Posts Tagged ‘Montek Singh Ahluwalia’

Everybody loves a nice, random number like 37

22 July 2013

Poverty is big business in a poor country especially on the eve of elections. As poll booths hover over the horizon, ruling parties suddenly discover what a fabulous job they have done, in marked contrast to the parties they displaced from office, and boy, shouldn’t they get another chance?

And so it is, in the year of the 2013.

With the general elections no more than a few months away, the Congress-led UPA, using figures from the national sample survey organisation (NSSO), is putting out the word that under its masterful watch, poverty has come down a full 15 per cent: from 37 per cent in 2004-05 when it took charge to 22 per cent in 2011-12.

Shorn of the jargon, it means there are 15 fewer poorer people amongst every 100 Indians than when the UPA came to power. It means that in a nation of roughly 120 crore people, about 18 crore people have been lifted out of poverty by the policies of Manmohan Singh and his “dream team“.

But, poverty repeats itself in mysterious ways in India.

In 2002, two years before the current calibration began, the BJP-led NDA too made a similar claim. The then finance minister Yashwant Sinha said the poverty ratio had come down from 37 per cent to 26 per cent.

On his blog, the food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma writes that soon after the economic reforms were unleashed in 1991, the then deputy chairman of the planning commission Pranab Mukherjee said he had brought down poverty from 37 per cent to 19 per cent in one go.

So, whether it is 1991, 2002 or 2013, the starting point for poverty reduction, it seems, is 37.

After all, as the Wikipedia page for 37 claims, it is the number that most people utter when asked to name a random number between 0 and 100..

Infographic: courtesy Hindustan Times

Also read: Everybody loves a good number: 93, 77, 54, 33…

‘India, Indians not as poor as Indian government thinks’

Andheri raat mein, Diya tera haat mein phone

15 August 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Freebies are the lubricants that grease the wheels of democracy in India—and the cranky old engine needs to be serviced at least once in five years. Wine and money have traditionally played a great role in ensuring that the cogs, also known as contestants, run smoothly for the next few years.

Of late, though, the traditional attractions have partly given way to other more persuasive and trendy modes in terms of sops. If DMK gave colour television sets, AIDMK promised free laptops in the last election. More recently, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister promised digital tablets.

Not to be left behind, the ruling UPA government reportedly hit upon a scheme to put a mobile phone in the pocket of every BPL ( Below Poverty Line) family before the next general elections. If things had gone as planned, this was to be announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day address at Red Fort this morning.

However, the ‘Har haath mein phone’  project seems to have been abruptly put on the backburner, though it should surprise nobody if it is launched with full fanfare before you can say 2014.

Costing an estimated Rs7,000 crore, the project would have “empowered” every BPLite all over the country.  Unfortunately, there was some spoilsport who put a spanner in to the works.

Disputes broke out over the actual number of BPL families. While the government thought there were 6 crores of them, state governments put the figure at closer to 11 crores and our ever-correct planning commission put the families at a safe 8 crores. Problems due to distribution, power shortage, recharging, battery replacement etc were also envisaged.

Imagine ‘har haat mein phone’ scene would have created in the country. It would have brought back memories of Dada Kondke’s 1985 movie ‘Andheri raat mein, Diya tere haat mein’ movie of double entendres.

It would have met the double agenda of Congress to win the elections and decimating the opposition.

Apart from being a stepping stone for winning the election ‘hands down’, what other uses would this massive project have served?

# In India more food is wasted than consumed the day after any marriage. The number of dishes, the menu drawn up etc is measured on a social scale than actual consumption. When marriages are conducted over a week with mehendi, sangeeth, Bollywood song and dance acts, what are a few crores for unconsumed food thrown away after each meal?

Har haath mein phone’ would have precisely helped reduce wastage on a national scale.  Most of the BPL phoneites would already be present outside marriage halls even as saath pheres are being taken. The food otherwise that would have gone wasted will now at least fill BPL family stomachs thanks to their networking with phone in har haath.

#  Recently Indian Railways who are supposed to carry passengers safely were given an additional job; that of disposing tons of food grains which were not fit for even animal consumption.

The railways had dumped their merchandise safely near Jagatpur, Odisha. The poor with nothing to eat dug into the riverbed and carried whatever they could in their bags. People rushed into feast on food certified unworthy of even animal consumption.

