सांप्रदायिक हिंसा विधेयक: संशोधन हो. अधिनियमित हो. [ अभी !]


धर्मनिरपेक्ष लोकतंत्र के लिए इससे बड़ी शर्म की बात नहीं हो सकती कि धर्म, जाति, संप्रदाय और क्षेत्र के नाम पर अपने ही नागरिकों के लोकतांत्रिक अधिकारों का सार्वजनिक चीरहरण हो.  अत्यधिक संत्रस्त कर देने वाली मुजफ्फरनगर की हालिया घटना इसी का नमूना है. कमजोर अर्थव्यवस्था की पृष्ठभूमि में मुजफ्फरनगर में सांप्रदायिक दंगा- न केवल अर्थव्यवस्था के संकट को गहराने वाला है बल्कि देश के बाहर-भीतर लोगों को देश को ‘विफल राष्ट्र’ मानने पर मजबूर करता है. इस आग का असर महज पश्चिमी उत्तरप्रदेश के जिलों तक सीमित नहीं. इसने बागपत, उन्नाव, बुलंदशहर, बहराइच, बिजनौर, जैसे शहरों और उनके आसपास के इलाकों के लोगों के विचारों और प्रक्रियाओं को प्रभावित किया है. इससे बुरा क्या होगा कि ऐसे भड़काऊ सांप्रदायिक अशांति  का सिरा केवल असामाजिक तत्वों के हाथ होता है. देश के तमाम क्षेत्रों के विभिन्न सामाजिक समूहों में दरार की वजह यही हैं.
इस सामाजिक प्लेग के उन्मूलन की रामबाण दवा क्या है?  एक पुनर्लिखित शक्तिशाली सांप्रदायिक हिंसा विधेयक. लेकिन इस नए विधेयक के पारित होने से पहले राजनीतिक तंत्र में कुछ मौलिक परिवर्तनों की जरूरत है. एक दूसरे समुदाय के खिलाफ हिंसा- हटिया और रांची से मुजफ्फरनगर से गोधरा तक –निर्विवाद तौर पर भारतीय राजनीति की पुरानी खासियत रही है. सांप्रदायिक दंगों पर नजर डालें, ये पिछले छह दशकों से देश के लिए शर्मिंदगी की वजह हैं. लगभग हरेक की अपनी अजीब खासियत रही. ऐसी आग को हवा देना उन सियासी दलों के लिए फायदेमंद है जो उन धार्मिक या जाति समूह का मसीहा बताते हैं जो चुनाव में उनका वोटबैंक होते हैं. हम उन कुछ चुनिंदा देशों में से हैं जहां राजनीति और र्धर्म हाथ में हाथ ड़ाल कर काम करते हैं. कई देशों ने इनको अलग रखने की नीति अपना रखी है. आधुनिक राजनीतिक व्यवस्था के संदर्भ में लें तो  1802 में थॉमस जेफरसन ने चर्च को सत्ता से अलग रहने के महत्व को रेखांकित किया था. दरअसल इससे पूर्व अमेरिकी संविधान के प्रथम संशोधन (15 दिसंबर 1791 को अंगीकृत ) में,  स्पष्ट किया गया कि, ” कांग्रेस धर्म स्थापना संबंधी कोई कानून नहीं बनाएगी…” इसी तर्ज़ पर सांप्रदायिक हिंसा विधेयक को परिवर्तित कर कानून के रूप में पारित करें, सहायक कानूनों का धर्मनिरपेक्ष होना और उनके बारे में यह सुनिश्चित करना आवश्यक है कि वे किसी धर्म या समूह विशेष के पक्ष में नहीं हैं. मौजूदा सरकार ने काफी समय से सांप्रदायिक हिंसा विधेयक पर ध्यान नहीं दिया है. ऐसे कानून के अभाव में सांप्रदायिक दंगों के दौरान राज्य से संबंधित मामलों में केंद्र सरकार,केंद्रीय अधिकारी कार्रवाई करने यहां तक कि हस्तक्षेप करने के लिए भी अधिकृत नहीं होते. सांप्रदायिक हिंसा विधेयक विकट स्थितियों में केंद्र सरकार राज्य की आग बुझाने में सशक्त सहायक हो सकेगा. यही नहीं यह सांप्रदायिक सद्भाव, न्याय की स्थापना हेतु राष्ट्रीय प्राधिकरण कहे जाने वाले विशेष टास्क फोर्स की स्थापना और जब भी जरूरी हो इसकी सक्रियता सुनिश्चित करेगा. 
2013 अगस्त तक सांप्रदायिक हिंसा के 451 मामलों की तुलना  2012 की 410 घटनाओं से करें- क्या ये संख्याएं ऐसे महत्वपूर्ण विधेयक को तत्काल लाने की आवश्यकता जताने को काफी नहीं हैं?  वर्तमान में समारोहों और जुलूस के दौरान विषवमन को पुलिस और रैपिड एक्शन फोर्स इज़ाजत न होने से रोकने की कार्यवाई में असहाय पाता है.  उदाहरणत: मुंबई दंगों की जांच करने वाले श्रीकृष्ण आयोग (1992 ) ने कहा था, ‘पुलिस ने उन दंगाइयों और विषवमन करने वालों पर तब तक लगातार निगाह रखी थी जब तक कि 6 दिसंबर 1992 को बाबरी मस्जिद ढहा नहीं दी गई. दंगे के लिए जिम्मेदार लोगों को गिरफ्तार करने का यहां तक पुलिस को उनकी गतिविधियों पर सवाल उठाने तक के पर्याप्त अधिकार और अनुमति नहीं थी’. अपने मौजूदा स्वरूप में विधेयक को विशेष न्यायालय (मुकदमा चलाने के लिए) या पीड़ित को सशक्तीकरण, मुकदमे के दौरान गवाहों की सुरक्षा देने वाला होना चाहिए. लेकिन यदि यह विधेयक ‘अल्पसंख्यक’ और ‘बहुसंख्यक’ के बीच विभाजन रेखा खींचता है तो यह उसकी सबसे बड़ी गलती होगी’ : और यही वह जगह है जहां मैं ‘चर्च (पढें: धर्म) और सत्ता से अलगाव की अवधारणा को लाना चाहता हूं. किसी भी परिस्थिति में एक धर्मनिरपेक्ष देश को किसी धार्मिक समूह या धर्म विशेष के लिए अलग से मुकदमा चलाने, विशेष कानून अथवा प्रणाली नहीं बनाने चाहिए. इस विधेयक को धर्म (या किसी भी तरह के)  भेदभाव से मुक्त तथा निष्पक्ष रखें तो वास्तव में जिस उद्देश्य हेतु इसकी अवधारणा तैयार की गई थी उसकी सेवा में यह एक लंबा रास्ता तय करेगा. धर्म या जाति के आधार पर विभेद करने वाले प्रावधान और कानून अपने आप में गैर धर्मनिरपेक्ष और सांप्रदायिक हैं तथा केवल राजनीतिक हितसाधन के उपकरण और असामाजिक तत्वों को प्रोत्साहन देने वाले हैं.
 हमने कहां से शुरुआत की थी?  धर्म और कानून अलग अलग  हों, सुनिश्चित करें कि ऐसा कानून जो धर्म (विशेषत: अपराध के लिए) और जाति के आधार पर व्यक्तियों में भेद करे ऐसे  कानूनों को भारतीय हवा में सांस लेने की अनुमति नहीं हो. किसी भी हालात में जरायम जायज़ नहीं है. बहुसंख्यक और अल्पसंख्यक धाराओं को हटाने के बाद और हर पीड़ित के लिए चाहे वे किसी धर्म, जाति, संप्रदाय और क्षेत्र के हों उनके लिए उत्कृष्ट प्रावधानों को शामिल करने के पश्चात इस सांप्रदायिक विधेयक को शीघ्र ही पारित किया जाना चाहिए.

