Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Of Manifestos & Congress Party’s Backward March

“Reaching for their grubby lecture notes, scribbled at the pre-war London School of Economics, the second generation socialists went into action. They produced between them, the Labour Party’s Manifesto of 1945. Under the inspiring title Let us Face the Future, its authors planned to solve the problems of the past.”

- C. Northcote Parkinson in Left Luggage

Instead of the ‘second generation socialists’, the motley crowd of Naxalites and pseudo-economists that infest the NAC, have gone into action, with a similar backward vision to produce the Congress party’s 2014 Manifesto.

The grand document opens with a lie in its first paragraph, in the statement that the “Indian National Congress made seminal contribution to India’s unity, integrity, secular polity and democratic federalism.” Wasn’t it under the Indian National Congress that India lost 38000 square kilometres of land to China and 78000 squarekilometres to Pakistan?

And then, instead of telling the voter what it intends to do to solve the myriad problems that plague the nation, if it were returned to power, it gets down to bash its principal opposition, the BJP. Scroll down to the next page and you will have a surprise. Splashed in the centre of the page in large caps is the question, ‘CONGRE SS OR BJP’ without the question mark. The space you see between ‘CONGRE’ and ‘SS’ is not a typo in this article, but is as seen in the downloaded .pdf document.

The party’s report card informs us that ‘the Congress-led UPA has brought 14 crore people out of poverty in the last ten years.’ Oh, yeah! These people can now eat a sumptuous meal @ between `1 and `12! 

Whoever has written the manifesto is adept at fabricating history. The economic reforms were advanced by a decade to credit them to Rajiv Gandhi and the dynasty and to rob P. V. Narasimha Rao of his due:

“In the 1980’s, economic reforms were launched in response to new challenges, to modernise the Indian economy…”

There is this ‘Right to entrepreneurship’ in the ‘15 Point Agenda For Socio-Economic And Political Transformation’. Now, what the heck is ‘right to entrepreneurship’? Is it ‘entrepreneurship’ of the Robert Vadra variety or the crony capitalism of the A. Raja type? For the rest there is a ‘pledge’ in answer to every criticism levelled by Narendra Modi in his critiques of UPA’s 10 year misrule in his electioneering! The party pledges to achieve in five years what it could not in ten years! The pernicious Communal Violence Bill finds a place in this section.

Sonia Gandhi’s ‘tireless campaign and vision’ does not fail Parkinson! How does one reconcile [the resolve to] ‘promote a more flexible labour policy as needed for maintaining competitiveness’ (3 i. p. 10) with ‘strengthening collective bargaining’ (5. p. 14)? Was page 10 written by Jairam Ramesh and page 14 by the bots in the NAC?

Having run the economy into the ground during the last ten years the party seems to have woken up to the perils of its profligacy. It therefore slips this slice of wisdom into the fine print of the section, ‘An Economic Roadmap for 2014 - 2019’ (This section seems to have been written by a different hand, as evidenced by the fact that the articles in this section are not numbered with Arabic as elsewhere but Roman numerals.):     

vii. Subsidies: Given the limited resources, and the many claims on the resources, we must choose the subsidies that are absolutely necessary and give them only to the absolutely deserving.

And then there is the middle class which is the most pliant in conforming to economic laws. Having been conditioned to put up with abysmal levels of service in all public utilities for over six decades under its decadent rule, the Congress party feels it would not now mind being taxed to receive what is its due:

We will also consider introducing sensible user charges because many more people are willing to pay for better quality services, for example, uninterrupted power and better quality train services. We will use this money saved to expand health, education and infrastructure. 

The difficulty with this formulation is that it ignores the amorphous nature of the middle class. The middle class ranges from a call centre employee who draws a monthly salary of `10000 to a software engineer who is paid upwards of  `100000.

Even after the Supreme Court threw the `10000 plus crore Aadhaar card scheme out of the window the following paragraph finds mention in the section, ‘Accelerating Job Creation and Skill Development’:

4. Aadhaar is a powerful tool for protecting the interests of migrant labour, as well as ensuring the smooth flow of remittances to their families. All migrant labour will be covered under the Aadhaar programme in the next one year, through a special campaign.

