Civil Service essay — Mass Communication

August 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Mass Communication

How people are informed, entertained, educated and persuaded

Mass communication is a process by which a message originating from one place reaches a large number of people in many different locations. It contrast with the usual face-to-face communication in a small meeting or a classroom or a board room mass communication does not permit communication in the reverse direction i.e. from the recipients to the source. This is, however, changing.

The technology of communication has grown by leaps and bounds in the 20th century resulting in many mind-boggling advances in this field. The advent of the computer and later, the internet has revolutionized the role of communication in modern living so much that even a school student of present age feels disoriented if he is made to live in an environment away from the TV and the internet. Apart from this looming role of communication, another aspect has undergone revolutionary change. It is the possibility of communication in reverse – from the recipient to the sender — is now possible because of the advances in technology.

There are three basic means or media of mass communication. These are ..

a. through the printed word or image, in the form of newspapers, books, magazines, microfilm and advertising
b. through the medium of sound – radio, tape recordings and records that include audio CDs and cassettes
c. through a combination of sound and image such as in television, DVDs, CDs, computers and the internet.

The medium that has virtually exploded in the world is the television. The computers and internet have bolstered the popularity and reach of the TV.

The spread of the internet has been so much that it is beginning to eclipse the printed newspapers, books and magazines. Even the cassettes, a product of new age technology have become obsolete. CDs have yielded place to DVDs, whose technology is also improving in breakneck speed.

The use of internet gave birth to e-mails. As a result, traditional letters, circulars, handouts, posters are not being used to spread any message on a mass basis. At negligible cost, one can send audio and video content to hundreds and thousands of users in a second or two in remote corners of the world.

Traditional libraries with their rows and rows of books get far less visitors today. Printed newspapers are shutting shop due to commercial non-viability.

The progress of a society is now being measured with one unusual yardstick – internet penetration. Indian homes located even in far away from cities are now enjoying broadband access at nominal cost. Thus, the fruit of mass communication is within reach of even lower middle class families.

The functions of the media .. All media discharge two important functions; they inform and entertain. But if closely examined, media will be seen to playing some more roles, consciously or unconsciously. The UGC broadcasts are primarily meant to supplement school room coaching. Some government sponsored advertisement programme like the Bharat Nirman are meant to highlight government’s achievements and policies. Programme of channels like BBC and DD1 inform, educate and entertain. When elections approach, political parties are allotted free time in TV to air their policies. Channels like SONY entertain, where as channels like NDTV Profit, CNBC TV18 cater to the needs of the business world. Similarly, there are dedicated channels for sports lovers and pleasure-seeking tourists. Advertisers use these routes to persuade people to buy their products or use their services.

A responsible media manager in the TV domain has great responsibilities on his shoulders. He must be discreet in choosing the right programme that does the society maximum good. This is also equally true for editors of the print media. An irresponsible editor can cause communal disharmony, bring disrepute to honorable persons, trivialize important social issues and unnecessarily blow up inconsequential matter. Because the TV, radio and the newspapers and magazines reach vast number of people, they tend to shape the thinking of their readers. This is a weapon that acts like a double-edged sword. Propagating pernicious and sensational content might boost viewership or circulation, but in the long run, the editors harm the society and their own organizations.

Communicating with vast cross-cultural audience poses serious problems for the editors of media houses. The coverage of the gas attack in Syria and the looming threat of American air strike is a tricky issue. In the Muslim world, American military intervention rekindles memories of Iraq and Afghanistan. This matter is anathema to a Muslim viewer, where as for most Americans and a good number of Europeans, American air strikes are morally justified. So, how does an editor word the headlines and leads? It is a tricky matter.

Similar dilemma is faced by advertisement design firms. A cow-feed’s advertisement must be intelligible to the rural folks who are not very educated. The advertisement for a credit card, on the other hand, must look sophisticated. Additionally, there are the issues of cultural taboos. The advertisement for a beauty aid is acceptable in Saudi Arabia so long as it does not have a scantily-clad woman. In western countries, no advertisement works without a petite model. Thus, commercial mass communication is indeed tricky calling for caution.

Persuasion and propaganda … In the last decade, public concern over the misuse of mass media has risen considerably. One such incident that triggered public revulsion is the role of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers in unethically intruding into private people’s lives. Broadly, however, the inroads of sex and violence in to the content of TV, print media and the internet have damaged the moral fibre of the people. It has contributed to the use of unbridled sex, drug and violence in schools, homes and public spaces.

It is heartening to note that since the 1970s, governments have brought in proactive legislation to block obnoxious content in TV and newspapers. The internet, the largest arena for the hideous elements, has managed to defy efforts of the society and the government to rein them in.

Political persuasion through captive TV and newspapers has not quite succeeded in converting people with different views to the side of their masters. Studies conducted by reputed social scientists have shown that aggressive propagation of a certain political view often results in viewers from the other clinging to their views. This is the reason why Fox News does not quite succeed in converting Democrats to the Republican side.

Propaganda by interested groups are not necessarily corrupting in nature. For example advertisements in the Indian TV highlighting the importance of girls’ education or nutrition for a pregnant woman carry very relevant and benign messages. In developing countries, we often see advertisement against smoking and drinking. For the poor and prejudice-ridden Indian society, propaganda through mass communication is a powerful tool.



