Thursday, December 31, 2009

Commoners Stake in Accesses

Standpoint wishes all its readers a very happy and prosperous new year2010...hope we will keep sharing the debates in similar spirits...Standpoint also offering its heartful condolence for Asheem Chakravarty,the legendary singer and percussionist(Indian Ocean)whose prematured demise was a painful jolt for all music lovers across the globe...

As we are heading for a dawn of New Year with leaving this present epoch making year in which we partially upfront with the havocking recession and later witnessed its recovery to a scale; amidst these loose and gain situation, its marginal impact on commoners or Aam admi could be sensed very high despite their substantial proportions in low end services.
Frequent retrenchments and layoffs in the name of cost cutting measures and inflation, surging like banyan trees are relentlessly jeopardizing the relative potential gain of these sections that hitherto have been never caught in such web of relative deprivation before the reform era when earlier income gap was not happened so huge.

In the early eighteenth century, India accounted for nearly a quarter of world output, but by the time India got independence, that share had declined to about 3%; the common men’s were in the centre as the deterioration of basic indexes have been largely constituted through there growing destitutions.
Major causes of this growing divides are numerous approaching frills which desperate common men to experiment adequately to raise their fortunes-indeed by data, incomes are growing up in rural areas, only the failure to innovate policies are hampering the immense scope for empowerment that sustained growth offers the common men in India.

Besides other outcomes, reforms opened up new possibilities of emancipation for the masses which can thrive and strive for inclusive growth with empowering connotations that’s strikingly sound better than earlier popular moves like Garibi hatao (Poverty Eradication) in 1970’s.
Although these all needs a consistent backing of positive political will and constructive mindsets all around; since the adoption of liberalization programme in 1991, India as nation have been countering with numerous oddities- cries of separatism in its north-east and the north-west region, religious antagonism, militancy, scams, natural calamities, instable neighborhoods and of course current global financial crisis in which despite its bid to escape have considerably caught in losses.

Before this ongoing financial crisis, the Asian crisis of 1997 and over investment in the mid-90’s brought an end to resurgent growth in the Asian continent, growth again picked up only in 2003-04; thereafter, till the present financial crisis that reached to noticeable scale in September 2008 and started receiving much notice after the bankruptcy of iconic Lehman Brothers and near about six dozen other financial institutions in western economies.
Despite such adversities on global financial integration and availing one-fourth of it territory affected by violence and insurgency, Indian economy sustained a robust growth of 7% and is expected to touch the level of pre-recession by the next fiscal year which is indeed admirable. So, we still have positive indications by surpassing the enormous challenges, the only big thing we are missing now the universalization of access to the fruits of growth….innovations at various levels could only take off when the required resources would be easily available among the executioners.
Optimization of financial delivery through no-frills services by the financial institutions could rationalize most of the innovative practices; UPA government’s moves like Unique Identification Project (UID) and payment of wages of many centre sponsored developmental flagship programmes such as NREGS, through banks could caused for a lot of positive changes which are most sought after for the being.

Usually I don’t believe in practices of blind consumerism albeit some inherent positive competition could be inferred for the while to produce it as show piece-telecommunication in India is most formidable example before the financial sector in India; the way telecom companies have been targeting the low end users through shift competition and consistently reducing of theirs margins of profit is a best example of participatory growth.
It’s worthwhile to note that even after that most of company’s including government owned, BSNL&MTNL are making handsome profits; some positive initiatives are needed from our banks to uplift the morale of common folks whose improved positions would be very imperative to see the Indian growth stories in real light.

Education and financial stability has powers to do miracle in rural hinterlands of India; the famous quotation of great communist economic thinker Karl Marx seems very conducive here “It’s material being ness that decides the awareness of humankind and not the vice-versa”….through practical understanding to deep analysis of complex developmental economics, all formed same crux that the access or entitlement that decides the fate of related folks.
After sixty-two years of independence and considerable shaping of our economy, now the time is ripe to incline the priorities towards ensuring the basic facilities for all along abandoning populist and divisive ingredients from the honest developmental agenda.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 30th 2009, New Delhi

Flaws of Statehood Policy

Abrupt and politically motivated proclamation of separate Telangana state by the union government utterly felt shocking to most of us who have different takes on statehood policies, sharply distinct from exasperating greed backed hungry demonstration by the Telangana Rajya Samiti (TRS) chief K.Chandrashekhar.Rao (KCR) who foreseen a very crucial role in potential formation before splitting from Congress and later Telgu Desam Party after availing considerable stints in their rules.
Way back to Potti Sriramalu who had evangelize the statehood of Andhra Pradesh and later caused for the State Reorganization Committee (SRC, 1956) headed by Justice Fazal Ali to recent stirrings by KCR, they all used fast as a catalyst along with the linguistic and ethnic considerations to forward their demand of statehoods; alas! If the government in centre has Shawn similar sensitivity with the Irom Sharmila in Manipur who have been for years fasting for removal of the Arms Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in state, she now remains a skeletal with her genuine demand.

The two represents the opposites ends of realities –human lives could have face the juxtaposed treatment in our democracy since they represent the unequal political patronage and indeed our political system still is not so much dynamic to anticipate the voices of civil society on pro-rata basis. In present case, the government had conceded the demand of separate Telangana without thinking the future consequences; decisions on redrawing state boundaries needs close reviewing and meticulous expatiation of the pros and cons, essentially such plan must be driven by logic and actual data, not emotion.
Initial categorization and subsequent formation of states on linguistic grounds were completely irrational since such maneuverings were entrusted with divisive factors since its inception as Nehru feared during the formation of Andhra state in 1956 and termed it as a marriage of unequal partnership with provisions of separation, similar to what we are witnessing today…at least now any statehood maneuvering should be opted primarily to take on the considerations of developmental issues unlike the politically inflated ethnic and linguistic issues.

Some causes of unsystematic state planning in early years after the independence could be attributed to the princely states and fore mostly to the British system of governance that was unduly centralized due to major considerations of substantial land revenue than any other visible factors albeit later improper developments were the outcomes of political sea-change.

State Reorganization Committee (SRC, 1956) recommended the formation of sixteen states and three centrally administered territories-the government however opted for fourteen states and six union territories because of apprehensions regarding their sustainability. Although presently, numbers of states have reached to twenty eight; we can’t refute the performances of new smaller states-from newly created north eastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Hariyana to Uttaranchal, Chhatisgarh etc ,they all have performed better except the Jharkhand whose fortunes damaged with political mal-functioning and many other counts has even more deteriorated after its separation from Bihar.

Core data suggests that, in general, smaller states have performed better after their own existence on physical and social infrastructure, law and order, administrative convenience, redressal of pertinent local issues, lesser heterogeneity etc. With improved economic and social indices if new states could enhance the transparency and accountability in governance than there is strong case for partial decentralization of other services except the matters of defense, national security and external affairs.
Decentralization is essential in present political framework and that must be headed by the second SRC to devise optimal number of states by appropriating rational benchmark in terms of good governance and better participation to redress the local developmental issues. An exposure of twenty five to forty five millions population and geographical coverage of thirty five thousand square kilometer would be an optimum situation although it should not seen as a deadline since diversity of conditions have to be interfaced with them.

Concept of smaller states In India are far from being a bandwagon of western experiments in this regard, who have been availing much distinct devolution from ours; neither our case is alike with China , where the process of decentralization was started even before 1978-79 reforms. However what they all makes sense that in most of matters devolution of power work to reach the benefits of growth to the bottom of pyramids besides eradicating all sorts of alienation that often caused for unrests; what exactly needed today to properly plan the viability of statehood with sole agenda of development in mind and stop appeasing the claims on the basis of extremes-like fast unto death, gathering of millions, damaging properties etc.
A clear intended plan with well judged implementation is suffice to change the internal boundaries of country and rest of energies must be merged with such plan to dwell further on successes.

Atul Kumar Thakur
December 30th 2009, New Delhi

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nepal: Caught in Brink

The political unification of Nepal by king Prithvi Narayan Shah who conquered the Kathmandu valley in 1768 by defeating Newar rulers have been symbolically challenged by the Maoists on the name of federal republic system but their new move by declaring Kathmandu a Newa Republic Province besides six other autonomous republic province have altered the usual pace of Nepalese politics and forming shocking anxiety of parallel governance through their intentions.
In their complacency both the chief Maoist ideologue, Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattrai had forget to recall that they are part of democracy rather than the upholder of Maoist state; their cynical demonstration in front of official royal set-up with five thousand strong armed cadres for maneuvering the replication of Balkanization in Nepal is out rightly shocking, the way they were pronouncing that Newar community would be given more rights than others in newly formed province might sparked the fuel of mass sentiment.