Well, with ‘har haath mein phone’, the BPLites would not have allowed it to happen. They would have networked and tracked the movements of the train, kept each other informed at every station and swooped on the food before it was buried in the sand. At least digging to retrieve grains from riverbeds would have been avoided.

# And in Sharad Pawar’s Maharashtra had they introduced the project, farmers, instead of committing suicide would have watched Dada Kondke’s old hit in the powerless nights across Maharashtra on their mobile phones.

What Montek Ahluwalia can learn from Sir MV

31 May 2012

“I don’t think many Indians care about the country,” he (George Fernandes) said. “By Indians I mean those in the highest places. If they cared they wouldn’t have been looting the treasuries as they are and they wouldn’t be allowing the crooks of the world to treat this country as a grazing ground. Some day we will sink and this is not anything to do with China or with Pakistan. It is because this country is cursed to put up with a leadership that has chosen to sell it for their own personal aggrandisement.”

I was struck by the note of despair in his voice. It was hard to believe that this was the country’s Defence Minister speaking, a politician who had reached the pinnacle of his career.

Amitav Ghosh in his book ‘Countdown

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Reading an article some time back in India Today magazine, and on May 21, 2012 in The Hindu about Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the great Sardar, deputy chairman of the planning commission for the last nearly eight years, I was livid with anger and felt ashamed of myself as much as helpless for being unable to do anything to stop such alleged stealing and squandering of my nation’s wealth, created from the sweat of my countrymen for the development of my country.

Though a democracy, see how helpless we the Aam Aadmi are. And to think that his case of extravaganza in splurging our country’s wealth on himself is just a tip of the iceberg of a behemoth of Indian bureaucracy, frightens me.

I was suddenly made aware that what is bugging this country’s development is not just corruption but also a very highly indulgent bureaucracy rolling in luxury at State expense. Instead of helping build our nascent free-nation, these pseudo-intellectual, highly educated bureaucrats are bleeding our country of its tax and natural resources.

Thanks to the RTI Act and some of the newspapers like The Hindu and news magazines, this kind of ‘corruption by other ways,’ is also being exposed.

As I was reading The Hindu article by P. Sainath, I was reminded of bureaucrats of my own princely State of Mysore — some of the Dewans — specially two well-known ones: Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, legends in their own time and perhaps for all the time to come in the matter of administration and honesty.

About Sir M. Visvesvaraya it is said that when he was on official tour and stayed in the government guest house (also known as inspection bungalow) after his official work, he would switch off the electric light and remove a candle from his pocket and light it for his personal work! That’s the level of honesty.

What a contrast to the total degenerate conduct of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as reported in The Hindu.

It is keeping this Sardar in mind, the renowned author and journalist Khushwant Singh, being a Sardar himself, with natural pride in such situations which anyone would display, had said, in a lighter vein I suppose, that the prophesy of a Sikh Guru that ‘Raj Karega Khalsa‘ had come true with three Sikhs in top positions ruling India — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Army chief Gen J.J. Singh (Retd) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

This was during the 2004 victory of Congress. UPA-1 rule. But now, the Sikh Army Chief is not there but the other two are there in office. However, the question is, doing what? Oh, yes. From June 2012 when the new Army Chief, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, takes over as Army Chief it will again be ‘Raj Karega Khalsa.’

But, what about Montek Singh Ahluwalia?

A real Sheikh of a country that is ready to fall apart, the Centre cannot hold. If you have not read the The Hindu article, here I give a sample of it.

The title itself is sarcastic in tone — “The austerity of the affluent.” And it gives a peek into the details of financial abuse of office, “A rural Indian spending Rs. 22.50 a day would not be considered poor by a Planning Commission whose deputy chairman’s foreign trips between May and October last year cost a daily average of Rs. 2.02 lakh.”

And this man tells the Supreme Court and the dumb Indians that an Indian who spends (or earns) Rs. 29 a day in urban area and Rs. 23 a day in rural area is not a poor man.

What cheek, what gumption, what audacity and what economics!

The man undertook, between May and Oct. 2011, “four trips [abroad] covering 18 nights [which] cost the exchequer [tax payer] a sum of Rs. 36,40,110; an average of Rs. 2.02 lakh a day,” according to The Statesman News Service, says the article.