अरिंदम चौधरी

IPL – caught at silly point!


The IPL typically represents media frenzy, glamour and excessive of vices that supersede the sporting domain of the event; the event is taking cricket lovers for a ride as the glitterati topple the sporting paradigm of the game of cricket. IPL is packaged in a way that even those population segments that might not be hardcore cricket fans are glued to their television sets allured by the clamour of celebrities, glamour and the hysteria that goes with it. The money-spinning potboiler that the IPL is, it undoubtedly speaks of a very efficient and hot business model with all the right proportions of the marketing mix embedded in it. But with the largesse comes the cost. And the cost is the game of cricket itself. The unearthing of betting scandals, players’ complicity in spot-fixing, underworld kingpins’ involvement and monetary misappropriation are all turning the premise of what was supposed to be a perfectly innocent game – the game of the gentlemen.

The IPL model follows (or at least was supposed to follow) the EPL, NBA and NFL models. They are all professional sporting events with billions of dollars involved within them. However, the critical point to note here is that they are not primarily business models converted to sporting events. But precisely the opposite! The EPL and NBA are inter-club tournaments where the clubs represent sporting tradition and loads of sporting pedigree. Their sporting heritage speaks volumes of their commitment towards the sports they represent and the same is evidenced within the domain of their respective games and tournaments. The IPL, on the other hand, has become something more than a cricket tournament, but something less than a major world league. It is a new career option for the many hopefuls but no more bears the inherent spirit associated with cricket.

From the very onset, the event has been mired in a spate of scams and controversies. It’s a far cry from the supposed role-models EPL and NBA. On the one hand, where sporting leagues internationally are trying to adopt more of a socio-capitalist model and are increasing their accountability towards the sporting world and society at large by promoting sports and holistic development across the world, the IPL has unfortunately gone the crony way! Obviously, the lack of a free-market structure has given IPL and its stakeholders all the possible avenues to distort the essence of a business model and still stay in the market. What else can better describe this than the ownership pattern of the league? There has always been a link between IPL and BCCI with respect to ownership and management. In the beginning, Lalit Modi served as the Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League and also was the Vice President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)! Similarly now, Mr. N. Srinivasan, who is the President of BCCI, concurrently is the owner of Chennai Super Kings! Such ownership not only questions the verity and transparency of the system but also allows the promoters to misuse official power and positions. It’s like the Chairman of the Football Association (FA) owning a club in EPL; or David Stern, the Commissioner of NBA, also having management control in USA Basketball, the official basketball association. And with recent reports confirming that BCCI Chief N Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan is being questioned by the police for his alleged spot-fixing role and his deep connection with the now arrested Vindoo Dara Singh, another alleged spot-fixer, this complicity of BCCI in IPL mismanagement has come completely out in the open.

