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