At the time it happened, that amounts to US $4,000 a day. And we are a poor country? Absurd. This is a poor country for ‘Aam Aadmi,’ not for bureaucrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and politicians. The truth is that this is a rich country where poor people live, because of rulers like Ahluwalia and other corrupt leaders.

There is more startling statistics to come from RTI: “Dr Ahluwalia made 42 official foreign trips and spent 274 days overseas during a seven-year tenure. That is ‘one in every nine days’ he was abroad. And that is excluding travel days. The India Today story found that his excursion cost the exchequer [of our country] Rs 2.34 crore. This could be apart from what Indian embassies abroad spent on him on frills such as hiring limousines. Even a Moghul Emperor would not have had this kind of luxury, freedom and enjoyment.

Apparently, Ahluwalia was and is a law unto himself as much as a boss unto himself.

No one to question him, not even his de jure boss, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

And remember, all this when our ‘dumb’ Prime Minister pleaded for austerity in 2009 and his Cabinet responded handsomely to the call. The message was for the opposition too. But look at this. This is the spirit of austerity practiced by the ruling party, as also the BJP opposition.

Praful Patel (UPA-NCP) cabinet minister and Nitin Gadkari (NDA-BJP) have hosted two of the costliest weddings ever, says the report.

The Hindu article mentions many more instances of such spending of looted money by our netas, bureaucrats and industry tycoons as you and I watch the world collapse around us helplessly.

What did Chanakya say in his ‘Chanakya Neeti‘?

“Do not live in a country that does not allow you self-respect, honour, means of living, a family, kith and kin, friends, well-wishers, ways of education and self-development. Quit such country. It is not fit for living.”

Alas! Quit and go where?

Jeena yahan marna yahan

Iske siva jaana kahaan…

(K.B. Ganapathy is the editor and founder of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: Deputy chairman of planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at a hydrogen energy exhibition in June 2007 (courtesy Manvender V. Love/ Press Trust of India)

***

Also read: Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

Ayyo, Amma, Maami, is tea a national drink?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the ‘dream team’ exposed?

Ayyo, Amma, Mama, Maami, tea is national drink?

25 April 2012

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Planning commission deputy chairman Padma Vibhushan Montek Singh Ahluwalia has declared that tea would be accorded national drink status next year.

Those native to the south of the Vindhyas may ask why tea, and why not coffee?

Or, maybe, a Kashmiri may say why not kehwa?

In a country where dietary and culinary diversity is of continental proportions, is it fair to simply zero in on a particular beverage and link it to nationhood? Especially when India has had its share of bitter disputes over so-called national symbols like language. Hindi’s imposition on non-Hindi speaking states still ruffles feathers among many Indians.

Proponents of tea may say a majority — according to Ahluwalia, 83% — of Indians prefer the brew over everything else. But are numbers sufficient reason to do what Ahluwalia is seeking to do?

By that argument, should we declare roti or tandoori chicken as a national dish?

Ironically, Ahluwalia’s announcement has been welcomed by tea growers in the Niligiris. But will they dare go to Madras’s Mylapore and ask the mamas and maamis to give up their kaapi and take to tea?

Or go to Bangalore’s Basavanagudi with their campaign?

We haven’t heard a response from the Coffee Days and Baristas so far. Wondering if V.G.Siddhartha will use his pop-in-law S.M.Krishna‘s influence to stop Ahluwalia in his tracks.

Also read: If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not?)

Who’s to say filter coffee OK, Starbucks yaake?

When coffee-tasting gets a whole new meaning

Look, who’s ordering by-two coffee at Wipro

Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

29 January 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Unlike the Padma awards last year which had the media doing cartwheels over the inclusion of the controversial New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal for the Padma Bhushan, the 2011 roll of honour has barely created any bubbles in the champagne glasses.

The silence of even a committed partypooper like P. Sainath might make it seem as if the scam and scandal-tainted Manmohan Singh government has finally got something right. But has it?

Au contraire, we present item No.7 on the list of the 13 awardees chosen for the nation’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan.

No. 7: Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Discipline: public affairs.