In the age of Internet, it is very difficult to curb the moral plague threatening to engulf the integrity of sports in general. What is most disconcerting is that the malaise finds its base in Asia at large and particularly in India. South Asian betting chains now are not merely restricted to the subcontinent but are spreading their tentacles to the European and American sporting markets as well.

What one has to realize is that the reason the intensity of betting in India far exceeds that in Europe or North America is not because those countries are full of noble souls but because of a much better tackling of the phenomena by authorities. The governing bodies of sporting fraternities in Europe and in America have kept a close track of and control on the impending danger that global betting rackets pose to their sports. In EPL and NBA, for example, there are specialized cells of betting managers whose job is to keep track of the players, referees and umpires with data and analysis to insulate the games from betting operators. These cells have set up monitoring systems that even keep tabs on international transactions that players and other stakeholders make. Moreover, the law enforcement agencies in these countries are more efficient and credible and any hint of money-laundering is addressed with immediate action. The active combination of public authorities – like police, crime branch, detective departments and monitoring apparatus of the local clubs in concert with sporting bodies – has been instrumental in checking financial scams and misappropriations to acceptable limits.

However, in IPL, neither do we have specialized machinery for controlling betting and fixing within the game nor do designated public authorities have decent track records. Hence the nosedive. In the backdrop of such betting scandals cropping up every now and then, these sorts of checks need to be set up, supported by an all out overdrive to cleanse the system. However, just setting up monitoring mechanisms won’t work unless they are backed up by sound logistics of law enforcement agencies and judiciary. The fear of prosecution is the greatest deterrent to such crimes and if the prosecution is weak, the scaling down of betting rackets will be on shallow grounds. Sporting crime is a crime per se and a holistic overhaul of crime control has to include the issues within IPL too. Betting rackets are often found to have their primary links within the hierarchy of underworld networks, like the D-Company. If these people are allowed to roam around and do ‘business’, there is every likelihood that they will dig their heels deeper into high profile money-spinning events like IPL. After all, it’s a lucrative business and easy money; and if they can escape the hands of laws quite easily, why wouldn’t they indulge into it?

Barring Hansie Cronje, all other players complicit in spot fixing were and are from the sub-continent. Mohammad Azharuddin, Salim Malik, Manoj Prabhakar and Ijaz Ahmed are cases in point. It is because both the players and the betting agents know how to escape prosecution, that they get the required guts to commit the crime. However, if a player is from UK or Australia, their domestic jurisprudence is considerably stringent and that itself acts as a deterrent. In US or UK, the host nations for NBA and EPL, those days are gone when the mafia used to rule the roost. So chances of players getting influenced by mafia gangs from a distant country are often limited because a close physical proximity is required to build trust, rapport and influence over players. Thus, the probability of a malicious effect on the games in US and UK is curtailed and even clobbered down with judicious micro-level checks.

In US, corruption in sports is curtailed by their two decades’ old law that ensures ‘competitive integrity’ and prevents sports related crime. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) not only bans sports gambling but also keeps the integrity of sports quite high. In Europe, respective governments have treated match fixing as a priority area of concern due to the national image and integrity of sports getting affected due to the same. France has amended their criminal code to include spot-fixing as a form of criminal corruption; so has Sweden, while Greece has introduced new statutes where the convicted offenders in match fixing may get up to ten years of incarceration. Similar laws related to corruption in sports are laid down in most European countries. Even in other continents, like Australia, the law ministries have developed match-fixing laws that would allow them to send culprits to prison for a minimum of ten years. Australia has also recently incepted a specialised National Integrity of Sport Unit to monitor activities of stakeholders and “to protect the integrity of sport in Australia from threats of doping, match-fixing and other forms of corruption”. In the same lines, Russia is considering a law which would permit them to criminally prosecute individuals involved in match fixing and related activities. On the contrary, the National Sports Development (NSD) Bill proposed in India for greater accountability and transparency in sports, has been rejected by the cabinet. This Bill’s rejection provides another leeway and latitude to slanted players and their betting masters.

Thus, IPL’s attempt to be cash-rich has clearly paved the way for the loss of sportsman’s spirit and the integrity in sports per se. And that’s not the case with NBA, NFL and EPL. They have maintained their sporting character and have kept the game above their monetary worth, something that IPL couldn’t. Their respective politicians, bureaucrats and others in the corridors of power were not allowed to enter the cash rich tournaments. And neither were global underworld top dogs allowed to wield influence on players and the administrators. On the other hand, the series of spot-fixing scams in IPL and the involvement of underworld characters and the likes is a vivid display of how the event has failed to maintain its sheen and has got reduced to an amateur sporting event where all possible stakeholders are running after small bucks rather than comprehending the big picture. Undoubtedly, this would make it tough, rather impossible, for IPL to join the leagues of elite games like NBA or EPL, especially in terms of credibility, inspiration, elitism and social accountability. Thus, India, not only for IPL, but also for all the sporting events, needs a dedicated and centralized body for monitoring sports activity in tandem with local investigative agencies, independent and anonymous law enforcing units and also with international investigative bodies. Till then, every time a player scratches his head or tucks his towel, the viewer sitting back home would presume the match to be fixed and manipulated!