The party considers the Communal Violence Bill so important that it finds a second mention under the section, ‘Safeguarding Minorities’ in the ‘Detailed Action Plan 2014 - 2019’. There are several others, detailed elsewhere, which were repeated in the section, probably to make up the bulk.

The party does not bother to broach about terrorism (the section on Internal Security deals with Left Wing Extremism) but has a small paragraph tucked in the foreign policy section:

7. On Pakistan we will encourage the new government’s stated position to improve relations with India but calibrate the dialogue consistent with delivery on accountability for 26/11 as well as dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil.

The manifesto, long on rhetoric and short on substance, ends with again cribbing and cawing about its principal opposition, the BJP.

It is for the people of this country to decide whether they would like to vote for a party that does not even wish to utter the word ‘terrorism’ in its manifesto. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Abolition Of Privy Purses Betrayal Of Constitution?

Admirers of Indira Gandhi have often described the abolition of ‘Privy Purses’ as one of her principal achievements, along with the nationalisation of banks and the victory in the 1971 war. The first two were populist measures intended to derive electoral advantage in an era in which socialism was seen as a panacea for all social and economic ills. The third, viz. the Bangladesh war was in a way thrust upon India. To give Indira Gandhi her due she had the political will to stand up to Pakistan overtly supported by the USA. While China offered covert support to Pakistan there was the lurking fear that she might open up a second front in the war.

Privy Purses

The rulers of the erstwhile princely States which were amalgamated in the ‘Union of States’ as the Constitution described the newly emergent nation were to sign two documents known as the ‘Instrument of Accession’(IoA)[1] and the ‘Standstill Agreement’ (SA)[2]. Under the IoA the princes were to surrender only Communications, Defence, External Affairs and some ancillary matters to the Indian Union.

As late as February 1947, Nehru had assured the Negotiating Committee of the Chamber of Princes that neither the monarchical form of government, nor the integrity of the States, would be touched. […] The grant of Privy Purses to the rulers was a sort of quid pro quo for the surrender by them of all their ruling powers and for the dissolution of their States.[3]

The privy purses were thus an important component of Sardar Patel’s negotiated settlement with the 562 princely States which were amalgamated in the Indian union. The settlement was incorporated in the Indian Constitution under Articles 291 and 362.

When they agreed to amalgamate their States in the Indian union, the rulers of the princely States had surrendered the towns and villages that comprised the States, thousands of acres of jagir land, palaces and other buildings, museums with their invaluable treasures, armouries and aircraft (which the larger states had) and other properties. The cash balances and investments of the States which were taken over alone amounted to ₹77 crore. This figure however excludes the cash balances of two large states, Hyderabad and Mysore as they were continuing States at the time. The interest accruals on these amounts alone would more than cover the payment of Privy Purses. In addition to all these assets, the rulers also surrendered a railway system of roughly 12,000 miles (which, to put in perspective was about one sixth of the length of the present track network) and rolling stock, without receiving any compensation.

The Indian government agreed to compensate rulers at a rate of not more than 8.5% of their annual revenues with a ceiling of ₹10 lakh. In subsequent negotiations the ceiling was waived off in eleven cases. Of the 562 princely States 398 were eligible to receive less than ₹50,000 per annum. The largest State, Hyderabad received ₹43 lakh (which in 1947-48 was just 2% of the State’s revenues), whereas the smallest State, Katodia received just ₹192 per year. The objective of the Privy Purses was to

enable the rulers and their successors to adjust themselves to the new order of things and to fit themselves into the modern social and economic pattern (Ibid.)

The Privy Purses were in effect a kind of pension that the Constitution of a sovereign nation guaranteed to pay to the erstwhile rulers, and as Menon put it

The Privy Purse is intended to cover all the expenses of the ruler and his family, including the expenses on account of his personal staff, his palaces and the marriages and other ceremonies in his household. (Ibid.)