Stranger things have happened in India id est Bharat, of course, but it’s strange that the inclusion of a serving bureaucrat who is the serving deputy chairman of the planning commission should go uncommented upon in the business press that is currently lying in the lap of neo-liberal luxury in Davos.

Question #1: Is it a good idea for a serving babu to be elevated to the exalted status of a Padma Vibhushan?

A diligent user of Wikipedia will be able to see if pen-pushers have been similarly provided a “service lift” before sadda Montek, but that is not our beef with the career-bureaucrat”s selection. It is more primal. It’s like WTF is his contribution to humankind to deserve the Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in What’s The Funda, yaar.

Generally but not always, the preferred method of picking up a Padma Vibhushan is to carefully pick up a Padma Sri first and then even more carefully pick up a Padma Bhushan.

Take Azim Premji. The Wipro boss, who has provided employment to a few thousand people, got a Padma Bhushan in 2005 and had to wait till 2011 for get his Padma Vibhushan. Or take the actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao (ANR), who has provided pleasure to a few million people, who went through the long route.

But our brilliant babu gets fast-tracked to Padma Vibhushan just like that—sans a Padma Sri, sans a Padma Bhushan—in fact his name preceding Premji’s, who’s ninth on the list? WTF.

WTF, as in Who’s The Fu Manchu, yaar.

Question #2: Are Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s qualifications so immense, his achievements so mammoth, and his contributions to his countrymen and women so extraordinary that he deserves nothing but the second best award the nation can give straightaway?

Even a cursory glance at Montek’s Wikipedia page tells you that there is nothing particularly out-of-this-world in the man.

Words and letters like DPS, Bishop Cotton’s, St. Stephen’s, Oxford, BA, MA, MPhil are littered all over. He apparently picked up one half of his strange accent as the youngest “division chief” in the much-abhorred World Bank; and the other half as a director in the even more abhorred international monetary fund (IMF).

But that’s typically the trajectory of most high-achieving climbers—creepers as some call them—and for that we decorate him with a Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in Wisconsin Tourism Federation, yaar.

Question #3: Is Montek Singh Ahluwalia the only officer among the 5,159 IAS officers in the country doing yeoman service in the year of the lord 2011?

However, it is the timing of Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s choice, given his record past and present, that is most baffling.

Montek’s role in the Enron scandal in fixing sky-high anti-consumer electricity charges that ultimately turned the Dabhol Power Company belly-up is much documented to be retold again.

As the advocate Prashant Bhushan wrote in 2004:

Jyoti Basu called him a “World Bank man”…. As revenue secretary and then finance secretary through most of the 1990s, Ahluwalia spearheaded the neo-liberal economic policies in India, exactly according to the prescriptions of the WB/IMF. But his enthusiasm for privatisation went beyond the most basic financial prudence that even the World Bank observed.”

In suddenly awarding the Padma Vibhushan at this juncture it is as if Manmohan Singh—the father of LPG: liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation—is fobbing off his blue-eyed boy with a piece of chikki having failed in accommodating him in the reshuffled ministry a couple of weeks ago.

(Montek recently figured in the Niira Radia tapes, courtesy his kinsman N.K. Singh, as eyeing a ministerial portfolio.)

And then there is the ultimate irony of it all.

When food inflation and fuel inflation are screwing the aam admi, when Maoist violence is shining a light on planning in the tribal areas, when farmer suicides are going on unabated, when bureaucratic redtape has made India the worst business destination in Asia, the nation decides to decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan!

For what, pursuing growth at all costs?

Question #4: By rewarding a fellow-traveller, has Manmohan Singh sent the clearest signal yet that he may not be around as prime minister this time next year to do the needful?

History might not give a rat’s posterior to the Padma Vibhushan, but it will surely remember neo-liberal Montek’s neo-conservative George W. Bush moment last week.

Just like the US former president blamed the global food crisis in 2007 on hungry Indians eating more, Montek observed that “the high inflation number points towards people eating healthier food, better lifestyles“.

As the food expert, Devinder Sharma writes:

“Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been at the helm of India’s planning process for quite some time now. It is during his tenure as the deputy chairman of the planning commission that India has been pushed deeper and deeper into the quagmire of poverty. With the largest population of hungry in the world, the Global Hunger Index 2010 has placed India in the pit.

