Srinagar Bursts Out Again

Mehebooba-Mufty_AFPThe young and vibrant Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Omar Abdullah is fastly losing his charisma to govern the state. The Sophian tragedy is spilling its bad effect on the capable man and threatens to destroy him politically. It is high time that Omar stops his frequent personal outings, fancy games and time pass activities and concentrate on the governance. This is the last chance given to the promising young man by the people of the state.

The Times of India writes (30 July 2009)

The spat between the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party is a new low for politics in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past few days,
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti flung a mike at the Speaker of the J&K assembly, a senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig randomly accused chief minister Omar Abdullah of involvement in a sex scandal and an indignant CM marched to the governor’s residence with his resignation. All the drama made for less than edifying viewing. Both Omar and Mehbooba must share the blame for enacting the low farce.

Abdullah has since climbed down from the moral high ground, while PDP leaders have agreed to function as a constructive opposition in the legislative assembly. Both parties must stick to their words. Hopefully, better sense will prevail on Mehbooba who seems oblivious of the promise her party leaders made on prime-time television that they’ll not create petty disputes. She was at her aggressive worst on Wednesday, disrupting proceedings in the assembly. Such theatrics are unlikely to help her political career or the PDP in the long run. Similarly, Omar’s impulsive gesture to quit on moral grounds was an irresponsible act. Political instability is the last thing that J&K can afford at this time. Leaders must handle criticism even vitriolic allegations without losing their cool.

J&K politicians must realise that they are at a historic juncture. People have in recent times ignored boycott calls from separatist groups and diktats from militants, in order to vote in elections with the hope that a representative government is best placed to tackle civic issues and other matters of governance. But the performance of the elected representatives in the assembly makes a mockery of their trust in parliamentary democracy. It amounts to betrayal of the hopes of a people who have lived through unimaginable violence for more than two decades.

The preference among mainstream parties for histrionics at the cost of statecraft may be a reflection of Kashmir’s political culture. Theatrics and exaggeration have been an integral part of political activity in the state since militancy broke out in the late 1980s. Measured political articulation may have become impossible in a climate of fear. However, that situation is slowly changing. Reasonably high turnouts in successive elections signal the shift in the political ground. Mainstream politicians, beneficiaries of the turnaround, must reflect the new situation in the state and adopt a language that is constructive and suitable for governance. They must not mess up their mandate by indulging in silly spats and mindless allegations. Don’t let go of a historic opportunity.


View of a Corporate Honocho on Education

coll-finder2Without the contribution of the private sector India may not have scaled such a height in the education sector. Earlier schools, colleges and universities were run by public charity minded private people. Today most of them want to open an education institution to mint millions of rupees. No problem if they charge high, give good quality education, pay the staff well and impact the student’s lives. Alas! these are not happening. But only money gets poured into their coffers. The country needs to put an end into this menace and reform the education system. The education tribunal should speed up the hearings and bring justice to the exploited students and parents. The quality assessment should be rigorous and the government should weed out the inferior ones quickly.

Rahul Bajaj writes in The Times of India (30 July 2009)

The demand for quality education is intense and students and parents are going to great lengths to access it. The problems are on the supply
side. With Kapil Sibal as the new human resources development minister, perhaps winds of change will blow.

I need to free education from the licence-permit raj. Let colleges set their own fees and salaries, curriculum and exams and expansion plans. The current system obstructs the ethical and promotes the unethical through over-regulation. We also need to substantially increase vocational training. Industry has to step forward to create a market for the vocationally trained. However, the government’s rigid labour policy is hindering this by discouraging employment-creation in the organised sector.

Our higher education system consists of four kinds of institutions: centrally run institutions like IITs, IIMs, etc; state-run universities; grant colleges run by private institutions; and unaided institutions. Unaided institutions are largely affiliated to universities or are deemed universities or private universities. The majority of students in the country are now in unaided private institutions. This fact needs to be emphasised.

The crux of the matter is that the government system, including aided colleges, has so much subsidy that it can only cater to a minority. IIT Bombay has a budget of Rs 120 crore a year, of which Rs 100 crore comes from the central government. With 5,000 students, this means a subsidy of Rs 2 lakh per student per year. This is not sustainable and is the key reason why the government system has not expanded. The private sector has to step in, and it has.