His Last Chance


For almost a decade, Dr Manmohan Singh has failed to deliver the goods when it comes to decent economic policy making governed by common sense. Given his background and past experience, this has come as an unpleasant surprise to all Indians. This coming budget is perhaps his last opportunity to stamp his authority and secure his place in history. He can still remain silent; but his policies must do the talking for him

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI |  New Delhi
“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
“Leadership is about solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded that you do not care. Either is a failure of leadership.”
“This light of history is pitiless; it has a strange and divine quality that, luminous as it is, and precisely because it is luminous, often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; out of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one attacks and punishes the other, the darkness of the despot struggles with the splendor of the captain. Hence a truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon violated diminishes Alexander; Rome enslaved diminishes Caesar; massacred Jerusalem diminishes Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. Woe to the man who leaves behind a shadow that bears his form.”
This is the thirteenth time in 13 years that I am starting the presentation of my Alternative Budget. Yes, my friends and dear readers, it has been 13 years since I first presented a set of suggestions to the then Union finance minister and branded it as an Alternative Budget (of course Dr. Malay Chaudhuri – the Founder Director of IIPM – had been writing budget alternatives for many years before that and our jointly authored book, The Great Indian Dream, also deals with the same in a great detail). There have been a few, rare occasions when finance ministers have unveiled proposals that have made me hopeful about the future of India. On most occasions, the budgets have been a series of fatuous statements and flogged-to-death proposals that have done virtually nothing to make a difference to the fundamental problems that confront India. But I don’t need to repeat and rehash a list of those proposals since every Indian with some knowledge of economics and some common sense knows that budgets have been a spectacular and persistent failure when it comes to solving India’s problems.
But there is something poignant about 2013. Both the headline of the story: His Last Chance and the three quotes I have borrowed hold a particular significance for our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. When he became prime minister in 2004 after Sonia Gandhi refused the pleadings of her Congress sycophants, Dr Singh came with unparalleled experience in matters pertaining to administration and economics. After all, wasn’t he the man who uncaged both the Indian tiger and the elephant in 1991 through a series of bold and path breaking measures in his first Budget as finance minister? Wasn’t he the man who had already served the Government and the nation in a large variety of administrative duties? After all, wasn’t he the ultimate insider who knew how the country is run and what bold steps were required to propel India towards a sustained 10 per cent per year GDP growth rate? Most important, wasn’t he the best person then who understood how sloth, red tape and a complete lack of accountability in the bureaucracy and the administration were crippling a million Indian dreams? Was it any surprise then that many of us (now foolishly in hindsight) expected at least some substantial steps ahead – if not a 1991 like revolution – in the management of the country and the economy?
Is it any surprise that we have been bitterly disappointed and feel completely let down? Allow me to remind you of the first quote in this write up, attributed famously to Tony Blair. It talks about leadership being the art of saying no. Dr Singh has repeatedly failed to say no. He has failed to say no to people like A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi who are alleged to have indulged in unprecedented corruption. He has failed to say no to people like Lalu Yadav who used their clout in 2005 to topple the democratically elected government of Nitish Kumar. He has failed to say no to some really crazy and harebrained schemes cooked by Jholawala members of the National Advisory Council. In almost all cases that really matter for the future of India, Dr Singh has failed to say no. He has repeatedly failed this test of leadership.Now let’s go to the second quote, given by Colin Powell. Using military analogy, it says that soldiers will not come to you with their problems if they think you are incapable of solving them and if they think you don’t care. Dr Singh, you have clearly proven to be incapable and you have been so tight-lipped, reticent and mysteriously silent over the last almost nine years that none of us know exactly how much you care. The third quote, from Victor Hugo, is the most compelling and devastating. It talks about how history judges the legacy of leaders. There is no doubt that Dr Singh still carries the aura of unimpeachable integrity and personal financial honesty in public life. But of what use is that integrity and honesty when history will not only judge the UPA as the most corrupt, but also the most arrogant, unresponsive and repressive when it comes to dealing with opposition of all hues? Let me give you another analogy. Imagine Dr Singh as the principal of a college. As principal and an individual, his integrity is beyond question. So is his experience in managing the affairs of the college. But what if other teachers in the college are openly selling exam question papers to rich students for a profit, and even selling off furniture, library books and laboratory equipment belonging to the college? Of what use is your personal integrity to students of that college, except the privileged few and the criminally inclined who can bribe or browbeat their way through? Sad, but most Indian citizens are like hapless students of that college. Now, they have begun to question both his integrity and his timidity.

