Sunday, June 29, 2014

One Month of the Modi Sarkar: There is Hope

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Narendra Modi came to power promising "change for the better" or as he prematurely declared. Acche din agaye. (Good time have arrived, a parody of the Kingfisher tag line.) Cynics might say that there is nothing new in what Narendra Modi has done. Let me list out the new departures in just 30 days initiated by the Prime Minister:

1 Make the bureaucracy accountable. The round of meetings that Narendra Modi has had with senior secretaries underscores the fact that Modi expects the bureaucracy to monitor the policies and programmes initiated and report fearlessly. All too often in India, politician are able to suborn the bureaucracy for their own corrupt purposes and the fear of transfer or worse Enquiry makes the senor officers crawl when they are only asked to bend. Modi has taken a decisive step toward making the bureaucracy accountable for the policies of the Government. He met the senior bureaucrats, the Secretaries to Government without the presence of their departmental Ministers, and in this he has taken a leaf straight from the statecraft of Margret Thatcher. This move has been widely commended in India. Another innovation is that Narendra Modi has not permitted anyone associated with the earlier regime to be appointed on the personal staff of his ministers.

2 The emphasis on  Infrastructure and Investment is very clear and Narendra Modi is  expected to announce a series of measures to facilitate economic development. An Indian Sovereign Wealth Fund that will be traded in Wall Street is one measure that is bound to be a hit in the western world. Narendra Modi has already taken steps to bring in China as a partner  in India's Infrastructural development. China is expected to invest in at least four SEZs and that is really a huge step in the right direction. Again China is expected to partner with India in the development of high speed Railways.

3 The crisis in Iraq has been dealt with in a statesmanly manner. The envoys of all counties in the neighbourhood of Iraq have been requested to use their good offices in the speedy  repatriation of Indians stranded in Iraq. The fact that Narendra Modi has chosen to seek the support of West Asian powers suggests that he would like to seek regional solutions for regional problems. USA is the real cause of all the suffering in the region and cannot pretend that it is the solution to the problem it has created. Narendra Modi's trip to Bhutan, B2B, was a great success and if he follows this pattern, I am sure that Indian isolation in the South Asian region can be broken.

4 On the economic front, prices are still rising and food inflation is also high. Narendra Modi has instructed the Food and Agriculture Minister to crack down on hoarders and the State Governments have  been instructed to enforce the decision. There is the added challenge of a failed Monsoon. The Met Department has already said the the El Nino Effect would result in a 50% shortfall in the rains. The food security is being strengthened and imports will be done without fanfare in the press.

The Modi Sarkar inherited a broken economy and a wasteful government and there are signs of the situation turning around. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Tale of Two Vice Chancellors: Kalyani Mathivanan and Dinesh Singh are poor representatives of academic leadership

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Indian higher education is poor and the fact that not a single Indian University finds a place in the top 500 universities of the world is but a reflection of the abiding poverty that resides in the ports of our universities. I once had as the Vice Chancellor of the University where I teach a man who was dismissed for forgery and after he took charge he indulged in every crime that I used to refer to him as Chancellor of Vices. His virtues, if any were hidden from public view but his vices and women were put on full public display and the whole University Administration was made an accomplice to his misdeeds. He even sold the red sand from the University campus when the East Coast Road was constructed and he demanded a cut from every contract and a commission for every job/ appointment. With such singular characters around, I sometimes wonder that it is a miracle that Higher Education has survived, albeit is a shrunken form. To cut a long story short the quality of men and women who run our Universities is poor and their intellectual apparatus in serious state of disrepair.

Two Vice Chancellors have been in the news for all the wrong reason and their "achievements" illustrate the lowest level to which Universities in India have shrunk: Madurai-Kamraj University and University of Delhi. Dr Kalyani Mathivanan, the Vice Chancellor of Madurai-Kamraj University hails from a very powerful political family in that she is the daughter in law of Shri Nedunchezian a former Education Minister in Tamil Nadu. Without any academic background this lady was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of Madurai-Kamraj University. She was only a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English in a private college in Chennai before her appointment as VC. The Madras High Court has struck down her appointment on the ground that she is unqualified to hold the post as she did not fulfill the UGC mandated 10 years experience as Professor. This is not the first incompetent Vice Chancellor but the first to be told so by a judicial pronouncement and this judgement sets a precedent. There are Vice Chancellors in several universities who are equally incompetent but Dr Kalyani Mathivanan has earned the dubious distinction of having her appointment set aside. Unfortunately, the appointment of Vice Chancellors are made on the basis of extra academic considerations and I hope that the new Government of Hon'ble Narendra Modi sets a good example.