Unaided, self-financing institutions are of two types: those for conventional courses and for professional courses. Conventional course fees are set by the university and are usually low, from Rs 8,000 to Rs 22,000 per student per year. This leads to them being manned by ill-paid, temporary teachers. Many institutions attach a fictional add-on course to hike fees. Numerous colleges charge Rs 35,000 to 60,000 per year.

In professional courses, fees are higher. They are sanctioned by state-level Shikshan Shulk Samitis based on cost plus 7 per cent, but the core cost is of teachers and this can be fudged. So is the case with capital investment. However, if one runs the system ethically, one lands up with a loss. Thus, the current system of regulation seems to have largely bred unethical and corrupt behaviour.

In deemed or private universities, fees are high. Whether quality is good is open to doubt. But deemed universities have to go through a much better process of vetting than private universities, since they have to be accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and have a track record.

While i support entry of foreign universities, subject to some regulations, fixing the domestic sector, to me, is more important. For fees of less than Rs 75,000 per year, the fee and salary structure should be left to the discretion of institutions. With this, ethical institutions would have surpluses to expand and, within a short time of, say, 3-5 years, unethical institutions would either fold up or change. I am sure the results would be as positive and as dramatic as have occurred in industry after 1991 with the abandoning of the control mentality. We should let foreign universities come in but they are going to address only our peripheral needs, not our basic needs. We seem to have a choice between government-run low-cost, low-quality institutions or private high-cost and, hopefully, high-quality institutions. I believe a third way has to be found.

And it exists. The US’s best universities are private universities, like Harvard or MIT. Their fees constitute less than 20 per cent of their income, quite like our government institutions. Here the comparison ends since they earn the balance, from endowments from their alumni and faculty-generated projects and technologies. We won’t reach this in one step. But it should be our long-term objective. Another source is society itself. Tagore, writing a century ago, felt we had survived as a nation for so long because the core processes were taken care of by society, not governments. If we were to devote even a small percentage of our profits/incomes say, 1 per cent to supporting education, much would be achieved.

Industry is the primary end-user of products of education. The government should use people from industry to evaluate proposals and institutions. Every NAAC and All India Council for Technical Education committee should have people from industry.

As in corporate governance, the key is transparency. If data on cut-offs, percentage of students passing, number of permanent faculty, number of placements, fees etc is easily accessible to students and parents, they can make informed judgements. Education is too important to be held hostage to outmoded thinking. The time has come to reform it, based on a progressive vision, a clear understanding of ground realities and the courage to cut through the nettles it is enveloped in.

Social Networking Sites At Work Places

office_computerSocial networking is good and bad. Good because it connects people across the world and help them to understand other cultures. Mostly the social networking sites connect old friends, lost friends and less number of new friends. Bad because it kills the time and makes onliners unproductive. It is highly the work places restrict the social networking for the better health conditions and work productivity of its employees.

The Times of India writes (28 July 2009)

Are you one of those people who tuck in a bit of Web socialising while at work? Well, a study now claims that your productivity might be dipping
because of this habit. The survey, conducted by a Boston-based firm, says that productivity at the workplace is hit by people who socialise on the internet during office hours. The firm even quantifies its findings, saying that employers who allow employees access to social networking sites in office lose an average 1.5 per cent in worker productivity. Frankly, this is much ado about nothing.

The fundamental problem with this survey is that it is very difficult to establish a direct correlation between time spent socialising on the internet by workers and their productivity. The output of an employee, and the organisation, is dependent on a combination of factors. It could well be a case of lethargy or disenchantment that hampers an employee’s productivity.

Social networking on the internet is a relatively new phenomenon. It is another dimension of the socialisation process, which includes telephone conversations, texting, e-mail, and good old-fashioned personal interactions. Employers have not put restrictions on talking over the phone or stepping out for lunch, so why single out networking on the Web? Social engagement lubricates the wheels of society. In its absence, life would be mechanical and insular. Spending a few minutes at work keeping in touch with the world outside is not such a bad thing. It can be beneficial, as employees might get ideas and make new contacts which will enhance their productivity while networking on the internet.

