Columns

Sonia`s NAC agenda

The Congress seems to have developed into a fine art the difficult practice of running two power centres. Ever since the party came back to power in 2004, there was hardly any doubt that Sonia Gandhi is the political boss but there came a time, especially during the nuclear deal and the first few months of UPA2 when it seemed like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a mind of his own, too.

Postcards from the Republic of Hunger

Starvation deaths and Orissa have become synonymous. It does not raise eyebrows anymore. Nobody loses sleep over them, least of all the local administration. A series of reports has appeared in a national daily pointing out that about 50 people have perished to hunger in Balangir (one of the three districts infamous as KBK, along with Korapur and Kalahandi) alone in the past two to three years.

This rollback is no relief

Increasing taxes and withdrawing subsidies at the time of a generally extortionate price rise and then "rolling back" some of the burden on the consumers in the name of providing "relief" to the common man! Sheila Dikshit government has managed to sound very cavalier in gauging public opinion and managing public finances. That`s happening even as the social c

Feeling rich, Pranab-da?

It took actor Aamir Khan to highlight what veterans in the tax machinery have repeatedly failed to bring out in the open. The day after the budget, the actor used his quick quote in a leading newspaper to ask why refunds by the income tax department were unduly delayed. Aamir also complained about the inherent harassment that honest taxpayers have to go through to procure their refunds. I wonde

The story of Raj Kumar & why your sugar is sour

Raj Kumar, 50, from Nagla Mubarik village of Muzaffar Nagar in western Uttar Pradesh, is a much relieved man these days. In his four-decade life as a farmer, he had encountered many financial ups and downs. But now he thinks he has insured himself against the uncertainties of life and farming. That is because, three years ago, he changed his crop pattern and instead of growing sugarcane on a su

Save children from legal lacuna

The government’s decision to introduce a set of guidelines for service providers in the tourism sector in a move to prevent a repeat of incidents like the rape of a Russian girl in Goa recently is indeed a welcome step. The code of conduct that has come into force from March 8, 2010 envisages, among other things, training tour operators and hotel staff on identifying and reporting potenti

Truth, justice and other dreams in Gujarat

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will go to the Supreme Court-appointed panel on March 21 and answer questions about his alleged role during Gujarat riots. Beyond headlines in newspapers and talking heads on TV channels, do not expect much. Law is taking its course, and so is politics. In the eight years since the communal violence, Modi has offered no specific comments on what he d

Congress Raj hangover in RS

For somebody who fails to summon enthusiasm over reservation or so-called positive discrimination anywhere, the fracas over women`s quota bill in Rajya Sabha proved a curiously captivating affair. If the Congress party had indeed orchestrated the entire show to deliver a bravura performance in what would otherwise have been a dull numbers game, it could have scarcely hoped to do better. As the

Fear of the fair sex

In one of his moments of candour, the legendary Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, India`s first civil supplies minister said, “We want legislators as political goondas.” Though Kidwai, himself a no-nonsense minister and a crusader against hoarders, might have said this in jest his words proved to be truly prophetic. The manner in which certain regional leaders are trying to bully the dominant view

Courting competitiveness

The commercial division of high courts bill, 2009, already cleared by the Lok Sabha, has finally been posed before the Rajya Sabha select committee. The buzz is that the MPs found merit in arguments posed by Sunil Munjal of Hero and Manoj Kumar of Hammurabi & Solomon. The argument that our courts should take much less time to adjudicate commercial disputes is crucial to our competitiveness.

Get off that phone and talk to me

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor....bureaucrat, politician, the rich and the powerful, they are the worst. Have you ever been in this position? You have an appointment in someone’s office and you make the effort to fetch up on time and you enter his office after the a mandatory wait outside and shake hands and sit down all cordial and pleasant and then he gets a phone call and sudd

What`s new about your model, comrades?

The Maoists now claim to have developed an “alternative development model”. If you remember, while dubbing the Maoists as the biggest internal security threat since 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also been taunting the rebels and their civil society sympathisers by saying that they didn’t have an alternative vision or development plan. More than four years lat

PM`s selective political amnesia

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s repeated intervention to LK Advani`s contestation on the motion of thanks is rather unprecedented. Though Singh`s new-found belligerence vis-a-vis Advani has much to do with the muscles he acquired after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and diminished stature of the BJP stalwart, his interventions singularly lacked merit. In fact, Mamohan Singh

Futility of talking to Muivah

When a ceasefire was announced with the most violent and dominant Naga insurgency group, the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), in 1997, it was hailed as a big step to bring peace to the region and eventually integrate the fiercely independent Naga tribes into the national mainstream. Barring minor incidents of violence and violations of ceasefire agreements, peace has prevai

Bottom-up approach to local self-governance

It has indeed become clichéd to say that India is a land of paradoxes. However, the contradictions in Indian society and polity continue to baffle many scholars across the world. We are one of the few post-colonial countries that have witnessed successful functioning of democratic institutions over six decades. On the other hand, there are glaring deficiencies in our democracy and we hav

Parliament needs to find its voice

Over the past few years, parliament and MPs have faced continued criticism. There are a number of things that ought to be better with our national law-making body. But before launching into a tirade, it might be useful for us to pause and understand some of the issues and constraints that prevent parliament and MPs from delivering to their fullest potential. The constitution fram

United colours of opposition

It was the rarest of rare sights to see Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav proclaiming their unity against the Congress party. Sharad Yadav heads a party, Janata Dal (United), which is determined to wipe out Lalu Prasad`s Rashtriya Janata Dal from the face of Bihar. Then what could have brought these leaders together? If the proclamation of unity by disparate opposition leaders is to be taken serious

An underdog`s bark

Dear Pranab-da, You will get this missive just as you are readying to present the budget and so may not have the time to read it. Not that it matters for even if I had sent it earlier, you wouldnt have had the mind. For I am not one of those elite Bombay Business Club wala or member of any big industry association or a pushy moneybag or part of any other powerful lobby who all have the

Union minister of West Bengal Railways!

The practice of union railway ministers using the annual budget to please their states/constituencies is too common to merit comment. As with many other practices in the governance of our country, we have come to accept it as a given. We have also come to reason that there is nothing wrong in ministers showering goodies to specified voters if indeed the region they live in requires development.

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CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

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