Vocabulary exercises —- Higher grade

September 30, 2012 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sentence completion exercises 1 —

a. Though Russia is thoroughly disgusted with Assad’s tactics in smothering internal dissent in Syria, its voting record in the United Nations Security Council, so far, has ———- that impression.
(A) Typifies
(B) Implied
(C) Created
(D) Belied


b. A ————– statement might, at times, appear as an ————- comparison to a beginner, but it does not strictly compare things, but suggests a likeness between them.
(A) Terse …. Crude
(B) Metaphorical — implied
(C) Diplomatic ——— disguised
(D) Long-winded ——– futile


c. Nehru of India, Nasser of Egypt and Tito of Yugoslovia (now dismantled) were the ——— of the Non-Aligned Movement whose distinguished legacy ————- the philosophy of ‘assertive neutrality’ in world affairs.

(A) Activists —- drove
(B) Propounders —- decimated
(C) Founders —— shaped
(D) Antagonists ——— bolstered


d. The Red Fort in Delhi has been preserved in all its ———— glory so that future generations of Indians can appreciate the contribution of the Mogul dynasty to the architecture of India.
(A) Decadent
(B) Pristine
(C) Imperial
(D) Grand


e. When I read “Les Miserable’ for the first time, the repressiveness of the French prisons made me ——— in horror.

(A) Retaliate
(B) Recoil
(C) Reminisce
(D) Ruminate




Kashmir — How the separatists want to keep their campaign alive

September 27, 2012 at 3:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Kashmir’s besieged panchayats

(Hindu editorial, September 27, 2012)

In a State where tens of thousands have been killed in terrorist violence, the death of one more often passes unnoticed. Yet, the assassination on Sunday of Muhammad Shafi Naik, a member of the panchayat of the north Kashmir town of Kreeri, threatens to have seismic consequences. Forty panchs, including 3 sarpanchs, have submitted their resignations to district authorities since the attack; dozens more have put out newspaper advertisements announcing their intent to do so. In the grand scheme of things, these numbers are not large: there are some 35,000 panchs and sarpanchs in the State. Three panchayat leaders have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir this year — against over 40 in Bihar. Moreover, in two of those three murders, police investigations suggest, local feuds may have driven the choice of victims, rather than the fact that they held elected office. Fear is a powerful argument, though — so the trickle of resignations could turn into a deluge.

Should it do so, the consequences would be enormous. The key impact of local democracy in Jammu and Kashmir has been the rebirth of a grassroots political class — swept aside at gunpoint when the jihad in the State began in 1988. From April to June last year, a staggering 79 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir’s 5.07 million registered voters participated in what Chief Minister Omar Abdullah described as the State’s “first real panchayat elections in 33 years”. The 17-phase election saw the election of 4,130 sarpanchs and 29,719 panchs. Elections due in 2006 had been deferred because of security considerations; in 2001, no polling was held in the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora due to terrorist threats. In a speech delivered last December, the separatist Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani showed he understood the threat this new class of politician poses to the cause he represents, saying its birth was part of a “planned conspiracy to mutilate the Muslim identity of Kashmir”. Ironically enough, though, the government has also worked to deny the new leadership real authority. The ruling National Conference has rejected the extension of Article 73 of the Indian Constitution, which gives panchayats significant rights and powers, to Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that this would erode the State’s autonomy. It has, however, also chosen not to deliver on promised State legislation to the same effect — thus ensuring that local government in Jammu and Kashmir has far less power than elsewhere in the country. Mr. Abdullah’s officials argue that they can’t post police officers to guard every panch. They are right. They can, however, give them — and the communities they represent — a cause worth fighting for.


Ominous clouds looming in the Kashmir sky .. (My notes)



In a non-descript town Kreeri in north Kashmir, an elected member of the panchayat named Mohammed Shafi Naik was gunned down this Sunday. This murder follows two similar murders of panchayat leaders elsewhere in the state.


In numerical terms, this pales into insignificance in a state where tens of thousands have been killed in the last few decades fighting for or against the government. When compared to similar village-level political violence in Bihar and in U.P, murders of this scale should not make anyone to lose his sleep.


However, the murders portend something that might lead to unraveling of another dark period in the valley. The murders were ordered and carried out by militant outfits to whom panchayats and their popularly elected leaders are anathema.


