Tag Archives: Manmohan Singh

Jan Lokpal : The Beginning of an End

I agree I have my reservations about individuals being given credit of a group’s achievement. It’s like you boss being accredited for all the hard work you put in. You break your back all round the year for a meager hike and your manager goes for a all expenses paid trip to Pataya!

Anna Hazare

What exactly did Anna Hazare do get so much credit after all?  Is it all just because of the 98 hour fast of this 71-year old ex-army man?

For a layman like me:

  • He united both, the people who sit in boardrooms and crib about corruption and the people who hang on footboard of train everyday and crib about the same.
  • He made the statesmen wake up and realize that the same herd that they drive every five years can be driven by someone else.
  • He made things move so much for the first time in over 60 years on this account.

People from all walks of life came out on the streets to say that they had enough. It wasn’t just the educated and elite from the metros but people from smaller towns like Kochi, Patna, Nashik, Asansol, Ranchi as well who came out to register their protest against corruption. The protest spilled well over the borders and we saw Indians in USA also joining in with fasts and candle light vigils. New York City witnessed 300-400 NRIs and Indian expatriates converge on New York’s iconic Times Square at noon on April 9 in support of Hazare’s crusade, other groups held meetings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. This wasn’t one of the forums of Arundhati Roys and Mahesh Bhatts of India who come out to cry their heart out in favor of naxalites. This is a movement of the common man and we saw the common man on the street.

The government which claims to be the government of the “Common Man” did a complete U-turn within a span of 10-12 hours. Starting from a no negotiation mode to issuing a Gazette, the government not only made it look like they were against masses, they also lost face on account of nominating members on the drafting committee. The instance of Sharad Pawar “quitting” the Group of Ministers (GoM) panel on corruption after reservations made by Anna Hazare and the failed counter-attack by Pawar’s party.

From Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s initial expression of “deep disappointment” when Hazare confirmed his decision to go on a fast from April 5 and called upon the nation to join in, to issue of the notification. What made this happen. Taking cue from the fast catching up public unrest, Law Minister Veerappa Moily made recommendations to the government.

For four days, the UPA government was adamant on not yielding to the demands for a new draft of the Lokpal Bill. The government’s perspective changed dramatically yesterday afternoon — after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received a letter from Law Minister M Veerappa Moily.

Moily told the PM that Anna Hazare’s fast unto death was fast catching the imagination of the people, and favoured an immediate resolution of the issue, sources said.

Many senior government functionaries were against the idea of having an activist as either the chairman or co-chairman of the proposed joint committee to draft the new Bill. But Moily was learnt to have suggested that the government should agree to a former Chief Justice of India as chairman of the committee. Chairmanship of the committee, he was learnt to have argued, must not be turned into a prestige issue.

Source: IndianExpress

The support of people was key to the whole movement and surely made the government think. Now the government has issued an official Gazette and the Drafting committee formed to draft the Bill to be tabled in the Monsoon Session. The committee has been asked to submit the draft by June 30, 2011.

Here is the text of the Gazette issued by government:

The Joint Drafting Committee shall consist of five nominee ministers of the Government of India and five nominees of Shri Anna Hazare (including himself).

The five nominee Ministers of the Government of India are as under:

Pranab Mukherjee, Union Minister of Finance, P Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs, M Veerappa Moily, Union Minister of Law and Justice, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Human Resource and Development and Minister of Communication and Information Technology and Salman Khursheed, Union Minister of Water Resources and Minister of Minority Affairs.

The five nominees of Anna Hazare (including himself) are as under:

Anna Hazare, Justice N Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Prashan Bhushan, Advocate and Arvind Kejriwal.

The Chairperson of the Joint Drafting Committee shall be Pranab Mukherjee.

The Co-Chairperson of the Joint Drafting Committee shall be Shanti Bhushan.

The Convenor of the Join Drafting Committee shall be M Veerappa Moily.

The Joint Drafting Committee shall commence its work forthwith and evolve its own procedure to prepare the proposed legislation.

The Joint Drafting Committee shall complete its work latest by 30th June, 2011.

Source: Hindu

The Gazette can be accessed here: lawmin.nic

Now what remains to be seen is how serious is the government about allowing the civil society have its say in the drafting of the bill and how serious is the government in actually executing a tough law. Going by the track record it has established in last few months in the way the case of Adarsh ScamA Raja and Suresh Kalmadi, people like me still have a reason to be skeptical. At the same time if the civil society which is the common people like me, keep the tempo up, I see no reason why this tough act can’t be instituted and acted upon.