“I wasn’t therefore shocked when I read Ahluwalia blame the hungry for the rise in food inflation. From someone who literally lives in the ivory tower of the Yojana Bhawan, anything can be expected. But what, of course, surprised me was the audacity with which he blamed the poor and hungry in the rural countryside for the rising inflation.”

And for this Marie Antoinette-esque moment, we decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan? WTF.

WTF, as in Who The Fuck is Alice, yaar.

Question #5: By goofing up with Sant Singh Chatwal one year and Montek Singh Ahluwalia the next, surely something is rotten in the Singh Parivar?

Of course, similar questions can be asked about some of the other business choices on the 2011 list: like, is there some rule that everybody on the Infosys board should get a Padma honour (as evidenced by the choice of “Kris Gopalakrishnan, for what?) Or, what really is ICICI bank chief Chanda Kochhar‘s stellar contribution?

It’s just that Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets our goat nicely, thank you.

Also read: A Padma Bhushan for K.V. Kamath?

A Padma Bhushan for the BGS swamiji?

Why Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt must decline Padma Sri

‘If they can’t eat roti, let them go and eat boti’

31 October 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As I was walking with my hot upma plate at the UNI Canteen in Delhi, who do I notice sipping a cup of coffee looking in the general direction of nearby the Planning Commission but Yojana Singh, the Ace Planning Expert (APE).

What luck! Here was a chance to find out how they are going to eradicate hunger from our country.

As we settled on the stumps of some chopped-down trees in the open park, I asked: “India has slipped two places further to 67 out of 84 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2010. In fact Sudan, North Korea and Pakistan fare better than us. Does that not worry you, Mr Singh?”

“Worry? No way. The poor in India are responsible for this bloated figure in the index.”

“I didn’t get you.”

“More and more hungry poor people have started eating well. Our people in rural areas are eating as if there is no tomorrow. This has created unprecedented pressure on the commodity prices and hence there is inflation.”

I  thought it was down right rude of the APE to make such caustic remarks on our rural populace.

“Wht are you suggesting, that the rural hungry shouldn’t eat at all?”

Arrey Bhai! When did I say that? I am only quoting President George W. Bush who once blamed the poor in China and India for eating more meals in a day, thus raising grain and cereal prices in America. Dubya found that he couldn’t afford jam and butter spread for his bread and pretzels for evening tea anymore. It’s all simple see-saw in world economics; you push it down here, it goes up in USA and elsewhere.”

“Mr Singh, this year 13.5 lakh metric tons of food grains were allowed to rot in the open for want of storage facilities. Despite bumper crops, millions of children still go to bed without a  proper meal. What was the Planning Commission doing all these years?’

Dekho bhai, we had to attack the problem of availability of seeds, water for irrigation, fertilisers, etc. This alone took us some six five-year plans. Thanks to M.S. Swaminathan and Norman Borlaug for the Green Revolution, and Dr Verghese Kurian for the White Revolution, which put us on a path of continuous growth of food grains and milk. But we didn’t have any revolution for storing food grains and milk, you know.”

“No revolution in storage of food grains?”

“That’s right. We knew how to grow but nobody taught us how to store. So we decided to store in  the open in  places where it has not rained over the last few years. Our planning was excellent but nature was against us as it rained  all through the year.  That’s why the grains started rotting after the rains. Sheer bad luck. Kya karen?”

Great planning, I must say! The Supreme Court had to rebuke your agriculture minister for refusing to distribute even the rotten grains free of cost.”

“With all my due respects to SC, what do they know of the economics of distribution of grains? We have middle men who have to be engaged all the way until it reaches the poor, and middle men don’t come free. We have to pay them to distribute grains even if it is through ‘Rajiv Gandhi Mufth Dhanya Vitharana Samstha’ or ‘Indira Gandhi Ghar Ghar  ke liye Gehu Pahunchana Nigam’.”

“You are saying you would rather pay the middle men than distribute free to the poor?”

“I am not saying that. All I am saying is that this is how the economics in food operate.”

“Mr Singh, some estimates say over 5,000 children die every day due to malnutrition in our country. This was also discussed by the Millenium Development Goal (MDGS) of the UN Summit in its meeting in September.  Why are we not doing something at least with respect to children? Why is it there is less and less consumption of grains every year?”