These grass-root politicians, no doubt, carry the mandate of the people. Their job is to give expression to the plethora of grievances of the population and find solutions, albeit in a limited way. The detractors of this process are the hard-core militants. Even the separatist leader Syed Shah Gilani finds the panchayats hideous. The motives of such antagonists are sinister, because success of any type of democratic process in the valley undermines their propaganda that the people there have been subjugated at gun-point by the Indian government.


For people who subscribe to this propaganda, certain figures must prove revealing. Between April to June last year, a huge chunk (79%) of the state’s 5. 07 million registered voters took part in the state’s panchayat elections. It was free, fair and inspiring. Many observers termed it as the truly representative election in the last 33 years. As many as 4130 sarpanchs and 29,719 panchs were elected. What lifted the spirits of the average rural Kashmiri, caused nightmares for the separatists and their sympathizers. This is the rising positive trend of public mood that worries the separatists.


What one needs to worry about is the fact that by murdering just two panhs and one sarpanch, the militants have driven fear into the minds of other such elected persons elsewhere. Already a few panchs and sarpanchs have resigned and a few more have put up advertisements in local papers expressing their desire to resign soon. It is a trickle now, which if not stanched in time, may turn to be a torrent soon. This trend may imperil the functioning of nearly 32,000 of such elected personnel in the rest of the state.


Citing administrative reasons, the state government has tried to explain away the lack of security for the elected panchs and sarpanchs. But, what is regrettable is the manner in which the state government has contributed to the sorry plight of these fledgling democratic bodies in village levels. The panchayats have far less powers compared to their counterparts in rest of the country. This undermines their importance and affects their ability to deliver even small benefits to the people who elect them. The lukewarm attitude of the state government towards the panchayat is saddening. The authorities should realize that an efficient panchayat system is a bulwark against people’s disaffection snowballing into a political crisis. The ruling National Conference, in principle, opposes Article 73 of the Constitution contending that accepting it would undermine the state’s autonomy. Empowerment of the village panchayats flows from the Indian Constitution. Thus, on the altar of political expediency, the ruling National Conference has sacrificed a progressive provision of the Constitution. Such myopic view of politics is regressive and should be eschewed.



Power sector reform in India — Possibly, the last chance

September 26, 2012 at 2:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Power boards get last chance

(Hindu editorial September 26, 2012)

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs’ Rs.1.9 lakh crore debt recast package for State Electricity Boards and distribution companies (discoms) appears to be the last opportunity for the SEBs to set their house in order. The government of India gave the States an earlier opportunity to adopt power sector reforms and recommended the unbundling of the boards to improve their efficiency. Unfortunately, the losses of the electricity agencies have increased over the years and the energy deficit in the country has reached alarming proportions. Except for Gujarat, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, most States are resorting to power cuts and spot purchases from independent power producers to tide over crisis-like situations. The SEBs sometimes buy power at Rs.7 to Rs.8 per unit, and sell it to consumers at anything from Rs.3 to Rs.5 per unit, incurring additional losses. The estimated total losses run up by the SEBs has been pegged at Rs.1.9 lakh crore, which is the package the CCEA has now worked out. States have till December 31, 2012 to opt in. Of course, the money comes with reform strings attached and this is where State governments and their ruling parties have to bite the bullet.

The package has two parts: States have to take over 50 per cent of the liabilities of the SEBs as of March 31, 2012. This part can be converted into bonds to be issued by the discoms to lenders, under guarantee by the State government. The other half of the short-term liabilities will be rescheduled by lenders and serviced by discoms with a three-year moratorium on the principal. To avail themselves of this package, State governments must commit to revising their power tariff annually, through the regulatory boards. The tariff order for 2012-13 will have to be notified before the restructuring package gets approved. The SEBs must also commit to cutting transmission and distribution losses, which account for as much as 40 per cent of output in some States. Of course, revising the power tariff every year in line with the package calls for political will on the part of the State governments. Those States which provide free or cheap power to particular sections of consumers are already obliged to reimburse their SEBs every year. On the upside, rationalisation of tariffs will allow them to mop up more revenue and increase power generation so as to bridge the widening supply-demand deficit. Though there are bound to be political repercussions and even protests, now may well be the last opportunity for the States to revamp their electricity boards and put them on solid financial ground. Of course, it is vital that the regulatory boards objectively validate all tariff revisions, especially in those jurisdictions where private players have entered the distribution business.