The Privy Purses were to be gradually reduced. At the time of independence, the annual outlay for the purses was ₹6 crore. By the time they were abolished by Indira Gandhi in 1971, the figure came down to ₹4 crore. To put this figure in perspective, it amounted to 0.1% of the estimated annual revenue receipts (₹3867 crore) for the year 1970-71.[4]

The Privy Purses were to be paid by the Indian Union into which the princely Sates were absorbed. The rulers were initially apprehensive that they would be at the mercy of the whims and fancies of the popular ministries of the states into which their States were absorbed. The apprehension turned out to be not entirely groundless as in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, as soon as the State acceded to the Indian Union, Sheik Abdullah expelled its ruler from the state. He refused to honour the agreement to pay the negotiated Privy Purse to the Maharajah. The Government of India was forced to pay the Privy Purse and continued to do so till its abrogation by Indira Gandhi.

Political Vendetta?

As in all other matters, the Indian left-illiberal have one take on Jammu and Kashmir and quite a different one for the rest of India. The Privy Purses have been the subject of intense debate for long. For instance they argued for the perpetuation of the purely temporary Article 370; while on the other hand they contended that the Privy Purses were not compatible with an ‘egalitarian social order’.

What could have cooked their goose, perhaps, was that some rulers joined C. Rajagopalachari’s Swatantra Party and in the 1967 general elections defeated many Congress candidates. Indira Gandhi was incensed by this and wanted to teach them a lesson by abolishing the Privy Purses. In 1969 her government introduced the Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Bill. It was passed by the Lok Sabha with a majority of 332:154 votes but was defeated in the Rajya Sabha by 149:75 votes. Not one to bow to silly inconveniences like parliamentary procedures, she had a pliable President, V. V. Giri issue an order derecognizing the rulers. The September 6, 1970 order was challenged in the Supreme Court by N. A. Palkhivala (and others) in the famous Privy Purses Case and was struck down by the Supreme Court on December 15, 1970.[5]

After Indira Gandhi returned to power with a landslide majority in 1971, her government passed the Constitution (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Bill to abolish the Privy Purses.

Here was what Sardar Patel said commending the adoption of Article 291 in the Constituent Assembly

The Privy Purse settlements are therefore in the nature of consideration for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and also for the dissolution of the States as separate units. We would do well to remember that the British Government spent enormous amounts in respect of the Mahratta settlements alone. We are ourselves honouring the commitments of the British Government in respect of the pensions of those rulers who helped them to consolidate their empire. Need we cavil then at the small — I purposely use the word small — price we have paid for the bloodless revolution which has affected the destinies of millions of our people?

The capacity for mischief and trouble on the part of the rulers if the settlement with them would not have been reached on a negotiated basis was far greater than could be imagined at this stage.

Let us do justice to them; let us place ourselves in their position and then assess the value of their sacrifice. The rulers have now discharged their part of the obligations by transferring all ruling powers and by agreeing to the integration of their States. The main part of our obligation under these agreements is to ensure that the guarantees given by us in respect of Privy Purses are fully implemented. Our failure to do so would be a breach of faith and seriously prejudice the stabilization of the new order.[6]

In the light of what Patel said, the abolition of the Privy Purses can only be seen as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of our nation because it was betrayal of a solemn Constitutional guarantee.

It may be appropriate to quote here what Arvind P. Datar had to say of the betrayal of the Congress party:

Sardar Patel persuaded the Constituent Assembly to guarantee payment of Privy Purses and preserve the rights of the erstwhile rulers. But the Congress betrayed him 20 years later by abolishing the Privy Purses.[7]

[1] It is an agreement signed by the ruler of the princely State and the dominion of India subjecting the princely State to the Government of India Act 1935. The Instrument of Accession binds the State to the jurisdiction of the Union government for making laws in the areas of Defence, External Affairs, Communications and some ancillary matters.

[2] It is an agreement that assures continuance of any ‘existing agreements and administrative arrangements in the matters of common concern’ existing between the Indian State and the British government. It specifies eighteen administrative areas in the Schedule attached to the agreement. It also signifies the end of Paramountcy of the British government. 