Civil Service essay –Focus — Reasons for Government

August 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Reasons for Government

Bringing the rule of law to human society

There is hardly a human being in the world today who is not a member of one group or another – family, club, association, tribe, religious organizations, trade union or state. Achieving a set objective is what underpins these bodies. However, the members of the group may not concur on the specific nature of the objective and the means to be adopted to achieve them. Obviously, there is a need make the varying viewpoints converge by resolving the differences so that the group does not disintegrate. This is the main underlying reason for the institution of government.

Broadly speaking, a government means the understandings and rules by which decisions that affect a community as a whole are arrived at and carried out. Narrowly speaking, the government is a single person or a body of persons reaching and giving effect to these understandings or rules.

Not all groups have a government in the narrow i.e. a person or a body of persons at the top. In certain tribal societies, members deliberate on different matters jointly and decide on a certain course of action. Individual members of the society abide by the decision of the group. Such groups, therefore, have government, but not one in the formal sense. This is because there is neither a single person nor a body of persons that make the decisions to be collectively obeyed by the society.
However, such instances of willing compliance to collectively taken decisions are very rare in the modern age. Now, we will invariably come across at least one or more persons of a group who speak and act on behalf of the group. This body of a single or more persons is the ‘government’.

Politics and administration

A government of today must have two elements — a broad set of policies and a mechanism to implement the policies. In some forms of government, the aspects might overlap. Deciding the policies is the domain of politics. Implementing and enforcing these policies on the ground is the domain of administration.

Human beings have an innate tendency to think differently and, therefore, disagree with one another. However, for smooth existence, a set of policies must be arrived at. This is the area where the need of a government comes under sharp focus. It must facilitate the formulation of policy for the whole group. For example, drinking alcohol or building a place of worship other than a mosque is strictly prohibited, where as, in India, a citizen can indulge in drinking, or can build a mosque, a temple or a church if he wants to. The Saudi government’s policy does not allow such actions; where as the Indian government permits this.

On matters relating to individual choice, no political issue arises. Whether we save money in fixed deposits or buy landed property with it is our individual choice. Politics stays away from such issues. Similarly, if there is unanimity over an issue, there is little need for politics. If the villagers of a village agree unanimously to shun alcohol, the Panchayat will not enforce the ban and will not even discuss it in its meetings.

However, such areas of agreement are very rare. On social and economic issues, people tend to think and speak differently. For example, acquiring land for industrial purposes is a highly divisive and contentious issue. When Tata Motors was hounded out of Shingur, even the farmers who lost land to the project differed sharply about the precedence of the car factory over their farming needs. In matters relating to ensuring freedom from hunger for the bulk of Indians economists, politicians, bureaucrats and farmers all have their differing shades of opinion. So, to evolve a coherent national policy, politics has to be given free play. Only through politics can we arrive at a policy.

There are three ways by which widely varying opinions of individuals or factions can be made to converge to a single opinion or policy.

The first is through persuasion. In independent India, this has been tried many times starting from village level to national level. Many fishermen along the coasts of the Chilika lake have been persuaded not to haunt the migratory birds, so that the winter tourists get to see these exotic tiny creatures flying in from the cold Siberia. Such persuasion has worked and now the villagers themselves have formed volunteer groups to keep away the bird hunters.
The second method is through bargains. Political parties often use these tactics. Certain parties in India entice voters by promising liberal old age pension, jobs for all graduates etc. By adopting a stick and carrot policy, the government often makes recalcitrant corporate bodies comply to government policy on location of their factories in backward areas. If they comply, they get income tax exemptions; if they don’t, they pay steep land use charges.

The third method of reconciling divergent positions is through compulsion, by threat of coercive tactics and later, by using coercion and use of force.

It has been seen that in most cases, people obey directions customarily. People seldom disregard the court orders or defy the local police. They assume that these institutions carry authority. When the collector asks a village facing inundation by flood waters advises people to flee to a safe high ground, people instinctive comply and move away. This is because the Collector carries the stamp of authority.

Now, comes the relation between the legitimacy of a government and the people’s readiness to obey it. If a government is perceived to have unqualified authority, the people obey it quite readily. The need for persuasion, threat of coercion and the actual application of force becomes nil or quite less.

An elected government in a modern day democracy or a Roman emperor instinctively enjoyed the perception of legitimacy as people thought they are in the seats of authority by fair means. Such authorities rarely feel the need for use of coercive tactics to subdue a dissenting group of people.

It is, therefore, quite unusual to find a government that rules by sword alone. Only in very extraordinary situations, such governments come to power and made to discharge government functions. After the fall of the Czar in Russia, the Bolsheviks came to power. In the initial period, they had to enforce their authority through use of very brutal and savage force. They had to do this, because the legislative wing of the government had collapsed and there was a dangerous void. For practical reasons, the Bolsheviks had to act as thugs to make the unwilling portions of the population fall in line.

Reasons for obedience ..

