Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Devil in detail - Part 2 - Lokpal bill in Lok Sabha

Yesterday, the UPA government introduced the Lok Pal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 and the Constitution (116th Amendment) Bill, 2011 

After the minister introduced the bill, leader of opposition, Sushma Swaraj rose to speak. At around the 42nd minute, she was making some calculations needed for a constitutional amendment. This was in the context of 2/3rd of 50% total strength. She arrived at the figure of a minimum of 182 members have to agree. 

Leader of the house, Pranab Mukherjee stood up at this point of time. At around the 43rd minute, he clarified that a minimum of 275 votes are needed for a constitutional bill to be passed. Minimum 275. Sushma Swaraj said she stands corrected and proceeded with her speech. 

Let's quickly see what the rule book says

Constitution Amendment Bills have to be passed in each House of Parliament by a special majority ie. by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House “present and voting”. 

It effectively means that atleast 273 members have to support the bill, and on top of that 2/3rd of those who are present in the house should support the bill. Only then can the constitution be amended. 

Now, let's see what happened at the end of the day, yesterday. 

The Constitution amendment bill (116th Amendment), 2011 was put up for vote. 251 members voted for it. The official strength of the ruling coalition is 277. After some complicated mathematical operations, we see that 26 members of the ruling coalition were missing (in which there were congress MPs too!). This government could not get the minimum required support for passing this bill, and yet is going on the overdrive to blame the BJP for "not wanting a strong Lokpal". 

Let's get into a few details in a short while. Before that, another important piece of information. 

For the past 6-8 months, Lokpal and Lokayukta was the most debated bill everywhere. Normally reticent working class also took to streets demanding a strong lokpal (though they had no idea on the details). Government, led by Kapil Sibal, screamed on top of their voice saying "Parliament is supreme."

Yesterday, the Lokpal bill was passed by voice vote. Some members demanded "division of votes" for some of their amendments. The government's numbers were only in the range of 247-251. SP, BSP, AIADMK walked out of the house because they did not like the bill and their "demands were not met". Walking out meant that the government can get this through technically. 

 BJP, JD(U), SS, CPI, CPI(M) were outrightly opposing this Lokpal bill. We still don't know what TMC was thinking. Either way, a bill that captured the imagination of so many did not even have the support of 50% of the total strength of the house. Not even 273 members supported this bill - and we are witness to the headline today - "Lokpal bill passed". 

And media screams - "History made". 

Rhetorical arguments for congress is that "BJP is against Lokpal", "Opposition is against Lokpal". Wrong. They are against this version of the Lokpal. 

Sonia Gandhi apparently said that:

BJP's asli chehra dekha hamne.this despite their commitment for constitutional status for #lokpal in standing committee

Sushma Swaraj in her speech yesterday said that the Standing committee explicitly said there should be no reservations in Lokpal. The Sonia Gandhi led government brings in this bogus of reservations in a constitutional body, and then when the opposition cries foul with this version, rhetoric flows and media laps it up? 50% reservation in a constitutional body? What next? Reservation in EC, CAG etc? Whom are we really fooling here?

Members from the opposition articulated their objections and reservations in good detail yesterday. They went into specifics as to why they were objecting to this version of the Lokpal bill. Subjects like minority reservations, federal structure ( here too, Kapil Sibal painted a picture that the opposition was against strong Lokayukta which was not the case!), composition, selection, removal, even age limit was discussed! 

Meanwhile, what is this fuss about giving it a constitutional status? Primarily because this was Rahul Gandhi's "game changing" idea, the government lapped it up. From the limited discussion on twitter, looks like the only advantage of having such a status is that disbanding the institution will be difficult. Either way, this is purely mis-management by the Sonia Gandhi led government. Like Sushma Swaraj said, the government's aim seems to have been to bring some version of the bill, somehow get it passed and say "We passed the bill". 

That's exactly what happened yesterday. This version of the Lokpal bill did not even get the "ayes" of 50% of the total strength of Lok Sabha. This rhetorical bluff of "opposition not supporting" is getting nauseating to hear. 

Finally our media. 

A division of votes is necessary to even introduce a constitutional amendment bill. Same voting rule applies here too. A minimum of 273 and 2/3rd of those present in the house will have to agree. Yesterday, 321 members agreed for the bill to be introduced in the house. Just for introduction. CNN-IBN journalist Pallavi Ghosh was thrilled. 

Rahul's as desired constitutional amendment bill passed

Only to realise that the vote was just for introduction. Each clause of the bill had to be voted upon. And then the true numbers came out. And then she says:

Rahul's dream shattered: no constitutional status to lokpal..govt blames bjp..politics begins

Within the hour, the media went from bill passed to bill shattered. And the politics begins! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Central govt.'s favours to UP in one month...

#Telugu newspaper eenadu has published the list of projects/benefits showered on UP in the last one month, by the Rahul Gandhi driven central government. 

Am translating the article here, for the benefit of the non-telugu reading audience. 

  • Nov.19 - a special package announced for the weavers of the state by the Union textiles minister.
  • Nov.24 - a Central agricultural university to be set up in Jhansi, Bundelkhand to assist the agriculturally backward Bundelkhand region. University to be named after Rani Jhansi.
  • Nov. 22 - A ministerial sub-committee was formed to study the prevention of "brain fever" deaths in about 14 districts in the Gorakhpur region. Many deaths are reported every year, but it is only this year that such a committee was set-up keeping an eye on the elections. 
  • Dec.17 - In the presence of Rahul Gandhi, Vayalar Ravi announced the setting up of a Rajiv Gandhi Aviation university in Furstaganj, Rai Baireily. Rai Baireily is represented by Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha
  • Dec.18 - RLD leader Ajit Singh inducted as Civil Aviation minister into the union Cabinet. This move was necessiated keeping in the mind the large influence of Jat voters in western Uttar Pradesh
  • Dec.22 - To woo the muslim vote bank that was tilting towards Mulayam, centre takes an urgent decision to award a 4.5% reservation in education/jobs for muslims. 
  • Dec. 23 - Union Minister for steel, Beni Prasad Verma announces the setting up of a joint venture steel factory near Barabanki and Lakhimpurkheri. He signs an agreement to this effect in Lucknow. He further announces that similar ventures will come up at Jhansi, Hordoi and Mirzapur districts. 
  • Dec. 23 - National status has been granted to the Sarayunpur Yojana and Sarada Sahayak irrigation projects. As part of this grant, Rs. 3124 crores have been released to these two projects. It is mandated that only one project at a time can be granted this status, but with Rahul Gandhi's influence, two projects have been given national status. 
  • The food security bill is being introduced in Parliament with the Uttar Pradesh elections in mind. 

