. This is not to despair; it is to acknowledge, in Donne's words, that since we are implicated in mankind, the sight of one of the promontories of liberalism sliding into the sea should concern us. It's a sign that we will have to work harder just to stay in the same place, a reminder that we have to make better arguments for our causes, and a warning to never assume that progressive ideas are, because of their self-evident virtue, the common sense of the republic.


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STATESMAN, NOV 10, 2016Islamic militancy in India

For the first time, the United States government has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens of a possible Islamic State-inspired terror attack in a populated area in India. The Islamic State (IS) or Daesh, is the shorter form of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Its followers are prone to brandish black banners, as do Kashmiri anti-government protestors, and the gesture has significance because such banners were used when the Prophet took arms against infidels.

The American warning gives rise to some hard questions; whether the IS has suddenly made a significant appearance in India; and whether the supposition is correct that our 170 million-strong Muslim community is sufficiently inoculated by democracy against infiltration and indoctrination by terrorist groups sponsored from abroad. The IS is of origin outside the Indian subcontinent, though it is making inroads in our Muslim neighbours to the East and West.


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It has scored significant successes in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya and has persecuted Christians, Shia Muslims, Turkmen and Yazidis, while using Sunni Muslims as its principal basis of support. Conventional wisdom has it that the IS should not be able to spread as fast or extensively in India as in the Arab countries, because a majority of Indian Muslims will hesitate to disown the benefits of the secular-democratic culture of India, despite its manifold shortcomings and exclusions. But there is obviously little scope for complacency.

There is already the presence of Al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which was originally the progenitor of the IS. Currently, they follow different tracks not because of ideological differences, but for reasons of power politics and the blatant ruthlessness of the IS. But the IS has moved far beyond Al Qaida in terms of cadre strength, financial resources and territorial control, and there is no reason to imagine that AQIS adherents would not join the IS, as some of its cadres have already done in Afghanistan. Terrorist agencies will bury their differences when opportunities for gainful cooperation arise.

The IS made its presence felt in the Indian subcontinent on 1 July 2016 with its claim of a jihadi attack on a restaurant in an upscale area of Dhaka. The denial by Bangladesh about the IS presence is understandable but not convincing. Dhaka referred to links between the seven educated men of prosperous families who attacked the cafe and the Jamaat-ul-Mujahiddin Bangladesh (JMB), but as early as November 2015, an IS magazine had complimented the JMB, which suggested growing ties between them and underlined the scope for the IS to regard the JMB as a source of recruitment of jihadis.

As far as India is concerned, the distinctions between JMB, AQIS and IS are necessarily blurred because the terrorists use changing labels in accordance with practical convenience. Even the IS itself goes by multiple names. It is skilled in the use of technology, whether in the field of weapons or information, and can manifest itself anywhere before melting away after a terrorist strike. As for governments, they variously deny, underestimate or exaggerate the presence of these terror agencies to conceal their own deficiencies. 

Many patriotic Indians can and do trust that India’s secular-democratic tradition has struck root among Indian Muslims, unlike the Muslims of Pakistan or Bangladesh. But it would be best to remain cautious because of information about a number of Indians, though still small, going to the Middle East to fight for the IS. Counter-terrorism operations by Indian government agencies have thus far kept this number small, but common sense suggests that India is a huge prize for IS because its ability to expand its presence here will earn publicity and enhance its stature when it is under pressure in Iraq and Syria.

The IS is spreading its wings in India by using its connections in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The IS, AQIS, and Pakistan’s ISI, are agencies hostile to India with overlapping jurisdictions and activities. Clearly, the ISI of Pakistan is a patron of AQIS as also JMB and one of its primary targets would be the Muslim community of India. According to American intelligence sources,


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the IS’s propaganda machinery ridicules Indian Muslims who prefer peaceful coexistence with Hindus.

There are reports that the IS wants to revive the use of Bangladesh as a base for actions in India, and that a new terrorist agency, the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), has emerged as its vehicle. Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiyaba (LET) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) are known proteges of the ISI, and will find it expedient to conceal their identities and use the IS as a cover for terrorist activities in India.

West Bengal, one of the most secular-minded States in India, has emerged as a jihadi hub. India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has detected the existence of some five dozen terror outfits in West Bengal, who recruit cadres from some of the 500 recognised and 4,000 unrecognised madrasas in the state. They also supply cadres to the IS, AQIS, LET and others who work in close collaboration and competitive terrorism.

On 17 August 2005, over a brief period, 500 bomb explosions occurred at 300 places in various parts of Bangladesh. The JMB, which enjoyed the support of Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, showing an overlap between terrorist organisations across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, was held responsible. Some JMB leaders were arrested and convicted and in late March 2007, six of them were hanged. But a number of them fled to India, especially to West Bengal, and set up a base at Khagragarh for operations in West Bengal as also in Bangladesh. Many Jamaat leaders also took shelter in West Bengal. JMB was active in the Khagragarh base for years, and only an accidental explosion in 2014 brought these activities in the open. These militants even trained their spouses, who destroyed jihadi literature, attempted to prevent the entry of policemen, and pleaded unconvincingly that gas cylinders caused the explosion. As for the principal accused in Khagragarh, he was arrested only as late as September 2016.

In October 2016, a Bangladesh Government report pointed to terrorists with IS links moving from Bangladesh to West Bengal. In the same month, the chief culprit of the July café attack, who called himself a neo-JMB, was killed near Dhaka by a police raid. JMB’s role needs to be investigated in about a dozen communal disturbances during the Durga Puja in West Bengal last October, and the NIA told a court in Kolkata in late October, that interrogation of JMB militants revealed plans to attack several big cities in India.

It is imperative that Indian security agencies, especially the NIA, takes all possible counter-measures to deal with Muslim militants, even though their presence may still be misleadingly low in some parts of this vast country, yet disturbingly high in other parts, while they continue to utilise all manner of labels like. AQIS, JMB, and neo-JMB in order to create confusion. It is reasonable to assume that no amount of terror-related incidents can undermine the Indian democratic and social fabric, but the distraction from the economic development of the country will be highly undesirable. The fall of IS-controlled Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq, and their impending dispersal from Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, can only encourage the IS


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temptation to expand its activities to the much softer state of India, where a unique brand of vote-bank politics creates for the IS various opportunities which are not available to it in most other parts of the world. We have to remind ourselves that that price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

-Jayanta Kumar Ray and Krishnan Srinivasan

(The writers are respectively a National Professor and India’s former Foreign Secretary)