And yet, common sense says that there must be a lot of intelligence, a lot of pride, a lot of self respect and a sense of duty in that man. Surely he knows that he will be the longest serving Prime Minister of India after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Surely he knows that both of them, as also P. V. Narashima Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee have left behind legacies that may be controversial but powerful legacies nevertheless. Narasimha Rao’s track record will remain tarred with the Babri demolition and the Harshad Mehta scam. But history will judge him, and not Manmohan Singh, as the leader behind the path breaking economic reforms of 1991. The track record of Vajpayee will be tainted with the 2002 riots in Gujarat and his government’s capitulation to terrorists in the 1999 hijacking. But history will judge him, and not Manmohan Singh as the leader who took relations with America to a new strategic level? Does Dr Singh want to be a Prime Minister who served for ten successive years and failed to leave behind a durable legacy? Surely, there must be some ego in the man, some desire to be remembered fondly, if not very favourably by history.

And it is not as if he does not have options and choices. Let’s first eliminate the options that he doesn’t have and those he shouldn’t exercise. In the first category comes politics. Now, even a school student knows that Dr. Singh is Prime Minister because Sonia Gandhi gave him the job. All of us know he remains PM only as long as Sonia Gandhi desires so or thinks it is in her and her family and party’s interests. So disengaged has this Prime Minister been from the rough and rumble of politics that he has chosen not to contest Lok Sabha elections. Do remember: even the late I. K. Gujral, who was himself no grassroots politician, contested Lok Sabha elections and won when he became Prime Minister.

This single act of running away from battle will forever mar the legacy of Dr. Singh in the political arena. In any case, with Rahul Gandhi being anointed as the next leader of the party, there is not much that Dr Singh can do. He also knows that he will not be the Prime Minister again even if the UPA somehow conjures up some magic and wins another term in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Perhaps that awareness has been motivating him to try and leave a legacy behind in another arena. Put simply, Dr. Singh wants to be the Prime Minister who overcame all obstacles and actually managed to normalize relations with Pakistan. That has been his driving motto since 2009 and he and his advisors and band of peaceniks have offered every possible olive branch to Pakistan. They have actually bent over backwards to make Pakistan a normal neighbour, if not an ally and a friend. But like all peaceniks before this bunch, they have repeatedly failed in their efforts. And they will keep failing as long as the “deep state” in Pakistan remains convinced that it can control Pakistan as long as India remains the eternal enemy. Dr. Singh must not forget that the United States will disengage from Afghanistan in 2014. And he must not forget bitter lessons of history. The insurgency in Kashmir started just a few months after the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in the late 1980s. Many Jehadis who were busy in Afghanistan and the north west of Pakistan then turned their attention and energy into liberating Kashmir. Something similar is bound to happen in 2014.So I beg of Dr Singh to abandon his foolish dreams of leaving behind a legacy of good relations with Pakistan. India simply cannot afford such romantic folly.

So what options does Dr. Singh really have? The signs have been visible since the summer of 2012 and he must grab the opportunity with both hands. Since 2004, Sonia Gandhi and her band of Jholawala members of the NAC have been dictating economic policy. The policy has been simple: just keep dishing out welfare schemes for the poor and to hell with common sense economics. I hate saying this: but not a single major step to accelerate economic growth has been taken by the UPA government since 2004. But the chickens have started coming home to roost. Our GDP growth rate, which remained mostly in excess of 8 per cent a year during the first decade of this century, has crashed. Latest estimates indicate that the GDP growth rates fiscal 2012-13 will be a dismal 5.4 per cent. Almost all analysts are unanimous in saying that the growth rate in the next year will also be around 5 per cent. Let us do some basic number crunching to realize how devastating this decline in growth rate has been. I have always maintained through 13 years of my alternative budgets, my books and other write-ups and speeches that the Indian economy can grow in excess of 10 per cent a year on a sustained basis. Basically we are missing out on about 5 per cent of GDP growth that we could have achieved. The GDP of India is now at about $2 trillion. 5 per cent of that works out to $100 billion. So in just two years, the Indian economy has lost potential GDP – or income – worth $200 billion. That kind of money would have financed most welfare schemes for an entire generation. The lower growth has also resulted in lower than expected tax collections. It has also resulted in unmanageable and unsustainable fiscal deficits. Luckily for India, Sonia Gandhi seems to have realized in 2012 that there simply is no money with the government to throw at poor people in the name of welfare schemes named after members of her family. This realization resulted in the half hearted attempts at reform that were carried out in the second half of 2012 and subsequently by raising the price of diesel and LPG, by allowing FDI in retail and civil aviation and recently by hiking railway fares. I have been crying myself hoarse for about 13 years to the effect that diesel prices must be increased to a point where it is no longer subsidized. I have been repeatedly saying that a diesel price hike will not lead to massive inflation. I am happy to see that members of the UPA government are now taking pains to explain that very logic.