Some personal observations (some made in the local media too)

  • The aviation university granted to Sonia's constituency was expected to be set-up at the old Hyderabad airport. Most of the infrastructure needed in already present at this airport. As always, Andhra Pradesh, despite sending the largest number of Congress MPs, gets sidelined. And not a whimper of protest by our MPs here. 
  • AP government wants the central government to declare the Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevalla irrigation projects as "national projects". Only then will their works be speeded up. These project files are gathering dust with the central government, whilst out of the blue, 2 projects in UP are showered with Rs. 3124 crores. Perhaps we will get our national status sometime in Dec. 2013 too. All will hail Sonia and Rahul then. 
  • It was neither surprising nor shocking to see that the English TV media and print media have not covered this largesse of the central government. No such list has been prepared by any channel. They are all busy hyping up Rahul Gandhi as the only saviour of Uttar Pradesh.
Am now bracing up for "Rahul takes on Mayawati" headlines in the media everyday till Feb.28 (that's when elections end in UP). 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The devil is in the detail - Food Security Bill

The tax payer is the most abused person in the country. 

Earn money, pay tax. Buy a vehicle, pay road tax. Buy an ice-cream, pay service tax. On all these taxes, pay more tax for "education cess". Get "fringe benefit" from your company, pay tax. If you give "fringe benefit" to employees, pay tax. And on top of your corporate tax, pay more tax for "education cess". Register your house, pay tax. Invest money, pay tax on returns from that investment. Buy goods, pay Value added tax. Buy liquor, pay tax. Essentially, pay tax when you earn and spend.  For 2010-2011, the money earned by the government of India from various kinds of taxes is Rs. 7,46,65,10,00,000/- only. Approximately Seven lakh crores. 

But the moment the tax payer actually wants better roads for which he is paying money, s/he is derided. How shameless of you to demand from an already over-burdened, over-worked government to make proper use of your money? The moment a tax payer wants to know where exactly the "education cess" is going, lectures are reeled out on how the payee is out of touch with reality and how s/he should travel to the villages to know how bad the education system is. 

TV channels shout from the roof-top - "tax payer's money being wasted", but when the "tax payer" actually comments on current affairs/politics, s/he is immediately labelled saying, "but you don't vote". Actually it works two ways - if you are not familiar with current affairs, you are derided. If you are familiar, then you are derided too! 

Rupees Seven lakh crores is what the tax payer gives the government and then s/he has to face the question - "What is it that you are doing for the country?" Embarrassing, no? Even more embarassing, when you are just expected to pay and not lament/comment on how it is being spent! 

And that's precisely what this rant is going to be. I have serious issues with how the money is being spent.abused. And because I make a contribution (though minuscule percentage) to that large tax treasury, I am taking the freedom here to vent out my complaints. And yeah, I do vote. And I did not vote for the Congress, so please to spare me the "you voted for this government, so live with it" argument. 

The picture below is a hoarding near the Jubilee Hills junction in Hyderabad. It talks about the boon to the poor - Rs.1/kg rice scheme. Apologies for the angle at which it was taken - we were on a bike and could not stop for a better angle. Nevertheless, I marked in red the important point in the hoarding, which when translated reads thus: 

"7.5 crore poor people will benefit"

See now I have a problem with this number. The census of 2011 puts the population of AP at 8.46 crores. Doing some complicated math, we can conclude that the AP government has classified a meagre 88.65% of it's population as "poor". The civil supplies minister also announced that about 25 lakh applications for a white ration card are pending. And because the Chief Minister does not want "anyone to sleep with hunger", he reduced the cost of rice from a whopping Rs.2/kg to Rs.1/Kg ! 

I sincerely apologise if my understanding is wrong, but shouldn't any self respecting government do more to bring people out of poverty than to push them into poverty? Is it wrong to expect that the policies of the government should enable more poor people to become self sufficient and grow along with the economy?  But gee - how insensitive can I get? I, the salaried class, the luxuried class - have the guts to mock the meagre 88.62% poor and their capacity to pay? How arrogant of me to actually contribute money for schemes like this and yet question their sanctity stupidity! 

And then came along the National Food Security bill. This time, I did not want to be arrogant, ill-informed, ignorant etc. And right at that point of time, much to my staggering good luck, the Editorial Director of NDTV tweets

"Incredible to hear Amartya Sen,Jean Dreze explain lucidly &eloquently, why India cant afford NOT to have a Food Security bill.9:30pm,Sunday"

So now I eagerly wait for Sunday to come. Now, I know that all my insensitive doubts about this massively expensive food security bill will be cleared by the panel of experts. And at the beginning of the show,  the scroll reads: 

"More children die in India at birth than in Bangladesh and Nepal."

Well, given that the population of India is much much more than Bangladesh and Nepal put together, wouldn't the actual number of children dying also be more? But we digress. The show begins, and for about 15 minutes, no concrete statistics are put out. No numbers whatsoever. The eternal rhetoric of the need to feed the poor etc goes on. And then a comment by a man from Gorakhpur. This man has a genuine complaint about nutrition in food and also the need to tackle deadly diseases like encephalitis. And the discussion veers towards health care, which has no connection to the Food security bill. 

What the man wanted was proper health care, which is a perfectly genuine demand and I bet no tax payer in this country will object if the government chooses to spend on health care. The show moved on to corruption, economy blah blah, that I lost interest. I did not know anything new after the 20 minutes that I watched it. On top of this, one of the journalist on the show thinks that the food bill "guarantees free ration"! 

So, I made one more attempt. PRS Legislative site had put up the draft of the food security bill. 

Every person belonging to priority households and general households,.. shall be entitled to receive every month from the State Government,.. such quantity of foodgrains at such prices as may be specified in Schedule I .

The current Public Distribution System classifies card holders into three categories.
  • Above Poverty Line
  • Below Poverty Line
  • AAY - Antyodaya Anna Yojana.
AAY identifies 1.5 crore poorest of the poor families in the country. And then gives them rice at Rs.3/kg and wheat at Rs.2/kg (35kgs per family). 1.5 crore poorest of the poor families means about 6-8 crore people in the country, which is about 6% of the population. 