The last lifeline for the State Electricity Boards and a bold step in the right direction …

It is well-known that the State Electricity Boards and the various distribution companies (Discoms) have been run in a very inefficient way for decades. Corruption, power theft by consumers, unsustainably low prices, free power to farmers, transmission line losses and the state governments’ attitude of letting things slide inexorably have all resulted in huge losses to pile up. Consequently, public sector investment in creating fresh generation capacity has got squeezed. The burgeoning demand for power has worsened the situation so much that power cuts have become the order of the day. As of today, only three states, namely, Gujurat, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand produce enough power for themselves. All other states resort to power cuts. Some states even purchase power at Rs. 8 per unit on ‘spot’ basis from private power producers and sell it at Rs. 5 per unit to the consumer.

The whole of India is reeling from nearly 20% power shortage, a situation bound to worsen in the coming years. Its impact on industries, farming, commerce and the citizens’ life is easily imaginable.

Some efforts to reverse the ruinous trend of the power sector were made a few years back. The State Electricity Boards were advised to split their operations to a. Generation, b. Transmission, c. Distribution. The SEBs were strongly told to hike their tariff to commercially realistic levels so that the revenue earned enabled them to make some moderate profit. But competitive populist policies came in the way. Nevertheless, some efforts to split the operations were made, but not with great enthusiasm. Similarly, with eye on the vote bank, the state governments dragged their feet on the issue of increasing their power tariff. Such perfunctory approach towards reform did not yield the desired results, and the losses continued to mount.

Things have reached a breaking point now. Unless the aggregate business of power generation, transmission and distribution is conducted in the way a normal business is run, the decline of the power sector can not be reversed.
As the first step, the central government, through its Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has announced a plan to restructure the mountain of accumulated debt. This has reached a whopping Rs. 1.79 lakh crore rupees. The CCEA has set December 31, 2012 as the last date before which the state governments have been asked to adopt the provisions of the new reform package and start acting decisively.

The package announced by the central government splits the accumulated loss amount into two equal halves. One half of the accumulated loss burden will be taken over by the state governments. They will ask the Descoms to mobilize this amount from different lenders through issue of bonds, which will be covered by guarantee of the state government.

For the other half of the loss amount, the liability will go to the Descoms who will negotiate with the lenders for suitable rescheduling. The Descoms will service the loans through payment of interest and repayment of principal. The Descoms will get a three-year moratorium for starting the repayment process.
To avail the reconstruction package, the state governments have to implement certain corrective steps. These are

a. They will increase the power tariff to a commercially sustainable level.

b. The new rates will be determined by regulatory boards, which will be allowed to work independently.

c. The power selling rates (tariff) for 2012-13 will have to be announced before the state governments avail the new reconstruction package.

d. The state governments will take administrative steps to cut the transmission and distribution (read ‘theft’) losses drastically. In some states, it is as high as 40% presently.

e. The rates of selling power will be calculated afresh every year and suitable upwards adjustment will be made. This, in effect, means an annual increase in the price of power to the consumer.

Thus, we see that the state governments will have to swallow some bitter pills to return to the path leading to a healthy power sector. A good revenue inflow will generate additional resources. As a result, the state governments will have investible surplus to augment power generation. Gradually, the days of power cut will become a thing of the past.

However, given the nature of populist politics in India, it remains to be seen how the state governments react to this reconstruction package devised by the CCEA. If they resist, we will see more dark days in future.


Why Dr. Singh fails to inspire Indians

September 24, 2012 at 2:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Why Dr. Singh’s new policy initiatives do not generate the desired euphoria?

Did Dr. Singh’s televised address on the two initiative –

1. FDI in retail reforms and

2. Increase in diesel prices

lift the spirit of the nation? Yes, but in a very limited way. The share prices have jumped sharply. They can fall sharply tomorrow.

Examined a little more clinically, one is constrained to conclude that the general public has become too cynical of the ruling UPA. This is the reason why the common man remains unconvinced that these measures would improve the quality of his life.

There will be FDI inflows, but the gains to the nation will be pocketed by politicians. They will find innovative ways to swindle the benefits. This is the depressing refrain one hears so much these days. The comment seems fatalistic and naïve, but there is a good deal of truth in it. If a politician has to go to a village Panchayat meeting to sell the idea of FDI in retail, he will recoil at the barrage of cynical comments he will have to counter.

Almost similar is the case of diesel price rise. Subsidies had reached unsustainable levels. Price hike of diesel was long overdue. But, why did the government wait so long? Dr. Singh has no answer.

In a way, it will help in resource mobilization for carrying out the development projects of the country. But, only a school child will believe this assertion. When the government fritters away tens of billions of government revenue for the benefit of fraudulent companies, why should the common man be burdened to boost the revenue of the nation? The scams of 2G, Coalgate and Air India speak loudly of the government’s ways.