“The consumption  of food grains maybe coming down, but it may be more and more children must be consuming milk, vegetables and fruits.”

“This looks like the modern version of what Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XIV, said to the French people, ‘If they can’t eat bread, let them eat cake!’  Can you do something to stop this trend of massive deaths due to malnutrition?”

“‘Of course! Children are our greatest asset. I am not saying this! Pandit Nehru, I believe, used to say such things. We intend starting a programme covering lakhs of children across the country to give them an egg every day so that they get enough protein in their diet. We will be calling this, ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Rashtriya Bachhonke Poustika Ahaar Ande Vitharana Karyakram.”

“Good you have at last something for children.”

“But funds are not available. They have all been diverted to CWG 2010.  Even, Rs.170 crores of funds allotted as pension for disabled persons and widows was diverted to CWG this year as their budget shot to Rs 70,000 crore. I will see what I can do,” said APE Yojana Singh of Planning Commission.

If we can send man to the moon, why can’t we…?

8 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Ace Political Expert (APE) was coming out of the Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK) campus in Hebbal after attending a seminar. He was surrounded by delegates who held samples of food grains grown across India, in small, neatly packed, airtight ziploc covers.

After his guests left, APE and I went into the canteen.

“So you have become quite an expert in wheat and paddy,” I started off while sipping hot ‘Cothas’ coffee.

“Anybody can become an expert and go on to become a member of the Planning Commission. I am not saying this, It’s Kamal Nath, minister for roads and highways, who thinks so,” retorted APE.

“Which is why, perhaps, despite bumper crops we don’t have enough godowns or silos to store food grains in our country while millions get little or nothing to eat. Isn’t it shameful?” I asked as I held the samples of wheat he had kept on the table.

I was as angry as Muttiah Muralidharan was on Bishen Singh Bedi.

“When a country gives importance only to cricket rather than food grains, farmers suicide and malnutrition deaths, these things are bound to occur. Next, I won’t be surprised if you blame our agriculture minister Sharad Pawar for this,” APE responded.

“Every year the planning commission holds a series of meetings for ‘Budget Estimates’, ‘Revised Budget Estimates’ etc. Have any of their Members ever bothered how the country will store the food grains?” I demanded.

I think I was shouting like a town crier with a voice which had shades of Arnab Goswami in it.

“Cool it kanaiah, Ramu!  We are not in a Times Now debate. The planning commission only doles out funds for seeds, fertilisers, etc. Once in a way Montek Singh Ahluwalia may put his hand out of the window in Yojana Bhavan to check if it is raining. They are neither concerned if there is drought or bumper production nor in its distribution. They can’t be bothered whether there are godowns built in the last 60 years.”

“Who then is responsible? What about Food Corporation of India?”

“The FCI chief is already over- burdened to decide whether he should make all-purpose godowns or specialised godowns for different grains like wheat, rice millet etc. He is also seized with the idea whether he should construct the costlier silos or multipurpose godowns as in Punjab where they stack whisky and let the wheat rot in the open. Known for their strong economics, Punjabis stack fast-moving items like liquor than wheat.”

“What are the States doing in this regard? Don’t they have the responsibility of feeding their starving people?”

“Yes, they have. That’s why they are sending their entire MLA lot to foreign countries on a ‘study’ tour to understand how they grow, store and feed their people.  Karnataka under H.D. Kumaraswamy sent its MLAs to China. B.S. Yediyurappa is sending the whole lot from Vidhana Soudha to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore to study their agricultural culture in full detail.”

I was getting nowhere.

“Doesn’t the ministry of food and agriculture own responsibility in this regard at all?”

Without knowing, I had come back to square one.

“Who says they don’t? Since lakhs of tons of wheat had become inedible for even animals, to pacify hungry stomachs and those bordering on malnutrition, the minister sent some officials on a junket to quickly negotiate a price and import wheat.  Never mind we paid double the international price, but didn’t we solve the food shortage problem?” concluded APE.

I could do was stand gaping.

‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Narendra Modi’

31 January 2009

“A lie repeated many times becomes the Truth” in the modern age sans any media scrutiny.