[3] Menon, V.P. (1955). Chapter XXV, “The Cost of Integration”: The Story Of The Integration Of The Indian States. Longmans Green & Co. London. pp. 324-328.

[4] Annual budget speech for 1970-71 delivered by Indira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha on February 28, 1970. Accessible from

[5] H. H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao ... vs Union Of India on 15 December, 1970. Accessible from

[6] Menon, V.P. (1955). Chapter XXVI, “Retrospect and Prospect”: The Story Of The Integration Of The Indian States. Longmans Green & Co. London. pp. 329-335.

[7] “Who Betrayed Sardar Patel” The Hindu. November, 19, 2013. Accessible from

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Telangana And Political Ploys

For nearly ten years Congress, the ruling party at the centre brushed aside demands for a separate Telangana state. This is the fourth time that the issue has become a national political issue since the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. Political leaders and parties either raised the demand for a separate state or supported agitations purely based on electoral considerations. Marri Chenna Reddy’s somersaults on the issue are a case in point. In 1956 he was for a united Andhra Pradesh. He later changed his stance and became a votary of a separate Telangana state. In 1968 the AP High Court annulled his election to the state assembly and debarred him from contesting elections for six years. ‘Vandemataram’ Ramachandra Rao of the Arya Samaj (and later the BJP) challenged Chenna Reddy’s election on the grounds that he appealed to the religious sentiments of the Muslims. (See Election Law Reports Volume XXXVII p 269 - 349). The judgement was upheld by the Supreme Court. Forced out of electoral politics he floated the Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS) to remain relevant in politics. His TPS won 10 Lok Sabha seats in the 1971 general election. After his return to electoral politics and after being suitably rewarded by the Congress party he merged his TPS with the Congress.
In 2001 Chandra Babu Naidu walked into a trap cunningly laid by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. CBN had a problem in that he had too many claimants from the Velama community and too few cabinet berths. But those were heady days for him. The blemish of back-stabbing his father-in-law was behind him and he returned to power for a second time in 1999, riding on the coat tails of Atal Behari Vajpayee. Confident he would be able to contain the fallout he relegated K. Chandrasekhara Rao to the post of Deputy Speaker.
With a deft Machiavellian stroke YSR inveigled KCR to come out of the TDP and form a new party. Thus was the TRS born. YSR aligned with the TRS just before the 2004 general election, with a promise to help the formation of the Telangana state, a promise which he had no intention of keeping. During his tenure (and life) he had repeatedly proved that the demand for Telangana did not enjoy popular support. The TRS’ tally in the state assembly and local bodies had continually declined.
In 2009 CBN wanted to do a YSR but he lacked the latter’s deft touch and perhaps his finesse. After tasting power and been in office for nine years Chandra Babu Naidu could not stomach the 2004 defeat. He should have taken it in his stride. A good leader does not sacrifice his core beliefs for temporary gains. But that was what CBN did. By 2009 CBN was ready to walk up a wall if it would make him 'CEO' again. Seeking to make substantial inroads into Telangana and probably misled by the overconfidence of his own regional leaders he blundered into an alliance with the TRS. However, during the closing phases of the election campaign KCR deserted CBN and walked into the NDA camp but that was a different matter. At this time, the TDP gave its consent for the formation of the Telangana state.
It was CBN’s somersault that breathed new life into the Telangana agitation, which was getting nowhere, and forced the Congress party’s hand. It also brought matters to a head from which there was no return. Therefore the people of Seema-Andhra will have to thank CBN for the bifurcation of the state. Till then, YSR’s view on the issue prevailed and the Congress was against the formation of the new state. It did not have to pronounce its stand, the excuse being the state’s principal opposition party was opposed to the formation of the Telangana state.
CBN’s consent for Telangana and YSR’s death in September 2009 changed the political dynamics and in a way foreclosed the issue. K. Rosaiah who succeeded YSR as the interim Chief Minister could not withstand the political turmoil caused by KCR’s fast unto death on the one hand and YSR’s son’s revolt within the party on the other. Based on his recommendation the centre was forced to concede the demand for the new state. The ‘victory’ made KCR a hero in Telangana. For the centre, there was no going back and it was only a matter of time before a decision had to be taken. 
The stand of the CPM on the Telangana issue was true to its character, Janus-faced. The party could always reconcile diametrically opposite views. While as a principle it opposed formation of new states, it would not oppose the formation of Telangana if the centre wished to do so.      
Just before the 2009 election, the wily YSR struck with another of his machinations. This time he contrived the formation of Chiranjivi’s PRP. Had he been alive the merger of the PRP with the Congress would have been sooner. But his calculation was right. The PRP splintered anti-Congress votes and Congress was returned to power.
When in alliance with the TDP, the BJP stoutly argued against the bifurcation of the state. After the TDP severed its ties with the BJP, ostensibly because it lacked secular credentials (which the TDP seems to have suddenly discovered!) the BJP reverted to its advocacy of smaller states. Both the parties now find themselves in a quandary in the Seema-Andhra region and do not know how to come out of it.
Why did the Congress party which has been dillydallying on Telangana for more than four decades suddenly awake to the need for decisive action? It doesn’t require great intelligence to find an answer. As many political analysts opined, it is based on electoral calculations for 2014. However it is the behavior of its Seema-Andhra leaders that is far from exemplary. They knew for quite some time that the decision to split the state was in the offing. Yet, lured by the crumbs of power thrown at them, they pretended that it was not happening and fooled their constituents. They have underestimated the emotional attachment their constituents have with Hyderabad (it is all about Hyderabad!). ‘You cannot fool all the people all the time’, might be a cliché but it is nevertheless true. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Will Hyderabad Terror Victims Get Justice?