As Maoist ideologue Babu Ram Bhattrai believe their participation in peace process or constitutional development merely as “tactics” to enter among the bourgeois and a pre-exercise before grabbing the throne and later shaping it into their ideological fervor (Communist utopia) instead of sharing existing democratic model in which they have given fair chances-such game plan is entirely contradictory to their erstwhile preaching when they avoiding such faux pas and desired on numerous occasion for political peace process and constitutional making task.
Now Maoists and other political parties know the fact that the deadlines of constitutional making process wouldn’t be met by May27, 2010, so they are adopting different stand-Maoist Babu Ram Bhattarai’s stand is seems explicitly deadly as think in that case they will declare the constitution from the street and capture power albeit they are forgetting their lowering popularity from mass psyche since they couldn’t copied the pious motives of socialization as the communists of Cuba or many other country did in past.

Way back from the Maoist’s insurgency in 1996 and later their mainstreaming and emergence as single largest party in Nepalese politics have been relentlessly co-inside with the large scale violence and civil war like situation, which’s still being far from over as the collapse of central authority with the end of monarchy, any alternative retrieval plan from major political players only creating void and a loose regime that propelled swiftly on hatred, intolerance and violence-far from stable and peaceful state of affairs.
High expectations were prevailing from Maoists prospective role in the wake of their democratization and accession to the highest political order of the country but they couldn’t endured the expectations for long and very soon started to jeopardize the situation over a standoff between the army and the Maoists, and later between the Maoists and their coalition partners.

Maoists consistent distrust in sharing the state authority and their wayward opportunist expediency now forming furore among a large chunk of population including the media who now for the first time explicitly supporting the Nepal’s official army as they feeling the potential fallout of Maoists strategic domination in the country.
Meanwhile Nepalese army received a major boost in its capacity from both of its neighbors-India and China albeit hidden intentions of China’s assistance worth of $200 million U.S dollars has some stake of greater ambitions to strategically engage India at another geo-political front, indeed there is further need to expatiate on China’s crucial intentions; on the opposite side, Indian support along with a little bit of consultancy from its Chief of Army Staff Deepak Kapur about his opposition to the integration of Maoist combatants in the official Nepal army have fuelled Maoists and they made it a prestige issue.

Maoist chief Prachanda had manipulated this statement to show his party’s view on relations with the India-his angry statement reached to the zenith by terming India as a colonizer of Nepal and a runner of the puppet government (alliance of Communist Party of Nepal {United Marxist-Leninist} and Nepali Congress).
Even more extreme, he out rightly reversed any plan of dialogue with the Madhav Kumar Nepal lead government in the country by saying that it would be more beneficial to talk and settle the issue with the Indian government as they are real master of present government in Nepal-Maoists views are extremely critical on past agreement with India including the border issues; they are in favour of tectonic shift in alliance with the Indian state by daringly asking for removal of Indian army from Kalapani and restraining their so-called encroachments in Susta region-most of claims are prejudicial and could cause for large scale misunderstanding between these two very interdependent and cordial nation.

Whatever the Maoists oral assertions like-abolition of the President’s un-constitutional move, maintaining civil supremacy, safeguarding national independence, checking foreign interference etc, they act entirely opposite from their own front with preoccupied contentious motives.
Maoists have shown terrible performances on most of issues since their arrival as a force in 1996-frequent human rights violation and barbaric suppression including murder of dozens of journalist for merely their ideological opposition with Maoist functional methods. The recent case of Tika Bista, a twenty-two year young women journalist-she was brutally killed in remote western KUSUM district for raising the voice for thousands of missing husbands (among the thousands of death toll during the decade long Maoist insurgency) since the broke out of civil war in country.A single article in a local magazine JATINDHARA was caused for her death and up gradation of ranks for Maoist assailants.

Situation is indeed turning in very grim shape as things are again being ready to be fall apart-presently little hopes persists to visualize consensus among the political parties in near future to look after on the crucial issues of peace process and constitutional drafting. Political parties and members of civil society must refute any maneuverings of Maoists to merge their arm cadres with national army, otherwise stalemate would be never halted; international community has also play a major role to lift Nepal from this very unfortunate state of affairs.
Today India’s neighborhood policy cries for greater attention, so India must monitor the situation closely and assist in stable and united Nepal-where there is will there is always a way…we can’t and shouldn’t see Nepal moving like Bosnia.

Atul Kumar Thakur
December27th2009, New Delhi

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Harimohan Jha: Renaissance men of Maithili Literature

Harimohan Jha, Renaissance man of the language of great Vidyapati and Jyotireshwar Thakur was born on September 18, 1908, third after two elder sisters and among four sisters and two brother, his father Pandit Janardan Jha “Janshidan” was a great scholar and had credit of being first novelist in Maithil language besides ushering it to the modern pattern of literary craft. His maternal uncle Pandit Chandramani Kumar was hailing from the famous ruling Oinwar dynasty although prosperity had been diminished till the Janardan Jha had attained the age to enter in worldly affairs.

So, that phase was full of anxiety for Janardan Jha until he was conferred patronage by the king of Srinagar (A Zamindari in Mithila region, modern Purnia district), Kamlanand Singh in 1901 who had been from generations relentlessly constituted the fabulous environment for art, culture and literature by awarding similar patronage to the luminaries of different field. Meanwhile Janardan Jha also established a regular correspondence with the Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi than the editor of pioneering Hindi magazine “Saraswati”; further he also penned for this magazine on several occasions, these curricular inheritance proved very beneficial in shaping of the mind of young Harimohan Jha who since his childhood developed great literary taste under the visionary guidance and proximity of his father.

In 1919, Janardan Jha was appointed as editor of “Mithila Mihir” (under Patronage of the Darbhanga Raj) and moved to Darbhanga where he remained until 1922; these years were formative for the child Harimohan as he saw and involved in top-notch contemporary scholaric circle of Darbhanga Raj. He was an avid informal learner from both the oral tradition as well as from modern practices; consequently he became able to produce his first published work “Ajib Bandar” at the little age of twelve and even before his formal joining of school straight to the standard tenth at G.B.B Collegiate School in Muzzapharpur in 1923.

Then, guardianships were formidable and conventions usually considered conspicuous, so he had to married at the juvenile age of sixteen in 1924. Next year, he passed Matriculation with first class distinction from the prestigious Patna University, than still Bihar and Orissa was a combined state. Meanwhile, his father moved to Calcutta (1923) in search of livelihood and literary pursuits, albeit it was an emotional jolt over him nevertheless he constructively surpassed it and secured first class first in Combined State Intermediate Examination (1927) with complex subjects like-Sanskrit, Logic and History.

Further he moved to Patna College for his university education and became a resident of historic Minto hostel, this time he experimented with his field of studies and opted subjects like-English (Honours), Philosophy and Sanskrit for under graduation. Then his Alma matter, Patna University was witnessing its golden time and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration that he too significantly epitomized the glorious story of this institution-both as student and later faculty throughout his long professional stint. Although till then, the British colonialism was on the brink of decline, despite this, the usual characteristics of elitist education were still in place.

During those days, the principle of Patna College was Mr. Horn and warden of Minto hostel was Mr. Armer who was also the head of English department and ofcourse one more person A.P.Banerjee Shastri, who was despite being a teacher of Sanskrit, entirely accustomed in anglicized manners. Common things of these educationists were their hard discipline and focused approach for their role; in their inquisitions, they found young entrant Harimohan Jha with full of potential and snobbish qualities. These impressions raised his chance to groom to a height in both academic and extra-curricular activities.

Very soon he headed College team in All India Debate Competition in Allahabad where he topped and honoured to receive the prize from non other than the great educationist and doyen of Allahabad University-Sir Ganga Nath Jha, who was then the Vice-Chancellor of this University. In 1929, he earned his graduation in second class albeit in entirely juxtaposed situation, where he received distinction in Philosophy but on the other side due to wrong time management and over answering he couldn’t maintain his erstwhile performances-possibly his scholaric commitment had outwitted the numeral incentives. Although he performed at his next stage in fine swing and succeeded to secure gold meddle at this academic ladder (M.A, 1932) in the special discipline of Philosophy.

Meanwhile, his father had back from the city of Calcutta and was in deep concern for son’s future prospects. So far, Darbhanga had been still availing the great fortune at many counts- likewise vibrant entrepreneurship and intellectualities were both in place. Ramlochan Sharan, a very remarkable man and founder-owner of PUSHTAK BHANDAR, created an unparalleled hangout for book-lovers and scholars. For a considerable time, his shop remained in fine pace albeit now it’s a matter of historical inquiries-Janardan Jha; father of Harimohan Jha was an ingredient component of that literary circle which greatly benefited the budding scholarships of Harimohan Jha.

