Columns

Bhopal: Lessons of the past, for future

When I look back on all the events pertaining to the Bhopal gas leak disaster in their synergic perspective, I get inclined to cast verdict on ourselves in words I borrow from G K Chesterton: “These are peoples that have lost the power of astonishment at their own actions….They have grown used to their own unreason; chaos is their cosmos; and the whirlwind is the

Did you have to do it, Mr Krishna?

Foreign Minister Krishna had an epiphany. He woke up one morning and decided that unless he chastised the home secretary publicly life would be incomplete, no birds would sing and his inhouse astrologer would not be able to charm the stars out of their hostile houses. Yes sir, there was still unfinished business over the fiasco called the Indo-Pak talks. So, in his profound wisdo

The importance of being Pulok Chatterjee

“Show me the face, I will show you the rule.” This popular bureaucratic adage proved to be prescient for a 1974 UP cadre IAS officer Pulok Chatterjee who is tipped to be the next cabinet secretary. Decks are virtually cleared for Chatterjee to get an unhindered four-year term as the Union cabinet secretary when the present incumbent retires next year. Chatterjee’s

Lessons in Laffer Curve

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has learnt a bitter lesson in the interlink between the tax rates and the revenue raised. Believing in the dangerous myth that higher taxes means higher revenues, she raised the value-added tax (VAT) on diesel from 8.5 percent to 20 percent in Delhi in April. She hoped that the higher tax on diesel in the seemingly affluent capital would get more revenue for

Highway heist

Driving at 110 kmph on the Jaipur-Ajmer highway is hardly the place to carp about the decisions of the almighty babus managing our national highways strategy. But apart from the smooth ride on some select highways, whim and nepotism is fast becoming the rule of the game. So much so that the babus seem callous about the obsession of their boss, minister of road transport and highways Ka

A bleeding sore

The newspapers, sometime back, carried the picture of a security personnel, lying on the ground and half a dozen young hooligans beating him with sticks, in Srinagar. Nobody was trying to stop such elements from thrashing the helpless policeman. I was reminded of my tenure as inspector general of police, in Srinagar, during the worst period of 1988, when the terrorists had kidnapped the

Govt may be gagged but city`s not blind

Unspeakable - that`s how bad the state of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games is, as the Delhi chief minister has rightly realised. So, Sheila Dikshit has asked her ministers to keep their comments on the same to themselves if the media were to bait them for a byte, according to a Hindustan Times report. It is a very, very sensible move given that it offers us an escape from having to l

Games as nation`s prestige and other myths

Let me begin with a caveat. It is no one’s case that sporting events are unnecessary. But when a sporting event becomes a vehicle for misinformation and meeting questionable ends, one can’t help but sit up and take notice. We as part of our ongoing research and advocacy for the revival for the river Yamuna got unwittingly embroiled in challenging the wisdom of the powers th

Cabinet secretary, who?

Bureaucrats have spent a large part of summer discussing who will be the next cabinet secretary. Putting an end to their collective misery, K M Chandrasekhar, the present incumbent, has secured another extension. This gives him a fourth year in saddle. I’m told it’s a record among 28 cab secs that we’ve had, equalled only by Y S Suthankar and B D Pande. Chandrasekhar’s d

No way through water

It was the same story which is retold in Delhi every monsoon. Just a downpour and the city again came to a standstill. Traffic from the office hubs to residential colonies did not move for hours. Those who wanted to avoid getting stuck in their private vehicles opted for public transport, thus straining the already over-crowded metro trains and buses. Waterlogged roads with just 21.2mm

Don`t take that call from the PMO, Mr Ramesh!

It is not at all common or usual for a minister to take a principled stand; or having taken it, to stick his or her neck out to defend that position. In that sense, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh’s position on a few contentious issues is admirable. His refusal to bow to pressure from his cabinet colleagues in the aviation, power and surface transport ministr

Relieve us of our burden, Mr Pawar

Sharad Pawar has never been particularly known for giving up anything, least of all power and portfolios. Yet, on Monday, a few days after taking over as the head of the International Cricket Council (ICC), he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to request the latter to “reduce the burden” of his ministerial work. “Burden”, did you say Mr Pawar? The responsi

Missing the cash

Money seems to have lost its shock value. Even in a country where 80% of the population lives on less than $2 or Rs 95 a day as per World Bank estimates. Else, why wouldn’t anybody be surprised over the Rs 9 lakh (some papers reported Rs 2 lakh) that the Nagaland home minister Imkong L Imchen was reportedly found carrying in a suitcase at Kathmandu airport? The media duly reported that th

The comeback king

It is very sad and alarming to note that only 1,411 tigers are left in the country. Ever since the government came out with the figures, people all over the country have been doing all they can to raise awareness. In fact, most of the tigers die in the rural areas near the national wildlife parks. Does this mean that the forest departments are not able to take care of them? Our needs for skin,

Tata TCS, hello accountability

A news report, in Deccan Herald on Monday, that Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) may be about to lose the Rs 1,000 crore Passport Seva Project (PSP) came as a shocker to the entire e-governance community. If it comes true, the development would spell the failure of the second major Mission Mode Project in the

What ails Indian bureaucracy?

The conduct rules of all government employees, in our country, mandate, that they shall maintain, absolute integrity in their functioning. Unfortunately the conduct rules, which are very unambiguous have been violated both in spirit and letters, both by the bureaucrats and political masters. Indeed, it might appear surprising, that five months, after the Secretaries Committee, de

Dead honour

At Wazirpur village, honour is a flighty commodity. Lost if your sister gets married on her own. And it is reclaimed if your relatives and friends hail that sister`s murder at your hands, on camera. A brother-in-law shot dead is also thrown in as icing. Because, in the fringes of the national capital this has come to mean `honour`. When one was barely done being outraged by the

Tribals as partners in development

While the anti-Maoist security drive is  making big news, a development initiative is underway quietly, without much public debate and away from the media glare--an initiative that may go a long way in addressing the development concerns of the tribals and help in weaning them away from the ultras. This comes in the form of a legislative move which seeks to actually make them stakeholders

Oh, for the glory days of the Indian judiciary!

In recent years the love affair of the public with the higher judiciary seems to be coming to an end. From tainted judges to resisting the public declaration of assets, the role of the higher judiciary has come under intense scrutiny. The common perception is that the judges are retreating behind a cloak of secrecy and refusing to abide by the very standards that they set for others. This is qu

A Right for all Wrongs

All of us have a Right to Livelihood. Millions of us are without one. We have a Right to Education. About half the country is illiterate. Tribals have a Right to Forest Land. Acres of forests are disappearing. We really don’t know the right figures but anywhere between 27 percent to 77 percent of the country is poor, craving for food. About 46 percent of our childr



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