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Time for a reality check

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The economy

IBN Live commented on the Prime Minister’s independence day speech:

In one of his most uninspiring speeches, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday admitted that low growth and inflation posed a major challenge and also offered little cheer when he said a bad monsoon would pose difficulty in curbing inflation. He conceded that his government had been unable to create a conducive environment for growth because of lack of political consensus. Singh also did not mention Pakistan even once in his 35 minute long speech.

War and peace

HT reports on Independence Day:

A Hindustan Times-C fore survey of 5,068 adults across 13 state capitals shows that a majority of people between the ages of 18 and 35 want India to become an expansionist superpower like China or a pro-US capitalist country.

India does not produce advanced weapons systems, not even army trucks. In fact, TOI reported:

India, which has emerged as a major importer of American military hardware, is verifying reports about “faulty spare parts made in China” being used in defence equipment sold by the US to other countries.


After the debacle of the Olympics hockey, TOI interviewed Michael Nobbs, the Indian hockey coach:

TOI: This is India’s worst-ever show at the Olympics…

Nobbs: Really? I think not being at the Olympics at all was worse.

The Hindu writes:

India’s No. 10 international ranking itself was a clear indication that they were never in medal contention at the Olympic Games here, but it was hard to believe that they would fail to win a single match, finishing at the bottom of the table.

Unity in diversity

ABC reports that Olympic medallist Mary Kom’s state is not exactly happy and peaceful:

There have been a series of bomb blasts in the remote north-eastern Indian state of Manipur.

Four people were seriously injured when at least three bombs were detonated near an independence day parade in Manipur’s capital, Imphal.

There have been reports of other bomb attacks across the province.

Power to the people

Hindu Business Line reported the latest from West Bengal:

At Belpahari, while the Chief Minister was telling the crowd (as reported) “on how Maoists entering Belpahari from Jharkhand and Odisha were trying to scupper the Government’s development plans in Jangalmahal,” a man sitting in the front row stood up, pointed a finger at the Chief Minister, and charged her thus: “You are making false promises. You know well that your promises will never be fulfilled. Why are you lying to poor people like us.”

Reportedly, Banerjee turned furious, and pointing a finger at the man shouted into the microphone: “Catch him immediately. I have information that four-five Maoists are present at the meeting venue. They are trying to create disturbance.”

After the man was led away by the police, the Chief Minister turned to the crowd and said: “Did you see how I caught one of them red-handed? I know them.”

Reports appearing on August 9 on the incident said that the police later freed the man — mistakenly identified as Duryodhan Mahato (his real name being Shiladitya Chowdhury) — as they found nothing incriminating about him.

Forget all your troubles and your strife

HT points out the silver lining:

India is proudly celebrating her 65th Independence Day today.

In these sixty five years, India has reached out at numerous levels, with the Indian film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, becoming one of the most successful film industries in the world.

Our celebrities are everywhere, from fashion events to charity balls, from Hollywood to the Olympics – our desi celebs dawn their avatars with style and panache.

I didn’t quite unederstand that last clause, but I don’t think that matters. Happy independence day.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

August 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

Emperor Ashok for president

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NDTV reports that Mamata Banerjee still wants Kalam for president:

Ms Banerjee’s whole-hearted support for Dr Kalam, which included a Facebook campaign, has been cut short by the scientist’s announcement today that he will not run against Mr Mukherjee. On Fcebook [sic], Ms Banerjee posted, “I have seen your statement that you are not contesting. This news has hurt all of us deeply.” She also said, “Some political parties simply failed the people at this critical moment in responding to the clarion call given by so many common citizens of our nation to stand up for a man of impeccable integrity.”

Since the realm of possibilities is too narrow when you look for the correct candidate, I would suggest a man who united India: emperor Ashok of Magadha. No political party will support this, but who cares? They are only artists of the possible.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

A googly for the president

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IBN Live starts this story with a word which is not seen very often any longer:

In a political googly, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh on Wednesday proposed three new names for President: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

While Kalam and Chatterjee were expected choices, suggesting Singh’s name appears to be a direct challenge to the Congress. It remains to be seen how the Congress responds to these suggestions. What is clear is that the political game over the choice of President has clearly become more complex.

The Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party, both crucial regional players, with these nominations indicated that they are aligned on the Presidential election issue.

Banerjee appealed to all to think about the names proposed by her and Mulayam unanimously and decide. “Presidential candidate should be chosen by consensus. There is no priority. There are no priorities in these names, let the political parties decide,” added Banerjee.

Proposing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s name seems just like a diversionary tactic by Banerjee and Mulayam at the moment and will the Congress reject all three names proposed by them is to be seen now.

Now this whole story of how the Congress is unable to push its own presidential candidate also underlines why the president may play a politically important role after the next general election. Of course, it also explains why Standard and Poor is downgrading India.

June 16, 2012

Since the center is unlikely to hold after the next general elections, the choice of the president is crucial, says Reuters in its report on the Congress nominee:

By all accounts, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi does not trust the man she nominated on Friday to become the next president of India, Pranab Mukherjee. But with her party facing tough elections due by 2014 he may be her ace in the hole.

Until now, India’s president has been viewed as a ceremonial head of state. But with the next elections widely expected to produce a fragmented parliament with no clear winner, Mukherjee, a loyal Congress man, will play a key role in deciding which party takes the lead in forming a new government.

Perhaps more importantly, Mukherjee, 76, now finance minister, could help the Gandhi family keep its grip on power. Sonia’s son, Rahul, is a leading contender to become prime minister in any new Congress-led coalition. As president, Mukherjee would have a say in who gets that job.

Mukherjee was nominated by the Congress party in the face of opposition from a key ally within the ruling coalition. The party, however, won support from other coalition partners for its choice and appeared confident that Mukherjee would win the electoral college vote on July 19.

Analysts say Mukherjee could play an influential role in steering the country through potentially one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern Indian history.

With neither of the two main parties — Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party — expected to win convincing majorities in 2014, a fragile coalition that includes several regional parties could emerge to claim power.

In that scenario, Mukherjee, famed for his political acumen, could as president exercise more authority, taking advantage of a vaguely worded constitution.

The analysts must be right; Mamata Banerjee is now in the political wilderness. A politician like her will then try to open a new channel to voters, reports TOI

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee debuted on Facebook on Saturday renewing her call for APJ Kalam as President, and saying that whatever else she had to say on the subject would be updated on the internet social network site.

“I have already put across my viewpoints in Facebook. Whatever I have to say, I will say on Facebook”, Banerjee said before leaving the state secretariat unfazed by her isolation after the Congress-led UPA yesterday named Pranab Mukherjee as its Presidential nominee.

Banerjee, who had told reporters last night that “the game is not over. It has just begun” and she would speak her mind on the presidential elections today, said “I wont say anything today. Tomorrow is Sunday. I don’t know … on Monday … we will see then…”

NDTV could also have used the word googly in this report:

BJP leader Ram Jethmalani has launched himself in the race to the Raisina Hill. Opposing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature, Mr Jethmalani told NDTV that he will not let Mr Mukherjee become the President unopposed.

“I might lose, but will still contest Presidential poll. Pranab is a friend, but I oppose his candidature… He hasn’t revealed names of black money holders,” said Mr Jethmalani, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, the BJP core group met this evening to decide its strategy before it consults with its allies on whether to support Mr Mukherjee or get into a contest for the president’s post. The BJP-led alliance has so far followed a wait-and-watch policy, but a decision is expected after a key meeting of the allies tomorrow.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Mamata Banerjee leaves one speechless

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Washington Post interviews Mamata Banerjee:

When a woman was gang-raped, Banerjee accused her of fabricating the case to “malign” her government. When a chemistry professor shared a cartoon by e-mail mocking the chief minister, he was beaten by her party workers and arrested.

Asked about the cartoon, Banerjee launched into a tirade about how her Marxist political opponents were plotting with Maoist rebels to discredit and kill her, in league with Pakistani intelligence and financed by North Korea, Venezuela and Hun­gary.

“They have given me the death sentence, and every day they are spreading this superimposed photo, on Facebook, on Internet or in the e-mail, through some false, camouflaged name,” she said.