He spent his transitive time in Darbhanga in close association with Pushtak Bhandar, until he joined Bihar National College in 1933; afterwards a very glittering career was waiting for him. The year 1933 was also proved epoch making for Maithili literature and for that, big contribution goes to Harimohan Jha, since his magnum-opus novel “Kanyadan (Marriage)” stroked with the unprecedented wave of response from literary circle as well as of common folks and later it became a household name. It’s worthwhile to notice that, this book he had penned during his undergraduate years in Patna University and even at the time of release he was only in his mid twenties.

This novel proved milestone of success in Maithili literature besides in popularity and reach, it remains unparalleled for everyone including of Harimohan Jha himself whose own successive works have been trailing much behind from such precedent mark. Though he adopted satirical canopy to express his dissatisfaction with the prevailing starkness and ignorance in the life of Maithili women; female protagonist “Buchhi Dai’s” feeble awareness of worldly knowledge reflects the grim situation of education and progressive approaches in contemporary Maithili society.

Her devoid persona from the expectation of young University student groom “C.C.Mishra” earmarked the narration of entire further text, obviously to an extent, it was Harimohan Jha’s own experience that compelled him to write for female emancipation; only he slightly changed the locale and used Banaras Hindu University as Alma matter of protagonist instead of Patna University where he went through the feelings and conceptualization of his rock-solid thoughts for “Kanyadan”. Legendary mark of his first work encouraged him for its sequel “Dwiragman”, which came in 1949 and proved equally sensational since it was seen as footprint of women’s emancipation.

Harimohan Jha was the men of focus and also endowed with the gifted multitasking instinct, so he also remarkably contributed to the stream of philosophy-“Nyay Darshan” in 1940 and “Vaisheshik Drshan” in 1943 was his remarkable contribution in that phase, it’s essential to find that along with the superb pace of writing, he equally stood with his familiar responsibility. He kept these flamboyance till 1960 and produced iconic works like-“Pranamya Devta (1945)”, “Khattar Kakak Tarang (1948)”, “Rangsala (1949)”, “Tirth Yatra (1953)”, “Charchari (1960)”, “Nigman Tarkshastra (1952)”, “Bhartiya Darshan (Translation, 1953).

This vigorous phase was of dual reality for him as had been availing great success in literary and academic circle, but on the other side he also struck through tragedies-sad demise of nephew (1947), brother (1949), father (1951), all these unexpected jolt weakened him internally and also weaken the pace of writing. In the 1950’s, he was promoted to the rank of head of Philosophy department, and later University professor. Moreover, his extra-ordinary pursuits also helped him being nominated as council member of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR); in these new roles, he actively attended numbers of seminars-conferences and produced significant papers in his academic discipline.

His wife Subhadra Jha, who was an esteemed lady with progressive ideas, had co-incidentally also shown her utmost interest for the development of Maithili language and literature; in this regard, she even headed to Delhi in 1955 as entourage of a delegation from Patna to attend a cultural festival in Akashwani (All India Radio) besides she also maneuvered with path finding act to enter on stage through “Chetana Samiti) in 1958…than such progressiveness was not less than a phenomenon for Maithil ladies. Prevailing conservatism was the cause of Harimohan Jha’s anguish which he thought as reason behind discriminatory dual treatment on the narrow line of gender in contemporary Maithil society, that concern always pushed him for activism against these mindsets, both in the ambit of writing and academic sphere.

His gifted oration greatly benefited him to deliver the monumental lectures on wide range of subjects across the Universities of India and Nepal; in 1948- Oriental Conference of Darbhanga, his candid elocution on social conservatism was indeed a daring step in contemporary socio-political order. He was true repository of verbal intelligence and had equal commitment for verses; he composed numerous meaningful poems to unleash those especialties as well as the prevailing social starkness of that time. His poems like-“Maach”, “Dhala Jha”, “Buchkun Baba”, “Pandit o Mem”, “Pandit” etc were constructed through vigorous energy and had wide catchment areas as Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was greatly influenced through his poetic intellect which he noticed during chairing an exhibition cum poetry recitation from Maithili books in Delhi,1963-he avidly tried to comprehend the meaning of many complex Maithili terms from a towering political colleague from Bihar and than Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr. Satya Narayan Singh.

Indeed Harimohan Jha consolidated great moments in Maithili literature along with his contemporaries-Baidyanath Mishra “Yatri” (Nagarjun), Fanishwar Nath “Renu”, Rajkamal Chaudhary, Lalit, Dhumketu etc through great literary activities in their lifetime. It would be proper, if this period could be recalled as golden time of this ancient language. He kept his creative fervor till the end of his life, his research work “Trends of Linguistic Analysis in Indian Philosophy (Post retirement) justifies his perfectionist commitment. The only regret of his creative life remaind the cinematic adaptation of his magnum-opus novel“Kanyadan”-its alien direction and cold response from viewers further restrained him to allow such more experiments.

Things were in good shape until the death of mother Janani Devi (1975) at the age of 92; just a year after he met with an unfortunate tragedy by losing his loving grandson (Daman Jee), merely at the age of six in 1976 which entirely shattered him in old age. That adversity hit him so pathetically, further he couldn’t survive for long; he passed away in late nineteen eighties in the city of Darbhanga at the residence of his son-in-law Prof. Shailendra Mohan Jha. Harimohan Jha was a man with great family values which he did uphold throughout his life and spent even his last years in same light amidst his dear ones and was solaced to see his next generations’ involvement in literature.

Son, Rajmohan Jha and son-in-law Shailendra Mohan Jha lightened the further ray of hope in this regard; they succeeded with some qualities of Harimohan Jha and came out with some of matured literary pieces. Harimohan Jha, had an additional quality of editing which he displayed in “Jayanti Smarak” (Pushtak Bhandar, 1942) along with the Acharaya Shivpujan Sahay and Achutanand Datta; this work is so unique in some way. That it’s become sacrosanct during the in-depth historical inquiries of Mithila region; this work is full with the vital insights in fine compilation. Indeed his vision has relentless universal values and would remain undeniable with his prolific literary contributions-numbers of novels, dozens of stories and poetries, numerous articles, memoir, travelogue etc are suffice to sensitize the minds of every enthusiast in the area of Maithili literature.

His literary journey was closer to the soul-searching of his loving region…he precisely tried to cover all intricacies such as-life style, food habits, humors, oral tales, pseudo characters, ignorance, intellects, pastorals lives etc through a new dynamicism and vigour, which pushed the inferences straight to the mind of his readers. He was very much a fun loving, food loving and great oral traditionist with the amazing philosophical command over “Mimansa” (a philosophical arm, originated from Mithila)…”khattar Kakkak Tarang” is best outcome with those experimental metaphors which justifies the Maithil’s beliefs in their social life; such close inquiries of life style is even difficult to canvass in voluminous philosophical work. For true finding on Mithila region, one must go to the literary world of Harimohan Jha where tells are contrast to idleness and closer to the dynamic lives.

Atul Kumar Thakur
December26th 2009, New Delhi

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Corporate Social Responsiblity- Epithet of Ethics

Recently we have completed the first corporate week (December14-December2009) in our country on behalf of Ministry of Corporate affairs, Government of India; the initiative indeed shown partially the optimization of politics and economics with a voice for practices of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
In a recent survey of AC Nielson on CSR, India ranked on fourth position where Australia viewed as best place of CSR initiative; on cards at least it gives India a remarkable position in comparison of other surveys on social indices where its terribly lag behind from its actual occupation potential. Possibly some causes of such poor state of affairs could be attributed to the fragile civil consciousness and low CSR initiatives by most of the leading corporates who enjoyed the resource generating helm of affairs but remains oblivious with the near by abysmal conditions.

Few months back I was passing through survey of a leading Indian publication on the proportions of slums in major tier-I Indian city; it terribly struck me to know that over fifty six percent of India’s most affluent commercial city, Mumbai’s population is constituted through these inhuman slums…more or less this is an universal reality of other city as well nevertheless of the genuine fact that Indian nation state has meanwhile progressed a lot and able to create a solid middle class with substantial purchasing capacity in country.
Alas! If same attention could be materialized on this bottom of pyramid section on which the management thinker C.K.Prahlad found immense opportunities by upheavelling those from their very sad dwellings through major waves of innovations although temporarily we have only a virtual and Hollywood imposed celluloid vision of these viciousness through high techniques and commercially manipulated realities which widely accepted as blockbuster (Slum dog Millionaire)…this cinema eventually fetched some Oscars recognition to India and only after that grab the rapt attention of neighboring dwellers who hitherto have been not able to see the abject poverty from their posh housing societies.

What I mean to say by all these narration that our major chunk of population are being accustomed of virtual reality and they can be sensitized only through the virtual images rather spontaneity of their consine to oversee on any grave matters; unfortunately they are completely lacking the direct touch with the most of issues and even they also here missed to replicate their crucial bandwagon, western counterparts who support at best for any maneuvering of social security causes in their country.
Indeed we have urgent need to thrive and strive as priority to not shaping the CSR initiatives as pipe dream since peoples and planet is as important as earning profits or any other lucrative incentives; so it should never seen as a diversionary tactics nor only be practiced as boardroom phenomenon, its need of performing in real terms with finest intentions.