This is question, the Congress Party’s Digvijaynarayan Singh, Kapil Sibbal and Manish Tiwari would find hard to answer. These are the inconvenient questions which have effectively kept Rahul Gandhi away from the public gaze. The young man (at 42) finds his grandiose visions of nation building reduced to ruins. He can not take off with a plane with deflated wheels.

Dr. Singh has done considerable damage to the fiscal health of the nation by abating the loot of astronomical amounts of revenue. He can not escape responsibility on this count. By remaining silent and avoiding the press, he thinks he has shielded himself. But these tricks, favourite of the Soviet era communists, do not work in a democracy. Let him prepare for the most ignominious exit from power. He will not be there to see the way history books describe his rule.


Nuclear power generation on its way out

September 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sayonara nuclear power

(Hindu editorial September 22, 2012)


The much needed big push towards low-cost, highly-efficient, cutting-edge renewable energy technologies was lacking till recently. Even the compulsion to cut down carbon dioxide emission levels by 2020 failed to overcome the inertia. But the landscape has squarely and dramatically changed following the 9 magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami waves that resulted in the catastrophic accident in the Fukushima nuclear reactor units in Japan. In what may appear as well co-ordinated announcements made very recently, Japan and France, both major nuclear power champions, have announced their departure from nuclear energy dependence. If March 11, 2011 has gone down in history as a dark day for Japan, the government’s September 14 decision to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 by closing down all 50 reactors will forever be remembered as a defining moment. This will, in all probability, mark the beginning of a renewable energy technology revolution. If after World War II, the Japanese people transformed their nation into one of the world’s most industrially developed ones, the possibility of the country producing an encore with alternative energy technology developments cannot be ruled out.

Japan is not alone. The Fukushima shiver has had its reverberations in France as well. By 2025, France will cut its reliance on nuclear energy by 25 per cent from the current level of 75 per cent by shutting down 24 reactors. Six months after the Fukushima catastrophe and following Germany’s decision to get out of nuclear energy by 2022, Siemens had made public its decision to exit nuclear power business. The engineering giant intends to shift its focus to alternative energies. By 2020 Germany intends to derive 35 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. While critics decry Japan’s plan to wait another three decades before switching off its last nuclear plant, the decision is not without basis. Some 30 per cent of the country’s power requirement is met by these plants. Decommissioning operating plants that have not completed their lifetime will mean economical suicide. This period also gives Japan the time to develop and scale up revolutionary technologies that are better adapted to harness power from even very low wind speed, and low-intensity sunlight for the better part of the year in countries situated in higher latitudes. The focus will also be on developing technologies for harnessing wave energy. To begin with, the cost of production using these alternative technologies may be higher than even nuclear. But costs are bound to fall over time and wider acceptance is inevitable.

Turning away from nuclear energy – The trend is clear (My notes) ..

Till recently, the world did not look seriously at the possibility of meeting its electricity needs from renewable sources like wind power, sun light, sea waves etc. There was a clear international obligation to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions by 2020. Even this binding obligation did not impel nations to push hard towards exploitation of renewable sources of energy.

The Fukushima disaster that happened on March 11, 2011 changed all that. It drove home the horrors of an accident in a nuclear power station. The tech-savvy Japanese nation riding the waves of industry-driven economic growth began to think if nuclear energy was the best way forward.

Japan and France have been the vanguards of nuclear power generation for decades. Recently, both countries declared their change of thinking by saying that the time has come to step back from nuclear power. On September 14, Japan made a public announcement that it would de-commission 50 of its nuclear power plants by 2040. This is a landmark decision. For a war-ravaged nation emerging from the ashes of the World War 2, re-building the country was an uphill task. The Japanese not only accomplished this, they went to become one of the world’s largest exporters of goods. Japan emerged from the ruins of the War will all guns blazing. Going by this record, it is not difficult to assume that the innovative Japanese spirit will overcome the technological challenges which thwart large-scale adoption of renewable sources as the world’s power source.

After Fukushima, Japan wanted to get away from nuclear power much earlier than 2040. But, decommissioning a running nuclear power plant ahead of its designed life results in huge financial loss. Hence the delay. This consideration apart, Japan and the rest of the world need time to scale up the technology for using renewable sources.