The coming few weeks will decide how this war will end. Anna has already indicated that this is a long battle and people should be ready for it.

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The (Un)Common Misadventure?

CWG-Delhi-2010

Abraham Lincoln once said:

God must love the common man, he made so many of them.

It seems that God did not like the Indian common man as he made so many politicians and bureaucrats to make their life tough if not hell.

Amidst rising inflation, poverty and lack of basic amenities plaguing the common man, politicians are busy playing the game they play best: mudslinging.

The latest example is the (non-)issue about the CommonWealth Games (CWG). Two of the top-notch politicians of the ruling coalition are busy mudslinging at each other while the repute of the nation is at stake. The worst part is the truth that billions have already been spent, overshooting the initial budget and still things are chaotic. All this at the cost of hard earned money of the poor common man.

This speaks of amongst other the following failures:

Old time arch-rivals senior Congress leader, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Suresh Kalmadi, Congress leader and Chairman of the organizing committee of the CWG, are busy making accusations against each other while the preparations for the games are in a limbo. To give the matter an even more shameful flavor, the recent revelations by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) ranging from allegations like:

  • Award of works at higher rates – One of the accusations here are:

In the bid of L1, rates of some items and discount offered by the firm at the end of BOQ were tampered either by cutting or by overwriting in the price bid after opening in order to increase the quoted amount to avail the difference of Rs. 3,62,72,229/- between the next higher quoted amounts without changing the overall status.

  • Poor quality assurance – One among a list of eleven accusations CVC’s inspection note reveals :

Lot of deviations taken from the approved scheme of the Government without obtaining the approval of the competent authority. Specially poles of 12 meter length (Agreement rate of Rs. 28,358/-) and 10 meter length (Agreement rate of Rs. 28,974/-) have been deviated in such a manner which is beneficial to the agency with extra burden of about Rs. 1,13,32,464/-.

  • Award of work to ineligible agencies – CVC’s note states in one case:

Work finally had to be terminated which resulted into time and cost overrun

    Source: cvc.nic.in

    What is even more shocking and disturbing is the CVC revelation that the materials used in the construction failed “stress-test”. Basic safety norms are being openly flouted. Electricity installations remained to be tested for common checks like insulation test. With rains pouring and large crowd expected for the event, it is a dangerous proposition.

    As different parties peg the amount spent on the games at different levels, everyone agrees that it has zoomed way past the initial estimates and the whole proposition to organize the games is being questioned. A Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India press release dated July 29, 2010 pegs the figures as below:

    • Expected Income as per the CWG Organizing Committee (OC)  – Rs. 1,708 crore
    • Expected Expenditure on condust of the games – Rs.2,394 crore (includes Overlays, Timing, Scoring, Result System and Games Time Sports Equipment)
    • Indian Olympic Association (IOA) estimate of expenditure (2003) – Rs.655 crore
    • Current estimates – Rs.11,494 crore (apart from expenditure of Sports Infrastructure and Conduct of the Games, also expenditure on Security, Broadcasting, Telecommunication, Training of Sportspersons, allocation to Government of Delhi etc.)

    Some sources peg the amount at Rs. 35, 000 crores (close to USD 8, 000 millions, Indian per capita GDP– USD 3, 100).  Mani Shankar Aiyar also alleged that India had bribed the various nations to take the game.

    “To take the Games, the Olympic association of every Commonwealth country was given $1 lakh ($100,000); it was given to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Britain. Those countries did not need this money,” he said. “I would call it a bribe, I don’t know what it is called from the legal point of view.”

    Source: EconomicTimes.IndiaTimes.com

    Aiyar openly declared that he would be happy if the “Games are spoilt”. Organizing such games and events are a good way to showcase the growth and cultural diversity of a nation to attract investment and tourism but the way this event is being managed, it will raise more doubts about Indian acumen and competence rather than creating a positive impact.

    “I am very happy with the rains, firstly because it will ensure a good agriculture for the country and secondly because it will ensure that the Commonwealth Games are spoilt,” Aiyar said candidly.

    Source: EconomicTimes.IndiaTimes.com

    As of now the CWG seems to have become a White Elephant which no one is ready to own. Games OC Chairman, Kalmadi has already wiped-off his hand from allegations of corruption.

    As the countdown clock on the games official page happily ticks away to the D-day, organizers are feeling the heat. CVC as well as the opposition parties and now even constituents of the ruling coalition are raising doubts on the successful conduct of the games. Delhi Finance Minister and a member of the Delhi government Commonwealth Coordination Committee, AK Walia has also gone on records, stating that he was not sure if all stadiums would be ready by the August 15 deadline for the Games.