What makes people to feel that they need to obey their government? Generally, it is seen that it is our upbringing that drills such subservience to authority in our minds. In our families, schools and work places, we are taught to obey people who are above us in hierarchy, be it in family, society or government. Therefore, we can conclude that environment, tradition and custom play their roles in making us obey authority.

Somewhere, sometimes in our lives and in our society, this entrenched value system gets challenged. Exploitation, injustice, oppression and poverty often forces a person to defy authority at great risk to himself. History is replete with such examples. Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement against the British, the Apartheid movement of the Nelson Mandela and the Arab Spring uprising are a few of such events in history where people defied authority in an organized way.

What makes people to obey authority in the first place? Philosophers and great world leaders, starting from Plato and Aristotle to Marx and Mao have all tried to justify why an ordinary citizen must obey authority. Quite predictably, the grounds for their justification vary widely. Their views are based on two distinct planks. At times there is a third one – a hybrid of the two.

The first argument is related to the source of the government’s authority; the second to the function it performs for the citizens.

In Middle Ages and even later, kings and emperors in India propagated the idea that they have been ordained by God to rule. Hence, the subjects must obey them. In Europe, the Church supported such assertion by the rulers, often due to selfish reasons. In Czarist Russia, the Czars brazenly declared that they derived their power to rule directly from God. In numerous Hindu kingdoms, the kings declared themselves as the divine representative of Lord Vishnu on earth, thus browbeating the gullible subjects to submission. In this modern age, the King of Thailand and the Emperor of Japan are revered like gods.

Another theory that evolved in the 17th century proclaimed that a citizen obeyed his king because there was a contract between the two. As per this contract, the king would be obeyed and in return, he would ensure order and certain essential rights for the governed. The proponents of this theory were the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

There was another theory that was based on the outcome of the government. In other words, it related to the functions discharged by the government rather than an abstract concept of natural rights. The English philosophers who advanced such Unitarian idea argued that governments existed to ‘secure the greatest happiness to the greatest number of citizens’.

The German philosopher Georg Hegel modified the Utilitarian idea of government to include certain other functions of the government. Hegel and his friends believed that the government’s function was the enrichment of the personality of the citizens by letting them live in a rational, full and harmonious environment. Hegel’s theory is named as the ‘Organic’ school.

In modern day practice, the ultimate authority is conferred on the ruler by the entire body of the subjects. This view was first advanced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Du Contract Social.

The needs of the citizen …

In present day world, citizens look for broadly three different qualities from their governments. These are
a. It must be representative in nature
b. It must be stable
c. It must provide for the well-being of the people both for the present and for the future.

The citizens expect their government to adopt such policies which a large majority of them want. This can be achieved if the legislative arm of the government is elected freely and fairly.

However, representative character of the government does not necessarily lead to good governance. In India, we are seeing a proliferation of political parties in the last two or three decades. Although some of them are indeed very popular, they fail miserably in ensuring a government that is responsible, clean and cohesive. Most of India’s political difficulties can be traced to such un-wieldy combination of political parties that keep their own narrow interests above the national interest. France had suffered a similar period of turmoil between 1945 and 1958. In recent months in Egypt, public mood has swung so widely and rapidly that governing the country by even a truly elected parliament has become impossible. In Pakistan, anti-American sentiments have spread so widely and deeply that a responsible government can not adopt international policies that can be perceived to be remotely supportive of America. This is despite the fact that Pakistan is hopelessly dependent on America for all types of help.

Ass we see in India today, the general public has been disgusted with uncertainty that has resulted from the coalition government ruling the country. Same is the case with Pakistan. Putin, an autocrat in the guise of a democrat, gets voted back to power because Russians dread uncertainty. An uncertain political environment leads to confusion and indecisiveness in governance. It makes the people unduly wary of their future.

This was the mood of the French electorate when they voted for a new constitution in 1958. The old constitution was truly representative, but it led to a government that frequently got bogged down in procedures. The new constitution was less representative, but it did away with the floundering and bickering of the past.

At times, people of a country might demand policies that yield short term satisfaction, but lead to long term disaster. After the Pakistanis killed five Indian soldiers on the Line of Control, there was loud and universal demand inside the country for swift military action – possibly a formal counter attack in the form of invasion. The present government desisted from it considering the long term implications – a disastrous full-blown war. Hence, a good government must weigh its options responsibly by looking at the long term perspective of a problem.

Thus, the three requirements of a good government — representativeness, stability and safeguarding of the future interest may clash with one another at times. The state of governments of different countries reflects different mixture of these three qualities. The government of China is not representative, but is stable, forward looking and truly focused on China’s future. Greece has a truly representative government which is stable, but too focused on the people’s immediate needs rather than the country’s long term well-being. India, sadly, suffers on all the three counts, hence its woes multiply inexorably.


NCERT English Class 9 The Brook by Tennyson — Analysis

August 29, 2013 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments
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The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza by stanza analysis

Stanza 1 ..

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

Here Tennyson, a keen observer of Nature, personifies a rocky stream when he describes its cross country journey. This is why, the stream describes itself as a human being that observes the myriad manifestations of Nature along its path. This is why, the word ‘I’ appears as the narrator.