The problem of installing wind mills in places where wind speeds are low has to be solved. Similarly, countries situated in higher altitudes do not get strong sun light for most of the year. Solar technology has to address this problem too. Technology for using wave energy of seas is still in infancy. This is a huge store-house of energy waiting to be tapped. The scientists, engineers and governments will have to work in tandem to hasten the process of making these technologies affordable and adaptable worldwide.

France, clearly the world leader in nuclear plant technology today, has announced that by 2025, it will reduce its nuclear power generation by 25%. Presently, France meets 75% of its power needs from nuclear source. No other country generates so large a proportion of its needs from nuclear source. The French are drawing lessons from the Fukushima disaster.

Germany has been even more strident in stepping back from nuclear power. Germany has decided to generate 35% of its power needs from renewable sources.

Going by all these trends from the world’s richest and technologically advanced nations, it is clear to conclude that nuclear power generation is going to be an outmoded idea in the not so far a future.


Congress gets a lifeline from its foe –Mulayam’s deft move

September 22, 2012 at 3:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sleeping with the enemy

(Hindu editorial, September 22, 2012)

Sometimes, your most valuable friend is no more than your enemy’s enemy. For the beleaguered Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, the fresh commitment of support from Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh on Friday is a lifeline in the nick of time. Mr. Singh’s support is conditional: he is as opposed to Foreign Direct Investment in retail as is Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, whose withdrawal from the UPA created the present crisis for the government. But his political compulsions could see him propping up the government till 2014, when the next Lok Sabha election is due. Under pressure from his constituency of Muslims to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party even an inch of additional political space, Mr. Singh is often forced to speed into the open arms of the Congress. The Congress is an enemy of the SP but not bigger than the BJP, which must be stopped at all costs from gaining in the event of a mid-term poll. For all the SP’s stupendous performance in the February assembly election in U.P., the simple truth is that the Akhilesh Yadav government needs time to consolidate itself. If the SP is to go to the people in a general election, it would surely need to show results in U.P. A key factor here is Central assistance, which has already been promised to the State. In the event, Mr. Singh’s rationalisation of his decision to continue to support the UPA was predictable: to keep “communal forces” (read the BJP) at bay. Whether or not the Congress counted on the SP’s support while pushing Ms Banerjee over the brink is difficult to say but, surely, party managers were aware of the predicament of Mr. Singh: of having to keep one eye on the BJP while taking on the Congress.

All the talk of a Third Front will thus have to necessarily wait till 2014. A day after holding hands with leaders of the Left parties in support of the Bharat bandh against the hike in diesel price, the cap on the number of domestic LPG cylinders, and the reform measures of the UPA government, Mr. Singh thinks nothing of pronouncing support to the UPA. Honest about his prime ministerial ambitions, the SP leader is pragmatic too. While striving to increase his party’s leverage at the Centre, he would not do anything to bring down the Congress-led government unless he is sure of replacing it with a non-BJP government. Thus, the Congress-SP showdown is unlikely to happen before the next general election. Like partners in a marriage of convenience, the two parties cannot live with or without each other. After all, it is not love that holds them together, but the common hatred of a third party, the BJP.

A game for ‘Kursi’ –Mulayam stoops to conquer —

Mulayam has thrown a desperately needed lifeline to the Congress at the nick of the moment, despite Samajwadi Party’s staunch opposition to the two key reform measures which resulted in Trinamool Congress tumbling out of the UPA 2. In the TV channels on the Bandh day, we saw rolling footages of Mulayam walking hand-in-hand with his communist colleagues in street protests against the Congress Party’s push for FDI in retail and diesel price hike. But, within hours, he asserted his Samajwadi Party would not let the UPA fall because of the two measures. Such double-talk has become so common to the Indian political scene.


But, what explains Mulayam’s tango with the Congress? He has set his eyes on the Prime Minister’s chair. To do this, he has to keep the BJP at bay, and give a death blow to the Congress at the opportune moment. To be able to do this, he has to ensure that the UPA lasts till 2014. That would give his son Akhilesh reasonable time to show some tangible results in U.P, which Mylayam would use as the springboard for his leap to the Prime Minister’s chair. He has already succeeded in coaxing the Centre to release sizeable funds for UP. The inevitable parting of ways between Congress and the SP will not happen soon.

So, we can conclude that compulsions of politics have brought SP to the Congress tent. It is a bond of convenience, not any ideological consolidation. For the Congress gasping for breath, any support is good support.