In any case, there are studies which contradict the findings of this particular survey. Recently, a research project at the University of Melbourne suggested that people who spend a reasonable amount of time on the internet for fun at work are actually more productive almost 9 per cent more. The workplace is being redefined rapidly these days, allowing employees flexibility and loosening up. An employee-friendly organisation is bound to be more productive. Let’s rest this case.
The survey confirms what was always suspected. Social networking sites impact work output negatively. Two aspects revealed in the survey explain
why these sites could prove to be a menace for firms. One, most of the workers who were part of the survey use the site in this case, Facebook during office hours and some of them up to two hours daily. Two, few among them could give a legitimate reason for having logged on to the site.

Put the two together and it is clear that social networking on the internet
is an addiction that eats into work time. There is no evidence to assume that such intrusion does not affect the productivity of a worker. This is not to argue that workers must shun all forms of social interaction at the workplace. However, social engagement should not be at the cost of work. Today, work hours are structured in such a manner that it is possible for workers to take time off and engage socially. What else are the designated lunch and tea breaks? However, office discipline demands that employees stick to the norms and make sure that productivity doesn’t suffer.

We have a different problem with the social networking sites. It is difficult to monitor and regulate engagement here. The nature of the engagement is such that it allows a person to float out of the workspace and time while being physically present. Old ideas of office discipline and work etiquette are difficult to sustain in the internet age. Who is to know if an employee shifts his work location to a destination a social networking site in this case on the World Wide Web? How do you account for the loss of work time, especially if we have to count them in hours?

It may become necessary for firms to restrict access to social networking sites at the workplace if quality time is not to be wasted on the web. No doubt, self-regulation is the best bet. But there’s hardly any incentive to make that possible. At the cost of some unpopularity, workplaces will have to restrict access to social networking sites if they are to get the best out of employees at work.

Celebrating INS Arihant

submarine_reut608The achievement is no small. Finally India had developed indigenous nuclear submarine. The INS Arihant launched from Vishakapattinam has made Indians proud. I join the entire community of Indians all over the world to congratulate the team which worked night and day to achieve this great feet. Keep conquering India!

Brahma Chellaney writes in The Times of India (29 July 2009)

In India, no technological advance is too small to be celebrated nationally. The launch of a nuclear-powered submarine for underwater trials is an important step forward in India’s quest for a minimal but credible nuclear deterrent. But India still has a long way to go. After all, it will be some years before India can deploy its first nuclear sub armed with sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Yet the mere flooding of the dry dock to begin the harbour trials of INS Arihant became an occasion for national jubilation, with the prime minister present at the event to hail it as “a historic milestone in the country’s defence preparedness.” It is as if India already has joined the club of nations with nuclear subs.

To be sure, nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarines (known in US argot as SSBNs) can help India bridge the yawning gap in its deterrent capabilities against China. Moreover, only such subs can underpin India’s no-first use (NFU) posture. For an NFU to be credible, the country needs a second-strike capability. If a country does not have the capability to retaliate after surviving an enemy’s first strike on its nuclear assets, an NFU would make no sense. Nuclear-propelled subs, with their high endurance, serve as a stealthy, least-vulnerable and cost-effective launch pad for nuclear weapons. Deterrence can be achieved with less number of missiles at sea than if they are land-based.

Still, some harsh facts stick out. India has paid a tremendous international price for its nuclear programme without reaping the kind of security benefits it should have. And the gaps in its deterrent posture remain glaring. Indeed, among nuclear-armed states, India stands out as the country with the slowest rate of progress in deterrent development. Can it be forgotten that India’s nuclear programme is the oldest in Asia and that its first nuclear test happened more than 35 years ago? Yet, India’s ‘credible minimal deterrent’, far from being credible, has yet to deliver minimalist capabilities against China. India still does not have a single deployed missile of any type that can reach Beijing.

Let’s face it: No country in history has struggled longer to build a minimal deterrent than India. There are multiple reasons for that, including the absence of a resolute political leadership, the country’s accountability-at-a-discount culture, western technology sanctions, the non-existence of independent oversight or audit, creeping politicisation of top scientists and the bureaucratisation of strategic establishments. Also, unlike Britain, China, Israel and Pakistan, India received no assistance from another nuclear power and has had to develop everything indigenously while facing a rising tide of technology controls.

In the absence of a reliable nuclear deterrent, India remains irredeemably dependent on imports of conventional weapons, spending more than $5 billion annually on such purchases, some of questionable utility. Among important states, India is the only one that relies on imports to meet basic defence needs, to the extent that it has become the world’s top arms buyer.