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NCERT English Class 9 –Lord Ullin’s Daughter Analysis

August 28, 2013 at 9:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Lord Ullin’s Daughter by Thomas Campbell

The poem, written as a ballad, is about the tragic drowning of a young man and his beloved while trying to escape the wrath of the latter’s father.

Lord Ullin is the father of the girl. Being the lord of Ulva, he wields considerable power. His young beautiful daughter is madly in love with a chieftain in the same place. Lord Ullin can not reconcile to his daughter’s romantic relationship with the young chieftain. He puts a strong foot down on the idea of the two getting married. The daughter dreads the rage and fury of her father.


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Civil Service –Focus — the Tottering Indian Economy

August 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Indian economy – Grim alarm sirens get shriller and shriller


Today, on the 27th August, the Indian rupee continued its inexorable fall to go past Rs.66 a dollar. The share markets are no better. In less than a fortnight, it has lost nearly a 1000 points.

What will be the short term repercussions?

a. India will pay much more for crude oil imports. The over-stretched oil companies will pass on the load to the consumer. Higher diesel prices mean higher transportation cost, higher train, bus and truck fares. In very short period, the increased freight and ticket fares will push up consumer prices. Inflation, already hovering around 10% will increase further.

b. Industries depending upon imported raw materials, engineering spares and capital equipments will be badly impacted.

c. Some private companies like Airtel, Tata etc. had taken large foreign loans during the last 4/5 years when the economy was in good shape. These loans will soon fall due. The companies that owe most of India’s foreign debt will scramble for foreign exchange that they will have to get paying much higher amounts of rupees. This will dent their profitability and working severely. Some of the smaller companies might go bust.
d. Market interest rates will remain high leading to a liquidity squeeze. India’s public sector banks already reeling under Non-Performing Assets (NPA) or bad loans will feel the strain. The NPAs are already at 10 to 12% of their total loan portfolio. The bad loans are bound to shore as more and more companies will join the ‘sick’ list. As a result of all these, the public sector banks will find their profitability eroding fast, even creeping to the read zone.

e. As a result of high inflation, the government’s finances will come under severe strain as the cost of its subsidies on account of the just-introduced Food Security Bill and crude oil imports get bigger and bigger. The Food Security bill has been passed when the country’s exchequer is gasping for breath.

India’s dependence on foreign capital has risen considerably in recent years. and has risen sharply. The current-account deficit is unbearably high. It had reached almost 7% of GDP at the end of 2012. However, it may level off at 4 to5% by this year. Finance department officials point to the fact that external borrowing as a percentage of GDP has not risen alarmingly. It stands at 21% today—but debt has become more short-term, and therefore more risky to service.

India needs nearly $250 billion in the coming year to pay for its current account deficit and paying off debts that fall due. Against this, India’s reserves are just $279 billion. It is just 110% of its projected Forex needs. How much India’s finances have deteriorated in the last five years can be gauged from the fact that in 2007-08, India’s foreign exchange reserves were 300% of its short-term needs. Such an alarming slide is very unsettling. None of the other countries like Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Brazil have suffered such a fate. This is why the Indian rupee looks so vulnerable inviting such savage beating in the Forex market.

Why has the foreign exchange position deteriorate so fast?

a. High import bill of crude oil. .. Presently, India imports nearly 80% of its energy needs. This is a big load that makes a hole in the foreign exchange kitty. India has tied itself in knots in its effort to develop its known reserves of crude oil and natural gas. With no impetus to reform this sector, India’s import bill is going to get bigger and bigger.

b. High gold import bill .. India imports nearly 800 tons of gold, but produces not a gram of this commodity. Indians’ craze for gold is a trait that is exacerbating the situation. Gold imports cost the country heavily. The outgo of foreign exchange for gold imports has touched a whopping 3% of the country’s GDP. All administrative measures to curb the import of bullion have yielded little result so far. Buyers circumvent import controls by various ingenuous methods.

c. Falling FDI … The reasons are many. No investor including those from inside India point to the absence of clarity in the government policy as the main road block for incoming FDI. This is not going to change till the elections, due in March 2014, are over. This explains why the sharply falling rupee has failed to attract foreign companies to shift their manufacturing bases to India.

d. Falling exports .. India’s manufacturing sector is limping. It produces less and sells less due to incipient sickness. Sadly, precious little has been done by the government to inject life into this vital sector. Export of iron ore used to fetch a good sum of foreign exchange equivalent to 0.4%of the GDP. This sector is just idling away, thanks to restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court.

The sense of panic that has set in is causing great damage to the country’s already weak foreign exchange reserve position. On August 14 this year, to stem the outward flow of foreign exchange, the government introduced capital outflow restrictions. But this fire-fighting measure backfired causing more panic and more outflow of foreign exchange. It also stanched the inflow of foreign exchange, already down to a trickle. In a dire situation, negative sentiments and rumors do great damage.

What are the real long term solutions?

a. India must ramp up its manufacturing sector. This will increase revenue, employment, and exports.
b. Curb unnecessary imports such as that of gold.
c. Restart iron ore exports by getting the Supreme Court’s permission on grounds of exigency.
d. Through sustained measures, woo the foreign investors back. The blunders such as the ongoing tax wrangle with Vodafone have to be reversed.
e. Get the stalled mega projects such as the POSCO going through proactive measures.