Flabbergasted is probably the word that describes us now.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

May 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Sanity from the common man

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April 23, 2012

Changes of government do not reset the calendar to year zero, as the French Revolution proved through its remarkable lack of success in this. Unfortunately the petulant demands of the new government of west Bengal that the rest of the country shoulder its development burden without expecting debts to be repaid amounts to exactly that. The voice of the common man is heard in this letter to the editor published in DNA

This has reference to ‘Bengal’s interest: Didi sets 15-day deadline for Centre’ [1] (April 22). Mamata Banerjee has asked the Centre to decide on her demand for a three-year moratorium on the interest her state pays as debt. West Bengal pays annually Rs. 22,000 crore to the Centre towards debt servicing for repayment of loans taken by the CPI (M)-led government. Though the demand may ring true, it will set a bad precedent. Other states too will demand such moratorium. Setting the deadline for accepting her demand is tantamount to blackmail. It is not a healthy sign for a democracy. She is exploiting the weakness of the coalition UPA government.

The government of West Bengal is reported to have started its own newspaper and TV news channel [2] to spell the achievements of the government. It is a negative move. People can well read the achievements of the government from the implementation of welfare programmes. There is no need for any advertisements of government programmes. Also, railway minister Mukul Roy’s proposal to include a column asking for political leaning in railway reservation forms just to avoid Left party sympathisers travelling along with others, especially TMC supporters, is surprising. Hope such people are not sent out of West Bengal. Let Didi first govern the state well, stop deaths of babies in hospitals [3] and crime against women [4].

May 2, 2012

IE reported on the lever that the Trinamool Congress will try to move:

Sources suggested that Mamata will be spelling out her demand for a moratorium on the huge debt burden on West Bengal. Considering the timing of the Trinamool’s decision to raise the pitch on this six-month-old demand, the moratorium — for three years to begin with followed by a possible 10-year debt restructuring plan — is expected to be Mamata’s leve-rage in the presidential election. Her party holds 4 per cent of the vote in the presidential electoral college.

ET puts financial meat around the bare-bones political analysis above:

According to reported data Bengal’s total borrowings have reached 208,382 crore (revised estimate) in the last fiscal – up from 187,387 crore as in March 2011. The state has forked out an estimated 23,000 crore as interest payment in 2011-12 as against its total tax revenue of close to 25,000 crore.

The finance ministry, the officials said, has made this clear – the Constitution does not allow discretionary powers like interest moratorium to be used for a single state. Banerjee had given a 15-day ultimatum on April 21 to the Centre to act on her demand for the moratorium. She had met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee last week on the issue.

Murkherjee had also told Banerjee that constitutional provisions barred a special moratorium, and also similar demands from other states like Bihar haven’t been granted. West Bengal has demanded a three year moratorium on interest payment and a debt recast.

A senior official said the only quasi-exception was made for Punjab in the 1980s when the state was severely affected by militancy. But that, the official said, was a highly unusual situation, while the problem with Bengal is “poor management”.

A report being prepared by a committee led by Sumit Basu, the Union expenditure secretary, is looking at three states – Bengal, Kerala, Punjab – that can land in a debt trap by 2014-15.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

April 23, 2012 at 5:04 am

Does this need lampooning?

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IE reports on Mamata Banerjee’s latest attempt to stifle dissent:

A professor of chemistry at the Jadavpur University was today arrested for allegedly circulating by e-mail a cartoon lampooning Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Deputy Commissioner of Kolkata Police (south suburban division) Sujoy Chanda said: ”Professor Ambikesh Mohapatra has been arrested for spreading derogatory messages against respectable people,” .

Mohapatra, a professor of Chemistry, was arrested and taken to the East Jadavpur Police station early today.

It is understood the cartoon was a spoof on director Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Sonar Kella’, substituting its main characters with Mamata Banerjee, Railway Minister Mukul Roy and former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, to parody the recent Rail Budget fiasco.

One supposes that it is only in Kolkata that speaking against respectable people (bhadralok) is a crime. HT reports that the police were hand-in-glove with a bunch of not-so-respectable political rowdies:

Police arrested Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of chemistry of Jadavpur University for sending e-mails that show chief minister Mamata Banerjee, former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and railway minister Mukul Roy in a poor light.

Police sources say Subrata Sengupta, a neighbour of Mahapatra, has also been arrested. Among the charges slapped against the two are some sections of the IT Act.