Yet that record has not stopped India from being boastful. The start of Arihant’s underwater trials ought to have been a quiet affair, not a national event. After all, 11 years after a thermonuclear test, that technology is yet to be weaponised. Take another example. The Agni 3 is still to be deployed, yet the DRDO chief held a news conference earlier this year to brag about the likely first test next year of the Agni 5, which is still at the design stage. The press then went ga ga, portraying the Agni 5, with a maximum range of 5,000 km, as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) when, in reality, it is just another Intermediate-range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) in India’s agonisingly incremental missile-development path.

Which other country in the world advertises every technological move or brags about a missile still on the drawing board? To the contrary, the long-standing tradition in the nuclear world is to quietly develop and deploy capabilities. India is the lone exception to that tradition.

Instead of launching a crash ICBM project drawing on the intercontinental-range capabilities of the space programme, India remains stuck in the IRBM arena, where its frog-like paces have taken it two decades after the first Agni test to Agni-3, a non-strategic system. In fact, if everything goes well, India’s first SSBN will be deployed with a non-strategic weapon a 700-km SLBM under development. That would further underpin the regional and stunted character of India’s deterrent.

Of the three technologies nuclear propulsion, SLBM and ICBM the most complex are the first two. Developing a nuclear-weapon-strike capability from underwater is far more difficult than firing missiles from the ground. Yet, while seeking to develop an SLBM-armed nuclear sub, India still does not have an ICBM project, even on the drawing board. India wants to go down in world history as the first nation to deploy an SSBN without having developed an ICBM. ‘Incredible India’ indeed.

Credit Status Quo

Credit is the important component for the high economic growth. With the economic meltdown it is natural that both the government and private sector are running out of liquidity. If the interest rates are high it is unlikely there will be adequate borrowing. One way to bailout the economy from the crisis is to keep the interest rate low. The RBI had done a good job by not hiking the interest rate as there is vocal support for that. The private sector should not be too panicky about the unavailability of credit because of the government’s intention to borrow heavily from the market or print more currency notes to meet the fiscal deficit.

The Times of India writes 29 July (2009)

In its credit policy review, the RBI has maintained a status quo on key interest rates. In the run-up to its quarterly stock-taking, there were
two takes on the RBI’s course. Some felt rates needed raising to beat a possible inflationary upswing resulting from sustained fiscal boosting of the economy. Others wanted rates cut, saying the economy wasn’t out of danger. Weighing both concerns, RBI has rightly chosen a mid-path. For one thing, a rate hike would have impacted materially and psychologically on entrepreneurs, dampening the pace of incipient recovery. For another, having steadily reduced policy rates, the RBI can keep its powder dry by promising need-based flexibility in monetary policy.

In its earlier macro-economic report, RBI patted India’s economic resilience in the face of the global recession. It pointed to ‘green shoots’ like positive growth in industrial production after a protracted period of negative trends, and higher core sector figures for June. Six infrastructure industries grew by 6.5 per cent. This performance, especially the sharp pick-up in cement and steel, indicated revived economic activity. Construction, for which demand remains strong in rural and semi-urban sectors, has emerged as a bright spot in particular.

The finance ministry seems to be taking no chances though. It has announced a 1 per cent subsidy for low-cost home loans. Developers are extended a tax holiday on profits from time-bound housing projects, in the hope the benefit will percolate to consumers. This is a second stimulus for realty, on which nearly 270 industries depend for business. The aim, clearly, is to cheer the aam aadmi while boosting a sector whose dynamism has strong multiplier effects in terms of growth and job creation. The intra-sectoral thrust is rightly on affordable housing, an area where demand is undersupplied. Realtors will do well to respond, adapting to a slowdown-hit market environment where demand for high-end housing is down. There are also extended tax breaks for developers of industrial parks, welcomed by industry. Given the likelihood of a below-normal monsoon hitting agricultural growth, these measures are a well-timed attempt to rev up an economy on the rebound.