But looking at the cabinet and the state of the UPA, this seems a far cry. Possibly, India will have to wait for the 2014 election for a turn around. But, by then the situation might have worsened much further.


PPP model in India — Pros and cons (Second part)

August 27, 2013 at 7:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Second part …

PPP model in India —- Brickbats galore, Bouquets scarce

The economic and political climate has become so depressing that even the most incorrigible optimist has become a cynic. With the rupee plunging inexorably and the finance ministry officials secretly preparing their application for IMF bail-out, to see something good happening in India will be a lunatic’s pastime.

Nevertheless, the reality has to be faced.

India is so sorely short of public services that denying it or delaying it further will lead to an explosive situation.

The government, simply, does not have the financial and managerial resources for building facilities in such wide range of areas – from education to roads to tourism to hospitals to airports etc. So, PPP model is the only available option. This is the view of the World Bank experts too who feel India offers the second largest scope for investment in infrastructure in the whole world.

Despite the abysmal record of a few giant PPP projects, investors’ interest in the model has not waned, mainly because the opportunities of making money through such joint-sector enterprises is so good.

In the 10th Five Year Plan, the private sector contributed nearly 21% of the investment in infrastructure. In the 11th Five year plan (2007 -2012), it rose to 33%. In the 12th Five Year Plan (2012 – 2017), the private sector is expected to contribute nearly 50% of the projected outlay in infrastructure building.

This is a good sign. But such statistics are tempered by a spate of bad news coming from the failure of a few showcase projects.
These are ..

a. The Delhi Metro project where the partner Reliance Infra has walked away, leaving the DMRC to maintain the services. Reliance Infra and DMRC will soon slog it out in courts.

b. The Vadodra- Dhabol Toll project .. This highway is not generating the amount of toll collection that was envisaged at the stage of bid evaluation. Now, the private party is running from pillar to post to find some ways out of the financial mess caused by low toll collection.

c. The KG Basin project of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance group .. This is a classic case of how a PPP project can go wrong due to government corruption, private party’s greed, and inept handling by bureaucrats. Now, energy-starved India is importing crude oil and gas where as the same asset is lying unused in our own country.

d. Other problematic cases … Construction majors GMR and GVK have developed cold feet over recently-won mega-highway projects. The Gurgaon Expressway is mired in inter-agency wrangling. Adani Power and Tata Power are finding it hard to transform their imported coal-based projects into profit-making ventures because the input costs have gone up sharply.

Case by case study of the above cases will point to some common causes that blight the execution of PPP projects in India. These are listed below.

Challenges to PPP in India

a. Regulatory Environment .. There is no independent regulator for facilitating and overseeing PPP projects in India. Such absence of a single-window oversight facility confuses a potential investor, particularly those from overseas. The sooner a truly independent regulator is put in place, the better will be the PPP environment.

b. Lack of Information . Any entity (individual or company) coming forward to put his capital mulling over a PPP idea will need very comprehensive, reliable and well-researched information about the proposed project so that it can arrive at a prudent decision. Sadly, this is not available now. So, the investor is given data that are prepared by some departmental officers. Such data often proves to be far too off the reality. As a result, all the forecast go haywire.

c. Project Development … Project development encompasses many activities such as feasibility studies, land acquisition, environmental impact studies, forest relation clearance etc. At a later stage, these prove to be formidable roadblocks that delay execution and greatly increase project costs. The anticipated returns do not accrue. Thus, the project gets bogged down.

d. Lack of Institutional capacity .. Often, the project implementers lack earlier experience in executing large projects. The controls imposed at the central and state government bureaucracy becomes to stifling for the party.

e. Financing availability … The private party has to approach commercial banks for its funds requirement. At times, the banks express their inability to extend the loans citing multiple reasons. India does not yet have companies that can finance big projects as and when needed. The private party thus gets handicapped.

f. Opaque political atmosphere .. In recent years, India’s political environment has been vitiated by rampant corruption and bad governance. Lack of accountability for failure or slow-down of a project results in letting off of ministers and senior bureaucrats. Because of graft involved in large PPP projects, the project cost shoots up by as much as 30% jeopardizing its commercial viability.

g. Too rigid contracts with no scope for re-negotiation .. When a project experiences commercial problems at the operational stage, the two parties must sit together in good faith to renegotiate the risk-sharing and cost-reimbursement clauses afresh. In the absence of such a provision, the private partner is harassed to such a point that he abandons the project and walks away.

So, what is the way ahead? .. It is relevant here to point out that the PPP model has worked fine in China. The reasons are clearly visible. China has corruption, but not to an extent that it would bedevil a whole project. Bureaucracy there is far more flexible to address the difficulties of the private partner in time. So, PPP projects rarely get mired in suffocating government controls.

We, in India, need to pull up our socks and remove the bottlenecks that stifle a PPP project.

Abandoning the PPP model citing the failure of a few will be like throwing the baby with the bath water.

