Thousands may lose jobs because of activists’ mania – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Thousands may lose jobs because of activists’ mania – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The Law of Karma is inexorable. Whatever is said and done, whether in our personal lives or in the public domain, has consequences. The unfortunate part is that often those who suffer the consequences are not the ones whose actions resulted in suffering. The feared, if not imminent, closure Vedanta Aluminium Limited’s (VAL’s) 1 million tonne alumina refinery in Orissa’s Kalahandi district seems to be following the eternal Law. The people who stand to lose their livelihoods are not the bleeding-heart activists, garrulous intellectuals, and scheming politicians who waged a war against the mining major but the local people who have benefited because of industrialization―and in whose name the war has been waged! Things have come to a pretty pass because of the acute shortage of bauxite. Problems for the refinery at Lanjigarh block have been mounting since August 2010 when the Union Environment Ministry withdrew the Stage II forest clearance. Thousands of jobs are at stake because of the ore supply crisis. It was a well-orchestrated show by the politician-intellectual complex (PIC), which is the bane of India. Intellectuals create a climate of opinion to promote big state measures and torpedo the private sector; politicians oblige intellectuals as such conventional wisdom helps them chalk out a policy regime that is conducive for rent-seeking and other shenanigans. Like vultures eager to loom on a ravaged site, our political masters always look for opportunities to wreak havoc and then offer succor to the sufferers. So, public intellectuals of all kinds conjure up myths. One of them is that the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc., which owns VAL, is a monster determined to exploit the poor tribals, devastate their environment, and trample little traditions and local creeds. I don’t know if Vedanta broke any laws or ill-treated people, but that is beside the point. For the opposition of intellectuals and activists to private enterprise is a priori and not fact-based: whatever Agarwal or any other businessman may do, professional radicals would oppose them anyway. Vedanta has lost investments and reputation over such allegations against it. The allegations became sexy at the London-headquartered company’s AGM in August 2009, in which cause carpers Arundhati Roy and Bianca Jagger...

FM tells Fairy Tales – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

FM tells Fairy Tales – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Our politicians believe that our credulity is limitless―just like their own unscrupulousness. So, they keep telling us fairy tales―and hope that we would believe in these. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has even given a timeframe for replenishing the public exchequer. According to his statement on Fiscal Roadmap and Consolidation, the fiscal deficit will (miraculously) come down to 3 per cent in 2016-17 from the 5.1 per cent (Budget 2012-12 projection). If wishes were horses, our politicians would make an excellent cavalry. But, unfortunately, that is not so; what matters in public finance is not the exquisiteness of vision but the tyranny of numbers. Chidambaram reiterates the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA’s) commitment to “the flagship programmes designed to help the poor and bring about inclusive development,” but these require money, and it is here that his government’s slip shows. The UPA regime is hell-bent on initiating entitlement schemes requiring huge funds and expanding the scope of the already existing ones. The food security legislation is waiting to take off; then there is talk about health programmes. The National Advisory Council (NAC), the circus surrounding Congress president Sonia Gandhi, keeps conjuring up entitlements. Worse, NAC fanatics are also involved in activities which are inimical to growth and development; this, apart from adversely affecting tax receipts, also perpetuates poverty and backwardness. Against this backdrop, it is only a miracle that can bring down the fiscal deficit to 3 per cent in five years. Like other personages of the ruling coalition, the finance minister blames extraneous factors for our economic problems: “In 2011-12, the slowdown in the world economy, lower growth in India, higher inflation, lower tax receipts and increased expenditure (including subsidies) led to considerable fiscal stress.” Not a word about the mischief of the NAC. Which is not surprising, as its members, being the confidantes of She-who-must-be-obeyed, have to be tolerated and not criticized. This helplessness leaves very little room for the person in-charge of the country’s exchequer. He can’t really act; he has to make others believe that he is acting. So, he appoints Vijay Kelkar, a former finance secretary. Kelkar, a typical technocrat, tells the government what it already knew. It was a...