This was in the year 2000. In the year 2011, the central government wants to increase this 5% to 46% rural and 28% urban "poor people". Is this progress? Is this what we have reduced "aam aadmi" to?

Anyways, the devil always lies in the detail. 7kgs of "foodgrain" per person. Foodgrain is defined as " rice, wheat or coarse grains or any combination thereof ". So therefore a four member family has to come up with a combination of its needs. Let's do some complicated math. 

Currently, various states (with the exception of visionary states like AP) give rice at Rs.3.50-Rs.5.50 range to BPL families. Assuming a four member family gets 21 kg of rice at Rs. 3 instead of Rs.5.50/-, they are saving a whopping 21*2.50 = Rs. 52.50 per month.  Wheat is sold at Rs.7 a kg in AP. Assuming that is the national average - there's a further saving of 7*5= Rs.35. A total of Rs.87.50 per month per family. Is our country in such dire straits that 46% of our rural population are thrilled at the prospect of saving about 3 rupees per day? Is it is not a grave setback that we are actually encouraging them to entitlements like this, and giving them false hope that this price will remain low for a long time?

The next small detail - Rs.1/kg for coarse grains. 

The average shelf life of coarse grains is limited, making them unsuitable for long-term storage and distribution under PDS. The inclusion of coarse cereals under PDS cannot be taken up as a national level programme since there is no standard variety of coarse grain. However, initiatives on the part of state governments catering to the needs of specific localities are possible.

No, those above observations are not by those wretched tax payers. It is an observation made by the planning commission, in it's 10th Five Year plan (2002-2007). Just about 10 years ago, the planning commission observed that coarse grains cannot be distributed through PDS. But this is 2011, which means another five year plan has come up. Take a look at the PDS section in 11th five year plan. No mention at all about the coarse grains. None. 

So now we have no plan on how to store and distribute the grains, but we have a bill which wants to distribute this at Rs.1/kg to 46% rural population and 28% urban population. 

A small complication here. The bill limits the subsidy to "upto 75% of rural and 50% urban population". What about my state, Andhra Pradesh then? We have a meagre 88.6% people... :( 

Now, let's take a look at the burden on the government for this hare-brained scheme. The picture of the hoarding is another example. The burden for giving rice at Rs.1/kg to 7.5 crore people is Rs.2600 crore. According to the current Food bill, it looks like about 75 crore people are the intended beneficiaries. So after doing some complicated math, we arrive at a conservative estimate of ~Rs. 26,000 crore per year. And this is with respect to subsidy on one food grain. A conservative estimate of subsidy on three foodgrains can be put at Rs. 50,000 crore. Where will this money come from, year over year? Remember the tax payer?


Did you think the the bill is done? No, more is yet to come. "Nutritional food to children from 6 months to 6 years, every day, free of charge." and "Nutritional food as part of mid-day meals for children from 6-14 years, except on school holidays". Remember the "education cess" you pay on top of all those taxes? The mid-day meal is partly funded through that cess. And now we have to feed children upto 6 years too. So we will need more money. Any guesses from where it will come?

The best part of this bill is yet to come:

"In case of failure to supply the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meal ... such persons shall be entitled to receive food security allowance from the concerned State Government,... as may be prescribed by the Central Government."

So there you go - these people will be paid money if they cannot be given food grains. And it has not yet been decided how much! So we have no clarity on how we will distribute coarse grains and how much money will be given in case of failure to distribute. Now obviously, you can't give them 52 rupees in lieu of the 21kg rice they are entitled to.  The amount will be atleast 3 times - which means you dole out Rs.150 per family. And more importantly, central government will decide how much the state government will pay - can there be a bigger incursion on the federal freedom? Ohh no wait - this provision will enable Rahul Gandhi to go into opposition ruled states and say "Your state govt. is not spending the money our central govt. is giving". 

The Food security bill also provides for nutritional food for pregnant women and lactating mothers. While this aspect is appreciable given the number of deaths at birth, the argument that many of us are trying to make is that such schemes have to reach those who are in actual need of it. Not this "One size, fits all" category. This bill also gives a provision for feeding destitute and starving people, two meals a day. 

So we now have a conservative estimate of Rs.50,000 crores plus no estimates on nutritional food, meals for destitute and on the money to be disbursed. We also have no clue on the guidelines to identify this 75%, 46%, 50%, and 28% population. Some well meaning folks peg the bill at about 2,00,000 crores too. Official estimates vary from Rs. 22,000 crores to Rs. 1,15,000 crores. From the contrived logic of this blogpost, we can atleast conclude that the 22,000 crore number is a total myth! 

So what is the solution? 
  • Revitalisation of Agriculture
  • Procurement, Storage and Movement related interventions
  • Reforms in TPDS
No no, those are not my ideas. In the last 2 pages of the bill, the drafters have enlightened us with this supreme gyan. The think we have to invest more in agriculture infrastructure. Man, where would we have been without such brilliant guidance. 

Unfortunately, that dreaded state of Gujarat shows us the solution. They have already done these exact same things the drafters of this bill think should be done. Since it is a sin to emulate anything that happens in Gujarat, I guess we will be stuck with rhetorical bills like these only.

Thankfully, Chief Ministers like Jayalalitha and Narendra Modi have already objected to the bill saying it infringes upon the economic freedom of the states. Jayalalitha also is believed to have said that this bill creates a lot of confusion too. As we can see above, a mere look at the provisions is throwing up so many combinations, no wonder leaders feel this is confused. 

At a time, when we should be talking of progress, we seem to be taking pride in the exact opposite. There are many basic questions that arise out of schemes like NREGA, FSB etc. Even members of Parliament are complaining about the ill-effects of schemes like NREGA and yet we do not want to take any corrective measure whatsoever. 

We need better debates. We need better dissemination of information. Not mere rhetoric or random observations like this. Thankfully, the bill will not immediately become law. It has to be introduced in Parliament, then has to go to standing committee and then will come back to the Cabinet. That buys us atleast 3 months. 

Ohh and before I forget, can you imagine the scope of corruption in such a hare-brained scheme? Can you imagine the amount of pilferage? Can you imagine the clamour for being classified in that 75%? Can you imagine the loss to the exchequer when there will be a food grain shortage and money disbursement will start? And in case you forgot, you fund that exchequer. Your money will be abused, and you will just remain a mute spectator. 

The tax payer is the most abused person in our country. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

"It is a bill that guarantees..."

A very quick post. Just to share the awesome in-depth understanding that some TV journos have. This time, from NDTV. 