    Come October 15, 2010, the day the games begin: the world is watching.

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    TEDxHitechCity – Karuna Gopal – The Truth about Indian Cities

    Karuna Gopal from the Foundation of Futuristic Cities was the main speaker at a recent Tedx conference (TEDx: TEDx is a new program that enables local communities such as schools, businesses, libraries, neighborhoods or just groups of friends to organize, design and host their own independent, TED-like events.).

    As always Karuna’s fiery talk was about Indian cities and their state. She highlighted the poor state our cities are in and the need for their development on our future.

    The topic of Karuna’s talk was: The Truth about Indian Cities.

    Watch her talk about the issues and how important they are:

    Karuna’s organization the Foundation for Futuristic Cities has done pioneering work in the area of City Development and is determined to carry it forward.

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    Canada and India break 34 years of nuclear jinx

    Indo-Canadian

    Indo-Canadian Cooperation

    Canada, world’s largest producer of uranium, has now become the eighth country which has reached a civil nuclear agreement with India, since the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) lifted a 34-year-old ban on India to join global nuclear trade in September 2008. The group members who have already signed the civil nuclear deal with India are the US, France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia.

     

    The deal was announced after the Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port of Spain. The bilateral relations had turned sour between the two nations when Canada had severed the nuclear trade accusing India of misappropriating Canadian reactor designs after India in 1974 had conducted nuclear tests.

    The two nations were close to clinch the deal when PM Harper was in India earlier this month but some lingering differences over the nature of safeguards delayed the negotiation. The Canadian PM added that it will take “a little time to complete the normal legal text and the ratification process.” While stressing that the two nations have a lot of opportunity for trade and a labelled this as a tremendous step forward.

    Canada is a supplier, obviously an integrated supplier in the nuclear energy field and India is an expanding economy that has great energy needs,” Harper said.

    The agreement is likely to be signed in June next year, when the Indian PM will be in Canada to attend the G20 summit. The official text of the deal has not been released. The Canadian side said it would only be released when the legislation goes to the Parliament for discussion. The current Canadian government is a minority government and will require the support of members from opposition in order to pass the agreement.

    The agreement will now allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipments and technology to and from India. The two nations have also reiterated their resolve to triple their bilateral trade from around $5 billion to $15 billion in the next five years.

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    PM Stephen Harper in India with hopes of ‘new era of partnership’

     

    Prime Minister Stephen HarperThe Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has arrived in Mumbai on a three-day state visit to India. He hopes his visit will mark “a new era of partnership” between the two countries. The two nations are expected to finalize a civil nuclear deal and ink a major economic treaty during Harper’s visit.

    The Canadian PM is on a extensive tour of Asia where he was attending the APEC summit in Singapore. In addition to Mumbai, the agenda also lists stops in New Delhi and Amritsar. He has a busy schedule on his three day tour with the first day starting with a round table with Indian investors in Canada. He is also scheduled for a tour of Chabad House, the Jewish centre that was the site of a hostage-taking and terror attack a year ago during Mumbai attacks.

    This also seems to be the first step in Canada looking eastwards for growing markets and economic cooperation.

     

    Acknowledging the growing importance of Asian trade to Canadian prosperity, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday that Canada will increasingly look eastward for its future.

    While Canada’s economy was built through trans-Atlantic trade, our future prosperity will increasingly depend on our ties to the Pacific,” Harper told reporters as the close of the APEC summit here.

    It wasn’t a formal policy statement by any stretch but it might be the first step in getting there.

     

    The PM seemed to echo the sentiments of other leaders including U.S. President Obama, who felt that the importance of economies in this region has grown after the economic slump.

     

    The region is home to some of the most dynamic and fastest growing economies,” Harper acknowledged during a post-summit briefing.

    The Canadian PM also felt that the current Conservative government has actually re-engaged in India in a way Canadian governments have not since the 1970s. While downplaying the fact that he is visiting India after almost four years of taking over the charge of government he said that he has met Indian leaders “on numerous occasions” and there have been a number of ministerial visits. He brushed off suggestions that he is late coming to the table with the two Asian nations housing one-third of human population.

    He is also scheduled to visit China next month. Relations between Canada and China had strained a bit after Harper came to power in 2006, after Canada had criticized Chinese stand on Human Rights.

    Indian PM, Manmohan Singh and Harper are likely to talk about a Canada-India Free Trade Agreement or a series of smaller steps to lower trade barriers between the two nations.

    Harper recently noted that “there is a tremendous amount of potential” in Canada’s ties with India.