Quite clearly, now that Sonia Gandhi seems to have given the green signal, there is a window of opportunity for Dr. Singh to finally do what he was expected to do since 2004. And do remember, the return of P. Chidambaram as Union Finance Minister after Pranab Mukherjee became the President was another signal by Sonia Gandhi that she is ok with pragmatic and liberal economic policies. My humble request to both Dr. Singh and Chidambaram is not to let this golden opportunity be missed by presenting yet another budget loaded with welfare schemes for the poor and populist measures aimed at the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. By all means dole out welfare schemes; I have repeatedly stressed their importance in the last five or six alternative budgets. But please also take steps and announce measures that will take the Indian economy back to the path of sustained high growth.
Back in 2008, when I presented my Alternative Budget and titled it as Ban the Budget, I had argued that budgets had become meaningless exercises because finance ministers and governments were not leveraging the budget to make fundamental changes. I had argued that the budget is such a powerful instrument in an economy like India that it can actually fundamentally change the nature and quality of governance in the country. Just recall how just one budget presented by Dr. Singh as Finance Minister in 1991 changed the destiny of the Indian economy. Also remember that for all its flaws and all the corruption and plunder, the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has actually resulted in big increases in real wages and real consumption in Indian villages. So the first step is to identify those selected policy changes or budget allocations that can make fundamental changes.
This year, the fundamental steps needed are crystal clear. In 2009, I had created a furore by presenting my Alternative Budget with a headline: Khao Aur Khilao Budget. Apart from being thought provoking and provocative, my purpose was to highlight the fact that how poor governance and corruption at every level had negated all the good intentions – if there were any – and all the policies of the government. Corruption can kill dignity and kill dreams with impunity. Just recall the horrific gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi that sparked such a huge nationwide outrage.

The simple fact is that the dastardly crime was the direct consequence of corruption. First, there is corruption in the transport department of Delhi that allows such predatory, unlicensed and unregulated buses to run by taking bribes. Second, there is corruption in the Police department where it is the norm for traffic policemen to take bribes and allow unlicensed buses to roam freely. The hard fact is: the disgrace of December 16 would not have happened if corrupt transport department officials had not let that bus run illegal services. And if corrupt traffic cops had stopped and seized the illegal bus instead of taking a bribe and letting it ferry passengers at will. This is not just the story of Delhi; it is the story of every state, city, town and village in this country.
And why is corruption so rampant and why is no one able to make a dent on it despite so many pious proclamations? The reason is that our judicial and administrative systems have virtually collapsed. In 2011, the title of my Alternative Budget was A Budget for Rahul Gandhi. Please allow me to quote at some length from that document to get a feel of what I have in mind when I say this is the last chance for Dr. Manmohan Singh.
“But before I start presenting my budget proposals, let me share something that we all know. Corruption is flourishing in India because the corrupt are more likely to get away with it. It is deeply sad to note that 1 per cent is allocated by the central and state budgets for the judiciary. In the Ninth Five Year Plan, the government allocated Rs.385 crore for the judiciary. That works out to 0.078 per cent of total plan expenditure … In the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the allocation was “generously” raised to Rs.1,470 crore. As a percentage of total plan expenditure, things haven’t improved at all. These figures are so laughably small that I often wonder how the judiciary functions at all”. In the same document, I had quoted statistics which indicated that USA had ten times more judges per million people than India. It is a similarly depressing story when it comes to police forces in India. Let me quote from the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2010: “Thus the civil police strength in position was 75.6 per cent of the sanctioned strength and 24.4 per cent of the posts were vacant … the proportion of women civil police to total civil police was 1:20”. There were more shocking revelations. The total expenditure on police forces in India is less than 0.5 per cent of GDP. India has just about 140 policemen for every lakh of population, with the numbers dipping to below 70 in the poorer states. In Europe and the United States, they usually have at least 400 policemen for every lakh of population.

So my main proposal in this last chance budget and my suggestion to Dr. Singh and Chidambaram is crystal clear. In my 2011 budget, I had proposed an allocation of Rs.6,000 crore each year for five consecutive years to increase the strength of the judiciary and its effectiveness. But there is huge momentum and popular support right now for drastic and dramatic reforms in our judicial and administrative machinery.

Apart from the above as I have often stated in the past, the only way to reduce corruption in India is to make the judiciary more effective. Till the corrupt remain convinced that they can either escape punishment or delay it indefinitely, corruption will continue to increase. The one and only solution for corruption is a functional judicial system. Corruption and greed are globally prevalent, yet it touches far less lives in the USA than in India simply because the American judicial system is functional and ours is dysfunctional. As I just wrote, in America, they have ten times more judges per million people than in India. If we are to try and achieve such standards we need to have about 100,000 more judges. It sounds huge but is surely achievable in a span of five years. And to have 20,000 additional judges per year, we have to budget for an additional amount of approximately Rs.6,000 crores per year, assuming that the expenses around a judge and his office assistants put together is definitely not more than Rs.30,00,000 per year.
In the event, I propose that expenditure on judiciary and police forces be increased to 1.5 per cent each of GDP. But as we have often seen, merely increasing expenditure is never a solution in corrupt India. I would set aside a minimum of Rs 6,000 crore to immediately set up special fast track courts that would try cases, specially those of corruption. I would hire experienced lawyers and judges who have retired recently to wear their robes again. These courts would try corruption cases against senior government officials and politicians. Any member of the public can use the RTI Act to gather incriminating information and file complaints against officials in such cases. Once activists, citizens and whistle blowers bring forth their formal complaints in front of these special fast track courts, there would be no requirement of obtaining a sanction to prosecute such officials and politicians from the “appropriate authority”. The courts would be required to complete the hearings and deliver their verdicts in one year. If convicted, the politicians and senior officials must be forever barred from public life and all their assets seized. In vase of frivolous complaints or complaints meant to harass, severe punishments must be imposed on the complainants so that only genuine complainants and whistle blowers are encouraged to go after the corrupt. But the operative word here is senior officials and politicians. If a bunch of senior officials and politicians are convicted by these special fast track courts, a huge message will go out to all corrupt people in the country. Even if all such special fast track courts manage 100 notable convictions in a year, they would have done their job. It is only the fear of punishment and a jail sentence that will deter the corrupt in this country. And through these special fast track courts, the accused will get all opportunities to defend themselves and their actions. And please do not say that India does not have the resources to spare Rs.6,000 crores a year to set up and operate these special fast track courts on an immediate basis. If former President Pratibha Patil can spend Rs.18 crores on just one foreign trip, surely there is enough money going around to implement this decision.