One worry is growing public debt, which raises fears of bank lending to private players being crowded out. The RBI claims there’s enough liquidity in the system to lend sufficiently both to industry and government. The fact, however, is that the government’s spending commitments seem to keep ballooning as, for instance, with the latest home loan subsidy. The wager is that stimulus-induced growth will bring in money in terms of higher tax collections and private investment. This gamble shouldn’t preclude keeping an eye on fiscal health, ensured by resource mobilisation through adherence to

Unholy Nexus in Armed Forces

The Indian army is highly disciplined and duty bound force in the world. Unfortunately the perennial corruption in ammunition purchases have affected its image for a very long time. Despite the continuous censoring by the CAG the armed forces haven’t been able to put its honesty in order. The political establishment with the help of crooked agents are mainly responsible for this mess.

The Times of India writes (28 July 2009)

It has been a strange few days for the Indian defence establishment. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) scathing denunciation of the
military’s procurement system exemplified by the long-running fiasco of the Gorshkov carrier deal has been followed by the launch of the INS Arihant, India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine. As a technological achievement, it is significant. Only five other nations have the capability to build nuclear submarines. As the potential third leg of India’s nuclear triad crucial if New Delhi’s no-first use policy is to be credible it becomes even more important. It is a peculiar schizophrenia on display, this simultaneous proof of the defence establishment’s inadequacies and capabilities. But the fact is that of the two, the CAG report paints a far more accurate picture of the entire procurement and development system.

Corruption, of course, is a prime factor here. Kickbacks, backchannel deals armed forcesand tenders tailored to suit certain bids have all played a role in compromising the armed forces’ readiness and capabilities. It plays into another problem the CAG report highlights; a lack of foresight and long-term planning that has crippled the armed forces. There is no clear vision of where the armed forces must be by 2025 or 2030, or quantifiable waypoints to measure progress towards achieving that goal. This lack of forward planning has plagued India for decades. In the years since independence, various administrative and policy structures have been implemented, from five-year defence plans to an Integrated Defence Headquarters. None of them have been truly successful.

It leaves India’s military hobbled by a culture of ad-hocism. This is best exemplified by the aborted initiative to appoint a chief of defence staff in the wake of the Kargil war. Such a position is crucial. A single-point interface between the government and the armed forces would enable coordinated defence planning for all three arms of the military, especially when the trend is increasingly towards joint arms operations, something that India has itself adopted with its new Cold Start doctrine. But as it stands now, there is little coordination between the army, the navy and the air force.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India is not an aggressive nation, that it seeks only to defend itself. It cannot achieve this if it continues as it is today. The government must realise that planning from year to year is of little use when the gestation period for deals and development projects can stretch into decades. Reforms are needed and needed urgently.

Welcome FTA with ASEAN

It is hearty to note that the union cabinet had cleared the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN block. In the age of collaborations this is a must for economic and socialeastasia progress. This will facilitatate the mutual growth of ASEAN countries. Especially those who are affected by closed mindset will be benefited.
The Times of India writes (28 July 2009)
Last week, the cabinet approved a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The fruit of several years of

tough negotiations between the two sides, the FTA would entail reductions or removal of import duties on over 4,000 items of mutual trade. While the Manmohan Singh-led dispensation has shown welcome resolve in staying the course on the trade pact, eleventh-hour objections emanating from within and outside government need delicate, issue-specific handling. The FTA is geared to taking India’s engagement with ASEAN to the next level. It won’t do to have it nixed at the twelfth hour.

Some anti-FTA arguments are untenable, such as Left-sponsored ones that virtually advocate that India turn protectionist. Whether or not some countries adopt beggar-thy-neighbour policies thanks to the global crisis, India has maintained a principled stand at world forums about the perils of protectionism. The CPM’s grouse about India’s markets being thrown open at a supposedly bad time, therefore, doesn’t cut ice. Congress leader A K Antony, on his part, says Kerala’s farmers would suffer with duty cuts applied to pepper, rubber, cashew and other commodities. The government will do well to have a dedicated ministerial panel look into the concerns of Kerala’s plantation sector.

India-ASEAN trade has risen from around $7 billion in 2000-01 to $39 billion in 2007-08. With tariffs rationalised, it is expected to balloon many times over. Plus, Indian exporters will gain access to the $1.1 trillion ASEAN market. Fears about influx of foreign goods flattening domestic players are unfounded if India’s experience with cheap Chinese imports is anything to go by. If anything, trade regularisation via FTAs creates an institutional framework that spells out the rules of the game. There’s also the bigger picture. Asia’s globally recognised economic clout in the 21st century would be reinforced if Asian nations did business with each other on the basis of mutual synergies.