Congress’ song and dance on Vadra – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Congress’ song and dance on Vadra – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

For how long would Congress leaders dodge uncomfortable questions about the party’s first family? Whether it is Congress president and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s medical expenses or her son-in-law Robert Vadra’s sweetheart deals with realty major DLF, party leaders have not come up with convincing answers to the allegations made against the Dynasty. Was Rs 1,880 crore spent on the illness of Sonia Gandhi, as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi alleged? Ruling party leaders merely denied the charge; they did not refute it by citing any authentic figures. Days after the controversy raged in the national Capital, it was the Prime Minister’s Office which officially rebutted Modi’s charge. The PMO said in a statement: “Media reports quoting certain quarters about massive expenses from the exchequer on the UPA Chairperson’s overseas visits have been brought to the notice of the Prime Minister’s Office. The reports quoting an expense of Rs 1,880 crore are untrue and misleading.” But again no details about the figures or the disease she suffered from. Now that India Against Corruption (IAC) taxman-turned-activist-turned-politician Avind Kejriwal and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan have alleged that Vadra got kickbacks worth hundreds of crores of rupees from DLF, again Congress leaders have gone ballistic. Especially as Sonia Gandhi herself asked her party members to defend her son-in-law. Who could have defied her order in a party which deems even her wish as its command? So, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, “All this looks planned before they launched their political party.” He was referring to Kejriwal’s forays into politics. Okay, Kejriwal & Co. are politicking, but does this mean that, just because of this fact, the allegations made by them have no substance? According to Bhushan, “Robert Vadra got a 10,000-sq-foot penthouse in DLF Aralia for Rs 85 lakh whose market value, when sold, was Rs 25 crore, and today its value is Rs 40 crore.” Are these facts or the figments of these activists’ imagination? Congress MP from Delhi Sandeep Dikshit said, “It is wrong to drag a person who is not in politics. He is a businessman and it is wrong to make these allegations.” What kind of argument is this? Should only...

Code of omertà breached – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Code of omertà breached – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh must be lauded for verbalizing the oligarchic mindset of the government led by his party. His recent statement that his government does not act against certain individuals, despite having “enough evidence” to do so, is allegorical of the age we live in―the age in which laws are proliferating and the rule of law is evaporating. Singh is unhappy that Arvind Kejriwal, by attacking Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra for the alleged land scandal, has broken the unwritten code among major political parties that the families of prominent leaders will not be dragged into the arena. “We don’t target people who are not in politics. This is ethics,” Singh said (A Congress leader talking about ethics is like Osama bin Laden eulogizing Mahatma Gandhi, but that is another story). He mentioned the case of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya: “Everyone has a private life. For example, Ranjan Bhattacharya was not in politics but he was living with Vajpayee. Have we ever said a word about Ranjan?” He went to say that his party and government have “enough evidence and reasons to say [that the family members of prominent BJP leaders are involved in unseemly activities] but we would not.” What Singh is saying is that the top leaders of the ruling party and the Opposition are members of an exclusive club who tend to ignore the misdeeds of each other’s kin. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Or still better: you save my ass and I’ll save yours. Evidently, it didn’t occur to Singh that his statement is tantamount to support for and being part of a political system which is the negation of the rule of law. Nor did it occur to him that he was favoring the rule by men over the rule of law―that is, a system which works as per the whims and fancies of the people in office and not according to the pre-established, objective legal framework. One need not be a political analyst to know that the spirit of the Indian Constitution is in favor of the rule of law and is against the rule...

Joseph Anton – A Memoir – By Harini Calamur

Joseph Anton – A Memoir – By Harini Calamur

When I was younger, and far more hard headed and terribly more cynical, i found the realm of Magic Realism to be strange. Maybe growing up with Hindi films with God in special appearance, or a dream sequence did that to me. I was not yet a teenager when Salman Rushdie’s first book Midnight’s Children was released. One summer vacation, I must have been around 13 maybe even 14, someone gifted us a copy. I tried reading it, and naturally, did not understand it. I trudged through it, hated it and went back to reading whatever it is that I was reading at that phase in life. Later on I discovered the works of Isabella Allende and her magnificent House of Spirits, Marquez and even the later works of Rushdie. But I never really got back to reading, what most critics considered to be his finest work,  Midnight’s children. A few months ago, i got an eBook version of Midnight’s children. But, before i could start it, Joseph Anton was released. Joseph Anton tells the story of Salman Rushdie and how his life is impacted by the fatwa declared by Ayotollah Khomeni. Joseph Anton is a the name under which Mr.Rushdie lived during the fatwa period – an amalgamation of the names of two authors he admired – Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov. The memoir is told in the third person. A form in which the author almost becomes a bystander in his own life. Things happen to him. It never seems that he is actively involved in any of them. Marianne Wiggins chases him, marries him and dumps him. Elizabeh West breezes into his life, loves him  and wants to have his baby. His friends pull out all stops to fight for him. His enemies pull out all stops to want to kill him. The press vilifies him. The politicians are unsure of him. The cops are there like a brick wall for him. And, in all this the protagonist Joseph Anton is almost an observer.  He participates sometimes, but the support cast are far more interesting than he is. Among the more fascinating characters is his father, Anis – who woke the genie of story telling in a young Salman,...

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