The third front, which Mulayam thinks will propel him to be the Prime Minister, appears more like a chimera than a political reality as of now. Congress and the BJP will slog it out bitterly for forming the next government at the centre after the general elections. How does the third front create a space for itself? The Left has pledged its support to Mulyam in his drive for the top post, but the Left is not likely to return with any good number of M.Ps in the next election. Mulayam will, therefore, need stupendous luck to succeed in his ambition. To begin with, he will be well-advised to consolidate his position in UP through good governance. This is a tougher job than giving the kiss of death to the Congress.


Cauvery water dispute surfaces again

September 21, 2012 at 1:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Reason in distress

(Hindu editorial September 21, 2012)

A compromise that leaves both sides unhappy is usually fair. At the meeting of the Cauvery River Authority, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must have been looking for the golden mean that would have gone some distance in meeting the water requirements of Tamil Nadu without overly depriving the upper riparian Karnataka. Not surprisingly, his ruling, as chairman of the CRA, that Karnataka release 9,000 cusecs of water daily (0.7 thousand million cubic feet) for 25 days till October 15, when the northeast monsoon is expected to bring rains in Tamil Nadu, saw both States dissatisfied to varying degrees. While Karnataka Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar walked out of the meeting in protest, Tamil Nadu Chief Minster Jayalalithaa announced that the State would again approach the Supreme Court. Actually, the quantum awarded to Tamil Nadu is less than the 10,000 cusecs a day (0.86 tmc ft) that Karnataka told the Supreme Court it was prepared to release to Tamil Nadu till the CRA meeting. Tamil Nadu had scaled down its demand to the “minimum” and sought at least one tmc ft a day for 30 days to save the 15 lakh acres of samba crop in the Cauvery delta. Now, it is not sure if Karnataka would even comply with the CRA chairman’s award, which is statutorily final in the event of consensus eluding the meeting. True, Karnataka will have to also meet the drinking water needs of Bangalore from the Cauvery, besides the irrigation needs in the basin. However, in years of water deficit, the States will have to share the distress equally, and Karnataka is obliged to abide by the ruling. To not do so under political compulsions is to seriously challenge the authority of the duly-constituted CRA and the Supreme Court, which ordered the convening of the CRA.



But the errant behaviour of Karnataka is no reason for Tamil Nadu too to reject the CRA ruling. By doing so, it is only damaging its own case. The proper course would have been to accept the ruling, even if under protest, and then approach the Supreme Court for additional water. Undermining the authority of the CRA can do Tamil Nadu no good, whether in the short-term or the long-term. In Karnataka, Mr. Shettar has called for an all-party meeting to discuss the outcome of the CRA meeting. By striving for a broader political consensus within the State on this sensitive issue, the BJP Chief Minister is attempting to buy political insurance. However, Ms Jayalalithaa will have more to gain, politically and otherwise, by adopting a reasoned, sober approach to this vexed issue. Matching Mr. Shettar in aggression and defiance will fetch neither popular support for her party nor water for the farmers in the delta.

Cauvery water is scarce, but not provincial chauvinism (My notes)

In the present surcharged political atmosphere concerning release of Cuvery water to Tamil Nadu, to expect the chief ministers of Karnataka and Tami Nadu to emerge from the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) meeting with smiles and handshakes would have been naïve.


The CRA, chaired by the Prime Mister asked Karnataka to release 9000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu till October 15. It was not acceptable to the Karnatake Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar. He walked out of the meeting in protest. The offer was not acceptable to Tamil Nadu either. Jaylalitha announced that Tamil Nadu would approach the Supreme Court for allocation of more water.

Tamil Nadu wants the water to irrigate its Samba paddy cultivation in the Cauvery delta. It wants a minimum of I tmc (13, 000 cusecs) of water for 30 days from now. Karnataka, on the other hand, wants the water for two important purposes. It needs to provide drinking water for Bangaore, and to irrigate crops in the basin. Both the states’ demands are valid, but the shortage of rainfall this year has complicated a difficult situation further.

One can sense the motivation behind Jagdish Shettar’s strident stand. He wants to preempt a possible agitation on this emotive issue by genuine and not-so-genuine pressure groups who are waiting to jump in to the fray . He has convened an all-party meeting to take the opposition on board. Whether the opposition bites the bait or not remains to be seen.

Tamil Nadu’s belligerence in the matter defies logic. It would have been a good idea to accept the Prime Minister’s offer of daily release of 9ooo cusecs provisionally and then move the Supreme Court for enhancement of the allocation. It is difficult to figure out why Jaylalitha decided otherwise.
Because of the un-resolved stand-off between the two states, it is unclear if Karnataka would release any water at all. It may await Supreme Court’s directive to release any water. This will put Tamil Nadu in a difficult situation.
Jaylalitha would have gained by showing a spirit of accommodation and reason by accepting whatever is on offer, and then move appropriate authority for redress. Why she chose intransigence instead is intriguing.