Part of the post-Cold War shift in India’s worldview and its switch to pragmatism as the core of foreign policy, India-ASEAN ties have more than economic dimensions. They are key to the Look East policy, whereby post-reforms India sought room for diplomatic manoeuvre beyond its South Asian confines. The interests of ASEAN, one of the world’s biggest trade blocs, were equally served by engaging with an Asian counterweight to China. Trade and investment as well as cooperation on global issues have driven India’s Look East initiative. Signing the FTA will signal its continuing commitment to economic integration and political cooperation with South East Asia.

Frisking Kalam – Highly Condemnable

kalamThe western world is hypocritical about the protocols. No frisking for its leaders but top to toe clean check up for the Eastern leaders. It is highly condemnable act that the continental airlines had frisked the people’s president Dr. A. P.J. Abdul Kalam and refused to apologise intitally. After the uproar in parliament and society they have finally apologised. But the high humility filled Kalam down played the act and said “it is minor”.

The Times of India writes (23 July 2009)

When it became known that the people’s president as former president A P J Abdul Kalam is popularly known was subjected to frisking before he
boarded a Continental Airlines flight to the US, it’s but natural that the Indian public was miffed. The issue rocked Parliament this week with members cutting across party lines condemning the incident and the media has splashed the story all around. Are we overreacting? Not quite.

The outraged responses are a reflection of the immense popularity Kalam enjoys with the Indian public, as well as against what is perceived as a blatant violation of ground rules by a foreign airline. Indian law clearly mandates that certain people are exempt from body checks before they board an aircraft. These include the head of state, and an assortment of politicians and other public personalities. The law, of course, needs to be followed in this regard. But the issue goes beyond that. It’s a major breach of protocol that the former president of India, a much-revered figure in this country, should be subjected to humiliation; moreover, that such humiliation should be allowed to occur on Indian soil itself.

The outrage expressed in Parliament, therefore, is entirely justified. It reflects the sentiment of the nation. The airline claims that it was following standard operating procedure, which requires passengers to be frisked if they are flying to the US. But the aircraft was taking off from Indian soil, and therefore had to abide by the regulations that are binding in this country. All international airlines are given a list of people exempt from body checks by the Indian authorities, and they ought to know that Kalam was one of them.

Not following Indian rules in India is a calculated insult to the nation. Imagine what would have happened if Barack Obama were to be frisked by Air India crew. Now that would create quite a hullabaloo, wouldn’t it?

Man Woman Divide

538px-man-and-woman-iconsvgThe world may move in an astronomical speed. But the gender equality may go only in snail’s pace. Despite women becoming presidents and prime ministers there is less equality among men and women. Unfortunately some women are misusing the law for personal scores. In this paradoxical situation it is the society which can create judicious climate for good gender relationship.

Anushree Lakshminarayanan writes in The Times of India (22 July 2009)

I was filling a morbid declaration form and realised that this really is a man’s world. The form offered me two compelling options to declare my
identity, ‘wife of’ or ‘daughter of’.

With one tick mark my escape was prohibited. I was securely consigned to my man’s world, once again. Whether at the workplace or otherwise, the glass ceiling manifests itself in new and interesting ways. Ever wondered why a board on a road under construction always reads ‘Men At Work, Drive Slow’, never mind the fact that women too might be slogging it out in the sun? Or why a manager’s output continues to be measured in terms of man-hours or man-days when there are hundreds of working women around? Now one can argue that most of these unwritten rules are man-made but that only further reinforces the fact it is, after all, a man’s world.

One knows this sexism is here to stay when one doesn’t even know it exists, which usually happens when one comes to live with it right since one’s formative years. I never questioned, for example, as a child, why, when provoked, a tiger could turn into a man-eater and never into a woman-eater or why, in the moral science class, God was always addressed as he and never as she.

I never questioned why the child is the father of man when my English teacher first used the phrase. I didn’t wonder if a child could be a mother to a woman. Later, one grew up to accept the word ‘craftsmanship’ to describe skills and ‘sportsmanship’ to elucidate the admirable spirit in our, well, sportsmen and rarely or never women, not to forget our age-old mankind that probably epitomises chauvinism while condescendingly agreeing to take us women in its folds.