It’s worthwhile to note that corporate governance is mandatory practice in any company unlike the CSR which is entirely optional in nature with motives to strengthen the much needed tolerance between social and corporate interests; so practices of CSR most often struck with tougher realities.
Quotation of Milton Friedman could be sited in tune with the prevailing circumstances in corporate world “Corporates and corporate promoters have single constituency called stakeholders”- that’s enough to cover the canopied adverseness albeit we have some exceptions like- Tata, Amul, ITC-echaupal, Infosys, Microsoft, google etc where there dids compel us to differentiate between good corporates and fragile corporates.

Like many other things, it’s also visible in CSR case that India is the land of dual reality; we have both sort story in our record where Tata could be a formidable example of finest CSR practices through its numerous initiatives in town planning (Jamshedpur), Education (TIFR, TISS, IISc, TERI etc), health (Tata Memorial Hospitals) etc.
At many front they displayed their commitments for nation building and indeed tried best to converge corporate achievements with national pride, other side of story is strikingly contrast where we have to confront with the unethical face of governance and of- course bad CSR in most recent case of SATYAM INFOTECH where they even jeopardized their initial good works, and in past, U.S companies-UNION CARBIDES & DOW CHEMICALS which distorted the psyche of entire humanity through their havocking acts and cheating with the Bhopal gas tragedy.

It’s becoming very imperative to be more focused on social responsibility through a multi-pronged channel consists with active initiatives from government, industry, civil society, NGOs, individuals etc to impart a finer balances in our dual reality. We must strive for a successful society because a business or any other deliberation can’t be succeed in a rogue social atmosphere-every political theory, either its Utilitarianism, Communism and even Capitalism teach the basic principles of common goods and dreams for a healthy society.
After all we shouldn’t forget that the father of modern capitalism and its pioneer economic theorist-Adam Smith had written his first book named as “Theory of Moral Sentiments (1757)” much before the magnum opus “Wealth of Nation”-no doubt that he had been teaching through out his work, the self interest of business entities but his voice also happened equally resonant against the selfish interests of them…this subtle caveat is worthwhile of consideration today.

It would be a prudent move for the time being to all business players to look back in the basic principles of modern existing economic theories since we are really facing very hard time at the ethical sides of businesses-Wall Street crisis, Ponzi schemes, Dubai crisis and many more may be in near future since the bad gambling in financial sector is far from being halted, that necessitates to draw a lucid framework for adoption of CSR as a mandatory practices unlike the present optional mode.
In Indian case, role of the CSR is utmost strategic to address the plights of bottom of pyramids who hitherto have been dwelling in stark unfortunate circumstances-what they need an all round support and innovations like no-frills financial access and entrepreneurship qualities to raise themselves from the vicious circle of life. Wishing, to see CSR out of ceremonial facades and its better involvement with real developmental issues.

Atul Kumar Thakur
December24th 2009, New Delhi

Letters to Frontline-III

These letters are the development of my creative tie-ups with the current events as well as with the prestigious Frontline magazine….subtle opinions expressed through the letter reveals my take on the matter...

#. Encounter Killings (November6, 2009, Frontline)
FRONTLINE deserves praise for drawing attention to extrajudicial killings in India (Cover story, October9). The way Ishrat Jahan was killed makes a mockery of the legal and moral ethos of our democracy.

#. -Maoists (December 4, 2009, Frontline)
Both the Maoists and the government must strive to change their ongoing stand on violence by sharing a political platform instead of battlegrounds to sort out the chronic socio-economic maladies of the hinterlands. The government has to accept the reality of the discontent in these areas. Naxalism and any other movement that emerges from socio-economic inequality need to be seen with a fresh perspective because counter-insurgency or any other violent move by the state on their own citizens will only intensify the anguish and desperation of the people. The Maoist in India needs to take a fresh look at their basic ideology.

#. Dalits (January1, 2010, Frontline)
Many members of the Schedule castes and Schedule Tribes are still deprived of socio-economic benefits (“Victims always”, December4) and suffer at the hands of the authorities, feudal lords, neo-capitalists and even their empowered peers. Twenty years after the S.C and S.T (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, states have largely failed to implement it. The plight of the S.C and S.T must be seen within an integrated development framework and not in isolation.

Atul Kumar Thakur
Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh
New Delhi/December24th2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Unfortunate on all Count

For entire humanity, the Bhopal Gas tragedy is a haunting memory of a horrendous industrial tragedy and corporate misadventurism in which, 25 years ago to this day, enormous quantities of poisonous Methyl Isosyanate spread from the Union Carbide factory at Bhopal, caused for the death of more than thirty thousand (officially around 10000) and paralyzed entirely or partially the lives of half a million city dwellers of Bhopal.
However that was only the inception of tragedy that further nurtured the permanent recklessness of political, administrative and legal officials; besides very objectionable role of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have had disastrous affect over study of effects of mass poisoning.

The whole gamut played after this brutal incidence is a shocking reminder of our policy makers ineptitude and their casual treatment with mass murderer corporate giant Union Carbide; indeed such lavish treatment with an offender overseas company is hardly visualize anywhere in entire history of modernism.
The Union Carbide factory set up in 1969 to produce Sevin, a pesticide key to India’s green revolution, the eighty two acre compound at Kali Parade, Berasia Road in Bhopal was chosen as hub of poison production by completely ignoring the nearby dense human population and livestock. It’s quite astonishing to see that so called, methodological western conglomerate could foresee that particular locality as their playing field; moreover disparity on cautious measures were alarmingly high in comparison of its sister concern in U.S.A which Indian authorities had inspected in 1989 through a mutual agreement.

So, fortune was completely diminished for victims from all the sides, no one has played fair- court, government, ICMR (Discontinued its studies for mysterious reason), industry….except the wishes of common folks, alas! But they couldn’t be counted nor found deciding for victim’s fate. Anyway, through all hue and cries, on February15, 1989, the government of India reached a compensation settlement with Union Carbide for $470 million which was strikingly low from initial of $3.3 billion.
But the brink of the disaster was not halted there as the compensation proceedings were further prolonged to 1994 with an account showed Rs713 crore, that was drastically low from the rupee-dollar exchange rate of that year; in actuality it should have been Rs2847 crore (with normal interest for 15 years). There was huge mismatch in account which was no way possible without the indulgence of top-notch officials in political and administrative circle, consequently matter was halted there and an average Rs12, 410 was distributed among the victims which were out rightly perilous from the sake of humanity.

In independent India, several mishappenings have occurred and they have been meeting with the mixed responses depends upon the kind of political involvement; several railways accident and particularly the Uphar Cinema case could be a formidable example, the last one genuinely epitomized the fairer handling with the plights of victims where in comparatively very short live tolls, victims anyhow received a compensation between Rs15 to 18 lakhs.
Its grave jolt on the ethic’s of concerned authorities that despite in progress of twenty five years of that black day, still the matter of the toxic cleaning is hanging out, far from being resolved. An initiative by Ratan Tata to clean up the toxic site was a great showing of the Tata’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but unfortunately that too couldn’t bloomed much in proper manner.

In later development, American chemical giant Dow, which purchased Union Carbide in year 2000 also followed its predecessors insensitive practices and never came up with its moral and legal liabilities of which the plights of lakhs of victims formed a large chunk.
It’s very heartbreaking to see similar approaches from government; two major incidents is vivid in my mind, first one of Bhopal Poisonous Gas Leakage Inquiry Commission headed by Justice N.K.Singh (Than active in service of Madhya Pradesh High Court) was called off within a year and without any explanations. Second one was commission under the ICMR (1985) to look after the assessment of long term effects, have been keep commissioning 24 reports in nine years but eventually could produced only two juvenile researched report at the end of its project on Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1994.