Or are they cannon-fodder for Congress’ cynical electoral games?

The deadly terrorist strike in Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad on February 21, left sixteen people dead and 117 injured, of whom 10 are said to be still in a critical condition four days later. Thank God, this time there was no praise for the resilience of the Hyderabadis as it used to be in the case of Mumbaikars.

In his press briefing, the Hon’ble Home Minister declared that states were cautioned about an intelligence input that predicted possible terrorist strikes. Asked whether there was any input specific to AP and whether such a warning was passed on to the AP government, he said ‘he was not certain and would have to check’! This was a full two and a half hours after two of the bombs went off (a third mercifully did not explode)! This was the same Home Minister who emphatically declared only a month ago that the principal opposition party, the BJP and his party’s bête noire, the RSS were running camps for training “Hindu” terrorists.

Where does the “Hindu” terror angle come from? There lies a tale of intrigue, some political chicanery and perhaps an IQ of 180! The Hindu terror angle was first broached by P. Chidambaram sometime in 2009, after the formation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It was after this that the Prince Regent, Rahul Gandhi reportedly whispered in the ear of the American ambassador that ‘Hindu terror was far more dangerous than Maoist or Jehadi terrorism’! It has also been since then that lesser mortals like Digvijay Singh picked up the theme and began speaking about “Hindu” terror.

The Malegaon blast of September 8, 2006 was first investigated by the Maharastra anti-terrorism squad (ATS), then by the CBI and was finally handed over to the NIA after its formation in 2009. The Maharastra ATS first suspected that it was a retaliatory strike for the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train blasts in which 209 people were killed and more than 700 injured. Therefore it first detained some Bajrang Dal cadres but as it could not find any evidence against them it switched its probe to investigate the involvement of Laskha-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM).

Home Minister Shivraj Patil had to go following the deadly terror strike on Mumbai on November 26 2008 (in which 182 people were killed), making way for Chidambaram. It was Chidambaram who established the NIA to counter terrorism, and primarily to bring the culprits of 26/11 to book. The NIA however, does not seem to be aware of this. It has also not bothered to investigate the July 2006 Mumbai train blasts, probably because of the resilience of the Mumbaikars.