When it comes to this gender bigotry, Bollywood is not far behind. Remember the sobriquet angry young man, so lovingly bestowed upon mankind’s biggest hero that no woman, old or young, worth her anger has come anywhere close to earning such memorable titles? “Man! Isn’t that’s a lot of bias to deal with!?” quipped my husband. The only consolation prize, if at all there is one, is that the mother of all inventions is just that: a mother.

Goof Up in EUMA

The Indian diplomacy is making faux paus after faux pas in its policies. After the confusion in Sharm-e-Sheikh in Egypt over the dealing with Pakistan regarding terrorism they have done another blunder. This time regarding the End User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) with America regarding the operation of US provided nuclear technologies. This can be brushed aside like other things if luck continues to be with India. Otherwise it has to pay heavy price when the American started bullying it with this pact. Let us wish a good luck in this regard.

The Times of India writes (2 July 2009)

Even as the UPA government was reeling under the charge of compromising national interests by initialling the Indo-Pak joint statement in
Egypt, more grief came its way on Tuesday. The charge this time was that it has “mortgaged Indian sovereignty to the US” by signing an End-Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) which would allow American inspectors to verify the end use of US sourced high tech equipment of dual use.

The issue erupted in Parliament with the opposition claiming that this was the thin end of the wedge ^ after “giving in” to the US, India would now be required to make its sensitive military equipment available for inspection to not just the Americans, but all foreign suppliers. The government insisted that this was far from the truth and the EUMA allowed nothing of the sort, but a disatisfied Opposition walked out of the two Houses.

Foreign minister S M Krishna said, “Nobody should have anxiety about national interests being surrendered.” He said the agreement only “systemises ad-hoc arrangements for individual defence procurements from the US entered into by previous governments.”

The EUMA is designed to facilitate high-end dual use technology transfer to India. Under US laws no country can get access to high technology of dual use with an EUMA agreement. Since 1984, Indian companies had had to sign stand-alone end-use monitoring pacts to source American high tech. Now the EUMA, signed in the presence of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s presence on Monday, has become an umbrella agreement that covers the trade of all cutting-edge technology from the US for a whole range of applications.

This EUMA is seen by the government seen as a good bargain because while it allows the US to carry out inspections, it gives India the prerogative to decide on the time and venue of the scrutiny. This way, it feels that it won’t disclose the exact locational and strategic use of military equipment to American inspectors.
The Opposition, however, refused to see it in this light, arguing that the agreement would cover even technologies obtained from other sources. The tone for the skirmish was set right in the morning, within hours of the agreement being signed with Clinton. As Lok Sabha met, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha stood up to accuse the government of buckling under US pressure.

Sinha said the pact would allow US inspection even for supplies from third countries if they had used American technology. He further said that inspectors would visit sensitive installations to inspect “immoveables” which could not be put at a safe site for scrutiny.

Sharad Yadav of JD(U) added the frisking of former President A P J Abdul Kalam by a US airline was a sign of American abrasiveness. “Remember when Clinton came to India, sniffer dogs were sent to Rajghat,” he said. Arun Jaitley said in Rajya Sabha, “Today we have friendly relations (with US) but we cannot forget a situation where the 7th Fleet had entered the Indian Ocean.” He added that US also has “very friendly relationship” with Pakistan.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav reminded Congress that Nehru had refused to accept foreign interference. “You have forgotten not only Gandhi but even Nehru,” he said. CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta called it a “Himalayan blunder”. The rhetoric climaxed when RJD chief Lalu Prasad said, “UN inspectors did not find any weapons of mass destruction or chemical weapons but Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was hung. This was a message to the world that those who fail to toe the US line will meet the same fate.”

Krishna responded to all this with a bland statement that gave a factual account of the pacts signed with Hillary Clinton. Saying that Clinton’s visit would help “broaden and deepn bilateral relationship”, the minister said, “We have also agreed to a new bilateral dialogue architecture within which we will continue discussions between our two countries on a wide range of issues.”

As the Opposition walked out, Krishna said, “I am surprised by the interpretation sought to be given to the bilateral pact between two sovereign countries.” He said the end-use monitoring of high-end defence purchases always existed and the fresh pact only generalised them. “We do it for other countries also. It is all straight and it is in the larger interest of the country.”

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