Sonia Singh runs a weekly show, "Your Call" on NDTV. Last week, the topic was about the Right to Food Bill (we will talk in detail about this bill later). 

The Indian media likes to show that the people of this country are ignorant on many matters. So NDTV interviews a whopping 3 people to ask them if they know about the Right to Food bill. 

And while asking the third person - the knowledgeable NDTV reporter asks " Do you know anything about the Right to Food bill. It is a bill that guarantees an individual the right to free ration". 

A reporter who is woefully ignorant of the "Right to food bill" is asking citizens of this country whether they "know anything at all" about this bill. And NDTV plays the video; the anchor then sports a smirk and goes to ask a Nobel Laureate "what is your immediate reaction?".  To those unsuspecting citizens, Right to Food bill doesn't give "free ration". It gives subsidized ration. More details later. 

Hail Indian Media. 

Listen from 4:55 - 5:00 and laugh your hearts out! 

Update on Dec.21 - I sent a mail and Sonia Singh replied. 

The reporter made a mistake, we have informed him and corrected it on the show repeat. Not sure about the smirky smile, will try to correct that as well. Thank you for pointing it out.

I replied back asking her for the updated video and also why they were judgmental in the show. No reply on that yet. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rahul Dravid's speech

There were many times I wondered what will be going through the mind of players when they are idle on the field :). And yesterday, I got my answer. And I can vouch that it cannot get any better than this. Rahul Dravid's speech at the Bradman Oration was making rounds, and at the end of the speech he had this to say:

"Before I conclude, I also want to talk briefly about an experience I have often had over the course of my career. It is not to do with individuals or incidents, but one I believe is important to share.

I have sometimes found myself in the middle of a big game, standing at slip or  even at the non-strikers end and suddenly realised that everything else has vanished.

At that moment, all that exists is the contest and the very real sense of the joy that comes from playing the game.It is an almost meditative experience where you reconnect with the game just like you did years ago, when you first began. When you hit your first boundary, took the first catch, scored your first century, or were involved in a big victory.

It lasts for a very fleeting passage of time, but it is a very precious instant and every cricketer should hang on to it."

Actually I am doing great injustice to his fascinating speech by just quoting his conclusion right at the beginning itself. But since it answered one of the basic questions I had in my mind, I wanted to mention it first :). 

We all know the greatness of the player called Rahul Dravid. His record speaks for itself. 36 centuries, 13,000 test runs, 10,000 ODI runs (that too in a format he is accused of being slow!!) is a record that many cannot achieve even in their dreams! However, this speech he delivered yesterday gave us an insight into his brilliant thoughts about the game and what greats like him think about it. 

First, he talks about the inspiring stories of cricketers who come from remote places and gives a short glimpse into the team's dressing room and tells us that 15 different languages could be spoken in that one room. While all of us were deriding the impact of television, he explains to us how it played a major role in taking the game to the masses and erasing the "princely" tag attached to it forever. And he also explains how the increase in revenue helped stabilise the life of many cricketers (international and first class). 

The striking aspect is his positive tone throught the speech. We have heard the cacophony on TV studios and instant judgements by journalists on whether test cricket is "dying" etc. Rahul Dravid devotes an entire section in his speech to talking about this aspect. We heard it from TV "experts" before, but when he says there is too much cricket and hence a spectator-fatigue, it is time for concerned authorities to sit up and take note. And I liked the way he talks about how the audience at the stadium is very important to the player, and why the audience is not just about generating revenue. It gave me delight to hear him say that a cheering crowd amplifies their resolve to perform well. And I particularly feel good because me along with friends went to watch a test match recently and cheered our throats out :). 

His thoughts about the future of the cricket needs to be taken seriously. We need to hear more from the likes of Dravid, Kumble, Sachin, Laxman etc on this game. Not from Arun Lal and Sanjay Manjrekar! 

Right at the beginning, he derides how loosely the words "war", "battle" are used when referring to cricket, which at the end of the day is a sport and not a battlefield. This speech should also make the media realise how fallacious their usage of such words is. He was speaking at their National War Memorial and had this to say:

This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, fight - for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished

How true, and how dignified of him to actually make a mention of this and bring the media back home to it's feet. 

Also notice how he says "Cricketing world will watch" instead of saying "World will watch". After all, cricket is actively played in just 9 countries. But then as usual our media won't learn right? Their headline - "World will watch India-Australia series" ! 

Anyways, let's not digress :). This entire speech here, is a must read for all cricket lovers. It has honesty written all over it. It gives us a glimpse of the thought process of a man who has given Indian cricket a lot of treasure. After he retires, am sure we will come up with many "Is X the next Dravid" when X scores a couple of centuries at No. 3 position in tests. But we, who have been fortunate to have seen him exhibit his art, know there will be no other Dravid. Thank you Rahul Dravid :) 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Perform or perish" !!!

Message to ministers: perform or perish

Thus screams the byline of this new report that is titled : "Enough is enough, Manmohan wants to pump in purpose". After we have seen how ministers disregard his sagely advices, are we to really believe that Dr. Manmohan Singh actually means his message "perform or perish"? By that yardstick, the first person who has to perish is the Prime Minister himself! 

The 51% FDI in retail decision is being talked about a lot. It is also being talked about as if this is THE policy reform that will cure all our ills. And as usual, the blame is being passed on to the opposition for stalling a "reform" measure thereby bringing in immeasurable misery upon the country. If there is anyone to be blamed for this fiasco, it is the Prime Minister himself. In the two press conferences that he was asked about reform process, he mentioned only GST and never once mentioned FDI. He knew there are deep divisions within allies and the congress party itself, yet made sure it went through the cabinet in a jiffy. Leave the opposition parties aside, this bill was put on hold because the allies and members of Congress party were against 51% FDI in retail. If the Prime Minister is so incompetent to rein in his own allies, why blame the opposition for "policy paralysis"? 

The news report mentions that the "thrust areas" vary from social spending to infrastructure development to administrative reforms to anti-corruption to North-east to what not! Basically, this encompasses the whole gamut of issues currently at hand. In each of these areas, the government performance has been dismal by any standard. And it has dawned upon the leader of the country that he has to "review" these areas on a monthly basis. 