However other terror cases like Malegaon (2006), Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid (2007), were handed over to the NIA. Despite the zeal with which the NIA has been probing and, occasionally leaking snippets to a pliant media, the death toll in all these incidents put together is about half of either the Mumbai (2006) or the Mumbai (2008) terror strikes!

Several columnists including S. Gurumurthy (Samjhauta Blast Case: Counter Investigation To NIA Investiagation) have demolished the NIA’s “Hindu” terror thesis. Vivek Gumaste asks in his piece, is it possible that definite evidence is not forthcoming because none exists? (Is Hindu terror is as big as it's made out to be?)

But the most damning indictment of Shinde’s “Hindu” terror theory came from B. Raman, an expert on internal security matters and, no friend of either the BJP or the Sangh Parivar. (Shinde: Prejudiced & Partisan Stewardship of MHA): 
“[…] One has a strong suspicion that the NIA is sought to be used not for the investigation and prosecution, but for politically needling the BJP and the RSS by periodically leveling allegations against them. […] Shinde’s statement carefully avoids any condemnation of the on-going activities and conspiracies of the Indian Mujahideen and its links with the LeT. […] His deeply prejudiced and communal stewardship of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs needs to be condemned by all right-thinking persons.
On June 2009, the UN Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added three names to its ‘Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo’. (UN Security Council SC9695) According to the UNSC press release, one of them, an Arif Qasmani had close links with Dawood Ibrahim and was the mastermind behind both the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express blast. See box.

A report in today’s newspapers indicates that the state police and the NIA have been vying with each other for investigating the latest Hyderabad blasts. In the past, the state police have been blamed for arresting ‘innocent persons’ in the Mecca Masjid case and keeping them in prison for over a year. The secular media had a field day and has been parading some of the accused in its programmes. In order to prove its secular credentials, the state government paid huge compensations to the accused after the courts acquitted them, a privilege no other accused (under-trials in police lingo) have ever enjoyed. If charged with the investigation how will the state police deal with the case. Will it try to prove its secular credentials?

How will the NIA fare if charged with the investigation? Will it try to score a hit, which so far eluded it? Or will it stick to prove its loyalty to its secular masters?

In either case it is a dicey situation for the victims of the terror attack? Will they get justice or will they become cannon-fodder for Congress’ cynical electoral war games?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rahul Gandhi, BCG’s ‘problem child’!

In marketing, Boston Consulting Group’s growth share matrix (or BCG matrix) is an instrument used to assess the current state and predict the future performance of a product (brand) or product line. In marketing parlance, the grid determines a product’s ‘attractiveness’. The grid plots a product’s relative market share against market growth to analyse its current state and predict its future. The four quadrants in the grid which represent the life cycle of a product are named ‘dogs’, ‘question marks (or problem children)’, ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’. While ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’ are every marketer’s dream the ‘question marks (or problem children)’ are a real dilemma. This is because if these products make the ‘success test’ in the market place they move into the ‘stars category and eventually into the ‘cash cows category. But while they consume large amounts of resources for promotion, they do not generate immediate revenues. If they gain market share, they move into the ‘stars category but after years of consumption and effort, if they fail, they degenerate into the ‘dogs’ category. Even as ‘dogs’ they pose another dilemma to the marketer. Some marketers believe that although the ‘dogs’ do not generate large net revenues; they are still useful because they split overheads. More importantly, from a human resources standpoint, they help in maintaining employment potential. Occasionally marketers have to choose the hard option – bite the bullet as it were – and shed the ‘dogs’.

What does all this have to do with the politics? Well, political philosophies are like product lines and individual political leaders are like products. Remember, how the ‘India shining’ campaign turned out to be the undoing of the BJP in 2004. Not even its enemies predicted the BJP would lose the election. For the common man, prices were stable and inflation was under control. The era of licences and permits and scarcity was well and truly past. There was an abundance of never before choices in the marketplace. The sun was shining on a billowing economy; presaging increased employment generation. ‘God appeared to be in his heaven and all well with the world!  Why then did the campaign bounce back? It is perhaps one of those marketing enigmas. The story is quite similar to that of brand Churchill who won the Second World War for Britain with his slogans, ‘All out for England’ and ‘V for victory’, who was then quietly shown the door by the British electorate! 