Minimum educational qualification for Journalists — Not a feasible idea

August 25, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Manish Tewari, the minister in a hurry

Manish Tewari was already a familiar face to millions of India’s television viewers well before he donned the garb of India’s Minister for Information & Broadcasting. Tirelessly, night after night, he fended off incisive questions from T.V anchors who pilloried him on UPA government’s sullied record. On one occasion, he went overboard and called Anna Hazare a blemished public figure. Unable to bear the backlash this irresponsible remark generated, he went into hiding for a few days and surfaced only after tendering an apology. Soon, he was visible again in TV chat shows brazenly defending the many misdemeanors of UPA.

History does treat kindly the public figures who resort to sycophancy and falsehood to gain favors from their political masters. Devkant Barua of the ‘Indira is India – India is Indira’ fame continues to be quoted not for his service to the country as the President of the Congress Party, but for these infamous words of servitude. Students of World War 2 mock Joseph Goebbles, the propaganda executive of Hitler.

For his loyalty, the Congress Party has rewarded Tewari with a minister’s berth. With all the important ministries in a limbo, thanks to UPA’s loss of majority and the succession of scams, Tewari, perhaps, thought he can show some drive and verve by proposing a minimum qualification standard for journalists – a step that he thinks will lift the standard of news reporting and analysis in India.

If Tewari is proposing the qualifying standards for journalists to improve the media’s performance, he deserves a sympathetic consideration by everyone. But, what has been his government’s push to improve public life so far? His party is angry because the Supreme Court disqualified people with criminal record from entering parliament. His party opposes the applicability of the RTI Act to party funding. Like this, the list will go on and on. In fact, historians will describe Dr. Manmohan Singh’s second tenure as appallingly corrupt and inefficient. Then, why such enthusiasm to rid the media of less-qualified journalists?

Manish Tewari has gone a step further. He wants contributors of specialized articles to be vetted first for their competency and expertise. If implemented, this will open a Pandora’s Box. Who will vet, using what yardstick? Who will decide the yardstick?

We have seen how some progressive farmers of Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, with no formal qualification in agriculture, have amassed enviable practical knowledge relating to manufacture of manures, organic pesticides and other aspects of horticulture. The experts with doctorate degrees come to them for tips relating to such invaluable expertise. Manish Tewari’s proposition will bar these highly knowledgeable farmers from articulating their ideas through the media.

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(A). Newspapers and TV channels draw their editorial freedom from this Article. Only for very obnoxious content, the restrictive provisions of Article 19(2) can be applied. So, where is the leeway for bringing in the minimum qualification requirement for journalists? Any such attempt will fall foul of the Constitution.

It is regrettable that Justice Makenday Katju, Chairman of the Bar Council of India made a similar suggestion some time back. But, it is clear that both Justice Katju and Minister Tewari appear to lack the motivation to follow through on their proposals.

If Tewari is indeed sincere to leave his mark as the minister of I&B, he has a long agenda of items to look into. First among them is to inject professionalism to the languid Prasar Bharati, the organization that cries for revamping.
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Harassment of Miranda at Heathrow –Going for the overkill

August 23, 2013 at 6:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Point – Counter Point

David Miranda’s detention and grilling at Heathrow


David Miranda, 28, is a qualified Brazilian lawyer who works with Greenwald of the London newspaper The Guardian. The duo has joined hands to bring back international attention to the Snowden revelations that embarrassed the National Security Agency of America and the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) of the United Kingdom. In the latest development, David Miranda, a Brazilian national and a partner of Greenwald was detained by the British Customs authorities at Heathrow while he was en route to his home country Brazil from Berlin. He was returning home after a meeting with Laura Poitras, a US film-maker, who has also been working with The Guardian on the Snowden expose.

After the nine-hour grueling interrogation by the Scotland Yard, a roiled Miranda resumed his journey. To the assembled newsmen, he narrated how his interrogators intimidated him by aggressive probing questions frequently threatening him with incarceration should he not co-operate with them.

It appears the sleuths of the Scotland Yard were using the powers given to them under Section seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain and question Miranda. They managed to make Miranda disclose his laptop password so that they could find something incriminating. Nothing like that came their way as nothing existed.

Since Miranda’s plight came to light, there has been a spate of vociferous protests from around the world. Unfazed by such large-scale indignation of human rights groups and that of the Brazilian government, the U.S. government brazenly owns up its hand in the interdiction of Miranda at Heathrow, where as the British authorities sulk saying it was just a routine matter. Now, they maintain the Metropolitan Police acted on their own without any prodding by the government.

Now, the question that begs an answer is whether there should be any sympathy for Snowden and his supporters’ cause.

The American cause … The American establishment was embarrassed to see that the whole world has come to know about the internet snooping engaged in by the NSA with co-operation by the GCHQ. Snowden was a contract employee at the NSA. He had access to the vast and deep surveillance network of the organization. He was legally and morally bound not to divulge any of the sensitive data he was privy to. But, he breached the trust. Whether his troubled conscience or a lure of money or a combination of both made him spill the beans is not clear now.

The NSA authorities, extremely peeved at Snowden’s indiscretion, want him brought to justice. They want him tried in an American court as per the country’s law. In the meanwhile, much to America’s chagrin, Snowden has managed to escape to Russia where he has been granted political asylum. This has further exasperated the U.S. establishment.