An economy in distress needs direction from an "economist" Prime Minister, but here we are - jumping with joy that the Prime Minister has decided to "review" certain "thrust areas" on a monthly basis. Even one step upwards from the abyss this government is in, is being celebrated as if a whole new dawn is upon us. If Manmohan wants to "pump in purpose", he needs to lead, not review. But then, we are asking for too much from this Prime Minister who is a perfect example of the famous quote "there go my people, I have to find out where they are going so that I can lead them". 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our right to write

The following article was written for a newspaper - Postnoon. Pasting it below :) 

Let's assume for a moment that Kapil Sibal's idea will get converted into law. The law says social websites to block material that is deemed “threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory, … or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.” Here's the first basic question - who will decide whether something is abusive, objectionable blah blah? 

Let's further assume that the genius in Mr. Kapil Sibal came up with a satisfactory answer to our first question. The next question is this - who is next? By the same logic, will factionist and mafia movies be banned? Shouldn't those soap operas on TV be banned for being abusive etc? Better yet, what about the "debates" on news channels which qualify for the adjectives above?

However these questions arising from mere assumptions are not the reason why Kapil Sibal's idea is a joke. As lofty as it may sound, it is a joke because it steals from you, one of your basic freedoms - the freedom of expression. The government wants to first read what you wish to express, and then decide if it is appropriate or not for your neighbour or the citizen of Uzbekistan to read it.  It actually doesn't matter that social websites do provide for a "report spam" or "block" button. It also doesn't matter that some websites actually remove "objectionable" content after getting complaints. It also doesn't matter that it is practically impossible to pre-screen everything that gets posted. 

What has logic got to do with anything as long as the government is unable to comprehend that ordinary citizens like you and me found a platform to criticize and have the gall to do so openly without any fear? And this is no exaggeration because a Google Transparency report says that the government wanted it to remove 255 items citing "government criticism" as the reason. Such actions are as despicable as banning books and movies merely because they might hurt a few.  It is also a sad reflection of an inefficient system when a minister who is entrusted with the responsibility of reforming  and running our education system gets busy with stealing our rights. Even worse if he is doing this to deflect attention from more pressing issues. 

As HRD minister, Kapil Sibal said - No more X board exams! Students are still writing those exams. As Telecom Minister, he said there is "zero loss" in the 2G scam. We know how big a lie that is. Here's hoping that his third attempt at his "15 minute fame" also meets its natural death! After all, it's about our right to write, right? :) 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Arun Shourie and AP Assembly...

I think two incidents defined the no-confidence motion that was debated in the AP Assembly yesterday. 

1. TRS MLA Harish Rao was speaking on the Rs.1/kg rice scheme. He was mentioning how the government slyly cut down on the sugar and kerosene quota of the ration card holder while reducing the price of rice. He said that only half kg of sugar and less than 4 litres of kerosene was subsidized right now. Because of the reduction in this quota, the ration card holder is burdened by about Rs.30 more than before. At this point of time, the minister of legislative affairs, D. Sridhar babu rises. He gets all combative, demands that he be heard immediately. He then shouts "why are you keeping on repeating "only half kg sugar, only half kg sugar"". 

Listening to his tone and looking at his posture, one expected that Harish Rao gave out wrong information and the minister is out to refute it strongly. The minister starts of by saying that government is spending about Rs.800 per person on subsidies for 7 1/2 crore people of the state. And then asks the opposition only "Why did we reduce sugar quota? You have been ministers. You know how it works. It depends on productivity, and on how much we get from the centre. These are administrative decisions" So all that combativeness was to merely agree with the observation that sugar quota has been cut. Later he went to explain why Kerosene quota has been cut. And then launched the rhetoric - we reduced the price of rise from Rs.2/kg to Rs.1/kg .... and so on. the first 6 minutes of this video here captures it all. 

Harish Rao got up after the minister's reply and thanked him for acknowledging that quota of other items have been cut. Am sure the minister would have rued accepting that fact on the floor of the assembly. If he kept quiet, people would have just thought this was another rant by the opposition. 

2. At around midnight, the CM stood up to reply. He first got into some rhetoric, and then into statistics. At one point, he says that the Leader of Opposition quoted false figures from a CAG report. He wondered how Mr. Naidu cannot even read documents and come well prepared. Mr. Naidu rose, and told the CM the full book name (it's a CAG annual report for 2010-2011), then gives the page number and then quotes the figures again. The figure is about bloated expenditure for irrigation projects. Some 27,000 crores. CM says, no no... main issue is that the report is talking about projects from 40 years. Mr. Naidu again refutes saying that he is quoting about projects that started after 2004, and CAG gives yearly reports, not 40 year old reports. At 3:58 in this video, the CM tells the opposition "When we quote, maybe there is some printing mistake. Please check the book". That was the answer from the leader of the state - "Maybe there is a printing mistake".

I quoted the above two examples just to show how good the governance is actually in Andhra Pradesh. Ministers believe that being combative and throwing in the pro-poor card is the logical answer for actual logical questions posed by the opposition. Almost all the ministers who replied resorted to more rhetoric than facts. The latest fad of the government - Rajiv Yuvakiranalu came under criticism from the ruling party ministers themselves only. This happened last week, and in the assembly yesterday, ministers themselves said they will rectify shortcomings. How they will rectify shortcomings in a program that is yet to be launched is beyond comprehension. The CM already announced that about 1 lakh jobs will be given out in December. He had no answer to how the training is happening for these people. 

The CM had no answer on the 2-12 hour power cuts. On crop holiday, he said loans upto 1 lakh are being given interest free to farmers if they pay back within an year. How fair is to expect a farmer who hasn't grown a crop because of wrong policies, to repay a fresh loan in one year? 

The quality of the debate reflected the political situation in the state. The TDP was continously harping on the hardships faced by the farmer, in an attempt to gain a pro-farmer image. Though their arguments were laced with many official statistics, the strength of their arguments was often lost in the rhetorical din of the ruling party members. Newspapers in the morning highlighted the personal duel between the CM and opposition leader; between the PCC Chief and the opposition leader; between the PCC chief and YSR's widow etc. The TRS spoke more about their feelings on injustice to Telangana. YSR Congress leader spoke about how this government is screwing up the state. Congress party members lost no opportunity to thank and praise Sonia Gandhi/Rahul Gandhi. 

The political significance of yesterday's debate cannot be lost. Jagan Mohan Reddy famously said he has the numbers to bring down the government. Clearly he does not have the numbers now. However, without PRP's support (the merger is not yet legally done), the congress is in a minority. If all those Congress MLAs who voted for the no-confidence motion are disqualified, then the by-elections will be very interesting to watch. Since Chandrababu Naidu accepted Jagan's challenge to place a no-confidence motion, the only loser from this whole episode is Jagan. The real challenge for Congress will be to win the 17 seats that will go to bye-elections. That said, the Telangana issue has been dominating the political scenario of AP so much, that all other issues just take a back seat. 