Mamata Banarjee leaves UPA — What next?

September 20, 2012 at 1:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Mamata’s revolt

(Hindu editorial September 20, 2012)

Regardless of whether the conflict between the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the Trinamool Congress affects the lifespan of the government or not, one thing is clear: Mamata Banerjee was pushed to the brink by those in the Centre who callously assumed she would go against the interests of her core constituency. For all the West Bengal Chief Minister’s reputation for being deliberately difficult, this is one time when she cannot be faulted. Ms Banerjee’s vote base is formed overwhelmingly by the underprivileged and she could not have stayed on in the Manmohan Singh government without appearing to agree with the patently anti-poor thrust of its new economic announcements. The sharp increase in the price of diesel and the ceiling placed on subsidised cooking gas cylinders cannot but further burden those already severely distressed by runaway inflation and shrinking job opportunities. Matters were made worse by the insensitive handling of the crisis by Congress managers who not only aggressively pushed these measures — including foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail for which there is virtually no political support in Parliament — but also dared Ms Banerjee to act on her threat to withdraw support. The Trinamool leader saw the taunts as an assault on her self-respect and did precisely what the Congress believed she would not do. Twenty-four hours later, her language has toughened. The chances of her backing off can safely be assumed to be zero.

Ms Banerjee won the last Assembly election by positioning herself as a left alternative to the Left Front and cannot afford to change tack now. She was admittedly not the easiest of allies. And yet the Congress and the government had perforce to be sensible in dealing with her if only in view of the UPA’s precarious numbers in the Lok Sabha. On Friday, when the withdrawal of the TMC’s support for the UPA takes effect, the government will still command a majority in the Lok Sabha because of the outside support provided by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Even in the event that Mulayam Singh joins forces with Ms Banerjee — both stand to gain from an early general election — the UPA will survive. But the Congress ought to introspect on the fact that it does not have the electoral mandate to pursue the kind of reform measures it is pushing. Last November, it decided not to go ahead with FDI in retail when it realised the majority of parties and MPs opposed the idea. Despite Mamata’s exit, Congress managers have the skill to win tactical skirmishes with the Opposition on the floor of the house. But in pursuing the chimera of Walmart-induced growth, the UPA runs the risk of losing the one big battle that is looming in 2014.


Taunted and pushed –Mamata bristles and bids good bye ….. (My notes)

Mamata has done it finally; she has walked out of the UPA. Congress Party’s back room mangers will have their hands full now, trying to stitch a majority in the floor of the house, somehow.

That Mamata would not reconcile to a steep rise in diesel price and the green-flagging of foreign retailers was well-known. But, the Congress Party had no choice. The series of scams, each outdoing the earlier in its brazenness have angered the Indians beyond a threshold. On the top of this, the impression that Dr. Singh is a non-performing Prime Minister kowtowing to Sonia Gandhi was adding fuel to the citizens’ ire against the government. So, Dr. Singh’s belated reform measures are being perceived more as a last-ditch attempt to refurbish UPA’s image than give some push to the economy.

This is what Mamata said with such openness in her press conference held to announce her decision. Mincing no words, she said the ignominy of the Coalgate drove the Congress Party to declare the reforms.

From the beginning, Mamata has striven to project a more pro-poor image than the Leftists. She finds the poor and lower middle class as her voter base. It was naïve in the part of the Congress Party managers to assume that Mamata would go with the UPA decision to increase diesel price so sharply and bring in foreign retailers.

Diesel price rise might have some justification, but the desirability of allowing foreign companies in the multi-brand retail sector is questionable. What model has worked in America or elsewhere may be disastrous for Indian conditions. Majority of the MPs do not back it.

So, Mamata’s ire is predictable, if not entirely justifiable. The Congress Party mangers erred grievously by assuming that Mamata might fume, but not desert the government. Their publicly-exhibited confidence about continuing to get Mamata’s support rubbed her in the wrong side forcing her to react so strongly.

The fact remains that the party managers can still bring Mylayam and Mayawati to support the government by brandishing a combination of blackmail and rewards. But these allies are known as fair-weather friends, not the ones who would walk the distance with the Congress in difficult times. So, the country will see another saga of sordid horse-trading before the next election comes sooner than 2014.