For the victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy, it’s both shocking and solacing to receive huge emotional sharing from disorganized sections like, Common folks, Community workers, Philanthropists, Artists, Intellectuals etc. Although some of institutional men like Dr D.N.Banerjee and his team of Centre for Rehabilitation Studies shown the ray of hope through their relentless and honest deeds, but due to scarcity of financial resources and government support, they are facing upright adversaries.
In their limited means whatever they have done on research at long impact of this debacle is indeed commendable and praiseworthy. They shows the wish, so they find the way, here it’s quite imperative to recall that such tragedy occurred through cyclical policy lapse but deepen though the failure of collective action which basically emerged from a mass level erosion of conscience what we are witnessing since last twenty five years. Being the foremost growing economy of the world, we can anticipate for better collective awareness through striving to building and strengthening the foundation of civic consciousness , otherwise there may be more starker ramifications of corporate recklessness would struck us. So, its better to build our consciousness to fight injustice rather than making monuments in the fond memory of our loving innocent victims…developments must have to be sustainable.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 3rd2009, New Delhi

Falling of the Dubai Dreams

Clamoring is quite high after the Dubai debt crisis has put a halt on the six-year boom in the Emirates real estate sector. In recent times, Dubai almost became a conglomerate of real estate companies; it refused to accept the harsh reality and uninterruptedly pronounced its ambition to become the world financial centre with lot of funds pouring into real estate, including housing.
There was infact a madding rush among the rich peoples to brought some property in Dubai, a huge proportion of them was from India who had an inflated dream to be a part of that potential growth story. Dubai which is synonymous with the super creations has high stake of artificiality and illusionary stuffs within its core foundation.

Its position is of one among the seven small Emirates that’s form the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) and known for its huge oil resources, so, obviously Dubai’s economy was also originally built on oil revenue like other Emirates; but now its oil reserves have drastically diminished and expected to be very obscure in next two decade.
So, the authorities of Dubai had came out with diversification of economy towards service oriented trade, tourism and finance; state’s hyper incentives like ninety-nine year visa plan had fuelled that sentiments although very soon promises of such liberal visa programme have been scrapped and now being offered to only six months which creating huge impasse among the reality investors from across the world and especially from developing Asian economies.

In the early phases of global financial crisis, emergence of Dubai as top-notch financial centre were taken as an unprecedented opportunity in the gulf region and also conceived as potentiality to escape from the problematic Wall Street failure. So, Dubai initially gained from Wall Street crisis and blindly inspired for global integration; today more than eighty percent of its population are constituted through the expatriates, among half of them are from India.
India, fortunately despite accounting around forty percent of Dubai’s population, its financial exposure is relatively too small; the Indian banks and real estate companies that operate there haven’t reported major outstanding debt albeit, Indian migrants be would share significantly in upcoming job losses.

The State Bank of India has an exposure of about Rs1, 700 crore and the Bank of Baroda has let Rs4, 000 crore; private sector banks have far larger exposures but not so much to see its impacts on macro scale.
Although India’s large real estate companies have bit of more exposure than banks but the hope persists that they are not in danger of loosing their shirts in Dubai. However, what the country does need to worry about is inbound investment from Dubai, especially in ports; Dubai World’s subsidiary, DP World is an important player in India and its $500 million investment plan for the country might be affected.
The crux of Dubai’s debt crisis left a lesson for India relates to the risk of opening up its financial markets with reckless speed and without building in proper regulatory safeguards, what India needs presently to de-link the further exposure from Dubai and must stop scouting for fresh opportunities till crisis halted.
Amazingly, in the end October, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has organized a day long seminar in New Delhi with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) to trace the new avenues of trades, Prime Minister of India also attended this programme nevertheless, at least for the time being, such initiatives must be checked and any further investment endeavor also restrained with this crisis ridden economy otherwise our sharing may be strikingly rise to the danger level…a tepid response from our side is an appropriate answer to this greed driven crisis.

Dubai World, the investment conglomerate of the Sheikhdom at the centre of the crisis, has a debt of $59 billion- a major component of Dubai’s total debt of $80 billion. Further its announcement of delay of debt payment for at least six months tumbled the world stock markets, following which business confidence around the world deteriorated.
The U.S.dollar also strengthened against a basket of global currencies in the last couple of fortnights, this trend is likely to continue in the short term and in turn, put pressure on equity market. Trend is going to be some how reversal from immediate past when both accounted and unaccounted global money started chasing real estate lending to even “day trading” in real estate, there was even cases of buying in the morning and selling in evening, but eventually things were fall apart as excesses of anything has a limit.

Recklessness was all around the corner, DP World; subsidiary of state owned Dubai World purchased the British Ports operator P&O in 2005 and became the fourth largest Ports operator in the world. Later it also brought the department store group Barneys New York in 2007 and has since invested heavily in construction project in Las Vegas (U.S.A); following the same path property developers Nakheel had infused billion of dollars on creation of an artificial island – Palm Jumeriah.
So, naturally things had to burst out as these all moves were flowing out of stream and capacity with huge amount of unaccounted black monetary sources, that’s now going to create worrisome situation for lakhs of entangled investors.
The basic things which worth of anticipating is now, Dubai would be bail out from current mess but demands of unparalleled luxury would remain a grave constraint; from the investor’s point of view, sluggish trade movement and low return on their investment will be a haunting reality in near future. Anyway, Abu Dhabi with its reserve of $700 billion Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) could be a safest bailer for Dubai in present circumstances but any other experiment of options like credit default swaps or other derivative instruments can hardly attain the goal now.
For the time being, Dubai must approach for regional co-operation with its other six Emirates and especially with the Abu Dhabi can earn some solace for remaining world as they have already suffered a lot from policy misadventurism. Eventually, luxury has its own spaces but austerity can makes humankind happier with less worries and mind without fears.

Atul Kumar Thakur
November 6th2009, New Delhi

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Online Platform: Tech Edge for Mutual Funds

Technologies has many specialties and liabilities to evolve, nurture and grown up the happy means to deliver utmost simplification in day-to-day life. Indeed the Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) would have been sensed the similar feelings before executing the online trading platform for Mutual funds with aim to reduce its operational costs and address the issue of pan-Indian penetration.The online Mutual fund trading platform would probably do to the Mutual fund space what dematerialization of shares has done for the traders and investors in the equity market.
It will be an online arrangement where Mutual fund schemes can be transacted through the click of mouse; payment directly debited from the bank account and units purchased or sold will be credited or debited to the investors dematerialized account just like the way the shares are traded today; with similar convenience, redemption order will be accepted at a click of the mouse.

Overall the upcoming online platform which start to perform in new financial year (After March 2010) would provide the investors a consolidated view of all their Mutual fund holdings, apart from that platform will bring in simplicity and cost efficiency for investors and will help industry to expand its reach. An another impact of this move would be visible on achieving the goal of financial inclusion since internet as a medium has revolutionary binding over the awareness level; so many frills will be left out for the investors and friendly transaction with many new economy sized Mutual fund products would fuelled incentive for their participation.
Some apprehension regarding the inevitability of demat account for being in transaction have also sorted out as this new portal is not restricted to demat account holders alone; indeed no-frills approach of online trading would increase the transaction and transparency that further fuelled competition and price war between brokerage which eventually would led to highly competitive commissions.

Anyhow some confusion persists on the role of brokers and Independent Financial Advisors(IFA’s) who hitherto have been playing very crucial role in mobilizing around sixty percent of the financial investments in Indian Mutual fund businesses through their channels of recommendations. New platform will be linked to the demat account of the shareholder and the commission payable on every transaction shall be mutually determined between investor and their respective brokers, who will have to be a Depository Participant (DP).
Depository Participants are now present in more than thousand of Indian cities albeit they are hardly in touch to look after the future and just role of small brokers and IFA’S; so it would be better to let brokers manage Mutual fund online trading platforms, as separate infrastructure will defeat the purpose.

Likewise giving artificial support to small Mutual fund agents is hardly compatible in middle to long term perspective as competitive regime is required to infuse constructive morale of these small agents instead to compel them to survive on complementary bucks.
In the wake of SEBI’s move to scraping the entry load, small agents and distributors are facing outright erosion of their identity besides they left with very few options as Insurance sector has introduced D.Swaroop commission meanwhile, which are equally adverse to these middlemen’s. Presently only one lakh AMFI certified agents are in the field with comparison of twenty five lakh insurance agents, so there can be visualize a deep mismatch between demand and supply of effective financial councilors.

So, the present change in the landscape of Mutual fund businesses needs at least a relooking on the plights of consultancy complication since financial awareness level in our country is strikingly lower than counterparts in western and other advanced economies.
It’s worthwhile to note here that despite very high resilience of their economy, western financial regulators still trust and conferred better commission to these financial consultants; even before the scrapping of entry loads in India, there was margin of around four percent of brokerage from western economies. My concern here is not to imitate the western model but to cite the huge potential loss of employment in the wake of new regulatory changes in India…we definitely must go through the all intricacies of pros and cons of its potential outcomes.
Nevertheless, I heartily admire this new technological innovation because its effectiveness lies in many implicit and explicit forms as we have seen previously in the case of Banking and Telecommunication sector in last few years in our country.
Technology both at individual and collective level plays very formative role in preparing the humane psyche to adjust with high end targets; being a very resilient and swiftly emerging economy, Indian economy is indeed ready to upfront with such large scale innovation to achieve the goal of impressive financial literacy as well as financial inclusion. Looking through the technological experiments in past, we can be sanguine about its meticulous performance at Mutual fund arena and further becoming a source for such other innovation in the domains of Indian financial sector.