The dramatic drop in the levels of debate and discourse in AP politics for the past 7 years in very depressing. Facts are giving way to fiction. Two previous blogs here and here have documented the dramatic fall in actual governance in Andhra Pradesh. Within no time, it is saddening to write another blog rueing the depressing fall in public discourse. 

Do you want further proof of the fall? Minister Sridhar babu brings in Arun Shourie into the debate. In his attempt to discredit BJP floor leader Kishen Reddy, the minister says "From which party is Mr. Kishen Reddy from? From which party? From that party whose member Mr. Arun Shourie wrote a book criticizing the father of Indian constitution. Worshipping false gods." You need more proof? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

"A year later, the state is even better..." ?

The first picture is a huge hoarding in Hyderabad congratulating the CM, Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy for his overwhelmingly successful rule for the last one year. The second picture is an advertisement in The Hindu on November 25th, 2011 (and ofcourse this same ad was there in all newspaper) telling us that "A year later, the state is even better..."

One day later, on November 26th, 2011, a news item titled "No power for villages during daytime" was published. Excerpts below:

"The AP Transco and the distribution companies have decided to continue the present 12-hour power cut (6 a.m. to 6 p.m) in rural areas till the middle of next year,..."

"AP Transco CMD Ajay Jain said the cut now would be implemented for two hours in Hyderabad and other such cities; four hours in district headquarters; six hours in municipalities and; eight hours in mandals"

"If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff."

And ofcourse the main worry is the implementation of Rajiv-internet something.

"Rajiv-Internet-Village facility launched amidst much fanfare at many villages a couple of years ago will be operational only between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. when the staff will leave the premises after office-hours"

So let's now revisit, "A year later, the state is even better..." now, shall we?

Like mentioned above, what use is a "internet facility" if there is no power? Of what use will be a SHG that thrives on power, if you cannot ensure it electricity? What about the farmer - where will he get the power from? Leave the 12 hours in villages for now... what about all those small industries in mandal headquarters, municipalities etc? They now have to shell out more money for generators? No power for 4-8 hours for the next six months (and for the past 3-4 months). A state that reels under such massive power cuts for more than half year is supposed to be doing "better"?

When was the last time one heard of a 12 hour power-cut in villages, 8 hours in mandals, 6 hours in municipalities, 4 hours in district headquarters, and 2 hours in cities?

And mind you, the 2 hours in cities is a misnomer. The famed Hitech City area of Hyderabad experiences 4 hour power cuts. There are many such areas that experience these long power cuts and we are to believe that the "A year later, the state is even better..." ?

Ok, leave power cuts for now. Let's talk about those in power. In July, there was this sudden spurt of resignations by Telangana MLAs from the region. The list included 11 ministers including the Home Minister of the state. Obviously the resignation of ministers was not accepted (and of most MLAs too) but the ministers refused to go the secretariat. For about two weeks, they didn't clear any files. And then started clearing files from home. "Work from Home" literally got a new meaning in the state. No Cabinet meet was held after 75 days! Do you know the effect of not having a cabinet meet - many decisions get postponed. Do you know the effect of ministers "working from home"? Only important/urgent files get cleared. An earlier blog piece details this "halt in governance" for months. Yet, "A year later, the state is even better..."?

In September, there was a call for general strike in Telangana. For about 40 days, bus services were affected. Schools and colleges were closed. Coal production stopped. Government employees did not turn up for work. Exams were postponed. Lawyers did not work. This government did not do anything to stop this strike. It just passed time - waited for employees to get exhausted and then come back to work. For about 40 days, people suffered and spent more because of the all the above issues, and yet "A year later, the state is even better..."?

Farmers from many districts were on a crop holiday. Lakhs of acres of land was left unsowed. Primarily because of some government policies. Yet, "A year later, the state is even better..."?

600 out of the 1000 odd mandals in the state have already been declared drought-hit, with no concrete plan to help them out yet. Yet, "A year later, the state is even better..."?

Let's now concentrate a bit on some of the schemes in the advertisement above. The Rs.1/kg rice covers 7.5 crore people in the state. The government is proud of the fact that there 7.5 crore out of the 8 crore people in this state are "poor". So poor that it had to reduce the price of rice from a whopping Rs.2/kg to Rs.1/kg. 7.5 crore out of 8 crore are poor people in this state, and yet "A year later, the state is even better..."?

Rajiv Yuvakiranalu is aimed at giving jobs to people in private sector. The government will act as a facilitator. No jobs have been given out yet - the plan is to give appointment letters to 1 lakh people in December. It's a good thing if these students find eligible jobs, but that still does not mean that "A year later, the state is even better..."!

Indira Jala Prabha was launched in October. Plan is to irrigate about 10 lakh hectares and will primarily benefit SC/ST farmers it seems. It was launched only in October and we are yet to see any tangible results plus there is this power cut problem still!

One good intiative though is "Mee Seva". Now one can get his certificates (caste, birth etc) within 15 minutes without having to bribe every petty official on the way. This program is an extension of e-seva and if it clicks, will go a long way in streamlining government services and can qualify to be advertised under "A year later, the state is even better...".

Interest free loans to farmers upto Rs. 1lakh is not beneficial if they are on a holiday and have no electricity. No way does this mean that "A year later, the state is even better..."!

The much tom-tomed "rachchabanda" program is nothing but clearance of old grievances. And the less spoken of extension of reservations, the better it is :)

At best, this Chief Minister is an expert at maintaining some status quo and introducing a scheme here and a scheme there. He commands little respect amongst his ministerial colleagues. The ongoing tiff between him and the PCC chief is never ending and his handling of the above mentioned problems leaves much to be desired.

If anything, the state is reeling under more problems than ever before. The power cuts for long hours is testimony enough that "one year later, the state is still better..." is a farcial statement.

PS1: On a lighter note, how can "A year later, the state is even better..." be true when we have named only one scheme after Rajiv Gandhi and one scheme after Indira Gandhi. This is such a massive failure!

PS2: Ofcourse, "sources" say Kiran Kumar Reddy was Rahul Gandhi's choice.

Friday, November 18, 2011

UPA 2 : When Politics Trumps Institutions

The following mid-term perspective of the UPA2 rule was written for Centre Right India and published on their site here:

Pasting the whole article below :)

‘I have orders from above.’