The American stand looks perfectly justified. Any other country, facing a similar betrayal by one of its citizens would have done the same thing or even worse. Russia perhaps would have tortured and executed an errant citizen of the type of Snowden.

Whatever you look at it, Snowden has acutely embarrassed his own country and a few others by his action. The NSA’s counter-terrorism efforts have been undermined, and this is not good for the entire world as America shares its intelligence inputs with many countries globally. India is one of the beneficiaries.

If the American case is so strong, why are people protesting with such vehemence?

The protesters’ case … The many number of individuals and institutions that are so vocally critical of the U.S. stand on Snowden’s expose are not terrorists or terrorism sympathizers. They are not against the NSA either. What they are angry about is the way America uses its technological prowess to monitor not a few hundred or thousand suspect internet conversations, but possibly thousands and thousands of internet mails and chats between ordinary people who are not even remotely connected with terrorist activities.

In what way, the NSA snooping is inimical to modern day living? The answer is clear — a great many ways. It robs an individual of his claim to privacy. It gives a handle to the people in the NSA to blackmail individuals and manipulate their behavior. A columnist, whose extra-marital affairs become known to the NSA through tampering of his email account, can be intimidated to take pro-government views.

News organizations and investigative journalists doing deep intrusive work will find it very unsettling to conduct their work. Whistle-blowers, Snowden being one of them, will be very apprehensive to make public anything they know is detrimental to public good.

A whole group of people like opposition politicians, trade union leaders, human rights activists, environment groups, lawyers, news paper editors, police personnel and detective agencies will be hamstrung in doing their duty as per their conscience if they fear that all their telephone calls and mails are being seen by some one else.

Thus, the result of such massive internet snooping indulged in by the NSA will be catastrophic for the human race. Snowden, perhaps, was greatly agitated by such thoughts. So, despite knowing that the mighty American government would hound him for his disclosures, he took the plunge and spilled the beans.

He might appear as a treacherous and hideous villain to the NSA, but, he deserves applaud from the entire freedom-loving world. He needs support and strength. Miranda and Greenwald were just doing that. So, Miranda is not a terrorist, but a champion of individual liberty.
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Answers to Common errors in English committed by Asian students –2—-

August 21, 2013 at 7:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Answers to Common English errors committed by Asian students…….

1. When I reached the counter, I found a set of keys were on the desk.
Correction … When I reached the counter, I found a set of keys was on the desk. We refer to ‘a set of keys’. The word ‘set’ is singular. It determines the form of the verb. Hence the use of ‘was’.

2. The secretary told the minister, “A host of competitive offers has been received.”
Correction … The secretary told the minister, “A host of competitive offers have been received.” Here the word ‘offers’, which is in plural, determines the form of the verb. So, ‘have’ has been used.

3. The teacher told the headmaster, “Just a small fraction of the students is causing the disturbance in the class.”
Correction .. Just a small fraction of the students are causing the disturbance in the class. Here the word ‘students’ decides the form of the verb. Since ‘students’ is plural, we need to write ‘are’.

4. A colleague commented about the new typist, “Forty pages of typing are a day’s work for her.”
Correction … A colleague commented about the new typist, “Forty pages of typing is a day’s work for her.” Here the group of words ‘Forty pages of typing’ is considered a single entity. This is singular. Hence, we need to write ‘is’.

5. Fifty pages of typed report is lying on his desk for correction.
Correction … Fifty pages of typed report are lying on his desk for correction. Here the word ‘pages’ being plural calls for the word ‘are’.

6. Our host asked his wife, “Do you think five bottles of whisky are enough for all our twenty guests?”
Correction … Our host asked his wife, “Do you think five bottles of whisky is enough for all our twenty guests?” Here the ‘five bottles of whisky’ is considered as a single item. Hence it has to take ‘is’ with it.

7. The wife was a spendthrift. She had returned from her weekly shopping trip with five cartoons of provisions and the bill of $3000. Seeing the grocery bill, the husband commented, “Three thousand dollars are at least two hundred dollars too much for my salary.”
Correction …. The wife was a spendthrift. She had returned from her weekly shopping trip with five cartoons of provisions and the bill of $3000. Seeing the grocery bill, the husband commented, “Three thousand dollars is at least two hundred dollars too much for my salary.” Here, ‘three thousand dollars’ is considered as a ‘collective idea’ that is singular. So, we need to write ‘is’ for it.

8. A police inspector’s unwritten responsibility and duty are to ensure that old people are given more attention and security.
Correction …. A police inspector’s unwritten responsibility and duty is to ensure that old people are given more attention and security. Here ‘responsibility and duty’ is considered a collective single idea. Hence, ‘is’ has to be used.

9. Each of these arguments are well reasoned.
Correction … Each of these arguments is well reasoned. Here, the use of the word ‘each’, in singular sense, warrants the use of ‘is’.

10. Each of these theories has stood the scrutiny of the scientific community. This is correct, but the use of ‘have’ is also allowed. So, we can write, “Each of these theories have stood the scrutiny of the scientific community.”