Atul Kumar Thakur
November29th2009, New Delhi

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Intricacies of the Madhubani Painting (Mithila Art)

The Maithils are intrinsically Shakti (mother goddess) worshippers, Bhagwati- Gauri is among their Kula Devta; schools of Tantric rituals has been flourishing since the age-old inside Mithila region that is undoubtedly a crucial epithet behind the practices of this indigenous folk art which in modern time received acclaim as Madhubani painting or Mithila art.
Moreover, Mithila remains a great place of Sanskrit learning; quintessence of that living tradition had left very conducive impact on alternative disciplines like- art, literature, drama etc through drawing consistent royal patronage from different dynasties of Darbhanga Raj.

The Karnat dynasty that ruled Mithila from twelfth to the fourteenth century was perhaps the progenitor of royal patronage to this ethnic art. Although that phase of medieval Mithila was caught in frequent political disruptions because of external Islamic invasions from northern India, nevertheless those adverseness were overcome in later phase and the royal court of Darbhanga very soon retrieve its intellectual glory.
Contemporary of King Hari Singh Dev (Karnat dynasty); great poet and scion of Maithili literature, Vidyapati and in later course of time, an another stalwart Jyotireshwar Thakur had brought aesthetic metamorphosis in the region through lyrics of passion and physical love which entirely saturate the countryside and left deep impact on existing art form and its succeeding generation.

Apart from that, Vedic and Puranic sources were quite familiar to most of the Maithil households at the end of medieval period and on the threshold of modern age; so, scriptures and texts like the Bhagvad Purana remains very familiar among the culturally inclined Maithil folks, besides Mithila’s ancient associations with the Ramayana as the birth place of Sit further forward them as source material for the paintings of Shiva-Shakti, Rama-Sita, Krishna-Radha, Ravana and Hanuman, Kohber, Aripan and many more auspicious rituals.
For centuries Mithila art has retained its isolation from outside world until it was came across a visionary British official, W.G. Archer during the colonial era; his perceptive curiosity first drew attention to the mural paintings (Later developed as Kacchni style of painting) of the Brahmin and Kayastha village communities of Mithila.

Madhubani which literally means “forest of honey” partially signifies the closeness of nature with this locality; with separation from old Darbhanga district in 1973, Madhubani became a full fledged district and also privileged to retain the locus of Mithila art inside its world famous “Panchkosi region (Within the fifteen Kilometer radius from Village Saurath, hub of unusual marriage fair)”which was earlier used to be the centre of “Kulinta“(elite ness) and scholastic learning’s.
Indeed Mithila art had fortunate to receive the well timed Mentorship from a renowned commercial artist, Upendra Mahrathi who like a father nurtured this ethnic art and meticulously tried to end its isolation. His pioneering initiative like collection of traditional Mithila paintings on paper and its exhibition then as part of the Indian independence movement in 1930’s proved very beneficial in the broadening of Mithila paintings commercial horizons.

Later he became the chairman of Bihar Handicrafts and began buying paintings and other handicraft arts in that capacity throughout the 1950’s albeit he remained concerned that the tradition must degenerate with commercialization.
In 1960’s famine viciously struck the agrarian socio-economic structure of Mithila which started to desperate the psyche of peoples for their livelihoods; amidst those adverseness a senior Congress leader and stalwart of Maithil politics, Shri Lalit Narayan Mishra (Union Cabinet Minister) had put enormous effort to heal the suffering of that region. Probably he was among few politicians from that region who was so enthusiast to raise the fortune of his native area; obviously this ethnic art was his prime concern, so he struggled to fetch government attention and grant and succeeded with an amount of Rs75, 000 to encourage the commercialization of Mithila art and its innovation as an occupation.

Consequences of his activism proved more fruitful in future as than Prime Minister Indira Gandhi shown proper concern for Mithila region and their indigenous art by sending her close aide and than Chairman of All India Handicrafts Society, Pupul Jayakar to visit and look after the plights of this region. That proved another landmark as Pupul Jayakar involved very deep with this ethnic art, both at personnel as well as on institutional level and played very proactive role in further development of this art.
She had also written numbers of papers on Mithila art and remained keen throughout her life with it; some years later she sent the artist Bhaskar Kulkarni with hand made papers and colors to expedite and incubate the commercialization of Mithila art which was proved epoch making as use of artificial elements in painting out rightly revolutionize the practices of artists involved in that profession.
In later course Mithila art attracted numbers of intellectuals; Erika Moser Smith of Germany and Yves Vequad (The art of Mithila-Ceremonial Paintings from an Ancient Kingdom) of France were foremost among them; they empirically studied the pattern and related micro issues of this art. American Naomi Owens, wife of Ray Owens (An anthropologist and an avid researcher on Mithila art) had very carefully analyzed the feminists led folk music of Mithila; another art enthusiast from U.S.A, Carolyn Henning Brown accomplished an excellent study of the aesthetics of Mithila art.

Among Indian scholars apart from Pupul Jayakar, Mulkraj Anand (a book over Madhubani painting), Devaki Jain (numbers of papers on Mithila art) and Jyotindra Jain (a fine book over on legend artist, Ganga Devi) were amongst the pivotal contributor to this ethnic art; they traveled across the hinterlands of Mithila to comprehend the actualities of artistic genesis among the rural folks of this region.
Among Maithils, role of Parmeshwar Jha (U.S.A. based academician and an art activist) and his wife Bibha Jha in internationalization of Mithila art is immensely crucial, especially in further turnaround of its fortune. Establishment of Mithila Art Museum in Nilgate (Japan) by Mr. Tokio Hasgawa and American Anthropologist Ray Owens’s almost three decades of active association with this ethnic art and finally set up of Mithila Art Institute in Madhubani (with collaboration from Ethnic Art Foundation, U.S.A) are some of the pleasant outcomes of such consistent efforts.
It’s quite imperative here to understand the subtleties of Mithila art as Madhubani painting is one dominant artistic expression among its peers of handicrafts made by natural recourses like, Bamboos and other herbal ingredients; arts like Siki-Mauni, Sujni and Sitalpati, Godna, sculptures of mythological Sama- Chakeva and numerous other folk art forms which are very close to daily life style of Maithil rural peoples are equally vibrant and needed same attention.
As Mithila art is basically a traditional expression entrusted with unique especialties (like idioms, theme, stylization etc), that has been carried out through a long stretch of time by the Maithil women’s irrespective of caste and class and they largely played the role of channel through this inherited knowledge flows, transformed and made auspiciousness resonant in the energy of the present.The strength of Madhubani painting is that it hasn’t any confinement or taboo in its practices, so persons (especially women’s) of all communities paint.
Their schools of painting can be distinguished, painting is an earthen palette of ochre’s and umber browns, dust pinks, dull turmeric’s and earth reds. The outlines are in a fine black line; here the emphasis used to be given on the volume and depth. Colors are laid on in broad sweeps of the brush, ornaments on cloth or backgrounds are discarded; there is an absence of alankara as tree, bird or foliage.

The Paintings are entrusted with energy forms, stuffed with all details. Austerity are profusely maintain in the paintings, a relentless energy and a sense of magic which perhaps has its source in Tantric ritual and worship (Paintings like “The ten Goddess by Batohi Jha, Tantric, Village Jitwarpur, undated could be a fine example). Like all rural art forms the eyes are the source of Shakti, central point of power.
Colors and their complex uses are the chief characteristics of the this indigenous art, as tradition of colors remains upbeat since the time of writing Sarrada Tilaka in the eleventh century A.D; ingredients of colors are- Black (Burnt Jowar or Kajal), Yellow (Turmeric) or from Chunam mixed with banyan tree, Orange from Palas flower, Red from Kusum flower, Green from Bilva leaf. It could be a matter of solace that natural colors are still in use although artificial colors are became more rampant in the wake of commercialization.
Jitwarpur and Ranti are two prominent villages of artists that also represent some distinction in their paintings. Sita Devi, Ookha Devi, Yamuna Devi and Harijan painters from Jitwarpur; Jagdamba Devi, Mahasundri Devi from Ranti and Ganga Devi from Chiri village were the protagonists and true epoch makers of Madhubani paintings in last century.
They standardized this indigenous art in their limited means and received huge accolades from across the world for sophistication of Madhubani art; it is indeed very prideful for Mithila art lovers that some of artists among them had fetch top civilian awards for their work which sharpen the recognition of Madhubani painting across the world.