When a minister of state (with independent charge) in the union Cabinet says this to his officials, what does it mean?

'I have the blessings of my leader'

When the Home Minister of this country is asked a question, "Do you have the confidence of your leader?" after multiple terror attacks, he answers "I have the blessings of my leader". So who is the leader that the Home Minister is referring to?

"He almost warned that even if the Bill is passed by the Cabinet, he would complain to the UPA leadership"

This report says that Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar was upset about a sports bill (yep, you are reading this right. The agriculture minister was opposed to a sports bill, for the obvious reasons!) that was presented to the Cabinet and therefore in the cabinet meeting (which by the way, many ministers from the allies skip), said he will complain to the UPA leadership. What did he mean by "leadership"?

Back in High School, in our civics lessons, we were taught that the Prime Minister is the most powerful person in the country. We were told that all ministers report to him. We were taught that he/she is the ultimate authority when it comes to decision making. In fact when one is preparing for any state or central service examination, an entire chapter is devoted to explain about the authority and responsibilities of the Prime Minister. As assignments, students are made to write short/long essays on this authority of the Prime Minister of India.

So based on our high school experiences, the answer to all three questions above should have been the Prime Minister.

Alas! Two-and-a half years into the second term of UPA (more pompously called UPA 2.0), it is now time to either rewrite all those lessons or have an addendum - "all general rules have an exception, Dr. Manmohan Singh is an exception to term 'ultimate authority' ".

The above three links of ministers invoking a "leader" other than the PM is just a small sample of the erosion of the authority of the PM. Remember the incident where MoS for Railways openly defied the PM when asked to visit a accident site? Remember the Prime Minister's press conferences when he said he could not prevent the loot because there are "comprimises to be made in coalition". Mamta Banerjee openly flirted with Maoists and the Prime Minister was helpless. Month after month, the rot in agriculture ministry was being talked about but the Prime Minister could not do anything about Sharad Pawar. The losses and mis-management of Air India are a hot topic in TV studios every now and then. Yet, Praful Patel was always let off the hook. The Finance minister and Home minister of the country trade (very) serious charges of spying and 2G scam and it took people other than the Prime Minister to bring about a truce.

There are only three major allies which share power at the centre. DMK, TMC and NCP. Members of the cabinet from these parties have either pioneered massive scams or have been the cause for huge losses to the exchequer through their sheer incompetence and greed, and we have a Prime Minister who cannot even touch their toe nails! And that is the most enduring legacy of this UPA government. The abject surrender of the authority of the Prime Minister of India.

We have had 14 people as Prime Ministers so far (including Gulzari Lal Nanda). We have seen weak Prime Ministers, who could not exude any kind of authority. Such tenures were short-lived because of their lack of assertiveness. And in the course of time, their tenures will be forgotten too. But this Prime Minister is different. He will be the first PM (and probably only PM) who tried to sell his helplessness, incompetence and unreasonableness as an unparalleled virtue!

And now you must be wondering - if PM is not the ultimate authority, then who is? It has been successfully passed to the Chairperson of the NAC, and the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi (full list of her "achievements" here). The NAC she leads is the parallel decision making authority when it comes to policy matters. Sonia Gandhi is the parallel decision making authority when it comes to political matters. Manmohan Singh is the decision making authority when it comes to maintaining status quo!

Politics of Divide/Vendetta

The strength of a democracy depends on how freely the opposition (not just the political parties) is allowed to work. Another enduring legacy the second term of UPA will be leaving, is the politics of vendetta. Question them on corruption - immediately very old cases are dusted and thrown out in the open. If the principal opposition party, BJP questions them, then "what did they do in the 6 years they were in power" is parrotted with the help of a compliant TV media. If a politician falls out with the Congress party and leaves it, then automatically he becomes a corrupt person. If citizens of the country question, then either obscure income tax cases are foisted on then or lectures are given as to how they don't vote, how they resort to petty bribing and blah blah. Attempts were even made to discredit CAG but thankfully they failed at it (atleast for now!)

Anyone, practically anyone, who dares to the question the government is automatically hounded by it. There is very little informed debate on matters concerning public interest, and the primary onus for this fall in standards rests on the shoulders of the ruling party. If you don't want to believe me, then please follow the debates (I know it's a challenging task :D) on TV for about a week.

Vote bank politics have reached their peak during UPA. It is always about "minority welfare", "minority well-being", "minority rights" etc. This is not to say that minorities should not have any of those. It is just that the ruling party is creating this divide that will only be detrimental to the country's progress. At every step, the ruling party makes the minorities feel weak, and then project itself as their saviour. Any government's aim has to be to empower them. This government is doing the exact opposite and worse, is proud of doing it.

Federal Structure

Fellow blogger Jiten documented in 2009 that there was an ad in TOI during the Maharashtra elections. Gist of the ad being that there will be better centre-state relations if people vote back NCP-Congress to power. And in July 2011, we see a news report that says "State gets little fund allocation in Centre’s schemes: Ministers" !! Guess which state this is? Maharashtra! Congress big-wigs, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh who is a central minister and Prithviraj Chauhan who is the Congress Chief Minister (earlier minister in the PMO!) have made this observation - they accuse their own party of hyping development in their state and thus releasing lesser funds!

The importance of Centre-State relations can be gauged from the fact that it is an important part of the manifesto of all political parties. That congress politicians feel miffed at treatment towards their states is another irony in itself, but that's aside the point. With respect to the States -To interfere when necessary and to give a free hand otherwise - is a sound policy for the centre to follow. This way, federalism is strengthened. UPA has done the exact opposite!

The recent Manipur blockade is a perfect example. For 100 days, the two national Highways that connect Manipur to the rest of India have been blocked, and the centre has not even moved an inch towards trying to resolve it. The state government should have taken the lead, but clearly it hasn't and more importantly a state in this country is completely cut off from the rest of us for 100 days and UPA was unmoved! And this is not the first time, a blockade of this magnitude happened. Just last year, there was a nearly 2 month blockade.

The Telangana fiasco is another perfect example. When everyone looked towards the centre for resolving this issue, UPA 2.0 hurriedly took a disastrous decision and the result is there for everyone to see (fellow CRI commentator Amar says that the Telangana fiasco deserves a separate post in itself and I agree). Nearly two years since that "Sonia's birthday gift", this contentious issues continues to bog the people of AP.