This one decision will also help Dr. Singh, Chidambaram and the UPA with their so called trump card of direct cash transfers based on the Aadhar or the Unique Identity System using biometric technology. In my 2009 Khao Aur Khilao Budget that generated so much controversy, I had proposed the allocation of Rs.2,000 crores for a unique identity card scheme that will immensely help poor Indians. It is a rare suggestion of mine that has actually been implemented because the former CEO of Infosys Nandan Nilekani was actually hired to lead an effort to deliver such smart cards to all Indians. Like everything else in India, there seem to be many glitches with even this smart card scheme. But I firmly believe that when our special fast track courts actually start delivering guilty verdicts, we would see many glitches and leakages of this scheme actually disappear.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the other proposals that I have in mind for Dr. Singh and Chidambaram. You can access my last alternative budget on the website of our publication The Sunday Indian (http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/a-budget-for-rahul-gandhi/71/30890/) and get a fairly good idea of my suggestions over the years in the section titled ‘Key Resource Allocations’ and onwards. In any case, I have been repeating them for more than 10 years. But I must mention a few that are not only close to my heart, but also critical for the future of India. In 2010, I had presented a budget with the headline: A Budget for Three Idiots. The central theme of that Budget was primary and secondary education. India will never reap any demographic dividend unless there is a drastic overhaul in our education system. Apart from a big increase in budget outlays for education, I had proposed an inventive scheme for school teachers and principals whose students delivered excellent results. My proposal, was simple: a Rs.1 lakh a year cash inventive for teachers in whose schools students not only “passed” to the next level but also remained in the school till their “board exams”. Economics is based upon common sense and incentives, and I am convinced that these incentives will encourage teachers to actually attend schools and teach their students. In the same budget, I had also proposed that NREGA funds be utilized to build actual schools in villages with concrete buildings and bathrooms. This would have a generational impact on the education system. I had also proposed a massive increase in scholarships to all poor students who want to pursue college or professional studies after passing out from school. Smart cards based on biometric technology will come in very handy in identifying these students.
The surprising thing is: these are very doable things. I mean, we can plan to send an Indian to the moon by 2020; surely we can do these simple and basic things. So my request to Dr. Manmohan Singh is very simple and very clear: for nine years, you have carried on with the tag of being a non performer and a non leader. You also know that there will be no more budgets with you as Prime Minister after this 2013 exercise since the one presented in 2014 before the Lok Sabha elections would be a vote on account. I appeal not just to your sense of duty and patriotism but also to your sense of history and your ego. This really is the last chance for you to redeem yourself.

The Modi and secular media tussle is a fight between Bharat supported by the common man and India supported by the Nehruvian Network!


Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, The Sunday IndianARINDAM CHAUDHURY | New Delhi,

I had too busy a schedule and was not planning to watch television when the Gujarat election results were supposed to be declared. But my colleagues insisted that I must watch at least some news channel, even if just for entertainment! So I sat in front of the TV; and while surfing channels, I saw a lot of important journalists and analysts on Times Now and decided to stay there for a while.

Honestly, I could not but help a Bangla expletive escape my mouth when I heard what some experts were saying. One was saying that Narendra Modi and his electoral victory was against the Constitution of India. Another was saying how the Gujarat verdict goes against the spirit of India and how the Idea of India is in danger. I always thought free and fair elections were a celebration of the Constitution, democracy and the Idea of India. So what was all this nonsense talk all about? The more I watched and the more I followed analysts in other news channels, I realized something simple: these individuals were very unhappy that Modi had won and they clearly would have preferred his loss. I also realized they hate him in a very irrational manner. For example, one person went on and on about how Modi is bad because he encourages a personality cult that revolves around Modi. Interestingly, nobody in that particular news panel found time to mention how more than 60 welfare schemes of the government are named after the Gandhi family. If that is not personality cult, what is? Someone else in some channel said that Modi is dictatorial and doesn’t allow any leader or voice to prosper under him. Then I thought, what is Congress if not dictatorial? Can any chief minister of any Congress-ruled state defy the central leadership the way Modi has repeatedly done? What will be the Congress minister’s fate if that happens? For that matter, I honestly think that at least some of the young Congress leaders – ranging from Sachin Pilot to Jyotiraditya Scindia to Milind Deora and some others – are better equipped to handle India than Rahul Gandhi. But not a single panelist in any TV channel was saying any of this.
So let us sum up something: the first thing is that most English media types absolutely hate Narendra Modi. That is all right. Even journalists have every right to hate someone. But I wondered how Modi’s victory could destroy India, the way so many senior journalists were complaining. So I asked my colleagues to note down the reasons why the English journalists hate Modi. The results were interesting. The first reason was that Modi is anti-Muslim and communal. The related reason was that Modi has apparently never apologized for the 2002 riots. The second reason was that he is interested only in projecting himself. The third reason was that he is supposedly a dictator and a fascist. And the fourth reason was that his claims of a developed Gujarat are, the journalists claim, hollow.