Presently Gauri Mishra of SEWA MITHILA is carrying the legacies of those great artists with hundreds of local artists; apart from that independent artists and probably every households of Mithila is very much involve in preserving their indigenous art through their cultural practices like- Kohber (paintings in the sanctum of newly weds), Aripan (portray the agrarian materialism of Maithil folks) etc. Future prospects of this indigenous art is undoubtedly bright as the bright and acclaimed artist like Santosh Das (village Ranti), who left his glamorous voyage in the field of modern art after passing out from M.S.University (Baroda), in 1980’s to catch up his indigenous art with mission to raise it to the crest of achievements.
Through deep intellectual understanding this man in his mid fourtees has added many distinct qualities to the Madhubani painting with relentless meticulous innovations. His experiment in Madhubani paintings have broadly directed it’s towards a complete new journey of expression which was quite unseen before him. Hope Madhubani painting will keep adapting with new innovations in future time with same auspicious colorful connotation in their themes.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November15th2009, New Delhi

Friday, November 13, 2009

Phanishwar Nath Renu in Retrospect

Aurahi Hingana, a small village of North Bihar (Mithila region) is situated just two Kilometer south west away from historic Simraha railway station (Araria district). It’s imperative here to illuminate that these subtle geographical locality once used to be the locus of great literaturer Phanishwar Nath Renu’s panoramic communion with nature- simply far from an opulent surroundings. Indeed his intermittent communion in such sedate environment was quite conducive for him as that richness of nature has been enabling him to conceal from skirmish city life of Patna, besides emanating great literary stuffs of Hindi, Maithili and Bangla from those sojourn.

Undoubtedly, this towering giant of Hindi literature mostly derived his laconic art of expression from this milieu, by which his classic characters and meticulously woven plots carried a top sensible belongingness with the rural plights. Apparently, stupendous sensitization of sprawling landscape and folk culture with insertion of his own lucid cosmic views presents a very ruminate view of Koshi’s catchments areas and of actual persisting hurdles. That seems very close to socio-economic inquiry and somehow different from passive literary interaction. Renu has credit to award the literary world with numbers of novels, stories and poems, memoir, satire, reports, travelogue etc.

Amazingly they all quintessentially possess the worth of being sacrosanct to the sensible literary enthusiasts. Like his diversely rich works, Renu’s life was full with adventure. After his initial schooling at parental house, he flew to neighboring Nepal where fortunately he found acquaintances with famous Koirala family of Biratnagar. Henceforth, he kept performing the duty of aide to Koirala’s and remained very close to them, meanwhile he also succeeded in his academics and finally accomplished his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from prestigious Banaras Hindu University. Indeed Koirala’s were the factor behind his staying in the city of Kashi as they have proper establishment in the city of light (Kashi).

The timeframe of late 1940’s was entirely transitory in nature for Nepalese politics as the tussle between De facto rulers Rana’s and Dejure contender Shah dynasty grew sharper. Essentially being the scion of Nepalese politics, Koirala’s had to play some crucial roles in political transformation and further bonding of new ties with India. Being a close aide of Koirala’s, Renu actively participated in those movements and later produced a very comprehensible report on that era named as “Nepali Kranti Ki Katha (Tells of Nepalese Revolution)” which is a crucial document of that landmark era in Nepal. In later phase Renu primarily concentrated on his own milieu and tried to decipher the ruination of Kosi belt.

His magnum opus work in Hindi “Maila Aanchal” is also regarded as top notch literary creation in any Indian language. The novel very aptly elucidates the contemporary realities of Indian village scene at the threshold of independence. Undoubtedly “Maila Aanchal” is a rare piece of literature entrusted with superb delineations of rural wisdom along with the fine fusion of dynamic universal changes that was ready to shift the prevailing idleness of the dogmas in compatibility with the new future of democratic India. From the post-colonial perspectives, this book has immense worth in reckoning the late colonial framework of eastern regions which was over burdened with the segregative policies being carried over native Indians under the guise of Indigo farming, exploitative revenue collection, terror policing etc.

Renu was closely concerned with the endemic diseases like Malaria which was caused by the water logging of Kosi river; being benign, Renu had approached with superb humane concern to judge those plights with completely repudiating any discrimination to even the colonial officials. Mary (Later Mary Gunj was commemorated on her memory), wife of an English official who died from Malaria in absence of proper medicine drew same grief as those for thousands of unprivileged local victims. Renu had eloquently elucidated the challenges of post independent India through his another epic novel in Hindi “Parti Parikatha”; in which he painstakingly tried to show the Nehruvian vision of development in early planning years with adequately acknowledging the pertinent issues like, land reform, abolition of Zamindari, villages self rule (Gram Swarajya), socialization of institutions.

Moreover he visualized a new emerging democratic India with socio-economic change as priority in the growth agenda; indeed Renu in that period had shown overt differences from his earlier radical ideological stand albeit he remained firm as a believer in socialistic form of development. Strikingly, Renu was equally gifted in storey telling and poetry where he equally became successful in forming close bond with the concerned themes. His superb storytelling reached to zenith in works like, “Rinjal Dhan Jal”, “Aadim Ratri Ki Mahak”, “Panch Light”, “Wighthan ke Chhanh”, “Mare Gaye Gulfam or Teesri Kasam” etc. These stories are vigorously moves around the contemporary dynamicism of Terain region of Mithila.

For a short stint, he was also in Bombay to try his destiny in cinema script writing; he penned some scripts and more remarkably cinematised his own lively story “Mare Gaye Gulfam” for a great Hindi cinema “Teesri Kasam (Cast- Raj Kapoor, Wahida Rahman, Iftikar etc)” in mid sixties. Teesri Ksam was directed by Raj Kapoor and produced by Shailendra but unfortunatelly it could not fetch the early commercial succes although in second release “Teesri Kasam” proved remarkable success. Alas! Shailendra couldn’t see the success of his dream project as he failed to sustain the initial shock of failure; probably very few cinemas in modern time have been woven in such lucid intricacies of rural folk life and at best with the greater revelations of humanism over the blind materialism.

By record, it’s true that except two short stories and some memoirs, he directly never contributed anything more in the literary collection of his mother tongue-Maithili. Although through a close inquiry of his work, it becomes seemingly clear that they basically inspired and originated from his Maithili speaking rural locale of Purnia district, eastern Bihar. Renu was a lively humane being like his literary productions exudes. Few months back, I was going through an old issue (Late eighties) of “Hans (leading literary magazine in Hindi)” from my own collection which was consisted with some rare photographs of Renu with Baidya Nath Mishra”Yatri” (Nagarjun for Hindi speaking world) in a rainy season in his lush green paddy field in Aurahi Hingana. Those beautiful photographs shows the frequent visits of celebrated figures during Renu’s staying in village and moreover his universalism under close association of local aesthetic inferences.

Photographs were undated although aesthetically depicts his close communion with natural landscape of his village; Renu often used to said that, my staying in village energies me for creative works and enabling me to produce my literary works in the city of Patna. Indeed he had led most eloquent voice for villages after the great Hindi literaturer Premchand in the literature of any Indian languages; even in modest appraisal, he was a man of deeds who devoted his entire life raising awareness for the afflicted plights of the rural hinterland. His sudden and premature demise was extremely elegiac for entire literary world as his many promising works remained uncompleted...that void is still continue and unlikely to be over. It’s daunting for me to cover the life and works of Renu in a single article; hope I would be able to produce something more on his works and life in future.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November13th2009, New Delhi

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perils of Indian Maoism

Stiff arms resistance of left extremist groups within the boundary of a strategically sound country like India manifests some noble pattern to deal with it in its own terms and conditions.
It would be worthwhile to recall here that Maoists are currently operate in 231 of 626 districts in the country with at least 20,000 ideologically determined armed activists whose assertions against state and civil society straightly reflects through violent method which indeed shaping their plights and demands far from proper materialization.

Infact,senseless use of violence by Maoists deterred the state authorities and entire civil society for a better deal with their plights; nonetheless, it’s required to see this grave problem in new light.
Confrontation with the Maoists has raged since 1967 just out of first Maoist rebellion, although it strongly consolidated in early years of present decade following the formation of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004 through the merger of two strong naxalite groups, the Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

After consolidation Maoists have been remain equivocal in their real intention as they largely failed to conceive the exact political nature of India; they still believing India as semi colonial country which radically altered them from mainstream and being a leading force of working class movement and mass mobilization.
Their relentless violent act basically emerged from their confused reckoning of modern and consolidated Indian state with the feeble Nepal or1950’s parochial China where their parent ideology had gain the momentum albeit the ground realities in India is entirely different as its democratic pillar and mainstream left movement is in very fine tune with the state and mass citizens; so, India as a Nation state very much exists in the mind of its citizens and all the institutions of democracy.

This is the major cause of failure for such radical movement in the country way back from Ekbari (Bihar) to Naxalbari (West Bengal) in 1960’s and ongoing battle from West Bengal to Karnataka.They all poised to fail because their central leadership started from Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal to Kobad Gandhi and his wife,Amitav Bagchi (Dada) etc couldn’t win the trust of common mass although they partially succeeded to win the sympathy of a chunk of radical intelligentsia and like minded university students but that alone may never be suffice to run successfully a mass movement.