The case of Dr Dinesh Singh is different. He sought to reform Indian undergraduate education by introducing the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). Even though he was able to bull doze his way in the Academic Council of the University and the Executive Council there was opposition to the FYUP right from the inception of the programme. The UGC did not utter a word in protest then. After the new Government came to power the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) took up the matter and forced a roll back. For nearly 10 days there was chaos in Delhi University. The UGC did succeed in its effort of rolling back the FYUP. This raises a larger issue: Can political parties impose their decisions on the Universities thereby undermining the so called autonomy of the Universities.

The real reason why Universities are in a state of absolute disrepair is because the Governments appoint third rate politicians who use their positions to enrich themselves and govern the Institutions with total disregard for rule, procedures or even basic decency. I hope lessons are learnt from these two sordid incidents.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Intelligence Bureau Report on Indian NGOs and its implications

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India at the behest of the previous regime investigated the activities of nearly 50,000 NGOs and has submitted its Report. The contents are shocking and demand immediate attention. It is well known that Indian academics thrive under foreign patronage and the advent of post colonial theories and perspective have given added strength to the perception that India is best studied at the fault lines of Indian society--language, caste, identity and religion. This perception is quite in contrast to the methods adopted to study Western society which are predicated upon the efficacy of individual choice, rationality, and humanitarian world view. Mehrotra, a noted philosopher has critiqued this approach in his book Breaking India in which he has drawn attention to the political and strategic implications of these post colonial perspectives. Unfortunately the Indian academic and intellectual community has completely surrendered its independence of thought to Western models of social and political action that any critique of the dominant paradigm is dismissed as "communal'" reactionary" or "obscurantist" tendencies. It is left to the Intelligence Bureau to draw attention to the dangers posed by Western research on India, especially those that excavate at the fault lines of Indian society.

Indian democracy is really a wayward experiment in callous nationalism and anarchy. Under the garb of research on social sciences and environment western interests both economic and political have been able to insinuate themselves into the academic and political agenda of the country. It is worth noting that the National Security Agency in the USA ran unhindered a programme of maximum surveillance in the country without any obstruction except for some ritual protests from the civil libertarians whose protests only reinforce the notion of freedom in the USA. In India, on the other hand human rights groups have been quite successful in ensuring the release of naxalites who have been waging war against the Indian state and has claimed more than 50,000 lives in the past decade or so. The uproar over the Vinay Sen arrest shows that there is concerted effort to shield the ideologues of the naxalite movement and the prime movers are all well entrenched in the Indian University system. This sort of blatant misuse of academic rights and freedom is not possible in USA or for that matter any Western democratic country.  The large scale immigration of Bangladeshis from Bangladesh into Assam is causing social and political tension and in spite of legislation empowering the Government of India to detect and deport illegal migrants, the Government of India is unable to implement the law due to the propaganda of human rights NGOs whose only aim is to ensure that there is enough tension in the region. In the Garo Hills which has India's largest deposit of Uranium the environment based NGOs are ensuring that India does not mine the uranium and the country is forced to depend on the Nuclear Supply Group for its stock of uranium. Unfortunately  these pro active NGOs are very successful in their disruptive activities in India and they are not that effective in Western countries.

The funding received by the NGOs in violation of Indian law is a cause of serious concern. The Report makes it clear that during the course of the past decade or so more than one lakh crore rupees was received by Indian NGOs and with liberalization it has become possible for NGOs to maintain foreign accounts and operate them from India.Dr Udayakumar, an alumni of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, (this blogger took his Ph D in History from the same University) has received more than 40,000 US dollars and his obstructive agitation over the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam has become notorious in India and abroad. It is certain that NGOs are receiving funds for launching agitation and propaganda against the energy security policy of India.

Greenpeace, a well known NGO whose ship the Rainbow Warrior was bomber by French Intelligence Agency a few decades back has been involved in a slew of measures against the development of the economic infrastructure in the country. Any development results in displacement and that cannot be an excuse for the status quo. By attempting to organize the workforce involved in the Infrastructure projects in the country, the Greenpeace is aiming to sabotage the rather halting steps India is taking toward development especially in the road and power sector. It is worth noting that all these NGOs which have been studies receive their funds from USA and Western countries.

What is to be done:

1 All NGO funding must be routed through a National Agency which will disburse and monitor the use of foreign funds.
2 All political and agitational activities must be severely discouraged and if foreign funds are linked to agitational and political activities then the NGO must be proceeded against as per law. The corruption within the Indian system has made NGOs as lawless as the political parties.
3 Indian Government must set up a Organization to study the activities of the NGOs and
4 The audited statements must be submitted to the dedicated Organization and India must also monitor the flow of foreign funds.

The situation is alarming and action must be taken.