     

    (Harper said) “we share a history of cooperation in the Commonwealth and the United Nations, as well as a shared commitment to pluralism, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

    Our goal is to build a stronger, more dynamic partnership based on shared commercial, political and regional interests,” Harper had said.

     

    The Canadian PM is also meeting Bollywood actor, Akshay Kumar for a photo-shoot. In another photo opportunity later in the day Harper and his wife Laureen will visit Indo-Canadian contestants in the reality show Dance Premier League.

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    India: PM’s security details allegedly cost a patient his life

    In a sad outcome of a regular VVIP security proceeding, a patient with critical kidney failure lost his life in Chandigarh, India on his way to the hospital on Tuesday.

    Sumit Prakash Verma (32) died on Tuesday after the security personnel allegedly delayed the entry of the vehicle carrying him to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh. The VVIP in question was no one less that the Prime Minster of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh who was at the time visiting the hospital for its 30th convocation.

    The family of Verma, who was suffering from a major kidney ailment and had breathing trouble, alleged that their vehicle which had come from Ambala, 45 km from Chandigarh, was stopped at different gates of the institute by securitymen, leading to wastage of crucial time.

    Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

    Traffic was halted on roads taken by the prime minister from the airport to the PGIMER and the vehicle had to make several detours. When they finally arrived at the main gate of the institute the security personnel posted there asked them to try another entrance.

    The family went from one person to the other begging for entry as Verma lost precious moments.

    We went to the emergency and high emergency wards. He held my hands and said I won’t live for long. He was alive for an hour’s time in PGI. We had a harrowing time for two hours. As tears dropped from his eyes, I understood that he had breathed his last,” said victim’s niece.

    Our uncle was crying, saying please save me. He was only 32. My humble request to the PM is that the family should be looked after,” said Dheeraj Verma, victim’s nephew.

    Now Verma’s family: His young widow and two children have no savings to fall back on, as Verma, a small businessman, was ailing for the last two years.

    Source: ndtv.com

    After the news broke out, PM’s Office (PMO) asked the hospital for a report though the hospital authorities maintained that no one was denied entry. In wake of the unfortunate incident the PM later on asked the authorities to be “more sensitive” to the concerns of the common man while making security arrangements.

    The PM also followed this up with an apology letter addressed to the widow of Mr. Verma:

    This is the text of the letter that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to the family of a patient who died during his visit to Chandigarh on Tuesday:
     
    Dear Smt Verma,

    I am writing to you to express my profound sense of sadness at the death of your husband Shri Sumit Verma yesterday.I understand that he could not get access to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Educationand Research, Chandigarh in time because of the restrictions in place for my visit there.This is something I deeply regret. I have issued instructions so that in future authorities are more sensitive to the concerns of the common man while imposing such restrictions for reasons of security.

     

    With regardsYours sincerely

     

    Manmohan Singh
    Prime Minister’s letter

    Source: ndtv.com

    Sources reported that the family had accepted the apology and a compensation of INR 200,000.

    Meanwhile in an interview with a national news channel the Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), S S Srivastav, claimed that the security arrangements had no hand in the death of the patient. He blamed the death on the fact that the family was travelling in a private vehicle and not an ambulance which made it pass through all the normal security protocols.

    CNN-IBN: The Prime Minister has written to the family of the person who died because his security would not let him through into the hospital, apologising for what happened. The Prime Minister’s security as well as the local police are under the scanner. Would you like to clarify as to what exactly happened?

    S S SRIVASTAV: Incidentally what happened was that they traveled in a private vehicle. There was no ambulance or any such vehicle that moved from there and there were some traffic diversions. We normally stop the traffic for a minimum possible time and Chandigarh has the advantage that there are multiple roads and crossings. So we normally ensure that the stoppage time is of not more than 2-3 minutes and then again we try to clear off the traffic as a soon as possible. So this family apparently got delayed a little bit because of one of the stoppages and subsequently they reached the PGI and they were guided to the appropriate gate from where they were supposed to enter.

     

    Source: ibnlive.in.com

    He also claimed that the family was escorted by security personnel to the emergency gate as they had reported to the wrong gate.

    This is not a stray incident of discomfort to common people due to the elaborate security infrastructure around VVIP/VIP security. Hopefully the security personnel will take note of the issue and in future such unfortunate incidents would not be repeated.