As we advance to 2014, the Congress party wishes to launch brand Rahul. The teasers for brand Rahul have been in the air for far too long, that people wonder whether they would see the première at all. An elementary principle of brand management is that even the fattest advertising budgets or the slickest commercials will not be able to help a marketer if a brand does not have inherent strengths.

In 2008 Barack Obama rode to power on the flood tide of his oratory. One is yet to see Rahul delivering his ‘Gettysburg address’! From what little one has seen Rahul’s oratory does not exactly seem to set the Ganga on fire. In all these years since he came to represent the family fiefdom of Amethi in parliament, one has heard only one ‘Kalavathi’ speech from him and no other intervention, not even to ask a question!

Although according to his sycophants Rahul ostensibly represents youth in spite of his 43 years, he does not seem to inspire the youth brigade of the internet age with his profound wisdom. As students of Mumbai discomfited Barack Obama, their brethren in Patna and Ahmedabad made Rahul squirm. What is the vision he has for the youth of this country? How does he plan to educate and employ them? No one knows, for no one has heard him elaborate. The only solution his party comes up with in times of crises is offering freebies and proposals of reservations and more reservations.

Notwithstanding his pilgrimages to Dalit homes and second class suburban travel, his understanding of men and matters leaves much to be desired. (Gujarat is larger than the European Union!) One fine morning he decided to take up the cause of the victims of Bhatta-Parasul village whose lands were forcibly acquired by the UP state administration. Narrating the horrors he witnessed of people (presumably) killed and burnt, he informed the media that there were ‘70 feet of ashes’, whatever it meant!

If the piece in The Economist (Adams Robert. The Rahul problem. September 10, 2012) is anything to go by, even his biographer (Ramachandran, Aarthi. Decoding Rahul Gandhi) was hard put to paint a colourful portrait of him. AR says, this is the moment for Congress to dare to think of something radical: of reorganizing itself on the basis of policies, ideas and a vision of how India should develop.’ According to his biographer (as cited in the article) Rahul wants to apply the principles of management he learnt from Toyota to modernise the Congress party’s youth organisation. 

For brand Rahul the time has come to move from the quadrant of ‘problem children’: up, to the quadrant of ‘stars’ or down, to the quadrant of ‘dogs’, to be dropped eventually. As of now there is nothing to indicate that brand Rahul can become a ‘star’!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why should a secular nation have minority reservations?

Thanks to the Congress party’s unrelenting pursuit of vote bank politics the issue of reservations for minorities in jobs and educational institutions is back in the news. Designed as a ploy to regain a foothold in UP (as a key to capturing power at the centre in 2014), it carved out a 4.5% sub-quota for minorities (primarily Muslims) in the 27% reservation provided for OBCs. In its vulgar greed to capture power at any cost it conveniently forgot the sequence of events, beginning with the creation of separate electorates based on religious lines in the 1930s, which eventually led to the partition of the country. The creation of separate electorates was precisely based on the same logic and for the same reasons that the government now seeks to create reservations for Muslims.

As soon as it came back to power in 2004 the Congress party began planning its long term strategy to woo permanent vote banks that would be beholden to it. In the first fifty years after independence it expropriated the freedom movement as a convenient anchor to lay claim for power. During this period also it tried its best to project itself as a champion for the welfare of minorities.

The Justice Rajender Singh Sachar Committee was constituted on March 9, 2005 to prepare a report on the social and educational status of Muslims (not minorities) in India. The other members of the committee were Mr. Sayyid Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, Mr. M.A. Basith, Dr. Akhtar Majeed, Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr. Rakesh Basant. Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, a civil servant, was appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to assist the commission. The Committee submitted its report on November 17, 2006.