American presidential campaign

September 19, 2012 at 2:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A muddled campaign

(Hindu editorial September 19, 2012)

The current U.S. presidential election ratings showing Barack Obama leading his Republican challenger Mitt Romney by seven percentage points among registered voters and only three among likely voters reveal the uncertainty surrounding the whole election. As President, Mr. Obama faces new challenges in West Asia and North Africa, with public anger spreading throughout the region over the inflammatory internet film Innocence of Muslims. Washington’s strategy has been shaken by an attack in Benghazi, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three colleagues were killed. The attack may have been a premeditated one by al Qaeda and not a reaction to the film as had initially been assumed, underlining the fact that U.S.-led interventions from Afghanistan to Libya have not produced the sort of outcomes the American people were promised by their leaders. In addition, the risk is worsening of a confrontation with Iran and possibly Russia over Syria. As for the U.S. economy, unemployment may have fallen by about a fifth during Mr. Obama’s presidency, to 8.1 per cent, but that does not include those who have stopped seeking work, and the August job-creation figure of 96,000 was below the symbolic 100,000 mark.

Mr. Romney, for his part, faces an even messier picture. Eminent Republicans want him to state his policies so that voters might at least have some idea about what he would do in office, but the gaffe-prone candidate seems unable to come up with anything but gaffes. His criticism of the President over the Benghazi attack has been seen as all but anti-national in a time of crisis. Secondly, he has given the Democrats a gift by saying at a closed-door Republican donors’ meeting that the 47 per cent of Americans who would vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what” pay no income tax and believe they are “entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it”. The President instantly replied that Mr. Romney had written off half the population. As if that were not enough, Mr. Romney’s aides in Madison, Wisconsin, called the police when workers at an Illinois factory funded by Mr. Romney’s former company Bain Capital tried to deliver a 35,000-signature petition asking it not to outsource jobs to China. Even Mr. Romney’s strategists are apparently divided, with the senior campaign organiser Stuart Stevens being blamed for a lacklustre party convention a fortnight ago. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama seems unable to make political capital out of the Republicans’ discomfiture. With an opponent like Mr. Romney, this election is his for the taking. Yet the gap between the two contenders is too close for comfort.

Obama falters as Romney stumbles .. My notes

The American presidential election campaign is on. Among the registered voters Obama has a clear edge of seven percentage; among the likely voters, he leads by just three points. But, sadly for Obama, he is unable to build on this lead to consolidate it further.

The international scene has become stridently ant-American because of no fault of his. A film named ‘The Innocence of Muslims” made by an American Jew, has been found to be extremely offensive by the Muslims. A violent anti-American rage is sweeping across the Islamic countries. Soon after the film was aired in U-Tube, the American ambassador in Libya was killed in a rocket attack, along with three of his colleagues. Whether it had anything to do with the film or was a premeditated attack by Al-Qaeda elements is not clear. Nevertheless, it has rattled the White House. In the last few days, anti-American fury seems to have engulfed nearly 25 Muslim countries in West Asia and elsewhere. The carefully cultivated policy of Obama to project a more benign American face to the Muslim world now lies in tatters. Apart from this, a political confrontation with Russia over Syria and a possible military strike on Iran are looming. The campaign in Afghanistan is unmistakably veering towards an unpleasant end.

All these are setbacks for Obama in the foreign affairs front. Domestically, unemployment seems to be receding, but in a pace too slow for cheer. The economy is not going great guns either. Over all, Obama’s record, clearly, is not so inspiring.

Romney’s campaign, on the other hand, does not seem to get off the ground in the true sense. He has not clearly spelt out his ideas on foreign policy, defense, and economy. His ill-advised attack on Obama in the aftermath of the assassination of the American ambassador in Libya was insensitive. Many Americans perceived it to be anti-national. He is also a person prone to gaffes, something that embarrasses him and his followers too frequently. In a recent closed-door fund-raising meeting, he is reported have berated a good number of Obama supporters as those who do not pay any taxes to the government, but lay claim to the welfare benefits. This comment leaked out, attracting a sharp repartee from Obama. The Republican Party’s last convention was rather damp affair. Thus, nothing seems to going Romney’s way, at least for the present.

Pitted against such a weak rival, Obama should ride the waves. It is strange to see that this is not happening. Obama, possibly should rework his strategy to sway more voters to his side and seal his victory.




Enhance your English & Current Affairs skills to stay ahead in career

September 18, 2012 at 7:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A message to the readers ….

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