What is imperative from the entire mass movement and not specifically of Maoism is to come across the entire length and width of larger reality and form a new insight to handle the prevailing discrimination and other inequitable practices which creates harbinger and belligerence among own peoples for basic rights.
Second practices that’s utmost imperative is to change the mindsets of brutality since it’s explicitly evident from the history that alone violence can never be triumphant and only dialogues have capacity to parley and resolve any specific issue; so, beheading policemen’s and methods of “Individual killing” of political opponents is nothing short than Talibani practices as they use same tactics to shunt their rivals.

Leaders of these movements have to keep in their mind that great growth stories of communism in U.S.S.R, China or Cuba haven’t woven by such hide and seek game instead they resolute and adopted the core ideology in the local conditions without following any sub nationality as tragically as Indian communists have been availing it’s on many critical junctures.
It’s equally important re-looking on the relevance of Maoism as an ideology in India since still two third of its population solely rely on fateful agricultural and allied occupation with very little saving in their hand.
so drawing a line after core theme of Marxist-Leninist ideology and its conditional adaptation in Indian socio-economic reality would be more rational as these integrated ideology of communism have entrusted with the universal applicability unlike the Maoism that’s completely a local phenomenon reliably shaped for China.

So, time is ripe now to hold some exhaustive debate on ideology and core of problems which creates impatience among the bottom of pyramids and high minded sympathetic's; for the state point of view any promotion of arms fraternity in civil society, like “Salwa Judum” or brutal retaliation against our own aggrieved citizens (Maoist Cadres) must be timely checked since they are creating big hurdles in peace process.
Being the largest democracy of the world, Indian state must have to ensure the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities because these left arms movement indeed reflects the lack of entitlement that emerged from the chronic scarcity of basic means of livelihood and rampant feudal, corporate and state atrocities in the name of development against the downtrodden who have been living in chaotic order even after the sixty two years of independence.

I think these are the reason of violence in state’s growth agenda; so it must be acknowledge that without streamlining the system as a whole, Indian growth story wouldn’t be complete, so state has to reward basic and dignified life for all.

Atul Kumar Thakur
November11th2009, New Delhi

Dooming Provisions before Indian Mutual Fund /Insurance Industry

Financial reform generally intends for a turnaround story with some fresh provisions although these provisions left different implications for diversely segmented components of industry.
A closer view on modus operandai of Mutual fund/ Insurance industry reveals the segmented interest of its components vis-à-vis the recently introduced regulatory provisions which try to demystify the role of intermediaries by simply cutting their edge of incentives from core of business.

Some fortnight back Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) came out with a move to end the entry load regime in the pretext of investors welfare albeit that initiative was from reality since the prevailing nature of Mutual fund industry primarily influenced and shaped through bulk investment instead of petty investment.
So, investors are hardly going to benefited as they still have to bear the alternative charges that substituted in further course like, trail fees and entry load etc. In such scenario, the huge distribution network including of Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) have caught in demure backdrop as their hitherto role are not going to proceed in future time, but this fallout is unlikely to be an universal quotient as the Asset Management Company (AMC) being the third pillar of Mutual fund businesses will surely avail the huge margin in current regulatory framework.

However, for the time being it’s seems daunting for AMC to cope with the emerging consequences from unconventional shifting of distribution pattern; so some temporary arrangement have been made although that is not suffice for raising the morale of persons involved in Mutual fond distribution.
Whatever would be the future shift on these matters; at least it’s an arch reality that again the interests of labour forces especially of unorganized sector have been compromised in the name of reforms.

By following same bandwagon for Insurance sector, meanwhile government have appointed a panel on investor protection and awareness under the Chairmanship of PFRDA Chairman D Swarup whose recommendations till now struggling for a consensus for investment advisors and agents selling financial products to usher them in changed regulatory framework. The apparent mandate of D Swarup committee is to synchronize the level playing field for investment advisors who hitherto have been championing for the great growth stories of Insurance businesses in India.
Proposal to remove commission on products such as ULIPS and allow investors to negotiate fees is acutely dampening for lakhs of advisors and their conventional bond (of employer-employees) with Insurance companies. Other plan to set up Financial Well Being Board of India (Finweb), an agency to write rules on the common minimum standards for sellers of financial products, and supervise a Self Regulatory Organization (SRO) of agents and financial advisors.
The mandate for Finweb seems exhaustive as every financial advisors needs to be registered with it; apart from that, establishment of an SRO on the line of ICAI is another move that creates complexities since advisors already have SROs to look after their businesses.
Regulatory changes are indeed essential but it needs to structured in proper sense and complete canopisation of all components plights; financial sector reform is inevitable but it’s implementation would required due diligence to cover all the core quarters.

It’s again a coincidence that marginal forces (Intermediaries) are being victimized from this new regulatory ruling that’s not at par with peoples expectations. Government must ensure the regulatory changes with following the proper care of mass welfare otherwise it would start to visualize as artificial attire with feeble original appeal.
Indeed economic activities without employment generation are nothing but futility especially when the claim of transparency stands lofty high.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November10th2009, New Delhi

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nepal-Caught in Personifying Assertions

The present coalition of Nepal shows a paradoxical scenario about its acceptance at large; within country government led by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal uprightly facing the crisis of legitimacy besides consistent hostile opposition from Maoists but in external affairs it receiving warm accolades from friend nations like India, where this government has seen as best alternative representation through democratic practices.
Here Indian concerns are vital since historically India have been sharing the plights of Nepal with strong sense of responsibility; in recent past India played very positive role in post monarchial political adjustment in Nepal especially in peace process with Maoists and forming a consensus on twelve point agreement.

But through recent developments in Nepalese politics, Maoists role could be just extrapolated as bemoaning force who blurring the entire peace process and move for constitution drafting. At this point Maoists must strive for at least an expedient move for consensus with ruling parties to hold its prominence intact in national politics and stop embittering Nepal’s most trusted ally, India.
Indian concerns to Nepal has always been genuine and will remain same, the only things has to be see in proper light by the Maoists or other dogmatists who suspiciously rated the Indian involvement in their country; they must have sense that an unstable Nepal with its ramifications would equally pose threats for a vast home land which India sharing along with the border of Nepal, so good or bad stack for both countries will depend upon the stability and harmony across the border without disturbing the elegant threads which these two nation have been relentlessly maintaining so far.

At present juncture Maoists are playing the game of personification inside the Nepal in exactly confused state to locate themselves at the helm of affairs within country and outside; ideology is major deterrent before their potential impartial role in Nepalese politics.
Indeed Maoists are caught in ambiguous web of ideology which they are not becoming to shape in their indigenous circumstances that making their attitude haughty with sharp divergence between their saying and intention. Pragmatism is the need of hour for all democratic forces of Nepal; and being a strong component, Maoists also have to act with more responsibility to end the apprehensions of India about theirs undue proximity with China and anti Indian sentiments in Nepal’s some quarter which forming negative biases towards the traditional ties of India and Nepal.

From Indian side, intellectuals and officials of Ministry of External Affairs have frequently stressing on the crucial role of Maoists in new political order which also well acknowledged by the Maoists chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal”Prachanda” in an interview with Prerna Marasani of The Hindu (Friday,October6th2009).
Now Maoists must hails such word of support and legitimacy by striving to sort out all complexities of its further involvement with India; indeed Maoists proactive and peaceful participation in crucial matters, like civil supremacy, constitution drafting etc would broaden their acceptance in country and abroad.

Assertions of radical ideology in a multi party democracy like Nepal is a very tough task, since its lacking the required authoritarian mechanism, so experiments of Maoism in Nepal are an unusual phenomenon that was hardly occurred anywhere else in similar manner.
Rudimentary principles of Maoism in Nepal stand on the notional basis of a strong and energetic state that Nepal completely lacking today; so foremost task that Maoists must have to deal immediately to strengthen the pillars of Nepalese state and rationalize their ideological practices as per their local conditions without completely emulating any other nation’s experiments.

In his recently published article in The Hindu (Monday, September14th2009), Kathmandu based journalist Prashant Jha has revealed that India could enjoy two strategic options, generative and degenerative to deal with Nepal.I have slightly different standpoint about his perceptions, with reiterating again the fact that India could never play a spoiling role in Nepal because of close inherent nature of their relationships and that must be taken as true matter of perception in this regard.
So former options seems completely subversive as per the track record of Indian involvement in Nepal, somehow, it’s a completely unrealistic proposition from both countries perspectives. What India could find a niche for itself in a stable and peaceful Nepal forming out through the people’s aspirations and consensus of its political parties?

Atul Kumar Thakur
October10th2009, New Delhi