Just look at the irony of it. If Modi campaigns on the basis of identity, he is immediately branded a fascist cum communal monster. If he campaigns on the basis of his track record of development, a mountain of data is immediately forwarded that says that either other states are better performers than Gujarat or that Gujarat performs very badly on social indicators. Just figure this out. I do not recall any major journalist or media outlet pointing out the so-called poor indicators of social development in Gujarat till some time ago. But the moment Modi announced that his entire election campaign will be based on his track record of good governance and development, there were hundreds of stories about how Gujarat is not as developed as he claims. My colleague Sutanu forwarded me an article written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express. I read that and realized I am not alone in wondering why the English media is irrationally hating Modi.

The fact is: it is a fight between India and Bharat. Narendra Modi for me represents Bharat while the English media represents India. Why am I saying it? The simple reason is that I am convinced that the English media is now a voice of the old feudal India where just a few people claim to know what is best for both India and Indians. On the other hand, Modi represents the other India – Bharat, if you will – which is deeply frustrated by the monopoly that the English media and its secular warriors exercise over information and messaging. The difference is stark: The English media absolutely blasts Modi when he talks about Sunanda Pushkar being a girlfriend of Shashi Tharoor. But even women journalists do not protest when Sanjay Nirupam behaves in the most despicable manner with Smriti Irani on live TV. The kind of people that Modi represents understand this hypocrisy and this brazen double-standard. And if you go by election results, they are not impressed. But this is a genuine divide and there is already a war between Bharat and India over what India is.
Narendra Modi
What is India? If you go by my definition of English media, India is an artificial country that should not have happened. India is, for them and their cheerleaders like Arundhati Roy, a country so ridden with a million mutinies that it has no hope of survival. Most of the English media seems resigned to India being an ungovernable country where religion, caste and ethnic identity matter more than humanity. Besides, most people who subscribe to the English media world-view have a 67-year-old Nehruvian Network to fall back upon if required. In stark contrast, the people who genuinely support Modi – I am not talking about his new converts who are the educated middle class – are people who would be uncomfortable speaking in English even though they are enormously successful in their own lives. You can see them easily dismissed in English TV channel debates when more articulate English-speaking types take over the floor.

I mentioned something called a Nehruvian Network just a while ago. What do I mean by it? I think the Nehruvian Network is something that has been working in India since before 1947. It is basically a set of ideas and people who, deep down, think that the system set up by the British was the best. They are the ultimate Brown Sahebs. They will write or propagate anything that comes out in the media in the West. They love to bash India through novels and books. They are absolutely convinced that Indians need a bit of civilization. They snort and snigger when a politician like Uma Bharti or Mayawati or Modi rises up from nowhere, proudly displays his or her lack of English communication skills and yet manages to persuade voters to do the right thing. The Nehruvian Network cannot simply understand why such low-class types become powerful. You see, things were so much better when only children of politicians and bureaucrats who spoke impeccable English were there to dictate the agenda for the nation.

My colleague Sutanu forwarded me a tweet in which some journalist, just before Diwali, had actually abused Ram in the most offensive and disgraceful manner. Sutanu told me that nothing will happen due to that tweet and no riots will occur. For me, that kind of abuse of a deity whom Hindus revere as a God is extremely provocative. Actually, nothing happened. But then I realized, irrespective of all this, Modi will forever be held guilty for 2002, even if the Supreme Court says he is not culpable.

That is because the gulf between India and Bharat will never cease. I attend parties where my friends talk derisively about ‘those low-class people’. They have absolutely no sense of guilt that they are describing fellow Indians. For them, India is where and how they live. But the problem is, people like Narendra Modi are actually threatening this feudal cartel of the privileged. You see, no, not even Atal Bihari Vajpayee threatened this cozy equation. No wonder, the English media hates Modi so intensely.

This battle between India and Bharat started in the 1980s. It has thrown up many heroes and heroines who fight for India. Modi is the first person who is fighting aggressively on behalf of Bharat and he seems to be winning. Imagine an India where Congress chamchas, JNU intellectuals and their fellow travelers won’t have access to power in Delhi! No wonder, the secular English media hates Namo so passionately.

I think this will be the most interesting political battle in India since the days of Mahatma Gandhi. He settled that one in favor of Nehru… and Vallabhbhai Patel, a Gujarati, died a second fiddle. There is no Mahatma Gandhi now; only voters. So Rahul Gandhi or Modi? We were the first to do a survey between the Rahul versus Modi possibility and Modi came out to be the sure-shot winner! If you have doubts, keep watching the big fight!!! Bharat is destined to win this time!

(The views expressed in the blog are that of the author, Arindam chaudhary, and originally posted in The Sunday Indian)