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    Indian Telecom Minister at the wrong end of “Spectrum”

     

    Manmohan SinghThe ruling National Democratic Alliance was in a party-mode after its win in the recently concluded state assembly election of three states when it a multi-million “scam” was revealed which has spilled beans and put the government on a back foot in front of opposition parties. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while conducting the investigation landed at the office of A. Raja, Cabinet Minister, Telecom & IT following a trail on the controversial 2G spectrum auction. In his defense Raja revoked names of top Cabinet ministers. The offices of his ministry were raided by the CBI in a bid to find missing links in the case which is estimated to be worth INR 60,000-crore though the CBI charge sheet values it at a mere 22,000-crore. This makes the scam the biggest scam in Indian history.

    (Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha <the Upper House of Parliament>, Arun) Jaitley also says the CBI probe is too little and too late. ‘‘The FIR filed by the CBI admits to a loss of Rs 22,000 crore. However, simple calculations yield a loss exceeding Rs 60,000 crore making it the biggest scam in India’s history.’’

    Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

    To push through a policy of allowing more competition, the ministry under Raja’s jurisdiction in 2008 allowed new players to take telecom licenses at 2001 prices, which were way below the rates that could be fetched if market rates were determined in a normal bidding process.

    Earlier there was a belief that there should not be too many operators and so there was a cartel. I wanted competition and got the new operators in. It seems that the cartel has created the storm. There are allegations from them. Let the investigations happen,” Raja said.

    Source: profit.ndtv.com

    He also said that even the empowered Group of Ministers (GoM) saw no reason to change the license fee. The GoM was headed by the current Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee which was constituted after the then Law Minister, H R Bhardwaj (in November 2007) had cautioned of a “mega scam” in making. The suggestion to set up a GoM had infuriated Raja who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister questioning the Law Minister’s suggestion.

    The Telecom Minister’s letter is a classic example of arrogance. He wrote, “The Ministry of Law and Justice, instead of examining the legal tenability of these alternative procedures, suggested referring the matter to EGoM. Since generally new major policy decisions of a department or inter-departmental issues are referred to the GoM, and needless to say that the present issues relate to procedures, the suggestion of the Law Ministry is totally out of context.” (The emphasis is as in the letter.)

    Source: dailypioneer.com

    The PM seemed unimpressed about the letter and wrote back “I would request you to give urgent consideration to the issues being raised with a view to ensuring fairness and transparency and let me know of the position before you take any further action in this regard”. PM in his response also objected to the proposal to go ahead with the first-come-first-served model and cheap pricing. He instructed the Minister to adopt “correct pricing of spectrum and revision of entry fee”. Raja was also asked to respond to the objections raised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) over the first-come-first-served basis and the 2001 pricing for sale in 2008. This was followed up with a flurry of letter exchanges and then Raja went into a no-response mode for some time. After about 50 days he sent a letter to the PM on December 26, 2007 which stated that he had received the go ahead from Pranab Mukherjee (then External Affairs Minister) and the then Solicitor General Goolam Vahanvati.

    It is here that the Telecom Minister got enlightened. “In these circumstances, the discussions with External Affairs Minister and Solicitor General of India have further enlightened me to take a pre-emptive and pro-active decision on these issues as per the guidelines and rules framed thereunder to avoid any further confusion and delay,” a grateful Raja stated.

    Source: dailypioneer.com

    The opposition has stepped up its attack on the minister in particular and the government in general. Some view this as an opportunity for the Indian National Congress, which leads the coalition government, to remove Raja who belongs to the DMK party. Raja has been in the line of fire from different quarters over the projects he sanctioned as Environment minister previously.

    In Jaitley’s opinion, it is best that the PM allow the CBI to continue its investigation without hindrance by airing political messages. ‘‘It is not appropriate to interfere with the investigations of an independent agency in a matter where the entire nation believes that Raja and some of his officials are involved in massive largesse to select private companies.’’

    Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

    As different groups squabble over the action; the CBI is believed to have recovered incriminating documents that may put the minister in a tight spot. Meanwhile even as the proceedings in the case are underway; acting on a strong worded letter from the the Finance Minister, DoT today issued timelines for 3G spectrum auction. There have been issues of contention between the various ministries and armed forces on the 3G spectrum allocation as these bandwidths are currently used by the armed forces and may not be available anytime soon.

     

    The defence ministry has said that it will not be able to vacate the spectrum before June 2010. This had prompted some DoT officials to suggest that the auction should be delayed. As a result, DoT delayed the issue of the information memorandum which was supposed to be released earlier on September 29.

    But Mukherjee, in his letter of October 15, made it clear that there was no scope for any delay in the auction, especially as the government wants the revenues from the auction to accrue in the current financial year. The government, in the Union Budget, had earmarked over Rs 35,000 crore from the auction of 3G auction, which is crucial if it wants to contain its fiscal deficit.

     

     

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