The Committee was asked to prepare a report on the relative, social, economic and educational status of Muslims at the district, regional and the state levels by obtaining relevant information and conduct[ing] a literature survey. Please note the last part in the first item of the terms of reference. The Committee was not expected to conduct any field research; it just had to conduct ‘literature survey’! This gives the committee led by J Rajinder Singh Sachar virtually the latitude to write anything it wants. (That the said J Rajinder Singh Sachar later turned out to be an honoured guest of Pakistani ISI-Front, Gulam Nabi Fai is another matter.)

PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”) which posted a summary of the report on its website has this to say of the report: “Barring some generic observations about the cause for the ‘development deficit’ among Muslims, there is no explicit or detailed discussion of the causes of such conditions.” (Click here to see the summary: Sachar Committee Report)

Sample some of the recommendations of the report, apart of course from recommending reservations for Muslims which was the latent reason for constituting the committee:

“… Work out mechanisms to link madarasas with higher secondary school board.  
“Recognise degrees from madarasas for eligibility in defence, civil and banking examinations.”

On the other hand governments in various states have been merrily closing down Oriental Colleges, which were established during the British reign to impart Samskritic education in Vedas and allied sciences. The ostensible reason for closing these colleges, most of which were over a hundred years old is their dwindling enrollment.

But the most perilous course that the Committee recommended is in this recommendation:

“Establish a delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population for SCs.”

If this course is followed the problems the nation is facing in Jammu & Kashmir are likely to surface in other states like Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. (See below for population ratios of these states.)

The following may be summed up as the report’s errors of commission and omission. The report did not take into account the bulk of educated employed Muslims that migrated to Pakistan when the country was partitioned. It did not take into account the numbers of Muslims engaged in trades and other professions. The Committee willy-nilly concedes that the “[…] most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity, primarily in urban areas and for women workers. […] Muslim participation rates in traditional manufacturing and trade (especially wearing apparel, auto-repair and electrical machinery) is much higher than for other groups, while their participation in the agricultural section is lower.” It excluded the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from corresponding Hindu figures thus annulling any equity in its comparisons. Last but not least it excluded educated and well off Muslims from comparisons.

The Committee also had to concede that the literacy rate among Muslims @ 59.1% was slightly below the national average of 64.8%, “with the greatest gap in urban areas” for reasons already mentioned above, but that “the literacy rates were higher than those of SCs and STs.

The Committee ignored the fact that the country did provide fair and equitable opportunities to all and those Muslims who availed of them did prosper - in filmdom, in industry, in government / university jobs or in politics. If you go by the findings of the report, Asghar Ali Enginner, A. G. Noorani, Azim Premji, Syed Shabuddin, the Khan trio and other Muslim celebrities of Bollywood and a host of other Muslims in high places (Sayyid Hamid, T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Akhtar Majeed, Abu Saleh Shariff and Syed Zafar Mahmood included) - all need reservations in government jobs!

The National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) has concluded that the findings of the Sachar Committee were manipulated. The committee’s job was all the more easier as it was given the theories; it was only expected to go out and find facts to fit into them! Lo and presto, it did it and how? Try as you might, you cannot accuse the Committee of objectivity or doing anything right either by commission or omission. The Committee’s report, to borrow from information technology jargon, was doomed to be GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) right from inception. The Committee set out with faulty assumptions, faulty data collection and faulty analysis and of course ended up in arriving at faulty conclusions.

However the report made certain interesting findings with regard to the Muslim population in India. The states with the highest percentage of Muslims include Jammu & Kashmir (67%), Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%) and Kerala (24.7%). In 2001 the population of Muslims in India was 138 million which grew to 150 million by 2006. Between 1961 and 2001 their population grew from 10.7% to 13.4%. The committee estimates it is likely to grow to between 18% and 21% by 2101. These statistics are quite significant in that they raise a query about the definition of minority as applicable to Muslims.

The Constitution of India in Article 15 (1) ordains that [t]he State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.; and in Article 16 (1) that “[t]here shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”

By its latest executive fiat and in spite of court of after court questioning its motives the government at the centre seems to pursue a perilous course that might once again threaten the unity and integrity of the nation.