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PPP model in India –Understanding its pros and cons

August 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Public Private Partnership model in India – A boon or a bane

It is a known fact that governments all over the world, including those in the rich countries such as the United States of America, find it very difficult to take the entire burden of providing the full range of services to the citizens. There are many reasons for this. Some of these are ..

a. Governments do not have the financial resources to create capacities in so diverse fields such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, tourism etc. If they mobilize resources through borrowing from agencies like the World Bank, IMF etc. or float government bonds, public borrowing shoots up sharply resulting in many undesirable consequences for the economy.
b. Even if the governments manage to spend such huge amounts of money, they quickly find that they lack managerial and technical resources to build the facilities in an efficient manner.
c. Additionally, if these facilities are built, owned and managed by the government, the number of government employees will soar. That would lead to an over-sized government which becomes a big liability in due course of time.

All governments are morally and politically bound to provide the services. From building of airports to setting up thousands of schools in the remote corners of the country, providing essential services is a gargantuan task. For developing economies such as India’s, building infrastructure and providing essential services is a key area that cries for the most urgent attention. Governments that do not deliver here will soon find themselves unseated by public disaffection.

Considering all these factors and looking at the way other governments have tackled this problem, the government of India decided in the early 1990s to go for the Public Private Partnership (P3) model. In very simple terms it means that the government joins hands with a competent private party to share the financial and managerial burden of building and managing small, medium and mega projects in the areas like water supply, power distribution, highway building, development of inland water transport, setting up of schools, promotion of tourism, healthcare facilities etc.

The PPP model is a marriage between government’s rights over national assets with private sector’s capital and managerial strength. Such a marriage, when fruitful, should lead to creation and availability of high class services to the public with the minimum of time delay and minimal involvement of government funds. Thus, theoretically, it is a win-win situation for all stake-holders including the citizenry.

There can be myriad forms of PPP agreements. The terms of the agreement are negotiated at length before the private partner is officially awarded the contract. The more transparent and meticulous the pre-award negotiations are, the better is the chance of success of the project. Leaving aside the initial awards that were given on first come first serve basis when the PPP model was introduced, all PPP contracts now are being done through the open tendering process. This reduces corruption, brings in a certain degree of transparency and gives all the eligible parties a fair chance to bid.

The private partner gives the full or a major part of the project cost. He uses the public assets like land, water, minerals etc. for a fairly long period that can stretch up to 30 to 40 years. Now the question arises – how the private party recovers its investment along with reasonable profits? What happens to the land, building etc. that it has built and managed for so long?

The return on the private partner’s investment can partly come from user fees such as the toll money collection in highways. If this is not adequate, the government may make payment of fixed amounts every year like that in an annuity scheme. At the end of the contracted period, the private partner will need to return the land, building etc. to the government or it may retain it. After all these are settled, the question of bench-marking of the services comes. The private party must be held accountable for the quality of the services it renders. So, an honest, transparent and easily understandable quality measurement protocol has to be drawn up. If this is not there, the private partner becomes vulnerable to harassment by corrupt government officials who hold back its payments. On the other side, the private party may deliberately lower the quality of its services to cut costs and increase profits. As a result, the ordinary people of the country suffer. The purpose of the PPP is, thus, defeated.

This brings into sharp focus the need for dedicated experts who can guide the PPP project from its inception stage till its full life cycle and, even beyond. These people must be men of integrity with competence in areas like public finance, administration, engineering and law. Unfortunately, in India, politicians do not give a free hand to such a group of technocrats to guide the PPP projects from beginning to the end.

The records of PPP projects in India have been a mixed one. Some have succeeded, some have faltered on the way to fruition, and the rest have failed miserably. But the heartening thing is both the government and the planners have realized that PPP is the way to progress in a resource-stretched country like India. This apart, the successful PPP projects instil hope and confidence in such a participative model of nation-building.

Examination of the PPP projects that have failed or not measured up to their initial expectations revel certain common flaws. These are
a. improper estimation of project costs
b. unrealistic projection of cash inflows from the facilities created
c. inadequate assessment of risks involved and clarity on the sharing of risk
d. delay in handing over of public assets to the private partner
e. insincerity of both partners in implementing the project
f. most importantly, an working environment where corruption is so pervasive
g. cost over-runs that inevitably result from the above. The escalation of the project cost throws all calculations haywire forcing the partner to walk away from the project.

One needs to tread very carefully while drawing up the PPP agreements. This is because, there is a conflict of interest between the two parties of the contract — the government and the private partner.

The government negotiator tends to

a. enhance the cost of the public assets being transferred to the private partner
b. enhance the estimated inflow of revenue from the users
c. to bargain hard to lower the annuity type payment, if any such thing is envisaged
d. to mark up the parameters of performance after the project is ready and the private party begins to manage it.

The private party tries to do the opposite because it is not the altruistic motive that has brought him to the negotiating table, but his eyes on the profit that would come from his investment in the facility.

Pragmatism and maturity from both sides are required during the contract finalization stage. However, corrupt politicians and greedy bureaucrats often come in to browbeat the private party to part with slush money before award of the contract. Such abominable action severely cripples a good enterprise.

In India, this hidden hand of greedy politicians and bureaucrats are behind all the failed and partially sick PPP projects.
————————-End of Part 1—————–
———--Case studies in the second and concluding part to be posted on August 23, 2013.—————–

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