Trinamool Congress supporters attacked him at his residence at New Garia on Thursday night. They accused him to sending disparaging e-mails that showed chief minister, railway minister and the former railway minister in a poor light, and uploading the cartoon on his Facebook account.

According to Jadavpur University sources, police arrived at the scene when the Trinamool supporters were heckling the professor. Police picked him up and took him to the East Jadavpur police station. He was shown arrested on Friday morning.

Deccan Herald quoted a critic:

The arrest has evoked widespread criticism.Trinamool Congress rebel MP Kabir Suman, condemning the arrest, said: “Even I have received the cartoon and I cannot fathom how it can be a cyber crime. It has been made in good humour. If he can be arrested today, then who knows we may be arrested tomorrow.”

A report in HT makes out a case of intimidation and breaking of the law by the police:

“If one commits an offence, he has to face arrest. Conspiracies won’t be tolerated,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the afternoon.

“I am not repentant for my act,” Mahapatra said in the evening. He told the media that his house was stormed by several Trinamool Congress supporters on Thursday evening, and they forced him to write a letter declaring he was a CPI(M) supporter and had deliberately sent the e-mail.

The police slapped IPC sections 500 (punishment of defamation), 509 (make obsence gesture to a woman), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), and sections 66 A and B (sending offensive communication) of the IT Act.

Mahapatra also claimed the police never told him that he could obtain bail from the East Jadavpur police station itself where he was taken on Thursday night. Incidentally, all the sections of IPC and IT Act slapped against Mahapatra and Sengupta were bailable sections, which means the accused could take bails from the police station without being produced to the court.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

April 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

Maybe the railway budget

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The Railway minister, Dinesh Trivedi’s, budget proposal is quoted in full by NDTV. The operative parts read:

Within the constraints of funds, the Annual Plan outlay for the year 2012-13 has been targeted at [INR] 60,100 crore, which is highest ever plan investment. The plan would be financed through:

  1. Gross Budgetary Support of 24,000 crore
  2. Railway Safety Fund of 2,000 crore;
  3. Internal Resources of 18,050 crore; and
  4. Extra Budgetary Resources of 6,050 crore, whichincludes market borrowing of 15,000 crore through IRFC

I propose to rationalise the fares to cause minimal impact on thecommon man and to keep the burden within tolerance limits ingeneral. I am asking for an extra only 2 paise per km for suburban andordinary second class. Similarly, increase for mail express secondclass will be by only 3 paise per km; for sleeper class by only 5 paiseper km; for AC Chair Car, AC 3 tier & First Class by only 10 paise per km; AC 2 Tier by only 15 paise per km; and AC I by only 30 paise per km. Corresponding rationalisation in minimum distance and fare chargeable in various classes has also been proposed.

The last para above incensed Mr. Trivedi’s party chief enough for her to ask the prime minister to sack him. IE reports:

The UPA was pushed to the wall again tonight by the Trinamool Congress and its increasingly capricious chief Mamata Banerjee who sought the sacking of her seniormost nominee in the union cabinet, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, hours after he proposed a hike in passenger fares, the first in 10 years.

The government is said to have agreed to Banerjee’s request — faxed to the Prime Minister’s Office — to replace Trivedi with Mukul Roy who is currently minister of state for shipping. This, ironically, hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh applauded Trivedi’s budget as “forward looking”.

Roy, known as Mamata’s right-hand man, has had an earlier stint as minister of state for railways. On July 11 last year, he refused to visit the site of the Guwahati-Puri Express derailment in Assam saying that it was the PM, and not he, who was in charge of Railways.

Trivedi also spelled out a plan to balance fluctuating fuel costs with train fares and laid out a roadmap for a major revamp in the Indian Railways Board, aimed at making the Railways more modern and safe.

An independent Rail Tariff Authority, subject to approval by Parliament, will from now on fix fares, and thereby take away the railway minister’s exclusive powers on fare revisions.

“I have successfully brought the Railways out of the intensive care unit,” Trivedi said minutes after delivering the budget.

His plan outlay of Rs 60,100 crore is the highest ever, about Rs 3,000 crore more than last year’s outlay earmarked by Mamata Banerjee. “I had to do it to save the Railways,” Trivedi said.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm


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