Tamil Nadu CM, Jayalalitha made some very interesting observations at a recent National Development Council meeting. She correctly said that the Centre is taking hurried decisions on matters that hugely affect states, thereby reducing the states to merely "glorified municipal corporations". The examples she cited were the Communal Violence Bill (which will give more powers to the Centre than the states, given that law&order is a state subject!), the GST (Goods and Services Tax) and changing formats of Entrance tests for professional courses (this is by far the worst executed program in my opinion. The Centre is giving very short notices for states to comply with ridiculous demands. If you think it is the opposition-ruled states that are complaining, then you are mistaken. Maharashtra and Congress filed a petition just 2 days back against the Centre's diktat on medical entrance test!).

And ofcourse, there is the Governor's post always to be used for political machinations. One perfect example of using this post to undermine an elected state government is from Andhra Pradesh. Surprised at the choice? Here's why I strongly feel so. Mr. E.L.Narsimhan was appointed as governor after the great N.D.Tewari expose. The state was just beginning to go through it's most tumultous phase. Rosaih was the Chief Minister, and since he was perceived to be less competent to deal with such political matters, the new governor was given the mandate of invovling himself in matters of daily governance too. He even reviewed the law and order situation with police officials directly, without the CM or any minister present. Mr. Rosaih once advised his ministerial colleagues something on these lines "I can't do much. If there is anything else, please go to the Governor directly." To date, E.L.Narsimhan continues to play an active role in important matters of law and order. And please be aware, the people of AP have elected the Congress party to govern them. And a crisis in their party, led the UPA to find a solution in an appointed governor, not in any elected leader!

Damaging institutions

The institution of the Prime Minister is not the only institution that has been damaged by the UPA. Do correct me if I am wrong, but the post of Governor has never been so abused before. Either the post has been used for vengeance or to reward it's former leaders. The Governor of MP even announced that it was Sonia Gandhi who recommended him. Buta Singh in 2005, HR Bharadwaj since 2008, Kamala Beniwal recently, E L Narsimhan in AP are examples of proactive governors. Shivraj Patil, Rosaih, M.K.Narayanan, J.B.Patnaik etc get appointed to the royal Raj Bhavans to lead a happy retirement life. Take a look at the complete list and just see the number of former politicians of the Congress on that list.

The CBI has been used like a pawn as never before. Election Commission was bogged down with some controversies. The institution of Vigilance Commissioner was also put through severe testing times only because of the adamant attitude of UPA leadership. During Team Anna Crisis, this government unilaterally decided to not involve any elected opposition parties in delibarations while at the same time had to gall to lecture us on the supremacy of elected representatives! There just seems to be no institution left for the UPA to damage further.

What about policy then?

Quiz Question. What happens when an "economist" PM who concentrates excessively on Foriegn policy. Disaster on both fronts! Inflation has been on a high for more than 2 years. Our "economist" PM has no solution for that. Food prices go up - global problem. Fuel prices are up by Rs.11 over the past 1 year or so - global problem. Spending goes up on social sector, impeding the growth in the infrastructure sector - thankfully not a global problem but a problem whose solution should remain a "priority concern". Mamta Banerjee causes losses to Railways (and thereby to the economy) and we have no one to ask about it. The EAM is there only to parrot the PM's views. The once powerful office of Foriegn minister has been reduced to doing secretary level work to the PM's foreign policy.

We have already seen how Jairam Ramesh goes off the tangent. The less said about Sports ministry, the better. The mess in Civil aviation gets highlighted in Parliament as well as media, but the PM can't even touch the concerned minister. "Rural Development" is happening only in the sense of NREGA, where people are getting income for repetitive work. Kapil Sibal seems to be a man in a hurry. He announced of reforms within 100 days. Two and half years hence, we are still debating them! Speaking of Kapil Sibal, his famous "zero loss" theory in the 2G spectrum scam has become the butt of jokes, but that has exposed another serious legitimacy issue in the government.

All the above mentioned points lead to only observation - UPA's serious problems with decision making of any kind. This is one more dangerous legacy that we will have to live with. Till date, the PM has not clarified whether he agrees with Kapil Sibal's "zero loss" theory. Each minister is on his own. No one knows who takes decision, or at whose behest decisions are taken. It took a Supreme Court to openly direct the investigations on massive corruption scandals, not an executive order. Apart from the above mentioned policy points where decision making has stagnated, take the recent handling of the Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare agitations.

At every step, the only thing that reigned supreme is confusion. First, top ministers go meet Baba Ramdev and praise him. When he goes ahead with his plan for an agitation, they start to deride him. The midnight scoop (because UPA feared communal elements will take over) killed one hapless woman. A similar story with Anna Hazare. All that the "Team Anna" asked in the beginning was to be heard. The egoistic UPA refused to even do that, thereby giving them space to launch bigger agitations and make fiercer (and unreasonable) demands. And then they arrest him, release him, cajole him and finally give in. All this while, there is no single authority of the government saying "Yes, I take responsibility for these decisions".


There is an air of negativity around this UPA dispensation (led mostly by Sonia Gandhi and partly by Manmohan Singh). Mere status quo is being maintained. Dr. Manmohan Singh has reduced the job of Prime Minister to a mere desk job. Even the most tom-tomed schemes of UPA - MNREGA, Loan Waiver, Forest Tribals act are not his ideas. No flagship economic reform has been carried out. During the infamous trust vote in July 2008 (called because of the Nuclear Deal, of which we don't hear anything these days!!), he tabled his speech in which he spoke about "achievements". The first one was about controlling inflation, and we all know how well it is being controlled. He spoke about "revitilising agriculture" and we know what happened there. "To deal firmly with terrorist elements" - we all know what has happened since.

One of the worst things to happen during UPA 2.0 is the Supreme Court's active invovlement in matters concerning corruption related investigations. More than a couple of times, the SC has rapped the government for it's lethargic response. The political legitimacy of UPA is in serious doubt only because it is the judiciary and not the executive that is driving the cleaning up act. The political legitimacy of UPA is in serious doubt not just because the centre is severely undermining the states. Last, but not the least, the political legitimacy of UPA is in serious doubt only because it is Sonia Gandhi who is driving policy and politics, not the Prime Minister.

Arun Shourie summed it up best, in an interview on the 2G scam - "This was not the Manmohan Singh cabinet that the ministry could do anything. It was Atal Behari Vajpayee's cabinet. You could not do one milimetre more than what Cabinet has decided."