Columns

Rajan and Bhajan

I write this from Raipur in Chhattisgarh after a chance interface with some 1,100 forest dwellers gathered here. The organisers have them singing bhajans and chaupais from the Ramcharitmanas, and interspersing messages on cultural renaissance and social integration, besides promises that they’ll soon have help in demanding corruption-free PDS and NREGA with the use of RTI.

Brass knuckles and the brain dead

Ever since 9/11 the Americans have made it very clear that they are paranoid about security. They have also made it equally clear that they will profile people and their skies are unfriendly and a visa is no defence against arbitrary suspicion. They have also told you that what is not suspicious to you but is to them will be suspicion per se because it is their country, so there. What part of i

India should move towards direct democracy

In the late 1990s, when I used to work with the income tax department, we surveyed several multinational companies for their tax compliance and some of them were caught red-handed evading taxes. They admitted their fault and paid up taxes without any appeals. If they had been in any other country, their bosses would have been put behind bars. During one such survey, the chief of Indian

Omar’s moment

Omar Abdullah is the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t count on him to suddenly personify the change that the Kashmiris voted for in the last elections. That seems to be the unfortunate if unavoidable inference from the events of the past couple of months. From here on, it will take nothing short of a miracle to restore public faith in the state government. The history

Caste Census: Now what`s the problem?

With the deadline for the political parties to express their opinion about the need (or otherwise) for undertaking a caste census coming to an end, the UPA government will now have to take a decision sooner than later. Though in the latter half of the budget session of parliament the issue seemed to have been clinched in favour of those who were seeking a caste census, prime mini

Chidambaram faces some home truths

Remember the brief spat bet-ween Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and union home minister P Chidambaram? The home minister had accused Nitish Kumar of not doing enough to take on the Maoists. His ire had emanated from the Bihar chief minister’s disinclination to attend the chief ministers’ meet called by him in Kolkata. Nitish Kumar had instead dispatched his top officials. To Chid

Indian Politicians’ Servants?

I grew up in a middle-class family in Uttar Pradesh. During those days, students all around me had just one aspiration: to make it to the civil services. This burning ambition cut across students pursuing all sorts of courses. I remember even some of the brighter minds at the  Indian Institute of Technology competing for civil services. Despite being a student of computer science, I too op

Apologise, Mr. prime minister

I still shiver with fear when I recall the traumatic days when I, along with the other male members of my village, had to wake up at 4 am and perform the most terrible, inhuman, unjustified and humiliating forced labour for the army. With kerosene lanterns in our trembling hands, we would report for the “convoy duty”, so called because we were supposed to provide protection to the a

Diplomacy panacea for India`s energy quest

Despite the fact that India is struggling hard to put her economy back on the 9 percent growth trajectory, it has remained the second fastest growing economy and energy market in the world. While domestically it needs to address both efficiency and fiscal prudence, its international strategy involves a relentless push to diversify suppliers, increase its equity take overseas and try to avoid de

New, improved secularism?

Secularism comes in two editions: the first is your garden variety, vanilla flavour; and let`s call the other critical secularism or sustainable secularism. If you are told that there were riots in some city and before condemning the violence if you need to know which community was at the receiving or which party is in power there, then you are an advocate of the simplified version, a darling o

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

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


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