So, it follows that milk and honey, and power and water flow in Gujarat because of Narendra Damodardas Modi. So, it follows that “growth” and “development” have sky-rocketed in the State, because of Narendra Damodardas Modi. And so it follows that India Inc wants Narendra Damodardas Modi to be the next prime minister and so on.

And woe unto those who question or disagree. Plague upon them.

Really?

The sociologist Dipankar Gupta doesn’t agree. Gujarat was already among the top three in the country within 30 years of being created, he writes in today’s Times of India. Over 35% of its infrastructural augmentation for power generation happened between 1995 and 2000, before Narendra Damodardas Modi came to power.

“Gujarat grew at approximately 12 per cent in 2006-07 against India’s overall growth of about 8 per cent that year. Fantastic, said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and lauded Gujarat’s achievement…. But wait! What is so great about this statistic?

“In 1994-95, Gujarat surged at the rate of 13.2 per cent. Where was Modi then? In the years between 1994 and 2001, Gujarat’s state domestic product registered a growth average of 10-13 per cent. At the tail end of this period Modi stepped in as chief minister….

“[W]hat is so dazzling about Gujarat’s current prosperity? Nothing really.

“In spite of decades of growth as usual, as much as 93 per cent of Gujarat’s workforce toils in the informal sector. This is why growth is not always development.  In fact, on the Human Development Index, Gujarat fell one place in 2003-04, and now ranks below Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In terms of rural prosperity Gujarat is at number five and well behind Punjab, the front ranker…. Workers employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Gujarat receive half of what their counterparts get elsewhere.

Ernst & Young, consultants for the 2005 Vibrant Gujarat conclave, ranked Gujarat’s investment climate behind that of Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and on par with Karnataka’s. In terms of Workforce Quality, however, the same professionals gave Gujarat a very average “B grade” as it failed to measure up on a number of counts.”

Read the full article: The credit’s misplaced

‘India, Indians not as poor as Indian govt thinks’

10 July 2008

Manjeet Kripalani, the India bureau chief of Businessweek, who wrote a recent article on India, in conversation with Karan Thapar on CNBC-TV18:

“India got lucky in 1991, and P.V. Narasimha Rao was there to take the hit. But if you look at the handouts of the current government, it becomes obvious that it is not a reformist government.

“This government thinks of India as poor, whereas the world does not think so, and neither do Indians think of themselves as poor. But there are probably Congressmen who agreed with what the communists were saying…

“If India is a three-legged tool of corporations, citizens and the government, the corporations are doing very well, the citizens are working very hard, and the government has just abdicated. I’d say all three Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia have failed. But I would also include Sonia Gandhi.”

Also read: Has the ‘Dream Team’ been exposed?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the India Story over?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the ‘Dream Team’ exposed?

20 June 2008

When Sonia Gandhi mysteriously heeded her “inner voice” in 2004 and passed on the baton to Oxbridge-educated Manmohan Singh, the country it was believed was in safe hands. And when Singh chose Harvard-educated P. Chidambaram as his finance minister, who in turn picked Rhodes scholar Montek Singh Ahluwalia as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, it was universally decreed that a “dream team” was in place to guide the country’s economic fortunes.

After all, Manmohan Singh was seen to have been the man who put India on the fast-track in 1991 under the tutelage of P.V. Narasimha Rao. After all, Chidambaram was seen to have produced a “dream budget” in 1997. And true enough, there has been an 9 per cent growth in the country’s GDP year after year since the United Progressive Alliance took charge four years ago. But on the day the inflation rate has shot up to a 13-year high of 11.05 per cent, it’s time to ask: has the dream team failed India?

Admittedly, a host of international factors are at play. But looking at the galloping inflation, has India’s GDP growth been in spite of the financial wizardry of the “Singh Parivar”? Have Chidambaram & Co failed to check petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices, and thus prices of food and commodities? Has the stock market, which has plunged several thousand points from the high of 21,000, seen through the game? Are programmes like farm loan waiver and national rural employment guarantee scheme proof?

Will the dream team’s failures cost the Congress and UPA the election? And is that why we are seeing this last-minute brinkmanship on the Indo-US nuclear deal?

Photograph: courtesy Hindu Business Line

Also read: KAUSHIK BASU: Reasons to be cheerful

Is Chidambaram positioning himself to become PM?


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